Anglo Blog, August 30, 2018

Trump’s Predicament

There are two ways where Trump could be proven to have committed crimes that would almost impel impeachment. The first concerns Russian interference in the US election and whether Trump solicited it, knew about it or in some way associated with the Russians to influence the result. A special federal prosecutor, Robert Mueller, has been tasked with proving that.

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The other is whether Trump used campaign funds to pay for the silence of two women who allege to have had affairs with him and the dissemination of this fact could have affected the election. This case is in a being tried in a New York court, and revolves around the testimony of various government witnesses, including most explosively Trump’s ex-lawyer, whose testimony could prove key in implicating Trump in criminal activities.

The bad news for Trump this week was that these two investigations showed some result. His former campaign manager was convicted on eight counts, and although this does not directly affect Trump, more will be revealed about Trump’s business practices, something else that could undermine him. Michael Cohen was Trump’s lawyer for ten years, has intimate knowledge (backed apparently by evidence) of the president’s business shenanigans. It seems the walls are closing in.

Those who loathe Trump, and he is not one to generate neutral or indifferent sentiment, are elated and feel that perhaps the end of this nightmare is guaranteed at some point sooner rather than later. The president’s wholesale assault on anything Obama accomplished has been alarming and disheartening for those who oppose him.

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The president’s ardent admirers, about 40% of the population, scoff at these legal intrigues; in their view, all politicians are corrupt, so if Trump is no different so be it. It matters little to them, even the Evangelicals who profess great piety and condemn homosexuals, whether he cheated on his wife and repeatedly lied about it. He’s a human being, he makes mistakes, they say. And the more the establishment press reveal, the more his supporters are convinced it’s all fake news. His America first, white nationalism has, unfortunately, a very loyal following.

There is a consensus that Trump cannot be indicted as a normal citizen since he could not be judged by a jury. The only way he could be removed from office would be by impeachment, which in the US goes first to the House of Representatives and with a simple majority, it can recommend to the Senate that impeachment proceed. There, it requires a 2/3rds majority.

As the current Congress stands, where Republicans have majorities (a slim one in the Senate). But all that could change because in November, mid-term elections take place and there is a chance the Democrats could win back the legislature, making impeachment proceedings far more likely to be initiated.

The bad news for Trump detractors is that over 80% of Republicans support him, and those within the party who oppose him are afraid to act because it could cause an unravelling of the party. Traditional Republicans are avid free-traders, something Trump is not, and although they like Trump’s repeal of regulation and his tax policy, they are trying to expand the party to make it more inclusive to minorities. Since many Trump supporters are actively hostile to diversity, this chasm could break open completely.

Unless there is a revolt against Trump within Senate Republicans, even if the Democrats win both houses, impeachment is unlikely to succeed. The only way to get rid of Trump would therefore be to vote him out of office in 2020. It is not entirely infeasible that he’d win another election, with the rigged, indirect vote that is American democracy. But with the Democrats inability to put together a message that appeals to the white, working class, he could win by default, as he did the first time.

And that would be a shame.

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Five Broken Cameras: A Review

Autor: Gustavo Oliveira

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The documentary “Five Broken Cameras” was filmed in 2011 and it’s based on true events which happened in 2005. It tells the story of the farmer Emad Burnat who bought a camera to film his fourth son, Gabreel. The farmer lives in Bil’in, a small village located on the West Bank, considered Palestinian territory. At the same time that his son is growing up, the Israeli Army (IDF) decides to build a wall to demark Jewish lands and, unfortunately, the place where the wall is going to be built might take some of Emad’s lands. The camera he bought and four others are used to film, instead of his son, the resistance of his people against the army.

“Five Broken Cameras” was nominated for an Oscar for best long documentary, the World Cinema Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Festival, and all the charaters are represented by their real person. The firm is really well made and shocking, in the way that it represents, in a realistic way, the violence that happens in the regions of Israel-Palestine. The way Emad tells the story and how he relates how each camera was broken in violent ways by the army makes the film a must-watch, as it is touching and has deep social causes, showing anyone who’s interested some stories about the people who live like him. Anyway, a negative part of the documentary is the feeling that only one side of the story in being told, since there are no testimonies from anyone from the army, which could be shown, even if they had non-humanitarian reasons to do what they did.

Anglo Blog Post: May, 2018

1968

Few years have proved as pivotal as 1968, where social upheavals, colonial wars and assassinations of important public figures rollicked societies across the globe. Its ramifications can still be felt today.

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1968 – The Year that Changed the World

The United States was mired in the Vietnam War and the unwinnable nature of the conflict for the Americans became more evident after the launching of the Tet Offensive by the North Vietnamese. The campaign initiated on the Vietnamese New Year (Tet) was the beginning of the end for US forces there, which eventually were expelled in 1975.

The US was further roiled by civil unrest following the assassination of Martin Luther King, and riots broke out in cities including Detroit, Washington, Chicago and Baltimore. The violent death of the non-violent activist had a smothering effect on idealism and the idea that society could be changed peacefully.

Students in Pairs, reacting to the stifling conservatism of French society overseen by the imperious Charles De Gaulle, protested on the streets in May, and ushered in new paradigms for ideas and behaviors. Behind the Iron Curtain, there was open revolt against Communist Party rule when in Czechoslovakia Alexander Dubcek ushered in an era known as Communism with a Human Face. During this brief period, freedoms were decreed and reforms enacted, all challenging the homogenous role of the Communist Party. Moscow’s patience ran out and the Warsaw Pact invaded with 700,000 troops, brutally ending this flirtation with western ideas of democracy. This Prague Spring was short-lived.

Another high profile assassination in the US rocked the political scene when Robert F. Kennedy, John Kennedy’s younger brother, was killed after delivering a campaign speech for his presidential run. Kennedy had declared himself committed to pulling US troops out of Vietnam and promised to enact a progressive agenda. Richard Nixon eventually became president, a dour man who catered to a “silent majority” averse to the social changes sweeping the US.

Societal convulsions were not limited to Europe and North America. In Latin America, progressive forces inspired by the Cuban and sexual revolutions, were challenging the conservative establishment and suffering severe reprisals for that.

In Mexico, just ten days before the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, the authorities gunned down over 300 young people protesting in the streets, in an event known as Tlatelolco Massacre. In Brazil, after the Passeata of 100,000 people march, the military junta adopted A-I 5, essentially denying any rights to those opposed to the dictatorship. The “years of lead” unfolded as one of the most violent and ominous periods of 24-year-old reign of oppression by the Brazilian military.

Some of the idealism of that post-World War Two generation has permeated the societies where already established democracies enacted much needed reforms and countries under dictatorship became working democracies. Yet the year 1968 leaves a lot of what ifs. What if Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy had lived, what if the US had left Vietnam when the writing was on the wall; what if the military regime in Brazil had been toppled at the time; what if the cracks in repressive communism had preempted its downfall earlier.

The world would likely be a different place.

Anglo Blog Post, April 2018

The Israeli-Palestinian Quagmire

 
Few events in the world have been as polarizing as the creation of the state of Israel, which has been celebrating 70 years of existence this week. After years of living in the diaspora across Europe and the Middle East, undergoing pogroms, and a kind of brutal persecution that culminated in the Holocaust, Hitler’s almost successful campaign to eliminate the Jews once and for all, Jews finally had a home. David Ben Gurion, Israeli’s founder and first president declared Jews everywhere could come and settle in their new “homeland.”

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For Palestinians, many of whom lost their homes in the chaos that followed Israel’s independence, Israel’s creation is known as Nakba, “the catastrophe.” From the beginning of the 20th century, they have watched in horror as Jews came to settle land which they had occupied for centuries, and eventually gained formal title to half of it through the UN partition plan approved in 1947. The Palestinians rejected this plan and have been on the losing side of the argument ever since.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been going on throughout this period, ebbing and flowing in its intensity but always simmering below the surface, ready to explode with one incendiary incident or another. Clashes in Gaza against these Israeli independence celebrations are the latest manifestation of this seemingly eternal conflict, with more deaths to add to the roster of suffering of both sides.

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For Palestinians, Israeli independence is known as Nakba Day, which means catastrophe or cataclysm. 700, 000 Palestinians were expelled or fled from their homes as Israeli independence was met by war from its Arab neighbors.

Most experts agree that the much vaunted two-state solution, which according to polls majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians consider a way to break this decades long impasse, is a viable resolution to the conflict. This entails Israel giving back the West Bank and together with the Gaza strip, devolved to the Palestinians in 2005, which would form a demilitarized Palestinian state. In return the Palestinians would acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and cease all attacks on the Jewish state.

