Thursday, August 28, 2014

Imperial Metals Designs on Clayoquot Sound: Environmental Org and First Nations Sound Warning

Mount Polley in Clayoquot Sound?

by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

On August 4th the retaining wall for the tailings pond at the Mount Polley open pit copper mine failed.

There has been a lot of speculation about what “caused” the damn to fail and why the largest toxic breach in Canadian history happened.

For us here in Clayoquot Sound it is clear that any one of the potential causes, - faulty engineering, lack of government oversight, corporations cutting corners, or even (as was initially suggested) human error - could cause a tailings breach and irrevocable damage in any ecosystem surrounding a mining operation.

Imperial Metals, the company that owns and operates Mount Polley also owns two claims here in Clayoquot Sound, a copper deposit in Catface Mountain and the Fandora gold deposit in Tranquil Valley. Friends of Clayoquot Sound (FOCS) oppose developing these deposits and the Mount Polley disaster has served as a dramatic reminder of how important our work is.

FOCS has been working alongside the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to get a mining ban on Tla-o-qui-aht traditional territory and prevent the risk of a Mount Polley-style event happening here. FOCS campaigner Emery Hartley and Tla-o-qui-aht councilor Terry Dorward were recently interviewed about their position on mining in Clayoquot Sound; you can hear that interview at this link (the segment starts at 14:48).

Please consider making a contribution to help our campaign for a mining ban on Tla-o-qui-aht territories.

McGill and the Military: Quebec University Hides Ties in Somali Psych. Study

McGill researchers concealed military ties from human subjects in violation of ethics rules

by Demilitarize McGill

Researchers funded by the Canadian military at McGill's psychology department lied to Somali Canadian research subjects about the military's involvement in a 2012 study, in a serious breach of research ethics. This disclosure is among several contained in a summary of findings newly published by Demilitarize McGill, a campus group opposed to military research.

In 2012 Professor Donald Taylor and graduate student Michael King of McGill reported to the "Socio-Cognitive Systems Section" of Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) on military-funded research investigating young Somali Canadians and their ostensible propensity to support terrorism.

[View the report here]

Though provisions of the Tri-Council Policy Statement, which governs research ethics across Canada, require informed consent to include a "statement of the research purpose in plain language" as well as "the identity of the funder or sponsor," McGill researchers communicated neither the military purpose nor the military financing of the research to subjects, according to the consent form included in the report.

The disclosure comes as McGill prepares to begin a research policy review process, which Principal Suzanne Fortier has offered as an answer to mounting student opposition to military research. According to Demilitarize McGill member Mona Luxion, "never has it been more clear that the route to restricting military research on campus is not through a policy review.

McGill can't even meet the minimal ethics standards they've set for themselves. The disregard for research ethics shown by Prof. Taylor and the University shows that when research policy makes things inconvenient for military researchers at McGill, they will simply find a way around it, or ignore it."

Demilitarize McGill contends that the research itself "functions as a justification for the Canadian state's racial profiling and the targeting of migrants and people of color by its police and intelligence agencies [and while] claiming to 'give a voice to Somali Canadians,' ... lends an academic veneer of legitimacy to racist surveillance and policing practices."

"Conducting research on people which asks them to reveal highly personal details about their feelings and beliefs, their religion, their identity, without telling them that the research is designed to increase the state's capabilities to surveil them, is indefensible," says Demilitarize McGill member Kevin Paul.

The theme of the Demilitarize McGill document is "McGill’s Complicity in Racialized State Violence and the Repression of Social Struggles." Other findings include research by a computer science professor, Derek Ruths, tied to DRDC, CSIS, the RCMP, and the CIA, on social network analysis and control theory.

In a 2014 paper, Prof. Ruths wrote that his research is applicable to controlling social unrest. Demilitarize McGill also points to the domestic policing applications of McGill's drone research, writing that "the governments McGill partners with on military drone [R&D] are beginning to deploy drones domestically against protests, and its corporate partners are marketing drones for the same purpose."

Demilitarize McGill began carrying out blockades of military research labs at McGill last winter. The group plans to hold an open meeting in mid-September, where students will be invited to discuss issues surrounding military research and get involved in organizing opposition.

- 30 -

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
28 August 2014

Media contacts:

Kevin Paul

Isaac Stethem

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Obama Promises More War in Iraq and Syria

Obama vows protracted military campaign in Iraq, Syria

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

President Barack Obama delivered a militarist speech Tuesday to the annual convention of the American Legion in Charlotte, North Carolina amid reports that US spy drones are already operating over Syria and air strikes could begin there by the end of this week.

Obama told the veterans’ organization that “the United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world,” a boast that is belied by the bloody debacle unleashed throughout North Africa and the Middle East by a string of US military interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Turning to the present intervention in Iraq following the overrunning of much of the country by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a split-off from Al Qaeda, the US president reiterated the formal pretexts for US military action: protecting “our diplomats and military advisors who are there,” and humanitarian assistance.

He vowed that “American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq,” and declared that the “answer is not to send in large-scale military deployments.” Both formulations leave open the deployment of thousands of US “advisors” and Special Operations troops, which are not defined in military terminology as “combat troops,” a term reserved for full regular Army brigades and Marine expeditionary units.

Since launching the first US air strikes in Iraq last month, the Obama administration has already rushed another 1,000 US troops into the country. The US Central Command reported two more air strikes on Tuesday near the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Irbil. The targets were reported to be ISIS armored vehicles, likely captured from the US-supplied Iraqi Army stockpile. Thus far, the US has carried out roughly 100 air strikes in Iraq.

Obama spoke Tuesday of “a broader strategy” that would supposedly include arming local forces, including the Iraqi government, the Iraqi Kurdish militia and the “moderate opposition in Syria,” and forging an “international coalition.” But he vowed that his administration “will continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and defend our homeland.” He invoked the barbaric execution of American photojournalist James Foley as a pretext for American military action, declaring that “justice will be done.”

Obama went on to warn that “rooting out a cancer like ISIL [an alternate name for ISIS] won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” indicating that Washington is preparing for an expanding and protracted military intervention in the region.

The US president provided no specifics on the escalating US operations, but government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said Tuesday that US spy planes were already deployed over Syria in preparation for US air strikes.

NBC news reported Tuesday that the spy flights involved both manned aircraft and unmanned drones. It cited US officials as saying that, while no decision had yet been made, Obama could authorize air strikes by the end of this week.

Meanwhile, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters onboard a military plane en route to Afghanistan that, while he believes at present ISIS represents a “regional threat” and not a direct threat to the US, he is prepared to shift this assessment. Once the general “determines that the Islamic militants in Iraq have become a direct threat to the US homeland,” the Associated Press reported, “he will recommend that the US military move directly against the group in Syria.”

The clear implication is that the United States is just one purported “terrorist plot” away from a direct military intervention in yet another Middle Eastern country.

The evident political complication confronting the US administration as it prepares to extend its military action in Iraq into neighboring Syria is that it is proposing to bomb forces it previously supported as “rebels” against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Just one year ago, Obama was seeking congressional approval to bomb Syrian government forces on the fabricated pretext that the Assad regime had crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons in the civil war with ISIS and other Sunni Islamist forces. He was compelled to back down from this threat in the face of massive popular opposition as well as the failure of either the US Congress or the British Parliament to back direct military intervention.

Now, utilizing the atrocities committed by ISIS, including the beheading of Foley, the administration does not expect to encounter significant opposition in Washington or London or even demands that it seek congressional authorization for a bombing campaign.

There were reports Tuesday that the US is already collaborating indirectly with the Assad regime by providing intelligence from US spy flights to the Syrian military, which conducted dozens of bombing raids on ISIS strongholds in eastern Syria on Tuesday. According to the AFP news agency, “The cooperation has already begun and the United States is giving Damascus information via Baghdad and Moscow.”

The only direct official response to the report was a tweet from State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf asserting that “the claims in that story are false.”

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem declared on Monday that the Syrian government was prepared “to cooperate and coordinate” with other countries in combating ISIS, but warned that any unilateral air strikes carried out without the approval of Damascus would be “considered aggression.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday, “There are no plans to coordinate with the Assad regime” on any military action within Syria.

