Turkey’s EU membership bid falters — Germany unrelenting

Turkey’s chances of a breaking a three-year stalemate and relaunching its bid to join the European Union look like being dashed because of the government’s ruthless response to three weeks of street protests amid worsening friction between Ankara and Berlin.

The foreign ministry in Berlin summoned the Turkish ambassador to Germany on Friday to explain the harsh language directed at the chancellor, Angela Merkel, by Egemen Bağis, the Turkish official in charge of negotiations with the EU.

Merkel had said earlier this week that she was “appalled at the very tough” response by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in ordering riot police to clear central Istanbul of thousands of protesters last weekend.

Bağis accused the chancellor of playing domestic politics, said that anyone using Turkey for political purposes would suffer “an inauspicious end” and warned of severe retaliation if the negotiations were called off.

Turkey opened negotiations to join the EU eight years ago, at the same time as Croatia. While Croatia joins next week as the 28th member, Turkey’s bid has been frozen for three years…Merkel and the German centre-right remain firmly opposed to Turkey joining. Her Christian Democrats’ draft manifesto for the general elections in September states: “We reject full membership for Turkey because it does not meet the conditions for EU entry…”

Negotiations were supposed to resume next week after a long hiatus because the French president, François Hollande, lifted the block imposed by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, as a gesture of goodwill. Talks were to take place on regional development, an issue that could have influenced Ankara’s policy towards parts of the south-east populated mainly by Kurds who have long been campaigning for greater rights and more devolved government.

But Germany and the Netherlands are refusing a green light for next week’s resumption, triggering a European debate over the most sensible response to the turmoil in Turkey.

Discussions about how to respond to the turmoil in Turkey have nothing to do with either the causes of the turmoil or core reasons for the refusal of admittance. The turmoil results from a populist government trying to cure every modernist problem it sees with the hammer of suppression.

Rejection of Turkey’s membership in the greater economy the EU affords is a twofold reaction to a government in Turkey led by a liar and hypocrite. The years of Erdoğan’s populist government have been characterized by his wink and a nod to a goal of crushing modernism, secular freedoms central to Turkey’s constitution. He’s given the wink to his rural religious supporters and nodded assent to the constitution – while plotting its demise.

Obama stands up for common sense gun control

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

In his most extensive comments on gun control since the tragic Aurora theater shooting, President Obama called for tighter gun control measures in a speech at the Urban League in New Orleans…

“I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation -– that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage.

“But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals –– that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily. These steps shouldn’t be controversial. They should be common sense.”

Noting that lax gun control is only one part of the problem, Obama also touched on the historic new agreement between the New Orleans police department and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to reduce crime and corruption, as well as government programs in Boston, Chicago, and Detroit meant to steer young people away from gangs and street violence…

In his speech Wednesday night, Obama acknowledged that it has been difficult to get stricter gun control laws through Congress; the NRA and other gun rights lobbyists outspent gun control advocates 17 to 1 in Washington just last year. But a new poll found that gun-owning Americans, including NRA members, overwhelmingly support gun control regulations, with 87 percent of NRA members agreeing that “support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals.”


Congress-critters – liberal, middle-of-the-road, conservatives, out-and-out rightwing nutballs – rarely have the courage to confront a reactionary lobby like the NRA. Even the progressive members of Congress who stand up for sensible regulation are tempted to hedge their positions back home.

The truly paranoid gun nuts aren’t going to support someone advancing sensible regulation, anyway. Or even no regulation. The wave of fear-filled little gun mice pouring millions of dollars into the coffers of gun manufacturers since Obama’s election is indicative of a number of cultural failings – from racism to xenophobia. The only important effect of all this has been emphasizing the cowardice of American politicians.

Obama is smart enough to understand that a moderate call for regulation at this point in time isn’t going to cost him a single vote. If his peers stood upright long enough to see the forest for the trees – they would come to the same conclusion.

For the record, I should note I’ve been a gun owner and hunter for decades. I come from a family that includes some of the best gunsmiths in America. Firearms play a long outdated role in American culture. All the more reason for sound regulation.

