Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Zimbabwe: Tyrant quits, tyranny continues

So, farewell then, Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe, former President-for-Almost-Life of Zimbabwe. Reports from Hahaharare (the fun capital of Africa) say that you submitted your resignation, in writing no less, just as impeachment proceedings got under way this afternoon. By quitting now, you dodged a bullet... literally.

It has come to my attention that there were some readers who didn't get the joke in the meme that accompanied my post on Comrade Bob's dismissal, just a few weeks ago, from the position of World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador created for him by the incredibly naive (or corrupt?) Chair of that "organization". To understand both that and the last line of the first paragraph, be advised that in chiShona, the main native language of Zimbabwe, "Hendiende!" means "I will not go!"

"I will not go!" was Comrade Mugabe's attitude even after his own ZANU-PF party fired him as its President following a military quasi-coup late last week. On Friday he read, rather haltingly, a statement saying he would "preside" (as a president does) over a party congress scheduled for next month. On Sunday he called a cabinet meeting for Tuesday morning, and "presided" over the handful of ministers who turned up. Meanwhile, on Monday, his own party launched in Zimbabwe's Parliament a motion to impeach him, which was being debated today when he finally said that he would go, after all.

Many observers, including Walt -- and let me remind you that I spent several years in the land of bambazonke -- assumed that there were only two ways Robert Mugabe would be dislodged from his position. Either he would die in his bed or in some other location, due to a severe case of lead poisoning. It was only a question of which would come first. His resigning in writing may reflect the way the world has changed in the 21st century. Yes, even Africa. There was no storming of State House, no being hung upside down from a lamppost, no execution by firing squad, not even a quiet private hanging. The coup was bloodless and, apart from the singing and dancing in the streets, quiet.

Does this mean that the povo -- the poor people of Zimbabwe -- can expect to see some improvement in their lives? Under Comrade Bob, the former Rhodesia went from being Africa's breadbasket to another African basket case. His legacy is a standard of living, an average life expectancy and an average annual income all lower than they were in the bad old days of "white settler rule".

He will be remembered for the kleptocracy which impoverished his people, for the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland in the 1980s, for the farm invasions of the 1990s and later, and for the brutal repression of the opposition any time it seemed at all close to winning an election.

Mr Mugabe's place is like to be taken by Emmerson Mnangagwa, aka ED Mnangagwa [no relation! Ed.], the vice-president whom Comrade Bob purported to fire, earlier this month, to pave the way for the succession of his wife, Gucci Grace. As Western governments rush to congratulate Zimbabwe on its peaceful transition, they forget that Comrade ED was deeply involved in most of those crimes.

Mr Mnangagwa is known as "The Crocodile", for his association with a group of black nationalist rebels in the early days of the fight against white rule. Others say the appellation stems from his power, ruthlessness and ability to survive the tough, sometimes aggressive world of African politics. We all know how crocodiles deal with their enemies, right?

The 75-year-old was a loyal henchman to Comrade Bob for years, gaining a reputation for being astute, ruthless and effective. He was was one of those who helped the dictator cling to power when, at times, it seemed as if his grip might be weakening. As Zimbabwe's Minister for National Security, he became notorious for overseeing the Gukurahundi -- the brutal 1983 campaign against supporters of Comrade Mugabe's rival, Joshua Nkomo. Between 10,000 and 20,000 Ndebele people are estimated to have died in Matabeleland during what was really a tribal war. A good deal of the killing was done by the the Zimbabwe army's Fifth Brigade, equipped and trained by North Korea.

Since then, Comrade ED has kept himself busy in various government positions, most recently as one of two vice presidents. Nor has he been averse to accepting the rewards of his hard work. He is rumoured to have amassed a considerable fortune and been involved in the development (read: looting) of the Marange diamond fields, in which something like 15 billion dollars is said to have disappeared. Mr Mnangagwa was targeted by US sanctions in the early 2000s, for undermining democratic development in Zimbabwe, and he was named in a United Nations investigation into exploitation of mineral resources in Congo.

