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.]

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Fight to Save the Affordable Care Act Is Really a Class Battle

One week after Republicans introduced their controversial “repeal and replace” legislation for the Affordable Care Act, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would result in 24 million fewer people being insured by 2026, while insurers and the wealthy would be nearly $600 billion richer. “In terms of insurance coverage, it’s immoral; in terms of giving money to the rich at the expense of working families, it is indecent and wrong,” House minority leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters at a press conference. It is also out of touch with what the American people have come to expect since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which has sent our uninsured rate to a record low of less than 9 percent. The Obama administration was clear that the objective of the ACA was to “insure everybody, to get everybody into the health system,” as Kathleen Sebelius, the former secretary of Health and Human Services, recently explained on Meet the Press. Congressional Republicans have no such goal. “We always know you’re never going to win a coverage beauty contest when it’s free market versus government mandates,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in response to the CBO report.

6 Charts That Illustrate the Divide Between Rural and Urban America

1. Poverty is higher in rural areas

Discussions of poverty in the United States often mistakenly focus on urban areas. While urban poverty is a unique challenge, rates of poverty have historically been higher in rural than urban areas. In fact, levels of rural poverty were often double those in urban areas throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

While these rural-urban gaps have diminished markedly, substantial differences persist. In 2015, 16.7 percent of the rural population was poor, compared with 13.0 percent of the urban population overall – and 10.8 percent among those living in suburban areas outside of principal cities.

A Last Chance for Turkish Democracy

The first time I met Selahattin Demirtaş, the leader of Turkey’s largest Kurdish political party, known as the H.D.P., he arrived at a restaurant in Istanbul with a single assistant accompanying him. Demirtaş is warm and funny. Among other things, he is an accomplished player of the saz, a string instrument that resembles the oud. At the time—it was 2011—Demirtaş was trying to lead his party and people away from a history of confrontation with the country’s central government. It wasn’t easy. Like other Kurdish leaders in Turkey, Demirtaş had spent time in prison and seen many of his comrades killed. I remember him telling me how, in the nineteen-nineties, when civil unrest in the country’s Kurdish areas was hitting its bloody peak, a particular make of car—a white Renault—had been notorious in Kurdish towns. The cars were used by Turkish intelligence officers, who had developed a terrifying reputation for torturing and executing Kurds. “I’ve been inside the Renaults,’’ Demirtaş told me. “A lot of people I know never made it out of them.”

New York City’s Youngest Councilman Grew Up in the Projects. Now He’s Defending Them Against Trump.

Long before he became the youngest elected member of the New York City Council, Ritchie Torres grew up in Throggs Neck Houses, a public housing project erected across the street from the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in the East Bronx. While the golf course was under construction, the 29-year-old Torres recalls, a skunk infestation plagued the projects. “So those of us in the Throggs Neck Houses were smelling the stench of Donald Trump well before he became president,” he jokes.

Florida Governor Rick Scott Is Punishing a Prosecutor for Opposing the Death Penalty

The top prosecutor in Orlando, Florida, took to a podium outside the Orange County courthouse last week to outline a new policy: Her office would no longer seek the death penalty in any capital case.

The prosecutor, State Attorney Aramis Ayala, told assembled reporters that seeking the death penalty is “not in the best interests of this community or in the interest of justice.” After considerable research, she said, she had concluded that capital punishment offers no empirical benefits to society: It is not a deterrent, it neither enhances public safety nor protects law enforcement officers from violence, and it costs millions more — in litigation and housing — to kill a defendant than it does to confine them behind bars for life.

France's Marine Le Pen urges end to Russia sanctions

Russian president Vladimir Putin has met France's far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in Moscow, saying she represents a "fast-growing element" of European politics.

Mr Putin defended the meeting - a coup for Ms Le Pen - saying that he was not seeking to influence France's election.

Ms Le Pen has garnered widespread support at home but her extreme views have deterred most foreign leaders.

