What value an EU/Canada agreement if Wallonia has to be coerced to accept it?

October 24, 2016

It is reported that the EU is putting intense pressure on Belgium and its regional parliament of Wallonia to coerce them to accept the trade deal with Canada (CETA). Maybe they will suicceed, but it only emphasises for me that the EU is built on oppression of minorities “for the greater good” as defined by Brussels.

EU democracy has degenerated to be the oppression of minorities – and whole countries can constitute such minorities. Minorities are coerced wherever there is a majority even if it is a majority of fools. If Brexit succeeds in putting a break on this rampant disregard for local opinions it would have achieved a great deal for the future of Europe.


Pressure has mounted on the Belgian government to save a landmark EU-Canada free trade agreement after the small French-speaking region of Wallonia essentially torpedoed the deal by voting to reject it. …. 

Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel was left scrambling to find a solution after Wallonia’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject the agreement on Friday, but officials stressed that it was local governments rather than parliaments that would have the final say. Under Belgium’s complex political system, the government cannot approve the deal without support from assemblies representing the country’s three regions and three linguistic communities.

“I will not give powers to the federal government and Belgium will not sign CETA on October 18,” Paul Magnette, the Socialist head of Wallonia’s government, declared on Friday. “I do not intend this as a burial but as a demand to reopen negotiations.”

The move has threatened to derail CETA, which is backed by Canada and all 28 EU national governments, including Belgium’s. The deal is due to be voted by European trade ministers on Tuesday, who must unanimously approve it before it can be officially signed by EU leaders and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

France also stepped up pressure on its neighbor to the north by inviting Magnette to talks in Paris later on Friday with fellow Socialist, President François Hollande. After the meeting, Magnette hinted he was ready for a solution. “I am a natural optimist and very willing. What we are asking for is very reasonable,” he said.

Personally, I think CETA is a good thing but many people don’t. It is the EU method of suppressing minority views that I find despicable. Far better if Wallonia/Belgium could opt out and make their own agreement.

CorporateeuropeBehind the PR attempts by the Canadian Government and the European Commission to sell CETA as a progressive agreement, it remains what it always has been: an attack on democracy, workers, and the environment. …… Over the past weeks, to salvage CETA’s ratification process, the European Commission, the Canadian Government as well as some EU governments and MEPs had gone into a massive propaganda mode. …….  The latest PR move is a “joint interpretative declaration” on the trade deal hammered out by Ottawa and Brussels and published by investigative journalist collective Correctiv last Friday. It is designed to alleviate public concerns but in fact does nothing to fix CETA’s flaws.


As costs go up in flames, time to pull Obamacare off the market?

October 24, 2016

Obamacare costs are no longer affordable. So even Barack Obama is comparing his Affordable Care Act with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7.

“When one of these companies comes out with a new smartphone… [and] it has a few bugs, what do they do, — they fix it, [they] upgrade it. Unless it catches fire – then they pull it off the market”.

And Obamacare is clearly on fire.




Obamacare’s Collapsing. That Was Always The Plan.

On Thursday, President Obama attempted to defend the skyrocketing costs of Obamacare by comparing them to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, a smartphone that was banned on airplanes because it had a nasty habit of spontaneously combusting. …. Obama put the responsibility on the states for not expanding Medicaid, thereby avoiding picking up the costs of Obamacare. The vast majority of people who have enrolled in Obamacare have done so at point of government gun, and have done so as part of the Medicaid expansions Obamacare attempted to incentivize; as of October 2015, nearly all of the “newly insured” enrollees were Medicaid enrollees. Obama tried to claim that the federal government would pick up the tab for expanded Medicaid, but that neglects that over time, the states pick up more and more of the tab – and that the federal government is $20 trillion in debt.

Now, Obama’s pushing the public option, using George W. Bush’s egregiously awful Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit expansion. Part D has led to massive increases in healthcare costs, as well as to rejection of Medicare itself by health providers thanks to government restrictions on costs. As Mark Levin writes in Plunder and Deceit, “the impracticability of Medicare’s centralized management and archaic decision-making practices…significantly impairs the broader private sector.” …

….. I told Fox News back in August 2013 that Obamacare was designed to fail, thereby necessitating a government option. That option would bankrupt insurance companies – the government doesn’t have a necessity for profit margin, and therefore, for decent service – and lead to the complete government takeover of healthcare Obama has always sought. In other words, Obamacare was created with designed obsolescence – it’s as though Samsung had designed their phones to melt down so that they could then market the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Government Edition.

Obamacare is not the shining example some people would like to pretend it is.


Western media treatment of East Aleppo and Mosul is hypocrisy in action

October 23, 2016

The Western media (US and Europe) have views about the Middle East which are more than a little coloured by the self induced delusion that the US and Europe are on a righteous crusade against oppression and for the promotion of democracy. That has been and still is the overwhelming view from the time of the first Iraq war, the overthrow of Gaddaffi and all through the Arab spring uprisings in North Africa and now in Syria and Iraq again. That Europe and the US have not just encouraged and supported, but also instigated rebel groups to the prevailing regimes, to the point of recklessness is completely forgotten. Many of the rebel groups (including ISIS and Al-Nusra) would not have dared to begin their blood-letting without the false hopes raised by the Saudi money and the US/NATO/EU support. (It is the same pattern of reckless EU/NATO expansionism – but without the Saudi money – which prevailed in Ukraine and led to the Russian aggression and annexation of the Crimea). This “political correctness” is now blatantly apparent in the difference of media treatment to the assaults on East Aleppo in Syria and on Mosul in Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn has this in The Unz Review (originally in The Independent):

In Libya, Gaddafi was demonised as the sole cause of all his country’s ills while his opponents were lauded as valiant freedom fighters whose victory would bring liberal democracy to the Libyan people. Instead, as was fairly predictable, the overthrow of Gaddafi rapidly reduced Libya to a violent and criminalised anarchy with little likelihood of recovery.

In present day Syria and Iraq one can see much the same process at work. In both countries, two large Sunni Arab urban centres – East Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq – are being besieged by pro-government forces strongly supported by foreign airpower. In East Aleppo, some 250,000 civilians and 8,000 insurgents, are under attack by the Syrian Army allied to Shia paramilitaries from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon and supported by the Russian and Syrian air forces. The bombing of East Aleppo has rightly caused worldwide revulsion and condemnation.

But look at how differently the international media is treating a similar situation in Mosul, 300 miles east of Aleppo, where one million people and an estimated 5,000 Isis fighters are being encircled by the Iraqi army fighting alongside Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia and Sunni paramilitaries and with massive support from a US-led air campaign. In the case of Mosul, unlike Aleppo, the defenders are to blame for endangering civilians by using them as human shields and preventing them leaving. In East Aleppo, fortunately, there are no human shields – though the UN says that half the civilian population wants to depart – but simply innocent victims of Russian savagery.

Destruction in Aleppo by Russian air strikes is compared to the destruction of Grozny in Chechnya sixteen years ago, but, curiously, no analogy is made with Ramadi, a city of 350,000 on the Euphrates in Iraq, that was 80 per cent destroyed by US-led air strikes in 2015. Parallels go further: civilians trapped in East Aleppo are understandably terrified of what the Syrian Mukhabara secret police would do to them if they leave and try to pass through Syrian government checkpoints. ……


The advance on Mosul is being led by the elite Special Forces of the Iraqi counter-terrorism units and Shia militias are not supposed to enter the city, almost all of whose current inhabitants are Sunni Arabs. But in the last few days these same special forces entered the town of Bartella on the main road twelve miles from Mosul in their black Humvees which were reportedly decorated with Shia religious banners. Kurdish troops asked them to remove the banners and they refused. An Iraqi soldier named Ali Saad was quoted as saying: “(T)hey asked if we were militias. We said we’re not militias, we are Iraqi forces and these are our beliefs.”

It may be that Isis will not fight for Mosul, but the probability is that they will, in which case the outlook will not be good for the civilian population. Isis did not fight to the last man in Fallujah west of Baghdad so much of the city is intact, but they did fight for Khalidiya, a nearby town of 30,000, where today only four buildings are still standing according to the Americans.

The extreme bias shown in foreign media coverage of similar events in Iraq and Syria will be a rewarding subject for PhDs students looking at the uses and abuses of propaganda down the ages.

This has been the pattern of reporting of the wars in Syria and Iraq over the last five years. Nothing much has changed since 2003 when the Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein had persuaded foreign governments and media alike that the invading American and British armies would be greeted with rapture by the Iraqi people. A year later the invaders were fighting for their lives. Misled by opposition propagandists and their own wishful thinking, foreign government officials and journalists had wholly misread the local political landscape. Much the same thing is happening today.


Paradoxes for our times / 4

October 22, 2016



Update: ESA’s Schiaparelli destroyed by 300km/h impact

October 21, 2016

ESA has now confirmed that pictures from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter now show that Schiaparelli was destroyed on impact.


Schiaparelli entered the martian atmosphere at 14:42 GMT on 19 October for its 6-minute descent to the surface, but contact was lost shortly before expected touchdown. …..  

……. Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometres, therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than 300 km/h. The relatively large size of the feature would then arise from disturbed surface material. It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full. These preliminary interpretations will be refined following further analysis.


Images taken by a NASA Mars orbiter indicate that a missing European space probe was destroyed on impact after plummeting to the surface of the Red Planet from a height of 2-4 km (1.2 to 2.5 miles), the European Space Agency said on Friday.

The disc-shaped, 577-kg (1,272 lb) Schiaparelli probe, part of the Russian-European ExoMars program to search for evidence of life on Mars, descended on Wednesday to test technologies for a rover that scientists hope to send to the surface of the planet in 2020.

But contact with the vehicle was lost around 50 seconds before the expected landing time, leaving its fate uncertain until the NASA images were received.

“Schiaparelli reached the ground with a velocity that was much higher than it should have been, several hundred kilometers per hour, and was then unfortunately destroyed by the impact,” ExoMars Flight Director Michel Denis told Reuters TV.

It was only the second European attempt to land a craft on Mars, after a failed mission by the British landing craft Beagle 2 in 2003.

The U.S. space agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the planet for about 10 years, took low-resolution pictures that show a bright spot that ESA believes is the 12-metre parachute that Schiaparelli used to slow down. They also show a fuzzy dark patch, around 15 by 40 meters in size, about 1 km north of the parachute, which scientists interpret as having been created by the impact of the lander following a longer-than-planned free fall.

The ESA/NASA  plan to put a rover on Mars by 2021 (ExoMars Rover) is likely to be delayed considerably. NASA is also looking at another project to launch in 2020 and land a rover on Mars perhaps in 2022.

The Indian/Russian plan with Chandrayan 2 to put a lunar rover onto the moon is still on the cards for 2019.


For trade deals (Canada) or for foreign policy (Russia sanctions) the EU is not a competent organisation

October 21, 2016

The message from the latest failures of the EU are quite clear. In its ambitions (or should it be delusions) to act as a single state, the EU is a failed organisation. When it does act as a state it is only by oppressing its own dissenting minorities.

In the first of the latest failures, one regional parliament in Belgium rejected the trade deal with Canada (CETA), which prevented Belgium from approving the deal, and which, in turn, caused the deal to be rejected (since it requires unanimity). The point is that even if Belgium had approved, it would have been by strong-arming and suppressing dissent, just as Germany and Spain and France have already done. There is something fundamentally unjust in the manner in which the EU forces small regions to accept policies and actions against their own interests. “Global EU issues” take precedence over local issues. It is bureaucracy gone mad. Canada would have been far better off negotiating 28 separate bilateral deals. It would have been faster (7 years for the EU rejection) and it would have had the flexibility to be nuanced enough to cope with local needs. The message to the world is quite clear. The EU is not a competent negotiating partner and is unable to represent the disparate views within the EU member countries.

The second failure was the drive by the UK and France to increase EU sanctions on Russia for its support of Assad against rebel groups in Aleppo. That the UK and French objective was not so much humanitarian as driven by the need to protect rebel groups that they have been supporting was not given much publicity. However the Italians and the Greeks and others were looking for ways to increase dialogue with Russia and nothing came of the UK / French “initiative”. The EU is proving incapable of bringing together the foreign policy views of its 28 members. And if that is so, one can wonder why one bothers with the expensive and useless and unrepresentative paraphernalia of an EU External Action and the Foreign Affairs Council.

Fractured Europe  (image Counterpoint)

Fractured Europe (image Counterpoint)


Uninvited Turkish troops jeopardise the assault on Mosul

October 21, 2016

Burak Bekdil has an article in The Gatestone Institute where he makes the case that

  • Turkey’s primary concern is not to drive ISIS out of Mosul but to make it a “Sunni-controlled city” after ISIS has been pushed out. And this ambition jeopardizes the planned assault on ISIS.
  • Turkey’s pretext is that its troops are in Iraq to “fight ISIS.” That does not convince anyone.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fancies himself as a reincarnation of Sultan Abdulhamid II who was the 34th and last effective Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He reigned from 1876 to 1908. As Mustafa Akyol writes in Al Monitor:

Sultan Abdulhamid II (image Brittanica)

Sultan Abdulhamid II (image Brittanica)

In Turkey, there has been an unmistakable revival of the image of Sultan Abdulhamid II. The powerful Ottoman monarch who ruled the empire single-handedly from 1876 to 1909 is praised with a flood of articles in the pro-government press, endless messages on social media and various conferences and panels. The speaker of the Turkish parliament, Ismail Kahraman, a confidant of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, even hosted an “International Symposium on Sultan Abdulhamid II and His Era,” at the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, a relic from the latter-day Ottoman Empire. The great sultan, Kahraman said, “is a mariner’s compass to give us direction and enlighten our future.”

It is – at least partly – Erdogan’s vision of a new Ottoman Empire with himself as a Great Sultan which has triggered Turkish adventurism in Syria and Iraq. A key defensive component of Turkish actions are to eliminate – or at least to block – Kurdish or Shiite influence. The aggressive portion is to expand and promote Sunni dominated areas and keep on good terms with Saudi Arabia.

Their presence in northern Iraq is uninvited.


Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi renewed the call for the withdrawal of Turkish soldiers from his country and warned that Turkey’s military adventurism could trigger another war in the Middle East. He said: “We do not want to enter into a military confrontation with Turkey … The Turkish insistence on [its] presence inside Iraqi territories has no justification.”

The Iraqi parliament said in a statement: “The Iraqi government must consider Turkish troops as hostile occupying forces.” Baghdad has also requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to discuss the issue. The UNSC should “shoulder its responsibility and adopt a resolution to end to the Turkish troops’ violation of Iraq’s sovereignty,” said Ahmad Jamal, spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.

That ISIS is a Sunni group undermines Turkey’s explanations for why they are in Iraq. It is the support for Sunnis and the supposed opposition to ISIS which makes Turkey’s actions seem schizophrenic. The simple reality is that Turkey would like “good Sunnis” to be in control in northern Syria and in northern Iraq. Even the barabarians of ISIS are preferable to the Kurds (and Shiites in Turkish eyes are almost as bad as the Kurds).

Ankara remains defiant. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that Turkish troops would remain in Iraq. Turkey’s pretext is that its troops are in Iraq to “fight ISIS.” That does not convince anyone. Turkey’s intention is largely sectarian (read: pro-Sunni) and Yildirim admitted that in a not-so-subtle way when he said that the Turkish troops were in Iraq also “to make sure that no change to the region’s ‘demographic structure’ is imposed by force.”

Turkey fears that the aftermath of a planned assault on Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and ISIS’s Iraqi stronghold, could see a heavy Shiite and Kurdish dominance in the Mosul area. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: “Involving Shiite militias in the operation [against IS] will not bring peace to Mosul. On the contrary, it will increase problems.” Unsurprisingly Turkey’s pro-Sunni Islamists want Sunni dominance in a foreign country. This is not the first time they passionately do so.

The problem is that Turkey’s sectarian ambitions come at a time when the coalition is preparing a heavy offensive on ISIS-controlled Mosul. Turkey’s primary concern is not to drive ISIS out of Mosul but to make it a “Sunni-controlled city” after ISIS has been pushed out. And this ambition jeopardizes the planned assault on ISIS. ……. 

….. Turkey’s sectarian ambitions in neighboring Syria have ended up in total failure and bloodshed. Now Ankara wants to try another sectarian adventure in another neighboring and near-failed state, under the pretext of “bringing stability.” Yildirim said that Turkey “bears responsibility for stability in Iraq.” That is simply funny. You cannot bring stability to a country that looks more like a battleground of multiple religious wars than a country with just a few hundred troops.

Now that the assault on Mosul has started, it is already reported that the Turks are complicating and hindering the advance. Presumably they are trying to hinder Kurdish and Shiite forces and trying to assist the Iraqi Sunni forces.

Swedish Radio:

“Turkey jeopardizes the entire military operation by setting their insane demands”, says Mahmoud. “We do not want anyone other than the Iraqi army and peshmerga forces involved here on the Nineveh Plain”, he says.

Altercation between Turkey and Iraq have become increasingly poisonous in recent days. Iraq’s prime minister has told Turkey to stay out of the Mosul operation, while Turkish President Erdogan responds that it is out of the question, and at the weekend the Turkish newspapers published old maps of the Ottoman Empire which included Mosul.

Erdogan also stamped the Iraqi government as sectarian and fanatical. In Baghdad Shiite Muslims demonstrated against Turkey and demanded an end to the Turkish occupation of northern Iraq, referring to the soldiers at the military base Bashiqa.

The increasingly serious contradictions also reflects the regional power struggle, where Sunni Muslim Turkey is now viewed by many here as part of the Saudi sphere of influence, while the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government is considered part of Iran’s sphere of influence.


The ICC can have no credibility till it charges non-Africans as well (such as Blair or Sarkozy)

October 21, 2016

The US is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court which keeps George Bush and Barack Obama outside their purview. However European countries are signatories and the ICC, in the 14 years it has been in existence, has only charged Africans of war crimes. Tony Blair and Nicolas Sarkozy and even David Cameron, have escaped scott free and it has never even been contemplated that they be charged. John Howard was as complicit as Tony Blair in furthering George Bush’s war crimes but he does not figure in the ICC’s investigations either. It is hardly surprising that the ICC is perceived  – in Africa – as being blatantly anti- African. It is not surprising either that Burundi and now South Africa have signed Instruments of Withdrawal and have informed the UN that they are withdrawing.


South Africa has formally begun the process of withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC), notifying the UN of its decision. South Africa did not want to execute ICC arrest warrants which would lead to “regime change”, a minister said.

Last year, a South African court criticised the government for refusing to arrest Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. He is wanted by the ICC on charges of genocide and war crimes. Mr Bashir was attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg, when the government ignored an ICC request to arrest him. He denies allegations that he committed atrocities in Sudan’s troubled western Darfur region. …….

“The Republic of South Africa has found that its obligations with respect to the peaceful resolution of conflicts at times are incompatible with the interpretation given by the International Criminal Court,” the document says. 

Justice Minister Michael Masutha said at a press conference that the government would table legislation in parliament to withdraw South Africa from the ICC. The Rome Statute, under which the ICC was set up, required the arrest of heads of state for whom a warrant was issued. The consequence of this would be “regime change” and the statute was incompatible with South African legislation which gave heads of state diplomatic immunity, he added.

But the anti-African position of the ICC seems inescapable:

The ICC 

  • Came into force in 2002
  • The Rome Statute that set it up has been ratified by 123 countries, but the US is a notable absence
  • It aims to prosecute and bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes
  • In the court’s 14-year history it has only brought charges against Africans.


Facebook does stupid again as it bans Swedish Cancer Society’s educational images

October 20, 2016

UPDATE: Facebook has apologised for removing a video on breast cancer awareness posted by a Swedish group, saying it was incorrectly taken out.

Facebook likes to call itself a technology company rather than what it is – a publisher. It exercises editorial authority and both removes material it does not like and it promotes material that it does. As a publisher they don’t – by any stretch of the imagination – do a very good job. After the fiasco of the banning of the iconic Vietnam “napalm girl” image, they have now proceeded to further demonstrate their stupidity by banning educational images about breast cancer from the Swedish Cancer Society.

Swedish Cancer Society

Swedish Cancer Society: Learn to know your breasts


Facebook has removed a video on breast cancer awareness posted in Sweden because it deemed the images “offensive”, the Swedish Cancer Society said Thursday. The video, displaying animated figures of women with circle-shaped breasts, aimed to explain to women how to check for suspicious lumps.

Sweden’s Cancerfonden said it has tried to contact Facebook without any response and has decided to appeal the decision to remove the video. Facebook was not immediately available for comment. “We find it incomprehensible and strange how one can perceive medical information as offensive,” Cancerfonden communications director Lena Biornstad told AFP. “This is information that saves lives, which is important for us,” she said. “This prevents us from doing so.”

Facebook faced outrage in September for repeatedly deleting a historic Vietnam War photo included in a post by Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg. It said the iconic photo of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm bombing violated its rules but later backtracked on the decision.


Swedish Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia to mend fences ( but does not take Foreign Minister Wallström with him)

October 20, 2016


The Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven is visiting Saudi Arabia over the weekend with a couple of business leaders to try and recover some of ground lost by Swedish businesses in Saudi Arabia. Needless to say, the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström does not seem to be accompanying him.

She, of course, was the one who soured relations with Saudi Arabia to such an extent that Swedish industry is not happy. There are many stories of  business opportunities lost because of Wallströms “holier than thou” diplomacy. It was in early 2015 that Margot Wallström and the left green coalition made a great display of their moral superiority and caused some diplomatic consternation. They called Saudi Arabia nasty, very undiplomatic names (all true but not how a Foreign Minister is expected to behave), saw to it that a defence agreement was cancelled and recognised Palestine. The Saudis recalled their Ambassador, banned Margot Wallström from giving a speech to the Arab League, denied visas to Swedes and made life difficult for Swedish firms doing business in Saudi Arabia. Eventually the King of Sweden sent a letter carried by Björn von Sydow to Saudi in March 2015 apologising for Wallström and managed – monarch to monarch – to cool down some of the Saudi anger.

Left/Green sanctimony is causing a debacle for Swedish foreign policy

But the Greens and the left of the Social Democrats forgot that they were actually in government and were not just an irresponsible lobby group like Greenpeace or the WWF indulging in publicity pranks.  They were so mesmerised by the idea of showing off their moral credentials that the intention to terminate the defense agreement was announced in a great blaze of self-righteous publicity.  The Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (an old trade unionist with a good understanding of the importance of jobs) actually wanted to extend the agreement. But he was over-ruled by his far left and the Greens. His Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström (who, unlike the Greens, is old enough to know better), was more obsessed with demonstrating how Swedish foreign policy was feminist and green and occupied the moral high ground than in promoting Swedish interests and values. And so she forgot about her duties as a Foreign Minister and sharply criticised Saudi Arabia in most undiplomatic language. It verges on incompetence that the consequences of her statements were not analysed.

On this trip Löfven will be accompanied by Marcus Wallenberg of Investor, and Maria Rankka from the Swedish Chamber of Commerce.

I don’t expect that Löfven will bring up the funding emanating from Saudi sources for IS in particular or for Sunni extremists in other places.


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