Monday, February 28, 2011

Citizen's United and Attacks on Unions: The Perfect Storm for Democrats and Middle-Class.

The Republicans are in the middle of a two-phase attack at the very heart of the Democratic party; and thus, anyone who isn't a dire-hard Republican. This is because they are targeting the middle-class and working families with first, the "Citizens United" case and now the targeting of public employee unions.

Citizen United was a Supreme Court ruling, of course, that removed limits on how much a corporation can donate. The average citizen donor can't compete with that; and since most of the corporate donations go to Republicans, it's a blow to the two-party system. This also means more money going to Republican candidates that support the bidding of giant corporations over working families, seniors and the disabled. This eventiablly leads to more power and wealth concentrated in the hands of corporations, and less in the hands of the dwindling middle-class and ballooning lower-class.

Then came the ambush on unions in Wisconsin by Republican Governor Scott Walker. This is the second blow (and perhaps, the knock-out blow) to working families, and to the Democratic party, which is the only viable party to challenge the Corporatist Republicans. For decades the unions have been the fighting force of the middle-class, formed in an era of greedy capitalists. Yet, now that we are in another time of monopolies, giant corporations and greedy capitalists, labor power is at its lowest in history. The bulk of what little power they have left to protect the working man and woman is in the hands of the public employee unions (teachers, fire fighters).

If you put the two together, you have a cynical and ruthless plan to wipe out all opposition to Corporate Republicanism. The Citizens United case seemed to be come out of nowhere and shock us all. However, when Governor Walker in Wisconsin attacked the collective bargaining rights of public unions, after the unions agreed to take cuts in benefits, it betrayed a two-pronged, concerted effort to weaken the Democratic Party to the point of impotence. It seems like something that they must have been planning for awhile now.

Have unions had a checkered past? Sure, but the last few decades or so they haven't been rife with corruption like in the Jimmy Hoffa days. Do I agree with everything the unions do? Of course not, but if you don't allow workers to unionize then you have lost the last protector of the middle class. It's a known fact that unions set a standard in wages in protections that raise the standards for all workers. Regardless, if the unions go, then the Democratic Party will be severely hampered in checking corporate greed and rallying for the workers who often have little to no voice. I don't always agree with everything the Democrats do, or believe, but they do seem the only hope of keeping the middle class from completely being driven into abject poverty.

This is a call to not just Democrats and Liberals, but Independents as well. If we don't stand up now, and fight together for each other, we could soon face the day when there will be a small pocket of the rich and powerful running everything, while everyone else begs for scraps. We can't go back to the days of the Robber Barons. If you think the treatment of working people is bad now, research the days of the Robber Barons of the "Gilded Age." Then you will understand why we have unions today and why they are still needed--if not, now, more than ever.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

How Wisconsin United the Democrats.

Coming out of the bruising health care battle, and the disappointing mid-term elections, Democrats were a bit demoralized and starting to bicker amongst themselves; some even questioned President Obama. But, then, one cold February day in the sleepy state of Wisconsin came a governor with an agenda to crush the public employee unions. The same middle-class that has been stretched beyond the breaking-point for decades, as one Republican president after another sold-out the American worker to India and China with "hyper-outsourcing" and Faustian trade deals like NAFTA--thanks, also, to Bill Clinton who bought into the con. War had been declared on the middle-class.

Then Wall Street crashed, thanks in large part to Republicans like Phil Gramm stripping regulations on the banks in the 90s. Banks made unsound loans and then packaged them up to investors but the bubble could only last for, so long. Meanwhile, the average American, who had been working twice as hard, at several jobs, (since American politicians sold off our good paying jobs overseas), was unaware of the collapse that was about to take them down with it. After the dust settled, whole corporations had to be liquidated and a cascade of lay-offs rippled coldly across this great country.

This governor, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, had allowed a huge tax cut for the rich to stay in place but decided to make up the short-fall it created by forcing the public employee unions (teachers, fire fighters, cops and EMTs) to pay more--which they eventually agreed to. However, that wasn't enough for this arrogant governor, hoping to make a name for himself by being the "Union Slayer" for his greedy friends and benefactors, such as the Koch brothers.

Back against the wall, the working class, and demoralized Democratic Party roared up on it's back legs and began pushing back. Angry teachers and fire fighters engulfed and inundated the capital building and spilled out onto the streets--all protesting the over-reach of power, by Governor Walker. Day after day these public employees stood firm and a handful of Democratic state senators left the state to protest this union killing bill. Soon, the entire country was watching Wisconsin, and Democrats across the nation stood together in solidarity with the Wisconsin protests. It would come to galvanize Democrats and Liberals together to form a solidly united party. As time passed, poll after poll show 2 to 1 support in the state of Wisconsin and across the country for the protesters. This struck a nerve in all working people and Independents soon joined the cause.

