The first bombardment took three minutes and forty seconds. Sixty Israeli F-16 fighter jets bombed fifty sites in Gaza, killing over two hundred Palestinians, and wounding close to a thousand more.
A few hours after the deadly strike, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened a press conference in Tel-Aviv. With Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni sitting on his right and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on his left, he declared: “It may take time, and each and every one of us must be patient so we can complete the mission.”
But what exactly, one might ask, is Israel’s mission?
Although Olmert did not say as much, the “mission” includes four distinct objectives.
We often get the impression through our dumbed down media that all Israelis feel one way and all Palestinians feel the opposite way.
Neve Gordon is just one example of how that notion is a deadly myth. As someone who served in the Israeli military in an IDF paratrooper unit and was wounded in action, resulting in a 42 percent disability, he is someone who knows a thing or two about the nature of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.
He is known for his views on social justice and is a vocal critic of Israeli policies. Gordon is a Senior Lecturer and head of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University. He is the author of "Israel's Occupation," University of California Press, 2008, which can be purchased here.
Obama promised that he would investigate and prosecute Bush team for "genuine crimes" because no one is above the law, but he would not prosecute "really dumb policies." Obama plans to have his AG review the available information to determine if investigations are needed. Well, AG nominee Eric Holder knows that many crimes have been committed:
Our government authorized the use of torture, approved of secret electronic surveillance against American citizens, secretly detained American citizens without due process of law, denied the writ of habeas corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants and authorized the use of procedures that violate both international law and the United States Constitution.... We owe the American people a reckoning.
Peacenik has been busy enjoying Christmas and the lead up to the New Year. Peacenik suspended reality for a few days to do this. This article about war crimes and the Bush administration is a good avenue back to reality. Lots of reality coming. CNBC, the corporate media arm of General Electric, which itself has been in line for a bailout, has been busy during the holidays touting the danger of excessive financial regulation. The mid-east is in flames again. GMAC just got a $5 billion bailout. The holidays have been the lull before the storm. Peacenik's google alerts about empty grocery shelves are becoming more alarming. Peacenik says its time to enjoy New Year's Eve celebrations, and its time to wake up and get ready. 2009 will be a year of a new reality.
Ever since 1948, we've been hearing this balderdash from the Israelis – just as Arab nationalists and then Arab Islamists have been peddling their own lies: that the Zionist "death wagon" will be overthrown, that all Jerusalem will be "liberated". And always Mr Bush Snr or Mr Clinton or Mr Bush Jnr or Mr Blair or Mr Brown have called upon both sides to exercise "restraint" – as if the Palestinians and the Israelis both have F-18s and Merkava tanks and field artillery. Hamas's home-made rockets have killed just 20 Israelis in eight years, but a day-long blitz by Israeli aircraft that kills almost 300 Palestinians is just par for the course.
The blood-splattering has its own routine. Yes, Hamas provoked Israel's anger, just as Israel provoked Hamas's anger, which was provoked by Israel, which was provoked by Hamas, which ... See what I mean? Hamas fires rockets at Israel, Israel bombs Hamas, Hamas fires more rockets and Israel bombs again and ... Got it? And we demand security for Israel – rightly – but overlook this massive and utterly disproportionate slaughter by Israel. It was Madeleine Albright who once said that Israel was "under siege" – as if Palestinian tanks were in the streets of Tel Aviv.
By last night, the exchange rate stood at 296 Palestinians dead for one dead Israeli. Back in 2006, it was 10 Lebanese dead for one Israeli dead. This weekend was the most inflationary exchange rate in a single day since – the 1973 Middle East War? The 1967 Six Day War? The 1956 Suez War? The 1948 Independence/Nakba War? It's obscene, a gruesome game – which Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, unconsciously admitted when he spoke this weekend to Fox TV. "Our intention is to totally change the rules of the game," Barak said.
If there is one debate that trumps all others in terms of mainstream media bias, it is the question of Israel and Palestine. This article by Robert Fisk in Britain's Independent is the exception by a wide margin in that is strives for balance and objectivity.
Put simply, in the eyes of Western media, the Israelis can do no wrong; they merely act in self defence. The Palestinian leadership (and by implication, all Palestinians, are always the instigators); Israel acts 'humanely,' Arabs have no respect for human life, etc., etc. We hear this ad nasuem in each round of this tragic conflict. This is the narrative at work throughout the 'liberal media,' and it is has become a sick joke to try to find some balanced reporting each time this prolonged clash flares up.
Given the power of the Israeli lobby (see AIPAC), this should come us no surprise. Even Jimmy Carter can't criticize Israel without encountering the establishment's wrath while being shunned by his own party's orthodoxy. Thank God for Mr. Fisk who at least attempts to give us a proportioned perspective.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to find some links for the above comment, but what the hell is wrong with the internet? Who cut the damn underwater cables this time?
A strong economy must be built on a solid foundation of steadily rising wages. If wages don't keep pace with production, the only way the economy can grow is through the expansion of debt, which leads to disaster.
Consider this: the US economy is 72 percent consumer spending. That means the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) cannot grow if salaries don't keep up with the price of living. Low Income Families (LOF)--that is, any couple making less than $80,000--represent 50 percent of all consumer spending. These LOF's spend everything they earn just to maintain their present standard of living. So, how can these families help to grow the economy if they're already spending every last farthing they earn?
They can't! Which is why wages have to go up. The cost to short-term profits is miniscule compared to the turmoil of a deep recession which is what the world is facing right now. The present crisis could have been avoided if there was a better balance between management and labor. But the unions are weak, so salaries have languished while Wall Street has grown more powerful, stretching its tentacles into the government and spreading its anti-labor dogma wherever it goes.
The investor class has rejiggered the system to meet their particular needs. Financial wizardry has replaced factories, capital formation and hard assets while real wealth has been replaced by chopped up bits of mortgage paper, stitched together by Ivy League MBAs, and sold to investors as priceless gemstones. This is the system that Bernanke is trying to resuscitate with his multi-trillion dollar injections; a system that shifts a larger and larger amount of the nation's wealth to a smaller and smaller group of elites.
