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.]

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Snowden Coverage: If U.S. Mass Media Were State-Controlled, Would They Look Any Different?

The Edward Snowden leaks have revealed a U.S. corporate media system at war with independent journalism. Many of the same outlets -- especially TV news -- that missed the Wall Street meltdown and cheer-led the Iraq invasion have come to resemble state-controlled media outlets in their near-total identification with the government as it pursues the now 30-year-old whistleblower.

While an independent journalism system would be dissecting the impacts of NSA surveillance on privacy rights, and separating fact from fiction, U.S. news networks have obsessed on questions like: How much damage has Snowden caused? How can he be brought to justice?

Secret-court judges upset at portrayal of ‘collaboration’ with government

Recent leaks of classified documents have pointed to the role of a special court in enabling the government’s secret surveillance programs, but members of the court are chafing at the suggestion that they were collaborating with the executive branch.

A classified 2009 draft report by the National Security Agency’s inspector general relayed some details about the interaction between the court’s judges and the NSA, which sought approval for the Bush administration’s top-secret domestic surveillance programs. The report was described in The Washington Post on June 16 and released in full Thursday by The Post and the British newspaper the Guardian.

The 7 things you can't talk about in China

HONG KONG—It’s the Chinese Communist Party’s version of George Carlin’s seven dirty words.

In a directive reportedly distributed to local party committees, China’s top propaganda officials have issued new restrictions banning discussion of seven topics deemed to be “dangerous Western influences.”

The report, titled “The Current Situation of the Ideological Front,” urges cadres to stop universities and media organizations from talking about a wide range of political ideas. The banned topics cover a variety of subjects that have been openly discussed in Chinese universities and publications for years.

Counterfeit Food More Widespread Than Suspected

GREAT DALBY, England — Invisible from the roadway, hidden deep in the lush English countryside, Moscow Farm is an unlikely base for an international organized crime gang churning out a dangerous brew of fake vodka.

 But a quarter of a mile off a one-lane road here, tens of thousands of liters of counterfeit spirits were distilled, pumped into genuine vodka bottles, with near-perfect counterfeit labels and duty stamps, and sold in corner shops across Britain. The fake Glen’s vodka looked real. But analysis revealed that it was spiked with bleach to lighten its color, and contained high levels of methanol, which in large doses can cause blindness.

Design for Democracy: A different path for Toronto

"A city is like our family portrait. We don't rip our family portrait, even if we don't like the nose of our uncle, because this portrait is you." - Jaime Lerner, Mayor of Curitiba

 The allegations that Mayor Ford smokes, or has smoked, crack are just that -- smoke and mirrors --- obscuring the real issue at City Hall, Toronto's public infrastructure is in tatters. There is a window of opportunity to build a smart, green city, but distracted by Mayor Ford's sideshow antics, billions of dollars of infrastructure funds have the possibility of being poorly allocated, while consultation time is wasted, during his time in office.

Yukon Council of First Nations declares territory to be frack free

''Today the Council of Yukon First Nations passed the following resolution:

"Be it resolved that the Council of First Nations calls on the Yukon Govt. to prohibit fracking in the Yukon and declares our traditional territories to be frack-free."

First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun --Mayo Band submitted the resolution and it was seconded by the Ta'an Kwäch'än -Whitehorse-Lake Labarge First Nation.

The resolution was passed by full consensus of the general assembly of those present.

Original Article
Author: George Lessard

U.S. Spying On Europe: EU Confronts Washington Reports Of Spying On Allies

BRUSSELS/BERLIN, June 30 (Reuters) - The European Union has demanded that the United States explain a report in a German magazine that Washington is spying on the group, using unusually strong language to confront its closest trading partner over its alleged surveillance activities.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said on Sunday the EU contacted U.S. authorities in Washington and Brussels about a report in Der Spiegel magazine that the U.S. secret service had tapped EU offices in Washington and Brussels and at the United Nations.

