Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"I Want To Live"

"Syrian government forces have repeatedly launched unlawful attacks on Aleppo city displaying a callous disregard for the safety of civilians living in parts of the city controlled by armed opposition groups."
"Given the Syrian government’s long and dark history of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances on a mass scale it is even more crucial that civilians are protected in newly captured areas of Aleppo city. The Syrian government must not arbitrarily restrict the movement of civilians and they must allow civilians who wish to leave the area freedom to do so without threat or constraint."
Samah Hadid, Deputy Director for Campaigns, Amnesty International’s Beirut Regional office.  

"Please save us right now. I need peace. I can't go out because of the bombing, please stop bombing us."
"Tonight we have no house ... I saw deaths and almost died."
"I got minor injury. I didn't sleep since yesterday. I am hungry. I want to live. I don't want to die."
Bana Alabed, seven, eastern Aleppo
Bana Alabed tweets: Tonight we have no house, it's bombed & I got in rubble. I saw deaths and I almost died. - Bana #Aleppo
Bana Alabed sent out a message on social media on Sunday night that her home in Syria had been bombed. Twitter
"The problem today, in this moment, is not water and food."
"We are threatened with slaughtering."
Hisham al-Skeif, council member, eastern Aleppo
Rebel forces are losing their defensive capability with government forces moving into the Hanano district of eastern Aleppo. This advance represents the furthest the regime has been able to penetrate eastern Aleppo for the past four years. As the country's once-largest, and former commercial hub falls into the hands of Bashar al-Assad once again, it is a hollow victory. That half of the city is nothing but a shell of its former self, destroyed to rubble, with hundreds of thousands of its Sunni Syrian civilians facing starvation and disease, fully deprived of all amenities.

There are no hospitals left, bombed into oblivion by Russian and Syrian fighter planes. The standoff that had given residents some semblance of hope that some kind of peace might be accommodated yet through negotiations is a blighted memory now in the face of current realities. The besieged portion of the city, rebel-controlled and fast shrinking, has been closed off to any access to food, medicine or any supplies of any nature. Over one hundred rebels had put aside their arms to exit the eastern suburbs of the city in recognition of the failure of ability to hold out.

Reality points to a total rebel defeat, turning the five-year conflict completely in the regime's favour. The coastal region as well as the country's four largest cities will return to government control. Thousands of Shiite militia fighters from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, have been fighting alongside the regime, under cover of the Russian air force. Aleppo's eastern neighbourhoods are destroyed, completely laid waste. Syrian warplanes pounded the enclave, leaving no element of civil life untouched.

A tide of displacement was set off by the advance of both Syrian government and Kurdish-led forces on Sunday. Thousands of residents have been evacuated, those going to Kurdish-controlled areas of the city could be assured of some level of security, while those herded toward government controlled areas perhaps less so, with the prospect of revenge attacks not far from the imagination of those who have lost everything, but not yet their lives.

A Syrian woman carries her child in one hand and a bag in the other, as she flees rebel-held eastern neighbourhoods of Aleppo into the Sheikh Maqsoud area that is controlled by Kurdish fighters (photo provided by The Rumaf) (27 November 2016)
  This woman and her young child were among those fleeing to the Sheikh Maqsoud area -- Associated Press

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Re-Arranging History

"It's a part of the present government's attempt to rewrite history."
"It's one of the pillars of every authoritarian or totalitarian regime that they want to reorder the past to their own fantasies."
Norman Davies, British historian of Poland

"The museum is the only attempt in Europe or really in the world to actually present the war as international history."
"Poland is over-represented in this international museum, which is not surprising, given that the museum is in Poland."
Timothy Snyder, historian, Yale University

"[The Museum of the Second World War does not emphasize] enough stress on the Polish point of view."
"Our obligation is to maintain a conversation about our sacrifice."
"Poland is associated mainly with the Holocaust. The world knows about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising on April 19, 1943, but it doesn't recognize the Warsaw Rising that took a much bigger toll."
"It [the Museum] has enough [funding] for opening and for at least for six months. After that period, we'll see."
Piotr Glinski, Polish Culture Minister
The Museum of the Second World War

The new, right-leaning government of Poland has had thoughts about the soon-to-be-opened Museum of the Second World War. It plans to alter its orientation. To align it with the Battle of Westerplatte, the 1939 battle that pitted Poland's military against that of the Nazi regime's and which Poland lost, leading to German invasion and occupation. There is no actual Battle of Westerplatte Museum, but there is the name of the Battle of Westerplatte Museum, and the new Polish culture ministry has plans to combine them, giving the focus to the battle at the almost-completed Museum, re-focusing it away from a more generalized, international-flavoured museum, which it was meant to be.

The museum has been a decade in the making, when during a period of optimism the design and dedication of the museum was all mapped out. It was to have described a devastated world that Europe had become, achieving a focus transcending mere national boundaries. The museum's collection is inclusive of Soviet and American tanks, it includes keys to the homes of Jews who were murdered by their Polish neighbours, it has flags in its possession identifying the Polish Home Army which courageously fought the Nazis, and it also features an Enigma encoding machine.

