Friday, September 30, 2011

Sept. 30: Trash and a treasure.

Most of section A can be skipped. It's just  trivia and ads. The only article worth noting - not because it's good but because it's so gushing and inane - is on p. A9, "increase found in N.B. wealthy households."

It gushes at the number of wealthy people who are self-made. Rot. There is no such thing as a self-made person. All depend on public institutions and conditions - and, at the higher levels, on political influence and fingers in the public purse.

It sets the standard of 'wealthy' at $150,000. Most studies of "the wealthy" would put the starting point at a million at the least. $150,000 is nice; but it's not wealthy.

The baby boomers were the wealthiest generation in Canadian history? Well, yes, some were. But the majority of them, like every generation, were poor or lower middle class.

In general, there is something distasteful about this concentration on a tiny group of the "wealthy" at a time when most of us aren't wealthy, and aren't going to be.

Worse, it's all based on a study by a private banking company which specializes in services to the rich - as in how to leave their money to their families without too much of it being wasted on taxes that help those who aren't so wealthy. In other words, it's a free ad disguised as news.

NewsToday has its usual piece on Libya and, as usual, it tells us nothing unless we read between the lines. After more than a month of fighting, the rebels still cannot take the two, remaining Ghadaffi cities. Both are smaller than Moncton, and both have endured over a month of saturation bombing (by us) and artillery fire. There is obviously something we are not being told. Why is the army that so easily took most of Libya so helpless with these two, small cities?

The answer is obvious. It advanced not on its own fighting, but on a carpet of ruins and bodies laid out by our bombers. We are attacking the last holdouts in the same way. That means thousands, probably tens of thousands, of civilian dead. That's what bombing and artillery fire do to cities. It is unavoidable, and NATO knew that from the start.

But this, we were told, was a humanitarian mission. What does killing civilians from the air have to do with being humanitarian? What is this war really about?

On a personal note, I taught military history to a fine, young officer. He was intelligent, proud of his service, and had a high sense of the honour of military service. I was pround just to have met such a person. He is now a pilot, dropping bombs that kill civilians and splatter children against walls.

He's intelligent and honest and moral. He knows what's happening. I wonder what this experience will do to him?

On our sitde of the ocean, it would be nice to get some honest news about what is happening in Libya, and why. It's important to learnthat  before NATO (with Canada) gets further as unpaid thugs for US oil billionaires.

The new economic council that has taken over the government of New Brunswick has a commentary on the op ed page. It says nothing but blather, the sort of jargon and gobbeldy goop popular in speeches at $500 dollars a plate dinners. You knoq\w ; "we must move; but we must move forward."  clap-clap.."We meed vision; but it must be a clear vision." clap, clap.. "we must work together; but it must be for the right purpose." standing ovation.

The author of this gem of pompous stupidity is the Chairman of the council that is planning our future here in New Brunswick. God help us.

The editorial, as usual, proves that the writer has a wider range of knowledge than any other living person. This time, he or she is supporting Harper's crime bill, the one that just about every authority on crime in the western world says is damaging, backward, expensive, and ineffective. Lucky we have an editorial writer who knows better.

Among other gems of wisdom are "...violent crimes, organizaed crime, crimes against innocent childrren....are unacceptable in our society." Gee! I didn't know that. "...we must take action to prevent these crimes.." Gosh! I bet nobody every thought of that before. I have to wonder whether this drivel was written by the same person who chairs the economic council.

But Alec Bruce's editorial page column does a good job of hammering a  couple of professors on the head.  (Unfortunately the head is the least vulnerable part of a professor's body.)

The professors have just written a book "Campus Confidential....."   It's all pompous nonsense that I heard at least a thousand times in the forty uears I taught university----today's students are lazy; they aren't prepared; they expect high grades for doing nothing...."  Mr. Bruce calls this book pretentious. He is too kind.

Some students are, of course, lazy and unprepared for what they are doing. So, for that matter, are some professors. But in my experience, I saw very, very few students who were unprepared for university. Some did expect high grades. But that's because so many professors are too lazy to mark work properly, and so they hand out grades that have been going up for at least forty years that I know of. Nor do they know how to teach. I was a real teacher before I taught university. I know what real teaching is. Most professors don't; and they don't want to know. If anything, they have contempt for teaching.

That's the basis of it all.  Universities are shoulder deep in the most pompous asses you will ever encounter. Their egos get fed by research and  publication. (Absurd magazines like MacLean's encourage this.)

Teaching takes up the valuable time they need to publish their opus magnum on the history of prostitution among Scots Presbyterian immigrants to Canada.

Very often, they have the same contempt for students they have for everybody except themselves.

The reality is that they have little sense of what they are teaching - except that it's "up to date". Most are very poor classroom performers. They talk about the importance of skills like reading at an advanced level, writing, reasoning; but few have the faintest idea how to do it. So they write books blaming the students.

At the level of the master's and doctoral degrees, it gets worse. That's why they plant graduate capson the heads of people just like themselves - so the new generation will be just like them.

The twin curses of universities are the egos of professors and the willingness of university presidents to sell out every shred of integrity for a buck.

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