Greece...The Pendulum has swung to the Left, with the victory of Syriza on Sunday. Led by the 40 yr. old Alexis Tsipras, they promise to lead Greece out of the austerity policies of the past five years, which has seen taxes go up, services go down, u
The Feinstein report on the CIA treatment/ torture of prisoners at various "black sites", has created a furor among, especially the officials/ defenders of the Bush Administration and the Republicans, with the exception of Sen. John McCain, who had suffered torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. The continued use of water-boarding, near-drowning, physical assaults, "rectal dehydration", confinement in boxes and dragging them naked across floors etc. went on for years and yielded little or no useful information. Even CIA director John Brennan, who was at the CIA in those years, conceded that those methods were "abhorrent", and that some interrogation techniques were not authorized and that officers were not trained .
This is not the first indictment of the CIA and its activities. Back in 1976, Sen. Frank Church released a report on the assassinations, coups, training and use of death squads, support to right-wing dictators from Iran to Guatemala to Brazil to the Dominican Republic to Chile; from Africa ( Angola, Mozambique, the Congo, support for apartheid, Mobutu), to Asia ( Indonesia/ Sukarno, Vietnam/ Diem, Cambodia/ LonNol) to Latin America ( contras in Nicaragua, in El Salvador, Peru/ Fujimori, death squads all over, etc). Sen. Church lost his bid for re-election.
Sen. Feinstein is very courageous in the face of the attacks coming from fromer Bush and CIA officials and their supporters in the media and the Congress but was very adamant that the report was accurate. Cheney, GW Bush's, vice president, has, not surprisingly, called the report, " full of crap" and that " the men and women of the CIA did exactly what we want hem to do" and that Pres. Bush knew about the full extent of the "enhanced interrogation program.
The American claims of the "high grounds", of its morality, of its democratic values and beliefs, have been seriously compromised. Their actions are as reprehensible as those whom they were blaming for 9/11. The passage of the Patriot Act in the days following the attack has weakened America's democracy and morality. It gave free licence to do whatever was thought to be necessary, even though, what was done broke American and international laws. Many of those involved are now afraid to travel abroad fro fear of arrest and prosecution in such countries as Italy, Spain and France, where special prosecutors can act independently of their governments.
There are those who argue that the report put Americans at risk; that it should not have been released. They are wrong. This report should be a catharsis. It should allow Americans to examine themselves and decide if this is the way they want to go; whether its democracy is worth defending without compromising its basic values of freedom and human rights. To do otherwise is to make a mockery of who they are, who they claim to be, and the values they cherish.
The white pro-police, anti-black, elected prosecutor has led the grand jury, 14 whites and 9 " minorities" to a decision of no charges to be laid against white police, Pantaleo, who choked Eric Garner to death. Staten Island is a white dominated and conservative place, and Donovan, the prosecutor is quite aware of this.
Garner was selling loose cigarettes, when he was approached by about five policemen. He complained about being harassed and did not resist. Pantaleo circled him and applied the outlawed choke-hold. He and the others dragged Garner to the ground, piling on, with Garner repeatedly saying that he cannot breathe. He later died.
It was all caught on video and lasted for about 14 minutes. It was horrible to watch. The coroner later ruled that it was a homicide by choke hold. Some of the policemen were granted immunity for testifying and Pantaleo was said to have spoken about his reason for about four hours. The majority of grand jury decided that nothing criminal had happened. This decision is criminal, but is more and more happening in cases involving police and black men. How could they have watched that video and not lay any charges? What did the prosecutor present and how?
The grand jury system is very flawed and need improving. Prosecutors who work closely with the local force, tend to be too close to them and is biased in their favor. There needs to be independent review of such cases. Also, because prosecutors are elected, they are more prone to reflect the attitudes, values and beliefs of the community where they were elected and where they work.
The Federal Justice Dept. has decided to conduct its own investigation into whether Garner's civil rights has been violated. Perhaps, Garner's family will get some measure of justice.
The grand jury looking into the actions of policemen Wilson, was made up of 9 whites and 3 blacks, even though the population of Ferguson is overwhelmingly black. This is not a jury of peers, for Brown, was a young black man.
The prosecutor, whose task it was to present the case against Wilson had a weel-established pro-police bias. His father had been killed in the 60s by a black man and many members of his family were closely connected to the police.
The grand jury process is very simple. It is convened by the prosecutor to hear evidence presented to them by the same prosecutor, to determine if charges are to be laid. It is the responsible of the prosecutor to make the process as simple as possible but in this case, he overwhelmed the jury with the long and contradictory evidence presented. Rather than placing evidence before the grand jury to convince them to lay charges against Wilson, he went out of his way to show that Brown had caused his own death.
Nine of the twelve must agree before any charges can be laid and from the outset, given the composition of the grand jury and the bias of the prosecutor, it was clearly evident that no charges would be laid and thus it was.
When the announcement was finally made, the prosecutor spent a long time reading the evidence to the media, going into details of who said what and what contradictions there were in the evidence . especially of the black witnesses. He was clearly trying to justify the decision not to lay any charges against Wilson.
It was a travesty. The grand jury was loaded in favor of Wilson. The prosecutor was anti-black and pro-police. The evidence was presented in a manner to justify Wilson's shooting of Brown.
There is great anger and anguish in Ferguson. Some demonstrations broke out. There were also marches and some violence around the country.
Police violence against young black men continue. Police harassment/profiling against young black men continue.... Here is a recent example.... young black man was stopped and questioned in Michigan for walking with his hands in his pocket. It was 1 deg. C.
It is now up to the Justice Dept. to decide whether any action will be taken against Wilson for violating Brown's civil rights.
He has announced and the "old men" were there...Landry, Duhaime etc. wanting one last shot at independence before they fade away. Peladeau, however, has to win the leadership of the party against such hopefuls as Lisee and Drainville and he has to win over the unions which has been the backbone of the Parti Quebecois but which has had a very stormy relationship with Peladeau in the past. Peladeau as owner and Chief operating officer of Quebecor and other companies, he inherited from his father, has had many bruising fights with the unions representing workers and has locked them out on many occasions. The unions will have to decide whether it would be worth " holding their collective noses' and support him. It would be hypocritical.
If Peladeau wins the leadership race, he will have to wait for at least three years for another general election and hope that the Lioberals, under Couillard has so alienated voters that they would turn to him. In the meantime the CAQ, would seem to e the party that has the most to lose from a Peladeau-led PQ. Those who deserted the PQ in the last election for the CAQ and the federalists who left the Liberals will have to decide whether to remain or return to the fold. That will depend on what Peladeau says and does between now and then and it is a longtime with many barriers and pitfalls.
The Liberals will benefit from this polarization. All they have to do is to avoid any scandal and even though some of their policies have caused concern among day-care workers and the police, firefighters, municipal and provincial unions over pension reforms, the public at large have generally been supportive.
It will be interesting to see whether Peladeau can re-unite and re-ignite the Parti Quebecois with his single-minded message of independence or his cry of "Pays" will become " Mon pays, c'est hiver."
It started out with Abbott of Australia threatening to "shirtfront" Putin and it continued with Harper's boorish behaviour, publicly(that is making sure the media horde was nearby), telling Putin to get out of Ukraine. Putin, responded to Abbott by sending the Russian navy deeper into the south Pacific and to Harper he shrugged and said that Russia was not in the Ukraine. Here are the 4 "hawks" ( Australia, Canada, UK and New Zealand) nipping at the Russian heel, while USA, China, Japan, Germany, India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia, concerned with their own agenda and having little or no common with them. In the meantime, Italyy, France, Argentina and Spain are facing economic bankruptcy.
Teddy Roosevelt used to say that one should " walk softly, but carry a big stick", but the Bulldog, the beaver, the Kaola and the Kiwi are more about the show, more about grandstanding. There is little to be gained by this when the USA is more concerned about ISIL; China and Japan are at loggerheads about some tiny islands; India's Modi is getting his feet wet; Germany is more concerned with its trade and other deals with Russia and Brazil's Dilma has just eneded a bruising election campaign.
Joe Clark used to talk about our common "nordicity" with Russia/USSR. Under Harper this has been frozen as he trolls for votes, while neglecting the plight of missing women, especially among the First Nations; doing very little on climate change ( even as the USA and China sign an agreement to reduce emissions) and ramping up the call for an extended war in the Middle East.
Billions spent and for what? Two-thirds of voters did not show up; the Republicans won a majority in the Senate and retained the majority in the House, and the sniping continues and the rush for 2016 has returned, more clouded than ever for the Republicans. It is going to be a bloodbath amongst the many aspirants, from Christie to Paul to Rubio to Romney to Bush and the rest of the wannabes.