This governor with his over-developed sense of importance; who is out to make a name for himself in national politics walked straight into the lions den. The working people can't take, and won't take anymore attacks on our livelihood. Enough!! The Republican wave of over-reaching power after the 2010 election has reached it's high-water mark in Wisconsin and is starting to roll back. By nearly every measure, this attack on working families in Wisconsin hasn't just united the Democrats and Liberals; it's united America, and is a clarion call that the time is now to beat back the corporate machine that is choking out the life-blood of average workers.

I'll close with a quote from Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, who said the following in regards to the Walker-induced nightmare in Wisconsin:
If you are a successful CEO of a company or of a state, the most important thing you can do is to build morale of the people who work for you," said Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-Mont.), citing his experience bargaining with Montana's public-employee unions, which agreed to forgo a salary increase two and a half years ago to avoid layoffs. "It is the people that work for you that make you successful, and when you do that to morale, you are cutting your own throat."
Governor Walker should stick his head out of his fox-hole and realize that his poll numbers are tanking and he'll be lucky if he isn't voted out in a referendum.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Governor Walker Reveals His True Nature from a Prank Phone Call.

By now, I'm sure that most of you have heard of the phone call Governor Walker received from one of his favorite billionaire donors, David Koch; except it wasn't David Koch. It was a prank phone call from a Buffalo blogger, pretending to be David Koch. In the phone call, Walker hinted at a trick to pull on the Democratic lawmakers in order to get his way on stripping rights from public sector employees in Wisconsin:
During the prank call, Walker discussed the possibility of tricking Senate Democrats into returning to the capitol for talks during a recess, then sneakily passing his budget measure, which they'd skipped town to block because it would gut union workers' collective bargaining rights. "If you heard that I was going to talk to them, that would be the only reason why."
TPJ: What a sleazeball. This shows his true nature, which is one fueled by arrogance and disdain for public employees; of whom, he, ironically, is one--as are all politicians. So, I find it interesting that the Governor is all about cutting the wages of the average public employees, and yanking paychecks away from state Democrats who left the state in protest; but I haven't heard anything about also cutting the wages of the state senators and representatives, as well. If everyone has to take a hit in this budget crisis then he needs to start with himself, and his fellow Republicans at the Capital.

And, yet, despite no fiscal sacrifice asked of Walker and Wisconsin legislators, the unions have already conceded on the wage reductions the governor wants. It's no longer about money. So, the fact Walker is still pounding away at working families shows he's on a power trip to crush unions and make a name for himself in national, Republican politics. It tells me that he sees the Wisconsin State Capitol as a stepping stone for national office. And, he's using the backs of state employees as the other stepping stones. He actually painted the battle as though it were similar to Reagan working to help bring down the Berlin wall and defeat the Soviets:

I said, you know [...] 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan [...] had one of the most defining moments of his political career, not just his presidency, when he fired the air-traffic controllers. And, uh, I said, to me that moment was more important than just for labor relations or even the federal budget, that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism because from that point forward, the Soviets and the Communists knew that Ronald Reagan wasn’t a pushover. I said this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history. And this is why it’s so important that they were all there.

TPJ: So, he thinks the unions are the Berlin wall and the protesters the Soviets??--keeping it classy (sarcasm). Then he goes on to say this is about changing the course of history. So, that got me thinking that if this was just about Wisconsin's budget, as Walker claims, why would he frame it with the Reagan story and the "time to make history" comment, if he didn't have bigger ambitions than Wisconsin? He's not telling the whole story to his voters but when he thinks one of his billionaire benefactors is on the line, [David Koch] he jumps and gives that person his full attention and time. He's such an egotistical, arrogant jerk--even his body language and looks from his eyes come off as self-important. I hope Wisconsin can rid themselves of his unfolding nightmare.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Poll: Americans Support Union Bargaining Rights by 2-to1 Margin.

WASHINGTON – Americans decisively support laws ensuring the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions by a nearly two-to-one margin, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll. Sixty-one percent said they oppose legislation stripping those rights in their states, as compared to only 33 percent who said they favor such laws, a striking discrepancy that shows public opinion firmly on one side of a growing national fight. Six percent had no opinion.The wide margin could influence the outcome of a now high-profile skirmish over Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker's new budget measure curtailing the ability of public employee unions to collectively bargain for salaries and benefits.

TPJ: Wisconsin is a watershed moment where the insatiable, Republican, austerity machine went too far. Everyone agrees (including the union workers in Wisconsin) that we should all have to take cuts in this recession to share the pain but taking away their right to collectively bargain is going too far. The public understands that unions protect working families and raise the wage and working standards in non-union companies.

The Republicans are painting a stark contrast for the 2012 presidential election: They are siding with the corporate bosses and the Democrats are fighting for the little guy or gal working to keep food on the table for their kids. Americans are very willing to sacrifice; if they see the pain being spread fairly. However, average working families won't be mocked or used to fund tax cuts for the super-rich while they have to lose their right to petition their bosses for better working conditions through collective bargaining.

But, this isn't about the money. If this were about the money, this debate in Wisconsin would have been settled days ago; that's because the teachers unions and other public employees are willing to sacrifice wages, so long as they can keep their rights as workers (collective bargaining rights). However, that's not good enough for the Republican governor. He wants to kill off the worker protection movement in the heart of blue collar America. That, isn't just a political shot at the Democratic party but a direct attack on working families who don't enjoy the generous tax cuts that the wealthy are hording while the rest of us scrounge for their scraps.

As I said, they went too far. Everyone agrees on sacrifice but not at the expense of the middle-classes very existence; for, if we lose the middle-class, we lose the lifeblood of America. We can't let this happen in our lifetime--we can't go back to the days of the robber barons and the Gilded Age. We need a Teddy Roosevelt for our time, and a new Progressive Era. How ironic that Teddy the "Trust Buster" was a Republican. Wisconsin is the firewall to this scorched Earth policy against working families by the conservative agenda in America. If Wisconsin's worker rights go down, then the rest of the states will likely follow because Wisconsin has the strongest union movement. If the Republicans can beat back working families there; they could do it anywhere. The time to stand-up is NOW.

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How Wisconsin Relates to 2012 Election.

If you think Republican Governor Scott Walker's attack on teachers and fire fighter unions isn't political then consider this; Indiana, Ohio and Michigan are all run by newly elected Republican governors who are hinting at attacking their teacher unions as well.

Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio are all states that went for Obama in 2008. These Republicans know that union workers tend to support Democrats because, by and large, Democrats support blue collar workers over corporate bosses. And, Republicans, by and large, back corporations.

So, Republicans are going to try and bust up unions in advance of Obama's re-election campaign next year. That is why Governor Walker isn't budging on the collective bargaining issue despite the unions agreeing to the monetary cuts Walker's plan intends. If you take away collective bargaining then you have essential destroyed the unions power. Imagine if Democrats tried to take away a corporations right to support Republican campaigns. The Republican attack on blue collar union workers is the same thing.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

POLL: Wisconsin Voters Support Unions Over Gov. Scott Walker.

(Above: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker)

The results presented in the following chart prepared by the pollsters show large majorities agreeing with "public employees" (67%), "protestors at the state capitol" (62%) and "unions" (59%) but far fewer agreeing with "Republicans in the Legislature" (48%) or Scott Walker (43% agree and 53% disagree).

TPJ: Another poll shows that Governor Walker himself is seeing an increase in negative polls in Wisconsin.

The results of the two surveys on these questions were within sampling error of each other: Walker's approval rating is now net negative, with the disapproval rating reaching or slightly exceeding 50%. Meanwhile, the favorable ratings of "Democrats in the State Legislature" are slightly better and net positive (47% favorable, 38% unfavorable on the Saturday-Sunday sample).

TPJ: I think that much of these negative numbers for Walker and his buddies stem, in part, from what the public sees as intransigence by Gov. Walker. The unions have already said that they'd be willing to take the financial cuts, so long as they can keep the right to collectively bargain as a union in the future. They are willing to meet him half-way but he refuses to compromise or back-down. That stubbornness does not play well in the upper-mid-west where I have a lot of family; and where a lot of people are reasonable. They are a kind, giving people and would be willing to work with the governor but the governor is being unreasonable, and that arrogance seems to be negatively impacting his poll numbers.

UPDATE: If you think Republican Governor Scott Walker's attack on teachers and fire fighter unions isn't political then consider this; Indiana and Ohio are both run by newly elected Republican governors who are hinting at attacking their teacher unions as well.

Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio are all states that went for Obama in 2008. These Republicans know that union workers tend to support Democrats because, by and large, Democrats support blue collar workers over corporate bosses. And, Republicans, by and large, back corporations.

So, Republicans are going to try and bust up unions in advance of Obama's re-election campaign next year. That is why Governor Walker isn't budging on the collective bargaining issue despite the unions agreeing to the monetary cuts Walker's plan intends. If you take away collective bargaining then you have essential destroyed the unions power. Imagine if Democrats tried to take away a corporations right to support Republican campaigns. The Republican attack on blue collar union workers is the same thing.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Massacre in Libya -- 200+ Unarmed Civilians Gunned Down.

(Above: Brutal, forty-year, Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi)

Massacre in Libya. Hundreds of unarmed protesters gunned down in cold blood by Gaddafi's thugs. Spread the word. We must denounce this with the strongest terms. We must stand for human rights and not turn our heads to ignore the demands of a long-imprisoned people. Americans have criticized the middle-east in the past for not being democratic.

Now that this wave of democracy is building, we should not look away; we must add to the momentum and not find ourselves on the wrong side of history. The time of supporting dictators by America to protect oil interests is over. This wave of freedom in the Middle-East shows that we can maintain a strong trade network without supporting dictators. We must stand-firm with the people of this long volatile region; it may be our last chance in a long-time to help democracy flourish in that long troubled, yet vital area of the world.

In the end, however, it is in our long-term interests to get off oil as our main source of energy in America. Building a strong green energy economy will enable us to support the democratic movements in the world, without having to sell-out our values just to maintain our oil addiction.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Wisconsin Gov Created Budget Shortfall to Chop Union Rights.

(Above: Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker)

Wisconsin's new Republican governor has framed his assault on public worker's collective bargaining rights as a needed measure of fiscal austerity during tough times. The reality is radically different. Unlike true austerity measures -- service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money -- rolling back worker's bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker's doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately.

Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state's fiscal bureau -- the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office -- concluded that Wisconsin isn't even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.

TPJ: He cut taxes for the wealthy, which gave Wisconsin a budget short-fall and then said they have to chop the unions to pay for the short-fall!! So, the working folk of America take the hit while the rich soak in their windfall. But it gets worse; Walker isn't just cutting pensions of these state unions workers (teachers) which is bad enough. He also wants to abolish their very RIGHT to organize as a union!!! How anti-democratic is that?!!!

The teachers unions and other public sector employee union workers have said they are willing to negotiate a compromise to take some cuts but Republican Governor Walker wants nothing to do with negotiations. He wants to take advantage of his power to crush unions. If this was honestly about a budget shortfall then why won't he allow negotiations. Instead, it's his way or nothing at all. What kind of democratic process works in such a manner? It's so wrong when the wealthy get to wallow in money they don't even need, thanks to a Gov. Walker tax cut but the blue-collar wage earners have to not only take a pension cut, but lose their collective bargaining power? That's too far.

I'm glad that tens of thousands of pro-union supporters are joining these state workers to stand-up for their democratic rights. I wish I could join them but I heard other protests are planned for Ohio, Indiana and other states to show solidarity and flex some muscle to hopefully keep such strong-arm tactics from replicating in their states.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Middle-Eastern Wave of Revolutions Crashes Onward: Bahrain and Iran.

The Middle-Eastern island state of Bahrain is seeing a third day of protests aimed at seeking greater freedoms. A police crackdown saw several people killed, which has galvanized protesters to push forward with their demands.
The truly amazing thing is that this is unfolding in a Persian Gulf country that has been relatively stable in the recent past but the Great Middle-Eastern Wave of Freedom is touching the shores of all dictators in the region.

It is also important to note that the U.S. Navy's 5th fleet is stationed in Bahrain, which places us in a bit of an awkward position. So far, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for restraint after the brutal police and military crackdown in the island country. However, it will soon become apparent that we need to call for greater reform measures in Bahrain.

We simply MUST come down on the side of the protesters if the symbolism of the 5th fleet is to mean anything. Traditionally, the American military has been a sign of freedom. So, to let them sit in these ports without a stronger cry for reforms by our government make us look like we say one thing and mean another. It also means losing any respect we have amongst the people as a partner to be trusted to stand for freedom.

As far as Iran is concerned, events seem less likely to topple the regime due to the size of the police and secret police. However, there is some talk about a March 21st rally in the streets to coincide with Iran's New Year celebrations. Iran seems ripe for change as it too has a massive young population. It too is impoverished and ruled by a dictator's iron fist. As in Egypt, Iranians are use to things like Facebook and Twitter; as well as other freedoms of life in the West. So, they yearn for such freedoms.

They seek change and nearly toppled the theocratic dictatorship a year or so again in the first wave of the Green Revolution. So, the infrastructure of the opposition is already present. It would be a massive giant to fall if Iran was toppled by it's people. It would send shock-waves throughout the world but especially here in the United States. It would be a complete game changer in that traditionally volatile, unstable and rogue region of the world. If Iran falls, it might just finally lead to a break-through between Israel and Palestine. Wow, what an exiting time to be alive and to be a historian, like myself!!

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Republican Leader's Reaction to Job Loses: "So Be It."

