Thursday, May 14, 2015

May 24:

A1 has a story about the valiant defence of a high school girl and her father, part of the struggle against those who deny female rights by refusing to allow girls to dress as they wish. Three cheers for them for raising this valiant cause. I know exactly how they feel.

When I was teaching high school, I wanted to go topless with my pants slung so low you could see - well, you could see. And they wouldn't let me do it. I felt discriminated against. Oh, if only I'd had the courage of that girl and her father. The school wouldn't even let me wear a short T-shirt simply because it exposed my belly button.

Women teachers suffered the same abuse.  I knew one what had a staggering bust (I think. I never actually saw it.) But she could not wear a low, low neckline because it might unnecessarily arouse a boy whose desk she was leaning over to help. And she had to wear a dress from the Victorian age, something that reached almost to her knees.

Look, I have delivered and picked up my children at two high schools. Even on cold days, some of the girls were dressed like pole dancers. The more modest ones were dressed like bargain hookers. The boys were just messy and sloppy. Obviously, parents are not teaching their children how to dress. So the schools have to pick up where the parents have abandoned their responsibilities. That's one of the curses of being a teacher.

Let all the schools agree on a dress code.  There's nothing old-fashioned or sexist about it. Education is about disciplines, many kinds of them. There are the scholarly disciplines of the arts and sciences - learning how to read AND understand, learning how to criticize, how to make decisions. There are the basic disciplines of learning to get things done within the time they are required to be done. There's the discipline of controlling one's temper and behaviour. Nobody gets far without those disciplines.

And there's the discipline of of how to appear in public. You don't think that's necessary? Okay. Let us know next time you plan to walk naked down main street looking for a coffee shop.

And it's not expensive to dress appropriately. I grew up in a district much poorer than any I have seen in New Brunswick. We were still able to dress adequately. And we were still expected to have our flies zipped up. And, please, no more about this babble about not being allowed to flash boobs and crotches in school as an infringement of personal freedom. That's not the freedom that anybody died for.

And that's the only news story  in section A even worth reading.
Norbert starts his column well in criticizing the provincial government for it's decision to establish a treatment centre for troubled youth in remote Campbellton. But then  he flies into a rant about the unfairness of taxing the rich. He says, "Does anybody but the wildest radical really expect the wealthy to work for ever decreasing returns?"

Why not, Norbert? While I grieve for those who earn millions a year, Have you ever heard of those who work for minimum wage - and less? And you routinely expect them to work for ever decreasing returns. The rich have not been getting poorer; in fact, they've been getting ever richer since the recession began. It's the poor who have been getting poorer.

Then he adds that the rich work harder and longer and take financial risks. That's why they're richer. And that's a statement that is wrong, wrong in fact, wrong in reasoning and wrong morally.  I guess Norbert was never exposed to the discipline of thinking. Or he's been so long sucking on the Irving teat that he can't break the habit.

The rich work harder and longer? Oh? Do they work longer and harder than a labourer on minimum wage"
And what is their pay scale? You don't know,  Norbert. You don't know because it's not made public. Some of their subordinates, though, make millions in a year. Working 7 days a week, that would give even their subordinates over $3,000 an HOUR. Do they really work that much longer and harder, Norbert? There are lots of people who make less than that a month, less than the rich earn just while burping down  a beer at lunch.

And they take financial risks???? Oh? Are these the same people who can buy forests cheap? The same ones who own and control the government? The same people who get free trade agreements to hire close to slave labour and to hide their incomes?

And, Norbert, do you seriously believe a Liberal or Conservative government would actually put a 60% tax on the people who pay to get it elected?

And the Liberals are ideological leftists? Norbert, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives can even spell ideology. They aren't leftist or rightists. They're Irvingists.

He also says the occupy movement was ideologically left. No, it wasn't, Norbert. That's why it failed. As for it being infamous, it's infamous only to prehistoric relics like you.

Oh, yeah. Besides feeding at the public trough, the very rich are rich not because they work a million times harder and longer than anybody else, but because they were born super rich. Indeed, that's also true of ordinary rich. Most grew up in a social setting that assumed they would be rich, and with financial support that removed any obstacles.

When taxes get too high, people like the Irvings will move? We should all be happy to help them move. We really can't afford to support them any more. In fact,  many such people have moved. That is what free trade was designed to do. It helps them to drive down wages in Canada.

Norbert, you can write a good column. But, oh, you can also write real stinkers, beneath contempt for their belittling of ordinary people, their ass-kissing of the rich, their ignorance of reality. And this one is really distasteful.

Rod Allen's column is overwritten, ponderous in its attempt to be funny (rather like a gorilla trying to thread a needle), and trivial.

The bottom commentary, again, is from a far, right-wing propaganda house - the Fraser Institute. It plays with numbers in a way that looks impressive but is statistically worthless. Its point is we have too many firemen. His statistics prove that we have more than we used to. But that's not the same as more than we need.  This guy is just another right-wing think tanker who uses statistics to tell lies.

To balance all the lying in this paper, read Alec Bruce's column, especially from paragraph 4 to the end. It's a brief but very realistic assessment of where our world is in terms of politics, war, climate change...all handled briefly, but very effectively.

B7 has the story that the opposition in Ottawa has raised concerns that there is no legal agreement with Iraq on the role of our forces there. In fact, it's highly questionable whether our soldiers or our airmen have any right under international law to be there at all. Almost certainly, we have no right to be bombing Syria.

The decisions to go to war have long since ignored the law. The US has just decided to keep ifs forces in Afghanistan forever - though they never had any legal right to be there in the first place. Nor did the US have a legal right to create a rebellion in Syria, or to supply bombs to Saudi Arabia to kill Yemenis. It had no legal right to invade Iraq just as Canada had none to invade Libya.  All this dodging of the law has been inspired by the US government. That's what American Exceptionalism means. The US has the right to torture, to bomb, to invade, to assassinate without any regard for international law or American law. Yep. It's God's will.

And why are we in on this? Like Britain in its declining days, the US is calling in its colonies to give an air of imperial solidarity to its invading and looting. Canada is now a colony of the US as it once was of Britain. In the Boer War, Britain called on its colonies to help fight the Boer War. It really didn't need them. The purpose of it was to tell the world, "you fight me, you fight my gang". Canada had no reason to attack South Africa. And Britain didn't need the help. What it needed was a warning to Germany. That's why Canadians died in South Africa. In the same way, that's why Canadian lives are being put at risk now in Iraq and Syria - with more to come.

B7 has the story of a footwear factory in the Philippines where a disastrous fire killed dozens of employees.
It's really a story about the past, the present and the future. But the news story doesn't tell us that. That's why news stories aren't, as a rule, much help in understanding what's going on in the world.

Such fires, started by careless slips in factories not designed to guard against fire were common into the early twentieth century in Canada and the US. Factory owners were free to save money by sending workers into dangerous buildings. And there, many of them died.

In North America, laws were tightened, often as a result of pressure from labour unions. But economic bosses of the US, Britain, France happily went on operating unsafe factories,unsafe mines, etc. in their Empires in Latin America, Asia, Africa.  And so it was that unsafe factories were built in the Philippines.

But that's going out of style, now. The new jazz is signing free trade deals that exempt the parties involved  from any silly rules like safety or environmental protection. That's why Harper has been cutting away at environmental laws. Then, once he signs the Trans Pacific Trade Pact, any co-signer will have the right to ignore most environmental (or safety)  legislation. And we would be have to pay them billions to make them comply.

There's nothing on what's happening in most of the world. Russia and China are clearly preparing for an American attack. The king of Saudi Arabia, the most extreme Islamist and dictator in the world - and our good friend - is destroying Yemen in what seems to be his bid for regional dominance. But I suspect it's more than that.

Israel has alienated most of the world by turning into a racist and aggressive state. Now, for all the support it will get from the US and Harper, it is in danger of facing major charges at the UN. Some Israeli Defence Force veterans have combined to reveal how Israel deliberately selected civilian targets in its last Gaza war. It's getting hard to tell Israeli political leaders from the Naziis. And, no, that is not an overstatement.

For confirmation follow the Israeli paper, Haaaretz, surely one of the two or three most honest and courageous newspapers in the world- even better than Brunswick News.

Google Pope Francis - adding words like arms industries, responsibility for peace, recognition of Palestine...
He makes our Faith page stand out as the irrelevent trivia it is. Pope Francis is a quite remarkable person in a world generally led by Harpers, Obamas, and Saudi kings. (and, oh, it's hard for a Protestant to say that.)

As the excitement over the Alberta election dies down I should say that I'm sure we can expect honest government from the NDP.  But----

It won power partly by moving to the middle, becoming, perhaps, an honest version of the Liberal Party. That has severe dangers. Remember Tony Blair. That's how he won power for the Labour party in Britain. But, having moved to the middle, he couldn't do the things that needed to be done. As a result, he dealt the Labour Party a blow from which it has never recovered. One of the marks of that was the low, election turnout in Britain - heading down to the kind of lows we see in Canada and the US.

Alberta's NDP is already going the Tony Blair path. The New Brunswick NDP might think about that. It's not about winning elections. There is no point in winning election if all you have to offer is honesty. You also have to convince people of what their problems are, then how you intend to address them. There's a huge education job to be done in this province. Otherwise, you can't do anything useful, and you won't survive as much of a party.
Aurelie Pare has her usual, excellent "student" column on health on C2. She's good. And she's ready for the big time. But, just a hint,- start scouting a wide range of newspaper publishers. You're too good to be wasted on Brunswick News.

In closing, I have to return to Norbert. Norbert, your column was not only a display of ignorance and rant. It was a gutter insult to most of the population of this province. The very rich deserve their money because they work long and hard? Norbert, you have accused just about everyone in this province of being lazy.

I know it's common for the very rich to see themselves deserving and the rest of us as lazy scum. But it's an ignorant and arrogant insult.  Tell you what Norbert - give us some facts on exactly how long and how hard the very rich work. Get pictures of their calloused hands. Tell us exactly how working so long and hard has been carried on through the generations as each, miraculously, has risen to executive status.

Let us in on their stunning intellectual powers that the rest of us lazy slobs don't have. Perhaps a list of their academic achievements, of their towering IQs.

As I read that column, I thought of my father when I first was old enough to remember him. He worked for his father (who lived comfortably), but he worked at a salary that could barely cover the rent on our tiny flat. So in winter he worked nights and Saaturdays shoveling snow for the city so he could buy what still wasn't enough food. I can remember him putting on his old, snowboots, lined with newsprint to cover the holes.. And at that, he still had to walk a long distance each day to get charity milk for me.

He wasn't lazy. And he was at least as intelligent as most of the very rich I have met. And he would trudge out into the snow after a day of factory work to make maybe a dollar, maybe less.

So tell me all about how he was lazy and stupid, and how intelligent the Irvings are, and how they work so long and hard, pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Norbert, I have never read a column that made me so angry. It's a contemptible piece of work.

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