Saturday, May 23, 2015

Climate stupidity and human survival


By Denis G. Rancourt


This article accompanies a 2-hour public lecture I gave at the University of Ottawa on March 27, 2015, entitled "The science and geopolitics of climate change": VIDEO-LINK-Part-1, VIDEO-LINK-Part-2. The physics calculations of Earth's radiation balance described in Part-1 of the talk are from this paper: Rancourt, D.G., "Radiation physics constraints on global warming: CO2 increase has little effect", archive.org (3 December 2011). Links to my articles and interviews about climate are HERE.


The human animal has an instinct to identify potential dangers and to warn others. It is a built-in survival mechanism of any animal that lives in a group. And it is a strong and constant activity, re-enforced by environmental stressors.

This plays out on several time scales, from the immediate in the case of a potential physical assault, to the weekly in checking the weather forecast, to seasonal in preparing for winter, to life-long in planning for inevitable aging, to leaving good things for our grandchildren...

It is in our fiber to look ahead and to plan ahead, especially in the face of foreseeable or detected dangers.

The whole process can spin out of control when the danger is difficult to perceive yet could be lethal. Think of baboons who are on the lookout for a stalking lion. The slightest shadow movement can make them scream and run for the trees. It's a tense and highly volatile situation.

At this stage in our evolution we are faced with a pathological extension of our collective survival reflex, which is entirely fabricated by our high priests (government funded scientists and talking heads).

If these high priests were not here to tell us that the atmospheric concentration of the minor constituent CO2 is increasing, and that "global mean surface temperature" has increased by some 0.5 C in the last 100 years, then we would never know about these imperceptible causes of our certain eventual collective death as a species.

The priests explain that our certain extinction will occur from a rising sea level and changing regional climates. That these changes will cause mass migrations, ecosystem collapses, agricultural failures, famines, and disease. They also inform us that those who will suffer most are the most vulnerable inhabitants of the planet, as though this were a new feature of the effects of natural disasters.

Therefore, they urge, we must tax carbon emissions, apply cap and trade, and create a global carbon economy to limit CO2 in the atmosphere. And who better to coordinate it all than the World Bank, IMF, and such, given their stellar records in managing equitable development on this little rock. (Or is that economic enforcement of US regime supremacy?)

Forgive me for saying, but this all sounds rather nutso to me.

Nothing could be more like a religion than this crazy movement. We are expected to accept that an essential and growth-limiting plant nutrient (CO2: [1]) is a toxic pollutant, that the world will be destroyed because of our collective and intrinsic wickedness of emitting CO2, via floods no less.   

Take a deep breath (exhale if you dare) and allow me to state a few facts that might help put things into perspective.

The planet has been teeming with life for billions of years.



During that time, the global mean temperature has almost always been some 10 C higher than in the present geologic anomaly [2], in a manner uncorrelated with CO2 concentration [3]. That is the history of this same planet that we live on. During that time, the CO2 concentration has typically been 10 times higher than today's value, and it has rarely been as low as modern values, nor has it ever been lower than modern values.


There is no reason to believe that humans would not fare well on an Earth that is 10 C warmer, never mind 1 or 2 C. Land value would increase in the polar regions, and there would be intense reforestation and forest densification of the equatorial regions, with little possibility for controlling growth where it is hot and humid.

From what we know of our planet and the history of its biosphere, warming is not going to kill us off any time soon. None of the known mass extinctions (a relative term) in Earth's history can be reliably attributed to "sustained warming", whereas ice ages that have occurred recently (during human presence on the planet, in the last 1 M years) are expected to correspond to periods of decreased planetary life density, but saw mammals and human populations completely adapt. Basically, neither warming or cooling can kill us by any know mechanism ever observed. If anything, the opposite of "killer warmth" is observed on today's Earth, where both human populations and living biomass are concentrated near equatorial latitudes:


Therefore, we still have much time left to achieve human extinction by much more direct means than warming (or cooling) of any kind. We also have a lot of time and occasions to practice accommodating mass migrations caused by our wars and economic violence, in order to prepare for the "climate migrations".

Somehow there seems to be more public-opinion, political, and lobbying effort in implementing and developing the instruments of a global carbon economy than in developing the instruments to prevent wars of aggression, to cope with the consequences of natural disasters, to stop displacing and dispossessing local inhabitants, to enforce the Geneva Conventions, to stop the wholesale destruction of entire nations (Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran...?), to respect international law, ... not to mention reparations to the survivors of recent slavery, genocide, dispossession, and crass exploitation.

Rather than widespread vehement and actuated insistence on democratic control of local resources and institutions, based on individual realities on the ground, instead we have a sizable yet ineffective population of vocal do-gooders enthralled in spasmodic incantations against atmospheric CO2 emissions, as part of a Gaia-inspired religion perverted by the Christian concept of original sin; all of which de facto supports the carbon globalization schemes engineered by the US regime to attempt to constrain their emerging competitors and extort a development tax.

When has "globalization" ever been about justice, or about anything other than economic predation? When have good-will global efforts ever had any significant positive impact? [4]

Why pollute local struggles and liberation of the individual with tenuous claims about imperceptible dangers? And why put so much energy into insisting that the danger from CO2 is real? This seems like a classic example of seeking an overarching religious belief "solution" to real local problems that one cannot or will not confront.

"Climate justice" needs to be "justice". The comfortable-middle-class fetish for carbon co-opts the analysis, defuses the thrust for defending identity-tied interests, and sends legitimate demands straight into the atmosphere. Or, at best, it is simply irrelevant to real struggles.

In the main population, if all the fanatics that are screaming that the sky is falling would scream to stop the war machine that occupies every corner of the globe, then we could start moving away from the real manufactured disasters that wash over the planet continuously, which don't require satellite spectrometers to detect.

