a maze of words leading to …?

Archive for the ‘Current Affairs and Politics’ Category

Trumperites


The supporters of Donald Trump are venting their anger at a Republican party “establishment” which they feel has consistently let them down and betrayed them. But in supporting Trump they show no understanding that the Republican leadership has mostly been forced to “betray” them because the causes that they espouse find little echo amongst the wider electorate and are thus heavy political liabilities when it comes to electing a president.

Yet Trumperites live in denial, persisting with the delusion that they are the “silent majority”.

But hey, here’s some breaking news for such folk: in reality you are nothing but a loud, aggressive and unpleasant minority. And in truth the American people will never elect Trump – or anyone like him – to the office of President … because they know that such bigoted blowhards are quite simply not fit for office.

So go ahead, support the ignorance, bluster and deliberate outrageousness of Trump. Cheer his racist comments. Clap heartily as he continues to hurl insults left, right and centre. Stamp your feet in approval as Trump makes ridiculous, ill-informed, abusive comments and proposes absurd and impossible policies – building a wall along the entire Mexican border being just one of the less outlandish.

And enjoy your fifteen minutes of exultation as you effectively destroy the Republican Party from within … because you’ll have another 4 long years in the wilderness to reflect on your blinkered stupidity when Hillary Clinton is sworn into office roughly a year from now.

One day, Republican supporters will come to understand that bible-thumping doesn’t cut it, that homophobia isn’t popular, that focusing narrowly on anti-abortion campaigns simply alienates most women, and that bashing Muslims and Hispanics merely loses them most of the Muslim and Hispanic vote.

One day Republican supporters will come to understand that the politics of hate, bigotry and division don’t win presidential elections in the 21st century.

One day ….

Do Republicans threaten US democracy?


Gun

There’s no doubt that the Republican party is becoming more and more extreme in its views. Is it perhaps even getting dangerously close to threatening US democracy itself?

It’s not just that the majority of Republicans in Congress have, during the entire Obama administration, focused almost exclusively on trying to damage and block the President rather than seeking what’s in the best interests of governing the country. Much worse, some leading Republicans are now seeking to place their version of ‘Christian beliefs’ in opposition to democracy itself.

A few examples:

  • Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee describes the laws legalising gay marriage as “judicial tyranny”, vows to “fight to defend religious liberty at all costs” and says “I hope we answer the alarm clock and take this nation back for Christ.”

He has also endorsed comments from the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, namely that “… the Supreme Court is not the final authority … the Bible is God’s final authority … and on this book we stand.”

  • Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum: “This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies [Satan] has his sights on ….. the United States of America.”
  • A statement on the official Republican Party 2012 platform said “The Founders of the American Republic universally agree that democracy presupposes a moral people (my emphasis) …”

The same official website highlighted George Washington’s notion that “the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.” It went on to proclaim that “… our rights come from God.”

When you put such inflammatory statements together with the Republicans’ huge emphasis on ‘gun rights’ –  especially gun rights in relation to their supposed role in preventing any government tyranny – then you have a potentially explosive mixture.

In this mixture you have gun-toting “Christians” being egged on to regard their version of morality as above the law, above democracy and – since “rights come from God” – above constitutional rights as decided by mere humans.

Whether this Republican drift towards extremism will win them the next presidential election seems doubtful. And despite losing the last two presidential contests, many Republicans still don’t seem to twig the fact that the majority of Americans just don’t support – and likely will never support – a bible-thumping, homophobic and quasi-misogynist agenda.

So if the Republican party loses yet again – and this time to not only to a woman, but a woman called Hillary Clinton – then might we see their anti-democratic rhetoric transformed into something more sinister?

Green Party – after the election


Green Party logo banner

[See also the pre-election post: The Green Party – a failing venture]

The General Election in Britain has come and gone. The Green Party retained the single seat that they already had, but made no gains. The “green surge” predicted by the party’s campaigners simply didn’t happen.

It could hardly have been much different … not with the first-past-the-post voting system, in which the winners take all and the losers, no matter how many votes they receive nationally, get little or nothing.

So yet again the party’s electioneering strategy has all been mostly in vain, just as it has been since they embarked on this path in the 1970s. The party continues to be marginalised, as do (more importantly) the green policies that it promotes.

