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.]
PRAGUE — For a brief moment, it seemed that the powerful adviser’s head might roll at the Castle. After he lost his long legal battle over a hefty state fine, the Czech president warned him to pay up or lose his post.
Then a guardian angel materialized from Moscow.
Lukoil, the largest private Russian oil company in an industry dependent on Kremlin approval, stepped in to pay the nearly $1.4 million fine owed to a Czech court.
By signing Kris Kobach to his transition team, President-elect Donald Trump sent a message to the US. An architect of the notorious "papers please" bill, Arizona's SB 1070, Kobach stands to prepare the way for Trump's promise to deport 3 million migrants in his first year in office. While SB 1070-like bills were passed in other states around the US, it would likely have to be universalized through congressional legislation for such an increase of deportations to occur.
Syrian rebel groups warned they would consider a ceasefire deal brokered by Russia and Turkey "null and void" if government forces and their allies continued to violate it.
Clashes and air strikes persisted in some areas since the ceasefire began on Friday, though the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said on Saturday that the truce was still largely holding.
A large majority of Russia’s military strikes in Syria have not been aimed at the Islamic State group or jihadists tied to al-Qaida, and have instead targeted the moderate Syrian opposition, the US State Department said on Wednesday.
“Greater than 90% of the strikes that we’ve seen them take to date have not been against Isil or al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists,” said spokesman John Kirby.
Six years into the world’s grisliest war and worst humanitarian crisis, a ceasefire went into effect on Friday in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin, its co-mastermind, admitted that it is “fragile.” Two previous ceasefires—in February and September—lasted only weeks.The odds are stacked against this one bringing an end to all the fighting, since it deals with only one of multiple wars inside Syria, which have so far killed an estimated four hundred thousand people. But the current initiative—brokered by Russia and Turkey with Iranian support—is different from past efforts. It signals big shifts in the basics of the Syrian tragedy.
WASHINGTON — Vladimir Putin opted on Friday not to expel 35 American diplomats, following Thursday’s decision by the Obama administration to declare persona non grata that number of Russian intelligence operatives from the United States and take other measures in response to Russia’s interference in the recent election. The Kremlin chief may be trying to appear reasonable, seeking to limit the damage to U.S.-Russian relations with three weeks to go before Donald Trump, with his softer line toward Moscow, gets sworn in as president.
Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos signed a $250,000 book deal with Threshold Editions, an imprint of publishing house Simon & Schuster, the Hollywood Reporter announced on Thursday. People are not pleased.
The book deal gives Yiannopoulos a new platform to amplify his hateful rhetoric and contribute to misogyny and white supremacy. Yiannopoulos rose to prominence as an editor at Breitbart, which former Editor-at-Large Ben Shapiro called “the alt-right go-to website… pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”
New Year’s is a time for resolutions. Consistent with this tradition, powerful Republicans have made clear that they are resolving, in the New Year, to dismantle Medicare, ending it as we know it.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has said that destroying Medicare is part of the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare, another Republican resolution for 2017. And Representative Tom Price, powerful chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan ally, and likely next Secretary of Health and Human Services, has explained that the Republicans will enact Medicare legislation in the first six to eight months of 2017, since it is probably too big a task to include it in the planned January repeal of Obamacare.
The province’s 12 top-billing doctors — who received payments of between $2 million and $7 million in one year — are overcharging the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, documents obtained by the Star suggest.
A Health Ministry audit into their billing practices uncovered significant “concerns” about their claims to the taxpayer-funded plan.
U.S. intelligence officials appear certain that Russia was responsible for interfering in the presidential election — though they haven’t fully detailed how they know. But a classified document leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden reveals that they’ve tracked Russian hacking before and that the information they gleaned may have helped this time around.
Russian hacking also occurred in the case of Russian journalist and American citizen Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in 2006 in her Moscow apartment after writing articles critical of the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Five men were convicted of her murder, but it’s still a mystery who ordered the killing.
