Why Arab Democracy is Good For America

We are currently witnessing an unprecedented shift in Arab politics that has caught the whole world, even the Egyptians themselves by surprise. The uprising and it’s epi-center Tahrir Square (Liberation Square) is the Arab world’s version of the fall of the Berlin Wall. For many decades, the general Arab political discourse was defined by the West as the need to strengthen pro-Western dictatorships because of the fear of the alternative which is Iranian style Islamist regimes. Now, the Tahrir Square movement has clearly forced the West to rethink this perspective by showing that there is a third way – the rise of broad based democratic movements that reject totalitarianism and Islamic extremism. We should not fear this change because its uncertain outcome, but rather embrace it and take an active role in encouraging democratic change throughout the Arab world. Democratic change in Egypt matters greatly to the Arab world because it has historically set the regional pattern of Arab politics. The Islamic Brotherhood which was founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna in Egypt eventually led to the establishment of numerous splinter groups throughout the Middle East.

And in 1952, Gemal Abdel Nasser helped replace the monarchy with a pan-Arabist socialist system that also spread to different parts of the Arab world. Gemal Abdul Nasser is regarded as one of the most important figures in Arab history. Then came Anwar Al-Sadat who signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. This treaty had strategic repercussions throughout the Arab world and in fact had weakened it by removing the most populous and powerful Arab country from the Arab resistance camp. Finally, after Sadat’s assassination on October 6, 1981, President Mubarak ascended to the Presidency where he immediately established a police state by implementing “Emergency Rule” which to this day has not been lifted. All these political patterns — from Political Islam, to Pan-Arabism, to the Arab-Israeli peace process, and authoritarianism, have all failed. The Arab people have finally figured it out – it’s People Power. Supporting democracy in Egypt is good for America as it serves our national interest for a number of reasons. First, dictatorships are mortal — they come and go, and we cannot always guarantee that a pro-US dictator who will eventually die will be replaced with another pro-US dictator. A democratic Egypt where its people share our values of individual political freedoms, tolerance, plurality, and respect for the rule of law will help build a broad based support for the United States by the Egyptian people that will be long enduring. Second, the establishment of a democratic Egypt that opens the political system to a wide range of Egypt’s political-ideological continuum including the Islamic Brotherhood will ensure the functioning of a viable and stable democracy.

Incorporating the Islamic Brotherhood into the political system, would further marginalize extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and its network of splinter groups. Indeed, the Al-Qaeda leadership has been very critical of the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood for disavowing violence as a form of resistance and for the Brotherhood’s adherence to a future Egyptian democratic state that is based on pluralism. Third, a shift in the balance of power in the Middle East away from Israel will serve our national interest by making Israel realize that its security is directly tied to making a strategic decision of achieving a just peace with the Palestinians. For too long, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has created tremendous anger and frustration amongst the Arab masses for their inability to help their Palestinian brethren. This deep sense of hopelessness, is the most important source of recruiting efforts of Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups who may not care much about the Palestinian cause but nonetheless, use its emotional intensity to recruit Islamic Radicals. Indeed, captured Al-Qaeda recruiting and training videos often included video clips of Palestinian victims of Israeli aggression. In fact, in May 2010, , U.S. General David Petraeus stated in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was fomenting anti-American sentiment due to the perception of U.S. favoritism towards Israel.” There is no doubt that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely vital to our national interests. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Arabs have been very forthcoming in peace efforts with Israel. In 2002, the Arab league, consisting of 22 Arab countries offered for the very first time since Israel’s founding, a full and comprehensive peace settlement that would normalize relations with Israel in return for Israeli withdrawal to the pre 1967 borders as stipulated in UN Resolution 242. Israel rejected it outright without even considering some of its elements. More recently, the Palestinian version of Wikileaks where over 1000 pages on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process were leaked to the press did show that the Palestinians were far more willing to compromise than even the 2002 Arab League peace initiative. One such leaked document showed that the Palestinians would accept Israel’s annexation of all settlement blocs in East Jerusalem except one, and this peace offering was also rejected by the Israelis. Israel rejected President Obama’s call to extend the settlement freeze in the interest of the peace process as it rejected every call from every president since 1967 to stop building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. Even President Ronald Reagan stated in September 1982 that “further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.” Israel’s No, No, No policy is clearly harming our interests in the region. The intransigence of Israel is because no US government official, including the President of the United States can put effective pressure on Israel because no politician wants to experience the wrath of the pro-Israeli lobby. Moreover,President Mubarak, the head of the most powerful Arab country has been the hired sheriff for Israel for three decades. Israel is so powerful that it sees no strategic interest in making peace with the weak and isolated essence, the current status quo is Israel’s modus operandi. By replacing Mubarak’s dictatorship regime with a democracy that truly represents the will of the Egyptian people will cause a change in the balance of power calculus vis-a-vis Israel in a manner that should convince Israel’s leaders that making the necessary concessions for a final peace with the Palestinians is now a strategic necessity for Israel’s long term security. Finally, we should engage other dictators and monarchs in the Arab world and convince them that supporting genuine democratic reforms is the right path for long term stability. We should not send our troops to invade countries but we should send our technocrats to help these countries politically engineer republics that truly represent the will of the masses. The Arab people will support us and embrace us if they know that we have made a clear choice — supporting their will to empower themselves rather than supporting arrogant and outdated oppressive regimes that are doomed to fail.

