We are gripped by scandal. In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is implicated in a top-level cover up of illegal expense claims by one his own foot soldiers: now-suspended Senator Mike Duffy.
In Toronto, police surveillance data reveal that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Alessandro Lisi (his “occasional driver and friend” !?!) move effortlessly between drug deals, football fields and the mayor's office. Lurid pictures abound: Senator Duffy clutching his bags full of bombshells, Harper looking blindsided in the House, mysterious envelopes being passed between Ford and Lisi in the woodlots and gas stations of Etobicoke.
Disturbing times. Entertaining times. For many of us, also hopeful times. Who has not dared to dream that crack and runaway expense claims will bring the Harper-Ford era to an end? After all, scandal helped do in so many others... Richard Nixon, Paul Martin, Mel Lastman, Nicolas Sarkozy and a string of Montreal mayors. The list is long.
The Scandalization of Politics: Who Benefits?
We are talking about much more than a few incidental scandals. More and more of what goes by 'politics' according to the media – statecraft, elections, parliamentary debates – is taken over by endless 'revelations' about individuals, their personal failings or corrupt practices. Political conflict takes the form of duels between individual establishment figures: politicians, newspaper editors, radio hosts, and police chiefs. We all fill social media sites with our own views about who we think are the good guys in this gladiator sport.
Interview with Ali Abunimah - The “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians that began with the signing of accords in Oslo, Norway, 20 years ago this month was widely celebrated at the time as an important step toward establishing a “viable Palestinian state.”
But in the two decades since, the Palestinian economy has been further decimated, Israel has expanded its Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, and the other Occupied Territory of Gaza has been subjected to a suffocating siege and regular military strikes. In short, conditions for Palestinians have worsened, and Israel's colonial domination has been enhanced.
How did this happen? Ali Abunimah, co-founder of ElectronicIntifada.net and author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, spoke with Eric Ruder, of socialistworker.org (where this interview first appeared), about the consequences of a “peace process” that has brought more ethnic cleansing, more apartheid and more war.
Québec has just experienced the most brutal ecological catastrophe of its history. On July 6, 2013, a train loaded with 72 cars carrying crude oil derailed during the night. It exploded in downtown Lac-Mégantic, a small municipality (pop. 6000) in the Eastern Townships.
A series of explosions and a fire completely destroyed more than 30 buildings including the municipal library, the town's archives, heritage buildings, businesses and residences. Police have confirmed that 50 people were killed by the blast.
The accident also destroyed a central water line, forcing the people of Lac-Mégantic to boil their water. It is estimated that 10,000 litres of oil leaked into Mégantic lake and the Chaudière river, a river that crosses Beauce before it enters the St. Lawrence. This threatens several other municipalities that rely on these watersheds, including the towns of Saint-George and Lévis.
In the face of this unprecedented disaster, it's important to increase our solidarity with the people of Lac-Mégantic; we must refuse to be indifferent.
If we hope to stop this from happening again, we need to identify the causes and not merely dwell on the effects. This was not simply an isolated incident of a misapplied brake or a solitary conductor. The catastrophe at Lac-Mégantic is a symptom of a more systemic problem: the drive for profits from the increasing reliance on oil in Canada. Risks of oil spills and explosions have become widespread in Québec despite assurances from governments and industry spokespeople.
Protests Erupt in Nova Scotia - There is anguish and anger across the province of Nova Scotia following the death by suicide of teenager Rehtaeh Parsons on April 7. The 17-year old hanged herself in the family home on April 4. Three days later, her parents consented to removing her from life support.
Rehtaeh Parsons death was provoked by institutional failure to deal with an alleged gang sexual assault she suffered in November 2011 at the hands of four teenage boys who were schoolmates at Cole Harbour District High School, in the Halifax region. The teens had been drinking alcohol in the parental home of one of the boys.
Adding to Parson's humiliation, and a criminal act in its own right, was the posting of a photo of the assault to social media several days later by one of the alleged assailants. The photo played a crucial role in the later suicide because it provoked an endless string of taunts and threats against Parsons, sometimes by former schoolmates, oft times by strangers.
Concern over her story quickly became international because the institutional sexism that it revealed is a feature of capitalist society worldwide. Women are increasingly rising up against it – from India and foreign-occupied Afghanistan to the United States. Police in California recently arrested three young men in connection to the suicide of Audrie Pott in September 2012. She, too, suffered a gang sexual assault.
“On the eve of the crisis, the bourgeois, with the self-sufficiency that springs from intoxicating prosperity, declares money to be a vain imagination. Commodities alone are money. But now the cry is everywhere: money alone is a commodity! As the hart pants after fresh water, so pants his soul after money, the only wealth.” - Capital, Karl Marx.
When bankers, industrialists and their lobbyists talk about debt, they have state debt in mind. When politicians of powerful states talk about debt, they have the debt of less powerful states in mind. This is how the concentrated power of money and politics push countries like Ireland, Greece, Italy, and now Cyprus, toward the precipice of collapse, force changes of government and the sale of public assets to foreign creditors.
That a debt problem exists in these countries is beyond doubt. Yet this is not just a problem of public, but also of private indebtedness. Indeed other countries, among them some of Italy's and Greece's creditors, are themselves even deeper in the red.
The struggle between the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad and the popular masses of the city and country in Syria that started on 15 March 2011 seems to have consumed both sides in its ferocity. It is promising imminent victory to a third force that has been carefully engineered, supported and armed by the international forces of counterrevolution.
This third force is a bourgeois coalition composed of different political tendencies, including opportunist pro-imperialist bourgeois politicians living in exile and waiting for their day to come, Sunni Muslim movements of various stripes, most saliently the Muslim Brotherhood, direct representatives of various sections of the Syrian bourgeoisie and defectors from the Syrian army.
The forces of international counterrevolution, consisting mainly of imperialism, first and foremost the U.S. of course, Sunni Arab reaction led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and Turkey (Israel has kept an incredibly low profile) seem to be nearing success in their grand aim of deviating the uprising of the popular masses, an authentic part of the Arab revolution, into a ‘responsible,’ pro-imperalistic movement that can take Assad's place without a radical rupture with the existing bourgeois state.