So why has this apparently feasible resolution to the problem, backed by most of the respective populations, has remained unattainable. The main problem is narratives, and both side’s inability to reconcile each other’s narratives to the goal of peaceful coexistence that both peoples are ostensibly striving for.

From the Israeli perspective, the legitimacy of the state, questioned by the Arab world from the beginning, is beyond dispute, since it was the world’s most senior governing body, the newly instituted United Nations, which sanctified the right of Jews to half of Palestine. It was the Palestinians and Arab neighbors who rejected the partition plan, immediately attacking the new-born state with an intent to “drive the Jews into the sea.” It was war, and bad things happen in war, an acknowledgment by Israel that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their home.

It was the implacable Arab hostility to the state of Israel that has been the main stumbling block to lasting peace which Israel claims to be pursuing. How can you negotiate with somebody who doesn’t recognize your right to exist?

After the establishment of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964, this new player started a series of spectacular attacks against Israelis, such as the kidnapping and execution of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich or the hijacking of an El AL plane that resulted in the spectacularly successful raid on Entebbe. These were seen as terrorism by Israel and acts of war by the Palestinians but elevated the visibility of active Palestinian resistance. Yet Israelis felt they were dealing with a people bent on obliterating their citizens in attacks specifically targeting civilians. The very morality of the Palestinians was called into question and certainly Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the PLO, the embodiment of that enemy set on destroying the Jews.

The six-day war of 1967 completely changed the power dynamic of the region, with Israel once again successfully defeating their Arab nemesis (Egypt, Syria and Jordan) and occupying land of those three countries, namely the Sinai (Egypt), the West Bank (Jordon) and the Golan Heights (Syria). This occupation was deemed illegal by the international community.

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The polar opposite views of the conflict

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Israel claims that this occupational was strategic and provided a bargaining chip in future negotiations with its Arab foes. To prove its point, Israel handed back the Sinai to Egypt after the Camp David Accords in 1977. However, the West Bank became the target for Jewish settlements where, for religious or economic reasons, many Israelis have moved over the last five decades. Today, over 400,000 Israelis live in land considered illegally occupied by Israel.

However, Israel continues to say that this occupation is negotiable. The problem is the unwillingness of the Palestinians to seriously negotiate. After the collapse of the Oslo Accords of 1993, which according to the Israelis was a result of the unceasing terrorist attacks by Palestinians, Israel points to negotiations in 2000, where it said it was willing to give up most of the West Bank, as proof of Palestinian intransigence when the deal was rejected.

Israel thus sees itself as victim of Arab hostility and a world which is generally anti-Israel for what many Israelis believe are brazenly anti-Semitic reasons. It has always been willing to compromise, it claims, but has been unable to find an honest partner, made even more difficult by the Palestinians now being split between Hamas, who vows to destroy Israel, and the Palestinian Authority (in essence the PLO), which recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

It would be hard to intentionally design a more diametrically opposite view of the conflict than that harbored by the Palestinians. From their point of view, after centuries of occupying the same land of Palestine, they were forced the accept the imposition of a deal that took half of their land and gave it to someone else, which obviously was unacceptable.

According to the Palestinians, the United Nations, in a world where half the world was under the control of the colonial powers, lacked legitimacy. After all, it was not the Arabs who had attempted to annihilate the Jews, but rather the Europeans, who were now placating their guilt by giving the Jews a state in a land where another people lived. Although it was the Germans who carried out the Holocaust, Britain, the US, Canada and other countries did little to help the Jews, turning away thousands of refugees who were forced to go back to Europe and face certain death.

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The wall built by Israel is a symbol of the inability to reconcile the needs of both peoples

Forced into exile, but largely ignored by the world, the Palestinians felt the only way to force the issue onto the world stage was by constructing an armed wing that could attack the Israelis violently. Indeed, it was only after the PLO was formed that the Israelis got serious about negotiating, acknowledging Golda Meir’s statement that Israel was perfect for the Jews, being a land without people for a people without a land.

Life for Palestinians deteriorated further after the 1967 war, when Israel came to directly govern the West Bank, and have been since then exposed to the daily humiliation any occupation by a foreign power tends to produce.

Palestinians also complain about the lack of a legitimate negotiating partner among Israelis, and indeed Israel is bitterly divided in much the same manner as Palestinians in terms of how to arrive at peace. After the Oslo Accords mentioned above, Israeli prime-minister Yitzak Rabin was assassinated by a radical Israeli and the prime ministers that have followed have not been serious about peace and have done everything to detonate as rapprochement with the Palestinians. Israel’s further expropriation of Palestinian lands and establishment of more settlements in the West Bank illustrates Israel’s lack of seriousness in accepting the Palestinian right to a sovereign state.

