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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
Visit this page for its embedded links.
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
Visit this page for its embedded links and video.
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 2i, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
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.” ...
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
Visit this page for its embedded links.
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
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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
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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
Visit this page for its embedded links.
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
This page includes embedded videos.
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"
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Friday, May 17,2013
Thursday, May 16,2013
Wednesday, May 15,2013
Tuesday, May 14,2013
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Sunday, May 12,2013
Friday, May 17, 2013
The Western Axis' battle with Syria: Recent dispatches
On Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a group that tracks casualties in Syria, raised its total estimate of dead to more than 94,000 since the beginning of the rebellion in March 2011. The new figure included thousands of government troops and supporters who had not been accounted for in previous death tolls. - David Enders reportingPosted at: Friday, May 17, 2013 - 05:24 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
“The only real outcome I see in the next 5 to 10 years is a series of cantons that agree to tactical cease-fires because they are tired of the bloodletting,” said Mr. Holliday, the analyst with the Institute for the Study of War. - Ben Hubbard reporting
Another anti-Assad false flag
Stephen Lendman Veterans Today USA May 13, 2013
Since early 2011, Obama’s been waging proxy war on Syria. Imported death squads masquerade as freedom fighters. The scheme’s familiar. It repeats. It reflects US imperialism’s dark side.
In the 1980s, CIA-recruited mujahideen fighters battled Afghanistan’s Soviet occupiers. Ronald Reagan called them “the moral equivalent of our founding fathers.” He characterized Contra killers the same way.
Naked aggression is called humanitarian intervention. New wars follow earlier ones. Ravaging humanity is called liberation. Nations are destroyed for their own good. Propaganda convinces people that America is threatened. Truth is turned on its head.
Syria is Washington’s latest target. Plans haven’t gone as expected. Ousting another government was supposed to be easy. US-enlisted terrorists are no match against Syria’s military superiority.
Implementing Plan B looms. It could come any time. ...
Refugees fleeing besieged Qusayr say Syrian rebels dug in, preparing for government onslaught
David Enders McClatchy Newspapers USA May 16, 2013
Syrian refugees wait to register for aid in Aarsal, a city in northern Lebanon. Many of the refugees in Aarsal have fled fighting around Qusayr, a city just over the border from here. Photo: David Enders/MCT
AARSAL, Lebanon — The Syrian city of Qusayr lies just 10 miles over the border from Aarsal in northern Lebanon. But the Syrians now crowding into Aarsal said the trip to get here from Qusayr required walking for days.
Those who fled said that as many as 40,000 people remain in Qusayr, a city that has been a stronghold of the rebels fighting the Syrian government for more than a year. But government troops, bolstered by recently trained militias, now surround the city, in apparent preparation for storming it. The checkpoints they’ve set up on the roads around it make fleeing the besieged city dangerous – and complicated.
“To leave Qusayr is to risk death,” said one man who had made the journey along a circuitous route intended to avoid Syrian army checkpoints. The man, who refused to give his name because he feared reprisals from the Syrian government, said the trip took 10 days, most of it on foot.
To stay in Qusayr is to risk death as well. Government troops’ overrunning of rebel-held districts has led to some of the highest civilian death tolls of Syria’s civil war. Last summer, when Syrian troops moved into Daraya, outside Dasmascus, hundreds of civilians reportedly were killed.
Qusayr’s population, normally about 35,000, had dropped to about half as residents fled the fighting that ended in a rebel victory in July 2012. Now the population has swelled again as thousands fled to the city in recent weeks after government troops seized nearby villages from rebel forces.
The Syrian government dropped leaflets last week on Qusayr and villages nearby, urging residents to leave the area to avoid bloodshed and promising rebel fighters safety if they surrender.
The likelihood of a rebel surrender seems small, however. People who’ve fled Qusayr in recent days said that thousands of rebel fighters have dug in and are preparing to make a stand, even though their supply of ammunition was running low. ...
Syria begins to break apart under pressure from war
Ben Hubbard New York Times USA May 16, 2013
CAIRO — The black flag of jihad flies over much of northern Syria. In the center of the country, pro-government militias and Hezbollah fighters battle those who threaten their communities. In the northeast, the Kurds have effectively carved out an autonomous zone.
After more than two years of conflict, Syria is breaking up. A constellation of armed groups battling to advance their own agendas are effectively creating the outlines of separate armed fiefs. As the war expands in scope and brutality, its biggest casualty appears to be the integrity of the Syrian state.
On Thursday, President Obama met in Washington with the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and once again pressed the idea of a top-down diplomatic solution. That approach depends on the rebels and the government agreeing to meet at a peace conference that was announced last week by the United States and Russia.
“We’re going to keep increasing the pressure on the Assad regime and working with the Syrian opposition,” Mr. Obama said. “We are going to keep working for a Syria that is free of Assad’s tyranny.”
But as evidence of massacres and chemical weapons mounts, experts and Syrians themselves say the American focus on change at the top ignores the deep fractures the war has caused in Syrian society. Increasingly, it appears Syria is so badly shattered that no single authority is likely to be able to pull it back together any time soon.
Instead, three Syrias are emerging: one loyal to the government, to Iran and to Hezbollah; one dominated by Kurds with links to Kurdish separatists in Turkey and Iraq; and one with a Sunni majority that is heavily influenced by Islamists and jihadis. ...
Fueling the country’s breakup are the growing brutality of fighters on all sides and the increasingly sectarian nature of the violence. ...
Related: Below: The UN General Assembly has condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's beleaguered regime, while as expected China and Russia voted against the resolution. Significant. however, was the increase in the number of skeptics who wanted neither to back Damascus nor to hamper a renewed push for peace talks.
U.N. General Assembly condemns Syria as sceptics multiply
Thalif Deen Inter Press Service International May 15, 2013
Bashar Ja’afari, Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the UN, addresses the Assembly on May 15. Photo: Evan Schneider/UN
UNITED NATIONS, May 15 2013 (IPS) - When the 193-member General Assembly voted Wednesday to condemn the beleaguered government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, there was an increase in the number of sceptics who neither supported nor opposed the tottering regime in Damascus.
The resolution, which is legally non-binding, was adopted by a vote of 107-12, compared with 133-12 last August.
As the number of supporters to the resolution declined, from 133 to 107, the abstentions increased significantly, from 31 to 59, including a mix of Asian, African and Latin American countries.
The abstentions included Algeria, Bangladesh, India, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, El Salvador, Eritrea, Fiji, Kenya, Lebanon, Myanmar, Singapore, Sudan, South Sudan and Uruguay.
Asked for a response, Jose Luis Diaz, Amnesty International’s U.N. representative in New York, told IPS, “I think the number of abstentions – and the divisions in the General Assembly – are the consequence of political considerations.” ...
The resolution, drafted by Qatar and co-sponsored or backed by most of the Arab countries and Western powers, recognised the Syrian National Coalition as “effective representative interlocutors needed for a political transition” in Syria. ...
Russia, which lobbied last week against the resolution, described it as “very harmful and destructive”.
Russia’s deputy permanent representative Ambassador Alexander Pankin said, “It’s particularly irresponsible and counterproductive to promote this when the United States and Russia reached a very important agreement … and need a unified approach.”
Early this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Moscow and agreed on a proposed international conference on Syria. ...
No sensation, only standing contracts – Lavrov on Russia’s weapons supplies to Syria
RT Russia May 17, 2013
Russia’s weapons supplies to Syria are fully in compliance with the law and do not give the government troops any advantage over the rebels, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said commenting on the hype in Western media.
“I don’t understand why mass media are trying to make a sensation out of the fact. We do not conceal it that we supply weapons to Syria according to signed contracts, violating neither any international agreements, nor our own weapon export control legislation, one of the strictest in the world,” Lavrov said at a press conference on Friday. ...
The Russian FM commented on Russia’s weapons supplies at a press-conference following his talks with the UN chief. The Syrian crisis dominated the agenda of the meeting, which is part of a recent flurry of diplomatic efforts to end the violence in the country, preceded by Vladimir Putin holding similar talks with worlds’ top officials, including the US secretary of state and the British and Israeli leaders.
Eventually, a joint initiative was authored by Moscow and Washington to hold peace conference on Syria, planned for June.
Before the conference happens though, both the US and Russia have several stumbling blocks to overcome, such as divisions inside the Syrian opposition, making it unclear who exactly can represent it at the conference, and harsh preconditions set by the rebels.
“In contrast to the Syrian government, which has responded quite positively to the Russian-American initiative, the opposition's answer was quite vague. They said that they welcome any initiatives that will help to stop the violence, but before that Assad must go - reiterating their stance, which has been the cause of the deadlock for many months,” said Lavrov on Thursday in an interview to Al Mayadeen.
As for the US it is expected to object to Iran’s participation, on which Moscow insists. ...
USA: A democracy of the wealthy or "Billionaires Unchained"
Below: Andy Kroll covers money in politics for Mother Jones magazine, and is an associate editor at TomDispatch, which he writes for regularly. He lives in Washington, D.C., the only place in America where people freely discuss campaign financing at happy hour.Posted at: Friday, May 17, 2013 - 04:37 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Andy Kroll, A Democracy of the Wealthy
Tom Englehardt and Andy Kroll TomDispatch USA May 16, 2013
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Once upon a time, the election season began with the New Hampshire primary in early March and never really gained momentum (or much attention) until the candidates were chosen and the fall campaign revved up. Now, the New Hampshire primary is in early January, and by then, the campaign season has already been underway for a couple of years.
Consider campaign 2016, the next 1% presidential election of the twenty-first century. It’s more than underway with congressional hearings that are visibly organized to skewer possible Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and that special table-setter, the first Karl Rove super PAC attack video/ad, also lighting out after the former secretary of state. Looked at another way, like recent presidential campaigns, the 2016 version actually began before the last election ended. The initial media handicapping of future candidates by reporters and pundits, for instance, hit the news well before the first voter emerged from a polling booth in 2012 -- and it’s never stopped. Similarly, the first Iowa poll for the next campaign season made it on the scene within days of the 2012 vote count (Hillary was ahead), and the first attack ads in early primary states are already appearing. With thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of polls to follow, Americans will repeatedly “vote” in contests set up by companies, often hired by political parties or politicians to take the pulse of the public in the unending serial ballots that now precede the actual election.
And don’t forget the single most obvious characteristic of supersizing American democracy: money that will flood the zone. Billions of dollars will go to “political consultants” (in 2012, an estimated $3 billion) and billions of dollars in ads will inundate TV, radio, and almost any other medium around ($6 billion in 2012 and expected to climb in 2016). Billions of words of punditry and commentary about the election (always) “of the century” will flow from well-funded TV news outfits stoked by all those ad dollars. Above all, there will be the money pouring into super PACs and the dark side, which will inundate everything else, shaping the new landscape in which U.S. elections now take place. The sums are staggering, and the limits on how much a wealthy person can “contribute” are rapidly falling away.
As a result, “earlier” and “more” are likely to be the operative political words for 2016, which means that, in a sense, American “democracy” couldn’t be more vigorous. Unfortunately, it's the vigor of the wealthy, as TomDispatch Associate Editor Andy Kroll makes clear. Increasingly, it's their system, politically speaking and in every other way, and welcome to it. Tom
The New Pay-As-You-Go Landscape of American “Democracy”
By Andy Kroll
Billionaires with an axe to grind, now is your time. Not since the days before a bumbling crew of would-be break-in artists set into motion the fabled Watergate scandal, leading to the first far-reaching restrictions on money in American politics, have you been so free to meddle. There is no limit to the amount of money you can give to elect your friends and allies to political office, to defeat those with whom you disagree, to shape or stunt or kill policy, and above all to influence the tone and content of political discussion in this country. ...
But simply tallying Adelson's wins and losses -- or the Koch brothers', or George Soros's, or any other mega-donors' -- misses the bigger point. What matters is that these wealthy funders were able to give so much money in the first place.
With the advent of super PACs and a growing reliance on secretly funded nonprofits, the very wealthy can pour their money into the political system with an ease that didn't exist as recently as this moment in Barack Obama's first term in office. For now at least, Sheldon Adelson is an extreme example, but he portends a future in which 1-percenters can flood the system with money in ways beyond the dreams of ordinary Americans. In the meantime, the traditional political parties, barred from taking all that limitless cash, seem to be sliding toward irrelevance. They are losing their grip on the political process, political observers say, leaving motivated millionaires and billionaires to handpick the candidates and the issues. "It'll be wealthy people getting together and picking horses and riding those horses through a primary process and maybe upending the consensus of the party," a Democratic strategist recently told me. "We're in a whole new world." ...
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.
I caught a glimpse of this last November, when I spoke to a class of students at Radford University in Virginia, a state blanketed with super PAC attack ads and dark money in 2012. Over and over, students told me how disgusted they were by all the vitriol they heard when they turned on the TV or the radio. Most said that they ended up ignoring the campaigns; a few were so put off they didn't bother to vote. "They're all bought and sold anyway," one student told me in front of the entire class. "Why would my vote make any difference?"
The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside spending from new sources making headlines.
- From the first two paragraphs in the Executive Summary of "Billion-Dollar Democracy: The Unprecedented Role of Money in the 2012 Elections" (PDF). The analysis by the liberal think tank Dēmos found that out of every $10 raised by super PACs in 2012, $9 came from just 3,318 people giving $10,000 or more. That small club of donors is equivalent to 0.0011% of the U.S. population.
Turbo-capitalism, turbo-neoliberalism: Fight - and it's US vs EU (Canada was just Uncle Sam's stalking horse in this vociferous dispute)
Forget about the Pentagon "pivoting" to Asia; nothing compares with the catfight developing between the United States and European Union over a free-trade pact proposed by Brussels, feared by many in Europe, and now pursued with a vengeance by Washington. Much lies in the hands of a European determined to be a personal winner in this transatlantic tussle, whatever its revolutionary potential.Posted at: Friday, May 17, 2013 - 03:41 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Catfight - and it's US vs EU
Pepe Escobar Asia Times Online Hong Kong May 17, 2013
PARIS - Lovers of turbo-neoliberalism, rejoice - and take your bottles of Moet to a prime ringside seat; there won't be a nastier catfight this summer than the opening rounds opposing two Western giants. Forget about the Pentagon "pivoting" to Asia without ever abandoning the Middle East; nothing compares with this voyage in the entrails of turbo-capitalism, worthy of a neo-Balzac.
We're talking about a new Holy Grail - a free-market deal between the United States and the European Union; the advent of a giant, internal transatlantic market (25% of global exports, 31% of global imports, 57% of foreign investment), where goods and services (but not people) will "freely" circulate, something that in theory will lead Europe out of its current funk.
The problem is that to reach this Brave New World presided by the Market Goddess, Europe will have to renounce some of its quite complex juridical, environmental, cultural and health norms.
In that Kafkaesque/Orwellian bureaucratic paradise also known as Brussels, hordes of faceless equivalents of the bowler hat men in a Magritte painting openly complain about this "adventure"; there's a growing consensus Europe has everything to lose and little to gain out of it, in contrast with the much-derided enemies of the European integration, as in the fanatics of an "pro-American" and "ultra-liberal" Europe.
It gets curioser and curioser when one observes that the great majority of European nations actually have wanted a free-market deal for quite a while, unlike the much more protectionist US. By now, at least officially, not a single EU nation is opposed to the deal. Here's the non-official reason; none can afford to be blamed an enemy of the United States.
The European Commission (EC) estimates that the gross national product growth of the EU as a whole will grow by 0.5% - not exactly a Chinese target. The Americans, on the other hand, are way more excited; the US Senate estimates that without custom duties, US exports to Europe will grow by almost 20%.
The meat of the matter in clinching the deal will be harmonizing rules that are blamed for blocking the much-vaunted totally free circulation of goods. "Harmonizing" means diluting European rules. And there's the rub; Washington does not want just a transatlantic deal. The final countdown is to set in stone a global free for all that would later be imposed everywhere; that's code for totally opening the Chinese market, with absolutely no restrictions, for Western corporations. ...
Related: Stalking horse: something used to mask a purpose; a candidate put forward to divide the opposition or to conceal someone's real candidacy. Concerning a North American-EU free trade zone, the Harper government has been a willing stalking horse for Uncle Sam.
Canada Finance Minister: Canada-EU free trade discussions 'at very serious level'
David George-Cosh Wall Street Journal USA May 13, 2013
TORONTO--Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said that free-trade negotiations between Canada and the European Union are "continuing at a very serious level," but have yet to be fully resolved.
"Any time free trade with Europe came up this weekend, I can tell you that Canada was mentioned and the U.S. was mentioned also," he said Sunday during an interview on CTV's Question Period.
"Europeans are very conscious of the months and months of negotiations with Canada."
Mr. Flaherty spoke from London where he was attending a meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers.
Canada and the EU have been negotiating a free-trade deal for nearly four years. Officials have yet to confirm a new timeline to conclude free-trade talks after missing the deadline to arrive at a deal by the end of last year. The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that several outstanding issues remain, including Ottawa's demand for more access in the EU for Canadian beef, and the EU's demands for access to public procurement in Canada. ...
Canada-Europe trade agreement: Food is only holdup, EU ambassador says
Les Whittington and Bruce Campion-Smith Toronto Star Ontario Canada May 9, 2013
OTTAWA—Only food import issues now stand in the way of a long-sought Canada-European Union free trade agreement despite a growing war of words over petroleum exports from the Canadian oil sands, European officials say.
Matthias Brinkmann, the EU’s ambassador to Canada, said the last major hurdle in the trade talks is focused on Canadian demands to export more beef to Europe and European demands for better access for their dairy products — particularly cheese — in Canada.
Negotiations have been going on for more than four years but Brinkmann told reporters the two sides had hammered out the general elements of a deal, which will be the biggest trade liberalization pact signed by Canada since NAFTA in 1994.
“I think we have the landing zones identified for all sectors where we negotiate,” Brinkmann said Thursday. “But as always, the most difficult sectors remain open to the end.
“Like in most negotiations, it is agriculture that is the most difficult one,” Brinkmann added.
But he said negotiators are making progress and it is hoped a deal will be reached by the summer. After that, it would take about two years for it to be approved by EU member states, he said.
He said an emerging war of words over sales in Europe of petroleum from Canadian oil sands will not affect the trade talks. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has threatened to complain to the World Trade Organization if the EU goes ahead with a fuel-quality directive now being discussed by European countries. It would label crude from Canada’s oil sands as dirty oil that contributes disproportionately to global warming.
The Harper government disputes this designation and is lobbying Europeans to reject it. ...
Stephen Harper slams world leaders for not supporting Israel; Israel has highest poverty rate in developed world; UN warns Israel over 'int'l law violations'; 30,000 protest in Jerusalem
Canada PM slams world leaders for not supporting IsraelPosted at: Friday, May 17, 2013 - 02:26 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Associated Press/The Times of Israel USA/Israel May 17, 2013
NEW YORK (AP) — Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper expressed dismay Thursday at the growing lack of support for Israel across the world and criticized international leaders for failing to back the Jewish state.
“There’s nothing more shortsighted in Western capitals in our time than the softening of support we’ve seen for Israel around the globe,” he said, calling the country “the one stable, democratic ally in this part of the world.”
Speaking during a visit to New York City, Harper also touched on Syria as he urged “extraordinary caution” on the idea of arming the opposition.
“We should not fool ourselves about what’s happening in Syria,” he said, saying there is “brutality and extremism on both sides.”
“To start talking about arming unnamed people whose objectives we don’t understand, I think, is extremely risky,” Harper said.
Related: Israel has highest poverty rate in the developed world, OECD report shows
Lior Dattel and Nadan Feldman Ha'aretz Israel May 15, 2013
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Israel is the most impoverished of the 34 economically developed countries, with a poverty rate of 20.9%, according to a report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Wednesday.
Israel’s poor population has grown more than in any other OECD nation, making it the country with the highest rate of poverty, having exceeding Mexico, whose poverty rate stands at 20.4%.
Israel also continues to be one of the countries with the largest income inequalities, ranking fifth, with the U.S., Mexico, Chile and Turkey having larger income gaps. Between 2007 and 2011, Israel experienced almost no changes in its social gaps – which saw a tiny decline of 0.1%. Between 2007 and 2010, poverty among children and young people in Israel grew at the fourth largest rate from among the OECD countries – although among senior citizens, it declined.
As opposed to the trend in most countries, where salaries among both the richest and poorest has decreased, Israel has seen a slight increase in both. In Spain and Greece, which are suffering from recession, poverty rates are lower, at 15.4% and 14.3% respectively. The OECD report also points to an increase in inequality throughout the world, due to the global economic crisis. In almost all OECD countries incomes are in decline, while inequality is on the rise. ...
UN warns PM over 'int'l law violations' in e. J'lem
Michael Wilner Jerusalem Post Israel May 16, 2013
NEW YORK - On a phone call during the past two days, United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon warned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of possible violations of "international humanitarian law" in east Jerusalem. ...
"The Secretary-General conveyed his concerns to the Israeli authorities, urging Israel to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law," read a press release from Ban's office.
Ban called to address "recent tensions" in the region and specifically warned Netanyahu over "restrictions of access to Muslim and Christian holy sites."
He also spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and expressed similar concerns.
"The Secretary-General stressed to both leaders the importance of respect for the religious freedom of all," the readout said. ...
Jim comment: All well and good, Secretary-General, but what about Israeli attacks on Syria escape Security Council scrutiny? The continued air attacks have escalated tensions in the region and threatened a wider regional conflagration, according to reports from the Middle East. And yet, the Anglo-American reaction has been the political equivalent of a standing ovation. Anything to say, Secretary-General?
J'lem: 30,000 haredim protest against enlistment reform
Kobi Nachshoni Ynetnews Israel May 16, 2013
Some 30,000 haredim held a protest vigil in Jerusalem Thursday. The rally, held in protest of haredi enlistment to the IDF and civil service, quickly turned violent, resulting in the injuries of six officers and five protesters. Eight protesters were arrested.
The protest was held at the initiative of the most radical of haredi factions – the Eda Hahredit – against what they dub the "enlistment edicts," currently threatening yeshiva students. They were joined by a number of more mainstream haredi rabbis. On the other side of the street a small number of haredi soldiers were holding a counter protest against draft dodging. ...
Thursday, May 16, 2013
New World Order
Emboldened by unaccountable power: Mass surveillance, keeping secrets—Obama administration is civil-liberties-unfriendly. The AP seizures and the frightening web they've uncovered
Mass surveillance is the hallmark of a tyrannical political culture. But whatever one's views on that, the more that is known about what the US government and its surveillance agencies are doing, the better. -Glenn Greenwald, "Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?", Guardian UK, May 4, 2013Posted at: Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 04:11 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
... all of it—from indefinite detention to the destruction of whistleblowers—is sanctified under the banner of keeping you safe. Your security is paramount, thus your liberty is required. We have dispensed with finite campaigns such as actual and cold wars, where the enemy is a state, and opted for a campaign far more catholic in its embrace, a campaign against a tactic—war without end. It is this narrative, so tirelessly rehearsed yet so tiresome and trite, that still needs to be relentlessly discredited. Until it is, normal circumstances will remain a legal fiction, as removed from reality as so many of the conjured threats themselves. - Jason Hirthler
Who's got a secret?
David Westin Huffington Post, The Blog USA/Canada May 14, 2013
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The Associated Press is outraged that the Justice Department has been secretly rummaging through its telephone records, and who can blame it? But what really matters is what it means for all the rest of us. And if we don't watch out, it will mean that the government keeps more secrets from us than ever before.
From what we've been told so far, the Department sometime last year subpoenaed two months' worth of records covering incoming and outgoing calls on dozens of telephones at Associated Press offices, as well as on private telephones of AP employees. The telephones included some main, switchboard numbers, so the calls may have involved hundreds of reporters. The AP had no idea what was going on until well after it was over because the subpoena went to the telephone company -- not the AP.
The speculation is that the Justice Department wanted all those phone records for an investigation into who leaked information to the AP over a year ago about U.S. government efforts to foil a terrorist plot in Yemen. But we don't really know for sure.
This isn't the media whining. It doesn't take much imagination to see that people won't be keen on talking with reporters if they think that the government may be indiscriminately monitoring thousands of phone calls by hundreds of reporters. And if the reporters can't talk with sources that want to remain anonymous, then the rest of us won't ever know the secrets that they would have told. At the heart of the First Amendment lies this basic paradox: In order to have all the information we need for our democracy to work, people have to be able to keep some secrets.
Of course, the government needs some secrecy as well. It had wanted to keep what happened in Yemen secret just as badly as the AP wanted to keep secret how it had found out. But there's a big difference: The government has the power to issue subpoenas to news organizations and their telephone companies; the press can't subpoena the government for its stories.
Since the time of Watergate, there's been an uneasy truce between the government and the press over how to resolve this tussle over one another's secrets. The Justice Department has a policy saying it will seize news organizations' records only after it has pursued all other avenues first and then only when absolutely necessary. Most important, its own regulations require it to work things out with the news organization in advance whenever possible.
But it looks like the government broke the truce here. ...
Holder says leak required "very aggressive action"... bank crimes, not so much
Richard (RJ) Eskow Huffington Post USA/Canada May 14, 2013
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Apparently it never occurred to Attorney General Eric Holder that the Associated Press might be "too big to fail." If it had,then his Justice Department probably never would have investigated it.
The AP isn't just any news agency. It's the largest one in the United States and one of the three largest in the world, along with Great Britain's Reuters and Agence France-Presse. And it is, understandably enough, angry.
So are journalists who work for other outlets, along defenders of a free press and supporters of an informed citizenry. Journalists must be free of direct or implied intimidation if democracy is to work properly. And yet, correspondents who cover this Administration will often admit privately that they do feel intimidated.
A free press sometimes makes powerful people uncomfortable. It can even cause them considerable inconvenience. Actions against journalists must be very carefully weighed against democratic principle and fundamental freedoms. Instead, this White House has been as zealous as its Republican predecessors - in many ways, more so - both in its pursuit of low-level officials who leak information to reporters, and in its pursuit of reporters themselves.
The AP investigation, which seems quite broad, is only one example of that. As The New York Times reports: "Under President Obama, six current and former government officials have been indicted in leak-related cases so far, twice the number brought under all previous administrations combined."
Even the Bush Administration didn't find it necessary to pursue journalists and truth-revealing Americans as fiercely as the Obama White House.
Holder said today that investigators were pursuing a "very serious" leak which "put the American people at risk" and therefore required "very aggressive action." That approach stands in stark contrast to his comments about bank prosecutions this past March, when he said: "the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them (because) if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy." Holder's comment appears to be disingenuous on its face, since he fails to explain how prosecuting individual wrongdoers at those institutions would threaten the national or world economy. That's the primary demand of those who criticize his failure to investigate or prosecute Wall Street criminals.
It's also why the Home Defenders League has announced a week of action starting May 20 to demand an end to the Obama/Holder "too big to jail" policy. That policy has led to extraordinary prosecutorial passivity in the face of overwhelming evidence. There's certainly no sign that the Justice Department has ever sought the phone records or emails of America's top bankers. ...
But instead of pursuing these crimes, the Obama/Holder Justice Department chose to aggressively pursue the phone records of journalists -- including those who weren't involved in the story they were investigating.
Holder said that story "put the American people at risk." But experience with other civil-liberties-unfriendly administrations should teach us to treat such warnings with some skepticism. ...
The AP seizures and the frightening web they've uncovered
Alfredo Lopez This Can't Be Happening! USA May 16, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
"Paranoia," said Woody Allen, "is knowing all the facts." By that measure, we're becoming more and more "paranoid" every day.
This week, we learned that the Obama Justice Department seized two months of records of at least 20 phone lines used by Associated Press reporters. These include phone lines in the AP's New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn offices as well as the main AP number in the House of Representatives press gallery, the private phones and cell phones belonging to AP reporters and a fax line in one AP office.
The government effected this massive seizure "sometime this year" according to a letter from the Justice Department to AP's chief counsel this past Friday (May 10). The letter cites relevant "permission" clauses in its "investigative guidelines" and makes clear that it considers the action legal and necessary.
In many ways, this is the most blatant act of media information seizure in memory. It affects over 100 AP journalists and the countless people those journalists communicated with by phone during those two months. It violates accepted constitutional guarantees, the concept of freedom of the press and the privacy rights of literally thousands of people. Predictably and justifiably, press, politicians and activists have expressed outrage.
But as outrageous as the admitted facts are, the story's larger implications are even more disturbing. It's bad enough that the Obama Administration has grossly violated fundamental constitutional rights, acknowledged the violation and defended their legality. Even worse is that likelihood that the intrusion will probably be ruled legal, that it has been ongoing against other targets for some time and that this is only the tip of the intelligence-abuse iceberg.
The facts are still tumbling out daily but here's what we know. ...
The Justice Department v. the Fourth Estate
Jason Hirthler CounterPunch USA May 16, 2013
On Tuesday The New York Times revealed that the Justice Department had seized without notice caches of Associated Press phone records. Not simply work phone logs, but home and mobile phone records of A.P. journalists as well, from the agency’s bureaus in New York, Washington, and Hartford, Connecticut, and the House of Representatives itself. How kind of them to finally break the news to the A.P. We don’t exactly when the DOJ seized the records. Initially, their response to that query was a limp, “sometime this year,” according to the Times. Later in the day, Attorney General Eric Holder got marginally more specific, conceding the records were taken in April and May. We may not know just when the AP’s private audio correspondence was taken, but we know why.
Last June, AG Holder launched two investigations to discover the sources of two leaked stories: one, information on the Central Intelligence Agency’s foiling of a Yemeni bomb plot, broken by an A.P. journalist; and second, the Stuxnet cyber-attacks on Iran, broken by The Times. It’s hard to imagine Holder’s actions as anything other than an extension of President Obama’s nationwide dragnet on whistleblowers, or as the Commander in Chief might think of them, snitches. Six federal officials have been indicted for leaks thus far under Obama. ...
The Times then notes, “Under normal circumstances, regulations call for notice and negotiations, giving the news organization a chance to challenge the subpoena in court.” That’s right. The Justice Department is supposedly beholden to the law, which stipulates it must subpoena records—like ordinary mortals—and then only as a last resort. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney of the District of Columbia (notice how far down the tree we’ve tumbled from the Oval Office; Holder was forced into the spotlight later on Tuesday) said that the DOJ must notify the affronted party in advance unless—and here comes the clichéd caveat that renders meaningless everything that goes before—unless that notification jeopardizes the investigation, or as the spokesman put it, “poses a substantial threat” to the inquiry. Note here that the threat is not to national security, but to the investigation into the leaking of information related to an investigation of a potential threat to national security. Rather quickly, the vocabulary of fear is extended into the abstract, where complicity soon becomes the subject of supposition.
What The Times fails to notice, although it might when it discovers half its journalists have been wiretapped, is that “normal circumstances” have been banished to the netherworld (where lurk our naïve, pre-McCarthy ancestors). The war on terror has transformed the entire globe into a potential flashpoint or field of fire. Most notably the online world. The offline world is already swarming with Homeland Security agents, baiting Arabs into basements to plot crimes against the state. The DHS is stockpiling weapons at a frantic pace, clearly anticipating a domestic Armageddon. But it’s the online world from which we have the most to fear. Far easier to craft the appearance of complicity from a few transaction records and cell transcripts than by suckering unwitting immigrants into bomb-making workshops. ...
Our civil liberties, RIP
Justin Raimondo Antiwar.com USA May 16, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
Amidst all the justified outrage over the apparent targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups by the IRS, not to mention the Associated Press phone tapping brouhaha, an important point is being lost: this is nothing new. The Tea Partiers may be shocked – shocked! – that the Big Government they have spent the last few years complaining about really is a threat to our liberties, but the government targeting certain political groups wholly on account of their views is hardly breaking news. Just ask the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), which had set up an “Antiwar Committee” whose members have been spied on, indicted, and arrested for engaging in legal, constitutionally protected activities.
The FBI had sent a pair of infiltrators into the Antiwar Committee, and, on September 24, 2010, a veritable army of FBI agents launched simultaneous raids on antiwar activists in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Grand Rapids (Michigan). They seized computers, cell phones, passports, documents, family photos and even children’s artwork. Agents issued 14 subpoenas ordering the recipients to testify before a Chicago federal grand jury, and showed warrants indicating that the feds were searching for evidence related to “material support for terrorism.” A total of 23 people have since been handed subpoenas commanding them to appear before the grand jury in Chicago: all have refused. The FBI “investigation” – i.e. fishing expedition – is continuing.
At the time of these raids, we heard not a single protest from the “Tea Party” groups that are now loudly protesting their own victimization at the hands of the government: the leftists targeted by the FBI were just another group of “terrorists,” left to fight against their targeting and prosecution largely alone. Now that conservatives have been put in the crosshairs in a similar manner, however – singled out by a government agency for “special treatment” on account of their politics – their sympathizers in Congress are making a big stink about it and the headlines are alight with their outrage.
The Tea Partiers’ problem is that their protests come far too late – because the legal and political precedents targeting dissident groups were established long ago, with the full complicity and even enthusiastic support of most of those who call themselves “conservatives” these days. The “Patriot” Act – passed with conservative support – gives the government the “right” to not only spy on such groups, it also gives them the means to spy on anyone, for any reason, as well as the prosecutorial “tools” to put them away forever. Law enforcement agencies have set up “fusion centers” in order to collect information on American citizens who might be considered a “threat.” A recent report on “right-wing extremism” issued by the Department of Homeland Security” listed groups local law enforcement should keep tabs on, including members of the Libertarian and Constitution parties, as well as Ron Paul supporters. Efforts by the FBI and local police to infiltrate and set up members of the “Occupy” movement have been widespread.
Perhaps the Tea Partiers are unfamiliar with the long history of government repression of marginalized ideological groupings: during the 1960s, the FBI’s “Cointelpro” program targeted left-wing and black nationalist groups, sending in infiltrators, organizing disruption, and setting up prominent activists for “legal” repression. ...
While right and left go at each other, the machinery of repression is being readied. The most recent – and chilling – example: a recent Pentagon-initiated change to the US Code would give military commanders powers equal to the President in wartime. As the revised language of the Code puts it:
“Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances.”
When is it “impossible” for the President to duly authorize military action? This is never defined. What is “temporary”? This, too, goes undefined. And what about the Insurrection and Posse Comitatus Acts which limit and regulate the manner in which the military may intervene in domestic affairs? The revised regulations eviscerate both acts, and throw the door wide open to rule by the military in an ill-defined “emergency.” And hardly anybody notices!
That’s the state of civil liberties in the US these days: the government is spying on reporters, IRS agents are harassing political activists, FBI agents are raiding antiwar organizations, and the Pentagon is busy getting the legal machinery up and running in the event they feel the need to impose martial law. The reason they can get away with this, politically, is because the right doesn’t care if the government comes down hard on the left, while the left openly agitates for the instruments of repression to be used against the right. There is no sense that we’re all in this together: that if the government can move against the Tea Partiers, then the antiwar activists are next. It’s all about whose ox is being gored – not whether our liberties are endangered by a regime emboldened by unaccountable power.
BC election: Climate change/global warming, tar sands pipelines, accusations of vote-spliting, poor campaigning/successful campaigning
... now B.C. will suffer the consequences of electing a leader who is more vicious than visionary. - Bill Tieleman, "NDP flailed instead of fighting back"Posted at: Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 02:53 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
... third parties like the Greens wouldn't exist if their supporters found what they were looking for in the main parties. - Tom Barrett
Intro: Scientists agree (again): Climate change is happening
Tom Zeller Jr. Huffington Post USA/Canada May 16, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
Public opinion on the topic of climate change is notoriously fickle, changing -- quite literally sometimes -- with the weather. The latest bit of evidence on this: Yale's April 2013 climate change survey, which found, among other things, that Americans' conviction that global warming is happening had dropped by seven points, to 63 percent, over the preceding six months. The decline, the authors surmised, was most likely due to "the cold winter of 2012-13 and an unusually cold March just before the survey was conducted."
A far smaller percentage -- 49 percent -- understood that human activities are contributing to the problem.
People and surveys being what they are, these numbers tend to jump around a bit from year to year. At the same time, 49 percent is nearly half the country, so it wouldn't be excessively cheerful (would it?) to note that half of the American public is more or less in harmony with basic science -- at least as it relates to climate change. Given that roughly the same number of Americans flatly reject evolution, the climate numbers represent a comparative bounty of enlightenment.
That's not something you hear very often when it comes to surveys of Americans. Delving deeper into the textbooks, for instance, another recent study showed that less than half of population was clear on whether atoms are smaller than electrons, or whether lasers work by focusing sound waves. In this light (ahem), the larger consensus on global warming is notable. (Answers on atoms and lasers appear at the end of this column.)
But a far more troubling metric from Yale's latest poll suggests that only 42 percent of Americans believe that most scientists think global warming is happening. A full 33 percent of respondents are convinced that there remains "widespread disagreement" among scientists on this question. This is a problem -- both because it is so at odds with reality, and because it likely helps prevent more Americans from recognizing and accepting some pretty straightforward scientific realities.
It is this reason that prompted a team of researchers to painstakingly comb through the abstracts of more than 12,000 scientific articles published between 1991 and 2011 to determine just how much scientific agreement exists on the subject of climate change, and humanity's role in driving it. The team was led by John Cook, a Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and the founder of the climate change education web site SkepticalScience.com.
The results, published Thursday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, were clear: of the more than 4,000 abstracts that had anything to say about human-driven climate change, 97 percent endorsed the notion. A little less than 3 percent either rejected the idea or remained undecided. ...
Items: There are at least 15 of the worlds largest oil and gas companies on our doorstep, scheming amongst themselves about the future of our coast. If that is not daunting enough, several of them have “non disclosure” agreements with this [BC Liberal] government. That’s right, gag orders. Legal agreements that dictate our government cannot publicly discuss what they are planning for us and how they are shaping the future of our Province. - Richard Hughes, "Who exactly is misleading and withholding information on pipelines in British Columbia?, April 28, 2013
Dix plan would allow B.C.er's to make decisions on future
Letter to the editor The Province British Columbia Canada April 26, 2013
NDP leader Adrian Dix isn't short-sighted with his position on oil pipelines as your editorial suggests, but rather consistent and principled.
For many, many months Dix has claimed that he opposes the equivalency agreement of June 2010, which saw the B.C. Liberals abandon the people of B.C. and our right to properly review, assess and decide the future of major oil and gas developments in this province.
The recent announcement on Kinder Morgan is no surprise, but rather an effort to restore what the Liberals so easily abandoned, and that is the ability of British Columbians to decide their own destiny.
Dix's promised made-in-B.C. environmental assessments will do exactly that, and are geared to ensure we have a better future that reflects the will of all B.C. stakeholders and not simply the might of international oil companies.
Kevin Logan, Cowichan Bay
Video: The truth about Christy Clark's position on pipelines, tankers
Kevin Logan The Common Sense Canadian Canada May 10, 2013
The embedded video, "Christy Clark pipeline 'facts' vs the 'real' facts", is seven minutes, 10 seconds in length. This page contains two embedded links plus numerous appended and related links..
Christy Clark and the BC Liberals have made a lot of bold claims about their position on pipelines proposed for British Columbia.
However, what they have neglected to tell British Columbians is that their government has entered into binding agreements that ensure the success of pipelines from Alberta to the BC Coast.
Everyone knows there has been a lot of politics surrounding pipeline developments in British Columbia, but very few are aware of the longstanding agreements, established by the BC Liberals, that ensure the success of the proposed pipelines and have thoroughly tied the hands of all BC Stakeholders leaving them with no capacity to actually impact the processes that will ensure the success of these developments.
The Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) and New West Partnership Agreement (NWPA) which it developed into absolutely confirm that no level of government in British Columbia can block pipeline development. Nor can they impede trade through the province or create any obstacle, whatsoever, that prevents pipelines from Alberta from reaching BC's tidal waters. Doing so would result in fines of up to 5 million dollars per infraction.
The June 2010 "Equivalency Agreement", done in secret by the BC Liberals with the Harper Conservative Government - and against the letter of the law - forfeits BC's ability to review, assess and decide on these pipeline proposals which threaten to transform the province as we know it.
The video presents these documents, and exposes the BC Liberal election posturing on pipelines as hollow and meaningless. These concepts, backed by government documentation, have been published online and are readily available for anyone interested.
Yet Christy Clark has never publicly acknowledged their existence. More importantly, she has also positioned her party for re-election on claims that run counter to these indisputable facts.
In fact, the material contained in the above video proves that Christy Clark's claims that she can block or prevent these pipeline proposals, based on her "tough NEW stance" and "5 conditions" is without merit, not based in reality and ignores the existence of these agreements of her government's own making.
The video closes with live footage from the most recent Estimates debate for the Ministry of Energy, where the Minister of Everything, Rich Coleman, is on tape discussing his government's "non-disclosure agreements" with the world's largest oil companies.
This fact has gone unreported and exposes the bold hypocrisy of the BC Liberal campaign, which has had the audacity to broadly claim the BC NDP is "concealing" their position on these pipeline developments.
There is not one mainstream media report that covers the "non-disclosure agreements" the world's largest oil and gas companies have with the BC Liberals, even though the minister responsible has made their existence known in the public debate contained in this video.
Stories on these topics (see below) have been published on the internet for over a year, yet no one has refuted them, and Christy Clark has never publicly acknowledged their existence.
They impact all British Columbians and are crucial to our future.
Uninvited and unwelcome: First Nation asks Enbridge to leave territory following botched consultation
Media release, Gitga'at First Nation Marketwired Canada May 16, 2013
HARTLEY BAY, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - May 16, 2013) - The Gitga'at First Nation has instructed Enbridge to leave its territory after the company and a team of oil spill response surveyors showed-up uninvited, during the nation's annual food harvesting camp, a time of rich cultural activity and knowledge sharing.
Enbridge representatives were instructed to leave Gitga'at council chambers and Gitga'at territory, Wednesday morning, after councillors voiced their displeasure at not being consulted on an Enbridge oil spill response survey.
The dust-up comes on the eve of final oral arguments before the Joint Review Panel, which is reviewing the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.
"Despite an ongoing review process, Enbridge has entered our territory and begun project work before their proposed oil tanker and pipeline project has even been approved," said Arnold Clifton, Chief Councillor of the Gitga'at First Nation. "This is disrespectful to the Gitga'at First Nation, the review process, and the people of British Columbia, who oppose oil tankers in our coastal waters."
"Four years ago when Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel and Northern Gateway President John Carruthers visited Hartley Bay, we treated them respectfully, but informed them in no uncertain terms that their project is not welcome in Gitga'at Territory. We reminded their staff of that today," said Clifton.
Enbridge signaled its intention to enter Gitga'at territory by sending an after hours fax without proper contact information, less than a week before their arrival, and without prior consultation. The fax also mistakenly included a letter addressed to Chief Councillor Conrad Lewis of the Gitxaala First Nation, which the Gitga'at returned to Enbridge.
"It's hard to imagine a company screwing-up its relationships with First Nations more than Enbridge has," said Marven Robinson, Gitga'at Councillor. "This incident shows not only the failure of Enbridge to meaningfully consult, but also indicates an insensitive, scatter-shot approach to dealing with First Nations. We remain resolved to protect our territory and people from this project."
Below is an email we received from the Yinka Dene Alliance
First Nations Call For Government-to-Government Pipeline Talks With Re-Elected Premier Christy Clark
With only days remaining until BC must take a final position on the Enbridge pipeline in the federal review process, the Yinka Dene Alliance has written to Premier Christy Clark, calling for government-to-government pipeline talks.
The Yinka Dene Alliance, whose members’ territories make-up 25% of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline route, say the Premiers’ position on Gateway will be a litmus test for the government’s new relationship with BC First Nations.
“Christy Clark has expressed a strong interest in building positive relationships with First Nations in Northern BC,” said Chief Martin Louie, Nadleh Whut’en First Nation. “She can either start building that relationship by taking a strong, principled stand against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and respecting our indigenous rights and title, or she can poison the well for future discussions on resource decision-making in Northern BC, including around LNG.”
Over 160 First Nations have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration, banning tar sands oil projects from their territories as a matter of indigenous law.
“Premier Clark has said that she will stand up for BC, and now is the time,” said Chief Dolly Abraham, Takla Lake First Nation. “The Yinka Dene Alliance is upholding our responsibility to protect the water and land for our children’s future prosperity. Will Premier Clark do the same?” More than 100,000 people across Canada have signed petitions that recognize and support the Yinka Dene Alliance’s decision to ban the Enbridge project from their territories.
“As the stewards of our land, First Nations carry a heavy responsibility for resource decision-making that affects all British Columbians,” said Chief Stanley Thomas, Saik’uz First Nation. “It is imperative that we hold government-to-government talks with the new Premier, so that she understands both our deep concerns about the Enbridge pipeline, as well as our vision for the prosperity of our people and all British Columbians.”
The Yinka Dene Alliance is made up of Nadleh Whut’en, Nak’azdli, Takla Lake, Saik’uz, Wet’suwet’en and T’lazt’en First Nations.
Below: David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory: Lessons from B.C. for NDPers everywhere
David Climenhaga Alberta Diary Alberta Canada May 16, 2013
No one can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory quite like the New Democrats in my native British Columbia.
Still, while Tuesday’s upset B.C. election victory by Premier Christy Clark and her un-liberal Liberals is inevitably going to be, well, upsetting to a lot of New Democrats, it is not really bad news for Thomas Mulcair and the federal NDP.
This, we might say, is the social democratic truth that dare not speak its name: an NDP government in a large province like British Columbia would inevitably have enacted policies that upset voters elsewhere in Canada and would have provided excellent targets for attacks by the ever-negative Stephen Harper Tories on Mr. Mulcair and the NDP.
So, as my mother used to tell me, every cloud has a silver lining, and this is the faint silver lining to the clouds blowing over B.C. today.
Pretty soon, I expect Premier Clark will sit down with Alberta Premier Alison Redford and politely negotiate a pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat, Ms. Redford’s home town.
But, as has been said in this space in the not-so-distant past, defeated B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix probably would have done much the same thing, which is one problem with running a low-bridge campaign that doesn’t really seem to stand for anything much.
The majority of British Columbians who are opposed to pipelines from Alberta running through their back yards can be forgiven by their confusion about whom best to vote for to stop them. ...
In a greenless world, would the NDP have won?
Tom Barrett TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada May 15, 2013
Imagine a British Columbia without the Green party. It's a fantasy that many angry New Democrats are indulging in today.
That's because, if you take the Green party out of Tuesday's election and assume that every vote cast for the Greens would have gone instead to the NDP, you're looking at a hefty NDP majority government.
Pending absentee ballots and possible recounts, Tuesday's results were: 50 seats for the BC Liberals, 33 NDP, one Green and one independent.
The NDP lost in 13 ridings where the combined NDP and Green vote was greater than the BC Liberal vote. Switch all those seats to the NDP and you get 46 NDP, 37 Liberals, no Greens and one independent.
However, the assumption underlying this fantasy Greenless world is a bit iffy.
Those 13 ridings include Oak Bay-Gordon Head, where Andrew Weaver took 40 per cent of the vote. The NDP came third, just behind former Liberal cabinet minister Ida Chong. Can you really say Weaver split the NDP vote?
For the sake of argument, let's give this riding to the NDP in our fantasy legislature. That leaves 12 ridings where the NDP came second to the Liberals and would have won if all the Green votes had gone to them. How likely is that? Can you assume that every Green voter would have voted NDP if the Greens didn't exist?
How many Green voters would just stay home? How many would vote for an independent candidate or even the Liberals? These are tough questions to answer.
To decide whether the Greens stole a victory from the NDP, let's look at those 12 ridings. ...
By the way, all of this ignores an important point that often gets missed when people talk about vote-splitting: third parties like the Greens wouldn't exist if their supporters found what they were looking for in the main parties. ...
Clark's new team: 'Rowing in same direction'
Andrew MacLeod TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada May 16, 2013
Christy Clark, leader of the BC Liberal Party
British Columbians returned the BC Liberal Party to power this week, but the team that will be assembling in Victoria is very different from the one before the election.
It's a point not lost on Christy Clark, who for the first time since becoming premier will be working with a team she's had a hand in shaping.
"It's easier when you're leading your own team," she said during a press conference the afternoon after winning an unexpected victory. She noted that she became leader at a point when the party was coming out of a period of turmoil. "I think we're all going to be rowing in the same direction from now on."
The party had won the 2009 election on a fudged budget, then introduced the HST in exchange for $1.6 billion from the federal government, leading to a public uprising and the resignation of Clark's predecessor Gordon Campbell.
Clark won the leadership with the support of just one sitting MLA, Harry Bloy, and in the months before going to the polls faced criticism from several Liberal MLAs, a significant number of whom had decided not to run again. ...
Significantly, the 50 BC Liberal's elected according to the preliminary count included 25 veterans of the legislature and 25 new MLAs. ...
In contrast, the NDP's 33 elected MLAs include just six who are new, with the other 27 returning. ...
The Green Party elected its first ever MLA in Andrew Weaver and independent Vicki Huntington was re-elected.
"The vigour and the appetite of the group of MLAs that have been elected this time is going to be unparallelled," said Clark. "A lot of people would say it's time for renewal in British Columbia." There was also a desire to renew the BC Liberal party, she said. "You can't do that without new candidates."
Clark said she'll meet early next week with all elected Liberal MLAs. The final count of the ballots will begin on May 27. ...
BC election: Progressive postmortems
Harry S. Truman has the last laugh as he holds up a copy of the Chicago Tribune at Union Station in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 3, 1948, after winning the US presidential election the previous day. He was so widely expected to lose that the Tribune ran this incorrect headline. Photo: Byron Rollins/Associated Press
To my mind good leaders know what they don’t know, bad leaders think they know everything. This disastrous [NDP] campaign was all about bad leadership. - Ian Reid
It’s clear that the negative-advertising campaign of the Liberals waged against the NDP had a slaughtering effect. If ever there was a case to behold that negative advertising campaigns work, it is here where the Liberals were able to take the NDP lead at the outset of the campaign of 20+ points in some of the polls and put it in the hole. - Ipsos in North America. Ipsos is a global independent market research company ranking third worldwide among research firms. Ipsos Reid is a research company based in Canada and is the Canadian arm of the global Ipsos Group. Founded in Winnipeg in 1979, the company expanded across the country and became part of the Ipsos Group in 2000. Today, Ipsos Reid is Canada’s largest market research and public opinion polling firm.
NDP flailed instead of fighting back
Bill Tieleman 24Hrs Vancouver British Columbia Canada May 14, 2013
BC NDP Adrian Dix speaks at the NDP headquarters after admitting defeat in the 2013 provincial election, May 14. Photo: Carmine Marinelli/24 Hours
Politics determine who has the power, not who has the truth. - Economist Paul Krugman
Tuesday night’s victory by Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals will go down in British Columbia political history as one of the biggest upset victories ever.
Unfortunately, it will also go into the books as a triumph of fear over hope, of choosing incredibly negative, personal attack ads over policy and vision, and a revolting example that using taxpayer dollars to advertise your own party cause works.
Bitter? You bet.
Not because the BC Liberals won – political opponents have to accept that sometimes the other team had a superior campaign than your own, more ideas, a more effective leader or just did a better job.
No, bitterness comes only when the other team plays dirty and never faces the penalty they should – to lose the game.
That’s what happened in this election.
Clark’s team ran the most right-wing, Republican-style campaign Canada has ever seen.
The BC Liberals were relentlessly nasty, using wealthy allies to air slurs against BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix, while spending voters’ own money to promote the party with a collection of demonstrably false claims about B.C.’s budget, job creation and debt.
And yet, it worked.
For that, the BC NDP must bear its own share of the blame.
t allowed a 20-point lead to disappear in a failed campaign that flailed instead of fighting back.
Despite the Harmonized Sales Tax betrayal, the BC Rail scandal and Clark being one of the most unpopular premiers in Canada, the NDP blew it.
And now B.C. will suffer the consequences of electing a leader who is more vicious than visionary.
“The man of thought who will not act is ineffective; the man of action who will not think is dangerous.” ~ Richard Nixon.
Laila Yuile No Strings Attached British Columbia Canada May 15, 2013
When asked by Philip Till what the leaders needed to do in the last bit of the campaign on his show recently, I said Dix needed to get on his game and get aggressive if he wanted to win. In fact,I even remarked that I would have run the NDP campaign aggressively from day 1 and that aggressive doesn’t have to mean being nasty. Look at the definition.
1.characterized by or tending toward unprovoked offensives, attacks, invasions, or the like; militantly forward or menacing
Oddly enough,I had heard several pundits saying what a great campaign the NDP have been running prior to last night, when suddenly the truthful commentary started coming out that the campaign was poorly constructed, with which I have agreed and commented on several times, including in a column for 24Hrs Vancouver
The BC liberals have always had well-oiled, strategic campaigns, regardless of leadership. While no one could check Clark’s mouth or actions as well as they might have liked to, in the end it didn’t matter that she campaigned on outright fallacies, because the Dix camp was slowly killing themselves over in the corner being cautious and trying out a new way to do politics that clearly doesn’t work. They were not able to deliver a consistant, simple message to the voters over and over again on why they should vote for them, and not the Liberals.
Am I angry? Yes. ...
Here’s what I saw going wrong, for what it is worth. ...
Take it from the Topp
Ian Reid The Real Story British Columbia Canada May 16, 2913
Last night I got this from a friend in the campaign. It’s from NDP Campaign Manager Brian Topp to his campaign staff, although it was sent through Jan O’Brien rather than directly from the KoolToppGuy himself.
His letter makes one thing clear. This man isn’t taking any of the blame for the worst major campaign ever run in this province and arguably in the country. ...
Now, while this makes me very angry, I do get what Topp is trying to say. He’s saying: ‘Thank you for your work. You worked unbelievably hard and did a good job. And with such a disastrous result – amongst the worst in Canadian history – few will recognize your contribution.’
Topp should then have added, “the disastrous result had everything to do with the leadership of the campaign team.”
Here’s the letter Topp could have and should have sent to his staff: ...
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory: Lessons from B.C. for NDPers everywhere
David Climenhaga Alberta Diary Alberta Canada May 16, 2013
Look, it’s been an awfully long time since I lived in B.C. – more than 30 years now – and the place has become a foreign country to me. Someone closer to the West Coast scene can probably tell me how wrong I am about each of these points, and almost certainly will.
Still, it seems to me there are several telling lessons for New Democrats elsewhere in Canada, and for plenty of Liberals too, in the unexpected B.C. vote results on Tuesday night. Because I’m just a negative sort of guy, I’ve configured them all as Don’ts:
I’m also inclined to think that if you’re a politician expecting to get elected, you should have your doubts about hiring political campaign operatives who are in partnership with people working for other parties. ...
Oh, and one other thing: if you’re not prepared to fight a tough, meaningful campaign that pays attention to your core supporters – you know, like Prime Minister Harper is a master at doing – maybe you should go to church instead of into politics!
This is a moment of reckoning for Canadian pollsters
Pretty obviously, we have reached a moment of reckoning for Canada’s pollsters.
If you only have three strikes before you’re out, Canada’s pollsters have only got one more election to get it right.
Here are four reasons, polling companies’ claims notwithstanding, for Canadian pollsters’ dramatic misses in Alberta last year and British Columbia the day before yesterday, not to mention their none-too-stellar performance in Quebec last fall: ...
Inside the BC Election: What happened and why
Media release Ipsos Reid Canada May 15, 2013
Vancouver, BC – While pollsters, pundits, pontificators, party stalwarts and journalists are wringing their hands wondering how Christy Clark and the BC Liberals managed to capture another mandate from voters, the definitive poll done on Election Day by Ipsos Reid and released today shows just what happened and what motivated people.
In Canada, polls cannot be released on Election Day so it often leaves people guessing at what happened and produces lots of finger pointing. In the United States and other jurisdictions, polls that interview voters are harbingers of the outcome but most importantly help explain why things have turned out the way they have. ...
In British Columbia, we interviewed 1,400 voters on Election Day and, as you’ll see, the numbers virtually matched the real outcome in terms of voter preference. But it also tells a story as to why this happened right down to the last minute. The reality is that one in 10 (11%) BC voters decided in the voting booth on election day to mark their ballot for their candidate—and with one of the lowest turnouts in provincial voting ever (52%) it was motivated voters, Liberals, who bested the NDP in the voting booth.
The long and the short of it was that NDP voters did not get out and fulfill their promise to vote for the party of their choice – they stayed home while Liberal voters showed up. As such, a small number of voters were able to influence the greater outcome.
In fact, nearly one-quarter (23%) of voters said they decided who they were going to vote for in the last week of the campaign. So the trend had continued from the week previously and these late deciders chose to vote BC Liberal by a 7 point margin over the NDP (41% BC Lib vs. 34% NDP). The BC Liberals also led by substantial margins among the 12% of voters who decided in the middle of the campaign (58% BC Lib vs. 25% NDP) and the 16% of voters who decided early in the campaign (49% BC Lib vs. 36% NDP). The NDP only had an advantage among the 47% of voters who decided before the campaign actually began (50% NDP vs. 43% BC Lib).
It’s clear that the negative-advertising campaign of the Liberals waged against the NDP had a slaughtering effect. If ever there was a case to behold that negative advertising campaigns work, it is here where the Liberals were able to take the NDP lead at the outset of the campaign of 20+ points in some of the polls and put it in the hole. The following show the changes in what happened in the final days of the campaign: ...
Friday updates: Former MLA David Schreck predicted a B.C. NDP election debacle in 2010
Carlito Pablo Georgia Straight British Columbia Canada May 17, 2013
David Schreck predicted a B.C. NDP debacle two-and-a-half years before the May 14, 2013, election.
The former New Democrat MLA prophesied this outcome as the consequence of the bitter infighting that ousted Carole James as leader of the provincial NDP. James stepped down on December 6, 2010, five days after Vancouver–Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan issued a statement calling for new leadership in the party.
On that same day in 2010, Schreck told the Straight in a phone interview that the B.C. NDP has been “permanently damaged”. “This split goes to the roots of the party,” he said then.
Schreck went on to say that, as a result, the 2013 election “will be a cakewalk for the Liberals, and the NDP will be lucky if they can elect a half-dozen seats”.
According to him, Kwan and the other anti-James dissidents could have simply waited for the party’s convention in November 2011, defeated James in a leadership review, and elected a new leader in time for the 2013 general election.
“They chose a route in which the prize they’ve won they’ve made worthless,” Schreck said. ...
In a comment appended to the above post, 'Stephen' says:
You're quite right. Schreck was over-wrought over James's ouster but he sensibly got over it when it became clear that Dix had successfully united the party and recovered lost ground in public support.
The biggest disappointment for those who supported Dix in the 2011 leadership contest is that he didn't follow through on what was widely expected of him: namely, to tackle head on the Liberals' flagrant lies about the NDP's record in government and their own 12-year record of incompetence, dishonesty, and corruption. A bare-knuckled critique, combined with a clear statement of NDP alternatives--boldly proclaimed, without apology--would have given thousands of NDP-inclined non-voters reason to actually vote--in stark contrast to the insipid campaigns the party ran in 2005 and 2009.
In such a campaign it needn't have fallen exclusively to Dix to deliver the one-two punch. Horgan and Farnworth could have been given a larger role in the central campaign.
If only, if only...
Election lesson: Don't get the cart before the horse
David Schreck Strategic Thoughts British Columbia Canada May 17, 2013
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Political watchers in general, and New Democrats in particular, will argue for a long time over whether a different NDP campaign or a different leader might have yielded an NDP win on May 14th. There is no way to resolve the "what-ifs" about the election campaign because all we know with certainty is the Liberals did exactly what they predicted with a stunning come from-behind-win.
Like almost all observers, save for exceptions like Trevor Lautens in the North Shore News, I thought the only question on election night would be the size of the NDP majority. Hind sight is twenty-twenty. During the course of the campaign it is doubtful that anyone could have convinced those behind the central NDP campaign to take a different approach because opinion polls pointed to an NDP victory. That produced a campaign focused on managing expectations for a soon-to-be NDP government rather than a campaign aimed at winning votes. In hockey terms, the NDP ragged the puck, confident that its lead was invincible. A wildcard was introduced in the campaign with Dix's announcement on the Kinder Morgan pipeline that caught everyone by surprise, including most NDP candidates. That announcement may have helped the NDP win two Vancouver seats but it framed the Liberal narrative perfectly, possibly contributing to the loss of far more seats elsewhere.
The pollsters also have a lot of explaining to do. They aren't in the business of predicting, although many read the polls as if they were. The companies can always say that they take a snapshot at a point-in-time and things change after that. Angus Reid wrote in the Globe and Mail that "Now, pollsters must figure out how our projections were so off." Good to hear that admitted. Ipsos Reid issued a news release taking a different tack. ...
Some New Democrats cling to the excuse that the Greens cost the party the election. That argument is nonsense. The Greens are not an offshoot of the NDP; they are not soft New Democrats. In Oak Bay Gordon Head where Andrew Weaver made history as the first Green to win a seat in the provincial legislature, the NDP vote dropped from 44% in 2009 to 28% in 2013; the Liberal vote also fell from 47% in 2009 to 30% in 2013. In Sannich North and the Islands, the seat that closely resembles Green MP Elizabeth May's federal riding, a close three way race means the final count on May 26 will determine the outcome. In 2009 that seat went Liberal with 45% of the vote to the NDP's 44%. The early vote in 2013 has the Liberals at 33.01%, the NDP at 33.19% and the Greens at 31.86%, a gap of just 52 votes between the NDP and the Liberal with the Greens 387 behind. It appears that the Greens drew equally from previous Liberal and NDP voters. On a personal level, I know Green supporters who would never consider voting NDP; no one can consider them to be soft New Democrats. Mathematically one can add the NDP and Green votes and compare the sum to the Liberal vote; politically the separate columns are distinct and as mixable as oil and water.
Once dashed expectations fade, the good news for the NDP is a caucus of 33 (subject to a few seats more or less after the final count with the absentee ballots). Government functions best with a capable opposition; the NDP must demonstrate that it can be credible in that role and not simply withdraw in sorrow for itself. MLAs are well paid and have caucus and constituency staff to assist them. Those resources need to be applied effectively in doing the people's business, not wasted in an exercise of treading water for several years. With a tone that is not shrill and arguments that are reasonable, the Official Opposition needs to show that it is far more than a defeated political party.
Some might argue that what happens between elections doesn't matter since, according to Ipsos Reid, the outcome was determined by 11% of voters who made up their minds when they marked their ballots. Voters may not be as knowledgeable about every twist and turn that political junkies follow with glee, but they pay enough attention to form an opinion, whether that is months or seconds before they vote. The 2013 election shows the last few days of the campaign are extremely important, but it does not support the argument that the four years preceding the vote can be ignored. ...
Premier Clark will have respect and control of her party and caucus that was beyond her grasp before the election. Her MLAs know she won the election for them. Her caucus is large enough to allow her to reward loyalty and deal with trouble makers. She will be challenged to demonstrate statesman-like qualities and not make gaffs that some thought damaged her image over the last two years. She has an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and establish a new image.
The big challenges for the government will be things beyond their control. ...