Instead of asking whether we can detect warming, whether intense weather events are actually more frequent, whether species extinction rates can reliably be measured, and so on, why not address the obvious: Humans are exploiting and terrorizing other humans, human conditions are constantly being attacked, and natural habitat is being destroyed for corporate benefit by eliminating local sovereignty.

Why turn to sanitized and intractable up-in-the-air questions when injustice and actual destruction is all around us? And why oh why pretend that humans can manage global carbon fluxes, manage the radiation balance of the planet, and control climate?

It's a planet!

If we are going to have a global religion, why not believe that justice leads to both short-term and long-term safety? Not justice that is planned and given to us, but justice that we acquire through struggle and liberation.

On the other hand if you must be irrelevant and must have your carbon fetish, then at least put it into a planetary perspective [5]:

  • The present (2010) rate of fossil fuel burning (0.8 x 10^13 kg-C/y) is 8% of global primary production (GPP)
  • The latter plant growth (GPP) uses only 0.07% of solar light striking the planet
  • Thus, fossil fuel burning represents 8% of 0.07% = 0.006% of solar energy rate of input (the sun is a sun and the Earth is a planet...)
  • The CO2 production from the burning of fossil fuel is approximately equal to that from human and domestic animal breathing
  • The combined biomass of humans and domestic animals is 0.04% of Earth's living biomass
  • Ants have transformed the planet's surface and its ecology far more than have humans
  • The total amount of fossil fuel burned to date (historically to 2010) by humans is 3.7 x 10^14 kg-C, less than half of the carbon contained in the atmosphere as a minor constituent gas
  • Dissolved CO2 in the oceans is 50 times more than the total amount in the atmosphere
  • Living and dead biomass-carbon (in soils, sediments, plant-cover, etc.) is probably much greater than carbon as CO2 in air and water
  • Thus, the total post-industrial fossil fuel burned to date represents less than 1% of the planet's global bio-available and exchangeable carbon, not to mention geological sources
  • As such, atmospheric CO2 is readily exchanged with and buffered by compartments of labile carbon that are much larger than the atmosphere, via flux mechanisms that science is barely beginning to understand (e.g., [1])

Endnotes

[1] Keenan et al., "Increase in forest water-use efficiency as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise", Nature 499, 324-327 (18 July 2013); Donohue et al., "Impact of CO2 fertilization on maximum foliage cover across the globe's warm, arid environments", Geophysical Research Letters 40(12), 3031-3035 (28 June 2013).

[2] Wikipedia article, "Geologic temperature record", accessed May, 2015, see "Overall view". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geologic_temperature_record

[3] Rothman, D.H., "Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for the last 500 million years", Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 99(7), 4167-4171, (2 April 2002). http://www.pnas.org/content/99/7/4167.full

[4] Rancourt, D.G., "Some big lies of science", Activist Teacher (8 June 2010). http://activistteacher.blogspot.ca/2010/06/some-big-lies-of-science.html

[5] Rancourt, D.G., "Is the burning of fossil fuel a significant planetary activity?", Activist Teacher (21 August 2010). http://activistteacher.blogspot.ca/2010/08/is-burning-of-fossil-fuel-significant.html ; Rancourt, D.G., "CO2 emission from fossil fuel burning is not more than from breathing", Activist Teacher (22 August 2010). http://activistteacher.blogspot.ca/2010/08/co2-emission-from-fossil-fuel-burning.html


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, including in the area of environmental science, and has written several social commentary essays. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Canadians, before you vote, remember the Liberals


There is no point replacing Harper with a brainless twit who will continue to drive Canada in the same direction. Trudeau is no Trudeau, when it comes to Canadian independence and fundamental values.

Trudeau is the continuation of the new Liberal line: Paul Martin, Stéphane Dion, Michael Ignatieff ...

Martin destroyed the party by infighting to veer the country clearly towards US interests and increased integration into US geopolitical designs. Dion was a lame attempt to present a facade of reason, without any correction of direction. Ignatieff was a pathetic Harvard boy brought in like a hand puppet to manage the Martin take-over.

Canadians soundly and rightly rejected the Harvard boy. That would have been too much. But the boys in charge are clearly the same with Trudeau. Trudeau is pro-war, pro-Bill C-51, pro-integration with US foreign policy of destruction and intimidation, pro-foreign-owned capital and corporations setting the rules, and so-on.

Trudeau's entire strategy is to maneuver into your vote. There is no principle, no direction, no plan to make Canada work for Canadians, nothing other than photo ops, double messages, superficial posturing, and middle-class bribes that will dissolve quickly if they are ever implemented for the sake of short-term political advantage.

The Liberal party is a has-been for good reason. It no longer deserves the trust of Canadians.

There are still 30 (of 105) Liberal Senators. What have they done to oppose Harper's selling of Canada to US oil interests and US military adventures? I haven't heard a beep out of them. They know the workings of the system, yet they have not spoken to public opinion.

If you know a candidate in your riding and trust that candidate then vote for him or her. Otherwise, if you are looking to the party leaders and to the party history for change towards a strong and independent Canada that works for Canadians, then abandon the Liberals and vote strategically to not split the vote.

The NDP is far from perfect and far from uncorrupted by corporate influence, but it might find a desire and a backbone, given electoral power, to give Canada back to Canadians, all Canadians. It could bring us back towards some sovereignty and away from US criminality.

Canada needs the world, and could be respected by the wold, if it moved away from the self-destruction of having only the US and Israel as allies.

A new world is emerging, with a strong Russia-China-India alliance that cannot be intimidated. Canada and Europe can work together to talk some sense into the US-Israel desperate madness of domination by force, while preserving its sovereignty for Canadians, all Canadians.

Don't vote Liberal. That would give a very predictable and bad outcome. Vote for a chance at a better model and a better future.


