Saturday, December 23, 2017

Professing the Crusade: Shedding Light on Come from the Shadows

Professing the Crusade: Shedding Light on Come from the Shadows

by C. L. Cook -

November 23, 2011

I recently interviewed Terry Glavin, author of 'Come from the Shadows: the long and lonely struggle for peace in Afghanistan.' The book is a treatise arguing a necessary continuation of the decades-old war the "West" has waged against "Islamists" and "fascists" in Afghanistan.

Terry Glavin is a Canadian particularly concerned with Canada's continued contribution to 'The Mission' in Afghanistan. He uses that nation's abject suffering at the hands of the Taliban as justification for the largely unrecorded occupation force slaughter of civilians in their thousands through night raids, drone missile attacks, deaths in custody by torture, (at the hands of Afghan police, military, and the internal security apparatus) and summary execution of suspect "militants." 

His mission, he claims, is to speak for Afghanistan's women, bringing them universal suffrage and equal rights. Glavin told me the book was likely to be upsetting and confusing for a lot of readers, saying,

"there's gonna be a lot of people it's gonna really hurt them a lot; it's gonna sting." [43:10]


 [The link to an audio file of the interview is here, and square brackets indicate the time where a given quote can be accessed. Glavin's segment begins at 35:30]. 

"Sting," Glavin says because Canadians have been made "enfeebled in their understanding on Afghanistan," enfeebled because in his view, "voices and the views and the positions of brown people are ignored and overlooked..."

Here Glavin refers to the hurt his Canadian readers will experience as he disabuses them their comfortable preconceptions and not that of Afghans continuing to be "hurt" by a reproduced Vietnam-era Phoenix Program-styled counter-insurgency.

The program has, according to a recently leaked report from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), killed as many as 3,000 Afghans in a period of ten months spanning 2010-11; almost 1600 of those, more than half of the reported deaths, being civilians.

Glavin similarly expresses little concern for victims of so-called "Hit Teams," American soldiers discovered killing civilians for sport, and marking their triumphs with body part trophies, just as in Vietnam. Nor does he express a concern for the abuses and excessive violence the burgeoning corporate mercenary armies operating within the borders visit upon the population with minimal accountability.

The jacket flyleaf says Glavin is recipient of "more than a dozen writing awards, including the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize and the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence." It's unlikely however he'll receive any awards for Come from the Shadows, a bare-faced polemic defying even the most basic journalistic impartiality standards. But to be fair, Glavin is an assured propagandist whose craft is honed by his day job as a creative writing instructor at the University of Victoria, and a recently secured gig as columnist for the establishment Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

Explaining his approach in an interview with the UVic student newspaper, The Martlet, Glavin told reporter, Brandon Rosario,
"I could have interviewed [the Taliban] anytime I wanted... but that's something I won't do, I confess I am a partisan."
"If I had the opportunity I'd call in the fucking drones, make no apologies for it."
This sentence really cuts to the core of the book with its monotonous iteration of the entire vile retinue of anti-Muslim sentiment we've become all too accustomed to seeing paraded in the media since September 2001. Though he insists his primary concern is for the development of democracy and universal human rights for Afghans, he seems entirely inured to the human cost the military intervention fosters. His unrepentant willingness to "call in the...drones" allows he make no apologies for the knock-on effects of those attacks.

As a 2010 report reveals, drone-launched missiles kill more than one innocent for every two targeted individuals. Another investigation, covering a period ending in September of 2011, puts the lie to recent CIA claims not one civilian has been killed in drone attacks citing dozens of cases of just that and brings into question the true identities of those "insurgents and al Qaida" members killed. 

That those targeted are done so based on the flimsiest of evidence without the benefit of a judicial process and certainly no chance to mount a defense, too seems entirely appropriate to Glavin, the self-regarding defender of democratic principles and champion of the introduction of universal rights for Afghanistan. These high-minded principles we're assured will one day be enjoyed by the survivors of those currently experiencing the terror of night raids on one side and insurgent bombings on the other.

(Incidentally, what is happening in Afghanistan is in Glavin's view neither a war, nor an occupation; just as the invasion wasn't an invasion, and the US and NATO did not defeat the Taliban.)     

Glavin frequently dismisses people whose opinions he disagrees with as "polemicists" even while denying his own admittedly "partisan" book is polemical. He contends it's possible to be both partisan and fair. That may be true if one makes an honest effort to include voices and views differing from prescribed positions, but he fails to make that effort. Instead, Terry lambasts outspoken former Afghan MP Malalai Joya as being "worse than a joke," maintaining his friends in Afghanistan's liberal left regard her with something "between pity and contempt." He refers to Joya as a puppet, saying she has become; "[S]ome kind of marionette of comfortable, rich, white people in the NATO capitals." Which of these fortunate few are pulling Joya's strings was not made clear in my interview with the author, and a perusal of the index of his book fails too to enlighten on the point.

Having interviewed Malalai Joya myself I find his low opinion, (or the cited supposed opinions of the entirety of Afghanistan's "left liberal, secular reformist, intellectual community," a polyglot the unified opinion of which Glavin claims to represent) passing odd for a man who professes to be primarily concerned for the rights of Afghanistan's women folk. I find it stranger still a man with Glavin's obvious burning hatred of the Taliban renders so poor an account of a woman who herself describes them as "depraved and medieval." 

In her 2009 memoir, 'A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice', (derided by Glavin without irony as a "polemical auto-hagiography") Malalai Joya writes,
"Dust has been thrown into the eyes of the world by your governments. You have not been told the truth. The situation now is as catastrophic as it was under the Taliban for women. Your governments have replaced the fundamentalist rule of the Taliban with another fundamentalist regime of warlords. [That is] what your soldiers are dying for."  
Glavin agrees, we in the West are not being given a true picture of the situation in Afghanistan, though he believes "worse than a joke" Malalai Joya is merely a "rock star," someone he says is only "dimly remembered" in the native country she "left." Trusting the testimony of Sabrina Saqib, a former colleague of Joya while ignoring the woman herself driven from the Parliament, survivor of numerous assassination plots, (and at least four actual attempts) Glavin allows Saqib deliver the coup de grace,
"Malalai Joya has only some repeated sentences she keeps repeating, nothing new. You can listen to Malalai Joya once and record it, and repeat it."
But, you won't hear much of Malalai Joya's message repeated in Come from the Shadows. Instead, Joya's courage and contribution to her native country is tossed off and she denigrated as a "bit part" player whose message he compares to a needle placed on a vinyl record that effectively "drowns out everything else." Glavin does include a solitary quote taken from one of Joya's many speaking engagements in Canada, Europe, and the United States.

In the single citation, taken from her address to the Canadian National NDP Convention in 2006, Joya tells those gathered,
"The situation in Afghanistan and conditions of its ill-fated women will never change positively as long as the warlords are not disarmed and both the pro-US and anti-US terrorists are removed from the political scene of Afghanistan."

It's an unequivocally clear statement, given by a woman who has a considerably greater understanding of the need for the emancipation of women, and men in that country than the author's single-minded determination that foreign military involvement is the only way forward. She is no impediment however to Glavin's self-confidence, as he blithely trots out his four guided trips to Kabul and environs as lending his opinion the gravity of a latter-day Lawrence. Ignoring reality, he dismisses Joya entirely because she does not provide in her speech a road map out of the quagmire, while accusing any who listen to her as being fantasists blinded by a fiction he calls "Absurdistan."

