Wanted: And It Had Better Be Alive!

Pakistan did the USA a favor recently …

All they got for it was a surprise rocket attack on their own soil.

The situation is well-explained by London’s Sunday Telegraph in its 29 Jan 06 edition:

Pakistan ‘delay let bin Laden escape US raid’
By Massoud Ansari in Karachi (Filed: 29/01/2006)

“Prevarication by the Pakistani government cost America the chance to kill Osama bin Laden in an airstrike near the Afghan border two years ago, the Sunday Telegraph has been told.

“A CIA lead that the al-Qaeda leader was hiding in a remote province was squandered because the Pakistani government delayed giving permission for the attack on its soil, according to a senior Western diplomat …

“By the time US officials got the go-ahead, bin Laden had left the suspected hideout in Zhob, in the Baluchistan province of south-west Pakistan.

“The near-miss was cited by the diplomat as the reason why America chose not to consult Islamabad before the US missile strike in Pakistan’s Bajaur region two weeks ago. The January 13 attack, prompted by a tip that bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was hiding in a local village, killed 13 civilians.

“According to his account, which was backed by sources within Pakistani intelligence, the CIA picked up electronic traffic suggesting that bin Laden and his bodyguards had sought temporary shelter in Zhob, which is dominated by Pathan and Baloch tribesmen sympathetic to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

“Fearing that a commando raid would cause massive casualties to both sides, with no guarantee of success, the US decided to launch a strike by laser-guided missiles, fired from Predator drones.

“If he was in Zhob at the time it would have been the first known occasion that he had been firmly in America’s sights since his escape from Tora Bora in Afghanistan, where he slipped through a cordon of US troops in 2001 …”

Coincidentally, another article appeared in that same edition of the Sunday Telegraph which underscored the effect bin Laden’s words can have:

Author shoots from obscurity to infamy after plug from bin Laden
By Philip Sherwell (Filed: 29/01/2006)

“To William Blum’s surprise and apparent disappointment, he found that his name had not been added to the US ‘no-fly’ list when he travelled from his home in Washington DC to Ohio last week to deliver one of his frequent anti-American lectures on a campus.

“Mr Blum is revelling in what he calls his ’15 minutes of fame.’ To many of his compatriots, that should read 15 minutes of infamy after Osama bin Laden declared that he was a fan of the previously obscure Left-wing author and virulent America-basher.

“The 72-year-old writer admits he was delighted by the plug for his book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, in the Saudi terror mastermind’s latest taped audio message. After bin Laden’s recommendation, the book soared from 205,763rd to 26th place on Amazon.com’s list of most-ordered books. ‘I thought I might have ended up on the no-fly list after that. Anything is possible in this country today,’ Mr Blum told the Sunday Telegraph, perhaps over-estimating his importance in the eyes of the US authorities. But he is strikingly honest about his new-found notoriety.

“‘I am not at all sorry to have been mentioned by bin Laden,’ he said. ‘In fact, I’m pleased. I’m part of a movement whose goal it is to slow down if not stop the American empire from what it’s doing around the world …’

“In his taped message, bin Laden recommended that President George W Bush read Mr Blum’s Rogue State, a sharp critique of US foreign policy.

“The al-Qaeda mastermind then quoted an extract in which the author wrote that, if he was president, he could stop terror attacks against the US permanently by apologising ‘very publicly and very sincerely, to all the widows and orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism.'”

Mr Blum’s agenda notwithstanding, the best thing that happened to America’s war on bin Laden is that they didn’t kill him. Anyone cognizant who has ever been even remotely exposed to the culture of bin Laden’s target audience knows that his words would have a tenfold impact if he became ‘martyred.’

If he can raise a fringe author’s book almost 200,000 places in Amazon’s world with a simple utterance, think of what would happen if his words became ‘finite’ by his demise. The term ‘exalted’ comes to mind. Their inspirational impact would be hugely amplified by the fact that he, too, died for his cause, just like he’s urged his followers to do.

In their unilateral and so-called ‘war on terror,’ the USA has spent billions of dollars on revenge and the toppling of a dictatorial blowhard. The opposition has only spent thousands but seemingly has not lost much ground (Afghanistan and Iraq are still in relative states of anarchy, after all); they are fueled by the charisma of a man who, as I’ve said before, is nothing more than a common criminal who has wrapped himself in an extreme fundamentalist cause and then been elevated to celebrity status by his mighty adversary.

I don’t think the USA can afford to kill him. They need to capture him alive. He never was the terrorist mastermind of al-Qaeda, he was only the banker and the face to their cause. Having him at large until he’s captured is not going to significantly alter any of their activities. Only if bin Laden’s empty agenda is exposed by being formally brought to justice will there be any chance of effectively revealing his true colors as a charlatan. There needs to be the ultimate occasion where he can be reviled by the true keepers of Muslim faith for perverting their religion. Only in a court of law can this happen, and if it comes to pass, it will happen.

So, thank you, Pakistan, regardless of your operatives’ motives.

True American Patriot

A TRUE AMERICAN PATRIOT SPEAKS OUT
By Bill Gallagher
It ain’t fair, John Sinclair
In the stir for breathing air.
Won’t you care for John Sinclair
In the stir for breathing air?
— John Lennon, 1971.

DETROIT — Those were the days of Nixonian madness — the hopeless war in Vietnam, the illegal invasion of Cambodia, riots on college campuses, secret police, break-ins, enemies lists, IRS audits, the White House leak-plugging “plumbers unit,” and on and on. But Nixon’s paranoia, crimes, abuses of power, trampling on civil liberties and the Constitution are tame, almost benign, by the standards of the Bushevik regime.

“These guys make Nixon look like a Cub Scout,” says John Sinclair, a poet, musician, journalist, veteran radical, cultural icon and professional disturber of the establishment peace. The native of Davison, Mich., near Flint, became an international cause celebre in 1969 when a fascist-leaning judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison for possessing two marijuana joints. “They gave him 10 for two,” John Lennon wrote in his song about Sinclair’s draconian sentence.