A former UK foreign secretary told Sky News, "The negative is he's got a lousy record - he was involved in the very serious massacres in the Matabeleland a long, long time ago. His succession, if that's what happens, would be a continuation of the status quo.". Prominent Zimbabwean opposition politician David Coltart (a really decent human being) tweeted, "We have removed a tyrant but not yet a tyranny." Or, to put it the way they do in neighbouring Moçambique: a luta continua!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Book review: "I Can't Breathe", by Matt Taibbi

It's been difficult for me to read I Can't Breathe, by Matt Taibbi (Spiegel & Grau, 2017). Not that it is poorly written; it is quite the opposite. Nor was it because I don't see eye-to-eye with the author on the issues. Mr Taibbi is reliably liberal, as you would expect of a writer for Rolling Stone. If anyone is entitled to put the letters "SJW" after his name, it's Matt Taibbi. My discomfort stems from being reminded that those advocating "Justice for Eric Garner" and other victims of police killings are not always wrong, as some on the right say. That's what I Can't Breathe is about.

For those who don't remember, Eric Garner was a petty criminal who eked out a subsistence living for himself and his wives and children by hawking untaxed cigarettes around Tompkinsville Park, in Staten Island, a borough of New York City. On 17 July 2014, a cop named Daniel Pantaleo, already the subject of numerous complaints, put a chokehold on Mr Garner during an arrest for allegedly selling "loosies" -- single cigarettes.

The final moments of his life were captured on a video shot by Ramsey Orta, another small-time miscreant and Mr Garner's friend. What millions saw in the video was Officer Pantaleo killing Eric Garner. In spite of the video evidence, Officer Pantaleone was never indicted, let alone convicted, nor was he punished in any way for anything.

The case was presented to a grand jury by the then District Attorney (now Congressman) Dan Donovan. Mr Taibbi suggests, as have numerous lawyers, that Mr Donovan "threw" the grand jury hearing, focusing on exculpatory evidence and the unsavoury background of Eric Garner, rather than trying to get an indictment. We will never know, because the authorities have stonewalled the release of any details of the grand jury hearing.

I Can't Breathe
focuses chiefly on the death of Eric Garner and the subsequent denial of justice by the so-called "justice system", but Matt Taibbi also canvases some of the many other extra-judicial killings -- police murders -- which have occurred in today's "postracial America" (as the Prez would have it), in Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, Ferguson MO and Star City AR. The author makes a powerful argument for the proposition that the "criminal justice system" is (a) racist and (b) broken.

Having been caught up in the system myself, I cannot but agree with (b). The system is FUBAR. For me, (a) is the hard part. But the evidence is there, in black and white (if you'll forgive the pun). I don't believe that anyone, of any colour, no matter how much of a lowlife he may be, deserves to be killed or even physically assaulted by cops who believe their badge gives makes them judge, jury and... yes... executioner. If you think Eric Garner and the others who met death at the hands of the police "just got what was coming to them", please read I Can't Breathe.

Further reading: "Prez calls for 'soul searching' in wake of Baltimore race riot", WWW 28/4/15.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Canadian ISIS fighters to be welcomed home, "reintegrated" into society

Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, pictured, is a devout Sikh, an adherent to one of the two religions identified by many Canadians as being detrimental to their society. (The other one is... wait for it... Islam. See "Poll: Most Canadians think Islam, Sikhism bad for their society", WWW 17/11/17.) Not that that has anything to with his government's decision to welcome back Canadian citizens who went to the Middle East to fight for ISIS. That's a case of collective insanity, a decision made by Junior Trudeau's Liberal, feminist, Islamophile cabinet.

At the end of 2015, the Canuck government said its alleged intelligence service was aware of about 180 individuals "with a nexus to Canada" who had travelled overseas to join ISIS, al-Qaeda and other groups of Islamic terrorists. Another 60 were thought to have gone to the sandpit and then returned to Canada. Now, with the almost total collapse of ISIS in Iraq and Syria over the last few months, the question arises of what to do with the 15 dozen or so bitter-enders, who are likely to return to the Great No-longer-white North.

