Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Monday, June 26, 2017

As Trump Fumbles, Putin Prepares to Invade Neighbours

Recent Russian actions suggest a new stage of the Russian threat to Ukraine—and potentially to the Caucasus, Belarus or the Baltic states as well—that could presage a new large-scale military operation.

First, in 2016, Russia created 25 division formations and 15 brigades, while raising manpower by only 10,000 men. This suggests the possibility that Russia may aim to wage protracted large-scale war using the Soviet model, with a Soviet-type army composed of “skeleton units” that existed solely on paper until they were called up as part of the process of mass mobilization.

Former Breitbart News reporter joins Russian propaganda news agency Sputnik

Former Breitbart News investigative reporter Lee Stranahan is launching a radio show for Sputnik, a news organization owned and operated by the Russian government, the Atlantic reports.

“I’m on the Russian payroll now, when you work at Sputnik you’re being paid by the Russians,” Stranahan told the Atlantic’s Rosie Gray. “That’s what it is. I don’t have any qualms about it. Nothing about it really affects my position on stuff that I’ve had for years now.”

The Minnesota Eight Don’t Want to Be Deported to a Country They’ve Never Lived In

The Minnesota Eight are a group of Cambodian men in their thirties and forties with a troubled history in common: each came to the U.S. legally as a child refugee in the nineteen-eighties but later lost his green card after being convicted of a crime. By law, legal permanent residents are automatically deportable if they've committed an aggravated felony, and thousands of people every year are deported after completing prison terms. But when these men got out of prison they found themselves in a strange situation. Because of a long-standing diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Cambodia, they were released rather than deported. Several of them got married and started families; they took jobs, and settled down. Twice a year, they were required to check in at their local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, in St. Paul, Minnesota, but after a few years these visits became routine. Then, last summer, when they each showed up for their appointments with ICE, they were abruptly rearrested, and informed that their deportations were back on schedule.

Indiana House passes a bill designed to cripple the state’s growing rooftop solar industry

The Indiana House voted Tuesday for a bill that opponents say will cripple the state’s solar industry.

If enacted, the bill would reduce the amount solar power users are compensated for routing unused electricity back on the grid.

Over the next five years, utilities would reduce net metering — a policy that ensures homeowners are compensated for electricity they add to the grid from solar generation — before bottoming out in 2022. Solar owners will then be compensated at much-reduced level, roughly around the wholesale price for electricity. The bill would also put a legislative cap on the amount of non-utility solar in the state.

Cop ignored instructions before shooting at a man playing with a toy truck

Behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey made headlines last year when video circulated of him laying on his back —unarmed, hands raised in the air — before a North Miami police officer shot him in the leg.

Before he was shot and handcuffed, Kinsey pleaded with officers not to shoot him or his autistic patient, Arnaldo Rios, who was playing with a toy truck in the middle of the street. Within hours, a local police union chief reported that the shooting officer, Jonathan Aledda, had actually been aiming for Rios, who was believed to be carrying a firearm at the time.

States are misusing funds earmarked for cleaning up coal mines

Coal mines are not meant to last forever. When a mine’s natural resources are exhausted, or a coal company deems the mine no longer profitable, they close, often leaving behind scars of environmental degradation like disturbed land and polluted water. Today, there are more than five thousand abandoned coal mines that have yet to be cleaned up across the United States.

In 1977, Congress passed the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, which, among other things, sought to regulate the way abandoned mines were cleaned up. Part of the act gave states money to clean up mines that had been abandoned before 1977, through the creation of the Abandon Mine Land fund. According to the law, the money could be used for other projects, but coal reclamation projects were to be given priority, and the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement — part of the Department of the Interior — was directed to make certain the funds were being properly used.

Putting a cop accused of homicide on ‘60 Minutes’ used to be considered crazy. It might be genius.

On September 16, 2016, Officer Betty Jo Shelby killed 40-year-old Terence Crutcher with a single gunshot to the chest.

On September 22, Tulsa District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler took the uncommon decision to charge Shelby with a homicide.

And on April 2, 2017 — more than a month before her manslaughter trial was scheduled to begin — 9.5 million Americans tuned in to 60 Minutes and heard Shelby explain that “I’d rather be tried by 12 than carried by six.”

The Twin Authoritarians Who Are Endangering American Democracy

Ever since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015, critics worried about his authoritarian tendencies. He’s done much to justify those fears. At his rallies, he whipped crowds into such a frenzy that protesters were beaten. As president, he’s flouted elementary rules about nepotism and conflict of interest; undermined the independence of the judiciary by impugning judges overseeing cases involving him or his administration; obstructed justice by firing James Comey after he refused to pledge loyalty to him; and arbitrarily limited media access by, for instance, replacing daily White House press briefings with off-camera gaggles where recording is banned.

Gorsuch's writings borrow from other authors

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch copied the structure and language used by several authors and failed to cite source material in his book and an academic article, according to documents provided to POLITICO.

The documents show that several passages from the tenth chapter of his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” read nearly verbatim to a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal. In several other instances in that book and an academic article published in 2000, Gorsuch borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them.

Nikki Haley Says U.S. May ‘Take Our Own Action’ on Syrian Chemical Attack

UNITED NATIONS — Holding photographs of dead Syrian children after a chemical bomb attack, the United States ambassador to the United Nations warned on Wednesday that her country might take unilateral action if the Security Council failed to respond to the latest atrocity in the Syria war.

Facing her first serious Syria showdown at the Security Council, the ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, also used her remarks at an emergency session to blame Russia for blocking a robust response to the attack on Tuesday on a northern Syrian town, which has incited widespread condemnation. The death toll was reported to exceed 100.