The state-financed institution is undergoing a second-thought for its focus, taking away the global, international perspective and the details that emphasized the scope of the destruction in human life along with poignant mementos which describe the utter devastation that had overtaken the human spirit under the black miasma of the belching chimneys of the crematoria meant to solve the "Jewish problem" for all time, as an enduring symbol of proud Nazi Aryan values and ideology. Poland is now ensnared anew in political and cultural conflict.

The building of the museum is almost finished. Photo: WWII museum/Roman Jocher

At a cost of around $114-million to date, and five years of construction, the January opening spectacular may be delayed. And the museum can look forward as well to the prospect of the government cutting off its funding, if it presents to the public and the international community as it was originally meant to. The culture minister feels strongly that a focus on the first battle of the war must be front and centre, more reflective of heroic Polish self-defense, mowed down by an indestructible behemoth of a monstrous juggernaut.

The exhibition has already been contracted, many exhibits ready, like the tank who was installed in an underground part of the museum. Photo: Jerzy Pinkas
Designed by a Polish firm, the building was constructed with five thousand square meters of exhibition space. A staff of sixty has been hired to do its exhibits justice and welcome visitors. Its original emphasis was on the civilian toll of the war with sections dedicated to the Holocaust, and the Battle of Westerplatte as well.There are 41,000 objects for display, two thousand of which are meant to be featured in the permanent exhibition. Coat buttons from Poles who were executed by Soviet agents during the Katyn massacre of 1940, when thousands of Poland's military elite met their end are also to be on featured display.

There was an open day on the construction site in September 2015. Today the project is much more advanced. Photo: Jerzy Pinkas

Sections are meant to be devoted to the French and Danish Resistance. Should the proposed merger become reality, Pawel Machcewicz, director of the Museum of the Second World War, hopes the opening could take place in late January. He feels that the government has only committed to providing half of the museum expenses meant to cover costs for the coming year of 2017. The culture ministry assures that the contents of the museum will be preserved and the planned opening will take place on time. As for financial support, it may or may not be forthcoming.

The reaction to this new direction -- emanating from a source that cannot be denied its control and insistence --from some families who had donated heirlooms was that they would be withdrawn, should the merger proceed. So reaction to the government's plans are perhaps predictable, and obviously hostile to those plans. "They thought they could do a blitzkrieg, but now we have the Battle of Stalingrad", wryly observed the museum director, Mr. Machcewicz.

How the museum will look like within months.

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Afghanistan's Grim Realities

"With all these returns from Pakistan and Iran as well, and looming returns from Europe, it's a perfect recipe for a perfect storm because that puts a strain on the capacity of the government to respond."
"It's a poverty competition here now."
Laurence Hart, head, International Organization for Migration, Kabul

"Like all other states, Pakistan is prohibited from refouling – that is, forcibly returning – registered refugees in any manner whatsoever to their home country, and has therefore committed mass refoulement."
"If UNHCR resumes its cash grant on 1 March while Pakistan maintains its 31 March deportation deadline for registered refugees – or extends it by just a few months – then UNHCR will become complicit in mass refoulement. That’s because registered refugees will feel they have no choice but to take UN money to go home ‘voluntarily’ before Pakistan kicks them out with nothing."
Gerry Simpson, Human Rights Watch

"The return of registered Afghan refugees from Pakistan is a repatriation in less than ideal circumstances and is the result of a number of factors. The Afghans we see daily deciding to return are making extremely difficult decisions and UNHCR is doing everything  we can to assist them. We continue to speak up for the rights of Afghan refugees while they are in Pakistan and to intervene on their behalf."
UNHCR Statement of self-defence
Families recently returned from Pakistan pitch tents provided by the Norwegian Refugee Council near Jalalabad -- Enayatullah Azad -- NRC
Afghan refugees, some of whom have lived for decades outside Afghanistan during the years of conflict are now being forcibly returned to their country of origin. Among them are those who were born abroad, who have no idea what they are returning to. By year's end, one-and-a-half million migrants will have returned to Afghanistan. They left their country because of the unsettling violence and threat to their lives, and they are returning, mostly against their will, once again facing violence of a level comparable to what existed in 2001.

Pakistan has issued ultimatums to those Afghans living in the country without the required paperwork to make their presence acceptably 'legal'. Even some of those with papers are being evicted. Pakistan military and police have been oppressing refugees, threatening them, making them feel increasingly insecure and frightened, ensuring that they will realize they have little option but to return to Afghanistan. Even Europe has been returning Afghan migrants through a repatriation agreement signed with Afghanistan.

So from Europe will stream tens of thousands of migrants whose requests for asylum were refused. An even larger number of Afghans is being forced to return by Iran. The harassment that the migrants suffer from government agencies eager to see the last of them has encouraged the refugees to take part in a departure that they will most certainly view as not being in their best interests, either short- or long-term, given the country they return to is fiercely embattled.