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. He is a columnist at Dissident Voice, and at Veterans Today.

Monday, May 4, 2015

On the increasing legal suppression of freedom of thought and expression in so-called free and democratic societies

(As evidence for increasing totalitarianism)



By Denis G. Rancourt

Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.
--John Milton, Areopagitica, 1644

My main overriding message is far from new: that freedom of thought, opinion, and expression is the very basis of a fair society. That freedom of speech is the foundational individual right for a truly democratic system to exist or emerge. And that this freedom must be defended without compromise, and without bias against any particular view, no matter how distasteful or disturbing the particular view might be to some or most people.

Undemocratic powerful interests always benefit from any successful attempt to divide and conquer by censoring targeted expression. Citizens should fiercely unite around the principle of freedom of expression, and vehemently reject all constraints on form or content of individual expression (choice of words, signing, body language, tone, and images).

The message of the centrality of free expression in human societies has been strongly made by a stellar array of historical figures (Milton, Locke, Spinoza, Voltaire, Diderot, John Stuart Mill ...), and it is stated in universal covenants and declarations, but it is largely not understood or authentically accepted by a majority of societal actors. Thus, I make this added attempt to drive the point home with the following recent examples and analysis, at a time when totalitarianism is evidently making substantive forays across the Western world.

The threat against our freedoms is not from outside. Rather, it is from those who manage us. And, injustices cannot be resolved unless individuals are free to exert influence through speech. Individual influence is the primary mechanism of accountability of institutions, of private corporations, and of governments.

Only a small part of the full spectrum of increasing suppression of personal freedoms --
  • from media concentration, 
  • to editorial alignment and an absence of journalistic independence, 
  • to CIA oversight of Hollywood, 
  • to structural threats to web freedom, 
  • to copyright excesses, 
  • to pay-wall barriers against the sharing publicly-funded research, 
  • to extreme and continuous standardized testing in schools, 
  • to centralized control of school curricula without professional independence of teachers, 
  • to codes of conduct on campuses, 
  • to decreasing access to information including one's own personal information held by government, 
  • to applied intolerance of "threatening" views in every sphere of life, 
  • to legal precedents that disregard international law in freedom of speech cases, 
  • to "human rights" codes that do not require establishing actual harm against any actual victim, 
  • to increasingly constrained professional independence in all professions, 
  • to "hate speech" criminal codes that jail expressive perpetrators of victimless "crimes", 
  • to overbearing and formalized lobby-influence on politicians at every level, 
  • to the implementation of complete surveillance, 
  • to increasing incarceration rates and increasing sentences, 
  • to the militarization of police training, 
  • to global witch hunts against whistle blowers, etc. 
-- is considered here.

The present article is a cursory survey of the mechanisms of select legal instruments in the current palpable increase in totalitarianism, as viewed from the perspective of direct state interference in individual thought and expression, occurring in the US and US-aligned countries, Canada in particular.

An Elaborate Edifice of Sophistry to Counter the Threat of Democracy

A society is totalitarian to the exact degree that the individual is prevented from effectually expressing his/her opinions and beliefs. Suppression of expression intended to exert influence is an accurate gauge of totalitarianism.

The elemental opposing force against runaway hierarchical dominance is the balancing force of the individual seeking freedom by attempting to exert influence. [a]

Nothing can be clearer about societal organization. The violent oppression that necessarily accompanies society's dominance hierarchy is countered only by the individual's efforts to have influence, to have a significant say in his/her own life and in the life of his/her community.

The individual, acting alone or in association with other individuals, is the essence of the protection against totalitarianism, fascism, and oligarchic plutocracy, and this is as true in the so-called "free and democratic societies" as anywhere else.

The establishment that manages the dominance hierarchy [1], uses an elaborate edifice of sophistry to artificially dissociate individual expression from the natural right to practice influence by expression. In this way, expression can be controlled where its potential influence is judged undesirable, or where it is feared to have a potential cascading effect on public perception.

Trusting that ideas can be left to be evaluated by individual citizens would be to leave the priorities of society to be decided by people. The resulting risk of popular influence is intolerable to any dominance hierarchy, by definition.

Therefore, for example, despite it being universally accepted, at least on paper and thanks to a residual sway of reason in the present era, that the right to have an opinion is absolute [2], virtually all the statutes, covenants, and legal-establishment treatises nonetheless codify that the right to express an opinion is not absolute, but rather is subject to "reasonable and necessary limits" that can be imposed by the courts that are maintained by the state. The "authorities" go on to pronounce that by imposing "reasonable limits", one achieves a "balance" between the competing interests of expression and of minimizing harm from expression, without ever acknowledging any cognitive malaise from admitting a "right" to freedom of expression while contributing to the massive legal apparatus that controls which expression can actually be free.

The elaborate edifice of sophistry, with its many arms and legs, that is used to assuage discomforts in the legal mind regarding suppression of individual expression is worthy of study and should be explicitly described. To no one's surprise, the needed study is not an exercise for which legal scholars have exhibited much enthusiasm.

The Device of Giving Institutions and Corporations Human Rights to Counter Human Rights

In one branch of the said edifice of sophistry, the court rulings expressly admit that human freedom of expression is essential to human existence and fulfillment, and "constitute[s] the foundation stone for every free and democratic society" [3], yet completely fail to discern expression of the individual from expression of multinational corporations and of powerful individuals representing institutions and nations. As a result, individual expression critical of corporations or critical of officials representing large institutions is scrutinized and carries life-changing consequences whereas mass advertizing, media control, and government propaganda are protected under a contrived umbrella of "freedom of expression", and are not constrained to prevent skewing the democratic process, undue concentrated influence, and suppression of individual freedoms.

On the one hand, there is an absolute paper-right to holding, developing, and changing one's opinion, but on the other hand there is virtually no individual recourse or protection against the dominant practice of top-down social engineering of identities, attitudes, and beliefs. The fringe counter-movements of home schooling and "going off grid" are heavily regulated and come at a high price. And there is no individual protection against employer demands for ideological conformity, especially among professional workers [4].

When a judge is tasked with "balancing" the individual's right of free expression against "reasonable limits" in a "free and democratic society", it never enters his/her legal mind that the powerful individual screeching "defamation" and whose extravagant legal costs are entirely paid by a corporation or using public money should suck it up and adjust accordingly, that the whole idea of a democracy is that there will be a cacophony of criticisms from individual citizens in addition to organized messaging and all the rest.

Instead, typically, the judge will apply the common law of defamation, which evolved to protect the sensitivities of the privileged against false rumours, and to protect the powerful against the democratizing effects of the emerging technology of the printing press, prior to the modern legal enshrinement of the universal principles of human rights.

A Tenacious and Regressive Common Law of Defamation That Is Refusing To Go Away

Even a superficial look at the tenets of the common law of defamation would be enough to make any reasonable person admit that such a structure is incompatible with finding a "balance" that justifies suppressing an individual's expression. Not so for our highest judges [5].

How is the common law of defamation incompatible with the right to free expression? It is not difficult to see, unless you are trained in law [6]:

"[Defamation] is the only common law tort (or cause of action) where damages — actual damage to reputation — and malice (malice of defamation) are assumed, and need not be proven in court. The result is a presumption of guilt — regarding falsity of the expression, malice of the defendant, and damages to the plaintiff — that can only be overturned if the defendant can prove one of the available defences, which are strictly limited and codified. ...

Defamation law is structured such that if a complained of criticism, comment, or opinion is ruled by the court to have the tendency to reduce the social reputation of the plaintiff, in the mind of a fictitious “reasonable person”, then damage to reputation is assumed and a financial award for damages is due, even in a total absence of evidence of actual damage to reputation (such as: lost fans of an artist, lost clients of a service provider, lost social connections, loss of employment, fewer invitations to social or business functions, etc.). The criticism complained of is all that is needed to obtain damages. Guilt is automatic, and the only possible defences are strictly limited and codified, carrying the names of “truth”, “privilege”, “fair comment”, and “responsible reporting”. The presumed-guilty party has the onus to prove an allowed defence."

A minority of Canadian legal scholars, the exceptions that prove the rule, have correctly argued that the presumptions of falsity, malice, and damages structurally inherent in the common law of defamation should be abolished [7].

The OCLA report adds [8]:

"All of this is exacerbated by the fact that there is no practical need for the tort of defamation because there are other common law torts that sufficiently protect against unjustified attacks to personal reputation, and which correctly require proof of harm and of malice. These include the torts of: malicious falsehood, intentional infliction of mental suffering, conspiracy to harm, and so on."

There you have it, in the face of both Canada's international obligations and Canada's own constitutional Charter, its highest court irrationally clings to a defunct common law that most-conveniently suppresses individual expression (Hill v. Church of Scientology, see Endnote-[5]). In the case in question, the Supreme Court even ruled that the fact that the plaintiff (a Crown prosecutor) had "received promotions, was elected a bencher and eventually appointed a trial judge in the General Division of the Court of Ontario" following suffering the alleged possible harm to reputation was simply not relevant in any way [9].

The Device of Attributing Diffuse and Distributed Human Rights to Remove Actual Human Rights of Individuals

Outside of applications of the common law of defamation, the highest courts are further eroding the principle of free expression, rather than moving towards recognizing it as a true right, even when the question before the court is not one of defamation.

A terrifying example has occurred recently (2013) in Canada's supreme court. The legalistic catastrophe was astutely described by social-scientist Professor Peter J. McCormick [10]. In Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott the court somewhat diverged from its own past applications of and tentative skirmishes with the proverbial "balance", and definitively parted from the universally accepted doctrine that expression can be suppressed only to the degree shown to be necessary [11], by finding that "All rights guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are subject to reasonable limitations" [12], not "necessary limitations" but instead "reasonable limitations".

"Reasonable" means that the court can decide, on the basis of its subjective evaluation, what expression can "reasonably" be suppressed, rather than be burdened by the objective and evidence-based criterion of necessity. And the court did exactly that.

The court even went so far as to find that truth should not be an absolute defence against the state's suppression of an expressed statement that is both truthful and sincerely delivered, and that it can be "reasonable" to suppress such a statement in a "free and democratic society", without needing to make an objective and evidence-based evaluation of whether the suppression is necessary. There can be no substitute for the court's own words, when trying to fully appreciate the sophistry needed to achieve the goal [13]:

139. Critics find the absence of a defence of truth of particular concern, given that seeking truth is one of the strongest justifications for freedom of expression. They argue that the right to speak the truth should not be lightly restricted, and that any restriction should be seen as a serious infringement.

140. I agree with the argument that the quest for truth is an essential component of the “marketplace of ideas” which is, itself, central to a strong democracy. The search for truth is also an important part of self-fulfillment. However, I do not think it is inconsistent with these views to find that not all truthful statements must be free from restriction. Truthful statements can be interlaced with harmful ones or otherwise presented in a manner that would meet the definition of hate speech.

141. As Dickson C.J. stated in Keegstra, at p. 763, there is “very little chance that statements intended to promote hatred against an identifiable group are true, or that their vision of society will lead to a better world”. To the extent that truthful statements are used in a manner or context that exposes a vulnerable group to hatred, their use risks the same potential harmful effects on the vulnerable groups that false statements can provoke. The vulnerable group is no less worthy of protection because the publisher has succeeded in turning true statements into a hateful message. In not providing for a defence of truth, the legislature has said that even truthful statements may be expressed in language or context that exposes a vulnerable group to hatred.

