Thursday, 13 October 2016

New United Nations Secretary-General

October 2016  António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres  (Portuguese)  -born 30 April 1949 is a politician and diplomat who is the designate Secretary-General of the United Nations.   Guterres was Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002.   He also served for a time as President of the Socialist International.   He was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015.   In October 2016 the United Nations General Assembly elected him to become the next United Nations Secretary-General, succeeding the retiring Ban Ki-moon.  He takes over in January 2017.
Political career
His political career started in 1974, when he joined the Socialist Party.   Shortly thereafter, he quit his previous academic life, and became a full-time politician.   In the period following the Portuguese Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974, which put an end to Caetano's dictatorship, Guterres was closely involved in the organization of the Socialist Party, especially the Lisbon section.   Guterres became one of the party leaders and held various offices.
His UN appointment was the result of a flawed process.   Essentially, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) find someone they can all live with.   If even one says no to a candidate, the candidate is out.   They then tell the rest of the Security Council, and ultimately the 193 states represented in U.N. General Assembly, to live with that choice.
The result is a lowest-common-denominator choice.   Someone who would not “rock the boat.” Someone who would not “spring surprises.”   In the worst case, it gives the super-pliant Kurt Waldheim (Austrian, 1986-1992) who elevated the role of the P5 (permanent five) even more.   In the best case, there is Dag Hammarskjöld (Swedish, 1953-1961) who tried to rise to the organization’s founding vision.
This time, as the search for Ban Ki-moon’s successor and the United Nation’s ninth secretary-general began, there were calls to make the process more transparent and more consultative, but in the end it was a controlled appointment.
Guterres is set to become the next United Nations Secretary-General on 1 January 2017, following his election by the UN General Assembly on 13 October 2016, based on the dictate of the 15-member UN Security Council.
The U.N. itself needs reform, especially on the Human Rights Council, so the new man has a big job for any change.   U.N. critics say that the problem has to do with the U.N. itself.   “We’re seeing very strong criticism by humanitarian workers about how U.N. agencies in Syria are effectively complicit with the regime (of Syrian President Bashar Assad) in distribution of aid,” which many fear is being used to benefit government supporters, said Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based monitoring group.   “The secretary general is inheriting a big mess.”
The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, this week said Russia and Syria may have committed war crimes in Aleppo.    U.N. leaders should change their rules, the commissioner said, so that permanent members of the U.N. Security Council cannot use their veto power to avoid referrals to the International Criminal Court.
Such an effort would have “no chance because Russia would veto it and China would veto that,” said Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under then-president Bill Clinton.   Each U.N. agency is its own fiefdom and they don’t like to be managed by a secretary general, Richardson said.
The world body does some good work, but  “a lot of the appointees in top positions are political patronage, so you don’t always get the best people,”  Richardson said.  “This is a huge bureaucracy with very serious management issues.”  
The socialist pedigree of António Guterres does not bode well for the world and the UN’s influence or helpfulness.
With files from USA Today and

Monday, 3 October 2016

Shimon Peres (1923 – 2016)

Shimon Peres (August 2, 1923 – September 28, 2016)  was an Israeli statesman and the ninth President of Israel, serving from 2007 to 2014. Peres served twice as the Prime Minister of Israel and twice as Interim Prime Minister, and he was a member of twelve cabinets in a political career spanning nearly 70 years. Peres was elected to the Knesset in November 1959 and, except for a three-month-long hiatus in early 2006, served continuously until 2007, when he became President, serving in the role for another seven years. At the time of his retirement in 2014, he was the world's oldest head of state. He was considered the last link to Israel's founding generation.
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Rick Noack, National Post Wire Services | September 30, 2016

JERUSALEM — It was only a brief moment, but the handshake between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will become one of the defining moments of the Shimon Peres funeral on Friday.   Peres died Wednesday at the age of 93.

Direct encounters between the two leaders are so rare, that their last meeting in 2015 was widely described as a “one-in-five-years handshake.”

“Long time, long time,” Abbas was quoted as saying to Netanyahu on Friday.  The Israeli Prime Minister responded: “It’s something that I appreciate very much on behalf of our people and on behalf of us.”

Soon afterward, Abbas was criticized by some for his welcoming gesture.  Social media commentators critical of Israel called him a “sellout,” a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and one argued that “the Arab world won’t be happy.”

To some, the fact that one of the most newsworthy moments during the Shimon Peres funeral was a handshake between a Palestinian and Israeli leader, symbolizes the failure of peace efforts in the Middle East.   Peres shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in finding an agreement on a peace framework between Palestinians and Israelis.