How about killing them before they can return? A modest and reasonable suggestion, you would think. And not without precedent. Britain, France, Australia and the Paranoid States of America all have policies such as were described by Brett McGurk, the special envoy for the fight against ISIS appointed by the Prez, now serving under President Trump. On a recent visit to Syria he told the press, "Our mission is to make sure that any foreign fighter who is here, who joined ISIS from a foreign country and came into Syria, that they will die here in Syria."

Rory Stewart, the British minister of international development, spoke to the BBC last month about citizens who chose to leave the country to join ISIS. "I'm afraid we have to be serious about the fact these people are a serious danger to us," he told the interviewer. "These are people who are executing people...who have held women and children hostage, who are torturing and murdering, trying, by violence, to impose their will. Our response has to be, when somebody does that, I'm afraid, to deal with that. Unfortunately the only way of dealing with them will be, in almost every case, to kill them."

According to Christian Leuprecht, an expert on terrorism and security at Canada's Royal Military College, "Australia is another country that's taken the same approach — that they would prefer that those individuals who've been identified as foreign fighters not return home." Even the French surrender monkeys are working to eradicate their jihadis overseas. A Wall Street Journal investigation published in May quoted French and Iraqi officials describing French special forces co-operating with Iraqi units to hunt down and kill French jihadis.

The Canadian government -- notorious now for making Islamic terrorists into multi-millionaires -- is taking the a different approach. Unlike their allies in the fight against Islamic extremism, the Canucks do not have a policy of targeted assassination for its foreign fighters. Poor old Ralph Goodale, the Public Safety Minister and Designated Apologist for the Trudeau Liberals, appeared on CBC's Power & Politics yesterday to do a little virtue-signalling. "Canada does not engage in death squads," he said. But, he admitted, "with the battlefield activity winding down, there is a very real question about where the foreign fighters go, and all of our allies, whether they're in the Five Eyes or the G7, we've all agreed to collaborate very carefully."

Meaning what, exactly? Well, Mr Goodale said, anyone -- born in Canada or from elsewhere -- who poses a terrorist risk will be viewed "with the greatest of seriousness" by Canada's intelligence, security and police agencies. So there! As Mr Goodale spoke, Minister Sajjan told gabfest on international security at Halifax, "We will make sure that we put every type of resource into place so Canadians are well protected."

Meaning what, exactly? Well, they'll be allowed to come back to Canada, where they will be "deradicalized" and "reintegrated" into Canadian society, in hopes that they will live peacefully ever after. Does that sound like a plan? Or does it just sound like an extreme case of naïveté?

Christian Leuprecht says deradicalization programmes are highly controversial and there is little empirical evidence that they work. In any case, Canada doesn't have such a programme. In June, the Canuck government launched, with much fanfare, the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence. Unfortunately, it does not handle individual cases, but "supports initiatives by other levels of government and organizations across Canada." A spokesthingy for Mr Goodale's ministry says it also supports "action-orientated research", whatever that means.

The CBC reports that to date, only two returnees, Pamir Hakimzadah and Rehab Dughmosh, have been charged with leaving Canada to participate in terrorism. Four more men, some of whom may be dead, have been charged in absentia. To date, no Canadian has been successfully prosecuted for travelling to Syria or Iraq to join a terror group. More than 200 Canadian "terrorist travellers" have faced no legal consequences in Canada.

Says Mr Leuprecht of the terror, "They're not stupid. They know that CSIS [the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service -- hah!] will likely monitor them using wiretap warrants, on grounds of reasonable suspicion. And you can use that sort of warrant for up to six months. And if CSIS can't show that there are grounds for keeping that warrant in place, then normally it won't be renewed."

Walt wishes the Canucks good luck with all that. And when a follower of the Prophet shouts "Allahu akbar!" and drives a U-haul truck into a crowd of pedestrians on Yonge Street, please don't say, "Wooooah! We didn't see that coming!"

Friday, November 17, 2017

Poll: Most Canadians think Islam, Sikhism bad for their society

Just heard from Agent 3 for the second time this week. In the third week of October (he writes) he responded to a poll conducted by the respected (and politically neutral) Angus Reid organization. Since the subject was "social issues", Agent 3 responded with alacrity (and very quickly too), but, since he figured the poll was being taken on behalf of Canada's Liberal government, he didn't expect to see the results published.

Surprise! The poll of nearly 2000 Canucks was conducted in partnership with Faith in Canada 150, powered by Cardus, a think tank. It's a non-denominational initiative "designed to engage Canadians and their institutions in a rich and robust conversation on faith in our common life." They took the poll, it seems, to see what impact their efforts to Draw All Faiths Together (DAFT) have had, and released the results earlier this week... even though the results were disappointing to those who believe people of all "faith communities" should get in a big circle and sing "Kumbaya".

The survey found that Canadians are divided over whether religious diversity is healthy for the country, and consider Islam, in particular, to be a negative force. 26% of respondents said increasing religious diversity is a good thing, while 23% said it is bad. (Agent 3 didn't say which group he fell into, but we can guess, can't we.) 44% said diversity brings a mix of good and bad, and the remaining 7% were unsure or, being Canadian, too polite to say how they really feel.

Questions about respondents' views on particular religious groups revealed strong anti-Islam sentiment. 46% of those polled said Islam is damaging Canada, while only 13% per cent said it is beneficial. 20% either did not know or care to say (see above), while 21% said the "Religion of Peace" has no real impact. The pollsters said the results are in keeping with "a well-documented pattern. Namely, if Islam is involved, a significant segment of Canadians will react negatively."

Catholicism, Protestantism, evangelical Christianity and Judaism all had overall positive ratings. The only other religion with an overall negative score was Sikhism, with 22% calling it damaging and 13%. Bad news for Jagmeet Singh, the new leader of Canada's socialistic New Democrats, who makes a big point of being a practising Sikh, wearing his very tall orange turban as a kind of visual punctuation mark.

Angus Reid, the founder and president of the eponymous institute, said he found it "disheartening that Canadians are not more committed to the freedom of religion enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms." Only a slight majority — 55% — of respondents said freedom of religion makes Canada a better country, while 14% said the freedom makes Canada worse and 21% thought it has no impact. Mr Reid told an interviewer, "I think the low number of Canadians who celebrate the fact that we have religious freedom is very troubling and really speaks to the forces of secularization that are at work in Canadian society."

Mr Reid sees in the results a "potential for intolerance" towards believers, especially adherents of minority religions. Asked whether various groups' influence was growing or shrinking in Canada, respondents identified Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism as growing. Canada's more established religious groups were all seen to have a shrinking influence.

Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of Cardus, said he thinks "what we're talking about is a public narrative." He found significance in the finding that the two groups seen negatively are also those with visible religious symbols such as the hijab and turban. (The poll was taken in the same week that the Québec National Assembly passed Bill 62, which restricts the wearing of religious headgear when providing or receiving public services.) "Is it a discomfort with the particulars of their faith," Mr Pennings asked, "or is it a discomfort with the fact that they’re different than us?"

The pollsters asked about that -- about "cases where religious practice intersects with the public sphere". There was solid opposition to the niqab, a garment worn by some Muslim women that covers the entire face except the eyes. 49% of respondents said a woman in a niqab should be prohibited from visiting a government office and 29% said she should be discouraged but tolerated. Only 22% said the woman should be welcomed.

As is frequently seen on questions of religion, opinion in Québec was strongest on many of the questions. Fully 55% of Quebec respondents said Islam is damaging, and it was the only region where more people considered Judaism damaging (22%) than saw it as beneficial (11%). Québécois were most opposed to the niqab, with 68% saying it should be banned in government offices, which is the gist of Bill 62. They were also the most likely (31% vs 23% nationally) to identify increasing religious diversity as a bad thing.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Canuck foreign minister Freeland skips 5th round of NAFTA talks

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's Minister of Global Affairs [sic] is a shining example [horrible example, surely! Ed.] of the Peter Principle in action. Dr Laurence J. Peter wrote that in any organization, especially a bureaucracy, people get promoted to the level of their incompetence. Or, in the case of Ms Freeland, beyond. She was clearly in over her head as Minister for International Trade, when, only a year ago, she burst into tears and stormed out of a negotiation meant to work out a Canada-Europe Trade Agreement (CETA), crying that "These [Europeans] are impossible! I'm going home to my children!"

