October 20, 2014

Benjamin Netanyahu and Adolph Hitler share uncomfortably similar personality and character traits

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.

UNCANNY PARALLELS IN CHARACTER
by John Chuckman, October 20, 2014

I’m not one of those who scribble blunt little mustaches on pictures of politicians I dislike, but here I make some uncomfortable and I believe accurate observations comparing personality and character traits of a contemporary politician with one of history’s darkest figures.

I don’t know whether anyone else has noticed the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu and Adolph Hitler share uncomfortably similar personality and character traits. Certainly there are, and have been, other politicians who also share the same traits, but it is of particular concern today that a man of this nature dominates events in the Middle East. In the case of Hitler we can read about his personality and character in any of a number of scholarly biographies and histories of World War II. In the case of Netanyahu, we can see them displayed on the world stage despite an immense amount effort by public relations flaks and apologists to airbrush them. We have also, something we do not always have for contemporaries, the first-hand testimony of several world figures about key aspects of his behavior to which we wouldn’t otherwise be exposed.

One of Hitler’s most prominent traits was a driving will, really a consuming obsession, to re-build the world he inhabited into a place which conformed to his wishes, illusions, and prejudices. He was, if you will, the dangerous ideologue or dreamer par excellence. Several sweeping idees fixes dominated his thinking.

Identifying with Germany rather than the small country of his origin, Austria, he wanted to see that nation become as great and powerful as possible. Caught in the general blind enthusiasm when World War I was declared, he volunteered for service with Germany. He served with decorated bravery, receiving serious wounds, and ended with crushing disappointment over Germany’s defeat. Within a few years, if not earlier in private, he began thinking of himself as Germany’s man of destiny to lead the nation to future victory, making up for the humiliations of World War I. Undoubtedly, his own odd early life, full of humiliations for a man who always regarded himself as quite special, undoubtedly contributed force to his thinking.

Hitler was a supreme narcissist, one who came eventually around to regarding himself in messianic terms with regard to the German people and their future. As with all narcissists who gain authority through their skills and charm – yes, Hitler could be quite charming in private as many contemporaries have testified – it is easy for them to slip into sociopathic behavior. Lying and dissimulation were as natural as breathing for Hitler, and again as with all narcissists, there was no sense of wrong-doing but rather a sense of success in fooling others to serve his purposes. These qualities are not unknown in the politics of other democratic states, and we observe them in everyday life in fields such as finance or big-time selling.

Hitler was famous for the terrifying rages he could throw in private. Sometimes they were employed against generals or officials who raised objections to an idea or plan of his. It was a favorite method he used on the leaders of foreign states from whom he tried to extract concessions during a crisis negotiation. One can almost picture him sometime after the raging meeting, relaxing in private, laughing about the poor shocked witnesses. The rages were undoubtedly often genuine but they were also a part he played, and played quite convincingly.

Psychiatric studies of Hitler fail to find a psychotic mind. He was not mad, which of course makes his acts all the more frightening. It is easy to dismiss the violent acts of madmen, but the banality of evil is a far less predictable force in human society.

Hitler understood that America’s sheer size in population and resources made her very powerful through huge internal markets and economies of scale, and he wanted to achieve the same status for Germany. His central idea for doing so from his earliest days was the conquest of Russia, whose great resources and lands would be exploited by Germans and whose Slav population would be reduced to slavery. The world’s German people, according to his thinking, would then flourish and increase their numbers. His ideas about Russia had in part a fairly old lineage, there having been many past schemes and efforts to connect German know-how with Russian resources. Many thinkers in the world at the time saw Germany as the most important economic, scientific, and cultural force in Europe and saw Russia as an immense place inhabited by less enlightened people. All of his early victories in Europe were in preparation for the great Russian assault, many of them taken in reaction to those who sought to stop him.

Of course, Hitler’s thinking in such matters as the conquest of Russia was never just straightforward or analytical, being always blurred with a deep sense of values, almost a mysticism, related to early German mythology. Embracing the barbarism represented in these stories was his way of freeing himself of constraints he saw in German society holding back its progress, and embrace it he did.

Hitler had what all educated people today would regard as crackpot ideas about the nature of human biology, but they actually did not seem quite so far out in the 1920-30s when general understanding of such matters was rudimentary. Terms like race purification were not heard only from Hitler but from a surprising assortment of people in the West. The “land of the free,” for example, had government eugenics programs well before Nazi Germany, programs in which tens of thousands of American citizens were involuntarily sterilized, having been judged unfit for reproduction. Many famous American business barons supported these and other related views and policies, most notably Henry Ford who wrote openly, among other things, of the need for eugenics and of his visceral hatred of Jews. Hitler actually kept a photo of Ford in his Chancellery office. Other Americans who went out of their way to demonstrate sympathy with the Nazis included Prescott Bush, Randolph Hearst, Irénée Du Pont, Henry Luce, Joseph Kennedy, John Rockefeller, Thomas J. Watson, Charles Lindbergh, plus a host of executives in major American corporations who did business with the Nazis and generally regarded them exactly as Hitler regarded himself, as a bulwark against communism and social chaos.

Hitler’s views on race and people were twisted outgrowths of his brutal – he liked that term, considering it a compliment to his hard-nosed insight and rejection of sentimentality – views on the economy and the state. Despite using the word socialist as part of the name of his party, Hitler was a social Darwinist, a philosophy shared in one degree or another by many influential Americans even today from corporate leaders and “think tank” flaks to the Tea Party and many so-called libertarians. He used the term socialist as just one lure for support in the chaos of Germany from the 1920s into the early 1930s, a time when he tried fervently to be elected to office, something he never achieved (about 37% of the vote at his high-water mark, eventually being appointed as Chancellor by an aged President), but he used the term also because he felt always the state had the right and obligation to interfere in the economy to serve greater ends. Not a few Americans embrace the same view, so long as the areas of concern are limited to the military, the national security apparatus, or the well-being of huge corporations – with none of which Hitler would have disagreed.

He viewed the military as the supreme tool of the state, and he once said, when reminded many young men would die, that that was what they were for. Through the early- and mid-1930s, he built formidable new armed forces in Germany which put him in a position eventually to carry out his dream. In the end, Hitler did achieve something out of ancient Germanic mythology, not the part he wanted but something terrible which destroyed the lives of tens of millions, Gotterdammerung.

Netanyahu is also something of a transplant, having been born in Israel but having spent many years in the United States. His English has an American accent.

Netanyahu is notorious for his lying and his rages. While the general public often would not be able to detect all of the lies, those involving confidential or secret matters, we have the extraordinary testimony of former presidents Clinton and Sarkozy as well President Obama that you cannot believe one word that Netanyahu utters. He spins whole webs of lies to get what he wants or to avoid what he doesn’t want. I think it pretty clear that anytime he uses the words peace or a Palestinian state, he is lying. President Obama, in his earlier dealings with Netanyahu and before he was quite reduced to a spineless servant of powerful lobbyists, actually said he did not believe Netanyahu wanted peace. Certainly every step of Netanyahu’s political career supports the perception, from his early rejection of the Oslo Accords to his mass slaughter of fenced-in civilians in Gaza. Yes, he has made speeches about peace, but then so did Hitler who made a speech about peace in the 1930s, William Shirer called one of the greatest ever made.

His rages, at least some of them, are public knowledge. You may easily search for pictures on the Internet of Netanyahu shouting, finger pointing, red in the face, and virtually spitting with his eyes bulging like those of some ancient Asian warlord in a scroll painting. As was the case sometimes with Hitler, some of the rages may be deliberate acts but that does not make them any less frightening.

Netanyahu also adheres to a mythology, the biblical myths about the Promised Land and the narcissistic stuff about God’s chosen people, and that expression “God’s chosen people” is frightfully reminiscent of Hitler’s vision of the Germanic people. So far as I am aware, Netanyahu has not used that expression in public, but belief in it is implicit in so much that he does. It certainly is implicit in the very concept of claiming the ancient land of Israel as belonging to you and your people. People may be forgiven for believing such things in private as part of their religious faith, but when they provide templates for a state and its policies, they are utterly pernicious nonsense. Also, Netanyahu is known to have uttered in private and in not-so-private situations many contemptuous expressions describing Palestinians and Arabs.

There is a second layer of myth in Netanyahu’s thinking, one just as fantasy-like as Hitler’s Germanic myths, and that is the idea that he and his fellow countrymen are descended from the biblical Hebrews. The Ashkenazi Jews who are the bone and sinew of modern Israel are simply a European people, the name Ashkenazi meaning German. Recent DNA tests suggest the Ashkenazi trace to a woman from around Italy who migrated to Germany maybe a thousand years ago. Other tests suggest Ashkenazi origins as the Kazhars, a Caucasian tribe who were converted to Judaism and lived in and around modern Ukraine a thousand years ago, later migrating west, settling in a number of Eastern and Central lands. Some of the early Zionists and future Israeli politicians were well aware of this latter possibility, there being many suggestive clues in language and cultural artifacts, because they wrote and spoke of it. In all events, the native language of many Ashkenazi people is Yiddish, a hybrid of German evolved over a very long period. Hebrew has long been studied in the Hebrew schools associated with temples in many places as part of religious observance the same way many Muslims learn some Arabic and by biblical scholars in universities, but until it was artificially imposed on Israel, it was virtually a dead language spoken day-to-day by no one.

