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A year on, Morocco’s democracy movement founders

Posted by Admin on February 18, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/moroccos-democracy-movement-founders-113855263.html;_ylt=Am4j2RGFmuTQ_wwlLaPx5bOs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNhajJzdmI5BG1pdAMEcGtnAzFmZmE4MDdhLWY1NzUtM2MwYi1iMDc4LWNiZDIzMGFkMmU2NwRwb3MDOARzZWMDbG5fQVBfZ2FsBHZlcgNlOTcyZjMyMC01YTI1LTExZTEtYmY2Yi04NzgzNjU3NmQ0Nzg-;_ylv=3

By PAUL SCHEMM | Associated Press – 1 hr 40 mins ago

RABAT, Morocco (AP)Morocco‘s pro-democracy February 20 movement spearheaded the country’s version of the Arab Springand sent the centuries-old monarchy scrambling to reform. Now, a year after its birth, the youth-led group appears to have lost its way.

And while the movement struggles for relevance, Morocco’s problems are far from solved: Social discontent and clashes between police and unemployed graduates are on the rise as the economy suffers from the effects of Europe‘s financial crisis.

Like the Occupy movements in the United States, Morocco’s pro-democracy groups now need to find out if they can keep the fight going.

On Sunday, the movement will try with countrywide anniversary demonstrations to rekindle some of the fire that at its peak in March put 800,000 people from all walks of life on the streets calling for an end to corruption, greater democracy and social justice.

The protesters shook the cities of Morocco and achieved some of the things they wanted, bringing their country a new constitutionand free elections.

Since that time, however, the numbers at the weeklydemonstrations have plummeted to a few thousand in the larger cities as ordinary people abandoned the movement, apparently satisfied with King Mohammed VI‘s reforms, including granting more powers to elected officials — or scared away by a tougher response to the protests.

Elections on Nov. 25 were won by a moderate Islamist opposition party promising many of the things once shouted at demonstrations.

Moroccan authorities have trumpeted their “third way” of dealing with the Arab Spring, steering between revolution and repression in favor of reforms with stability. Social unrest has continued though, including violent clashes between police and unemployed graduates calling for government sector jobs.

The youth-led movement has had a hard time harnessing that simmering anger.

“The problem with February 20 is that it is elitist and doesn’t have a rapport with the people,” saidMouad Belghouat, a 25-year-old rapper with February 20 whose songs excoriating the palace and social inequalities in the country became the soundtrack for the movement. The movement’s demands weren’t all realized, he said, “so we continue to go into the streets.”

Belghouat, who goes by the named El-Haqed, or the Enraged, was jailed for four months for getting into a fight with a regime supporter in the gritty, low income suburb of Casablanca where he lives. His supporters say the charges were trumped up.

“You can’t talk to people about parliamentary monarchy, they think the king is sacred, so you have to talk to them about unemployment and those stealing the wealth of the country,” he said, explaining that he and his friends in the movement now go to neighborhoods and have discussions to raise people’s consciousness.

It also helps that his rap songs appeal to the young, unemployed and disenfranchised youth that swell the crumbling slums surrounding Casablanca, Tangiers and other large cities.

The movement’s protests always had an artistic side to them, with street theater often accompanying the colorful marches through the streets.

In one Casablanca protest, a man with the mask of a hated adviser of the king dangled a baguette on a fishing rod above the grasping hands of three ragged figures representing the people.

There is no denying that in the initial months of the protests, February 20 achieved more than generations of party politics had accomplished in opening up Morocco.

“It succeeded in breaking a taboo, it brought out into the open calls against corruption and the domination of certain figures on the economy,” said Omar Bendoro, a political analyst at Rabat University. Close associates of the king from wealthy families are perceived to dominate the economy.

After years of repression, people are no longer afraid to make their discontent known, whether about lack of water, electricity or civil rights, he added.

“Social problems have always existed, but now the people explode because there is a chance that the powers-that-be will take them seriously,” Bendoro said.

The king, due either to the street rallies or fears of Egyptian- or Tunisian-style revolutions, agreed in March to amend the constitution, bowing to longtime demands from political parties.

Under the new constitution the prime minister has more powers and comes from the party that won the most votes, rather than whomever the king felt like choosing under the old system. Ultimate power, however, still rests with the monarch and his court of close advisers.

Even as the concessions, including raising public sector wages, blunted popular anger, activists say there was a second, darker, prong to the official response — one that targeted the movement itself.

Starting in May, demonstrations began to be attacked by riot police and hired thugs, and some activists started receiving late night visits from security officers.

“There were two levels at work, the institutional and the non-institutional, which was the intimidation, beatings and propaganda — particularly propaganda about the Islamists,” said activist Abadila Maaelaynine.

State media said the demonstrators were being infiltrated by radical communists and hardline Islamists from the banned Adl wal Ihsane (Justice and Charity) movement, which did have a big presence in the demonstrations.

The accusations stuck, further cooling public ardor for the movement, and soon the demonstrations became more of a weekly — later monthly — traffic nuisance than a real vehicle of political change.

“We failed to become more innovative in what we were doing and it’s time to admit that,” said Zeinab Belmkaddem, a young activist with the movement, which is now looking to start a political party and build up a lasting network tied to the people.

“We don’t want to just stay in the streets, we tried that for a year — been there done that — that’s it, but at the end of the day what happened is that others took advantage and that’s what happened with the PJD,” she said bitterly, referring to the Islamist party that won elections.

The party has been a clear beneficiary of the movement.

“The process of democratization in the country is moving in a good direction,” said Mustapha Khalfi, once the editor of the PJD’s newspaper and now the minister of communication and government spokesman. “Moroccan society has the feeling that what is happening in politics has an impact on daily life and most importantly when they participate it can make a difference.”

Khalfi is quick to praise the February 20 movement for its early efforts, but noted that it has since lost momentum and popularity and it is the new government that is now looking to satisfy people’s demands for jobs.

Activists, however, question whether the limited powers given to the new government will be enough to enact the deep reforms that the people crave — especially as daily frustrations mount.

“Now the people are waiting to see what they can do,” said the rapper Belghouat. “They will be disappointed.”

