Failed Empire

Chronicling the collapse of a failed society

Tag Archives: democracy

Americans Elect: Democracy in the Internet Age

This is exactly the kind of development we need to get us out of the current One Party State:

Though many feel we are stuck with a two-party system after numerous attempts to elect a viable alternative candidate have failed, a new Internet-based political movement is emerging. The goal? To put a presidential nomination on the 2012 ballot derived completely from open voting on the Internet. Called Americans Elect, the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization isn’t a traditional new political party, although it must register as one. Instead, it’s a way to nominate candidates in a more democratic fashion. So far, the group has submitted the required number of signatures to put a nomination on the ballot in eight states and has plans to be on 18 by year’s end. Democratic representation is an old idea that modern technology is reinventing, and the movement has the potential to change American politics forever…and that means 2012 will be an even wackier election year than it is already shaping up to be.

So how does one vote for an Americans Elect candidate?

Visit Americans Elect to find out more.

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Independence Day: A Time for Celebration or Mourning?

patriotic genius

Years ago, I spent a couple of summers working in a salmon cannery in Naknek, Alaska.  On the base of the Alleutian Peninsula, surrounded by the bleak, brown landscape of the summer tundra, it was a dreary job of 16-hour days spent gutting fish, in a tiny town in one of the most desolate regions on earth.

Among some of my stranger workmates were a handful of proud skinheads from Washington state, including a giant, 6′ 4″ weirdo with a shaved head, scraggly ginger beard, and oversized horn-rimmed glasses.   We were often situated side-by-side on the “slime line,” as it was termed, and engaged in conversation on a wide variety of topics whilst ripping fistfuls of guts from the insides of unfortunate salmon.

He was, not surprisingly, an ultra-conservative Republican who loved capitalism, worshiped the mythical free market, and adored the writings of Ayn Rand.  As a long-haired hippie fresh from the streets of Portland, we obviously didn’t quite see eye to eye on many – most – issues.

When the 4th of July came and, during one of our paltry 30-minute meal breaks, we were served revoltingly dry barbecued chicken in celebration of our nation’s independence, he looked at me snidely and asked whether or not I considered Independence Day to be a day of mourning.

And it was a fair question.   Read more of this post

U.S. Support of Yemeni Dictatorship Indicative of Mass Corruption

As the crackdown on protesters on Yemen grows more and more violent, the United States continues to supply the dictatorial regime with weapons and military advisors:

All told, over the past five years, the U.S. has provided more than $300 million in aid to Yemen’s security forces, with the dollars escalating precipitously under the Obama administration. In 2008, under President George W. Bush, Yemen received $17.2 million in baseline military assistance (which does not include counterterrorism or humanitarian funding). In 2010, that number had risen to $72.3 million while, overall, Yemen received $155.3 million in U.S. aid that year, including a “$34.5 million special operations force counterterrorism enhancement package.” These funds have provided Yemen’s security forces with helicopters, Humvees, weapons, ammunition, radio systems, and night-vision goggles.

Additionally, U.S. special operations troops (along with British and Saudi military personnel) have been supporting, advising, and conducting training missions with some of Yemen’s elite forces — including the Republican Guard, Special Operations Forces, and the National Security Bureau — which are commanded and staffed by Saleh’s sons and other close relatives.

The United States government enjoys publicly extolling the virtues of democracy, but their actions speak otherwise.  A cursory examination of U.S. involvement in the Middle East reveals a meddlesome empire intent on protecting its own interests at all costs; principles of democracy are considered only a selling point when the war-weary population seems reluctant to support yet another armed intervention.  As the same excellent article from TomDispatch goes on to describe:

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Make Them Pay: A Day of Action Against Corporate Tax Dodgers

In the midst of our fabricated budget crisis, millions of ordinary Americans are finally waking up to the fact that parasitic corporations enjoy a 0% tax rate.  Although this reality has hardly been the focus of our corporatist mainstream media, there have, surprisingly, been a few peeps here and there and about this shocking state of affairs.  As apathetic and politically disengaged as many Americans are, most people innately sense that something is wrong when our government is telling us we need to suck it up and slash all kinds of public services, while simultaneously the richest among us are paying virtually no taxes – in some cases even less, if you can wrap your mind around that paradox.  Clearly, something has gone awry in the great “free market” of American style capitalism.

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Street Scenes from Riyadh

riyadh street life
As some readers may know, I had the extreme misfortune of being stranded in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for a solid seven months of my life.  I was drawn by the relatively high salary, but quickly realized that some things just aren’t worth the money.

What you see above is a shot taken in one of Riyadh’s most bustling neighborhoods, just outside of Bathaa.  Bathaa is known as the immigrant area, or as some of my Pakistani colleagues liked to call it, Little Karachi.  Unlike most of Riyadh, which was intolerably sterile and devoid of pedestrian activities of any kind, Bathaa actually felt like a city.  But the sense of oppression was tangible; the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian immigrant laborers were, for all intents, slaves.  Although they were paid a negligible amount for their services, they were literally held hostage at the whim of their Saudi employer.  I can speak from experience when I say that Saudi employers can be savagely ruthless.

It is the American addiction to Saudi oil that allows this system of modern slavery to exist.  And the hideous, rubble-strewn streets of Riyadh are testament to the fact that absolutely nothing constructive is being done with the unfathomable sums of money we’ve been funneling into Saudi Arabia for the last sixty years.  Riyadh is among the ugliest, most under-developed cities I have ever visited – slightly above the capital cities of, say, Laos and Cambodia, but remarkably impoverished for what is purportedly the wealthiest city on earth.  It is estimated that upwards of $1 billion dollars of profit funnel through Riyadh on any given day, but by and large the city and its residents – particularly its foreign residents – have seen very little of those riches.