The FBI squarely blamed Russian intelligence services on Thursday for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, releasing the most definitive report yet on the issue, including samples of malicious computer code said to have been used in a broad hacking campaign.
Starting in mid-2015, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, the FSB, emailed a malicious link to more than 1,000 recipients, including U.S. government targets, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a 13-page report co-authored with the Department of Homeland Security. (bit.ly/2iuT8cp)
Michael McFaul, Barack Obama’s ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, has a blunt assessment of the actions that his former boss took against the Russian government this week. The sanctions on Russian intelligence officers and organizations, along with the expulsion of Russian intelligence officials and closing of Russian compounds in the United States, is “not going to change” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s behavior, he told me shortly after the measures were announced. Obama’s retaliation—at least the retaliation that the U.S. government has made public—isn’t sufficient to deter the Kremlin from interfering in future U.S. elections, he said.
LONDON — It seems a long time ago, that dawn in June, when the United Kingdom voted 52 percent to 48 percent to stay in the European Union.
Few, if anybody, at the time had talked about the possibility of a “Hard Remain.” To the contrary, many of the loudest voices in the campaign to stay, including then Prime Minister David Cameron, insisted that victory would be a continuation of the status quo, with the U.K. enjoying the pick-and-choose relationship it already has.
Since last week, we have seen a unique sequence of events, some unprecedented and others less so, that have brought the Palestine-Israel issue back to the fore. Last Friday, the United States abstained at the United Nations Security Council on Resolution 2334, thereby allowing it to pass when the 14 other members of the council voted for it.
Donald Trump boasted that his election reflected the “voice of the people,” but it was mostly the voice of fear. And while ingrained racism and misogyny drove much of Trump’s support, his popularity reflected a massive sense of loss: real economic loss, perceived cultural loss, and anticipatory loss for their children’s generation. Just how “real” this decline actually has been, however, depends on where you stand, and where you’re falling from.
WASHINGTON ― Newly proposed rule changes by Republicans to fine lawmakers for future breaches of decorum on the chamber floor sound an awful lot like something Russian President Vladimir Putin would do, according to one House Democrat.
On a call with his colleagues Thursday, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) called the move a “Putin-like” response to a sit-in Democrats staged earlier this year as they attempted to pressure Republicans for a vote on gun control measures.
The first major act of the unified Republican government in 2017 will be a vote in Congress to begin tearing down Obamacare.
But the euphoria of finally acting on a long-sought goal will quickly give way to the reality that Republicans -- and President-elect Donald Trump -- have no agreement thus far on how to replace coverage for about 20 million people who gained insurance under the health-care law.
White House officials predicted Thursday that new sanctions being levied against Russia in retaliation for that country’s apparent hacking during the 2016 election would not be reversed by President-elect Donald Trump, despite Trump’s call for warmer relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After he takes the oath of office in late January, Trump could unilaterally act to roll back the sanctions, which include expelling 35 Russian operatives and closing down two Russian facilities in the United States. But White House officials argued that if he did so, Trump would risk looking like he had caved to Russian interests.
House Republicans think Washington is just too nimble and too able to respond to unanticipated complications— and they’ve got a plan to nip that problem in the bud.
The incoming House majority plans to schedule a vote on the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act) soon after new members are sworn in next Tuesday. A top priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the leading lobby group for big business, REINS would fundamentally alter the federal government in ways that could hobble federal agencies during periods when the same party controls Congress and the White House — and absolutely cripple those agencies during periods of divided government.
A webpage run by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources used to explain to visitors that climate change is both occurring and is the result of human activity. Now, visitors to the same webpage will find false information claiming that the cause of climate change is still a matter of scientific debate.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the department, which is in charge of the state’s environmental policy, among other things, quietly scrubbed language from a page about the Great Lakes and climate change, striking out entire sentences about human contributions to climate change.
