Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sky-High Stocks and Record Icebergs

Trillion-Ton Icebergs and Record Stock Prices

by Robert Hunziker - CounterPunch

October 13, 2017

The strange happenstance of record-breaking stock markets and record-breaking icebergs is something to behold and wonder, what the hell is going on in the world?

Photo by Christopher Michel | CC by 2.0 

Is there a relationship between high stock prices and crashing, splintering icebergs? Probably, yes.

In point of fact, as capitalism’s grand experiment of neoliberal tendencies (privatization/commoditization of everything in sight, let free markets reign supreme) progresses and registers enormous stock market profits, Antarctica splitters apart ever faster in lockstep. In bizarre fashion, high stocks equate to faster loss of major ice icons, the Arctic-to-Patagonia-to-Antarctica, a worldwide phenomena. Is the linkage mere coincidence?

In short, does unfettered capitalism bring forth trillion-ton icebergs?

The answer is Yes! Indubitably without a doubt, unfettered capitalism, colloquially known as neoliberalism, impacts tremendous losses of classical bodies of ice. Indeed, the connection is stronger than mere coincidence. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 2,000 when Dr. James Hanson testified before the Senate in 1988:

“Today Dr. James E. Hansen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration told a Congressional committee that it was 99 percent certain that the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and other artificial gases in the atmosphere.” (Source: Philip Shabecoff, Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate, The New York Times, June 24, 1988).

Today, with the DJIA up 10-fold at 22,000 global warming/ice loss tracks along with its own records. According to Earth Observatory, NASA: “How is Today’s Warming Different from the Past? In the past century alone, the temperature has climbed… roughly ten (10) times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.” Thus, the strangest of coincidences as both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and global warming are up 10-fold, although it took the climate more time. Still, hands down, it’s an all-time paleoclimate record for climate change. What used to happen in 5,000 years now only takes decades.

After all, the planet is handicapped, a big lumbering spinning terrestrial sphere that travels 584,000,000 miles per year around the Sun. Whereas, by way of comparison, high frequency algorithmic automated traders plop down residence within blocks of the New York Stock Exchange to gain an edge over other high-frequency traders, accounting for roughly 50% of all stock trading (absurdity upon absurdity w/o economic benefit) like rigged slot machines.

Forget stupid, useless, empty economic high-frequency trading, trillion-ton icebergs make stock trading look like kids’ stuff. According to scientists, the trillion-ton iceberg breakoff of July 12, 2017 from Larsen C Ice Shelf fundamentally changes the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula. National Geographic will redraw its Atlas.

But, behind the scenes there’s a festering problem: Ice shelves which extend over the water serve as giant buffers, holding back the flow of glaciers on land. For example, when Larsen B Ice Shelf 10,000 years old, oh, really, only 10,000 years old, splintered in 2002, the flow of glaciers on land behind the ice shelf headed for the sea, accelerating sharply. Additionally, Larsen A collapsed in 1995. Ipso facto, glaciers flow to sea and sea levels rise.

Researchers remain puzzled and deeply concerned by the speedy pace of big-time humongous icebergs, out of the ordinary and kinda spooky. Remarkably, Larsen C represents only one of three big whoppers to crash in little over a decade. Curiously, icebergs and stocks simultaneously break records like there’s no tomorrow, leading to the conclusion that if unfettered neoliberal capitalism remains the main game in town, there may not be many tomorrows, other than of the dystopian variety.

All of which begs the question of how the stock market setting new record highs relates to record-setting climate change/global warming and much-bigger-than-usual icebergs, aside from identical timelines, which is insanely coincidental.

The answer is simple enough: Record stock prices around the world reflect record world gross domestic product growing from $19T in 1988 to $75T today (it’s the Great Acceleration, in spades) which equates to lots and lots and lots of fossil fuel energy powering a 4-fold increase in economic activity, emitting greenhouse gases blanketing the atmosphere, retaining heat and ominously inclusive of the potently dangerous latency effect, meaning today’s CO2 will register as higher temps over the next decade.

The earth’s atmosphere like a home heating oven turned to 450 degrees does not immediately heat up to 450 degrees. It takes a while to creep up to 450. Likewise, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today take years upon years to achieve maximum temperature impact, resulting in unrecognized risks haunting society at large. For example, annual CO2 atmospheric ppm increased 50% over the past decade, locking in imbedded trouble over mucho years ahead.

According to Dr. James Hansen, America’s preeminent climate scientist: “One cannot recognize the imminent danger without understanding the science. It is not difficult science. The urgency of action arises from the slow response of the climate system to changes of atmospheric composition. This slow response means that there is more global warming “in the pipeline” without further increase of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Delayed warming is due mainly to the large thermal inertia of the ocean.” (Source: James Hansen, North Dakota Conviction Paper, October 11, 2017.)

“The delayed response is dangerous in one sense, because it allows greater climate change and consequences to build up before effects become large enough to awaken the public to danger,” Ibid.

Interestingly, when stocks swooned badly, crashed in 2007-08, greenhouse gas emissions slowed. Therefore, there is a distinct relationship between stocks and global warming, meaning bull markets reflect increased global warming whereas bear markets mean less growth of CO2, slower warming. But, on the other hand, nobody likes bear markets, recessions, especially depressions, narrowly missed only a few years ago if not for the Fed behaving like Pac-Man, scooping up debt securities nobody else would touch, by the trillions.

So then therefore, the big question is what to do to prevent Earth turning into another Venus, scorching hot temps 864 F degrees on average. After all, Whew! Most of Earth’s carbon is still in the ground or very tenuously under ice whereas Venus’s carbon is all in its atmosphere at 96%. That’s global warming on extra-strength steroids. Even Mercury with an average temperature of 332 F, and much closer (36M miles) to the Sun, is cooler than Venus (67M miles away). Mercury does not have a carbon-based atmosphere.

Assuming the neoliberal brand of capitalism remains the world dictate economic order, which is a sure-fire lock, the only plausible way (maybe?) out of a very big jam is to stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere by converting fossil fuel energy to renewables that do not emit greenhouse gases.

However, that only solves part of the problem, as Dr. James Hansen believes the only chance of avoiding some kind of catastrophic end game is geo-engineering removal of carbon from the atmosphere. But, within scientific circles geo-engineering is very controversial, big positives as well as possibly equally big, or even bigger, negatives. Who knows? Will it work at scale? What about unintended consequences?

But then again, reality today is the Trump administration re-emphasizing coal, crowning King Coal, ahem, which is the dirtiest and worst fossil fuel on the planet. “Clean coal” is the biggest oxymoronic exaggeration in the history of the English language, as Trump’s henchmen work towards dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan to goose up coal usage, proving beyond all doubt the hidden powers and dangers of pure idiocy at the control panels.

Trump’s agenda not only dismantles the establishment political order but along the way it speeds up humongous ice shelves crashing, thereby threatening his shoreline golf courses. And, he knows it!

Hark! Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland filed a sea wall permit to protect its golf course from “global warming and its effects.” Trump’s permit application specifically refers to global warming and its consequences, increased erosion due to rising sea levels as the chief justification for a permit to build a sea wall.

Hey World! When Trump’s golf courses are at stake, he’s suddenly hip to climate change/global warming. He morphs into an amateur atmospheric scientist that understands, in his own words, “global warming and its effects.” Assuming, of course, this article is not fake news. 

Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at
More articles by: Robert Hunziker

Friday, October 13, 2017

Me and Steve Paddock

I went to School with the Vegas Shooter

by Greg Palast - Dissident Voice

October 13th, 2017  

When we were at Francis Polytechnic High in Sun Valley, Steve Paddock and I were required to take electrical shop class. At Poly and our junior high, we were required to take metal shop so we could work the drill presses at the GM plant. We took drafting. Drafting like in “blueprint drawing.”

Paddock. Palast. We sat next to each other at those drafting tables with our triangular rulers and #2 pencils so we could get jobs at Lockheed as draftsman drawing blueprints of fighter jets.

Mobile home on tracks, Sun Valley CA, birthplace
of the Vegas shooter. From the film The Best
Democracy Money Can Buy

Or do tool-and-dye cutting to make refrigerator handles at GM where they assembled Frigidaire refrigerators and Chevys.

But we weren’t going to fly the fighter jets. Somewhere at Phillips Andover Academy, a dumbbell with an oil well for a daddy was going to go to Yale and then fly our fighter jets over Texas. We weren’t going to go to Yale. We were going to go to Vietnam. Then, when we came back, if we still had two hands, we went to GM or Lockheed.

(It’s no coincidence that much of the student population at our school was Hispanic.)

But if you went to “Bevvie” – Beverly Hills High – or Hollywood High, you didn’t take metal shop. You took Advanced Placement French. You took Advanced Placement Calculus. We didn’t have Advanced Placement French. We didn’t have French anything. We weren’t Placed, and we didn’t Advance.

Steve was a math wizard. He should have gone to UCLA, to Stanford. But our classes didn’t qualify him for anything other than LA Valley College and Cal State Northridge. Any dumbbell could get in. And it was nearly free. That’s where Steve was expected to go, and he went with his big math-whiz brain.

And then Steve went to Lockheed, like we were supposed to. Until Lockheed shut down plants in 1988. Steve left, took the buy-out.

And after NAFTA, GM closed too.

Land of Opportunity? Well, tell me: who gets those opportunities?

Some of you can and some of you can’t imagine a life where you just weren’t give a fair chance. Where the smarter you are, the more painful it gets, because you have your face pressed against the window, watching THEM. THEY got the connections to Stanford. THEY get the gold mine. WE get the shaft.

This is where Paddock and Palast were bred: Sun Valley, the anus of Los Angeles. Literally. It’s where the sewerage plant is. It’s in a trench below the Hollywood Hills, where the smog settles into a kind of puke yellow soup. Here’s where LA dumps its urine and the losers they only remember when they need cheap labor and cheap soldiers when the gusanos don’t supply enough from Mexico.

I’ll take you to Sun Valley. It’s in my film, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. In the movie, a kind of dream scene, the actress Shailene Woodley takes me back to my family’s old busted home in the weeds and then down San Fernando Road, near Steve’s place. Take a look, America. Along the tracks that once led in to the GM plant, you see a bunch of campers that the union men bought for vacations. Now they live in them.

No, Steve’s brain was too big to end up on the tracks. He lived in empty apartments in crappy buildings he bought, then in a barren tract house outside Reno. I laugh when they say he was “rich.” He wanted to be THEM, to have their stuff. He got close.

It’s reported that Steve was a “professional gambler.” That’s another laugh. He was addicted to numbing his big brain by sitting 14 hours a day in the dark in front of video poker machines. He was a loser. Have you ever met a gambler who said they were a Professional Loser?

It’s fair to ask me: Why didn’t I end up in a hotel room with a bump-stock AR-15 and 5,000 rounds of high velocity bullets?

Because I have a job, a career, an OBSESSION: to hunt down THEM, the daddy-pampered pricks who did this to us, the grinning billionaire jackals that make a profit off the slow decomposition of the lives I grew up with.

But I’m telling you, that I know it’s a very fine line, and lots of crazy luck, that divided my path from Paddock’s.

Dear Reader: The publication that pulled this story at the last moment was plain scared–that they’d be accused of approving murder.

Paddock slaughtered good people, coldly, with intense cruelty, destroying lives and hundreds of families forever. If you think I’m making up some excuse for him, then I give up.

But also this: The editor of the Beverly Hills-based publication, a Stanford grad, could not understand that, just like veterans of the Vietnam war who suffer from PTSD even today, so too, losers of the class war can be driven mad by a PTSD that lingers, that gnaws away, their whole lives.
What happens to a dream deferred? Does it …fester like a sore? Does it stink like rotten meat? Sag…like a heavy load?
Or does it explode?
— Langston Hughes

Steve, you created more horrors than your cornered life could ever justify.

But, I just have to tell you, Steve: I get it.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"From Calm to Storm?"

Is Trump's "Friend" Kissinger Steering Him From Calm to Storm?

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News

October 12, 2017

Henry Kissinger, seemingly returned from oblivion, has been in the ear of “old friend” Trump since mid-primary season, just after Trump declared himself open to negotiation with North Korea. Since that moment, Trump’s stance and rhetoric have veered inexorably toward war.

President Donald Trump met with top defense officials Tuesday morning — including Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Joseph Dunford — in the White House Situation Room, to discuss potential options for responding to any North Korean “aggression” as well as how to prevent North Korea from threatening the United States with nuclear weapons.

The meeting, which was later confirmed by the State Department and a White House press release, came a day after Mattis instructed the U.S. Army to stand ready if North Korea diplomacy fails, and less than a week after Trump’s cryptic “calm before the storm” comments about a previous meeting with top military commanders.

Some have noted that the decision to have the meeting in the Situation Room, sometimes called the War Room, was significant, as it is often used to hold secure meetings regarding disasters, military conflicts, and other major crises both domestic and global.

While most reporting gave some context to Trump’s most recent meeting with top defense officials on tensions with Pyongyang, hardly any mentioned that the meeting had been immediately preceded by another. This meeting, also on the topic of North Korea, was held between the president and former Secretary of State and unindicted war criminal Henry Kissinger. 

In his post-meeting remarks, Trump praised Kissinger’s ‘immense talent.’ “Henry Kissinger has been a friend of mine,” he added.

“I’ve liked him. I’ve respected him. But we’ve been friends for a long time, long before my emergence into the world of politics, which has not been too long.” 

Kissinger is also a long-time advisor and confidante of Trump’s former rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday’s meeting was not the first occasion Trump has met with Kissinger since becoming a fixture in American politics. The pair’s first meeting after Trump’s rise to political prominence took place in May of 2016. That meeting occurred a day after then-candidate Trump said he would open dialogue with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un if elected President. Since that initial meeting, Kissinger and Trump met last November and have already met twice this year.

After their November meeting, Kissinger remarked that Trump would likely not be keeping all his campaign promises, as he was undergoing “the transition from being a campaigner to being a national strategist.” This apparently included his promise of opening dialogue with North Korea.

While often characterized by the mainstream press as a leading “statesman” and “diplomat,” Kissinger’s record shows he is anything but. While serving as Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State, Kissinger oversaw a bloody coup in Chile, an illegal bombing campaign in Cambodia, and millions dead in Vietnam. 

Despite overseeing such actions, Kissinger ended up being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, in the same year as the Chilean coup, for his role in bringing “peace” to Vietnam and ending the Vietnam war, though he had actually worked to extend it. The choice of Kissinger was so outrageous that several members of the Nobel committee resigned in protest. Kissinger is also credited with transforming U.S. foreign policy into one of perpetual, undeclared war – a policy that continues today and one that Trump has embraced since becoming President.