On the Democratic front, president Obama has made it clear that while he is willing to compromise, he is not going to be bashful about using the veto ( the Republicans do not have the 60 votes to over-ride a veto). Immigration reform is front and center for Obama, while the Republicans are fulminating about the Health Care act. Mitch McConnell who has spent the last six years saying "no" to everything Obama, is not going to change his tactics now that he is majority leader in the Senate, and Boehner has his hands full trying to ward off the Tea-Partyers. In foreign policy, they are going to be more hawkish than the president and the still bitter McCain will be all over the place criticising anything that Obama does or try to do. They will push for an extended war against ISIL, even supporting ground troops, so Obama will have his way ( by the way, he is sending 1,500 more "trainers").
The congressional- military- industrial complex and the plutocrats are back in full force, helped by the millions spent by the Koch bros. and their corporate buddies and they will be looking to the Republicans to deliver on tax cuts, Keystone, fracking, less control on emissions and trade. It will be hot and heavy, with protestations, accusations, blame-gaming, back and forth and little will get done by Congress but Obama will act on immigration reform ( great for the Democrats with Latinos and minorities), defend the Health Care Act and continue his foreign policy ( even making more overtures with Iran , while the Israel lobby fumes)
It's all about 2016. The Republicans got their mid-term wish, for senate control, but this will come back to haunt them. The divisions and the rancor will be deafening. They will tear themselves apart, vying for the candidacy of the party, much to the delight of the Democrats. The Republicans made promises that they cannot deliver. Gerrymandering will allow them to hold on to the House, but the Presidency will belong to the Democrats.
The Islamic State is faced with the full air power of the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and to a lesser extent Canada and the Netherlands, but after weeks of bombing, they continue to fight on in Syria, (especially the Kurdish defended city of Kobane) and in Iraq ( Anwar province).
Turkey is under pressure from the US and NATO to enter the fray, but has resisted so far, only stationing some tanks and troops on their border with Syria. They have, until recently refused to even allow any Kurdish fighters to cross into Syria to help with the fight in Kobane. The Turks are caught in a difficult situation. They have fought a 30 year-old insurgency with Turkish Kurds ( there has been a cease fire), and so feel that any help for the Syrian Kurds ( the Kurdish nation is split among Syria, Iraq and Turkey), may result in a stronger Kurdish claim for their own country. Turkey has made some demands. They want the US and NATO to train the Free Syrian fighters ; they want the removal of Bashar Asaad and they want a "no-fly zone" so Syria cannot bomb the rebels fighting to topple Asaad. They are also concerned with the Iranian support for Asaad ( so is Saudi Arabia and other Sunna states).
The Islamic state has seized much territory in Iraq and Syria and are proving to be a formidable force, attracting recruits from all over, especially of concern are those from Europe and North America.
The Obama administration is opposed to sending any foot-soldiers. They will instead train forces from the region to battle ISIL on the ground. That will take time and ISIL has changed its tactics, resorting to quick attacks by small forces (which are less of a target for the US planes). ISIL is very well armed, with weapons captured from fleeing Iraqi troops and using "oil money' to buy more.
The indomitable Kurds of Syria and Iraq are fighting valiantly but they need better arms and more reinforcements. It's a stalemate, but two things can change this.... more and better weapons and reinforcements for the Kurds and the entry of Turkey. Also it has to recognized that Asaad is not going to go away and that with Iran's support, and with the recruiting of the Iraqi Sunni tribes (they had been badly treated by the outgoing Maliki Shia govt. in Iraq), ISIL can be severely weakened and eventually defeated.
Sweden has formally recoginsed the Palestinian State, joining Malta and Cyprus. Britain's parliament has voted in favor of recognizing it also and now 106 retired generals and heads of the security services has written a letter calling on Netanyahu to start serious negotiation based on the Saudi 2002 offer, supported by the Arab League and by Islamic League (Iran abstained). This offer was to recognize Israel in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state, based on pre-1967 borders and with discussions on land swaps and refugees.
The letter writers, noted that Netanyahu is a weak leader, blinded by political power. He is , too reliant on the religious right, the extreme Zionists ( Bennett) and the settlers/occupiers. He has shown that he will use the "security card" ( which the letter-writers state is no longer real), to rally support and has shown time and again that he is not interested in resuming the peace talks with his continuous sabotaging of it with more settlement building in East Jerusalerm and the West Bank.
The Americans are also becoming tired of this also as demonstrated in a recent interview by a high administration official, calling Netanyahu, among other things a "chicken-shit, and the the snubbing of the Israeli Defense minister on a recent visit to Washington.