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 27, 2017

Heading into the provincial election, British Columbians demonstrate concern for inequality

Much of BC's pre-election debate has coalesced around the free-for-all in corporate political donations -- and understandably so, given the scale of the problem that's been revealed by various investigations. But worrying as the potential corruption of our democratic system may be, it's not the only concern weighing on British Columbians' minds as we draw closer to election day.

This Florida Sheriff's Message to Heroin Dealers Looks an Awful Lot Like an ISIS Video

Surrounded by a masked militant posse, Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell issued a terrifying video warning for local heroin dealers Monday:

    We’re coming for you... Enjoy looking over your shoulder constantly wondering if today’s the day we come for you. Enjoy trying to sleep tonight wondering if tonight’s the night our SWAT team blows your front door off the hinges. We’re coming for you... Run.

Wells Fargo executives may have had to pay back $75 million, but its retail employees were fired for the bank’s unethical policies

Wells Fargo used to have one of the best reputations of any major financial institution. The bank emerged largely unscathed from the 2008 financial crisis because it hadn’t engaged in the sort of fraudulent and irresponsible practices that crippled other major institutions and resulted in the near collapse of the global economy. It was also seen as a top-notch retail banker that excelled at customer service.

The Far Right Finally Has Brexit—and It’s Making a Royal Mess of It

Back in late September 2013, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives was throwing one of its episodic hissy fits about Obama­care. Shortly before the GOP shut down the government for over two weeks, one of its members laid out the Tea Party negotiating strategy for refusing to set a budget for the biggest economy in the world. “We have to get something out of this,” said Indiana Representative Marlin Stutzman. “And I don’t know what that even is.” Genius.

There’s Racist. And Then There’s Stunningly Racist. Then There’s This GOP Fundraising Email.

Last week, a fundraising email was circulated in support of David Clarke, Milwaukee’s infamous conservative sheriff. The email was made to look like it came from Rudy Giuliani.

However, it was actually sent by Jack Daly, the self-appointed national chairman of the official draft Sheriff Clarke for Senate effort. Daly wants Sheriff Clarke to unseat liberal stalwart Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin.

An Appeal for Thoughtfulness

“It flips it, and it gets people thinking again,” Elizabeth Minnich tells me, as we sit on a friend’s couch on New York City’s Upper West Side in February. “It was driving me crazy that across the media, people would talk about the ‘banality of evil,’ and for that to become a banality itself was really unbearable.”

Minnich is explaining the title of her most recent book, The Evil of Banality—a conscious flipping of the subtitle of Hannah Arendt’s famous book on the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann. Minnich, a lifelong civil rights and justice activist who now lives in North Carolina, had been a teaching assistant for Arendt at the New School in New York City while the renowned scholar was defending her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, published in 1963.

Divided We Fall

It only took a week after Donald Trump’s inauguration before Democrats and the media began to warn that our democracy faces a grave and potentially fatal threat. On the second weekend of Trump’s presidency, when customs officials began enforcing his hastily imposed ban on travel from Muslim nations, Senator Cory Booker dashed out to Dulles Airport and told a crowd of protesters that the American rule of law was under assault. “I believe it’s a constitutional crisis,” Booker declared. Two days later, when Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce the ban, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer practically had the question, “Are we on the verge of a constitutional crisis?” on auto-repeat. And when Trump blasted the “so-called judge” who overturned the travel ban, Senator Richard Blumenthal wasted no time in predicting the worst: “We’re careening, literally, toward a constitutional crisis.”

'It's a shambles': data shows most asylum seekers put in poorest parts of Britain

More than five times as many destitute asylum seekers live in the poorest third of the country as in the richest third, according to a Guardian analysis, which has prompted leading politicians to call for a complete overhaul of the dispersal system.

MPs have labelled the way asylum seekers are distributed around Britain “appalling”, “dreadfully designed” and “a deeply unfair shambles” because of the way it disproportionately houses people in poor, Labour-voting areas in the north of England and Wales, as well as Glasgow.

Marine Le Pen denies French role in wartime roundup of Paris Jews

The French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has denied that the French state was responsible for the wartime roundup of Jews at a Paris cycling track who were then sent to Nazi death camps.

The former president Jacques Chirac and the current leader, François Hollande, have both apologised for the role French police played in the corralling of more than 13,000 Jews at the Vel d’Hiv cycling track, which was ordered by Nazi officers in 1942. But Le Pen told the LCI television channel on Sunday: “I don’t think France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv.”

Candidate for Virginia governor says there’s nothing racist about the Confederate flag

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart, a Republican, embraced the Confederate flag and Virginia’s history of defending slavery on Saturday, using multiple phrases that indicate his appeal to white supremacist voters.

Stewart championed Confederate leaders Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and repeatedly emphasized Virginia’s “heritage.”

Unbelievable: One Chicago Cop Accused of Framing 51 People for Murder

Horrific acts of Chicago Police Department brutality, from killings to racial profiling to harassment of youth, do not spring from a few bad apples alone. Mounting evidence from city residents, grassroots organizations like We Charge Genocide and even the Department of Justice shows that the problem is system-wide, extending from streets to courts to jail cells and condoned by the chain of command, all the way up to the mayor’s office. However, focusing on the bad behavior of individual cops, and examining how the system responds, can be instructive.

Decades later, CSIS’s white supremacy infiltrator tells his story

In a bedroom community in Western Canada, a 59-year-old man is living an unremarkable life.

He has a wonderful wife, three dogs and a marketing consulting gig. He loves sports and live music, especially if U2 or Lady Gaga are headlining. He plays bridge, though not nearly as much as he would like.

His life is the picture of ordinary; the man is anything but.

Scotland Would Be ‘Most Welcome’ As Full EU Member, 50 MEPs Say

A group of 50 politicians from across Europe have signed a letter stating that an independent Scotland would be “most welcome” as a full member of the European Union.

In the letter to Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh and MSPs, the signatories pledge their support in ensuring the transition to membership is “as swift, smooth, and orderly as possible”.

'Dictator Maduro!': thousands of Venezuelans protest ban of opposition leader

Police in Venezuela have fired tear gas and rubber bullets at some of the thousands of protesters who poured into the streets of Caracas on Saturday amid a weeklong protest movement that shows little sign of losing steam.

Thousands of people, some carrying signs reading “Dictator Maduro!” and “Elections now!” in support of banned opposition leader Henrique Capriles, took part in marches across the country against unpopular leftist president Nicolás Maduro.

U.S. Military Should Get out of the Middle East

It’s time to end US military engagements in the Middle East. Drones, special operations, CIA arms supplies, military advisers, aerial bombings — the whole nine yards. Over and done with. That might seem impossible in the face of ISIS, terrorism, Iranian ballistic missiles, and other US security interests, but a military withdrawal from the Middle East is by far the safest path for the United States and the region. That approach has instructive historical precedents.

The chemical brothers: Putin and Assad

This week the world witnessed yet another chemical attack in Syria. After horrendous footage from Khan Sheikhoun showed children suffocating from sarin gas and relatives crying over piles of dead bodies, Russia was forced to react. But while Washington used the attack as an excuse for missile strikes on a regime-held airbase in southern Syria, Moscow did the exact opposite - it used it as an excuse for more excuses. And the excuse was produced quickly: The ministry of defence announced that there was no chemical attack but that a rocket had hit a stockpile of "terrorists'" chemical weapons, which led to the release of the poisonous gas.

Documents Reveal NYPD Infiltrated Black Lives Matter

The New York Police Department infiltrated Black Lives Matter groups and gained access to organizers’ text messages, according to recently revealed documents. The information came to light after a protester, James Logue, filed a request under the Freedom of Information law asking the NYPD to provide documents and video surveillance of 2014 and 2015 Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

The NYPD originally denied the request, claiming that public disclosure would reveal its tactics and “interfere with law enforcement work,” the New York Daily News reports. New York County Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez overruled the police department.

The New European Editor Matt Kelly Wants His Paper To Be ‘Unwavering’ In Defending The EU

The New European wasn’t meant to last. As Article 50 is triggered, the pro-Remain paper shows no signs of stopping. Editor Matt Kelly talks about how he plans to challenge Brexit, why he gave Arron Banks a column and what he can learn from The Daily Mail.

The editor of The Daily Mail urged its 1.5 million readers to vote Leave. Triumphing at the annual Press Awards last month to win Newspaper Of The Year, he sounded irked. “I’ve been a profound eurosceptic for years,” said Paul Dacre. “Whatever The New European says.”

Anti-Islam Graffiti On Calgary Family's SUV Part Of A Growing Trend: Police

A Calgary family's vandalized SUV is the latest example of the city's growing hate-crime graffiti trend.

According to Calgary police, graffiti targeting certain ethnicities and religions is becoming more common. In 2017 alone, police have investigated six cases, including one high-profile incident where Islamophobic and anti-Semitic phrases were written at a public park.

Trudeau Is Ready To Break A 100-Year Promise To Veterans

April 6 is the hundredth anniversary of Prime Minister Borden's speech to the soldiers about to take part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He promised those men that there was a moral obligation to them if they were to return home injured. Since then the Liberal and Conservative governments have argued against those words.

With the recent budget, I will be entering my 11th year without a life long disability pension, 9 years under the Conservatives and now two with the Liberals. The Trudeau government campaigned on the reestablishment of these pensions. Three times they made public overtures to that effect that in fact if and when they formed government they will re-establish the life long pensions that they took away in 2006 to begin with.

The World Is Getting a Lot More Authoritarian

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the world is losing faith in democracy. Between Donald Trump’s rise in American politics and the predictable but self-inflicted "Brexit" economic shockwave, many are now openly asking what was previously an unthinkable question in the West: can people really be trusted with self-government? Is it time to ditch democracy and try something else?

After the Soviet Union fell, democracy expanded at an unprecedented rate. Today, global democracy has receded slightly every year since 2006; in other words, there has been no democratic forward progress for the last decade.

Oklahoma’s drinking water is at risk from fracking, new report finds

In some parts of the country, people are urged to pray for rain. In Oklahoma, the governor once told people to pray for oil prices.

But as oil and gas fracking continue to spread throughout the state, Oklahomans’ concern might be more about the industry’s impact on water supplies and less about the industry’s profits.

A report, commissioned by the Clean Water Fund and released Thursday, found there are several oil and gas wastewater wells that could be injecting into drinking water supplies in Oklahoma. In addition, there are private wells whose supply could be overlapping with wastewater disposal wells permitted by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC).

The Spy Who Loved Me

I never thought I’d identify with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the other Trump associates who are under scrutiny for their contacts with the Kremlin. Yes, their meetings with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak sound fishy. Yes, they failed to disclose direct exchanges with Russian intelligence agents at a moment when Russia was apparently meddling in the U.S. election. But what about my own dealings with Russian envoys?

Republicans Have Just Handed America an Extreme Right-Wing Supreme Court That Will Divide the Country More Than Ever

Senate Republicans pushed the country further down the rabbit hole of political extremism Thursday by changing the voting rules to put a far-right justice in a hijacked Supreme Court seat, cementing a conservative high court majority for years. The final formal vote is expected Friday.

The Republicans did it by repealing the only power a minority party has to block judicial appointments and legislation—the Senate’s filibuster rule, which says 60 votes are needed to end debate and vote. The Republicans could not get enough Democrats to clear that threshold for Neil Gorsuch's high court confirmation, so they took steps to repeal the filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominees, positioning the 100-member body’s 52 Republicans to confirm Gorsuch by a simple majority.

Russia has been Assad’s greatest ally — as it was to his father before him

Before the White House ordered airstrikes in Syria, Russia had been the most dominant outside military force, participating in a bloody military escapade aimed at propping up Syrian President Bashar Assad and his government.

Since the fall of 2015, Russia has launched airstrikes on opposition strongholds, deployed special forces units on the ground, and supplied Syrian government troops with food and medical aid. And this intervention has been critical to ensuring Assad's political survival.

Michele Bachmann: Liberals are letting the Antichrist come to power

Michele Bachmann believes liberal opponents of Donald Trump could bring about the end of the world — by hastening the coming of the Antichrist.

According to Right Wing Watch and the Friendly Atheist, the Republican and former Minnesota congresswoman made the apocalyptic prediction last week during an appearance on a Last Days radio program. The show’s host, Jan Markell, asked Bachmann about “globalists,” a group she says includes American liberals who want a “one world system” and “no borders.” Markell said the group “lost big time” after the election of Donald Trump, sparking Bachman to compare them to the builders of the biblical Tower of Babel.

Israel sunk in 'incremental tyranny', say former Shin Bet chiefs

Two former heads of Israel’s powerful domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, have made an impassioned and powerful intervention ahead of events to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in June.

One of the pair warned that the country’s political system was sunk in the process of “incremental tyranny”.

Russia Bans ‘Extremist’ Image Of Putin In Makeup

Russia has added a digitally altered image of President Vladimir Putin in heavy makeup to its list of banned extremist materials, saying the picture suggests Putin is gay.

