Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28: Communications and destruction.

The history of the last  500 years have been largely about the history of communications. The European sailing ship was a means of communication that made it possible for Europeans to exploit the opportunities of the Americas - and the give them adequate numbers and supplies to murder much of the native population, steal their land, and destroy their societies.

It was possible for some European nations, especially the British, to do the same in, for example, India, exploiting its land and very cheap labour, even slave labour, to make huge profits for British capitalists - though very little for the British people. Over land, such a venture would have been almost impossible. But, the sea, even in the days of sailing ships, made it relatively easy.

The price, as it would prove, was the destruction of much of Indian society. This was encouraged by the British who favoured the Muslims of India to keep the general population divided. That's why the Muslim part is today the separate country of Pakistan, and nuclear bombs in each country are aimed at the other.

The steamship was a huge step forward in communications, along with the Suez Canal and, later, the Panama Canal to make it much easier and quicker to move shipping from the western world to Asia, and to do it in much larger quantities - and to move warships and armies to peoples not particularly happy to see them.

A result of that was to destroy the world's oldest civilization, China - plunge that country into a century of violence, chaos, and suffering. Through this period, the British dominated, but the U.S., after stealing much of Mexico and giving the stolen parts names like Texas and California and Nevada, annexed Hawaii (without paying much attention to the rights of native Hawaiians) to be a coaling station for American warships en route to the Philippines where they would murder large numbers of the population, and set themselves up to compete with the British for the Asian market, especially China.

With each improvement in communications, our wars got bigger. That's why one can see, in a park here in Moncton, the memorial to young men and boys of Moncton who died in two world wars and Korea. (It omits the Boer war, for some reason.) World War 1 was the first of the big wars in which steam power was crucial in making it possible to fight all over the world In world war II, communications were enhanced by much larger fleets, this time with the addition of air power, rockets, and nuclear weapons.

Five hundred years ago, it would have been almost impossible to attack distant countries and to keep armies supplied.At best. the problem of communications would have made for a long war, indeed. Today, a nuclear submarine, just offshore, could destroy whole cities in minutes. And conventional war between major powers have become impossible.  No population (especially in the U.S.) would tolerate the butcher's bill, and the war would inevitably become nuclear - with permament damage to the whole earth.

The justification for accepting nuclear weapons was the they would be a mutual deterrent, so no-one would ever use them. That's very thin argument on which to base the survival of the world.

We cannot afford such a war - no matter who starts it. That means we can't fight such a war. And that means the nuclear powers cannot afford to threaten each other with war of any sort. Obama has taken a very tough line on Ukraine, pretending to defend a democracy that never existed. The U.S. has been trying to surround China - which might make sense if it were possible for the U.S. to defeat China in a conventional war. But this is the country that couldn't defeat Vietnam or Afghanistan. It might be able to re-create the chaos that the west inflicted on China for over a century. But it would not defeat it.

In the same way, it cannot defeat the Muslim world. It can, as it has, create chaos in that world. But 15 years of experience have shown that creating chaos simply creates more 'extremiists'.

In short, it is not possible to fight such wars any more. That means we have to work out peaceful relationships. There really is no choice.

But, as in the case of climate change, our governments are not interested in doing that.

We need to have more information. We need to understand that what happens in Beijing and Baghdad and Ecuador affects us - right here in Moncton. We need information. We need open discussion of it.
Our leaders, both economic and political, obviously won't do it. Nor will most of our news media.  They constitute, for the most part, a moral and intellectual vacuum.

If we don't smarten up, there can only be one result of their moral inertia.
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Sorry. I went off the point because the Irving press today had no news. - unless you really, really care that Harper is being accused of stalling on making appointment to the Senate - and you think this is a key issue for the country. I think our sending of troops to Ukraine, and fighter-bombers to  Syria is rather a bigger issue. In fact, it raises the whole question of exactly what Canadian foreign policy is about. They only way in which it has changed in two centuries has beento  switch from being a British colony to being an American one. We might also want to think of why we make ourselves hated by Latin America because a)we are obviously a U.S. puppet and b) because our capitalists with investments in Latin America are every bit as vicious and destructive as the American ones are.