Malalai Joya at least made a mention in Glavin's book. The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, (RAWA) didn't even rate that; not a single line. I asked him about that occlusion during our interview. Unsurprisingly Glavin thinks little of RAWA, saying they have "[M]ore members in Santa Barbara than in all of Afghanistan." They too are in his view, "a joke." [45:50] Likewise, the Afghan Women's Mission goes without recognition. In fact, for a man who professes a lethal devotion to women's rights, feminism is entirely absent the index. And Glavin has a curious male-chauvinist literary tic, repeatedly using terms like "high pitched" and "hysterical" to describe those guilty of following any line other than his own, with no apparent ken of their offensiveness.

I asked Glavin who then he turns to for credible news and opinion on Afghanistan. His answer was essentially "no one." In lieu of references he asserts, "At least I paid the Afghan people the courtesy of visiting their country a few times..." as though that were enough experience "in the field" to dispel the notions of hide-bound foreigners using only telephones, computers, and libraries to inform their hopelessly remote opinions. [46:45]

But it is not only Rawa and Malalai Joya who are hopeless jokes, and worse. Glavin manages too to smear Canadian career diplomat, Richard Colvin, calling him a "whiner" for his part in the coming to light of what in Canada became known as 'The Detainee Torture Scandal'. [57:07] (Terry denies a scandal existed; no torture, or even testimony alleging such a thing. [57:02]). The case of Canadian soldiers handing over prisoners to Afghan soldiers and police for systematic torture was according to the author, so much ado about nothing

He told me,

"Everyone wants to talk about the Detainee Scandal. I tell you, the people in Afghanistan laugh about this." [58:00] 
The UN, as Terry should know, find it less amusing. In a report released just last month the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan concluded nearly half of the detainees they interviewed had suffered torture and they confirm many of those incarcerated had been turned over to their tormentors, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) or Afghan National Police (ANP) forces for national security crimes by international forces. 

Kathy Kelly, an American co-ordinator for Voices for Creative Non-Violence who has worked in Afghanistan for extended periods with youth especially, recently reported from Kabul,
"Even though high commanders in the ranks of the US JSOC acknowledge that 50 percent of the time the night raids and drone attacks "get" the wrong person, (Washington Post, September 3, 2011), the US war planners have steadily escalated reliance on these tactics." 
She recounts the deaths of three students killed by ISAF in a case of mistaken identity, the abduction of the single surviving "fighting age" male, and his family's frantic attempts to find him.  

Fascists figure big in Come from the Shadows; they appear in many guises and in my interview with Terry Glavin I tried without success to find his definition of fascism and its adherents in the modern context. I believed it important because Glavin claims the right to kill them. [48:05]

Glavin says,
"I grew up in a culture where killing fascists was no vice." [55:02]. 
I'm sure he was referring there to his dear old Da, or perhaps Da Da sent across enemy lines somewhere in Europe in the 1940's, or perhaps shoring up as a member of the International Brigades to fight Franco in Spain in the thirties. In the book, Glavin compares the members of NATO and ISAF fighting Afghans to those volunteers battling Franco so long ago, claiming the Taliban are those fascists reincarnate, (replete with Nazi provenance). But he says the same of many "Islamists" in many lands and it begs the question, "Just where does the crusade against the "fascists" end?"

In the book, Glavin gleefully kicks at the recently deceased leader of Canada's NDP party, Jack Layton and in our interview he wondered aloud how the NDP came to hold the same position on Canada's withdrawal from Afghanistan as the "crypto-fascist" Taliban?

This crypto-fascist creep seems the real crux of Terry Glavin's effort with Come from the Shadows and as the world gears up for another propaganda assault designed to once again usher us into a full scale war, much broader this time than even those serial efforts already seen over the last ten years, the more light shone on that assault the better.

Postscript: Terry Glavin featured on Rex Murphy's November 20th radio program Cross Country Checkup for the full two hours. There, Rex allowed he fulminate fully his fascistic phantasmagoria. You can listen to him repeat the same tropes heard on my show with Rex here.


Last Post for the Myth of a Liberal American Media

The Other Side of the Post’s Katharine Graham

by Norman Solomon  - Consortium News

December 20, 2017

Hollywood loves to make heroes of The Washington Post for the rare moments when it has stood up for journalism – while forgetting the blood-soaked cases of the Post spreading lies to justify wars, writes Norman Solomon.

Movie critics are already hailing “The Post,” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham.

Millions of people will see the film in early winter. But the real-life political story of Graham and her newspaper is not a narrative that’s headed to the multiplexes.

The Washington Post’s Watergate team, including from
left to right, publisher Katharine Graham, Carl Bernstein,
Bob Woodward, Howard Simons, and executive editor Ben Bradlee.

“The Post” comes 20 years after Graham’s autobiography Personal History appeared and won enormous praise. Read as a memoir, the book is a poignant account of Graham’s long quest to overcome sexism, learn the newspaper business and gain self-esteem. Read as media history, however, it is deceptive.

“I don’t believe that whom I was or wasn’t friends with interfered with our reporting at any of our publications,” Graham wrote. However, Robert Parry — who was a Washington correspondent for Newsweek during the last three years of the 1980s — has shed some light on the shadows of Graham’s reassuring prose. Contrary to the claims in her book, Parry said he witnessed “self-censorship because of the coziness between Post-Newsweek executives and senior national security figures.”

Among Parry’s examples:

“On one occasion in 1987, I was told that my story about the CIA funneling anti-Sandinista money through Nicaragua’s Catholic Church had been watered down because the story needed to be run past Mrs. Graham, and Henry Kissinger was her house guest that weekend. Apparently, there was fear among the top editors that the story as written might cause some consternation.” (The 1996 memoir of former CIA Director Robert Gates confirmed that Parry had the story right all along.)

Graham’s book exudes affection for Kissinger as well as Robert McNamara and other luminaries of various administrations who remained her close friends until she died in 2001. To Graham, men like McNamara and Kissinger — the main war architects for Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon — were wonderful human beings.

In sharp contrast, Graham devoted dozens of righteous pages to vilifying Post press operators who went on strike in 1975. She stressed the damage done to printing equipment as the walkout began and “the unforgivable acts of violence throughout the strike.” It is a profound commentary on her outlook that thuggish deeds by a few of the strikers were “unforgivable” — but men like McNamara and Kissinger were lovable after they oversaw horrendous slaughter in Southeast Asia.

Graham’s autobiography portrays union stalwarts as mostly ruffians or dupes. “Only a handful of [Newspaper Guild] members had gone out for reasons I respected,” she told readers.

“One was John Hanrahan, a good reporter and a nice man who came from a longtime labor family and simply couldn’t cross a picket line. He never did come back. Living your beliefs is a rare virtue and greatly to be admired.”

But for Hanrahan (whose Republican parents actually never belonged to a union) the admiration was far from mutual. As he put it,

“The Washington Post under Katharine Graham pioneered the union-busting ‘replacement worker’ strategy that Ronald Reagan subsequently used against the air-traffic controllers and that corporate America — in the Caterpillar, Bridgestone/Firestone and other strikes — used to throw thousands of workers out of their jobs in the 1980s and the ’90s.”

The Washington Post deserves credit for publishing sections of the Pentagon Papers immediately after a federal court injunction in mid-June 1971 stopped the New York Times from continuing to print excerpts from the secret document. That’s the high point of the Washington Post’s record in relation to the Vietnam War. The newspaper strongly supported the war for many years.

Yet Graham’s book avoids any semblance of introspection about the Vietnam War and the human costs of the Post’s support for it. Her book recounts that she huddled with a writer in line to take charge of the editorial page in August 1966:

“We agreed that the Post ought to work its way out of the very supportive editorial position it had taken, but we couldn’t be precipitous; we had to move away gradually from where we had been.” 

