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, March 10, 2017

Does this study show why Hillary Clinton lost?

Could an overemphasis on personality and style over substance be what cost Hillary Clinton the presidency? That’s one likely conclusion from a batch of new research by the Wesleyan Media Project, unveiled this week.

Their new study of the presidential race, focusing on the advertising campaigns of Clinton and Donald Trump, reveals that despite outspending the Republican nominee by a 2-to-1 margin, the campaign ads rolled out by the Clinton camp and the Democratic National Committee were largely devoid of policy points.

What Teddy Roosevelt Could Teach Ryan Zinke

Donald Trump’s new Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, rode a horse to work on his first day on the job, accompanied by a couple of mounted national park policemen. Teddy Roosevelt, too, used to ride horses all around Washington, D.C. when he was President.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, outdoorsman, and Republican Congressman from Montana, likes to talk about being a “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist.” He has opposed efforts by fellow Republicans to privatize public lands or turn them over to the states—as recently proposed by Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah. Ronald Reagan’s first Interior Secretary, James Watt, also disappointed Western “Sagebrush rebels” of the 1970s and ‘80s who wanted him to turn federal lands over to the states. Instead, Watt promised to use them to “mine more, drill more, cut more timber.”

Life in Gaza Is Shaped by the Electricity Crisis

During a visit to Gaza late last year, a colleague called me at the last minute to postpone a planned meeting. Apologizing, he told me that he needed to go home for several hours to do laundry. Electricity had come on in his neighborhood and he needed to complete household chores while it was available.

Later, he told me, "Life [in Gaza] is shaped by the electricity crisis. If there is power from 3 pm to 10 pm today, there won't be tomorrow. When there is power in the afternoon, I go home and do work. I do laundry and anything else. When the power is off in the afternoon, I don't go home. I won't go home until it is on, because at home, I will just sit in the dark. I live on the 11th floor of my building and I can't do anything there without electricity."

Can a Feminist Be Pro-Life?

Is there such a thing as pro-life feminism? In January, New Wave Feminists, an anti-choice organization, was briefly listed as a sponsor on the website of the Women’s March on Washington. “Intersectional feminism is the future of feminism and of this movement,” said Bob Bland, one of the event’s co-chairs. “We must not just talk about feminism as one issue, like access to reproductive care.” Leaving aside the question of whether Bland understands what intersectionality means—pro-life is a political stance, not an identity or a social position—can feminism, a social-justice movement for women’s equality and human rights, encompass the belief that women should carry to term every fertilized egg, no matter the consequences?

Leaked emails reveal Trump backer and Brexit leader Nigel Farage’s longstanding ties to Julian Assange

Leaked emails reveal Nigel Farage, who led the push for Brexit and now serves as an “unofficial adviser” to President Donald Trump, has longstanding ties to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Farage visited the Ecuadorian embassy Thursday where Assange has sought asylum since 2012, but the former leader of the UK Independence Party told Buzzfeed he couldn’t remember what he’d been doing in the building just moments earlier.

The Man Who Wants to Unmake the West

It was the day after Britain voted to leave the European Union in June, and the Western world was still absorbing the shock. With no clear plan for what would come next, the globe’s fifth-biggest economy had abruptly announced a divorce from the neighbors it had been trading with for nearly 45 years. Markets plunged. “A calamity,” declared the New York Times. “Global panic,” proclaimed one London headline.

Steve Bannon had a different reaction. He booked the calamity’s chief architect as a guest on his radio show to celebrate.

The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush

It says something about the state of affairs we’re in when George W. Bush emerges from the dung heap of history ostensibly smelling like roses. Were Bush from a less powerful country—one that has to follow rules it had no part in making, rather than one that sets rules it has no problem violating—he would be at The Hague before a war-crimes tribunal.

Instead, he is promoting his artwork—paintings of US veterans wounded in the line of duty—in a new book called Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors. Given that the illegal war he launched left so many dead or gravely injured, it might more properly be titled Victims of Hubris.

Paul Ryan Fundraised With Health Insurance Lobbying Firm Just Before His PowerPoint

Just hours before House Speaker Paul Ryan held a press conference to sell his health care overhaul legislation — using a PowerPoint presentation mocked for misrepresenting basic facts  — he was doing something he’s much better at: fundraising.

The two things were related. The Thursday morning breakfast fundraiser he attended was hosted by a lobbying firm working to unwind the Affordable Care Act on behalf of health insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield, one of the big winners of Ryan’s proposed legislation.

GOP Rushes Forward With Its Health Care Bill

House Republicans plowed ahead with their effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, brushing aside new criticism of what their proposed legislation would do ― and ignoring protests over the hurried process they are using to enact it.

Two House committees ― Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means ― spent dozens of hours Wednesday and Thursday to advance complementary portions of the American Health Care Act, the long-awaited bill to repeal and “replace” the 2010 health care law. The Ways and Means Committee completed its work around 4:30 a.m. Thursday, and the Energy and Committee followed early Thursday afternoon.

