One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of “democracy” in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition - a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president – the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:

With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona. 

Thankfully, said the NYT, democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger … because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-U.S. “business leader.” The Champions of Democracy at the NYT then demanded a ruler more to their liking: “Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy.”

More amazingly still, the Times editors told their readers that Chávez’s “removal was a purely Venezuelan affair,” even though it was quickly and predictably revealed that neocon officials in the Bush administration played a central role. Eleven years later, upon Chávez’s death, the Times editors admitted that “the Bush administration badly damaged Washington’s reputation throughout Latin America when it unwisely blessed a failed 2002 military coup attempt against Mr. Chávez” [the paper forgot to mention that it, too, blessed (and misled its readers about) that coup]. The editors then also acknowledged the rather significant facts that Chávez’s “redistributionist policies brought better living conditions to millions of poor Venezuelans” and “there is no denying his popularity among Venezuela’s impoverished majority.”

If you think The New York Timeseditorial page has learned any lessons from that debacle, you’d be mistaken. Today they published an editorial expressing grave concern about the state of democracy in Latin America generally and Bolivia specifically. The proximate cause of this concern? The overwhelming election victory of Bolivian President Evo Morales (pictured above), who, as The Guardian put it, “is widely popular at home for a pragmatic economic stewardship that spread Bolivia’s natural gas and mineral wealth among the masses.”

The Times editors nonetheless see Morales’ election to a third term not as a vindication of democracy but as a threat to it, linking his election victory to the way in which “the strength of democratic values in the region has been undermined in past years by coups and electoral irregularities.” Even as they admit that “it is easy to see why many Bolivians would want to see Mr. Morales, the country’s first president with indigenous roots, remain at the helm” – because “during his tenure, the economy of the country, one of the least developed in the hemisphere, grew at a healthy rate, the level of inequality shrank and the number of people living in poverty dropped significantly” - they nonetheless chide Bolivia’s neighbors for endorsing his ongoing rule: “it is troubling that the stronger democracies in Latin America seem happy to condone it.”

The Editors depict their concern as grounded in the lengthy tenure of Morales as well as the democratically elected leaders of Ecuador and Venezuela: “perhaps the most disquieting trend is that protégés of Mr. Chávez seem inclined to emulate his reluctance to cede power.” But the real reason the NYT so vehemently dislikes these elected leaders and ironically views them as threats to “democracy” becomes crystal clear toward the end of the editorial (emphasis added):

This regional dynamic has been dismal for Washington’s influence in the region. In Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, the new generation of caudillos [sic] have staked out anti-American policies and limited the scope of engagement on developmentmilitary cooperation and drug enforcement efforts. This has damaged the prospects for trade and security cooperation.

You can’t get much more blatant than that. The democratically elected leaders of these sovereign countries fail to submit to U.S. dictates, impede American imperialism, and subvert U.S. industry’s neoliberal designs on the region’s resources. Therefore, despite how popular they are with their own citizens and how much they’ve improved the lives of millions of their nations’ long-oppressed and impoverished minorities, they are depicted as grave threats to “democracy.”

It is, of course, true that democratically elected leaders are capable of authoritarian measures. It is, for instance, democratically elected U.S. leaders who imprison people without charges for years, build secret domestic spying systems, and even assert the power to assassinate their own citizens without due process. Elections are no guarantee against tyranny. There are legitimate criticisms to be made of each of these leaders with regard to domestic measures and civic freedoms, as there is for virtually every government on the planet.

But the very idea that the U.S. government and its media allies are motivated by those flaws is nothing short of laughable. Many of the U.S. government’s closest allies are the world’s worst regimes, beginning with the uniquely oppressive Saudi kingdom (which just yesterday sentenced a popular Shiite dissident to death) and the brutal military coup regime in Egypt, which, as my colleague Murtaza Hussain reports today, gets more popular in Washington as it becomes even more oppressive. And, of course, the U.S. supports Israel in every way imaginable even as its Secretary of State expressly recognizes the “apartheid” nature of its policy path.