The clear implication is that, while Washington is preparing to intervene in Syria on the pretense of defeating ISIS, its goal remains regime-change—the toppling of what would be a third secular Arab head of state, following the overthrow and killing of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Behind the rhetoric about protecting Americans and combating terror, US imperialism is prepared to unleash an even more catastrophic regional war to further its drive to break up the current state structures and assert its hegemony over the oil-rich Middle East.

A Moral Perversity of Staggering Dimensions

Why moral perversity of U.S. position in Gaza is stunning

by Roger Waters

 I think it's safe to say that if U.S. neighborhoods were living under siege, folks like Rand Paul wouldn't take it

The carnage in Gaza continues after the latest collapse of cease-fire talks and over four weeks of asymmetrical bombardment by Israel. With the death of more than 2,000 Palestinians, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more, the complicity of the American government has been exposed to the world as never before. Yet the mantra repeated ad nauseam by the U.S. government and media alike remains the same: Israel has a right to defend itself.

The moral perversity of the U.S. position is stunning. How can the U.S. government ask Israel to be more careful about civilian lives while simultaneously arming and then rearming the IDF so it can more effectively inflict such devastation on an imprisoned and occupied people?

The U.S. could act to stop the senseless slaughter but it won’t. Instead, it’s cheerleading. Members of Congress are mindlessly parroting Israeli talking points without a thought given to the Palestinian perspective or to preserving human life. Brimming with righteousness, they argue for turning Israel loose – Sen. Rand Paul in particular – and invoke Israel’s right to self-defense, despite the fact that, as the occupying power, Israel has an obligation to protect the Palestinians it rules, not massacre them.

Do congressional leaders ever stop to wonder what they would do if they were born Palestinian, had their homes and private property stolen from them, and were forced to live without freedom under an illegal Israeli occupation for 47 years? Do they know what it means to be on the receiving end of Israel’s barbaric “mow the lawn” euphemism? Scarcely a word is said about the rights of Palestinians who are being pummeled from the sky and shot dead in their neighborhoods by the region’s most powerful military. What, I wonder, would Americans do if it were their neighborhoods being invaded and if they were the ones living under siege? I think it’s safe to say Americans wouldn’t stand for it.

Despite these realities, it’s far more advantageous in Washington to come down like a ton of bricks on the Palestinians and maintain that they are the cause of their own suffering. No politician’s career has ever been hurt by blaming Palestinians or by applauding Israel’s illegal occupation, colonization and war crimes.

Pressure on American politicians to conform to the party line is abetted by skewed media coverage. For instance, CNN, while purporting to be a news channel, relentlessly churns out Israeli propaganda.

It is easy for those of us who do not live under the tyranny of the occupation to condemn the military wing of Hamas for using randomly fired rockets that might cause civilian casualties in neighboring Israel, and I do unreservedly condemn it. Having said that, an occupied population has the legal right to resist the military of the occupier. The occupier has a legal obligation to protect the occupied. Under these circumstances the reporting on CNN is biased beyond all belief.

Numerically, one can readily see the bias. Far more pro-Israel guests than pro-Palestinian experts are invited on air to make their case.

An exception to that general rule, and obviously not on CNN, is Henry Siegman, a prominent Jewish voice and a former national director of the American Jewish Congress, who recently got the opportunity to expose the shortcomings of Israeli talking points. Siegman was interviewed fairly and in depth by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! Sadly Democracy Now! is not mainstream media. If only it were!

Contrast that appearance with the reception Yousef Munayyer received during an extraordinarily “unfair” Fox News interview by the execrable Sean Hannity. Actually, to dignify Hannity’s rude and infantile shouting and finger pointing as an “interview” would be wrong.

If only CNN – or Fox, for that matter – would sometimes rely for their analyses on someone as intelligent and humane as Siegman. Unfortunately, however, CNN persisted for weeks with the extremely biased analysis of Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren. Even CNN appears to have recognized how biased a contributor Oren was as it recently changed his title from CNN analyst to former ambassador.

Staunchly pro-Israel voices like Oren’s have resoundingly proclaimed: Any resistance, violent or nonviolent, in fact any criticism of Israeli colonization and denial of Palestinian rights, is off limits. What they are advocating, in essence, is perpetual armed conflict until greater Israel is a fait accompli, and complete Israeli domination over any surviving Palestinians is accepted as a reasonable status quo. Commentators such as Oren feign interest in a two-state peaceful solution but they and the state they represent resist all attempts to implement such a plan.

On a positive note, I take heart from the fact that support for Jewish Voice for Peace has skyrocketed over the last month as members of the American Jewish community, appalled at Israel’s actions, have looked for a place to register their concern. JVP advocates for an end to occupation and the siege on Gaza, for Palestinian rights – as dictated by international law – and peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike. It primarily does so by educating people with basic facts and by using the tools of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions to apply pressure on Israel to cease its human rights abuses.

Additionally, we welcome Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz to the swelling ranks of celebrity dissenters. Their courageous stand is a beacon to us all. We need many more like them if we are to shift the discourse and persuade the American and Israeli governments to adopt more realistic, humane and hopefully fruitful policies.

To paraphrase Siegman, “If you want to stop the rockets, end the siege of Gaza and the occupation of both Gaza and the West Bank.” 

He sounds like a sage but this is just common sense. If I might stick in my two pennies’ worth, why not then engage in serious conversations with the Unity Palestinian Government, which up to now Israel has seemed determined to destroy.

The U.S. Congress, far too beholden to the right-wing Israel lobby, will be the last to figure out this tragic jigsaw puzzle and human catastrophe and grasp the critical need for a political solution. And mainstream media, if unchallenged, will continue to distort reality and embolden the counterproductive, AIPAC-driven unrealistic position that it portrays as fact.

On a personal note, I am pro-human rights for all peoples all over the world. I am pro-peace for all Israelis and Palestinians. I am not singling out Israel. I deplore all abuses and violence, whether in Syria, China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, England, the USA, Egypt, Libya, wherever. That said, international law was designed to protect against such human rights violations and should be applied fairly to all.

In the case of Israel/Palestine, legal channels have yet to be seriously pursued. Consequently, change will continue to be led by popular efforts. Specifically, the growing nonviolent BDS campaign offers the best chance of successfully pressuring Israel to alter its ways and allow for Palestinian freedom and rights. Despite major efforts to destroy it, more and more people are joining the BDS movement. It is this growing momentum that gives me hope that, together, the people of the world will eventually help deliver what governments have been unwilling to secure: justice and a lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

I wrote a short poem a few days ago that I have been encouraged to append here.

It is called “Crystal Clear Brooks.” Although it expresses my feelings, I cannot but think that the children in Gaza would give anything but their birthright and their pride and their basic human rights for a glass of crystal clear water. And, I think too, of the Bakr children, the sons of fishermen, who were slain while playing on a Gaza beach.

Crystal clear brooks

When the time comes

And the last day dawns

And the air of the piper warms

The high crags of the old country

When the holy writ blows

Like burned paper away

And wise men concede

That there’s more than one way

More than one path

More than one book

More than one fisherman

More than one hook

When the cats have been skinned

And the fish have been hooked

When the masters of war

Are our masters no more

When old friends take their whiskey

Outside on the porch

We will have done well

If we’re able to say

As the sun settles down

On that final day

That we never gave in

That we did all we could

So the kids could go fishing

In crystal clear brooks.

The Arab Role in Defeating Gaza (and political Islam)


Fearing Political Islam: Why Was Gaza Betrayed

by Ramzy Baroud - PalestineChronicle.com

Ask any Arab ruler, and they will tell you of the great sacrifices their countries have made for Palestine and the Palestinians. However, both history and present reality are testaments, not only to Arab failure to live up to the role expected of them and stand in solidarity with their own oppressed brethren, but also to the official Arab betrayal of the Palestinian cause. The current war on Gaza, and the dubious role played by Egypt in the ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel are cases in point.

