October 30, 2014

Corporatism run amuck: The ‘Homeland Security Industrial Complex’ and James Risen and freedom of the press

James Risen is an American journalist for The New York Times who previously worked for the Los Angeles Times. He has written or co-written many articles concerning U.S. government activities. Risen is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. He won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his stories about President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. He was also a member of The New York Times reporting team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for coverage of the September 11 attacks and terrorism. Risen is the author of the book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (January 2006). Risen was subpoenaed in relation to the Jeffrey Alexander Sterling case in 2008. Risen still faces the possibility of jail depending upon whether the federal prosecutors choose to pursue his testimony. He has stated that he will continue to refuse.

Audio NYT’s James Risen willing to be jailed for not revealing his sources on NSA’s wiretapping story
“The Current” CBC Radio One October 30, 2014

in his book, Paying Any Price, James Risen says both the Bush and Obama administrations have been on a dangerous path silencing journalists and whistleblowers. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

You can listen to this edifying interview (25:00) from a pop-up link on this page.

New York Times journalist James Risen documents outrageous accounts, including the hiring of a man who claimed to decipher secret messages in Al Jazeera newscasts … a con only uncovered after he’d been paid millions. We speak to the author of Pay Any Price on Greed, Power and Endless War.

Related: The reporter who exposed the NSA before Snowden will go behind bars to protect his source. But he will not let Obama’s Bushian addiction to power take us back to endless war without a fight.

James Risen is not going to let the US fear-mongering machine win in secret
Trevor Timm Guardian UK October 15, 2014

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For a man who could be forced into jail by the US government, possibly within “a few weeks”, after becoming the only journalist to be subpoenaed by both the Bush and Obama administrations, James Risen sure is busy.

In the past year alone, the New York Times investigative reporter who originally blew the lid on NSA wiretapping has interviewed with Edward Snowden, reported on multiple NSA revelations with Laura Poitras, and uncovered the incredible story of a Blackwater executive who threatened to kill a US state department employee who was investigating corruption – along with the government cover-up that followed. All while keeping mum as The Most Transparent Administration in American HistoryTM attempted to back him into a legal corner for doing his job as a reporter: protecting his sources.

“Maybe the Obama administration, at some point, is going to begin to back off, you would hope,” Risen told me on Monday afternoon. Until then, he’s speaking out upon the release of a new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War, that takes us from the rise of the second Bush administration’s “homeland security-industrial complex” to an Obama administration that, in 2014, is more secret than ever, facing down yet another war in Iraq that could last years.

Posted at: October 30, 2014 - 4:06 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

October 29, 2014


Cooperation is what makes us human

Ultimately, Tomasello’s research on human nature arrives at a paradox: our minds are the product of competitive intelligence and cooperative wisdom, our behavior a blend of brotherly love and hostility toward out-groups. Confronted by this paradox, the ugly side—the fact that humans compete, fight, and kill each other in wars—dismays most people, Tomasello says. And he agrees that our tendency to distrust outsiders—lending itself to prejudice, violence, and hate—should not be discounted or underestimated. But he says he is optimistic. In the end, what stands out more is our exceptional capacity for generosity and mutual trust, those moments in which we act like no species that has ever come before us. - Kat McGowan

Cooperation is what makes us human
Kat McGowan Nautilus USA October 23, 2014

ales about the origins of our species always start off like this: A small band of hunter-gatherers roams the savannah, loving, warring, and struggling for survival under the African sun. They do not start like this: A fat guy falls off a New York City subway platform onto the tracks.

But what happens next is a quintessential story of who we are as human beings.

On Feb. 17, 2013, around 2:30 a.m., Garrett O’Hanlon, a U.S. Air Force Academy cadet third class, was out celebrating his 22nd birthday in New York City. He and his sister were in the subway waiting for a train when a sudden silence came over the platform, followed by a shriek. People pointed down to the tracks.

O’Hanlon turned and saw a man sprawled facedown on the tracks. “The next thing that happened, I was on the tracks, running toward him,” he says. “I honestly didn’t have a thought process.”

O’Hanlon grabbed the unconscious man by the shoulders, lifting his upper body off the tracks, but struggled to move him. He was deadweight. According to the station clock, the train would arrive in less than two minutes. From the platform, O’Hanlon’s sister was screaming at him to save himself.

Suddenly other arms were there: Personal trainer Dennis Codrington Jr. and his friend Matt Foley had also jumped down to help. “We grabbed him, one by the legs, one by the shoulders, one by the chest,” O’Hanlon says. They got the man to the edge of the platform, where a dozen or more people muscled him up and over. More hands seized the rescuers’ arms and shoulders, helping them up to safety as well.

In the aftermath of the rescue, O’Hanlon says he has been surprised that so many people have asked him why he did it. “I get stunned by the question,” he says. In his view, anybody else would’ve done the same thing. “I feel like it’s a normal reaction,” he says. “To me that’s just what people do.”

More precisely, it is something only people do, according to developmental psychologist Michael Tomasello, codirector of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

For decades Tomasello has explored what makes humans distinctive. His conclusion? We cooperate. Many species, from ants to orcas to our primate cousins, cooperate in the wild. But Tomasello has identified a special form of cooperation. In his view, humans alone are capable of shared intentionality—they intuitively grasp what another person is thinking and act toward a common goal, as the subway rescuers did. This supremely human cognitive ability, Tomasello says, launched our species on its extraordinary trajectory. It forged language, tools, and cultures—stepping-stones to our colonization of every corner of the planet.

In his most recent research, Tomasello has begun to look at the dark side of cooperation. “We are primates, and primates compete with one another,” Tomasello says. He explains cooperation evolved on top of a deep-seated competitive drive. “In many ways, this is the human dilemma,” he says.

In conversation, Tomasello, 63, is both passionate and circumspect. Even as he overturns entrenched views in primatology and anthropology he treads carefully, backing up his theories by citing his experiments in human and primate behavior. He is aware of criticism from primatologists such as Frans de Waal, director of Living Links, a division of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, who has said Tomasello underestimates the minds of chimps and overestimates the uniqueness of human cooperation.

Nonetheless, Tomasello’s fellow scientists credit him with brave experiments and ingenious insights. Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, who has done seminal research in child psychology and intelligence, has called Tomasello “a pioneer.” Herbert Gintis, an economist and behavioral scientist at the Santa Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary science research institution, agrees. “His work is fabulous,” Gintis says. “It has made clear certain things about what it means to be human.”

Posted at: October 29, 2014 - 12:52 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Slowly but surely (not without difficulty), BRICS nations trudge toward their place in the new century: Neoliberals lose Brazil election & China, India tussle with each other over response to US “pivot” strategy in Asia

Irate Brazilian taxpayers are desperate for decent roads, urban security, better public hospitals and schools and less red tape and bureaucracy. But a slim majority still decided to stick with President Dilma Rousseff and her Xi Jinping-style anti-corruption drive over a turbo-neoliberalist challenger promising a “capitalist shock” that would see macroecomic policy run like a Wall Street fantasy.

And the loser in Brazil is – neoliberalism
Pepe Escobar Asia Times Online Hong Kong October 28, 2014

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Sun, sex, samba, carnival and at least until the World Cup hammering by Germany, the “land of football”. And don’t forget “vibrant democracy”. Even as it enjoys one of the highest soft power quotients around the world, Brazil remains submerged by cliches.

“Vibrant democracy” certainly lived up to its billing as President Dilma Rousseff of the ruling Worker’s Party (PT) was re-elected this Sunday in a tight run-off against opposition candidate Aecio Neves of the Social Democracy Party of Brazil (PSDB).

Yet another cliche would rule this was the victory of “state-centric” policies against “structural reforms”. Or the victory of “high social spending” against a “pro-business” approach – which implies business as the privileged enemy of social equality.

Exit cliches. Enter a cherished national motto: “Brazil is not for beginners”.

Indeed. Brazil’s complexities boggle the mind. It starts with arguably the key, multi-layered message a divided country sent to winner Dilma Rousseff. We are part of a growing middle class. We are proud to be part of an increasingly less unequal nation. But we want social services to keep improving. We want more investment in education. We want inflation under control (at the moment, it’s not). We support a very serious anti-corruption drive (here’s where Dilma’s Brazil meets Xi Jinping’s China). And we want to keep improving on the economic success of the past decade.

Rousseff seems to get the message. The question is how she will be able to deliver – in a continental-sized nation suffering from appalling education standards, with Brazilian manufacturing largely uncompetitive in global markets, and with corruption run amok.

Brazil is slowly but surely moving from the semi-periphery to being closer to the center of the action in international relations; because of its own regional geopolitical relevance and mostly because of its leading role among the BRICS. This is happening even as Washington could not give a damn about Brazil – or Latin America for that matter. US Think Tankland, by the way, abhors BRICS.

Politically, a victory for the Cardoso/Neves neoliberals – a ghost of the social democracy they once practiced – would have thrown Brazilian foreign policy upside down; not only against the way the historical winds are blowing, but also against Brazil’s own national interests.

As Rousseff argued at the UN last month, Brazil is trying to fight a global crisis marked by increasing inequality without provoking unemployment and without sacrificing workers’ jobs and salaries. As ace economist Theotonio dos Santos stressed the decadence of the West still exerting substantial influence over the Global South via their extensive network of collaborators, he also went one up; the key fight, as he sees it, is to control Brazilian oil.

Dos Santos is referring to Brazil’s top corporation, Petrobras, currently mired in a bribery scandal – which must be fully investigated – that obscures the Holy Grail: the future revenues from “pre-salt” oil – named after the billions of barrels of oil capped by a thick layer of salt lying several miles below the south Atlantic floor. Petrobras plans to invest $221 billion up to 2018 to unlock this treasure – and expects to make a profit even if oil trades around $45 to $50 a barrel.

Politically, in a nutshell, Rousseff’s narrow victory is crucial for the future of a progressive, integrated South America. It will reinvigorate Mercosur – the common market of the South – as well as Unasur – the union of South American nations. This goes way beyond free trade; it’s about close regional integration, in parallel to close Eurasia integration.

And starting in 2015, Brazil may be on the road to renewed economic expansion again – largely boosted by the fruits of “pre-salt” and compounded with accelerated building of roads, railways, ports and airports. That is bound to have a ripple effect across Brazil’s neighbors.

As for Washington/Wall Street, the Empire of Chaos is certainly not happy – and that’s a major euphemism, especially after betting on the wrong horse, Marina Silva, a sort of Amazon rainforest-born female counterpart to Obama’s “change we can believe in”. The fact is as much as the Brazilian model of income distribution is against the interests of big business, Brazilian foreign policy is now diametrically opposed to Washington’s.

Related: Pearls and diamonds in Indian Ocean
M K Bhadrakumar Indian Punchline India October 26, 2014

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The port call at Hai Phong, Vietnam, on August 5 by Indian Navy’s INS Shivalik, the state-of the-art guided missile frigate, was indeed a spectacular force projection by India in its “near abroad” on the other side of the Malacca Straits. Delhi said that “improving interoperability” with the Vietnamese navy was one of Shivalik’s main missions.

indeed, Shivalik is a jewel in the crown of the Indian Navy, a 4600-tonne vessel belonging to a class of three warships that were commissioned by India between 2010 and 2012 and incorporating the so-called “stealth” technology — reduced radar cross-section and IR features — into its superstructure. It is proudly touted as the Indian Navy’s “multi-purpose command-and-control platform capable of operating in a network-centric multi-threat environment.”

Unsurprisingly, Shivalik’s appearance in the troubled waters of the South China Sea raised eyebrows far beyond India’s shores. The IHS Jane’s Navy International commented as follows:

“The Indian Navy’s latest bid to enhance working relations with the Vietnamese could be a manifestation of India’s ‘necklace of diamonds’ approach — a strategy in which it forges security and defence alliances with various Asian countries, especially ones with uneasy relationships with Beijing, to counter China’s strategically assertive stance in projecting its naval capabilities… In December 2013 India announced that it will train 500 Vietnamese submariners to improve the PAVN’s underwater warfare capabilities as part of the expanded strategic and defence ties between the two countries.” (here).

Rewind to “one Sunday morning” last December when Beijing disclosed that one of its nuclear-powered attack submarines would pass through the Strait of Malacca. And it did two days later — to resurface near Sri Lanka and in the Persian Gulf, only to return through the straits and back to its base in China three months later in February. The force projection by Shivalik in August was presumably an Indian response.

Now, fast forward to late September this year. As a fascinating report in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week recounts, “The defence ministry [in Beijing] summoned the [foreign naval] attaches again to disclose another Chinese deployment to the Indian Ocean in September — this time a diesel-powered sub, which stopped off Sri Lanka.”

The Chinese sub in Sri Lanka came as a shock to Delhi, as it happened amidst a forceful “course correction” by the Narendra Modi government in India’s Sri Lanka Policy by soft-pedaling on the Tamil problem in the island country within the matrix of a strategic understanding that the two countries would always be sensitive toward each other’s core interests.

In strategic terms, this is now becoming a story of China’s “string of pearls” versus India’s “necklace of diamonds”. Will China give up on its tactical necessity to ply the high seas of the Indian Ocean through which the bulk of its trade flows? Will India blink on its prerogative under international law to wade into the disputed waters of the South China Sea and drill oil wells there if it felt like doing so — and proceed to test the “interoperability” of its military capabilities with Vietnam’s? To be sure, a keen tussle is developing.

Finally, is it really worthwhile to chase the Chinese subs, which are going to come to the Indian Ocean with far greater frequency? India has serious limitations where even a superpower such as the United States is striving hard to cope under severe budgetary considerations.

Put differently, should India think at all of such extravagant force projection in the South China Sea? Surely, it cannot be that India and Vietnam are jointly preparing to confront China. The problem with grandstanding is that sometimes even innocent grandstanding with no malice intended might generate serious misunderstanding among onlookers.

The point is, China is also strengthening its military cooperation with India’s other neighbors — just as India is doing with China’s neighbors — and India should either accept it as the emergent geopolitical reality, or alternatively, talk things over with China quietly to come to some sort of moduus vivendi – instead of making this an issue in India’s relations with its neighbors.

Suffice to say, it also becomes important to calmly, rationally analyze China’s motivations in the prevailing international situation and, specifically, in relation to the US’ “pivot” strategy in Asia, instead of lapping up the airy hypotheses originating from the US from time to time — “string os pearls”, et al — and thereupon set out to prescribe “red lines” to our neighbors, which we are not going to be able to impose anyway.

Posted at: October 29, 2014 - 12:49 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post


UK court settlement raises new questions about ethics of police infiltration

In Canada, there’s little question that undercover policing is alive and well.

Deep undercover: Police officer in UK fathered a child with an activist as part of an investigation
Adam Federman Earth Island Journal USA October 28, 2014

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What are the limits — if any — to undercover policing? At what point is a moral, ethical, or legal threshold crossed when an undercover operative insinuates himself into a targeted group or the lives of its members?

Last Thursday British media reported that the UK’s Metropolitan Police would pay £425,000 (about $686,000) in a settlement with a woman, known only as Jacqui, who was conned by a man who fathered her first child, said that he loved her, and then one day disappeared. She knew him as Bob Robinson. His real name, as she would learn 25 years later, was Bob Lambert. He was an operative with the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a special unit within the British police that infiltrated a host of environmentalist groups to gather intelligence. In several cases the operatives, almost always men, established long-term intimate relationships with women in order to gain access to the world of underground animal rights or environmental activists.

Jacqui’s was 22 when she first met Lambert. He was more than ten years older than her, and had already been a member of the Metropolitan police for several years. He went undercover in 1983 not long before he met Jacqui. As Rob Evans and Paul Lewis explain in their book Undercover, Lambert’s mission was to work his way into the “intensely furtive, hard-core wing of the animal rights movement: the Animal Liberation Front.” Having a girlfriend who was already trusted and well connected within activist circles was one of the easiest ways to become a “deep swimmer,” a phrase used by members of the SDS to describe spies who completely immersed themselves in the groups they were monitoring. In addition to Jacqui, Lambert is known to have had romantic relationships with three other women during his career as an undercover operative. Seven other women have also filed charges against the Metropolitan police.

The revelation that she shared her life with a man she did not really know has wrecked Jacqui’s life. The Guardian reports: “The woman has been receiving psychiatric treatment and has contemplated suicide since she read a newspaper in 2012 and found out the true identity of the man who had fathered her son before abandoning her and the child 24 years previously.”

The extent to which such tactics were condoned is unclear. The police have denied that there was ever any formal policy authorizing such behavior, but the history of the SDS remains rather murky. It took the agency years to even acknowledge that Lambert had been a mole; only when it became publicly untenable to continue the denials did the agency move beyond the pro forma response of neither confirming nor denying his role. But clearly there was an informal culture of using relationships with women to gain access to activist circles. An internal police review, known as Operation Herne, found that, “There was informal tacit authority regarding sexual relationships and guidance was offered for officers faced with the prospect of a sexual relationship.” Former SDS officer Peter Francis put it more plainly when he told the BBC that sex was “used by almost everybody who was serving in that unit.”

Posted at: October 29, 2014 - 12:42 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

October 28, 2014


Security and liberty: Some facts and thoughts following the events of last week

Below: APTN National News delivers the news of the day and provides a more in-depth look at the issues facing Aboriginal communities in Canada and around the world.

RCMP officers ‘not on full alert’ sitting in cruisers while monitoring Parliament Hill, says former deputy commissioner
Jorge Barrera APTN Canada October 28, 2014

The RCMP’s “system of coverage” for Parliament Hill failed last Wednesday when a lone gunman carrying a .30-30 Winchester, lever-action rifle managed to run onto the grounds, hijack a ministerial car, drive it to the Peace Tower, park and enter through the front doors without any interference.

That morning the RCMP would have stationed cruisers strategically around Parliament Hill with each cruiser responsible for a specific geographical location on the grounds, according to testimony from Kevin Vickers, the House of Commons’ Sergeant-at-Arms, before a parliamentary committee.

“There’s actually a system in place. It may look, from time to time, like they’re scattered about the precinct in a haphazard way, but there is a purpose behind the stationing of the vehicles at different points,” said Vickers, during testimony before the Commons procedure and House affairs committee in May 2012. “They do have a system of coverage of each car being responsible for a certain geographical area here on the Hill.”

Based on Vickers’ testimony, at least one RCMP cruiser was responsible for the area around the entrance next to East Block where Michael Zehaf-Bibeau entered at a sprint carrying a rifle. Zehaf-Bibeau was eventually killed in a hail of bullets inside Centre Block’s Hall of Honour by RCMP officers and Hill security.

During his testimony before the committee, which was probing why MPs kept getting stopped by the RCMP during VIP events, Vickers said the officers primarily monitor the grounds from their vehicles, rarely emerging to patrol on foot.

“You’re not really going to encounter or have face to face contact with the RCMP. As you know, they are stationed in their vehicles at different perimeters,” said Vickers. “If you are walking up to the building here, unless there was something amiss, the likelihood of your being stopped or being challenged by an RCMP officer would be remote.”

The RCMP officer or officers responsible for security in the geographical location by East Block may have missed Zehaf-Bibeau and the commotion that preceded his entrance because they were sitting in their cruisers, which likely reduced their situational awareness, said a former deputy commissioner for the RCMP.

“The whole thing happened in less than two minutes,” said Pierre-Yves Bourduas, who retired from the police force in 2008 after 33 years with the RCMP. “You are sitting in a police car, you are not on full alert, you are just there monitoring people back and forth conducting business, the way business is conducted on the Hill. All of a sudden they notice this car speeding in front of them.”

CBC News reported Monday that the RCMP and House of Commons security operate on different radio frequencies. This may have impeded the RCMP from alerting Commons security about the evolving situation, the report said.

But Patrick McDonell, deputy sergeant-at-arms and director general for House of Commons security services, told the procedure and House affairs committee on Oct. 9 there is a radio link between the two entities. McDonell said the RCMP’s vehicle screening facility on the west-side of Parliament Hill can communicate with the House of Commons communications centre via radio.

“Often they radio us and say that so-and-so is coming up to visit or whatever the case may be,” said McDonell.

It’s currently unclear what the House of Commons’ own surveillance cameras captured that morning. It is clear Commons security was unaware of what was transpiring. The front doors were unlocked when Zehaf-Bibeau pulled on the handle.

In successive press conferences last week, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson and Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud, who is in charge of National Division which is responsible for Hill security, basically argued that speed (the attack took 1:34 seconds from street to front door) and surprise allowed Zehaf-Bibeau to slip through the federal force’s security cordon on a day Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Opposition leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau were meeting with their caucuses inside Centre Block.

In theory, however, the cordon should have snared Zehaf-Bibeau.

Parliament Hill security has been prepared for the scenario of a lone gunman storming the grounds since 1984, said Bourduas. That May, a paranoid schizophrenic former Canadian Forces member named Denis Lortie stormed Quebec’s National Assembly armed with two submachine guns. He killed three people and injured 13. He was talked into surrendering by the National Assembly’s Sergeant-at-Arms Rene Jalbert.

“They looked at this particular incident, they did examine what kind of security was around the Hill at the time,” said Bourduas. “The challenge is to strike the right balance.”

Bourduas said the RCMP analyzes various scenarios as part of its security preparations for the Hill, but nothing is full-proof.

Related commentary: Ottawa shooting: Putting security before liberty
Duncan Cameron rabble.ca Canada October 28, 2014

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The Ottawa murder of a Canadian soldier last Wednesday brought a sudden outpouring of sentiments as large numbers of people felt his loss.

The senseless tragedy brought crowds out to gather at cenotaphs across Canada to honour the memory of Corporal Nathan Frank Cirillo. In bad times people want to come together, experience solidarity, what it means to be a part of something bigger than a family, or a neighbourhood.

The narrative surrounding the murderer is a murky one. Can one mentally disturbed individual with a rifle be linked to international terrorism? Efforts have been made by the RCMP to suggest the assassination was politically motivated.

The Conservatives passed Bill S-7 promoting anti-terrorism, and the ongoing threat to Canadians from terrorists is hardly a new theme for government ministers.

A new bill to toughen security laws will be brought forward this week. Parliament will debate whether Canadians can be arrested if they are deemed to represent a threat to national security, in what looks to be an attack on protection of personal security from arbitrary justice.

How about linking the murder to Islam? The national security lobby calls for increasing vigilance against international terrorists, all of whom seem to be Muslim.

“Standing on guard for thee” implies Canadians honour each other, not that the government tries to root out the enemy within, especially when “within” means … inside the Canadian Islamic community.

Respecting each other is a political virtue, something to do because it is the right way to live. Being Canadian is not about how we look, what we wear, or what religion we practice.

Sadly, the Muslim community needs more than the respect it should be entitled to as citizens of Canada. Today it needs to be defended against prejudice and hate, an offshoot of the appeal to strengthen national security.

Many Canadians will want to hear political leaders affirm that civic liberties need to be better protected, that no government should be able to subvert justice in the name of national security, especially without any evidence that Canadians are more in danger today than a week ago.

The get-tough crowd recoils in disgust when protection of civil liberties gets thrown in their faces. Let the debate be joined. The never-ending war on terror (an abstract noun) launched by an American president has inspired the Conservatives and their supporters. That way lies fear as the source of public policy decisions.

A just society eschews fear, embraces reason and compassion, and demands patience from those who would build it. Those Canadians who gathered at cenotaphs to honour a citizen soldier deserve no less.

Below: Ahmad Moussa is a Palestinian-Canadian writer and Visiting Professor at the University of Duhok, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. He reveals, in detail, how Canadian Arabs and Muslims have been victims of discriminatory targeting, illegitimate racial profiling and subject to arbitrary arrest and torture.

Why Steven Harper is the real threat to Canadian national security
Ahmad Moussa CounterPunch USA October 28, 2014

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Prior to the unfortunate events on Parliament Hill, Canada had never been a country that was victim of a terrorist attack including September 11, 2001. Yet, the aftermath of September 11, 2001 resulted in the Global War on Terror campaign that included the involvement of Canadians in Afghanistan. Notwithstanding the fact that Canada was wise in its decision not to intervene in Iraq in 2003 due to the disastrous nature of the consequences in that country in particular- such as the rise of the Islamic State, Canada and particularly under the Harper government has been producing and advocating for anti-Muslim and anti- Arab policies of a war-mongering nature based on defacto statelessness imposed against them as citizens; targeting them as a particular culture, ethnicity and religion including the Middle East region as a whole. The unfortunate events that transpired on Parliament Hill which occurred after an initial incident that involved a hit and run against Canadian soldiers are a product of what this article will expose in terms of the Harper governments stances as mentioned above.

The silence and impotence of the Arab and Muslim community from the public, political and lobbying sphere in relation to these stances have betrayed those in the community who are feeling the particular potency of their marginalization and oppression as a result of the said stances that left them no other visible option but to become a self-fulfilling prophecy through these attacks while simultaneously betraying themselves and Canadian voters by allowing the Harper government to continue to unjustly win the hearts and minds of Canadians; clearly demonstrated with the new laws that the Harper government is in the process of passing in relation to excessive police and secret service powers[1]; thereby reinforcing the same stances that we should be putting an end to. The article will attempt to win the hearts and minds of Canadians to restore the reality of what is actually happening including the way forward. During the aftermath of the events on Parliament Hill, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech to the public over the recent events in Ottawa, where he stated the following:

We are also reminded that attacks on our security personnel and on our institutions of governments are by their very nature attacks on our country, on our value, on our society, on us Canadians as a free and democratic people who embrace human dignity for all.[2]

The problem has been and continues to be that human dignity is not applicable to Arabs and Muslims based on the historical and contemporary role that Canada has played in this respect. Notwithstanding the introduction of the Canada Anti-Terrorist Act, 2001 and its controversial essence due to the trampling on civil rights and liberties, there was a sunset clause to the provisions related to preventative detentions and investigative hearings that would expire in 5 years; an issue related to protection of civil rights and liberties in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that the Harper government decided to ignore by introducing the Combating Terrorism Act to revive these expired provisions.[3]

Given this information, any Canadian citizen with a “heart and mind” will not accept that their country subjects some of their citizens and people of another region to such acts of humiliation and degradation in the name of “peace, order and good governance” that will only have a backfiring affect. It is time that Canadian Arab and Muslims start demonstrating and engaging in the highest form of citizenry and political efficacy by creating and organizing a strong, united, grounded and articulate voice in the public and political sphere within the Canadian political arena, through lobby groups, social movements, grass roots organizations and even political parties to reach the hearts and minds of Canadians, starting with collective self-empowerment as a community.

Harper had stated a decade after the attacks of September 11, 2001 that “the biggest security threat to Canada is Islamic terrorism.”[25] Federal elections are due in Oct 2015 making it time for the Arab and Muslim community to win back the hearts and minds of Canadians; showing that the contrary is true- the Harper government’s stances mentioned above are and and have proven to be a threat to national security of Canadians both domestically and abroad. [1]

Posted at: October 28, 2014 - 12:11 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lays wreath at Canada’s National War Memorial, procedes to discuss war, security and energy with top Harperites & PM Harper attends slain soldier’s funeral, praises the men and women of the armed forces for protecting Canada’s ideals

Intro: John Kerry lays wreath at war memorial
Mike Blanchfield The Canadian Press/National Newswatch Canada October 28, 2014

OTTAWA – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird placed a wreath at the National War Memorial today in honour of two Canadian soldiers killed last week.

The two then drove to Foreign Affairs headquarters for a brief formal welcome.

“We’re thrilled to have you here,” Baird said. “Wish it was under better circumstances. But we appreciate your friendship.”

Kerry said he was glad to be in Ottawa, but was “so sorry obviously for the events.”

The two then sat down to discuss the threat posed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the situation in Ukraine, border management and North American energy co-operation.

Items: Canada mourns slain soldier Cpl. Nathan Cirillo
Paola Loriggio The Canadian Press/CTV News Canada October 28, 2014

HAMILTON, Ont. — Thousands of people lined the streets of Hamilton on Tuesday to pay respects to a soldier described as a “kid at heart” who was gunned down as he stood ceremonial guard in Ottawa in what the prime minister called a terrorist attack.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s coffin, carried atop a gun carriage to Christ’s Church Cathedral, was accompanied by members of his regiment as well as scores of soldiers and police officers marching to the sounds of muffled drums.

In a homily, Rev. Canon Rob Fead called Cirillo “Canada’s son” and said the tragedy of his death had helped bring the country together.

“We gather this day in faith and in hope,” Fead told mourners. “His bravery, his sacrifice, is not in vain.”

In a message to Cirillo’s regiment, the Queen expressed sorrow at his death under such “grievous” circumstances.

“I send my deepest sympathy to all those affected by this tragedy, in particular to members of Cpl. Cirillo’s own family,” the Queen, the regiment’s colonel-in-chief, said in her note.

Near the church, people lined up four deep to watch the procession, many of them holding Canadian flags and balloons emblazoned with the Maple Leaf. At one point on the route, a group of young women sang the national anthem, drawing cheers and applause from the crowd.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo mourned at funeral in Hamilton
CBC News Canada October 28, 2014

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s son Marcus attends his father’s funeral. Photo: John Rieti/CBC

Tears flowed freely in downtown Hamilton on Tuesday as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was gunned down while standing guard at the National War Monument in Ottawa, was honoured with a regimental funeral in his hometown.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the congregation as well, praising the men and women of the armed forces for protecting Canada’s ideals.

“For as long as these ideals have been the foundation of our country, it has been our men and women in uniform who have been in the end, their ultimate guardians,” Harper said.

Posted at: October 28, 2014 - 11:39 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Stop calling soldiers “heroes” & Why do we keep thanking the troops for serving in our ignoble wars?

Like the majority of soldiers, my brother enlisted for a variety of reasons. The experiences he had during two tours in Afghanistan were likewise complex. Calling him a hero dismisses the experiences he’s had, makes him part of a political agenda, negates his humanity. Puts him at risk. - Cara Hoffman. Cara Hoffman’s second novel, Be Safe I Love You, was named one of the Five Best Modern War Novels by the Sunday Telegraph. The novel describes the troubled homecoming of U.S. Army Sergeant Lauren Clay to Watertown, N.Y., from a tour of duty in Iraq. Over the course of the novel, Hoffman ignites the dark truths about war and homecoming.

There is no question that we should honor people who fight for justice and liberty. Many veterans enlisted in the military thinking that they were indeed serving a noble cause, and it’s no lie to say that they fought with valor for their brothers and sisters to their left and right. Unfortunately, good intentions at this stage are no substitute for good politics. The war on terror is going into its 14th year. If you really want to talk about “awareness raising,” it’s years past the time when anyone here should be able to pretend that our 18-year-olds are going off to kill and die for good reason. - Retired American soldier Rory Fanning who served two tours in Afghanistan with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion. The 2nd Ranger Battalion, currently based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle, Washington, United States, is the second of three elite special operations commando battalions belonging to the United States Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. The battalion’s role is special operations. Special operations (S.O.) are military operations that are considered “special” (that is, unconventional), usually carried out by dedicated special forces units. The 75th Ranger Regiment is a lethal, agile and flexible force, capable of executing a myriad of complex, joint special operations missions in support of U.S. policy and objectives. As the Army’s premier raid force, Rangers are capable of conducting squad through regimental size operations using a variety of infiltration techniques.

Stop calling soldiers “heroes”: It stops us from seeing them as human — and dismisses their experience
Cara Hoffman Salon USA July 20, 2014

Last month the Institute of Medicine released a study showing that only half the Veterans with PTSD are getting treatment for the condition. While this might seem a failure on the part of the Veterans Administration, there are likely bigger cultural issues at play.

I have spent the past three years talking to American soldiers and their families.

I approached this topic as a novelist, but also as the sister of a combat veteran who’s had a 30-year career in the Army. The more I learned about life after combat, the more I realized the power of one particularly dehumanizing and often paralyzing word: hero.

What’s so bad about being called a hero? It sounds like praise, but it can be dangerously dismissive. The problem is that “hero” refers to a character, a protagonist, something in fiction, not to a person, and using this word can hurt the very people it’s meant to laud. While meant to create a sense of honor, it can also buy silence, prevent discourse and benefit those in power more than those navigating the new terrain of home after combat. If you are a hero, part of your character is stoic sacrifice, silence. This makes it difficult for others to see you as flawed, human, vulnerable or exploited. And it makes it even more difficult for you to reach out when you need help.

Homecoming is never simple. Soldiers often return to a variety of challenges including health, financial and marital issues. One in three American soldiers suffers from PTSD after returning from deployment. Fifty-five percent of women and 38 percent of men report being sexually harassed while in the military; 20 percent of soldiers turn to heavy drinking and drug use upon return. Being turned into a fictive symbol is little consolation for the weight of physical and psychological injury these people incur. According to the Bureau of Veterans Affairs, 22 veterans a day kill themselves, nearly one person an hour. For active duty soldiers it’s about one a day, significantly more than have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rory Fanning, why do we keep thanking the troops?
Nick Turse/Rory Fanning TomDispatch USA October 26, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded linkss.

More than a few times I’ve found myself in a crowd of Vietnam veterans, and more than a few times at least one of them was wearing a curious blue or yellow t-shirt. Once that shirt undoubtedly fit a lean physique of the late 1970s or early 1980s, but by the time I saw it modeled, in the 2000s, it was getting mighty snug. Still, they refused to part with it. On it was some variation of the outline of a map of Vietnam with bit of grim humor superimposed: “Participant, Southeast Asia War Games, 1961-1975: Second Place.”

I was always struck by it. These men of the “Me Generation” had come home to the sneers and backhanded comments of the men of the “Greatest Generation,” their fathers’ era. They had supposedly been the first Americans to lose a war. However, instead of the defensive apparel donned by some vets (“We were winning when I left”), they wore their loss for all to see, pride mingling with a sardonic sense of humor.

Today’s military is made up of still another generation, the Millennials, representatives of the 80 million Americans born between 1980 and 2000. In fact, with nearly 43% of the active duty force age 25 or younger and roughly 66% of it 30 or under, it’s one of the most Millennial-centric organizations around.

As a whole, the Millennials have been regularly pilloried in the press for being the “Participation Trophy Generation.” Coddled, self-centered, with delusions of grandeur, they’re inveterate narcissists with outlandish expectations and a runaway sense of entitlement. They demand everything, they’re addicted to social media, fast Wi-Fi, and phablets, they cry when criticized, they want praise on tap, and refuse to wear anything but their hoodies and “fuck you flip-flops” like the face of their generation, the Ur-millennial: Mark Zuckerberg!

At least that’s the knock on them. Then again, when didn’t prior generations knock the current one?

The National Institutes of Health did determine people in their 20s have Narcissistic Personality Disorder three times more often than those 65 or older and a recent survey by Reason and pollster Rupe did find that those 18-24 are indeed in favor of participation trophies unlike older Americans who overwhelmingly favor winners-only prizes. Still, it’s a little early to pass blanket judgment on an entire generation of whom the youngest members are only on the cusp of high school. The Millennials may yet surprise even the most cantankerous coots. Time will tell.

The Millennial military, however, isn’t doing the generation any favors. Despite its dismal record when it comes to winning wars and a recent magnification of its repeated failures in Iraq, today’s military seems to crave and demand that its soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen be thanked and lauded at every turn. As a result, the Pentagon is involved in stage-managing all manner of participation-trophy spectacles to make certain they are — from the ballpark to the NASCAR track to the Academy of Country Music’s “An All-Star Salute to the Troops” concert at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas earlier this year.

And like those great enablers of the Millennial trophy kids, so-called helicopter parents, the American public regularly provides cheap praise and empty valorization for veterans, writes Rory Fanning in TomDispatch debut. A veteran of the war in Afghanistan — having served two tours with the 2nd Army Ranger Battalion before becoming a conscientious objector — Fanning explores America’s thank-you-for-your-service culture, what vets are actually being thanked for, and why Rihanna’s hollow patriotism left him depressed. His moving new book, Worth Fighting For: An Army Ranger’s Journey Out of the Military and Across America, captures his 3,000-mile trek through and encounter with this country, an unforced march meant to honor Pat Tillman and question the nature of our recent wars.

I don’t get to hang out with Vietnam vets as much as I used to, but late one night a year or two ago I found myself with a few of them in an almost deserted bar. Having ducked out of the annual meeting of a veterans’ group, we ordered some beers from a Millennial-age waiter. He asked if my 60-something compatriots were attending the nearby conference and they mumbled that they indeed were. The waiter seemed to momentarily straighten up. “Thank you for your service,” he solemnly intoned before bounding off to get the beers. One of veterans — a Marine who had seen his fair share of combat — commented on how much he hated that phrase. “They do it reflexively. That’s how they’ve been raised,” I replied. “I hope they wise up,” said another of the vets. Time — as with all things Millennial — will tell. Nick Turse

Thank You for Your Valor, Thank You for Your Service, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You…
Still on the Thank-You Tour-of-Duty Circuit, 13 Years Later

By Rory Fanning

Last week, in a quiet indie bookstore on the north side of Chicago, I saw the latest issue of Rolling Stone resting on a chrome-colored plastic table a few feet from a barista brewing a vanilla latte. A cold October rain fell outside. A friend of mine grabbed the issue and began flipping through it. Knowing that I was a veteran, he said, “Hey, did you see this?” pointing to a news story that seemed more like an ad. It read in part:

“This Veterans Day, Bruce Springsteen, Eminem, Rihanna, Dave Grohl, and Metallica will be among numerous artists who will head to the National Mall in Washington D.C. on November 11th for ‘The Concert For Valor,’ an all-star event that will pay tribute to armed services.”

“Concert For Valor? That sounds like something the North Korean government would organize,” I said as I typed Concertforvalor.com into my MacBook Pro looking for more information.

The sucking sound from the espresso maker was drowning out a 10-year-old Shins song. As I read, my heart sank, my shoulders slumped.

Special guests at the Concert for Valor were to include: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg. The mission of the concert, according to a press release, was to “raise awareness” of veterans issues and “provide a national stage for ensuring that veterans and their families know that their fellow Americans’ gratitude is genuine.”

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen were to serve in an advisory capacity, and Starbucks, HBO, and JPMorgan Chase were to pay for it all. “We are honored to play a small role to help raise awareness and support for our service men and women,” said HBO chairman Richard Plepler.

Though I couldn’t quite say why, that Concert for Valor ad felt tired and sad, despite the images of Rihanna singing full-throated into a gold microphone and James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica wailing away on their guitars. I had gotten my own share of “thanks” from civilians when I was still a U.S. Army Ranger. Who hadn’t? It had been the endless theme of the post-9/11 era, how thankful other Americans were that we would do… well, what exactly, for them? And here it was again. I couldn’t help wondering: Would veterans somewhere actually feel the gratitude that Starbucks and HBO hoped to convey?

I went home and cooked dinner for my wife and little girl in a semi-depressed state, thinking about that word “valor” which was to be at the heart of the event and wondering about the Hall of Fame line-up of twenty-first century liberalism that was promoting it or planning to turn out to hail it: Rolling Stone, the magazine of Hunter S. Thompson and all things rock and roll; Bruce Springsteen, the billion-dollar working-class hero; Eminem, the white rapper who has sold more records than Elvis; Metallica, the crew who sued Napster and the metal band of choice for so many longhaired, disenfranchised youth of the 1980s and 1990s. They were all going to say “thank you” — again.

Later that night, I sat down and Googled “vets honored.” Dozens and dozens of stories promptly queued up on my screen. (Try it yourself.) One of the first items I clicked on was the 50th anniversary celebration in Bangor, Maine, of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the alleged Pearl Harbor of the Vietnam War. Governor Paul LePage had spoken ringingly of the veterans of that war: “These men were just asked to go to a foreign land and protect our freedoms. And they weren’t treated with respect when they returned home. Now it’s time to acknowledge it.”

Vietnam, he insisted, was all about protecting freedom — such a simple and innocent explanation for such a long and horrific war. Lest you forget, the governor and those gathered in Bangor that day were celebrating a still-murky “incident” that touched off a massive American escalation of the war. It was claimed that North Vietnamese patrol boats had twice attacked an American destroyer, though President Lyndon Johnson later suggested that the incident might even have involved shooting at “flying fish” or “whales.” As for protecting freedom in Vietnam, tell the dead Vietnamese in America’s “free fire zones” about that.

No one, however, cared about such details. The point was that eternal “thank you.” If only, I thought, some inquisitive and valorous local reporter had asked the governor, “Treated with disrespect by whom?” And pointed out the mythology behind the idea that American civilians had mistreated GIs returning from Vietnam. (Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the Veterans Administration, which denied returning soldiers proper healthcare, or the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, organizations that weren’t eager to claim the country’s defeated veterans of a disastrous war as their own.)

When it came to thanks and “awareness raising,” no American war with a still living veteran seemed too distant to be ignored. Google told me, for example, that Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania, had recently celebrated its 12th annual “Multi-Cultural Day” by thanking its “forgotten Korean War Veterans.” According to a local newspaper report, included in the festivities were martial arts demonstrations and traditional Korean folk dancing.

The Korean War was the precursor to Vietnam, with similar results. As with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the precipitating event of the war that North Korea ignited on June 25, 1950, remains open to question. Evidence suggests that, with U.S. approval, South Korea initiated a bombardment of North Korean villages in the days leading up to the invasion. As in Vietnam, there, too, the U.S. supported a corrupt autocrat and used napalm on a mass scale. Millions died, including staggering numbers of civilians, and North Korea was left in rubble by war’s end. Folk dancing was surely in short supply. As for protecting our freedoms in Korea, enough said.

These two ceremonies seemed to catch a particular mood (reflected in so many similar, if more up-to-date versions of the same). They might have benefited from a little “awareness raising” when it came to what the American military has actually been doing these last years, not to say decades, beyond our borders. They certainly summed up much of the frustration I was feeling with the Concert for Valor. Plenty of thank yous, for sure, but no history when it came to what the thanks were being offered for in, say, Iraq or Afghanistan, no statistics on taxpayer dollars spent or where they went, or on innocent lives lost and why.

Will the “Concert for Valor” mention the trillions of dollars rung up terrorizing Muslim countries for oil, the ratcheting up of the police and surveillance state in this country since 9/11, the hundreds of thousands of lives lost thanks to the wars of George W. Bush and Barack Obama? Is anyone going to dedicate a song to Chelsea Manning, or John Kiriakou, or Edward Snowden — two of them languishing in prison and one in exile — for their service to the American people? Will the Concert for Valor raise anyone’s awareness when it comes to the fact that, to this day, veterans lack proper medical attention, particularly for mental health issues, or that there is a veteran suicide every 80 minutes in this country? Let’s hope they find time in between drum solos, but myself, I’m not counting on it.

Posted at: October 28, 2014 - 10:30 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

October 27, 2014

Global food trade : Corporate-friendly and relatively indifferent to the needs, health and interests of people & Turning the tables on unchecked food industry advertising means using some of the same tactics

Global trade pacts now limit US consumer food information
Mark Karlin Buzzflash/Truthout USA October 22, 2014

An anti-WTO protest overseas. Photo: fuzheado. Visit this page for its embedded links.

Public Citizen condemned a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that would prohibit mandatory country of origin labeling on meat sold in the United States. The decision by the WTO represents not just an infringement on the sovereign right of the US to determine consumer food policy, it also represents the growing number of trade agreements that allow international dismantling of national laws that might impact corporate profit.

In a news release entitled, “World Trade Organization Rules Against Popular U.S. Country-of-Origin Meat Labels on Which Consumers Rely,” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch commented:

“Many Americans will be shocked that the WTO can order our government to deny U.S. consumers the basic information about where their food comes from and that if the information policy is not gutted, we could face millions in sanctions every year. Today’s ruling spotlights how these so called ‘trade’ deals are packed with non-trade provisions that threaten our most basic rights, such as even knowing the source and safety of what’s on our dinner plate.”

If the US does not comply with the WTO ruling, it can be punished through trade sanctions. In the case of many free trade agreements, financial penalties can be sought by corporations in such cases for alleged loss of profits. BuzzFlash noted this growing global preemption of national laws in a recent commentary, “Trans-Pacific Partnership Would Decrease Access to Affordable Cancer Treatment.” This ability of international corporations to sue countries for laws deemed not to be business friendly is called investor-state dispute settlement, and its rulings supersede laws of a country.

In terms of food and health, Public Citizen offers a couple of additional examples of WTO overruling US consumer concerns:

In May 2012, the WTO ruled against voluntary “dolphin-safe” tuna labels that, by allowing consumers to choose to buy tuna caught without dolphin-killing fishing practices, have helped to dramatically reduce dolphin deaths. In April 2012, the WTO ruled against a U.S. ban on clove-, candy- and chocolate-flavored cigarettes, enacted to curb youth smoking. In each of those cases, U.S. policy changes made to comply with the WTO’s decisions also have been challenged before WTO panels similar to the one that issued today’s ruling.

As BuzzFlash has noted previously, however, the WTO and current and looming trade agreements do not only impact consumer issues. Companies can also sue before international tribunals to nullify environmental and public health protection laws.

The growing corporate victories in establishing an international judicial infrastructure that can overrule national laws and interest are, of course, being challenged. (For instance, widespread opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership has emerged.) However, sensationalist coverage of ISIS and the presence of Ebola in the US muffle the calls for more public information on current and pending global trade agreements and organizations. The US public remains largely ignorant of the growing threat to local, state and national control of consumer, labor, environmental, agricultural and public health issues, among others areas subject to global trade agreements.

Related: In this ongoing series, “Grow, Eat, Learn: School from the Plate Up”, Tyee Solutions Society reporter Katie Hyslop visits farms, schools, full-length mirrors and our own kitchen cupboards to examine how we lost our way when it comes to feeding our kids, and how we can get back on the path to wholesome, healthy eating. Find the series so far here.

How to ‘sell’ healthy food to kids
Katie Hyslop Tyee Solutions Society British Columbia Canada October 27, 2014

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While writer, academic, and frazzled mom of picky eaters Karen Le Billon was marvelling at France’s unparalleled school lunch program during the year her family lived in the country’s north, she was also trying to get both of her daughters, then five and two, to eat foods at home beyond their diet of Cheerios, crackers, buttered toast and pasta.

The French, she learned, had a solution for that problem, too. Meet “taste training.” It’s something every French parent knows and practices, Le Billon found. And within a year of implementing it, she had her kids scarfing down “a huge range of foods, including beet salad, creamed spinach, broccoli and mussels,” she writes in her most recent book, Getting to Yum: 7 Secrets For Raising Eager Eaters.

Where parents rely on Kraft Dinner and chicken nuggets to satiate finicky youngsters, Getting to Yum promises to have those kids eating foods as adult-sounding as mild Thai squash curry, salmon spinach lasagna and guacamole — with recipes for all three and more conveniently located in the second half of the book.

“We could be teaching kids how to eat just like we teach them how to read, but we don’t,” Le Billon, now back in Vancouver, said. Yet she predicts taste training will soon be as widespread as potty and sleep training.

“Once parents find out how easy it is, they’re amazed.”

Le Billon’s book backs up that claim with the experience of dozens of families who tested its methods. But teaching kids that healthy food is also tasty is only half the battle. The other half must be fought against the ever-present flood of junk food advertising directed at children.

Le Billon is reluctant to divide the choices into “good food versus bad food.” Yet it’s impossible to deny the sway the food industry has over kids’ appetites since you can’t turn on a TV, open a browser, or listen to the radio without being pelted with ads about delicious yet unwholesome foods.

As Bill Jeffrey, national director for the Canadian office of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, sees it, advertising tricks kids into becoming “agitators” in the family for the foods they see advertised during Saturday morning cartoons or on kid-centred websites.

The centre would like to see the rest of Canada take a page out of Quebec’s playbook. Since 1980, that province has banned fast food and toy advertising during TV shows whose audiences are 15 per cent or more under the age of 13. The Centre would like to make it tougher, extending the ban to age 16 or even 18, with stricter pro-active enforcement by government, instead of relying on the public to complain before an advertiser is investigated.

“The stimulus for [Quebec's ban] was this recognition that children are impressionable and it’s easy to trick them, and that food and toy companies were taking advantage of that by targeting commercial advertisements at children and trying to manipulate [them],” Jeffrey explained.

The centre links junk-food advertising to children to an increase in juvenile obesity and Type 2 diabetes. He’s also incensed by a tactic he thinks is just plain wrong: “As a parent, it’s very galling that companies seek out ways to get access to children’s minds to persuade them to buy their products.”

Detailing all seven courses of taste training secrets took Le Billon an entire book. Here, we’ll stick to a taster’s menu:

Although she emphasizes it’s never too late to transform a picky eater — yes, even teenagers — Le Billon admits that taste training is easier when kids are toddlers.

“It is a universal phenomenon that kids about the age of two go through a phase where they’re wanting to control what they put in their mouths and they get a little selective,” Le Billon said.

The technical term for it is neophobia, fear of anything new. Many parents know it better as the fearsome “terrible twos.”

But neophobia is exacerbated by North America’s pervasive fast food culture. Add on parents’ busy schedules and an exasperating toddler who turns down every food except chicken nuggets, and it’s easy to surrender to that demand, no matter how unhealthy.

Ironically, in most (non-Quebecois) Canadian kids’ lives, food advertising has plenty of time to influence habits. And the more time little minds spend in front of screens, the more the messages of high fat, high sugar, high salt food producers worm their way into kids’ brains.

There’s evidence meanwhile that Quebec’s all-out ad ban is having an impact — on both eating habits and food company sales. …

The province’s ban, the first of its kind in the world, has influenced similar bans in the United Kingdom, Norway and Sweden. An attempt by Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to promote the idea there however, although cheered by health organizations, met jeers from the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA), which represents advertisers.

Posted at: October 27, 2014 - 3:22 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Here’s what no one is telling you about ebola & Looks like the medical establishment was wrong about fat

Abby Norman is FEMA-trained in level 3 hazmat in a hospital setting. She is a student, health guide and writer, but she is not a nurse.

I’m a hazmat-trained hospital worker: Here’s what no one is telling you about ebola
Abby Norman Huffington Post USA Updated October 22, 2014

Photo: Alex Dans/Getty Images. Visit this page for its embedded links.

Update, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014: New guidelines from the CDC outline their current recommendations for hazmat in a hospital setting for facing suspected or confirmed Ebola cases. They continue to provide clarity on the nature of “airborne” transmission, and I encourage readers to review the explanations if they found my use of the term confusing.

Ebola is brilliant.

It is a superior virus that has evolved and fine-tuned its mechanism of transmission to be near-perfect. That’s why we’re all so terrified. We know we can’t destroy it. All we can do is try to divert it, outrun it.

I’ve worked in health care for a few years now. One of the first things I took advantage of was training to become FEMA-certified for hazmat ops in a hospital setting. My rationale for this was that, in my home state of Maine, natural disasters are almost a given. We’re also, though you may not know it, a state that has many major ports that receive hazardous liquids from ships and transport them inland. In the back of my mind, of course, I was aware that any hospital in the world could potentially find itself at the epicenter of a scene from The Hot Zone. That was several years ago. Today I’m thinking, by God, I might actually have to use this training. Mostly, though, I’m aware of just that — that I did receive training. Lots of it. Because you can’t just expect any nurse or any doctor or any health care worker or layperson to understand the deconning procedures by way of some kind of pamphlet or 10-minute training video. Not only is it mentally rigorous, but it’s physically exhausting.

PPE, or, personal protective equipment, is sort of a catch-all phrase for the suits, booties, gloves, hoods and in many cases respirators worn by individuals who are entering a hot zone. These suits are incredibly difficult to move in. You are wearing several layers of gloves, which limits your dexterity to basically nil, the hoods limit the scope of your vision — especially your peripheral vision, which all but disappears. The suits are hot – almost unbearably so. The respirator gives you clean air, but not cool air. These suits are for protection, not comfort. Before you even suit up, your vitals need to be taken. You can’t perform in the suit for more than about a half hour at a time — if you make it that long. Heat stroke is almost a given at that point. You have to be fully hydrated and calm before you even step into the suit. By the time you come out of it, and your vitals are taken again, you’re likely to be feeling the impact — you may not have taken more than a few steps in the suit, but you’ll feel like you’ve run a marathon on a 90-degree day.

We run at least an annual drill at my hospital each year. We are a small hospital and thus are a small emergency response team. But because we make a point to review our protocols, train our staff (actually practice donning/doffing gear), I realized this week that this puts us ahead at some much larger and more notable hospitals in the United States. Every hospital should be running these types of emergency response drills yearly, at least. To hear that the nurses in Dallas reported that there were no protocols at their hospital broke my heart. Their health care system failed them. In the United States we always talk about how the health care system is failing patients, but the truth is, it has failed its employees too. Not just doctors and nurses, but allied health professionals as well. The presence of Ebola on American soil has drawn out the true vulnerabilities in the health care system, and they are not fiscally based. We spend trillions of dollars on health care in this country — yet the allocation of those funds are grossly disproportionate to how other countries spend their health care expenditures. We aren’t focused on population health. Now, with Ebola threatening our population, the truth is out.

The truth is, in terms of virology, Ebola should not be a threat to American citizens. We have clean water. We have information. We have the means to educate ourselves, practice proper hand-washing procedures, protect ourselves with hazmat suits. The CDC Disease Detectives were dispatched to Dallas almost immediately to work on the front lines to identify those who might be at risk, who could have been exposed. We have the technology, and we certainly have the money to keep Ebola at bay. What we don’t have is communication. What we don’t have is a health care system that values preventative care. What we don’t have is an equal playing field between nurses and physicians and allied health professionals and patients. What we don’t have is a culture of health where we work symbiotically with one another and with the technology that was created specifically to bridge communication gaps, but has in so many ways failed. What we don’t have is the social culture of transparency, what we don’t have is a stopgap against mounting hysteria and hypochondria, what we don’t have is nation of health literate individuals. We don’t even have health-literate professionals. Most doctors are specialists and are well versed only in their field. Ask your orthopedist a general question about your health — see if they can comfortably answer it.

Health care operates in silos — we can’t properly isolate our patients, but we sure as hell can isolate ourselves as health care workers.

As we slide now into flu season, into a time of year when we are normally braced for winter diseases, colds, flus, sick days and cancelled plans, the American people have also now been truly exposed to another disease entirely: the excruciating truth about our health care system’s dysfunction — and the prognosis doesn’t look good.

Related: Looks like the medical establishment was wrong about fat
Daniel Duane Men’s Journal/Business Insider USA October 27, 2014

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For more than half a century, the conventional wisdom among nutritionists and public health officials was that fat is dietary enemy number one – the leading cause of obesity and heart disease.

It appears the wisdom was off.

And not just off. Almost entirely backward.

According to a new study from the National Institutes of Health, a diet that reduces carbohydrates in favor of fat – including the saturated fat in meat and butter – improves nearly every health measurement, from reducing our waistlines to keeping our arteries clear, more than the low-fat diets that have been recommended for generations.

“The medical establishment got it wrong,” says cardiologist Dennis Goodman, director of Integrative Medicine at New York Medical Associates. “The belief system didn’t pan out.”

It’s not the conclusion you would expect given the NIH study’s parameters. Lead researcher Lydia Bazanno, of the Tulane University School of Public Health, pitted this high-fat, low-carb diet against a fat-restricted regimen prescribed by the National Cholesterol Education Program.

Posted at: October 27, 2014 - 12:09 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Some hard facts about terror & Stephen Harper’s response to Ottawa shooting was appallingly uncivilized & Becoming post-Israeli: Why I immigrated to Berlin

… the “exemplary society,” a terminology that invokes the specters of the Zionist utopia sketched in high-school textbooks, touches upon the issue from another direction: The construction of social reality in Israel using a phony and ridiculously detached ideological language. This language hijacks any meaningful discussion of the problems into the fantastic but anemic discourse of institutional Zionism. It is like a cellophane wrapping that covers all the state systems within which a vile corruption is spreading, and it serves to mask and justify the political decay of the public representatives who collaborate in creating a false veneer that belies this reality. Using this language the emigration of Israelis is formulated in ideological terms – it is a “Yerida” (lit. descent), which is the opposite of “Aliyah” (lit. ascent). In doing so, the emigrating Israelis are allocated a specific place within this national-cultural discourse; rendering them props in the theater of Israeli politics. - Israeli citizen Na’aman Hirschfeld, a native Hebrew speaker, who chose to emigrate to Germany. At present, Na’aman Hirschfeld is a PhD candidate in the Institute for Cultural Studies at Humboldt University of Berlin. His dissertation is concerned with late 19th century studies of mythology. He lives in Berlin with his wife and child. Of his decision to leave his native country permanently he writes:

Does this have a political significance? Absolutely. I possess an Israeli citizenship. Most of my world is still in Israel and my native language is Hebrew, but I am not willing to take an active role in the state of Israel. I did not leave in order to support Israel from the outside as a ‘goodwill ambassador.’ I left in disgust, feeling oppressed and exhausted. This was desperation mixed with necessity: I am here because I am unwilling to submit my future and fate to the government and state of Israel. The leaving to Berlin is a statement that I am not willing to be one of [ Israeli Minister of Finance] Yair Lapid’s “Guys in Berlin.” By leaving I stopped being one of the guys, period.

now, consider this comment from a Canadian Senator:

I think it’s fair to say that [Stephen Harper is] the most popular politician in Israel, bar none, including any of their own. He’s a rock star in Israel.
- Linda Frum, whom Harper appointed to the Canadian Senate in 2009. See “Israel’s best friend: Stephen Harper” by Nick Taylor-Vaisey, Maclean’s, December 4, 2013. Within that article Taylor-Vaisey observes:

As he accepted his Toronto tribute, Harper referred to the countries surrounding Israel as a “region of darkness,” juxtaposed against a Jewish state that he called a “light of freedom and democracy.”

Below: John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He has many interests and is a lifelong student of history. He writes with a passionate desire for honesty, the rule of reason, and concern for human decency. John regards it as a badge of honor to have left the United States as a poor young man from the South Side of Chicago when the country embarked on the pointless murder of something like three million Vietnamese in their own land because they embraced the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada. John’s writing appears regularly on many Internet sites. He has been translated into at least ten languages and has been regularly translated into Italian and Spanish. Several of his essays have been published in book collections, including two college texts. We received the following submission this morning.

by John Chuckman, October 27, 2014

We are having an outbreak of reports in the Canadian press about “home grown” terrorists, “radicalized” young men of Muslim faith traveling out of the country to participate in extremist groups abroad, a relatively insignificant phenomenon which has received inordinate publicity. In any event, if you give the matter some thought, you realize that this “news” is a kind of empty publicity, noise about something as old and familiar as human life itself, although it has been bestowed with a new name intended to frighten us into supporting measures outside the framework of a society of laws.

The truth is that young men, at least a certain portion of them, have always traveled abroad to join causes and wars. It’s about as ordinary a phenomenon as playing team sports or joining clubs. In many cases, we end up praising them for their bravery and idealism, as was certainly the case with the many thousands of Europeans, Americans, and Canadians who traveled to Spain in the 1930s to volunteer in the civil war against General Franco. In other cases, we condemn and imprison them and sometimes even execute them as part of the losing side, as America has been doing in its rampage through the Middle East.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the emergence of new, independent nations from the British Empire drew thousands of young men to Africa to fight as mercenaries or volunteers. Apartheid South Africa used to run classified ads in newspapers abroad to attract young men in its battle against the African National Congress. Young Jewish men in the past went to Israel to join the IDF out of some sense of brotherhood, and they do so still. The French Foreign Legion gained almost mythical status as a place for young men to leave things behind, embracing an undefined sense of purpose and brotherhood. Young European adventurers, often young noblemen with hopes of gaining glory, sailed across the Atlantic in the 1770s to volunteer in the American colonies’ revolt against the British Empire, far more of them than Washington’s meagre army could use.

Magnetic leaders like Napoleon or Castro or Nasser attracted countless volunteers from abroad in their heyday. Our history books don’t dwell on the fact but large numbers of young men from many countries volunteered for Hitler’s invading legions. The phenomenon does not depend on the high or noble nature of the cause, although the luster and publicity around grand causes undoubtedly attracts a still wider range of young men.

Young men often just want to escape from every-day, humdrum life, a boring marriage, a nothing job, or, as in the case of the Foreign Legion, to leave a criminal or failed past behind in hopes of high adventure, a new identity, and a fresh start in life. The genuine nature of a cause often matters little because young men’s fantasies convert grubby deeds into mythic stuff at least for a time. Young men in the Foreign Legion were actually fighting for a brutal imperialism in North Africa. Volunteers to the IDF only assist in the oppression of an abused people, not in the protection of the Jewish people. Those who joined Napoleon thought they were spreading liberté, égalité et fraternité across a mummified old-order Europe, but they were helping one of history’s great bloody soldier-conquerors glorify himself and do what it was he lusted after doing.

Mental illness also intrudes into terrorist matters, all things unusual or different being grist for the big dumb mill of the press. In Canada, during the wave of empty chatter about “home-grown terrorists,” there were two isolated incidents of murder in different parts of the country, one of a policeman and one of a reservist in the military. Immediately the press began a completely uninformative and patience-exhausting round of speculation about the dark nature of the perpetrators, complete with interviews of various self-proclaimed “terrorism experts,” men, as it generally turns out, who run security firms and are out drumming up business. In both cases, we finally learned through the fog of misinformation generated by the press, that the young dead men were deeply mentally disturbed, their acts having no more political significance than the crazed men set on suicide who first kill their wives or children or the boys who periodically show up heavily armed at school, shooting their way through classmates.

And of course, it is almost invariably males who do these things, our prisons containing about ten men for every woman. The violence we see in professional football, hockey, or boxing being almost an exclusive male domain. Woman rarely commit murder, males being responsible for almost all of it, with young males being responsible for an extraordinarily disproportionate share.

Aside from the psychotic and deeply depressed, there is a certain segment of young men in every society who are simply attracted to opportunities for legal killing, rape, and mayhem – this being the truly ugly side of every war and conflict that we never mention in our sentimental world-war memorial services or high school textbooks. These men are variously termed sociopaths or psychopaths, and they appear to exist naturally in some proportion in any population. They enjoy killing, inflicting pain, and the sense of supreme power over the lives of others, and they are incapable of sympathy for their victims or remorse for their acts. They only fear being caught, and war provides a wonderful legal playground for them.

The bloodiest, most brutal and pointless war of the last half century, America’s grotesque slaughter in Vietnam, attracted thousands of volunteers from other countries to join in the gruesome fun – acts which included everything from raping girls and then shooting them to throwing men out of helicopters. Even then-peaceful Canada, whose prime minister, Lester Pearson, bravely turned down Lyndon Johnson’s bullying demands to send troops (charmer that Johnson was, he is said to have grabbed our Nobel Peace Prize-winning leader by the lapels during a meeting and pushed him against a wall), saw hundreds of adventure-seeking young men, on their own, join the American holocaust, which would see three million horribly slaughtered, countless wounded, and an ancient agricultural land overwhelmed with America’s landmines, cluster bombs, and poisons.

Today we call people terrorists as easily as we more accurately might have called them reckless or mad. The word terrorist has been given an almost frightening, superstitious connotation much resembling the word witch in the seventeenth century when any poor old soul who suffered from a mental illness like schizophrenia might be burnt alive for her mumblings and delusions. Today, the same people we once burnt would be sent to a homeless shelter or a psychiatric hospital. Another aspect of the word terrorist is related to what Stalin used to say when he expected his officials to launch a new purge to keep the country terrorized into submission. The Vozhd would say something about “wreckers” or “wreckers of the revolution” and his minions would busy themselves demonstrating alacrity in finding large numbers to consign to prison or death. All of our press and government spokespeople now use terrorist with those two meanings, and to the extent that they do, we should recognize the foolishness of their speech and its danger to a free society.

Of course, anyone who commits violent crime needs dealing with, and we do have laws covering every form of violent crime and what is judged the degree of culpability. But creating a special class or type of crime, somehow understood to be different in nature from other crimes, and thereby requiring extraordinary measures of espionage and policing and imprisonment and standards of evidence, is a shabby, dishonest, and cowardly political act. It is a political act in exactly the sense best explained by George Orwell.

The template for this kind of state activity comes directly from Israel. It long ago succeeded in changing the outside perception of events since 1948 from that of a relatively powerless people having their homes and lands taken with great brutality. Everyone knows instinctively that people treated in that fashion have every right in international law and custom to fight their oppressors. We call them at various times and circumstances freedom fighters, guerillas, resistance fighters, or irregulars. But in this case, they were transformed into terrorists who seek only to destroy law-abiding, democratic Israel – unspeakably evil beings intent on attacking the imported Ozzie-and-Harriet peacefulness of white-picket fence neighborhoods constructed on other people’s property. It truly is a case of the world turned on its head.

It does make things so much easier when you shoot someone or bulldoze their home or send them to prison indefinitely with no trial and subject to torture, if you first have demonized them, much as in the case of witches or wreckers, with terrorist being this generation’s choice demonizing word. And when Israel kills some people whose identity as “terrorists” might be seen as very doubtful, the victims magically become militants, a Newspeak word which strives to make the killing of anyone from boys to grandfathers palatable, our shabby press in the West having adopted the word in its reportage without so much as blinking an eye, much less asking a question. This has been Israel’s day-in, day-out pattern of government for decades, but now it has managed to export to the United States the same pattern of behavior. The United States, after all, is a nation given to Captain Ahab-like obsessions, as it has demonstrated many times in its history, Muslims now having displaced the Communists it pursued with relentless fury for decades at home and abroad. And when the United States embraces a new obsession, its dependants in Europe, Canada, Australia, and other places are bullied into embracing it too. America has many avenues for pressuring the acceptance and recognition of its latest craze or special interest or dark operation and to quiet the criticism which would naturally flow from those who disagree and think for themselves.

Were America not enthralled with this voodoo about terror, Europe and others would quickly fall away, and Israel’s ugly behavior would be left in a glaring spotlight, much as South Africa’s once was.

It is the force of these considerations in part which leads so many to question the true nature of what happened on 9/11, for that set of events was pivotal in having American public opinion embrace extraordinary, anti-democratic, and anti-human rights measures. I do not subscribe to the (not-uncommon) conspiracy notion that the American government was complicit in 9/11, using it as a kind of Nazi Reichstag Fire to ignite the mindless war on terror and a crusade through the Middle East to overturn governments unfriendly to Israel. I do very much believe though that the full story of that event has never been told, and, as always, that can only mean highly embarrassing or compromising facts are being suppressed. The immense body of confidential information in Washington on all matters of state – literally tens of billions of documents – would largely disappear if it weren’t for considerations of embarrassment and compromise, the need for genuine government secrecy being much rarer than many assume.

A free society does not recognize crimes deemed in some way to be different or more heinous or extraordinary: it maintains and enforces sensible, well-reasoned laws which apply equally to all. It does not create criminal laws which reflect political pressure or special interests. The United States, now on a new hunt for a great white whale, has virtually re-created East Germany’s dreaded Stasi, only in a much more sophisticated and far-reaching form. It meshes with the all-pervasive secret state police apparatus Israel has constructed in the Middle East with infinite care since 1948. Now, over all our lives there is something, not answerable to any electorate, working to dissimulate, to intimidate, and to generate fear as nothing of which the Soviet Union was remotely capable. It influences all of our laws and customs, even attempting to shape the way we speak and think.

Related: Stephen Harper’s response to Ottawa shooting was appallingly uncivilized
Eric Wright Georgia Straight British Columbia Canada October 27, 2014

The murder of Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa on October 22 was an appalling tragedy for his family, friends, coworkers, and our country. Yet, an equally appalling facet of this tragedy is the hyperbolic rhetoric that has sprung up in its wake, particularly the words chosen by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons the day after the murder on Parliament Hill took place.

While addressing the House, the prime minister swiftly drew a connection between an incident in Quebec on October 20, where a runaway driver murdered one soldier, and the killing of Cpl. Cirillo to violent extremist movements in other parts of the world. Without citing evidence, he framed these two murders as part of an ongoing struggle our country faces, vowing to “take this fight to the terrorists on their own territory”. Prior to this vow, he characterized the world as “descending into savagery”, with Canada being one of the only islands of civilization left. In the House, the prime minister framed two isolated crimes committed in one country in the same week as an abstract attack on our civilization, democracy, and institutions without a shred of evidence or sober second thought.

In order to make the leap of logic from two murders committed in one country in one week to the abstract sociological notion of a battle of the civilized versus the savage, a reasonable person would want to first see evidence that those who committed the crimes understood their actions in this light. And most importantly, that the continuing threat our country faces manifested by these attacks is coordinated, imminent, and real, and therefore justifying of this extremely broad and powerfully motivating rhetoric. But, as in any police investigation, it will take time to determine the motives of those who committed the crimes, although there is certainly some initial evidence that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had become a religious extremist and struggled with addiction. To frame these two discrete murders as incidents in part of a worldwide struggle against savagery that our country faces without any evidence is an irresponsible and dangerous act by our country’s leadership in a time of crisis.

The best honour and remembrance we can give to those who were murdered callously last week is to ensure our country’s response to their deaths is a truly civilized one. This means to investigate fully and learn the facts, draw conclusions based solely on evidence, and reject our leader’s use of soaring hyperbolic rhetoric that frames personal and family tragedies as civilizational struggles without the least bit of evidence that this is true and respond in a thoughtful way that aims to prevent further violence. The most important component of a civilized and thoughtful response is to investigate the motives of those who committed the crimes, and strategize dispassionately about how to prevent further tragedies from taking place. This is the best testament we can make as citizens to those were taken too soon from their friends and family.

Below: Drew Anderson commented on the day Stephen Harper spoke, to paraphrase Anderson’s point, if only Harper had said something else. Anderson believes the Ottawa shooting is better used as an excuse to help rather than to hurt.

A better response to Ottawa shooting
Drew Anderson Fast Forward Daily Alberta Canada October 23, 2014

If only…

Today, Canada awoke to a new reality, with the government saying it will do everything in its power to support those with mental illness and addictions after a citizen who had fallen through the cracks killed a soldier on Parliament Hill before being shot and killed outside the Library of Parliament.

“Too often those with mental illness and those who suffer from terrible addictions are ignored and left to their own devices in a society that has not provided the necessary care,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the suspect in Wednesday’s shooting, had reportedly been staying at a shelter in Ottawa leading up to the shooting spree. The man had stayed at shelters before and had a lengthy criminal record, but nothing violent, and had reportedly struggled with addictions.

“We have seen this far too often and we will not, as a compassionate society, sit idly by and let our citizens suffer. We will muster the full might of the state and its resources to help our fellow citizens. We will wage war against desperation and struggle within our own borders, no matter the cost,” said Harper, adding it would be futile to respond to the shooting by restricting rights and increasing surveillance on citizens.

“The best way to combat extremists luring Canadian citizens, is to look after our citizens and give hope to those with very little of it,” said Harper.

Noted: Although like many Israelis of my generation I was experiencing financial difficulties, that was not my reason for leaving for Berlin. The reason was and is the feeling that there is no future in Israel.

Becoming post-Israeli: Why I immigrated to Berlin
Na’aman Hirschfeld Ha’aretz Israel October 25, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded and related links.

Over the past few weeks the public discourse in Israel has been occupied with the so called “Berlin” protest, at the center of which stand the exorbitant cost of living in Israel as reflected in a comparison with the cost of living in Berlin, to which many young Israelis emigrated over the past few years. In addressing the issue, Yair Lapid, the Israeli Minister of Finance, stated “these young guys are right – the prices are intolerable” and elsewhere further said “I understand the people who depart for Berlin and even agree with them,” but added: “I am telling the protesters that I understand the daily difficulty, but I am also saying that there should be a discussion of the question whether a young person’s departure to Berlin is only due to the cost of living in Israel or because of identity, and why we chose to form a Jewish state, as well as other issues. This is a complex discussion. We are seeking to form an exemplary society and we shouldn’t give up this effort.”

The cost of living in Israel is indeed very high and young people are struggling financially, yet is that the main reason why many, including myself, decided to leave Israel for Berlin? To a certain extent Yair Lapid is correct, it is an issue of identity; the identity of Israel as a state, its identity as a society and the identity the individual can and is allowed to possess within it. At the same time, the second part of his statement regarding the “exemplary society,” a terminology that invokes the specters of the Zionist utopia sketched in high-school textbooks, touches upon the issue from another direction: The construction of social reality in Israel using a phony and ridiculously detached ideological language. This language hijacks any meaningful discussion of the problems into the fantastic but anemic discourse of institutional Zionism. It is like a cellophane wrapping that covers all the state systems within which a vile corruption is spreading, and it serves to mask and justify the political decay of the public representatives who collaborate in creating a false veneer that belies this reality. Using this language the emigration of Israelis is formulated in ideological terms – it is a “Yerida” (lit. descent), which is the opposite of “Aliyah” (lit. ascent). In doing so, the emigrating Israelis are allocated a specific place within this national-cultural discourse; rendering them props in the theater of Israeli politics. Yet the movement towards Berlin begins not in a ‘Yerida’ but rather in a ‘Leaving,’ and the thing left is first and foremost this very discourse.

While Berlin is an alluring and advantageous city for economic, cultural and geographic reasons, no less significant in an Israeli perspective is the fact that in deciding to leave for Berlin, one performs an act of resistance; opposing an entire ideological formation that stands at the center of the mainstream Israeli cultural-political discourse, which posits Berlin in particular and Germany in general as antinomies of Israeliness and Zionism. In other words, the decision to leave for Berlin is not the same as the decision to immigrate to London/Paris/Los Angeles/New York and other places, because Germany is constructed as a negative historical “Other” in practically all spheres of Israeli culture. As such, a willingness to move to Berlin is at the very minimum a willingness to relinquish and go beyond a fundamental Israeli identity narrative. There is a rejection of something of what constitutes ‘Israeliness’ in this move. Yet, the content of this rejection cannot be simply abstracted and defined – this is a dynamic relation, the interpretation of which is constantly unfolding and evolving, because the Israeli who left, is still an Israeli… even in Berlin.

Although like many Israelis of my generation I was experiencing financial difficulties, it was not my reason for leaving. Rather, the reason was and is the feeling that there is no future in Israel. The Israeli government does not serve the interest of the people. Nearly every sphere of life is neglected in favor of the state security apparatus and the various corrupt interest groups that leech public resources and finances. The official institutional systems – education, health, social welfare, public transportation, police – are managed in a way that victimizes the citizen by relating to the average individual in an inhuman way as part nuisance, part parasite and part milking cow. Yet this corruption, which very few officials dare to admit and most collude in masking (although every average Israeli experiences it on a daily basis) is a symptom rather than the cause of the disease in the Israeli socio-political body. The cause is the cruel and crushing oppression of the Palestinians in the name of an ideology that seeks to settle the entire territory between the river Jordan and the Sea. Although most Israelis do not adhere to this ideology, they nonetheless support politicians that time after time lend their support to the settlements at the expense of the general Israeli public – either due to their own ideological convictions, or due to dirty political maneuverings which they get away with time and again.

Posted at: October 27, 2014 - 11:15 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post