Thursday, January 29, 2009

An Upside Down Budget for a Backwards World

Classic economic theory was that governments should have small operating surpluses during the good times and small deficits during the tough times. This would help balance out the extremes of the business cycle without a massive raid on the treasury. During the 1970s and 1980s this theory was abandoned as governments racked up massive deficits and massive amounts of debt. Towards the end of the 1980s early 1990s there were warnings that if this pattern was not corrected Canada would be in severe economic trouble. The Brian Mulroney Conservative Government introduced the GST. In 1993 the Liberals and Jean Chretien with Finance Minister Paul Martin brought down the $40 billion+ deficit. Eventually they reached a point of year after year of double digit surpluses. Canada was the only country in the G8 that was consistently producing budget surpluses.

When the Conservatives took power in 2006 they considered the massive surpluses as over taxation. Through cutting the GST by 2% and other tax reductions they acted to minimize the size of budget surpluses without going into deficit. The Liberals consistently accused them of taking the country back into deficit.

In October the Canadians went back to the polls. The economic collapse had already begun in the US and was an important consideration during the elections. The Liberals promised a massive spending program to be paid for by a massive tax increase. The Conservatives offered fiscal responsibility and staying the course. They had to change gears when the opposition parties rejected their economic update.

Parliament returned this week with a new budget and a massive economic stimulus package. Many people are referring to this as 'Liberal' budget. This is a very interesting term considering their years of condemning the Conservatives for what they believed was the road to deficit. The good news is it looks like it is a big enough compromise to prevent Canadians from going back to the polls once again.

Economic theory seems to have been turned on it's head. Hopefully this will be the right kind of economic stimulation to help a disastrous economic situation. Hopefully once this passes people will remember that in the long run the government is better off with small surpluses rather then massive deficits.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Double Unilateral Cease Fire

The Israeli government has been at a loss of what to do as rockets reigned down from Gaza for eight years. Three years ago the government decided to blame the attacks on the Israeli's living in Gaza by forcibly removing them from their home. The following summer 3 soldiers were kidnapped and Israel responded by going to war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The government drew public support from the belief that they intended to bring two of the soldiers home.

Under international pressure Israel agreed to a cease fire. The management of the war was an embarrassment and PM Olmert took most of the blame. Israel eventually traded the most disgusting of Lebanese prisoners and captured Hezbollah fighters in exchange for two dead soldiers. The government ignorantly claimed the deal would not factor the ability to bring Gilad Shalit home who was being held by Hamas.

The air raid sirens kept wailing, as the rockets kept falling. A six month truce was put into effect, although it did not stop all of the rockets fired at Israel. Even under attack Israel begged for the agreement to be extended. Hamas rejected the request and increased their attacks in order to draw Israel into a war. Israel caught Hamas by surprise by hitting them hard.

The government finally showed that they were going to protect their citizens. Israeli's were supportive of the decision and rallied to support the troops. The government showed courage by standing up to world pressure and refusing to halt operations in the early days of the war.

The IDF spent a great deal of effort to minimize civilian casualties. Phone calls, text messages were sent to warn civilians to retreat to safety. The response to these calls usually resulted in civilians rallying to the target point to stop the destruction. The IDF had a special missile called a door knocker that would do enough damage to scare away the civilians without causing any really damage. Humanitarian Aid was allowed to flow while the world complained that it was being blocked. Pressure from around the world grew as the death toll climbed.

On Saturday night the Israeli government decided to announce all their goals were met and declared a unilateral ceasefire. Israel would wait up to 10 days for Hamas to stop shooting and pull out of Gaza. The border crossings would be open. It took less then 19 minutes from the time the ceasefire went into effect until the IDF responded to a rocket launch.

Hamas launched a dozen rockets towards Israel to show that ceasefire meant nothing before declaring their own ceasefire. This one would last only 7 days and had the additional requirement of all IDF soldiers to once again leave Gaza.

