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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
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Journal Archives

CBC: The Arab Spring vs. the history of democracy in the West

A little patience, please, for the Arab Spring

If there was one thing Barack Obama and Mitt Romney agreed on in their foreign policy debate on Monday it was that the Arab Spring has raised a great deal of hope for the cause of world democracy. Where they differed, though, was that while Obama saw the situation as the glass of democracy filling up, Romney saw it as leaking fast. What both Obama and Romney were trying to deal with was the sense of disappointment within the U.S. electorate — and shared throughout much of the West — with the rising chaos in some of the new democracies of the Middle East compounded by the murderousness of the civil war in Syria.

The closest thing to an answer may be found not by looking at Russia, Libya or the new Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, but by taking a look back at the history of Western democracies. They didn't exactly grow up overnight.

Take the French Revolution in 1789. With the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy, freedom beckoned. But political squabbling quickly put an end to democracy and it was overtaken by the Reign of Terror in which tens of thousands were executed, usually by having their heads chopped off. Altogether, since the Revolution, the French have had two emperors, three kings and five republics. France is now a great democracy. But getting there was neither quick nor easy.

So, yes, you Arab Spring watchers, democracies do take time to develop. ... They will not have democracy tomorrow. It may take many years. But it won't take centuries as it has in the past. The trumpets of freedom from cyberspace are simply too strong to be stilled.


Of course there are big differences from the halting development of democracy in the West over the centuries. Back then sporadic and partial progress in human rights and democratic government were "cutting edge" with little to compare them to.

Also now the world is more connected. We can watch and, at least partially, understand day-to-day developments in other parts of the world. And what happens far away can affect our everyday lives very quickly in ways to an extent that was inconceivable centuries ago.

Pew releases new foreign policy poll just in time for the debate

As next week’s third and final presidential debate on foreign policy approaches, a national survey by the Pew Research Center finds increasing public pessimism about developments in the Middle East and more support for tough policies to deal with Iran’s nuclear program and economic issues with China. However, there is no change in the consensus in support for ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.

Wide majorities of Republicans (68%) and independents (60%) do not anticipate lasting improvements for the people living in these countries. Democrats are more divided: 37% say they will lead to lasting improvements, 45% say they will not. ... Nearly half (49%) of Republicans say changes in the Middle East will end up being bad for the United States, while the plurality view among Democrats (48%) is that the effect for the U.S. will be minimal.

Nearly half of independents (47%) now say it is more important to get tougher with China on economic issues, up from just 30% in March 2011. The percentage of Republicans favoring a tougher stance has increased by 11 points (from 54% to 65%) over this period. There has been less change in opinions among Democrats, and more Democrats continue to prioritize building stronger economic relations with China (53%) over getting tough with China (39%).

There are wide partisan and ideological differences in priorities for dealing with Iran. Fully 84% of conservative Republicans favor taking a firm stand against Iran’s nuclear program. Fewer than half as many liberal Democrats (38%) agree. There also is a sizable age gap in these opinions. Just 44% of those younger than 30 favor taking a strong stand against Iran; clear majorities in older age categories support a firm stance.


Always interesting to see where there is agreement and disagreement between republicans and Democrats on foreign policy particularly with the debate coming up tonight.

Populism, Nationalism and Globalisation: The New Far Right?

Populism is defined as a political doctrine that represents the interests of ordinary people, especially in a struggle against a privileged elite. It is a potent political catalyst harnessed by leaders to increase their circles of influence by channeling the broad support of a society’s population, often by blurring people’s perceptions of their own interests with the interests of the nation-state they identify with. This fusion of populism and nationalism is behind the creation of many contemporary far right movements in Europe, in East Asia, and in the United States.

Europe’s right-wing extremism problem was hauled out of the shadows by Anders Behring Breivik’s shocking attack in July 2011 which killed 77 people. While many government agencies still hide behind the “lone wolves” theory, a 2012 Europol report concludes that the “threat of violent right-wing extremism has reached new levels in Europe and should not be underestimated”. Another report by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in the Hague adds that least 249 have been killed in far-right violence in Europe since 1990, compared with 263 victims of jihadist extremism.

Europe’s far right parties have made significant election gains in the last few years. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front won 18% of first round votes in the presidential election this year, Greece’s Golden Dawn party won parliamentary seats for the first time, and Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party was third largest in the Netherlands until this month’s election. These parties exist Europe-wide and spout localised variations of rhetoric that is anti-immigration, eurosceptic and islamophobic.

Populism and nationalism can lead to inflammatory social consequences even if introduced apart from each other. In tandem, they can cause major disturbances within a country’s political and social sphere.
Furthermore, there are suggestions that the global financial crisis has aggravated Europe’s xenophobic tendencies ... The questions that need to be asked are whether widely-accepted government rhetoric about the failure of multiculturalism has created a favorable environment for nationalism and right-wing extremism, and also whether xenophobia is a tragic element of modern global society and a problem more fundamental than the current economic downturn.


While many of us suspected this, I had never seen the report showing that there really were almost as many deaths from right-wing violence from Islamic terrorists. That does not seem to change the focus of most national security systems.

One question the article raises: Can populism and nationalism go together without xenophobia? On the right - probably not. On the left?

EU report: The European Union should continue expanding into the Western Balkans

despite a deep and painful financial crisis already plaguing the bloc, a report said Wednesday.

Enlargement “helps avoid the potentially far higher costs of dealing with the consequences of instability,” the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said in its annual report on countries seeking to join the bloc, which has 27 members. “Strengthening stability and democracy in southeast Europe is also an investment in deep and sustainable democracy in the E.U.’s wider neighborhood,” the commission said.

At the same time, countries seeking to join the Union have been grappling with the challenges posed by meeting membership criteria in areas like respect for human rights and reducing corruption.

Speaking to the European Parliament on Wednesday, the E.U. commissioner for enlargement, Stefan Fule, sought to assure legislators that any new members, like Croatia, which is set to join the EU next year, would abide by tougher regulations adopted since the crisis erupted in Greece three years ago.


The European mentality is that strengthening "stability and democracy" in neighboring countries is important in the long term even if it is not beneficial for current members in the short run. I doubt that republicans, who disparage 'Europe' on a regular basis, would accept the premise that the health and welfare of your neighbors is important, not just for their sake but for your own.

NYT: To live and seethe in that world of conspiracy theories means rejecting any form of objective

reality. When unemployment numbers make the administration look good, they are obviously “cooked.” When poll numbers put Mr. Obama ahead, they are skewed. Birth certificates are forgeries. Safety-net programs are giveaways to supporters. Health insurance reform is socialism. And campaign donation disclosure is antibusiness.

It’s an upside-down version of life, and it is not innocuous. When desperation leads political critics of the president to discredit important nonpolitical institutions — including the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office — the damage can be long-lasting. If voters come to mistrust the most basic functions of government, the resulting cynicism can destroy the basic compact of citizenship.

When Republicans began questioning President Obama’s birth certificate four years ago, it seemed at first like a petulant reaction to a lost election, a flush of nativist and racist anger that would diminish over time. But the preposterous charges never went away. As this election cycle shows, many in the Republican Party continue to see the president as the center of a broad and malevolent liberal conspiracy to upend the truth.

Democrats aren’t happy about the latest polls, but they aren’t suggesting Mr. Romney is manipulating them, just as they didn’t undermine the Bureau of Labor Statistics when the jobless numbers were high. Many are far more worried about a conspiracy that is verifiable and serious: the concerted effort by Republicans over the last four years to deprive minorities, poor people and other likely Democratic supporters of their voting rights.


To summarize: Facts have a liberal bias. And republicans don't need no stinking fact-checkers running their campaigns.
In their world, conspiracy theories based on suspicions alone are all they need.

BBC magazine: Syrians thought their jets were for combat with Israel. "Now they know better."

Pity the Syrian people. They had been given to believe that fighter jets in the arsenal of the state - those Russian-made MIGs they once viewed with pride - were there for the stand-off with Israel. Now they know better. The runs over Aleppo, the bombings of Idlib, have laid bare the truth. It is no accident that the founder of this regime, Hafez al-Assad, emerged from the ranks of the air force, which is not often an incubator of coup-makers. There would come a day, the masters of this minority regime doubtless knew, when fighter jets would be used at home.

Of the rebellions that broke out among the Arabs in the last two years
, the struggle in Syria was bound to be a case apart. Think of the Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali calling it quits and leaving with his loot, of Hosni Mubarak stepping aside after 18 magical days of protest - this Syrian rebellion's ferocity belongs to a different world of insurrections.

The Syrians must have understood the uniqueness of their situation. They took their time before they set out to challenge the entrenched regime. The first stirrings came two or three months after the other Arabs rose against their rulers. In a refugee camp on the outskirts of Antakya in Turkey, a young lawyer from Jisr al-Shughur - a Sunni town that tasted the full cruelty of the security forces - told me that he had been ready for a long war. He had left his home in the first summer of the rebellion, in 2011, but brought with him his winter clothes.

He was under no illusions about the rulers - they would fight a scorched-earth war. They were a minority, historically disdained, but all powerful. They had risen by the sword, knew no other way, and were certain that defeat on the battlefield would be the end of the world they had carved out over the last four decades.


The military is always a dictator's best friend. Many of the soldiers may not even have realized that ultimately they were there to protect the dictator not the country and its people. After attacking their own cities for many months, the soldiers who have not defected now understand who they really are fighting for.

Perhaps a minority regime intuitively knows that without fear and intimidation their power will collapse. Negotiating power sharing or other trappings of a democracy is a dead end for them. As a minority repressing the majority, they cannot hope to govern based on the consent of the governed.

Those nice shiny MIG's were perhaps always destined to be used against Syria's own cities and people rather than Israel or other external enemies of the country.

A Model of Inclusion for Muslim Women

Could an old religious tradition from China help solve one of the world’s most pressing problems — violence committed in the name of Islam? The irony of an officially atheist country possibly offering a way out of an international religious problem is intense. Yet that is what some Islamic scholars in China and elsewhere hope may happen as they point to a quietly liberal tradition among China’s 10 million Hui Muslims, where female imams and mosques for women are flourishing in a globally unique phenomenon.

Female imams and women’s mosques are important because their endurance in China offers a vision of an older form of Islam that has inclusiveness and tolerance, not marginalization and extremism, at its core, the scholars say.

Female imams and women’s mosques are not “a new thing here. It’s just a cultural tradition that was never interfered with,” Ms. Shui, an author and researcher at the Henan Academy of Social Sciences in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, said in an interview. That is what makes it so important, said Khaled Abou El Fadl, a prominent Islamic legal scholar.

“The Chinese tradition of women’s mosques is rooted in Islamic history. It is not novel, a corruption or innovation or some type of heretical practice,” Mr. Abou El Fadl, a professor of Islamic law at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a recorded interview. China’s liberal Hui tradition therefore challenges the power of Wahhabism, a puritanical, patriarchal sect dominant in Saudi Arabia today that is behind much Islamic extremism, he said.


I knew that China has a large Muslim population but not that they have a more liberal ancient version of Islam.

From the right: The end of the Cold War meant ... the birth of the neoliberal ... globalists.

From: The Old Conservative for Today


The main reason that America is in such trouble stems from the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The downfall of the Soviet Union ended the Cold War. The end of the Cold War meant the end of Classical Realism and the birth of the neoliberal institutionalists or globalists. Globalists believe that the international community is more important than any one nation, even the United States. Neoliberal Institutionalism is an international theory that is explained below.

It is a match made in heaven. America, the Uni-polar power in the world along with the Transnational and Multinational conglomerates would trade with each other making trillions through interdependency. The money made through interdependency would help nation-states learn to live in peace. The utopian social liberals in their great wisdom believed that the various countries of the world would start creating economic dependence on each other. This intermingling of many people of like minds around the world started to eat away at the economic heart of America. Globalization began to kill American manufacturing, technology and businesses in the process. Hence, Neoliberal institutionalists are liberal in many ways beyond the liberal economics and globalization that they stand for. The Liberal Globalist is very dangerous in the sense that they put the United Nations before the United States.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was the second great progressive to usher forward the nanny state in America with his creation of Social Security. Since most of the world was in ruin after World War II the United States did not have much difficulty in moving forward economically. In fact, the United States was in pretty good shape as far as technology, natural resources, and manufacturing were concerned. The former was true when the third great progressive President Lyndon B. Johnson won the White House outright. President Johnson created the ‘Great Society" and added Medicaid and Medicare and many other big government programs and handouts for the American people during the Civil Rights Movement. Wilson, Roosevelt and Johnson were all nanny state preachers. America during the three presidencies discussed here could handle the cost of all the progressive programs due to high level of employment and a very productive economic system.

The previous paragraphs and the rundown of progressivism are important. Many like to consider President Obama a progressive when in fact he represents the new liberal or socialist breed—an individual and thinking that is entirely different from the America developed by the progressives. Mitt Romney is not a conservative in the way the Pat Buchanan or the John Birch Society are considered conservative. The Tea Party is much more conservative than Mitt Romney will ever be. Mitt Romney as a 1990s moderate is conservative due to the fact that Obama is a socialist.

Always interesting to get the right wing's take on the world and three great Democratic presidents.

Oddly Greeks are the most supportive of the Euro. What's a Greek politician to do?

Below is a May 2012 Pew poll.

By a 71%-23% margin Greeks favor keeping the euro over returning to the drachma. They are more committed to the euro than any other eurozone country. Go figure.

That certainly does put Greek politicians in a tough spot, since leaving the euro makes the most economic sense for the country.

You may not be a 'xenophobe' but the term gets thrown around for good reason.

First of all, Canada's immigration laws are strict but they allow 2 1/2 times more immigrants per capita than the US. How do you figure that Canada's immigration barriers "are more strict than our barriers to immigration" when they allow in so many more than we do given the size of their population. We must have a few "interesting barriers" of our own since we let in immigrants at less than half the rate Canada does.

If someone is concerned for American workers and argues for a higher minimum wage, better legislation to empower unions, a stronger safety net, more progressive taxation, etc., such a person could not rightly be accused of xenophobia, racism or anything of the sort.

If someone was concerned for American workers and went on to blame Jews, women or Blacks for the plight of the American worker, guess what? The terms anti-semitic, misogynist and racist might well be added to the mix even if the source claimed to be none of those things.

But you say, "I'm not blaming Jews, women or Blacks because they can all be Americans and I am not a racist, misogynist or anti-semitic. I'm blaming foreigners regardless of race, gender or religion."


(And the fact that some one or some country is more xenophobic than you are or we are, does not let you or me off the hook. Should we compare ourselves to the xenophobes, racists and misogynists in the world or to the progressive, multiculturalists.)

For right-wing populism, a variant of racism ... will do the trick ... But given for the contemporary left and its complicated relationship to diversity (that pesky conundrum resulting from the dual demands of equality and representation), clear cut racism is no longer an option and neither is a classic xenophobia necessarily related to race, ethnicity or even religion.

For left-wing populism in the era of identity politics, the contortions are more and more demanding. But xenophobia is a pliable concept. ... The fact that xenophobia can accommodate huge variations of nature and intensity is a useful resource for populist movements. This means that ‘the other’ can be expanded to mean just about anything: the elite of course, liberals and intellectuals who favour the complexity of diversity, the ‘traitors amongst us’, but also foreign powers (the EU, the US, China).

But, broadly speaking, these fall into three distinct camps: the Strictly Populists, the Demagogues and the Democratic Activists. The first group is toxic and dangerous, the second is regrettable, the third is a necessary by-product of mass, democratic politics with which we can all live. It is a fundamentally different political animal.

The Strictly Populists include the movements and parties who fit all three initial criteria and whose xenophobia – however couched – is well in evidence. The Marine Le Pens, the Geert Wilders, the Tea Party activists ... All of them have refined their xenophobia by moving it away from outright racism. But their appeal is to those people who not only feel they have been cheated by a system that privileges elites of all sorts whilst abandoning them to a mediocre existence, but for whom solutions are to be found in an increasingly closed model of society that can privilege them, protect them, as the ordinary, true people - the keepers of the national flame. A closed model of society and politics is foundational to this strand of populism.

The demagogues are a kind of ‘populism lite’. Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a prime example. Anti-elitist but erudite, frank but astute, his rhetoric is nevertheless neither simplistic nor does it come across as common sense. Indeed listening to Mélenchon is a lot like listening to Chomsky or the ghost of Durkheim. References to Bretton Woods, Huntington and Fukuyama abound, and the role of the United States is consistently highlighted as the engine of the current crisis. The anti-globalisation rhetoric sails very close to the wind of xenophobia, but manages not to fall into the trap.

The Democratic Activists: Here we find Occupy and the Indignados, but also the rhetoric of any talented politician or political activist in an era of mass democracy and media driven politics. Those whose explicit use of the concept of accountability (rhetorically and in practice) de facto creates an ‘air de famille’ with populism, but who don’t rely on exclusion or any form of xenophobia to drive the project: those whose vision might encompass enemies, but whose aspirations belong to an open society, mindful of diversity. ... The language of anti-corruption and democratic accountability differs substantially, in that it targets specific laws and specific members of the elite. It is not anti-elitist per se. And in all these points it differs markedly from a populist movement.

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