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.]

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Comcast, Verizon Editorials Distort True Picture of U.S. Internet Service, Experts Say

Recent editorials authored by top Internet executives paint a rosy picture of America's broadband services, but experts say they distort reality and don't offer a full picture about problems with the market.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam argued last week in The New York Times that the U.S. has "gained a global leadership position" in delivering high-speed Internet. Last month, Comcast chief executive David Cohen wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer that America has become "a world leader" in broadband access and speed.

Alberta Floods Cause: Jet Stream Seen As One Of The Causes Behind Floods, Upside-Down Weather

EDMONTON - It's a long way from the Arctic Ocean to southern Alberta, but scientists are increasingly intrigued by theories that link disappearing sea ice to off-the-hook weather such as last week's flooding.

Many are coming to believe there's a common thread between not enough ice on the ocean and too much water in the rivers — a high-altitude, high-speed torrent of air called the jet stream.

GCHQ surveillance: Germany blasts UK over mass monitoring

The German government has expressed the growing public anger of its citizens over Britain's mass programme of monitoring global phone and internet traffic and directly challenged UK ministers over the whole basis of GCHQ's Project Tempora surveillance operation.

The German justice minister, who has described the secret operation by Britain's eavesdropping agency as a catastrophe that sounded "like a Hollywood nightmare", warned UK ministers that free and democratic societies could not flourish when states shielded their actions in "a veil of secrecy".

Children's Aid Society removes son of Whitby homeless woman

The Durham Children’s Aid Society has taken away Lisa Roberts’ 15-month-old son after receiving an anonymous call about her living in a Whitby park with her child.

Roberts, who is nearly eight months pregnant, was located by Durham Region police officers on behalf of DCAS on Tuesday afternoon at a bus station in Ajax. She was with her son on her way to pick up a cheque from her social worker, she says.

Employers Still Dodging Minimum Wage Law 75 Years After Its Passage

Seventy-five years after the passage of a landmark federal law aimed at guaranteeing workers a minimum wage, a growing number of employers have forged a way to pay less: Many are classifying full-time workers as contractors to evade the law, employment experts say.

Catherine Ruckelshaus, the legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for workers, described it as the "go-to mechanism" for employers in a range of industries, including construction, trucking and janitorial services.

Lamar Alexander Says Minimum Wage Should Be Abolished

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Senate's labor committee, said in a hearing Tuesday that he would prefer to see the minimum wage abolished.

Alexander's declaration came amid a back-and-forth between a witness from the conservative Heritage Foundation and Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The trio had been debating what kind of impact a higher minimum wage would have on a theoretical worker, and it seemed Sanders wanted to know whether the witness opposed raising the minimum wage or having a minimum wage at all. (The discussion can be seen here, starting at 2:14.)

NSA Yanks Fact Sheet Containing Dubious Information About PRISM

In the wake of revelations from intelligence contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency has collected massive amounts of phone and internet data on millions of Americans, the NSA posted a fact sheet online about what it was and wasn't doing. Titled "Section 702," the fact sheet outlined "Procedures for Targeting Certain Persons Outside the United States Other Than United States Persons" under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It was meant to assuage fears that the NSA was breaking the law with its far-reaching PRISM operation.

Trans-Pacific Partnership: 11 Things Harper Doesn't Want To Reveal About Uber-Secretive Trade Pact

One of the world’s most important trade deals ever is being negotiated between 11 Pacific Rim countries, including Canada. But you might not know it, from all the attention it’s been getting.

The most recent round of talks on this trade deal took place in Vancouver last week, and was met with some minor protests. But, again, you might not know it, from all the attention it’s been getting.

“The federal government had no intention of even mentioning [the Vancouver talks] until it was leaked, after the fact, by news media in Peru,” the CBC reported.

Climate Change Canada: Uninsurable Homes Crisis Coming, Blair Feltmate Predicts

OTTAWA - Millions of Canadians living in many parts of the country could find their homes declared uninsurable, as the insurance industry grapples with skyrocketing water damage claims.

That's the grim future predicted by Blair Feltmate, chair of the Climate Change Adaptation Project at the University of Waterloo.

Integrity on the lawn: PMO’s protesters and Trudeau’s PR stunt

Over at the Huffington Post this morning, Althia Raj reports on that protest that popped up behind Liberal leader Justin Trudeau earlier this month as he tried to deliver a few statements about his party’s new call for transparency.

Somewhat unsurprisingly for those present at the time, the gang of young accusatory sign-wavers were Conservative party interns, sent forth from the prime minister’s office to disrupt the announcement, Raj reports. As Trudeau tried to tell the press about his party’s new plan to offer expense disclosures starting in the fall, the students (as they identified themselves to RCMP at the time) held up signs suggesting Trudeau’s stance on disgraced Liberal Senator Mac Harb (that once he’d repayed his debts, he could again join the party caucus) was upholding the status quo.