When Alan Greenspan appeared before Congress a few months ago, he admitted that he had discovered a "flaw" in his theory of how markets operate. The former Fed chief was referring to his belief that investment bankers could be trusted to regulate themselves. Whether one believes Greenspan was telling the truth or not is irrelevant. What really matters is that the wily Maestro managed to skirt the larger issues and stick to his script. Congress never challenged Greenspan's discredited, trickle-down economic theories which guided his policymaking from the get-go. Nor was he asked to explain how a consumer-driven economy can thrive when salaries stay flat for 30 years. An answer to that question might have exposed Greenspan's penchant for low interest rates and deregulation, the two fuel-sources for the massive speculative bubbles which emerged on Greenspan's watch. These are the tools the Fed chief used for 18 years to enrich his buddies at the big brokerage houses while workers slipped further and further into debt.
As usual, Mike Whitney cuts through all the doublespeak about what is wrong with the economy, who caused it and what to do about it. He notes that salaries (thus wages) have basically stayed flat for 30 years. Punditman has noticed that the cost of living hasn't. I am assuming Whitney is excluding the parasitic financial sector from his generalization—the geniuses who got us into this mess—as well as professional athletes and a few other obscenely paid "employees" such as lying media anchorpersons and loud-mouthed blithering sportscasters—but I digress.
To stimulate the economy, the answer is not to keep the average worker one paycheck away from the homeless shelter by allowing them to accumulate more and more unsupportable debt. The answer is (wait for it)...more income at the bottom end of the economy! Imagine that. To get out of this mess, all households that make under 80 K need a raise. I find this oddly optimistic (now: how do you un-brainwash and politicize this huge constituency?).
"Apology" Letter was Written Against His Will
Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi became an international celebrity when eight days ago he hurled his shoes at President Bush during a press conference. The move has had a myriad of surprising effects, from a huge financial boost for a Turkish shoe company to potentially ending the British military presence in Iraq.
One other thing it did was put renewed scrutiny on the Iraqi justice system and how it treats its detainees. That scrutiny is likely to be increasingly uncomfortable as Zeidi’s brother, the first family member permitted to see the journalist in jail, reports of his torture in the hours after his arrest.
The report also throws into doubt last week’s “apology” letter, which brother Uday al-Zeidi insists Muntadar wrote against his will after his torture. Prime Minister Maliki’s subsequent claim that Zeidi “confessed” that the mastermind behind the intricate plot (the sum total of which consist of removing his shoes and throwing them as hard as he could at the President’s head) was an unnamed militant known for slitting throats is likely to also face further doubts amid the allegations.
Here is the follow-up confirmation to what punditman hinted would happen to this fella back here. So here's the size of it: you throw a shoe at the world's number war criminal and you get tortured by a puppet regime supported by the war criminal regime who happens to have authorized torture. This of course is all masquerading under the banner of democratic reform in an oil-rich country. What kind of upside down world is this?
The shoe-man has caused quite a stir. Rick Salutin of the Globe and Mail notes that this should be viewed as a Christmas present for all of us who seek non-violent (well, almost ;-) ways to react to injustice. His article, Peace on Earth, good shoes toward men can be read over at rabble here.
Iran MP Insists Deliveries Already Started
The potential sale of Russia’s S-300 air defense system to Iran has caused Israeli officials no end of concern, but as Major General Amos Gilad wrapped up his visit to Russia that nation’s intentions with respect to the system depend largely on whom you believe.
Pyotr Stegny, Russia’s ambassador to Israel, says there is no question of such a sale, adding the Russia is adhering to agreements reached during Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s visit to Moscow. Beyond that, the ambassador insists, Israel “will be the first to know about any progress or change in the matter of the missiles.”
But Esmail Kosari, member of Iranian parliament and Deputy Head of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, says today that Iran and Russia have reached an agreement on the delivery of the system after years of negotiations.The S-300 series of surface to air missiles are the backbone of Russia’s air defense system, and their acquisition by Iran would make Israel’s long threatened attack on Iran considerably more difficult. Israel previously claimed to be developing an “electronic warfare device” which would neutralize the S-300 both in Iran and in Russia but has since claimed that the acquisition of the defensive missiles by Iran could lead to the destruction of Israel.
All this talk of the economy, who Obama has chosen, who he has not or what Stephen Harper will do next--can lead you, dear reader, astray. Let's not forget about a bigger and potentially deadlier picture. As usual, it is difficult to know who to believe, at first glance, when it comes to the Middle East. But with the global focus on jobs, the region's sabre rattling keeps apace with the military industrial complex and the complex alliances that feed it. Stay tuned...
The credit - or financial- crisis we are drowning in today was caused by one thing: bankers and other financial institutions treated their deposits and other solid assets as items that could be put on casino tables as collateral for bets. Anything they could claim ownership of was laid out right there in front of the dealer, and the dealer accepted it. This was possible because regulators, and governments in general, loosened definitions of ownership (is that really yours, sir? ), and allowed their fat fingered bankers to bet 10-20-100 more than they actually showed the dealer, who in turn assumed the government would be good for it.
This part of the casino has now been closed; the tables are empty, the chips are missing, and Mr. Luciano is out looking for kneecaps.
Ilargi's post follows Peacenik's rant about the banks yesterday. The banks gambled away the world's wealth and now the bankrupt system is beyond salvation. Chrsyler just announced it is shutting down all its operations for a month. Does anyone really believe that Chrysler is going to re-open. Just for old time's sake Peacenik will visit a few car dealerships and take some pictures. Peacenik is documenting history, ancient history. Motorola just announced it is freezing salaries and pensions. The dominos begin to fall. The consumer society is dead. Peacenik's sad advice is to save your cash and buy food and water only. And beer. Peacenik got Peacenik's first Google Alert about groceries this morning. Stay tuned, the early warning system is operational.
The Canadian Bankers Association – which represents 51 domestic and foreign banks – is telling Ontario in a carefully worded pre-budget submission to cut corporate taxes in its next budget. It argues that tax cuts are necessary to boost the province's productivity, which is key to preserving a high standard of living and "a large number of high-quality, high-paying jobs."
