Russian Elections: The Rise (Fall?) of Putin

The prompt arrival of the presidential elections in Russia have instigated an abundance of media coverage about the inevitable return of Putin to power, a 3rd term in office, but questions remain whether his post-Soviet mentality will survive the calls for democratization.

Will Putin's Post-Soviet Mentality Withstand Popular Demand for Democratization?

Vladimir Putin was president from 200 until 2008 when he helped usher his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, into the Kremlin and became premiere because the Russia constitution sets a limit of two successive presidential terms.  Nevertheless, Putin has remain Russia’s dominant leader and forging a “tough-guy” image in the media, demonstrating his physical capabilities and taking part in unusual or dangerous acts, such as extreme sports and interactions with wild animals.  Despite his correlation to a fraud-tainted parliamentary election in December, Putin has illustrated his political prowess by reversing the drop in popularity to such an extent that many suggest Putin will be elected Russia’s new president with two-thirds of the vote.  Similar to Putin’s previous two presidential terms in 2000 and 20004, Putin will most likely win the election in the first round and a run-off  is practically impossible, dashing hopes of many opposition groups.  The level of popularity for Putin is not entirely unfounded, as Putin’s initial years as President came at a time of unprecedented economic and social decay, mostly a result from the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  During Putin’s presidency, the Russian economy grew for 9 straight years, seeing GDP increase 72%, poverty decrease by more than 50%, and an average monthly salaries increase from $80 to $640.  So saying, why is it that Putin’s popularity has begun to drop?  Why is it that Putin’s past history may conflict with the modernization of Russia, and result in either his usurpation or reversion of polices?

“In spite of everything, Yeltsin’s time saw radical change, with very little control.  The whole time there was something ‘Wild West’ about it, but it lacked the structure to allow a normal society to develop.  It led Putin to power, but a legal-legislative-framework did not exist.” – Gilles Chenesseau, Vice-President of the France-Russia Chamber of Commerce

Despite the evidence of Putin’s fame and glory in Russia, a new age of modernization may soon be challenge to the Soviet era ideals of the former KGB officer.  Putin’s stance on the Western powers is depicted by his prior indoctrination in Soviet ideology, which has impressed upon him, until this day, a fundamental mistrust of the West.  The tension and Russia-US opposition has been most evident in the Arab Spring, in which Russia has failed to support the UN and the international coalition known as “Friends of Syria” in disposing of Bashar al-Assad, the last remaining ally of Russia.  Bashard al-Assad has been supported by the Russian regime since before the collapse of the USSR, demonstrating the correlation between the current Russian state and its ill-fated “evil empire”.  Putin still retains from the Soviet period a great suspicion of the West.  The democratic demonstrations currently on-going in Russia, coupled with the protests against the fraudulent elections in December, is seen by Putin as part of a Western plot to harm Russia.  Putin views much of the recent protests as a continuation of the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in 2005.  In both cases, these former Soviet states decided to choose pro-Western leaders in 2000 and 2004, consequently leading to Putin firmly believing that the West was behind those protest movements, a so-called Western plot, which in the end would come to revert Russia.

“First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.  As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy.” – Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of Russia

Putin’s neurotic view of world affairs stems from the underlining insecurity of the Kremlin that was acknowledged by George Kennan in his Long Telegram.  Russia’s fears emanated from its contact with the economically advanced West, fear of more competent, more powerful, more highly organized societies in that area.  This latter type of insecurity was more eminent in Russian rulers; as the rule of these Russian leaders was relatively archaic in form, fragile and artificial in its psychological foundation, and unable to stand comparison or contact with the advanced political system of Western countries.  Much of this has not changed with Putin’s perspectives; as Putin fears Western influence in Russia after his efforts to restore Russian grandeur through brutish policies, mimicking Bismarck’s “Blood and Iron”, that accomplished restoring territorial and political integrity to the new Russian state.  After the collapse of the USSR, Boris Yeltsin offered hopes to the world of a democratized Russia by introducing capitalism and the free market.  All of this was done too quickly and too chaotically, leaving a country in the midst of social anarchy and economic disparity, all of which Putin sought to put in order.  Instead of extending democracy however, Putin cracked down on media freedoms and made things much more oppressive in Russia.  Putin oversaw a rollback on post-Soviet freedoms during his tenure as president, scrapping gubernatorial elections and introducing tough laws on political parties.

