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Diplomatic interventions mount for early election

Shahid Islam
 
A vicious spectacle is slowly taking shape as Bangladesh squabbles over the modalities of holding a credible election nearly half a century after becoming a sovereign nation. The emerging spectacle, however, is a repeatedly seen boring movie that no one wants to see again.
What is most worrying is that, in the process, some scripts from the ancient Chinese General, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu’s (544–496 BC) ‘The Art of War’ is on the play. Sun Tzu exhorted the importance of knowing one’s enemy to make victory ensured, which is what the ruling AL and the BNP are diligently, and doggedly, trying to achieve.
Full Story
Shahid Islam
 
A vicious spectacle is slowly taking shape as Bangladesh squabbles over the modalities of holding a credible election nearly half a century after becoming a sovereign nation. The emerging spectacle, however, is a repeatedly seen boring movie that no one wants to see again.
What is most worrying is that, in the process, some scripts from the ancient Chinese General, strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu’s (544–496 BC) ‘The Art of War’ is on the play. Sun Tzu exhorted the importance of knowing one’s enemy to make victory ensured, which is what the ruling AL and the BNP are diligently, and doggedly, trying to achieve.
Government loosing grounds
But the government is losing grounds. The BNP is aware of the ruling party’s ultimate desire to cling onto power by any means, which an inclusive fair election will delude, given the AL’s track records in governance.
Lately, the economy has been rendered jaundiced by financial scandals in Bangladesh Bank and other state-owned banks; gradually falling export and remittance earnings; massive unemployment denying work opportunity to nearly 30 per cent of university graduates; and a virtual famine battering lives of nearly two millions in the flood and landslide ravaged localities. The impact of flood damage and landslides could alone rob the GDP of about 1.5 percent of its desired target.
Added to it the rapidly deteriorating law and order situation and the lingering uncertainty about a rapprochement between the AL and the BNP over the election-time governance modalities, the spectacle of external diplomatic interventions did not totally spring from the blue. No sooner Khaleda Zia flew out of Dhaka, foreign diplomats began to meet senior government functionaries to know what boiled beneath the surface.
Sources say BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia will meet a number of foreign dignitaries during her ongoing treatment-related visit to the UK while diplomats of the USA, UK and few EU nations have been meeting ministers and advisers in Dhaka to fix the election-related uncertainties, which all agree to be more expedient now under the fast deteriorating socio-political-economic circumstances.
 
US’s renewed assertiveness
The White House under Donald Trump may be in disarray, but The Holiday had learnt that the USA’s Department of State (DOS) is playing more assertive role in making an inclusive election in Bangladesh a reality, abandoning its years-long hands off approach that banked on regional power India to play that role. “The DOS is convinced that India did not perform as expected in bringing back democracy to Bangladesh,” said a source preferring anonymity. In this great game, China, Russia and the USA stand on the same platform against India in installing a fairly-elected regime in Bangladesh. “Indian diplomacy in Bangladesh is a total catastrophe,” mourned a retired Bangladesh ambassador.
The renewed diplomatic onslaughts are understandable given that the UK and the leading EU nations have long been openly expressing their desire for a credible, inclusive election in Bangladesh.  They’re more desperate now under the ‘time trap’ within which holding of an early general election has become indispensable to shield Bangladesh from a number of internal and external dangers.
The economic worries aside, threats from radical Islamists are existential while India’s communal disharmony is impacting Bangladesh politics in big ways. Above all, in South Asia, Bangladesh is the only country to have a political regime not elected in a fair, inclusive and credible election.
 
Constitutional void
What had wheeled the nation to the precinct of such a dreaded precipice is very simple: the desire of the two major political parties not to look eye ball to eye ball. If they’d sat together and crafted ways to avoid political confrontations, foreign intervention would have been skirted off by a large measure.
Now that the election fever had hit the ruling party, and the country, so sooner is due to the implied ‘non-confidence’ on the regime since the Supreme Court’s upholding of a High Court decision to declare the 16th amendment null and void, and thereby creating a constitutional vacuum in the absence of any codified mechanism being in place to deal with the disciplining and the impeachment of top-ranking judges of the country. The parliament’s stubborn tantrum in open proceeding not to abide by the Supreme Court decision had transformed the fiasco into an unprecedented constitutional crisis.
The only sensible, logical and democratic way to leap out of this crisis is either to refer the debate of the 16th amendment to a referendum, which the amended constitution doesn’t allow (see last week’s Holiday), or call for an early election. An early election is much overdue due to the government’s visible agility in standing opposed to the interpretation of the laws (relating to the 16th amendments bona fides) rendered by the nation’s supreme judicial body.  Mere assertions that the parliament is sovereign and the issue is not a bread and butter matter are not enough to fill the constitutional void and the consequent ‘no-confidence’ perception, and, its legal implications.
 