There is no record of the original Hebrew people of the Bible having been expelled en masse from Palestine, and such behavior was totally uncharacteristic of the Romans. The Romans faced many ferocious enemies in their conquests – the Celts, the Gauls, Germanic tribes, and others – as well as many people whose customs they regarded as barbarous, but they did not expel any of them en masse, or the Roman Empire would have been very thinly populated with no agricultural economic base to pay the taxes and tributes Rome always exacted. The stories of an expelled people wandering about here and there for ages are certainly as fanciful as the older Hebrew stories of Jonah or Lott’s wife or slavery in Egypt (which not one bit of archeological evidence has ever confirmed). All such stories are just as unsuitable to claiming territory as the Teutonic myths would be.

And they are particularly unsuitable to claiming a place already long populated by another group of people. In saying this, I do not question the existence of Israel, just its belligerent expansion. I do believe supporting its 1948 unilateral declaration was a matter of poor judgment and political skulduggery, particularly by the United States, because it created something completely not-in-keeping with its environment and a source of future ceaseless hostilities. But the mistake was made, and the world can accept an Israel which keeps to its early boundaries and behaves civilly to its neighbors – and that includes the Palestinians and even Hamas, it being a Netanyahu lie that Hamas will never do so since it has already said in private that it will. The problem is precisely that Netanyahu’s Israel does not want to keep those boundaries. The creation of Greater Israel is something we see underway year in and year out, slowly and brutally doing something not entirely different to what Hitler had dreamed of for Russia, taking the land and reducing its natives to slaves or people with no status and rights, untermensch, as he called them dismissively.

Some Israelis compare what they are doing to Palestinians with North America’s treatment of indigenous people, but that is an entirely false comparison. All indigenous people in Canada and America are citizens, and they may go to live and work where they wish. That is certainly not what Palestinians under Israeli control experience, nor is it what the Netanyahu-minded of Israel have in mind for the future, demanding always recognition as an exclusively Jewish state, a seemingly simple formulation which hides a multitude of potential evils. In any event, comparing the ethics of your behavior in the early 21st century to what others did in the 18th century – a time of general slavery, inferiority of women, and capital punishment for modest crimes – is a ridiculous proposition.

Although he has never declared so in public, judging by the totality of his aggressive acts and seizures with flimsy excuses, Netanyahu is dedicated to some form of Greater Israel, an Israel which includes the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem and even parts of Syria and Lebanon in most definitions. The Six Day war was deliberately engineered by like-minded Israelis earlier to lay the foundation of a future grander state. Netanyahu has never indicated disagreement with what was done. The millions of people who live in those places now are either to simply pick up and leave everything behind – going someplace, any place, Jordan or the Sinai having featured in Israel’s wishes at times – or accept perpetual existence as nonentities living in unconnected reservations behind walls and fences and earning their living as cheap temporary labor for Israel. If Netanyahu did not embrace this vision, he has had plenty of opportunity to end the nearly half century of repressive occupation but has never made the smallest effort to do so, only adding his own large-scale confiscation of more peoples’ homes and farms and a terrible, bloody investment and invasion of the open-air prison of Gaza. And when soldiers in the occupation zones kill innocent people, as they frequently do for slight provocations, they are never held to account, so too in the case of fanatical “settlers” who periodically swarm poor Palestinian farmers, chopping down or burning ancient olive trees or other property. Netanyahu’s voice is never once heard against outrages.

Netanyahu’s version of Greater Israel is a place that influences events and peoples around it for a thousand miles, as it already is doing in its early days, which is why the people of Egypt again live under American-influenced tyranny, the people of Syria are fighting armed madmen owing in part to Israel’s dark collusion, Iraq is left a broken and bleeding state, as is Libya, and Iran, which has started no wars and never threatened Israel, is threatened regularly in ugly rants from Netanyahu much resembling those of Hitler aimed at Czechoslovakia or other non-offending states he was eventually to destroy. It is of course to be a Greater Israel only for one kind of people. Those living in the occupied territories are kept miserably uncomfortable in hopes they will leave. Even the Arabs who are citizens of Israel – an unintended accident of events in 1948 and a purely technical status for them – are undoubtedly seen as leaving one day after living under the duress, as they do, of unequal laws and frequent attacks on their loyalty, especially once Israel has formal recognition as a Jewish state. Can you image a better formula for endless war and instability, a formula strongly resembling Hitler’s vision of Greater Germany, ending his rhetorical thousand year Reich in just twelve years?

Just as was the case for Hitler, Netanyahu is not a majority leader, his government depending on alliances with some even more unpleasant, extremist personalities, as for example his present Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who has made outrageously racist speeches and openly suggested pushing Israel’s non-Jewish citizens out of their homes. This sly pattern of underlings making distasteful suggestions represents a game Hitler, too, played. He did not always go on record himself saying the most terrible things. He often let lieutenants say them, observing to see the strength and direction of public reaction. All reasonable people will agree that the leader of a country must be held responsible for what his ministers say, unless the leader refutes the words in public and dismisses the offending minister, something we do not see from Netanyahu.

Again, looking for pictures on the Internet, it is not hard to find some of Netanyahu suggesting the ability sometimes to charm with a sly smile and inviting gestures. Here we also have the testimony of some world figures. He is apparently able to be quite charming in private, while at the same time lying through his teeth. The narcissism is clear.

The army too is the primary tool of state for Netanyahu. He himself served, was wounded, and he expects others to do so uncomplainingly, including those with religious objections. Israel spends an inordinate amount of money – its own and a great deal from others – on armed forces which are immensely out of proportion to its size and legitimate needs – that is, if you aren’t thinking in terms of conquest and occupation and arrogant demands, just exactly the terms which characterize Netanyahu’s entire career.

One of the interpretations of Hitler’s statesmanship and conquests, that of a modern biographer, Ian Kershaw, sees him as having been an obsessive high-rolling gambler who just kept raising the stakes until luck abandoned him. I actually cannot think of a better description of Netanyahu’s entire political career.

More than a few well known observers have said that Netanyahu quite possibly will end by destroying Israel, something I regard as distinctly possible, a parallel to Hitler’s Gotterdammerung for Germany. And in the meantime, countless people will be threatened, intimidated, imprisoned, tortured, or killed needlessly over a set of feverish, unrealistic obsessions.

Apologists for Israel often say that it acts with great restraint in its violence. Yes, Israel has not murdered the millions who live under its endless occupation, and in that limited sense only does Israel show restraint. Hitler murdered millions, but he did so largely in secret and under cover of the bloodiest war in all of human history, the invasion of Russia. The whole world watches Israel, even though Israel does a great deal to make observation and reportage difficult. But Israel works under conflicting impulses. It desperately wants to be considered as an open, modern, and democratic society, notions promoted in Netanyahu’s every speech aimed or delivered abroad and through truckloads of slick propaganda. It must be mindful of attracting immigrants and avoiding an exodus. It simply isn’t possible to completely shut the world out without Israel imploding, and it is hardly a merit not to have imitated Hitler.

But, remember, Israel has kept millions as prisoners for nearly half a century, depriving them of all rights, depriving them of property, offering them no hope, and terrorizing them with periodic home invasions, attacks, and atrocities. Freely-elected members of Palestinian governments have been arrested, leaders have been assassinated, and thousands of innocents at any given time languish in Israeli prisons where torture is common. The Palestinians have experienced such horrors as water wells poisoned, human waste dumped or sprayed, crops poisoned or otherwise destroyed, shops bulldozed, children shot for throwing rocks, and an entire police-state apparatus of check-points and identity papers and outrageous rules imposed twenty-four hours a day. There is nothing in Israel’s behavior resembling ethics or human values or even a genuine democratic impulse, and calling it restraint ranks as some of the world’s sickest humor.

Related: Jim comment: The Islamic State sprang from an Israeli-Saudi-USA construct. I believe Robert Freeman’s argument below supports John Chuckman’s core thesis above in a material way.

ISIS: A monster created by the West
Robert Freeman Common Dreams USA October 20, 2014

It is a laughable routine of the mass media to demonize all of the leaders of U.S. enemies as latter-day Hitlers. Saddam Hussein was a Hitler. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela was a Hitler. Gaddafi in Libya. Assad in Syria. Hillary Clinton recently equated Putin in Russia with Hitler.

Finally, however, we may have an actual instance where a U.S. adversary actually is a bonafide Hitler. But it’s not in the way we may think. The adversary is ISIS in Syraq and its equation with Hitler is not because it is committing genocide. Rather, it is for the way ISIS came to power—with U.S. nurturing—and then turned on its master.

The conventional wisdom about Hitler was that he acquired power as a result of “appeasement” by the British and, to a lesser extent, French governments. In this telling, Neville Chamberlain was a fool, a dunce who didn’t understand that giving in to a bully only makes him bolder. Not until it was too late did the world understand the irredeemable evil of Hitler.

This version of history was written by British historians even before World War II was over. Its purpose was to exonerate their nation’s government for the staggering devastation it brought into the world. Winston Churchill helped legitimize this narrative in the years after the War.

But a more distanced and nuanced reading of the history suggests that, far from being duped by Hitler, the British were, in fact, actively abetting him in his acquisition of power. This, in the hopes that he would use that power to destroy the Soviet Union, much as the Kaiser’s armies destroyed Russia during World War I. Only when Hitler cut a deal at the last moment with Stalin, to cover his eastern front, did Western leaders finally repudiate him.