“It can go one of two ways.  It can go the way of gradual reform, in a way that opens up a political system, takes account of different points of views, allows this active generation of people who have grown to use choice in every aspect of their life, and now want choice in their political system.  Or it can go another way: it can go back to repression, after the election.  I think repression will be very difficult; people have lost the fear now and they are ready to stand up for their rights.” – Tony Halpin, Bureau Chief of British Newspaper “The Times”

Putin’s stance as a relic of a Soviet regime, decades now dissolved, will usher in tension between his post-Soviet mentality and the growing vocal majority of democratized youth.  The thaw, of “destalinization” of the USSR under Khrushchev was the first introduction of western liberalism in Russia, but was reverted to an oppressive regime under Brezhnev.  So saying, Putin’s first presidential term was marked by the return of oppressive policies and post-Soviet political repression.  The order and stability brought into the country did instill large level of support and popularity for the Putin regime, but the perpetuation of media and political oppression has transcended the patience of the people.  According to a Levada Poll, the support ratings for Putin has dropped 20%.  Putin will not be able to consolidate his seat of presidential power through the implementation of like-minded policies as previously.  Since his departure as President, the new generations of Russia have been witness to the power of popular protests, the success in neighboring countries, the success in the Arab Spring, as well as the freedom of Western people under the liberal policies they desire.  No longer will Putin be able to repress them with his post-Soviet ideals and if he tries, the repercussion will not be far different from the violent protests in the Middle East and North Africa.  Putin reign of power, and terror if he attempts repression, will be very short-lived if he does not modernize his stance on foreign and domestic affairs.

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America: Economic Sadism and Mass Media

The disillusionment of society is fueled by an intensifying involvement of corporate corruption in the manipulation of the press corpse, perpetuating the crippling blindness of Americans to the evident truth that is the economic decay of their surroundings; thus illustrating an ever-growing divide, a disparity, in which the glorified land of opportunities is enjoyed by a select few.

The American Economy is Diseased, Leaving Millions Homeless and Unemployed

Once again, the masses of society are led astray by promises of a better tomorrow, a nonexistent paradise of equality and opportunism enjoyed by all Americans.  Resembling a constricting suffocation, the masses are enveloped by a gilded truth designed by corporate America, a false sense of security and complacency that disguises the ultimate truth that the American economy is diseased.  The bright lights of America shine brighter each day and the headlines read “Recession Over, June 2009”, ensuring the masses that America is ultimately too big to fail.  The headlines in Times Square, funded and built by the corporate investment in the misfortunes of others, has succeeded in conditioning society into unquestionable loyalty.   Repeatedly the scribblers of media strain to ensure that the facts fit the false charges, maintaining the structural plans of an America founded on lies and deceit.  The freedom of press has become an asset of corporate America, puling the wool over the eyes of the masses and using the people’s voice to sell the capitalist propaganda of materialism.  The manipulation of media has produced an endless stream of products and images that provide a societal image of gilded quality, an image of perfection that no one can be but that everyone strives to be.  The manipulation of media has fueled an economic sadism that tortures its bystanders with false promises, a blitzkrieg of images that leaves Americans with eyes wide open but not truly seeing.  As the masses sing their slogans and march to the stores of materialistic pleasures, millions go hungry and the economic situation continues to perpetuate a growing stagnation.  As the masses march to songs not of their own, the economic system of America sleuths forwards without a federal budget and a growing debt of $15.5 trillion that seems to only be felt by the American proletariat.

“The kids are sick and tired of the news today.  Sick and tired of all the lies.  We want the truth.  It isn’t going to be no paradise.  Forget the claims.  Oh no!  We need to take the world back now.  We need to take control right now.” – Anti-Flag, “No Paradise”

The American system propagates a Darwinian fiscal struggle, allowing the rich to maintain their lofty suites and private jets while the other 99% are struggling to support a family, their children’s education, the mortgage on their homes and ensure a leftover for food.  A theology of necessary sacrifice has corrupted society to believe in the necessity of their struggle to support an economic system that rewards only the minority with materialistic pleasures but robs the majority of their humanity and free will.  The vertical legitimacy of America is secured through fiscal suppression of the masses, producing repercussions that are felt by the complacent majority but producing riches for the dictatorial 1% of elitists.  The number of homeless and foreclosures grow every day, clearly illustrating the truth that our great depression exists still.  From 1948 until 2010, the American unemployment rate averaged 5.70% and yet today the unemployment rate is averaged at 8.50%, with millions of people homeless and therefore unaccounted for in employment statistics.  The majestic lady of liberty stands erect, open arms and open heart, calling for the world’s tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  The bold text, idealistic and riveting, capturing the gaze of the tinkerers of the world.  Just another slogan to be utilized by the monopolized corporations of America, a union of corrupt CEOs dedicated to the manipulation of the ignorance of society.  With millions homeless and unemployed, the gates of America stand rusted and permanently open to an endless stream of foreign workers, each group a source of cheaper labor than the one previous.  The American “joe”, lured into a sense of security and complacency stand by and watch as the slogan of “America: by and for the people” becomes replaced by “America: for and by the corporations”.

