Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August 7: Dumb......

....dumb, dumber...I called a meeting of the current events club for the same night Maude Barlow was speaking at the Capitol Theatre. Moving is so confusing. And I still haven't got a computer hookup with Bell Aliant.  They are S-L-O-W.

I also messed life up by initially posting only a third of my blog. I place all the blame....somewhere else.

The most interesting thing in today's TandT concerns its handling of the terrible deaths of two, young boys in Campbellton. It is covered in four, long stories, an opinion column, and an editorial. That is more coverage in one issue than it ever gave to the Lac-Megantic disaster in which almost 50 were killed.

And, in the case of the boys, the paper calls for an   urgent enquiry into how this happened. There was no such call in the case of Lac-Megantic. Of course, they should get tough on the Campbellton case. We should get to the truth of what happened, and take needed measures. But why wasn't that the case with Lac Megantic?

Well, it could have something to do with the fact that the python wasn't pulling a string of Irving Oil cars.
The report of Maude Barlow's speech (p. C3) has unusual coverage. The report on what she said was brief. It had to be because almost half of the report wasn't about the speech at all. It was about the arguments in favour of shale gas that we've heard a thousand times before.

I was reminded, as I read this, of the report on Dr. Cleary's speech in Moncton. That report, too, spent more time on what pro-shale gas speakers said than on what Dr. Cleary said.

I have never seen that done with a report on a pro shale gas speaker.

For contrast, the story just above the one on Maude Barlow really isn't a story at all. It's really a free ad for a pitch by Frank McKenna (aka everybody's friend). He gushes like a groupie about refinery growth in St. John. And, quite unlike the story on Maude Barlow, there is not a word from anybody opposed to such a project.

There are two stories on "terrorism" on p. C1, both of them examples of news stories as propaganda. Yemen, it seems, is in the forefront of the "war against terror". And a "terrorist" bomb killed 36 people in Baghdad.

Of course, there is such a thing as terrorism. But our news media calls it terrorism only when it's done by the other side. The US and Britain killed one and a half million people in Iraq. The majority, by far, were civilian. Sounds like terror to me. But our news media never call it that. Nor did they call it terrorism when the US killed half a million civilians in Cambodia by bombing - or two  million (probably much more than that) in Vietnam by bombing,napalm and poison chemicals.

They don't call it terror when Obama drones kill innocent people, including children in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They didn't call it terrorism when the Guatemalan army, with training, equipment, leadership, and special ops help from the US slaughtered at least a quarter of a million native peoples. They don't call it terrorism when foreign companies (including Canadian ones) call in troops in Central America and Congo to "make examples" of workers who object to brutal working conditions and salaries of a couple of dollars a day.

No, terrorism is just for the other side. And the "war on terrorism" is a handy excuse for destroying basic freedoms in Canada and the US like spying on personal privacy, imprisonment without charge or trial, and the use of torture.

That's not just ignorance on the part of our news media. That's lying. And it's lying to create a terror on us - who are the least threatened people in the world.
Norbert is disgusting. He refers to politicians in general as snivelling, double-speaking, hypocritical, sycophantic, toady, two-faced prevaricating, spineless sleaze bags. And it goes on and on.
1. A blanket accusation like that is just stupid. There are such politicians, of course. And they are the ones that Norbert usually supports. But I've known a good many politicians who were not like that at all.
2. I have known senior business executives who were like the above. But Norbert is too snivelling, sycophantic, toadying, and spineless ever to say such a thing. Indeed, one could well apply his words of contempt to almost the whole editorial staff of Irving Press.
3. At the end, he quotes John Ralston Saul. That would not please Saul. He intensely dislikes sleaze bags like Norbert.
There is a quite exceptional letter to the editor, "Realistic goals are needed", by Frank P. Belcastro. In my experience as teacher (and as a student) I have found what he writes to be very, very true. It's about the process of learning, and how it can be affected profoundly by income levels, community values... We lose thousands of children every year because of education systems which do not take that into account.

This is also the reason why the evaluation of schools through statistics, as Atlantic Institute of Market Studies does it, is a crock. AIMS is really just the Irvings and friends interfering in our schools (with an eye to privatizing), and doing immeasurable damage.

There's also a good letter, "Drinking water getting scarcer". Let's not kid ourselves it can't happen to us.

Actually, the letters to the editor are the best part of today's paper.

Okay, so I messed up on my current events group. So today, let's talk about what conservative means.

It does not mean respect for tradition, keeping taxes down, and it certainly has nothing to do with either freedom or private business. And the closest it ever came to conserving anything was in its early days when it was devoted to keeping the Church of England as the state church of Britain.

And I'll give a hint. Our first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, never called himself a conservative. His party was the Liberal-Conservative party. What would later become the Liberal party was then called the Reform Party.

The trouble with words is their meanings keep changing. Sometimes, a change is accepted by the public which, in its contrary way, commonly has several, quite different understandings of the same word. So, if  you call yourself a conservative, then the word means intelligent, thoughtful, reasonable, economically sensible.....  But if you call yourself a Liberal, then conservative means old-fashioned, pig-headed, grasping and corrupt.

Centuries ago, there must have been the same confusion over cute when, to some people, it meant attractive. But to others, still using an older meaning, it meant bow-legged. (As in acute). The result is we end up in furious arguments over politics that are, in fact, out of touch with any reality.

So let's settle on a very old and very simple definition of conservative. It refers to the way we see society. To a conservative, we are not just a collection of individuals. We are all bound to each other by obligations and needs. What we do affects not only us - but everyone. And what others do affects us. That goes so far back it is a fundamental principle of major religions.

The message of Jesus that we love one another is a conservative principle. Confucianism in China rested on the same principle.

Obviously, the idea we are all a group, a single thing and not simply a scattering of individuals, means we need some sort of control. The Chinese began that control with respect for one's elders - still an extraordinary force in Chinese life. And it continued with a social structure of respect for one's superiors all the way up to the emperor.

That same worldview is reflected in aristocracy and kingship, in military forces (with their obvious need to operate in close cooperation and obedience). The Roman Catholic church is a highly conservative institution with its emphasis on a hierarchy of authority and on respect for that authority. Public education did NOT originate with Roman Catholicism because there was no need for it. The Roman Catholic was expected to agree with church doctrine, not to debate it. Indeed, for centuries, most church attenders had no idea what the priest was saying in ritual. They couldn't understand what was being said because they didn't know Latin. And it was not considered necessary they should know it. They had only to obey, not to understand.

Dictatorship can reasonably be called a form of conservatism - if an unattractive one. Stalin's view was that all people of the Soviet Union were not really individuals but part of an organic whole.

There is no required economic system for anyone to be a conservative. It has nothing to do with capitalism, socialism, communism... The term has nothing to do with economics at all. It has to do with the way we see our society - whether as individuals - or as an organic whole in which we are all bound together.

And, yes, I know there are lengthy and tangled arguments we can get into about this definition. But we all need to settle on the same definition or discussion becomes meaningless. Defining conservative in this simple (and historically correct) way as a way of looking at society is the only way to bring intelligent discussion back to political matters.

Tomorrow, we'll take a shot at Liberal.

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