142. Some interveners argued that there should be a defence of sincerely held belief. In their view, speech that is made in good faith and on the basis of the speaker’s religious beliefs should be given greater protection, or constitute an absolute defence to any prohibition. These arguments anticipate the question still to be considered of whether an infringement of s. 2(a) of the Charter by s. 14(1)(b) would be justified under a s. 1 analysis. It is sufficient here to say that if the sincerity of a religious belief would automatically preclude the finding of a contravention of s. 14(1)(b), the s. 1 analysis would be derailed with no balancing of the competing rights.

143. Apart from that concern, the fact that a person circulates a hate publication in the furtherance of a sincere religious belief goes to the question of the subjective view of the publisher, which is irrelevant to the objective application of the definition of hatred. Allowing the dissemination of hate speech to be excused by a sincerely held belief would, in effect, provide an absolute defence and would gut the prohibition of effectiveness.

This kind of extreme judicial activism towards suppression of expression, in the face of an international covenant ratified by the home state, typically occurs in cases where the issue before the court is one that opposes an unpopular minority defendant (here a religious anti-gay fanatical pamphleteer) against a strident majority view that enshrines "political correctness". In Hill v. Church of Scientology (above, and Endnotes [5] and [9]), the defendant was an unpopular religious group widely considered a "sect", directly attacked by the Crown whose legal costs were paid by the state. The action lead to the largest award of unproven "damages" ever seen, and to the above-described sophistic findings about the common law of defamation.

Occasionally, the alignment of societal-mobbing circumstances works the other way. In WIC Radio v. Simpson [14], the plaintiff was in the minority as a public critic of gay-rights content in school curricula and the defendant was a radio station and its talk-show host who had compared the plaintiff to Hitler and stated that she was personally inclined towards violent methods in advancing her campaign, none of which had any demonstrable basis in fact. In that case, Canada's supreme court made the strongest defence of the right to free speech in its post-Charter history, which gave a needed boost to the so-called "fair comment" defence in the common law of defamation, while of course preserving the above-described absurd tenets of this common law.

The Aggressive Assault of Criminalizing "Hate Speech"

The situation is even more alarming when it comes to "hate speech crime". "Free and democratic societies" such as those in Canada, France, and Germany, have "hate speech" instruments in their criminal codes. Here sophistry is barely needed. The state need only prescribe which utterances are criminal and decide which targets will be prosecuted.

"Hate speech crimes" are remarkable "crimes", in that there are no identified victims and no proven harm. Those charged can be sentences to jail, the ultimate suppression of freedom (barring execution), without the prosecutor being required to prove harm or intent to do harm or that there was a single actual victim.

The unusual features of these criminal codes do not appear to ruffle the cognitive serenity of the managers of law and order. Judges are bothered by the victimless nature of these extraordinary "crimes" as much as they are vigilant regarding the remarkable statistical coincidence that every time a frail victim of police brutality is beat to a pulp the police file charges of "assault" by the victim, which are duly prosecuted by the Crown. Smart-phone cameras and web-postings are making such a judicial blind spot more and more difficult to maintain. But with "hate crimes" the prosecutors need only find sufficiently unpopular targets to make burn-at-the-stake examples that serve the state propaganda for war or whatever campaign of international exploitation.

"Hate crime" codes are intrinsically political, and are a direct affront against human rights. In Canada, a "hate crime" can only be prosecuted with the explicit and statutory permission of the government (Attorney General) [15].

The criminal-code excesses that are increasingly present in Canada were foreseen by international law, thanks to excesses observed in "less democratic" states. For example [16]:

States parties should ensure that counter-terrorism measures are compatible with paragraph 3. Such offences as “encouragement of terrorism” and “extremist activity” as well as offences of “praising”, “glorifying”, or “justifying” terrorism, should be clearly defined to ensure that they do not lead to unnecessary or disproportionate interference with freedom of expression.

Laws that penalize the expression of opinions about historical facts are incompatible with the obligations that the Covenant imposes on States parties in relation to the respect for freedom of opinion and expression.116 The Covenant does not permit general prohibition of expressions of an erroneous opinion or an incorrect interpretation of past events. Restrictions on the right of freedom of opinion should never be imposed and, with regard to freedom of expression, they should not go beyond what is permitted in paragraph 3 or required under article 20. 

The modern practice in Canada, France, and Germany towards explicitly making so-called "holocaust denial" a crime punishable by incarceration is a shocking testament to stupidity and to a crass special-interest fetish tied to geopolitical projects. It appears to be too much to ask that law makers actually read the unassailable academic work of Professor Norman Finkelstein on the question of the exploitation of the Nazi holocaust by powerful special interests [17], which was endorsed by the world's preeminent scholar of the Nazi holocaust, Professor Raul Hilberg [18], before the said law makers vote for such embarrassingly stupid laws. 

If Canada cared about historical genocides, it could respect its treaty obligations and pay reparations arising from its own most-efficient genocide of native peoples, the persistent consequences of which are repeatedly documented in United Nations reports. Likewise, France could pay due reparations to Haiti, for a start. All of this can be done without violating free expression rights. Instead, these "free and democratic societies" pass criminal codes that would, on their letter, put both Norman Finkelstein and Raul Hilberg (if he was not already dead) in jail for, among other things, publicly contradicting or criticizing the dogma of the "6 million deaths" figure. Unbelievable. You could not make this up.

Freedom Is Better

All of these legal instruments of intimidation against free expression (political correctness codes, defamation law, and hate-speech criminal codes) represent massive systemic repression against individuals, both directly and psychologically. The resulting harm to human development, the resulting quashing of societal creativity, and the resulting damage to the human spirit are impossible to imagine qualitatively, let alone gauge in magnitude. As a result of the overall regime of thought control, codified by these legal instruments against free expression, we are individually stunted and made capable of participating in horrendous crimes of state, including hugely asymmetric wars of aggression and wholesale destruction of distant nations.

