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, June 15, 2017

Read the Report on Israeli Apartheid the U.N. Was Pressured to Take Down

The United Nations ignited a firestorm this week by acknowledging the reality of Israeli apartheid.

"The weight of the evidence supports beyond a reasonable doubt the proposition that Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people, which amounts to the commission of a crime against humanity," wrote the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia in a report it released on March 15.

"Effectively, Israeli law renders opposition to racial domination illegal," the report continued, noting that countries "have a legal obligation to act within the limits of their capabilities to prevent and punish instances of apartheid that are responsibly brought to their attention."

The right-wing machine behind the curtain

The mood was jubilant two days after the November 2016 election at a Washington, D.C., panel co-hosted by two powerhouse conservative thinktanks—the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

In his opening remarks, Heritage president Jim DeMint rejoiced that Donald Trump’s election had “preserved our constitutional republic.” Panelist John Yoo, a Berkeley law professor best known as the architect of George W. Bush’s justification for torture, drew laughs with feigned surprise at the audience size. “I thought everyone at Heritage was working over at transition head quarters,” Yoo quipped. “I asked the taxi cab driver to take me to Trump transition headquarters, and he dropped me off here.”

Republicans Are Legislating Like There’s No Tomorrow

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas suggested Sunday that the push by his fellow Republicans to pass a healthcare reform bill was putting the GOP’s House majority at risk. Don’t “walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate,” he warned. That warning became more urgent Monday after an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office showed that 24 million people would lose their healthcare insurance over the next decade under the GOP plan. The effects would hit older, low-income people especially hard. A 64-year-old making $26,500, for example, would pay $14,600 in premiums for insurance, versus $1,700 under Obamacare. Vox called it “one of the largest, most significant income redistribution programs the US government has ever considered—from the poor to the wealthy rather than the other way around.”

The Tao of Steve King: Master of the “Politically Incorrect”

The one issue where Democrats have won early, decisive victories over President Donald Trump is on his Russian policy. Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were both caught lying about their conversations with the Russian ambassador, forcing the former to resign as national security advisor and the latter to recuse himself from an inquiry into Russian interference in the election. This has put Trump on the defensive. Sessions’s recusal reportedly sent the president into a spiral of rage that led to his notorious tweets accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump’s campaign.

The General Who Went to War On Suicide

On the evening of July 19, 2010, Major General Dana Pittard, the new commander of Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, got a call from the base’s 24-hour duty officer. A SWAT team had been sent to the house of a young sergeant named Robert Nichols. Nichols was inside with a gun, threatening to kill himself.

Pittard arrived at the soldier’s home just in time to see the soldier step out of the house, put the gun to his chest and fire. Neighbors and police crowded the street, but Pittard was the only officer from the Army base at the scene. He went home, where his boxes were still packed from his move 10 days before, feeling disturbed and helpless.

More than 40 Somali refugees killed in helicopter attack off Yemen coast

At least 42 Somali refugees were killed off the coast of Yemen late on Thursday when a helicopter reportedly attacked the boat they were travelling in.

Coastguard Mohamed al-Alay said the refugees, carrying official UN refugee agency (UNHCR) documents, were travelling from Yemen to Sudan when they were attacked by an Apache helicopter near the Bab el-Mandeb strait.

Dutch Election Results Put A Crack In The Far-Right’s Populist Narrative

A few years ago, a far-right anti-Islam party winning the second most seats in the Netherlands’ election would be a cause for panic in the European Union. In 2017, it’s being hailed as a great victory for liberalism.

The Dutch elections on Wednesday saw center-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte fend off a challenge from far-right populist Geert Wilders and gain the largest share of the vote. The result sets up lengthy coalition talks between Rutte and some of the dozen-plus parties that managed to gain seats in Parliament, which will create a ruling government certain to exclude Wilders.

United Nations Report: Israel Has Established an ‘Apartheid Regime’

A new report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) concludes that Israel has established an “apartheid regime.” The report is titled “Israeli Practices Toward the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid.”

Second Scottish Independence Referendum In 2018-19 Ruled Out By Theresa May

Theresa May has ruled out allowing Nicola Sturgeon to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence in 2018-19.

The prime minister said today “now is not the time” for another vote, putting the UK government on a collision course with the administration in Edinburgh.

 Sturgeon said it was “undemocratic” for May to block a referendum.

Why Corruption Is Here To Stay In China

HONG KONG ― China’s National People’s Congress, the rubber-stamp Parliament operating under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, closed its annual session Wednesday after having approved, as expected, all the documents submitted by the government. The majority of its nearly 3,000 delegates are still party cadres coming from the various provinces of the country and the military. However, a growing number of private business people sit in it, among them 31 billionaires, against 28 the previous year. Given this alliance between the powerful and the rich, can Chinese President Xi Jinping really eliminate corruption?