Is a Billionaire-Funded Coup to Rewrite the Constitution upon Us?

All eyes are fixed on Capitol Hill as Republicans attempt to pass an American Health Care Bill that's still being revised as of this writing. The recklessness of the party's leadership can't be overstated—14 million Americans' insurance and countless essential health benefits hang in the balance—and yet a meeting scheduled next week in the Wisconsin legislature may possess even more terrifying ramifications for the future of the country.

Coal giant to receive award for bankruptcy deal that screwed over its workers

It’s been a wild year for Arch Coal, the country’s second-largest producer of coal. In January, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; less than a year later, they won approval for a restructuring deal that allowed them to cut millions in debt from their books and emerge relatively unscathed. On Thursday night, as part of the 2017 Distressed Investing Event, Arch Coal will receive an award for that deal, despite the fact that the restructuring benefited company executives while leaving workers and the environment worse off.

Ramona Africa Talks MOVE, Liberation and Surviving 1985 Bombing

Former U.S. political prisoner, Ramona Africa, is the Minister of Communication for the MOVE Organization and a Philadelphia-based organizer with the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. She is also the only living survivor of the 1985 MOVE bombing, when the FBI and Philadelphia police dropped two C-4 bombs on her organization's Philadelphia home, killing 11 people.

Lamont Lilly: Ramona, for those who may be unfamiliar, what is the MOVE Organization? Who founded MOVE, and what is the organization about?

Ramona Africa: The MOVE Organization is a revolutionary organization founded by a Black man named John Africa. He brought people together from all different backgrounds, nationalities, religions, etc., and gave us one common revolutionary belief. That belief is in the sanctity, and all importance of life, on all levels, without exception. And it is that uncompromising belief commitment to life that has put us in direct conflict with the system that we're living under, a system that doesn't care anything about life -- whether it's the air, the water, the soil that feeds us, they don't care. But as members of MOVE, we are committed to life.

Community fights back against Parkdale's rooming house crisis

When 40 Beaty went on the market last summer, the building of bachelorettes was described in real estate parlance as an "upgraded investment property in gentrifying South Parkdale" that earned "moderate rents with upside potential."

Today an "executive micro-smart bachelor" in the now "styling boutique building" goes on Craigslist for $1,297 a month. At 225 square feet, it's micro, all right.

Suspect Arrested In Connection With Jewish Community Bomb Threats

A teenager has been arrested in Israel on suspicion of making the majority of threats to Jewish community centers across the U.S. since January.

The suspect, a 19-year-old U.S.-Israeli citizen who currently lives in Israel, was apprehended Thursday, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Huffington Post. He said a motive is not yet known and that the FBI helped Israeli police with the investigation.

Are Israel and Hezbollah Preparing for War?

Lebanon-Israel border—Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah are on the rise again, and according to a Hezbollah commander based in southern Lebanon, the nature of their next conflict will be shaped by his organization’s gains in the Syrian civil war.

Meeting in the rugged, mountainous Lebanese interior near the southern border, where occupying Israeli forces were driven out by Hezbollah in 2000 and suffered a second setback in the 2006 war, the commander feels emboldened by his Syrian spoils. “Commander Samir,” who declines to use his real name because he is not authorized to speak to the press, contends that his organization has moved new Russian anti-aircraft weapons and long-range missiles from Syria to this border region.

Alabama Legislature May Give Fundamentalist Church Its Own Police Force: What Could Go Wrong?

Donald Trump’s election didn’t just empower the alt-right troops with their #MAGA hats and Pepe the Frog avatars. The religious right is also more quietly making moves to consolidate power on a state and local level, aided by Trump’s promises to appoint conservative-friendly judges and to strike down legal limits on church-based politicking.

But even in the current environment, it’s startling to learn that the Alabama legislature is considering a bill to give a Birmingham-based church its own police force. The bill, Senate Bill 193, would specifically authorize the Briarwood Presbyterian Church, which has more than 4,000 members, to hire its own police force that would be “invested with all of the powers of law enforcement officers in this state.”

