Monday, July 28, 2014
The Independent reports on how an American Republican pollster and political strategist has helped Israel sell its recent invasion of Gaza, drawing upon a
playbook [that] is a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe. Written by the expert Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz, the study was commissioned five years ago by a group called The Israel Project, with offices in the US and Israel, for use by those "who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel".
The strategy, which relies heavily upon an understanding of psychology, advises tailoring one's message according to one's audience. Among the gems is this:
For example, the study says that "Americans agree that Israel 'has a right to defensible borders'. But it does you no good to define exactly what those borders should be. Avoid talking about borders in terms of pre- or post-1967, because it only serves to remind Americans of Israel's military history. Particularly on the left this does you harm.
For the pesky journalist who asks uncomfortable questions, such as those involving the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were expelled or fled in 1948 and in the following years, and who are not allowed to go back to their homes, the person being question should respond this way:
They should call it a "demand", on the grounds that Americans don't like people who make demands. "Then say 'Palestinians aren't content with their own state. Now they're demanding territory inside Israel'."
An in situations where widespread destruction and loss of life results, as in the current situation:
Dr Luntz says that Israeli spokesmen or political leaders must never, ever justify "the deliberate slaughter of innocent women and children" and they must aggressively challenge those who accuse Israel of such a crime. Israeli spokesmen struggled to be true to this prescription when 16 Palestinians were killed in a UN shelter in Gaza last Thursday.
To show empathy, Luntz advises this "effective Israeli sound bite":
"I particularly want to reach out to Palestinian mothers who have lost their children. No parent should have to bury their child."
As the article suggests, the 112-page booklet should be must-reading for all journalists and, I would think, anyone else interested in truth over propaganda and public relations.
The science on the theory of climate change is not settled. There is a powerful, scientific consensus that anthropogenic or man-made climate change is real, here now and worsening. There is a powerful, scientific consensus that man-made climate change is already triggering natural feedback mechanisms that eventually can become "tipping points" beyond which we will have runaway global warming. Runaway as in all the king's horses and all the king's men won't be able to stop it.
For all of that, the science isn't settled. That much is obvious from the tsunami of research studies that keep pouring in from a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines such as geology, glaciology, hydrology, oceanography, atmospherics, physics and chemistry, biology and marine biology, epidemiology, botany, meteorology, climatology and others. The science isn't settled because we're constantly uncovering new information, new pieces of a puzzle that give us a clearer picture of what we're up against. It may not be good news and it usually isn't but it's all important information that we ignore at our increasing peril.
Now, having said that, what about this climate change "debate"? It does exist but the important point is not that it exists but where it exists. It lingers on amidst the far right in magazines such as Forbes, in papers such as the Washington Post and Times, on TV networks like FOX and on open-mouth radio shows that appeal to the slack jawed, tea party crowd such as Limbaugh. It exists within any media outlet owned by Aussie news mogul, reptilian Rupert Murdoch.
What they're debating, however, isn't the reality of anthropogenic global warming. They can read the science as well as anyone or at least they can pay people to give them that information. What they're debating is the question of how much longer they can get away with sowing doubt and outright denialism before their pants burst into flame and their audience walks.
And then there's the debate among the political crowd, the sort-termer "Friends of Rupert Society." That would be people like Stephen Harper, Tony Abbott and David Cameron, most of the Republican caucus and an unseemly segment of the Democrats too, and camp followers such as Sarah Palin. Yeah, that's right. Sarah Palin and Steve Harper are on the same page. These types debate how much longer they can fudge and obscure and block any meaningful action.
Maybe the worst, though, are the pols who say they accept the reality of global warming but continue to act as though the debate was real and the science wasn't settled. Here I'm talking about the closet neoliberals who lead our opposition parties - Trudeau and Mulcair. Just like Harper, they're all for ramping up bitumen production and export. They're merely quibbling about transportation options which creates the false impression that there are any good options. They'll cajole you out of your vote on the promise that they'll be "less worse" than Harper and they'll dress up that claim with a tweaked policy here and there and then, if they convince enough of you to let them in, it'll be business pretty much as usual.