He huffs glue to escape their bitter homes.  He’s just one of desperate ranks, who can’t break free from the bright lights of America, life and death in sold out ‘Merica.  To live and die in the heart of America, where they sell souls.” – Anti-Flag, “The Bright Lights of America”

The American nation has become an add, a “sold on t.v.” propaganda that illuminates the grandeur of pebble beach, of Hollywood stars, and New York CEOs, highlighting a biased interpretation that masquerades all Americans in masks of gold and bejeweled beauty.  Nevertheless, the real Americans are worn and tired behind the wheels of a mechanical construction that propels the American corporation forward, a construct that symbolizes equality and freedom yet hides the truly huddled masses that are bent and stooped in exhaustion of carrying around such a false ideal.  The homeless, unemployed, “under-employed” and any class not of the 1% elites are battered and bruised into submission by a manipulative overseer that wields authority through the media, the state, the corporations, and the capitalist hierarchy of society.  The individualism of society has been broken by a homogenizing culture, creating a society of state cloned tools to serve the purpose of the corporations.  The state of America is supported and held erect by a steady investment of corporate wealth.  This wielded influence allows the corporations to dictate the processes of the American political and economic situation, becoming a big brother image that soon controls the masses as well.  The evidence surrounds the American people, but they have chosen to see what lies ahead, an image of blissful retirement that hangs on a string  permanently out of reach.  Like a pack mule lured by the carrot a head, the American people are guided by false promises of paradise that will never truly be reached.  The slogans of America, attesting to equality of all, is refuted by the unwillingness of the 1% to pay a tax rate higher than those that already struggle to survive on scraps and crumbs.  Rather, the 1% are carried along by the pack mules of America, resplendent in overzealous displays of wealth and greed.

“Close your eyes and shield your ears.  Shut your mouth and conceal all your fears.  What we want and what we need, they’ve engineered.  I can smell the bullshit right from here.” – Anti-Flag, “The Great Depression”

The American people are forced to squabble and feud over the positions of status, the hopes of aspiring power and wealth dividing a nation of brothers and sisters.  With a fire behind them, the American people trudge forward and wonder whether the next day there will be enough money left to provide a dinner for their family. Meanwhile, the elites of society are faced with one problem, whether they will have a wine from the 1980 harvest or the 1990 harvest.  The ranks of the masses are lied to by the media, forced into the lower levels of a capitalist hierarchy by the controlling CEOs of the system.  The political system is at the beck and call of the corporations and Americans refuse to acknowledge that the plague of their system is the system itself.  The revolution of thought, the revolution for change will only come when the people change themselves.  Yet, with an entire system pulling its united weights against such change, what pathways are open to the people?  A homogenized society will leave those brave enough to challenge it,  alone and isolated.  A sense of claustrophobia and suffocation will envelope those that strive to make a difference, their chains that were thought broken and left behind, will return and pull them down into an endless sea of obedient followers.  Nevertheless, the voices are needed and the people must come to the realization that this pyramid of society will be lost without its base.  What is this base?  The people, the submissive and complacent masses are the fundamental structure that permits the pyramid to function.  In order for the corrupt and malicious on the top to be removed, change must start at the bottom.  The hardest battle the American people will ever have to fight, is the battle to  just be individualistic and strive to remove the weights of conformity and blissful ignorance.  The CEOs are nothing without the people, the system is nothing without its people.  No longer can their gas and guns, clubs and thugs, and their lies on tv, hold the people down.  A system in which millions starve, millions walk homeless, and where millions are unemployed, is not a system dedicated to the equality of all.

“Get up!  Get up!  Your voices are needed.  Become, become the pulse of the revolution.  In the ranks of the masses rising.” – Anti-Flag, “Ranks of the Masses Rising”

Challenging the status quo is imperative for the situation at hand to be changed, to be reverted to a system in which the people truly wield the authority that was promised to them.  America’s constitutions and rights have been bought and sold on the black market, leaving an alienated and forgotten people to scrounge for whatever morsels of food they can find.  The looming debt, approaching $16 trillions, has funded corporate and government programs that have never benefited the people.  The budget of the US has focused on investment in the neocolonialism of oil corporations around the world, on buying bullets and buying guns and all in the hands of killers and thugs, and a budget guided by the interests of a select few.  The truth is all too clear, but is not propagated or supported because of the lack of media assets; rather, the media assets available and trusted by the masses are run by corporations.  Nearly all mass media are owned and controlled by a handful of conservative capitalist.  There is no alternative method of distributing the people’s news, their information, their ideas.  The people must be united to take a stand and tell the truth.  The truth is seen as a conspiracy, a plot to undermine the security of the masses, but what is not understood is that there is no security, the masses have been lied to and manipulated into a false sense of complacency.  The economic system is plagued, infesting society and the political infrastructure of America, resulting in a flawed image that attests to the misplaced faith and belief in a country that was bought and sold by corporations.