In Canada&World News the front page headline is, like in section A, about Harper's failure to appoint new senators. It's too bad we have so many thieving morons in the Senate. But that's not really the biggest question facing Canada. Not even the second biggest.

Then there's a big story about a man who shouted vulgarities at a CBC reporter. Now, there is something we really need to know. (A person once, many years ago, shouted vulgarities at me. Maybe I should call the Irving press about it.)

Section B1 has a lead headline - about Harper's delaying in appointing new senators.

Then, on B3, we get a THIRD story on Harper's failure to appoint more senators.

That has to be the sloppiest and laziest editing I have ever seen. The Irving who is VP for the Irving press is reputed to have an MA in Journalism from a prestigious American university. I have seen no sign of that in the papers since he took over. In fact, they seem to have become worse.

There is a total of three world stories. One is about Obama defending his Iran deal. One is about Yemen, but has a headline that misses the point of the story. The point of the story (and even the story is weak on it) is that humanitarian aid to one of the poorest countries in the world, a country in which people are dying of starvation and lack of medical supplies, has been interrupted. The reason? One of the richest countries in the world (Saudi Arabia) has resumed a campaign of random bombing that has killed thousands of innocent people and is using bombs supplied by the good-hearted U.S.
The U.S. has, on its own, been killing these people for years. Why? What for? Nobody at the Irving press has ever asked.

The suffering is massive. And our side seems to be the major cause of it. This news is useless unless we know the cause of this savagery.

Oh, the total humanitarian aid to these desperate people is 330 million dollars. That's probably less than the U.S. sold in bombs to Saudi Arabia. And the estimated need is for 2.3 billion. But don't worry about it. I'm sure there will be a special collection at this Sunday's Irving Chapel service.

Then, the U.S. and Turkey have agreed to slice a piece off the map of Syria. What right do the U.S. and Turkey have to redraw the borders of Syria?  And the story says that the U.S. is supporting moderate rebels in the region. What the hell are moderate rebels? Who decided they're moderate? This  is propaganda, not news.
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Some items weren't important enough to make the news. In the U.S., police have killed 658 people in the first six months of this year. That must be close to the highest rate of police killing in the world.  And that suggests a very sick society, and one that is dangerous to the whole world. It's made worse by long prison terms, vile conditions in the prisons, and sentences for even trivial convictions. Some of this is because many U.S. prisons are privately owned - and they want longer sentences. The government pays for it; and the prison owners make extra bucks by operating factories in the prisons, with prisoners as slave labour. So much for rehabilitation. It's no secret, too, that U.S. prisons use torture. The UN human rights commission has asked permission to inspect US prisons, but has been refused. I wonder why.

On the good side, some states, like Tennessee have loosened gun laws so ' real amuricans' can carry concealed weapons in public. That country, ably helped by capitalism, is well on the way to destroying its own society.
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There's a Canadian magazine called CCPA Monitor. You might have to go to a major bookseller to find it. I've been catching up on my reading - which explains why I was looking through the April, 2055 edition. There's fascinating article in it about a book by a former Guantanamo prisoner - Mohamedou Ould Slahi. It's called Guantanamo Diary.  He was held for years, and was tortured, of course. It started in 2001 when Mr. Slahi was living in Montreal. For no clear reason, and with no evidence, the RCMP  began a  campaign of harassing him. In this, they were working in close contact with U.S. secret agents. and were sending information about him to U.S. agencies. In fact, they even lied about the 'evidence' they sent.

