Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oct. 11: odds and ends

A friend today told me I should give sources with my news. He's right, of course. and I'll certainly try to do so more often.  (It's hard because doing the research and then the writing for this blog takes hours of every day..)

For a start, we'll try an easy way to get sources for a few cases I've mentioned - and we'll do it a thorough way using google.
1.leading presidential hopeful Romney said God wants the US to dominate the world. Go to google. type
Romney God wants America dominate. You will get 1,190,000 sources. (Google often overstates. You will probably not find more than 10,000 or so sites on this subect.
2. Obama and the power of imprisonment of people without charge of trial, including US citizens. .  type Obama imprisonment without trial.  11,000,000 sites. They include Guantamo prisoners to be held for life without trial - but also include americans who are "suspected".
3. The presidential assassination of American citizens. type Obama assassinate US.  33,200,000 sites.

Imprisonment and assassination without charge or trial are both forbidden by the American constitution. Sentencing of war prisoners to life with no charge and no trial is contrary to treaties signed by all civilized countries - including the US and Canada.

No country whose leader can assassinate or imprison without legal process can be called free or a democracy. Amazing the TandT should find this too trivial to report.

I was also told I should check my spelling more carefully. True. I can spell. But I'm an erratic typist. I'm going to see if I can install spellcheck on this. (I'm not so hot with all these here electricity gadgets.)

There's an excellent column on the op ed page today by Charles Doucet. It's on shale gas; it's well-informed; it's eminently sensible and clear; and it's deservedly critical of Don Savoie's remarks on the subject.

Norbert Cunningham is impressed by a book called Better Angels (which he hasn't yet read.) I'm not impressed by it (and I haven't read it, either - only excerpts - but I do know something about the study of history.) The book argues that this world is becoming a less violent place. I don't see how he proves that at all. For openers, his count for deaths in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars is some 137,000. that's absurd.

There is no such thing as a standard method for counting war dead. But estimates for Iraq alone run from a hundred and forty thousand to one and a half million. Afghanistan alone must be in the tens of thousands. And that's not counting the thousand or so Pakistanis killed by drones. Even today, estimates of Vietnamese dead range from a very conservative one and a half million to nine million. I have never heard of a scholar in the field who would even claim to know an accurate count.

We don't even have a working definition of what a war is. Officially, the US has had very few wars. In fact, it has invaded other countries at least 200 times. (google US military actions, wars.)

Most of what is now the US was the property of native peoples. Their lands were invaded and taken by the American army. But there weren't officially wars. Ditto for Hawaii. Ditto for dozens of wars in Latin America. Historically, Panama was a part of Colombia.  Ever wonder how it became separate just in time to build the canal? Vietnam was not officially a war. Neither is Libya. Neither was the bombing of Cambodia that killed a  half million civilians.

As you get back into history, the figures become even less reliable - and for much of the world there are no statistics at all to draw on so far as violence - or anything else - is concerned.

To write a book on how peaceful the world is getting at a time when we are edging closer to destroying all of it in a matter of minutes also strikes me as pretty inane.

Norbert - you say the author shows violence has declined in the world over the millenia. Millenia means thousands (plural) of years. I should love to see his records of violence over thousands of years in the Americas, Africa and most of Asia.

By the way, how come the TandT is one of the very few daily newspapers that does not have a book review section.

Oh - and to suggest Stephen Pinker, author of Better Angels, is one of the world's leading scientists is a bit of a stretch.

Todays paper is almost all trivia and drivel. There's not a mention of the Occupy Wall Street movement though most news media all over the world are taking it very seriously now. It arrives in Canada, perhaps in NB, this weekend.

Understand. This is no repeat of the hippie anti-war movement. This is far more serious. It is becoming an almost world-wide movement against the greed and power of corporations, and against the rampant corruption in our political parties. It's a protest against the very rich making even more money at a time when most others are suffering. (Of course, New Brunswick is not at al like that.)  It's fed by the harshness of the recession and, unlike the Vietnam war, the recession is not going away any time soon. Maybe it's time for us to learn a little bit about what's happening. We are part of the world. And the world is facing an enormous change. That means we are, too.

Read today's paper for Charles Doucet and Alec Bruce. The rest is scrap.

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