What has the war accomplished? The IDF has left Gaza in haste in preparation for the inauguration of Obama. Gilad Shalit is still a prisoner. While the UN calls for Israel to be investigated for war crimes, he has been denied visits from the Red Cross without any notice from the International community. The borders will be opened as Hamas has always wanted. Olmert has said that Israel can always go back in, if rockets are fired again. So Hamas will send 3-6 rockets a day. The world community would not tolerate an Israeli response to such a 'minor' threat. The government promised a new reality on the ground. Instead they declared, things should go back to the way it was.

PM Olmert has now botched two wars. Israel needs a better system to get rid of incompetent politicians.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

UNHRC Condemns Israel in One Side Resolution

The United Nations Human Rights Council has once again partaken in it's favourite activity. A one sided resolution was passed condemning Israel's attack on Hamas in Gaza.

The four page 17 article resolution condemned Israel and called on a special investigation. It called for an immediate stoppage to the military action and 'grave violations' by Israel. It essentially called on Israel to meet all of the Hamas demands by immediately withdrawing from Gaza and opening all border crossings.

The resolution demanded that Israel should stop targeting civilians. While civilians are being killed Israel has gone to great lengths to demonstrate they are trying to avoid civilian deaths. The resolution lumped all of the casualties into a single count with "a large number of women and children". The language was clearly designed to maximize the damage without any consideration of who died for attacking Israel and who the true victims are.

As for Hamas the UNHRC couldn't even devote a complete sentence to condemning their attacks on Israel. They called for an end to the launching of crude rockets against Israeli civilians.

The resolution passed with the votes as follows:

In favour (33):Angola, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Uruguay, and Zambia.

Against (1):Canada.

Abstentions (13): Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, and United Kingdom.

The resolution was designed to attack Israel rather than bringing anything productive to the table to stop the rocket attacks by Hamas which would lead to an Israeli withdrawal. The countries that abstained explained that they were disappointed that it did not address all violations that occurred in Gaza. Canada was the only country brave enough to stand up and vote against the resolution, stating "the draft text still failed to clearly recognize that rocket fire on Israel had led to the current crisis. It also used unnecessary, unhelpful and inflammatory language. "

Thank You Canada.

Monday, January 12, 2009

War of Words, Gaza and Israel (Part 1)

We live in a world where getting the story first often takes priority over getting the story right. It is great to get up to the minute news. There is pressure to publish stories based on conjecture before there is time to verify the facts. The problem is that people remember the original story but very rarely take note of corrections made after the fact. Years later these stories will be quoted back forgetting some of the important details that were uncovered after a proper investigation. With the war in Gaza and Southern Israel, Eye on the UN, Muqata and Elder of Zion are just some of the reliable websites that are trying to sort out fact from fiction.

There is certain words that have deep routed and powerful meaning. By using them they invoke certain images and create an emotional response. Using this language can get an idea stuck in the listeners psyche that they will simply accept it as fact without any type of critical analysis. One example is calling somebody you don't like a Nazi. In the online world this has lead to the widely accepted use of Godwin's law. If you call somebody a Nazi you automatically lose the debate.

In the attack against the current war in Gaza this graphic language has been used to condemn Israel. The terminology creates a certain image for casual followers of history and current events of Israel without truly reflecting the reality on the ground. This popular terminology needs a second look.

Israel needs to stop occupying stolen land.

During the end of the 18th century France and Britan began getting out of the colonization business. France abandoned Quebec in in 1759 allowing it to fall to the British. The United States was the beneficiary of the Louisiana sale. England lost control of the 13 colonies and allowed Canada to gain independance without an ounce of a fight.

The collapse of the Ottoman Empire left the British and French in control of large territory that they had no desire to keep. The land was devided and given away based on their own interests. The British used the land as reward for allies during the WW1 and promissed to give the Palestinian Mandate to be a Jewish State. As more promises were made than land available the Palestinian Mandate kept shrinking and given away to others. Trans Jordan (now Jordan), Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq were all created in this manner.

