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, July 03, 2017

Venezuelan president Maduro calls for new constitution amid further clashes

Venezuela’s increasingly embattled president has called for a new constitution as an intensifying protest movement entered a second month amid clashes between police and demonstrators.

After hundreds of thousands took to the streets again to call for his removal, President Nicolás Maduro announced that he was calling for a citizens assembly and a new constitution. He said the move was needed to restore peace and stop his political opponents from trying to carry out a coup.

Texas Police Officer Uses Rifle In Fatal Shooting Of Unarmed 15-Year-Old

A 15-year-old boy was killed in Texas on Saturday after a police officer opened fire on a car in which he was riding, according to Dallas attorney Lee Merritt.

Merritt identified the teen as Jordan Edwards, a freshman at Mesquite High School. The attorney told HuffPost that Edwards was a “straight-A student” who was active in sports, popular and “well liked.”

“This kid had no kind of record or disciplinary history,” the attorney added.

Bill Shine Is Out As Fox News Co-President

Embattled Fox News Co-President Bill Shine resigned Monday following intense scrutiny about his stewardship of the network in the wake of the Bill O’Reilly scandal and amid growing sexual harassment and racial discrimination allegations.

A veteran network executive, Shine was promoted to co-president just weeks after Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes’ downfall over widespread sexual harassment claims, and his departure comes two weeks after top-rated host O’Reilly left the network due to a similar scandal.

Erasing shameful moments in history is central to the white populist playbook

hereThe president of the United States began this week by expressing confusion over the root cause of the American Civil War.

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?” President Donald Trump said during an interview on Sirius XM. “People don’t ask the question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

The reasons for the Civil War are, of course, well documented — and for those who are still perplexed, multiple news outlets had already answered Trump’s rhetorical question within hours of when it first went public. The simple truth is that the Confederate states seceded in order to protect the slave labor system.

There isn’t any reasonable debate to be had over this. But by pretending otherwise, Trump was participating in a time-honored American political tradition. Segregationists, neo-Confederates, and other white populists have spent the past century and a half trying to retcon the Southern cause into something more innocuous or noble-sounding — something like “states’ rights.”

Texas police shot and killed a black ninth grader over the weekend

Fifteen year-old Jordan Edwards was fatally shot by the police on Saturday night in Balch Springs, a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

According to reports, Edwards, a freshman at Mesquite High School, was attempting to leave a rowdy house party when he was shot and killed. He was unarmed and in a car with his brother and friends. No one is believed to have been drinking underage, and none of the car’s other occupants have been arrested. The identity of the officer who shot him is also unknown.

Two contradictory stories surrounding the shooting have emerged in the time since it transpired. When briefing reporters on Sunday, Balch Springs police chief Jonathan Haber said that officers were dispatched to a residential street where a house party had gotten out of hand.

Why is anyone surprised the UK and EU do not agree about Brexit?

Like a collision between supertankers, the clash between British and European Brexit negotiators has been a long time coming, but no less spectacular for it.

The EU course was set at least six months ago, when European commission negotiators first determined that the most practical way to disentangle Britain’s complex membership was to separate out the even more vexed question of future trade relations, which requires unanimous national approval, and leave it until later. Draft guidelines published in March by the European council confirmed that leaders in other EU capitals also viewed this as the best way to maximize their chances of getting Britain to help fill holes in the budget before it leaves.

Hamas accepts Palestinian state with 1967 borders

Hamas has presented a new political document that accepts the formation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, without recognising the statehood of Israel, and says that the conflict in Palestine is not a religious one.

The positions were made official on Monday in Qatar's capital, Doha, by Khaled Meshaal, the leader-in-exile of the Palestinian group that runs the besieged Gaza Strip.

May Day in France: six police injured as violent group hijacks Paris march

France’s political, personal and social divisions divisions were laid bare on the streets of Paris on Monday as May Day marches dominated by the final round vote in the presidential election saw violent clashes between police and masked youths.

Six riot police officers were injured, one with third-degree burns to his hand and face, in Paris when a group of about 150 people armed with molotov cocktails, stones and sticks hijacked the traditional May Day march organised by French unions.