Why Tennessee Would Benefit From The National Popular Vote Plan

There was a time not too long ago when Tennessee enjoyed an abundance of electoral attention. Presidential candidates and their surrogates cultivated support in the Volunteer State in hopes of swinging the bellwether state into their electoral column. The state selected the winner of the National popular vote every election between 1928 and 2008, save 1960 when Republican Richard M. Nixon defeated John F. Kennedy. In 1980, Ronald Reagan defeated President Jimmy Carter by just 0.29% of the vote. In 1992 Bill Clinton selected the state’s Junior U.S. Senator Al Gore as his running mate. The ticket carried the Volunteer state in 1992 and again in 1996, with Gore making a formidable 16 campaign stops in his home state. The last year the state was contested was in 2000, when Republican George W. Bush defeated Gore in his home state by four percentage points. The state has gradually become a Republican citadel, forcing the Democrats to concede the state years before the Presidential election cycle begins. It was one of only two states (Arkansas being the other) where Democrat Barack Obama performed worse in 2008 than John Kerry did in 2004. This electoral irrelevance is very disadvantageous to Tennesseans.

Presidential candidates spend their time on the hustings in only about 15 showdown states (aside from blue chip fundraisers in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles). They address the concerns of a very select group of voters simply because of their geopolitical location. Candidates are forced to address the trade embargo on Cuba because of the influence of Cuban-American votes in Florida. They must address the foreclosure crisis in Las Vegas because Nevada is a swing state. They must speak to the effects of globalization on the steel industry because of the industry’s electoral muscle in the electoral battlefields of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately for Tennessee, candidates see no advantage in addressing the decline of more than 150 thousand manufacturing jobs in Tennessee over the last decade, violent crime in Memphis, and the plight of the state’s tobacco farmers. When they get into office, Presidents are less familiar with these issues and see no electoral incentive to address them. As former Governor Jim Edgar (R-IL) asserts: “People who are in elected office remember what they learned when they were campaigning. Its important that the candidates campaign in all states, not just the swing states.” Despite this rather gloomy picture, there is a way to make Tennessee voters actually matter. The National Popular Vote Plan is an interstate compact, whereby participating states would agree to allocate their electoral votes to the winner of the National Popular Vote, as opposed to the candidate who secures the most votes in their state. The compact would take effect when enough states (constituting the requisite 270 electoral votes required to win the Presidential election) agree to participate.

