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Russia’s v. America’s Records on Democracy and on Whistleblowers’ Safety

Eric Zuesse

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There are multiple quantitative measures for a given nation’s degree of democracy, in comparison with that of other nations, but perhaps the best is the job-approval that the nation’s citizens give of the head-of-state. On that measure, Russia is far more of a democracy than is the U.S., and is second only to China worldwide. On 6 March 2016, the Washington Post bannered, “How to understand Putin’s jaw-droppingly high approval ratings”, and opened, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has an 83 percent approval rating.” It found a way to blame Russian culture for this, because they couldn’t find a way to deny that Putin is extremely favorably viewed by the Russian people, and the WP is rabidly against Russia’s Government; so, blaming Russia’s culture (essentially, blaming Russians) for the findings was the best they were able to do. Could Russia be a more democratic nation than America is? Could China be the world’s most democratic nation? An ordinary American with a closed mind would simply ignore these data, not even be puzzled by these persistent findings; but the answer is clearly yes — those countries might be more democratic than is America. A person who isn’t willing to consider that possibility would be merely time-wasting to read any further here.

Another reasonable way to measure democracy is by how low a percentage of the nation’s citizens are in prison. The nation with the world’s highest percentage of its population in prison is the United States. Only tiny Seychelles, whose total population is under 100,000 and which holds other countries’ convicts in its prisons, is technically the worst. U.S. has 693 prisoners per 100,000 population, whereas Seychelles has 799 per 100,000. Second-highest after U.S. was St. Kitts & Nevis, at 607. Third-highest is Turkmenistan, at 583. Fourth-highest, U.S. Virgin Islands, at 542. Fifth-highest, El Salvador, at 541. Sixth-highest, Cuba, 510. Seventh-highest, Guam, 469. Eighth-highest, Russia, 450. None of these countries would, on this measure, be a “democracy,” but (other than Seychelles) the U.S. would be the most dictatorial — a police-state, on this measure, it’s the very worst nation except perhaps Seychelles.

Another reasonable way of measuring whether a nation is a democracy is the degree of trust that its citizens have in their government. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer showed that 44% of Russians trust their government, and 33% of Americans trust ours. The highest was the 84% of Chinese who trust theirs. 28 nations were ranked: China was #1, Russia #13, U.S. #21. But could China be the world’s most democratic nation? Of course, it could — not by the same means as some of ‘the democratic’ nations use, but more authentically democratic than they — that’s certainly possible. And, as we now see, important data indicate that it is also true.

Another reasonable way to measure democracy is by the population’s happiness (and another common phrase for the population’s happiness is “the general welfare” of the people). In Gallup’s World Happiness Report 2018, the U.S. ranked #18, Russia #59, and China #86, out of the 156 countries surveyed. The top 5 nations in order were: Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland. On the happiness measure, those five, at least, certainly are democracies. Are those five the world’s most democratic nations? And, even if they might not be, the residents in those countries still could be the most fortunate on the planet, because happiness is a goal everywhere. By contrast, democracy is usually viewed as being mainly instrumental toward achieving the public’s happiness. As the sovereignty clause — the opening, the Preamble — in America’s Constitution, says: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” It — the statement of the Constitution’s goals — says nothing about “democracy,” but does mention, as a goal, to “promote the general Welfare,” and that’s just another way of saying, to promote happiness. The sovereignty clause also mentions “Liberty,” “the common defence,” and other things, but nowhere does it even so much as mention “democracy.” But what the sovereignty clause does say that’s the most important thing of all, is its opening seven words, which name what is the sovereign in this country; and, unlike in just about every other legal system, which identifies some god, or some king, as the sovereign, this Constitution was the world’s first which identifies, instead, “We the People of the United States” —- the residents here — as being the sovereign here. And, in line with that sovereignty, the only happiness that it is at all concerned about is “the general Welfare” and “our Posterity.” Repudiation of any aristocracy is thus implicit even in our Constitution’s opening. Perhaps America’s Founders equated disempowerment of the aristocracy as constituting what we today commonly think of as being “democracy.” But if that is what they thought, then this is no longer their country, and this Constitution is no longer America’s Constitution, and that’s just an empirical fact.

