Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Monthly Archives: May 2011

First in the Nation: Vermont Enacts Single-Payer Universal Health Care

Vermont single-payer

The state of Vermont has taken the first step towards bringing the United States back on par with the rest of the developed world:

 “We gather here today to launch the first single-payer health care system in America,” began Shumlin, a Democrat who has been governor barely four months. “To do in Vermont what has taken too long: have a health care system, the best in the world, that treats health care as a right, and not a privilege.”

Moments later, the governor made history, signing a law that sets Vermont on a course to provide health care for all of its 620,000 citizens through a European-style single payer system called Green Mountain Care. Key components include containing costs by setting reimbursement rates for health care providers and streamlining administration into a single, state-managed system.

The necessity and practicality of creating a single-payer universal health care system is a common theme here, and it is wonderful to see the people of Vermont taking the initiative here.  It may seem a small step, but it is an important and historic one; after all, we must begin somewhere.

The issue of universal health care is relatively straightforward, but a person’s stance on it speaks volumes about one’s character.  The fact that, in our society, it is considered acceptable to obtain profit from the illness and suffering of another human being says perhaps all one needs to know about American-style capitalism:  no matter what the consequences, if I can make a dollar everything is a-okay.

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American War Crimes: U.S. Military Forces Deployed Cluster Bombs in Libya

cluster bombs

Perhaps not the most unbiased of sources, but it offers a perspective worth considering:

 The HRI said it has convincing evidence that the cluster bombing blamed on pro-Gaddafi forces was actually carried out by the US navy.

The report says at the time of the attack, Human Rights Watch and a reporter working for US media immediately blamed forces loyal to Libya’s embattled leader Muammar Gaddafi for the cluster bombing that threatened civilian lives.

According to the report, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were quick to condemn the act. …

The Libyan regime had flatly denied reports that they have used internationally banned cluster bombs in the ongoing clashes with revolutionaries.

As I’ve stated previously, Gaddafi is a war criminal and deserves to be treated as such.  But the standard corporate narrative that portrays the United States as being a pinnacle of justice and a defender of human rights is utterly laughable, and needs to be challenged at every step.

It is quite probable that the United States has used cluster bombs in Libya, as it appears they have done in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  Cluster bombs are against international law and their deployment should be considered deplorable, as they are a particularly brutal form of weapon.  However, focusing on the type of weapon used misses the larger issue.  War of any kind is reprehensible, and any entity which engages in warfare should be considered, by definition, guilty of war crimes.

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American Arrested in Thailand for Criticizing the King

It is deeply disturbing that such occurrences can still take place in the year 2011:

 BANGKOK – Thai authorities said Friday they arrested an American citizen on charges he insulted the country’s monarchy, in part by posting a link on his blog four years ago to a banned book about the Southeast Asian nation’s ailing king.

The man is also suspected of translating, from English into Thai, portions of “The King Never Smiles” — an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej — and posting them online along with articles he wrote that allegedly defame the royal family, said Tharit Pengdith, who heads the Department of Special Investigation …

Regardless of what is taking place behind the scenes in Thailand, it is absurd that anyone can be arrested for something as petty as “criticizing” a public figure.  Of all people, those in positions of leadership are precisely the ones who need to be criticized most.  What we see taking place in Thailand is a blind devotion to a man who has been elevated to god-like status.  He is, according to an antiquated way of thinking, beyond all insults.

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Mike Flugennock on Obama’s 2012 Re-Election Campaign: Are You In?

Mike Flugennock: Obama 2012 - Are you in?

Once again, Mike Flugennock nails it:

The “official” unemployment rate is nailed at around 10%, the foreclosure rate is climbing, bankers are getting fatter than ever, Bush’s tax cuts for the rich are still in place, the healthcare system is still in the hands of corporations, we’re up to our asses in three wars, the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay is still open, our civil liberties are in worse shape than ever, Obummer’s just rolled over for John Boehner on the budget deal — and now Obummer’s got the sheer gall to ask me if I’m “in”.

In the absurd fashion of American politics, the 2012 presidential election campaign has already kicked off, some 18 months before the actual event.  The slick, corporate publicity machines now have nearly a year and half to tweak and refine their mind-numbingly vacuous political platform, endlessly shoving it down our throats all the while, until Americans are united in two camps of catchy three-word slogans.  Yes, we can!

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Sick Day

Self-Destructive Religious Beliefs Strike Again: KY to Build Creationist Theme Park While Slashing Education Budget

Continuing with the anti-religious theme, let us now turn to Kentucky, where creationism apparently trumps education every time:

In December, I reported that the Kentucky creationism theme park set to open in 2014 will “include dinosaurs.” The park “will feature a 500-foot-long wooden replica of Noah’s Ark containing live animals such as juvenile giraffes.” It will also include “a replica of the Tower of Babel with exhibits.” …

Now the park has been granted $43 million in state tax breaks. At the same time, “the state has gone through eight rounds of budget cuts over the past three years,” including cuts to “education at all levels” and a pay freeze for all teachers and state workers. …

In addition to the tax incentives, approved unanimously by the state’s tourism board, taxpayers may have to pony up another $11 million to improve a highway interchange near the site.