This headline should be a clarion call to revolution. This headline should herald a replay of the Russian Revolution. The utter arrogance, selfishness, and ignorance of the Canadian Bankers Association is disgusting. Let Peacenik get this straight. The financial industry through its own malfeasance created a bunch of debt that is now worthless. The worthless debt is sucking all the wealth generated in the last 20 years into a black hole. Our feckless political leaders have already committed more than $25 billion of taxpayer dollars to help the financial industry.
And now at a time of crisis, when everyone should be working together to avoid financial Armageddon, the bankers see an opportunity to push for lower taxes. If any bank wants to change jurisdictions let them first show the public what assets they hold on their balance sheets. And if they are bankrupt, then force them into bankruptcy. Fire every one of them and arrest every one of them that has committed any crime. Confiscate every piece of property they have gained through any illegal activities. The Canadian Bankers Association makes a mockery of corporate social responsibility. Peacenik needs to calm down.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears to have finally 'got religion' when it comes to the economy:
"The truth is, I've never seen such uncertainty in terms of looking forward to the future," the Prime Minister told CTV News in Halifax. "I'm very worried about the Canadian economy."
Perhaps he is. Of course he's finally figured out what to do, not because he wants to do it, but because his political survival is at stake. A substantive economic stimulus package goes against every bone in his rigid ideological frame, so it is no wonder he has been dragged kicking and whining in the direction of John Maynard Keynes.
What Punditman finds interesting is that even some of the Prime Minister's allies and supporters have been very critical of him and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty when it comes to the economy.
The ill-fated fiscal update of Nov. 27— which has caused so much hubbub in the country— has led many to call for Mr. Flaherty's resignation. Let us recall exactly what was in the original package: plans to cut government spending; suspension of the right to strike for civil servants until 2011 and of the right for women to seek legal recourse for pay equity issues; the selling off of some Crown assets to raise capital; elimination of the existing political party subsidies of $1.95 for each vote a party receives; and, no stimulus package (the government claimed they had already done that).
That's about as far-right as you can go without becoming Genghis Kahn.
The two political volcanoes, namely the move to discard per-vote subsidies for political parties and to ban public-sector workers from striking, struck a sour note with University of Western Ontario economics professor emeritus David Laidler, quoted thusly in today's Globe and Mail, "It was just outrageous and absolutely improper," said the member of the righwing C.D. Howe Institute's monetary policy council.
"I was frankly very surprised because I thought Flaherty was a pretty competent guy."
Sensing that Harper had gone too far in his partisanship and in his failure to act on the economy before the planned budget in January, it's no wonder the opposition perceived a chink in the Tory armour and formed a coalition. They were hoping public opinion would follow. Thus far, they have won no popularity contests, the country remains in a divisive condition and it is anyone's guess how this "prorogued parliament" will play out now that the Liberals have dumped Stephan Dion and coronated Michael Ignatieff.
But one thing is clear: it seems that even Harper's fellow travelers can only stomach so much of his nasty partisanship and far-right fetishism, which should give big pause to those who voted for him.
Hey! That is a point worth repeating when you are forced to discuss Canadian politics over turkey with some of your Harper-ite relatives.
So just how rightwing is Stephen Harper? Recent events tell the tale.
• Bailiffs prepare for busiest Christmas as shops go under
Zoe Wood, retail correspondent
Fears that scores of supermarket suppliers will go bust next year have led the country's major chains to draw up emergency plans to replace them, The Observer can reveal.
Separately, on the high street, bailiffs are getting ready for their busiest Christmas ever, with a slew of retailers expected to go into administration.
Supermarket chain Asda, led by Andy Bond, is working on 'worst-case scenarios' across the board - combing its supplier base and examining alternatives to them. 'Suppliers are under a lot of pressure and there will be casualties,' said a senior executive at another store chain, which has already stepped in to pay troubled suppliers ahead of schedule. 'We need each other, it is not a zero-sum game.'
This is the article that panicked Peacenik yesterday into setting up a Google Alert. Peacenik has to confess that Peacenik's search strategy yesterday may have been too precise. Peacenik has received no alerts since yesterday. After re-reading this article Peacenik is going to add another alert: +food +shortages. Again Peacenik will share the results of Peacenik's early warning system with Punditman readers. But Peacenik is not in a state of total panic. Peacenik has not purchased a portable water filtration system yet. Peacenik has however gotten a few bags of rice.
The peak oil story has not been nullified by the scramble to unload every asset for cash -- including whomping gobs of oil contracts -- during this desperate season of bank liquidation. The main implication of the peak oil story is that we won't be able to generate the kind of economic growth that defined our way of life for decades because the primary energy resources needed for it will be contracting.
Just as global oil production peaked, our economy evolved into a morbid hypertrophy, and the chief manifestation of it was the suburban sprawl-building fiesta that has now climaxed in the real estate bust. By the early 21st century, when so much American manufacturing had been swapped out to Asia, there was no business left except sprawl-building -- a manifold tragedy which wrecked the banks that financed it, and left the ordinary people mortgaged to it with ruinous liabilities.
Peacenik has mentioned in the past that Peacenik is concerned about shortages at the grocery stores and beer stores. This raises the question about how one should try to prepare for sudden shortages. Will there be warning signs? Will there be alarms? Should Peacenik start preparing for shortages now? When is it too late? Quite independent of Peacenik's concern, are weekend reports of shortages, unrelated to bankruptcy, in a food store in Florida. Major food suppliers in the U.K. are about to go bankrupt. Kunstler and Ilargi both mention the probability of food shortages in the near future.
With a nephew killed in Afghanistan and a son headed for the same war zone, a grieving and frustrated Russell Higgins says Canadian soldiers are being wasted on a foolish mission.
Reached at his home yesterday in Upper Musquodoboit, N.S., Higgins said, "I don't figure our boys should be over there to start with. It's a fight that can't be won. They have been doing the same thing over there since the Crusades. You can't win a war against people that don't mind dying."
