Saturday, May 13, 2017

Ending the Warfare State

The Losing Warfare State

by Ralph Nader - CounterPunch

May 12, 2017

The USA is still bogged down in Afghanistan (the 16 year-old occupation is the longest in American history) and in Iraq (since the unconstitutional, illegal invasion of the country 14 years ago).

With about 30,000 poorly equipped fighters, the Taliban has held down a US equipped and trained Afghan army eight times larger in soldiers, plus the US forces – fluctuating from 100,000 at its peak to 8,500 now, plus contractors – with advanced air, sea and land weaponry that is second to none.

Moreover, the Taliban has been advancing, controlling 30 to 40 percent of the country and a third of the population, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In Iraq, the US had hundreds of thousands of soldiers and contractors during the Bush years. Yet today the country is still in the throes of a civil war, where a previously nonexistent threat – ISIS – with less than 15,000 fighters, has been successfully resisting a huge Iraqi army backed by US trainers and air force.

How can this be?

“We are vulnerable,” writes military author William Grieder,
“because our presumption of unconquerable superiority leads us deeper and deeper into unwinnable military conflicts.”

Jim Fallows, asserts in The Atlantic, that our military “is the best-equipped fighting force in history…also better trained, motivated, and disciplined than during the draft-army years.” Nonetheless he concludes:

“Yet, repeatedly this force has been defeated by less modern, worse-equipped, barely funded foes. Or it has won skirmishes and battles only to lose or get bogged down in a larger war.”

It gets worse. Less than 3,000 ISIS fighters took sudden control in 2013 of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city with over a million residents. Notwithstanding being vastly outnumbered by the Iraqi military and police – who fled – ISIS went on to control over a third of Iraq’s land area. Iraqis and US forces are now destroying West Mosul in order to save it from a few hundred remaining ISIS fighters.

Fallows quotes former military intelligence officer, Jim Gourley, as saying,

“it is incontrovertibly evident that the US military failed to achieve any of its strategic goals in Iraq.”

Setting aside the fundamental questions about why we invaded Iraq and continued to occupy Afghanistan long after 9/11, Americans are entitled to question how continued American occupations across the Middle East serve any kind of vital national interest and why they continue to fail.

In his analysis, military historian Thomas Ricks writes that “an important factor in the failure” is that no one gets “relieved by the military brass for combat ineffectiveness.”

But there are other reasons all the way up the chain of command.

Cargo planes ship $100 bills in bulk to Kabul airport as part of an extensive bribery/extortion system that weakens the opposition to the Taliban, whose appeal to the masses, despite their harsh rule over them, is to drive out the foreign invaders.

That is a very powerful motivation, one that is lacking among Afghan forces and politicians whom the people of Afghanistan view as puppets of the US and its western allies.

Retired Admiral Mike Mullen makes another point concerning “the growing disconnect between the American people and our military.” He observes that,

“fewer and fewer [American citizens] know anyone in the military. It’s become just too easy to go to war.”

The ease at which we embrace military interventions is in large part due to a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the Congress, which allows the White House to commence wars, large and small, without legal authority. Congress is the only branch of government constitutionally authorized to declare war and appropriate funds for war. The Libyan war, which was pushed by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (and opposed by Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates) was waged without seeking either legal authority or funds from the legislative branch. The Obama administration took monies from the unauditable Pentagon budget to start that continuing disaster in Libya and neighboring African countries.

Listening to the House and Senate Armed Services Committee hearings, one finds a sycophancy and level of questioning by the lawmakers of Pentagon officials that would embarrass a mediocre high school student.

But the Senators and Representatives have their reasons. They simply do not want the responsibility for military action except to provide a virtual blank check from taxpayers for the Department and its avaricious, wasteful contractors who fund their campaigns.

Second, members of Congress see the military expenditures as a jobs program back in their states and districts.

Finally, members of Congress are not getting any heat from the detached, indifferent voters (with few exceptions), either during or between elections. Notice there is never a debate by candidates on the military budget – how it is used or misused financially and strategically (yet candidates regularly pledge ever increasing dollars for the Defense budget).

As a final cruel insult to our children and grandchildren, Congress, by refusing to fund the wars as they persist, has built up a huge deficit for future generations of Americans to pay.

Retired Colonel Andrew Bacevich has written,

“A people untouched (or seemingly untouched) by war are far less likely to care about it. Persuaded that they have no skin in the game, they will permit the state to do whatever it wishes to do.”

But, collectively, we all have skin in the game. Look at the unmet needs in our country, crumbling infrastructure, toxic environments and the corrosive costs of corporatism escaping law enforcement that would protect consumers and workers.

It is the members of Congress who have no skin in the game. Very few of their children are in the armed forces. Were the American people to demand enactment of a one page bill that requires drafting all able-bodied children and grandchildren of members of Congress anytime they or the White House plunges our country into war, you would see a very attentive Congress that pays attention to its Constitutional duties and responsibilities.

Why not ask your Senators or Representatives to put such a bill in the hopper?

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!
More articles by Ralph Nader

The Emerging Virus That Will Kill Internet

Our Internet Will Be Destroyed In The Coming Weeks & No One’s Talking About It

by Lee Camp - Redacted Tonight


May 13, 2017

First We Take Our Town: Street to Street Fighting for Energy Change

New Campaign Urges People "Off Fossil Fuels" In Their Own Communities


May 12, 2017

With federal environmental protections and regulations under attack by the Trump Administration, Food and Water Watch is launching a new effort to take the fight protecting the environment to states and towns.

Wenonah Hauter is the founder and Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. She has worked extensively on food, water, energy and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Experienced in developing policy positions and legislative strategies, she is also a skilled and accomplished organizer, having lobbied and developed grassroots field strategy and action plans. Her latest book Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy and the Environment exposes how more than 100 years of political influence peddling facilitated the control of our energy system by a handful of corporations and financial institutions. Her previous book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America examines the corporate consolidation and control over our food system and what it means for farmers and consumers. For more information, visit and

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Vote Rigger Rises in Trumpland

Trump picks Al Capone of Vote Rigging to investigate Federal Voter Fraud 

by Greg Palast for Alternet

May 12, 2017

Kris Kobach is the GOP mastermind behind a secretive system that purged 1.1 million Americans from the voter rolls.

Kris Kobach was spooning down vanilla ice cream when I showed him the thick pages of evidence documenting his detailed plan to rig the presidential election of 2016.

Kobach screams at Greg Palast
while eating ice cream

The Secretary of State of Kansas, sucking up carbs at a Republican Party Fundraiser, recognized the documents – and yelled at me, "YOU'RE A LIAR!" and ran for it while still trying to wolf down the last spoonful.

But documents don't lie.

That was 2015 (yes, the ballot heist started way back). Today this same man on the run, Kris Kobach, is now Donald Trump’s choice to head the new “Voter Integrity Commission.”

It’s like appointing Al Capone to investigate The Mob.

How did Kobach mess with the 2016 vote? Let me count the ways—as I have in three years of hunting down Kobach’s ballot-box gaming for Rolling Stone and Al Jazeera.

Just two of Kobach’s vote-bending tricks undoubtedly won Michigan for Trump and contributed to his “wins” in Ohio, North Carolina and Arizona.

First, Interstate Crosscheck.

Kobach is the GOP mastermind behind this secretive system which purged 1.1 million Americans from the voter rolls.

When Trump said, “This election’s rigged,” the press ignored the second part of his statement: “People are voting many, many times.” Trump cited three million votes illegally cast.