Likely scenarios
By now it’s known to observers at home and abroad that the incumbent regime will not change the constitution it had amended willy-nilly to keep the BNP at the bay from coming to power any time sooner, while the BNP’s option to partake in an election without installing a neutral regime for the interregnum is limited by its 2014 abstention from joining the polls under the same demands and circumstances. The BNP must stick to what it believes in to spare its credibility from utter ruination.
And, in the midst of this festering constitutional crisis, devastating natural disasters, hyperinflation in mostly-used food and commodity prices, and, the rates of crimes shooting above the sky, bucks certainly stop on the government’s table. The government alone can stop an avalanche of miseries hitting the nation sooner.
 
Telltale signs
That seems unlikely. The ruling party secretary general Obaidul Quader’s quip-rinsed comment that “The BNP ‘s chairperson (Khaleda Zia) had fled the country to avoid conviction and may not return” is a serious indication that Mrs. Zia might have been forced out of the country in order to hold an election with she and her son, Tarek Rahman, being in exile. Independently unverified reports claim, “Coercion acted in making Khaleda Zia depart the country abruptly after having reiterating during the Ramadan that her road map for the poll time government would be revealed after the Eid.”
The BNP now maintains its pipeline roadmap will be revealed after Khaleda Zia’s return from the UK two months from now, prompting the government to devise its own roadmap that will, according to party insiders, stick to the polling taking place under the incumbent regime and Sheikh Hasina, her party, and the parliament and the cabinet, being in power to steer the election to the direction they choose to.  In response to Obaidul Quader’s ‘fleeing the country’ claim, Khaleda Zia responded: “A monarchy has been installed in the country. I’ll return after completing the treatment.”
May be Mrs. Zia need some tips from Her Majesty the Queen of England on understanding the mantras of how monarchies are installed and dismantled. Meanwhile, sources say, an understanding of sort had been reached between the BNP and may other stakeholders before Mrs.  Zia left the country.
This has prompted the Nagorik Oikyo leader Mahmudur Rahman Manna to demand for constitutional amendment following a police-chased, botched indoor meeting in the capital’s Uttora last week, in which leaders of about 10 other political parties and civil-society outfits reported to have attended.
 
Shifting reality
Be that whatever, punditry in politics is often perilous. Power falters, sands move, sentiments fluctuate and agendas are mostly driven by the shifting clays of reality. If one talks about the degree of public support for the incumbent AL regime at his very moment, one is slammed to shudder, or be truthful to say that the ruling party diehards and their cohorts only want the country to stay stymied under the crippling status quo.
Others believe that change is what is needed and wanted. They think, and national interest warrants that a fairly played electioneering must decide what people want. If voters foist the mandate on the AL again, so be it. The AL must face the reality and sit with all stakeholders to devise and implement a freshly designed election roadmap. That roadmap should be a sustainable one so that the nation doesn’t indulge in future squabbles on how to change governments every five years on.
The final scenario, which the failure to do the above will yield, is an internal intervention of unconstitutional entities against which the judiciary, the executives and the legislature will stay gasped, helpless and astounded.

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FAKE ENCOUNTER KILLINGS
Will SC verdict on Manipur force the Centre to rethink?
Ipsita Chakravarty
Scroll.In
 
The Indian Supreme Court’s July 14 judgement on alleged extrajudicial killings in Manipur (Northeast India) takes an important institutional step. It recognises the presence of state violence in conflict areas.  It also notes that the victims of such violence have no access to justice, which is a basic human right recognised by the Constitution.
The public interest litigation by the Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association Manipur, flagging 1,528 deaths between 1979 to 2012, was filed against the odds. The association is a registered trust whose members are women who have lost sons and husbands to violence by the state police and other security forces, including the Army and the Assam Rifles.
Full Story
Ipsita Chakravarty
Scroll.In
 
