Monday, 18 July 2016

Donald Trump

To call Donald Trump a fascist of some variety is simply to use a historical label that fits.

By Adam Gopnik

The best show in New York right now may be the Guggenheim’s retrospective of the work of László Moholy-Nagy (pronounced “nadge,” not “nadgy,” a lesson hard learned). Born to a Jewish family in Hungary in 1895, he assimilated all the advances and visual novelties of the early part of the twentieth century, from Russia and Paris alike, and turned them into an adaptable graphic manner that made him one of the indispensable teachers at the Bauhaus, in Dessau, Germany, in the nineteen-twenties, under Walter Gropius. When Hitler came to power, this citizen of cosmopolitanism then emigrated—heading first to Britain, where he made wonderful posters for the London Underground, and eventually and happily to Chicago, where he became one of the key figures in implementing the lessons of modern design that made Chicago a city of such architectural excitement in the mid-century. (Though how much pain and anxiety and sheer disrupted existence are covered over in the words “then emigrated”!)

Two thoughts, not strictly political but social, come to mind as one exits the museum: First, that the Weimar Republic gets a very bad rap for how it ended and insufficient credit for how much creative ferment and intelligent thought it contained. The notion that it was above all, or unusually, decadent was a creation of its enemies, who defined the creative energies of cosmopolitanism in that way. All republics are fragile; the German one, like the Third French Republic it paralleled, did not commit suicide—it was killed, by many murderers, not least by those who thought they could contain an authoritarian thirsting for power. And, second, that the United States has been the ultimate home of so many cosmopolitan citizens rejected by Europe. People expelled by hate from Europe wanted desperately to get to the American Midwest, to cities like Chicago—and, no doubt, to Cleveland, where the Republican Party holds its Convention next week. Cosmopolitanism is not a tribal trait; it is a virtue, as much as courage or honesty or compassion. Almost without exception, the periods of human civilization that we admire as we look back have been cosmopolitan in practice; even those, like the Bronze Age, that we imagine as monolithic and traditional turn out to be shaped by trade and exchange and multiple identity.

We walk out of the beautiful museum and find ourselves back in a uniquely frightening moment in American life. A candidate for President who is the announced enemy of the openness that America has traditionally stood for and that drew persecuted émigrés like Moholy-Nagy to America as to a golden land, a candidate who embraces the mottos and rhetoric of the pro-fascist groups of that same wretched time, has taken over one of our most venerable political parties, and he seems still in the ascendancy. His language remains not merely sloppy or incendiary but openly hostile to the simplest standards of truth and decency that have governed American politics. Most recently, just this week, he has repeated the lie that there has been a call for “a moment of silence” in honor of the murderer of five policemen in Dallas.

This ought to be, as people said quaintly just four or five months ago, “disqualifying.” Nonetheless, his takeover of the Republican Party is complete, and, in various postures of spinelessness, its authorities accede to his authority, or else opportunistically posture for a place in the wake of it. Many of them doubtless assume that he will lose and are hoping for a better position afterward—still, the very small show of backbone that would be required to resist his takeover seems unavailable. Even those who clearly fear and despise him, like the Bush family, seem able to register their opposition only in veiled language and cautiously equivocal formulations; Jeb Bush knows what Trump is, but still feels obliged to say that he would “feel sad” if Trump lost.

What is genuinely alarming is the urge, however human it may be, to normalize the abnormal by turning toward emotions and attitudes that are familiar. To their great credit, the editors of most of the leading conservative publications in America have recognized Trump for what he is, and have opposed his rise to power. Yet the habit of hatred is so ingrained in their psyches that even those who recognize at some level that Trump is a horror, when given the dangling bait of another chance to hate Hillary still leap at it, insisting on her “criminality” at the very moment when it’s officially rejected, and attempting to equate this normal politician with an abnormal threat to political life itself. They do this, in part, to placate their readership. In the so-called mainstream (call it liberal) media, meanwhile, the election is treated with blithe inconsequence, as another occasion for strategy-weighing. The Times, to take one example, ran a front-page analysis criticizing Trump for being insufficiently able to exploit a political opening given by the investigation into Clinton’s e-mail, with the complaint seeming to be that Trump just isn’t clever enough to give us a good fight—to be the fun opponent we want. If only he had some more skill at this! While the habits of hatred get the better of the right, the habits of self-approval through the fiction of being above it all contaminate the center.

A certain number of the disengaged insist that Trump isn’t really as bad as all that. And there may indeed be another universe in which Donald Trump is one more blowhard billionaire with mixed-up politics but a basically benevolent heart, a Ross Perot type, or perhaps more like Arnold Schwarzenegger, preaching some confused combination of populism and self-help and doomed to flounder when he comes to power. This would not be the worst thing imaginable. Unfortunately, that universe is not this one. Trump is unstable, a liar, narcissistic, contemptuous of the basic norms of political life, and deeply embedded among the most paranoid and irrational of conspiracy theorists. There may indeed be a pathos to his followers’ dreams of some populist rescue for their plights. But he did not come to political attention as a “populist”; he came to politics as a racist, a proponent of birtherism. (Obama not born in USA)

As I have written before, to call him a fascist of some variety is simply to use a historical label that fits. The arguments about whether he meets every point in some static fascism matrix show a misunderstanding of what that ideology involves. It is the essence of fascism to have no single fixed form—an attenuated form of nationalism in its basic nature, it naturally takes on the colors and practices of each nation it infects. In Italy, it is bombastic and neoclassical in form; in Spain, Catholic and religious; in Germany, violent and romantic. It took forms still crazier and more feverishly sinister, if one can imagine, in Romania, whereas under Oswald Mosley, in England, its manner was predictably paternalistic and aristocratic. It is no surprise that the American face of fascism would take on the forms of celebrity television and the casino greeter’s come-on, since that is as much our symbolic scene as nostalgic re-creations of Roman splendors once were Italy’s.

