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.]

Friday, July 07, 2017

Comey’s testimony on Huma Abedin forwarding emails was inaccurate: report

FBI director James Comey generated national headlines last week with his dramatic testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, explaining his “incredibly painful” decision to go public about the Hillary Clinton emails found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop.

Perhaps Comey’s most surprising revelation was that Huma Abedin — Weiner’s wife and a top Clinton deputy — had made “a regular practice” of forwarding “hundreds and thousands” of Clinton messages to her husband, “some of which contain classified information.” Comey testified that Abedin had done this so that the disgraced former congressman could print them out for her boss. (Weiner’s laptop was seized after he came under criminal investigation for sex crimes, following a media report about his online relationship with a teenager.)

GOP senator says ‘the Indians’ should ‘just take my word for it’ on sacred tribal lands

Speaking alongside Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about the Trump administration’s order to review — and potentially shrink or eliminate — nearly 30 national monuments, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said Native Americans were “manipulated” into their support for the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument southeastern Utah.

“The Indians, they don’t fully understand that a lot of the things that they currently take for granted on those lands, they won’t be able to do if it’s made clearly into a monument or a wilderness,” Hatch said on Sunday. “Once you put a monument there, you do restrict a lot of things that could be done, and that includes use of the land… Just take my word for it.”

Women take to Caracas streets as crisis deepens

Thousands of people are once again taking to the streets of Caracas, as the capital of Venezuela braces for another day of rival protests amid escalating tensions over the country's political crisis.

Warren Buffett: cutting jobs is standard capitalist formula

Warren Buffett has defended the Brazilian buyout house with which he attempted to take over Unilever, by saying 3G was only following a “standard capitalist” stance to doing business by slashing costs and cutting staff.

Buffett’s investment group Berkshire Hathaway and 3G, backed by the Brazilian billionaire Jorge Lemann, own 51% of Kraft Heinz, which made a £115bn approach to household groups company Unilever in February.

Unmanned US Air Force space plane lands after secret, two-year mission

The U.S. military’s experimental X-37B space plane landed on Sunday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing a classified mission that lasted nearly two years, the Air Force said.

The unmanned X-37B, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, touched down at 7:47 a.m. EDT (1147 GMT) on a runway formerly used for landings of the now-mothballed space shuttles, the Air Force said in an email.

Justice Department Opens Criminal Investigation of Uber

A week after Portland city officials announced plans to subpoena Uber, the Justice Department has reportedly opened a criminal probe against the company after it was revealed that the ride-sharing app utilized deceptive software to avoid authorities in Uber-restricted cities, according to the Washington Post.

The report states that the DOJ will attempt to determine the illegality of the app's actions and whether criminal charges are warranted.

Documents Reveal a Powerful, Secretive Foundation’s Blueprint for Spreading Right-Wing Ideology, State by State

The billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch get a lot of press coverage about their vast, conservative political spending network that helps elect right-wing officials at the federal, state and local levels and advocates for policies that increase the profits of their fossil fuel and manufacturing conglomerate, Koch Industries. Earning far less publicity but perhaps equally powerful in driving rightward change in America is the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a private foundation based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

China slams US lawmakers who visited the Dalai Lama

China on Wednesday slammed the U.S. for sending a bipartisan delegation of American lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, to India to visit exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

“The visit by the relevant delegates of the U.S. Congress to meet the Dalai Lama sent a very wrong signal to the world about Tibet independence and goes against the United States’s promises on Tibet,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, told Reuters.

Bosses steal billions from their workers every year

It’s been illegal for a company to pay an employee less than the minimum wage — today, at least $7.25 an hour, although in many states it’s higher — for nearly 80 years. So when Daniel started working at a restaurant in New York City almost a decade ago, he expected that’s what he’d make.

He was wrong. When he began his job, he says his boss paid him just around $5 an hour, despite the law at the time dictating that he had to make at least $7.25 an hour. Tipped workers can be legally paid less if their tips make up the difference, but when he worked in the front of the house as a waiter he said his boss pocketed almost all of the tips he and his coworkers earned.