Denis Voronenkov: ex-Russian MP who fled to Ukraine killed in Kiev

A former Russian MP who had fled to Ukraine was shot dead on a busy street in central Kiev on Thursday.

Denis Voronenkov, who had spoken out against Vladimir Putin and Kremlin policies, was shot three times outside the upmarket Premier Palace hotel.

Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, quickly pointed the finger at Russian authorities, calling the killing an act of “state terrorism”.

Wisconsin Republican urges cuts to college aid to keep poor students from buying ‘goodies and electronics’

A Wisconsin Republican called for cuts to federal student aid because he doesn’t approve of the way some beneficiaries spend their money.

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) complained Tuesday during a congressional hearing that low-income students are spending their Pell Grant funds on commercial goods that he deems unnecessary, reported Inside Higher Ed.

Yukon Supreme Court case will set a key precedent for all First Nations

This Wednesday, while Ottawa will be focused on the annual ritual of the federal budget, the Supreme Court will hear a case that explains a lot about why Indigenous people cannot trust Canada’s settler governments.

The case concerns a classic white-man-speaks-with-forked-tongue situation, this one in the Yukon. It concerns the future of the vast Peel River watershed, which some environmentalists call the last intact watershed in Canada.

GOP Takes Up Russia-Aligned Attack On Soros

A group of congressional Republicans is teaming up with Russia-backed politicians in Eastern Europe with the shared goal of stopping a common enemy: billionaire financier George Soros.

Led by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, the conservative lawmakers have signed on to a volley of letters accusing Soros of using his philanthropic spending to project his liberal sensibilities onto European politics. As Lee and other senators put it in a March 14 letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Soros’ Open Society Foundations are trying “to push a progressive agenda and invigorate the political left.”

House Obamacare repeal DOA in the Senate

Forget the House GOP's troubles passing a health care bill. The party's bigger problem looms in the Senate.

Mitch McConnell is being tasked with fixing what GOP senators and House members say is a flawed Obamacare repeal proposal — one with little to no chance of passing in that chamber in its current form — in a week’s time.

Erdogan Warns Europeans ‘Will Not Walk Safely’ If Current Attitude Persists

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that Europeans across the world would not be able to walk safely on the streets if they kept up their current attitude.

Turkey has been embroiled in a row with Germany and the Netherlands over the barring of campaign appearances by Turkish officials seeking to drum up support for an April referendum on boosting Erdogan’s powers.

“If Europe continues this way, no European in any part of the world can walk safely on the streets. We, as Turkey, call on Europe to respect human rights and democracy,” Erdogan said at event for local journalists in Ankara.

Original Article
Author: Reuters 

While Washington Investigates Russian Meddling, Moscow Is Expanding Its Global Influence

For all the Russia-related chatter coming from Washington of late, United States policy towards the Kremlin has been difficult to discern. But while much of official Washington and American media focus on the politically charged investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Moscow isn’t standing still but rather capitalizing on the distraction. With all eyes on U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin is advancing his foreign policy agenda on multiple fronts, especially in the Middle East.

Children as Young as Three Detained 500 Days and Counting in Disgraceful Immigrant Prisons

For more than 600 days and two Christmas holidays, Marlene and her seven-year-old son Antonio have languished in indefinite detention at Pennsylvania’s “Berks Family Residential Center,” a glorified term for an immigrant prison. Her child has been granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), which the U.S. government says is supposed to “help foreign children in the United States who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected.” But instead of sanctuary, or even a fair hearing, Marlene and her son face open-ended incarceration and “expedited removal” orders, compounding the trauma they endured when they were forced to flee their home in El Salvador under threat of gang violence.

Neil Gorsuch Is Not Another Scalia. He’s the Next John Roberts.

