Prohibition s other ending remembered on april 7

While Prohibition's repeal came on December 5, 1933, American brewers celebrate the end of that era with "Brew Year's Eve" on April 7. It seems the country's brewers were back in business on this earlier date, when Americans enjoyed beer as their first legal drink in 12 years.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's support for repeal helped him win the 1932 presidential election. Shortly after he took office, he worked with Congress to amend the Prohibition law and make beer legal again. The first delivery of legal beer arrived at the White House on April 7 and Americans were able to enjoy beer throughout the year that was required to ratify the 21st Amendment.

Roosevelt's support for repeal was more than just populist electioneering. He knew that revitalization of the brewing industry would be good for the American economy. This continues to be true today, with 1,400 American brewers creating jobs, paying taxes and contributing to community organizations and causes nationwide.

Not so long ago, Americans would have had to look hard to find an American brewery. In the 1970s, fewer than 70 were in operation. But the craft brewing movement that has blossomed since 1980 has swelled the ranks of brewers, putting small, traditional and independent makers of beer in nearly every community in the country.

As brewers celebrate Brew Year's Eve this April 7, they commemorate not only the beverage but also the contributions brewers make to their communities. The Brewers Association, the craft brewers' trade group, estimates that more than 20,000 organizations receive donations or sponsorships from brewers every year. Supported groups range from police and firefighters, to outdoor and environmental organizations, to neighborhood theater and art programs and medical research causes.

Bush s holy cronies have feet of clay

DETROIT -- Deception, arrogance, greed, hubris, corruption, incompetence and isolation -- the seven deadly sins of political life -- snared President George W. Bush and his cronies long ago. That's how they gained and maintain power.

While praying and thumbing their Bibles, loudly proclaiming their virtue and righteousness, the faith-based Busheviks claim to be the chosen and anointed, carrying out God's work on earth. In fact and in deed, they behave like the devil's disciples.

Now, with inspired irony, the sins they've served so well are their undoing. George W. Bush and his servants are being singed with the fires of political damnation, and they know an inferno is coming. Alone and naked in their sinfulness, they shiver in fear in the face of truth and justice. The evil empire is crumbling. Praise the Lord!

Bush's speechwriters use apocalyptic incantations all the time. Words like "evil" and "hate" roll off his smirking lips with relish. Forgive me, the style is contagious.

Bush's war in Iraq, his supreme deception, is a certain failure and the only uncertainty is how much more blood will be shed before the inevitable withdrawal. Now, polls show, only one-third of the American people support the war and most recognize the great lie Bush sold when he conflated Saddam Hussein's Iraq with al-Qaeda terrorism and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bush's plan to march into the heart of Islam with our British allies and then expect democracy to blossom in the Middle East has proven to be one of the most monstrously bad ideas in our nation's history. That aggression has made us despised around the world.

An advisory panel to the State Department has concluded, "America's image and reputation abroad could hardly be worse." Bush's old friend and former flack, Karen Hughes, just returned from a mission to improve the U. S. image in the Muslim world and show them what swell folks we really are.

Hughes, who is now undersecretary of state and responsible for public diplomacy, made her first venture into the Middle East, with disastrous results.

Hughes, with no foreign policy experience, made a feeble attempt to cozy up to our critics. She told women activists in Istanbul how wrenching it was for Bush to decide to invade Iraq.

Hughes told the gathering that "no one likes war," but "to preserve peace sometimes my country believes war is necessary." Unlike the handpicked town meetings the White House typically arranges, the Turkish women didn't smile and cheer on cue.

Feray Salman, a human rights advocate, stood up and told Hughes, "War is not necessary for peace." Salman scoffed at the notion of imposing democracy through war: "We can never, ever export democracy and freedom from one country to another."

This week, Bush plans yet another speech to explain how well his arrogant vision for Iraq is working and how much safer our nation is.

Hughes began her diplomatic road show in Cairo, where she tried to sell Bush's pipe dreams for the Middle East. Her amateurism showed as she told the Egyptians, "Many people around the world do not understand the important role that faith plays in Americans' lives." That must have been reassuring for the Muslim audience.

Hughes said, "Terrorists, their policies force young people, other people's daughters and sons, to strap on bombs and blow themselves up."

Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who's done extensive research on the motives of suicide terrorists, says Hughes is way off the mark and that her trip actually comforts terrorists. Pape told the Guardian's Sidney Blumenthal, "If you set out to help bin Laden, you could not have done it better than Hughes."

Pape rejects the view that suicide terrorism naturally flows from Islamic fundamentalism. He argues that outside intervention and specific circumstances set the stage. Pape told Blumenthal, "Of the key conditions that lead to suicide terrorism in particular, there must be, first, the presence of foreign combat forces on the territory that the terrorists prize. The second condition is a religious difference between the combat forces and local community. The religious difference matters in that it enables terrorist leaders to paint foreign forces as being driven by religious goals. If you read Osama's speeches, they begin with descriptions of the U. S. occupation of the Arabian Peninsula, driven by our religious goals, and that it is our religious purpose that must be confronted. That argument is incredibly powerful, not only to religious Muslims, but secular Muslims. Everything Hughes says makes their case."

Not to be outdone by the State Department, Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department continues to aid and abet terrorists and provide them with young recruits. More evidence of prisoner torture in Iraq is emerging, showing the horrors of Abu Ghraib were not isolated.

Army Capt. Ian Fishback of the 82nd Airborne Division and two sergeants have come forward to report that members of their unit routinely beat, abused and tortured Iraqi detainees. Fishback, a West Point graduate, says he tried for more than a year to get his superiors to listen, but only got their attention when he brought his complaints to Human Rights Watch and members of Congress.

More photos of the abuses at Abu Ghraib may soon be made public after a federal judge ruled the Pentagon could no longer censor them. Gen. Richard Myers, the freshly departed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had argued in court papers that releasing the photographs would aid al-Qaeda recruitment, weaken the shaky governments in Afghanistan and Iraq and incite riots against American troops. The judge correctly ruled the photos are the best evidence of what happened at the notorious prison.

Myers was a shameless toady who would parrot any lines the Busheviks fed him. He did great and lasting harm to the U. S. military. He will be remembered as the most thoroughly compromised and politicized commander of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He should expect a big medal from Bush and a job with some military contractor.

Vice President Dick Cheney is worried about more than his health problems these days. His chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has now been named as the source New York Times reporter Judith Miller went to prison to protect. Miller got out of the slammer last Thursday after doing a 12-week stretch.

"I was a journalist doing my job protecting my source until my source freed me to perform my civic duty to testify," Miller said after testifying before a federal grand jury.

Put aside for a moment the arguments about the need for a federal shield law to protect reporters from being compelled to reveal their sources. That's a First Amendment issue that merits another column. But let's focus for now on why Cheney and his henchmen sought out Judy Miller to share their information about undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame. The Busheviks outed Plame to retaliate against her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. He blew the lid off the Bush administration's infamous deception that Iraq was shopping for enriched uranium in Niger, Africa. Cheney loved that big lie and repeated it often. Bush used it in a State of the Union address.

Wilson found the truth and had the guts to tell the world. Retaliation came in an act of treason.

Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, masters in treachery -- another cardinal political sin -- leaked to reporters Plame's CIA connection and the suggestion that she engineered her husband's assignment to check out the Niger story. Rove and Libby may soon be indicted. Condi Rice is also up to her designer boot tops in the scandal.

Libby and Rove believed Judy Miller, a faithful lapdog, would help their cause. They threw her the Plame-CIA bone, expecting she'd use it. Since Miller had been so reliable in peddling a bundle of Bush administration lies to make the case for war with Iraq, they expected her continued loyalty.

Miller's pre-invasion reporting -- largely based on leaks from Cheney's office and the word of Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi expatriate and notorious liar -- described Iraq as having huge arsenals of deadly weapons.

Miller's "exclusives" were spattered all over the front pages of the Times. The inflammatory reports led the march to war. They were also horribly wrong. The paper has since apologized for some of that coverage. Miller never has.

Others in the mainstream corporate media picked up on Miller's dead-wrong stories. NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, would pounce on Miller's crap and, night after night, repeat the lies Cheney's boys had crafted. From Chalabi to Cheney to Libby to Miller to Mitchell and on to a huge television audience, the great deceptions echoed.

In a recent interview on "Real Time with Bill Maher," Mitchell admitted reporters did little to question Bush's rush to war. "And since 9/11 and after 9/11, there was a sort of rallying around -- an understandable sort of patriotic effect -- and I think reporters were less challenging," Mitchell said. No kidding.

When Bush's people couldn't co-opt reporters, they did it the old-fashioned way -- they bribed them. Federal auditors say the administration broke the law when it paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and others to churn out favorable news coverage about Bush's education policies and the No Child Left Behind Act.

I'm sure House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who's on a leadership sabbatical following his indictment on charges of conspiring to violate Texas election laws, would see no problem in using public funds for political propaganda. DeLay looks up at the gutter. For years, he has literally sold his radical Republicans in the House to the highest corporate bidders.

Over in the Senate, Majority Leader Dr. Bill "Dirty Hands" Frist keeps lying about his blind trust that managed to have 20/20 vision when it came to unloading his stock that was about to tank.

Frist is a fraud, a Martha Stewart in drag, a greedy manipulator who should have had his medical license yanked for the public health policies he's fostered that leave 45 million Americans without health insurance. He uses his public position to protect private hospitals -- shocking as that is -- and the usual suspect drug and insurance companies.

In these trying, sin-laced times, Bush and his crowd usually would turn to the holy trinity of radical Republican (RR) virtue for grace and salvation -- Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Bill Bennett. But alas, the liberals have done them wrong and caused great consternation.

Rush is frantically fighting prosecutors seeking his medical records and the sources of his illegal drugs.

Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, whose phone sex aggression caused great harm to a female subordinate and cost Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.'s shareholders millions of dollars, is dueling with another demon. Media Matters for America, a Web site that reviews media accuracy, has found Mr. O'Reilly spins lies, deceptions and distortions at the pace of a 9-year-old in Bangladesh making shirts for Wal-Mart. O'Reilly is a serial liar, plain and simple. Those who listen to him expecting the truth don't get it.

Bill Bennett -- the RR's chief custodian of virtue, Ronald Reagan's secretary of education and Bush the Elder's drug czar -- is on a new high after revelations about his gambling addiction. Bennett admits he had a long-term affair with the one-armed bandits in Vegas, dropping millions in coins, pumping and stroking the machines for fleeting gratification. It's my money, he said, money made preaching virtue.

But now Bennett, our vicar of virtue, has a new theory, which he preached on his radio show. He sees abortion as reprehensible, but says it might have some societal benefits.

"I do know that it's true if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in the country, and your crime rate would go down," Bennett said.

When the heat followed, the flip-lipped Bennett whined he was quoted out of context and what he said was only a "thought experiment."

My thought experiment is that Bennett, George W. Bush and their ilk reflect on their own sins and leave public virtue to others.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is [email protected] net.

Niagara Falls Reporter www. niagarafallsreporter. com Oct. 4 2005

America s second civil war

Reprinted with permission from:

"The Second Civil War in the USA and its Aftermath" by Sam Vaknin (second, revised impression, 2029)

Summary of Chapter 83

"The polities of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries swung between extremes of nationalism and polyethnic multiculturalism. Following the Great War (1914-8), the disintegration of most of the continental empires - notably the Habsburg and Ottoman - led to a resurgence of a particularly virulent strain of the former, dressed as Fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism.

The aftermath of the Second World War brought on a predictable backlash in the West against all manner of nationalism and racism. The USSR, Yugoslavia, the Czech Republic, the EU (European Union, then European Community), the Commonwealth led by the United Kingdom, and the prominent USA epitomized the eventual triumph of multiculturalism, multi-ethnic states, and, in the Western democracies, pluralism.

Africa and Asia, just emerging from a phase of brutal colonialism, were out of synch with these developments in Europe and North America and began to espouse their own brands of jingoistic patriotisms. Attempts to impose liberal-democratic, multi-cultural, tolerant, pluralistic, and multi-ethnic principles on these emergent entities was largely perceived and vehemently rejected by them as disguised neo-colonialism.

The disintegration, during the second half of the twentieth century, of the organizing principles of international affairs - most crucially Empire in the 1960s and Communism in the 1980s - led to the re-eruption of exclusionary, intolerant, and militant nationalism. The Balkan secession wars of the 1990s served as a stark reminder than historical forces and ideologies never vanish - they merely lie dormant.

Polyethnic multiculturalism came under attack elsewhere and everywhere - from Canada to Belgium. Straining to contain this worrisome throwback to its tainted history, Europeans implemented various models. In the United Kingdom, regions, such as Scotland and Northern Ireland were granted greater autonomy. The EU's "ever closer union", reified by its unfortunate draft constitution, was intermittently rejected and resented by increasingly xenophobic and alienated constituencies.

This time around, between 1980 and 2020, nationalism copulated with militant religiosity to produce particularly nasty offspring in Muslim terrorism, Christian fundamentalist (American) thuggish unilateralism, Hindu supremacy, and Jewish messianism. Scholars, such as Huntington, spoke of a "clash of civilizations".

Ironically, the much-heralded conflict took place not between the USA and its enemies without - but within the United States, in a second and devastating Civil War.

Americans long mistook the institutional stability of their political system, guaranteed by the Constitution, for a national consensus. They actually believed 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.

In hindsight, the watershed obtained during the Bush-Cheney presidency (2001-2009). The social and political concord frayed and then disintegrated with each successive blow: the war in Iraq (2003-7), the botched evacuation and rescue efforts in the wake of hurricane Katrina (2005), the failed assassination attempt on the President's life (2006), the further restrictions placed on civil and human rights in Patriot Acts III and IV (2008), and, finally, the nuclear terrorist attack on Houston in the closing days of this divisive reign.

From there, it went only downhill.

As opposed to the first Civil War (1860-5), the Second Civil War (2021-26) was fought within communities and across state boundaries. It was not territorial and classic - but total and guerilla-like. It cut across the country's geography and pitted one ideological camp against another.

It may be too soon to objectively analyze and evaluate this gargantuan conflict. It was preceded by a decade of violent demonstrations, home-grown urban terrorism, and numerous skirmishes involving the National Guard and even, in violation of the Constitution, the armed forces.

Some historians cast the whole period as a battle of the religious vs. the secular. It clearly was not. By 2021, most Americans professed to being deeply religious, in one manner or fashion. No one seriously disputed the importance of the Church - but many insisted on its separation from the state.

Hence the protracted (and heated) confrontation between pro-life and pro-choice advocates when Wade vs. Roe was overturned by a politicized and weakened Supreme Court in 2007. Hence the drawn out (and violent) debates about the teaching of evolution theory in schools or the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research.

Nor was the Civil War fought between isolationists and interventionists. An ever more brazen brand of post-September 11 global terrorism and a growing dependence on international trade inexorably drove most Americans to accept their new role as an Empire. They actually learned to enjoy it, both emotionally and economically.

Thus, even erstwhile Jacksonian isolationists reluctantly acquiesced in their country's foreign exploits. But they insisted on blatant unilateralism and the projection of American might merely and only to protect American interests. They abhorred the missionary ideology of the neo-conservatives. Spreading values, such as democracy, should better be left to NGOs and charities - they thundered.

The Civil War was not about the preservation of East Coast liberalism, as some self-serving scholars would have it. America was never less racist and homophobic than in the years immediately preceding the conflagration. The debate, again, revolved around institutions. Should changing mores be enshrined in legislation and case law? Should the national ethos itself be rewritten? Should the very definition and quiddity of being an American (white, male, straight) be revisited?

