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.]

Thursday, August 08, 2013

"I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave": Reporter Mac McClelland on Life Inside the Online Shipping Machine

As founder Jeff Bezos buys The Washington Post, we look at life inside the factories that make online companies like Amazon run. Last week, President Obama delivered a major speech on jobs at an Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We speak to journalist Mac McClelland, who went undercover and got hired at an unnamed online fulfillment center using the model Amazon has perfected. The result was her cover story for Mother Jones magazine last June, "I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave: My brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine."

Author: --

How The Washington Post’s New Owner Aided the CIA, Blocked WikiLeaks & Decimated the Book Industry

The Washington Post announced on Monday the paper had been sold to founder and CEO Jeff Bezos for $250 million. Bezos, one of the world’s wealthiest men, now controls one of the most powerful newspapers in the country. Some critics of the sale have cited Bezos’ close ties to the U.S. government. In 2010, Amazon pulled the plug on hosting the WikiLeaks website under heavy political pressure. Earlier this year, Amazon inked a $600 million cloud-computing deal with the CIA. Independent booksellers and publishers have also long complained about Amazon’s business practices. We host a roundtable on the history of Amazon and the future of the newspaper industry. "Monopoly newspapers, especially The Washington Post in the nation’s capital, while it might not be a commercially viable undertaking, it still has tremendous political power," says Robert McChesney, co-founder of Free Press. "What we have is a plaything for these billionaires that they can then use aggressively to promote their own politics." Media critic Jeff Cohen notes that while The Washington Post notably published reports on Watergate and the Pentagon Papers decades ago, he thinks concerns that Bezos will ruin its journalistic tradition is unfounded, saying that in recent years, "The Washington Post has really been the newspaper of the bipartisan consensus." We also speak to Dennis Johnson, publisher of Melville Books. "Amazon is a company that feels no pain. They’ve, as far as I can tell, never made money. … So, when you see him taking over The Washington Post and you wonder is he going to be able to monetize it, is he going to make it profitable, he probably doesn’t care," Johnson says.

Author: --

George Zimmerman's Biggest Defender: A Racist With a Criminal Past

In April 2012, two days before George Zimmerman was arrested for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, he huddled with a fellow neighborhood watch volunteer, Frank Taaffe. According to Taaffe, who disclosed the meeting on Fox News, Zimmerman asked him to share "several talking points" with the media. Taaffe obliged. Indeed, as Zimmerman's legal drama unfolded over the next year and a half, Taaffe emerged as his most visible and outspoken defender. He gave hundreds of interviews to media outlets, ranging from the New York Times to Fox News to CNN, and made near-daily appearances on cable news shows during Zimmerman's trial.

Russia Silencing Journalists, Activists Before Olympic Games, Human Rights Watch Claims

Local authorities in Russia have allegedly harassed activists and journalists critical of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims.

The human rights organization stated in a report that, beginning in 2008, it has documented efforts by the government to intimidate those speaking out on, among other things, the effects of Olympic venue construction on the environment and locals' health. The group also claims to have documented the harassment and pursuance of criminal charges against journalists.

3 Sexist Reasons Why People Don't Want Janet Yellen To Run The Fed

In recent months, Janet Yellen has emerged as one of two top candidates to take control of the Federal Reserve when Ben Bernanke steps down. Though some say Yellen, the Fed's current vice chair, is the smartest person at the central bank, she's been subjected to a swath of criticism, which many of her defenders argue is tinged with sexism.

JPMorgan: We're Being Investigated By DOJ Over Mortgages

JPMorgan Chase said Wednesday it's under federal criminal investigation over its sale of mortgage securities, potentially making the biggest U.S. bank by assets the first large financial institution to face criminal sanctions over securitization practices that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis.

Linda McQuaig: Why I'm running for the NDP nomination in Toronto Centre

After a long career as an author and journalist, I'm excited to announce that I am seeking the federal NDP nomination in Toronto Centre.

I've dedicated my professional life to writing and speaking publicly about issues that I care about deeply -- countering income inequality and the austerity agenda, protecting and enhancing our public programs, tackling climate change and other environmental threats, and returning Canada to a constructive role in the world.

Keystone Light: The Keystone XL Alternative You've Never Heard of Is Probably Going to Be Built

Last week, the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico, hit another snag: The State Department's Office of the Inspector General said that it is investigating a possible conflict-of-interest issue in the project's environmental impact study. The inspector general is probing whether the company that produced the environmental impact study, Environmental Resource Management (ERM), failed to disclose its past working relationship with TransCanada, the company building the pipeline.* But while Keystone XL languishes, a rival pipeline plan is speeding through the approval process.