Afghanistan's cities must deal with the presence of expanding tent camps and the shanty towns that house their own inner-displaced, with the understanding that they will soon increase in size and numbers. Humanitarian aid groups confront the situation in the realization they haven't adequate budgets to enable them to help care for so many new arrivals. Many of them accustomed to years of life in squalid camp conditions.

Even without the inflow of returning migrants, Afghanistan's struggle with the Taliban has resulted in increasing numbers of rural people fleeing homes located in areas of conflict. Some 600,000 people have fled in the past two months alone, displaced from their homes, adding to the ranks of the internal refugees within Afghanistan. With the return of the refugees from abroad the country will be faced with the prospect of three million displaced people altogether, few of whom are able to return to their homes located in war-torn areas.

From Europe, Norway has returned 442 Afghans unwilling but forced to go. Germany has returned 2,900 Afghans, almost all of them returning voluntarily, many of whom spent years, sometimes decades, in host countries, some having been born there, now adults with families of their own. "We're dealing with the population who left Afghanistan in the 1980s and don't know this country", observed Maya Ameratunga, of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Trucks piled with household goods and children pull up at the Samarkhel Encashment Center near Jalalabad, a center operated by the United Nations refugee agency, catching traffic from the main border crossing with Pakistan. Daily, four hundred or so families enter through the center, receive a cash payment from the UN agency to help start new lives (about $400 per family member) to last them for a six-month period.

They return not to a land liberated from conflict, beckoning their return to take up new lives of aspirational hope in a safe environment, but because pressure and discrimination are propelling and compelling them to return. "When you are harassed, intimidated, rounded up by police, taken to court, forced to pay bribes, you are being forced to leave", commented Mohammad Ismail, of the refugee office of the United Nations.

And the inescapable truth is that Afghanistan is in the position it now faces itself with, not only because of the Soviet invasion, but because in response to the Russian presence in Afghanistan Pakistan trained and armed and protected the Taliban from its original insurgency to its current state of threatening conflict with a government desperately trying to free itself from the shackles of threats and ongoing deadly attacks. It is Pakistan's malicious interference with Afghanistan and complicity with the Taliban and al-Qaeda that has continued to stoke the fires of Islamist terrorism that Afghans face.


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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Gagging Revelations

"Given the subject-matter and commercial sensitivities associated with the work, it was deemed to be an appropriate and necessary procedure."
"In this case, a non-disclosure is principally used as a reminder to ensure sensitive and corporate information is protected in the long term."
Daniel Le Bouthillier, spokesman, National Defence, Ottawa

"I can't recall anyone in any of my project teams having to do that."
"Any of our people, I trust them to use their judgement."
"Anyone reading [Lt.-Gen. Michael] Hood's comments would come to the conclusion that there is no capability gap."
Alan Williams, former assistant deputy minister of materiel (2000--2005), National Defence, Ottawa
Alternatives to the F-35 (pictured) are the Boeing Super Hornet or Eurofighter’s Typhoon. Photo: Lockheed-Martin
Alternatives to the F-35 (pictured) are the Boeing Super Hornet or Eurofighter’s Typhoon.  Photo: Lockheed-Martin

The former assistant deputy minister of materiel, Dan Ross (2005--2012), who oversaw the F-35 fighter jet project admitted significant technical and commercial secrets involved with the jet program are at stake. Such secrets, he clarified, are protected within existing security classifications, carrying a penalty of prison time if divulged, and so have been more than sufficient cautionary practicality to remind personnel of the need for circumspection.

The decision mandated by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to force National Defence procurement officials to a lifetime of secrecy represented a heavy-handedness to maintain a tight leash to ensure that no government whiff of malfeasance be broadcast. Which led to 235 officials having to sign a "life-time" non-disclosure agreement just as the government is involved in negotiations with American aerospace giant Boeing Co. for an "interim" purchase of 18 Super Hornets to beef up Canada's aging jet fleet.

Purchases of such magnitude require an open competition for bidding to determine which plane and which producer most accurately responds to Canada's needs. For all intents and purposes general agreement is that Lockheed-Martin's F-35 is that plane, a conclusion reached by all of Canada's NATO partners, as well as other countries looking for a technologically up-to-date, state-of-the-art warplane.

The issue revolves around the Liberal pledge during the 2015 election campaign that it would scrap the previous Conservative government's plan to buy F-35 Lightning II warplanes produced by Lockheed-Martin, despite that Canada has benefited over the years under an agreement to purchase, with Lockheed-Martin establishing the production of parts for the F-35 produced in Canada, ensuring jobs and production came with that agreement to purchase. Trudeau is intent on bypassing or reversing as many of the previous government's decision-making as he can.

