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 13, 2017

Are Russian Operatives Attacking Putin Critics in the U.S.?

On a Sunday night in February, 2007, “Dateline NBC,” the news show, aired a segment about the strange case of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident who died under mysterious circumstances in London. On the show, several guests argued that his death was an assassination, carried out on orders from Vladimir Putin. The Russian President denied any involvement in Litvinenko’s death.

Among the “Dateline NBC” guests who accused Putin was Paul Joyal, a former government official and an expert on Russian affairs. On a rainy night, four days later, Joyal pulled up to his house, in Adelphi, Maryland, and was attacked by two men. As he wrestled one of the men to the ground, he heard him say to his partner, “Shoot him.” The second man pulled the trigger on a 9-mm. pistol and hit Joyal in the abdomen, then pointed the gun at Joyal’s head and pulled the trigger. The pistol misfired, and then Joyal’s dog, inside his house, began to bark. His wife, also inside, turned on the lights. The two men ran off.

Think Christy Clark Will Go Quietly? Think Again

Don’t think for a second that it’s Christy Clark’s nature to go quietly into the night. In response, the BC NDP and Greens may have no choice other than to forge a pact to work together in a snap election.

During the press conference in which Clark responded to the agreement between the BC NDP and Greens to co-operate in a minority government, TV cameras caught a glimpse of her speaking notes. The biggest word written on the page was “humble”; apparently she was reminding herself to dial down her signature scrappiness and appear gracious.

Nine Things the Real Estate Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

You’ve heard it a million times. The reason so few of us can afford Vancouver is because there aren’t enough new homes being built. This is the version of reality that real estate industry leaders and their political allies want us to believe.

But an investigation of the industry by The Tyee has revealed reality to be much more complex. Over the past six months I spoke at length with financial analysts, economists, industry consultants, realtors and many others to learn the true causes of Vancouver’s housing crisis and who is profiting from it. They were in broad agreement that real estate is at the centre of a massive realignment between our society’s rich and poor — and one that few leaders in the industry seem willing to publicly acknowledge. Here are the key takeaways from those conversations.

Don’t believe the hype about Russia’s hypersonic missile

Every missile is a carefully packaged bad day traveling at high speeds. Hypersonic missiles are a modern development in the long-running military arms race to figure out just how certain that bad end is for the humans on the receiving end. Russia’s Zircon missile could enter arsenals as early as 2018. Despite headlines to the contrary, not enough about the missile is known yet to definitely claim that it poses an uncounterable threats ships in the sea.

Why did Russia mess with our presidential election?

Quora Questions are part of a partnership between Newsweek and Quora, through which we'll be posting relevant and interesting answers from Quora contributors throughout the week. Read more about the partnership here.

Answer from Jim Moore, Journalist:
We need to be clear on one point right from the start: Russia’s leaders and operatives don’t do anything for “the heck of it.”

TX governor signs bill allowing providers to deny LGBTQ youth child welfare services

On Thursday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill that will allow child welfare service providers to decline to provide certain kinds of care based on “the provider’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” The bill, House Bill 3859, will permit discrimination against LGBTQ couples wishing to adopt children, in addition to allowing LGBTQ children to be placed under the agencies’ care in “religious education.” The bill goes into effect in September.

People In Northern Ireland Reveal Their Fears Over A Deal Between The DUP And The Tories

“That’s where I was shot,” Jason O’Halloran says as his black cab slows down. The Belfast taxi tour guide has spent more than a decade recovering from the events of one night in 2002 when he was shot by loyalist gunmen, becoming one of the last victims of a sectarian conflict which consumed Northern Ireland for more than 30 years.

But his efforts to look forward, not back, at the events of the past have been challenged by fresh political turmoil in the state - and negotiations between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Theresa May’s minority government at Westminster.

Elizabeth Warren's Inspiring Response to the Alexandria Shootings

While promoting her new book on "CBS This Morning" Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) took a moment to acknowledge the shooting that took place in Alexandria, Virginia during a congressional baseball practice early Wednesday morning.

