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.]

Monday, April 17, 2017

Turkey’s Vote Makes Erdoğan Effectively a Dictator

Fifteen years ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the hope of the Islamic world. He was an Islamist, of course, but that was part of his appeal. As the mayor of Istanbul, one of the world’s great cities, Erdoğan had governed as a charismatic and smart technocrat. He’d served time in prison, in 1999—for reading a poem that seemed to celebrate militant Islam—but his jailers had been the country’s rigid, military-backed secular leaders wh
o, by then, seemed as suited to the present day as dinosaurs. When Erdoğan became Prime Minister, in 2003, every leader in the West wanted him to succeed. In a world still trying to make sense of the 9/11 attacks, he seemed like a bridge between cultures.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

US Attorney fired by Trump was banned from entering Russia by Vladimir Putin

Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who was fired by President Donald Trump over the weekend, was so despised by Vladimir Putin’s Russia that he was banned from entering the country in 2013.

According to The New York Times, Russia banned Bharara and 17 other Americans in retaliation for U.S. sanctions over human rights violations.

These For-Profit Schools Are ‘Like a Prison’

Teenagers at Paramount Academy sometimes came home with mysterious injuries.

An alternative school for sixth- through 12th-graders with behavioral or academic problems, Paramount occupied a low-slung, brick and concrete building on a dead-end road in hard-luck Reading, Pennsylvania, a city whose streets are littered with signs advertising bail bondsmen, pay-day lenders, and pawn shops. Camelot Education, the for-profit company that ran Paramount under a contract with the Reading school district, maintained a set of strict protocols: No jewelry, book bags, or using the water fountain or bathroom without permission. Just as it still does at dozens of schools, the company deployed a small platoon of "behavioral specialists" and "team leaders": typically large men whose job was partly to enforce the rules.

One of the Worst Trends in Red-State Politics Is Coming to a Blue State Near You

So-called right-to-work laws—which are more accurately described as right-to-work-for-less laws, anti-union laws or poverty-producing laws—used to be a largely southern phenomenon in the United States. In the 20th century, cities in the northern U.S., from Philadelphia, Boston, New York City and Baltimore to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee, were considered union towns, while many of the southern states were infamous for their hostility to organized labor. But in the 2010s, "right-to-work” laws have been making considerable progress in northern states. And far-right Republicans like Joe Wilson and Steve King in the House of Representatives have been calling for a right-to-work law to be enacted nationwide.

How America's Right-Wing Fell in Love with Putin and Moscow

Following the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, two American contingents appeared to stand ascendant in the U.S.: white nationalists and the Religious Right. The former, ideological descendants of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow-era legislators, would like to return white supremacy to both state and federal law—or, barring that, break off part of the U.S. to form a white ethno-state wholesale. The latter, meanwhile, would allow Christian fundamentalism to become the U.S.’s de jure national religion, with attendant legislation targeting LGBT and minority religious communities alike. Both white nationalists and the Religious Right tossed vociferous support behind Trump’s candidacy during the recent presidential election, and both contingents thrilled at Trump’s unexpected victory, as well as the authoritarian bent he’s quickly brought to the executive branch.

FBI Director James Comey's 'October Surprise' Doomed Hillary Clinton's Candidacy: Analysis

Do you remember how you felt last October after you heard that FBI Director James Comey was reopening the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s possible illegal handling of classified communiqués while Secretary of State—just 11 days before the presidential election?

That news, which left me with a sinking feeling that all but erased the confidence I had in Clinton’s prospects after the three presidential debates, was the moment that Donald Trump won the election, according to an analysis released this week by a data firm that tracks the psychological elements below patterns of consumer behavior, moods and sentiment.

Harsh Sentence for Racist Georgia Couple Has White Supremacists Across the Country Freaking Out: Report

White supremacists are outraged after a couple was sentenced to 20 years in prison for displaying a Confederate flag and making “terroristic threats” to black people who were attending a child’s birthday party in Georgia in 2015.

The defendants, Jose Torres and Kayla Norton, who were convicted last month, also “pulled out a shotgun and threatened to kill people at [the] party, including children,” according to Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner.