When John Roberts was nominated as chief justice of the Supreme Court in 2005, Senator Ted Kennedy asked him: “You do agree, don’t you, Judge Roberts, that the right to vote is a fundamental constitutional right?”

“It is preservative, I think, of all the other rights,” Roberts responded. “Without access to the ballot box, people are not in a position to protect any other rights that are important to them.”

Germany fears Russia stole information to disrupt election

BERLIN — In May 2015, a message popped up on every desktop in the German parliament: the computer system was about to shut down. Moments later, screen after screen around the Bundestag turned dark, affecting thousands of lawmakers, officials and staffers.

While the outage was brief, it was enough to rattle nerves — especially among those who had heard a rumor that, two weeks earlier, hackers had gained entry to the computer system by sending an email seemingly from the United Nations. Once a recipient clicked on a link in the email, however, it opened the door for malware to enter the parliament’s computer system.

Texas Senate Passes Bill Allowing OBs To Keep Info From Pregnant Women

The Texas Senate passed a controversial bill on Tuesday that critics argue would empower doctors to lie to pregnant women.

Senate Bill 25, which will now be sent to the Texas House, prevents parents from suing their medical provider if their baby is born with disabilities, even if that doctor discovered the condition during routine prenatal testing and failed to inform the parents.

Russia accused of hindering UK money laundering investigations

Britain is struggling to stop vast sums of potentially criminal money entering the country because investigators are being hampered by the Russian authorities, the head of the National Crime Agency money laundering unit has said.

In an interview with the Guardian, David Little said: “The amount of Russian money coming into the UK is a concern. “One, because of the volume. Two, we don’t know where it is coming from. We don’t have enough cooperation [from the Russian side] to establish that. They won’t tell us whether it comes from the proceeds of crime.”

Anti-wind bill costs Ohio schools hundreds of thousands of dollars

Superintendent Ken Amstutz dreamed of propelling his rural Ohio school district into a high-tech future with nearly a million dollars in annual revenue from a single wind farm set to go online this year.

That was until the state legislature blocked wind development across Ohio, halting construction of the Long Prairie Wind Farm and leaving Amstutz’s district in financial limbo.

Nancy Pelosi was right: Democrats had to pass the bill so people could find out what’s in it

One of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s most infamous quotes was something she said during a 20-minute speech to the National Association of Counties’ 2010 legislative conference. Congress was considering the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the endless, breathless coverage of the contentious process, Pelosi explained, was preventing people from appreciating the significance of its contents.

“We have to pass the bill,” she said, “so that you can find out what is in it — away from the fog of the controversy.”

Putin is a bigger threat to Europe’s existence than Isis

The leaders of the US and the EU are making a grievous error in thinking that president Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a potential ally in the fight against Islamic State. The evidence contradicts them. Putin’s aim is to foster the EU’s disintegration, and the best way to do so is to flood Europe with Syrian refugees.

Russian planes have been bombing the civilian population in southern Syria forcing them to flee to Jordan and Lebanon. There are now 20,000 Syrian refugees camped out in the desert awaiting admission to Jordan. A smaller number are waiting to enter Lebanon. Both groups are growing.

What did the UN apartheid report expose in reality?

The most damning aspect of the new report by the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which accuses Israel of being an apartheid state, is not the unearthing of allegedly long-discredited equations of Zionism with racism and apartheid.

British banks handled vast sums of laundered Russian money

Britain’s high street banks processed nearly $740m from a vast money-laundering operation run by Russian criminals with links to the Russian government and the KGB, the Guardian can reveal.

HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Barclays and Coutts are among 17 banks based in the UK, or with branches here, that are facing questions over what they knew about the international scheme and why they did not turn away suspicious money transfers.

A 40-year 'conspiracy' at the VA

Four decades ago, in 1977, a conspiracy began bubbling up from the basements of the vast network of hospitals belonging to the Veterans Administration. Across the country, software geeks and doctors were puzzling out how they could make medical care better with these new devices called personal computers. Working sometimes at night or in their spare time, they started to cobble together a system that helped doctors organize their prescriptions, their CAT scans and patient notes, and to share their experiences electronically to help improve care for veterans.