Tesla Motors Earns $26 Million in the 2nd Quarter—Thanks to the Government

Tesla Motors surprised Wall Street this afternoon, announcing second-quarter profits of $26 million on $405 million in revenue. Since it reported its first modest profit in May, the electric-car company cofounded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk already had seen its share price more than double, and you can expect it to soar even higher when the markets open tomorrow. Many analysts, after all, were expecting Tesla to take a hit. But so far, the company's profits have relied on government subsidies and initiatives.

Tesla's own accomplishments are impressive. The company, founded in 2004, is selling its all-electric cars as fast as it can produce them, even though the baseline price for a Model S sedan is nearly $70,000. Car and Driver says the Model S is possibly the best car it has ever tested. Musk has built a successful company after years of scraping by low on funds while sinking money into researching and developing amazing cars.

Democracy Disenfranchised: Detroit's Next Mayor Won't Be Allowed to Govern

A hundred and fifty years ago, in the thick of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln rejected the counsel that suggested he might postpone the 1864 presidential election on the grounds that the national circumstance was too chaotic for voting.

“We cannot have free government without elections,” declared the sixteenth president. “If the rebellion could force us to forgo, or postpone a national election it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us.”

ALEC Convention Met With Protests in Chicago

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will begin its fortieth annual convention in Chicago today. But not everyone at the downtown Palmer Hotel will be celebrating.

A coalition of labor, community and environmental groups from throughout the Midwest will gather to protest the group’s three-day conference throughout the week, with organizers expecting the largest actions against ALEC since the group first drew attention in 2011 for its role in providing model legislation written by corporations pushing a broad right-wing, pro-corporate agenda.

Quad Cities Police Officer Caught Beating Female Shoplifter In Shocking Leaked Video

A Quad Cities police officer brutally beats department-store shoplifter without apparent provocation, and it's caught on video. But officer escapes criminal charges – and keeps his job.

The Better Government Association has obtained chilling video of a male police officer beating a female shoplifting suspect – apparently without provocation – in a mall along the Illinois-Iowa border earlier this year.

The footage – originating from a department store security camera and forwarded to the BGA by a source – shows the much larger officer pummeling the 34-year-old woman in front of her infant daughter. After knocking the woman to the floor, the officer rains numerous blows to her face and head, according to the video, which was authenticated by authorities.

Obama Administration Revives SOPA Proposal To Make Unauthorized Streaming A Felony

We might never see Sophia Grace Brownlee's fantastic Nicki Minaj impression, or this adorable ukulele cover of Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours," or even a young Justin Beiber performance again if the Department of Commerce gets its way.

The department's Internet Policy Task Force last week proposed making it a felony to stream copyrighted works. According to Techdirt, such a provision, if interpreted broadly, could apply to people who upload covers of themselves performing songs to YouTube without permission.

SEC Winding Down Financial-Crisis Investigations, Leaving Sad Track Record: Report

After managing to pin the entire financial crisis on one Goldman Sachs vice president, the Securities and Exchange Commission is apparently close to declaring victory and going home.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the SEC has decided to take no action against the hedge fund Magnetar Capital, which allegedly helped build toxic securities that Merrill Lynch sold to unsuspecting investors before the financial crisis. What's more, the SEC is "quietly winding down some of [its] highest-profile investigations related to the crisis," the WSJ writes, citing "people familiar with the situation." The article is consistent with earlier reports that the SEC had few crisis-era cases left in the pipeline.

Larry Summers Helped Torpedo Elizabeth Warren CFPB Nomination

Former Obama administration economic adviser Larry Summers helped torpedo a bid from current Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the summer of 2010.

The Summers-Warren conflict was reported by The Boston Globe and confirmed to The Huffington Post by two former Obama administration officials.

Obama Cancels Vladimir Putin Meeting In Moscow After Edward Snowden Granted Asylum

WASHINGTON — Already faltering, President Barack Obama's five-year effort to reboot U.S.-Russian relations finally crashed Wednesday, as the White House abruptly canceled his planned face-to-face summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

The effort to upgrade the relationship has fallen victim to the rapidly shrinking common ground between the former Cold War rivals, including extreme differences over the Syrian civil war, Russia's domestic crackdown on civil rights and – the final straw – the asylum granted to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan headlined Koch summit

Rep. Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez secretly spoke to wealthy donors at the Koch brothers’ recently concluded summer gathering on the outskirts of Albuquerque.

The 2012 vice presidential candidate and No. 2 House Republican are return participants to the twice-annual seminar, which also drew wealthy donors and conservative nonprofit leaders including American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks.

Can Libya Be Saved?

Two years ago this month, Tripoli, the capital of Libya, fell to the amalgam of rebel forces that had been closing in on the city. The country’s leader Muammar Qaddafi fled to his home town, Surt, where, on October 20, 2011, rebels stabbed, beat, and shot him to death after his convoy was hit by a NATO missile strike. Qaddafi’s eccentric, forty-two-year dictatorship was over, signalling the apparent end to a dramatic chain of events that had started nine months earlier, in the eastern city of Benghazi. There, inspired by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, in neighboring Egypt, Libyans had demonstrated against Qaddafi’s rule, and the protests had turned into a bloody national showdown with security forces. The protesters, eventually assisted by French, American, and British bombers under the NATO banner, succeeded. The smoke had not yet cleared when the victory was being touted as a shining example of what Western powers could do on a modern battleground without ever putting “boots on the ground.”

Unhappy With U.S. Foreign Policy? Pentagon Says You Might Be A 'High Threat'

Watch out for "Hema."

A security training test created by a Defense Department agency warns federal workers that they should consider the hypothetical Indian-American woman a "high threat" because she frequently visits family abroad, has money troubles and "speaks openly of unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy."

Chevron to Pay $2 Million for 2012 Refinery Fire in Richmond, CA; 200 Arrested at Protest

It was one year ago when a massive fire at a Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, sent toxic smoke billowing into the air about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco. In the aftermath, more than 15,000 people sought medical treatment for respiratory problems. On Monday, Chevron pleaded no contest to six criminal charges related to the fire and agreed to submit to additional oversight over the next few years and pay $2 million in fines and restitution as part of a plea deal with state and county prosecutors. Two days earlier, thousands of people marched to condemn safety issues at Chevron’s plant and to call for renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. "The community of Richmond does not deserve and will not stand for these kinds of toxic releases that impact our health and safety and also impact the sustainability of our planet," says Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin. Last week, the Richmond City Council voted to file suit against Chevron, citing "a continuation of years of neglect, lax oversight and corporate indifference to necessary safety inspection and repairs.”

Author: --

A Dream Foreclosed: As Obama Touts Recovery, New Book Reveals Racist Roots of Housing Crisis

As President Obama heads to Phoenix today to tout the "housing recovery," journalist Laura Gottesdiener examines the devastating legacy of the foreclosure crisis and how much of the so-called recovery is a result of large private equity firms buying up hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes. More than 10 million people across the country have been evicted from their homes in the last six years. Her new book, "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home," focuses on four families who have pushed back against foreclosures. "The banks exploited a larger historical trajectory of discrimination in lending and in housing that has existed since the beginning of this country. The banks intentionally went into communities that had been redlined, which meant that the Federal Housing Administration had made it a policy to not lend and not to guarantee any loans in minority neighborhoods all throughout most of the 20th century that didn’t supposedly end until well into the 1960s," Gottesdiener says. "And they exploited that historical reality and pushed the worst of the worst loans in these communities that everyone knew were unpayable debts — that Wall Street knew."

Author: --

The SEC Nails a Minnow While the Whales Go Free Why wasn't Goldman Sachs on trial alongside Fabrice Tourre?

Last week, a jury in New York City convicted former Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre on six civil counts of securities fraud, for selling a toxic mortgage-backed bond to investors without disclosing that an architect of the deal, hedge fund Paulson & Co., also bet on its failure. This victory for the Securities and Exchange Commission signifies a long-awaited measure of justice for the unbridled greed and dirty dealing that sparked the financial crisis, but an exceedingly small one. Tourre was a young, mid-level employee (he was listed as a “vice president,” but so are hundreds of people at Goldman), not a decision-maker in executive suites throughout Wall Street. The conviction means he’ll pay a fine and probably get barred from the securities industry, an industry he’s already left to pursue a doctorate. This is hardly the level of accountability that practically the entire country demanded to see, especially when you consider that it represents the sum total of legitimate crisis-related convictions, and a non-criminal one at that.

The Price of Oil Is Rigged

The U.S. oil market is well supplied, with U.S. commercial crude oil inventories near all time highs, with production of U.S. oil increasing by some million barrels/day from a year ago, with weekly inventory of gasoline jumping by 800,00bbls equivalent last week alone, while Chinese demand is flat to down and the risks to Suez canal transit have abated. Yet the price of oil has jumped by some 9.5 percent over the last thirty days. This while virtually all basic commodities have gone down in price significantly.

Records For Arctic Ice Melt, Greenhouse Gas Emissions In 2012 As World Warms: Report

The year 2012 was a terrible time for the planet, according to a new report released by the American Meteorological Society this week.

Edited by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 2012 State of the Climate report revealed that Arctic sea ice reached a record low, while sea levels and greenhouse gases from fossil fuel burning hit all-time highs last year.

Growing Up in the John Birch Society

Claire Connor was about 13 years old when her parents handed her a John Birch Society membership form and told her, “You are old enough to take part in saving the nation.” For Claire that meant getting her dollar-a-month dues automatically subtracted from her allowance—and doing a whole lot of cringing. Her father, who was the first Bircher in Chicago, and her mother, who was the second, had taken out lifetime memberships, which cost $2,000 ($12,000 in today’s money). For years they had been convinced that the John Birch Society’s founder, Robert Welch, was one of America’s truest heroes—certainly after they received a numbered, mimeographed copy of a black-covered book called The Politician. I interviewed Claire, who is now a retired teacher and a most un-retiring liberal activist based near Orlando, Florida, about her memoir of growing up Birch, Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America’s Radical Right, at the Seminary Co-op bookstore in Hyde Park, where every month I host an author or activist for an interview in my “Rixonland” series. That particular sunny afternoon, she picked up a prop I had brought along for the occasion, and the audience’s attention was riveted:

Muriel Stanley Venne Says RCMP Shooting May Be Racially Motivated

EDMONTON - An Alberta aboriginal leader wants an agency that investigates police shootings to determine whether racism was a factor in a weekend traffic stop that ended with two men being shot.

Muriel Stanley Venne, who is chair of the Aboriginal Commission on Human Rights and Justice, says the incident may be another reminder of the discrimination against aboriginal people by the justice system.

Canadians still waiting on oilsands emissions targets

OTTAWA—Canada’s ability to control pollution from the oilsands will sway U.S. President Barack Obama’s high-stakes decision on building the Keystone XL pipeline. But Ottawa’s new regulations — due July 1—have been delayed again and federal officials won’t say when they’re expected.

Late this year, Obama will give a yes-or-no ruling on the proposed $7.6-billion project to carry oilsands derived crude from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Energy costs climb at 24 Sussex as ‘residents’ stall renovations

OTTAWA — With Prime Minister Stephen Harper declining to move his family out of 24 Sussex Drive, the National Capital Commission has been unable to perform substantial renovations to curb rising energy costs at the official residence.

The NCC last year spent more than $69,000 on heat and hydro for the 145-year-old home, billing records obtained through the Access to Information Act show.

Harper appears to be sidestepping B.C.’s constitutional veto

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in his bid to reform or abolish the Senate, appears to be sidestepping a 1996 law that gave B.C. and other Canadian regions vetoes over constitutional change.

The B.C. veto was portrayed by some as a recognition of the province’s emerging clout and self-confidence.

But the Harper government, in its submission to the Supreme Court of Canada last week, didn’t cite the 1996 law and argued the Senate can be abolished by using the 1982 constitutional formula — which doesn’t explicitly give any province a veto.

University Of London Bans Students From Protesting

The UK's largest university has banned students from protesting - and has threatened legal action if students do not comply.

The University of London decision, which has been branded "draconian", follows recent student protests calling for equal working conditions for the university's staff.

Lawful Access Bill Would Have Allowed NSA-Style Spying In Canada: Geist

A controversial bill that would have given the federal government greater power to track Canadians online included a provision that would have allowed for an NSA-style surveillance system, says a prominent digital law professor.

University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist says a provision in Bill C-30 would have given carte blanche to government agencies to install whatever monitoring equipment they want on telecom service providers’ networks.

5 Terrible Acts of Voter Discrimination the Voting Rights Act Prevented—But Won't Anymore

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law 48 years ago today. But in June, the conservative justices on the Supreme Court struck down a major section of the law, freeing jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to change their voting laws without federal permission. For decades, Section 5 of the VRA required a number of jurisdictions, mostly in the South, to seek the feds' approval—called preclearance, in legal parlance—before modifying voting rules. The Supreme Court's decision gutted Section 5, paving the way for new discriminatory laws.