Tuesday, May 31, 2016

France's Infelicitous History

"Slavery was abolished, and the old slaves became citizens. They even elected deputies. But the plantation economy continued with the same masters, who then became employers."
Frederic Regent , expert historian, French slave trade

"It's from slavery that we have the discrimination we have today and the racism we see in France today. It's not yet totally done in France. France has many, many institutional links to slavery."
Myriam Cottias, historian, Representative Council of France's Black Associations

"I wish to give to France an institution [major foundation in creation of a slavery memorial and museum] it still lacks, a foundation for the memory of the slave trade, slavery and its abolition."
French President Francois Hollande, Paris

"[The historical lack of a French institution dedicated in memory of black slavery rankles]: It clearly means that black lives do not matter."
"What was different between that [continuation of the plantation economy using former slaves as 'workers'] and slavery? Nothing."
"Black anti-Semitism is growing in France, and it's not exactly the same as the other types. It's usually rooted in the comparison between the two memories."
Louis-Georges Tin, president, Representative Council of France's Black Associations

Paris’s only significant slavery memorial — a bronze statue of broken chains — sits in front of an ornate building once owned by the Bank of France. (James McAuley/The Washington Post)

The complexity of racial discrimination and its variants, along with the residual effects on the psyches of survivors, and the reluctant acknowledgement of its painful, shameful historical realities has consequences that while now evident, might not have been imagined. Take, for example, France coming to terms with its inexplicably official catering to Nazi Germany and suppressing its cooperation with Germany in the Holocaust.

Official France finally forced itself to admit its shame and produce an apology for participation in Nazi genocide carried out during the Second World War by Vichy France which saw no reason not to aid in the deportation of Jews to eastern European concentration and death camps. Anti-Semitism was alive and well in the France of that era, and it was of great assistance to the Third Reich in its reach toward the Final Solution.

So while there exists a Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery in Nantes on the Atlantic coast which once represented France's major slave-trading hub, French blacks feel this is a wholly incomplete admission of shame and guilt in being an important cog in the European slave trade, bringing black Africans to Europe as slaves and using them for economic production gain. "France has a memory of abolition, but not of slavery", commented Mr. Tin.

Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery, Nantes, France

France had been one of the major European slave-trading nations, fully engaged in enslaving and selling an estimated 1.4-million people during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was in 1848 that slavery was officially outlawed in France. But in the interim the country's colonial conquests in Africa, in Southeast Asia and in the Caribbean made it extremely wealthy with slave labour generating products sold elsewhere in Europe.

France was a laggard in outlawing slavery, behind Canada and other British territories, but a generation before the United States took that humane step. And while the thought of liberation was empowering the reality was somewhat other, for blacks in French territories overseas still worked at the same plantations doing the same labour, but as 'free' men and women, not slaves, although the conditions were precisely the same.

France created a Holocaust Memorial Museum and research centre in 2005 and installed black plaques at most of the sites known to have been distinguished by the arrests of Jewish children in Nazi-occupied France, and all with the enthusiastic assistance of French officialdom who were sometimes more heartless and savage in their treatment of Jews than the German officers they were so eager to serve.

Because the French shame has finally been officially recognized and repented, hostile resentment arose against Jews from blacks in the minority communities, leaving the impression with French blacks that their suffering was less important.That comparison, it is argued, is behind the performances of French-Cameroonian comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala whose anti-Semitism
has become legendary.

In an odd exchange of sensibilities French Jewish organizations and community leaders have been supportive of the movement for a slavery museum and foundation, joining with Tin's campaign from the outset. "The two histories come from different epochs, and they don't have the same places in society. But of course it's important to improve the public spaces", commented journalist Antoine Spire, a leader for the cause of a foundation. 

Wall of the Righteous, Paris. Photo GLK
Wall of the Righteous, Paris. Photo GLK 

On the opposite side of the Allée des Justes can be seen a plaque indicating that more than 11,000 Jewish children were sent to the camps from France, including more than 500 from this, the 4th, arrondissement.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Brazil, Zika, Olympics

"If Brazil is unable to get this thing under control, how are you going to do it in Congo? How are you going to do it in Nigeria?"
"The most prudent public health advice is, when you've got a fire burning, don't pour gasoline on it. That's what I worry is happening."
"We just have to be willing to accept that the Olympics are not too big to fail, that they are subject to the laws of gravity and public health."
Amir Attaran, professor of public health and law, University of Ottawa

"I'm less concerned about this biological entity, this Zika virus and the mosquitoes that carry it, than I am about the ability of this chaotic, disastrous mess that is called the government of Brazil to ... muddle through."
"I'm worried about the entire picture. There are just so many tiers to this that seem utterly chaotic and crazy. It's many factors beyond what we've seen in past Olympics. It makes the challenges South Africa faced look trivial."
"Brazil is facing a far larger dengue fever epidemic, a massive chikungunya epidemic. It has been struggling with all kinds of vector-borne diseases."
"So from the point of view of say, a team physician, I'm worried about the amalgam, the totality of this enormous burden of vector-borne diseases and whether I can provide to my athletes, particularly those who will be in outdoor venues, sufficient protection to ensure that they're not going to get bit by a mosquito that may give them dengue, may give them chikungunya, may give them Zika."
"If I were deciding based on what I know right now, as opposed to two months from now, I would say we'd better have a Plan B for the Olympics -- somewhere else."
Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health, Council on Foreign Relations, New York

"Those [H1N1 flu, SARS] would have been serious challenges to us, but I don't think either of those would have resulted in the games being cancelled, because you can put in place mitigation effects to try to manage the consequences."
"It seems to me that the residual risk of accelerating Zika is not that substantial, and history suggests that it doesn't really happen."
Brian McCloskey, adviser to medical director, International Olympic Committee

"If  you've got very poor areas that have no sanitation, no running water, and people have to travel a distance to lug water to their homes, then of course you're going to get a lot of standing water around the home, because they keep it there. And that is a perfect breeding ground for Zika, dengue fever and all those other things."
Joe Foweraker, emeritus fellow, St. Antony College, University of Oxford
An aerial view of the 2016 Rio Olympics Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The World Health Organization says it is not necessary to move or postpone the Games this summer due to the Zika virus, despite concerns raised in a letter signed by about 150 health experts.
An aerial view of the 2016 Rio Olympics Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The World Health Organization says it is not necessary to move or postpone the Games this summer due to the Zika virus, despite concerns raised in a letter signed by about 150 health experts. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

Brazil's idea was that it was their turn to showcase their country, to proudly show off to the world how competent authorities there are, how advanced their society is, how capable they are of expending vast sums of money ($11-billion at last count, but then Russia spent five times that on the Sochi Olympics) in building superior facilities for the games. Of course endemic corruption would take its course, as it always did, and most certainly did at Sochi, but Brazil was certain its success would burnish its reputation as a world-class destination.

When it submitted its bid and it won, Brazilian authorities in government could hardly have envisioned the world's attention would be fixed on the country not necessarily for the upcoming Games venue, but for the alarming surfacing of a new medical threat in the form of mosquito-borne Zika virus which has already resulted in the birth of thousands of children born with microcephaly in which a shrunken skull and brain anomalies speak to the future of a generation.
Brazil Zika Birth Defects
Brazilian health authorities are convinced that this baby's head condition, known as microcephaly, is related to the Zika virus that infected her mother during pregnancy. (Felipe Dana/Associated Press)

As a staging ground for the Olympics, the city may not represent the most healthy of environments to begin with. Its waterways teem with raw sewage and this is what rowers will be faced with, and no one will expect the winners to leap into the water in celebration as is done traditionally. But for swimmers there will be no way to avoid the contaminated water, since that will be the venue they will compete in, hoping that pathogens will courteously pass them by.

The president of Brazil has been suspended, a most unusual and inauspicious situation since she would be the very person to welcome other world heads to the games, proudly showing off her country's values and valuable assets. Senior Brazilian former and current politicians and business elites have been implicated in a widespread corruption scandal. None of which bespeak a formula of pride and engagement with the world at large at a world-class arena of classical sports performance.

But all of which have spurred no fewer than 150 prominent physicians, bioethicists and scientists globally to form a committee writing to the World Health Organization asking its director-general, Margaret Chan, to use her clout to impress on the Olympic authorities the need to move the Olympics venue from Rio, or to delay the games in reflection of the dangers inherent in the Zika threat being spread by tourists coming to be a part of the festivities and leaving with more than they may have bargained for.

The games, they contend, could simply return to a previous venue where the facilities have already been established and could be re-used for this return event. It would certainly represent a financial loss, but it might be a prudent move at the same time to prevent an epidemic from spreading. The logistics facing Brazil's government with all the things occurring at this juncture, leaves many in doubt that it can also handle the transportation challenges in welcoming an estimated half-million visitors and athletes.

Living conditions in Brazil for millions of slum dwellers continue to be fraught with all manner of problems for the country, so on a moral plane it is difficult to justify the massive outlay invested in building the various games venues, rather than having been committed to an municipal infrastructure that would provide for Brazil's poor access to clean running water and electricity.

"These games were supposed to be a showcase for the Brazil that basically existed eight years ago, which was very successful, growing rapidly, with an expanding middle class and reduced rates of poverty. That Brazil is not really available to showcase any more", pointed out Harold Trinkunas, director, Latin America Initiative at the Brookings Institution's Foreign Policy Program in Washington.

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Viral Fanatic Wahhabism Courtesy Saudi Arabia

"They promoted political Islam."
"They spent a lot of money to promote it through different programs mainly with young, vulnerable people, and they brought in a lot of Wahhabi and Salafi literature."
"There is no evidence that any organization gave money directly to people to go to Syria. The issue is they supported thinkers who promote violence and jihad in the name of protecting Islam."
"They brought these people closer to radical political Islam, which resulted in their radicalization."
Fatos Makolli, director, Kosovo counterterrorism police

"They came in the name of aid. But they came with a background of different intentions, and that's where the Islamic religion starting splitting here."
Enver Rexhepi, imam, Kjilan, Kosovo

"It is obligated for every Muslim to participate in jihad."
"The blood of infidels is the best drink for us Muslims."
Zekirja Qazimi, Wahhabi imam

The Muslims of Kosovo were known not so long ago for their tolerance of others, as a society within Europe. There has been a slow, progressive change since that time of amicably living in a moderately pluralist environment. A transformation has taken place with conservatism eroding the former way of religious life, the kind of conservative ideology readily identified with the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia. It has taken 17 years to achieve, but that radicalization is now well in evidence.

In the last two years alone, Kosovo police of the counterterrorism squad have singled out 314 Kosovars, among them two suicide bombers, 44 women and 28 children who have left Kosovo to join the Islamic State. This represents the greatest number of people dedicating themselves per capita to the jihad of Daesh than any other place in Europe. They have been recruited and excited by Salafism extolling jihad.

Two years of investigation by the counterterrorism police in Kosovo yielded 67 people being charged, 24 imams arrested and the shutting down of 19 Muslim organizations on charges they acted against the Constitution of the country by inciting hatred and recruiting for terrorism. A country of 1.8 million, Kosovo was welcoming to Americans as their liberators who helped them become independent but has now become suspicious of the West.

While the United States was defending Kosovar Muslims in a NATO coalition from the lethal attacks of Serbs, when the hostilities and the killing stopped, Saudi Arabian assistance arrived. The U.S. dreamed of a new democracy, the Saudis envisioned an outreach of Wahhabism. Kosovo has over 800 mosques for the faithful, 240 of them built since the war ended. Moderate imams in Kosovo take exception to what they insist has been a deliberate strategy to alienate young Kosovars from tradition.

Is there not boundless irony in this situation? Saudi Arabia has gained its vast wealth through the sale of its fossil fuels, primarily to fill the energy needs of the Western, non-Muslim countries. That sumptuous payback for extracting natural resources in the form of petroleum has enabled Saudi Arabia to export the proceeds of oil sales back to the West in the form of funding new mosques and Islamic centres led by Saudi-trained imams.

The West  has effectively bankrolled the infiltration of extreme, fanatic Islamism to undermine its own values and traditions. Wahhabism's major tenets speak to the supremacy of Sharia law, the ideation of violent jihad and takfirism, (the authorization of a death sentence for Muslims held to be heretics for failing to follow the Wahhabist interpretation of Islam). And those Wahhabist mosques have been built everywhere throughout Europe and North America.

In 2014, WikiLeaks released Saudi diplomatic cables revealing a system of mosque, Islamic centers and Saudi trained clerics funding that spanned Asia, Africa and Europe. A costly venture, and one with deep intentions to cast a wide net to capture the minds and faith of Muslims in an understanding of Islam as fundamentally pure only if the conditions that speak to Sharia and jihad as imperatives are fully recognized, in the process demeaning all other alternatives.

As part of Yugoslavia before the breakup, men and women in Kosovo reflected a Western way of life with the genders unselfconsciously mingling socially, and women and girls rarely wearing veils. After Serbian forces destroyed 218 mosques in their drive to stamp on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, there was a need to reconstruct. Money and imams arrived to give aid. Imams representing the hundreds of Kosovars who studied Islam in Saudi Arabia, post-war, on 'scholarships'. 

Saudi generosity was unparalleled in bankrolling the transition of Kosovar Muslims into those accepting of and steeped in Wahhabism. It soon became clear that Wahhabism was overtaking worship with viral Saudi influence. Eventually the Islamic Community of Kosovo was well infiltrated to echo the sensibilities of Wahhabist Islam. Kosovar Muslims traditionally following the liberal Hanafi school of Islam were being transformed.

