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.]

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Transparency a casualty in arms deals with Saudis

The federal government is fond of boasting about how its controls on weapons exports are among the strongest in the world, but Canadians are left largely in the dark over precisely what military and security equipment is being shipped to foreign customers – including those with poor human-rights records.

For instance, Canada’s flourishing security and defence business with Saudi Arabia goes well beyond the controversial $15-billion sale of General Dynamics fighting vehicles to Riyadh, but Canadians must turn to the Internet, rather than their government, for details.

Trump’s Recent Behavior Is Even More Terrifying Than You ThinkU

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump raises his arms during a campaign rally in Boca Raton, Fla., Sunday, March 13, 2016.

The violence at Trump’s rallies has boiled over in recent days. Trump himself canceled his rally on Friday in Chicago, citing safety concerns.

Federal Government Contracts System Gives Businesses Incentives To Hike Their Costs

OTTAWA — A major independent study of federal government contract pricing and policies has warned that the current system provides "perverse incentives" for industry doing business with Ottawa to hike their costs, particularly in military equipment deals.

The report written by the research firm PricewaterhouseCoopers — a copy of which was leaked to The Canadian Press — also says that both Public Services and Procurement and National Defence don't have the in-house staff and expertise to understand technical matters that contribute to higher project costs.

Hillary Clinton Has Long History of Collaboration with GOP on Foreign Policy

Several members of the Republican foreign policy elite recently announced they’ll refuse to vote for Donald Trump if he’s the Republican nominee – with some going so far as to say they’d rather vote for Hillary Clinton.

And while you may be shocked to see ideology so easily trump party affiliation, you shouldn’t be. Take a look, for instance, at this New York Times article from 2014.

How the Pentagon Is Trying to Cover Up the Toxic Effects of Its Deadly Burn Pits

America’s military adventures — and, just as often, its misadventures — have inspired thousands upon thousands of books. But the military isn’t just in the business of inspiring books: Sometimes it bans them, too.

The Pentagon recently announced that it was refusing to carry a new book by journalist (and veteran) Joseph Hickman in the stores on U.S. military bases. It’s called The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers.

Donald Trump Digs In After Weekend Violence, Threatens Bernie Sanders Rallies

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Sunday threatened to send his supporters to the campaign rallies of Democrat Bernie Sanders, showing no sign of toning down his rhetoric after clashes erupted at his own events over the weekend.

Please Clap: The Bush Dynasty Has Been Broken

Jeb Bush dropped out of the 2016 presidential race not long ago, and you could hear the earth itself heave a sigh of relief. When he announced he was suspending his campaign, head down with a pathetic shrug between his ears, a political dynasty that has looted and ravaged this nation and the world for going on 80 years was snuffed like a guttering candle in a forgotten church. In that darkness is the light, because the planet doesn't have to worry about the Bush family any more. They'll lurk, sure, like a purse snatcher skulking in the shadows next to an ATM, but the next time you see a Bush on television will be when they are getting lowered into their grave.

The Party Still Decides

POLITICAL parties are mentioned nowhere in the Constitution, and the party nominating process offers few of the protections associated with the ideal of “one man one vote.” Voters in early states have far more influence than voters in later ones. Votes in hard-to-attend caucuses effectively count more than votes in high-turnout primaries. Some primaries are open to party loyalists; others to all comers. The rules that assign convention delegates are byzantine, the delegate selection process is various, and a few states rely on conventions and cut the voters out entirely.

Social Security: The GOP vs. the American People

In case anyone had any doubts, the most recent Republican presidential debate made crystal clear how out of touch the Republican establishment is with the American people.

Social Security is extremely popular with the overwhelming majority of Americans - whatever their Party affiliation, age, race, ethnicity, gender, or economic status. Social Security represents the best of American values. It is responsibly funded, does not add a penny to the deficit, and only pays benefits if it has sufficient income to cover not only the cost of all benefits, but also the cost to administer those benefits.

Donald Trump’s Presidential Run Began in an Effort to Gain Stature

Donald J. Trump arrived at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in April 2011, reveling in the moment as he mingled with the political luminaries who gathered at the Washington Hilton. He made his way to his seat beside his host, Lally Weymouth, the journalist and socialite daughter of Katharine Graham, longtime publisher of The Washington Post.

A short while later, the humiliation started.

‘This Violence Is Nothing’: Trump Supporters React To Atmosphere At Rallies

CLEVELAND, OHIO — Once again, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is at the top of the national news cycle. And this time, the topic is violence.

Trump canceled his Chicago rally on Friday, apparently over safety concerns from a mass of protesters who had gathered outside and inside the venue. Clashes between demonstrators and Trump supporters reportedly turned violent, and at least one Chicago police officer was wounded. It’s unclear who was responsible for the injury.

This War Over GMOs Could Change Your Grocery Shopping Forever

Political forces unleashed in a tiny state like Vermont (pop. 626,000) sometimes reverberate on the national stage, and Bernie Sanders isn't the only recent example. A food-labeling requirement in Green Mountain State is now roiling the US Senate and the Department of Agriculture, and also has the Grocery Manufacturers Association—a deep-pocketed trade group representing major food processors as well as agrichemical/GMO titans like Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow—in quite a tizzy.

Police Investigate If Mikhail Lesin, Ex-Putin Aide, Was Attacked Outside D.C. Hotel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Police are investigating whether former Russian Press Minister Mikhail Lesin, who was found dead in a Washington hotel in November, was brutally assaulted before he returned to the hotel, a U.S. law enforcement source said on Friday.

The source, who was familiar with the investigation, said authorities were still trying to determine a possible motive for the apparent attack and did not have any suspects.

Blowing the Biggest Political Story of the Last 50 Years

Ah, the crescendo of complaint! The Republican establishment and the mainstream media, working hand in hand in their unprecedented, non-stop assault on the “short-fingered vulgarian” named Donald Trump, would have you believe that Trump augurs the destruction of the Republican Party. Former Reagan speechwriter and now Wall Street Journal/CBS pundit Peggy Noonan expressed the general sentiment of both camps when she said on Super Tuesday that “we’re seeing a great political party shatter before our eyes.”

No One Is Violating Donald Trump’s First Amendment Rights

The increasingly violent nature of campaign events supporting Donald Trump, the current Republican presidential front-runner, built to a crescendo Friday night as protesters in Chicago, Illinois came out in full force, prompting Trump to cancel the rally he had planned there. Trump was quick to decry the “thugs who shut down our First Amendment rights” and other figures on the right echoed that message.

Hillary Clinton's Response To Honduran Coup Was Scrubbed From Her Paperback Memoirs

Those who want to know what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said about Honduras' 2009 coup in her autobiography shouldn't bother with the paperback version.

Clinton's role in the aftermath of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya's ouster has come under greater scrutiny since the March 3 assassination of environmental and indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres. Critics argue that the U.S. push for new elections in the months after the coup helped legitimize the actions of the Honduran military, destabilize the country and pave the way for the extreme violence that followed. Killings of activists like Cáceres and others have become devastatingly common.

Trump Blames 'Our Communist Friend' Sanders For Chicago Clashes

CHICAGO, March 12 (Reuters) - U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Saturday blamed supporters of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders for protests that shut down his Chicago rally, calling the U.S. senator from Vermont "our communist friend."

Trump's Republican rivals, meanwhile, hurled scorn at the New York billionaire, saying he helped create the increasingly tense atmosphere that is now sweeping the race for the White House with his fiery rhetoric.

I Am Absolutely Furious and I Don't Know What to Do With Myself

My Uncle Ward was 37 -- exactly the age I am now -- when he returned to Wisconsin to die of AIDS-related complications in the spare room in my grandparents' house. They lived next door to my family and I remember waiting by our dining room window hoping to catch a glimpse of him climbing out of the car that had fetched him and my mother from the airport and back from packing up what I imagined was his glamorous, movie-star-esque life in New York City.

Hillary Clinton Wants To Bring Back The '90s Economy. Here's What She's Missing.

Hillary Clinton is pointing to the economic growth during her husband's presidency in the late 1990s as a model for her own economic plans.

The period during President Bill Clinton's administration saw well-distributed economic gains that lifted the fortunes of marginalized communities of color.

Scheer Intelligence: William Binney and Blowing the Whistle On the NSA

In this week's "Scheer Intelligence," Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer sits down with William Binney, a former National Security Agency official turned whistleblower, to discuss the fight between Apple and the U.S. government over access to Americans' cellphone data.

Binney spent over 30 years at the National Security Agency as a high-ranked official and left in 2002 after criticizing the agency's system for collecting data on Americans.

New Doubts About Official Version Of Sandra Bland's Death

Contradictions in files about Sandra Bland's death are raising new questions about how the 28-year-old woman died in a Texas jail last summer.

A medical examiner ruled in an autopsy that Bland killed herself in a jail in Waller County, Texas, three days after a state trooper was filmed manhandling her during a combative traffic stop. But documents obtained by The Huffington Post show discrepancies in the way officials described the condition of Bland's body when she was found dead in her cell. Those observations are important, because they helped to determine her official time of death.

