Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 16: As I was saying in yesterday's blog....

....but, first, let's deal with today's paper, then go to what I was saying yesterday.

What's glaringly missing is the story of the massive oil spill from a pipeline in Arkansas. Such spills are not unusual. The oil doesn't just flow through pipelines; it's under pressure that moves it, millions of tons of it, through the pipe at  some 50 kph. That's enough pressure to crack a pipe, and enough to push the oil out in a real hurry. In Arkansas, it is a crack some 20 feet long, and just an inch or so wide. But that is enough to make a town in Arkansas unliveable, and to pollute both groundwater and streams for an as yet unannounced area.

By coincidence, the spilled oil is from Alberta, the especially dirty tarsands oil - exactly the oil that Irving wants to pipe through New Brunswick.

By further coincidence, that is the same oil that Irving is bringing into into New Brunswick by train at some tens of thousands of barrels a day; and, if we are to believe a recent editorial in the TandT, quite possibly bringing it in on substandard track.

And - it seems possible that the railway track he's using belongs to Mr. Irving (something the editor did not mention when he suggested our tax money should be used to repair the track.)

Could we possibly have some more information on this? Perhaps including a note on the air quality of St. John as it adds dirty oil to its list of inidustries?

It would also be nice to know exactly what Jamie Irving is doing with the two million or so we gave him to stick his nose into the public education system.

No, none of this is in the paper. The big story is a nothing story about Gallant, the Liberal leader, winning a seat in the Kent byelection. There is not a hint of what principles, if any, he stands for. There is nothing of what the issues were in the election. Nothing of what this means except that for a century the people of Kent have voted Liberal. (That tells us something about the vitality of democracy in Kent and, multiplied by ridings across the province, why New Brunswick is such an economic mess.)

 It's a story that tells us nothing whatever about what Mr. Gallant stands for, why people voted for him, what the issues in the campaign were. This isn't a news story. This is a social note.

And from there, Section A only gets worse. Unless you really, really need to know that somebody found his wallet after losing it twenty years ago.
NewsToday has a big story on the bombing at the Boston marathon. However, until we find out who did it, there really isn't much to report.

There is, at last, a story on Syria which admits that Islamic jihadists (mostly non-Syrian and mostly connected to Al Queda or related groups) are prominent and maybe even dominant among the "rebels". These are the people that the US and its allies have been supplying money, weapons and training to. Why?

Partly, it's an old game. The purpose of the Syrian war is to divide the Moslem sects against each other so that the country becomes shattered. The same game was played in Iraq. That's why Iraq is visibly crumbling - though the TandT has never mentioned it.

The same tactic was used in the British Empire. In India, for example, the British divided Hindus against Moslems. It meant that opposition to British rule was divided, and so weakened. That's why India had a bloody civil war after the British left, and why Pakistan was created -with results dangerous to the whole world to this day.

The Associated Press report on Syria still uses the Syrian Human Rights Observatory as a source, even though it is now well known that the observatory is really a one-man propaganda front for the "rebels".


Great editorial cartoon by de Adder. It tells us more about the Kent byelection than the front page story does.

The editorial is pure bilge. I know of no evidence that sports develop leadership qualities. Indeed, the world of professional sports has produced almost no leaders at all.

Nor does sport do anything to discourage bullying. Quite the contrary, many sports (hockey springs to mind) encourage and even idolize bullying.

And social media (facebook, etc.) encourage bullying? Gee, then the cause of bullying in the past must have been that we have hands. And if we had just cut off everybody's hands, we could have put an end to bullying.

The reality is that the social media provide an outlet for bullying. The don't cause it. Taking children away from the social media will do nothing to stop bullying.

This is an ignorant editorial. Bullying exists throughout our society. It always has. The boss bullies workers. Men bully women. The rich bully the poor. Turning off the computer or the tweeter isn't going to change that. And to say that sport will change that - well, that's the babble of sports dinners and similar "jolly good fellows" gatherings. Sports will make you healthier (most of them). But they do not produce good citizens or leaders or 'non-bullies'. Some, especially intensely focussed team sports - the way we have highly organized teams for children - may actually retard maturity in children.

Very solid columns by Alec Bruce and by Norbert Cunningham.

