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, March 30, 2016

Mississippi Bill Would Let Churches Create Armed Security Squads

What would Jesus pack?

The Mississippi Senate just passed a bill that would allow churches to train members to carry guns and act as security guards during religious services — and exempt them from legal action if they use their weapons.

“This will allow a church to have a sergeant-at-arms to protect the church body, just like we have (in the Legislature),” Sean Tindell, a Republican state senator, was quoted as saying by the Clarion-Ledger.

FBI Honeypot Ensnares Michigan Man

KHALIL ABU RAYYAN was a lonely young man in Detroit, eager to find a wife. Jannah Bride claimed she was a 19-year-old Sunni Muslim whose husband was killed in an airstrike in Syria. The two struck up a romantic connection through online communications.

Now, Rayyan, a 21-year-old Michigan man, is accused by federal prosecutors of supporting the Islamic State.

Donald Trump withdraws pledge to support Republican nominee

Donald Trump has backtracked on his much ballyhooed pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee as he deals with swirling controversy after his campaign manager was charged with assaulting a reporter.

In a television town hall in Milwaukee with CNN on Tuesday night, Trump insisted he had been “treated very unfairly” by the Republican National Committee and the establishment and revoked the commitment he signed in September. Although the Republican frontrunner previously hinted that he might do so, saying the RNC was “in default”, he had never explicitly revoked his commitment until Tuesday.

Treat ISIS Like an Artichoke: A Non-Military Way to Get to the Heart of the Current Crisis

The recent carnage in Brussels underscores the horrific consequences of ISIS (also known as Daesh) spreading around the globe. Such attacks will likely continue so long as ISIS flourishes in its territorial bases of Iraq and particularly Syria. To stop ISIS's machinery of global terror, Washington, in concert with the international community, must stop the machinery of the Syrian war. And a diplomatic approach, rather than bombing raids, must take center stage.

What a Journalist Learned During 3 Days Undercover at the Israel Lobby’s Biggest Policy Conference

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a cult, and like most cults, its followers would probably object to the characterization.

To AIPAC’s 100,000 members and to the 18,000 delegates who attended its annual convention last week in DC, the organization serves a heroic purpose by securing the protection of Israel, and by extension, the Jewish people. To its detractors, it is a manifestation of the most toxic elements of Zionism and a symptom of the corruption that allows lobbying groups to further their agendas by buying politicians (though not a PAC itself, Israel lobbies politicians through a series of small affiliated PACs).

Senator, the Problem of Saudi Arabia Is Much, Much More Than Lack of Equality

Reproduced below are letters exchanged between Stanley Heller and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The letters were submitted to Truthdig by Heller, executive director of the Middle East Crisis Committee, based in New Haven, Conn. The exchange was initiated by an earlier letter that Heller wrote to Blumenthal concerning human rights violations by Saudi Arabia.

There’s A Huge New Corporate Corruption Scandal. Here’s Why Everyone Should Care.

Most people remember that the Arab Spring started with a guy who lit himself on fire. What they don’t remember is that he did it as a protest against corruption: Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian fruit vendor, decided he’d been shaken down by police officers one too many times.

Bouazizi’s death set in motion the biggest political upheaval of the 21st century. The Arab Spring was “mostly about corruption,” said FBI Special Agent George McEachern, one of the leading investigators of global graft. “Corruption leads to failed states, which leads to terrorism which leads to national security.”

Hydro One players paid for exclusive access to Ontario cabinet ministers

One of the banks that ran the lucrative privatization of Hydro One promoted a $7,500-per-person fundraiser for the two Ontario provincial cabinet ministers in charge of the sale, The Globe and Mail has learned.

The event on Dec. 7, 2015, which featured Finance Minister Charles Sousa and Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, appears to have raised about $165,000 for the Liberals.

Stephen who? The rapid collapse of the Harper legacy

One of the most remarkable features about the Trudeau Liberals’ first five months in office is the speed and efficiency with which they are undoing the legacy of Stephen Harper.

It began their second full day in office, when the new government announced it would restore the mandatory long-form census. It was a substantive and a symbolic reversal of the previous government’s policy. Since then, they’ve kept their thumbs firmly on the delete key — which carried them right into last week’s budget, where they unleashed the wrecking ball.