Higgins' nephew Cpl. Thomas James Hamilton, 26, was one of three Canadian soldiers killed Saturday by a roadside bomb. Pte. John Michael Roy Curwin and Pte. Justin Peter Jones, 21, also died.
punditman says...I wonder how many relatives of soldiers killed or wounded in Afghanistan feel the same way but are afraid to express themselves? I wonder how many Canadians are weary of watching Don Cherry's jingoism on display on Saturday nights as he shows the faces of the fallen on Hockey Night in Canada? There is now a pullout date of 2011 for this combat mission--contingent on another NATO country putting more than 1,000 soldiers into the southern province of Kandahar, by no means a guarantee.
Nevertheless, one gets the feeling from those who support the mission that they inhabit a certain obedient personality type; they will support the war from now until hell freezes over, or at least until the government tells them it is over. Call it deference to authority in the face of a very authoritarian Prime Minister.
Speaking of whom, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, "This tragic incident demonstrates the considerable risk faced by the exceptional men and women of the Canadian Forces as they work to promote freedom, security and democracy in Afghanistan."
Glowing words of liberty from the man who just prorogued Parliament.
Iraqi security officers and U.S. secret service agents leapt at the man and dragged him struggling and screaming out of the room where Bush was giving a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The shoes missed their target about 15 feet (4.5 metres) away. One sailed over Bush's head as he stood next to Maliki and smacked into the wall behind him. Bush smiled uncomfortably and Maliki looked strained.
punditman says...I second that emotion. But I would like to see the follow-up story as to what happens to the Iraqi journalist.
But on Thursday morning, this consummate trader, Bernard L. Madoff, was arrested at his Manhattan home by federal agents who accused him of running a multibillion-dollar fraud scheme — perhaps the largest in Wall Street’s history.
Regulators have not yet verified the scale of the fraud. But the criminal complaint filed against Mr. Madoff on Thursday in federal court in Manhattan reports that he estimated the losses at $50 billion. “We are alleging a massive fraud — both in terms of scope and duration,” said Linda Chatman Thomsen, director of the enforcement division at the Securities and Exchange Commission. “We are moving quickly and decisively to stop the fraud and protect remaining assets for investors.”
Peacenik woke up this morning and Conjure Bag was officially calling a depression. The Dow futures were way down. The goofballs on CNBC were freaking. Peacenik is on a day off and is now watching CNBC. Equador just defaulted on its foreign debt. GM just announced that it will shutdown for Jan. and part of Feb. Yes the news is all bad. The GOP had no problem giving $700 billion to the banks with no strings attached but $14 billion for the auto industry was too much unless the unions were destroyed. Oh, and by the way, this post has one of Wall Street's most respected persons admitting that his business was a Ponzi Scheme and $50 billion has gone poof. Why would anyone have money in the stock market? Lucky this is Friday. Peacenik is going to have a beer. Have a good weekend.
Dec 11, 2008 04:30 AM
Les Whittington Ottawa Bureau
OTTAWA–Newly appointed Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff warned Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the government's fate will depend on the Conservatives' willingness to rescue Canada's economy.
There will be no early truce in the high-stakes showdown pitting the Liberals and other opposition parties against the minority Conservatives, Ignatieff signalled yesterday.
Peacenik thinks this threat by Ignatieff is laughable. He might as well say "stop the world turning or else." The economy will not be fixed by anything Harper can do. The aftermath can be alleviated. Peacenik is not sold on Ignatieff. Early reviews are saying he lacks warmth and personality. And Peacenik knows he is a genius. These are the same early reviews that Stephane Dion got. However, Peacenik thinks Harper hit his highwater mark in the last election. He ran against worst Liberal campaign of this and the last century and still couldn't get a majority. The Coalition stopped the Shock Doctrine from being instituted and the sheeple screamed. Sometimes the sheeple are very scary. Peacenik thinks that at the very least the Liberals under Ignatieff can lead a minority gov't that can survive with NDP and Green support.
Mubarak accused the Islamic Republic of trying to subsume its Muslim neighbors, telling the forum that "the Persians are trying to devour the Arab states."
Even Hosni Mubarak is getting in on the demonizing Iran act. Peacenik followed the Iranian Threat link on the Jerusalem Post's banner and there is quite a landry list of stories. George Bush isn't acting like someone who wants to attack Iran right now. But there are lots of others who would. And can.
The last time I visited Greece, I was caught in the middle of a tear-gas charge by police in Thessaloniki - a remarkably unpleasant experience, if you have not tried it. My eyes were in screaming pain for an hour.
Protesters smashed up the shops on the main drag, broke the windows of my hotel, and torched a few cars.
So the latest four-day episode in Athens and other Greek cities comes as no great surprise. The Greeks are a feisty people. This is meant as a compliment - broadly speaking - just in case any Greek readers should take it the wrong way. Hitler was so impressed by Greek bravery that he accorded Greek soldiers full military honours, almost the sole example among captive nations in the East - or at least professed to do so at first.
Greece is a civilized country. Evans-Pritchard sees this as the future of many European countries including Spain. Peacenik fears this is the world's future. It is not just the slaying of a teenager that is fueling the Greek crisis. Today there is a general strike in Greece. Today Toyota announced cutbacks to production in its Ontario plants. Today Office Depot announced the closure of over a hundred North American stores. Today U.S. Treasuries are offering a negative return on investment. Today AIG lost another $10 Billion. And on and on. Oh well, maybe Punditman's skates are fitting Punditman better after another adjustment.
Behind the debate over remaking U.S. financial policy will be a debate over who’s to blame. It’s crucial to get the history right, writes a Nobel-laureate economist, identifying five key mistakes—under Reagan, Clinton, and Bush II—and one national delusion.
There will come a moment when the most urgent threats posed by the credit crisis have eased and the larger task before us will be to chart a direction for the economic steps ahead. This will be a dangerous moment. Behind the debates over future policy is a debate over history—a debate over the causes of our current situation. The battle for the past will determine the battle for the present. So it’s crucial to get the history straight.
What were the critical decisions that led to the crisis? Mistakes were made at every fork in the road—we had what engineers call a “system failure,” when not a single decision but a cascade of decisions produce a tragic result. Let’s look at five key moments.
Maybe it is too early to start considering the history of the current financial crisis. But when you read the history, it makes Peacenik worried that Obama's team may not be the right people to fix the crisis. It makes Peacenik worried that it is not able to be fixed. And look at this quote by Alan Greenspan at recent congressional hearings: "Congressman Henry Waxman pushed him, responding, “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right; it was not working.” “Absolutely, precisely,” Greenspan said." If the current ideology is wrong, what ideology is going to replace it? Socialism, Libertarianism, facism, communism, something new?
Global Research, December 9, 2008
At the Prime Minister’s request, the newly minted 40th parliament of Canada has been prorogued, closed until January 26th, creating a situation unprecedented in Canadian history — a government has avoided defeat by dismissing the nation’s lawmakers.
Over the next seven weeks, we will see a wave of propaganda and mobilization, amply funded, from the Conservative Party attacking the opposition leaders. This spending will take place outside the election writ period and thus, like the attacks on Liberal leader Stéphane Dion over the past two years, will be subject to no spending limits whatsoever.
At the end of January, on the date that he has chosen, Mr. Harper will meet Parliament and present a budget.
If his budget and/or throne speech fail to pass the House, Mr. Harper will seek — perhaps successfully — to dissolve parliament and go to a general election. He will have the momentum of seven weeks of wall-to-wall campaigning, without bothersome election spending restrictions, at his back.
If the Conservatives receive a couple of percentage points more of the vote (or if, for example, the Green Party takes one or two percentage points more), Mr. Harper may well receive the majority he has been desperately seeking.
With a majority, Mr. Harper will be able to move rapidly to do many of the things he has been restrained from doing so far — whether this means emasculating the opposition parties by removing democratic, proportional, public funding, completing the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board, or undermining Aboriginal and women’s rights.
If the Liberals and the NDP enter the next election competing against each other as usual — something Mr. Harper is counting on — they will divide once again the votes of progressive Canadians (the majority) and may well leave themselves, and our democracy, badly damaged.
One thing Mr. Harper may not have counted on is that, instead of falling apart, the coalition may solidify and take the initiative.
This could happen if the NDP and the Liberals (and, hopefully, the Greens as well) make a concrete agreement not to run against each other in any riding in the country.
Perhaps Stephen Harper is checkmated or perhaps not. But the only real hope for Canadian progressives is a functional coalition of fellow travelers who can actually challenge the right-wing in Canada on the same playing field. Not the current namby pamby effort.
Unfortunately, it seems Michael ("Invade Iraq") Ignatieff looks as though he will gain control of the Liberals, at least for now. We are either back to square one and the Left will once again split into more pieces than a toxic derivative, or it is time to start to build a real coalition that can actually defeat Harper in the soon-to-be next election. Why not take it one step further and form a new party if necessary? Whaddya think, comrades?
The New York TimesPublished: December 9, 2008
ATHENS: Thousands of protesters marched on central Athens on Tuesday, facing off against police in riot gear and shouting anti-government slogans as Greece buried the teenager whose shooting by the police on Saturday set off some of the worst rioting here in recent years.
Violence erupted after the funeral of the teenager, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, 15, was held in the southern Athens suburb of Paleo Faliro.
The hour-long funeral went calmly but afterwards, as the hundreds of people who had gathered at the cemetery began to leave, bands of youths turned violent, hurling gasoline bombs and rocks as riot police moved in from the edges. Riot police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
Peacenik was reluctant to post Ilargi's post today. It is too bleak. Instead Peacenik is wondering about these riots in Greece. There also have been recent riots in Kenya and Zimbabwe. And in France in 2007. And today workers are occupying a factory in Chicago. In Guelph, Ontario, anarchists recently broke some windows in a Macdonalds. In spite of the enormous firepower of the state, citizens seem to be willing to take to the streets and protest. Now contemplate 5 or 6 million newly unemployed in the U.S. and Canada in the next several months. Imagine empty shelves in stores and empty tanks at gas stations. Maybe Peacenik just should have posted Ilargi after all.
One of Barack Obama’s first acts as president should be to instruct his attorney general to appoint an independent prosecutor to initiate a criminal investigation of former Bush Administration officials who gave the green light to torture.
At Obama’s press conference on Dec. 1, he spoke of upholding America’s highest values as he introduced Eric Holder as his choice for attorney general. Holder insisted there was no tension between protecting the people of the United States and adhering to our Constitution.
A few months ago, Holder was even more explicit. “Our government authorized the use of torture, approved of secret electronic surveillance against American citizens, secretly detained American citizens without due process of law, denied the writ of habeas corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants and authorized the use of procedures that violate both international law and the United States Constitution,” he said. “We owe the American people a reckoning.”The day of reckoning is fast upon us.
punditman says...But will it happen? I'd say don't hold your breath.
Cyclical terms like “recession” and “depression” are looking less appropriate by the day. It’s like calling the period between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance a “depression”.
I know the our situation is vastly different from the state of the world in Roman times, but the idea that we could be on the brink of a fundamental reset of civilization is intriguing, to say the least.
I've been convinced for several years that we are looking at the convergence of a set of wicked interlocking global problems -- ecological problems (climate chaos, the death of the oceans, fresh water shortages etc.), energy shortages due to fossil fuel depletion, and overpopulation with the resulting pressure on the global food supply. This convergence is happening under the umbrella of the current global financial collapse that constrains our ability to respond to any of these problems individually, let alone any further problems that might emerge from interactions between them.
When Peacenik started posting doomsday articles there were many doubters. What seemed fanciful in August seems like the good old days today. Is it possible? GliderGuider makes it sound not only possible but probable. Today the Chicago Tribune declared bankruptcy. All those leveraged buyouts by private equity firms don't seem likes such a good idea now. And there were thousands of them, all designed to rape the companies of value for the benefit of a few. It is all coming apart now. But Peacenik is optimistic. It won't be the worst case scenario. And once things do start to turn as most business cycles do, there may be a chance to rebuild a better society from the ashes of this one. Hows that for upbeat?
Who was behind the Mumbai massacre?Justin Raimondo
The idea that a nuclear war could be started by a hoax caller may seem too Bizarro Worldish, even for the post-9/11 era, but there you have it:
"A hoax caller claiming to be India's foreign minister threatened Pakistan's president with war during the final hours of the Mumbai attacks, prompting Islamabad to put its air force on its highest alert for nearly 24 hours, a news report said Saturday."
How did the Mumbai prankster get through to the president of Pakistan? Simple: caller ID! Naturally, these things can be faked, but what do they know in Pakistan? (Although I'll bet the caller wouldn't have gotten through to Gen. Pervez "No Nonsense" Musharraf, the previous "president"-cum-dictator.)
What this underscores – apart from the tenuous character of human existence and the utter absurdity of life – is how delicate the balance of terror is these days. One false move and – ka-boom! – the world (or a good chunk of it) goes up in a puff of smoke. If you like your humor dark and unsweetened, then this is mordantly funny. What's not so funny, however, is the probable answer to the obvious question: who made the call?
punditman says...This is a bit of a meandering column but well worth the read. It underscores the utter futlility of waging war in a region known for its byzantine politics and religious fanaticism. In other words, good luck trying to wade through the region by declaring as your objective the destruction of the abstract noun known as terrorism.
The broad American public voted for "change" but they thought that meant a "changing of the guard." Out with the feckless Bush; in with the charismatic Obama... and may this American life now continue just as it ever was. The change actually coming will be much more than they bargained for, namely our transition from a wealthy society to a hardship society. The sharp break is a product of our years-long failure to reckon with the energy realities of our time. We're still confused about that, but it's hard, otherwise, to ignore the massive disappearance of capital, asset values, livelihoods, domiciles, comforts, and necessities.
Its Monday morning. Do you know where your money is? Is your bank still in business? Do you still have a job. Is your government on vacation? Peacenik thinks Kunstler is almost optimistic in this post. At least he acknowleges the possibilty that people may react to the current depression with kindness rather than cruelness. Small mercies.
For those of us who always claimed some connection to the Keynesian tradition, this is a moment of triumph, after having been left in the wilderness, almost shunned, for more than three decades. At one level, what is happening now is a triumph of reason and evidence over ideology and interests.
Economic theory has long explained why unfettered markets were not self-correcting, why regulation was needed, why there was an important role for government to play in the economy. But many, especially people working in the financial markets, pushed a type of “market fundamentalism”. The misguided policies that resulted – pushed by, among others, some members of President-elect Barack Obama’s economic team – had earlier inflicted enormous costs on developing countries. The moment of enlightenment came only when those policies also began inflicting costs on the US and other advanced industrial countries.
Stiglitz of course is a world famous economist who Obama continues to ignore. Can the goofballs who created the present depression cure it? Yes, you read that correctly, "the present depression." The goofballs cannot cure the depression. It will play out. There is a sudden explosion of "how to survive a depression" articles. Peacenik will post some of these periodically. Good luck to all. Are the Leafs playing tonight?
The political situation in Canada – coup, crisis, call it what you want – continues to take new and dramatic turns. On Thursday morning, as expected, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seeking to avoid a confidence motion - which he would lose, given that his Conservative government only has a minority of the seats in the House of Commons - met with governor general Michaëlle Jean to ask her to prorogue, or end, the current session of Parliament. Instead of calling for another election or turning to the Liberal-New Democratic coalition (which, with support from the Bloc Québécois, holds the majority in Canada's House of Commons), Jean granted his request.
What this means is that there won't be another confidence motion until parliament resumes sitting late in January - seven weeks from now - at the earliest. The government may then lose a confidence vote on the Throne Speech, which will begin the next parliamentary session, or on the budget, but, in the meantime, both sides will campaign aggressively to woo public opinion – the Conservatives even more so given the fact that they have more money than the other parties. In other words, we're about to be sucked into an election campaign but without the election.
Enquiring minds want to know what Peacenik thinks about the Harper/Coalition catfight. Peacenik was an early and ardent supporter of the Coalition. Peacenik recognizes that the Conservatives have won the first round of spin. Harper's conflating the Coalition with Separatism seems to have succeeded. And Dion's pathetic appearance on tv failed. The Coalition cannot let Dion anywhere near a tv or microphone again. His voice alone grates on Peacenik's nerves. The Liberals need an interim leader. This will void the major rallying cry of the Conservatives. Then there can be a rational debate on the issues. Harper has walked away as jobs are swirling down the toilet. By the time Harper comes back from his vacation thousands and thousands more jobs will have disappeared. Peacenik saw the true face of Harper and the ideologues. The Coalition, minus the albatross of Dion, should be able to make their case. The rednecks, now screaming about the separatists and Dion attempting to steal the election, will be unemployed by January. Let a rested and tanned Harper face parliament then. Who you gonna blame?
The detonation of the banking sector brought about by the credit crunch has been tantamount to a revolution.
But the greatest transformations in society may come if voters refuse to allow politicians to repair the shattered jigsaw and instead demand a very different future.
Once any institution becomes associated with negligence and greed, the stain is almost impossible to remove.
The true legacy of the economic crisis may not be the emptying of Treasury funds and the decapitation of bank chiefs but the ideas that will circulate in the wake of this scandal.
The renaissance of radical thought is Peacenik's fondest dream. The danger is that the radical thought may turn out to be radical right wing thought. The Ron Pauls, and Huckabees, and Palins and libertarians aren't thinking about the commmon good as they start their campaigns for 2012. The CNBC Wall St.cheerleaders on tv are cheering for the downfall of the Big Three auto companies only so that those companies can walk away from their pension and benefit obligations. The status quo is not sustainable. Out of these dangerous times something new will emerge. It will be radical. Peacenik hopes it will be progressive. Have a good weekend.
NATO foreign ministers today praised America’s planned missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic as making a “substantial contribution” to protecting Europe from long-range ballistic missiles.
