Archive for the 'Democracy' Category

Hillary off in a rush to… Haiti, where she vows to undermine democracy.

This sort of stuff never ceases to amaze me. In the midst of the huge upheaval in Egypt, Hillary Clinton is on a plane. To where?

To Haiti.

The reasons for this should be extremely insightful to how she and the current US government really feel about democracy.

A) Haiti is trying to ignore US demands that certain candidates be thrown out of the upcoming election, and

B) Ignoring the US explicit wishes (especially highlighted by recent wikileaks revelations) Haiti has announced it will issue a passport to Aristide.

Of course, the threat is on the table, that if the Haitian slaves do not obey their masters in Washington D.C., all financial aid will be cut off to this extremely poor and beleaguered nation. Truly, our nation is run by secret combinations, of the type that would make Book of Mormon authors blush. An insightful article on this situation comes from Mark Weisbrot:

Haiti Resists US Pressure; Announces Aristide Can Return

It didn’t get much attention in the media, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did something quite surprising on Sunday. After taping interviews on five big Sunday talk shows about Egypt, she then boarded a plane to Haiti. Yes, Haiti. The most impoverished country in the hemisphere, not exactly a “strategic ally” or a global player on the world’s political stage.

Inquiring minds might want to know why the United States’ top foreign policy official would have to go to Haiti in the midst of the worst crisis she has faced. The answer is that there is also a crisis in Haiti. And it is a crisis that – unlike the humanitarian crisis that Haiti has suffered since the earthquake last year – Washington really cares about.

Like the Egyptians, Haitians are calling for free and fair elections. But in this case Washington will not support free and fair elections, even nominally. Quite the opposite, in fact. For weeks now the U.S. government has been threatening the government of Haiti with various punishments if it refuses to reverse the results of the first round of its presidential elections. Washington wants Haiti to eliminate the government’s candidate and leave only two right-wing candidates to compete in the second round.

Just three weeks ago it looked like a done deal. The Organization of American States (OAS) “Expert Verification Mission” did a report on Haiti’s November 28 presidential elections, and on January 10 it was leaked to the press. The report recommended moving the government’s candidate, Jude Celestin, into third place by just 0.3 percent of the vote; leaving right-wing candidates Mirlande Manigat, a former first lady, and Michel Martelly, a popular musician, in first and second place, respectively. This was followed with various statements and threats from U.S. and French officials that Haiti must accept this change of result. U.S. officials strongly implied that aid to Haiti would be cut if the government didn’t do as told. It looked as if desperately poor Haiti would have to give in immediately.

But then there was pushback. President Preval noted that six of the seven “experts” from the OAS Mission were from the U.S., Canada, and France – the three countries that led the effort to overthrow Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 2004.

Then the OAS report was found to be so deeply flawed as to be worthless in determining which candidates should proceed to a second round. The report ignored the problem of more than 150,000 missing votes that – given the voting patterns in the areas affected – would have shifted the result to Celestin. It also examined only a sample of the tally sheets, and did not use any statistical inference to estimate how the 92 percent of the tally sheets that it did not examine might have affected the result.

The call for new elections began to grow. It was joined from the beginning by 12 presidential candidates who had competed in the deeply flawed first round, in which only about a quarter of Haitians voted. This was down from 59.3 percent in the previous presidential election, partly because the country’s most popular political party – Fanmi Lavalas – was excluded from participating in the election.

Preval himself has been reported in the press to support new elections.

Then yesterday the Congressional Black Caucus leaders, in their first break with the foreign policy of the Obama administration, issued a statement that they called a “response to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s support of the OAS report”:

“The CBC urges the United States and the international community to uphold the ideals of fairness and support a new Haiti election process that is free and fair, respecting the rights of the Haitian people.”

But it is the rights of the Haitian people that Washington does not want to respect. Another reason that very likely contributed to Hillary Clinton’s sudden trip to Haiti on Sunday was that the Haitian government decided it is willing to issue a diplomatic passport to former President Aristide, who has been kept in exile in South Africa since the U.S.-organized coup ousted him in 2004. Recent Wikileaks cables show that the United States has pressed hard to keep him out of Haiti, and to keep him from exerting any influence from abroad. And his party, Fanmi Lavalas, was banned from participating in the November elections, as in other elections since he was removed from the country on a U.S. plane in 2004. Aristide issued a statement on January 19  that he was ready to come home.

