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.]

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

US anti-fascists take on alt-right fight squads

A group of black-clad anarchists surround a far-right activist, pushing him from their protest area and dousing him in silly string. The anti-fascist demonstrators had gathered in Portland in the United States to counter an alt-right rally.

"Nazis go home," they yell in videos of the incident on Sunday.

Other anti-fascists - or Antifa - set ablaze a blue, black and white version of the US flag that signifies support for the police in a gesture against police brutality.

Theresa May's Political Future In Danger After Stunning Election Defeat

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s political future hangs in the balance after her Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority in Thursday’s snap election, a shocking setback in a race that had once been considered an easy victory for her.

May’s party lost 13 seats, leaving them with 318 ― short of the 326 needed to ensure a majority. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party gained 32 seats, a significant change that reflects growing discontent with May’s leadership after the country’s decision to leave the European Union.

Your Cellphone Privacy Rights May Depend on This Supreme Court Case

There’s a good chance that while you’re reading this, your cellphone is either in your pocket or within arm’s reach. That phone helps produce tons of identifying data about you—and where you are located. The future privacy of that information may depend on a landmark case that the Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear. Carpenter v. United States asks whether the government can get records from phone companies showing the location of customers without first obtaining a warrant. It centers on a man in Michigan named Timothy Carpenter who was convicted of six robberies after his phone company turned over his location data to authorities.

Russia may seize U.S. property if diplomatic compounds not returned: report

Russia may seize U.S. diplomatic property in Moscow and complicate life for an Anglo-American school unless Washington hands back two diplomatic compounds in the United States before July, the daily Kommersant newspaper reported on Friday.

In December, then U.S. president Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russians over what he said was their involvement in hacking last year’s U.S. presidential election, allegations Moscow flatly denies.

Conservative media call for internment of Muslims following London attacks

BBC: Seven pedestrians killed in central London terrorist attack. On June 3, a van drove into a crowd of people on London Bridge around 10 p.m. Saturday evening London time. Three men jumped out of the van and attacked people at a nearby market with knives. Seven people were killed in the attack. From the June 5 BBC article:

    Police said that the attack began at 21:58 BST on Saturday when a van drove on to London Bridge from the north side.

Paul Ryan says “death tax” hurts Wisconsin small businesses. IRS data shows otherwise

Does the estate tax really hurt small businesses? House Speaker Paul Ryan thinks so.

He revived this longstanding debate in a May 17 column in the Kenosha News, in which he defended the Republican plan to abolish the levy on inherited wealth. Ryan wrote that the “death tax” can “result in double, and potentially even triple, taxation on small businesses and family farms, both of which are prevalent in Wisconsin.”

Conservatives, Northern Ireland's DUP look for common ground

You might have come to the end of one thing, but you didn't have the certainty of knowing the next thing.

So said British Prime Minister David Cameron in the BBC documentary Five Days That Changed Britain, recounting months later the fevered negotiations after the 2010 U.K. election, which saw his Conservatives enter a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Canadian Senator Picks Fight With New York Governor Over Record Water Levels

A Conservative senator has accused New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of “spreading falsehoods” over rising water levels in Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River.

Bob Runciman made the comments in the Senate on Thursday — just over a week after Cuomo blamed a joint U.S.-Canada commission for adopting a plan known as Plan 2014 that brought in new regulations to return the waterways to their natural highs and lows.

After Election Setback, Theresa May Clings to Power in U.K. Thanks to Ulster Extremists

Updated: June 10, 12:34 p.m. EDT

At the end of an election campaign that was nasty, brutish and short, British voters punished Prime Minister Theresa May at the polls on Thursday, depriving her Conservative Party of its governing majority in Parliament, and forcing her to rely on the support of a small party of extremists from Northern Ireland to stay in office.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Critics Predicted He Would Destroy Labour. They Were Radically Wrong.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party received more votes than in any election for decades, outperforming expectations in a snap contest that an overly confident Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May herself called. Rather than gaining seats, May’s party lost about a dozen and is now trying to form a coalition government with the Democratic Unionist Party. Although final figures are not yet in, pollsters estimate that this outcome was the result of a surge of youth turnout that reached almost 70 percent.

Who are the Democratic Unionists and what do they want?

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party rarely impinges on the British political consciousness. Yet on election night — as it became clear there was going to be a hung parliament — the DUP was the most Googled U.K. political party.