Then they arranged an opportunity for U.S. intelligence to arrest him, and send him to Guantanamo. (Some thirteen years later, the U.S. government decided there was no case against him, and he was released.) Through that thirteen years he experienced day after day of torture - all of it well known to Canadian authorities. In fact, RCMP intelligence was in constant contact for the whole period with the full knowledge and cooperation of the Canadian government. Canadian intelligence lied; it violated constitutional rights  We were, and are,  partners in torture.

Of course, it's okay now because we have Bill C51 which makes it quite legal to do all those things.
We, too, are a society in decay.

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Below is a note that appeared on Facebook. It's important because it's a New Brunswick example of a cancer that has taken over capitalism in its distorted form that we find in Canada, the U.S., Russia, China, most of Europe. It's a cancer that has largely destroyed democracy, and will destroy us if it's not checked - soon.

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My name is Charles Thériault, I am a 57 year old filmmaker living in Kedgwick, N.B. and this is the story of my fight to make things right for my family, my friends and my co-residents of this fine province.

It all started five years ago when I settled here in this french speaking Appalachian back woods community deep inside the New Brunswick Acadian forest, nestled among the finest salmon fishing rivers in the world. The Restigouche, Kedgwick and Little Main rivers attract the wealthiest of aficionados willing to shell out thousands of dollars a day just to sit in a boat for hours, along pristine waterways, tickling the waters hoping to feel that rush of adrenaline when a majestic Atlantic salmon decides to hook into the fly.

On the other hand, there is a whole other set of imagery that comes forth once the gloss of the surrounding nature fades and the stark reality of the people who inhabit this isolated area becomes all to evident. The residents of Kedgwick and surrounding small communities are all rough hewn second and third generation descendants of settlers who dragged their wives and children here hoping to carve out an existence from the then abundant forest. Tenaciously, by the sweat of their brow, they managed to build a community for themselves. Small and medium sized businesses sprouted everywhere, work was abundant and people prospered. But today the community is struggling to survive, forest workers must take on huge loans to finance machinery to get hired by the JDI owned mill.

This story is similar to almost all communities in this province. Historically, New Brunswick was forged into existence because it's forest and up until the late 1970's, it's forest was the main economic engine that drove the economies of most of its communities.. However that all changed as of 1980.

That year, the Richard Hatfield government, under the guidance of the Natural Resources Minister, Bud Bird, brought into existence the N.B. Lands and Forest Act, which basically handed over license to manage the totality of all Crown Forest, 50 % of all forest in the province to 9 pulp and paper mills and one large saw mill. They were instructed to manage the forest for the best interest of the owners of said forest. The people of New Brunswick. In other words the foxes were asked to tend to the chicken coop.

It is interesting to note that at the time, Bud Bird was owner of a large and prosperous industrial supply company (Bird Stairs Inc Held in trust while he was minister) doing business with most the the large forest industry players. A few months after the act passed, Bud Bird leaves government and becomes a director of Fraser Papers. One of the licensees of our Crown forest.

To add some fairness to the Act, it was required of industry to purchase the AAC (Annual Allowable Cut) from Private Woodlot Owners as represented by marketing boards before having access to Crown Forest timber. The price negotiated for that private wood purchase would also set the price that industry would pay the government for Crown forest. That way Crown was not competing unfairly with private woodlot owners.

Unfortunately, in 1992, premier Frank McKenna changed the act so the Forest Industry no longer had to purchase the Private woodlot owners AAC. Therefore this group immediately lost all bargaining power and the price the Industry paid dropped by 40% overnight as well as the price they paid the province for Crown forest timber.

Over the remaining twenty years, almost all small and medium sized mills shut down over the province, while industry successfully drove them bankrupt, thus eliminating competition. Private woodlot owners unable to compete with the cheap cost paid for Crown Forest timber decided to find other sources of income.