Currently 8 states and the District of Columbia, constituting 132 Electoral votes, have ratified the compact. Despite contemporary belief, the present winner-take-all system of awarding Presidential electors was not part of the grand design of the Founding Fathers. In fact, the Constitutional Convention was deadlocked as to the method of electing the President. They decided to delegate “plenary authority” to the states in awarding their electors, as reflected in Article ll, Section 1, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution, which states: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” Accordingly, each state has autonomy to select electors in any way that they see fit. This issue has garnered support from across the political aisle. Political Lightening struck when the Chairmen of the states Republican and Democratic Parties, Bob Davis and Randy Button, joined forces in endorsing this effort. In addition, former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) is a co-champion for the National Popular vote movement. A recent poll showed that 83% of Tennessee voters agree that the person who wins the most votes should win the election. The National Popular Vote Plan will bring Tennessee back from the electoral abyss. Presidential Candidates will once again have a reason to cultivate and solidify support in the Volunteer state. A vote in Cleveland, Tennessee will be just as coveted as a vote in Cleveland, Ohio. Every vote will be equal. Every vote will count. Every vote will be meaningful, and Tennessee will have a seat at the electoral table.

Wen Leaves India Worried- Kashmir Crisis

With just one line Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has transfixed India on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir and rendered irrelevant the boundary question, stapled visas and a lot more. By stating that the boundary dispute covers just 2000 kms he has excised nearly 1600 km in Jammu and Kashmir from the purview of the border talks and rendered the whole State open to bite-sized morsels and wholesale gobbling. The first signs of a major shift in Chinese negotiating position on the boundary question was made available to the National Democratic Alliance Government when China refused to exchange maps showing claim lines in the Western sector encompassing North-east Jammu and Kashmir segments of Aksai Chin. It was followed up more recently with Chinese claims to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. The raising of two new Mountain Divisions by India could prove to be too little too late.Ten thousand Chinese troops are already in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir broadening the Karakoram Highway and laying the foundations of a rail link and pipelines to Gwadar on the Balochistan coastline. In hindsight it could well be that Pakistan’s former Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf was instigated by Beijing into launching of the intrusion into the Kargil sector in 1999 to test India’s reactions. Musharraf, after all, was in Beijing when it happened and was directing operations from there. Pakistan’s “all-weather friend” was taken aback by India’s ferocious defence of Kargil. Jammu and Kashmir has become a fait accompli and if India does not read the signs correctly Arunachal too will follow suit. The potential for trouble for India through Nepal has not yet dawned on the Indian consciousness.

One is already seeing the fringes of future Chinese foreign policy in the manner it has reacted to joint military operations in areas off the Chinese coastline.Its instigation of its proxy North Korea has brought the two Koreas to the brink of war. By comparison India’s riposte on Tibet and the breakaway Chinese province of Taiwan are mere pinpricks that will not halt the tide of Beijing’s aggressive designs all around its periphery. The joint communique issued at the end of Wen Jiabao’s visit tells its own story in the absence of a condemnation of the terrorist attack on Mumbai where the Pakistan hand is redolent in blood. Talking about containing terrorism without concrete steps to curb it in realpolitik means tacit abetment. If Chinese leaders find it difficult to pinpoint the cause of the malaise, the reasons are obvious that Beijing sees in these tactics by its friends a fulfillment of its options on what it calls “core issues”.China says that it is not stoking insurgencies in the north-east of India but it is still host to ULFA cadres and intelligence from captured appear to point to the possibility that China is also the banker where UL:FA is stashing away the money extorted from the people of Asom and adjoining States of the North-east. In contrast India’s response to continuing Chinese intrusions across the Line of Actual Control is tepid and it is obvious that huge tracts are left unattended or anyone to talk in and take possession as happened in Kargil.