The Trudeau government has insisted there is a critical shortfall of dependable operating jets in the current aging Canadian fleet, and that in recognition of that fact, an "interim" purchase of 18 Boeing jets will be made, before the entire fleet replacement is put out to a competitive bidding process. When, in actual fact, Canada's current fleet is still operational and will be for years. And it is in Canada's best interests to make good on its arrangement to purchase the F-35s to be integrated with other NATO member countries which have purchased the state-of-the-art F-35s.
A Canadian CF 18 fighter jet in a file photo by the Canadian Press

"Keeping old planes flying longer won't address the capability gap" stated a government spokesperson. "With the current availability rate what it is, even if the 77 airplanes (in the fleet) could fly forever, there still wouldn't be enough of them to simultaneously meet our NORAD and NATO commitments", an argument that cuts no practical and reality ice with those who know the fleet intimately as well as the requirements for Canadian participation in NORAD and NATO commitments.

Now, the head of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lt.-General Michael Hood, has weighed in with his professionally knowledgeable statement that the U.S. military and other allies are working on upgrades to the current aging fleet that Canada relies upon, that would effectively reduce risks and costs should they be required for even longer periods of time than the 2025 he himself guarantees they will be reliable for. Hence no need for the absurd "interim" purchase of the Boeing CF18s that fit the government's agenda, not that of the Defence Department.

"However you want to parse the words, he's (Lt.-Gen. Hood) talking about the ability to meet Canadian Defence policy" commented Defense analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, clarifying yet again that Lt.-Gen. Hood feels he is able to maintain sufficient CF-18s currently in the fleet operational until a replacement is finally selected, through a competitive process, not the sneaky end-run that the government is attempting.

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gangs of thugs in brown shirts owned the streets. They drove around in trucks, flashing their guns and their swastika armbands, hooting at the pretty girls. If they wanted to pick you up or beat you up, they did so with impunity. Anybody who resisted was beaten or killed or taken away to Dachau or Buchenwald or some other concentration camp. (You must understand that at that time, the concentration camps were prisons where opponents of the Nazi regime were detained . . . The inmates were made to work at hard labor and lived in dreadful conditions, but the words 'concentration camp' came to stand for monstrous cruelty and almost certain death. Nobody even imagined there would one day be a death camp like Auschwitz.)

Cheering crowds greet Hitler as he enters Vienna. Austria, March 1938.
Cheering crowds greet Hitler as he enters Vienna. Austria, March 1938.
Wide World Photo

How can I describe to you our confusion and terror when the Nazis took over? We had lived until yesterday in a rational world. Now everyone around us -- our schoolmates, neighbours, and teachers; our tradesmen, policemen, and bureaucrats -- had all gone mad. They had been harboring a hatred for us which we had grown accustomed to calling 'prejudice'. What a gentle word that was! What a euphemism! In fact they hated us with a hatred as old as their religion; they were born hating us, raised hating us; and now with the Anschluss, the veneer of civilization which had protected us from their hatred was stripped away.

Jews in Vienna forced to scrub Schuschnigg's slogans off the sidewalk --

On the pavements, protesters had written anti-Nazi slogans. The SS grabbed Jews and forced them at gunpoint to scrub off the graffiti while crowds of Austrians stood around jeering and laughing.

The Nazi radio blamed us for every filthy evil thing in this world. The Nazis called us subhuman and, in the next breath, superhuman; accused us of plotting to murder them, to rob them blind; declared that they had to conquer the world to prevent us from conquering the world. The radio said that we must be dispossessed of all we owned; that my father, who had dropped dead while working, had not really worked for our pleasant flat -- the leather chairs in the dining room, the earrings in my mother's ears -- that he had somehow stolen them from Christian Austria, which now had every right to take them back.

Members of the League of German Girls wave Nazi flags in support of the German annexation of Austria. Vienna, Austria, March 1938.
Members of the League of German Girls wave Nazi flags in support of the German annexation of Austria. Vienna, Austria, March 1938.   — Dokumentationsarchiv des Oesterreichischen Widerstandes

Did our friends and our neighbors really believe this? Of course they didn't believe it. They were not stupid. But they had suffered depression, inflation, and joblessness. They wanted to be well-to-do again, and the fastest way to accomplish that was to steal. Cultivating a belief in the greed of the Jews gave them an excuse to steal everything the Jews possessed.

We sat in our flats, paralyzed with fear, waiting for the madness to end. Rational, charming, witty, dancing, generous Vienna must surely rebel against such insanity We waited and we waited and it didn't end and it didn't end and still we waited and we waited.

The restrictions against Jews spread into every corner of our lives. We couldn't go to movies or concerts. We couldn't walk on certain streets. The Nazis put up signs on Jewish shop windows warning the population not to buy there. Mimi was fired from her job at the dry cleaners because it had become illegal for Christians to employ Jews. Hansi was no longer allowed to go to school.

SS men supervise the confiscation of goods belonging to Jews deported from Vienna --

Uncle Richard went to the cafe where he had been going for twenty years. It now had a Jewish side and an Aryan side, and he sat on the Jewish side. Because he had fair hair and didn't look Jewish, a waiter, who did not know him, said he had to move to the Aryan side. But on the Aryan side, a waiter who did know him said that he had to go back to the Jewish side. He finally gave up and went home.

Baron Louis de Rothschild, one of the wealthiest Jewish men in Vienna, tried to leave the city. The Nazis stopped him at the airport and put him in prison, and whatever they did to him there convinced him that he ought to sign over everything to the Nazi regime. Then they let him leave. The SS took over the Rothschild Palace on Prinz Eugenstrasse and renamed it the Center for Jewish Emigration.

Right after Grandmother died, the world held a conference at Evian-les-Bains, a luxurious spa in the French Alps near Lake Geneva, at which the fate of the Austrian Jews was up for discussion. Eichmann sent representatives of our community to plead with other countries to pay the Nazi ransom and take us in. "Don't you want to save the urbane, well-educated, fun-loving, cultured Jews of Austria?" they asked. "How about paying $400 a head to the Nazi regime? Too much? How about $200?"

They couldn't get a cent.

No country wanted to pay for our rescue, including the United States. The dictator of the Dominican Republic, Trujillo, took a few Jews, thinking they might help bring some prosperity to the tiny, impoverished country. I have heard that they did.
Transport list of Viennese Jews --

From the NAZI Officer's WIFE -- Edith Hahn Beer, c.1999

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What France Is This?

There was a time in Israel's early history as a Jewish State that the United States kept its distance, while France stepped in to help. France was in fact responsible for giving Israel help with establishing the Dimona nuclear plant. France supplied Israel with the plans, the expert personnel, with the material it would need to build the nuclear plant. And France also partnered with Israel, supplying it with military materiel it required to defend itself from the various attempts by its neighbours to destroy the nascent state before it could fully establish itself.

The French city of Marseille has an estimated 30 to 40 percent Muslim population and has been ranked as the most dangerous city in Europe  -- FrontpageMag

Things began to change when General Charles De Gaulle assumed power, viewing Israel with hostile suspicion and stopping the exchanges between France and Israel. At that time Jews had lived in France for many hundreds of years, through the diaspora where Jews had been scattered throughout the world for millennia. Gradually France began absorbing Muslims from its former colonial era in the Middle East and Africa when former colonies shed the mantle of French oversight and war with Algeria took place.

Now, France, like Germany, has an Muslim population of six million dominating the country's concerns and they represent ten percent of the population. It is a growing population, despite the fact that Muslims have failed to integrate into French society and have never fully accepted its values and its laws. Instead, a full one-third of French Muslims await the installation of Islamic Sharia law. An even more disturbing reality is that the overwhelming majority of France's Muslim population is in support of jihad. More precisely they are enthusiastic about jihad against Israel.

There is an estimated 572 "no go zones", the infamous banlieues, squalid, dangerous ghettoes crowded with French Muslims where a brooding anger against France and non-Muslims simmers and where French police dare not venture, knowing the danger and the consequences should they defy the reality that presents itself at their presence where they are not welcome. Apart from the normal immigration from the Muslim world, there has been a flood of "migrants" coming along from Africa and the Middle East, creating discord and insecurity in French cities.

A Niqab veiled woman poses in front of the French National Assembly to protest against France's ban on wearing full-face niqab veils in public, in Paris in 2011.
A woman poses in front of the French National Assembly to protest against ban on wearing full-face niqab veils in public, in Paris in 2011. Time

And that aside, there is another reality, that France is one of the European nations providing large numbers of Muslims who travelled abroad to arrive in Turkey en route to Syria and Iraq, to fight the good fight of jihad with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. And since ISIL has been facing shrinkage of its caliphate and military opposition to its presence in both countries, ISIL terrorists of European derivation have been returning to their countries of origin which now have to contend with the manner in which they follow the activities of the returnees in hopes they will not attack at home.

French police officers are advised by their superiors that it is government policy that they not react to situations; if attacked they are not to retaliate but to absent themselves in fear of accelerating any such incidents into mob violence. In reaction to these orders police have organized protest demonstrations. French intelligence services appear to realize that jihadists have returned from the battlefield in the Middle East, prepared to act out their hostilities at home, fearing that riots may flare reflecting general Muslim discontent with the status quo.

Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, angry with the European Union's condemnation of his disproportionate overreaction to the attempted military coup he claims was the work of the Gulenist movement, by arresting tens of thousands of Turkish civil servants, members of the police, the judiciary, the military, has warned Europe that it has some poisoned arrows in its quiver of retaliation. While some members of the EU have no wish to see Turkey invited to join their membership, France has been vocal in denying membership to Turkey.

Erdogan reminds Europe that his country has given temporary haven to three million Syrians. And those refugees would all love to depart Turkey for another destination entirely. So that despite Turkey's agreement with the EU that it would continue to detain the refugees to ensure that they are unable to continue their voyages across the Mediterranean heading for Europe, he may just encourage that passage as payback for the EU's evasion of Turkey's membership. France would face even greater numbers clamouring for entry.

In the corridors of the United Nations, France prefers to align itself with the Arab bloc. As it has done with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the 56 Islamic countries, along with the Palestinians. It is France which outstandingly encourages the Palestinian Authority to seek the legitimacy of United Nations membership, and to carry on from there to work for accommodation for full agreement that it be declared a state, side-stepping negotiating toward a two-state arrangement with Israel.

If France still nurses aspirations to become a world power in the class of the United States even with its Obama years of declining prestige, recognition, international action and intervention as the world's super-power, should it ever assume the mantle of next-in-line behind Russia and China, it will be as a semi-Muslim power, having shed its proud heritage as a Western democratic, secular nation whose pride in Liberty, Fraternity and Equality will have been horribly diminished.

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Canada and United States, Celebrity-Culture Governments

"There should be no preferential access or appearance of preferential access accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties."
Trudeauian guidelines for ethical guidelines

"Like Trump, Trudeau is less a leader than a mascot. Like Trump's following, Trudeau's following sometimes comes off like a Dear Leader cult. Like Trump, Trudeau routinely elicits in his political enemies a hysterical incoherence. As with Trump, it is not known whether Trudeau has ever met a dictator he didn't like."
Terry Glavin, journalist, political commentator

"It’s silly to suggest there’s any avoidance of conflict by having your family run the interests. He talks to his family all the time."
"[It’s] unthinkable in recent history [that] there’s the possibility of a president being able to affect his own personal financial interests, conceivably to the detriment of the general public."
Trevor Potter, former U.S Federal Election Commission chairman
Donald Trump with his sons Donald Trump Jr., from left, Eric Trump, his wife Melania Trump and his daughters Tiffany Trump and Ivanka Trump (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
The international reaction to the successful competitor in the November 8 U.S. presidential election was swift, alarmed and agonized. Governments and politicians in Europe in particular expressed their dismay at the new president-elect of the United States being an uncouth braggart, a man whose penchant for blurting out the uninformed opinion he is convinced is always right. A man who has earned the reputation of an unscrupulous businessman, a bigot and a sexist preparing to move into the White House appears to be everyone's nightmare.

Sensibly, while the Mexican president expressed his disfavour of a man who has labelled Mexicans crooks and rapists, the Prime Minister of Canada has withheld any comments that might conceivably be construed as critical of the new boss on the continent. But then, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has in the past expressed his personal admiration for the Communist Party of China, and he has restrained himself from criticizing Russia's President Vladimir Putin, while expressing his family's chumminess with Fidel Castro and his grip on Cuba.

Goodness gracious, a freshman, untutored Liberal politician turned Prime Minister, prepared to restore Canada's relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, with the Russian Federation, with the People's Republic of China, after the previous Conservative-led government held them all at arm's length and reacted to their internationally peace-aversive actions with condemnation. So if a Conservative mindset is one that finds fault with rigid authoritarianism and dictators, it might seem passing strange that a Liberal, open-minded, feminist-, gay-, recreational drug-inclusive sees merit in befriending them.
Backdropped by a monument depicting Cuba's revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, second right front, and his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, are accompanied by Cuba's Vice Prime Minister Miguel Diaz Canel, right front, during a ceremony at the Jose Marti Monument n Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

It might even appear as though the Liberal and his government have more in common with the alt-right Republican agenda than those expressing traditional Conservative values. And that appearance might just be a reflection of reality. As for Canadians so popularly decrying the ascendancy of Donald Trump, smugly comparing his addiction to adulation from the masses, to their own Justin Trudeau; in the process they overlook the latter's addiction to graciously smiling selfies and clamouring admirers.

If Donald Trump is addicted to showmanship, strangely enough so is his Canadian counterpart; thespian born and bred, both with that proverbial silver spoon, inheriting wealth and solidly self-entitled to whatever life guarantees the one-percenters of the world. Perhaps the one big difference is that in saying whatever enters his feeble mind, Donald Trump says it like he sees it. Justin Trudeau has accommodated himself to the fact that his impulses to showcase his lack of intelligence works better when deceit and hypocrisy enter the picture.

With Trump what you see and what he says is what there is. With Trudeau, what he says is what he means at the time, but remains subject to change at a whim's notice. As far as addictions go, each is addicted to financial gain and neither sees anything amiss in carrying on with their personal business as though nothing stands in their way, certainly not the obligations of governing demanding a separation between personal gain and administering the affairs of a country; it is only third-grade republics that loot the public trust. Supposedly.

President-elect Donald Trump

If Trump is arrogant with self-applause, so too is Trudeau. They do indeed have much in common, including their politics. Selling out to the highest bidder is a universal trait both have cultivated to perfection. Trump set up a bogus 'college' to teach would-be entrepreneurs envious of his success and willing to absorb his blueprints for acquisition of riches, ripping off and hoodwinking the gullible. Trudeau made himself available as a public speaker, ripping off charitable organizations with stiff speaking fees eager to host him in the pretense that he is erudite as a former private school acting coach -- both coasting on the brand of name-recognition.

Trudeau's cabinet takes his admonition that they behave scrupulously morally as holy writ by engaging in pay-to-play fundraisers where cabinet ministers appear and the Liberal party benefits financially, trading privileged access for contributions. But then, they need look no further than the example their champion himself provides, with Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada  hosting private dinners with Chinese billionaires who just incidentally surrendered a 'donation' in six figures to the Trudeau Foundation, and promised a $50,000 statue of Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

Since becoming Prime Minister this scion of wealth and privilege who, as a Member of Parliament continued to hire himself out as a guest speaker to public-supported groups and charities for tens of thousands of dollars, has focused on overturning as many of the previous government's signature legacy projects as he could manage. Many of those reversals were election promises, and some of them have resulted in Justin Trudeau's government highlighting the hypocrisy of those promises by instituting replacement policies not in Canada's best interests.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Narcissistic Personality Disorder -- If It Fits, Wear It!

"Inflated sense of grandiosity, lack of empathy, tendency to react angrily when matters fail to go their way, a constant need of admiration, bound up with a shell of self-confidence."
"According to DSM-5, individuals with NPD have most (at least five) or all of the symptoms listed below (generally without commensurate qualities or accomplishments).
1 Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment by others."
2 Fixated on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.
3 Self-perception of being unique, superior, and associated with high-status people and institutions.
4 Needing constant admiration from others.
5 Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others.
6 Exploitative of others to achieve personal gain.
7 Unwilling to empathize with others' feelings, wishes, or needs.
8 Intensely jealous of others and the belief that others are equally jealous of them.
9 Pompous and arrogant demeanor."

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Southeastern Livestock Pavillion on October 12, 2016 in Ocala, Florida. (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Southeastern Livestock Pavillion on October 12, 2016 in Ocala, Florida.  (Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next President of the United States of America and Commander-in-Chief of the United States. January of 2017 is not all that far into the future. As each day passes edging toward that future, the world remains agog with amazement that this autocratic, belligerent, oafish, self-entitled braggart was successful in buying the presidency of the most powerful nation on the planet. And deigned to accept the confidence displayed in him by a majority of the electorate.

The alternate candidate did her utmost to snatch the purchase out of his mocked hands and indeed outspent him magnificently, but her overweening ambition was no match for his, and her lies though seemingly modest in comparison to his, came from a source that came complete with the kind of political baggage and entitlement that dwarfed even his. Her contempt for the alter-electorate matched his, but he made promises to a disenchanted public tired of establishment entitlements and political correctness. And she promised more of the same.

Donald Trump's narcissistic displays of character failed to offput a good swathe of the electorate. Although that swathe is described as middle class and white, it also included college educated women, blacks, Latinos and Muslims. Close to 62 million Americans voted for the now president-elect, well aware of his failings that were very well publicized by himself and by the news media. While voting Trump into office, they also rejected a Democratic Senate, House and state governors.

Among them many who had happily voted to bring Congressman Barack Obama into the presidency in 2008 and once again in 2012. Basically, people resent being patronized, and hate it even more when they are held in contempt. Hillary Clinton managed to hit her stride on both accounts, sneering at the basket of "deplorables" whom she identified as Trump supporters. They sneered right back, countering with her deplorable attitude that she was free to do whatever she liked.

Not that Donald Trump will not be a compromised president, despite his claims that his vast business holdings will not constitute any form of illegitimacy as the president. Everything, he feels, is nicely copacetic. And his will be a family affair in administering government. After all, Hillary Clinton used the State Department as a springboard for influence and incentives to invest in the Clinton charitable enterprise and the Clinton name pulled in extravagant fees on the speakers' circuit.

Hillary Clinton tarnished her reputation through her own inimitable agency. Forty-five percent of white women, college-educated voted for Trump, along with 30 percent of Latino and Asian voters, demographics that Clinton aimed foursquare for on her 'record' on human rights. The urban centres on the coasts preferred to colour themselves blue, with the vast interior a sea of incandescent red. So much for informed prediction. Enter eye-rolling rage.

Yet so much for public aversion to a man shamelessly presenting himself as singularly sexist, racist, homophobic, phallocentric, bigoted, imperialist, neo-fascist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic, though of course as President of the great United States of America he is none, absolutely not one, of these labels personally. It merely seemed that way during this most scabrously, scandalous of election campaigns. Which nonetheless won him a non-"rigged" election.

It cannot be entirely without merit to mention that perhaps the obligatory sensitivity tiptoeing about on campuses and in corporate offices mandating attitudes be "correct", speech codes acceded to that forbid "inappropriate" humour and the like had something to say about this election outcome that has resulted in a tsunami of "not my president!" But yes, he is, and will be, at least for the succeeding four years, and perhaps even more.

The lashback on political correctness and the labelling of those rejecting delusional hypertrophic liberalism as social troglodytes brought matters to this state, resulting in a massive backlash of its own, as the liberal-left finds itself in the grip of a psychosis of mass hysteria. The distortion of the fundamental tenets of liberal democracy in the ordering of individual freedom, equal rights, democracy and tolerance reached heights of absurdity.