Republican leader Boehner said, "so be it" to federal workers losing jobs. Hey, Boehner, we can make you lose your FEDERAL job too if you continue being an ass about budget cuts and job lay-offs. How about cutting your high-salaries first? And then cut their cushy FEDERAL government health-care services; which by the way should be rejected by all Republican politicians, if FEDERALLY administered health-care services are so bad--as they claim. So, in other words, they think they deserve such a beneficial program but won't extend it to the rest of us--that's called cronyism.

These federal employees are average people with families who have children to feed and bills to pay. They aren't making fortunes like the hedge-fund multi-billionaires who are treated like saints in this country. The uber-rich are off-limits when it comes to taxing to help make up the budget shortfalls; as if by some commandment put-forth by "God" from on-high. No, rather than ask the billionaires to sacrifice, the Republicans want to chop jobs from the peons first. Republicans, have a heart, to at least be less of a cold-hearted jerk about cutting peoples' jobs.

For all the talk the Republicans put forth in the 2010 elections about increasing jobs, they are going at it in an odd way, to say the least. They are cutting jobs when we should be growing jobs. This while Republicans are talking about everything BUT jobs: abortion, health care repeal and debt. WHERE ARE THE JOBS??? I told you that they aren't serious about helping the average folks. No, instead they cut the peons jobs in the federal government. What kind of jobs plan is that?!! And now, they're coming for your social security and Medicare; and you know what? They'll get it all if we let them lull us into thinking we can do without it.

Saying "so be it" is a cruel thing to say after kicking long-time employees out the door like so much garbage. It's a phrase that a king from the 17th century would would use in relation to his subjects. It's like the quote attributed to Marie Antoinette (which she never said) of, "Let them eat cake" when confronted with the question, "What will the people eat now that bread is too expensive?"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Republicans Missing Jobs Message.

Republicans claimed that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress weren't doing enough to improve the jobs situation in America. They won the 2010 mid-term elections, in part, on that wave of discontent. However, they have done nothing about the jobs crisis since they took over power in the House of Representatives, where most legislation is first proposed.

Meanwhile President Obama stabilized the markets with the stimulus plan and the market is now back to 12,000 when under Bush it was 6,000. Obama has also helped revive the American auto industry, which saved countless jobs that would have been lost from manufacturers to parts dealers and auto dealerships. General Motors and the others have paid much of their loans back to the tax payer; and while jobs are slow to return, the trend is no longer going down. We are loosing less and less jobs under Obama right now, so I think, things should be looking better by next year.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader, Republican John Boehner was asked about Republicans avoiding job demands and instead going for budget cuts; and if those cuts will cost people jobs. He said it would cost jobs, and then added, "So be it." As if he's some sort of Pharaoh, Moses or Sultan. So, it's obvious to this American that the Republicans aren't serious about the jobs crisis. They have misled the American people into thinking they would step-down from their gilded carriages to help the masses and give them jobs; TODAY'S REPUBLICAN PARTY, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!

The trend, as far as I can figure it, is that President Obama is the turtle in the race, slow and steady but still wins the race as he goes about his job of improving America's economic future slowly but measurably. Meanwhile, the Republicans spend the next year: Obsessed with investigating Obama, denying his birth citizenship and Christian beliefs, going after gays, women's abortion rights, gutting programs people rely upon and ending social security and Medicare!!

Which party would do you think would stand up for your average, American needs? The one trying to solve the problem, even if it's difficult; or the one looking to cut Medicare to those who need help the most, simply because their corrupt asses won't sacrifice like the rest of us? This use to be a country where we cared about everybody--and that took sympathy upon those who can't help themselves. Go read what the plaque on the Statue of Liberty says--that use to be something we valued and strove toward. When did we become so jaded, selfish and cut-throat toward our fellow man?

Whatever happened to an America where we were happy to share some of our great fortune? To repay the country that gave you such opportunities? The super wealthy paid 70-90% in taxes during one of the most prosperous eras in modern American history --The 1940s-1970s. It is also an era where the middle-class was born and thrived. And, yet now, the middle-class is caving and social programs that have been successful since Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression are being cut out from beneath the poor and lower middle-class. The great American tradition of being proud to be a "union" of people who look out for one-another seems less and less a value shared by a lot of Americans. It's sad, but what is worse, is that it's not just infuriating Liberal political wonks, it might just ruin America for a generation. The decision, to me, is clear. Obama 2012.

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The Great Mid-East Wave of Freedom.

We are truly witnessing, a once in a century upheaval on the geo-political map with all these revolutions popping off in the Middle-East. The year isn't but two months old and already we have seen two long-time dictators fall in Tunisia and Egypt. It has spread like a great wave to protests in Algeria, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Bahrain and Libya. In these same countries, concessions have been announced simply at the sight of the on-coming tsunami of revolution.

