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Commentary. The biggest criminal enterprise in history: Destroying the planet for record profits
To destroy our planet with malice aforethought, with only the most immediate profits on the brain, with only your own comfort and wellbeing (and those of your shareholders) in mind: Isn’t that the ultimate crime? - Tom EnglehardtPosted at: Friday, May 24, 2013 - 07:20 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
US President Jimmy Carter, (arguably the last decent man to hold that office) delivered this televised speech on July 15, 1979. Its worth reading/watching the entire address. It makes crystal clear how retrograde our social policies have been over the past 30-plus years.
During the past three years I've spoken to you on many occasions about national concerns, the energy crisis, reorganizing the government, our nation's economy, and issues of war and especially peace. But over those years the subjects of the speeches, the talks, and the press conferences have become increasingly narrow, focused more and more on what the isolated world of Washington thinks is important. Gradually, you've heard more and more about what the government thinks or what the government should be doing and less and less about our nation's hopes, our dreams, and our vision of the future.
Ten days ago I had planned to speak to you again about a very important subject -- energy. For the fifth time I would have described the urgency of the problem and laid out a series of legislative recommendations to the Congress. But as I was preparing to speak, I began to ask myself the same question that I now know has been troubling many of you. Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?
It's clear that the true problems of our Nation are much deeper -- deeper than gasoline lines or energy shortages, deeper even than inflation or recession. And I realize more than ever that as president I need your help. So I decided to reach out and listen to the voices of America.
Often you see paralysis and stagnation and drift. You don't like it, and neither do I. What can we do?
First of all, we must face the truth, and then we can change our course. We simply must have faith in each other, faith in our ability to govern ourselves, and faith in the future of this nation. Restoring that faith and that confidence to America is now the most important task we face. It is a true challenge of this generation of Americans.
We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.
What I have to say to you now about energy is simple and vitally important.
Tom Englehardt says of that speech (in his essay linked to below):
... It’s true that, at a time when the science of climate change was in its infancy, Carter wouldn’t have known about the possibility of an overheating world, and his vision of “alternative energy” wasn’t exactly a fossil-fuel-free one. Even then, shades of today or possibly tomorrow, he was talking about having “more oil in our shale alone than several Saudi Arabias.” Still, it was a remarkably forward-looking speech.
Had we invested massively in alternative energy R&D back then, who knows where we might be today? Instead, the media dubbed it the “malaise speech,” though the president never actually used that word, speaking instead of an American “crisis of confidence.” While the initial public reaction seemed positive, it didn’t last long. In the end, the president's energy proposals were essentially laughed out of the room and ignored for decades. ...
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com.
The biggest criminal enterprise in history
Tom Englehardt TomDispatch USA May 23, 2013
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Terracide and the Terrarists
Destroying the Planet for Record Profits
By Tom Engelhardt
We have a word for the conscious slaughter of a racial or ethnic group: genocide. And one for the conscious destruction of aspects of the environment: ecocide. But we don’t have a word for the conscious act of destroying the planet we live on, the world as humanity had known it until, historically speaking, late last night. A possibility might be “terracide” from the Latin word for earth. It has the right ring, given its similarity to the commonplace danger word of our era: terrorist.
The truth is, whatever we call them, it’s time to talk bluntly about the terrarists of our world. Yes, I know, 9/11 was horrific. Almost 3,000 dead, massive towers down, apocalyptic scenes. And yes, when it comes to terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings weren’t pretty either. But in both cases, those who committed the acts paid for or will pay for their crimes.
In the case of the terrarists -- and here I’m referring in particular to the men who run what may be the most profitable corporations on the planet, giant energy companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell -- you’re the one who’s going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren. You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing.
It wasn’t that complicated. In recent years, the companies they run have been extracting fossil fuels from the Earth in ever more frenetic and ingenious ways. The burning of those fossil fuels, in turn, has put record amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. Only this month, the CO2 level reached 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. A consensus of scientists has long concluded that the process was warming the world and that, if the average planetary temperature rose more than two degrees Celsius, all sorts of dangers could ensue, including seas rising high enough to inundate coastal cities, increasingly intense heat waves, droughts, floods, ever more extreme storm systems, and so on.
None of this was exactly a mystery. It’s in the scientific literature. NASA scientist James Hansen first publicized the reality of global warming to Congress in 1988. It took a while -- thanks in part to the terrarists -- but the news of what was happening increasingly made it into the mainstream. Anybody could learn about it.
Those who run the giant energy corporations knew perfectly well what was going on and could, of course, have read about it in the papers like the rest of us. And what did they do? They put their money into funding think tanks, politicians, foundations, and activists intent on emphasizing “doubts” about the science (since it couldn’t actually be refuted); they and their allies energetically promoted what came to be known as climate denialism. Then they sent their agents and lobbyists and money into the political system to ensure that their plundering ways would not be interfered with. And in the meantime, they redoubled their efforts to get ever tougher and sometimes “dirtier” energy out of the ground in ever tougher and dirtier ways. ...
Call it irony, if you will, or call it a nightmare, but Big Oil evidently has no qualms about making its next set of profits directly off melting the planet. Its top executives continue to plan their futures (and so ours), knowing that their extremely profitable acts are destroying the very habitat, the very temperature range that for so long made life comfortable for humanity.
Their prior knowledge of the damage they are doing is what should make this a criminal activity. And there are corporate precedents for this, even if on a smaller scale. The lead industry, the asbestos industry, and the tobacco companies all knew the dangers of their products, made efforts to suppress the information or instill doubt about it even as they promoted the glories of what they made, and went right on producing and selling while others suffered and died.
And here’s another similarity: with all three industries, the negative results conveniently arrived years, sometimes decades, after exposure and so were hard to connect to it. Each of these industries knew that the relationship existed. Each used that time-disconnect as protection. One difference: if you were a tobacco, lead, or asbestos exec, you might be able to ensure that your children and grandchildren weren’t exposed to your product. In the long run, that’s not a choice when it comes to fossil fuels and CO2, as we all live on the same planet (though it's also true that the well-off in the temperate zones are unlikely to be the first to suffer).
If Osama bin Laden’s 9/11 plane hijackings or the Tsarnaev brothers’ homemade bombs constitute terror attacks, why shouldn’t what the energy companies are doing fall into a similar category (even if on a scale that leaves those events in the dust)? And if so, then where is the national security state when we really need it? Shouldn’t its job be to safeguard us from terrarists and terracide as well as terrorists and their destructive plots? ...
U.S. government criminal conspiracy: High-level corruption and the abuse of ‘national security’ to conceal evidence of criminality
FBI whistle-blower Sibel Edmonds was described as "the most gagged person in the history of the United States" by the American Civil Liberties Union. Was the Sunday Times pressured to drop its investigation into her revelations? Ceasefire is an independent political and cultural quarterly publication founded in 2002, concerned with producing high-quality journalism, reviews and analysis. The auhor, Dr Nafeez Ahmed, writes for The Guardian on the geopolitics of environmental, energy and economic crises at his Earth Insight blog. His personal website is www.nafeezahmed.com.Posted at: Friday, May 24, 2013 - 03:51 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Special Report | Why was a Sunday Times report on US government ties to al-Qaeda chief spiked?
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed Ceasefire Magazine UK May 16, 2013
Photo: Sibel Edmonds. Visit this page for its embedded links.
A whistleblower has revealed extraordinary information on the U.S. government’s support for international terrorist networks and organised crime. The government has denied the allegations yet gone to extraordinary lengths to silence her. Her critics have derided her as a fabulist and fabricator. But now comes word that some of her most serious allegations were confirmed by a major European newspaper only to be squashed at the request of the U.S. government.
In a recent book Classified Woman, Sibel Edmonds, a former translator for the FBI, describes how the Pentagon, CIA and State Department maintained intimate ties to al-Qaeda militants as late as 2001. Her memoir, Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story, published last year, charged senior government officials with negligence, corruption and collaboration with al Qaeda in illegal arms smuggling and drugs trafficking in Central Asia.
In interviews with this author in early March, Edmonds claimed that Ayman al-Zawahiri, current head of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden’s deputy at the time, had innumerable, regular meetings at the U.S. embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, with U.S. military and intelligence officials between 1997 and 2001, as part of an operation known as ‘Gladio B’. Al-Zawahiri, she charged, as well as various members of the bin Laden family and other mujahideen, were transported on NATO planes to various parts of Central Asia and the Balkans to participate in Pentagon-backed destabilisation operations.
According to two Sunday Times journalists speaking on condition of anonymity, this and related revelations had been confirmed by senior Pentagon and MI6 officials as part of a four-part investigative series that were supposed to run in 2008. The Sunday Times journalists described how the story was inexplicably dropped under the pressure of undisclosed “interest groups”, which, they suggest, were associated with the U.S. State Department.
Described by the American Civil Liberties Union as the “most gagged person in the history of the United States of America,” Edmonds studied criminal justice, psychology and public policy at George Washington and George Mason universities. Two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, her fluency in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani earned her an FBI contract at the Washington DC field office. She was tasked with translating highly classified intelligence from operations against terrorism suspects in and outside the U.S.
In the course of her work, Edmonds became privy to evidence that U.S. military and intelligence agencies were collaborating with Islamist militants affiliated with al-Qaeda, the very forces blamed for the 9/11 attacks – and that officials in the FBI were covering up the evidence. When Edmonds complained to her superiors, her family was threatened by one of the subjects of her complaint, and she was fired. Her accusations of espionage against her FBI colleagues were eventually investigated by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General, which did not give details about the allegations as they remained classified.
Although no final conclusions about the espionage allegations were reached, the Justice Department concluded that many of Edmonds’ accusations “were supported, that the FBI did not take them seriously enough and that her allegations were, in fact, the most significant factor in the FBI’s decision to terminate her services.”
When she attempted to go public with her story in 2002, and again in 2004, the U.S. government silenced Edmonds by invoking a legal precedent known as “state secrets privilege” – a near limitless power to quash a lawsuit based solely on the government’s claim that evidence or testimony could divulge information that might undermine “national security.” Under this doctrine, the government sought to retroactively classify basic information concerning Edmonds’s case already in the public record, including, according to the New York Times, “what languages Ms. Edmonds translated, what types of cases she handled, and what employees she worked with, officials said. Even routine and widely disseminated information — like where she worked — is now classified.”
Although certainly not the first invocation of “state secrets privilege”, since the Edmonds case the precedent has been used repeatedly in the post-9/11 era under both the Bush and Obama administrations to shield the U.S. government from court scrutiny of rendition, torture, warrantless wiretapping, as well as the President’s claimed war powers.
Other intelligence experts agree that Edmonds had stumbled upon a criminal conspiracy at the heart of the American judicial system. In her memoirs, she recounts that FBI Special Agent Gilbert Graham, who also worked in the Washington field office on counter-intelligence operations, told her over a coffee how he “ran background checks on federal judges” in the “early nineties for the bureau… If we came up with shit – skeletons in their closets – the Justice Department kept it in their pantry to be used against them in the future or to get them to do what they want in certain cases – cases like yours.”A redacted version of Graham’s classified protected disclosure to the Justice Department regarding these allegations, released in 2007, refers to the FBI’s “abuse of authority” by conducting illegal wiretapping to obtain information on U.S. public officials. ...
Edmonds said that the Pentagon operations with Islamists were an “extension” of an original ‘Gladio’ programme uncovered in the 1970s in Italy, part of an EU-wide NATO covert operation that began as early as the 1940s. As Swiss historian Dr. Daniele Ganser records in his seminal book, NATO’s Secret Armies, an official Italian parliamentary inquiry confirmed that British MI6 and the CIA had established a network of secret “stay-behind” paramilitary armies, staffed by fascist and Nazi collaborators. The covert armies carried out terrorist attacks throughout Western Europe, officially blamed on Communists in what Italian military intelligence called the ‘strategy of tension’.
“You had to attack civilians, the people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game” explained Gladio operative Vincenzo Vinciguerra during his trial in 1984. “The reason was quite simple. They were supposed to force these people… to turn to the State to ask for greater security.”
While the reality of Gladio’s existence in Europe is a matter of historical record, Edmonds contended the same strategy was adopted by the Pentagon in the 1990s in a new theatre of operations, namely, Asia. “Instead of using neo-Nazis, they used mujahideen working under various bin Ladens, as well as al-Zawahiri”, she said.
The last publicly known Gladio meeting occurred in NATO’s Allied Clandestine Committee (ACC) in Brussels in 1990. While Italy was a focal point for the older European operations, Edmonds said that Turkey and Azerbaijan served as the main conduits for a completely new, different set of operations in Asia using veterans of the anti-Soviet campaign in Afghanistan, the so-called “Afghan Arabs” that had been trained by al-Qaeda.
These new Pentagon-led operations were codenamed ‘Gladio B’ by FBI counterintelligence: “In 1997, NATO asked [Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak to release from prison Islamist militants affiliated to Ayman al-Zawahiri [whose role in the assassination of Anwar Sadat led to Mubarak’s ascension]. They were flown under U.S. orders to Turkey for [training and use in] operations by the Pentagon”, she said.
Edmonds’ allegations find some independent corroboration in the public record. ...
Edmonds did not speculate on the objectives of the Pentagon’s ‘Gladio B’ operations, but highlighted the following possibilities: projecting U.S. power in the former Soviet sphere of influence to access previously untapped strategic energy and mineral reserves for U.S. and European companies; pushing back Russian and Chinese power; and expanding the scope of lucrative criminal activities, particularly illegal arms and drugs trafficking.
Terrorism finance expert Loretta Napoleoni estimates the total value of this criminal economy to be about $1.5 trillion annually, the bulk of which “flows into Western economies, where it gets recycled in the U.S. and in Europe” as a “vital element of the cash flow of these economies.” ...
Sad and defining moments: Bridge on vital north-south trade route collapses from neglect; multi-faceted neglect destroys democracy in British Columbia
democracy (noun): A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a statePosted at: Friday, May 24, 2013 - 02:28 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
liberty (noun): The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life.
allegory (noun): A story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.
Jim comment: "Everything for me becomes allegory", wrote the French poet Charles Baudelaire. I share that sensibility. Over the past 40 years, in a geometric progression with the common ratio being neglect, our physical and our social infrastructures have beeen disregarded. They have not been cared for. Both safe bridges and liberty require constant vigilance. Our corporatist society's shareholders do not pay the price.
Intro: I-5 bridge north of Seattle collapses, no known fatalities
Associated Press/New York Daily News USA May 24, 2013
Rescue workers form a human chain as they begin to remove a woman who reaches out from a smashed pickup truck that fell into the Skagit River after the collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge Thursday. Photo: Francisco Rodriguez/AP. The bridge is an hour and a half south of Vancouver, B.C. and an hour north of Seattle by road.
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — A truck hauling a too-tall load hit an overhead girder of a bridge on the major thoroughfare between Seattle and Canada, sending a section of the span and two vehicles into the Skagit River below, though all three occupants suffered only minor injuries.
It happened about 7 p.m. Thursday on the north part of the four-lane Interstate 5 bridge near Mount Vernon, about 60 miles north of Seattle, and disrupted travel in both directions.
Initially, it wasn’t clear if the bridge just gave way on its own. But at an overnight news conference, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste blamed it on a tractor-trailer carrying an oversize load that hit an upper part of the span. The vertical clearance from the roadway to the beam is 14.6 feet.
“For reasons unknown at this point in time, the semi struck the overhead of the bridge causing the collapse,” Batiste said.
The truck made it off the bridge and the driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators. Authorities have not yet said what the truck was carrying. ...
The bridge was not classified as structurally deficient, but a Federal Highway Administration database listed it as being “functionally obsolete” — a category meaning that the design is outdated, such as having narrow shoulders and low clearance underneath.
The bridge, which was inspected last August and November, was built in in 1955 and had a sufficiency rating of 47 out of 100 at its November 2012 inspection, Transportation Department spokesman Noel Brady said Friday. The state average is 80, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Washington state was given a C in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 infrastructure report card and a C- when it came to the state’s bridges. The group said more than a quarter of Washington’s 7,840 bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. ...
Items: Below: Sports and culture, politics, business and tourism are five specialties of North Vancouver, British Columbia journalist Bob Mackin. Mackin is active in local print and radio. He is the author of the e-book Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics.
Not done properly: Dix's dips failed British Columbians
Bob Mackin 2010 Gold Rush British Columbia Canada May 16, 2013
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Media and scholars will study for years to come how the BC Liberals defied the odds (and the polls) and won British Columbia's 40th provincial election on May 14. ...
Ultimately, it was the triumph of a fear-based advertising campaign. Fear and greed are the two most basic motivators of humans. The Liberals painted Dix as weak and voters were told time and again they should fear what he might do if given power. It was built on the premise that repetition can sometimes be perceived as reality, even if the message is false. The same spin doctors portrayed Clark as strong. It was laughable for her to claim fiscal responsibility, but more people bought it than bought the NDP narrative. ...
As much as Dix was delivering a bright, positive Barack Obama-inspired message of hope and change, his campaign was too little, too late in expressing criticism of the Liberal record. When the NDP became critical, the Liberals framed it as being negative. The NDP could have prevented this.
Re-using the Jack Layton playbook from the 2011 federal election was ill-conceived. Layton was not running to be Prime Minister, he was running to be the Opposition leader. Dix's fatal error was not highlighting the 12-year Liberal record of incompetence and corruption on a daily basis. Showing how the Liberals wasted resources and grew government would have been simple. Simple, just-the-facts storytelling (with a dash of humour) would have done the job and reminded British Columbians that it was time for a change in government.
One practical step at a time? Dix should instead have been urging British Columbians to take a giant leap away from the Liberals.
How could he have done so? By revealing the incidents of Liberal mistakes and misconducts one-by-one throughout the campaign, in a daily advent calendar-style opening, complete with historical newspaper quotes and broadcast clips. The only problem would have been choosing which 28 issues and incidents to highlight and in which order. Quick Wins, Wood Innovation and Design Centre, Liquor Distribution Branch, BC Hydro smart meters... those are just the tip of the iceberg. The list is so long, as per Laila Yuile's 100+ Reasons the Liberals Must Go.
While the Liberals spent a year-and-a-half reminding voters of Dix's 1999 backdated memo, Dix and the NDP should have reminded voters of the boxes and boxes and boxes of documents hauled out of the Legislature on Dec. 28, 2003 by police officers investigating the corrupt procurement process around the sale of BC Rail. There were more than 25,000 pages entered as evidence in Dave Basi and Bob Virk's bribery trial.
Dix's tour bus should have included trips to the former BC Rail terminus in Prince George and the recently demolished station in North Vancouver. It was not good enough to simply promise a two-year, $10 million judicial inquiry in the platform. The $6 million legal indemnity deal resonates with citizens but the NDP did little when the documents the government didn't want you to see were finally revealed during the campaign by Global BC's Jas Johal. In fact, independent John van Dongen did more to highlight the issue than the NDP did by publishing a photo of a themed cookie by an Abbotsford baker on Facebook and Twitter.
The May 2 poll release from Angus Reid Public Opinion said the $6 million legal indemnity deal mattered a lot or somewhat to 67% of respondents -- 1% more than the way the Harmonized Sales Tax was introduced in 2009 by the Liberals.
People are mad as hell and not tolerating corruption anymore. Since the global economic crisis of 2008, corruption has been top-of-mind around the world. ...
The NDP needed a focussed plan to restore public trust. It didn't. It failed British Columbians.
Below: Award-winning blogger Norman Farrell needed a week to regroup his emotions and thoughts before he could comment on the election result.
Government we collectively deserve
Norman Farrell Northern Insight British Columbia Canada May 21, 2013
A significant week just passed. Great days for some; difficult moments for others. Like many observers of British Columbia politics, I was surprised by the election result. Believing facts clear and the need for change obvious, I was not merely surprised. I was confounded and needed time to react.
The outcome demonstrates that I put too much faith in political polls and was too attentive to people followed in social media and real life. Beyond that, perhaps I had excessive faith in fellow citizens. After all, nearly half of the people registered to vote in BC didn't bother to show up at the polls. As a result, the Liberals hold power despite being affirmed by fewer than 16% of the provincial population. That is particularly disheartening. My father and uncles served in WWII; my grandparents, mother and aunts served at home. They treasured the right to stand against tyranny and influence public policy by voting. They also passed regard for democratic responsibilities to their children. Apparently, most of my generation didn't convey the messages any further.
People who took time to investigate and evaluate knew that BC Liberals were beyond the best before date. Well beyond. I was certain and I assumed other informed people would also be certain. However, not enough folks made efforts to be informed. They bought the messages provided by wealthy media moguls or were distracted, watching Real Housewives of Dawson Creek or similar video trash. ...
Without doubt, Adrian Dix and the NDP opposition snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It would be easy to blame Brian Topp, the Ontario strategist who, weeks before voting day, partnered in a consulting enterprise with Christy Clark allies Boessenkool and Guy. To all besides BC's would-be Premier, the move confirmed reservations about Topp's judgement and commitment.
Adrian Dix is the person who tolerated Brian Topp's presence. Dix decided it was best to stay quiet about specific Liberal corruption and Dix underlings instructed all to avoid a focus on major misdeeds of the opponents. Business people who provided documentary evidence of wrongdoing to the NDP opposition wondered why it was ignored and never heard about again. Whistle blowers in the NDP's 2013 world were not welcome. The party's aristocracy was waiting for the coronation they believed to be certain.
Long time political observer Norman Spector recently reminded us that politicians seldom examine the flimflammery of predecessors because tradition demands that sleeping dogs lie undisturbed when governments change. Adrian Dix misunderstood the custom; he thought the entire game should be played with softballs, even while opponents aimed hardballs at his head. The sad lesson is that people don't expect decency from politicians. ...
Dix is not entirely to blame. The NDP is not a vessel that can find calm seas. They've been defined by their enemies and the country's most brilliant strategists might not alter the situation. Perhaps the Green Party is best equipped to represent grass roots. To do that, they must avoid being captured by big business movements and large labour unions; difficult tasks when huge dollars are offered. To be meaningful, Greens must represent ordinary citizens of British Columbia and their future generations. Neither of BC's major parties seem intent on doing that now.
There are 21 comments on the above post. They are worth perusing. In one, Norman Farrell comments in response:
I've been asked where the 16% number originated. Here is the answer: On May 21, Elections BC show 724K Liberal votes. Population estimate is 4.65 million. Thus, 15.6% of BC residents voted for BC Liberals.
Noted: The 'BC Liberal' coalition members are ideological bedfellows of the Harperites. We just received this notice in our in-box.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - MAY 24, 2013
Comedians raise $76,000 to air political ad during hockey tonight
$11,000 to be donated to food bank
*HD video available upon request.
Vancouver, Canada—The widely-popular Canadian political comedy community SHD.ca has crowdfunded enough money to broadcast a 30-second ad more than 100 times on national TV, including two NHL playoff games. The commercial, which takes Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government to task for recent economic failures, will air for the first time tonight, during CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.
The ad will air in direct competition with the Harper Government's controversial taxpayer-funded playoff hockey ad campaign for Canada’s “Economic Action Plan.” The people-powered ad highlights that the average household debt and the number of Canadians relying on food banks have both reached an all-time high. Both the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund have echoed these economic trends.
"The Harper Conservatives are spending millions of our tax dollars telling us how great they are for the economy. Meanwhile their policies are leaving a record number of Canadians hungry," says Brigette DePape, lead community organizer for SHD.ca. “Our community suggested we run our own ad focusing on the truth. We did and the response has been incredible.”
The group originally set out to raise $6,000—and reached the goal in under four hours. When the three week Indiegogo campaign had concluded the SHD community had fundraised $76,412. 15 percent of funds raised go to the Canadian Food Bank, totaling more than $11,000.
The SHD campaign has found broad public support in response to the Conservative government’s PR blitz which has cost taxpayers an unprecedented $113 million while being widely denounced as propaganda. The slick advertisements make misleading claims of “jobs,” “growth” and “prosperity.” The government has purchased some of the world’s most expensive airtime, including the Super Bowl and the Oscars while refusing to disclose the full details of their advertising costs to the public.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
Hark! The voice of the turtle is heard in our land. Today is World Turtle Day
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; - Song of Solomon 2:11-12 (KJV)Posted at: Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 08:04 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Photo courtesy HLN, a CNN Worldwide television network.
World Turtle Day was first celebrated in 2000. Its purpose is to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive. (A terrapin is a turtle living in fresh or brackish water. Terrapin is an Algonquian word for turtle. The name originally was used by early European settlers in North America to describe these brackish-water turtles that inhabited neither freshwater habitats nor the sea. It retains this primary meaning in American English. In British English, however, other semi-aquatic turtle species, such as the red-eared slider, might be called a terrapin.)
Turtle Day is celebrated worldwide in a variety of ways, from dressing up as turtles or wearing green summer dresses, to saving turtles caught on highways, to research activities. Turtle Day lesson plans and craft projects encourage teaching about turtles in classrooms.
World Turtle Day spotlights endangered and threatened reptiles"
Lisa Granshaw VetStreet USA May 23, 2013
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May 23 is World Turtle Day, an annual event created to celebrate and increase awareness of turtle species around the world.
“Turtles are not as popular as cats and dogs, so interest, awareness and understanding is pretty slim,” says Susan Tellem, cofounder of American Tortoise Rescue. World Turtle Day was started 13 years ago by the ATR, who have rescued and rehomed over 3,000 turtles since Tellem and her husband founded the organization in 1990.
“This day is a good way to educate people about how to care for turtles, and to learn what danger they’re in and how to be more aware of what they need,” Tellem says.
According to ATR, turtles and tortoises are threatened by the exotic food trade, habitat destruction, global warming and the pet trade. ...
As for marine turtles, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s national sea turtle coordinator Barbara Schroeder says all species are listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered. There are seven sea turtle species worldwide, and six of those are located in U.S. waters.
“While there are some common themes of threats that are significant between terrestrial and sea turtles, in the marine environment, bycatch in fisheries is the major threat around the world,” Schroeder says.
Bycatch, the accidental capture of untargeted species by fishermen, occurs when sea turtles get caught in gear such as gillnets, trawls and longlines. Vessel strikes and habitat destruction around nesting beaches are also contributing to the loss of sea turtles.
Turtle recall (World Turtle Day)
Willie Mackenzie Greenpeace International blogs International May 23, 2013
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Every day is Turtle Day when you're an ocean campaigner…
When I heard it was World Turtle Day, I hatched a plan. I know that to an international audience 'turtle' covers a multitude of reptile species, but rather than getting all Queens' English-y over what is a tortoise, a terrapin or a turtle, I thought this was a good opportunity to focus in on the seven amazing species that roam our oceans – the sea turtles.
And there are three good reasons: they are awesome; no one will dispute calling them 'turtles'; and six out of seven species are endangered, thanks to us – so they need some love.
So here is everything you needed to know about sea turtles, in a handy, shareable blog. ...
Combating 'terrorism': There are times when it actually requires more courage to listen than it does to fight back
Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out. - James Bryant Conant (1893 - 1978). Conant was an American chemist, a transformative President of Harvard University, and the first U.S. Ambassador to West Germany, appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhowerm in May 1955. Conant had previously been United States High Commissioner for Germany. At noon on May 6, 1955, Conant, along with the high commissioners from Britain and France, signed the documents ending Allied control of West Germany. He became US Ambassador on May 14, 1955.Posted at: Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 06:55 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Even if their methods have no moral justification, the issues that trigger acts of terrorism will retain the power to inspire further bloodshed for as long as governments insist that security alone must be their preeminent concern. - Paul Woodward. We say, Amen, brother.
No-drama counter-terrorism: What Ingrid Loyau-Kennett can teach America
Paul Woodward War in Context USA Msy 23, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links and video.
In South East London yesterday, when Ingrid Loyau-Kennett approached Michael Adebolajo who in his blood-drenched hands held a knife and a meat cleaver after having just murdered a British soldier, she displayed exceptional courage. But she also showed there is an alternative to trying to crush violence with greater violence: diffuse the violence by creating a space within which anger can be translated into words.
Behind most acts of political violence there are statements that the perpetrators imagine can be heard by no other means. Sometimes, all that de-escalation requires is simply to listen to whatever they have to say.
Politicians and some security experts often argue that to listen to terrorists is to capitulate to terrorism — that it is akin to being manipulated by a child’s tantrum and will “reward” terrorism.
The opposite — that refusing to listen, merely closes off alternatives to violence — can just as persuasively argued.
Indeed counter-terrorism seems as much as anything to be driven by its own counterproductive emotional logic. Terrorism emasculates the powers of the state. It makes those who struggle to prevent such violence appear impotent and thus provokes what in some ways are ritualistic displays of counter-violence.
In these displays, paradoxically, the power of the enemy has to be simultaneously inflated and thwarted. Events that are in many ways isolated and involve tiny numbers of people, get woven together into a global phenomenon: the multi-headed hydra of terrorism. ...
U.S. Congress moves toward full trade embargo on Iran; Iran appears to be successfully avoiding UN sanctions for the most part & Profiles: Iran presidential election candidates
Below: The United States Congress has stepped closer to a full trade embargo on Iran with legislation intended to increase support for Israel. If it is passed into law, President Barack Obama would lose his waiver rights that ensure countries with historic trade and financial relations with Tehran continue cooperating with Western efforts to pressure Iran over its nuclear program.Posted at: Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 06:28 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
U.S. Congress moves toward full trade embargo on Iran
Jim Lobe Inter Press Service International May 23, 2013
WASHINGTON, May 23 2013 (IPS) - The U.S. Congress moved closer here Wednesday to imposing a full trade embargo against Iran and pledged its support to Israel if it felt compelled to attack Tehran’s nuclear programme in self-defence.
The Senate voted 99-0 to adopt a resolution that urged President Barack Obama to fully enforce existing economic sanctions against Iran and to “provide diplomatic, military and economic support” to Israel “in its defense of its territory, people and existence”.
Washington, it said, should support Israel “in accordance with United States law and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force” if Israel “is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program.”
The measure also re-affirmed the official policy of the administration of President Barack Obama that it would take whatever action necessary to “prevent” Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
At the same time, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Republican-led House of Representatives unanimously approved new sanctions legislation that, if passed into law, would blacklist foreign countries or companies that fail to reduce their oil imports from Iran to virtually nil within 180 days.
The same bill would expand the current blacklisting of companies that do business with Iran’s financial sector to include those engaged in the country’s automotive and mining sectors, as well.
In perhaps its most controversial section, the bill also eliminates President Obama’s ability to waive most sanctions for national-interest or national-security reasons.
Such waiver authority, which has been routinely included in existing sanctions legislation, has been used by Obama to ensure that countries that have historically enjoyed important trade and financial relations with Tehran continue cooperating with Western-led international efforts to pressure Iran to curb its nuclear programme.
The president’s waiver authority is also considered critical to prospects for a negotiated agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia plus Germany) by which such curbs would be accepted by Tehran in return for easing sanctions.
Both moves come as the Senate Republicans unveiled yet another bill even more far-reaching than that approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee by blacklisting companies that do any trade with Iran and deprive the president of all waiver authority. Under the draft legislation, which so far lacks any Democratic co-sponsors, sanctions could be eased or lifted only by an act of Congress.
Approval of both the Senate resolution and the House bill were hailed by American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the premier group of the Israel lobby here. ...
Whether the flurry of new threats and sanctions by Congress will affect the [Iranian] election [and the inauguration of a new president] – or the calculations of Khamenei himself – remains to be seen.
Even the strongest supporters of sanctions have conceded that the economic pressure they’ve exerted on the regime to date has not produced the desired result and may even have strengthened regime hardliners who are convinced that Washington’s ultimate aim is “regime change” – a conviction that is likely to be strengthened by a review of Wednesday’s Senate debate.
Exclusive: Glencore, Trafigura deals with Iran may have skirted sanctions - U.N
Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols Thomson Reuters Canada/UK May 22, 2013
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Metals swap deals with Iran by Switzerland-based commodities giants Glencore Xstrata and Trafigura could have been a way of skirting international sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program, according to a confidential U.N. Panel of Experts report seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
Reuters reported on March 1 that Glencore had supplied thousands of tons of alumina to an Iranian firm that has provided aluminum to Iran's nuclear program, an allegation Glencore confirmed as accurate. Afterward, Trafigura acknowledged it had also traded with the same Iranian firm.
Swiss authorities said at the time that they saw no evidence of U.N. or Swiss sanctions violations by Glencore, but the U.N. experts, who monitor compliance with the Iran sanctions regime, raised the possibility that the swap deals were a means of flouting restrictions on trade with Iran.
"If confirmed, such transactions may reflect an avenue for procurement of a raw material in a manner that circumvents sanctions," the 49-page report said in reference to the media reports on the swap deals. "The companies involved have stated that they have halted those transactions."
Reuters has sought comment from both companies regarding the report, which was delivered to the U.N. Security Council's Iran sanctions committee earlier this month. ...
"Iran continues to seek items for its prohibited activities from abroad by using multiple and increasingly complex procurement methods, including front companies, intermediaries, false documentation, and new routes," the experts said. ...
The panel listed 11 violations by Iran since June 2012 and said it has at least six ongoing investigations into possible sanctions violations, including the export of machine tools reported by Spain and the export of technical equipment for use in satellite technology reported by Germany.
