Showing posts with label Democracy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Democracy. Show all posts

May 25, 2016

#IslamicSocietiesReview : The end of political Islam starts in Tunisia

    Wednesday, May 25, 2016   No comments
#IslamicSocietiesReview Comment:  
Adjusting to domestic, regional, and international challenges, Ennahda, the leading Islamist movement in North Africa, charted a new path that embraces pluralism and co-existence. Recalling that the rise of political Islam was necessitated by tyranny and oppression, Ennahda, now, embraces politics and honors Islam, but not mix them. Its leadership has chosen to distinguish between the ethical/theological and the political. In doing so, Ennahda has all but repudiated the actions taken by the Muslim Brotherhood which wanted to dominate the political and social life in Egypt. Realizing the enormity of the transition, Ennahda opted to re-elect its founder, Rached al-Ghannouchi, president one more time. Should he manage to keep the movement united and prevent it from bleeding members to militant Salafi groups, Ennahda would be a model for Arab countries' religious movements.
Underscoring these challenges, Ghannounchi delivered a key address to the movements' members; below is the original speech and a translation.

May 10, 2016

Context and consequences of the resignation of the architect of Turkey's zero-problem foreign policy

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016   No comments

By Rahmat Hajimineh*

A recent decision by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, which was announced on May 5, to resign his post, can be considered as the outcome of a power struggle in Turkey’s political structure a review of which will not only be important in terms of typology of politicians’ behaviors, but also from the viewpoint of its consequences.

The first thing that seems to be important following Davutoglu’s resignation is the meaning and type of his resignation in political literature of Turkey. The development has been described as the “palace coup” by those opposed to the ruling Justice and Development Party and outspoken critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including the leader of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party Kemal Kilicdaroglu. This term is used to denote that Davutoglu has been actually deposed from power by Erdogan.

June 8, 2014

Why have many Syrians voted for Bashar al-Assad and what is the U.S. administration’s alternative to elections it does not particularly like?

    Sunday, June 08, 2014   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*
Syrians vote, June 3, 2014.

Most Western governments and some observers argue that the elections that took place in Syria on June 3, 2014 were not legitimate because not all Syrians were able (or willing) to participate, they were held under war conditions, and Syrians were coerced into voting for the current president. These would be reasonable arguments if they were consistently applied. A brief examination of similar cases and relevant facts reveals that this is not the case.

April 13, 2014

Is Ukraine becoming for the West what Syria has been for Russia?

    Sunday, April 13, 2014   No comments





Riding the wave of protests known as the Arab Spring, many Syrians rallied to demand more political and civil rights. Without the hesitancy that characterized their initial reaction to the protest movements in Tunisia and Egypt, Western administrations and some of the Persian Gulf regimes immediately threw their support behind the protesters. Assad’s regime belonged to the so-called non-moderate Arab governments and the protesters offered the West and its allies an opportunity to overthrow it. They formed the “Friends of Syria” group, now consisting of only eleven nations, to provide the opposition with all needed support, including deadly arms, to achieve that goal. After three years of brutal war, Syria’s economy and society are severely damaged and its allies, mainly Russia, China, and Iran have invested a huge political, economic, and military capital to help the Syrian government survive. The Friends of Syria claimed that Assad became illegitimate because he killed Syrians. Assad claimed that he was fighting armed terrorists and thugs.

Now fast-forward to 2013. 

November 25, 2012

Analysis: Recognizing the new Syrian National Coalition alone will not end the war in Syria

    Sunday, November 25, 2012   No comments

by Ahmed E. Souaiaia*

Those who doubt Lakhdar Brahimi’s assessment of the crisis in Syria ought to rethink their position. His ostensibly naïve initiative for a ceasefire over the Eid holidays might have been a brilliant maneuver that ended the existence of the Syrian National Council, the previously prominent face of the Syrian opposition. Before proposing an ambitious plan of six or one hundred points like his predecessor, Brahimi wanted to make sure that there are reliable representatives of both sides who can exert influence and control over their subordinates. After visiting Russia and China, he proposed, from Tehran, that both the opposition forces and the government stop fighting for four days.

Apparently, he wanted to test the influence of the Syrian regime backers and the political leaders of the opposition (Syrian National Council, or SNC) who accepted the ceasefire. Even the military leaders of the FSA accepted the Eid ceasefire. He was aware that for the ceasefire to hold, the opposition groups must stop fighting. It is one thing to claim control over armed groups by simply supporting their actions, but it is a different level of credible control to actually order these groups to stop fighting and see compliance on the ground. Brahimi wanted actual proof of command and control over armed groups in the form of four days of quiet.