Why Marine Le Pen would be worse for the EU than Brexit

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen used a speech in Nice on Friday to spell out her vision for the European Union. “The EU is grey, like the color of the Brussels technocrats’ suits,” she cried. “I want to give it colors because my Europe is happy, diverse, colorful, it has the face of its peoples.”

But in Brussels and across the continent, pro-European politicians know that Le Pen’s Europe wouldn’t be at all happy for them. Victory in the May 7 poll for Le Pen—unlikely but still possible—would represent an existential crisis for the EU.

How Uber lost its way in the Steel City

PITTSBURGH — This city was supposed to be a bright spot for Uber — a tech-friendly oasis from its snowballing worldwide travails over taxi rules, labor relations, sexual harassment and an exodus of executives.

Instead, the ride-hailing company’s sharp-elbowed tactics have alienated political leaders in Pittsburgh too, less than eight months after Uber launched a pilot project that uses self-driving Volvos to ferry passengers through the Steel City’s hilly streets.

Theresa May Dismisses Disastrous Dinner With EU President As ‘Brussels Gossip’

Theresa May has dismissed a disastrous dinner with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as “Brussels gossip”, as the the PM was warned of deluding herself over Brexit.

German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ) today printed a devastating insider account of the meeting between the Prime Minister and Juncker last Wednesday.

The details, briefed by senior Commission sources, reveal Juncker told May as he left that he was “ten times more skeptical than I was before” about securing a good Brexit deal.

Run against Trump? Elizabeth Warren will certainly stand and fight

Donald Trump has named his most likely challenger in the 2020 presidential election. It is Elizabeth Warren.

Standing before the faithful of the National Rifle Association in Atlanta on Friday, the president predicted a surfeit of candidates. “You’ll have plenty of those Democrats coming over and you’re going to say, ‘No, sir, no thank you – no, ma’am,’” the president said. “Perhaps ma’am. It may be Pocahontas, remember that.”

The North Carolina House Has Passed a Bill Protecting Drivers Who Hit Protesters

The North Carolina House of Representatives just passed a bill that could protect drivers who hit pedestrians with their vehicles during street demonstrations. State representatives approved legislation April 27 that removes civil liability from drivers if they hit pedestrians who are, "participating in a protest or demonstration." The legislation passed in a 67-48 vote.

North Carolina became an epicenter of Black Lives Matter protests, which erupted in Charlotte after police shootings of unarmed black men.

Harjit Sajjan must go

Justin Trudeau needs to fire Harjit Sajjan. That is the only way the prime minister can assert that the truth actually matters in this era of Trumpian mendacity and ‘alternative facts.’.

Suffering from a bad case of Brian Williams Syndrome, Sajjan, Canada’s defence minister is now a card-carrying member of the Public Liar’s Club.

You remember Williams. He was the NBC news anchor who claimed that he had been in a helicopter in 2003 that was downed by an enemy rocket propelled grenade during the Iraq War. In fact, he was not in the helicopter that was hit. Indeed, the aircraft he was aboard never came under any enemy fire.

Retired CIA expert: US far-right is getting duped by Russia and it’s ‘part of something bigger’

In recent years, finding themselves increasingly ideologically alienated in the U.S., certain members of the far right have found sympathetic “kindred spirits” among Russia’s well-connected elite.

According to a bombshell report published Sunday night by the Washington Post, some current and former members of the U.S. intelligence community believe that forces within the Russian government are actively cultivating these relationships with disaffected members of the conservative fringe, although it’s unclear why.

The Rodney King video changed everything — and nothing

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot in a Cleveland Park because police thought he had a gun, his death caught on surveillance video. Eric Garner, killed by police who held him down while he gasped “I can’t breathe,” in Staten Island, New York, while a bystander nearby captured his last moments. Walter Scott, pulled over during a traffic stop and shot by police in South Carolina as an eyewitness recorded video. Philando Castile, fatally shot inside his car during a traffic stop in Minnesota, the shooting recorded by his girlfriend in the seat next to him. Terence Crutcher, killed outside his car in Oklahoma, the shots captured on video by a police helicopter.

