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.]

Saturday, February 25, 2017

With Late Night Vote, GOP Takes Aim at Key Health Care Gains

Early Thursday, Senate Republicans took the first step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, overcoming a slew of Democratic amendments meant to defend popular parts of the law and setting the stage for tens of millions of Americans to lose their health insurance.

The 51-48 vote, taken around 1 a.m., advances a budget resolution that instructs committees to write legislation stripping the health care law of its funding and spending provisions. It allows Congress to consider repeal legislation through the budget reconciliation process, requiring only a simple majority of 51 votes rather than the 60-vote supermajority required for most major bills and blocking the possibility of a Democratic filibuster.

Senate Republicans just took a big step toward Obamacare repeal

Obamacare repeal just took a big step forward. Shortly after 1 am Thursday morning, the Senate voted 51 to 48 along party lines to approve the budget that Republicans want to use to repeal the health care law.

It’s bad news for Obamacare supporters and the 20 million people who rely on it for insurance. Earlier this week, a group of moderate Republicans — led by Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker — had proposed delaying the budget to give the GOP more time to figure out its replacement package. But those swing-state senators withdrew their objection late last night, removing a key barrier for repeal to move forward.

Noam Chomsky: The US Health System Is an "International Scandal" -- and ACA Repeal Will Make It Worse

Changes are coming to America's health care system. Not long from now, the Affordable Care Act could be history. President-elect Donald Trump wants to repeal so-called Obamacare, although he is now urging Republicans to repeal and replace it at the same time. But replace it with what?

The political culture of the most powerful nation in the world is such that it vehemently defends the right of people to buy guns but opposes the right to free and decent health care for all its citizens. In all likelihood, the Trump health care plan will be one based on "free market principles." Under such a plan, as Noam Chomsky notes in the exclusive interview for Truthout that follows, poor people are likely to suffer most. In other words, the scandalous nature of the US health care system is bound to become even more scandalous in the Trump era. Welcome back to the future.

Court orders Exxon to hand over documents related to decades of climate misinformation

Former Exxon CEO-turned-Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson testified for over seven hours on Wednesday about his credentials to lead U.S. foreign policy.

Also on Wednesday, the Suffolk Superior Court in Massachusetts ordered Exxon — where Tillerson worked for more than four decades — to turn over documents related to its alleged campaign to misinform the public about climate change.

In one night, the GOP voted to take away these 6 essential health benefits

Last night while you were sleeping, the Senate debated and ultimately passed a budget resolution that provides a pathway for Republicans to strip health care coverage away from 30 million Americans without having a single Democratic vote.

As the Senate debated the resolution that provides a blueprint to repeal the Affordable Care Act, both Republicans and Democrats had the opportunity to offer a flurry of rapid-fire amendments in a process known as “vote-a-rama.” While these votes are non-binding, the exercise provides an opportunity for senators to show where their colleagues stand on a number of key issues. And the results are not pretty.

Avoiding China’s Wrath, Philippines Defers Upgrades To South China Sea

The Philippines is deferring plans to repair and upgrade features it occupies in the disputed South China Sea, the country’s military chiefs said on Thursday, to avoid provoking China while the two traditional foes seek to bury the hatchet.

The Philippines would continue to observe a moratorium on construction in the Spratly islands that it adopted while an international tribunal handled an arbitration case it lodged against Beijing in 2013.

Netanyahu: Middle East peace talks are a rigged move against Israel

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has denounced this Sunday’s Middle East peace conference in Paris as a “rigged” move against Israel.

The increasingly embattled Netanyahu, who is the subject of two police corruption investigations, described the conference – at which about 70 countries will take part – as “a relic of the past … before the future sets in” in an apparent reference to Donald Trump’s inauguration as president of the US next week.

US tanks and troops in Poland a threat, Russia says

The troops are part of President Barack Obama's response to reassure Nato allies concerned about a more aggressive Russia.

It is the largest US military reinforcement of Europe in decades.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the BBC that the move "threatens our interests and our security".

What Is Marine Le Pen Doing at Trump Tower?

The French far-right leader Marine Le Pen made an unannounced visit to Trump Tower on Thursday for reasons that remain mysterious.

Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, was spotted by the press pool having coffee with three men in the basement of Trump Tower. According to the pool report, Le Pen declined to answer when asked if she was meeting with the president-elect.

