Saturday, 31 December 2011

Manifest Signs: The Birth of Resistance Everywhere

Terence Stone

There is a wonderful statue at Canada Olympic Square in Calgary of “The Valiant Five”, Canadian women who challenged the Supreme Court of Canada in 1927 to include women in the definition of “personhood”. After long deliberation, in 1928 the Court declined to recognize that personhood. In what I can only conceive as a bizarre temporal juxtaposition, within the same century corporations were anthropomorphized or granted “personhood”. If this doesn’t underscore the fact of corporate hegemonic power—masculinst power at that—I don’t know what does.



Iconic as it is, the statue of “The Valiant Five” became the monthly rallying place for Women in Black, a pro-justice, anti-war organization that was started collaboratively by Jewish women in Jerusalem and Palestinian women in the occupied territories following the first Intifada in 1988. Each gathering is a performative silent vigil, an act of universal mourning for all those killed in war, but particularly those rendered voiceless in their living and dying in these events--pointless state atrocities--women and children.



Women in Black, continues as a loosely affiliated, worldwide organization that still honours its roots in the heavily propagandized landscape of difference of the Israeli State. Yes. Israel has exported a peace movement. This is deeply inspirational: If women can unite across that seemingly impenetrable boundary of radical Zionism, there is no reason why any obstacle should endure against any movements for justice and peace.



About eight years ago I was invited to join Women in Black, in Calgary. My wife, Nancy, and I attended with a group of women once a month, all of us dressed in black. The experience of silence and solidarity had a profound effect of holding us all in a cradle of mourning that was very moving. It had the visceral power to draw people to us to make active enquiries about who we were and what we stood for. Enquirers typically departed with new information and comments of approbation and support. Yes, even silence can be powerful.



The only attack I recall was from the Royal Canadian Legion before Remembrance Day when it became aware that we were wearing white poppies in memory of civilians killed in war alongside red poppies in memory of mostly young men who are traditionally sent to be slaughtered. Apparently, the Canadian Legion, like the US Government would rather us all overlook the insignificant detail of infinitely more civilians being killed in war--reduced to the term collateral damage--than military personnel; besides which it quite dulls the golden aura of glorious personal sacrifice that the idea of “just war” depends on.



On November 15, 2011, five courageous Palestinians imported the spirit of the US Civil Rights Movement to challenge the segregation of public transport in the West Bank. They decided to board a bus and become the Freedom Riders of the Israeli occupied territories. Several busses refused to stop until one unwitting driver pulled up and the Palestinians climbed aboard. Deep consternation ensued as the bus pulled away under the scrutiny of the press and activists. The driver made a phone call that required him to halt at the Hizma checkpoint, outside of Jerusalem. Refusals by the Palestinians to disembark resulted in a delay of the bus as the military came aboard to physically remove them with the usual roughing up: “Huwaida Arraf, 35, challenged one young Israeli passenger who complained about the delay the protest had caused to her journey: 'Your soldiers hold us up 10 times longer than this every day at checkpoints across the West Bank.' (Guardian, November 15, 2011)”. This is a reality of Palestinian mobility that most Israeli’s have been trained to be blissfully oblivious of. Movement for Palestinians in their own tenuous territory is excruciating, if not perpetually dangerous.



I’d like to bring two threads of this article together here.



Firstly, this act of courageous Palestinian resistance was actively supported by Jewish human rights organizations with significant support from within Israel itself. Most notable, but not exhaustive of these were: Democratic Women’s Movement in Israel (TANDI—an Arab-Jewish Movement); The Alternative Information Center; and Tarabut-Hithabrut – Arab-Jewish Movement for Social and Political Change. My point is that the Jewish members of these organizations, while living on the privileged side of the wall, are every bit as courageous and principled as the five Palestinian Freedom Riders.



Now we don’t know what happened to those five Freedom Riders once they were in custody or in the days that followed; but I have a story about these terribly misnamed “checkpoints”.



On a recent trip to India, I met twenty-two year old Maor in the Tibetan Peace CafĂ© in Dharamsala. He’d just completed his required service in the IDF. Half way through breakfast he’d abandoned his Jewish companions and joined me at a nearby table. He was bright, interesting, articulate and deeply troubled. After testing me as a listener, he confided his nightmares.



He told me how difficult sleep had become and how a particular image now haunted him every day. It was at one of these insidious Israeli checkpoints that his patrol stopped three men and asked for identification. One of the men had an attitude of dignity—he didn’t wither or comply obsequiously enough. Maor began beating him with the butt of his rifle until he fell to the ground; and then he beat him more. He described being in a rage that seemed to have a life of its own. Eventually he stopped the beating. The Palestinian man lay face-down and still. Maor looked at him, thinking he might have killed him; but slowly the man turned his face, badly battered and bloody, to look at Maor standing over him. Maor said there was gentleness in the Palestinian’s voice as he looked into Maor’s eyes and said, “I could be your father”. Maor choked at this part of the story and told me that the man was just about his father’s age. He said that his father had always been gentle and principled. Maor did indeed see in the eyes of his victim a reflection of his father.



Following that cruel beating, Maor said he keeps seeing the bloodied face and hearing the voice, “I could be your father”, over and over. The image intrudes into his nightly dreams and daily thoughts, persistently denying him peace.



To emphasise the arbitrary and cruel practices of the IDF, Maor also told a story of being at checkpoint duty on an occasion of stopping a Palestinian man and his family taking an open truckload of pumpkins to market. Laughingly, they forced the man to unload all his pumpkins to look for weapons. After the truck was completely empty, the patrol systematically smashed every pumpkin with the butts of their rifles to check inside each of them for “weapons”. The man, his wife and children stood by in impotent terror. The patrol never stopped laughing as they went about their business.