In this way, ISIS is legitimately like Hitler. It is a creation of the West, in this case, the U.S., and its Sunni allies in the Middle East—Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Ba’harain, and the United Arab Emirates. It was nurtured as an outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq. It was funded under the fiction that it contained “moderate rebels,” ones who could be controlled by the west and were even potentially small-d democrats. Its marching orders were to destroy the Shi’ite-leaning regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, paving the way for the removal of the Shi’ite regime in Iran and Saudi/U.S. domination of the Persian Gulf, location of 60% of the world’s known oil reserves.

But just as Hitler turned on his creators, ISIS broke its leash and turned on its. It is laughable to portray ISIS as a threat to the U.S. But it is potentially deadly to the corrupt sheikdoms that helped birth it and that defile the true teachings of Islam. It is to protect those shiekdoms—the U.S.’s allies—that the U.S. must now take up the fighting directly.

Chamberlain’s blunder in abetting Hitler proved one of the greatest strategic miscalculations in diplomatic history. It led directly to World War II. It is too early to understand the cost of the West’s abetting the creation of ISIS, but it is already much greater than planned.

Posted at: October 20, 2014 - 11:34 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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Propaganda: Language is telling; so are facts. If you conduct a war, you shouldn’t be in charge of narrating it

It is no cliché that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. Unless we are provided an honest accounting of the disgraceful history of the US war on Vietnam, we will be ill equipped to protest the current and future wars conducted in our name. - Marjorie Cohn, “US Government Sanitizes Vietnam War History”, October 16, 2014.

The people of Novorossiya watched as their brothers and sisters were murdered, first in Odessa, then in Mariupol, and then shelled mercilessly in Lugansk and Donetsk, killed without sanction or remorse by a crazed group of thugs egged on by the west. Russia bears no responsibility for this whatsoever—the US made the death of the idea of Ukraine an absolute certainty by funding, arming and backing fascists and oligarchs to commit a series of atrocities on their countrymen. Whether there is amnesty, or some bogus treaty or comminique is largely irrelevant. The people of these regions will simply not live under the control of Kiev ever again. No plans, protocols or peace treaties can make any of this go away. The specific form of how this all comes to pass is still blurry; the general outlines are not. They have already been written in blood. - The parrot that has ceased to be: Ukraine will never again be a united country, September 28, 2014

Public pronouncements by Saudi officials against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), now renamed the Islamic State (IS, for short), notwithstanding, the fact is, this monster is a Saudi creation. And it did not emerge last week or month; the House of Saud has nurtured it for nearly a decade as part of a long-term strategy to contain the growing influence of Islamic Iran in the region. - Bandar, the godfather of takfirism in back, Crescent International, August 2014

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, so-called ”Caliph,” the head of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is, according to sources reputed to originate from Edward Snowden, an actor named Elliot Shimon, a Mossad trained operative. - French report ISIL leader Mossad agent, Veterans Today, August 4, 2014

I’m not one of those who scribble blunt little mustaches on pictures of politicians I dislike, but here I make some uncomfortable and I believe accurate observations comparing personality and character traits of a contemporary politician with one of history’s darkest figures. I don’t know whether anyone else has noticed the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu and Adolph Hitler share uncomfortably similar personality and character traits. Certainly there are, and have been, other politicians who also share the same traits, but it is of particular concern today that a man of this nature dominates events in the Middle East. - John Chuckman, Uncanny parallels in character, October 20, 2014

Language is telling; so are facts. With the approach of the “full panoply of Orwellian forgetfulness” that is a 13-year, $65 million commemoration of the Vietnam War by the same people who started it, it’s nigh on impossible to reconcile Obama’s “valor of a generation that served with honor fighting heroically to protect the ideals we hold dear as Americans” with the savage years many “remember, with painful acuity, as other than glorious” – years of lies, loss, rage, trauma, protests and the deaths of millions of innocents. Seeking to “speak truth to power,” Veterans For Peace are rejecting an official narrative they say sanitizes and mythologizes an unconscionable war – and likely helps legitimize further such wars – by organizing their own Peace and Justice Commemoration as part of a larger Full Disclosure Campaign. Its goal is to “truly examine what happened during those tragic and tumultuous years,” and use those lessons to prevent them from happening again. - Abby Zimet

Items: Below: Bryan MacDonald is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and teacher. He writes for Irish Independent and Daily Mail. He has also frequently appeared on RTE and Newstalk in Ireland as well as RT.

‘If it walks like a Nazi and quacks like a Nazi – it’s the far-right’
Bryan MacDonald RT Russia October 15, 2014


Clashes between protesters at the Verkhovna Rada building and police observing public order, in Kiev. Photo: Alexandr Maksimenko/RIA Novosti

Western correspondents are at it again in Kiev. Airbrushing extremist elements in the ‘Maidan’ movement. It’s shameful and can no longer go un-mentioned.

A British journalist and his American colleague stood on a bridge in Kiev. Across the busy road, a young, innocent-looking Ukrainian army officer, in uniform, walked a Labrador retriever. It wasn’t golden. It was black.

“That’s a very dark-colored Labrador,” suggested the Brit.

The American took a puff of his cigarette and nodded his head, “Is it chocolate?”

“No, I’d say it’s a kind of ‘night’ color, the color of the ‘night’, yes that’s what is,” reasoned the Englishman in disagreement.

“Could you say ‘inky’?” the American quizzed.

“You could indeed. Jolly good. ‘Inky’ it is,” laughed the Englishman.

The two men, delighted by their agility in finding ways to define the dog in every way except the correct form, had a joint chuckle. They were getting good at this. Almost a year ensconced in Kiev, finding myriad terms to soft-soap the most unspeakable acts had served them well. Over cheap, watery Ukrainian pilsners they would frequently guffaw about how their work had helped the “revolution.”

As the latest crowd of nubile local young things gathered at their table, they’d show examples of how friendly they were to Ukraine. It was all online, in black and white. Life was good. A Western income stretched far in an impoverished land.

“What about the young soldier?” continued the Brit.

“Definitely not a Nazi,” the American answered.

“The yellow and black symbol on his arm. Was that a Wolfsangel?”

“No, no. It was the symbol of the Azov Battalion.”

They smiled. This routine was well practiced. Yet, just as the smirking began, the American’s phone rang. There was trouble outside the parliament.

The first part of the above is my imagination, but I wouldn’t include it if there wasn’t a large grain of truth. The last sentence happened yesterday in Kiev.

Yes, 15 policemen were injured in Kiev and over 50 demonstrators were arrested in violent clashes. Euromaidan PR and employees of President Porshenko’s TV channel made the ridiculous accusation that the protestors were pro-Russian. Pro-Russian’s with Swastika’s, making Nazi salutes. Yes, they really alleged it. Yes, their mendacity is really that shocking.

What actually occurred is that the extremists were annoyed because the Rada refused to pass a law recognizing WW2 Nazi collaborators as “heroes” of Ukraine. They took to the streets and, when police intervened, all hell broke loose. Not an uncommon sight in Ukraine, this year, sadly.

The Western media either ignored the story or attempted to airbrush the details. Here is a sample of tweets yesterday.

So, why is it that Western journalists in Ukraine are unable to call Nazis, “Nazis?” Instead of using the obvious term, it’s replaced with “far-right” or “nationalists.” Is it because the US government would never support Nazis? Far-right nationalists are more acceptable? Maybe they feel responsible for helping them attain influence and power by – almost to a man – supporting the Maidan riots and the subsequent coup?

Rather than admit to some past mistakes, it appears white-washing is a better policy for the EU and US media.

Welcome to the bizarre world of Western media in Ukraine. A self-contained pit of rumor, fear, braggadocio and propaganda.

The West’s ignorance of Ukraine atrocities is an outrage
‘The Saker’ Russia Insider Russia September 30, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links. Saker’s commentary is introduced by the Russia Insider editors.

Today’s comment from the Saker is very timely, as we published a sensational video earlier today about the western media’s ignorance of events surrounding the Odessa massacre of May 2.

Its going to be a big deal.

The increasing news flow about the extreme brutality of the Kiev regime and the massive neo-nazi presence in its ranks, is snowballing, and, we are sure, will end up being a huge embarrassment for the EU States and the US who have embraced Kiev.

This is especially true for Germany, which is hyper-sensitive to nazi questions.

Listen to the Saker, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves:

Today, buried 9 minutes into the latest edition of the Channel 1 news report on Russian television, was a 23 seconds long statement by Latvian Human Rights investigator Enorst Gronych who declared on camera that he has interviewed the people of a village recently evacuated by the Junta’s repression forces who had told him about “repeated cases of gang rapes of minor girls aged 12, 13 and 14 years old” by Ukrainian thugs.

According to Gronych, this kind of pattern falls within the definition of “genocide”.

In fact, the Russian TV channels have also been reporting mass graves, numerous cases of civilians pulled out of their cars and summarily shot, mass graves of people shot with their hands tied in their back and tortures, tortures and more tortures: systematic beatings, branding with swastikas, knife wounds, broken bones, heard trauma, damaged kidneys are all apparently what any detained person (regardless of the reason for their detention) should expect from the Junta’s “liberators”.

Furthermore, it is now becoming apparent that about 50% of the Novorussian “prisoners of war” which are being exchanged for Ukrainian POWs under the terms of the recent ceasefire agreement are not combatants at all but civilians seized for the sole purpose of exchanging them.

It is not hard to imagine what truly happened to the missing 50%: most of them were tortured and shot by drunken Ukrainian thugs (in stark contrast Ukrainian POWs were treated, washed, fed, clothed and then given the choice to say in Russia or go back to the Ukraine).