Syria: “Friends of Syria” Contact Group

Syrian government forces unleashed another round of heavy artillery barrage on a rebel-held district of the city of Homs, killing 21 and wounding some 340 people, a use of indiscriminate violence that is serving to escalate the pressure on the international coalition known as “Friends of Syria”.

Bashar al-Assad Has No Fear of International Retaliation

As security forces perpetuate a near-constant barrage of bombardment for the 18th day on Homs, Western powers and the Arab League are preparing for a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” contact group in Tunisia on Friday to pressure Assad to step down.  The International Committee of the Rec Cross (ICRC) have been negotiating a pause in the fighting to allow them to bring aid to civilians suffering the horrendous conditions of the Syrian revolution, but the use of deadly force against unarmed civilians is evidence of the reality that the regime is devoid of sentiment.  Activists said government forces launched attacks on Homs after rebel fighters holding the opposition Baba Amro district blocked troops from entering.  The London-based Syria Network for Human Rights said at least 250 shells and rockets had hit Baba Amro since the morning, leaving 21 dead and many others buried under the rubble.  Homs, a city of 1 million, has been at the heart of the uprising against Assad’s 11 year rule.

“There were hundreds of demonstrators at the main square of Hajar al-Aswad and suddenly buses of security police and shabbiha (pro-Assad militia) turned up and started firing into the crowd.” – Abu Abdallah, Syria activist

In response to mounting international pressure to provide military aid to opponents of Assad, US Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham outlined ways – including military aid, though not necessarily with direct US involvement 0 to usher along the oust of Assad.  Members of the “Friends of Syria” contact group include foreign ministers from US, France and the European Union.  The group was constructed after repeated vetoes by Russia and China of the resolution proposed by the United Nations Security Council.  The US has described the contact group as a route around the UN to pressure the Assad regime, that will discuss sanctions, humanitarian support and support for a democratic transition in Syria.  Meanwhile, Russia and China have remained fairly resolute in their stance to oppose foreign intervention in Syria, backing Assad’s own program for reform, which has been a mocking attempt at a referendum for a new constitution.  The referendum, limiting the term of the presidency, has already begun to crumble and also comes at a period in time in which security forces have unleashed an unfaltering barrage of violence, clearly illustrating the symbolic nature of Assad’s reform agenda.

“We’ll send a clear message to Russia, China and other who are still unsure about how to handle the increasing violence but are up until now unfortunately making the wrong choices.” – Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State

Parallel to the tactics used by his father Hafez in 1982, Bashar al-Assad is under the impression that since indiscriminate violence work then, it can work again.  The difference between 1982 and 2012 is that the Syrian uprising is much more widespread, publicized and recognized then the one city uprising of 1982.  The use of indiscriminate violence in 1982 was not spoken of until many months afterwards; therefore, there were not perpetuation of domestic anti-government expression because of the knowledge that if one city could be utterly silenced then their risk would go unheeded too.  Now, however, the Syrian rebels are widespread, the international community is aware of it and there is an outspoken cry for reform throughout the country that is publicized and supported.  This unrelenting force for change, a tidal wave that is growing in size, is also beginning to influence those few allies that Syria still has, such as Russia.  The Chief of the Arab League, which has suspended Syria for its crackdown on protesters, said Russia and China might tempter their support for Assad.  It is true that Russia will not attend the international meeting on the conflict on Syria; due to the fact that the Syria government will not be represented, but the Russia Foreign Minister is vocalizing his support for a special humanitarian envoy to Syria from the UNSC.  Russia has called for Europe, the US and the Arab region to join force and bring together the Syrian opposition and government, without preconditions, to help them agree on reforms.  As Russia’s last ally in the Middle East, Russia has been providing arms and tanks for the purpose of protester suppression but this sign, though slight, of willingness to end the violence is a stepping stone to a potential reversion of the former anti-UN intervention policy of Russia.

“There are indications coming from China and to some extent Russia that there may be a change in position.” – Nabil Elaraby, Arab League Secretary-General

Moreover, Chinese leaders will be visiting Turkey where talks are expected to focus on violence in Syria.  On Saturday, China said it supporter the Arab League’s proposal to end the conflict and end the Assad regime.  The seemingly contradictory stance from China appears to reflect their desire for mediation while remaining averse to UN involvement that could lead to the authorization of force, as happened in Libya.  Despite this possibility of Russian and Chinese support, a potential divide at the meeting risks paralyzing the international response to Syria’s conflict as humanitarian crisis widens in part of the country.  In contrast to the caution of the US administration over becoming more involved in Syria’s crisis, some Arab states have sought overt support for Syria’s armed opposition.  A decision not to press to arm the opposition is likely to push countries in the region, such as the Gulf state of Qatar, to act on their own, funneling funds and arms to various factions in Syria, which could spur regional spillover conflict.  However, any multilateral decision to lend support to armed groups in the opposition risks not only antagonizing Russia and China, but also formalizing the sectarian fault lines regionally.