Given Trump’s bellicose rhetoric and threats towards North Korea – as well as his rejection of diplomacy in resolving the crisis despite both Pyongyang’s and his own State Department’s apparent willingness to attempt it – Kissinger’s timely guidance to the President during “the calm before the storm” should give the American public considerable cause for concern.


Watch | Henry Kissinger on his 2016 meeting with Donald Trump

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Why War? Five Reasons Trump Admin. Picking Iran Fight

5 Reasons Why Trump Is Moving Towards War With Iran

by Trita Parsi, National Iranian American Council  - Huff Post

October 12, 2017

Trump’s confrontation with Iran is a war of choice, not a war of necessity.

Make no mistake: We do not have a crisis over the Iran nuclear deal. It is working and everyone from Secretary Mattis and Tillerson to the US and Israeli intelligence services to the International Atomic Energy Agency agree: Iran is adhering to the deal.

But Trump is about to take a working deal and turn it into a crisis ― an international crisis that very likely can lead to war.

May meeting between US president and
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

While the decertification of the Iran deal that Trump is scheduled to announce on Friday in and of itself doesn’t collapse the deal, it does trigger a process that increases the risk of war in the following five ways.

1. If the deal collapses, so does the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program

The nuclear deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) took two very bad scenarios of the table: It blocked all of Iran’s paths to a nuclear bomb and it prevented war with Iran. By killing the deal, Trump is putting both of those bad scenarios back on the table.

As I describe in my book Losing an Enemy - Obama, Iran and the triumph of Diplomacy, it was the very real danger of a military conflict that drove the Barack Obama administration to become so dedicated to find a diplomatic solution to this crisis. In January 2012, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated publicly that Iran’s breakout - the time it would take from making the decision to build the bomb to having the material for a bomb - was twelve months. In spite of massive sanctions on Iran aimed at both retarding the nuclear program and convincing the Iranians that the nuclear program was too costly to continue, the Iranians aggressively expanded their nuclear activities.

By January 2013, exactly a year later, a new sense of urgency dawned on the White House. Iran’s breakout time had shrunk from twelve months to a mere 8-12 weeks. If Iran decided to dash for a bomb, the United States might not have enough time to stop Tehran militarily. According to former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, Iran’s shrinking breakout time caused the U.S. to be “closer to war with the Islamic Republic than at any time since 1979.” Other countries realized the danger as well. “The actual threat of military action was almost felt as electricity in the air before a thunderstorm,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told me.

If nothing changed, President Obama concluded, the U.S. would soon face a binary option: Either go to war with Iran (due to pressure from Israel, Saudi Arabia and some elements inside the US) to stop its nuclear program or acquiesce to Iran’s nuclear fait accompli. The only way out of this lose-lose situation was a diplomatic solution. Three months later, the US and Iran held a pivotal secret meeting in Oman where the Obama administration managed to secure a diplomatic breakthrough that paved the way for the JCPOA.

The deal prevented war. Killing the deal prevents the peace. If Trump collapses the deal and the Iranians restart their program, the US will soon find itself facing the same dilemma that Obama did in 2013. The difference is that the President is now Donald Trump, a man who doesn’t even know how to spell diplomacy, let alone conduct it.

2. Trump is planning to take on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps

Decertification is only half the story. Trump also plans to significantly escalate tensions with Iran in the region, including taking a measure that both the Bush and Obama administrations rejected: Designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. Make no mistake, the IRGC is far from an army of saints. It is responsible for much of the repression against the population inside of Iran and it fought the U.S. military indirectly in Iraq through Shia militias. But it has also been one of the most critical fighting forces against ISIS.

In real terms, the designation does not add much to the pressure the U.S. already is or can impose on the IRGC. But it ratchets things up in a very dangerous way without any clear benefits to the United States. The drawbacks, however, are crystal clear. IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari issued a stern warning last week: “If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State [ISIS] all around the world.” If the IRGC acts on its warning and targets U.S. troops - and there are 10,000 such targets in Iraq - we will only be a few steps away from war.

3. Trump is escalating without having any exit ramps

Escalation is under all circumstances a dangerous game. But it is particularly dangerous when you do not have diplomatic channels that ensure that the other side reads your signals correctly and that provides mechanisms for de-escalation. Not having such exit-ramps is like driving a car without a brake. You can accelerate, you can crash, but you can’t brake.

Military commanders understand this. That’s what former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen warned about prior to the Obama administration investing in diplomacy. “We’ve not had a direct link of communication with Iran since 1979,” Mullen said. “And I think that has planted many seeds for miscalculation. When you miscalculate, you can escalate and misunderstand… We are not talking to Iran, so we don’t understand each other. If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right — that there will be miscalculation which would be extremely dangerous in that part of the world.”

Mullen issued this warning when Obama was president, a man often criticized for being too restrained and too unwilling to use military power. Imagine how nervous and worried Mullen must be today with Trump calling the shots in the situation room.

4. Some US allies want the US to fight their war with Iran

There is no secret that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been pushing the US for years to go to war with Iran. Israel in particular was not only making threats of preemptive military action itself, its ultimate aim was to convince the United States to conduct the attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities for Israel.

“The intention,” former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak admitted to the Israeli paper Ynet in July of this year, “was both to make the Americans increase sanctions and to carry out the operation.” 

While the Israeli security establishment today opposes killing the nuclear deal (Barak himself said as much in an interview with the New York Times this week), there are no indications that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has changed his mind on this matter. He has called on Trump to “fix or nix” the deal, though his criteria for how to fix the deal is so unrealistic it virtually ensures the deal will collapse - which in turn would put the US on a path to war with Iran.

The only person who arguably has a worse sense of judgement than Trump is Netanyahu. After all, this is what he told US lawmakers in 2002 as he lobbied them to invade Iraq: ”If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.”

5. Trump’s donors are obsessed with starting war with Iran

Some have suggested that Trump is pursuing the decertification of the Iran deal ― in spite of the near consensus advice of his top advisors to not go down this path - as a result of pressure from his base. But there is no evidence that his base cares much about this issue. Rather, as Eli Clifton meticulously had documented, the most dedicated force behind Trump’s obsession with killing the Iran deal is not his base, but a tiny group of top Republican donors. “A small number of his biggest campaign and legal defense donors have made extreme comments about Iran and, in at least one case, advocated for the use of a nuclear weapon against the Islamic Republic,” Clifton wrote last month.

The billionaire Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus, for instance, has given Trump $101,700 to help pay Trump and Donald Trump Jr.’s legal fees following the probe into Russian election interference. Hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer is another major donor to pro-war groups in Washington who Trump has relied upon for financial support. The most famous billionaire donor, of course, is Sheldon Adelson who has contributed $35 million to pro-Trump Super PAC Future 45. All of these donors have pushed for war with Iran, though only Adelson has gone as far as to suggest the US should strike Iran with nuclear weapons as a negotiating tactic.

Thus far, Trump has gone with the advice of these billionaires on Iran over that of his Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. None of the above five scenarios were realistic a few months ago. They have become plausible ― even likely ― because Trump has decided to make them so. Just like with George Bush’s invasion of Iraq, Trump’s confrontation with Iran is a war of choice, not a war of necessity.