Read this comments by Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington to appreciate the depth of the unmistakable Arab betrayal. “I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummeling of Hamas,” Miller told the New York Times. “The silence is deafening.”

Miller explains Arab silence in relations to their loathing of political Islam which rose to prominence following the so-called Arab Spring. Such rise saw the advent of movements like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Nahda in Tunisia to the centers of power. The ‘Arab Spring’ challenged and, at least temporarily, disabled the hegemony over power by corruption-ridden, pro-western Arab elites, unleashing the energies of civil societies that have been historically marginalized.

Political Islam, especially that which is affiliated with moderate Islamic ideology known as al-Wasatiyyah (roughly translated as ‘moderation’) swept-up the votes in several democratic elections. Like Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian elections in 2006, other such Islamic movements followed suit the moment the ‘Arab Spring’ pushed open a small margin for democracy and freedom of expression.

The danger of political Islamic movements that don’t adhere to an extremist ideology like that of the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, for example, is that they are not easy to dismiss as ‘extremists,’ ‘terrorists’, and such. At times, in fact, often, they seem much more inclined to play the democratic game than self-proclaimed Arab ‘secularist’, ‘liberal’ and ‘socialist’ movements.

Israel’s most recent war on Gaza, starting on July 7, came at a time that political Islam was being routed out in Egypt and criminalized in other Arab countries. It was the first major Israeli military attack on Gaza since the ousting of democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi on July 3, 2013. Although the Israeli war morphed in the course of a few days to that of a genocide (thousands killed, thousands wounded, and nearly fourth of the Gazan population made homeless), most Arab countries remained mostly silent. They mouthed-off some random condemnations that meant so very little. Egypt, however, went even further.

Soon after the Israeli war ‘Operation Protective Edge’ began, Egypt proposed a most suspicious cease-fire, one that even the Times found peculiar. “The government in Cairo .. surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group (Hamas),” wrote David Kirkpatrick on July 30. Hamas, the main Palestinian party in the conflict, which is also declared by Egypt’s government as ‘terrorist,’ was not consulted and only learned about the proposal through the media. But, of course, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the Egyptian proposal; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a main rival of Hamas, and a strong opponent of armed resistance (and arguably, any form of Palestinian resistance, really) welcomed the ‘brotherly’ Egyptian gesture; other Arab rulers rushed to commend Egypt’s Abdul Fatah al-Sisi for his astute regional leadership.

Of course, the whole exercise was a farce, meant to eventually blame Hamas and the resistance in Gaza for refusing an end to the conflict (which they didn’t start and were its ultimate victim), and to prop up Sisi as the new icon of peace and moderation in the region; the kind of ‘strong man’ with whom the United States government liked to do business.

It all failed, of course, for one single reason, the Gaza resistance held its ground, costing Israel serious military losses, and igniting worldwide sympathy and respect.

But no respect came from traditional Arab governments, of course, including those who praise the legendary ‘sumoud’ - steadfastness - of the Palestinian people at every opportunity, speech and sermon. The renewed success of Hamas, which arguably had been fading away into oblivion after the overthrow of Egypt’s brotherhood, and the severing of ties with Damascus and Tehran, was puzzling, and immensely frustrating to these governments.

If Hamas survives the Gaza battle, the resistance will promote its endurance before the Middle East’s supposedly strongest army as a victory. Netanyahu will suffer dire consequences at home. Ties between Hamas and Iran could be renewed. The ‘resistance camp’ could once more rekindle. The moral victory for the Brotherhood and the moral defeat of Sisi (and his prospected regional role) would be astounding.

An alliance of sorts was founded between several Arab countries and Israel to ensure the demise of the resistance in Gaza - not just the resistance as an idea, and its practical expressions, but also its political manifestations as well, which are felt far and beyond the confines of Gaza’s besieged borders.

Former Israel lobbyist and current vice president of the Brookings Institution in Washington, Martin Indyk has an explanation. “There’s an ‘alignment of interests’ between nations that aren’t allies, yet have ‘common adversaries’,” Indyk told Bloomberg. “As they see that the US is less engaged than it was before, it’s natural that they look to each other - quietly, under the table in most respects - to find a way to help each other.”

Naturally, the latest round of cease-fire talks in Cairo failed because the party that is hosting the talks deems the leading Palestinian resistance group Hamas, ‘terrorist’ and would hate to see a scenario in which Gaza prevails over Israel. If the resistance demand of ending the siege is met, especially the demand of reactivating the Gaza seaport and airport, Egypt would be denied a major leverage against Hamas, the resistance, and the Palestinian people altogether.

And if the resistance wins - as in holding the Israeli military at bay, and achieving some of its demands - the political discourse of the Middle East is likely to change altogether, where the weak will, once again, dare challenge the strong by demanding reforms, democracy, and threatening resistance as a realistic way to achieve such objectives.

Interestingly, the Hamas victory in the Palestinian Legislative Elections in 2006 had revived the possibility of political Islam in achieving its goals via the ballot box, which was a harbinger of the rise of political Islam throughout the region following the ‘Arab Spring.’ Any victory for Palestinian resistance can also be considered equally as dangerous for those who want to maintain the status quo throughout the region.

Some Arab rulers continue to declare their strong support of Palestine and its cause. ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ however, has exposed beyond a doubt that such solidarity is just a mere show of words; and that, although discretely, some Arabs wish to see Israel crush any semblance of Palestinian resistance, in Gaza and anywhere else.

Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People's History at the University of Exeter. He is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Kevin Pina, Yves Engler, Janine Bandcroft Aug. 27, 2014

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com

The political situation in Haiti is hotting up and could erupt at any moment. At the heart of the fire this time is President Martelly's determination to again scapegoat Jean Bertrand Aristide, using charges of: "illicit drug trafficking, embezzlement of public funds, forfeiture and concussion, and money laundering." to distract the public from his failures to address the many serious issues Haiti faces.

As it stands, an arrest warrant has been issued for Aristide's failure to appear in court to answer charges on August 13th, and he is at home, surrounded by loyalists protecting the former president from the police.

Kevin Pina is an American filmmaker, journalist, educator, and broadcaster with Pacifica Radio's public affairs program, Flashpoints.

Listen. Hear.

Pina's film credits include: 'El Salvador: In the Name of Democracy,' 'Berkeley in the Sixties,' 'Amazonia: Voices from the Rainforest,' 'Haiti: Harvest of Hope,' 'Haiti: The UNtold Story,' and 'HAITI: We Must Kill the Bandits.' Kevin has lived and reported from Haiti, and was arrested by the infamous Baby Doc Duvalier for reporting on the abuses of that regime.

Kevin Pina in the first half.

And; Israel's bombardment of the captured population of the Gaza Strip continued this week with the Israel Defense Forces capping the seven weeks-long blitzkrieg by upping its game and targeting highrise apartment buildings. Predictably, the government of Canada remained mostly mute on the serial war crimes and crimes against humanity being conducted by its "good friend" Israel, throughout blaming Hamas, the governing body in Gaza, for Palestinians killed, maimed, and made homeless.

Late yesterday, (Aug. 26/'14) an "unlimited truce" was announced by Israel. Canada's Foreign Affairs minister, John Baird welcomed the truce announcement, but cautioned; "Israel will be forced to continue defending itself as long as Hamas continues its rocket attacks against civilians, and Hamas will be solely to blame for any further loss of life." Beyond raising questions about what sort of grip on reality minister Baird is capable of exerting, the Stephen Harper New Government's behaviour begs investigation of the Canada/Israel relationship, and how that relationship abets the horrors repeatedly witnessed in Occupied Palestine.

Yves Engler is a Canadian activist, lecturer, journalist, and author. Some of Yves' titles include; 'The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy,'Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid,' 'Lester Pearson's Peacekeeping The Truth May Hurt,' and his latest, 'The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.'

Yves Engler and Canada's tax-deductible aid to Israel's genocide in Gaza in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Radio broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of what's good to do in and around our city in the coming week, and beyond there too. But first, Kevin Pina and the ritual pre-election smearing of Haiti's former president, Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca. He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: http://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

The Death of Remorse: How Teevee Kills Our Humanity

Sociopathic Syndrome

by Murray Dobbin - CounterPunch

Remorselessness is all the rage in politics, art and commerce. Who’s smiling?

I confess. I have been binge-watching TV series. Lately I have narrowed my watching mostly to The West Wing, an old favourite about a Democratic president, Jed Bartlet, portraying the manic, day-to-day crisis management of the White House. But in my defence I am doing so in part as an antidote to another series I quit watching because the values it displayed and promoted were so execrable.

The award-winning House of Cards stars Kevin Spacey as a ruthless congressman seeking revenge (and higher office) for being betrayed by “his” president. Both these series are exceptionally well-written and well-acted. But one actually features characters who are trying to accomplish laudable social objectives (for the most part) and who treat each other with genuine respect and even affection. House of Cards never allows such sentiment to prevail or even appear, except as a reflection of weakness and naivete. It’s all about varying degrees of ruthlessness and we are clearly supposed to admire Spacey as a masterful practitioner of the Machiavellian arts.

Of course House of Cards is not the only series people are bingeing on. There is another popular series praised for its high production values, writing and its atmospheric tone. The “hero” is Walt, a high school chemistry teacher who starts dabbling in meth production and then gets deeper and deeper into the murderous meth business. He may be the only TV hero who is a psychopathic killer. I quit watching this one after the episode in which he orders the murders of nine convicts who could expose his role.


People who are addicted to this series manage, somehow, to rationalize their attraction by referring to how incredibly well produced and acted it is. I don’t care how well acted it is. It is grotesque, a vehicle for gratuitous violence and the demeaning of life, an assault on human sensibility. 

My advice — which no one will take — is to spend a few minutes asking yourself what a celebration of murderous psychopathy might be doing to your own mental state. While you are at it ask yourself what your limits are: what level of human depravity exploration would finally compel you to switch channels?

I don’t know if watching such series actually does any lasting epigenetic damage but an appeal to simple self-respect and social consciousness should be enough to launch a boycott of this ugly entertainment. Why? Because this sick amorality isn’t just on TV. It is everywhere — in too many politicians (Stephen Harper, Tony Blair, Benjamin Netanyahu, Dick Cheney come to mind), too many CEOs, and if you watched The Wolf of Wall Street (all of which was based on true accounts) virtually all of Wall Street, and in too many of our institutions (like the RCMP). And it’s now in popular non-fiction literature and on the internet.

As reported recently by Canadian author Patricia Pearson: “The celebration of remorselessness is everywhere. Friends on Facebook have lately been reporting their scores on widely circulating psychopathy quizzes that ask users to agree or disagree with statements such as, ‘I never feel remorse, shame or guilt about something I’ve said or done.’ ‘I’m 19 per cent psychopath!’ they announce. Or: ‘I scored five out of 10!’ As if the chilling absence of human empathy I witnessed as a crime reporter in covering trials like that of serial killer Paul Bernardo had become a fun little personality quirk.”

James Fallon, the author of The Psychopath Inside actually refers to himself as a pro-social psychopath “who chooses not to murder people even though, admittedly, he cares not one whit if he harms them in other ways.”

How is it possible that this idiocy passes for rational, acceptable narrative? Pearson rightly asks “What fire, exactly, are we playing with? Have we taken a tolerance of difference, of identity, of moral relativism, too far? … The issue, fundamentally, is moral. What kind of a society do we wish to inhabit, with what kinds of leaders and heroes?”

Pearson quotes Adam Kotsko, author of Why We Love Sociopaths: A Guide to Late Capitalist Television:

“People enjoy watching sociopaths on television as a kind of compensation for their own feelings of powerlessness and helplessness.” 

Now we’re getting closer to the root of the problem: the inexorable imposition of capitalist social relations. What is the source of the average person’s “powerless and helplessness” if not the hyper-competitiveness of late capitalism? It’s a competitiveness in which almost all but the One Per cent lose — with tax cuts, privilege and ever-increasing wealth accumulation fixing the game.

The stronger the imperative to compete, the weaker become family, community and friendship connections, because in rampant consumer capitalism — promoted and reinforced by television culture — such connections are seen as irrelevant. Or worse, they are seen as weak and inefficient means, if not actual barriers, to the end of achieving more stuff. We are competing in a zero-sum game whose rules are written by those with psychopathic tendencies.

As Fred Guerin writes in Truthout,

“Obedience, docility, amorality and careerism will be duly rewarded. Those who can regularly suspend any desire they have to think from the perspective of another, or on behalf of a more universal or common good will be promoted.”

Guerin is getting at the real roots of our crisis in democracy. It is not first-past-the-post voting systems, or the cancellation of government funding for parties, or even the role of TV advertising. It is at its core our gradual acquiescence “to things that are contrary to our individual and communal interests.” This acquiescence, say Guerin, is the “consequence of very gradual political and corporate indoctrination that consolidates power not only by inducing fear and uncertainty, but also by rewarding unbridled greed, opportunism and self-interest.”

Is there an antidote to this death-culture? Can we reclaim our capacity to think beyond our immediate self-interest and regain our political agency — our ability to act as citizens and not just consumers? Can we begin to create a shared space where we can actually imagine a future worth having, talk about big ideas and recover the notion that we can act in concert for the broader good?

It comes down to the question of political agency. So perhaps the more important question is not what should be done but who is going to do it? Our gradual accommodation to the new and enervating normal means that none of our existing institutions are now capable of engineering this recovery. They are spent forces fighting on the edges of the battle.

If that is the case where do we start? While it is naive to suggest that individual action will bring down corporate capitalism it is obvious to anyone not distracted by the shopping mall that it must be ended — or it will destroy life on this planet. So perhaps we do need to start at the political equivalent of the molecular level, with the most basic human principles that provide us with the capacity to resist, to act in concert, to get beyond our possessive individualism.

What is it, for example, that causes otherwise consumption-addled North Americans to suddenly demonstrate generosity, compassion, and benevolence when confronted by the aftermath of some natural disaster like a flood or tornado? What is missing in everyday life without disaster that allows us to acquiesce to things that do us great harm?

British writer Barbara Taylor has suggested in her essay “On Kindness” (co-authored by Adam Phillips) that the missing ingredient is just that: kindness. The authors point out that for almost all of human history, people considered themselves naturally kind. Christian philosophy called on people to “love thy neighbour as thyself.” But by the 17th century kindness was under attack by competitive individualism. Today, says Taylor, “An image of self has been created that is utterly lacking in natural generosity.” This is in spite of numerous studies that show giving provides far more pleasure than taking. People involved in these studies are astonished by the results — and simply don’t trust them.

The recovery of kindness would be a threat to the existing order. That is because “it is not that real kindness requires people to be selfless, it is rather than real kindness changes people in the doing of it, often in unpredictable ways…. It is a risk precisely because it mingles our needs and desires with the needs and desires of others in a way that self-interest never can.” Could this be the key to recovering what Guerin referred to as “possibility and human creativity”? Taylor clearly thinks so, as the kindness she is talking about “creates the kind of intimacy, the kind of involvement with other people that we both fear and crave;… kindness, fundamentally, makes life worth living… everything that is against kindness is against hope.”

Kindness, or “mutual belonging” has become our great taboo. It hangs on by the skin of its teeth in the imperative to carry out “random acts of kindness.” Instead let’s try purposive acts of kindness, challenge competitive individualism and begin imagining the end of capitalism.

Rise of the Muckrakers: A Golden Age of Investigative Journalism?


The Fall and Rise of Investigative Journalism: From Asia to Africa to Latin America, Muckrakers Have Corrupt Officials and Corporate Cronies on the Run

by Anya Schiffrin  - TomDispatch

In our world, the news about the news is often grim. Newspapers are shrinking, folding up, or being cut loose by their parent companies. Layoffs are up and staffs are down. That investigative reporter who covered the state capitol -- she’s not there anymore. Newspapers like the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune have suffered from multiple rounds of layoffs over the years. You know the story and it would be easy enough to imagine that it was the world’s story as well. But despite a long run of journalistic tough times, the loss of advertising dollars, and the challenge of the Internet, there’s been a blossoming of investigative journalism across the globe from Honduras to Myanmar, New Zealand to Indonesia.

Woodward and Bernstein may be a fading memory in this country, but journalists with names largely unknown in the U.S. like Khadija Ismayilova, Rafael Marques, and Gianina Segnina are breaking one blockbuster story after another, exposing corrupt government officials and their crony corporate pals in Azerbaijan, Angola, and Costa Rica. As I travel the world, I’m energized by the journalists I meet who are taking great risks to shine much needed light on shadowy wrongdoing.

And I’m not the only one to notice.

Tomgram: Anya Schiffrin, Who Knew We Were Living in the Golden Age of Investigative Journalism?

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Here’s my end-of-summer reading list -- three books already highlighted in the most recent TD pieces and a bonus volume. As with today’s post, so Anya Schiffrin’s eye-opening new book, Global Muckraking: 100 Years of Investigative Journalism From Around the World, offers a genuine dose of hope when it comes to investigative reporting on a global level. Patrick Cockburn’s latest book on the rise of ISIS (and the collapse of much of the Middle East), The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the region, which essentially should mean all of us. Aviva Chomsky’s Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal provides a necessary framework for an issue that continues to grip the country. As for my bonus choice of the late summer, I just finished a riveting new thriller by one of my favorite columnists, the Boston Globe’s James Carroll. Warburg in Rome, his novel about the Pope, the Catholic Church, Jews just out of the concentration camps, the U.S. military, and the ways various Nazis escaped from Europe in the wake of World War II, kept me reading late into the night. Tom]

Almost a decade ago, I spent more than a year freelancing for a major metropolitan newspaper -- one of the biggest in the country. I would, on an intermittent basis, work out of a newsroom that appeared to be in a state of constant churn. Whoever wasn’t being downsized seemed to be jumping ship or madly searching for a life raft. It looked as if bean counters were beating reporters and editors into submission or sending them out of the business and into journalism schools where they would train a new generation of young reporters. For just what wasn’t clear. Jobs that would no longer exist?

Before the special series I was working on was complete, my co-writer -- the paper’s Washington investigative editor -- had left for the friendlier confines of academia and the editor who greenlit the series had resigned in the face of management’s demands for steep cuts to newsroom staff. It seemed as if the only remaining person associated with the series was a gifted photographer (who left for greener pastures within a year).

I thought I was witnessing the end of an era, the death of an institution.

At the same time, I was also working for a small but growing online publication that managed to produce three original articles each week -- a mix of commentary, news analysis, and original investigative reporting. More than a decade into that gig, the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com is still going strong, still publishing three original articles per week, and syndicating that content out to dozens and dozens of online publications, reaching hundreds of thousands of potential readers.

Over that time, online outlets have come and gone, venerable newspapers have closed up shop, predictions of doom -- of the death of print publications, the demise of investigative reporting (maybe even of journalism itself) -- have been aired repeatedly. And it’s true that in this new era it hasn’t been easy to make a living as a journalist or keep a media outlet afloat. Yet, as a reader, I notice something else: I can’t even hope to read every eye-catching article that flashes by on my Twitter feed or piles up in my inbox from one listserve or another. I end up with 25 open windows in my taskbar -- top-quality journalism from legacy media outlets and new digital magazines that I hope I might be able to skim later that day or the next or sometime before my laptop slows to a crawl under the weight of so much groundbreaking reporting.

It turned out that, 10 years ago, I actually was witnessing the end of an era while living through the formative stages of another. It’s been a moment in which stories published on a relatively tiny website like TomDispatch circle the globe in a flash and a writer like me, who never went to journalism school, can see his articles almost instantly translated into Spanish, Japanese, Italian, and languages I don’t even recognize, and then reposted on websites from South America to Africa to Asia. In other words, they sometimes reach the sort of global audience that once might have been a stretch even for a reporter at a prestigious mainstream media outlet.

Over these years, I’ve also watched others who have passed through the Nation Institute wade into a scary media market and find great success. TomDispatch’s own former intern Andy Kroll, for example, has gone on to break one important story after another at Mother Jones, a print publication that now thrives online, while former Nation Institute program associate Liliana Segura has taken a top post at First Look Media, one of the most dynamic and talked-about new media ventures in years. And they are hardly anomalies.

In her new book, Global Muckraking: 100 Years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World, Anya Schiffrin, the director of the media and communications program at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, chronicles the brave new world of global journalism in the age of the Internet (and how the stage was set for the new golden age of the reader we’re living in). In her inaugural article for TomDispatch, the longtime foreign correspondent reveals the investigative exposés by today’s top global muckrakers that you missed and explains why investigative journalism is on the rise, not the decline, worldwide.

From Asia to Central America, a new generation of Nellie Blys and Ida Tarbells, Seymour Hershes and Rachel Carsons, is breaking one big story after another with equal parts old-fashioned shoe leather and twenty-first-century knowhow. “The fact that journalists have been calling attention to some of the same problems for more than a hundred years might make one despondent, but it shouldn’t...” Schiffrin writes in her book. “That the battles are still going on should remind us that new abuses, new forms of corruption, are always emerging, providing new opportunities and new responsibilities for the media.” Luckily, there is a new generation of reporters around the world, she points out, rising to the challenge. Nick Turse

The Fall and Rise of Investigative Journalism: From Asia to Africa to Latin America, Muckrakers Have Corrupt Officials and Corporate Cronies on the Run

by Anya Schiffrin


We are in a golden age of investigative journalism,” says Sheila Coronel. And she should know. Now the academic dean at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Coronel was the director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, whose coverage of the real estate holdings of former President Joseph Estrada -- including identical houses built for his mistresses -- contributed to his removal from office in 2001.

These are, to take another example, the halcyon days for watchdog journalism in Brazil. Last October, I went to a conference of investigative journalists there organized by the Global Journalism Investigative Network. There were 1,350 attendees. In July, I was back for another conference, this time organized by the Association of Brazilian Investigative Journalists and attended by close to 450 reporters. Thanks in part to Brazil’s Freedom of Information Act and the “open budget” movement that seeks to shed light on the government’s finances (and let people have a say in how their tax dollars are spent), journalists there have been busy exposing widespread corruption in local government as well as a cash-for-votes scheme that resulted in the arrest of nine senior politicians.

Cross-border news networks funded by foundations and philanthropists are carrying out similar investigations all over the world. Based in New York and edited by a Nigerian, Omoyele Sowore, Sahara Reporters uses leaked stories and documents to expose corruption in Africa’s richest country. Its funders include the Omidyar Network, created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam, and its stated goal is nothing less than “seeking the truth and publishing it without fear or favor.”

A group of students and I studied Sahara Reporters earlier this year. In our report, we described one typical story that outlet broke which detailed how then-Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah purchased two bulletproof BMWs -- at nearly double the normal price -- with funds from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Sahara Reporters posted receipts of the purchases and documents linking Oduah to the scheme. It also located sources who testified that the whereabouts of the cars were unknown and that they were suspected of being employed for Oduah's private use. Meanwhile, Sahara Reporters exposed the budgetary constraints the NCAA was operating under and linked these to several air mishaps, including two crashes resulting in the deaths of 140 people.

Oduah, who was already under fire for the NCAA’s poor performance, initially denied the accusations. Within days, however, numerous news outlets had picked up the story and run with it. The reports triggered a series of reactions from the government, opposing political parties, civil society organizations, and the Nigerian public. Earlier this year, Oduah was fired.

Honorable Mentions


In recent years, I’ve been a judge for the human rights reporting awards given out by the Overseas Press Club in New York. You should see the staggering pile of entries. It takes days to read through them all. Our major “problem”: an overabundance of top-notch reporting we’re unable to acknowledge with prizes. (Happily, some of them received prizes anyway, just not from us).

Among the remarkable pieces we read but didn’t give the human rights prize to was an Associated Press series on the effects of narco-violence on ordinary people in Honduras. It laid out the way they have been forced to flee their villages or vacate neighborhoods block by block as drug dealers moved in and took over their homes. The series described how some homeowners stopped painting their houses or mowing their lawns lest they appeal to drug lords who might seize them. People were even being shaken down by gangs that left notes demanding payments if they wanted to be allowed to stay in their houses.

At the same time, the government was sowing misery of its own. As part of the series, Alberto Arce wrote about a 15-year-old boy -- the son of a college professor -- who went out one night to meet a girl he had friended on Facebook only to be killed at a government roadblock by trigger-happy soldiers.

This year, when the press started to cover the flood of children from Central America crossing the U.S. border, I thought back to that series and how well it explained the kinds of desperate conditions that can lead to mass migration.

Similarly unforgettable was the reporting of Cam Simpson at Bloomberg Businessweek about the workers behind Apple’s iPhone 5. Migrants from Nepal, they fell into debt paying middlemen for jobs assembling that smartphone in factories in Malaysia. After Apple started rejecting the phones, production was cut back and some 1,300 workers were left to fend for themselves for months without food or pay. Since their passports had been taken from them, they were unable to leave the country and essentially confined to a hostel, trying to scrape together a bit of rice each day. Finally, in despair, they began rioting and the Malaysian police were called in. Their response will seem odd indeed to anyone reading recent reports from Ferguson, Missouri. Instead of arresting the workers, the police had food delivered and went to work to get the Nepalese sent home. (Still broke, many of them are likely to go further into debt to again pay brokers to secure overseas jobs that may land them in similarly dire straits.)

A third striking piece of global reportage was E. Benjamin Skinner’s “The Fishing Industry’s Cruelest Catch.” It focused on the conditions Indonesian migrant workers encounter fishing in the waters off New Zealand, for New Zealand companies, aboard Korean boats. A report by academic researchers Christina Stringer and Glenn Simmons, in collaboration with deep sea fishing skipper Daren Coulston, prompted Skinner, a journalist specializing in slavery, to spend six months in several different countries checking out their allegations.

The result was a gripping story of modern day slavery. Indigent Indonesian villagers were, he reported, misled into accepting contracts on vessels that ply the Southern Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea searching for fish to be sold to giant American chains like Safeway, Walmart, and Whole Foods. Many of the Indonesians thought they were signing on to first world labor conditions on modern New Zealand-owned vessels. Once aboard, however, they found themselves virtual prisoners, forced to work long hours for substandard food and beaten or sometimes sexually assaulted when they tried to resist.

After various deductions were taken from their paychecks, the workers, promised $12 an hour, ended up getting only about a dollar an hour. Not only was Skinner’s story well-written and well-reported, but within months of its appearance, New Zealand had moved to change its laws and Safeway, Whole Foods, and Walmart began investigating their supply chains.

The Future of Global Muckraking


When I began researching my new book, Global Muckraking: 100 Years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World, I assumed that the good old days of investigative reporting were in the past. It was a surprise to learn just how much high quality work is still being done around the planet. The amount of data now available online, the ability of journalists to use the Internet to connect to one another and share information -- a major aid in cross-border reporting -- and a wave of new philanthropy have all helped fuel the current boom. In addition, fresh news operations of every sort seem to be popping up, eager to promote investigative reporting.

I thought I was well versed in innovative twenty-first century methods of news funding when I headed into this project, but I continue to stumble upon exciting experiments. For example, Morry Schwarz, a book publisher and property developer from Melbourne, Australia, funds weekly, monthly, and quarterly publications devoted to long-form writing on serious issues of the day, while also running the publishing house Black Inc. Australian philanthropist Graeme Wood, with money he made from an online business, founded the Global Mail, a nonprofit website that was similarly aimed at promoting long-form journalism. He also underwrites cross-border investigations via the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. In Brazil, João Moreira Salles, scion of a prominent family enmeshed in the banking sector, has used his money to found a monthly magazine, Piauí, whose recent issue included an investigative piece about indigenous opposition to Belo Monte, a hydroelectric plant under construction in Altamira in the Amazon region.

Moves toward democracy in many countries, along with the Arab Spring (however shortcircuited it was) have also unshackled the global press in a variety of ways. Compared to five, 10, or 20 years ago, Myanmar, Ghana, and Tunisia, to take just three examples from many, have far freer -- sometimes remarkably freewheeling -- media atmospheres. And what’s happening in countries like those has had a knock-on effect on nearby states.

Of course, there are also democratically elected governments in countries like Turkey, Ecuador, and Hungary that have been clamping down on free speech. And from Syria to Ferguson, Missouri, many locales remain dangerous for journalists. On balance, however, the press is ever less under the thumb of government, a situation that only encourages investigative reporting. To take two examples where the press has become at least marginally harder to control thanks to social media, the Internet, and some brave (or nervy) independent-minded journalists, consider China and Vietnam, where once utterly closed media scenes are slowly being pried open.

The mass layoffs of older journalists around the world has had one benefit: there are plenty of experienced hands ready to train the next generation and provide institutional memory at innovative ventures. Some of these oldtimers, who aren’t busy teaching (or taking public relations jobs -- but that’s a story for another time), are busy founding and running nonprofits dedicated to doing hard-driving, investigative reporting. These include: 100 Reporters, Global Journalism Investigative Network, Forum for African Investigative Reporters, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Investigative News Network, SCOOP, and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. All of these organizations are benefitting from experienced editors and reporters downsized from traditional media outlets and committed to helping the next generation -- and learning from them, too.

No one can say how this wave of new reporting will continue to be funded in the future, nor can I promise to be as cheery a decade from now as I am today about investigative journalism’s prospects. Already some donors are putting in place stipulations that might constrain future reporting -- like requiring publications to meet benchmarks offering proof of a story’s impact. Still, if the history of investigative reporting in the United States has taught us anything, it’s that outlets come and go, but the legacy of great investigative reporting, the tradition that inspires future generations of crusading journalists, endures.

It can take years for investigative journalism to make a difference and, in the past, many of the most important outlets didn't make money and disappeared. They were sometimes run by passionate crusaders who seized the moment, wrote the stories, and then moved on. Everybody’s Magazine folded long ago, but Upton Sinclair’s takedown of the scandalous Beef Trust, specifically Armour and Co., in 1908 opened American eyes to the way meat was produced in this country. Who remembers In Fact? But George Seldes's prescient 1941 exposé of the dangers of cigarettes in the pages of that now-defunct publication has stood the test of time. And while McClure’s, I.F. Stone’s Weekly, and Ramparts may be increasingly distant memories, the effects of their investigative work ripple all the way to the present.

And this isn’t peculiar to the United States.

Young journalists on their way up are being trained in a craft that, history tells us, will outlast the death of any particular publication. Ory Okolloh of the Omidyar Network regularly makes this point. She notes that after the pioneering Nigerian newspaper Next234 went out of business, its reporters and editors simply moved on to other media outlets in Africa, where they are breaking important stories and training the next generation of reporters.

For investigative reporting, injustice is the gift that just keeps giving. While so much of the business side of journalism remains in flux, fine reporters with an investigative urge are finding ways to shine much needed light into the parts of our global lives that the powerful would rather keep in the shadows. These may be tough times, lean times, difficult times, but don’t be fooled: they’re also boom times. There can be no question that, if you’re a reader with access to the Internet, you’re living in a new golden age of investigative journalism.

Anya Schiffrin is the director of the media and communications specialization at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs. She teaches courses on media innovation and writes on journalism and development as well as the media in Africa. Schiffrin spent 10 years working overseas as a journalist in Europe and Asia and is on the advisory boards of the Open Society Foundation’s Program on Independent Journalism and of the Revenue Watch Institute. Her most recent book is Global Muckraking: 100 Years of Investigative Reporting from Around the World (New Press 2014). Thanks to Hawley Johnson, Jillian Hausman, and Angela Pimenta for their research for this piece.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook and Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me.

Copyright 2014 Anya Schiffrin

Teachable Moments in Kabul

A Teacher in Kabul


by Kathy Kelly - CounterPunch

Kabul  - Here in Kabul, one of my finest friends is Zekerullah, who has gone back to school in the 8th grade although he is an 18-year old young man who has already had to learn far too many of life’s harsh lessons.