Tea Party nutballs reach new heights in paranoid populism

Woo-Hoo! He got his sign autographed by Rick Santorum
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Across the country, activists with ties to the Tea Party are railing against all sorts of local and state efforts to control sprawl and conserve energy. They brand government action for things like expanding public transportation routes and preserving open space as part of a United Nations-led conspiracy to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities.

They are showing up at planning meetings to denounce bike lanes on public streets and smart meters on home appliances — efforts they equate to a big-government blueprint against individual rights.

“Down the road, this data will be used against you,” warned one speaker at a recent Roanoke County, Va., Board of Supervisors meeting who turned out with dozens of people opposed to the county’s paying $1,200 in dues to a nonprofit that consults on sustainability issues.

Local officials say they would dismiss such notions except that the growing and often heated protests are having an effect…

Well, they’re only having an effect on cowardly, opportunist local politicians. A significant portion of the breed.U

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Silvio Berlusconi sneaks out the side door – in disgrace

Silvio Berlusconi’s scandal-ridden premiership ended in ignominy as he was forced to hide from a jeering crowd in Rome after handing in his resignation at a late-night meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano. His departure followed a historic vote in parliament that paved the way for a new government tasked with shoring up the ailing economy.

Berlusconi was forced to leave the presidential residence through a side entrance, to chants of “buffoon, buffoon” from thousands of demonstrators outside….The protesters, including a choir singing the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah, rejoiced at his departure.

The 75-year-old billionaire brought down the curtain on a government that has become plagued by scandals and seemed increasingly helpless in the face of the economic storm that has taken his country and the euro to the brink of catastrophe. The dramatic end of his 17-year domination of Italian politics came as the lower house of parliament approved a package of savage cuts and stimulus measures demanded by the European Union to trim Italy’s massive €1.9 trillion debt.

After losing his majority in the house, a weakened Berlusconi had pledged to resign as soon as he had pushed the reform package through parliament. The reforms were passed by 380 votes to 26. Opposition parties did not participate…

Italy’s longest serving postwar prime minister raised a toast with ministers at a final cabinet meeting after the vote, only for his car to be chased by protesters shouting “Go, go, thief!” as he left for a second meeting with party officials at his Rome residence…

The questions facing Italy, today, are the natural result of leaving the Clown Prince of Populism in place all these years. Those who vote for nationalism, imperial lies, the histrionics of a Berlu or his counterparts throughout the Western world run the inevitable risk of getting exactly what they vote for.

An incompetent, a paper tiger who buried his nation in debt and disgrace.

Sarkozy’s burka ban descends into predictable farce

Hind and Najet, who keep their features hidden at all times and refuse to identify themselves beyond their first names, were due to appear before a judge outside Paris.

Both are accused of violating France’s so-called “burka ban”, which came into force earlier this year and prevents anyone covering up their faces in public.

But when Hind, a 31-year-old mother, tried to enter the court building in Meaux on Thursday, police held her back, telling her to take her head-covering off.

Najet, meanwhile, simply stayed at home, with the 34-year-old saying she knew she would be stopped from entering. “For the hearing to go ahead, you must remove the veil. Justice must be administered in a calm atmosphere,” police commissioner Philippe Tireloque told Hind.

Hind, who had brought her own handcuffs to wear as part of an organised protest at the court, replied: “I’ll keep my veil on at all times. It’s non-negotiable.

“The law forbids me from expressing myself, and indeed from defending myself. It forces me to dress a certain way, when all I want to do is live according to my religion.”

Police are under strict orders not to remove face coverings themselves, meaning Hind was simply told to leave.

Their court appearance was accordingly abandoned, as state prosecutors began trying to work out how they can deal with the challenge to the new law. They are expected to come to a decision in September.

Or maybe some other year – after Sarkozy and his conservative bubbas discover how they do in the next national elections. The populist model for bigots espoused so often and loudly by the Republican Party/KoolAid Party here in the USA, after all, is why they passed the law.

BJP nationalists try to hoist flag in Kashmir

The leaders of India’s main opposition Hindu nationalist party were stopped on Monday from traveling to disputed Kashmir to hoist the national flag, the party said, for fear of provoking violence in the sensitive region.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party said the plan to fly the flag in Srinagar, the summer capital of revolt-torn Kashmir, to mark India’s Republic Day on Wednesday, was a patriotic right, the government dismissed it as a political stunt ahead of state elections this year…

Officials in Kashmir fear that the BJP’s plan to hoist the Indian flag as a symbolic show of control over the region could reignite separatist protests in which more than 100 people were killed last year.

Does anyone believe the BJP cares who dies for their ideology?

India’s Republic Day has traditionally been a lightning rod for anti-Indian protests in the Himalayan territory of Kashmir which is at the heart of hostilities between India and Pakistan…A nervous calm prevails in Kashmir after last summer’s anti-Indian protests, the worst in two decades. Between June and November, young men and women had almost daily hurled stones at security forces on the streets.

Close to 50,000 people have died since the insurgency broke out in 1989. India accuses Pakistan of supporting the separatists with money and arms, a charge Islamabad denies.

Reality: India ended up with Kashmir by less than virtuous conniving between the Brits and loyal Raj flunkies at the time of partition. A leading candidate in the history of stupid political decisions.

Of course, Pakistan supports the separatists. Though, even with history on their side, they’ve managed only to perpetuate the disaster of border warfare.

Meanwhile, the BJP illustrates the long-term strength – and criminal hypocrisy – of populist, nationalist ideology. Welcome to the Tea Party, folks.

Sheriff ties violence to populists, opportunist media

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The tenor of American political rhetoric became a centerpiece in the national debate over Saturday’s attack by a gunman in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six people and left local Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords with a bullet wound to the brain…

While not stating a motive for the shootings, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik in Tucson used a nationally televised press conference to condemn the tone of political discourse in his state. He charged that public debate is now “vitriolic rhetoric,” which has rendered Arizona “the mecca for prejudice and bigotry…”

“We need to do some soul searching,” Dupnik told reporters. “It’s the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this county is getting to be outrageous. Unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital,” Dupnik continued.

We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry,” Dupnik said…

“People who are unbalanced may be especially susceptible to vitriol,” Dupnik said. “It’s not unusual for all public officials to get threatened constantly, myself included. That’s the sad thing that’s going on in America. Pretty soon we’re not going to be able to find reasonable people to subject themselves to serving the public…”

“People tend to pooh-pooh this business about the vitriol that inflames American public opinion by the people who make a living off of that. That may be free speech but it’s not without consequences,” Dupnik said.

The smarmy, opportunist politicians who climb aboard the rhetoric of violence from retrograde misfits like the KoolAid Party deserve all the credit they can get – for leading the nation to this violent state. Like conservatives who rode Joe McCarthy’s coattails – even though they personally espoused freedom of thought [they said], like Republicans who worked at assuming the cloak of racism with Nixon’s Southern Strategy – even though they voted for the Civil Rights Act, the political goon squad that owns the 2-party revolving backwardness account should stand up and take credit for the nutballs.

They lay the groundwork, they manage the job site. Just because some looney comes along and takes them at their word doesn’t erase responsibility.

This would be a good day to stand in front of Dick Armey’s house – or either Koch brothers mansion – with a poster of Gabrielle Giffords. No words needed. No explanation. These thugs know what they have wrought.

Democrats still whine over losing the Southern bigot vote

The Southern white Democrat, long on the endangered list, is at risk of being pushed one step closer to extinction.

From Virginia to Florida and South Carolina to Texas, nearly two dozen Democratic seats are susceptible to a potential Republican surge in Congressional races on Election Day, leaving the party facing a situation where its only safe presence in the South is in urban and predominantly black districts.

The swing has been under way since the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, when President Lyndon B. Johnson predicted that his fellow Democrats would face a backlash of white voters that would cost the party the South. It continued with Ronald Reagan’s election and reached a tipping point in the Republican sweep of 1994, with more than one-third of the victories coming from previously Democratic seats in the South…

And, uh, Nixon’s decision to make the Republican Party the official party of racism in the South.

