Cookie-Cutter Politics: The Uniform (Failure) of America’s Two-Party System

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Republican Elephant & Democratic Donkey - Icons

Cookie-Cutter Politics

I must confess; this November will be the first time I will vote in the Presidential Elections.

In previous elections I viciously debated which candidate I should support.  The rugged individualism of the Republicans spurred my dreams while the sound theories and progressive stance of the Democrats captured my earthly pragmatism.  As each Election Day came I dithered back and forth.  I could never decide, I never voted.  I may not have voted because I was distressed by the increasingly polarized extremes of the two-party system.  I may also not have voted because I was underage.  We may never know.

This year the debate is between Obama and Romney.  I can already hear the next year of commentary, with regular exclamations of “I wish there was a third-party to vote for!”  This is a legitimate issue.  America’s polarized politics have grouped large coalitions of values into strange alliances.  This is the only way each side can garner enough support to pass any laws.  It makes all politicians seem a little too uniform.  Why do Democrats always advocate for gun control?  Why do Republicans always oppose weakening any immigration laws?

The simple answer is politicians have no alternative.

The Two-Party system strong arms politicians on both sides of the aisle into a cookie-cutter mold.  Only moderates, those who make everyone happy by fitting the textbook description of the Democrat/Republican are legitimate candidates because only they fit all the values of each of their respective parties and win the crucial nominations.  Radicals, who could make world-changing reforms, are hedged out by the system which eliminates anyone with even one misaligned value.  I imagine there are plenty of Democrats who support gun rights and Republicans who would be willing to welcome immigrants.  These men will never see office because they do not fit the mold and there is no alternative.

The American Two-Party dilemma is only those who cannot reform are elected into office.  Those with flexible ideology, who could make real reform, are shunned because they will always have at least one taboo.  It is support of the entire party or no support at all in our polarized system.  We are left with similar men with the same ideas, the same convictions, and the same restraints.

Perhaps I was right to dither; both answers were always partially wrong for me.  I feel this is the issue every American has.

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The Rise of American Plutocracy

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Recessions have plagued America for the last forty years because of reckless behavior by the rich.  In the latest recession major corporations swindled innocents out of billions of dollars with faulty stocks, derivatives, and sub-prime loans they knew were going to fail.  After the economy failed these men were generally unaffected, still receiving million dollar bonuses despite the economic distress of the rest of the population. These men are plutocrats, the ruling class in America.

These financial titans still remain largely unrecognized despite the fact they have been ruling the United States, a plutocracy where governmental policy is determined by those with the most money, since the Gilded Age.  it is during that time period that the plutocrats first rose to power.  The laissez-faire mindset ruled the American economy in the late nineteenth century, launching massive industrial expansions and technological revolutions; this formed largely unregulated industries with purely capitalistic purposes that dominated the industrial, financial, and political spheres of America and made the country a plutocracy.

Laissez-faire conducted economic activity in America during the late 1800’s. The first factories in America were rare, but they created colossal quantities of goods at cheap costs.  Audacious entrepreneurs and sage investors recognized that factories had greatest potential for mass profits, but they also knew any level of government regulations would hurt their incomes.  Government inspectors would prevent installation of innovative technologies that would increase outputs but endanger workers.

To protect their interests and investments the upper class pushed for deregulation of industry throughout the Gilded Age, both though legal and illegal methods.  The presidents of this era are often referred to as the “do-nothing presidents” because they did not create any major changes.  The first roots of plutocracy arose here during this inaction.  Unwritten agreements were made by politicians and these emerging industrial leaders.

Those industrial leaders who funded politician’s campaigns, to get them into office, would be favored by these politicians once they were in office, instead of these politicians exclusively looking out for the Americans who voted them into office and who they are supposed to represent.  As time wore on plutocracy continually eroded democracy in the American government, with each passing election allegiances of numerous politicians switched from their people to their sponsors.  Laissez-faire served as a front for big business and plutocracy to expand rapidly in America.  Meanwhile the common man was learning that he did not like this new system of government, despite the fact he did not yet know it exists.

As the corporate leaders became millionaires, people across America suffered and were regularly injured in the factories. Industrial giants greatly profited from the lack of regulations, expanding industry in America to rival that of the European superpowers like Britain, France, and Germany.  In order to maintain high volumes of production safety standards were removed.

