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.]

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Tear down those Confederate monuments! Maybe we can finally cure America’s Civil War hangover

It’s been more than 150 years, but America’s Civil War hangover continues to linger. This nagging, throbbing ache has manifested itself in innumerable ways, with its contradictions being among the most obvious. Any examination of the history of the battlefields themselves, specifically during the postwar decades, provides a clear and convenient illustration of those contradictions, especially when we take a look at exactly what’s happened to these tracts of land since the war ended.

California to Investigate Racial Discrimination in Auto Insurance Premiums

The California Department of Insurance has launched an investigation into whether eight auto insurers in the state discriminate against drivers in minority neighborhoods.

The investigation was prompted by an April 5 article, co-published by ProPublica and Consumer Reports, which found that the eight California insurers were charging more for auto premiums in minority neighborhoods, on average, than in non-minority areas with similar accident costs. California law prohibits insurers from charging rates that are excessive or unfairly discriminatory.

These Three Firms Own Corporate America

A fundamental change is underway in stock market investing, and the spin-off effects are poised to dramatically impact corporate America. The Conversation

In the past, individuals and large institutions mostly invested in actively managed mutual funds, such as Fidelity, in which fund managers pick stocks with the aim of beating the market. But since the financial crisis of 2008, investors have shifted to index funds, which replicate established stock indices, such as the S&P 500.

Behind China’s $1 Trillion Plan to Shake Up the Economic Order

VANG VIENG, Laos — Along the jungle-covered mountains of Laos, squads of Chinese engineers are drilling hundreds of tunnels and bridges to support a 260-mile railway, a $6 billion project that will eventually connect eight Asian countries.

Chinese money is building power plants in Pakistan to address chronic electricity shortages, part of an expected $46 billion worth of investment.

North Carolina Senate GOP targets children who live in Democratic districts

At 3:07 a.m. on Friday morning, North Carolina Senate GOP leaders rushed through a budget amendment that stripped education funding for teaching assistants and STEM programs in districts led by Democrats, cut funding to provide fresh produce to food deserts, reallocated money that was supposed to go to an arts museum and a downtown revitalization project, and eliminated a position that works to secure federal aid for disaster relief.

It appears the amendment wasn’t passed to achieve specific policy goals though, but rather as an act of political retribution after a prolonged and contentious budget negotiation in the state’s senate.

Russia's alleged interference in elections under spotlight at Prague summit

Security specialists from 27 countries including Britain and the US are meeting in Prague on Monday in what has been billed as the most concerted attempt yet to counter alleged Kremlin destabilisation measures aimed at undermining western elections.

The Czech interior ministry is hosting the five-day summit staged by Stratcom - Nato’s strategic communications arm – in an effort to persuade governments and the European Union to strengthen electoral processes amid rising concern over suspected interference by the Russian government under Vladimir Putin.

Central Europe’s flagging effort to derail Gazprom deal

Central and Eastern European countries are firmly opposed to a proposed settlement between Gazprom and the European Commission that spares the Russian company from paying a cent in fines on charges that it abused its market power.

But there’s little chance that Gazprom’s main victims — Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — will be able to derail the draft deal.

The Venezuelan people are dying in the streets again

"The Venezuelan people are again dying in the streets as they battle an on-going coup d'état being carried out by a group of politicians who oppose our government, and who since April 19, have been carrying out acts of violence, killing people and destroying our national patrimony, just as they did in 2002 and 2014."

Putin says intimidation of North Korea must end

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that North Korea's latest missile test was "dangerous", but he warned that Pyongyang was being intimidated and called for a peaceful solution to regional tensions.

"We are categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear powers," Putin told reporters after an international forum in Beijing.

US accuses Syria of carrying out mass killings of thousands of prisoners

The US has accused the Syrian regime of building a crematorium to cover up the mass killings of detainees in a military prison outside Damascus.

The Department of State distributed photos on Monday of a large building it said had been adapted for the large-scale burning of bodies at Saydnaya military prison, 45 minutes’ drive from the Syrian capital, where it said that up to 50 detainees are hanged in mass executions on a daily basis.

The Supreme Court Won’t Reinstate the Country’s Worst Voter-Suppression Law

On June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with the longest histories of voting discrimination no longer had to approve their voting changes with the federal government. A month after that decision, North Carolina—where 40 counties were previously subject to that requirement—passed the country’s most sweeping voting restrictions.

In Tartous, Syria, Women Wear Black, Youth Are in Hiding, and Bitterness Grows

The letter that follows is part of a project that draws on citizen journalists to depict daily life in war zones where international reporters cannot travel due to threats from the warring parties. The author is writing under a pseudonym for his own protection. The project, based at Stony Brook University’s Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting, is funded by the Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation. Istanbul-based journalist Roy Gutman edited.

The worst scenario': What if Canada's real estate bubble bursts?

It's the question lingering behind every headline. It's whispered among homeowners, would-be buyers and sellers, economists and policy-makers. What actually happens if Canadian real estate prices crash?

On the one hand, a crash might be good for some Canadians already priced out of the market. And even a dramatic 40 per cent drop in prices would set homeowners in markets like Toronto or Vancouver back, what, two or three years?