The Indian Supreme Court’s July 14 judgement on alleged extrajudicial killings in Manipur (Northeast India) takes an important institutional step. It recognises the presence of state violence in conflict areas.  It also notes that the victims of such violence have no access to justice, which is a basic human right recognised by the Constitution.
The public interest litigation by the Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association Manipur, flagging 1,528 deaths between 1979 to 2012, was filed against the odds. The association is a registered trust whose members are women who have lost sons and husbands to violence by the state police and other security forces, including the Army and the Assam Rifles.
Impunity emboldens violence
The petitioners had struggled to get First Information Reports filed.  Now the Supreme Court has overruled the objections of the Centre and the Army and ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to set up a special investigation team to probe encounter deaths. The case has gone a long way in piercing the institutional blindness to violence by members of the security forces in conflict zones.
But can it work a change in the government’s position that such violations are merely “isolated incidents”, the work of a “few bad apples”, resulting in “collateral damage”? Over 1,500 cases in one petition in one state alone suggests this violence is not incidental but systemic.
The impunity that enables violations by the armed forces is wired into the system and comes primarily from the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, long targeted for criticism by human rights groups.  “Enacting draconian laws like the Afspa means sustaining impunity vis-a-vis the extrajudicial means employed by the state,” writes social scientist Bhagat Oinam.
First imposed in Nagaland in 1958, the law defines the “use of armed force in aid of civil power”. It flows from the logic of a colonial state, which saw the police and the Army as complementary, not alternative, forces of control. It assumes the “good faith” of public servants acting in the line of duty. It empowers soldiers in “disturbed areas” to search and arrest without a warrant, and to open fire, while protecting them from prosecution by civilian courts.
Over the decades, Afspa spread to other states of the North East before reaching the Kashmir Valley in 1990 and Jammu division in 2001.  An act meant to meet the demands of “exceptional circumstances” lingered long after the crisis had waned. As it became the subject of public anger in these states, successive governments made and failed on promises to roll back the law. Barring Tripura, which withdrew Afspa in 2015, and the municipal area of Imphal, the law stayed.
 
Immunity draws court’s ire
Meanwhile, courts and commissions of inquiry chipped away at the legitimacy of Afspa. In 2005, after the killing of Thangjam Manorama by the Assam Rifles in Manipur triggered widespread outrage, the government set up the Jeevan Reddy Commission to review Afspa. “The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, should be repealed,” the commission recommended, noting that it had become “an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and highhandedness”. Still, the law stayed.
The petition filed by the Manipur trust prompted the Supreme Court to set up the Santosh Hegde committee to look into six charges of extrajudicial killing in Manipur. The committee filed its report in 2013, saying five of the six encounters were “not genuine”, that “disproportionate force” had been used against persons with “no known criminal antecedents”, and that Afspa gave “sweeping powers” to men in uniform without granting citizens protection against its misuse.
In July 2016, the Supreme Court, in a hearing on the Manipur cases, dealt a blow to the immunities enjoyed by the armed forces. In response to the Centre’s arguments that any person carrying arms in a prohibited area risked being considered an “enemy” and that the lack of immunity would demoralise armed forces, the court had this trenchant reply.
“It does not matter whether the victim was a common person or a militant or a terrorist, nor does it matter whether the aggressor was a common person or the state. The law is the same for both and is equally applicable to both… This is the requirement of a democracy and the requirement of preservation of the rule of law and the preservation of individual liberties.”
Besides, both the government and the Army have been opaque about how they handled complaints of human rights abuses in areas under Afspa.  According to reports that emerged this May, the Army claimed that of the 1,700-odd complaints received since 1994, just 66 had been found to be true. Only 150 soldiers had been punished and compensation awarded in 49 cases.
 
Afspa became ‘institutional attitude’
A recent Right to Information application filed by Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in April this year revealed that 186 complaints of rights violation had been received in a roughly three year period from 2012 to 2016. Of these, 127 cases had been “disposed of”, though the Union home ministry does not reveal whether they were found to be true or false.
Jammu and Kashmir accounted for the highest number of complaints, nearly 50%, but just 3% of the monetary relief recommended. Assam received the highest share of monetary relief, followed by Manipur.  But the court, in its judgement last week, distinguished between compensation and justice.
“Compensation has been awarded to the next of kin for the agony they have suffered and to enable them to immediately tide over their loss and for their rehabilitation. This cannot override the law of the land, otherwise all heinous crimes would get settled through payment of monetary compensation.”
Over time, Afspa has grown from a law into an institutional attitude.  The impunity granted to Central armed forces has filtered through to the state police; they often operate jointly in conflict areas. And when impunity does not work, there is denial, both by the security agencies and the civilian administration.
Guidelines laid down by both the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court in 2014 state that in case of encounter deaths, an FIR should be filed, investigation conducted by an independent authority and not by officers of the same police station, and a magisterial enquiry held.
These rules, however, have remained on paper in most states. In Manipur, the court says, not a single FIR was filed against any uniformed personnel or member of the state police. Instead, charges have been filed against the deceased for alleged violations of the law.
 
Negation of justice
It does not stop at the police stations. Oinam describes the plight of young women in Manipur suddenly branded “terrorist wives”, with young families to bring up and little support either from the state or their communities. A report from 2011, jointly published by four human rights organisation and financed by the development aid organisation Cordaid, says the Indian government does not extend financial support to the wives and children of those branded as militants. Governments and police have colluded to keep fake encounter victims invisible.
The court now places its trust in the CBI. But how independent is an investigation body that was famously termed a “caged parrot” by the Supreme Court itself, accused of acting at the behest of its political masters?
The CBI’s past interventions in encounter deaths have led nowhere.  Take the Pathribal killings. In March 2000, unidentified gunmen shot dead 34 Sikhs in the village of Chittisinghpora in South Kashmir. Five days later, soldiers of the Rashtriya Rifles claimed they had killed five “foreign militants” responsible for the massacre in Pathribal.  They turned out to be local men, whose bodies were charred beyond recognition.
The case wound through civil courts and with the CBI. The agency’s charge sheet submitted evidence suggesting that five soldiers were guilty of “cold-blooded murder”. But then the Supreme Court, in a 2012 judgement, said the Army could choose whether these men were to be tried in civilian or military courts. The Army chose the latter and closed the case in 2014, apparently for lack of evidence.
As the CBI now probes the Manipur encounters, the court must ensure that the investigation reaches its logical conclusion, insulated from political pressures. Judicial intervention has done a lot to push for accountability in conflict areas, to turn the conversation back to basic democratic and human rights. But progressive rulings by the court can only go so far when they are constantly buffeted against attitudes in the government and the Army, which would preserve the status quo.

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CEC’s election road map unacceptable: Opposition

Faruque Ahmed
 
Election roadmap must have the support of the opposition. The new Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nurul Huda appointed earlier this year in his preparatory footwork for holding the next parliamentary election in 2018 has announced the year long roadmap for the election.  But many have already raised questions if his roadmap will work without prior consultation and coordination with all major stakeholders in the country.
In every election political parties are major stakeholders and no roadmap can be successful without their participation and trust in the Election Commission. The CEC could have taken them into confidence with initial discussions before he worked out his plan. The road map includes talks with the political parties, law reforms, demarcation of constituencies, updating voters list and registration of new political parties.
Full Story
Faruque Ahmed
 
Election roadmap must have the support of the opposition. The new Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nurul Huda appointed earlier this year in his preparatory footwork for holding the next parliamentary election in 2018 has announced the year long roadmap for the election.  But many have already raised questions if his roadmap will work without prior consultation and coordination with all major stakeholders in the country.
In every election political parties are major stakeholders and no roadmap can be successful without their participation and trust in the Election Commission. The CEC could have taken them into confidence with initial discussions before he worked out his plan. The road map includes talks with the political parties, law reforms, demarcation of constituencies, updating voters list and registration of new political parties.
CEC’s role questioned
All these are high stake issues in which support and cooperation of the political parties are very important but it appears that the roadmap has been formulated first perhaps after having private consultation with the government but avoiding similar consultations with the opposition. The CEC could have been more open to all if he really wanted to make the road to election a success.
It is natural that the government would be in constant touch with the Election Commission (EC) but analysts believe that any attempt to keep the opposition out of the loop or treat them in low priority level may not work well at the end. In this backdrop, police raid on Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Rob) President ASM Abdur Rob’s Uttara residence on last Thursday night attempting to break the meeting of a number of distinguished political leaders who gathered to discuss the country’s political situation, shows how difficult the situation is now in the country for opposition leaders and workers even to take part in informal indoor political meeting let alone organizing outdoor political activities and run for free and fair election that may follow.
The analysts are sceptical when the CEC says he is responsible for creating congenial political environment after the election schedules were announced. But the fact is that political parties which are registered and not banned should have the right to run open air political activities to go to people to present their agenda and seek vote. If only the ruling party can do it while the opposition is debarred from it, the environment may be anything but not election friendly. Election can’t be an event only for a short period after the election scheduled is announced. But if the government restrictions on the political activities of the opposition parties in the streets remain in place and the law enforcement agencies are used to thwart all opposition political activities, there cannot be a congenial environment for free and fair election.
 
Neither a road, nor a map: BNP
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has described the roadmap as a blueprint for an election that the government can hold a regulated election for retaining power. In this roadmap he neither sees the road nor the map for a free and fair election, particularly without resolving the election time government issue. What can be its nature and function and how the even playing field can be ensured.
Without any proper decision for all to act, the crisis will persist and any roadmap will not be helpful. On the other hand senior Awami League leader and Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed has welcomed the roadmap as a realistic step and his remark that the election would take place in time and no anti-constitutional proposal would be accepted clearly shows that the government and the opposition are wide apart far from converging on to the main road to election.
The constitutional amendment by Awami League government before parliamentary election of 2014 had shelved the caretaker government allowing the incumbent cabinet to continue in power and parliament not to be dissolved so that MPs can contest election while in office and make sure that power does not slip out of the government’s hands.  Though it defies all norms and practices of Westminster-type of parliamentary system of democracy which calls for resignation of the cabinet and dissolution of parliament to make election free and fair among equals, the Awami League government has disturbingly changed the system to continue its hold on power.
In this background, it remains highly questionable how the new CEC and the Election Commission will be able to hold a free and fair election. In fact when the major opposition parties want the EC to play a neutral and independent role as a constitutional body and the CEC to be a neutral arbiter to make sure that people will be able to exercise their voting rights freely to elect their representatives without intervention from powerful quarters within or outside the government, it shows that the situation will remain under the government control. The opposition is not much hopeful of a free and fair poll.
 
CEC can still take credible steps
Observers believe the CEC should take credible steps to restore people’s confidence in the electoral system previously lost by the EC in every local and national election. The roadmap seems to be irrelevant without making sure the participation of the opposition parties.
So the EC should encourage serious dialogue between the government and the opposition parties to resolve issues over election time government and make meaningful preparations for the purpose.  Otherwise a government-regulated election roadmap would not be of much help to change the situation.
No question that the creation of election time level playing field is the sole responsibility of the government. The EC is entrusted to hold a credible election but whether the election will be free and fair largely depends on how freely the government will allow political parties to run their election campaign, use local administration and manipulate the law enforcement agencies.
Our system has already made the Election Commission a lame duck body with selection of commissioners from a list of party men and government loyalists.
It is evident that the CEC was selected from an unknown list of candidates. The list of the High Power Search Committee, which looked for the name of a credible CEC, has no mention of the present CEC but his surprising selection came to light at the right moment. So he started as a government loyalist from the beginning but he still has ample opportunity to prove his neutrality to restore the trust of people in the electoral system if he wants to play a historic role.
The over-riding government power to control the EC has already reduced the level of trust of people to make the next election free and fair. This is a daunting challenge for the new CEC to prove it otherwise.
People will watch his every move and analysts tend to believe that he can still play a role if he wants to save the electoral system from the cycle of government control at the end and earn a name for himself.

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The US presidency and country have sunk to new lows

Ivan Eland
 
The revelation that top Trump campaign officials were attempting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from a Kremlin-connected lawyer may not complete the legal case on the campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 election, but it certainly smacks of disloyal conduct, if not legal treason.
This bombshell combines with the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal’s discovery that a Republican “opposition researcher” (a Washington euphemism for a digger of dirt on the opponent in a political campaign), with apparent connections with Trump campaign, was attempting to get Hillary’s emails from Russian hackers.
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Ivan Eland
 
The revelation that top Trump campaign officials were attempting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from a Kremlin-connected lawyer may not complete the legal case on the campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 election, but it certainly smacks of disloyal conduct, if not legal treason.
This bombshell combines with the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal’s discovery that a Republican “opposition researcher” (a Washington euphemism for a digger of dirt on the opponent in a political campaign), with apparent connections with Trump campaign, was attempting to get Hillary’s emails from Russian hackers.
Troll for dirt on Hillary
Perhaps also relating to the latter caper, the Journal also reported that U.S. intelligence picked up talk among Russian hackers that they needed to get such emails to then-Trump campaign adviser (and later national security adviser) Michael Flynn through an intermediary.
President Trump’s acknowledged attempt to shut down the FBI’s investigation into Russian hacking and collusion by firing FBI Director James Comey, whether legally meeting the standard of obstruction of justice or not, always led to the suspicion that such a brazen act might eventually lead the trail of collusion going from smoke to fire. With Trump campaign officials trying to troll for dirt on Hillary from a Kremlin-collected lawyer, the smoke just got much thicker.
The Trump campaign’s actions communicating with agents of foreign powers to obtain electoral advantage is already beginning to look like the Nixon campaign’s attempt to do the same during the 1968 election.  Fearing that President Lyndon B. Johnson’s peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese to end the Vietnam War would help Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey and therefore hurt Republican Richard Nixon’s chances in the election, Nixon sent a prominent Taiwanese envoy to the South Vietnamese to get them to nix any deal with the North. Nixon communicated through the intermediary to the South Vietnamese that he would give them a better deal if he got elected president.
Nixon’s treasonous act for his own gain was one of his worst transgressions in a sordid political career, because it prolonged the futile carnage of the Vietnam War. The ultimate ramifications of any Trump collusion with the Russians are still out. It will probably never be possible to prove whether any collusion converted a Trump election loss to a win, but flipping only 77,000 votes in three states is not that big a hill to climb.
 
