Friday, February 7, 2014

Feb. 7: When I was in grades 1 to 4, children could have milk for recess......

....if they could pay for it. About half my class could pay. That meant we got a bonus of two free milks to be given to poor kids.  Each day, the teacher would glance over the class to guess who needed it more.

With only two free milks for the whole class,  that meant none of us got it very often. But that' was good. The milk was a luxury. But nobody wanted to be known as the only poor kid in the class.

At home, milk was a rarity, and had to be finished quickly in summer because we had no fridge.

As for meat, it was the cheapest cuts possible. I'm not sure it's even possible these days to buy heart or cow's tongue.

But those were the bad, old days. It wouldn't be like that now.

It wouldn't?

Yesterday, a researcher for Household Food Insecurity released a report that yes, indeed, it is like that now, and getting worse.

In New Brunswick, 15.6% of families can't get enough to eat, and much of what they can get isn't very healthy. In Nova Scotia, it's 17.5%. Even Alberta is pretty high at 11.5%.

Oh, I know, they're probably mostly those lazy, working class people who won't even bother to look for a job.

Wrong. The majority have jobs. But pay is so absurdly low, they can't feed themselves on it, let alone raise children. In New Brunswick, it's possible, even likely, to be working on minimum wage for 1600 a month. Trying paying rent, buying clothes, buying food, just the basics on that. And there are actually other things that a family needs - insurance, some form of entertainment, transportation, and much more.

It's not just lack of food that damages children on that budget.

That's four million Canadians suffering food insecurity -  some three million of them are children. What do you figure their chances are to grow up, get good educations, and face the world with some confidence?

Now - have you heard, in these election times, any mention of this in political campaigns?
Harper, as part of his campaign, visited Israel with 300 friends. That could have fed a lot of people.
Has it been a big issue in this province? Or even at the city level?

Of course, politicians prefer to run on non-issues, like Harper's determination to put more people in jail longer. Moncton discusses events centres - from which few, if any, of their profits (if there are any profits) will reach down to the hungry.

The only way for the poor to get a meal in this province is to get invited to a banquet honouring Mr. Irving as a philantropist.

This story, incidentally, did not appear in the TandT.
The federal government has chosen recent months to exempt railway companies from rules concerning the freight cars that can be used to dangerous cargoes.  It has also reduced inspections. Very clever. Great timing. Of course, it was the companies who told him to do this,so Harper had to. He knows who he represents.

This didn't make the TandT, either. But the CBC  that Norbert has so much contempt for had it yesterday.

Also released yesterday and covered by CBC but ignored by the TandT  is a report from a union representing scientists and professionals.  It says the government is going to cut 2.6 billion dollars and 5000 scientists and professionals who have been working on such matters as rail safety, health, and the environment; (the latter of which has pretty much ceased to exist, anyway).
Veterans are still furious about the federal government's refusal to honour its commitment to help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They also seem to be refusing to recognize that it can develop years after the experience of war, and can profoundly affect those who served as peacekeepers.

Buying poppies is nice. But we owe more to our veterans.

Finally, the TandT has no mention of a stunning report from the UN that is highly critical of the Roman Catholic church for its tolerance of sexual predators in the priesthood. Apparently, the practice is far more widespread than we had thought, and the practitioners well known to church authorities.

That, obviously, is disturbing. But it can be worse. And it might be.

Just weeks ago, the Pope was universally praised for action he took to expel some priests who were pedophiles. Like everybody else, I cheered, and saw great possibilities for this pope.

And now, just weeks later ,we get this report which suggests a far bigger problem and far more collusion from authorities than the pope suggested. And that raises a suspicion. Did the pope act (and act only on a small scale) because he had advance information that report was coming down?

I hope not. Damage to the Catholic church does no good for any of us. The pope will have to take far, far more vigorous action than he has.

I spent so much time on news that wasn't in the Irving press because there's so little news in it that there was almost nothing to talk about. The front page headline, for example, isn't really a news story at all. It's a kissup by Brent Mazerolle for the Stade-Moncton and how it's making money. It would be more useful if he were to do a little digging, and find you who it is that's getting the money. It certainly isn't the 16.5% who have food anxiety.

A2 has an article on the Liberals criticizing the Conservative plan to balance the budget. That's the Norbert Cunningham idea of campaigning - "argue about "the issues". In fact, arguing about "the issues" is a waste of time because any issue can be made to look wise or foolish.

Harper, for example, will argue over the need to put more people in jail longer. His opposition will argue that there is no need for this, that it's expensive, and it does no good. But the arguments don't matter. Harper knows that there are votes in locking up criminals He knows that very large numbers of people will not change their minds on some issues - and there's lots and lots of votes in the "yeah, lock 'em up and throw away the key" crowd.

As well, most voters have neither the information nor the training to make decisions on many of the issues. That's being snobbish? Not at all. We'll start with me. I don't have enough training to judge a budget. Neither does a good 95% or more of the population of New Brunswick.

The important thing, and easier to understand, is the reason the candidate is supporting or opposing policies. That is, it's important to know what principles lie behind his or her statements. Is the candidate acting out of concern for the well-being of voters? Or for the well-being of the rich and influential?

Look back at the headline on p. 1 "Stadium boosts Metro economy". It certainly boosts the economy of some people. But who? Who gets nothing or close to nothing out of it? What was the motive of the builders? That's important.

Stephen Harper, so far as I can tell, has only one principle. He wants to be prime minister; and he does it by serving the rich. That, in a nutshell, is why I would never consider voting for him.

And if Alward and Gallant have any principle different from that of Harper, I have yet to see evidence of it.

Forget the issues. Get a sense of what principles your candidate bases his actions on because that will decided how he will act - and for whom.
On page 1 of a pretty drab NewsToday section, it says "NB pushes for pipeline job creation."

Oon page 4, another headline says, " Proposed pipeline will create pollution "- some 32 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

The political response? Well, oil sands will produce and export no matter what we do. So we might as well go with it and get some jobs building the pipeline.

But common sense should tell us that very, very little of what that pipeline will make will go to jobs in NB, and few of those jobs would last long.

So who do you think our politicians are supporting? Us or the billionaires? I think we can guess where their principles are.
The editorial page is a little worse than it's  usual, weak self. This time, even Alec Bruce is a disappointment.  Essentially, he argues that oil is bad. But we should use it because coal is worse.
I think it is his closing paragraph that is most annoyingly illogical.

He says that  unless we are prepared to live in caves and eat beetles we should cut down on coal, but continue to rely on oil. Think about that.

The difference, at the point, is probably negligible. So what should be a useful article about how we can deal with global warming, it becomes are article on how we should use more oil.  This isn't a warning about coal. It's an apologia for oil.

I'm afraid we're going to have to do a lot more than that to deal with a problem we don't have much time to deal with. And we have a prime minister who has made it clear that he doesn't give a damn what the consequences are. This is the prime minister who has destroyed almost all environmental protection, severely cut research budgets - and who now intends to gut the little protection and preparation we have left with a 2.6 billion dollar cut, and the firing of thousands of researchers.

And that looks to me like a very good way to ensure we will one day in the not-too-distant future be living in caves and eating beetles.

I don't know whether we can hold off climate change or for how long. But I do remember a powerful lesson I learned as a child - and that I guess some parents still tell their children.

There are some things you cannot have.


There is an excellent letter in Letters to the Editor, "First Nations unduly targeted".
Read it. That is an order. There will be an exam.

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