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.]

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Governor Blocks $2.85 Minimum Wage Increase After Giving Staffers $73,405 Raises

When the city Birmingham, Alabama voted last month to give its lowest-paid workers a $2.85 raise, Republican Gov. Robert Bentley signed a bill banning Alabama cities from raising their minimum wages at all. Now, news has emerged that Bentley recently gave four of his cabinet members $73,405 raises — an 80 percent increase from the $91,000 salaries they were making previously.

One of the beneficiaries of the raises, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Administrator Mac Gipson, argues his previous $91,000 salary wasn’t sufficient to attract the best talent from the private sector. But an author of the bill that gave Bentley the authority to raise cabinet members’ salaries in the first place says the 80 percent boosts are “outrageous.”

How The Trump Campaign Could Evolve Into Organized Violence

Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Sunday floated the idea of paying the legal fees of a white supporter who sucker-punched a black man leaving a rally. Later that day, he claimed “no responsibility” for political violence, suggesting instead that protesters are dangerous and that his supporters are right to “hit back.” He even blamed Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for sending protesters to disrupt his rallies, and threatened to sic his supporters on Sanders in retaliation.

The Real Reason Republicans Won’t Give Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee A Hearing

Senate Republicans are refusing to hold hearings on Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, supposedly because of the timing. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) explained on Wednesday, Republicans want to wait until after this year’s presidential election — in order to “give the people a voice in filling this vacancy.”

A more likely explanation is that Republicans simply can’t abide the idea of a Democratic appointee filling Justice Antonin Scalia’s old seat, thereby creating a working liberal majority on the court. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) more or less admitted as much last week, during a little-noticed radio interview, when he said, “Generally, and this is the way it works out politically, if you’re replacing — if a conservative president’s replacing a conservative justice, there’s a little more accommodation to it.”

Rick Snyder Says A Water Crisis Like Flint’s Could Happen Anywhere

WASHINGTON — Though Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) admits that his government caused the Flint water crisis, he told Congress on Thursday morning it’s something that could happen anywhere that has lead pipes.

“The truth is, there are many communities with potentially dangerous lead problems,” Snyder said in his testimony before the House Oversight Committee.

Five Big Unanswered Questions About NSA’s Worldwide Spying

Nearly three years after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden gave journalists his trove of documents on the intelligence community’s broad and powerful surveillance regime, the public is still missing some crucial, basic facts about how the program works.

Surveillance researchers and privacy advocates published a report on Wednesday outlining what we do know, thanks to the period of discovery post-Snowden — and the overwhelming amount of things we don’t.

Charter Schools Suspend Black And Disabled Students More Often, Report Finds

Black students and disabled students are suspended from charter schools at much higher rates than white and nondisabled students, according to a new report from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles that analyzed U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights data.

Compared to white students, black students were four times as likely to be suspended; compared to students who aren’t disabled, students with disabilities were two to three times as likely to be suspended. This lines up with previous research on teacher biases against black students and disabled students.

Portland Is Suing Monsanto Over Toxic Chemical Pollution

Monsanto may have stopped developing Polychlorinated Biphenyls — typically known as PCBs — nearly four decades ago, but on the West Coast, lawsuits associated with this toxic group of chemicals keep mounting against the agrochemical giant.

On Wednesday, the Portland City Council voted to sue the Monsanto Company in federal court. Once Portland files the suit, it will become the seventh city to go after Monsanto over the toxic chemicals it produced, Portland City Attorney Tracy Reeve told ThinkProgress.

Mining Companies Pay Far Less Than They Should For Taxpayer-Owned Coal

The U.S. government is running a massive corporate welfare program for coal companies, prioritizing Big Coal’s interests over the environment and taxpayers, according to a Greenpeace report released Thursday based on government documents.

Much of the country’s largest coal deposits west of the Mississippi River sit beneath federal land. That coal is owned by taxpayers and leased to coal companies by the government. Federally owned coal accounts for three-quarters of what’s mined by three of the largest U.S. coal companies — Arch Coal, Peabody Coal, and Cloud Peak Energy — according to documents obtained by Greenpeace recently through a Freedom of Information Act request. The companies have the right to mine that coal for a fraction of its real value.

House Republicans Take ‘Extraordinary Step’ Against Deportation Relief

WASHINGTON — House Republicans voted Thursday to take the highly unusual step of intervening in a Supreme Court case over deportation relief programs they consider to be amnesty for undocumented immigrants, something many of them ardently oppose.

But it’s not about immigration, they swear.

GOP Congressman Says Elizabeth Warren Needs To Be ‘Neutered’ Because she is the “Darth Vader of the financial services world.”

A Republican congressman on the House Committee on Financial Services thinks Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), one of the most vocal advocates for Wall Street reform, needs to be “neutered.”

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) made the comments during a panel discussion at an American Bankers Association conference Wednesday. According to Politico, Luetkemeyer said people needed to “find a way to neuter” Warren, whom he called the “Darth Vader of the financial services world.”

Budget 2016: George Osborne’s Cuts Means 370,000 Disabled People Will Lose £3,500 A Year

George Osborne has been warned his cuts to disability benefits will see 370,000 disabled people lose an average of £3,500 a year, as Tory opposition to the plans grow.