Maor had already reflected on reasons why he would have been an active or complicit participant in these and other cruel abuses. He said that beginning in school he was taught to hate Arabs; but he added that it is the entire Israeli State that systematically and pervasively supports hatred of Arabs: “I understand that now”, he said. I asked him how he intended to deal with all this on his return to Israel. He was clear in saying that he will never trust his own government again and will speak about the abuse of Palestinians. I believe him. Maor will now join the many Jews from inside and outside of Israel who have the courage to speak and themselves be labelled Jew-haters by their own people who cannot yet see the propaganda.


Let’s remember the Palestinian Freedom Riders, the Jewish organizations that supported them, and conscientious Maor, a young Jewish man brutalized by Israeli State indoctrination. Let us not forget Women in Black as a worldwide movement that was painfully birthed in Israel from Jewish and Palestinian women, coming together to protest violence and injustice. Let’s remember The Valiant Five, whose stand for justice in their rejected claim to personhood acts as a stark foil against which the personhood of corporations can only make sense in the context of Imperialist hegemony that fronts it in the West’s material gluttony, the covetousness of Middle-Eastern oil, and the ongoing rape of the planet. All is interconnected.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

"It Is Done"--Unless One Great Spirit Should Now Rise

Terence Stone

I must confess that following the "failure" of COP-15 in Copenhagen (2009), except for a hastily hammered out agreement between the US, Brazil, India, South Africa, and China, to obscure the word "failure", I crashed. After months of effort, along with millions of others around the world, to pressure for an urgent and just agreement on climate change the word “hopeless” entered my vocabulary.



The oil companies had spent many millions of dollars on a massive and coordinated disinformation campaign, supported by Canada and a few other countries set on nothing less than sabotage. Computer hacking for anything that could be quoted out of context was widespread. Eventually the oil industry backed hackers hit a little paydirt; but with a lot of spin, information obtained from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UK) was cited out of context as "proof" that climate change research was fraudulent.


Released just two weeks before the COP-15 Summit, the timing of the release couldn't have been more perfect. The great beast didn't slouch toward Bethlehem, but dropped into the centre of the conference on all fours; with coal-red eyes it crouched, drooling hot bitumen from its gaping maw and exuded a crude stench, observing all. Nobody attempted to remove or even name it; indeed, like the elephant in the living room, most pretended it just wasn't there. Of course, when investigations by six committees were concluded on the research of the CRU, its findings of climate change due to human activity were completely exonerated.


Another confession: When BP's Deep Water Horizon disaster happened on April 10, 2010, I was deeply shocked, as were all people of conscience. But as the weeks went by I began to hope fervently that every effort would fail--that the disaster would be of such an incomprehensible magnitude that the entire Eastern seaboard of the USA would be irreparably damaged for decades and that the shock would be global, jolting people out of their apathy; and that the world would at last see that there is no such thing as a "deep water horizon"--the only horizon we have encircles the globe and it is disappearing as the scant time we may have to act draws ever closer. Regrettably, all has been sucked into the black hole of officially mandated memory loss.


Since then, scientists who were climate sceptics have renounced their scepticism, or repudiated their paid-for lies, because the writing is in the sky. Disaster is afoot. Do you remember the movie, Asteroid, in which American (of course) super-heroes fly up to meet an asteroid on a course to destroy planet Earth? With just the right measure of technology, heroism and a nuclear bomb, Earth is saved. I recall a related discussion a few years ago in which and American (of course) suggested dealing with hurricanes of increasing power that threaten the coastal US (of course) by exploding a nuclear bomb in the eyes of these storms, thus blowing them to bits. Ha! Sorry America (of course), you can't blow climate change to bits like your fabricated enemies.


So here we are, two years later in the immediate aftermath of the COP-17 Summit in Durban with another complete "failure"--except an agreement to meet again to work toward an agreement that has been hailed by the major polluters as a success in order to obscure the word "failure". How can any of this make sense, even to those with the stupid-seal stamped on their foreheads? But let's name the main culprits--drugged-on-oil America (of course), cradling in its arms its tar-baby Canada.


The reality is that any agreement reached "quickly" would not be implementable before 2020. The next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report isn't due until 2013, by which time it will be reporting on findings for climate change that is roughly five years out of date. The problem is that each report so far has under-calculated the effects for the period it reports on. Essentially the message with each report is, "Surprise! Surprise! Everything's happening much faster than we thought--Mmmm!--Please excuse our conservative calculations".


You know what, I'm recycling stuff that everybody should know, but the majority doesn't care about; so I think I'll just shut up and leave you with a recycled poem for our disposable planet and its disposable human race and other life forms:

REQUIEM

The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice
and a sense of irony,
might now well say
of our abuse of it,
"Forgive them, Father,
They know not what they do."

The irony would be  that we know what
we are doing.

When the last living thing
has died on account of us,
how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,
in a voice floating up
perhaps
from the floor
of the Grand Canyon,
"It is done."
People did not like it here.

--Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

Accusations of Anti-Semitism: The Imperative To Speak

Terence Stone

I've struggled a lot with speaking my truths about Israeli State policy of the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries, that particularly virulent form of Zionism that has probably done more to sponsor terrorism--American, British and Islamic--than any other single factor. Israel has taken the role assigned it as proxy cop for the region on behalf of the USA and turned it into an excuse for fascistic conduct toward the Palestinians and the neigbours it has been able to bully, directly and indirectly. True--I criticise once in a while, but often hold back when I'd wade in neck deep against my own government. And perhaps I should console myself with the fact that there are a lot of Jews far more eloquent and impassioned than I am who constantly hold a critical mirror to the excesses and injustices of the Israeli State; of course hostile Zionist propagandists resort to the most obscene tactics--they accuse these fellow Jews of being "Jew-haters", "self-haters", "traitors", or of "not being really Jewish" at all; so why should I censor my own small voice anyway?



