Saturday, October 4, 2014

Oct. 5: Canada's outstanding photo of war...

....hangs in the War Museum in Ottawa. It never fails to move me. It appeared yesterday in Toronto's Globe - and in the National Post and the Star because it's being memorialized this weekend in British Columbia. (Google 'Famous New Westminister war photo to be memorialized' to see it.)

It's early in the war, and a long column of Canadian soldiers is marching to training camp. A mother and her five year old son watch them pass, and the boy breaks away to reach a hand out to his father, who shifts his rifle to his left hand so he can reach back with his right hand to his son. You really must see this.

The mother, left with very little money (a private's pay might buy a couple of plates of beans.) So she had to move, alone, with her son, to find a job at a time when jobs for women were few, and very low-paying. If the father had waited until his regiment (he was in the reserves) was called up, he would have been able to go at his militia rank of Sergeant-Major - at much higher pay. But he wanted to go - NOW. So his wife and his child were left to survive, somehow, on there own. And so it was for tens of thousands of women and their children. Among them were my mother, my sister, and me though, luckily, my father joined the navy as a Chief Petty Officer (equivalent to an army Sergeant-Major).

Was it a burning desire to save democracy? No. My father had been stuck in a hateful job. This was his last chance for adventure. A relative who was my father's age joined up the day the war declared. He was wounded at Dieppe and, again, at D-Day. Was he worried about democracy? No. He simply wanted to get away from his wife and children. For the rest of his life, he talked about nothing but the war. It wasn't about battles, though. It was about the parties and the dancing.

It was much the same all over the neighbourhood. I never even heard of anybody joining up to save democracy. The only place I have ever heard that is at a Nov. 11 ceremony. And, at those ceremonies, you never hear about the women and children left behind, and what they endured..

The Irving press doesn't have the story, of course. I doubt whether most of its people have ever even heard of Canada's greatest war photo.

So. now Canada is entering what is to be the greatest war of the century, the war on terrorism. This is the one we must win to save the world from.....whatever. The enemy is evil, and set on world destruction. And it cuts off heads. How crude.  Not at all genteel like our side which murders masses of civilians of all ages with bombs, nuclear poisoning, agent orange, and napalm to burn men, women and children alive. And, in a refinement of this, the US allowed an estimated 400,000 Iraqi children to starve to death during and after the Iraq war. (Money was voted to feed them. But in the welter of corruption that is US government spending, the contracts to deliver the aid are given to private business friends of the government - and only a fraction of it ever becomes food for the starving.)

 But why think of these ugly things? Go to the Faith Page to read how God inspires us Christians to have pie sales. Then read the sermonette for assurance that God wants you to be a sunbeam for Jesus. Or check out the Irving Chapel which will, tomorrow, have 'special' music, real toe-tappin' time for Jesus.

But - it this is such a huge war - well - how can ISIS be beating Iraq with such a small army? And how did its army get trained and equipped? And who pays its soldiers?  And why did it take Harper so long to act? And if this is the great and defining war against terror, how can we say we're pulling out after six months?

The six months is easy to explain. First, a six-month limit gives us a better chance to get out before this blossoms into a much, much bigger war. As further insurance, sending just aircraft (and only six of them) means that casualties are unlikely. Second, and more important, a pull-out in six months eliminates what could be a very damaging collision between the war and the next federal election - and the damage would be to Harper.

The catch is that this war might well go out of control before the six months is up. Then we are likely to find ourselves in a very big war that we can't get out of.

How did ISIS get trained and equipped? And who pays for its mercenaries? That's easy. It was the US and Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. The US has a long history of going to war against enemies it created. Saddam Hussein got his start as an assassin for the CIA. Later, the US paid and equipped him to invade Iran. Among other things, it supplied chemical weapons. Then they accused him of being such a bad man that they had to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, impoverish the country, and then hang Hussein so he would never tell the whole story.

(I once taught a student who, with his best friend, had been drafted into the Iranian army when Hussein attacked. In their first action, his friend was killed. My student was wounded, and crawled behind his dead friend for shelter from heavy fire. He spoke of the horror of lying there, and feeling the jolt of every bullet that hit his friend's body.)

Incidentally, the president of Argentina just yesterday at the UN delivered a blistering attack on the American government (and Saudi Arabia and the Emirates) for their creation and support of ISIS. She called ISIS their ally. But the Irving press didn't carry that story, either.

And how come a relatively small army could so easily rout an Iraqi government army twice its size that had long and expensive training and was supplied with excellent equipment? It was for the same reason that 400,000 Iraqi children starved to death. Congress voted the training of the Iraq army to be contracted out to private business. The result was that private business made huge profits. But very little training got done.

I wish we had a prime minister with guts like the President of Argentina. She's honest, too.

This war comes at a time when the American Empire is in freefall. Massive corruption and greed have destroyed its economy - along with the help of free trade that has allowed American business to abandon the US, and to invest in foreign countries (often dictatorships) where it can get away with - well -with murder. And does.

It is also losing control of its South American empire where major countries are moving their trade to Russia and China, and where Central America is controlled, but only by American-sponsored dictatorships (usually touted as "democracies") , brutality, and murder.

In short, the US, largely due to the dominance of big business which is concerned only with its own greed, is in serious trouble. It's in trouble with increasing trade competition with China and Russia - and with India about to become a much bigger factor.

Forget Obama. He's a puppet. American (and Canadian) big business may have decided that they have to go for world dominance now or never. And the war on ISIS might really be an excuse to close down Russian and Chinese trade to the middle east and to Africa. The sinners to be punished for trading with Russia and China are countries like Iran and Syria - and that's why Syria is included in the bombing.

It is quite possible that Russia and China will feel they have to respond - now or never. Indeed, the long term purpose of this war might well be to spark World War Three. Certainly, the manipulative tone of the North American press seems to point this way.

Okay. Easy to criticize. But what should Harper have done?

The middle east after years of war has a monstrous problem of refugees. The number? Who knows? Probably in the millions of people walking forever, carrying all they could salvage of their homes, starving, dying of exhaustion and age, risking their lives to get on boats that turn out to be deathtraps or, perhaps worse, owned by traders in human flesh - owners who use the refugees to provide organs at high prices for hospitals, for a sex trade that caters to all tastes, for slaves. Congo, where Canadian companies are very prominent in mining, puts children in the mines from the age of five or six to work until they die. Got a friend who's big on mining stocks? It might be interesting to check why mining stocks can be so profitable.

What Harper could do is to devote substantial help (NOT through private companies) to feed, house, clothe these refugees. Terrorism is the result of years of imposed terror and abuse. Responding with more of our own terrorism will not end it. Canada's record of useful help (and Harper's, in particular) is abysmal. Sending jets might the sexy thing to do. And it's certainly a sweet kiss to Obama's rear. But helping, really helping, is the only way to peace.

Forgive me for not being more gung ho patriotic. But I would take pride in knowing that Canada was leading in helping people. I take no pride knowing that Canada is sending six jets for six months to create more hatreds and killing.
There's really nothing much in the Times and Tribune. It's best summed up by the headline in the Sports section whenever there's a hockey game coming up. "Wildtown Catfight" (The local team is the Moncton Wildcats. Get the subtle humour?)

This is juvenile. Once, just once, it might be cute. But this has been done for every home game for years. It's time to grow up and move on. For a start, they might have a regular column of game analysis -just like real newspapers do.

Then there's the Oct. 4 editorial. Apparently, the collective knowledge of all the editorial staff does not extend beyond their bellybuttons. The editorial is ALWAYS local. This time it's about the fiscal greed of university teachers who have negotiated an increase of 3.5% to 5% over a period of three years.

Oh, horror! What savagery! Should we get six jets to bomb them?

Tell us, editors, what increases did big business execs get? Any comments on how the Irvings did? Are we really being fair to those poor dears? How come you never mention them?

The editorial notes that the president of UNB gets close to $350,000 (plus, I'm sure, some very pleasant perks). I've been that route; and I was astonished at the salary and the perks I was offered (and refused).
That because the Irvings of this world have decided to operate universities on the business model - with ridiculously generous contracts for executives, and starvation wages for the peasantry.

I quit high school teaching to spend five, expensive years in universities, training to be a professor. That was five years in which I had no income except for a $3,000 scholarship in the final three years. And, no. It wasn't enough. I had to borrow to stay alive. Effectively, that five years cost me all of five years' salary - and more with a debt that took me fifteen years to pay. On graduation, I got my first job - at UPEI.

It paid $9000 a year - LESS than I would have been earning if I were still teaching high school.

You editors want to talk about overpaid people? Then talk about the people who own you. Or - you could do a fascinating editorial about what editors make at Irving press - and why.

Norbert has his usual column of utterly useless suggestions to improve government.

Bill Belliveau talks in the usual propaganda tone of saving money by making systems like education and health more efficient. Right. This is the kind of financial advice that corporation bosses just love. More efficient. That choice of words implies you can save money without affecting the quality. But it really just means cutting their budgets- and destroying the quality.

Well, Belliveau has to help Mr. Irving cut the crushing burden of his taxes. Anyway, I'm sure Irvings send their kids to private schools. So what the hell.....
The only column worth reading for either day is Alec Bruce in Section A, editorial page. He begins with a note that 52% of all the world's animals vanished from 1970 to 1910 - and the time we have left to fix that - and climate change - and weather patterns - and exhaustion of resources is running short. This is an intelligent, informed and important column.

There are many things in this world that produce money. But they also destroy animals, plants, land and, ultimately, us. There are (as our parents often told us) things we cannot have. This is a 'must read' column.

in passing---
 Sweden has recognized Palestine as a state. Britain, too, will soon vote on it. Obama is not happy. I don't think the story can have met the high standards of TandT editors. Certainly, I couldn't find it.

Somewhere in the paper is a big item (it might be an ad) in full colour of yet another dingbat hall of fame in Wildtown, something to do with three junior achievers (who don't look junior) including Rob Irving. Well, you have to recognize his achievement after struggling against all odds to rise in the world.

And I must say that de Adder, the political cartoonist, is growing on me. His Saturday sketch of Harper as General  "blood and guts" Patton is great.

Finally, sorry to spend so much time on Harper and War. But the TandT (and I suppose the rest of the Irving press) must stand alone in Canada as having no-one with the ability to write some comment or analysis when the prime minister announced we're going to war.



  1. I"m surprised you haven't been talking about the Hong Kong protests.

    And while I don't trust websites I'm not familiar with, there is lots of information here (although not verified)

    1. I did mention it. But it is more complicated than it looks. I would be amazed if American agitators were not taking a hand in this as a chance to embarrass China. But there are other complications in this.

      1. Hong Kong now, under China, has more democratic rights than it ever had under Britain. When Britain was there, Hong Kong was an absolute dictatorship by the British governor.
      2. There are people, mostly young, who want democracy. These, of course, are the demonstrators.
      3. There are also people, probably far more of them, and both rich and poor, who couldn't care less about democracy. They have lived most of their lives under British dictatorship. For them, Chinese rule is no different. They just want this over so business can return to normal.
      4. Our news media will try to paint this as communists vs. freedom fighters. It's not. China is not communist, and has not been for a long time. It is at perfect peace with its capitalists. Those capitalists I know in Hong Kong have no interest whatever in democracy.

      Nor do most of the poor and the middle class. To them, these protests are just an unruly bunch of kids who are bad for business.

      This much I learned last night from a Hong Kong source and, from my experience of Hong Kong, it makes sense.

  2. I quite agree with you in most of what you say and you're style of dry and ironic humor makes for an entertaining read. All this talk of war and terrorism, however, although absolutely true, pales in comparison to the only real issue that is crucial today; the decade that we all have in which to reduce the 400+ parts per million of Co2 in our atmosphere. Nothing else matters.
    Aside from the Green parties out there do you ever hear the words climate change come from the mouths of any politicians, anywhere. No. And it is journalists like Alec Bruce that are particularly inconsistent and false. The WWF statistics on species death made him sit up and take notice, but does he even realize that a new shale gas industry in N.B., that he has championed for the last 2 years is just the kind of backward thinking that has brought us to this present pass. Probably not.
    There is a disconnect between those who believe in climate change and those who do not, but there is also a disconnect between those who believe in climate change and don't understand the simple math of 350ppm, the only survival atmosphere we can live in.

  3. I had noticed Bruce's inconsistency. That's why I drew attention to his most recent column. (There are a number of topics on which he tries to walk a fine line. I guess it's not fun to be an Irving columnist.)

  4. That's pretty much what the links were about. However, I've been researching this and you are right, it is very complicated. To be fair, most of the 'democratic' rights which Hong Kong currently has were brought in by the british during the last four years of their control.

    This of course was not them 'being nice'. The troubles first began in the 70's, as Hong Kong needed infrastructure money, but nobody would lend them money because they were a financial no man's land.

    At this point they began negotiations with Britain, which went nowhere. Finally, under Thatcher the Chinese got involved and famously told Thatcher "I could take Hong Kong this afternoon". To which Thatcher used the public relations card, which shows you which 'side' actually cares about public opinion (if the Argentinians had said that, you can guess what Thatcher's response would be).

    Hong Kong is 'technically' divided into three parts. Under treaties from the 1800's two of those parts were ceded to Britain 'in perpetuity', and Thatcher was claiming 'we ought to respect treaties' (although that didn't stop them ignoring them in Canada while it was a colony).

    Anyway, it became clear Britain couldn't hold Hong Kong, so thats when all this sudden interest in 'democracy' took place (although its true was under a governor hand picked by Britain-not elected). However, most of the democratic forms in Hong Kong WERE under british rule, the chinese certainly never took over and said "hey, we've got all this great democracy for ya". But its important people know the history before thinking this had anything to do with 'bringing democracy', it was more about messing with the chinese.

    As for the protest make up, thats generally true of virtually ANY area where political change is happening, but if you haven't time to read the articles, they are basically about the same 'foundations' in the US that had a part in the Arab Spring and Ukraine protests now being in China.

    What I thought was particularly amusing was about the expression "come in for tea" which is how the chinese military 'requests' NGO's spill the beans of what they've been up to. While the media point out that this the 'russianification' of chinese policy clamping down on foreign NGO's, its interesting nobody makes the association with Harpers use of financial oppression on environmental NGO's in Canada.

  5. True enough.

    The legislative council (Legco) was no model of democracy. The appointed government was president of it - and unaffected by it. (He had to obligation to approve its actions - so he continued to act as a dictator.)

    As well, the process of electing Legco was not democratic. A substantial bloc of its members is chosen by a committee of 800 (very rich) people. Other areas are controlled by unions, by industry, by commerce, etc.

    Hong Kong also has a paper that resembles the Irving press. It's called the South China Morning Post. One day, it carried the story of a man who was invited into his female neighbour's apartment for a cup of tea. He beat her and raped her. The headline? "That was some cup of tea"

    That was typical of the sort of smart-ass Brits who ran the paper. ( And, in fact, ran the whole colony for a century and a half.)

  6. Well, since this research might as go somewhere, the South China Morning Post I think is one of the links. Just as it was about to be ceded, the largest british company, Jardines Inc., relocated from Hong Kong to Bermuda. It is still one of the largest companies in asia, with much of its profits coming from China. So yeah, 'complicated' doesn't begin to describe it.

  7. I too, am patriotic to the notion of truth and freedom. Not to the deceptions our media and government leaders attempt to sell us on.