Vast carnage resulted from such unwillingness to be “precipitous.”

Although widely touted as a feminist parable, Graham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography is notably bereft of solidarity for women without affluence or white skin. They barely seemed to exist in her range of vision; painful realities of class and racial biases were dim, faraway specks. Overall the 625-page book gives short shrift to the unrich and unfamous, whose lives are peripheral to the drama played out by the wealthy publisher’s dazzling peers. The name of Martin Luther King Jr. does not appear in her star-studded, history-drenched book.

Katharine Graham’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers was indeed laudable, helping to expose lies that had greased the wheels of the war machinery with such horrific consequences in Vietnam. But the Washington Post was instrumental in avidly promoting the lies that made the Vietnam War possible in the first place. No amount of rave reviews or Oscar nominations for “The Post” will change that awful truth.

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of the online activist group and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Muskrat Madness: The Folly of John Horgan

The Madness of John Horgan

by Ken Boon - Peace Valley Landowner Assoc.

December 23, 2017

 The B.C. NDP government announced last week that it would complete the controversial hydroelectric dam rather than cancel the project.

The province's independent energy regulator concluded in a report last month that the dam is over budget and behind schedule. By approving Site C, Premier John Horgan has guaranteed that every underpaid and overworked Bob Cratchit in B.C. will pay a heavy price for his bad governance and that First Nations will pay the heaviest price of all in the loss of land and sovereignty.

The Ghost of Muskrat Madness can explain the full tragedy just by describing the disastrous problems at a hydro mega-project in Newfoundland.

Horgan said that in the decision of Site C, consent was not required as the decision to build the dam had already been made. I sometimes wonder if these leaders know how silly they sound with the semantics they use. The BC NDP government was making a critical decision on whether to cancel or proceed with the project. They made the motions of sending Ministers Mungall and Fraser to talk to the treaty 8 Nations.

But they didn’t bother talking to or meeting with First Nation in the province on the impact on them in not being able to produce clean energy because of Site C. Billions of dollars in lost investment. They didn’t calculate that in the cost of Site C and the money that would go into education, day care and hospitals from those projects.

What if now, the NDP marionettes cut their strings, followed their hearts, listened to their conscience and cancelled the Site C dam in 2018?

What if … we were given a Christmas present? Would it be that the NDP kept their promises and would not be shackled by unethical manipulation from the past?

The holidays are upon us, and thank goodness. It’s been a year of seismic headlines, global and local.

Ken Boon, President
Peace Valley Landowner Assoc.
SS#2, Site 12, Comp 19
Fort St. John, BC V1J 4M7

Email address:

Facebook page:


Friday, December 22, 2017

Beware Your Wishes: Saudi Choice of Long War in Yemen Promises Destruction on All Sides

Let Yemenis Live

by Kathy Kelly - VCNC

December 23, 2017

On May 2, 2017, before becoming Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as Minister of Defense, spoke about the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, a war he orchestrated since March of 2015. “A long war is in our interest,” he said, explaining that the Houthi rebels would eventually run out of cash, lack external supplies and break apart.

Conversely, the Saudis could count on a steady flow of cash and weapons. “Time is on our side,” he concluded.

Powerful people in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Senegal and Jordan have colluded with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince to prolong the war against Yemen.

The Saudis have employed Sudanese fighters from the terrifying Janjaweed militias to fight in small cities along Yemen’s coast line. The seeming objective is to gain ground control leading to the vital Port of Hodeidah. UAE military are reported to operate a network of secret prisons where Yemenis disappear and are tortured, deterring people from speaking up about human rights violations lest they land in one of these dreaded prisons.

Among the most powerful warlords participating in the war are the U.S. and the UK.

Despite the recent publicity for stern words from Donald Trump and Theresa May, urging Saudi Arabia to lift its blockade of Yemen, both countries continue to pocket billions of dollars selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

President Trump swiftly condemned the Houthi fighters for firing several rockets at Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But the Houthis could claim to be using these weapons in self-defense after Saudi and UAE jets have dropped tons of bombs, purchased from the U.S. and the UK, on Yemeni cities and civilians.

Observers say if the U.S. stopped its midair refueling of Saudi bomber planes, the war would end shortly thereafter. Yet, the U.S continues these military operations. The UK still supplies the Saudis with surveillance, and both countries work to maintain a comfortable relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Defense and  Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Just over 1,000 days of Saudi-led coalition war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen has been deadly and devastating for Yemeni civilians.

Mark Lowcock, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, says that 7 - 8 million Yemenis are one step away from starvation. The BBC reports that more than 80% of Yemenis lack food, fuel, water and access to health care.

The number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has reached one million, according to the International Commission of the Red Cross.

1.8 million children in Yemen are acutely malnourished, including 400,000 under the age of five who suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Malnourished children are also at increased risk of dying from infectious

Like the children of Iraq who perished by the hundreds of thousands during U.S. led economic war against Iraq, these little ones in Yemen mean harm to no one. They’ve done nothing to deserve punishment. Yet, they will pay the price for abysmally failed policies. The food and clean water they hunger and thirst for could reach them, but not if powerful elites decide it’s acceptable to blockade Yemen’s ports, bomb roadways, destroy sewage and sanitation systems, attack fishermen and farmers, and even kill participants at a wedding celebration.

After dancing in Saudi Arabia with Mohammed bin Salman and other Saudi princes, President Trump set in motion a $110 billion-dollar weapons deal. Boeing, Raytheon, and other military contractors already  benefiting from this deal will likely agree with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: a long war is in their best interests.

But, ordinary people who prefer not to be represented by vicious warlords and who face no risk of torture, disappearance or other frightening punishments (people like me for instance) have a responsibility to speak up visibly and clearly. Time is running out for the children of Yemen. The Crown Prince is mistaken. Any war, long or short, may seem to favor the perpetrators, but in the long run wars sow seeds of revenge, retaliation,
hatred and death. Real courage requires control over our fears and mutual agreements to protect the most vulnerable among us. Especially the children.

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence ( )

From the Outrageous to the Bizarre: News from Empire's Edge

The Tamimis

by Mazin Qumsiyeh  -

December 22, 2017

News gets more bizarre every week. It was revealed that Mohammad (Kushner) Bin Salman has spent a billion dollars to buy a home in France and one Leonardo da Vinci painting and another trillion dollars buying weapons from US Corporations (whose only use will be to kill more Yemeni civilians).

More bizarre for me was that Mahmoud Abbas dutifully condemned the rocket fired from Yemen in self-defense after Saudi Jets have dropped tons of US and British bombs on Yemeni cities.

Then we hear the Zionist puppets Nimrata Randhawa (who changed her name to Nicki Haley) and the (orange) bully Trump threaten countries who were about to vote at the UN based in support of international law (which says Israel is an occupying power in Jerusalem). Despite these bizarre threats, 128 countries voted with, 9 against, and 35 (shamefully) abstained (those who did not vote with international law should be held accountable by their people so please check how your country voted and challenge them).

Nimrata and the Orange puppets were really angry!! Their bosses in Tel Aviv were acting their usual schizophrenic, superiority/inferiority self. Resistance forces around the Arab World are growing. Collaborators are confused what to do (some are privately calling me for advise about the best way to reclaim a resistance heritage and step back from the brink ;-).

On the ground, the world's 4th or 5th largest army (by weapons and by manpower) who failed against Hamas and Hizballah went after more Palestinian children and unarmed civilians trying to hang on to our land (again the superiority-inferiority complex would explain this). So they arrested our friends Ahed Tamimi of Nebi Saleh (16 years old), her mother Nariman, her father Bassem, and her cousin Nour after shooting another cousin in the face (and injuring and abducting hundreds more in the last week).

I urge everyone to get informed then write to your elected officials and to the mainstream media and to use social media to publicize the injustices and demand freedom for all prisoners and for an end to the colonization and apartheid in all of Palestine. Some calls for action to release the Tamimi family and all child political prisoners: (102,000 signed this avaas petition)

For those of you in the US, Israeli Embassy and Consulate contact information is here:

For those of you in other parts of the world, Israeli Embassy and Consulate contact information is here:

Omar Barghouti on BDS: How Effective Is It?

Stay Human

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Ottawa's Poison Pustule: Lancing Canada's Foreign Policy Boil

Draining Ottawa’s Foreign Policy Swamp

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice

December 21st, 2017

Drain the swamp’ was a popular Donald Trump campaign slogan that referred to reducing the influence of Washington lobbyists. While the three words reflect an extreme lack of ecological consciousness — wetlands need to be protected and recreated, not destroyed — the image of politicians slogging their way through lobbyist infected, tangled, dense vegetation and deep oozing mud is a useful one.

Like the US capital, much of Ottawa was also built on mosquitoes’ favourite habitat and both cities today have an ongoing pest problem: blood sucking influence peddlers swarming the countries’ decision makers. That image helps explain why there is little deviation from Canada’s official foreign policy positions even amongst social democratic members of Parliament.

The recently re-established Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group (CPPFG) offers a window into the dearth of opposition, notably from the NDP, to the foreign policy establishment. Chaired by Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara, CPPFG has nine MPs representing all the parties in the House of Commons except the Conservatives. But, CPPFG isn’t one of 17 official parliamentary associations or groups so it doesn’t receive public financial or administrative support, unlike the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary group.

In an equitable world the Palestinian parliamentary group — not the Israeli one — would be subsidized to offer MPs a counterpoint to Canada’s pro-Israel ideological climate. Supporters of Israel have established a slew of programs at high schools and universities, as well as media ‘flak’ organizations and advocacy groups, to promote that country’s viewpoint. Additionally, the dominant media favours the Israeli perspective and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is among the most aggressive lobbyists on Parliament Hill so MPs are not lacking for access to this outlook.

The Israel vs. Palestine parliamentarian bodies offer a unique window into how international power relations are reflected in House of Commons associations. But, the parliamentary association system more broadly reflects inequities in global power and wealth.

Nearly half the 17 associations that share a $4.5 million public envelope are focused on Europe. There is a Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association and an associated Canadian Delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly as well as country-specific groups for France, Germany, Italy, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Alongside Canada’s European G7 allies, there are Japan and US parliamentary associations.

Though it is a competitor to the US-led geopolitical order, China’s economic might warrants a parliamentary group. There are also associations promoting the Francophone and Commonwealth, which are rooted in European colonialism (previously it was called the Empire Parliamentary Association).

The only two associations focused on the Global South are the Canadian Section of ParlAmericas Bilateral Associations, representing 35 countries in the Western hemisphere, and the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association, representing 53 countries on the continent. (As is usual with Africa-related bodies, that association’s mission statement includes ‘benevolent Canada’ paternalism. It says “Canadian parliamentarians also have the opportunity to witness the local impact of programs funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and to learn about Canada’s efforts in Africa from Canadian officials in the field.”)

There is no Cuba or Venezuela parliamentary association. Nor are there any focused on 1.3 billion Indians or 180 million Nigerians or a parliamentary association devoted to the counterhegemonic Non-Aligned Movement or ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America).

Another way the Ottawa swamp forms MPs’ international views is through events and parties put on by diplomats. In The Blaikie Report long time NDP defence and foreign critic Bill Blaikie describes “enjoying many fine evenings” at the home of the British High Commissioner. Wealthier countries are more likely to have representation in Ottawa and have greater capacity to organize events promoting their country’s international positions.

Sometimes connected to diplomatic postings in the capital, MPs regularly travel on international trips organized and paid for by third parties. While the Globe and Mail has recently devoted significant attention to China sponsored trips, Israel and Taiwan have long been the principal destinations. A 2014 calculation found that a quarter of all federal MPs had been to Israel with an Israeli nationalist organization.

Opposition MPs are absorbed into the foreign policy establishment in other ways. At the start of year B.C. NDP MP Wayne Stetski participated in a House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development mission to Ukraine, Latvia, Poland and Kazakhstan while last month Tom Mulcair went on a Committee mission to Beijing, Hong Kong, Hanoi and Jakarta. Last year NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière traveled to Israel with representatives of the other parties and in 2014 then NDP foreign critic Paul Dewar joined foreign minister John Baird and Liberal MP Marc Garneau on a visit to Iraq. Global Affairs Canada and diplomats in the field usually organize these visits.

The Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association are the final officially recognized parliamentary associations. A presentation at a NATO meeting convinced Bill Blaikie to support the organization’s bombing of the former Yugoslavia in 1999. “I myself”, Blaikie writes, “had been affected by the presentation at a 1998 NATO parliamentary meeting in Barcelona of an Albanian woman from Kosovo, who tearfully pleaded for an intervention to stop the anticipated wholesale slaughter of Kosovar Albanians.”

No official parliamentary association is devoted to de-militarization.

Beyond the NATO Parliamentary Association, MPs are drawn into the military’s orbit in a variety of other ways. Military officials regularly brief MPs. Additionally, the slew of ‘arms length’ military organizations/think tanks I detail in A Propaganda System: How Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation speak at defence and international affairs committee meetings.

The Canadian Forces Parliamentary Program is, according to the Globe and Mail, a “valuable public-relations tool.” Set up by the Department of National Defence’s Director of External Communications and Public Relations in 2000, the Parliamentary Program embeds MPs in military training (Army in Action or Experience the Navy). According to the Canadian Parliamentary Review, the MPs “learn how the equipment works, they train with the troops, and they deploy with their units on operations. Parliamentarians are integrated into the unit by wearing the same uniform, living on bases, eating in messes, using CF facilities and equipment.” As part of the program, the military even flew MPs to the Persian Gulf to join a naval vessel on patrol.

Alongside the military, the arms industry lobbies MPs. Lockheed Martin’s name appeared 39 times in a “12-Month Lobbying Activity Search” of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada. CAE, General Dynamics, Raytheon, BAE and Airbus Defence were also listed dozens of times in the lobbyist registry. The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries has four registered lobbyists in Ottawa. Many of CADSI’s 800 members are also part of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Council of Chief Executives, Canadian Chamber of Commerce or Aerospace Industries Association of Canada. These groups also promote militarism and a pro-US foreign policy to government officials, though rarely do they speak in favour of withdrawing from military alliances or bucking Washington on an international issue.

Other corporations with international interests also have a significant presence on Parliament Hill. In a high-profile example, registered lobbyists representing Barrick Gold, Vale Canada, IAMGOLD, Goldcorp, Mining Association of Canada and Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada launched a ferocious campaign in 2010 to derail An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas Corporations in Developing Countries (Bill C300), which would have restricted some public support for firms found responsible for significant abuses abroad.

Canada’s international banking, engineering, oil, etc. firms also shape attitudes in Ottawa. SNC Lavalin, CIBC, Bombardier and other Canadian-based multinationals’ names appear repeatedly in a “12-Month Lobbying Activity Search”.