Fish Farms out! Action Now! Premier Horgan! October 13 Manifestation

Fish Farms out! Action Now! Premier Horgan!

by Fish Farms Out Now!

October 12, 2017

"What was done to the buffalo to starve a people is now being done to us and our salmon"
- Tsastilqualus Umbas, from Yalis.

"We have no more fish, because of those fish farms"
- Musgamag'w Hereditary Chief He'mas Tłalalitła, Bill Wilson.

"We aren't interested in a prolonged discussion. We are interested in action." 

- Chief Bob Chamberlain, KHFN.

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch and do nothing.” 
- Albert Einstein

Please turn up and collectively confront one more manifestation of a long colonial legacy of environmental racism, threatening people and planet.

Exercise your civic duty to support indigenous frontline resistance to the daily accelerated threats to wild salmon from the ecological and human disaster of open-pen fish farming.

Join Fish Farms out Now!, an ad hoc group of settler and indigenous social and environmental justice and indigenous rights activists, Friday the 13th at noon for an emergency action at Premier John Horgan's constituency office in solidarity and support of the Namgis, Mamalilikala, Lowitsis, Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw, Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwamis and Gwawaenuk First Nations' on-going Marine Harvest fish farm occupations on Swanson and Midsummer island.

On October 10th, 40 hereditary leaders representing eight Kwakwakā'wakw nations hosted an historic, ceremonial event with Premier John Horgan and Ministers Lana Popham, Claire Trevena and Scott Fraser in their Big House in Alert Bay to bear truth, backed by science, of the devastating impacts of thirty years of open-pen fish farms placed along salmon migration routes, without consent, on the Indigenous culture and food fishery, which has suffered a tragic collapse from introduced European fish pathogens entering the marine environment from these feedlots.

The Chiefs and elders have sent a clear mandate to the Premier and his cabinet members: No more studies, reports or negotiations-- fish farms out of their territories now!

The Premier's response to his hosts and the emergency situation of "empty freezers" and to the 30 year efforts of the Namgis and Musgamagw peoples was once again a general promise to protect wild salmon without any action commitments or timelines or guarantees whatsoever to do what is within the Provincial Governments' power to remove the Marine Harvest fish farms at Midsummer and Swanson islands, a minimum show of good faith.

We will gather peacefully in honour of the Salmon Peoples to send a message to the Premier that he can do better and it is time for the government to distance itself from an industry that is destroying wild salmon populations, threatening the sacred food supply of the Salmon Peoples since time immemorial and damaging entire marine and forest ecosystems. It is time to match words with action and to recognize the sovereignty and jurisdiction of First Nations on their own unceded territories. It is time to implement the governments commitment to UNDRIP: No consent, no fish farms on stolen native lands!

This action will be taking place on the ancestral lands of the Coast Salish peoples, who have never given up their inherent rights to self-determination over their lands, territories and waters.

This action will keep in mind that the new NDP government has made promises to move these fish farms to closed containment on land and that we are hopeful and encouraging them to honour these promises within a meaningful timeline.

We are asking all involved to maintain an attitude of friendliness, respect and assertiveness. The action will include drumming, open mic, leafletting and art. Please bring placards, something to sit on ( if needed) and a bag lunch.

N.b. A diversity of roles can be involved on this action and people are welcome to be present as observers/ picketing and/or leafletting.

The #50 BUS from downtown Victoria will take you right to the action.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Spain at Midday

A Way Out for Spain and Catalonia?


October 11, 2017

The Catalan leadership has stopped short of declaring independence from Spain, calling instead for talks with the Spanish government. We speak to Fusion host Nando Vila and Professor Sebastiaan Faber of Oberlin College.

Nando Vila is a host and producer at Fusion where he covers politics. He has been the host of The Soccer Gods and Midterm Mayhem, as well as the Executive Producer of the Emmy-nominated documentary Trumpland.
Sebastiaan Faber, Professor of Hispanic Studies at Oberlin College. Author of the forthcoming book Memory Battles of the Spanish Civil War, and co-author of the Nation article "Have Spain and Catalonia Reached a Point of No Return?"

The Catalan Paradox

Catalonia’s Paradox

by Josep Maria Antentas  - The Bullet

October 11, 2017

October 1 has passed, closing a period of the shared history between Catalonia and the Spanish state and beginning an uncertain future. It was a day when all the tension building over the five-year independence process came to a head.

The numbers speak volumes. 2,262,424 votes cast. With an electoral roll of approximately 5.3 million people, that represents 42.5 per cent turnout. We would have to include the votes seized by the police and from citizens who could not vote to calculate a final number.

Of those votes counted, 2,020,144 (90 per cent) were in favor of independence, 176,566 (7.8 per cent) against, and 45,586 (2 per cent) left their ballots blank.

Next to these tallies, we must list another figure: the 890 officially registered injuries. The images say even more than the numbers – unprecedented police violence met historic popular mobilization.

The independence movement has emerged victorious, and, while the vote doesn’t mean that pro-independence forces will reach their goals immediately, they did gain momentum by demonstrating their determination and capacity for mobilization despite state repression and their opponent’s decision to boycott. The post-Franco Spanish state is more discredited than ever in Catalonia.

The immediate consequences are clear. The Law of Transiency, which Catalonia’s parliament passed on September 8, stipulates that, if the referendum results in a “yes” victory, the Catalan government would move to proclaim an independent republic.

Getting Ready for the Second Act

However, it is not clear how the government will proceed. Its decisions will determine the fate of the independence movement as well as the broader democratic bloc that supported the vote. How to keep that democratic bloc – which goes beyond the pro-independence forces – united is a decisive strategic question in this context. Catalonia’s independence hangs in the balance, and in the short term, the institutional and political struggle between the Catalan and Spanish states will only intensify the current crisis. Though the official independentist narrative claims that the main work for achieving independence is already done, October 1 marked the start of the most critical phase.

We should therefore see the October 3 general strike as October 1’s second act. Initially driven by small unions, the planned work stoppage eventually won partial support from the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT), Catalonia’s two major unions. These organizations did not call for a full strike but for partial work stoppages, to which both workers and employers agreed. Eventually the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) and Òmnium Cultural – the mainstream independence movement’s leading organs – as well as the Catalan government threw their support behind the protest, though the ANC did so only reluctantly.

This “official” bloc rebranded the event as a cross-class “nation stoppage” that mixed a traditional strike with mass demonstrations and the voluntary closure of enterprises and public administration. Overall, the day turned into another impressive collective action in the midst of an exceptional political situation.

What will happen now in Catalonia depends not only on local actions but also on the impact that the independence movement, referendum, and mass protests have on Spanish politics in general. The situation’s complexity makes it dangerous to draw any hasty conclusions.

On the one hand, the People’s Party (PP), which rules Spain, will continue to use Catalan independence to mobilize its conservative base. On the other hand, a section of the Spanish public, including Podemos and its base, has rejected the state’s repression and now favors a legal referendum.

Further, in those parts of Spain that, like Catalonia, have longstanding national – or regional – conflicts, the independence process may polarize pro-Spanish centralists and the respective nationalist movements.

All these factors create a complicated scenario for the Left, which will lose more ground in the long term if it gives up the defense of democracy in the short term. Behind these rapidly unfolding events sits an important paradox: Catalan independence poses the greatest threat to the continuity of the political and institutional scaffolding created in 1978, but it may also temporarily strengthen some of the state’s pillars, producing a framework that pushes Spanish politics to the right.