By Friday, Theresa May was delivering a sombre statement in Downing Street, confirming her intention of cooperating with “our friends and allies” in the DUP. “Our two parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years, and this gives me the confidence to believe that we will be able to work together, in the interests of the whole United Kingdom,” she said.

Cop Fired After Fatal Shooting Gets His Job Back, Plus $140,000

An Albuquerque, New Mexico, police officer charged with murder for fatally shooting a homeless man has gotten his job back more than three years after the incident. As part of a settlement agreement, he’ll also receive $143,159 in back wages and benefits.

Dominique Perez was one of two officers charged in the March 2014 killing of James Boyd during a tense encounter in the Foothills area of Albuquerque. Boyd, who had schizophrenia, was camping there in violation of city ordinances. When police confronted him, Boyd threatened them with two pocket knives, leading to an hours-long standoff. Video of the shooting appeared to show Boyd turning away from officers just before they opened fire.

Who’s afraid of Jeremy Corbyn?

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May barely survived Thursday’s election. The political damage is such that fewer and fewer observers believe she will be able to serve out her full term. Politically, it looks like Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was the big winner, as his party surprised the pollsters and pundits (again) by gaining some 30 seats in parliament rather than losing that many or more, as was expected when the election campaign began.

How a Russian Journalist Exposed the Anti-Gay Crackdown in Chechnya

This spring, news of a campaign of repression against gay men in Chechnya, a republic in Russia’s North Caucasus, began to appear in the United States and Europe. Dozens of men suspected of being gay were reportedly being held in secret prisons; many had been tortured, and several had died. Fifty members of Congress signed a letter calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to raise the issue of violence against gay men with Russian officials. The State Department released a statement saying that it was “increasingly concerned” about the situation and that it “categorically” condemned the “persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation,” but to date neither Tillerson nor Donald Trump has spoken publicly about the issue. Other foreign leaders have not been so circumspect. Last month, in a meeting in Moscow, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to exert his influence to “insure that minorities’ rights are protected.” On May 29th, at a testy joint press conference in Paris, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, challenged Putin on the need to protect Chechnya’s gay community, saying, “I will be constantly vigilant on these issues.”

Netanyahu Calls For Disbanding UN Agency Supporting Palestinian Refugees

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday insisted on the disbanding of the United Nations’ agency that supports millions of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East, days after U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated Israel’s longstanding complaint that UNRWA “teaches children how to hate Israel” in its schools and accused the organization of “perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem.” He also said he had brought up the issue with Hayley last week. The U.S. was the biggest donor to UNRWA last year.

Putin critic Alexei Navalny jailed for 30 days

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to 30 days in jail hours after arrest on charges of disobeying police orders and calling for an unsanctioned protest.

The arrest came early on Monday just before a mass nationwide protest against corruption that has ended with hundreds of demonstrators taken into police custody.

In Reality, public trust is the Winner

Reality Winner is poorly named. Reality Loser would be more apt under the circumstances, given a post-truth, Trumpian age.

Welcome to the new world of whistle-blowing. Disclosing government secrets, even with a huge public interest attached to their airing, is now a high crime against the state.

Just to be clear, I side with the truth-tellers, no matter how many years in prison they get from the governments they expose. In Winner’s case, she has been indicted on a single count of illegally retaining and transmitting national defence information. She allegedly leaked a classified NSA document to the online news organization The Intercept.

The Long, Lonely Road of Chelsea Manning

On a gray morning this spring, Chelsea Manning climbed into the back seat of a black S.U.V. and directed her security guard to drive her to the nearest Starbucks. A storm was settling over Manhattan, and Manning was prepared for the weather, in chunky black Doc Martens with an umbrella and a form-fitting black dress. Her legs were bare, her eyes gray blue. She wore little makeup: a spot of eyeliner, a smudge of pink lip gloss.

At Starbucks, she ordered a white-chocolate mocha and retreated to a nearby stool. Manning has always been small (5 foot 4), but in her last few months at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, she jogged religiously, outside in the prison yard and around the track of the prison gym, and her body had taken on a lithe sharpness, apparent in the definition of her arms and cheekbones. She looked healthy and fit, if a little uneasy, as people who have served long spells in prison often do.