The sentence — right out of Stalin’s guidelines — had nothing to do with the gravity of his offense, but had everything to do with his political views. Sinclair founded the White Panther Party and included among his radical and freethinking friends Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Timothy Leary. He, along with photographer Leni Arndt, his partner and later wife, organized the Detroit Artists’ Workshop, a communal group of artists from all disciplines.

His love of music further branded John as a dangerous subversive and put him under the eyes of the FBI creeps J. Edgar Hoover assigned to watch every move he made. Sinclair used music as a conduit for his poetry. Until his imprisonment, he was the manager and Svengali of legendary Detroit rockers the MC5, who made sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll a national pastime.

It was for his thoughts, poems, music, politics and passion that Sinclair was deemed a dangerous enemy of Nixonian Amerika, and he paid a horrible price for his revolutionary ways.

Sinclair did hard time for his soft crime at Michigan’s infamous Jackson State Prison. “Jack Town” was, and still is, a hellhole, the largest walled prison on earth, an American gulag where the goal is to degrade and dehumanize the inmates and expect that society will improve as a result. Sinclair spent his time reading and writing, but most of all just surviving.

I met Sinclair on Thursday, Dec. 8, the 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder. We met at Agave, a fine Mexican restaurant near the campus of Wayne State University. His presence in Detroit on that day was entirely serendipity. He was in town for a poetry reading and concert at the university honoring the poets and music of Katrina-battered New Orleans, a town Sinclair loves and where he lived for 10 years.

I asked where he lives now.

“Amsterdam, for obvious reasons,” he replied, with a laugh and a twinkle in his eye. But his voice softened and his eyes moistened when we talked about John Lennon.

“I always remember him on this date every year. It was so close to the date where our lives intersected, because it was Dec. 10 when he came here to Ann Arbor and got me out of prison,” Sinclair said.

He shook his head, thinking about his friend John Lennon.

“For any artist to be assassinated in his prime, on his way home from work, going into his home, it’s horrifying. For it to be a guy like John Lennon, who represented and believed in peace, love and communications between human beings, probably more than anyone else in the music world, you just shudder to think of this,” he said.

Sinclair had been rotting in Jackson State Prison for nearly three years when his life intersected with John Lennon’s. Sinclair’s lawyers had challenged his sentence and the constitutionality of Michigan’s marijuana laws. The case went before the Michigan Supreme Court and Sinclair won, but a lower court refused to grant an appeal bond, claiming he was a “danger to society.” He remained in prison.

Friends and supporters organized a rally at the Chrisler Arena on the campus of the University of Michigan set for Dec. 10, 1971. The organizers hoped the “Free John Now Rally” would be a major event, drawing attention to the grave injustice that kept Sinclair locked up.

But filling the 15,000-seat arena worried Sinclair.

“So I was very concerned. I thought it would be awful if we staged this huge thing and nobody came, and then they’d say, ‘Oh, man, this guy ain’t nowhere. Nobody cares about him,'” Sinclair recalled.

Then, one of his lawyers from Ann Arbor visited Sinclair at Jackson and told him about a surprising phone call he had just gotten.

Sinclair’s lawyer told him, “Oh, man, I really got good news. John Lennon is going to come. He’s written a song for you.”

Sinclair scoffed at the claim, saying, “Man, don’t mess with me. I’m already at my wits’ end here.”

The lawyer went back to his office, called Lennon, tape recorded his offer to help, then went back to the prison the next day and played it for Sinclair.

“It was just unbelievable. You’re in prison. People in prison are pretty much abandoned. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” Sinclair laughed.

Lennon showed up and sang his new song “John Sinclair” to a sold-out crowd.

“Immediately, the whole complexion of my situation changes,” Sinclair recalled. “Instead of people saying, ‘Why doesn’t he just shut up and serve his 10 years?’ all of a sudden, they’re saying, ‘Well, jeeze, John Lennon says this is wrong; maybe we ought to think about this. You know, the Beatles are coming here to look into this guy’s case.’ Everything changed. Ten days later, I was out. It was like a miracle.”

Out of the slammer, Sinclair went to New York to meet and thank John Lennon.

“He wasn’t above anyone, even though he was probably the greatest popular creative artist in the world at the time. He was just a regular guy, a beautiful cat. We hit it off pretty good.”

Lennon and Sinclair thought of a project to go on a concert tour following Nixon on his 1972 re-election campaign. They’d sell tickets for three bucks and give the money to community organizations.

“The poor guy wanted to have songs, and tell people to make peace. You know, really ugly stuff like that,” Sinclair said. But J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and Attorney General John Mitchell’s Justice Department were going to put a stop to those plans. Hoover and Mitchell, both serial felons, by the way, got the Immigration and Naturalization Service to tell Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, both foreign nationals, that they were going to have visa problems unless they stopped mixing politics with pop music. “First, the government hounded him out of public life. And then, when he decided to come back, some nut blew him away,” Sinclair said. “You just shudder to think of this. He was my age. He would have had another 25 years of productivity, genius, works of art. It’s so sad.”

Sinclair finds the violence and gun culture of America appalling.

“You’d think, at one point, they’d rethink the concept of everybody being armed. It’s so stupid. And now they’re taking this kind of thuggery to an international level,” he said.

Sinclair believes Lennon would have found the Bushevik regime “frightening,” and if he were alive, he would be doing everything he could to end the war in Iraq. Sinclair finds Bush’s appeal and ability to sell the war in Iraq disgusting and more harmful than Vietnam.

“This is the worst, in my view. This is the one that took America out of the realm of civilized nations and put us in with Hitler, bliztkrieging some poor little nation because you want their oil. Lying. It’s just so ugly. How long are the American people going to put up with this?” he said.

Sinclair watched the BBC in Europe as American democracy unraveled in the 2000 presidential election.

“It was frightening to me. You expect the right wing to do bad things. You don’t expect the people to endorse this and cheer them on. You expect them to have more sense. This is a democratic country with a long history of intelligent, informed citizenry, and now they don’t have a clue,” he said.

We talked about the mainstream media, the American Pravda that helped sell Bush’s war in Iraq and failed to question the phony reasons for invading the country. But beyond the propaganda, Sinclair sees a disturbing need in the American people for a leader with such horrible traits and instincts.

