Life is Belief & Struggle - Ahmed Shawqi

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Unions - the Last Bastian of hope for Canadians

There are many days, when I really have to wonder, if the Federal Conservative Party of Canada realizes its mandate is to represent and act in the best interest of Canadians - rather than the best interest of corporations?  I understand where the confusion could lie -  as ‘Canadians’ and ‘Corporations’ both start with ‘C’ but…when the government has to use the law to attempt to protect the interests of foreign ‘corporate entities’ rather than safeguard the rights of Canadian citizens…well, Baruch HaShem to Union for safeguarding the interests of Canadian workers. (Toronto Star)

VANCOUVER—The federal government was ordered Thursday to turn over to two B.C. trade unions the permits it granted up to 300 Chinese miners to see whether those jobs could have been done by Canadian workers.

In a decision late Thursday in federal court, Judge Douglas Campbell awarded the two unions access to the Labour Market Opinions, the federal government term for the temporary work permits that allows foreign workers to come to Canada. Federal lawyers had argued against releasing the LMOs because of concerns that allowing the permits to be made public could open the floodgates to wide access. They said the permits could provide information that could violate privacy and raise competition issues for the companies that wanted to bring in workers.

HD Mining International Ltd., Canadian Dehua International Mines Group and Huiyong Holdings B.C. sided with the federal government in arguing the trade unions should not have access to those permits.

The permits will allow 200 to 300 miners from China to come to northern B.C. to work at the Murray River Coal Mine near Tumbler Ridge. Already about a dozen miners from China have arrived to do preliminary surveillance work and another 60 were scheduled to be in Canada by mid-December.

And for those who have short memories –go back and read this – and the links.…it used to be that any ‘patriot’ acting in a manner which betrays the interest of one’s country was not something anyone aspired to do…but apparently, this is business as usual in Conservative Canada.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Raining Rockets

From West Bank Mama I learned about the Israel Explanation Art Project.

This is why we call Reuters ‘ Al Reuters ‘

Reuters has published a report which has spread like wild-fire in the Middle East essentially saying Hamas is no longer using warheads on their rockets.  Ha’aretz,  with its less than 6% per cent Israeli readership was one of the first Anglo daily carrying this report and I quote:

Some of the Palestinian rockets fired far into Israel during the Gaza flare-up have lacked powerful warheads because they were stripped down to increase range and spread alarm over a wider population, Israeli security sources said on Sunday. 

"Our assessment is that the prestige of setting off alarms deep in Israel, and being perceived as fighting on, is as important to them now as spilling our blood," said an Israeli official briefed on security cabinet decisions. The official and two other sources who spoke to Reuters on the matter did not specify how many of the almost 900 rockets and mortars fired since fighting erupted on Wednesday had been deliberately sapped.
The official said "not a few" of the rockets reaching Tel Aviv and cities closer to Gaza were designed for much shorter ranges, but had been shorn of their weighty warheads so that they flew further. "They're pipes, basically," said the official, who declined to be identified.
Hamas, the militant Islamist movement governing Gaza, had no immediate comment. The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), another outgunned Palestinian faction taking part in the five days of clashes, dismissed the Israeli allegations."Israeli leaders are trying to assure their terrified public that those rockets are not dangerous, to minimize their fear. They will never succeed, and time will tell they lied to their people," PRC spokesman Abu Mujahed said. 

An Israeli official briefed on security cabinet decisions could be translated into the falafel guy who delivers the catering to the security cabinet briefings…and the two other sources – might as well be the driver of the Jerusalem Route #1 bus and security guard at the entrance to a local mall.  I find it highly entertaining that ‘Israeli’ security officials will allege Hamas rockets are essentially pipe bombs and won’t go on record with their names.

I have Ten Shekels which says this unnamed piece of wishful thinking will become a prominent talking point for the Palestinian Apologista crowd.

Of course, if the threat from the rockets into Israel is marginal; why is the US government sending a naval ship to aid in the potentialevacuation of US citizens in Israel?

And the damage done to this homes sure doesn't suggest a pipe bomb rocket...


The First Pillar of Defense

There is something incredibly moving about this photograph of an Israeli mother using her body to shield her child. 

Obviously, the mother and child were caught out in the open when the sirens went off and did not have enough time to seek shelter.

Did I mention the deliberate targeting of a civilian population without a military component/target is a war crime? And yet, not one Hamas member has ever stood in the dock in Den Hague.