The Saudi monarchy is corrupt.  The Imams who wield the real power in Saudi culture are so obsessed with enforcing a millennia-old moral and legal code that they have little concern left for such arbitrary matters as social development or progress.  And yet Saudi Arabia remains one of our strongest allies in the region, a supposed friend of democracy in spite of its atrocious record of flagrant human rights violations and its openly professed antipathy for the very concept of self-governance.

The moral of the story here is that our oil addiction has some ugly consequences, beyond the obvious implications of climate change.  It’s time to lay off the oil, folks.

Wikileaks the Lone Beacon of Hope in an Otherwise Bleak 2010

I realize that my post yesterday recapping 2010 was perhaps a bit on the pessimistic side.  Although 2010 was a pretty horrendous year, there was one bright spot in an otherwise uninterrupted stream of gloom:  WikiLeaks.

This is an issue about which I’ve written quite extensively but, at the risk of seeming obsessed, I feel it’s worth revisiting.  Overwhelmingly, 2010 was another year in which the ordinary masses were crushed just a bit more under the weight of the corporate heel.  The year was notable perhaps only in that the utter disdain for democracy and progressive values became so painfully obvious; it seemed to be a year in which the corporate elite just did away with all the facades and just openly admitted, “We’re soulless bastards on the hunt for maximum profits, so go fuck yourselves.”  Granted, their charade of superficially respecting the principles of democracy has always been paper-thin, but this year they really seemed to outdo themselves in terms of their open contempt for us lowly plebes.

The year seemed devastatingly grim in most respects.  Our “liberal” president unequivocally revealed himself as the corporate tool he has always been, and, inexplicably, the nation swung even further rightward during the disastrous 2010 mid-term elections, courtesy of the absolutely ridiculous Teawads and their ignorant ilk.  The repeal of DADT, while obviously a welcome development, felt more like a slap in the face than a genuine achievement for the progressive movement.  It seemed like a carefully contrived political move to appease those “purist” lefties, at precisely the moment when the veil had blown off the Democrats’ face and revealed a money-grubbing elephant with dollar signs for eyeballs.  But really, what had we expected?

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So Julian Assange is a Pervert – Who Cares?

The character assassination of Julian Assange has taken some strange twists in recent days.  In the latest from Gawker, we learn of Assange’s creepy email (and limited real-world) stalking:

Julian Assange, the founder of the world’s most notorious secret-sharing operation, has some embarrassing documents in his own past. We’ve obtained a series of emails detailing his stalkery courtship of a teenager in his pre-Wikileaks days.

Although the emails are wholly irrelevant to the WikiLeaks story, there is something morbidly fascinating about reading them.  Perhaps it’s because they contain such literary gems as:

A man feels that which is soft, warm and yielding in his arms must also be in other circumstances.  But like Maugham’s Mirriam you are hard above the neck; voice salted and manner typical of your class when not trying to impress…  You pulled a tiny pedal off my world just when I thought you were to add one but all around in the meadow, where I shall again dance and skip and sing till some fool girl should brush my wing.

Julian.

And then, also from Gawker, we learn of Assange’s Narcissistic self-image, as demonstrated in his awkward online dating profile:   Read more of this post

A Blow for the Empire: Julian Assange Arrested in London

Yesterday I concluded my post with the following ominous observation:

It will be interesting to observe how the story continues to unfold, but ruthless retaliation against Wikileaks and Assange is almost certainly assured.

Today that brutal retaliation was initiated, as Julian Assange was arrested in London on dubious charges of rape and sexual molestation:

LONDON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange surrendered to London police Tuesday to face a Swedish arrest warrant, the latest blow to an organization that faces legal, financial and technological challenges after releasing hundreds of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Assange was at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday afternoon, waiting to attend a hearing. His Swedish lawyer told The Associated Press his client would challenge any extradition from Britain to Sweden. …

Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has been accused by two women in Sweden. He faces rape and sexual molestation allegations in one case and sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in the other. Assange denies the allegations.

His British attorney Mark Stephens says the allegations stem from a “dispute over consensual but unprotected sex” last summer. …

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, visiting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, was pleased by the arrest.

“That sounds like good news to me,” he said.

It is impossible to know how accurate these allegations might be, but it seems highly likely that they have been fabricated in an attempt to smear Assange’s name and, by extension, the reputation of WikiLeaks.  The accusations could also serve several important functions beyond mere reputational harm.  First, as long as Assange is detained he cannot actively assist in furthering the WikiLeaks agenda.  Second, as long as Assange is in custody he stands the risk of being held – and tried – for charges not yet pressed.  Third, Assange and WikiLeaks will undoubtedly be devoting a great deal of money towards extricating Assange from this legal quagmire.

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David Brooks’s Whimsical Take on Wikileaks: Trust Authority

Every time I read something by David Brooks, the first question that springs to mind is, “How the fuck does that guy have a job with the New York Times?”  Then I remember the reality of the NY Times – in stark contrast to its self-professed status as being the gold standard of journalism – and Brooks’s ability to retain his position suddenly makes much more sense.

The second question that presents itself is, “Does Brooksy actually believe all the bullshit he writes?”  I mean, really, how could anyone possibly buy into the fantasy world he describes in virtually every one of his columns?  The answer to this question becomes obvious when one recalls a 2008 column in which Brooks described, in all sincerity, his deep-seated fear of The Big Shaggy.  In light of such repugnant drivel, it becomes readily apparent that David Brooks is certifiably insane.  So yes, it is highly likely that he does believe all the platitudes and pseudo-centrist gibberish that spew forth copiously from his brain every time he attempts to write or speak.

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