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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Here's a good article that points how the media ignores larger atrocities in favor of covering the relatively smaller scale disasters in the West Bank and Israel. This article mentions the horrible collapse of a church roof in a remote Colombian village that killed 117 people as a result of FARC's battles with paramilitary groups. More is going on around the world than just what's happening in the Mideast. Read about this "Day Like No Other" and see how the media is missing the global picture.
Former President Jimmy Carter's current visit to Fidel Castro's Cuba has shed some light on the effectiveness of sanctions on the communist caribbean island. Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, U.S. policy has been one of containment and isolation. During the Cold War, this policy was largely symbolic since Cuba was able to get everything it needed from the Soviet Bloc. Cuba got oil and natural resources of energy and the Soviets got sugar. U.S. policy was ineffective, yet necessary.
With the fall of the Soviet Bloc and the end of the Cold War, Cuba was stranded. They were without their protector, their supporter, and their ideological inspiration. With the collapse the Soviets, U.S. policy was left with three possible policy choices:
1) End the embargo and let capitalism infest Cuba and let money decide the destiny of the nation.
2) Offer a dialogue with the Castro government to exchange relaxed trade relations for democratic reforms.
3) Isolate Cuba to such an extent that, without the benefit of Soviet aid, Cuba would suffer into submission and would beg to rejoin the capitalist world.
Unfortunately, U.S. policy chose the third option - except it hasn't worked. Tighter sanctions, with the legislation of the Torricelli Act in 1992 and the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, have done nothing more than put Fidel Castro in a stronger position of control over Cuba. Yes, Cuba's economy suffered initially, but as witness during Carter's current visit, Castro is firmly in control and Cuban education and health care systems are some of the best in the world. Meanwhile, while the U.S. has tried to isolate Cuba economically, European and Canadian companies have been more than happy to fill the void that U.S. companies are prevented from filling. This policy does nothing more than hurt U.S. businesses.
What the U.S. should have done, and should begin as soon as possible, is to implement the first of the three options and let capitalism take its course. It's true no one likes having Fidel Castro in power in Cuba, but instead of trying to force a grassroots revolution against his authority (which has been tried and has miserably failed at the Bay of Pigs), U.S. policy should look to an economic solution to make Castro ineffective. With natural shifts towards capitalism and democracy, Castro's power will become weaker gradually. U.S. policy has proven itself as ineffective. A grand plan of Castro's death followed by a miraculous revolution of democracy initiated by the U.S. is a plan that is far too ambitious and will only earn the U.S. flak when the plan does not go exactly according to plan.
The U.S. should open Cuba up to the alternative of capitalism and democracy. We might be surprised at how well they respond.
The recent 5-4 decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals that race may play a role in university admissions is a decision against progress. While the court ruled that race may be used to "diversify" the student body, it has done little to create true equality - it's main goal. Affirmative Action is just as much racism as the ills of years of society that it was trying to adjust. Society has gotten to a point that Affirmative Action does more harm than good. Affirmative Action does not help those that it was intended to help. Instead, it helps those blacks who are already from affluent backgrounds who contribute little to the true "diversity" of their class. Those black students that are applying to schools such as the University of Michigan Law School must have the abilities to be considered, otherwise they would not have chanced it. All people who apply to such schools are at the top level of intellect. At such a level, "diversity" comes in more shapes and sizes than just race. "Diversity" is a term that has always been attached to race, but it shouldn't. "Diversity" is in economic "class," social consciousness, political spectrum, religious affilation, geographic origin, and many other aspects. To make Affirmative Action just about race is a mistake. Until Affirmative Action is a tool to create all-around diversity, it should be banned, for it discriminates and cheats worthy applicants. Having said that, it's clear that Affirmative Action is not in the business of overall diversity, and therefore, the Supreme Court should make a difinitive stand against such overt discrimination. The Court should make equality its agenda for today, not the tool for fixing the mistakes of the past.
Kudos to Sierra Leone where peaceful, free elections occured today. After years of civil war, the 5 month peace has held and this election is the welcomed result. Everyone and their cousin is voting and the war torn country has shown why democracy is so great. People with no arms, no legs, and other deformities of the cruelties of warfare all came out to vote. Read more about this victory for democracy here. Congratulations Sierra Leone.
It's been a week now that I've had this site and I've suprised myself that I haven't complained about the Patriot Act that was signed by President Bush on October 26, 2001. This Act, while fulfilling the legislative needs of the recovering American people, has been dangerously intrusive to civil liberties. In parts, it all but puts Habeas Corpus on hold. The last president to do that? Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. While that was terrible, most historians overlook it under the circumstances. Apparently this is what Bush is also counting on. While our situation is rough, it is nothing like Lincoln's crisis of a nation divided. But Bush has attempted to claim the same authority. His administration, led by Attorney General John Ashcroft, has been responsible for holding "suspects" for months at a time with no intention of charging them. This is ridiculous. No person should be held in such a way. The United States was founded on freedom and the Bush administration has been using the excuse of "defending freedom" to take away our very freedom.