The corporate/military/Global Affairs nexus predominates on foreign policy because there is little in terms of a countervailing force in Ottawa. Non-Governmental Organizations are sometimes considered critics of Canadian foreign policy, but NGOs are not well placed to challenge the federal government. Reliance on government aid and charitable status hampers their political independence.

On many domestic issues organized labour represents a countervailing force to the corporate agenda or state policies. But, unions rarely lobby MPs on international affairs.

The influence peddlers in the Ottawa foreign policy swamp represent a narrow range of interests.

So how do Canadians who want this country to be a force for good in the world effect change? Step one is to understand the system, then challenge the foreign policy establishment’s grip in Ottawa.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
 Read other articles by Yves.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Green" Canada Ranks Worst on OECD G7 List

What Green Economy? New OECD Report Finds Canada Worst of G7 on Recycling, Minerals Efficiency 

by Mining Watch Canada

December 19, 2017

The OECD’s 2017 Environmental Performance Review of Canada, released today, finds Canada ill-prepared to shift its economy towards greater environmental sustainability.

A continuing emphasis on a “rip it and ship it” economy that pushes extraction ahead of value-added processing and manufacturing has left Canada lagging badly in innovation, in materials efficiency and recycling.

The report also points to environmental regulatory oversight and enforcement deficiencies in Canada.

The report highlights that Canada remains one of the most energy-intensive and material-intense economies in the OECD, noting that:

Resources consumed per capita (measured by weight) and resources needed to generate a unit of GDP are high even compared to other resource-rich OECD economies with strong mining and construction industries. Technological and process innovation, as well as greater use of recycled materials, would help Canada improve its resource efficiency. This would also contribute to green growth objectives, including climate mitigation and growth in clean tech segments. (p. 23)

Recent reports have highlighted the need for more metals in building green energy capacity, without fully taking into account either the real costs of mining or the potential for materials efficiency and recycled materials to fill that need. Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, said,

“The OECD’s observations are very revealing, and should help push Canada develop appropriate policy to shift away from primary resource extraction and its attendant destructive economic and environmental effects, and towards greater materials efficiency, recycling, and sustainability, whether through economic incentives and disincentives, or through legislation and regulation.”

As the report notes, “Even when compared to other OECD economies with high reliance on minerals and metals, Canada displays low material productivity.” The urgency of this problem was recently underlined by a United Nations-backed study that found that the amount of electronic waste around the world grew to a record 45 million tons in 2016, with only 20% being recycled. Canada produces over 20 kg of e-waste per inhabitant per year, ahead of all other countries in the Americas, including the USA, and there is no national legislation or strategy on the management of e-waste or of metal recycling from the construction, infrastructure and transportation sectors.

The OECD report also took aim at Canada’s poor enforcement of environmental regulations, noting:

At the same time, there is evidence of “regulatory capture” in enforcement against powerful industries. A recent report by British Columbia’s Auditor General concluded that neither the Ministry of Environment nor the Ministry of Energy and Mines conducts effective compliance monitoring and enforcement in the province’s mining sector. In many cases, operators who violate the law are given repeated warnings and opportunities to return to compliance, but never face real sanctions, even for clear and dangerous violations. Furthermore, neither ministry has adequately evaluated the effectiveness of its compliance assurance efforts (B.C. Auditor General, 2016). (p. 96)

Lapointe commented,

“There is currently a very limited insurance liability of up to $25 million for mine spills and accidents, and a recent UNEP report found Canada had some of the highest rates of mining spills in the world.”
He added that MiningWatch is pressing federal, provincial, and territorial governments to take meaningful action. “Beyond this report, we’d like to know what ability or mechanisms does the OECD have to follow up on the UNEP recommendations to protect the environment and the safety of people downstream of these large, primary mining waste facilities.”

For more information:

Ugo Lapointe, MiningWatch Canada,

Meanwhile in Barcelona... Catching Up with Catalunya

What is Happening in Catalonia and Spain?

by Vicente Navarro - CounterPunch

December 20, 2017

On October 1, 2017, the police of the Spanish State (known as the National Police) endeavored to take the polling boxes where Catalan people were voting in a referendum with two choices: for or against Catalonian independence from the Spanish State.

The voting took place in barricaded buildings (most of them public schools) to protect the boxes containing the votes. With the intent to collect the boxes and stop the voting, the National Police used all types of repressive measures, from rubber bullets, to gas and batons.

Nearly 900 people were seriously hurt, and two were in critical condition in area hospitals.

These televised images of the police brutality shocked the population, who responded by going to the streets in masses to protest against the National Police.

These popular protests forced the repression to end by early afternoon, allowing people to keep voting until 8:00 p.m. It was the victory of the population over the Central State and its police. The repression was not able to stop the referendum, with 2.5 million voting (approximately 43% of the electorate) and 90 percent favoring independence. The police assault not only failed to stop the vote, it infuriated people who had not planned to vote because they did not sympathize with the pro-independence movement led by the Catalan government. Many of them were from the working-class districts of Barcelona. After seeing the National Police brutality, they voted as a protest against the police behavior. It also showed, among other things, the incompetence of the Spanish government and its police.

Why Did This Happen?

Most of the international press has reported on the police riots, but they did not explain the political context that has led to the current situation. Two visions of Spain have always existed. One sees Spain as a uninational state, centered in the capital of the Spanish Kingdom, Madrid. This vision denies the existence of other nations in Spain. It is based on the Borbonic Monarchy and is the vision of the Monarchic State, including the armed forces and the Catholic Church; it is the conservative version of Spain.

Another vision of Spain, however, is plurinational, which recognizes other nations in Spain, including Catalonia, the Basque Country, and Galicia. Each one of these nations has its own language, culture, and history, and all of them prefer a republic rather than a monarchy as a form of state. It has always been the left republican vision of Spain. It had its full expression during the Second Spanish Republic, from 1931 to 1939, known for its famous reforms that included land reform, stronger unions, the establishment of the public school system, women’s suffrage, divorce, abortion, and many other highly popular reforms.

The institutions whose interests were negatively affected by these reforms—the large land owners, the bankers, and the church, among others—stimulated a military coup led by General Francisco Franco, whose troops (helped by Nazi German and Italian Fascist troops) needed three years to defeat the Second Republic. Initially they thought the coup would take just three months, but it took much longer than expected because of the enormous resistance offered by the popular classes (whose republican government only received assistance from the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent from Mexico). The so-called Non-Intervention Treaty (signed by most Western democracies and also by Hitler and Mussolini) was not respected by the Fascist states of Germany and Italy, and they continued to arm the Spanish Army. The victory of the Fascist forces led to the triumph of Franco’s regime, one of the cruelest dictatorships established in Western Europe. According to Professor Edward Malekafis, an expert on European Fascism at Columbia University in New York, for every political assassination of Mussolini’s Fascist regime, Franco completed 10,000. This Fascist state brutally repressed Catalonia, forbidding the Catalan language and culture. The dictatorship became the extreme expression of the uninational view of Spain. Before dying, Franco appointed Juan Carlos I as king (the grandson to the former king of Spain, Alfonso XIII).

How Democracy Came About in Spain in 1978

Two factors intervened to explain the transition of the Spanish State from a dictatorship to a democracy. One was the popular movements against the dictatorship, particularly accentuated in the most industrial parts of Spain, including Barcelona, Bilbao, and Madrid. All strikes were forbidden during the dictatorship and, as a consequence, every illegal strike became a political strike against the regime. This working-class pressure was very important to force a change in the dictatorship.

The second factor to stimulate Spain’s transition to a democracy was the need of the large business community (very influential in the dictatorial regime) to become integrated into the European Union. This required the dictatorial regime to open and adopt democratic features, such as the existence of political parties and the ability to carry out elections, that allowed the European Union to accept Spain. The governing right-wing forces (who were inheritors of the Fascist regime) derived enormous power from their control of the apparatuses of the state and most of the media. This power explains why the transition from dictatorship to democracy took place under conditions very favorable to those right-wing forces. They forced the left-wing parties—who were persecuted during the dictatorship—to abandon some key elements of their platforms and projects elaborated during their anti-Fascist struggle. One of those elements was their commitment to develop a plurinational state. In the new constitution, approved by the parliament in 1978, only one nation—the Spanish nation—was allowed, assigning the armed forces the task of maintaining the unity of Spain. The Socialist Party (PSOE), which in the clandestine period had proposed to establish a plurinational state, abandoned that intent (because of the pressure from the king and the armed forces) and became a major pillar of the new monarchic uninational state. And the Communist Party, which maintained its plurinational commitment, was marginalized by an electoral law that discriminated against major urban centers where the electoral base of that party—the working class—was situated. This is the origin of the events that occurred on October 1. This abandonment of the plurinational vision of the state took place at the same time that the historical memory (the intent to recover the history of the Republic) was basically forbidden and the achievements of Second Republic were completely forgotten. This silence about the past, in practice, meant the complete silence of the plurinational view of Spain. The Republic flag was forbidden, and the Borbonic Monarchic flag became the national flag.

What Happened in Catalonia?

In Catalonia, however, the plurinational vision of Spain did not disappear; the left parties continued to call for a redefinition of Spain. In 2005, a left-wing Catalan government, led by the Socialists (the Pasqual Maragall government), proposed an “Estatuto” (an autonomous law) calling for recognition of Catalonia as a nation within Spain. The proposal was approved by the Catalan Parliament, later on by the Spanish Parliament and finally, the Catalan population in a referendum.

It was vetoed, however, by the Constitutional Court, which the Popular Party (PP) controlled. The PP was founded by leading figures of the Fascist regime and still holds enormous power in the Central State. That veto was the starting point of the large demonstrations in Catalonia asking the Spanish government to approve what the Constitutional Court had vetoed. Since then, every year, more than one million people have gone to the streets on Catalonia Day, September 11, in memory of the day in 1714 when Borbonic forces defeated Catalan forces and Catalonia lost the right to self-government. The Spanish government ignored the demands by successive Catalan governments to get more autonomy, causing the radicalization of the mass movement that asked for Catalonia to be recognized as a nation and to have more autonomy within the Spanish State. That radicalization meant a major change in the type of demand they were asking for: they started calling for independence. The pro-independence sector of the Catalan population—which was never larger than 15 percent of the adult population—increased to 48 percent during the period when Spain was governed by the PP (the Spanish right-wing party.) This 48 percent translated into a majority in the Catalan parliament, because the electoral laws favored rural and conservative areas over urban and working-class areas. The pro-independence parties governed Catalonia as the majority in the Catalan parliament, led by the Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC -a right-wing party), which later changed its name to Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català (PDeCAT.) This party has governed Catalonia most of the democratic period, 1978–2016 (almost 30 years). It controls most of the apparatus of the Catalan regional government, including the public TV and the Catalan public radio. The other two parties that allied with the CDC are a center-left party, the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) (although its economic team is neoliberal), and the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP), a very radical nationalist party that claims to be socialist and revolutionary (which has approved the Catalan budget containing strong austerity policies proposed by PDeCAT and ERC.) The pro-independent parties, however, are a minority in Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia. Barcelona is governed by a new left-wing party, En Comun, allied with Unidos Podemos (a coalition of a new left-wing party in Spain, Podemos, with the renewed Communist Party, Izquiera Unida (IU).)

The Current Situation

The approval of the independence of Catalonia in the Catalan parliament generated two responses. One was that all the parties opposed to independence abandoned the parliament (which represented the majority of the Catalan population) in protest of the way the pro-independence parties, two of them governing Catalonia in a coalition (Junts per Si in alliance with the CUP), had declared independence. A decision such as this should have been approved by two-thirds of the parliament (according to the Catalan and the Spanish law), which was not the case. The pro-independence parties argued that they had obtained independence on October 1 with 90 percent of the referendum votes in favor of independence. The anti-referendum parties considered this argument to be fallacious, since the referendum was illegal and did not have the democratic guarantees to allow for a full debate on the issues raised by the referendum. But most importantly, this 90 percent in favor of independence was only 43 percent of the voting population. The actual number of supporters for independence was a minority of Catalans. The majority of the population—and particularly working-class people, who come primarily as immigrants from other parts of Spain—was, and continues to be, against independence. They were not pro-independence, although they were outraged by the actions of the Spanish police. This explains why the Catalan trade unions (who were not in favor of independence) called a very successful general strike on October 3, two days after the actions of the Spanish police. The strike was called by the key players in civil society, such as the two largest unions, the small employer associations, the major neighborhood associations of Catalonia, the widely popular firefighters, and many others.

The other response was the approval by the Spanish State (controlled by the PP) of an exceptional clause 155 of the Spanish constitution, allowing the Spanish government to dismiss the Catalan government, the Catalan autonomy, and the Catalan parliament, governing Catalonia from Madrid. In addition, the Spanish State called for elections on December 21. This highly unpopular law in Catalonia eliminated the already limited Catalan autonomy. This law, however, became popular in the rest of Spain. The call for elections, on the other hand, is favored in large sectors of the popular classes. Today Catalonia is divided (by class) into two Catalonias. In the last elections in Barcelona, all urban districts with levels of income above the city average voted for pro-independence parties, those below (which were the majority) for parties against independence.

What the Flags Are Hiding

The PP, the right-wing party (which in the European spectrum is an ultra-right-wing party and successor of the Fascist Party), is extremely corrupt. These past weeks, several courts are judging cases of corruption that show how that party has been funded illegally. The president of that party and of the Spanish government, Mariano Rajoy, is involved in that corruption. The major national media attention and coverage, however, is on the national question. Rajoy and his party, the PP, appear as the great defender of the “unity of Spain,” the call of the Fascist military coup of 1936. His policies are strongly anti-working-class and have included labor market reforms that have reduced salaries and increased precariousness to record levels, while holding the flag calling for the “unity of Spain.” The same is happening with another right-wing neoliberal party, Ciudadanos (the Citizens), founded and funded by the major corporation of Spain (the Ibex 35).

On the Catalonia side, a similar situation has occurred. The leading party in the pro-independence government is PDECAT, which has been applying identical neoliberal policies (voting for the same labor market reforms in the Spanish parliament that were proposed by the PP), is also using the flag “defending Catalan identity” to hide the enormous cuts in the public sectors of the Catalan welfare state and the same labor market reforms that increase unemployment and precariousness and reduce salaries and social protection. Like the PP, PDECAT is one of the most corrupt parties in Europe.

A New Catalonia and a New Spain

Catalan and Spanish nationalist feelings in Spain have been used to hide the conflict of class interests. The public policies inspired by the governing nationalist parties have led to an unequal distribution of income. The income derived from labor has declined dramatically during the period of great nationalist tensions, while income derived from capital has increased significantly. Meanwhile, the national question has occupied all the attention from the political and media establishments.

A very important development occurring in Spain and in Catalonia has not been covered by the media. It is the Indignados movement (clearly inspired by the Arab Spring) that mobilized millions of people against the political establishment. Their slogan, “they do not represent us,” became very popular, and the movement has created new left-wing forces in many parts of Spain: in Madrid (Podemos), in Galicia (Mareas), and in Catalonia (en Comun). Along with a renewal of leadership of the traditional left party (IU), these left-wing parties have established a new political formation, Unidos Podemos (UP), which in a very short period of time (three years) has become the second largest political formation in the opposition and already governs in some of the most important cities in Spain (Barcelona, Madrid, Coruña, Cadiz, etc.). In Catalonia, it has won the last two elections in the Spanish parliamentary elections. It has been a political tsunami and has created an enormous hostility from the major media and the political establishment. This alliance is against the law 155 and against independence. It calls for a plurinational state and for the right of self-determination of the different nations of Spain. It is a new development that is changing the political climate in Spain as a response to people’s rejection of the highly repressive Spanish State against Catalonia, side by side with a demand for recognition of the plurinational nature of Spain. We will see what will happen next.

Vicente Navarro is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Johns Hopkins University and the University Pompue Fabra Public Policy Center Barcelona, Spain.
More articles by:Vicente Navarro

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Ray Grigg, Douglas Gook, Janine Bandcroft December 21, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

December 21, 2017

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Jolly Kwanzaa and a very Cosmic Solstice as we enjoy today the great turning of the Sun too! It's normal at this late date to cast an eye back across the year's happenings and accomplishments, and it's been an eventful year here in BC, with a new government brought in - and brought in in such a novel way.

Many on the greener side of the political spectrum hoped the change would bring with it a new way of looking at the way things are done in this province, and my first guest may well be one of those.

Listen. Hear.

Ray Grigg is the author of seven books on Taoism and Zen, and the columnist behind the long-running environmental column, Shades of Green.

He recently released The EcoTrilogy, a compendium of sixteen years worth of his weekly column, comprising the books, Ecologos, Ecopathy, and Ecocide.

Ray Grigg in the first half.

And; where British Columbia's ecological record during the sixteen-plus years reign of the BCLiberal party was never great, the last years, culminating as they did with the Mount Polley mine tailings disaster, proved particularly destructive. So, hope for change was especially buoyant when the electorate discharged the Liberals in favour of a coalition government featuring, for the first time in the nation's history, a Green Party component. But those hopes were dealt a cruel blow last week, when John Horgan's New Democratic Party refused to stop the contentious, and ecologically deleterious, Site C dam project.

Douglas Gook is a Quesnel-based ecology activist and farmer who’s focused on Eco forestry alternatives in the woods there and beyond for more than forty years. The Nechako Lakes Green Party of BC candidate is a director of the BC Environmental Network and Spirit Dance Cooperative Community, and leads Forest Protection Allies, one of the many environmental organizations pressuring government to get effective cleanup processes going, and appropriate compensation for those effected three years after the infamous Mt. Polley spill. He's also one of a growing chorus who do not accept the Site C decision as final.

Douglas Gook maintaining the fight against Site C in the second half.

And; Victoria-based activist and CFUV Radio broadcaster at-large, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour with the Left Coast Events bulletin of good things you can get up to around here in the coming week. But first, Ray Grigg and The EcoTrilogy.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Thursday between 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:

In Praise of Deliberative Abstinence in a Time of General Ignorance

Montaigne's Tip for the New Year - And for Another Year of American War Against Russia

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

December 18, 2017

Moscow - A man who hates the subject of his writings is as pitiable as a coprophagic with haemorrhoids. The more he consumes of what he desires, the more painful he knows will be the consequence.

Termites and rabbits do plenty of the former, but Mother Nature has relieved them of the latter. Russia-hating writers on Russia are not so favoured; they are the only cases I know which combine, and enjoy, the perversity with the pain. In their cases, there’s always been something missing between their upper and lower holes – I mean more is missing than a sense of taste and a sense of humour.

Michel de Montaigne, the French politician and writer of sixteenth century France – inventor of the essay – is their antithesis. He deserves to be remembered for two mottoes we shall need in 2018.

Re-read the essays in the translation by Donald Frame here. Ignore the recent biography by a Chicago professor of French origin named Philippe Desan; he has spent an academic career and eight hundred fresh printed pages revealing his envy that Montaigne will be read for longer than Desan will be forgotten. Envy like this will also have to be overcome to get through the coming year; more of that in a moment.

ἐποχή (EPOKHE, I ABSTAIN) and QUE SAIS-JE (WHAT DO I KNOW) were the mottoes Montaigne adopted for himself, and cast on either side of a medallion he wore around his neck; on one side, the more literary and contemplative second replacing the more politically active one which came first. In his attempts to make a political career (fame, money, glory) at the municipal, regional and national level, Montaigne claimed that mediating between parties in conflict and abstention from taking sides would be the successful lines to advance himself. They weren’t. It was a time of civil war, the French Wars of Religion.

Along the way, Montaigne started dictating his reflections on success and failure. Then, noticing these collections of thoughts, cribbed quotes, and primers from the Greek and Latin classics were more esteemed by those he wanted to impress than the political power he wanted to exercise, he kept writing more essays. He also kept trying to do better politically. The more frustrated he grew, the more essays he wrote. Montaigne was also racing his mind against his body, as he knew the symptoms of kidney disease would kill him, as it had his father. It did.

WHAT DO I KNOW was a pose, and almost a half-millennium later, a marvelously successful one. That’s because everyone can join in, though not everyone can be so stylish as Montaigne was in holding the pose. By pretending his penis was independent — “it imperiously contests for authority with our will” – he gave all of us, hmmm, those of us with penises, an alibi for our fantasies, and our failures. Not everyone needs a penis; everyone needs an alibi.

Actually, Montaigne was making the case for his exceptional self, and that’s a pretence. No, for Montaigne it was a paradox – the more ordinary his personality, the more exceptional his expression of it. As a national ideology, exceptionalism is nothing more than a pretence for force, fraud, subversion aimed against other people and their property. Everybody tries it, some several times – Athenians, Spartans, Israelites, Romans, Germans, French, British.

Exceptionalism is the doctrine which motivates Russia-hating as US Government policy for this war which cannot be negotiated to a conclusion; and which will destroy the world if it escalates to nuclear arms. Exceptionalism is also the ideology of envy for what another has, and the alibi for stealing it.

Russians are human, so exceptionalism is also a Russian doctrine. But since December 25, 1991, the day the Soviet flag came down in Moscow, Russians have all wished to be loved by Americans; especially, the Russian oligarchs, the Church, the intelligentsia, the Kremlin. The reason is that once the mental discipline and conviction of the communist period evaporated, what remained was nothing but envy for what Americans had, and what perchance could be taken from them, if Americans reciprocated the Russian wish to be loved. But honeymoons are always short — noone can be so enamoured for long.

The unreciprocated love of American exceptionalism by Russians made the Kremlin a sitting duck for regime change. Boris Yeltsin and his cronies were the ducks. Russia has been saved by others – not by the oligarchs, the Church, the intelligentsia, or the Kremlin. US exceptionalism has triggered its Russian reciprocal; the clumsiness of US policy has been successfully defeated by the performance of unnamed soldiers, little green men, military officers who have defeated the US on the battlegrounds of Ukraine and Syria.

Left: Boris Yeltsin makes a speech in front of the Russian republic 
parliament during the Soviet countercoup of August 1991; he was 
accompanied by Alexander Korzhakov, a KGB general and Yeltsin’s 
bodyguard; and by a soldier who appears to be weeping. The State 
Department history of the event can be read here
Right: Russian soldiers, dry-eyed, support the secession of Crimea 
following the US coup in Kiev, March 2014.

Montaigne’s mottoes will come in handy as President Vladimir Putin starts his third term based on an oligarchy which has transformed Russia from the least unequal to the most unequal state in Europe in just one decade.


Read more from the World Inequality Report 2018 at: 

Montaigne’s mottoes are also useful as the US Government’s war to overthrow Putin and his friends enters its fifth year – a war not for the sake of egalitarian reform of Russia but in order to replace Russian larcenists with American ones. Putin is esteemed by Russians for not being as bad as the alternatives which presented themselves during the 1990s, nor those since 2000 — Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Boris Berezovsky, Dmitry Medvedev, Patriarch Kirill, Igor Sechin.

If Dances with Bears hasn’t demonstrated the evidence of just how bad those alternatives were – ahem, still are — you haven’t been reading carefully enough.

Montaigne wrote as a consolation for himself and a warning to everyone else. When his idea turned out unexpectedly to be a hit with a tiny group of readers who were his well-off neighbours and politicians in Paris, who had defeated his every other gambit, Montaigne started writing as revenge – to be remembered longer than they would be. On that wager Montaigne started by hedging his bet, so he knew he was certain to win. He has.


More than four hundred years later, we appreciate Montaigne knew what it means to lose most everything of value in the country he loved, after the failure of a career of attempting to save the peace and spare the blood of his countrymen. He wrote: “My world is done for; my form is emptied; I belong entirely to the past.” A spell in the Bastille prison helped confirm his conviction that the body can be done for swiftly, but the mind not so.

By the way, in saying he belonged to the past, Montaigne wasn’t speaking of memory. “There is no man who has less business talking about memory. For I recognize almost no trace of it in me… in my part of the country if they want to say that a man has no sense, they say he has no memory. And when I complain of the defectiveness of mine, they argue with me and do not believe me, as if I was accusing myself of witlessness. They see no distinction between memory and understanding.”

Dances with Bears began more than fifteen years and more than two thousand essays ago, with the idea that Russia’s history is past – that’s to say, nothing good was happening to the country which wasn’t understandable from the past. To understand the good Putin has done for Russia, most Russians remember Yeltsin. That isn’t saying very much, you understand.

For the future of one more year, you have a choice that wasn’t available to Montaigne sitting in his tower, facing his books, alone.

A modern reconstruction of Montaigne’s study; see: 

Nowadays you can send, receive, and re-tweet understandings that are about one minute long in composition and receipt. They add up to a history which interprets itself endlessly as if the process of repetition equals or increases understanding. In some of the essays Montaigne did much the same thing, pulling a book off his shelf and scribbling an excerpt on to his own page.

Montaigne’s view of tweeting was that it’s nothing but vanity publishing, though Montaigne had enough respect for himself that he thought this bluff worth trying on others. “My mind does not always move straight ahead but backwards too. I distrust my present thoughts hardly less than my past ones and my second or third thoughts hardly less than my first.”

Montaigne again, applying nowadays to the Russian agitprop media operating in English, such as Russia Insider, The Duran, The Saker, Fort Russ, RT, Sputnik, Russia Beyond The Headlines,, etc. “There is more ado to interpret interpretations than to interpret things, and more books upon books than upon any other subject; we do nothing but comment upon one another. Every place swarms with commentaries; of authors there is great scarcity. Is it not the principal and most reputed knowledge of our later ages to understand the learned? Is it not the common and final end of all studies? Our opinions are grafted upon one another; the first serves as a stock to the second, the second to the third, and so forth; thus step by step we climb the ladder; whence it comes to pass that he who is mounted highest has often more honour than merit, for he is got up but an inch upon the shoulders of the last, but one.”

“How often, and, peradventure, how foolishly, have I extended my book to make it speak of itself; foolishly, if for no other reason but this, that it should remind me of what I say of others who do the same: that the frequent amorous glances they cast upon their work witness that their hearts pant with self-love, and that even the disdainful severity wherewith they scourge them are but the dandlings and caressings of maternal love; as Aristotle, whose valuing and undervaluing himself often spring from the same air of arrogance. My own excuse is, that I ought in this to have more liberty than others, forasmuch as I write specifically of myself and of my writings, as I do of my other actions; that my theme turns upon itself; but I know not whether others will accept this excuse.”

The excuse for Dances with Bears is that with enough time, it’s likely that more truth will appear from losing in politics than happens from winning in politics. This isn’t a law of human nature, though. It also wasn’t Montaigne’s preference. He didn’t pick truth as his first choice; he almost certainly would have picked winning in politics to being remembered for telling the truth. Exceptionalists, whether American or Russian, Christian, Jew or Muslim, can’t imagine losing in politics, or in anything else. They make poor companions in truth-telling, and in suffering, for they believe theirs is the greater, the superior truth, the superior suffering. For the exceptionalists, envy is a superior form of suffering.

Cartoon published in Lianhe Zaobao (Singapore) on 
March 29, 2012, by Tan Zhong; translation into English.

Thus it came about earlier this year that Princeton University Press dropped in the marketplace a biography of Montaigne by a University of Chicago professor called Philippe Desan. That’s to say, an autobiography of Desan’s envy of a man who tried to hide the fact, according to Desan’s meticulous research, that his forebears sold salted fish for a living; who plagiarized phrases from others in order to ingratiate himself with his superiors; and was an exhibitionist as a young man in bed, and as an old man on paper. Montaigne’s chateau, writes Desan, was not a genuine noblemen’s castle but a bourgeois house. The book also reveals Desan’s finding that Montaigne arranged through a well-connected neighbour to be awarded a knighthood of the Order of St. Michael by a king so desperate for support he handed out dozens of the knighthoods the same year.

Desan’s own biography reveals the position he’s in to judge Montaigne’s vulnerabilities. According to Desan’s university resumé, he has obtained triple the number of knighthoods Montaigne managed – the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (1994), Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite (2004), and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres (2011); the resumé misspells the titles of the knighthoods. He adds he has topped even those with medals from the Académie Française, all to honour Desan’s work on… Montaigne. If it’s the meaning of these honours that Montaigne’s essays are, as Desan concludes, an insincere apology for a conniving career of hapless ambition, then we can appreciate how envy can become, by application of the doctrine of exceptionalism, an excuse for stealing from the dead.

Montaigne himself proposed to be thick-skinned about this. In the essay On Sadness he claimed: “I am little subject to these violent passions. My susceptibility is naturally tough.” Maybe that was so; maybe that was Montaigne’s riposte to the likes of Desan. “I harden and thicken it every day by force of reason,” he added.

For the coming year, will reason have a force equal to the enemies of reason lying in ambush? Is it contrary to the law of nature that one man can dance with many bears?

The method for answering can be found in the two mottoes – I ABSTAIN and WHAT DO I KNOW. Be sure the answer, if it materializes, will not be exceptional. But it will be said. “If I can,” Montaigne wrote in 1580, twelve years before his demise, “I shall keep my death from saying anything that my life has not already said.”

FOOTNOTE TO LEAD IMAGE: the image is Salvador Dali’s illustration for Montaigne’s essay On Vanity. Dali was commissioned to illustrate the essays by the New York publisher Doubleday; they appeared in print in 1947. The book’s first edition is now rare and moderately expensive. Click to view for free. Russian academic appreciation for Montaigne came after the end of the Soviet curriculum, but it has been a decade since he was discussed in public. Here was that last occasion, when Natalia Basovskaya, a professor of history at the Russian State University for the Humanities, talked about Montaigne for three-quarters of an hour on Moscow radio Ekho Moskvy, on February 25, 2007.