Iran: Nuclear Programme and the International Atomic Energy Agency

Tehran’s nuclear program has sparked an intensification of global tension as the European Union has increased its pressure on Iran through sanctions and Israel has threatened military actions against the threat of Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

Iran has Irritated Western Powers with Nuclear Build-up

Officials from the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency begin another round of talks on Monday with Iranian officials over the country’s nuclear program.  The scheduled talks between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iranian officials are seen as an opportunity for the agency to verify Iranian claims that its nuclear activities are simply for electricity generation.  Iran says it is producing enriched uranium to fuel civilian power plans and has refused international demands to halt its production.  Nevertheless, Western nations remain skeptical and believe the program is geared towards making weapons, claims that are supported by a November report by the IAEA that suggested Iran had carried out some weapons-related research.

“Importantly, we hope for some concrete results from the trip.  The highest priority remains of course the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme, but we want to tackle all outstanding issues.  This is of course a very complex issue that may take  while.  But we hope it can be constructive.” – Herman Nackaerts, Chief Inspector from the International Atomic Energy Agency

The information from the IAEA in November had stated the Iran had carried out tests relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.  This information led to a decision by the US and the European Union to tighten sanctions against Iran, including measures targeting the country’s lucrative oil industry.  In retaliation to the increased EU sanctions, Iran’s oil ministry halted crude exports to French and British companies.  The EU sanctions put in place last month are meant to force Iran to provide more information on its nuclear program by the shutting of its sales of crude oil, which generates half of Iran’s revenue.  The EU is to enforce a full-force oil embargo beginning on July 1st but some of the EU’s 27 members have already stopped purchasing oil from Iran and others are reducing their purchases.  The UK, Austria and Portugal did not import any oil from Iran in the period from January to September 2011.  Belgium, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, which bought a total of 2.38 million tons of Iranian crude in that period, have not stopped purchases and Italy, Spain and Greece are currently reducing imports.  The gestures are largely symbolic though, as Iran has various trading partner outside of the EU, yet the EU is largely dependent on Iran for its crude exports.  The 5-month phase-in period, during which existing contracts between EU members and Iran are allowed to continue, is meant to give member states time to find alternative supplies.

“Iran has no difficulty in selling and exporting its crude oil.  We have our own customers and have designated alternatives for our oil sales.  We shall sell to new customers, who will replace French and UK companies.” – Ali Reza Nikzad-Rahbar, ministry spokesman

Meanwhile, Israel has made it clear that it considers a nuclear-arms Iran an existential threat, and has made it clear that it is considering an attack on Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure.  The threat illustrates the tension existing between Israel and Iran, as well as intensified the already precarious position of the US in attempting to mediate the cold conflict between its Middle Eastern ally and a historical enemy.  The Us believes that talk of military strike against Iran’s nuclear program is premature and has advised Israel that an attack would be counterproductive.  Israel is surrounded by religious and cultural enemies, many of which received Iranian support during repeated occasions of embroiled war with Israel.  The complicated situation is what has influenced US diplomatic tactics, coercing Israel through political rhetoric and the implementation of still-tougher sanctions.

“I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us.  I think Israel has the capability to strike Iran and to delay the production of the capability of Iran to achieve nuclear weapons status, probably for a couple of years, but some of the targets are probably beyond their reach and, of course, that’s what concerns them.  That’s this notion of a zone of immunity that they discuss.” – General Martin Demspey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

In retrospect, Iran has long stood as a polarized extreme against the West and its build of nuclear capabilities is yet another illustrious example of its gun-ho attitude towards show-boating and cold threats. Iran’s tactics to oppose Western intervention or influence have been through diplomatic, theoretical and indirect fashions.  Though it has agreed to this UN/Western intrusion upon its country, the findings will confirm what Tehran wants it to confirm, that the uranium facilities spoken of are for peaceful purposes.  Iran’s intentions are merely to instigate more Western animosity in its country and throughout the Middle East and thus securing their stance as a superpower, of sorts, in the Middle East.  This stance as a Middle Eastern “democracy” will serve as a gradual lure to many of the liberalizing and revolting countries throughout North Africa and the Middle East during this perpetuating “Arab Spring”

America: Conveyor Belt Society

The depravity of sentiment and meaning has encompassed American society to the extent that the pursuit of happiness in life has been defined by self-indulgence and societal expectations, homogenizing aspirations and the extinct concept of individualism; thus creating a society in which millions equate only one, in which an individual can be surrounded by his fellows yet go unseen, in which a gilded society has emerged to reflect the helplessness and hopelessness of its children who constitute its flawed foundation.