New Delhi allowed itself to be talked into “downsizing” its military manpower to the point that it now finds itself scrambling to raise new Divisions to take care of a threat that is larger than is perceived. The trade links are being held out as an improvement of bilateral relations.International commerce is usually seen as a harmonizer and mutual inter-dependence leading to peace and stability. However, an uncontrollable trade imbalance carries with it its own dangers of undercutting one’s own economy in the long run as the American overdependence on Chinese financial instruments is showing itself. Trade could well be a lollypop to suck on and become complacent and Taiwan appears to be reacting to Chinese investment. The Taiwan card in India’s hand could well be suborned by other considerations in Taipeh. India needs also to remember that creating a linkage between the Tibet issue and the J and K stapled visas does not quite have an equal weightage. Only if it is willing to do in Tibet what China is doing through Pakistan will there be something concrete to go by. China is in no hurry to resolve the border issue. Wen made it clear that there is no solution on the horizon when he said that it will take a long time to resolve the border dispute.

Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojna

Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojna (RGMVP) was initiated in 2002-03 in collaboration with the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust to facilitate the formation of SHGs in two districts of -UP: Sultanpur and Raebareli. In the last seven years, RGMVP’s reach has extended to 55 blocks spread across 14 backward districts of the state. The programme now reaches out to over 2,33,594 families, 19,228 women’s SHGs, 531 village level SHG federations and 15 Block level federations across the project area. The savings generated have been leveraged through borrowings from banks and invested in a diversified portfolio of income generating activities.Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojna is also accociated with Baiga community in Chhattisgarh largely depends on forest and natural resources for its livelihood and is one of the poorest tribal groups in the country. RGF has partnered with Samarth to initiate SHGs in the area. The SHG members are gradually being trained on various livelihood options based on natural resources such as bamboo product making, grass products, organic farming, vermin compost making, etc. Currently, 200 women are a part of the project. We have made attempts to reach out to the community by conducting the Padyatra Programme (rally on foot) highlighting issues such as non-availability of government schemes and benefits. They community is also encouraged to develop micro plans which are presented at theNatural Resource Management is the flagship livelihood promotion programme of the Foundation directly implemented in the remote villages of Rajasthan.

The programme is implemented on the principle that because of water scarcity and growing competition large swathes of rural communities are pushed towards impoverishment and could threaten equitable and sustainable development, ecological balance and political stability. The increasing gap between the water availability and demand highlights the need to conserve, utilize and manage this important resource in a sustainable manner.Foundation started its NRM interventions in the remote areas of the Rajasthan state covering backward villages of Jaipur, Pali and Karoli district. The project area was selected on the basis of the poor conditions of the natural resources and willingness of the partner community to participate in the programme. The extreme economic backwardness of the region may be attributed in some measure directly to environmental degradation arising from lack of appropriate planning and poor developmental interventions. The natural resources in the region are in poor conditions because the geographic location does not support the abundant rainfall, poor quality and excessive depth of ground water, absence of Perennial River, open scrub forests and huge withdrawal from limited ground waterWater harvesting Programme is RGF’s only directly implemented initiative under its livelihood promotion portfolio.

Livelihood options are generated through creation of water harvesting structures, initiating watershed activities, adopting and inculcating improved agriculture practices. At present the work is spread over in 115 villages, where 208 water harvesting structures have been constructed. The most pronounced benefit from the water harvesting structures has been in agriculture productivity. Because of water availability in wells and tube wells farmers have therefore been able to provide more irrigation to their crops which has led to increase in productivity, switch to more remunerative crops and increased net area under cultivation. To ensure that the communities have an ongoing stake in the assets being created, it is ensured that a minimum of 33 percent of the total expenditure would be borne by the community for works carried out on common lands whereas for individual and small user groups the contribution has been fixed at 50 percent or more.

Rajiv Gandhi Was Likely to be The Prime Minister Again in 1991.

21 May 1991Sri Perumbudur was rocked by a blast. Suicide attacker had succeeded in their evil motives. They snatched away Rajivji from us and the progressive movement of a developing nation was brought to a screeching halt. This was an international conspiracy, that many top world leaders were afraid about. The then Palestinian President Yasir Arafat had serious concerns about such an attack on Rajiv Gandhi and so he had also warned him.Satish Jacob , Senior JournalistWe had got the information from Election Commission that Rajiv and Sonia would come there to cast their votes. There was an election booth in Nirman bhawan so a lot of journalists were also present there to cast their votes. I saw him coming with a broad smile on his face. I asked him “You look very happy, last year when you were coming out after voting you looked concerned”. He replied, “Why shouldn’t I be happy, we are winning.”During Rajiv Gandhi’s Prime Minister rule , the neighboring country Sri Lanka was burning with isolation and violence. To maintain the regional harmony and the sovereignty of its neighbour Rajiv Gandhi’s government acted promptly.Rajiv Gandhi after signing a treaty with Sri lanka”The agreement holds out the promise of a strong, united, peaceful Sri Lanka which is as much in our interest as it is in is the unity of hearts that guarantees the unity of Nations. India and Sri Lanka have been the joint founders of the non alignment movement.

Our commitment to non-alignment grows out of our traditions and ethos of our freedom struggle. Peace in our region depends crucially on all of remaining non aligned.”No body could’ve imagined that it would be so life threatening for him to desire peace. The ‘Shaanti Sena’ sent by India had destroyed the hopes of LTTE , that was set out to divide Sri Lanka. This was a big jolt for LTTE chief Prabhakaran and he started planning the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. He was also perturbed by the possibility of Rajiv Gandhi returning to power after Indian elections. From the beginning of year 1991, LTTE terrorists had laid the foundation of Rajiv ji’s assassination.After the two dress rehearsals in local rallies , the attackers finally succeeded on 21 May 1991 in Perumbudur.”You know its an irony that Rajiv’s assassin appeared before him in the same way as Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin had appeared before him. to pay respect and to show their devotion to the leadership.”21 May 1991 became a black day in the history of India. The Sun had set even before rising. His dreams also died with him, unfulfilled.Wish his dream had not died, Wish he had not died.Rajiv Gandhi was born in a politically active family yet he was an apolitical person.His entry to politics was circumstantial but when he took over the control, his every move was of a mature statesman

BJP All Set to Win Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is serving from last 10 years in Madhya Pradesh and the state has gained the recognition from bimaru to jujharu in this period. It’s the magic of Developmental Work done under BJP that has made MP the fastest growing state in the nation. There is no doubt in the leadership skill & planning strategy of Chief Minister of MP, Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan and credit also goes to his team of ministers that has made his vision a reality. In agriculture sector MP is consistently topping the production and growth rate. This year MP has ousted Haryana from number 3 position and secured its place after Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in per hectare production. Along with agriculture, MP has registered tremendous growth in IT Sector, Industrial Sector, Rural Development, Infrastructure Development, Women & Child Welfare, Science and Technology and Urban Development. When nation was facing recession, MP government has provided jobs to more than 1 lakh youth. From lower class to middle and upper class, everyone is witnessing a growth at various levels.

No state has seen such a revolutionary growth in past 10 years. Honourable Chief Minister, also introduced a beneficiary scheme ‘Mukhyamantri Annapurna Yojana’ for people below poverty line, so that, they can get the grains and salt at minimum subsidized rate. Commerce Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Kailash Vijayvargiya has invested his interest in development of MSMEs and thus, many new policies are being introduced to boost the micro small medium enterprises in state. Being Science & Technology Minister of the state, Mr. Vijayvargiya is also putting his efforts in encouraging research & development work in state. Recently, state has got its first Ultra Modern Planetarium which is amongst the top Planetariums in the country. With all these developments, BJP has surely won hearts in Madhya Pradesh and it is set to win the elections of 2014 too. At present many issues are boiling at the centre, lots of expert discussions are happening to forecast election 2014 but with the command of Election 2014 in Narendra Modi’s hand, BJP is sure to win at the Centre too.

India is the nation of youth and leaders like Narendra Modi, Shivraj Singh Chauhan & Kailash Vijayvargiya, very well know how to attract them. Where Congress is playing caste politics, BJP is playing developmental politics. With the effective use of Social Media, BJP is keeping transparency in its policies, strategies and work model. People are being informed about every move and thus, youth is inspired for sure. Keeping in mind the present political moves of BJP, it is clear that ‘BJP is all set to win Election 2014’.

Can Our Military Continue to Keep Terrorism Away From Our Borders?

I had hoped not to see the beginning of this new shift in the war on terror but itcertainly seems to be here to stay.. I have noticed that al Qaeda seems to be initiating the recruiting and sending of terrorists to the United States to conduct attacks on American soil. This trend is troubling because at some timer they might be able to slip solitary terrorists or small groups of terrorists through. If we don’t want this to happen we will have to keep our eyes open. I first create this article with the attempted Christmas bombing, the botched scheme to bomb the subway in New York City and the botched attempt to bomb Times Square recently.

Since then there have been even more developments with the latest being the capture of the two terrorist wannabes in New Jersey. They were not aware that they had been under surveillance for a few years. Federal authorities had watched them long enough to determine that they had no real contacts in al-Qaeda so they were virtually insignificant.We as citizens of this nation’s control have been so well protected that we are living in a sort of lala land. We are not acutely aware of the grave danger that we could suddenly find ourselves in because of terrorists. We can’t depend on our government to shield us we are to remain free from terrorist attacks we be obliged to stay vigilant. Each one of these lone attempts to kill Americans were luckily averted but luck doesn’t last forever. We might possibly not be so lucky again. We be obliged to stay vigilant and help our government to shield us. We must be obliged to remain alert to all things just so we can catch the one minor thing which would tip us off to terrorist activity. The beauty of the war on terror so far in this country is that all of the incidents of war have been in other countries.

American citizens have not had to witness the horrors and atrocities of this war except in a few incidents. This war has not been very costly in the loss of the lives of our wives and children. Enemy combatants have been mostly limited to Iraq, and Afghanistan where they have had to use small arms to fight with well trained and well armed UA ans NATO troops. Enemy combatants are even leaving this nation to operate overseas and fight with the insurgents there rather than to attempt to conduct attacks here in the United States.Errant bombs have not been destroying our homes and businesses as they have in the countries where the battles are being fought. American servicemen and women can tell you of the conditions in many of the countries in which they are average American civilian lives a much better lifestyle than the average civilian of most other nations. Al-Qaeda seems to be actively recruiting more operatives to transmit to the United States to conduct terror operations here. Our troops serving overseas are doing a wonderful job of keeping the actual danger away from the innocent men, women, and children of this country. We can’t take our relaxed life life style for granted. There are many other countries where the population knows nothing other than war. We must continue to give every bit of the support that we can to our military and our government as they attempt to keep terrorism away from our borders.

Not Born on the 4th of July

This year’s 4th of July was a most memorable one for me. My wife and I had the honor of attending the Citizenship Ceremony for new Americans at the William Paca [pronounced PayKa] House & Gardens in Annapolis, Maryland. What struck me most about the event was that these 38 new Americans understand better than many native born Americans what being an American really means. Each of them left a life, a family, and a cultural heritage to join us in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”For we Americans, there is nothing very unusual about that. Every human being in North America is either an immigrant, or descended directly from someone who was. This is true of even so-called “native Americans,” since there were no human beings at all in North or South America before 13,000 years ago, a virtual blink in human existence.I often ask my fellow Americans what one factor above all others is the reason for the strength and success of the United States of America. Few have a clear-cut answer. I believe our strength is our Diversity, which I see as the Glory of God.Unlike monolithic societies, where one person or group dominates everyone in various nefarious ways, in the United States we have hundreds of groups of very different national origin, religions, races, and points of view. Whenever one of these groups has a good idea, everyone adopts it.