Dion might owe the UN’s new Palestinian expert an apology — in person, this time

Stéphane Dion might just owe Professor Michael Lynk of Western University an apology — even if he does end up making it on Twitter.

He certainly owes the accomplished labour arbitrator and human rights advocate something he hasn’t given him so far: a fair hearing.

Fracking Contaminates Groundwater: Stanford Study

Another scientific study has confirmed that fracking, the controversial technology that blasts apart low-grade rocks containing molecules of hydrocarbons, can contaminate groundwater.

"We have, for the first time, demonstrated impact to Underground Sources of Drinking Water (USDW) as a result of hydraulic fracturing," says the study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Uber’s draft bylaw angers taxi lobby

Uber Canada crossed a line when it submitted a draft bylaw to the city’s licensing division, says the head of a taxi lobby group.

Next week, municipal licensing staff will release the much-anticipated proposed regulations for ride-sharing services and the taxi industry. City council is set to vote on the staff recommendations in May.

“I don’t think councillors are going to like the concept of a foreign, private sector company writing the legislation to staff,” Rita Smith, executive director of the Toronto Taxi Alliance, said Tuesday.

Trump Campaign Manager Charged With Battery Of Reporter He Called ‘Delusional’

Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with battery Tuesday following an incident in which he allegedly grabbed a reporter, Michelle Fields, at a campaign event earlier this month.

Lewandowski turned himself in to police Tuesday morning in Jupiter, Florida, where he was charged with misdemeanor battery.

Debate-Ducking Hillary Clinton in ’08: Candidates Should Be Tough Enough to Debate “Anytime, Anywhere”

THE HILLARY CLINTON campaign is calling the Bernie Sanders campaign’s request for a debate in New York before its primary a “stunt” by a “struggling campaign” — but eight years ago, Clinton was taunting her opponent Barack Obama for not being tough enough “to debate anytime, anywhere.”

Top Privacy Watchdog Suddenly Resigns

THE CHIEF of the independent government agency tasked with evaluating the risk that federal counterterrorism programs present to Americans’ constitutional rights is stepping down unexpectedly.

David Medine, who was confirmed as chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board shortly before NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the massive scale of the U.S. government’s spying operations, has been tugging on the reins of expanding government surveillance power since.


A LAWSUIT FILED last week in Canada is seeking to halt a major $15 billion sale of light-armored vehicles to the government of Saudi Arabia, part of a growing international movement to stop arms sales to the Saudi government over its alleged war crimes in Yemen.

The suit, filed by University of Montreal constitutional law professor Daniel Turp, argues the vehicle sales to Saudi Arabia violate a number of Canadian laws, including regulations on the export of military equipment, which prohibit arms sales to countries where human rights are “subject to serious and repeated violations” and there is a reasonable risk exported equipment “will be used against the civilian population.” Saudi Arabia, which has a deplorable human rights record at home, has inflicted considerable civilian casualties in Yemen as part of its yearlong bombing campaign in support of the contested government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Rights Lab: Can I Film the Police?

Filming police is legal in all 50 states -- so why are people still being arrested while doing it? The issue at hand is how any one set of actions can be interpreted by police officers -- as a constitutionally protected activity, or as a threat.

Noam Chomsky: The Republican Base Is "Out of Control"

The 2016 US presidential election is shaping up to be a fascinating contest between reactionaries (Donald Trump and Ted Cruz), pro-establishment figures (Hillary Clinton) and a progressive of a selective kind (Bernie Sanders). The candidates' views span a political range that is broader than usual, at least insofar as US political life goes, and several of them are taking positions that are rather unusual for mainstream US political culture. For example, GOP candidates are turning their backs on "free trade" agreements, while Sanders has emphasized issues like inequality, class and the connection between money and politics.

Most Israelis Say Army Medic Who Killed Wounded Suspect Is Not a Murderer

WHILE HUMAN RIGHTS activists and defense officials in Israel were quick to condemn an army medic caught on video last week shooting a wounded Palestinian suspect in the head, the soldier was defended over the weekend, and even celebrated, by many on the far-right of the country’s political spectrum.

What’s Behind America’s Widening College Graduation Gap?

Call it the stubborn gray cloud around a bright silver lining: At a time when the graduation rate of the nation’s public universities has improved significantly, according to a new report, the gap between white students who earn bachelor’s degrees and African Americans who don’t has failed to budge—and in some cases has gotten worse.