New York Times' Attempted Whitewash of Israel Poll

This past week the Pew Research Center released the results of a massive poll of Israeli public opinion - focusing on their attitudes toward religion, identity, values, and political issues facing their country. In the days that followed the release, a number of articles appeared in Israel and the US commenting on the study's findings. The strangest and most troubling of them was a piece titled "Deep Rifts Among Israeli Jews Are Found in Religion Survey." It was printed in the New York Times on March 8, 2016. Written by Isabel Kershner, the article was a transparent effort to combine straight reporting with tortured apologia.

Cincinnati Trump rally cancelled after clashes in Chicago

Donald Trump has cancelled a planned rally in Cincinnati, a day after a postponed Chicago rally descended into chaotic clashes between supporters and anti-Trump protesters.

The rally in Cincinnati was due to take place on Sunday afternoon, two days ahead of Tuesday’s Ohio primary, in which the Republican frontrunner will seek to knock Ohio governor John Kasich from the presidential race.

Ted Cruz Praises Repressive Egyptian Leader

Three of the four Republican presidential candidates went up to bat (relatively anyway) for Muslims last night following frontrunner Donald Trump’s assertion that “Islam hates us.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) used the opportunity to cite a Muslim leader as a shining example of someone the United States should be supporting — and not alienating, a la Trump.

Obama Says ‘Impenetrable’ Encryption Could Prevent The Government From Doing Its Job

Speaking at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference, President Barack Obama said that allowing Americans to have impenetrable encryption on their smartphones could impede the government’s ability to go after criminals and even tax evaders.

“If technologically it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system, where the encryption is so strong there is no key or no door, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer?” Obama said during his inaugural speech at the conference in Austin, Texas on Friday.

Rubio Blames Obama And ‘The Left’ For Violence At Trump Rallies

President Barack Obama should bear partial blame for the violent incidents that keep happening at Donald Trump’s rallies, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) claimed. Rubio’s comments followed an incident involving protesters who clashed with Trump supporters at a rally in Chicago, Illinois, prompting the presidential front-runner to cancel his appearance due to security concerns.

Speaking on Fox News on Friday, Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, claimed that Obama’s speeches on racial inequality over the past eight years resulted in dividing Americans “along haves and have-nots, along ethnic and racial lines, gender lines.” One of those speeches Rubio is likely alluding to was made last year after the racially-motivated shooting of nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina-area church.

What Was Hillary Thinking? A History of Poor Decision-Making

What was Hillary thinking when she supported Barry Goldwater -- a dyed-in-the-wool Republican who voted against the Civil Rights Act -- for president in 1964?

What was she thinking when she voted to authorize the war in Iraq despite having access to confidential information from the intelligence community that clearly stated that Iraq did not represent an imminent threat to the United States?

Donald Trump Rally In Chicago Canceled After Protesters Turn Out In Droves

CHICAGO -- A Donald Trump rally that attracted thousands to the University of Illinois at Chicago was abruptly canceled Friday night amid his campaign's security fears, sparking shouting and scuffling between the candidate's fans and anti-Trump protesters.

Budget 2016: George Osborne's £1bn Disabled Cut To Fund 'Middle Class Tax Giveaway' Riles Campaigners

George Osborne's reported plan to use a billion pound benefit cut for disabled people to fund tax giveaways for the middle-class has sparked outrage from campaigners.

The Chancellor is allegedly preparing to use the £130 slashed from 600,000 disabled people's PIP - Personal Independence Payment - support to raise the threshold at which people start paying 40p tax.

Hillary Clinton Is Totally Wrong About Nancy Reagan's Legacy on AIDS

UPDATE, Friday, March 11, 4:30 p.m. ET: Secretary Hillary Clinton just issued the following apology: "While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem cell research and finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease, I misspoke about their record on HIV and AIDS. For that, I am sorry."

This Is What It Looks Like to Get Beat Up at a Trump Rally

On August 8, 2015, after Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) was interrupted by two activists at a campaign event in Seattle, Donald Trump weighed in on the incident. "That will never happen with me," Trump said. "I don't know if I'll do the fighting myself or if others will, but that was a disgrace."

Last month, Trump was interrupted by a protester at a rally in Las Vegas the night before the Nevada caucuses. As the man was escorted out, Trump told the crowd, "I'd like to punch him in the face."

The Seven Most Vitriolic Passages in DOJ’s Response to Apple

In case there was ever any doubt, the Justice Department declared war on Apple on Thursday.

