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.]

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Comey tried to reveal Russian plot before election — Obama administration officials blocked: report

FBI Director James Comey attempted to go public as early as the summer of 2016 with information on Russia’s campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election, but Obama administration officials blocked him from doing so, two sources with knowledge of the matter tell Newsweek.

Well before the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence accused the Russian government with tampering with U.S. elections in an October 7 statement, Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign during a meeting in the White House’s situation room in June or July. “He had a draft of it or an outline, he held up a piece of paper in a meeting and said, ‘I want to go forward, what do people think of this?’” says a source with knowledge of the meeting , which included Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security director and the national security adviser.

Lithuania Gears Up for War With Russia

Donald Trump may admire Vladimir Putin, but Russia’s neighbors are readying for war. Over the past few years, the government of Lithuania has ramped up defense spending, begged NATO for troops, proposed building a fence along its border, and distributed detailed manuals briefing its three million citizens on what to do if Russia invades. The country has also reinstated military conscription, which was abolished in 2008. Men between the ages of 19 and 26 must now complete nine months of compulsory military service. So far, though, the move has proven premature: So many citizens have volunteered for duty that the government hasn’t needed to implement the draft.

Here’s How Much Internet Providers Gave Lawmakers Who Voted To Let Them Sell Your Data

House Republicans voted to overturn privacy rules Tuesday that were introduced by the Obama administration to prevent telecommunications and cable companies from sharing customers’ personal data without their consent or knowledge.

That data may include your web browsing history, Social Security number, information about your health and other sensitive details.

Bombardier Execs Get 50% Raise Amid Layoffs, Government Aid

MONTREAL — Bombardier's senior executives saw their compensation rise by nearly 50 per cent last year at a time when it laid off thousands of workers, sought government aid and saw the first CSeries passenger jet take flight.

Total compensation for the Montreal-based company's top five executives and board chairman Pierre Beaudoin was US$32.6 million in 2016, up from US$21.9 million the year before, according to a proxy circular ahead of its May 11 annual meeting.

Iowa GOP abortion bill will grant parents of unmarried women rights to control adult daughters’ bodies

An anti-abortion bill being offered by Republicans in Iowa would effectively ban all abortions and give parents rights over the bodies of unmarried adult daughters.

A state House panel on Wednesday voted to send SF 471 — the so-called “personhood” bill — to the full committee. The bill states that life begins at conception, giving fetuses the same rights as people.

Theresa May’s Empty Brexit Promises

Brexit has begun. On Tuesday evening, Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, signed a letter formally giving notice that the United Kingdom intends to leave the European Union. On Wednesday, Sir Tim Barrow, the U.K.’s Ambassador to the E.U., delivered the letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council. Next up: a long set of talks about the terms of Britain’s exit.

“When I sit around the negotiating table in the months ahead, I will represent every person in the United Kingdom—young and old, rich and poor, city, town, country, and all the villages and hamlets in between,” May told the House of Commons on Wednesday. “It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country. For, as we face the opportunities ahead of us on this momentous journey, our shared values, interests, and ambitions can—and must—bring us together.”

BC Pays a ‘Huge Premium’ for Contracting Out Health Admin: Analyst

When looking at how payments to a private contractor to administer the Medical Service Plan and Pharmacare programs have ballooned, the real comparison should be to what it would cost the B.C. government to do the work itself, says a former government policy analyst.

“It’s a huge, huge premium we’re paying for this, compared to what it would cost if we were doing it in house,” said Don Scott, a retired civil servant who worked for MSP from 1998 to 2004.

The people behind the Planned Parenthood videos were just charged with 15 felonies in California

California prosecutors charged two anti-abortion activists with 15 felony counts on Tuesday for invasions of privacy associated with the Center for Medical Progress’ deceptively edited Planned Parenthood videos.

The Center for Medical Progress published the videos online in 2015, triggering a wave of controversy, threats, and attacks — both political and physical — on Planned Parenthood. David Daleiden, one of the two activists being prosecuted, said that the videos show Planned Parenthood conspiring to sell “aborted baby parts” for profit.

