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The system is in trouble claims Jeff Cohen writing for Counterpunch. I can see where he is coming from as it would seem like our leaders often listen to the elites more than the people who have elected them. The current system is start to reach the limits of which it can tamp down popular discontent and anger with the system. Trickle down economics is bullshit and the people know its bullshit because they cannot support their families with both parents working anymore. The working poor is an ever widening class as more wealth and opportunity continue to be funnelled upwards in society.

Class warfare is on the horizon and may be with us sooner than we think as disasters driven by climate change may provide the impetus for tipping into mass protests and civil unrest.

“Neoliberalism – whereby politicians first and foremost serve corporate interests (with crumbs hopefully “trickling down” to the masses) – went into high gear 40 years ago. It was called “Thatcherism” in the UK and “Reaganomics” in the US. And neoliberalism has been the driving economic ideology ever since, with wealth and income flowing unrelentingly upward even after “the opposition” took power. In the US, we had corporate-friendly “New Democrat” Bill Clinton (NAFTA, Wall Street deregulation, welfare “reform,” mass incarceration); in the UK, they had Tony Blair and “New Labour” (so pro-corporate that Rupert Murdoch endorsed him).

Unlike past governing crises, today’s are not mere factional fights among elites, with the masses watching from the sidelines. Nowadays, the governing factions have to answer to voting blocs that are increasingly angry, intransigent and demanding. All this makes gridlock even more stubborn.

Since naked service to corporate elites and “trickle-down” promises don’t sell anymore to an insecure middle class, right-wing leaders like Trump (and Europeans being cultivated by Steve Bannon) are now “populist” and “anti-elites” – openly tapping into racism while scapegoating immigrants for society’s problems. Instead of “the magic of the free market,” they sell the magic of steel slats.

Meanwhile, usually pliable Democratic leaders in the US must contend with a younger, more multi-racial, increasingly progressive and uncompromising base. Leadership seeks to appease with rhetoric and symbolic gestures, while resisting the base’s demands for far-reaching economic and environmental reforms that conflict with the wishes of the party’s donor class.

So Republicans and Democrats go to war over wall-funding, while quietly coalescing on bigger issues such as the perilous, anti-democratic power of Wall Street and the diversion of mostfederal discretionary spending to the unaccountable military-industrial complex.

And the U.S. political system avoids the biggest issue of all – the calamity that gives new reality to the old rhetoric about “capitalism’s final crisis”: human-made, profit-driven climate change that keeps burning hotter while liberal and conservative politicians fiddle. Republicans deny the science; Democratic leaders deny and delay the transformative solutions that are needed – like a “Green New Deal” that would undercut certain corporate balance sheets.”

Well, it is nice to know I have a little job security. :)

The primacy of this lesson can not be overstated. The lovey-dovey notion that the US spreads democracy and peace throughout the world exists only within the borders of the US to keep its population ignorant of the injustice and violence committed in their name.  The US, as with every great power, is largely imperialistic by nature and therefore promoting democracy and its associated freedoms is not particularly high on the US’s foreign policy agenda.  Al-Jazeera, unlike the corporate media in North America, actually reports critically on the West’s policy decisions.  Educating people on important topics though, is also a ways down the list for most of North America’s corporate media as well, so we will have to continue to look to independent media organizations for critical views of our policies.

“It’s incredible, really. The president of the United States can’t bring himself to talk about democracy in the Middle East. He can dance around it, use euphemisms, throw out words like “freedom” and “tolerance” and “non-violent” and especially “reform,” but he can’t say the one word that really matters: democracy.”

Of course not.  Government for the people tends to make policies, well, for the people and that dear friends is most certainly not business friendly policy.

“How did this happen? After all, in his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, Obama spoke the word loudly and clearly – at least once.

“The fourth issue that I will address is democracy,” he declared, before explaining that while the United States won’t impose its own system, it was committed to governments that “reflect the will of the people… I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”

“No matter where it takes hold,” the president concluded, “government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power.”