I was born in 1944 and my father served in the British armed forces during the war. He wasn't very tolerant of difference, but one of the first things he exposed me to was a huge tome with many pages of those photographs you arrive at after turning printed pages, only to be faced with misty veils of protective tissue behind which lurk horror after detailed horror of the Holocaust: disinterred mass graves; mountains of skeletal bodies; the ovens; the gas chambers; and my father crying as he talked me through it all. At five- or six-years-of-age it left a deep impression.



For a good portion of her adult life, my mother worked as housekeeper to the eminent Swifts and Rosenblatts of Liverpool. They treated her exceptionally well. It was a comfort to me to know that she was accepted like family in both homes. There was mutual commitment beyond the role of employee and employer. Then about 25 years ago, pieces of evidence began surfacing that suggested that our family might once have been Jewish and subjected to one of the many ignominious episodes in British history of forced conversions. I remember thinking, as I have often done since, how proud I would feel in being Jewish; there is so much I admire about Jewish culture. I can hold that thought, even as I condemn the Israeli State--no less than I think about the Americans I love and admire, even as I condemn the terrorism and Capitalist Imperialism of the USA.



The last paper I chose to write in my MA (English Literature) was on the Holocaust; probably to give some narrative form to those childhood images I could never quite get out of my head. I chose a critique of Shoah, the epic documentary of the Holocaust by the Jewish film-maker, Claude Lanzmann. It's nine-and-a half-hours of video filled with scenes of those places of extermination, completely silent except for the birds in abandoned concentration camps; lots of technical information too; but the worst images for me are in Lanzmann taking two survivors back to those places of horror.



One was a 13-year-old boy in one of the extermination camps who, like Lazarus, rose from the dead out of a pile of Jewish corpses. The Nazis who found him alive discovered he had a beautiful voice, so he was spared a second attempt at extermination to entertain them on the river patrols for the remainder of the war. With a rictus smile on his face he was taken back to a Polish village in which the people still remembered him singing as he passed each morning on the river. All is celebration until Lanzmann steers the conversation cleverly to reasons the villagers might provide for the Jewish exterminations. Ugly, vituperous voices emerged from the crowd accusing Jews of being Christ-killers; and so the poison leaches while the elderly man--still emotionally that 13-year-old boy, stands smiling with a continuing instinct to simply live another day.



The second survivor, Abraham Bomba, a Tel Aviv barber, is interviewed by Lanzmann while he is cutting hair in his shop. Sweat is beading on his upper lip; the blood has drained from his face; stoically he holds his voice steady and speaks the words mechanically. As he cuts hair he recounts cutting the hair from Jewish women, gently reassuring them just before they are led into the gas chambers. Lanzmann manipulates him back into the depths of his trauma. Abraham begins to tell of one woman who arrives, a family friend from his village. He cuts her hair and tells her the necessary lies of reassurance. In the middle of the telling, he suddenly cracks emotionally: "Please!" he turns to Lanzmann, "I can't! It's too horrible!" Lanzmann refuses to stop, insisting, "You must go on".



I watched the entire nine-and-a-half hours of Shoah three times, and important segments such as these two, reported above, countless times--60-70 hours of viewing. I was a straight A student in all my papers and my thesis except this one. It was the only paper I turned in late and the only one that fell short of an A. Why? Because I couldn't find the courage to critique Lanzmann's work in the way I thought it should be critiqued--as a masterpiece of documentary art that deliberately tortured and victimized Jewish survivors all over again; I imposed on myself an act of self-censorship. This is not my paper, so I won't expound further on Lanzmann's cruelty, and I don't want to set my viewing experience off against those who were exterminated and those who survived. I got a little closer to it all in traumatizing myself so that I couldn't sleep or go through a waking day for over a year without intruding images from the documentary and the book images, refreshed, that my father introduced me to at six years of age.



I have often attempted to engage in reasonable conversation about issues related to the excesses and injustices of Israeli State policy and military conduct in online forums. Invariably I am attacked viciously and unreasonably as an anti-Semite by swarms of online Zionists when I know nothing could be further from the reality of who I am. The balance of my prudence and self-censorship tipped some time over the past year with the conduct of that hateful murderer, Binjamin Netanyahu, and his Zionist gangsters.



The idea of Palestinian Statehood has become a joke. All that is left to constitute a state is a discontiguous string of enclaves--classically Bantustans, after the South African apartheid model, or the reserves of Canada's indigenous peoples on which model this systematized destruction of peoples was based and has been refined. The two state solution is no longer viable; so from within or from without, I'm inclined to favour the dismantling (or destruction) of Israel in favour of a single state solution in which Palestinians are repatriated to the lands stolen from them and safeguards instituted for Jews who must share the territory.



Manifest Destiny as a motivating principle for Israeli or US hegemony is a teleological anachronism--an artefact that comes from pre-Enlightenment thinking. It will always be an active imperialist project of violent domination because the end is always the inviolable goal, the achievement of which all means are justified. With roots of the respective theologies sunk deep in the Old Testament (Tanakh) as the foundational claim on Jerusalem proper and the New Testament as the promise of Christianity’s New Jerusalem, a sort of Biblical interdependency underpins this most unholy of alliances between Israel and the USA that threatens global destruction.



Writing elsewhere in late spring of this year I predicted an Israeli or American military assault of Iran in the autumn. We've come perilously close, but now it likely won't happen this year with complications arising for Israel out of the Arab Spring uprisings, the complications of an emboldened stance by Turkey against Israel, and a worsening US economy, which is under even more threat by the possible collapse of the Euro-zone. No flight corridor will be provided by Saudi Arabia for Israeli bombers, so the Americans will have to launch an attack on Iran directly.



The American withdrawal from Iraq now makes this a more viable option. Unfortunately, bunker-buster bombing of Iran's deep and hardened nuclear facilities becomes a pretty pathetic method of closing down their nuclear program, which raises the not so far fetched spectre of tactical nuclear weapons being used against Iranian facilities. In all likelihood Israel's supporting role. You see, unlike many other people, I don't see Iran as the problem. It has always been the reality of Israel as the only nuclear power in the region that has fed the ambition for nuclear symmetry amongst its neighbours.



The only hope for a more stable region is, paradoxically, in accepting the terrible reality of nuclear proliferation (it was always only a matter of time), the necessity of giving up the notion of a two-state solution in Palestine, the repudiation of Zionist manifest destiny, and simple justice and dignity for a too-long-oppressed Palestinian people. If all of this amounts to anti-Semitism, I stand proudly accused, but refuse to be condemned. I will not be manipulated into silence by Lanzmann or the fact of the Holocaust, raised to a high aesthetic of victimization, which has been completely co-opted by the fascistic Zionism of our fragile times.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Monsanto and a Mutant Christ: Priests Perform Black Magic

Terence Stone

The Independent (December 16, 2011), asks the question,

“Is the Vatican close to endorsing the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops in order to feed the world's growing population? Could it be that the Catholic Church is about to take a moral position on GM food.

A leaked document from a group of scientists linked to Rome has set a hare running about the possible endorsement of GM technology by the Pope. The document, from scientists linked to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, suggested that there is a moral duty to adopt GM technology in order to combat hunger”.

I thought these interesting questions and reportage that set my mind pondering and researching some of the implications of it all. First of all, let’s just state some facts and probabilities.

Monsanto is responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, from their manufacture and supply of Agent Orange in the Vietnam war to the hundreds of thousands of suicides of Monsanto's debt-burdened farmers of India, many of whose suicide poison-of-choice is Monsanto’s Roundup; but I won’t turn the list into a litany—such is the prerogative of Catholicism, Anglicanism, and other Christian denominations.

Continuing with some probabilities related to the tremendously wealthy Catholic Church, which maintains a secret, "conservative" investment portfolio of billions of dollars: It’s quite likely the Church is invested directly in Monsanto, and highly probable that it has indirect investments in the company, such is the incestuous nature of “conservative” Corporations. We might just add that the titular head of the Anglican Church is Queen Elizabeth II, whose investment portfolio undoubtedly reaches insidiously into Monsanto’s boardroom, if not its bedroom.

Of course any open linkage between Monsanto and these churches raises profound moral questions; and it's useful to assert that the Vatican is itself a Corporation, a relationship that is much clearer since the banks and other private Corporations have also, like the Catholic Church, more recently resorted to begging bailouts as a main source of income. But my concern here is narrowly focused on ontological issues.

Of the seven sacraments performed by the Catholic priesthood, the Eucharist is arguably the most contentious and doctrinally central to the Church. It is in fact an act of magic that only the priesthood can perform. The priest takes the bread and wine an transforms it, literally, into the body and blood of Christ (it only symbolizes in Anglicanism until it becomes subject to the fast approaching hostile corporate take over by the Church of Rome).

Now here’s the problem: Once upon a time little bands of nuns scurried around hot kitchens baking the bread. They were very dedicated and paid a great deal of attention to quality control since there are very strict rules and conditions under which the bread is made. After all, purity is essential if the bread is to become the body of Christ. While the nuns dutifully went about this task, the priests lounged around smoking cigarettes, drinking scotch--and talking about little boys.

Slowly the job became too much, or they couldn’t recruit enough nuns who were gullible enough to do the job; so it was turned over to local bakers who continued the good work. Of course, you can count on the Americans to go Big. The Cavanagh Company of Greenville, R. I., produces the Eucharist wafers for 85% of the US and Canadian “markets” and 50% of the British “market”—over 80 million wafers per month. The F.C. Ziegler Company of Oklahoma produces most of the rest.

Now, they might be lovely people working around the clock in Rhode Island and Oklahoma, but at this level of production, quality control goes out the window. You see, they have to depend on the delivery of white wheat-flour only for the Eucharist and—Yes! You got it. Monsanto has free reign in the US to indiscriminately ship GM wheat to the mills. Ergo, the Eucharist is being manufactured with GM wheat!

This begs the horrifying question: Does this mutant grain, this defiled gift of Monsanto, result in a mutant Christ for Catholics to consume every week? Furthermore, does the once sacred magic of the priests who knowingly create a mutant Christ now perform a ritual act of Black Magic? And since (as far as I know) no GM wine has entered the food chain, does it, as a pure manifestation of Christ’s blood, not reject the body of Christ with its incompatible mutant DNA, even as it is digested after the sacrament? Do Catholics now suffer tummy ache?

Perhaps the Pope in order to remain infallible (we’ll forget the apology to Galileo 500 years after his death) will be forced to sanctify GM foods in order to retain the myth of the Eucharist and the integrity of Vatican Incorporated, a holy (sic) owned subsidiary of Monsanto Corporation.

Friday, 9 December 2011

PAOV (Occupy Victoria): The Birthing Room and Beyond

Terence Stone

My blog today is a little 5:00 a.m. rant I wrote in reply to an email from a dear friend. I'll let it stand as it is:


Yes. Occupy was forced out in Victoria too. The authorities couldn't cope with the homeless becoming perpetually visible and actually finding a forum for their voices; so they've been forced back into invisibility and silence.


Atomized for so long by powers wanting us to consume more, and more, and more, we are all struggling with how to be together as organic, inclusive communities. It's all rather painful at times--a bit like being born again; but if people keep their faith and determination, the movement will evolve and change.


The entire phenomenon is protean. Law enforcement, the justice system, the political establishment, and the Chambers of Commerce have become so co-opted by their own production of images-as-reality, closing down the sites seems to have satisfied them that Occupy has been dismantled. They couldn't be more in error. They've only closed the delivery room after the painful but exhilarationg birth of goodness knows how many children.