Bill O'Reilly Has a Thoroughly Bonkers New Conspiracy Theory About Why He Was Fired from Fox News

A resentful Bill O’Reilly has returned to national radio after being dumped by Fox News in April, and he has an ominous message.

"The entire ordeal was a hit job, and in the weeks to come, we will be able to explain some of it," the former "Factor" host told Glenn Beck in an interview Friday. "It has to do with destroying voices that the far-left and the organized left-wing cabal doesn’t like. That’s the general tone."

"I can’t get specific," he added. "There’s a lot of legality here."

India is fast becoming a one-party state

Nothing in India is local any more. India is permanently in election mode and insurrectionary politics is keeping the nation in a perpetual state of agitation. At least this is what the ruling party of India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has decided.

If we look at the way the elections for local bodies such as the municipal councils or district bodies are being fought by the party, it becomes clear that it is trying to convert all elections, be they for rural, municipal or district administrative bodies, into national elections. The party does this in three ways:

The Tragedy of James Comey

Before he was summarily fired by the chief executive he played no small role in electing, former FBI Director Jim Comey told Congress that his late-October 2016 decision to violate Department of Justice guidelines by telling Congress he was reopening the Clinton email investigation was done to avoid the perception of political favoritism.

“I have a fabulous staff at all levels and one of my junior lawyers said, should you consider that what you're about to do may help elect Donald Trump president,” Comey said. “And I said, thank you for raising that, not for a moment because down that path lies the death of the FBI as an independent institution in America. I can't consider for a second whose political fortunes will be affected in what way.”

NATO chief, Merkel to discuss Afghan troop increase

A proposal to boost NATO forces in Afghanistan will be on the agenda of a meeting between the alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.

The meeting comes on the heels of a request from military chiefs for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

The Inside Story of Chelsea Manning’s Unlikely Release From Prison

When Chelsea Manning asked President Barack Obama to commute her prison sentence last November—after more than six grueling years behind bars—few thought she had much of a chance. The intense politics surrounding Manning’s conviction for the largest leak of state secrets in US history suggested that her freedom remained a long shot. “We didn’t really think it would work,” Nancy Hollander, a criminal defense lawyer who represents Manning, told me recently.

What broke the Safe Drinking Water Act?

It was 1997 when Californians began to worry in earnest about a chemical called perchlorate. For decades, the ingredient in rocket fuel had been seeping from missile factories and testing sites into groundwater across the state and, thanks to a new testing method, it was suddenly clear it had reached hundreds of drinking water wells. Soon, researchers discovered that the toxic chemical had reached Lake Mead, the picturesque reservoir that supplies water to 25 million people in the American Southwest and irrigates the fields that grow the lion’s share of the nation’s winter produce.

Cyberattack hits computers in as many as 150 worldwide using stolen NSA tools

Employees and patients across multiple facilities were displaced on Friday thanks to a large-scale cyberattack on network computers across Eurasia in 150 countries, including Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan.

Doctors and hospital staff for facilities under the UK’s National Health Service were locked out of patient files and forced to relocate emergency patients, the Guardian reported. The attack made use of ransomware called WanaCrypt0r 2.0, or WannaCry.

Noam Chomsky: How the Corporate Media Is Undermining One of the World's Key Left-Wing Leaders

Professor Noam Chomsky has claimed that any serious future for the Labour party must come from the leftwing pressure group Momentum and the army of new members attracted by the party’s leadership.

In an interview with the Guardian, the radical intellectual threw his weight behind Jeremy Corbyn, claiming that Labour would be doing far better in opinion polls if it were not for the “bitter” hostility of the mainstream media. “If I were a voter in Britain, I would vote for him,” said Chomsky, who admitted that the current polling position suggested Labour was not yet gaining popular support for the policy positions that he supported.

Mexican woman who uncovered cartel murder of daughter shot dead

A Mexican woman who doggedly pursued her daughter’s killers in a region plagued by with drug cartel violence has been shot dead in her home, reflecting both the lawlessness plaguing large swaths of the country and the risk faced by victims’ families who pursue justice.