As a historian, I am absolutely thrilled to be living through this period of time. These are events that shake an entire world and alter the entire make-up of humanity. I think the sheer numbers of these protests demands a name to easily refer to the chain-reaction of events. So, I'm throwing some ideas out; let me know, which one(s) you like most. Or, other names you think are better:

-"The Great Mid-Eastern Wave of Freedom"
-"The Social Media Revolutions of 2011"
-The 2011 Wave of Freedom

I think, in the end, that I like the first one, "The Great Mid-Eastern Wave of Freedom"

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egyptian Revolution vs. Iraqi Regime Change.

By now the news of Hosni Mubarak stepping down from power has reverberated around the world. It is a scene to behold on television to see hundreds of thousands of Egyptians celebrating the success of people power. They've been waiting for this moment for 30 years, (if not longer) and many in the crowds are youth who have never known a different leader than Mubarak. This was a peaceful protest for the most part and shows that democracy doesn't have to come from the barrel of the gun.

This is in stark contrast to the Iraqi invasion and occupation by George W. Bush trying to force democracy upon them. In the wake of such force, 4,000 American soldiers died and untold numbers of Iraqis, as well. I have long said that true, lasting democracy can only come from the people within. It was the case with the American revolution, the French Revolution, the fall of the Berlin wall and the fall of the Soviet East bloc countries, just to name a few. When you force change from an outside power, it is often received by the local population as outside manipulation. Yes, they want democracy and freedom but not dictated to them by America.

You can't force democracy, it has to emerge in an organic manner from a populace ripe for taking on such a change. Only they know when the time is right to revolt, because they are living it. This is what true freedom and democracy looks like--mass populace united under one voice for the same change. It is much more meaningful and lasting when it comes from the people, and handed forced down their throats, like in Iraq. So, it's nice to see masses of humanity enjoying this moment as they should. It's been long in coming and I'm sure it's a sweet victory to savor and be proud about.

PHOTO CREDIT: Celebrations in Tahrir Square by Egyptians after toppling long-time dictator, Hosni Mubarak. By Asmaa Waguih, from Reuters

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Americans Arrogant About Egyptian Revolution.

It is embarrasing and pathetic to constantly hear American journalists and, so-called "experts" on Egypt talk as if we are the "king makers" of the Egyptian revolution. This support of dictators and other radicals has been a nasty habit America has picked up in the past decades, which has often blown-up in our face: Supporting the dictatorial Shah in Iran, supporting Diem in Vietnam, supporting Saddam Hussein until he outlived his usefulness to America, supporting Osama bin Laden during the Afghanistan war against the Soviets. And, now, Hosni Mubarak who we have supported over democracy in Egypt for the past 30 years. Real politik is fastly becoming over-rated. It's like acid--It is helpful in small doses but deadly as a mass policy.

Now that Mubarak is being kicked out by his people, we have the arrogance to think we have a right to meddle in their political affairs? You have people saying that we have to support stability over democracy in Egypt; meaning, even though Mubarak is a terrible dictator he is at least a "stable ally" in the Middle-East. As well as a supporter of Israel. No, this isn't our revolution--it's up to the Egyptian people to decide the next course. We can't constantly sell out our democratic values. Also, this blind support of Israel is myopic, which has not served us well in being able to have credibility in the rest of the Middle-Eastern region. Israel has a strong military and has defeated every enemy in several wars, so I think they can protect themselves. We should still support Israel but not to the detriment of relations in the rest of the region.

I think it is wise if we sit-back and just watch from afar--offer our services if they should be desired by the people of Egypt, but not force our influence. This isn't a game where we can play "Risk" with other countries and pretend there aren't real consequences for meddling in the affairs of others. It's time to support our democratic values first, and adapt to whatever the people of these independent countries decide. We aren't the government or police of the world and we'd do well to focus on our own country because things aren't going so well here at home either.

PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Obama Talks High-Speed Railway Jobs, While Republicans Obsess Over Abortion.

What have the American people been saying the last two years, at least? JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!! The Republicans won the mid-term elections and jumped right into working on increasing job growth, right? WRONG!! Since the Republicans began wielding their control of the House of Representatives they have spent their time attacking abortion rights rather than the jobs issue.

They aren't just talking about abortion, however, which is a topic that intelligent people can disagree on. They are attacking women's rights by proposing bills that would seek to classify rape as only occurring if there is a violence involved. Um, hello? Rap in and of itself is violent!! It was finally removed but the point remains that Republicans seem to prefer gallivanting off and around in the weeds of extremist culture wars than work on jobs full-time. The "Protect Life Act" proposes to go, so far, as to say, women can't use their own money to pay for abortion services, if they are apart of the Obama health care plan. I understand the importance of ensuring that no federal monies go toward funding abortions, but it's going too far to ban women from using their private funds.