In the late 1990's early 2000 as the world market for pulp and paper collapses, several licensee's in N.B. went bankrupt and closed their mills. However, the Crown Forest licenses allotted to them are folded in with the remaining licensees. Today only four companies share the total management control of all Crown Forest. J.D. Irving, Twin Rivers, softwood Pulp used in the paper making process) AV Nackawick, AV Cell (Hardwood pulp used in the process of making rayon)

It is interesting to note that former premier Frank McKenna is today chairman of the board of Brookfield Asset Management, which owns Twin Rivers, of which Bud Bird is still a director. Also J.D. Irving is the largest holder of Crown licenses in the province.

During this period of industry upheaval and the U.S. housing market crash, the province reduced by 50% the royalties owed to the province..twice. Which means today they are paying just 25% royalties of 1990 prices.

Revenues to the province from the forestry sector are so low that the ministry can no longer afford to operate. In the 2010 the ministry generated a loss of 30 million$. How can that be? Has the management of our richest renewable resource gone so far off track that we are actually paying the industry to take our wood away? It would seem so.

Several studies over the years were commissioned searching for direction and all were told to work within the guidelines of existing management arrangement. Well at least one study in 2010 undertaken by Don Roberts, C.I.B.C Worldwide V.P. stipulated that the main problem was in fact the management regime in place. The licensee system was draining the coffers dry. He explained that if the Crown Forest was managed for its owners, (the population of N.B.) just as Acadian Timber, (formerly Fraser Papers) manages its industrial forest for the shareholders. (Frank McKenna and Brookfield Asst Management) The ministry should have reaped in 140 million $. However it operated at a loss of 30 million $. His statement was categorical. Time to change how our public forest is managed.

Three years has gone by since M. Roberts recommendations and nothing has moved to correct the situation.

Why? Why is government not correcting the situation?

I asked Bill Parenteau, history prof at U.N.B. Fredericton where he completed his doctoral thesis on the development of the pulp and paper industry in New Brunswick. His answer was simple. The Province of New Brunswick is a client state to the forest industry. At least since the 1930's. Being a client state means that industry has more control over resource policy than does the government.

His analysis was confirmed to me by Nicole Lang also history prof at U de M who did her doctoral thesis on the history of the Fraser Papers operations in New Brunswick. How troubling is that? Our succeeding governments have been unable to dictate policy regarding our resources.

A recent example of this happened in early 2012 when the minister of Natural Resources ordered that all industry players stop gathering pulpwood on Crown Forest in order to allow private woodlot owners to sell their pulpwood to industry. All industry players followed suite except for J.D. Irving which claimed they had special status with government and need not follow the ministers orders. A week later the ministerial order was reversed. How blatant a client state is that!
Being a client state to industry would certainly explain the mess that we are in.

I approached M. Robert Dick, Forest Manager at the Department of Natural Resources and he confirmed that every species of hardwood and softwood was totally allocated between the remaining licensees. No new players allowed. Like kids in a candy store the N.B. Forest Industry players have the totality of our Crown Forest to run roughshod over anyone who dares to try to compete with them in New Brunswick.

I spoke to M. Andrew Clarke, president of the N.B. Federation of Private Woodlot Owners. who remains befuddled over the fact that the government is doing nothing to remedy the fact that Crown land is used to unfairly compete with private owned woodlands. He cannot understand how the state of Maine forest industry buys wood from N.B. private woodlot owners at a fair price and the industry seems to be doing well. While here in New Brunswick ,industry needs iron clad guarantees from the province, reduced tax rates, and reduced electrical rates and fire sale priced Crown timber in order to operate in the province in New Brunswick. What is wrong with the industry business model in N.B.
Seems to me that N.B. Forest Industry dictates and the N.B. Government accommodates. Once again here is an example of the province being a client state to the forest industry.

I spoke to Stephen Wyatt, forestry prof at U de M specializing in Social Forestry and Forest Policy. He claims it is time for the forest regime to change in N.B. This province was the first to implement the Licensee management approach in Canada and all other provinces followed suite. However in the last 5 years British Columbia, Ontario and recently Québec have realized that the model did not work and have changed it to models where the industry does not manage the resource. M. Wyatt says we need to extract the Industry from managing our forest resource in N.B. and go see what other values we can develop from the forest other than just 2 by 4 and pulp. Perhaps tourism, perhaps expanded maple syrup industry.