Trump’s unhinged behaviour
And the embarrassing dump of opposition emails came at a critical time for the Trump campaign—just when an “Access Hollywood” recording surfaced of candidate Trump admitting that he committed the crime of sexually assaulting women. If the Trump campaign did collude with Russia for help in the astonishing election victory—now evidence certainly exists of attempted collusion—the actual historical effect depends on how bad Trump’s presidency becomes.
It is always possible that by some stroke of luck—and he has been lucky all his life, given that his past business practices would have landed mere mortals in the slammer—Trump will save his presidency, by escaping the collusion cloud, dodging the obstruction of justice rap, and benefiting from some national crisis that he can parlay himself into the country’s savior.
If presidential history is any guide, he might reap advantage even if a war or other crisis is of his own making. However, his unhinged behavior, willful ignorance of policy or even of how government works, and thus general incompetence mitigate against the probability of this outcome. Also, the biggest reason that Trump may fear a special counsel investigation is that his questionable past business dealings might be exposed.
The American electorate, or at least the 46 percent of it that voted for Trump, thought they were electing a businessman who would bring commercial acumen to shaking up the federal government and solving its myriad of problems.
 
Things don’t happen at his commands
Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers purposefully did not create the government to function like a family business, where a single patriarch is czar. (The world already had such monarchies or dictatorships.) Perhaps that’s why businessmen, such as Herbert Hoover and George W. Bush, haven’t traditionally had much success as president.
The Founders originally intended that the system of checks and balances would constrain the chief executive—in fact, designing the system so that Congress would be the dominant branch. Trump seems genuinely surprised that things don’t just happens as he commands.
Shaking up the U.S. government, which is much bigger and more dysfunctional than the Founders intended, counter intuitively requires a politician familiar with the system—but one who is disaffected with its direction and can implement proper policies to fix it.
Trump’s protectionist trade policies, discouragement of immigration, and tax cuts without likely spending reductions—all of which will likely harm the economy and country—are not the answer. Unfortunately, politicians with such qualities are rare and those that have them—for example, Ron Paul—are often rejected by the national electorate. Sad!
 
This article was published at InsideSources.com  and reprinted with permission.

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The planet is warming and it’s okay to be afraid

Margaret Klein Salamon
 
Last Week, David Wallace-Wells wrote a cover story for of New York Magazine, “The Uninhabitable Earth,” on some of the worst-case scenarios that the climate crisis could cause by the end of this century. It describes killer heat waves, crippling agricultural failures, devastated economies, plagues, resource wars, and more. It has been read more than two million times.
The article has caused a major controversy in the climate community, in part because of some factual errors in the piece—though by and large the piece is an accurate portrayal of worst-case climate catastrophe scenarios. But by far the most significant criticism the piece received was that it was too frightening.
Full Story
Margaret Klein Salamon
 
Last Week, David Wallace-Wells wrote a cover story for of New York Magazine, “The Uninhabitable Earth,” on some of the worst-case scenarios that the climate crisis could cause by the end of this century. It describes killer heat waves, crippling agricultural failures, devastated economies, plagues, resource wars, and more. It has been read more than two million times.
The article has caused a major controversy in the climate community, in part because of some factual errors in the piece—though by and large the piece is an accurate portrayal of worst-case climate catastrophe scenarios. But by far the most significant criticism the piece received was that it was too frightening.
Suffering from ‘affect phobia’
“Importantly, fear does not motivate, and appealing to it is often counter-productive as it tends to distance people from the problem, leading them to disengage, doubt and even dismiss it,” wrote  Michael Mann, Susan Joy Hassol and Tom Toles at the Washington Post.
Erich Holthaus tweeted about the consequences of the piece:
“A widely-read piece like this that is not suitably grounded in fact may provoke unnecessary panic and anxiety among readers.”
“And that has real-world consequences. My twitter feed has been filled w people who, after reading DWW’s piece, have felt deep anxiety.”
“There are people who say they are now considering not having kids, partly because of this. People are losing sleep, reevaluating their lives.”
While I think both Mann and Holthaus are brilliant scientists who identified some factual problems in the article, I strongly disagree with their statements about the role of emotions—namely, fear—in climate communications and politics. I am also sceptical of whether climate scientists should be treated as national arbiters of psychological or political questions, in general. I would like to offer my thoughts as a clinical psychologist, and as the founder and director of The Climate Mobilization.
Affect tolerance—the ability to tolerate a wide range of feelings in oneself and others—is a critical psychological skill. On the other hand, affect phobia—the fear of certain feelings in oneself or others—is a major psychological problem, as it causes people to rely heavily on psychological defenses.
Much of the climate movement seems to suffer from affect phobia, which is probably not surprising given that scientific culture aspires to be purely rational, free of emotional influence. Further, the feelings involved in processing the climate crisis—fear, grief, anger, guilt, and helplessness—can be overwhelming. But that doesn’t mean we should try to avoid “making” people feel such things.
 