All have dispersed into other locations--many of them virtual--gathering stregnth for the next level of public disobedience--of creative rebellion. If nothing else it's heightened for everyone involved, and those who have been curious bystanders, the reality that we are indeed living in a world gone mad. It's an asylum for pathologies of greed, corruption, delusions, and high-risk, self-harming behavious that are now clearly suicidal and genocidal. Institutions of all kinds have become great echo chambers that do nothing but amplify destructive ideologies maquerading as rationality.


You're right. Harper and his thugs go about with impunity insisting they represent the majority in the stupid, first-past-the-post electoral system we have in which fewer and fewer Canadians participate every four years. In reality, as so many people were warning pre-election, there was always an insidious backroom agenda in play as narcissitic Harper stared lonley and longingly into the cesspool of his ambition and fell deeply in love with his own shitty reflection.


With only the Senate as a low hurdle for Bill C-10 to clear and COP 17 disproportionatly undermined by our pathological Prime Minister, the question is what comes next and just how much will aquiescent Canadians tolerate. Is this really a national trait so entrenched that Canadians will endure any lie and abuse? I hope not. I dare not believe it for the sake of our country and the entire globe.


In any event, the many facets of Occupy that still exist and grow daily will inevitably confront and dismantle all of these excesses and non-democratic systems over time. To believe anything else is to roll over and die. If that happens, we deserve extinction. For me this weekend--a little culture jamming!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Smart Meters and the US Military-Industrial Complex

Terence Stone

There has been growing protest over the stupid decision by BC Hydro in collusion with Christy Clarke’s BC Liberals spending a billion dollars on smart meters from Itron, Inc. of Washington State. No oversight; no public discussion. It’s a bit like the stupidity of introducing the HST with no public input. Both cost the taxpayer dearly.



But perhaps I’m being a bit too generous in simply calling them stupid decisions. Both involved enough money to make a lot of people rich; so you can bet that these decisions were carefully calibrated to go ahead and damn the torpedoes. The problem is that both decisions took place in a growing atmosphere of public discontent in the way government and business is done—thanks to the financial crisis and it persistence.



CEO, Dave Cobb, left BC Hydro for pastures green in October, connected no doubt to the smart meter fiasco; although we’ll never know how since BC Hydro is in this one up to its eyeballs and is in no position to withdraw and not lose face. Impassive it will remain under public assault over the installations.



I had my own small victory today, though. The smart meter crew knocked on the door and said they were installing. I said, “You’re not!” The guy seemed a bit miffed, but politely withdrew. Then I got to thinking even more about this “smart meter” crap.



Why “smart meter”, I thought; then it occurred to me that the US Military-Industrial Complex, inextricably interdependent with the US Government and its policies, has spent perhaps a hundred million dollars in branding “Smart” weaponry to more easily declare and wage war around the globe. In particular, we’ve been treated to video-game dead hits of “smart bombs” to demonstrate how very caring bloody aggression can be. So why should BC Hydro and the BC Government spend millions on public discussion and public relations. The groundwork was already laid by the war criminals Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush.



“Lets call it a smart meter”, whispered Christy Clarke to Dave Cobb, dithering about how to explain away a billion dollar purchase without public consultation. Dave grinned and relaxed after thinking about the implications. “Clever idea, Christy!” he exclaimed. “Our friends in the White House have already sold this one for us and everyone will associate these hot little devices with no collateral damage. My God! You’re a genius Premier”. Christy patted Dave on the back as he left her office, congratulating each other on the perfect selection of language.



Unfortunately, “smart bombs” are pretty dumb as a concept. It might make easier to declare a war here or there--wilfully, unnecessarily; so one can hardly say "smart bombs" save lives. Besides, if you’re any place close to a “smart bomb” surgical strike, you die too; and that’s not including those significant “smart bombs” that refuse to obey orders.



It’s the same with “smart meters”. The tag “smart” declares to you, the home owner or renter, “Don’t worry, I’ve been designed to make everything safe for you (gentle smile). I have relatives in the Pentagon—no collateral damage, honestly!”



I see you relax, fellow residents; but stop! Don’t believe that damned meter! It’s trying to be a smart ass! There’s fall out--radiologically speaking. The meter may be invisibly located in a part of your residence that might fool you into thinking it’s safe; but it will transmit perhaps half a dozen times a day and you or your child will get a collateral dose of radiation. You or your child may actually be leaning against or sleeping at the other side of the wall, ensuring that your temperature gets a momentary boost and DNA starts to fragment.



Next time you hear someone mention “smart meters”, think of Don Rumsfeld, Christy Clarke, Dick Cheney, Dave Cobb, and George W. Bush, all snickering behind closed doors. Think of those poor bastards who were nailed by “smart” things across Iraq; and if a guy comes to your home and says, “Smart meter installation”, reply, “No thank you”, and close the door.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Wi-Fi: The Failures of School Boards and the Health Protection Branch

Terence Stone

We are all currently bathing in microwave radiation; so pervasive have transmissions become from a huge range of equipment that its difficult to argue the rationale for putting the brakes on just one more source of emission—but we simply must! Since we have all been bathing in this radiation at incrementally increased levels for some time now, it really is a good analogy to being in a bath: you lie in hot water and incrementally add a little more hot water every few minutes, until you notice your skin getting red and your heart pounding in an effort to cool at the surface of the skin.



Now I bring my baby grandchild into the bath with me. He screams, but I pay no attention. I may be uncomfortable for a while after the bath; unfortunately, I’ve scalded my grandchild who needs medical attention.



So where do we draw the line? Let’s not, eh! It’s too complicated. Let's just add another bucket of boiling water to the microwave bath; we’ll get used to it—no worries; be happy.



Unfortunately, this is an ignorant attitude. It does not take into account that like the bathwater analogy, our children—yes they’re all ours!—are far more susceptible to the effects of radiation than adults. DNA fragmentation occurs at low levels and is cumulative—no less than for the people living on the margins of Fukushima’s no-go zones. So why would most of Canada’s school boards approve of Wi-Fi when they could stay with hard-wired systems? Well, it’s probably because they have departments of Innovation and Learning Technologies, which by their very raison d’etre are fundamentally interested in technologies and not children. They are in the bedrooms of Corporations whose interest is in profit and not children.



