Sunday, November 2, 2014

"UNFREE in Palestine" -- A most important new book for all who study national liberations

http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745325279

UNFREE in Palestine
-- Registration, Documentation and Movement Restrictions
By Nadia Abu-Zahra and Adah Kay
PlutoPress, 2013, pp. 222

Book reviewed by Denis G. Rancourt, PhD


The new book by academics Nadia Abu-Zahra and Adah Kay is a brilliant achievement, and a landmark in the study of both the ongoing Israel genocide in Palestine [1], and national liberation struggles in general.

At first look the book is simply a well-researched academic treatise, with 693 endnotes, about administrative controls imposed on Palestinians by Israel. It is written in a sober style with great intellectual clarity.

As one enters its pages, however, UNFREE becomes a far reaching analysis of the mechanics of a colonial state's eradication and domination of an indigenous population, that has parallels in other modern states such as Canada [2]. And it becomes an incisive description of the psychological and cultural anatomy of the awe-inspiring Palestinian resistance.

The unstated lessons of this book are transportable to any colonial nation state, and the picture is one that exposes the vicious nature of colonialism in the institutional instruments that are used. Despite the balanced and academic approach of the authors, readers will be horrified to learn the minutia of  what Palestinian citizens continue to endure in "the only democracy in the Middle East", and to learn the history of Israel's colonialism through the lens of administrative controls.

How has and does Israel contravene international law? Let us count the ways...

... the Hague Regulations, the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Fourth Geneva Convention, various United Nations Resolutions, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

These legal documents run parallel to another story – that of the largest denationalisation project in modern history. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees describes Palestine as “by far the most protracted and largest of all refugee problems in the world today”.2 In Palestine, the tools of the census, the population registry, and residence permits effectively denationalised a nation. It is one of the greatest ironies that, as nationalism faded in Europe, it waxed in the Zionist movement to Palestine, and as international law opposed denationalisation, denationalisation in Palestine rose ever higher. [p. 20]

One of the most profound chapters in UNFREE is the one entitled "Coercion and Collaboration" (Chap. 4). The authors recognize that colonialists always depend on collaborators, and that any colonialist enterprise must implement a strategy for securing collaboration. Israel's methods to coerce Palestinians to become collaborators in its genocide are violations of the explicit language of international statutes, and are inhuman, as the facts presented demonstrate. The authors always summarize by understating, such as:

The pressure to collaborate is one of the most difficult demands on Palestinians who either need IDs or need to retrieve them. This pressure permeates and is instrumental to the perpetuation of the system of control. [p. 83]

At times, the explicit descriptions of documented Israeli war and occupation crimes overpowers any human reader, such as:

In the first decade after 1948, “curfews became the most common method of controlling Palestinians”.68 Perhaps the best-known incident in this period took place in 1956, in the village of Kafr Qassem. The Israeli army gave only a half hour’s notice to the village leader that a curfew would take effect at sunset. With no way of telling the villagers returning home at dusk, the villagers were surprised to be confronted by armed forces asking if they were from the village. When they said “yes”, 47 men, women, and children were shot dead, one by one, at close range, in the first hour of the curfew alone.69

Defending the premeditated massacre, Brigadier Shadmi had told his forces, “A dead man is better than the complications of detention”. Shadmi and his men eventually served short prison sentences, were formally pardoned, and then promoted to leading roles in Palestinian municipalities and the Dimona nuclear facilities.70 [p. 106]

There are descriptions of routine Israeli interferences with births, and with Palestinian health services in general:

Médecins du Monde reported in November 2003 that Israeli officials had been holding birth delivery kits at the airport for seven months (sent by the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA). The Ministry of Health in Nablus had been waiting for these kits since February 2003. In 2002, when Palestinian needs were greatest after Israeli attacks, Israeli officials at the airport kept medicines for eight months – until one third of them had expired – that had been sent from Germany, the US, and Italy to the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees.23 [p. 129]

Some of the introductory summaries to chapters are among the most compelling academic statements on the treatment of Palestinians by Israel, such as:

In the spring of 2002, yellow and purple blossoms covered the fields and trees around Jenin, a Palestinian town named for the fertility of its earth, and known for the largest forested area in the West Bank. But that spring, the forest had a different use. Israeli army forces were sweeping through the West Bank, taking over 8,500 Palestinians from their homes and workplaces and holding them captive in makeshift camps. Around Jenin, the army separated the men aged between about 18 to 50 from the children, women, and older men; then they took the men to the forest: handcuffed, blindfolded, in their underwear; they were forced to kneel or squat in the cold mud, and denied blankets, food, and water.1

Soldiers had written the ID numbers on Palestinians’ wrists with blue ink.2 Then each man was photographed, interrogated with the use of a digital file containing details about his life, and had his ID number written on the back of the photo. Using plastic shackles – described by Amnesty International as a form of torture because they stop blood circulation and cut into the skin – to bind captives’ hands, they blindfolded them, and kept them, “squatting, sitting or kneeling, not allowed to go to the toilet, and deprived of food or blankets during at least the first 24 hours”.3
Majdi Shehadeh was one of over 600 Palestinians taken from Tulkarem refugee camp:

"We weren’t given any food, and when we asked for water they poured it over us. The handcuffs were tight and when the blindfolds were taken off on our arrival I saw some people with hands black and swollen.4"

By 3.30 a.m. they began to shake with cold. Elsewhere, in the Ramallah area, so many Palestinians were taken that the army forced them into a dried-up septic tank for lack of space in the prisons.5 After a day and a half, they were given their first food:

[F]or 10 people we got a tomato and an apple and we shared this. Every six people had a loaf of bread, but a very small one and 200 grams of yoghurt.6

From 1967 to 2006, Israel incarcerated almost 700,000 Palestinians, that is, nearly one-fifth of the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza.7

[...]

Harvard professor Sara Roy, whose father carried an identification number imprinted on his arm in the Second World War, was one of those who noticed the connections between these so-called bureaucratic elements during the 2002 mass arrests:

"[W]hat does it mean when Israeli soldiers paint identification numbers on Palestinian arms; when young Palestinian men and boys of a certain age are told through Israeli loudspeakers to gather in the town square; when Israeli soldiers openly admit to shooting Palestinian children for sport; when some of the Palestinian dead must be buried in mass graves while the bodies of others are left in city streets and camp alleyways because the army will not allow proper burial; when certain Israeli officials and Jewish intellectuals publicly call for the destruction of Palestinian villages in retaliation for suicide bombings or for the transfer of the Palestinian population out of the West Bank and Gaza; when 46 per cent of the Israeli public favors such transfers and when transfer or expulsion becomes a legitimate part of popular discourse; when government officials speak of the “cleansing of the refugee camps”; and when a leading Israeli intellectual calls for hermetic separation between Israelis and Palestinians in the form of a Berlin Wall, caring not whether the Palestinians on the other side of the wall may starve to death as a result.10" [p. 160, 161]

Finally, a most fascinating section of UNFREE explains the Palestinian spirit and culture of resistance that is termed "sumud". The following sequence of quotes from UNFREE constitutes a description of sumud:

"We Palestinians have learned to lose without being defeated.30" [p. 172]

Sumud is [...] described by Edward Said as “a way of turning presence into small-scale obduracy”,33 in which sheer presence constitutes resistance; it contradicts “the natural behavior expected ... exodus and leaving”.34 [p. 172]

The internationalisation of the term sumud is attributed to Shehadeh, who explains that, faced with the two options of “mute submission” or “blind hate”, he would choose the third: sumud.35 [p. 173]

People in difficult conditions like Hani Amer often refer to their children, their families, and all people suffering collectively, as reasons for staying in place. [p. 173]

[Quoting Anthropologist Rema Hammami:]

"In terms of the society’s self-image, this is a society that for more than fifty years has lived in a constant state of dispossession. [It is] an incremental dispossession: it goes on, and on, and on. And the society is extremely strong in terms of survival, in terms of survival strategies. It’s very proud of that as well.

I mean, I think the self-image that most Palestinians have – we all have of ourselves – is that, “We are constant losers. We’re just people, and we just lose all the time. And we lose, but you know what? At the end of the day, they are not going to win. Because we’re stubborn. We’re stubborn bastards, right. I got nowhere else to go. This is my home. They can do what the hell they want. But I’m staying”.41" [p. 174]

Thus, sumud is a powerful and foundational explanation of the phenomenal Palestinian resistance. Sumud is a psychological alternative to suicidal physical resistance against a vastly more powerful invader, and to fleeing or accepting death. This alternative is made possible by being culturally embedded, and the feasibility of sumud is consistent with the "self-image-incongruence model of individual health" that I have recently described, based on known socio-medical research [3].

