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, April 28, 2016

New Study Shows Mass Surveillance Breeds Meekness, Fear and Self-Censorship

A newly published study from Oxford’s Jon Penney provides empirical evidence for a key argument long made by privacy advocates: that the mere existence of a surveillance state breeds fear and conformity and stifles free expression. Reporting on the study, the Washington Post this morning described this phenomenon: “If we think that authorities are watching our online actions, we might stop visiting certain websites or not say certain things just to avoid seeming suspicious.”

Letter Details FBI Plan for Secretive Anti-Radicalization Committees

Of the plans put forward by the federal government to identify and stop budding terrorists, among the least understood are the FBI’s “Shared Responsibility Committees.”

The idea of the committees is to enlist counselors, social workers, religious figures, and other community members to intervene with people the FBI thinks are in danger of radicalizing — the sort of alternative to prosecution and jail time many experts have been clamoring for. But civil liberties groups worry the committees could become just a ruse to expand the FBI’s network of informants, and the government has refused to provide details about the program.

When You Want To Be Black Without Dealing With Black Issues

Thanks to the popularization of rap music -- that has every man, woman and child whipping and nene-ing, dabbing and panda-ing, wanting to be a trap queen or be with a trap queen -- the black culture is being embraced like never before.

And with global music icons such as Beyoncé, Rihanna (my wife in my dreams) and Nicki Minaj, all the ladies now want to "slay," "work" and purchase a big booty from the nearest plastic surgeon to match their "anaconda."

Notorious Louisiana Prison Accuses Inmate Of ‘Defiance’ For Speaking With Reporters

Officials at one of the United States’ most notorious prisons have reportedly punished an outspoken inmate for daring to correspond with reporters about conditions inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

William Kissinger was abruptly relocated from Angola to the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center some 70 miles south in early February, after emailing with a reporter from the New Orleans Advocate for some weeks. Prison officials say he was moved as a disciplinary action because he was guilty of “defiance” and “general prohibited behavior,” the Advocate reports — two broad and vague rules of prisoner conduct that allow officials to punish inmates for anything they decide insults staff or impedes the prison’s function.

RESP grants favour higher-income families, federal study confirms

A new federal study confirms what critics have said for years: Ottawa's centrepiece education savings program is helping higher-income families much more than needy families.

An internal evaluation of the Canada Education Savings Program, which pours more than $800 million in grants each year into the education-savings accounts of Canadian families, concludes that it is skewed toward the well-off.

The unbearable lightness of Stéphane Dion

At the end of May, the Trudeau team and, specifically, its piffle of a global affairs minister, Stéphane Dion, will likely fail two significant foreign policy tests that will challenge their ability to comply with domestic and international law. One deals with an individual war criminal, while the other is a massive terrorism and torture trade show coming to Ottawa.

On May 26, a man responsible for complicity in horrific war crimes, Henry Kissinger, will arrive in Toronto, along with another similarly shady character, Shimon Peres, to speak at the incredibly named Spirit of Hope gathering of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. (Readers of this column may recall the shameless selfies with Kissinger recently taken and promoted by Liberal cabinet ministers Mélanie Joly and Navdeep Bains, which proved hugely insulting to Kissinger's victims.)

Working and dying in the sharing economy

The National Day of Mourning reminds us that for many, workplaces remain dangerous locations. Each year, Canada's national unions take a moment to remember the lives stolen by unsafe workplaces.

Labour codes across Canada have been written to try and limit the number of workplace accidents. Regulations are meant to enforce labour code laws and fine managers or bosses who willfully or through neglect put their employees into harm's way.

These protections are the result of years of activism from unions and are one of the ways that unions have helped protect non-unionized workers. You have the right to refuse unsafe work, for example, regardless of whether or not you're unionized.

Luxembourg Puts Journalist and Whistleblowers On Trial for Ruining Its “Magical Fairyland” of Tax Avoidance

LUXEMBOURG IS TRYING to throw two French whistleblowers and a journalist in prison for their role in the “LuxLeaks” exposé that revealed the tiny country’s outsized role in enabling corporate tax avoidance.

The trial of Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, two former employees of the international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and journalist Edouard Perrin began Tuesday.

House Democrats Push Back On Obama Plan To Cut Drug Prices

WASHINGTON — A group of House Democrats is organizing an effort to slow down an Obama administration plan to reduce drug prices, according to a letter obtained by The Huffington Post.

The Department of Health and Human Services is working toward finalizing a new rule that would experiment with ending the financial incentive doctors have for prescribing some extremely expensive medications. The rule has been well-received among some patient advocates, but congressional Democrats have been largely silent, while the pharmaceutical industry and medical community have waged an aggressive campaign to stop it.

Tuesday Night Massacre: The Looming Trump v. Clinton Debacle

The surrealist painting that is this election season came into grim focus last night as the two big-money front-runners blew the doors off their respective rivals and came many steps closer to giving the "news" media the general election race they've been craving. Donald Trump won everything by margins so wide you could sail an aircraft carrier through them. Hillary Clinton took four out of five contests, with Bernie Sanders picking up Rhode Island. It was near-comprehensive domination, and unless Trump bursts into flames or Clinton starts eating live wombats during a press conference, we're all staring the general election contest dead in the face.

Newfoundland Libraries To Be Closed As Part Of New Regional Model

First it became Canada's only province to tax books, and now Newfoundland and Labrador is closing a whole lot of libraries.

The province's library resources board announced on Wednesday it was adopting a new "regional library model," which would shut down 54 branches over two years, leaving 41 open. The list of affected libraries will be released once employees have been notified.

Fortress Canada: How much of a military do we really need?

As the Trudeau government pursues its review of Canada’s defence policy, an interesting debate is emerging in defence policy circles — between those who want to pull back from the world and those who think that would be a big mistake.

Some have pointed to the safety and security offered by Canada’s geo-strategic location in North America as arguing for a homeland-focused defence policy. Thomas Juneau took up that thread last week, suggesting that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) should learn to “do less with less.”

The Duffy affair — and what it’s like living under the PMO’s bootheel

I suppose it’s tempting to view the Mike Duffy saga as a zero-sum game — one where the losses balance out the wins. In fact, nobody won this time.

Duffy himself certainly didn’t ‘win’ — not entirely. Contrary to what you may have read on this page and elsewhere, Duffy was neither vindicated nor exonerated. “Not guilty” and “innocent” are still two very different things.

Premier's Annual Stipends from Liberal Party Total $300,000

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark admits she received more than $300,000 that the NDP says came from donors to the BC Liberal Party she leads.

In a letter to conflict of interest commissioner Paul Fraser, Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby alleges the party is "laundering" the donations before they are given to Clark, failing to hide a "reprehensible activity" that has had a big financial benefit for the premier.