Charities operated by the Saudis began to pay 'salaries' and 'overhead costs' to families through monthly stipends. They were obligated to attend sermons at the Wahhabist mosques, and women and girls were to wear the veil. Greater numbers of mosques were built to the Saudi method, and increasing numbers of mosques overall were headed by Saudi-trained imams. A Saudi organization, Al aqf al Islami, funded religion classes.
Trojan Pig of Islam
Around 2004 the-then prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi attempted to introduce a law banning extremist sects, but found opposition to that move coming, of all places, from Europe. Where officials informed him that freedom of religion would be violated by such moves as he suggested. "It was not in their interest; they did not want to irritate some Islamic countries", Mr. Rexhepi divulged recently.

In 2003, Richard Holbrooke, once special envoy to the Balkans of the U.S., warned leaders in Kosovo to avoid working with the Saudi Joint Relief Committee for Kosovo, an organization of Saudi charities. It was revealed a year later that it was among several organizations shuttered in Kosovo under suspicion of being an al-Qaeda front.

Saudi Arabia's involvement in Kosovo has been reduced in recent years. Funding instead has been arriving from Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates propagating a similar version of Wahhabist Islam.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Massive Lethality of MidEast Malfunction

"The stories coming out of Fallujah are horrifying. People who managed to flee speak of extreme hunger and starvation. Now they are caught in the crossfire with no safe way out."
Nasr Muflahi, Norwegian Refugee Council aid group

"All our security forces are preoccupied with liberating Fallujah and nearby areas, and imposing pressure on them in Baghdad and other provinces to protect the demonstrations will affect this issue [the Fallujah offensive]."
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi
AFP / Ahmad al-Rubaye<br />Iraq's counter-terrorism service (CTS) reach al-Sejar village in Iraq's Anbar province, on the boundaries of Fallujah, on May 28, 2016, as they take part in a major assault to retake the city of Fallujah, from the Islamic State (IS) group
AFP / Ahmad al-Rubaye    Iraq's counter-terrorism service (CTS) reach al-Sejar village in Iraq's Anbar province, on the boundaries of Fallujah, on May 28, 2016, as they take part in a major assault to retake the city of Fallujah, from the Islamic State (IS) group

Iraq is a country in a slow self-destructive passage to truncate its territory into zones exclusively protective of ethnic groups, tribes, clans and sectarian militias. There is no central governing body capable of stitching back together the geography that once expressed Iraq, in the absence of its tyrant, Saddam Hussein. Which says a great deal about the dynamics of the Arab Middle East with its irresolvable enmities and constant warfare.

It is a country destined to be divided in reflection of its demographics; a Sunni, a Shiite and a Kurd portion of complete autonomous sovereignty. The reality is that the largest part of divided Iraq is in the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant jihadists who claim it for their caliphate which they intend to expand, despite world powers attempting to aid the Iraqi regime in recapturing that territory.

And the Shiite government of Iraq, replacing the previous Saddam Sunni Baathist government, saw fit to shut out the Sunnis of Iraq from any portion of governance, effectively creating the climate for the rise of a Sunni-radicalization led by former Saddam army officers and supported by the Iraqi citizens resentful of their second-class status.

It is an unfortunate fact of life in the Middle East that intransigence of a lethal nature informs the traditions of strife, enmity and death in the name of tribal entitlements and religious conviction. While the country is embroiled in massive conflicts the population suffers displacement and death. The regime cannot even manage a coalition of Shiites to fight together to combat ISIL.

The Sadrists flying the banner of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, with no doubt the expedited blessing of Shiite Iran, are contesting the government and in the process stage protests challenging the government in their reform demands. For the moment, the government is focused on retrieving Fallujah from ISIL.

And aid agencies are reporting "extreme hunger and starvation" stalking the 50,000 civilians trapped there, though ISIL has sold exit permits for families, and had other solutions for their own embattled troops wishing to exit the surrounded city by torturing and shooting them. While the Islamic State has planted snipers on the main routes out of the city and the roads have been mined, the regime's forces have ensured that no supplies, food or medicine enter the besieged city.

This is a technique especially beloved of regimes planning to punish those who challenge their authority, and it is one that was well honed and practised by Syria's Bashar al Assad where the same sectarian-led conflict is ongoing. So when the fleeing families report that people in the city are malnourished as a result of lack of food, it is largely because the government, in trying to starve out the jihadists are doing the same to the civilians.