Despite their friendly encounter in Jerusalem on Friday, Netanyahu and Abbas have not directly negotiated since 2014, when the last official exchange took place.   The two leaders have also not held direct talks on controversial Jewish settlements since 2010.

Although Israeli media outlets speculated in advance about the possibility of a new handshake in Jerusalem on Friday, Haaretz newspaper argued that the gesture would have little impact.  “Even if Abbas does shake Netanyahu’s hand during the funeral, it is still unclear if the event will turn into an opportunity for an official meeting between the two leaders,” the paper wrote Thursday.

In addition to Abbas and Netanyahu, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with former prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper, were at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem.

Trudeau sat beside the Mexican president in the second row of mourners while Harper, Chrétien, interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion sat together in the next row.

U.S. President Barack Obama and former president Bill Clinton delivered emotional eulogies, but Trudeau was not among the speakers at the solemn outdoor ceremony held in sweltering heat under a white tent.

Obama said that Peres showed that “justice and hope” are at the heart of Israel’s Zionist ideals.   “Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled,” Obama said. “And yet he did not stop dreaming, and he did not stop working.”   Obama described the unlikely friendship he forged with Peres given their vastly different backgrounds.

“It was so surprising to see the two of us, where we had started, talking together in the White House, meeting here in Israel,” he said.  “I think both of us understood that we were here only because in some way we reflected the magnificent story of our nations.”   He said Peres never tired, never dwelled on the past, and always seemed to have another project in the works.   “It is that faith, that optimism, that belief, even when all the evidence is to the contrary, that tomorrow can be better that makes us not just honour Shimon Peres, but love him,” he said.

“The last of the founding generation is now gone,” he added. “Toda rabah haver yakar,” he said, Hebrew for “thank you so much dear friend.”   In an emotional eulogy, Bill Clinton described Peres as a “wide champion of our common humanity.”   Clinton was president when Peres negotiated a historic interim peace accord with the Palestinians in 1993.  He described a warm, 25-year friendship and dismissed critics who described Peres as a naïve dreamer.   He recalled a meeting with Peres where Israeli and Arab children sang together John Lennon’s “Imagine.”    “He started life as Israel’s brightest student, became its best teacher and ended up its biggest dreamer,” said Clinton.

“He lived 93 years in a state of constant wonder over the unbelievable potential of all the rest of us to rise above our wounds, our resentments, our fears to make the most of today and claim the promise of tomorrow,” he said.    It was an emotional return for Clinton, who eulogized Rabin at the same spot in Jerusalem following his assassination 21 years ago.

Former Canadian cabinet minister Stockwell Day attended the ceremony and said he hoped for a day when Israel would realize Peres’ hope for peace.   As the funeral began, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion sent out a tweet that said “Canada has lost a friend, Israel a father. Rest in peace, Shimon.” Netanyahu said the gathering of world leaders was a testament to Peres’ optimism, quest for peace and love for Israel. “He was a great man of Israel. He was a great man of the world. Israel grieves for him. The world grieves for him,” Netanyahu said.

Peres, Israel’s leading dove, and the hard-line Netanyahu were fierce political rivals and had vastly different world visions.  But Netanyahu said they enjoyed a strong personal relationship and described Peres as a man of vision.   “I loved you. We all loved you. Farewell Shimon. Dear man. Great leader,” he said.

Peres’ casket lay in state on Thursday outside the parliament building, where thousands of people, including Clinton, came to pay their respects. Early Friday, an honour guard escorted the casket, together with Peres’ family, along the short route to the cemetery.

After the funeral, the casket was led to the gravesite carried by eight members of an honour guard and led by soldiers carrying wreaths. Netanyahu and Obama chatted along the way, also talking with Peres’ family. An Israeli flag was removed from the casket as it was lowered into the ground in a plot alongside two other prime ministers, Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir.

With dignitaries seated around, soldiers passed bags of dirt to each other to cover the casket, and a military cantor recited the prayer for the dead.  After it was in the ground, it was covered in wreaths.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Royals arrive in Britsh Columbia

The Royals are in BC.   They are fabulous celebrities, but the working roles they fulfil are priceless.   The safeguards for Canadians through the Monarchy, for our way of life, is not easily understood, but it is real.    Monarchy for Canada really means something, unlike Hollywood celebrity, which mean nothing.    There is a latent power that is in reserve, and let’s hope it is never needed in Canada, to protect the people from a rogue government.

Impossible you say?    Well Trudeau was elected, and that should give pause for any serous person who is concerned about our nation.    The electoral debacle in the USA should make us all much more vigilant, to protect our country from shallow leadership elected through the means of Facebook.    

The Royals are part of our protection.    It is great when it all seems to come together, celebrity, great popularity, meaningful position, and political power in reserve.    Enjoy it while we can, for it was not always so, and it may turn sour in the future.    For now, enjoy!

A big thank you to these Royals for a job well done!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

National Peacekeepers’ Day

Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on National Peacekeepers’ Day

August 9, 2016 Ottawa, Ontario

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on National Peacekeepers’ Day:
Canada has a long and proud history of peacekeeping. For decades, brave Canadian women and men have put themselves in harm’s way to protect the world’s most vulnerable civilians – including women, children, and marginalized groups.
“On National Peacekeepers’ Day, we celebrate all those – past and present – who have worked selflessly to advance the cause of peace, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world.
“Since the days of Lester B. Pearson, the members of our military and police forces – as well as many Canadian civilians – have made concrete contributions to the pursuit of hope and security in international conflict zones. These individuals stand for the very best of what it means to be Canadian.
“Moving forward, we will increase Canada’s support to United Nations peace operations: providing more personnel and training to UN peace support missions; increasing our conflict prevention, mediation, and peace-building efforts; advancing the roles of women and youth in the promotion of peace and security; and supporting UN reform efforts to make peace support initiatives more effective.

“Finally, on this day, let us pay tribute to the many Canadians who made the ultimate sacrifice during peacekeeping operations in distant lands so that both local populations and Canadians alike could enjoy a more peaceful world. We will remember and honour their selfless contributions to humanity.”

Monday, 1 August 2016

Trump the terrible

Why should Canadians care about who is the USA President?  The reason is that Canadian fortunes are directly affected by American foreign and trade policy, which is led by the President.  Trump’s policies are a threat to Canada’s national security.

It hits home when Trump directly insults Canada by claiming that we are cheaters under NAFTA, when it is American companies that have not always played by the rules of fair-trade.  Trump threatens Canadian trade.  If Trump dumped NAFTA, it would have a hurtful impact on Canada, but it would also have a detrimental effect on the U.S. economy.   Canada is the United States’ largest customer as we buy more from the USA, than China, Japan and the U.K. combined.

Canada is the USA’s largest trading partner and ally, and if the USA suddenly becomes protectionist with high tariffs, Canada will greatly suffer in our job market and general standard of living.  Trump polices as espoused, would be very hurtful to Canada.  If he were to become President, it would not go well for him, and soon Canada would be blamed for his policy failures, as we have the most significantly interwoven economies.  Trade represents two-thirds of Canada’s GDP, and three-quarters of that is with the USA.  If the Trump resentments on trade become reality, Canada will suffer more than most from that protectionism.

Trump is the great deceiver.  He has duped millions into thinking that they can hate Hillary and what they think she represents, and then vote for Trump, without huge negative consequences.  In my view, Trump is dangerous for the whole world.

Trump undermines global security.   Trump’s threats to weaken or scrap NATO, to abandon America’s alliances with Japan and South Korea, and start a trade dispute with China, plays into the hands of Russia and the other self-declared Islamic enemies.  An emerging isolationist mood in America should cause Canadian to worry, as we would be less safe.

It is inconceivable that such an unqualified person could be supported with a vote  -yet here he is, in full disgraceful display.  Many of my American friends say they have no choice.  They hate Hillary for a hundred reasons, and Donald has slipped in, to ride upon those ugly resentments.  I put forward a couple of American observers who seem to have a fair grasp of the sad dilemma.  It is not just an American problem, but also a nightmare for the whole free world. 

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HamidDabashi says... (Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University)

Despite the fact that the majority of US citizens dislike both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump after their respective victories in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Illinois, the Democratic and Republican front-runners are now poised to combat their way into the White House.

Who will win and what difference does it make for the world at large?

It is of course easy to criticize Donald Trump and his openly flirting with racism and bigotry on his way to perhaps a radical transformation of US politics on a proto-fascist blueprint. But scarcely anyone has done it as eloquently and pointedly as the New Yorker editor David Remnick.

...The question remains why the Trump phenomenon has proved so buoyant and impregnable. Some have earnestly ascribed it to broad social and economic forces, particularly the “new normal” of stagnating wages, underemployment, and corporate “offshoring” and “inversion.” Yet those factors were at least as pronounced in the last election cycle––and Republicans chose as their nominee the father of comprehensive health care in Massachusetts.

The socioeconomic forces are real, but Trump is also the beneficiary of a long process of Republican intellectual decadence. Paul Ryan denounces Trump but not the Tea Party rhetoric that propelled his own political ascent. John McCain holds Trump in contempt, but selected as his running mate Sarah Palin, the Know-Nothing of Wasilla, one of Trump’s most vivid forerunners and supporters. Mitt Romney last week righteously slammed Trump as a “phony” and a misogynist, and yet in 2012 he embraced Trump’s endorsement and praised his “extraordinary” understanding of economics.

The G.O.P. establishment may be in a state of meltdown, but this process of exploiting the darkest American undercurrents began with Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy and, more lately, has included the birther movement and the Obama Derangement Syndrome. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who compete hard for the most extreme positions in conservatism, decry the viciousness and the vacuousness of Trump, but they started out by deferring to him––and now they ape his vulgarity in a last-ditch effort to keep pace. Insults. Bigotry. Nationally televised assurances of adequate genital dimensions. This is the political moment in which we live. The Republican Party, having spent years courting the basest impulses in American political culture, now sees the writing on the wall. It reads “Donald Trump,” in very big letters. David Remnick

In a recent piece, Remnick laid bare the unsurpassed moral degeneracy that has paved the way for the rise of Donald Trump on the Republican platform.

Trump, Remnick declared succinctly, is "the beneficiary of a long process of Republican intellectual decadence".

Paul Ryan denounces Trump, but not the Tea Party rhetoric that propelled his own political ascent.

John McCain holds Trump in contempt, but selected as his running mate Sarah Palin, the Know-Nothing of Wasilla, one of Trump's most vivid forerunners and supporters.

Mitt Romney last week righteously slammed Trump as a "phony" and a misogynist, and yet in 2012 he embraced Trump's endorsement and praised his "extraordinary understanding of economics".

Prospect of a liberal imperialism

This is all urgent and necessary to articulate and emphasize. But is the terror that the world at large faces with the consequences of this US election limited to a Trump presidency? Is the prospect of a corrupt liberal imperialism of Hillary Clinton not equally imminent, not identically dangerous?

...People around the world, always at the mercy of the predatory power of US imperialism, watch the US presidential elections partially amused by the depth of its corruption and partially frightened by the prospect of either a Clinton or a Trump presidency.

Which one will drop more bombs, command a larger fleet of deadly drones, prepare a longer "kill list", give more weapons to Israel to kill more Palestinians, sell more of the same to rich Arab potentates to drop on poor Arab states, build more torture chambers on the Guantanamo model?

The fanciful US liberals are wont to joke that if Trump is elected they move to Canada. Where are the people around the world, from Afghanistan to Iraq, to Syria, Palestine, and Libya in particular, to go in case of either a Clinton or Trump presidency? Canada?

Racist supremacist or liberal feminists

US voters will get to choose which kind of imperialism the world would be at the mercy of: a racist, bigoted proto-fascist monstrosity led by the Neo-Nazi and KKK favourite Donald Trump, or an astonishingly corrupt corporate lackey liberal bourgeois feminist favourite of Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright like Hillary Clinton.

The liberal Democrat side of US imperialism has no less soul-searching to do as, led by US President Obama, they are asking the conservative Republicans to do.

What is the shape of the world almost eight years after a liberal democratic presidency? Every atrocity Bush carried out before him, Obama consolidated into legalized institutions.

Bush began the war in Afghanistan; Obama expanded its domain into Pakistan and exacerbated the condition of strengthening the Taliban.

Bush began the war in Iraq; Obama left it in ruins and his dilly-dallying on Syria helped the rise of the murderous Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) on his watch.

Bush began the practice of torturing in subterranean dungeons such as Guantanamo Bay; months from the end of his second term, Obama failed to fulfill his campaign promise to close it.

Bush began the drone attacks; Obama perfected them to a deadly art and was dubbed "the drone president" for "credible, independent attempts to determine how many civilians the Obama administration has killed arrived at numbers in the hundreds or low thousands".

...Obama's approval rating

They say with the prospect of a Trump presidency, Obama's approval rating has gone up in the US.

But try to explain that to Palestinian mothers at the mercy of Israeli drone attacks in Gaza, or to Afghan and Pakistani parents of the victims of his own drone attacks, or to the Libyan victims of NATO bombing, or consider the US constitutional and Geneva Convention implications of Guantanamo.

US voters may run from the prospect of a Trump presidency over their homeland to opt for the empty promises of a Clinton presidency. But where can the world at large hide when her bombs start falling on Afghans, Pakistanis, Palestinians, Yemenis, and more?

At least the US citizens can make a calculated risk as to which one of these two candidates can do better for them, or at least do least damage. But people around the world at the mercy of this US election have no such choice. They are those proverbial sitting ducks, waiting and wondering at the mercy of which kind of violent militarism they have to measure the terms of their survival.

Far from the sites of the initial primaries and their crescendo in the November election, innocent men and women, children and their parents are counting the days before they find out if white supremacists or liberal feminists will soon determine the kind of imperialism that gets to bomb their home and habitat.

Hamid Dabashi

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

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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.