In 1947 the question of how to resolve the Palestine Mandate was handed over to the United Nations. They decided to endorse a two state solution. The land would be split between a Palestinian State and a Jewish State. Jerusalem was to be an international city that anybody could access. The Arab world rejected this solution and declared war on Israel within 24 hours of declaring independance. Israel survived the war and established more secure borders than the original mandate. The Gaza strip fell into Egyptian hands and the West Bank and East Jerusalem fell into Jordanian hands. Jews were expelled from the Arab lands. Jews were expelled from the Old City in Jerusalem and the Arova Synagouge was blown up. Arabs were welcomed to stay in the new state. Many of them choose to flee to their Arab neighbours instead.

In 1967 Egypt had launched a blockade on Israeli ports. Peacekeepers complied with Egyptian orders to leave. Israel responded with a pre-emptive strike. 6 Days later Israel had captured the Sinai Penninsula and Gaza from Egypt, the Golan Heights in the North. Jordan refused to heed to Israel's demands not to enter the war. Israel captured Jerusalem and the West bank.

Arabs were not forced to leave. There are 100,000 Arabs in East Jerusalem that have a fairly good deal. They have voting rights, freedom of movement with the having to do army service. There are Arab parties in the Knesset, although they refuse to vote in municipal elections. Israel left the Temple Mount in muslim control. The Arabs in Hevron had prepared to leave expecting the same fate brought upon the Jews in the 1933 Hevron massacre. They were convinced to stay. Jews wanting to claim their own homes back had to sneak past the army in order to take possesion of their homes that were lost in 1948.

The whole premise of the peace process is that if Israel returned to their 1967 borders they would live in peace. Israel has refused acknowledge their enemies would put down arms on such simple terms. Protests in the last few days have labeled Israel as occupiers and in possession of stolen land for 60 years. Israel did not control Gaza until 1967. Protesters are no longer hiding behind thinly veiled cover that they are in protest of land captured in 1967. They want Israel to cease to exist. Anything less will be unacceptable and justify grounds to continue the war against Israel. There can never be peace if Israel has to negotiate with a body that believes Israel should not exist.

Other topics still to be examined: War Crimes, Targeting Civilians, Genocide/Holocaust, Blockig
Humanitarian Aid, Disproportionate Use of Force.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

CUPE Ontario to Extend Anti-Israel Campaign

Once upon a time employers viewed their employees as expendable tools. Employees had very few rights in terms of job security, saftey, reasonable salary and time being allocated to be spent away from work. The Union emerged as the voice of the worker. Over the years workers received more and more rights. A lot was due to the proactive nature of the Union. Other factors included: improved technology both in the business and transportation for employees, increase in education of workforce effecting supply and demand for labour, government regulations ranging from health and safty to minimum standards of treatment for employees. Many Unions have grown in power to a point beyond what they need to protect their employees. They find themselves needing to justify their existence.

Once again York University has been crippled by another TA strike. As the strike moves into it's third month students are already in danger of losing their summer jobs and possibly their academic year. At the beginning of the strike the TAs were complaining they were living under the poverty line while working 10-15 hours a week. The Union is losing credability and the constant strikes will one day cut into the demand for enrollment at York.

Sid Ryan, President of CUPE Ontario decided that this is the perfect time to advance the Union's foreign policy. A proposal is being drafted requiring all Israeli University Proffessors to publicly denounce the attack by Israel on the University in Gaza. It was bombed by Israel after it was used to fire rockets at Israeli civilians. All Israeli Proffessors failing to condemn their government harshly enough will be banned from Ontario campusses.

This policy is misdirected for many different reasons. A Union's job is to protect the interests of the employees they represent. Developing a compreshensive foreign policy is job left to governments and those individuals or lobby groups who wish to influence public policy. Diverting union dues to special interest projects of the leadership choosing is taking advantage of the Union membership. The employees receive no benefit from these activities although Union rules obligate them to pay for it.

Since when does a Univeristy force proffesors to adopt specific political view as condition for employment. CUPE stood silent while Israel has had to deal with missles and suicide bombers directed at civilians. Where are the calls for Arab proffessors to condemn these attacks? Where are the calls for American Preoffessors to condemn the Iraq War, George Bush or other American Foreign Policy that contradicts CUPE values. What about Russia blocking European fuel from the Ukraine? What about real humanitarian crisis going on in different parts of Africa? Why does Israel get singled out by the thought police?