The result was embarrassing for the so-called opposition leaders. During the four-day holidays, more car bombs exploded in crowded cities and more attacks on military checkpoints. Worse, some of the FSA groups used the quiet time to attack Kurdish neighborhoods in Aleppo and other Kurdish majority areas to bring more territory under their control. Deadly fights erupted between FSA fighters and Kurdish neighborhood protection militias, forcing the FSA groups to retreat.

May 19, 2012

Will American voters re-elect President Obama?

    Saturday, May 19, 2012   No comments
Or can Mitt Romney offer them a viable alternative? But an alternative to what and why?

As it is generally the case, extraordinary circumstances must be present for an incumbent president to lose re-elections. The last time this happened, President Bush (41st) was fired because of the economy. Bill Clinton rode the spiffy slogan, “It is the economy stupid,” to underscore the need for change.

This election cycle, and by selecting Mitt Romney as their candidate, Republicans seem to use the Clinton strategy against Obama. But how good or bad is the economy in comparison to early 1990's?

The answer may not be relevant or important because Obama could rightly remind Americans that the poor economic conditions did not start under his watch. Also, he could point out that, unlike George W. H. Bush, he did not start the wars that taxed the economy either. His son, a Republican, did. But all these issues could be mooted if the economy were to improve between now and November. In which case, the Republican candidate could fall back on social causes, foreign policy, and defense issues.

While social causes that touch on civil rights and religion are motivating forces for conservative voters Mitt Romney is not seen as a stronger defender of those values. Foreign and defense issues too cannot be used to attack Obama this time for a number of reasons.

First, Romney, in comparison to Obama, does not have the experience or the record that will allow him to challenge Obama’s. Romney’s policy is merely a concept when compared to Obama’s practical steps taken since taking over in 2008.

Second, Obama, despite his promises to end Bush’s policies and practices, he actually continued on the same path. He failed to close Guantanamo, he pursued Bush’s road map for Iraq, he escalated in Afghanistan, he killed the top terrorist, he authorized more drone assassinations than his predecessor, and he took part in the Libya war without putting troops on the ground or committing American resources. This record is a problem for the left but it is hardly "attack-able" by the right given the policies and practices of the previous administration.

In terms of foreign policy, Republicans might attack Obama’s Middle East record. But even that can be easily undermined by simply qualifying it. For instance, Republicans are using the slick slogan “Stand with Israel” to suggest that Obama is not. That slogan too can be taken apart given Obama’s stance in support of Israel even when other western and European countries were prepared to abandon it. For example, Obama defeated Abbas’ efforts to secure UN recognition. He pressured Turkey and Egypt to keep peace with Israel despite the extraordinary changes taking place there. And he aborted or vetoed UNSC resolutions condemning Israeli for issues related to illegal settlements and Gaza War. Republicans could be more accurate and change their slogan into “Stand with Natanyahu.” But that is like asking a liberal politician to love a conservative one, neither party does it and it will be disingenuous to ask Obama to be the first. Natanyahu is simply too conservative, not only for Obama, but for many Israelis and American Jews too.


So comes November, voters will have the option of firing a president whose, economic,  defense, and foreign policies were center-left if not outright conservative practices masked by his liberal credentials or hire Romney who would fire everyone and attempt to turn around an economy that is already turning around. Romney, as fiscal conservative,  would privatize social security and healthcare, outsource the postal service to UPS and FedEx, and bid out  natural resources and infrastructure. 

ABB-780516129876

February 24, 2012

The End of Religious Idealism: Islamists bring religion down to earth

    Friday, February 24, 2012   No comments

For decades, Tunisian Islamists, like their brethren in the rest of the Arab world, have preached an economic, social, and educational policy rooted in religious ethics. They taught that adhering to the ideals of Islam would ensure economic and social prosperity. For them, giving up on religious values for economic gains is the foremost cause of Muslims’ backwardness. They reasoned that embracing political expediency over religious righteousness is a betrayal of Muslims’ faith in God’s providence.

As a banned political party, Ennahda (and its predecessor Islamic Trend) ideologues had argued for the existence of an indigenous Islamic worldview that people must follow in order to succeed today and in the hereafter. In their mind, the two worlds were linked. They opposed the regimes of Bourguiba and Ben Ali based on these principles. They promised that an Islamist government would not sacrifice religious ideals for economic gains, but it would accomplish progress through and because of Islamic ideals. In other words, Islamists looked to the heavens to solve problems of earth. Some leaders of this Islamist movement and many of its supporters were imprisoned, tortured, and exiled for their views. The movement was in disarray until the historical revolution offered it a second life—a revolution that they did not plan and certainly did not start.

