Friday, August 24, 2012

August 24: Alward listens - but he doesn't like talking

There's an interesting story on p. A1 about veterans revisiting Juno Beach, where the Canadians landed on D-Day. Unfortunately, it hints at the old myth that D-Day succeeded because of lessons the British generals learned at Dieppe. That is nonsense.

Most British generals, including Montgomery, warned the government that the Dieppe plan was amateurish, and would end in disaster. Unfortunately, and for all his talents, Churchill was never much of a strategist or tactician, and he badly wanted the raid to happen. Dieppe also failed because Lord Louis Mountbatten was incompetent, and because most Canadian officers, both senior and junior, had no experience whatever. All that was learned at Dieppe was never to put incompetent people in charge of a plan.

Unfortunately, the myth will live on because governments always have to convince us that all our wars are necessary and justified.

P. A3 repeats much of what the TandT has already told us about the controversy over the school to replace MHS. But the story does not touch on the bottom line. The bottom line is that the provincial government plans to spend many millions of our tax money to build a school that will serve generations of our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

And citizens have asked, as citizens should, "Why did you choose that location?"

And the government of New Brunswick is saying, "F*ck you, you peasants." And it gives the excuse that us peasants asked after the deadline for questions.

What does that have to do with our right to know why and how our money is being spent? If Mr. Irving had asked why, Alward would have been rushing over to rub his tummy, and explain it all in detail. And if Alward had been as rude and improper to our various barons in this province as he has been to the voters, an editorial in The Moncton Times and Transcript would have shredded him.

But it's not Mr. Irving or McCain or even Ganong that Alward is being rude and dismissive toward. It's just you and me. And there's not an editor in that whole farce we call BrunswickNews with the courage or the integrity or even the brains to support us voters.

And the voters? Have they learned? Or will they just repeat history at the next election and say, "We'll show those Conservatives. We'll vote Liberal."  Just a last time when they said, "We'll show those Liberals." We'll vote Conservative."  And, either way, once again they'll voting for Irving and McCain and Ganong and all those others who seem to hold them in such contempt.

Reuters has the usual story - the rebel point of view on the fighting in Syria. But the last paragraph is a bit of a laugh. It says that it is hard to verify stories that the rebels are being supported and supplied by wealthy Arab states and by the west, including the US and the UK.

Hard to verify? Those Arab states and the the US and the UK have long ago publicly announced they were suppling money, weapons and mercenaries for the rebels. Obama made it very public a couple of weeks ago. And the US has announced a delivery of ground to air missiles for the rebels just a few days ago.

There are also confirmed reports of  rebels who have been executing Christians. (Syria has a large Christian population - and it opposes the rebels.) Maybe Reuters should catch up on reading the news instead of writing it.

What is going on in the middle east and in Africa is the deliberate destruction of organized states by western powers allied with Saudi Arabia and other dictatorships. It's been going on in Congo for decades, with uncounted millions of deaths. It happened in Libya. It's happening in Syria and it will happen in Lebanon and in Iraq - and quite possibly in Iran.

The purpose is to make it impossible for people in those countries to resist western exploitation - oil, gold, diamonds, minerals. The ones that play ball with cheap labour,almost no taxes, cheap access to resources (Saudi Arabia, Jordan, The Emirates) will be left alone. The others will be broken up into tribal regions of almost no power.

(Saudi Arabia places ball very nicely. The royal family make more billions than they know what to do with. But it stops there. The rate of poverty in Saudi Arabia is over 30%. And the kings have not wasted much time or money on social services to change that.)

Harper is going to develop oil in the Arctic. Wonderful. The reason he can do so is because global warming has made it possible to open the Arctic. A major reason we have global warming is that we rely on oil for energy. So Harper plans to encourage the use of even more oil. So we get even more global warming. Once again, it's proven that greed trumps common sense every time.

As always, the editorial takes the side of the government in the MHS dispute - and goes on a brainless rant. On balance, though, it's not the editorial brainlessness that's annoying. It's the predictable gutlessness and the pandering to power.

When I taught grade seven, I was occasionally called out of the room for a few minutes. There was a kid who always put his hand up when I announced that I would be out for moment. He would say, "Sir, can I get a piece of chalk to write on the board the name of anybody who talks while you're out?" What an ass-kissing little wretch! I wonder if he's now an editorial writer at the TandT?

In any case, the editorial writer should find out what the parliamentary system is before he accuses people of attacking it. He might also check the word democracy. An essential part of democracy is information. We don't get much information from our provincial government. And, Lord knows, we don't get much from the intellectually challenged sycophants who run the Moncton Times and Transcript. And if you don't have information, democracy is a farce.

Amusing cartoon by de Adder. Harmless, if scattered, column by Norbert. Important one by Alec Bruce.

On the op ed page, Lynda MacGibbon's  column seems like light reading - but there is something to think about in it. David Suzuki's column in very important - especially if you read it in company with the story on Harper's plan to develop the oil industry.

Big money lives to get more money. Nothing, not even common sense, is allowed to stand in the way. Though it can obviously destroy us, we have made very little attempt to cope with global warming. Indeed, big money is pushing for even more use of the fossil fuels that are slowly killing us.

Remember how many editorials and columns we have seen in the TandT about cutting back on government? And giving more power to big business?

In fact, the western world is pretty much run by big business. The result is a world economy in ruins. That's a direct result of irresponsibility and even criminal behaviour by big business. Another result is a threat to poison the lands and waters of New Brunswick forever - for the sake of shale gas profts - and maybe a few jobs. Another result, as shown by Harper (a big business kiss-up if ever there was one) is a drive to pump out even more fossil fuels and hasten global warming to catastrophe.

Big business, for all its bluster and pretension, does not have the ability, the skills or even the common sense to operate a society.And watch it this year. My guess is it's going to take another run at controlling the schools - something else it knows nothing about.

Pages D1 and 2 are pretty much about preparing to go back to school. And they're pretty obvious things. (Remember to buy a lunch box. Have an alarm clock. Right. And put clothes on. and be sure to walk on the ground.)  That's not surprising. In all of the North American news media, it is very, very rare to find a journalist who knows anything about education.

Education is about intellectual and social development. Yes, a lunch box is helpful. So is a binder. But these are not the crucial elements. One crucial thing - perhaps the crucial thing - is intellectual stimulation. Moncton is not big on intellectual stimulation.

That is not the fault of the schools. They do all that it is possible for schools to do. But intellectual stimulation also has to come from the home, from friends, from variety in one's range of friends, from newspapers, from museums...

I grew up in a very poor district. Nobody I began school with expected to finish high school. In fact, they started dropping out in grade four. Few got past grade nine. But I went to grade ten, and in the new school I met kids I never knew existed.

They read books. They attended theater. They discussed things -not just last night's hockey score - but politics, ideas they had learned from reading, art; they expected to go to university, (something I had never heard of..... They changed my whole life. It was too late to save me that  year. I didn't yet have the habits of study or the belief that I could ever be anything but an office boy or a factory hand. So I often skipped school. But it was downtown, where I could go to the Montreal Museum of Fine arts with its paintings and ancient pottery, to the Redpath Museum with its wonderful collection of a whole dinosaur (bones), a mummy, a stuffed gorilla, to odd little book stores where people browsed for hours. Oh, there was a lot to see; and every step was new world.

It's important to have the stimulation of different kinds of people, of a wide range of music and art and history and ambitions. Moncton doesn't have that. It's not Moncton's fault. It's small city. It doesn't have a wide range of people who differ much from each other. Most parents have very little interest, so far as I can tell, in any serious reading or discussion. Their taste in music ranges from somebody with a guitar to somebody else with a guitar - both of them playing music written over (at the most) the last twenty years.

The TandT advertises books by ex-editors. But I've never seen a book review in it. Virtually all of its news is trivial, and most of its opinon - lacking in inspiration.

The library is dreadfully underfunded.

This has an effect on the children. They rarely get to break beyond the limits of the narrow circle they grow up with. And, in a city this size, there aren't likely to be able to find a circle that's any different from the one they started with.

It's a common problem for small cities. The museum expansion is certainly a good idea. But far more than that has to be done if our children are ever to realize their potential. So, buy lunch boxes and binders by all means. But remember that learning is about people, about relations between people, about learning about what can interest us, about learning what we are capable of.

And remember that children can't get all that from school. It has to come from the whole society. And the society needs a range of differences that will stimulate their thinking and their outlook.


  1. Two things; first on Harper's ultra-zeal in taking advantage of Canada's natural resources, and allowing his junkyard-dogs like Joe Oliver to protect him by calling environmentalists 'radical extremists'.

    I highly recommend everyone read this:

    And, as far as mainstream education goes, everyone should look at this funny and intelligent perspective by Sir Ken Robinson on children and learning. Look at the video here: