Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Monthly Archives: November 2010

UN Condones Religious Fanaticism, Negates Fundamental Human Rights

Bowing to pressure from Islamic zealots, the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution which bans religious defamation:

“The non-binding resolution is a cosmetically modified version of similar resolutions that have long been condemned by human rights groups and yet have continued to pass at both the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly. Ostensibly intended to promote “social harmony” and religious tolerance, the resolutions call on governments to ban speech considered offensive to some religious believers.”

Two weeks ago I applauded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for speaking out against the ban on religious defamations, pointing out that criticism of religion is not merely a right but a duty for all those who aspire to a world based on the scientific principles of free thinking and critical analysis.  It is truly disappointing to see representatives from such a significant plurality of nations reinforcing the ancient taboo of religious criticism.  Indeed, such restrictions on expression hearken back to a pre-science era when all humans were blindly subjected to the whim of allegedly infallible religious leaders – who often simultaneously wielded great political power.

Why is religious criticism considered off limits for so many?   Read more of this post

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Wikileaks Notches Another Victory For Democracy and Transparent Government

Julian Assange may look like your stereotypical creepy albino hacker, but he should be regarded as a genuine hero.  Regardless of what revelations are brought about by this latest batch of leaked government documents, the purported goal of Wikileaks is as noble as they come. Government secrecy represents a vestige of an old social paradigm based on rigid power hierarchies and an entrenched elite class. If we are to engender an era of genuine democracy, absolute transparency in every aspect of our government is imperative.

One wonders why there is such an abundance of clandestine documents in the first place. This year alone, Wikileaks has released more than 76,900 documents related to Afghanistan, 391,832 about Iraq, and now 251,287 diplomatic cables – and all of these documents were intended to be kept hidden from the public. Why is there a need for such copious secrecy in a representative democracy such as our own? Government officials will undoubtedly tout “security” concerns – and indeed, they have already begun to do so. But the best possible defense for the United States is total governmental transparency, as this would allow the citizens to oversee and restrain the very actions which created our enemies in the first place.

Even as Assange’s attempts to minimize potential danger are scornfully rejected, the Obama administration has stepped up the rhetoric in labeling Assange’s democratically-motivated actions as “criminal.” Read more of this post

Climate Change Deniers: Intellectual Laziness Personified

Yesterday I commented on the arbitrariness and inadequacy of the Copenhagen Accord, as confirmed by a new report from the United Nations Environment Program and the World Resources Institute.  In the closing paragraph, I offered the following observation:

“The fruits of solving the climate change crisis – renewable energy, a vast reduction in global pollution – will benefit all human beings, regardless of whether the purported dangers of global warming are exaggerated or not.”

Unsurprisingly, I received the following comment from an unabashed climate change denier:

“Boring,

No reasonable evidence apart from a few shaky correlations have emerged to support the “Anthropogenic CO2 causes Global Warming” hypothesis.
Therefore, considering as we have not even approached the temperatures of the Holocene Maximum (and other historical warm periods) (where CO2 concentrations were low) the whole of AGW theory is falling apart, and most people are seeing the duplicity.

I would not give a penny to help reduce emissions of that life giving gas CO2 let alone encouraging the breaking of our economies to try and stop the world from ending, and most sensible people are doing the same.

In other words ‘Are you Serious?’”

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The Copenhagen Accord: More Half Measures and Arbitrary Findings on Climate Change

It is always nice to see world leaders attempting to address the climate change crisis, but as usual the proposed solutions fall far short of what is required:

“If countries follow through on the pledges they made in Copenhagen last year, the world could achieve 60 percent of the emissions cuts that scientists say are needed to avert the worst impacts of climate change. At last year’s climate negotiations in Copenhagen, world leaders pledged to keep global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). A new report from the United Nations Environment Program and the World Resources Institute released Tuesday indicates that while the pledges don’t go far enough, following through on them would at least put the world on the right path.”

The gist of the article is that a plurality of nations has pledged to curb the growth of their future greenhouse gas emissions.  The pledge is not to reduce emissions at all, but merely to reduce the rate of increase:

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An Educated Populace Costs Far Less Than War

In the chaos that represents political discourse in this nation, the fundamental task of educating our young has regrettably been all but forgotten.  While two wars proceed in the background, the nation’s attention is consumed with the stagnating economy, soaring unemployment and an unsustainable federal deficit.  Meanwhile, one of the key ingredients for a long term solution to all of these problems is myopically ignored.

Dr. C. Alonzo Peters has an article over at AlterNet in which he addresses the urgent need to reform the financing of college education.  While Obama talks about offering still more student loans – albeit at lower interest rates – Dr. Peters has a more daring proposal:  free college education for all.

“Tough problems demand ‘outside the box,’ often radical solutions. That’s why we should give serious consideration to providing free college and trade school education to all.

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A Look Back: The Foibles of American Military Policy Remain Unchanged

In searching for information for my recent post on the pervasiveness of US troops in the world today, I came across an interesting NY Times article from early 2008 entitled “Pentagon Seeks Record Level in 2009 Budget.” The article was written in the waning days of the Bush era, as the 2008 primaries were in full swing. The buzzword “change” was sweeping the nation, and the mood was one of cautious optimism: although times were grim, there was genuine hope that this time, with Obama, things would be different.

Fast forward nearly three years, and it is remarkable to note just how little has changed. The issues and concerned discussed in the article could readily be applied to the present, with a few minor changes here and there — such as replacing “Bush” with “Obama.” For instance:

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Happy Thanksgiving: Be Grateful You Aren’t a Teabagger

As is typical with any political discourse in America, important issues are drowned out among the din of the ceaseless repetition of various right-wing mantras, which are remarkably limited in scope.  It seems for the last thirty years – at least – the most often recurring salvo has been, “Tax cuts! Tax cuts! Kill government! Kill government!”  Obviously, such simplistic demands fail to perceive the complex reality of modern society.  The tax cuts they cry out for inevitably go towards the extremely wealthy, while reducing the size and scope of government generally means the cessation of services that offer the most help to ordinary Americans.

But the exchange is highly predictable.  The economy is in decline, so the people demand tax cuts – “for the rich” goes without saying.  Unemployment is skyrocketing, so the people demand tax cuts.  The trade deficit is dangerously massive, so the people cry for tax cuts.  An estimated 45 million Americans go without access to health care, so the people – well, you get the idea.

But in the midst of the deafening roar of the vociferous right-wing zombies (a minority, by all indications, but an exceedingly vocal minority), the most pertinent issues are wholly forgotten – at least within the carefully constricted world of the mainstream media.   Read more of this post

American Empire: US Soldiers Stationed in 150+ Countries

Countries with more than 100 US military personnel

Even as two wars rage on in Iraq and Afghanistan, most Americans seem to have largely forgotten about military concerns.  All eyes have turned towards the staggering economy and the seemingly bottomless abyss of unemployment.  With the resurgence of right-wing ideologues around the nation and in Washington, the specter of tax cuts and deficit reduction have reemerged from the rubble of the disastrous Bush era, and the public is – according to the media at least – screaming for reductions in government expenditures.  Aided by the corporatist media, the American people seem to have forgotten that the poisonous cocktail of tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and fewer government services represents precisely the witches’ brew which got us into this economic quagmire in the first place.

As politicians and their ignorant, teabagging followers cry out for tax relief and deficit reduction, the conversation shifts to debating which government services are to be cut.  The health care reform bill, though not yet active, will undoubtedly be the first item on the chopping block.  Next may be education, particularly funding for the fine arts.  Funding for scientific research will likely be slashed, including research into alternative energy.  A few teabag-elects have even raised the incomprehensibly stupid notion of disbanding the EPA, since clean air and water are apparently luxuries for those elitist lefties.

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Obama’s Non-Promise to End the War is a Promise to Prolong the Status Quo

I know I’m a couple of days late in commenting on this tasty morsel of a news item, but it certainly needs to be addressed:

“At a landmark NATO summit in Lisbon on Saturday, Western allies agreed to call an end to their troops’ combat mission in Afghanistan by 2014.

The 48 countries of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan struck a deal with Karzai to begin transferring parts of the battlefield to his control in early 2011 and move Western troops to a support role by 2014.

While all the allies agreed to set the target date to end their offensive operations in Afghanistan, the United States warned that hard fighting remained ahead and did not rule out combat continuing after 2014.”

Our supposed ultra-left president, after sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan earlier this year, is now promising to continue this unwinnable war for at least another four years.  And given the ruthless stranglehold that the corporate media has on our national dialogue, this promise of four more years of needless bloodshed is actually presented in a positive light.  “Obama the leftist is ending the war!” is the obviously intended message.  One wonders if the pledged withdrawal of combat troops will resemble the “end” of the Iraq War we observed earlier this year:

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Krugman’s Pathetic Critique of Obama is a Manifestation of Rampant Media Bias

In typical NY Times fashion, Paul Krugman’s latest blog post highlights the painfully obvious fact that Obama is not a genuine liberal:

“More and more, it’s becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion. Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts.”

Occasionally, Krugman has something insightful to share in his columns and blog posts.  More often than not, however, he does little more than point out what everyone who has been paying attention already knows.  Generally speaking, this is exactly how the mainstream media operates:  it will ignore a viewpoint that it deems inappropriate until a large enough segment of the population has adopted it, then the media reluctantly allows it to enter into the periphery of the rigidly restricted national dialogue.  Hence, the indisputable assessment of Obama as yet another conservative president is not embedded into the narrative of front-page news stories, but rather slipped into a relatively obscure blog post by a self-professed “liberal” columnist.

In stark contrast, the ridiculous assertion that Obama is an ultra-left socialist is deftly weaved into the background of virtually every relevant news item. Read more of this post

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