Apportioning blame to the other side has been a tactic that has served neither side, and clinging to the narrative which apportions its side the moral high ground has severely retarded progress. The Arab countries have used Palestinians for their own internal political purposes, while Israel knows that with the unflinching backing of the US, which has passed on billions of dollars of aid, and the US Jewish community, another source of financial support, it has the military upper hand.

Israelis point to the tiny size of its country, the size of Sergipe, in contrast to the extensive Arab lands, and in essence saying, “all we want is this tiny sliver of land” while the Palestinians are trying to take away even that. The Palestinians are saying all they want is a tiny sliver of land to call their own, after their lands were violently seized from them all those years ago.

The impasse, a constant threat to a region beset by tensions and possible armed confrontation, is truly a tragedy where lack of political will has prevented a lasting solution that would ease the suffering of these two peoples thrust together by history.

Survey

A survey was administered to the second year students of Colégio Anglo to see what their views were on certain social questions. The results are below.

Results tabulation:

DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA AND/OR OTHER ILICIT DRUGS? IF YES, WHY, IF NO WHY NOT. 

Yes: Female – 12   Male – 12

No: Female – 4   Male – 5

No opinion: Female – 2   Male – 1

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Main reasons:

Yes: End traffic and violence; marijuana is not such a “terrible” drug; yes, but with a lot of regulation; it’s a personal decision whether to use drugs; there will be more money (taxes) for treatment; only marijuana, not all drugs; marijuana is useful for medicine; being illegal doesn’t stop people from using them; just for medicinal purposes; having to get involved in traffic means people get exposed to all other more dangerous drugs.

No: it will generate more violence; people become addicted; drugs are not healthy; body not created to receive such artificial substances; it would make drugs accessible to kids; just bad people use drugs.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN CAPITAL PUNISHMENT (DEATH PENALTY) FOR CERTAIN CRIMES? IF YES, WHY, IF NOT, WHY NOT. 

Yes: Female – 6   Male – 15

No: Female – 10   Male – 4

No opinion: Female – 1

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Main reasons:

Yes: Death is the just punishment for killers; some people deserve it, especially in Brazil where people don’t stay long in jail; if there is no doubt about the verdict; it’s cheaper than life in prison; it would make the world a better place; just for heinous crimes; some people can’t be recuperated; make people think before doing something bad; it will decrease criminality; the prisons are full;

No: killing someone is unethical; you free the person of guilt; you should have chance of redemption; doesn’t resolve the problem; it is not ethical; life is a right of the individual; right to a second chance; not a good punishment; not going to fix the problem.
SHOULD WOMEN HAVE A RIGHT TO HAVE AN ABORTION IF THEY DON’T WANT TO CARRY THE CHILD? IF YES, WHY, IF NO, WHY NOT. 

Yes: Female – 18   Male -11

No: Female – 0   Male – 7

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Main reasons:

Yes: it’s her body, her choice; in the case of rape; as long as fetus is less than 12 weeks; can’t afford to raise the kid; as long as fetus is less than 4 weeks; some mothers not prepared to look after baby; only in specific situations; it reduces crime; a woman who doesn’t want a child won’t take care of it.

No: can’t affect the life of another person; why didn’t they use birth control (?); it’s murder, against life; leads to negative population growth.

 

DO YOU BELIEVE THAT AGE OF CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY SHOULD BE LOWERED TO 16 FROM 18? IF YES, WHY, IF NO, WHY NOT. 

Yes: Female – 12   Male – 15

No: Female – 6   Male – 3

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Main reasons:

Yes: 16 year-olds know what they’re doing; only for very grave crimes; if I can vote, I can be responsible for my crimes; teenagers know right from wrong; lots of minors are already contributing to crimes; some teenagers doing worse things than adults; should be lowered to 14.

No: only make the problem worse; make the prisons more crowded; too immature; doesn’t solve the problem; criminals will just recruit younger kids; emotional instability;

 

DO YOU BELIEVE THAT CITIZENS SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO CARRY GUNS? IF YES, WHY, IF NO, WHY NOT. 

