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.]

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

You can't 'work' with Putin. You can only isolate him.

A recent exclusive in the Washington Post exposes the fundamental error at the heart of the West’s policy towards Russia.

Russia continues to divide Europe and the world into spheres of influence, through an active hybrid war which masterfully utilizes manipulation of the media, influencing politicians, economic blackmail and military aggression in order to secure itself an outsized influence on global events.

Seth Rich’s family pleads to end conspiracy theories

Seth Rich was murdered in the early-morning hours of July 10, 2016 in Washington, D.C., on his way home from a local bar. He was found still conscious and breathing, but died of his gunshot wounds at a hospital. A year later, his death continues to fuel far-right conspiracy theories—so much so that Rich’s parents and brother are pleading with everyone to stop.

Black-market bots, duped humans are responsible for derailing elections with fake news

After combing through 17 million tweets in the 10 days leading up to the French presidential election, a new study was able to determine exactly when and how Twitter bots fueled a disinformation campaign against now-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, Venture Beat reported.

The study, led by computer science researcher Emilio Ferrara at the University of Southern California, discovered a subset of those 17 million tweets from more than 2 million Twitter users dedicated to spreading false documents dubbed the Macron Leaks that discussing the election.

Germany’s G20 blame game

BERLIN — If there’s one thing Germans hate more than most people, it’s admitting a screw-up.

It should come as little surprise, then, that the finger-pointing over the violence at the Hamburg G20 was in full swing even before the ink dried on the summit communiqué. Conservatives blamed Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrat (SPD) mayor of Hamburg who predicted there wouldn’t be any major disruptions to the summit, while some on the center left attacked Chancellor Angela Merkel for staging the meeting in a city with a long tradition of leftist violence. Though Scholz, once seen as a possible SPD leader, described the crisis as his “toughest hour,” he said he wouldn’t step down.

Cut the mouth-foaming: This is the cost of grinding a citizen's life into dust

A lot has been written about the apology and compensation the Trudeau government has given to Omar Khadr – much of it hysterical and inflammatory.

A question: Why do I feel as though we have all been transported back to Salem?

The Khadr commentary has been more foaming at the mouth than fact-driven – the outstanding exception being Michelle Shephard of The Toronto Star.

G20 violence prompts calls for new curbs on anti-capitalist militants

Allies of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, have called for new curbs on leftwing extremists, including a Europe-wide register, after her decision to hold the G20 world leaders’ summit in Hamburg ended in violent clashes and injuries to nearly 500 police officers.

The cost of the damage has not yet been established but is expected to run into millions of euros. Merkel, who faces a parliamentary election on 24 September, has said that Hamburg residents who suffered damage will be properly compensated.

How Israel’s 10-Year Blockade Brought Gaza to the Brink of Collapse

The stories read like dispatches from a nightmare, describing a reality that is almost too extreme to fathom: nearly 2 million people locked inside a land mass the size of Philadelphia, the borders carefully controlled, the movement of goods and humans severely restricted; as much as 72 percent of the population facing food insecurity and 41 percent struggling with unemployment; hospitals forced to rely on generators for life-saving equipment, while supplies of life-saving medicines dwindle to dangerous levels; and looming in the not-far-off distance, as water treatment and desalination plants stop working, the risk that drinking water will run out.

Donald Trump signs off on Obama’s Iran deal, which he promised to scrap

President Donald Trump has certified that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal reached under President Barack Obama, although he added in his message to Congress that Iran is also “unquestionably in default of the spirit” of the deal.

The Dangers of the Increasingly Dominant Alt-Right Presence on Social Media

This week saw President Trump cross yet another line in his use of his Twitter account.  Trump tweeted a meme of himself symbolically beating up CNN.  While to some it might have appeared to be a funny way to epitomize Trump’s feud with CNN, to many the meme was aggressive, immature and inflammatory. CNN took the attacks seriously and released a statement stating, “It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters.”

There are lots of questions to be asked about the tweet, not the least of which is what it tells us about the judgment of the president and those who work with him.  But the real story here is not about Trump; it’s about the increasing power and presence of alt-right communication on various social media platforms, from Twitter to YouTube to Reddit to Facebook.