This is exactly what Tocqueville feared when he wrote Democracy in America. He saw American society so willing to do its own thing that it soon would forget its right to freedom. Slowly, the benign government would become more and more restrictive and soon it would be invading every segment of private life and freedom would cease to exist.
"The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existance; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd."
While the United States has clearly not reached such a point, the argument remains that this administration is leading us down such a road. Tocqueville saw this 200 years ago and now the Bush administration is making it a true reality. Upon the request of Ashcroft, search and seizure laws have been temporarily discarded in favor of total disregard for liberty. He has also made secret arrests allowable, expanded the role of wire-tapping, and limited the access of simple government documents that have always been available under the Freedom of Information Act. Ashcroft has been content to disregard the 1st (freedom of speech, etc.), 4th (search and seizure), 5th (self-incrimination) and 6th (speedy trial) Amendments to the Constitution, but only if his precious 2nd (guns!) and 10th (rights to states) will expand. The attack on basic rights has never been as so overt in such relatively peaceful times.
The worst thing about all this is that, while these actions are clearly unconstitutional and strike at the root of democracy and freedom, such intrusions will never catch up to Ashcroft and Co. By the time paranoia and apprehension has subsided, such tactics will no longer be necessary and surely a Democratic president will have to clean up the mess left by Bush and his "executive privilage." Despite the extreme lack of trust I have for the decisions of the Supreme Court after the recount fiasco, even they must recognize the extreme danger the Constitution is in, even if only temporary. The temporary nature of these injustices is little comfort when the fact remains that an administration has the power, supported by such an unconstitutional law as the Patriot Act, to infringe on the civil liberties of its people.
Rights are being slowly siphoned, is anyone noticing?
The recent vote by the ruling Likud party in Israel is a disaster for any prospects for peace that might have been possible. The party of Ariel Sharon voted that they would never support the creation of a Palestinian state against the urging of the Prime Minister. What a mistake. Mind you, this is all part of a larger attempt by Binyamin Netanyahu to position himself to challenge Sharon for prime minister in the general election next year, but this vote does nothing more than prolong violence and animosity. Peace just got pushed further away.
With this move, Sharon is in a tight spot and in trouble if he wants to seriously talk peace with the Palestinians. It's doubtful that he does, since despite this vote and how it has tied his hands, he's still a stubborn hawk. But even if he had any slight intentions of being rational and dealing with fate - which IS a Palestinian state - his own party has now made that infinately more difficult. It almost makes you feel sorry for the guy. Well, not really, but it does make Sharon seem strangely human, instead of the strong, defiant statesman that he has been the past months.
When you really think about it, this doesn't change a whole lot. Sharon still doesn't want peace, just like his counterpart Yasser Arafat, but now he has an excuse in the form of a party platform. Let's just hope that Sharon and the rest of the Likud party can work things out and be reasonable. However doubtful that is, it needs to happen if Israel is going to save itself from self-destruction at the hands of Netanyahu and his far-right allies.
During the past few months of indecisiveness in the Bush administration, the U.S., without really realizing it, has become Israel's lackey. Since the founding of the Israeli state, the U.S. has always supported Israel to such an extent that without such strong backing the Jewish state would fall to pieces (or be blown to pieces as the case may be). Israel is dependent on the U.S. for it's political support and for it's military assistance. Without the U.S., Israel would be gone.
During the recent conflict, Ariel Sharon has seemed to have forgotten this. Instead, he has portrayed the image that it's exactly reverse. In his own stubborn way, Sharon has made Israel into a defiant, independent nation that won't let the U.S. tell it what to do. How has this occured? The Bush administration has been dragging it's feet on its policy on the current situation and Sharon has taken the offensive, both figuratively and literally. He even had the tenacity to tell his cabinet that, "I control America." Where did this come from? How is the Bush administration allowing Sharon to push it around? While the administration disapproved of the recent attacks on Palestinian-controlled areas, Sharon pushed on regardless. Is he forgetting what's keeping him in power?
The problem is that Sharon knows that the U.S. will always have Israel's back. He knows that the U.S. is incapable of doing a 180 degree turn in policy in such a crucial area. Therefore, Sharon, and his hawk allies, will continue to push the limits of U.S. policy. And as long as the Bush administration is unwilling to put it's foot down, he will continue to do so. The U.S. must show Sharon that he can't play us off. We're all he's got.
Check out this article in the Chicago Tribune to see a good commentary on Sharon's audacity: