Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Feb. 17: You know you're in trouble when.....

....you spend a Sunday afternoon looking out to see your  car being buried in a white-out of blowing snow with a powerful tail wind. And next morning, there's no newspaper so you wait till mid-afternoon to flounder to the nearest store to get a paper - and you flounder back with it to find that you paper has arrived while you were gone. And the headline is "Blizzard Shuts Down Region".

However, the Irving press did one thing right. And that, too was front page.  Two senior staff members were disciplined for violations of journalistic ethics. The case was handled by the Ombudswoman for the press, Patricia Graham, and it was handled exactly as such a matter of importance should be. That's not as common in the world of journalism as we might think.  It is not common that the ombudsperson in North America acts with integrity. More often, the job is to cover up.

This is the second time I've had an opportunity to see the ombudsperson at work. And she's impressive.

The rest of the paper is pretty much a dead loss.

Norbert beats the drum again for us to eliminate the government deficit  And, again, Norbert offers his usual solutions, cut government services and privatize liquor sales. And, he adds that all the experts agree with him.

No, Norbert, all the experts don't. He cites the case of Alberta as a success story for private liquor sales. In fact, that is the subject of a great deal of confusion. And, of course, he's all hot to see sections of medicare cut and/or privatized.

Norbert - private business does not create prosperity. Quite the opposite. It exists to make money for itsefl, only for itself - and we have well over a century to prove that. Latin Americans figured that out a long time ago. Cuba, under private business, was a place of dreadful poverty, illness, lack of education, lack of health care, lack of the most basic needs. That's why there was a rebellion, Norbert. (I'll bet you thought it all just a typical bunch of latinos getting overexcited, right?)

Cuba is still poor, largely because the US put so many sanctions on it. But it now provides its whole population with world class medical care and education - free - neither of which the capitalist US does.

You'll still find misery in Latin America, but you have to go to the U.S. controlled regions to find it - Haiti, with some of the worst living conditions in the world, though it produces lots of wealth for capitalist owners. Ditto for Guatemala. That's why most of Latin America broke with the US controlled Organization of American states.

Uncontrolled capitalist brutality and imposed poverty is why Venezuala had been trying to break away from America's capitalism. And that's why the US recently set up a coup to overthrow the Venezuela government, and set up a capitalist system which will work the people to death to make billionaires richer. The coup involved the CIA and, according to reports from Venezuela, the RCMP. Gee. Funny the Irving press never mentions that story.

Contrary to the myths in our history books, Canada and the US were not great lands of opportunity under the uncontrolled capitalism of the nineteenth century. For most, pay was low, and working conditions were deadly. Death or loss of limbs were common in unsafe factories. (Read Terry Copp, The Anatomy of poverty. Read Sinclair Lewis.)

The CPR was built with cheap and hard-driven labour. The builders had no interest in creating jobs - any more than they do today. Foreigners were hired because they were cheaper than Canadians. Thousands of Chinese were shipped, free of charge, to Canada for REALLY cheap labour, and for the risky jobs like dynamiting. The surviving Chinese were simply left to drift into our cities, forbidden to bring over their wives and families.

In 1914, Canadians did NOT rush to join the army. Most of the volunteers of 1914 were not Canadians. They were British who had come here looking for jobs. That's why the early enlistment figures for the Maritimes were low. Most of the British had come to Ontario, the prairies and BC. They joined up for the trip home because working conditions here were bad.

Things began to improve slowly in the 1920s. But that had nothing to do with capitalism or politicians. It had to do with unions

But even that weakened with the depression of the 1930s. As uncontrolled capitalism always does, it crashed, driving millions of North Americans into poverty. (But weep not for the rich. They, as today, continued to get richer. See a pattern here, Norbert?)

Two things saved us.

One was the spending required for World War Two.

The other - now note this, Norbert, - was that the Canadian government put severe controls on capitalism, and the Canadian government controlled the whole economy. That's right. Contrary to your uninformed blather, governments do have an important role - and bureaucrats have been known to be quite brilliant.

Young as I was, I could see the change. I can remember seeing my father going out on a Saturday to shovel snow for the city, his boots lined with newspaper because he couldn't afford socks, and because the boots had holes in them. (He had a regular job, too, but the pay was very, very low - and sometimes there was none.) I can remember being hungry. I can remember the long line of hand-me-down clothing, often rotten with moth holes.

I can remember things picking up under government control during the war, and continuing years after the war to that amazing day my father came home, driving our new, used car.

The Canadian economy was never as well run as it was when the Canadian government controlled it. We knew it - and that's why Canadians accepted medicare in the years after the war. But private business was stirring itself.

I watched  the turning point of that on TV in 1988 when Brian Mulroney appeared with US president Reagan to announce the North American Free Trade Agreement. Big business just loved it because it was the big chance for capitalism to run loose again. Other free trade deals followed, all of them allowing greater privileges to the very rich. And the deals have spread.  And yes, they have brought prosperity to the very rich.

But not to anybody else. For Latin America, free trade brought nothing but poverty, brutality,violence from US forces (which rarely makes our news) and unheard of levels of destruction and pollution.

Then uncontrolled capitalism did what it does best. It crashed.  And, as happened last time, the very rich continued to get even richer while most of the world got poorer. Worse. The very rich had come to control democracies to such a degree that governments gave our money to the very rich so that they could give each other bonuses.

Poverty has spread at a tremendous rate throughout the US, so much that US police forces are re-equipping as combat troops to fight - the poor. That's largely what CSIS is about, too.

Uncontrolled capitalism is horribly vicious and destructive. That's why it is in violation of any moral code I have ever heard of.  That's why there is no such thing as a capitalist code of ethics.  The only rule  of uncontrolled capitalism is - Take.

And that is the result of a fatal combination of greed, arrogance and stupidity that can only be self-destructive. By taking ever more and giving ever less, uncontrolled capitalism ultimately destroys its own market.  But before it destroys its own market, its greed creates such suffering that it is likely spill over into severe civil violence, However, perhaps to save time in the destruction, it also creates the wars we are seeing all over the world. We are watching breakdowns of whole societies in Ukraine (which is essentially a war over which capitalists will control the Russian and Chinese markets), Africa and the middle east (which are about which capitalists will control those markets) and Latin America  (which we don't have to worry about because our news media don't tell us about it.)

Under uncontrolled capitalism, government exists only as a tool of capitalism. Democracy is impossible and you don't matter.

All planning starts and ends with profit.

To plan in any useful way, and to survive, we have to start with people. We have to share the wealth that we all had a hand in creating, and is the inheritance of all of us. And we have to spend it to ensure that all people have what they need.

For New Brunswickers, that's a problem that has to be faced now. And there is not the slightest possibility that either the Conservatives or the Liberals (or Norbert) will face it. We don't need less government, we need more. And we have to make sure it's the people we elect who give us more government, not the ones who insert themselves into halls of fame.

The danger is very, very great. And it's now.

Well, I spent just about the whole thing on Norbert. That partly because there was nothing else worth reading.   We aren't watching wars. We're watching the collapse of whole societies, and even civilizations. And in both Canada and the US, we have the worst possible leadership to deal with it.          

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