January 21, 2012

Class warfare or economic justice?

    Saturday, January 21, 2012   No comments
When Romney resisted releasing his tax records unless he becomes the GOP nominee, the discussion that was started by the Occupy movement found new life. The fundamental issue is fairness in the U.S. economic system—not class warfare, as some would like to characterize it. Many in the Occupy movement believe that corporate influence in the political process unfairly disadvantages working people and rewards greed. One of the areas unfairly influenced by wealthy corporations and persons is the tax code. Many Occupiers want that system reformed.
The 1% have the means to not only influence the debate, but to buy the political leverage necessary to secure favorable outcomes. The absolute majority of the 99% want a fair system that neutralizes these influences. They don't want giveaways from the 1% and they are not opposed to capitalism and private property ownership.

The NYT reported that Mitt Romney, for instance, “has called for keeping the current low rates for capital gains and eliminating capital gains altogether for taxpayers making less than $200,000.” Joe Scarborough, a conservative commentator and former lawmaker, defended the low 15% percent tax rate paid by Romney and other wealthy individuals by suggesting that the money taxed at the 15% rate is actually taxed twice: first it is taxed as income at a higher rate and then taxed again as investment income. That is a disingenuous and misleading characterization of the facts. Here is why:
Let's say a hardworking Joe makes $100,000 a year. That income will be taxed at a rate closer to 35% than to 15%. After years of hard work, Joe saves $50,000, which he invests. At the end of the year, Joe receives a statement showing that he earned $2500 through capital gains, dividends, interest, etc. Only the $2500 Joe earned on top of his original investment of $50,000 will be taxed at the 15% rate; Joe is not taxed at a 15% rate on $52,500 (his original investment plus his gains). So there is no double taxation.
Now let's look at another scenario. John is a software engineer who has worked for Microsoft since the early 1990's. John's yearly salary is about $67,000. But when John was hired, he took the stock option the company offered its employees, which consisted of 5000 shares priced at $5 a share. After more than five years, John was able to sell these shares for the market value of $300 per share (a gross sale value of $1,500,000). The net income (after deduction for cost and fees) is taxed only once, at the 15% rate. Furthermore, it is only taxed the year it is sold, not every year John saw gains through increase in stock prices.
Let's look at a third example. Brinn is a programming guru. He quit school to start an Internet company. His company was so successful he valued it at $1,000,000 and made it a public company. Before the initial IPO, Brinn decided arbitrarily to fix the value of each share in his company at $1. Now Brinn's company is available for public trade, but not before he reserved 500,001 shares for himself and 200,000 shares for his employees or his favorite charity. Brinn is now the CEO of the new public company, too. He decides that he will receive $1 a year in salary, but will receive additional compensation in the form of stock options. 
Because Brinn's company is awesome, everyone wants in. Joe used some of his saved money to place a bid to buy some shares. Before Joe is able to fulfill his order, the price of a single share in Brinn's company jumps to $50. Suddenly, Joe becomes the proud owner of 100 shares costing him about $5000, which drives Brinn's wealth to over $25,000,000. 
Five years later, Joe sells his 100 shares at $100 per share (earning about $5000 on top of his original investment). Brinn, on the other hand, earns $50 million. He will pay the 15% tax rate on those earnings, because he does not have to claim it as earned salary income on his tax return. That is a best case scenario. Another equally likely scenario is this: after five years, Joe is forced to sell his shares to pay for an unexpected event. Although the price of the stock was up at some point near $100, when Joe needed to the cash however, the stock was $48 per share. Joe lost $200 in this investment. Brinn is still $47 per share ahead.

Capital venture investors use a multitude of methods to avoid paying the higher tax rate that 99% of monthly wage earners must pay. Stock options, property reclassification, tax shelters, and charitable donations are just few ways they control their wealth and avoid paying higher taxes. Business professionals have access to tools and knowledge that allow them to find the loopholes they need to pay minimum taxes.

Moreover, corporations and wealthy individuals "tax" the infrastructure, the natural resources, and environment more than the rest of us. They use heavy trucks on our highways and roads to transport their goods. CEOs travel in private jets that pollute our environment while hundreds of us travel crammed in crowded airplanes, buses, and trains. They use more energy in their huge mansions and air-conditioned offices in skyscrapers, while the 99% share fewer resources and use communal services.

In short, the 99% are not asking to take the 1%’s money, they just want a fair system that offers everyone equal access to resources, to public servants, and to the law. The 99% want true equal opportunity.

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