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 14, 2017

It Took Two to Make Russian Meddling Effective

If there is one thing The Washington Post’s story on the Obama administration’s anemic response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election makes clear, it’s that it took two to make the meddling effective.

There is a reason the tactics Russia used on the American elections—which are similar to things they’ve done in former Soviet republics and in Europe—are referred to as “asymmetric warfare”: They embody the art of leverage, of doing a lot with a little. As former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress in May, the Russians “succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and at minimal cost.” The whole operation, according to Clapper, cost a mere $200 million—a pittance in military spending terms. But the Russians used that money not the way a conventional army would, but the way a band of guerrillas would, feeling around for pressure points, and pressing—or not. Though, as Bloomberg reported this month, the Russians were clearly exploring ways to attack voting infrastructure in parts of the country, it still appears they ultimately decided not to pull the trigger, sticking instead with the hack-and-dump and the manufacturing of fake news. “It was ad hoc,” an Obama administration official told me shortly after the inauguration. “They were kind of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what would stick.”

When Anti-Poverty Programs for Immigrants Are Used to Bolster the Surveillance State

Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric demonizing refugees and immigrants reached its apotheosis as he arrived in the state of Minnesota last November. During a rally, the then-candidate decried the presence of Somali refugees in the state, declaring that Minnesotans had “suffered enough” from admitting them. “Here in Minnesota you have seen firsthand the problems caused with faulty refugee vetting, with large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state, without your knowledge, without your support or approval,” Trump said.

How Union-Busting Bosses Propel the Right Wing to Power

U.S. bosses fight unions with a ferocity that is unmatched in the so-called free world. In the early days of the republic, master craftsmen prosecuted fledgling unions as criminal conspiracies that aimed to block their consolidation of wealth and property. During modern times, corporations threaten the jobs of pro-union workers in over half of all union elections—and follow through on the threat one-third of the time. In between, bosses have resorted to spies and frame-ups, physical violence, court injunctions, private armies of strikebreakers, racist appeals and immigrant exploitation.

Missouri Advances Bill Allowing Employers to Fire Women for Using Birth Control

On Tuesday, the Missouri House of Representatives voted in favor of Senate Bill 5, which would modify statewide provisions relating to abortion. Changes would affect local abortion policies, tissue reports, employee disclosure policies and abortion facility inspections.

Pitched as an expansion of religious freedom for employers and landlords, the bill would overturn a St. Louis city ordinance that prevented discrimination against women who have had abortions. The new law would allow employers to fire female employees for having had abortions or using birth control. It would extend the privilege of discrimination to landlords, who could evict women for getting an abortion, getting pregnant out of wedlock or using birth control.

Paul Ryan Jumps At 'Once-in-a-Generation Moment' To Make the Rich Richer

Paul Ryan got some bad news this week. With just under two years until the next Congressional election, he has a second primary challenger for his seat in Wisconsin's 1st district.

On Monday, union ironworker Randy Bryce announced his candidacy, explaining in a video that he “decided to run for office because not everybody is seated at the table. And it’s time to make a bigger table.”

What keeps Trudeau smiling? The alternatives.

Assuming Justin Trudeau isn’t planning a summer retreat to the Aga Khan’s island, he’s well positioned to enjoy Canada’s Big Birthday Bash.

The House of Commons is in summer recess. Political machinations have yielded to a yen for margaritas and merry-making. Who would you rather party with — Justin Trudeau or Andrew Scheer, that smiling reboot of Stephen Harper who wants to put flags on gas pumps?

The Supreme Court Defends the Integrity of U.S. Citizenship

The U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the scope under which the federal government can strip naturalized Americans of their citizenship on Thursday, ruling that false statements made during the naturalization process had to be relevant to gaining citizenship in order to justify revoking it later.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for a unanimous Court in Maslenjuk v. United States, said that using small omissions or minor lies to denaturalize immigrants went beyond what Congress authorized. “The statute it passed, most naturally read, strips a person of citizenship not when she committed any illegal act during the naturalization process, but only when that act played some role in her naturalization,” she wrote.

Lawmaker says he won’t hold town halls because of ‘people screaming’

Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) told a local radio station on Tuesday that he doesn’t intend to hold any town halls because “just having a town hall setting where people are screaming doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Renacci said that if his constituents have concerns, he’s happy to meet with them one on one.

In Defense of Nancy Pelosi

Jon Ossoff’s disappointing loss in Tuesday’s special election in Georgia has triggered rebellious feelings within the Democratic rank-and-file, as some call for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to step aside. “I think you’d have to be an idiot to think we could win the House with Pelosi at the top,” Filemon Vela, a congressman from Texas, told Politico. “Nancy Pelosi is not the only reason that Ossoff lost. But she certainly is one of the reasons.” Vela’s impassioned comments are all the more startling because he supported Pelosi in the leadership race in November, when Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio ran as the populist alternative. While Pelosi won decisively, 134 to 63, Ryan did well enough to prove that congressional Democrats were, like the broader party, deeply divided.

Why Is Syria Hell on Earth? Here’s the Ugly but True Answer…

The son of the president was driving way too fast through the early morning fog. He was rushing to the airport to catch a flight to Germany. He missed the exit to the airport. Lost control of his sports car. Smashed it into a barrier. The car flipped numerous times. When it came to a stop, the son of the president was dead. He was 33. His name was Basil al-Assad.

The first son was so beloved by his father that the president was fond of being called Abu Basil, which translates as “Father of Basil.” As heir apparent to his father, Basil’s sudden violent death was a shock to the family, and a stunning blow to the future of the nation and its people. The second son was never intended to be a leader. He was off in London, training to be an eye doctor. But following the death of Abu Basil’s first son, Fate left the younger brother as de facto next-in-line to become president of Syria. You know this man’s name: Bashar al-Assad.

Rachel Maddow on Wednesday drew a line between the scattered details emerging about Russia’s targeting of individual precincts in the 2016 election and the voter data gathered by Donald Trump’s team and the GOP.

Maddow pointed to Homeland security officials’ testimony Wednesday that at least 21 states were targeted by Russian hacking during the 2016 election.

Russia Cancels Diplomatic Meeting With U.S. in Wake of Latest Sanctions

MOSCOW — The Kremlin voiced displeasure Wednesday about new United States sanctions against Russia and called off much-anticipated talks with a senior U.S administration official in response.

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it had imposed sanctions on 38 Russian individuals and firms over Russian activities in Ukraine. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the penalties were designed to “maintain pressure on Russia to work toward a diplomatic solution.”

A Lesson From My Hospital Bed: For-Profit Health Care Is a Merciless Sham

I came out of it for the first time in near darkness, couldn't lift my arms, couldn't lift my legs, couldn't rise to a sitting position, and there was a breathing mask over my nose and mouth methodically forcing air down my throat. I quickly learned to inhale with its rhythm. I had no idea where or when I was. Suddenly there was a bright light in my eyes and then faces, faces, barely visible, hands touching and voices murmuring too low to comprehend. Someone fiddled with the IV in my left hand and I floated away again.

Natural Born Buddies: The Shared Ideology of Oliver Stone and Vladimir Putin

“Have you ever been beaten?”

This is the question Vladimir Putin, barely suppressing a mischievous smile, asks Oliver Stone at the conclusion of The Putin Interviews, Stone’s ambitious, illuminating, and often bonkers series of conversations with the Russian strongman.

“Beaten?” Stone responds. “Oh yes, I’ve been beaten.”

“So it’s not going to be something new,” Putin says, now openly chuckling, “because you are going to suffer for what you are doing!”

“I know,” Stone says, nodding. “But it’s worth it.”

Vladimir Putin’s man in the Balkans

MOSCOW — If appearances are to be believed, Vladimir Putin has a new point man in the Balkans.

Nikolai Patrushev, a Kremlin hawk, career intelligence officer and close associate of the Russian president, is the head of Russia’s Security Council, known for his fiery nationalism, conspiratorial world view and extensive espionage experience.

The UN Just Called Out New York for Its Dangerous Anti-Abortion Policy

On Tuesday, the United Nations took a rare step and weighed in on a reproductive rights bill currently languishing in the New York state Senate and urged legislators to pass the legislation before the session ends tomorrow.

The bill, called the Reproductive Health Act, would remove language from New York law that makes getting an abortion after 24 weeks a criminal act—even when the pregnancy is a threat to the woman’s health or when the fetus is not viable—and another statute that criminalizes self-induced abortion. The two statutes in question, which have been on the books since before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal, make New York one of only a handful of states that explicitly make it illegal for a woman to end her own pregnancy.

Theresa May Wants To Fight Islamophobia in the U.K.? You Must Be Joking.

“There has been far too much tolerance of extremism,” declaimed Theresa May, standing outside Downing Street on Monday morning, “… and that means extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia.”

The British prime minister was speaking in the aftermath of a brutal terror attack near a London mosque in which a man drove a van into a group of Muslim worshippers. The alleged attacker, according to eyewitnesses, shouted: “I want to kill all Muslims.”

Jill Stein Isn’t Sorry

Had a few thousand votes in key Midwestern states gone to Hillary Clinton instead of Jill Stein, many on the left believe, America might be having a very different conversation today.

Instead, Democrats are still fuming about the role the Green Party nominee may have played in electing Donald Trump—who as president has celebrated the coal industry, promised to pull the United States out of the world’s most important climate agreement and refused to even say whether he believes global warming is real. All of that should be anathema to a party whose founding principles include a commitment to “ecological wisdom.”

European disunion

LONDON — As EU leaders meet this week, they will do so with a spring in their step. Economic growth is returning, pro-European candidates won out in the Netherlands and France, and Brexit looks like it could become a source of unity on the Continent rather than division. Among core EU members, there’s talk of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to spark genuine political and economic renewal. But as the focus turns to where the Union goes next, a new Chatham House report shows there is no consensus among the public or Europe’s elites about integration, and important divides remain in how different groups view the Union’s future.

Australia suspends air missions over Syria amid US-Russia tensions

Australia has suspended air combat missions over Syria after Russia threatened that it would treat any plane from the US-led coalition flying west of the Euphrates river as a potential target.

Russia said it was responding to US planes shooting down a Syrian air force jet on Sunday. The US said its planes had acted to defend US-backed forces seeking to capture Raqqa, the Islamic State (Isis) stronghold in north-east Syria.