Syria chemical 'attack': Russia faces fury at UN Security Council

Russia has been sharply criticised by other world powers at the UN Security Council in New York over the chemical weapons deaths in northern Syria.

Moscow's suggestions that civilians were poisoned by rebel weapons on the ground have been widely rejected.

The UK's foreign secretary, a rebel commander and a weapons expert all said evidence pointed to an attack by the Syrian government, Russia's ally.

U.S. Health Care System Is Condemning Thousands of Americans to an Early Death

In his report, "This is how American health care kills people," Ryan Cooper tells the story of 29-year-old Matthew Stewart, who required emergency surgery for hepatitis-induced liver damage, but learned that only about $10,000 of his $74,000 bill was covered by his "gold plan" insurance policy, partly because of out-of-network rules even in emergencies.

When his insurance provider decided to quit the insurance exchange, Stewart was left without a liver specialist, and he couldn't obtain Medicaid because his state of Texas had refused the option to carry it. His alternative—declaring bankruptcy and leaving the state—would be delayed by a lengthy legal process exacerbated by the physical and mental stress of his illness. But the hospitals kept sending their bills.

Death of a Dystopian

David Crowley began keeping a journal in April of 2014. He was twenty-eight years old, and he lived in Apple Valley, Minnesota, with his wife, Komel, and their four-year-old daughter, Raniya. The journal was “a life report, since I suspect my feelings right now in nostalgia or reflection might be of value,” Crowley wrote. By the time he stopped making entries, seven months later, he had inadvertently created a psychological document of which very few examples are known.

The Pay Gap Costs Women $840 Billion Every Year

Each year, Equal Pay Day is a grim reminder that working women still don’t earn as much as their male counterparts. In fact, the persistent wage gap means that, on average, women lose a combined $840 billion every year, according to a new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Using Census Bureau data from all 50 states and D.C., the report concluded that the average woman takes home 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man. And the gap is even worse for women of color: black women earn only 63 cents for each dollar picked up by a white male, while Latina women take home a mere 54 cents. Meanwhile, white women bring home 75 cents per dollar earned by a man, and Asian women earn 85 cents, though some Asian subgroups earn considerably less.

'Toxic gas attack' in Syria kills at least 58 people

At least 58 people, including 11 children, have been killed in a "toxic gas" bombing raid on a rebel-held Syrian town, doctors and a monitor said, in an attack the United Nations quickly said it would investigate as a possible war crime.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province caused many people to choke or faint, and some to foam from the mouth, citing medical sources who described the symptoms as possible signs that gas was used.

The Edlib Media Centre, a pro-opposition group, posted images that were widely shared on social media, showing people being treated by medics and what appeared to be dead bodies, many of them children.

Syria's 'moderate rebels' to form a new alliance

A new military alliance of rebel groups in northern Syria aims to consolidate military control over Idlib province, the western part of Aleppo province and parts of Latakia province, according to a Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander.

Two sources from FSA have confirmed to Al Jazeera that the new military operation room, under discussion, will be supported by the "Friends of Syria" - a coalition of the US, Turkey, Western European and Gulf states - which have supported the Northern Front's operations room, known by its Turkish acronym MOM.

Trudeau Liberals betray open and fair government pledges

When heading a minority government, Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued parliament on two occasions to avoid defeat.

When his government was found in contempt of parliament for failing to reveal costs of new fighter bombers the transgression did not hurt his political fortunes. Shortly thereafter, in 2011, his minority government was re-elected with a majority.

Women make less than men in virtually any job they take

Tuesday marks the day by which, thanks to the gender wage gap, American women have worked long enough to match what men made in a single year last year. The gap still means that a woman who works full-time, year round will on average make just 80 percent of her male peers. There hasn’t been statistically significant progress in closing the gap in nine years.

Some women may hold out hope that they can find the right work that will pay them equally. But virtually anywhere they go they are at risk of being paid less.

Bashar al-Assad just gassed his own people, then bombed the clinic treating victims

A suspected poison gas attack by the Syrian regime on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun has killed at least 74 people — including 16 women and 23 children — and wounded over 350, according to the Syrian American Medical Society. Videos and photos taken by activists and medics on the scene showed victims choking and fainting, some with foam coming out of their mouths. These videos and photos have not been independently verified.

Republican Governors Keep Vetoing Legislation That Would Make Voting Easier

WASHINGTON ― On March 21, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) vetoed legislation that would have automatically registered eligible voters when they sought services from the Department of Motor Vehicles. The veto made Sandoval the third Republican governor to sink automatic voter registration legislation ― and all three of them have seats that will be up for grabs in the next two years.

Russia’s extremism problem goes beyond Syria

The past few weeks have been a time of reckoning for Russia.

Anti-corruption protests have rocked the nation recently, sparked by opposition leader Alexei Nalavny, a foe of President Vladimir Putin. Among other figures, the demonstrations have targeted Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who, opponents argue, has amassed his wealth through bribes and state loans. The protests have led to considerable violence and a number of arrests, causing turmoil and putting Russia on edge.

But the uprisings have taken a backseat to more pressing issues this week.

Vladimir Putin defends China’s internet censorship

Vladimir Putin has defended China’s online censorship, declaring that the internet cannot be a place of excessive “quasi-freedom,” Russian news agency Interfax has reported.

“We should not criticize what China is doing,” the Russian president said when a blogger asked whether Moscow should follow or condemn Beijing’s strict regulations online. “That’s 1.5 billion people. Go ahead and try to govern them for a bit.”