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.]

Friday, February 28, 2014

Does Harper tip well, at least?

Let me be clear from the beginning: There is no evidence that the prime minister knew about those free lunches in his office that cost the taxpayers $67,000.

One person and one person alone bears responsibility: Nigel Wright, a good man gone horribly wrong. Apparently, the PM’s former chief of staff (or should that be chef-of-staff?) did not merely keep his backroom deals with Senator Mike Duffy from Steve. Nigel also deceived him about the chicken and mushroom fettucine, the pizza and — I might as well say it — the garlic bread and Caesar salad too.

Verizon CEO Wants To Charge You More If You Use Too Much Internet

Netflix streamer? File sharer? If Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam gets his way, you may soon start paying more for broadband.

At an investor's meeting on Monday, McAdam used his closing comments to clarify Verizon's position on net neutrality, or the rule that internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all types of web traffic equally.

"I think it is only natural that the heavy users help contribute to the investment to keep the web healthy," McAdam said. Those "users" could be companies that use a lot of bandwidth -- like Netflix -- or even individual consumers -- like people who stream a lot of Netflix. Essentially, McAdam's saying that if you're using too much Internet, you should pay up.

Putin Foe Alexei Navalny Under House Arrest

MOSCOW, Feb 28 (Reuters) - A Russian court placed opposition leader Alexei Navalny under house arrest for at least two months on Friday and barred him from using the Internet or speaking to the media.

The court said Navalny, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and a leader of anti-Kremlin protests in 2011 and 2012, had violated rules barring him from leaving Moscow.

Navalny denounced the ruling as baseless and said it was meant to silence him. Supporters, including members of protest band Pussy Riot, shouted "Freedom!" as he left the courtroom.

Senators to investigate NSA role in GCHQ 'Optic Nerve' webcam spying

Three US senators are planning to investigate any role the National Security Agency played in its British partner’s mass collection of Yahoo webcam images.

Reacting to the Guardian’s revelation on Thursday that UK surveillance agency GCHQ swept up millions of Yahoo users’ webcam chats, senators Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich said in a joint statement that “any involvement of US agencies in the alleged activities reported today will need to be closely scrutinized”.

Russian armoured vehicles on the move in Crimea

With Russian armoured personnel carriers on the move in the Crimean peninsula, world leaders have sought assurances from the Kremlin that Moscow is not acting to escalate the violence in Ukraine.

A convoy of nine APCs painted with the Russian flag were seen on the road between the port city of Sevastopol and the regional capital of Sinferopol. Reporters spotted them parked on the side of a road near the town of Bakhchisarai, apparently stalled after one vehicle developed a mechanical fault.

The Russian foreign ministry said movements of vehicles belonging to the Russian Black Sea Fleet were prompted by the need to ensure the security of its base in Sevastopol. Russia is supposed to notify Ukraine of any troop movements outside the naval base. The Ukrainian defence ministry said it had no information about the vehicles' movements.

Alberta doctor tells U.S.: Canada is ‘lying’ about tar sands’ health effects

A northern Alberta doctor warned U.S. Senators on what he says have been the devastating health impacts of the tar sands on families – effects, he says, that have been willfully “ignored” by the Canadian and Alberta governments.
“I appeal to you to keep up the pressure – this is an ongoing tragedy.  A total disgrace,” said Dr. John O’Connor, Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Grand Chief predicts repeat of Oka crisis if feds fail to consult First Nations before Enbridge Northern Gateway decision

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announced yesterday that the federal government's decision to the deeply controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is expected some time in mid-June. For it to be approved, however, the federal government is constitutionally required to meaningfully consult First Nations along the pipeline route. 

North Korea Fired 4 Suspected Missiles Into Eastern Waters, Seoul Says

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired four suspected short-range missiles into its eastern waters Thursday, South Korean defense officials said, in an apparent effort to protest ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises that Pyongyang calls a rehearsal for invasion.

The launches, however, weren't expected to raise tension as North Korean routinely tests short-range missiles and it has recently sought better ties with South Korea in what outside analysts say is an attempt to win badly-needed foreign investment and aid. The rival Koreas this month held their first reunions of Korean War-divided families in more than three years.

Ukraine: Armed Men In Russian Uniforms Reportedly Occupy Crimea Airport

IMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — A protest leader expected to become Ukraine's next prime minister says the country's future lies in the European Union but with friendly relations with Russia.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Ukraine doesn't want a fight with Russia, but insisted the country wouldn't accept the secession of the southern Crimea region, where unknown gunmen on Thursday occupied local government buildings and raised the Russian flag.

He said Crimea "has been and will be a part of Ukraine."

The 39-year-old Yatsenyuk has been nominated by Ukraine's interim leaders to become prime minister. A vote was expected in Parliament later Thursday.

Yatsenyuk said tough reforms are needed to prevent Ukraine, divided in loyalties between Russia and the West, from collapsing economically and politically.

Original Article
Author:  AP  | by  DALTON BENNETT


In the ongoing debate about rising income inequality, two questions are often raised: one from the left—Is rising inequality impeding economic growth? And the other from the right: Does tackling inequality, which usually involves some form of redistribution, reduce growth?
The questions reflect differing concerns and differing world views. In his 2012 book, “The Price of Inequality,” Joseph Stiglitz, the liberal Columbia economist, argued that recent trends in income distribution threatened not just economic growth but the very fabric of democracy. On the other side of the ideological divide, conservative economists claim that tackling inequality—by, for instance, raising taxes on the rich and using it to finance government programs for the poor—has adverse effects on incentives and restricts growth, which is counterproductive for everybody.