I use Starbucks as my example of a good idea, which is now adopted globally. Whenever a bad idea emerges, the other groups pound it out of the system by vigorous debate. It is a tempering process, like that used in making steel. Slavery is my example of a bad idea.The day was made more special for me by sharing it with our guest, Lama Phurbu Tashi Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist monk and a refugee, who plans to be another new American in a couple of years. Watching him interact with the period costumed actors representing the 1st Maryland Regiment and the Colonial Ladies was a particular treat. Because of his saffron and purple robes, many at the event, including the news media, thought he was one of the day’s honorees, so he was interviewed several times.The Director of the Baltimore office of the Immigration Service told us that they create new citizens every day-18,000 or so in Maryland each year. But this event on the 4th of July is a particularly meaningful occasion.

The venue in the William Paca House & Gardens is within a block of the 1st Capitol building of the United States, the Maryland State House.William Paca was one of 4 signers of the Declaration of Independence from Maryland. Whenever I give visitors tours of Annapolis, I always point out the magnificent mansions of these courageous men, to show what they were putting at risk when they signed the document. They were committing treason against the British Crown, and, as Benjamin Franklin put it succinctly, “We either hang together or we will hang separately!”After the ceremony, I mentioned to one of the new Americans that, as an American, I am very proud of them, because they know the meaning of being an American better than many of our native born countrymen. I told one, “You know what it means to be an American, so if we forget, you remind us!”

Are You Fed up of Anna Hazare And Team Anna?

Are you fed up of Anna Hazare and Team Anna? I am Mental fatigue has set in because of two reasons. The first is media overkill. Newspapers, having limited space, at least exercise some restraint, but television, which has 24 hours to fill, just drones on and on, showing the self-appointed guardians of civil society enjoying their 15 weeks in the sun. The second reason why many of us have had enough of the Lokpal Bill agitation is that Anna Hazare and his team don’t know when to stop. The role of members of civil society is clearly defined: whatever it may be, it is not to legislate.That is the role of the legislature, which is why it is called that. The role of civil society – which means people like us – is to act as catalysts and pressure groups which force politicians and parliament to act, and to bring in laws which will be for the general we know, the Lokpal Bill has been hanging around in parliamentary recesses for years and years.

For obvious reasons, politicians of all political parties have tried to scuttle it, and done so successfully for a long time (That’s why it is amusing to see the BJP take the moral high ground: why didn’t the NDA government bring in the bill in its two terms?)In that scenario, someone had to take the initiative. When Anna Hazare and company did so, we all applauded. But having forced the government to act, they should have stopped and allowed parliament to fulfill its role of bringing in the new legislation.Obviously, the form the new bill takes will not please everyone. No bill can. But the pulls and pressures of opposing political parties in parliament generally ensures that a reasonable compromise is reached.Should the Prime Minister be under the Lokpal’s preview? There are two valid, but opposing, views on that. Should the Chief Justice and Supreme Court judges be under the purview? Again there are two valid, but opposing, views. Now isn’t it arrogance on the part of Hazare and Co that only their view is correct?Anna Hazare’s threat of a fast is nothing but blackmail.

When Mahatma Gandhi went on his fasts, it was as a part of Satyagraha against an occupying imperial power. The situation changed in 1947; we became a democracy and have been a functional democracy for all this time. That is why a fast of the kind that is now being threatened is nothing short of coercion to get your own members of civil society we need to tell Anna Hazare that. We need to tell him too that the Bhushan duo isn’t necessarily the best legal brains in the country even if they think so: the job of drafting the bill isn’t their business anyway. We also need to convey as gently as possible that Anna Hazare himself is a good man, but a good man of limited vision and intellectual ability. This may sound harsh but you just have to listen to his speeches. Ideally, neither the government, nor Team Hazare should have had a hand in the bill.What Team Hazare should have asked for is to pick a three-member team of the best independent legal experts of impeccable reputation to work on it and then present it to parliament. But then, Anna Hazare and his team wouldn’t be on television all the time, would they?