Pesticide banned in Europe found in Toronto's tap water

Toronto may be an hour from the nearest farm, but environmental groups say unsafe levels of a top-selling herbicide used on cornfields for the last 50-odd years are turning up in our tap water.

Tests commissioned by Environmental Defence and Équiterre have found atrazine in both Toronto and Montreal's drinking water at levels that would flunk European safety standards.

“It’s quite alarming,” says Environmental Defence’s toxics manager, Muhannad Malas. “Torontonians are probably exposed to atrazine on a daily basis.”

Rebecca Solnit Answers "The Mother of All Questions": Why Are Women Silenced?

Rebecca Solnit's voice has seldom been more timely or necessary. In her new collection of essays, The Mother of All Questions, Solnit addresses issues of gender, race, sexual orientation, class, age, religion and more with her characteristic wit, insight and sharp analytical approach. Order this book today by making a donation to Truthout!

In the first essay of her incisive book that addresses -- but is not limited to -- the historical suppression of women, Rebecca Solnit states, "My subject in this book is that subspecies of silence and silencing specific to women." Solnit distinguishes between a woman being quiet, which is a voluntary act, and a woman being silent, which is accomplished through cultural and individual male coercion. It is not just a verbal silence that she is discussing, but a patriarchal suppression of equality, power and welcome contribution to society. This is a theme that is threaded throughout her book, The Mother of All Questions.

Republican Legislators Push for Cities to Be Treated as "Tenants of the State"

Right now, there are two bills filed in the Florida legislature that propose sweeping new restrictions on local governments. One (House Bill 17) would bar them from regulating "businesses, professions, and occupations," the other (SB 1158), would expressly preempt "the regulation of matters relating to commerce, trade, and labor." The broad language of the bills has local advocates up in arms and newspapers like the Naples Daily News asking whether "local regulations [are] a thing of the past." The legislative session to discuss and advance the bills began March 7.

Erdoğan attacks Merkel again

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday re-upped his attacks against German chancellor Angela Merkel, accusing her of using “nazi measures” as the dispute between Berlin and Ankara intensified, according to media reports.

“You are right now employing Nazi measures,” Erdoğan said in a televised speech on Sunday, using the informal ‘you’ in Turkish, according to Agency France-presse. “Against who? My Turkish brother citizens in Germany and brother ministers,” he said.

Here’s How Badly Police Violence Has Divided America

In Shots Fired, the buzzworthy police drama premiering March 22 on Fox, federal agents investigate a black cop who has gunned down a young, unarmed white man. By the numbers, police actually kill more white people than they kill black people, but they kill black people at a far higher rate. Using population data from the Census Bureau and police shooting data from the Washington Post‘s 2015 database, we calculated that black men between the ages of 18 and 44 were 3.2 times as likely as white men the same age to be killed by a police officer. And while black men make up only about 6 percent of the US population, last year they accounted for one-third of the unarmed people killed by police.

Clashes in Syria's Damascus after surprise rebel attack

Heavy clashes rocked eastern districts of the Syrian capital on Sunday after rebel fighters launched a surprise assault on government forces, a monitor and state television said.

Steady shelling and sniper fire could be heard across Damascus on Sunday as rebel factions allied with former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham launched an attack on government positions in the city's east.

Thom Hartmann: How Republicans Quietly Sabotaged Obamacare Long Before Trump Came into Office

Donald Trump suggested that the Affordable Care Act was a clever ruse by our first black president and his Democratic friends to have a successful health-care system in place for his own presidency, but was set up to fail in the first year of the next president's term.

Trump said (on 3/10/2017) that this year "would be a disaster for Obamacare. That's the year it was meant to explode, because Obama won't be here. That's when it was supposed to be, get even worse. As bad as it is now, it'll get even worse."

