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.]

Monday, July 17, 2017

America Is Suffering from a Plague of Deadly, Unaccountable and Racist Police Violence

A year ago on July 5, Alton Sterling was wrestled to the ground by two police officers. Moments later, he was shot and killed. The next day, Philando Castile was fatally shot by Officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop. His death was witnessed by his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her young daughter, and its aftermath livestreamed to Facebook by Reynolds.

This Is What’s Really Behind North Korea’s Nuclear Provocations

Donald Trump was having dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on February 11 when a message arrived mid-meal, courtesy of Pyongyang: North Korea had just tested a new, solid-fuel, intermediate-range ballistic missile, fired from a mobile—and therefore hard-to-detect—launcher. The president pulled out his 1990s flip-phone and discussed this event in front of the various people sitting within earshot. One of these diners, Richard DeAgazio, was suitably agog at the import of this weighty scene, posting the following comment on his Facebook page: “HOLY MOLY!!! It was fascinating to watch the flurry of activity at dinner when the news came that North Korea had launched a missile in the direction of Japan.”

China-Russia diplomatic double act exposes Trump's crudeness

The leaders of China and Russia have vowed to work together to peacefully defuse the deepening crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes – a diplomatic double act that contrasts sharply with Donald Trump’s crude threats and pressure tactics.

The joint declaration reflected a broader, ongoing strategic Sino-Russian alignment that has passed largely unremarked in the west. It has been encouraged by Trump’s often erratic, unfocused behaviour, and the resulting opportunities and dangers arising from weakened American global leadership.

We are still not free: Why I can’t celebrate the Fourth of July

As many gear up to celebrate Independence Day, I think it’s only right to take a step back recognize our citizens who still aren’t free. We all know that thousands of enslaved Africans were held hostage in America while the colonists fought for their own freedom from Great Britain. Many of those slaves strapped up and battled the Brits, too, with the hope of being freed after the war­­­­, and it didn’t happen. Andrew Jackson even promised freedom to the brave Africans who protected Louisiana — that  didn’t happen, either.

Members of Okanagan-Syilx Nation are unsettling Canada 150. It's time for Canadians to listen.

The point is to make you uncomfortable.

If you drive east through the sage-spotted Similkameen Valley, between Keremeos and Osoyoos, you'll be confronted with a billboard that reminds travellers of the difficult realities of colonization. A large illustration depicts industry, residential schooling, resource extraction, ecological distress, and at the bottom, an Okanagan family agitated by flames; their bodies representing the land, their hair, the water. In the top-right corner of the billboard, set below a stylized medicine wheel, it reads: "Rethink 150."

Howard Zinn’s July 4 Wisdom Stands the Test of Time

Editor’s Note: The late historian and Progressive columnist Howard Zinn shared these words with us back in 2006.  Eleven years later, for July 4, 2017, his message is still just as compelling  A World War II bombardier, Zinn was the author of the best-selling book A People’s History of the United States.

On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

America's 100 Other Declarations of Independence

The American War of Independence was fought from April 19, 1775 (Lexington and Concord) to September 3, 1783 (the Peace of Paris), and although Massachusetts and some other states observe the first of those dates as Patriots’ Day, neither has become a national holiday. It’s July 4, of course, that reigns as our undisputed Independence Day—the occasion for picnics and parades, festivities and fireworks, and star-spangled, red-white-and-blue kitsch. That was when the representatives at the Second Continental Congress, the 13 colonies’ newly formed governing body, signed the Declaration of Independence, our nation’s founding document, which is still often read aloud, 241 years later, at July 4 celebrations across the land.

6 best European Parliament bust-ups

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker let loose on the European Parliament during a plenary session in Strasbourg on Tuesday, where only a handful of the 750 MEPs showed up to hear Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat talk up his country’s presidency of the Council of the EU.

“The European Parliament is ridiculous, very ridiculous,” Juncker said, hitting the microphone with his arms as he gesticulated energetically. Parliament President Antonio Tajani was quick to reprimand him, insisting: “We are not ridiculous!”

Ottawa to pay $10.5M to Omar Khadr, government source says

A government source has confirmed to CBC News that Ottawa will apologize and pay millions of dollars in compensation to former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr.

Khadr — who confessed to killing a U.S. army medic when he was 15, under interrogation that was later deemed "oppressive" — will receive a settlement of $10.5 million, the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to CBC late Tuesday.

How Putin and Russia Use Powerful U.S. PR Firms to Shape American Opinion

The Russian attempt to influence the 2016 American presidential election, using what intelligence agencies call “active measures,” has dominated U.S. headlines.

There is, however, a second front in Russia’s effort to shape the hearts and minds of American citizens, and it’s received almost no attention in mainstream U.S. media outlets since the election.

As someone who studies the growth of global public relations, I’ve researched the roles PR firms play in shaping public perceptions of international affairs.

Egypt 'worse off on every indicator' since 2013 coup

Four years ago today, Egypt witnessed the overthrow of its first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in a military coup.

The Muslim Brotherhood member had been in office for just a year when army chief, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced his overthrow on state television, along with the suspension of the constitution and the installment of an interim government.

Guns And KKK Members At Gettysburg Confederate Rally, But No Foes To Fight

GETTYSBURG, Pa. ― A few hundred armed militia group members, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Ku Klux Klaners, supporters of President Donald Trump, and other self-described patriots descended upon the Gettysburg battlefield Saturday to defend the site’s Confederate symbols from phantom activists with the violent far-left group Antifa.