Two black women hit Fox News with lawsuit claiming ‘top-down racial harassment’

Two black women filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Fox News for racial discrimination they experienced while working at the news network, the New York Times reports.

Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, who managed and coordinated the payroll department, accused Fox’s former comptroller, Judith Slater, of “top-down racial harassment.” Brown and Wright allege in their case that Slater made comments calling black men “women beaters” and about black people wanting to cause physical harm to white people.

Republicans Just Voted to Let Internet Service Providers Sell Your Browsing History

The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives on Tuesday repealed privacy rules that would have required internet service providers such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable to get consumers’ consent before selling or sharing their web browsing data with advertisers and other companies.

“Consumers should be in control of their own information,” Rep. Jared Polis, (D-Colo.) said in testifying against the bill. “They shouldn’t be forced to sell and give that information to who-knows-who simply for the price of admission for access to the internet.”

Canada ‘Freeloading' Off American Innovation, Pfizer CEO Says

Canada and other countries with universal health care systems are keeping drugs cheap by “freeloading” off of American innovation, says the chief executive of one of the world’s largest pharma companies.

“Canada is cheaper because of (drug) ration(ing). And Canada is cheaper because ... it freerides off American innovation,” Pfizer CEO Ian Read said in an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. last week.

How the FBI Played a Central Role in the First ISIS Attack on U.S. Soil

The first attack on U.S. soil for which ISIS claimed responsibility—a 2015 shooting in Garland, Texas—was instigated by the FBI, according to an investigation by CBS' "60 Minutes" and government documents obtained by an attorney involved in the case.

In a macabre twist, an undercover FBI agent who encouraged one of the shooters to "tear up Texas" was also physically present at the scene of the crime, mere feet away from the shooters.

House Republicans Vote To Let Your Internet Service Provider Share Your Web History

WASHINGTON ― House Republicans jammed through a measure on Tuesday overturning the Obama administration’s rules that would have banned telecom and cable companies from sharing customers’ personal information, including web browsing history, without their consent.

The House resolution passed 215-205, mostly on party lines. Its companion passed the Senate last week on a 50-48 vote. If President Donald Trump signs the measure into law, internet service providers will win a regulatory victory. But advocates say consumers can kiss network privacy goodbye.

Where Did $1 Million Go? Michele Bachmann Is in Hot Water If She Can't Answer the Question

Former Minnesota congresswoman and Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann may no longer grab headlines for her wacky floor speeches, but that doesn’t mean federal elections officials have forgotten about her — or the more than $1 million in campaign cash they say is now mysteriously missing.

According to a notice from the Federal Elections Commission, it appears that while auditing Bachmann’s congressional campaign committee, federal officials noticed that the ex-House member’s 2012 campaign went from having over $1.7 million on hand in October 2016 to reporting only $2,619 in December 2016. The letter was first reported by the Center for Public Integrity’s Carrie Levin. According to Levin, Bachmann’s committee treasurer claimed on Monday that the more than $1 million missing is merely a discrepancy due to a “mistake in using the filing software.”

Scottish parliament votes for second independence referendum

Nicola Sturgeon has won a key Holyrood vote on her plans for a second independence referendum, triggering accusations from UK ministers that her demands are premature.

Sturgeon won by a 10-vote majority after the Scottish Greens backed her proposals to formally request from the UK government the powers to stage a fresh independence vote at around the time Britain leaves the EU, in spring 2019.

Bill O’Reilly reacts to clip of Rep. Maxine Waters with racist joke about her hair

During Tuesday’s Fox & Friends, Bill O’Reilly was asked to respond to a clip of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) speaking on the House floor. He responded by mocking her “James Brown wig.”

While the hosts introduced the clip, O’Reilly, who was on the show as a guest, sarcastically said, “I love her… Maxine Waters should have her own sit-com.”

Ex-acting CIA director tells MSNBC: Russia carried out its ‘most effective covert operation in decades’

The Russian effort to disrupt the American political process has worked beyond the country’s wildest dreams, says a former acting CIA director who served under the George W. Bush administration.