For anybody familiar with Ukrainian nationalism and Ukrainian nationalists, this is hardly surprising. Not only is that fully consistent with what happens in the rest of the Junta-controlled Ukraine, it is also consistent with the practice of Ukrainian nationalists of the times of Bandera and before.

No, what is amazing is the utter silence in the West about this. For somebody like me who vividly remembers the loud and indignant protests of western human rights NGOs, media and governments over human rights violations in Chechnia, Bosnia or Kosovo (including plenty of completely fictional ones!), it is amazing to see how “for some mysterious reasons” the Ukrainian atrocities seem to go unnoticed in the West.

The very same West who is absolutely outraged about the arrest of Pussy Riot activist and who seems to seriously believe that organizing a “gay pride parade’ in Moscow is a human right is apparently totally indifferent to the gang rape of 12-14 year old girls.

What does this say about the West, it’s values, it’s leaders, media and people?

Blowback! U.S. trained Islamists who joined ISIS
Aaron Klein WND USA June 17, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

JERUSALEM – Syrian rebels who would later join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS, were trained in 2012 by U.S. instructors working at a secret base in Jordan, according to informed Jordanian officials.

The officials said dozens of future ISIS members were trained at the time as part of covert aid to the insurgents targeting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The officials said the training was not meant to be used for any future campaign in Iraq.

The Jordanian officials said all ISIS members who received U.S. training to fight in Syria were first vetted for any links to extremist groups like al-Qaida.

In February 2012, WND was first to report the U.S., Turkey and Jordan were running a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region.

That report has since been corroborated by numerous other media accounts.

Last March, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported Americans were training Syrian rebels in Jordan.

Quoting what it said were training participants and organizers, Der Spiegel reported it was not clear whether the Americans worked for private firms or were with the U.S. Army, but the magazine said some organizers wore uniforms. The training in Jordan reportedly focused on use of anti-tank weaponry.

WND reported last week that, according to Jordanian and Syrian regime sources, Saudi Arabia has been arming the ISIS and that the Saudis are a driving force in supporting the al-Qaida-linked group.

WND further reported that, according to a Shiite source in contact with a high official in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Obama administration has been aware for two months that the al-Qaida-inspired group that has taken over two Iraqi cities and now is threatening Baghdad also was training fighters in Turkey.

The source told WND that at least one of the training camps of the group Iraq of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syria, the ISIS, is in the vicinity of Incirlik Air Base near Adana, Turkey, where American personnel and equipment are located.

He called Obama “an accomplice” in the attacks that are threatening the Maliki government the U.S. helped establish through the Iraq war.

The source said that after training in Turkey, thousands of ISIS fighters went to Iraq by way of Syria to join the effort to establish an Islamic caliphate subject to strict Islamic law, or Shariah.

ISIS: A monster created by the West
Robert Freeman Common Dreams USA October 20, 2014

It is a laughable routine of the mass media to demonize all of the leaders of U.S. enemies as latter-day Hitlers. Saddam Hussein was a Hitler. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela was a Hitler. Gaddafi in Libya. Assad in Syria. Hillary Clinton recently equated Putin in Russia with Hitler.

Finally, however, we may have an actual instance where a U.S. adversary actually is a bonafide Hitler. But it’s not in the way we may think. The adversary is ISIS in Syraq and its equation with Hitler is not because it is committing genocide. Rather, it is for the way ISIS came to power—with U.S. nurturing—and then turned on its master.

The conventional wisdom about Hitler was that he acquired power as a result of “appeasement” by the British and, to a lesser extent, French governments. In this telling, Neville Chamberlain was a fool, a dunce who didn’t understand that giving in to a bully only makes him bolder. Not until it was too late did the world understand the irredeemable evil of Hitler.

This version of history was written by British historians even before World War II was over. Its purpose was to exonerate their nation’s government for the staggering devastation it brought into the world. Winston Churchill helped legitimize this narrative in the years after the War.

But a more distanced and nuanced reading of the history suggests that, far from being duped by Hitler, the British were, in fact, actively abetting him in his acquisition of power. This, in the hopes that he would use that power to destroy the Soviet Union, much as the Kaiser’s armies destroyed Russia during World War I. Only when Hitler cut a deal at the last moment with Stalin, to cover his eastern front, did Western leaders finally repudiate him.

In this way, ISIS is legitimately like Hitler. It is a creation of the West, in this case, the U.S., and its Sunni allies in the Middle East—Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Ba’harain, and the United Arab Emirates. It was nurtured as an outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq. It was funded under the fiction that it contained “moderate rebels,” ones who could be controlled by the west and were even potentially small-d democrats. Its marching orders were to destroy the Shi’ite-leaning regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, paving the way for the removal of the Shi’ite regime in Iran and Saudi/U.S. domination of the Persian Gulf, location of 60% of the world’s known oil reserves.

But just as Hitler turned on his creators, ISIS broke its leash and turned on its. It is laughable to portray ISIS as a threat to the U.S. But it is potentially deadly to the corrupt sheikdoms that helped birth it and that defile the true teachings of Islam. It is to protect those shiekdoms—the U.S.’s allies—that the U.S. must now take up the fighting directly.

Chamberlain’s blunder in abetting Hitler proved one of the greatest strategic miscalculations in diplomatic history. It led directly to World War II. It is too early to understand the cost of the West’s abetting the creation of ISIS, but it is already much greater than planned.

Related: My Lai was not an ‘incident’: Seeking full disclosure on Vietnam
Abby Zimet Common Dreams USA October 17, 2014


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Language is telling; so are facts. With the approach of the “full panoply of Orwellian forgetfulness” that is a 13-year, $65 million commemoration of the Vietnam War by the same people who started it, it’s nigh on impossible to reconcile Obama’s “valor of a generation that served with honor fighting heroically to protect the ideals we hold dear as Americans” with the savage years many “remember, with painful acuity, as other than glorious” – years of lies, loss, rage, trauma, protests and the deaths of millions of innocents. Seeking to “speak truth to power,” Veterans For Peace are rejecting an official narrative they say sanitizes and mythologizes an unconscionable war – and likely helps legitimize further such wars – by organizing their own Peace and Justice Commemoration as part of a larger Full Disclosure Campaign. Its goal is to “truly examine what happened during those tragic and tumultuous years,” and use those lessons to prevent them from happening again.

From the start, many have questioned what longtime activist Tom Hayden calls the “staggering” idea of a commemoration orchestrated by the Department of Defense. Citing the Pentagon’s questionable “version of the truth” that for so long sustained an immoral war, he convincingly argues that, “If you conduct a war, you shouldn’t be in charge of narrating it.” Almost everything about the project, from its website full of glossy pictures of smiling veterans to its very language – its mission to “assist a grateful nation” in thanking veterans, Obama’s thinking “with solemn reverence upon the valor of a generation,” its initial labelling of the massacre of 500 women, children and older men at My Lai an “incident” – bears out the notion that the project’s goal is largely “an ex post facto justification of the war,” or to rewrite history in order to repeat it with as little opposition as possible.

Posted at: October 20, 2014 - 10:29 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Leaked Trans-Pacific Partnership chapter exposes sweet deals for Big Pharma and US bully tactics & Harper government plan silent on updating Access to Information Act

Leaked TPP chapter exposes sweet deals for Big Pharma and US bully tactics
Deirdre Fulton Common Dreams USA October 16, 2014

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WikiLeaks on Thursday released a second updated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Intellectual Property Rights chapter, charging that it will hinder affordable access to medicines globally, increase online surveillance, and impinge on civil liberties while benefiting Big Pharma and other corporate interests.

“Our first impression in reading the document is the extent to which the United States has sought hundreds of changes in intellectual property norms, some small and subtle, others blunt and aggressive, nearly of all of which favor big corporate right holders, and undermine the public’s freedom to use knowledge,” declared James Love of Knowledge Ecology International.

The TPP is the world’s largest economic trade agreement that will, if it goes into effect, encompass more than 40 percent of the world’s GDP. The IP chapter covers topics from pharmaceuticals, patent registrations, and copyright issues to digital rights.

The trade pact has been mostly negotiated in secret, with only select government officials and corporations able to see the text. To that end, WikiLeaks has released several draft chapters. A previous draft of the IP chapter was leaked in November 2013.

“Since that point, some controversial and damaging areas have had little change; issues surrounding digital rights have moved little,” according to a WikiLeaks press statement Thursday. “However, there are significant industry-favoring additions within the areas of pharmaceuticals and patents. These additions are likely to affect access to important medicines such as cancer drugs and will also weaken the requirements needed to patent genes in plants, which will impact small farmers and boost the dominance of large agricultural corporations like Monsanto.”

The draft leaked on Thursday also offers a glimpse at shifting country alliances. Whereas the U.S. and Australia used to be closely aligned, the latest version suggests the U.S. and Japan are now tightly linked.

As Mike Masnick notes at TechDirt: “A bunch of countries are pushing for the right to cancel a patent if it ‘is used in a manner determined to be anti-competitive,’ but of course, the U.S. and Japan are completely against such a thing. Instead, the U.S. and Japan say it should only be cancelled on grounds that would have been justified for refusing to grant the patent in the first place. In other words, most of the countries recognize that patents can be abused in anti-competitive ways and want to protect against that. The US and Japan, on the other hand, appear to be happy with enabling anti-competitive abuses with patents.”

But the IP chapter’s text also shows that many countries are pushing back.

“[T]he immediate takeaway is that the U.S. remains fairly isolated in its efforts to overhaul patent and copyright law around the world with Canada emerging as the leading opponent of its demands,” writes University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist at his blog.