It may seem strange that U.S. officials care so much about controlling a government as poor and without influence as Haiti, but they clearly do, having organized the overthrow of the country’s elected president in 2004, and contributed to the coup and subsequent death squads when Aristide was overthrown the first time in 1991.

The amazing thing about the last two months is that they are meeting such resistance from within Haiti, and from the Congressional Black Caucus – which forced then President Bill Clinton to restore Aristide to the presidency in 1994. Signs of further international support for democracy in Haiti were shown on January 26, when the OAS resolution on Haiti failed to endorse the recommendations of its own Mission’s report – due to resistance from left governments in Latin America. And the Rio Group, which includes 23 nations encompassing almost all of Latin America and the Caribbean, was also blocked by left governments from passing a resolution on Haiti.

The government of Haiti is scheduled to announce its decision on the elections today, and it may well fold under the enormous pressure from Washington. But with Aristide’s return imminent, the battle is far from over.

It is not only Egyptians that want free and fair elections, and not only the Arab world that is resisting U.S.-backed tyranny.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/feb/02/haiti-usforeignpolicy

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America’s hypocrisy shines bright in Egypt.

So funny to see Hillary Clinton saying that, “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,”

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2044902,00.html#ixzz1COoCSMvg

while El Baradei has a different idea about this:

http://www.jpost.com/Headlines/Article.aspx?id=205272

Of course, it’s this cozy relationship our leaders and businessmen in the US have with dictators that gives us a bad name in the world. Clinton has been quoted as saying, “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/09/AR2009030902478.html

Idiotic.

Of course, Egyptians on the street are a bit upset that the gas cannisters being fired at them by their police have, “made in the USA,” inscribed on them. That is the least of our assistance to them though, we also give 2.2 billion dollars and all sorts of high tech weapons to the Egyptian dictatorship.

Bush had quite a cozy relationship with Mubarak as well: “Our friendship is strong. It’s a cornerstone of — one of the main cornerstones of our policy in this region, and it’s based on our shared commitment to peace, security and prosperity.  I appreciate the opportunity, Mr. President, to give you an update on my trip. And I appreciate the advice you’ve given me. You’ve seen a lot in your years as President; you’ve got a great deal of experience, and I appreciate you feeling comfortable in sharing that experience once again with me.  I really appreciate Egypt’s support in the war on terror.”

http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2008/01/20080116-2.html

Here is Obama encouraging Mubarak to reform: “No, I tend not to use labels for folks. I haven’t met him. I’ve spoken to him on the phone.  He has been a stalwart ally in many respects, to the United States. He has sustained peace with Israel, which is a very difficult thing to do in that region.  But he has never resorted to, you know, unnecessary demagoging of the issue, and has tried to maintain that relationship. So I think he has been a force for stability. And good in the region. Obviously, there have been criticisms of the manner in which politics operates in Egypt.  And, as I said before, the United States’ job is not to lecture, but to encourage, to lift up what we consider to be the values that ultimately will work – not just for our country, but for the aspirations of a lot of people.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2009/06/090602_obama_transcript.shtml

Now the US calls for immediate reforms. This is why the US is hated around the world.

Now, there are rumors that Sunday, the army will crack down mercilessly on the protests after stirring up some staged violence on the part of the protesters and the US will likely condone the violence in favor of, “stability.” And so the story goes.

We need to leave Afghanistan yesterday.

Stories like this show exactly why we should get out of Afghanistan yesterday. We killed 10 election workers in northern Afghanistan today. We claim we killed bad guys instead.

Mr Khorasani (a parliamentary candidate), who was injured in the strike, told the BBC that the victims were his family members and supporters involved in his campaign.

“I thought that the foreign troops came here to bring us security and democracy.

“I believed they were helping us so that we can campaign for the parliamentary election. Instead they attacked me,” he said, speaking from his home in Kabul.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11163742

What does the USA have to say about this?

US Marine Corps Maj Gen David Garza said: “We’re aware of the allegations that this strike caused civilian casualties and we’ll do our best to get to the bottom of the accusations.”

He added: “We’re confident this strike hit only the targeted vehicle after days of tracking the occupants’ activity.”

Mr. President?

President Karzai’s office strongly condemned the strike.

“Air bombardments in the villages of Afghanistan will only end up killing civilians and will not be effective in the fight against terrorism,” it said.