Neo-Marxist chroniclers attribute the causes of the Second Civil War to the growing disparities of wealth between the haves and the haves not. Presidents Bush and Cheney surely reversed L. B. Johnson's Great Society. They and their successors erased the numerous entitlements and aid programs that many of the economically disenfranchised came to depend upon and to regard as a birth right and as a cornerstone of the social contract.

Turning the clock back on affirmative action and food stamps, for instance, indeed provoked widespread violence. But such outbursts can hardly be construed to have been the precursors of the gigantic flame that consumed the USA a few years hence.

Finally, the Civil War was not about free trade (beneficial to the service and manufacturing based economies of some states) versus protectionism (helpful to the agricultural belts and bowls of the hinterland and to the recovering Gulf Coast). America's economy was far too dependent on the outside world to reverse course. Its national debt was being financed by Asians, its products were being sold all over, its commodities and foods were coming from Africa and Latin America. The USA was in hock to a globalized and merciless economy. Protectionism was campaign posturing - not a cogent and coherent trade policy.

So, what were the roots and causes of the Second Civil War?

None of the above in isolation - and all of the above in confluence. For decades, the citizenry's trust in a packed and rigged Supreme Court declined. Politicians came to be regarded as a detached and heartless plutocracy. Americans felt orphaned, cheated, and robbed. The national consensus - the implicit agreement that together is better than alone - has thus evaporated. The outcome was the shots and explosions that rocked the United States (and the world in tow) on January 20, 2021."

Containing the united states

European intellectuals yearned for the mutually exclusive: an America contained and a regime-changed Iraq. The Chinese are more pragmatic - though, bound by what is left of their Marxism, they still ascribe American behavior to the irreconcilable contradictions inherent in capitalism.

The United States is impelled by its economy and values to world dominion, claimed in March 2003 an analysis titled "American Empire Steps Up Fourth Expansion" in the communist party's mouthpiece People's Daily. Expansionism is an "eternal theme" in American history and a "main line" running through its foreign policy.

The contemporary USA is actually a land-based empire, comprising the territorial fruits of previous armed conflicts with its neighbors and foes, often one and the same. The global spread of American influence through its culture, political alliances, science and multinationals is merely an extrapolation of a trend two centuries in the making.

How did a small country succeed to thus transform itself?

The paper attributes America's success to its political stability, neglecting to mention its pluralism and multi-party system, the sources of said endurance. But then, in an interesting departure from the official party line, it praises US "scientific and technological innovations and new achievements in economic development". Somewhat tautologically, it also credits America's status as an empire to its "external expansions".

The rest of the article is, alas, no better reasoned, nor better informed. American pilgrims were forced westward because "they found there was neither tile over their heads nor a speck of land under their feet (in the East Coast)". But it is the emphases that are of interest, not the shoddy workmanship.

The article clearly identifies America's (capitalistic) economy and its (liberal, pluralistic, religious and democratic) values as its competitive mainstays and founts of strength. "US unique commercial expansion spirit (combined with the) the puritan's 'concept of mission' (are its fortes)", gushes the anonymous author.

The paper distinguishes four phases of distension: "First, continental expansion stage; second, overseas expansion stage; third, the stage of global contention for hegemony; and fourth, the stage of world domination." The second, third and fourth are mainly economic, cultural and military.

In an echo of defunct Soviet and Euro-left conspiracy theories, the paper insists that expansion was "triggered by commercial capital". This capital - better known in the West as the military-industrial complex - also determines US foreign policy. Thus, the American Empire is closer to the commercially driven British Empire than to the militarily propelled Roman one.

Actually, the author thinks aloud, isn't America's reign merely the successor of Britain's? Wasn't it John Locke, a British philosopher, who said that expansion - a "natural right" - responds to domestic needs? Wasn't it Benjamin Franklin who claimed that the United States must "constantly acquire new land to open up living space" (the forerunner of the infamous German "Lebensraum")?

The author quotes James Jerome Hill, the American railway magnet, as exclaiming, during the US-Spanish War, that "If you review the commercial history, you will discover anyone who controls oriental trade will get hold of global wealth". Thus, US expansion was concerned mainly with "protecting American commercial monopoly or advantageous position". America entered the first world war only when "its free trade position was challenged", opines the red-top.

American moral values are designed to "serve commercial capital". This blending of the spiritual with the pecuniary is very disorienting. "Even the Americans themselves find it hard to distinguish which matter is expanding national interests under the banner of 'enforcing justice on behalf of Heaven' and which is propagating their ideology and concept of value on the plea of national interests."

The paper mentions the conviction, held by most Americans, that their system and values are the "best things in human society". Moreover, Americans are missionaries with a "manifest destiny" and "the duty and obligation to help other countries and nations" and to serve as the "the beacon lighting up the way for the development of other countries and nations". If all else fails, it feels justified to "force its best things on other countries by the method of Crusades".

This is a patently non-Orthodox, non-Marxist interpretation of history and of the role of the United States - the prime specimen of capitalism - in it. Economy, admits the author, plays only one part in America's ascendance. Tribute must be given to its values as well. This view of the United States - at the height of an international crisis pitting China against it - is nothing if not revolutionary.

American history is re-cast as an inevitable progression of concentric circles. At first, the United States acted as a classic colonial power, vying for real estate first with Spain in Latin America and later with the Soviet Union all over the world. The Marshall Plan was a ploy to make Europe dependent on US largesse. The Old Continent, sneers the paper, is nothing more than "US little partner".

Now, with the demise of the USSR, bemoans the columnist, the United States exhibits "rising hegemonic airs" and does "whatever it pleased", concurrently twisting economic, cultural and military arms. Inevitably and especially after September 11, calls for an American "new empire" are on the rise. Iraq "was chosen as the first target for this new round of expansion".

But the expansionist drive has become self-defeating: "Only when the United States refrains from taking the road of pursuing global empire, can it avoid terrorists' bombs or other forms of attacks befalling on its own territory", concludes the opinion piece.

What is China up to? Were this - and similar - articles a signal encrypted in the best Cold War tradition?

Another commentary published a few days later may contain the public key. It is titled "The Paradox of American Power". The author quotes at length from "The Paradox of American Power - Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone" written by Joseph Nye, the Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and a former Assistant Secretary of Defense:

"Hard power works through coercion, using military sticks and economic carrots to get others to do our will. Soft power works through attraction ... Our attractiveness rests on our culture, our political values and our policies by taking into account the interests of others."

As it summarizes Nye's teachings, the tone of the piece is avuncular and conciliatory, not enraged or patronizing:

"In today's world, the United States is no doubt in an advantageous position with its hard power. But ... power politics always invite resentment and the paradox of American power is that the stronger the nation grows, the weaker its influence becomes. As the saying goes, a danger to oneself results from an excess of power and an accumulation of misfortunes stems from lavish of praises and favors. He, whose power grows to such a swelling state that he strikes anybody he wants to and turns a deaf ear to others' advice, will unavoidably put himself in a straitened circumstance someday. When one indulges oneself in wars of aggression under the pretext of 'self security' will possibly get, in return, more factors of insecurity ... Military forces cannot fundamentally solve problems and war benefits no one including the war starter."

Nor are these views the preserve of the arthritic upper echelons of the precariously balanced Chinese Communist party.

In the same month, in an interview he granted to Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, Shen Jiru, chief of the Division of International Strategy of the Institute of World Economics and Politics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, reiterated his conviction that "the United States aims to create a unipolar world through the Iraq issue".

Mirroring the People's Daily, he did not think that the looming Iraq war can be entirely explained as a "dispute on oil or economic interests". It was, he thought, about "the future model of international order: a multipolar and democratic one, or the US strategic goal of a unipolar world". China has been encouraged by dissent in the West. It shows that the "multipolar international community" is an "inevitable" momentum of history.

Why this sudden flurry of historiosophic ruminations?

According to Stratfor, the strategic forecasting consultancy, "for Beijing, the only way to stymie the fourth phase is through promoting multilateralism; barring that, China must be prepared to confront the United States in the future, and U. S. history can give some guidance ... Thus, Beijing continues to focus on the concept of multilateralism and the legitimacy of the United Nations as the best ways to slow or even disrupt U. S. expansionism. At the same time, Beijing is preparing to face a future confrontation with the United States if necessary."

When its economy matures, China wants to become another United States. It has started emulating America two decades ago - and never ceased. Recent steps include painful privatization, restructuring of the banking system, clamping down on corruption and bad governance, paring down the central bureaucracy, revamping the military and security apparatus and creating mechanisms for smooth political transitions.

China sent a man to the moon. It invests heavily in basic science and research and development. It is moving gradually up the manufacturing food chain to higher value added industries. It is the quintessential leapfrogger, much of its cadre moving straight from the rustic to the plastic - computers, cellular phones, wireless and the like.

Ironically, it could never have made it even this far without its ostensible foe. Thousands of bright Chinese students train in the United states. American technologies, management, knowledge, capital and marketing permeate Beijing's economic fabric. Bilateral trade is flourishing. China enjoys the biggest share of the world's - in large part American - foreign direct investment flows. Should the United states disintegrate tomorrow - China would assuredly follow.

Why are politicians corrupt

Most politicians bend the laws of the land and steal money or solicit bribes because they need the funds to support networks of patronage. Others do it in order to reward their nearest and dearest or to maintain a lavish lifestyle when their political lives are over.

But these mundane reasons fail to explain why some officeholders go on a rampage and binge on endless quantities of lucre. All rationales crumble in the face of a Mobutu Sese Seko or a Saddam Hussein or a Ferdinand Marcos who absconded with billions of US dollars from the coffers of Zaire, Iraq, and the Philippines, respectively.

These inconceivable dollops of hard cash and valuables often remain stashed and untouched, moldering in bank accounts and safes in Western banks. They serve no purpose, either political or economic. But they do fulfill a psychological need. These hoards are not the megalomaniacal equivalents of savings accounts. Rather they are of the nature of compulsive collections.

Erstwhile president of Sierra Leone, Momoh, amassed hundreds of video players and other consumer goods in vast rooms in his mansion. As

electricity supply was intermittent at best, his was a curious choice. He used to sit among these relics of his cupidity, fondling and counting them

insatiably.

While Momoh relished things with shiny buttons, people like Sese Seko, Hussein, and Marcos drooled over money. The ever-heightening mountains of greenbacks in their vaults soothed them, filled them with confidence, regulated their sense of self-worth, and served as a love substitute. The balances in their bulging bank accounts were of no practical import or intent. They merely catered to their psychopathology.

These politicos were not only crooks but also kleptomaniacs. They could no more stop thieving than Hitler could stop murdering. Venality was an

integral part of their psychological makeup.

Kleptomania is about acting out. It is a compensatory act. Politics is a drab, uninspiring, unintelligent, and, often humiliating business. It is

also risky and rather arbitrary. It involves enormous stress and unceasing conflict. Politicians with mental health disorders (for instance,

narcissists or psychopaths) react by decompensation. They rob the state and coerce businessmen to grease their palms because it makes them feel better, it helps them to repress their mounting fears and frustrations, and to restore their psychodynamic equilibrium. These politicians and bureaucrats "let off steam" by looting.

Kleptomaniacs fail to resist or control the impulse to steal, even if they have no use for the booty. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical

Manual IV-TR (2000), the bible of psychiatry, kleptomaniacs feel "pleasure, gratification, or relief when committing the theft." The good book proceeds to say that " ... (T)he individual may hoard the stolen objects ...".

As most kleptomaniac politicians are also psychopaths, they rarely feel remorse or fear the consequences of their misdeeds. But this only makes them more culpable and dangerous.

The madman and the iraqi war

It is the war of the sated against the famished, the obese against the emaciated, the affluent against the impoverished, the democracies against tyranny, perhaps Christianity against Islam and definitely the West against the Orient. It is the ultimate metaphor, replete with "mass destruction", "collateral damage", and the "will of the international community".

In this euphemistic Bedlam, Louis Althusser would have felt at home.

With the exception of Nietzsche, no other madman has contributed so much to human sanity as has Louis Althusser. He is mentioned twice in the Encyclopaedia Britannica merely as a teacher. Yet for two important decades (the 1960s and the 1970s), Althusser was at the eye of all the important cultural storms. He fathered quite a few of them.

Althusser observed that society consists of practices: economic, political and ideological. He defines a practice as:

"Any process of transformation of a determinate product, affected by a determinate human labour, using determinate means (of production)."

The economic practice (the historically specific mode of production, currently capitalism) transforms raw materials to finished products deploying human labour and other means of production in interactive webs. The political practice does the same using social relations as raw materials.

Finally, ideology is the transformation of the way that a subject relates to his real-life conditions of existence. The very being and reproduction of the social base (not merely its expression) is dependent upon a social superstructure. The superstructure is "relatively autonomous" and ideology has a central part in it.

America's social superstructure, for instance, is highly ideological. The elite regards itself as the global guardian and defender of liberal-democratic and capitalistic values (labeled "good") against alternative moral and thought systems (labeled "evil"). This self-assigned mission is suffused with belligerent religiosity in confluence with malignant forms of individualism (mutated to narcissism) and progress (turned materialism).

Althusser's conception of ideology is especially applicable to America's demonisation of Saddam Hussein (admittedly, not a tough job) and its subsequent attempt to justify violence as the only efficacious form of exorcism.

People relate to the conditions of existence through the practice of ideology. It smoothes over contradictions and offers false (though seemingly true) solutions to real problems. Thus, ideology has a realistic attribute - and a dimension of representations (myths, concepts, ideas, images). There is harsh, conflicting reality - and the way that we represent it both to ourselves and to others.

"This applies to both dominant and subordinate groups and classes; ideologies do not just convince oppressed groups and classes that all is well (more or less) with the world, they also reassure dominant groups and classes that what others might call exploitation and oppression is in fact something quite different: the operations and processes of universal necessity"

(Guide to Modern Literary and Cultural Theorists, ed. Stuart Sim, Prentice-Hall, 1995, p. 10)

To achieve the above, ideology must not be seen to err or, worse, remain speechless. It, therefore, confronts and poses (to itself) only questions it can answer. This way, it is confined to a fabulous, fantastic, contradiction-free domain. It ignores other types of queries altogether. It is a closed, solipsistic, autistic, self-consistent, and intolerant thought system. Hence the United States' adamant refusal to countenance any alternative points of view or solutions to the Iraqi crisis.

Althusser introduced the concept of "The Problematic":

"The objective internal reference ... the system of questions commanding the answers given."

The Problematic determines which issues, questions and answers are part of the narrative - and which are overlooked. It is a structure of theory (ideology), a framework and the repertoire of discourses which - ultimately - yield a text or a practice. All the rest is excluded.

It is, therefore, clear that what is omitted is of no less importance than what is included in a text, or a practice. What the United States declines or neglects to incorporate in the resolutions of the Security Council, in its own statements, in the debate with its allies and, ultimately, in its decisions and actions, teaches us about America and its motives, its worldview and cultural-social milieu, its past and present, its mentality and its practices. We learn from its omissions as much as we do from its commissions.

The problematic of a text reveals its historical context ("moment") by incorporating both inclusions and omissions, presences and absences, the overt and the hidden, the carefully included and the deliberately excluded. The problematic of the text generates answers to posed questions - and "defective" answers to excluded ones.

Althusser contrasts the manifest text with a latent text which is the result of the lapses, distortions, silences and absences in the manifest text. The latent text is the "diary of the struggle" of the un-posed question to be posed and answered.

Such a deconstructive or symptomatic reading of recent American texts reveals, as in a palimpsest, layers of 19th century-like colonialist, mercantilist and even imperialist mores and values: "the white man's burden", the mission of civilizing and liberating lesser nation, the implicit right to manage the natural resources of other polities and to benefit from them, and other eerie echoes of Napoleonic "Old Europe".

But ideology does not consist merely of texts.

