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Of Governments and Mobs

9:56 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

As the Europeans dither over what sanctions they could apply to Russia that would not hurt them more, a two-pronged question: In an age of growing mass literacy and electronic communication, what kinds of governments stand the best chance of being effective — and hence, durable — and is the expression ‘mob rule’ justified?

 Flag held over burning tires at Euromaidan

Some thoughts on “mob rule.”

The Western press has had a field day since the Sochi Olympics, depicting the Russian President as a megalo-maniac jock whose word is law, while complaining in the same breath that the American President cannot get anything done. Given the unprecedented dangers the world has concocted for itself, it would seem that any sane, rational person would be more interested in how the presidents of nuclear armed nations use their power, than in how much power they have.

Americans are told that leaders must be ‘democratically elected,’ with ‘checks and balances’ on their power.  Yet given the myriad ways big business has to make Presidents do its bidding, checks and balances is now but a pious invocation: real power lies not with elected officials, but with their financiers.

How else to explain that President Obama admits to ordering the assassination of American citizens, while allowing purveyors of consumer goods to learn our most intimate wants and needs? Or the fact that though he’s a professor of constitutional law, he disregards the laws that bar him from supporting rulers who gain power by force — as in Egypt or Ukraine.

And yet I’m sure there are days when Obama envies Putin his legislators’ obedience:

“I need a vote on the possible use of force in Ukraine.”


Personally, I prefer a president who easily gets an authorization to use force because his legislators are well-educated and know what’s happening in the larger world, but only uses that authorization as a real last resort, to one who uses force first and justifies it to a largely ignorant Congress later — or not.  I’d rather have a president who offers to negotiate with the European Union and the U.S. over the Ukraine (as Putin did early on), than one who sends his minions to deliver cookies and CIA arms to achieve what is commonly referred to as ‘mob rule’ — except when they are ‘our’ mob.

The term ‘mob rule’ has been in wide use, I believe, since shortly after the Constitution was adopted, inspired by the storming of the Bastille during the contemporaneous French Revolution, and reinforced a century and a half later by newsreels of the storming of the Winter Palace during the 1917 Russian Revolution. The American system of ‘checks and balances’ has been so successfully contrasted to the idea of wild-eyed club-wielding men destroying fine furniture that the press freely associates demonstrations with ‘mob rule,’ invariably opposing them to the ‘democratic’ way of achieving change through the ballot box. It mindlessly parrots the vocabulary used by the political class, especially the derogatory expressions with which it designates those over whom power weighs most heavily.

This leads to the two issues, which in fact is really one: the relationship of power to the people — or the other way around. The most significant element in any discussion of  power today is the exponentially growing number of people on the planet, which makes it almost impossible for any regime to govern satisfactorily. Populations now have to be ‘managed;’ and the more they resist being managed, the tighter the controlling screws are turned, via high-tech bureaucracies, militarily-armed police and spying on a scale never seen before. This could be called the Rousseau aspect of governance, that of bringing man from a ‘state of nature’ to ‘civilization,’ and it is sometimes accused of leading to totalitarianism.

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What Do 1914, 1917 and 1517 Have to Do With 2014?

8:48 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

Two weeks ago, an office I was calling was already having their Christmas party, so I figure it’s not too soon to be talking about 2014.

Next year’s date probably doesn’t remind most on-line readers of anything in particular, whether we’re talking about the millennial generation or the baby-boomers. But for someone who was a child during World War II, 2014 inevitably calls up 1914, when the presumptive heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated in Sarajevo, setting off World War I. Today, we associate that city in the former Yugoslavia with the mass killing of Muslim men and boys by Serbs, as the country invented after that war fell apart.

A hundred years ago the killing of one person started a war so savage that it ended with a shared vow: “Never again!”  And yet, that senseless butchery of thousands of young men in trenches by the newly invented machine gun merely paved the way for the use of other new technologies to assassinate Jews, Gays and Communists by the millions in Hitler’s crematoria.  This was followed by the dropping of two atom bombs in Japan, the Khmer Rouge killing by starvation or assassination between one and two million people, and on and on.

As the American media focuses tirelessly on the mid-term elections that will determine whether the needle on the political spectrum moves slightly left or right, it continues to turn its back on the struggle for equity marked indelibly by the milestone that followed 1914, 1917, the date of the Russian Revolution.

In the hundred years since 1917, notwithstanding two world wars and countless “minor” wars resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths, humanity has failed to solve the problem of equity. Coming at the height of robber baron capitalism, the Russian Revolution gave rise to capitalism’s most extreme incarnation, fascism, the alliance of state and oligarchy to squelch popular demands for economic justice. Although Russian peasants were still living under a form of feudalism, the workers and peasants in Eastern Europe were scarcely better off, and the October Revolution spread briefly to Hungary and to heavily indebted post-war Germany, allowing Hitler’s rise.

In response, resigned to the fact that World War I had not been ‘the war to end all wars’, the liberal democracies banded together to protect their interests against those of a resurgent Germany. They sided temporarily with the Soviet Union in order to achieve this (nor could they have succeeded otherwise). However, the two sides in the alliance had different aims: the capitalist world didn’t want its pursuit of wealth subservient to Germany’s, while the communist regime didn’t want Hitler to turn back the clock to the time when oligarchs ruled. Given that dichotomy, the postwar world could only lead to a full fledged standoff between two systems that competed for the allegiance of third world client states.

Several important things happened over the next fifty years: the number of client states increased as Third World countries achieved independence from their colonial masters, Eastern Europe came out from under the Soviet grip, and the Soviet Union itself broke apart, leaving Moscow to complete Peter the Great’s Westernization and achieve a major power status that went beyond ICBM’s. Almost simultaneously China reached a level of development that put it too in the running for major power status, and the two former communist allies which had for a time been enemies, realized they again shared a common goal: the defeat of financial capitalism in favor of worldwide development that would not throw the socialist baby out with the Communist bathwater.

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Today Nader, Tomorrow Assad via Charlie Rose

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

To read Ralph Nader at his very best, click on this link:

Brother’s Keepers and Losing Syria to Al Qaeda

10:23 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

The latest McCarthyite innovation of the U.S. government is a series of directives to its employees telling the how to be on the look-out for present or future whistle-blowers.Administration officials want government workers trained to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on the lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors – like financial troubles, odd working hours or unexplained travel – of co-workers as a way to predict whether they might do “harm to the United States.”

Security investigations can be launched when government employees showing “indicators of insider threat behavior” are reported by co-workers, according to previously undisclosed administration documents obtained by McClatchy. (// Investigations also can be triggered when “suspicious user behavior” is detected by computer network monitoring and reported to “insider threat personnel.”

Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that the PRISM program that allows all kinds of spying on American citizens as they go about their daily lives is nothing like the infamous STASI of the former East Germany. She’s right: the STASI didn’t have anything like the sophisticated tools Obama has.

And just as the STASI couldn’t prevent the Communist regime from eventually crumbling, America’s version of ‘you are your brother’s keeper’ hasn’t stopped Al Qaeda from being in a position to soon announce the creation of an Islamist state in Northern Syria.

Or the initiatives being taken by Syria’s Kurds that could eventually upset the status quo in the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Iran and Turkey, allowing this Iranian people of 30 million to finally have its own state – wrecking havoc in the four countries where they are minorities.






Snowden and Malala

10:30 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

Will the Edward Snowden affair mark the beginning of a new press paradigm in the United States?  For decades the American media has dutifully relayed the government line, renouncing its role of watchdog charged with exposing government wrong-doing.  Whistle-blowers in effect emerged to fill the void. In an unusual incident, when during a press briefing Washington accused Russia of ‘providing a platform’ for Edward Snowden by allowing him to meet with human rights activists in the transit area of a Moscow airport to launch his request for asylum, an Associated Press reporter pointed out that when a person is accused of a crime he does not lose his right to free speech.  Will we see more press independence as the Obama administration looks ever more like Hitler’s Germany?

As the United States increasingly behaves like the ‘rogue states’ it professes to combat, one week keeping a Presidential plane from European airspace, and the next affirming that Edward Snowden should have no right to defend himself against charges of treason, the grownups in the room are shaking their heads, forced to admit that the American government has taken a fatal turn toward fascist dictatorship. For those who cling to the hope that this is all a passing aberration, the latest revelation consists of detailed guidelines requesting government employees to denounce suspicious co-workers. I’m hoping that some historian of the Second World War will step up to the plate and educate us as to the various methods by which Hitler subjugated his people as he turned against the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, we were privileged to witness the Pakistani student who was shot in the face by the Taliban for defending the right of girls to education, celebrating her sixteenth birthday with a stirring speech at the United Nations, affirming that “one girl, one book, one pen can change the world”. Malala was shepherded to her illustrious platform by none other than former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who beamed in the background as the girl spoke with an assurance that belied her pink sari and headscarf.

Malala, I hope you will benefit from the same tenacity that helped you to recover from a terrifying ordeal as you  progress to a position of leadership. That you will not remain a creature of the Browns and the Obamas, but join with the Snowdens of this world, who know how superficial their goodwill gestures are, and what lies beneath them.
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Obama Should Watch RT!

7:40 am in Uncategorized by Deena Stryker

The ‘end user’ of the security state’s intelligence should also get information from Russia Today, Moscow’s English language channel. He might better realize the long-term significance of his decision to order Europe to close its airspace to the plane of a Latin American president. That initiative put the crowning touch on the transformation  of the continent once known as our ‘backyard’ into a world player. The process started fifty years ago, with the Cuban Revolution, and while Washington still clings to its embargo on the island, the rest of the continent appears to have reached a Cuban level of rejection of its American hegemon.

Fifth BRICS Summit, 26 Mar to 27 Mar

Fifth BRICS Summit, 26 Mar to 27 Mar

The largest Latin American country, Brazil, is also one of the BRICS – the group of fastest growing economies. RT revealed today that together with  China and Russia it has been the object of surveillance by the United States. (No doubt India and South Africa will be added to the list, courtesy of Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald.)

The BRICS are only the biggest of a growing list of nations, large and small, that have different political systems but share a couple of basic ideas: war is bad, governments have responsibilities toward the many, and nothing is forever. President Obama should beware of his own administrations’s spin that dismisses the new international alignment.

It suggests that the 20th century is only now coming to an end, the teens ushering in a new era, as they did a century ago, when the Victorian Era didn’t really end until the First World War and the Russian Revolution. Coincidentally, that period marked the beginning of America’s rise as the most powerful nation the world has ever known.  Although we entered its wars late, the American policy of isolation from the affairs of an ever squabbling Europe was gradually transformed into one of domination. After coming to Europe’s rescue for the second time in 1942, from benefactor we became its economic and military tutor, guaranteeing the existence of its post-war liberal half against so-called threats of takeover by the Soviet Union. When unexpectedly, the ‘monolith’ fell apart, we assumed it was our doing and that we could go on to bigger and better triumphs ad infinitum.

Twenty years later, a God-like United States dispenses both life and death electronically. But having failed to take into account the cumulative effect of our ever bolder actions on populations around the globe, as daily reporting by a tough, talented multi-lingual staff gathered by Moscow shows, the world has reached another watershed: the American century is ending.

Ironically, Europe’s status has changed in tandem: when in the fifties Coca-Cola was introduced in France, it was so indignantly rejected by a population raised on wine that the formula had to be changed, giving French Coke a slightly different taste. Today, although French farmers led by Jose Bove represent a significant anti-globalization force, thanks to decades-long initiatives like the Fulbright Program, which brings opinion makers to the United States to experience the superiority of the American Way of Life, the French elite has largely been co-opted.

France has been alternately ruled by an Americanized (but caviar-loving) left and a no less Americanized right that knew it could not attack the welfare state. A similar situation exists throughout Western Europe, while Eastern Europe once liberated from Soviet domination has been more willing to scrap its protections. The 2008 economic probably had as much to do with Washington’s determination to finish off a welfare system that increasingly reveals America’s shame as it did with greedy banksters. But petrified by the growing threat of Islamization, Europe now puts its faith in snooping and the war on terror, just as previously it acquiesced in a growing American military presence, complete with Pershing missiles, to forestall a Soviet onslaught.

The alacrity with which three European countries acceded to Washington’s demand to deny their airspace to President Morales’ plane right after learning they were being extensively spied on by the United States, is related to the start of negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which they hope will solve their unemployment problems without too many negative side-effects.  Delaying yet again a long-deferred adulthood, Europe has chosen to ignore the fact that in the twenty-first century, a finite planet calls for less trade and more self-reliance - as Bolivia’s president Evo Morales stated.
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