Why Everyone Needs to Know What Happened to Sixteen-Year-Old Kalief Browder

I had just finished another day teaching when I reached Jenner Furst, director of the much-anticipated documentary film Time: The Kalief Browder Story.

The movie tells the story of injustice done to sixteen-year-old Kalief Browder, a New York teen arrested and jailed for years on Rikers Island. Browder awaited trial for three years after he was accused of stealing a backpack. Of those three years, he spent almost two in solitary confinement, seeing and speaking to no one for twenty-three hours a day, and suffering abuse from correction officers and other prisoners. Two years after he was released, he took his own life.

Dutch Vote in Droves — But Not for Geert Wilders, Breitbart’s Candidate for Prime Minister

Votes are being counted by hand in the Netherlands, to assuage fears of tampering by Russian hackers, but exit polls and partial returns suggest an overwhelming rejection of Geert Wilders, whose anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric thrilled American racists but appealed to a narrow minority of Dutch voters in Wednesday’s parliamentary election.

North Carolina legislature wants more control over state courts, less power for the governor

Since North Carolina voters elected Democratic governor Roy Cooper in November, the Republican-dominated state legislature has been on a mission to take away the governor’s power. The legislature’s latest power grab is a series of bills that limit the power of the new Democratic governor to appoint judges and other officials. The proposed laws could give the legislature the power to pack the state courts, including the newly liberal state supreme court, with its preferred judges.

Because the state’s legislature includes a Republican super-majority that could override the governor’s veto, the state courts could provide a crucial check on any unconstitutional legislation. Courts have recently struck down bills that discriminated against black voters, and lawsuits have been filed against HB2, which limits the rights of LGBTQ citizens.

US charges two Russian spies and two hackers in Yahoo data breach

The US has announced charges against two Russian intelligence officers and two hackers over a massive Yahoo data breach that affected at least 1 billion user accounts.

The indictment, unveiled by the justice department on Wednesday, said that the hack targeted the email accounts of Russian journalists and opposition politicians; former government officials in neighboring countries; and several US government figures, including “cyber security, diplomatic, military and White House personnel”.

Kinder Morgan's $771,000 donation to B.C. Liberals raises red flags while Premier shifts to damage control

The B.C. Liberals are under scrutiny for accepting significant donations from lobbyists, including those connected to the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, sparking an RCMP investigation.

According to Dogwood, a grassroots advocacy group, some of these sizeable donations have come from individuals connected to Kinder Morgan, only furthering their concern that the B.C. Liberals' support of the energy company’s Trans Mountain pipeline was given with a conflict of interest.

Republicans Keep Showing Us Who They Are

Amid the mayhem of Trump’s first days in office, the Congressional Budget Office’s crushing report on the impact of the Republican health-care plan offers a moment of clarity. The Republican plan will deprive millions of health insurance, and raise the price for many more to pay for deep tax cuts for the rich. The math gives way to an obvious conclusion: This is the Republican mission.

Paul Ryan’s alternate universe: Speaker laughably insists the budget office handed him a victory

The Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the impacts of the American Health Care Act was a disaster for the bill and its Republican backers. The budget office found that the AHCA, if enacted, would result in massive coverage losses over the next decade, with some 24 million people losing their health insurance. That news has left conservatives and Republicans reeling and flailing as they try to figure out how to contain the political damage.

The Trump administration, which has been actively promoting the AHCA as a “replacement” for Obamacare, reacted harshly to the budget office’s estimate, insisting that it was incorrect, illogical and untrustworthy. Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, a friend of President Donald Trump and an ally of the administration, seized on the Congressional Budget Office report to push the White House to abandon the AHCA altogether and pursue a different course.
One AHCA backer, however, insisted that the report was actually quite good — not just good, in fact, but flat-out terrific. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has more riding on the success of the AHCA than anyone else, went on Fox News on Monday evening to lavish the Congressional Budget Office with effusive praise. “I’m pretty encouraged by it,” Ryan said of the report, “and it actually exceeded my expectations.” Ryan wasn’t bothered by the explosion of uninsured people forecasted by the budget office, saying the “government’s not going to force people to buy something that they don’t want to buy.”

Russian interventions in other people’s elections: A brief history

In the last nine years, Russia has invaded its neighbor Georgia, annexed the Ukrainian province of Crimea, supported rebels in Eastern Ukraine and interfered in the U.S. presidential election. The U.S. and the European Union have imposed biting sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.