“I finally understand what Hitler was all about,” Sinclair said, sipping black coffee. “You know, all my life I wondered, how did Germany let this little weird guy gain power? How did they give him everything? He spoke to something in them and that’s what this guy does. He doesn’t speak to me. I look at him and can’t believe someone would follow him across the street. But they like this guy for some reason. He gives them what they want and I don’t understand it. I guess I’ve lost any understanding of mass psychology.”

Sinclair still performs with his band, the Blues Scholars, and he loves traveling around the country in an Amtrak train. He hosts a weekly radio show from Amsterdam on the Internet at www.RadioFreeAmsterdam.com. It’s also available as a podcast, and his radio show archives are found at www.johnsinclair.us.

“I’ve never been a big fan of the way our country organizes itself socially. I think that’s on the record,” he chuckled, “but now more than ever. That’s why I spend most of my time in Amsterdam. It’s the opposite of here.”

Sinclair acknowledges Europe has “right-wing religious fanatics.” But unlike the fundamentalist Christianity the Busheviks are trying to impose as a state religion, the European zealots “aren’t trying to get into your home. They really don’t care what you do in your bedroom. They don’t really care what you do to alter the inside of your head, which is as it should be, in my view. And they aren’t armed.”

Touring with the Blues Scholars is a haven for Sinclair. “I present a moving target,” he said. His beard is gray these days and he’d love to experience another miracle like a MacArthur grant or the appearance of some wise and inspired patron to help fund his work and art. His laugh is hearty and contagious. But he is perplexed and saddened that the nation and culture he began challenging more than 40 years ago is in the worst state of his lifetime.

Asked about Lennon’s song, Sinclair said, “I light up. I love to hear that song. The ironic thing about it is, I’m a blues man. It’s about the closest thing to a blues song he ever made, with the snare drum and slide guitar. So I enjoy it on several levels. But most of all, it was my ticket to freedom.”

The Semi-failed State

The US State Department’s designation of “rogue state” periodically falls in and out of favor. It is used to refer to countries hostile to the United States, with authoritarian, brutal, and venal regimes, and a predilection to ignore international law and conventions, encourage global or local terrorism and the manufacture and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Most rogue states are not failed ones.

A failed state is a country whose government has no control and cannot exercise a monopoly on the legitimate use of force over a substantial part of its territory or citizenry. It is continuously and successfully challenged by private military power: terrorists, warlords, or militias. Its promulgations and laws are futile and inapplicable.

With the exception of the first criterion (hostility towards Pax Americana), some scholars claim that the USA is, itself, a rogue state (q.v., for instance, William Blum’s “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower” and “Rogue Nation” by Clyde Prestowitz).

Admittedly, the USA’s unilateralist, thuggish and capricious foreign policy represents a constant threat to world peace and stability. But labeling the USA a “rogue state” may be overdoing it. It better fits the profile of a semi-failed state.

A semi-failed state is a country whose government maintains all the trappings and appearances of power, legitimacy, and control. Its army and police are integral and operative. Its institutions function. Its government and parliament promulgate laws and its courts enforce them. It is not challenged by any competing military structures within its recognized borders.

Yet, the semi-failed state – while going through the motions – is dead on its feet. It is a political and societal zombie. It functions due mainly to inertia and lack of better or clear alternatives. Its population is disgruntled, hostile, and suspicious. Other countries regard it with derision, fear, and abhorrence. It is rotting from the inside and doomed to implode.

In a semi-failed state, high crime rates and rampant venality, nepotism, and cronyism affect the government’s ability to enforce laws and implement programs. It reacts by adding layers of intransigent and opaque bureaucracy to an already unwieldy mammoth. The institutions of the semi-failed state are hopelessly politicized and, thus, biased, distrusted, and compromised. Its judiciary is in a state of decrepit decline as unqualified beneficiaries of patronage join the ranks.

The result is social fragmentation as traditional and local leaders, backed by angry and rebellious constituents, take matters into their own hands. Centrifugal politics supplant statehood and the nation is unable to justly and effectively balance the competing claims of the center versus the periphery.

The utter (but insidious) institutional failure that typifies the semi-failed state is usually exposed with the total disarray that follows an emergency (such as a natural disaster or a terrorist attack).

To deflect criticism and in a vain attempt to reunite its fracturing populace, the semi-failed state often embarks on military adventures (cloaked as “self-defense” or “geopolitical necessity”). Empire-building is an indicator of looming and imminent disintegration. Foreign aggression replaces reconstruction and rational policy-making at home. The USA prior to the Civil War, the USSR between 1956 and 1982, federal Yugoslavia after 1989, and Nazi Germany are the most obvious examples.

Is the USA a semi-failed state?

I. Empire-building and foreign aggression

Its neighbors always perceived the United States as an imminent security risk (ask Mexico, half of whose territory was captured by successive and aggressive American administrations). The two world wars transformed the USA into a global threat, able and only too willing to project power to protect its interests and disseminate its brand of missionary liberal-capitalism.

In the last 150 years, the USA has repeatedly militarily attacked, unprovoked, other peaceful or pacified nations, near and far. To further its (often economic) ends, the United States has not refrained from encouraging and using terrorism in various parts of the globe. It has developed and deployed weapons of mass destruction and is still the biggest arms manufacturer and trader in the world. It has repeatedly reneged on its international obligations and breached international laws and conventions.

II. Dysfunctional institutions

Hurricane Katrina (August-September 2005) exposed the frailty and lack of preparedness of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and, to some extent, the National Guard. It brought into sharp relief the cancerous politicization of the crony-infested federal government.

FEMA is only the latest in a long chain of failed institutions. The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) coped poorly with virulent corruption and malfeasance in Wall Street. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) capitulated in the face of commercial and political pressures and neglected to remove from the market malfunctioning medical devices and drugs with lethal side effects.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has sacrificed America’s nature reserves to business interests. A heavily politicized Supreme Court legitimized manifestly tainted election results and made a president out of the loser of the popular vote. The disenfranchisement of minorities, the poor, and ex-convicts is now in full swing. The legislature – the two houses of Congress – are deadlocked and paralyzed.

The organs of the government of the United States now function only when exposed to acute embarrassment and a revolted public opinion. Private firms and charities sprout to fulfill the gaps.

