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, November 17, 2016

UN blames Syrian government siege strategy for expected mass evacuations

Many besieged Syrian towns and cities are on the brink of falling to government forces leading to mass evacuations similar to that seen in the town of Darayya last week, the UN predicted on Thursday.

The UN blamed an intensification of the conflict and the Syrian government’s “strategy” of refusing to allow aid agencies into the besieged towns with food and medicine.

Your Tax Money Is Subsidizing Wall Street Bonuses

Few people have heard of Section 162(m) of the tax code. But if you want to understand the deeply perverse incentives built into the American economy, all you need to do is examine this little subsection of the law.

Section 162(m) was a well-intentioned effort by Bill Clinton to rein in executive pay by capping tax deductions for CEO salaries at $1 million. There’s a loophole in the language, however, that allows exemptions for stock options or any other pay that is considered “performance-based,” and that loophole has lead to explosive growth in various stock options and bonus payouts for executives—all subsidized by taxpayers. In effect, Section 162(m) created a legal process by which publicly held companies can lower their tax bills by boosting CEO pay, leaving taxpayers on the hook for the lavish salaries of corporate titans.

B.C.'s Climate Plan Subsidizes Fossil Fuels (Yes, You Read That Correctly)

The B.C. government has quietly slipped subsidies for the natural gas sector into its climate plan, which has been panned as "cynical" by leading experts.

B.C.’s so-called Climate Leadership Plan, quietly released on August 19, includes a vague pledge to subsidize the electrification of upstream natural gas facilities in the northeast of the province, using “renewable” power from BC Hydro projects.

Saudi Arabia Is the Most Gender-Segregated Nation in the World

For decades, the United States has supported Saudi Arabia despite the latter country's record of human rights abuses and working against American interests. What explains this alliance that has endured across multiple US presidential administrations? Fearless firebrand Medea Benjamin tackles this question in her new book Kingdom of the Unjust. Get it now by making a donation to Truthout!

The following are two excerpts from the chapter, "The Struggle of Saudi Women for Equal Rights," in Kingdom of the Unjust.

David Duke And His Pals Loved Trump’s Immigration Speech

WASHINGTON ― Prominent members of the white supremacist movement applauded Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s immigration speech Wednesday.

David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and current Senate candidate in Louisiana, called the speech “excellent.” Jared Taylor, editor of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance, said it was a “hell of a speech. Almost perfect.”

Trump, in Major Immigration Speech, Is Back in Fear-Mongering Form

One never knows what Donald Trump will say – the candidate has flaunted his unpredictability for over a year. But now, finally, in the general election and with his stance on his core political identity in question, he has delivered the most anticipated speech of his political career. And here’s the answer. There will be no flip-flopping. There will be no “softening.” There will be no pivot.

If anyone had any doubts, Trump put them to rest on Wednesday evening.

Mexicans Scorn Trump’s Visit—And Peña Nieto for Having Invited Him

In March, Mexico’s embattled president, Enrique Peña Nieto, compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. “Unfortunately, there have been moments in the history of humanity,” Peña Nieto said in a newspaper interview of Trump’s anti-Mexican slurs, “when these expressions, this strident rhetoric, has led to ominous outcomes…. That’s how Mussolini and Hitler” took power.

Supreme Court Denies North Carolina’s Plea To Restore Swath Of Voting Restrictions

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a last-ditch request from North Carolina to reinstate a controversial set of voting restrictions that would have taken effect in the lead-up to the November election.

In a one-sentence order that did not include any reasoning, the high court declined the state’s petition, which sought to put on hold a July ruling that found the voting law discriminated against African-Americans and compared it to a relic of the Jim Crow era.

Capitalism and democracy: the strain is showing

Is the marriage between liberal democracy and global capitalism an enduring one? Political developments across the west — particularly the candidacy of an authoritarian populist for the presidency of the most important democracy — heighten the importance of this question. One cannot take for granted the success of the political and economic systems that guide the western world and have been a force of attraction for much of the rest for four decades. The question then arises: if not these, what?

The Strategic Savvy of Russia’s Growing Anti-Abortion Movement

Maria Studenikina fidgets with a laptop for a few minutes before beginning her presentation. Standing in front of the audience in a white blouse and blazer, she conveys an almost cherubic quality. As she outlines the goals of Save Life (Spasi zhizn), the charity program she helps coordinate, she speaks softly into a microphone, enunciating her words in the fashion of a zealous schoolteacher. “The main goal of our program is a reduction in the number of abortions by getting women who intend to terminate their pregnancy to refuse the procedure, and to provide social and psychological help to motivate them to backtrack and save the life of the child.”

U.S. Strategy to Fight ISIS Has Set Off a New Conflict in Syria

Five years after the start of Syria’s uprising, the Turkish military directly entered the fray last week, sending troops to occupy the northern Syrian town of Jarablus, previously held by the militant group the Islamic State. Turkey’s intervention represents a significant escalation of the conflict, as well as a sign that the country is likely to take a more aggressive approach to foreign policy following July’s failed military coup and subsequent purge.