Simply rhetoric?

Of course, this was just rhetoric, however lofty, reflecting a moment when no one was rebelling against the undemocratic governments of our allies – at least not openly and in a manner that demanded international media coverage.

Now it’s for real.”

Obama just speaking to hear the sound of his lovely words, I’m completely shocked.

“And “democracy” is scarcely to be heard on the lips of the president or his most senior officials.

In fact, newly released WikiLeaks cables show that from the moment it assumed power, the Obama administration specifically toned down public criticism of Mubarak. The US ambassador to Egypt advised secretary of state Hillary Clinton to avoid even the mention of former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, jailed and abused for years after running against Mubarak in part on America’s encouragement.

Not surprisingly, when the protests began, Clinton declared that Egypt was “stable” and an important US ally, sending a strong signal that the US would not support the protesters if they tried to topple the regime. Indeed, Clinton has repeatedly described Mubarak as a family friend. Perhaps Ms Clinton should choose her friends more wisely.

Similarly, president Obama has refused to take a strong stand in support of the burgeoning pro-democracy movement and has been no more discriminating in his public characterisation of American support for its Egyptian “ally”. Mubarak continued through yesterday to be praised as a crucial partner of the US. Most important, there has been absolutely no call for real democracy.”

Well of course not, real democracy is a messy people-centric process that does not ensure a business friendly stable environment.

“Rather, only “reform” has been suggested to the Egyptian government so that, in Obama’s words, “people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances”.

“I’ve always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform – political reform, economic reform – is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt,” advised the president, although vice-president Joe Biden has refused to refer to Mubarak as a dictator, leading one to wonder how bad a leader must be to deserve the title.

Even worse, the president and his senior aides have repeatedly sought to equate the protesters and the government as somehow equally pitted parties in the growing conflict, urging both sides to “show restraint”. This equation has been repeated many times by other American officials.

This trick, tried and tested in the US discourse surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is equally nonsensical here. These are not two movements in a contest for political power. Rather, it is a huge state, with a massive security and police apparatus that is supported by the world’s major superpower to the tune of billions of dollars a year, against a largely young, disenfranchised and politically powerless population which has suffered brutally at its hands for decades.

The focus on reform is also a highly coded reference, as across the developing world when Western leaders have urged “reform” it has usually signified the liberalisation of economies to allow for greater penetration by Western corporations, control of local resources, and concentration of wealth, rather than the kind of political democratisation and redistribution of wealth that are key demands of protesters across the region.”

Damn, but is nice to see geopolitical reality being espoused by a major news outlet.

“An Al Jazeera English interview on Thursday with US state department spokesman PJ Crowley perfectly summed up the sustainability of the Obama administration’s position. In some of the most direct and unrelenting questioning of a US official I have ever witnessed, News Hour anchor Shihab al-Rattansi repeatedly pushed Crowley to own up to the hypocrisy and absurdity of the administration’s position of offering mild criticism of Mubarak while continuing to ply him with billions of dollars in aid and political support.

When pressed about how the US-backed security services are beating and torturing and even killing protesters, and whether it wasn’t time for the US to consider discontinuing aid, Crowley responded that “we don’t see this as an either or [a minute later, he said “zero sum”] proposition. Egypt is a friend of the US, is an anchor of stability and helping us pursue peace in the Middle East”.

Each part of this statement is manifestly false; the fact that in the midst of intensifying protests senior officials feel they can spin the events away from openly calling for a real democratic transition now reveals either incredible ignorance, arrogance, or both.”

Ah yes, stability.  We kill and torture to maintain it, and if we are doing it, it simply must be just and interests of the “greater good”.  The world really is a nice place when you are at the friendly end of the sharp stick.

“Moreover, Crowley, like his superiors, refused to use the word democracy, responding to its use by anchor al-Rattansi with the word “reform” while arguing that it was unproductive to tie events in Egypt to the protests in other countries such as Tunis or Jordan because each has its own “indigenous” forces and reasons for discontent.

That is a very convenient singularisation of the democracy movements, which ignores the large number of similarities in the demands of protests across the region, the tactics and strategies of protest, and their broader distaste and distrust of the US in view of its untrammelled support for dictatorships across the region.

Of course, autocracies are much more stable than those messy democracies, no?

“The most depressing and even frightening part of the tepid US response to the protests across the region is the lack of appreciation of what kind of gift the US, and West more broadly, are being handed by these movements. Their very existence is bringing unprecedented levels of hope and productive activism to a region and as such constitutes a direct rebuttal to the power and prestige of al-Qaeda.

Instead of embracing the push for real democratic change, however, surface reforms that would preserve the system intact are all that’s recommended. Instead of declaring loud and clear a support for a real democracy agenda, the president speaks only of “disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies” and “tak[ing] the fight to al-Qaeda and their allies”, as he declared in his State of the Union address.

Obama doesn’t seem to understand that the US doesn’t need to “take the fight” to al-Qaeda, or even fire a single shot, to score its greatest victory in the “war on terror”. Supporting real democratisation will do more to downgrade al-Qaeda’s capabilities than any number of military attacks. He had better gain this understanding quickly because in the next hours or days the Egypt’s revolution will likely face its moment of truth. And right behind Egypt are Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and who knows what other countries, all looking to free themselves of governments that the US and its European allies have uncritically supported for decades.”

Ah yes, but then what external enemy could the US scapegoat to cover its domestic failures at home?  I mean, actually decreasing the amount of terrorist activity would mean resources could be used to make life better for the average American rather than the military industrial complex and other conglomerates that make a goodly amount of profit on war and strife.

“If president Obama has the courage to support genuine democracy, even at the expense of immediate American policy interests, he could well go down in history as one of the heroes of the Middle East’s Jasmine winter. If he chooses platitudes and the status quo, the harm to America’s standing in the region will likely take decades to repair.”

I believe that for Obama supporting any genuine democracy will happen right after denouncing  the corrosive effects of religion , declaring his atheism, and then re-regulating the business sector.

Honest.

The West has a long history of supporting autocratic regimes that are ‘stabilizing influences’ in various regions across the world.  The autocrats keep the inspirations of the local population in check by whatever means necessary (read violence and repression) to keep the doors open for (western) business.  This particular model crumbles eventually as people do eventually come together and throw out their oppressors.  Witness Tunisia, they are fighting for their country now and they may just win their freedom.

“The Tunisian uprising, which succeeded in toppling Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian president, has brought down the walls of fear, erected by repression and marginalisation, thus restoring the Arab peoples’ faith in their ability to demand social justice and end tyranny.

It is a warning to all leaders, whether supported by international or regional powers, that they are no longer immune to popular outcries of fury.

It is true that Ben Ali’s flight from the country is just the beginning of an arduous path towards freedom. It is equally true that the achievements of the Tunisian people could still be contained or confiscated by the country’s ruling elite, which is desperately clinging to power.

But the Tunisian intifada has placed the Arab world at a crossroads. If it fully succeeds in bringing real change to Tunis it will push the door wide open to freedom in Arab word. If it suffers a setback we shall witness unprecedented repression by rulers struggling to maintain their absolute grip on power.

Either way, a system that combined a starkly unequal distribution of wealth with the denial of freedoms has collapsed. (italics mine)

The maldistribution of wealth is a one of the prime motivating factors for revolution.  It is a feature of many popular revolts and will continue to be so until the elites realize that insulating themselves from the rest of people ultimately leads to their ruinous downfall.  It is the actions of the elite that determine whether societies prosper and fail.  I suggest reading Ronald Wright’s short book – A Short History of Progress to see how this story plays out repeatedly through history.

The people of Tunisia are revolting against a regime that restricted, repressed and tortured them, it is a lesson being played out in the Arab world about what can be done about their own situations, it would be wise of the people of the west also watched what has been wrought in their names, and how it is being rejected.

“Tunis may have been an extreme example, but all Arab regimes are variations on the same model, which obediently follows Western-instructed economic ‘liberalisation’ while strangling human rights and civil liberties.

The West has long admired the Tunisian system, praising its “secularism” and “liberal economic policies”, and, in its quest to open world markets and maximise profit, has turned a blind eye to human rights violations and the gagging of the media – two functions at which the Ben Ali regime excelled.

But Tunis, under Ben Ali, was not a model of secularism but a shameless model of tyranny. It turned “secularism” into an ideology of terror – not merely in the name of countering Islamic extremism but in an attempt to crush the spirit of opposition – Islamic, secular, liberal and socialist alike.

As with previous examples of countries it deemed to have embraced ‘successful economic models’, like Chile under the late dictator Augusto Pinochet, the West, particularly the US and France, backed the Ben Ali regime – prioritising forced stability over democracy.

But even when such governments remain in power for decades, thanks to Western support and a security apparatus that suppresses the people with immunity, it is only a matter of time before they come to a humiliating end.

The West, and the US in particular, has always abandoned its allies – a memorable example is the way in which Washington dropped Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the late shah of Iran, when popular anger threatened the country’s stability.

Seems like the West is about to, once again, wash its hands of another abysmal failure successful economic model country.  The infection is spreading, that contagion the freedom of people to choose the destiny for their own country.

The people of Tunisia have spoken and, most significantly, the Arab people are listening.

The Tunisian protests have already triggered peaceful demonstrations in Jordan, where people have protested over inflation and government efforts to undermine political liberties and press freedoms and have demanded the departure of Samir al-Rifai, the prime minister.”

I imagine the planners in the West are fretting as they once did during the 1950’s where the stemming the “Red Tide” was so vitally important to Western Interests.  Blocking the dreaded domino effect some 2 million Vietnamese were slaughtered.  Thankfully, military resources are not available right now that would be allocated normally to crush revolutions the like of what is happening in Tunisia.

Arabs of all generations are also expressing their sentiments online – not only congratulating Tunisians but also calling for similar movements in their own countries.   And on Facebook, many have replaced their profile pictures with images of the Tunisian flag, as though draping themselves in the colours of an Arab revolution.

The failure of one of the Arab world’s most repressive security forces to quell people power has been met with jubilation. Bloggers have compared the event to the fall of the Berlin wall, suggesting that it will usher in a new era in which the Arab people will have a greater say in determining their future. Mohamed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian who set himself on fire in protest against unemployment and poverty, has become a symbol of Tunisian sacrifices for freedom. Activists across the region have called for the “Tunisation” of the Arab street – taking Tunis as a model for the assertion of people power and aspirations for social justice, the eradication of corruption and democratisation.

But the celebratory atmosphere dominating the blogosphere and wide sectors of Arab society is tainted by a prevailing sense of caution and fear: Caution because the situation in Tunis remains unclear and fear that there may be a coup d’état, which would impose security but stifle popular aspirations.”

Jubilation and caution all mixed together.  The people in the region have seen what happened in Iran and Iraq, how meddling Western Powers can quickly destroy a nation.  Is Tunisia flying high enough above the radar to warrant Imperial attention.  Many rightfully feel trepidation because of the threat of foreign intervention.

The article ends with a quote from a Tunisian poet:

“History has shown that security forces can silence people but can never crush the simmering revolt that lies beneath the ashes. Or in the words of the beloved Tunisian poet Abul-Qasim al-Shabi in his poem To the Tyrants of the World:

 

Wait, don’t let the spring, the clearness of the sky and the shine of the morning light fool you …

Because the darkness, the thunder’s rumble and the blowing of the wind are coming toward you

from the horizon

Beware because there is a fire underneath the ash

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