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.]

Monday, August 19, 2013

Editor of The Progressive Arrested Covering Solidarity Singers’ Protest of Wisconsin Gov. Walker

More than 200 people have been arrested at "Solidarity Sing Along," an ongoing protest at the Wisconsin state capitol against Republican Gov. Scott Walker. On Thursday, Matthew Rothschild, editor and publisher of The Progressive magazine, was detained while covering one of the protests. Rothschild was charged with misdemeanor obstruction and resisting arrest after photographing the arrests of other demonstrators singing in the rotunda.

Author: --

Lawmakers Backed By Chamber Of Commerce Spending Stall Business Lobby's Legislative Priorities

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a political powerhouse that tops spending on lobbying in Washington year after year. In the past two elections, the pro-business group doled out $69.5 million to send candidates to Congress.

The checks, however, have not always translated into legislative success.

This Latest Effort to Close Abortion Clinics Is the Strangest One Yet

An anti-abortion group backed by a billionaire fracking tycoon has embarked on an unusual campaign to shut down abortion clinics: direct mailing DVDs to lawyers in order to entice them to sue doctors.

This unorthodox legal strategy is a new twist on a strategy long employed by Life Dynamics, an anti-abortion group based in Denton, Texas. Two decades ago, the group's president, Mark Crutcher, began a mail and advertising campaign urging lawyers to take up malpractice lawsuits against abortion providers. The organization's manuals for attorneys argued that these suits could be used to "force abortionists out of business by driving up their insurance rates." Crutcher's campaign was never successful, but he's still at it—now sending slick DVDs sent to tens of thousands of lawyers.

How to Keep the NSA Out of Your Computer

JOSEPH BONICIOLI mostly uses the same internet you and I do. He pays a service provider a monthly fee to get him online. But to talk to his friends and neighbors in Athens, Greece, he's also got something much weirder and more interesting: a private, parallel internet.

He and his fellow Athenians built it. They did so by linking up a set of rooftop wifi antennas to create a "mesh," a sort of bucket brigade that can pass along data and signals. It's actually faster than the Net we pay for: Data travels through the mesh at no less than 14 megabits a second, and up to 150 Mbs a second, about 30 times faster than the commercial pipeline I get at home. Bonicioli and the others can send messages, video chat, and trade huge files without ever appearing on the regular internet. And it's a pretty big group of people: Their Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network has more than 1,000 members, from Athens proper to nearby islands. Anyone can join for free by installing some equipment. "It's like a whole other web," Bonicioli told me recently. "It's our network, but it's also a playground."

Time to pack it in, Steve

This Halloween Eve, when all good Tory goblins gather in Calgary, Stephen Harper has 10 reasons to do everyone a favour and resign.

For starters, he owes it to his party. Former Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber had it right. The Conservatives under Harper are no longer Conservatives — not fiscally, not socially, not politically. They are a lost tribe following a cult figure.

That figure has led them into record deficits, tawdry scandals and strange alliances like the one with China. Harper has turned conservatism into just another brand of political opportunism — power for power’s sake. It is no longer tethered to a philosophy — just to an individual.

Canada, Leading the World into Paywalls

Canadian newspapers are leading the world in charging for online news, moving to digital subscriptions much faster than papers in the United States or Europe.

By the end of this year, English readers in most major Canadian cities will have to pay to read their local papers online. The lone exception is Winnipeg, where readers can still scan the Free Press without charge -- but only if they are in Canada. Winnipeg Free Press readers outside the country must pay.

An informal J-Source survey of 95 dailies found that about 80 per cent of the newspapers in Canada charge readers for online content, or plan to do so very soon. That's twice the rate of paywalls in the United States.

Canadian income inequality on ‘very worrying trajectory’ to match U.S. ‘hollowing out’ of middle class

Canada hasn’t experienced the same level of growth in income inequality or the same “hollowing out” of the middle class as has the United States, say economic experts, but the country is on a “very worrying trajectory” to catch-up with the U.S. and political parties need to be “proactive” now to stop that from happening.

“When it comes to income inequality, the U.S. walks away with the prize of growth in inequality. The only other nations in the advanced economic world that have more inequality are Turkey and Mexico, and both of those nations have been reducing inequality since the 1980s. The U.S. just keeps growing it,” said Armine Yalnizyan, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “If anything, rather we [Canada] should be worried that in a nation that between 1997 and 2007 created more jobs than anywhere in the G-7, we weren’t able to reduce inequality. If better employment is the way you reduce inequality, why did we see our inequality grow?”

Tories ‘taking back agenda’ with fall prorogation, insiders say

Prorogation and a Speech from the Throne—whenever it happens—will give the government a much-needed chance to seize the agenda and prove to Canadians they are still capable of governing, say Conservative insiders.