Prosecutors demanded that a federal judge force Apple to unlock San Bernardino killer Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone in a brief that bristled with so much venom that Apple’s top lawyer, Bruce Sewell, said it “reads like an indictment.”

Obama Wants Nonexistent Middle Ground on Encryption, Warns Against “Fetishizing Our Phones”

President Barack Obama says he wants strong encryption, but not so strong that the government can’t get in.

“The question we now have to ask technologically is if it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system where the encryption is so strong that there is no key, there is no door at all?” he asked, speaking at the South By Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin on Friday.

Trump Concerned His Rallies Are Not Violent Enough

For months now, Donald Trump has been complaining about the level of violence inflicted on protesters at his campaign rallies. Complaining, that is, about protesters — who have been tackled and kicked, pushed, spat on, and sucker-punched — not being subjected to nearly enough violence.

In the latest instance, at a rally in St. Louis on Friday, Trump complained about the overly gentle treatment of protesters being dragged from a theater and things got ugly outside, as his supporters faced off with protesters.

Breitbart Spokesman Resigns Over Trump Aide Assault: 'This S**t Just Sucks'

Kurt Bardella, who quit as Breitbart's spokesman on Friday over the news site's handling of an assault on its own reporter at a Donald Trump press conference, said that he could no longer go on.

"It became untenable for me personally to continue in this situation. If you can't give 100 percent, you can't represent your client," Bardella, who also represents country music bands in Nashville, told HuffPost.

Turkey Is 'Sliding Backwards,' Says Top Turkish Novelist

Elif Shafak is a Turkish novelist and essayist whose celebrated works include "The Bastard of Istanbul" and "The Architect's Apprentice." The WorldPost spoke with her in the wake of the recent crackdown on media in Turkey.

Turkey is being shaken by a number of crises at once -- from the massive influx of Syrian refugees, the fight with the Kurds and now the crackdown on free expression, including the seizure of the country's leading paper, Zaman. What is going on?

Donald Trump's campaign violence is condoned all the way to the top

When will the first pro-Donald Trump murder happen?

The incidents are piling up. A Black Lives Matters protester was sucker-punched by a white bystander at a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. A young black woman was surrounded and shoved aggressively by a number of individuals at a rally in Louisville, Kentucky. A black protester was tackled, then punched and kicked by a group of men as he curled up on the ground in Birmingham, Alabama. Immigration activists were shoved and stripped of their signs by a crowd in Richmond, Virginia. A Latino protester was knocked down and kicked by a Trump supporter in Miami.

Former BC Gov't Official Charged in Connection to Triple Delete Scandal

A British Columbia government aide who lost his job for inappropriately deleting emails has been charged for lying while under oath.

George Gretes was a ministerial assistant to Todd Stone in the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

"He is charged with two counts of willfully making false statements to mislead, or attempt to mislead, the Information and Privacy Commissioner (or another person), in performance of the duties, powers and functions of the Commissioner," said a March 11 statement from the province's Criminal Justice Branch.

Was Trudeau Serious about Fixing Harper's Big Sham?

The Canadian government's environmental assessors are done examining the Petronas-led liquefied natural gas development proposed for the mouth of the Skeena River in British Columbia. If Premier Christy Clark is celebrating, she should think twice.

Actually, Clark and Petronas and the feds, they should all think several times -- not just twice -- because there are myriad ways in which the Canadian Environmental Assessment Authority's process has failed the sniff test when it comes to science, Indigenous consultation and fair process.

Unmuzzled Scientists Ask Trudeau To Not Reuse 'Draconian' Rules

An advocacy group representing Canadian scientists is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to not reuse “draconian” rules of the former government during his term as prime minister.

Ottawa-based non-profit Evidence for Democracy released an open letter Wednesday praising Trudeau for reinstating the mandatory long-form census as well as giving the go-ahead to Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada researchers to speak with the media and public as they please.

An Unprecedented Breach of Norms by Senate Republicans

A distinguished group of legal scholars, political scientists and presidential historians (including me) from across the political spectrum has written to President Obama to affirm that if the Senate Republicans carry through on their threat to deny the President's Supreme Court nominee a fair confirmation hearing they will be acting in a manner that is both unprecedented and unconstitutional:

Hillary Clinton's backseat driver

A second debate unfolded online Wednesday night as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders clashed on the Miami debate stage.

This one featured David Axelrod, President Barack Obama’s former top adviser, who logged on to his Twitter account to correct the record against the former secretary of state as she doubled-down on her claim that Sanders had voted against the auto industry bailout.