How Russia Targets the U.S. Military

In the fall of 2013, Veterans Today, a fringe American news site that also offers former service members help finding jobs and paying medical bills, struck up a new partnership. It began posting content from New Eastern Outlook, a geopolitical journal published by the government-chartered Russian Academy of Sciences, and running headlines like “Ukraine’s Ku Klux Klan — NATO’s New Ally.” As the United States confronted Russian ally Bashar Assad for using chemical weapons against Syrian children this spring, the site trumpeted, “Proof: Turkey Did 2013 Sarin Attack and Did This One Too” and “Exclusive: Trump Apologized to Russia for Syria Attack.”

Here’s how Russia targets US military members with propaganda — and the alarming reasons why

Russia is deliberately targeting active and former U.S. military service members in a variety of ways to promote the Kremlin’s agenda and steal information.

Law enforcement investigations have focused on Russia’s efforts to disrupt the 2016 election, but it’s clear to many intelligence experts that the Kremlin has been using social media to soften the American military and even turn some service members against the U.S. government, reported Politico.

Voter Anger Over Austerity And Brexit Cost Tory MPs Their Seats, Admits May’s New Chief Aide

Theresa May’s most senior adviser has admitted that public anger over austerity and Brexit cost the Tory party seats in the general election.

Gavin Barwell, who lost his own seat in London to Jeremy Corbyn’s “surge”, said that Labour had “tapped into” concerns about years of public sector pay freezes and other Government cuts.

Refugees In a Troubled Private Detention Center Are On Hunger Strike

Update (06/12/17, 10:15PM): On Monday morning, guards at the Adelanto Detention Facility allegedly attacked nine detainees, all members of a refugee caravan which arrived at the US-Mexico border in May. On Monday morning, according to two of the caravan organizers, Tristan Call and Alex Mensing, the group delivered a letter of grievances to prison officials and demanded a meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). At that point, say Call and Mensing, who spoke with the refugees after the incident, guards allegedly beat the men, “drenched” them in pepper spray, handcuffed them, and placed them in restrictive housing. It was then, ICE claims, that members of the caravan announced their hunger strike.

The Federal Government Is Setting Up to Protect the Elite from Nuclear Attack While Letting the Rest of Us Die

If a nuclear attack threatens the U.S., who is most likely to survive? It’s a question often explored in disaster films, and one that has resulted in the growth of an industry devoted to sheltering the wealthy and the powerful in the wake of a serious attack.

Journalist Garrett Graff explores this phenomenon in his new book, Raven Rock: The Story of the US Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself—While the Rest of Us Die, where he brings to light how the U.S. government has begun to renovate and strengthen secret bunkers across the country to protect high-ranking government officials from a nuclear attack. The book looks at the intensified effort by the government and Congress to fund the top secret “Continuity of Government” plan, and a preview from the New York Post details a number of hidden bunkers scattered across the country.

Stephen Colbert Zings Oliver Stone For 'Fawning' Putin Documentary

Maybe if Oliver Stone had interviewed Vladimir Putin the same way Stephen Colbert grilled Stone Monday on “The Late Show,” the director wouldn’t be criticized for “fawning” over the Russian president in his new Showtime documentary “The Putin Interviews.”

After watching a clip of Stone appearing to not follow up on Putin’s assertion that Russia “never interferes with the domestic affairs of other countries,” Colbert reminded Stone that some reviews describe the “Platoon” and “JFK” filmmaker as getting “too cozy” with Putin.

Stone said he had to be polite, but Colbert wasn’t having it.

“That doesn’t seem like an interview, that seems like an opportunity for him to merely propagandize,” the host said.

The somewhat awkward back-and-forth continued with Stone noting that he pressed Putin on a number of issues, including hacking and cyber warfare. But when Stone mentioned Putin’s “calmness” and “courtesy” in the face of being “insulted and abused,” Colbert asked if Stone found anything negative about the Russian leader. “Or does he have your dog in a cage someplace?”

Original Article
Author: Ron Dicker

Canada Hate Crime Increase Driven By Incidents Targeting Muslims, Arabs: StatCan

OTTAWA — Canadians are in denial about hate crimes, advocates said Tuesday, as Statistics Canada released new figures documenting a spike in police-reported incidents in 2015.

The agency reported crimes motivated by hate against the Muslim population rose by 61 per cent that year, with 159 incidents compared with 99 in 2014.