Some people would say that a democracy is a nation that trusts its news-media. Trust in Media

is the highest, #1, in China, 71%; and is 42% in #15 U.S.; and is 35% in #20 Russia. (A July 2017 Marist poll however found that only 30% of Americans trust the media. That’s a stunning 12% lower than the Edelman survey found.) In other words: Chinese people experience that what they encounter in their news-media becomes borne-out in retrospect as having been true, but only half of that percentage of Russians experience this; and U.S. scores nearer to Russia than to China on this matter. Simply based on the facts, Americans shouldn’t trust the nation’s media at all; the trust-level is unrealistically high in America, but the ’news’ media deceive the public to believe otherwise (that Americans trust the media too little, instead of too much). (And, then, to top it off, the major media, which had deceived Americans into invading Iraq in 2003, and invading Libya in 2011, etc., allege that the only media which pump fake ‘news’ are small or ‘alternative’ ones, and that the major ‘news’ media — which clearly did it, when it counted the most and so produced those evil horrendous invasions — don’t do it, at all. That’s the biggest lie, of all, incredibly counter-factual: the lie that the major media aren’t the real and most viciously dangerous problem of fake ‘news’ in America.)

A recent poll of Americans showed that “74% think America is a dictatorship; only 21% think it’s not.” Perhaps Americans are more realistic about the government than about the ‘news’ media.

Although one can reasonably debate the degree to which any nation is a democracy, the United States certainly stands rather low on that factor, and stands well below China, and perhaps is lower than Russia, but none of these countries is among the world’s worst — except, perhaps, the U.S., for its having the highest percentage of its people in prison. The percentage of the residents who are in prison is probably the best single commonly available measure of the extent to which a given nation isn’t a democracy. How could it even conceivably be ‘the land of the free’ if it’s got the world’s highest percentage of its people behind bars? The very idea that America is a democracy is, thus, simply ludicrous — on the basis of the data. And, the U.S. is, furthermore, the only country in the entire world where the hypothesis that the nation is a democracy was scientifically investigated and analyzed — and it was found definitely to be false here.

Consequently, whenever the U.S. Government condemns some other country for its ‘dictatorship’ or for its mistreatment of journalists, a pot is calling a kettle black, the statement is pure propaganda, unless the U.S. Government simultaneously admits that it’s a dictatorship — which the U.S. Government certainly is (the only nation that has been scientifically proven to be a dictatorship).

Some people say that Russia cannot possibly be more democratic than is the U.S., because in Russia, investigative journalists and whistleblowers are suppressed if not killed.

Gary Webb was a great American investigative journalist who was shot dead and the ‘news’media slammed and basically smeared him. He had exposed a CIA drug-running operation. His murderer was never identified. The ‘news’media do not honor him.

Phillip Marshal was a great American investigative journalist whose entire family (including himself) was shot dead, and this killing stopped his ongoing deep investigation into the people behind the 9/11 attacks. His murderer(s) was/were never identified. The ‘news’media do not honor him.

The greatest whistleblowers and investigative journalists are treated by the U.S. Government as mega-criminals: prominent examples of this are Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Chelsea Manning. The U.S. Government has now caused Assange to be not only in solitary confinement but held entirely incommunicado, blocked from being able to communicate with the public in any way; his Wikileaks is now incapacitated except as its pre-existing online archive. If that’s not a regime which aspires to spread its dictatorship throughout all countries, then what is? How appropriate, then, is it, that this same Government places the world’s highest percentage of its own citizens into prison? And how appropriate is it that this Government furthermore proclaims itself to be the world’s model of ‘democracy’?

JFK (John Fitzgerald Kennedy) was a U.S. President who started turning against the military-industrial complex and was shot dead in a conspiracy in which Lee Harvey Oswald — someone who might have been a trigger-man in the assassination — got framed for the entire operation, as a ‘lone gunman’.

MLK (Martin Luther King) was America’s greatest orator and ethical leader, and was hated by the bigoted FBI Director, so got shot dead, and the FBI said that a lone gunman James Earl Ray did it, but MLK’s family and supporters believed that the FBI itself did it, perhaps with other government enforcers being involved.

Of course, there have been similar mysteries in Russia. Anna Politkovskaya was a great investigative journalist in Russia, who got murdered, but after many trials, no one has been convicted for it. And there are other instances (just as there are in America).

Unlike in America, no Russian head-of-state has been assassinated since Tzar Nicholas in 1917, when the communists took over Russia. And unlike JFK, who had the legitimacy of being elected to his post, the Tzar did not. Today’s Russian heads-of-state do have to explain themselves to the public and compete in elections, and none has yet been murdered, such as in the United States.