"(It is a) lived, material practice - rituals, customs, patterns of behavior, ways of thinking taking practical form - reproduced through the practices and productions of the Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs): education, organized religion, the family, organized politics, the media, the cultural industries..." (ibid, p.12)

Althusser said that "All ideology has the function (which defines it) of 'constructing' concrete individuals as subjects".

Subjects to what? The answer is: to the material practices of the ideology, such as consumption, or warfare. This (the creation of subjects) is done by acts of "hailing" or "interpellation". These attract attention (hailing) and force the individuals to generate meaning (interpretation) and, thus, make the subjects partake in the practice.

The application of this framework is equally revealing when one tackles not only the American administration but also the uniformly "patriotic" (read: nationalistic) media in the United States.

The press uses self-censored "news", "commentary" and outright propaganda to transform individuals to subjects, i. e. to supporters of the war. It interpellates them and limits them to a specific discourse (of armed conflict). The barrage of soundbites, slogans, clips, edited and breaking news and carefully selected commentary and advocacy attract attention, force people to infuse the information with meaning and, consequently, to conform and participate in the practice (e. g., support the war, or fight in it).

The explicit and implicit messages are: "People like you - liberal, courageous, selfless, sharp, resilient, entrepreneurial, just, patriotic, and magnanimous - (buy this or do that)"; "People like you go to war, selflessly, to defend not only their nearest and dearest but an ungrateful world as well"; "People like you do not allow a monster like Saddam Hussein to prevail"; "People like you are missionaries, bringing democracy and a better life to all corners of the globe". "People like you are clever and won't wait till it is too late and Saddam possesses or, worse, uses weapons of mass destruction"; "People like you contrast with others (the French, the Germans) who ungratefully shirk their responsibilities and wallow in cowardice."

The reader / viewer is interpellated both as an individual ("you") and as a member of a group ("people like you..."). S/he occupies the empty (imaginary) slot, represented by the "you" in the media campaign. It is a form of mass flattery. The media caters to the narcissistic impulse to believe that it addresses us personally, as unique individuals. Thus, the reader or viewer is transformed into the subject of (and is being subjected to) the material practice of the ideology (war, in this case).

Still, not all is lost. Althusser refrains from tackling the possibilities of ideological failure, conflict, struggle, or resistance. His own problematic may not have allowed him to respond to these two deceptively simple questions:

What is the ultimate goal and purpose of the ideological practice beyond self-perpetuation?

What happens in a pluralistic environment rich in competing ideologies and, thus, in contradictory interpellations?

There are incompatible ideological strands even in the strictest authoritarian regimes, let alone in the Western democracies. Currently, IASs within the same social formation in the USA are offering competing ideologies: political parties, the Church, the family, the military, the media, the intelligentsia and the bureaucracy completely fail to agree and cohere around a single doctrine. As far as the Iraqi conflict goes, subjects have been exposed to parallel and mutually-exclusive interpellations since day one.

Moreover, as opposed to Althusser's narrow and paranoid view, interpellation is rarely about converting subjects to a specific - and invariably transient - ideological practice. It is concerned mostly with the establishment of a consensual space in which opinions, information, goods and services can be exchanged subject to agreed rules.

Interpellation, therefore, is about convincing people not to opt out, not to tune out, not to drop out - and not to rebel. When it encourages subjects to act - for instance, to consume, or to support a war, or to fight in it, or to vote - it does so in order to preserve the social treaty, the social order and society at large.

The business concern, the church, the political party, the family, the media, the culture industries, the educational system, the military, the civil service - are all interested in securing influence over, or at least access to, potential subjects. Thus, interpellation is used mainly to safeguard future ability to interpellate. Its ultimate aim is to preserve the cohesion of the pool of subjects and to augment it with new potential ones.

In other words, interpellation can never be successfully coercive, lest it alienates present and future subjects. The Bush administration and its supporters can interpellate Americans and people around the world and hope to move them to adopt their ideology and its praxis. But they cannot force anyone to do so because if they do, they are no different to Saddam and, consequently, they undermine the very ideology that caused them to interpellate in the first place.

How ironic that Althusser, the brilliant thinker, did not grasp the cyclical nature of his own teachings (that ideologies interpellate in order to be able to interpellate in future). This oversight and his dogmatic approach (insisting that ideologies never fail) doomed his otherwise challenging observations to obscurity. The hope that resistance is not futile and that even the most consummate and powerful interpellators are not above the rules - has thus revived.

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 – 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. Washington’s 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 – Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Madison, and many more – 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 woman’s 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.

The caveman and the alien

When Chancellor Kohl's party and Edith Cresson are suspected of gross corruption - these are labelled "aberrations" in an otherwise honest West. When NASA in collaboration with its UK counterpart blow a 130 million US dollars spacecraft to smithereens having confused the metric system for its pound/feet archaic predecessor - people nod their head in disapproval: "accidents happen". When President Clinton appoints his wife to suggest an overhaul of the multi-hundred billion dollars US health system - no one thinks it odd. And when the (talented) son of the police investigated, rumoured to be hyper-corrupt Minister of Interior Affairs of Israel becomes a Minister himself, no one bats an eyelash. Yet, when identical events happen in the decrepit countries of Eastern, Central, or Southern Europe - they are subjected to heaps of excoriating scorn, to vitriolic diatribes, to condescending preaching, or to sanctions. It is, indeed, a double standard, a hypocrisy and a travesty the magnitude of which is rarely to be encountered in the annals of human pretensions to morality.

The West has grossly and thoroughly violated Thompson's edict. In its oft-interrupted intercourse with these forsaken regions of the globe, it has acted, alternately, as a Peeping Tom, a cynic and a know it all. It has invariably behaved as if it were holier-than-thou. In an unmitigated and fantastic succession of blunders, miscalculations, vain promises, unkept threats and unkempt diplomats - it has driven Europe to the verge of war and the region it "adopted" to the verge of economic and social upheaval.

Enamoured with the new ideology of free marketry cum democracy, the West first assumed the role of the omniscient. It designed ingenious models, devised foolproof laws, imposed fail-safe institutions and strongly "recommended" measures. Its representatives, the tribunes of the West, ruled the phlebeian East with determination rarely equalled by skill or knowledge. Velvet hands couched in iron gloves, ignorance disguised by economic newspeak, geostrategic interests masquerading as forms of government characterized their dealings with the natives. Preaching and beseeching from ever higher pulpits, they poured opprobrium and sweet delusions on the eagerly deluded, naive, bewildered masses. The deceit was evident to the indigenous cynics - but it was the failure that dissuaded them and all else. The West lost Eastern and Southeast Europe not when it lied egregiously, not when it pretended to know for sure when it surely did not know, not when it manipulated and coaxed and coerced - but when it failed. To the peoples of these regions, the king was fully dressed. It was not a little child but an enormous debacle that exposed his nudity. In its presumptuousness and pretentiousness, feigned surety and vain clichйs, imported models and exported cheap raw materials - the West succeeded to demolish beyond reconstruction whole economies, to ravage communities, to bring ruination upon the centuries-old social fabric, woven diligently by generations. It brought crime and drugs and mayhem but gave very little in return, only an horizon beclouded and thundering with eloquence. As a result, while tottering regional governments still pay lip service to the Euro-Atlantic structures, the masses are enraged and restless and rebellious and baleful and anti-Western to the core. They are not likely to acquiesce much longer - not with the West's neo-colonialism but with its incompetence and inaptitude, with the non-chalant experimentation that it imposed upon them and with the abyss between its proclamations and its performance.

In all this time, the envoys of the West - its mediocre politicians, its insatiably ruthless media, its obese tourists and its armchair economists - continued to play the role of God, wreaking greater havoc than even the original. While knowing it all in advance (in breach of every tradition scientific), they also developed a kind of world weary, unshaven cynicism interlaced with fascination at the depths plumbed by the local's immorality and amorality. The jet-set Peeping Toms resided in five star hotels (or luxurious apartments) overlooking the communist shantytowns, drove utility vehicles to the shabby offices of the native bureaucrats and dined in $100 per meal restaurants ("it's so cheap here'). In between sushi and sake they bemoaned and grieved over corruption and nepotism and cronyism ("I simply love their ethnic food, but they are so..."). They mourned the autochtonal inability to act decisively, to cut red tape, to manufacture quality, to open to the world, to be less xenophobic (while casting a disdainful glance at the sweaty waiter). To them it looked like an ancient natural phenomenon, a force of nature, an inevitability and hence their cynicism. Mostly provincial people with horizons limited by consumption and by wealth, they adopted cynicism as shorthand for cosmopolitanism. They erroneously believed it lent them an air of ruggedness and rich experience and the virile aroma of decadent erudition. Yet all it did is make them obnoxious and more repellent to the residents than they already were.

Ever the preachers, the West - both Europeans and Americans - upheld themselves as role models of virtue to be emulated, as points of reference, almost inhuman or suprahuman in their taming of the vices, avarice up front. Yet the disorder in their own homes was broadcast live, day in and day out, into the cubicles inhabited by the very people they sought to so transform. And they conspired and collaborated in all manner of corruption and crime and scam and rigged elections in all the countries they put the gospel to. In trying to put an end to history, they seem to have provoked another round of it - more vicious, more enduring, more traumatic than before. That the West will pay the price for its mistakes I have no doubt. For isn't it a part and parcel of their teaching that everything has a price and that there is always a time of reckoning?

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, “This 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.”(ComputerWorld, 2005: 1) Thus, the question raised by many is, “Is the Internet providing a more democratic and participatory human society for the future?”

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 nation’s political system.

Research has shown that many Americans are ‘surfing’ on the Internet before a Federal Election to increase their knowledge about political parties and their policies. Mr. Cole states, “The Internet is no longer a marginal force in American politics - it is quickly becoming the central force in empowering voters.”(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 parties’ 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 ‘Survey: Internet can help people gain political power.’ (ComputerWorld) [Online] http://www. computerworld. com/developmenttopics/websitemgmt/story/0,10801,106909,00.html

Frith Holden, 2005 ‘Letter reveals US role in web power struggle.’ (Times Online – Technology) [Online]

http://business. timesonline. co. uk/article/0,,9075-1915821,00.html

Lincoln group-republican party cia spies -garfield media talking head

CONSPIRACY, intrigue, bribery and influence that may go clear up the ladder to Presdient George W(eak) Bush, Lincoln Group seems to have it all. A company that seems to have materialized from out of the mist snags major DOD contracts, including one for a 100 million dollars in psyhops work. Included on their board is Christian Bailey, and Andrew Garfield who seems to be a man of many IMPORTANT hats, including a media darling talking head with strong ties to both the Republican conservative think tanks, and 10 Downing Street. How did a company started by two 30 something’s men have such a meteoric rise, how did they get Andrew Garfield on their board, and even more importantly, why in the blink of and eye did three of their board members dissappear over night? Furthermore, how is this company being able to make their trail on the Internet dissappear…several pages on the Internet have simply vanished since this whole Pentagon planted story scandal has hit the press.

These Three people were listed as key members of the board on Lincoln Group website two days ago, but have not vanished.

Huy Kameron Hoang - Director, Lincoln Innovation Lab

James Sutton - Country Manager, Iraq

Brian Swift - Project Manager, IBC

The press so far seems to be deliberating steering away from any serious investigation of Lincoln Group, though there seems to be plenty of areas ripe for the harvesting of a major story. As mentioned in other areas of this blog, Christian Bailey was listed as being intimately involved in the 2004 Republican Party National Convention held in New York City. Christian Bailey was a FOUNDING member of Lead 21, a fast moving group of young wealthy republicans, yet in the past two days, any mention of him has simply VANISHED from their website. It should be mentioned here, that some of Lead 21’s members are NOW WORKING in the Bush Administration. “These are going to be the big supporters, the big donors to the Republican Party in five years’ time,” Bailey told The New York Times in an Aug. 31, 2004, video interview during a Lead21 party at the Republican convention in New York. Wonder if my message there made some people nervious? Furthermore, the company has admitted to working with well over 300 reporters in Iraq.

Perhaps a clue is found in Andrew Garfield, who is no stranger to the news media, and who in fact could be classified as a pundit of all things which concern the military and the war on terrorists. What I find odd, is Andrew Garfield’s apparent involvements with Jihad Camp, which is a learning center to teach American law enforcement how to think more like a terrorist…I find it interesting, because this camp just happens to be on the grounds of the private security company that provided Bremmer with his security force while he was in charge over in Iraq. Is this the foot in the door that was used to give Lincoln Group such incredible access to various press sources in Iraq.

Christian Bailey said, “Iraqex began handling PR work for private entities in sectors like manufacturing and finance within the country last year and has established close ties with 300-400 members of the Iraqi media.”

This quote makes one wonder just how many stories were leaked, and in just how many newspapers as well.

This blog is not the only one that smells a rat in the Lincoln Group rise to stardom status within the beltway of Washington DC. The Project on Government Oversight was quoted as saying, “Any time we see leaders who cultivate political influence for a particular party suddenly receive major government contracts, it sends up red flags,” It is suggested, that there are a lot of red flags, and lots of explaining that is not forthcoming. For instance, Lincoln Group admits to having relationships with over 300 reporters in Iraq through their subsidiary Iragex, which has since changed its name to that of its parent company, Lincoln Group. Are those relationships far more than that? In a press release, Iraqex states they have OVER 300 EMPLOYEES in Iraq!

“Iraqex benefits from strong relationships in Iraq, the U. S. and internationally. In Iraq, it has cultivated relationships with the Iraqi national government, municipalities, tribal leaders, prominent families, and the business community. Iraqex has a thriving network of offices from Basra in the South to Zakho in the North and employs over 300 Iraqis. In the U. S., Iraqex enjoys select relationships in Congress, the Administration, OPIC, ExIm Bank, and the U. S. Department of State.”

A theory of SUPER CONSPIRACY deepens when you see that Lincoln Group has listed as a sub contractor, the Republican Power House and King maker BKSH and Associates, and organization presented a bipartisan, but is actually a part of Burso-Marstell (supposedly world’s fifth largest PR firm), which is run by world reknowned Republican strategist Charles R. Black, Jr., who served both Ronald Reagan, and the first President Bush as well as acting as a spokesperson for the Republican Party. The firms LOBBYIST specialize in the design and execution of programs to help shape public policy. Cozy relationship in light of the purported purpose and scope of the Pentagon’s 100 Million dollar contract with Lincoln Group when you consider that BKSH brags about its ability to mount US, pan-European and transatlantic campaigns. Odder still, is the fact that The New Yorker back in February of 2004 reported that Black was considering opening up an office in Bahgdad…just months before Lincoln Group(Iraqex) got their first major contract (over five million dollars) in September of 2004. Did they have inside information? His comments in the New Yorker seem rather amusing in hindsight, as Black stated:

“The problem in Iraq so far is it’s slow, and very confusing for people to figure out how to do business there … One week you go to Baghdad, and they say the decisions are being made at the Pentagon. Then you go to the Pentagon, and they say the decisions are being made in Baghdad. Only Halliburton is making money now!,” he told New Yorker. “Is there too much cronyism? I just wish I could find the cronies,”

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. In July 2005 O’Dwyers PR Daily Reported that Lincoln Group had retained the services of BKSH. This was after Lincoln Group had been retained by the United States Special Operations Command to wage psychological warfare on behalf of the Pentagon in Iraq and other hot spots.” Wondering what OTHER HOT SPOTS, and also wondering why it is today that the Pentagon cannot find any one to go up to the Hill to speak to Congress, claiming they cannot find any one who knows anything about the leaked stories. In yet another odd twist to this whole story, BKSH claims they have experience in Iraq from work done for…are you ready for this….Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress.

As they say, this story keeps getting curiouser and curiouser.

The most dangerous place in the world 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 don’t 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 “scientific term” 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 “fetus”. 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 don’t hide behind scientific words like “fetus” are prone to adopting the common wisdom of the day to provide them with excuses like, I have no education or I haven’t enough money to bring a child into the world. Since education has only peaked in the last one hundred years you’ve got to wonder how the world’s 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 “thou shalt nots” what does the bible have to say about abortion? It says that God knows us before we are born; He knows you’re going to be born, the day of your birth, and the day of your death. He even knows how many hairs you’ve 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 don’t worry just like Cyrus he doesn’t 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 mother’s womb Psalm 139:13. Whew, thank God He didn’t mistake David for just a “fetus”.

Let’s 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 mother’s womb. Luke 1:15 God didn’t put his Spirit on a “fetus” it was a human, good thing God knew that, too bad we don’t.

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

Only the delusioned now support bush

DETROIT -- The last semblance of broad public support for President George W. Bush is the diminishing number of Americans who continue to believe his administration does a good job with national security. "Bush makes me feel safer," they foolishly proclaim.

Those who advance just slightly beyond their visceral emotions and think at all are arriving at an inescapable conclusion: George W. Bush's policies fail to protect us and his approach to national security is a disaster.

The testimony and evidence for that conclusion comes, not from the Democrats, the left, pacifists or anti-imperialists, but rather from seasoned military people and national security experts who served in the administrations of Bush the Elder and his impetuous, reckless son, Bush the Lesser.

We already know from former White House terrorism czar Richard Clarke and former treasury secretary and National Security Council member Paul O'Neill how Bush wanted to use the Sept. 11 attacks as the pretext to invade Iraq. We know from them that Bush was fixated on Saddam Hussein and would willfully meld him into the terrorists who struck the United States, although not a scrap of evidence supported that great lie for the ages.

Up until now, Clarke and O'Neill were the only insiders with the honesty and courage to publicly reveal how Bush the puppet and his radical neocon string-pullers would use Sept. 11 to carry out their long-established goal of attacking Iraq. They wanted to control the oil and have a strategic military presence in the Middle East. In their most pixilated moments, they actually claimed the aggression would help plant democracy in the region and make Israel more secure.

Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired U. S. Army colonel and Vietnam veteran who once served as deputy director of the U. S. Marine Corps War College. After his military service, he went to work for Colin Powell, serving as his chief of staff from August 2001 through the end of Bush's first term.

Wilkerson had a front-row seat and what he saw was narrowness and secrecy in the decision-making process controlled by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their operatives. They successfully cut off others from whatever they were plotting. The deliberate decision to keep others in the dark "courted disaster," Wilkerson said.

He made his remarks in a speech last week before the New American Foundation, a think tank. Wilkerson, who worked for Powell for 16 years at the Pentagon and State Department, said his former boss was "not happy" with his decision to speak out and tell the American people about his profound concerns.

Powell, ever the loyal soldier, is a diminished citizen for his refusal to tell the chilling truths he knows about the madness of George W. Bush and his gang. In the best light, Powell may think speaking the truth will make the world even more dangerous and make the nation even weaker than Bush has.

In the worst light, Powell is trying to protect the value of his book deal and his own reputation from the public exposure of the horrible decisions he joined in and the lies he helped propagate.

Wilkerson has no similar motives. He praised President Bush -- the Elder, that is. He said George H. W. Bush is "one of the finest presidents we have ever had" and knew how to make foreign policy work. The current president, Wilkerson said, is "not versed in international relations and not much interested in them either."

That's certainly why George W. Bush is content with an arrangement that allows him to focus on issues like establishing the religious right as the state religion, promoting cronies for high office and doing the bidding of his corporate sponsors and the National Rifle Association.

Delegating these foreign policy matters also serves Bush's personal pleasure, allowing him ample time to relax at his ranch, clear brush, play video games and watch sports on TV.

International relations would be the exclusive domain of Lord Halliburton and Field Marshall Donald Rumsfeld. Career military and government people, national security staffers and the State Department play no role in the isolated decision-making. Just two voices, always in harmony, would sing the tune that becomes U. S. policy. They let the president know what they have decided, but his participation is never really needed or wanted. What the hell does he know, anyhow?

Congress has enacted laws that prescribe how the Defense Department, State Department, National Security Council and other agencies are to perform and interact to assure some uniformity and continuity in these important relationships and a decision-making process subject to review and oversight. Cheney and Rumsfeld will have no part of that system.

Wilkerson saw "dysfunction within the administration" and an organization that is essentially outside conventional government and rules.

"I have never seen in my studies of aberration, bastardizations, changes to the national security process what I saw. (It) was a cabal between the Vice President of the United States Richard Cheney and the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made," Wilkerson said.

Confusion and chaos resulted, Wilkerson observed, "and then when the bureaucracy was presented with these decisions and carried them out, it was presented in such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn't know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out."

But here's where the National Security Council is supposed to take charge, sort through the confusion, coordinate the work and make sense out of the decisions. That responsibility is enshrined in law. But not with Condoleezza Rice running the show. Rice, the vastly overrated professional sycophant, didn't do her job, but spent her time telling Bush everything was hunky-dory.

"She was part of the problem," Wilkerson said, adding that "she would side with the president to build her intimacy with the president."

Rice's private ploys harmed public welfare. "What I saw was an extremely weak national security adviser," Wilkerson said. That calculated, ambitious weakness landed Rice the secretary of state's job with the blessings of Cheney and Rumsfeld, who knew she would continue to enable their cabal.

The State Department offered its resources and expertise to plan what would be done in Iraq following the invasion. The department traditionally handled those situations and had experienced people to step in and do the job.

But Cheney and Rumsfeld told Powell he could keep his people and plans at home. They would handle everything through their man, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.

Feith was put in charge of immediate post-war Iraq and was given carte blanche "to tell the State Department to go screw themselves in a closet somewhere," according to Wilkerson.

Feith played a key role in centralizing control, ignoring the State Department's career officers and weakening national security in the process. For Cheney and Rumsfeld, his credentials were impeccable. He is a neocon who consistently favors force over diplomacy.

Feith has long been linked to fringe elements in Israeli politics, has proclaimed Israel's "moral superiority" over Arabs, and insists Palestinians are not a "national group as such." Feith condemned Jimmy Carter's Camp David agreement. He's opposed any pressure on Israel to withdraw from occupied territory. He sees a strong and permanent U. S. military presence in the Middle East as necessary for Israel's security.

While Feith's Zionist credentials are sterling, his U. S. foreign policy and intelligence credentials are tarnished, to say the least. Wilkerson seemed generous when he said of Feith in his speech, "Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man."

Retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the invasion of Iraq, had even spicier words for him when he referred to the bad intelligence Feith fed to the military about Iraq. Franks called Feith the "f-----g stupidest man on the face of the earth."

But Feith is just the kind of man Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush want to keep on top at the Pentagon. He's credited with urging that Saddam's phantom weapons of mass destruction be used as the chief rationale for the war. Feith's office was in charge of prisons in Iraq when the torture and abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib occurred. Wilkerson sees those horrors as "a concrete example" of the decision-making problem, with Bush and the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal effectively blessing U. S. soldiers' use of torture.

The Busheviks have condoned all the lies, deceptions and indecencies that have made our nation despised around the world and our people demonstrably less secure. In an unnecessary war that cannot be won, tens of thousands of Iraqis have died and soon our own dead will top 2,000.

Bush has shown no regard for international law, constitutional protections, the Bill of Rights, our own laws, democratic institutions or human decency.

More people will inevitably come forward and tell the truth about this dangerous assault on our national freedom and security. More inside stories could be revealed as Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald prepares indictments in the CIA leak case, but that testimony will likely be nipped in the bud.

The president's "brain," Karl Rove, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, are targets for indictments. What they did in outing CIA officer Valerie Plame was treacherous and treasonous. The purpose was to warn others not to do what Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, did. He told the truth when he exposed the Bushevik lie that Saddam was looking for enriched uranium to use for nuclear weapons.

Rove and Libby have no moral or legal defense for what they did, only a political defense. They will be indicted, each will plead no contest to one felony count, and the president will then pardon them immediately. No trials. No truth. No impeachments for Bush and Cheney.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is [email protected] net.

Niagara Falls Reporter www. niagarafallsreporter. com Oct. 25 2005

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."

blood extravasation israel s journey to the precipice of nowhere

Western civilization’s lone bastion in the Middle East has lost sight of its holistic long-term visage, and is behaving like a fracturalized cornered animal, lashing at all within its grasp. Israel fails to remember Chaim Weizmann’s precursor to entering Palestine, an inclusive benefice for both Palestinian and Israelite, while Hezbolla solidifies its political gains by building hospitals, schools, and sadly, but historically predictable, terrorism. Israel lurches forward in its current flailings as a self-destructive proponent of blood extravasation, adding and fortifying its enemies amidst its long and arduous journey, not to peace and prosperity, but instead towards slowing progress as it perches on the precipice of…nowhere.

Let us delve into a little pragmatism and prognostication. Israel’s current war against Hezbolla, Gaza, and Lebanon will result in nothing gained except a continuance and perpetuation of a shortsighted blood extravasation. Blood extravasation, a leakage of blood from a vessel to tissues surrounding it, applies here as Israel’s current destruction of infrastructure in Gaza and Lebanon will lead to further extravasation to the Middle Eastern societies and cultures, galvanizing the blood letting and hatred with further participation. Israel is simply demarcating its status as she holds the power to walk through her neighboring states as easily as a scythe through wheat. Apparently, albeit falsely, Israel feels a demonstration of this power will somehow help her towards her long-term goal of peace. Under normal circumstances Israel would be in no position to be throwing its teenage temper tantrum, as the United States would have slapped them upside the head for confusing an already tense situation. But alas the US is in no position to provide the corporeal punishment that Israel so richly deserves as the US herself participates in an awkward and ungainly foreign policy that Stephan Hawkings would be hard put to figure out.

So prognostication as follows: Israel will stomp around Lebanon and Gaza, because they can, to no result except more extravasation, they will eventually tire out, or decide they have done enough damage and find some pretense for ending the carnage, but feel better. Syria is the cat on a hot tin roof, as it doesn’t really want to participate at all, but will buck up with verbal support for their so-called breathen, lets remember they were just forced by Lebanon and the international community to unoccupy Lebanon, and privately will enjoy watching their little breathen get the stuffing knocked out of them. Iran the recent proverbial peacock, will puff out its chest and make lots of noises, but will participate in the morass clandestinely, as usual. Recall that Iran, at the cost of a whole generation of their male population, couldn’t even beat Iraq in a real war and fought to what war always fights to, a simple redemarcation of the status quo. As Iran furiously tries to gain 60 year old technology and a certain hegemony in the area, it means little, Israel is specifically letting them know that even if Iran had the bomb, which Israel will never let them do, they have had historical successes against its middle-eastern foes time and time again and they could walk through Iran if needed . This is a simple reiteration of the fact, demonstrated for all to see.

So much ado about nothing, civilian death, mutilation, infrastructure destruction aside, extravasation proceeds in a bloodletting to no purpose.

Let us then give a whack at pragmatism for a paragraph or two. The problem is cultural. Funded by our lack of understanding of the middle-eastern mind, western culture reveals its hardheaded thinking that tries again and again to fit its square head into a round hole. Lets identify first that Israel’s problem is systemic and comes from a lack of clear and long-term thinking. The 20th century, bless its heart, tried to deal with the age old problem of the Jewish nation that wasn’t a nation, and Chiam Weizmann with the Balfour Declaration in tow, gave light and hope to the Zionist cause to battle the diasporas and pogroms of those times. They proceeded to buy their way into Palestine, a really great deal for the Palestinians at the time as the area was the proverbial backwater of the middle east, by bringing electricity, sewer systems, schools and libraries into the region: the very same infrastructure which Israel is now blowing up. In return, Zionism would have a place to start, a beacon of light so to speak for the Jewish nation to look to as they were being systematically brutalized around the globe. Unfortunately the 20th century also brought the Wilsonian 14 points and an intense desire for any type of nationalism. The Palestinians were no different than any other sovereign nation and could clearly see they would be overwhelmed by the influx of Jews into Palestine, and fought back well before the war of 1947 that formalized the nation of Israel.

Here we come to the systemic problem, both are right. As with all real problems both are right, and if you were born on either side you would be swayed depending on what birth mother you have. The solution is complex and as with all things will take time, education, understanding, and TOLERANCE. Instead of territorial war, which by definition would require that the winning side commit genocide to actually win, Israel must go back to their initial policy of investment, infrastructure, education, largess, and benevolence. They are a western civilization smack in the middle of an old eastern culture. Israel is no longer and has not been for thousands of years a middle eastern country, but rather a western country surrounded by middle eastern culture, which unfortunately isn’t ready and hasn’t evolved to WANT to participate in a western way of life. They may be close, but they certainly are not there. Hence the democracies that elect Islamic fundamentalist governments and our square headed lack of patience and tolerance in waiting for our fellow humans to be ready, then and only then, can we lend support for a true change in subjective thinking. Until then refer to the above, bury your dead on both sides and wait patiently to celebrate with unbridled glee your day of redemption, peace and prosperity.

As a fundamental policy Israel must return to its long-term thinking and think holistically about its real goal of peace and harmony with its perpetually hostile neighbors. A documented historical reminder, war never works, I repeat, NEVER works. She must return to her long-term policy of benevolence and understanding in the midst of terror instead of participating in a blood extravasation that will lead only to her perpetuating her time on the precipice to…nowhere.

Thanks mankind

I got to thinking today and i have to say, we rock! Humans I mean. For some reason, as I sat there, eating my McDonalds, I started thinking about technology. Man was I impressed! We have so much, and we dont think about it enough. I suppose it really doesnt make much of a difference to think about it anyways, but life would just be so much harder if it wasnt 2005.

We have evolved into quite the creatures. We have technology like computers and IPOD's to make our lives easier and more enjoyable. When was the last time we said thanks? Better yet, who are we saying thanks to? I suppose we thank God. He did, afterall, create us.

What else did I think about? Medicine! How about all those machines and stuff we have to make sure we get a proper diagnosis, so that we can get proper treatment. Like MRI's and X-Rays and Blood tests and all that. Go us!

And all those medicines that we have, which allow us to enjoy a long happy and healthy life. Basically, we have made life more entertaining with technology, and then in turn technology made our lives longer so that we could enjoy it. Thats a good cycle, and you can sign me up for it again this year.

Pretty much, I just wanted to take a moment and think about what mankind has done, and thank those who did it for us. THANKS!

The democratic ideal and new colonialism

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful concerned individuals can precipitate change in the world ... indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"

(Margaret Mead)

"Democracy" is not the rule of the people. It is government by periodically vetted representatives of the people.

Democracy is not tantamount to a continuous expression of the popular will as it pertains to a range of issues. Functioning and fair democracy is representative and not participatory. Participatory "people power" is mob rule, not democracy.

Granted, "people power" is often required in order to establish democracy where it is unprecedented. Revolutions - velvet, rose, and orange - recently introduced democracy in Eastern Europe, for instance. People power - mass street demonstrations - toppled obnoxious dictatorships from Iran to the Philippines and from Peru to Indonesia.

But once the institutions of democracy are in place and more or less functional, the people can and must rest. They should let their chosen delegates do the job they were elected to do. And they must hold their emissaries responsible and accountable in fair and free ballots once every two or four or five years.

As heads of the state in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and East Europe can attest, these vital lessons are lost on the dozens of "new democracies" the world over. Many of these presidents and prime ministers, though democratically elected (multiply, in some cases), have fallen prey to enraged and vigorous "people power" movements in their countries.

And these breaches of the democratic tradition are not the only or most egregious ones.

The West boasts of the three waves of democratization that swept across the world 1975. Yet, in most developing countries and nations in transition, "democracy" is an empty word. Granted, the hallmarks of democracy are there: candidate lists, parties, election propaganda, and voting. But its quiddity is absent. It is being consistently hollowed out and rendered mock by election fraud, exclusionary policies, cronyism, corruption, intimidation, and collusion with Western interests, both commercial and political.

The new "democracies" are thinly-disguised and criminalized plutocracies (recall the Russian oligarchs), authoritarian regimes (Central Asia and the Caucasus), or Vichy-like heterarchies (Macedonia, Bosnia, and Iraq, to mention three recent examples).

The new "democracies" suffer from many of the same ills that afflict their veteran role models: murky campaign finances, venal revolving doors between state administration and private enterprise, endemic corruption, self-censoring media, socially, economically, and politically excluded minorities, and so on. But while this malaise does not threaten the foundations of the United States and France - it does imperil the stability and future of the likes of Ukraine, Serbia, and Moldova, Indonesia, Mexico, and Bolivia.

Worse still, the West has transformed the ideal of democracy into an ideology at the service of imposing a new colonial regime on its former colonies. Spearheaded by the United States, the white and Christian nations of the West embarked with missionary zeal on a transformation, willy-nilly, of their erstwhile charges into paragons of democracy and good governance.

And not for the first time. Napoleon justified his gory campaigns by claiming that they served to spread French ideals throughout a barbarous world. Kipling bemoaned the "White Man's (civilizing) burden", referring specifically to Britain's role in India. Hitler believed himself to be the last remaining barrier between the hordes of Bolshevism and the West. The Vatican concurred with him.

This self-righteousness would have been more tolerable had the West actually meant and practiced what it preached, however self-delusionally. Yet, in dozens of cases in the last 60 years alone, Western countries intervened, often by force of arms, to reverse and nullify the outcomes of perfectly legal and legitimate popular and democratic elections. They did so because of economic and geopolitical interests and they usually installed rabid dictators in place of the deposed elected functionaries.

This hypocrisy cost them dearly. Few in the poor and developing world believe that the United States or any of its allies are out to further the causes of democracy, human rights, and global peace. The nations of the West have sown cynicism and they are reaping strife and terrorism in return.

Moreover, democracy is far from what it is made out to be. Confronted with history, the myth breaks down.

For instance, it is maintained by their chief proponents that democracies are more peaceful than dictatorships. But the two most belligerent countries in the world are, by a wide margin, Israel and the United States (closely followed by the United Kingdom). As of late, China is one of the most tranquil polities.

Democracies are said to be inherently stable (or to successfully incorporate the instability inherent in politics). This, too, is a confabulation. The Weimar Republic gave birth to Adolf Hitler and Italy had almost 50 governments in as many years. The bloodiest civil wars in history erupted in Republican Spain and, seven decades earlier, in the United States. Czechoslovakia, the USSR, and Yugoslavia imploded upon becoming democratic, having survived intact for more than half a century as tyrannies.

Democracies are said to be conducive to economic growth (indeed, to be a prerequisite to such). But the fastest economic growth rates in history go to imperial Rome, Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and post-Mao China.

Finally, how represented is the vox populi even in established democracies?

In a democracy, people can freely protest and make their opinions known, no doubt. Sometimes, they can even change their representatives (though the rate of turnover in the US Congress in the last two decades is lower than it was in the last 20 years of the Politburo).

But is this a sufficient incentive (or deterrent)? The members of the various elites in Western democracies are mobile - they ceaselessly and facilely hop from one lucrative sinecure to another. Lost the elections as a Senator? How about a multi-million dollar book contract, a consultant position with a firm you formerly oversaw or regulated, your own talk show on television, a cushy job in the administration?

The truth is that voters are powerless. The rich and mighty take care of their own. Malfeasance carries little risk and rarely any sanction. Western democracies are ossified bastions of self-perpetuating interest groups aided and abetted and legitimized by the ritualized spectacle that we call "elections". And don't you think the denizens of Africa and Asia and eastern Europe and the Middle East are blissfully unaware of this charade.

Islamic intolerance

Islamic apologists keep telling us that the religion of Islam is a kind, tolerante and peaceful religion. Every time a woman is stoned or someone is beheaded or a homicide bomber blows up a bus or restaurant filled with innocent people, we are told that it is the work of Islamic fanatics and that true followers of Islam do not agree with these things.

Now we find out that in Afganistan, a country that is 99% Muslim, a man is being tried under Sharia (Islamic law) for apostasy, and if convicted, will face the death penalty.

What did this man do that was so horrible, so against the Islamic faith? He converted to Christianity, that's the terrible thing that he did. This is apparently one of the worst things a Muslim can do. He chose to give up the Islamic faith and therefore is so evil that he deserves to be put to death. He can be spared, however, if he agrees to become a Muslim again.

The Hadith (which is said to be the body of quotes attributed to Muhammad), Sahih Bukhari Vol. 9, book 84, number 57, has been interpreted as saying "Kill whoever changes his religion", so the Sharia court judge is proposing to do just that.

The Torah in Deuteronomy 13:6-10 has been interpreted as saying about apostastics "But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." yet I don't believe that any Israeli judge would ever even consider attempting to hand down any type of criminal sentence for apostasy.

If the Islamic religion is so kind, tolerant and peaceful, why are it's laws interpreted in such a barbaric and intolerant way by so many followers. I realize that not all Muslim countries follow Sharia law and that of those that do, not all are so fanatical. However, many Muslim countries do still practice amputation of one/both hand(s) for theft, stoning for adultery, and execution for apostasy. Other countries, including Iraq, that did not, in the past, follow Sharia law are now talking about setting up Sharia courts.

I also realize that not all Muslims interpret Islamic law the same way. Islamic law like any other body of laws is subject to interpretation and therefore can be interpreted liberally, moderately or fundamentally. The problem is that while some Muslims interpret Islamic law liberally or moderately, it seems that a large majority of the Muslims in the Arabic world interpret the law fundamentally (at least as it pertains to women and non believers).

Afganistan's constitution guarentees freedom of religion, however, in an interview, Afganistan's Foreign Minister stated that the government had "nothing to do" with the court case. He further stated that he hoped there would be a "satisfactory result" to the case. To me, this seems that he was saying that the Sharia court is not bound by Afgani law and can do as it pleases, thereby making the Afgani constitution worthless. It further leads to the belief that Afganistan is a democracy on paper only and is actually ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. These fundamentalists may not be as bad as the Taliban but, so far, they do not seem to be much better.

There are many religious groups that believe that apostasy is wrong and that their religion is the only true religion. However, I know of no country, in this day and age, other than certain Muslim countries, that would sentence a person to death for changing his or her religious beliefs. Such things did happen in the past, look at the Spanish inquisition, but are now considered repugnant.

Knowledge and power

"Knowledge is Power" goes the old German adage. But power, as any schoolboy knows, always has negative and positive sides to it. Information exhibits the same duality: properly provided, it is a positive power of unequalled strength. Improperly disseminated and presented, it is nothing short of destructive. The management of the structure, content, provision and dissemination of information is, therefore, of paramount importance to a nation, especially if it is in its infancy (as an independent state).

Information has four dimensions and five axes of dissemination, some vertical and some horizontal.

The four dimensions are:

Structure – information can come in various physical forms and poured into different kinds of vessels and carriers. It can be continuous or segmented, cyclical (periodic) or punctuated, repetitive or new, etc. The structure often determines what of the information (if at all) will be remembered and how. It encompasses not only the mode of presentation, but also the modules and the rules of interaction between them (the hermeneutic principles, the rules of structural interpretation, which is the result of spatial, syntactic and grammatical conjunction).

Content – This incorporates both ontological and epistemological elements. In other words: both "hard" data, which should, in principle, be verifiable through the employment of objective, scientific, methods – and "soft" data, the interpretation offered with the hard data. The soft data is a derivative of a "message", in the broader sense of the term. A message comprises both world-view (theory) and an action and direction-inducing element.

Provision – The intentional input of structured content into information channels. The timing of this action, the quantities of data fed into the channels, their qualities – all are part of the equation of provision.

Dissemination – More commonly known as media or information channels. The channels which bridge between the information providers and the information consumers. Some channels are merely technical and then the relevant things to discuss would be technical: bandwidth, noise to signal ratios and the like. Other channels are metaphorical and then the relevant determinants would be their effectiveness in conveying content to targeted consumers.

In the economic realm, there are five important axes of dissemination:

From Government to the Market – the Market here being the "Hidden Hand", the mechanism which allocates resources in adherence to market signals (for instance, in accordance with prices). The Government intervenes to correct market failures, or to influence the allocation of resources in favour or against the interests of a defined group of people. The more transparent and accountable the actions of the Government, the less distortion in the allocation of resources and the less resulting inefficiency. The Government should declare its intentions and actions in advance whenever possible, then it should act through public, open tenders, report often to regulatory and legislative bodies and to the public and so on. The more information provided by this major economic player (the most dominant in most countries) – the more smoothly and efficaciously the Market will operate. The converse, unfortunately, is also true. The less open the government, the more latent its intents, the more shadowy its operations – the more cumbersome the bureaucracy, the less functioning the market.

From Government to the Firms – The same principles that apply to the desirable interaction between Government and Market, apply here. The Government should disseminate information to firms in its territory (and out of it) accurately, equitably and speedily. Any delay or distortion in the information, or preference of one recipient over another – will thwart the efficient allocation of economic resources.

From Government to the World – The "World" here being multilateral institutions, foreign governments, foreign investors, foreign competitors and the economic players in general providing that they are outside the territory of the information disseminating Government. Again, any delay, or abstention in the dissemination of information as well as its distortion (disinformation and misinformation) will result in economic outcomes worse that could have been achieved by a free, prompt, precise and equitable (=equally available) dissemination of said information. This is true even where commercial secrets are involved! It has been proven time and again that when commercial information is kept secret – the firm (or Government) that keeps it hidden is HARMED. The most famous examples are Apple (which kept its operating system a well-guarded secret) and IBM (which did not), Microsoft (which kept its operating system open to developers of software) and other software companies (which did not). Recently, Netscape has decided to provide its source code (the most important commercial secret of any software company) free of charge to application developers. Synergy based on openness seemed to have won over old habits. A free, unhampered, unbiased flow of information is a major point of attraction to foreign investors and a brawny point with the likes of the IMF and the World Bank. The former, for instance, lends money more easily to countries, which maintain a reasonably reliable outflow of national statistics.

From Firms to the World – The virtues of corporate transparency and of the application of the properly revealing International Accounting Standards (IAS, GAAP, or others) need no evidencing. Today, it is virtually impossible to raise money, to export, to import, to form joint ventures, to obtain credits, or to otherwise collaborate internationally without the existence of full, unmitigated disclosure. The modern firm (if it wishes to interact globally) must open itself up completely and provide timely, full and accurate information to all. This is a legal must for public and listed firms the world over (though standards vary). Transparent accounting practices, clear ownership structure, available track record and historical performance records – are sine qua non in today's financing world.

From Firms to Firms – This is really a subset of the previous axis of dissemination. Its distinction is that while the former is concerned with multilateral, international interactions – this axis is more inwardly oriented and deals with the goings-on between firms in the same territory. Here, the desirability of full disclosure is even stronger. A firm that fails to provide information about itself to firms on its turf, will likely fall prey to vicious rumours and informative manipulations by its competitors.

Positive information is characterized by four qualities:

Transparency – Knowing the sources of the information, the methods by which it was obtained, the confirmation that none of it was unnecessarily suppressed (some would argue that there is no "necessary suppression") – constitutes the main edifice of transparency. The datum or information can be true, but if it is not perceived to be transparent – it will not be considered reliable. Think about an anonymous (=non-transparent) letter versus a signed letter – the latter will be more readily relied upon (subject to the reliability of the author, of course).

Reliability – is the direct result of transparency. Acquaintance with the source of information (including its history) and with the methods of its provision and dissemination will determine the level of reliability that we will attach to it. How balanced is it? Is the source prejudiced or in any way an interested, biased, party? Was the information "force-fed" by the Government, was the media coerced to publish it by a major advertiser, was the journalist arrested after the publication? The circumstances surrounding the datum are as important as its content. The context of a piece of information is of no less consequence that the information contained in it. Above all, to be judged reliable, the information must "reflect" reality. I mean reflection not in the basic sense: a one to one mapping of the reflected. I intend it more as a resonance, a vibration in tune with the piece of the real world that it relates to. People say: "This sounds true" and the word "sounds" should be emphasized.

Comprehensiveness – Information will not be considered transparent, nor will it be judged reliable if it is partial. It must incorporate all the aspects of the world to which it relates, or else state explicitly what has been omitted and why (which is tantamount to including it, in the first place). A bit of information is embedded in a context and constantly interacts with it. Additionally, its various modules and content elements consistently and constantly interact with each other. A missing part implies ignorance of interactions and epiphenomena, which might crucially alter the interpretation of the information. Partiality renders information valueless. Needless to say, that I am talking about RELEVANT parts of the information. There are many other segments of it, which are omitted because their influence is negligible (the idealization process), or because it is so great that they are common knowledge.

Organization – This, arguably, is the most important aspect of information. It is what makes information comprehensible. It includes the spatial and temporal (historic) context of the information, its interactions with its context, its inner interactions, as we described earlier, its structure, the rules of decision (grammar and syntax) and the rules of interpretation (semantics, etc.) to be applied. A worldview is provided, a theory into which the information fits. Embedded in this theory, it allows for predictions to be made in order to falsify the theory (or to prove it). Information cannot be understood in the absence of such a worldview. Such a worldview can be scientific, or religious – but it can also be ideological (Capitalism, Socialism), or related to an image which an entity wishes to project. An image is a theory about a person or a group of people. It is both supported by information – and supports it. It is a shorthand version of all the pertinent data, a stereotype in reverse.

There is no difference in the application of these rules to information and to interpretation (which is really information that relates to other information instead of relating to the World). Both categories can be formal and informal. Formal information is information that designates itself as such (carries a sign: "I am information"). It includes official publications by various bodies (accountants, corporations, The Bureau of Statistics, news bulletins, all the media, the Internet, various databases, whether in digitized format or in hard copy).

Informal information is information, which is not permanently captured or is captured without the intention of generating formal information (=without the pretence: "I am information"). Any verbal communication belongs here (rumours, gossip, general knowledge, background dormant data, etc.).

The modern world is glutted by information, formal and informal, partial and comprehensive, out of context and with interpretation. There are no conceptual, mental, or philosophically rigorous distinctions today between information and what it denotes or stands for. Actors are often mistaken for their roles, wars are fought on television, fictitious TV celebrities become real. That which has no information presence might as well have no real life existence. An entity – person, group of people, a nation – which does not engage in structuring content, providing and disseminating it – actively engages, therefore, in its own, slow, disappearance.

Spin cycle

It's possible that a seminal moment in the history of electronic news occurred when a comedian confronted commentators ...

Not long after Jon Stewart --- host of the Comedy Central cable channel's amusing newscast, The Daily Show --- appeared on CNN's staid Crossfire and roundly scorched its principals in a well-publicized confrontation over journalistic integrity (or the lack thereof), the news network announced that Crossfire was being cancelled. Ostensibly, the network said this move was due to the departure of conservative commentator Tucker Carlson. However, he wasn't the original 'right-wing' representative on that show and there were surely more of that flock who would have willingly stepped into the position. CNN has probably assembled a litany of rationalizations for their decision to dump the program, but none of them will dare to broach the actual undertone of perception that would trump anything on their list.

In this day an age in the USA, a comedy show is more adept than a news show at presenting current events.

The crux of the matter is that contemporary electronic journalism is just as subject to the Prime Tenet of Marketing as any sales campaign would be, ie - to be successful, it is imperative to 'sell the sizzle and not the steak.'

Viewing this contention from another angle, respected newsman Ted Koeppel almost saw his redoubtable Nightline program shelved in favor of yet another late-night talk show featuring a comedian. Now that he's retiring, it's notable that the program will shift directions anyway, seemingly to assume a 'lighter' appearance in presentation to presumably better compete with the entertainers.

The sorrowful corollary of this point is that not only do the news operations overly heed the 'sizzle' mantra, so do many of the organizations who feed them their details. In the battle for dominance and perception, 'spin' is paramount.

Slanting a report to influence its perception has been in existence since the dawn of time, when Reporterpithicus --- or whatever version of man existed back then --- first related to someone else what someone told him. The tendency to spin has now evolved to where it has innately seeped into a troubling number of major news organizations. Anyone who has viewed a moment of Fox News can see for themselves how blatantly they have embraced this trend to promote their conservative leanings. MSNBC seems to be unusually beholden to the corporate world. CNN appears to abide the techniques of spin so as to not have their ratings erode any further.

Such policies clearly resonate in the minds and actions of their reporters in the field. Most seem to blithely absorb the spin given them by corporate and government spokesmen, given the bulk of milquetoast questions that now populate press conferences. Such practices and policies allow the Tucker Carlsons, Bill O'Reillys and Robert Novaks of the world to run amok, apparently encouraged to talk over any dissenting viewpoint as if they were thinly-veiled Jerry Springer clones in a stodgier setting.

Add the consideration that so many of those corporate and government spokesmen are so singly simple-minded about the message they're spinning, and it's no wonder a comedy offering like The Daily Show has risen in pop credibility to a level of perception that rivals the news programs. With so many thin platforms of substance just waiting to be skewered, Jon Stewart and his staff gladly accept a veritable cornucopia of material with every day's harvest of sound bites. The punch lines contained therein seem to literally grab them by the lapels and insist to be written.

If you want to confirm that point, watch an episode and see how many times Mr Stewart merely needs to raise his eyebrows after a sound bite in order to draw guffaws.

Toss in the fact that Comedy Central's video-to-mobile service is better defined for content than any of the news organizations, and The Daily Show is further cementing its image as the 'cool' news outlet for the younger set of voting age.

It's notable that, in late-20th century American politics, when media 'cool' was on the ascent, Democrats won elections. It was true for John F Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and if that party could ever find a leader, it might be true again.

One would think the Republicans might take a hint and go back to the straight talk that struck enough of a nerve with voters to put them in the majority. Currently, that would advisably include an element of fallibility and contrition over recent policies and events. It remains to be seen if anyone in that camp is forthright enough to admit as much.

Otherwise, it's all but inevitable that the obfuscation of news spin and comedy fodder will further lower the quality of daily electronic information to a series of straight lines that grew from Chevy Chase's Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live portraying Gerald Ford as a bumbler to The Daily Show becoming an A-list stop on the itinerary of any legitimate candidate.

With all due respect to that excellent comedy series, if such a thing ever happened, it wouldn't be breaking news. It would be broken news.

The clash of islam and liberalism

Islam is not merely a religion. It is also - and perhaps, foremost - a state ideology. It is all-pervasive and missionary. It permeates every aspect of social cooperation and culture. It is an organizing principle, a narrative, a philosophy, a value system, and a vade mecum. In this it resembles Confucianism and, to some extent, Hinduism.

Judaism and its offspring, Christianity - though heavily involved in political affairs throughout the ages - have kept their dignified distance from such carnal matters. These are religions of "heaven" as opposed to Islam, a practical, pragmatic, hands-on, ubiquitous, "earthly" creed.

Secular religions - Democratic Liberalism, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, Socialism and other isms - are more akin to Islam than to, let's say, Buddhism. They are universal, prescriptive, and total. They provide recipes, rules, and norms regarding every aspect of existence - individual, social, cultural, moral, economic, political, military, and philosophical.

At the end of the Cold War, Democratic Liberalism stood triumphant over the fresh graves of its ideological opponents. They have all been eradicated. This precipitated Fukuyama's premature diagnosis (the End of History). But one state ideology, one bitter rival, one implacable opponent, one contestant for world domination, one antithesis remained - Islam.

Militant Islam is, therefore, not a cancerous mutation of "true" Islam. On the contrary, it is the purest expression of its nature as an imperialistic religion which demands unmitigated obedience from its followers and regards all infidels as both inferior and avowed enemies.

The same can be said about Democratic Liberalism. Like Islam, it does not hesitate to exercise force, is missionary, colonizing, and regards itself as a monopolist of the "truth" and of "universal values". Its antagonists are invariably portrayed as depraved, primitive, and below par.

Such mutually exclusive claims were bound to lead to an all-out conflict sooner or later. The "War on Terrorism" is only the latest round in a millennium-old war between Islam and other "world systems".

Such interpretation of recent events enrages many. They demand to know (often in harsh tones):

- Don't you see any difference between terrorists who murder civilians and regular armies in battle?

Both regulars and irregulars slaughter civilians as a matter of course. "Collateral damage" is the main outcome of modern, total warfare - and of low intensity conflicts alike.

There is a major difference between terrorists and soldiers, though:

Terrorists make carnage of noncombatants their main tactic - while regular armies rarely do. Such conduct is criminal and deplorable, whoever the perpetrator.

But what about the killing of combatants in battle? How should we judge the slaying of soldiers by terrorists in combat?

Modern nation-states enshrined the self-appropriated monopoly on violence in their constitutions and ordinances (and in international law). Only state organs - the army, the police - are permitted to kill, torture, and incarcerate.

Terrorists are trust-busters: they, too, want to kill, torture, and incarcerate. They seek to break the death cartel of governments by joining its ranks.

Thus, when a soldier kills terrorists and ("inadvertently") civilians (as "collateral damage") - it is considered above board. But when the terrorist decimates the very same soldier - he is decried as an outlaw.

Moreover, the misbehavior of some countries - not least the United States - led to the legitimization of terrorism. Often nation-states use terrorist organizations to further their geopolitical goals. When this happens, erstwhile outcasts become "freedom fighters", pariahs become allies, murderers are recast as sensitive souls struggling for equal rights. This contributes to the blurring of ethical percepts and the blunting of moral judgment.

- Would you rather live under sharia law? Don't you find Liberal Democracy vastly superior to Islam?

Superior, no. Different - of course. Having been born and raised in the West, I naturally prefer its standards to Islam's. Had I been born in a Muslim country, I would have probably found the West and its principles perverted and obnoxious.

The question is meaningless because it presupposes the existence of an objective, universal, culture and period independent set of preferences. Luckily, there is no such thing.

- In this clash of civilization whose side are you on?

This is not a clash of civilizations. Western culture is inextricably intertwined with Islamic knowledge, teachings, and philosophy. Christian fundamentalists have more in common with Muslim militants than with East Coast or French intellectuals.

Muslims have always been the West's most defining Other. Islamic existence and "gaze" helped to mold the West's emerging identity as a historical construct. From Spain to India, the incessant friction and fertilizing interactions with Islam shaped Western values, beliefs, doctrines, moral tenets, political and military institutions, arts, and sciences.

This war is about world domination. Two incompatible thought and value systems compete for the hearts and minds (and purchasing power) of the denizens of the global village. Like in the Westerns, by high noon, either one of them is left standing - or both will have perished.

Where does my loyalty reside?

I am a Westerner, so I hope the West wins this confrontation. But, in the process, it would be good if it were humbled, deconstructed, and reconstructed. One beneficial outcome of this conflict is the demise of the superpower system - a relic of days bygone and best forgotten. I fully believe and trust that in militant Islam, the United States has found its match.

In other words, I regard militant Islam as a catalyst that will hasten the transformation of the global power structure from unipolar to multipolar. It may also commute the United States itself. It will definitely rejuvenate religious thought and cultural discourse. All wars do.

Aren't you overdoing it? After all, al-Qaida is just a bunch of terrorists on the run!

The West is not fighting al-Qaida. It is facing down the circumstances and ideas that gave rise to al-Qaida. Conditions - such as poverty, ignorance, disease, oppression, and xenophobic superstitions - are difficult to change or to reverse. Ideas are impossible to suppress. Already, militant Islam is far more widespread and established that any Western government would care to admit.

History shows that all terrorist groupings ultimately join the mainstream. Many countries - from Israel to Ireland and from East Timor to Nicaragua - are governed by former terrorists. Terrorism enhances social upward mobility and fosters the redistribution of wealth and resources from the haves to haves not.

Al-Qaida, despite its ominous portrayal in the Western press - is no exception. It, too, will succumb, in due time, to the twin lures of power and money. Nihilistic and decentralized as it is - its express goals are the rule of Islam and equitable economic development. It is bound to get its way in some countries.

The world of the future will be truly pluralistic. The proselytizing zeal of Liberal Democracy and Capitalism has rendered them illiberal and intolerant. The West must accept the fact that a sizable chunk of humanity does not regard materialism, individualism, liberalism, progress, and democracy - at least in their Western guises - as universal or desirable.

Live and let live (and live and let die) must replace the West's malignant optimism and intellectual and spiritual arrogance.

Edward K. Thompson, the managing editor of "Life" from 1949 to 1961, once wrote:

"'Life' must be curious, alert, erudite and moral, but it must achieve this without being holier-than-thou, a cynic, a know-it-all or a Peeping Tom."

The West has grossly and thoroughly violated Thompson's edict. In its oft-interrupted intercourse with these forsaken regions of the globe, it has acted, alternately, as a Peeping Tom, a cynic and a know it all. It has invariably behaved as if it were holier-than-thou. In an unmitigated and fantastic succession of blunders, miscalculations, vain promises, unkept threats and unkempt diplomats - it has driven the world to the verge of war and the regions it "adopted" to the threshold of economic and social upheaval.

Enamored with the new ideology of free marketry cum democracy, the West first assumed the role of the omniscient. It designed ingenious models, devised foolproof laws, imposed fail-safe institutions and strongly "recommended" measures. Its representatives, the tribunes of the West, ruled the plebeian East with determination rarely equaled by skill or knowledge.

Velvet hands couched in iron gloves, ignorance disguised by economic newspeak, geostrategic interests masquerading as forms of government, characterized their dealings with the natives. Preaching and beseeching from ever higher pulpits, they poured opprobrium and sweet delusions on the eagerly duped, naive, bewildered masses.

The deceit was evident to the indigenous cynics - but it was the failure that dissuaded them and others besides. The West lost its former colonies not when it lied egregiously, not when it pretended to know for sure when it surely did not know, not when it manipulated and coaxed and coerced - but when it failed.

To the peoples of these regions, the king was fully dressed. It was not a little child but an enormous debacle that exposed his nudity. In its presumptuousness and pretentiousness, feigned surety and vain clichйs, imported economic models and exported cheap raw materials - the West succeeded to demolish beyond reconstruction whole economies, to ravage communities, to wreak ruination upon the centuries-old social fabric, woven diligently by generations.

It brought crime and drugs and mayhem but gave very little in return, only a horizon beclouded and thundering with vacuous eloquence. As a result, while tottering regional governments still pay lip service to the values of Capitalism, the masses are enraged and restless and rebellious and baleful and anti-Western to the core.

The disenchanted were not likely to acquiesce for long - not only with the West's neo-colonialism but also with its incompetence and inaptitude, with the nonchalant experimentation that it imposed upon them and with the abyss between its proclamations and its performance.

Throughout this time, the envoys of the West - its mediocre politicians, its insatiably ruthless media, its obese tourists, its illiterate soldiers, and its armchair economists - continue to play the role of God, wreaking greater havoc than even the original.

While confessing to omniscience (in breach of every tradition scientific and religious), they also developed a kind of world weary, unshaven cynicism interlaced with fascination at the depths plumbed by the locals' immorality and amorality.

The jet-set Peeping Toms reside in five star hotels (or luxurious apartments) overlooking the communist, or Middle-Eastern, or African shantytowns. They drive utility vehicles to the shabby offices of the native bureaucrats and dine in $100 per meal restaurants ("it's so cheap here").

In between kebab and hummus they bemoan and grieve the corruption and nepotism and cronyism ("I simply love their ethnic food, but they are so..."). They mourn the autochthonous inability to act decisively, to cut red tape, to manufacture quality, to open to the world, to be less xenophobic (said while casting a disdainful glance at the native waiter).

To them it looks like an ancient force of nature and, therefore, an inevitability - hence their cynicism. Mostly provincial people with horizons limited by consumption and by wealth, these heralds of the West adopt cynicism as shorthand for cosmopolitanism. They erroneously believe that feigned sarcasm lends them an air of ruggedness and rich experience and the virile aroma of decadent erudition. Yet all it does is make them obnoxious and even more repellent to the residents than they already were.

Ever the preachers, the West - both Europeans and Americans - uphold themselves as role models of virtue to be emulated, as points of reference, almost inhuman or superhuman in their taming of the vices, avarice up front.

Yet the chaos and corruption in their own homes is broadcast live, day in and day out, into the cubicles inhabited by the very people they seek to so transform. And they conspire and collaborate in all manner of venality and crime and scam and rigged elections in all the countries they put the gospel to.

In trying to put an end to history, they seem to have provoked another round of it - more vicious, more enduring, more traumatic than before. That the West is paying the price for its mistakes I have no doubt. For isn't it a part and parcel of its teachings that everything has a price and that there is always a time of reckoning?

the failure is sundered within

The failure is sundered within each of us, it festers as blame to others, a manifestation of the shame that belongs not to ourselves but of the participants of a deadlier game. Yet innately the affectation begins with our own visceral manumission of guilt, and sadly, empirically lies buried in our own personal failings.

We ponder all that which seems inherently wrong. We awaken to ourselves each morning and gaze at the soul that stares back at us, and ask, “What do I know of such things?” Politically we are involved in a myriad of wars; our own political system has become moribund and incapable of decisive and thoughtful long-term beneficial actions. At the same time we have managed to cause a global warming process that may not be reversible, with unfathomably catastrophic consequences. Yet we no longer trust our scientific community, as we undermine their ability to help them help us make informed decisions. Corporations are now the new soulless leaders of the same communities that we raise our children in: our children, pain and agony none withstanding, are but fodder for their institutionalized thought and labor. Lobbyists are but jackals, which obfuscate and enable the lack of clear and forward thinking that would be required to navigate through these complicated times.

Woe be to the participants: the excoriated politicians, the confused and parsed scientists, the unfeeling and automatonic corporations, the jack-booted lobbyists with their narrow-minded obfuscations, and still there are bureaucrats, the ever-plodding stewards of the status quo. All are to blame. It becomes utterly confusing and so we consequently throw up our hands and hope that serendipity might take us all to the promised land of Biblical and Koranic paradises of no responsibility and perfect harmony for all eternity. When we each awaken in the morning and look in the mirror, the failure should be obvious. Our visage stares back at us in mute mirth smirking at our lack of insight. How convenient that they should all provide themselves as cannon fodder for our obvious shortcomings.

Chaos complexity theory applies here in its truest sense. Things are not so simple, and become ever more complicated and require ever more attention then before. The problems today are more complicated; any pandering to a simple explanation is an abject definition of ignorance. There are no backwoods colloquialisms that fit a particular situation, present day analogies aside. The query remains, what we know as a collective, intrinsically defined by what we know individually, and how we apply this knowledge so we can make informed decisions in our lives as well as a people. Requiring less dooms us to failure as the founders of democracy failed in old Greece.

Guilt is a primordial emotion we all feel, and all are too familiar with its cold narcissistic touch. We wrap ourselves in a comforting cocoon of justification, but as the feeling is primordial it is useless to try and escape its darkening touch. It declares us to be unfit fathers and mothers, a chronic waster of valuable time, its ball peen steeliness pounding into us the failures that we truly are. But what an enlightened group we have become, and let us pat ourselves on the back as congratulations are due, as the self-help nation is within its goal of declaring victory on its war on guilt, puncturing its effectiveness and regulating it to some type of psychosis. Perhaps there might be a reason for guilt for it to be a primordial emotion, as is it possible that the survival of our species requires this most irritating and pervasive type of thought. Does complete victory deign us capable of justifying anything?