“It’s all about taking back the agenda,” said Dan Mader, a former chief of staff to several Conservative ministers. “Prorogation is a chance to really reset their agenda, and come out with a new agenda through a throne speech. They’re not looking to delay the House sitting significantly.”

Harper starts Arctic tour with partisan speech to supporters

WHITEHORSE -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper started his tour of Canada's North on Sunday with a full-throated attack on both Opposition parties, test-driving themes expected to carry the embattled Conservatives into the next election.

He trumpeted the Conservatives as champions of the Arctic at the same time as National Defence acknowledged that it has scrambled to buy snowmobiles for reserve army units operating in the unforgiving region.

Canada's top judge slams 'inaccessible justice'

Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin says the most pressing challenge facing the administration of justice in this country is ensuring that Canadians are able to access the system.

McLachlin made the comments at the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) annual meeting in Saskatoon this weekend.

Delegates at the conference were discussing the merits of several proposed legal reforms, including those stemming from the results of a new report by the CBA, titled Reaching Equal Justice.

Glenn Greenwald's Partner Detained At UK Airport Under Terrorism Act

Glenn Greenwald's partner was detained by authorities at London's Heathrow airport for nearly nine hours, the Guardian reported on Sunday.

David Miranda, who lives with Greenwald in Brazil, was held under a controversial provision of Britain's Terrorism Act that allows police to stop, question and search people without having to prove any reasonable suspicion, and without a lawyer needing to be present. The paper said he was held for the maximum amount of time allowed under the law:

    According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 – over 97% – last under an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours.

    Miranda was then released without charge, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.

Bloodshed in Egypt: No End In Sight

Cairo at night has become a city of silence. Once among the world’s most crowded and raucous nocturnal metropolises, it is now home to ghosts, a place haunted by fear and despair. Never ones to abide by past military-imposed curfews, Egyptians stay indoors after sunset. The night is owned by helicopters roaming the skies, fat army tanks sitting heavily in the streets and bands of men wielding knives, clubs and guns at makeshift checkpoints. The occasional crackle of gunfire rings out, a reminder that the violence has only slowed, not stopped.

Access To Justice In Canada 'Abysmal,' Report Says

SASKATOON - Access to justice in Canada is being described as "abysmal" in a new report from the Canadian Bar Association, which also calls for much more than "quick fix" solutions.

The summary report, released Sunday at the association's conference in Saskatoon, says there is profoundly unequal access to justice in Canada.

Egyptian Government Slams Foreign Press As Journalists Come Under Assault

CAIRO -- Facing a wave of international condemnation for its approach to a Muslim Brotherhood protest movement, and the soaring violence that followed in its wake, Egypt's government opened a sustained broadside against Western journalists over the weekend, accusing them of ignoring facts and "biased coverage."

When Shareholder Activism Goes Too Far

With the hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman having resigned from J. C. Penney’s board of directors on Tuesday, we can now declare the end of his extraordinarily unsuccessful attempt to reinvent Penney. It was months in the making: Penney’s board fired Ackman’s handpicked C.E.O., the former Apple retail head Ron Johnson, back in April. But Ackman, who still owns more than seventeen per cent of the company, had stayed on the board after Johnson’s departure, and still seemed to harbor hopes of remaking the company. The debacle at Penney is now prompting people to look more skeptically at Ackman, who manages Pershing Square Capital, and that’s fitting. But it should also make us skeptical, in general, of one of the more dubious trends in today’s market: money managers who also fancy themselves corporate visionaries.

Days of Rage

From the start of the Arab Spring, it has always been worth remembering that the ecstasies of uprising are rarely followed by immediate pacific and democratic resolution. The Terror and Bonapartism shadowed the storming of the Bastille. The American Revolution did not emancipate the slaves; a gulf of nearly two centuries lay between Washington’s march and the March on Washington. The hopes of the Prague Spring, in 1968, crushed by Moscow’s tanks, did not revive until 1989. And, in the former Soviet imperium, democratic Prague is a happy exception. What is Vladimir Putin if not the scowling visage of history, a secret policeman who mocks the earnest ambitions of liberty?

Thunderchild First Nation Oil Protesters Banned From Interfering

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. - A Saskatchewan court has banned protesters from interfering with oil exploration work on a reserve in the west-central part of the province.

The Thunderchild First Nation asked for the injunction against some of its members who have been have been camped out on the oil exploration site for the past few weeks.

The protesters say the Sundance grounds are a sacred site and development should not be happening anywhere near them.

