Friday, May 22, 2015

May 22: For a change of pace...

...I'm going to start by arguing with one of the student columnists, Isabelle Agnew. She's a good writer and an intelligent columnist; so she's worth arguing with.

1. Just about all dress codes have something  to do with sexuality. That's why most schools do not allow female teachers to wear bikinis in the classroom. That's why male teachers do not wear artificial erections in their pants.
2. Laws have to be broken to modernize - as Martin Luther King did? Sometimes. Hitler broke rules, too. And Harper does it all the time. Breaking a rule does not make the rule wrong.
3. Do the rules discriminate against women? Yes, if there is a dress code ONLY applying to women, then it is sexist.  I don't know the NB school codes. Do they apply only to women?
If they do, the answer is not to scrap them. It's to apply dress codes to both genders. It's important to fit students to live in an adult world. Many students have no idea about how to do that - and it's going to cost them when they go job hunting. It's also going to cost them socially.
Obviously, many parents are not teaching that. So the schools get stuck with it.
4. Bare backs and shoulders are not sexual? If so, then this will come as a flash to the world's dress designers. As a teacher, I expected students to come to school to work. Girls with low necklines and miniskirts, and boys dressed as slobs and lounging in their seats are not there to work. And, in mid-winter while waiting for school to get out, I have seen girls coming out into the frigid air with low necklines, short skirts, bare legs - looking like hookers at the end of a bad night.
5. Don't assume your Victorian ancestors were sexual puritans in their dress. The Victorian woman was highly sexual. That's why they wore tight, tight corsets. That's why they wore huge falsies (but they called them "dress forms"). And that's why they wore bustles - to have rear ends like Kim Kardashian.

Yes, sometimes we need to break rules. But the right to go to school bare-backed and bare-shouldered is not one of the great issues of our time. And it has nothing to do with feminist equality unless that you mean that boys should also have the right to go to school bare-backed and bare shouldered and wearing mini-skirts.

Perhaps the most useful thing now would be for people in education to give some serious thought to the role of dress codes in education, and then to set dress codes for both boys and girls. But let's not kid ourselves that it should be the same code for both genders, or that this has anything to do with gender equality. The genders should be equal - but I cannot understand why we should want them to be the same.

The real world is tough, and it's going to get much tougher as big business strengthens its hold on us. We don't do children any favour by sending them into that world unready to deal with its realities.

(Forgive me, Isabelle. You're still one of my favourite columnists.)
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The news in section A is, as usual, a hodge-podge of trivia and street gossip.It must be really, really boring to be a reporter for the Irving press.

And, again, the editorial and the city views commentary are on the same topic, the proposed memorial to three police officers killed a year ago. And neither of them really has anything to say.

Yesterday, there were photos of the designs for a memorial. Most of them were conventional and even boring - you know, some sort of thing with columns and/or with bronze statues of the victims. The one that caught my eye was the least pretentious and most simple one - three,  giant maple leaves fallen to the crowd, with a rise from the middle of each which turns to gently slope to the ground, then with just the tips rising gently upward. It was far the most evocative, moving and thought-provoking design.

But city council will never choose it. It'll go for the conventional and boring high columns, maybe with statues. And the editorial will say it's beautiful.
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Norbert, once again, has fallen out of his tree. This time it's a rant against politicians in general. He says "...far too many politicians...are craven cowards..."

And what are you, Norbert? Tell us about the courageous positions you've taken in dealing with, say, the corporations that control the Liberals and the Conservatives. When have you had the courage to challenge the pandering, propagandizing and lying committed by your newspaper (and you) for the benefit of the very rich?

He says we should all look at the facts in an election -and follow the advice of experts.Oh? And where are we going to get these facts and this advice in the pages or your partisan and propagandizing newspaper? The only "experts" you have ever discussed are the ones approved by your boss.

And with the high rates of illiteracy and functional illiteracy in this province, where are you going to find the numbers of people required to understand "expert" advice, or to judge it.

Yes, Norbert, this province is politically rotten. But don't chip away at the rot. You'll hurt yourself.

Oh, and for readers, don't choose a party by looking for the one that has neat ideas. You start with each party's view of what a society is, of what obligations we have to each other, and what obligations, then, the party has to all of us. It's called a philosophy. And neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have one.

I don't know why Alec Bruce wrote his column. It's about marijuana, and relies heavily on a column by Margeret Wente, a columnist at The Globe, a person whose columns I learned long ago not to read.

Justin Ryan has a column on language that seems to have no point. It ends with a statement about being tolerant and helpful with immigrants who are new to either French or English. No doubt we should be. But I don't see anything in the article that leads to that conclusion.
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Canada&World's page 1 has a good example of how propaganda has taken over our language. The headline is "Harper announces funds to fight terrorism." Gee. Does that mean he's going to invade the US because of its indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children by the millions in place like Vietnam, Guatemala, Iraq, Afghanistan, and its teams of assassination squads all over the world? Its massive torture programme? (The only person jailed for that is the man who revealed it was going on.)

He also says there is no legitimate reason for Canadians to become involved in terrorist movements. Oh. And what was the Canadian bombing of Libya, and now of Syria and Iraq? What was our role in Afghanistan? All war is terrorism. It's supposed to be.  No legitimate reason for Canadians to be involved in this? Quite so. Canada had no legitimate reason for killing in Libya or Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan.

But Harper has his own language in which words have special meanings. "Terrorism" to our politicians and news media means Muslims. And not even all Muslims. The king of Saudi Arabia beheads people almost every day (Sometimes for not obeying the national dress code.)  But they don't get reported in our press. However, when beheading is done by ISIS, the story is in every news medium - and you can probably watch them on youtube.

"Terrorist" now has a new meaning. It doesn't man a person who terrorizes. It means a Muslim AND one who is not on our side. In using the words "terrorist" and "legitimate", Harper is talking propaganda. And The Canadian Press and other news media help him by using those words in the new sense he has given them.

Harper says terrorism is unacceptable to Canada and Canadians. Very true. So when do we bring home our air force terrorists, and when to we invade the US to stop its terrorism?

B3 has the story of Harper speaking to a Jewish audience in Montreal. He badly wants the Jewish vote. That's why he has, more than any other world leader, talked big about his love for Israel. There was a time when Jewish audiences were pretty bright. I spoke to them hundreds of times - and you had to know your stuff to speak to a Jewish audience. But there's now a Montreal Jewish audience that believes a person like Harper. It doesn't occur to them that if this were 1938, a Harper would be catering to the many, many Jew-haters in the Canada of that time to get their vote.

A story worth reading is on B5. It's about the California drought which is very close to turning that state into a desert, incapable of producing food, and soon to be incapable of supplying drinking water to its cities.

That has very serious implications for us. California is going to want water from Canada - and that could have serious implications for our water supply. I'm not sure that any responsible Canadian government could offer the kind of deal that California would demand.  Then what?

Well, if "don't worry about the future" Harper is PM, he will agree to a deal that could turn into a disaster for Canada. And if it's not Harper and there is no deal? The US will take it by force. That's a reality that I'll be writing about on Sunday.
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As always, the Irving press is most remarkable for the stories it does not have. On Wednesday evening, Maude Barlow and others spoke at a public meeting sponsored by the Moncton chapter of the Council of Canadians. It was at Central United Church, and the audience was large - large enough to fill the ground floor.

The speakers touched on a number of points of urgent concern for the future of this country - environment, resources, fishery.... I saw at least two reporters, there. I assumed they were from the Irving press. But on Thursday, there was nothing about it in the TandT. And nothing today. How could that not be reported?

A3 had room for a big story (with photo) of a Norwegian living in Halifax  who will come to the FIFA events to cheer Norway. A6 had a big story about a young man who lost an appeal of his sentence for illegal clam-fishing. Yep. that's the motto of the Irving press. Keep 'em in the dark.

If Irving and a group of business friends passed through Moncton and stopped off to use a public urinal, there would be a banner headline on the front page, with photos of Irving and his "relieved" friends.

But the Council of Canadians? Not a peep. The boss wouldn't like it. Way to go, all of you, especially "blood and guts" Cunningham.
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In the last thirty or forty years, there has been a revolution over most of the world. The very wealthy have largely destroyed democracy, and now run the world with a view only to their own greed. And they are too greedy to see the consequences of their own greed. That's what the non-stop wars are about. That's what assassination squads, drones, starvation and untreated illness, cluster bombs and maybe nuclear bombs are about. That's what all the dead children are about. (And why are the self-righteous who carry 'right to life posters' not protesting the mass murder of Muslim children and babies. Don't they have a right to life?)

The cruelty and destruction and the refusal to deal with challenges like climate change that has been forced on this world for the last several centuries was created and is still being created by very wealthy people with no morality and no sense of responsibility who have been allowed to run free with no controls at all. Now, the ruin that they have created is moving in on us. And it is going to be quite terrible.
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Lucky we have blood and guts Norbert to tell it like it is.


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