Ignorance is Bliss?

Seeking to illustrate an alternative interpretation then already expressed in the post “Capitalism: ‘Existential Crisis’“, this post seeks to concentrate more on societal corruption and its inherent influence on the American Dream, the manipulation of expectations and a constructed ideology of blissful conformity that has homogenized culture.  To begin, there exists an unsustainable fiscal drive of greed and lustful indiscretion that has led to the exponential growth of corrupt multinational corporation that have undermined the chivalry and humanity of society.  A bureaucratic hierarchy of manipulative puppet-masters has thus emerged, dictating the rise and fall of the public,  and suggesting a perverse understanding that life is merely a game played by the elites at the expense of the working people.  Directionless and purposeless, the puppets muster their numbers, singing the same tune and marching to the same beat, representing a growing truth that society is a cloned state tool.  These puppets are surrounded by a cult of personality in which the justification for lies and deceit is a flawed sense of patriotism, a gleaming symbol of America’s greatness, whose bright lights are funded by corporations invested in neocolonialism and slavery in developing worlds.  The luminous signs of Wall Street, Time Square, Hollywood and South Beach are aglow with the sweat, tears and sacrifices made around the world for the sole purpose of blinding American society to the truth of their existence, the reality that their freedoms and individualism have been sacrificed to their puppet-masters.  So saying, the homogeneous state of society has illustrated that society is trained to pursue goals and standards defined by corporate belief in wealth and power, the founding stones of American politics and economics.  The puppet-masters dictate social rules, suggesting the American notion of freedom does not truly exist, as their ambitions are regulated by this preconceived social theology.

“The schools that they send us to are prisons.  The same can be said of their churches too.  I don’t want my mind or my arms tied in bondage.  I don’t want to be another cloned state tool.” – Anti-Flag, “We Want To Be Free”

So saying, the social pathway to the American future has no evident direction.  Americans are solely living on a metaphorical conveyor belt that has a predetermined slot for each individual, each no different from the other except for stature in the social stratosphere of capitalist bureaucracy.  This does not suggest that there is a form of socialism in America, in that each individual’s place in society is similar to another; rather, this implies that people are guided along similar pathways based upon their intellect and skills but these capabilities also determine at which level of the pyramid they are placed.  These pathways for Americans are accompanied by a set of blinders, forcing the people to move forward and remain resolute on one pathway, never straying from the path.  The people wave the flag and mindlessly salute, never straying from social acceptance and this conformity to a uniform lifestyle of American materialism. With a cult of personality defined by a propaganda campaign championed by media assets that talk it up daily, pull the wool over the eyes of the masses, stab the people in the back for the corporate choice and roll the propaganda out suing a manipulated perversion of the people’s voice, the conveyor belt can never falter.  These media assets talk until their faces turn blue – red, white and blue.

“Life can lead you along on a leash, or you can break free and run your own. Don’t waste your life.  Go and live your life like it’s the last day here on this earth.” – Anti-Flag, “Go West”

As the blinders keep society complacent and quiet, the country is brought to ruin by the polarization and disruption of progress in politics, most evidently influenced by capitalist values.   The American political system is influenced by oaths to special interests groups, resulting in an ideological extremism that, by its very natures, opposes progress and the concept of the American Dream.  The American Dream speaks of opportunity, safe haven, freedom and representation in a political system designed to speak and act for the people.  Nevertheless, the current perpetuation of political dysfunction illustrates the flawed system of Washington, as well as the inability for people to change it.  With a conveyor belt dictating that pathway forward for the American community, there seems to be no evident way in which these problems can be fixed.  The immediacy of gratification and media content keeps Americans complacent and docile, firm in the belief that America’s problems will always fix themselves.  Those beliefs have led to a $16 trillion debt, multiple government shutdowns, and an alienated Selectorate base.  For many people, life is simpler without delving into its hidden crevices but some have seen this corruption and senseless injustice that is depriving people of their rights, and these few are acting out against it.  In every society, revolutionaries are condemned as an enemy for speaking out about the accepted norms of life.  The Middle East is evidence enough of the consequences of free expression, yet they remain resolute in their revolutions and liberal pathway.