The United States reported transfers and attempted transfers of items linked to Iran's nuclear program, including vacuum equipment for test stands, pressure transducers, vacuum pumps and materials for fabrication of centrifuge machine components like magnetic tape, marching steel and aluminum alloys.
The United States also reported a violation involving the transfer of specialized metals to several entities in Iran associated with the ballistic missile program.
The report said recent Iran sanctions violations had also been reported by Sweden, Bahrain, France, Britain and an unidentified country listed as "State X". ...
Related: Profiles: Iran election candidates
BBC News UK May 22, 2013
Iran's Guardian Council has approved eight candidates - out of a list of more than 600 hopefuls - to stand in the presidential elections in June. Whoever wins the polls will replace incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is constitutionally barred form seeking re-election. Here are profiles of who the candidates are. ...
Syria dispatches: Heros or zeros? Hezbollah's fallen soldiers
Intro: Below: Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.Posted at: Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 01:00 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
What is the U.S. REALLY doing in Syria?
Stephen M. Walt Foreign Policy USA May 22, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
Permit me to indulge today in a bit of speculation, for which I don't have a lot of hard evidence. As I read this article yesterday on Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian civil war, I began to wonder whether U.S. involvement in that conflict isn't more substantial than I have previously thought. And then I did a bit of web surfing and found this story, which seemed to confirm my suspicions. Here's my chain of reasoning: ...
To repeat: The above analysis is mostly speculative on my part. I have no concrete evidence that the full scenario sketched above is correct, and I don't know what the level of U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war really is. But that's what troubles me: I don't like not knowing what my government is doing, allegedly to make me safer or to advance someone's idea of the "national interest." And if you're an American, neither should you. If the United States is now orchestrating a lot of arms shipments, trying to pick winners among the opposition, sending intelligence information to various militias, and generally meddling in a very complicated and uncertain conflict, don't you think the president owes us a more complete account of what America's public servants are or are not doing, and why?
Items: At least 40 Hezbollah fighters killed in Qusayr as troops fight rebels
Al Arabiya Dubai, United Arab Emirates May 20, 2013
At least 40 Hezbollah fighters have been reportedly killed in the Syrian town of Qusayr late on Sunday, sources told Al Arabiya, following clashes between Syrian rebels and regime forces who attempted to enter the town earlier in the day.
Sources also told Al Arabiya that tens of Hezbollah members were wounded during the fight and had been taken to hospitals in Beirut, Lebanon for treatment.
The assault on Qusayr appeared to be part of a campaign by President Bashar al-Assad's forces to consolidate their grip on Damascus and secure links between the capital and the government strongholds on the coast via the contested central city of Homs.
State news agency SANA said the army had "restored security and stability to most Qusayr neighborhoods" and was "chasing the remnants of the terrorists in the northern district". ...
The fighting for Qusayr , which straddles strategic supply routes important for both Assad and the rebels, is the latest assault by Assad's forces seeking to consolidate control over territory linking the capital Damascus to his Alawite heartland overlooking the Mediterranean. Although northern and eastern provinces remain beyond his grasp, the president has reasserted his military presence in the south and center of the country, possibly seeking to send a delegation to peace talks (Geneva 2) from a position of greater strength. Speaking yesterday in Amman before a meeting of the Friends of Syria group of nations, the U.S. secretary of state says that if the Syrian leader believes the counter-offensives against rebels will be decisive, 'then he is miscalculating'. See "Kerry: Assad's achievements in recent days only temporary".
Assad counteroffensive reverberates loudly
Victor Kotsev Asia Times Online Hong Kong May 20, 2013
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ISTANBUL- Bolstered by Russia, Iran and regional Shiite forces, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have been making steady gains against the rebels over the past weeks. They are by no means about to win the civil war, which has claimed more than 90,000 lives in just over two years (not least because much of northern Syria remains in opposition hands), but if a peace push next month, sponsored jointly by the United States and Russia, fails, it is very likely that the chaos will grow further and perhaps spill into neighboring countries
On Sunday, units of the Syrian army and the Lebanese Hezbollah launched an attack on the town of Qusayr near the Lebanese border, resulting in what Reuters described as "the heaviest fighting yet involving [the] Lebanese armed group". As of Sunday night, it appeared that the fall of the town, which straddles a major smuggling route contested by the rebels and Hezbollah, would only be a matter of days or hours.
Previously, a number of other strategic towns in southern Syria, including Khirbet Ghazaleh on the highway between Damascus and Jordan, were recaptured by regime after heavy fighting. An attempted rebel counter-attack on a military base and several checkpoints, designed to relieve the pressure elsewhere and to prevent a collapse of the rebel front in that part of the country,  appears to have had little effect on the tide of battles. ...
[A]s demonstrated by the mounting tensions in the Golan Heights and northern Lebanon, as well as by the recent terror attack in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli, which claimed some 50 lives, the potential for a spillover of violence in the region is growing. Should the fragile peace initiative cobbled together during the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow earlier this month fail, an already ghastly situation would likely continue to escalate without a clear end in sight.
From hero to zero
Daily Star Lebanon May 21, 2013
Not long ago now, Hezbollah was claiming it was merely fighting in Syria to protect Shiite shrines and those Lebanese living across the border. Now that this is patently not true, and it is obvious the group is heavily entrenched in fighting the rebels, it also appears dangerously clear that Hezbollah is taking Lebanon into the unknown.
Once feted as heroes following its 2006 victory over Israel, Hezbollah is now putting its own future in jeopardy, just as it putting all Lebanese Shiites at risk, along with the country in its entirety.
The party once stood upon a pedestal, admired and revered even by Sunni countries around the region for its legitimate and admirable stance of resistance against an occupier. But now, as it sends its members into battle across the border in an attempt to rout the Syrian opposition from Qusair, it has become all too apparent that though comprised of Lebanese, the party is acting as little more than an extra military wing for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
As the civil war next door continues to destabilize Lebanon – a trend to which the ongoing internecine fighting in Tripoli testifies – Hezbollah’s role is only exacerbating this. Lebanese interests as far as the party is concerned do not trump Iranian interests.
Not only has Hezbollah now fallen from this pedestal, but it is now being viewed with much criticism, with its motives questioned and its principles under great scrutiny. As it claims to speak for and represent the Shiite community as a whole, this sect is also being endangered by its actions, implicitly pitted, as they have now been, against the Sunnis.
The news Tuesday that the EU is planning to blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing – as Israel has been urging it do for months – will also negatively affect the country’s Shiite community, and Lebanon as a whole.
Whether a supporter of Hezbollah or not, it would have been hard, yesterday, to find a Lebanese who had not backed the party’s struggle to liberate areas still under Israeli occupation. But with the laughable claims by the Syrian army that it is now willing and able to liberate the Golan Heights – when, even at the height of its military capabilities it was unable or unconcerned with doing so – the rhetoric used by both Hezbollah and its allies is being much more closely analyzed.
Despite all the Syrian army’s air power and Hezbollah’s extensive urban warfare experience on the ground, they have still had quite a fight on their hands to win back Qusair, a town of 40,000....
Below: Phillip Smyth is a researcher who focuses on Hezbollah for the University of Maryland's Institute for Advanced Computer Studies' Lab for Computational Cultural Dynamics. He also writes for Jihadology.net. Qusayr isn't Hezbollah's first battle in Syria -- for months, its militiamen have also taken part in fighting around the Zaynab shrine.
Hezbollah's fallen soldiers
Phillip Smyth Foreign Policy USA May 22, 2013
Members of Lebanon's Hezbollah carry the coffin of their comrade Hussein Ahmed Abul Hassan during his funeral in southern Beirut on May 21, 2013. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images. Visit this page for its embedded links.
Hezbollah is throwing its men into battle in the Syrian city of Qusayr, and many are returning to Lebanon in coffins. Through their funerals and commemorations posted on pro-Hezbollah Facebook pages, we are now getting a sense of the casualties that the self-proclaimed "Party of God" is suffering as it joins the Syrian conflict on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.
It's no secret why Qusayr is a vital piece of real estate for both the Syrian regime and the Lebanese paramilitary group. The city is a strategic link in the Syrian communications chain, connecting the capital of Damascus, Syria's Alawite-dominated coastal highlands, and Hezbollah's heartland in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley. The Lebanese border is only a few miles to the city's west, and the Damascus-Aleppo highway lies to its east.
Hezbollah maintains a tight lid on information about its fighters. The Lebanese paramilitary organization does not acknowledge that its fighters are being killed in Syria, and employs vague language to explain their deaths: All fighters who have been killed in Syria are said to have died performing their "Jihadist duties." Secretary of State John Kerry said on May 22 there were "several thousands" of Hezbollah fighters engaged in combat in Syria.
But Hezbollah can't conceal the reality of their fighters' deaths in Syria entirely. The group often announces a fighter's death on the day of the funeral, or a day before it. These funerals are carefully scripted, and access by non-Hezbollah media is severely restricted. New York Times reporter Anne Barnard was even thrown out of a funeral when she was covering the death of Hassan Faysal Shuker, one of 12 dead Hezbollah members named by the organization during the height of the fighting in Qusayr.
Utilizing a mixture of YouTube videos of funerals and of the fighters, Hezbollah's official announcements, webpages for Hezbollah-controlled towns and villages, quasi-official Facebook pages (including the personal pages of some Hezbollah members), and Hezbollah web forums, I have been able to compile figures tracking the party's dead in Syria. While this system primarily relies on Hezbollah sources, which tend to conceal total numbers of dead, it has so far provided roughly three to 10 hours of advance knowledge of a Hezbollah member's death before their passing is announced on Hezbollah's official al-Manar television station.
Facebook announcements of Hezbollah fighters' deaths are not just the work of overzealous activists or family members. The vast majority of posted photos and announcements appear to have been approved by Hezbollah's extensive media apparatus. Many Facebook announcements overlap with the party's official forum, Qawem.org. This suggests the same administrators at that forum also run many of the myriad pro-Hezbollah Facebook pages.
Based on these official Hezbollah and pro-Hezbollah sources, I counted a total of 20 Hezbollah members killed from the period starting on May 18 until mid-day on May 20. Due to the timing of the announcements, it stands to reason that a majority of these fighters died while engaged in the heavy fighting around Qusayr. ...
The presence of veteran fighters in Syria underlines the importance of this campaign for Hezbollah.
As fighting around Qusayr continues and announcements of new deaths flood in, one thing is certain: Hezbollah's involvement in Syria will only continue to grow.
The Levant is a geographical term that refers to a large area in Southwest Asia, south of the Taurus Mountains, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea in the west, the Arabian Desert in the south, and Mesopotamia in the east. It stretches 400 miles north to south from the Taurus Mountains to the Sinai desert, and 70 to 100 miles east to west between the sea and the Arabian desert. The term is also sometimes used to refer to modern events or states in the region immediately bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea: Cyprus, Palestinian territories, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. Map by Norman Einstein.
Related: In the Levant, the fates of Lebanon and Syria have long been intertwined. Incidents in Tripoli crop up from time to time, with the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) at times urging Lebanese Sunnis into a similar uprising. The Lebanese military has been trying to keep the fighting in check, but seems unable to stop it in any long-term way.
Ten dead in sectarian clashes in Lebanon's Tripoli
BBC News UK May 22, 2013
This item contains informative maps.
At least 10 people have died and 70 have been wounded in the latest round of sectarian violence in Tripoli in Lebanon.
Four people were killed overnight in fighting between Alawite supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Sunnis, who back the Syrian opposition.
The death toll since fresh fighting broke out on Sunday includes two Lebanese soldiers.
Earlier this month, five people were killed in violence in the city.
The Lebanese media says that residents had to take shelter from shelling and sniper fire, as the clashes entered a fourth day.
Fighting in Tripoli has been concentrated in the predominantly Sunni Bab al-Tabbana area and the Jabal Muhsin area, which is populated mainly by Alawites.
Lebanese army troops were seen patrolling major roads in Bab al-Tabbana hours before the fresh fighting broke out, reports the AP news agency. ...
Tripoli is a largely Sunni city but is also home to a small community of Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam to which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad belongs.
The city has recently become home to thousand of Syrian refugees fleeing violence. ...
Below: Canadian author and journalist Terry Glavin is angry.
Canada drags its feet in offering aid to Syrian refugees
Terry Glavin National Post, Full Comment blog Canada May 23, 2013
When the United States and Britain turned away 70,000 starving Jewish refugees from the fascist Romanian regime of Ion Antonescu in February, 1943, it fell to U.S. Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles to explain why. There are reasons, Welles said. It’s a trick of some kind. Taking those Jews would just play into the Nazi propaganda machine. There are reasons.
Thirty years later, in 1973, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir came to Washington to plead on behalf of the Soviet Union’s persecuted Jews. In a secretly recorded conversation released only in 2010, President Richard Nixon and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger are heard to congratulate one another after having just shown Meir the door. They had their reasons.
“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Kissinger is heard to mumble, “and if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.” Nixon responds: “I know. We can’t blow up the world because of it.”
Push the clock ahead 40 years to last month, when events in Syria were unfolding in such a way as to call President Barack Obama’s bluff about the “red lines” he’d blustered about having drawn around Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad’s use of poison gas. To extricate Obama from his predicament, an anonymous White House official is summoned to perform a pitch-perfect ventriloquism of Kissinger’s casual aside to Nixon. “If he (Assad) drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”
So there we have it. Syria continues to convulse in what Foreign Minister John Baird properly calls “the worst crisis this century has seen” and the smell coming from Obama’s cool and swaggering Syria policy carries exactly the whiff of the morally depraved Richard Nixon having his gluttonous ego massaged by the noxious war criminal Henry Kissinger. ...
In Ottawa, the foreign affairs department’s contribution of $50 million to Syrian humanitarian relief is not relatively ungenerous. But while the number of Syrians applying for temporary-resident visa applications (visitors, students, work permits) has skyrocketed since the Baathist massacres began, the number of Syrians that Canada has allowed in has actually fallen. ...
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Somali war refugees who received safe haven in Syria years ago forced to flee war again & No brainer: Iran key to success of 'Geneva 2' Syrian peace talks
Below: Many Somalis are being forced to flee conflict again, years after having sought refuge in Syria from civil war back home.Posted at: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 05:14 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Syria strife sends Somali refugees on the run
Mona Kosar Abdi Al Jazeera English Qatar May 22, 2013
Somali refugees in Syria are leaving the country to escape civil war in their new homeland. Photo: Getty Images. Visit this page for its embedded links.
San Diego, United States - It has been a strenuous 9,000-kilometre journey across the Atlantic to the US for Amal Kahim Jama and her Somali family. Fleeing civil war in Syria, they were recently forced to leave everything behind and rebuild their lives - yet again.
Buildings she used to walk by in the heart of the Syrian capital, Damascus, have been reduced to rubble: a vestige of what once was a vibrant metropolis. It is an all too familiar image for Jama and the thousands of Somalis who fled to Syria in the 1990s to escape their own civil war. Jama and her five children left the capital Mogadishu in 2005.
As threats to their safety increase, the wait to be transferred to another host country for the second time is raising fear and uncertainty among the Somali community in Syria.
"We were welcomed in Syria. It was a great place for the Somali people," Jama said, recalling a time of peace and stability. "The kids were enrolled in school and there were no problems. Life was normal."
That recollection stands in sharp contrast to the violence that has engulfed Syria over the past two-plus years. ...
Another Somali who fled the Syrian conflict, 26-year-old Zahra Mohamed, lived in Syria since she was five-years old. She fled to Damascus with her grandmother, mother and four younger siblings in 1992. Mohamed left Damascus for the first time in 2012 as the violence escalated.
She said leaving behind friends she cared deeply about brought great sadness, even as she settled into her new life in sunny San Diego.
"I can't be happy without feeling guilty. Just thinking about them [friends and neighbours] takes away my happiness … I pray for my neighbour of 20 years every day," said Mohamed.
She said she never thought the conditions, similar to those that forced her family to flee Somalia, would also drive them out of Syria - the country she calls home.
Mohamed didn't graduate university, leaving the country before completing her final semester. But what is most troubling for her is the thought of what is happening to the "good people of Syria", she said. ...
Related: Below: Contradictory discourse in the US over the Syrian civil conflict underlines how American strategy in the Middle East has become watered-down to the point of impotence. It's a far cry from the days of invading Iraq and carving up the region through "peace deals" - yet this was the likeliest end result of a foreign policy almost entirely reliant on blowing things up.
Syria highlights US political impotence
Ramzy Baroud Asia Times Online Hong Kong May 21, 2013
In an article published on May 15, American historical social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein wrote, "Nothing illustrates more the limitations of Western power than the internal controversy its elites are having in public about what the United States in particular and Western European states should be doing about the civil war in Syria."
