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.]

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bing censoring Chinese language search results for users in the US

Microsoft’s search engine Bing appears to be censoring information for Chinese language users in the US in the same way it filters results in mainland China.
Searches first conducted by anti-censorship campaigners at FreeWeibo, a tool that allows uncensored search of Chinese blogs, found that Bing returns radically different results in the US for English and simplified Chinese language searches on a series of controversial terms. 
These include Dalai Lama, June 4 incident (how the Chinese refer to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989), Falun Gong and FreeGate, a popular internet workaround for government censorship.

Inequality Is So Bad Even The Super-Rich Are Getting Left Behind

Believe it or not, 99 percenters, the 1 percent feels your pain: It suffers from inequality, too. An extremely comfortable inequality. But still, inequality.

The incomes of the very, very wealthiest Americans -- the top 0.01 percent -- have exploded since the 1980s, even more dramatically than the incomes of the next-wealthiest Americans -- the top 0.1 percent and 1 percent.

CSEC Headquarters' $1.2-Billion Price Tag Has Activists Outraged

When the Harper government tables its latest budget Tuesday afternoon, it will include continued funding for a massive, opulent new headquarters for Canada’s electronic spy agency, CSEC.

The $1.2-billion building on Ottawa's east side — dubbed the "spy palace" by critics and believed to be the most expensive government building ever constructed in Canada — has become a rallying point for activists protesting in the wake of allegations that CSEC has been spying on Canadians, in contravention of its mandate and possibly Canadian law.

Canada Budget Squeeze Continues, But Deficit All But Gone This Year: Flaherty

OTTAWA - The Conservative government continues to ratchet in the iron corset that will squeeze an eye-catching election-year surplus for the Canadian body politic.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's 10th federal budget all but balances the books this fiscal year, leaving a negligible $2.9-billion shortfall heading into the 2015-16 election year — when Prime Minister Stephen Harper will go to the electorate sporting a surplus that could exceed $6 billion.

Actually, my citizenship is a right

In unveiling his Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act last week, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander felt it important to remind us that “citizenship is not a right, it’s a privilege.”

I thought: “Really?” My mother’s ancestors have been traced as far back as Mackinac Island in the 1700s, where a French soldier named Bertrand met an Ojibway woman. We don’t know her name, but she was my great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother. For the ensuing 300-odd years, the Bertrands, Mitchells, Spaldings, Matthews, Foulds and Selleys have been at worst (hi there!) reasonably productive members of society and at best considerably better than that. My great-grandfather served with the Canadian Engineers in the First World War and my grandfather as a navy pilot in the Second. His service record notes 81 carrier landings, seven at night, and a decoration “for leadership, skill and daring during an air attack on an enemy convoy … on the night of 11th-12th January 1945.”

Creepy Canada

Is Canada getting creepy? It's getting close to Valentine's Day and perhaps a good time for Canadians to check in on our relationship with our federal government. The key ingredient in any relationship is trust -- something that has to go both ways. And I for one am not feeling the love.

Revelations last week that Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) was spying on Canadians cell phones through airport Wi-Fi networks only came to light due to documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Ontario's privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian said she was "blown away" by the news, adding that CSEC's methods seemed those of a "totalitarian state, not a free and open society."

Snowden's cache of leaked documents also showed that that CSEC was helping the U.S. government to use their embassy as a listening post on Canadian soil during the G20 summit in 2010. Last month a federal court judge ruled that CSEC made a "deliberate decision to keep the court in the dark" about asking foreign governments to spy on Canadians.

Eric Holder Backs Restoration Of Voting Rights For Former Felons

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Eric Holder is putting the weight of the Obama administration behind restoring voting rights to former felons, calling laws that disenfranchise millions of Americans "unnecessary and unjust," and saying they are rooted in "centuries-old conceptions of justice that were too often based on exclusion, animus, and fear."

