A Tale of Two Democracies
Surrounded by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, Qatar is an island of sanity. In the mid 1990s, the government of Qatar abolished the Orwellian Ministry of Information. Two thirds of the Assembly is elected by the people, and the constitution guarantees freedom of the press. Women have the right to vote, and a lot of women have run for public office.
Al-Jazeera, the Arabic news service, was founded in Qatar in 1996. A lot of conservatives dismiss Al-Jazeera as just another anti-American pro-Arab propaganda tool, but think about it: a free, uncensored 24-hour news service in the Middle East?!? Al-Jazeera beams its message into the furthest reaches of neighboring medieval police states, and covers all sides of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. At one point, the Bush administration was trying to get Qatar to shut down Al-Jazeera. Hmmm, unclear on the concept, George?
The Lebanese people’s movement to drive Syria out of their country is being broadcast all over the Arab world by Al-Jazeera. Whether dictators throughout the Middle East like it or not, their people are getting this message.
Now, in this other democracy, things seem to be going in the opposite direction. 47% of the electorate strongly disagrees with the current Leader on most issues, but the Leader is steamrolling and bulldozing his opponents as if he had 99% of the vote.
The party in power is trying to change the rules in the ninth inning by eliminating a legislative procedure that the minority party has been using for 150 years. Even though politicians in this country are elected, they are so heavily bribed by multinational corporations that they’re basically owned by them. They may have democratic-sounding titles, but they’re pretty much the personal harem of Exxon, Halliburton, MBNA, and a few other caliphs.
The Leader’s highest-ranking appointees are now being required to spend even more time working very closely with the Leader, just to make sure nobody goes “off message” and says something to contradict the Leader.
I assume it’s safe to be writing this even though, with the direction our Leader is going, it's hard to tell sometimes. Just a minute, there’s a group of uniformed guards walking up to the front door. This looks pretty urgent, I’d better go see what they want. I’ll be right back just as soon as I