Warren 1 — 0 Republicans + Obama

Senate Democrats have dealt President Barack Obama a stinging setback on trade by blocking efforts to begin full-blown debate on his initiatives.

All but one Senate Democrat defied the president Tuesday by voting to prevent consideration of his request for “fast track” trade authority. Such authority would let Obama present trade agreements that Congress could ratify or reject, but not amend.

Proponents needed 60 votes to thwart a Democratic filibuster, but managed only 52 in the 100-member Senate.

Obama’s supporters say they will try again, possibly starting in the House. But Tuesday’s vote highlighted the deep divide between Obama and the many congressional Democrats who say trade deals hurt U.S. jobs.

Keep on rocking in the Free World.

Just as NAFTA was passed under Clinton, essentially a Republican bill was offered with hopes for sufficient Blue Dog Democrats climbing on board to get it through.

Regardless of the rationales offered by President Obama, the only reason for passing fast track legislation is to inhibit an up-or-down vote in Congress. Especially in the case where a bill is anti-democratic, against the will and needs of workingclass families.

This may not be up to the stage of crystal ball forecasting; but, it surely is nice to see Democrats try to act like they haven’t forgotten their workingclass base, entirely.

Is this the end of the tale? Hardly. It won’t take dramatic progressive change in White House trade policies to get the average Dem to cave. And I expect cave they will. They owe as much to corporate lobbyists as do Republicans. Their accountability is still the kind defined by accountants – not workingclass heros.

Israel to charge Bedouin village for the cost of its destruction


To serve and protect — Israeli style

Israel has taken the Bedouin village of al-Araqib to court to force the desert settlement to pay US$500,000 in demolition costs, despite having been razed to the ground 83 times since 2010.

The Israeli state is claiming that the southern town should fork out for the 1,000 police deployed to carry out the destruction.

Because it is “unrecognized” by the Israeli government, al-Araqib is automatically approved for demolition….

Around half of Israel’s 90,000 Arab-Palestinian herders live in such precarious localities…Never before has a whole town been ordered to pay for its own demolition.

Since occupation of Palestinian territories began in 1967, Israel has demolished more than 27,000 homes.

The dance of death has become the national anthem of Israel. Greed, racism, bigotry, aparthied – are the musicians.

Canada’s right-wing government is falling apart on its own

It’s a good thing for Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he’s been out of the country.

Last weekend, in an apparent attempt to distance himself from whatever was about to emerge at the trial of disgraced Senator Mike Duffy, the Conservative leader took off for Iraq and Kuwait.

He ostensibly made the surprise trip to bolster the troops there who are training Kurdish fighters. However, to more cynical political observers, the visit was a blatant attempt to win back military support after last year’s brutal budget cuts to veterans services and benefits. But really? It was all about the photo ops, the stage-managed appearances before the red maple leaf blazing behind fighter jets carefully arranged nose-to-nose just so…

Then there was the case of Omar Khadr, the Canadian-born man captured at age 15 in Afghanistan and imprisoned for nearly half his life at Guantanamo Bay. In 2012, he was finally repatriated to Canada after pleading guilty in 2010 before a US military tribunal to five war crimes. Sentenced to eight years to be served in Canada, he won bail late last month in an Alberta court…

The Harper government, which trots out Khadr as the very scary model of a terrorist, going so far as to bar media access to him, did everything it could to fight his release – as expected. It announced an appeal of the bail decision and then, when it seemed that the proceedings couldn’t be stopped, tried for a stay.

But, on Thursday, Khadr won his freedom on strict conditions and emerged before a horde of reporters. Social media exploded with Canadians’ overwhelmingly favourable reactions to his charisma and humble demeanour, with many remarking on how Khadr’s appearance put the lie to the Harper government myth of the cut-throat, murderous terrorist, the political football they kick around as they play to their base in their terrorists-under-every-bed tactics…

The week grew worse still…Damaging evidence was being produced in the Ottawa courtroom where Senator Mike Duffy, a former Canadian TV star, is facing 31 charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud related to his living and travel expenses.

Conservative MPs were called to testify that taxpayers were subsidising party fundraising efforts by flying Duffy around the country. Even more detrimental to the PMO were revelations of emails exchanged between Harper’s most trusted senate appointees and his top staffers documenting attempts to alter an audit report and conceal its findings.

Probably the week’s most stinging blow came from Harper’s home province of Alberta where, on Tuesday, in a stunning election upset, the provincial NDP won a majority, toppling a 44-year reign by the Conservatives…

Resource sector shares immediately dropped. Newly elected premier Rachel Notley had promised to terminate government support for the Northern Gateway pipeline to the British Columbia coast, and the Keystone XL pipeline to the Texas Gulf coast, two projects that have been the centrepiece of the Harper government’s economic strategy. She also discussed raising the royalties that resource companies pay to the public treasury, royalties that are reportedly the lowest in the world.

When the prime minister returns from his travels, he may find that the political chickens have come home to roost.

Best quote? Opposition leader Tom Mulcair of the New Democratic Party charged, “This is pure Richard Nixon”.

Someone stole $1 billion from Moldova — an eighth of the country’s GDP

When thousands filled the streets of Moldova’s capital last week, their complaint was pretty significant.

Late last year, about $1 billion disappeared in an apparent banking scandal that’s mystified Europe’s poorest country…To put that sum into perspective, it’s an eighth of the country’s GDP. In United States terms, that portion of the economy would add up to more than $2 trillion.

The money reportedly vanished in a series of murky loans dealt out last November by three major banks — one of them state-owned — to as yet unknown recipients.

Officials wised up to the scheme only earlier this year.

Investigators [including the US auditing firm Kroll – who’re pretty sharp] are looking into the matter but have released few details. The speaker of Moldova’s parliament finally released a report by Kroll late Monday night that implicated a Moldovan businessman in the scheme, but recommended further investigation.

Many Moldovans are mad about all this…They say it’s symptomatic of the widespread corruption that’s plagued their country since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

That’s also why Sunday’s protest was about more than just missing money. It drew at least 10,000 demonstrators, police said. If that sounds unimpressive, consider that there are just 3.5 million people in Moldova…

Kroll released their report this week and it ties a local businessman, Ilan Shor, to phony loans issued by banks he’d manipulated into controlling interests + money-laundering schemes + several banks and companies outside Moldova involved in illicit transactions. It would be a comic opera if it wasn’t the sort of corruption that can bankrupt a country the size of Moldova.

Catch this one: Eduard Harunjen, head of the anticorruption division of the Prosecutor-General’s Office, noted that the report did not have legal standing – so, he wasn’t arresting anyone.