Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sept. 20: What a dreary life... read the Irving press every day. Other papers, even the bad ones, at least dream up exciting headlines like "Drug-crazed Stephen Harper dances naked at evangelical conference".

Nor is it necessary invent interesting stories. In The Atlantic for June 2014, there was a fascinating story on where the wage gap comes from (in the US, but I expect it's the same in Canada), It's called "How the rich shall inherit the earth".  Average income has been relatively flat for a century.(The chart is designed to allow for inflation). The top 1% have piled up wealth at a much greater rate. But it's the .01% who  have really shot up spectacularly,  Who are the top .01%? And how do they make their money?

Half of them are corporation executives or in finance. Others have rich parents.  The incomes of such people were relatively stable for most of a century, Then 1990 to 1999 saw a sudden burp, and since then it's been a skyrocket. But most of it isn't in cash. It's in stocks. There are two advantages to that.

One advantage of that is that a stock market can do very well, indeed, even as a country sinks into poverty. In fact, we're seeing that in North America.

The other is that profits made on the stock market are very lightly taxed.

Most of us are not doing well. But the stock market is. And when it gets into trouble? Well, that's when the people who caused the trouble tell us to bail them out. And we do, making us poorer and them richer. The whole story is told in a new book by Thomas Piketty,  "Capital in the Twenty-first Century". Maybe our editors could look it over, along with their Bible about the fiscal cliff.

Increasingly, the families of the .01% become dynasties like the aristocracies of old. In effect, they become the government - and the function of government becomes to enrich them even more. In fact, we're already there. But the old aristocracy was wiser.

It put it's able sons in government to become political rulers, ambassadors, or in family-owned businesses to become ever richer. The untalented ones were put in the army to become generals. Alas! I have not seen our aristocracy developing a similar disposal system for its useless progeny.

Anyway, the Irving press would never run such a story. But there's another one - important, easy to do, inoffensive to the Irvings and, since it's nearby, would follow the Irving reporters' method of keeping our noses in our own bellybuttons. There's a new book, reviewed in this month's Literary Review of Canada, by Rose Ricciardelli, "Surviving  Incarceration: Inside Canadian Prisons". This is important because Harper, even as the crime rate drops, has been stuffing our prisons to dangerous overcrowding, and serious neglect of any attempt at rehabilitation - and at a huge cost of over 2 billion dollars.

Even Conrad Black, a man outstanding for his self-serving ways and who is far more conservative than Harper and whose convict experience was in what is relatively a gentleman's club for rich convicts, has turned against our medieval prison system.

I was many times alone with a roomful of extremely violent men (in the time I was there they killed a shop instructor, stabbing him with a screwdriver.) Long prison terms in such a vile and dangerous place did not make them better; it made them worse. Harper, though knowing that, has spent billions to make the prisons worse. I has nothing to do with crime. It has to do with getting himself re-elected.

There's a prison nearby us. It would mean missing stories about a new ice cream shop or another hall of fame featuring Irvings.   But surely they have a reporter who could write something intelligent and useful in just a few visits.

Okay, I know. I  have to say something about the Times and Transcript itself.

Alec Bruce writes a touching piece on the importance of our thinking about the society we want -and that we vote for. Alas! Almost two thirds of the people who need to know that are functionally illiterate.  (In Canada, almost half of all adults are only semi-literate - and the situation is expected to get much worse. As well in Canada, two out of ten university graduates rank low in literacy.)

Norbert writes on literacy, too. For a change, he does not blame the teachers He notes, in fact, that schools are loaded down with responsibilities for curing all sorts of social problems - but are rarely given any money to do it.

Why is this happening? Because most of our society doesn't give a damn. Then there are the other influences like TV, game phones, computers - even the school bus. When I was in high school, there was no school bus. We were expected to use public transport. As a consequence it was possible for students to stay an extra hour or so for clubs. Volunteer teachers stayed after school for the writing club, the current events club, the chemistry club... We even had clubs at lunch hour like the Kiwanis club that invited guest speakers. These were a great bonus for schools. But the school bus killed them. Nor have other organizations taken up much of the slack.

Cole Hobson wastes half a page for his 'feel-good" column on  how good Moncton people are.

Cyprian Okana contributes the second part of his column on foreign students. This clarifies his first one a bit. But we still need some tightly focused  examination of specific problems faced by foreign students (one problem at a time), with clear suggestions of what should be done.

But where, I wonder, is Gwynne Dyer? He's world famous for insight and honesty in dealing with foreign affairs - something the Irving press is dreadfully weak on is insight and honesty. But his column has been absent for quite a while now.

Instead, we have to turn to NewsToday with its thoughtless, ill-informed and propaganda-laden story of the visit of the Ukrainian President's visit to Washington as seen by the Associated Press. The story, on B7, is three columns. The third column is devoted entirely to propaganda.

It lays all the blame of Russia, mentioning something I have not seen before, an accusation that this has all has been caused by a Russian plan to conquer Europe. Where did that story come from? Then there's the suggestion that Russia started it all by invading Crimea. And of course, the current Ukraine government is 'legal'.

There is no mention that this all began with the overthrow of Ukraine's real, legal government by riots almost certainly created by the US, no mention that the government then formed was illegal, and the further problem that the election it called is questionable since it was held in the middle of a civil war.

At the end, a US senator is quoted as saying "Putin has upended the social order".  Oh? And exactly what is the social order? And who set it?
For Saturday, A1 has a story about the Saskatchewan premier's opinion on fracking. Of course, it's a big story. He's in favour of it. Mr. Irving approves of stories about people who approve of fracking. And what a coincidence it should appear just before election day.

A4 has the regular election fearture "A Better New Brunswick" in which it interviews with local notables, on what New Brunswick needs in its politics. This time it's Marc Chouinard, manager of the Capitol Theatre.  I have no idea why this was done. Certainly,  he has excellent credentials in the cultural field. But none in government. And it shows.

He makes grand but vague statements. "The province is at a cross-roads....get people to work together...make culture an integral element in the development of our communities..." I don't even know what that last statement means. Culture already is in our communities, and even in bunches of chimpanzees. It's an impressive word. But nobody knows exactly what it means.

This is no criticism of Chouinard. It's a criticism of editors who have done a really sloppy job of creating this column in the first place.

There's nothing in Section A worth reading.
In NewsToday, Canada's foreign minister, Baird, continues to make an ass of himself. This is the mental midget who last week said that ISIS is the great war of this generation.  Come off it. Even Afghanistan has been far bigger. Then he says,"Iran is involved in a negative way in every single country in the region." First, it isn't. Secondly, the US is involved in a negative way in most of the world. Then he says Iran persecutes women and gays. Hey, you want to see persecution of women and gays, Mr. Baird? Then drop in on our good ally and buddy, Saudi Arabia. It probably has fewer human rights than any country in the world. Anyway, it wasn't a hundred years ago that it was legal for a man to beat his wife in Canada. And recently, very recently, it was a sport to beat up gays in Canada and to deny them employment.  What a bozo for foreign minister!  As for Iran, he builds on the standard fear that Iran is working on a nuclear bomb. Even US intelligence has long ago said it has no evidence that Iran is working on a bomb.

Also on B1 is a report that, despite flare-ups, the Ukraine peace talks are going well. The report, for a change a real news story with no propaganda in it, is from The Associated Press.

On the Faith Page, our churches are awash in doing the Lord's work with dinners, bake sales.... I guess they figure Jesus was one, big eater.  The sermonette, as always, discusses the Bible without once relating it to anything in our daily world.

According to the large ad on the page, there are only three churches in Moncton. That suggests to me that our hall of fame philanthropist nails the churches for advertising fees. That's odd. Open a new bar, and he'll give it a big news story - no charge.
ISIS is still a mystery. At a time when it should be reeling from attacks by the coalition of the willing, it has captured considerable Kurd territory, creating thousands of refugees. Meanwhile, the coalition of the willing hasn't been willing to do much beyond some bombing by the US and France. Australia seems to be the only volunteer to put boots on the ground - but not very many.

More curious is that a member of the coalition is Saudi Arabia which has played a major role in financing and equipping ISIS. And so has the US. Canada's "willingness" though highly praised by Obama hasn't amounted to much. NATO seems notably shy about the whole thing - as are the Arab states. To complicate matters, there are so many agencies, individuals, and power groups playing games in Washington that it's hard to know who's in charge.

Obama's original purpose was to destroy Syria as a nation -and to get rid of Assad because he's too friendly with Russia. Then it became a purpose to  destroy Iraq into a group of tiny and powerless states. That was to be the role of ISIS. The hostility to Iran was largely for the same reason as hostility to Syria. They were both developing trade with Russia. But now Obama is smiling at Iran. (Baird really should keep up with the US news media to know the latest propaganda.)

Then there's the well advertised killings of western journalists. Why the advertising? Is it possible that some Washington agency, in contact with ISIS set this up? I know that sounds crazy. But we live in one hell of an immoral world in which, to some people, human life means nothing at all. And, of course, you need an excuse for a war. This kind of act, to create an excuse for war, has a long, long history. It's also necessary to drive the American people into a frenzy of fear so that they will support the war. (Oh, they're going to come with their camels and kill us in our sleep.) It's also a way to get support for driving up defence spending, militarizing the police, and reducing constitutional rights to make it easier for domestic spies to check on anybody the government doesn't like.

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