Will Canada Be the First Country to Ban Islam?

While the Conservative government is keeping a studied silence on the issue of Islam, though it has been vocal against terrorism of all sorts, Justine Trudeau has been indirectly promoting Islam. Sometimes, I feel that the way to hell is paved with good intentions, and the contradictions in the averments and actions present a very confusing picture.

The Canadian Government is proclaiming a new law that would ban:

“Promoting Terrorism, Violence, or Criminal Activity: A foreign national who makes public statements or uses any means to broadcast, write, produce, publish or distribute material, including a website and public speaking, to express views which:

  • (a) promote or glorify terrorist violence;
  • (b) promote or glorify a listed entity under Regulations Establishing a List of Entities pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada, Regulations Implementing the United Nations Resolutions on the Suppression of Terrorism or the United Nations Al-Qaida and Taliban Regulations;
  • (c) counsel, encourage or incite others to commit terrorist activity or terrorist violence;
  • (d) incite hatred that is likely to lead to violence against a specific group;
  • (e) promote, counsel, encourage or incite serious criminal activity.” 

Islam is a political ideology which promotes—through the Quran and Prophetic tradition—the glorification of terrorist violence and counsels, encourages or incites others to commit terrorist activity or terrorist violence:

Jihad: The Ultimate Incitement of Hatred and Violence

Jihad is the central Islamic doctrine of holy war against non-Muslims which will be in force until all of them are converted to Islam or enslaved, or annihilated. Nine percent of Quranic verses, 24% of those revealed in Medina, exhort to Jihadi violence, while some 21% of the Sahih Bukhari hadiths and 67% of the Sira texts deal with Prophet Muhammad’s jihad. (For more, see http://www.islamreform.net/new-page-121.htm)

Exhorting Islamic holy war or Jihad for forced conversion, enslavement or annihilation of people, just because they follow Christian, Jewish, Polytheistic or other non-Islamic religions, is the worst kind of incitement of hatred and violence. Acting on Jihadi incitement of hatred and violence, Muslim holy warriors have murdered some 270 million people during the past 1,400 years. Since the September 11, 2001 Jihad attacks in America, there have been over 20,000 violent attacks by Jihadi groups across the world. Prophet Muhammad was the first Jihadi Muslim commander to apply the doctrine of Jihad to kill innocent infidels. He massacre 600 to 900 Jews of the Banu Qurayza tribe (627AD), and hundreds were put to death in his attack of Banu Mustaliq (627AD) and settlement of Khayber (628 AD). Prophet Muhammad himself in on record to claim his violent activities: “Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been made victorious with terror.” (Bukhari 4852:220)

Islam is the worst among ideologies—spewing hatred and violence against others—that humankind has known, far worse than Nazism or White Supremacism or any other ideologies, because it sanctifies its hatred and violence with the blessings of God. If anything deserves a ban under the new Canadian Law, it must be the religion of Islam, at least its holy scriptures—the Quran, Hadith and Sira.

Below is a sampling of the incitement of hatred and violence in the Quran that will put the Islam’s holy book on the guillotine under the new Canadian Law:

DIVINE SANCTIONS TO MURDER

  1. “murder them and treat them harshly” (Qur’an 9:123)
  2. “Instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers”; “smite above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them” (Qur’an 8:12, cp. 8:60)
  3. “…kill the disbelievers wherever we find them” (Qur’an 2:191)
  4. “fight and slay the Pagans, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem” “for them (the unbelievers) garments of fire shall be cut and there shall be poured over their heads boiling water whereby whatever is in their bowels and skin shall be dissolved and they will be punished with hooked iron rods” (Qur’an 22:19-22)
  5. “Allah wished to confirm the truth by His words: ‘Wipe the infidels (non-Muslims) out to the last.’” (Qur’an 8:7)
  6. “Strike off the heads of the disbelievers”; and after making a “wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives.” (Qur’an 47:4)
  7. “The punishment for those who wage war against Allah and His Prophet and make mischief in the land, is to murder them, crucify them, or cut off a hand and foot on opposite sides…their doom is dreadful. They will not escape the fire, suffering constantly.” (Qur’an5:33)

There are numerous such verses in the Quran, inciting hatred, violence and genocide. From Islam’s daily prayers to every other ritual is an inherent hatred of infidels that demonize them or call for terrorizing and murdering them. Islam is unremittingly anti-women, anti-Semitic and anti-homosexual. As far as anti-Semitism is concerned, Islam succeeded in what Hitler failed to achieve: Muhammad had made Medina free of the Jews; Muslims subsequently succeeded in desolating the entire Muslim world of the Jews—a region that housed the largest portion of the world Jewry (70-80%) at the time of Islam’s birth.

Islam is a direct threat to the peace and security of the Canadian people, to its democracy and freedom. So, if the Canadian Government wants to enforce its new law, it is crystal clear what will be its first target.

However, this will not happen. The real intent of this law is to promote Islam by targeting those, who speaks up against hatred and violence of Islam, as the purveyors of hate speech, thus denying them entry into Canada. And we already saw the first glimpse of it on May 13, when Pamela Geller’s scheduled appearance to speak in Toronto was cancelled due to pressure applied by the police. The story from the National Post:

“Police dispute allegations that there were any threats of intimidation, saying instead that “a discussion” took place Tuesday between Insp. Ricky Veerappan, leader of the York Regional Police force’s diversity, equity and inclusion bureau, and Rabbi Kaplan, who is also a volunteer chaplain with the force. Insp. Veerappan said that during their discussion, the rabbi was presented with more information and a decision.

“If he had not cancelled the event – and again, that was his decision – then we would have had to re-evaluate his relationship with York Regional Police because it would be clearly be in contravention of the values of our organization,” said Insp. Veerappan.

“Our concern is that Rabbi Kaplan is also a representative of the police, he wears a police uniform, and some of the comments that have been attributed to Ms. Geller really posed a conflict situation for us at York Regional Police.”

Was this action of York police justified or was it an indirect support to one group while depriving the other group of its rights? 

An Island in Revolt: A Window into Europe’s Future

One could be justified for being perplexed about Pope Francis’s choice of Lampedusa, a tiny island off the coast of Sicily and Italy’s — indeed Europe’s — southernmost tip, as the destination of his very first official visit, which took place on July 8. Not a world capital, not a place in some important geopolitical region of the globe.

What is significant, even symbolic, about Lampedusa is its geography: The small island, with a population of 5,000, is positioned in the middle of the Mediterranean, making it close to the Muslim world, even closer to Tunisia than Sicily.

These two conditions explain what’s been happening to Lampedusa for over a decade, and how it could be a miniature model of the whole of Europe in the not-too-distant future.

Since at least 2001, Lampedusa has been a primary entry point into Europe for immigrants, mostly illegal from Africa. Tens of thousands have been landing here over the years, peaking during the “Arab Spring.” In 2011, according to a report of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, “[a]pproximately 60,000 irregular migrants arrived [in Italy] as part of the 2011 influx from North Africa,” mainly from Tunisia and Libya. Around 50,000 of these came to Lampedusa.

Over 10,000 received residence permits on humanitarian grounds, because the Italian government declared a state of humanitarian emergency in February 2011, subsequently extended until December 2012.

In Lampedusa, the temporary immigrant reception center where outsiders were accommodated and sent to other facilities where they could request asylum, became so overcrowded that thousands of people had to sleep outdoors and in shelters provided by the local parish and ordinary Lampedusans.

The immigrants, among whom were suspected escaped prisoners, were given temporary visas and then gradually transferred to mainland Italy and other EU countries, but there were many times when the number of newcomers was higher than that of the locals.

On those occasions, when natives were outnumbered, there were tales of local women having to be accompanied everywhere to protect them from immigrants’ unwanted attention, sacked shops, apartment doors forced open, people returning home to find Tunisians sitting at the dining table eating and, after the intruders’ departure, some householders even discovering faeces inside saucepans.

The island became what one newspaper called “a huge immigrant camp.”

Maybe expecting to find a hotel reception and with scarcely a thought about the crisis they were creating on the small island, the illegal immigrants were complaining, as in the video below, describing what they found in Lampedusa as “shameful” and pontificating “the reception is zero” as if they were giving a hotel review on TripAdvisor:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UUjK3YoD_I

This video confirms what Lampedusa Mayor Bernardino De Rubeis said: “We have here young Tunisians who arrogantly want everything immediately, just like criminals, ready to endanger our lives and theirs.” He later added: “We’re in a war, and the people will react. There are people here who want to go out into the streets armed with clubs.”

The reception center was burnt down twice by the migrants, during inmate riots in February 2009 and in September 2011. The media blamed everyone for the arson: the Italian government, the provisional Tunisian government, the EU; all except the actual perpetrators. In April 2011 the illegals set fire to a guest house where they were staying at the expense of a charity organization, and threw rocks at the police.

Without the reception center, they had to be accommodated in hotels and tourist villages, which are virtually the place’s only economic resources.

Aliens overwhelmed the 5,000-inhabitants island and took advantage of their hospitality, subjecting the place to unusually high levels of violence and crime. Lampedusa is a micro-representation of what will happen to Europe if both current Muslim immigration and European demographic trends continue, when the proportion of natives and migrants will be the same in Europe as it’s been in Lampedusa. The islanders’ reaction, a small civil war, could also represent a prediction of future continent-wide events.

At the height of the immigration flux, confronted with an unprecedented crisis and left to their own devices to deal with it, the people of Lampedusa used “direct action” methods.

They stopped the Italian Coast Guard patrol boat, loaded with still more “rescued” North Africans. Women occupied the harbour and docks, chained themselves, overturned wheelie bins and blocked the road. Fishermen pulled boats to the entrance to the harbour. “Nobody enters here anymore,” the women shouted from the quay where patriotic flags were flying. To chants of “freedom!” they raised a banner: “We are full.”

The island descended into chaos. An urban riot occurred, with violent clashes between hundreds of Tunisians, police and locals. Many were injured. Three Lampedusans tried to assault their mayor, who barricaded himself in his office with a baseball bat for self-defence, while outside dozens were protesting against him and the immigrants, who wandered around the streets after having burnt down the reception center.

Islanders attacked journalists and TV crews. Tunisians and Lampedusans threw rocks at each other after illegals had threatened to explode gas cylinders near a petrol pump.

The reality is that this was a pseudo-humanitarian crisis: the illegals overwhelmingly were not refugees but economic migrants. What’s for years been called an “emergency” continues. Every day there are new arrivals.

The number of immigrants to Italy from the Mediterranean is growing. In the first 6 months of 2013, 7,800  of them arrived on Italy’s southern coasts, compared to 3,500 in the first 6 months of 2012. About three quarters landed on Lampedusa from Africa, the rest disembarked on Italy’s south-eastern coast in Apulia from Greece and Turkey.

The Pope, unfortunately, seems to have gone to Lampedusa in order to make everybody feel guilty for the immigrants, those lost at sea and the survivors. He condemned the “globalisation of indifference”; he talked about “the frontier of the desperate” and tragedies of people crossing the sea to seek a better life.

His sermon’s been received with mixed reactions. While Italy’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta has promised to put into practice the Holy Father’s appeal through more European co-operation (nothing new here, Italy has unsuccessfully tried for years to pass the buck to Europe), the political Right hasn’t been so keen.

Fabrizio Cicchitto, of Silvio Berlusconi’s party, PDL, pointed out that religious preaching is one thing, but a country’s management of such a complex and even intractable problem as illegal immigration — further aggravated by the presence of criminal groups — is another.

Erminio Boso of the secessionist, “far-Right” Northern League has been more outspoken: “I don’t care about what the Pope did. Indeed, I’m asking him to give land and money for the extra-comunitari [immigrants from outside the European Union]. I’m defending my own land.”

The Italian blog Diavoli Neri has made the interesting observation that the Vatican City State’s law declares that those found in its territory without authorization may be expelled, subject to fine or imprisonment. Further evidence, it concludes, that the Papal sermon, as so often, was beautiful and touching, but government laws are another matter.

A Northern Italian radio phone-in program aired irate messages from its audience: “I would have expected a few words [from the Pope] for those who are killed and raped by them [the immigrants]“; “As a Catholic I’m outraged. I’ve never heard this or another pope worry for the massacres that they commit”; “We have to prevent them from coming here. Let’s shut everything up and start thinking as a macro-region.”

Much of the immigration debate in Italy centers on whether to give citizenship to Italian-born children of immigrants, a worrying prospect considering that one third of the so-called “new Italians” are Muslim.

Particularly vociferous in support of the proposal is the Minister for Integration, Congolese Cecile Kyenge, who claims that this would “acknowledge a path to integration of the parents.”

Italians should look more closely at the experience of countries with a longer history of Third-World immigration, like Britain, where Muslim immigrants of second and third generation are more devout, orthodox and radicalizedthan their parents and grandparents. Something similar happens in Germany. Rather than a “path to integration” we witness a “path to Islamization.”