Uber Board Member Resigns After Making Sexist Joke At Company Meeting On Sexism

Uber board of directors member David Bonderman has resigned after making a sexist crack about his female colleagues at a Tuesday meeting on the company’s plans to address complaints of sexism and other workplace culture problems.

New York Times reporter Mike Isaac was first to report the news of the resignation, citing two people with knowledge of the decision.

What's Hidden Behind the Walls of US Prisons

Few Americans fully appreciate just how many of their fellow citizens are ensnared in the criminal justice system.

Some may have heard that there are about 2.3 million people behind bars, but that figure tells only part of the story. Yes, in a stunning array of 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 901 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails and 76 Indian Country jails, as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers and prisons in the US territories, we physically contain more human beings than any other country in the world. In addition to those actually locked up, there are another 840,000 Americans being supervised on parole and an additional 3.7 million people being monitored on probation.

Former UN Ambassador Susan Rice: Vladimir Putin is a Liar

Former U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice on Sunday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “lying” when he denied interfering with the U.S. election.

The comment came just days before former FBI Director James Comey was scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday about his meetings with President Donald Trump to discuss the investigation into Russian meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Trump fired Comey last month, admitting in a broadcast interview that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he did so.

Saudi Arabia Lavishes Conservative U.K. Officials With Gifts, Travel, And Plum Consultancies

New figures released by British Parliament show that, at a time when U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s ties to Saudi Arabia have become an election issue, conservative government officials and members of Parliament were lavished with money by the oil-rich Saudi government with gifts, travel expenses, and consulting fees.

Tory lawmakers received the cash as the U.K. backs Saudi Arabia’s brutal war against Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East.

Tomato-Paste Colonialism

A hundred workers were picking tomatoes in a field near Wusu, a town in northern Xinjiang Province, China, half way between the provincial capital, Ürümqi, and the border with Kazakhstan. Most were migrants from Sichuan Province, with a few Uyghurs. A teenage girl raised her cleaver above her head and cut off a leafy stem laden with ripe fruit. Another worker picked up the stem and shook it, and the tomatoes fell to the ground with a thud; gradually, the field was covered with red and green stripes. Men and women crouched down to fill big plasticized canvas sacks. They were earning 2.2 renminbi for each 25-kilogram sack, just over 1 US cent per kilo. “Me and my wife can sometimes fill 170 sacks in a day,” said one worker. That comes out at around $28 each, 10 times more than they earned in the early 2000s. But now they compete with machines imported from Italy.

Republicans and Democrats Continue to Block Drug Reimportation – After Publicly Endorsing It

Amidst all the angst and acrimony of last year's trench-warfare presidential campaign, there was one area in which the two major-party candidates purported to agree. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump favored allowing the importation of cheap drugs from Canada.

Drug reimportation would be a no-brainer policy move if actual human beings ran our government. Disgust with high prescription drug prices is nearly universal – 77 percent say drug prices are "unreasonable" – and 71 percent of respondents favor allowing the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada.

The gig economy goes to class

At the beginning of our second interview, the vice-principal asked me why I wanted to be a teacher. The paychecks, I thought to myself, then made something up about feeling a responsibility to society. The social responsibility thing was half true, but mostly I was broke and desperate for work; it was October 2010, and one year out of college, I was still struggling to find an entry-level job in an anemic economy. My savings were gone, and I was subsisting on food stamps. My rent-controlled sublease in San Francisco had expired — I had been staying with a girlfriend in a small town outside the Bay Area, and had driven four hours for the interview. Getting hired as a teacher seemed like a huge leap up from my previous low-wage part-time jobs, which included going door to door for the U.S. Census double-checking records (and angering residents, usually); and, prior to that, working at a minimum-wage Americorps job for a tree-planting nonprofit in San Jose.

'Boosting the economy from the bottom up': Why minimum wage hikes are a good thing

Critics of Ontario's recently announced move to raise the province's minimum wage to $15 an hour say it will hurt businesses and lead to job losses. But an analysis of more than seven decades of data out of the U.S. suggests the opposite is more likely to happen.

On Tuesday, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced that the minimum wage will rise to $14 an hour in 2018 and $15 in 2019, which prompted howls of protest on behalf of businesses.

Bell, Rogers, Telus raise some internet prices — while small providers drop theirs

Getting connected online is becoming more costly for some Canadians. Bell, Rogers and Telus are all hiking rates for select home internet plans this year.