Right-Wing Billionaires Are Funding a Cynical Plot to Destroy Dissent and Protest in Colleges Across the U.S.

As far-right speakers face loud student opposition at their university speaking gigs, conservative lawmakers in several states are introducing legislation that cracks down on protesters. As uncovered by UnKoch My Campus’ Ralph Wilson, numerous states have borrowed their so-called “campus free speech” bills from the rightwing Goldwater Institute, which is funded by conservative plutocrats including Charles Koch and the Mercer family.

So much for the Russian threat: Putin slashes defense spending while Trump plans massive buildup

Russia, led by supervillain Vladimir Putin, intent on the domination and destruction of the Western world, has just slashed its defense budget — and no one really noticed.

Figures from the Russian Federal Treasury show that the defense budget has been cut by 25.5 percent for 2017, falling from 3.8 trillion rubles to 2.8 trillion rubles. IHS Jane’s, one of the most authoritative sources on defense news, said the move represents “the largest cut to military expenditure in the country since the early 1990s.”

DNC Adds To Transition Team After Progressive Complaints

The Democratic National Committee added six people to its transition advisory committee on Friday, following complaints from some progressive activists.

Critics expressed frustration that the list of 29 people that DNC chair Tom Perez announced on Wednesday included only two supporters of Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, of whom just one was an ally of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Nicola Sturgeon Speech Today: UK Would ‘Shatter’ Without Scottish Referendum Mandate

Nicola Sturgeon has laid out how she believes Theresa May’s refusal to hold a second Scottish independence referendum will “shatter beyond repair” the UK’s constitutional structure.

The First Minister said she will press on with plans to hold a new vote and revealed in a speech to the SNP Spring Conference on Saturday that she expects to get approval from the devolved parliament next Wednesday.

Should the wealthy be allowed to buy their way to faster health care at private clinics?

A growing number of boutique medical clinics is establishing a second tier of health services that critics say encroaches on Ontario’s public health system by charging as much as $4,500 in annual fees for services such as no wait times, genetic analysis and added testing that isn’t always medically necessary.

A Toronto Star/Ryerson School of Journalism investigation documents a hybrid health-care regime that markets to a clientele who can access public health care while paying for services that reach beyond what is covered by OHIP, including 24/7 access to health-care professionals, fast-tracking of MRIs and a range of annual tests and lifestyle assessments.

Southern Command in Costa Rica: US Occupation Disguised as Humanitarian Aid

From the top of the great Talamaca mountain range in southern Costa Rica, you can see the Caribbean Sea and the houses of the Bribri and Cabécar Indigenous groups. According to their cosmology, their ancestors are in every tree, in every river and in every living being found in this reserve close to the border with Panama: The place is sacred. But to the Costa Rican government and the United States Southern Command, its value lies in its mineral deposits and oil.

Elusive Victories: Voting Rights, Desegregation and the Erosion of Civil Rights

The newest Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC -- the National Museum of African American History and Culture -- rightfully focuses on the horrors of slavery. It misleads visitors, however, by overstating the extent to which our nation has recovered from the enduring legacy of slavery and segregation.

These days, with a monument honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. standing near the National Mall in the nation's capital, and a national holiday dedicated to his memory, many official narratives take racial integration for granted, even as a longstanding civil rights crisis continues. A closer look at the repression faced by civil rights organizers and the subsequent slow eroding of the civil rights movement's historic victories reveals that this country's stated commitment to equality is, at best, a veneer.

Energy Megaprojects, and How They Aim to Seduce Us

Imagine if you lived in a nice quiet community of about 30 people, and the Chinese government got permission to plunk a $20-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on your doorstep.

Holy snapping duck shit! Chances are you’d want a pretty strong say in whether that could or should happen, under what conditions, with whose permission — and you’d want a very clear, objective analysis of the costs and benefits, and the risks, to you, your family, your neighbours, not to mention the physical place that would be so massively disrupted by such a project — you know, the place you currently call home.