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.]

Saturday, August 03, 2013

"We Are Slowly Dying": Fast-Food Workers Launch Strike for Living Wage and Right to Unionize

A national strike for a living wage and the right to unionize in the fast-food and retail sectors has spread across seven cities. Hundreds of workers walked off the job Thursday in Milwaukee, and before that in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Flint and New York City. "What else do we have to lose? We are already slowly dying in our day-to-day lives," says our guest Terrance Wise, who works at both Burger King and Pizza Hut and is a member of the Stand Up Kansas City campaign. "So why not speak up, and stand up, and let the nation know that we are suffering? This is really a cry for help. This great nation should not turn its back on working-class people that need help." We also speak with Josh Eidelson, who covers labor issues for The Nation and is also a contributing writer for His latest article is "Fast Food Strikes Intensify in Seven Cities."

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North Carolina Voter ID Law Could Lead To Increased Voter Intimidation, Harassment, Election Officials Fear

In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, reports of harassment and intimidation at the polls were so rampant in North Carolina that the state's top election official was obliged to send a memo to his employees reminding them that they could call police if necessary.

Now, as North Carolina's governor prepares to sign one of the most restrictive election bills in the nation, civil-rights advocates and election officials in the state expect to see a rise in what they call voter intimidation.

Why Russia Turned Against The Gays

Three months before Russia’s parliament unanimously passed a federal law banning the propaganda of “non-traditional relationships” — that is, same-sex ones — the bill’s sponsor went on the country’s most respected interview show to explain her reasoning.

“Analyzing all the circumstances, and the particularity of territorial Russia and her survival…I came to the conclusion that if today we want to resolve the demographic crisis, we need to, excuse me, tighten the belt on certain moral values and information, so that giving birth and raising children become fully valued,” lawmaker Yelena Mizulina told Vladimir Posner, Russia’s Charlie Rose.

U.S. 'Homeland' Includes Canada And Mexico On NSA Map

Just when you thought the NSA surveillance programs couldn't get any scarier, the spy agency goes ahead and makes Canada part of the U.S. "homeland."

That's how Canada — as well as Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean — was labeled on an NSA map presented at a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday.

The map appeared during a presentation by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, an outspoken supporter of the NSA's surveillance activities, on how many terror "events" (don't confuse this with plots, the numbers are different) the agency has disrupted.

Elections Canada says it has found more than 40 cases of ineligible corporate donations

OTTAWA — It seems former Conservative minister Peter Penashue wasn’t the only candidate to accept ineligible corporate donations during the 2011 federal election.

Newly revealed documents show Elections Canada has uncovered more than 40 cases of corporate contributions being accepted during the campaign.

The donations ranged in value from $25 to $3,000 and included both money and services — all of which are forbidden, as only individuals are allowed to contribute to campaigns.

Senators Trying To 'Narrow' Definition Of Journalist In Media Shield Law

In the wake of the many different scandals surrounding the government's surveillance of journalists, senators are attempting to craft a new federal shield law that would ramp up some of the protections for reporters. But, as McClatchy reported on Thursday night, the politicians have hit a bit of a snag: they can't agree on who is a journalist and who isn't.

It's an especially important question in the digital age, when "personal brands" are all the rage, and journalists can thrive without being attached to any particular news organization. The issue of who falls into the camp--and is thus deserving of the "journalist" label and any increased rights that come with it--surfaced recently when the Justice Department issued new guidelines for the surveillance of the press. Critics of the revised rules argued that they were heavily skewed towards "legacy" media outlets, leaving independent, freelance journalists and bloggers out in the cold.

U.S. Issues Worldwide Travel Alert

WASHINGTON — The United States issued an extraordinary global travel warning to Americans Friday about the threat of an al-Qaida attack and closed down 21 embassies and consulates across the Muslim world for the weekend.

The alert was the first of its kind since an announcement preceding the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This one comes with the scars still fresh from last year's deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, and with the Obama administration and Congress determined to prevent any similar breach of an American Embassy or consulate.