In an interview with Chris Jansing on MSNBC, McLaughlin explained that Russian efforts to interfere with our presidential election have sowed chaos and created an atmosphere of mistrust that is harming our government’s ability to properly function.

Justice Ginsburg tells Texas to stop ignoring science

Texas cannot disregard the medical community’s standards when it assesses which inmates are intellectually disabled — and therefore which inmates cannot be sentenced to death under the Constitution.

A 5–3 Supreme Court announced this decision in Moore v. Texas, in an opinion written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative with relatively moderate views on the death penalty, crossed-over to vote with the Court’s four liberals.

GOP congressman explains why people don’t need paid family leave, leaves ‘Morning Joe’ speechless

On Tuesday morning’s Morning Joe, host Mika Brzezinski welcomed House Freedom Caucus member Raul Labrador (R-ID) to discuss the failure of the Republican health care plan. Labrador opposed Trumpcare for not cutting enough, so Brzezinski opened the interview by asking him why he doesn’t support paid family leave. She was astonished when he didn’t seem to care.

Brexit deal with cut-off date for free movement would be vetoed by MEPs

The European parliament will veto any Brexit deal that prevents EU citizens who move to the UK during the next two years from having the same rights to live and work in Britain as those already in the country.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and MEPs are understood to be concerned by reports that the British government wants 29 March, when it officially notifies the EU of its intention to leave, to be the “cut-off date” for the free movement of people.

Russia’s cyberwar against America isn’t over — and the real target is democracy

Conventional wisdom inside the Beltway is understandably hesitant to embrace these terms, but it should be obvious to anyone following along that Russia declared war on the United States last year, and it’s a war that continues to be waged today.

Unlike hot proxy wars of the past in faraway places like Vietnam or Afghanistan, and certainly unlike the Cold War in which the Soviet Union and the United States aimed thousands of weapons of mass destruction at each other’s population centers and other strategic targets but never fired a shot, this is perhaps the first time in modern history that Russia has directly attacked the United States — on American soil no less and precision aimed at what matters most: the very integrity of our democratic process.

Don’t Just Fight, Build!

I work with Cooperation Jackson, based in Jackson, Mississippi, which comes out of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the New Afrikan People’s Organization. I bring up both the local and national groups to give you a sense of the broad movement I’m coming from, and also the more specific work going on in Jackson. That’s important because I believe we have to be rooted somewhere firmly on the ground in order to have a base on which to stand, and from which to organize.

The Young Turks Really, Really Don’t Want You to Compare Them to Breitbart

Cenk Uygur bristles at the notion that the progressive media company he co-founded more than a decade ago, the Young Turks, is becoming the Breitbart of the left—that is, a pugilistic news outlet waging an ideological war with the establishment class. If you ask him, the comparison is backward. “Andrew Breitbart, when he was on my show before he passed away, said they emulated us, not the other way around,” Uygur told me in mid-March, after finishing a panel at South by Southwest. “They get a lot of credit now because our idiot president reads them, but in terms of traffic, they’re nowhere near us.” Besides, he added, Breitbart had done it wrong. “The trick is to be honest, and that’s the part they left out.”

Is the Russia Investigation Turning the Left Into Conspiracy Theorists?

Last week, after Wednesday’s deadly rampage near Parliament in London, British conservative journalist Louise Mensch tweeted that the terrorist attack has “got everything to do with Russia.” She doubled down Friday on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, propounding the theory, without factual evidence, that allies of the Russian state were stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment in the wake of the attack. “Partisans of Russia were out in the streets saying it was an illegal immigrant who did it, trying to turn the London people against our Muslim friends and neighbor,” Mensch said. One of her fellow guests, MSNBC host Chris Hayes, looked startled by the claim, as well he might since it made little sense. After all, xenophobia in London (as elsewhere) doesn’t require “partisans of Russia.”