The fault is our own, in each and every one of us. Ask yourself what you know of history? Middle eastern history might be of value at this point, but what pray tell do you know of any of the underlying political issues of the day? Have you researched them, or are you listening to the ever-shortening descriptions provided by someone else you may know, or perhaps the 15 second sound bite doled out by our media? What do you know of the education system we currently use? What do you know of stem cell research? Are any of the short synopses you’ve heard something that you would be satisfied with if you or your loved one’s life depended upon it? What is string theory? For that matter, what is quantum physics? It has been around for 75 years, and is it really too complicated, or are you really so lazy you just couldn’t spare the time? When was the last time you picked up a book, a real book, not a piece of tripe? I know you suffer from the guilt, I do and I read fifty or odd tomes a year, we all suffer, and should.

Guilt is defined as the punishment one can receive when guilty of a moral wrong. Our punishment is as aforementioned and fully justified for the innate failure within each of us not to take the time to be overly educated and informed, to never reach for what we do not know, to not search and forever fulfill the emptiness of our knowledge. Guilt has judged us and is providing the punishment as we speak.

Ur bin legend

I may be repulsed at the deeds orchestrated by Osama bin Laden ...

But I'm even more repulsed at the ineptitude displayed in the attempts to stop him and his cause.

I mean, the guy's a murderous criminal. He's an anti-Muslim, as any credible scholar of the Koran would attest. He's been disowned by his family and disavowed by the country of his birth.

So, why is it so hard to dislodge him as a hero to a significant portion of the Muslim world?

The answer, frankly, is in the policies of those to whom his attacks are directed. The USA and its allies have transformed the perception of Osama bin Laden into that of a modern-day Robin Hood, a rich guy who is a champion of the poor by virtue of his acts against the capitalist infidels who invade their lands and impose a foreign culture upon them. As far as I'm concerned, it takes a band of idiots to offer democracy to a country and not be able to make it palatable, but to date, the Western powers are 0-for-2 in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their mishandling of bin Laden's image is a major reason why.

It seems clear that, until they can defeat Osama bin Laden and his band of thieves, they'll fight an uphill battle. It seems just as clear that this task shouldn't even have been part of the equation. After all, al-Qaeda wasn't the Taliban --- the actual rulers of Afghanistan at the time --- and it certainly had little or nothing to do with Iraq.

However, every enemy needs a poster boy, and bin Laden was certainly well-positioned to provide one. He was only an uneasy ally with the Taliban and just a distant acquaintance with Saddam Hussain's iron-fisted machine. However, he fit the stereotype of an extreme, culpable Muslim terrorist who stood for all that was evil in the region. That put him in perfect position to be publicized by the Western world's leaders, which in the process, proved the age-old bromide to downtrodden and/or displaced Muslims that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

I highly recommend the recently published book by Peter Bergen, 'The Osama bin Laden I Know: an Oral History of al-Qaeda's Leader.' To defeat an adversary, one must first understand him. This book does an excellent job of not only providing a series of first-hand accounts which illuminate bin Laden's origins and background, but even more importantly, confirming that the publicity heaped upon him by the USA and its allies has only served to solidify bin Laden's legend among his followers and others who are susceptible to his twisted message.

Bergen argues that al-Qaeda was close to becoming an afterthought in the Muslim world prior to the invasion of Iraq. The majority of Muslims were appalled by the wanton murder of innocents on 11 Sep 2001. The al-Qaeda movement was virtually crushed during the American retaliation in Afghanistan, which was really directed against the Taliban government for harboring bin Laden. It could be effectively argued that the al-Qaeda cause had been minimalized to that of an outrageous bunch of anarchists hiding behind a great religion's doctrine.

And then, the Americans tied al-Qaeda to Iraq to further justify their invasion.

My guess is that bin Laden couldn't believe his good fortune. He had no standing in that country until that time. Now, his money and his message sound quite appealing to devout young Iraqi men who have few alternatives in a devastated land that will need years to stablize. The irony is that these are people who like the American way; they just happen to like it on their terms rather than have it thrust upon them in a context of imposition which leaves them little choice but to obey or rebel.

And therein lies the ultimate irony. At no time has bin Laden or al-Qaeda actually stated their way. We know what they're against, but never raised the question as to what they are for. The concept of 'a fundamentalist Muslim state' is too broad. After all, Iran claims that objective, and they're hardly close friends with al-Qaeda.

Sir Winston Churchill once said, "It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." I can think of no better policy shift in the battle against al-Qaeda than that. Rather than continue to personify a criminal element, why not begin a campaign to goad bin Laden into listing specifics as to how he would run a perfect world. My guess is that his responses would alienate enough of the Muslim community to the point of his becoming trivialized, and in the process, exposed for the villain he is.

Why are we not demanding to hear his words and then throwing them back in his face? Why are Western leaders trying to associate his name with every Muslim-based transgressor --- eg - the Taliban and Saddam --- with whom they have an issue? Could it be their laziness in spin-mongering or simply their cynical attitude that the Western populace cannot discern the reality of these matters for themselves?

Never-ending cycles of attack and imposition haven't worked yet for the Israelis and Palestinians. Did the Americans and their allies really think it would work elsewhere in that region?

It's unconscionable that Western leaders have turned bin Laden into a legend for the mere fact that it's convenient to put a face to an adversary. Make no mistake, this was their doing. To this day, you've never seen a Muslim authority --- not even the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan --- ascribe any heroic faith-defending status to him. Bergen's book underscores the reality that Osama bin Laden is nothing more than a soldier of fortune.

It's time for the world to see the difference between a real legend and an urban legend. Bergen's book is further proof that Osama bin Laden is the latter.

Relations with china

As far as I am concerened, the leaders of China are not now and never will be our friends or allies. The leaders of China do not care about anything other than amassing power and destroying their enemies and since everyone not Chinese is their enemy they feel that it is their duty to someday rule the world. As far as they are concerened the United States is the largest hurdle to their attaining their dreams, therefore the first thing that they have to do is destroy us. They are not currently capable of defeating us militarily so they have decided to attempt to defeat us economically and so far they are doing a fairly good job at it. They are not our trading partner, they are our trading enemy and they are currently trading us into the ground.

Shock of shocks, today I was reading the op-ed section of the paper and found myself agreeing with the author about American relations with China and the VIP treatment Chinese President Hu is recieving in this country. Both of us agreed that President Hu does not deserve such treatment. My shock was, I was agreeing with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. I never agree with her.

Her article stated in part "TODAY, PRESIDENT Bush will roll out the red carpet for Chinese President Hu Jintao, a leader whose government brutally crushes freedom, democracy and the religious expression of the Chinese and Tibetan people. Hu will receive the best welcome U. S. taxpayer money can buy, including full military honors and a 21-gun salute.

This is the same regime that provides military technologies to countries that threaten international security, including Iran and North Korea. The same regime that threatens Taiwan with a military attack, detains and tortures Chinese people for expressing their political and religious beliefs and arrests Tibetans for carrying a picture of the Dalai Lama.

While open dialogue is essential, many of us on both sides of the aisle in Congress oppose the celebratory nature of this official visit.

This is not about isolationism. We must have engagement with China, but it should be sustainable engagement that enables us to maintain our values, continue our economic growth and uphold our national security.

Our growing national debt to China is a national security issue. Countries such as China that own our debt will soon not only be making our toys, our clothes and our computers, they will be making our foreign policy.

U. S. policy toward China is ineffective in upholding the pillars of our foreign policy — promoting democratic freedom, stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and growing our economy by promoting exports abroad. Instead, we have pursued trickle-down liberty — promoting economic freedom first, assuming that political freedom will follow. Reality exposes this policy as the illusion it is."

There was more to her article, some of which I agreed with and some of which I disagreed with. The point is, though, that we should not be treating the President of one of our most dangerous enemies like he is a favored long lost friend and ally. He is not a favored long lost friend and ally, he is our enemy and should be treated with caution and firmness. It is right that our President should meet with him but it is wrong that our president should treat him with such a show of pomp and ceremony.

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.

Impeach bush now

: Even a month ago, I was content to let the electoral system punish President George W. Bush for his incompetence in prosecuting the war in Iraq. Let him deal with more Democrats than he bargained for after the 2006 midterm elections, I thought. That would sufficiently punish him for his failures; anything more would set a dangerous precedent discouraging future presidents from launching big endeavors that might not work. Oh, what a difference a few weeks have made! Now, I say, impeach and remove this dangerous man. Bush's profane abuses of his office cannot stand before history as acceptable behavior in a president. Why have I resolved thusly? First, indications have accumulated Bush indeed condones torture of detainees, despite his pleas to the contrary. The military has used doctors to exploit detainees' weaknesses and monitor their health during harsh interrogations, which participants have said leave the subjects injured or, sometimes, dead. A doctor who investigated the abuse reports: "The range of interrogation techniques, or abuse techniques, is pretty much the whole array of usual stuff that happens in countries that torture. It includes beatings, suspension, near-asphyxia, chemical burns--there were instances of burns with lighter fluid--kicks, slamming against the wall. There was at least one thumbscrew I saw. Electrical shocks with, in our case, external electrodes. I did not see any internal electrodes. There were instances of asphyxiation, food and water deprivation, deprivation of access to toilets, deprivation of access to medical care, forcing people to urinate on themselves, forcing people to masturbate, to renounce their religion, to put the urine or feces of other people on themselves, other forms of nudity, forced fondling, verbal abuse, threats against family, mock executions, forcing the victims to watch other family members being abused. They also used what's called "perceptual monopolization," which included loud noise..." (Emphasis mine. Source: The American Way of Torture). Besides which, the Bush administration has confessed to allowing waterboarding, a technique that entails submerging detainees underwater so they believe they're drowning. This, as well as the tactics described above, is torture. Even under the most Machiavellian considerations, interrogators shouldn't torture captives in their charge. People will tell their tormentors anything, true or not, to make the horrors stop. This floods intelligence services with bad information. (I wonder if that helped the Bush administration conceive a bogus vision of Iraq's WMD program.) So, practically speaking, condoning torture is stupid policy. In addition, of course, torture violates the most cherished ideals of the American people. Our country stands to shine benevolent hope into the world, not darken it with the same barbaric cruelty our enemies do. For Bush to lower his administration to the level of thugs and terrorists destroys his moral authority to lead not only our good nation, but the free world. In so doing, he damages the Presidency of the United States. That alone would warrant Bush's impeachment. As Alexander Hamilton says in Federalist 65: "A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself." A president need not commit a legal crime for impeachment to commence. "High crimes and misdemeanors," instead, encompasses violent of trust and harm to society that can fall outside the strict boundaries of law. (If "high crimes and misdemeanors" meant literal crimes, a president would be impeachable for jaywalking. That's absurd.) Under this criterion from the Federalist Papers, Bush's abuse of power in authorizing systemic torture qualifies as an impeachable offense. Still, many people might not see brutal treatment of foreign alleged terrorists outside American borders as important. It's not happening in the United States, as far as they know, so it's a foreign policy problem remote from their concern. But, sadly for us, that's not the extent of Bush's transgressions. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects American citizens from government searching and snooping without a warrant. When Bush ascended to the Oval Office, he swore to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." And yet he has trampled that very document. Showing his isolation from reality, Bush has matter-of-factly--as if he can't understand why anyone would be upset--admitted to ordering the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens on multiple occasions. No courts issued warrants for these invasions of Americans' privacy. They transpired at the sole behest of the executive. So not only has Bush adopted the tactics of an authoritarian regime abroad, but he's also done it at home, trampling the Bill of Rights with his cowboy boots. Bush loves to pontificate about freedom, warning us of the danger terrorists pose to it. If terrorists are the enemies of freedom, as Bush maintains they are, then he has become their collaborator. To borrow from the president's father, George H. W. Bush, "This will not stand." If Americans value their rights and liberties, then they cannot allow a man who defies the Constitution to remain in office. Such would encourage not only Bush, but future commanders-in-chief, to encroach further on American freedoms. To the Congress of the United States, I say, impeach Bush now. And then kick him out of the West Wing.

Democrats versus republicans the battle is almost over

The following are the opinions of the author and although I believe them to be true I am not stating them as anything other than my opinions.

Ever since the time of Abe Lincoln, Democrats and Republicans have been fighting for control of the United States Of America. In the beginning, both political parties contained liberals, moderates and conservatives. As time wore on the Democratic Party moved more to the left or 'liberal' and the Republican Party moved more to the right or 'Conservative'. This left room for fewer and fewer moderates.

Over the last several years, however, the far, far left has been taking over control of the Democratic Party and now the coup is almost completed. The far left zealots have virtually pushed most of the slightly left, the moderates and the conservatives out of the Democratic Party. Most of the moderates and conservatives left have learned to keep quiet and go with the tide in order to stay in office. Now the battle, for control of this country, has changed, it is now the far left against everyone else. People like Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Joseph Biden, Robert Byrd, Barbara Boxer, etc. (I don't include Edward Kennedy because, in my opinion, he lost touch with reality long ago and just talks in order to see and hear himself on the news.) along with their Hollywood friends, Barbara Streisand, Susan Saranden, Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Sheen, Spike Lee, etc., now run the Democratic Party and more moderate people, like Joseph Lieberman, are being ignored or vilified by the party, the party's supporters and a large part of the press. The far left only wants people, that think like they do or will do what they tell them to do, in the Democratic Party. They fear and dislike moderates, conservatives, moderate liberals and anyone that they can not control.

The far left has gone so far left that, in my opinion, they make liberals seem like hard right wingers. I don't believe that the far left cares about America, the American people or anyone else except themselves. The far left politicians want power and they will do anything to get and keep that power. They claim to support our troops in Afganistan and Iraq, yet they do everything they can do to ruin the troops moral and aid the terrorists. They use their Hollywood friends and the ultra liberal press to spread half truths, lies, rumors and ridiucule about anyone who does not agree with them. They have even taken to giving responses to President Bush's speeches before he makes the speech. They have learned from President Clinton how to take credit for anything good that happens and how to lay blame on others for anything bad that happens. They use people like President Carter, one of the kindest, most caring, most honest and most trusting men to ever hold public office, to critcize the present administration's policies.

President Carter, does not have an agenda, he is just, as always, slightly naive about and too trusting of the good will of others. He believes that there would be peace on earth if people followed the dictates of the far left, so the far left uses him as a front.

The far left uses celebrities who are not only naive but insulated from the real world. Celebrities who are surrounded by yes people telling them that they are smarter and better than the rest of us, celebrities who are wealthy, do not have to go to a supermarket to do their shopping, who fly first class, drive whatever kind of car they wish, live in expensive homes or apartments and pay people to do most everything for them. These celebrities can afford to be idealistic and fight for ideals that can't work. They can talk about raising taxes, after all, they can't spend all the money they already have, demand rehabilitation for drug addicts, after all, the only drug addicts they actually deal with are other celebrities, rage against nuclear power plants and new oil drilling, after all they can afford to pay their electric and gas bills, no matter how expensive they are, fight for the rights of criminals and gun control, after all, they have bodyguards, many of whom are armed, and expensive security systems, to protect them so why should they worry about a storeowner who has been robbed three or four times or a woman who is raped and killed in her home. Most of these celebrities mean well, they just don't know what it is like to live in the real world. Don't tell me that many of these same celebrities had bad or poor childhoods. That was then and this is now.