He explains:

Why is Canada opposing so many U.S. demands?

Simply put, the U.S. wants Canada to eviscerate many of the recent reforms found in copyright and counterfeiting legislation along with court rulings on patent protection. These demands focus on enhanced criminal liability for copyright infringement, eliminating the Canadian approach to Internet service provider liability, extending the term of copyright protection, and expanding patent protection. Canadian negotiators have thus far resisted many of the proposed changes, offering alternatives that are compatible with current law. Yet as the treaty negotiations continue, the pressure to cave to U.S. pressure will no doubt increase, raising serious concerns about whether the TPP will force the Canadian government to overhaul recently enacted legislation that it has steadfastly defended as reflecting a balanced, “made in Canada” approach.

Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Brunei; ministers from those countries will attend a meeting in Australia at the end of this month in the hopes of breaking the impasse in November.

Related: Federal Conservatives’ Open Government Action Plan fails to fulfill Open Government Partnership (OGP) membership requirements
Democracy Watch Canada April 17, 2012

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OTTAWA – Today [April 17, 2012], as representatives of 60 countries gather in Brasilia, Brazil to present their two-year action plans at the first international Open Government Partnership (OGP) meeting, the nation-wide Open Government Coalition, Government Ethics Coalition and Money in Politics Coalition, made up of more than 70 citizen groups in total with three million members (all coordinated by Democracy Watch), called on the OGP Steering Committee to reject the federal Conservatives’ Action Plan for failing to fulfill its own commitment to increase government integrity.

The Conservatives committed to taking positive steps forward in three areas (what OGP calls Grand Challenges): 1. increasing public integrity; 2. improving public services, and; 3. effectively managing public resources.

However, the Conservatives’ Action Plan focuses only on making currently available information available online through open data systems, does not contain any measures to increase public integrity or increase accountability for mismanagement of public resources, and tries to claim credit for open government and public consultation initiatives the Liberals implemented years ago. And given the Conservatives’ recent multibillion dollar F-35 fighter jet and prison spending boondoggles, and G8 summit spending scandal, it couldn’t be easier for them to more effectively manage public resources.

In all these ways, the Conservatives’ Action Plan violates the Open Government Partnership (OGP) requirements set out in the Open Government Declaration that all countries are required to sign. To fulfill the Declaration requirements, the Conservatives’ Plan had to commit to strengthening open government in every way (as they did during the 2006 election with so-called “Federal Accountability Act” pledge — though they broke almost all of their promises). Their Action Plan should have included measures to strengthen not only transparency laws and enforcement, but also federal ethics, lobbying, anti-corruption, political finance, financial administration, whistleblower protection and public consultation laws and enforcement, in government and in the private sector.

As a result, the OGP Steering Committee should reject the Conservatives Action Plan, and criticize them strongly for trying to claim they are doing much more than they are.

“The federal Conservatives continue to try to spin their limited online data activities as an actual open government action plan, and continue to refuse to keep their commitments to strengthening the rules and enforcement systems in federal transparency, ethics, anti-corruption, lobbying, consultation, whistleblower protection, political finance, and waste prevention laws, and so the international Open Government Partnership Steering Committee should reject and criticize their plan,” said Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch. “Secret, unethical lobbying, secret donations, secret expenses, excessive secrecy overall, conflicts of interest and sole-source contracts are currently legal, enforcement of key democracy and good government laws is too weak, as is whistleblower protection and public consultation, and so many key changes are clearly needed to ensure everyone in federal politics is effectively required to act honestly, openly, ethically, representatively and to prevent waste.”

Government plan silent on updating Access to Information Act
Jim Bronskill The Canadian Press/CTV News Canada October 10, 2014

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OTTAWA — The Conservatives’ new draft plan on open government makes no mention of reforming the Access to Information Act, despite widespread calls to revise the 32-year-old law.

Reform of the law was suggested during federal online consultations for the federal plan and during meetings in Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa and St. Catharines, Ont.

The federal information watchdog, opposition parties, pro-democracy groups and members of the government’s own advisory panel have also pushed for modernization, saying the law allows agencies to withhold too much information.

Last month, information commissioner Suzanne Legault wrote Treasury Board President Tony Clement to say revision of the law is “the one element” that must be included in the federal open government plan.

“Undertaking an in-depth reform of the legislation would clearly demonstrate the government’s commitment to the right of access as a central piece of the open government initiative,” Legault wrote.

The commissioner plans to table a special report in Parliament in coming months on modernizing the act.

In its letter to Clement, the Canadian Association of Journalists expressed a “strong belief” that the federal openness plan must include a commitment to updating the access law. It pointed to exemptions and exclusions in the law that prevent requesters from obtaining advice to ministers and cabinet documents, to name two examples.

“In effect, they create unassailable secret spaces in Canada’s public bodies,” the association said.

“While such privacy may be necessary in limited circumstances (such as those involving current and specific national security or law enforcement issues), it is more often inconsistent with the principle of open government, public expectations of how a modern democracy should function and our firm conviction that government documents belong to the public.”

The latest federal plan flows from Canada’s participation in the Open Government Partnership, a U.S.-led initiative that encourages countries make commitments to be more open and accountable. Canada’s draft plan, which builds on pledges made in 2012, includes promises to:

You can help push for key changes to end excessive secrecy in government – especially in the federal government
Democracy Watch Canada October 2014

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Since 2012, the federal Conservative government has been claiming to have an open government plan. In fact, every independent report has shown more excessive secrecy in the federal government than any time since the so-called Access to Information law passed in 1983.

The law is so weak it really should be called the “Guide to Keeping Government Information Secret” law.

Right now Conservative Cabinet minister Tony Clement is proposing a plan to the international Open Government Partnership that will only make already public information a bit more easily accessible.

This will do nothing to end secrecy that encourages waste, abuses and corruption – the law needs to be strengthened to require more transparency, with stronger enforcement and penalties for anyone who keeps information secret that the public has a right to know!

Please click here to send your letter now calling on the federal Conservatives, and governments across Canada, to make key changes to laws to open up government and make it more accountable to you.

Minister Clement and the Conservatives are only taking comments on their proposed plan for a very limited time – please send your message by next Monday, October 20th.

Posted at: October 20, 2014 - 10:24 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

October 19, 2014

The healing power of silence


Two wooden armchairs stand on a lake shore in Finland, where marketers have rebranded the Nordic country with a slogan, “Silence, Please.” Photo: veer.com

Freedom from noise and goal-directed tasks, it appears, unites the quiet without and within, allowing our conscious workspace to do its thing, to weave ourselves into the world, to discover where we fit in. That’s the power of silence. - Daniel A. Gross, a freelance journalist and public radio producer who writes about history and science.

This is your brain on silence
Daniel A. Gross Nautilus USA August 31, 2014

One icy night in March 2010, 100 marketing experts piled into the Sea Horse Restaurant in Helsinki, with the modest goal of making a remote and medium-sized country a world-famous tourist destination. The problem was that Finland was known as a rather quiet country, and since 2008, the Country Brand Delegation had been looking for a national brand that would make some noise.

Over drinks at the Sea Horse, the experts puzzled over the various strengths of their nation. Here was a country with exceptional teachers, an abundance of wild berries and mushrooms, and a vibrant cultural capital the size of Nashville, Tennessee. These things fell a bit short of a compelling national identity. Someone jokingly suggested that nudity could be named a national theme—it would emphasize the honesty of Finns. Someone else, less jokingly, proposed that perhaps quiet wasn’t such a bad thing. That got them thinking.

A few months later, the delegation issued a slick “Country Brand Report.” It highlighted a host of marketable themes, including Finland’s renowned educational system and school of functional design. One key theme was brand new: silence. As the report explained, modern society often seems intolerably loud and busy. “Silence is a resource,” it said. It could be marketed just like clean water or wild mushrooms. “In the future, people will be prepared to pay for the experience of silence.”

People already do. In a loud world, silence sells. Noise-canceling headphones retail for hundreds of dollars; the cost of some weeklong silent meditation courses can run into the thousands. Finland saw that it was possible to quite literally make something out of nothing.

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board released a series of photographs of lone figures in the wilderness, with the caption “Silence, Please.” An international “country branding” consultant, Simon Anholt, proposed the playful tagline “No talking, but action.” And a Finnish watch company, Rönkkö, launched its own new slogan: “Handmade in Finnish silence.”

“We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing,” explains Eva Kiviranta, who manages social media for VisitFinland.com.

Silence is a peculiar starting point for a marketing campaign. After all, you can’t weigh, record, or export it. You can’t eat it, collect it, or give it away. The Finland campaign raises the question of just what the tangible effects of silence really are. Science has begun to pipe up on the subject. In recent years researchers have highlighted the peculiar power of silence to calm our bodies, turn up the volume on our inner thoughts, and attune our connection to the world. Their findings begin where we might expect: with noise.

The word “noise” comes from a Latin root meaning either queasiness or pain. According to the historian Hillel Schwartz, there’s even a Mesopotamian legend in which the gods grow so angry at the clamor of earthly humans that they go on a killing spree. (City-dwellers with loud neighbors may empathize, though hopefully not too closely.)

Dislike of noise has produced some of history’s most eager advocates of silence, as Schwartz explains in his book Making Noise: From Babel to the Big Bang and Beyond. In 1859, the British nurse and social reformer Florence Nightingale wrote, “Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care that can be inflicted on sick or well.” Every careless clatter or banal bit of banter, Nightingale argued, can be a source of alarm, distress, and loss of sleep for recovering patients. She even quoted a lecture that identified “sudden noises” as a cause of death among sick children.