Midnight confiscation of drilling equipment at New Brunswick anti-fracking protest

Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick -- "We've taken it to the next level," said Grand Elder Ray Robinson of last night's events. "The bubble is about to burst, if it hasn't already been burst."

At approximately 12 midnight last night, locals began hearing booming sounds characteristic of the Southwestern Energy (SWN) seismic testing trucks, or 'thumpers,' as well as other less familiar industrial sounds nearby. After an online call-out expressing concern that SWN might be attempting to begin drilling under the cover of darkness, locals and camp members began to search for the source of the sounds.

‘Arrogant’ bankers caught on tape spark outrage in Ireland

DUBLIN- Ireland’s deputy prime minister on Tuesday laid in to “arrogant” executives at a failed bank who mocked government efforts to tackle an economic crisis, amid growing public outrage at the latest revelations in tapes of bank executive phone calls.

The revelations were seen as potentially damaging to Ireland’s efforts to obtain concessions from the European Union on the terms of a bank rescue that pushed it to an 85-billion-euro ($111 billion) bailout.

Condo boom: Builders say doubling development charges threatens downtown renaissance

Toronto’s downtown renaissance will be threatened if the City of Toronto nearly doubles development charges, developers warn.

A plan going before council’s executive committee next month would see charges on the average new two-bedroom condo rise to $23,036 next year, from $12,412 now.

The city’s consultant says in a report that at least part of the cost is passed on to the buyer of the new home.

U.S. CEO sets a record with $159 million pension

McKesson’s Chairman and CEO John Hammergren has set a new record in corporate America: Largest pension around.

The drug distribution company disclosed in a regulatory filing Friday that Hammergren was entitled to a $159 million (U.S.) lump-sum payment for his pension, had he voluntarily left the company on March 31. The size of his pension was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

Tax Havens: Government Announces New Rules To Monitor Cheats

OTTAWA - The federal government is bringing in new rules to monitor people who may be hiding property offshore.

Revenue Minister Gail Shea says a tougher foreign income verification statement will help fight tax cheating.

Supreme Court Hands Chamber Of Commerce Blockbuster Pro-Corporate Term

WASHINGTON -- It was another good year for the Chamber of Commerce at the nation's highest court, which has increasingly taken a corporate tilt under Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Chamber had a 78 percent success rate in the Supreme Court cases it intervened in this term. In other words, it won 14 and lost three cases in which it filed amicus briefs. An additional case was considered neither a win nor a loss because the Court ruled on a separate matter.

Prison of the Mind - A Chinese poet’s memoir of incarceration

Spending time in jail is no fun anywhere, but each society has its own cultural refinements of misery. The sadistic imagination of Chinese prison authorities, though hardly unique, is often remarkable. But so is that of the inmates themselves, who form their own hierarchies, their own prisons within prisons.

At the Chongqing Municipal Public Security Bureau Investigation Center, for example, also known as the Song Mountain Investigation Center, the cell bosses devised an exotic menu of torments. A few samples:

SICHUAN-STYLE SMOKED DUCK: The enforcer burns the inmate’s pubic hair, pulls back his foreskin and blackens the head of the penis with fire.


NOODLES IN A CLEAR BROTH: Strings of toilet papers are soaked in a bowl of urine, and the inmate is forced to eat the toilet paper and drink the urine.


TURTLE SHELL AND PORK SKIN SOUP: The enforcer smacks the inmate’s knee caps until they are bruised and swollen like turtle shells. Walking is impossible.

The Vanishing I.R.S. Scandal

With Edward Snowden on the lam, the Supreme Court doing its bit to undermine the Great Society, and Don Draper getting his comeuppance, it’s hard to remember last week, let alone last month. But let’s go back to early May, when another great scandal threatened the fabric of the republic. George Will compared it to Watergate. James Taranto, a columnist at the Wall Street Journal, suggested that it might be worse than a cancer on the Presidency.

The Court Rejects the Voting Rights Act—and History

“Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, in a scathing dissent to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down significant parts of the Voting Rights Act. Perhaps she’s right; but it could also be said that the majority ruling was built more on resentment of a particularly petulant kind: grudging about the need to remember an unpleasant past and to be mindful of the marginalized; offended by the idea that anyone would consider certain parts of the country more racist than others, or, really, that anyone is particularly racist at all these days. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, should also dispose of the idea that Roberts and the Court’s other conservatives are modest deferrers who recoil at judicial activism. The decision in this case, Shelby County v. Holder, is about as activist as judges can get.