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, September 07, 2011

Wounded in Iraq: A Marine's Story

I cry whenever I think of a memorial service I attended in Iraq. From the back of the hot, packed room next to the chaplain's office, I looked down the center aisle and saw six sets of boots, rifles, helmets, and dog tags. Six Americans had lost their lives defending their country. I had seen these Marines hug each other before heading out on patrol -- real hugs, as if they guessed they might not see each other again. They had been in Iraq for a while and knew how dangerous every mission was.

Blood and treasure are the costs of war. However, many news articles today only address the treasure -- the ballooning defense budget and high-priced weapons systems. The blood is simply an afterthought. Forgotten is the price paid by our wounded warriors. Forgotten are the families torn apart by lengthy and multiple deployments. Forgotten are the relatives of those who make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. As we look back on 9/11, we should also remember all those who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Fewer than 1 percent of Americans have fought in these wars, and it is important for the public to understand their effects on our fighters and those close to them.

Showdown in Simi Valley: Bachmann vs. Perry

The GOP presidential debate on Wednesday night has been billed as a coming-out for Rick Perry, the tough-rhetoric-slinging governor of Texas who has vaulted to the top position in the Republican field after recently gallivanting into the race. Perry, who ducked out of a candidates' forum this past weekend to contend with wild fires in the Lone Star State, has yet to appear on a national stage with his fellow presidential wannabes. So Wednesday night at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, all eyes will be on the fella Molly Ivins once dubbed Governor Goodhair, with pundits and voters looking to see whether he's more hat than cattle—or the opposite. Yet for all the Perrymania, there will be another candidate with something to prove: Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann was the darling of the past two debates. In New Hampshire in June, she confidently stood out among the guys as an I-feel-your-outrage tea party gal who could both stick to her anti-government talking points and remain disciplined enough to avoid saying anything too bizarre or factually dubious. Last month, at an Iowa debate—when she seemed to be the front-runner in that state—she handily fended off attacks by Tim Pawlenty (remember him?), who claimed her record of accomplishments was "nonexistent." With a calm ferocity, she slapped Pawlenty silly for his past support of versions of cap-and-trade and a health care mandate. She went on to win the absurd but influential Ames straw poll.

Methyl Iodide: A Nasty Pesticide Explained

Pesticides usually do their bug killing away from public view. But one such poison, a fumigant called methyl iodide, has been making headlines.

Activists have been staging elaborate protests outside the San Francisco offices of its maker, Arysta Lifescience, Grist reports. And newly released documents reveal, shall we say, irregularities in the process of its recent approval by the state of California, writes Mother Jones' own Jen Quraishi.

What gives? Labor Day is a good time to ponder that question, because methyl iodide poses a clear menace to farmworkers, especially those who tend California's vast strawberry fields.

According to Pesticide Action Network, exposure to the stuff "causes late term miscarriages, contaminates groundwater and is so reliably carcinogenic that it's used to create cancer cells in laboratories." Since it is applied to soil before plants even go into the ground, it poses little risk to consumers of strawberries. But for the farmworkers who apply it and the people who live near treated fields, it's a different story, because of its "tendency to drift off site through the air," the group warns.

Chris Christie Lets Loose at Secret Koch Brothers Confab

Click for Part 1 of this two-part series: "Exclusive Audio: Inside The Koch Brothers Secret Seminar

Also read Gavin Aronsen's breakdown of top Koch donors: "Exclusive: The Koch Brothers' Million-Dollar Donor Club"

On the morning of June 26, Chris Christie, New Jersey's flamboyant, tough-talking Republican governor, appeared on NBC's Meet The Press. He then jetted out to Colorado, delivered a keynote speech at Charles and David Koch's ultra-exclusive seminar at the Ritz-Carlton resort near Vail, and returned home the same night, all without breathing a word about his adventure to his constituents.

In Part 1 of this report, we gave you the inside scoop on the Kochs' top-secret strategy meeting, where hundreds of wealthy patrons were urged to open their wallets for what Charles Koch described as "the mother of all wars"—the effort to unseat President Obama. We also told you we'd obtained exclusive audio recordings from the event. And we promised to reveal the identity of the main keynote speaker.

With security extraordinary on the seminar's opening night—audio speakers around the periphery of the outdoor dining pavilion blasted out static to thwart eavesdroppers—David Koch introduced Gov. Christie as "my kind of guy." (The two had previously met in private at Koch's New York City office, he revealed.) Before long, seminar attendees were roaring with laughter as Christie regaled them over dessert, telling them how, in his first weeks in office, he'd exercised extraordinary executive powers to impound billions of dollars in planned spending. ("The good news for all of you and for me," he said, "is that the governorship in New Jersey is the most powerful constitutional governorship in America.")

Smog v. Jobs: Is Obama Admin Endangering U.S. Environment, Public Health With Retreat on Smog Standards?

As the nation headed into Labor Day weekend, the Obama administration quietly asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw a plan to limit smog pollution that was projected to prevent 2,200 heart attacks and 23,000 asthma attacks annually. Obama said he made the decision in hopes of reducing regulatory burdens for businesses in a time of economic uncertainty. The move was seen as a major victory for polluters and some business leaders, and another setback for environmentalists. We host a debate with John Walke, the Clean Air Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council; and Dr. Roger McClellan, adjunct professor at the Duke University Medical Center and past chairman of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Discovered Files Show U.S., Britain Had Extensive Ties with Gaddafi Regime on Rendition, Torture

Human Rights Watch has uncovered hundreds of letters in the Libyan foreign ministry proving the Gaddafi government directly aided the extraordinary rendition program carried out by the CIA and the MI6 in Britain after the 9/11 attacks. The documents expose how the CIA rendered suspects to Libyan authorities knowing they would be tortured. One of the most prominent suspects rendered to Libya was an Islamic militant named Abdelhakim Belhaj, who is now the military commander for the Libyan rebels. At the time of his capture in 2004, Belhaj was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a group that had ties to al-Qaeda. We speak to Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, who helped find the documents in Tripoli; and Gareth Peirce, a well-known British human rights attorney who has represented numerous Guantánamo prisoners as well as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Source: Democracy Now!