There is one aspect of UNFREE with which I do not agree. In their final chapter, the authors cast sumud as a technique of non-violent resistance. I do not see why the cultural and psychological basis for sumud would have to be inconsistent with a resistance that includes armed self-defence.

In other words, there is no reason, in my view, that sumud is at odds with an armed intifada. Indeed, it seems to me that sumud and armed rebellion are natural partners and supporters of each other, and that neither can survive without the other.

This is important because it is becoming more-than-apparent that nothing short of physical force on the ground will stop Israel in its "cleansing" and "grass mowing" projects. Certainly sumud alone, no matter how noble and admirable, is no match for years and decades more of business as usual in Palestine. Applying the myth of pacifism as a realistic counter to a genocidal maniac nation such as Israel would only ensure the murder of Palestinian society.

Nonetheless, that is a minor interpretational aspect, and UNFREE, will be of great benefit to anyone interested in the truth about the so-called "Israel-Palestine conflict", or interested in resistance struggles in history and in colonized regions (everywhere).


Endnotes

This review was first published at Dissident Voice, HERE.

[1] Note: The authors of UNFREE do not qualify Israel colonialism as a "genocide". It is not their goal to establish any legal judgements, but rather solely to factually describe the historic realities on the ground.

[2] See: Rancourt, Denis G., Israel’s Attempted Genocide Must Fail -- Lessons from genocide in "Canada", Dissident Voice, August 2, 2014.

[3] See: Rancourt, Denis G., Self-Image-Incongruence Theory of Individual Health, Dissident Voice, October 26, 2014.

Dr. Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Self-Image-Incongruence Theory of Individual Health


By Denis G. Rancourt


Here, I propose a unifying model of individual health [1]. My other exploratory reports about the causes of ill-health include: [2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9].

This article was first published on October 26, 2014, at Dissident Voice [LINK].


Introductory background: Dominance-aggression-stress model of individual health

One of the most satisfying and penetrating models of individual health in animal communities is the model that can be said to have been clearly described in Sapolsky's 2005 review [10]. In this model -- supported by behavioral observations, bio-chemical measurements, physiological evaluations, and correlational studies --  dominance-hierarchy stress on a low-stratum individual directly affects the immune system, which makes the individual more susceptible to ill-health from infections, cancer, and hearth and other diseases.

A compelling body of work in this area has shown a direct link between being subjected to acts of dominance aggression and a negative impact on the individual's immune system, as measured by blood bio-chemical markers. Thus, in human populations, socioeconomic status is found to be the dominant predictor of individual health, far outranking differences of access to resources or differences in lifestyle. (This is contrary to the mainstream policy mantras about healthy lifestyles and healthy consumer choices. These public policy proscriptions do not survive scientific scrutiny.)

There is also a wide spectrum of individual-to-individual immune-system responses (or negative health consequences) for the same degree of dominance aggression. This large variability is inferred from the data to occur from "psychosocial factors" related to the individual's own perception or feeling of self-worth ("feeling poor"); and, again, is shown to not be due to differences of access to resources or to differences in lifestyle [10].

For example, low-strata individuals in more stratified societies (with larger income inequalities) are less healthy than low-strata individuals in less stratified societies, for the same access to resources and services.

Overall, these findings led researchers to propose that the individual's status in the dominance hierarchy of the society is the dominant health determinant -- via the metabolic immune-system's response to stressors -- but that the impact on the particular individual's health is also heavily modulated by that individual's "perception" of his/her/its social status or feeling of self-worth.

In summary, the above-described "dominance-aggression-stress model of individual health" proposes that individual health is predicted by a kind of "product" (O*P) of the objective social status (O) of the individual and the subjective (or perceived) social status (P) of the individual, in the dominance hierarchy [11].


Weakness of the dominance-aggression-stress model of individual health

Despite its basis in observations and its unifying capacity, the dominance-aggression-stress model suffers from conceptual difficulties, from a deficit of theoretical elegance.

If "O" alone is not determinant of individual health, then why should we believe that it is the actual physical and circumstantial events of dominance aggression against the individual that directly cause the stress and immune-system consequences? After all, "stress" is an internal metabolic reaction that does not follow a simple causal law, as does a reflex.

Likewise, if perceived status (P) is an important -- sometimes dominant -- modulating factor, then is that not simply too much of an arbitrary "fudge factor", in that "perception" itself is a complex phenomenon modulated by the individual's entire history and current physiological state, and by situational illusions?

Furthermore, "P" cannot be measured because it is subjective and not separately quantifiable, thus making the model untestable, a most undesirable feature of any model.


Proposed self-image-incongruence model of individual health

Here is an alternative model, which is also consistent with all the data. This model is based on a more holistic psychological model of the individual, and avoids the requirement for a product of factors in defining the final (dominant) determinant of individual health.

For the sake of clear exposition, I start by postulating without proof that an individual animal in a dominance hierarchy is constantly preoccupied with self-evaluation of its status within the dominance hierarchy; that is, preoccupied with its self-image that is predominantly about how it is recognized by others and its place "in the world".

I postulate that this is a continuous and consuming activity, and that the individual animal is predominantly concerned with evaluating and securing its status in the society, a status which is necessarily changing -- as individuals age, as power alliances evolve, as mating targets change, as the habitat changes, and so on.

The individual's self-image must largely concur with the evolving reality, as a question of survival. "Consciousness" itself is largely a project of maintaining awareness of status. The "Ego" requires constant attention, and consumes a large fraction of the individual's metabolic energy. (In humans, the brain consumes approximately 20% of metabolic energy, although it comprises only some 2% of body mass.)

As long, as the individual's self-image is consistent with the reality of the individual's place within the society's dominance hierarchy, and as long as the self-image adapts to the changing circumstances, things are fine. The individual has assigned-and-acknowledged purpose and meaning.

The problem (leading to deleterious health consequences) occurs when there is an identity incongruence that cannot easily be internally or externally resolved. Something changes: a "life-changing" event occurs that throws the individual into a "self-image crisis".

Such events are frequent and varied in intensity. There is a full spectrum of possible events that range from requiring only minor adjustments in self-image, or that cause minor identity incongruences that can be overlooked, to events that throw the individual into a debilitating self-image or identity crisis.

Examples of events on the spectrum of "life-changing" events include:
  • having one's expressed position or belief challenged, when that is usually infrequent
  • being made fun of at work, when that is not the norm
  • being reprimanded by a supervisor, when that is usually infrequent
  • being socially mobbed as undesirable, as a new development
  • being disproportionately targeted by authorities (such as a well-meaning and unintentional whistleblower) 
  • being "unfairly" treated by an institution, when one expects fair treatment
  • loosing one's family status (due to a birth, or divorce, and so on)
  • losing one's middle-class status
  • losing one's working-class status
  • losing one's citizen status
  • being shunned and expelled from one's religious community
  • being criminalized, when that possibility was not likely
When such events occur that cause incongruence between self-image and reality, there is a primal psycho-metabolic reaction, there is "stress", and the individual's primary task becomes to resolve the (micro or macro) identity crisis.

The resolution can be external. That is, the resolution can be achieved through the individual's actions to change the external circumstances, to change the world.

To the degree that action is possible, undertaken, and successful, the deleterious effects on health are minimized. The individual will typically seek to reestablish his/her status, without overhauling his/her self-image, for which there would be a tremendous cost.

Regarding the said cost, "depression" and "burnout" may, in many cases, be the required meltdowns that accompany overhauling one's self-image, in the face of impossibility to achieve successful action to change the world. As such, a given depression can be successful or it can be a failure. It is successful if a satisfactory new self-image is achieved that is consistent with the individual's new reality. (In this model, clearly, medicating-away the symptoms of depression -- by self-medicating or via medical-establishment prescriptions -- is the worst possible avenue for the individual.)

The actions used by the individual to attempt to reestablish identity congruence can include:
  • arguing with one's critic, or attempting to intimidate critics
  • avoiding critics, and avoiding groups that include critics
  • taking recourse against abusers, or against unfair supervisors
  • changing one's behaviours in attempts to secure acceptance
  • attacking the ring-leaders of mobbing groups
  • seeking support from new circles, and outside associations
  • going to the next level in the hierarchy to seek redress
  • seeking the help of a different institution, such as an ombudsman or an elected official
  • creating a new family
  • seeking re-employment
  • joining a new religion, or community, or sect, or gang
  • voluntary isolation and evasion or avoidance, including using psycho-active substances and repulsive behaviours
  • suicide
During the entire identity or self-image incongruence crisis, the individual is suffering the most impact to its immune system and is most vulnerable to negative health consequences, including coronary heart disease and cancer, the two predominant causes of death in First World nations. Coronary heart disease, infectious diseases and pulmonary infections are the dominant causes of death in Third World countries. For all the dominant causes of death, immune system response is the main protection.