The United States insists that the shield is primarily directed at the threat of long-range Iranian missiles, though both the missile base and the radar station are well outside the range of Iran’s most advanced missile. Rather, Russia sees the bases and the 10 interceptor missiles to be placed there sometime in the next few years as an effort to slightly degrade their retaliatory capability.
President-elect Barack Obama has not yet committed to completing the base, saying he would do so only if the technology is proven workable. Russia has responded to the plan by threatening to place Iskander missiles and jamming equipment in the exclave of Kaliningrad to counter the shield. President Medvedev says his government is willing to reverse the decision to place the missiles in Kaliningrad if Obama cancels construction of the missile defense.
As senior citizens' savings evaporate into a firepit of financial ruin, as the credit crisis deepens and unemployment creeps upwards, why this is just what we need: another arms race based on a massively expensive technology that doesn't work and serves only to increase tensions with the Kremlin. How does the US/NATO expect the Russians to react? Just sit there and take it on the chin?
It kind of reminds me of the Canadian Parliament. What did Harper expect the opposition to do after he tried to cut them off at the knees? The art of compromise seems to have been expunged from political discourse.
By Eliot SpitzerPosted Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008, at 5:59 PM ET
Last month, as the financial crisis and the government rescue plan dominated headlines, almost everyone overlooked a news item that could have enormous long-term impact: GE Capital announced the acquisition of five mid-size airplanes—with an option to buy 20 more—produced by CACC, a new, Chinese-government-sponsored airline manufacturer.
Why is that so significant? Two reasons: First, just as small steps signaled the Asian entry into our now essentially bankrupt auto sector 50 years ago, so the GE acquisition signals Asia's entry into one of our few remaining dominant manufacturing sectors. Boeing is still the world's leading commercial aviation company. CACC's emergence—and its particular advantage selling to Asian markets—means that Boeing now faces the rigors of an entirely new competitive playing field and that our commercial airplane sector is likely to suffer enormously over the coming decades.
Peacenik welcomes Eliot Spitzer back from purgatory. Don't forget this story. Spitzer was a major thorn in Wall Street and looks like he will continue to be. Peacenik thinks Spitzer would approve of Canada's Conservative government just shutting down and doing nothing to solve the economic crisis. There is a wide body of opinion that believes all government efforts so far have not helped the situation. Ergo, no government, no problem. No leadership no problem. No policy no problem. Has Canada fluked its way into solving the global economic collapse? Stevie Harper thinks so.
SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER; With a report from The Canadian Press
December 4, 2008
The Liberals' chief whip is asking his MPs not to abandon the party as concerns grow about dissatisfaction over Stéphane Dion's leadership.
At a closed-door caucus meeting yesterday morning, Rodger Cuzner said that if rival parties approach MPs about crossing the floor "we want to hear about them first" - a recognition of how fragile things are for the Liberals under Mr. Dion.
A caucus insider said there is growing unease in the party with the accord reached between the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Tories mount a public-relations war against the coalition, which they are characterizing as an alliance with the separatists.
Peacenik watched all the speechifying last night, and all the punditfest aftermath. Duceppe seemed like the most likeable and sharpest of the bunch. Peacenik would be happy to have him as the front man for the Coalition. Dion did not come across well. Peacenik thinks the Liberals need a new temporary leader. Dion has too much negative baggage. Harper is meeting the GG right now. Peacenik is waiting.
Think an attack is unlikely now? Ask key Obama cabinet figures why they're still palling around with neocon hardliners on Iran.
A familiar coalition of hawks, hardliners, and neoconservatives expects Barack Obama's proposed talks with Iran to fail -- and they're already proposing an escalating set of measures instead. Some are meant to occur alongside any future talks. These include steps to enhance coordination with Israel, tougher sanctions against Iran, and a region-wide military buildup of U.S. strike forces, including the prepositioning of military supplies within striking distance of that country.
Once the future negotiations break down, as they are convinced will happen, they propose that Washington quickly escalate to war-like measures, including a U.S. Navy-enforced embargo on Iranian fuel imports and a blockade of that country's oil exports. Finally, of course, comes the strategic military attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran that so many of them have wanted for so long.
Peacenik is already whigged out over economic collapse, the constitutional crisis in Canada, Sean Avery's potty mouth, and now Peacenik reads a frightening post about Obama's foreign policy team. When will Peacenik get a break?
So let's see, what advantages have the federal lies, cooked books and hedonistic statistics had for the country and the citizens so far? Exactly, none. And I would venture that the NBER knew this well before the election. Its co-director is Christina Romer, who now features prominently on Obama's finance team. Think she didn't tell him back in October? If she did, why was he silent during the campaign? And if he was, what are the chances he'll start being honest now? He's losing me more every day, I for one do remember Hillary's war-mongering rhetoric, and no, she does not belong where she is right now. The world we're entering will be far too volatile for someone so obviously suffering from a severe case of estrogen imbalance.
Peacenik read Ilargi and asked Peacenik: Do you want Harper in power in this environment, or the coalition? Neither is a good option. But Peacenik thinks the coalition will care more about the unemployed and homeless and hungry than a Harper government. Yes it would be nice to let Harper totally screw up and reap the voter's anger. But this situation is just too dire. Events, political and economic, are out of control. Peacenik says "hold on."
At this point, I do not necessarily agree with Peacenik's sentiments below. This may surprise some readers who know me as someone who rails against neo cons and the corporate industrial nexus whenever I can. You think I'd be as happy as a Canuck in Cuba. Not so. I fear that this "no turning back" coalition could be very impolitic for Canada's leftish/centrist parties -- perhaps even an historic blunder of monumental proportions. No matter how arrogant, vindictive and blinkered Harper is, all you have to do is read the Toronto Sun to realize that the venom of Joe Six pack will be felt against the Left in this country for years to come. I urge readers to take a look at this article and read some of the hundreds of comments that follow.
Why am I torturing you? Because like it or not, that's how a lot of folks think. They see this as a profoundly undemocratic exercise.
Harper is crazy (like a fox). No dummy, he goes to where the puck is going, not to where it is.