Miriam Rodríguez Martínez was murdered on 10 May, when Mexicans mark Mother’s Day and families of those who have disappeared during the decade-long drug war march to demand action by the authorities.

Have the Rich Become “Super Citizens”?

Modern philanthropy was born in the early 20th century, with the birth of the Russell Sage Foundation. In 1907, the foundation was founded with a $10 million gift from Margaret Sage, the widow of Russell, a railroad tycoon. While its mission was broad (“the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States”), the foundation adopted an innovative formula of grant making and sustained involvement in its initiatives that ushered in a new model of institutional charity. But philanthropy faced criticism from the beginning. After Sage, John D. Rockefeller, the oil magnate, tried to get a foundation charter, only to face pushback from then-president Theodore Roosevelt. “No amount of charity in spending such fortunes can compensate in any way for the misconduct in acquiring them,” he said. The idea was that if there were not such tremendous inequality, there would be no need for charity at all. But that did not stop the founding of the Carnegie Corporation in 1911 and the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913. At the height of the Gilded Age, a time characterized by superficial glamour and deep corruption, these foundations, imbued with vague missions to improve general welfare, seemed benevolent enough. In fact, many have long histories of playing key roles in the advancement of causes like cancer research and urban development. And while they drew detractors, they eventually became a part of American society, and the fears that philanthropies would perpetuate inequality subsided.

How a Small Town Is Standing Up to Fracking

On October 24th, 2012, several agents from Pennsylvania General Energy, an oil-and-gas exploration company, met privately with local officials from the rural western Pennsylvania community of Grant Township. Fracking was booming in Pennsylvania, and PGE had been trucking tens of thousands of gallons of fracking wastewater to faraway injection wells in Ohio. Developing an injection well somewhere in Pennsylvania could save the company around $2 million a year, and Grant Township, a swath of woods and hayfields slightly larger than Manhattan and populated by a mere 741 people, seemed like an especially good spot.

White supremacist converts to Islam — then kills neo-Nazi pals for disrespecting his new faith: police

A white supremacist is being accused of fatally shooting his two neo-Nazi roommates after they objected to his decision to convert to Islam.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that 18-year-old Devon Arthurs is being accused by police of gunning down two of his roommates — 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk — after they attacked his newfound Muslim faith.

Russia Has Weaponized Fake News to Sow Chaos

Donald Trump and his top advisers have spent the past four months under near constant scrutiny: Two congressional committees, the FBI and CIA—not to mention the entire news media—have launched separate investigations into the role Russia played in orchestrating his victory. Washington rarely sees such intense intrigue surrounding a sitting president in his first 100 days, a time traditionally devoted to policy initiatives, not police interrogations. But focusing on the election obscures the true extent of Russia’s influence: Today, months after Hillary Clinton’s emails were hacked, the Kremlin continues to deploy a host of digital tools to sow doubt and discord in the United States on an almost daily basis.

‘Tories Are For Rich, White People’ Black And Ethnic Minority Voters Explain Why They Won’t Back Theresa May

The Tories are still only for “rich, white people, not the poor” according to black and ethnic minority voters in a special HuffPost UK/Edelman focus group.

People from across London agreed that Conservatives did not represent them or their concerns, and they were fearful of what will happen to the NHS if Theresa May returns to power.

Half of Toronto Community Housing homes to hit ‘critical’ status within five years

Half of Toronto Community Housing developments will be in “critical” condition in the next five years without additional funding for repairs, according to an internal database provided to the Star.

Already, the data shows more than 30 social-housing properties are in serious disrepair. Of 364 developments — which include houses and groupings of low-rise buildings and towers — 222 developments are ranked in “poor” condition, with dozens edging on critical condition, based on a standard ranking used by the housing corporation.

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."

These are the words of Bishop Elida Quevedo of the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela (UEPV), but hers is not a story that you will see in major media. Instead, facts are distorted to make it appear that it is government forces who repress a "pro-democracy" movement. Bishop Quevedo goes on to describe the April 20 attack by anti-government activists on a maternal and child hospital, and sniper shootings of pro-government demonstrators and security forces.