North Korea executes officials with anti-aircraft gun in new purge – report

North Korea’s purge of senior officials who are deemed a threat to Kim Jong-un’s leadership of the country has continued with the public executions of two senior officials, according to South Korean media, possibly to generate fear among members of the elite after recent high-level defections.

The conservative daily, the JoongAng Ilbo, reported on Tuesday that Hwang Min, a former agriculture minister, and Ri Yong-jin, a senior official at the education ministry, were executed by anti-aircraft gun at a military academy in Pyongyang earlier this month.

China’s Trans-Amazon Railway Would Punch a Path Through a Rainforest

China’s fast-rising population and its burgeoning economy make steep demands on natural resources, so steep that Beijing is searching constantly for supplies from overseas. And it wants to obtain them, naturally, as cheaply as it can.

Now in prospect is China’s trans-Amazon railway— a 3,300-mile-long (5,000 km) artery to link the soya-growing areas and iron ore mines of Brazil to the southern Peruvian port of Ilo, providing a cheaper, shorter route than the Panama Canal.

Inside the Head of a Trump Supporter

Sometimes you have to go a long, long way to discover truths that are distinctly close to home. Over the last five years, I’ve done just that—left my home in iconically liberal Berkeley, California, and traveled to the bayous of Tea Party Louisiana to find another America that, as Donald Trump’s presidential bid has made all too clear, couldn’t be closer to home for us all. From those travels, let me offer a kind of real-life parable about a man I came to admire who sums up many of the contradictions of our distinctly Trumpian world.

Two Terrible Ideas, on Their Way to History’s Dustbin

A recent Gallup poll found that worries about race relations were at an all-time high in the United States, and it’s easy to see why. This has been a summer of horrific violence born of bias and racism, perpetuating an epidemic of police shootings and mass killings. It has also been a summer of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump baiting crowds at rallies until they scream racial epithets into television cameras, while he promises to usher in a neo-Nixonian era of “law and order” to police people of color in our urban cores.

Welfare Was ‘Reformed’ 20 Years Ago This Week. I’ve Suffered the Consequences.

This country has a penchant for plans to end poverty that do nothing to actually help families struggling to make ends meet.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of welfare reform, which created work requirements and other barriers for families who need the most basic cash assistance.  The legislation was aimed at getting people to become self-sufficient.  As then-President Bill Clinton put it, “No one who can work should be able to stay on welfare forever.”

Goodbye, Harper. Good riddance.

Like fame and drugs, politics consumes its own.

Stephen Harper is no exception. Marketed as the archetypal Strong Leader, he ends as a rickety Wizard of Oz. Out of office, he was left wriggling and exposed when the curtain of power was drawn back. It revealed a very small man in a very big office. He didn’t so much leave public life as skulk away.

He gave not a single interview after getting waxed in the 2015 election by Justin Trudeau. Las Vegas proved more attractive to the MP from Calgary Heritage than the House of Commons, where, post-defeat, he lurked rather than sat. And while he was doing little for his constituents other than cashing his paycheck, he did find time to set up his political consulting company in Calgary after a few visits to U.S. casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is the man who has promised, but not yet delivered, $100 million to support Donald Trump’s presidential bid.

Governor Of Maine Says People Of Color Are ‘The Enemy,’ Implies They Should Be Shot

In a Friday press conference following his homophobic remarks about a state lawmaker, Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) called people of color and people of Hispanic origin “the enemy” and implied they should be shot.

“A bad guy is a bad guy. I don’t care what color he is. When you go to war, if you know the enemy, the enemy dresses in red and you dress in blue, you shoot at red,” he said. “You shoot the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”

Harper the hypocrite

With Friday’s announcement of the resignation of the MP for Calgary Heritage, the political career of Stephen Harper officially ends and the debate over his legacy begins.

The Alberta talk shows and Twitter traffic have been overwhelmingly positive. But like all legacies, Harper’s will be mixed. A balanced budget in 2015 has to be measured against the string of deficits that preceded it, after Prime Minister Harper inherited a sizeable surplus from the Martin/Chretien era. Over nine years as PM, Harper added significantly to the national debt. Harper ran deficits seven out of nine years and added over $150 billion in red ink.

Russians march into Georgia as full-scale war looms

Russia's punitive campaign in the Caucasus threatened to intensify into all-out war against Georgia last night, with Russian troops seizing control of strategic towns a couple of hours from the capital, and aircraft pounding Georgian infrastructure.

Vastly outnumbered by the Kremlin's ground and air forces, the Georgian government announced it was pulling back its troops to defend the capital, Tbilisi, against a feared Russian onslaught. Washington accused the Kremlin of long preparing an invasion of Georgia in "aggression that must not go unanswered".

A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories

STOCKHOLM — With a vigorous national debate underway on whether Sweden should enter a military partnership with NATO, officials in Stockholm suddenly encountered an unsettling problem: a flood of distorted and outright false information on social media, confusing public perceptions of the issue.

The claims were alarming: If Sweden, a non-NATO member, signed the deal, the alliance would stockpile secret nuclear weapons on Swedish soil; NATO could attack Russia from Sweden without government approval; NATO soldiers, immune from prosecution, could rape Swedish women without fear of criminal charges.