III. The National Consensus

Americans long mistook the institutional stability of their political system, guaranteed by the Constitution, for a national consensus. They actually believe that the former guarantees the latter – that institutional firmness and durability ARE the national consensus. The reverse, as we know, is true: it takes a national consensus to yield stable institutions. No social structure – no matter how venerable and veteran – can resist the winds of change in public sentiment.

Hurricane Katrina again demonstrated the unbridgeable divides in American society between rich and poor and black and white. But this time, the rift runs deeper.

The Bush administration is the first since the Civil War to dare to change the fundamental rules of the political game (for instance by seeking to abolish the filibuster in the Senate and by a profligacy of recess appointments of judges and officials). Its instincts and reflexes are elitist, undemocratic, and violent. It is delusional and its brand of fanatic religiosity is not well-received even among the majority of Americans who are believers. Additionally, it is openly and unabashedly corrupt and ridden with nepotism and cronyism.

Yet, Bush, unlike Nixon, is not an aberration. He is unlikely to be impeached. He was overwhelmingly re-elected even as his quagmire war in Iraq unraveled and the self-enrichment and paranoia of his close circle became public.

This is the new and true face of at least half of America, to the horror and dismay of the other half, its liberals. If the history of the United States is any judge, these two camps are unlikely to sit back and navel-gaze. Semi-failed states typically disintegrate. A bloodied (perhaps even nuclear) second civil war is in the cards.

Should the United States devolve into its constituent states, the world will breathe a sigh of relief. A European Union (EU)-like economic zone between the parts of the former USA is bound to be far more pacific and to contribute to world stability – something its malignant former incarnation had so signally failed to do.

The Most Dangerous Place in the World ñ Right Here In America

To answer this great scourge of death with the bible is to begin with the premise that everyone believes that the bible has something to say about it and that it is authoritative. For those who have put the bible on the shelf with literature, simple narrative, history or fiction this premise is futile. Others who think the bible is a book of nice little morality stories that may be inspired in spots, are left to hope that that may get enough inspiration to spot the spots.

It is doubtful that a person who has disregarded the book of life will take any further cues from nature or simple humanity. In general animals donít recklessly destroy their offspring. In all but the most backward civilizations of the world most of humanity also frowns on the destruction of their own young. If a people ignore the guides, and warnings available to us all, the bible has little chance of turning on any lights for them.
Yet, that in no way can eliminate the fact that the bible has plenty to say about it.

Both the bible and other annals of history show us that it was considered a blessing to be able to have children. In fact a woman who was barren was usually thought to be nearly under a curse. Times have changed and in America, Roe V. Wade has not just changed the times but has twisted it into a warp. Now it is considered almost a rude interference to be pregnant.

Science has provided us with a ìscientific termî that makes it easy not to see a human life from the moment of conception, that handy little term is what is known as the ìfetusî. Semantic wrangling notwithstanding everyone knows fully that a human life has begun at the point of conception not a scientific anomaly. Neither science nor legislation can erase the ache of conscience; it can only divert it for a while or provide a flimsy excuse for the self indulgent to dote over until a day of reckoning.

Those who donít hide behind scientific words like ìfetusî are prone to adopting the common wisdom of the day to provide them with excuses like, I have no education or I havenít enough money to bring a child into the world. Since education has only peaked in the last one hundred years youíve got to wonder how the worldís civilizations made it up to now without perishing under the weight of pure universal ignorance. Since great warriors, emperors, presidents, statesmen, philosophers, doctors, writers and others have come from great poverty; it would seem that the poverty excuse is also moot.
Without getting all bogged down in ìthou shalt notsî what does the bible have to say about abortion? It says that God knows us before we are born; He knows youíre going to be born, the day of your birth, and the day of your death. He even knows how many hairs youíve got on your head at anytime. Matthew 10:30

The Prophet Isaiah told of a Persian King named Cyrus that would come in time and order the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah 44:28 No big deal until you discover the fact that Isaiah made this prediction over a hundred years before Cyrus was born. Does God know a human life is in the womb? Yes, and donít worry just like Cyrus he doesnít think your name is Fetus, He knows exactly what your name is and He always did, figuratively speaking even before you were only a twinkle in your fathers eye.

One of the most well known figures in the bible is King David. The historicity of the life and reign of David is without question among bible believers and most all others as well. But did you know that David said that God knew him long before his birth or his reign over Israel? In fact David said that God knew him while he was still in his motherís womb Psalm 139:13. Whew, thank God He didnít mistake David for just a ìfetusî.

Letís go one step further to make the point. That God knows us from the womb is one thing but here is another. The most precious thing God could ever endow someone with is his own presence. He does not put his Holy Spirit on anything that is not holy. He does not put His Spirit on anything that is not human either. Yet the Bible says that He put his Holy Spirit on John the Baptist while he was still in his motherís womb. Luke 1:15 God didnít put his Spirit on a ìfetusî it was a human, good thing God knew that, too bad we donít.

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

Izetbegovic, the late nominal president of the nominal Bosnian state, the darling of the gullible western media, denied that he and his cronies and his cronies’ cronies stole 40% of all civilian aid targeted at Bosnia – a minor matter of 1 billion US dollars and change, in less than 4 years. The tribes of the Balkans stop bleeding each other to death only when they gang up to bleed another. In this, there are no races and no traces – everyone is equal under the sign of the dollar. Serbs, Bosnians and Croats divided the loot with the loftiest of egalitarian instincts. Honour among thieves transformed into honour among victims and their murderers. Mammon is the only real authority in this god forsaken, writhing rump of a country.

And not only there.

In Russia, billions (3 to 5) were transferred to secret off shore bank accounts to be “portfolio managed” by mysterious fly-by-night entities. Many paid with their jobs when the trail led to the incestuous Yeltsin clan and their byzantine court.

Convoys snake across the mountainous Kosovo, bringing smuggled goods at exorbitant prices to the inhabitants of this parched territory – all under the avuncular gaze of multinational peacekeepers.

In Romania, Hungary and Greece, UN forces have been known to take bribes to allow goods into besieged Serbia. Oil, weapons and strategic materials, all slid across this greasy channel of the international brotherhood of cash.