Just as the NYT did with the Venezuelan coup regime of 2002, the U.S. government hails the Egyptian coup regime as saviors of democracy. That’s because “democracy” in U.S. discourse means: “serving U.S. interests” and “obeying U.S. dictates,” regardless how how the leaders gain and maintain power. Conversely, “tyranny” means “opposing the U.S. agenda” and “refusing U.S. commands,” no matter how fair and free the elections are that empower the government. The most tyrannical regimes are celebrated as long as they remain subservient, while the most popular and democratic governments are condemned as despots to the extent that they exercise independence.

To see how true that is, just imagine the orgies of denunciation that would rain down if a U.S. adversary (say, Iran, or Venezuela) rather than a key U.S. ally like Saudi Arabia had just sentenced a popular dissident to death. Instead, the NYT just weeks ago uncritically quotes an Emirates ambassador lauding Saudi Arabia as one of the region’s “moderate” allies because of its service to the U.S. bombing campaign in Syria. Meanwhile, the very popular, democratically elected leader of Bolivia is a grave menace to democratic values – because he’s “dismal for Washington’s influence in the region.”

People take pictures of a figure depicting Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying hanging on a lamppost on a road barricaded by pro-democracy protesters in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Oct. 19, 2014.

Photo by Alex Ogle

My links with foreign countries are limited to my Korean cellphone, my American computer and my Japanese Gundam. And of course, all of these are ‘Made in China’.

Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), in response to Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) who said in an interview with ATV that he wouldn’t “… go into details, but this is not entirely a domestic movement”.

His comments echoed Chinese state media, which has repeatedly alleged that “anti-China forces” such as the US are manipulating the protesters, while Beijing has warned against foreign meddling in what it says is an internal affair.

Commentaries on the mainland have also increasingly described the Hong Kong protests as a “color revolution” — a term used by Beijing for political movements funded by international forces.

What this non-event actually highlights is the stupidity, the utter gullibility, and supreme narcissism of voters.  No, not just Florida voters.  Not the voters in this particular election cycle.  Voters in general.  The very act of voting says a lot about the people who participate in it, and none of it is positive.  There seem to be two kinds of voters historically, each of them locked in their own tight race for who will win the award for most deluded.

The first kind of voter is glued to the set for the latest take on the Scott-Crist drama.  He will ultimately cast his ballot largely based on surface-level attributes such as whether the politician is likable, whether he’d be a fun guy to have a beer with, or whether he sweats.  Think I’m overdoing it?  Look no further back than the Kennedy/Nixon presidential election where popular opinion holds that Nixon 

did himself great harm by profusely sweating in the country’s first ever televised presidential debate.  Interestingly enough, it is said that Kennedy’s “handlers” knew this about Nixon, that he was a sweater, and made sure to turn the heat up in the debate studio for this very reason. I laughed last night when I read a tweet (which I now cannot find) that said “Whichever handler told Crist to go out on stage and just stand there until Scott showed up deserves a raise.”  That was brilliant.  It perfectly captures the empty-headedness of politicians, whose actions are driven solely by a team of doting aides who are constantly gauging public perception.

And let us simply reflect for a moment on why politicians have handlers in the first place.  It tells us everything we need to know.  

Politicians are like cardboard cutouts whose skulls are empty vessels just waiting to be filled with slick soundbites by Madison Avenue’s finest.  Consider further that high-level politicians even have their own press secretaries, whose jobs consist of nothing more than spinning issues the politicians themselves have no grasp of in order to fool the electorate into thinking they have everything under control.  Press secretaries serve as nothing more than high caliber con artists for their bosses.  It is only more distressing that voters are gullible enough to buy into the political performance.

Sadly, events like Fangate and a politician’s sweat glands matter to American voters.  If Rick Scott’s team of handlers didn’t realize this, they wouldn’t have withheld their monkey from the stage over a trivial issue like No Fans Allowed.  What percentage of voters charge enthusiastically into the voting booth knowing little more than this type of information is unknown, but we’ve all come across many 

friends, neighbors and family members who embody this density.