The vulnerable Democrats across the South have moved to distance themselves from the party’s agenda and President Obama. Several candidates have declared they would not support keeping Nancy Pelosi of California as House speaker if the party holds its majority…

There are 59 Democrats in House seats across the South from the 11 states of the old Confederacy, totaling 43 white representatives and 16 black ones. Of those seats in predominantly white districts, nine are leaning Republican, eight are tossups and at least five more are competitive, according to the latest rankings by The New York Times, creating the prospect of the biggest Democratic losses since 1994, when 19 seats fell…

Former President Bill Clinton, who spent his career navigating between his party’s liberal sensibilities and the far more centrist instincts of Democrats in his home region, visited the district last week, passing through Batesville and Paragould before arriving for a rally in Jonesboro. He warned voters, “You are being played,” and urged people to cast ballots with their economic self interest in mind…

Except that Democrats who are afraid to vote for bread-and-butter issues in Congress are even less likely to confront them on the campaign trail. Republicans would destroy populist left-wing ideals like social security, medicare, public education. Democrats are too spineless to defend the issues that would show they have principles which respond to working families’ needs.

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President defends Constitution. Hypocrites go bonkers!

Over the weekend, President Obama did something that all American presidents are called upon to do. Defend the Constitution of the United States.

One of those tenets is Freedom of Religion. Not amend section A: popular religion [this week] only.

It’s how and why I feel free to tell folks I’m an atheist – or introduce someone in my family as a student of Buddhism – or note in the course of a conversation about San Antonito Chapel down the road that most of my neighbors are Catholics.

But, right-wing nutballs and the proto-fascists who infest the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party go crap out of their mind if Christian godliness and morality ain’t the only way endorsed to fly straight to heaven. Much less catch a tax break from the IRS.

So, combine all the hypocrisy into one big ball of cigar-snot and mealymouthed punditry – and you get this weekend’s tempest in a teabag.

Here’s a copy of the dangerous sedition uttered by Obama.

I’m not getting into cutting and pasting and commenting line-by-line because, frankly, it’s just the usual straight-up rhetoric required of any official who’s trying to explain our Constitution to people who don’t think it’s worth defending. The whole point of having a standard by which to govern a nation is that it is a standard to be upheld – not amended every time someone asks a hard question or a tough challenge comes along.

Our Founding Fathers realized that and fought and died for it. Now, because some terrorist gangsters come along and say our standards are worthless – a certain portion of our population is willing to prove them correct.

Not today. Not any day.

Utah fires 2 Mexiphobes over immigrant hit list

The Utah Department of Workforce Services has moved to fire two employees believed to have created and distributed a list containing personal information of 1,300 purported illegal immigrants.

The agency terminated a temporary worker and issued an “intent to terminate employment” notice to the other, spokesman Dave Lewis said. The latter career employee is on paid administrative leave pending a hearing, he said…

The list was anonymously distributed last week to media and government offices across the state, CNN affiliate KSTU-TV reported. An accompanying letter from “Concerned Citizens of the United States” insisted that those on the list should be deported immediately.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert told CNN’s John King on Friday night that the 1,300 people have Hispanic names. Lewis indicated Tuesday that some on the list are citizens and others are noncitizens with work permits.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said the alleged crimes may have broken state and federal privacy laws, and some may have been felonies, so if appropriate, there could be a multilevel investigation. He added that crimes may have been committed not only in generating and preparing the list, but also in how the list was used. Some of the alleged illegal immigrants listed have reported harassment since their names appeared on the list.

“Clearly, it’s not even meant as a blacklist. It’s more like a hit list. It is, I think, to put people at fear, to terrorize, to get people mobilized to do things. The fact is, the names on that list are also innocent until proven guilty, and we’re finding that some of those names … are here legally,” Shurtleff said.

Populist bigots could care less about “innocent until proven guilty”. Everyone on the list has an Hispanic surname. That’s all that matters to people whose ideology is based on ethnicity.

In this case, bigotry also happens to have exposed shallow checks and balances on security and confidentiality in the state of Utah.