Either Kyenge doesn’t know what’s going on in the rest of Europe – where the policies she recommends are bringing to ruin entire countries – or she knows it very well, in which case she is a dangerous woman.

It’s already taking place in Italy too: among the hundreds of second- and third-generation immigrants leaving Europe to fight alongside the jihadist rebels in Syria there are 45-50 who lived in Italy.

In conclusion, the lesson from the Lampedusa experience is that there’s a limit to what indigenous populations can take. While it’s true that the most common reaction of native Europeans to Third-World non-military invasion so far has been leaving the city or country where this colonization occurs, it may not stay like this forever. There could sooner or later be a breaking point.

Germany’s Rising Global Naval Power

The world domination is always the result of supreme naval power. Agreed that with new geo-political situation, the naval power seems to have lost its former lustre, but still it is a major characteristic of supremacy.  The history shows that the Portuguese, Spanish and the French were naval powers of their respective times and emerged as major colonial powers. The British smashed Armada, defeated the French and the Portuguese  and emerged as a power with a global sway. Then US and now China are the super-powers because of their naval supremacy.

Germany cannot afford to lad behind. To protect its access to vital seaways, Germany is about to embark on a drastic upgrade of its navy. Following, a rash of reports and high-level meetings over the past few months, German elites are seeking to greatly increase their nation’s naval presence in foreign waters. 

The latest high-level think tank to join the clamor for raising Germany’s global military presence is the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Funded by the federal government, this foundation has political allegiance to the Christian Democratic Union, Germany’s main center-right political party.

According to a release by German-Foreign-Policy.com, a current paper produced by the foundation declares its support of moves for strengthening of “military capacities” in the Deutsche Marine.

The case is made that the Federal Republic is strongly dependent economically on the sea, not only due to the maritime economy in an immediate sense which totals 3 percent of Germany’s gross domestic product, but also as much of the nation’s major industrial exports are transported overseas by ship.

With the German economy essentially built on exports, access to the seaways by which its products travel to their foreign destinations—and through the vital sea gates that are the main choke points in sea trade—is vital to the survival of the German economy.

In tandem with statements made by Commerzbank Board Chairman Klaus-Peter Müller at the recent BAKS forum, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation report observes that with rising world trade growth, the “risks along the global maritime added-value chain” are rising; new “weak spots” are appearing in the “maritime transport chain,” such as off the coast of West Africa, where Germany will also soon have to show its military presence as it is currently doing off the Horn of Africa.

The report describes the inevitability of the government ensuring that the Deutsche Marine be appropriately equipped to handle such missions.

German warships currently participate in all four NATO Maritime Groups. The Deutsche Marine’s present missions also include Operation Enduring Freedom off the Horn of Africa, NATO Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean, Combined Task Force 150 operating in the North Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, and UNIFIL II patrolling the coast of Lebanon.

Anticipating adding to these commitments even more overseas missions, new warships including submarines and frigates are on order and will soon be added to the Deutsche Marine’s flotilla, strengthening its global presence.

The online journal Germany Defense states that the German Navy is today “Equipped with state-of-the art naval vessels, weapons and aircraft,” and as such, “the German Navy is a force to reckon with. [T]he force is planning on a lot of acquisitions in order to strengthen its fleet further.”

The Deutsche Marine’s first mission was, significantly—given its primary role in the destabilization and breakup of old Yugoslavia—as part of a multination force operating 1993 to 1996, tasked with blockading shipping from serving former Yugoslavia via the Adriatic Sea.

Two years later, the German Navy engaged in its first combat mission since World WarII. A small German marine task force joined a multination European Union force in a mission dubbed Operation Atalanta at an operations base in Djibouti. The mission was mounted to counter the attacks of pirates on shipping in the region of the Horn of Africa. Spiegel dubbed it “Germany’s return to the world’s military stage.”

It was, at the time, as Spiegel put it, “a rather modest undertaking.”
Well, as the saying goes, “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”

In keeping with Germany’s defense elites’ current drive to build a positive image of the nation’s military role in the mind of the German public, the Deutsche Marine seeks to enhance its public image by emphasizing its role as protector of German citizenry. The Deutsche Marine has launched its “Sea. For You.” PR campaign. Its web page declares (translation ours):

“Our prosperity depends largely on the trade across the oceans. … Trade across the oceans requires secure sea lanes. … A powerful navy protects these straits.

Political, ethnic and religious and economic conflicts, in association with piracy and the global reach of international terrorism, are a key threat. This threat has a direct effect on the free sea links and the free exchange of goods. Effective preventive security is ensured by an active German Navy in close national and international cooperation.

The German Navy, with its diverse and powerful range of capabilities, directly contributes to protecting the security and prosperity of every citizen.

The importance of a powerful navy for the security and prosperity of Germany, and thus to clarify each individual target, is the image campaign of the Navy.

We would do well to point out that the recent meeting of Germany’s Cellar Trialog Group, the June forum of Berlin’s Federal College for Security Studies (BAKS) and now the report from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation—all of which we have reported on—have one thing in common—an urging of political action to strengthen Germany’s global military reach and a stronger linkage between industry and the military.

It is no coincidence that this new push for enhanced German military power comes hard on the heels of the release in May of the report from the European Union Institute for Security Studies (ISS). That report contained strongly worded recommendations for the European Union to become a united global military power of significance in the wake of America’s continuing drawdown of its global defense presence.

That report urged the extension of the EU armed forces “into the EU’s geographic zones of privileged interest,” putting “greater emphasis on maintaining and enhancing their naval and aerospace capabilities” (emphasis added throughout). In particular, that report recommended “naval patrols to enhance regional confidence, protect trade routes or prevent piracy” in addition to “command of the sea to dissuade foreign aggression during periods of tension.”

Germany’s defense elite have wasted little time since the publishing of the ISS report in ramping up the debate on a new push for German industry to tool up for larger orders from Germany’s Department of Defense. The pressure is now mounting on politicians in a crucial election year to meet this challenge with appropriate budgetary increases for defense.

It is highly doubtful that either Chancellor Angela Merkel or her minister of defense, Thomas de Maizier, are cut out to follow through on this heightened push by German defense elites to rapidly and urgently grow Germany’s military power.

With the Middle East endemically unstable, North Africa in turmoil, Germany’s export economy placed at risk by any disruption to traffic in vital seaways and through crucial sea gates, it may well be that defense becomes a hot potato in the debates running up to Germany’s September federal election. The coming European Council summit conference on defense, slated for the following month, may add extra pressure to this scenario. The summit meetings, scheduled for October 24 and December 21, are due to consider three vital areas in EU defense: the political case for defense, theoperational case (its ability to act), and the economic case.

These summit meetings are both timely and crucial given the leaderless confusion that is currently extant globally. As the ISS report observed, “Increasing defense and military cooperation at the European level may no longer be a matter of choice but of necessity, imposed by both external challenges and internal constraints. … [D]oing all this is urgent .… [T]he outside world may push Europeans into taking those decisions sooner rather than later .…” 

Watch September to see whether the outcome of the election for the chancellorship will result in the appointment of political leadership in Germany that will grasp the nettle and hasten the implementation of these crucial EU defense decisions.

Watch for the outcome of the vital European Council summit on defense in October and December to see if indeed the EU, under the influence of its dominant power, Germany, will react to any perception of the “outside world” that “may push Europeans into taking those decisions sooner rather than later.

 

Germany’s Rising Global Naval Power

The world domination is always the result of supreme naval power. Agreed that with new geo-political situation, the naval power seems to have lost its former lustre, but still it is a major characteristic of supremacy.  The history shows that the Portuguese, Spanish and the French were naval powers of their respective times and emerged as major colonial powers. The British smashed Armada, defeated the French and the Portuguese  and emerged as a power with a global sway. Then US and now China are the super-powers because of their naval supremacy.

Germany cannot afford to lad behind. To protect its access to vital seaways, Germany is about to embark on a drastic upgrade of its navy. Following, a rash of reports and high-level meetings over the past few months, German elites are seeking to greatly increase their nation’s naval presence in foreign waters.

The latest high-level think tank to join the clamor for raising Germany’s global military presence is the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Funded by the federal government, this foundation has political allegiance to the Christian Democratic Union, Germany’s main center-right political party.

According to a release by German-Foreign-Policy.com, a current paper produced by the foundation declares its support of moves for strengthening of “military capacities” in the Deutsche Marine.

The case is made that the Federal Republic is strongly dependent economically on the sea, not only due to the maritime economy in an immediate sense which totals 3 percent of Germany’s gross domestic product, but also as much of the nation’s major industrial exports are transported overseas by ship.

With the German economy essentially built on exports, access to the seaways by which its products travel to their foreign destinations—and through the vital sea gates that are the main choke points in sea trade—is vital to the survival of the German economy.

In tandem with statements made by Commerzbank Board Chairman Klaus-Peter Müller at the recent BAKS forum, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation report observes that with rising world trade growth, the “risks along the global maritime added-value chain” are rising; new “weak spots” are appearing in the “maritime transport chain,” such as off the coast of West Africa, where Germany will also soon have to show its military presence as it is currently doing off the Horn of Africa.

The report describes the inevitability of the government ensuring that the Deutsche Marine be appropriately equipped to handle such missions.

German warships currently participate in all four NATO Maritime Groups. The Deutsche Marine’s present missions also include Operation Enduring Freedom off the Horn of Africa, NATO Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean, Combined Task Force 150 operating in the North Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, and UNIFIL II patrolling the coast of Lebanon.

Anticipating adding to these commitments even more overseas missions, new warships including submarines and frigates are on order and will soon be added to the Deutsche Marine’s flotilla, strengthening its global presence.

The online journal Germany Defense states that the German Navy is today “Equipped with state-of-the art naval vessels, weapons and aircraft,” and as such, “the German Navy is a force to reckon with. [T]he force is planning on a lot of acquisitions in order to strengthen its fleet further.”

The Deutsche Marine’s first mission was, significantly—given its primary role in the destabilization and breakup of old Yugoslavia—as part of a multination force operating 1993 to 1996, tasked with blockading shipping from serving former Yugoslavia via the Adriatic Sea.

Two years later, the German Navy engaged in its first combat mission since World WarII. A small German marine task force joined a multination European Union force in a mission dubbed Operation Atalanta at an operations base in Djibouti. The mission was mounted to counter the attacks of pirates on shipping in the region of the Horn of Africa. Spiegel dubbed it “Germany’s return to the world’s military stage.”

It was, at the time, as Spiegel put it, “a rather modest undertaking.”

Well, as the saying goes, “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”

In keeping with Germany’s defense elites’ current drive to build a positive image of the nation’s military role in the mind of the German public, the Deutsche Marine seeks to enhance its public image by emphasizing its role as protector of German citizenry. The Deutsche Marine has launched its “Sea. For You.” PR campaign. Its web page declares (translation ours),

“Our prosperity depends largely on the trade across the oceans. … Trade across the oceans requires secure sea lanes. … A powerful navy protects these straits.

Political, ethnic and religious and economic conflicts, in association with piracy and the global reach of international terrorism, are a key threat. This threat has a direct effect on the free sea links and the free exchange of goods. Effective preventive security is ensured by an active German Navy in close national and international cooperation.

The German Navy, with its diverse and powerful range of capabilities, directly contributes to protecting the security and prosperity of every citizen.

The importance of a powerful navy for the security and prosperity of Germany, and thus to clarify each individual target, is the image campaign of the Navy.

We would do well to point out that the recent meeting of Germany’s Cellar Trialog Group, the June forum of Berlin’s Federal College for Security Studies (BAKS) and now the report from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation—all of which we have reported on—have one thing in common—an urging of political action to strengthen Germany’s global military reach and a stronger linkage between industry and the military.

It is no coincidence that this new push for enhanced German military power comes hard on the heels of the release in May of the report from the European Union Institute for Security Studies (ISS). That report contained strongly worded recommendations for the European Union to become a united global military power of significance in the wake of America’s continuing drawdown of its global defense presence.

That report urged the extension of the EU armed forces “into the EU’s geographic zones of privileged interest,” putting “greater emphasis on maintaining and enhancing their naval and aerospace capabilities” (emphasis added throughout). In particular, that report recommended “naval patrols to enhance regional confidence, protect trade routes or prevent piracy” in addition to “command of the sea to dissuade foreign aggression during periods of tension.”

Germany’s defense elite have wasted little time since the publishing of the ISS report in ramping up the debate on a new push for German industry to tool up for larger orders from Germany’s Department of Defense. The pressure is now mounting on politicians in a crucial election year to meet this challenge with appropriate budgetary increases for defense.

It is highly doubtful that either Chancellor Angela Merkel or her minister of defense, Thomas de Maizier, are cut out to follow through on this heightened push by German defense elites to rapidly and urgently grow Germany’s military power.

With the Middle East endemically unstable, North Africa in turmoil, Germany’s export economy placed at risk by any disruption to traffic in vital seaways and through crucial sea gates, it may well be that defense becomes a hot potato in the debates running up to Germany’s September federal election. The coming European Council summit conference on defense, slated for the following month, may add extra pressure to this scenario. The summit meetings, scheduled for October 24 and December 21, are due to consider three vital areas in EU defense: the political case for defense, theoperational case (its ability to act), and the economic case.

These summit meetings are both timely and crucial given the leaderless confusion that is currently extant globally. As the ISS report observed, “Increasing defense and military cooperation at the European level may no longer be a matter of choice but of necessity, imposed by both external challenges and internal constraints. … [D]oing all this is urgent .… [T]he outside world may push Europeans into taking those decisions sooner rather than later .…”

Watch September to see whether the outcome of the election for the chancellorship will result in the appointment of political leadership in Germany that will grasp the nettle and hasten the implementation of these crucial EU defense decisions.

Watch for the outcome of the vital European Council summit on defense in October and December to see if indeed the EU, under the influence of its dominant power, Germany, will react to any perception of the “outside world” that “may push Europeans into taking those decisions sooner rather than later.

Detroit Bankruptcy Could Impact Other Cities

When a state’s largest city files for bankruptcy, the effects are felt everywhere. It is akin to the effect of a large tree falling on the ground and shaking up the immediate neighborhood.

But the news that what was once one of America’s richest cities, Detroit has fallen on tough times is not an unalloyed bad news.    First, the good news. Mid-Michigan’s economy and the economy of the rest of the state should be generally safe. But  that is every likelihood  thatDetroit’s bankruptcy may hit cities trying to take out loans by making them more expensive.

“This is going to have an effect on the ability of other local governments to borrow because one of the things that is likely to emerge from this is some of the creditors in the city are not going to be able to get a hundred cents on the dollar,” said Patrick Anderson of Anderson Economic Group.

Other need to pay attention to what happens because Detroit’s difficulties funding its pensions are identical to issues facing other cities.  If Detroit is able to get out of paying them in full, other cities that file for bankruptcy in the future could follow suit.

People would assume those are protected pensions and those can’t be touched, but now, all of a sudden, a city has found a way to go after those. Granted, it’s bankruptcy, but it means it isn’t as protected as you thought.

Potential impact on Windsor

Detroit’s historic plunge into bankruptcy should have little impact on its Canadian neighbor, economists and politicians say, though it could hurt how potential investors view the region. The natural question for Canadians is how the bankruptcy filing could affect Windsor, Ont., and the auto industry, which is so linked to U.S. operations.“Perhaps the biggest negative for Windsor is just the perception of the region from the Detroit bankruptcy – colouring the view of potential investors,” said chief economist Douglas Porter of BMO Nesbitt Burns.

Beyond that, he said, the impact should be minimal. “It’s not as if the city of Windsor was relying heavily on tourist visitors from the city of Detroit in recent years,” Porter said. “The local auto industry is driven by how auto sales do across North America, and they have been steadily improving,” he added.“Tourism is driven partly by the Canadian dollar, which has been a big drag, as has the U.S. passport requirement (dissuades some Americans from visiting),” said Porter, who has roots in Windsor and knows the city well. They still get some visitors from the suburbs of Detroit, which won’t be directly affected by this. Bottom line: The economy of the city of Detroit has been a mess (a disaster?) for years, so another step down won’t make that much difference to Windsor. It’s not good news, but it’s not an insurmountable development.”

By perception, the fear would be industry, small businesses and others choosing not to invest in the area. Windsor’s Mayor Eddie Francis is also concerned about the perception. But the reality is something different as both cities restructured years ago, he said.

Their nightmare began around 2006 so the “vital linkages” between the two, in terms of tourism, arts, culture and industry, underwent a wrenching restructuring much earlier; and these are now in far better shape. Now it’s a municipal government restructuring.

For example, the Windsor casino at one point drew some 80 per cent of its clientele from the United States, with 20 per cent from Canada. Now, it’s about 50-50. The height, when Windsor brought in some 9 million visitors a year, was before the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the SARS outbreak and the appreciation of the Canadian dollar.

In its latest outlook for Windsor, the Conference Board of Canada forecast economic growth of 1.5 per cent this year and 2 per cent in 2014. It also projects an elevated jobless rate through to at least 2017. Last year, according to Statistics Canada, Windsor’s jobless rate of 9.8 per cent was the highest among the country’s major cities. “Although economic growth in the Windsor census metropolitan area has been muted in recent years, it is still a vast improvement over the economic climate in the last half the 2000s,” the Conference Board said.

Construction and manufacturing are playing key roles in Windsor’s recovery, the latter accounting for one in every five jobs. Factory output expanded by more than 4 %  in 2010, 2011 and 2012, creating some 1,300 jobs. “Not surprisingly, the improvement in Windsor’s manufacturing sector has coincided with a recovery in U.S. vehicle sales, which collapsed after the 2008 financial crisis,” the Conference Board said. “But an improving U.S. economy, cheap credit, and an aging fleet have fuelled rising sales south of the border. Demand for full-size pickup trucks has also strengthened, thanks to a rebound in home construction. In the past three years, U.S. vehicle sales have increased by 11.1 per cent per year.”

Alan Arcand, principle economist with the Conference Board, agreed the impact on Windsor should be marginal. More important, he said, is the general health of the auto industry, which has been expanding over the past three years. The Big Three auto makers that made Detroit what it was in its heady days all pledged support after the city collapsed under the weight of $18-billion (U.S.) in debt, General Motors Co. saying it expects no impact on its operations or its outlook.

The industry has rebounded nicely from the depths of the financial crisis and recession, when GM and Chrysler sank into bankruptcy protection, requiring aid from U.S. and Canadian governments.

Is Detroit an Incredible Investment Opportunity?

 Detroit is suffocated by $15.6 billion in long-term debt, crumbling infrastructure, no city services, crippling poverty, struggling schools … the hackneyed metaphors go on. Most say Detroit is done for, finished, an infected cyst on the palm of Michigan. But I just can’t reconcile that attitude with what I think is plain to see: Detroit is the best investment opportunity since some numbskull bought Alaska for $7 million.

Now, I don’t know much about investment opportunities, but I can’t imagine that if I had $15.6 billion to burn, I wouldn’t be intrigued by the prospect of calling up Kevyn Orr and asking what I’d get in Detroit for that price. I imagine the list would go something like, the Water and Sewerage Department, the DIA, 80,000 to 100,000 properties and the right to redevelop and sell them as I saw fit … plus I’d probably wind up with the ability to do some creative financial stuff with all the money owed in pensions.

Beyond just the assets you’d buy, you’d be buying them in a city that sits on an international border with the United States’ largest trading partner. Despite one billionaire’s protests, a second bridge will soon augment the percentage of the United States and Canada’s $680 billion per year in trade that passes through Detroit. Detroit is also situated with access to more freshwater than anyplace else on earth, outside of a Siberian lake in Russia.

Again to perspective: From one view, Detroit has 700,000 citizens and no capacity to employ them or provide jobs. From another, all that this city has is jobs. There is more work to be done in Detroit than even 700,000 people could accomplish — there’s just no one to train and pay them to do the work. But imagine if $15.6 billion in debt just — poof! — disappeared. Even the meager income the city has could surely stir up some Works Progress Administration and put people back to work.

Instead of spending the 16 months focused on debt, the emergency manager and Detroit politicians could spend that time focused on putting systems in place that ensure we never arrive in a position like this again.

I’m not advocating this necessarily. I have spent no time thinking or writing on the political or societal or democratic implications of something like this, and there are many. But I can’t look at the present state in Detroit and not see it as an incredible investment opportunity. Warren Buffett likes to buy low, and Dan Gilbert is already a billionaire on the ground. I wonder if they’ve talked.

The impact of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy filing will be deep and widespread, with further cuts expected to government jobs and services and to the pensions of former public sector employees.

The once-mighty Motor City took the “one feasible path” to recovery in filing for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder said in a letter approving the move.  It follows a decades-long decline sparked by an exodus to the suburbs in the 1960s and the rise of foreign auto companies throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

As that industrial base has fallen, so have the city’s fortunes. Now more uncertainty is swirling in the air as a tough legal battle looms, as well as the potential of laying off municipal employees, selling off assets, raising fees and scaling back basic services like trash collection and snow plowing, which have already been slashed. “There’s no way Detroit can afford to service 140 square miles anymore,” Michigan State University economist Eric Scorsone told CNBC. “So for parts of the city, if your streetlight’s out, they’re not going to fix it. If your road has massive potholes, it’s going to turn it to gravel. It’s that stark.”

Forty percent of the city’s streetlights currently don’t work, for example, only a third of its ambulances are in service and a recent report highlighting the city’s economic woes that put the jobless rate at 16 percent — triple the rate in 2000. It’s currently mired in about $18.5 billion in debt

However, comparatively most of Canada’s 5,000 municipalities are financially healthy and unlikely to face a similar catastrophe. “Our cities are nowhere near that,” said Mario Lefebvre, director of the Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for Municipal Studies. He notes that towns and cities here are required by law to balance their operating budgets every year. “You can have tough years where you really need to scratch hard to make sure you are going to show a balanced budget but at the end of the day they do,” said Lefebvre.

Infrastructure weighs on cities

Municipalities can take on debt to fund large-scale infrastructure projects, but provinces enforce strict rules on how much debt can be incurred. In Ontario, for example, a city cannot have debt charges exceeding 25 per cent of what they bring in with their own source revenues. “If they get into trouble — even with those rules — then the province would step in with a supervisor to help them,” said Enid Slack, director of the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

But even though cities balance their budgets, it doesn’t mean they aren’t financially struggling.  Aging infrastructure weighs on the minds of most civic leaders across the country. Some estimates suggest that repairing roads and bridges will cost $200 billion, what’s oft described as the looming “infrastructure deficit.”

Lefebvre says even though cities can take on debt to finance infrastructure, most — with the exception of those in Quebec — are extremely cautious, especially since the costs can show up in operating budgets as interest payments. Quebec cities are more willing to take on debt to fund projects, but Lefebvre says none appear to have suffered.

Past Canadian bankruptcies

It’s that cautious integration of a large margin of error that’s helped Canadian cities, says Kelcey. “Detroit destroyed its own room for margin of error,” said Kelcey. “Municipal leaders should take Detroit as a lesson to keep that room as much as possible instead of pushing themselves to the brink in terms of imprudent liabilities.”

Cities didn’t always have that financial breathing room. During the Great Depression, at least five British Columbia municipalities went bankrupt. Burnaby, Merritt, Prince Rupert, plus the city and district of North Vancouver fell into a state of budget disrepair in the early 1930s. The communities saw falling property tax revenue as fewer residents were able to pay. At the time, municipalities were also responsible for unemployment relief, taxing dwindling resources. The disastrous failure took decades to rectify. It also became a lesson for municipalities and provinces.  A provincial ministry of municipal affairs was born, property taxation changed and social services became a provincial domain. Also, Slack notes, “a lot of the rules on borrowing came in at that time.”

While those changes may have imposed necessary restrictions on municipalities and lifted the weight of social services off their shoulders, the potential for problems still loom today if leaders fail to address long-term issues.  “We don’t have some of the same complex financial issues that American municipalities do,” said Kelcey, “but we do have this risk that everybody’s quietly talking about.”

‘Legacy costs’ hurt

A number of Canadian cities face overwhelming costs of paying the pensions of public sector retirees, a problem that will only rise at Baby Boomers enter their sunset years.  Earlier this year, one of Canada’s largest pension funds — the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System — tried unsuccessfully to reduce benefits paid to future retirees and force them to work longer in the face of a $10-billion deficit.

The City of Saint John, N.B., has a pension plan underfunded by at least $195 million and is now undergoing controversial reforms. Regina’s pension fund tops that with a $250-million deficit.

“The cities that do have the biggest [financial] problems are those that are too strapped down with their pension obligations,” said Candice Malcolm, Ontario director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Malcolm suggests also looking at what percentage a city is forking over just to pay for those pensions.

In Detroit, roughly 38 per cent of the city’s daily budget went to so-called “legacy costs” like debt service and pensions for municipal employees, according to emergency manager Kevyn Orr. Estimates now suggest the city owes $9 billion to pension funds and health-care benefits, though the city had only listed about $644 million in unfunded pension liabilities.

Unfortunately, municipalities can make poor decisions, such as relying on markets for higher returns than investments receive and a gap can quickly appear in a pension fund.  It’s easy to sort of pretend that the gap will go away when the market gets better and in some cases it just hasn’t.

Now is a good time for municipalities to review those pension liabilities. Detroit is a healthy reminder that civic leaders need to be up-to-speed on how important the pension issue is.