Madrid's Strategy

The PP, working hand in hand with the state apparatus and most of the media, has taken an inflexible stance toward independence since the movement began in 2012. It will continue this approach because it believes that opposing Catalan sovereignty benefits the party in a number of ways: it boosts support in key regions of the Spanish state, unites its base, recovers ground from Ciudadanos, puts Pedro Sánchez’s “new” Socialist Party (PSOE) under pressure, and moves political debate away from the issues that help Podemos, such as state corruption and the ongoing economic crisis.

But for the umpteenth time since political turmoil began in 2011 with the rise of 15M, narrow partisan logic has prevailed over long-term thinking. The PP’s failures show the Spanish elite’s strategic limitations when confronted with the crisis of the 1978 regime. Resist and endure before all challengers – from Catalan independentists to 15M and its electoral offshoots. This has become the ruling class’s mantra.

The PP’s scorched earth policy has an important precedent, one that coincides with the rise of pro-independence forces in Catalonia: the aggressive Spanish nationalism of José María Aznar's second government (2000-4). While Aznar’s centralism was useful for the Right at the time, it actually triggered the current crisis, producing irreversible disaffection among the Catalan people.

The government in Madrid likely calculates that it should intensify its confrontation with the independentists until it can defeat their hopes for a quick independence process. Having used the stick, it will later try the carrot, offering some room to more moderate forces.

But the more the Spanish state’s policy entrenches the conflict, the more difficult it will be to change direction. When legitimacy fails, only force remains, but the use of the latter only further erodes the former. Today, the crisis of legitimacy of the Spanish state in Catalonia has reached its peak.

September 20 to October 1

Before the state intensified its repressive policies on September 20, the independence movement, led by the ANC and Òmnium, lacked self-organization from below. Only the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) represented an anticapitalist and unofficial pro-independence current, but it did so at the cost of serious internal contradictions and enormous external pressures.

But the state’s repressive barrage and the imminence of the vote spurred popular self-organization, and neighborhood and municipal Committees of Defense of the Referendum (CDRs) joined the Escoles Obertes (Open Schools) in organizing volunteers to protect polling stations on October 1.

Neither the ANC nor Òmnium were overtaken by the push from below, but they may force these organizations’ militants to engage in more consistent civil disobedience. Up to this point, their approach remained quite timid, concentrating on setting up polling stations, and they had not planned any real system of defense to confront police harassment.

Large-scale self-organization emerged late. Without a doubt, if Catalonia en Comú had actively engaged more around the referendum, the process could have gone much further (though we should recognize that many of its militants played an active role beyond what the party officially did). What was achieved on Sunday was spectacular, but the absence of a unitary movement was felt in the months leading up to the referendum. The ANC did not want to promote a broader alliance, and the forces outside the mainstream could not initiate their own dynamic to align with the ANC. Only the events of the last few days changed the situation, launching a process of organization from below that had not existed before.

Phase Two

In the coming confrontation, the movement has four fundamental challenges.

First, it must expand its social base.  

It is difficult to evaluate the results of October 1 in detail thanks to the repressive conditions under which voting took place. No doubt, over two million “yes” votes constitutes an important social bloc. While not strictly a numerical majority, no organized or active counter-bloc has emerged to oppose it.

The independence movement exploded between 2012 and 2014 but has remained more or less stagnant, albeit at high levels of support, since then.

Some got tired of the eternal process that seemed to go nowhere, but, in recent days, new support developed, mainly because of the Spanish state’s repression. Some “yes” votes may have been cast in favor of democracy rather than independence. Further, we cannot know how many people who would have voted “yes” could not do so because of all the complications of the day.

In terms of its social composition, the independence movement’s base pivots around the middle class and young people, though older voters were very visible in the polling lines on Sunday. The mainstream movement never captured an important part of the left-wing social base and, in fact, it did not try to do so: it simply expected they would eventually become convinced.

Catalunya en Comú's hesitant policy reflects not only its leadership's views, but the social reality of its political and electoral base. This is worth noting explicitly, as it’s a key factor. Having a specific policy towards left-wing political and social organizations and their social base is necessary, which undoubtedly clashes with the project of the neoliberal right in power, the Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català (PDeCAT), whose weakness should be exploited to impose a left turn. We should roughly sketch the path to radicalizing the mainstream independentist movement: implementing urgent political and social measures as an anti-crisis package, prioritizing the start of a constituent process, and creating a framework that can include those who do not necessarily want independence but support some sort of constitutional rupture with the state.

Indeed, the absence of any alliance between independentists and those who support Catalonia’s right to decide has been one of the process’s biggest strategic weakness. This has one immediate implication: the Catalan Parliament must carry through the referendum’s popular mandate in a way that ensures the pro-democracy-but-anti-independence sectors who participated in the organization on October 1 feel included. That is, it must avoid fracturing the democratic-disobedient front that contributed to the vote’s success and thereby reducing its supporters to an alliance of independentist forces only, without distorting the meaning of what was approved on Sunday.

Second, the independence movement must maintain the strength shown after September 20, in the days leading up to October 1, and on the day itself. 

Democratic grassroots efforts such as CDRs should continue in one form or another. Beyond the ANC and Òmnium, the people should build broad committees that are not subordinate to those two organizations while still having a policy of unity toward them.

Until September 20, pro-independence action was limited to the impressive September 11 annual mobilization, but it had little capacity to respond in important moments or to go beyond the ANC or Òmnium when they opted to react to events passively. The answer is not to return to normal but to sustain the dynamics of self-organization that began on the eve of October 1.

Third, pro-independence forces must develop a more complex perspective regarding the struggle, confrontation, and victory.

The movement regularly uses the term “disconnection” to describe independence, a word that, while conveying a seductive image of quiet change, greatly simplifies what breaking with the state actually entails.

The official discourse has insisted that independence represents a transition from one legality to another, ignoring the fact that, if the former does not accept that change, what begins is a struggle in which brute force is decisive (recall Marx’s remark in Capital: “between equal rights, force decides”). Force nevertheless is conditioned by the context and legitimacy of the one who wields it. Keeping all this in mind is important for the looming sustained conflict.

Fourth, pro-independence forces must look for and weave alliances across the entire Spanish state. 

The movement has welcomed the solidarity it received from outside Catalonia in response to the intensified repression, but it based its strategy on unilateral action, never seeking out support in other parts of Spain beyond the nationalism of the Basques or Galicians. In reality, unilateralism and the search for allies are compatible.

That support is more necessary than ever now. As long as the PP believes that the iron fist benefits it the most in the short term, it will maintain its policy of repression. Independentism must articulate its struggle, without dissolving it, within the context of the broader battle against the 1978 regime.

Democracy, both by standing against repression and by being able to decide the future, should be the starting point. The recognition of a common adversary will be the second step.

The Internal Frontline

The independence movement confronts the Spanish state, but the movement has also faced an internal struggle. The most visible disagreement is between the two government parties, the right-wing, neoliberal PDeCAT and the center-left Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC). But, beyond their competition, the most decisive battle will take place over whether the radical forces within the movement can surpass the bloc formed by the Catalan government, ANC, and Òmnium Cultural.

Events since September 20, especially the self-organization from below and the movement’s radicalization, may favor more left-wing forces, both politically (primarily the CUP) and socially. Finally, the role that Catalonia en Comú plays in this struggle will be decisive in determining whether this situation shifts left.