As a historian of Russian history, I find the most interesting question to be this: Are these actions a sign that Russia is returning to aggressive foreign policies or are they part of an entirely new direction in Russian foreign policy?

‘We haven’t lost…we have awakened’: Indigenous nations march on the White House

WASHINGTON, D.C. — They came to Washington to march on the White House, to remind President Donald Trump that despite making up less than one percent of the country’s population, Native people and their rights should be in the front of his mind. Hundreds of people, representing indigenous communities from around the country, came despite the rain, the hail, the wind, burning sage in front of the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters in downtown D.C., shouting reminders that the Corps is bound by the Constitution to protect the country from enemies both foreign and domestic.

“Your president is the enemy!”

“You can’t drink oil, keep it in the soil!”

“You, sir, shut up”: Texas Republican congressman erupts at constituent during town hall

When congressional lawmakers were at home for the holiday recess in late February, several were confronted by rowdy protestors and angry constituents fearful of destruction that might be caused by Republicans’ plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Nearly a month later, House Republicans have released their plan and those who had attempted to lie low during the first wave of tough questioning from concerned constituents are beginning to buckle under the pressure — with at least one GOP representative directly lashing out at a constituent during a recent town hall.

Twenty-Four Million Reasons the G.O.P. Health-Care Bill Is No Good

For days, the political world had been waiting nervously for the Congressional Budget Office's assessment of the House Republicans' Trump-endorsed proposal to replace Obamacare. On Monday afternoon, when the numbers-heavy report finally appeared, one figure it contained dominated all the others: twenty-four million.

This was the C.B.O.'s estimate of how many fewer people would have health insurance if the Republican legislation—which is called the American Health Care Act—passes. In 2018, the first year that many of the bill’s changes would go into effect, fourteen million "more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law," the report said. The difference "would rise to 21 million in 2020 and then to 24 million in 2026."

Brexit Voting MPs Adopted Doctrine Of ‘Hitler, Mussolini And Stalin’, Says Lib Dem Lord Taverne

MPs who campaigned for ‘Remain’ at the EU referendum but voted to give Theresa May the authority to start the Brexit process are guilty of accepting the politics of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini, a Lib Dem peer has claimed.

Lord Taverne said on Monday evening that the House of Lords should have refused to allow the House of Commons to have its way on how the UK leaves the EU.

Why a Constitutional Convention Is the Last Thing We Need to Fix Our Democracy Right Now

With an authoritarian bully in the White House, producing an almost daily flow of erratic threats, it can be quite a challenge to focus on other threats to the fundamental soundness of American democracy. Which is all the more reason to pay attention to them. One such threat is the prospect of a constitutional convention, called under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. In theory this provision exists as a backstop guarantor of democracy, but no such convention has been called since the 18th century. In practice, steered by conservative activists and monied special interests it could serve as a means for utterly eroding both Americans’ faith in and capacity for democratic self-governance.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashes out anew at Angela Merkel

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued his rhetorical attacks on European leaders on Monday by accusing German Chancellor Angela Merkel of "supporting terrorists".

Merkel called the accusations "clearly absurd" after Erdogan made the comments in an interview with Turkey's A Haber TV.

"The chancellor has no intention of taking part in a game of provocation," Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a brief written statement.  

Blue-State Secession Is Dumb and Cruel

It is safe to say that this election broke the spirit, and maybe even the brains, of a lot of liberal Democrats.

Some frustrated blue-staters have dealt with the devastation by openly embracing the paleoconservative value of states’ rights as a way to resist Trumpism. The “Calexit” campaign, for example, proposes that the country’s largest state should separate from the rest of the union, presumably to create some sort of utopia where you can become a billionaire because of an app or be killed by a speedy death penalty.

This House Republican Just Endorsed a White Nationalist

Donald Trump has made no secret over the years of his regard for Iowa Congressman Steve King, and of his determination to embrace most if not all of the incendiary Republican representative’s crude “know-nothing” politics of Muslim bashing and immigrant blaming. In the fall of 2014, when he was still just considering a presidential run, Trump traveled to Iowa to headline a private fundraising event for King.

Hailing the congressman as a “special guy, a smart person, with really the right views on almost everything,” Trump said then that if he did not seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, “I want to see someone who is going to make our country great again, which is basically the same thing as Steve.”

United Nations Says Canada’s Largest Park Under Threat, Calls for Site C Review

If the federal government continues to avoid its environmental responsibilities, Canada’s largest national park could soon be listed as a “world heritage site in danger” due to threats posed by energy development and nearby hydro dams, says the United Nations.