A lot of the aid, ostensibly intended to ameliorate the state of refugedom imposed upon the unsuspecting, harried population of Kosovo – resurfaced in markets, white and black, across the region. Food, blankets, tents, electrical equipment, even toys – were on offer in bazaars from Skopje to Podgorica and from Sofia to Thessaloniki, replete with the stamps of the unwitting donors. Aid workers scurried back and forth in expensive utility vehicles, buzzing mobile phones in hand and latest model, officially purchased, infrared laptops humming in the air conditioned coolness of their five star hotel rooms (or fancy apartments). In their back pockets they safeguarded their first class tickets (the food is better and the stewardesses …). The scavengers of every carnage, they descended upon this tortured land in redundant hordes, feeding off the misery, the autoimmune deficiency of the syndrome of humanism.

Ask yourselves: how could one of every 3 dollars – 50% of GNP – be stolen in a country the size of a tiny American state – without the knowledge and collaboration of the international organizations which ostensibly manage this bedlam? Why did the IMF renew the credit lines to a Russia which cheated bold-facely regarding its foreign exchange reserves? How was Serbia awash and flush with oil and other goods prohibited under the terms of the never-ending series of embargoes imposed upon it?

The answer is that potent cocktail of fear and graft. First came fear – that Russia will collapse, that the Balkans will spill over, that Bosnia will disintegrate. Nuclear nightmares intermingled with Armenian and Jewish flashbacks of genocide. The west shut its eyes tight and threw money at the bad spirits of irredentism and re-emergent communism. The long arm of the USA, the “international” financial institutions, collaborated in constructing the habit forming dole house that Eastern and Southern Europe has become. This conflict-reticence, these approach-avoidance cycles led to an inevitable collusion between the ruling mob families that pass for regimes in these parts of the planet – and the unilateral institutions that pass for multilateral ones in the rest of it. An elaborate system of winks and nods, the sign language of institutional rot and decaying governance, took over. Greasy palms clapped one another with the eerie silence of conspiracy. The world looked away as both – international financial institutions and corrupt regimes – robbed their constituencies blind. This was perceived to be the inevitable moral cost of stability. Survival of the majority entailed the filthy enrichment of the minority. And the west acquiesced.

But this grand design backfired. Like insidious bacteria, corruption breeds violence and hops from host to host. It does not discriminate, this plague of black conscience, between east and west. As it infected the indigenous, it also effected their guardians. They were all engulfed by raging greed, by a degradation of the inhibitions and by the intoxicating promiscuity of lawlessness. Inebriated by their newly found powers, little ceasars – natives and financial colonialists – claimed their little plots of crime and avarice, a not so secret order of disintegration of the social fabric. A ghoulish landscape, shrouded in the opaque mist of the nomenclature, the camaraderie of the omnipotent.

And corruption bred violence. The Chicago model imported lock, stock and the barrel of the gun. Former cronies disappeared mysteriously, bloated corpses in stale hotel rooms – being the only “contracts” honoured. Territories were carved up in constant, unrelenting warfare. One billion dollars are worth a lot of blood and it was spilled with glee, with the enthusiasm of the inevitable, with the elation of gambling all on a single spin of the Russian roulette.

It is this very violence that the west tried to drown with its credits. But unbeknownst to it, this very violence thrived on these pecuniary fertilizers. A plant of horrors, it devoured its soil and its cultivators alike. And 120,000 people paid with their lives for this wrong gamble. Counting its losses, the west is poised to spin the wheel again. More money is amassed, the dies are cast and more people cast to die.

Politics and the Internet

According to a recent poll conducted by ComputerWorld, about forty percent of the population believes that people can increase their political power by going online. Hence, many academics believe that people in western societies are becoming more technologically educated in order to gain more influence in the political sector. For example, Mr. Jeffrey Cole, a director at the University of Southern California states, ìThis year, 6% of regular Internet users said they have their own blogs, 16% said they post pictures on the Web, and more than 10% maintain their own web sites. In 2003, 3% of Internet users said they blogged, 11% posted photos, and less than 9% maintained web sites.î(ComputerWorld, 2005: 1) Thus, the question raised by many is, ìIs the Internet providing a more democratic and participatory human society for the future?î

Mr. Cole agrees that the Internet plays a pivotal role in providing a more equitable society that encourages participatory development. He argues that due to the younger generation having the ability to effectively communicate through Internet forums, they are more willing to express their political opinions online. The younger generation also has the opportunity to engage in academic discussions with people who are older and have more experience, such as university lecturers, or people who specialize in the area of discussion. Hence, the Internet has clearly demonstrated its use in terms of educating the younger generation for the future. However, the positive benefits that can be gained through the use of the Internet not only extends to young citizens, but has also created an impact for those who are in the workforce and are keen to learn more about their nationís political system.

Research has shown that many Americans are ësurfingí on the Internet before a Federal Election to increase their knowledge about political parties and their policies. Mr. Cole states, ìThe Internet is no longer a marginal force in American politics – it is quickly becoming the central force in empowering voters.î(ComputerWorld, 2005:1). For example, the success of the election of former Vermont Governor Howard Dean was mainly due to the Internet, where online fundraising and lobbying was used to ensure that people were adequately informed of the partiesí policies.

Hence, due to the power of the Internet, although many would argue that a person needs a certain level of knowledge and expertise before they are able to master the Internet and its search engines effectively, these people also agree that new software and computer technicians are slowly changing technological discourse in order to accommodate for people who may not be as technically inclined. Although it is generally agreed that the environment of cyberspace and the purpose of using the Internet is constantly changing to suit the needs of contemporary society, gaining information about political parties and their policies still remains a top priority for Internet users, especially those living in Western society.

Bibliography:

Gross Grant, 2005 ëSurvey: Internet can help people gain political power.í (ComputerWorld) [Online] http://www.computerworld.com/developmenttopics/websitemgmt/story/0,10801,106909,00.html

Frith Holden, 2005 ëLetter reveals US role in web power struggle.í (Times Online ñ Technology) [Online]
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,9075-1915821,00.html

Politics: The Corruption Curve

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” (Lord Acton)

We all like to think of ourselves as kind, honest, and benevolent. In our hearts, we are convinced that should we ever attain personal power, whether through building our own business, rising to the corporate executive office, becoming extraordinarily influential in our area of expertise, or in winning public office, we will continue to be honest and ethical, incorruptible to the end.