A GOP Congressman Just Spent 6 Minutes Defending Vladimir Putin

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the president of Estonia from 2006 to 2016, had a crisis on his hands in September 2014. Russian security service agents crossed the border and kidnapped and detained Eston Kohver, an agent with Estonia's equivalent of the FBI. The Russian government accused Kohver of being a spy and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Ilves referred to the episode Thursday during his testimony at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russian disinformation and "weaponization of information." Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a staunch defender of President Donald Trump, opened his statement by diminishing the importance of connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials and said that controversy over the matter "has reached the absurd level of attacks."

This Is the Resistance: More Than 5,000 Grassroots Groups Have Sprung Up Since Trump Was Elected

Joshua Holland surveys the new grassroots resistance groups that have sprung up since the election—he found more than 75, and that number is likely growing.

Indivisible is the biggest of these groups, with more than 5,000 local groups, at least two in every Congressional district. Jeremy Haile explains—he’s one of the authors of the Indivisible Guide.

March 8 was International Women’s Day, and Rebecca Solnit was on strike during it. She talks about about the exciting shape feminist activism has taken over the last few year—she calls it “fearless,” “unapologetic” and “gorgeously transformative.” Rebecca’s new book is The Mother of All Questions.

Original Article
Author:  Start Making Sense and Jon Wiener

The Fight to Save the Affordable Care Act Is Really a Class Battle

The escalating battle over the future of the Affordable Care Act—heightened now that House Republicans have released their Obamacare-repeal legislation—is revealing a fundamental fault line in American society. Even the most vociferous opponents of the ACA defend some features of the law, like parents’ ability to keep children under the age of 26 on their insurance and the ban on insurance companies’ refusing coverage for people with preexisting condition. Those defenders include Republican lawmakers, who incorporated both of those features in their repeal bill. What we rarely hear defended is the ACA’s role as an instrument of social justice. Yet, at its most basic, starting to mitigate America’s yawning class divide is exactly what the ACA did. With this proposed legislation, that is exactly what the Republicans are trying to undo.

Britain’s crime and punishment

The disclosure Wednesday that the European Union’s anti-fraud office has a multi-billion euro complaint against the British government for not cracking down on customs fraud is a serious embarrassment for London.

What in happier times might have been a minor irritant in intra-EU relations could, in the context of the negotiations over Brexit, develop into a poisonous wound.

Russia’s RT Network: Is It More BBC or K.G.B.?

LONDON — The London newsroom and studios of RT, the television channel and website formerly known as Russia Today, are ultramodern and spacious, with spectacular views from the 16th floor overlooking the Thames and the London Eye. And, its London bureau chief, Nikolay A. Bogachikhin, jokes, “We overlook MI5 and we’re near MI6,” Britain’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies.

Mr. Bogachikhin was poking fun at the charge from Western governments, American and European, that RT is an agent of Kremlin policy and a tool directly used by President Vladimir V. Putin to undermine Western democracies — meddling in the recent American presidential election and, European security officials say, trying to do the same in the Netherlands, France and Germany, all of which vote later this year.

BLUEXIT - A Modest Proposal For Separating Blue States From Red

Dear Red-State Trump Voter,

Let’s face it, guys: We’re done.

For more than 80 years now, we—the residents of what some people like to call Blue America, but which I prefer to think of as the United States of We Pay Our Own Damn Way—have shelled out far more in federal tax monies than we took in. We have funded massive infrastructure projects in your rural counties, subsidized your schools and your power plants and your nursing homes, sent you entire industries, and simultaneously absorbed the most destitute, unskilled, and oppressed portions of your populations, white and black alike.

All of which, it turns out, only left you more bitter, white, and alt-right than ever.

In Kansas City, A Mother Fears Her Children Could Be Next

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Mahnaz Shabbir was 12 when a teacher walked into her sixth-grade classroom and asked her to come to the front of the room and explain why her cousin wasn’t eating. Mortified, Shabbir told the class that her cousin, who had recently moved to the U.S. from India, was observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which requires fasting.

When her friends played “cowboys and Indians,” Shabbir, whose parents came from Hyderabad, India, was always made to play an Indian. This felt different: Her teacher had singled her out in front of her overwhelmingly white, Christian classmates.

Uber stops using Greyball 'secret program' to dodge regulators

Uber says it will ban a secret software tool from being used to evade undercover regulators.

The software, called Greyball, seeks to identify officials around the world trying to catch Uber drivers operating illegally. It then denies them service.

The ride-hailing firm has been using the tool to secure early access to cities where its operations had not yet been authorized.

The “Dutch Trump” Is Even More Toxic Than the Real Thing

PITY THE DUTCH, if you can. The party led by a far-right, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam populist named Geert Wilders is on course to gain the most votes in next week’s parliamentary elections in the Netherlands. But the journalists who have dubbed Wilders “Holland’s Trump” and “the Donald Trump of the Netherlands” may owe the U.S. president an apology.