Brookings poll uncovers some interesting information

This first question is hardly a surprise and should alert the Obama administration to the fact that the Arab population is not as stupid as they may have hoped. His speech in Cairo may have created hope, but that hope has dwindled and now the Arab peoples know the truth. Obama is no different. He will not deal justly with the middle-east, no more than any of his predecessors have.

These results here are very interesting. The way you hear it in the newspapers, everyone in Egypt and Saudi Arabia are opposed to Iran’s nuclear program. These numbers show a different story though. The Arabs polled were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan and the UAE. Saudi Arabia and Egypt citizens comprised approximately 20% each of the people polled.

Of those polled, 61% said they were most dissappointed with Obama’s handling of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. They also saw our middle-east policy as being driven by a need to protect Israel and control oil. Also, 59% polled said that when they see a documentary about the Jewish Holocaust, they resent it because they feel it brings sympathy towards the Jews at the expense of the Palestinians. Very interesting. Similar to Ahmadinejad’s position.

77% also believed that Iran has a right to it’s nuclear program.

In a world where there is only one superpower, 35% wanted France to be that superpower! Only 7% wanted the USA.  Also beating out the USA were China, Germany, Britain and Russia. Pakistan just lost to the USA at 6%!

Two countries that pose the biggest threat to Arab Peoples? 88% Israel and 77% USA. Iran was 10%. Interesting.

Erdogan, Chavez and Ahmadinejad were the most admired world leaders (Obama wasn’t featured in this one).

Methinks it would behoove the people of the USA to look at why the people of Arab nations have these opinions. There are good reasons.

http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2010/0805_arab_opinion_poll_telhami.aspx

Rehash on ‘Patriotism’

Gotta repost this one I did first 2 years ago:

In commemoration of this Independance Day weekend (for which I am a little late in writing about) I would like to bring to the reader’s mind the principle of Patriotism.  I am bothered by the display of patriotism I see in my church so often.  I am really bothered by the huge gobs of patriotism taught to my kids in elementary school so often.  They can sing the theme songs of each of the 4 branches of the military from memory.  So many of the assemblies parents are invited to make lengthly mention of military in conjunction with the “virtue” of patriotism.

Therefore, I bring you my very favorite words on the subject from President Spencer W. Kimball of the Church I belong to, who died back in 1985 I believe.

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel — ships, planes, missiles, fortifications — and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).

Also, I would like to point out one of my favorite parts of the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Have we arrived at this point yet?  Thomas Jefferson thought we arrive at this point at least every twenty years as is evidenced in his letter to William Smith in 1787:  http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/P/tj3/writings/brf/jefl64.htm

And now, for a collection of some of my favorite quotes on the topic of patriotism:

I would like to be remembered as a man who served his country.-General Augusto PinochetI am not going to repent. I am not going to ask for favours. What I did, I did for my country.

-P. W. Botha, former President of Apartheid South Africa

I want you to know that everything I did, I did for my country.

-Pol Pot, mass murderer of Cambodia

It is impossible to conceive a more troublesome or more garrulous patriotism (speaking of the patriotism of the USA); it wearies even those who are disposed to respect it.

-Alexis de Tocqueville

Pledges of allegiance are marks of totalitarian states, not democracies. I can’t think of a single democracy except the United States that has a pledge of allegiance.

-David Kertzer

The very existence of the state demands that there be some privileged class vitally interested in maintaining that existence. And it is precisely the group interests of that class that are called patriotism.

-Mikhail Bakunin

A problem with treating patriotism as an objective virtue is that patriotisms often conflict. Soldiers of both sides in a war may feel equally patriotic, creating an ethical paradox. (If patriotism is a virtue, then the enemy is virtuous, so why try to kill them?)

-Wikipedia

The heights of popularity and patriotism are still the beaten road to power and tyranny; flattery to treachery; standing armies to arbitrary government; and the glory of God to the temporal interest of the clergy.

-David Hume

Patriotism … is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit.

-Emma Goldman

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.

-George Bernard Shaw

Patriotism is a arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.

-George Jean Nathan

Patriotism ruins history.

-Goethe

In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell.

-H. L. Mencken

Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive.

-Henry Steele Commager

During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism.

-Howard Thurman

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

-Samuel Johnson

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.

-Sinclair Lewis

Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism – how passionately I hate them!

-Albert Einstein

I have no sense of nationalism, only a cosmic consciousness of belonging to the human family.

-Rosika Schwimmer

I am not an Athenian or a Greek, I am a citizen of the world.

-Socrates

I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.

