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, May 31, 2016

Eric Holder says Edward Snowden performed a 'public service'

Chicago (CNN)Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says Edward Snowden performed a "public service" by triggering a debate over surveillance techniques, but still must pay a penalty for illegally leaking a trove of classified intelligence documents.

Hillary Clinton’s big donor problem isn’t going away: Her history of taking Wall Street cash exemplifies all that’s wrong in U.S. politics

In a 2011 interview with the Indian newspaper The Siasat Daily, Indian-American businessman and longtime friend and financial supporter of the Clintons, Sant Chatwal, was unusually candid (for a big donor, at least) about his experiences in American politics as a wealthy donor:

“In politics nothing comes free. You have to write cheques in the American political system. I know the system. I had to work very hard. So I did as much as I could,” said Chatwal, who was co-chair for Hillary Clinton’s presidential exploratory committee in 2008. He continued: “I was interested in building a relationship between India and America… [So I] invested a lot of money in [Michael Dukakis]…But he lost the election because he failed in the debate. Then I thought, let me bet on [Bill] Clinton…I bet on [Clinton]. He became president. Already we were good friends like a family.”

The long con of military decline: How the right uses the armed forces to lie about America

If you set yourself the task of watching the Republican presidential debates, you may have noticed that when the candidates talk about the military they careen between declaring America as the greatest, most powerful military force in history and repeated declarations of decline, decimation, and degeneration. These ideas seem like unusual partners, perhaps even enemies, but the happy coexistence of contradictory propositions is one of the hallmarks of popular conservative thought.

Illogic is wonderful stuff as long as it generates political yardage and doesn’t upset the mental furniture.

GOP’s poverty proposal: What to expect in the first of Paul Ryan’s big policy initiatives

All the news about Paul Ryan these days centers on the state of his relationship with the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, but the speaker is also apparently getting ready to churn out some new policy recommendations for the House Republican Caucus. As The New York Times reported, Ryan and the House GOP are going to start churning out one new policy proposal a week after the Memorial Day holiday, and the first product to roll off the line “will focus on combatting poverty.”

Christy Clark gave $150,000 to a Haida Gwaii chief in business with her brother then forgot all about it

John Horgan didn't hold back while questioning Premier Christy Clark on a rather puzzling $150,000 provincial grant paid personally authorized by the premier, that ended up indirectly benefitting her brother.

A donation that appears to have no paper trail, policy or even a record that the request for the donation was ever made. The donation went to a First Nations school in Haida Gwaii, that oddly enough is under federal responsibility not provincial, to complete a feasibility study on building a new gym for their school (it's worth noting that there had already been two of these studies done on the same school in the past 10 years paid for by federal funds).

12 Fringe Conspiracy Theories Embraced By A Man Who Might Be The Next President

You can find conspiracy theorists on street corners, call-in radio shows and social media.

Soon, you might be able to find one in the Oval Office.

Generally, presidential candidates tend to shy away from conspiracy theories. They involve a mixture of paranoia and gullibility that seems ill-suited for someone seeking access to America’s nuclear codes.

What Silicon Valley's billionaires don't understand about the first amendment

No major American cultural force is more opposed to examination and more active in suppressing it today than Silicon Valley. So when it was revealed this week that Facebook board member Peter Thiel had been secretly bankrolling a lawsuit to inflict financial ruin on the news and gossip site Gawker, Silicon Valley cheered.

The investor Vinod Khosla wrote on Twitter that the “press gets very uppity when challenged”. And that these bad journalists need “to be taught lessons”.

The Surge Of Trump-Fueled Anti-Semitism Is Hitting Jewish Reporters Who Cover Him

Donald Trump has an anti-Semitism problem.

Granted, the newly minted Republican nominee for president has long insisted that his is not himself anti-Semitic, and regularly points out that his daughter is a Jewish convert. Yet Trump has done little to quell a rising tide of anti-Semitism among his supporters since launching his campaign last year: Trump initially refused to disavow anti-Semitic Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a Trump surrogate implied at a rally that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders should convert from Judaism and “meet Jesus,” prominent anti-Semites went on radio shows to encourage their supporters to "get out and vote" for Trump, and a man was filmed leaving a Trump rally shouting in Cleveland shouting “Go to fucking Auschwitz.”

Trump Supports Cutting Social Security From A ‘Moral Standpoint:’ Report

Donald Trump supposedly told House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) he supports cutting Social Security but will not admit it publicly because it would hurt his election chances, according to a report in Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee reportedly made the comments during a May 12 meeting with Ryan aimed at mending ties between the two top Republican leaders, Bloomberg reported, citing an unnamed source who was in the room. (Ryan has yet to endorse Trump.)

Does Hillary Clinton face a different standard for honesty?

On the list of topics researchers -- sociologists, political scientists, economists, criminologists, workplace rule-makers, pollsters and even biologists -- have been known to study is honesty.

And with reason. Honesty underpins the function of our courts and our personal relationships, our electoral system, our healthcare operations and our workplaces. And in the world of truth-telling studies, a sub-field exists: These researchers examine what role, if any, gender plays in honesty.