How can you tell they're closet neoliberals? Easy. Just like anyone else in a closet, unwilling to reveal themselves for who they are, they tread very lightly. They avoid getting drawn into certain conversations and they're adept at distraction. They bob and weave away from discussions that link things like the highest carbon oil on the planet and climate change tipping points. Much as Harper is vulnerable on it, they won't attack him for establishing Canada as a global pariah on climate change lest they find themselves hoisted on the petard of their own hypocrisy.
Look at it this way. Their foreign policy is neoliberal. Their policy on Israel is neoliberal. Their energy policy is neoliberal. Their economic policy is neoliberal. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck and lays duck eggs - it's a f__king duck! Makes no difference if it's labeled Liberal or New Democrat. Names simply don't mean much any more. They're false flags.
And now understand this. Fighting climate change is progressivism at its very best. Fighting inequality lies at the heart of progressivism. Leaving a better world for our grandkids is progressivism. Neoliberalism, however, is antithetical to progressivism. Neoliberalism is the grease on which corporatism quietly slides into our lives. Neoliberalism, no matter what sort of happy face you slap on it, eventually smothers progressivism.
It could be fairly argued that the 2015 general election will actually be a referendum on what form of neoliberalism we prefer. Some like it hot, hard and spicy. Most of us just hold our noses and swallow, hoping we don't gag. As for me, I'll be voting progressive and in this fetid milieu that can mean only one party, Green.
MoS, the Disaffected Lib
Sunday, July 27, 2014
We all know that Israel used the kidnapping/murder of three Israeli teens, that it blamed squarely on Hamas, to whip up support for its brutal invasion of Gaza. It's been claimed that Israeli intelligence knew the teens had been killed shortly after they were kidnapped but withheld the information to stoke anti-Hamas sentiment.
Now, with over 1,000 Palestinians dead at Israeli hands, word is out that Israel knew Hamas had nothing to do with those three murders. An Israeli police spokesman is said to have confirmed to BBC reporter, Jon Donnison, that the killings were not the work of Hamas but a "lone cell."
This suggests that the west, especially our own Harper and Baird, were duped by Netanyahu. No need going at length into what this does to Justin's praise of Israel for its "commitment to peace."
MoS, the Disaffected Lib
The editorial board of America's "newspaper of record" has called for Washington to repeal federal laws prohibiting marijuana. The New York Times says it's time to end America's second prohibition:
It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.
There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.
MoS, the Disaffected Lib
The images are graphic and heartbreaking - buildings reduced to rubble, maimed and dead children strewn among that rubble, families fractured, lives broken beyond repair. Were it not for the distancing effect that television news inevitably brings, the pictures would be overwhelming, leaving room for nothing but despair.
Thus is the reality of the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, a seemingly insoluble situation aided and abetted by a West that offers nothing but the staunch bromide of Israeli's 'right to defend itself,' an assertion with which few would disagree.
And therein lies the problem. That reflexive cliche whenever Israeli 'excesses' make the news relies on an uninformed and unsophisticated mode of thinking that sees the world only in terms of absolutes, where things are right or wrong, where you either stand with Israel wholeheartedly and unequivocally, or you are an anti-Semite who stands with the terrorists.
This is certainly the position of the Harper regime, and it is one held by Thomas Mulcair as far back as 2008, and by Justin Trudeau as well, as noted by The Mound of Sound on this blog.
Taking, as they say, a more 'nuanced' public position takes courage for the political risk it entails, and all three leaders of the major parties have shown themselves extraordinarily risk-averse. Unfortunately, their decision to play a safe and defensive game carries with it stakes far greater than their own political ambitions.
It is that cowardice that invites a withering assessment by Haroon Siddiqui in this morning's Toronto Star:
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and, to a lesser extent, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair have fallen in line with Stephen Harper’s support of the Israeli onslaught on Gaza.
None question the Israeli killing and maiming of hundreds of civilians, including women and children.
All echo the formulation that, given the barrage of (ineffective) Hamas rockets, Israel has a right to retaliate (bombing by air, shelling from the sea, mounting a ground invasion, levelling houses, hitting hospitals, mosques and schools run by the United Nations, and disrupting electricity, water and sewage systems).
Siddiqui suggests there is great room for a genuine discussion that all three 'leaders' have no interest in initiating:
Our federal leaders do not ask whether there could have been a less lethal response to the rockets than a wholesale war on Gaza, the third in six years.
Indeed, they hew closely to the official narrative, refusing to allow facts to interfere with expediency:
They studiously avoid mentioning the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, now in its 47th year. They never mention the Israeli blockade of Gaza that entered its eighth year last month, leaving its 1.7 million inhabitants destitute.
Nor is the writer impressed by their blanket absolution of Israel for the mass destruction its actions have wrought:
All three suggest that Israel bears little or no responsibility for what’s happening. It’s all the fault of Hamas, the terrorist entity. They ignore a parallel narrative that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provoked this war in order to derail a recent unity agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, an accord that he saw as a threat to the status quo that he prefers.
Siddiqui disabuses those who hold out hope for change under young Justin Trudeau:
Trudeau issued a statement July 15 that “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people. Hamas is a terrorist organization and must cease its rocket attacks immediately.” He made no commensurate call for Israel to show restraint.
He condemned Hamas for rejecting an Egyptian ceasefire proposal and commended Israel for accepting it “and demonstrating its commitment to peace.” He did not say that the Egyptian military junta is not a neutral party, that it considers Hamas an extension of the banned Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood whose elected president Mohammed Morsi the army toppled in a coup last year. Hamas’ conditions for a ceasefire were rejected. It wanted, among other things, an end to the siege of Gaza.
There is much more in Siddiqui's column that merits reading, including the pushback from 500 prominent Canadians condemning the Harper regime for its uncritical stance on Israel, and condemnation by Canadians For Justice And Peace In The Middle East of all three federal parties because they have betrayed Canadian values.
All in all, much to disturb our Sunday equanimity.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Lately I have been writing some posts on Stephen Harper's reign of terror, his relentless attacks on charities that oppose his agenda. Groups as diverse as the United Church of Canada, Oxfam, and PEN Canada have fallen victim to this vindictive miscreant, undergoing audits thanks to the Prime Minister's misuse of the CRA as his chief weapon. The more I read and learn about this egregious and contemptible misuse of power, the more upset and angry I become, given that this strikes at the heart of one of our most treasured freedoms, the right of free speech. I have been thinking about ways to try to combat this reign, but that is perhaps the subject of another post.
For now, let me direct you to a piece written by Professor Edward Jackson of Carleton University. Entitled Why The CRA Is No Longer An Effective Instrument of Public, the essay offers an effective overview of the arrant hypocrisy of the regime that claims to be ensuring the sanctity of taxpayer dollars through its zealous mission of ferreting out 'abuse' by nonprofits holding charitable status:
Its campaign of vexatious audits of the political activities of progressive charities has created a chill in political dissent, and is a new low even for the Conservative regime.
At the same time, CRA's Minister is musing about requiring charities to provide lists of their donors (in fact, this information is already available in the system, but you get the drift of the political messaging here). And there are even reports that, under the cover of the courts, the CRA can't qualify poverty reduction as a charitable objective. At a time of high unemployment in many parts of the country, rising income inequality and more, what could be more preposterous than disqualifying poverty reduction?
But that's not all.
Around the time of the ramping up of the campaign against the NGOs, the CRA actually cut hundreds of auditors who had been working on criminal investigations, special enforcement and voluntary disclosure programs.
What encourages me about Professor Jackson's article is that he goes on to suggest some specific measures we can all participate in before this hateful and vindictive regime is ousted:
1) Express solidarity with the charities that are targeted for political audits by taking out memberships and making donations.
2) Support the building of a coalition against the political audits and for a court challenge to the government.
3) Prepare questions for the Minister and leadership of the CRA as to who made the critical decisions over the past few years, and why -- on the charities issue, and also on the criminal investigations issue.
4) Develop a plan for completely overhauling the unit that deals with charities.
5) And work with the opposition parties on a detailed, post-2015 plan for rebuilding Canada's tax agency into an institution of which Canadians, including its own staff, will once again be proud.
As he says, at least it is a start, and we can well imagine that with the participation of enough Canadians of goodwill and passion, it could well gain momentum just in time for Harper's rendezvous with the electorate next year.