Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dec. 20:

I caught a bit of "Cross-Country Checkup" on, I think, Saturday night. The big phone in topic was "what was the biggest news event of the year?". Was it the marriage of Kate and what's-his-name?  Perhaps the new, pad computers? Or Lindsay Lohan posing nude for Playboy?

And that comes form the most intellectual of our news media. The front page of today's Time&Transcript has a big story about a family that lost a puppy. Well - we read the papers, and we listen to the radio. I guess we get what we want.

The TandT has still not given coverage to the story that Obama is about to sign a bill that would give the American military the right to put  American citizens living in America into indefinite imprisonment in military prisons without charge or trial - without even showing that a crime had been committed in the first place.

This wipes out the civil rights that are essential to democracy, the right to knowing the charge, to having access to a lawyer, and to a fair trial. In effect, this cancels the American constitution. (It also cancels the international bill of rights which  the US signed many years ago - but who cares?)

There doesn't even have to be a crime. Somebody imortant doesn't like you? You go to a military prison - where torture can be used. Case closed.

This is the American Revolution in reverse. It's the end of free speech. It's the end of democracy.This is not an exaggeration. This is reality. Look at it.

Of course, it was exciting to see Kate and what's-his-name in their wedding photos.

Will it affect us? You bet. Remember the agreement Harper and Obama signed to borrow each other's troops in case of civil disorder? If there is serious civil disorder in the US -and there will be serious discorder, there will be times when it will be advantageous for Obama to send in Canadian troops.

Indeed, given the recent agreements on shared policing with the US, it is quite possible that Harper will pull out the War Measures Act - which gives similar power to a Canadian government.

Oh, the new, US bill also gives power to the American military to detain (kidnap) anycitizen of any country - and to do it in that peron's country. Shared policing will make that even easier in Canada.

Okay. Let's say the royal wedding is the story of the year. The crushing of civil rights in the US is the story of the last couple of centuries. But you won't find it at the supermarket checkout counter. And you won't find it in the Times and Transcript.

Lots of good stuff about lost puppies, though.

Harper is reducing promised health care payments to the provinces. That makes the news - as it should. But it is presented in a subtly biased way. To be honest, we should be given such a story in the context of the whole budget. But we aren't.

The story simply quotes the government line  that we have to make cuts in difficult economic times. No doubt. So are we cutting out disastrous expenditures on a fighter plane of doubtful value? Are we cutting down on handouts to corporations? Are thinking of perhaps raising taxes on the very rich?

The reader needs to know that. Otherwise, the story becomes "we are making cuts to health, but it is the only thing to do in hard times." Just common sense. Very common.

Actually, Canada is not suffereing hard times. All that Canadian money we've printed is still there. The trouble is not that we're runiing out of money. They problem is we've allowed most of that money to end up in the hands of a very few. We are a welfare state, a nanny state - for the rich and for corporations. But you would never guess that from the tone of reporting.

Interesting column by Gwynne Dyer. He argues that we should not confuse religion with morality. Using Britain as his example, he argues that most people are moral, though only a small and dwindling minority are religions  (especially in Christian circles). Dwyer is too kind.

Here, in New Brunswick, only a minority attend religious services with  any regularity. I have never seen so many churches for lease or for sale as I have in Moncton. But most people are still pretty moral.

However, I see nothing moral in the behaviours of our provincial or federal governments. (And I bet all those MLAs make it a point to go to church and shake hands at election time.)

There's no shortage of self-rightiousness in New Brunswick churches; but not much sign of faith. I regret that because I think faith can strengthen morality. But those who go to church seem to be more interested in looking respectable and pointing their fingers are 'evil' people than in practicing their faith.

This came to mind as I read a letter to the editor complaining about a student columnist who wrote that she was a pagan.

Come on. Most Canadians aren't even pagan, let alone Christian in any real sense. And 'Merry Christmas' has long ago come to mean spend money, and get lots of nice presents. As for the Happy Chanukah stuff, that's really an offshoot of the North American, commercial Christmas.

Chanukah is, of course, an important religious celebration. But it became North Americanized as Jewish immigrants blended into our society. Thus the 'Happy' Chanukah wishes. I remember, as a kid, visting Jewish friends who had a tree with blue and white lights in the house, and with presents around it. They called it a Chanuka Bush. (and even they felt it was both a bit silly and funny.)

I wish it were otherwise. But I see little Christianity in Canada - and nothing in most of our political and business leaders that could be called morality or faith of any kind.

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