Will the Green Party ever realise that no deep-seated political change is possible – and that its engagement with electoral politics is pointless – unless and until the voting system is changed? Will they ever transform themselves into the cutting edge of a radical campaign for true democracy and its essential ingredient, namely a genuinely proportionally representative voting system? And towards this end, will they ever look to create alliances – focused on obtaining true democracy rather than the party’s recent ‘anti-austerity’ posturing – across the much wider range of green and progressive currents?

Will they ever announce a boycott of all national elections – and seek to persuade other parties (those similarly unfairly marginalised by the current voting system) to do the same – and keep this in place until true democracy is introduced?

The answer to all these questions is ‘probably not’ – not while party activists continue to seize, post-election, on any available positive statistic. This time around they point to gains in the number of votes received nationally and gains in the number of party members …. as if either of these things amount to a hill of beans in the face of the party’s continued electoral impotence … as caused by the voting system and the travesty of democracy that it represents.

The suffragettes– the ‘votes for women’ campaign in late 19th and early 20th century Britain – brought about the last major change in the democratic system. They didn’t get this by forming a political party and contesting elections.

It’s well past time that the Green Party looked to their inspiration and took up their mantle. It’s well past time for the Green Party to drop the election game and enter the arena of radical campaign for true democracy.

Republicans = Big Government


Republican Party

Have you ever noticed how many of those who most loudly claim to be against “big government” are actually the most in favour of enforcing social conformity and restricting individual freedoms?

Consider the Republican Party and its religious-right supporters in the USA, who want to (for example):

  • Exert central government control over the physical body of each and every individual woman when it comes to abortion and a woman’s right to choose.
  • Restrict individual freedom by denying the right of marriage to gays and lesbians … even though such marriage does not affect the rights of heterosexuals in any way.
  • Ban the provision for teenagers of information about contraception, replacing it with the teaching of sexual abstinence until marriage as the “responsible and respected standard of behavior”.

In other words, such folk are gung-ho for big government when it comes to enforcing conformity with their own beliefs and many prejudices.

And in many Republican minds, these belief and prejudices become translated to “morality” … which of course means that something is deemed to be “moral” if they agree with it, but “immoral” if they don’t.

What’s profoundly disturbing in this context is that, in the words of the official Republican Party 2012 platform: “The Founders of the American Republic universally agree that democracy presupposes a moral people (my emphasis) …”

To put this another way, if the Republican Party and its supporters deem the views and behaviour of some people to be ‘immoral’, then those people can be cast as being at odds with democracy itself. Thus democracy can become equated with conformity to Republican moral values … and those who don’t conform can be seen as the enemies of democracy who can thus be rightfully subject to the repression and intrusion of big government.

The theme of supporting big government continues further with the Republicans, who want to:

  • Generally increase the funding and powers of American security and intelligence agencies.
  • Increase military spending – and hence further boost the power of the American military-industrial complex – despite the fact the USA already has by far the largest military budget in the world.

And it’s Republicans who are the most keen on blurring the boundaries between the different branches of government – and redefining the federal government in overtly religious terms (their official policy documents are littered with frequent references to God and Christianity). For example:

  • Proclaiming that “… our rights come from God” (as distinct, we suppose, from being inherent by virtue of being sentient human beings).
  • Supporting the appointment of judges who “respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life”.
  • Supporting “the public display of the Ten Commandments as a reflection of our history and of our country’s Judeo-Christian heritage.”
  • Highlighting George Washington’s notion that “the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”

Eternal rules of order and right …. hmmm. From which religion do these eternal rules stem, we might ask? All the more so since there is no reference to Christianity or Judeo-Christianity (nor even ‘God’) in the American Constitution. And, indeed, the Constitution’s 1st Amendment explicitly says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …”

But speaking of “order and right”, it’s ironic that the individual right which Republicans seem most keen to promote is that of gun ownership (“gun ownership is responsible citizenship”) … supposedly in the cause of defending against a potential tyranny of big government.

The irony here, of course, is that if any federal government in America were to incline towards tyranny – a tyranny in God’s name no doubt – it would almost certainly be one run by the Republican Party … and almost certainly egged on and supported by a wide variety of gun-crazed, bible-bashing, misogynist nutcases.

Thence “One Nation Under God” might be better read as One Social and Moral Conformity Under the Republican Party. So much for small government …

[Note: all quotes in this blog-post, with the exception of one taken from the American Constitution, are from the official Republican Party platform website of 2012.]