Forget Zero-Hours, Firms Have Found Another Way To Keep Staff On Tenterhooks

Firms keen to distance themselves from controversial zero-hours contracts are tying staff to deals which carry many of the same problems and potential abuses, an investigation has found.

Documents seen by HuffPost suggest companies are able to exploit loopholes in the law to sidestep a 2015 ban on exclusivity clauses that stop staff working for other firms.

Britain’s Brexit denial

EU leaders expressed mounting alarm Friday that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and her team are in a dangerous state of denial about the consequences of leaving the bloc.

The worry over Britain’s unrealistic expectations was a main topic of discussion at background briefings all across Brussels’ European Quarter on the eve of an extraordinary European Council summit on Brexit.

Alexei Navalny on Putin's Russia: 'All autocratic regimes come to an end'

Alexei Navalny is in good spirits for a man who can hardly step outside without being insulted, assaulted or arrested. Earlier this month he was released from a 15-day stint in a Russian jail. And on Thursday, in Moscow, unknown assailants threw green dye in his face, the second such attack in recent months. But his habitual half-smirk never seems to waver.

Jim DeMint ousted as head of Heritage Foundation amid criticism he politicized the conservative think tank

Jim DeMint, the president of the Heritage Foundation, was ousted from his position on Friday by the board members of the conservative think tank.

The acerbic former senator from South Carolina lasted less than 5 years in his position which he assumed in 2013. Ed Feulner, the retired, previous president of the non-profit organization, is a likely interim successor.

Is Turkey’s War on Syrian Kurds Becoming a War on the United States?

The Trump administration was unusually subdued this week after the Turkish air force launched a bombing campaign against facilities of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria. The State Department said it “asked” Turkey to stop killing US allies in the fight against ISIL (ISIS, or the Islamic State). The Pentagon complained that Turkey not only hit its allies but failed to coordinate with the US Air Force, which is flying in the area. In essence, Turkey acted as a hostile power against the US war effort. In the aftermath, a fierce firefight has broken out at the Syrian-Turkish border between YPG forces and Turkish army units operating in northern Syria.

When Ellen Came Out, She Didn’t Just Change Lives. She Saved Them.

Sylvia Green didn’t care about the money. She just wanted to work for Ellen DeGeneres.

It was 1996 and Green had left a high-powered job in public relations to pursue a career in television writing. She’d found some work helping out with shows like “The Nanny” and “Mad About You.” But when she was offered the chance to join “Ellen” as a writer’s assistant in 1996, she couldn’t resist.

“Ellen,” the sitcom, was at the time just a moderately successful TV show about a somewhat awkward 30-something bookstore owner. But Ellen, the woman, was America’s sweetheart. Green’s bosses offered her a raise so she’d stay at her current job, but she turned it down. She had already sacrificed a lot to pursue her dream of writing for television. In “Ellen,” Green thought she might have found what she was looking for.

She took the job.

Jeremy Corbyn campaign team defies gravity

LONDON — Labour may be at near-historic lows in the polls but Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle is clinging stubbornly to the hope of an upset election win, inspired by other “outsiders” like Bernie Sanders and now Emmanuel Macron.

According to a senior party official familiar with the leadership team’s electoral strategy, while Labour MPs are looking over their shoulders in seats once considered unassailable, Corbyn and his close aides believe a grass-roots insurgency can succeed against the well-oiled Conservative election machine.

Officers Deprive Man Water in Solitary for 7 Days And Dehydrate Him to Death

There’s very little doubt among critics as to whether or not solitary confinement is torture. Nevertheless, the practice continues throughout many of the nation’s prisons. But when solitary confinement is combined with deprivation of the basic necessities of life, like water, a murder can take place. That’s what many people are calling what happened at the Milwaukee County Jail to Terrill Thomas.

Thomas was forced into solitary confinement and then his water was cut off — for over 7 days.