What all forms of fascism have in common is the glorification of the nation, and the exaggeration of its humiliations, with violence promised to its enemies, at home and abroad; the worship of power wherever it appears and whoever holds it; contempt for the rule of law and for reason; unashamed employment of repeated lies as a rhetorical strategy; and a promise of vengeance for those who feel themselves disempowered by history. It promises to turn back time and take no prisoners. That it can appeal to those who do not understand its consequences is doubtless true. But the first job of those who do understand is to state what those consequences invariably are. Those who think that the underlying institutions of American government are immunized against it fail to understand history. In every historical situation where a leader of Trump’s kind comes to power, normal safeguards collapse. Ours are older and therefore stronger? Watching the rapid collapse of the Republican Party is not an encouraging rehearsal. Donald Trump has a chance to seize power.

Hillary Clinton is an ordinary liberal politician. She has her faults, easily described, often documented—though, for the most part, the worst accusations against her have turned out to be fiction. No reasonable person, no matter how opposed to her politics, can believe for a second that Clinton’s accession to power would be a threat to the Constitution or the continuation of American democracy. No reasonable person can believe that Trump’s accession to power would not be. And, this time, would there be a second America, a new Chicago, waiting to receive the once-cosmopolitan citizens ejected by the triumph of this warped will?


Adam Gopnik, a staff writer to The New Yorker


http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/being-honest-about-trump

Monday, 27 June 2016

BREXIT not a done deal - still may not happen.

United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016 (Brexit)

Leave the European Union                         17,410,742  51.89%

Remain in European Union                        16,141,241   48.11%

Registered voters and turnout                     6,501,241    72.2%

Source: Official result of the EU Referendum as declared by Electoral Commission in Manchester,  24 June 2016.


British withdrawal from the European Union, often shortened to Brexit (a portmanteau of "British" or "Britain" and "exit"), is the political goal pursued by various individuals, advocacy groups, and political parties since the United Kingdom joined the precursor of the European Union (EU) in 1973.   Withdrawal from the European Union has been a right of EU member states since 2007 under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

In 1975, a referendum was held on the country's membership of the European Economic Community (EEC), later known as the EU.   The outcome of the vote was approximately 67% in favour of the country's continued membership of the EEC.   The UK electorate again addressed the question on 23 June 2016, in a referendum on the country's membership.   This referendum was arranged by Parliament when it passed the European Union Referendum Act 2015.

The result June 2016 was 51.9% in support of an exit   The exact process for withdrawal is uncertain, although it is generally expected to take two years.   The British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he will resign by October, while the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has said that she may try to block the UK's EU withdrawal.

Could MPs block an EU exit?
Could the necessary legislation pass the Commons, given that a lot of MPs - all Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats, nearly all Labour and many Conservatives - were in favour of staying?

The June referendum result is not legally binding.   Parliament still has to pass the laws that will get Britain out of the 28 nation bloc, starting with the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act.   The withdrawal agreement also then has to be ratified by Parliament - the House of Lords.  The Commons could vote against ratification.   In practice, Conservative MPs who voted to remain in the EU would be whipped to vote with the government.   Any who defied the whip would have to face the wrath of voters at the next general election.

One scenario that could see the referendum result overturned, is if MPs forced a general election and a party campaigned on a promise to keep Britain in the EU, got elected and then claimed that the election mandate topped the referendum one.

Two-thirds of MPs would have to vote for a general election to be held before the next scheduled one in 2020.  
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Prime Minister David Cameron gave a statement in the House of Commons on the result of the EU referendum. June 27, 2016

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the result of the EU referendum.

Last week saw one of the biggest democratic exercises in our history with over 33 million people from England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar all having their say.

We should be proud of our parliamentary democracy. But it is right that when we consider questions of this magnitude, we don’t just leave it to politicians but rather listen directly to the people. And that is why Members from across this House voted for a referendum by a margin of almost 6 to 1.

Mr Speaker, let me set out for the House what this vote means, the steps we are taking immediately to stabilise the UK economy, the preparatory work for the negotiation to leave the EU, our plans for fully engaging the devolved administrations and the next steps at tomorrow’s European Council.

Mr Speaker, the British people have voted to leave the European Union. It was not the result I wanted – nor the outcome that I believed is best for the country I love. But there can be no doubt about the result.

Of course, I don’t take back what I said about the risks. It is going to be difficult. We have already seen that there are going to be adjustments within our economy, complex constitutional issues, and a challenging new negotiation to undertake with Europe. But I am clear – and the Cabinet agreed this morning – that the decision must be accepted and the process of implementing the decision in the best possible way must now begin.

At the same time, Mr Speaker, we have a fundamental responsibility to bring our country together. In the past few days we have seen despicable graffiti daubed on a Polish community centre. We’ve seen verbal abuse hurled against individuals because they are members of ethnic minorities. Let’s remember these people have come here and made a wonderful contribution to our country. And we will not stand for hate crime or these kinds of attacks. They must be stamped out.

Mr Speaker, we can reassure European citizens living here, and Brits living in European countries, that there will be no immediate changes in their circumstances. Neither will there be any initial change in the way our people can travel, in the way our goods can move, or the way our services can be sold. The deal we negotiated at the European Council in February will now be discarded and a new negotiation to leave the EU will begin under a new Prime Minister.

Turning to our economy, it is clear that markets are volatile, there are some companies considering their investments and we know this is going to be far from plain sailing. However, we should take confidence from the fact that Britain is ready to confront what the future holds for us from a position of strength.