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Ignoramus Par Excellence

"Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!"
"This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice."
"Autism has become an epidemic. We've had so many instances, people that work for me, just the other day, two years old, two-and-a-half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic."
"As has been stated continuously in the press, people are pouring across our borders unabated. Public reports routinely state great amounts of crime are being committed by illegal immigrants. This must be stopped and it must be stopped now."
"The right of self-defense doesn't stop at the end of your driveway. That's why I have a concealed carry permit and why tens of millions of Americans do too. That permit should be valid in all 50 states."
"I try and pay as little tax as possible, because I hate what they do with my tax money. I hate the way they spend our money."
"We are going to repeal Obamacare. We are going to repeal Obamacare. We are going to replace Obamacare with something so much better."
"Raising the prevailing wage paid to  H-1Bs will force companies to give these coveted entry-level jobs to the existing domestic pool of unemployed native and immigrant workers in the U.S., instead of flying in cheaper workers from overseas."
"It's not necessarily loyalty to me, it's loyal to the country. They [Trump faithful] want great security. They want great military. They want to take care of their vets. They want a border. They want a wall."
American Presidential Republican aspirant, Donald Trump
FRESNO, CA - MAY 27: Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Fresno on May 27, 2016 in Fresno, California. Trump is on a Western campaign trip which saw stops in North Dakota and Montana yesterday and two more in California today. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Fresno, Calif. on May 27, 2016.

The world waits with bated breath. If it manages to hold its breath until October, it might expire for lack of oxygen, but it begins to look increasingly as though nothing can hold back the incredible tide of support for this ignoramus who celebrates himself as America's answer to its declining power and prestige. He has all the answers that anyone could possibly pose questions for and those answers are unfailingly trite and stupid beyond belief.

But he believes them because they've issued from his mouth independent of a brain and those who celebrate his wisdom and his business acumen, his impeccable knowledge of world history and international affairs, his capacity to administer the American business of state and security, feel he represents the answer to their wishes to advance the fortunes of the United States of America. This is a man who, if a cruelly clever caricature was imagined as the precise opposite of Barack Obama, fits the bill.

There was and is so much that is not ideal about Barack Obama, and his failures were many, but his investiture as the first man of colour, integrity and intelligence to reside in the White House was one of distinction and promise, while the possibility that this vain clown could do so is enough to make a ghost blanch with fear of the unknown but fairly accurately assumed outcome. Those in the international community looking on incredulously, viscerally gasp in dismay.

Donald Trump today at a campaign rally in Billings, Montana, after officially becoming a presidential hopeful 
Donald Trump today at a campaign rally in Billings, Montana, after officially becoming a presidential hopeful 

But the seemingly impossible has become all too possible, and now those foreign leaders are taking a deep gulp of air and re-imagining their response. David Cameron, for one, almost but not quite retracting some of his statements in description of the detestable Republican candidate for POTUS: "If he came to our country I think he would unite us all against him" he had previously said, describing Trump as "divisive, stupid and wrong". Now saying he would be "very happy" to meet Trump ... "American presidential candidates have made a habit of coming through Europe and through the UK so if that happens I'd be very happy to meet him."

So Muslim-terrorist-fearing Americans will vote for Donald Trump, and those who feel Mexicans should stay in Mexico will be loyal to  him as well as trade protectionists and foreign-policy isolationists, all eager to vote for their champion who feels as they do and can be relied upon to steer the country in the direction that all want to achieve. He's their man.

In fact, if any group is truly passionate about anything, he will be prepared to give a directive from the White House to validate that passion, the sole exception being any group hoping he will bow out -- Just kidding folks; my business empire needs my undivided attention!

Vaccine skeptic Dr. Ben Carson who couldn't make the grade as a credible candidate can expect perhaps a Health Department role in a Trump administration, to enact federal legislation outlawing all vaccinations and therefore return America to a state of natural holistic health, where it will be completely redundant to even remotely imagine a universal health care system to benefit Americans since they won't need one at that juncture.

If Trump says so, it must be so.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Taking A Valium

There has been a flood of revelations about the ambitions of Hillary Clinton pursuing her dream of becoming the first American female to assume the position of President of the United States. The dynasty her husband started with his own presidency and which he besmirched with his sexual gadabouts as a predator identified her as a woman who preferred to remain loyal to a man for whom loyalty was a gift best worn by someone other than himself. They were both engulfed in scandals while living in the White House; improprieties of both a financial and a sexual nature.
Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton faces an uneasy time over her private email use.

But Bill Clinton was one of those people that scandal refused to besmirch even when talk of impeaching him was bandied about by those who viewed his unfortunate tendencies as insulting to the gravitas of the presidency, even while some of his predecessors' sexual gamboling made his own look amateur by comparison. In the last decade and more there have been suggestions of illicit and inappropriate conduct though the Clintons' charity; selling access to power to powerfully wealthy Gulf States, as example.