The House GOP’s not-so-sneaky plan to destroy Medicaid

About 74 million Americans from the most vulnerable pockets of the country would see their access to doctors and medicines rapidly curtailed under the House GOP’s proposed health insurance overhaul.

Peel back the wonky jargon at the core of the bill’s Medicaid provisions, and you’ll find a straightforward idea: America should spend far, far less than it does to get health insurance coverage for poor people.

Trudeau following Harper's lead in denying justice to illegally imprisoned Muslim men

If the Liberal government is serious about combating Islamophobia, they should award long-denied justice to those in Canada's Muslim and Middle Eastern communities whose fundamental freedoms were so callously swept away by Canada's eagerness to support the U.S. "War on Terror."

Canadians are likely familiar with the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-Canadian who in 2008, after a formal inquiry, received compensation and a formal government apology for the role of Canadian officials in his 2002 rendition and year of captivity and torture in Syria. While the pain and suffering caused to Arar and his family can never be fully remedied, at least Canada took responsibility to fulfill our legal obligation to award redress.

Man behind BRICs on future for Brits

LONDON — It’s been five months since Jim O’Neill quit his job at the Treasury, becoming the first and for now only minister to walk out of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

Feeling let down and aghast by the government’s lack of coherence on Brexit, the former Goldman Sachs chief economist — best known for coining the acronym “BRICs” to describe the fast-growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China — opted instead for some down time and went traveling with his family.

The Republicans Did This to Themselves

Republicans spent more than seven years seeking unified control of government based on a promise to swing the pendulum of the American health care system in a more conservative direction. How they intended to accomplish this was never clear. When asked during that period of time to assess their progress, Republican leaders would insist an Affordable Care Act alternative was nearly complete, in the final stages of negotiations, and then they’d let the issue drop until another inquisitor broached the subject again.

Jewish Centres In Ontario Targeted With Bomb Threats

TORONTO — Jewish community centres in Toronto and London, Ont., were among several across North America that received bomb threats on Tuesday.

Police say the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre in Toronto was evacuated out of "an abundance of caution" in light of threats made in New York, Oregon, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, Maryland.

France's rightwing scandals leave Socialists struggling to be heard

In recent weeks, Benoît Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon have been ploughing their political furrows, criss-crossing France, addressing meetings and outlining their programmes for the presidency.

But for the candidates of the Socialist party (PS) and hard-left movement La France insoumise (Unsubmissive France), the results have been distinctly underwhelming.

Apple to 'rapidly address' any security holes as companies respond to CIA leak

Apple has promised to “rapidly address” any security holes used by the CIA to hack iPhones, following the release of a huge tranche of documents covering the intelligence agency’s stockpile of software vulnerabilities.

The leak, dubbed “Vault 7” by its publisher WikiLeaks, is made up of a collection of around 10,000 individual documents created between 2014 and 2016. A spokesman for the CIA said it would not comment “on the authenticity or content of purported intelligence documents” and the Trump administration spokesman Sean Spicer also declined comment.

Uber silent on use of secret 'Greyball' tracking tool in Canada

It's called Greyball: a secret method used by Uber to track and evade unfriendly authorities in cities around the world.

The ride-hailing service won't confirm whether it used that clandestine tool to deceive regulatory and law enforcement authorities in Canadian cities.

Still, Uber has publicly acknowledged that it used Greyball in major cities across the world including Paris, Boston, and Las Vegas.

Hungarian law targets Soros, foreign-backed NGOs

BUDAPEST — The Hungarian government is moving to limit the influence of nongovernmental organizations that promote democracy and the rule of law, seemingly buoyed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s election victory and the ascendance of the alt right in Washington.

This week, parliament is expected to introduce legislation on foreign-funded NGOs. The government’s bill, whose official text has yet to be made public, will likely require groups to register how much funding they receive from foreign sources.

Paul Ryan’s Health-Care Vise

If there is a single person who made Paul Ryan the Speaker of the House, it is probably Mark Meadows. Back in 2015, Meadows, a former restaurant owner who, in 2012, was elected to represent the most conservative district in North Carolina, set into motion the events that led to Speaker John Boehner’s resignation. Meadows, who had no legislative experience, filed an obscure parliamentary procedure known as a motion to vacate that would have forced a referendum on Boehner in the House. Boehner resigned rather than face the prospect of losing that vote, and Ryan emerged as the only Speaker candidate acceptable to all the factions of the House G.O.P.

From Russia with loathing: Freeland and the media

Exodus 34:7 — the Sins of the Father. “Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and fourth generation.”

The bullshit is getting biblical.

Politics has always been a game of public people aiming poison darts at other public people. But have we really reached the point where what your grandfather did, or didn’t do, overcomes contemporary reality? Judging from the media hullabaloo over Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her grandfather’s Nazi past, the answer appears to be yes.