The White House said Trump got this information from Kobach. Indeed, it specifically comes from a list of 7 million names—or, as Kobach describes it, a list of 3.5 million “potential double voters.” How did Kobach find these three million double voters?

He matched their names, first and last. And that’s it.

Here’s an unedited screen-shot of a segment of his list:

James Edward Harris Jr. of Richmond, Virginia, is supposed to be 
the same voters as James R. Harris (no Jr.) of Indianapolis, Indiana. 
Really? Note that not one middle name matches.

And here’s the ugly part. Both James Harris (in fact, hundreds of them) are subject to getting scrubbed off the voter rolls.

And these are Kobach’s lists, tens of thousands of names I showed Kobach, falsely accused of the crime of double voting.

And that’s why Kobach was stunned and almost dropped his vanilla, because he and his GOP colleagues kept the lists of the accused strictly confidential. (The first of the confidential lists was obtained by our investigative photojournalist, Zach D. Roberts, through legal methods—though howling voting officials want them back.)

In all, about 1.1 million voters on that list have been scrubbed already—and they don’t know it. They show up to vote and they’re name has simply vanished. Or, the voter is marked “inactive.” “Crosscheck” is not marked on the victim voter’s record. It’s a stealth hit.

And it’s deadly. Doubtless, Crosscheck delivered Michigan to Trump who supposedly “won” the state by 10,700 votes. The Secretary of State’s office proudly told me that they were “very aggressive” in removing listed voters before the 2016 election. Kobach, who created the lists for his fellow GOP officials, tagged a whopping 417,147 in Michigan as potential double voters.

And not just any voters. Mark Swedlund, a database expert who advises companies such as Amazon and eBay on how not to mis-match customers was “flabbergasted” to discover in his team’s technical analysis, that the list was so racially biased that fully one in six registered African-Americans were tagged in the Crosscheck states that include the swing states of Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona and more.

The effect goes way beyond the Trump v. Clinton count. I spoke to several of the targeted voters on the list in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional district where the Democratic candidate fell just short of the margin to win a special election. Especially hard hit in the northern Atlanta suburbs were Korean-Americans, like Mr. Sung Park, who found he was tagged as voting in two states in 2012 simply because he had a name that is as common in Korea as James Brown.

And Kobach, in fact, tagged 288 men in Georgia named James Brown on his Crosscheck blacklist.

As Crosscheck spreads—and it was just signed into law in New Hampshire in the last days of a lame-duck Republican governorship—it will undoubtedly poison the count in the fight for Congress in 2018.

And that’s why Trump needs Kobach on his “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity”: To spread Crosscheck with an official federal endorsement and, likely, Congressional legislation.

And if Crosscheck isn’t enough to scare you, Kobach is also pushing Trump to require voters to prove their citizenship.

At first blush, it seems right to demand people prove they are US citizens to vote. But here’s the rub: We are not Red China and don’t carry citizenship cards. Resident Aliens holding Green Cards have, indeed are required to have, Social security cards and drivers’ licenses, if they drive or work.

The readiest proof of citizenship is a passport. And what is the color of the typical passport holder, their income—and the color of their vote?

The other form of proof, besides naturalization papers, is your original birth certificate.

And there’s the rub: the poor, minorities and especially new young voters do not have easy access to a passport or their birth certificates. Kobach took his citizenship proof requirement out for a test drive in Kansas. The result: 36,000 young voters were barred from voting… that is, until a federal judge, citing the National Voter Registration Act, told Kobach that unless he could produce even one alien among those 36,000, she was ordering him to let them vote.

Kobach’s response: a private meeting with Trump at Trump Tower where he proposed changing the Act.

All of this to eliminate a crime which does not occur. Besides Trump’s claims of alien voters swimming the Rio Grande to vote for Hillary, I have found only two verified cases of votes cast by aliens in the US in the last decade. (One, an Austrian who confessed to voting for Jeb Bush in Florida.)

Don’t laugh. The threat of “alien voters” – long a staple claim by Kobach on his appearances on Fox TV – will be the Kobach Commission’s hammer to smash the National Voter Registration Act’s protections. Based on the numbers from Kansas, and its overwhelming effect on young – read “Democratic” – voters, this shift alone could swing the election of 2018.

Indeed, Kobach’s Crosscheck con together with his “alien” voter attack, could mean the choice of the electorate in 2020 may already be trumped.

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie.

Palast is also the author of the the New York Times bestseller Armed Madhouse and the BBC Newsnight Book of the Year Vultures' Picnic.

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BC's Unbalanced Media: Flak News, Shaky Polls Push for Clark

No wonder people have a hard time trusting news, polls


May 8, 2017 

It’s no secret: Canada’s biggest newspaper chain is pushing hard for another Christy Clark majority government.

Postmedia, which owns the Vancouver Sun and The Province, donated $10,000 to re-elect the BC Liberals. Both Vancouver papers have officially endorsed Christy Clark (neither editorial mentioned the RCMP investigation of party fundraising, or Big Money in politics).

Monday morning the Sun declared: “NEW POLL POINTS TO LIBERAL MAJORITY”. Accompanying the article was a PDF showing the NDP leading with 35 per cent support, the BC Liberals at 31 and Greens at 17, with 18 per cent undecided.

Here’s a screenshot of the article as it appeared on the Sun’s website:


A few hours later the paper replaced the image. The new version dropped the “undecided” number to 14 and boosted the Liberals to 34 points. Reporter Cheryl Chan told me on Twitter,

“the Sun’s PDF was outdated”.

Mainstreet Research vice-president David Valentin offered a technical explanation:

“The cloud didn’t update 4 numbers in one chart.”

Then the research firm’s CEO, Quito Maggi, chimed in.

“You don’t understand how the embedded chart updates. It was fixed and updated, what’s your issue?”

Public trust already low

My issue is not that Mainstreet screwed up and gave its client an incorrect report. Mistakes happen. My issue is that the Vancouver Sun’s owners already know who they want to win. That undermines the public’s trust in the journalism produced by their reporters.

It’s not just Postmedia.

Black Press has given $10,130, including a $3,500 cheque in January. They own local papers all over B.C. Glacier Media (which now owns the Times Colonist), donated $100,000 to the BC Liberals in 2009.

Bell, which owns CTV News, BNN, CFAX 1070 and other talk radio outlets, has donated $65,968 over the years. Shaw, which has since been bought by Corus in a deal that includes Global News, gave the BC Liberals $139,925.

The Rogers Group, which owns City TV, Maclean’s magazine and News 1130, has given a staggering $458,018 to B.C.’s ruling party.

Why would media owners put their news reporters in such an awkward position? The simple answer is they don’t care. They’re producing entertainment. And Christy Clark is good for business.

Will voters prove media owners wrong?

Canada’s corporate media barons endorsed Stephen Harper for Prime Minister in 2015. Voters had other ideas. Today, Postmedia says another Christy Clark majority is all but inevitable. The outcome they have worked so hard to create is on the cusp of becoming reality.

Will voters deliver another surprise? Only if they show up to the polls. And that seems to be the one thing making the Vancouver Sun’s publishers nervous.

“Millennials, whose participation rate was only 40 per cent in 2013, seem motivated this time around,” reads the Sun’s weekend editorial.
“But youthful exuberance must be tempered by common sense,” they warn – before endorsing Christy Clark.

If you needed any more motivation to vote on Tuesday, hopefully that line seals the deal.