The Police Officer Who Killed Philando Castile Is Found Not Guilty

When we got to the governor’s house, on Summit Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota, a hot rain exploded onto the protesters, the kind that offers no relief, no break in the weather, just an even worse humidity, if that’s possible in a Minnesota summer. I had walked along the protesters for a short distance, a block or two, from the elementary school where Philando Castile worked serving lunch to kids, to the governor’s house. At the front of the protest was Castile’s family and his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, crying as she held up a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt—Reynolds, along with her 4-year-old daughter, witnessed a police officer shoot and kill Castile in his car after he announced to the officer that he had a licensed gun in the glove compartment.

Cashing in on the Rise of the Alt-Right

In early June, just days after a white supremacist stabbed two people to death on a Portland commuter train in an alleged hate crime, Kyle Chapman eagerly headed north from his home in the Bay Area. The recently minted social-media star known as Based Stick Man was scheduled to speak at a “free speech” rally in Portland, which he’d helped promote. At the edge of Terry Schrunk Plaza, he denounced the hundreds of anti-fascist counterprotesters—”libtards” and “masked thugs,” as he put it—who’d gathered on the other side of a police line, reveling in the news that some had already “rushed across the street and tried to attack one of our guys.”

Manitoba's unions are ready to fight proposed labour legislation

Manitoba's labour leaders are pushing back against new legislation they say drastically reduces workers' rights and puts Manitobans' health care at risk.

Earlier this month, the provincial government passed Bill 28 and Bill 29. Bill 28, The Public Services Sustainability Act, creates a rolling four-year period of wage freezes or minimal wage increases. Bill 29, The Health Sector Bargaining Review Act, dramatically decreases the number of unions in the health-care sector, and could possibly pit unions against each other.

Will Justin be the second Trudeau to get his clock cleaned by B.C.?

Justin Trudeau has entered the slide zone.

It’s an unvarying law of politics. When you have no competition, you begin to slide.

Trudeau’s trouble is that there is no government-in-waiting right now. There’s just a social conservative political lifer living in hope that Canadians will forget his Harper roots, and a void in the NDP leadership that won’t be filled for months.

The Tired Myth That Progressives Lack Empathy Is Hardly the Problem

If I have to read one more article blaming liberal condescension toward the red states and the white working class for the election of Trump, I’m moving to Paris, France. These pieces started coming out even before the election and are still pouring down on our heads. Just within the last few weeks, the New Republic had Michael Tomasky deploring “elite liberal suspicion of middle America” for such red-state practices as churchgoing and gun owning and The New York Times had Joan Williams accusing Democrats of impugning the “social honor” of working-class whites by talking about them in demeaning and condescending ways, as exemplified by such phrases as “flyover states,” “trailer trash,” and “plumber’s butt.” Plumber’s butt? That was a new one for me. And that’s not even counting the 92,346 feature stories about rural Trump voters and their heartwarming folkways. (“I played by the rules,” said retired rancher Tom Grady, 66, delving into the Daffodil Diner’s famous rhubarb pie. “Why should I pay for some deadbeat’s trip to Europe?”) I’m still waiting for the deep dives into the hearts and minds of Clinton supporters—what concerns motivated the 94 percent of black women voters who chose her? Is there nothing of interest there? For that matter, why don’t we see explorations of the voters who made up the majority of Trump’s base, people who are not miners or unemployed factory workers but regular Republicans, most quite well-fixed in life? (“I would vote for Satan himself if he promised to cut my taxes,” said Bill Thorberg, a 45-year-old dentist in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “I’m basically just selfish.”) There are, after all, only around 75,000 coal miners in the entire country, and by now every one of them has been profiled in the Times.

I’ve covered Obamacare since day one. I’ve never seen lying and obstruction like this

Republicans do not want the country to know what is in their health care bill.

This has become more evident each day, as the Senate plots out a secretive path toward Obamacare repeal — and top White House officials (including the president) consistently lie about what the House bill actually does.

There was even a brief moment Tuesday where Senate Republicans flirted with the idea of banning on-camera interviews in congressional hallways, a plan quickly reversed after outcry from the press.

Infighting Is Good for the Democratic Party

The populist uprising championed by Senator Bernie Sanders, now America’s most (only?) popular politician, gathered at the People’s Summit in Chicago last weekend. Over 4,000 activists redoubled their commitment to move from “resistance to power.” That commitment poses a direct challenge to the Democratic party’s leaders.

A front-page report in The New York Times (“Democrats in Split Screen: The Base Wants it All; the Party Wants to Win”) summarized the perspective of the party’s political establishment. The party’s elected leaders and operatives have “a cold-eyed recognition” of the need to “scrounge for votes in forbidding districts” if Democrats are to take back a gerrymandered Congress. Their model is 2006, when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, headed by Rahm Emanuel, purposefully recruited centrist challengers who focused on raising money and ran by tailoring their views to fit their district.

Russia’s Massive Protests Reveal a Government Playing by Outdated Rules

Lines of riot police officers were shoving protesters down Tverskaya street and arresting people on Pushkin Square. Yet the crowd, largely teens and 20-somethings, kept surging forward toward the action, chanting, “Putin is a thief!” and “Russia will be free!” Thousands had come out on Monday for an anti-corruption protest called by Alexei Navalny, who wants to challenge Vladimir Putin for the presidency next year. Cheers went up as young men scrambled up onto balconies and roofs to wave Russian flags.

Reality Winner Wrote She Wanted To 'Burn The White House Down,' Prosecutor Says

AUGUSTA, Ga. ― Government contractor Reality Winner made explosive comments about burning down the White House in notebooks the FBI found in her Augusta, Georgia, residence, according to a prosecutor who spoke in U.S. District Court on Thursday.

Winner pleaded not guilty to charges of leaking classified government information. She was denied bail.

Newly Threatened by Terror, Iran’s Cold Conflict With Saudi Arabia Could Escalate

In the early hours of June 7, a group of six people — five men and one woman — launched coordinated terrorist attacks against two sites in Tehran, hitting the Iranian Parliament and the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Witnesses at the Parliament described attackers who were armed with assault rifles and wearing suicide vests, randomly targeting bystanders on a Wednesday morning. By the time that security forces were able to neutralize the attackers, at least 12 civilians lay dead, with another 42 reported wounded. The atrocity was claimed almost immediately by the Islamic State, in an online statement that also included video footage taken from the scene of the attacks.

Let's Find Out the Truth About the Beating of Americans by Erdogan's Turkish Security

Members of President Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail beat up protesters in Washington, DC on May 16. Eleven people were injured and two hospitalized.

The Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats of the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on May 25 to consider “Violence Outside the Turkish Ambassador’s Residence.” Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said at the hearing: “The attack by members of President Erdogan’s security detail on peaceful protesters earlier this month was offensive and showed a deep disrespect for the United States and the values we cherish. Those responsible should be punished as the law allows and I call on our own authorities to make sure such a situation is never again allowed to occur.”

Barack Obama Refutes Authoritarianism: 'The Future Does Not Belong to Strongmen'

In a speech on Tuesday in front of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, former President Barack Obama offered ominous warnings about the dangers of authoritarian rule and several implicit critiques of the Trump administration.

Obama opened with a quick survey of the "old divisions and fresh hatreds" that are currently dominating news headlines. "It seems like the international order ... is being constantly tested and the center may not hold," he said. Times of social and economic stress "lead people to search for certainty and control," he continued. "They can call for isolationism or nationalism, or they can suggest rolling back the rights of others."

Israeli Companies Profit From Technology Perfected Over 50 Years of Occupation

On March 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo flew to Israel to show solidarity with Jews amidst an uptick in anti-Semitism in New York.

But the trip also doubled as the kick-off for a new project meant to bring Israel and New York closer together.

Inside the opulent King David Hotel in Jerusalem, Cuomo announced the creation of the New York-Israel Commission, an initiative to strengthen the already-robust ties between Israel and the state with the largest number of Jews in the United States.

Britain’s election shocker: Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May neck-and-neck in final stretch

A funny thing is happening on the way to the June 8 snap election in the United Kingdom. Despite two vicious terror attacks apparently inspired by ISIS — the Manchester Arena bombing that killed at least 22 people, many of them children, and another on the iconic London Bridge that killed seven and left 22 critically injured — polls suggest that British voters aren’t fleeing in panic to the current Conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May. In fact, contrary to all expectations, they continue to swing toward May’s hard-left Labour Party opponent, Jeremy Corbyn, with the latest poll showing the two parties neck-and-neck.

Liberals break pension plan promise with Bill C-27

On October 19, 2016, the anniversary of the Liberal government's election, Finance Minister Bill Morneau introduced his Target Benefit Plan (Bill C-27). It establishes a framework for target benefit pensions in the federal private sector and Crown corporations. The bill was introduced without any press release and no advance notice to unions, pension plan members or retirees, and no public consultation.

Everything You Need to Know About the Single-Payer Fight in California

As Donald Trump and congressional Republicans struggle to repeal Obamacare, Democrats in the nation’s most populous state are pushing a very different reform proposal that would radically change the way health care is paid for. Last week, the California Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that would demolish the state’s current insurance plans and replace them with a single-payer system that would provide comprehensive treatment to all residents free of charge. The measure is still a long way from becoming law, but progressives already see it as a model for how states can expand access to care even as Republicans at the national level try to roll back coverage.

'Progress does not always move in a straight line': Obama in Montreal

He gives good speech.

Barack Obama has the unique gift of being able to couch everything he did — including his shortcomings — in reams of mellifluous, stirring words. Read anything he ever said about gun control in the U.S. or the Assad regime in Syria, and you never would guess that these were two notable failures of his administration. His words compensate for those failures, and bring goosebumps to his many successes.

Russian hackers to blame for sparking Qatar crisis, FBI inquiry finds

An investigation by the FBI has concluded that Russian hackers were responsible for sending out fake messages from the Qatari government, sparking the Gulf’s biggest diplomatic crisis in decades.

It is believed that the Russian government was not involved in the hacks; instead, freelance hackers were paid to undertake the work on behalf of some other state or individual. Some observers have claimed privately that Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates may have commissioned the hackers.

May: I’ll rip up human rights laws that impede new terror legislation

Theresa May has declared she is prepared to rip up human rights laws to impose new restrictions on terror suspects, as she sought to gain control over the security agenda just 36 hours before the polls open.

The prime minister said she was looking at how to make it easier to deport foreign terror suspects and how to increase controls on extremists where it is thought they present a threat but there is not enough evidence to prosecute them.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Tackle Islam or face civil war

A decade ago, when Ayaan Hirsi Ali was forced to leave her adopted homeland of the Netherlands, a former colleague by the name of Geert Wilders had just launched his own, far-right political party.

The rise of Wilders and his fellow populists since then has been “alarming,” she said, and it will only get worse if the establishment keeps ignoring “the voice of the people” and doesn’t “acknowledge the issue of Islam.”

FBI Arrests Federal Contractor In Leak Of NSA Report On Russian Hacking Effort

WASHINGTON ―  A government contractor in Georgia was arrested this weekend after a classified National Security Agency report was leaked on an alleged cyberattack attempt by Russian military intelligence officers on a voting software company and local election officials.

Reality Leigh Winner, a 25-year-old federal contractor for Pluribus International Corp. who had a top secret security clearance and was working at a government agency, was arrested by FBI agents Saturday at her home in Augusta, Georgia, according to the Justice Department.

Dark money is fueling Karen Handel’s campaign for Congress

In September 2008 — a time before the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling would open the flood gates for dark money to pour into politics — a little-known, conservative state senator in Georgia made a play to help Republicans in his state win elections.

Then–Sen. John Wiles (R) knew that if he could lift Georgia’s law that banned outside groups from purchasing anonymous mailers, he could transform the way his party conducts campaigns. He declared at the time that he would “not support any effort to regulate anonymous political speech.”

How the Six-Day War Changed Israel’s Mind

Fifty years ago today, on June 5, 1967, we awoke to the news that the war we had dreaded was begun—and decided. I was eighteen, had just finished my freshman year at McGill, and was living with my father, who had been a Zionist leader in Montreal during the nineteen-fifties and had recently married an Israeli woman. During the previous month, grim reports had come to us in rushed calls from Tel Aviv: Israel’s mobilized reserves were baking in the Negev Desert; seaside hotels were being converted to makeshift hospitals. In April, there had been conflict with Syria over the headwaters of the Jordan River; in May, President Nasser, of Egypt, brandishing new Soviet arms and claiming to support Syria, expelled United Nations peacekeepers from the Sinai and closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. By early June, Jordan’s King Hussein had thrown in with Egypt. We knew that the Israeli military would strike. I heard that students were contacting the Israeli consulate and volunteering—not to fight but to help with the summer harvest. On June 3rd, I surprised myself by doing the same. On the morning of the 5th, the Israeli Air Force destroyed the Egyptian Air Force on the ground. The rest, as my father put it, with uncharacteristic swagger, would be “a mopping-up operation.” Unopposed in the skies, Israel conquered Jerusalem on the 7th and rolled into the West Bank. By the 11th, it had taken the Golan Heights, from where Syrians had fired on the Hula Valley. I got to Tel Aviv on June 14th, to work, but mainly to celebrate.

A 50-Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War Started With a Lie

Fifty years ago, between June 5 and June 10, 1967, Israel invaded and occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. The Six-Day War, as it would later be dubbed, saw the Jewish David inflict a humiliating defeat on the Arab Goliath, personified perhaps by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt.

“The existence of the Israeli state hung by a thread,” the country’s prime minister, Levi Eshkol, claimed two days after the war was over, “but the hopes of the Arab leaders to annihilate Israel were dashed.” Genocide, went the argument, had been prevented; another Holocaust of the Jews averted.

1967 war: How Israel occupied the whole of Palestine

Fifty years ago this week, the state of Israel shocked the world when it seized the remaining Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights, and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, in a matter of six days.

In a war with Egypt, Jordan and Syria, known as the 1967 War, or the June War, Israel delivered what came to be known as the "Naksa", meaning setback or defeat, to the armies of the neighbouring Arab countries, and to the Palestinians who lost all what remained of their homeland.

America's Biggest Terrorist Threat? The Far-Right White Male

The murder in College Park, Maryland of Richard Collins III, an African-American student who had recently been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and was days away from his graduation from Bowie State University, underscores the violence of America’s far-right wing. Sean Urbanski, the University of Maryland student who allegedly stabbed Collins to death, belongs to a racist Facebook group called Alt-Reich: Nation.

9 of the Most Staggeringly Awful Statements Republicans Have Made About Health Care Just This Year

In 2009, Rep. Alan Grayson characterized the Republican approach to health care as “don’t get sick, and if you do, die quickly.” Eight years later, the Florida Democrat’s words ring truer than ever, especially in light of the House's passage of the American Health Care Act.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would deprive 23 million of health insurance by 2026, resulting in substantial premium hikes and out-of-pocket expenses for older Americans and people with preexisting conditions. And the more Republicans are confronted with the devastating consequences of Trumpcare, the more evident it becomes how clueless they are on the Affordable Care Act specifically and health care more generally.

CPC = Cheating Party of Canada

Andrew Scheer has begun his stint as Conservative leader with a Howdy-Doody smile — and an epical face-plant.

Despite serious questions being raised about whether the vote that put him in Stornaway was rigged, the 38-year-old political lifer maintains it’s a party matter.

The logic behind that posture is seriously skewed. It goes something like this: since the CPC ran the convention, and the CPC has publicly stood behind the result, it’s none of his business to comment on the possibility that his victory may not only be tainted, but invalid.  Pontius Pilate couldn’t have said it better.