Surely, you might say, the Health Protection Branch of the Canadian Government has the health of our children as part of its mandate! Yes; but history reveals over an over how this department of government—under-resourced and subject to subtle steerage by Corporations and their Government bedfellows—has repeatedly failed in its mandate to protect. It is anathema to have the word “protection” in the name of this department, just as I’m coming to really understand that “trustee” in the title School Board Trustee is anathema to the trust we are asked to place in them.



Having once worked as a corporate liaison to the Health Protection Branch, I am aware of so many failures to protect Canadians that a researched list would quickly fill several volumes of Hustler Magazine, displacing its pornography with the pornography of wilful failure to protect our children.



Now it’s important to acknowledge that some school boards such as Saanich, here on Vancouver Island, and individual schools across Canada have embraced the precautionary principle. California has rejected the use of Wi-Fi in schools, as has most of Europe. Surely there is a little smoke being produced by the heat of microwave radiation or why would there be so many notable exceptions to Wi-Fi use in schools?



Following is a letter written by an intelligent, concerned mother, qualified professionally in the health sciences, who has taken the time to research and understand the implications of Wi-Fi as an unnecessary and dangerous exposure for her children. She wrote to her Ward Trustee and the School Board Director, Innovation and Learning Technologies. She provided express permission for me to reprint without names (and what does that say about our vaunted democracy?).





Hi [Ward Trustee],

I appreciate you getting back to me on this matter. 
 
In my research I have found that Health Canada's "safe level limits" are too high in comparison to many other countries, in particular European countries whose safety level limit is up to one thousand times less than Canada's. This "safe level limit" is based on the “thermal effect”, the limits where the heating of human tissues occur, which originated from naval radar military research over 40 years ago. Many physicist and biologists have demanded that this be reviewed, and think that children's exposure to wireless internet  "Wi-Fi" for long periods of time (5 days a week, 6 hours a day) is going to have major long-term consequences, and will be even fatal for many people.
 
I do not want my children or any other children to be "guinea pigs" to this new technology. I think that Calgary Board of Education is making a BIG mistake by installing wireless devices in schools. It is our moral responsibility as parents, teachers, trustees, and other authorities to research this issue more in depth and practice the precautionary principal; since there has been absolutely no research done on children (who are much more vulnerable to radio frequencies than adults) and the effects of “Wi-Fi”.
 
You might be interested to know that there is one city in France in particular whose Mayor has banned wireless internet from all schools and public places. (see 1st website below). Also other public schools in other cities have decided to independently remove “Wi-Fi” due to its unknown effects (see Safeschool.ca).
 
Long term exposure to “Wi-FI” is going to be an epidemic. Asbestos, DDT and Lead was deemed “safe” by Government Agencies such as Health Canada and the World Health Organization, and not to mention numerous prescription drugs, including Thalidomide.
 
I am asking you, as a Trustee, to do your part and advocate for the children in the Calgary Board of Education School system. We all have a moral obligation, I am doing my part, will you please do yours?  It is easy to “pass the buck” and not take accountability. ”Wi-Fi” is simply a convenience, not a necessity. The risks don’t outweigh the benefits. I hope that you will research this information and are able to support me in promoting a precautionary approach for the sake of our children’s health.
 
You might be interested in looking at the following websites for more information:
 
http://www.listen2yourgut.com/blog/wifi-radiation-exposure-safety-limits-per-country/


Thank you for your time, [Trustee].


Kind Regards,
Jane Doe, RN BN



A copy of this letter was also sent to the Director, Innovation and Learning Technology, at the Board of Education. His reply follows:



Hi Jane Doe,

Thank you for the email and the attachment of the letter you composed to trustees. You have clearly spent a great deal of time doing this and I appreciate the work you put into pulling this information together. Reviewing this has been helpful in ensuring we have data which incorporates multiple perspectives.

Like you, the Calgary Board of Education takes matters pertaining to health and safety very seriously. We
also take our responsibility to fulfill our mission of preparing our students to achieve success as active and contributing participants in society very seriously as well [the latter clearly trumps the former in order of priority]. This endeavour does mean working to best leverage the learning resources ["leverage"--taken straight from the discourse of economics, that discredited "science"] and tools of our students’ time, many of which are digital in nature and accessed via networks.

I appreciate your perspectives and feel the information you have forwarded clearly indicates that continued research
[pre- or post-mortem?] in relation to wireless is necessary to remove some of the ambiguity that exists regarding RF radiation emitted by wireless technology. In relation to the matter of safety of wireless, I believe this underscores the importance of us taking our guidance from the authoritative government body, Health Canada, whose role it is to establish public health policy and set safety standards. Clearly setting safety standards is not a core part of our business [there you go, it's a "business", not a public trust with our children]. As a result, our system policies and procedures relating to the installation and operation of wireless networking infrastructure must based upon and comply with standards set by Health Canada. At present, emissions from the wireless technology used by the Calgary Board of Education is well below the safe limits identified. Should Health Canada change the safe exposure limits and guidance regarding wireless networking technology at any point in the future the Calgary Board of Education would take measures to re-align our use of wireless networking technology so as to be consistent with these new standards.

You make a very good point about how specific health standards have changed over time as new scientific evidence comes to light. It is my hope that Health Canada will support conducting research that will further investigate the appropriateness of current standards.
I hope you can appreciate that it would be inappropriate for the Calgary Board of Education to be setting or imposing health-related guidelines that are inconsistent with those established by Health Canada [No. It would be kinda like...errrrr...leadership, since you already acknowledge that there is a history of Health Canada getting things very wrong!]
 

Again, I appreciate you taking the time and for being proactive in relation to the use of wireless. You are welcome to contact me if you wish to discuss this matter more fully.

Best regards,
Director, Innovation and Learning Technologies



[Square-bracketed comments mine, the blogger]

Friday, 25 November 2011

Nycole Turmel Letter and My Reply

Terence,

Thank you for copying my office on your email highlighting several area of importance for Canada to take a leadership role at the upcoming United Nations Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa.

First, New Democrats were surprised and dismayed to learn from the Environment Minister that opposition MPs were not included in the Canadian delegation to COP17 later this month. For decades, Canadian delegations to international conferences have been understood to represent Canada - not merely the governing party. We strongly oppose this attempt to block opposition voices.

Canada is one of the world's top ten greenhouse gas emitters and we know this is due largely to the Harper government's promotion of oil sands development. Already, going into this conference the Environment Minister has declared that Canada won't be swayed by "opponents" into changing policies.

In contrast, New Democrats strongly believe that good environmental policy and economic well-being are not in conflict - rather they depend on each other. Canada should invest in solar, wind, wave, and geothermal sources; work with provinces and territories to share clean energy; and ensure energy conservation in transportation and building methods. Not only will this have a long-term impact in terms of creating high-quality, permanent jobs, but it will also ensure that we build a clean and sustainable country for the benefit of future generations.

You may also be familiar with the NDP Climate Change Accountability Act, which legislates long-term targets to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions - ensuring that Canada meets many of its international obligations. The bill twice passed in the House of Commons, and both times the legislative process was stopped by unelected senators. We continue to promote this legislation which was recently re-introduced by NDP Environment critic Megan Leslie.

You can read more about our party's ideas here:

http://www.ndp.ca/platform/tackle-climate-change


http://meganleslie.ndp.ca/post/ndp-calls-for-action-against-climate-change

Again, thank you for writing. Rest assured that our team will continue to speak out on this matter. The government must take action for future generations -- it's time for leadership that will move Canada forward.

Best regards,

 
Nycole Turmel, M.P.
Interim Leader of the Official Opposition New Democratic Party of Canada




Hello Nycole,

I know you and your party are working on in the spirit of Jack Layton, and I appreciate that. From your perspective I imagine that is a strength the party draws on and will continue to draw on. He was an incredibly principled man for mainstream politics.

For me, the problems we face have crossed a line somewhere and I can't tell you where it was. Tinkering will no longer work. I believe the ideas you have set out in your email are very important, but they do not address the larger systemic issues embedded in systems domestic that are inseparable from foreign policy: NAFTA has to go; WTO agreements need to be torn up in the face of the multi-nationals that benefit at the expense of communities, biodiversity and local solutions across the globe; the World Bank is morally bankrupt; the IMF remains the henchman of the WB. All of this is behind US imperialism and its claim to manifest destiny.

My wife and I recently returned from a one year trip to South-and South-East Asia; brutalized by, primarily, the British, French and more recently the Americans, one would have to be blind to not see the destruction that has been left behind, not least of which are the many millions of innocents murdered in the name of "defense" or "strategic interests". The corruption of both has been internalized so that the political elite have merely assumed the mantle of their erstwhile imperial masters.

Canada needs to uncouple itself from its incestuous partnerships with private industry: health-care; education; public transport; power generation (including new initiatives); water supply; the fossil-fuel industry--all these and more should be nationalized--brought back firmly and irrevocably into the public domain.

Please, Nycole, this is a time for visionary thinking and action. The NDP along with the other political parties has to step way outside the box and slam the lid shut if it is to have any relevance ten or twenty years from now, or forego a legacy of moral rectitude in the diseased eyes of my grandchildren.

Sincerely,

Terence Stone

Sunday, 20 November 2011

“From the Republic of Conscience” by Seamus Heaney—A poem for our times

When I landed in the republic of conscience
it was so noiseless when the engines stopped
I could hear a curlew high above the runway
At immigration, the clerk was an old man
who produced a wallet from his homespun coat
and showed me a photograph of my grandfather
The woman in customs asked me to declare
the words of our traditional cures and charms
to heal dumbness and avert the evil eye
No porters. No interpreter. No taxi.
You carried your own burden and very soon
your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared



Fog is a dreaded omen there, but lightning
spells universal good and parents hang
swaddled infants in trees during thunder storms
Salt is their precious mineral. And seashells
are held to the ear during births and funerals.
The base of all inks and pigments is seawater
Their sacred symbol is a stylized boat
The sail is an ear, the mast a sloping pen,
The hull a mouth-shape, the keel an open eye.
At their inauguration, public leaders
must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep
to atone for their presumption to hold office
and to affirm their faith that all life sprang
from salt in tears which the sky-god wept
after he dreamt his solitude was endless



I came back from that frugal republic
with my two arms the one length, the customs woman
having insisted my allowance was myself
The old man rose and gazed into my face
and said that was official recognition
that I was now a dual citizen
He therefore desired me when I got home
to consider myself a representative
and to speak on their behalf in my own tongue
Their embassies, he said, were everywhere
but operated independently
and no ambassador would ever be relieved

Friday, 18 November 2011

Wasps: A Parable of Global Survival

In central Sri Lanka there is a tiny village called Sigiriya. It’s claim to fame is a mammoth magma plug, Sigirya Rock, which rises to the sky. Here the palimpsest of time’s pages and contradictory history leaves scholars floundering for something that can be definitively claimed about the purposes to which the rock, its deserted gardens and city have been put throughout the millennia.



I suppose the best analogy I can find is to suggest that somehow we can know about the pre-historical purposes and meanings beneath the foundations of European Gothic Cathedrals left by Saxons, Celts, or other prehistoric pagans. Certainly hubris is a great destroyer that constantly seeks to erase or co-opt and transform previous realities into the dominant cultural ego of any age; and so we tell each other newly edited stories which, when taken too literally, detract from the impressions in our own blood, bone and sinew—in our hearts and the spirit of our intuitive nature—the simple, but not easy act of listening to the rock out of which the images are shaped; the ground beneath our feet that bore the weight of lives lived in pain, and grief, and hope, and joy, and victory and oppression.



Much of the literature foregrounds the features of the rock as primarily a Therevada Buddhist site in its function. One Buddhist scholar I met on the way up the rock suggested that it was an early Mahayana Buddhist site, which would account for some of the grandeur, in contrast to the greater austerity of early Theravada Buddhism.



Fewer opinions foreground its function as Monarchical; although the paws of a great lion one would have had to pass beneath halfway up the rock is one of the ostentatiously palatial structures favouring the notion of a great kingdom. This is supported by popular local myth that Sigirya was configured as the rock fortress of King Kassapa (477-495 AD) after the patricide of his father, the king of Anuradhapura a little to the north.



However, there is no ignoring many signs of religious accommodation; consequently the either/or debate doesn’t do a thing for me. I’d much rather read the this and that of all I saw, particularly in view of how the kingdoms of Sri Lanka have been founded on a patronage of Buddhism which, reciprocally, has been used to reinforce imperial power. On the other hand, through the ebb and flow of influence and utility, there may have been times when a largely monastic function superseded its imperial role, and vice versa



There are suggestions that the rock was inhabited in pre-historic times, something highly likely given the natural caves, crevices and overhangs that are to be found everywhere over the surface of this magma plug from an extinct volcano; for unless this land was completely uninhabited by human life, it would only be a branch of hominid headed for extinction that could not see the many benefits of dwelling here. Why the civilization fell, whatever its form was, must also remain shrouded in mystery, since the rock at several levels would have been unassailable to sheer military tactics and might.



After all of this contentious speculation, I became more intrigued by the incredibly beautiful and well preserved murals on the rock face half way up, and inaccessible without the aid of modern steel scaffolding. A stretch of steel walkway along the rock face opens onto a natural courtyard where the great lions paws mark the pathway to the final ascent to the summit. It’s in this courtyard that several signs warn visitors to remain silent to prevent wasp attacks. A large, finely meshed cage is available as a citadel should an attack occur; and they do on average about once per year.






Pressure had been mounting for several years to exterminate the wasps for the safety of the tourists. Conservationists resisted. The locals protested based on their belief that these wasps were the reincarnated army of King Kassapa and that they were here to protect the remains of the kingdom.



Business is business and the extermination lobby won; all the nests were destroyed four or five years ago. The following year a curious thing happened. One of the custodians noticed an infestation of insects beginning to eat away at the beautiful murals that had survived two-thousand years. It didn’t take long for experts to realize that the natural predators of the insects were the wasps that had become such a threat to noisy tourists. King Kassapa’s reincarnated army protecting the old kingdom? Mmmmm! The wasps have now returned and the murals are safe again, as is the peace of Sigirya; and if noisy tourists don’t respect it? Well, you can count on the wasps.



It’s a lovely little story of equilibrium as a natural principle; and it informs for me the correction of global destruction by unbridled greed—like the money grubbers at the gates of Sigirya—that needs to take place if civilizations are to survive. It seems to me that the revolutionary hordes of the Arab Spring and the Occupy protesters in the West are like the wasps of Sigirya. There has been a persistent effort at exterminating the spirit of the masses, but equilibrium will out. It seems a natural correction.




Could it be that we—the 99%—are a reincarnation of a collective-unconscious, acting as a single organism, like the wasps of Sigirya, that has at last been awakened by the noise and destruction of Capitalists behaving as if they are merely privileged tourists objectifying the globe, rather than being of it? We are now attending to the simple, but not easy act of listening to the earth out of which images are shaped; the ground beneath our feet that bore the weight of lives lived in pain, and grief, and hope, and joy, and victory and oppression. It’s an interesting thought as we all huddle and then swarm from our hives of activity.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The "Occupy" Movement Before the Rising Tide: "Witnessing"

Terence Stone

The Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement are about social justice; but even before anybody seems ready to call for the specifics of change, we talk, reflect and find periods of stillness. It’s not inertia or lack of specific purpose that characterizes the Movement's activity at this time. The people who have mobilized are, at the same time as they are protesting, doing intuitively what functional cultures have done forever—"witnessing". The unspoken call to “witness”—to witness all we have become so wilfully blind to know—precedes the real rising of the tide.



What are the edges of injustices we’ve come to observe through a television screen or movie lens like a gunner through a gun-sight? What are the deeper injustices filtered by the media? What does it mean to really go beyond observing and grasp firmly the edges of knowing and hence understanding?



An economist and his investment-banker wife recently argued with me that the last 50 years has been the most peaceful period globally in the entire history of the human race. They both believed it, looking as they choose through the gun-sight of targeted profitability after the bombing is done.



It’s not easy—witnessing—when we’re out of the habit. In fact most of us have become downright cowards. I’ve found too often my own inclination to turn away, but decided to take my first lesson from eleven-year-old Avjit Halder who was born into, and raised in, a Calcutta brothel (Born into Brothels, 2003). He faces a haunting photograph of a veiled woman and addresses his Western entourage: “This is a good picture. We get a good sense of how these people live; and though there is sadness in it, and though it’s hard to face, we must look at it, because it is truth.” Raised in circumstances that would be difficult for us to imagine, this child, given the opportunity to turn away does exactly the opposite—he turns to face and "witness" what he sees,“because it is truth”.



Arundhati Roy who wrote the masterpiece, The God of Small Things, shunned the cushy life that fame and fortune could have brought her. Instead, she deliberately rejected it all in favour of agitating for justice in her beloved India. She has fought the abuses of Monsanto, GE, Enron, her own government’s occupation of Kashmir, displacement of the indigenous Adivasis and Dalits (untouchables, or “those who are broken”) because it was the right thing to do. The advice she gives in this time of blindness is first of all to ritually witness: “Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget”. (“The End of Imagination”).