I spoke with Tom Buckley Professor at the U.N.B. school of forestry. He explains how he and his colleagues were commissioned by the Department of Natural Resources of N.B. to conduct a public survey on the satisfaction of Crown Forest management. On the eve of the dissemination of the results, they were asked to withhold the information from the public. The information clearly indicates a total distrust of the Forest Industry to manage our Crown Forest.

I spoke with Don McCrea long time bureaucrat with D.N.R. then transferred as Deputy Minister to Transportation to spearhead the mammoth task of constructing the twined highway in N.B. He was later offered the post of Deputy Minister of Natural Resources. He turned down the position because he believed Industry would have fought him every step of the way to return the control of Crown Forest to the Ministry. He believes the 60 million $ a year the government pays industry to manage the forest, do the sylviculture work and maintain forest roads and bridges cannot be substantiated at todays prices. Yet these fixed cost have never been reviewed in the past 32 years. Only indexed with inflation. If Industry saves money on these operations it is theirs to keep. He also says that since all scaling of wood in now done in the mill yard rather then in the woods as was done previous to the act. It is impossible to prove if in fact the province and the wood workers are actually getting the right amount of payment for the wood cut.

I spoke with Jeannot Volpé, former Minister of Natural Resources and former Minister of Finance for the province of New Brunswick. He stipulates that we have to take a good long look to see if in fact we New Brunswickers are getting good value by letting industry manage our forest resource. He asks if with the billions of dollars the province has provided the industry, in royalty cuts, tax cuts, power rate cuts, subsidies, interest free forgivable loans, if in fact we have had value forrr New Brunswickers or if in fact we have simply been making sure that this industry make profit on the back of New Brunswick resource. Has it been worth it? He asks. I don’t think so! He answers bluntly. Let us go see why.

For the moment my inquiries have focused more on the financial aspects of Crown Forest mismanagement. It seems to me that people will react more if you can show how hundred of millions of dollars go missing every year from the taxpayers coffers. If we do a quick financial analysis of the situation it really comes down to the fact that we as taxpayers of New Brunswick are actually paying the industry to take the wood away.

But what of the environmental impacts that this mismanagement has caused. Can we equate the fact that wholesale clear-cutting of our forest and reduced buffer zones along the waterways is the reason that every watershed in New Brunswick have been declared compromised. Silting is choking streams and rivers, endangering fish habitat. Causing erosion and flooding.

But what of the social impacts that this mismanagement has caused. The shutting down of small communities. The indentured workers, held captive by huge loans co-signed by the likes of J.D. Irving which in turn are guaranteed by the province. When the workers machine becomes almost paid-off, Irvings demand he purchases a newer more productive machine, that way keeping the worker in a state of indebtedness.

It is said that 10% of all contractors who work for the Irvings go bankrupt every year. For sure they are not the only players in the field but they are surely the largest and carry the most clout.

In Kedgwick where I reside, there are two mills. One is owned by J.D.Irving and produces stud-wood and consumes 300,000 cubic meters of wood/year (99% from Crown forest) and creates 57 jobs An average of 5264 m3 of wood per job/year

The other mill is Groupe Savoie, they produce hardwood pallets, kitchen cabinet components, pellets and pellet logs, hardwood flooring. They consume 430,000 cubic meters/year (65 % Crown as a sub licensee) and create 465 jobs. An average of 925 m3 of wood per job/year

The answer to creating work in New Brunswick is by forcing the users of our resource to add value to the raw material. Not by pillaging what wood we have left but by adding value to what wood we have left.

Without a doubt, the single greatest impediment to my effort in raising awareness is the lack of support and recognition from mainstream media. Every published newspaper in New Brunswick with the exception of one english and one french are all owned by J.D.Irving.

The only way I can get my message out is either by internet or by gaining national media attention. The internet is working but it is a laborious process. It is going to take a groundswell of attention from the population to force our government to revamp the Crown Forest Act and give us back control over our largest renewable resource. However the size of the effort.... we will prevail!

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There was so much to say. I'm sorry this went so long - and it didn't even scrape the surface. Wake up, New Brunswick. You've overslept by a hundred years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

5 comments:

  1. "Then, on B3, we get a THIRD story on Harper's failure to appoint more senators. That has to be the sloppiest and laziest editing I have ever seen."

    The Canadian Press (who supplied the Senate story) may need a better editor, and reporter, as well. I haven't read Aniz Alani's legal argument yet but if what was written in the T&T its doomed to failure.

    Point 1: The Governor General appoints senators. This is stated directly in the constitution.

    Point 2: The PM advises the GG as to who should be appointed. This is a convention.

    Point 3: Conventions are not laws and courts do not rule on them.

    If, as the story indicates, Mr. Alani is arguing the PM must appoint senators he will be laughed out of the room. If he is arguing the PM must advise the GG he will be laughed out of the room.

    Harper can quite legally stop recommending senate appointments. Mr. Alani's legal challenge (if he happened to use the right terminology) may well succeed. The GG must appoint senators.

    What happens next is interesting. If the PM refuses to advise the GG then what does he, or she, do? They could appoint them unilaterally but are unlikely to do so as people would complain. It is likely the GG would ask either Parliament or the provinces to give him/her names. The story not being told is that both the PM and Mr. Alani can have their way. The two issues are not directly opposed to each other.

    But, of course, this would require lawyers and reporters to understand a bit of civics first. You know, that course schools don't teach any more. :)

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  2. The current governor-general was appointed governor-general because he can be trusted to sit up when Harper tells him to sit up, and roll over when he's told to roll over. (He was, after all, a university president.) He would never act contrary to Mr. Harper's wishes.

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  3. "The current governor-general was appointed governor-general because he can be trusted to sit up when Harper tells him to sit up, and roll over when he's told to roll over."

    How exactly is that relevant (if accurate) to my notes about appointments? If PM Harper wants to stop appointing senators and the court says the GG has to the PM can't really tell him not to. He can either resume advising or get out of the way. The alternative would be to have the GG act unconstitutionally. I think His Excellency has more respect for the office then that.

    Whether the PM would be happy to have a new set of conventions arise regarding senate appointments that did not include the PMO is an open question. The PM did take choosing the GG out of his sole control by establishing the 'Advisory Committee on Vice-Regal Appointments' of which the PMO has only an observer role.

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  4. Please understand I'm not disputing the legal correctness of your position. But the last time a governor-general gave the government a legal order was in 1926. Lord Byng refused a dissolution of parliament that PM Mackenzie King had ordered. He refused because he thought King was wrong to seek a dissolution in order to get out of an embarrassing political mess.

    So Parliament was not dissolved. But the Conservative party could not maintain support to govern - so it has to ask for a dissolution - which was granted. And King won the election.

    Since then, no governor general has used the right to tell the PM what to do.

    As to being puppets, the Queen appoints GGs on the advice of the government. Does Harper strike you as a man who would pick a strong and independent GG?

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  5. Please understand I'm not disputing the legal correctness of your position. But the last time a governor-general gave the government a legal order was in 1926. Lord Byng refused a dissolution of parliament that PM Mackenzie King had ordered. He refused because he thought King was wrong to seek a dissolution in order to get out of an embarrassing political mess.

    So Parliament was not dissolved. But the Conservative party could not maintain support to govern - so it has to ask for a dissolution - which was granted. And King won the election.

    Since then, no governor general has used the right to tell the PM what to do.

    As to being puppets, the Queen appoints GGs on the advice of the government. Does Harper strike you as a man who would pick a strong and independent GG?

    ReplyDelete