The opposite is liberty. In an actual free society, expressed ideas -- no matter how insulting or insensitive or perceived-as-threatening to our values and identities -- are debated, ignored, developed, forgotten, recorded, reacted to, rejected, embraced, or whatever, but expression itself is never suppressed at the source; because the source is a human being, and one's emotional reaction belongs to the person having that reaction, who in turn also has a right to freedom of speech.

For example, evolution-theory is threatening to the identity and beliefs of many people. Therefore, should it be criminalized? Likewise, creationism is threatening to the beliefs and world views of many people. Therefore, should it be criminalized, suppressed with fines, or not allowed in schools? Homosexuality is threatening to the beliefs and identities of many people. Therefore, should expression about homosexuality be banned? Should the gay reality of society be celebrated and taught in schools, or should it be forbidden talk in the classroom?

If what is taught in school is received uncritically by children, then the problem is not what is taught, but rather school and parents themselves. In a free society, children and adults are not so gullible because they constantly practice speech and are subjected to different opinions, and therefore think for themselves about things that matter to them. In a free society, children bring much of the curriculum with them into the classroom, and parents are allowed into that sacred place. Fights over the content of the indoctrination material, whether the material is from the dominant paradigms or from opposing paradigms, are largely fights over the kind of zombie one hopes to create.

The thinking person is not afraid of expressed opinions and does not waste time arguing about form rather than meaning. The independent thinker does not need others to be gagged and punished for their opinions, or for the manner in which those opinions are expressed. The listener's loss of interest and the loss of engagement are punishments enough for the communicator, in a healthy society.

The state instruments of suppression of speech erode human relations, impoverish the human experience, and deprive us of individual influence and political engagement. We have a natural right to speak and to hear others speak. No entity has a legitimate right to silence individuals. The damage done by the legal instruments of suppression of speech is immeasurable. 


Endnotes

[a] See: Rancourt, Denis G., Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism, Stairway Press, 2013.

[1] There is a broad scientific and sociological research literature on the established fact that humans are primates that establish and maintain societal dominance hierarchies. For example, in the area of medical research, stress from the dominance hierarchy is a dominant determinant of individual health, see the review: Sapolsky, Robert M., The Influence of Social Hierarchy on Primate Health, Science 29 April 2005: Vol. 308 no. 5722 p. 648-652, DOI: 10.1126/science.1106477

[2] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 19(1); and General comment No. 34, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee, 102nd session, CCPR/C/GC/34, paragraphs 9 and 10

[3] For example, many rulings give lip service to General comment No. 34, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee, 102nd session, CCPR/C/GC/34, at paragraph 2 (emphasis added)

[4] See: Schmidt, Jeff, Disciplined Minds: A critical look at salaried professionals and the soul-battering system that shapes their lives, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001

[5] In Canada, after the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was introduced, the Supreme Court found it wise to opine "In conclusion, in its application to the parties in this action, the common law of defamation complies with the underlying values of the Charter and there is no need to amend or alter it.": Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto, [1995] 2 SCR 1130, 1995 CanLII 59 (SCC), paragraph 141, which has had the regressive effect of essentially closing that door.

[6] Ontario Civil Liberties Association, OCLA position paper on Bill 83: The tort of defamation must be abolished in Ontario, January 2014, http://ocla.ca/our-work/reports/report-bill-83/

[7] Ibid., at endnote-2: "Bayer proposes that the plaintiff should be required to prove that the words complained of are false, did indeed cause damage to reputation, and that the defendant acted with actual malice or negligence: Carolin Anne Bayer, Re-thinking the common law of defamation: Striking a new balance between freedom of expression and the protection of the individual’s reputation, thesis, Master of Laws, University of British Columbia, 2001. See also: Hilary Young, “But names don’t necessarily hurt me: Considering the effect of disparaging statements on reputation”, Queen’s Law Journal, 37:1, 2011."

[8] Ibid., in the body of the report

[9] Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto, [1995] 2 SCR 1130, 1995 CanLII 59 (SCC), at paragraph 177

[10] McCormick, Peter J., The End of the Charter Revolution, University of Toronto Press, 2015, pages 155-158

[11] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 19(3); and General comment No. 34, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee, 102nd session, CCPR/C/GC/34, paragraphs 27, and 33 to 36

[12] Saskatchewan (Human Rights Commission) v. Whatcott, [2013] 1 SCR 467, 2013 SCC 11 (CanLII), at paragraph 1

[13] Ibid., paragraphs 139 to 143

[14] WIC Radio Ltd. v. Simpson, [2008] 2 SCR 420, 2008 SCC 40 (CanLII)

[15] See, for example, one of the efforts of the Ontario Civil Liberties Association: September 24, 2014, Letter to the Attorney general of BC; and OCLA campaign page.

[16] General comment No. 34, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee, 102nd session, CCPR/C/GC/34, at paragraph 46, and paragraph 49

[17] Finkelstein, Norman, The Holocaust Industry, Verso, 2003 (Second edition)

[18] "Raul Hilberg - Historian prepared to risk his career to expose the Holocaust", The Guardian, September 25, 2007; "Raul Hilberg, 81; scholar was an authority on the Holocaust", Los Angeles Times, August 7, 2007


The author's own difficult adventure with the legal system of language control is described, in part, here: Rogue Courts in Canada Trample Self-Represented Litigants

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, May 3, 2015

Etudiants(es), soyez sérieux(ses) ...

Vous vous êtes fait avoir.

Vous ne pouvez voir l’évidence.