Protection from climate crisis
Experiencing them is a normal, healthy, necessary part of coming to terms with the climate crisis. I agree with David Roberts that it is OK, indeed imperative, to tell the whole, frightening story. As I argued in a 2015 essay, The Transformative Power of Climate Truth, it’s the job of those of us trying to protect humanity and restore a safe climate to tell the truth about the climate crisis and help people process and channel their own feelings—not to preemptively try to manage and constrain those feelings.
Holthaus writes of people feeling deep anxiety, losing sleep, re-considering their lives due to the article… but this is actually a good thing. Those people are coming out of the trance of denial and starting to confront the reality of our existential emergency. I hope that every single American, every single human experiences such a crisis of conscience. It is the first step to taking substantial action. Our job is not to protect people from the truth or the feelings that accompany it—it’s to protect them from the climate crisis.
I know many of you have been losing sleep and reconsidering your lives in light of the climate crisis for years. We at The Climate Mobilization sure have. TCM exists to make it possible for people to turn that fear into intense dedication and focused action towards a restoring a safe climate.
In my paper, Leading the Public into Emergency Mode – a New Strategy for the Climate Movement, I argue that intense, but not paralyzing, fear combined with maximum hope can actually lead people and groups into a state of peak performance. We can rise to the challenge of our time and dedicate ourselves to become heroic messengers and change-makers.
 
The Los Angeles agenda
I do agree with the critique, made by Alex Steffen among others, that dire discussions of the climate crisis should be accompanied with a discussion of solutions. But these solutions have to be up to the task of saving civilization and the natural world.  As we know, the only solution that offers effective protection is a maximal intensity effort, grounded in justice, that brings the United States to carbon negative in 10 years or less and begins to remove all the excess carbon from the atmosphere. That’s the magic combination for motivating people: telling the truth about the scale of the crisis and the solution.
In Los Angeles, our ally City Council member Paul Koretz is advocating a WWII-scale mobilization of Los Angeles to make it carbon neutral by 2025. He understands and talks about the horrific dangers of the climate crisis and is calling for heroic action to counter them. Local activists and community groups are inspired by his challenge.
Columnist Joe Romm noted, we aren’t doomed—we are choosing to be doomed by failing to respond adequately to the emergency, which would of course entail initiating a WWII-scale response to the climate emergency. Our Victory Plan lays out what policies would look like that, if implemented, would actually protect billions of people and millions of species from decimation. They include: 1) An immediate ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure and a scheduled shut down of all fossil fuels in 10 years; 2) massive government investment in renewables; 3) overhauling our agricultural system to make it a huge carbon sink; 4) fair-shares rationing to reduce demand; 5) A federally-financed job guarantee to eliminate unemployment 6) a 100% marginal tax on income above $500,000.
Gradualist half measures, such as a gradually phased-in carbon tax or cap-and-trade system, that seem “politically realistic” but have no hope of actually restoring a safe climate, are not adequate to channel people’s fear into productive action.
We know what is physically and morally necessary. It’s our job—as members of the climate emergency movement—to make that politically possible. This will not be easy, emotionally or otherwise. It will take heroic levels of dedication from ordinary people. We hope you join us.
 
Margaret Klein Salamon, Phd is co-founder and director of Climate Mobilization. Klein earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from Adelphi University and also holds a BA in Social Anthropology from Harvard. Though she loved being a therapist, Margaret felt called to apply her psychological and anthropological knowledge to solving climate change. Follow her and Climate Mobilization on Twitter: @ClimatePsych /@MobilizeClimate. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

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Sealing the Mahathir-Anwar alliance: Will they unseat Najib?