Some carried semi-automatic rifles ― permitted in Pennsylvania ― as they peered out across the battlefield with binoculars, on the lookout for the black-clad, face-masked anti-fascists, anarchists and socialists they said they had heard were traveling to the national park to dishonor Confederate graves, monuments and flags.

China Cracks Down On Web Videos, Censoring Queer Content

China laid out rules on Friday for online content from television dramas to cartoons and “micromovies”, formalizing and tightening the steps censors should take when vetting material under a tough crackdown across media and entertainment.

At least three “auditors” will have to check all movies, dramas, documentaries and animations posted online to ensure they adhere to “core socialist values”, the industry body the China Netcasting Services Association (CNSA) said.

By 2100, Refugees Would Be the Most Populous Country on Earth

The UN Refugee Agency has announced the new figures for the world’s displaced: 65.9 million. That means that 65.9 million human beings live as refugees, asylum seekers or as internally displaced people. If the refugees formed a country, it would be the 21st largest state in the world, just after Thailand (68.2 million) and just ahead of the United Kingdom (65.5 million). But unlike these other states, refugees have few political rights and no real representation in the institutions of the world.

Labour Chairman Ian Lavery Warns Party Shake-up Will Include MP Reselection

Labour is “too broad a church” and the current crop of MPs must “work very hard” to avoid deselection, the party’s new chairman has said.

Ian Lavery told HuffPost UK that Labour will also fund an army of new “community champions” to organise at a constituency level, as the leadership  eyes sweeping changes to the party’s power structure.

Thousands march in Hong Kong to show dissent for Chinese rule

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters have marched across Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese control with a high-profile show of dissent.

China’s president Xi Jinping, who had been in the former British colony on a three-day tour, flew out of Hong Kong just hours before the annual protest kicked off in Victoria Park on Saturday afternoon.

The Texas Supreme Court just gave a big, fat middle finger to same-sex couples

As the Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Constitution “entitles same-sex couples to civil marriage ‘on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.’” Indeed, just this week in Pavan v. Smith, the Court reaffirmed its holding that the benefits of marriage must be granted to same-sex couples “on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.”

Nevertheless, the Texas Supreme Court held on Friday that the benefits of marriage may not need to be granted to same-sex couples on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples. And the Texas court reached this frivolous conclusion in an unanimous opinion.

California Single-Payer Organizers Are Deceiving Their Supporters. It’s Time to Stop.

In the days since California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon shelved for the year SB562, which intends to establish a state single-payer health care system, he’s been subject to mass protests and even death threats. The bill’s chief backers, including the California Nurses Association and the Bernie Sanders-affiliated Our Revolution, angrily point to Rendon as the main roadblock to truly universal health care.

Sarin used in April Syria attack, chemical weapons watchdog confirms

The nerve agent sarin was used in an attack in April on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun and was likely to have spread from a crater in a road where a projectile had hit, the global chemical weapons watchdog has confirmed.

A report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also found that hexamine – a known component of the Syrian regime’s stockpiles – was contained in samples taken from the scene and from the blood and urine of victims.

Jason Chaffetz’s Pity Party Is Everything That Is Wrong With a 1 Percent Congress

A few months ago, Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz famously opined that Americans needed to make “a choice” between spending money on the latest iPhone or their health-care bills. Well, just as he’s about to quit Congress, Chaffetz is back in the news, only this time he’s oozing sympathy for people’s financial woes. Which people? Not folks like you and me; Chaffetz’s sympathy is reserved for his soon-to-be-former colleagues.

“We Were Attacked in 2016”: New Report Offers Solutions to Potential Election Hacks

Most of the attention about foreign influence in the 2016 presidential election has focused on President Donald Trump’s campaign: whether anyone in his team colluded with Russian interests, and the degree to which those interests sought to penetrate Trump’s inner circle. But recently a lesser-discussed thread has emerged as a more direct threat to our election system: The attempts by foreign actors to access state voter registration systems and the vulnerability of outdated and unaccountable voting machines.

Trudeau continuing Harper's path of marine madness

Who would have thought that could be the epitaph of Justin Trudeau’s environmental policies?

Of course, the prime minister did not kill the North Atlantic right whales. I’m sure he loves all fish and mammals. Somewhere there is probably a selfie of Justin and a fawning whale.

But neither did he put the deaths of these endangered creatures, now down to 500 worldwide, on his personal radar. He should have. It is Canada’s duty under international law to protect endangered species.

Moyers & Winship: NRA Issues Call for White Supremacy and Armed Insurrection

Take a look at the ad below and ask whether the National Rifle Association can go any lower. Ponder this flagrant call for violence, this insidious advocacy of hate delivered with a sneer, this threat of civil war, this despicable use of propaganda to arouse rebellion against the rule of law and the ideals of democracy.

On the surface this is a recruitment video for the National Rifle Association. But what you are really about to see is a call for white supremacy and armed insurrection, each word and image deliberately chosen to stir the feral instincts of troubled souls who lash out in anger and fear.

New batch of Turkish troops arrives in Qatar

Qatar's ministry of defence has announced the arrival of a new group of Turkish armed forces to the military base where Turkey began its training mission last week.

The forces are set to take part in joint exercises within the framework of a defence agreement signed between Doha and Ankara aimed at raising Qatar's defence capabilities, supporting "counter-terror" efforts, and maintaining security and stability in the region.

US-backed Syrian forces 'surround' ISIL in Raqqa

US-backed fighters have seized the last road into Raqqa, and now say they have completely encircled the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's (ISIL) de facto capital in northern Syria.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) "have completely surrounded and besieged the Islamic militants inside al-Raqqa city from all sides," the group said in a statement released late on Thursday.