Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sept. 30: Go to Chapters at the Mall.....

Go in the front doors, and immediately take 7 or 8 steps to the right, then look right to the shelves devoted to New Brunswick books. You will see one in a white slipcover with red print, "Irving vs. Irving:: Canada's family billionaires and the stories they won't tell.

Funny the Irving press hasn't mentioned that book. I mean, you know, they're so keen on improving literacy in the province. Judging from their columns, the editors and columnists of the TandT all read  the book on how the New Brunswick economy is going off a cliff. You'd think a book about the boss would be required reading, too.

The author is a CBC TV reporter, Jacques Poitras and, from what I've seen so far in the book, he's a very good reporter - a real one who asks questions and does some digging. Certainly, Ryerson, an excellent journalism school, has a good opinion of him. You can check their review of his book at jpress.journalism.ryerson.ca   

One of the points that emerges is that the Irvings don't understand journalism at all. They think that, like everything, journalism should be run like a business. But a newspaper that is nothing but a business is useless to most readers. However, this fits into the simple-minded belief that everything - education, health care, government itself - should be run like a business. That's a constant theme in the Moncton Times and Transcript columns which has implied or actually said on many occasions that businessmen should be running the province.

Aside from being wrong, that's a profoundly anti- democratic opinion, and one that shows a profound ignorance of what governments and societies are all about.
Also missing from the news (I'll start with a few of these because there is almost nothing worth reading in yesterday's or today's papers) is a warning not to carry much money when travelling to the US. 

Going back to the panic created by 9/11, American governments have been dismantling the constitution to take away basic rights and freedoms. In one of these moves, police were given the right to confiscate anything, anything at all, from any person they think looks suspicious.

There's no need for a warrant or a hearing or evidence - or even a crime. They can just take. Typically, a car will be stopped for a traffic offense, any offence no matter how minor. The officer thinks the driver looks suspicious because he or she is sweating, or is wearing an unusual hat (I'm not exaggerating) or - horrors- is African-American or hispanic.

At that, the police search the car. In particular, they search for money. You have $200 in cash on you? Very suspicious. So they confiscate it. And it's almost impossible to get it back. The police then turn the money in to the station for the police pension fund or for improvements to the station. In some cases, they simply keep it for themselves. One officer in Texas was reported to have added tens of thousands to his bank account.

Since 911, this form of highway robbery has raised at least 2.5 billion dollars with California leading at 430 million. Maine is relatively light at 2 million. But watch out for New York at 241 million.

This warning also applies at border crossings and airports. You can check all this is the Washington Post for Sept. 6.

.......and all of that is a strong sign of the breakdown of a society....
The TandT does have the story of massive defiance in Hong Kong where the Chinese government has refused to permit the continuation of even the limited form of democracy that Hong Kong had. But it leaves the impression that Hong Kong had democracy under the British. It never did.

When the British returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, one of the conditions was that it was to have democracy. The British, in some 150 years of British rule, put all power into the hands of a governor - who was always an Englishman appointed by the British government.

It was an absolute dictatorship. I know that well because I knew  (in fact, was related to) the governor's secretary). The secretary, an arrogant and racist man - like almost all the British in Hong Kong throughout its history - had his own, absolute power. He once banned a movie ("Shampoo" with Warren Beatty) simply because he disapproved of it. When I taught journalism there, I found the English journalism students (already working at one of the two, English papers) to be racially arrogant, paid much more than Chinese for doing the same work, and promoted way over their little heads.

Late in the day, the British permitted an elected Legislative Council to advise the government. But that should not be confused with democracy. It was a government of the rich and well-connected.

The leaders of China are no sweethearts. But neither are those leaders of countries on our side. I fear what is almost certain to happen in Hong Kong. I still have Hong Kong friends that I correspond with by e mail. But I have stopped sending them posts because it might well get them into trouble.

Gwynne Dyer (nice to see him back) has an excellent column on this in the TandT for Wednesday. And it's not an optimistic one.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (the ones who spy on us) is said to spy on Canadian citizens who are environmentalists and other "disturbers" (as police often call them). Most of these, by far, are ordinary, law-abiding citizens. But not in the eyes of our police state. It spends millions spying on them (as the RCMP once spied on Tommy Douglas because he was dangerous man for having introduced medicare.)

CSIS hits on environmentalists, critics of the government, anybody who's not in line as Harper wants them to be. Then they hand over all that information to Canadian big business. Irving, almost certainly, gets that information. Then they hand it over to US intelligence for their police state.

So Harper decided this had to be investigated ( he was under a lot of pressure to do so). So he appointed a committee of investigators. However, it turns out that at least three of them might have been suspected of not being impartial. One was formerly on the board of TransCanada Pipelines. Another was on the board of Enbridge. And the third is a registered lobbyist for Enbridge.
And in Pakistan, something happened that daily happens all over the world - but seldom gets reported.
Five people were killed by an American drone. Were they proven guilty of anything? Or even charged? No. Were they innocent civilians? Quite possibly. It happens every day. But we very seldom hear about it.

It's what is called a war crime under international law. But we never hear about that, either.
Yesterday, driving by the Dumont Hospital, I saw cluster of people holding up anti-abortion signs, advising us all to "Pray to God to end abortions". And I guess many people would call them devout Christians.

Without taking any side on the question of abortion, I would call them self-righteous hypocrites.

Their opposition is based on the commandment "Thou shalt not kill". Fine. That's a good commandment. But it doesn't refer just to placenta in the womb. And to suggest it does, indicates a pretty selective use of the Bible. 

Our society stands on mounds of dead reaching all the way back to Abel. We kill every day. We kill by war, by starvation, we kill by the millions. And right now we're gearing up to kill a lot more.

Those same people with their signs also must have noticed "Thou shalt not covet". But we live under an economic system that rewards coveting and greed. You can find worship of this every day in the pages of the Times and Transcript. You can attend the Irving Chapel to hear the word from an eminent clergyman, and to hear special music (which must please God enormously), all in this temple to greed.

There's a lot to object to in this world. But I really detest self-righteous twits who choose to attack only those sins they see in others, and to ignore the greater, much greater sins that they, themselves, commit.

I think I might make a sign to carry around, "Pray God to spare us from hypocrite fundamentalists"
And that doesn't leave me much room for what IS in the TandT.

The paper is still carrying news stories about World War 1, but without much connection to each other or any general outline I can determine. I particularly regret we haven't seen a piece  on Sir Arthur Currie, 

Currie, who took over command of all Canadian troops in Europe in 1917, was arguably the best commander Canada ever produced. That was quite an accomplishment for a man who had never seen battle, who had been a teacher and a businessman, and whose only military experience was as a part-time militia officer.

The British commanders were almost all career soldiers, and with battle experience. Most of them were also pretty awful. Currie, a thoughtful man and a meticulous planner - and a creative man, so distinguished himself that the British prime minister spoke of putting him in command of all Empire troops. At meetings of the high command, Currie would often correct his chief, Earl Haig in order to save lives of allied soldiers. Once, when Haig said that he had a huge artillery force on hand, Haig corrected his number to a much smaller one. "I counted them on the way here", he said. Before battles, he would predict what the losses would be. And he was right.

His greatest victory was over the Germans at Vimy Ridge, a seemingly unattackable position. It's now also the site of a memorial to the Canadians who died there - and one of the most moving memorials I have seen.

In a war of blundering generals with years of experience, Sir Arthur Currie stood out as an inspiring figure. And he had accomplished all that by the time he was barely forty.
Then there's the story on B5 that a Canadian businessman in Cuba has been sentenced to 15 years for bribery and corrupting of officials. He's one of a large number of businessmen and government employees caught up in Castro's anti-graft drive. Canadian M.P. Peter Kent is horrified, reminding us all of the horrors of Cuban courts and demanding that Canada bring him home.

Let's seen now. The US took a Canadian in Afghanistan as a prisoner of war - though the Canadian was  underage, and such an arrest illegal. He was tortured - illegal. He was kept in the camp at Guantanamo - illegal.  He was tried by a US military tribunal - illegal. ( And military tribunals are bloody awful courts.)

Canada said not a word. When the US released him to us, Canada promptly put him in a maximum security prison (which is hell on earth). And tough-on-crime Parker will make sure he never gets out.

But this Canadian in Cuba isn't a child, And he's an entrepreneur - so we gotta protect him.

The hilarious part is toward the end. "Foreign business people have long considered payoffs.......to be an unavoidable cost of doing business in Cuba."

Well, businessmen have a choice, don't they? They can refuse to do business in Cuba. Nobody is forcing them to go there.  (Gee, mommy, I have to do drugs to fit in with my friends.)

So that's the price of doing business in Cuba? Well, them there Cubans is iggerant. No company in Canada would ever dream of encouraging corruption or of buying political help by making campaign contributions to political parties. I mean, you look at Irving and Alward and the forestry deal. You know, two gentlemen sitting down to make an agreement that is fair and is the best one for the people of New Brunswick.

In effect, this "news" story becomes an attack on Cuba for trying to stop corruption.
On B3 for Monday, Obama (whose nose grows longer every day) tells us that Sunnis and Shiites are the biggest cause of conflict in the world. That must be another very selective interpretation of "Thou shalt not kill".)

Neither Monday's nor Tuesday's edition has any news worth reading.

On the editorial page, Alec Bruce has a good (and important) column on the need for proportional representation. That would give us a much more representative group of MLAs than we now have.

Norbert has a bozo column about how we could improve our political system by making suggestions, etc.to the MLAs. Norbert, proportional representation would do that far more effectively. You also miss the central problem of New Brunswick politics (and not just those of New Brunswick.)

Our political parties - as well as those in Canada and the US - have no philosophy of what kind of a society they want. An election is like hiring somebody to fix up little things around the house -new light bulbs, make the toilet flush, tighten a few screws...... There's no big picture. There's just "neat ideas".

You have to start with philosophy of what kind of society we need. Then you work from that framework.

Lacking that, all you get is Irvingville.

That's why your paper comments only on how he have to get more money  (with the unspoken rule that we must not ask the rich to pay their share.) I see very little general discussion of what kind of a New Brunswick we want. Or what kind of a Moncton.

On op ed,  Craig Babstock writes about an advertising video that appeared in Vancouver. I have no idea why he thought this was worth writing about.

Steve Malloy does his regular, good job.

For Tuesday, Alec Bruce is a (rare) disappointment. He writes about the problems facing the new premier. Please. Decisions in this province are not made by the premier. So he has nothing to think about - a task for which his election campaign showed him to be well talented.

Norbert has another column on the the neat tricks that he thinks are what government is about. It's not, Norbert. It's about the vision of the kind of society you want to see. It's about  morality. It's about concern for all people. It's about a fair distribution of the wealth this province produces.

Craig Babcock talks about the problem of ballot counting - going completely off the point on the implications of the fault. We need a recount of all the seats!!! Until then, the government will never have the full trust that it must have if it is to govern. In turning down the idea of a full recount, Gallant has made his first, big blunder as premier. Brace yourself for more.

There is very little foreign news in these papers. So I got some figures together.

The US military has some 1,370,000 serving members.
Saudi Arabia has 200,000.
France has 109,000
Britain has 205,000.

That's just about 2,000,000 in the military strength for the coalition force the US is using to attack ISIS.

But there aren't the only countries. There's Canada, the rest of NATO...The coalition must have close to 3,000,000 members. (Yes, I know some of them are clerks and janitors. But they're still a pretty big force.)

The coalition also represents most of the richest nations on earth, so they are well supplied with the latest equipment for land, sea and air. Their purposed  is to crush ISIS which has no air force, no navy, no air defences, And it has some 20,000 soldiers.

Obama feels it necessary to outnumber them over 1,300 to one. What is going on here? Possibilities -
1. Obama is doing what Britain did in the Boer War when it got the colonies to join in the fight against Dutch colonial farmers who were outnumbered 2 to 1 even just against Britain. The point of it was to warn potential European enemies (and the colonies) that in future, anybody who Britain disliked would be at war not just with Britain, but with the whole Empire. You fight me; you fight my gang.

Part of the concern here is something rarely mentioned. The US is (slowly) losing its grip on South America. The policy of expanding to world domination left it vulnerable not only in its overseas empire, but in its empire next door.

2. Obama wants to crush Syria and Iran and anybody else who wants to develop trade relations with Russia or China. The US wants that market for itself. It is also concerned that such trade links could lead to the abandonment of the US dollar as the standard of world trade. And that would leave the US, the most heavily indebted country in history, in an economic collapse.

3. And perhaps it's all of these combined for the great effort that began almost 20 years ago as The American Century, the conquest of the world.  It's quite insane. But it is taken very seriously indeed by very wealth, and very influential people in the US. It's because of people like that we have the commandment, "Though Shalt Not Kill".

And yes, any war, especially one fought from the air, is going to kill a lot of innocent people. In fact, it is now a general rule that such wars kill more civilians that soldiers.

I apologize for the length of this. I have to learn to write shorter blogs.


  1. Two points, glad you commented on the Cuba thing as I didn't hear the end of it on CBC. On that note, you may want to check out Neil MacDonald's article at CBC.ca, basically, well, saying pretty similar stuff to you (and others), namely about how bad it is in the Congo, yet Harper doesn't utter a word. Saudi Arabia is easily as bad as ISIS, but not a word....

    Poitras isn't that good of a reporter. Better than Irving, but thats not saying much. As a CBC reporter his books really ought to stand out in NB. I think his last one was something about folk tales he picked up talking to people along the US border or something, and before that was a book on Bernard Lord! CBC in New Brunswick is barely a step above Irving, but I'm looking forward to this book- a book that should have been written twenty years ago with regular new editions almost yearly. Yet, a great book would be to simply collate all the material from the Senate's review of media from about ten years back.

  2. I had to take a different tack on this one because the copies of the TandT were mostly such bland crap that anything I could say about it is stuff I've already said many times.
    But, oh my, it makes for a long blog.

  3. Dear Graeme Decarie:

    Thank you for your 'dangerous man' observation.

    Like I said some time ago, in the lordly little kakistocracy Canastan, one is allowed to have a mind or a conscience. But if you have both a mind to think differently and a conscience that refuses to cooperate, you become a ‘threat’ to the state. God forbid that good people EVER have a mind of their own.

    A Proud Socialist