The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, was a novel written in the Gilded Age which muckraked conditions of meatpacking factories in Chicago and exemplifies the best and the worst of industry in America.  The factories had terrible working conditions, in one meatpacking factory, “the place ran with streaming hot blood – one waded in it on the floor.  The stench was almost overpowering,” (53-54).  Workers fared poorly in the factories, there are numerous incidents in the book where workers die, one was, “killed in an elevator accident,” (83).  Another man was killed when a, “wounded steer had broken loose and mashed him against a pillar,” (85).  These industrial accidents came from the unmonitored technologies that were used in the factories, which were deliberately made unsafe so they could produce goods at a faster rate.

Dangerous tools and equipment were used in every factory in the country; they produced more goods but at the expense of worker safety.  The industrial leaders uniformly decided to pick profits over people, laissez-faire allowed them to do this with the blessing of the government they virtually own and the curse of the people they were injuring in the name of a better profit margin.

Outside of work the labors fared little better, they had no capital because they were financially cheated by the factory owners.  Immigrants coming to America could no longer stake a claim on the plains; the land had been almost entirely bought up by settlers or railroad companies.  Their only viable options where they could move to were the cities, where they could get a job in a factory.

Even in the cities work was scarce; for each worker position there were dozens of desperate immigrants vying for it.  The factory owners could pay their employees virtually nothing and the immigrants would gladly work anyway, the alternative was starving to death.  All the immigrants could do was grumble and call the industrial leaders names, like robber barons. Workers lived in poverty, in addition to working in inhumane conditions, because the alternative was to starve.  The workers were financially dependent to the company, but the company did not care at all about them; unions began to emerge to combat this problem.

In response to encroachments on basic human rights and liberties unions slowly emerged, despite violent rebuffs by the robber barons.  Union members only wanted decent pay and a safe working environment; this would not have been a problem but it would have been at the expense of the robber barons.  Every modest request was denied by the company owners.  As unions became even more and more desperate they resorted to strikes to improve their jobs and wages.  Sometimes the unions won, most of the time they lost because the corporations had far greater assets.  During the Great Strike of 1877 the strikers were able to shut down nearly all railroad traffic across the US.  In response President Rutherford B. Hayes, at the request of notable railroad owners, called out federal troops to successfully quell the strike. In this display of force plutocracy revealed itself to be the ruling force in the country. Democracy had given way to plutocracy, no longer were the concerns of the many were the center of focus for the government, now only those with money were valued.  The worst tragedy of this coup was the common people were misled into believing the plutocrats were heroes.

The public adored the robber barons, despite the grievous toll they were extracting on the common man, because of unfortunate striking incidents and well placed charitable donations.  Union leaders continued to press forward with strikes, hoping they would gain enough leverage to force the corporations to bow to their demands.  They suffered numerous setbacks, notably during the Haymarket affair strikers were blamed for a bomb that killed seven police officers.  Public opinion swiftly turned against the strikers; nobody wanted to support anarchy.  The industrial leaders amplified this outrage using their newspapers to spread the word of the attack.

Weakened by violent incidents, the unions resorted to discrediting the robber barons, criticizing their unethical habit of hording money while their own workers starved.  In response millionaires donated absurd amounts of money to various charities; for example, John D Rockefeller donated $55 million dollars over his lifetime, enough money to build hundreds of buildings, construct numerous foundations, and buy him a pristine public image that no scandal could tarnish.  Instead of demanding his arrest people everywhere believed the man was virtually a saint and had the right to be rich.  Social Darwinism, a belief that in a laissez-faire economy the fittest businessmen are the ones who thrive, was created to explain why Rockefeller and men like him had succeeded where countless other people had failed.

The powers of the union receded, except for isolated victories they were held at bay by the robber barons.  Little progress was made to benefit the workers.  The labors were forced to work dangerous jobs or suffer with unemployment.  Robber barons ruled America, hoarding money while their political puppets did their bidding to get them even more money; the Age of Plutocracy had begun.

Today America is a plutocracy.  Elected officials win modern elections primarily because they spend more money than their opponents.  As the middle class collapses, and more and more Americans fall in poverty the plutocrats continue to demand deregulation of key America commerce sectors, such as meatpacking industry or the stock market; without regulations these industries will continue to endanger the health and stability of America.  Laissez-faire is alive and well, recklessness allowed by this guiding principle is responsible for the last four recessions.  The only threat left to the plutocracy is itself; should the recessions of increasing magnitudes continue, due to plutocrats insatiable greed, there will come a day when the common men as one to no longer be play things of the plutocrats.  They will call the fallout of this uprising the Second Civil War, and it will be a hundred times more costly than the first.

149 Sleeper Cell Terrorists Captured

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General Mansur Al-Turki, spokesperson of Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry of Security,  announced at a press conference that over the last eight months that Saudi Arabia has captured and imprisoned 149 sleeper cell militants.  They may be the largest personal lost Al Qaeda has suffered since America invaded Afghanistan.

