Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April 23: ...a must read....

Almost all of today's TandT is a dead loss. Most of it is just boring, babbling about trivialities, mostly local, while ignoring even local stories that call for attention. But there is one item well worth reading. It's Gwynne Dyer's column about nations and their news media often blow stories out of all proportion.

For example, the idea of North Korea or Iraq (or Syria or Afghanistan or Libya or Yemen or Somalia) being threats to us is absurd. Yet, our governments routinely lie to us about the dangers posed by these countries. And our news media buy it every time. Why do they lie to us?

There are several, closely related reasons.

Instilling fear in us helps the armed forces and the defence industries to get billions of dollars for weapons we don't need. It was immediately after the Boston bombing that the US announced plans to install anti-missile defences all the way up its West coast and Alaska to protect it against a North Korean missile attack. It asked the Canadian government to do the same, particularly to cover the Arctic.

North Korea has few missiles, and none that could get anywhere close to North America. And any use of it by one missile anywhere would mean it would be obliterated. But the village idiots we call a government are busily considering spending billions on this threat that doesn't exist. Ever notice when the threat of "terrorism" developed? It was right after the collapse of the USSR. Of course. We have lost an enemy to hate. We needed a new one.

The blind hatred created by false news enables governments to get away with mass murder, illegal invasions (think Iraq and "weapons of mass destruction") - and torture. After all, they aren't people. They're inferior to us. That's been the belief of any empire that ever existed, the belief that those other people are "lesser breeds".

The hatred and fear also wins our consent for wars that are essentially to benefit big business. Why was the US in Iraq? To steal oil. Why is France in Mali? To steal minerals. Even wars that do not seem to have any connection with big business can be entirely for big business. A war with North Korea, for example, would give US business a major military base to hem in China, and reduce China's power to expand its economic outreach.

So we live in a bizarre world in which small and poor countries of no great military power are, we are convinced, terrible, terrible threats to us.

Oh, yes. The fear and hatred also make it possible for countries like the US and Canada to develop police states in which constitutional standards of freedom are sharply reduced. The US is ahead of us, there. But Harper might well catch up. He'll have to hurry, though. American senators are alreay demanding that all American Moslems be subject to regular surveillance.

In order to maintain the fear and hatred, police and other agencies often encourage terrorist news by picking out dupes to commit themselves to a terrorist act. They will be supplied with materials, instructions, plans up to the last minute. Then they are arrested in a brilliant display of saving the nation from yet another terrorist attack.

No, I'm not a great believer in conspiracy theories. But what a coincidence that two terrorists planning to attack a Via Rail train should have been caught byAmerican-Canadian cooperation at just the same time as the Boston affair and the same time as the appeal to build a missile defence line.

Meanwhile, - how many reports have you read of the western terrorism that has killed millions of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, all over Africa, Guatemala - all of them, course, dangerous threats to innocent Americans. And who knows? Cuba or Venezuela could invade the US any day.

For a comparison of  news discussion of this issue, first  read Gwynne Dyer. Then look to the column above him, a column of trivial bilge on the same subject, this time by Alan Cochrane, editor-at-large of the Moncton Times and Transcript. (But at least he didn't talk about his guitar in it.)
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There should have been a story in today's paper about  hopper cars going off the track on a section of the NB Southern Railway at St. John. That's a railway owned by the man who owns the TandT - and there's a suggestion that the line in general is badly in need of better maintenance. (At least, that was the impression given in an editorial of a week or so ago that called for federal money to repair railway lines.) Isn't this the same line that carries tens of thousands of barrels of Alberta crude to St. John  every day?  Doesn't Mr. Irving know how tough Mr Alward is on environmental safety?

Then - I note two large buildings going up in Highfield Square. Isn't that all registered as contaminated land? Isn't there a law requiring the clearing of all contaminated soil before such building? Could the TandT put some of its keenest newshounds on this one to let us know what's going on?  I mean, it's just across the street from the TandT office.

Then there's a note I received from a contact in the civil service. It's all about the new, Sigma Six administration that Mr. Alward (speaking in an imitation of Mr. Irving's voice) has imposed on the civil service. How's it doing?

Well, a high percentage of new hires are, by requirement, casuals. That's policy. Typically, they're on a one year term with no renewable benefits. Their training in the field they work in varies from zero to poor. They're limited ability to make decisions means that most questions they deal with have to be sent up the line of bureaucracy for any decision. Very efficient.

Department projects which apply for funds have to present statistics to show what it intends to do - and they have to show there will be results within three months. (There's the big business mind set, again. The future means three months - tops.) For many issues with which civil servants have to deal, the three month time limit for results is impossible. They often have to deal with people - and you can't always change people in three months. Education improvements that will show up in statistics in three months? Good luck. Pyschiatric or psychological problems that will be all fixed in three months?

Judgement of performance is based on meeting statistical targets. It's a sort of system designed by geniuses to be run by idiots. What happens in that kind of system is that it becomes dominated by those people who learn how to play the game and just concentrate on producing good statistics. Their work is typically unimaginative, uncreative, and of no practical value whatever. We no longer produce a service. We just produce the numbers that middle management wants to see so that it can become upper management.

I saw systems rather like this (though less formal) in universities. It's quite common. That's why universities are such stinking teaching institutions.

A system of robots managed by robots who answer to an upper management of robots is of doubtful value even in business. In any organization, like the civil service, in which employees have to respond to human needs and the all the variations in behaviour that we people are, robot, statistical operations are a disaster.

We are going to pay one hell of a price for the constant interference of the Irvings in our government, our schools, our hospitals, in our daily lives. If there is one, key problem New Brunswickers have to deal with, it's the problem of getting the Irvings to behave like citizens of a free society with respect for all of us, and not as arrogant barons who can use us or toss us aside at their convenience.

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