Glenn Beck Offers Bill O’Reilly A Job At TheBlaze

Glenn Beck, founder of conservative media outlet TheBlaze, offered Bill O’Reilly a job during an on-air interview with the former Fox News host Friday ― his first since leaving the network amid sexual harassment allegations.

Beck made him the offer after O’Reilly applauded him for starting his own media company, which allowed him to control “his own destiny, unlike me.”

Virginia gubernatorial candidate blames the left for anti-Semitism

Virginia Republican Corey Stewart thinks that the left is to blame for rising anti-Semitism in the United States.

According to the Washington Post, Stewart, a gubernatorial candidate, was speaking at a Northern Virginia synagogue in Fairfax County Sunday night when he blamed progressives in the United States for an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents across the country.

I Grew Up In a Fundamentalist Cult — ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Was My Reality

It was a cold morning on the campus of the little Christian college I attended in Western Pennsylvania. Along with about 20 other students, I’d trundled in and unwrapped my coat and scarf. Now we all sat there sipping our coffees, waiting for the hardest class of the year to get rolling.

Our literary criticism professor paused as he announced the optional reading titles on our list for the next week, a funny look on his face.

“This one,” he said, “you may not like. It was written in 1984, published in ’85 or ’86, and was a reaction against the rise of the religious right — against the values that places like our school stand for. It’s pro-feminist, and anti-complementarian — against traditional gender roles. It sort of parodies what we believe in, in an interesting way. I’m curious what you’ll make of it.”

What if People Owned the Banks, Instead of Wall Street?

When Craig Brandt marched into the City Council chambers in Oakland, California, in the summer of 2015, he was furious about fraud.

The long-time local attorney and father of two had been following the fallout from the Libor scandal, a brazen financial scam that saw some of the biggest banks on Wall Street illegally manipulate international interest rates in order to boost their profits. By some estimates, the scheme cost cities and states around the country well over $6 billion. In June of 2015, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Barclays, among other Libor-rigging giants, pleaded guilty to felony charges related to the conspiracy and agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion in criminal fines to US regulators. But, for Brandt, that wasn’t enough. He wanted the banks banished, blocked from doing business in his city.

A Lynching on the University of Maryland Campus

Richard Collins III was about to graduate from Bowie State University on Tuesday. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army. He was airborne certified. He was a son, a friend, and active in his church.

To Sean Urbanski, a University of Maryland student, he was black. At around 3 am on  Saturday, May 20, Collins waited for an Uber ride along with two friends who were students at UMD at an on-campus bus stop. Urbanski walked up to them, and, according to witnesses, said, “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you.” Collins simply replied, “No.” He stood his ground. Urbanski then stabbed him in the chest and fled the scene. Collins died at the hospital.

North Carolina Is Once Again Found Guilty of Discriminating Against Black Voters

On May 15, the Supreme Court let stand a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruling that North Carolina’s sweeping voting restrictions targeted African-American voters “with almost surgical precision.”

A week later, on May 22, the Supreme Court struck down two of North Carolina’s congressional districts as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, upholding a lower-court opinion that “race predominated” in drawing the districts.

British Intelligence Warned Tony Blair of Manchester-Like Terrorism if the West Invaded Iraq

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has yet to say anything about Monday’s heinous, nihilistic suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England. According to current reporting, the attack has been claimed by ISIS and was carried out by a 22-year-old man born in Manchester to Libyan refugees.

Duterte declares martial rule in besieged south Philippines

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared the country's south under martial rule for 60 days and cut short a visit to Moscow on Tuesday after Muslim extremists allied with the Islamic State group laid siege to a southern city.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told a news conference in Moscow that martial rule took effect Tuesday evening in the southern region of Mindanao "on the grounds of existence of rebellion."

Mississippi Republican threatens to lynch ‘Nazi-ish’ lawmakers who remove Confederate monuments

A Mississippi Republican called for the execution of elected officials who removed Confederate monuments in a neighboring state.

State Rep. Karl Oliver (R-Winona) shared a Facebook post Saturday comparing the removal of Confederate monuments in Louisiana to Nazi book-burnings, and he called for vigilante violence against officials there, reported WJTV-TV.