Eight Rules for Minority BC Government Legitimacy

B.C. party leaders and Lieutenant Governor should agree on eight key rules for minority government

by Democracy Watch


Rules should make clear which party will try governing first, when the legislature will open, what a vote of non-confidence is, what will trigger next election etc. Should issue public statement of agreement on the rules, and then first bill passed by legislature should make the rules law 

May 11, 2017
OTTAWA Today, Democracy Watch calls on B.C. party leaders and the Lieutenant Governor to agree on eight public, written rules for a minority government, as more than 80% of Canadians want.

While B.C. may not have a minority government after recounts and the official provincial vote count is finalized in a couple of weeks, agreeing rules now will help ensure the legislature runs fairly and democratically through to the next election.

The rules should make clear: which party will get to try governing first; when the legislature will open; when it can be closed; what a vote of non-confidence is; when and how the opposition parties may get a chance to govern and; when and how the next election can be called before the fixed election date. (See Backgrounder below for the eight rules)

The current rules are unclear because they are unwritten constitutional conventions – even constitutional scholars disagree what lines they draw. The vagueness in the rules effectively allows the elected Premier and ruling party to abuse their powers and violate the rules, as the only way to stop violations is for the unelected, unaccountable Lieutenant Governor to decide that a violation has occurred and to try to stop the elected Premier from doing what they want.

Lieutenant governors in B.C. other provinces have almost never stopped a premier from doing whatever they want, and have allowed premiers to abuse their powers by not opening the legislature after an election, shutting it down arbitrarily for months, and calling snap elections in violation of fixed-election-date laws. The Governor General allowed Prime Minister Harper to call a snap election in 2008 in violation of the (too vague) fixed-election-date law, to prorogue Parliament in a very questionable minority government situation, and to declare many votes in Parliament as confidence votes even though they were clearly not confidence votes.

In England, Australia and New Zealand, political party leaders and MPs agreed years ago to clear, public rules so what happens after an election is fair for all the parties, and for voters. Most countries in the world also have clear, public post-election rules.

As well, a survey of more than 2,000 Canadians by Harris-Decima in November-December 2012 showed that 84% of adult Canadians want enforceable rules to restrict key powers of the Prime Minister and provincial premiers.

The Governor General also said last August in an an interview with the Hill Times that he thought these unwritten constitutional conventions should be written down.

“There are no legal or other justifiable reasons for B.C.’s political party leaders and Lieutenant Governor to fail to approve eight key rules for a minority government,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. 
“It is clearly in the public interest that the rules be approved to stop unfair abuses of power by the ruling party that violate the rights of the legislature and the democratic will of the majority of voters.”

After the eight rules are enacted into law, the B.C. legislature should, as the legislatures in England, Australia and New Zealand have, examine and enact other fairness rules to ensure the legislature and MLAs can hold the government accountable. The rules should cover the following key areas: what can be included in omnibus bills; the freedom and powers of individual politicians to vote how they want on resolutions and bills; how members of legislature committees are chosen, and; what a Cabinet can do during an election campaign period until the next Cabinet is chosen.

“As long as the rules for the legislature are unwritten and unclear in B.C., the premier and ruling party will be able to abuse their powers and the legislature’s ability to hold the government accountable will be undemocratically restricted,” said Conacher.

                                                         - 30 -


Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch

Democracy Watch’s Stop PM/Premier Power Abuses Campaign


8 Key Rules for Minority Government 

  1. Until the Lieutenant Governor has communicated directly with all the party leaders, the Lieutenant Governor will not make a decision about which party or parties (through either a formal coalition or legislative agreement) will be given the opportunity to govern first (i.e. to appoint a Cabinet and introduce a Speech from the Throne in the legislature);
  2. The party that wins the most seats in the election will be given the first opportunity to govern, including in partnership or coalition with another party, unless the leaders of other parties representing a majority of members of the legislature indicate clearly to the Lieutenant Governor that they will not support that party and that they have agreed to form a coalition government or have agreed on a common legislative agenda;
  3. Within 30 days after the Lieutenant Governor decides which party or parties will be given the first opportunity to govern, the Lieutenant Governor and the governing party/parties will open the legislature with a Speech from the Throne;
  4. Even if the leaders of parties that represent a majority of members of the legislature do not indicate lack of support for the party that wins the most seats before that party’s Speech from the Throne, if they subsequently indicate lack of support for the Speech, the Lieutenant Governor will not allow the Premier-designate to prorogue the legislature before the Speech from the Throne is voted on by members of the legislature;
  5. If a majority of members in the legislature vote against the Speech from the Throne, the Lieutenant Governor will give the opposition parties an opportunity to govern (through either a formal coalition or legislative agreement) before calling an election;
  6. After the vote on the Speech from the Throne, the only vote in the legislature that shall be a vote of non-confidence is a vote on a motion that states: “The legislature does not have confidence in the government.”
  7. If opposition parties introduce a motion of non-confidence in the governing party at any time after election day, the Lieutenant Governor will not allow the Premier to prorogue the legislature before the motion is voted on by the legislature, and;
  8. If a majority in the legislature votes to approve a motion of non-confidence in the governing party before the next fixed-election date, the Lieutenant Governor will give the opposition parties an opportunity to govern (through either a formal coalition or legislative agenda agreement) before agreeing to any request by the Premier that the Lieutenant Governor call an election.

Assassinos: Colombia's Old Ways Threaten Peace Process

Assassination of 41 Activists in Colombia Threatens Peace Process


May 10, 2017

The Colombian government's peace agreement with the FARC rebels requires the government to protect activists and former FARC fighters, but their government is not living up to this requirement, says Prof. Mario Murillo.

Mario A. Murillo is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Radio, Television, Film department at Hofstra University. He is also co-director of Hofstra's Center for Civic Engagement.
In 2008-2009, Mario spent six months in Colombia, as a Fulbright Scholar, working in the Communication Department of the Universidad Pontif'cia La Javeriana in Bogot', alongside its radio station Javeriana Estereo. His research work was carried out in close collaboration with the Communication Committee of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN, and focused on the strategic uses of communication of the indigenous movement. He is currently finishing a book about ACIN's role in the broader indigenous movement of Colombia, which is expected to be published in 2012.
He is the author of Colombia and the United States: War, Unrest and Destabilization (Seven Stories, 2004), and Islands of Resistance: Puerto Rico, Vieques and U.S. Policy (Seven Stories, 2001). Mario has studied and written about community radio, both in the United States and Latin America for many years, his articles and essays published in academic journals and collected essays in the U.S. and abroad.

Pillorying the Poll: What's Been and What's to Be Done

Weaver would be crazy to make pact with Christy; NDP should have nailed Libs on economy, LNG

by Rafe Mair - The Common Sense Canadian

May 11, 2017

It’s May 10, 2017 as I write this, an appropriate date to examine the election, being the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of France and the Low Countries in 1940 and the day Winston Churchill came to the rescue.

Like then, much of the information during the campaign was questionable and virtually all of the mainstream media suppositions by a lamentable herd of trained seals unable to report intelligibly or intelligently.

The stage was set by 16 years of kissing the backside of the provincial government, the print media distinguishing itself by managing to avoid the number one story of the times – their own newspapers’ deal with the oil industry ensuring that the latter always looked good in the newspapers and governments that wanted good press would be kind to the fossil fuel industry.

How annoying it was to hear the Global gabbers pontificate that when one party, with 100 votes cast, had 46% and the other 44%, thus the former had a “two point lead” – a piddling, meaningless statement. They used the same method with 5000 votes cast where that 2% was a substantial and perhaps final margin. In baseball, it’s percentages of hits per at bat; in politics it’s the number of hits that count. One might have expected the political pundits might have picked that up somewhere along the way.
Clark’s true economic record should have been downfall

There can be no doubt that all three parties lost one way or another. The Clark Liberals, with enough money to launch a small country, couldn’t buy a majority. The NDP, with the manifest sins of the Liberals to work with, couldn’t get a majority. The Green party with an electorate in the mood for environmental reform, managed three seats, all on friendly Vancouver Island.

That the Liberals sort of won had far less to do with their good record than the gentleness of Mr. Horgan on issues he wasn’t comfortable with, like money. That analysis runs contrary to what the media has said which is strong, if not irrefutable evidence that I’m bang on.

Courtesy of Norm Farrell/In-sights

If I may be so bold – and this is my blog after all – I warned Horgan a couple of years ago that he was letting the Liberals off the hook in the very area they claimed a monopoly on wisdom, handling our money. Their constant fallback position was that the NDP always wantonly run up public debt and drive away business. This allegation doesn’t stand up to a moment’s scrutiny, so why did it prevail in the election?

The answer is that the issue has the NDP spooked. It’s been repeated so often they believe it themselves!

The list of Liberal fiscal shortcomings is lengthy but I would have thought that doubling the provincial debt in 16 years and essentially bankrupting BC Hydro in the bargain would have been enough. Liberal construction overruns alone make Glen Clark’s “fast ferry fiasco” look picayune by comparison; add Site C, the issue that dare not speak its name, and it’s a wonderment that the Liberals got any votes at all. In short, what the Liberals got was that which Mr. Horgan could have got had he campaigned on issues and not spent time showing what a sweet guy he really is, despite nasty Liberal rumours about a nasty disposition.
NDP dropped the ball on LNG

Harken back for a moment to the LNG issue, which is where Horgan went politically bonkers. In politics, you simply do not take an issue completely out of play in order to look like a candidate for political sainthood. LNG was an immense and highly embarrassing failure for Clark so why did Mr. Horgan not beat up the Liberals on that point?

“Why”, he said, “we can’t be against everything”. Any politician with the faintest idea of what he was doing would have said “we’re in favour of development of our natural resources consistent with sound environmental practices and evidence that each development is in the best interests of the public of British Columbia”.

If he had done that he could have won my riding for one. Moreover, it would’ve left it open to him to raise hell about massive expenses of the Liberal government in chasing this ever-disappearing will-o-the wisp, guaranteed by Christy, no less, which would make us rich and relieve us forever from all debt. He could then have shown Christy Clark to be a legitimate object of ridicule – and ridicule is one thing a politician cannot survive. Horgan and his party couldn’t employ this massive weapon because, of course, he could hardly attack Clark’s bumptious bullshit about something he and his party supported!
How the Greens lost too

The Greens lost in a rather different sense of the word. They were in a province which has become more alive environmentally in the last 10 years than anywhere else in Canada. Not only was there the LNG plant in Squamish but the huge issue of Kinder Morgan and related undertakings. And in this atmosphere they took three seats, all on Vancouver Island, the Green “stronghold”, and none even close to where many of the environmental desecrations are planned.

I have no doubt that had the Greens been able to whisk Elizabeth May away from Ottawa, they would not only have done better, they would have been serious contenders throughout the province.
The elephant in the room

When all’s said and done, the Liberals “won” because there were so many minor issues to divert attention from massive Liberal mismanagement, a diversion not achieved by Liberal cleverness but NDP cowardice, arising from their willingness to believe that their dealings with fiscal matters would be laughed at by voters conditioned to believe implicitly in NDP fiscal incompetence.

In addition, there was the lazy excuse that the public simply doesn’t understand big figures and colossal losses.

That may be partly so – but only partly. Had Mr. Horgan hammered at the absolute falsehood that the Liberals had actually balanced the budget, had he translated the tragedy of BC Hydro into huge rate increases, and had he expressed the doubling of the provincial debt in terms of higher taxes and diminished social services, spiced with that extraordinary YouTube presentation of Christy congratulating her parents for leaving their children no debt and promising the same fiscal rectitude for BC, then I have no doubt the public would have understood fully.

With the exception of independent papers, the media was appalling at presenting issues with coherent analysis. To think that the Campbell energy policy which ruined so many rivers and set BC Hydro on a path to bankruptcy went unmentioned in the mainstream media from its launch in 2003 until now, speaks volumes for the decline of that once-honourable profession.
Where do we go from here?

As to what will happen now, I have no more idea than anyone else except that I can say what should not happen. The Green party would be mad to unite with the Liberals, just as a suitable way for them to reward Dr. Weaver with a cabinet post for his all his political kindness to them. It’s to the left not right Greens must look if they are going to gather public support.

The Green party have a glorious opportunity to expand both in terms of numbers and appeal to thinking British Colombia if they avoid the future machinations of the BC Liberal party. It would make a great deal more sense if they were to support, short of a coalition, a minority NDP government, should that prove numerically possible.

I close with this observation – you might consider that any one of the three leaders was successful but that’s only because you’re comparing them to two losers. In their respective fields, they each failed by substantial underachievement, least so Weaver, who now must demonstrate that the Green Party can successfully move onto the Mainland and to other regions and his next move will tell.

I hope they can – and do.

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at
More articles by Rafe Mair

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hedonism and War

Lebanon: Hedonism and War

by Andre Vltchek - Dissident Voice

May 11th, 2017

Palestinian refugee camps are up in flames across the country, a result of the disputes between the rival factions, but also of ‘unsavory’ influences from abroad. As everyone knows here, there are, for instance, the Al Qaida-affiliated militants hiding in the South.

In Palestinian Refugee Camp, South Lebanon

There are Israeli incursions into Lebanon, both by land and by water. There are also drones, flying habitually from Israel into and through the Lebanese airspace.

Lebanon-Israel border

There is great tension between Israel and Hezbollah, over Syria, but not only.

Lebanese forces are fighting DAESH, mainly in the Northeast of Lebanon, on the mountainous border with Syria. Hezbollah is fighting DAESH, too, but ‘independently’.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon

In the 7th year into the war in Syria, there are still more than 1 million Syrian refugees living on Lebanese territory, some in awful conditions and many with an extremely uncertain future. The exact number is unknown (UNHCR stopped the registration of all new arrivals approximately 2 years ago), but is believed to fluctuate between 1 and 2 million.

There is mounting tension between the Syrian and the Lebanese communities, as they are now competing for already sparse jobs and public services (including such basic utilities like water), while Palestinian refugees have been stranded in Lebanon already for decades, with very little social, political and economic rights.

There is a drug epidemic, from its production (mainly in the Bekaa Valley), to its unbridled consumption in Beirut.

A new government has finally been formed in December 2016, after more than 2.5 years of absence of any functioning administration. However, the Prime Minister is a Sunni Muslim, Saad Hariri, who is openly hostile to Syria and has directly expressed support for the recent US attacks against the neighboring country. Mr. Hariri has long been accusing Hezbollah and Syria of assassinating his father, Rafik Hariri, in February 2005. Mr. Hariri has dual citizenship, that of Lebanon and also of Saudi Arabia where he was born (in Riyadh). On the other hand, the President of Lebanon is now a Maronite Christian, 83-years old Michel Aoun, who came to power thanks to the unfailing support given to him by Hezbollah, the fact that puts him at odds with the Prime Minister.

Invader’s Grave, Israeli tanks in Hezbollah museum

There is an ongoing struggle, even deadlock, amongst the ‘political parties’ (in Lebanon often synonymous with sectarian divisions), over such varied issues as the electoral law, waste management, international political alliances, foreign military funding, gender-based discrimination, employment as well as all basic social services (or acute lack of them).


Lebanon is literally surrounded by perpetual conflicts. Syria, the country in great agony, is right ‘next door’, north and east of tiny Lebanon, while mighty and aggressive Israel is threatening the country from the south. The United Nations troops are patrolling the so-called “UN 2000 Blue Line” or the de facto border between Lebanon and Israel. In fact, UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon) has for years been ‘covering’ a large part of the country’s territory. It all feels like a war zone.

Hezbollah flag over Israeli border

In fact, the region consists of a series of temporarily dormant conflicts that are ready to explode again, at any moment, with destructive, murderous force.

The occupied and devastated Golan Heights is just across the borderline, too. Officially, The Golans are still part of Syria, but the Israelis have already purged most of its population, resettling it with their own citizens. During my visit, some 4 years ago, the situation was already dire, the area scarred by barbed wires, with Israeli military posts and vehicles everywhere. Many local houses were destroyed, as ‘punishment’. If you drive to the geographical extreme, you can see the Golan Heights from Lebanon. You can also see Israel, while Syria is ‘always there’, right behind the majestic and bare mountains.

UNIFIL vehicle parked in front of Hezollah poster

The UN peacekeepers come from all parts of the world, including South Korea, Indonesia and Europe. Right before the Coastal Highway ends, near the city of Tyre, the motorists pass through the last Lebanese checkpoint. The UNIFIL protected area begins, with armored vehicles, sandbags and watchtowers. It reads, on the concrete blocks intended to slow down the traffic: “Peace to Lebanon, Glory to Korea!”

Palestinian refugee camps are overflowing. Syrian refugees (some in awful conditions) are working like slaves in the Bekaa Valley, begging for money in Sidon and Beirut, or if they are wealthy, renting lavish seafront condominiums on the Corniche of the capital city.


Despite all the bravado, Lebanon is scared; it is petrified.

Everybody knows that Israel could hit at any moment, again. It is said that Israelis are already stealing Lebanese oil from the seabed, but the weak and almost totally defenseless country can do almost nothing against one of the mightiest military forces on Earth.

All over the country, there are ‘dormant cells’ of ISIS (DAESH) and of other extremist militant groups, overflowing from war-torn Syria. The ISIS is dreaming about a ‘caliphate and the access to the sea’. Lebanon is right there, a ‘perfect location’.

Both Russia and China are keeping a relatively low profile here, not too interested in operating in this divided and uncertain political climate. In Lebanon, there are very few permanent loyalties left; allegiances are often shifting and are frequently dependent on outside ‘funding’.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are always present here, and so is the West. Hezbollah (on several ‘lists’ of the terrorist organizations of the West) is the only pan-Lebanese force capable and willing to provide at least some basic social services for the poor, as well as determined military and ideological defense against Israel.

Many political analysts are predicting that Lebanon will collapse, totally, and soon. But it is still here, determined and defiant. How, nobody knows. For how long, is a total mystery!

Louis Vuitton in Beirut

Patrolled by the UN, overflowing with refugees, Lebanon is shining into the night. Its Ferraris are roaming through its streets, without mufflers, until early morning hours. Its nightclubs are seducing hedonist visitors from the Gulf. Its art cinemas are as good or even better than those in Paris.

At the AUB Medical Center, the best Middle Eastern surgeons are treating the most horrid war injuries from the area.

Here, war and self-indulgence are living side by side. Some say it is nothing else other than a bare cynicism. Others would argue:

“No, it is life! Life of the 21st century world; exposed, brought to the extreme, but in a way honest.” 

• First published in NEO

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are the revolutionary novel Aurora and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: Exposing Lies Of The Empire and Fighting Against Western Imperialism. View his other books here. Watch his Rwanda Gambit, a documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo. He continues to work around the world and can be reached through his website and Twitter. Read other articles by Andre.

Uses of ISIS: "This is conquest masquerading as liberation"

Will America Partition Syria?

by Sharmine Narwani  - The American Conservative

May 11, 2017

 U.S. strategy seems to be shifting toward creating a buffer state between Iran and Israel.

BEIRUT Given the rhetoric of most U.S. policymakers, one might conclude that the conflict in Syria is about establishing freedom and democracy in the Levantine state. But no genuine aspiration for democracy ever came from a line-up of allies that includes countries like Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, and Turkey. Seen from the Middle East, American intervention here appears to be aimed at putting the last genuinely independent Arab state under Washington’s sphere of influence—and cutting off a key Iranian ally in the region.

Today, after six years of regime-change operations that failed to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and install a compliant regime in Damascus, the west’s strategy seems to be shifting toward partitioning Syria. Specifically, the new U.S. policy would seek to sever the unimpeded geographic line between Iran and Israel by creating a buffer entity that runs through Iraq and Syria.

But here’s the twist: in Syria’s northeast/east and in Iraq’s northwest/west, where the Islamic State once occupied a vast swathe of territory, ISIS has helped to enable this U.S. goal by delineating the borders of this future buffer zone.

The only question is which U.S. “asset” will rule that buffer zone once it is liberated from ISIS. Would it be Sunni Arabs of the sectarian variety? A declassified 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report seemed to suggest this option when it confirmed U.S. and Western support for the establishment of a “Salafist Principality” on the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Or will it be a Kurdish-ruled zone? U.S.-Kurdish machinations have, after all, borne a similar Shia-thwarting buffer on Iran’s western border with Iraq, with the creation of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) headed by the famously opportunistic and corrupt Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani.

Either way, what transpired is this: ISIS occupied the areas flanking Syria and Iraq’s northern border. The U.S.-led coalition has had a presence in these territories for several years, without impairing ISIS control. At the right time, under U.S. cover, Kurds are moving in to “recapture” them.

Kurds constitute a minority in all these governorates, which is how the presence of ISIS became a valuable U.S./Kurdish strategic asset. ISIS’s invasion of these areas is delineating the borders of the new entity and depopulating it—creating an opportunity for Washington to champion the Kurds as the primary “liberating” force within those borders, after which Kurds can claim this territorial bounty.

“This is conquest masquerading as liberation,” says Assyrian writer Max Joseph, who explains how KDP Peshmerga forces disarmed Assyrian Christians and Yezidis two weeks before ISIS invaded in August 2014, then retreated from their promise to protect those populations just as ISIS entered Sinjar and the Nineveh Plains.

In the immediate aftermath of the ISIS invasion, Reuters quoted a KRG official saying: “Everyone is worried, but this is a big chance for us. ISIL gave us in two weeks what Maliki couldn’t give us in eight years.”

“By disarming and disabling communities who live in territories the Kurdish leadership have designs on controlling, then letting a ready-made aggressive foreign force invade and uproot native communities, forcing them to flee, KRG forces backed by Western airstrikes will be seen as ‘retaking’ land never even theirs,” explains Joseph.

Two years later, in July 2016, the KRG’s Peshmerga ministry gave credence to those claims by announcing that “Peshmerga forces will not withdraw from areas they have recaptured from the Islamic State.”

This is nothing less than an attempt to establish “Kurdistan,” a nation for the historically stateless Kurds, which has long-envisioned swallowing up parts of Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran.

Some context helps explain the current situation. The KDP-ruled Kurdish entity in Iraq currently governs vast areas stretching from Iran’s western border to the Turkish border, stopping short east of Mosul and Kirkuk (an oil-rich city it openly covets). But the KDP has aspirations that run through Mosul to the western province of Nineveh—the historic home of a Christian Assyrian population—which would create a contiguous line across the north of Iraq to the Syrian border.