As a result of our long-term economic plan, we have today one of the strongest major advanced economies in the world and we are well placed to face the challenges ahead. We have low, stable inflation. The employment rate remains the highest it has ever been. The budget deficit is down from 11% of national income, forecast to be below 3% this year. The financial system is also substantially more resilient than it was 6 years ago, with capital requirements for the largest banks now 10 times higher than before the banking crisis.

The markets may not have been expecting the referendum result but, as the Chancellor set out this morning, the Treasury, the Bank of England and our other financial authorities have spent the last few months putting in place robust contingency plans. As the Governor of the Bank of England said on Friday, the Bank’s stress tests have shown that UK institutions have enough capital and liquidity reserves to withstand a scenario more severe than the country currently faces. And the Bank can make available £250 billion of additional funds if it needs to support banks and markets.

In the coming days, the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority will continue to be in very close contact. They have contingency plans in place to maintain financial stability – and they will not hesitate to take further measures if required.

Turning to preparations for negotiating our exit from the EU, the Cabinet met this morning and agreed the creation of a new EU unit in Whitehall. This will bring together officials and policy expertise from across the Cabinet Office, Treasury, Foreign Office and Business Department.

Clearly this will be most complex and most important task that the British Civil Service has undertaken in decades. So the new unit will sit at the heart of government and be led by and staffed by the best and brightest from across our Civil Service. It will report to the whole of the Cabinet on delivering the outcome of the referendum, advising on transitional issues and exploring objectively options for our future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world from outside the EU. And it will be responsible for ensuring that the new Prime Minister has the best possible advice from the moment of their arrival.

Mr Speaker, I know that colleagues on all sides of the House will want to contribute to how we prepare and execute the new negotiation to leave the EU and my Rt Hon Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will listen to all views and representations and make sure they are fully put into this exercise. He will be playing no part in the leadership election.

Turning to the devolved administrations, we must ensure that the interests of all parts of our United Kingdom are protected and advanced. So as we prepare for a new negotiation with the European Union, we will fully involve the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments. We will also consult Gibraltar, the Crown Dependencies, the Overseas Territories and all regional centres of power, including the London Assembly.

I have spoken to the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales, as well as the First and Deputy First Ministers in Northern Ireland and the Taoiseach, and our officials will be working intensively together over the coming weeks to bring our devolved administrations into the process for determining the decisions that need to be taken.

Mr Speaker, while all of the key decisions will have to wait for the arrival of the new Prime Minister, there is a lot of work that can be started now. For instance, the British and Irish governments begin meeting this week to work through the challenges relating to the common border area.

Mr Speaker, tomorrow I will attend the European Council. In the last few days I have spoken to Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande and a number of other European leaders. We have discussed the need to prepare for the negotiations and in particular the fact that the British government will not be triggering Article 50 at this stage.

Before we do that we need to determine the kind of relationship we want with the EU. And that is rightly something for the next Prime Minister and their Cabinet to decide. I have also made this point to the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission and I will make this clear again at the European Council tomorrow.

Mr Speaker, this is our sovereign decision and it will be for Britain – and Britain alone – to take. Tomorrow is also an opportunity to make this point: Britain is leaving the European Union, but we must not turn our back on Europe – or on the rest of the world.

The nature of the relationship we secure with the EU will be determined by the next government. But I think everyone is agreed that we will want the strongest possible economic links with our European neighbours, as well as with our close friends in North America, the Commonwealth and important partners like India and China.

I am also sure that whatever the precise nature of our future relationship, we will want to continue with a great deal of our extensive security co-operation and to do all we can to influence decisions that will affect the prosperity and safety of our people here at home.

Mr Speaker, this negotiation will require strong, determined and committed leadership. And as I have said, I think the country requires a new Prime Minister and Cabinet to take it in this direction. This is not a decision I have taken lightly. But I am absolutely convinced that it is in the national interest.

Mr Speaker, although leaving the EU was not the path I recommended, I am the first to praise our incredible strengths as a country. As we proceed with implementing this decision and facing the challenges that it will undoubtedly bring, I believe we should hold fast to a vision of Britain that wants to be respected abroad, tolerant at home, engaged in the world and working with our international partners to advance the prosperity and security of our nation for generations to come.

I have fought for these things every day of my political life and I will continue to do so.

And I commend this Statement to the House.

Westminster Parliament Standings June 2016
Party                                                          Seats
Conservative                                             330
Labour                                                       229
Scottish National Party                              054
Democratic Unionist Party                        008
Liberal Democrat                                       008
Independent                                              005
Sinn Fein                                                   004
Plaid Cymru                                              003
Social Democratic & Labour Party            003
Ulster Unionist Party                                 002
Green Party                                               001
Speaker                                                     001
UK Independence Party                            001
Vacant                                                       001
Total number of seats                               650


Multi on-line sources for this publication

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Orlando Florida

The western world grieves.   Islamic, Omar Mateen, was identified by Orlando Police, to have perpetrated the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida.   Words fail to express the hurt we all feel.  However beyond Orlando, the following article is insightful.

