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.]

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Coronation of a Charlatan

WASHINGTON—Years from now, bright-eyed children will look up at Grandma or Grandpa and ask, “Where were you when they nominated Donald Trump?” Far too many prominent Republicans will have to hang their heads in shame.

As the garish imperial coronation in Cleveland reaches its climax, there will be much commentary—some, no doubt, from me—about fleeting events. Did So-and-so’s speech help Trump or hurt him? Did one line of attack against Hillary Clinton seem more or less promising than another? All of this is news, but we must not lose sight of the big picture: The “Party of Lincoln” is about to nominate for president a man who is dangerously unfit for the office.

50 Shockingly Extreme Right Wing Proposals in the 2016 Republican Party Platform

The Republican Party platform  is a wish list for what Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump would like to impose on America.

What’s surprising about it is that it goes further to the right than what’s even been heard on the campaign trail from Trump as he has promised to build a wall along the Mexican border and embrace the religious right’s long-held tenets opposing abortion, LGBT rights, and more.

Meet the Trump-Supporting Women of the RNC

In a dark wood-paneled room deep in the belly of a downtown Cleveland mall, the first day of the Republican National Convention is not getting off to a great start. Rows of banquet chairs lined up for an event hosted by the group Women Vote Trump are empty.

"Ladies and gentlemen — and I'm so glad to see gentlemen in the audience," says Ann Stone, co-chair of Women Vote Trump. "In fact, I'm glad to see anybody in the audience."

The Dirty Lie That All Lives Matter

Every time there’s a police shooting involving an unarmed or unthreatening black man, you can bet there is going to be one ugly and racist phrase slung about. And no, I don’t mean Black Lives Matter. I mean the “counter” to that “All Lives Matter.”

There certainly has been enough written about why Black Lives Matter is not racist. I won’t belabor that here. It’s intuitively obvious it isn’t, anyway, and you have strain to make it out to be so.

The Long, Sad, Corrupted Devolution of the GOP, From Eisenhower to Donald Trump

The Republican Party is poised to nominate a presidential candidate who has built his platform on promises to ban a billion people from entering the United States based on their religious faith and to build a gigantic wall south of the border.

But Donald J. Trump is not an accident. The GOP has in the last 40 years relentlessly devolved away from addressing the needs of ordinary people, catering instead to extreme ideologies and the wealthiest donors.

Rather than addressing pressing problems like income inequality and climate change, the modern GOP focuses instead on cutting taxes for the super-wealthy, expanding earth-killing carbon extraction, and endless war.

The Single Most Radical Line In The Republican Party Platform

The Constitution, by its own terms, is the “supreme law of the land.” All judges are bound by the words of the Constitution, and all laws made by legislatures within the United States must yield to the Constitution’s provisions. This is the central insight of the American republic — the idea that the structure and limits of government are laid out in a written document, and that document is binding on all government actors subject to its terms.

The Republican Party’s 2016 Platform rejects this concept outright.

Republican Congressman Makes The Case For White Supremacy

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is tired of hearing about “white people.”

Appearing on MSNBC Monday evening, King was part of a panel of four people discussing the Republican National Convention. Esquire’s Charles Pierce, one of King’s co-panelists, commented on the dominance of “loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people” at the RNC. King objected not so much to Pierce’s factual premise as to the notion that the monochromatic nature of the GOP is a bug.

Whistling past the graveyard

It is the high season of blood, bullets, and denial; the political witching hour is upon us.

Authorities everywhere speak in measured tones about calm, unity, and moving forward together as the atrocities mount. Their words are empty. Their analysis of what’s behind the current chaos couldn’t convince a five-year-old. They are shilling for their establishments, and everyone knows it.

Donald Trump and the Politics of Being an Asshole

Last year, when Donald Trump and his small band of political advisers were considering whether the celebrity pink-slipper should run for president, there was one factor they did not dwell on: Trump's obvious negatives as a candidate. His bankruptcies and bad business deals that screwed creditors and contractors, his marital infidelities, his ties to mob-linked figures, his long history of crude and rude remarks, his tendency to engage in mean-spirited feuds, his racist birther crusade against President Barack Obama, and his arrogant, egotistic, bombastic, and bullying public persona would all supply tons of material for opposition researchers.

Erdogan is using this failed coup to get rid of the last vestiges of secular Turkey

The sweeping purge of soldiers and officials in the wake of the failed coup in Turkey is likely to be conducted with extra vigour because a number of close associates of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are among the 265 dead. The number of people detained so far is at 6,000 including soldiers, and around 3,000 judges and legal officials who are unlikely to have been connected to the attempted military takeover.

Taxpayers Funded A Lifesaving Drug And Guess What Happened Next

The pharmaceutical industry has become a major health hazard to the American people.

Our nation pays - by far - the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. As a result of these outrageous prices, nearly one in five Americans cannot afford to fill their prescriptions. Meanwhile, the five largest prescription drug companies made a combined $50 billion in profits last year. That is unacceptable. A lifesaving product does no one any good if a patient cannot buy the medicine they need, and that is now happening far too often in the richest nation in the world.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg On Donald Trump: Unprecedented Or A Supreme Court Norm?

While Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg apologized for her remarks on Donald Trump last week, politicians and the media who did backflips to criticize her are rewriting history. Strong, opinionated women, like “The Notorious RBG,” are always criticized. She spoke what many people already feel about the utterly unqualified Donald Trump. Her comments deserve a deeper analysis beyond subjective punditry or sanctimonious Tweets.

GOP Platform Proposes To Get Rid Of National Parks And National Forests

The Republican platform committee met this week to draft the document that defines the party’s official principles and policies. Along with provisions on pornography and LGBT “conversion therapy” is an amendment calling for the indiscriminate and immediate disposal of national public lands.

The inclusion of this provision in the Republican Party’s platform reflects the growing influence of and ideological alliance between several anti-park members of the GOP and anti-government extremists, led by Cliven Bundy, who dispute the federal government’s authority over national public lands.

Billionaires Bought Brexit -- They Are Controlling Our Venal Political System

Is this a democracy or is it a plutocracy? Between people and power is a filter through which decisions are made, a filter made of money. In the European referendum, remain won 46 percent of the money given and lent to the two sides (£20.4m) and 48 percent of the vote; leave won 54 percent of the money and 52 percent of the vote. This fearful symmetry should worry anyone who values democracy. Did the vote follow the money? Had the spending been the other way round, would the result have reflected that? These should not be questions you need to ask in a democracy.

Ten Lessons for Creating Safety Without Police

How can we create safety collectively? How can we challenge hate and police violence by using community-based strategies rather than relying on the police?

For the past 10 years, the Safe OUTside the System (SOS) Collective -- an anti-violence program led by and for lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, trans and gender non-conforming (LGBTSTGNC) people of color (POC) in Central Brooklyn, New York, specifically Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights and Bushwick neighborhoods -- has been working to answer these questions. After a decade of organizing, the three SOS Coordinators, founding coordinator Ejeris Dixon (2005–2010), the second coordinator Che J. Rene Long (2010–2014), and the current coordinator Tasha Amezcua (2014–present) co-wrote this piece to share the lessons we've learned over the years. We also asked SOS members from the past 10 years about their reflections on our successes, struggles and our hopes for the future. We write these lessons for all the people seeking to address violence and envision safer communities.

—Ejeris, Che and Tasha

Donald Trump Ridiculed Iraq War Position Held By His VP Pick, Mike Pence

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has made the decision to go to war in Iraq a major foreign policy litmus test, concluding that Hillary Clinton was “trigger-happy” for supporting what he called a “disaster.” But his apparent vice presidential pick, Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence, was a major proponent of that conflict.

Britain’s New Foreign Secretary Says British Colonialism In Africa Wasn’t So Bad

Following the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron, new PM Theresa May named her Cabinet Wednesday. One of the most notable names on the list was pro-Brexiter and former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who was appointed Foreign Secretary.

Critics of Johnson’s appointment have already pointed out his numerous gaffes and propensity for offending foreign leaders. Many media outlets published articles listing all the various countries that Johnson has offended during his reign as mayor.

Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq

The war on terror, that campaign without end launched 14 years ago by George Bush, is tying itself up in ever more grotesque contortions. On Monday the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting.

Terrorized by Police Raids and Mass Displacement, Rio Prepares for Olympics

At least 77,206 people have already been displaced from Rio de Janeiro as the city prepares to host the Olympic Games on August 5-21, and police raids -- predominantly against Black youth in favelas and working class neighborhoods -- have intensified.

According to Larissa Lacerda, a member of the Rio Cup and Olympics Popular Committee, since the start of 2016, police raids in the favelas have provoked mass killings of poor, Black youth. Lacerda's organization is a collective that brings together unions, NGOs, researchers, students and impacted communities. She said she expects the situation to only get worse in the final days before the start of the Olympic Games, just as abuses worsened before the Panamerican Games and the World Cup.

Should Canada Post Become A Bank? No Way, Says Banking Lobby

OTTAWA -- The lobby group representing Canada's big banks says there's no need for Canada Post to expand onto their turf because Canadians already have an abundant choice of financial services.

