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The Rise of Islamist Democracy

from Consortium News:

The Rise of Islamist Democracy
December 17, 2011

The West has long played a double game regarding democracy in the Middle East, replacing popular leaders who nationalized oil or caused “trouble” with autocrats – and then condemning Muslims as politically backward. Now that democracy is returning, the West again is uneasy, writes Adil E. Shamoo.

By Adil E. Shamoo

The hysteria in the West about the Arab awakening turning into an Arab Islamist nightmare is reaching full-blown proportions. The United States and Israel, self-appointed referees of democracy in the region despite their long-running support for the Middle East’s most corrupt and authoritarian regimes, are crying foul.

The incitement? A series of victoriesby Islamist parties in Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt. Yet, given the history of Western support for governments that simultaneously quashed secular opposition movements and persecuted Islamists, the popularity of moderate Islamist parties should come as little surprise — nor should it be cause for concern.

For over 60 years, the West sold out Arab freedom and democracy for oil and stability. Fearing the growing strength of Arab communist parties in the 1950s, the West assisted in founding and supporting the anti-communist Baathists, who came to power in Iraq and Syria in the 1960s and decimated the communist parties there, along with the rest of their domestic opposition — secular and religious alike.

The secular Baathists, along with other U.S.-backed regimes in the region (especially in Egypt), were not receptive to the growing power of Islamists, often repressing them brutally. Yet while the regimes dismantled secular and left-wing opposition groups — and discredited the secular system itself with their own excesses — the ranks of Islamists managed to grow. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://consortiumnews.com/2011/12/17/the-rise-of-islamist-democracy/

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl? Somebody please tell me ESPN has started a parody channel.....

'Cause this can't really be a bowl game.

Capitalism by Any Other Name

from the American Prospect:

Capitalism by Any Other Name

John Stoehr
December 16, 2011
Republicans are fighting to rebrand capitalism as economic opportunity but their agenda remains the same.

I've been thinking about the term "capitalism" since Frank Luntz, the renowned pollster, told Republicans to quit saying it. The Occupy Wall Street movement has turned "capitalism" into a dirty word, he said. If Republicans want to win in 2012, they'd better stop worrying and learn to love "economic freedom" instead.

It's a stunning turning of the tide. No matter the kind of conservative—Southern, evangelical, libertarian, Tea Party, or old-school Rockefeller patrician—conservatives have never hidden their allegiance to the moneyed class and power elite. I have never in my lifetime seen a conservative counsel against expressing one of the major tenets of conservative ideology. You might as well advise the GOP to stop trying to repeal the New Deal and start defending labor rights.

I've been thinking about this rhetorical shift while riding the bus in New Haven every day. The passengers are typically at the bottom of the 99 percent. Some are destitute; some are unemployable. Most are working poor, people with full-time minimum-wage jobs who cannot rise above poverty. I wonder what they'd think of John Mackey's definition of "economic freedom." The CEO of Whole Foods wrote in The Wall Street Journal in November that the phrase means "property rights, freedom to trade internationally, minimal governmental regulation ... sound money, relatively low taxes, the rule of law, entrepreneurship, freedom to fail, and voluntary exchange." My guess is they'd think very little of it.

Mackey's definition is meaningful only if you already have money. Real money. Money you don't have to spend right away, money that can sit around for a while. But when you don't have real money, it has nothing to do with "economic freedom." If Mackey were defining "capitalism," that would be one thing. The working person might have nothing to say to that. The abstract nature of "economic freedom," though, invites interpretation, and, for the working person, it has everything to do with making a living. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://prospect.org/article/capitalism-any-other-name

The Christmas Truce of 1914

from Consortium News:

The Christmas Truce of 1914
December 16, 2011

It might seem odd to anyone who understands what Jesus taught that the U.S. presidential candidates who most stress their Christian devotion are often the same ones urging more wars. But this defiling of Jesus’s message of peace is not new, as Gary G. Kohls recalls from an inspiring moment in World War I.

By Gary G. Kohls

The peace that had existed for decades in Europe – since the Franco-Prussian War 40-plus years earlier – had resulted in tremendous progress in culture, infrastructure investment, commerce and international relations. Europeans of all stripes crossed borders relatively freely.

Before World War I, European Jews and Christians intermingled and intermarried with few eyebrows being raised and, although covert Christian anti-Semitism definitely existed, overt persecution of Jews was not a major problem. Jews were welcomed in the militaries and served with distinction.

When Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, was assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, European peace rapidly unraveled and – by a series of errors of judgment, bureaucratic inefficiencies, ineptitude, lack of communication skills – all the nations seemed to declare war on each other.

It was mostly a case of “death (and killing) before dishonor” in which, no matter how worthy or unworthy the war aims might be, negotiation toward a peaceful settlement was considered to be a dishonorable way out of a conflict. .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://consortiumnews.com/2011/12/16/the-christmas-truce-of-1914/

The Nation: Fighting Privatization, Occupy Activists at CUNY and UC Kick Into High Gear

Fighting Privatization, Occupy Activists at CUNY and UC Kick Into High Gear

Josh Eidelson
December 16, 2011

Every afternoon last week, students, teachers, and neighbors gathered to hold classes on UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza. Everyone was welcome. They sat on the ground, or on what are now called the Mario Savio Steps. Topics included the economics of debt, the poetry of persecution, and Chilean student movement. There has also been a massage train and a gospel chorus. “There are no walls,” said graduate student Michelle Ty, “And it’s free.” You could call it a public university. The irony, not lost on these students or their East Coast counterparts, is that they’re supposed to already have one.

The University of California (UC) and the City University of New York (CUNY) are both massive public university systems, long points of pride for their respective states. Together they claim over two million graduates. And now, as administrators declare there’s no alternative to austerity, they’re both occupied. Though these occupations draw tactics and momentum from the Occupy movement, their lineage is as mixed as Zuccotti Park’s: international anti-austerity activism, struggles for graduate student unionization and union democratization, student occupations of decades past. As winter—and police raids—set in, universities are becoming an increasingly important face of occupied America. How is occupying a public university different from occupying Wall Street? For one, few of the occupiers want their schools abolished.


UC Davis graduate student Nickolas Perrone recently joined fellow activists on a trip to the Bay Area to visit the private companies, like Bank of America, where the regents of the UC system work. Though the regents (and leading California Democrats) have blamed the current tuition hikes on the Great Recession, students say the regents have been pushing privatization on their public university for a long time.

In the decade leading up to 2007, the UC system's management positions grew four times as quickly as its faculty. In 2004, the chancellors signed an agreement with then-Governor Schwarzenegger to seek private donations to the system's budget. Berkeley's chancellor paid Mitt Romney's old consulting firm, Bain & Company, $7.5 million to help the university "achieve [greater] efficiency." Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley has called for Berkeley to build more virtual campuses, rather than "bricks and mortar" ones. ............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thenation.com/article/165195/fighting-privatization-occupy-activists-cuny-and-uc-kick-high-gear

David Sirota: Banana Republicans’ Assault on Democracy

from In These Times:

Banana Republicans’ Assault on Democracy
Why does America’s highest-ranking GOP politician oppose scrapping the electoral college?

BY David Sirota

When the Senate Minority Leader of the United States calls something “a genuine threat to our country,” everyone–regardless of party–should listen. Even in the post-9/11 era of overheated language and hyper-partisanship, that kind of declaration from such a powerful public official is not to be taken lightly.

So, what horrible menace to our way of life was Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talking about when he recently uttered those words? Communism? Al-Qaida? Hostile extra-terrestrials?

None of the above. He was referring to democracy.

That sounds hard to believe, but it’s absolutely true. In a speech last week to the Heritage Foundation, McConnell used that War on Terror-flavored jeremiad about an existential “threat” to describe a grassroots effort aimed at electing presidents via a national popular vote. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.inthesetimes.org/article/12434/banana_republicans_assault_on_democracy

Occupying the First Amendment

from YES! Magazine:

Occupying the First Amendment
220 years after the Bill of Rights, how we’re still fighting for free speech.

by Josh Stearns
posted Dec 15, 2011

Today, we celebrate the 220th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. However, this celebration is overshadowed by three months of journalist arrests and press suppression across the U.S.

Since the middle of September more than 30 journalists have been arrested while trying to cover Occupy Wall Street protests in cities from Atlanta to Los Angeles, Boston to Oakland. Hundreds of others journalists have complained about press suppression and harassment, including everything from physical abuse to the use of strobe lights to blind cameras.

This is a reminder that it is not enough to celebrate our freedoms. We must also defend them. In response to the widespread reports of altercations between press and police and the documented efforts by mayors in New York City and Los Angeles to strictly limit press access during raids on Occupy encampments, journalism organizations like Free Press, the Society for Professional Journalists, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the National Press Photographers Association have been working to defend journalists. In New York City, thirteen major news organizations came together to demand an immediate meeting with the NYPD to address their concerns.

Their meeting resulted in a formal directive from NYPD police commissioner Raymond Kelly, ordering police officers not to interfere with press. However, just weeks after that order the NYPD has arrested more journalists and has continued to block and intimidate reporters. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/occupying-the-first-amendment

Detroit People's Water Board: Water Belongs to All of Us

from OnTheCommons.org:

Detroit People's Water Board
Water Belongs to All of Us

Detroit People's Water Board

The Detroit People’s Water Board isn’t waiting for someone else to solve Detroit’s water problems. This community coalition is taking an out-front role on everything from fighting water shutoffs and privatization schemes to helping create a watershed plan for the region.

“Our name is a powerful statement,” says Priscilla Dziubek, a representative on the Board from the East Michigan Environmental Action Council. “People get that we are grassroots and we believe we have a rightful say in what happens with our water.”

The Detroit People’s Water Board (DPWB) is at the forefront of emerging efforts in the Great Lakes region to reclaim our water commons. It was born when community organizers saw the need to bridge a number of different water issues in the city—protecting low-income residents’ access to affordable water, preventing pollution and working to keep Detroit’s water publicly managed and accountable.

“We focus on the question: what does water mean for all of us?” explains Charity Hicks, another founding member, from the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. “The Board has a cross pollinating effect among people focused on poverty, health, growing food, jobs, ecological survival. We attend to both human and ecological sustainability.” ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.onthecommons.org/water-belongs-all-us

Why is Senate Democrat Ron Wyden Teaming up with GOP Rep Paul Ryan to Destroy Medicare?

from Balloon Juice, via AlterNet:

Why is Senate Democrat Ron Wyden Teaming up with GOP Rep Paul Ryan to Destroy Medicare?

In a move that could hurt Democrats’ ability to campaign against Republicans on Medicare in next fall’s elections, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden is teaming up with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan on a Medicare overhaul plan that would give beneficiaries a set amount to use toward buying private coverage or to pay for a traditional fee-for-service plan.

I took a quick look at the Wyden-Ryan proposal on Medicare.

Skip the first couple of pages, because those are primarily devoted to coyly extolling the virtues of Wyden and Ryan. Not those two specifically. People like them. Brave people. Honest people. In any event, once you’re past how great and brave and principled two certain members of Congress are, this is the (vague) proposal, and my initial thoughts:

For those currently enrolled or near retirement (55 or older), we propose no structural Medicare changes that will affect their benefits. For future seniors (those now 54 or younger,) we propose to strengthen Medicare by transitioning the current program toward a coverage-support plan with the choice of guaranteed coverage options – including traditional Medicare – on a Medicare exchange. The coverage-support value would be adjusted to provide additional support for the poor and sick, and reflect a reduced subsidy for the wealthy.

For future seniors (those now 54 or younger,) we propose to strengthen Medicare by transitioning the current program toward a coverage-support plan with the choice of guaranteed coverage options – including traditional Medicare – on a Medicare exchange. The coverage-support value would be adjusted to provide additional support for the poor and sick, and reflect a reduced subsidy for the wealthy

The complete piece is at: http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/748809/why_is_senate_democrat_ron_wyden_teaming_up_with_gop_rep_paul_ryan_to_destroy_medicare/

Rahmbo wants to limit protesting during the upcoming G-8 and NATO summits

from the Chicago Tribune:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants blanket authority to spend money on next spring's G-8 and NATO summits along with new restrictions on protesters sure to flock to the pair of international events.

Time is of the essence, the mayor said. But nearly six months after announcing Chicago had landed the prestigious gatherings of world leaders, Emanuel has yet to offer any estimates of the cost or how much taxpayers might be asked to cover.

In seeking the expanded powers, Emanuel's move echoed steps taken by former Mayor Richard Daley leading up to the city's failed bid for the 2016 Olympics and its successful hosting of the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Like his predecessor, the new mayor dismissed concerns.

"They are a one-time deal, only to deal with G-8 and NATO," Emanuel said, stressing that the world's eyes will be on Chicago when world leaders come to President Barack Obama's hometown in mid-May. "They are not for anything else. It's very specific. ............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-rahm-emanuel-g8-control-20111215,0,7127378.story

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