If Israeli professors are not aloud to support their government, what about Jewish Professors? Could they risk not being hired for supporting Israel? Will students take this as a sign that they could face academic discipline for supporting Israel. A University campus is designed to be a place of free speech. That is why teachers are granted tenior. Keep in mind that this is the same Union that refused to allow John Tory to attend their annual meeting for elementary teachers because he wanted Jewish schools to have the same funding formula as Catholic Schools. The other political leaders were welcomed with open arms.

This proposal takes the Union in areas of public discourse it doesn't belong. It undermines the basic principle of free speech that a University is supposed to protect. If Sid Ryan wants to continue is Anti-Israel campaign he should resign from is position as head of the union and join an appropriate lobby group.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Green Party Finally Comments on War in Southern Israel

Here is the Green Party Statement:
In light of the serious escalation in violence between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza region and what appears to be an intractable political stand-off, the Green Party is calling for an immediate cessation of the violence and for leadership from "The Quartet" (U.S. Russia, E.U. , U.N.) to begin negotiations with all parties to establish a comprehensive stabilization plan and buffer zone around Gaza.

Already 1,400 people have been injured and 375 killed in Gaza and 5 in Israel by Israeli air-strikes and Hamas rockets and emergency services in Gaza are overwhelmed by the continuing violence. Children are especially vulnerable to the psychological terror of repeated air-strikes and rocket attacks. A recent Queen's University study has identified the children of Gaza - which comprise almost half the population of the territory - as heavily impacted psychologically by war trauma.

Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May commented, "It is time for political leaders in the region and from influential nations outside the region, to seriously collaborate in ending a tragedy that is a lose/lose proposition for everyone regardless of any perceived short-term gains.

Stage One of a Gaza Area Stabilization Plan would include:

1) An immediate end to all hostilities and the establishment of a sustainable cease-fire arrangement.

2) The deployment of U.N. Peace-Making forces within a Neutral Buffer Zone who assume the responsibility for ending missile attacks on Israel using a combination of political, policing and technical means and methods.

3) The establishment of a Green Economic Development Area and Agricultural/Water Research Institute at the Egyptian/Gaza border which would be developed in collaboration with the Egyptian government - initial stage would be on Egyptian side - and with long-term financial and technical support from the international community.

4) Increased support for primary and secondary education infrastructure and resources as well as significantly enhanced medical and psychological treatment capacity.

5) Re-open border crossing points under U.N. oversight to allow continuous access of humanitarian supplies into Gaza.

Green Party of Canada International Affairs Critic Eric Walton added "because of the intense and chronic nature of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict it is likely that a sustainable peace process will require a multi-track approach that simultaneously addresses state security, economic development, environmental protection and human security concerns."

The Green Party is trying to work around a practical solution while ignoring the issues of assigning blame, which could bog down the process. Economic sustainability is a must for securing any type of long term future for those who live in Gaza. While in theory the plan sounds nice it glosses over the most critical points.

Israel has attacked Hamas in response to constantly being under rocket fire. Even Egypt is demanding that Hamas stop the attacks. Hamas is on their own course and have no interest in what is best for the people they claim to represent. Is there any way to bring a sustainable ceasefire without a complete surrender by Hamas?

Israel has asked for international monitors for a ceasefire, instead of peace keepers. Israel wants the whole world to recognize that they are in compliance with whatever ceasefire arrangement that is made. They also want confirmation of any violations on the Palestinian side.

Peace keepers are not equipped to handle a situation where one size chooses to go to battle. In 1967 Egypt ordered them to leave and they did. UNIFIL patrolling Southern Lebanon did nothing to prevent war in 2006. Peace Keepers do not engage in battle. If Hamas or another terrorist group started firing rockets again they would be powerless to do anything.

As things stand now the end game is to oust Hamas from Gaza and allow the Fatah lead Palestinian Authority to retake control of Gaza. It will then be back to the drawing board as both sides consider what concessions they are willing to make in order to sustain a long lasting cease fire.