This is the very definition of idiocy, and another prime example of why we need to fight against religious belief in every way we can.  It is not simply a matter of respecting the beliefs of others, allowing people to live according to their own wishes.  The problem, as anyone who has ever met a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim understands, is that a substantial percentage of religious people are not content to keep their views and way of life to themselves.  Spreading religion is built into the very fabric of their belief system, as is the case with every successful collection of memes.

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Christian Wackos: The World Is Going to End Today


 Harold Camping of the U.S.-based Christian group, Family Radio, predicted that Jesus Christ will return to earth on May 21, 2011, to take with him the good ones to heaven and leave the sinners to face the end of the world.

Sparking fury across the world, the Family Radio president said, “Earthquakes would sweep across the earth, first starting in New Zealand.”

The day, May 21, which Camping predicted to be doomsday through a series of mathematical calculations 7,000 years after Noah’s floods, has provoked many.

Of course not all Christians are this crazy, as amply demonstrated by these believers who rushed to condemn Camping’s prediction of our imminent demise:

“Do not believe the hype! No man knows the hour when all will be said and done,” he urges.

Another staunch follower of the Holy Bible, Donna L. Serino, who is a businesswoman in Philadelphia, opposes the hoax of Saturday’s end of the world, while she refers to the Act 1:7 and Matthew 24:36 in Bible.

“Jesus said, it is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority, but concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only,” she said.

In other words, and as vjack pointed out over at Atheist Revolution, the view held by sane Christians is that the world is probably not going to end today, but don’t let your guard down because Jesus will be coming eventually.  The only catch is that our loving creator decreed that we couldn’t possibly know when he was going to return, as this would allow all of us horrible sinners to repent and therefore save ourselves from eternal damnation.  What a compassionate God!

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U.S. Military Intervention in Libya Aimed to Squelch Gold-Backed African Dinar

Wars are never actually fought for the reasons sold to the masses:

Some believe it is about protecting civilians, others say it is about oil, but some are convinced intervention in Libya is all about Gaddafi’s plan to introduce the gold dinar, a single African currency made from gold, a true sharing of the wealth.

Gaddafi did not give up. In the months leading up to the military intervention, he called on African and Muslim nations to join together to create this new currency that would rival the dollar and euro. They would sell oil and other resources around the world only for gold dinars.

It is an idea that would shift the economic balance of the world. …

And it has happened before.

In 2000, Saddam Hussein announced Iraqi oil would be traded in euros, not dollars. Some say sanctions and an invasion followed because the Americans were desperate to prevent OPEC from transferring oil trading in all its member countries to the euro.

A gold dinar would have had serious consequences for the world financial system, but may also have empowered the people of Africa, something black activists say the US wants to avoid at all costs.

Embroiled in wars of aggression throughout the Middle East, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would accept the standard rhetoric about protecting human rights and promoting democracy as motivation for our latest war in Libya.  But judging by the absence of protest in the United States, and the sheer lack of meaningful coverage in the MSM, it would appear that most Americans have bought the fictional narrative.

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ICC Should Remove Double Standard Before Prosecuting Gadhafi

The International Criminal Court is preparing to indict Moammar Gadhafi:

In asking for the arrest warrants, Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the evidence is clear: Moammar Gadhafi personally ordered the attacks on unarmed civilians that have been taking place since the uprising began in mid-February.

“He committed crimes with the goal of preserving authority. He has absolute authority. He uses that authority to commit crimes,” said Ocampo.

Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo said Mr. Gadhafi ruled through fear, that his security forces opened fire onto demonstrators, used heavy artillery on funeral processions, and used snipers to shoot worshippers leaving mosques.

Gadhafi is without a doubt a war criminal, and should be treated as such.  But the ICC will remain a mockery until it seeks to apply international law to citizens of all nationalities, and not just those of the developing world.   I am referring here, of course, to the most obvious example of crimes against humanity in modern history:  the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the extra-judicial assassination of Osama bin Laden.

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Fear, Self-Censorship, and the Ongoing Struggle for Universal Human Rights

I spend a lot of time here criticizing various aspects of the United States:  our government, our corporations, our religious fundamentalists, among many other things.  To some, my various tirades against my own country of birth may seem grossly offensive.  Why, after all, should I devote so much time to attacking my native land?

The United States is, of course, far from perfect.  We have many flaws, and we inflict a lot of suffering on the world at large.  As an American citizen, I feel compelled to do my part to speak out against such imperfections, with the goal of bettering our nation.  Because the U.S. has such far-reaching effects throughout the world, improving the state of affairs here couldn’t help but simultaneously improve things for humans everywhere.

There are wonderful things about the United States, and I wish to make it clear that there are certain aspects of our nation which I passionately admire.  Our First Amendment, which guarantees us freedom of speech, represents a profound principle of basic human rights which should be respected and upheld around the world.  And although freedom of speech is far from universal even within our own nation, I absolutely love the fact that it exists at all.

Not so in many countries throughout the world, including the one I currently in which I currently find myself residing.  To avoid attracting unwanted attention, I will refrain from naming the country (although regular readers will likely know it already); I will only say that it is within that black hole of human rights which we know as the Middle East.

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