The Russian Ministry of Justice last week added the photo to its index of extremist materials ― a list that now includes more than 4,000 images that are illegal to share. The offending image is number 4,071, which the ministry describes a “man resembling the president” whose makeup “hints at the Russian president’s allegedly nonstandard sexual orientation.”

Syrian Chemical Attack Is Assad’s Message To The World, Activists Say

The gruesome chemical weapons attack that left scores dead in Syria this week was not only a gross violation of international law ― it was also a bold display of defiance to world leaders, activists and humanitarian workers say.

Warplanes dropped toxic gas over the residential area of Khan Sheikhoun in opposition-held Idlib early Tuesday morning, killing up to 100 people, including young children, while leaving hundreds more to suffer from respiratory injuries.

The Fire Last Time

In the early morning of March 9, 1973, Robert Hoyt, a 24-year-old black motorist, rear-ended a white man named Raymond Peterson on Detroit’s westbound Fisher Freeway. Hoyt, who worked the late shift at an auto factory, had apparently dozed off at the wheel.

Peterson, however, interpreted the collision as a deliberate act of aggression. He was an undercover police officer, driving home in an unmarked sedan. His partner, Gary Prochorow, witnessed the accident. He happened to be driving in the same direction in his own car, also unmarked. The two officers had just stopped at a diner for coffee after an uneventful night’s patrol.

Economic anxiety isn’t driving racial resentment. Racial resentment is driving economic anxiety.

Much debate continues about whether support for Donald Trump has more to do with racial or economic anxiety. A key question in this debate — explored by Wonkblog’s Jeff Guo — is whether economic anxiety may actually cause racism. Guo shows, for example, that Americans who think the economy is getting worse currently score highest in racial resentment.

So which is the chicken and which is the egg? The evidence suggests that racial resentment is driving economic anxiety, not the other way around.

As goes France, so goes the EU

PARIS — When France sneezes, Europe catches pneumonia.

Rarely have the French faced a starker choice of European futures than in this year’s presidential election, where they’ll vote for “bye-bye European Union” or “back to a Europe of Nations” or even “fast forward to a more integrated Union.”

Mystic money man behind Brussels activists

BEIRUT — Ayman Jallad has two battles on his hands. The Syrian-Lebanese businessman is in the challenging business of selling imported Caterpillar tractors in war-torn markets like Gaza, the West Bank and Syria.

And from his solar panel-equipped office, located in a warehouse 18 kilometers north of Beirut, he’s carrying out a crusade against the European Commission, which he says is “controlled by multinationals.”

The Infantilizing Ways We Talk About Women’s Ambition

Last month, the fashion designer Tory Burch launched an ad campaign called “Embrace Ambition.” It features black-and-white photos of celebrities wearing various slogan-brandishing T-shirts: Mindy Kaling wears “BOLD,” Kate Bosworth wears “STRONG,” Burch herself wears “AMBITIOUS.” This last T-shirt can be purchased on the Tory Burch Web site for sixty-eight dollars. For the thriftier shopper, there are thirty-dollar bracelets, which come on a placard saying “#EMBRACEAMBITION” and “JOIN THE MOVEMENT.” Proceeds from this merchandise are directed toward the Tory Burch Foundation, which helps support women entrepreneurs. (It administers a small fellows program and connects women to business education and affordable loans.) A New York Times_ _piece about the “Embrace Ambition” campaign calls it a “public service announcement” aiming to reclaim what has become a dirty word.

This Week’s Chemical Attack in Syria is Just the Latest “Red Line”

On July 23, 2012, a former spokesman for the Syrian foreign ministry acknowledged for the first time that his government had stockpiles of chemical weapons, but asserted that they would “never, never be used against the Syrian people or civilians during this crisis, under any circumstances.” A little more than a year later, approximately 1,400 people on the outskirts of Damascus were killed in a chemical attack carried out by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It was the largest chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds in Halabja, Iraq, 25 years earlier. Now, as the Syrian civil war enters its sixth year, chemical weapon attacks on civilians continue apace.

This Is What Democrats Have to Gain From Filibustering Gorsuch

Speaking to a gathering of Democratic donors in late March, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) gamed out the perils of filibustering Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the US Supreme Court, whose confirmation is scheduled for a Senate vote on Thursday afternoon. McCaskill imagined a scenario—one that is barreling toward becoming reality—in which Republicans remove the 60-vote threshold necessary to confirm nominees to the Supreme Court.