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 24, 2016

Fear and loathing is nothing new on the campaign trail

In 1919, William Butler Yeats offered an epitaph for the twentieth century:

A time was coming, the poet wrote, when the best will “lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” Brilliant augury, but Yeats might have been a century out in his timing.

Ontario professor’s family may have to leave country over son’s Down Syndrome

TORONTO – An Ontario university professor who has applied for permanent residency in Canada is facing the prospect of having to leave the country because his son has Down Syndrome.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada has told Felipe Montoya that his son’s condition makes him inadmissible to Canada because of the potential burden the child would place on the health care system.

Trump Protesters Shut Down Arizona Highway

Anti-Donald Trump protesters blocked a major highway outside of Phoenix, Arizona Saturday, delaying Trump supporters who were driving to a rally for the presidential hopeful in the state capital.

The protesters, carrying banners that read “Dump Trump” and “Shut Down Trump,” parked their cars and stood in lines across the highway, preventing traffic going towards the rally from moving and forcing police to begin rerouting traffic.

Trump campaign denies manager grabbed protester at Arizona rally

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has denied that its manager grabbed and pulled the collar of a protester at a rally on Saturday, in another incident in a growing series of physical clashes at the Republican frontrunner’s events.

Footage posted on the internet by a CBS reporter appears to show Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, yank a protester by his collar at an event in Tucson, Arizona. A second man, behind the protester, also appears to grab the demonstrator, a young man who spins around to confront them after realizing he is being physically restrained.

Iain Duncan Smith's Andrew Marr Interview: Slams George Osborne's Welfare Cap, Deficit Plan And Tory Attacks On Poor Who 'Don't Vote For Us'

Iain Duncan Smith has launched a searing new attack on his own Government, declaring that the Tory Party look like they are hitting the poorest “because they don’t vote for us”.

In an electrifying interview on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, the former Work and Pensions Secretary followed up on his dramatic resignation by declaring for the first time that he opposed George Osborne’s “arbitrary” welfare cap and his deficit-cutting plans.

Canada’s charity chill continues

Our prime minister’s “sunny ways” have failed to reach one of the darkest corners left behind by the previous government’s obsession with striking out at its enemies (real and perceived) — Ottawa’s war on charities.

Instead of making good on its campaign promise to “allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment,” the Trudeau government has opted for a half-measure to try to reverse the Harper government’s efforts to stifle dissent: it has agreed to end the charity witch hunt just as soon as the current audits are finished.

Sheriff Arpaio to police Trump’s Arizona rally

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County is relishing the opportunity to host Donald Trump at a rally on his own turf Saturday — and serve as the muscle at the same time.

After taking a few days off from his long streak of attention-grabbing rallies, Trump is cranking back up this weekend, and has scheduled one of his events right in the backyard of the long-serving and controversial Arizona sheriff.

Donald Trump Strangely Silent On Traffic-Stopping Protest At Arizona Rally

It was so unlike him.

Speaking at a rally in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona on Saturday afternoon, Donald Trump did not mention the roadblock protest that caused havoc in the area, delaying his arrival and stranding many supporters in their cars for hours.

Instead Trump gave his standard routine about how he is the only candidate who will build a wall on the border with Mexico and end illegal immigration as well as get tough with U.S. trading partners to keep manufacturing jobs in the country. He also ticked off his list of generic conservative promises: repealing Obamacare, protecting gun rights and eliminating the Common Core framework for education.

Republican Leaders Map a Strategy to Derail Donald Trump

Republican leaders adamantly opposed to Donald J. Trump’s candidacy are preparing a 100-day campaign to deny him the presidential nomination, starting with an aggressive battle in Wisconsin’s April 5 primary and extending into the summer, with a delegate-by-delegate lobbying effort that would cast Mr. Trump as a calamitous choice for the general election.

Recognizing that Mr. Trump has seized a formidable advantage in the race, they say that an effort to block him would rely on an array of desperation measures, the political equivalent of guerrilla fighting.