With One Prisoner Dead, Will California Listen to the Hunger Strikers?

On July 22, 32-year-old Billy “Guero” Sell was found dead in his cell at Corcoran State Prison, in California, the first apparent casualty of a widespread hunger strike organized by state prisoners. Sell’s fellow prisoners reported to outside advocates that he had been asking for medical attention since July 15 or 16. He died four days later.

Officials at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) originally disputed Sell’s involvement in the hunger strike, investigating his death as an apparent suicide. Corcoran staff found Sell unresponsive in his cell during their half-hour welfare checks of SHU prisoners. Sell was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Monsterization of Trayvon Martin

There was a small, crystalline window of time, as I sat waiting for the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, when it felt as though we were perched between two worlds of possibility. As I watched the media blare, there was a breathless, swooping, nearly operatic transport to the moment; pundits recapitulated all the reasons to be afraid, very afraid. Anticipating acquittal, they eagerly imagined crescendos of erupting terror, riot and civil collapse. Florida was under lockdown. Magical legions of hydra-headed Trayvon Martin–shaped “thug wannabes” were assembling at the edges of the badlands.

This 7-Year-Old Is Banned From Talking About Fracking—Ever

When a property owner reaches a settlement with an oil or gas driller, it's not unusual for the company to demand that the plaintiffs in the case agree to a gag order that bars them from talking about the agreement. But a recent case in Pennsylvania is unusual. That's because the gag order prohibited the 7- and 10-year-old children of a couple that sued several gas companies not only from talking about their specific settlement, but from mentioning fracking at all. Ever.

Chris and Stephanie Hallowich reached a $750,000 settlement with Range Resources Corporation, Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream, and Markwest Energy related to health and environmental impacts they say they suffered due to natural gas development operations near their farm in Mount Pleasant, Pa. The family used the money to relocate. But in exchange, they had to agree that they could not comment "in any fashion whatsoever about Marcellus Shale/fracking activities."

Canada Slams Russia Over Snowden Asylum

OTTAWA - Canada has added its voice to those criticizing Russia for granting asylum to U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

"This is not something that Canada would have considered to do," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told The Canadian Press in an exclusive interview.

"It is an example where it does show Russia is a bit of an outlier in the G8."

All-Canadian conflict over new oil pipeline

A pop psychologist would say I'm conflicted. I'm sure a lot of other Canadians feel the same about Thursday's announcement of an all-Canadian oil pipeline.

The TransCanada Corporation says it is going to invest $12 billion to stretch a thin line of crude from Alberta to New Brunswick, with stopovers in Quebec, pumping more than a million barrels a day from the booming west to Canada's old industrial heartland.

What Big Telecom is really afraid of

Canada's Big Three telecom giants are sounding increasingly desperate these days -- they’re running expensive ads, that you paid for, invoking the bogeyman of foreign investment in growing new Canadian telecom start-ups.

Big Telecom's high-profile and misleading PR campaign is designed to convince the government to do a U-turn on their commitment to promote greater choice and lower prices for Canadian cell phone users.

Canada has strict foreign investment rules stipulating that investors must organically grow new telecom services, starting with investments in operations consisting of 10% or less of market penetration. The government also chose to set aside less digital infrastructure for new entrants in the upcoming spectrum auction than policy experts recommended.

Labour's battle for the public mind and the crucial social role of unions

It's always diverting when an apparently effete workforce, like foreign service workers at Canadian embassies, hit the bricks -- a hopelessly out-of-date term -- i.e., go on strike. It's your basic fish-out-of-water scenario, as they say at the fall TV launches. In this case, embassy employees are refusing to issue visas to foreign students coming here, or tourists travelling to family weddings, etc. That causes inconvenience, anger, sorrow as well as financial loss to strapped universities. The union is demanding pay raises to lift them to the same level as other government employees doing similar jobs. As usual, the employer -- the Harper government -- holds almost all the cards.