But what in case Detroit isn’t a blip? What if, instead, the city’s decision to enter bankruptcy proceedings is a sign of things to come? It might be crazy talk; yet that was the prediction in a recent book by Wall Street financial analyst Meredith Whitney, best known for being one of the very few mainstream analysts to foresee the 2008 banking meltdown. Interestingly, she had also predicted this week’s Detroit bankruptcy.

That may seem less impressive now that it has happened. On the other hand, the screams of outrage from lenders who are being offered 10 cents on the dollar for their billions in bonds by Detroit show that it wasn’t obvious to them. “I wish there had been a lot more outrage over the past 10, 20 years,” said Kevyn Orr, the bankruptcy expert charged with cleaning up Detroit’s accumulated financial mess, at a news conference Friday.

 

The fact is, long after Detroit’s decline had become obvious, the city’s government kept borrowing and lenders kept lending. Some of the municipal debt against the future was hidden in the city’s own books in the form of off-balance-sheet pension responsibilities. Other borrowing was obvious to everyone, in the form of bonds secured — at least notionally — by Detroit’s future tax revenue.

 ‘Awash in new tax revenues, cities and states borrowed and spent as if the good times would never end. Unfortunately, they did as seen by the fall of Detroit.  The whole house of cards teetered on a fiction that the city would return to its former prosperity. But somewhere between 1960, when Detroit had the highest income per person in the United States, and now, the city fell into a vicious circle of decline.

As good jobs left, so did educated people. Nearly half the population is now functionally illiterate. And while loans and liabilities were accumulated when the city had nearly 2 million people, and now 700,000 bear all the responsibility for its debts.

The state of affairs in Detroit is in shambles. Police and fire services are abysmal. Parks are closed. The murder rate is surging. Many bondholders assumed the city would simply continue to raise taxes to cover the interest payments. But as Orr said after the bankruptcy filing, there is just no way he can raise taxes any further. If he did, more and more taxpayers would simply pull up stakes and go somewhere else.

According to Orr, this is a disaster you could have seen coming years ago. Sure, the city was irresponsible in its borrowing — but just as in the sub-prime loan collapse, it is the responsibility of lenders to make sure they will get paid. It’s as if the bondholders who lent the cash hadn’t seriously considered where the money would come from to repay their loans.

This is precisely what Meredith Whitney’s point is.  In her book Fate of the States: The New Geography of American Prosperity she says the Detroit crisis is far from unique. “Awash in new tax revenues, cities and states borrowed and spent as if the good times would never end. Unfortunately, they did,” Whitney says in the book written well before the current bankruptcy filing. In the wake of the U.S. property meltdown of the past few years, the cities and states that found themselves dangerously in hock were also the ones that had hidden pension debt, just like Detroit.

 

She says lenders have been poor at taking that into account. “State and local governments have underfunded — even non-funded — their pension funds for years now, and they can’t seem to break the habit,” Whitney writes. “In New Jersey, actual debt is at least four times greater than bonds outstanding.”

Part of Whitney’s analysis is especially interesting to Canada. Looking at the American experience, she says that the accumulation of debt in places that were formerly prosperous is contributing to a population shift to areas like the Midwest and the Dakotas, the former “flyover” states.

North of the border, we are seeing something similar as the old industrial areas of Canada struggle to deal with debt while the Prairie Provinces boom. In some ways Detroit is an analogy and a warning to the rest of the global economy. Instead of taking our knocks during the bad times, governments borrowed and central banks created money to help us through, assuming that good times would soon return. If the world bounces back and returns to growth, if the tax base resumes its growth, all will be well.

That didn’t happen in Detroit. It may not happen in Greece and Portugal.  Detroit is only one of the governments that won’t be able to make their payments.  Detroit’s problems are far from over. Bankruptcy is no picnic, and the city faces at least 15 months of court battles. Provisions of Chapter 9, the bankruptcy rule for cities, have never been used for a collapse of this magnitude.

Compared to the day he took the job, Orr looks haggard. But by taking its knocks now, going through the painful process of bankruptcy draws a line under Detroit’s problems, just as it did for Chrysler and General Motors when they filed for bankruptcy almost exactly four years ago.

As Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said at Friday morning’s press conference, this is a chance for Detroit to carve out a new future: “Now is our opportunity to end 60 years of decline.” Easier said than done; but it is wake up call for Canadians as well as other municipalities that just indulge in reckless spending and play ducks and drakes. It is time the politicians became a bit less fond of indulging in cheap rhetoric and took to serious players and be more fiscally prudent. Is it asking too much?

Dr. Bikram Lamba, a political and business strategist can be contacted at lambabikram@gmail.com

Protest Against Zimmerman Acquittal – or Reverse racism

The killing of Trayvon generated a hue and cry in the country with President Obama coming forward to state that Trayvon looked like his own son. This naturally called for arrest and prosecution of alleged murderer. However once the Jury had acquitted him, the controversy should have come to an end. Not so. The so called liberal media and pressure groups have started their nefarious campaign that goes against the very concept of justice- the system where you are judged by Jury, where the Jury verdict is supreme. It was shocking to see five year old holding up signs of resentment against this justice. Would now US revert to old street style?

It is all the more shocking when we find that all the hue and cry against Zimmerman motivated not by sense of outraged justice, but by pseudo sense of equality, nay by reverse racism. The fact that Zimmerman publicly testified against the Sanford police department in defense of a homeless black man, shows the fallacy of allegation that the killing was an act of racism.  In other words, what we have here is more proof that the media narrative surrounding the shooting of Trayvon Martin might just end up being the most disgraced and failed media narrative since Duke-LaCrosse and the Tuscon murders.

George Zimmerman accused the Sanford police department of corruption more than a year before he shot Trayvon Martin, saying at a public forum the agency covered up the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white officer. “I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white,” Zimmerman said during a 90-second statement to city commissioners at a community forum. “It should not and cannot be enforced in the gray for those who are in the thin blue line.”

The forum took place on Jan. 8, 2011, days after a video of the beating went viral on the Internet and then-Sanford Police Chief Brian Tooley was forced to retire. Tooley’s department faced criticism for dragging its feet in arresting Justin Collison, the son of a police lieutenant.

The media narrative fail here is a triple shot. If Zimmerman is supposedly some kind of yee-haw law and order type eager to play racist cop, why in the world would he publicly accuse the Sanford police of corruption with a special emphasis on the Chief — all in defense of a homeless black man beaten by the white son of a white Sanford police officer. It’s not like someone threw a microphone in Zimmerman’s face either. He proactively went to, attended, and spoke out at this meeting.”I’d like to know what action the commission is taking in order to repeal Mr. Tooley’s pension,” Zimmerman said to the commission. “I’m not asking you to repeal his pension; I believe he’s already forfeited his pension by his illegal cover-up in corruption in what happened in his department.”

The third corner in this triangle of media narrative fail is that, after Trayvon was shot and killed, many in the media questioned Zimmerman’s supposed “cozy relationship” with the Sanford police — that this had something to do with Zimmerman not being charged with a crime.  

While we have no way of knowing what Zimmerman’s overall relationship to the department was, it is pretty safe to say that publicly demanding that the Police Chief lose his pension and accusing the department of covering up a crime is not the action of a man looking to endear himself with the department.

A wonderful bit of Karmic irony is that today’s story comes to us courtesy of the Associated Press, the very same news outlet that led the charge to turn this tragedy onto a full-blown racial controversy with the publishing of false information about Zimmerman:

The incident happened on Feb. 26, 2012, and was primarily reported in local outlets. The first major national news report was on CBS This Morning on March 8, and did not mention race.

The story did not take on a racial dimension until later that day, when the AP mistakenly identified the shooter as white (George Zimmerman is of mixed Hispanic descent).

The racial claims were then repeated and amplified by other media outlets, including Gawker, which claimed the neighborhood in which Martin was shot was “predominantly white” (in fact is “almost 50 percent white,” according to the Daily Beast).

Only in liberal America is Zimmerman, a Hispanic Democrat, termed a racist vigilante and Elizabeth Warren a member of an oppressed minority. Taking their marching orders directly from the White House, the whole of the media launched a campaign of smears to demonize a man, all in an effort to aid and abet Obama’s reelection by enflaming racial tensions in the crucial swing state of Florida.

Justice department now has reportedly opened an investigation into Martin’s death last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed. In a statement, the Justice Department said the criminal section of its civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida are continuing to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal probe, in addition to the evidence and testimony from the state trial.

“Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction,” the statement said. Justice added that it will determine “whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the department’s policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial.”

From the Rodney King case in Los Angeles to the Algiers Motel incident in Detroit more than four decades ago, the Justice Department has a long history of using federal civil rights law in an effort to convict defendants who have previously been acquitted in related state cases.

On Sunday, NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous started a petition calling for the Justice Department to open a civil rights case against Zimmerman for the shooting death of 17-year-old Martin, but experience has shown it’s almost never easy getting convictions in such high-profile prosecutions.

“The Justice Department would face significant challenges in bringing a federal civil rights case against Mr. Zimmerman,” said Alan Vinegrad, the former U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York. “There are several factual and legal hurdles that federal prosecutors would have to overcome: They’d have to show not only that the attack was unjustified, but that Mr. Zimmerman attacked Mr. Martin because of his race and because he was using a public facility, the street.”

As to the last element, the confrontation between Zimmerman and the shooting victim occurred in a gated community, which may not fit the legal definition of a public facility.

Lauren Resnick, a former federal prosecutor in New York who successfully tried a man in the killing of an Orthodox Jew during the 1991 Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn, said the Justice Department could conceivably proceed under a theory that Zimmerman interfered with Martin’s right to walk down a public street based on his race or religion. But that would be challenging, she said, because it would require prosecutors to prove, among other things, that trailing Martin on the street constituted interference.

“One could argue it did, if it freaked him out and he couldn’t comfortably walk down the street — there’s an argument here,” said Resnick, who is now in private practice.

But she said federal prosecutors were likely to encounter the same hurdles as state prosecutors in establishing that Zimmerman was driven by racial animus and was the initial aggressor, as opposed to someone who acted in self-defense.

“When you have a fact pattern where one person’s alive, and one person’s not, and the person alive is the defendant, it’s hard to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Resnick.

Samuel Bagenstos, a former No. 2 official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said: “This is an administration that hasn’t shied away from bringing hate crimes cases that are solid prosecutions based on the facts and the law, but from what I’ve seen this would be a very difficult case to prosecute federally because the government would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman acted because of Trayvon Martin’s race. If you’re trying to prove racial motivation, you are usually looking for multiple statements related to why he is engaging in this act of violence. I think it’s a difficult case to prove.”

Another federal case, the Rodney King prosecution, illustrates just how difficult it can be for the federal government to come in behind a state prosecution that ended in acquittal, even when there’s videotaped evidence of the crime.

King was beaten by Los Angeles Police Department officers after a high-speed car chase in 1991, but the four police officers charged in the incident were acquitted on state charges of assault with a deadly weapon and three of the four were acquitted on a charge of use of excessive force. The jury deadlocked on the excessive force charge against the fourth officer.

Federal prosecutors obtained an indictment on charges of violating King’s civil rights. Two of the officers were found guilty and were imprisoned. The other two officers were acquitted.

In a 1970 prosecution, the Justice Department charged three white Detroit police officers and one black private security guard with allegedly conspiring to deprive eight black youths and two white girls of their civil rights during the 1967 riots in Detroit.

The officers had gone to the Algiers Motel in a reported search for snipers. Three black teenagers were slain at the motel. One of the police officers had been acquitted earlier of a state charge of first-degree murder in the case; another officer had been found innocent in a separate state trial on a charge of felonious assault.

The federal case took place in Flint, Mich., an hour’s drive north of Detroit, after the defense complained that the defendants could not get a fair trial in the city where the slayings occurred. A jury acquitted all four defendants.

In prosecuting the law enforcement officers, the Justice Department invoked an 1871 civil rights law. Prosecutors alleged that the officers had lined up the people staying at the motel and slugged them with clubs and rifle butts. There was testimony that several of the guests were taken into separate rooms where shotguns were fired into the ceiling in an effort to get those in a nearby hallway to disclose the identity of the alleged snipers and the location of firearms.

In a defense that turned out to be successful, defense attorneys emphasized that the charge against their clients was conspiracy, not assault, coercion, intimidation or murder. Lawyers for the two officers previously charged in the state cases also argued that their clients were being charged with serious criminality even though they had already been acquitted.