(h/t The Muqata)


There are many reasons why peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is not possible at this time but the largest stumbling block to a peaceful resolution resides in a deep cultural divide.  Last August, the most explosive story out of Israel was the brutal swarming of a Palestinian teenager, Jamal Julani, by a group of Jewish teenagers in Jerusalem. ThisReuter’s report hits most of the points I want to emphasize.

Israeli prosecutors said a girl, cursing and shouting anti-Arab taunts, lit the spark that set off a chain reaction of racist violence on August 16 in which Jamal Julani, a 17-year-old Palestinian, was punched, kicked and left for dead. Julani's heart stopped after the assault in a main Jerusalem square, where drunken teenagers often gather, but was brought back to life by a paramedic at the scene.
 "Death to Arabs," the youngsters chanted as they swept through the popular nightspot, rallying to the girl's call to find and attack Palestinians, according to a summary of the charge sheet released by the Justice Ministry. "Be a man and come and beat the Arabs," one of the attackers shouted to the crowd, the indictment said.

Eight of the suspects are minors in their teens. A ninth suspect, aged 19, will be tried as an adult. Charges include assault and incitement to racism and violence. Lawyers for the accused said they would study the indictment before entering a plea. It was not clear when the cases would go to trial.

The attack, which laid bare an undercurrent of racial tension in Jerusalem, was swiftly condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. "This is something we cannot accept - not as Jews, not as Israelis," Netanyahu said of the assault, whose intensity, along with the lack of remorse shown by some of the suspects in court appearances, jolted many in the Jewish state.
"He's an Arab, and he cursed my mother, so he should die," one suspect said at a remand hearing last week.
Julani comes from mainly Arab east Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 war. The state later declared that the city was the "complete and undivided" capital of Israel, an assertion not recognized by international powers.  

Adnan Husseini, the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs, said Palestinians in the city faced a constant battle against racism. "This widely publicized incident revealed the true face of Israel and the true culture of hatred that is imbedded in its youth," he told Reuters.

Israel's Education Ministry instructed teachers to hold a special lesson on the near-lynching to reinforce the need for tolerance in a country that has been in conflict with Arabs for decades and which has also been grappling with internal divisions, between ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews.

It was a horrendous incident, and even the Prime Minister of Israel spoke out against the nature of the attack. It was decided that The Ministry of Education held special lessons on tolerance throughout Israeli schools.  Interestingly enough, I cannot remember a time where there was such a consensus within Israeli society that this kind of violence against a Palestinian youth was simply unacceptable. There was a deep gashing of teeth and deep soul searching of the Israeli psyche within the Israeli papers. 

While most Palestinian sympathizers echoed Adnan Husseini, the Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs position. I lost count of the number of  ‘progressive blogger’s’ who did  a ‘gotcha moment’ post highlighting the innate racism of  incident and using it to bludgeon the Israeli state.  The long soul searching moment this incident caused or even the consensus of outrage by the Israeli public towards the youths was completely lost on progressive bloggers. 

Two youths from east Jerusalem, aged 15 and 17, were recently arrested on suspicion of stabbing Abraham Tau two weeks ago in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood in Jerusalem. Two additional suspects, aged 13 and 14, are scheduled to be indicted for their role in the stabbing.  Police suspect that the teenagers' actions were nationalistically motivated and carried out under the auspices of an organization called "Lovers of the Land," which aims to physically harm Jewish residents of the city. 

 Tau, aged 34, was stabbed in his back while making his way from the Western Wall to Ras al-Amud together with a friend. The knife, which was removed from Tauabraham east jerusalem stabbed jpost's back, was taken for analysis at the Jerusalem District Police's forensics lab. Following the examination, four east Jerusalem youths where arrested after they confessed and recreated the event for police. 

 As part of the investigation, which was conducted with the help of the Shin Bet internal security service, police learned that the four were previously arrested for throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.  During their original arrest the four joined forces and decided to form a cell intent on stabbing Jewish residents in protest against the "occupation." 

 They decided that the 13 and 14 year olds would take the role of lookouts while the other two would do the actual stabbing. The group then proceeded to purchase knives in Jerusalem's Old City.  Their first victim was Tau. The two lurked behind a truck in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood while their friends were charged with signaling them when a Jewish man or woman was about to arrive. Police suspect that the 17 year old then stabbed Tau while the 15 year old planned to stab Tau's friend but was prevented from doing because a car passed by. After stabbing Tau, the four supposedly ran off to their respective houses,.