Moreover, the government should immediately conduct an “environmental and social impact assessment of the Site C project,” which threatens to alter the flow of water through the Peace Athabasca Delta in the heart of the 4.5-million-hectare Wood Buffalo National Park, located north of the tar sands.

Bernie Sanders’ Campaign Faced A Fake News Tsunami. Where Did It Come From?

WASHINGTON ― Last June, John Mattes started noticing something coursing like a virus through the Facebook page he helped administer for Bernie Sanders fans in San Diego. People with no apparent ties to California were friending the page and sharing links from unfamiliar sites full of anti-Hillary Clinton propaganda.

The stories they posted weren’t the normal complaints he was used to seeing as the Vermont senator and the former secretary of state fought out the Democratic presidential primary. These stories alleged that Clinton had murdered her political opponents and used body doubles.

Hillbilly Sellout: The Politics of J. D. Vance's 'Hillbilly Elegy' Are Already Being Used to Gut the Working Poor

When Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz took to the airwaves Tuesday to defend his party’s flailing Affordable Care Act replacement plan, he told CNN, “Americans have choices … so, maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love, and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own healthcare.” Pushback was swift as many were quick to point out the Congressman was equating a $700 phone to healthcare costs that can often spiral into six figures, but some were equally shocked by the callousness of his remarks.

Was Chaffetz insinuating that the poor would rather spend money on frivolous things than their own self-care?

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

Leigh Robinson was out for a lunchtime walk one brisk day during the spring of 2013 when a call came from the principal at her school. Will, a third-grader with a history of acting up in class, was flipping out on the playground. He’d taken off his belt and was flailing it around and grunting. The recess staff was worried he might hurt someone. Robinson, who was Will’s educational aide, raced back to the schoolyard.

Will was “that kid.” Every school has a few of them: that kid who’s always getting into trouble, if not causing it. That kid who can’t stay in his seat and has angry outbursts and can make a teacher’s life hell. That kid the other kids blame for a recess tussle. Will knew he was that kid too. Ever since first grade, he’d been coming to school anxious, defensive, and braced for the next confrontation with a classmate or teacher.

No easy answers: why left-wing economics is not the answer to right-wing populism

On November 20, less than two weeks after Donald Trump’s upset win, Bernie Sanders strode onto a stage at Boston’s Berklee Performance Center to give the sold-out audience his thoughts on what had gone so disastrously wrong for the Democratic Party.

Sanders had a simple answer. Democrats, he said, needed to field candidates who would unapologetically promise that they would be willing “to stand up with the working class of this country and ... take on big-money interests.”

The Rise of Global Conservatism and Resistance in the Age of Trump

The travel ban on Muslims and refugees. Withdrawal of federal protections for transgender students. The reinstatement of the global gag rule on abortions. Approved and continued construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Threats to catalyze the demise of Planned Parenthood and the construction of a wall to separate the United States from Mexico.

These racist, discriminatory, sexist and xenophobic initiatives are only a few policies Donald Trump and his administration have enacted or attempted to implement in the first 100 days of his presidency. The rise of Trump is not only disconcerting for people in the United States, but it has severe implications for racialized groups globally.

The Trump-Russia Story Is Not a Diversion

The one issue where Democrats have won early, decisive victories over President Donald Trump is on his Russian policy. Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were both caught lying about their conversations with the Russian ambassador, forcing the former to resign as national security advisor and the latter to recuse himself from an inquiry into Russian interference in the election. This has put Trump on the defensive. Sessions’s recusal reportedly sent the president into a spiral of rage that led to his notorious tweets accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump’s campaign.

This Democrat Just Emerged to Run Against the Richest Man in Congress

Mike Levin preempted his bid to take on the wealthiest man in Congress by trolling him. “Over the holiday season, I sent Darrell Issa a book called Climate Change for Beginners,” Levin says. “It’s a 150-page book, illustrated. It’s got pictures,” he notes, adding that he hoped it would prod Issa, a nine-term Republican congressman who represents parts of California’s Orange and San Diego counties, to correct his claim to being “unsure of the science” behind climate change.

Who votes for Geert Wilders?

As the Dutch parliamentary election edges closer, traditional parties fear a victory by Geert Wilders and his far-right Party for Freedom (PVV). But attempts by these parties to win back voters only seem to have strengthened Wilders' nationalism.

There are only a few days left until the Dutch cast their votes. Many are still in doubt, but a steady group of angry voters have already made up their minds. They will vote for Geert Wilders and his PVV. Of the 150 seats that the parliament offers, Wilders is predicted to win almost a fifth of them, a huge gain in a parliamentary system that is built for 12 to 15 parties.