Celebrities that do have an idea as to what is really going on and speak out against criminals, or support the war against terrorism, or fight for cheap utilities or heaven forbid support acknowledging god or who back moderate politicians or even worse support President Bush are ridiculed and ostracized. Some, no matter how talented, even have trouble obtaining work. Michael Moore, produces a poorly made anti administration movie and is lionized by Hollywood while Mel Gibson makes a well made movie about Christ and is ridiculed and put down by Hollywood. The fact that the people greatly prefered Gibson's movie didn't matter to Hollywood.

I am a slightly conservative moderate with many slightly liberal beliefs, however the far left is pushing me more and more to the right. I used to believe that you should vote for the person not the party. Now I am forced to vote straight Republican because I can't trust any Democrat to stand up to the far left. I like Joe Lieberman but would not vote for him because the odds are that the far left will eventually push him out of office or force him to support them. I disliked and never trusted President Nixon but today I would have to vote for him rather than any Democrat. I consider President Kennedy to be one of our best modern Presidents but could not, today, vote for him.

Pleople say to me "What about Hillary Clinton? She is a moderate.". I say "baloney, as far as I can tell, Hillary Clinton does not believe in anything. She says and does whatever, she thinks, will get votes and help consolidate her power. I don't believe that she cares any more for this country or it's people than her husband did. If she believes that the far left can get her what she wants she will become one of their most rabid members.

The far left has hijacked the Democratic Party and they are at war with anyone and everyone who does not follow their dictates. They hide under the title 'Democrat' and claim to want to change America for the better. What they really want to do is to rule this country and make it over into their own image. They want us to be free to do what they think is best, not what we think is best. They believe that the end justifies the means and in order to gain their rule they will lie, cheat, support our enemies, spend whatever amount of money they have to and do anything else that may help them.

As far as the far left is concerned, their biggest enemy, at this time, is President Bush. They hate him and fear him, so they are doing everthing they can in order to ruin him. They blame him for everthing that has gone wrong in the world. Their celebrity spokespeople have people believing that the problems caused by hurricane Katrina are all his administration's fault. The fact that, both the Democratic Mayor of New Orleans and the Democratic Governor of Louisiana were extremely slow to act in calling in the Federal Government doesn't matter, the fact that it appears that several crooked politicians spent money given to them, prior to the hurricane, for levy repairs, on themselves, doesn't matter, the fact that the people of New Orleans never bothered to prepare themselves for a category 5 hurricane, doesn't matter. All that matters is if they keep telling everyone that it's the President's fault, pretty soon everyone will believe it. People like Jay Leno, David Letterman and other celebrities and comedians constantly joke about how stupid the President is. The fact that he was smart enough to earn a university and a post graduate degree, doesn't matter, thefact that he was smart enough to become Governor of Texas, doesn't matter, the fact that he was smart enough to become President of the United States doesnt matter, the fact that he was smart enough to marry Laura Bush, doesn't matter. All that matters is that Leno and Letterman joke about his being stupid, therefore he must be stupid (This country has elected many Presidents that may have done a bad job at running this country but, I don't believe that we have ever elected a stupid President, and if we did elect a stupid President, doesn't that make us stupid for doing so.). I could list numerous other examples but this article is already to long, so I won't.

The citizens of this country better wake up and start fighting back or soon we will no longer be a two party system or have a democratic republican form of government. We will have one Party, the far left, and they will rule us. They will be telling us what to think, when to think it and how to think it. I don't know about you, but I like my freedom. I want a country with liberals, moderates and conservatives. I want to have a choice in who to vote for. I want to be able to think for myself. I don't want to be ruled by the far left anymore than I want to be ruled by the far right. I want a country that represents everyone, a country that is "one country, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all".

S. francis and his friends television wins the elections

I live in Lazio, the second most populated and industrialized region of Italy.

The first most populated region is Lombardia and there the Right (Right... large word) won.

The right won in Veneto, too... but the rest of Italy has all become red... and now you are waiting for me to say something.

Ok.

Where do we want to begin?

Puglia, ahah, region in the South, in which the Left won with its candidate Nichi Vendola.

The other contender was called Raffaele Fitto, don’t ask me who he is because I have no idea. But, Nichi Vendola, who is Nichi Vendola?? During the primary elections of the party (I don’t know how to say this in English, since my dictionary was printed in 1962, before this kind of elections was invented) I thought that infiltrated members of the Right voted for this man because he’s maybe “the worst” on the battlefield. This is an article written by Viking so you’ll expect that I say “Oh, Vendola is gay”. You don’t need that I say it, you can see it with your own eyes (then he’s gay for real)! His face is a program.

I should think that Fitto was even worse, maybe (I don’t know him), but I think that Vendola has been voted for his image of leftish “freedom” (I still have to understand why all gays have to show their sexuality so much, they cannot simply be gay and the story finishes there, they have to show it! That’s why I think they should not work as teachers! Then, if they want to be gays for themselves who cares?) and everybody’s happy: arcigay, greenpeace, pacifists of all kinds...everybody.

So, here’s a first important winner of the elections: a paladin of the margined.

I don’t want to talk about Nichi Vendola in this article (he got here by accident). I would like to talk about another, maybe the most important winner of this local elections in Italy, Piero Marrazzo, man of the Left, winner in Lazio. This man, I never thought he was involved in politics, I would have imaged it, but I never focussed on it, dethroned the big (I’m talking about size) Storace from Alleanza Nazionale, who has been the candidate of the Right (always this very large word...). Who is Marrazzo? He’s a man that we have seen for years leading the famous tv show “Mi manda Rai Tre” on the third national channel Rai 3. What’s this show about? It is a show that defends the most undefended people who are so able to be cheated by the first fox on the way. There’s nothing bad in defending people, but sometimes people don’t read their contracts carefully and they get the bad surprise and this show emphasises the disgrace while, I think, ignorance should not be justified. During the show the editorial staff invites and calls the cheaters, so that they can face their cheated customers and so on... This show keeps a lot of Italians on their sofas watching tv, so this Marrazzo is well known and he’s known as a defender of the poor, of the weak, he’s the man of the people. Apart from the tv show, this good man brought to light the story (disproved) that some relatives of Storace’s (I don’t remember who) persecuted the Jews in ancient times and this makes audience... Italian television survives with this, so everybody in Italy (and everybody watches television) connects Right=Persecution=Terror=Violence=Pain. So, you have in front of your eyes a person who is perfect, who is a famous (!!) saint, a good looking showman, who is Marrazzo... simple, he was elected. Folks, this is strategy!

And now my people, let’s talk about other examples from similar species. A man, I have his curriculum: Alessandro Cecchi Paone, born in 1961 (...who cares), classic high school, degree in Political Science about International Cooperation, he studied in England and in the States, he lived in Spain where he has been married for 7 years (he has been married??!?! wow, I didn’t know it! It seemed impossible), he has been professor of Marketing of cultural communication and Theory and Technics of the Documentary. He has been author and front man of many tv shows in Italy. In a few words: he’s a journalist. At the moment he works for Mediaset, constantly on Rete 4 (Italian fourth channel) in his program “La macchina del Tempo” in which he shows different kinds of documentaries. I have no doubt he knows everything about documentaries and journalism and marketing...he also knows many other things, but how deeply? This man wrote books about the physics of the universe, about biology... I would say very very very very very very popularized books. I read some popularized books by Stephen Hawking and I didn’t know from which side I would have begun to sever my veins for how difficult they are! I cannot tell Cecchi Paone “stop writing your books”, I’m curious to read them, since this man claimed on tv that people, meeting him in the streets, asked him some advices about problems of physics and maths... I want to meet him, I’ll look for him and I’ll tell him “Master, please, help me to solve this differential equation!”... I want to see what he will answer. He’s the man, who, candidate with Forza Italia during the European Elections, declaring himself gay, after losing the elections said “The Italy of caciocavallo won again”. The caciocavallo is a delicious cheese from Southern Italy... I would like to know if you, Alessandro Cecchi Paone, are able to do the caciocavallo! (Oh, Berlusconi, you are a good man, you cannot go with these people). So, this man is another declared gay, who’s in the Right (this word gets larger and larger) and who’s supported by the arci-friends of his!

S. Francis of Assisi, this man who threw away all his dresses, because they represented the temptation of richness, man who lived the day in poverty, spiritual guide of Karl Marx, man who helped the poor who did nothing to buy a pair of pants... compared with him John Lennon was a capitalist... this Saint Francis inspired the modern politicians and showmen.

There’s a man on the Italian television... I would not say a man... he’s a mushroom! Canale 5 (channel number 5), Berlusconi’s tv (where? Berlusconi must be away), there’s a man called Maurizio Costanzo who has invaded the television. This over-65 short left-wing omni-present man and that man of his wife have the whole channel in their hands and they are expanding themselves in the other channels. (I know when it is apocalypse day: it will be when I see Maurizio Costanzo on MTV) I should write an article about this man, so, now, I will simply speak about his latest tv show “Tutte le Mattine”, an “all-topics” daily show. I don’t think he has ever been involved too much in politics, but he uses the same “saint” strategy to rule over Canale 5 and to be loved by the mob. He makes his tv shows with the disgraces of the people: tumours, anorexies, depressions, divorces, lost dogs, paralysed legs, beaten immigrants, ooh, for all tastes. All this during his daily (3 hours everyday) entertainment “all-topics” show, in which sexy bombs from the Big Brother, actors of cabaret, left-wing intellectuals reading 10 seconds of poems, the orchestra of Demo Morselli, playing 10 seconds of songs, Platinette, the psychiatrist Morelli and the rest of the persons that are property of Maurizio Costanzo (he’s got the copyright on them, I can prove it) are invited. At the beginning this tv show had a different topic everyday, but now it has degenerated in something hallucinating. I will write more about him... this is a menace!

In conclusion, I’m sure there would be other people I should talk about, but I want to propose a final deliberation. Who will be the next Franciscan tv-politician? I got the perfect candidate! He’s called Alessandro Di Pietro and he seems to belong to Alleanza Nazionale. He’s author and front man of a show called “Occhio alla Spesa” (Pay attention to your purchase), which is something from the same family of “Mi manda Rai Tre”, in specific, his show is about prices and swindles... but I have the sensation that sometimes this man wants to deviate the commerce.

If you want to be an appreciated politician, maybe being a tv man can help, but I’m more and more afraid that the parliament is becoming a tv show and you see... politics looks funnier!

Venezuela threatens to cut off oil exports to us

February 21th, 2006

by Elif Ozdemir

On Sunday, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, threatened Condoleezza Rice. Last Friday, he also made treats to discontinue exporting crude oil to America if they will still try to undermine his administration.

This is his response to previous statements made by Condoleza Rice that relationship of Venezuela with Cuba are perilous to the democratic system in Latin nations. Moreover, the US State Department accuses Chavez of utilizing Venezuela's abundant oil assets to interfere with the dealings of adjacent nations. They also criticized him of enhancing relationships with America's enemies, for instance, Iran and Cuba.

Furthermore, Chavez, a populist leader and a former military officer, accused the Americans of attempting to produce anarchy in his bid for re-election. In 2002, he expressed that US is maneuvering a coup that has overthrown him for a short time.

He stresses that the Americans will never get their oil. He also adds that US authorities would be unsuccessful in trying to make other countries go against their nation.

He asserted that Venezuela will not suffer if they can't supply their oil to America because he has already talked to other oil consumers, which is his contingency plan. In 2005, Chavez has roamed around the globe to look for new allies against the US and new countries to sell oil with. He signed contracts with countries exploring new oil sources to power their industries, like China, France, and India. He also purchased military equipment, such as Russia's military helicopters and rifles, Brazil's military aircraft and China's radar equipment.

Venezuela has placed fifth in the record of biggest oil exporters globally. Moreover, this country is an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member. It produces three million containers of oil per day, and sells 75% of its oil manufacture abroad. It distributes over a million containers of oil per day or supplies 13 percent of oil imports daily to America.

Therefore, America is dependent on Venezuelan oil. US is in dire need of alternative refined oil product and crude oil suppliers, like Venezuela, for the reason of uncertain oil supply situation in Middle Eastern nations. Richard Lugar of American Senate thinks that a reduction in importation of Venezuelan oil can affect the US economy, as he asked a government office to conduct a study on this matter.

Previously this month, Chavez banished a US naval attache because the American was allegedly spying on Venezuelan government. As a response, the US State Department expelled a diplomat from Venezuela.

The new politics

Politics, in all its forms, is bankrupt. The notion that we can safely and successfully hand over the management of our daily lives and the setting of priorities to a political class or elite is thoroughly discredited. Politicians cannot be trusted, regardless of the system in which they operate. No set of constraints, checks, and balances, is proved to work and mitigate their unconscionable acts and the pernicious effects these have on our welfare and longevity.

Ideologies - from the benign to the malign and from the divine to the pedestrian - have driven the gullible human race to the verge of annihilation and back. Participatory democracies have degenerated everywhere into venal plutocracies. Socialism and its poisoned fruits - Marxism-Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism - have wrought misery on a scale unprecedented even by medieval standards. Only Fascism and Nazism compare with them unfavorably. The idea of the nation-state culminated in the Yugoslav succession wars.

People are voting with their feet. Most elections draw to the ballot boxes and the polling stations less than half the electorate.

Three models seem to be emerging as the dominant forms of future politics:

I. Anarchism, both destructive (international terrorism, for example) and constructive (the Internet, for instance).

II. Participatory democracy, both destructive (mob rule and coups) and constructive (people power, especially in Asia and Latin America).

III. In certain countries, mainly in the West, a disenchanted and uninterested citizenry will relegate power and vest it in various oligrachies, forfeiting its decision-making prerogatives altogether and permanently in return for material welfare and personal safety.

Is communism dead yet

There are a handful of countries that are still considered communist regimes. Yet communism doesn't really exist. These countries are more like dictatorships with authoritarian type leaders who operate under the very thin veil of non-existent communism.

These groups or individual leaders that have near absolute power cause great harm to their country's populace on a continual basis.

Do you think there will be people who rejoice the day that Castro is gone or the Chinese Communist Party finally collapses? I think it is likely that there will be millions upon millions who will celebrate.

Control is what is important to the leaders of these countries. They feel that in order to maintain control they must stop anyone with an alternative point of view. They cannot allow an arena for open debate because they worry that debate may expose their flaws. They will not allow freedom of expression or freedom of belief.

In order to control, these regimes tend to use fear. Generally, they create a culture of fear where people become afraid of speaking up. This leads to less people speaking out or complaining about anything. The environment of fear is amplified or bolstered when people who do speak out are punished in one way or another.

Take for example the Chinese Communist Party. They decided that they just couldn't have those young college kids promoting democracy on Tiananmen Square and decided to squash them with tanks. This resulted in a lot of killing of the country's youth. That was in 1989. Most Chinese people today will not say anything bad about their government for fear of becoming a target.

Many people in China are sent to labor camps. They can even be sent there without having a trial. This is another level of control that keeps the people in line and under the thumb of the Party.

Despite all of this, there have been a record number of protests in China in recent years. The Chinese Communist Party is probably very worried.

This is what happens in the end. You can only have absolute control for so long. The pent up frustrations of a nation cannot be held at bay forever.

The Chinese Communist Party in particular has used some of the most brutal tactics ever to maintain control over the Chinese people, over the last several decades. In addition, they have no qualms about crossing international boundaries to attack the people they fear.

Yuan Li is a Falun Gong practitioner that lives in the city of Atlanta in the USA. Some Asian men forced their way into his house, tied him up and beat him. They took his laptop computers upon leaving, but did not take any valuables. It is suspected that the Chinese Communist Party's agents were responsible.

The CCP dislikes Falun Gong practitioners. In China, they are often tortured and sometimes killed. When the overseas practitioners let the world know what is happening, it angers and frustrates the Chinese Communist Party.

Never be fooled by the Chinese Communist Party or by their words. They care for only one thing, staying in power even if that means crushing innocent people in the process.

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