Five comments on how to stop the lone-wolf terrorist
by Shmuel Rosner  – Jewish Journal
1.
A lone-wolf terrorist cannot always be stopped. A man can get a knife – he can grab one from the kitchen – go out the street and stab another man or woman. A man can find a gun – buy one, steal one, own one – and go on an unexpected rampage, with no warning signs. If the man is determined enough, if he is strong enough to efficiently use his knife, if he knows how to use a gun, he might kill some people. If no warning signs were available to detect in advance, some damage is unavoidable. In such case, the only questions are how much time it takes for someone, anyone, to stop him and how much time it takes for life to go back to normal when the attack is over.
Stopping a person who kills with a knife or a gun is a scary thing to do. The natural instinct of all people when such a thing happens is to flee. But reality is simple: the more people flee, the longer the attack continues. Citizens who have the courage to try and do something – throw something, hit the attacker with something – can make an attack much less deadly. If lone-wolf attacks become more common in a certain society, that society needs to find within itself the courage to stand up to attackers. It can do so by making civilians readier to respond, and it can do it by having more security forces in public places, ones that are ready to rapidly respond to attacks. In Orlando, it took a very long time for the police to respond to the attack. In an era of lone-wolf attacks – namely, an era in which reliance on prior intelligence cannot be counted on - response time is crucial.
2.
Recovery time is also crucial. Terrorism is aimed at scaring people and causing disruption to their daily lives. The less disruption, the less terrorism succeeds. When terrorism hit the Brussels airport back in March, it took several days for the place to get cleaned up, ready to run, and fully operating. That is not good. Preparing for terrorism means preparing to detect it in advance, preparing to fight it as it happens, and preparing to recover from it as the attack ends.
Recovery means: quickly identifying the dead and wounded and notifying the families. Quickly gathering the information needed at the scene and then moving to clean it up and put it back together. Last week in Tel Aviv, two gunmen killed four Israelis in the evening. The next morning Israelis were already sitting at the café where the attack took place. This is not a sign of indifference. It is a sign of preparedness – practical and mental. Cleaning up the blood, the broken glass, the physical evidence of last night's horror is the practical aspect. Getting ready to celebrate a new day where horror occurred just hours ago is the mental aspect.
3.
The lone-wolf terrorist often does give an early indication of his or her malice intentions. Thus, intelligence can still be valuable, provided that it is gathered wisely and used properly. As Noga Tarnopolsky aptly explained yesterday, quoting Israeli security experts, "to neutralize terror you need intelligence. You need to identify the target population and act; and the laws about what it is permissible to collect and what is not will need to be changed". Israelis, she wrote, have displayed a much greater willingness than Americans to relinquish certain rights of privacy in exchange for a vigorous security régime.
I made a similar argument long ago, as I was writing how "News that the American government has been eavesdropping" to allies "prompted barely a shrug in Israel." The difference between outraged Americans and impassive Israelis is striking, and illuminating, I wrote back then: "It is the difference between a public for whom security is largely a theoretical issue, and a public for whom defending the homeland is a perpetual concern. It is the difference between a society that is concerned for its privacy no less than its security, and a society that won’t hesitate to trade some privacy for more security."
Will Americans ever be ready to tip the privacy-security balance in favor of more security? The answer to such a question is easy – the more lone wolfs threaten the daily lives of Americans, the readier they will be to change their laws and their priorities as needed.
4.
The question of access to guns is prominent in the American debate following the attack in Orlando. "There will always be people filled with uncontrolled rage, people who want to inflict as much devastation as they can — whether in the name of a radical Islamist ideology or simple hatred of specific groups," writes the New York Times editorial board. "The clear solution is to make such violence as hard as possible to commit." That is, make guns less available.
Is that the solution? As I wrote yesterday, it is and it isn't. If guns are unavailable to terrorists, they are also unavailable for those who want to defend themselves from terrorists. Citizens with guns can be a problem, or a partial solution to a problem. Provided it is the right citizens holding guns – and the wrong ones being prevented from holding guns. A longer, more thorough process of licensing prior to someone being able to own a gun would be advisable for two reasons. One – because it could potentially prevent some bad citizens from getting what they want. Two – because it could provide the authorities with extra means to collect information about bad people who want a gun.
5.
In the era of the lone wolf, some degree of profiling – a dirty term for many good reasons – is inevitable. Citizens and law enforcement officers, whether they want it or not, are going to be more cautious around members of certain groups from which lone wolves tend to emerge. The peaceful, law abiding, good natured, hate free, Muslim American might feel less comfortable because of that tendency. He or she might be subjected to more looks, more questions at the airport, more searches at the entrance to a shopping mall – if such searches become necessary in American malls as they are in Israeli malls.
If "the kind of homegrown extremism that we've all been concerned about," as President Obama said, asserts itself more frequently and becomes a more constant feature of disruption to American civilian life, necessity is going to trump sensitivity and make profiling a reality.  Of course, the instinctive response of Americans to such a possibility is to get offended. Profiling people based on ethnicity, religion, color, and age fosters discrimination. It is an insult.
That is – unless we all agree that it is not an insult. It is simply the shortest, most efficient, most practical approach to making terrorism more difficult to carry out. It is better to officially acknowledge it, and manage it properly, than letting it become a denied, unrecognized under-the-rug, and hence unmanaged, reality.

As a relatively young male from the Middle East, who wears a beard and who often travels alone, I accept with no complain a reality in which I am subjected to searches at airports more often than old, white, Episcopalian ladies from Boston. I am not insulted. I understand that this is not a personal grudge against me but rather a necessity. It is a price that some communities have to pay more than others. Terrorism is just one more reason because of which the world is not fair.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The "NO Society"

Ottawa — Communities hold what is effectively a political veto giving them the moral authority to block projects like Kinder Morgan’s $6.8-billion pipeline expansion, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson declared Tuesday June 8th, 2016.

Not so fast!  The self-satisfied "no society" is socially irresponsible, but they arrogantly believe they know better.   The comfortable “no society” will not engage to make our community a better place, through technological advance.   If environmental protection was really their thing (I doubt it is) then we could all agree on what has to be done technically, to ensure safety as we move forward.   Their kind of inward thinking would have stopped all exploration and development of medical science advance, if they had veto control.   Their behaviour would have stopped infrastructure growth for the amazing development of city life, as we know it.   Sadly, their approach has the effect of destroying hope for our young people, to have a future within our own country. Economic development will go where it can succeed.   All that we have achieved as a society is not guaranteed to last, unless we adjust, adapt and grow.   We are capable, and we are not victims of the “corporations”.   We must engage for responsible economic growth, and not give in to the pathetic “society of no”.



Monday, 6 June 2016


Picture from McLean's Magazine - Anti-government demonstrators try to break through a barrier of Bolivarian National Police in an effort to reach the headquarters of the national electoral body, CNE, in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. The opposition was blocked from marching to the CNE to demand the government allow it to pursue a recall referendum against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)


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Political socialism has brought Venezuela to social collapse and is now a failed state. A rich country with an educated population and good natural resources, can be quickly lost, as bad political ideas translate into misery on the street.  Venezuela is a warning to Canada about what can so easily happen, when socialist political ideas get hold. PF

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By REUTERS JUNE 6, 2016, New York Times By REUTERSJUNE 6, 2016,

While the opposition coalition blames socialist President Nicolas Maduro and is seeking a referendum to recall him, the government says political foes are fanning the crisis with an "economic war" and seeking a coup against him.

Vielma Mora, a ruling Socialist Party member who governs the state including San Cristobal, confirmed the woman's death and said it happened after several days of looting.

"These are plans orchestrated by the right wing," he said. "We hope to capture the person responsible."

The fall in oil prices has heaped pain on Venezuela, which depends on crude for about 95 percent of export revenue.

Venezuelans' patience is wearing thin as they skip meals, survive on yucca or mangoes, and grapple with supermarkets unable to provide food for lines that can stretch into the thousands.

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May 2016 -By Brian C. Stiller: Global Ambassador, The World Evangelical Alliance

Venezuela: a nation stumbling to collapse
What do you do when your country is in free fall? When lineups for basic foodstuffs wind around the block, and hours later when you get your turn, the shelves are bare? When the police stop you anywhere and everywhere, peering into your vehicle, checking your status? When homicides in the capital alone can average up to a couple hundred weekly? Where corruption earns your country the dubious award of being the highest in the world? Where the Marxist president has neutered the majority Congress and dissolved the independence of the Supreme Court?
When all this and more happens, protests are predictable. We wound our way through shouted insults as we walked to the Congress to meet with members. Streets were clogged. Businesses and even the Supreme Court were shut down. Police were dressed in battle gear, and not just for show. It felt very much like my experience in Cairo in the 2011 “Arab Spring” revolution.
All of this corresponded to what I had heard about Venezuela but here is what I didn’t expect. At six in the evening we drove to a community called “The Cemetery,” in downtown Caracas. In the midst of economic collapse with inflation this year at 1,000 percent, with social disintegration the norm, killings and countless kidnappings a daily experience, and a government seemingly disinterested in finding solutions, what did I find? A couple thousand Christians in prayer and worship. Each night this week, Iglesia Evangelica Pentecostal in Las Acasia, the largest Evangelical church in the country, vibrated with a marvelous Latin sound and rhythm, all in tune with Spirit-inspired prayer.  How counterintuitive this all seemed, and one could even wonder, “Are these people oblivious to their realities?”
I came as a Canadian, representing a world Christian community: The World Evangelical Alliance. As I spoke to a group of pastors, then met with members of Congress, I admitted that while I wanted to absorb their realities, I could return home to a land with social and economic safeties and to a judiciary inclined to fairness. In a country where the opposite is true, I saw the people of God acting in ways which replicated early church faith.
In such an environment of distrust, it would be irresponsible of me to speak of individuals whom I met or repeat what I was told. I can say this though: the Spirit is at work in lives in ways that those who are in power in this country know nothing about, and God is preparing the way for the future.  I heard stories of patent evil and of attempts to destroy those whom God has called to a saving faith. In the confidence of Christian solidarity, together we prayed and entrusted these endangered people to the protection of the Lord. They know, literally, that their physical lives are in jeopardy and in need of God’s presence.
What came to mind was Joseph who thought back to being sold into slavery by his brothers.  When they feared retribution he told them, “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”  Genesis 50:20
What of Venezuela’s future? In a real sense tomorrow is today. Their world is in collapse and it will get worse. The government continues to accuse others of causing their problems. Far be it from them to admit to any false assumptions, dumb policies, or self-centered actions. They have destroyed the infrastructure of food production. And the systems of corruption have been refined to such a high level of efficiency that even if the government tried a reverse move, the momentum toward disarray has passed the tipping point.  For most of its history Venezuela has been run by “strong men” or Fuertes. A likely solution is that another strong man will rise and, with military support, try to wrest the downward spiral into a long-term reprieve.
I met with the Venezuelan heads of the Roman Catholic Bishops and the Evangelical Alliance. Together they are seeking to convince the government to open the door to medical and food aid from outside. Yet even if they achieve some success, the immediate future is for increased disintegration.
It was in this context that I listened to worship and praise so authentic, so personal and yet corporate. While their response might on the surface seem surprising, when we entered that place and moment, it made sense.  It not only seemed right but was the very thing needed.
What is God doing? What he always does when we’ve come to the place where we know we need him. He lifts our eyes to see today through the wide angle of tomorrow. Today is not the end. Hope provides a different lens. As we see life this way, our reliance takes into consideration his partnering with us: we are not left alone.
As a senior member in government said in the security of our confidence, “God is able.” That may be easy for me to say as I board a flight for home, but for him, his very life depends on that being true.

Brian C. Stiller
Global Ambassador, The World Evangelical Alliance

May 2016

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Rex Murphy: (National Post) Discontent with “FirstPastThePost” is mainly a manufactured discontent, advanced by the players — not the voters. 

http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/rex-murphy-discontent-with-fptp-is-mainly-a-manufactured-discontent-advanced-by-the-players-not-the-voters

The Liberals announced a change to the Committee that will make its recommendations.   This is no climb down to change the Committee structure.   It is a strategic move to get their own way.  They bolster the Committee stature for the short-term media posture, knowing that in the end, they can now be assured to get the Committee votes that they need for a radical Committee report, which will kill Canada as we know it.  