Line 9 assessment process is undemocratic

In the critical negotiation between Canada’s short-term economic interests and the preservation of our natural bounty, democracy dictates that citizens get a say. So why, as the National Energy Board considers a proposal to increase and reverse the flow of Enbridge’s Line 9, an oil pipeline that crosses the GTA, are concerned Canadians finding themselves unable to weigh in?

In April, the NEB announced that anyone wishing to speak at its public hearing on Line 9, or even write a letter on the subject, had to apply to do so, within a two-week period, by filling out a prolix nine-page form that resembled something out of Kafka. Those who became aware of the new rules early enough, and could spare the hours to complete the form, were asked to parse paragraphs like this: “Before you continue with this form, refer to the Board’s Guidance Document on Section 55.2 and Participation in a Facilities Hearing attached to the Hearing Order OH-002-2013 as Appendix VI . . . ” And even if you managed to wade through the form, the board might still reject your application.

Canada should campaign for democracy in Egypt

During the autocratic Hosni Mubarak era, Egyptian police and its hired thugs used to target women protesters, hijabis/niqabis in particular — taunting them, shoving them and groping them. In the post-Mubarak era, the army initiated virginity tests. The practice was defended by Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, now the de facto head of state. Strangely, he is being applauded, among others, by liberals, including some women, for toppling the elected president, Mohammed Morsi, and crushing his supporters. Such is the hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood by its mostly secular opponents.

Pipelines as nation-builders? Historians dubious of railway comparisons

CALGARY — To hear some proponents of the Energy East project tell it, the moment the taps open on the $12-billion oil pipeline will be as significant as when the last spike was driven into the Canadian Pacific Railway almost 128 years ago.

Linking western crude to eastern markets would be a huge undertaking — the proposal, which would carry crude through Ottawa and the surrounding area, would be the most expensive project in TransCanada Corp.’s more than 60-year history — but some observers are dubious Energy East will one day be worthy of its own Heritage Minute.

Call-centre company employed by Conservatives gets creditor protection extension

OTTAWA — The call-centre company credited with helping the Conservative Party win power has been given an extension on protection from its creditors.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has agreed to give iMarketing Solutions GroupInc., which owns the voter-contact firm RMG, another 60 days of protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.

Egypt: Islamists Hit Coptic Christian Churches, Torch Franciscan School

CAIRO — After torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like "prisoners of war" before a Muslim woman offered them refuge. Two other women working at the school were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob.

In the four days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt's ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority. The campaign of intimidation appears to be a warning to Christians outside Cairo to stand down from political activism.

Hiring in China by JPMorgan Under Scrutiny

Federal authorities have opened a bribery investigation into whether JPMorgan Chase hired the children of powerful Chinese officials to help the bank win lucrative business in the booming nation, according to a confidential United States government document.

In one instance, the bank hired the son of a former Chinese banking regulator who is now the chairman of the China Everbright Group, a state-controlled financial conglomerate, according to the document, which was reviewed by The New York Times, as well as public records. After the chairman’s son came on board, JPMorgan secured multiple coveted assignments from the Chinese conglomerate, including advising a subsidiary of the company on a stock offering, records show.

Victims’ Dilemma: 911 Calls Can Bring Eviction

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — The police had warned Lakisha Briggs: one more altercation at her rented row house here, one more call to 911, and they would force her landlord to evict her.

They could do so under the town’s “nuisance property” ordinance, a law intended to protect neighborhoods from seriously disruptive households. Officials can invoke the measure and pressure landlords to act if the police have been called to a rental home three times within four months.

Portrait of a Cairo Liberal as a Military Backer

In Cairo Friday morning, before the midday call to prayer and an afternoon of protest marches that resolved in violence, chaos, and the overnight siege of a mosque, I jumped into a taxi and slipped across the Nile into the quiet, semi-suburban neighborhood of Dokki. I was there to meet with Mohammed Aboul-Ghar, a seventy-three-year-old academic and politician who has been a leading figure in Egypt’s liberal establishment, and now represents one of the most confounding elements of the country’s current crisis: the wholesale alignment of old-guard liberals with the military.

Hard to Crack: The Government’s Encryption Conundrum

Imagine that you want to tell someone a secret. You put it in a message addressed to only that person. The message travels across a series of crowded public thoroughfares, where, at times, it will be out in the open, entirely visible. It can be intercepted, even duplicated, along the way, at various points, by different parties—unsavory people, government agents, or both.

That’s essentially what happens any time data is sent across the Internet, particularly over open, public networks. So how do you keep your secret? With a code: when data is encrypted, it appears, to anyone without the key to decrypt it, as an unreadable tangle of bits. Though encryption sounds like an activity practiced solely by the utterly paranoid, it’s now extremely common: Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, banks, and online stores regularly encrypt data, both on their servers and in communications with their users, as does any technology company with a concern for information security.