Those limitations are palpable in both language and action. A political and military vacuum created by past US failures and forced retreats after the Iraq war made it possible for countries like Russia to reemerge on the scene as an effective player.
It is most telling that over two years after the Syrian uprising-turned bloody civil war, the US continues to curb its involvement by indirectly assisting anti-Bashar al-Assad regime opposition forces, through its Arab allies and Turkey. Even its political discourse is indecisive and often times inconsistent.
Concurrently, Russia's position remains unswerving and constantly advancing while the US is pushed into a corner, demonstrating an incapacity to react except for condemnations and mere statements. Much to the displeasure of its Arab allies.
Russia's recent delivery of sophisticated anti-ship missiles and its own buildup of warships in the eastern Mediterranean is a case in point. The move was condemned by the Obama administration as one that is "ill-timed and very unfortunate".
But this American attitude in the region is fairly new. Behind it stands a history bloody and filled with imprudent foreign policy. Regardless of how the US decides to move on Syria, the chances are that a return to its old dominant approach is no longer an option.
The current American political impotence in the Middle East is unprecedented, at least since the rapid disintegration of the Soviet bloc in the early 1990s. ...
A major fault in US foreign policy is that it is almost entirely reliant on military power - as in the ability to blow things up. The US war on Iraq which, in various forms, extended from 1990 to 2011, included a devastating blockade and ended with a brutal invasion.
This long war was as unscrupulous as it was violent. Aside from its overwhelming human toll, it was placed within a horrid political strategy aimed at exploiting the country's existing sectarian and other fault lines, therefore triggering a civil war and sectarian hatred from which Iraq is unlikely to cover for many years.
But the limitations of US military power became quite obvious in later years. The empire was no longer able to bridge the divide between translating its dominance on the ground - itself increasingly challenged by local resistance groups - into a level of political progress required to achieve the minimum amount of "stability".
Moreover, an economic recession, coupled with the Iraqi retreat and an equally costly debacle in Afghanistan - forced the new administration in Washington, under the leadership of President Barack Obama to rethink Bush's earlier quest for global hegemony. ...
Bankrupt is maybe an appropriate term to use in describing the current US policy in the Middle East. Imprudent military adventures devastated the region but achieved no long-term objectives. Reckless policies that are predicated on trying to exploit, as opposed to understand the Middle East and its complex political and historical formation and the insistence on keeping Israel a main priority in its approach to the vastly shifting political lines, will unlikely to bode well for US interests.
However, unlike the early 1990s, when the US moved to reshape the entire region and established permanent military presence, new dynamics are forcing it to change tactics. In this new reality, the US is incapable of reshaping reality but merely trying to offset or control its unfavorable outcomes.
"What the United States (and western Europe) want to do is 'control' the situation," Immanuel Wallerstein argued. "They will not be able to do it. Hence the screams of the 'interventionists' and the foot-dragging of the 'prudent.' It is a lose-lose for the west, while not being at the same time a 'win' for people in the Middle East."
This "lose-lose" scenario might not necessarily translate to a complete American foreign policy meltdown in the near future, but will certainly open the possibility for new/old players to main serious gains, Russia being a lead example. This will likely compel the US to change tactics, despite the incessant objections of neoconservative forces and the Israeli lobby
‘US opened Pandora’s box in Iraq, regional sectarian violence almost impossible to stop now’
RT Russia May 22, 2013
Sectarian violence unleashed after the US disintegration of Iraq is linked to the Syrian conflict and the death toll will only climb since extremist elements hijacked the sectarian instability in the region, political analyst Chris Bambery told RT. ...
A decade after the hanging of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is bitterly divided between the Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites and with no power-sharing deal insight, violence is again on the rise.
“It is based on the decision by the Americans when they occupied Iraq to separate Iraq off into these three areas,” Bambery told the viewers. ...
RT: What about Syria - is it heading in the same direction?
CB: That must be the fear. Because I say there is almost an open border between Syria and Iraq. There are many refugees from Syria inside Iraq and we have now seen an alliance of al-Qaeda elements in Syria and al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, who are involved in sectarian violence in both countries. ... [T]he sectarian campaign in Iraq is becoming deeply connected to that inside Syria. Geography of instability is spreading and that threatens to destabilize elsewhere in the Middle East, particularly Lebanon.
RT: With Lebanon's Hezbollah now involved in Syria - how much will this influx of military manpower going to shift momentum in the fighting?
CB: I think the fighting has been in impasse for some time. Neither side is capable of producing decisive victory. Whether Hezbollah is battle-training fighters, battle training against Israelis can shift the balance, let’s see. But let’s be clear as well there is intervention from the other side. It is clear, everyone and their dogs knows, the Saudis, the Qataris pouring arms, the Americans are providing training and if Hezbollah increases its intervention on the side of the Assad regime, I think that it is likely that they are pushing for Western intervention. Some of the governments in America and Britain seem quite keen on increasing, arming the rebels inside Syria and proving other means. So, I think we are seeing very dangerous time and I think when the moment comes to the question about Syria, one is very important, I think, the decision to exclude Iran from next week’s conference in Geneva on the possibility of political solution is profoundly mistaken, because there can be no agreement between the various powers in the world over the question of Syria with no Iran at the table.
Below: Al-Monitor is a media web site that provides coverage and perspectives from the Middle East through both original and translated content. The site has partnerships with 17 major news organizations. Each day, the site selects and translates a mix of articles not otherwise available in English. The site and its contributors then build on that content with original reporting and commentary as well as video.
Iran key to success of Geneva II talks on Syria
"Week in Review" Al-Monitor International May 19, 2013
For the Geneva II conference on Syria to have the best chance of enacting a cease-fire and beginning a transition, Iran needs to be there.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met on May 15 in Sweden for further consultations toward convening the conference, the purpose of which, according to Kerry, is “to implement a peaceful resolution based on Geneva I, which recognizes the need for a transition government with full executive authority by mutual consent.”
Lavrov said in a TV interview on May 16: "One must not exclude a country like Iran from this process because of geopolitical preferences. It is a very important external player. But there is no agreement on this yet."
Iran’s inclusion in the conference is not yet a done deal from the perspective of Washington and its allies, as Barbara Slavin reported last week.
It should be a no-brainer to have all parties to a conflict represented at a peace conference. There is no "transition" in Syria absent a cease-fire, and no cease-fire without Iran, which provides the military and intelligence lifeline to the Assad regime.
Iran is unlikely to agree to a deal where its interests and influence are not recognized in Syria.
The likely result of Iran’s exclusion from Geneva II would be Tehran digging in on behalf of the Syrian regime, thereby doing its best to assure the conference will end with no result but more violence.
Another rationale for including Iran is to choreograph a work-around to address the insistence by the United States and its allies that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, a now common refrain although this condition is not explicitly called for in the Geneva Communique, as this column reported last week.
US President Barack Obama, at a joint news conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 16, said, “We both agree that Assad needs to go. He needs to transfer power to a transitional body. That is the only way that we're going to resolve this crisis.” It is worth noting that we are three months away from the two-year anniversary of Obama’s first call for Assad to “step aside” on Aug. 18, 2011. ...
In the absence of diplomacy and dialogue it is hard to envision an absence of conflict. Geneva II, for now, is the best hope to prevent further killing and escalation in Syria. The conflict will not end by weapons and training to Syrian opposition forces — a sure-fire recipe for prolonging and expanding the war and destroying what remains of the Syrian state. ...
Friends of Syria discuss US-Russia brokered peace talks in Jordan
Alexander Besant GlobalPost USA May 22, 2013
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A coalition of countries that back the Syrian uprising met Wednesday evening in Amman to discuss US-Russia brokered peace talks.
The US and Russia agreed earlier this month to hold a peace conference called "Geneva 2" to end the two-year conflict. That meeting will likely be held next month, and Syrian officials have agreed to attend.
The Friends of Syria is a US-created collective that opposes the Chinese and Russian vetoes against taking action against Syria in the UN Security Council.
The foreign ministers of Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States attendedthe gathering in Amman.
"Today's effort...is part of a political path aimed at ending the violence and bloodshed," said Nasser Judeh, Jordan's foreign minister, alongside British Foreign Secretary William Hague before the Amman meeting. ...
Below: Syria has agreed to participate in 'Geneva 2' but disdains the Jordan conference.
Syria to reject outcome of "Friends of Syria" meeting: Envoy
Xinhua English China May 22, 2013
AMMAN, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Syrian Ambassador to Jordan Bahjat Suleiman said Wednesday that his country will reject the outcome of the "Friends of Syria" meeting slated to open soon in Amman.
Speaking at a press conference, Suleiman said "we cannot accept any of the results of the so-called Friends of Syria meeting."
The diplomat slammed the countries that will partake in the meeting as "Friends of Israel." ...
The meeting is expected to discuss the recent U.S.-Russian efforts to revive political options for solving the Syrian crisis, with the focus on coordinating efforts in light of the latest developments in Syria.
As a neighbor of war-torn Syria, Jordan accommodates more than 530,000 Syrian refugees currently.
Filed under 'Coincidences': Ibragim Todashev, acquaintence of Tamerlan Tsarnaev (a suspect in the Boston bombing case who was fatally shot by Massachusetts police), shot and killed by FBI & Antiwar.com sues FBI after secret surveillance
Coincidence (noun)Posted at: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 03:49 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Definition from three different dictionaries:
A remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection or
The occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection or
A sequence of events that although accidental seems to have been planned or arranged
An FBI investigator walks to the apartment where mixed martial arts fighter Ibragim Todashev, 27, was shot by an FBI agent after an alleged violent confrontation. Photo: AP
FBI shoots Chechen dead in Florida, man questioned over links to Boston bombers
RT Russia May 22, 2013
Includes a video report on the shooting (2:44).
A Chechen man was shot dead at his home in Orlando, Florida when an interview with law enforcers regarding his ties to the Boston marathon bombing suspects and his role in a related 2011 triple murder in Massachusetts reportedly turned violent.
The shooting transpired just after midnight in an Orlando apartment complex while law enforcers, including an FBI special agent and two Massachusetts State Police troopers, were interviewing Ibragim Todashev, 27. ...
Abdulbaki Todashev, the father of the slain man, told RT that his son never knew the Tsarnaevs, stating only that they had gone to the same sports gym while his son was in Boston.
His father continued that Ibragim could not have taken part in the Boston bombings, as he was undergoing a surgical operation to repair his tendon in Florida just days before the attack and was undergoing physical therapy “to learn how to walk again.”
Upon hearing that his son was killed in the presence of around half a dozen law enforcers, Abdulbaki found it hard to believe his son would attack such a large group. Abdulbaki further claimed his son was “very calm” and would never in his life “attack anyone unprovoked.”
However, according to records from the Orange County Sheriff Office, Taramov had been charged earlier this month with aggravated battery, which entails the infliction of great bodily harm. Further details on that case are yet to surface. ...
Ibragim Todashev, questioned in connection with marathon bombings, shot And killed by FBI agent: reports
Benjamin Hart Huffington Post USA/Canada May 22, 2013
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NBC News reports that an FBI agent shot and killed a man who had been interviewed over ties to April's Boston Marathon bombing.
The individual, identified by friends as 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev, reportedly knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older, deceased Boston suspect through the world of Mixed Martial Arts. He had been initially cooperative with the special agent and two Massachusetts State Police troopers who were interviewing him, according to WESH-TV in Orlando. But at some point during the interview process, he allegedly attacked the agent, who then fired his weapon.
The station quotes a friend of Todashev, Khusn Taramiv, who said he was also interviewed.
"(The FBI) took me and my friend, the suspect that got killed. They were talking to us, both of us, right? And they said they need him for a little more, for a couple more hours, and I left, and they told me they’re going to bring him back. They never brought him back," Taramiv said.
Taramiv also said that Todashev "felt inside he was going to get shot" by the FBI.
"We are currently responding to a shooting incident involving an FBI special agent," FBI spokesman Dave Couvertier said in a statement, according to NBC. "The agent encountered the suspect while conducting official duties. The suspect is deceased."
In addition to questioning Todashev about the marathon bombing, authorities were investigating if he and Tamerlan had carried out a triple murder on Sept. 11, 2011, in Waltham, Mass., according to the New York Times.
More from the Associated Press: ...
Ibragim Todashev, Orlando man with alleged ties to Boston bombing suspect, fatally shot by FBI, officials say
CBS News, Crimeinsider USA May 22, 2013
CBS/WKMG) ORLANDO (Updated 12:20 p.m.) --Authorities said that an FBI agent fatally shot a man from Chechnya with alleged ties to one of the Boston bombing suspects in an Orlando apartment early Wednesday, according to CBS affiliate WKMG.
The FBI said that the victim, Ibragim Todashev, became violent as officials questioned him about the Boston Marathon bombings, reports the station.
Paul Bresson, an FBI spokesman, said that the FBI agent who shot and killed Todashev acted on an "imminent threat." The agent was taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries, the FBI told WKMG.
According to officials, authorities have dispatched a post-shooting review team that will look into the incident starting Thursday, reports the station.
Khusen Taramov, a friend of the victim, told WKMG that Todashev knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston bombing case who was fatally shot by police a few days after the bombings.
"Back when (Todashev) used to live in Boston, they used to hang out -- not hang out -- he knew him. They met a few times because (Todashev) was a MMA fighter and (Tsarnaev) was a boxer. They just knew each other. That's it," Taramov told the station.
He said that Todashev last spoke to Tsarnaev on the phone over a month ago.
Taramov told WKMG he knew "for sure" that Todashev did not have anything to do with the Boston bombing. ...
Todashev was planning to leave the US, Taramov told the station.
"He had a (plane) ticket to New York. From there, he was going to go home," he said. "(The FBI was) pushing him to stay, saying, 'We want to interview one last time,'" Taramov told WKMG.
Ibragim Todashev reportedly confessed to involvement in triple murder, killed after attacking FBI agent
Associated Press/News.com.au USA/Australia Dateline May 23, 2013
An Orlando, Florida man who was friends with the Boston bombings suspects reportedly confessed to involvement in a brutal triple murder, before attacking an FBI agent and being shot dead.
Ibragim Todashev is not suspected of playing a part in the Boston Marathon attacks, but confessed he was involved in a gruesome triple-murder in 2011 before allegedly attacking an FBI agent with a knife, NBC News reports.
The case, in which three men were found with their throats slit and their bodies covered with drugs, puzzled police until the Boston bombings raised suspicions that bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarneav had been involved.
The agent and two Massachusetts State Police troopers were interviewing 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev, mixed martial arts fighter, at his townhouse early Wednesday in Orlando, an FBI statement said. ...
Noted: Statement on Antiwar.com web site today:
Yesterday [May 21, 2013] the ACLU filed a lawsuit on our behalf against the Federal Bureau of Investigation, demanding the receipt of records in their possession regarding surveillance of Antiwar.com, and key editorial personnel. We know they possess such records because of documents received as a result of a third party Freedom of Information Act request, subsequently published online. A memo from FBI headquarters in Washington speculates Antiwar.com and its principals are possibly "a threat to national security" engaging in a conspiracy "on behalf of a foreign power" and recommends a more thorough investigation.
We are American citizens engaged in a peaceful, constitutionally protected activity: it's what they used to call journalism. We have the right to organize and to publicize our views, and we are demanding the FBI admit what it has done, and promise to cease and desist.
Below: The author, Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, has spent the last 14 years as a reporter and columnist in Washington DC. Currently, she is a contributing editor for The American Conservative magazine and weekly columnist and blogger for Antiwar.com. She is also a Washington correspondent for the DC-based homeland security magazine, Homeland Security Today, and a long-time political writer for FOXNews.com.
Antiwar.com sues FBI after secret surveillance
Kelley B. Vlahos Antiwar.com USA May 21, 2013
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WASHINGTON – Antiwar.com is taking the FBI to court.
The website’s founder and managing editor Eric Garris, along with longtime editorial director Justin Raimondo, filed a lawsuit in federal court today, demanding the release of records they believe the FBI is keeping on them and the 17-year-old online magazine.
Antiwar.com says this is one more example of post-9/11 government overreach, and a stark reminder that the First Amendment has been treated as little more than a speed bump on the road to a government surveillance state. The lawsuit is particularly timely, considering recent scandals in which the Department of Justice secretly seized months of journalists’ phone records at the Associated Press, and did the same and more to a FOX News reporter, while the IRS is acknowledging it singled out conservative groups that criticize the government for extra scrutiny.
Suddenly, the press is more aware than ever that the state has the ability to secretly monitor its activities, heretofore thought of as constitutionally protected from government interference and intimidation.
“Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy, whether it’s AP or Antiwar.com,” said Julia Harumi Mass, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which is representing Antiwar.com in the case. “FBI surveillance of news organizations interferes with journalists’ ability to do their jobs as watchdogs that hold the government accountable.”
The suit was filed on Tuesday at the United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. Both Garris and Raimondo live and work in the San Francisco Bay area.
According to the suit, the ACLU has made several futile attempts to obtain the FBI files since a reader alerted Garris and Raimondo to this lengthy FBI memo in 2011. The details in question begin at page 62 of the heavily redacted 94-page document. It’s clear from these documents, the suit alleges, that the FBI has files on Garris and Raimondo, and at one point the FBI agent writing the April 30, 2004 memo on Antiwar.com recommends further monitoring of the website in the form of opening a “preliminary investigation …to determine if [redaction] are engaging in, or have engaged in, activities which constitute a threat to national security.”
“On one hand it seemed almost funny that we would be considered a threat to national security, but it’s very scary, because what we are engaging in is free speech, and free speech by ordinary citizens and journalists is now being considered a threat to national security and they don’t have to prove it because the government has the ability to suppress information and not disclose any of their activities – as witnessed with what is going on now at the AP and other things,” said Garris.
“The government’s attitude is they want to know all, but they want the public to know as little as possible.”
In response, the ACLU began filing requests in December 2011 under the Privacy Act and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for any records the FBI was currently holding on Antiwar.com, which describes itself as a Libertarian-inspired project of the Randolph Bourne Institute. It was clear from reading the memo that Antiwar.com came under the radar in part for its mission, which is characterized as publishing a non-interventionist “online magazine and research tool designed to keep the American people and the world informed about the overseas plans of the American government.” [Full disclosure, this writer is a regular contributor].
While openly acknowledging that we have an agenda, the editors take seriously our purely journalistic mission, which is to get past the media filters and reveal the truth about America’s foreign policy. Citing a wide variety of sources without fear or favor, and presenting our own views in the regular columns of various contributors, we clearly differentiate between fact and opinion, and let our readers know which is which.
The website was also targeted, according to the FBI memo, for links it published to counter-terrorism watch lists (which were already in the public domain), and for the people who were visiting Antiwar.com and/or talking it up at rallies. The FBI noted at least two of Raimondo’s columns and wondered openly, “who are (Antiwar.com’s) contributors and what are the funds utilized for?” This, after acknowledging there was no evidence of any crime being plotted or committed.
“This illustrates the troubling, continuing efforts of the federal government to monitor protected speech activity without evidence or even allegation of criminal activity,” said Mass, who explained that there are specific prohibitions against such surveillance and record-keeping in the 1974 Privacy Act [5 U.S.C 552a(e)(7)].
After Raimondo wrote about the FBI memo in August 2011, which at the time, independent journalist Marcy Wheeler at EmptyWheel.net deemed a “troubling story,” Antiwar.com started losing donors, and according to the lawsuit, it was big time.. ...
The strange and unsettling story of Antiwar.com’s debut into the domestic War on Terror came in the summer of 2011, when a reader warned Garris and Raimondo that the website had been mentioned as a target of surveillance by the FBI in the batch of documents the reader said he obtained through a FOIA request and had subsequently posted on his blog.
The documents mostly concern a 2001 investigation of five Israeli nationals who were witnessed smiling and celebrating and taking pictures of the burning Twin Towers from a rooftop perch across the river from Manhattan in Union City, New Jersey, on 9/11. After witnesses called the police, the individuals, who all worked for a local moving company, were taken into custody and grilled by FBI and CIA for two months after it was deemed their work visas had expired, and there was a big wad of cash, box cutters and other items that raised red flags found in a search of their work van. Questions revolved around whether the Israelis were spies connected to the Israeli government, and whether they had foreknowledge of the tragic events.
The heavily redacted memo says the men were eventually deported back to Israel without charge, and the case closed. However, the FBI still had an interest in tracking evidence gleaned from the case and this is where Antiwar.com comes into the picture. Raimondo, in writing about the case of the five Israelis in 2002, linked to an American-generated terror watchlist (which had been published elsewhere on the Internet) that went out to Italian financial institutions and it included the name of the man who owned the New Jersey moving company in question.
It is not clear whether this sparked further monitoring of Antiwar.com, or whether Antiwar.com was already in the FBI’s sights. Interestingly, the memo states that the information attached to the memo as supporting material (none of which was available, aside from copies of two of Raimondo’s articles), was obtained in part through a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) request.
The FBI said it also searched the Web, as well as Lexis-Nexis, the Universal Index (FBI central records), the agency’s Electronic Case File, Department of Motor Vehicles and Dunn & Bradsheet (credit reports) for information on Antiwar.com and for “one or more individuals” working for the website.
Some of the things that can be discerned from those searches and were noted in the FBI memo: ...
“There are several unanswered questions regarding www.antiwar.com,” reads the FBI memo. “It describes itself as a non-profit group that survives on generous contributions from its readers. Who are these contributors and what are the funds used for?”
The memo goes on to say that “many individuals worldwide do view this website including individuals who are currently under investigation and [two lines redacted].”
The unidentified agent writing the memo concludes, “it is recommended that ECAU (Electronic Communications Analysis Unit) further monitor the postings on the website … it is recommended that a PI (preliminary investigation) is opened to determine if [line redacted] have engaged in, or are engaging in, activities which constitute a threat to national security on behalf of a foreign power.” ...
Antiwar.com vs. the FBI
Justin Raimondo Antiwar.com USA May 22, 2013
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In order to give our readers some essential background on the lawsuit against the FBI we launched today [5/21/13], we are reprinting this column by Justin Raimondo originally published on August 11, 2011.
The phone rang.
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and it was my day off. Sitting in my rather neglected garden, as the late afternoon light sparkled golden on the tops of the plum trees, I put down my book – the 1995 edition of The Year’s Best Science Fiction, edited by Gardner Dozois – with more than a little annoyance. I was smack dab in the middle of a short story, “Asylum,” by Katharine Kerr, a tale about a future military coup in the US, written from the point of view of a particularly earnest liberal with faintly radical leanings. The main character is a woman writer who is abroad when the generals take over, and is marked as an enemy of the state on account of her book, Christian Fascism: Its Roots and Rise. Her San Francisco office is raided and her files carted away. She gets a call from a friend before the coup plotters cut off all communications with the outside world: “It’s seven days in May – stay where you are!” She stays, but is tortured by the prospect of her daughter being in harm’s way: when communications with America are finally restored, she wrestles with the question of whether to pick up the phone and make a call that might endanger her daughter. After all, what if the Christian Fascists are listening?
The phone kept ringing. I picked it up with annoyance: it was our webmaster, Eric Garris, telling me about this – FBI documents recovered through the Freedom of Information Act that detail surveillance of Antiwar.com, the staff, and specifically yours truly.
A word about the authenticity of the documents and their provenance: they were posted on a public website, Scribd.com: their form, including the extensive redactions, the acronymic bureaucratese, and the lunk-headed cluelessness which dominates the FBI’s corporate culture, so to speak, combine to verify their authenticity.
As to the content of these documents, one word describes them: bizarre. ...
Bangladesh: New safety standards have been established, but punishment for the bosses looks unlikely & Only two American firms and one Canadian have endorsed worker safety accord
Harrowing survivors' tales from the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh recount an ordeal of darkness and screams, with many recalling how bosses threatened them with dismissal for questioning the sanity of working in the crumbling building. New safety standards have been rushed out, but punishment for the bosses looks unlikely.Posted at: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 02:39 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Survivors of factory collapse speak out
Naimul Haq Inter Press Service International May 20, 2013
Many of the workers who survived the factory collapse in Bangladesh have lost their limbs. Photo: Naimul Haq/IPS. Visit this page for its embedded links.
DHAKA, May 20 2013 (IPS) - “It was dark and hot with choking dust all around. The air was filled with the smell of decomposing corpses,” recalled Nasima, a 24-year-old factory worker who spent four days buried under the rubble of an eight-storey building that collapsed in a suburb of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka last month.
The young woman recounted the terror that she and four fellow female workers experienced as they lay beneath glass and concrete, just “inches” from death. Rescue teams found them sandwiched between the fifth and sixth floors of the massive Rana Plaza that had housed five garment factories.
Nasima told IPS she was “too scared” to remember all the details of those 96 hours. “I saw my colleagues die, just a few yards from me, one after the other.” Her only indication that they were dead was when she could no longer hear their voices calling out to her in the dark.
Nasima had joined Ether Garments, one of the many companies housed in Rana Plaza, only 20 days before the tragedy, Bangladesh’s worst industrial accident, which killed 1,127 workers according to the latest count.
While families searched desperately for loved ones in the ruins in the town of Savar, 25 kilometres from Dhaka, reports of negligence and lack of workplace safety emerged. It became clear that factory owners had been warned of a possible collapse of the building that was only legally permitted to house five floors.
As survivors came to and began to speak out, they reported that management personnel had ignored recommendations by engineers to keep factories shut on Apr. 24, going so far as to threaten workers with dismissal if they failed to report for duty as usual.
The revelation sparked international outrage and shed light on the inner workings of Bangladesh’s garments sector, the country’s largest foreign exchange earner, which brings in about 20 billion dollars a year.
Multinational retailers like H&M, Gap, Walmart and Primark, which have outsourced most of their production to Bangladesh to take advantage of cheap, mostly female, labour, came under fire for failing to enforce safety standards.
While these accusations are not new, rights groups hope this latest tragedy will jolt the industry into implementing better labour laws and adhering to safety standards.
They say the roughly 2,500 rescued workers, many of them women, are living proof that Bangladesh must not repeat the mistakes that led to the Savar tragedy. ...
Meanwhile, the trauma has wiped some survivors’ memories clean. An operator named Runu, unable to recall a single thing about that fateful day, stares vacantly into space while her sister tells IPS that Runu spent a full two days under the rubble before finally seeing daylight.
Those who can remember have vowed neither to forget nor to step foot into a factory again. “I will resort to begging if I have to, but I’m not working in a garments factory ever again,” 25-year-old Mariam, whose legs and arms were pulverised by concrete and iron rods, told IPS.
“My freedom means I was born again,” added a former worker named Shakhina. “I will not make the mistake of stepping back into that death trap.”
Meanwhile, major players in the industry are finally taking heed.
A.K.M Salim Osman, president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), one of the industry’s apex bodies, told IPS that the incident in April was a “wake up call for us who depend on the labourers for business.”
“If we continue to ignore strict ethical standards (around) safety issues we will fail again,” he warned.
Osman said the recently ratified Bangladesh Building and Fire Safety Agreement is a step in the right direction. ...
Related: The companies who had joined the Accord [on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh] by its May 15 deadline include H&M, Inditex, C&A, PVH, Tchibo, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Primark, El Corte Inglés, jbc, Mango, Carrefour, KiK, Helly Hansen, G-Star, Aldi, New Look, Mothercare, Loblaws, Sainsbury's, Benetton, N Brown Group, Stockmann, WE Europe, Esprit, Rewe, Next, Lidl, Hess Natur, Switcher, Abercrombie & Fitch, Bonmarche, John Lewis, Charles Vögele, V&D, Otto Group, and the oddly named Oliver. The North American face of the retail garment industry is only represented by three companies, the American PVH [owner of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands] and Abercrombie and Fitch and Canada's Loblaw/Joe Fresh. - Tom Sandborn reporting
Loblaws only Canadian firm to endorse worker safety accord in Bangladesh
Tom Sandborn TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada May 21, 2013
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With the butcher's bill for the garment industry's most lethal accident now standing at 1,127 workers killed in the factory collapse at the Rana Plaza factories outside Dhaka, Bangladesh on April 24, only one Canadian firm has endorsed a legally binding worker safety agreement crafted by unions and worker rights NGOs.
Loblaws, the Canadian retailer behind the Joe Fresh brand, which had garments being produced at the Rana factories when an illegally expanded building collapsed on April 24, signed on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh last week, joining two other North American firms and over 30 major European garment retailers. ...
Meanwhile, the Retail Council of Canada has reportedly been meeting with American retailers and their trade organizations to develop more industry-friendly agreements that would substitute for the deal supported by worker advocates.
The Council did not respond to direct questions from The Tyee asking that it confirm or deny its reported involvement in the anti-Accord meetings in the U.S. However, Devon Pool, who speaks for the Council, did say by email that:
"We are still working with our members and will have more information in the weeks to come."
Industry giants The Gap and Wal Mart have both refused to join with Loblaws in endorsing the Accord, with the Gap citing perceived danger that the new binding agreement might leave signatory companies vulnerable to lawsuits and a confidence voiced by Walmart representatives that their plans for a voluntary safety procedures will be sufficient to reduce worker deaths
A Gap statement cited by the Toronto Star, the company argued that the union and NGO sponsored Accord was flawed. According the Star, the Gap's statement said:
"Companies that have supported the Accord so far are almost exclusively European. The litigation landscape in Europe is fundamentally different from the U.S. By signing the Accord as is, American companies would essentially be opening the legal floodgates on issues that have not been negotiated in sufficient detail." ...
Only one of the Canadian companies that had been publicly urged by activists and share holders to join the Accord by May 15 [but did not] responded to Tyee requests for comment. Canadian Tire's Joscelyn Dosanjh told The Tyee by email that: ...
Budget cuts endanger agency that saved countless lives in Oklahoma
The National Weather Service is an inherent government service, like the Post Office, like the FBI, you can name a dozen others. We had this debate about the National Weather Service a hundred-plus years ago, and said, yeah, this is a service we want for everyone. To be dismantling that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. - Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees OrganizationPosted at: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 01:39 AM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Budget cuts endanger agency that saved countless lives in Oklahoma
George Zornick The Nation USA May 21, 2013
A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma. Photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP
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Many heroes asserted themselves in Oklahoma yesterday, from the first responders digging through the rubble for survivors, to the teachers who shielded children from the massive tornado that touched down as the school day was ending.
While perhaps not as heralded, certainly the experts at the National Weather Service deserve some credit for saving lives as well. One of the best ways to prevent high body counts when tornadoes barrel through populated areas is to warn residents ahead of time—which is the job of the NWS. They did it well yesterday, issuing early warnings allowed countless people to seek shelter before mayhem arrived.
But the NWS has, in recent years, suffered under serious budget restraints placed on it by deficit hawks in Congress and the White House. Far from the public view, the NWS is starting to come apart at the seams—and the full effects of the sequester haven’t even been felt yet. So what if, next time, the NWS isn’t able to do its job as well?
The tornado in Oklahoma yesterday provides a good case study for both the crucial import of the NWS’s work and the very small margin for error. Tornadoes present a particular challenge because, while the conditions that create them are easily identifiable—warm, moist air from the gulf colliding with warm, dry continental air and cold, dry air from the Rockies—the tornadoes themselves are incredibly unpredictable. Scientists still are not sure why some thunderstorms produce them and others do not.
The tornado simply appears, almost out of nowhere. In Oklahoma, it was well over a mile wide, with furious 200 mile per hour winds shredding most everything in its path, which, it quickly became apparent, would include a densely populated suburb. This is what it looked like: ...
This is a terrifying experience for most involved, but not an uncommon one in America—in fact, 75 percent of all tornadoes occur here. This map from the Smithsonian shows fifty-six years of tornado strikes and the path they took: ...
When a tornado appears, the National Weather Service sounds the alarm. In Oklahoma on Monday, the alert came sixteen minutes before the tornado actually touched the ground, which is three minutes more than the thirteen-minute average warning the NWS provides. It triggered emergency broadcast alerts throughout the region and blaring air-raid sirens that allowed hundreds of thousands of people to seek shelter.
As a tornado is forming, NWS workers are synthesizing a rapid amount of data from radar, satellites, on-the-ground meteorologists, and citizens calling in what they see. The alerts have to be accurate—and they have to be quick. ...
The NWS deserves enormous credit here. But what if it wasn’t up to the task? That’s an increasingly real possibility. Just this month, Sobien’s group, which represents 4,000 employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (of which NWS is a part), issued a warning that the budget battles are imperiling crucial NWS functions, and creating “[r]educed efficiency and accuracy for tornado events due to reduced alertness of short staffed offices.” Hurricane monitoring and response is also endangered, along with crucial wildfire monitoring efforts and a wide array of other NWS activities.
Since taking control of the House in 2011, Republicans have targeted NOAA for severe cuts...
Related: May 22, 2012: Tornado rescue efforts wind down in Oklahoma. Scientists conclude tornado was an EF5 on Fujita scale, the most powerful type, capable of hurling cars like missiles.
