Democratic thinking

Articles on democracy in the independent online media

May 29, 2006

Google censoring the world’s information

Google has undergone a major change in policy when 'organising the world's information'. It decided to censor it instead.
The change was announced by Google engineers who are stating that Google now decides to return documents - when searching for something - based on their 'importance'. The importance of documents is automatically calculated by Google's algorithms.

This means that if you have a blog or a website with 100 pages, Google can choose to use only a tiny fraction of those pages for its search results, excluding the rest as not important (as it sees fit).

Inevitable talk of Google's inability to now index all of the world's information due to space constraints has arisen throughout the blogsphere and forums.

This is a major blow for internet democracy and the free flow of information as the multi-trillion internet search giant becomes a monopoly monolith only equivalent to the 'beloved' Microsoft for the computer software market.

A change in moto is urgently needed:
Google: Only organising what we think is the world's important information

May 27, 2006

Consumer democracy: Gorton’s Fisherman

Continuing the Consumer Democracy series the Resident Alien blog by James Kew exposes Gorton’s Fisherman packaging tactics over here.


May 25, 2006

Because he says so

May 24, 2006

Consumer democracy: Alitalia

You never really realise how bad corporations can be, until you come across one. Most of the time, even then, you never learn or often quickly forget.
Recently, after a flight between Italy and the UK my buggage was lost. The evil corporation?
Fiasco budget carrier Alitalia. After their staff showered me with lies about it at the airport, my first reaction when I got home was to research them online.

I typed in 'Alitalia lost luggage' in Google. What caught my eye was a website called I started reading and then it dawned on me. I was in for a tough ride.
The person that set up the website had an identical experience to mine. Lost his luggage, tried to get a refund and came up against the beauracratic wall of Alitalia Group. He was ignored and never refunded. In addition to all this, when he tried to speak out by launching a complaint website he was threatened and sued by Alitalia who tried to remove the website.

I started looking further and discovered many more places where people were citing very similar Alitalia nightmares across the web. There is even a new blog dedicated to Alitalia.

I am not going to get into detail but my modest claim was not directly rejected but I was asked to provide receipts for all my socks, underware and T-shirts. Some people might keep them, I certainly don't.

Alitalia looses thousands of luggage every year, so this unofficial no-refund policy on lost property saves them millions, which they then spend on bad management.

So all I am saying is, when you are mistreated don't keep your head down. Speak out. You have the power to make a difference. Share your experience with others and help them. This is part of the foundation of internet and consumer democracy. You can freely voice your complaints without the fear of prosecution. Enjoy your rights, enjoy the web, celebrate democracy.


May 16, 2006

Madeleine Albright - The Battle of Ideas

Q: You say in this book people ask why cant we just keep religion out of foreign policy. And your answer is that we can't, and shouldn't. Why?

A: I would put myself in the generation of people who used to say, 'It's complicated enough. Let's not bring God and religion into it.' But if you look at what the various problems are, religion itself is playing a great part. Look at the Middle East. If Jerusalem was just a real estate issue we could have dealt with it some time ago. But because both sides believe God gave them that piece of land, God is in some way present at the negotiating table. Therefore it's very important to get religious leaders to help in breaking down the problem, giving suggestions and also perhaps serving as validators once some decision has been made.

Q: But doesn't bringing God to the table mean people become so much more certain and righteous about their beliefs it leaves very little room for debate?

A: The truth is it depends on how you view your religion. Many people do not find the absolute truth. Therefore they are willing to make compromises to come to a solution where fewer people die. The question is, how do you interpret your religion? There are those who derive great certainty from religion. But I think the majority of people agree with Apostle Paul in the Corinthians: I see through a glass darkly, meaning that it is difficult to have absolute truth in this life.

Q: Is this ability to compromise being lost currently? Do you have any problems with how religion and foreign policy are getting intertwined in the current administration?

A: I am having some trouble. I have a quote in my book where President Bush says "I think that God wanted me to be president." The way that some of the foreign policy issues are being framed in terms of a choice between good and evil make the situation even more complicated. What I found interesting was that President Bush after 9/11 brilliantly united the country. Even throughout the world people were for us. But when, on the basis of a judgment of what is good and evil, the choice was so expanded so that those who were with us had to agree with the war on Iraq, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and the expansion of American military power, then the number of those who could support us narrowed.

I think we certainly know what evil is, but I don't think many of us would agree on the certainty of what good is. That certainty that exists now makes it very difficult to listen to diverse opinions -- and also if Plan A hasn't worked, to go to Plan B.

Q: Shouldn't a more religious White House have an easier time dealing with a more religious Tehran?

A: You would think so. What is interesting is that President Carter, who is a man of great faith, once said he found it easier to deal with religions that were quite different, rather than dealing with interpretations of a religion by different groups within it. But I would think there would be more of an understanding. America is a very religious country. Which is why, to get to the practical part of it, we should be having face-to-face talks with Iran.

Madeleine Albright is former secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and author of "The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on God, America and World Affairs". She was interviewed by Sandip Roy, an editor for New America Media.

May 14, 2006

The Freefalling Dollar

The dollar is getting hammered almost daily now. It’s like watching the blood ooze from an open wound. In just one month the dollar has tumbled from $1.20 to $1.29 vs. the euro; an astonishing 7% retreat.

Can’t the American people see what is happening to their future? In just 6 years Bush has taken the world’s strongest currency and chopped it into finally ground hash. By the time people rouse from their stupor, the greenback will be eye to eye with the peso.

Bush has piled up more debt than all the other presidents combined. His tax cuts have fattened the bankrolls of his constituents but they’ve put the dollar on a downward slide. Since he took office the once-mighty greenback has plummeted a whopping 35%.

Meanwhile, at the Federal Reserve, new Fed-master Bernacke has the printing presses running at warp-speed. The soaring price of oil has soaked up more than a trillion dollars of freshly-minted fiat currency, but it’s the only thing that's kept the greenback from slipping beneath the waves. Unfortunately, that trick won’t last forever.

Now that Bernacke is hinting that interest hikes may slow down or stop entirely, central banks across the world are stealthily off-loading their dollar-stockpiles. The twin-deficits ($400 billion account deficit and $800 billion trade deficit) have finally come home to roost and are pushing the dollar to new lows.

Dick Cheney’s foolish axiom, “Deficits don’t matter” has turned into a funereal-dirge for the greenback. Deficits Do matter, and bankers around the world are proving that by hastily moving away from Uncle Sam’s washed-out script.

More here.

May 12, 2006

Cuba fighting for dignity

Cuban author and scholar Miguel Barnet spoke up for Cuba’s right to dignity and independence, while denouncing international slander campaigns against the Revolution.
Meanwhile, the Pan-European Conference of Solidarity with Cuba passed a declaration demanding the European Union distant itself from US policy against Cuba. The document condemns EU conditioning of its development aid on political grounds.

Cuba, in a gesture of independence and dignity, rejects impositions that would lead to greater dependence and a loss of both freedom and democracy, which the Cuban people have been able to achieve," the document reads.

The text urges the EU to openly condemn the United States economic blockade against Cuba in the Final Declaration of the 4 EU Latin American and the Caribbean Summit. In addition, it calls on EU members to eliminate all sanctions imposed on Cuba.

The Alternative Summit opened on Wednesday with a call to counter neoliberal policies and denounces multinational corporation’s human rights violations in the Latin American and Caribbean countries.

It was also announced that the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia, Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, will join the gathering on Saturday.