Liberals will never agree to a referendum.  For once the Committee recommendation is known, and Canadians can reflect upon it with the help of pundits, university professors yadda yadda, they will reject it, if given the chance.   The big unspoken problem with alternate rigged systems, is what comes after voting day.   Will a formula system yield better governance, and will it improve Canada.  There are many feel-good options for Election Day, but they all undermine basic democracy and accountability afterwards, which then brings on lowest common denominator politics (left-wing feel-good junk) and many secret deals behind closed doors to keep things going.  This Liberal move about the Committee is a very calculated one, that helps their dictatorial and subversive agenda.  

Another underlying fallacy of those who want a new rigged system, is that they think that Parliament is the government.   It is not.   Parliament is the independent place that decides who gets to be government, and how long they can stay as government.  Parliament is the separate place where government visits, to get permission to tax and spend the people’s money, and get legislation passed.  Parliament evolved before there were political Parities or such a role as a Prime Minister.   


Since there is a separation of Parliament and government, new rigged systems won’t improve governance or help voters to hold government to account.   The likelihood, is backroom anti-democratic governance that devolves to the lowest common denominator like some EU countries.   The overall business of governance would become less democratic, and less transparent for accountability. PF

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Very important for everyone !
There must be no basic change to our voting system without a national referendum.
Rex Murphy says it best.  Cut and paste to listen.  He is very convincing.  


Friday, 20 May 2016


CHANGE METHOD OF HOW CANADA VOTES

Contents
1. National Post Article
2. Biography
3. Hansard Transcript House of Commons

If one truly cares about Canada, they will inform themselves by this page.  “Incredible” and “appalling” is what I must say about the government’s intent for us all, led by someone who is personally not credible for this Ministerial role. PF

1. National Post Headline (Robyn Urback)  How long before Monsef starts answering questions about electoral reform by talking about her cat?

Lost in the embarrassing display of buffoonery on the floor of the House of Commons Wednesday evening was a nearly-as-embarrassing display of inanity earlier that afternoon.

That earlier incident didn’t involve elbows, of course, nor did it inspire feverish accusations of gendered violence or an over-the-top declaration of deep remorse. The afternoon assault, rather, was inflicted only on our collective minds, which were made to endure such breathtakingly asinine logic that there’s no way to characterize it other than as a violation of our intellectual sanctity.

The author of that inanity was Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef, who is tasked with overseeing what could be the most substantial change to our parliamentary system in more than a hundred years. The good minister was fielding questions about why the Liberals seem not to be entertaining the option of a referendum on electoral reform, which would guarantee far greater input from Canadians than the government’s plan for summertime meetings and regional town halls.

“Mr. Speaker,” Monsef began, “democracy is more than just about voting. It is about working together to ensure that every voice and every perspective is engaged and included in governance.”

Then she continued: “In the past, the Progressive Conservative Party extended the right to vote to women and indigenous persons. The party did not hold a referendum. It came to Parliament and collectively worked together to do the right thing.”

Monsef’s point, if I understand it correctly, is that because a government 100 years ago expanded the political franchise without holding a prior vote, the Liberal government of today is justified in using its majority — earned by way of system of voting we are now to accept is deeply flawed — to steer the ship on a totally unrelated matter, because Parliament should work together.

Everyone got that? Let’s move on.

Conservative MP Scott Reid then put to the House that the most inclusive way of consulting Canadians on the matter of electoral reform would be to put the final decision “to 35 million Canadians for ratification or rejection.”

Monsef responded: “Allow me to take this opportunity to remind all members of the House that the final decision on what reforms we bring forward will be the decision of all 338 members of the House, and to believe otherwise is undemocratic.”

By this, if I again understand correctly, Monsef means that it is more inclusive to consult 338 suited partisans in Ottawa than it is to directly consult 35 million Canadians from across the country: an equation that is best illustrated using Discovery Math, which I will attempt later. Furthermore, according to our Minister of Democratic Institutions, it is undemocratic (authoritarian? possibly illegal?) for members of a democracy to vote on a matter at the core of our how parliamentary system operates, and that a true democracy means that everyone’s voice is equal, as long as the voices have a seat in the House of Commons and serve on a committee stacked with Liberal MPs.

Monsef’s Wednesday performance built upon a similar show earlier in the week, during which time she also argued that a referendum would be illegitimate because some people don’t vote. Following this logic, we can only assume that the minister will soon table a motion to abolish all elections in the country, based on the fact that some people don’t vote in those things either. She will then resign, since she can’t assume that everyone in her riding — literally everyone who was eligible — voted last Oct. 19.

The Minister of Democratic Institutions will thus usher in a new era of Canadian governments decided by committee, which will be just as fair and inclusive as elections except that the incumbent government will always be afforded a majority stake. Faith in this system will require us to believe that those who don’t traditionally vote in elections or referendums will be inspired to commit exponentially more time than the five minutes it typically takes to cast a vote, and instead sit down to write a letter to their local MPs or participate in agonizingly boring town halls.

The debate about referendums is sure to continue into next week, when Canadians can anticipate further illogical, barely relevant arguments against holding a national referendum from Canada’s esteemed Minister of Democratic Institutions. “Mr. Speaker, some cats are indoor cats and some cats are outdoor cats.  My cat has spots on its tail. Let’s work together to make Canada a better place.”

By Robyn Urback: National Post


*************************************
2. Maryam Monsef is (30yrs) the Member of Parliament for Peterborough-Kawartha, and Canada’s Minister for Democratic Institutions.  Twenty years ago, after fleeing the terror of the Taliban, Maryam and her family escaped from Afghanistan to Peterborough.

Monsef was born in Afghanistan where she lived with her Muslim family.   Her father died in unclear circumstances when Monsef was a toddler; commenting on the incident, she remarked that "the most we know is he was caught in a crossfire between the border of Iran and Afghanistan." Her uncle had, years earlier, vanished along with several roommates while attending the University of Kabul, in circumstances suggested to have been connected to anti-communist political activity.   Monsef's mother Soriya moved her three daughters back and forth between Iran and Afghanistan, awaiting an end to hostilities, but the family struggled in Iran, where they faced the risk of deportation.   In 1996, when Monsef was 11, her mother opted to move the family to Canada.   The journey involved traveling through Iran, Pakistan, and Jordan.

Upon arrival, the family took up residence in Peterborough, where Monsef's uncle already lived.  They relied on the support of several charity organizations, including the YMCA and the Salvation Army.   Monsef has continued to raise money for humanitarian activities in Afghanistan.  

Monsef graduated from Trent University with a Bachelor of Science in psychology.    Since graduating, she has worked with a number of organizations including Trent University, Fleming College, Peterborough Economic Development, the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough and the New Canadian Centre.

As a practicing Muslim, Maryam co-founded the Red Pashmina Campaign, which has raised money for women and girls in Afghanistan.

Maryam has represented Peterborough at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City, is a co-recipient of the YMCA’s Peace Medallion and has received the Young Leaders Award from Trent University.  

With no political experience, she ran for Mayor of Peterborough in 2014, finishing second.  Later that same year, she sought the nomination for the federal Liberal Party.   She was elected on October 19, 2015 with 43.8% of the vote.  Monsef is the first Canadian MP to have been born in Afghanistan.   With no political experience, and marginal Canadian cultural understanding, Monsef was appointed as Minister of Democratic Institutions in Justin Trudeau's Cabinet on November 4, 2015.   She is the fourth-youngest Canadian minister ever appointed to a Cabinet.

******************
3. House of Commons Debates
42nd PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 059

Thursday, May 19, 2016
Mr. Andrew Scheer (ReginaQu'Appelle, CPC): 

    Mr. Speaker, the opposition comes to the House to represent the 60% of Canadians who do not support the Liberals.
    In the past few days, the Liberals have been pulling their own fire alarms to prevent MPs from doing their work. They tried to punish us for their mistake by bringing in Motion No. 6. We appreciate the fact that they have now announced that they are withdrawing that, but I do know that they are only withdrawing it after the massive backlash from not only opposition parties, but Canadians, and even their friends in the media.
    The Prime Minister has withdrawn this anti-democratic motion to rig the rules of the House. Will he now withdraw his anti-democratic attempts to rig the voting system by changes to the electoral system?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, we all agree that our democratic institutions must evolve. We all agree, as the hon. Leader of the Opposition just said, that we represent the voices of the Canadians who brought us to this place.
    We need to take responsibility for this privilege and work together to ensure that the changes we bring forward are relevant to the 21st century and include the voices of those who do not normally engage in this process.

Mr. Andrew Scheer (ReginaQu'Appelle, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals need to take responsibility for the bizarre actions of the Liberal government over the past few days.
    Motion No. 6 was a glimpse into the mind of a Prime Minister when he does not get his way. Canadians have every reason to be worried about what the Liberals plan to do with the voting system of Canadians.
    Will the government commit to dropping its attempts to rig the system and promise Canadians a referendum?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, I do not accept the premise that this process has failed before it has even begun.
    We need to work together to find common ground. We need to ensure that the voices of those Canadians who sent us to this place are reflected in the conversations.
    I urge all members to bring their ideas forward and to help strengthen this process and our democratic institutions.

Hon. Jason Kenney (Calgary Midnapore, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, the government promised a new era of respect for Parliament. Instead, after just six months, we have the Liberals shutting down debate for the first time in our history on an end-of life conscience matter.
    The Liberals tried to rig the rules of this place to the government's total advantage through Motion No. 6. We commend them for withdrawing that, but now they are trying to rig the very system that elects members to this place.
    The minister has just said that we need to hear the voices of those Canadians who brought us to this place. Those were 17.5 million voices that will be excluded by her closed, Liberal-controlled parliamentary process.
    Why will the government not really demonstrate a commitment to democratic reforms through a referendum?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, as the hon. Leader of the Opposition said in her remarks at the beginning of question period today, we represent the voice of every Canadian. I would urge my colleagues in the House to move beyond the repetitive questions asked every day. Let us engage in a productive exchange of ideas. Let us work together and seize this historic opportunity to bring our electoral system into the 21st century.

Hon. Jason Kenney (Calgary Midnapore, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, I invite the minister to move beyond her repetitive non-answers, beyond her refusal to allow the Canadian people to decide the manner by which they elect their representatives.
     The minister stands and pretends that a few hundred witnesses at a committee are more inclusive than a referendum that could involve 17 million or more voters. What does she not understand about this?
    This is a simple question of the legitimacy of this place. Does the government really think Canadians will accept a rigged system chosen by and for the Liberal Party of Canada?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, we have not decided on a system yet. We have simply taken the first step in fulfilling our promise to Canadians, over 60% of whom who said our democratic institutions needed to be modernized, needed to be strengthened, needed to be more relevant. We took that first step a week and a day ago. We introduced a motion to bring together an all-party parliamentary committee, and we look forward to working with all members and not prejudging the outcome of that work.

Mr. Blake Richards (Banff—Airdrie, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, it seems that sunny ways have quickly turned into “Sonny, get the bleep out of my way”. That is the elbows up approach the Prime Minister took in this Parliament yesterday, but it also seems to be the approach he is taking to voting reform. He is trying to rig the next election in the favour of the Liberals.
    Is the Prime Minister really so arrogant that he thinks he can impose his will on Canadians without giving them a say in a referendum?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, we have not decided on a system yet. We have put forward a committee to study a wide range of electoral reform options, including proportional representation and alternative voting, including online voting and mandatory voting. That process has just begun and we need to work together to ensure the voices of Canadians are included in that conversation, and that we use the tools available to us in the 21st century to do this in the most meaningful and inclusive way possible.