The US saw a spate of protests after a Florida jury on Saturday found neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, after a long and racially-charged trial. Many peaceful demonstrations took place across the US, demanding justice for the 17-year -old Trayvon and questioning the fairness of the justice system. The protests also took place in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, Boston, San Diego and Atlanta. In New York, protestors marched to Times Square while chanting “Justice for Trayvon Martin!
“We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin,” Obama said. Earlier, Obama had spoken somberly on Trayvon, noting that if he had a son he would “look like Trayvon.”
Say what you will about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Get it out of your system. Feel better? Now it’s time for some serious talk about what this is really about. Although I believe the death of Trayvon Martin was not because of race, and that the jury reached a correct verdict, I also feel the raising of ‘Black & Black’ crime is highly disingenuous.  Why? Because just as there is ‘Black on Black’ crime, there is an equivalent ‘White on White’ crime and ‘Chinese on Chinese’ crime or ‘Latino on Latino’ crime. The statistics are there if you care.
If Jesse Jackson and Sharpton piss me off, so does Newt Gingrich and others who avoid the merits of the case to throw in the line about ‘What about Black on Black crime’.
And please stop using Trayvon Martin’s picture from when he was 12 years old. please.  Can we be a bit honest and admit he was 6 feet tall, not a baby boy as he is being depicted by White Guilt and Black Victimhood. The press does not report the news, it manipulates the news, by showing old pics of criminals and only reporting the parts they want people to hear about, they then ask for people’s opinions based on the limited facts they report. The case of the baby being shot in the face last March is a perfect example. Very little press and Obama had no comme. The media and the political vultures only cared about this case because they thought Zimmerman was white. Young black men are murdered every day across America, and indeed Canada, yet this became the international cause celebre? Maybe the media and the political vultures should indeed be talking about the young black men who are dying every day, usually at the hands of drug dealers and gangbangers, not neighbourhood watch captains who are trying to save their own lives in a beating. The raising of Black-on-Black crime statistics is to answer the race-baiters and racists who callously whip(ped) up violent group hatreds that are, all history considered, much much lessened. America has come a long way from the race riots of the past, and intermarriage is at an all-time high. Also — and you’ll never hear this in the media — racial violence in all U.S. history is still very, very mild compared to the statistics in many countries around the world in the last fifty years.  Zimmerman is actually a Hispanic Jew. His father is Jewish, so technically he isn’t Jewish, because the linage is through his mom, but race had a lot to do with it. Zimmerman felt Martin looked out of place in that neighborhood. If Zimmerman was not carrying a gun, this whole thing would have had a different outcome.
The question before the US citizens and government is not whether Zimmerman case should be allowed to be buried: it is whether the Justice should be handled by time honored jury system or by vigilantes?  The question is not whether racism is acceptable or not (clearly it is not), but whether media and White House, by implication, should promote reverse racism? Reverse racism is also evident in some forms in Canada as well- where merry Christmas is frowned upon, but greetings on other religious groups are acceptable; where Christmas trees are thrown out, but schools are used for religious prayers.
It is time to wake up to realities and all forms of placating different groups should be abolished. Let them the authorities start acting in an impartial manner- or the result shall be anarchy. In case reverse racism is not checked, the natural reaction would be revival of hate groups and that must be avoided. Act today and now!

Harper’s Foreign Policy – Triumph of Pragmatism

Last year on November 29 Canada was one of eight countries to vote “no” at the United Nations on whether or not Palestine should be granted “non-member observer” status. The absolute incredulity most Canadians felt at this decision demonstrates the growing disconnect ‘The Harper Government’ has from ordinary multicultural loving, peaceful Canadians. It serves to reinforce worldwide perceptions that Canada is no longer the gentle giant of the north, the country that could be relied upon to step in with aid and a helping hand; but rather, an increasingly hard-line minion of the United States. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has done it again. By confronting Iran, he has championed Canadian values, and democracy. It’s ironic that one of the criticisms of his assertive, affirmative foreign policy is that it is somehow “not Canadian.” Fighting evil and refusing to maintain business as usual, even to the point of withdrawing your diplomats, marks a fulfilment of Canadian ideals, not a violation of them. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian mullocracy disrespect peace, order and good government. Canada’s controversial, principled prime minister has once again showed that he understands what each of those core concepts means.

Actually, we should ask the opposite question. What made serious, good, idealistic Canadians start believing that appeasement was the Canadian way? Diplomacy is, of course, a noble pursuit. And peace is preferable to war. But history teaches that frequently strength, morality and vision are the best guarantors of peace – especially when facing evil, ambitious, greedy powers. As every parent knows, giving in often makes unacceptable behaviours worse, not better.

Canadian academics and politicians took a lead role in trying to heal the world after the horrors of World War II. The Canadian contribution to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with McGill University’s John Peters Humphrey taking the lead, is a justifiable source of pride to Canadians. Similarly, Lester Pearson did great work in teaching the world that human rights standards should be universal and that peace can be achieved through what Winston Churchill called “jaw jaw” not “war war.”

But Pearson was no relativist. Among his great achievements was helping the world recognize its obligation to support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine in the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan. Supporting the initiative entailed taking a stand, articulating a moral position and rocking the boat. Similarly, when he said in his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize that “ideas are explosive,” Pearson was acknowledging the power of ideas, while admitting that some ideas can be forces for good, even as others can be extremely harmful.

Unfortunately, the cataclysmic 1960s upset the moral compass of many of Pearson’s and Humphrey’s successors. As the United Nations degenerated from the world’s democracies’ attempt to spread democratic principles worldwide into the Third World dictators’ debating society, many in the West lost heart. Rather than defending the universality of certain key principles such as human rights, they succumbed as a crass coalition of Soviets, Arabs and Third World Communists politicized and thus polluted the human rights apparatus in the UN and elsewhere.

On Nov. 10, 1975, when the U.S. Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan – a Stephen Harper precursor – stood strong against the “Zionism is racism” resolution, he was making a stand against the new perverted world order that was emerging. Saul Rae, father of interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae and the Canadian ambassador to the UN at the time, supported Moynihan and denounced the infamous antisemitic and anti-democratic resolution. But the resolution passed, and the appeasers caved.

Since the 1960s, many in the West have been more guilt-ridden than principled. Suitably abashed at the West’s culpability in an earlier era’s crimes of colonialism, imperialism and racism, many have refused to stand up to the new criminals of today, because they’re still seeking forgiveness for those earlier sins. But a moral inversion has occurred, as some of the victims have become victimizers, which is what is occurring with Islamist terrorists and the Iranians.

Since the 1979 revolution, the Iranian mullahs have harassed their own people, devastated their own economy and violated their own culture’s character. Moreover, they violated centuries-long international rules by kidnapping and holding American diplomats hostage, they entered into a bloody war with Iraq that caused more than one million deaths, and they have threatened Israel – and the United States – with destruction. Persian civilization was sophisticated, disciplined, and tolerant for its day. Iranian Islamism has been crude, violent and infamously intolerant in an increasingly tolerant era. Now, this outlaw regime is seeking nuclear weapons, and progressing rapidly in its perverse quest.

I confess: I don’t get it. How is it progressive or peace-seeking or in any way Canadian to indulge these monsters in their immoral pursuits? We need to echo Moynihan in his eloquent denunciations. And we need to follow Harper’s way, refusing to conduct “business as usual” with regimes that are unnaturally evil.

t is shocking how much Canadian foreign policy has changed since The Harper Government has been in office. Previous Canadian leaders have recognized Canada’s lack of ability to be a true power player on the world stage due to the small sizes of our economy and population, and pursued foreign policy strategies accordingly. They have acted with respect to Canada’s multicultural heritage, and the fact that we are not only a nation built by immigrants, but we continue to welcome millions into our fold every year. After all, it was one of our own prime ministers who ended the Suez Crisis of 1956 and established the United Nations peacekeeping force. Over the past fifty years they have shaped Canada into that peacekeeping, aid-generous nation the world had come to love and respect, until Harper took it upon himself to change all that.

Harper seems to be pursuing a twofold foreign policy. Firstly, he continues to strengthen ties with Great Britain, a colonizing power of yore that has been bereft of influence since World War II. With taxpayers’ money he funds trips for members of their monarchy to tour our state. He has returned the “Royal” title to our military regardless that most Canadians are completely indifferent to the fact that the Queen of England is the technical head of state. We have had full control over our government since 1982 and our future can only entail Canada and Britain moving further away from a colonized/colonizer relationship – there is no reasonable explanation for this longing for the past.

Secondly, while attempting to redefine our national identity as longing for the grand imperialist days, he is drawing Canada closer and closer to the US. There is no denying that Canada has always been the US’ best friend, and indeed, follower – except, thankfully, to Iraq (though this writer is in doubt that Harper would have made the same decision as Chretien not to follow the US there had he been prime minister). Canada’s economy is still dangerously reliant on the US’ and his attempts to diversify Canada’s trade portfolio have been, despite campaign promises made, lacking and, frankly, embarrassing – will anyone ever forget the temper tantrum he threw on a trade mission to Brazil in 2011? By relying so heavily on Canada’s relationship with the US, Harper forgets his place. As Canada’s prime minister, he is supposed to look out for the interests of Canadians, not Americans, and is supposed to help uphold Canada’s formerly positive image worldwide – not help the US bully Palestine in the name of protecting Israel. But that is not reality. It is his commitment to Israel and human dignity  that makes the foreign policy tick. 

 From closing embassies worldwide, in particular Iran, to butting into issues where he does not belong, many of his actions have been completely without merit. In the name of saving costs at home, he has cut funding abroad – and thus done serious damage to the state of Canada’s international relations. His decision not only to vote ‘no’ to Palestine, but also to send Foreign Affairs Minister Baird to New York to campaign for the no vote, has only served to empower extremists, and distance Canada further from the rational and self-deprecatingly understanding foreign policy decisions it has made in the past.

Immediately after the more reasonable members of the UN voted that Palestine did deserve its “non-member observer” status, Harper immediately recalled all Middle Eastern ambassadors to Ottawa, where they will await further instructions. Regardless of what one’s views are on the Middle East, it seems fair enough to say that the place of Canadian ambassadors is in their embassies, protecting Canadian interests and citizens abroad, whereas Harper’s is not at the centrer of the conflict, where he would apparently like to be; but back at home minding his own business. He would do well to remember that Canada’s title as a peacekeeping nation was hard-won – and that he shouldn’t squander it for extremist ideals that are not representative of his kin and country.

Since 2006, when Conservative Stephen Harper became Canada’s prime minister, America’s typically quiet and modest neighbour to the north has been much more assertive in pursuing its foreign policy. It has been forceful in advocating what it sees as both its interests and its values. And it has done so in language unlike that of any other Canadian government that has preceded it. It seems that Canada has become, well, unCanadian.

Consider for a moment some context. In Canada’s parliamentary system, the PM wields enormous power. He can often coerce legislators into supporting his proposals. Unlike the American system, with its separation of powers, the Canadian government almost always allows its leader to ratify his chosen policies. As a result, the PM’s words carry especially great weight—they signify the legislative direction the country is likely to take.

Canada’s new foreign policy can therefore be said to have begun with Harper’s very first address to Parliament as head of government, in April 2006. In that speech, Harper chose to acknowledge first “our head of state, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, whose lifelong dedication to duty and self-sacrifice have been a source of inspiration and encouragement to the many countries that make up the commonwealth and to the people of Canada.”

Though Canada is indeed a member of the British Commonwealth, those ties are rarely celebrated as forthrightly as in this statement. Harper has rehung a portrait of the queen on a wall of the prime minister’s office, linked the monarchist rhetoric to an appeal to traditional conservatism, and even publicly scolded the governor general for referring to herself, not the queen, as the Canadian head of state. A journalist called Harper “one of the most monarchist” prime ministers since John Diefenbaker, who was in power when General Eisenhower was the US president.

Harper’s pro-monarchy stance is only one of his many endeavors to define Canada as part of the Anglosphere. The effort is strikingly in contrast to other recent approaches that situate Canada more “progressively,” as part of an amorphous, UN-led “international community.”

Harper also consistently stakes out hawkish ground on international matters. In that same first speech, he said: “This was the hard lesson that this country learned in two world wars—we learned it before the United States—and it was driven home to us again with great force on 9/11.” He followed with praise for Canadian troops in Afghanistan, who were “standing up for Canadian values abroad.” This, too, has been a theme Harper has continually stressed in his time in office—that Canada has a strong role to play in the world, a role primarily defined by building a powerful military and supporting fellow democracies. 

Perhaps even more surprising than the rhetorical gestures, Harper has supported his words with deeds. Under his reign, Canada’s military spending has reached its highest levels since World War II. The country spent $14.8 billion (Canadian) per year on its military when Harper first took office; that figure now stands at $21.8 billion, sixth highest in NATO. Budget deficits for this fiscal year stand at $37.3 billion, showing that Harper’s commitment to beefing up the military has pride of place in a realm of hard choices.

And it is more than just a matter of numbers. While other nations often shrink toward the rear echelon of coalition forces, Canada has actually sought a leadership role in its military missions abroad. Harper successfully pushed Parliament in 2006 to extend Canada’s mission in Afghanistan an additional two years, even though he was not required to hold a vote on it at all. In 2007, a Liberal motion to end Canada’s Afghanistan role in 2009 was defeated by a voting coalition led by Harper’s Conservatives. Finally, in 2008, the Harper Conservative government’s motion to extend the military mission into 2011 was approved.

Harper was also adamant about Canada participating in NATO’s recent mission in Libya, and insisted on staying the course until it was completed. Canadian fighter jets flew ten percent of NATO’s sorties in the conflict.

Significant as these contributions have been, Harper has engineered an even more significant turnaround in the diplomatic arena—important because Canada, as a modestly sized country, counts on its ability to exert soft power. Since the end of World War II, Canada’s wealth, location, and history have allowed it to punch above its weight in international forums. Multilateral-ism—especially the United Nations—has been a sacrosanct commitment for previous Canadian governments. But in Harper’s first speech to the United Nations, in September 2006, he signalled a dramatic shift by questioning the international body’s relevance in language that might just as easily have been used by someone like Jeane Kirkpatrick, President Reagan’s ambassador to the UN. He said that Afghanistan’s security was crucial not only to that country but “to the health and future of this organization.” He criticized the pace of UN reform, and was skeptical about the organization’s effectiveness in Haiti, Sudan, and Lebanon, and about the new Human Rights Council. “I must tell you, the early signals suggest that too little has changed, that the page has not yet been turned,” he said. Harper has since repeatedly challenged the UN on its perdurable hostility toward Israel. 

Indeed, Harper’s most noticeable change to Canadian policy has come in regard to Israel. Simply put, Canada is now the single most supportive nation of Israeli policy, exceeding even the United States, Israel’s traditional senior partner. Change began early. In March of 2006, right after he took office, Harper pushed Canada to become the first country to cut off financial aid and diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority after Hamas took power following Palestinian elections. In the summer of 2006, as Israel warred with Hezbollah, Lebanese civilian deaths led to calls for a cease-fire from other Western countries. But Harper staunchly defended Israel’s “right to defend itself,” and, more controversially, supported what he called its “measured” response. Harper laid the blame for the conflict solely at Hezbollah’s feet. Since then he has continued to speak out against the threat of “Islamism,” in the kind of uncompromising terms the United States has moved away from under Barrack Obama.

Harper’s impassioned partisanship in the Middle East conflict is all the more noteworthy for being so against that which, before his premiership, was considered the Canadian grain. The country had a long history of neutrality in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Unlike the US, which is seen around the world as “Israel’s lawyer,” in the words of the diplomat Aaron David Miller, Canada has largely acted as a neutral broker between the parties. Harper’s comments were controversial for that reason. But instead of backing down, he doubled down.

In February 2007, Harper attended the launch of the Knesset’s Canadian Israel Allies Caucus. He directed Canada to abstain from UN resolutions singling out Israel and to boycott the Durban II Anti-Racism Conference because of its anti-Semitism. He has also repeatedly spoken out against the evils of “the new anti-Semitism,” which targets the Jewish state. As a result, he has been awarded the Presidential Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism by B’nai B’rith International, the first Canadian ever to be awarded the prize. And in December 2008, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations presented Harper and his government as a whole with its inaugural International Leadership Award for his support for Israel. When Canada lost its bid for a UN Security Council seat in 2008, Harper blamed the defeat—not unreasonably—on his unconditional support for Israel that flies in the face of the world body’s hostility to the Jewish state.

But Harper’s stance on Israel—while mirroring his own inner light—has also been good politics. An exit poll in the 2010 federal election found a stunning turn among Canadian Jewish voters toward the Conservative Party. To judge by the fact that in that election Harper’s party won its first majority government after two terms of minority coalition rule, its Israel policy seems to be paying dividends.

At the same time, this policy shift grows out of a larger worldview that prioritizes confrontation and support for democracies over the traditional Canadian values of neutrality and mediation. Canada, as Harper has said, will no longer “go along to get along.” Indeed, Harper has been more critical of China’s human rights record than his predecessors; he boycotted North Korea’s stint as head of the UN Conference on Disarmament; he devoted resources to claiming Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic; and he renewed the NORAD agreement with the US. Collectively, these policies represent a distinct foreign-policy perspective far more familiar to American neoconservatives than mainstream Canadian politics.

So what has caused the Conservative foreign policy revolution? It is tempting to look at Steven Harper and say simply that the personal is political. He is the first prime minister produced by the Canadian New Right that emerged in the 1980s. Though nowhere near as popular, powerful, or nationally appealing as the American conservative revolution led by Barry Goldwater that culminated in the Reagan presidency, Canada has always had an important—if usually in the wilderness—right wing. Much like its American counterpart, from whom it takes its ideological cues, the Canadian New Right comprises neoconservatives, Christian evangelicals, and fiscal conservatives. It is centered in specific regions. It has a powerful voice in newspapers like the National Post and the Sun media chain, and on blogs, and began to strongly influence Canadian politics in the late 1980s and 1990s with the ascension of the Reform Party.

Founded in 1987, the Reform Party emerged as the coalition that underwrote Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s majority disintegrated. Composed of business leaders, small government populists, social conservatives, and Western Canadians who felt themselves without a voice in the Canadian establishment, Reform won fifty-two seats in the 1993 election. The party became the Official Opposition in 1997, with its seat total bumped to sixty. But it failed to gain traction east of Manitoba, and in 2000 it disbanded. A somewhat moderated version was formed, called the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance.

From this arch conservative milieu, Harper emerges. He gave a speech at Reform’s founding convention, drafted its policy platform, and devised its slogans. First elected to Parliament in 1993 as a Reformer, he became a prominent member of the party caucus. As an MP, Harper always prioritized economic issues and downplayed social conservatism. (He opposed efforts to define marriage as between a man and a woman, and supported efforts on gun control.) In this, he was far more keenly attuned than most members of his party to the sensibilities of Canadians, who are open to conservative appeals on economics and foreign policy but loathe them on abortion and other subjects that Harper once gingerly termed “issues of conscience.” But the intra-party conflict that his ideas embroiled him in proved too strenuous for Harper, and he left Reform in 1997 to head a right-wing economic think tank, the National Citizens Coalition. But he never really left the political arena; in early 2002 he won the election for the Alliance party leader. He was then re-elected to Parliament and devoted his first eighteen months as leader to merging his party with the Progressive Conservatives. He was successful—in December 2003, the Conservative Party of Canada was born and began its surprisingly quick trek to power.

The consistent thread throughout all this is Harper’s fidelity to ideology. Though Canada’s rightward turn might seem surprising to those outside the country, Harper has in fact greatly moderated his political attitudes as prime minister. In 2003, with the Conservatives out of power, Harper co-authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal criticizing Canada’s opt-out of the Iraq War, a conflict that was deeply unpopular in Canada. He argued on behalf of corporal punishment and repeatedly castigated Canada’s alleged social democratic system in the harshest of terms. Such extreme viewpoints (extreme, at least, in the Canadian context) have been out of view during his time as prime minister. Foreign policy is the only area in which Harper has been able to act on his ideals, mindful as he is of Canada’s profound affinity for such left-wing initiatives as universal health care, women’s reproductive rights, and gay marriage.

Regionalism is the other chief influence on Stephen Harper. Born in Toronto, Harper moved to Alberta soon after high school, worked for an oil corporation there, and studied economics at the University of Calgary. Often called Canada’s Texas, Alberta—especially Calgary, part of which Harper represents in Parliament—is the capital of Canadian conservatism. Flush with wealth from tremendous oil and gas reserves, it has the lowest taxes in the country—a ten-percent flat tax, the dream of current US Republican Party hopefuls. Right-wing governments have formed provincially in Alberta for decades. In the 2006 federal election, every single seat went to a Conservative, and in the 2008 and 2011 elections all but one seat did the same. Alberta has felt oppressed by the federal government for more than a century, and even occasionally flirts with a secessionist movement. As a young man, Harper became converted to the Albertan way of thinking and has never relinquished it. More than just a representative of the right wing, then, Harper is a product of the Albertan right wing.

Colin Woodard, author of the new book American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, believes that Alberta should be seen as part of a larger “Far Western” region of its own. Along with Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and parts of British Columbia, Alberta forms the Canadian contingent of this region, alongside the United States’ contingent of Montana, Wyoming, and parts of California, Colorado, and Arizona. “These places share an agreement that outsiders treated them as internal resources colonies. They have an emphasis on conservative family values and a sense of self-reliance, a tradition of individual responsibility.”

Whether or not Alberta is alone or part of a larger regional culture, there is no doubt its powerful ethos shaped Stephen Harper. Now, as he sits forcefully in the prime minister’s seat, that ethos is finally shaping Canada as a whole. To the American left, Canada is still a sort of paradise. Universal health care, gay marriage, and a love of multilateralism—liberals in the US can only dream of having it this good. But they shouldn’t get too starry-eyed. Canada under Stephen Harper is a different country than it ever was before, and what they might like to think of as a paradigm is definitely shifting.

The confidential draft of the Harper government’s new “foreign policy plan” recently obtained by CBC News offers a disturbing view of Canada’s growing economic challenges abroad and diminishing political influence in a world looking to Asia.

By extension, it also raises some serious questions about how well — or poorly — Prime Minister Stephen Harper has managed Canada’s trade policy, clearly one of his government’s most important files.

The draft foreign policy plan written by senior government officials for cabinet carries some uncharacteristically blunt language.

We need to be frank with ourselves — our influence and credibility with some of these new and emerging powers is not as strong as it needs to be and could be. Canada’s record over past decades has been to arrive late in some key emerging markets.

Stephen Harper was four years late to the party in both Asia and Africa. Instead, Canada embarked on a hemispheric foreign policy focused on the U.S., and on Latin America and the Caribbean. Six years later, it hasn’t worked out exactly as planned.

As the new foreign policy plan points out, the world’s economic and political centre of gravity is shifting to Asia which, by 2030, is expected to have a middle class of 3.2 billion people and almost half the world’s largest cities.

It’s not that the economies of emerging South American countries aren’t booming. Last year, Brazil surpassed Britain as the world’s sixth largest economy.

The problem was the Harper’s government’s initial 2007 foreign policy plan to get on the bandwagon in Latin America and the Caribbean — the so-called Americas Strategy — apparently turned out to be more photo op than action.

An internal performance audit of the Foreign Affairs strategy, released earlier this year, was scathing. “The biggest challenge facing the implementation of the strategy is the lack of clarity on the strategy’s goals. Only a few people within government, partner countries or organizations have a clear sense of what the priorities of the strategy and its intended results are.”

The Harper government has tried to court South America with a steady parade of ministerial visits. But those have been too often followed by what one analyst has called prolonged political siestas.

While the Harper government boasts that it has cut a large number of free-trade agreements and other deals in Latin American and the Caribbean, the auditors note that much larger competitors such as the U.S., Europe and China have all made similar arrangements.

The internal audit concludes that after five years of the Harper government’s much-touted America’s Strategy, “there is evidence to suggest that Canada’s credibility in the region could decline.”

EU, U.S. and Africa relationships all have issues

The Harper government claims it is close to a free-trade deal with the European Union.

But critics question what that would do for trade any time soon when the European economy is in the tank and teetering on the brink of collapse.

Even Canada’s practically indestructible relationship with the U.S. has been showing stress cracks over the past four years under Harper and Barack Obama.

The prime minister was apparently caught off-guard by the Obama administration’s protectionist “Buy America” policy, and outraged by the White House decision to delay construction of the Keystone pipeline from Alberta to Texas.

The draft of Harper’s new foreign policy plan also blames the U.S. for delaying Canada’s entry into negotiations to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a powerful trading bloc seen as the gateway to Asian markets.

Even the highly publicized Beyond the Border plan to help ease congestion at Canada-U.S. border crossings all but fell off Washington’s agenda, and had to be rescued with pressure from Ottawa.

Going ahead, the new Harper foreign policy plan cautions “it can be expected that Canadian interests will continue to be affected by internal U.S. politics or narrow interests.”

Then there’s Africa, a continent to which Harper has given at best passing attention.

As the draft foreign policy puts it: “…over time, African countries have the potential to challenge the likes of Brazil and China as major investment destinations.”

Gaga for Asia

All of which helps to explain why Harper and his government have gone gaga for Asia, particularly China, a country with an annual output of goods and services expected to surpass that of the U.S. within the next five years.

Alas, the PM’s initially taking a slow boat to China means Canada is on no pleasure cruise now.

The foreign policy paper states: “The situation is stark: Canada’s trade and investment relations with new economies, leading with Asia, must deepen, and as a country we must become more relevant to our new partners.”

Despite the Harper government’s best efforts, Canada does not yet have an FTA (free trade agreement) in the Asia Pacific region, and our existing initiatives with Singapore and South Korea have been stalled for years.”Canada’s trade with China has been steadily increasing despite icy relations between the two countries after the Conservatives first came to power.

Part of the problem back then was Harper’s willingness to talk about China’s abysmal human rights record, its brutal suppression of political dissent, not to mention Chinese cyber-spies hacking Canadian companies and stealing their technologies.

As the prime minister put it not long after taking office, Canadians don’t want to sell out their values to the almighty dollar. It’s a different story now. As the Harper government scrambles to make up for lost time, its new foreign policy plan puts pragmatism over principle. To succeed, we will need to pursue relationships in tandem with economic interests even where political interests or values may not align.

 

The Dead Horse Theory of Bureaucracy

The tribal wisdom of the Plains Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that  “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”

However, in government more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buying a stronger whip.
2. Changing riders.
3. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
4. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride dead horses.
5. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
6. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.
7. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
8. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
9. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse’s performance.
10. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.
11. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.
12. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses.

And, of course…
13. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position
All the above are logical reasons why we still have a Canadian Senate!

 

China Credit Squeeze Poses Risk to Global Growth

China’s credit crunch is being taken seriously by economists, but definitely not by politicians and the question arises: How serious is Beijing about reforms?  What to make of China’s June credit crunch, the worst in at least a decade, which saw interbank lending rates reach a new high? On June 20, the overnight repurchase rate set a record at 13.91 percent, before the People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank, injected funds, driving rates into their its biggest fall since 2007.

 Despite spooking global markets and no doubt causing consternation among Chinese banks and borrowers, the whole episode is a positive sign for some. It shows China’s top leaders are still serious about broader economic restructuring and that they mean business when it comes to cleaning up some of the frothiness in the banking sector. It also shows Beijing is willing to hang tough even when things get a little scary.

“This actually played out much further than anyone expected,” says Leland R. Miller, president of China Beige Book International, which carries out a quarterly survey of the Chinese economy. “At the end of day they are not looking for their system to collapse. But the message is unmistakable—things are tightening, we want them tightened, and we are serious. The PBOC is saying: We are going to force banks to be more responsible.”

More responsible means reining in some of the rapid lending that has helped drive growth. In a worrying sign, such lending has recently become less effective at doing so—likely because more and more new credit has gone toward paying off interest on outstanding loans (and is probably helping hide a growing bad-debt problem, too). Financing has been going to firms that were rolling over their loans, and that is not causing an expansion of the economy.

 Total credit in the economy grew 22 percent in May, year on year, and “is on course to hit 200% of GDP at the end of Q2, up from 130% in 2008,” points out London-based Capital Economics economist Mark Williams in a June 20 note. The People’s Bank of China “is worried by the unsustainable growth rate of credit and is sending a message that market participants should not take for granted that they will always have access to cheap interbank loans,” wrote Williams.

 Beijing’s brinksmanship is also likely aimed at cleaning up some of the riskier practices in China’s banking sector, which have helped contribute to a serious problem with local debt. By a broad measure, China’s shadow banking may have already almost doubled since 2010 and could amount to as much as 36 trillion yuan, or 69 percent of the economy.

 “We think the [central bank] is right in trying to rein in credit growth and warn banks to properly consider liquidity and counter-party risks,” wrote Tao Wang, chief China economist at UBS Securities in Hong Kong, in a June 18 note. “We also think the regulators would be right in cracking down on reckless interbank and other type of regulatory arbitrage through which banks increase leverage, hide loans, bad assets and risks.”

 “It underscores that at the moment the government is not interested in accommodating calls for stimulus—they will hold the line on the need for reform,” says Louis Kuijs, chief China economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in Hong Kong, citing premier Li Keqiang’s calls for fiscal and land reforms to support urbanization, and a reduction in red tape to encourage the growth of private business, aimed in part at easing the transition to a more domestic consumption-driven economy. “It still remains to be seen exactly how bold the reform agenda will be, however.”

Fitch warned that wealth products worth $2 trillion of lending are in reality a “hidden second balance sheet” for banks, allowing them to circumvent loan curbs and dodge efforts by regulators to halt the excesses. This niche is the epicenter of risk. Half the loans must be rolled over every three months, and another 25pc in less than six months. This has echoes of Northern Rock, Lehman Brothers and others that came to grief in the West on short-term liabilities when the wholesale capital markets froze. The banks had been forced to park over $3 trillion in reserves at the central bank, giving them a “massive savings account that can be drawn down” in a crisis, but this may not be enough to avert trouble given the sheer scale of the lending boom.

Overall credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion since the Lehman crisis. They have replicated the entire US commercial banking system in five years. The ratio of credit to GDP has jumped by 75 percentage points to 200pc of GDP, compared to roughly 40 points in the US over five years leading up to the subprime bubble, or in Japan before the Nikkei bubble burst in 1990. This is beyond anything we have ever seen before in a large economy.

The agency downgraded China’s long-term currency rating to AA- debt in April but still thinks the government can handle any banking crisis, however bad. “The Chinese state has a lot of firepower. It is very able and very willing to support the banking sector. The real question is what this means for growth, and therefore for social and political risk,” said Mrs Chu.

China’s credit bubble is unlike anything in modern history, according to Fitch. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of The Daily Telegraph reported that Fitch thinks the scale of Chinese credit is so massive that it can no longer grow out of its excesses. And the statistics are scary:

  • “Overall credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion since the Lehman crisis. ‘They have replicated the entire US commercial banking system in five years,’ she said.”
  • “The ratio of credit to GDP has jumped by 75 percentage points to 200pc of GDP, compared to roughly 40 points in the US over five years leading up to the subprime bubble, or in Japan before the Nikkei bubble burst in 1990.”

In light of this, there are four aspects on China’s credit bubble:

First up, the main bear argument on China: It is taking more and more credit growth to deliver less economic growth.

Second, the estimated outstanding Wealth Management Products

In China, wealth management products are popular, interest-bearing retail products that are backed by a hodge-podge of risky assets. They function as a replacement for normal investment/savings accounts, but are not guaranteed.

A crackdown on Wealth Management Products (WMPs) has seen WMP issuance slow in 2013. But Charlene Chu at Fitch writes that this continues to pose a risk to the banking sector because it accounts for a “sizable amount of funding.”

“In Fitch’s view, the primary risk centers on the cash payout pressure posed by WMPs’ short-term nature, the poor liquidity of underlying assets, the high mobility of WMP investors, and banks’ mismatched assets and liabilities.”

Third, the rise in gross issuance which is close to 115 products a day

Fourth, the recent spike in SHIBOR, or the Shanghai interbank offered rate, which is an interest rate used among banks showed signs of liquidity stress in China.

SHIBOR is considered a useful proxy for liquidity in the Chinese credit markets, more specifically, the recent spike in Shibor showed a liquidity squeeze. In a new note, Morgan Stanley’s Richard Xu writes that “SHIBOR and repo two-week rates did not ease significantly after the three-day holiday, and one-month rates even spiked by ~80bps, implying that the recent liquidity tightness is likely more associated with recent intense regulatory actions than holiday effect.”

China Stimulated Its Economy Like Crazy After The Financial Crisis … And Now The Nightmare Is Beginning. China is seeing slower economic growth. Concerns are building over a massive credit bubble, and some say it is no longer an engine of global growth. Excess capacity — in which demand for products is less than potential supply — continues to be one of China’s biggest problems. Subsidies are threatening specific industries and imperiling the Chinese economy.

A major contributor to this is excess capacity problem. China’s investment-led growth-model has played a major role in the nation’s excess capacity problem.  China’s massive 4 trillion yuan stimulus, unleashed after the Lehman Crisis to stem massive unemployment, only made the that excess capacity problem worse. The local governments in China launched their own stimulus at the time with about 13 trillion yuan in investments. China’s 2008 economic stimulus programs may have been necessary for stabilization, but they appear to have been too large, too intensively focused on fixed assets and too heavily concentrated on construction.

All this stimulus led to massive increases in domestic capacity for steel, cement and aluminum – while demand from export markets fell and property deflated amid financial tightening. As a result, these industries experienced massive excess capacity.

What is excess capacity and why is it a problem?

Chinese policy makers have been concerned about excess capacity since 2005. In the 2012 Central Economic Work Conference — in which officials assess the current state of the economy and draw on this to set the tone for the next year’s macroeconomic policy — fixing overcapacity was once again made a priority as China begins to rebalance its economy.

The IMF’s Article IV assessment published in 2012 put China’s average capacity utilization about 60% at the end of 2011, from 80% at end-2007. Capacity utilization is a way of gauging slack in the economy. The IMF said at the time that China had suffered excess capacity and utilization rates that were constantly below 80% since the 2000s. In 2007, strong external demand helped push the utilization rate higher, but this took a hit again after the Lehman crisis.

While GDP growth recovered quickly after the crisis, the IMF found that China has been growing below potential since 1997, and that the problem isn’t just cyclical. China can’t count on external demand to close output gap, neither can it unleash more stimulus. Excess capacity impacts many Chinese industries including chemicals, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, and newer industries like renewable energy. China’s solar power industry has been hit by anti-dumping and anti-subsidies investigations.

The inventory of finished goods sub-index in China’s manufacturing PMI report, climbed to 50.2 in March. This showed that excess capacity conditions were deteriorating. This has since fallen below 50 but not enough to for concerns to wane. Recently, we saw China’s biggest steelmaker Hebei Iron & Steel Group and other local steel companies halt production at some of their plants in the face of declining demand, falling prices, and rising inventory.

The excess capacity in Chinese industries has weighed on producer prices too, which were down 2.9% in May. The decline in producer prices shows that China is growing below potential, and  this is as good an indicator as any of the deflationary excess capacity in the system, which is why local fund managers are fond of tracking the correlation between PPI and nominal GDP growth and also more recently with the A share market.

What does this mean for the economy? And how can it be fixed?

Local governments have only contributed to China’s excess capacity woes. The problem is that much of the so-called ‘blind’ and ‘redundant’ investment that Beijing would like to eliminate has the strong support of local governments, whose primary concern is with generating GDP growth in their jurisdictions, regardless of whether the means of achieving it make any economic sense.  

China has no quick fix to this problem. In a 2013 presentation, Xu Lejiang, president of China Iron & Steel Association  identified four ways of resolving excess production capacity: “As to how to resolve the problem of excess production capacity, Central Economic Work Conference raises “4 batches”: consuming one batch by creation and expansion of domestic demand, transferring one batch to overseas by speeding up going out process; integrating one batch by optimization of organizational structure; eliminating one batch by rigorizing environmental security energy consumption admittance standards.

“As for steel industry specifically, in resolving steel overcapacity contradiction we must respect the laws of market, rely on market-based instruments and eliminate a number of capacity through market competition. Although at first there will be loss of some resources in this process, it can’t be avoided, iron and steel enterprises must work hard. We should also go out actively and transfer industrial chain; actively promote the merger and reorganization of steel industry, improve the variety and quality of products and enhance market competitiveness and viability.” This basically means “faster depreciation and slower new investment growth for China, it will feel more pain as they begin to deleverage and consolidate.

Chinese credit growth has outpaced GDP growth for some time. Where all the money’s gone? And is China facing its own Minsky moment — a phenomenon that refers to periods of speculation that lead to crisis and that was named after economist Hyman Minsky who wrote about the inherent instability of bull markets.

In a note, Bank of America’s Ting Lu writes that this has raised questions about whether the non-performing loan ratios are higher than expected, if there are more artificially propped up investment projects that are using new credit for interest payments, is there more speculation than people realize. “Property speculation and a rising number of zombie companies,” partly explain the credit-GDP growth gap he write. “More careful study tells us that the gap is smaller than what had been believed due to double counting and other distortions, and a majority of the gap could be ascribed to reasonable changes in fundamentals and short-term factors which should not be extrapolated.

“In our view, the 12ppt gap could be decomposed as follows: 2.7ppt due to double counting of funding via non-banking intermediaries; 1.0ppt on FX loans which were used for speculating on RMB/USD appreciation; 0.3ppt on RMB loans used for faking RMB trade settlement; 1.5ppt on zombie companies as a result of bad investment; 3.5ppt on changing fundamentals such as automation, rebalancing and falling returns on FAI; and 3.0ppt on short term factors such as the increased volatility in commodity prices and eased (and cheaper) credit.” 

But Societe Generale’s Wei Yao is not so optimistic. In a note, Yao used methodology from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) to calculate debt servicing ratio and applied it to China. Doing that she found, “a shockingly high debt service ratio of 38.6% of GDP, of which 9.2% goes to interest payment (=6.3%×145 % of GDP) and the rest principal. At such a level, no wonder  that credit growth is accelerating without contributing much to real growth! Yao does think the actual DSR is lower than her calculation but writes that “a non-negligible share of the corporate sector is not able to repay either principal or interest, which qualifies as Ponzi financing in a Minsky framework.”

Two slightly different takes on what this means for China?

Lu doesn’t see an imminent crisis but does see need for reform. “In our view the central government needs to take more responsibility in infrastructure spending, move some debt burden from local governments to itself, build a functioning municipal bond market, improve prudential regulations, restructure the stock markets to restart IPOs, and make it easier for the private sector to obtain both credit and equity funding.

He also thinks the credit-GDP growth gap will narrow to less than 3 percentage points in two years.

Yao on the other hand writes that this is all still being held together because the state backs both the banking system (not shadow banking), and their support to local governments. “We think this precarious equilibrium could last a bit longer but not much longer, particularly if the central government does nothing.”

While this may make investors wary of a hard landing, she writes that it’s a good sign that the new leadership is more tolerant of slower growth. She does however expect that we will see more “corporate defaults, rising NPLs, and some degree of credit crunch,” in coming years.

But all this has definitely a very worrisome scenario for the global economy. The shrinking of this major economy is fraught with danger. While all eyes are on the economy of Europe, & USA, the worsening economies of China and India (that cover one third of the global population) are the real danger. Wake up before it is too late.

Dr. Bikram Lamba, political & business strategist, can be contacted at lambabikram@gmail.com

Biker Gangs of Delhi: A Page Out of Islamic History

This article is not intended to be either alarmist or provocative. It is the simple truth, however uncomfortable it may be to those who prefer to be couch potatoes in the purported safety of their cocoons. Because what happened on the night of the June 25 – 26 in the heart of India’s administrative epicenter is clearly an indication of where Indians are headed if they do not take portents seriously.

On the night of June 25, one noticed very dangerous things happening. Scores of motor cycles, invariably with more than two passengers on each, were racing down the road at very high speeds, forcing aside other traffic. Their contempt for pedestrians (admittedly few at that hour) was blatant. The bikers were all young men (certainly not elderly) and all of them sported traditional Muslim headgear, the white skullcap. They were performing dangerous stunts, including the usual “rear-wheel drive” they must have seen from C-Grade Hollywood films featuring Hell’s Angels and assorted gangs.

One really did not know what was going on, except that it was most unsavory and unpleasant. Then we saw a number of police pickets along the stretch; all of them were inactive and generally having a yawn. The motorcycle goons did not attack us overtly but they were certainly threatening and making intimidating gestures while riding alongside. I rolled down my window and told the offending ones that I would run them down if they continued their threats. This may have had some effect, since they drove off to bully other cars. This experience was certainly less frightening than other incidents reported in Wednesday’s papers. Around the India Gate area, there were people who complained that the thugs had jumped on their car bonnets and monkeyed around.

To come to original story, the bikers were heading to the mosque which was already crowded, with people spilling on to the street. Here too, the police pickets were doing nothing to control their criminal behavior. Delhi’s Finest, who had no hesitation beating up sleeping women and children mercilessly at the Ramdev rally last year, were lolling around and watching the open goondaism with complete disinterest.

The reason for this shut eye was either orders from above, or complicity, or sloth or a combination of all three? In any of these four scenarios, the signs are ominous – of clear and present danger for our country and ancient civilization. I have no hesitation in postulating the thesis that militant Islamic forces are testing the mettle and resolve of the Indian Republic, every now and then, with carefully-strategized acts of provocation. And on each occasion, they have succeeded in showing up our civilian administrative apparatus in its true colors – a floundering vessel manned by hopelessly incompetent and weak flunkeys.

In January 2011, extremist Islamic forces had taken the Mickey out of the Indian state. Again, the confrontation took place in the heart of the nation’s capital and the Indian republic retreated ignominiously. To give a background for the readers – the Delhi High Court had ordered that the authorities (in this case, the DDA) were permitted to demolish a mosque illegally constructed on public land. The High Court order was passed after many years of deliberation and hearings. However, this was not good enough for an assorted bunch of mullahs and politicians from parties like the Congress and the Samajwadi Party. Two days of open battle followed between inflamed and fanatic Muslim mobs, and a palpably defensive security apparatus, clearly under instructions from high above, not to react. A friend who stays near the affected area told me then that it was a “semi-war” situation, Calcutta 1946 redux. I had referred to it as the beginning of the campaign for the resurrection of the Great Delhi Caliphate.

Similarly, a few months ago, lakhs of Muslims in Kolkata held a most inflammatory meeting in the heart of the city, the Maidan, to protest against (and now hold your breath) the war crimes trials in Bangladesh against the razakars and pro-Pakistani militia that aided and abetted the Pakistani Army’s genocide of Bengalis during the 1971 liberation war. In other words, Indian Muslims and their ideological masters were rooting for persons who had fought the Indian armed forces, not to mention their fellow Bengalis.

The Calcutta “protesters” were brought in buses from all parts of West Bengal and shouted the most virulent Islamist slogans. Their banners were no less incendiary. Naturally, the Mamata Banerjee Government did nothing to either control the patently illegal gathering or to ask the Muslim leadership in West Bengal to dilute its posture. A young Army officer posted in Fort William, across the Maidan, told me that he, his brother officers, and the jawans were extremely upset by the disgusting spectacle played out before their eyes.

In this entire dismal litany, we are, of course, looking only at the most egregious incidents that have somehow caught public attention. This includes the desecration of the war memorial in Mumbai last year by another murderous Muslim mob protesting against another imaginary grievance. The culprits who committed this most heinous offence were caught on camera but one does not know how the Indian state and its justice system have dealt with them.

There are many who will pretend that all is hunky dory. That the goons on Tuesday night were a bunch of misguided youngsters. Or that this was an isolated incident perpetrated by irresponsible Muslim elements. I can almost hear the secularist storm troopers coming out with drivel like this. However, if the rest of the country’s educated and informed citizens subscribe to these fantasies, it would mean living in self-denial and delusion.

The official leadership of Indian Islam is now in a state of open confrontation with the Indian state. These people have given up all pretensions of being Indian and the only identity they can and will espouse is that of Islam. The alliance of forces in this abysmal and appalling scenario is disturbing and dangerous. Whenever the mullahs challenged the Indian republic and got away clean with their insurrection, they were instigated, aided and abetted by the Congress and other motley groups.

As the open season of Islamo-fascism against India continues, it is time to remember one of the greatest thinkers of the last century:

“Don’t rejoice in his defeat, you men!

Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard

The bitch that bore him

is in heat again”

The nation is already going through tough times, and has not come to the terms with unimaginable amount of loss of lives in the wake of flood fury in Uttarakhand. It is least expected from youngsters of community to observe shab-e-baraat in a solemn manner. In any case, it has to have different overtones. Sadly, what hundreds (some say thousands) of bikers did on Delhi roads on June 24, 2013 was shocking and hair-raising. Bikers drove with full-speed, performed daredevil stunts and fought with the Delhi Police when asked to behave and follow the traffic rules.

The Deafening Silence

And as if that was not enough, the stoic silence of Muslim leaders was equally appalling. They did not condemn the act for behaving like rank ruffians and vagabonds. Shab-e-baraat is also known as the ‘night of blessings’ and ‘glory’ is observed on religious zeal and solemnity. Muslims visit the mosques to offer special prayers all through the night, which according to some traditions is also called as shab-e-qadr (the night of blessings) wherein mass judgments regarding lives, deaths, bestowments and blessings for the next year are made in heaven. Of course, now you would know how important the festival is and deserve to be observed in a very solemn manner. It was celebrated in a solemn way in the Capital, but, things have changed in the last couple of years as some boisterous young men going wild in the night. It is anybody’s guess as to why they have started making mockery of the very essence of shab-e-baraat.

Kashmiri leadership trying to alienate Muslims from rest of India

In the light of what happened that day, it was expected that the saner voices from the Muslim community will come out in unison to reprimand all those who were involved in this wild road rage. However, they decided to remain silent. Nobody came forward to call a spade a spade. Even political leaders and TV regulars like Kamal Farooqi, Mateen Ahmed and Rashid Masood for some unknown reasons decided not to take lumpen elements of their community head-on.

While they are always ready to speak on any subject under the sun, they were not visible when they should taken a tough stand against such wild acts. Sadly, no religious leader could not muster  enough courage to take them by horns. With such a weak and meek response, they have done a great disservice to the cause of their community.

A 2000-strong all-Muslim bikers’ gang recently traumatised the national capital. Their road rage terrified the night traffic in New Delhi. Traffic Police was found napping. Some policemen were wounded and the rest remained bystanders. Even last year, these skull-capped bikers had besieged the Indian Gate circle, performing dangerous stunts. Yet no preparations seemed to be in place. Taj Hassan, Special Commissioner (Traffic), Delhi Police could not be faulted if he were himself busy in Shab-e-Barat festivities!

Why has the road rage become an integral part of ‘Night of Benediction’? In 2007, it had taken a perilous turn in Agra. Several trucks were burnt down after four bike riders were mowed down. Curfew had to be imposed in the old Mughal capital. Whether it is the city of Taj or of Taj Hassan, the bikers’ daredevilry is no one-night wonder. They seem to be inspired by the methods of medieval Islamic conqueror. Our hallowed security & intelligence analysts might find the episode trivial. They are accustomed to thinking in sub-continental perspective. Many are not conversant with Islamic history. However, the Ulema always takes it lessons of Islamic history.

Cavalry powered Islamic conquests

Understand it like this. How did the Muslim invaders rapidly overrun India in the medieval age? It was due the cavalry or the horse-mounted force with its wild advantage of speed. Cavalry warfare was not unknown in classical India. But it was relatively unimportant even as monarchs up to Rana Sanga fought on elephant’s back. India was deficient in equestrian resources. The quality and quantity of indigenous horses were unsatisfactory.

Muslim leaders silent as bikers invade Capital

Moreover, Hindus had no knowledge of stirrup for horse riding. The stirrup, comparable to internal combustion machine in a vehicle, was devised in central Asia. It turned horses into formidable war machines. The Turks, Pathans and Mughals were adept in its use. They also controlled the equestrian resources — fine quality Arabic and Turkish horses. The deadly potential of cavalry warfare was unleashed in India by the central Asian Muslims.

The horses were intrinsic to the power structure under Muslim dynasties. The power pyramid of Mughal Empire was built on the horses. The rank and pay of commanders was consummate with the number of horses they commanded. Francois Bernier found Omrahs – or power elites — holding titles like hazary, douhazary, dehhazary which meant master of one thousand horses, two thousand horses and ten thousand horses respectively.

Maratha cavalry eclipsed the Mughals

Throughout the 18th century, the Marathas ate up Mughal territories. This was made possible by a decisive shift in favour of cavalry and artillery in the Maratha army. The infantry had been the prime wing of the Shivaji’s army. But under Peshwa Baji Rao-I, an excellent cavalry general, the composition of the army changed. Cavalry powered Maratha expansion from ‘Attock to Cuttack’. Even in post-Panipat war period the Maratha horsemen under Mahadji Sindhia strafed through Rohilkhand. The Rohila Pathans were punished for cooperating with Ahmed Shah Abdali’s army.

Goons running amok or budding Islamists flexing muscle?

The Sikhs also distinguished themselves as storm troopers on horseback. Post-Aurangzeb the bankrupt Mughal Empire was going to seeds. Cavalry bore its burnt, as maintaining horses was an expensive proposition. A Mughal recruit was afraid more of losing his horse than his life.

The great age of cavalry warfare came to an end in third Anglo-Maratha war in 1818. The British, in that war, crushed the Pindaris, the plunderers patronised by the Marathas.

The dark age of cavalry

This great age of horses was actually a dark age. Horses were commanded by ruling elite and military. It deprived the civilian of speed and freedom thus stunting the public life. It was the British who brought the advantage of speed and freedom to the civilians in form of the railways. Public life could thus crystallise in India in second half of the 19th century.

Islam’s modern horsepower

The biking Muslims are taking a leaf out of the medieval cavalry’s book. Our strategic and intelligence experts may think otherwise. But the Ulema always take a look into precedents of Islamic history. The biker brigade is a modern-day cavalry, in urban perspective in peace time. Though they carry no weapon, their object is to terrify the non-Muslim population. They want to frighten the non-believers into submission. Islam’s sheaf is younger, given the higher rate of population growth amongst Muslim.

Biking rage is also a part of the ‘training’. Islam seems to be readying itself for ultimate civil confrontation in India. In Kerala, the Popular Front had instituted such biking programmes. Muslim biker gangs operate on the outskirts of Kolkata. A few years ago Sydney, Australia was rocked by Muslim biker gangs.

Muslims reading incomplete history

While it is true that Turks and Mughals could overrun India due to superior cavalry, the tables were turned upon them by the Marathas and the Sikhs. If Muslim youth have bikes, Hindus have more of them. It is another thing that they do not indulge in monstrous biking culture. But if they decide to wheel it out, it would not exactly be a happy situation for Muslims