The chancellor yesterday confirmed £4.4bn would be slashed from benefits for disabled people over the course of the parliament by cutting Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

Waiting for an End to Supreme Court ‘Death Watch’

After more than a month of heated speculation by pundits, President Obama has chosen Merrick Garland, a well-respected but obscure federal judge, to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death last month of Antonin Scalia, the legendary and polarizing conservative firebrand.

In a saner world, Garland’s history of receiving strong support from both Republicans and Democrats would mean that the Senate could proceed with a confirmation hearing and an up-or-down vote on his nomination.

Hillary Clinton’s Indefensible Stance on the Death Penalty

IF THERE WAS anything surprising about Hillary Clinton’s defense of capital punishment when questioned by an Ohio death row exoneree Sunday night, it was only that she was not better prepared to deliver it. This was no gotcha question, no unscripted ambush like the one carried out last month by Black Lives Matter protesters who confronted Clinton at a fundraiser with her ’90s-era rhetoric about “superpredators.” Although the CNN-sponsored Democratic town hall dictated that candidates do not receive questions in advance, the Clinton campaign almost certainly knew that Ricky Jackson, who spent an incomprehensible 39 years in prison as an innocent man, would be in the audience — and that if called upon, he would probably ask Clinton to justify her support for a policy that sent him to die for a crime he did not commit.

New Bill Would Turn GOP’s Xenophobic Rhetoric About Refugees Into Law

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would reduce the already small number of refugees allowed into the United States, and effectively codify the bigotry of Donald Trump and other GOP candidates.

The Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act (H.R. 4731) proposed by Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.,  would impose new caps on refugee resettlement limits, discriminate on religious grounds, redefine the word “refugee,” and give local and state governments broad powers to refuse resettlement.

Violence and Arrests At Trump Rallies Are Way More Common Than You May Think

WASHINGTON -- More than 50 people, mostly protesters, have been charged in connection with GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump's campaign rallies since Feb. 29, according to a HuffPost survey of police departments. During the same period, more than 20 separate physical altercations were reported at Trump events.

Coal Pollution Costs Western Balkans Dear

LONDON—One dollar in three earned by the economy of Serbia is accounted for by those of its citizens who die early because of the country’s soaring air pollution.

The finding, by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is contained in a report published by a campaign group that argues for an end to coal-burning throughout Europe by 2040 to protect health and to reduce the carbon emissions that drive climate change.

Pentagon Excess Has Fueled a Civil-Military Crisis

Item: Two U.S. Navy patrol boats, with 10 sailors aboard, “stray” into Iranian territorial waters, and are apprehended and held by Iranian revolutionary guards, precipitating a 24-hour international incident involving negotiations at the highest levels of government to secure their release. The Pentagon offers conflicting reports on why this happened: navigational error, mechanical breakdown, fuel depletion—but not intelligence-gathering, intentional provocation, or hormonally induced hot-dogging.

What I learned from my foray into politics: McQuaig

The most memorable moment of the 2015 federal election may be the release of a surveillance video capturing a candidate urinating into a stranger’s coffee cup.

That episode comes to mind, oddly, as I think of what I learned during my recent two-year foray into electoral politics.

The coffee cup incident was part of what became a common theme in that campaign — the “outing” of candidates who said or did anything that deviated even slightly from the party’s image or messaging.

Fascism: Can It Happen Here?

“When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross,” goes a saying that is widely attributed to the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, Sinclair Lewis. In 1935, Lewis wrote a novel called “It Can’t Happen Here,” positing fascism’s rise in the United States. We were taught that fascism was defeated in 1945, with the surrender of Germany and Japan in World War II. Yet the long shadows of that dark era are falling on the presidential campaign trail this year, with eruptions of violence, oaths of loyalty complete with Nazi salutes and, presiding over it all, Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

Donald Trump Is Successfully Conning The Entire Country

On a recent episode of "Last Week Tonight," comedian John Oliver shared an unsettling encounter he’d had with Republican presidential front-runner and reality TV star Donald Trump.

Trump declared last year that he’d turned down an invitation to appear on Oliver’s show. "John Oliver had his people call to ask me to be on his very boring and low rated show. I said 'NO THANKS' Waste of time & energy!" he wrote in quintessentially Trump tweet.

Major Israel Lobbying Group Under Fire From Jews For Hosting Donald Trump

A growing chorus of Jewish voices are blasting a major Israel lobbying group for inviting Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump to speak at its annual conference, arguing his inflammatory rhetoric and sometimes anti-Semitic supporters are out-of-step with the values of Judaism.

Last Friday, the influential Jewish and Israel lobbying organization American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) announced that it was inviting Donald Trump to speak its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., on March 20-22. The group regularly invites major political players to its conference (Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden are also slated to speak), and Trump is already building hype for the speech, citing it as his excuse for skipping out on the now-canceled Fox News Republican debate originally scheduled for March 21.

Clinton Nabs the Pretend Vile Women Endorsement

Hillary Clinton just ran an ad in which she likened herself to a trio of fictional characters who are famous for having the ethical sense of your average pit viper.

Watching it, you might not get the allusions if you don't tune in on Thursdays to catch Grey's Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder -- a trio of soaps created by Shonda Rhimes and her company Shondaland. Now we have Rhimes and the actresses who bring her disreputable characters to life endorsing Hillary as being just like one of them: "a brilliant, complex, over-qualified, get-it-done woman."