Keep ‘unmuzzled’ scientists on tight leash, senior civil servants warn Liberals

OTTAWA—Senior civil servants warned the new Liberal government that “unmuzzled” scientists still need a tight leash, internal documents show.

The new Liberal government has pledged to end an effective gag order on government scientists, who for years have faced major restrictions on speaking publicly about their research.

Brazil’s Monied Oligarchs Are Exploiting Unrest in Attempt to Reclaim Power

The impeachment movement and street uprising against the Brazilian government are far more complicated and ethically ambiguous than the major media have portrayed, as scandal and corruption touch almost every corner of the country’s political system.

The Intercept reports:

    ... one significant difference with the U.S. is that Brazil’s turmoil is not confined to one politician. The opposite is true, as Romero notes: “almost every corner of the political system under the cloud of scandal.” That includes not only Rousseff’s moderately left-wing Workers Party, or PT — which is rife with serious corruption — but also the vast majority of the centrist and right-wing political and economic factions working to destroy PT, which are drowning in at least an equal amount of criminality. In other words, PT is indeed deeply corrupt and awash in criminal scandal, but so is virtually every political faction working to undermine it and vying to seize that party’s democratically obtained power. …

What We Call Uber Drivers Has Huge Implications

In five short years, Uber has shaken up much more than just the taxi industry. With the success of its “driver partner“ business model, the ride-sharing giant has helped scramble the very concept of employment, forcing riders and regulators alike to ask themselves who qualifies as a worker and what constitutes work.

Those questions were around long before iPhone apps and surge pricing. But the sheer popularity of Uber — and the rapid growth of its driver network — has forced a debate over how to classify workers in the so-called on-demand economy. And even labor experts who are often on the same side can’t seem to agree on how to do it.

Half The Country Sees ‘Fascist Undertones’ In Donald Trump’s Campaign: New Survey

Half of America believes Donald Trump’s campaign exhibits fascist undertones, with only 30 percent disagreeing, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. The sentiment isn’t contained to Democrats, who unsurprisingly are willing to agree with a negative statement about their political rivals. Forty-five percent of independents also say Trump’s campaign has echoes of fascism, as do a full 28 percent of Republicans.

Mayor’s Ties To Developers Threaten To Derail Plan For Better Homeless Shelters In Nation’s Capital

Washington, D.C.’s primary homeless shelter is a dangerous, decrepit place and Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) plan to replace it with several smaller, distributed housing and shelter facilities has almost unanimous support from the advocacy community.

But that popular plan may now be in jeopardy.

Most of the sites Bowser proposes building shelter spaces are currently owned by people and companies who donated to her campaign, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday. These landowners would see a windfall from the plan as currently designed.

Chairman of Government Commission on Global Religious Freedom Unironically Endorses Ted Cruz

On the same day that Ted Cruz announced that anti-Muslim conspiracist Frank Gaffney would be one of his top foreign policy advisors, he won an endorsement from the chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Robert P. George. George said he was endorsing Cruz, his former student at Princeton, because, “No one has been stronger than Ted in standing up for religious liberty and other fundamental constitutional freedoms.”

The Indisputable Role of Credit Ratings Agencies in the 2008 Collapse, and Why Nothing Has Changed

A scene from the Oscar-nominated movie The Big Short depicts the important role of credit ratings agencies during the Great Recession. It shows Melissa Leo as an employee of Standard & Poor's (one of the big three credit ratings agencies) explaining to Steve Carell (who plays a hedge fund manager) why S&P continues to give AAA ratings to mortgage-backed securities (consisting of junk loans). The answer given by her is: "They'll just go to Moody's."