The second kind of voter is the true believer.  The true believer is supposedly the creme de la creme of the electorate, purportedly “versed on the issues”.  He’s done his homework, knows where the candidates stand on the big issues of the day, and makes an informed choice as to who is more equipped to run the affairs of he and his fellow men over the next few years.  The true believer thumbs his nose at the eggheaded superficial voter described above.  He can even see through the handlers’ and press secretaries’ spin machine if he watches closely.  Warning: if this description doesn’t activate your gag reflex, you may be a true believer voter.

Political transitions in Afghanistan have always been fraught. The transfer of power in 2014 may yet prove the most peaceful handover of leadership in the country’s history, despite the tensions that emerged in the process. Hamid Karzai now stands as the only Afghan leader to have voluntarily surrendered his office, and his legacy will be further strengthened if he uses his considerable influence to make the next administration a success and refrains from trying to control the new president.
—  From Crisis Group’s latest Asia Report: Afghanistan’s Political Transition
TORY PROPOSAL: 3. End ability of the European Court to require the UK to change British laws

Every judgement against the UK will be treated as “advisory” and will have to be approved by Parliament if it is to lead to a change in our laws.

  • The Court has no ability to require the UK to change British laws. Parliamentary sovereignty is intact, as made clear by the non-implementation of the prisoner voting judgment. But the British Government has ratified the Convention and so undertaken to comply with its international law obligations to respect the decisions of the Court.
  • Treating judgments as “advisory” would put the legislation in direct conflict with our international obligations, put the UK on a collision course with the Court and mark the UK’s likely departure from the Council of Europe.
  • This would do immeasurable harm to the international standing of the UK and weaken our political capital and influence in Europe.
  • A parliamentary process to “approve” Strasbourg judgments is a dangerous precedent worthy of a totalitarian regime. Why not allow Parliament to “approve” judgments of the Supreme Court? In fact why bother with the Courts at all – why not have individuals come to Parliament to have their cases “approved” or rejected by Parliament?
  • NB: Despite Conservative claims, Parliament has not actually rejected the Court’s prisoner voting judgment. It has not been asked to vote on a Bill on possible reform. In 2011, 256 MPs voted on a mischief-making motion on the issue but this is a fraction of the 650 MPs in Parliament. On the contrary, in December 2013, a cross-party parliamentary committee tasked with looking at the issue recommended that voting rights be granted to all prisoners serving 12 months or less. It concluded that there are no convincing penal-policy arguments in favour of disenfranchisement.

Today In Solidarity (10.5.14): Voter Registration surges in Ferguson in the wake of Mike Brown’s death. The ballot box is not a singular or final solution to dismantling the systems of oppression in Ferguson and beyond, but it’s certainly an important area to focus on. Remember, the current city council/government is disproportionately white due in large part to voter apathy. It’s not too late to get registered, but many state deadlines are coming up this week! For more info visit: VOTE MISSOURI or Rock the Vote.

There’s no place where you can affect change more directly or effectively than at the local level. Don’t sleep on municipal elections. #staywoke #farfromover

How Hong Kong protesters are connecting, without cell or Wi-Fi networks
October 3, 2014

As throngs of pro-democracy protesters continue to organize in Hong Kong’s central business district, many of them are messaging one another through a network that doesn’t require cell towers or Wi-Fi nodes. They’re using an app called FireChat that launched in March and is underpinned by mesh networking, which lets phones unite to form a temporary Internet.

So far, mesh networks have proven themselves quite effective and quickly adopted during times of disaster or political unrest, as they don’t rely on existing cable and wireless networks. In Iraq, tens of thousands of people have downloaded FireChat as the government limits connectivity in an effort to curb ISIS communications. Protesters in Taiwan this spring turned to FireChat when cell signals were too weak and at times nonexistent.

And FireChat’s popularity is surging in Hong Kong. About 100,000 users downloaded the free FireChat app between Sunday morning and Monday morning, according to The Wall Street Journal. While there are no reports of cell-network outages so far, student leaders are recommending FireChat for fear authorities may shut off communications.

Gizmodo explains why mesh networks can be critical during tense showdowns with governments:

"Mesh networks are an especially resilient tool because there’s no easy way for a government to shut them down. They can’t just block cell reception or a site address. Mesh networks are like Voldemortafter he split his soul into horcruxes (only not evil). Destroying one part won’t kill it unless you destroy each point of access; someone would have to turn off Bluetooth on every phone using FireChat to completely break the connection. This hard-to-break connection isn’t super important for casual chats, but during tense political showdowns, it could be a lifeline.”

And as we have previously reported, Open Garden, the company that made FireChat and an Android mesh networking app also called Open Garden, has bigger ambitions for mesh networking:

"Once you build a mesh network … now you have a network that is resilient, self-healing, cannot be controlled by any central organization, cannot be shut down and is always working," Christophe Daligault, Open Garden’s vice president for sales and marketing says. "I think that solves many other drawbacks or challenges of the mobile broadband Internet today."

He says none of this would be possible without the rapid spread of smartphones, because that means no extra hardware is needed.

"Each [phone] becomes a router and in a sense you’re growing the Internet — everyone who joins the mesh network creates an extension of the Internet," Daligault says. "In a year or two from now, I think people won’t even remember that you had to be on Wi-Fi or get a cell signal to be able to communicate."



Saturday in Hong Kong                                      

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying set a Monday deadline for opening access to government offices barricaded this week by pro-democracy protesters, raising the possibility of further clashes. 

In an address aired on local television Saturday evening, Leung said the government and police had the “responsibility and determination to take any necessary action” to restore order. 

Student protesters seeking direct elections free from limits set by China’s central government have obstructed roads for more than a week, paralyzing much of central Hong Kong and forcing schools, stores and government offices to close. Attempts to disperse crowds on Sept. 28 with tear gas and pepper spray spurred support for the protesters, who saw their ranks swell to 200,000 by one student leader’s estimate. 

Talks agreed to by both sides on Oct. 2 were shelved by the students yesterday after protesters in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok district were attacked by hundreds of men opposing the demonstrations. Police arrested 20 people, including eight with suspected ties to the city’s triad gangs. 

Photographers: Tomohiro Ohsumi, Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg

© 2014 Bloomberg Finance LP


Hold up Your Umbrella, a song for Hong Kong Umbrella Movement

“ In this sea of people, we sat nervously. Fearing what would happen next. But on this night, I fear more that our voices are not heard. With all the courage I could muster, I’m here in the front line. Yet the nagging fear remains.

Together, let’s let’s hold up our umbrellas. Together, we may be uneasy, but we cannot be alone, right?”

Maybe you have never heard about what is umbrella movement, or even you don’t know where Hong Kong is. But I believe that everyone would agree to nonviolent civil disobedience. 

Hong Kong university students and other volunteers occupied outside the government headquarter to start their nonviolent civil disobedience on Sep 28 to fight for universal suffrage. After a few hours later, Hong Kong police attempted to disperse the protesters with pepper spray, tear gas, and water sprays. In one night, police fired 87 canisters of tear gas at protesters who didn’t have any protection, except masks, goggles and an umbrella only. 

Now, the movement is still continuing. But the situation is getting worse. The Hong Kong government and police hire gangsters and triad to damage protectors’ food and materials, beat protectors. Even worse, a female protector was sexual harassed by the counter-protesters. However, police didn’t stop attacks.

By this moment, we can’t stop the movement anymore until the government can listen our voice. It would be a long way to go. But your attention can be our supporting!

Please reblog and let more people know if you agree to nonviolent civil disobedience and “sexual harassment should not be tolerated.”

This is the music video of Hold up Your Umbrella. Here is more detailed news and information about Umbrella movement fyi. If you have any question about the movement, you can inbox me anytime. Thank you for your attention!

CHINA, HONG KONG : Pro-democracy protesters, including one carrying a shield from the “Captain America” comic book series stand their ground as they look out for the presence of rival protest groups next to a barricade on a road in Hong Kong on October 4, 2014. Hong Kong has been plunged into the worst political crisis since its 1997 handover as pro-democracy activists take over the streets following China’s refusal to grant citizens full universal suffrage. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez