Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18: Apologies

A few days ago, my computer passed on and went to a better place. So I missed a few days. So let's just take a quick look in the Times and Transcript. for Saturday and Monday. There isn't much to look at, and I'd like to have time for another topic.

Saturday - banner headline. "Province sets major projects funding policy". Skip it. The policy is so vague and general, it means nothing."

Editorial and Commentary - the editorial is about policing costs. So is Brent Mazerolle's commentary. Both say pretty much the same thing. Why? Lazy editing? People on that staff don't talk to each other?

Good column by Norbert. I wish I could agree that good economic conditions will ease language bigotry in the province. But I doubt it. The Quebec separatist movement rose in good economic times.

Bill Belliveau is excellent on Harper, especially on Harper's proposal to treat any criticism of Israel as a hate crime. We've fallen a hell of a long way to have a prime minister who gives himself the right to tell us what we're allowed to think and say. We are quickly becoming a country in which I would be ashamed not to be in jail.

Canada&World has the usual story about Victoria, and what a wonderful person Queen Victoria was. Actually,and just ahead of Edward VIII, she was probably the most useless monarch in British history. Interested only in herself, she never showed the slightest interest in the British people, never did anything for them and, in fact, never even appeared in public for fifty years. Devastated by the death of her beloved consort, Prince Albert, she found comfort in two spiritual companions with whom she seems to have been enamoured - a drunken and foul-mouthed Scotsman who was her groundskeeper, and a Hindu secretary.

Over the last several hundred years, the royal family has been noted primarily for the astounding cost of their upkeep and their extremely low level of IQ,  with occasional insanity - and one - Edward VIII - who was not only brainless but probably a traitor.

The family has been fortunate in more recent times in producing a George VI and an Elizabeth II. But the cost of maintaining them plus their thousands of servants is phenomenal. Prince Charles and Camilla, alone, require an expensive home with some 200 servants.
The Opinion page has an editorial - and Norbert's column ---BOTH ON THE SAME TOPIC AND GIVING THE SAME OPINION. Worse. It's a silly opinion about a pretentious apartment building in Moncton called The Castle.

That ghastly pile of grey rock is not historic. There are many houses in the area around Church St. that are of more historic value. And it's not beautiful. It's a very unimaginative, rectangular pile of rock with quite unhistoric and unimaginative windows, all identical and identically spaced. A few spare blocks of stone have been put on the roof as a very bad imitation of a castle.

And a note for Norbert, bureaucracy exists in all organizations - including private business. In fact, the only difference between those in government and those in business is that the government ones are seldom personally greedy.

There is also a distasteful letter to the editor attacking a column by student columnist, Isabelle Agnew.  Miss Agnew had written about standing with the oppressed. The writer agreed, but had a different list of oppressed. Because his list was different, he made his letter a personal attack on the columnist. (And it's not as though Agnew had claimed her list was the only possibly one.)

The letter was also weak on facts. Yes, same gender marriages are now legal in many places. But that doesn't mean that such people don't still face abuse. And the Baltimore riots don't count because White policemen in the US sometimes shoot whites as well as blacks? Well, kid, take a look at the stats. Police killings in the US are about a thousand a year. And the proportion of blacks killed is far, far above what it should be. Yes, Virginia, racism is a powerful force in the US. (And in Canada. Luckily, Canadian police aren't trigger-happy).

Two good columns on Commentary - but both on the same topic and offering much the same opinion. What's going on in that zoo?

Alec Bruce notes that the Gallant Liberals look much like the Alward Conservatives. Of course.  They both have the same boss.

The only story worth reading is on the last page of Canada&World. "U.S. politicians say Iraq war was a mistake". This reaction is spreading among both Democrats and Republicans. George Bush and Dick Cheney, of course, disagree. They say that Saddam Hussein was a "bad man" who was a threat to the world.

Well, killing over a million people and impoverishing the rest seems to me to an expensive way to get a "bad" man. Nor do I see how he was a threat to the world. In fact, the "bad' men who were a threat to the world were George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Tony Blair. And if anyone deserves hanging, it's those three.  It's because of those three that what we like to call terrorism has spread so widely and so rapidly. Why on earth did we listen to those people? And why have we now joined in making things worse?

Partly, of course, we act as we do because of propaganda fed to us by news media owned by billionaires who make money out of these wars. But that's not the whole reason. It's also a sense we have of history.

In part, it's because of history as taught in the public schools, a history in which we are always nice and go to war only when we're forced to (against people who are "bad"). But even more pervasively, it comes to us through movies and TV.

Ask most people which country was most important in winning WW2, and they'll say, "The US".
And that's not even close.

In Europe, some 90% of the German army and air force was tied down by the Russians. If Hitler had not invaded Russia, D Day could not have happened. Britain, Canada and the US never faced more that 10% of the German army and air force.

The Russians inflicted far the greater damage on Hitler, and suffered far the greatest damage with perhaps as many as 30 million (or more) killed. (Indeed, I have never understood how a Russia, after a disastrous WW1, a revolution, and Stalin's dictatorship, could possibly have come up with weaponry and determination of such high quality.)

But, surely, it was the US that accomplished the defeat of Japan...? Not really. Britain and India had a large army that stopped the Japanese on the Asia mainland, and was rapidly pushing them back. As well, hundreds of thousands of Japanese were tied down in China, inflicting heavy casualties, but also suffering them. The US share of the fighting involved the island-hopping that depended on naval and air superiority.

Now, think of all the Hollywood movies produced about that war. How many are about the British, Indian, Chinese and Russian forces? In how many are Americans the "bad" guys?

And, more important,what do the movies and TV shows (and the Nov. 11) speeches say about the causes of our wars?

Well, us Canadians don't get very much in the way of movies and TV shows about Canada. though we do get lots of speeches.  So, what caused World War 1?

Well - an archduke was assassinated. That's not much of a reason for a war that killed millions, is it? Anyway, he was killed by a young man who had no connection with any government. So what's the point of a war over that?

Oh, oh,I know, teacher. Look at my hand. I know. It's because we had to help Britain.

No. We didn't. In fact, it was Britain, in the days of empire, that had the obligation to protect us, not the other way around.  As well, Britain had no such sentiment for us. It had been trying to get rid of us for at least forty years, terrified at the strong possibility it might have to defend us against an invasion by the US. (and that was no pipe dream. American presidents had many times threatened it, the last time just a decade before 1914.)

Nor did freedom and democracy have anything to do with it. President Wilson talked a good game about freedom and democracy - But neither he nor Britain nor France lifted a finger to free anybody.

It was about money. When Germany united (shortly after Canada's confederation), it also industrialized at a rapid pace. That made it a serious economic challenge to  British and French industries. That would not only cramp the style of the very rich; it might, in company with a larger, united German state, pose a threat to the colonies and Britain and France drew their wealth from.

Canadians were not united about going to war. But big business in Canada was. It depended heavily on its trade with the British Empire. So the newspapers owned by the wealthy played up the theme of Britain as our homeland, and our love of the monarchy. That, with a large population just migrated from Britain and unable to find work in Canada, is what took us into war.

(Oh, I know. Some people say that after WW1, Canada got the right to declare war on its own. Big deal.  Under the old rules, we were technically at war whenever Britain was but, with the exception of the Boer War, we never did it. It was pure technicality. The British government was quite happy to see us go. It relieved Britain which had been REQUIRED to defend Canada against an attack.)

WW2 was very similar. It certainly had nothing to do with persecution of Jews. Canadians and Americans happily persecuted them, too, and wanted nothing to do with them. Big business in Canada and the US rather admired Hitler as a barrier against communism which was gathering support in Europe in the depression years.

British business felt much the same way at first.  But it could not afford to tolerate an expansionist Germany which would overrun Britain's major European ally - France. That's why Britain went to war - long, long before it was ready for war.

Canada joined this one more enthusiastically than it had WW1 - perhaps because WW2 had established the Germans as 'evil' people. The US joined much later but, again, for economic reasons.

Of course, one has to give reasons for going to war. So, even before the US joined in, Churchill and Roosevelt met to produce The Atlantic Charter, the statement that we were at war to bring equality and freedom to the world.

It was a lie.Not a single US colony got freedom and equality after the war. Not one in Latin America. The Phillipines, long under an American colonial governor, got a sort of election for an American puppet. The only British colony that got freedom was India. But that was because India was big, and Britain was in no condition to fight it.

So why did US president Roosevelt go to war? To help Britain? No. The time to do that would have been 1939, not the end of 1941. Because of Pearl Harbour? No. This was the chance for American big business to get control of remunerative British, French, and Dutch colonies, especially in Asia and, very especially, China. But Roosevelt needed an excuse. So he cut off oil supplies to Japan, knowing Japan would have to take some action. I'm sure he wasn't expecting Pearl Harbor. But he should have. It should have been obvious that Japan's only chance was to cripple the US - a long chance, but the only one.

But, in 1945 and for some years after, the great plan failed. Britain defied Roosevelt, and re-took Hong Kong for the China trade. Roosevelt's puppet ruler in China, Chiang Kai Shek, got kicked out by Mao. The French, in the end, got Indo-China back, but couldn't hold it. Nor could the US when it became Vietnam.

Then, even little Cuba took itself back from an American dictator. That's why it became, in the view of US news media, 'a threat to world peace'. That's why the US will never really accept Cuba as an independent country. It's a bad example to the rest of Latin America.

Now the walls are crashing around the American business empire in the Middle East. Americans and Canadians, relying on history as taught in the movies, TV and print news media, believe we are fighting against evil, fighting for democracy and equality, just as in all our wars.

There is little mention that Morsi, the elected president of Egypt, has been sentenced to death. His crime? He was elected president. But US business decided that the Egyptian voters made the wrong choice, so the American government helped the Egyptian army to overthrow him, and put a general in his place. So much for democracy and equality.

Notice there are no calls for justice and equality or any sort of 'arab spring' in Saudi Arabia which is one of the world's most extreme dictatorships, ruled by an Islamist at least as extreme as ISIS. But he's on good term with American and European big business.

Notice there was no questioning when Haiti, after decades of American rule and poverty, got an elected president who was immediately warned not to do anything for the people of Haiti - but who introduced public education and other measures which US big business disapproved of. So the US invaded, exiled him, and to make it look legit, Canada sent 'peacekeepers'. Then they held a nice, rigged election that very few showed up for.

Most wars are fought for money. A great many governments in the 'democratic' world are owned by big, big money.  And big, big money will not tolerate people who want to run their own country, to set the rules for digging minerals, to charge taxes to the rich. That's why the middle east is collapsing. And we can't fix it because the very rich now don't not want it fixed. Let whole nations collapse; let millions die; make the region into a living hell. All big business is interested in is keeping control of the oil.

Similarly, we're all het up about Ukraine, a country that is now being stripped bare not by the Russians but by international banks. Big money also needs Ukraine as a staging point for war on Russia and China. The idea that we would risk such a war for a small and impoverished country being pillaged by its own government in Kiev is ridiculous.

But, what the hell, we believed that we fought World War 1 because somebody killed an archduke.

(Pause for reality. China has opened talk with India. And  India is not crazy about being ruled by and for western big money. It's been there. Done that.)

On November 11, should we remember those who served? Certainly we should. They believed, as we believed, what they were told.  They believed and they paid the price with their lives, with crippling, with mental illness. They paid one hell of a price -as did the wives they left behind, as did the millions of civilians on both sides who were killed.

We should remember them on Nov. 11. We should thank them with our love. We should also remember them before we send others to risk their lives - as we did in Afghanistan and Libya and as we are doing in Iraq and Syria. Remember those who paid the price. And especially, remember the price before we send others in the future.

As a sort of p.s., I have just been looking for a piece of information in a coffee table book I wrote for Reader's Digest. It was a history of the US in the twentieth century. My assignment was to edit the book, taking out 20% of the US material and fitting in of blending in Canadian material to replace it.
It fell open just now at a page devoted to movies. And, gee, they're just full of history lessons.

The first one was Sergeant York - about a US soldier in WW1 who became a hero by capturing a hundred German soldiers all by himself. ( Fact -The Germans surrendered because they knew the war was due to end. It was well known that an armistice had been agreed to. So they surrendered to stay alive.Of course, the movie doesn't tell it that way. So now, Hollywood's Sergeant York is a great figure of history.)

Then there's Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart as a club owner in French North Africa. There's a big scene in which German soldiers sing Deutschland, Deutschland.... but are drowned out by loyal French colonials who sing La Marsellaise. (In fact, many French were pro-Nazi. That was especially true in Casablanca.)

Then there was PT-109 about John F. Kennedy and his heroism in the sinking of his torpedo boat by a Japanese destroyer. (In fact, his torpedo boat was a good deal faster than the destroyer. There was plenty of time to spot the destroyer, and get away. But - John F was a pretty casual captain.)

And there's Patton - real hero. Well, he was also a Jew-hater who despised the Jews he saw in death camps, and admired the Nazi officers. He was a good tank-commander, but quite unfitted for promotion to a higher rank. He was also helped in his spectacular advances by the fact that most of the German armour (most of it superior to his own) was tied up fighting the Russian armour - also superior to Patton's tanks.

And all of the above became history so far as the general public was concerned.

I cut out an American film to substitute an excellent Canadian series called "The Valour and the Horror".
Alas! Few Canadians ever saw it because influential legionnaires objected to it. What they wanted was a Canadian version of "Patton" or "PT109".

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