Inequality Casts a Long Shadow

As a college teacher, I began telling my students in the early 1980s that we were witnessing the beginning of a rise in inequality not seen since the 1920s. Every year I showed them charts illustrating the change in the distributions of income and wealth. The share of income going to the top 5 percent of income recipients grew nearly every year, and the wealth share grew steadily as well. I explained how the two distributions interacted to further increase inequality. A household with high income -- the yearly sum of its wages, salaries, bonuses, dividends, interest, rents, profits from unincorporated businesses, and government transfer payments such as social security and subsidies to farmers -- probably could not spend all of it. The remainder, the household's savings, would be used to purchase assets, such as stocks, bonds, real estate, precious metals, and works of art. These assets are what we mean by wealth. Most of them will generate income, either in the form of regular payments like dividends from stock or as capital gains when assets are sold at a price higher than that at which they were purchased. In this way, the household's income grows just because its wealth has risen. Those with low incomes will not be able to acquire assets and will not see their wealth rise. The more unequal are incomes, the more unequal wealth will become.

Putin’s long game has been revealed, and the omens are bad for Europe

While European leaders believe they are edging towards a solution to the refugee crisis after securing a deal with Turkey, another power watches closely from afar: Russia.

A tweet from its foreign ministry spokeswoman said much this week. “The migration crisis has been caused by irresponsible attempts to spread western-type democracy to the Middle East,” was the message from Maria Zakharova, hours before EU leaders were set to convene in Brussels. It didn’t just reflect Moscow’s well-known resistance to anything that smacks of western-driven regime change – it was also meant as a rebuke.

Human Rights Hypocrisy: U.S. Criticizes Cuba

In advance of President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba on March 20, there is speculation about whether he can pressure Cuba to improve its human rights. But a comparison of Cuba’s human rights record with that of the United States shows that the U.S. should be taking lessons from Cuba.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains two different categories of human rights — civil and political rights on the one hand; and economic, social and cultural rights on the other.

The Conservative Anti-Trump Strategy Is Taking Shape

A coalition of conservatives opposing Donald Trump’s presidential campaign called for a Republican unity ticket in a statement issued Thursday. The “Statement From Conservatives Against Trump,” published by The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson, marks a new phase in conservative efforts to deny the GOP frontrunner the party’s nomination.

“We call for a unity ticket that unites the Republican Party,” said the group, which met Thursday at the Army Navy Club in Washington. Attendees at the meeting included former George W. Bush adviser Bill Wichterman and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a vocal supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Erickson, who participated by phone, later issued a statement on behalf of the group.

The Republican Party Must Answer for What It Did to Kansas and Louisiana

Over the course of 12 debates, the Republican presidential candidates were never asked to address the budget problems in Kansas. That may not sound like an odd omission but it is. To see why, let’s take a quick trip to a parallel political universe:

In Bizarro America, the tea party never happened. Instead, the Great Recession sparked a left-wing populist movement that swept democratic socialists into statehouses all across the country. In Vermont, these Denmark-worshippers took full control of state government and implemented their radical agenda. They raised income taxes to unprecedented heights, upped the minimum wage to $15 an hour, made all state universities tuition-free, and established a single-payer health-care system. As he signed the last of these programs into law, Governor Bernie Sanders declared that Vermont would serve as a blue-state model, one that the Democratic Party’s 2016 ticket could use to say,  “See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.”

This Is the Real Reason the GOP Should Worry About Merrick Garland

Merrick Garland has spent the last decade in the weeds of some of the most contentious clean-air cases in history—and he's consistently come out on the side of the environment and against big polluters.

Garland, the DC Circuit Court chief judge who is President Barack Obama's pick to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, faces a steep climb to confirmation in the face of fierce opposition from Senate Republicans.

How To Explain Hillary Clinton’s Fundraiser With Failed Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes

So, that happened. Elizabeth Holmes is the young, fresh-faced CEO of Theranos, a medical device startup that promised to revolutionize the science of blood testing with cutting-edge technology. But there’s a problem. Last October, the Wall Street Journal reported that Theranos wasn’t delivering anything close to what it promised. In the months since, the company has become synonymous with corporate excess — serial violators of lab standards and federal regulations that posed “immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety.”

Think Again Hillary Democrats: 10 Reasons Why She Could Lose this Fall

The media tells us that Hillary has a lock on the nomination. That news should make her supporters extremely nervous, and not because the prognosticators have been wrong so many times already. All Democrats should worry because her major policy and character flaws could leave us with a Republican president this fall. Here’s why.