The Weird Inconsequentiality of Donald Trump (Despite His Towering Penis)

Should it matter to us if the American people select Donald Trump to be their next president? Of course. Donald Trump is a primitive man, unwinding before us in real time, a barking neo-fascist racist activating primitive emotions of scared, vulnerable, and angry Americans (mostly white, older, uneducated, and male). Barack Obama has presented us with a remarkably thoughtful and cerebral presidency. By contrast, Donald Trump might well become our first gall bladder president, secreting bile into the body politic, excrescence of aggression and depression.

Trump: 'There used to be consequences' for protesting

There are no consequences for protesters anymore in the United States, Donald Trump said Friday during a raucous rally in St. Louis where the interruptions were frequent and the candidate appeared more assertive than ever in denouncing them.

“Part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long [to kick them out] is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore,” Trump said during a speech at the Peabody Opera House — around 12 miles from Ferguson, Mo., the site of racially charged mass protests in 2014.

Why Erdogan Wants to Take Over the Entire Turkish Media

A week after the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled out that the arrest of Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, two prominent journalists of Cumhuriyet Newspaper, violated their basic human rights, a local court ordered the illegal takeover of Turkey's largest media group, Feza Zaman Inc., which includes Zaman Daily, Today's Zaman, Cihan News Agency and Aksiyon Magazine.

Paddles, Stun Guns and Chemical Sprays: How US Schools Discipline Students

"Brian was a regular kid," longtime communications professional Kathy Parrent says, "a boy who liked to make everyone in our third grade classroom laugh. One day he said something smart-alecky, and our teacher grabbed him by the collar, lifted him up, opened up the coat closet, threw him in and locked the door. The rest of us sat in stunned horror, terrified. Brian immediately began banging and screaming, 'please, please, let me out,' but the teacher kept him in there for what felt like an eternity."

As Parrent speaks, her voice breaks and it is clear that Brian is still vivid in her mind's eye. "I remember that he was wearing a white shirt and when the teacher finally opened the door, he was covered in blood. My first thought was that he must have cut himself, but no. He'd had a nosebleed, something that happened to him all the time. It was awful. He might have deserved to be reprimanded; I don't know. What I do know is that more than 50 years later, I can still see the blood."

Late-Term Abortion Debate Reveals a Rift Between Clinton and Sanders

On Thursday, my colleague Kevin Drum made the case that the antipathy many millennials feel toward Hillary Clinton may be a result of her inability to deliver a clear and straightforward statement of her positions on major policy areas. Whereas Bernie Sanders delivers unequivocal yes-or-no answers in interviews and debates, Clinton often launches into meandering responses that give the impression—rightfully or not—that she is either hedging or being dishonest.

Ten Years – the terrifying vision of Hong Kong that Beijing wants obscured

It has been hailed as one of the best films to come out of Hong Kong in decades, playing to packed houses and picking up nominations for two major Asian awards.

But if you want to see the independent production Ten Years the only places are private showings advertised through Facebook.

Danish children’s rights activist stands trial for people trafficking

The trial on Friday of a high-profile Danish campaigner for children’s rights under people trafficking laws promises to shine a spotlight once more on the country’s crackdown on asylum, as Scandinavian countries compete to make themselves unattractive destinations for refugees.

Lisbeth Zornig, the country’s former children’s ombudsman and a well-known author, stands accused of allowing a family of Syrians to hitch a ride with her to Copenhagen.

The Republican Debate Was Civil, Respectful -- And Breathtakingly Extreme

The Republican debate on Thursday night was calm, civil and respectful. It was also shot through with a depth of extremism that would have shocked the nation as recently as 2012.

After weeks of penis jokes, vicious personal attacks, and general histrionics resembling a wild circus act, the candidates decided to play nice at the University of Miami at Coral Gables, Florida. The tone even surprised front-runner Donald Trump, who at one point noted his surprise.

Israeli Police Officer Who Shot Wounded Palestinian Suspect Could Face Charges

Israeli and Palestinian journalists and rights activists are apparently not the only ones wondering if video recorded in the immediate aftermath of a knife attack in Israel showed the suspected attacker being executed by the police after he had already been subdued.

A division of Israel’s justice ministry that investigates police officers is reportedly examining the video, recorded by a witness to the mayhem near the seaside in Jaffa yesterday, when Bashar Masalha, a 22-year-old laborer from the West Bank, stabbed a dozen civilians, including an American tourist who died of his injuries and a fellow Palestinian. The 29-second clip shows the suspected attacker lying on the ground as two officers train their guns on him, and an unseen bystander urges one of them to shoot Masalha in the head.