Mr. Blake Richards (Banff—Airdrie, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, the Liberals arrogance knows no bounds.  It is quite evident that the Prime Minister has absolutely no respect for this place and the democracy it represents. The Liberals are trying to ram through electoral reform just like they tried to ram through the opposition yesterday. Does the Prime Minister think that he can also manhandle democracy, or will he let Canadians have a say in a referendum?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, what is clear is that we all agree that the status quo must end. Over 60% of Canadians voted for change. They voted for parties—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mr. Alain Rayes (Richmond—Arthabaska, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, on Monday we learned via Twitter that even the Prime Minister's principal secretary thinks that holding a referendum is not a bad way to conduct consultations.
    Can the minister and the Prime Minister respect the opinion of the 62% of Canadians who did not vote for them, forget about partisanship on such a fundamental issue, and tell us if they are rejecting the idea of a referendum just because it is a good Conservative proposal?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, I have some headache medicine in my desk, should you wish to have any.
    Democracy is more than just about voting. Democracy is about ensuring that the voices of those who are normally engaged in the process are included to ensure that we are the strongest that we can be.
    In the past, we have extended the right to vote to women and to indigenous persons, and it has been Conservative governments, Progressive Conservative governments that have done this. This was the right thing to do. It came to the House. The members took responsibility and brought forward the changes necessary. We need to demonstrate the same leadership.

Mr. Alain Rayes (Richmond—Arthabaska, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, if the minister is wondering why the questions are repetitive, it may be because the answers are unsatisfactory.
    Contrary to what the minister thinks, we are not the only ones who believe that a referendum is a good option. Canadians and the media are also wondering about the process put in place by the Liberal government.
    Yesterday, a respected Toronto Star journalist said, “[The minister] has so far succeeded in burning bridges where she should have been building some...It is an unsustainable proposition.”
    Will the minister acknowledge that a referendum is the best way to respectfully consult all Canadians?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, is a referendum a tool, a means of engaging Canadians? Yes, it is. However, is it the best tool? It is not the best tool. During previous referenda in Ontario and in B.C., nearly 50% of the population did not participate. Is that okay? We need to work together, and we need to work harder, to ensure that our democratic institutions are inclusive and the systemic barriers that exist today are addressed by all 338 members of the House.

Ms. Rachael Harder: 
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister misled Canadians on three separate occasions when he said that he consulted the opposition on electoral reform. He said to Canadians to trust him, that he will design an electoral system that is ideal for Canada.
    The Prime Minister's failure of leadership this week shows why Canadians need to make their own decisions with regard to how they vote. A referendum is absolutely the only safeguard that Canadians have against this tyrannical Prime Minister. Why is the Prime Minister so afraid to hold a referendum?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, in this House, every single vote has an equal weight. What this Prime Minister committed to was bringing together a committee made up of parliamentarians, to study and review possible electoral reform options, including online voting and mandatory voting. The final decision will come to this House, where every member has an equal voice and an equal vote.

Ms. Rachael Harder (Lethbridge, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's unstable leadership has been on absolute full display this week for us. Whether it be misleading Canadians about his made-up consultations with the opposition or his absolutely bizarre behaviour last night, the Prime Minister is out of control. Will he do us all a favour and take a remedial course in civics and perhaps learn the basics of democracy? Will he also do the right thing and give Canadians the final say in how governments are elected? Will the Prime Minister respect the voices of each and every Canadian by holding a referendum? Yes, or no?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, our Prime Minister did the right thing and apologized sincerely and wholeheartedly. Let us accept that.
    For those who are interested in reforming our electoral system, let us work together. I know that many members have great ideas and they cannot wait to share them. I ask them to bring them forward so that we can ensure that the modernization that needs to occur occurs with the best ideas and the most inclusive approach possible.

Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, CPC): 
    Mr. Speaker, today's Toronto Star says that the minister's handling of the electoral reform file is “asinine”, “disingenuous”, and “discredited”. The Star also reports that “she is prone to explanations that defy logic”. Those are the words of the Toronto Star, not mine. Here is the minister's chance to turn things around by actually giving a straightforward answer, which includes a yes or a no, to a straightforward question. Will the Liberal government hold a referendum to give Canadians a veto in its plans to change our electoral system?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, perhaps that is the flaw in this process. Electoral reform is neither simple nor easy to address. It is a complex question, with many underlying factors and many consequences. We need to work together to ensure that we answer those questions effectively, that the best ideas are brought forward, and the voices of those who do not normally have an opportunity to be included in this conversation are included in this conversation.

Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, CPC): 
    That is peachy, Mr. Speaker. They can all do that on Twitter, but in the meantime there should be a referendum at the end of the process put to all 35 million Canadians.
    The minister has actually argued that her ongoing Twitter consultations are more inclusive than a referendum. She has actually said that. However, if she actually reads some of the responses she has received on Twitter, she will see that there are not many who think it is okay to rig the 2019 election. In fact, she will find what the media characterizes as a groundswell of opposition to her chosen process.
    Given the minister's deep admiration for Twitter consultations, will she respect the wishes of those who are writing to her, and will she hold the referendum that they are requesting?

Hon. Maryam Monsef (Minister of Democratic Institutions, Lib.): 
    Mr. Speaker, in the 21st century, we have the technology available to us that did not exist even 10 years ago. We have the capacity and indeed the responsibility to take advantage and leverage these tools and ensure that the 19th century model we are currently operating under is improved and enhanced and brought into the 21st century.