Multiculturalism Funding: Feds Allowing Millions To Go Unspent Each Year

OTTAWA - Millions of federal dollars earmarked for multiculturalism programming are going unspent, resulting in what the government calls responsible cuts to program budgets but what critics consider a sign of a worrisome shift.

Figures from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration suggest at least $5 million a year hasn't been disbursed since 2007, and the department's marquee funding program has seen nearly 40 per cent of available funds go unused.

Egypt Protests See Thousands March To Demand President Mohammed Morsi's Resignation

Thousands of people have gathered in cities across Egypt to demand the resignation of the Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, amid growing fears of a civil war.

In Cairo protestors gathered in Tahrir Square, the scene of 2011's revolution, and marched to the presidential palace.

Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of his inauguration but many are disillusioned with his rule and accuse him of failing to tackle security and economic problems.

House Of Lords Toilets Refurbished, Costing An 'Eye-Watering' £100,000

Campaigners have condemned an "eye-watering" sum of money being spent on doing up two toilets used by members of the House of Lords.

Up to £100,000 is to be spent refurbishing the toilets at the Palace of Westminster, according to a House of Commons contract.

The Resilient Minority Wage Gap

At the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” almost 50 years ago, black leaders called for “decent housing, adequate and integrated education, a federal jobs program for full employment, and a national minimum wage of more than $13 an hour in today’s dollars.” Greg Kaufmann at The Nation tells us how far we’ve failed to come.

“There are still ghettos of poverty that lack decent housing—where poor minority children don’t have the same access to resource-rich, middle-class communities as poor white children do,” Kaufmann writes. “Nearly half of poor African-American children live in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty, defined as areas where 30 percent of the census tract population lives below the federal poverty threshold (on less than $18,000 for a family of three). In contrast, only 12 percent of poor white children live in neighborhoods with concentrated poverty. (Thirty-nine percent of poor American Indian children live in areas of concentrated poverty, as do 35 percent of poor Hispanic children and 21 percent of poor Asian and Pacific Islander children.)”

Redacted FBI Documents Show Plot to Kill Occupy Leaders If ‘Deemed Necessary’

“Did the FBI ignore, or even abet, a plot to assassinate Occupy Houston leaders?” asks investigative reporter Dave Lindorff at WhoWhatWhy. “What did the Feds know? Whom did they warn? And what did the Houston Police know?”

A Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund yielded an FBI document containing knowledge of a plot by an unnamed group or individual to kill “leaders” of the Houston chapter of the nonviolent Occupy Wall Street movement.

Bank of America Schemes to Evade Settlement Rules and Pocket Cash

Documents leaked by a bank insider show the company sold servicing rights to more than half a million mortgages to loan servicing companies in order to make a quick profit and avoid settlement requirements, leaving homeowners in the lurch and with fewer protections to avoid foreclosure, writes Salon reporter David Dayen.

The documents show that in January 2013, Bank of America sold more than half a million mortgages worth $93 billion to the parent corporation of Green Tree Servicing, a non-bank loan servicer based in St. Paul, Minn. Such companies are “buying up servicing rights to millions of mortgages, gradually positioning themselves to become the biggest companies in the space,” Dayen reports.

Egypt’s Petition Rebellion

The biggest challenge to the Egyptian government resides in a sweltering fifth-floor office in a crumbling building in downtown Cairo. It’s paper—millions of pieces of paper, sorted into stacks and piled on chairs and balanced atop cardboard crates. Each is a signed petition calling for the removal of President Mohamed Morsi and new elections, labelling Morsi “a failure in all the meanings of the word … unfit to administer a country the size of Egypt.” The petition charges the country’s leader with betraying the revolution, destroying the economy, and begging for foreign aid to keep the country afloat. Fifteen million Egyptians have signed it, which is two million more than voted Morsi into office a year ago. Many are expected to join mass protests on June 30th.

Nike May Dodge Criticism Of Labor Practices By Cutting Employees In Harsh Working Conditions: Report

In an aim to cut down on labor costs, Nike's slashing its international workforce. But the move could have other benefits as well: Cutting down on criticism over the way the retailer treats its workers.