Controversy has dogged her presidential campaign. While women voters in America are overjoyed that a woman now has the opportunity to challenge for the position of president, enough so to overlook what many claim is her opportunistic shallowness as a member of an insider Washington clique, no longer the outsiders they once were from Arkansas, she has had to contend with the advances made in the public mind of a more populist, left-challenger in Bernie Sanders.

She is haunted by the recently released State Department's audit findings, made more complex by the fact that a contender for the presidential nomination is being investigated by the FBI in a criminal investigation. She has been less than forthcoming about her emails while Secretary of State, not passing through the usual security channels with her use of a private server. And nor did she, as she claimed turn over all relevant communications to the State Department.

Senior staff serving her at the State Department informed Ms. Clinton that she should be routing her emails on State email accounts. Her server was shut down more than once as a result of some outside source attempting on occasion to have access to it, and to her communications. The FBI is investigating whether state secrets had been compromised under her watch and her responsibility.
'Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump
Getty Images    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump

That is the candidate for the Democratic Party. Who has not yet locked up the candidacy for the party. But her challenger in the Republican Party, a man whose credentials as a charlatan are more than a match for her own as an entitled yet unentitled candidate for the presidency based on her record of achievement and lack thereof, has locked into the Republican candidacy for President of the United States.

That very fact has caused migraine headaches throughout the world community, not only for politicians but for business leaders, human rights groups, financial institutions and nations depending on the decision-making and involvement in international fora of the United States of America. That a chauvinistic braggadocio elitist with a common tongue, a short fuse and a lack of intelligence and foreign policy understanding may influence the electorate sufficiently to vote him into office is everyone's nightmare.

The choice now being, it would seem, thralldom to a little nightmare that will only moderately besmirch the office and send the international community into apprehensive palpitations, or desperate dependence on the happenstance occurrences of a bleak, black nightmare of incomprehensible proportions should an egotistical buffoon whose decisions will be entirely impulsive in nature and informed by ignorance give the globe collective heart failure.

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Who, Us? Immoderate and Irresponsible!?

"A confederation between the Palestinians and Jordan may seem to be a good idea in the long term. But for now, it is hard to see how Jordanian leader would agree to turn millions of Palestinians into citizens of the kingdom. It is also hard to see Jordanians agreeing to absorb either Hamas or the Palestinian Authority and share power with them. Still, the talk about a confederation between the Palestinians and Jordan shows that under the current circumstances, the two-state solution (a Palestinian state alongside Israel) is no longer being viewed by Palestinians as a realistic solution that will bring their people a better life."

It is unlikely that prominent Jordanian politicians, who have recently talked about a confederation between the Palestinians and Jordan, are acting without the backing of King Abdullah (left). Meanwhile, a majority of Palestinians have seemingly lost confidence in the ability of their leaders, such as PA President Mahmoud Abbas (right), to achieve an independent Palestinian state. (Image source: Abdullah: World Bank / Abbas: US State Dept.)

the West Bank, former Jordanian Prime Minster Abdel Salam Majali suggested a confederation as the "best solution for both Palestinians and Jordanians". There's that trouble-making reputation of the Palestinians that prickles the dander of Hashemite Jordanians, however. And the fact that the terror group Black September memorializes the fight that took place between Jordan and the PLO to expunge their threat from Jordan. Implicit in the suggestion is the recognition that the Palestinian Authority is not ready to rule a Palestinian state; it lacks the experience and the expertise.

It is far more skilled in techniques of corruption and agitation, though diplomacy mitigated against that observation entering the discussion. Instead, the former Jordanian prime minister told his audience: "Jordan cannot live without Palestine and Palestine cannot live without Jordan". As Jews have a habit of saying: "from your mouth to God's ear". Confederation, explained Mr. Majali, would result in Palestinians and Jordanians sharing a joint government and parliament.

He expanded on the issue by explaining his opinion that Palestinians were not yet "fully qualified to assume their responsibilities, especially in the financial field, in wake of the failure of the Arab countries to support them." It isn't, you see, that the Palestinians are incapable of administering their own affairs, but the fault lies in the fact that other Arab countries haven't proffered sufficient 'support' to enable them to do so, which should come as a big surprise to those Arab countries.

Jordanians themselves, for the most part, don't seem to relish the prospect of their Hashemite heritage being further diluted by the presence in the kingdom of even greater numbers of Palestinians. On the other hand, there are those among the Palestinians with tribal links to other Palestinian demographics living in Jordan as Jordanians, who see merit in the idea of such a confederation linking and melding the two societies.

Israel, whom no one is consulting on the matter, would doubtless breathe a gigantic sigh of relief that a moderate and responsible government would be closely monitoring and mentoring its direct opposite.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Speaking Past the Plea for Rescue

"Duterte's [Philippine-president-elect Rodrigo Duterte] boastful brand of violent impunity should be a path to prosecution, not a platform for political office."
Human Rights Watch

"He might appear to be insensitive to women, but during his time as mayor [of Davao City, Philippines] he supported policies on behalf of women and programs for children."
Luzviminda Hagan, congressional representative, Gabriela [women's rights group]

"His jokes are his connection to the common man. He knows what he is doing. He is a lawyer. He graduated from one of the top law schools. He passed the bar."
"He is a very intelligent fellow."
Benny Gopez, Filipino businessman
The tirade comes after Duterte cursed the pope in a speech in December
President-elect accuses bishops – who criticised him for calling the pope ‘a son of a whore’ – of hypocrisy, saying they have asked him for favours ... The tirade comes after Duterte cursed the pope in a speech in December Photograph: Aaron Favila/AP

"It appears my government [Canada] has abandoned me and my family in this endeavour. We've [three remaining hostages of Abu Sayyaf] been here for eight months. I came to your beautiful country in good faith and in peace, and here I am [abducted, threatened with beheading]."
"One of us has already been murdered [Canadian John Ridsdel]. We hope that you can work on our behalf as soon as possible to get us out of here. Please, the sooner the better. We're three-quarters dead right now."
Robert Hall, former Calgarian, hostage of Abu Sayyaf
The pleas of Robert Hall, spurred on by his very real fear of death, threatened by the same fate that befell his fellow Canadian several weeks ago when the ransom demand of $8-million dollars each for the release of Marites Flor, abducted with Mr. Hall, Mr. Ridsdel, and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad who had operated the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort off the southern coast of Mindanao will have fallen on deaf ears.

Canadian Robert Hall.
Canadian Robert Hall.
The simple fact being that the controversial new president of the Philippines is adamant that he plans to carry on his country's refusal to pay ransom to the Islamist jihadis who favour kidnapping foreigners as a means of extracting whopping sums of money from foreign governments to fund their jihad. European governments with the exception of Britain do respond to ransom demands while others like the United States and purportedly Canada, do not.

In one of his statements respecting the abduction situation Mr. Duterte advised in no uncertain terms that anyone unfortunate enough to be abducted by the jihadis boasting of their association with the Islamic State, should say their prayers and appeal directly to god, because the government of the Philippines is not prepared to do business with criminal terrorists.

Some might venture to say that in his former persona as mayor of Davao City, the president-elect himself had a penchant toward thuggishness. He could claim in his mocking defence that his thuggishness was practised in defense of the rights of the citizens of the city, and that he fully intends to bring to the office of president of the Philippines the very same techniques that brought down the criminal element in Davao.

The 71-year-old Mr. Duterte certainly has had experience, as a crime fighter, a prosecutor and no-holds-barred mayor proud of having stomped on criminals, giving them measure-for-measure the same kind of treatment they meted out to citizens. There were reputed to have been over a thousand extrajudicial killings in Davao during the 20 years this man was mayor.

During the presidential campaign the crude-talking Rodrigo Duterte boasted that he himself killed criminals, claiming the justification was that they were resisting arrest. Should he be elected, he promised, he would pursue criminals and kill them himself and should there be any resulting controversy he would use the power vested in him as president to issue a presidential pardon on his own behalf.

Despite what might seem to an unaware observer hearing his boastful statements and crude references to rape as expressions of unsuitability for public office, people who know  him speak of him as a shrewd politician and a technocrat observing the need to  help the needy. The Public Safety and Security Command Center built under his watch in Davao boasts live feeds from closed-circuit cameras throughout the city.

Close by, a dedicated building has a fleet of new ambulances and fire-trucks dispatched through an emergency call center, complete with a specially equipped ambulance for children, and a larger vehicle used as a hospital-on-wheels. All civic, social services provided free of charge to patients, and these are services unavailable elsewhere in the Philippines, reflecting their past mayor's values and priorities.

Human Rights Watch is not impressed. Without denying his achievements on behalf of those he served, there is the dark side of his administration and his personal attachment to fighting corruption and crime with extrajudicial violence. The thousand vigilante killings sully his record on human rights entitlements. But even as HRW accuses him of those violations, there are others who laud his straightforward defence of the defenceless.

But for the defenceless who are in the unfortunate position of being held as pawns in the battle of Islamist jihadists against the government of the Philippines it is futile to the look to that government to come to their aid, to prevent them from becoming beheading statistics carried out by the vicious jihadis whose first order of business is raking in millions, and second order instilling terror.

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The Failed Arab Political Revolution

"...Given the Arab spring’s uneven progress, many say the answer is authoritarian modernisation: an Augusto Pinochet, Lee Kuan Yew or Deng Xiaoping to keep order and make the economy grow. Unlike South-East Asians, the Arabs can boast no philosopher-king who has willingly nurtured democracy as his economy has flourished. Instead, the dictator’s brothers and the first lady’s cousins get all the best businesses. And the despots—always wary of stirring up the masses—have tended to duck the big challenges of reform, such as gradually removing the energy subsidies that in Egypt alone swallow 8% of GDP. Even now the oil-rich monarchies are trying to buy peace; but as an educated and disenfranchised youth sniffs freedom, the old way of doing things looks ever more impossible, unless, as in Syria, the ruler is prepared to shed vast amounts of blood to stay in charge. Some of the more go-ahead Arab monarchies, for example in Morocco, Jordan and Kuwait, are groping towards constitutional systems that give their subjects a bigger say."
The Economist, 2013

The Western imagination was stirred by the very thought of a revolution taking place in the Middle East, that the common man and woman on the street would gather despite their repressive and oppressive tyrannies and demand their human rights be recognized, that the kinds of of corruption-soaked governments they were long accustomed to finally give way to a semblance of democratic rule paying homage to human rights.

The Arab Spring was, in their opinion, a noble uprising whose time had at long last, been hastened by the resolve of an oppressed people. The despairing act of self-immolation of a street vendor harassed by petty officialdom trampling on his rights in Tunisia stirred the conscience of a nation. That nation was viewed as an autocratic dictatorship but one whose citizens were civilized not by Islamism, but by a penchant for Western values.

A protester at a demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir Square in April, 2011, two months after President Mubarak was ousted ... Credit AFP

The upheavals that followed elsewhere were far less successful in their outcomes, however. In nations where tribalism, sectarian animosities, Islamist ideologies and corruption were endemic to the region. Egypt's revolution to remove President Hosni Mubarak succeeded on the surface; he was arrested amid the turmoil of dissent and protest, while the repressed Muslim Brotherhood took advantage of the chaos to unleash prisoners from among whom would come the first elected Egyptian president.

Mohammad Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood's vast support among Egypt's poor, among university students and Islamists brought him to the power of the presidency and the Brotherhood to greater prominence, but their allegiance was to the Brotherhood movement, not to Egypt and their arrogance alienated the greater Egyptian population who demanded their ouster after a year's trial. Bringing the 360-degree return to military rule for 80 million Arabs.

A military dictatorship of necessity to confront the growing challenge of Islamist entitlement and the violent backlash of jihadist militias where the Sinai peninsula, lawless and threatening to the stability of the country plotted to destroy the new dictatorship just as it had the old one, making accommodation with the one in between, now disrupted.

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh is carried by a friend after she was shot in Cairo on January 24, 2015. She'd marked the anniversary of the Arab Spring in Tahrir Square. She died of her wounds. Reuters

The world has since looked on, aghast, as Syrian tyrant Bashar al Assad has responded in his own inimitable way to his Sunni majority's plea for equality with Syrian Alawites, opening the gates of Hell within Syria through his merciless attacks on his civilian population, and the introduction of foreign jihadis on the crumbling geographic region. Which was soon introduced to the epitome of Islamist barbarity in the form of Islamic State.
Reuters: Government forces shoot dead five protesters in southern city of Deraa, marking the beginning of an uprising across the country against President Bashar al-Assad. By October, 2011, 3,000 people lie dead and fears of a civil war mount but Assad clings on amid divisions in the international community.

As the civil rights and socialist elements of those countries look with disappointed dismay at their hopes shattered that their societies might be altered and some vestiges of real democratic rule enter to transform what have been traditionally corrupt and dictatorial administrations, the situation of those countries remains mired in a kind of social dysfunction where the civilian population is preyed upon and kept in a state of endemic servitude to their masters.

It might be questioned where human decency is in all of this, where the powerful grip their status with deadly resolve prepared to destroy any vestige of confrontation or challenge to their authority. The region is stuck in a religious, cultural, heritage time-warp hearking back to the 7th Century and reflecting tribalism and suspicion of the sects, each insistent that the other represents a foul assault on Islam.

The Middle East is peopled with men and women capable of demonstrating great kindness and courtesy, but just as often great cruelty and lack of compassion. They are too divided as a culture, too steeped in tribal entitlements and resentments, too corrupt, too quick to violence, too sexually repressed in a patriarchal heritage of control, and far, far too removed from civility toward one another.

Resentment of the success of the West permeates the Middle East, as does the belief that the West conspires to keep Islam in thrall to its own needs.

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