This is a story from just this week. It was in all the major Israeli dailies and duly translated into English for the international Anglo audience…but the difference lies in how each community reacted to this story. There was no comment from Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemning the ‘youth’s actions, their racism was not the catalyst for Palestinian society to search for the motes in their own eyes. The Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs was silent on the incident. Nor did the Ministry of Education for the Palestinian Authority launch special classes in tolerance and understanding of the ‘other’ in schools. I have yet to read any progressive blogger suggesting Palestinians need to eliminate the innate racism towards Jews in their society.  Of course, if any progressive blogger did report it I can almost guarantee the talking points would be following:

– The Palestinian youths have been scapegoated by Israeli police

-Even if the youths were guilty of the unprovoked assault what do you expect given that they are living in a society brutally repressed, consequently, the Israelis only reap what they sow.

-Tthe Palestinian youths deserve special dispensation owing to their youth.

I guarantee you, if I pointed out that the Jewish youths who attacked Jamal Julani were deserving of the same kind of special dispensation because of their youth and/or if I had pointed out that these children’s most impressible years were spent watching images or witnessing first hand buses being imploded on the streets of Jerusalem during the ‘intifada’ and the celebration from the Palestinian society for every Jewish death or injury; I would be hammered ten ways from Shabbat. But the reality is, these Jewish youth are very much the by-product of the Palestinian intifada.

My favourite Palestinian Apologista, Dr. Dawg posted a picture of an injured dead Palestinian baby held in the hands of his father under the heading ‘Asymmetrical Warfare’ this week. At least, I am assuming it was of a dead or injured Palestinian child (but it is kind of hard to see the child and what’s to say itis not a Syrian child from another conflict?…but I digress. There are other pictures I could post of the suffering of Jewish children injured in the Hamas led rocket attacks. In fact, of the 664 rockets launched by Hamas in the last week there was not a single military target was chosen...all 664 rockets were aimed at civilians.

But what caught my attention is the under current that there is just something unseemly about Asymmetrical warfare…almost all warfare between two or more combatants is ‘asymmetrical’. There were far more allies stacked against the Axis Alliance but I have yet to hear anyone suggest it was a bad thing…. and the  implied notion that warfare is to be ‘fair’ strikes me as incredibly ridiculous.

The is a very logical reason on why there are so little fatalities/casualities on the Israeli side of this conflict and it has nothing to do with the quality or threat posed by the rockets of Gaza but it does underscore dramatically the two cultural responses to the conflict.

The Israelis spend a great deal of money and effort building reinforced rooms in schools, hospitals, homes and workplaces. The Israelis operative a relatively effective siren/warning system announcing incoming rockets. Drills are held regularly in the communities and in the schools constantly so that the children know where what action they need to take when the Code Red siren goes off. 

Now Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, invests nothing in reinforcing homes, workplaces, schools and hospitals. Hamas does not operate a community wide warning system to give notice to their people of incoming missiles. Hamas deliberately stores rocket launchers in heavily populated areas, deliberately stores ammunition in areas, where if attacked, is guaranteed to cause the maximum damage to human life and limb. 
Apparently, the photo-op of the dead and dying trumps the idea of safeguarding the lives of those under their governance which is why a missile defense system has never made Hamas’ wish list for military procurement.

Of course, there are those that feel that Hamas has strangled ordinary civil society and held it for ransom, which I agree with, but not in the way the Palestinian Apologista crowd understands the issue. At the end of the day, if there was not a high degree of collusion between the ordinary people and Hamas; just why did the Arab Spring totally by-pass the Gaza Strip?

Friday, November 16, 2012

How Hostess has hood-twinkied us all

The Toronto Star carries the story of the closing of Hostess, an Iconic American bakery company going belly up…

NEW YORK, N.Y. —Hostess Brands Inc. has made good on its threat to shut down if striking employees didn’t return to work.

The 82-year-old company, weighted down with $1 billion debt and $2 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, collapsed as what Fortune magazine called “obstinacy, miscalculation, and lousy luck connived to create corporate catastrophe.”

With it goes the lore and legend of the snack cake Twinkie, tested for its indestructibility, invoked as a homicide defence and star of a Woody Harrelson movie
“We deeply regret the necessity of today's decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” said Gregory F. Rayburn, chief executive officer of the company that makes Twinkies and Ding Dongs.
“Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders.”

Hostess said it will seek bankruptcy court permission to close its business and sell its assets, “including its iconic brands and facilities. Bakery operations have been suspended at all plants.”

The knee-jerk response is to damn the unions, but the demise of Hostess is a case study in corporate bloodsucking and unprincipled capitalists run amok.

For a company, the size of Hostess, to have accumulated $2 billion in underfunded pension liabilities means that the Executive Management (more than likely with the knowledge and approval of the Hostess Board of Directors) has been deliberately withholding funds - and more than likely - the said funds were deducted directly from their employee’s weekly wages – and not deposited against Hostess’ pension obligations.

To accumulate $2 billion in underfunded pension debit is simply impossible to do in a six month or even a year period. This suggests to me that the size of debt reflects long-term corporate mismanagement, and potentially, even corporate negligence by Hostess – which had to have spanned years.

If ever there is an aspiring ambitious Attorney General who needed to look for evidence of potential criminal corporate malfeasance; I would suggest an AG needs to look no further than Hostess. Hostess’ debt totals approximately $3 billion when the company applied for bankruptcy protection for the second time in 8 years. Let me emphasis this; for the second time. 

In fact, in January 2012 when Hostess applied for Bankruptcy protection, Hostess requested the court’s permission to shut-down all operation and sell-off what was left of its assets. Consequently, this action suggests neither the Board of Directors nor the Executive management of Hostess had any real intention of keeping the company going or even negotiating with the union in good faith. If anything, it appears far more likely that the Management of Hostess wanted to scapegoat the union by using it as a smokescreen to potentially fend off any suggestions of financial impropriety on the part of Executive Management or Board of Directors in order to have a bankruptcy Judge grant their original motion.

In 2004, when Hostess applied for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy relief the Baker’s Union was very accommodating to the restructuring plans and accepted a significant benefit and wage reduction for their members. It was only through the course of time that the Baker’s Union discovered money which was earmarked for infrastructure, capital improvement - machinery, maintenance and repairs and was financed by the reductions in employees’ wages and benefits was never spent on this. Meanwhile, executive compensation continued to rise significantly despite the company chronically losing money.

I would be remiss if I did not point out - given Hostess' financial track record, that even if all the union members had returned to their jobs by Thursday evening, there was absolutely no guarantee the company could have continued to meet its basic payroll in the foreseeable short-term future.

Too bad we do not tar and feather shysters anymore.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why Canadian Unions Rock.

In the wake of Sandy and the US election lead-up and results most Canadians probably missed this story, and yet, the outcome of this story has the potential to have a profound influence on our every day lives.

The size of the foreign guest workers program has exploded exponentially under the patronage of the federal Conservative Party of Canada. This has been literally the ‘goose’ which shits solid gold eggs for businesses seeking to exploit an endless source of cheap labour rather than pay minimum wage and hire unemployed Canadians.

And don’t bother to repeat the ‘jobs Canadians won’t do’ mantra to me. When the ability to speak ‘mandarin’ becomes a required job skill for an experienced miner working in Canada – the argument has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.

I am not sure how much longer as a country we can afford to allow the Tories guest worker program to continue to operate in this country.  Lucky for us, there is still a group of patriots willing to push back against corporate vampirism in Canada – even if – it is now being promoted by the federal government which is blatantly against the interests of the citizens of this country.  As for me, in this case, I stand entirely behind the Union – the Canadian Unions - and am seriously hoping they stake some serious corporate hearts over this one.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Unlike my journalistic betters, who endorse candidates in foreign countries, I recognize I do not possess American citizenship, and consequently, do not have a vote to cast in the US election. If I had to pick a side, I'm on Spenglar's.

There’s no textbook description for this condition, so we’ll give it a name: the Obonomy. The anti-business toxicity in Washington is so intense that that no-one will take risks.

The investors’ strike is especially onerous given that the average profit margin for the nearly 4,000 exchange-traded public companies for whom data are available was over 18% during the second quarter of 2012. Why wouldn’t investors put more money into businesses earning 18% year, rather than buy safe securities yielding the rate of inflation or less? The answer is that they are terrified of the anti-business environment. If Obama is re-elected, business will hit a wall of tax increases and face a regulatory reign of terror.

The great American profit machine has stalled. If Obama is re-elected, we are all going to be poorer.

Oy vey.
(h/t Texas Scribbler)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bark Mitzvah

This is why it is so hard to take Reform Jews seriously...