An Encounter With Occupy Wall Street Protestors in Asheville NC

I am doing a little bit of traveling this week and my trip started with a business stop in Asheville, North Carolina. I stayed there one night and the next afternoon went downtown and got some lunch. They got some of those Occupy Wall Street people there next to city hall and I decided to walk over and see what they are about for myself.You may have seen some news stories about them. If you live in New York you know about it, because they had big demonstrations and clashes with police in the Wall Street area this last Fall. After that they sprouted up in other cities in public areas.They aren’t in my area yet. In fact where I live almost no one knows about them, because the media doesn’t really report on them too much. But the times they do they usually do so in a very sensational manner just like they report on everything else.The TV news likes to provoke you and make you angry and scared all of them time so that you will sit there and keep watching and the powers that be want you to be like that too because then you can be easily controlled and manipulated into believing anything they want. Couch potatoes are a docile and obedient bunch.I really didn’t know much about the occupy people, but I was curious. This is a big thing that has been going on and I want to know what is really happening to this country for myself.

So I went over and talked with them.I wanted to know who they were, what they believed, and what they were trying to do for myself. And I made this video to share with you what I found.The media paints the occupy people with one big brush and gives them one big label. They say they are radical and dangerous. That they are a bunch of hippies and communists. They say they are the enemy and they must be I found is that the Occupy Asheville group is made up of all kinds of different people from different walks of life for their for different reasons. Some are there to express their ideological views. Others are there because they found it to be a safe haven in a time of economic hardship.It made me think of scenes at the start of the movie They Live.In that movie a character played by Roddy Piper loses his job and comes across a shanty town camp for the dispossessed and hangs out and gets help. Then he stumbles upon a pair of glasses that reveal to him that the advertising and media messages are all subconsciously programming everyone to obey and consume.If the economy does not get better and the trend of the shrinking middle class continues then more occupy type Wall Street tent areas will sprout up across the country much like the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression and in fact there may one day be something like a bonus army march that the fella I talked with in the video, Preston, mentioned.You know we have more in common with each other than we do with Ben Bernanke and the international bankers on Wall Street that wrecked the economy and caused the real estate bubble and 2008 stock market collapse.Obama got in office but he never removed the people responsible for the collapse. They are still at charge at the Treasury and the Fed and in the banking sector most of those responsible at the mismanagement level got rewarded with corporate parachutes.

And of course the country is now saddled with trillions of dollars in government debt that threaten to bring us down the road of Greece thanks in part to socialism for the rich policies of bailout for the banks.They said they had to do it because the banks were too big too fail. But this was a lie. The government could have paid the depositors with FDIC and let the big banks go bankrupt. Then the regional banks that weren’t bankrupt would have taken their police. But those bankers had plenty of Congressmen bought and paid for that did their bidding and scared the rest of them into thinking they were indispensable.The politicians have done nothing to fix the situation or bring any real change for the better. In my view most of things Obama has done the past four years have been for the worse and I really don’t think we can expect Mitt Romney, who is completely owned by Wall Street, to do any better.That’s why I told Preston we have to stand up for ourselves. We have to turn off our televisions and leave our homes and go out talk with your friends and other people and do stuff. Voting isn’t enough.You have to let your own voice be heard. Go to meetings in your local community and let your local politicians and Congressmen know what you think. Make demands. Play your own part. Don’t be afraid of people but talk to them. We all have more in common with each other than with the elites that ruined the country. They need to be removed, but they maintain their power by dividing us up into Republicans and Democrats or whatever. But this isn’t a football game. It’s our lives and none of these politicians are going to do anything anyway. Stand up for yourself.Copyright ?? 2012 Mike Swanson