During the entire self-image incongruence crisis, the individual's metabolic thrust and energy is dedicated to resolving the crisis. There is an existential imbalance of the highest order. The resulting "stress" can be fruitfully turned to action, or the action can be thwarted or ineffective. In the case of prevented or failed actions, the "stress" from the self-image incongruence does not dissipate, and suppression of the immune system lingers until the identity crisis is resolved, one way or another.

These are the circumstances -- prolonged and unresolved self-image incongruence -- that create the most devastating consequences on individual health, not to mention individual spirit and morale.

Thus, I propose that the stress of self-image incongruence affects the immune system directly and is the principle cause of ill-health of the individual. In particular, a self-image-incongruence crisis -- brought on by a dramatic change in the individual's social status and that is not successfully being resolved by action -- is all-consuming and throws the individual into a state of high vulnerability to infections, disease, and self-destruction.

Evasive tactics of escapism maintain the crisis, and ill-health itself provides a further barrier to attempting corrective actions. There is a steady-state of precariousness, or a downward spiral towards hospitalization and death, if the crisis is not resolved. Resolution can involve the demanding process of overhauling self-image, possibly aided by a depression "of passage". 

I my model, therefore, it is not the dominance aggressions in themselves that cause immune system weakening, but rather dominance aggressions representing or accompanying a loss of social status of the aggressed individual, relative to its self-image of its social status, that cannot easily be resolved. Thus, the observed correlations in animal studies between biochemically measured stress levels and social rank arises because lower-rank animals are more subjected to challenges to their rank and privileges, and less able to resolve these challenges. Lower-rank animals are more often reminded by dominance aggression that they do not have the priviledges that they see themselves having, and are less equipped to do something about it.

Indeed, for example, my proposal naturally explains why high-rank individuals often also suffer from high stress levels objectively measured by biochemical and physiological indicators [10]:

"In some cases, it is dominant individuals who show this profile. This includes species where dominant individuals have to repeatedly and physically reassert their rank (e.g., feral populations of dwarf mongooses, African wild dogs, female ring-tailed lemurs, and male chimpanzees) (12, 13, 39); those that are cooperative breeders (feral wolves and captive marmosets and tamarins) (16, 21); and those with transient periods of major rank instability (feral baboons and captive populations of talapoin, squirrel, and rhesus monkeys) (22)."

In other words, having to "repeatedly assert rank" is stressful whether the individual is in a high rank or a low rank. In both cases, the dominance-hierarchy aggression challenges the congruence between self-image about social status and actual social status. Of course, a high-rank individual will have more possible avenues of effective action to resolve the said incongruence, thus contributing to preserving the correlation between rank and health.

From the perspective of species survival, the individual suffering from a debilitating identity crisis may as well die. One could argue that from an evolutionary standpoint the downward spiral that can lead to the individual's death is a mechanism to rid the community of a burden. It is also possible that depression and temporary illnesses are tools developed through evolution to help repair massive identity crises, to bring the individual back into the fold.

As an aside, in human societies, my model implies that mass media and institutional indoctrination which set high societal status expectations can induce increased self-image incongruence, thereby reducing public health. If "comparison with the Jones" is amplified by mass media, including advertizing and the entertainment industry, then self-image incongruence can be created en masse and the health consequences can take on epidemic proportions.


Conclusion

If we accept that conscious living beings rely on self-image about social status and place in the world for decision making in view of survival and reproduction, then this self-image must be maintained in order to be dynamically congruent with the changing world, and with any changes in social status of the individual.

Furthermore, self-image must be strongly imbedded onto the individual because it is necessary for decision making and because identity must be quasi-permanent to ensure continuity of the communal structure. Perpetuated or stable self-image of the individual is necessary for any stable social structure.

Likewise, normal development must include development of a strong self-image congruent with reality, or the individual will suffer a constant background identity crisis that will impede its health and its integration in the dominance hierarchy, until development is achieved.

Thus, a crisis of self-image congruency (induced by a major change in social environment) is a major episode affecting the individual at a deep and all-consuming psycho-metabolic level. Such a crisis must be resolved. Otherwise, the individual is effectively paralyzed by having lost its internal decisional reference.

I have proposed that individual health is determined by self-image congruency, rather than the life aggressions themselves in a dominance hierarchy, and that intensity and duration of self-image incongruency -- intensity of the identity crisis -- is the overriding risk factor for succumbing to ill-health and death.
My model places personal psychology as the dominant ingredient of the health sphere, and is anchored on known impacts of experienced stress on the immune system.


Endnotes

[1] I have greatly benefited from interactions with graduate research students working in the area of public health theory. With one student, I had the benefit of discussions about her data from voluntary research participants, and its interpretation.

[2] Rancourt, Denis G., Two Authors that Medical Schools Avoid, Activist Teacher, September 22, 2013.

[3] Rancourt, Denis G., Do medical doctors improve health?, Activist Teacher, September 9, 2013.

[4] Rancourt, Denis G., On the individual psychology of food: Against calorie management, Activist Teacher, August 30, 2012.

[5] Rancourt, Denis G., A Theory of Chronic Pain -- A social and evolutionary theory of human disease and chronic pain, Dissident Voice, December 26, 2011.

[6] Rancourt, Denis G., Why should I trust a doctor with my body?, Activist Teacher, November 24, 2011.

[7] Rancourt, Denis G., Is establishment medicine an injurious scam?, Activist Teacher, November 21, 2011.

[8] Rancourt, Denis G., On the sociology of medical meta-science: Exposing the Truth supports the Lie, Activist Teacher, November 16, 2011.

[9] Rancourt, Denis G.,  Anti-smoking culture is harmful to health - On the truth problem of public health management, Activist Teacher, April 5, 2011.

[10] Sapolsky, Robert M., The Influence of Social Hierarchy on Primate Health, Science 29 April 2005: Vol. 308 no. 5722 pp. 648-652, DOI: 10.1126/science.1106477

[11] Mathematically, one can visualize this as the function of dominance-aggression intensity versus time "convoluted" with the function of perception response to the dominance-aggression events versus time, with the convolution function integrated over the life-time of the individual to produce the final individual health determinant factor, or individual's "health state" at present (at time to which the integration is performed).


Dr. Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Canada's CBC is adamant on being worthless -- Canada's war against the Syrian people


Canada is engaged in a new war in Syria and Iraq, in addition to its war in Afghanistan, and the CBC simply will not provide the Canadian public with any balanced reporting about facts on the ground, or any actual reporting. Just look at the retarded headlines being featured in this time of war: CBC-link.

The whole World can see what is immediately obvious to any objective reader of the verifiable evidence:

http://www.veteranstoday.com/2014/09/13/obamas-isis-project-is-nothing-but-a-pretext-to-murder-and-destroy-syrian-society/

Yet, the CBC insists on being irrelevant and refuses to cover the most glaring facts on the ground.

At the very least, some anchor could say "Press TV reports that", and then spend some resources looking into it. Here is today's glaring example:



Good job CBC. All who work at the state corporation can be proud.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Response to Tim Moen's response on the nature of politics


By Denis G. Rancourt, PhD

This blogpost is a response to Libertarian Party of Canada leader Tim Moen's October 8, 2014 blogpost entitled "Response to Activist Teacher", which was a response to my blogpost of October 7, 2014, entitled "On what libertarian leader Tim Moen has learned", which was a critique of Tim Mohen's August 26, 2014 blogpost "10 Lessons I Learned Running for Parliament".

The exchange of criticisms and challenges has been cordial and authentic, so I now take the liberty of using a first-names basis.

Tim's closing sentence is 
"I look forward to a continued dialogue with Professor Rancourt in a respectful dialogue that is concerned more with arriving at truth than about propagating a particular world view or conclusion."

Each of my statements, no matter how emphatically expressed, is advanced as a challenge to best test my own developing ideas, or to cause cognitive dissonance in order to enrich the exchange. I admit that in order to achieve these aims of communication, I often use simplifications, generalizations, and exaggerations, but where my goal is always to capture the essence and to dig deeper.

If you can't engage with a libertarian in this way, then who can you have such a conversation with now that Socrates is dead?