The Green Party – a failing venture


Green Party logo banner

Election campaigning is currently in full swing here in the UK, with voting to elect a new Parliament (and thus government) due to take place in May. And as usual, the Green Party is busy fielding its own crop of candidates and promoting its election manifesto.

But again, as usual, it’s all mostly in vain. Because although the party might win a seat or two and receive 5% (say) of the national vote, the end result will be the continued marginalisation of the party and the policies it promotes. This is the inevitable consequence of the first-past-the-post voting system, in which the winners take all and the losers, no matter how many votes they receive, get nothing.

This voting system means that huge numbers of votes are wasted – not translated into elected representatives. Even if a party were to contest every seat and lose in each by only a tiny fraction of the vote, they would end up with no elected representatives at all …. no matter that their national share of the vote might be 30 or 40 per cent.

Clearly this is a travesty of democracy. So it’s little wonder that many voters either don’t bother to vote, or else are deeply disenchanted with electoral politics, voting merely to keep ‘the other party’ out … because they know that voting for the party they most favour will be a wasted vote.

Yet still the Green Party persists in playing this rigged game, just as it has done since the 1970s. The party activists will argue that electioneering provides them with publicity – a public platform from which to explain and promote their policies. Yet whilst this is true, what is the real point in promoting policies that the voting system will ensure can never be implemented? So the party is left hoping that one or two of the mainstream parties’ policies become slightly more green-tinged in reaction … a very marginal gain at best.

The alternative – a radical movement for true democracy:

Instead of playing a rigged game to little practical effect, the Green Party should boycott all elections and transform itself – involving alliances across the wider range of green and progressive currents  – into the cutting edge of a radical, campaigning movement for the creation of true democracy. This should centre on the demand for a truly proportionally representative (PR) voting system for elections: if a party gets 1% of the vote then it should get 1% of the elected representatives.

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From 1968 and Robert F. Kennedy


Kennedy

“Even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction – purpose and dignity – that afflicts us all.

Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.  Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.

It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.

It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.  It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans. If this is true here at home, so it is true elsewhere in world.”

Robert Kennedy, University of Kansas, March 18, 1968

Pakistan – a failing state


Pakistant Flag

My opinion, bluntly expressed: if the people of Pakistan do not soon face down and utterly reject the Islamists in their midst, then Pakistan will likely cease to exist as a viable, recognisable nation … collapsing into chaos and Islamo-fascism, a place of darkness, oppression and fear.

What is an Islamist? The answer is simple: anyone who seeks, through the use or endorsement of violence and intimidation, to end all individual freedoms by imposing on everyone else their own particular version of Islam … in total replacement of not only all other varieties of Islam, but also all aspects of secular society. In other words, an Islamist is a variety of fascist.

In an Islamist’s world-view, all other varieties of Islamic practice and belief – Sufism for example – are to be swept away and their adherents branded as ‘heretics’ who can be murdered with impunity. In an Islamist world-view, all secular law is to be swept away and replaced by an extremist interpretation of Sharia law and the like. And in an Islamist world-view all democracy is to be swept away as ‘un-Islamic’ and effectively replaced by decrees from unelected clerics.

Thus the playing of chess may be banned. Music and dancing may be forbidden. Listening to the radio or watching TV may be banished. Access to the internet may be denied and all video games banned. Beards for men may become mandatory (of a prescribed length no less), playing cricket may be banned, as may watching football.

How so? Because all of these things (and many more) have already variously happened in areas where Islamists hold sway.

There is in truth no end to the mad list of activities that may become forbidden – no end to the list of prescribed behaviours that may become enforced – once a society lets hold sway extremist and peculiar interpretations of what is and is not ‘Islamic’ … and allows Islamism to sweep all else away.

And with this sweeping away, all the pillars of freedom and democracy disappear: a free press and independent media, law-making bodies that are democratically accountable, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech and expression. In their stead come gangs of Islamist, gun-toting men, roaming the streets, drunk on the power they wield, each striving to prove through fanatical behaviour that they are more ‘pure’ and Islamist than the rest.

And in an Islamist world-view, in this 21st century, the rights of half the population, the female half, are to be swept away and replaced by extremist interpretations of attitudes rooted in the medieval era of history … interpretations that amount to little more than slavery enforced through violence.

In Pakistan today, the mere accusation of ‘blasphemy’ is often enough to cause the murder of the accused individual. Many varieties of shrine and religious house – Sufi, Hindu, Christian and more – have been attacked and their worshippers killed. And recently, 132 school-children were deliberately murdered because they had parents in the military who may have fought against Islamists. Indeed, over the last eight years nearly 24,000 civilians and security personnel have been killed in Pakistan by terrorists.

Yet despite all this, or perhaps even because of all this, some ‘religious clerics’ in Pakistan can call – with apparent impunity from any laws against the incitement of violence and terrorism – for the remaining staff of Charlie Hebdo (Paris) to be hanged.

I think that time grows short for the people and politicians of Pakistan. The choice is clear: stand together against the gun-men, zealots and extremists, stand up and be counted for freedom, tolerance (live and let live), plurality and human dignity … or else be plunged into a fascist nightmare.

Sitting on the sidelines won’t cut it. The silent Muslim majority in Pakistan must find its voice.

The Big Day


Black Friday

Black Friday! Cyber Monday! And then it’s only 23 more shopping days until the ‘Big Day’ itself.[1]

Of course the Big Day is characterised by that rarest of features, namely the closing of most shops … unless they’re online of course. Perhaps we should be grateful for such small mercies, what with Christmas shopping adverts appearing on TV anywhere from late August onwards. But then 24 hours later it’s off we go again with the Boxing Day Sales, the New Year Sales and beyond.

How have so many people allowed themselves to become caught up in such a meat-grinding system? How have so many people allowed their identity to reduce down into that of habitual consumer?

Has their potential identity as active citizens – rather than mere passive consumers – simply melted away under the relentless heat of the mass-media adverts that assault us 24/7 from every conceivable location and direction? Have they been rendered mindless by the transformation, decade by decade, of pretty much everything – including dreams and even (in some places ) fresh air – into saleable commodities? Are they simply brainwashed by the clever marketing psychology that stokes up peer pressures, preys upon guilt, plays upon the sense of prestige and fuels envious fears of ‘losing out’?

All this of course is part of the absurd, impossible fantasy that we’ve allowed ourselves to buy into, namely the never-ending expansion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), year after year from now until doomsday (see Goldilocks as Buddha).

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Let’s Buy the Afghan Opium Crop


Opium Poppy Farmers Afghanistan

 

A recent BBC news story:

“Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan hit record levels in 2013 despite counter-narcotics efforts by Washington, a US report says.

The special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction said the US had spent $7.6bn (£4.72bn) over 13 years trying to eradicate the plant.

A number of agencies gave to the funds aimed at supporting narcotics officers and helping farmers change livelihoods.

Despite this, Afghanistan grew 209,000 hectares of the plant in 2013.

A UN body says the value of this crop was nearly $3bn (£1.86bn), up 50% from 2012.”

So here’s a thought: instead of spending tons of money on failing to stop cultivation of the opium poppy in Afghanistan, why don’t ‘western’ governments instead buy that same opium crop from the Afghani farmers? The entire crop, every year.

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Trapped in hell


Islamic State1  Islamic State2

A number of naive Muslim teenagers and young men (and it is mostly men) have been lured into going to fight for the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (IS). They do so partly because it seems exciting, adventurous and rebellious. It also promises to give them the clear self-identity that many want and otherwise lack. And of course they naively swallow the extremist propaganda and end up mistaking it for Islamic teaching.

But we can well imagine that for many this all changes soon after they arrive in Syria or Iraq and experience first hand the reality of the IS, with its mass murders, its rapes and enslavements, its crucifixions and beheadings, its soulless, pathological and puritanical culture. Such kids, having grown up in (say) 21st century Paris or London or New York, are suddenly plunged into a world of medieval attitudes and brutality, where even music and dancing is forbidden and the slightest hint of opposition will likely get you killed real quick and maybe real painfully.

But by then it’s too late and there is no escape, no way out of the hell they’ve arrived in. For where else can they now go? They can hardly just walk towards the front lines of Iraqi or Syrian soldiers (or those of the Kurdish peshmerga), where being shot (or worse) would be the likely outcome. And they can’t renounce their commitment to the IS for fear of being executed as an ‘apostate’ or traitor.

Even if they managed to escape, a long prison sentence for terrorism offences is likely all that awaits them in their home country.

We can say that “they themselves made this bed and now they must sleep in it” … and of course this has a degree of truth. But we can also doubt that most of them truly knew beforehand what they were getting themselves into … before the ‘adventure’ and apparent glamour gave way to a nightmarish hell.

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