What the Russian Protests Mean for Putin

Sunday in Moscow was a bright spring day, chilly but clear, and by the time I made my way to Tverskaya Street, Moscow’s main thoroughfare, the sidewalks were full of people strolling up, toward Pushkin Square, and down, toward Red Square and the red-brick towers of the Kremlin. They had come out for a march led by Alexey Navalny, Russia’s savviest and most popular opposition politician, who had declared a nationwide day of anti-corruption action. The protest was one of mere presence, rather than any specific activity: a few people held signs, and every now and then a chant broke out, but the main political statement of the day was simply showing up.

Why It’s Become So Hard to Get an Abortion

At a town-hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin, last March, Donald Trump was prompted for his views about abortion. He’d been pro-choice once, but as a Presidential candidate he was an eager, if ill-informed, pro-lifer. Much of his answer took the form of free-floating clauses, like dialogue from a bad experimental play, which made his actual positions challenging to parse. But Trump did manage to make one point clearly, and to repeat it. When the interviewer, Chris Matthews, of MSNBC, asked whether women who’d had abortions should be punished, Trump answered in the affirmative.

Politically speaking, this was not good. In recent years, the anti-abortion movement has tried hard to show that it cares as much about women as it does about fetuses. Right-to-life groups criticized Trump’s wayward messaging, and, later that day, his campaign issued a statement explaining that it was actually doctors who ought to be punished if abortion were made illegal again: “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”

Tensions flare as Greece tells Turkey it is ready to answer any provocation

Fears of tensions mounting in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean Seas reignited after the Turkish president raised the prospect of a referendum on accession talks with the EU and the Greek defence minister said the country was ready for any provocation.

Relations between Ankara and European capitals have worsened before the highly charged vote on 16 April on expanding the powers of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

China Wants Total Access To Canada, May Seek To Import Its Own Workers

China’s government is seeking full access to Canada’s economy in free trade talks, a move that could result in Chinese state-owned companies bringing their own employees to work on projects in Canada.

China’s ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, told the Globe and Mail his government wants to avoid discussions of human rights issues, fearing it could become a “bargaining chip” in negotiations.

Spanish court to investigate Syrian 'state terrorism' by Assad regime

A Spanish court is to investigate allegations that nine members of the Syrian regime committed “state terrorism” by kidnapping, torturing and murdering a truck driver who disappeared in Damascus four years ago.

The landmark case – the first criminal complaint accepted against President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces by a European court – has been brought on behalf of the victim’s sister, a Spanish citizen who lives in Madrid.

A 2-for-1 for racists: Post hateful fliers, then revel in the news coverage

The Houston man laid out the details of his triumphant plan during a podcast last July: He told listeners that he had wanted to paste white nationalist fliers across the city’s downtown, and, just as important, he had wanted the Free Press, a local news and arts website, to write about the fliers.

“I want to trigger them into writing an article about me,” the man said in the podcast.

Russia Detains Opposition Leader Navalny Amid Nationwide Protests

MOSCOW/YEKATERINBURG, March 26 (Reuters) - Police detained hundreds of protesters across Russia on Sunday, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, after thousands took to the streets to demonstrate against corruption and demand the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

The protests, reckoned to be the biggest since a wave of anti-Kremlin demonstrations in 2011/2012, come a year before a presidential election which Vladimir Putin is expected to contest, running for what would be a fourth term.

Thousands of Girls Are Locked Up for Talking Back or Staying Out Late

It was late on a weekend night and Kara was bored. Her adopted mother, Dotty—nearly 70, arthritic, and having recently recovered from heart surgery—was asleep upstairs. Talking with her cousin on the phone wasn’t easing Kara’s restlessness. She wanted a snack from the corner store a few blocks away, so the 12-year-old told her cousin she was going to drive her mom’s car.

“That is not a good idea,” her cousin warned.

How a secret Freedom Caucus pact brought down Obamacare repeal

Speaker Paul Ryan and House leaders had been toiling behind closed doors for weeks assembling their Obamacare repeal bill as suspicion on the far-right simmered to a boil.

So on March 7, just hours after Ryan unveiled a plan that confirmed its worst fears, the House Freedom Caucus rushed to devise a counterstrategy. The few dozen true believers knew that pressure from House leaders and President Donald Trump to fall in line would be immense and they were intent on not getting boxed in.