Last week, the “Kurdistan” flag was hoisted above all government buildings in Kirkuk—a move deemed unconstitutional and opposed by local non-Kurdish leaders and the Iraqi government alike.

A Syrian-Kurdish Entity?

In Syria, one can see a picture developing that mirrors Iraq’s experiences with the Kurds, Americans, and ISIS. Under U.S. patronage, areas occupied by the terror group are allowed to be “recaptured” by Kurdish forces, with a smattering of subordinate Arab Sunni forces to lend broader legitimacy.

Kurdish-controlled territory now traverses much of Syria’s three northern governorates where Kurds remain a minority—Hasakah, Raqqa, and Aleppo—and has earned the wrath of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has sent in troops and Arab proxies to break this “Kurdish corridor,” placing him in direct confrontation with the objectives of Washington, his NATO ally.

The Kurdish Nationalist Party (PYD) and its military wing. the People’s Protection Units (YPG), have unilaterally declared Hasakah a federal Kurdish state, a designation that is unrecognized by the Syrian government and other states. But Kurds barely make up 40 percent of the governorate’s population, which consists of Assyrians, Arabs, Armenians, Turkmen, and other ethnic groups as well. Likewise, in Aleppo, the most populous of Syria’s 14 governorates, where 40 percent of Syrian Kurds reside, Kurds make up only 15 percent of the population and are a majority only in Afrin and Ayn al-Arab (Kobane).

Meanwhile, Kurdish nationalists identify all of Hasakah and northern Raqqa/ Aleppo as “Rojova”—or Western Kurdistan—even though significant Kurdish populations live outside these areas and significant non-Kurdish populations live within them. Furthermore, many of these Kurds are not of Syrian origin, but fled Turkey last century after several failed uprisings against that state. The entire Kurdish population of Syria amounts to about 10 percent (although figures are slightly disputed both upward and downward). Hundreds of thousands of Kurds have since fled the conflict in Syria for safer shores. And there is not a single contiguous line of Kurdish majority-populated areas from the northeast to northwest of Syria.

Yet the U.S. is storming ahead with Project Buffer State, erecting military bases left, right, and center, in violation of Syria’s sovereignty and international law. Various news reports claim the Pentagon and its 1,000 or so troops in Syria have established up to six bases in the north of the country—in the Rmelan region near the Iraqi border, in Qamishli (Hasakah), Kobane (Aleppo), and now in Tabqa, several dozen kilometers west of the ISIS capital of Raqqa.

But the American plan to storm Raqqa has stalled due to Turkey’s refusal to be excluded, and its objection to Syrian Kurdish involvement. Washington wants its Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) allies to liberate the city, but this group consists mainly of YPG Kurds who are aligned with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a Turkish and U.S.-designated terrorist group. The U.S. pretends these Kurdish militias are the only fighting force that can defeat ISIS. Never mind that the Syrian army and its allied troops have been defeating ISIS and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants around the country for years.

The inconvenient fact is, besides the Kurds—not all of whom back the U.S. project on the Syrian-Iraqi border—no forces have fought ISIS and other terrorist groups more successfully than the Syrian army and its Iranian, Russian, and Hezbollah allies.

By contrast, ISIS actually expanded and strengthened after the U.S.-led coalition began its strikes against the terror group. Recall ISIS trekking in plain sight across the Syrian border from Iraq to capture Palmyra—or tankers filled with ISIS oil crossing over to Turkey with nary a U.S. strike. It wasn’t until the Russian air force entered the fray and shamed the U.S. coalition that ISIS began to suffer some defeats. Washington had only really contained ISIS within the borders it was shaping, not struck any serious blows to the group.

After all, it is Washington’s awkward alliance in the region—Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Britain, France, Israel—that has supported the growth of ISIS and like-minded extremists. U.S. President Donald Trump even went so far as to accuse his predecessor Barack Obama of being “the founder of ISIS.”

Certainly, Obama watched as his Turkish NATO ally allowed ISIS freedom of movement across its borders and purchased its stolen oil in bulk. We also now know via email leaks that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was aware that U.S. anti-ISIS coalition allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding ISIS.

Why would Washington tolerate allied support of the very terrorist group it claims to want to destroy? By portraying ISIS as the worst of all terror groups, al-Qaeda and its affiliates—by far the most efficient fighting force against the Syrian army and its allies—were able to fly under the radar to fight for regime change. Furthermore, a globally demonized ISIS has also provided justification for direct Western action that might otherwise have been impossible after “humanitarian interventions” lost their allure, post-Libya. Finally, this supposedly very dangerous ISIS was able to invade and occupy, for great lengths of time, territories on the Syrian-Iraqi border that would create the boundaries for a buffer state that could eventually be “liberated” and led by Western-controlled proxies.

Stealing Syria

If the U.S. forges ahead with plans to lead its Kurdish allies into the Raqqa battle it will risk further alienating Turkey. Don’t expect ISIS to be defeated, however. Instead, expect ISIS to be driven southward toward Deirezzor and other eastern points along Iraq’s border, where the terror group’s presence can act yet again as a U.S. strategic asset—specifically, by moving the fight away from Washington’s Kurdish project in the north and hindering the ability of Iraqi militias to cross the border in aid of Syrian troops.

That’s not such a leap. Deirezzor is where U.S. fighter jets bombed the Syrian army for an hour straight last September, killing over 100 Syrian forces. The strikes enabled ISIS to capture several strategic points around Deirezzor airport, which the Syrian state was dependent on to protect populations in the ISIS-besieged area. The Pentagon swore it was an error, the Syrians and Russians swore it was not.

Meanwhile, in Syria’s south, U.S.-backed militants, aided by Jordanians, Saudis, and the usual Western suspects, are rallying their forces to expand the ground battle inside Syria.

Why the sudden surge of activity? Mainly because the Syrian government and its allies have, since the liberation of East Aleppo in January, succeeded in pushing back terrorists in key areas, regaining strategic territory, and striking reconciliation and ceasefire deals in other parts of the state.

“Western states with the United States at their head interfere in favor of the terrorists whenever the Syrian Arab Army makes a significant advance,” Assad observed in a recent interview.

But the U.S. overestimates its capabilities. With few troops on the ground, radical militants as allies, and pushback from Syria, Iran, Turkey, Russia, and Iraq, Washington will face a steep climb ahead.

In fact, all U.S. gains could be abruptly reversed with this one Kurdish card. Nothing is more likely to draw Syrians, Iraqis, Turks, and Iranians together than the threat of a Kurdish national entity that will seek to carve itself out of these four states. And as the U.S. tries to establish “self-rule” by its allies in the northeast of Syria, it will once again be confronted with the same crippling infighting that comes from foisting an un-organic leadership onto populations.

Syria will become an American quagmire. Washington simply cannot manage its partition plans with so few troops on the ground, surrounded by the terror forces it so recently spawned, as able adversaries chip away at its project. Stealing Syria will not be an easy trick. 

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Mideast geopolitics, based in Beirut.

On Corporate Responsibility: Would the World Be Better Without Barrick?

Why Aren’t Corporations Required to be Socially Responsible?

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

May 10th, 2017 

Imagine if a corporation had to justify its existence beyond making money for capitalists. What would happen if a social balance sheet, as well as financial one, had to be filed every year and companies continually in a deficit position would eventually disappear?

Consider Barrick Gold.

Would the world be better off if the world’s largest gold miner ceased to exist?

Pick a continent and you will find a Barrick run mine that has ravaged the environment and spurred social tension. Present at the company’s recent shareholders meeting in Toronto were two women from Papua New Guinea who say they were raped by Barrick security. A few hundred women have been sexually assaulted by company employees near its Porgera mine in the Oceanian country. While the company has provided nominal compensation to some sexual assault victims, in 2011 Barrick founder Peter Munk dismissed the matter in a Globe and Mail interview, claiming “gang rape is a cultural habit” in Papua New Guinea.

Three weeks before the shareholder meeting Barrick’s Veladero mine in Argentina spilled cyanide solution into a handful of rivers in the western San Juan province. This was the third major cyanide spill at the mine in 18 months. An Argentinian court fined Barrick US$9.3-million for spilling one million litres of cyanide into five rivers in September 2015 and is set to impose further fines and restrictions on its operations over its failure to complete mandated improvements that could have prevented the third spill. 270,000 people have signed a petition calling on Argentina’s president to shutter the Veladero mine.

In 2014, reported the National Observer, Barrick dismissed a senior engineer allegedly for raising “serious safety concerns” about the Veladero mine. Raman Autar later sued Barrick in Canadian court for wrongful dismissal.

It’s unknown whether Autar’s warning could have prevented the cyanide spills, but it’s clear the company has repeatedly ignored environmental concerns and targeted those trying to curtail its ecological devastation. In 2009 former Argentine environment minister Romina Picolotti told a foreign affairs committee meeting to discuss bill C300, which would have reduced Ottawa’s support for the worst corporate offenders abroad, that her staff was “physically threatened” after pursuing environmental concerns about Barrick. “My children were threatened. My offices were wiretapped. My staff was bought and the public officials that once controlled Barrick for me became paid employees of Barrick Gold.”

On the other side of the globe the Toronto company is pressuring the Tanzanian government to abandon an effort to increase the domestic economic benefits from its natural resources. A majority-owned Barrick subsidiary, Acacia Mining is threatening to withdraw from the East African country if the government doesn’t rescind a measure to halt the export of unprocessed ore. Tanzania wants foreign companies to build more gold smelters in the country. By shuttering its operations Barrick is hoping the short-term loss in employment will pressure the government to back off of its efforts to increase the country’s stake from its natural resources.

Last year a Tanzanian tribunal ruled that Barrick organized a “sophisticated scheme of tax evasion” in the East African country. As its Tanzanian operations delivered over US$400-million profit to shareholders between 2010 and 2013, the Toronto company failed to pay any corporate taxes, bilking the country out of $41.25 million.

Two weeks ago Canadian Journalists for Free Expression published a statement decrying the “persecution…journalists in Tanzania are facing… for reporting on mines operated by Acacia Mining.” One reporter fled the country after being threatened by individuals reportedly associated with the company and another received a notice from the government to stop reporting on Acacia.

Since 2006 security and police paid by Barrick have killed at least 65 people at, or in, close proximity, to the Toronto company’s North Mara in Tanzania. Most of the victims were impoverished villagers who scratch rocks for tiny bits of gold and who mined these territories prior to Barrick’s arrival.

Within Canada Barrick is a right wing political force. Benefiting from Canadian aid money, Export Development Canada financing and diplomatic support, the company has aggressively opposed moves to withhold diplomatic and financial support to Canadian companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. Barrick is part of regional corporate lobby groups the Canadian Council of the Americas and the Canadian Council on Africa, as well as being represented on the Senate of the Canadian International Council and the board of the C.D. Howe Institute. The company has sponsored various other right wing groups and events.

Founder and long-time Barrick CEO Peter Munk has provided at least $60 million (he receives tax credits for donations) to right-wing think tanks such as the Fraser Institute and Frontier Centre for Public Policy as well as the Munk Debates and University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. In 2010 the Fraser Institute gave Munk its most prestigious award “in recognition of his unwavering commitment to free and open markets around the globe.”

If it had to justify its existence beyond making money for capitalists Barrick, which mainly produces a mineral of limited social value anyways, would have ceased to exist and the world would be better off.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation. Read other articles by Yves.

Can Philly Law Finally Obey the Law in Mumia Abu-Jamal Case?

An opening to challenge Abu-Jamal’s conviction: Philly DA Office Must Provide All Records of Top Judge’s Role as DA in Opposing Mumia Appeal

by Linn Washington and Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

May 6, 2017

A Philadelphia judge has issued a stunningly powerful order requiring the city’s District Attorney’s Office to locate and release all documents related to the involvement of a former top prosecutor in the most contentious murder case in Philadelphia’s history. Because that former DA, Ronald Castille later became- a state supreme court justice and ultimately chief justice, the order could shine a light onto the dark legacy of ethics shredding misconduct by members of the state’s highest court.

It also opens the door a crack to the possibility that Mumia Abu-Jamal, currently serving a life sentence without possibility of parole, could have his 1982 murder conviction for the killing of a white Philadelphia police officer overturned.

The order, issued recently by Common Pleas Judge Leon Tucker, comes in an appeal filed by attorneys for celebrated jailhouse journalist Abu-Jamal. It represents yet another setback for the Philadelphia’s District Attorneys Office, an office already reeling from federal corruption charges filed recently against the city’s current DA Seth Williams.

Philadelphia prosecutors have spent decades fighting to sustain Abu-Jamal’s murder conviction for the 1981 shooting death Philadelphia police officer, Daniel Faulkner. Since Abu-Jamal’s conviction by a mostly white jury in 1982, entities as diverse as Amnesty International, government officials in the U.S and abroad plus prominent individuals around the world have condemned his trial, conviction and appeals process as a miscarriage of justice fraught with misconduct by prosecutors and judges, including members of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court.

The current Abu-Jamal appeal centers on the legal unfairness of actions taken by former Philadelphia DA Castille, who as top prosecutor, oversaw the legal effort to keep Abu-Jamal on Pennsylvania’s death row, and then later served as a state Supreme Court justice ruling on appeals of those very actions by his former office.

Years after his election to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1993, Castille joined four other court justices in rejecting an appeal by Abu-Jamal for a new trial based on documented evidence of egregious misconduct by police, prosecutors and the judge who presided over Abu-Jamal’s original 1982 trial and over his initial Post Conviction Relief Act hearing in 1995.

Retired PA Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille, 
Philadelphia Common Please Judge Leon Tucker and Mumia Abu-Jamal

Abu-Jamal’s legal team recently argued that Castille’s vote in the court’s 1998 rejection of their client’s appeal violated ethics provisions covering all judges in Pennsylvania –- a basic legal rights issue brushed aside by Pennsylvania’s high court in its 1998 ruling.

This latest Abu-Jamal appeal centers on a 2016 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Williams v. Pennsylvania granting convicted murderer Terrance Williams a new trial because of Justice Castille’s refusal to recuse himself from a decision on Williams’ appeal of his conviction. The U.S. Supreme Court in that case blasted Castille because he had, as DA, approved the decision to seek the death penalty against Williams. His later vote as the state’s top judge denying an appeal of that conviction included his dismissal of chilling documentation that Philadelphia prosecutors working for him had unlawfully withheld critical exculpatory evidence during Williams' trial -- a circumstance similar to documented evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in the Abu-Jamal case.

Attorney Judith Ritter, who along with Christina Swarns, litigation director of the NAAACP Legal Defense Fund, is arguing the case petitioning for a new PCRA hearing on Abu-Jamal’s conviction, called Judge Tucker’s discovery order “sweeping.” She said she expects the DA’s office to try to appeal that order right up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, though she notes that such an appeal by the DA must first be approved by Judge Tucker. She said that while Castille’s role in overseeing the DA’s efforts to block Abu-Jamal’s appeal of his conviction differs from the exact details of the Williams v. Pennsylvania case, where Castille as DA actually oversaw the prosecution of the defendant at his initial trial, rather than the appeals process, as in Abu-Jamal’s case, “There are a number of petitions now being brought in Pennsylvania in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Williams case, and some are similar to Abu-Jamal’s case.” Most, she said, are being filed by public defenders.

Swarns issued the following statement following Judge Tucker’s order:

“Today’s court order granting Mr. Abu Jamal’s motion for discovery reaffirms the importance of fairness and integrity in the criminal justice process. The decision was dictated by the United States Supreme Court’s decision last year in Williams v. Pennsylvania, where the Court held that the constitutional right to due process is violated when a judge presides over a case in which s/he had prior significant and personal involvement as a prosecutor. In Williams, Ronald Castille personally approved the decision to seek the death penalty as a prosecutor and subsequently presided over Mr. Williams’ appeals as a Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Mr. Castille similarly served as both a prosecutor and appellate judge in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s case – and 15 other cases—potentially compromising the fairness of the legal proceedings. Discovery is therefore appropriate in all cases in which Mr. Castille’s dual role may have violated due process.”

The unusual U.S. Supreme Court rebuke of Castille in the Williams case cited judicial conduct rules in Pennsylvania applicable to judges who had previously worked for a governmental agency like serving as a District Attorney. Those ethical conduct rules require judges to remove themselves from “a proceeding if [their] impartiality might reasonably be questioned” because of their former position with such a governmental agency.

That 5-3 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declared that an “unconstitutional potential for bias exists when the same person serves as both accuser and adjudicator in a case.”

The order made a few days ago by Judge Tucker requires the Philadelphia DA’s office to produce all documents relevant to Castille’s role in the Abu-Jamal case when he served as the DA of Philadelphia, which covers a period of five years, from 1986-1991. An assistant prosecutor in the Philadelphia DA’s office since 1971, Castille became Deputy DA under then District Attorney Ed Rendell in 1983 and was elected to succeed Rendell in 1985. Castille was elected to the state’s Supreme Court in 1993, and was later elevated to the position of Chief Justice of that court in 2008. He retired from the court in 2014 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Mumia supporters protest at the office of the Philadelphia District
Attorney, which retired Justice Ron Castille headed for four years
(Photo by Linn Washington)

Supporters of Abu-Jamal are calling Judge Tucker’s discovery order a rare victory in a lengthy string of appeals of Abu-Jamal’s conviction because courts have for decades rejected even the most appalling evidence of improprieties repeatedly presented in Abu-Jamal’s appeals despite those same courts often having already granted appellate relief to other inmates who had raised precisely the same issues as Abu-Jamal, often based on less evidence of official wrong-doing than found in Abu-Jamal’s case.

Lawyers for Abu-Jamal in 1997 had formally requested that Castille not participate in the deliberation over their client’s appeal and instead recuse himself because of his earlier role as DA and also because of his long association with Philadelphia’s police union, the Fraternal Order of Police. During his 26 years on Pennsylvania’s death row, the FOP was the leading advocate of Abu-Jamal’s execution, often organizing protests by police that featured banners calling on the courts to “Fry Mumia.” The FOP had given Castille Man-of-the-Year awards and provided political support and campaign cash for his election to DA and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

That recusal request was based on Pennsylvania's Code of Judicial Conduct provisions that urged judges to recuse themselves from cases where they "have personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning" in that case and when their former employment by a "governmental agency" raises questions of impartiality.

Castille refused that request and instead participated in the court’s 1998 ruling against an Abu-Jamal appeal. He wrote a separate opinion along with the court’s ruling, presenting his reasons for rejecting a petition for his recusal -- an opinion that included some bizarre explanations for his decision.

He stated for example that he had never "personally" participated in any aspect of the Abu-Jamal case as District Attorney. Using convoluted reasoning, Castille claimed that just because he had signed his name on DA Office filings opposing Abu-Jamal’s appeals as a “formal administrative requirement,” such actions did not prove that he had been “personally and directly involved” with those filings.

Yet, years before that decision, back when he was running for a seat on the state’s top court, a former top aide to Castille told a local reporter that his old boss, as District Attorney, "was involved in death penalty cases" and that and that he particularly had been involved in "high-profile cases."

Since the Abu-Jamal case was both a death penalty case and a high-profile case, either Castille's top aide misstated his ex-bosses' role or Castille misrepresented it.

When Castille campaigned for his Supreme Court seat, he told voters in his campaign literature that he had been a “hands-on” DA. But when Abu-Jamal called for the former DA to recuse himself as a judge in ruling on his appeal, Castille claimed the exact opposite: that he had been a hands-off administrator as DA and that his role as DA would not affect his ability to be impartial as a justice.

Castille further claimed in his written rejection of Abu-Jamal’s recusal request that his participation in ruling granting relief to another Philadelphian convicted of killing a cop proved that he could be fair in Abu-Jamal’s case.

In that cop killing ruling Castille had stated that it was improper for a Philadelphia prosecutor to dramatize that defendant’s drug dealing in arguing for his conviction. But in the Abu-Jamal case, Castille contended it had been proper for Philadelphia Assistant DA Joe McGill to smear Abu-Jamal for his Black Panther Party membership as a young teenager. The thing is, Abu-Jamal’s BPP a membership had ended 12 years before his arrest in the shooting death of Officer Faulkner, while the drug dealer cited by Castile had been involved in a series of violent drug-related incidents, including on the day he killed the policeman. (Abu-Jamal did not have an arrest record like the drug dealer cited by Castille.)

Castille took his bizarre reasoning further into the realm of the absurd when he brushed off his long association with Philadelphia’s FOP police union. Not only did he deny any improper influence from his FOP associations and the financial support he had received in his campaigns from the union; he also declared that Abu-Jamal was unfairly criticizing him without criticizing the four other Supreme Court justices on the bench who had also received campaign support from the FOP. Those four court colleagues of Castille also voted against Abu-Jamal's appeal.

Castille, in defending himself against any FOP taint, exposed the indefensible underpinning of that 1998 ruling: the fact that five members of that seven-member Court had received FOP support –- a prime example of the grounds listed in the judicial ethics code for their impartiality being reasonably questioned.

Castille wrote: “If the FOP’s endorsement constituted a basis for recusal, practically the entire court would be required to decline participation in this appeal.”

In Castille’s twisted logic, it was more important for FOP-tainted justices to rule on an appeal in which the FOP was profoundly interested, than that that those justices act to uphold the constitutional right of an appellant for a fair and just judicial ruling.

Castille's participation in the state Supreme Court’s rejection of Abu-Jamal's appeal is one reason why the February 2000 Amnesty International report on Abu-Jamal criticized the "appearance of judicial bias during appellate review."

So far, most Philadelphians don't even know about Judge Tucker's discovery order to the DA's Office, as neither the Philadelphia Inquirer nor the Daily News has deigned to report about it, even as a short news item, though both papers did major reports on the Williams case last year and its significance for other similar cases where Castille did not recuse himself despite prior involvement in those cases as DA. So much for quality journalism in the city where the press was enshrined in the Constitution as a "fourth estate" of people's government.

The authors of this article have both covered the Abu-Jamal case for decades, Linn Washington as a columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune and Dave Lindorff as a freelance journalist and as author of a book on the case, “Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal (Common Courage, 2003).