Radical elitism was rejected and the power of the presidency is now in the hands of the deplorables. Perhaps it can all be analyzed as just desserts.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mutual Belligerence -- Utterly MAD

File image of Russian Iskander missile unit
File image of Russian Iskander missile unit

"We are concerned by NATO decision making. We have, therefore, to take countermeasures, which means to target with our missile systems the facilities that in our opinion start posing a threat to us."
"[Smaller NATO countries would find it] next to impossible to resist pressure from a major NATO leader such as the United States [to deploy missile systems or host new bases]."
"And what are we supposed to do? We are forced to take counter measures, that is, to aim our missile systems at those facilities which we think pose a threat to us. The situation is heating up."
"Why are we reacting to NATO expansion so emotionally? We are concerned by NATO's decision-making."
Russian President Vladimir V. Putin

"Everything NATO does is defensive, proportionate and fully in line with our international commitments."
"Before Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine, NATO had no plans to send troops to the Eastern part of our alliance."
"Moreover, we firmly believe and we are firmly committed to a two-track approach to Russia; strong defence, coupled with meaningful dialogue....NATO's aim is to prevent a conflict, not to provoke a conflict."
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general
Putin and Obama exchanging a frosty handshake earlier this week
Putin and Obama exchanging a frosty handshake earlier this week -- The Telegraph

It's check-mate in the game the blunt-nosed, steely Vladimir Putin is playing with NATO; the interests of the nascent expansionist Russia envisioning a return to its former geographic grip on its neighbours, as opposed to the fear and loathing of those neighbours of Russia's intentions under its new Czarist strongman. And while the Baltic countries are gasping out their fear, Russians applaud their fearless leader, heaping popular acclaim on him for returning Russia to its proper place in the world as a power to be reckoned with.

"We must take counter-measures, that is strike with our missile systems the targets that, in our opinion, begin to threaten us", stated Mr. Putin for a documentary produced by an American filmmaker of some note. The documentary was meant to focus on the Ukraine conflict; the ethnic Russian separatists in Ukraine as opposed to the Western-aligned government. Mr. Putin was not only speaking belligerently for an American audience; he was addressing a Russian audience since the documentary premiered on Russian television.
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds the Cabinet meeting in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds the Cabinet meeting in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia

On Monday the announcement came out of Moscow that its defensive missile strength in the Eastern European enclave of Kaliningrad had been bolstered. Senior Russian defence official Viktor Ozerov made it abundantly clear that his nation was forced into the position of responding to "threats" from NATO members in the Baltic states. This is called perspective; this is how Russia interprets the threats emanating from the Kremlin against the Baltics. "As response measures to such threats we will have... to deploy additional forces... this reinforcement includes deployment of S-400 and Iskander systems in Kaliningrad."

The American proposal ten years earlier under the G.W. Bush presidency that planned to implement the Global Ballistic Missile Defense System in Europe by placing two ground–based mid-course defense systems, one each in Poland and the Czech Republic ostensibly to guard against ballistic missile launches from the Middle East, failed to convince a strongly protesting Vladimir Putin that these advanced missile defence systems were not aimed at Russia, that the Middle East potential as a danger to U.S. troops based in Europe was a pretext.

The Kremlin has also chafed over NATO's unsettling presence on its near-east borders, an intrusion that it had no appreciation whatever for in its near-abroad territory. That former satellite countries of the USSR chose to join NATO represented a further irritant of monumental proportions to Vladimir Putin. Russia, understandably, views the United States and NATO as hostile political-ideological entities, bringing their values and their outright condemnation of Russian values and actions far too close to home for comfort.

This, of course, at a time when Mr. Putin is flexing his metaphorical but very real muscle, taking pride in billions spent to upgrade and modernize Russia's military in pursuit of a technically advanced store of rolling stock, weapons and the intercontinental ballistic missile systems to deliver them. Strictly preventive in nature, needless to say, since Moscow has no intentions whatever of behaving aggressively unless at some unforeseen time it deems the necessity of a preemptive first-strike in its wholly legal defence. For "What are we supposed to do? The situation is heating up", as Mr. Putin stated.

As for NATO, it too states categorically it has no intention whatever of provoking conflict, particularly one on the scale that a violent physical clash between its members and the Russian Federation would amount to, over its aggression in Ukraine, its Crimea adventure, its Georgia adventurism, and its potential threats to Latvia, Estonia. Lithuania and perhaps Poland. Those nations would have no reason to fear Russia, if Moscow gave it no reasons to have that nervous trepidation over its intentions.

And so, NATO has also moved to bolster its presence along its eastern flanks. As the world teeters in uncertainty over how world affairs on every dimension will now be impacted with the soon-to-be-installed new president of the United States who has expressed conciliatory sentiments over Russia, hastening to assure his counterpart in Moscow that there is every reason to believe the two countries will find it in themselves now to repair a fractured relationship, NATO too wonders what its future will be with a new president promising to sever ties.
"NATO was done at a time you had the Soviet Union, which was obviously much larger than Russia is today."
"I'm not saying Russia is not a threat. But we have other threats. We have the threat of terrorism. And NATO doesn't discuss terrorism.:
"What I'm saying is that we pay, number one, a totally disproportionate share of NATO . We're spending -- the biggest alliance share is paid for by us, disproportionate to other countries."
President-Elect of the United States of America, Donald Trump

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