Don Blair, Nike's chief financial officer, told the Financial Times that the company is "engineering the labour out" of some of its products by replacing workers with technology. As the FT notes, fewer employees in precarious working conditions abroad will likely mean fewer complaints over the way Nike treats its foreign workers.

Susan Rice Downplays Impact Of Snowden Leaks

UNITED NATIONS -- U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice dismissed claims that Edward Snowden's highly classified leaks have weakened the Obama presidency and damaged U.S. foreign policy, insisting that the United States will remain "the most influential, powerful and important country in the world."

Rice's remarks were her only public ones on Snowden and came in an interview with The Associated Press as she prepared to leave the U.N. post and start her new job Monday as President Barack Obama's national security adviser.

Utah Tar Sands: Will The U.S. Join Canada In Tapping The 'Bottom Of The Barrel'?

While record numbers of protesters were chaining themselves to construction equipment earlier this week along the Oklahoma segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, the proposed plan to ferry Canadian tar sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, another group of activists camped out at 8,000 feet on an Eastern Utah plateau. Their target: a lesser-known tar sands project here at home.

A Canadian company named U.S Oil Sands is poised to launch the nation's first tar sands mining operation at PR Springs, not far from Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Tapping the energy resource, supporters say, will be a boon for Utah's local economy and the country's energy security, while posing few negative consequences, given the remoteness of the operation. Opponents, however, fear real impacts on local wildlife and tourism, as well as downstream effects on already polluted air and the continually dwindling supplies of clean water upon which millions of people in the West rely.

NSA Bugged European Union Offices, Computer Networks: Report

BERLIN, June 29 (Reuters) - The United States bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, according to secret documents cited in a German magazine on Saturday, the latest in a series of exposures of alleged U.S. spy programmes.

Der Spiegel cited from a September 2010 "top secret" document of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) which it said fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had taken with him and which the weekly's journalists had seen in part.

Half Of Voters Don't See Conservatives As An Option

Half of Canadians would not consider voting for the Conservatives in the next federal election, a new Nanos Research poll suggests.

In an interview airing Saturday on CBC Radio's The House, Nik Nanos of Nanos Research tells host Evan Solomon "the Conservatives are turning off voters."

Quebec Construction Strike: Government Plans To Introduce Back To Work Legislation

QUEBEC - The Quebec government is planning to introduce back-to-work legislation to bring an end to the province's construction strike.

Labour Minister Agnes Maltais says the Parti Quebecois government will reconvene the provincial legislature from its summer break for a special meeting on Sunday.

High River Flooding Evacuees: 5,000 Return To Their Homes

HIGH RIVER, Alta. - The long road to recovery began on Saturday for some residents of flood-stricken High River as part of the town was opened to those forced out last week.

Authorities ordered all 13,000 residents of this community south of Calgary to leave when the Highwood River burst over its banks. Streets were flooded and people were stranded in their vehicles and their homes.

Conservatives Signal Public Service Cost-Cutting, But Bureaucracy Ballooned Under Them

OTTAWA - The Conservative government has made it clear that curbing public service costs is a key part of its agenda as it heads into the second half of Stephen Harper's majority mandate.

But budget measures and ministerial musings about everything from public sector pensions to the collective bargaining process and even sick leave may obscure the bureaucracy sprawl under the Conservative watch.

Oh, Canada -- How America's friendly northern neighbor became a rogue, reckless petrostate

For decades, the world has thought of Canada as America's friendly northern neighbor -- a responsible, earnest, if somewhat boring, land of hockey fans and single-payer health care. On the big issues, it has long played the global Boy Scout, reliably providing moral leadership on everything from ozone protection to land-mine eradication to gay rights. The late novelist Douglas Adams once quipped that if the United States often behaved like a belligerent teenage boy, Canada was an intelligent woman in her mid-30s. Basically, Canada has been the United States -- not as it is, but as it should be.