The man who would beat Bibi

Benjamin Netanyahu is a survivor. He’s beaten back what looked to be near-certain defeat at the polls more than once. He’s outlasted hard-line rivals and liberal critics to become Israel’s longest continuously serving prime minister, and if he can hang on two more years, would even outdo David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s idolized founding father, to claim the overall record in the job.

And in many ways, 2017 looks to be his year.

Europe’s elite put on grand show of unity in Rome

ROME — Europe’s prominence descended on the Italian capital Saturday to celebrate their Union’s 60th anniversary with a single aim: fare bella figura.

After a year in which the EU has had to stomach the Brexit vote, bitter fights over refugees and the resurgence of far-right populism, failure was not an option. Yet for a club riven by division over matters large and small, keeping up appearances was no small order.

Russia protests: Opposition leader Navalny and hundreds of others held

Russia's main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has been arrested at an anti-corruption protest he organised in the capital, Moscow.

Thousands of people joined rallies nationwide, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev over corruption allegations.

At least 500 other protesters were detained in the capital and across the country.

Israel's false narrative on land swaps

When Israeli opposition leader and Labour Party chairman Isaac Herzog published a plan for kick-starting the peace process last month, one of his stated goals was to "save the settlement blocs" - areas of the West Bank where Israel has built clusters of settlements, including larger towns.

Settlement blocs are often referred to by politicians and pundits alike, but there is no common understanding about precisely what the term means.

It’s hard to be rich: Woe to the hypothetical $500,000 earners struggling to save $7,000

For millions of Americans, the day-to-day grind is a struggle. I am talking, of course, about those in the upper income bracket who earn more more than roughly four-fifths of the rest of the population. Because, as Republicans debate passing a law that would effectively give rich people a lot more money at the expense of screwing over a lot of poor people, we’re still wondering how it can be acceptable for a family earning 10 times the median New York City income to claim they’re pinching pennies.

The "rapenomics" of sexual assault

The Ontario Court of Appeal heard arguments on Thursday, March 16, in the case of Mustafa Ururyar, the York University graduate student who was found guilty of sexually assaulting PhD student Mandi Gray in 2015. Ontario Court Justice Marvin Zuker sentenced Ururyar to 18 months. His lawyers immediately appealed, and he was released on bail pending that appeal. Superior Court Justice Michael Dambrot will hand down his decision on June 8, but it's a no-brainer that the conviction will be overturned.

Ururyar's grounds for appeal focus on what his lawyers claim were errors in Zuker's decision. These included judicial bias (although there were no defence objections to bias during the trial); Zuker's criticism of defence lawyer Lisa Burstow's use of what he identified as rape myths; and the "uncontested academic material" (read "feminist") that Zuker partially relied on in making his finding of guilt.

White Supremacists Are Now Targeting High Schools

In addition to the more than 100 incidents at college campuses across the United States, white supremacists have targeted at least four high schools in recruitment drives so far in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The report is the latest to raise concern about a surge in incidents of hate, which have included multiple waves of bomb threats targeting Jewish Community Centers as well as threats and arson attacks against mosques.

Two of the incidents of white supremacist fliers being handed out at high schools occurred in California. At Pioneer High School in San Jose last month, over a dozen fliers from multiple white supremacist groups were reportedly posted around the campus. The groups included American Resistance, a white nationalist magazine run by Jared Taylor, who has cited the election of President Donald Trump as an opportunity for his movement.

Rising Far-Right German Party Wants to Teach Children Revisionist Holocaust History

An increasingly influential far-right opposition party in Germany, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), once again finds itself embroiled in controversy amid revelations that a party leader downplayed the crimes of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. These revelations come just two months after officials introduced what one lawmaker called a "Warsaw ghetto" plan for refugees.

The Global Right Wing Grows: Marine Le Pen Meets and Expresses Admiration for Putin

The international web of far right politicians includes the likes of President Donald Trump in the United States, MEP Nigel Farage in the United Kingdom, President Vladimir Putin in Russia and an aspiring president — Marine Le Pen in France.

As if to solidify her status as part of a global far right movement, Le Pen met with Putin on Friday.