Why Isn’t Voter Suppression Considered Political Corruption?

On Election Day last November, Gladys Harris, 66, of Milwaukee went to cast her vote for president of the United States. Harris had lost her driver’s license shortly before the election, but she was sure the process would go smoothly. After all, she is a U.S. citizen and brought her Social Security and Medicare cards, along with a county-issued bus pass with her photo to the polls to verify her identity. Still, Harris was denied the right to vote and turned away from the polls.

I'm a journalist ... and I'm here to help

For as long as I can remember, I have been trying to pick the lock of the truth with words.

It has been an enterprise with mixed results. As a journalist who can recognize an SOS no matter how well it is disguised, I have answered many calls for help over the years.

This may come as a surprise to those who — in these Trumpian days of lies and madness in high office — revile reporters and the entire news industry, but it’s true nonetheless: Journalists remain the Hail Mary option for a lot of ordinary people in trouble. After the doomed court case, the feckless appeal, the dubious letter to the MP, the scribbler is often the last resort of the hopeless.

Make No Mistake, Canada Doesn't Owe Omar Khadr An Apology

It is morally reprehensible that the Trudeau government is reportedly considering an agreement to offer convicted terrorist Omar Khadr a full "apology" and award him more than $10 million in compensation. Despite what this government wants Canadians to believe, Omar Khadr is not a victim.

Omar Khadr is a convicted terrorist and war criminal. His personal and deliberate actions took the life of medic Sergeant First Class (SFC) Christopher Speer from his wife and young children. Mr. Khadr was an active and willing member of the Taliban. He built and planted bombs for the Taliban. He worked as a translator for the terrorist organization. His conscious and deliberate, premeditated and violent actions, fuelled by a devotion to intolerance and hate, deserve the strongest condemnation. They should not be rewarded.

U.S. Nuclear Power Stations Targeted By Hackers, Government Report Says

Hackers have been targeting companies that operate nuclear power stations around America, prompting the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to issue an urgent warning about the severity of the threat, several media outlets reported on Thursday.

Both The New York Times and Bloomberg published details from a joint report released by the government agencies last month that described efforts by hackers to infiltrate the systems of nuclear facilities, including the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation. The report did not provide details of the cyberattacks, but the Kansas-based Wolf Creek said its systems were not affected, according to the Times.

Rahm Emanuel's Cruel New Graduation Requirements Could Be the Beginning of a National Trend

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's new plan to keep teens off the street has been a subject of controversy since it was announced in April. Beginning in 2020, public school students will be forced to present their post-graduation plans in order to receiver their diploma.

“We are going to help kids have a plan, because they’re going to need it to succeed,” he said. “You cannot have kids think [they're done after] 12th grade.”

Fastest Way to More Rental Housing? Tax Changes

People keep asking “Why is there so little new rental housing built?”

The real question should be “Why are investors not interested in building new rental housing?”

The answer is that Canadian tax policy since 1972 has made new rental construction a very poor investment. It’s that simple.

China Sees Opening Left by Trump in Europe, and Quietly Steps In

LONDON — Much of the world’s attention at the Group of 20 economic summit on Friday and Saturday will be on President Trump’s first meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, with strenuous efforts to decipher the nature of the long-distance bromance between them.

But the leader of the world’s other superpower, Xi Jinping of China, will also be in Hamburg, Germany, ready to slip quietly into the widening gap between Mr. Trump and longtime European allies and to position Beijing as the globe’s newest, biggest defender of a multilateral, rules-based system.

The Rich and the Middle Class Make the Same Decisions As Poor People

Cecilia Mo thought she knew all about growing up poor when she began teaching at Thomas Jefferson senior high school in south Los Angeles. As a child, she remembered standing in line, holding a free lunch ticket. But it turned out that Mo could still be shocked by poverty and violence – especially after a 13-year-old student called her in obvious panic. He had just seen his cousin get shot in his front yard.

For Mo, hard work and a good education took her to Harvard and Stanford. But when she saw just how much chaos and violence her LA students faced, she recognized how lucky she had been growing up with educated parents and a safe, if financially stretched, home.