Surprisingly, recent research supports some of Nightingale’s zealous claims. In the mid 20th century, epidemiologists discovered correlations between high blood pressure and chronic noise sources like highways and airports. Later research seemed to link noise to increased rates of sleep loss, heart disease, and tinnitus. (It’s this line of research that hatched the 1960s-era notion of “noise pollution,” a name that implicitly refashions transitory noises as toxic and long-lasting.)

Studies of human physiology help explain how an invisible phenomenon can have such a pronounced physical effect. Sound waves vibrate the bones of the ear, which transmit movement to the snail-shaped cochlea. The cochlea converts physical vibrations into electrical signals that the brain receives. The body reacts immediately and powerfully to these signals, even in the middle of deep sleep. Neurophysiological research suggests that noises first activate the amygdalae, clusters of neurons located in the temporal lobes of the brain, associated with memory formation and emotion. The activation prompts an immediate release of stress hormones like cortisol. People who live in consistently loud environments often experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

Just as the whooshing of a hundred individual cars accumulates into an irritating wall of background noise, the physical effects of noise add up. In 2011, the World Health Organization tried to quantify its health burden in Europe. It concluded that the 340 million residents of western Europe—roughly the same population as that of the United States—annually lost a million years of healthy life because of noise. It even argued that 3,000 heart disease deaths were, at their root, the result of excessive noise.

So we like silence for what it doesn’t do—it doesn’t wake, annoy, or kill us—but what does it do? When Florence Nightingale attacked noise as a “cruel absence of care,” she also insisted on the converse: Quiet is a part of care, as essential for patients as medication or sanitation. It’s a strange notion, but one that researchers have begun to bear out as true.

Posted at: October 19, 2014 - 9:29 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

The western model is broken: Ideas like development and progress have swept the world and left ruin in their wake, taking with them the West’s moral authority

Ideas like development and progress have swept the world and left ruin in their wake, taking with them the West’s moral authority. The West has lost the power to shape the world in its own image – as recent events, from Ukraine to Iraq, make all too clear. So why does it still preach the pernicious myth that every society must evolve along Western lines? Pankaj Mishra is an Indian author and writer of literary and political essays. His books include Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond. His newest work, From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia, was published in 2012.

The western model is broken
Pankaj Mishra Guardian, The Long Read UK October 14, 2014

“So far, the 21st century has been a rotten one for the western model,” according to a new book, The Fourth Revolution, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge. This seems an extraordinary admission from two editors of the Economist, the flag-bearer of English liberalism, which has long insisted that the non-west could only achieve prosperity and stability through western prescriptions. It almost obscures the fact that the 20th century was blighted by the same pathologies that today make the western model seem unworkable, and render its fervent advocates a bit lost. The most violent century in human history, it was hardly the best advertisement for the “bland fanatics of western civilisation”, as the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called them at the height of the cold war, “who regard the highly contingent achievements of our culture as the final form and norm of human existence”.

Niebuhr was critiquing a fundamentalist creed that has coloured our view of the world for more than a century: that western institutions of the nation-state and liberal democracy will be gradually generalised around the world, and that the aspiring middle classes created by industrial capitalism will bring about accountable, representative and stable governments – that every society, in short, is destined to evolve just as the west did. Critics of this teleological view, which defines “progress” exclusively as development along western lines, have long perceived its absolutist nature. Secular liberalism, the Russian thinker Alexander Herzen cautioned as early as 1862, “is the final religion, though its church is not of the other world but of this”. But it has had many presumptive popes and encyclicals: from the 19th-century dream of a westernised world long championed by the Economist, in which capital, goods, jobs and people freely circulate, to Henry Luce’s proclamation of an “American century” of free trade, and “modernisation theory” – the attempt by American cold warriors to seduce the postcolonial world away from communist-style revolution and into the gradualist alternative of consumer capitalism and democracy.

The collapse of communist regimes in 1989 further emboldened Niebuhr’s bland fanatics. The old Marxist teleology was retrofitted rather than discarded in Francis Fukuyama’s influential end-of-history thesis, and cruder theories about the inevitable march to worldwide prosperity and stability were vended by such Panglosses of globalisation as Thomas Friedman. Arguing that people privileged enough to consume McDonald’s burgers don’t go to war with each other, the New York Times columnist was not alone in mixing old-fangled Eurocentrism with American can-doism, a doctrine that grew from America’s uninterrupted good fortune and unchallenged power in the century before September 2001.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 briefly disrupted celebrations of a world globalised by capital and consumption. But the shock to naive minds only further entrenched in them the intellectual habits of the cold war – thinking through binary oppositions of “free” and “unfree” worlds – and redoubled an old delusion: liberal democracy, conceived by modernisation theorists as the inevitable preference of the beneficiaries of capitalism, could now be implanted by force in recalcitrant societies. Invocations of a new “long struggle” against “Islamofascism” aroused many superannuated cold warriors who missed the ideological certainties of battling communism. Intellectual narcissism survived, and was often deepened by, the realisation that economic power had begun to shift from the west. The Chinese, who had “got capitalism”, were, after all, now “downloading western apps”, according to Niall Ferguson. As late as 2008, Fareed Zakaria declared in his much-cited book, The Post-American World, that “the rise of the rest is a consequence of American ideas and actions” and that “the world is going America’s way”, with countries “becoming more open, market-friendly and democratic”.

One event after another in recent months has cruelly exposed such facile narratives. China, though market-friendly, looks further from democracy than before. The experiment with free-market capitalism in Russia has entrenched a kleptocratic regime with a messianic belief in Russian supremacism. Authoritarian leaders, anti-democratic backlashes and rightwing extremism define the politics of even such ostensibly democratic countries as India, Israel, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Turkey.

The atrocities of this summer in particular have plunged political and media elites in the west into stunned bewilderment and some truly desperate cliches. The extraordinary hegemonic power of their ideas had helped them escape radical examination when the world could still be presented as going America’s way. But their preferred image of the west – the idealised one in which they sought to remake the rest of the world – has been consistently challenged by many critics, left or right, in the west as well as the east.

Posted at: October 19, 2014 - 9:25 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Vanishing beauties


Photo: Alan Wight, Speyeria zerene puntareyes, Marin County, 2009. The Zerene Fritillary (Speyeria zerene) is a species of butterfly found in the western portions of the United States and Canada. The Speyeria zerene is a medium sized butterfly whose length ranges from 25–28 mm, and the wingspan is about 55 mm. The body of the butterfly is black with orange-brown on the upper side of the wings. Also on the underside are black veins with black spots. The undersides of the wings have silver metallic spots. The wings and the body are both covered in fine hairs.

Butterflies are among the most beautiful, delightful, fascinating, and charismatic creatures on earth. They are an integral part of our biodiversity, the poster child for the invertebrate world, and one of the intangibles that make our world such a wonderful and interesting place to live. At one time, the Vancouver Island region was a North American mecca for butterflies. In the Victoria area alone, nearly forty species could easily be found in abundance. Sadly, today you would be lucky to find four species in abundance.

The demise of the butterflies is not surprising. It is a challenge for them just to survive natural enemies such as parasites, predators, and extreme weather conditions. Those that survive the natural dangers must face the gauntlet of human hazards like habitat destruction, pesticide spraying, and human-introduced invasive plants and pests. It is not surprising that 18 out of the 60 (30%) of native breeding wild butterflies documented on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands are blue or red-listed—which means they are species of concern, mainly because of shrinking habitats and declining populations. Ten species are red-listed, meaning they are the most endangered and either extirpated, extinct, or close to it.

Although little can be done about the natural problems, much can be done for the human situation. … Mike Yip, Island Tides (PDF) October 16 – 29, 2014, page 11

Right: Zerene Fritillary (subspecies bremnerii). Photo: Mike Yip, Salt Spring Island. Four of the most endangered butterflies, the Zerene Fritillary, Propertius Duskywing, Common Woodnymph, and Dun Skipper, are still found on Salt Spring Island. In fact, the Zerene Fritillary (subspecies bremnerii) on Salt Spring is the last remaining population in BC. Salt Spring Island has a conservancy organization that is proactive in acquiring conservation areas to protect sensitive ecosystems as well as working with landowners to create preserves on private land. Although the survival of endangered species isn’t guaranteed, the efforts of community conservancies give the butterflies their best chance for survival and provide an example of stewardship that should exist in every community.

Posted at: October 19, 2014 - 9:21 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

October 18, 2014

Weekly Headlines

Click on a headline below to go to that news item

Friday, October 17, 2014

Commentary

Ukraine: Two commentaries, one from Ukrainian-British actress, Vera Graziadei, and the other from American film director, Oliver Stone

World News

Let them eat bombs: The cost of ignoring Syria’s humanitarian crisis & Fleeing Kobane: Only the things they could carry

Agriculture

‘Food doesn’t come from a grocery store’: Food isn’t just food. Food is a system

Civil Society

Corporatist governments attempt to stymie their people’s anti-fracking-pipeline-tarsands movements: Colorado, British Columbia, Summer/Fall, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

National News

Neoliberalism & the City, the view from Canada

Commentary

Canada is in a big economic stall: What to do?