Years ago and miles from here, when he was a child in the province of Bamiyan, and before he ran away from school, Zekerullah led a double life, earning income for his family each night as a construction crew laborer, and then attempting to attend school in the daytime. In between these tasks the need to provide his family with fuel would sometimes drive him on six-hour treks up the mountainside, leading a donkey on which to load bags of scrub brush and twigs for the trip back down. His greatest childhood fear was of that donkey taking one disastrous wrong step with its load on the difficult mountainside.

And then, after reaching home weary and sleep deprived and with no chance of doing homework, he would, at times, go to school without having done his homework, knowing that he would certainly be beaten. When he was in seventh grade, his teacher punished him by adding ten more blows each day he came to school without his homework, so that eventually he was hit sixty times in one day. Dreading the next day when the number would rise to seventy, he ran away from that school and never returned.

Now Zekerullah is enrolled in another school, this time in Kabul, where teachers still beat the students. But Zekerullah can now claim to have learned much more, in some cases, than his teachers.

Much to the surprise of his environmental studies teacher, Zekerullah has a strong grasp of issues related to the environment. For the past two years, living with the Afghan Peace Volunteers, he has occupied himself with presentations and conversations about global warming, climate change, and environmental degradation.

He cares deeply about the issue. Last winter, I was with him as he watched the entire BBC Blue Planet series of videos, and realized that he hungers for more information and deepened understanding about issues hitting far beyond his own beleaguered country. 

When his new teacher, a teacher accustomed to beating pupils, asked the class elementary questions about the environment, Zekerullah had definitely done his homework. But among his other recent studies were the history of nonviolent movements, led by people like Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, to resist oppressive forces.

So without calling any attention to his plans, Zekerullah decided to join the line of students singled out for punishment, in his environmental studies class, even though he wasn’t at fault and didn’t deserve to be punished. The teacher was befuddled. Zekerullah so clearly knew the answers.

Zekerullah calmly explained to the teacher that he also knew, from experience, that beating students doesn’t help them learn, that he himself had lost four years of studies because he could no longer bear the beatings. He respectfully asked the teacher to beat him instead of the next seven students in the row.

The teacher obliged, administering blows to Zekerullah while his fellow students began to wonder about and admire Zekerullah’s unusual stance. Perhaps for the first time in a long while, everyone in that class was learning something.

For several weeks, the teacher was confronted with Zekerullah’s quiet insistence that he be allowed to take the blows in place of students who hadn’t studied. The teacher tried to ignore him and belittle him. Once, the teacher punished him and a few others with the escalated punishment of using a rattan cane to inflict the blows. Adding salt to the wound, the teacher even failed Zekerullah in the mid-year exams, though Zekerullah said he knew the answers and had no trouble finishing the exam.

I asked him what other students thought about his choices. He said that some of them wanted to spare him from being punished, and so they began to study more and complete their homework. He isn’t sure what impact his actions have had. Zekerullah isn’t inclined to brag. But he surely has affected me.

He is also affecting other vulnerable young Afghans. Over the past two years, Zekerullah has worked hard to improve his studies, and with the literacy he has acquired, he now volunteers to teach a literacy class at the APVs Borderfree Center for about 20 street kids who have not had the opportunity to go to school regularly. He and several companions have organized other aspects of the “Street Kids” program, visiting children in their homes and helping distribute oil and rice to each family so that the children can stop working on the streets.

Zekerullah tells me that the current education system in Afghanistan is not a good learning environment. His story alerts educators, officials and the international community to understand that the relatively small funds spent on badly-constructed new school buildings won’t suffice to provide a good education for the young Afghan population. Moreover, the predominantly militarized approach of aid and development, even in the field of education, reinforces the prevalent methods of teaching by force and punishment.

Zekerullah yearns for knowledge as well as justice, and he’s willing to sacrifice for both. I want to learn from him.

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). While in Kabul, she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (ourjourneytosmile.org)

POW Parades and the NYT's Selective Ukraine Outrage

Selective Outrage over Ukraine POWs

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

The New York Times has taken deep umbrage over an unseemly parade staged by ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine featuring captured Ukrainian soldiers.

The Times noted that the Geneva Conventions prohibit humiliation of POWs, surely a valid point.


Some of the original detainees jailed at the Guantanamo Bay prison, as put on display by the U.S. military.

But the Times – in its profoundly biased coverage of the Ukraine crisis – apparently feels that other aspects of this nasty civil war are less newsworthy, such as the Kiev government’s bombardment of eastern Ukrainian cities sending the death toll into the thousands, including children and other non-combatants.

Also downplayed has been Kiev’s dispatch of neo-Nazi storm troopers to spearhead the urban combat in ethnic Russian towns and cities in the east.

When the Times finally noticed this street-fighting role of neo-Nazi militias, that remarkable fact – the first time armed Nazis were dispatched by any government to kill people in Europe since World War II – was consigned to the last three paragraphs of a long article on a different topic, essentially a throwaway reference.

Similarly, the Kiev regime’s artillery fire on residential areas – killing many civilians and, over the weekend, damaging a hospital – has been treated by the Times as a minor afterthought. But Times’ readers are supposed to get worked up over the tasteless demonstration in Donetsk, all the better to justify more killing of ethnic Russians.

Though no one was killed or injured during Sunday’s anti-Ukrainian march – and rebel troops protected the captured soldiers from angry citizens – the Times led its Ukraine coverage on Monday with the humiliation of the POWs. The article by Andrew E. Kramer and Andrew Higgins made a point of contrasting the ugly scene in Donetsk with more orderly celebrations of Ukrainian independence elsewhere. The story began:

“On a day when Ukrainians celebrated their independence from the Soviet Union with parades and speeches, pro-Russia separatists in the eastern part of the country staged a grim counter-spectacle: a parade that mocked the national army and celebrated the deaths and imprisonment of its soldiers.

“Leading the procession was an attractive young blond woman carrying an assault rifle, followed by several dozen captured Ukrainian soldiers, filthy, bruised and unkempt, their heads shaved, wearing fetid camouflage uniforms and looking down at their feet.

“Onlookers shouted that the men should be shot, and pelted the prisoners with empty beer bottles, eggs and tomatoes as they stumbled down Artyomovsk Street, Donetsk’s main thoroughfare. … People in the crowd shouted ‘fascists!’ and ‘perverts!’ and separatist fighters held back a man who tried to punch a prisoner.”

The Times then noted: “The Geneva Conventions’ rules for treating prisoners of war prohibit parading them in public, but the treatment of the wounded, disheveled prisoners seemed to offend few of those watching, who in any case had turned out for the promise of seeing a ghoulish spectacle. ‘Shoot them!’ one woman yelled.”

Kiev’s Abuses


While it’s certainly true that POWs shouldn’t be mistreated, it should be at least equally newsworthy when civilians, including children, are being killed by indiscriminate artillery fire directed into cities – or when right-wing storm troopers under Nazi banners are attacking and occupying eastern Ukrainian cities and towns. But the Times’ bias in favor of the Kiev regime has been most obvious in the newspaper’s selective outrage.

At the start of the crisis last winter, the Times sided with the “pro-democracy” demonstrators in Kiev’s Maidan square as they sought to topple democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych, who had rebuffed an association agreement with the European Union that included harsh austerity measures prescribed by the International Monetary Fund. Yanukovych opted for a more generous offer from Russia of a $15 billion loan.

Along with the entire U.S. mainstream media, the Times cheered on the violent overthrow of Yanukovych on Feb. 22 and downplayed the crucial role of well-organized neo-Nazi militias that surged to the front of the Maidan protests in the final violent days. Then, with Yanukovych out and a new coup regime in, led by U.S. hand-picked Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the IMF austerity plan was promptly approved.

Since then, the Times has behaved as essentially a propaganda organ for the new regime in Kiev and for the State Department, pushing “themes” blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for the crisis. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine, Though the US ‘Looking Glass.’”]