China Proposes Controversial New Holidays Amid Growing Tensions With Japan

A new plan proposed in China's parliament would establish two new national holidays in remembrance of conflicts with Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday.

Many perceive Beijing's push for the new holidays, which comes amid growing political and economic tensions between China and Japan, as an antagonistic move against the Japanese.

Libertarians Plan to Sit Out the Coming Collapse of America…in Chile

Ken Johnson's Jeep crests a ridgetop on a dusty track a few miles off the private tollway that connects Santiago and Valparaíso, Chile. He gets out, takes a swig of beer, and gestures at the hardwood forests rising up to the craggy mountaintops. Below, Pacific coastal scrub stretches toward the lemon groves where cooks are roasting three lambs on an open fire. "Look at that, look at how majestic that is," Johnson says. "That is awesome."

Welcome to Galt's Gulch Chile, a libertarian refuge from the coming economic, social, and political collapse of the United States. The would-be free-market utopia, named after the mountain redoubt of the protagonist of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, is taking advance payments (Bitcoins gladly accepted) for parcels on its 11,000 acres.

Shocker: Canadian Taxpayers Federation suffers 17% membership slump!

In a stunning development, membership in the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has slumped close to 17 percent -- from six members, to five!
Alert readers will recall Alberta Diary's revelation in March 2013 that the much-quoted organization, which is as pure an example of political AstroTurfing as can be found in Canada, in reality has only five members.
The self-described "citizen advocacy" group had been allowing itself to be portrayed by its many friends in media as an organization of 70,000 Canadians -- including, as it happened, your blogger's dog Riley, who, aside from his rather basic understanding of economics, is as friendly and loyal a fellow as you could wish to meet.

TransCanada Whistleblower's Safety Complaints Validated by Regulator

You can't say that pipeline whistleblower Evan Vokes didn't warn North Americans that something was wrong with TransCanada's pipeline safety system.

Almost two years ago, the former TransCanada employee filed a lengthy complaint against the proponent of the Keystone XL line with the National Energy Board (NEB).

It claimed the Calgary-based company routinely cut corners, let business decisions undermine engineering practices, and did not uphold the law governing pipeline safety, such as Onshore Pipeline Regulations-99 (OPR-99).

Taxing The Rich Not A Drag On Economic Growth: IMF Paper

OTTAWA - A new paper by researchers at the International Monetary Fund appears to debunk a tenet of conservative economic ideology — that taxing the rich to give to the poor is bad for the economy.

The paper by IMF researchers Jonathan Ostry, Andrew Berg and Charalambos Tsangarides will be applauded by politicians and economists who regard high levels of income inequality as not only a moral stain on society but also economically unsound.

Labelled as the first study to incorporate recently compiled figures comparing pre- and post-tax data from a large number of countries, the authors say there is convincing evidence that lower net inequality is good economics, boosting growth and leading to longer-lasting periods of expansion.

Ohio Early Voting Will No Longer Take Place On Sundays, Weekday Evenings

Ohio voters will no longer be able to take part in early voting on Sundays or weekday nights, according to hours set by Secretary of State Jon Husted.

The AP reports voters will only get two Saturdays to cast early, in-person ballots during the statewide election this fall.

In a release on the "fair and uniform voting hours," Husted explained the goal of cutting back on opportunities for early voting.

Scared by a Downloading Lawsuit? It Might Be a Troll

The outbreak of copyright trolling cases in the United States and Britain in recent years has sparked considerable anger from courts, Internet providers and subscribers. These cases, which typically involve sending thousands of legal letters alleging copyright infringement and demanding thousands of dollars to settle, rely on ill-informed and frightened subscribers, who would rather pay the settlement than fight in court.

Canada was largely spared these cases until 2012, when Voltage Pictures, a United States film company, filed a lawsuit demanding that TekSavvy, a leading independent Internet provider, disclose the names and addresses of thousands of subscribers who it claimed infringed its copyright. TekSavvy did not formally oppose the request, but it did ensure that its subscribers were informed about the lawsuit and it supported an intervention from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, a technology law clinic, that brought the privacy and copyright trolling concerns to the court's attention (I sit on the CIPPIC advisory board).

Disabled could lose job aid in funding spat with Ottawa

Job coaches are starting to get pink slips as Ottawa and the provinces continue their standoff over employment funding.

The Nova Scotia government has warned employment groups it cannot guarantee their funding after March 31, when its contract with Ottawa, known as a labour market agreement, expires.

One group, the Collaborative Partnership Network, is holding an event today at the legislature to warn that 200 disabled Nova Scotians will lose their support programs and possibly their jobs if a new agreement is not reached in time.

Harper Says Income Splitting 'Good Policy' Despite Flaherty's Misgivings

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hinting that the key Conservative campaign plank from the 2011 federal election that earned him a majority may not be pitched overboard after all.

Income-splitting for couples with children under 18 was a multibillion-dollar pledge during the last election — a Conservative promise that would kick in as soon as the government balanced the federal budget.

Ukraine's President Yanukovych Planned Crackdown As He Fled, Documents Show

Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych was planning a massive crackdown involving thousands of army troops, according to documents leaked to the Financial Times.

The papers, which the Financial Times said were verified by senior Ukrainian officials, refer to plans to move security forces from the southern regions of Ukraine into the capital, Kiev, for an "antiterrorist" operation that involved warrantless searches and authorized the use of weapons on protesters. The newspaper adds that another document, posted to Facebook by a former interior minister who claimed to have received it from "patriotic law enforcement officials," details plans for an operation aimed at regaining control of Kiev's city center.