Harper Cons cloak predatory aims of US/Canadian imperialism, cynically claiming to be coming to rescue of innocents

Duplicitous NDP and Liberals oppose motion but signal support for military operations in the Middle East

No 1297 Posted by fw, April 1, 2015

“The reality is that the expansion of Canadian military operations into Syria marks a major escalation of the drive by Washington and its allies to carry out regime change in Damascus. The move is being taken without the consent of the government of Bashar al-Assad, a violation of international law that is tantamount to a declaration of war…. The Conservatives’ expanded Mideast war also has an important domestic political function. As elections approach, the Harper government is preparing the most right-wing election campaign in modern Canadian history, seeking to use the purported threat of “jihadi terror” to deflect attention from the rapidly deteriorating economic situation and to whip up reaction.”World Socialist Web Site

Once again the World Socialist Web Site trumps anything on offer from the pro-Harper, Postmedia nationwide chain of papers. Click on the following linked title to read the original piece. Below is an abridged cross-post with added text highlighting.

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Canada’s parliament approves major expansion of Mideast war by Roger Jordan, World Socialist Web Site, April 1, 2015

By a 142-129 vote Monday evening, Canada’s House of Commons endorsed the Conservative government’s decision to extend and expand Ottawa’s participation in the new US-led Mideast war.

Canadian Special Forces are now slated to remain in Iraq for an additional 12 months, until April 2016, providing “advice and assist” support to Kurdish militias battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). And Canadian CF-8 fighter jets will expand the scope of their air strikes targeting ISIS positions in Syria as well as Iraq.

Reports yesterday suggested that Canadian CF-18 bombers could be in action over Syria in a matter of days.

The vote followed two days of debate on a motion presented by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week. After the vote Harper reiterated his claim that the military intervention is needed to counter Islamist terrorism in both the Middle East and Canada. “We cannot stand on the sidelines,” declared Harper, “while ISIL [another acronym for ISIS] continues to promote terrorism in Canada as well as against our allies and partners. Nor can we allow ISIL to have a safe haven in Syria.”

The reality is that the expansion of Canadian military operations into Syria marks a major escalation of the drive by Washington and its allies to carry out regime change in Damascus. The move is being taken without the consent of the government of Bashar al-Assad, a violation of international law that is tantamount to a declaration of war.

In the parliamentary debate over Harper’s motion, the Conservatives sought to cloak the predatory aims of US and Canadian imperialism by cynically claiming to be coming to the rescue of innocents. “If the responsibility to protect means anything,” said Defence Minister Jason Kenny, “… does it not mean in an instance such as this, preventing genocide, preventing ethnic cleansing, preventing sexual slavery of women and preventing the execution of gay men by throwing them off towers?”

This is brazen hypocrisy coming from a government which boasts about its close ties with the authoritarian regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and with the expansionist Israeli state, and which similarly justified its participation in the NATO regime change war in Libya on the basis of a “responsibility to protect” civilians. That war saw the US and its allies use Islamists as their proxies, throwing Libya into sectarian chaos. Indeed, as the Ottawa Citizen recently revealed, Canadian military personnel openly joked about acting as “al-Qaeda’s air force” in Libya. Subsequently, the CIA encouraged many of these Islamists to travel to Syria, where many of them joined other fighters armed by the Saudis, Qatar and other US Persian Gulf client states in forming ISIS.

The “responsibility to protect” doctrine has become the central pretext for a series of aggressive imperialist operations that have wrought death and destruction on the countries unfortunate enough to be chosen for such “rescue” missions. The Canadian ruling elite was heavily involved in the development of this doctrine, which emerged from a 2001 international commission that was funded by the then Liberal government of Jean Chretien and in which Michael Ignatieff, a subsequent federal Liberal Party leader, played a prominent role.

Canada is the only western country, apart from the United States, participating in the bombing operations in Syria. This development again illustrates Ottawa’s role as a pivotal frontline partner in the US drive to maintain its hegemonic position in the Middle East, the world’s most important oil-exporting region, and beyond. Canada has also taken a leading position in the provocations against Russia over Ukraine, facilitating the supply of weaponry to the Ukrainian army and voluntary militias, while sending troops and aircraft to Eastern Europe and the Baltic as part of NATO’s military buildup.

The Conservatives’ expanded Mideast war also has an important domestic political function. As elections approach, the Harper government is preparing the most right-wing election campaign in modern Canadian history, seeking to use the purported threat of “jihadi terror” to deflect attention from the rapidly deteriorating economic situation and to whip up reaction.