Yes: Female – 3   Male – 15

No: Female – 14   Male – 3

No opinion: Female – 2

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Main reasons:

Yes: guns protect people; guns don’t kill people, people do; right to self-defense; as long as regulated; with psychological tests; now only criminals can get guns, not correct;

No: make situation worse; too many unstable people; number of massacres could increase (like US); guns generate violence; people can’t handle the power of guns; insane idea; gun laws should be stricter; promote fear and insecurity;

 

SHOULD AFRO-DESCENDANTS AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO QUOTAS IN PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES AND INSTITUTIONS?

Yes: Female – 15   Male – 2

No: Female – 2   Male – 15

No opinion: Female – 1

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Main reasons:

Yes: people don’t have same opportunities; help repair past injustices; poor schools make people less able to get into university; historical oppression; racism is a reality; yes but not forever;

No: we are all human; not right to give person advantage because of skin color; should be only for poor people; hurts white people; it’s unfair; everyone should have same rights; racial quotas not nice; doesn’t make people more prepared.

 

DO YOU BELIEVE THAT GAY MARRIAGE SHOULD BE LEGAL? IF YES, WHY, IF NO, WHY NOT? 

Yes: Female – 15   Male -13

No: Female – 0   Male – 2

No opinion: Female – 4   Male – 2

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Main reasons:

Yes: have to respect all kinds of marriage; everyone has right to be happy; it’s normal; all love is valid; of course! love is love; everybody needs love; gay people are human too; it’s not my business to judge;

No: due to my religious beliefs.

 

DO YOU BELIEVE THAT WOMEN SHOULD SERVE IN COMBAT UNITS IN THE ARMY? IF YES, WHY, IF NO, WHY NOT. 

Yes: Female – 15   Male -15

No: Female – 1   Male – 1

No opinion: Female – 2   Male – 2

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Main reasons:

Yes: equal rights; only if she wants to; women can do everything a man can; individual liberty; as long as they are prepared to die; yes, but must be prepared; there are many women who like doing that kind of stuff; should be an option for both sexes.

No: no reason given.

 

SHOULD PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO EUTHANASIA? IF YES, WHY, IF NO, WHY NOT. 

Yes: Female – 14   Male – 15

No: Female – 1   Male – 2

No opinion: Female – 3   Male – 2

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Main reasons:

Yes: people should be free to do whatever they want with their bodies; a right to kill yourself; prevents suffering; you should decide when you want to die;

No: can lead to terrible things; if you kill yourself, you go to hell.

 

SHOULD STATES PROVIDE FREE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE FOR ITS CITIZENS? IF YES, WHY, IF NO, WHY NOT? 

Yes: Female – 17   Male – 14

No: Female – 0   Male – 1

No opinion: Female – 1   Male – 3

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Main reasons:

Yes: otherwise poor people can’t pay for health; basic human right is health; we already pay taxes for it; for society it’s better to have healthy people; state’s obligation; yes, but just the basic; as long as it’s good quality.

No: universal care doesn´t work.
IS IT FAIR TO TAX WEALTHY PEOPLE MORE THAN LESS WEALTHY PEOPLE (PROGRESSIVE TAXATION)? IF YES, WHY, IF NO, WHY NOT. 

Yes: Female – 11   Male – 8

No: Female – 3   Male – 5

No opinion: Female – 4   Male – 4

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Main reasons:

Yes: it won’t make such a difference it you earn more money; should be something balanced; it’s more fair; rich people have more to give; people who receive lee suffer more; government needs the money; as long as the taxers aren’t that high; non-wealthy people can’t work as much as wealthy people;

No: has to be the same tax for everyone; not fair; businessmen will leave the country;

 

DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?

Yes: Female – 13   Male – 12

No: Female – 4    Male – 6

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Anglo Blog, October 15-November 20, 2017

When a Coup D’état is a Relief

The deposition of Robert Mugabe, the tyrannical president of Zimbabwe in Southern Africa of the last 37 years, occurred on November 15. Mugabe, 93, was grooming his wife Grace, 42 years his junior, to succeed him when he would eventually give up the presidency, only in the case of his death. This apparently irked restive members of the military who have now taken the former president into custody.

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Robert Mugabe in better days with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip 

Mugabe remains under house arrest and the military gave him until Monday, November 20, to resign or face impeachment. He resigned rather than face impeachment. There was widespread celebration in the streets and relief from a population that had been subjected to years of oppression and where a climate of fear reigned.

The event is being cautiously welcomed by those who have witnessed this country, once an aspiration for Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder music celebrating the dream of the post-colonial multi-racial democracy that Mugabe had apparently fought for, descend into an abusively misruled economic basket case.

Robert Mugabe came to power in 1980 after leading an armed rebellion to end white minority colonial rule when the country was known as Rhodesia, Mugabe was much admired and Zimbabwe a bastion of progressive rule compared to the heinous apartheid regime in full swing next door in South Africa.

Of the struggle, Marley sung:

Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny,
And in this judgement there is no partiality.
So arm in arms, with arms, we’ll fight this little struggle,
‘Cause that’s the only way we can overcome our little trouble.

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When independence came, Stevie Wonder sang with joy

Peace has come to Zimbabwe
Third World’s right on the one
Now’s the time for celebration
‘Cause we’ve only just begun

But in his second decade of power, Mugabe became more oppressive and fond of power to the point of exploiting the various ethnic divisions in the society, including expropriation of white owned farms that were given to his political vassals. Other foolhardy economic decisions led to galloping inflation and widespread impoverishment as the GDP shrunk alarmingly. It is estimated that three to four million Zimbabweans have left the country, the bulk of them settling in South Africa, now a thriving multi-racial democracy.

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And under military custody

The future is undefined and whenever a dictator is removed in a multi-ethnic society, division that was kept under the wraps could emerge, as that which tore Yugoslavia apart with the death of Tito and is still ravaging Iraq since the US invasion and the death of Saddam Hussein. Hopefully Zimbabweans sunny disposition will be rewarded with the prosperity and democracy they deserve.

 

The Islamic Civil War in Yemen

Thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people are apparently on the verge of starvation in Yemen as a result of the vicious civil war wracking the Middle East’s poorest country. The Shia Muslim Houthi rebels are fighting a Saudi Arabia led coalition representing the interests of the Sunni majority of the country. Saudi Arabia has blockaded the ports through which essential international aid passes on its way to the communities decimated by the conflict. A cholera epidemic has also broken out yet most of the world doesn’t even know about this horrendous humanitarian crisis where 50,000 children have already died this year.

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Yemen’s civil war has produced the world’s worst humanitarian crisis

This is just one more forum for the ongoing conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and indicative of the simmering civil war between the two main factions of Islam, the Sunnis (with the great majority estimated as high as 90%) and Shiites, of which Iran has by far the largest concentration. The schism occurred over differences in opinion over the succession of Prophet Mohammed.

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Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are funding proxies throughout the Middle East. Iran funds the extremely influential Hezbollah Shiite militia in Lebanon and directly supports the Alawite (Shiite) regime of Bashar Assad in Syria while Saudi Arabia props up the Sunni minority regime in Bahrain. Complicating this feud are Al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups whose Sunni fundamentalism is in line with much of Saudi religious thought, and who often attack and kill Shia populations throughout the Muslim world, yet who are bitterly opposed to the Saudi monarchy.

All this conflict is a bonanza for the arms dealers throughout the world while thousands of Muslims unnecessarily die every year. And mostly in the name of religion.

Anglo Blog, September 15-October 15, 2017

Protests in Russia

At the beginning of the month, many courageous Russians braved the streets to demand the release of arrested opposition leader, Alexei Nivalny. Using the day of President Vladimir Putin’s birthday to express their displeasure, hundreds rallied for the right of the detained Nivalny to compete for the presidency in a free election. Dozens were arrested throughout the country.

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Protests against Putin: enough is enough

Putin’s inclination about those who oppose him is violent suppression, not surprising given his past stint as head of the infamous KGB, the Soviet Union’s brutal secret security force. Mr. Putin has ruled Russia since 1999, either as prime minister or president (he switches between the two to avoid term limit laws, but always ultimately wields all power.) Critics have fled to exile or been murdered, as when fierce Kremlin critic and human rights activist, Anna Politkovskaya was killed in the elevator of her apartment in 2006.

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Ana Politkovskaya, one of many fierce critics of the government who ended up murdered in mysterious circumstances.

Figures show Putin with extensive public support, crediting him with lifting Russian pride, intricately linked with the Russian Orthodox Church’s conservative doctrine, and flexing its muscle abroad, standing up to the “hegemonic” US.

But these protests show that dissent is still alive and these gallant people risking their wellbeing to fight for democracy should perhaps signal to those who have become cynical about democracy’s virtues and effectiveness that it s worth defending and participating.