Until September 20, Ada Calou’s party remained passive. When the government called the referendum last year, Catalonia en Comú expected the plans to collapse, hoping that every step toward the vote would be the last and that the government would push a unilateral referendum into the indefinite future. The party only explained its position when pushed, and then it opted to defend the referendum process as a mobilization without committing to its success or calling for a massive turnout.

After the state’s repressive turn, however, Catalonia en Comú modified its position and joined the mobilization, but it did not fundamentally transform its strategic orientation. Ada Colau’s blank vote – neither “yes” nor “no” – summed up the party’s discomfort with the independence debate.

Now Catalonia en Comú must choose: either it watches the fight from a distance, or it joins the confrontation with the state and supports a constituent process. It can take this active role with twin objectives: overcoming the centralized state and breaking the Right and center-left’s hegemony over the independence movement.

To do so would not necessarily mean supporting full independence. Instead, it might prove that a rupture with the state has become the necessary condition for a federal solution. That is, without betraying its own programmatic positions, Catalonia en Comú can support the proclamation of the Catalan Republic and the opening of a constituent process.

If it stays on the margins, this could push it to the periphery of Catalan politics or, if independence is defeated, it may enjoy a rebound effect that gives them it a new medium-term success. But either way, if the party resumes the passive orientation it held prior to October 1 in the new stage that opens, it will severely affect the nature of its political project. It is not only Catalonia en Comú’s position on the independence debate that is at stake, but its own constituent and rupturist drive. The discomfort of the independence movement with the Comu's position is understandable, but this should not make the party forget the need to have a unitary policy towards them, particularly on democratic and constituent issues.

Podem has had a more proactive and committed position toward the referendum. It denied the vote’s binding nature and even called on its base to vote “no,” but these positions contradict the party’s proposal to open a constituent process.

Now Podem must decide if it will stay outside the next phase of confrontation with the state, or if it will have an active policy towards the sovereigntist bloc and help to try to overcome that bloc’s right wing.

Thus, the Left must complete three interrelated tasks: maintain the independence movement’s unified action against the Spanish state, articulate a democratic and anti-repressive bloc that moves beyond independence, and fight to re-balance Catalonia’s political forces to favor the Left.

This last point gets at a more fundamental question: what does the term independence mean, and how does it relate to the concept of sovereignty? The mainstream movement has presented independence as the solution to all of Catalonia’s problems while leaving the concept empty of concrete content. In fact, official independentism, both in its neoliberal and center-left forms, could produce independence without real sovereignty in a state that is formally independent but remains subaltern to the European Union, favorable to international trade agreements like the TTIP and to policies that serve multinationals.

The Catalan left must insist on sovereignty with all its national, social, economic, and health dimensions, not to mention its relationship to notions of democracy and solidarity against reactionary nationalism. Put another way, the Left must figure out how to link a proposal for political change with a proposal for another social, economic, and institutional model, to go beyond the change without change that mainstream independence embodies.


Those on the Left, both in Catalonia and the Spanish state, who have remained opposed to or outside the independence movement have often pointed out, with more or less authority, the process’s innumerable contradictions. The most notorious of all, of course, remains the presence of a neoliberal party at the head of the Catalan government, a defender of a strict policy of social cuts that never used to support independence. I have already pointed out some limits of the Catalan political process – in terms of the social base and the contending forces.

But the constant insistence on the process’s contradictions reflects an excessively scholastic attitude toward social reality itself and unfortunately often appears in many Left analyses of phenomena that fall outside their authors’ predetermined schemas.

All social processes produce contradictions to a greater or lesser extent. This comes from the very complexity of human societies and how they express conflict. A movement not only contains contradictions and limitations, but its evolution will always produce contradictory and limited results. This observation brings us back to what social theorists call the unintended consequences of social action.

Any anticapitalist strategy needs to learn how to work in the context of contradictions and limits to try and resolve the former in an emancipatory direction while widening the confines of the latter. The purest strategy is precisely the one that knows how to handle itself in an impure, contradictory, and complex world.

“Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is,” wrote Lenin in 1916 about the Easter Rising. Today, we are not facing a revolution, but his words nevertheless apply to the Catalan reality.

Faced with the imperfections of the Catalan independence movement, the Left has two options: opt for a passive policy that will involuntarily exacerbate the movement’s deficiencies, or follow an active policy that intervenes in reality and pushes the process in a more progressive direction. The first option leads, depending on the case, toward abstract radicalism, propagandism, or institutionalist routinism. None of these outcomes have anything to do with a serious attempt to change the world.

The contradictions and limits of the five-year independence process have prompted the abrupt emergence of striking paradoxes, a term that can take on both comic and tragic valences. Certainly, the days leading up to October 1 were days of paradox. Disobedient parties called for order and calm, while leftists turned to the Catalan police. Right-wing forces appealed for institutional disobedience, disguised as complying with the new Catalan legality, while activists and anarchists lined up to vote. A reactionary government accused its citizens who wanted to organize a referendum of plotting a coup.

When social processes accelerate, as they have in Spain, all strategic thinking that does not want to be fossilized must plunge headfirst into these paradoxes, where things are not what they seem and where the consequences of actions may not always be clear. •

Josep Maria Antentas is a professor of sociology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. This article first published on the Jacobin website.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Myth of the Lone Reporter: Making the Story Possible

The Journalist and the Fixer - Who Makes the Story Possible?

by Nick Turse - TomDispatch

October 5, 2017

We were already roaring down the road when the young man called to me over his shoulder. There was a woman seated between us on the motorbike and with the distance, his accent, the rushing air, and the engine noise, it took a moment for me to decipher what he had just said: We might have enough gas to get to Bamurye and back.

I had spent the previous hour attempting to convince someone to take me on this ride while simultaneously weighing the ethics of the expedition, putting together a makeshift security plan, and negotiating a price. 
Other motorbike drivers warned that it would be a one-way trip. “If you go, you don’t come back,” more than one of them told me. I insisted we turn around immediately.

Once, I believed journalists roamed the world reporting stories on their own. Presumably, somebody edited the articles, but a lone byline meant that the foreign correspondent was the sole author of the reporting. Then I became a journalist and quickly learned the truth. Foreign correspondents are almost never alone in our work.

We’re almost always dependent on locals, often many of them, if we want to have any hope of getting the story. It was never truer for me than on that day when I was attempting to cover an ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign in South Sudan.

Tomgram: Nick Turse, A Disappearance, a Body, and What It Takes to Make the News

We tend to think of them as separate and distinct wars: the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq. Yet it’s not hard to trace the ways in which America’s knee-jerk overreaction to the terrorist attack of 9/11 and the “preemptive” invasion of Iraq that followed in 2003 destabilized whole regions, spreading conflict like the plague. One war begot another, often right next door, just as the war in Iraq seemed to spill into neighboring Syria and set off its demolition, too. The infamous “surge” of more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops into Iraq in 2007 only accelerated the flight of Iraqis from their homes: more than a million of them were displaced within that country, while close to a million more crossed the border into Syria.

Those Iraqi refugees generally had more money than their Syrian counterparts. With their arrival, schools and hospitals became overcrowded, food prices in Damascus rose 30% and rents 150%. Hard-pressed Syrians moved to run-down neighborhoods in Damascus, finding themselves second-class citizens in their own capital. As the number of refugees only increased, UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency, found itself desperately overstretched, with money enough to help only with housing or food, not both. Poor Iraqi widows and single mothers eventually slid into the sex trade. Women danced in nightclubs where impoverished mothers sold their little girls into one-night “marriages” to high-rolling tourists from the Gulf states. And things only got worse. Such misery is contagious.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, having opened borders to Iraqis, feared the subversion of his own regime. He had always run a tight ship, much like his fallen autocratic neighbor Saddam Hussein. With the surge of Iraqis into Damascus, he doubled down. When I worked in the city in 2008, you could smell surveillance in the air. The same guy lounging in different neighborhoods. The lock picked. Papers rifled. A camera gone. The rising sense of something worse about to happen. The shadow of the war in Iraq fell across Damascus like a prediction. Less than three years later, in March 2011, peaceful protests began after 15 young boys were arrested and tortured -- a 13 year-old died -- for having written graffiti in support of the Arab Spring. Assad responded with deadly force and, by July, civil war was underway. To date, at least 465,000 Syrians have been killed, one million injured, and 12 million -- half the country’s population -- displaced like the Iraqis before them.

As for the U.S.: in 2016, we dropped 12,192 bombs on Syria although we are not officially at war with that country. That’s more than the 12,095 bombs we dropped that same year on Iraq, with which we are no longer at war, and more than we have dropped on any country since the war in Vietnam. It’s all about the unlimited license the war on terror has given the U.S. military. We now bomb “terrorists” wherever we “see” them (often among civilians), and currently not just in Syria and Iraq but also in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Libya, and Somalia. Donald Trump, during his first six months in office, set an all-time presidential record, dropping 20,650 bombs on seven Muslim countries for reasons he did not explain, even as he nearly doubled the number of civilians being killed. And he’s just getting started.

TomDispatch managing editor Nick Turse brings us back to ground level today, as he writes about the courageous unsung local people, the “fixers,” who make possible the faraway work of journalists like him and the prize-winning Canadian reporter Deborah Campbell whose extraordinary new book he discusses. Full disclosure: I’m a colleague and friend of both Nick and Campbell, whose riveting book takes you deep into the eerie police state that was Damascus before the bombs began to fall in Syria. Ann Jones

The Journalist and the Fixer 

Who Makes the Story Possible?

by Nick Turse

As the motorbike driver was topping off the tank with gasoline from a plastic water bottle, I had a final chance to think things over. We were going to cross the border from Uganda into South Sudan so I could gather evidence of a murder by government troops in a village garrisoned by those same soldiers. The driver hailed from one of the ethnic groups being targeted by South Sudan’s army. If we were found by soldiers, he would likely be the first of us killed. The woman, Salina Sunday, was my guide. She was confident that she would be safe and didn’t show an ounce of fear, even though women were being raped and killed as part of the ethnic cleansing campaign churning through the southlands of South Sudan, including her home village, Bamurye.

Within minutes we were off again to find, if we were fortunate, the mutilated body of the murder victim; if we were unfortunate, his killers as well. I had met Sunday barely more than an hour earlier. I had laid eyes on the driver for the first time only minutes before we left. They were strangers and I was risking their lives for my work, for “my” story.

The Fix is In

When it comes to overseas newsgathering, it’s the “fixers,” those resourceful, wired-in locals who know all the right people, who often make it possible. Then there are the generous local reporters, translators, guides, drivers, sources, informants of every sort, local friends, friends of friends, and sometimes -- as in that trip of mine to Bamurye (recently recounted in full in the Columbia Journalism Review) -- courageous strangers, too. Those women and men are the true, if unsung, heroes behind the bylines of so many foreign correspondents. They’re the ones who ensure that, however imperfectly, we at least have a glimpse of what’s happening in far-off, sometimes perilous places about which we would otherwise be clueless.

So when the great Iona Craig dons a black abaya and niqab, inserts her “brown tinted contact lenses to cover [her] green foreigner eyes,” and blows the lid off a botched U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen that killed at least six women and 10 children, she does it with the aid of fixer-friends. They are the ones who make the arrangements; who drive and translate; who, in short, risk their lives for her, for the story -- and for you. When Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Daniel Berehulak produces an instantly iconic New York Times exposé of the brutal war on drugs launched by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, veteran journalist and uber-fixer Rica Concepcion is also behind it.

If you read the reporting of the New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson, Leila Fadel (then of the Washington Post), or Nancy Youssef (then of McClatchy) on Libya, you likely benefited from the work of fixer Suliman Ali Zway. Eyder Peralta’s powerful report on a doctor’s strike at Kenya’s Kiambu County Hospital that you heard earlier this year? The late Jacque Ooko, a veteran journalist who worked as National Public Radio’s bureau assistant in Nairobi, got Peralta in the door. And that August 19, 2017, front-page tour de force by Ellen Barry of the New York Times about a murder in a village in India? You can thank her colleague Suhasini for it, too.

Canadian journalist Deborah Campbell is no different. Like so many foreign correspondents, she’s also leaned on fixers. Unlike most of us in the trade, however, she’s written a beautiful book-length love letter to one of them -- her vivid, captivating A Disappearance in Damascus: Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War. Campbell’s award-winning memoir-and-more offers a unique window into the life and work of foreign correspondents and the relationships they forge with those they rely on to help them do their jobs.

Unlike the New York Times’s Jeffrey Gettleman, whose recent Love, Africa: A Memoir of Romance, War, and Survival oddly fixates on both his ardor for his girlfriend-turned-wife and his infidelity -- “As we tumbled into bed, a firefight erupted... We didn’t stop” -- the love in Campbell’s book has nothing to do with eros. Nor is it an obsession with place, though Campbell’s affection for the beauty she finds in Syria is evident. Instead, what drives A Disappearance in Damascus is the story of the deep bonds of friendship that formed between Campbell and her fixer in Syria, a remarkable Iraqi refugee named Ahlam. While Gettleman’s book is sold as “a tale of passion,” the burning desire in Campbell’s pages is most felt when, in the second half of the book, she launches a relentless search for her fixer and friend after Ahlam disappears without a trace.

Campbell, a self-described “immersive journalist,” traveled to Damascus in 2007 to cover the deluge of Iraqis flooding into Syria as a result of the American invasion of their country and the carnage that followed. There, she found the resilient Ahlam, elevated to a position of leadership in the Iraqi refugee community by popular acclaim. She was a charismatic figure who exuded confidence, knew all the right people, and got the job done -- the very qualities that make for a top-flight fixer. While supporting her husband and two children, fixing for Campbell and other journalists, and solving the problems of beleaguered refugees, Ahlam even managed to set up a school for displaced girls. It’s little wonder that Campbell took to her and that those two strong, driven women became close friends.

The power of their personal bond, the blessing of their friendship, however, turned out to be a curse as well. When Ahlam was suddenly disappeared by the Syrian regime, Campbell became convinced that she had been targeted because of their work together. Ahlam had, in fact, aided journalists from al Jazeera, the Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and other media outlets, worked for multiple foreign aid groups, and even the U.S. military (in Iraq), which meant that there were myriad reasons why the Syrian government might have arrested her. Still, Campbell couldn’t shake a deep-seated feeling that she was at fault.

In a profession typified by countless anxieties, fear for your fixer (or driver or source) is a special one that may manifest itself in an acidic churn deep in your gut or racing thoughts that you can’t slow down as you stare up through your mosquito net at a wobbling ceiling fan. Have you endangered the people who devoted themselves to helping you do your job? Have you potentially sacrificed their welfare, perhaps their lives, for a story? As Campbell puts it:

“I could accept the knowledge that nothing I wrote or would ever write would change a thing and that the world would continue to create and destroy and create and destroy as it always did. I could accept living without a relationship. I would still be okay. What I could not accept was Ahlam being gone. It was unthinkable that she had been missing for almost seven weeks. Unthinkable that she could be lost and never heard from again. Unthinkable that I could do nothing."

It called to my mind a time when a driver-turned-friend of mine was smacked around and taken away by angry government officials. I’ve never forgotten my fear for him and the abject sense of powerlessness that went with it. It’s a special type of anxiety that, I suspect, many foreign correspondents have experienced. (My driver was luckily released a short time later, a far different outcome than Ahlam’s arrest.)

Campbell responds to her friend’s disappearance by utilizing the very skills that make her a great journalist and begins to investigate just what happened. At times, it turns her book into a first-class detective story and, for that very reason, provides a useful primer on how reporters practice their craft.

For those who know anything about the sparse literature on the subject, A Disappearance in Damascus calls to mind perhaps the most iconic tale of this type -- another story rooted in platonic love, deep affection, and the sense of responsibility that grows between a journalist and a fixer (even if that fixer was officially a “stringer”).

“I began the search for my friend Dith Pran in April of 1975. Unable to protect him when the Khmer Rouge troops ordered Cambodians to evacuate their cities, I had watched him disappear into the interior of Cambodia, which would become a death camp for millions,” wrote New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg. “Pran had saved my life the day of the occupation, and the shadow of my failure to keep him safe -- to do what he had done for me -- was to follow me for four and a half years.”

That magazine-article-turned-book -- both titled “The Death and Life of Dith Pran” -- and the movie adaptation, The Killing Fields, chronicled Pran’s long journey as he navigated and survived the unthinkable horror of the Cambodian autogenocide and also stands as a testament to his enduring friendship with Schanberg. A Disappearance in Damascus brings to mind some of the same themes of friendship and responsibility, raises some of the same questions about duty and loyalty, and evokes some of the same emotions, though I won’t give away whether Ahlam, like Pran, makes it out alive. In war -- or even its shadow -- nothing is certain. (At least until you read the book.)

Someone Has to Open the Door

When they meet again in 1979, after Pran has survived the unimaginable and trekked through Cambodia’s killing fields to safety beyond the Thai border, Schanberg asks his friend if he can ever forgive him. “Nothing to forgive,” Pran replies, offering him something like complete absolution.

Not all relationships with fixers, of course, blossom into Schanberg-Pran, Campbell-Ahlam love stories. And not all fixers are fantastic and fearless. There are the incompetent ones and the lazy ones and those allergic to schedules. Others come to see you as a bottomless wallet -- and who can blame them, given our privilege and relative riches? But this can lead to unrealistic expectations, as it once did for me, when I received an email from a fixer I’d worked with many times asking for a stipend of $500 per month in (more or less) perpetuity. And that, in turn, can result in hurt feelings when you explain that you simply can’t do it. These are, thankfully, the exceptions.

While largely unknown to the public, fixers might finally be getting some much-deserved recognition -- albeit in small ways. A Disappearance in Damascus is a shining example. These days, foreign correspondents seem to be acknowledging those who helped them more openly, offering warm tributes to and remembrances of their fixers. Perhaps this is evidence, as reporter Aaron Schachter put it, of a greater willingness to admit the “dirty little secret of foreign correspondents: We don't do our own stunts.” Late last year, Roads & Kingdoms, a digital magazine “publishing longform dispatches, interviews, and global ephemera,” began a series called “Unbylined” in which fixers from Mexico to Haiti, Afghanistan to Libya, get their say through thoughtful interviews focused on their craft.

Still, even fixers are just part of the story. Where would foreign correspondents be without great drivers? Probably stranded on some wretched stretch of road. I can’t count the number of times I’ve stayed too long doing interviews, leaving my driver to try to make up the time to the river before the last ferry departs for the day or get off a dangerous road before dark. These are the guys who know all the shortcuts, the complex language of car horns, and how to make good time on bad roads. Along with them, depending on where you travel, there are the motorbike drivers and the men and women who pilot boats, as well as those who fly the puddle jumpers and helicopters that get you where you’re going. And that’s just to begin a list.

There are precious few Africans (or Afghans or Iraqis, for that matter) of much depth in Jeffrey Gettleman’s Love, Africa -- another in a list of reasons the book has been panned by many and excoriated in his own newspaper’s book review. But in his discussion of “Commander Peacock” (the man’s own nom de guerre), an Ethiopian who is treated as a person and not simply a prop, Gettleman offers up important insights into what he calls “the transitive property of trust.” He observes:

“Reporters deposit their lives in it all the time. People I’d trusted had hooked me up with people they’d trusted who hooked me up with people they’d trusted. Peacock and I were simply two terminal points on a long line drawn by trust.”

This form of faith -- based on a sequence of relationships -- is often key to overseas reporting, but it isn’t the only type of journalistic trust to be found out there. There’s trust of another sort, trust that’s earned, like that between Schanberg and Pran or Campbell and Ahlam. And then there’s the trust that’s freely given, a faith that you can only hope someday to be worthy of.

That’s the trust of the Salina Sundays of this world, of those ordinary people who exhibit extraordinary courage, place their confidence in you, and even risk their lives because they believe in what you’re doing, in the stories you hope to tell.

When I met Sunday -- a gimlet-eyed, middle-aged woman with a strong bearing -- on what she reckoned was a somewhat safer road, she was setting off into South Sudan on a difficult journey to try to salvage a few of her belongings for what she expected would be a long exile in Uganda. She was in desperate circumstances, homeless, a woman without a country. Still, she took the time to stop and speak with a stranger. And she told me about a friend who had been murdered by rampaging South Sudanese troops, a man whose corpse she had only recently seen by the side of the road.

I asked if she would guide me to him and she readily agreed. In the midst of an unfolding tragedy, that is, she upended her plans and decided without hesitation to lead a foreigner she had just met down a more dangerous path, literally and figuratively. She didn’t know a thing about me -- not whether I could get a story published or had any hope of doing justice to this particular horror or would even bother to write about it. But she made a leap of faith and put her life on the line for the sake of my story -- and so for me as well.

I tried to live up to her confidence, to make the risk she took worthwhile. I think this is a common experience for many journalists. You feel a deep responsibility to the people you interview and to your fixers, drivers, and translators -- to everyone, that is, who sacrifices and takes chances to make your work possible.

I don’t know what Salina Sunday would think about the stories I’ve written, but I hope she would approve. She wanted the world to know just what had happened in Bamurye, what South Sudan’s soldiers had done to her friend. She wanted people overseas to grasp the grim nature of the war in her homeland. It’s exactly what drove Ahlam in her work for Deborah Campbell, the reason she took risks to tell stories that could turn her into a target. “Someone,” the Iraqi-refugee-turned-fixer said, “has to open the door and show the world what is happening.”

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch, a fellow at the Nation Institute, and a contributing writer for the Intercept. He recently covered ethnic cleansing by government forces in South Sudan for Harper’s Magazine and the Columbia Journalism Review. His latest book is Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is This article was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.

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Copyright 2017 Nick Turse