Saturday, May 24, 2008

US DEMOCRACY - poll the other one!!

HBO will air this Sunday .Recount., a movie about the 2000 Florida elections involving Al Gore and George W. Bush.

The movie, which stars Kevin Spacey as Ron Klain, Gore.s former chief of staff who led the recount effort, is not supporting the idea that the democrats were stolen the elections, but focuses more on the drama of both sides.

The film acknowledges the sad fact that Americans will probably never know whether the democrats actually won the elections or not, but it also states that a legal shift of power took place.

Mixing news footage and verbatim dialogue into fictionalized re-creations, .Recount. examines the torturous process that culminated in the Supreme Court decision in Bush vs. Gore. The Republicans, led by charismatic Texan James Baker, seize the initiative as the case is tried in the judicial system and the court of public opinion. The Democrats play catch-up until Ron Klain takes over and starts matching Baker's political hardball with tough moves of his own.

Tom Wilkinson is magnificently portraying James Baker, Ron Klain.s counterpart, and Laura Dern has a fair, even though a little over the edge, performance as Katherine Harris, who put an end to the democrat.s recount efforts.

Recount is directed by Jay Roach (Meet the Fockers, Austin Powers films), and written by Danny Strong (best-known as an actor in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls).

E-Voting Company Diebold Upset Over HBO Documentary

A campaign has been started by Diebold to take down a recent HBO documentary, Hacking Democracy, which investigates the company?s e-voting machines. Diebold president David Byrd and CEO Chris Albrecht have sent angry letters and press releases, demanding that HBO air disclaimers before and after the presentation, or that it pull the documentary altogether.

Mr. Byrd claims .egregious. errors and misrepresentations are made in the documentary, while Albrecht alleges that Hacking Democracy is part of a liberal-Hollwood conspiracy against Diebold (that accusation alone ought to tell you something about Diebold.s politics). Mr. Albrecht then goes on to say that the documentary .is directed by the directors of VoterGate, and contains much of the same material. VoterGate was produced with special thanks to Susan Sarandon and The Streisand Foundation,. he writes. However, Albrecht has no idea what he?s talking about since Votergate has no ties to Hacking Democracy. The HBO documentary was produced and directed by entirely different people. It should also be noted that neither David Byrd nor Chris Albrecht have actually seen Hacking Democracy.

Votes with Diebold machines have been shown to record inaccurate totals favoring Republican candidates. Several researchers, including a Princeton scientist, have shown that the machines are easily hacked to achieve such an outcome. Despite countless testimonials and studies by independent groups, Diebold simply maintains that its machines are secure and should be trusted. However, they have yet to counter any of the concerns raised in the studies which prove otherwise. At least 40 percent of votes this November will be recorded with Diebold machines.


Democracy:The paradise in our minds

By Reason Wafawarova May 23, 2008

The important Greek philosopher, Aristotle, laid the foundation for democracy by defining it as the rule of the people, by the people and for the people. This is a fantastic foundation that has an undisputable appeal to both aspiring politicians and those people who hanker for freedom and justice. However the concept seems to be easier to preach than it is to practise.

On this foundation the wretched of this world have for many years aspired on a promise of democracy the same way religion has made believers live on a promise of eternity and everlasting happiness. The only difference is that religion, especially Christianity and Islam; clearly tells us that Paradise and Heaven will come after death. We are however told by politicians that democracy is here and now with us.

Those who lead nation states and the world on the basis of the politics of democracy have an astonishing way by which they call any political system that safeguards their power and wealth a democracy. The question of democracy as an illusion is no more inadmissible than the question of democracy as a reality.

There are scholars who have propounded interesting schools of thought from the Aristotle foundation. Some have concluded that democracy is the political orientation of those who favour government by the people or by their elected representatives. Others have said that democracy is the political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them.

In both schools of thought there are two common features, electing and representation. The electoral process is supposed to be the only free and fair method by which the people can both govern and monitor their governance system. In this context the electoral process must be under the control of the people and the elected representatives must represent the wishes of the people.

Following this logic, the electoral commissions and bodies running elections in different countries are supposed to be under the control of the citizens and all the decisions taken by governments are supposed to be the decisions of the people.

By this logic, the people of Zimbabwe endorsed the repossession of their land from white settler farmers, according to the politicians that embarked on that policy just like the people of the United States, Britain and Australia endorsed the war on Iraq in 2003, according to Western politicians.

Looking at the above example, there is the ominous irony that the Zimbabwe government, together with many other governments, will insist that the Iraqi War is not only illegal but also against the wishes of the people of the Western countries engaging in that war. Equally the US-led Western alliance will insist that Zimbabwe.s land reform programme is not only illegal but also against the wishes of the people of Zimbabwe.

Looking at the electoral systems of the above-mentioned countries it is interesting that the US-led Western alliance accuses the Zimbabwean government of manipulating the electoral process in a manner often described as unfree and unfair. Equally the Zimbabwean government will always insist that corporate powers and tough laws heavily manipulate the Western electoral system.

Communist parties are largely banned in many of the Western countries and the laws banning such political parties can hardly be described as giving the people total control of the electoral process.

In Australia, for example, the Howard government was openly supportive and sympathetic to the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, funding it heavily in a fight for what the Australian government saw as the right of workers . rights that were said to be heavily denied the workers by the Zimbabwe government.

Back home John Howard just fell short of banning the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). Howard.s Industrial laws, now largely adopted by the Rudd government, contain provisions known as .Work Choices Agreements. where industrial action is punishable by a fine of no less than AU$3000 a day for each participator or at least two years imprisonment.