Death of truth: when propaganda and 'alternative facts' first gripped the world

Truth was the first casualty of the Great Depression. Reflecting the anguish of the time, propaganda was manufactured on an unprecedented scale. As economic disaster threatened to trigger shooting wars so, as George Orwell said, useful lies were preferred to harmful truths. He went further, declaring that history stopped in 1936; after that there was only propaganda.

This was a characteristic exaggeration but it points to the universality of state deception. The very term Depression aimed to mislead: President Hoover employed it as a euphemism for the standard American word for financial crisis, “Panic”. Hence the poet WH Auden’s verdict that this was a “low dishonest decade”, a conclusion he reached in a New York dive on 1 September 1939 while attempting to “undo the folded lie … the lie of Authority.” It was the end of a decade in which, as Auden wrote elsewhere: “We have seen a myriad faces / ecstatic from one lie.”

Paul Ryan’s Wonk Shtick Is Getting Old

I have a very strong aversion to self-plagiarism, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is at it again, and so, my hand has been forced and I must remind everybody all over again that Ryan is mostly a bundle of shtick, wrapped in a suit, and topped by what must be said is a comparatively decent haircut, when you consider it alongside the combover farm from which most of the rest of Congress seems to have sprung.

If You Think Trump’s at War With the Deep State, Take Another Look at His Policies

The prospect of four years of Donald J. Trump’s nonstop rants about imaginary conspiracies against his daughter, wholesale slander against the judicial branch and attacks on the press as enemies of the people has caused some Americans to slip into a comforting form of denial. He will be a blip in our history, they say, because our formal institutions, and the American people, will ultimately prevail against a rogue disruptor.

Others, more hard-boiled, appeal to the powers-that-be that they believe actually run the country regardless of electoral results: the Wise Men, the Power Elite or what I have called the Deep State. These informal power groupings, according to speculation, will attempt to gently but firmly pry Trump’s tiny fingers from the wheel before he sails the ship of state into an iceberg.

Forget Building Our Own Tea Party. The Left Can Win So Much More.

On February 19, 2009, just 30 days after President Obama was sworn in, Rick Santelli’s rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange launched the Tea Party. The conservative establishment worked together with the grassroots to fan the flames of opposition. The resulting tidal wave swept Republicans to power at the national and state level in 2010—and set the stage for Trump’s victory in 2016.

Since at least 2012, I’ve worked in and with organizations that saw the Tea Party as a model for the Left. While we abhorred their politics, we admired their tactics and coveted their success. The Tea Party pioneered a strategy that enabled grassroots activists and candidates to work inside and outside of the Republican Party to advance a “principled” conservative agenda. And they won—big time.

Want to Elect Socialists? Run Them in Democratic Primaries

There are currently 7,383 state legislators in the United States. Nine of them are affiliated with the Vermont Progressive Party. One of them is an independent from Alaska who caucuses with the Democrats.

This is the grand sum of the left presence in American state legislatures outside the Democratic Party. There has been a single instance of federal-level victory in my lifetime—Bernie Sanders’s election as an independent to the U.S. House, then Senate, in Vermont. No one else has even come close. And Sanders, after thirty years as an Independent, elected to seek the presidency through the Democratic primary.

Why Doesn’t the United Nations Pay Its Interns?

The United Nations is in many ways a benchmark progressive institution. Its numerous declarations set the international standard for human rights, and the frequent collaboration among its 193 member states ensures a large measure of peace and stability around the world.

Yet on February 20 hundreds of UN interns in cities ranging from New York to Geneva participated in the first-ever grassroots action to address a decidedly anti-progressive policy: unpaid internships.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Bernie Sanders’s Misguided Attacks on the “Liberal Elite”

“We need a Democratic Party that is not a party of the liberal elite but of the working class of this country,” Senator Bernie Sanders declared at a rally in Boston last week. This has become a very common refrain for Sanders specifically and the progressive left generally. After the election, Nation editor at large D.D. Guttenplan declared that liberal elites who spurned populism are responsible for President Donald Trump, while Chris Hedges argued last month that Trump’s greatest allies are, unwittingly, liberal elites.