Commentary

Another Harperite human rights issue? IS and the IDF: Canada’s double standard & Why is Canada joining the anti-ISIL coalition?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

World News

Just who or whom did this? An unpleasant dish, a muddled mess: Syria, Iraq, the Kurds, Lebanon, Turkey and the Islamic State takfiris

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Commentary

Turkey’s double game in Syria

National News

Continue to go hungry Canadian children, our Dear Leader has his priorities. Canadian military may get its $3.1-billion back

Monday, October 13, 2014

Commentary

Iron ore revolution to benefit China? Looks possible. An attempt to end commodity price-fixing by just three corporations whose governments are tied to the US and the NATO alliance

Commentary

Delegitimizing Uyghur grievances: Uyghurs said to be looking to Indonesia for ‘terror’ guidance & Resistance, repression, and the cycle of violence in the Uyghur Struggle

Commentary

Hong Kong’s war for democracy gets dirtier

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Living

Its never really been only a man’s world

Living

Original Irish Jack-o-Lanterns were truly terrifying and made of turnips

Arts

Siege, Symphony and War: Book reviews: “Leningrad: Siege and Symphony”

World News

What will it take to achieve a lasting peace? Dispatches from the Federal State of Novorossiya or, if you prefer to call it by its former name—Dec. 1991-Aug. 2014—the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine

World News

First Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga female officer killed in clashes with Islamic State & Canada supplies Kurdistan with robots to find bombs but hands off necessary training of Kurdish forces to private sector

Posted at: October 18, 2014 - 7:01 am -- Posted by: SSNews -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

October 17, 2014

Ukraine: Two commentaries, one from Ukrainian-British actress, Vera Graziadei, and the other from American film director, Oliver Stone

Russia Insider is a new website. Charles Bausman is the Editor and Publisher. This is what he writes about the site:

This site got started this past summer when a group of expats living in Russia for many years began thinking about what we might do to address a worsening and dangerous problem.

The problem is that the western media present an inaccurate, incomplete, and unrealistically negative picture of Russia, and an incorrect narrative of the past 20 years, since the fall of communism.

It seems to us that this has led to profound policy mistakes by the US and Europe, confusion and misperception.

Russia is a much more appealing, compelling, and complex story than what is being reported.

We are private publication, funded by its founders, independent of any governments or institutions.

Our core contributors come from business, finance, journalism, academia and diplomacy, and we tend to be slightly right of center, in an American and European context.

The site reflects my personal views, but we endeavor to be reasonable and fair, providing as many facts as possible.

We believe objectivity is a worthy ideal, yet opinion makes for more interesting journalism, and seek to strike a balance between the two.

Below Vera Graziadei (right) introduces her blog thus:

Thank you for visiting and reading my blog. I’m sad that I have started writing it through pain and tears for East Ukrainian people and I hope that one day there will be something to smile about. For now my conscience demands that I use all the skills and knowledge I have, as well as memories of growing up in Donbas and my intimate knowledge of it’s unique history and culture, to try and outline the unique position that an educated East Ukrainian might have in the Ukrainian conflict. I’m not anti-American or pro-Putin. I’m anti-violence and war, and I’m pro-dialogue, referendum, mutual respect and understanding between Euromaidan and anti-Maidan sides.

Before going into acting, I achieved a degree in Philosophy and Economics and a Masters in Philosophy and Public Policy (Thesis: Social Capital and Critique of the World Bank’s Development Report) from London School of Economics. I continued studying Philosophy, while working as an actress, focusing on Existentialism, and completed a foundation course in Psychotherapy/Psychoanalysis. My other passions are Comedy and Literature (esp. Russian classics).

Kiev’s war crimes are not in doubt. Why the silence?
Vera Graziadei Russia Insider Russia October 17, 2014

The author contributed this comment to Russia Insider. It originally appeared on her personal blog on Wednesday. Visit this page for its embedded links.

A day after winning the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday, Kailash Satyarthi, in an interview with RIA News, urged the Ukrainian government to protect Ukrainian citizens and especially children: “It is the responsibility of the Ukrainian government to save their citizens, particularly children. Safety of children will be their utmost priority. I will appeal to the Ukrainian government so as to ensure that such incidents against children will not occur in future.”

According to the recent UN report as many as 3,660 people have been killed and over 8,756 have been wounded in Donbass since Kiev launched its military operation in April. Even though a ceasefire was announced on September 5th, more than 330 people have died since, including 20 children. UNICEF stated that at least 35 children have been killed in the Ukrainian conflict and 87 have been wounded.


She didn’t survive.

Human Rights Watch already called on Ukraine’s international supporters to “urge the Ukrainian government to strictly adhere to international humanitarian law, including by ending all use of Grad rockets in populated areas by Ukraine’s army”.

Amnesty International also urged the Ukrainian government to “stop abuses and war crimes by volunteer battalions operating alongside regular Ukrainian armed forces”, such as Aidar. All these appeals, urges and calls are likely to remain voices in the wilderness.

Firstly, Kiev repeatedly denies responsibility for war crimes, even when it’s proved by independent observers that the Ukrainian Army has carried out the atrocities, e.g. OSCE confirmed that on June 2nd the Ukrainian air force bombed a public building in Lugansk , killing 8 civilians – Kiev claimed separatists mishandled a portable anti-aircraft missile system.

Secondly, even though the government keeps blaming ‘the rebels’, they don’t seem to be that motivated when it comes to investigating these crimes. Moreover, even international organisations seem to not be that keen on uncovering any new atrocities. For example, the UN promised to investigate reports of mass graves in areas near Donetsk, which were controlled by the Ukrainian Army, but when the report came out the issue of mass graves was intentionally omitted.

Thirdly, after this week’s Reuters’ special report about flaws found in Ukraine’s probe of the Maidan massacre, there are plenty of reasons to believe that even if Kiev decided to carry out investigations of crimes, they are unlikely to be unbiased and fair.

Right: An East Ukrainian bombing victim with her child. Deliberate shelling of civilians has been relentless.

In such a context, all the 3,360 dead Eastern Ukrainians and their families, including the victims of the Odessa massacre, can expect similar justice from the Ukrainian government. It is clear that without pressure from the international community and other organisations, Kiev’s regime is neither going to stop the Ukrainian Army and other battalions from committing war crimes, nor is it going to investigate them.

Undoubtedly, all involved would make more effort to not commit atrocities, like targeting schools, if there was a serious risk of being indicted for war crimes from a recognised tribunal, but even the International Criminal Court (ICC) ignored the people who died from sniper shootings on Maidan, the Odessa massacre victims, and other civilians who died from indiscriminate shelling.

Russia is the only country, who is taking active steps towards bringing justice to East Ukrainian victims. Moscow has called on the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to take responsibility for investigations into crimes committed in Ukraine. The Public Chamber of the Russian Federation filed 30 petitionsin EHCR over war crimes in Ukraine and will file several hundred more by the end of the year. Ten petitions were already declined.

Finally, as human rights lawyer, attorney and member of the International Criminal Bar Dr. Jonathan Levy wrote in his independent legal analysis: Novorossiya itself ‘must bring Kiev’s war criminals to justice’. According to him, whether we like it or not, ‘under international law, Novorossiya has the same status as any other member of the community nations – it is a sovereign independent nation.’

Dr.Levy proposes that Novorossiya sets up its own International Tribunal and gives it independence to act in lieu of the UN, ICC, and Council of Europe, giving a chance to lawyers and jurists from around the world, who seek to advance the cause of justice, to participate using the Internet and other technologies. He argues, that “it is international participation and support that will give the proposed tribunal substance”.

If this ever happens, it will be a remarkable step towards creating a real international civic society with its own justice system, powered by modern technology (more details here), which would be independent of international leaders and their lackey organisations, which so far showed little signs of being concerned about bringing justice for killed East Ukrainian civilians.

An RI exclusive, Oliver Stone’s full Moscow interview on Russia and Ukraine
Russia Insider Russia October 17, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

Oliver Stone, one of America’s most celebrated film makers, was in Moscow in September, working on his upcoming biopic of Edward Snowden and a new documentary about the Ukraine catastrophe.

He gave this long interview to a major Russian newspaper. Small parts of it have been published in English elsewhere, but we got our hands on the original transcript, and are delighted to share it with you here, in full, for the first time.

In the interview, Stone slams America’s foreign policy, media and historical revisionism.

Stone is a remarkable phenomenon on the American cultural scene. Best known for a slew of iconic films like Wall Street, Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, he has also created many films that are harshly critical of the US – about the JFK assassination, 9/11, US funded terrrorism in Latin America, Richard Nixon, Vietnam, corruption on Wall Street, and Cuba. He is an ardent defender of Edward Snowden, which is why he’s making a movie about him.

He is an outspoken and relentless critic of much that is wrong with America today.

His latest film, which aired in the US in 2012, is a 10-part documentary about the history of the US since WW2, which he describes as the most important thing he has ever done. In the film, he seeks to debunk what he sees as lies which are widely taught to Americans, and largely accepted as true. The series will air on Russian television in the near future.

This is an extraordinary interview. We agree wholeheartedly with most of what he says. We found ourselves wondering, how is it possible, that this man, not a professional journalist or historian, understands what is going on in Ukraine and Russia and the mess the US has gotten itself into, better than the combined western media and Washington policy makers?

Posted at: October 17, 2014 - 3:55 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Let them eat bombs: The cost of ignoring Syria’s humanitarian crisis & Fleeing Kobane: Only the things they could carry

Let them eat bombs: The cost of ignoring Syria’s humanitarian crisis
Aron Lund Carnegie Endowment for International Peace USA October 17, 2014

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Winter is coming, and the humanitarian situation in Syria has never been so dire, with more than 3 million refugees abroad and some 6.5 million internally displaced—nearly half of the country’s population.