Lorsque la logique, l’évidence est affirmée, vous la rejetez catégoriquement ou faites la sourde oreille.

Pour dire les choses de manière crue :

Vous êtes des travailleurs dans une économie complètement contrôlée. Les secteurs de l’éducation et du service professionnel sont tous deux partie intégrante du même système d’extraction de votre travail intellectuel. Si vous retirez votre labeur, le système s’effondre. Vous êtes donc en position de force pour exiger de bonnes conditions de travail.

Vous devriez être payé pour votre travail scolaire. Les points de négociation devant être le montant de votre salaire, les conditions de travail, et votre participation dans la gouvernance de l’institution (autrement dit, dans l’entreprise qui vous emploie).

Au lieu de ça, vous vous rendez esclave pour seul privilège de vous tuer à la tâche. Ce n’est en aucun cas différent de l’esclave qui travaille toute sa vie dans l’espoir d'acheter sa liberté.

Si seulement vous pouviez vous rendre à l’évidence, vous pourriez enfin arrêter de demander au système de ne plus augmenter les frais scolaires et vous organiser pour reprendre le contrôle du marché du travail.

Vous croyez faussement:

1) Etre stupide au point d’avoir besoin d’un apprentissage  pour apprendre et même  penser.

2) Que les professeurs en charge de ces formations ont le savoir absolu et que ce savoir va d’une certaine manière vous être transféré si vous téléchargez toutes les présentations PowerPoint et remplissez tous les critères requis par la formation.

Par pitié réveillez-vous et reprenez vos droits. Vous n’avez qu’à vous baisser. Ce ne sera pas peine perdue si vous persévérez. Vous seriez surpris par les résultats.

Ne laissez pas les dirigeants vous diviser et vous conquérir. Vous êtes tous des travailleurs adultes, peu importe votre âge, car vous décidez de prendre votre place en tant que travailleur adulte et responsable qui participe aussi dans la gestion de l’école. Ne les laissez pas vous infantiliser. Soyez infantile seulement lorsque vous, en tant qu’adulte, voulez être un enfant.

Dans les années soixante, les frais scolaires ne coûtaient rien, il y avait du travail et il était bien rémunéré. Aujourd’hui en revanche, vous devez mettre fin à l’exploitation abusive des dirigeants. Ils sont allés trop loin. Il est temps d’inverser la tendance. Vous êtes les professionnels les plus exploités, et votre existence est reniée tous les jours de l’année académique.

Vous n’avez aucun pouvoir sur votre propre développement. Votre identité et votre influence sont ignorées. L’identité, l’influence, la lutte, et l’apprentissage sont indissociables. Permettez leur de diviser ces parties de vous et vous serez réduit à moins que ce à quoi vous aspirez, et votre expérience humaine sera incomplète.

Les hommes libres sont supposés faire leur vie, et non pas vivre une vie de servitude forcée.

Je vous en prie, levez-vous et battez-vous. C’est le moment. Vous aurez des alliés. Eliminez vos ennemis et ignorez-les. Joignez-vous aux audacieux. Répondez à l’intimidation par une consécration accrue à la bataille. Redoublez toujours d’effort lorsqu’ils tentent de vous enfermer.


Traduit de l'anglais par Dalilah Freeman.
Original article HERE, and HERE.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Can we be neutral on the question of affirmative action in the hiring of university professors? -- A radical perspective


By Denis G. Rancourt

"Affirmative action" means imposing positive discrimination or quotas for members of disadvantaged groups. In the case of a university department, it means imposing a hiring practice designed to select more candidates from disadvantaged groups.

One view is that the tenured professors of the academic department should have total professional independence to select the most qualified candidates in their area of knowledge, without government or administrative interference. The idea here is that they have the knowledge and experience to best select candidates, and that it is most desirable for society that the most talented teachers and researchers be selected.

In the 1960s this was a dominant view. But those were different times. There was a huge growth of the university system and relatively few qualified candidates. Universities had to be efficient so departments were largely autonomous and administrative overhead was small.

A related argument is that "merit" in teaching and research should be the only criterion in hiring academic staff. This leads to the question: Who is able to evaluate "merit" and can "merit" be evaluated? The tenured professors have an argument that yes merit can be evaluated, and that they are best suited to gauge merit.

There are many problems with these arguments in favour of "merit", as follows.

In an employer's market, the old boys will tend to select clones of themselves. There is no denying that. I lived it personally when I was hired in the 1980s. There were some 100 qualified candidates for one position. The old boys fought to secure a candidate most likely to become a collaborator. This meant someone who would have an interest in securing the same types of research resources, in organizing the same types of symposia, and in being a co-author to boost an old boy's publication output.

Thus, there is a selection for a predictable and dependent individual -- under the guise of "merit", which of course is measured in terms of indicators for predictability and conformity in the area of specialization, which was determined by an internal war prior to anouncing the position.

If merit means potential genius in research and teaching, then good luck making that determination. The only way to predictably ensure the hiring of "stars" is for the hiring department to have the clout to define what is prized research in the field and then to hire over-achieving specialists in that area of focus. The candidate becomes a star operator in a political network of trend setting "leaders" in some fabricated hot topic of their making. The tenure process weeds out the "bad" choices that did not "get it" or that opposed a big shot, and the machine ploughs "forward".

However, the genius of making true discoveries that cannot easily be ignored, and the genius of genuinely inspiring students beyond a warm glow of belonging, cannot be predicted at the time of hiring, especially not by non-geniuses, and not even by authentic geniuses. The reason is simple. A genius makes himself or herself by a unique and unpredictable process, the process of personal emancipation in a changing community. There are no traits that allow reliable early detection by outside observers, not grades, not numbers of bland published articles, not recommendation letters, not hobbies or volunteer work, not lifestyle choices, not skin colour, nothing.

Until there has been an act of genius, which is recognized as such, there is no genius. And a particular achievement of genius can be the only such act in a person's entire life. It can be an "accident", or it can colour the actor's entire life with the insight from that single discovery. A string of brilliance is as likely as a suicide, a priori. The perceived genius can be a creep, a bad friend, a delight, an aggressor, ... , that is also unpredictable [example].

Therefore, let us not expect or even wish that universities will hire geniuses. I think, instead, we should look for independent minded individuals who are dedicated to truth, agency, and sharing. And I think those in the best position to decide if the individual is worthy in these regards are the students themselves. Students should have the teachers that they deserve, and they would deserve the teachers that they chose.

In any case, tenured professors no longer do most of the teaching. Exploited contract academic staff do that now. Some of these staff are brilliant, some are geniuses, and many deeply inspire their students despite their own precarious situations. All are overworked, undervalued, and exploited, except if independently secure.

Socrates was a genius. Socrates changed the world. Socrates inspired students. Socrates was independent minded. Socrates said "an education obtained with money is worse than no education at all". [1]

Yet here we are, some 2,500 years later, arguing if in selecting a permanent class of professionals, which are tasked with supporting institutions that sell education, the government should impose quotas based on skin colour and type of genitals. True progress.

The first thing we must admit is that the discussion about affirmative action is a political discussion about accessing class advantage, and about optimizing integration (social engineering). It is not a discussion about education and learning. It is not a discussion about emancipation and liberation. For example, the establishment women-studies professors are tasked with bringing activist-minded women into the fold; if not, they are turfed. The system does not work against itself.

This cannot be a simple isolated discussion about merit versus fairness. The context is that of a hierarchical and undemocratic corporation having an unavoidable institutional function to completely support a larger dominance hierarchy that wages wars and exploits continents [book]. Learning would be an intolerable threat.

One cannot honestly discuss affirmative action in university hiring without admitting that the de facto mission of the university is incompatible with education, and incompatible with research. The institution makes obedient employees and self-indoctrinated professional workers [book]. Of course, there is some incidental learning, despite the institutional chill, from the mere fact of sharing classrooms and a campus, but that is irrelevant to policy questions.

The only questions, therefore, are: Will there be resistance and what will it look like? Will independence of mind and of agency force itself on the scene? Will the hierarchical dominance be challenged? Will adult students take more control over their own lives? Will professors take more control over their own lives? Will students and professors be opponents or co-resisters? Who will be a collaborator and who will participate in liberation, irrespective of colour and sex?

To accept the debate about affirmative action as central is to participate in not asking the real questions.

My answer would be for the students and community members, who are the diverse population in question, to impose themselves as much as possible onto the hiring process. To stop allowing themselves to be infantilized, and to impose themselves on the process of selecting the individuals who will inspire and challenge them. That includes imposing themselves in removing unwanted professors and in creating a fair salary scale and fair working conditions consistent with their needs as students.

And, these impositions necessarily include students' own working conditions and student salaries for academic work [LINK]. Students must not allow themselves to be forced to buy their educations. Academic freedom must be equally for everyone, students included.

Universities, which today are deserts, need to become battlegrounds if conditions for learning are going to be created.


Endnotes

[1] This quote is widely attributed to Socrates. For example, as cited (p. 12) by: Sasser, Renee M., "The Perceptions of Teachers in a Rural South Georgia County Regarding Merit Pay Based on Student Achievement" (2011). Electronic Theses & Dissertations. Paper 387. <http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/etd/387/>

Highly related post: "Adult students please get real"

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, April 21, 2015

Adult students please get real


By Denis G. Rancourt


You have been had.

You can't see the obvious.

When the obvious is stated, you viscerally reject it, or fain being deaf.

Stated as plainly as I can manage:

You are workers in a controlled economy. The educational and service-professional sectors are integrated parts of the same system of extraction of your intellectual labour. If you withdraw your labour, the system grinds to a halt. This means you have real leverage to extract fair working conditions.

You should be salaried for your school work. The points of negotiation need to be the amount of salary, the working conditions, and your participation in governance of the institution.

Instead, you agree to sell yourselves into indebted servitude for the privilege of working. This is no different than a slave who works all his/her life in the hope of buying his/her freedom.

If you could please just see the obvious, then you could stop "demanding that the system not further increase tuition fees" and start organizing to take negotiated control of the workplace.

You also falsely believe:
  1. That you are stupid to the point that you need to be trained in "how to learn" and even "how to think"
  2. That the professor-handlers have real knowledge and that this knowledge will somehow rub-off on you if you download all the PowerPoint presentations and satisfy all the course requirements
P-l-e-a-s-e wake up and take your rightful place. You need only take it. It will not be a lost battle if you insist. You will learn more than is otherwise possible.

Do not let the masters divide and conquer you. You are all working adults, irrespective of your ages, because you decide to take your place as working adults who also partake in running the school. Do not let them infantilize you. Be a child only when you, as an adult, want to be a child.

In the 1960s, tuition was peanuts and outside labour was plentiful and well paid. Today, however, you must stop the exploiters in their tracks. They have gone much too far. It's time to roll it back. You are the most exploited professional workers, and your very humanity is denied every day of the academic year.

You are denied your agency in your own development. You are denied your identity and your influence. Identity, influence, struggle, and learning go together. Allow them to divide these parts of you and you are less than what you truly want to be, and you experience less than the full human experience.

Free humans are meant to make their lives, not have lives of enforced servitude.

Please stand and fight. Now is the time. You will have allies. Exclude your enemies and make them irrelevant. Join all those who dare. Respond to intimidation with increased dedication to the struggle. Always ramp it up when they want to confine you.


Link to author's other essays about students and education.
And this LIST.