Holder, who has made criminal justice reform a central focus of his over the past several months, said the policies had a disparate impact on minority communities and echoed those enacted during the post-Civil War era.

This Is What The Comcast-Time Warner Deal Does To Cable TV (It's Appalling)

If you aren't already horrified by Comcast's recent $45 billion buyout of rival provider Time Warner Cable, you should be.

As you can see from the chart below, a merger would mean Comcast would control more than half of all American cable subscribers.
Originally posted on Reddit, the data comes from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the trade association for the cable industry.

The Working Mom Problem No One Is Talking About

Pundits, CEOs and columnists constantly debate whether women can “have it all.”But a large swath of working mothers in America have no choice, but to do it all: They spend their days toiling away at department stores or cleaning other people’s houses then rush home to take care of their kids.

Obama's Tea Party Cousin Who's Running for Senate Compared President to Hitler

Milton Wolf is a tea party Republican in Kansas challenging incumbent conservative GOP Sen. Pat Roberts because he believes Roberts is not sufficiently conservative. He has equated President Barack Obama's treatment of successful Americans to Hitler's treatment of Jews and gypsies. He has compared Obama to a "less despotic" Benito Mussolini. The catch: Milton Wolf is Obama's cousin.

In interviews with Fox News and other conservative outlets, Wolf insists he has the utmost respect for the president, with whom he shares a male ancestor, Thomas Creekmore McCurry—Obama's great-great-grandfather and Wolf’s great-grandfather. Although Wolf has only met the president once, he told Fox News three years ago his family is proud of what "Barack" has accomplished and wants to see him succeed. But more recent comments reveal a rhetorical extremism and rigid ideological opposition that would be at home within the most excessive circles of the far right.

Harper, Flaherty Refuse To Address 2011 Balanced Budget Promises

OTTAWA - The Conservative government is refusing to talk about three other campaign promises from 2011 that were contingent on a balanced budget, saying it's too early to talk about what they might do with a surplus.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty created a stir this week when he raised doubts about the promise to allow income splitting for couples with children under 18. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it seems, shares his reservations.

Chris Alexander Says Canada's Doors Open To Rich Chinese

After the Conservative government froze and then cancelled the Immigrant Investor Program, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is still wooing Chinese millionaires.

Alexander used an interview with the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong earlier this week to invite wealthy Chinese to find a new ways to enter Canada in the wake of the cancellation.

"What we are saying to them is that all of our other immigration programs are available to you. Find the one that fits best for your situation," the English-language newspaper quoted him as saying.

Obama On California Drought: Climate Change Threatens The Nation

LOS BANOS, Calif. (AP) — Warning that weather-related disasters will only get worse, President Barack Obama said Friday the U.S. must rethink the way it uses water as he announced new federal aid to help drought-stricken California.

Obama drew a clear connection between California's troubles and climate change as he toured part of a farm that will go unsown this year as the state faces its worst drought in more than 100 years. Even if the U.S. takes action now to curb pollution, the planet will keep getting warmer "for a long time to come" thanks to greenhouse gases that have already built up, Obama said.

Ukraine Protesters Ready To Vacate Seized Kiev City Hall

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A top Ukrainian opposition leader said Saturday that protesters are ready to vacate the Kiev City Hall they have occupied for nearly three months — if the government drops all charges against the demonstrators.

This week, the last of the 234 protesters were released from jail as part of an amnesty. The amnesty law also calls for the opposition to vacate seized government buildings in Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine.

Mary Beard: vocal women treated as 'freakish androgynes'

Women who claim a public voice "get treated as freakish androgynes" with women under-represented in national politics and relatively "mute" in the public sphere, the classicist and author Mary Beard has said.

Highlighting the lack of the voice of expertise from women outside "the traditional spheres of women's sexual interests", the Cambridge academic said: "To put it another way, for a female MP to be minister of women or of education or health is a very different thing from being chancellor of the exchequer.