According to UN figures, more than 10 million Syrians now need outside aid to survive, nearly half of them stuck in areas under siege or otherwise hard to access. The power infrastructure and agricultural sector are breaking down due to the strains of war and a lack of upkeep. Across Syria, the prices of fuel, food, and everyday goods are skyrocketing due to systemic failures in the power supply structure, war, and bombings. Millions of Syrians are left to face the winter cold in appalling conditions, at a time when wealthy Western and Arab nations spend billions on counterterrorism and renewed rebel training missions.

This is not simply callous neglect. Even if the Syrian conflict were to be viewed solely through a security prism, the international community’s tepid response to this humanitarian crisis is clearly counterproductive. The spiralling poverty, social breakdown, and despair is precisely what has paved the way for extremist sectarian militias, not only inside Syria but also among refugees scattered in countries like Lebanon and Jordan, and there is little hope for a solution for as long as the humanitarian crisis persists.

Yet while funds are readily available for military interventions of last resort—such as “Operation Inherent Resolve,” the U.S.-led coalition striking jihadi targets in Syria and Iraq—the international community remains unwilling to summon up a humanitarian coalition to get Syrians through the winter.

Related: Fleeing Kobane: Only the things they could carry
Sheren Khalel and Matthew Vickery Middle East Eye UK Last updated October 17, 2014


Many refugees from Kobane have to deal with knowing their home is only a few kilometres away. Photo: AA

SURUC, Turkey – When Islamic State militants began to close in on Kobane, the town erupted into chaos.

Most fled with just the clothes they were wearing, and any money stashed away in the house they could grab quickly.

Taking the time to pack bags was a gamble, especially for families living on the outskirts of the town, who had long heard about the notoriety of the advancing militants that have captured world attention for the particular brand of cruelty they unleash on their opponents.

Yet, even amid the chaos, a few individuals managed to take an object of sentimental value, an item that in their mind could not be left behind and could not be replaced. In disarray and terror, a small piece of comfort was nonetheless carried over the Syrian border to safety.

As mortars rained down on their hometown, and the fighting between the Peoples Protection Unit (YPG) Kurdish forces and Islamic State militants descended from the rural outskirts into the city, Khaled Khalil Bisiki and his family made the decision to flee Kobane.

Two weeks ago in the middle of the night, as they hurryingly packed their lives into the family’s small battered car, Bisiki ran back inside to grab the deeds to his lands in Kobane. His wife, Maram, quickly followed, grabbing precious family photos.

“We left so fast we couldn’t bring anything with us really, it was all so fast, so you just grab the things you think you can bring with you,” Khaled told Middle East Eye.

“When you remember something is important, it becomes so important. I remembered our land deeds, I want to always have proof that this is my family’s place – to never lose that – and my wife grabbed the family photos.”

Stories like that of the Bisiki’s can be found throughout the refugee encampments in the Turkish border town of Suruc where many families – despite the current hardship – have sought sanctuary and found at least a little bit of comfort by saving a personal belonging that amids the destruction still helps remind them of the home.

Jihan Isliman, is one of those refugees. The 21-year-old, arrived at the camp two weeks ago with her family. She was engaged six months earlier, but her fiancé has been working as a contractor in Iraq for the past three months.

In the rush to flee the city, there was only one prized item she felt compelled to bring with her – her engagement ring.

“Wearing the ring is new to me and I didn’t always have it on. When my family said it was time to run we didn’t take much with us, it all happened very quickly, but I ran to my room and grabbed my ring,” Jihan told MEE as she turned the small golden band around her ring finger.

“I may not wear it always but it means so much to me. Since I got here to the camp I haven’t taken it off.”

As the rain lashed down on the small refugee outpost in the middle of Suruc, Isliman appeared happy to ignore the downpour to show off the ring, an item that promised a future that she can still look forward to despite her current predicament.

Posted at: October 17, 2014 - 12:36 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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‘Food doesn’t come from a grocery store’: Food isn’t just food. Food is a system

Third in the series. 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.

‘Food doesn’t come from a grocery store’
Katie Hyslop Tyee Solutions Society British Columbia Canada October 15, 2014

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On a sunny but blustery late May morning, Doug Palylyk’s Grade 4/5 class begins in an atypical classroom: a greenhouse on the University of British Columbia farm, 24 hectares of land located on the south end of the Point Grey campus.

Seated four or five students to a picnic table, arranged in two rows, each group also has two “farm friends”: adults, some with farming experience, some without, who volunteer to help the students plant and manage their own small vegetable gardens.

Today, they’re all going to visit one of the farm’s active beehives and are getting a crash course on the busy bugs. But it’s pretty clear from the beginning that the students already have the buzz on bees.

“How do you guys think we should talk when we approach the hive?” asked Nicole Read, a 20-something woman sporting a straw hat and black T-shirt with cartoon bees and “whisperer” printed underneath.

Hands shoot up. “Quietly,” responds the boy she picks. Why? “Because if we talk too loudly it might bother the bees.”

“Where do you guys think we should stand when we’re around the hive?” Read asks.

Before she can pick a hand a student pipes up: “Not in the bee highway!” All the adults laugh with delight and surprise.

“What, may I ask, is the bee highway?” Palylyk prods, smiling.

“Where the bees come in and out, in and out,” comes the singsong reply.

This is the class’s seventh trip to the farm this school year, and every trip is followed by a farm-related science lesson back at Graham Bruce Community Elementary. The last class was all about the important pollinators.

Bees aren’t a mandatory part of the Grade 3 and 4 curriculum in B.C., and while plant reproduction is taught in K-12, it’s not often done in a way that sticks, according to Jolie Mayer-Smith, co-founder of the Intergenerational Landed Learning on the Farm Project that Graham Bruce participated in at the UBC Farm last year.

“People know shockingly little about plants: they don’t know how they grow, they don’t know what they need, they don’t know that if you pull the flowers you’re not going to get any fruit,” Mayer-Smith said. It’s that lack of knowledge, she added, that leads people to disrespect plants, allowing industrial food production to flourish despite the high toll it often takes on the environment and our health.

In fact, as part of their participation, Palylyk and other teachers involved in the program must create lesson plans to complement the students’ participation in the year-long program designed to bring elementary students together with adults of varying ages to learn how to grow, harvest and cook food.

“It’s a cutting edge program for kids,” Palylyk said of the Intergenerational Landed Learning on the Farm Project. “It’s all hands-on. The science they learn out there in the open-area classroom is phenomenal.” Palylyk has participated in the program for six of the eight years Graham Bruce has been involved.

Intergenerational Landed Learning brings students to the farm 10 times over a normal school year, starting in September when they observe the growth and harvest of gardens planted by the previous year’s class.

After a two-month break in the winter, the “farm friends” visit Graham Bruce in February to help students plan their gardens. The students spend the rest of spring until June planting and tending their plants, and harvesting some of the early maturing crops while leaving the rest for next year’s class.

During the summer break, a camp started by the Landed Learning Project, but now run by the UBC Farm, tends to the gardens to make sure they fruit in the fall.

This is the 12th year the project has run in a handful of Vancouver elementary schools, starting with a private girls school and eventually moving into public schools. There were four public schools involved in the program last year, and four are again lined up this fall.

It isn’t just about growing and eating food, said Mayer-Smith, a professor in UBC’s curriculum and pedagogy department in the education faculty. It’s also teaching kids why to care for your environment, and how to do it when procuring food. “We’re trying to help them make informed decisions about food,” she said.

Those are lessons that take a full year to impart, and sometimes even that isn’t enough time. UBC education students have been researching Landed Learning’s successes and failures, following up with teachers, farm friends and former students about their experience. Six years after the project began they discovered that kids from York House, the first school that adopted the program, hadn’t connected it with environmentalism.

That led to more emphasis on the environment now, but Mayer-Smith acknowledges that changing kids’ food choices for the long run could be even harder.

“It’s not easy to change a culture of attitudes towards food, and I think here we plant seeds [in their minds],” she said, recalling one student who began the project refusing to eat anything that came from the ground.

“Talking to kids later on in their lives is really important,” she suggested, “because you aren’t going to see the fruits of our labour until quite a bit later.”

Parents, however, are already reporting positive results: kids are asking for more fresh fruits and vegetables at home, and commenting on how different — and much better — fresh food from the garden tastes compared to grocery store produce.

Begun as a way to incorporate food security into the curriculum of local K-12 schools, Think & Eat Green provides funding — through government and academic grants — and the expertise of undergrad students, to start food gardens at schools, while teaching teachers and students how to seed, tend and harvest the gardens. The whole process demonstrates that “food isn’t just food. Food is a system,” said Alejandro Rojas, principal investigator for Think & Eat Green.

“It’s a system that begins in the soil, that impacts the air, the water; that continues with transportation [of the food], and has economic dimensions. It affects the health of the people and the biological communities that sustain us,” he explained, adding the cycle of food runs from seed to food waste providing the necessary conditions for new food to flourish.

“People often talk about ‘from the farm to the table,’” Rojas observes. “For us, that misses the entire other half: from the table back to the soil” through composting.

[T]he message Landed Learning and Think & Eat Green are trying to implant in every participant: we’re all stewards of the land. And while we work to provide healthy food for ourselves today, we’re also responsible for ensuring the next generation has that opportunity, too.

Posted at: October 17, 2014 - 11:50 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post