BC Premier Says Kinder Morgan Pipeline Plan Meets Her Conditions, Opposition Objects

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark says Kinder Morgan’s proposal to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline has met her government’s requirements for approval.

“The project has met the five conditions,” said Clark. “We always said the five conditions were a path to ‘yes’ and that if the project met the five conditions we would say ‘yes’, and that’s where we are today.”

NDP leader John Horgan said he’s opposed to the project because it poses too great an environmental risk to B.C.’s coast.

2016: A Bad Year for Democracy, but "Best Ever" for Big Media

As we enter a new year with a frightening new president-elect, American pundits have been discussing, with some urgency, various flaws in American democracy. Leaks from hackers allegedly collaborating with state actors, an archaic Electoral College, Donald Trump's hostility toward the press and Facebook's electoral news judgement have all been the focus of a great deal of discussion in the dominant media.

U.K. Violence After the Brexit Vote Might Hold Lessons for America

A divisive vote, with jobs and immigrants the most combustible issues. An outcome that surprised the experts. A nation left on edge, with many anxious about intolerance and the violence that can stem from it.

No, not just America today, but also the United Kingdom seven months ago. Last June, voters there opted out of the European Union, ushering in a new prime minister who has since backed controversial proposals, including one that would require pregnant women to show papers that prove their “right” to use the national health system, before being allowed to give birth in a hospital.

Senate Republicans Take The First Big Step Toward Repealing Obamacare

Senate Republicans have taken the first big step toward repealing Obamacare, setting in motion a legislative process that could undo the largest expansion of government in a generation and leave more than 20 million Americans without health insurance.

In a mostly party-line vote that took place early on Thursday, the Senate passed a special budget resolution that instructs committees to write legislation stripping the health care law of its funding and spending provisions, effectively ending Obamacare’s coverage expansion.

New Data Reveal the Depressing Truth About How Wealth Is Amassed in America

This piece was originally published at Evonomics.

It’s the American dream. A third of Americans think they’ll be rich someday. More than half of 18–29 year olds think they will be.

Less than 5% actually make it.* And many of those do it the old-fashioned way: they inherit it. About 60% of U.S. household wealth is inherited. Between a quarter and a third of Forbes 400 billionaires got rich that way. It may not be the most common way to get there, but it’s widespread, and it’s surely the easiest way.

The Identity Politics Red Herring

In the aftermath of the November 2016 elections, the term “identity politics” has been thrown around repeatedly with many progressives suggesting that the Electoral College defeat of Clinton by Trump was the result of some sort of Democratic Party obsession with that concept.

I am not known as a defender of the Democratic Party, but in the post-November summations the whining about identity politics has become both misplaced and obnoxious. Various pundits, in suggesting that the Democratic Party over emphasized so-called identity politics at the expense of some sort of pure class politics (meaning a politics focused exclusively on economic injustice) obscures the fact that there has been an on-going struggle within the Democratic Party—let alone the USA as a whole—to ensure it is broadly representative. Does anyone have to be reminded that the Democratic Party was the party of white supremacy? The party of the so-called Solid South? A party that had a very uneasy set of alliances that included those, like President Roosevelt and those like Senator Strom Thurmond?

Obamacare Repeal Would Give 400 Super-Rich U.S. Households A Giant Tax Cut

Repealing Obamacare would give 400 of the richest families in America a tax cut worth an average of $7 million each, even as it yanks health insurance away from low- and middle-income Americans.

That may sound like a harsh way of characterizing repeal. But it’s an accurate one, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Affordable Care Act called for a lot of new government spending, in the form of tax credits to help people pay for insurance and funding for states that expand eligibility for Medicaid. To help pay for all of these new outlays, the law imposed a “surtax” that basically expands the existing Medicare payroll tax.

4 pieces of evidence showing FBI Director James Comey cost Clinton the election

Donald Trump has called his election a historic landslide, but it was anything but. Only two other presidents have been elected with smaller popular vote margins since records began in 1824. His edge in the Electoral College, while decisive, depends on less than 80,000 votes across three states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) out of more than 135 million cast nationwide. It was a very close election.

In a close election, there are a million reasons “why” it was close. Trump’s popularity with working-class whites. Turnout among the Democratic base. Campaign malpractice in the Midwest. Jill Stein. Millennials. Most are probably true in the sense they could move enough votes.

