True North Humanist Perspective - March 2015

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A Jew reports from Israel
By Lia Tarachansky
Writer Director, On The Side Of The Road
Jaffa, Israel

I am an Israeli at a time of . . . A time of . . . Full force assault on Gaza. I forget I am human. I do not live under occupation. I do not live under siege. But I am human. How do I know? I do not report the names of the dead anymore. Now I count them by dozens. Like fruit. A long line of scratched out numbers on my pages. Listed in order of importance. Dead. Injured. Destroyed.

Here, people sit at coffee shops and eat cake. I am human. How do I know? Chain smoking. Always looking south. Being afraid of birds because they cut through the sky too fast. The sirens follow the rockets, not the other way around. I tried to find a bomb shelter. I tried to get footage. My fingers shook too hard. I have a long list of scratched out numbers on my pages. People are sitting at coffee shops eating cake. Four days ago - 18. Today - 167. Maybe more. Zero on "our side". Whole homes, families evaporated. A mist of blood and dust and rubble in Gaza. Journalists are asking me how to get the scoop. People are sitting at coffee shops eating cake. The streets are burning with chants of "death to Arabs". The paper arrived. It says Arabs die because they want to die. For the Muqawama. Struggle. The spokespeople are awake.

"The goal of the film, was to reach past language, nationality, religion, politics, and speak to the inner viewer." - Mark Magidson, Producer, Baraka (1993)

I have always been fascinated with the power of silence in conveying complex, political ideas. In particular, two moments illuminated in my mind that this is indeed the question I want to pursue in my studies. The first came while watching the 2010 film También la lluvia (Even the Rain), directed by Icíar Bollaín and written by Paul Laverty, the writer of many of Ken Loach’s films. The idea of the film came from historian Howard Zinn’s monumental book The People’s History of the United States and tells the story of Colombus’ colonization of Latin America in the context of neo-colonialism by multinational corporations which led to the Cochabamba Water Wars of 2000.

 It is in many ways a remarkably complex film-within-a-film, weaving together the story of a movie crew that came to shoot a movie about Columbus, all the while documenting the process of the filmmaking itself.  As the production faces various challenges, massive protests against the privatization of water break out, dragging the crew into the heat of the people’s struggle for control over resources.

The film, which does not utilize the economy of dialogue by too often preaching instead of showing, has one powerful moment, where the main character, an ambitious and seemingly apolitical film producer played by renown Spanish actor Luis Tosar looks out into the chaos on the streets of the Bolivian capital, and in a slow silent moment suddenly makes a connection between the colonialism he came to portray and the corporate neo-colonialism of privatizing the nation’s water, including the rain.

The second moment came as I sat in the Cinematheque Tel Aviv at the premiere of my own documentary, On The Side Of The Road last November. As I looked back from my seat at the faces in the crowd, watching a film that has taken me five years to make and which changed the entire course of my life, I realized I had made the same mistake as Laverty. My film was more or less dialogue wall-to-wall. I had tackled such an enormous subject – the biggest taboo in Israeli society, the atrocities of the war that created the state and displaced two thirds of the Palestinians from their homeland – that the only way I could find to tell what I wanted to convey is by telling it. One narration-filled shot after another. But for me, the most profound moment in making the film happened in 2010 as I returned home from a particularly devastating interview with Amnon Noiman, the central character in my film. (More)


The horror of Harper's Me-Too foreign policy

Why is the West spoiling for a fight with Russia?

A conflict over the Ukraine would be catastrophic

06 March 2015
What are the consequences when elected governments make policy based on faith and imperial hubris instead of science and expertise? It's a question that is forcing itself on the world as we watch the United States, Britain, NATO and the Harper government continue to up the ante in the confrontation with Russia over the Ukraine. There are real enough geo-political dangers in the world without actually creating them out of arrogance and ignorance but that is where we are right now and the consequences could be catastrophic. (More)










While Washington pivots to Asia/Pacific

China pivots everywhere, inside and out

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.

20 February 2015

By Pepe Escobar

The world’s leading economy is on a roll as it enters a new year in the Chinese zodiac. Welcome to the Year of the Sheep. Or Goat. Or Ram. Or, technically, the Green Wooden Sheep (or Goat).

Even the best Chinese linguists can’t agree on how to translate it into English. Who cares?

The hyper-connected average Chinese – juggling among his five smart devices (smartphones, tablets, e-readers) – is bravely advancing a real commercial revolution. In China (and the rest of Asia) online transactions are now worth twice the combined value of transactions in the US and Europe.

As for the Middle Kingdom as a whole, it has ventured much further than the initial proposition of producing cheap goods and selling them to the rest of the planet, virtually dictating the global supply chain.

Now Made in China is going global. No less than 87 Chinese enterprises are among the Fortune Global 500 – their global business booming as they take stakes in an array of overseas assets.

Transatlantic trade? That’s the past. The wave of the future is Trans-Pacific trade as Asia boasts 15 of the world’s top twenty container ports (with China in pride of place with Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou). (More)


Russian policy wins support from Europe's left and right

Is Greece now becoming a new Russian satellite state?

The Kremlin’s strategy of supporting the far left and the far right, playing on resentment of Berlin and Brussels, is bearing fruit.

27 February 2015

By David Patrikarakos

ATHENS — Just above a designer clothes shop on a main road in downtown Athens, Ukraine’s crisis has come to Greece. While customers browse expensive dresses and high-heeled shoes below, two floors up volunteers pack boots and thermal underwear into boxes to send to Ukrainian soldiers fighting a war just under 2,000 miles away.

But the Ukrainian Diaspora of Greece Volunteers: from Greece with Love is not so well-loved in Greece, in fact. This is a country whose sympathies very largely lie with Moscow and whose new left-wing government is positively cosy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Maria,” a volunteer who declines to give her real name, is blunt: “In Greece the media always talks about the conflict as a civil war. There is no mention of Russian involvement whatsoever,” she says. “Nor is there any real mention of the Russian equipment and weapons flowing to the separatists. In fact the only mention of weapons is the discussion of the inevitability of the U.S. supplying weapons and special forces to the Ukrainian army.” (More)


08 February 2015

Le Pen says Washington attempting to start ‘war in Europe’

The leader of France’s rightwing Front National (FN), Marine Le Pen, has called Brussels “American lackeys” over the EU's Ukraine policy. She further accused Washington of attempting to start a “war in Europe” and expand NATO towards Russia’s borders.

"European capitals do not have the wisdom to refuse to be dependent on US positions on Ukraine," Le Pen told French journalists on Sunday 08 February.

"Regarding Ukraine, we behave like American lackeys," she said, before warning that “the aim of the Americans is to start a war in Europe to push NATO to the Russian border." (More)


01 March 2015

Who Would Arming Ukraine Actually Empower?

By Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept

It’s easy to forget that just two years ago, President Obama was determined to bomb Syria and remove the Assad regime, and U.S. establishment institutions were working to lay the groundwork for that campaign. NPR began dutifully publishing reports from anonymous U.S. officials that Syria had stockpiled large amounts of chemical weapons; the NYT was reporting that Obama was “increasing aid to the rebels and redoubling efforts to rally a coalition of like-minded countries to forcibly bring down” Assad; Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced that forced removal of Assad was “a matter of national security” and “a matter of the credibility of the United States of America.”

Those opposed to the anti-Assad “regime change” bombing campaign argued that while some of the rebellion was composed of ordinary Syrians, the “rebels” the U.S. would arm and empower (i.e., the only effective anti-Assad fighters) were actually violent extremists and even terrorists aligned with Al Qaeda and worse. The people arguing that were invariably smeared as Assad apologists because this happened to be the same argument Assad was making: that the most effective fighters against him were jihadis and terrorists.

But that argument in D.C. was quickly converted from taboo into conventional wisdom the moment it was needed to justify U.S. involvement in Syria. The U.S. is now bombing Syria, of course, but rather than fighting against Assad, the Syrian dictator is (once again) America’s ally and partner. The rationale for the U.S. bombing campaign is the same one Assad long invoked: that those fighting against him are worse than he is because they are aligned with Al Qeada and ISIS (even though the U.S. funded and armed those factions for years and their closest allies in the region continue to do so).

A similar dynamic is at play in Russia and Ukraine. Yesterday, Obama’s top national security official, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, told a Senate Committee “that he supports arming Ukrainian forces against Russian-backed separatists,” as the Washington Post put it. The U.S. has already provided “non-lethal” aid to Ukrainian forces, and Obama has said he is now considering arming them. Who, exactly, would that empower?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long said that the Ukrainian coup of last year, and the subsequent regime in Kiev, is driven by ultra-nationalists, fascists, and even neo-Nazi factions. The Russian TV outlet RT also frequently refers to “the active role far-right groups have played on the pro-government side in Ukraine since the violent coup of the last year.”

For that reason, anyone pointing out that arming the regime in Kiev would strengthen fascists and neo-Nazis is instantly accused of being a Putin propagandist: exactly like those arguing that the best anti-Assad fighters were al-Qaeda-affiliated were accused of being Assad propagandists (until that became the official position of the US Government). U.S. media accounts invariably depict the conflict in Ukraine as a noble struggle waged by the freedom-loving, pro-west democrats in Kiev against the oppressive, aggressive “Russian-backed” separatists in the east.

But just as was true in Syria: while some involved in the Ukrainian coup were ordinary Ukrainians fighting against a corrupt and oppressive regime, these claims about the fascist thugs leading the fight for the Kiev government are actually true. Writing in Foreign Policy from eastern Ukraine last August, Alec Luhn observed: (More)


Russia’s largest Jewish organization has condemned the authorities of Ukraine, Baltic nations and Moldova over their official line of support to persons and groups known for close cooperation with Nazi Germany and crimes against humanity during WWII.

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR) approved the resolution ‘Against reviewing the result of the Second World War’ on Friday.

In this document, the leaders of the Russian Jewry againnoted that the current regime in Kiev was portraying as heroes and liberators the OUN-UPA group (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists – Ukrainian Insurgents’ Army), regardless of the fact that its members had only gained notoriety by killing thousands of civilians over their ethnic roots, mostly Jews and Poles.

FJCR delegates drew attention to the actions of the authorities of the Baltic countries who "made heroes of former SS officers." (More)


Randy and Janis Ray

suffer Florida heat

  Image: Photo of Clermont Florida home of Janice and Randy Ray.  
  Thanks to Janis and Randy Ray for sharing their pleasure at their Clermont, Florida, home 1 March 2015. After all, sharing is what friendship is all about. Randy took the photo. Janis couldn't leave the swimming pool even for this photo op. Too hot. They promise to bring the heat with them when they return to Ottawa on or about 1 April 2015.  

From Duff, with love

Image: Photo of Randy Ray at Universal Studios in Florida.
Randy Ray has a rest during his out-and-about at Florida's Universal Studios Friday March 06 2015. Randy says, 'A "Good time was had by all. Cloudy day. Not crowded. Amazing attractions."


It's not the humidity, it's the heat

'It's hard work being famous!'

  Image: Photo of Janice Ray in Lakeland, Florida on Friday, March 13, 2015. Photo by Randy Ray.  
Janis Ray just had to leave her outdoor swimming pool to find some shade in Lakeland, Florida. She was able to dodge the talent scouts for a couple of hours. 'I wish they would find a way to shorten those contracts. Just too many words to read on hundreds of pages. I look forward to escaping back to Ottawa in a couple of weeks so that I can find the peace of mind to make up my mind. It's hard work being famous.' — Image Lucky Friday 13 March 2015  by Ace Photographer Randy Ray.