“It’s all just an attempt to delegitimize Donald Trump.” That’s the argument you hear from Trump supporters each time new information comes to light about how hard Russian spy services worked to damage Hillary Clinton. You heard it again on Thursday.
The Trump supporters are 100 percent right: The information is delegitimizing. The president-elect of the United States reportedly owes his office in considerable part to illegal clandestine activities in his favor conducted by a hostile, foreign spy service. It’s hard to imagine a crisis of presidential legitimacy more extreme than that. But that’s no argument against airing this information. It’s precisely why the information must be aired.
On a Tuesday in November, a few hours after the president-elect of the United States tweeted a string of insults at journalists and suggested that Americans exercising their free-speech rights should be stripped of their citizenship, the New York Times published a terrifying story.
Researchers, it said, were finding the "warning signs flashing red" when it comes to the vitality of democracies across the world. From Europe to New Zealand to the United States, the number of people who say it is important to live in a democracy has plummeted, while the number of Americans who think it would be okay for the military to seize power has skyrocketed.
President Barack Obama sanctioned Russian officials and entities on Thursday in response to Moscow’s reported hacking during the U.S. presidential election.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” the president said in a statement.
In addition to hitting two Russian intelligence agencies, three companies and four individual intelligence officers with sanctions banning them from travel and business with U.S. companies or individuals, Obama ordered 35 Russian operatives posted at diplomatic facilities in Washington and San Francisco to leave. The president asked the State Department to bar Russians from entering two Russian-owned compounds in Maryland and New York that were used to gather intelligence, according to his statement. And Obama’s Treasury Department barred U.S. business with two Russians accused of cyber-theft of money and data.
The Russian Embassy in London has issued a curious response to President Barack Obama sanctioning Russian officials over meddling in the US elections - tweeting a picture of a duckling emblazoned with the words “LAME”.
The cavalier approach to international diplomacy followed the outgoing US President’s crackdown as he warned: “All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions.”
In case it needs spelling out, the Holland Park-based Russian outpost was referring to Obama as a ‘lame duck’ - coming as it does days before he makes way for President-Elect Donald Trump on January 20.
President Barack Obama announced a new set of sanctions against the Russian government Thursday, which were issued in part because of hacks targeting the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The intelligence community believes these attacks were backed by Russia.
President-elect Donald Trump, for his part, suggested on Wednesday that he would rather move past discussing these hacks. “I think we ought to get on with our lives,” the incoming president said. “I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.”
WASHINGTON ― President Barack Obama sanctioned top Russian officials on Thursday in response to Moscow’s reported hacking during the U.S. presidential election.
“All Americans should be alarmed by Russia’s actions,” the president said in a statement.
Obama’s successor, president-elect Donald Trump, has cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia was responsible for unearthing and releasing material damaging to Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On Wednesday, Trump said it was time to “move on” and repeated that he believes it’s impossible to know who targeted Clinton.
We live in the age of the leaker. Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and Julian Assange are celebrated as heroes on op-ed pages and across glossy magazine spreads.
By exposing the secrets of the government, they claim to have revealed its systematic disregard for individual freedom and privacy. Theirs are not the politics of left against right, or liberals against conservatives, or Democrats against Republicans, but of the individual against the state. To oppose them is to side with power against liberty, surveillance against freedom, tyrannical secrecy against democratic openness.
Many people are familiar with the alleged efforts of the Russian government to hack computer systems belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. What is now becoming clear is that these apparent efforts are actually part of a much larger strategy to subvert advocates of liberal democracy around the world.
While the efforts to subvert Clinton’s campaign took place in secret, Russia’s other attempts to undermine American unity aren’t secret at all. They’re just not widely known. Among them are the nascent campaigns for both California and Texas to secede from the United States.
Last summer Democrats in the House of Representatives felt so excluded from the legislative process that they staged a Civil Rights-style sit-in on the chamber’s floor to protest Speaker Paul Ryan’s refusal to allow a vote on a gun-control bill. Ryan and his Republican majority heard their complaints and, in the spirit of magnanimity and bipartisan comity for which the GOP is so well-known, have now responded with a proposal that will punish any members of the chamber who ever go to such lengths to get their voices heard again.
MOSCOW — Alexander Shprygin, the 38-year-old head of Russia’s football supporters’ association, looked wary when I met him at his organization’s spacious offices in central Moscow. Dubbed a “Nazi-loving pal of Putin” and a “far-right fan leader” by international media after violence by tooled-up Russian hooligans at the summer’s Euro 2016 tournament, Shprygin represents what critics alleged was a Kremlin strike force sent to wreak havoc on the streets of France.
LONDON - When they appeared on the scene for the first time in 2006, few noticed them. And when four years later they hit worldwide media headlines with their publication of over 700,000 secret US government documents, many assumed that Julian Assange and his organisation, WikiLeaks, would be annihilated very shortly.
Since 2010 Assange has lived first under house arrest and then confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been granted asylum by Ecuador. The country's officials judged his concerns of being extradited to Sweden and then to the US to be put on trial for the WikiLeaks' revelations well-grounded.
For Generation Rent it was supposed to be Brexit’s silver lining: a crash in house prices big enough to get them on the first rung of the property ladder.
A month before the referendum, investment analysts Moody’s released a report saying Brexit would be a huge boost for first-time buyers. Suddenly, unaffordable properties would be in reach - particularly in London.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday the Syrian government and rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad have reached a ceasefire to end the fighting in the more than five-year civil war. The agreement was reached, he said, after efforts by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, which will all act as guarantors of the truce. Russia and Iran back Assad while Turkey supports some rebel groups. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said seven rebel group that account for some 60,000 fighters will be part of the agreement. Turkish officials said groups the UN labels as terrorist organizations will not be party to the ceasefire. Previous Western- and Arab-mediated efforts at a ceasefire in Syria have failed, and it’s unclear whether this attempt will be successful. Putin acknowledged as much, calling it “fragile.” In recent months, Assad has recaptured most of Syria’s cities and, aided by Russia, Iran, and fighters from Hezbollah, has put the rebels on the defensive.
Jedidiah Carlson was googling a genetics research paper when he stumbled upon the white nationalist forum Stormfront. Carlson is graduate student at the University of Michigan, and he is—to be clear—absolutely not a white nationalist. But one link lead to another and he ended up reading page after page of Stormfront discussions on the reliability of 23andMe ancestry results and whether Neanderthal interbreeding is the reason for the genetic superiority of whites. Obsession with racial purity is easily channeled, apparently, into an obsession with genetics.
Donald Trump’s December 2 phone call with Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, sent shock waves through China and much of the world. For nearly four decades it has been Washington’s official policy to recognize only China, and not Taiwan. Trump has indicated that he thought he could threaten China with abandoning this policy, in order to bargain for other concessions.
This has to be one of the worst diplomatic miscalculations of all time for a president-elect, and we should add, his incoming administration ― since it was apparently not just another foot-in-mouth event for Trump but a deliberate strategy complete with lobbyist influence.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution 14-0 condemning all Israeli settlements on Palestinian land as having “no legal validity” and amounting to “a flagrant violation under international law.” The resolution goes on to note that Israeli settlements pose “a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security.”
This represents the first UNSC resolution in almost eight years concerning Israel and Palestine, and the first in over 35 years regarding the issue of Israeli settlements. Typically the U.S. would veto resolutions critical of Israel, but in this case, the Obama administration opted to abstain, in effect allowing the resolution to pass.
Last week, the world stood fixated at a largely symbolic gesture by the United Nations in which it found the continued Israeli occupation of the West Bank of Palestine to be illegal. Or did it?
Although the UN Security Council, with rare uniformity, chastised Israel for flouting the law of occupation, the resolution, crafted with ambiguous lawyerly precision, left experienced thinkers on the subject debating just what it means.
Brexit will cost the UK £55bn by 2030, a major study has found, which calls it “the firing gun on a decade of disruption”.
A report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Britain In The 2020s, has said the vote to leave will “permanently” reduce growth and living standards, leaving households £1,700 worse off a year.
By 2030, the analysis predicted, some working age families will have weathered two decades with a “weak” growth in income, as it said leaving the EU will lead to major currency falls.
MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened corrupt government officials with the prospect of being thrown out of a helicopter mid-air, warning he has done it himself before and had no qualms about doing it again.
The fiery-tempered former prosecutor said he once hurled a Chinese man suspected of rape and murder out of a helicopter.
Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri said Thursday that Donald Trump’s election could herald the coming of the Messiah due to the blow he expects the next president will strike against the “non-Orthodox Jewish hold on the US government.”
“There is no doubt that one can give thanks to God that all those who have damned the [Jewish] covenant and would wipe out Judaism, thinking they could take control over the Land of Israel here and lead reforms in order to cause destruction received their blow,” Deri said during an address to the local religious council of Ashdod.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always had a rocky relationship with the Barack Obama administration, but in the wake of Secretary of State John Kerry’s anti-settlement speech Wednesday and the United States’ decision to allow a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning settlements, he has abandoned all pretense of bilateral decorum.
Immediately following Kerry’s remarks, Netanyahu criticized Kerry in scathing terms in a prime-time speech on Israeli television.
Let’s get something straight. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, as well as his recent support for Keystone XL, isn’t just a rebuke to Canada’s environmental movement, dozens of First Nations and the Metro Vancouver voters who elected 15 Liberal MPs.
Trudeau has effectively said “screw you” to the generation of millennials who brought him to office. “I feel betrayed,” one young activist explained. For the rest of his time in office we won’t let him forget it.
University campuses across Ontario and the country have experienced a surge in right wing activity and, at times, racist propaganda this past year. There’ve been so many digital and on-campus incidents of right-wing activity, most of them anti-Muslim, that it’s hard to know where to begin.
The Obama administration’s abstention from a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has engendered impassioned reaction from all corners of the political universe, save one.
The candidates running to take over the Democratic National Committee have, so far, steadfastly avoided the topic, even as it divides their own party.
On Tuesday, Fox News revisited its longstanding disgust for poor people with what appeared to be a simple question: “Food stamp fraud is at an all-time high. Is it time to end the program?” Their onscreen graphic cited “2016 USDA” as the source of this information. However, according to the Department of Agriculture website, the most recent data available is from 2015.
The revelation that fake news deceived voters in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election generated real outrage in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s electoral victory. The top fake news stories garnered more clicks than the top real news stories on Facebook in the final three months of the campaign season. Fake news and other campaign fantasies led Oxford Dictionaries to select ‘post-truth’ as the word of the year for 2016.
Seeking to prevent another live-streaming "viral video moment" from taking place on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has introduced a rules package that would fine and punish lawmakers for recording photos and video from the floor.
The move comes in response to Democratic lawmakers, who in June live-streamed a sit-in on the House floor over gun control legislation. Democrats organized the sit-in to protest Republican lawmakers’ decision not to bring to the floor a gun-control bill, which if passed would have broadened background checks and prevented people on no-fly lists from buying guns.
It’s generally irresponsible to attribute an election result to any one thing – but in a presidential race as close as the one the U.S. just had, any one thing could conceivably have made the difference.
In addition to especially alarming factors such as apparent Russian intervention and the resurgence of white nationalism, another theme has dominated the post-election narrative: the ascendant influence of fake news. All of a sudden, it has become difficult to consider American political dynamics without wading in to questions of epistemology – how do people know the things they know, and how do those beliefs shape not only their positions on issues but understandings of reality at large?