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Gaddafi supporters seize control of Libyan town

Posted by Admin on January 24, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/gaddafi-supporters-clash-pro-government-militia-154008446.html;_ylt=AhIc1EcnpCwFnW12rs4nC42s0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTQ1bGZzNzNrBG1pdANTZWN0aW9uTGlzdCBGUCBXb3JsZARwa2cDNjgyN2E5OGItZTY1MC0zNDU1LTlmMmItYzRhZGQ3YTgxNjcwBHBvcwMzBHNlYwNNZWRpYVNlY3Rpb25MaXN0BHZlcgM1NzE1MmJjMC00NWU4LTExZTEtOWJmNy0wMGI4Y2U4NDRkM2M-;_ylg=X3oDMTFvdnRqYzJoBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

By Taha Zargoun | Reuters – 27 mins ago

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Supporters of ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi seized control of the town of Bani Walid on Monday after clashes with a militia loyal to the new government in which four people were killed, witnesses told Reuters.

A resident of Bani Walid, about 200 km (120 miles) south-east of Tripoli, said the sides fought using heavy weaponry, including 106 mm anti-tank weapons, and that 20 people were wounded.

Another witness told Reuters the fighting had now stopped but thatGaddafi loyalists were in control of the town centre, where they were flying green flags, a symbol of allegiance to the ousted administration.

“They control the town now. They are roaming the town,” said the witness, a fighter with the 28th May militia which was fighting the Gaddafi loyalists.

Bani Walid, base of the powerful Warfallah tribe, was one of the last towns in Libya to surrender to the anti-Gaddafi rebellion last year. Many people there oppose the country’s new leadership.

The uprising in Bani Walid could not come at a worse time for the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC). It is already reeling from violent protests in the eastern city of Benghazi and the resignation of its second most senior official.

An air force official told Reuters that jets were being mobilized to fly to Bani Walid. In Tripoli, there were signs of security being tightened, Reuters reporters in the city said.

FIGHTERS “MASSACRED

The violence in Bani Walid was sparked when members of the May 28 militia arrested some Gaddafi loyalists.

That prompted other supporters of the former leader, who was captured and killed in October, to attack the militia’s garrison in the town, said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“They massacred men at the doors of the militia headquarters,” said the resident.

During Libya’s nine-month civil war, anti-Gaddafi rebels fought for months to take Bani Walid.

Local tribal elders eventually agreed to let NTC fighters enter the town, but relations have been uneasy since and there have been occasional flare-ups of violence.

In November last year, several people were killed in Bani Walid when a militia group from Tripoli’s Souq al-Juma district arrived in the town to try to arrest some local men.

Taking back control of the town will be challenging because it has natural defenses. Anyone approaching from the north has to descend into a deep valley and then climb up the other side, giving defenders an advantage.

It was this landscape, in part, that prevented anti-Gaddafi militias from taking the town during the civil war, despite the fact they were heavily armed and had superior numbers.

(Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Myra MacDonald)

 

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Russia’s Putin considering Kremlin return: sources

Posted by Admin on July 28, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/russias-putin-considering-kremlin-return-sources-121459651.html;_ylt=AoIno6lF81k3AzVvIhoqwgNvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTM5ZXFpbTNrBHBrZwM1ZjEyZDJhYy0yYzdiLTM2NzQtYmU3Mi0zOWMzOTlhZDhjYWUEcG9zAzUEc2VjA01lZGlhVG9wU3RvcnkEdmVyAzYyNTAzYzkwLWI4NjgtMTFlMC04ZWZkLTMyZGVmN2YyMzlmMQ–;_ylg=X3oDMTFqOTI2ZDZmBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdAN3b3JsZARwdANzZWN0aW9ucw–;_ylv=3

By Guy Faulconbridge | Reuters – 2 hrs 37 mins ago

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is close to a decision to bid for the presidency in an election next year because he has doubts about his protege, President Dmitry Medvedev, senior political sources say.

Putin ruled as president from 2000 to 2008 before handing over to Medvedev to comply with a constitutional ban on a third consecutive term. He will be free to run in the March presidential election.

Putin, 58, and Medvedev, 45, have repeatedly refused to say which of them will run but as Russia‘s paramount leader, officials and diplomats say the decision is Putin’s.

“I think Putin is going to run, that he has already decided to,” said a highly placed source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the political situation.

The source said Putin had been troubled by the perception that his protege, whom he has known for more than two decades, did not have sufficient support among the political and business elite or the electorate to ensure stability if he pushed ahead with plans for political reform.

“Putin has much more support from the people than Medvedev. Medvedev has overestimated his weight inside the system,” he said.

Another highly placed source who declined to be identified said: “Putin wants to return, really wants to return.”

The source said an attempt by Medvedev to assert his authority in recent months had unsettled Putin, but the two leaders communicated well on a regular basis.

A third source also said Putin was thinking of running and that if he became president he could appoint a reformist prime minister, an apparent attempt to dispel fears that his return would usher in a period of stagnation two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Investors see few differences between the two leaders’ policies but many say privately that Medvedev would be more likely to carry out reforms than Putin.

Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, dismissed talk of any discord between them.

“I do not quite understand where these rumors come from because the president and the prime minister communicate not only on formal issues, but informally too,” Timakova said.

A senior Kremlin source said it was up to the people, not the elite, who ruled Russia.

“The discussion should be not about support within the elite but about who has more support from the people,” the Kremlin source said. “Support from the elite is not always decisive for the country to move forward.”

Asked whether Putin was considering a return to the Kremlin, the prime minister’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said: “Vladimir Vladimirovich is working, working hard, rather than thinking about whether to run in the election.”

BATMAN AND ROBIN?

Most officials and foreign diplomats believe that, as the ultimate arbiter between the powerful clans that make up the Russian elite, Putin will have the final say on who will run in 2012.

As Russia’s most popular politician and leader of the ruling party, Putin would be almost certain to win a newly extended six-year term if he decided to return to the presidency.

He could also then run again for another term from 2018 to 2024, a quarter of a century since he rose to power in late 1999. He would turn 72 on October 7, 2024.

The picture of Russia’s “alpha-dog” ruler eyeing another Kremlin term corresponds to the assessment of U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle who cast Medvedev as playing “Robin to Putin’s Batman,” according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.

“Russia’s bicephalous ruling format is not likely to be permanent based on Russian history and current tandem dynamics,” Beyrle wrote in February 2010 according to a copy of the cable on http:/wikileaks.org/cable/2010/02/10MOSCOW272.html

Because of Medvedev’s weakness in relation to Putin, the Kremlin chief’s attempt to present himself as anything other than Putin’s loyal protege has puzzled investors and irked some of the officials who make up part of Putin’s court.

In a host of choreographed public events, Medvedev has pitched himself as the right man for Russia, calling for opening up the tightly controlled political system crafted by Putin and even reportedly lobbying Russia’s powerful tycoons for support.

A Kremlin insider said it appeared that both Medvedev and Putin wanted to be president, but that the tandem had not shown itself to be an effective way to rule Russia.

“Neither Medvedev nor Putin have shown that this construction is stable,” said the source, who added that talk of any discord was overblown and that Putin had shown his confidence in Medvedev by steering him into the Kremlin in 2008.

Asked about Medvedev, the source said: “He is not stupid but he is not a brilliant manager and I am not completely convinced he has enough steel… Putin does not plan to leave power anytime soon.”

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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The World Today: Exposing the Lies of Mainstream Media The mainstream media is owned by bankers and corporate kingpins

Posted by Admin on May 24, 2011

“Truth has to be repeated constantly, because Error also is being preached all the time, and not just by a few, but by the multitude.  In the Press and Encyclopaedias, in Schools and Universities, everywhere Error holds sway, feeling happy and comfortable in the knowledge of having Majority on its side.”   —Goethe

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Thank you for visiting Global Research! We are reassured to know that you have come to this site because you are looking to find the truth, the REAL truth behind the “news”, to understand the political, social and economic forces shaping the world you live in.

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If you are visiting this site, it is because you have realized that things aren’t “adding up”, that what world leaders and influential figures are telling us, as conveyed by mainstream media, does not accurately reflect the picture of the world today. You have seen that the only way to find the “truth” is to go to independent sources that aren’t funded and manipulated by corporate and political interests.

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Russia announces Libya arms deal worth $1.8bn

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8489167.stm

Vladimir Putin (left) faces Libya's Abu Bakr Yunis Jaber at talks in Moscow, 29 January

Libya had been in talks with Russia for several days

Russia is to supply Libya with small-arms and other weapons to the value of $1.8bn (£1.1bn, 1.3bn euros), Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has announced.

The contract is worth nearly a quarter of the Russian state arms exporter’s entire sales last year, which were put at $7.4bn.

Mr Putin said the deal had been signed on Friday during a visit by the Libyan defence minister.

There was no immediate word from the Libyan side on the deal.

Abu Bakr Yunis Jaber, Libya’s defence minister, has been in Moscow for several days, meeting defence officials.

Keeping busy

Mr Putin gave no details of the arms covered by the contract. Russian media speculated earlier that it might include fighter planes.

“Yesterday a contract worth 1.3bn euros was signed,” Mr Putin announced at a meeting near Moscow with the director of the Russian small-arms manufacturer Izhmash, which makes the Kalashnikov assault rifle.

“These are not just small-arms.”

Mr Putin gave no further details. However, according to a military diplomatic source quoted earlier by Russian news agencies, the deal included fighter aircraft, tanks and a sophisticated air defence system.

Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state-owned arms export monopoly, announced on Thursday that its 2009 sales had seen a 10% increase on the previous year.

Customers included India, Algeria, China, Venezuela, Malaysia and Syria, with air force weaponry making up 50% of sales.

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DEMOCRACY IN 19TH CENTURY WESTERN EUROPE

Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

“How democratic were France, Germany and Britain by 1900?”

Table of contents:

Part I: Summary;

Part II: Outline;

Part III: Limitation of this study;

Part IV: Democracy in France;

Part V: Democracy in Germany;

Part VI: Democracy in Britain;

Part VII: Conclusion.

Part I:

Summary: Just over a century ago, the kind of government that existed in these frontline western European states was a far cry from what is seen today. The political earthquake called the French Revolution had its epicentre in France, but its rumblings were felt through most of the continent, as well as in faraway colonies, leaving the politics of most European countries in a state of flux. But the intended harvest of this revolution, an obliteration of monarchy and the rule of law, the indispensable elements of a democracy, took its time to get ingrained in the political systems of these countries, and evolved as a form of government very differently in each of the three countries taken up in this paper. If the advent of Napoleon affected these three countries, and the Vienna Congress stunted France and Germany’s graduation to democracy, the internal political dynamics in all these countries were different from each other’s. In Britain, whose brand of democracy was mixed, the Reform Acts turned out to be milestones on the road to democracy. Such serious and well-intended steps to democracy were not taken in the other two countries. This is mainly because France kept seesawing between monarchy and autocracy through most of the 19th century, while Germany was a disparate state for most of that century. In sum, in Britain, by the end of the 19th century, a parliamentary democracy, which the nation had been having for a long time, was fairly well established, although under a monarchy. The same was not the case with the other two; in all, Germany enjoyed the least democracy. The reasons for this discrepancy form the backbone of this paper.

Part II:

Outline: This paper takes up separately the extent to which democracy was ushered in into these three countries. In each of these cases, a narration is made of how democracy developed. Since the nature of this paper is analytical, too much detail is not made of this aspect; this explanation is given only to reinforce the thesis question. The starting point for the evolution of democracy in each of these countries is taken up separately. This is for the simple reason that while the French Revolution happened in France, such an event did not take place in the other two countries. For these, appropriate historically important dates or events are taken up.

Part III:

Limitation of this study: While 1789 may be termed a signal event for modern democracy, no event of such importance concerning democracy happened in 1900, the cut off date for this paper. However, since this is the period up to which this paper is concerned, it restricts itself to developments in most parts of the 19th century, in which the major themes were unification for Germany, political uncertainty for France, and the reform of the parliamentary system in the Victorian Era for Britain.

Part IV:

Democracy in France:

France was home to one of the watershed political events of modern Europe, the French Revolution, in which the people rose in revolt with the slogan, war to the châteaux, peace to the cottages. The gravity and repercussions of this event are far too great to bear banal repetition; however, while the essential aim of the Revolution was to bring an end to the autocratic and inept regimes that misruled the nation, (Frey & Frey, 2004, p. 57) the result it sought to instil, democracy, did not have a smooth inception or development, either, suffering from several long and enduring birth pangs.

Strangely, for most part of the 19th century, it seemed as if the great revolution had turned out to be no more than an isolated, standalone event. The dividend the Revolution sought to pay, democracy, had to wait for a seemingly interminable period of time to fructify and get implanted in the nation’s political system, because the succession of governments it brought were anything but democratic. Leading political figures of the day, such as Robespierre feared that the system the revolution put in place was one which had a penchant for forgetting “the interests of the people”, would “lapse into the hands of corrupt individuals”, and worst of all, “reestablish the old tyranny” (Cohen, 1997, p. 130) Later decades showed that his prognosis was not far off the mark.

The decades following the Revolution saw a chain of events, none of which took the country anywhere near democracy, the avowed aim of the Revolution. The years from the Revolution to the Franco-Prussian War saw political fissures of one or another kind, which had no semblance of democracy, starting with the ascent of Napoleon, perhaps the most powerful dictator the country had ever produced. His defeat was followed by the Restoration of the monarchy; this gave rise to the Revolution of 1830, and the rule of Louis Philippe, till 1848. It took another revolution to bring down his regime, this time in 1848. Finally, this heralded the era of the Second Republic, and the tenure of the fickle Napoleon III, leading to another event of seminal importance for the nation, the Franco-Prussian war, to be followed by yet another Republic, the Third. (Haine, 2000, p. 97) This regime, too heavily weighed down by palace intrigues, scandals, wars and renewed national pride in the wake of a highly recharged and resurgent neighbour, Prussia, (Wright, 1916, pp. 2-4) was left with little room or time for democracy. Nothing of import happened in the period till the end of the 19th century to necessitate the emergence of a democracy.

Part V:

Democracy in Germany:

Germany’s tryst with democracy in the 19th century needs to be seen in circumstances that were peculiar and unique to the nation’s history. This was when the German people united as a nation for the first time.  They had been a loosely knit confederation of princely states that owed its allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire by the time of the French Revolution; yet, in about a century of this event, they had been cobbled together almost magically under the Prussian banner. A series of moves replete with uninhibited daredevilry, gamble, deceit and sheer diplomatic astuteness on the part of its Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck had united the German people, ridding them of the yoke of Austrian domination of its peoples. (Snell, 1976, pp. 3, 4) However, Germany had only been united, resulting in the realisation of a long-lasting and cherished dream of a German nation; this did not in any way mean that a democracy had been put in place. The arrangements the Congress of Vienna made for Europe in 1815 undid Bismarck’s work, setting the clock back on democracy. Even so, the newly-knit entity did not have the prerequisite groundwork for democracy, suffering from a basic flaw –it “was constructed by its princes, not by its people. That important fact distinguished Germany from nations like England, France, and the United States, where the constitutions were designed “with the consent of the governed.” The German Empire was a federation of sovereign states, its constitution created by a treaty among the hereditary rulers of those states. The “wars of unification” were not revolutionary popular movements; they were narrowly focused international conflicts designed by Bismarck to help Prussia eliminate Austrian power within Germany and to create a new Prussian-led German nation within Europe.”  (Turk, 1999, pp. xvii-null22) Whatever spattering of democracy the nation had towards the fag end of the century was limited to social democracy, in which it was confined to labour unions. (Berghahn, 1994, p. 160)

Part VI:

Democracy in Britain: The year 1815 is considered a benchmark for the politics of Britain, as it was for several other European countries, for the simple reason that this year saw the end of the power and influence of one of the greatest nemeses it ever saw, Napoleon. However, while this was the major issue for the nation externally, Britain had its share of internal problems, as well, during this century. The Industrial Revolution brought in its wake dramatic changes which the nation had to ingest, with both the promises and the pitfalls it spawned. Among the most important social effects the Industrial Revolution had on the nation was a near-explosion in population, and the drawbacks of nascent industrialisation, at which it had no forerunners from any part of the world. Thus, the greatest priority at that time was a set of policies that gave the country social solidity and some element of peace. (McCord, 1991, p. 1) With the high rates of population growth and their attendant problems such as high infant mortality being great priorities during the early part of the 19th century, (Brown, 1991, p. 30) the air of politics was abuzz with the question of which of the institutions the British had so assiduously built up over the previous centuries was best suited to give coherence to the society that was changing at a feverish pace. In this milieu, the emphasis for British politics was more over what kind of reform was suited and needed for the society, polity and the economy, rather than which form of government was best suited to carry these changes out. Opinion was sharply divided among the Conservatives and the Liberals about which of its institutions could carry the day for Britain. The unshakable British faith in the monarchy was as firm as ever, not diluting or eroding even slightly on account of these changes. (Park, 1950, pp. 3-5) In essence, the 19th century, during whose most part Britain was under the rule of one of its longest-reigning monarchs, Queen Victoria, saw the emergence of a peculiarly hybridised, yet often contradictory system of governance. Quintessential democratic institutions, such as the parliament, the judiciary, the cabinet and the local government were alive and well, but functioned under a monarchy. On the one hand, fair and free elections, the ultimate identifier of a democracy, were being held with amazing regularity; on the other, it could not be denied that participation in these elections was limited to the handful of rich and powerful. It was to correct this set of imbalances and to draw more people into the electorate that the Reform Acts were passed. The basic intent of these sets of legislation was the promotion of greater democracy, by drawing the excluded and marginalised sections of society into the electorate. (Pugh, 1999, p. 20) The nation went through three Reform Acts, passed in 1832, 1867 and 1884, whose central aim was increasing the numbers of the electorate. (Hammond & Foot, 1952, pp. 212-214) At about the time these Acts were passed, a parallel social and political reform movement, Chartism, was very active. The basic demand of this radical, unionised movement was greater political participation for the working classes, so that the fruits of the Industrial Revolution percolated down to the labour class, too. (Maccoby, 1935, p. 33) However, in the light of the needs of the day, and the priority these Acts had, they met with little success in actually bringing in democracy to the country. What has been said about the Reform Act of 1832, perhaps holds good for the other Acts, too –that they were “…an excellent example of the British skill of muddling through. An aristocracy muddled through to a democracy, taking many of the aristocratic virtues with them; and they muddled through from an age of privilege to an age of numbers. The democratic implications of the act(s) were not in fact revealed for more than a generation…” (Smellie, 1962, p. 164) As a result, through most of the Victorian Era, although efforts were made haltingly towards bringing in more democracy, there was no more than a sprinkling of democracy; even this happened at the grassroots level, being restricted to the municipal level, as a series of Acts were passed at the local government level. (Harrison, 1996, p. 20)

Part VII:

Conclusion: A study of the thesis question throws up a mixed picture. Overall, democracy, so essential a feature of these countries today, had had to make a bumpy and potholed journey. In all these countries, democracy was nebulous and uncertain in the 19th century, albeit in varying degrees. In Britain, a parliamentary democracy was very much in full bloom, but the inherent love and pride of the British people for their monarchy pre-empted a switch to a full-fledged democratic form of government. As a result, these democratic institutions functioned under a monarchy that controlled the largest empire of the day.

In France, the scene was different. In the absence of democratic institutions of the kind Britain had nurtured, the governance the French Revolution brought about vacillated between various kinds, with the result that democracy took a backseat.

In Germany, the struggles inherent in a newly unified nation, coupled with its naivety in running its newly developing imperialism resulted in too many squabbles and bottlenecks for democracy. The nation that Bismarck had welded together had the ingenuity to only work under a newly consolidated empire, not having been inculcated the necessary mindset for a democracy. It was never going to be easy for these fissiparous peoples to be administered a sudden dose of democracy, as by definition they had been inured to centuries of localism. By the end of that century, democracy was nowhere registered in the average German psyche.

Of all these nations taken up for this study, it can be said that Britain had the highest form of democracy by the end of the 19th century; yet, here too, despite the Reform Acts, which could not be termed a great harbinger of democracy, it was nowhere near what may be termed a pure democracy, something that came so naturally to some of its colonies, principally America.

Written By Ravindra G Rao

 

References

 

Berghahn, V. R., (1994), Imperial Germany, 1871-1914: Economy, Society, Culture, and Politics, Berghahn Books, Providence, RI.

 

Brown, R., (1991), Society and Economy in Modern Britain, 1700-1850, Routledge, New York.

Cohen, P. M., (1997), Freedom’s Moment: An Essay on the French Idea of Liberty from Rousseau to Foucault, University Of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Frey, L. S., & Frey, M. L. (2004). The French Revolution /, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.

 

Haine, W. S., (2000), The History of France (F. W. Thackeray & J. E. Findling, Ed.), Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.

 

Hammond, J. L., & Foot, M. R., (1952), Gladstone and Liberalism, English Universities Press, London.

 

Harrison, B., (1996), The Transformation of British Politics, 1860-1995, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

 

Maccoby, S., (1935), English Radicalism, Allen & Unwin, London.

 

McCord, N., (1991), British History, 1815-1906, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

 

Park, J. H., (1950), British Prime Ministers of the Nineteenth Century, New York University Press, New York.

 

Pugh, M., (1999), State and Society: A Social and Political History of Britain, 1870-1997, Arnold, London.

 

Smellie, K. B., (1962), Great Britain since 1688: A Modern Histor, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI.

 

Snell, J. L., (1976), The Democratic Movement in Germany, 1789-1914 (H. A. Schmitt, Ed.), University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC.

Turk, E. L., (1999), The History of Germany, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT.

 

Wright, C. H., (1916), A History of the Third French Republic, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

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DEMOCRACY IN THE THIRD WORLD

Posted by Admin on January 30, 2011

“Can democracy survive in the Third World? Can it succeed?”

 

Table of contents:

Part I: Introduction;

Part II: Key words;

Part III: Problem aspect of this paper;

Part IV: Case study;

Part V: Conclusion.

________________________________________________________________________

Part I:

Introduction:

This paper is an attempt to understand if democracy can survive and succeed in the Third World. The methodology adopted, as well as the roadblocks attendant to this narrative are mentioned in the ensuing paragraphs. This paper takes the case of secular democracy in India as a model for Third World countries in arriving at the thesis proposition. The rationale and justification for this selection, and the pitfalls associated with it are made in Part III of this paper.

Part II:

Key words: Democracy, Third World, Secular Democracy, Christian, Protestantism, India, colonial rule, Independence, Minority, Appeasement, Muslim, Hindu Nationalism.

Part III:

Problem aspects of this paper: By far, the core problem for this paper concerns its very nature –that of having to explain the nature of democracy in Third World countries in the space given to it. The broad term ‘Third World’ encompasses several of the world’s countries, and the transition to democracy, or prospects for success or otherwise in these few dozen countries, is too generic and seamless to be described in a few hundred words. This is because if one were to bunch together all developing countries, as Third World countries are also known, the case of each is unique and is moulded by the peculiar circumstance of its history. For instance, if some South European states started having doses of democracy in stages in the 1970’s, Latin American nations saw a wave towards democratisation in the 80’s. However, there was little to suggest that there was a common, binding factor in these cases; moreover, it was a trend that was not really sustained. No clear patterns can be discerned regarding the reasons and direction towards democratisation in most Third World countries. (Haynes, 2001, pp.1- 3) Some have argued that if there is a common thread running through Third World countries, it is that of having been colonies of some or another European power, and inheriting at least some of their systems of governance. (Clapham, 1990, p. 39) [1]Yet, this position, while a truism on the surface, hides more than it reveals –the simple reason being that not all these nations were colonised by the same power, and even when some of these did come under the same colonial rule, democracy was never the necessary fruit of decolonisation in these countries. Thus, forecasting the democratic prospects of a few of these countries may not be an appropriate representation or sample of the whole. This is because of the reasons just stated, which is that there is very little in common, except of being herded into the group that is conveniently labelled a “Third World” country. [2]

These countries have been located anywhere in the globe, and their democracies, when present, either as an inheritance from their former colonial masters immediately after independence, or its adaptation at a later date have been dictated by the need of the day, and are unique. (Haynes, 2001, p. 3) Another couple of critical facts need to be underscored when talking about democracy in developing countries: first, when democracies have functioned, they have been almost certainly different from that perceived and practised in the West, and more importantly, several Third World democracies are in a process of transition, and will, in all likeliness, continue to remain so. (Forje, 1997, p. 315) Even if these and other Third World countries may have a few commonalities as regards their economies, the democratic linkage is extremely brittle. Hence, in answering the thesis question, the researcher is left with little option to go about this paper other than to take select one Third World country, and making a study of its democratic prospects. India is an obvious choice simply because of its being the world’s most populous democracy, and because this country has shown remarkable resilience in preserving its democratic system, despite the innumerable odds against it. Having said this, it needs to be reemphasised that this is not a true reflection of the state of democracy in all Third World countries, but can only be used as an exemplar. Since some benchmark has to be used in arriving at a conclusion, this example is chosen.

Part V:

Case study:

India: India is chosen because it is both a typical and untypical Third World democracy in varying degrees. It opted for democracy since independence, despite internal contradictions of the term between the main founding fathers, Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. (The Washington Times, May 31st, 2004, p. A23) [3] Nehru’s viewpoint prevailed, to the effect that in India, democracy has often meant secular democracy. This is a paradox, in that secularism implies separation of state from the Church, while in India, its sole connotation was the appeasement of the minorities, especially the Muslim community, which makes up a substantial proportion of the population. This, in the eyes of the world and to Indian politicians, was what Indian democracy was really like. Things seemed to change with the destruction of a mosque in northern India in 1992. It was perceived, at least in the West that India was on the path to abandoning its cherished secular democratic values when it was feared that this event would mark the start of aggressive Hindu nationalism, which with its supposed anti-minority ideology, would set the clock back on democracy. However, the issue needs to be seen in perspective. First, Hindu nationalism, if it did really take shape, was in retaliation to two major phenomena –the marginalisation of the majority Hindu community at the hands of successive governments led by the Congress party since independence, and two, a succession of separatist movements, led by a Muslim-majority and a Sikh-majority state,[4] that threatened to tear the very heart of India in the 1980’s. The rise of this pan-Hindu nationalism needs to be seen as a reaction to this. (Varshney, 1993) These aberrations notwithstanding, having India exist and flourish as a democracy seems to be in everyone’s interest, including America’s. Being one of the states that do not depend on the US for the sustenance of its democracy, economy or security, India is one of the Third World’s champions in advocating and practising secular democracy, a product of European enlightenment. There may have been occasional hiccups, but these are few and far between. It has moved from being a champion among anti-imperial nations at the time of its independence to being leader of the Non Aligned Movement during the Cold War to being the beacon of democracy today in a region in which this seems more an exception than a rule. It has the potential to be an economic powerhouse in the years to come, and is now in a position to seek democracy at such global institutions as the UN Security Council. (Khanna & Mohan, 2006)

Part VI: Conclusion: In drawing a conclusion, it has to be said that democracy can indeed not only survive, but also succeed in Third World countries. If a country like India, with its mind-boggling diversity and social complexities can achieve democracy, there is no reason for other countries not to follow suit. Two major points need mention, however, in assessing if other Third World countries can replicate Indian democracy. First, Third World democracies may not look like the exact twin of western democracy. This distinction needs to be both understood and conceded, for the reason that there is no one, universal type of democracy. (Forje, 1997, p. 315) Secondly, the only obstacle to democracy in Third World countries can be a lack of willingness on the part of the governments in these countries to implement the system. If India has succeeded, it has been because of its willingness more than anything else. It surmounted serious obstacles to its democratic nature on at least two major occasions since independence –the imposition of emergency under Indira Gandhi in 1975 (Carras, 1979, p. 154), and the rise of the Hindu Right some years later, again a takeoff from where the Congress had left off. (Hansen, 1999, p. 150)[5] Of these, undoubtedly, the graver threat to democracy was the earlier instance. However, these were not powerful enough to override India’s strongly rooted framework and ability to making democracy a success. If this is an example the world’s most populous democracy can set, other countries can easily take the cue. In sum, democracy can indeed survive and succeed in a Third World country, but the will and need for it has to come from within.

Written By Ravindra G Rao

 

References

 

 

Carras, M. C., 1979, Indira Gandhi: In the Crucible of Leadership, Beacon Press, Boston.

Clapham, C.,1990, Third World Politics: An Introduction, Routledge, London.

Doorenspleet, R., 2002, 3. “Development, Class and Democracy”, in Development and Democracy:  What Have We Learned and How?, Elgström, O. & Hyden, G. (Eds.) (pp. 48-61), Routledge, London.

Forje, J. W., 1997, 9. “Some Observations on Prospects of Democracy in the Contemporary World” in Prospects of Democracy: A Study of 172 Countries (pp. 315-331), Routledge, London.

Haynes, J., (Ed.), 2001, Democracy and Political Change in the “Third World”, Routledge, London.

2004. “In India, Parties Overlap; Hindu Nationalism Secularism Converge”, The Washington Times, (Washington, US), May 31, 2004, p. A23.

 

Khanna, P., & Mohan, C. R., 2006, “Getting India Right”, Policy Review, Vol.135, p. 43. Retrieved December 13, 2006, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com

 

Lakoff, S. A., 1996, History, Theory, Practice, Westview Press, Boulder, CO.

Strong, J., 1885, Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis, The American Home Missionary Society, New York.

Varshney, A., 1993, “Contested Meanings: India’s National Identity, Hindu Nationalism, and the Politics of Anxiety”, Daedalus, Vol.122,  No.3, p.227, retrieved December 13, 2006, from Questia database: http://www.questia.com


[1] An interesting point here would be to analyse the linkage between democracy and Christianity. Some blatantly racist writers as Josiah Strong, writing in the period of American Reconstruction,  boasted that democracy found its highest actualisation in Christianity, since no other race was as superior or well-suited to respect freedom as Christianity. (Strong, 1885, pp. 171-180) While this is one extreme argument, more balanced and recent critics of democratic systems, too, nevertheless, seem to draw a relationship between the two. Some like Lakoff (1996) draw a parallel between democratisation and not Christianity per se, but more specifically, Protestantism. In particular, look at page 276 of this book, in which the main point is that “democratization of politics [came about] after bloody wars of religion led to toleration and the weakening if not the complete dissolution of ties between church and state. Political pluralism was modeled upon (and legitimated by) Protestant sectarianism.” (Lakoff, 1996, p. 276)

[2] Another link that has been made is between democracy and development. Seymour Martin Lipset, who pioneered this linkage, substantiated this position by demonstrating a trickle-down effect model of democracy and development. In this line of thinking, social conditions become the cornerstone of democracy; when social conditions of workers improved on account of democracy, there was less social conflict, since the working class had greater outlet for improvement of their creative skills, and this made extremist tendencies less enticing than development. The root of the prevention of these extreme ideologies is in the way democracy “is able to reward moderate and democratic parties and penalise extremist groups.” (Doorenspleet, 2002, p. 49)

[3] Gandhi’s idea of democracy was rooted in the Hindu ideal of Ram Rajya, or the kingdom of Lord Ram, which may be termed, in a sense, a forerunner of the Utilitarian theory of Jeremy Bentham, whose core ideal was the maximum happiness of maximum numbers.

Gandhi derived this ideal from a religious, spiritual perspective, by which he implied the equal respect to all religions. Nehru’s idea of democracy was secular in the real sense of the word, by which religion was to be severed totally from administration, although in practice, as mentioned elsewhere in this paper, this had a very constricted view. (The Washington Times, May 31st, 2004, p. A23)

[4] Obviously, the two states being referred to here are Kashmir and Punjab, in the heart of northern India. Kashmir, like Punjab, borders Pakistan and is claimed by the latter on the basis of its Muslim majority, because of which, so claim successive Indian governments since independence, it has been supporting separatist, Islamic terrorism to destabilise India. Although this has been the bone of contention between the two neighbours since independence, terrorism took a decisive upswing in the late 1980’s. Punjab, on the other hand, had been turned into a terrorist state since separatist Sikh militant groups made demands for a separate nation in the 1980’s.

[5] This author makes the claim that it was the Congress party Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi’s balancing act of appeasing both Hindus and Muslims that created the platform for the Right. On the one hand, he had the gates of the abandoned Hindu Temple at Ayodhya, which existed side by side with the mosque that was brought down in 1992, unlocked after it had remained locked since 1949. On the other, he had the legislature overturn a Supreme Court judgement in a case involving conjugal rights of a Muslim woman citing minority rights. Both these happened in the mid 1980’s, during his tenure. (Hansen, 1999, p. 150)

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Papers surface alleging land grab by Deve Gowda family

Posted by Admin on November 26, 2010

The Vidhana Soudha, the seat of Karnataka's le...

Vidhana Soudha(Bengaluru),Karnataka

H.D Deve Gowda(Former Prime Minister of India)

H.D Deve Gowda(Former Prime Minister of India)

http://in.yfittopostblog.com/2010/11/24/papers-surface-alleging-land-grab-by-deve-gowda-family/

HD Kumaraswamy, the JD(S) leader who has been exposing scandal after scandal involving chief minister B S Yeddyurappa, is now in the dock for helping his brother Balakrishne Gowda grab prime land in Bangalore.

Documents surfaced in Bangalore on Wednesday showing the gifting of prime land to Kupendra Reddy, who in turn sold part of the property to former prime minister HD Deve Gowda’s son Balakrishne Gowda.

The Bangalore edition of Deccan Chronicle reports:

In 2007, then chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy who has been crying foul over BSY’s largesse to his kith and kin, granted an absolute sale deed to an extent of 28 acres of prime land belonging to KIADB on the bustling Sarjapur Outer Ring Road for a mere Rs 14 crore. Its market value today — Rs 850 crore.

Less than two months later, HDK’s brother and other members of the former chief minister’s family received a portion of this very property at a throw away price. Today, Accenture operates out of this office space.

According to documents available with Deccan Chronicle, the prime beneficiary in this deal is H.D. Balakrishne Gowda (HDK’s brother) who has got 25,000 sqft of built up office space for a mere Rs 3.08 crore at less than Rs 1,200 per sqft whereas the value at that time was Rs 4,000 per sqft of built up structure.

Deccan Herald had reported the deal back in 2007:

H D Kumaraswamy may now have to eat his words. A set of documents available with Deccan Herald reveals that his family members, indeed, have  connections with the city-based realtor D Kupendra Reddy, whose house was raided by the I-T department on Tuesday…

A day after the I-T raids, Mr Kumaraswamy had fumed at media reports that Mr Reddy was close to him and stoutly denied any connection with the realtor. The documents also reveal that the entire commercial space sold to Kavitha (Kumaraswamy’s sister-in-law) and her family members was originally owned by State-owned Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board.

Three years on, when the case surfaced again this Wednesday, Kumaraswamy told TV9 that Reddy had got the land from the industrial area development board when S M Krishna was chief minister. He claimed he had no knowledge of the deal involving his brother Balakrishne Gowda.

Earlier in the day, Kumaraswamy said the BJP had acted immorally by letting scandal-tainted Yeddyurappa stay on as chief minister. He said he would take out a yatra in Karnataka to draw the people’s attention to Yeddyurappa’s “misdeeds.” Panchayat elections are due in the state in a month.

 

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Musharraf says to return to Pakistan politics

Posted by Admin on October 2, 2010

Musharraf says to return to Pakistan politics ... Fri, Oct 1 06:29 PM

Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf said on Friday he will return to lead a new political party to tackle corruption, revive the sluggish economy and step up the fight against Islamist militants.

Musharraf, who quit office in 2008 to avoid impeachment charges, said he feared the nuclear-armed country could break up without a change of political leadership.

Pakistan is a frontline state in the United States‘ fight against Islamist militancy in the region, but questions about Islamabad’s commitment to the campaign have raised tensions between the two countries.

“When there is a dysfunctional government and the nation is going down and its economy is going down…there is a pressure on the military from the people,” he told BBC radio.

“There is a sense of despondency spreading in Pakistan. We cannot allow Pakistan to disintegrate. So who is the saviour? The army can do it. Nobody else can do it.”

London-based Musharraf, who took power in a military coup in 1999, denied that he faced arrest for treason if he returns to Pakistan, although he said he did fear assassination attempts.

“There is no charge against me, whoever thinks like that doesn’t know the reality,” he said. “There are other dangers.”

Asked when he would return, Musharraf said it would be before the next elections, due by 2013.

“I won’t wait until 2013,” he said. “The stronger I am politically, the more grounds there will be for me to go.”

He warned that a Taliban insurgency could engulf Pakistan unless the government takes a stronger stance.

“If we don’t curb it, there is a possibility that we keep going down and it could end up destroying (the country),” he told BBC radio. “If the armed forces of Pakistan don’t want that, it will never end up destroying Pakistan.”

Musharraf has talked of re-entering politics several times over the past year. Since leaving Pakistan, he has spent most of his time in Britain and the United States.

