Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 16:

First, the news.
Remember back to May 25 when the news was that the Syrian government had slaughtered a hundred civilians in a place called Houla? It was a big story, with The Moncton Times and Tribune carrying it as a report from Reuters. It was a gruesome story of the cruelty of the Syrian government, with its account of how women and children were tied up, and their throats slit.

Yesterday, the BBC publicly apologized for carrying the story.It has proven to be quite false. First, inspectors have found bodies - but not a single slit throat. Nor is there any evidence to suggest who did the killing.

It doesn't matter, of course. Most news services (like Reurter's, the one the truthful Times relies on, will not issue apologies and, anyway, most papers wouldn't run them. Most readers will retain the image of savage government troops slitting the throats of women and children - and politicians will play on that horror as their excuse for getting us to intervene in the war of the side of the rebels.

The BBC, Reuter's, the Irving Press, the Toronto Globe, the New York Times all should have figured that out back on May 25. All their news was coming from one man who called himself a human rights organization to sound good, who runs a clothing store in England -and who sends out rebel propaganda to news services. It was no secret.

The BBC should have known that. (In fact, it did. So did Reuter's.) Hell, even I, a retired history prof in my apartment in Moncton, knew it, and wrote about it at the time.

Was there no editor at The Moncton Times and Transcript with the normal intelligence which is all that it takes to see through that story? Probably not. But they aren't alone. Almost all foreign correspondents are liars. That's a tradition that goes back at least to the Boer War and, more markedly, the Spanish-American war when American newspapers built up a phony story about the sinking of the Maine to create an excuse for war.

Today, Russia is sending two divisions of troops (about 30,000 soldiers) as well as warshhips to protect its naval facilities in Syria. And Obama is under pressure to provide the rebels with ground to air missiles. Meanwhile, John McCain has publicly admitted that the US armed and supplied and gave leadership to the  rebels "for democracy" in Libya. ( Libya is now in such chaos and civil war that Shell has had to close its oil operations there.) McCain, with substantial support in Congress is suggesting the US should do the same in Syria. (In fact, it has been doing the same - through Turkey and Saudi Arabia) - for months

So, let's take a look at Syria - a rebel force made up heavily of mercenaries, Islamists, and with scarcely any democratic element will now be getting heavier equipment from the west, perhaps including AA missiles. Russia is on its way with 30,000 soldiers, and missile-firing ships. Israel is threatening to invade to take over the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal. Russia, the US and Israel are nuclear powers.

Inportant news for the TandT. Nah. They needed space for a really big story, "Many parents give gifts to teachers".

Even a focus on local news would be nice. This might be a good time for a hustling staff at the TandT to find out exactly why Royal Oaks was chosen over other sites for the new high school. We still don't even know what most of the other sites are.

Perhaps it could talk a little more to doctors who are angered by government attempts to muzzle them from speaking publicly on public health issues. In a similar vein, they might find out why Harper has ordered all Parks Canada employees that they must never criticize the government, that it is their duty AT ALL TIMES to support the govenment. Well, there goes free speech for two groups.

Perhaps the TandT could find a hard-nosed, digging journalist to report on the implications of Ottawa's omnibus bill. For example, what does it mean to say that we will change border-crossing law to conform with US practice? In the US, this means secret lists of banned people, surveillance everywhere you go in the US, including random searches wherever you go - and very free limits, indeed, to the police.

And where is all that information we were going to get on shale gas?

Bill Beliveau has an excellent column on the omnibus bill. And it's even worse than he says. In just two more steps, this bill become law. From a prime minister who has the support of barely one-third of the Canadian people, the Canada that I have known and loved and studied all my life will be changed forever - physically, economically, even spiritually. Supported by his mindless mps, some of them still under scrutiny for serious election offences, he is about to destroy our country.

It's good to see Belliveau tackling this. But there should have been news stories on it, too. Where were they? Wanna bet that Mr. Irving and his circle thoroughly approve of the omnibus bill?

As to Norbert' advice for the Liberals, there is no such thing as liberalism in Canada. There hasn't been for a good 120 years. Read some history. And get a good dictionary. The Liberal party through its great years was a party of big business (just like Harper's conservatives) that pretended to be a leader of social progress.  Today, there is a real party of social progress, and there is a party that's joyously and openly in bed with big business. The Liberals, for over a century, have been a party of illusions. The illusions are gone. Big business doesn't need illusions any more. And not enough Canadians believe in the illusions any more.

On op ed, Gwynne Dyer has bad news - and we haven't begun to see how bad it's going to get. Brent Mazerolle is, well, he's Brent Mazerolle. Oh, de Adder is silly, trivial, and peddling propaganda to appeal to morons and corporation bosses.

I was quite drawn to Whatever, that part about students. And I can tell them one thing about high school that they don't yet realize. High school is the most intense experience of our lives. Years later, our friends, the people we just hated, the teacher everybody loved, the bully who destroyed lives will be remember as intensely as they were experienced at the time.

As to Jana Giles' dismissal of anti-bullying committees, I think she's quite right. But I would go further. I think bullies should be subject to expulsion. Yes, yes, I know it will turn them to ignorance and possible to crime. (most of the bullies I have known ended up ignorant and criminals,anyway. Either that or writing editorials for the Irving press.) I know that expelling a bully will destroy his education. But I also know that keeping him will destroy education for many others. From student to teacher, I've spent most of my life in schools. And I've seen too many people whose lives were ruined forever by school bullies. (And that includes bullying teachers.)

You will find the world, all of  your life, full of bullies - in the form of malicious gossips, over-powerful business people, mercenary journalists, politicians like Harper, Maurice Duplessis...lots of them. Some of us eventually learn how to handle them. But they don't learn it in school, not in time. And that's where they do their greatest human damage. I would have no qualms about expelling them.

And that, I guess, come from the intenity of the high school experience that I was talking about.

This summer, I shall attend the 61st reunion of my graduating class (of which I was the only one who did not graduate.)  Of all the classes I have attended or taught, this is the only one for which I remember every one of them, and every one of our teachers. I remember the kid I disliked for his arrogance. And, though he's a prominent medical doctor in western Canada now, I still dislike him. I still respect and like the class president (now a lawyer), my close friend, a Japanese-Canadian from the awful experience of the Canadian detention camps, who's now an internationally respected surgeon; and Lloyd, who became one of Canada's  best architects. They're still exactly the kids I knew at Montrreal High. There is no experience in life to match high school.

Graduatiing students always think they're leaving something behind to go into the future. In fact, that something will never be left behind.

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