Saturday, July 26, 2014

Israel & Gaza: Is Kerry a Nebish?

John Nebbish Kerry?
This question has been raised, given Kerry’s missteps in recent weeks:
Nonetheless, one can’t deny Kerry’s almost inexplicable series of mishaps, faux pas and unfortunate events: on Friday it was the press conference in Cairo with the UN Secretary General and the Egyptian foreign minister that was not only upstaged by the Israeli rejection but also marred by technical mishaps that either blotted out Kerry’s face or distorted his voice; before that it was the Egyptian security authorities who insisted on humiliating Kerry by carrying out a physical security check before his meeting with President Sisi; before that it as Kerry’s unfortunate “So how is your day” query to the grieving American mother of fallen IDF solider Max Steinberg; and before that it was Kerry’s hot mike comments about Palestinian casualties on Fox News. Never mind this week’s widely-mentioned New Republic investigative report in which Kerry was assigned most of the blame for the collapse of his own peace efforts.

Increasingly, Kerry comes across as a hapless nebekh, which many Americans pronounce as nebbish because, as Leo Rosten says, they don’t know how to clear their throats. The etymology of the word in Yiddish has been traced by researchers to Middle Age Czech, which is only fitting given Kerry’s renowned Jewish roots in the Czech village of Horni Benesov, where his forefathers were known as Kohn.

What is a nebbish?

Here’s one definition:

Nebbish: a person, especially a man, who is regarded as pitifully ineffectual, timid, or submissive.

Here’s another one:

The nebbish is the bumbling caricature of a Jewish male, embodied by figures like Woody Allen and George Costanza.

I guess you can put me in the Yes, He Is column, given his performance to date on many major files. A sonorous voice and pithy sound bites are no substitute for competence and knowledge; unfortunately, Kerry seems to prefer the former.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

USA: Elizabeth Warren takes the fight to Wall Street

The Real USA
The highly intelligent, courageous and scrappy new senator is not stopping in her fight for the middle class. She is pounding the streets, raising money for long-shot Democrat candidates, and focusing on the rigged stock market that favours the wealthy and has a lock on many elected senators and House representatives:

Yet Warren’s 2014 road show is important in its own right. By stumping for long-shot Democrats in red states, raising and spreading around campaign cash, devising innovative legislation for candidates to borrow and, most importantly, sharpening the left’s rhetorical attack on Wall Street, Warren could have a major impact on the future of the Democratic Party, regardless of what she does in 2016.

Her traveling road show powerfully demonstrates why. Warren blows past any Beltway skittishness over “class warfare.” In her recent appearances alongside Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes and West Virginia’s Natalie Tennant, she portrayed the options before voters as “a choice between billionaires and students” or between someone who will “stand up for Wall Street” or “stand up for the families.” 

She name-checked Citibank and Goldman Sachs as among the Wall Streeters who already have “plenty of folks in the United State Senate who are willing to work on their side,” suggesting they don’t need to hold on to eager recipients of financial industry campaign cash like Sen. Mitch McConnell or Rep. Shelley Capito. 

And she used her signature student loan bill that would pay for refinancing by closing tax loopholes, filibustered by Republicans but embraced by the two Appalachian Democrats, as a case study of whose side each candidate is on.
A real leader

Warren’s Wall Street bashing has a good chance of boosting Tennant and Grimes because no matter what shade the state, people hate Wall Street. 

Already this year, Rep. Eric Cantor lost his job in part because Tea Party conservatives felt he was too close to big banks. 

After that Virginia primary, pollster Greenberg Quinlain Rosner conducted a national survey showing that 64 percent believe “the stock market is rigged for insiders” and 60 percent support “stricter regulation” on financial institutions, reflecting support that spans across the partisan spectrum.

Warren is saying what Hilary Clinton dare not say: the financial system of the USA is still broke, and needs fixing; is rigged, and needs leveling; and too many elected representatives are in the hip pockets of the wealthy.

Now if only Warren would decide to run for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 election!