"Here we go again — they've got their hand in my pocket," says Toronto Bell customer Larry McLean about his latest price increase.

How Populism Helped Wreck Venezuela

What’s the problem with populism? Why, in some circles, has the term acquired such a negative connotation? After all, you could argue that populism is simply the promotion of popular ideas with which elites disagree. You could think of it as a movement to uproot a political establishment that has become unresponsive to the public. But populism can also be described as a political logic by which politicians claim to exclusively represent the righteous people in a struggle against the corrupt elite. And the hazards of adhering to that logic are on display right now in Venezuela.

Professional Racist Richard Spencer Makes His Money Off Cotton Farms and Black Labor

As a professional racist, Richard Spencer’s career and life philosophy rest on a few basic bits of misinformation. The first is the innate supremacy of whiteness: The idea that white people’s superior inventiveness, strength and vision have made them high achievers who earned every bit of their status. The second is that non-white people (around the world, but particularly in the United States) serve only as a burden to white greatness. According to this historically revisionist theory, white people got to the top on their own, while people of color mostly just got in their way.

"We Don't Have the Rule of Law": Barrett Brown on Incarceration, Journalism and His Next Steps

Barrett Brown, who was arrested in 2012 and subsequently imprisoned for his reporting on hacked emails from private intelligence contracting firms, was unexpectedly back in the news recently after he was rearrested during a check-in for "failure to obtain permission" to speak to the press.

In 2011, Brown not only exposed that the private intelligence firm Stratfor had been snooping on activists on behalf of corporations, but also revealed plans by intelligence contractors to hack and smear activists.

Texas wants to criminalize helping people get abortions

Texas has advanced an omnibus anti-abortion bill that, among other things, lays the groundwork for criminalizing people who help women obtain abortion care.

Last week, the Texas Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor (22 to 9) to accept House amendments to SB8, the most stringent anti-choice bill to come out of the Lone Star state since 2013 (that year, Texas passed HB2, a notoriously restrictive abortion law that was later struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016). It is currently with Governor Greg Abbott (R), who is expected to sign it; pending approval, the law will take effect September 1.

Ireland Set to Have Its First Openly Gay Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar, a gay lawmaker, was elected the leader of Ireland’s ruling Fine Gael party on Friday, making him the country’s prime minister-elect, set to take power after the Irish parliament reconvenes in 10 days.

Varadkar, a doctor who served as health minister, came out about his sexuality during a live radio interview in 2015. Born in 1979 to an Indian doctor from Mumbai and an Irish Catholic nurse from County Waterford, he will also become Ireland’s youngest-ever taoiseach — the Irish word for “leader” — and the first son of an immigrant to lead the nation.

Putin: Patriotic Russians may be involved in hacking

Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested "patriotic" Russian citizens might be engaged in hacking.

Such individuals might be joining "the justified fight against those speaking ill of Russia," he said.

Like "artists" who get up and paint all day, he added, hackers spend their day attacking adversaries.

Boris Johnson says BBC debate audience was 'most leftwing ever seen'

Boris Johnson has added his voice to those claiming the studio audience for Wednesday night’s BBC leaders’ debate was biased against the Conservatives, calling it “the most leftwing audience I’ve ever seen”.

The foreign secretary’s comments echo those of other Conservatives, whose outcry prompted the Daily Mail to run the story on Thursday’s front page.

Russia escalates spy games after years of U.S. neglect

In the throes of the 2016 campaign, the FBI found itself with an escalating problem: Russian diplomats, whose travel was supposed to be tracked by the State Department, were going missing.

The diplomats, widely assumed to be intelligence operatives, would eventually turn up in odd places, often in middle-of-nowhere USA. One was found on a beach, nowhere near where he was supposed to be. In one particularly bizarre case, relayed by a U.S. intelligence official, another turned up wandering around in the middle of the desert. Interestingly, both seemed to be lingering where underground fiber-optic cables tend to run.

The Rage Gripping Venezuela Will Only End When Maduro Goes

Venezuela has exploded.

During the past two months of protests, stores and warehouses have been looted, government offices torched, statues of former President Hugo Chavez torn apart. As we write these words, at least 60 people have been killed, including four security officers. Two thousand nine hundred and fifty people have been arrested; 355 civilians have been processed by military tribunals.