On op ed, Alan Cochrane renews the TandT pimping for an "events centre". (Great timing. The world economy is on the edge of crumbling with the US, our major market for the events centre, leading the way. Perhaps we can attract our American audience by holding special events for the almost one hundred million Americans who now live on food stamps.)

Luckily, the op ed page is saved by an excellent column by Louise Gilbert (Seniority Rules.)

Now, back to the idea of a war economy......

The US and Canada both learned the economic lesson of World War One, and they were well prepared to apply the lesson by 1939. You cannot permit a free market economy in wartime. To do so is create profiteering, ineffeciency, inflation, severely reduced living standards, enormous national debt - and to risk violence, even revolution.

That's why the governments applied severe controls. Canadians were given ration books so that they paid money plus ration stamps for basic foods. The idea was not so much to limit the food as to prevent inflation developing out of food shortages. Rationing enabled the government to plan ahead to make sure that enough basic food was produced to meet the demand - but to do it wihout risking wastage. As well, ration books made it more difficult for a black market - which would  have cause inflation - to develop.

The result was excellent. There was, of course, grumbling, but most Canadians were actually better fed during World War Two than they had been for generations.

There was strict government control of weapons production and costs.  Profits remained good - but not excessive. And that eased the pressure on taxation.

Rents were controlled - which also meant a need to control anything that was a necessary cost for the owners. There was some cheating as some landlords demanded a pay-off (key money) in addition to the rent. But it generally worked.

Result - there was no out-of-control-inflation, and most Canadians were better housed and fed than they had ever been in the history of this country. And the war ended without a crushing federal debt.

Polls as early as 1942 indicated that Canadian liked this system of big government. They liked it so much that the polls shows a huge rise in support for the CCF party, the ancestor of the NDP. Canadians liked big government, liked it so much they wanted it continued after the war. And the Canadian civil service was so respected that even big business sent its rising executives to study the civil service.

But, generally, big business was not pleased with big government. While big business had profitted during the war, it could have profitted even more without the controls. Of course, if big government had been seriously reduced after the war, we would almost certainly have suffered one hell of a crash. But the strong point of big business has never been planning - and certainly not on planning for anything that might help anybody besides it.

That's why big business launched its think-tanks and its propaganda-spewing news media to send the message that big government was bad. that we shoud drop all controls, drop taxes for the rich, and turn the running of the world over to private business.

In reality, of course, big business needs big government. It needs it to fight its oil and resource wars, to give it hefty contracts for "public/private/partnership", to build its infrastructure like railways, highways (and hockey rinks). Without government defence spending in the US, that country would in even worse a mess than it is now.  Big business didn't really want small government. What it wanted -and got in the US - was big government controlled by big business. It got a lot of what it wanted in Canada, too.

That's why we have a federal government that has allowed outsourcing to a dangerous degree, has destroyed environmental protection, and has hammered on anybody who's weak - like the poor and native peoples.  New Brunswick is probably the worst example of the corporate takeover of government with its destruction of any real democracy.

There's a problem when when you leave government business to big business. The problem, as after World War One, is that the whole system comes crashing down - as it has been doing for the last several years. It is really not wise to leave all economic power in the hands of people whose most notable qualties are extreme greed and indifference to others.

The US economy is not going to recover. It is trying to save itself with war after war to steal wealth from other nations - as it is stealing oil from Iraq. But the cost of those wars is so high that the American people are being left to sink into record poverty - and the debt is so high it will  never be repaid. The need for constant war also puts the world at constant risk of a nuclear war.

As for democracy, it's a doomed species in the US and in much of Europe. People become so desperate, they can be controlled only by programmed hatred of some group (check your calender to see who we fear and hate this week.)  Big business also needs domestic spy organizations (homeland security), militarized police forces, secret lists to keep the population frightened and quiet. As a result, the US constitution is in tatters; and Harper is moving in the same direction.

Big business has been winning the fight to get control of government. We are watching the problems that result from that - poverty, war, profiteering. This teaches a lesson we should have learned a long time ago.  And certainly, we should have learned it in New Brunswick.

The lesson: In any position of power, greed is a poor substitute for brains and social conscience.

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