Four More Years!
What a rollercoaster ride this election season has been! Like many people, I am glad that at last the frenetic jostling for the office of the POTUS has come to an end. In the end, as I fully expected, Obama was re-elected as the president of the United States.
Yesterday morning I went to vote making fully sure that my iPod was fully charged. I knew that there’d be a great turnout so I braced myself for a long line. True to my expectations, there was a long line, but it wasn’t as long as I feared. Perhaps, it was because, like I thought, I had mercifully beaten the early morning rush by people who wanted to get in there early, vote and head off to work. I got in line around 9:45 am with other happy and excited people around.
One very chatty old white woman directly in front of me kept us all talking and laughing as she told us many of her previous election experiences. She was 93 years old but yet she could stand and walk around without aid. She stood with us throughout the 2 hours that it took for us to finish voting. I am still amazed at how strong that elderly white woman was. I remember that there were many times one of the election judges came over to her and kindly inquired if she needed a chair to sit. She smilingly declined, and stood with us all through as she regaled us fantastic stories about her life. I am not going to bore you with her tales anyway.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I got to the voter machine and promptly voted for Obama. I rolled out and came home to relax and wait for others to do the same.
Now, how many of you were on tenterhooks as you nervously waited to see the outcome of the election? I was not one of such people. I patiently saw the whole process through; as a matter of fact, I was one of the people still awake long after Obama had given his victory speech. I can honestly say that I was happy to see that after extensively studying the trends, polls and examining the predictions from Nate Silver, I was thoroughly convinced that Romney was not going to win—and it turned out to be so. Indeed as I have pointed out before, I accurately called the election 6 weeks early!
How about some raw stats then? Obama won about 92-93% of all black votes; about 73% of all Hispanic votes; only about 35% of white votes; he beat Romney in women vote by as much as 11%. Obama garnered about 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206 with 49 states accounted for. All that’s left is Florida with her 29 electoral votes. Chances are that Obama will get these electoral votes as well swelling his ultimate grand total to 332 electoral votes. He got around 50.4% of the popular vote or roughly 60,452,197 votes at the time of this writeup. This figure will increase slightly after the Florida votes are completely accounted for.
It is interesting to note however that Obama got 9 million votes less than what he got in 2008. Could this be because many people were disenchanted with Obama seeing as he has failed in definable ways to favorably impact their lives? Could it be because they became disillusioned with Obama after 4 years saw to it that some of Obama’s numerous campaign promises never materialized? Nevertheless, it is even more surprising to imagine that despite the bitterness of the long campaign, and the incessant chorus from the conservative base to the effect that Romney was going to beat Obama by a landslide (because of the dismal economy), Obama beat Romney in the popular vote and the electoral vote regardless.
The ugly truth is that Romney ran a spectacularly cynical and dishonest campaign. Time and time again, Romney flip-flopped on many issues of the day. It became apparent at some point in the campaign that Romney was simply saying any and everything to get himself elected—principles and records be damned. It might be the reason why many conservatives abstained from voting, or voted libertarian or otherwise. Just think how surprising it is to note that despite the deafening voices we heard during the campaign, proclaiming an imminent election-day Republican tsunami, it turns out in the end that somehow John McCain (with his caribou Barbie running mate) managed to get more votes in 2008 against a popular Obama than Romney did with a politically weakened Obama! There is simply no other way to parse this save to say that Romney had high unfavorables—many people frankly did not like him—least of all after they heard the now infamous 47% remark.
So what have we seen in this election? By running on inclusiveness and unity even in times of great adversity, Team Obama masterfully forged a way to his election triumph. Team Obama knew that with the recession and the
attendant snail-paced economic growth, he would lose the election if it was a referendum on the economy. In all sincerity, his administration’s record has not been terribly impressive even if one might grant that he is an impressive man personally. So, he had to make a strategic move to endear himself to the shifting segments of the American populace—in other words, having noted the changing demographics of the country, he had to make a calculated move to endear himself to the different portions of a fast-changing electorate.
That gamble worked in a big way. He received considerably fewer white votes this time around but scored impressively amongst the 18-30 age group, students, women, blacks, Hispanics, gays, labor and unions, the auto industry, veterans and the elderly etc. The demography of the country was changing and it now appears that no longer can the Republicans hope to win elections just by banking on the collective electoral angst of the white vote. To be competitive in future elections, the conventional wisdom is that the Republicans now have to seriously work hard to draw the youth and minorities into the party in much larger numbers. Otherwise, with these levels of Hispanic and women support for Democrats, the Republicans will invariably continue to experience future election-day woes.
Obama has now written his name into the history books. He is the first African-American president of the United States—a feat magnified once a person fully begins to understand this country’s past shameful legacy of slavery, racism and discrimination. Additionally, in winning a second term in office, he joins a smaller cadre of presidents—14 out of 44 presidents—who have served two or more terms.
All that remains now is to see how well he would govern in his second term. Also, one wishes to see whether the stinging loss suffered by the Republicans might have engendered some serious soul-searching to usher in a season, no matter how briefly, of bipartisan cooperation and an end to gridlock: is this asking for too much perhaps?
Presidential Debates: Romney vs. Obama
Question: Gov. Romney, you’ve said that you have a better vision and a better grasp of the economic issues facing our country. Please can you explain to our audience how you propose to bring down the national debt that is now in excess of $16 trillion by means of more tax cuts for the wealthy?
Romney: I can, but I don’t want to bore you with the math…..
Question: I understand that the issue may be difficult but can you break it down for us? Can you explain your tax code? If you are going to close some tax loopholes and cut down spending, what programs are you going to slash in your bid to stimulate the economy?
Romney: You know what? I know I have the better plan. You can read the details on my website www.mittromney.com. As for the rest of that question, uhmm see me after the election…
(For starters, the above discussion is a parody of a possible scenario; it is completely fictional.)
Ever since the Republican National Convention, from which Mitt Romney’s Campaign got a short bump in the polls, he has been continuously trailing Obama in the polls since his infamous 47% remark with about 35 days left before the Election. Now, there are 3 presidential debates left. Romney has to use these debates to reverse his misfortunes. He has to use these debates to show to the over 50-60 million Americans that will be watching, and millions from around the world, that he will be the better person to fix the economic issues facing the country.
Now, Mitt Romney is a seasoned and accomplished debater. All you have to do is just look at his past debate reels to see how prepared he usually is for debates—with a lot of zingers for his opponents. We also know that he is getting ready with a rich arsenal of zingers for Obama as well. He needs to utterly dominate this debate, and show how his vision for the country would be a refreshing departure from Obama’s policies. More importantly, he’ll need to be able to explain his tax code or revenue generation formula in some better detail when pressed or he may find it difficult to beat a certain narrative that is now currently making the rounds in the media according to which he is all promise but ‘no specifics’.
Obama has the most to lose from these debates. He is currently leading in most of the national polls especially in the critical battleground states. He simply has to avoid speaking a costly political gaffe, and hope that there is no October Surprise that may arise so late in the game. He has to come to these debates fully ready to defend his record, and to project himself as the more reliable figure in these harsh economic times. If he allows Romney to clobber him in these debates, or if he appears too cautious as to not project a vision of competence, or worse if he fumbles with his facts and figures, we can see Romney easily reverse the gains that Obama has made since the end of Bill Clinton’s famous speech.
Tomorrow, the politically minded part of the American populace (with all of America’s trenchant punditocracy) will be tuned in to the various media stations and paying serious attention to see who they’ll go with for the next 4 years. Have you made up your mind yet?
Iran vs Israel
Now that the world is once again riveted to the Mid-East, it is time to examine the drums of a more sinister conflict that has been beating there for some time now. I am talking of course about the escalating talks about a possible nuclear showdown between Iran and Israel. Let us start with some relatively open facts:
First, despite the hysteria whipped up by Israel to the contrary, Iran does not yet possess a nuclear weapon. However, this does not mean that the international community is too naïve to understand that Iran is actively pursuing that goal even though they have strenuously denied any intention of doing so.
Secondly, even though Israel is officially not counted or recognized as a nuclear state, anyone would be foolhardy to believe they do not have nuclear capability. Decades long military, economic and intelligence co-operation between Israel and the United States guarantees that the Jewish state is properly spoken for when the subject is nukes. Remember, US tax-payers give foreign aid to Israel to the tune of $3 billion every year. That is enough to help significantly boost her military—in fact Israel and Pakistan are the only countries in the region that ostensibly possess nuclear deterrence.
Lastly, in the mad jostle for military superiority in the Mideast, it is useful to remember that the majority of the Sunni Arab countries in the region harbor deep resentment and suspicion for both Israel and Iran. One is seen as an illegal occupier of Muslim lands and a front for Western imperialists; the other is viewed as a rising over-ambitious regional power (bully) and a possible military threat.
It is against this backdrop that one must carefully weigh these escalating calls for war from both sides of the aisle. If we go down memory lane, we realize that in June 1981 Israel unilaterally acted in attacking and destroying the Iraqi Osirak reactor believed at the time to have been put in place to aid Iraq get nuclear weapons. At the time, Israel was roundly rebuked by the UN Security Council, but that surprise attack critically damaged Iraq’s nuclear program and I do not think that they recovered from that blow ever again. When one sees how empty Saddam Hussein’s military boasts turned out to be during the second US-led invasion of Iraq, it would seem that the verdict of history has been that the Israel’s bold preventive strike was not altogether without great merit.
Now, we are entering the season of saber-rattling again. The leaders of both countries have openly entertained the prospect of war, and from their hard stances it is evident that each side believes that not only would their side emerge victorious in any possible military confrontation, a confrontation so specified may very well be nigh inevitable!
Each side has reasons to be super-confident I suppose:
i)Iran in recent years has increased her economic trade relations with Russia and China to the tune of over $3 billion every year. Since Iran is a strategic business and trade partner of these two countries, we have seen that Russia and China as permanent members of the UN Security Council have repeatedly come to the aid and defense of Iran against US-led acts of containment at the UN. It is even possible to imagine that were the US to carelessly wade into an armed conflict against Iran, the US would have to expect Russia and China to get into it. So, we have seen and heard Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cockily dismiss Israeli threats. This however does not mean that Russia and China are not carefully weighing their stance on the whole contentious issue of a nuclear-armed Iran and the possible nuclear race it could spark off in the Middle East.
ii)Israel, rightly or wrongly, believes that her continued existence depends upon Iran never getting a nuclear weapon. Many of the hardline clerics in Iran have openly stated that Israel has no right to exist in the Middle East, and I am sure the Israelis are taking their threats seriously. If we can extrapolate from the sentiments prevalent in Tehran, one might be led to conclude that a nuclear attack against Israel is indubitably in the works whenever Iran finally manages to join the nuclear club.
So, we find ourselves at a nervous impasse. The US does not have formal relations with Iran even though it is determined to see to it that Iran does not enrich uranium to make nuclear weapons. However, the US has been severely weakened militarily from two unfunded and perhaps needless wars in the region; as a matter of fact, she can scarcely afford a third war in the region against Iran in the midst of these current bleak and crippling economic downturns. However, it is easy to imagine that the US can easily wage a proxy war using Israel as her tool. The unfortunate thing for fanatically pro-Israel and neoconservative types who would doubtlessly wish to see that scenario come to pass is that the one man who could easily help to orchestrate this (his name is Obama) is firmly against it. Inasmuch as the Obama administration wants to be seen as friendly to the Jewish state, sources inside the White House have readily confirmed that the relationship between Obama and the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is far from gratuitously warm and cordial. It is perhaps because of Obama’s restraining influence on his Israeli partner, and his administration’s emphasis on sanctions and diplomacy, that the soaring rhetoric of war has not reached a deafening crescendo.
At this time, it would seem that Bibi Netanyahu and his counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are simply bidding their time as they wait to see the result of the oncoming US elections. I’d hate to say this, but my impression is that this is far from over. If Romney wins the election, the prospect of a US direct or proxy war against Iran exponentially increases; if Obama wins, the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran exponentially increases.
How best should this issue be handled? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Romney Will Lose The Elections
Given the events of the last two weeks, anyone can see that Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency of the United States is in serious danger of fatal derailment. If he eventually loses the election, I am going to identify the shocking sequence of mutilating strokes he dealt to himself and to his campaign over the last 2 weeks as the primary cause of his defeat. There are already many republicans who cannot understand and quite frankly openly wonder why Romney had been struggling in the polls to convincingly beat a president they have universally acknowledged as the worst president ever.
There is simply no easy way to slice this: given the suboptimal state of the economy, the degree of vilification that Obama has received from Republican quarters, and the active push by targeted ads financed by Romney’s rich sponsors and donors, it was simply baffling to notice how Romney had consistently found it difficult to spring forward in this hotly-contested race. Why, someone might ask, is Romney not handily beating Obama amongst likely voters if this election truly was a referendum on the performance of the Obama administration? Please hold that thought.
As if Romney wasn’t having a hard enough time convincing many Americans that he should be given the nation’s top job, the events of the past few weeks have all but put a nail on the coffin of Romney’s presidential aspirations. Indeed, as things stand now, this election is all but over. Let me take the remainder of this brief write-up to give reasons why I do not think that Romney will win come November 6:
A – Reminiscent of John McCain’s hasty and uncoordinated over-reaction in ‘suspending’ his campaign at a time when America stared at a crisis, [thereby prompting wide-mouthed disbelief and concern over his emotional state or his ability to perform under pressure] Mitt Romney has unwittingly generated serious concern over his ability to perform in times of great national or international uproar. Only last week when the nation was quietly mourning the loss of an ambassador, several embassy personnel, countless innocent lives, and the breaching or burning of American embassies or consulates in an orgy of violence that has erupted all over the middle East, Romney chose that singular moment of subdued national outrage to try to score a cheap political point. Without waiting to get the full picture or the facts in the case, he mistook a tweet emerging from a US embassy under siege, as the official statement of the Obama White House and launched off into a tasteless self-serving rant about how Obama (and his administration by extension I suppose) was supposedly apologizing to the Muslim world about American values; how Obama was not projecting strength and how his own administration would undoubtedly have risen to the challenge posed by the events that were yet unfolding.
Apparently, what happened was that some Coptic Christian Egyptian-American posing as an Israeli to secure funds had made a disparaging video about Islam mockingly titled “The Innocence of Muslims” a few months back. A 14-minute trailer could be found on YouTube. The poorly produced and directed documentary (if at all it could be called a documentary) features actors with American accents and since the producer of the film was also resident in the US, the Arab world took that as sufficient casus belli to rail against American interests in the region. The aftermath? Scores died and several American embassies faced mob assaults all over the Middle East. It was at this moment of heightened national anxiety and concern that Romney chose to launch a baseless criticism. The fact was that the tweet he thought represented the Obama administration actually came from the embassy facing down hordes of angry Muslims. The official Obama statement on the matter sought to give avenues for peace even when condemning in strong terms the attacks on American embassies and embassy personnel. It furthermore re-iterated the commitment to freedom of speech. Frankly, a lot of Americans especially the undecided were able to see in glaring detail that Gov. Romney would say just about anything if he thinks it would get him elected even if that means going against the conventions of good taste. He was roundly criticized for his thoughtless remarks, but rather than apologize for his hastiness, he simply doubled down on his earlier statements. Brilliant strategy!
B – As if that was not enough headaches for a campaign quickly spiraling out of control, a video was leaked showing what Romney really thinks about 47% of the electorate. It turns out that in a secret, private fundraiser organized for Mitt Romney, one of the people in attendance had wondered why Romney wasn’t more popular and more visible than he currently was, and wanted to know what the appropriate response should be to people who still could not find Romney appealing enough as to vote for him. In a remarkable moment of candor, Romney coolly stated his indifference to 47% of Americans whom he said would never vote for him anyway because they were tax-nonpaying, handout-seeking, Obama-loving lackeys afflicted with some form of victim mentality and who doubtlessly think that government exists solely to cater to their needs. Shocking as that characterization of nearly half of the electorate is, the simple truth of the matter however is that Romney was right. There are indeed people who will never vote for him no matter what. The problem however is that that sort of frank assessment is not something you would expect out of the mouth of someone campaigning for the presidency. In writing off people who are or were former supporters of Obama, he is effectively shutting himself off from thousands of people who might have voted for Obama in 2008 (people who would fit the description he gave) but who for whatever reason best known to them might have decided that Obama was not the change they hoped for or imagined.
You see, it is now becoming increasingly difficult to construct a scenario where Romney wins campaigning only for the votes of the 53% he imagines are willing to give him a fair shot. Statisticians and public relations personnel fully realize this. The odds are heavily stacked against him if he thinks that he will be elected on the backs of rich, white conservatives alone. This is because the statement that was credited to him strongly reinforces the view that he is an unfeeling and emotionally disconnected shill of the big business or corporate class, and that if his ideas were fully known, would pose a disaster to more than the 47% he imagines are ideologically attached to Obama’s hip. They will in fact affect a great deal of the people (like seniors, veterans, failed small business owners etc) who might ordinarily have looked upon him more favorably.
C – Lest we forget, presidential elections in the United States are not decided by the popular vote but by something called the Electoral College vote. Now, I am convinced that Obama will definitely win the popular vote i.e the number of people that voted for him nationally will be more than the number that voted for Romney. All it will take are a few of the big and densely populated states like California and New York for instance massively voting for Obama to see the wide gap he will gather by the time all the votes have been cast. Fortunately for Romney, America uses a ‘weighted’ Electoral College method which I shall not start explaining in detail here. In a nutshell, every state has a specified number of electors which a presidential candidate will win if he wins the popular vote in that state. These are apportioned in such a way as to make the votes of people in the American suburbs and hinterland matter. The winner of the election thus becomes the man who first surpasses 270 electoral votes gotten by adding up all the Electoral College votes apportioned to each of the individual states. The use of the Electoral College method means that it is possible for Obama to get the higher number of votes and still lose an election. This is the reason why you would hardly see Obama campaigning in states that are traditionally democratic; or hardly see Romney campaigning in states that are traditionally republican. In effect, it means that both the Obama and Romney campaigns will be focused on those battleground states with a somewhat equal balance of republican or democratic voters hoping to tilt the voting scale in their favor. These are the states that are inundated with millions of dollars of targeted negative ads.
However, a critical look at the Election map shows that Romney is trailing Obama in some of these key states. In other words, Romney’s path to the Whitehouse is ALREADY tougher than Obama’s. Romney would need to basically sweep through these critical states if he wants the Electoral College votes in his corner to surpass those in Obama’s corner—and there is no suggestion on the ground that such a scenario is shaping up. With Obama suddenly jumping ahead out as much as 5-7% in national polls this week, it becomes even more difficult to see how Romney will flip enough votes to effectively win many of the battleground states which Obama won in 2008. The math is just not looking favorable for Romney at this point—and if Obama is able to distance himself from any and all costly political scandals, it is downright impossible to see how Romney would win in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, and New Hampshire to get enough Electoral College votes to get him to the magical 270.
D – Despite the RNC’s strenuous efforts to humanize Romney, the undisputable fact is that Romney still has a perception chasm battling his efforts at becoming more appealing to most people. Some view his Mormon faith with something akin to scorn and derision; many are still upset and rightly suspicious of Romney’s decision to hide his tax returns from previous years from the public. What is he hiding? In addition, a lot of people who decry foreign tax shelters also find that they cannot reconcile their views with a president who has hidden most of his wealth in the Cayman Islands and in Swiss accounts. It certainly does not sound like the actions of someone who has much faith in America. There is no denying that he is an extremely wealthy man—and that has perhaps spawned the perception that Romney is altogether emotionally and psychologically far-removed from the plight of the suffering masses. This is a thorny perceptions issue, and he has battled it vainly for a long time. Indeed, there is no shortage of republicans who, regardless of their overwhelming disapproval of Obama, are nevertheless indifferent or even perhaps harshly critical of Mitt Romney. If some members of Romney’s party can be hostile to him based on their own negative perceptions, I leave you to ponder how much less appealing he would be to Independents.
It is on the strength of these assessments that I fail to see how Romney will eventually emerge the winner of the 2012 presidential elections. But as we all know, the truth (life) is sometimes stranger than fiction. We have a few weeks left before the country votes and something might still happen which could potentially zero out the scales in Romney’s favor. Until such a cataclysmic event happens, the die is cast against Romney.
End Of The Road For Assange?
Personally, I do not believe the baseless sexual assault charges thrown up against Julian Assange in order to silence him. Here is a man whose work in revealing some of the secret machinations of some governments, has served to show (in some graphic detail) the shocking extents that some highly placed government officials could go to in conducting their business. Whether the released memos were damning to the respective governments concerned is worthy of consideration, but of even graver concern is the legality or even moral soundness of the various actions secretly hatched and implemented by these affected governments. Wikileaks’ action in releasing hundreds of these classified government memos and the possible threat to national or regional security such actions could precipitate merit passionate debate and discussion, but I do not support the fierce and sustained attempts by shadowy figures to muzzle Julian Assange.
This persecution has to stop; these trumped up charges have to be decried. Having found nothing tangible with which to discredit Julian Assange and Wikileaks, they have resorted to the same well-worn smear tactics i.e sexual molestation and rape. Not surprisingly, two women have appeared out of the woodwork with sexual molestation claims. Suddenly, we are expected to believe that he sexually molested 2 women he had consensual sexual relations with for the ‘crime’ of failing to wear a condom on one occasion when the complainant requested it; and on another occasion for the ‘crime’ of having sex with her while she maintains she was asleep.
Were these women minors? Of course not. Could they have resisted Julian Assange and stopped the sexual intercourse if they really felt like they were being sexually molested? That is, when complainant 1 insisted that Assange should wear a condom and he made no apparent moves to do so, could she have ended that lovemaking session and walked away or else screamed for help? Of course she could; indeed, she would have gone to the authorities the next day to report the incident if she felt sexually violated. As for complainant 2 who claimed that she was sleeping at the time Assange supposedly had sex with her, it makes you wonder how on earth she knew what was going on if she was asleep. It also makes you wonder what sort of horrible rape scenario it really was when the supposed victim was comfortably and sleepily ensconced in her assailant’s bed! It gets ridiculous as you examine these charges. The very woman (complainant 1) who claimed that she was sexually molested on August 14, 2010, which day she claimed that Assange had sex with her without using a condom, happened to have met and had sexual relations with Assange again only 4 days later! On August 18, 2010, this time she maintains she was also sexually molested again somehow when Assange’s erect penis pressed against her body.
It is not surprising that Assange has dismissed these molestation accusations as baseless. But how will public opinion judge him? In western societies where allegations of rape are enough to ruin and discredit any man, how will Assange be viewed or dissected by the wider public? Is it possible that in order to turn the tide of public opinion against a man who has bravely fought titanic government figures and their allies by revealing highly-placed secret government machinations and subterfuge, some women who have had dealings with Assange could be manipulated or paid off to launch baseless accusations?
For months Julian Assange has been fighting extradition to Sweden for these accusations. He believes that the ultimate reason why he is being considered for extradition to Sweden is not really to answer to these allegations but so that he can eventually be handed over to the US authorities. One might consider his thinking paranoid, but given the dangerous nature of his job, especially the depths that could be sunk to punish a public whistleblower, one can appreciate his concern. If you can remember, the US considers Assange’s work in exposing hundreds of diplomatic government cables ‘treasonous’ even though Assange is not a citizen of the United States. However, he has thus far not been successful in completely stopping the extradition proceedings and is therefore due to be sent back to Sweden around the 28th of this month.
So what did a desperate Julian Assange do to forestall this possibility? Yesterday, he entered an Ecuadorian embassy in London, and sought political asylum. He considers himself rightly or wrongly as being persecuted and hounded for his investigative journalism. His actions in breaking pre-arranged protocol and seeking asylum in an Ecuadorian embassy before his court-delayed extradition date of June 28 are now described as ‘breaching bail’ and so, he is likely to be arrested eventually and extradited.
As I write, metropolitan police are camped around the embassy waiting to nab Assange if he ever steps foot outside the building whilst Ecuadorian authorities consider his request for political asylum in Ecuador.
Now, I suspect that in the coming days, following intense diplomatic pressure on Ecuador, they are going to decline Assange’s request for political asylum and then hand him over to the police. At any rate, what sort of drama is going to play out on the mean streets on London if for example Ecuador accepts Assange’s request and decides to whisk him away to Quito? Will we see a Hollywood-style clash of Ecuadorian mercenary forces with London’s metropolitan police as they engage each other in a hail of bullets while Assange, disguised no doubt, is ferried hurriedly to some undisclosed aircraft and hastily extracted out of the UK? One can only wish—but one has to just marvel at the absurdities going on.
Is Assange’s life in danger? If yes, where is the outrage of a concerned public for an individual’s personal freedom and his right to self-expression without being bullied by instruments of state? Where is the concern of fellow journalists that forces beyond Assange’s control might have conspired to silence a member of a supposedly free press? Sure, it is tempting to simply dismiss this with a wave of the hand whilst asking that Assange return to Sweden to clear himself of sexual molestation charges, but is there a bigger fish to fry here? I guess we’ll find out in the coming days……
Ten Years Ago
On September 11, 2001 the USA was attacked by the terrorist network known as Al Qaeda when some of her agents hijacked about 4 airliners. Two had flown into the World Trade Center, one flew into the Pentagon, and the last one was intended for the Whitehouse. But when the Americans on the hijacked aircraft discovered that the hijackers had no intention of landing the plane, the reports have it that they bravely confronted the hijackers and caused it to crash before it ever got to the Whitehouse. At the end of that horrible day, over 3000 Americans were dead on their own shores.
I remember turning on the television sometime that morning and watching in abject horror as the planes slammed into the building. I remember how I couldn’t quite decipher whether I was watching was real event or a movie. As I looked, I distinctly remember when I saw the people at the uppermost floors of the World Trade Center jump off the building and plummet to their deaths. It was a very painful and sad time. If the terrorists aimed to silence the American spirit, or to break the unity of this nation, then they failed spectacularly. The fact is that the event served as a rallying and unifying cause for an American populace that was already divided along racial, class and political lines. The World Trade Center has not been exactly rebuilt like it should, but work is ongoing. The terrorists clearly failed.
Today, I just want to join Americans here and abroad to remember the 9/11 victims and the first responders who, at the risk of life and limb, came rushing into the disaster zone to save their fellow Americans—it must be pointed that some of them actually sacrificed their own lives for their own countrymen. May the good Lord continue to comfort their families for their painful loss.
America the Beautiful:
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
Obama: Osama Is Dead
The news reaching me, and which has doubtlessly reached you by now, is that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Who does not know who Osama Bin Laden is, and why the news of his death would generate worldwide headlines? Well, in case you are not very sure, Osama Bin Laden is a Saudi Arabian terrorist and head of the terrorist organization called Al Qaeda. He and his cohorts were responsible for the World Trade Center bombings by 2 air planes nearly 10 years ago. Ever since that fateful September morning, when two hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center killing around 3,000 innocent souls, there has been an intense, no-expenses-spared, multilateral and international campaign to capture or kill Osama, the visible architect of so much destruction. As a matter of fact, they came very close a number of times and would have succeeded if not for some other slight issue like an unneeded delay resulting from the normal bureaucratic shufflings that typically attend these matters.
After a while, people began to suspect that he may already be dead; not that his absence or his possible death did anything to dissuade other would-be terrorists from actively plotting against or indeed attacking the US. But today,without any shred of doubt, Osama is dead—dead as a door nail after Obama gave the secret authorization, upon his examination of some very urgent intel, for him to be caught or killed. And that was precisely what happened. He was spotted somewhere deep in Pakistan (mind you, not Afghanistan where the US is currently wasting vast resources), the authorization was secured from the President and as soon as he was spotted he was killed. I imagine that his body was forensically analyzed in addition, to confirm his identity beyond any reasonable doubt.
In the coming days, expect to see some symbolic acts in the Muslim world seeking to demonstrate solidarity with Osama and with whatever jumbled idea of “liberation” or “resistance” he sought to represent. He may be dead, but no one is deceived into thinking that this has put a final nail in the coffin of Al Qaeda. If anything, you should expect that this bearded, vile and slithery brute would be considered a martyr for the cause. The attendant consequence would be some supercharged emotional outburst against the United States and her allies. One hopes however that some real Muslims would stand up and be counted to defend the cause of freedom and common sense whenever the orgy of violence starts rocking the Middle East.
Wherever Gaddafi is, he should be very worried. He has wittingly attracted the sore displeasure of Obama and other Western powers. At the rate he is carrying on with this exaggerated sense of his own invincibility, it won’t be too long before he suffers the same fate as the multitudes that have had to die as a result of his actions.
This is a good way to start the new month: Carpe Diem!
On Muammar Gaddafi and Libya
The issue in Libya is gaining so much steam now and is being covered everywhere. Well here is our facebook discussion on the matter. After watching the clip below, a few people had something to say.
He speaks the truth you know
Aero Max says:
this is a non bias truth in a transparent form… i subscribe to this all the way, those people lack nothing, if nigerianz enjoys half of what libyans are enjoying from their goverment, i am very sure non of us will complain even if they stay for the whole generation.. the funny thing is that even at its worst .we are not doing anything about it.. who gives a damn about DEMOCRACY ? when it cannot deliver basic amenities. ALL we need is A Government that can deliver to its people what their basic needs are. who cares if it is AUTOCRACY or WHATEVER.
Aero I am damn with u…If Nigeria a democratic country where the government is been change every four or five years they dont enjoy up to half of wht the Libyans are enjoying in their country,then they call Gaddafi tyrant. Equatorial Guinea,formerly Spanish Guinea.In that country they make money from oil just like in Kuwaite, the population there is not up to one million,they dont have hospitals there,no good schools,last week my friend that went there on an ong works say they weren’t there eggs to buy.their president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo assumed office 3 august 1979,I am sure the Eu and United States dont know that country exists,but they buy oil from them.
I mean what is this business of America to the world? This country is going through a lot already. This man is a man of truth. I sometimes get buttered by his words, because at one point I fall into it. Why is Obama allowing these people to push him. Obama should be smart enough to know to get this statement that Hillary Clinton said and I coauthor ” I will not be a secretary of state any more if Obama wins”. now you are invading Libya, what for? I was saying on buni the other time that, the people of Libya are very stupid… and I will say it blank here, Qaddafi is trying to unit the whole of Africa and he is moving in the right direction. And this is a treat to the western world. When the conference was held in Ghana, almost a common conclusion came into agreement, until ivory coast opted to send a concern letter to it’s allied to before they could do something. What happened? Aint they into tribal war over governance? Until when shall the black man learn. But I am telling you, this is all a aim at Saudi Arabia…but if America wants, they should try and see… it’s very sad… but God is our helper… Long Live Africa, Long live Ghana.
HANS, I started nodding my head while reading your post and I continued nodding it till I reached a certain point. Please Sir, how is Ghadaffi trying to unite all Africa and how is that a threat to the Western world? This man has been in power for 42 years and has not united anything. Now that his overthrow is imminent, you tell me he is trying to unite the world?
AEROMAXX, I agree with you. It began an argument yesterday where I told them that it is better for your country to return to military rule. It seems the other side of the fence (civilians) are not better either.
Egypt On The Precipice
For the past few days, the mass media has been awash with reports of the current civil unrest going on in Egypt. Despite the undemocratic actions of Hosni Mubarak’s government in shutting down the internet as well as the telecommunications sector, Egyptians have found ways, and are still finding ways to convey the scenes and events going on in Egypt to a captivated global audience. The clip above is just one of the videos filtering out of Cairo showing what appears to be a massive populist uprising against Mubarak and his government.
When Obama gave his speech, in Cairo, to the Arab world, shortly after assuming office, there were many people who underestimated the power and import of that speech. I remember that when I saw the passionate, rousing and warm welcome he received from the youths gathered in that auditorium, that Obama may have unwittingly ignited fires that would soon capture the hearts and minds of the Arab world. It was just the perfect message to the Arab world—tired and discontented as they were with Bush’s unilateralist interventionism. The skeptical wing of American punditocracy mocked Obama’s speech and his efforts. How indeed could he hope to reverse decades of misrule, governmental non-transparency, and a generalized distrust of the US with one overly-optimistic speech? Well, the chicken has come home to roost.
If you can remember, it wasn’t long ago that the world witnessed another populist revolution in Tunisia. The masses revolted and overthrew their government. I’ll also invite you to cast your mind back to 2009 when there was another powerful people-backed uprising in Iran against the rule of Iran’s Shiite clerics. The seasonal clashes between Israel and the Palestinians seem to have toned down in favor of a more peaceful path towards the solution. Here and there, you read about the increasing boldness of pro-democracy opposition groups throughout most parts of the Arab world including Saudi Arabia. I’ll make bold to say, (some may well write it off as an immature or wishful analysis) that there seems to be a crystallizing narrative in the world of Arab politics: we are beginning to witness an increasing and more determined push by Arab people for transparency and accountability in government; a sustained demand for a pro-citizen government that would show by their actions a real commitment and dedication to alleviate the problems and injustices suffered by the average Arab at the hands of a corrupt and sometimes dictatorial elite class.
So, here we are, watching amazing scenes from Egypt as thousands of protesters take to the streets to demand the ouster of Hosni Mubarak’s government. How should all peace-loving citizens of the world situate and analyze these current happenings? More importantly, what should the Obama administration be doing with regards to these events? Needless to say, Egypt is a critical force to reckon with in Arab geopolitics, and so the statements of the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, as well as that of other Western diplomats would be examined carefully. What message could the Obama administration (after full consultation with her Middle East allies) give so as to de-escalate the tensions there?
Hosni Mubarak, and his government, it must be pointed out, enjoy the support of the United States and Israel. This was because Mubarak chose to continue and maintain the peace treaty that his predecessor President Anwar Sadat signed with the Israelis—a move that much infuriated the rest of the Arab World, and one for which Egypt was temporarily suspended from the Arab League. It should also be recalled that when the US sought allies in the Middle East for the Gulf War of 1991, Hosni’s Egypt was there.
From the foregoing, you might be led to think that since successive US presidents and their administrations have dealt favorably with Hosni Mubarak, there must be something respectable or even mildly democratic about the government of Mr. Mubarak. Think about it: Egypt receives billions of dollars in aid every year from the United States. The bilateral relation between the two countries is in such good shape that the US also routinely sells arms or military technology to Mubarak’s Egypt. Thirty years of diplomatic relations with Israel is enough to convince many Israelis of Hosni’s commitment to that treaty—so, it really cannot be overemphasized how necessary it was for the US and Israel to have Mr. Mubarak cling tenaciously to power.
Nevertheless, it has become imperative to dispassionately assess Mr. Mubarak and his government; it has become of utmost importance to read the handwriting on the wall. Egypt, contrary to what you might have expected, from its coddling by Western powers, is very far from being a democratic state. A dispassionate analysis would indict the Egyptian government of gross negligence with respect to human and civil rights; it would decry the repressive police state and its penchant for marshalling the state’s instruments of force and aggression against pro-democracy activists as well as Islamic opposition forces; it would castigate the government’s shambolic efforts at boosting the Egyptian economy despite the massive influx of US dollars in aid or the nullification of around $20 billion-worth of debt; it would excoriate the government’s unwillingness to usher in democratic reforms; and finally lambaste Mr. Mubarak for his corrupt meddling with the electoral process and his abject refusal to relinquish power. This is exactly the way the average Egyptian sees this government—an incompetent, repressive, anti-democratic lackey for foreign interests. It is therefore hardly surprising to witness the vehemence and doggedness of this nascent revolution.
At any rate, anyone can see that the US and her allies in the region, while recognizing the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people, are not too eager to call for the resignation of Mubarak. Mr. ElBaradei, a Nobel Laureate and many opposition groups have clearly called for a regime change. Their wishes are unmistakable—they want a regime change by all means necessary. They want Mubarak gone and fresh elections to determine the future government of Egypt. However, the US and her friends in the region are wary of a scenario in which honoring the wishes of the masses results in an Islamic hard-line, perhaps extremist faction of Mubarak’s opposition to gain prominence or to snatch the seat of power. A delicate international situation thus begins to unfold.
It is not clear that Mubarak plans on vacating his office any time soon; also it doesn’t appear that this popular uprising is losing steam—at least, as far as I can tell, the army and the police have not yet been instructed to forcefully beat back the protestors. Washington wants a scenario where demonstrations would be non-violent; where Mubarak would conduct free and fair elections or to cosmetically brush up and change aspects of his regime. If that proves impossible, Washington wants a scenario where Mubarak could be persuaded to step aside only if the US could reasonably influence the process so as not to facilitate the ascension into power of anti-Western, anti-Israeli, and anti-American hardliners.
Will the democratic yearnings of the Egyptian people to be free of the repressive boots of Mubarak’s government eventually triumph? Will Mubarak’s 30-year rule come to an end? That remains to be seen. It is the height of hypocrisy to sing the praises and merits of democracy to the Arab world and then turn away if there are indications that such transparent obedience to the true aspirations of sections of the Arab world would germinate leadership that is intransigently opposed to America’s self-interests. All genuine lovers of freedom and democracy should stand shoulder to shoulder with the Egyptian people at this time at this time. If the Egyptians succeed in divesting themselves of the shackles of a corrupt and repressive government, it will significantly mark the birth pangs of democracy; yes it will usher in a wave of progressive hysteria and a populist government which will be copied in other parts of the Middle East.