“I don’t need you to tell me what to do and I don’t need you to tell me what to be.  I don’t need you to tell me what to say and I don’t need you to tell me what to think.” – Anti-Flag, “Die For Your Government

The government keeps its people in line, tells them what to think and what to say. The American people are not free, they are bound head to toe in chains consisting of laws and regulations that the American people were not consulted about before implementation.  With laws and rules from the founding of this nation still governing modern society, the inability for progress to emerge is not difficult to grasp.  So saying, society is told what its future should entail and this is evident in the American education system in which thousands of dollars are invested in an ever-increasing tuition cost, which is reciprocated by the promise of employment for a corporation that will only abuse and smother its employees.  An ever-increasing tuition, representing elements of corporate corruption, and yet millions of people starving around the world and the American people hardly spare a second glance unless reminded to by a television advertisement pleading for only a few cents for a starving child.  Only so often are American aware of the savages of the world and yet despite the millions spent on materialist items, the few cents begged for by a short advertisement will go unheeded.  So saying, the conveyor belt of society produces lawyer after lawyer, doctor after doctor, and banker after banker, but there is no sentiment of human emotion associated with these state tools that have been indoctrinated into the American cult of personality: strive for self-improvement and success at the expense of those weak and foolish.  To what extent can America’s youth seek to pursue higher level of education with the knowledge that the conclusion is a Darwinian struggle for achievement at another’s expense?  To what extent can the youth of American be coerced into pursuing careers their interests are not aligned with but  must because of their intellectual capabilities?

“Everyone keeps asking, ‘Why’s he so pissed and so angry?’.  When there’s killing this world, of men and women, boys and girls, for the sake of a dividend gain.  These actions proclaimed in our name, turn Stars and Stripes to shades of shame.” – Anti-Flag, “Gifts from America: With Love, The USA”

In retrospect, the end of individualism has brought about a society of homogenized clones that pursue similar interests, careers and life choices because of the set standards that have been incorporated into conformist society because of the influence of capitalism and corporatism into this pathway.  Propaganda and politics have dictated the way their constituency think, creating a hierarchy of puppet-masters each of which have their own strings and puppets.  There is no truth behind the claims of freedom and liberty in American society; rather, they are mere slogans of interest that mimic those of consumer products like “Budweiser”, “Nike” and “McDonalds”.  The American people have been indoctrinated into a cult of personality belonging to a democracy run by corporations, special interest groups and elitists.

Libya: Tribal Warfare

Despite the death of Moammar Qaddafi half a year ago, the humanitarian violence perpetuates under Libyan militias with hundreds of tribal militias extorting money and killing their enemies.

Libya's Militias Are Out Of Control

Amnesty International has reported that Libya’s tribal militias are out of control, with the torture and murder of former Qaddafi loyalist (or suspected loyalists) remaining widespread.  During and immediately after the civil war, the militias after the civil war, the militias murdered countless numbers of Qaddafi supporters in captivity, tortured many others, and razed the homes of other to punish them for their political beliefs.  Without a central authority demanding control over the countryside, the militias are quickly turning Libya into a regional warzone, divided by tribes.  According to the Amnesty International report, 16% of Libyans sad they were ready to resort to violence for political end, clearly threatening hopes for a new Libya.  During Libya’s civil war, many of the revel leaders and supporters spoke confidently and often about a new era of respect for human rights that would be ushered in.  Nevertheless, the scenes coming out of Libya illustrate quite a different scenario, regional warfare that has already claimed over 30 lives in the last 4 days.

“Militias in Libya are largely out of control and the blanket impunity they enjoy only encouraged further abuses and perpetuates instability and insecurity.  Militias with a record of abuse of detainees should simply not be allowed to hold anyone and all detainees should be immediately transferred to authorized detention facilities under the control of the National Transitional Council.” – Donatella Rovera, spokesperson for Amnesty International

With Libya elections planned in June, the violence and anarchic scenes do not bode well for a fair and accountable process, unless the militias are brought under some kind of control.  There has been no investigation into the murder of 65 people In Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte last October, nor has there been any response to the 30,000 people from Tawargha whom were expelled from their homes and have not been allowed to return for supposedly having supported Qaddafi.  The news vindicates a study published by the Institute of Human Sciences at the University of Oxford, which suggests that more than a third of Libya’s citizens would rather return to being ruled by a strongman authoritarian than embrace any democracy.  The threat of tribal warfare encompassing the entire country becomes all too real when taken into account the large stockpiles of weapons that lay strewn about after the collapse of the Qaddafi regimes.  For decades, the Libyan dictator stockpiled thousands of Man-Portable-Air-Defense Systems, or MANPADS.  By the time his regime collapses in October 2011, Libya had accumulated the largest stockpile of MANPADS of any non-MANPADS producing country in the world.  The US is assisting with MANPAD control and destruction program through the deployment of a State Department expert from the MANPADS Task Force.  Thus far, they have been able to identify, recover and secure approximately 5,000 MANPADS and components.  Nevertheless, the chaos in the regions does stunt proliferation efforts, and the possibility that tribal militias have already secure their own stockpiles is a very real threat.