His popularity waned after he clashed with the judiciary and imposed a six-week stint of emergency rule in 2007 to thwart opposition to his efforts to secure another term. An alliance with the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks was also deeply unpopular with many voters.

Political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi said Musharraf’s prospects in Pakistani politics were weak — at least for now.

“Traditionally, military rulers have not succeeded in popular politics, including those who went to the opposition,” he said. “He’ll have to come back and demonstrate his support. While sitting in London you can’t really do politics.”

Political commentator Najam Sethi said Musharraf’s new party faced big hurdles.

“Musharraf does have a constituency but since the two mainstream parties, the media and the judiciary are against him, the short-term prospects don’t look good,” he said.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths in London and Augustine Anthony in Islamabad; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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Paradigm Research Group: Timely Questions

Posted by Admin on September 15, 2010

Paradigm Research Group

Press Release – September 13, 2010 – Timely Questions

Washington, DCPRG today released some more timely questions for consideration by the nation’s citizens, congressional members and political media.

Are you upset by this?

Check out this article on the CA gas explosion
If “yes”, then you should ask yourself the following questions?

Do you think these?

Run on this?

If your answer is “no”, then the following questions need to be posed to President Obama, the Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of Energy:

1)  does the United States Government have in its possession vehicles of extraterrestrial origin?

2)  if “yes”, has the United States Government for decades been studying the energy and propulsion physics of such vehicles?

3)  if “yes”, when will this technology be available to address the growing challenges facing the planet and the human race?

This press release is archived at:
http://www.paradigmresearchgroup.org/Press_Releases/Press_releases.html#9-13-10

Contact
Stephen Bassett
prg@paradigmresearchgroup.org
202-215-8344

__________________________________________

Paradigm Research Group
4938 Hampden Lane, #161, Bethesda, MD 20814
prg@paradigmresearchgroup.org    202-215-8344
http://www.paradigmresearchgroup.org

Here is the Marketwatch article on the California gas explosion:

California tragedy reveals danger, rarity of gas blasts

By Shawn Langlois, MarketWatch

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/blast-shows-dangers-scarcity-of-gas-explosions-2010-09-10

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — The natural-gas explosion that rocked a San Francisco suburb Thursday evening serves as a stark reminder of the dangers posed by the pressure cooker of pipelines crisscrossing the country.

The vast U.S. natural-gas network consists of more than 200,000 miles of interstate pipelines, another 85,000 miles for intrastate transmission and still another 40,000 miles of pipe to connect gas-extraction wells to processing facilities.


EIA

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Oily Politics Led to Environmental Disaster

Posted by Admin on June 2, 2010

by: Walter Brasch, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) had a good idea to slow or stop the Gulf Coast oil spill from reaching shore. Build artificial barrier islands, he told the federal government. He wanted the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi River to strengthen and connect the existing barrier islands. The $350 million plan, which Jindal demanded be paid for by BP Oil, would establish an 80–85 mile barrier, about 200 feet wide and six feet high. The barriers would also protect the marshlands, the federal wildlife preserves, and a fragile ecosystem.

When the federal government didn’t respond, he threatened to have Louisiana do the job itself, and had his attorney general notify the Corps of Engineers that under the 10th Amendment the state had a right to protect itself during an emergency. After two weeks of discussion and analysis by the Corps, President Obama ordered the first of six islands to be built. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen, the on-scene commander, said the first island would be a prototype; if it worked, five more would be built. Jindal wants 24 islands, but believes the first six are a good start.

The oil spill, more than 200,000 gallons a day and entering its sixth week, is now the size of Delaware and Maryland combined. Eleven workers are dead, 17 are injured, from the explosion of BP’s Deep Water Horizon, April 20. Several hundred thousand marine mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles have been killed by the spill. Even those oil-soaked birds and mammals that hundreds of volunteers have helped clean may be only days from death. About 34,000 Brown Pelicans, recently taken off the endangered species list, and seagulls continue to dive through the oil-soaked ocean to get to the food supply.

Thousands of migratory birds, during a two to three week rest in the Gulf Coast barrier islands on their flight north from South America, are dying. Sea Turtles, manatees, and dolphins still need to come up through the oil slick for air; eye irritations are the least of the problems they encounter. For about 5,000 dolphins, this is also their birthing season; mothers who survive may have oil on their teats; their calves may die from lack of nutrition or from ingesting the oil. The affected areas of the Gulf are also the spawning grounds for tuna, marlin, and swordfish. Even the fish, which may survive by staying below the spill, are affected by the oil. The coral reefs are being destroyed by the oil and what is needed to be done to break up that oil. More than 700,000 gallons of chemical dispersants, used to help break up the oil, add to the destruction of the balance of nature. Its toxicity may affect sea life for at least a decade.

The $2.5 billion fishing industry, a major part of the life of the Gulf, has been devastated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has closed about 46,000 square miles of fishing fields, about one-fourth of all fishing waters in the Gulf. The lucrative shrimp, oyster, and clam industries are not only closed, but the effects will last for more than one season. Boat captains and their crews are idle. Tourism at the beginning of what is normally a lucrative summer season is almost non-existent.

Had the barrier islands been in place several years ago, the effects of the spill would have been significantly less. Erosion, combined with deep water oil drilling long before the Horizon explosion, had destroyed natural barrier islands and wetlands. A $14 billion proposal by the Corps of Engineers, supported by Louisiana, environmentalists and the oil industry to restore the area levees, wetlands, and barrier islands was rejected by President George W. Bush. Both he and Vice-President Dick Cheney, former oil company executives, were more concerned about protecting the oil industry than the people who would be affected by Big Oil. Besides, they had a war to wage in Iraq, and $14 billion was too much to spend on domestic protections.

Much of the $100 billion damage from Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm, was not from the wind and rain but from the failure to provide adequate protection.

It is that same protection, those same barrier islands that were destroyed by the oil industry years ago, that would have significantly slowed or stopped the nation’s worst environmental disaster, one caused not by nature but the incompetence of mankind.

“Drill, Baby, Drill” was once an in-our-face slogan of certain politicians and the oil industry that feeds them. It is now but a reminder that when mankind destroys the environment, there will be tragic consequences.

Walter Brasch is author of the critically-acclaimed book, “Unacceptable”: The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina.

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