The world would benefit if she won, and replaced President Obama, not just the USA.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Coming soon: High Noon in Ottawa, starring Senator “Sixgun” Duffy

The Mounties have ridden into town, dismounted, and placed their investigations in the hands of the state prosecutors. The prosecutors have carefully drafted 31 charges against a senator, and the stage is now set for an epic High Noon shootout on a dusty street in front of the Parliament in Ottawa.

And the senator has promised to call out several senior members of the Conservative Party as witnesses, under oath.

From the Ottawa Citizen:
Duffy has long maintained his innocence, saying that the details of his housing claims would all come out in court.

He has also quietly told colleagues that he intended to call as witnesses senior members of the Conservative party so they would be forced to talk about what they knew.
Wright, is expected to be a key witness at any trial. However, the RCMP announced in April that there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Wright with anything.
A senior Tory, perhaps?

In his statement last night, Bayne says the evidence will show that his client did not want to participate in Nigel Wright’s and the PMO’s repayment scenario, which he says they concocted for purely political purposes.

Rest assured, if the State does not call Nigel Wright as witness, then “Sixgun” Duffy will most likely do so. Either way, I believe it is highly probable that Wright will be given a chance to explain what happened before, during and after the events that led him to utter his now immortal “We are good to go” words.

And “Sixgun” Duffy is sure to call as witnesses some very senior Conservative senators, to talk about the events surrounding the first proposed deal with Duffy: the one for much less than $90,000.

Senator "Sixgun" Duffy getting ready ...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Israel & Framing the Issues: The Israel Project and Frank Luntz

A key to understanding the inner workings of modern politics is to understand what role the framing of issues takes, and the key to that is to understand why Frank Luntz, the Republican advisor, ranks at the top of political framing.

The news is full of interviews of Israeli and Palestinian spokespersons, with the occasional Hamas leader appearing.

When you watch and listen to these people represent their sides, ask yourself which spokespersons do the better job of framing the issues.

Here’s one take of what is governing the framing of issues by Israeli spokespersons, by the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera:

Do you wonder why official Israeli spokespersons sound so calm, smiley and kind when their popular base sounds so angry, so aggressive, and so racist? How they are likely to say something like, "thank you it's nice to be with you", even after being grilled by a probing frustrated anchor. Why, when asked about the expansion of illegal settlements, Israeli spokespersons speak of the need for a peace settlement, and when asked about bombing civilians, they speak of a better future for all children, Israeli and Palestinian?

Wonder no more. This is all part of a well-thought, well-orchestrated media strategy to mystify, mislead and even misrepresent the reality. And much of it can be found in The Israel Project's 2009 Global Language Dictionary

But this is not unique to Israel. Governments set up entire ministries and/or institutions to defend their policies and advance their narrative, at times to mislead their enemies or competitors. Indeed, it's naive to expect otherwise. Like cynicism, gullibility is especially dangerous for journalists.

And you can access the Project document itself at this site.

Just who is The Israel Project? Check Wikipedia for information.

Monday, July 14, 2014

From My Quotes Cupboard: China’s leaders could have ruled the waves, but blew it

Decisions made can impact centuries, as China found out when its leaders made a shortsighted decision in the early 1400’s:

In Nanjing today you can see a full-size replica of the treasure ship of Admiral Zhen He, the most famous sailor in Chinese history. It is 400 feet long – nearly five times the size of the Santa Maria, in which Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic in 1492.

And this was only part of the fleet of more than 300 huge ocean-going junks....

With combined crew of 28,000, Zheng He’s navy was bigger than anything seen in the West until the First World War... In a series of six epic voyages between 1405 and 1424, Zhen He’s fleet ranged astoundingly far and wide...

But then, in 1424, this harmony was shattered ... Zheng He’s voyages were immediately suspended ...

From 1500 anyone in China found building a ship of more than two masts was liable to the death penalty; in 1551 it became a crime even to go to sea in such a ship. The records of Zheng He’s journeys were destroyed.

Civilization: The West and the Rest, by Niall Ferguson, The Penguin Press, 2011

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

Monday, July 07, 2014

From My Quotes Cupboard: The German Juggernaut in search of a Hedgehog

About Jose Maria Aznar, Prime Minister of Spain, at the Amsterdam Treaty negotiation in May 1997:

But not with Aznar. They waited until everyone had settled into their roles at the negotiations, including me, and then offered him a compromise, not a bad one but not a good one. He said, No, I told you my terms. Ah yes, but we need to know your bottom line, they said. That is my bottom line, he replied. Then he said: I’m going into the next room to smoke a cigar. Which he promptly did.

They tried everything. Wim Kok, former prime minister of the Netherlands, went in and made his disapproval clear in a mildly Dutch Protestant way. Jacques Chirac tried to lord it over him in a very French way. Helmut Kohl finally rose to his fee and carried his considerable weight into the next room, looking like a juggernaut in search of a hedgehog. He came back mystified. The hedgehog had inexplicably refused to be squashed. Kohl turned to me. “You’re new like him,” he barked. “You go and try.”

A Journey: My Political Life by Tony Blair Alfred A. Knopf 2010

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Political generational shift

"Shake hands with the nice man. First, I'll take his job, and then later, when you're all grown up, you can take mine!"

Friday, July 04, 2014

Congratulations to Susan Delacourt

Susan Delacourt

Susan Delacourt neatly sums up the state of play in Canadian politics in her article in the Toronto Star:

In that same vein, we have been told repeatedly that Canadians want people in power who are “good managers” of the economy, but what about being a good manager of democracy? Doesn’t that entail a commitment to keeping citizens involved and interested with the business of how they’re governed?

For those of us who have balked at the way citizens have been turned into consumers (or worse, mere “taxpayers”), there is the silver lining in the bleak turnout figures. Just because you treat voters as shoppers, it doesn’t mean they’ll flock like bargain hunters to snap up your wares. They might just stay away altogether...

It must be frustrating to those who persist in seeing Canadians as passive consumers of politics and democracy. These customers are not being swayed by ads, their culture is not easily rebranded and they have higher expectations of government than mere bargains and slogans.

And when it comes to voting, they are becoming the most feared type of customers. The kind who don’t show up.

Way to go, Susan! The Cat salutes you.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Byelections: Thomas Mulcair’s NDP In Denial Phase

Mulcair in denial
Four byelections, and a thumping for the NDP, but that party is still refusing to face up to reality (my bolding):

Mulcair said the NDP needs to run campaigns that go beyond strictly local matters and focus on broader “kitchen table” issues, such as gas prices, ATM fees and transit, which are of concern to many Canadians of different political stripes.

“When we head into the general (election), we’re going to be broadening from where we are,” he said.

The NDP leader said Cressy got strong support from the party base, but the “mathematics of the vote” were affected by the Liberals surging ahead when the Conservatives got only six per cent of the vote in Trinity-Spadina.

“We’ve got to make sure that we take that into account when we’re calculating who we run and where, and where we put our emphasis,” Mulcair added.

Cressy, meanwhile, said Trudeau’s popularity had nothing to do with the results. A number of voters were torn, he said, because they have voted NDP federally but supported Vaughan municipally.

Until the NDP realizes that this coming election is just not it’s turn, and reviews its strategy and tactics (think proportional representation, Thomas), it will ride into battle in the next election and be whittled down to a rump.

Perhaps thereafter the next leader of the NDP will reassess matters.

Friday, June 27, 2014

First Nations & The Supreme Court Land Title Case: What does it mean?

Chief Roger William: The Man who changed Canada
This has been one of the most dramatic weeks in the history of Canada, with the highest court in the land shifting the tectonic plates underlying the country.

Very little economic activity that involves any kind of resource exploration or development in areas where the First Nations have or might obtain title will be carried out in the same way from this day on.

Power equation altered by Supreme Court:

You can find the Supreme Court decision here. It is very clearly written, follows the logical development and extension of the laws governing the relationships between the federal and provincial governments, on the one hand, and the First Nations, and forever alters Canada.

In a remarkable unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has broken new ground in the power equation that lies at the heart of resource development in Canada. In essence, the highest court in the land decided the first case to award Aboriginal title in land to a First Nation, and effectively created a quasi-veto right for First Nations over the development of resources in most of BC.

With this decision, the First Nations throughout Canada will be able to adopt President Teddy Roosevelt’s maxim: Speak softly, but carry a big stick.

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