“Looking for the future, the leadership in Libya will need to ensure a comprehensive overhaul of laws and practices that facilitated the systemic perpetration over decades of human rights abuses in a climate of total impunity, and that triggered the anti-government movement in the first place.  Only then will the hopes of Libyans for a better future – one of equality before the law, social justice, and the respect for human rights – be realized.” – Amnesty International, The Battle for Libya: Killings, Disappearances and Torture

The most hostile of tribal wars, is taking place in the southeast, near the border of Egypt, Chad and Sudan.  There, the dark-skinned Toubo tribe, which was persecuted under Qaddafi, is under attack by the larger and lighter-skinned Zwai.  The Toubo tribe accuses the NTC of backing the Zwai, already demonstrating dissent and the nigh impossibility of appeasing cultural rifts among these tribes.  There has been a long racial and ethnic conflict along the southern border of the Sahara Desert, where light-skinned Arabs, Tuaregs and Berbers come into conflict with the darker-skinned Africans.  Many of the Tuaregs and Berbers were used a mercenaries and troops by Qaddafi’s regime. Many of them were killed during the uprising, but the survivors have returned to Mali with their own ideas of a rebellion, as well as hopes for retribution for their lost brothers at the hand of the NTC.  Moreover, tribal and local militias contain over 100,000 armed men organized into several hundred separate groups.  Many are only a few dozen local men with some weapons and a leader.  Some militias have over a thousand armed men, heavy weapons and an agenda.  While some 5,000 militiamen have joined the new Libyan Army, nearly a hundred militias in Western Libya have formed their own separate organization.

EU: The Ashes of Athens – Athens is Burning

Greece enacted billions of Euros in spending cuts and austerity measures last night in a volatile parliamentary vote, an attempt to avoid another potential default on its national debt and keep the precariously perched Eurozone intact.

The Streets of Athens Burn as MPs Approve Yet Another Series of Austerity Measures

The members of Greece’s much hated and targeted parliament passed the austerity bill amid some of the worst rioting and political violence witnessed in the country in years.  The caretaker government has ordered for a further 3.3billion Euros of savings by slashing wages and pensions and laying off public sector workers, resulting in more than 40 buildings being set ablaze and stored looted and destroyed.  The story holds little new for observers, as the country is in its 5th year of recession and has little prospect of halting a steep decline in living standards.  The turmoil of the streets was mimicked by division inside the parliament, with strong dissent among the two main coalition members.  A total of 37 politicians from the majority of Socialists and conservative New Democracy party either voted against the party line or abstained.  A further 6 voted against sections of the legislation.  After the vote, the caretaker government announced that those 43 MPs had been expelled.

“I am calling on you to vote for the new loan agreement because I want to avoid falling onto the abyss, to restore stability, so that we can have the possibility tomorrow to negotiate and change the policy that is being imposed upon us today.  We have to exist first to be able to change it.” – Antonis Samaras, leader of conservative New Democracy party

The ballot, widely seen as the most important in modern Greek history, ignited division in party lines and ignited eruptions of violence that trailed in the parliamentary chambers.  The next step along the lines of the austerity measures necessary to receive Eurozone loans, include a 22% reduction in the minimum wage and 150,000 jobs from the public sector workforce by 2015.  In return, Greece is to receive a second Eurozone bailout in 2 years, worth 130billion Euros in addition to a 100billion Euro write-down of debt by the country’s private creditors, a cut of the real value of private-sector investor’s bond holdings by some 70%.  Greece needs the international funds before March 20th to meet debt repayment of 14.5billion Euros, or suffer a chaotic default that would send reverberating shock-waves throughout the Eurozone.  Nevertheless, street battles between police firing rounds of teargas and demonstrators hurling firebombs and marble slabs left Syntagma square, the plaza in front of the parliament building, already resembling a chaotic war zone.  The scenes of mayhem on the streets of Athens, coupled with political dissent, begs to questions whether Greece has the capacity to implement and carry through with the strict austerity measures.

“Yesterday’s vote in the parliament may have saved the country temporarily from default, but the Greek economy is going bankrupt and the country’s political system is failing.” – Vassilis Korkdis, head of the Greek Commerce Confederation

In retrospect, the scenes of violence and insecurity are a recent intensification of protests for the still-young caretaker government under Prime Minister Lukas Papademos.  Regardless of the social strife, without the bill for future loans, wages and pensions would go completely unpaid, hospitals and schools would be devoid of funding, banks would collapse and people’s savings would be lost.  George Papandreou, the former socialist Prime Minister, declared that Greece was embroiled in war that it had to win, for the sake of restoring faith and credibility to Greece in the long-run.