Meanwhile, President Obama is adding to the groundwork he laid during his first year in office for a job boosting investment in high-speed railway construction. It would continue to spin-0ff jobs, well into the future, as new lines and routes are added-on, in the coming decades. In addition, long-term jobs will be in-demand for manufacturing workers to replace the parts with this country-wide system. It will drastically reduce travel time and increase travel options in a time when oil prices are pinching our wallets. This is what Germany, France, China and Japan have already done and it has improved their economies. It will also improve commerce immensely, so it's a win-win for business and government.

Obama isn't doing all that I'd like him to do but jobs are clearly his top priority. He even went to meet with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a right-wing business lobby to whip up jobs and show bipartisan willingness to reach out. The Republicans, meanwhile, spin-off into abortion battles--attacking women's rights. So, which do you prefer? High-speed railway jobs and improved travel options, or rehashing the abortion debate? I stand with Obama.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Glenn Beck Fans Flames of Fear--Again.

As the whole world stands riveted by the pro-democracy protesters in Egypt, provocateur, Glenn Beck is taking this opportunity to advance another one of his paranoid, delusional conspiracy theories. All of them, by the way, seem to be merging into one giant super conspiracy that is heavily influenced by this obsession that many Christians have about "the end of the world."

Beck seems to be doing all he can to bring it about. It's as if they can't wait for Jesus to come back, so they are going to speed it up by creating a world where all the signs occur: destructive environment (check--ignoring global warming), world-wide disasters (check--they've been happening since the dawn of this planet who cares when you're a narrow-minded revelations fantatic?!!), wars and rumors of wars (check--they even started one themselves with Iraq). Chaos in Israel (check--they support Israel no-matter-what; even if it means risking war because of it. Hey, war in Israel is one of the last signs, anyway, so bring it on!!).

But, they better be right, because if Jesus doesn't come back, the aftermath in the world will be so catastrophic, thanks to their their Messianic complex, that it will be hard to pick up the pieces, and return to some semblance of normalcy. But I digress. As Egypt shakes with the cries of freedom, Beck is claiming that this revolution isn't inspired by democracy seeking youth, at all. In his unmedicated mind the wave of democracy that started in Tunisia is somehow, instead, inspired at it's heart by Islamic radicalism!! Of course!! The bogey-monster of the conservative, American political fringe resurfaces again!! How convenient, just in time for a ratings boost, eh, Beckenstein? apocalypse

What's the goal, you say? According to Nostradamus Beck, it's a secret ploy from a conspiracy that includes the American liberals, President Obama and the Islamic radicals to take over the world!! He believes that this "cabal" wants a world-wide caliphate that would include Britain and France!! Seriously!! It's SO illogical, to think, that American liberals would want to work with a CONSERVATIVE group that is rabidly religious in nature!! Liberals aren't very big into religion and if they are, it certainly isn't to the degree where they'd put up with Islamic radicals!! But, then again all paranoid conspiracy theories are illogical.

The really sad part of this is that for once, we have a movement in the Middle-East that is secular and pro-democratic, and instead of embracing it, conservative wackos like Glenn Beck question and attack their "true motives." The average people of the Middle-East, and moderate Muslims everywhere can't win with many American conservatives. Beck, and his ilk, have them all pegged as terrorists or potential terrorists, and they are making things worse with such blatant bigotry. The sadly ironic part is that it's people like BECK who are the REAL zealots in this situation--not the young people in Egypt clambering for democracy, for heavens sake!!

We should be HELPING them, not questioning their motives. I thought we wanted democracy in the Middle-East?!! That's what we were told by the conservatives when they were defending the unjustified occupation of Iraq; but now they've given up on democracy in the Middle-East unless it comes from the barrel of an American gun? Because you can't trust anyone else to get it done expect the American military?!! (Shakes head). As I said, it's this really scary and dangerous mix of anti-Islamic sentiments, Christian zealotry, end-times theology and American nationalism. Beck and his cohorts are playing with fire and unfortunately they aren't usually the ones who are burned by their reckless actions.

The good thing is that a lot of people are flocking away from Beck's paranoid rantings, but if you still listen or watch Beck, why??? You have, so many other conservative thinkers to listen to that are (at the very least), more rational than this nut-bag, Beck. I'm not saying you should necessarily listen or read liberal commentators but pick a real journalist or two--not this conspiratorial zealot who seems hell-bent on stirring up the "end of the world." All people of every political stripe should be against that kind of destructive language.

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Egypt Explodes with Violence. Mubarak Losing International Credibility.