At more than half of those four-year colleges and universities, the graduation gains among black students didn’t match those of their white peers, according to a new report from Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit that advocates for children. At a third of the colleges where overall graduation rates went up, the rates of black students who earned diplomas fell or remained stagnant.

The Media Did Not Create the Trump Phenomenon

WASHINGTON—One of the more absurd things being said about the Donald Trump phenomenon is that the media created it. For the record, we didn’t.

First of all, there is no “we.” The news media operate in what should be every conservative ideologue’s dream environment: an unfettered free market. Outlets compete every day—actually, in the Internet age, every hour—to provide consumers with information they need and want. Every editor and news director strives to beat the competition, and the fact is that audiences have decided they need and want to know about Trump.

Bank of America, Microsoft Denounce North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT Law, but Fund Politicians Who Passed It

BANK OF AMERICA, Lowe’s, Microsoft, and American Airlines all have two things in common: They have strongly criticized North Carolina’s new law that prevents local governments from prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and money from their affiliated political action committees helped put the politicians who passed the law in office.

The Culture That Created Donald Trump Was Liberal, Not Conservative

WHO CREATED Donald Trump?

Now that Donald Trump, the candidate, has become both widely popular and deeply loathsome, we’re seeing a cataract of editorials and commentary aimed at explaining how it happened and who’s to blame. The predictable suspects are trotted out: the Republican Party, which had been too opportunistic and fearful to stand up to its own candidate, Fox News, which inflamed the jingoes, and white working-class voters, unhinged by class envy and racial resentment.

This Embarrassing Interview Signals Donald Trump May Be In Trouble In Wisconsin

With the Wisconsin primary just a week away, the remaining presidential candidates are descending on the Badger State. National frontrunner Donald Trump, who hasn’t made a campaign appearance in several days, ventured Monday morning into unfriendly territory: Wisconsin talk radio, where hosts have been viciously criticizing Trump for months.

On Monday morning, influential radio host Charlie Sykes grilled Trump for nearly 10 minutes in an often uncomfortable interview, at one point scolding him for sounding more like a “12-year-old bully on the playground” than a candidate for president.

This Ad by Republicans Against Barry Goldwater Basically Predicted Donald Trump

"When the head of the Ku Klux Klan, when all these weird groups come out in favor for the candidate of my party, either they're not Republicans or I'm not," says the thoughtful-looking man as he stares into the camera.

You wouldn't be at fault for assuming such a line was used to describe the existential crisis within the Republican party today, as it wrestles with the very real prospect of Donald Trump becoming its presidential nominee. But it's actually a direct quote from "Confessions of a Republican," a 1964 television advertisement attacking then-nominee Barry Goldwater. It features an actor playing a lifelong Republican who struggles to come to terms with the Arizona senator's rise.

Will the US Own Up to Its Role in Europe's Refugee Crisis?

A small, crowded boat arrives at an isolated beach on a small Greek island. Inside, 49 people prepare to unload their few possessions. On the beach, lit only by a half-moon and a few headlamps, volunteers from around the world wait to assess if there are any medical emergencies.

Soon after landing, vans and cars line up to begin transporting the group of mostly young people from Afghanistan to a support facility established by local villagers and international volunteers, where tea has been prepared and dry clothes have been made ready for distribution.

Death of a Shale Gas Salesman

"I think most people act in their self-interest." -- Aubrey McClendon

On Wednesday, March 2, Aubrey McClendon, the American face of hydraulic fracking, drove his natural-gas powered Chevy Tahoe into a concrete overpass just outside Oklahoma City. He was 56.

According to the Tahoe's black box data recorder, McClendon had the accelerator floored until 1.5 seconds before the crash. He didn't brake in the final 9 metres before impact. McClendon wasn't wearing a seat belt, police reported.

Federal direction to Canada’s spy agency on anti terror bill C 51 largely secret

OTTAWA – The federal government has issued guidance to Canada’s spy agency on using contentious new anti-terrorism laws – but most of the instructions won’t be made public.

Many passages of the ministerial direction to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, issued last July, were withheld from release due to provisions of the Access to Information Act concerning security, internal deliberations and cabinet confidences.