Perverse New Missouri Law Could Sentence Grade Schoolers to Four Years of Prison Time

On January 1, 2017 a revised statute went into effect that changes the laws on what punishments can and should be handed out to children who have fights in school. Previously a child could be charged with a misdemeanor and released to their parents. Now they will get plugged into the school to prison pipeline just that much faster.

Brexit puts security cooperation at risk

Brussels is calling Theresa May’s bluff on security.

In her Article 50 letter, the British prime minister warned European leaders that cooperation in the “fight against crime and terrorism” would be at risk if the two sides failed to reach a deal on Brexit.

Now the EU is fighting back with what it’s best at: bureaucracy.

Angela Merkel attacks British 'illusion' of keeping benefits of EU

Angela Merkel has said British politicians are still living under the “illusion” that the UK will retain most of its rights and privileges once it leaves the European Union.

Addressing her parliament ahead of this weekend’s EU summit at which European leaders will formally adopt Brexit negotiation guidelines, the German chancellor said: “Countries with a third country status – and that’s what Great Britain will be – cannot and will not have the same or even more rights as a member of the European Union. All 27 member states and the European institutions agree on this.”

Number of highest-earning Canadians paying no income tax is growing

By Monday, most Canadians will get their annual taste of tax theory at work: the more you earn, the more tax you pay.

But not quite everyone.

A CBC News analysis of Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) data shows that, between 2011 and 2014, a growing number of Canadians earning a six-figure income or more didn't pay a cent in income tax.

Toronto 'robs from the poor': OCAP report

A fiscal and moral scandal is brewing at Toronto's City Hall. Thanks to the casework and policy brilliance of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, the individual cases where people were being denied emergency monies for homelessness prevention have now been exposed as a result of systemic policies, to the tune of $18 million. That's $18 million dollars not spent on homelessness or to prevent it, but instead tucked away, amidst the worst homelessness and housing emergency in my memory. It's a disgrace given the conditions of overcrowded shelters, escalating homeless deaths and at least 500 people who are forced to live outside, unable to access a shelter bed year round.

Death Toll In Venezuela’s Unrest Rises As Protesters And Security Forces Clash On Bridge

CARACAS, April 26 (Reuters) - Venezuelan security forces fired scores of tear gas volleys and turned water cannons on rock-throwing protesters on a bridge in Caracas on Wednesday as the death toll from this month’s anti-government unrest hit at least 29.

A 20-year-old male demonstrator died in those latest clashes in the capital after being hit by a gas canister, said officials of the city’s eastern Chacao district.

Venezuela to quit Organization of American States

Venezuela has said it will withdraw from the Organization of American States in reaction to pressure from the bloc over the government's handling of the country's political crisis.

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said the government would launch a two-year process to pull out of the Washington-based regional diplomatic grouping that it has been a member of for more than 65 years.

How rich hippies and developers went to war over Instagram’s favourite beach

Reviews of Uno Astrolodge, a boutique new age-style hotel on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, lean heavily on words such as “magic”, “paradise” and “peace”. When it opened in 2001, Uno Astrolodge was one of the first upscale hotels in the beach town of Tulum. Over the past decade, the once-sleepy town, 75 miles south of Cancún, has become the kind of spiritual oasis particularly favoured by the fashion industry and wealthy New Yorkers. Until recently, guests at Uno Astrolodge, set on an exclusive stretch of white sandy beach, paid up to $300 per night for a room in a candlelit bungalow with a view of the ocean. They showered under the trees in private outdoor bathrooms and ate fresh bread baked on site every morning. They could spend their time detoxing in Native American sweat lodge ceremonies or getting their Mayan astrology charts read. Wednesdays at the Astrolodge featured sound healing ceremonies; a “women’s circle” welcomed every full moon with ecstatic dancing.

Assad forces carried out sarin attack, says French intelligence

French intelligence has identified the chemical “signature” of the Syrian government at the site of a nerve agent attack this month, indicating that the sarin used in the bombing came from Bashar al-Assad’s stockpiles.

Samples from the scene of the attack in the town of Khan Sheikhun, contained chemical compounds that were a hallmark of Assad’s sarin manufacturing process and matched samples collected from the site of a prior attack by government forces, a declassified intelligence report says.