Added to this, the law empowers .anyone directly or indirectly affected. by the strike action to lay charges against any of the participators. This law hardly reads like anything close to the rule of the people, by the people and for the people. Needless to say, the law does not sound like part of legislation to be found in a country that boasts of a renowned democracy.

It would appear what is good for ZCTU in Zimbabwe cannot be good for ACTU in Australia, if one were to base their judgement on Australia.s Work Choices Agreements, hardly agreements at all from any number of angles one might choose to look.

If the Zimbabwe government were to manage the rise of the neo-liberal opposition MDC the way the West managed the rise of Communist parties in their own countries there is no ruling out that the consequences might be drastic in the least. One just needs to imagine a ban of the MDC and any similar parties on the grounds of the .national interest. as was done in the West.

The US presidential campaign for the November election has begun in earnest despite Hillary Clinton.s mortifying insistence on running all the way to the winning line even long after her rival has crossed the line. To some, especially to the US ruling elite and their Western allies, the race we are about to watch . the race between John McCain and Barack Obama . is the compendium of democracy.

It is the shining example that must serve as the light for democratic pagans like African politicians and their Arabic cousins in the Middle East.

However, some Americans like the renowned linguist and scholar, Noam Chomsky are clearly unamused with American democracy and they will maintain that the world.s most powerful state is not exactly the most democratic.

Said Chomsky on August 30, 2004, .The US presidential campaign only points up the severe democratic deficit in the world.s most powerful state..

Chomsky argues that US citizens are, without choice, quadrennially presented with the choice between major party candidates who were born to wealth and political power (Obama might be an exception to this one), attended the same elite universities, joined the same secret society that instructs members in the style and manners of the rulers, and are able to run because they are funded by the same corporate powers.

This is just an illustration of the fact that the United States, long involved in alleged .democracy-building. a mission and doctrine that has resulted in lethal adventures across the world, badly needs to revitalise the democratic process at home.

The US, much as the rest of the West, has become a country that considers it sensible to describe a request by the people as .politically impossible. or .lacking political support.. This effective erosion of a democratic culture means what the population wants does not matter.

There were a million marchers against the Iraqi war in Australia just before the war started but the Howard government went to war regardless. There have been even bigger crowds in the US and Bush has pursued his war ambitions regardless.

Thomas Patterson.s 2000 Vanishing Voter Project conducted at the J.F. Kennedy School of Government revealed that 53% of Americans felt that they had no influence on what the US government does. If this is what is found in a country that claims to lead the world in democracy then what is expected of the those governments often labelled as .emerging democracies. or .lacking democracy.?

While some politicians will manipulate the democratic process through corporate power, media deception and tough laws others will use physical coercion, military power or overt state power to manipulate the democratic process. This is what renders the principle of universality useless. Everyone is found wanting, and the US doctrine of exceptionalism simply has made the world more chaotic than ever before.

The masses under the threat of overt state power are often portrayed as living in undemocratic countries, and also as victims of undemocratic governments . something that cannot be denied. Those whose democratic rights are thwarted by corporate power, media deception and tough laws like the anti-terror laws are portrayed as living in leading democracies and the media does not tire in reminding them to appreciate that they are lucky to live in successful democracies.

To prove the point these people are always shown images of the suffering people in so-called Third World countries and they are told that they could easily be in the same situation if it were not for the democratic nature of their political leadership.

The genius of Western democracy is to establish a political system that renders policy irrelevant, with the media and advertising concentrating not on issues but on qualities like the candidate.s style, personality and such other irrelevances.

The political parties devolve into marketing systems for elite candidates and they also develop mechanisms to screen candidates coming from the grassroots and from the working class.

When leaders come from the grassroots like what happened with Lula da Silva of Brazil and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela it is hardly ever upheld as democracy in Western commentary.

Rather, the democracies are countries like the US . a country described by Chomsky as .a repressive state, with tremendous inequality and concentration of wealth and media power, and extreme hostility of international capital and its institutions..

Now we are told that Obama has funding three times more than that of John McCain and it is on that basis that the US is likely to have their next President. And these rich and powerful owners of corporate wealth will ensure that their sponsored President will not allow the rest of the world to have governments that serve popular interests like what Chavez is doing in Venezuela.

Such governments are not good for international capital and have to be stopped by all means. The idea is to create corporate democracies across the world. These are democracies that make people feel like they are totally dependant on the genius of their governments and not on their capacity to make collective decisions good enough for their own welfare.

One of the reasons many of the politicians in the West are so sceptical about Jacob Zuma of South Africa is that he hails from the grassroots, never mind the wealth he has accumulated through politics.

Deplorable and appalling as the current so-called xenophobic anti-immigrants chaos is, its motivation seems to be an expression of people.s feelings. In that context the ugly and brutal attacks on foreigners by South Africans can actually be described as more democratic than the Bush directed brutality on Iraqis.

The politics behind the irrational and absolutely brutal actions by the South African crowds are more democratic in terms of how the barbaric decision was taken. One would wish the South Africans were doing something more beneficial to their cause than merely being vindictive and brutal to people who are suffering just like themselves.

Zimbabwean masses went on a collective move in repossessing their land in 2000 and this was called lawlessness and now we see South Africans taking a collective decision to do what they think is justice over the immigrant-exacerbated competition for jobs and this has been called xenophobia.

The point here is that the current world order does no give an opportunity for a true democratic dispensation. It only allows for a democracy that is controlled by politicians and their partners in business.

True democracy is not only a threat to dictatorships and despotic regimes but also to capitalism and neo-liberal policies. In fact is the biggest threat to imperialism.

It is hoped that true democracy will prevail one day.

Reason Wafawarova is Metro.s Political Columnist he is based in Sydney, Australia and can be contacted on

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posted by u2r2h at 8:35 PM


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