No scientific study has ever been published regarding whether or not Russia is authentically a democracy, nor of whether China is, but there has been one — and only one — scientific study of whether the U.S. is a democracy; and it established that, definitely, the U.S. is not a democracy. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter once even had the courage and honesty to say as much, but the myth goes on because the ‘news’ and ‘history’ about the matter continue to lie, so as to spread the myth — instead of to spread the news and the history — regarding this question, about the American Government, and about its stenographic ‘news’ media. For the U.S. Government to pontificate to the world about ‘democracy’ is an atrocity, because the U.S. itself definitely isn’t one. Americans have simply been deceived. And wherever the public have been deceived, democracy is impossible; only ‘democracy’ can result.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Americas

Murder of George Floyd – On Camera Murder by Neo Ku Klux Klan

M. Abdul Basit

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image credit: Flickr, Fibonacci Blue

Now that the doors of racism have been shut down by law, the de facto persecution of blacks carry on. The cold-blooded murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis officers is one of the many such cases. If the four racist cops could strangulate a handcuffed person on camera, one should be fearful to assume what could they be doing off camera. Until the lion learns how to write, every story will keep glorifying the hunter.

The persecution and segregation of colored people has been done since long. Gone are the days when Rosa Parks could be ordered to leave her seat on bus for a white. And gone should have been the days when Eugene Bull Connor could use state authority to subjugate unarmed protestors in Birmingham during Civil Rights Movement while being filmed on Television. George Floyd kept on begging to let the air in for he was suffocating.The racist cop told him to be easy while putting more pressure on his neck while Floyd laid down on ground with his hands cuffed behind his back. The four armed cops apparently could not find a better way to handle him except strangling him to death. Or perhaps they did not wish to.

The inhumane treatment, especially when done by state authorities, develop grievances in vulnerable communities. A liberal state is meant to treat everyone equally. When Jim Crow Laws were on a high and Ku Klux Klan started to target humans on basis of skin color, it led to the formation of violent groups in African Americans like Black Panther. Violence against particular groups cannot sustain for long in a developed world. When USA tries to proliferate liberal values across the world, it should not remain aloof that despite being the world’s oldest democracy, blacks are still victims of oppression in America.

The white supremacy is not a myth. The Minneapolis officers were able to kill a person while being filmed as well as begged by the civilians to do mercy on Floyd for he didn’t put any threat to them. The cops gave him a slow death without any shame like they were living in a pre-Lincoln era. Luckily, the heinous crime was filmed and all the cops have been terminated but it is likely that without being prosecuted for the cold-blooded murder, it may not give a lesson to other state authorities regarding misuse of their powers.

This is simply a Neo Ku Klux Klan where the Blacks are being oppressed on the basis of color and the murderers get a clean chit. A similar case happened in 2014 when Eric Garner was strangulated when he kept saying “I can’t breathe” while dying and the white officers didn’t face federal charges despite being filmed doing the murder. In the same year, a 12 year old black boy Tamir Rice was carrying a toy gun and he was killed by a white cop. In 2016, Philando Castile was murdered in his car when the situation could be handled pacifically but the police used preemptive measure to kill him right away. There are many cases in recent past that make it evident that The United States of America has not fixed the problem of Ku Klux Klan; rather it is a neo Ku Klux Klan that is de facto segregating and oppressing the colored community. One in every 1000 black males can expect to die at the hands of police in USA.

The Neo Ku Klux Klan needs to be stopped. State institutions must function as they are supposed to perform and not to deal humans with discrimination depending on what color of skin they carry on their flesh. Racism should have been buried when President Kennedy got successful in calling civil rights a moral cause. But racism thrives till today and now with President Donald Trump, it is far from possible to end racism in American society when he himself dehumanizes the blacks. If the state institutions as well as the public does not proactively try to resolve the issues that are a direct threat to human security when it comes to black lives, the dreams of Equality, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness will remain a hoax.

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What do Donald Trump and ultra-conservative Pakistani imams have in common?

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Authors: James M. Dorsey and Tehmina Qureshi*

US President Donald J. Trump and ultra-conservative Pakistani religious scholars may have more in common than either would want to admit: a belief that congregation is an essential pillar of prayer irrespective of public health concerns.

Mr. Trump, however, may wish that he had the kind of less polarized and/or more compliant audience that Pakistani clerics address.

Scores of religious leaders and groups in the United States have sought to protect their communities by advocating virtual rather than physical congregation at the time of a pandemic in which the coronavirus has yet to be brought under control.

Religious authorities in much of the Muslim world, Pakistan being the exception that proves the rule, have heeded government instructions and medical and public health advice.

That advice ranged from the closure of mosques to bans on social gatherings that precluded traditional iftar meals breaking the Ramadan fast and celebrations of this week’s end of the holy month to Saudi Arabia’s suspension of the umrah, the lesser pilgrimage to Mecca and possibly the haj too.

Leaving aside the question whether he has the legal power to do so, Mr. Trump vowed to overrule governors who refused to open houses of worship, noting that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had issued guidelines that included physical distancing.

The move designed to play to Mr. Trump’s Evangelist voter base received a mixed reception among American faith communities.

It appealed to those segments of the community with an unqualified belief in God’s ability and will to protect and that often are steeped in notions of Christian manhood that have deep roots in American Evangelism and were boosted by the 9/11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Towers and the Pentagon in Washington.

Mr. Trump’s recognition of prayer as an “essential” societal activity further drew a line intended to give houses of worship autonomy in an environment in which state intrusion into people’s lives has expanded greatly in a bid to fight the pandemic.

In that sense, the president was fighting a battle similar to that of Pakistani Sunni and Shia Muslim leaders who rejected a total closure of mosques but were willing to accept guidance on issues such as physical distancing.

The leaders see mosques “as spaces where you cultivate  and express a communal religious identity that is very central to…their vision of the Pakistani state,” said a Pakistani Islamic scholar.

The clerics’ determination to retain control of religious spaces was reinforced by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s flip flops that resembled Mr. Trump’s zig zags.

Mr. Khan initially sought to appeal to religious circles by meeting in the early days of the pandemic with Maulana Tariq Jameel, a leader of Tablighi Jamaat, who initially denied the contagious aspect of the virus.

Mr. Jameel reversed course and embraced physical distancing after his movement’s mass gatherings in Pakistan, Malaysia, India and Indonesia turned into super spreaders of the coronavirus.

Mr. Khan’s government further complicated issues by initially agreeing with religious leaders on a division of labour that would have empowered the clerics to advise their followers to stay at home, avoid congregational prayer and maintain physical distancing and then jumping the gun to announce the measures without coordination.

Mosques in major Pakistani cities were packed in recent days, despite religious leaders paying lip service to physical distancing, in a reflection of the degree to which ultra-conservatism has woven itself into the fabric of Pakistani society and in stark contrast to Saudi Arabia’s pre-emptive response to the health crisis.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ruled against government lockdowns, suggesting that the coronavirus was not a pandemic. Religious leaders have since backed away from their acceptance of physical distancing, demanding that the advice be abandoned.

Mr. Trump’s recognition of prayer as essential aligned itself with notions of concepts of religious freedom promoted by his administration, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the lead, that in effect serve to legitimize discrimination against minorities of various stripes.

Few doubt that Mr. Trump made his move with an eye on the US presidential election in November. Mr. Trump was embarking on a road on which mainstream ultra-conservative Pakistani clerics were also travelling.

The clerics remained silent when Ahmadis, a sect viewed as heretic by mainstream Muslims, were excluded from a national commission created by the government earlier this month to promote religious tolerance and counter persecution of minorities.

Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry barred inclusion of Ahmadis, who are among Pakistan’s most discriminated minorities, on grounds that they did not qualify as a minority and refuse to recognize the country’s constitution.

A 1974 amendment of the constitution bars Ahmadis from identifying themselves as Muslims because they do not recognize Mohammed as the last prophet.

Compared to the polarising environment that Mr. Trump operates in and likes to entrench, Pakistani clerics have it a lot easier. Except for liberals and human rights activists, few in Pakistan are willing to stand up for Ahmadi rights.

Moreover, the government shied away from imposing its will on the religious establishment during the pandemic as did the military, which built quarantine centres in various cities and helped local authorities implement a lockdown.

Pakistan lacks truly influential, more liberal religious voices in the mould of for example Reverend Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches that groups African-American denominations, the mainline church and the Greek Orthodox Church.

“We listen to communities of colour, and many of our congregations’ people are engaged in representing refugees and immigrants, African-Americans, Latinos, even seniors, they’re saying, why the urgency?” Mr. DeYoung said in response to Mr. Trump’s push.

“They’re…directly affected. They’re actually afraid in many cases to go into group gatherings…We feel that we need to make our decisions based on good science and the recommendations of our health department,” the reverend added.

Mr. DeYoung was joined by his Muslim counterparts in contrast to their Pakistani brethren.

“American Muslim scholars and community leaders have already determined that mosques will not be open in the near future because of the health concerns brought on by the pandemic. That’s a determination for them to make not for the president to make,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American–Islamic Relations, the largest US Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

To be sure, the United States and Pakistan are vastly different countries. Pakistan has been hard hit by the pandemic with 55,657 cases of infection to date and 1,155 deaths. Yet, that is  a far cry from the United States’ 1,613,324 cases and 96,659 deaths.

Pakistan, nonetheless, saw its number of cases quadruple during the month of Ramadan and the rate of new infections jump by 30 percent in the last week as the holy month neared its end .

Yet, when it comes to employing religion to entrench power at the cost of striking a balance between faith and science, Mr. Trump and Pakistani religious scholars share the kind of opportunism and worldview that serve their short-term interests irrespective of the cost to human life and potentially to already battered economies.

*Tehmina Qureshi is a multi-platform journalist and editorial writer at Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English-language newspaper.

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COVID-19’s Weakness Is Its Strength

Rich Berdan

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About 4/5ths or 80% of the deaths come from 1/5th or 20% of the Canadian population. Our seniors and those living in long-term care facilities have been held with obscure and unregulated measures to say the least. Conversely, roughly 1/5th or 20% of the deaths have come from 4/5th or 80% of the population that are younger than or senior community and perhaps some underlying health issues. While not short of devastating to families affected, it is roughly a thousand deaths in 80% of the population or about 1 in 40,000 deaths in this sizeable wedge of our communities. The mortalities equate to a relatively small number of 2.5 per deaths for every 100,000 Canadians.

In contrast, the top 5 leading causes of death in Canada per 100,000 are:

  1. Cancer: 68,000 deaths or 207.7 per 100,000
  2. Heart Disease: 50,000 deaths or 152.8 per 100,000
  3. Cerebrovascular Disease: 14,000 deaths or 42.3 per 100,000
  4. Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases: 10,000 deaths or 30.0 per 100,000
  5. Accidents: 9,700 deaths or 29.5 per 100,000

In 2018 there were 4,157 suicides in Canada: making it the 9th leading cause of death behind Alzheimer’s Disease. With an economy currently on life support in some sectors, the number of suicides will likely climb higher this year as people succumb to job loss, the inability to pay their mortgage or credit loans, and bankruptcies. In the last month alone, there have been nine spouses murdered in domestic violence and likely thousands of cases of abuse and violence in family homes going unreported.

While the initial unknowns and actions around the pandemic were undoubtedly justified, Canada and the world should be better equipped to understand what is necessary to sustain a more robust economy if there is indeed a second wave of the virus. The most dangerous characteristic of COVID-19 is its weakness to kill. Unlike more deadly viruses that dispatch the host quickly and have a tapered prospect to vault to others and dies out, COVID-19 is carried by asymptomatic humans who unknowingly infect those most vulnerable to the illness.

The best solution following a crippling downturn in the market from the first wave will not be a nation-wide shutdown in the next go around. It would rather be a laser focus to take care of our seniors, specifically in our long-term care facilities, and self-isolate our most at-risk population and those with underlying medical issues. One must wonder how the leading causes of death in Canada will pop well above the number of COVID-19 related deaths with postponed cancer treatments and the like over the year.

One then must also examine whether the prolonged lockdowns and restrictions throughout the country, not to mention the crippling debt load and taxes to ensue, was the best reaction overall. It is safe to say, lives were saved through physical distancing practices, and the sacrificial deeds by individuals taking coronavirus very seriously was prudent. If only intense attention were placed on long-term care facilities during the onset, Canada would have come out relatively unscathed by the pandemic.

A full financial recovery will be painful for many, and it will likely take several years to see some semblance to a roaring economy. We do know many life savings for retirement have withered, numerous sectors in the marketplace. Such areas as automotive, travel, hospitality, and oil and gas will not bounce back any time soon, and many Canadians will never return to the jobs they once worked.

It is also apparent through this pandemic that if you have an alternative opinion, one is quickly shunned or dismissed as irresponsible if you are not a medical professional or virologist. Specifically, predicting models of death or advocating ever-changing protective measures or restrictions that shifts the goalposts almost daily.

Rule changes and lockdowns are more readily accepted when one’s income stream is uninterrupted. However, it is a far different story for those on the cusp of their business dissolving in debt or a neighbor prevented from earning a living and placed in the dire predicament in having to choose between paying their rent or buying groceries to feed the kids.

The effects of COVID-19 are far-reaching today and will be far-lasting tomorrow. One thing for sure, the adversity we have all faced through the pandemic has introduced us to ourselves.

From our partner RIAC

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