'This will probably come to define us'
Jennifer Rowe Walters Huffington Post USA/Canada May 21, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
For me and my fellow Okies, it's a word that we're used to. It's probably one of the first words we hear as children. We play "tornado" with our friends -- running around and hiding under tables and or bathrooms, just like we're taught at home and in school. We assign the role of "weather person" to one friend, the role of "tornado siren" to another (usually the kid with the loudest voice). We "go to the cellar" when the alarm is sounded. We act scared and scream... and then laugh and move on to another game.
As adults, especially in the spring, we dutifully note the appropriate weather watches and warnings. We are the best armchair meteorologists you will ever meet. We know all about dry lines and wind shear. We have more than a passing familiarity with updrafts and hook echoes. We know the Fujita scale and the TOR:CON index. We can tell cirrus clouds from cumulus. And we are great at geography. We know our counties. We know our small towns. We not only know if they're North, South, East or West of us -- we know Southwest, Northeast, North-Northeast. Tiny degrees of direction that tell us whether this watch or warning is something we need to worry about. We watch the weather, make the appropriate mental calculations and go on about our business.
Yes, for us, "tornado" is our normal. In the spring, it can be, quite literally, our every day.
But this. This is different. This, most definitely, is not our everyday. It is anything but normal. This is something that we don't even dream of in our worst nightmares. This is something that no amount of experience, no ingrained, Okie-native understanding of the weather or geography can ever prepare you for. When they teach tornado drills in school, they don't tell you that if it gets really bad, your teacher will throw her body on top of yours in order to save your life. They don't tell you that even that might not be enough. The part where your parents watch helplessly as fireman, policeman and other first responders dig frantically through rubble to save you is not a part of the game. And all of our geography prowess goes right out the window when the landscape is so decimated that you can only tell east from west by the rising and setting of the sun.
No, this is not -- thank God -- every day.
Going forward, this event will probably come to define us to people who have no other frame of reference for us. Oklahoma will forever equal "that terrible tornado" in the minds of people who will probably never come here or really know any of us personally. ...
Canadians, still reeling from this past week's events? Add this to the salts
Canada now has one of the most accountable and transparent systems of governance in the entire world and this is something Canadians are rightly proud of. - Notorious micro-manager, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, May 21, 2013Posted at: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 12:38 AM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Jim comment: Uh-huh. The following may be a petty element in the fishy perfume of the Harper government, but it adds nuance to the fragrance.
Federal government doing business with companies once involved in bid-rigging
J. M. Clean Toronto Star Ontario Canada May 21, 2013
The Canadian government still does business with companies that were involved in criminal bid-rigging schemes.
In one case, federal departments have dished out more than $150 million in contracts to a company after its part owner and senior executive pleaded guilty to bid-rigging.
In another, the government has ongoing contracts with a convicted consulting firm it has blacklisted, and has recently invited the company to bid on federal work worth millions.
The two firms have tallied close to 500 contracts for government consulting, IT services and other work since the corporate wrongdoing came to light, an ongoing Star investigation into federal contracts has found.
Anti-bid-rigging law exists to stop companies from secretly colluding on bids or tampering with a tendering process to guarantee certain firms win contracts. ...
“These conspiracies are serious offences,” said prosecutor Guy Pinsonnault. “The courts have repeatedly emphasized that a fine in criminal conspiracy cases must not become a mere licence fee or a cost of doing business — or of doing business illegally.”
Among the departments giving these firms contracts is Public Works and Government Services Canada, the government’s central purchaser and accountant. ...
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
After years of capitalist propaganda hammering social democrats, Capital wins, all others lose in B.C. election & Defeating Harper from below
Photo left: BlueAndWhiteArmy/flickr. Photo right: Brent Granby/flickr/. Voter turnout hit a record low in this year's British Columbia provincial election. Public distrust runs deep. Voter turnout will go up only if social movements force the political parties to make changes to end undemocratic elections and governance.
... Negative advertising is here to stay, in B.C. and across Canada. There will be no more attempts to run positive campaigns by any party, anywhere. Declining voter turnout hurts democracy overall but it damages the NDP more than its right-wing opponents. ... When voters are pushed to a forced choice between honesty and exceedingly unrealistic optimism, they will take the latter even if not convinced. ... If Dix did something truly wrong, sadly it was in appealing to us to believe in people's better nature. That was based on his polling numbers surviving right through some of the most vicious personal attacks Canada has ever seen, frustrating BC Liberal strategists and convincing some in Clark's party that she had to go as leader. But the BC Liberals' faith in fear was ultimately rewarded during the campaign. ... - Bill Tieleman, "How the BC NDP Blew the Election", May 21, 2013
People's distrust of government now runs so deep that it will take years of trust-building to regain some democratic equilibrium. - Murray Dobbin
How people decide to vote, or to abstain from voting, depends on more than one factor. ... Especially important are how the powers that be influence opinion, expectations and perceptions of political outcomes. ... It needs to be clearly understood that only marginal benefits of corporate capitalism will accrue to the population of the province, while its citizens will assume the quasi-totality of the social, economic and environmental costs. - Duncan Cameron
New firm combines BC’s political foes
Jonathan Fowlie Vancouver Sun, Capital Diary blog British Columbia Canadan February 8, 2013
Premier Christy Clark’s former chief of staff Ken Boessenkool surfaced today announcing he’d teamed up with top strategists Brian Topp and Don Guy to form a new consulting company: Kool Topp & Guy.
It’s notable for the obvious reason: Boessenkool has gone dark since last fall when he was forced to resign as Clark’s chief of staff.
But more interesting, is the other two names on the company letterhead.
On one side of the political spectrum is Topp, an Adrian Dix confidante who is running the campaign for the provincial New Democrats.
On the other side is Guy, best known for his work in Ontario but who has also been playing a significant role for Clark and her BC Liberals. Guy was a speaker at the party’s convention last October, and I’m told the party is close to naming him as a senior strategist for the coming campaign — possibly even campaign manager. ...
British Columbians should not be surprised at low voter turnout in provincial election
Democracy Watch Canada May 16, 2013
Emphasis is in the original.
OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch called for democratic changes to British Columbia’s political system in response to the clear crisis of low voter turnout in the provincial election. Initial results show that the B.C. Liberals have won 50 of 85 seats with the support of only 22% of eligible voters.
“With just about half of eligible voters casting ballots yesterday, alarm bells should be going off and questions raised about the legitimacy of the provincial government,” said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator for Democracy Watch. “Voter turnout will go up if the voting system is changed and if the parties make changes to end undemocratic elections and government.”
The most important changes the B.C. parties can make to increase voter turnout are as follows: ...
In addition, if the parties strengthened provincial ethics, political finance, lobbying, open government, and whistleblower protection laws, voters would have more reason to vote because they would be more assured of good government no matter which party won.
“More and more voters know from their experience of the past few decades of elections that they are not going to get what they vote for, and are likely to get dishonest, secretive, unethical, unrepresentative and wasteful government no matter who they vote for, and as a result no one should be surprised to see voter turnout at such low levels,” said Sommers.
These problems exist in all the provinces and territories across Canada. ...
BC's election stunner: Five lessons for the Left
Murray Dobbin TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada May 20, 2013
The NDP's stunning loss in B.C. is being deconstructed, dissected, analyzed and mourned over not only here but across the country. Every pundit and political junkie, including me, thought the NDP would win, even after their lead suddenly dropped. But unfortunately, most of the analysis won't be very helpful for those individuals and organizations hoping and fighting for a better country.
Just as we are trapped in an arcane excuse for democracy (it was never meant to be democratic, it is designed to manage capitalism), we are also trapped in the same paradigm when it comes to figuring out why elections are won or lost. We sit down, list off a half dozen reasons, we agree and disagree, refine the answers and gradually move on to some other disconnected political element of the universe.
It's not that the reasons aren't important. So long as politics is done this way the players (98 per cent of citizens are just observers) have to learn how they screwed up the game. For those not already immersed in the tortuous autopsy of the NDP loss here are a few factors. ...
Capitalists win, all others lose in B.C. election
Duncan Cameron rabble.ca Canada May 21, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded link.
The capitalists won the B.C. election. Extractive industries make big profits in the province, and have bigger plans for its future. More port facilities for coal exports to China, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plants, new pipelines across the mountains, increased tanker traffic in the Vancouver Harbour, and through coastal waters; these environmental disasters in the making represent lucrative ventures to Liberal backers.
Corporations support the BC Liberals as a form of insurance protecting shareholder privileges. Most of the business and commercial world follows the corporate lead.
In B.C., corporations contribute to political parties and have employees who contribute.
Campaign money wins elections, but it is not enough. In the election, however misleading on issues such as making B.C. debt free (after running it up), Liberal advertising looked better than NDP advertising. As government, following a now well-established pattern, the Liberals spent public money extolling their own virtues.
The B.C. media were squarely behind the re-election of the Liberals. The influence of major media may be slipping, but not at election time.
For years, Canadian capitalists have supported two parties: Conservatives and Liberals. When one fell from favour, the other could supplant them in power and in the public mind.
In B.C., the Liberal party is an amalgamation of three groups: the old right-wing populist Social Credit party (given renewed energy by the Manning Reform Party), much of the old Progressive Conservative Party, and the provincial and federal Liberals. So long as this capitalist coalition held, it was going to be difficult for the NDP to form a government. ...
Related: Defeating Harper from below
Editorial Canadian Dimension Canada May 14, 2013
Fast-paced changes over the previous four elections have transformed Canada’s federal political landscape. The Liberal Party’s vote has been halved and the Bloc Québécois suffered nearly as badly. The NDP made spectacular, if still precarious, gains under Jack Layton, with a historically unprecedented showing in Québec. Only the Conservatives’ advance from official opposition in 2004 to majority government in 2011 seemed inexorable.
The swaggeringly pro-capitalist, neoliberal and militarist Harper juggernaut makes enquiring into its limits seem impertinent. So, prima facie, do developments elsewhere. The 2008 financial crisis, the greatest crisis of neoliberalism, appeared to reinforce the power of capital everywhere. Austerity — turbo-charged attacks on welfare, labour and public services — rules throughout the Global North.
However, a longer historical perspective appears more encouraging. ...
It might be tempting for those of us on the independent Left to fiddle with electoral manoeuvring to finally oust the Harper Tories. We leave that to others. This is not our function. Our job is to work with indigenous, environmental and other social movements to campaign against the Harper government’s efforts to dismantle the gains of the past and stifle dissent and to expose the Harperites as a class government representing only the interests of the 1 percent. This is the main reason Canadian Dimension has not been among the advocates of an electoral coalition aimed at defeating Harper — an initiative which was in any case dead in the water with the election of Justin Trudeau as Liberal Party leader. Rather than fighting Harper on the thin turf likely to be mounted by the NDP and the Liberals, we on the independent Left need to organize ourselves to join vigorous fightback mobilizations while pushing forward for structural change toward a more just society. ...
There is a lot to take on beyond the ballot box, both before and after 2015!
How to use a barcode for a boycott. The Buycott App
App makes boycotting companies as easy as scanning a barcode
NBC News USA May 16, 2013
This item links to the Apple App Store.
Let's say you really want to boycott Some Random Company because it opposes a cause dear to your heart. How do you get keep track of which products this company makes or who its partners are? You could do a lot of research and carry around long lists or you could simply use an app that spits out all the right info in an instant. All you have to do is scan a product's barcode.
The app's called Buycott and you can download it for free through the Apple App Store. The basic idea of it is ridiculously simple: You pick out causes you want to support and Buycott helps you figure out which companies are on the same side as the issue as you and which ones oppose your position. Armed with that info, you can avoid products made by the opposing companies and support the businesses which align with your interests.
Once you've selected your causes, you'll simply use your iPhone's camera to "scan" the barcodes of products you're thinking about purchasing in order to view its "ownership structure" and "trace it all the way back to its parent company," the app's instructions explain.
That's all there is to it. Boycotting has probably never been simpler.
Buycott app goes viral and is pulled. Traffic crashes website
Carole Di Tosti Technocrati Android USA May 20, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
It's a dream come true. You develop an app that everyone wants and the traffic to use it is phenomenal. It's a nightmare come true! You receive tremendous media publicity, there's a rush for downloads but your app has to be pulled because it's not capable of dealing with mega-traffic.
The Android version of the new Buycott smartphone app even brought down the company’s website last week. [Note: The app is still available for iPhone.]
Initially, the free app was fine. Folks downloaded it so they could buy products in keeping with their principles. Buycott helped them find out which companies made products by scanning their barcodes. Buycott traced codes to their top parent companies and cross-checked them against social advocacy campaigns. Consumers could easily tell if the company was one they favored or one that was engaging in cruelty to animals or other negative behaviors. But then app users were looking to boycott the Koch brothers and Monsanto, so they were checking company affiliations with both and traffic grew.
After a media blitz about the app, Buycott's popularity skyrocketed. At its peak it reached No. 10 in the Google Play store and requests exceeded 100 downloads per minute. No one was ready for this cataclysm and they pulled the app. Developer, 26-year-old Ivan Pardo of Los Angeles explained on the company's FB page that they were working 24/7, moving to a server configuration that could deal with the traffic. ...
Since the app is not spun to a particular mind set, it can be used to patronize and promote companies that back GMO labeling or a company like Starbucks which has supported the LBGT movement. The empowering beauty of Buycott is that it gives information and allows users to make informed decisions about their choices. In effect, the app can strengthen consumer buying power to bend corporate accountability to consumer will. It may even level the playing field and bring greater competition to the market place.
But first it needs to straighten out the kinks in addition to dealing with mega-traffic. ...
Audio: How to use a barcode for a boycott
"The Current" CBC Radio One Canada May 21, 2013
You can listen to this exchange of ideas (27:29) from a pop-up link on the page.
A new App enables you to link the company behind any given product to the family tree of corporate owners behind the product. It is being heralded as a rapid-fire tool to know who to boycott or who is supporting the cause you support.
But those pushing for greater corporate accountability question whether the applause over the App hides a lag in legislation.
Ten reasons to buy local food; B.C. co-op fights federal 'local' food guideline changes & Some context for Canadian Food Inspection Agency changes
British Columbia's Lieutenant Governor, Her Honour Judith Guichon, visited the southern Gulf Islands during these past two weeks. While on our island she toured Foxglove Farm, the new Abattoir, Salt Spring Vineyards and Salt Spring Island Cheese Company. In the course of her address to all Salt Spring Islanders she said:Posted at: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 12:48 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
The other rare and insightful quality of this place is the respect for people that raise
food, ‘farmers’. Although there is finally a growing awareness of the importance of
local production, it has been a tough road for producers. Many of the resource people
in our communities have suffered from the same loss of stature and although people
still buy the wood and like the product, the fellow that owns the truck and works
terrible hours to get the product to town is often less than valued. I guess we all still
need to walk a mile in the other fellow's shoes before we can appreciate his journey.
On the island here, there seems to be a greater empathy for those initial dollar
creators. When I have schoolchildren, and even UBC students, visit the ranch I always
ask them if they know what business I am engaged in. I love the imaginative answers
from the kindergarten children. The correct reply of course is that I am in the business
of harvesting sunshine, the most renewable resource on earth, through grass, (I could
use trees, or corn, or cabbages). I choose to use a cow as my tool as our hillsides are
very difficult to grow cabbages, but we have wonderful grass. The cow can turn that
grass into a healthy product for human consumption. If that is the only message they
remember from their visit, I am satisfied.
You have been able through the uniqueness of this community to garner support
for agriculture and even a slaughterhouse. When a high-end hotel, or what Jack Knox
referred to in his September 2010 column as ‘a frou-frou inn’, takes up the cause and
the whole community champions it, you know you can succeed. We have all been in
this difficult situation. In visiting with one of the many agriculture ministers in my
previous life with the BC Cattlemen's Association, he pointed to the beautiful crate of
shiny red apples on the desk and asked why I had not brought a sample of our product
for his barbeque. My reply was, ‘because Mr Minister, I would have had to lead it in
here on a halter. We cannot get our product dead!’
However, I think we are seeing the dawn of a new attitude to farming and I think
a lot of that change in perception has come about because of communities such as this.
You folks somehow seem closer to the ground and therefore the understanding of
where food actually originates seems to have gotten beyond the farmgate. This is
wonderful and although I do not expect this quiet revolution to swamp our larger
urban areas overnight, I think we will be surprised at the speed with which the tide
So I thank you folks for being the leaders. Thank you to those stalwart farmers who
have persevered through the years and may we all have better days ahead when the
food on our plate may come from just down the road. (Well maybe not the oranges
and I do appreciate honest trade.)
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is changing the definition of local food to any food grown within that particular province or 50 kilometres from the province. Photo right: Sheryl Nadler/Canadian Press. The word "local" has become a particularly popular marketing device for foods since about 2005. How the term is used and by whom is revelatory of social attitude.