Perhaps the opposition, especially the Liberals (get new leader, already!), should have just taken their licks from the government's "fall fiscal update," bided their time until the real budget arrives in January and let Harper dig his own grave? Another election was coming soon enough anyway; as the recession deepens, Harper's gang of neo-cons would have continued to show their true colours, sinking in the polls and shocking even some of their supporters. But now what?
Now, Punditman is worried that the Canadian populace will not be happy with this move by the opposition parties, because even many who voted against Harper will be annoyed at all the political bed hopping and blatant power grabbing. I could tell by my brief stint at the pub last night that people don't know about parliamentary procedures, much less give a give a damn about them. Most people won't understand how a guy that was not elected by the populace can possibly be the new PM -- even for a short stint. Leftish friends, get used to hearing this mantra everywhere you go: "Like it or not, Harper was elected, not Dion."
You won't want to leave your cubicles.
Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.
So what's next? Will a coalition survive? Will voters blame them as the recession kicks into overdrive? Would it have been better to wait and let the Conservatives implode? The glee that some are feeling on the Left may well be short-lived.
Another hockey analogy is in order: For his shenanigans, Canadians would probably have issued a double minor penalty to Harper in the form of two-minutes for delay of game and two minutes for "instigating" -- with further review and probable rebuke to follow after the current parliamentary game ends. Instead, I fear that Canadians could issue a game misconduct to the opposition in the form of a massive Conservative majority -- the first chance they get. That, dear progressive readers, will all be the fault of Canada's "coalition of the willing."
Punditman hopes very much that he is 100% wrong.
STEVEN CHASE and CAMPBELL CLARK AND BRIAN LAGHI
Globe and Mail Update
December 2, 2008 at 8:30 AM EST
OTTAWA — Stephen Harper's beleaguered Conservative government girded yesterday for an all-out battle to stave off imminent defeat at the hands of a newly minted Liberal-NDP coalition, signalling it might even move to terminate the current session of Parliament to do so.
This morning, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean announced she is cutting short a state visit to Central Europe to return to Canada on Wednesday "in light of the current political situation in Canada."
Government supporters said they are planning rallies across the country and will go door-to-door to gather signatures on a petition protesting against the deal that could lead to the Conservatives' ouster as early as next week by a coalition that would make Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion interim prime minister. Rally locations will include Rideau Hall – home of the Governor-General – and Parliament Hill. Sources say broadcast or print advertising is also a possibility.
Peacenik has been cogitating on this turn of events and Peacenik is now sleeping better. Peacenik supports the coalition. The Harper government has no greater claim to office than the coalition has. The Harper government has done great harm to Canadian society. The recent economic update showed, that at a time of maximum peril to Canada's well being, Harper chose ideology over reason. The Harper government believes in a free market approach to problems regardless the consequences. Now let it face the consequences. Peacenik says: "Adios."
Update: Peacenik just found this interesting take on the situation at Firedoglake. Check it out.
JANE TABER , BILL CURRY , CAMPBELL CLARK and STEVEN CHASE
Globe and Mail Update
December 1, 2008 at 5:47 PM EST
OTTAWA — The leaders of the three opposition parties presented their plan to topple Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government at a press conference in Ottawa late Monday afternoon.
The leaders of the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois publicly signed a coaltion accord and sent a letter to Governor-General Michaëlle Jean saying the opposition has lost confidence in the Conservatives.
The proposed coalition government between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party would last until June of 2011, but the Bloc is only pledging support for 18 months.
With events changing by the hour, Peacenik is finding it difficult to prognosticate. But at this juncture, Peacenik assumes that a Dion-led coalition is appointed. Peacenik also assumes the economy goes to hell anyway -- even with a big Liberal/NDP stimulus. Peacenik also projects that Harper will scream that his way would have worked and blames the Liberal/NDP alliance for all problems. The Sheeple agree and Harper gets elected with a huge majority and immediately institutes the Shock Doctrine. Canada then joins Zimbabwe as a world basketcase. Peacenik is having trouble sleeping.
1) Hold no debt (for most people this means renting)
Peacenik finally found a clear, lucid, set of instructions and explanations on how to survive the current financial crisis. Of course the ability of anyone to get beyond point one is questionable given the fact that governments and businesses have been encouraging just the opposite for more than 20 years. Is Stoneleigh anti-American? Is Stoneleigh a commie?
In the spring of 2007 a tiny military contractor with a slender track record went shopping for a precious Beltway commodity.
The company, Defense Solutions, sought the services of a retired general with national stature, someone who could open doors at the highest levels of government and help it win a huge prize: the right to supply Iraq with thousands of armored vehicles.
Access like this does not come cheap, but it was an opportunity potentially worth billions in sales, and Defense Solutions soon found its man. The company signed Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general and military analyst for NBC News, to a consulting contract starting June 15, 2007.
Peacenik thinks if Obama can change anything in the U.S. it would be nice if he could remind the media about little things like ethics and truth. The failure of the U.S. media in the last 20 years has as much as anything contributed to the multiple disasters the U.S. faces. Time for some serious regulation of the media. Bring back the fairness doctrine. Stop the concentration of corporate media. It would be a start.
There's a rapidly developing consensus among Washington's Very Serious person set that Obama's plans to negotiate with Iran should get only one try, and if that fails then the bombing should begin.
Today Iran's parliamentary Speaker and the Ayatollah's most trusted negotiator, Ali Larijani, told the press that Iran's parliament is considering a request from the U.S. Congress to "parliamentary negotiations between the two countries". (And just wait till the wingnuts start howlking about a Dem Congress sidelining the Lame Duck In Chief!) Also today, France's President Sarkozy partly walked back his previous confrontational rhetoric on Iran and said that Obama's statements "reflect our shared views on the necessity of dialogue without concessions with Tehran as the only way to obtain a negotiated end to the crisis."
Obama's right wing foreign affairs team is crazy. And the neocons are still talking up attacking Iran. Peacenik thinks this is laughable. Why is the neocon establishment pressuring Obama? Their boy Bush is still in charge. They own him. Peacenik doesn't think an attack on Iran is going to happen. That window is closed.