Hillary Clinton Won’t Say How Much Goldman Sachs CEO Invested With Her Son-in-Law

When Hillary Clinton’s son-in-law sought funding for his new hedge fund in 2011, he found financial backing from one of the biggest names on Wall Street: Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein.

The fund, called Eaglevale Partners, was founded by Chelsea Clinton’s husband, Marc Mezvinsky, and two of his partners. Blankfein not only personally invested in the fund, but allowed his association with it to be used in the fund’s marketing.

Donald Trump Tells Drought-Plagued Californians: ‘There Is No Drought’

Donald Trump told voters in drought-plagued California on Friday that he had a solution to the water crisis: Open up the water for farmers, because “there is no drought.”

“We’re going to solve your water problem. You have a water problem that is so insane,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee told a crowd filled with farmers in Fresno. “It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea.”

How Israel Lost Its Latest Chance for a Peace Process

Last Friday, after weeks of political maneuvering, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Avigdor Lieberman to be his defense minister. A longtime political hard-liner who has filled various cabinet positions for more than a decade, Lieberman made his career with coarse talk: Israel, he said, should “cut off the head” of a disloyal Arab citizen, or take “a lesson from Putin” on how to deal with terror. His appointment served as a climax to parallel dramas: a public dispute between Netanyahu’s most conservative ministers and the Israel Defense Forces, which Lieberman’s appointment will inflame, and a secret peace initiative prompted by Tony Blair, involving players from the opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which the appointment effectively scuttles.

Pretty Much Everything Donald Trump Said About Energy and Climate Was Wrong, Ignorant, or Gibberish

The presidential campaign of Donald Trump has largely been a policy-free, fact-free, detail-free event, based on emotion (especially fear), pandering to shallow slogans (“Make America Great”), and the aggressive personal and ad hominem abuse of his Republican and Democratic opponents.

As a result, it is of special interest when Trump tries to address real issues and policies. This has happened only a few times, but it offers a glimpse into how woefully ignorant Trump is and how absolutely unprepared and unqualified he is to assume any kind of public office or hold any position of political power.

Congress leaves town with no Zika resolution, lengthy negotiations ahead

Congress abandoned the Capitol Thursday for an almost two-week break without addressing how to combat Zika, even as public health officials issue dire warnings about the spread of the mosquito-driven virus with summer approaching.

Republican leaders insist a deal can be struck soon to provide the money federal health officials say is needed to develop a vaccine. They also downplayed the risk of waiting a little longer, arguing existing money is available for the initial steps needed to help contain the virus while lawmakers resolve the larger funding fight.

The Science of Why #NeverTrump Will End Up Voting for Trump

Last February, New York Republican Rep. Peter King said Donald Trump was "not fit to be president, morally or intellectually." In early May, he endorsed Trump. And King is not alone. Where many Republican Party members were once focused on Trump's negatives, they're now courting him. Like King, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who previously labeled Trump an albatross, is endorsing him, tweeting pictures of himself with the smiling businessman.

Secret Text in Senate Bill Would Give FBI Warrantless Access to Email Records

A provision snuck into the still-secret text of the Senate’s annual intelligence authorization would give the FBI the ability to demand individuals’ email data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers without a warrant and in complete secrecy.

If passed, the change would expand the reach of the FBI’s already highly controversial national security letters. The FBI is currently allowed to get certain types of information with NSLs — most commonly, information about the name, address, and call data associated with a phone number or details about a bank account.

Minimum Wage Workers Can’t Afford Rent Anywhere In The Country

People who make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour can’t find an affordable place to live anywhere in the country, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

But perhaps even more surprising is that even if the minimum wage were raised to $15 an hour — the level low-wage workers have been demanding in a constant flow of strikes and protests and the highest level supported by Democratic lawmakers — they would still be out of luck.

Ohio Governor Poised To Make Voters Pay To Keep Polls Open Late

Republican lawmakers in Ohio approved a bill late Wednesday night that would force residents to put up a cash bond when they petition a court extend voting hours during an election day emergency, such as a natural disaster. If Gov. John Kasich (R) signs the bill, Ohio could become the first state in the nation to make voters risk losing tens of thousands of dollars of their own money when making the case for keeping the polls open a few extra hours.

The bill’s author, Republican Sen. Bill Seitz of Green Township, wrote an op-ed this week about his motivation for pushing the measure.

Elizabeth Warren Is One of Just Three Democratic Senators Who Haven't Endorsed Clinton

"Clinton has a new weapon against Trump: Elizabeth Warren," a Washington Post headline proclaimed Tuesday. That story referred to a blistering denunciation of Donald Trump that Warren delivered on Tuesday, just one example of the liberal favorite's increasing willingness to jump into the presidential campaign fray. The consensus around Warren's recent attacks on Trump, on Twitter and elsewhere, is clear: She's positioning herself as a prime attacker to hit Trump on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the general election.