Intro: Ten reasons to buy local food
Vern Grubinger University of Vermont Extension USA April 2010
Vermont has a wide variety of farms. While known for our dairy production, there also many farms that raise fruits and vegetables, flowers and herbs, and animal products of all kinds. Our farmers are dedicated to stewardship and committed to quality. And while they love what they do, they aren't doing it for entertainment. They need to make a living. Consumers that value fresh food and a working landscape should support local farmers by buying their products. Here are ten reasons why.
1) Locally grown food tastes and looks better. The crops are picked at their peak, and farmstead products like cheeses are hand-crafted for best flavor. Livestock products are processed in nearby facilities and typically the farmer has direct relationship with processors, overseeing quality - unlike animals processed in large industrial facilities.
2) Local food is better for you. The shorter the time between the farm and your table, the less likely it is that nutrients will be lost from fresh food. Food imported from far away is older and has traveled on trucks or planes, and sat in warehouses before it gets to you.
3) Local food preserves genetic diversity. In the modern agricultural system, plant varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen uniformly, withstand harvesting, survive packing and last a long time on the shelf, so there is limited genetic diversity in large-scale production. Smaller local farms, in contrast, often grow many different varieties of crops to provide a long harvest season, an array of colors, and the best flavors. Livestock diversity is also higher where there are many small farms rather than few large farms.
4) Local food is safe. There's a unique kind of assurance that comes from looking a farmer in the eye at farmers' market or driving by the fields where your food comes from. Local farmers aren't anonymous and they take their responsibility to the consumer seriously.
5) Local food supports local families. The wholesale prices that farmers get for their products are low, often near the cost of production. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food - which helps farm families stay on the land.
6) Local food builds community. When you buy direct from a farmer, you're engaging in a time-honored connection between eater and grower. Knowing farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the land, and your food. In many cases, it gives you access to a place where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture.
7) Local food preserves open space. When farmers get paid more for their products by marketing locally, they're less likely to sell farmland for development. When you buy locally grown food, you're doing something proactive to preserve our working landscape. That landscape is an essential ingredient to other economic activity in the state, such as tourism and recreation.
8) Local food keeps taxes down. According to several studies by the American Farmland Trust, farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas most development contributes less in taxes than the cost of required services. Cows don’t go to school, tomatoes don’t dial 911.
9) Local food benefits the environment and wildlife. Well-managed farms provide ecosystem services: they conserve fertile soil, protect water sources, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. The farm environment is a patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings that provide habitat for wildlife in our communities.
10) Local food is an investment in the future. By supporting local farmers today, you are helping to ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow. That is a matter of importance for food security, especially in light of an uncertain energy future and our current reliance on fossil fuels to produce, package, distribute and store food.
Item: B.C. co-op fights federal 'local' food guideline changes
CBC News British Columbia British Columbia Canada May 21, 2013
The Kootenay Co-op in Nelson, B.C., is fighting federal government changes to what is considered "local food."
Currently, any food sold within 50 kilometres of where it's produced is considered local. But the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is about to expand that to any food grown within that particular province or 50 kilometres from the province.
“It does completely undermine what we feel is local because what we feel is local is to support local farmers and understand who is producing your food,” said Joe Karthein, a manager at the Kootenay Co-op.
The Co-op’s Jocelyn Carver calls the changes ridiculous.
“We label right on the shelf tag, ‘This is a local product’ so as our shoppers and members are shopping they can see what is local is and isn't,” she said.
“To call something local just because it is within a province as huge as B.C. is misleading the consumer and it undermines the local suppliers who work hard to deliver products to their neighbourhoods and communities.”
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency calls the new approach a modernizing of its labelling and says it's not mandatory.
Kootenay Co-op members, however, say the move is a sell-out to large grocery chains that use the term 'local' purely for marketing.
Context: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is right to broaden the definition of local food
Editorial Toronto Star Ontario Canada May 2, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
The foodie lexicon’s blessed trinity — “organic,” “free-range” and “artisanal” — has expanded in recent years to include “local.” For those who care about such things, it’s not enough that the drumstick on their plate comes from a chicken spared the taint of pesticides or antibiotics, one allowed to wander free in a deciduous forest until gently massaged into the next world by a certified practitioner of avian expiration. Now it has to be local, too.
It’s a culinary trend that’s been effectively skewered by everyone from makers of the television series Portlandia to the BBC’s parody of tiresome food snobbishness, Posh Nosh.
Yet there’s broad disagreement on how the term “local” should be defined. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, an item must originate no more than 50 kilometres from the place where it’s sold to qualify as locally grown, for the purposes of advertising and labeling. But that seems overly restrictive. A restaurant in downtown Toronto, for example, couldn’t source its “local” beef from any further than Hamilton. And there isn’t much ranching done in the Hammer.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has a better idea. Her government recently tabled the Local Food Act and it defines any food item produced or harvested anywhere in the province — from Kingston to Kenora — as “local.” This piquant initiative deserves support.
A Cabbagetown locavore sipping gourmet sake, brewed in the Distillery District just a few blocks away, might well explode with a spit-take on hearing that Thunder Oak Gouda from almost 1,000 kilometres away (in Thunder Bay) should be deemed “local.” But it does make sense given that most other fine cheeses on offer in Ontario travel much longer distances — in Gouda’s case, all the way from Holland.
Federal food inspection agency officials are currently consulting on a number of issues, including local food labeling. It would be of immense benefit to producers across the country if they broadened their overly narrow definition of “local.” After all, like much to do with food, this is a rather subjective term. Caviar or stinky fish eggs — it’s up to the beholder.
Local food claims
Canadian Food Inspection Agency Government of Canada Canada May 10, 2013
In the coming weeks, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will undertake an initiative to modernize its food labelling approach. The CFIA—with input from consumers, industry and other stakeholders—will conduct a review of food labelling regulations, guidelines and policies including claims such as use of the term "local".
In the interim, the CFIA is adopting an interim policy which recognizes "local" as:
The CFIA recognizes that this is a broad interpretation of the current policy and there are a variety of views on how the term “local” should be defined.
This is an interim policy which will be implemented immediately and will remain in effect until the CFIA’s labelling review is complete. Consultations during the modernization of its food labelling approach will help inform CFIA on future direction. The use of the claim “local” is still subject to prohibitions relating to false and misleading claims of the Food and Drugs Act as well as the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.
Under the previous policy, the CFIA interpreted the terms "local", "locally grown", or any similar term to mean that:
The CFIA recognizes that this approach is outdated and does not reflect current food production practices or consumer needs and expectations.
It is important to note that claims such as “local” are voluntary and industry are encouraged to add qualifiers such as the name of a city to provide consumers with additional information. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the regulated party to comply with applicable legislation and regulations.
Ontario food now qualifies as ‘local’ under federal policy change
Tim Alamenciak Toronto Star Ontario Canada May 10, 2013
Food produced and sold in Ontario now qualifies as “local,” thanks to updated rules from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which critics say was following outdated policies. ...
“When you use the term ‘local,’ people actually do think of their province and they think of the incredible diversity of products that are produced regionally across the province,” said Lauren Baker, co-ordinator of the Toronto Food Policy Council. “The switch in definition is about government language catching up to the way the public thinks about local.”
The original policy caused headaches for foodies of many stripes, among them David Farnell, co-owner of Real Food for Real Kids.
Farnell said he faced a possible fine of up to $50,000 for describing Ontario-produced food as “local.”
His business serves locally sourced, healthy lunches to kids in Toronto. He was forced to remove the word “local” from all his marketing materials, replacing it instead with “Ontario” or the city of production.
“From my perspective local is Ontario,” said Farnell. “I celebrate the decision and commend the (agency) on doing what government should do, which is take a look inward and see if they have anachronistic legislation still on the books.”
The change is effective immediately as interim policy while the agency carries out a complete review of its labelling standards.
CFIA: What makes 'local' food local?
Grainnews Farm Business Communications Canada May 11, 2013
The word "local" has become a particularly popular marketing device for foods since about 2005, as the "locavore" trend has continued to evolve.
Annual surveys of chefs, published each April by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, have found "locally produced and locally inspired" to be the top menu trend in each of the past four years.
Monday, May 20, 2013
A petition to change the name of this national holiday to "Victoria and First Peoples Day"
"A man's life of any worth is a continual allegory — and very few eyes can see the mystery of life...." John Keats wrote in an 1819 letter to his brother and sister-in-law.Posted at: Monday, May 20, 2013 - 01:13 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
It is a stat holiday here. The sun is shining, the sky is clear, the air is warm. Family is here from away; there is gardening to be done. We're taking a break from events 'out there' to focus on the good life here at home. We will attempt to live well today. Back to the troubled world of humanity tomorrow.
Prominent Canadians back effort to rename Victoria Day
Benjamin Shingler The Canadian Press/CTV News May 19, 2013
A group that includes some prominent Canadian actors, writers and politicians is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to change the name of Victoria Day.
Author Margaret Atwood, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and actor Gordon Pinsent are among those behind an online petition to rename the public holiday, which is celebrated on Monday, as "Victoria and First Peoples Day."
Peter Keleghan, an actor and spokesman for the group, says the new name would give Canadians a chance to honour both the Crown and the indigenous peoples of Canada.
"I know there is a great deal of monarchists in this country but I think also that there is also an awful lot of talk about how First Nations people, Inuit people, indigenous people in this country are being treated," he said Sunday.
Victoria Day marks the birthday of Queen Victoria and is celebrated every year on the last Monday before May 25. Quebec celebrates National Patriots' Day on the same day, to honour the rebellion against the British in 1837. ...
Keleghan said the group is trying to spread the word about the proposed name change on social media. He's hopeful the message will gain traction in the days to come.
The petition, which is posted on the group's website, victoriaandfirstpeoplesday.ca, calls on Harper to recognize the country's history.
"For centuries, Canadians, the First Nations, the Inuit, and the Metis have had a close affinity with the British Monarchy," the petition says.
"The newly named holiday would be an opportunity to commemorate that venerable relationship, to celebrate unique Indigenous cultures, to revisit our shared history, and to provide an opportunity for all Canadians to participate in the diverse and extraordinary heritage of our country."
Singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark, one-time NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp and Thomas King, an author who often writes on First Nations issues, have also signed the petition.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Recovery or collapse? Bet on collapse. In the time between crises, corporate treason and a lack of political leadership
Intro: USA: A democracy of the wealthy or "Billionaires Unchained"Posted at: Sunday, May 19, 2013 - 03:59 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada May 17, 2013
Two links: Here an excerpt from one of those links:
... Can there be any question that this democracy of ours is nearing dangerous territory, if we're not already there? Picture the 2016 or 2020 election campaigns and, barring a new wave of campaign reforms, it’s not hard to see a tiny minority of people exerting a massive influence on our politics simply by virtue of bank accounts. There is nothing small-d democratic about that. It flies in the face of one of the central premises of this country of ours, equality, including political equality -- the concept that all citizens stand on an equal footing with one another when it comes to having their say on who represents them and how government should work.
Increasingly, it looks like before the rest of us even have our say, before you enter the voting booth, issues, politics, and the politicians will have been winnowed, vetted, and predetermined by the wealthiest Americans. Think of it as a new definition of politics: the democracy of the wealthy, who can fight it out with each other inside and outside the political parties with little reference to you.
In the meantime, the more those of modest means feel drowned out by the money of a tiny minority, the less connected they will feel to the work of government, and the less they will trust elected officials and government as an institution. It’s a formula for tuning out, staying home, and starving whatever’s left of our democracy. ...
Stephen Harper’s failure to address Senate scandal is hurting his party
Editorial Toronto Star Ontario Canada May 19, 2013
Just how long does Prime Minister Stephen Harper hope to float, butterflylike, above the Senate scandal that is ravaging his Conservative party’s credibility? ...
Canadians deserve to hear directly from the Prime Minister, not from his minions, on what he thinks of a scandal that has been building for the better part of a year, and how he intends to make things right. Harper’s silence is no longer just hurting his party brand. It is undermining public confidence in his leadership. ...
This sordid saga of improper Conservative behaviour, high-level secrecy and winking at wrongdoing has infuriated Canadians, disgraced the unelected Red Chamber, and spurred renewed interest in its abolition. It has also drawn the attention of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and of Parliament’s ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson. ...
Now that the PMO is involved, it’s no longer a matter of a few rogue senators. This scandal goes directly to issues of respect for the taxpayers, political accountability and transparency, and the government’s disregard for all three. ...
Items: Below: Paul Craig Roberts has been Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal.
Recovery or collapse? Bet on collapse
Paul Craig Roberts Institute for Political Economy USA May 20, 2012
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The US financial system and, probably, the financial system of Europe, like the police, no longer serves a useful social purpose. ...
The enormous cost of the financial crisis has one single source–financial deregulation. Financial deregulation is likely to prove to be the mistake that destroys Western civilization. While we quake in our boots from fear of “Muslim terrorists,” it is financial deregulation that is destroying us, with help from jobs offshoring. ...
Financial deregulation has had dangerous and adverse consequences. Deregulation permitted financial concentration that produced “banks too big to fail,” thus requiring the general public to absorb the costs of the banks’ mistakes and reckless gambling.
Deregulation permitted banks to leverage a small amount of capital with enormous debt in order to maximize return on equity, thereby maximizing the instability of the financial system and the cost to society of the banks’ bad bets.
Deregulation allowed financial institutions to sweep aside the position limits on speculators and to dominate commodity markets, turning them into a gambling casino and driving up the prices of energy and food.
Deregulation permits financial institutions to sell naked shorts, which means to sell a company’s stock or gold and silver bullion that the seller does not possess into the market in order to drive down the price. ...
Recently Bill Moyers interviewed Simon Johnson, formerly chief economist of the International Monetary Fund and currently professor at MIT. It turns out that deregulation, which abolished the separation of investment banks from commercial banks, permitted Jamie Dimon’s JPMorganChase to gamble with federally insured deposits. ...
Simon Johnson says: “I think it [deregulation] is a recipe for disaster.” The problem is, Johnson says, that correct economic policy is blocked by the enormous donations banks make to political campaigns. This means Wall Street’s attitudes and faulty risk models will result in an even bigger financial crisis than the one from which we are still suffering. And it will happen prior to recovery from the current crisis. ...
Johnson says that “a few people, particularly in and around the financial system, have become too powerful. They were allowed to take a lot of risk, and they did massive damage to the economy — more than eight million jobs lost. We’re still struggling to get back anywhere close to employment levels where we were before 2008. And they’ve done massive damage to the budget. ...
Few Americans and no Washington policymakers understand the dire situation. They are too busy hyping a non-existent recovery and the next war. ...
In the US free market economists unleashed avarice and permitted it to run amuck. Will the disastrous consequences discredit capitalism to the extent that the Soviet collapse discredited socialism?
Will Western civilization itself survive the financial tsunami that deregulated Wall Street has produced?
Ironic, isn’t it, that the United States, the home of the “indispensable people,” stands before us as the likely candidate whose government will be responsible for the collapse of the West.
In the time between crises
Rob Urie CounterPunch USA May 17-19, 2013
The working premise of politicians and economists in the ‘developed’ world of the West is a basic economic stability has been achieved by way of the depth and breadth of the political-economic institutions created over the last 75 years. The storyline coming out of Washington, London and Brussels is of degrees of economic ‘recovery,’ if halting, from the Great Recession. But missing are the institutions on which stability was based. They were removed in recent decades in favor of ‘market’ based reforms. What remains are institutions—the political establishment and the Federal Reserve, that support and foster the worst excesses of unfettered capitalism. This suggests periods of economic ‘recovery’ are now whatever lies between the periodic crises endemic to capitalism. To be clear, this isn’t a forecast. It is more nearly a look at history with and without the institutions of ‘managed’ capitalism to infer likely outcomes. ...
Fast forward to today and the ‘new’ mainstream economic debate centers on ‘austerity’ versus economic stimulus to fix the still ailing economies of the West. ...
But in earlier history Mr. (John Maynard) Keynes’ solutions to economic depression were implemented in conjunction with a broad set of restrictions on the system of finance capitalism. The current argument for Keynesian stimulus places the broader institutional changes that supported Mr. Keynes’ economics outside the realm of its concern. But in practical terms, no economic ‘lessons from history’ from Keynesian economics can be derived in isolation from the broader policy context in which they were enacted.
The two reasons mainstream ‘New’ Keynesian economists avoid addressing the broader context is in the first place they have no context for broader context—the purposeful irrelevance of the profession quickly becomes apparent when the broader institutional context (laws, regulations, governing institutions, competing interests etc.) is determinant of economic outcomes because it resides (way) outside of the mainstream economic realm of concern. The second reason is implementing actual solutions requires taking a critical look at the ‘meta’ context of capitalism itself. Put another way, were a leading ‘liberal’ economist able to implement his / her wish list of fiscal stimulus it would do little to stabilize the system of finance capitalism. And by avoiding the larger issues Keynesian economic ‘patch’ jobs facilitate the next spectacular catastrophe. In fact, modest Keynesian patches have been applied during recessions in the recent decades of the ascendance of finance capitalism and its associated crises keep getting worse.