The Canadian Bankers Association says there is "no public policy objective or existing gap in the marketplace'' that would warrant a Crown corporation becoming a retail bank.

In a brief to the federal task force reviewing Canada Post, the bankers association says some proponents of postal banking are "disregarding the facts'' about Canada's highly competitive and accessible financial services sector.

The GOP Reaps The Whirlwind: Racism, Nativism, Xenophobia — And Donald Trump

The warning comes from the Hebrew book of Hosea: “Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind.”

So it is with the Republican Party and Donald Trump.

True, Trump personifies a fear and hatred of “the other” embodied by some of our history’s more frightening and despicable figures: Father Coughlin, Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace. This has led to some of our most shameful chapters — lynchings, anti-immigrant violence, the internment of Japanese-Americans. Because such tragedies are so searing, we view them as unique.

Credit Unions Do Good Work, So Why Is BC Hobbling Them?

The B.C. government will this year begin the phaseout of a long-standing special tax status for credit unions. Don't feel awkward if this is the first you've heard of it. The event is not mainstream news, but will impact communities across the province. Credit unions employ, loan and give locally; distribute profits to their customers/members, and sometimes alone provide financial services to our smaller towns. They achieve all those virtues in the face of competition from a Canadian banking industry that is among the most concentrated in the world. It may be asking too much to put this issue front of mind when you go to vote in May 2017, but I believe the continued prosperity of our credit unions deserves your full attention.

Trump's Casino Broke a Big Promise to Give Millions to Charity

In 1993, Donald Trump wanted to open a riverboat casino about 40 miles from Chicago in the troubled and violent city of Gary, Indiana. But he had a problem: Gary wasn't keen on him. City officials were skeptical of Trump's vow to invest in the city. After all, Trump's Atlantic City casino empire, $1.5 billion in debt, was on the brink of bankruptcy. They recommended that the state grant Gary's two riverboat gambling licenses to other companies.

Hundreds arrested amid new protests as details of Dallas gunman's plans emerge

Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested in cities across the US this weekend, as protests against police shootings intensified and new details emerged about the motivations and plans of a man who killed five officers in Dallas.

Police detained 125 people on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where protests continued to grow over the fatal shooting by officers last week of Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old African American, as he was pinned down during a struggle.

Postal workers are fighting a war they can't win

Be careful what you wish for.

Canada Post’s 50,000 unionized workers probably were cheering last October when Justin Trudeau’s Liberals swept into power, replacing the despised Harper government. After all, the Liberals had promised in their electoral platform to “save home delivery”, along with the thousands of mail-carrier and other unionized positions threatened with redundancy after the 2013 decision to phase out door-to-door mail service.

Postal workers decline binding arbitration, file complaint against Canada Post

Canada Post is extending its lockout deadline to Monday.

The Crown Corporation issued a statement last night announcing that its previous 72-hour deadline, originally set to expire tomorrow, would now last through the weekend.

Earlier in the day, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) announced it had filed a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) over the corporation's behaviour during negotiations. The complaint alleges Canada Post has been communicating directly with members, making threats and bargaining through the media.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Paranoid politics: Donald Trump’s style perfectly embodies the theories of renowned historian

In a recently published essay, a noted professor of American History at Columbia University investigates the rise of Donald Trump and his highly paranoid approach to politics, along with the long history of similarly paranoid political and social movements in the United States:

    “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds,” writes the professor. “In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Trump movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”

Raining on Kenney's homecoming parade

It’s been a while since we’ve seen one politician’s career track have such a major impact on two political leadership contests. The worst-kept secret in Conservative and Alberta political circles is secret no longer: After nineteen years in Ottawa, Jason Kenney is coming home.

By passing on a run at the leadership of the federal Conservative Party of Canada, Kenney has completely changed the nature of that leadership contest, and the course of the federal party’s future.

Paul Ryan’s Dream Crushed

Paul Ryan reluctantly took the job of leading the House of Representatives because he had a dream he thought he could actually achieve. Ryan’s dream went something like this: he’d whip his Republican caucus into shape, then they’d fall in behind him and help pass his dream GOP agenda as a series of bills — all of which would be sent to the Senate. Of course they’d never reach President Obama’s desk (for an almost-certain veto), but that wasn’t the point. The point was to show the American electorate that Republicans had many good legislative ideas that could become reality with the election of a Republican to the White House. The entire exercise was to be Ryan’s own personal party platform, in other words, designed to help Republican candidates win in the election. It would be the fulfillment of the promise Ryan represented to many Republicans when they convinced him to take the job — that he was a wonky kind of guy who understood the ins and outs of the budget better than any other Republican in Washington.