Who and What was Captured?

There were nineteen sleeper cells who were captured; ten were independent sleeper cells, a four cell group, a three cell group, and a two cell group.

The independents generally had closer ties directly to Osama Bin Ladin and the Yemen Branch of Al Qaeda, better known as AQAP.  These cells focused primarily on manufacturer explosives, distributing those explosives, and training militants in the construction of bombs.  Their bombs were going to be involved in planned attacks on numerous security and military facilities across Saudi Arabia.  The majority of their recruits were young male teenagers, on holy pilgrimages to Mecca.  They were militarized and radicalized by the extremist ideology of Al Qaeda.  Boys like these wayward youth make of the majority of the soldiers that fight for branches of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.

The largest group of had four cells and forty-one terrorists.  They had numerous ties to AQAP in Yemen; the spokesperson announced they had terrorism plots in the advanced stages.  The terrorists focused on targeting security officers and security facilities like checkpoints and police stations.  This high coordinated and very advanced branch of Al Qaeda was captured with a small arsenal of weapons, mostly AK-47’s and RPGs, and dozens of laptops.  It is speculated that this group posed the largest threat to the stability of the Saudi Arabian government.

The second largest group had three cells and twenty-four terrorists.  Chiefly they planned to target military complexes such as air strips and small military bases.  They also had planned to assassinate key personal in the high levels of government and the media, both domestic and international.  They targeted journalists, hoping to eliminate non Al Qaeda oriented opinions in Saudi Arabia, posing the largest known threat to the media in the Middle East.

The smallest coordinated group had only two cells and sixteen members.  Unlike the other seventeen cells these terrorists focused on financially funding other branches of Al Qaeda.  They helped quarterback the gathering of 2.24 million Saudi riyals, worth roughly $600,00 US dollars.  These funds were to be used to arm and support the militants in Yemen and Somalia.  Funds were gathered by the terrorists; they deceived donors, claiming that the funds would go to help Muslims in poor countries.

What Affects Will this Have on Al Qaeda?

Capturing nearly a hundred and fifty militants will severely injure Al Qaeda on the Arabian peninsula and may lead to more exposed sleeper cells internationally.  Less than ten thousands men make up the total forces of Al Qaeda, perhaps as low as five thousand.  By capturing a hundred and fifty terrorists Saudi Arabia has imprisoned as much as 3% of the total man power of Al Qaeda, an impressive number that rivals the total number the America has captured in its lengthy campaign in Afghanistan.

Mansur Al-Turki stated that he had already informed Interpol and Yemen Interior Security of numerous sleeper cells outside the borders of Saudi Arabia.  Some of the captured terrorists were African, hinting that they discovered cells in Somalia; others were described as South Asian, so this would probably lead to exposure of cells in Indonesia, the single largest Muslin country.  Capturing these men will lead to uncovering additional of sleeper cells throughout the world, twisting the dagger in th heart of Al Qaeda.

What Have We Learned About Al Qaeda?

We have gained valuable knowledge about the radical ideology of AQAP’s branch of Al Qaeda.  Mansur Al-Turki announced that his officers had discovered a unified set of codes that outlines the direction AQAP will go in during the future.  He stated they are actively,

-Publishing takfirist ideology*

-Facilitating the transfer of recruiting cells to troubled regions

-Carrying out criminal operations that aim to spread chaos around the world

-Destabilizing security in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the USA

-Raising funds to support Al Qaeda, both at home and abroad

(* Takfirist ideology is a radical Al Qaeda and Taliban creed that has moves away from traditional Muslim beliefs and openly encouraged terrorism.  It is denoucned by the vast majority of Muslims.)

While this initial finding may appear worthless, addition information coupled with this known ideology can help authorities locate where future terrorists activities will take place.  This finding may someday save innocent lives.

An addition there was evidence supporting that Al Qaeda is moving towards further isolating the sleeper cells.  Up until this point they have favored groups of sleepers cells, as many as ten connected cells.  The large number of cells made it easier for each group to act effectively and independently, while it did threaten security.  This new system means that each job is further compartmentalized,  breaching one cell will not bring down an entire operation like it did in this latest incident.  Authorities will have to capture coordinators, men who organize large groups of cells and start new ones, in order to find large numbers of cells.  This gives the individual cells more security and more independence while limiting their power.  This will lead to numerous ineffective smaller terrorism events internationally, there will be more attacks but they will each do far less damage.

