Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 31: Bad news - very bad.

The Irving press didn't  think it was a really important story. So it's first page, but off to the left. To understand what that placement means, look at its partner on the right side of the page. "New Strip Mall planned for Moncton"  Well, that IS important because it's going to have two, count them, two drive-thru restaurants. Oh, ecstasy!   And, of course, the story about the strip mall is over twice as long as the one about the hospitals, and with lots more information..

But, just for laughs, let's go back to the hospital story. What it's really about is the spread of privatization in hospitals. Because - you know - privatization is so much more efficient and effective. I mean, look at all the Canadians lined up at the border so they can pay a million dollars to have a baby born in a US hospital.

The CEO of our Horizon Health Network,, John McGarry, says that what's wrong with our hospitals is that they are trapped in an 'ideology'. Does Mr. McGarry know what the word 'ideology' means? I doubt it very much. And I  doubt very much that his Rotarian audience does, either.

In its modern sense, ideology means a value or point of view held on the basis of both conscious and unconscious ideas. Well, that means that almost every value we have is based on an ideology, everything from loving  your children to being a mass murderer. So why did Mr. McGarry use that word?

One possibility is that he doesn't know any better. But we can narrow it down from that. "Ideology" is commonly used (if inaccurately) as a derogatory term - usually applied to the values of anyone who disagrees with us. (They are all mixed up, and possibly even evil. We are sober-minded and well informed.)

In that sense, then Mr. McGarry is an ideologue because his statement is based heavily on unsupported values and theories. Private health care firms, for example, he says are more efficient. Oh, really? Is that why the US medical system is the most expensive in the world and, at the same time, one of the least efficient? Is it efficient that so many Americans can't get health care at all? Nor does it cut down on US taxation since privatization have driven the cost of medical care and of medication through the roof. In fact, the only reason the private health system in the US accepted Obamacare was because it paid them top dollar for services that should be far cheaper.

So, who is this medical and social expert Mr. McGarry who claims to know so much about health service? What makes him an expert on medical care? Well - he's an accountant - and he has a bachelor's degree in commerce. So there.

I guess he never took a Canadian history course. If he had, he might have known that the most efficient economic organization in Canadian history was our public service during World War Two. (Maybe the editorial writer at the TandT should read about that, too.) It was so efficient that private business leaders, for some years after the war, sent their management people to Ottawa to study public service methods.

Mr. McGarry has also done a good deal of contract work for private health firms. Quelle surprise!

Private business all over the world is NOT efficient at anything except making money for itself. That is it's only reason for existence. It is horribly inefficient at meeting social needs.  That's why you find massive poverty and suffering wherever it gets too much power.

Our health service is run by an accountant. Well, next thing you know, we'll have armies and churches and firefighters led by accountants..

By the way, what are the academic credentials of the leading Irvings? I can't find that anywhere. Strange. I know at least two attended Acadia but, for some reason, left without finishing. So what are there credentials for running a province.
The editorial is about tourism and making money. That seems to be one of only two topics the editor can write on. The other is garbage disposal. That seems to reflect the ownership of this newspaper. There are no people. There are no social issues. Just money.

As I started to read Norbert's column, I thought I would find it interesting.  It's "N.B.'s anti-poverty action uses 'the right stuff' to 'do the right thing." It refers to the New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation (a crown corporation as Norbert points out - and therefore much better than a government department.)

 Norbert, the CBC is a crown corporation. How come you don't praise it?

And, oh, the  N.B. Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation is doing to much to help the poor. Exactly what it's doing and how much is not clear in this column. He says it has reduced poverty by its target of 25%. And what does that mean? I have no idea. And, sadly, it has not reached its goal of cutting deep poverty by 50%. But Norbert never tells us what these numbers mean or even what poverty and deep poverty mean.

The beauty, he says is that it's free from political interference - which suggests to me that Norbert doesn't know what political interference means. Let's start with the corporation's board of four co-chairs - one to represent citizens, one to represent business, one to represent government, and one for the non-profit sector.  Sounds reasonable? Well, Italy's Benito Mussolini and Spain's Franco thought so.

1. Represent citizens? Look. In a democracy, citizens are not a separate category. They are the only category. And how can these 'citizen' rep represent us if we never elected them, and don't even know who they are?
2. Represent business?  Why, in  a democracy which is supposed to be rule by the majority, should business have a nose in the door?  By this principle, big business should have the right to sit in cabinet without being elected. More on this a little later because this is very, very dangerous.
3. Represent government? Isn't that political? And doesn't Norbert say there's no political interference in this? The staff of Irving press seems convinced that government is bad - corrupt. It's true that it often is. But that's because we're so fearful and so passive that we elected the corrupt ones every time. And, by the way, who is it that corrupts the government?
4.Represent non-profit groups? well.......

In a democracy, we citizens, all of us, select those who will govern us, all of us. We do not select  special groups to be represented - like Irish-Canadians or poor or rich or corporate bosses. There have been governments that tried that. This choosing of representation and bestowing of power according to group is called group government or corporatism. More popularly, it's know by the name given it by Benito Mussolini. It's fascism.

In this democracy, I do not vote for a government so that it can invite various interest groups to tell us what to do. Nor do I see any reason for these unelected people to have a special voice in government.

Why should corporation bosses have a special voice in dealing with poverty? These are people who love poverty because it means they can get away with lower salaries and worse working conditions. The have a long history of it. They also avoid the taxes we need to deal with poverty.

This, says Norbert, is a community effort. No, it's not. It's a group of special interest organizations The "community" knows little about them, and did not choose them.

I agree with Norbert's conclusion. We need to get our economic house in order. But to me, that means making the very rich pay their taxes; and it means not handing out welfare to the very rich.

The terrible reality is that New Brunswick accepted fascism a long time ago - government by special interest groups - especially the very rich. It didn't help Italy or Spain. It won't help us. And it's a very serious blow at democracy. And we really have very, very little time to deal with it.

By the way, are the poor represented on this committee (by poor people)? Are rural people represented? Are immigrants represented?Is the middle class represented? Are the churches represented? Are children represented?

Of course not. So why is business represented?

Look, Mr. premier, as a member of a political party, you are expected to have a philosophy of what you believe the priorities and methods your government should represent. You were not elected to appoint corporation execs and accountants to make these decisions for us. And you were certainly not elected to replace democracy with fascism.

Alec Bruce's column really, really annoyed me. That's because I think it's right on. The NDP has been moving to the centre for a good, fifty years. It's far the best party to vote for because, of the major parties, it's the only one that's honest.

But we need more than honesty. We are in very deep trouble nationally and internationally. Democracy has crashed in Canada almost as much as it has in the US. For all of us, that is going to mean severe hardship, exploitation, involvement in wars to make the greedy richer, and, quite likely, to violence here..

 (For openers, native peoples are claiming that the land for the Sissons mine belongs to them - and they want to make the decision about its use. What should happen is that the federal government should declare whose land that is. But it won't' do that.

Instead, it will force native people to go to court to fight and probably to lose against a monstrously wealthy corporation. And if the native people resist, the mine owners can all on their buddies in government to send riot police and police romantically clad in camouflage and with combat rifles to beat up or kill anybody who objects. And the Irving press will cheer this on.

So much for truth and reconciliation.)

I know the Canadian people have little sense of all that's going on. And our news media make sure they stay in ignorance. The result is that an NDP government would not have anything like the support it needs to deal with the dangers that face us. So I think our choice has come to this -
1. Two parties that are bought, wrapped up for delivery to big business to run the country - and to run it disastrously for us.
2. An NDP that isn't bought, that will govern honestly, but has abandoned many of its principles in its desire to get to power. Mulcair is certainly not the liar, thief and mass murderer that Tony Blair in Britain is. I have no doubt of his honesty and  his courage. But we need even more than that.

While Bruce and I might agree on these points, I'm sure he would not support what he calls "radical" moves. But the fact is that he often seems to use radical in an improper sort of way -  to mean extremism. That fact is that we are living, in that sense, in a very extreme world. We are living in a world of greed, killing and social destruction that is just about as' radical' as one can get, and that  extremism comes  largely from the leading figures of capitalism..

But radical actually means to get to the root of a problem. In that sense, I am a radical. I think we have to deal with the root of our problems. And the Canadian people have been kept quite ignorant of the root of their problems.

Section B news has nothing much to offer. More than news, what we need is analysis of and commentary on the news. The bare news is pretty useless unless we are given some meaning to it.

The last page has a news story that really tells us nothing about Iran and its nuclear talks with the US.  The truth is that Iran has not been working to develop nuclear bombs. US intelligence has been saying for a long time that Iran has no nuclear programme. So why is the U.S. insisting that Iran stop a programme that it doesn't have?.

The bizarre thing is that the U.S., which has the biggest stock of nuclear weapons in the world, and is the only country ever to use them, is telling Iran it can't have them. Worse, no American government would ever dare to tell Israel, which actually has nuclear bombs and has them illegally, that it can't have them. So what are these talks really about?

Ii think it's a safe bet that the US oil companies want ownership of Iranian oil. That's why the U.S. installed a dictator in Iran over sixty years ago. That's why it paid Saddam Hussein and supplied him with weapons, including chemical weapons, to invade Iran.

U.S. big money wants Iran. Russia will be supporting Iran. Israel wants Iran destroyed. Saudi Arabia wants it destroyed. The US wants to own it. We're looking at a potential war, with at least three nuclear powers involved - possibly four. All to make a few oil billionaires richer.

Sorry -- scratch that. It's to save democracy and bring freedom and Fox TV to the Iranian people. God bless America,

There's nothing in the paper about U.S. attempts to overthrow Assad in Syria, or its supplying of military equipment and money to the so-called rebels (a large proportion of them foreign mercenaries), nothing about its bombing to help the rebels (perhaps with Canada caught up in that part). If you want unlimited reading about what'sreally  going on, just google Wikileaks. Our private news media could do the same. But it's easier and cheaper just to buy news from the propagandists.

You might also google 'drugs Mexico U.S.'; lots of material there on how the drug lords dominate Mexico, how they get sophisticated weapons from the U.S. and, what has been commonly known for years - that the US government has been complicit with some of the drug lords. Well, Why not? It's unquestionable that during the Afghanistan war the US set up Afghanis on our side as leading world producers of narcotics.

As well, there is no mention that Russia has promised aid to the Syrian government in its fight against the 'rebels' - or that China will soon do so. And no mention that Germany has worked out a deal to get oil from Russia. And that would create a Russia-Germany alliance which would be a formidable economic and military threat to the U.S. Couple that with the possibility that Greece might drop out of the European Union, and so trigger a serious leak in the European balloon......

Yes, it's quite possible that there might be a German-Russian alliance in the near future. It's natural. We forget that Russia and Germany were allies in 1939. Germany and Russia need each other.

We don't need news so much as we need intelligent commentary. The only person the Irving press has for that is Gwynne Dyer - and it has even him very infrequently. There are few people on the Irvinig staff who can write coherently on anything. And none at all who can write critically of the man who really runs this province.

We are watching our perverted form of capitalism kill itself due to inherent greed, arrogance and stupidity. And we will all suffer from its fall. I wish that were not the news. But it is, unless we act very, very quickly.
Tomorrow (Canada Day) I shall be interviewed on CJAD 800 radio in Montreal right after the news at 6 pm. Montreal time. It might be possible to get on some TV packages. I know I can get some CBC radio stations on one. I have no idea what the topic will be.

This week, my daughters,  granddaughters and sons-in law arrive at their cottages on a salt-water shore just a 40 minute drive from here. I haven't seen them since last summer. That means my blog may get a little erratic as I catch up on how they're changed. I could miss the occasional day in July.

In case that happens soon,there are two, fairly long articles on the dumbing down of America sent to me by a reader. I think they're right on. And much of what they say applies to Canada.


Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America

Social dysfunction can be traced to the abandonment of reason


A few snips:

"for too long America’s social dysfunction has continued to intensify as the nation has ignored a key underlying pathology: anti-intellectualism. America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who used race as a basis for hate and mass murder, is just the latest horrific example. Many will correctly blame Roof's actions on America's culture of racism and gun violence, but it's time to realize that such phenomena are directly tied to the nation's culture of ignorance.
In a country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” (link is external) where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel brought a snowball (link is external) into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president (link is external), it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value....High-ranking individuals, even in the military (link is external), see a confrontation between good and evil as biblically predicted and therefore inevitable.

What Americans rarely acknowledge is that many of their social problems are rooted in the rejection of critical thinking or, conversely, the glorification of the emotional and irrational. What else could explain the hyper-patriotism (link is external) that has many accepting an outlandish notion that America is far superior to the rest of the world? Love of one’s country is fine, but many Americans seem to honestly believe that their country both invented and perfected the idea of freedom, that the quality of life here far surpasses everywhere else in the world.
But it doesn’t. International quality of life rankings (link is external) place America far from the top, at sixteenth. America’s rates of murder (link is external) and other violent crime dwarf most of the rest of the developed world, as does its incarceration rate (link is external), while its rates of education and scientific literacy are embarrassingly low

Corporate influence on climate and environmental policy, meanwhile, is simply more evidence of anti-intellectualism in action, for corporate domination of American society is another result of a public that is not thinking critically. Americans have allowed their democracy to slip away, their culture overtaken by enormous corporations that effectively control both the governmental apparatus and the media, thus shaping life around materialism and consumption.
Indeed, these corporate interests encourage anti-intellectualism, conditioning Americans into conformity and passive acceptance of institutional dominance.....They are the ones who stand to gain from consumers who spend money they don’t have on goods and services they don’t need. They are the ones who want a public that is largely uninformed and distracted, thus allowing government policy to be crafted by corporate lawyers and lobbyists. They are the ones who stand to gain from unregulated securities markets. And they are the ones who stand to gain from a prison-industrial complex that generates the highest rates of incarceration in the developed world.


Incidentally, this comment is also worth reading

" We read a lot of blog posts, tweets, and the like, and we may read a few books, too. But we don't read enough complex books, and we don't read well. This isn't just a comment about what we read in our spare time, but on the level of reading required in high schools

" We need to read books that stretch and challenge our minds. We need to read books that can improve our lives. We need to learn how to follow the steps of an argument. It may not be entertaining, but ideas matter. And some of the most important ideas require time, effort, and repeated engagement before the payoff of understanding and enlightenment comes to us.

"College is now seen as mere career-preparation and a consumer good. But it is more than career preparation, and it is not a consumer good. It is a chance to learn to think deeply, and well, about questions that matter. It should help one cultivate the intellectual virtues that a functioning democracy requires of its citizens. An informed public needs to be able to read something longer than a blog post in order to engage in reasoned dialogue and debate. A university education is supposed to supporth the cultivation of the skills needed for this. But many students don't care,

" Parents need to get their kids away from screens long enough to read everyday. Schools need to support this, and they need to choose books that will help kids grow in intellectual and moral virtue, rather than for entertainment. As a society, we need to do more than just say education matters; we need to put our money where our mouth is and support schools, teachers, colleges, and parents. If we want an educated citizenry, we must educate them.

Another along the same lines is

Anti-Intellectualism and the "Dumbing Down" of America


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