The response of the liberal economic mainstream at present is as follows: financial bubbles, whatever their causes, may be contributing factors to economic crises; there are no financial bubbles evident at present, therefore the correct response of economists is to push for fiscal and monetary stimulus to address the still weak economy. The (unstated) historical context is there were no financial bubbles in the U.S. between 1935 and 1980, the approximate period in which Mr. Keynes’ economic prescriptions were coincident with institutional safeguards against them, and they have been regular occurrences of increasing severity since then. What changed is the broad set of institutional safeguards that prevented financial bubbles were removed beginning around 1980. But the safeguards weren’t directed at stopping financial bubbles per se—they were designed to restore the broad social function of capital allocation to the financial system.
Even this version of events greatly understates the breadth of the institutional context in which these recurring crises of increasing intensity are now occurring. Coincident in recent decades with the financialization of the economy has been a shift in the distribution of the product of labor to capital and finance, the diminishment of labor’s bargaining power, a shift in tax burden from finance and property to labor, and increasing efforts to cut government expenditures so that even more resources are shifted toward ‘private’ wealth accumulation. ...
The base argument made here and by (many) others is capitalism is a system of economic aggregation. Finance capitalism is a particular form of economic aggregation. Capitalists argue this aggregation is ‘capital formation’ and a good thing because it facilitates investment that leads to economic growth. The paradox long recognized is that without being managed, as in the broader institutional context of Mr. Keynes’ economic policies 1945 – 1980, capitalism cooks its own goose—economic concentration leads to political-economic instability. Recent historical evidence has it that when capitalism was managed 1945 – 1980 it was stable and in the time it hasn’t been managed 1980 – present it hasn’t been stable. ...
The age of corporate treason
Ralph Nadar CounterPunch USA May 17-19, 2013
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Why are big, global U.S. corporations so unpatriotic? After all, they were created in the U.S.A., rose to immense profit because of the toil of American workers, are bailed out by American taxpayers whenever they’re in trouble, and are safeguarded abroad by the U.S. military.
Yet these corporate goliaths work their tax lawyers overtime to escape U.S. taxes. Many pay less than you do in federal income taxes. Imagine corporations, like General Electric, have not paid federal income taxes on U.S. profits for years.
Mega corporations have abandoned U.S. workers by entrenching “pull-down” trade agreements that make it easier than ever to ship jobs and whole industries to fascist and communist regimes abroad which keep their workers near serfdom. Remember, the U.S. has run large trade deficits for the past 30 years as a result of anti-American trade deals pushed by these global companies. These goliaths are pressing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that will further pull down our economy. (See http://www.citizen.org/page.aspx?pid=1328.)
Corporate CEOs are raiding and draining traditional pension plans for millions of workers who are left without their expected and earned pension payments on retirement. (For more information see Ellen E. Schultz’s book Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers.)
They are freezing the federal minimum wage, for low income service jobs that they cannot export, at $7.25 per hour, leaving thirty million workers today making less than workers made in 1968, inflation adjusted. Having wages that go backwards into the future means workers cannot afford the basic necessities of life for themselves and their children.
Giant companies hire legions of lobbyists to weaken or abolish consumer, worker and environmental safety and health laws, to stop our country from joining all other Western Nations with full Medicare for all. Corporate campaign cash increasingly flows to indentured politicians, who in turn do the bidding of the corporate paymasters at your expense.
We’ve yet to find a CEO of a U.S. global corporation who will even go through the motions at their annual shareholders meeting standing up and, in the name of the company, pledging “allegiance to the United States…with liberty and justice for all.” When asked, as was General Motors, the CEO refused.
Charge companies with unpatriotic behavior and you’ll tap a nerve or two. ...
Big U.S. corporations have long demanded a legal system where they are defined as “people,” so as to get all of our constitutional rights while they expand their privileged powers and immunities. Well, why don’t we measure them by the many patriotic standards that we apply to ourselves, the real American people.
Getting these giant firms on the defensive is the first step for the resurgence of the people so that corporations become our servants and do not remain our masters.
Below: We're in the early stages of a massive transformation, from industrial capitalism to something new thinks Don Tapscott. Don Tapscott is Adjunct Professor at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto and the Inaugural Fellow of the Martin Prosperity Institute. He is the author of 14 books.
Transforming capitalism won’t happen without leadership
Don Tapscott Toronto Star Ontario Canada May 17, 2013
Photo: Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press
“Capitalism is the Crisis” (Occupy Wall Street Sign).
The industrial age is finally coming to an end, and with it the old model of capitalism is ending as well.
The continuing global economic mess, growing inequalities and environmental destruction, to name a few crises, are causing many to ask: Is global capitalism fixable as a system, and if so, what is to be done?
While free enterprise and markets have proven essential for product innovation, all around us we see industries in crisis and governments that can’t get things done. Old media companies are failing, and a few years ago the core modus operandi of Wall Street basically imploded. Schools and universities teach with century-old methods. Global co-operation and problem-solving institutions such as the World Bank, the UN and the G20 seem impotent. Youth unemployment is a global epidemic, and as young people choose increasingly not to vote, democratic institutions face a crisis of legitimacy. ...
Loneliness: The want of intimacy. We have to choose our life well
What is loneliness? It’s not solitude or what Kierkegaard called “shut-upness.” It’s an interior experience. And it can kill you.Posted at: Sunday, May 19, 2013 - 03:51 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
The lethality of loneliness
Judith Shulevitz The New Republic USA May 13, 2013
Sometime in the late ’50s, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann sat down to write an essay about a subject that had been mostly overlooked by other psychoanalysts up to that point. Even Freud had only touched on it in passing. She was not sure, she wrote, “what inner forces” made her struggle with the problem of loneliness, though she had a notion. It might have been the young female catatonic patient who began to communicate only when Fromm-Reichmann asked her how lonely she was. “She raised her hand with her thumb lifted, the other four fingers bent toward her palm,” Fromm-Reichmann wrote. The thumb stood alone, “isolated from the four hidden fingers.” Fromm-Reichmann responded gently, “That lonely?” And at that, the woman’s “facial expression loosened up as though in great relief and gratitude, and her fingers opened.”
Fromm-Reichmann would later become world-famous as the dumpy little therapist mistaken for a housekeeper by a new patient, a severely disturbed schizophrenic girl named Joanne Greenberg. Fromm-Reichmann cured Greenberg, who had been deemed incurable. Greenberg left the hospital, went to college, became a writer, and immortalized her beloved analyst as “Dr. Fried” in the best-selling autobiographical novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (later also a movie and a pop song). Among analysts, Fromm-Reichmann, who had come to the United States from Germany to escape Hitler, was known for insisting that no patient was too sick to be healed through trust and intimacy. She figured that loneliness lay at the heart of nearly all mental illness and that the lonely person was just about the most terrifying spectacle in the world. She once chastised her fellow therapists for withdrawing from emotionally unreachable patients rather than risk being contaminated by them. The uncanny specter of loneliness “touches on our own possibility of loneliness,” she said. “We evade it and feel guilty.”
Her 1959 essay, “On Loneliness,” is considered a founding document in a fast-growing area of scientific research you might call loneliness studies. Over the past half-century, academic psychologists have largely abandoned psychoanalysis and made themselves over as biologists. And as they delve deeper into the workings of cells and nerves, they are confirming that loneliness is as monstrous as Fromm-Reichmann said it was. It has now been linked with a wide array of bodily ailments as well as the old mental ones.
In a way, these discoveries are as consequential as the germ theory of disease. Just as we once knew that infectious diseases killed, but didn’t know that germs spread them, we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how. Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.
The psychological definition of loneliness hasn’t changed much since Fromm-Reichmann laid it out. “Real loneliness,” as she called it, is not what the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard characterized as the “shut-upness” and solitariness of the civilized. Nor is “real loneliness” the happy solitude of the productive artist or the passing irritation of being cooped up with the flu while all your friends go off on some adventure. It’s not being dissatisfied with your companion of the moment—your friend or lover or even spouse— unless you chronically find yourself in that situation, in which case you may in fact be a lonely person. Fromm-Reichmann even distinguished “real loneliness” from mourning, since the well-adjusted eventually get over that, and from depression, which may be a symptom of loneliness but is rarely the cause. Loneliness, she said—and this will surprise no one—is the want of intimacy. ...
He stood alone ... for others. Political warrior Elijah Harper dies at 64
Photo: Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press. "There needs to be a healing in the land and in the people." Elijah Harper, 1995. Jim comment: Given the pervasive corruption within the ruling classes, the profound debasement of our social institutions and the concomitant general anomie/ennui, I wonder if an Elijah Harper would even be heard—much less listened to—whether in the narrow halls of power or on the broader streets of today's Canada. Still, it seems the embers of Lady Justice's fire are kept aglow in social movements. Over the course of his career Harper used fundamental democratic processes to address First Nations issues that had been politically ignored for centuries. The Idle No More movement would not have been possible without his pioneering trail blazing.
As a residential school survivor, Elijah spent a large part of his life fighting for the rights of First Nations people of Canada and for the betterment of the human condition around the world while he was a Chief of Red Sucker Lake First Nation, worked with the Manitoba Indian Brotherhood, a Member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, a Member of Parliament and as a Commissioner of the Indian Claims Commission. As a humble leader, he made Canadian history when he, with eagle feather in hand, said 'No' to the Meech Lake Accord. He felt that the Indigenous people of this country were not being recognized or being allowed to participate in a meaningful way in that constitutional process. Elijah Harper became a symbol of great courage and strong First Nations leadership. He was a Hero to many, an inspiring role model for Indigenous people here in Canada and around the globe. ... Over the course of his career he used fundamental democratic processes to address First Nations issues that had been politically ignored for centuries. His courage, his quiet and gentle leadership will be greatly missed. - Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba First Nations statement on the sudden passing of First Nations hero and political warrior, Mr. Elijah Harper
Elijah Harper, key player in Meech Lake accord, dies at 64
CBC News Manitoba Canada May 17, 2013
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Elijah Harper, a former Manitoba MLA and MP who was a key player in defeating the Meech Lake accord, has died at the age of 64.
Harper died early Friday in Ottawa as a result of cardiac failure due to diabetes complications, according to a statement released by his family.
Harper achieved national fame in 1990 by holding an eagle feather as he stood in the Manitoba legislature and refused to support the Meech Lake accord, effectively blocking the constitutional amendment package negotiated to gain Quebec's acceptance of the Constitution Act of 1982.
Harper protested that the proposed accord was negotiated in 1987 without the input of Canada's aboriginal peoples.
The accord required ratification by all 10 provincial legislatures and Parliament, and Harper's action prevented Manitoba from doing so before the deadline.
Newfoundland followed by cancelling its free vote in the legislature.
His wife, Anita Olsen Harper, his children and the family said in the statement that Harper "was a wonderful man, father, partner. He was a true leader and visionary in every sense of the word."
The statement added: "He will have a place in Canadian history, forever, for his devotion to public service and uniting his fellow First Nations with pride, determination and resolve. Elijah will also be remembered for bringing aboriginal and non-aboriginal people together to find a spiritual basis for healing and understanding. We will miss him terribly and love him forever.” ...
Born on the Red Sucker Lake First Nation, about 710 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, Harper attended residential schools in Norway House, Brandon and Birtle, and then secondary schools at Garden Hill and Winnipeg.
He studied at the University of Manitoba and began his long career in public service when he was elected chief of his community at the young age of 29.
In 1981, Harper was elected as an NDP member of the Manitoba legislative assembly for Rupertsland, an office he held for 11 years. He was the first person elected from a First Nation to serve as an MLA.
In 1993, Harper was elected for one term as a Liberal member of Parliament for the Churchill riding. In January 1998, he served a term as commissioner for the Indian Claims Commission.
He was also bestowed with the title of honorary chief for life by the Red Sucker Lake First Nation.
Gary Filmon, who was premier of Manitoba at the time of the Meech Lake vote, recalled Harper telling him in advance that he had decided to block the accord.
"I felt his sincerity and I believed that he was doing what he felt he had to do and that he was not representing just himself — he was representing First Nations and aboriginal people from coast to coast," Filmon told CBC News.
"He certainly has left an impact on our province and our country. [There's] no question that his position on Meech Lake brought First Nation and aboriginal issues into the forefront." ...
Grand Chief David Harper of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, an organization that represents northern Manitoba First Nations, applauded Harper's stand on Meech Lake and his efforts to ensure aboriginal voices were heard in Ottawa.
"First Nations has to be up front and centre in the political landscape of this land. That's where he was and, for sure, he's going to be missed," he said. ...
Jennifer Wood, who worked with Harper for 10 years, remembered him as someone who "wasn't afraid to challenge anyone or anyone."
"There's not one person that I know that will ever be equal to Elijah," she said.
"We should never be afraid to challenge anything."
Kyra Wilson, co-president of the University of Manitoba's Aboriginal Students Association, described Harper as the original activist, and he said the Idle No More movement would not have been possible without him.
"He started it all," she said. "Now we're seeing a lot of people coming forward and opposing some of the decisions that some of our governments are trying to impose." ...
Canadians share memories, photos of Elijah Harper online
Lauren O'Neil CBC News, Your Community Blog Canada May 17, 2013
Many Canadians were stricken to learn Friday morning that First Nations leader and former Manitoba MLA and MP Elijah Harper had passed away at the age of 64. ...
Assembly of First Nations offers condolences after passing of Elijah Harper
Assembly of First Nations Canada May 17, 2013
(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo today offered condolences to the family and friends of Elijah Harper of Red Sucker Lake First Nation who passed away this morning in Ottawa.
“On behalf of the Assembly of First Nations National Executive, I offer sincere condolences to the family, friends and all First Nations in Manitoba region and across Canada mourning the loss of a tireless and courageous leader of our peoples,” said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. “Elijah’s commitment and dedication to asserting and upholding First Nation rights and recognition has helped lay a solid foundation as this hard work continues today. Leading two Sacred Assemblies focused on finding a spiritual basis for healing and understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, Elijah’s drive and actions toward reconciliation will continue to be a legacy for First Nation and all Canadians as we move toward improved and renewed relationships based on mutual respect and recognition – two things he stood firm on in all of his work.”
Elijah Harper was the first First Nation person elected as to provincial government, serving the Manitoba riding of Rupertsland for the New Democratic Party in the 1980s. Mr. Harper was named provincial Minister of Northern Affairs and Minister in charge of the Communities Economic Fund Act in 1987, and Minister responsible for Native Affairs later that year.
In 1990 Mr. Harper received the Stanley Knowles Humanitarian Award and was voted “Newsmaker of the Year in Canada” by the Canadian Press following his efforts to uphold the Constitution Act during the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords. He also received the title of Honourary Chief for Life of Red Sucker Lake First Nation and a commemorative medal of Canada from the Governor General for his efforts in the public service. He resigned from the Manitoba legislature in 1992, and joined the federal Liberal Party in 1993. Once elected Member of Parliament, Mr. Harper was a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Aboriginal Affairs until 1997.
Funeral services will take place at 10 a.m. Monday May 20 at the Aboriginal Funeral Chapel in Winnipeg, MB.
UBCIC remembers Elijah Harper
NationTalk Canada May 17, 2013
(Vancouver, B.C. / Coast Salish Territory) The Union of BC Indian Chiefs is shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Elijah Harper.
On behalf of our member communities and leaders, we send our sincere condolences and prayers to Anita Olsen Harper and their children.
We shall never forget Elijah Harper’s courage, tireless commitment and deep sense of political integrity.
We shall be eternally grateful to Elijah Harper for the tremendous contribution he made, in spite of great personal sacrifices, to defend the sovereign interests of the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island.
We shall honor and celebrate his memory from this day forward. He will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.
Elijah Harper’s body to lie in state at Manitoba legislature
Toronto Star Ontario Canada May 18, 2013
WINNIPEG—The Manitoba government says Elijah Harper’s body will lie in state in the province’s legislature. ...
The province says the public will be able to view Harper on Monday afternoon and that books of condolences will be available.
Later that evening, a funeral service will be held at Glory and Peace Church in Winnipeg.
The burial service will take place Thursday in Red Sucker Lake, where Harper was born and was once chief of the Ojibwa-Cree Red Sucker Lake First Nation.
Jennifer Wood, a longtime friend who worked with Harper in Winnipeg and in Ottawa, said the casket will be open during the viewing and that there will be a Manitoba flag draped over a portion of it. ...
A photo found on Facebook. Courtesy "Eagles….And Eagle Feathers….Some Native Teachings"