Thursday, September 05, 2013

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Justin Ling reports on the federal government's covert surveillance of Idle No More:
Sitting in her teepee on Ottawa’s Victoria Island in December 2012, Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence was officially starting her hunger strike, breathing fire into the Idle No More movement and setting off a chain reaction that would eventually force Ottawa into talks on the nature of Canada’s relationship with First Nations. Meanwhile, five blocks away as the crow flies, the federal government’s security and emergency nervous system was ramping up its efforts to keep tabs on the movement. Just how extensive, and often ham-handed, the surveillance was is only now coming to light with the release of thousands of new documents.
At one point, a group of developers created an Idle No More app that allowed activists to share information and plan protests, flash mobs and round dances. Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Michael Wernick contacted his communications director to see if the office could surreptitiously piggyback on the app to get its own message across. “Is it in any way feasible to get our backgrounders into the flow of this app without the appearance of [government] ringers calling into an open-line show?” he asks in one document.
Media lines from the department stress that the federal government does not operate as Big Brother to First Nations: “[Aboriginal Affairs] does not perform any type of ‘surveillance’ of any individuals, groups, or communities,” says one communiqué. Palmater scoffs at that, citing the case of Cindy Blackstock, a First Nations child rights advocate who was under surveillance by the government’s own admission. With Idle No More, it’s snooping, not spying; still, “I don’t think they should be treating us like domestic terrorists,” says Palmater.
- But of course, the Cons see transparency as a one-way street - as evidenced by the fact that they've stopped the flow of decades-old documents which would normally be declassified.

- And the Council of Canadians offers another example of secrecy trumping basic rights of public participation, as the Northwest Territories are allowing fracking operations to proceed without even disclosing the nature of the toxic chemicals they're pumping into the ground.

- In an interview with Olivier Pascal-Moussellard,Thomas Piketty suggests that modest capital taxes on high net worth households might offer the solution to growing inequality.

- Finally, Peter Hamby's paper (PDF) on media coverage of the U.S.' 2012 presidential campaign is well worth a read - particularly in the lessons to be drawn by media outlets in deciding whether their resources are better directed toward bodies on a bus, or deeper analysis of the campaign as a whole.

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