-Eugene V. Debbs

Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind.  We love the land of our nativity, only as we love all other lands.  The interests, rights, and liberties of American citizens are no more dear to us than are those of the whole human race.  Hence we can allow no appeal to patriotism, to revenge any national insult or injury.

-William Lloyd Garrison, Declaration of Sentiments, Boston Peace Conference 1838

Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him?

-Blaise Pascal

It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.

-Voltaire

Corporations given unprecedented rights by US Supreme Court today.

Horrible move by the Supreme Court today which gives corporations unprecedented “free speech” rights in contributing money to political campaigns.   Treating corporations as humans in this way is a really bad idea.  Here is an article from Third World Traveler that addresses this issue.  Check it out:

It is time to rethink the notion of free speech for corporations.

Free speech guarantees are supposed to ensure vibrant civic debate, but it is corporations that dominate the public debate which should be the province of an engaged citizenry. Corporations take advantage of the speech rights which the Supreme Court says the Constitution provides to them, to dominate the campaign funding process, drown out citizen speech, contest advertising restrictions and block citizen organizing.

Corporations also now pose an increasingly serious, direct threat to citizens’ speech. Corporations intimidate citizens from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed speech rights with SLAPP suits (strategic lawsuits against public participation), which threaten activists with massive liability for speaking out against corporate wrongdoing. In SLAPPs, corporations charge activists with libel or slander or similar claims for criticizing the company. Corporations know they will lose the vast majority of SLAPPs, but they also know that time and expense involved in defending against a suit will distract the defendants and deter others from exercising their speech rights.

Now a new set of speech deterring “veggie-libel” laws- drafted by and shepherded through state legislatures by agribusiness interests-is exacerbating the problem by providing a statutory cause of action for corporations to employ against people who publicly criticize the safety of the food supply.

At the same time, corporations have evolved a new set of tools to shield from public scrutiny critical information stored in corporate records rooms. Environmental audit laws permit companies to conceal internal documents that show how the companies are damaging the environment [see “The Corporate Right to Cover Up”]. And corporations are increasingly relying on secrecy agreements in lawsuit settlements to prevent information discovered in consumer suits about dangerous products from being made public.

In sum, citizens’ effective free speech protections are being squeezed by big corporations, while big corporations arc gaining and exercising an ever-expanding panoply of speech rights, as well as the right to conceal of information of critical public interest.

Through a sort of “rights creep,” corporations over the last two decades have steadily expanded their legal entitlements. Corporations are increasingly treated in the law as if they were people, or deserving of even greater rights than people.

Corporations, however, have resources far beyond those available to real persons, and giving corporations the right to contribute to issue advertising campaigns, for example, ensures the corporate point of view will be able to overwhelm citizen perspectives. Corporations also benefit from a host of characteristics – limited liability, perpetual life, inability to be imprisoned-that advantage them over people in economic and political contests and that immunize them from many of society’s sanctions.

But the most important point is the most obvious: corporations are not, in fact, people. They are socially created institutions which were designed to, and should be made to, serve society’s interests.

Since democracy is supposed to be rule by the people, not by corporations, corporations should only receive democracy’s bedrock rights to the extent it furthers, or at least does not interfere with, civic power. They should not have a “right” to make political contributions or participate in the political process. They should not have “rights” to advertise. Their “right” to remain silent should never trump citizen interests in conveying information.

Since corporations are not people, they should never be able to bring defamation, slander or libel claims against real people, and certainly not against those who speak from non-economic motives. Injuries to a person’s reputation touch on person’s standing in the community and dignity; harms to ~ company’s goodwill are matters of economics. The idea that a corporation could sue a person for “disparaging” a food product should be laughed out of state and court houses across the United States.

And since corporations are not people, their “privacy rights” or similar privileges should, in general, be subordinate to the public’s right to know. Legal maneuvers such as secrecy agreements and environmental audit privileges should be banned. Corporations should not have the “right” to conceal information that could prevent the infliction of injury or disease.

“Rights” are the expression of a people’s or a constituency’s hard-won political gains, etched into democracy’s tablet of fundamental rules. Simultaneously, rolling back rights diminishes a constituency’s power. For the last two-and-a-half decades, corporations have won most of the important political conflicts in the United States, as well as around the world. It is time for citizens to organize and mobilize to reverse the corporate winning streak …

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Corporations/Corps_FreeSpeech.html

We don’t fight against democracies do we Mr. President…

Ether 8
23 Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.
24 Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.
25 For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.

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