How Republicans Are Blocking Cities From Raising the Minimum Wage

Since Donald Trump took office, many liberals have looked to cities and states as central fronts in the Democratic resistance. With a president hostile to progressive policies of all kinds, the thinking goes, state legislatures and city councils offer more hope for action on a wide range of issues, from regulating carbon emissions to defending immigrant rights.

Can Senator Jeff Merkley Help Democrats Reclaim the Health-Care Narrative?

In the fall of 2009, as he was preparing for a town-hall meeting in rural Oregon, Senator Jeff Merkley’s staff got a call from a local lawyer, who advised him to show up wearing a bulletproof vest. Merkley, along with Barack Obama, had been elected the previous year, narrowly unseating a Republican incumbent. His first months in office coincided with the rise of the Tea Party in the remote, conservative territory that comprises much of Oregon. In Prineville, where the town hall was scheduled to take place, gun-rights activists were preparing to greet him with a demonstration.

Long walk to counter Canada 150 celebrations

WINNIPEG - A Manitoba indigenous leader plans to walk 120 kilometres next month in a decidedly different commemoration of Canada's 150th birthday.

Derek Nepinak, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said his Walk to Remember is to celebrate the resilience of indigenous people in the face of what has happened to them since Confederation.

Caught Between Scylla and Charybdis: The Effects of Greece's Loss of Sovereignty

For the last several months, Greece's international creditors -- the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) -- had been at a standoff over debt relief, budget targets and various reforms, including taxes and pensions, thereby delaying the completion of a long overdue bailout review that should have been done in October 2016. The standoff added extra pressures to an economy that has been in recession for eight straight years, and even revived fears of a "Grexit" as bank runs had returned in full steam. In the meantime, the Syriza-led government of Alexis Tsipras was playing the role of a mere observer in a tug-of-war between two institutions that are in full control of the country's finances, and merely trying to accommodate the demands of both sides.

Neo-Nazi Soldiers in Germany Plot "False Flag" Terrorist Attack to Implicate Refugees

As a recent slew of high-profile constitutional crises by President Trump dominate US and international news, a white supremacist "false flag" terrorist plot emanating from within the German military has continued to unfold since late April. Outside of Germany, the story has received little attention, despite shocking revelations that high-ranking German politicians were targeted for assassination to influence the upcoming federal elections scheduled for September 2017.

Brexit plays into old divisions in Northern Ireland

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Northern Irish politics often feels far removed from debate on the British mainland, but this general election there is one big issue that spans the Irish Sea: Brexit.

Where British politicians on the campaign trail talk about the economy, tax and public services, debate in Northern Ireland has long been framed as much by its troubled past as by the concerns of the present — particularly around election time. Not in 2017. As in the rest of the U.K., its politics has been knocked sideways by the Brexit vote.

Macron Campaign Says Massive Email Leaks Meant To Undermine It

Leading French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign said on Friday it had been the target of a “massive” computer hack that dumped its campaign emails online 1-1/2 days before voters choose between the centrist and his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen.

Macron, who is seen as the frontrunner in an election billed as the most important in France in decades, extended his lead over Le Pen in polls on Friday.

Edward Crawford, Man In Iconic Ferguson Photo, Found Dead Amid Plea Deal Negotiation

WASHINGTON ― Edward Crawford ― the man featured clad in the American flag and holding a bag of chips as he hurled a flaming tear gas canister in what became the iconic image of the 2014 unrest in Ferguson, Missouri ― was found dead in St. Louis on Thursday.

The medical examiner’s office said Crawford’s death appeared to be a suicide, according to the St. Louis Police Department. Two people told police they had been driving with Crawford late Thursday evening when he started to talk about being “distraught over personal matters.” They then heard him “rummaging in the backseat” and heard a gunshot, then saw he’d “sustained a gunshot wound to the head,” according to the police report. Crawford’s father told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he did not believe his son took his own life.

Jean-Claude Juncker Upsets Some By Claiming ‘English Is Losing Importance In Europe’

Jean-Claude Juncker has joked English is “losing importance” in Europe because of Brexit, in a clear jibe aimed at Theresa May.

As the European Commission president’s relationship with May plumbs new depths, he told a conference in Italy he would give a speech in French because English was “slowly but surely losing importance in Europe”.

Liberal ‘Gerrymandering’ Handed Them Election Win: Analyst

The government’s manipulation of British Columbia’s electoral boundaries benefited the BC Liberal Party in last week’s election, according to one political analyst.

In an article titled “Gerrymandered ridings gave BC Liberals narrow election win,” Will McMartin details in the Pacific Political Report newsletter how the BC Liberals succeeded in rigging the boundary setting process to benefit themselves.

For Crimea’s drug users, a Russian death sentence

FEODOSIA, Crimea — Andrey Yudenko began to get his addiction under control with the help of a Ukrainian substitution therapy program, a treatment for those who have tried but failed to quit drugs and are given an alternative substance under medical supervision.

The 31-year-old had been injecting drugs since he was a teenager and started the therapy two years before Moscow took over the peninsula.

Analysis: What The 2017 Local Election Results Tell Us So Far About Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn And UKIP

It’s just five weeks until the general election and we have the extraordinary spectacle of a governing party making local council gains that in normal times would be made by the Opposition.

These are not normal times, of course, with the backwash from the Brexit referendum last year still flooding over the landscape.