The action of wielding power varies greatly with the individual involved and the extent of power obtained. We are all familiar with the petty tyrant at work who rules a tiny business empire with greed and self-indulgence, bullying underlings without any sense of fairness or mercy. We have seen the research scientists who have forged a reputation over a lifetime fall into disgrace through subverting results to support their theories and their sponsors.

As the extent of power increases, we see the Enron and Lincoln Savings brand of tableaux unfold. Not only does that same greed and self-indulgence hold sway, but the concept of being above the law arises and accountability and trust are jettisoned from the boardroom. The more esoteric the lifestyle becomes, the greater the disconnect between the powerful and the rest of the world. Those who lack power are to be cheated, manipulated, and drained of their possessions ñ surely only just desserts for their failure to rise to the top.

In a world where hereditary monarchies are an anachronism, the most absolute power lies in the political sphere whether wielded by a military-backed dictator or by those who have been so repeatedly elected to office that they no longer see themselves as public representatives but as entitled oligarchs of a system they control.

The presumptuous ambition of one man, Julius Caesar, led to the destruction of a republic that had guided Rome to the heights of civilization. The empire he created held the seeds of its own destruction in its descent into the unrestrained autocracies of a string of less than illustrious rulers who wielded their absolute power with caprice and personal whim.

The framers of the Constitution had a vision of a government where no such unconstrained power could arise because of the checks and balances inherent in the system they devised. No one could be above the law because the rule of law was paramount. The advise and consent required from different branches of government ensured that a multitude of voices and philosophical ideas were involved in any major decision.

But those who drove the development of our constitutional law were giants in their own right. Washingtonís refusal to accept the title of king, advocated by several of his supporters, signaled his rejection of too much power concentrated in one individual. His peers ñ Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Madison, and many more ñ followed the same course: divide power to ensure that the needs of the many can be met through a myriad of representative voices.

Over the centuries, the checks and balances they built have kept the ship of state afloat. Occasionally listing to port or starboard, the sheer multiplicity of participants in the political process have been repetitively able to pull it back to an upright middle course. Certainly, there have been many dark periods of corruption and incompetence. We face such a darkness now: individuals in office for too long, with too much power within their grasping fingers; too many officials who have forgotten that they are public servants, developing a mindset of entitlement and the conviction that they know, better than anyone else, what is good for the public who, after all, elected them.

Only the rule of law, so carefully crafted more than 200 years ago, can keep them in check. The lawful prosecution of a congressman accepting millions of dollars in bribes, of a congressional leader who used election money as he saw fit rather than as the law required, and administration officials who destroyed a womanís career and jeopardized the lives of covert operatives all over the world, restores balance in a world rife with corruption, greed, and overweening pride.

Ongoing investigations into the honesty of leaders in evoking the need for military intervention and the rising voice of dissent against financial favors for the rich and powerful at the cost of cutting services to the powerless poor, offer a glimmer of hope that the corruption will be curbed and the hubris of our leaders punctured and exposed.

The embattled defendants cry foul, claiming that the only transgression is the political ambition of their critics. They have moved so far beyond the pale of the common citizen that their own corruption and misdeeds seem entirely ordinary and acceptable to them.

Happily, unlike the impotent rubber-stamp Roman senators, we can face our would-be Caesars without threat of bodily harm and we can cast them out of their cozy nest with the most powerful weapon ever devised: the ballot box.

No Matter What America Does The Rest Of The World Will Never Like Us

Americans need to get used to the idea that, no matter what The United States Of America does, the rest of the world will never like us.

Ours is a unique society. We are made up of people from almost every other nationality in the world. We were originaly formed by immigrants seeking religious and other freedoms. Our ethics and moral codes were formed mainly from Judeo-Christian ideals, ie: The Old And New Testaments, The Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our form of government is mainly secular but our way of living, our body of law and our way of thinking is, for the most part, Judeo-Christian.

Ours is not an insular society. All Americans, with the possible exception of Native American Indians, are decended from immigrants. These immigrants have come from all over the world. These immigrants brought, with them, differing ideas, customs and ways of doing things. Many of these ideas, customs and ways of doing things have been melded into our way of life. The foregoing has made us completely different than any other country in the world and people, due to the nature of humans, don’t always like other people who are different.

Ours is a wealthy country, not only in resources and land but also in our varied citizenry and our freedoms. This makes other people jealous or envious. They don’t have what we have, so they say that they don’t like us or that they hate us. Some of those same people, however, can’t wait to immigrate to this country, in order to have what we have.

Our people, for the most part, are loving, caring and generous. This may very well be one of our biggest problems. We want to give to and help others. Many people think of our giving and help as pure interference while others feel that no one would give or help without expecting something in return. No other country in the world is guided by Judeo-Christain principles so no other country in the world thinks or believes as we do. We can’t understand how they think and they can’t understand how we think.

We deal with other countries and their people as we deal with each other. We don’t understand that, in most parts of the world, fear and hatered are more powerful than love, greed and envy are more powerful than kindness and generosity, wanting to win is more powerful than a sense of fair play and that all of the foregoing are considered by many people to be weaknesses.

When France helped us during the Revolutionary War, the facts that the were already at war with England in the Caribbean, that we had to pay them for their help and that they did not come to our assistance untill they were sure that we had already won the war, did not stop us from being grateful. When During the Civil War and The War of 1812 a few French helped the Union, again for pay and again after they believed that the Union had won or would win the war, we were grateful. We we helped the French during their Civil War and in the First and Second World Wars, a few French were grateful but many more hated us. After all, we had humiliated them by helping them. We had shown them that they could not succeed with out our assistance. When the French believed that, Saddam Hussein did have weapons of mass destruction and was a threat to the world, they refused to help us or to join with us because their profits were more important than the live’s of others. They believed that they were safe because they were trading partners with Hussein. In addition, they feel that we have too much power so, they oppose us every chance they get (Don’t tell me about Desert Storm, the French did and contributed very little. The main thing they did was to help talk us out of going into Bagdad and ending the problem in Iraq, thereby saving their trading partner Saddam Hussein.). On the other hand, they want our money from tourism and trade so they invite our citizens to visit and to buy their goods. The French do not do anything unless it is in their own best intrest (By the way, I hate to admit this, but I have been told that, much to my regret, I am part French.). I know that the foregoing paragraph makes it sound as if I am a biggot. I am not a biggot, I just do not like being used, abused and lied to and I feel that that is what has been happening ever since the French Indian War or as it is also called, The Seven Years War, which took place before we were even a country.

Russia hates us for causing the breakup of the Soviet Union. The governments of Russia, Mainland China, North Korea, most Moslim countries, many African countries, some Central and South American countries and certain other countries hate us because they are afraid that their citizens might try to emulate us and rise up and take away their power over those citizens. Additionally, most Moslim countries hate us because our country does not follow Islam, ‘the one true religion’. According to them we are Satanists for not following the ‘one true God’. Since all of these governments control, in large part, the information sources in those countries, the majority of the people of those countries believe the lies and propaganda that are reported about us. Notice, however, how when many, not all, of those citizens make it into this country, they learn about us and they become, not only good citizens but, assets to our country. Some of our most contributing citizens came from countries that hated or fought against us at one time or another.

People that can recieve or hear news about our country, listen to our loudest and most strident voices. Voices from people like Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, Alec Baldwin, Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Sharpton, etc.. Since many people, in other countries, don’t understand the true meaning of freedom of speech, they think that these people are speaking for all of us. They think that all of us hate President Bush, they think that our country is filled with prejudice and hatred, they think that crime is out of controll and they think that every one of us carries guns and shoot each other for no reason, they think that we all feel that the war in Iraq is immoral or already lost, they think that all Republicans and most whites hate minorities and all non Jewish or Christian religions.

These people in other countries don’t understand that the voices that they are hearing come from a very loud and vocal minority of hard line left wing zealots and that those voices do not speak for all of us. These people also hear from a few loud and vocal far right wing zealots, however the right wing zealots are not celebrities so these people don’t pay as much attention to them. What the people in other countries don’t understand is that the majority of people in this country are moderate to slightly left or right wing and don’t really agree with either the far left or the far right. The majority of people in this country are hard working, kind, caring and generous people. However, moderate views are not exciting and therefore do not sell a lot of newspapers or garner a lot of television viewers, so moderate views do not get much coverage here or in any of the free or fairly free foriegn press.

Finally, most of the people in the world don’t like each other, many Chinese consider anyone not Chinese to be a barbarian and less than human, Indians and Pakastanis hate each other, Russia and all of the old Soviet Union members fight or feud with each other, many Muslims hate Jews and Christians, most Arab countries seem to hate Isreal, Muslim sects hate and kill each other, the French think that everyone else is beneath them, some Irish hate the British, in Ireland Catholics and Protestants fight each other, many Chinese and Koreans hate the Japanese and many Japanese hate the Chinese and the Koreans, Africans hate and kill other Africans, Argentines feel superior to citizens of other South American contries, etc, etc.. If so many people in the world hate or dislike each other, how can we expect them to like or love us?

Isn’t it about time that we quite worrying about being liked and instead started worrying about being respected or even a little feared. Fear usually generates a certain amount of respect. I’m not suggesting that we become another Soviet Union or a China. I am saying that perhaps we should stop worrying what the world thinks of us and instead stand up for ourselves. Use our financial clout, sacrifice a little, or a lot by not buying oil and goods from our enemies, cancell free trade agreements with our detractors, etc.. Sure many things will cost us more, but aren’t our way of life and our dignity worth something. And, if we do need to use military force, maybe we should use it without first trying to get everyone else’s permission. Help from countries like France, Germany, Russia and China would cost us more than it would help us. Help from the United Nations always seems to cost us more, in money and problems, than it helps us. There are a few countries, Australia, England, Israel, Taipei and a few others that usually stick by us, however, we may not always be able to count on them. Even now many people in England are trying to have Tony Blair removed from office and if we don’t start doing a better job of helping our friend and ally Israel, they may, someday, cease to exist.

Heal Our Republic: Change Our Electoral System

Consider the presidential election system we have today: Every state has a number of electors, equal to their amount of representatives and senators, who vote for the President of the United States. In most states, every elector goes to the candidate who achieves the most popular votes, regardless of his margin of victory. This means:

1. Presidential candidates have little reason to campaign to the whole country. If partisan or personal loyalty makes victory certain in a state, a candidate can safely ignore it in favor of other states. Conversely, if a candidate will definitely lose in a state, then he won’t waste his time there. Only competitive “battleground states” see much activity.
2. We have less national turnout. If a state will assuredly support one candidate, why bother voting? Also, lack of vigorous campaigning in a state might contribute to voter apathy during an election.
3. With the winner-take-all plurality system, candidates try to attract moderate voters, so to avoid turning people off, they emphasize their personalities more than their policies. This results in bland, visionless candidates who take those traits into the White House.

I believe a new presidential electoral system is in order. We need something that rewards candidates who have bold ideas, while drawing more voters into the process as well.

Therefore, I recommend we emulate the French.

Hear me out! The French have an excellent method by which to elect their president. It is a two-stage electoral process. In the first part, candidates from all the country’s parties can run. Candidates who mobilize partisans with daring policy agendas will perform best here. Afterwards, during the second stage runoff, the first and second place finishers of the first round compete. Whoever achieves a majority vote wins. This requires the candidates to make themselves as palatable toward the center as possible.

Eliminating the Electoral College and implementing two-round direct popular vote elections here would deliver many benefits. It would reward courageous candidates with striking ideas in the first stage, but it would weed out dangerous fanatics in the second stage. It would allow smaller parties to achieve greater prominence than they could achieve in a winner-take-all elector paradigm. It would give candidates reason to campaign to every American. And it would give each voter a larger role in determining the outcome of the election.

As a German friend also pointed out to me, ìI don’t quite get it that in the US, votes for the Greens i.e. are all lost, even help a candidate from the right to get into office (see 2000) — a second turn of the elections would allow Green supporters to vote for the Democrat.î This is an important point. The major parties would have to give adherents of smaller parties reasons to vote for them. This would force the Democrats and Republicans to take other parties, such as Greens and Libertarians, seriously, and perhaps heed some of their political desires. This would make more Americans feel as if they play an important role in the republican process.

To complete the reform, we also need to make going out to vote easier. Right now, we seemingly make voting as hard as we can. Elections take place on weekdays, so if Americans want to vote, they must take off work or rush to the polls before or after work. When they get there, they must wait a long time to finish the process, because the volunteer polling coordinators are old, retired people. (Young people have to work, after all.) All this makes voting seem not worth the hassle to millions of Americans.

To change that and increase turnout, Election Day should become a federal holiday. That would allow Americans to vote without worrying about missing work and forfeiting pay, or hurrying through throngs of people in the morning or evening. Younger Americans would also be able to volunteer to oversee the polls, thereby making voting a smoother and faster experience.

While we’re on the subject of changing our electoral system, let’s consider this: At the time the Constitution was drafted, one of the Anti-Federalist objections to the document was to the pluralistic election of representatives. The Anti-Federalists argued this could allow the election of representatives whom most of the community despised, but who still managed to get more votes than anyone else. Instead, according to the Anti-Federalists, districts should select their representatives by majority vote.

I believe that Anti-Federalist objection has merit. How can a representative represent a district if most of the people there hate him? Changing congressional elections to two-stage elections, similar to what I outlined above for presidential elections, would be a good idea. That way, we could ensure the majority of citizens in a district would have voted for their congressman. All the benefits of switching the national presidential election to a two-stage majority vote model would apply here.

Many conservatives would object to the national scope of my reform plan. Theyíd correctly point out it would erode federalism. Because population centersócitiesówould yield greater power, our executive branch might also shift to the left. Given the power of the presidency, this might produce a government similarly inclined to governments in Europe. Anathema to conservatives, that would be.

To counteract the leftward effect and to placate conservatives, I suggest we repeal the 17th Amendment. Let the state legislatures elect senators again. Senators who don’t rely upon the people as an electoral base would be a lot more willing to challenge the president. Not only might the Senate be more conservative than the President, but theyíd feel safer defying him since the people who put him in office wouldnít be the same ones who put them in office. They wouldnít have to worry as much about the Presidentís popularity.

In addition, with the people electing both the House of Representatives and the President under my plan, we’d need more checks against the tyranny of the majority. Election of federal senators by state legislatures would constitute such a check.

No electoral procedures could solve all problems. But this extensive reform plan would eliminate many of them:

* Campaigns focusing only on battleground states.
* Nullification of millions of votes.
* Candidates whose only goal is to win a plurality of the ballots.
* Victories by candidates whom most of the community doesn’t support.
* Apathy of the electorate toward politics.

We especially should not underestimate the importance of the last element. Only an interested and engaged citizenry can serve as the foundation of a republic. Without it, a republic cannot stand.

Colors of the American Flag

I would imagine that even before the ink on the Declaration of Independence had dried, the sentences: “Are we gonna have a flag? We gotta have a flag! Britain has a flag!” were echoed by members of the Continental Congress. But then, a flag is important. It is a symbol representing a group and their beliefs — a means of identification.

It has long been reported that in May of 1776, Betsy Ross sewed the first version of the flag we use today. The American flag has, of course, gone through several design transformations since then, as states were added to the nation and stars were added to the design.

Symbolism Abounding

Unique and appealing as the design is, I think our flag is also full of symbolism. To me, the red stripes indicate courage, blood and suffering. The white stripes mean truth, purity and open-mindedness. The word stripes, itself, is associated with oppressions, struggles, punishments and lessons learned. An enduring flag represents a state of surving or coming-of-age the hard way.

To me, the stars on our flag represent goals, dreams and the future — what we all aim for, in our own way — the infinite, the stars. The color blue is usually identified with peace, tranquility and spirituality. Hopefully, our dreams and future will be surrounded by peace and spirituality, just as the stars on the flag are surrounded by the blue.

Our flag is very much like our country. It is woven together by many threads, just as our nation is woven together by many nationalities, religions, philosophies and personalities.

The flag needs to be held up and supported to wave free, just as our country needs support to continue to remain as free as it has been. Any little breeze can cause a reaction. A harsh wind can make the flag angrily whip around on its foundation. But, even when it becomes weathered and torn, hanging on by only a few strands, as long as it is still connected to its foundation, it will continue to hang on and wave freely. It’s the wind blowing against the flag that keeps it waving, that allows the stars (as well as the stripes) to be seen. It’s the winds of properly-channeled protest and criticism brought against a nation that keeps it changing and shaping and thus, prevents it from sinking into a false euphoria or apathy…or worse.

Not as Simple as it Seems

The flag is not black and white, and neither are most issues involving it. You will note, that there is one more red stripe than white, showing that there will be more pain and struggle than there will be purity and truth.

An amendment (“H.J. Res.10”) giving Congress the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag, has been up for vote several times. However, “desecration” means more than being burned or shredded in anger and protest. Through the popular sale of interpretated versions of our flag that’s been placed on items ranging from paper notebooks and jewelry, to shirts and table cloths, it’s been proven that the flag has a marketing appeal as well as a patriotic one. But Title 4, Section 8-d, 8-g and 8-i of the U.S. Code (rules and regulations) forbids wearing it or placing an image of it on anything that is meant to be thrown away. The code also says that it is not be be used for advertising purposes. Therefore, it is always interesting to see how “desecration” is interpretated.

An Implied Pledge?

Any flag represents a nation or group’s future, as well as it’s past. So, before you burn it or praise it, condemn it or pledge allegiance to it, you should take another look at it and really see it for what it represents.

Sometimes I think that our nation’s “pledge” has gone to another rectangular object…a green one. With all the crime and corruption in this country, it’s as if the “Pledge of Allegiance” has been subconsciously rewritten to:

I pledge allegiance to the dollar

of the United States of America.

And to the buying power for which it stands.

One cartel, under the stock exchange, insatiable,

with affluence and greed for the fortunate.

May Our Flag Always Wave Free!

Since the 9-11 tragedy, the red, white and blue American flag has been seen on more cars and flying from more buildings than ever. Maybe we should continue to wave our flag even more and be ever cautious to see that it continues to represent the freedom, justice and integrity for which it has always been known.