Egypt has exploded with violence as pro-Mubarak forces clashed with anti-government forces for a second day. The protests have been relatively peaceful until the thugs on horseback descended into the crowds, whipping and beating the anti-government protesters. It's clear that these thugs and street gangs were released upon the people by Mubarak to stir up trouble and try and blame it all on the his opponents in the streets. Today, the Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq apologized for the violence though it seems like too little, too late. It's like the abusive husband who beats his wife and then apologizes and begs her to take him back.

At the same time, journalists from reputable organizations from around the world are being rounded up and arrested under the guise of "protecting their safety." American journalist Anderson Cooper for CNN was attacked and beaten several times yesterday. So, the White House is changing it's tone from one of mediator to chastiser for unleashing this cruel violence upon peaceful citizens demanding democratic change for their country.

However, that isn't going far enough in my mind. It is clear that Mubarak has thumbed his nose at us despite our calls of tepid support, so long as he avoids violence and mischief. It's clear now that the relationship is severed. Thus, it's time to cut the billions in aid to his regime that comes from American tax payers. I do not want one dollar going to fund this thuggish regime any longer. I do not want to go one more day with the embarrassment that we helped in some way to keep Mubarak in power; regardless of what "good" his did for the region such as in keeping the peace with Israel. There comes a time when you can no longer over-look abuses from such a dictator--that time is NOW, Mr. President.

This drawn out conflict is deteriorating by the hour and I think it is time for the Egyptian military to finally step in and tell Mubarak to go. Nothing good can come from a further drawn-out stand-off.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The 2011 Social Media Revolutions: Syria Edition.

It started with the "Green Revolution" in Iran, which nearly toppled a decades long theocratic dictatorship in Iran. It was the rise of a great wave of change in a region of the world that seemed locked in time, forever frozen in dictatorships--the Middle-East. Soon, Tunisia would follow and successfully topple their repressive totalitarian government, and now, Egypt. What do these revolutions all have in common? They most involved the youth and were built, organized and grown via the social media networks of Facebook and Twitter (amongst other online media services).

This allowed groups that might not otherwise know or meet one another to meet-up at the same place, at the same time without much advance planning. And, most importantly, the ability to spread the word is lightening fast--literally, from the touch of a button. In past revolutions, it was harder to communicate with disparate people. Thus, the crowds were often smaller in number and less people informed in the first place of information that would inspire them to revolt (i.e. WikiLinks). In the viral age of social media, it takes seconds for earth-shattering information to travel the world, twice over. This makes it virtually impossible for totalitarian, repressive regimes to keep the lid on their abuses of power.

But, perhaps what's most revealing about these Social Media revolutions are how they spread from country to country. In times past, it was harder for closed, repressive societies to learn news of what was occurring in other countries. However, now, people are linked up by these social media networks with people the world over, which allows them to spread information to average citizens who might not have access to an uncensored t.v. station or newspaper. Other technologies, such as proxy servers allow people to bypass government censors and communicate information that the state could have repressed in the past.

And, those people share it with other people--and on and on it spreads exponentially. Especially when you consider that huge numbers of the populations in these countries with dictatorial regimes in the Middle-East are under the age of 30. So, they are highly adept with the latest technology and how to use it to thwart governments. How does a repressive government shut down proxy servers in host countries that are democratic and do not censor the internet? They can't and that's why they are finally falling, like dominoes. These young people are tired of no opportunities and lack of jobs. So, combine that with an ability to see the world moving on without them via these social networks, and you have a revolutionary wave that stands to topple nearly any repressive regime in its path.

And, already it looks like Syria is about to be the next regime hit by it. Syrians are tweeting days in advance about a "day of rage" in Damascus where protests will swell the streets from February 4th through the next day. Syria has similar regimes as Tunisia and Egypt have/had:

Like Egypt and Tunisia, Syria suffers from corruption, poverty and unemployment. All three nations have seen subsidy cuts on staples like bread and oil. Syria's authoritarian president has resisted calls for political freedoms and jailed critics of his regime.

That from an article by Elizabeth A. Kennedy with The Associated Press. Will Syria be the next autocratic regime to fall? Let's hope so. This is history in the making folks--nothing like this has been seen since the fall of the former Soviet controlled, "Iron Curtain" countries of eastern Europe, in the early 1990s. This is how democracies should come about; not by outside force and war, such as in Iraq. Democracy can not come from the point of a sword but from the hearts and minds of the people. It is true what they say, that the pen (or, keypad in today's society) is mighter than the sword because once an idea is planted, it can not be rooted out by the butt of a gun and it can spread very easily by word of mouth. It's easy to kill someone but much harder to kill an idea.

PHOTO CREDIT: Egypt protests by Lefteris Pitarakis for the Associated Press.

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