Some of the most egregious New York Times reporting has been its slanted and erroneous summations of the Ukraine narrative. For instance, immediately after the violent coup (from Feb. 20-22), it was reported that among the 80 people killed were more than a dozen police officers. But, as the Times’ pro-coup sympathies hardened, the storyline changed to: “More than 80 protesters were shot to death by the police as an uprising spiraled out of control in mid-February.” [NYT, March 5]

Both the dead police and the murky circumstances surrounding the sniper fire that inflicted many of the casualties simply disappeared from the Times’ narrative. It became flat fact: evil “pro-Yanukovych” police gunned down innocent “pro-democracy” demonstrators.

Whose Life Matters


Just as the deaths of those early demonstrators were played up by the Times – and even spun to create a more black-and-white narrative – the more recent deaths of thousands of ethnic Russians have been played down. And, the anger of eastern Ukrainians over the brutal assaults on their cities – as displayed in Sunday’s Donetsk demonstration – is then used by the Times to, in effect, justify Kiev’s continued “anti-terrorist” operation. In other words, it seems that the Times places a greater value on the lives of the Maidan demonstrators in Kiev than the ethnic Russians in the east.

The Times also displayed this bias after dozens of ethnic Russian protesters were killed by arson and other violence in Ukraine’s southern port city of Odessa on May 2. The victims had taken refuge in a trade union building after a clash with a pro-Kiev mob.

Even the neocon-dominated Washington Post led its editions with the story of “Dozens killed in Ukraine fighting” and described the fatal incident this way:

“Friday evening, a pro-Ukrainian mob attacked a camp where the pro-Russian supporters had pitched tents, forcing them to flee to a nearby government building, a witness said. The mob then threw gasoline bombs into the building. Police said 31 people were killed when they choked on smoke or jumped out of windows. [The death toll later grew.]
“Asked who had thrown the Molotov cocktails, pro-Ukrainian activist Diana Berg said, ‘Our people – but now they are helping them [the survivors] escape the building.’” [In actuality, some of the survivors who jumped from windows were beaten by the pro-Kiev mob.]

By contrast, here is how the New York Times reported the event as part of a story by C.J. Chivers and Noah Sneider which focused on the successes of the pro-coup armed forces in overrunning some eastern Ukrainian rebel positions.

“Violence also erupted Friday in the previously calmer port city of Odessa, on the Black Sea, where dozens of people died in a fire related to clashes that broke out between protesters holding a march for Ukrainian unity and pro-Russian activists. The fighting itself left four dead and 12 wounded, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said. Ukrainian and Russian news media showed images of buildings and debris burning, fire bombs being thrown and men armed with pistols.”

Note how the Times evades placing any responsibility on the pro-coup mob for trying to burn alive the “pro-Russian activists” who had sought refuge in the building. From reading the Times, you wouldn’t know who had died and who had set the fire.

Embarrassing Lapses


In the Times’ haste to perform its propaganda function, there also have been some notable journalistic embarrassments such as the Times’ front-page story touting photographs that supposedly showed Russian special forces in Russia and then the same soldiers in eastern Ukraine, allegedly proving that the popular resistance to the coup regime was simply clumsily disguised Russian aggression.

Any serious journalist would have recognized the holes in the story – since it wasn’t clear where the photos were taken or whether the blurry images were even the same people – but that didn’t bother the Times, which led with the scoop. However, only two days later, the scoop blew up when it turned out that a key photo – supposedly showing a group of soldiers in Russia who later appeared in eastern Ukraine – was actually taken in Ukraine, destroying the premise of the entire story.

There’s also the issue of U.S. selectivity in defending the principle of not parading or otherwise humiliating POWs. That issue arose last decade during the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq when the U.S. news media showed little outrage over the treatment of “war on terror” captives who were displayed in humiliating postures at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or when Iraqi soldiers were paraded before U.S. cameras to demonstrate American military success in Iraq.

By contrast, there was a firestorm during the early days of the U.S. invasion of Iraq when five U.S. POWs were questioned by Iraqi television reporters in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya.

U.S. officials immediately denounced the brief televised interviews with the prisoners as a violation of the Geneva Conventions, a charge that was repeated over and over by U.S. television networks. “It’s illegal to do things to POWs that are humiliating to those prisoners,” declared Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Yet, the mainstream U.S. media stayed silent about the obvious inconsistency between its outrage over the footage of the American soldiers and the U.S. media’s decision only a few days earlier to run repeated clips of Iraqis identified as prisoners of war.

In that case, Iraqi POWs were paraded before U.S. cameras as “proof” that Iraqi resistance was crumbling. Some of the scenes showed Iraqi POWs forced at gunpoint to kneel down with their hands behind their heads as they were patted down by U.S. soldiers. Yet neither U.S. officials nor U.S. reporters covering the war for the major news networks observed how those scenes might be a violation of international law.

Nor did the U.S. media see fit to remind viewers how President George W. Bush had stripped prisoners of war captured in Afghanistan of their rights under the Geneva Conventions. Bush ordered hundreds of captives from Afghanistan to be put in tiny outdoor cages at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay.

The prisoners were shaved bald and forced to kneel down with their eyes, ears and mouths covered to deprive them of their senses. The shackled prisoners were filmed being carried on stretchers to interrogation sessions. Their humiliation was broadcast for all the world to see but the treatment was accepted by the U.S. press as just fine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “International Law a la Carte.”]

That selective outrage was on display again on Monday in the New York Times.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

Holding On 'Til Dawn: Surviving Happy Land


Robin Williams and the Happiness Industry

by Greg Palast

I can't help feeling that Robin Williams was a victim of his industry: the happiness industry.

Williams was typecast for those parts with manic, unstoppable joy. Listen up, Aladdin! Williams' genie said, You're not suffering from poverty–what you need is a positive attitude! You know, put on a happy face! Let a smile be your umbrella!

Our culture despises and fears unhappiness. We pathologize unhappiness; we conflate it with a disease, "depression." And it's a disease we insist you can cure–so you don't spread your unhappiness germs to the rest of us. We stigmatize those who are unhappy, like we stigmatize those who are overweight: If you're fat, you just don't have any self-control. If you're unhappy, it's your personal failure to just buck up.

We laud the congenitally happy, like Ronald Reagan, the chipper Gipper, the Grinning Grandpa, who could unleash his death squads and smile all the while.

We are a nation of salesman, commercially optimistic. We don't like downers; we don't like people who spoil the party.

And so we push those who find themselves unhappy to medicate themselves–avoid The Deep, get out of the blues and join the Disney. Williams chose booze, pills and that most devastatingly addictive drug, fame cocaine.

(And no, I don't claim I'm exempt from the pull of let's-forget potions.)

Robin Williams wasn't depressed. He was unhappy. Life, even with your own jet, is sickeningly unfair and difficult. His disease was the human condition. There is no cure. It is always fatal.

Like Robin Williams, Goethe's Faust suffered through fear of the unstoppable horror of aging, the ineluctable withering of talents and fame and sexual power. A stone-deaf God has sentenced us to our inevitable decay and execution. Before you're ready: bam! – you're 63 and suddenly, darkness falls–Walpurgisnacht, the Dark Night of the Soul.

The trick, says Goethe, is to hold on until morning. In dawn's dirty light, we find this barely breathing compensation: gratitude for those that have loved us, not just applauded us. It used to be called Wisdom. And, at the last hour, Grace.

But in our Disney'd world, that deepest unhappiness simply cannot be tolerated, not even for a night. So, we give up the dark night at the cost of giving up our soul.

Forgive me, but I never found Robin Williams funny. He always seem to try too hard, to yuck it up too easily and too much. I found his film persona manic, disturbing and false.

The funniest comic writer I've known was Charles Bukowski. To him, The Darkness was Lady Death, with long legs and lots of sticky lipstick. Bukowski would tell the lady, the Darkness, to come on in, sit down. Let's have a drink together. Bukowski died laughing.

He recognized that the joke's on us, with the same old punch line: Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. Rest in peace.

* * * * * *
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures’ Picnic.

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