New Video Shows Alton Sterling Wasn’t Holding A Gun When He Was Killed By Police

A cell phone video that emerged Wednesday shows that Alton Sterling apparently was not holding a gun when police officers fatally shot him in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday.

The Daily Beast first published the disturbing video, which it obtained from Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the convenience store where the shooting took place. Muflahi told the news organization that Sterling was not causing trouble and that he had been a “welcome presence at the store for years.”

Washington Has Been Obsessed With Punishing Secrecy Violations — until Hillary Clinton

Secrecy is a virtual religion in Washington. Those who violate its dogma have been punished in the harshest and most excessive manner – at least when they possess little political power or influence. As has been widely noted, the Obama administration has prosecuted more leakers under the 1917 Espionage Act than all prior administrations combined. Secrecy in DC is so revered that even the most banal documents are reflexively marked classified, making their disclosure or mishandling a felony. As former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden said back in 2000, “Everything’s secret. I mean, I got an email saying ‘Merry Christmas.’ It carried a top secret NSA classification marking.”

Chilcot Report: Tony Blair Told George W. Bush, “If We Win Quickly, Everyone Will Be Our Friend.”

The Chilcot Report, the U.K.’s official inquiry into its participation in the Iraq War, has finally been released after seven years of investigation.

Its executive summary certainly makes former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led the British push for war, look terrible. According to the report, Blair made statements about Iraq’s nonexistent chemical, biological, and nuclear programs based on “what Mr. Blair believed” rather than the intelligence he had been given. The U.K. went to war despite the fact that “diplomatic options had not been exhausted.” Blair was warned by British intelligence that terrorism would “increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti-US/anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West.”

What Everyone Should Know About Ronnie Shumpert, Killed By Police In Unfathomably Brutal Fashion

Antwun “Ronnie” Shumpert was planning for his future. The 37-year-old father of five had just been offered a job at Walmart and was saving up money to leave Tupelo, Mississippi. But just days before he was scheduled to start work, his family said, he was mutilated and killed by a police officer and his dog.

“No one deserves to die the way he did,” Tamicka Smith, his older sister, told ThinkProgress.

School Board, Sell Your Mall? That's No Way to Fund Education

You couldn't find a better example of B.C.'s shoddy approach to school funding than Education Minister Mike Bernier's half-baked, last-minute proposal that the Vancouver School Board sell Kingsgate Mall to cover part of its budget deficit.

The ongoing dispute between the provincial government and the board is, on one level, simple enough. The school trustees went through the budget process and decided that meeting student needs, after some cuts, would cost $502 million in the coming fiscal year.

Cornel West: “He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency”

Cornel West is a professor at Union Theological Seminary and one of my favorite public intellectuals, a man who deals in penetrating analyses of current events, expressed in a pithy and highly quotable way.

I first met him nearly six years ago, while the financial crisis and the presidential election were both under way, and I was much impressed by what he had to say. I got back in touch with him last week, to see how he assesses the nation’s progress since then.

When 'corrupt' is too kind

The Indicted States of America.

That is what Donald Trump is flogging in the current U.S. election cycle. It’s really all he appears to have, and it is far from a sure-fire sales pitch.

In fact, the iconic American writer Norman Mailer once said that no one can become president of the United States by vilifying America. Trump is out to prove him wrong — as he has already done to many of his detractors on other unorthodoxies.

So long, Nigel Farage, the latest rat to jump from the sinking Brexit ship

Remember back in those halcyon days before Brexit when David Cameron kept telling us we had to remain in the European Union because “we’re not a nation of quitters”? How spectacularly ironic that seems now after the resignation of Nigel Farage. Hot on the heels of Boris Johnson and Dave himself, Farage has now decided he’s “done his bit” for the country and should step aside.

US Politics' True Bipartisan Consensus: Capitalism Is Untouchable

The economic aim of both major US political parties is, in the end, the same: to protect and reinforce the capitalist system.

The Republican Party does so chiefly by means of a systematic, unremitting demonization of the government. They blame it for whatever ails the capitalist economy. If unemployment grows, they point to government policies and actions and attack particular politicians for what they did or did not do to stimulate the economy, directing criticism away from the employers who actually deprive workers of their jobs.

Cinemark Is Shaking Down The Colorado Theater Shooting Victims For $700,000

Four years ago, a gunman opened fire on the audience of an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, killing 12 and wounding 70. Now, Cinemark, the movie theater chain where the attack occurred, is asking victims and their families for thousands of dollars.

Last month, a state jury ruled that Cinemark wasn’t liable for massacre. The movie theater chain — which is the nation’s third largest — then filed paperwork seeking $699,187.13 in legal fees from the plaintiffs, as reported by Deadline.