Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dec. 4: I am not a great hockey fan....

...but Jean Beliveau was one of only two players who could only hold me spellbound in a game. The other was Maurice Richard who did it with his intensity that charged the whole rink with an electricity that one could feel. Beliveau could not have been more different. He skated with a sense of grace and ease that reminded one of dancer on stage - but with a deceptive speed and a sureness of where the puck was going to be.

Both were indifferent to fame. Richard had a humility that was with him all this life. As for Beliveau, I met him only twice. The first was at a radio station when he was doing an interview, and I was preparing a column. I don't believe I ever met a man who was as easy to talk to and to listen to. The second time we met was at the magnificent Notre Dame church in Montreal. We stood together at the entrance while we waited for the funeral of Rocket Richard to begin - and we picked up our conversation where we had left off. He was more than a gentleman in his talk. He spoke warmly but quietly of charitable causes he was involved in, and he listened with the interest of a man who respects others.

Like his performances on the ice, he talked with a grace so natural that he made it all look easy. I don't remember him as a hockey star, but as a superb human.
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I think I was wrong in my column on the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. I read it as simply another case of out-of-control racism in the US. I have begun to realize that it's more, much more than that.

Last year, the US police killed 409 people - officially. But the reality is nobody knows how many were killed. Major police forces and many state governments refuse to submit annual reports on such killings to the federal government - nor is there any record of the justification - or lack of it - for those killings. The number is certainly higher, probably by hundreds. But nobody knows how high it is or why they were killed.

But before we criticize the police, we should consider other factors.

For example, in 2013, there were over 14,000 people murdered in the US. And this is hailed as good news of a declining crime rate. Over 500  were killed in Chicago, alone. A high proportion of the murders were those committed by the poor and by blacks (two words which mean almost the same thing.)

American citizens are also among the most heavily armed in the world. I shall never forget entering an Arizona gun store that had for sale water-cooled machine guns, sub-machine guns. and an old 20mm anti-tank gun. There was a requirement , though. You had to be over sixteen to buy one.

If I were a policeman in the US, I'd be terrified, and strongly tempted to shoot first.

Poverty and low education were listed as common causes of crime. And the US has a dreadful record for a developed country of dealing with poverty and crime. Everything is operated as a business. Everything is calculated to make more money for the billionaires who own the various levels of government. Even the food stamps for the starving are issued in a way that profits the bank. The poor have to pay a bank fee to cash their food cards. It seems little per person. But when you're that poor, everything is much. And for banks, it means millions.

Obamacare is a racket. The only way the billionaires who own the government would allow Obamacare to pass it was by allowing it to be run by the private insurance industry (at full and exorbitant prices). And even that will probably be destroyed within a few years.

Public schools, especially those in poor (read black) districts are starved of funds so the money can go to corrupt war industries and private contractors. Even at that, the "public" schools have been widely privatized to make money for the rich (which is something we can expect here, too). And that means only the middle class (mostly white folks) can afford them.

Add to that a (deservedly) widespread contempt for government, and you need a police force not to maintain the law but to keep people under control for the benefit of the rich. That's why American police forces have been receiving billions of dollars of machine guns, combat rifles, armoured cars, drones, and even tanks from the defense department. The social state is breaking down, and being replace by the police state.

And we can see it creeping into Canada. Remember the armoured car delivered to Moncton? Remember those police in camouflage suits and with combat rifles at the Rexton demonstration? (That was a dumb move. If they had opened fire on that crowd - and I don't care how good they might be as snipers - dozens of innocent people could have been killed.)

Capitalism is based on greed, control, and indifference to the needs of others. That's why it needs to be controlled by government. But around the world, we have been creating governments controlled by capitalism.

The result is all those men in camouflage suits, all the attacks on social services, the payoffs, the secret police....  No society can survive that. What we are watching is an American society in collapse. The riots in Ferguson were only a very small taste of what that collapse will mean.
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As all the above suggests, there's not a whole lot in the Moncton TandT. The only really notable item is Norbert Cunningham's column - and that only for setting a new standard of disgusting. He heaps praise on Dr. Cleary, our chief medical officer with  "Cleary's message a clarion call to action,...." That well describes a brief message on our health system from Dr. Cleary. But my dot, dot, dot indicate that's not the whole headline. He adds four words to indicate his superiority  to a mere health officer "....but not a detailed blueprint."

Of course, it's not a detailed blueprint. Dr. Cleary has been busy lately, risking her own life to help people who have ebola.  What she wrote was just a few paragraphs on the need for radical change in our health -care, and the TandT told us damn little about it. This is the same TandT and the same Norbert who castigated and ignored Dr. Cleary's very thorough report on shale gas.

As Norbert's column generously admits, it will be difficult to make the improvements Dr. Cleary recommends. Of course it will. Norbert, his wretched newspaper, its owner and the Liberal and Conservative parties all see health as essentially a business. That's why we have business people placed in control of it - that's why it needs change. And that's why there's no way Norbert and his kin would support any useful change. Dr. Cleary starts with human needs. They start with economics so that more money can stay in the pockets of the rich and more can be transferred to them.
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Then there's NewsToday. We live in a world in which we and others have lined up behind the US to bomb ISIL. But there is no mention of how ISIL is being supplied through Turkey (a member of NATO.) That's right. ISIL is being supplied by our side. In fact, ISIL was created largely by the US and Saudi Arabia. So what is this war about?

What it's about is destroying two nations, Iraq and Syria. Iraq is to be destroyed to ensure that American capitalists have full control of the oilfields. Syria is to be destroyed because it insists (through Saddam) on maintaining normal trade relations with Russia. The "rebel" side in Syria was created largely by the US and Saudi Arabia and, from it, came ISIL

Ever notice that the levels of poverty in Africa are high, and the levels of education low? Put that together with the fact that western powers have controlled Africa for over a century. The conclusion is obvious. But I've yet to see it in the news.

Oh, it's become increasingly obvious that the US wants a war with Russia or, rather, US big business wants a war with Russia. And, with a warhawk congress, it's likely to come soon. But why worry? Just sooth yourself by reading Wednesday's big news story on how the outgoing speaker of Canada's senate is in favour of discussing senate reform.

Oh, Israeli's prime minister wants a new election to take more radical steps. Why? There's a strong possibility he intends to use nuclear weapons on Iran. There's no story on this. But not to worry. If he does do it, Harper will say he was right.
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Big story in Thursday's paper. The streets were slippery early Wednesday morning. That would be important news for those people in Moncton who still planned to go out on the day before the Thursday paper arrived.

Alec Bruce's column is a little puzzling because it refers to the Chinese economic system as communism. It isn't. And it never was, not even under Mao. To call a country with the number of billionaires China has communist is bizarre. For that matter, Russia was never communist, either. State ownership is not communism. (I say that not to defend communism. In fact, I think it wildly idealistic and impractical. But I do like to see words used with some meaning.)

There's a good column, as usual, by Beth Lyons. There's also a column as usual by Rod Allen.
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In NewsToday, the rest of the world gets four stories. There's no mention that Ukraine has been fast-tracking   wealthy and connected foreigners for Ukrainian citizenship so they can be put into government positions. The most recent one is a woman who is an international banker, and who was also in a senior White House position. In short, international big business is now the government of Ukraine.

On Dec. 3, the U.S. Congress began debating a bill which would declare the cold war on again. It would also take major steps to isolate Russia and to place major armed forces on the Russian border. In other words, it would set us up for World War Three and soon.

But that story wasn't important enough for the keen-eyed editors of the TandT.

Oh, the last cold war is estimated to have cost US taxpayers some 20 trillion dollars. But if a hot war happens as a result of the current debate in Washington, we won't have to worry about debts any more.
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Oh, one  headline left me puzzled. It referred to the provincial Liberals as "Grits". That term was first used in Canada in what is now Ontario - almost two hundred years ago. But that was back in the days when there actually was a difference between Liberals and Conservatives, and  so the word "Grits" meant something. However, that difference largely disappeared in the 1890s. In my lifetime, the only person I ever knew to use it was a pretentious and not very bright fellow student in grad school, and he used it to signify dislike of Liberals. I have never heard it in the maritimes Is it still in use here? Or does the TandT have an editor who has not yet advanced beyond 1890?


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