Canada’s war in Syria and Iraq, which is now guaranteed to run well beyond the election, is to be used to whip up bellicose nationalism and to make scarcely veiled appeals to anti-Muslim prejudice. As part of this, the government will label all of the opposition parties as being soft on terror at home and abroad for their unwillingness to back the extension and expansion of military operations in Middle East and their refusal to unreservedly endorse the government’s legislation to dramatically expand the powers and reach of the national-security apparatus, Bill C-51.

The rejection of the government motion by the opposition parties in parliament in no way represents a fundamental repudiation of aggressive militarism as a means of securing Canada’s imperialist interests. If anything, the two days of parliamentary debate saw both the New Democrats and Liberals signal their support for military operations in the Middle East more openly than ever.

Although voting against the motion, the official opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) presented an amendment to the government’s motion that accepted the presence of Canadian military personnel in Iraq so as to assist in the supply of anti-ISIS forces. Party leader Thomas Mulcair went out of his way to emphasize the NDP’s willingness to back military aggression if backed by the UN or NATO, pointing to the 2011 war in Libya as an example. On Syria, his primary concern was not that the government is acting illegally under international law. Instead, he attacked the Conservatives from the right, claiming that the bombing of ISIS would strengthen the Assad regime—an implicit call for a more direct intervention against Damascus.

The Liberals also voted against the motion. But party leader Justin Trudeau made clear that his party supports expanding the Canadian Armed Forces training mission in Iraq by deploying more Canadian Special Forces personnel there. Special Forces personnel are already on the frontlines, where they have been siting ISIS targets for bombing.

Both Green Party MPs, leader Elizabeth May and Bruce Hyer, voted against Harper’s motion. This marked a shift from the initial vote authorizing the mission last October, when Hyer gave his support to the Harper government’s deployment. May’s criticism of the expansion of the war into Syria was along the same lines as the NDP, attacking Harper for allegedly lending support to Assad. “We do not want to admit that if we are successful in Syria, we will have made Bashar al-Assad secure by removing a dreadful force that also happens to be against him,” commented May.

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Obama’s misleading plan cuts carbon emissions by less than half needed to avoid catastrophic warming

Obama’s 2025 target for carbon cuts of 26-28 percent are based on “deceptive accounting” to hide weak reductions

Obama’s cuts would amount to just 14-16 percent had the international standard base year of 1990 been used

No 1296 Posted by fw, April 1, 2015

“Using the international standard base year of 1990, the [US] target translates to reductions of just 14 to 16 percent by 2025. But the U.S. and other developed countries must cut pollution by at least 25 percent to 55 percent below 1990 levels by 2025 to do their fair share in helping to avoid a climate catastrophe, according to calculations by a team of climate scientists tracking international negotiations.”Center for Biological Diversity

In a March 31 press release, the Center for Biological Diversity, Kevin Bundy said: “President Obama has a moral duty to pursue a global agreement that keeps most oil, coal and gas in the ground and helps developing nations leapfrog into clean-energy economies.” Clearly, his plan fails the moral test as well as an emissions’ target test.

To read the original press release, click on the following linked title. Or read the cross-post below.

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Obama Administration Announces Weak Carbon Pollution Cuts Ahead of Paris Climate Talks by Center for Biological Diversity, March 31, 2015

WASHINGTON— The target for carbon pollution cuts announced today by the Obama administration uses deceptive accounting to disguise weak reductions that won’t prevent catastrophic warming. U.S. negotiators will take this climate plan to December’s United Nations climate talks in Paris.

The starting gun in the race against global warming went off a long time ago, but the United States is still just jogging,” said Kevin Bundy of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We need a stronger strategy. Global efforts to prevent catastrophic climate change depend on the United States making much more ambitious cuts to planet-warming pollution.”

Under the Obama plan, the United States would still be emitting at least 5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution a year by 2025, according to Center calculations based on the EPA’s most recent emissions inventory. By way of comparison, the entire continent of Africa emitted just over 3 billion tons in 2011.

The proposed U.S. target ostensibly would cut greenhouse pollution economy-wide by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 emissions levels by 2025. But the Obama administration calculated reductions from a “base year” of 2005, when emissions were even higher than they are now. That masks the stark inadequacy of the U.S. effort.

Using the international standard base year of 1990, the target translates to reductions of just 14 to 16 percent by 2025. But the U.S. and other developed countries must cut pollution by at least 25 percent to 55 percent below 1990 levels by 2025 to do their fair share in helping to avoid a climate catastrophe, according to calculations by a team of climate scientists tracking international negotiations.

Each nation attending the Paris talks is required to propose a reduction target — or “intended nationally determined contribution” — representing “fair and ambitious” steps beyond those already underway. The U.N. climate framework also requires developed countries like the U.S. to shoulder a greater burden based on their historic contributions to the problem and their capacity to make changes.

Earth suffered the hottest year in recorded history in 2014. Rising temperatures are already contributing to a growing risk of drought and other dangerous forms of extreme weather. A recent U.N. report warned that global warming will cause food shortages, flooding of island nations and coastal cities, and mass wildlife extinctions.

A recent Nature study found that about a third of the planet’s oil, half of all natural gas reserves and more than 80 percent of the world’s coal must remain in the ground by mid-century to avoid dangerous global warming.

That’s why the Center has called on the Obama administration to support an agreement in Paris that eliminates developed country fossil fuel use by 2050 and offers aggressive financial and technological support for clean-energy development in developing countries.

“We can’t keep relying on dirty fossil fuels and hope to preserve a livable climate,” Bundy said. “President Obama has a moral duty to pursue a global agreement that keeps most oil, coal and gas in the ground and helps developing nations leapfrog into clean-energy economies.”

SEE ALSO

  • Chorus of Outrage as Obama Administration Approves Arctic Drilling for Shell Oil by Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams, April 1, 2015 – “Environmental activists expressed shock and outrage on Tuesday after the U.S. Department of the Interior upheld a 2008 lease sale on the Arctic’s Chuchki Sea, opening the door for continued oil exploration in a region long eyed for drilling by Shell Corporation and increasingly strained under the effects of climate change.Click on linked title to read more…

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Central banks have used 2008 bailout funds to inflate a new set of Monster Bubbles

Today, all signs point to a new financial meltdown

No 1295 Posted by fw, March 31, 2015

“All this time, policymakers have tinkered around the edges with half-hearted measures, but none of the structural problems have ever been addressed. Instead, governments bailed out the gamblers as central banks inflated a set of new bubbles to cushion their fall, cover the debris, and delay the final moment of reckoning. Still, down in the real world, blowing bubbles can only take you so far.”Jeremy Roos

Seven years since the bursting of a US housing bubble led to a financial meltdown, investors and policymakers are already well on their way to the next. Click on the following linked title to read Jeremy Roos’ account of events. Alternatively, below is a cross-posting with added subheadings in bold italics, inserted as hanging indents, text highlighting and two added hyperlinks.

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Monster bubbles: by Jerome Roos, telsur, March 30, 2015

The delayed crisis of capitalism resurfaces.

“Bankers never solve their own crises: they merely move them around”

If there’s one lesson from the history of financial manias, panics and crashes, it’s that bankers never solve their own crises: they merely move them around, eternally passing the hot potato of impending catastrophe on to others and systematically displacing the burden of adjustment onto the weaker members of society. As a result, the way in which a particular crisis is “resolved” inevitably ends up laying the seeds for the next one. This time has been no different.

Today, “we find ourselves in the middle of yet another major speculative frenzy”

In recent months, amidst growing enthusiasm about an incipient global recovery, some investors and regulators have been starting to express their concerns over the inflation of a set of large asset bubbles spread across the world economy. Whether it’s skyrocketing property prices in London, a record-breaking bull market on Wall Street, or investors falling over themselves to lend to heavily indebted European governments and flailing energy and tech start-ups in the United States, one thing is clear: we find ourselves in the middle of yet another major speculative frenzy.

We’re now fully engaged in a “central bank-led inflation of a new set of monster bubbles in property, stocks and bonds”

This observation may seem odd to some. Aren’t we supposed to still be in the final stages of the last crisis? Why would anyone want to gamble with their capital if profitable investment opportunities are still so few and far between? Well, that’s precisely the problem: asset prices have now completely decoupled from their underlying fundamentals. In recent years, the crisis of casino capitalism has been successfully delayed through the central bank-led inflation of a new set of monster bubbles in property, stocks and bonds. While the rest of us linger in “secular stagnation,” the speculators are having a field day.

Root causes of 2008 financial crisis remained unresolved, resulting in vast excess of money in financial sector

In other words: the root causes of the 2008 financial crisis were never truly resolved — policymakers simply moved around some of the symptoms (and not even all of them!). Governments bailed out insolvent banks with taxpayer money, heavily indebting themselves in the process, while central banks turned on the printing presses to pump trillions of dollars into the financial system. The result, in simple terms, has been the accumulation of a vast excess of money in the financial sector and an acute shortage of it everywhere else.

We now have an excess of idle money capital side by side with an excess of labor power

What we are dealing with, then, is a classical example of what David Harvey refers to as the capital surplus absorption problem: an excess of idle money capital lies side by side with an excess of labor power — and somehow the system can’t combine the two to bring about productive outcomes. As one banker told the Financial Times, “what’s really driving all this activity is the availability of capital rather than the underlying fundamentals. It just comes down to people needing to deploy capital.”

Excess capital money seeking highest possible returns results in high-risk speculation – It’s déjà vu all over again

Investors have dealt with this problem in the same way that they always have: by scouring the surface of the Earth in a frantic quest for the highest possible yields. As long as demand remains low and growth stagnant, yields in so-called “productive” investments will not be very attractive for the average gambler. And so investors have been turning to the same kind of speculative high-risk/high-return bets that caused the 2008 financial meltdown to begin with.

Central banks are stoking a bond bubble through quantitating easing

The results have been stark. Just three years after Greece concluded the largest sovereign debt restructuring in the history of capitalism, global bond markets are back on fire. In a UK survey, almost four in five fund managers for major bond-trading firms expressed a concern that bonds are currently “more overvalued than ever before and that government bonds are the most overvalued asset class of all.” John Plender of the Financial Times accuses the ECB [European Central Bank] of directly stoking this bond bubble through quantitative easing:

Government bond markets are supposed to be sedate places, devoid of the thrills and spills that characterize equities. Not anymore. Since central banks started enlarging their balance sheets sovereign bonds have become exciting to the point where investors have bought more than $2tn of them on negative yields, mainly in Europe. Even in the Depression of the 1930s interest rates never fell below zero. Is this that rare thing — a bond market bubble?

US companies are busy issuing billions in corporate bonds

It’s not just government debt that’s booming. Last year alone, US companies issued an astonishing $1.43 billion in corporate bonds; 27 percent more than they sold at the peak of the last bubble in 2007.

The “supposed” US recovery has been based entirely on an energy bubble, which has already burst

In fact, a reasonable argument could be made that the supposed US recovery of the past years has been based entirely on an energy bubble — which has already burst due to the oil price collapse — and an even larger tech bubble. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban recently warned that the latter is “worse than the tech bubble of 2000” and is now on the verge of bursting as well.

WHEN – not IF — the US corporate bond market collapses, so will the stock markets

When this over-excited US corporate bond market collapses, it will inevitably take the stock exchange down with it. Stock valuations have been rising steadily ever since they bottomed out, in March 2009, following the last crash. The S&P 500 has shot up an astonishing 200% since then, while the Nasdaq recently breached 5,000 points for the first time since the collapse of the Dotcom bubble. The fact that this six year bull market has coincided with the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression should suffice to give pause for thought.

As if this scenario is not bad enough, on the near horizon are fears over a new housing bubble

Finally, with memories of the subprime mortgage crisis still fresh, investors are already expressing fears over the build-up of a new housing bubble. The Wall Street Journal points out that UK property prices are now a third above their pre-crisis peak, while property in Australia, Canada, Sweden and Norway is also massively overvalued. Cities like New York, San Francisco, Miami, London, Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam are all experiencing rising real estate prices without any real accompanying improvement in the underlying fundamentals. Even property prices in Spain and Ireland now appear to be rising again.

Central banks have used taxpayer bailout funds to inflate a new set of bubbles

The conclusion is clear: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. All this time, policymakers have tinkered around the edges with half-hearted measures, but none of the structural problems have ever been addressed. Instead, governments bailed out the gamblers as central banks inflated a set of new bubbles to cushion their fall, cover the debris, and delay the final moment of reckoning. Still, down in the real world, blowing bubbles can only take you so far.

All the signs point to a new financial meltdown

Nearly seven years since the last financial meltdown, investors and policymakers are already well on their way to the next.

Jerome Roos is a PhD researcher in International Political Economy at the European University Institute, and founding editor of ROAR Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @JeromeRoos.

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