Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hillary Clinton: Female President Would Send Right Signal

WASHINGTON -- Hillary Rodham Clinton mused aloud about the significance of America electing its first female president. Left unsaid: whether she might try again to be the one.

In a video of a private Clinton speech posted to YouTube on Friday, Clinton told a Canadian audience that she hoped the U.S. would elect a woman to the White House because it would send "exactly the right historical signal" to men, women and children. She said women in politics need to "dare to compete" and the nation needs to "take that leap of faith."

Edward Snowden Charged With Espionage Over NSA Leaks: Report

WASHINGTON, June 21 (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors have filed a sealed criminal complaint charging Edward Snowden, who disclosed American telephone and internet surveillance programs, with espionage, theft and conversion of government property, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

Banker, CEO Pay Largely Responsible For Rising Inequality: Study

In a recent defense of the 1 percent, Harvard economist Greg Mankiw admitted it might be bad if the rich got richer by sucking cash from the economy without giving any value back. A new study suggests many of the rich -- especially bankers and CEOs -- are doing just that.

Josh Bivens and Lawrence Mishel, economists at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, argue in a study responding to Mankiw that most of the rise in income inequality over the past few decades is due to the soaring pay of CEOs and Wall Street bankers who are milking money from the markets rather than generating much in the way of economic production.

Some Disabled Goodwill Workers Earn As Little As 22 Cents An Hour As Execs Earn Six Figures: Report

Goodwill is paying some of its disabled workers just 22 cents an hour, while the charity’s executives make six figure salaries. A labor law loophole enables the practice.

Some Pennsylvania Goodwill workers who are disabled made as little as 22, 38 and 41 cents per hour in 2011, according to Labor Department documents reviewed by NBC News. That’s because a 1938 law, called the Special Wage Certificate Program, aimed at encouraging employers to hire disabled workers, allows charities and companies to get special certificates from the Department of Labor that permits them to pay disabled workers based on their abilities, with no minimum.

Ex-Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling's Prison Sentence Reduced To 14 Years

Jeffrey Skilling, the former CEO of Enron, had his prison term reduced to 14 years on Friday, according to a tweet from CNBC. Skilling, who was originally sentenced to more than 24 years in prison, has been in jail since 2006 over his role in Enron's collapse.

Court Documents Reveal Extent of Federal Investigation Into WikiLeaks

For years, lawyers representing the team at Wikileaks have been aware that federal prosecutors were conducting a lengthy investigation into the organization. The United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia finally confirmed the investigation back in March, but said only “it remains ongoing” and would not comment further.

Reporters sleuthed out that a number of orders had indeed been issued in what appeared to be a broad investigation into Wikileaks, but they remained under seal, and it wasn’t clear whether prosecutors were narrowly targeting founder Julian Assange or pursuing a much broader investigation—nor was it clear what kind of evidence they were collecting.

The Supreme Court Just Made It Easier for Big Business to Screw the Little Guy

In a little-known case called American Express v. Italian Colors Restaurant, the Supreme Court today issued yet another decision making it easier for big corporations to use their market power to screw over consumers and small businesses. Thursday's 5-3 decision affirmed the right of big corporations to use mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts to force small businesses to challenge monopolistic practices in private arbitration rather than through class actions in court. The case shows once again that the conservative majority, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, has no problem with judicial activism when it comes to bolstering corporate power.

Can House GOPers Be Trusted to Provide Effective Surveillance Oversight?

What does the IRS scandal have to do with the recent disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance programs that sweep up phone records and internet communications? The answer doesn't involve President Barack Obama thuggishly conspiring to spy on political foes and average Joes. But the two controversies have this in common: congressional oversight. The NSA leaks underscore the compelling need for vigorous and extensive monitoring of secret government action by congressional leaders who are elected to look out for the public's interest. The trumped-up IRS scandal shows how many of those leaders cannot be trusted to take their oversight duties seriously.

NSA Can Keep Data On U.S. Citizens Indefinitely: Report

WASHINGTON -- A government watchdog testified Thursday there may have been problems with a security clearance background check conducted on the 29-year-old federal contractor who disclosed previously secret National Security Agency programs for collecting phone records and Internet data – just as news media disclosed more information about those programs.

Appearing at a Senate hearing, Patrick McFarland, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's inspector general, said USIS, the company that conducted the background investigation of former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, is now under investigation itself.

‘He haunts us still,’ Pierre Trudeau Canada's best prime minister since 1960s, says new Forum Research public opinion poll

PARLIAMENT HILL—Nearly three decades have passed since Pierre Trudeau took his famous “walk in the snow” and announced he would be stepping down, but a new poll shows Trudeau still tops the list when Canadians are asked to select the country’s best prime minister since the 1960s.

The Forum Research poll found one quarter of Canadians selected Trudeau over every prime minister, going back to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lester Pearson in the 1960s, and 14 per cent selected Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.), who came second. Trudeau led the country from 1968 to 1979 and 1980 to 1984.

The FBI’s License to Kill: Agents Have Been Deemed "Justified" in Every Shooting Since 1993

New documents reveal the FBI has cleared its agents in every single shooting incident dating back two decades. According to the New York Times, from 1993 until today, FBI shootings were deemed justified in the fatal shootings of 70 people and the wounding of 80 others. Out of 289 shootings that were found to be deliberate, no agent was disciplined except for letters of censure in five cases. Even in a case where the bureau paid a shooting victim more than a million dollars to settle a lawsuit, the internal review did not find the agent who shot the man culpable. The issue of FBI accountability has recently re-emerged following last month’s fatal shooting of Ibragim Todashev during questioning by agents in Orlando, Florida. He was reportedly unarmed. We speak to Charlie Savage, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter who co-reported the story.

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FBI’s Use of Drones for U.S. Surveillance Raises Fears over Privacy, Widening Corporate-Gov’t Ties

The FBI confirmed this week that drones are carrying out surveillance within the United States. FBI Director Robert Mueller called the drone use "very seldom," while acknowledging regulations to address privacy concerns have yet to be completed. Meanwhile, in the latest leak of classified National Security Agency material, The Guardian reported Thursday that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has signed off on rules that appear to grant wide latitude to the NSA in retaining and making use of Americans’ private data, rather than "minimizing" its usage. We discuss the latest issues of domestic surveillance with Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild and author of the forthcoming book, "Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance." Boghosian examines the increasing monitoring of ordinary citizens, and the corporations that work with the government to mine data collected from a wide range of electronic sources.

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Liberal senator balks at Senate security advice to avoid First Nations marchers

A Liberal senator has issued a polite, yet pointed rebuke to Senate security for suggesting that she and her Upper House colleagues "avoid any interaction" with the hundreds of protesters expected to hit the Hill this afternoon as part of the Million First People's March to mark National Aboriginal Day.

New study: Staggering levels of Indigenous child poverty in Canada

A new study released this week finds Indigenous children in Canada are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than non-Indigenous children.

The report, co-published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Save the Children Canada, deplores the state of Indigenous child poverty and social welfare across the country.

British spy agency taps fibre-optic cables, newspaper says

Britain's spy agency GCHQ has tapped fibre-optic cables that carry international phone and internet traffic and is sharing vast quantities of personal information with the U.S. National Security Agency, the Guardian newspaper said on Friday.

The paper, which has in recent weeks been publishing details of top-secret surveillance programs exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, said on its website Snowden had shown it documents about a project codenamed "Tempora."

Ford, province battle over welfare funding

A battle has erupted between the City of Toronto and the province over funding for welfare and other social programs.

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa confirmed Friday that the province is going to stop paying Toronto the $150 million it gives it every year to help pay for welfare. The funds will be cut by $50 million per year, for the next three years.

No rule changes for MPs despite expense scandal

If you were imagining that these past months of Senate expense scandals would surely lead to tighter controls on how MPs and senators spend taxpayers' money, you will just have to go on imagining.

This week, MPs headed home for their summer vacations having changed not a single rule affecting their own expenses, and how they will blow through almost $450 million this year on everything from office supplies to martini dinners.

Hershey Canada fined $4 million for conspiracy to fix price of chocolate

Hershey Canada was fined $4 million in an Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Friday after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to fix prices in the chocolate industry.

Two other leading chocolate brands, a national distributor, and three industry executives have been charged with conspiracy under the Competition Act to fix the prices of chocolate in Canada.

NestléCanada Inc., Mars Canada Inc., Itwal Ltd. and the three individuals accused plan to fight the charges against them, the Toronto region court heard.

Turkey’s ‘standing man’ and the iconography of non-violence

Turkey’s “standing man” protester, created by performance artist Erdem Gunduz, is a brilliant addition to the iconography of non-violence. It’s not a long list. The image catalogue of aggressive resistance is much longer. It includes the knight errant on his horse, with a lance; the lone rider in the old west; the private eye pacing the mean streets, taking down crime and corruption; the guerrilla fighter in the hills. They all pack weapons. Gunduz had only a backpack and when the cops checked inside, whatever they found was harmless.

Average Canadian ambassador has 306 Twitter followers, lagging rivals: Study

When it comes to the battle for hearts and minds in cyberspace, Canada is idle on the sidelines.

That's the conclusion of a new report by the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute which criticizes the Conservative government for handcuffing its diplomats abroad.

Stephen Harper's government's "centralized control of public communications makes it virtually impossible for Canadian diplomats to engage in real-time substantive exchanges, which is the currency of the medium," the CDFAI report says. "Unless (Canada's foreign affairs ministry) joins its American and British counterparts in embracing new channels and methods of diplomacy, Canada's voice will progressively fade in international affairs."

Toronto’s budget takes a hit as Ontario to cut $150M in funding

As Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne tries to mend fences with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, her government is cutting almost $150 million in funding to the city.

But the province argues the cuts are more than offset by scheduled rises in other funding.

In his detailed, five-page missive to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, Finance Minister Charles Sousa notes “provincial support has increased significantly in recent years.”