Questions to Ask our Allies:

Of the 149 militants there was only one women, who was imprisoned for posting “Al Qaeda Ideology” on the internet.  She has recently been released into the custody of her family.  This is not unheard of, there have been precedents of so-called terrorists being released into the custody of their families.  On follow up interviews these alleged terrorists generally only had tenuous links to Al Qaeda at best, some were swindled into supporting terrorism while others were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In some circumstances these “terrorists” were almost certainly imprisoned so that the government could gain leverage over important unruly subjects.  She was convicted of posting “Al Qaeda Ideology” on the Internet, but there has been no evidence to support this and they later released her after a short scare.

America and the European Union should congratulate and support Saudi Arabia in their sleeper cell bust, however they must also recognize that these numbers might be inflated with political prisoners.  Saudi Arabia has a checkered past concerning political prisoners, they have done it in the past but recently they have either stopped the illegal incarceration of innocents or have gotten better at covering it up.

America and the European Union should help Saudi Arabia, it is the best way to eliminate the real terrorists, but they also must pressure Saudi Arabia to stop using the threat of terrorism to eliminate political opponents of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, who currently rules Saudi Arabia.  Stabilization of the Middle East, by eliminating unethical practices, is the best way to defeat Al Qaeda, who public support just to survive.  Destroy that support and Al Qaeda will be crushed under the wrath of the common man.

Sources: AAWSAT, GlobalPost, and TheHindu.

Survival of the Fittest = Incorrect

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“Survival of the fittest,” is one of the strangest terms a person will regularly come across.  It occurs so often because people believe it applies to virtually aspect of life; war, politics, economic forces, video game competitions, and the closing of one ice cream store while another expands.  People look everywhere and they see only the smart and the brilliant beating the test of time.  They believe it is only logical that these victors survive, since they maintained the initiative and pressed onwards to victory while others are turned back by staggering defeats.

Well, that is terribly incorrect.

I will not devalue the people in this world who actually deserve to be where they are.  It takes brilliant pioneers, whether they are devolving a new market or leading audacious expeditions, to lead the economy and the world.  These people are heroes, an example for the rest of humanity to follow.  Behind them are others who bear their standard, people who explore and capitalize on overlooked opportunities.  These two groups of people cover less than 0.5% of the population, one in two hundred.

What about the other hundred ninety-nine?  They latch on those who are triumphant and sponge off some of their success.  Some are relatively motivated, some or miserable excuses for human beings.  These are the office workers, the accountants, the waiters; the grunts.  Their lives are not labeled “SUCCESFUL” instead they are named “STATUS QUO.”  They are perfectly capable of following orders, but lack the imagination to forge their own path.

So there are two groups of people in this world; those who are successful and the parasites who leech that success.  The pull of the weak on the Atlas strength of the strong often brings both of their worlds crashing down.  Companies go out of business for the sole reason that they fail to fix expensive problems that drive them into bankruptcy.  Those that are successful often try to fight these failings, but without the support of their underlings their chances of success are slim.  It takes more than one brilliant mind to solve problems; Albert Einstein didn’t build the atomic bombs by himself.

That brings us full circle.  The vast, vast majority of people succeed for the principle and primary reason that someone else is allowing them to succeed.  At the drop of the hat those in power could cut off those below them, without explanation or reason.  Those below have no way to rehabilitate or retrain, not that they probably had that opportunity in the first place.  This is a corrupt system, one that must be reconstructed and reformed.

How to reform it?  Simple, look to the past.  Past Rome, past Greece, past the dawn of civilization, to the times where men lived in caves and fought saber tooth tigers for food.  Those that were strong hunted and fought.  Those that were dexterous gathered plants and completed chores.  And those that were smart, the predecessor to our current “successful” people, taught.  The passed on their knowledge directly to the next generation to give them the greatest chance of success.

I propose we bring this back.  Not forcefully though, that would end horribly and traumatically.  Instead with some positive incentive, money.  Teachers today work twice as hard as a waiter and make roughly the same, however their jobs are much, much more important.  They educate the future generations to succeed and prosper, or at least that is the theory.  Most of teachers I’ve seen are bovine cows who are counting days till their pension comes in while they collect hundreds of sick and vacation days.  They are not the best to teach.

By upping the salary for teachers it would create more incentive for better qualified applicants to become teachers.  Better teachers means better teaching, which leads to more learning, which translates to better students.  People question where the money would come from to pay these new teachers; loans, but ones that actually would be paid off.  Should a country as a whole population become smarter, because of their improved education, the economy of that country will become better.  The teachers will pay for themselves and keep on paying.

All I ask for is that everyone has the equal opportunity to succeed; both those who are naturally blessed and those who are not.

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