Fortunately for the lovely and fragrant Ms Freeland, her boss, Justin "Mr Socks" Trudeau, flew over to Brussels right sharpish and smoothed things over. The agreement, however, remains unratified as of this writing -- just another fancy but meaningless piece of paper.

Having thus demonstrated that throwing a hissy fit is a great negotiating tactic, Ms Freeland was promoted to Global Affairs, to take charge of negotiations with the USA and Mexico to revise the much-flawed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Liberal government which Junior Trudeau leads and of which Ms Freeland is a part wants NAFTA "improved" by the addition of sections designed to... wait for it... respect the rights of indigenous peoples, promote gender equality, and combat the horrors of climate change. Just what you'd expect from a gender-equal cabinet of certified limousine liberals and SJWs. Trouble is, the Americans and the Mexicans have no interest in those things. They just want to find better ways to do business together. So... things are not going well.

The fifth round of talks began in Mexico City this week, but Chrystia Freeland is not there. Neither is American trade representative Robert Lighthizer or Mexican Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal. The official explanation for their absence is that the top negotiators don't need to talk to each other, since they met on the sidelines of last week's APEC summit in Vietnam. A statement from the Canadian Ministry of Propaganda [Ed., please check.] says "Given the substantive discussions held between the ministers at APEC, the ministers agreed not to attend the fifth round so negotiators can continue to make important progress on key chapters advanced in Round 4. The chief negotiators from Mexico, the United States and Canada will be in constant communication with their respective ministers and will report on the progress reached in Round 5."

That's the party line, according to the Canadian Broadcorping Castration. [I checked. Ed.] The CBC says "a source with direct knowledge of the talks told CBC News that the push for political leaders to take a step back from the negotiating table came from Lighthizer." And that is true, according to an insider who spoke "on background" to Agent 3, but not for the reason suggested by the press release.

Walt can reveal, thanks to the inside dope just received, that the real reason is that Mr Lighthizer simply cannot stand the lovely and fragrant Chrystia Freeland. He doesn't want her at the negotiating table, or even in the same room! Not even in the same hotel! So word was sent to Ottawa that if she goes, he won't. To save face, the diplomats concocted the story that the non-meeting is by mutual agreement. Dear reader, which version of "the truth" sounds more plausible to you?

Further reading on WWW: "Questioning the CBC's love affair with Chrystia Freeland", WWW 8/10/17, and "Bill Maher calls BS on 'shared values' with Muslims", WWW 18/4/17, which includes a great video of Mr Maher -- no friend of Walt's -- destroying the legal blonde cabinet minister.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

VIDEO: Mugabes under house arrest as Zimbabwean army takes over

This is an update on yesterday's post predicting a military coup in the failing state of Zimbabwe. Yesterday, Zimbabwean National Army commander Constantino Chiwenga issued an unprecedented statement saying purges against senior ruling party officials linked to the 1970s liberation war should end "forthwith". "When it comes to matters of protecting our revolution," he said, "the military will not hesitate to step in." And lo, it has come to pass. Lifetime pct .992.

Today a spokesthingy for the army announced on state-owned radio and TV stations that they have President Robert Mugabe and his wife in custody, and are securing government offices and patrolling the streets of the capital, Harare, following a night of unrest. In an address to the nation after taking control of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Maj.-Gen. Sibusiso Moyo said the military is targeting "criminals" around Mugabe, and sought to reassure the country that order will be restored. Without saying where Mugabe and his wife are being held, Moyo said, "Their security is guaranteed."

Although these events have all the hallmarks of a coup, supporters of the military praised their actions as a "bloodless correction". In the video, you see armed soldiers in bakkies (= pickup trucks) and armoured personnel carriers stationed at key points in Harare. Walt notes that the personnel carriers are the same antiquated vehicles in use when he lived in the country, twenty years ago. Then, as now, they were seen broken down or out of diesel at the roadside! Meanwhile, Zimbabweans formed long lines at banks in order to draw the limited cash available, a routine chore in the country's ongoing financial crisis. People looked at their phones to read about the army takeover and others went to work or to shops.

Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, says he has spoken with Comrade Bob, and that the 93-year-old dictator is confined to one of his homes -- which one was unclear -- but is "fine". A statement from Mr Zuma's office says, in his capacity as Chair of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Mr Zuma is sending South Africa's ministers of defence and state security to Zimbabwe to meet with Mr Mugabe and the military. The purpose of the meeting is unclear, but may be to arrange for the Mugabes, Bob and the lovely Grace, to go into exile into the neighbouring country. The problem with that is that President Zuma's hold on office is slipping. If he is deposed, where will he and his several wives, along with the Mugabes, run then? It is said that SADC will continue to monitor the situation closely. So will Walt. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

UPDATED: Zimbabwe braces for military coup to oust Mugabes

Assiduous readers of WWW will know that Walt has a keen interest in Zimbabwe, that failing state in the southern part of the Dark Continent where he lurked [worked, surely! Ed.] in the last decade of the 20th century. Walt got out just before the country's currency tanked completely, but still follows the news from the land of bambazonke. (If you ever lived there, you'll know what that means.)

The present state of play is that the Mugabe's rule, as has been the case since independence in 1980. Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe, on the right in the picture, started out as Prime Minister, then became President as well, and later decided the country didn't need a prime minister anyway. He is now said to be wondering if there's any point in having himself declared Emperor. Perhaps President-for-Life would be enough, doing away with the need to rig elections every five years or so.

Pictured on the left, at Bob's right hand, is his second wife, DisGrace [just "Grace", surely! Ed.], with whom he was having an affair as his first wife lay dying of kidney failure. He eventually made her "Mrs Mugabe", going so far as to have the wedding blessed by the toadying Archbishop of Harare. But so far he has been unable to put her into any high office, other than the purely ceremonial one of "First Lady". Even that entitles her to a diplomatic passport, it seems, which has been enough to save her from arrest for assault in both London and Johannesburg.

Still, Grace aspires to a loftier position, perhaps that of President, once her husband, going on 94, dies of lead poisoning or other causes. Her path to the presidential throne became clearer last week, when Comrade Bob unceremoniously dumped his senior Vice-President, a veteran of the "liberation wars" named Emerson Mnangagwa. (Try and say that three times, quick!) It is expected that Zimbabwe's Shopper-in-Chief will be appointed to fill the vacancy at the ruling ZANU-PF party congress in December. That would set her up to be President, in the event that -- God forbid -- anything happens to her husband.

The fly in the ointment is that the Zimbabwean National Army (ZNA) is not fond of the lovely Grace, but loyal to Comrade Mnangagwa. Yesterday, ZNA commander Constantino Chiwenga issued an unprecedented statement saying purges against senior ruling party officials linked to the 1970s liberation war should end "forthwith". "We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution," the army chief said, "the military will not hesitate to step in."

The military statement was not reported on by the state-run broadcaster. Government spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo said only the president could respond, but Comrade Bob did not comment. The state-run broadcaster did not report on the statement. But this morning, AP reports, three armoured personnel carriers full of soldiers were seen in a convoy on a road heading toward an army barracks just outside Harare, Zimbabwe's capital city.

No army spokesman was immediately available for comment today. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, the state broadcaster, was operating as usual, and the capital remained calm... waiting with bated breath, no doubt.

UPDATE ADDED 1145 14/11/17
: AP reports that this evening (local time) ZANU-PF has issued a statement accusing the ZNA commander of "treasonable conduct" for his threat to have the military step in. The statement said the unprecedented comments made yesterday Gen. Constantino Chiwenga were "clearly calculated to disturb national peace and stability" and were "meant to incite insurrection." Insurrection, izzit? Zimbabweans are waiting. In fact they've been waiting for decades!

Further reading
about Mugabe's Zimbabwe on WWW: "Is Zimbabwe's Comrade Bob Mugabe dead or just sleeping?", WWW 3/3/17; "Zimbabwean dictator appointed to, then removed from WHO post", WWW 22/10/17.