 

Trump in Puerto Rico, with Iran Deal and Obama Care

When examining anything US president Donald Trump does, it is difficult not to descend into a paroxysm of wailing, lamentations and bitterness, ultimately an ineffective waste of energy. If there were a competition for presidential gaffes, the word itself seems to have become almost redundant since it suggests exception rather than the barrage of idiocies that come cascading out of the White House, Trump’s trip to Puerto Rico would be a strong contender.

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Trump in Puerto Rico, says they should be grateful for the help and throwing out paper towels to those in need

Leaving a full eight days after the storm, and after getting into a Twitter spat with the mayor of San Juan, Trump insinuated that Puerto Rico should be thankful for the magnanimous support of the United States as if talking to a poor, foreign country. He threw paper towels into a crowd, joked that the island’s devastation was putting a ‘hole’ in the national budget, and constantly praised himself.

Puerto Rico became a US territory after the Spanish-American war of 1898, essentially the spoils of war after the defeat of Spain. Although US citizens, the island’s three million residents have no vote in the US presidential election or real participation in the US congress. Trump’s insouciance about the suffering of US citizens who serve no political use for him, and his constant dog-whistling racism, show that Trump is essentially white America’s president. The rest just don’t matter to him.

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The multilateral Iran nuclear accord on the brink of collapse with Trump refusing to certify Iran compliance with the agreement.

Further discord and confusion were sewed once again by Trump is two actions that sought to detonate policies which his predecessor Barak Obama had put in place and that had ameliorated the situation of many uninsured Americans and also contributed to global stability, namely the Accordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) and the Iran nuclear deal.

Far from being a single payer public system which many other rich countries have adopted, the AHC was market based, with government participation limited to subsidizing people unable to afford private health insurance on their own. Trump on several occasions, through Congress, has tried and failed to overturn this landmark legislation, and so resorted to unilateral presidential action and withdrew this government support so essential to millions of people. Some are predicting that this could most adversely hurt Trump’s base, since many of them are working class and struggle to meet burgeoning health care costs.

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Trump’s second unilateral measure was to choose not to certify the Iran Nuclear Deal, a multilateral negotiated settlement that involved the Security Council, the European Union as well as the US. Within the framework of this accord, Iran agreed to stop development of a nuclear weapon in exchange for the lifting of sanctions imposed against that country for its former pursuit of nuclear arms capability. The agreement has been hailed as a contributor to global stability and according to all the parties except the US, Iran has been keeping its part of the bargain. Pressure from Saudi Arabia and Israel, sworn enemies of Iran, is presumed to have caused Trump to revoke the deal. However, there’s still some hope that the deal can be salvaged as Trump essentially passed responsibility to the US Congress and if it fails to act, the deal remains in place.

 

Social Media and Society

Two recent articles in The Guardian newspaper have outlined the potential dangers of increasing dependence on information technology for society in general but also and particularly the democratic political system. The articles analyze people’s online habits and speculate about what kind of world we are living in when people, on average, swipe their phones an astounding 2,617 times a day.

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Is too much technology making us dumber?

Firstly, it examines the psychological tools involved in convincing (some would say coercing) people to buy products. Since people have decided to share all kinds of personal information by posting it on their online accounts, companies such as Facebook, Google and Youtube have compiled psychological profiles from which they can direct their pitches and secure millions of dollars of advertising revenue for themselves.
Some have dubbed this new type of marketing approach as the attention economy. This prioritizes strategies and ploys to capture our attention and thus, these articles argue, privileges impulses over intentions. This, the authors posit, makes people more prone to seeking out sensationalist rather than nuanced news, and conceivably led to the political hurricanes of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

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Those foreseeing a technological dystopia include many former employees of the major tech companies who ironically send their children to schools where smartphones, ipads and other electronic devices are banned. They counsel that governments should start regulating “psychologically manipulative advertising” as they would other public health hazards such as tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.

Who was more accurate in predicting the future? George Orwell with his forced coercion or the psychological manipulation Aldous Huxley warned against due to “man’s infinite appetite for distractions?” Looking around any public venue in most big cities around the world, it would seem Huxley was more prescient, with people buried in their smart phones oblivious to their surroundings.

Clearly the age of internet has ushered in changes that have been beneficial yet its excesses and a lack of concerted actions to address them, could result in the kind of society where people are so dependent on these technologies that they are incapable of making informed decision and the concept of free will be considered an anachronism.