To Avoid Regulations, Uber Describes Itself as Either, Neither and Nor

Uber is a traditional employer recruiting employees. Or Uber is a non-employer facilitating the work of independent contractors. Or Uber is a technology company supplying an app to small businesses.

It depends on which lawsuit you read. The company, valued at over $62 billion, changes its description of what it does depending on what best allows it to avoid regulatory scrutiny.

The New York Times’s (and Clinton Campaign’s) Abject Cowardice on Israel

In January, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a speech to the Security Council about, as he put it, violence “in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory,” noting that “Palestinian frustration is growing under the weight of a half century of occupation” and that “it is human nature to react to occupation.” His use of the word “occupation” was not remotely controversial because multiple U.N. Security Resolutions, such as 446 (adopted unanimously in 1979 with three abstentions), have long declared Israel the illegal “occupying power” in the West Bank and Gaza. Unsurprisingly, newspapers around the world — such as the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, the BBC, the LA Times — routinely and flatly describe Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza in their news articles as what it is: an occupation.

Why Trump’s attack on Susana Martinez matters: He proves again that unity isn’t his goal — only dominance over everyone

After the 2012 GOP “autopsy” which strongly recommended that the Republican party take immediate action to try to mend its bad reputation with Latinos and women lest it be shut out of the White House for decades, one of the people mentioned most often by GOP strategists as a natural choice for the national ticket was New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez. She was considered a rising star in Republican circles, a Latina who had been able to win in a blue state that went for Barack Obama twice. She had given a barn-burner of a speech at the 2012 convention and was widely assumed to be one of the new faces of the Republican party in an era of changing demographics.

Look at the Lobbyists Clinton and Wasserman Schultz Picked to Write the Democratic Party’s Platform

This week, leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz appointed professional influence peddlers with ties to weapons makers, hedge funds and WalMart to the committee responsible for drafting the Democratic Party’s policy platform.

Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani report at The Intercept:

    Wendy Sherman and Carol Browner, two of the representatives chosen by Clinton, work at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a “government affairs” firm that was created in 2009 through a merger with Madeleine Albright’s consulting company and Stonebridge International, a defense contractor lobbying shop.

Farming’s Dirty Needs Have a Deadly Effect

LONDON—Farming is a dirty business—so dirty now that, according to new research, air pollution from agriculture in the form of fine particles of lung-choking dust outweighs all other human sources of that kind of pollution.

These particles are calculated to cause around 3.3 million deaths a year worldwide—and most of this lung-penetrating murk is from fertilisers. Back in 1950, the world produced 20 million tons of artificial fertilisers, but farmers now spread on their fields every year around 190 million tons.

Seven Myths About GMOs Debunked

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The following is excerpted from Vandana Shiva's foreword to Seed Sovereignty, Food Security:

Those wacky federal Tories! Just how dumb do they think we are? (Hint: plenty)

Well, that was quick!

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Ontario's Crown prosecutors announced there would be no appeal of the acquittal of Sen. Mike Duffy, who had been found not guilty last month of 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

Yesterday -- that is to say, for those of you who read this later, on Wednesday -- The Globe and Mail reported that former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper will now resign as MP for the Calgary Heritage riding and slip out the back door of the Parliament Buildings a final time.

The Globe's story, and all the coverage of the same story since, seems not to have mentioned the elephant in the Parliamentary chamber, that is, the simplest explanation of why the humiliated ex-PM was sticking around so long after the Oct. 19, 2015, federal election when he obviously didn't feel much like it. To wit: He needed to preserve his Parliamentary privilege long enough to avoid being called to testify about the shenanigans in the Prime Minister's Office back in the days when the boys in short pants were trying to get then-Conservative Sen. Duffy to stop embarrassing the Harper Government.

Bill C-16 introduces transgender protections but keeps Harper's damaging human rights legacy

Last week, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-16, an Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code of Canada to protect transgender individuals from discrimination and hate propaganda. The bill is almost identical to Bill C-279, a private member's bill introduced in 2012 by NDP MP Randall Garrison. The two bills seek to make very simple amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) and the Criminal Code of Canada (Criminal Code): to provide protection from discrimination and from hate propaganda based on gender identity or expression.

Imperialism’s Junior Partners

On May 12, Brazil’s democratic government, led by the Workers’ Party (PT), was the victim of a coup. What will the other BRICS countries (Russia, India, China, and South Africa) do?

Will they stand by as the reactionaries who took power in Brasilia pivot closer to Western powers, glad to warm Dilma Rousseff’s seat at the BRICS summit in Goa, India in five months’ time?

Clinton’s inexcusable, willful disregard for the rules

HILLARY CLINTON’S use of a private email server while secretary of state from 2009 to 2013 has been justifiably criticized as an error of judgment. What the new report from the State Department inspector general makes clear is that it also was not a casual oversight. Ms. Clinton had plenty of warnings to use official government communications methods, so as to make sure that her records were properly preserved and to minimize cybersecurity risks. She ignored them.