Yang Razali Kassim in Singapore
 
Erstwhile foes Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim formally buried the hatchet for a common cause by sealing their revived alliance with a new compact to end the rule of Prime Minister Najib Razak at the ballot box. Their decision formed the bedrock of a restructured four-party opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan, which Mahathir, Anwar and Anwar’s wife jointly lead. It promises a formidable line-up to challenge the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) led by Najib’s UMNO in the coming general election to be called after September but before June next year.
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Yang Razali Kassim in Singapore
 
Erstwhile foes Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim formally buried the hatchet for a common cause by sealing their revived alliance with a new compact to end the rule of Prime Minister Najib Razak at the ballot box. Their decision formed the bedrock of a restructured four-party opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan, which Mahathir, Anwar and Anwar’s wife jointly lead. It promises a formidable line-up to challenge the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) led by Najib’s UMNO in the coming general election to be called after September but before June next year.
Taking a significant step towards the grand alliance, Harapan called a joint press conference in the early hours of 14 July 2017 to announce a new leadership lineup, complete with a common logo. It was a sensitively arranged “functional leadership” of compromise and mutual accommodation by the component parties – Anwar’s PKR, Mahathir’s Bersatu, Lim Kit Siang’s DAP and Mohamad Sabu’s Amanah. Most significantly, it sealed the reconciliation between Mahathir and Anwar after their 18-year estrangement.
 
Government-in-waiting?
Anwar was declared Ketua Umum or General Chairman and “de facto leader” of Harapan, Mahathir as Chairman and Anwar’s wife Wan Azizah as President. The posts of deputy president and vice-president were also allocated to the component parties to reflect a partnership of equals. The three deputy presidents are Bersatu’s president Muhyiddin Yassin, DAP’s secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, and Amanah’s president Mohamad Sabu.
Significantly Mahathir also announced that Anwar will be the eighth PM after a royal pardon for him is sought by the new government to be formed after the next general election, should the Opposition win. No less attention-grabbing is that the interim seventh PM may well be Mahathir, who chaired the joint press conference flanked by Wan Azizah and the other party leaders.
Earlier Mahathir had caused a stir when he reportedly told the Guardian newspaper that he supported the jailed Anwar as prime minister, once he received a royal pardon and contested the elections.  “If the Opposition wins, the interim seventh prime minister will have to work to release him and seek his pardon as soon as the new government is formed.”
The official rebirth of the Mahathir-Anwar alliance that was once so effective in the 1990s and triggered major political changes, will see Anwar eventually lead, should the grand plan work. There could be a few routes to the premiership that was once his for the taking.
Anwar could stand in a by-election in a seat to be vacated by Wan Azizah, or he could be appointed a senator on his release as a step to taking office, initially as Deputy PM. Then he would stand for election as an MP so as to qualify to be PM.
Should this eventuate, it will bring to a full circle the roller-coaster relationship between mentor and protégé. Mahathir will go down in history as making up with his heir apparent whom he sacked over controversial allegations of immorality and abuse of power –without having to apologise publicly but nevertheless taking significant steps towards reconciliation.
 
Game Changer?
The internal tussles over the top positions, interim or otherwise, and factional rumblings have been destabilising the Opposition coalition ahead of the general election. Closing ranks in the name of a higher objective – unseating Prime Minister Najib – has become critical. The prospect of dethroning him is no longer a distant one, given the political crisis threatening Najib’s position triggered by the 1MDB scandal.
Mahathir has demonstrated once again that he remains shrewd and strategic in his moves despite his advancing age. He is single-minded and has been generating much buzz as he makes game-changing steps to achieve his ultimate goal of a regime change since the outbreak of the 1MDB crisis. He said in a recent blog post that he has made a U-turn on UMNO because he has a mission to “destroy the demon” and in so doing, “found common ground with Anwar Ibrahim”.
It all began three days after 3 September 2016 – the symbolically significant 18th anniversary of Anwar’s sacking as deputy premier –when Mahathir turned up in court to show support for Anwar in a case against the Najib government. It was a ground-breaking move that was never thought possible; it ended nearly two decades of bitterness that split the Malay electorate and led to a series of power shifts.
A highlight has been Mahathir joining the Anwar-led Opposition, in yet another head-turning step. Suspicion of Mahathir, however, remained deep; Najib has exploited this distrust by running down the Mahathir-Anwar reconciliation as doomed to fail from the start.
Mahathir’s reluctance to express either open apology or unequivocal support for Anwar as the ultimate leader that a divided Malaysia needs has not helped. This all is about to change as Mahathir and Anwar finally sealed their revived alliance in a new power-sharing partnership that reflects their statesmanly decision to rise above party politics. The big question now is: How will Najib counter-react?
 
Yang Razali Kassim is Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. An earlier version appeared in the Straits Times.

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