In this response, I want to concentrate on the main aspects of Tim's beliefs about the nature of politics, with which I disagree. We cannot both be right, and we may both be wrong.


Some complaints

But before I do that, I want to complain about a few attributions that Tim suggested could reasonably be made about me, as follows.

1. Tim compared my analysis to Chomsky's.

I agree that some of Chomsky's analyses of geopolitics and Chomsky's analysis of the media are brilliant, but I do NOT agree with being compared to Chomsky.

I have written an article entitled "Against Chomsky" explaining why I think Chomsky does more harm than good. In that 2008 article, I propose that Chomsky is what I have called a "service intellectual" and I explain how his view of political activism helps to support the status quo.

In fact, Chomsky's belief about how social change occurs, which I criticize, is closely related to Tim's expressed belief about the mechanism of social change in politics (see below).


2. Tim states: "Rancourt would likely posit that there exists power structures that inform behaviour and control people. He would probably suggest that wealth distribution and corporate power are the root cause of our ills."

Well, I certainly do believe that there are power structures and that these structures "inform behaviour" and exercise control on people. Guilty as charged. However, I do NOT suggest or believe that "wealth distribution and corporate power are the root cause of our ills".


3. Tim states: "What do neo-cons and climate activists have in common? They all have the belief that there is a deficiency of violence being used against individuals that they have strong opinions about, and that if the right amount of violence was used against the right people we would have peace and flourishing. I am not sure if Professor Rancourt subscribes to this theory of peace and flourishing but I am skeptical of it."

I agree with Tim's characterization of neo-cons and climate lobbyists.

My position on climate lobbyists is best expressed in this media interview I gave in 2007, entitled "Questioning Climate Politics - Denis Rancourt says the “global warming myth” is part of the problem". I have gone on to repeatedly bash global warming alarmism in the media as a vehicle to legitimize installing a carbon economy by force, at the service of -- you guessed it -- a certain "power structure". My articles and media interviews on this are listed HERE.

Of course I do NOT "subscribes to this theory of peace and flourishing".

Indeed, I expressed what I believe, and Tim ignored it in his response. Maybe that is the part that Tim finds "an inflammation of abstractions (abstractitis) prevalent here that prevents clear thinking"? Here is what I said (referencing my book):

"Systems spontaneously and mechanically evolve towards heightened hierarchical control, which is delayed and set back when the subjects find strong individual and collective impulses to partially break free. This is a constant historical battle in all human societies. Revolutionary gains towards more freedom and personal agency can be achieved either violently or non-violently, depending on the societal circumstances. The only nexus of resistance and push-back against increasing undemocratic dominance is the individual rebellion of liberation. There is a constant battle between the human impulse to be free and influential on the one hand, and the societal forces to heighten the dominance hierarchy on the other hand."


What Tim believes that I think is incorrect

Beliefs define individual behaviour and government

I think Tim's view that has emerged is as follows:

  • Individuals, whether wage labourers or CEOs of corporation have beliefs. These beliefs determine their actions. These beliefs can be irrational and lead to initializing violence against others or they can be rational libertarian beliefs that lead to respecting the freedoms of others without ever initializing violence.

  • The liberty politician or freedom activist can succeed in helping individuals to acquire rational libertarian beliefs, via inspiration, example, political success, and discourse. If 10% of the population acquires an unshakable belief in liberty concepts then there will be a chain reaction to a majority public opinion in favour of the liberty ideals.

  • Governments, by virtue of politicians needing to be elected, and by virtue of politicians themselves being individuals with beliefs, will follow this new paradigm and society will evolve towards libertarian ideals. Government will shrink of its own making and corporations will voluntarily lose their unfair advantages compared to true free enterprise.

Therefore, Tim argues, it's all about changing wrong beliefs of the individuals into liberty beliefs of the individuals and societal change will follow from that.

The problem with this theory of social change is that it is almost certainly a fantasy. Humans have had approximately one million years of the free market of ideas and there has never been a 10% flipping point of opinion that, on its own, caused an unjust system (yes, a "power structure") to dissolve itself towards human liberty.

This fantasy has many forms, so Tim is not alone.

In one form it is stated as "the pen is mightier than the sword". In this form, the model is that a really good idea about human liberty cannot not propagate, and will ultimately, on its own, overthrow brutal rule by force. Here again, the written word has been around for a very long time, and many great ideas have been penned, but this has not provided humans with liberty.

Another form of this fantasy is the form preferred by the Left and advanced by Chomsky. It goes like this: "We have great ideas and theories that would make the world more just. Therefore, we must "educate" the public about our ideas. The answer is education. We must "organize" to "educate" more and more. Teach-ins, sit-ins, documentary films, speakers, university courses, etc. A thus informed public will vote wisely and will expect accountability from politicians."

Another variant of the fantasy on the Left is known as pacifism or "non-violent resistance". Here the great idea is that we will defend our freedom by lying down in front of the bulldozers. Some have proposed that this approach, on its own, had success in India under the leadership of Gandhi. However, that interpretation of India's history has been debunked by Professor Ward Churchill in his book "Pacifism as Pathology".

Now I know that libertarians would not lie down in front of bulldozers, but that is not the point. Also, it is interesting to note that Gandhi himself supported open carry, of a sort. In the fight against the British invader, Ghandi himself wrote: "we are soldiers of nonviolence, who, if the occasion demands, will lay down their lives for it. Our nonviolence is not a mere policy of the coward. […] It is a thousand times better that we die trying to acquire the strength of arm[s]. Using physical force with courage is far superior to cowardice. At least we would have attempted to act like men."

The point is that social change has never occurred anywhere from the mere fact alone of changing individual beliefs about freedom. All the known episodes of social change towards increased freedom have involved real circumstances of revolt, whether students on campuses, workers on factory floors or in mines, soldiers in mutiny or defecting, and so on. Political parties capitalized on and managed the change but did not create the change by creating beliefs.

The Libertarian Party of Canada will have growth because people are truly fed up but people are not fed up because they developed a new belief about freedom. Ron Paul is alive first-and-foremost because freedom and democracy have died, not because there has been an awakening of beliefs.

Beliefs are parasites to the reality of the circumstances. Beliefs are malleable and adjust to provide justification for an individual's solution, and a solution must be adopted in action and behaviour to the extent that there is a problem. Face-saving and self-image are necessary but they are secondary to interest and to power relations. Beliefs are not the tail that wags the dog, when it come to the actions of people. Real and perceived necessity and social relations of support and of power are the determinants.

The battle is about real power struggles. People need work, mobility, meaningful influence, freedom, social ties, and so on. We adopt any mental framework to justify either our inability to obtain what we need or our actions in obtaining what we want. Beliefs are subservient to our actual actions in the physical and social circumstances of our lives. That is why virtually everybody's beliefs are incoherent and full of contradictions. Just look at a string of comments on Facebook or YouTube.


CEOs are people too

Tim states: "There seems to be an argument propagated that people are helpless and devoid of agency in the face of manufactured consent and I think this isn't helpful and in a lot of ways its insulting because it imagines that poor and middle-class people are less capable of revising their own beliefs than those considered to be the elite. Imagining that politicians or CEO's are someone outside the paradigm and recognize it and manipulate it while others are helplessly immersed and blind to it seems unlikely. I think its more likely that the individuals that comprise the so-called ruling class are as immersed in the system of delusion as everyone else and unconsciously appeal to authority to maximize their own benefit just like everyone else."

The simplest level of analysis is to posit that others think and are motivated just like us. That is valid at the level of basic needs and desires, but it is not valid in comparing the political sophistication or knowledge of people in different social dominance classes. It is undeniable that there are social dominance classes and that the class structure is much more stratified than simply "ruling class" and the rest of us.

A major stock holder that owns controlling interests in a global corporate empire that wields more resources than most national states on the planet does not move in the same circles as the average billionaire. The chairs of boards that control the global financial institutions and the Federal Reserve don't move in the same spheres as lowly Congressmen and Congresswomen. And so on. At every level, in each stratum of the hierarchy, each person knows his/her place.

Contrary to Tim's proposal, of course a CEO has a very different view of the world than a member of the middle class. This is a direct consequence of the fact that the CEO has a much better view of the actual workings of the system. To the CEO, the items we are debating are not even a subject of debate, because he/she exercises a much higher level of power than any of us, on a daily basis.

It's the difference between calling the publisher of the New York Times to get coverage you need versus wondering the extent to which the media is simply following free market news-worthiness principles... It's the difference between knowing on a daily basis how the media gets directed versus Chomsky having to painstakingly prove from end-result observations that the media is directed. And so on.

If libertarians are going to seek political leverage yet will insist on being blind to social dominance class structure, then their political instrument will not be an instrument of better information and of projected influence. It will turn into an instrument of management of the "libertarian problem". It's the Conservatives that have a "libertarian problem". At the same time, the Conservatives is where the "libertarian problem" has the most leverage.


Even if it's not true, it's practical

Tim states: "There is no denying that it is highly profitable to have people subscribe to irrational beliefs and so people in a position to profit from irrational beliefs (ie politicians, corporate owners, tenured professors) tend to become self-interested apologists for these beliefs. But it is short-sighted to suggest that the root cause of the problem is that people who profit from irrational beliefs reinforce them, and I don’t think it gets us anywhere."

Well, first, I don't believe that "the root cause of the problem is that people who profit from irrational beliefs reinforce them" since I don't believe that beliefs are the tail that wag the person-dog (as explained above). Never mind. So, Tim insists on beliefs as a "root cause", agrees that these beliefs may adjust to suit class advantages, but decides that it is pragmatic to retain his theory of social change nonetheless -- that beliefs determine personal actions and government when those beliefs pass a tipping point (the Left calls it "critical mass"); otherwise "I don't think it gets us anywhere", as he states.

On the face of it, it seems clear that Tim has a strong belief (hopefully not "unshakable") in his theory of social change, and that he insists on using this model to guide his political strategy.

It also appears to me that Tim is not keen on any political confrontations that will produce backlash: "Yikes! I hope nobody nails me to a cross. I hope my wife doesn’t read this or she may make me quit." I believe that real backlash is the only reliable measure that one has shown potential to leverage some change from the power structure. There is no such thing as a confrontationless battle to significantly change society. The task cannot be achieved by a clever take-over using beliefs as a Trojan horse. Instead it is partially achieved by every actual battle. Tim knows this but he is hoping that the battles need not be more than scoring soft public opinion points in a gentleman's game.


Government fetish

Tim states: "[...] The state is a corporation from whence all other corporations are birthed. It is the pen-ultimate umbrella corporation and its only product is initiatory force. [...] The minute you have any group organize around the use of initiatory force you immediately set up the conditions and the incentives for everybody to struggle for control of that force. The wealthy stand a much better chance of buying this power, that is true, but I think it is a mistake to say that this makes them inherently more culpable than anyone else. They are only able to buy that power because we want a corporation that monopolizes violence called the state."

First, I would never say that the "wealthy" are "inherently more culpable than anyone else", because such a statement again abstracts-away the all-important societal-dominance hierarchy. It's like we are all equal individuals in terms of access to structural power but some are wealthier... Never mind. The problem I see here is that Tim seems to believe that if the state were to disappear then the negative aspects of corporations would whither away. Tim would say that the causal poison is the state.

Now the state is indeed as bad as Tim says, I agree! But my criticism is that predatory and rapacious mega-corporations and finance empires would not stop to exist simply because the governments that they predominantly control are removed from them. They would simply increase their funding to their private militias, and continue controlling the territories and populations that they already control. Simply put, where there is no state, there are war lords and mafia families, and confederations of war lords and mafia families. I'm not saying that the mafia is worst than government. At least the mafia has strict rules about not killing the women and children of competitors. I'm just saying that the state is not the cause of the nasty characteristics of dominance hierarchies.

There is no utopian chaos of freely associating libertarians or anarchists "producing value for each other". The self-organized firefighters that are more efficient than the firefighters ruled by an authoritarian director of operations, in Tim's masters degree university thesis, are real but represent an isolated pocket of practice within a broader structure, and cannot be generalized to all of society. Not because it would be physically impossible, but because it would be humanly impossible. There is always a dominance hierarchy, and there is a perpetual struggle for individual freedom. It is in our animal nature, our human nature, both to spontaneously make and reenforce dominance hierarchies that we inhabit, and, as individuals, to seek freedom and personal agency, influence and meaning.

The Libertarian model that, left to themselves, corporations evolve towards the benefits of optimizing profits in a free market has been disproved by the late and eminent historian of science and technology David F. Noble. In his books "America By Design; Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism" and "Forces of Production; A Social History of Industrial Automation", Noble has shown that modern corporations, when forced to choose, virtually always sacrifice profits for absolute control over their workforce. In this way, corporations are regularly willing to sacrifice significant profits, increases in efficiency, and technological progress, in order to assert their authoritarianism. The name of the game is dominance, over markets and over both employees and clients or consumers. The "ruling class" knows this well, and it is high time that libertarians learn it.

The real question is who controls the corporations, including the state corporation, and is democracy possible and what does it look like. Tim and I agree on the essential point. Regarding the macro-structures of corporations and government, Tim complains that there is a "deficiency of reality congruence". I enthusiastically agree! Tim means reality congruence of free individuals. On the Left the said deficiency would be called "a deficiency of participatory democracy", and that has real libertarian meaning on the Left, among the few Left thinkers that have survived or avoided state indoctrination.


Conclusion

I want to conclude optimistically, exactly the same way I did in my October 7th blogpost about Tim's ideas:

Therefore, one can predict that Moen will continue to search for his own mode of unconventional participation in party politics, designed to cause voter cognitive dissonance, and to maximize occasions for life-changing political discourse.

I hope that he will also be an aggressive agent of criticism, denunciation, and reform of the dysfunctional system itself. How can one create cognitive dissonance while ignoring the elephant in the room?

We will know that Moen has been effective and has touched a nerve when the entire establishment visciously attacks him, or at least is unhinged by him, or at least significant adjusts its discourse to make him irrelevant... Any such sign will be a gauge that freedom is making headway.


Dr. Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On what libertarian leader Tim Moen has learned


By Denis G. Rancourt, PhD


Tim Moen is a unique political party leader. He actually blogs about his thought process, and expressly considers saying what he actually thinks.

Moen is also somewhat unique in that he convincingly appears to be honest, both in the things he says and in his body language.

Elizabeth May also has that rare quality but audio evidence has shown that she, like the three main-party leaders, is far from a principled individual who does not bow to influential lobbies (LINK).

The leaders of the big parties (Harper, Trudeau, Mulcair) are so empty and machine-like that their words do not lend themselves to meaningful analysis. What they don't do speaks louder than anything that emanates from their mouths.

Since Moen has shared his thoughts about the nature of politics, it is worth examining those thoughts. I will analyze his blogpost "10 Lessons I Learned Running for Parliament", which is the August 26, 2014 entry on his Fort Mac Philosopher blog.

Moen makes ten points, restated here in my own words:

1. Voters, right and left, are afraid, and vote to avoid what they are most afraid of.

Agreed, but Moen avoids the fact that the fears themselves are manipulated and manufactured by governments, and by corporate entities that also fund political parties.

2. Politicians therefore practice fear-and-comforting-opportunism as the main electoral strategy.

OK but another dominant strategy is to offer fixing or cleaning-up the system that is newly discovered to now be hopelessly broken or corrupt. This is most effective because ordinary citizens know that the system does not work for them.

3. Politicians stick to meaningless platitudes to avoid displeasing their base and arming their opponents.

Agreed, but Moen leaves out that meaningless platitudes also serve to (1) reassure party funders that their man will not go off track, and (2) avoid the risk of awakening voter expectations for real action.

4. Politicians avoid stating their true opinions in order to concentrate on satisfying their base and those likely to vote for them. 

True, but Moen omits that politicians also avoid stating their true (conscious or unconscious) designs and the actual policy consequences that follow from their alleged policy intentions. This is the difference between the lip service paid by legislators and jurists about a statute (or law) and the real effects of the statute in terms of removing freedom and maintaining undemocratic control. As such, Moen refuses to acknowledge that the big-party politicians work for the man, virtually without deviation, whether they are conscious of it or simply allowing themselves to be manipulated and hijacked by the process.

5. Voters insist on playing the role of powerless children that depend on politicians to either solve their problems or destroy their lives -- voters transfer all responsibility for both change and stability on politicians.

Well, that may be true of voters but most of us don't vote and don't believe that politicians are meaningful agents of anything. We rightly believe that the politicians with power will do what they do irrespective of whether we vote for them or not.

Refreshingly, Moen recognizes that voter apathy is a consequence of realism regarding the futility of voting (next point).

6. There is voter apathy and dis-involvement with politics.

Here Moen's analysis is confined to the tunnel vision of the individual voter's choice to vote or to not vote. His analysis is blind to the dysfunctional non-democracy that is Canada's Parliament; where big-party leaders veto, fire, and impose riding candidates, force strict party discipline, and determine the issues that are allowed to be addressed, the details of positions on every thus-allowed issue, and all the media talking points of any who are allowed to speak on the allowed issues. That's a big blind spot.

Any honest politician must confront the sham that is the Canadian Parliament, and only politicians who do can be considered honest, unless they are so naive that they should be avoided on that basis alone, in my humble opinion.

Manning understood this. The Manning Reform Party revolution was based on that sort of brilliance, the brilliance of bringing elements of the obvious into mainstream politics. It worked until it was bought out and dissolved.

7. Voter psychology amounts to either seeking a mother (Left) or a father (Right), and this is primarily determined by one's family background.

This is an interesting proposal that merits sociological research. It is truly refreshing to witness a political party leader thinking aloud in this fashion. One can see that Moen is seeking models to understand individual and group psychology as it might apply to political work. This particular model reconciles the right and the left, and legitimizes both as natural consequences of healthy human tendencies.

Moen appears as a conciliator and prefers unifying politics rather than superficial partisan ideology politics. His main challenge is that his party's unifying principle is individual freedom, so he has the job of making individual freedom a dominant societal demand. It has been done on several occasions in history, and the time for another kick at the can may be ripening in Canada?

Systems spontaneously and mechanically evolve towards heightened hierarchical control, which is delayed and set back when the subjects find strong individual and collective impulses to partially break free. This is a constant historical battle in all human societies. Revolutionary gains towards more freedom and personal agency can be achieved either violently or non-violently, depending on the societal circumstances. The only nexus of resistance and push-back against increasing undemocratic dominance is the individual rebellion of liberation. There is a constant battle between the human impulse to be free and influential on the one hand, and the societal forces to heighten the dominance hierarchy on the other hand [1].

8. Change comes from pushing outside of the allowed sterile political discourse.

Yup.

9. There is hope, as evidenced by individual efforts to "make monolithic institutions irrelevant".

Here Moen makes a high five to all the enterprising individuals who seek to liberate themselves from the system's (monetary, legal, resources, etc.) grip by developing alternatives.

While I agree that these efforts are a testament to the human impulse for liberation, the whole idea of mainstream political involvement is to prevent the dominant system from being too insane, and ideally to reform it towards freedom and actual democracy. In my book (literally), the whole idea is to push back against increasing totalitarianism -- what many and myself have called corporate fascism.

There is no doubt in my mind that alternative consumer and lifestyle strategies will be forcefully destroyed to the degree that they threaten the dominant machine. The idea that modern internet technology or independent food and energy production can offer absolute protection to creative alternists is a total fantasy.

10. "Collecting votes" is no way to change the world.

Agreed, but here Moen makes two theoretical proposals that I believe are invalid, as follows.

First, Moen states that "government is an emergent property of the beliefs and actions of individuals in society". Well, if that were true, then there would be no problem, and there would be no need for Moen's political party. That belief is comforting but it is irresponsibly naive, and incorrect.

Government is the embodiment of undemocratic concentrated power. Nothing could be clearer. One proof, if proof were needed, is the tremendous amount of resources and efforts that go into convincing the public of the legitimacy of the political system and its supporting institutions.

I predict that if Moen continues down that fanciful fairy tale, then he will lose many libertarian supporters and many realistic potential voters. It is a road that leads straight into conformism with the status quo.

Second, Moen advances the proposal that an irreversible tipping point of public opinion occurs whenever "10% of people adopt an unshakable belief". Moen was inspired by an article in ScienceDaily [2], which describes theoretical research published in a high-profile peer-reviewed physics journal [3]. (I will leave the criticism of that published work for another day.)

Moen combines these two proposals (government as emerging from people fantasy and 10% tipping point) to tentatively conclude "Once my party and I win 10% of hearts and minds it really doesn't matter to me which politicians get in front of the new parade."

There is some crumb of truth to this proposal, and it suggests that Moen is realistically concerned with advancing the vision of liberty as his main contribution, rather than forming government. More importantly, however, his model is incongruent with conventional participation in party politics because one does not develop an "unshakable belief" in something of consequence by liking a political figure.

Therefore, one can predict that Moen will continue to search for his own mode of unconventional participation in party politics, designed to cause voter cognitive dissonance, and to maximize occasions for life-changing political discourse.

I hope that he will also be an aggressive agent of criticism, denunciation, and reform of the dysfunctional system itself. How can one create cognitive dissonance while ignoring the elephant in the room?

We will know that Moen has been effective and has touched a nerve when the entire establishment visciously attacks him, or at least is unhinged by him, or at least significant adjusts its discourse to make him irrelevant... Any such sign will be a gauge that freedom is making headway.


Endnotes

[1] My book is predominantly about this societal struggle, and theorizes about its scientific basis: "Hierarchy and free expression in the fight against racism" by Denis G. Pancourt, Stairway Press, 2013.

[2] "Minority rules: Scientists discover tipping point for the spread of ideas", ScienceDaily, July 26, 2011.

[3] "Social consensus through the influence of committed minorities" by J. Xie, et al., Physical Review E, 2011; 84 (1) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.84.011130


Dr. Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rogue Courts in Canada Trample Self-Represented Litigants


By Denis G. Rancourt, PhD  [1]

There is a crisis of access to justice in Canada. It is a crisis of systemic judicial partiality against ordinary citizens who cannot afford brand-name “justice”.

PURPOSE AND METHODS FOR THIS ARTICLE

In this article I describe the phenomenon in Canada of systemic and often-egregious judicial and legal-system bias against self-represented litigants.

In a next article, I will give my interpretation about the causes of this phenomenon, in the broad context of judicial and legal-system bias, by describing the different types of circumstances in which extreme judicial bias is most likely to occur, and the systemic devices that are used to cover-up judicial bias. I have already written several preliminary articles about judicial and legal-system bias [2][3][4][5].

My conclusions about the phenomenon itself are based on:
  • many first-hand reports from victims of legal-system bias
  • a review of specialized web-site discussions
  • my discussions and interviews with community organizers against legal-system bias
  • an expert report from an academic legal researcher, and my discussions with that researcher
  • media reports
  • published practitioner commentary, such as on lawyer's blogs
  • my experience as the volunteer coordinator of the Self-Represented Workgroup of the Ontario Civil Liberties Association
  • my in-court observations of several cases unrelated to me
  • my own extensive experience as a self-represented litigant in Ontario, Canada

THE CRISIS IS REAL

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin frequently warns of a crisis of “access to justice” in Canada [6]. This crisis involves a large and growing number of self-represented litigants who cannot afford lawyer’s fees, which are inflated by corporate clients.

The Facebook group “Canada Court Watch” is focussed on self-represented litigants and has over 4,000 members. Self-represented litigants regularly picket outside courthouses and lawyers offices across the country [7]. Researchers, such as law professor Julie Macfarlane, have described a widespread disillusionment and distrust of the legal establishment by ordinary self-represented litigants from all walks of life [8].

Beyond what is acknowledged by the chief justice and the legal establishment, there is a widespread conviction among self-represented litigants that the courts are biased against them [9]. I am the coordinator of the Self-Represented Litigant Workgroup of the Ontario Civil Liberties Association, and I have experienced this bias directly as a self-represented defendant.

EGREGIOUS AND SUSTAINED JUDICIAL BIAS
In a single case of alleged defamation for words on a blog, I have been required to go before 17 different judges, at all courts up to the Supreme Court of Canada, in over 30 open court hearings and a trial, over more than three years -- in the trial, motions, appeals of motions, and case conferences in the action against me [10][11]. I have prepared thousands of pages of legal documents, and I have been ordered to pay legal costs of the suing party, the unpaid portion of which totals more than seven hundred thousand dollars to date, prior to the appeal that has been filed [10][11].

In light of my recent experience as a self-represented litigant, it is difficult for me to believe that the pleas of the chief justice are authentic. I tend to think that the chief justice means only that lawyers should be affordable and available for ordinary persons, and that she wishes that the legal processes were less wasteful. However, access to lawyers alone does not provide access to justice, and neither does strong-handed case management by judges.

I feel like I have seen it all in terms of the behaviour of judges, in terms of the tremendous systemic bias against self-represented litigants, and that is described by legal researchers and commentators. This bias exists irrespective of my level of education (PhD) and irrespective of my ability to present an argument (former university professor) [12], and so I believe what I have heard about what it is like for a single parent navigating issues of child custody.

In my case, the potential for systemic bias is increased by the fact that the plaintiff is a high-status lawyer within the legal establishment, and two of the lawyers who oppose me have formerly represented Canadian prime ministers. In addition, the private plaintiff is funded without a spending limit by a non-party using public money, a situation that has been denounced by the Ontario Civil Liberties Association [13].

At the mandatory mediation I was not allowed an accompanying person (because he was not a lawyer) even though I faced five lawyers on the side suing me. But obvious asymmetries of means are not the only problem.

SYSTEMATIC AND HABITUAL JUDICIAL BIAS

The evidence for habitual judicial bias, as I see it, is overwhelming and includes:

•    the trial judge cancelling my main and pleaded defence, off-the-cuff and in the middle of my opening address to the jury [14], which led to former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's petition to the Canadian courts [15][16]

•    the trial judge, in the charge to the jury, instructing the jury that "there is no defence to consider", despite my having presented the fair-comment defence to the jury and despite ample evidence for the fair-comment defence having been admitted at trial -- see Notice of Appeal [17]

•    the trial judge refusing to recuse himself despite admitting that he has all his university degrees from the University of Ottawa and is an annual financial donor to that university, where the university is a partisan intervenor at trial and is funding the plaintiff's legal fees -- see recusal motion factum [18], and Notice of Appeal [17]

•    judges refusing to consider or recognize (or admit supporting evidence for) the maintenous and champertous nature of the obviously improper and political funding of the private lawsuit using public money [13][19] -- see court documents for the champerty motion and its appeals [10]

•    judges and lawyers disrespectfully referring to me in court as “he”, and discussing me as though I were not present (until this behaviour was denounced on the Ontario Civil Liberties Association website)

•    judges’ frequent, repeated, and disorienting interruptions of me in court -- see many court transcripts [10]

•    allowing opposing counsel to make repeated and hyperbolic prejudicial comments, despite my objections -- see many court transcripts and court submissions [10]

•    not allowing me time to make my arguments, despite my good preparation and organization -- see defendant's factum in appeal from judgement in champerty motion [20]

•    refusals to hear evidence of misconduct by opposing counsel (that could be a separate article)

•    refusing to acknowledge transcript evidence of opposing counsel leading his witnesses in out-of-court examinations

•    allowing procedural dirty tricks by the lawyers, such as calling motions on one day’s notice

•    constructive barring of my evidence on motions and at trial, using both procedural technicalities and legal abstractions (another separate article)

•    allowing the plaintiff to pick and choose which questions to answer in cross-examinations

•    orders that I pay outrageously high costs, which, in effect, punish me for trying to defend myself, despite the known and proven fact that I have no money [21][22][23]

•    two opposite orders by the same (trial) judge on exactly the same question of my inability to pay ordered costs, however it benefited the other party [24]

•    orders that I, rather than the opposing party, pay costs even in the cases where I won all or the majority of the points argued in the motions

•    disadvantageous deadlines for document submissions and disadvantageous scheduling of court appearances, despite objections with reasons

CONTRIVED REASONS MAKE IT WORK

These examples are in addition to the macro-evidence for actual bias that resides in the judges' "Reasons" for their decisions, in which judges allow themselves to:
  • describe only the facts they choose to highlight to support their rulings
  • redefine and recast the actual facts, thereby destroying facts and creating new facts
  • make prejudicial and unnecessary comments that other judges will read
  • make findings of credibility without direct evidence
  • make strongly worded findings on matters that were not before the court
  • or, simply not provide reasons for particular findings
  • (not to mention a case of releasing such "Reasons" after the judge voluntarily recusing himself)
The only way to gauge the systemic bias that is expressed in judicial "Reasons" is to compare the Reasons with the actual evidence and arguments. Legal researchers virtually never do this work but, instead, content themselves with clever analyses limited to the tunnel-vision of the Reasons themselves. The only possible reviews arise from costly appeals, when appeals are allowed, and the appeal courts then write their own "Reasons"... The more less-represented a litigant is, the greater the possible gap between the "Reasons" and reality.

JUDGES CLOSE RANKS

In fact, there appears to be no limit to what the court thinks it can get away with when dealing with a self-represented litigant.

In my own case, for example, some two years prior to trial, I discovered that a motions judge (in a motion to end the action -- "champerty motion") had a blatant conflict of interest. In the middle of the proceedings, I learned that he had strong personal, family, emotional, and contractual financial ties to a party (University of Ottawa) intervening for the plaintiff in the case, and also to the law firm representing the party in court. He had not disclosed any of these ties. The judge’s ties made it inconceivable that he would rule against the plaintiff.

When I presented the evidence of the judge’s ties, the judge lost decorum, threatened me with contempt of court (a criminal judgement), and recused himself, but refused to rule on whether there was apparent bias, and continued to release decisions that stand to this day.

I raised the matter through available procedures with three more judges of the Superior Court, three judges of the Court of Appeal, and six judges of the Supreme Court (in two applications for leave to appeal), but all of them refused to allow bias as a ground for appeal.

In my first attempts, I was not even allowed to access the Supreme Court. It is a demonstration of apparent systemic judicial bias at the highest level that the Registrar of the Supreme Court refused to accept my duly prepared application — and then refused to accept my motion to denounce his refusal to accept the application. This was resolved only because the Ontario Civil Liberties Association made a request, directly to the Chief Justice of Canada, that the Registrar’s conduct be investigated [25]. The Ontario Civil Liberties Association complained to the chief justice about an apparent systemic Registrar's bias against self-represented litigants -- see OCLA's letter to the chief justice [26].

That whole bias episode with the motions judge (champerty motion), involving 13 judges from three courts, shows the degree to which the entire judicial structure will tolerate a judge’s apparent bias, at least when the bias complaint is brought by a self-represented litigant being sued by prominent members of the legal establishment [27].

The only remaining remedy in the matter resides in international law. I am preparing a complaint to the UN Human Rights Committee for violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [28], which guarantees an impartial court to every litigant in signatory countries, including Canada. Few self-represented litigants can defend themselves this effectively, and there are far too few resources among civil rights organizations to address the gargantuan need.

THE HIGHER ONE GOES, THE WORST IT GETS

All of this has only been repeated at the trial itself, which started on May 12, 2014, and ended on June 6, 2014. Prior to trial, I had asked then Regional Senior Judge Charles Hackland (who resigned on May 8, 2014) to name a case judge who had no connection with the University of Ottawa, and I had made a formal motion for the trial judge to recuse himself because of the judge’s shared interests with the University of Ottawa [18]. None of this mattered and the trial judge refused to recuse himself. This, and the judge’s in-court actions, led to my walking out of the trial [29], which was reported in the media [14][15][16].

In a May 20, 2014, email to the court, I explained among other things that "In the interest of justice, I have withdrawn my presence from the trial in order not to be used as a prop that would make it look to the jury as if I were being allowed to defend myself." I returned to the trial on June 3, 2014, immediately after the jury retired to consider its verdict, to argue post-jury-verdict trial motions. A Notice of Appeal from the outcomes of the trial was served on July 4, 2014 [17].

THE MYTH OF A FAIR COURT CANNOT BE SALVAGED

My case, the ordeals of countless others, and academic research show that there is a systematic bias against self-represented litigants. Such evident, overt, and pervasive bias proves that the judges are not impartial, but rather are significantly influenced by the social status and power of the litigant. Corporate and government litigants know this well, and count on it. It is the elephant in the courtroom for self-represented litigants.

For self-represented litigants the crisis in “access to justice” is really a crisis in access to an impartial court, a court that is not influenced by social status. This crisis will not be solved by increasing access to lawyers and reducing court backlogs. The solution will require that litigants themselves and civil rights organizations insist on and monitor impartiality of the courts.

In my case, high-profile American political activist and former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney launched a petition demanding that the chief justices of Canada allow a new trial with a trial judge having no ties to the University of Ottawa — which is funding the lawsuit without a spending limit — and this has been reported in the media [15][16]. Only this type of protest-application of the open court principle, in combination with media exposure and civil society association pressures, has any chance of catalyzing a reform in a system that has now degraded itself beyond self-repair.

This must be accompanied by formal appeals to the courts, which have been known to make judgements towards correcting undemocratic and unjust systemic trajectories of the legal system [30]. Even when there is a right to appeal, however, the phenomenal costs of the court transcripts [31], which the appellant must buy and provide to the appeal court, is itself a significant systemic barrier to access the appeal court. In my case, the lawsuit washed out my life savings long before I accumulated ordered and unpaid costs totally more than $700,000.00, and a funding campaign was launched by academic colleagues just to collect enough for the court transcripts [23].

There is indeed a crisis, and it is of the legal establishment’s making. It is a crisis of systemic barriers and judicial partiality against ordinary citizens who cannot afford brand-name “justice”.


Endnotes

This article was first published by Dissident Voice.

[1] A judge of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice cited the author (Denis Rancourt) in criminal contempt of court for among other things publishing an earlier version of this article, and stated in open court that the author could consequently be sent to jail following a "show cause" hearing that the judge ordered the author to attend. The judge then (some three months later, prior to the hearing) dropped all his charges when he realized on further reflection that he had not followed the accepted procedure for criminal contempt of court: The judge never told the accused to not do what the judge wanted to jail him for if he did it! The judge's dropping of the changes is at paragraphs 47 to 50 of this ruling: Joanne St. Lewis v. Denis Rancourt, 2014 ONSC 4840 (CanLII). This all occurred despite judges having been given detailed instructions by the Judicial Council about the correct procedures and fairness principles for making criminal contempt charges. 

[2] "Reflections of a self-represented litigant as an old man", by Denis G. Rancourt, Activist Teacher, February 17, 2012.

[3] "Self-represented litigant discovers the truth about the 'justice system'", by Denis G. Rancourt, Activist Teacher, December 15, 2012.

[4] "David W. Scott on self-represented litigants", by Denis G. Rancourt, Activist Teacher, January 4, 2013.

[5] "Made in Canada legal system costs policy precludes access by design", by Denis G. Rancourt, Activist Teacher, November 30, 2013.

[6] "Access to justice a 'basic right'", Toronto Star, August 12, 2007;
"Access to justice becoming a privilege of the rich, judge warns", Globe & Mail, February 10, 2011;
"For many, access to justice means actually getting to court", Vancouver Sun, March 7, 2011;
"Canadian courts not accessible enough, says chief justice", CBC News, August 12, 2012; 
"Why people representing themselves in court are clogging the justice system", Macleans Magazine, February 4, 2013;
"Ontario courts ‘only open to the rich,’ judge warns", Globe & Mail,July 2, 2013;
"Access to justice in Canada ‘abysmal’: CBA Report", Toronto Star, August 18, 2013;
"Access to justice in Canada ‘abysmal’ and ‘radical reforms’ need to be made to legal system, report says", National Post, August 18, 2013; 
"Too rich for legal aid, too poor for lawyers" (original journalist's title, later: "Legal help beyond the financial reach of many Ontario residents"), The London Free Press, October 25, 2013.
"How to improve access to justice", School of Public Policy, uCalgary, November 5, 2013;
"Chief justice celebrates pro bono work with students", Canadian lawyer Magazine, March 17, 2014;
and many more such reports, starting in 2007.

[7] "We Won't Back Down: CFFLR (video)", by Canadians For Family Law Reform, YouTube, June 9, 2012.

[8] "The National Self-Represented Litigants Project: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants, Final Report", by Dr. Julie Macfarlane, May 2013, pp 147; and media articles about the report, such as: "Ian Mulgrew: Access to justice is a fairy tale, self-represented litigants conclude", Vancouver Sun, May 7, 2013; 

[9] "Self-represented litigants ‘treated with contempt’ by many judges, study finds", Ottawa Citizen, December 31, 2012.

[10] Links to virtually all the court-filed documents of all parties and all interveners in St. Lewis v. Rancourt are listed here: http://rancourt.academicfreedom.ca/background/stlewislawsuit.html; All the U of O Watch reports about the St. Lewis v. Rancourt case are here: http://uofowatch.blogspot.ca/search/label/Joanne%20St.%20Lewis.
[11] Most of the court rulings in the case are listed on CanLII here: http://www.canlii.org/en/index.html#search/id=st.%20lewis%20v.%20rancourt

[12] My ability to understand and make legal arguments (and to design those arguments in view of the systemic bias against me) steadily improved in the lawsuit, but my first document, the Statement of Defence, shows that even my starting ability was reasonably high: LINK-SOD.

[13] "Public Money is Not for Silencing Critics - University of Ottawa must end its financing of a private defamation lawsuit", Ontario Civil Liberties Association campaign, August 2013.

[14] "Denis Rancourt boycotts his own trial for libel, citing 'kangaroo court'", Ottawa Citizen, May 16, 2014.
[15] "Give a Fair Court Hearing to Denis Rancourt", on-line petition by Cynthia McKinney, former Congresswoman of the USA, Change.org, May 21, 2014; over 1100 signatories at the time of this writing.

[16] "U.S. activist Cynthia McKinney seeks new trial for Denis Rancourt", Ottawa Citizen, May 22, 2014.

[17] "Notice of Appeal", appeal C59074 from verdict and judgements at trial, St. Lewis v. Rancourt, at Court of Appeal for Ontario, July 4, 2014.

[18] "Defendant's motion for recusal of the trial judge (all documents)", St. Lewis v. Rancourt, motion heard and decided on May 7, 2014.

[19] "University of Ottawa paying for pointless legal battles (video news report)", Prime Time, Ezra Levant, SUN Media, May 23, 2014.

[20] "Factum of the Appellant", appeal C56905 (from judgement in champerty motion), St. Lewis v. Rancourt, at Court of Appeal for Ontario, May 9, 2013; and court transcripts and other documents at [10].

[21] "All court documents, submissions, and transcripts regarding costs of the trial", St. Lewis v. Rancourt, June 20, 2014, costs claim to Endorsement on Costs dated August 21, 2014 (10 documents).

[22] "All court documents about requesting that trial judge reconsider his August 21, 2014, Endorsement on Costs", because of apparent factual and procedural errors, St. Lewis v. Rancourt, August 25, 2014, to August 28, 2014 (4 documents).

[23h] The first (now closed) Indiegogo.com funding campaign for the "Denis Rancourt Legal Defence Fund" was HERE. The active funding campaign page is HERE.

[24] ----At trial, on June 6, 2014, when the plaintiff argued that I had no way of paying the ordered costs and damages and therefore that I deserved to be gagged with a permanent injunction, the trial judge, in his oral Reasons from the bench ordered:
“[…] The possibilities of payment of the costs or the compensation or the award -- the costs or the award of damages -- that the defendant suggests are exist (sic) are frankly pure fantasy, there is no reasonable prospect he will be able to pay. Moreover, […]” [Emphasis added]
 ----Then, after trial, when the plaintiff argued that I had the ability to pay large costs, on August 21, 2014, the same judge on the same question, in his Endorsement on Costs, at paragraph 41, ordered:
"The defendant's evidence that he is impecunious is self-serving at best. At his cross-examination he failed to answer most questions put to him preventing any meaningful analysis of his allegation that he has absolutely no asset to pay any portion of the costs award."
(This, after the judge refused to let me make responding submissions to the plaintiff's submissions about the said cross-examination -- only one party was allowed to make submissions about the cross-examination about my inability to pay costs.)
The judge refused to reconsider his Endorsement in order to reconcile this contradiction by finding that he was suddenly "functus" (see all documents on this matter [22]).

[25] See the full chronology and links to all the documents of this particular saga here: "On-going story of an application to the Supreme Court of Canada", U of O Watch, June 10, 2013.

[26] OCLA's letter and attached documents to the Chief Justice of Canada, dated March 4, 2013: "We are writing to bring to your attention serious concerns about the conduct of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada toward self-represented litigants, which deprives unrepresented parties from access to the Court."

[27] The bias episode with the motions judge (champerty motion) affected the entire champerty motion and its appeals. The saga is reported in posts at U of O Watch, with links to court documents and media report, under the tags/labels: "Justice Robert Beaudoin", and "OCLA".

[28] "Un ex-professeur de l’Université d’Ottawa fait appel aux Nations unies", Ici.Radio-Canada, March 14, 2014.

[29] Read my May 16, 2014 in-court statement here: "Why I walked out of the trial in which I am being sued", U of O Watch, May 17, 2014.

[30] One example, in Canada, are the recent rulings that apply the "principle" that there is no valid reason that a self-represented litigant who wins an action or motion cannot be awarded costs, where a represented litigant would be awarded costs. It is remarkable that the opposite largely continues to be the "logic", using glib judicial statements to the effect that self-represented litigants have no or little costs since they don't hire lawyers. See [9].

[31] Court transcripts typically cost $1,000.00 or more per day of trial, which can easily amount to between $5,000.00 and $50,000.00, for a self-represented litigant who did not have the money to hire a lawyer in the first place.


Dr. Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured and Full Professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is known for his applications of physics education research (TVO Interview). He has published over 100 articles in leading scientific journals, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. While he was at the University of Ottawa, he supported student activism and opposed the influence of the Israel lobby on that institution, which fired him for a false pretext in 2009: LINK.