China Is Now The De Facto Leader Of Globalization

President Xi Jinping’s appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week, the first by a Chinese president, comes at both an auspicious and inauspicious moment.

It is an auspicious moment because U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has all but announced America’s withdrawal from the world it has largely made over recent decades — and from which Asia has most benefited. His “America First” policy promises protectionist tariffs and walls, as well as a retreat from trade, climate pacts, and perhaps, even long-standing military alliances.

The Most Dangerous Bill You've Never Heard of Just Passed the House

Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch

Last, week, under the cover of a media bliss-out except among Koch funded right-wing channels, the House of Representatives passed a bill which would effectively repeal future standard setting under every important environmental, public health, consumer protection, labor standards, occupational safety and civil rights law on the books.

A key Republican senator just trapped the GOP on Obamacare repeal

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and is thus one of the most important figures in the Republican Party’s quest to figure out exactly what they are going to do with the Affordable Care Act. So this statement by Alexander is a big deal:

Taiwan Scrambles Jets And Navy As China’s Aircraft Carrier Enters Taiwan Strait

TAIPEI, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Taiwan scrambled jets and navy ships on Wednesday as a group of Chinese warships, led by its sole aircraft carrier, sailed through the Taiwan Strait, the latest sign of heightened tension between Beijing and the self-ruled island.

China’s Soviet-built Liaoning aircraft carrier, returning from exercises in the South China Sea, was not encroaching in Taiwan’s territorial waters but entered its air defence identification zone in the southwest, Taiwan’s defence ministry said.

Law of the jungle takes over: How Hindu supremacy is poisoning the Indian military

On Christmas day it happened. Retired veterans of the Indian army — ex-army chief General NC Vij, former IAF vice chief Air Marshal BhushanGokhale and Lt General Syed Ata Hasnain — shared the dais with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) head Mohan Bhagwat and a host of seers at the Dharma Sanskruti Mahakumbh. The event included the delivery of fiery speeches on Hindutva. Hindutva, for those who may confuse it with the eclectic faith of Hinduism, is the ideology that is straining to convert India into a theocratic Indian state.

The abortion providers who will see us through a Trump presidency

In just under two weeks, our country will inaugurate a man who has suggested that women be punished for having abortions and who has promised to appoint anti-choice justices to vacant Supreme Court seats. He’s building a cabinet full of very rich white men, nearly all of whom have expressed anti-choice views. The Republican-led Congress appears intent on stripping millions of Americans of health care and reproductive services.

There are times when the uphill battle we face feels overwhelming.

Trudeau’s New Man in China Bad News for Canadian Workers, Says Expert

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new choice for ambassador to China show he’s focused on promoting business, not human rights and the interests of Canadian workers, according to one China expert.

Trudeau shook up his cabinet Tuesday, shuffling Ontario MP John McCallum out of his role as immigration minister and into the ambassador’s job in Beijing.

Is an Economic Oil Crash Around the Corner?

A report by HSBC shows that contrary to industry mythology, even amidst the glut of unconventional oil and gas, the vast bulk of the world’s oil production has already peaked and is now in decline, while European government scientists show that the value of energy produced by oil has declined by half within the first 15 years of the 21st century.

The upshot? Welcome to a new age of permanent economic recession driven by ongoing dependence on dirty, expensive, difficult oil—unless we choose a fundamentally different path.

The Most Loathsome Republican: McConnell Does the GOP's Dirty Work While All Eyes Follow Trump

As Senate Republicans make a mockery of Trump cabinet confirmation hearings this week by ramming as many appointees through as quickly as possible to avoid scrutiny, Americans are going to discover there are many shades of darkness in GOP-led Washington.

Trump, needless to say, is not merely the headline grabber-in-chief, as evidenced by his 3:27am tweet Monday smearing Meryl Streep, who had the guts while receiving a Golden Globe lifetime achievement award Sunday to remind viewers that not all U.S. citizens agree with Trump’s boundless bullying.

HarperCollins pulls Trump pick Monica Crowley's book amid plagiarism revelations

Crowley was picked by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as senior director of strategic communications for the National Security Council. CNN's KFile reported Saturday that Crowley's 2012 book, "What The (Bleep) Just Happened," lifted work from columnists, news reports, articles, and think tanks.

"The book, which has reached the end of its natural sales cycle, will no longer be offered for purchase until such time as the author has the opportunity to source and revise the material," HarperCollins said in a statement to CNN's KFile.