Saturday, October 31, 2015

Oct. 31: Damn!!!!

I have just completed four hours of writing a blog, Then, it disappeared just as I tried to send it. I have no idea why.

Instead of devoting it to the Irving press, I spent most of it on foreign press, and wrote about that. (The Irving press today is desperately bad.)

But it's now sunset. And I'm tired and hungry. and discouraged.

I'll try again tomorrow.

graeme decarie

Friday, October 30, 2015

The big push is on.

Today's headline is about the premier of Alberta meeting NB premier Gallant to discuss the delicate issue of a pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick. It's “in the best interest of all Canadians”. Then there's the editorial - a scare editorial about our need for oil and for fracking. “Will we be able to heat our homes this winter?” O-o-o-h. The front page of Canada&World has the story “Study finds bans on shale fracking are needless.” Three prominent and major and favourable stories about fossil fuels. And that's not a coincidence. It's even possible that the orders for this came from the concerned 'environmentalist' who owns Brunswick.

The editorial and the fracking story both cite a report from a 'think-tank'. That too, is not a coincidence. They refer to it as a conservative think tank and also as a right-leaning think tank. It's actually neither. It's a greed think-tank, nothing more. Like the Conservative party, it has nothing to do with conservatism. And the term right-leaning can mean anything depending on which way you lean.

It's the Fraser Institute. And what it does is pump out propaganda to please greedy and irresponsible billionaires. That's what most think-tanks are, because only the rich can afford unlimited spending to create this propaganda and to order their newspapers to print it. They're just like our very own Atlantic Institute of Market Studies. They are propagandist, and they lie. They also have people with distinguished-sounding names from the academic world, and even more distinguished titles the think-tank gives them.

Well, it's always possible to find a professor for sale. That's part of the untold story of how our universities have fallen under the control of big money, usually with leadership roles in university boards of governors, perhaps with honorary Ph.D.s, and with a crashing ignorance of what universities should be about.

The thrust of these three 'news stories' is clear. The big push is on for the Energy East pipeline, and for fracking in New Brunswick. Mixed in are soothing words about the environment. Well, we can trust those. After all, our political and business leaders have done a wonderful job over the last few decades to clean up and protect the environment. Right?

And it wasn't just the Conservatives who screwed up. Justin Trudeau works for the same gang. And he knows he knows they own him. Even the NDP premier of Alberta is on board – as founders of the CCF/NDP turn in their graves.

There have been kind words for the environment in the Irving press. But damn few and far between. And there's been lots about how it's okay to burn more oil and do more fracking. It's obvious who owns the Irving press and everybody who works for it. The modern, mass newspaper dates back to the 1890s, and it was lying and manipulating from day one. The Irving press is not the only one. It's just one of the worst – the paper equivalent of Fox News.

There is a reality we are not hearing about. The climate IS changing. And it is almost certainly too late to stop it from changing. The best we can hope for is to keep it from getting much worse. That's a reality.

We also have to make drastic changes in the way we live. We cannot go on using the earth's resources as we do. Every resource, including oil, has limits. There is no point in babbling about how developing resources creates jobs. This earth is limited in what it can give us. We have to face what most of us were told to face when we were children. You can't have just anything you want.

That's the kind of world we have to plan for. We aren't doing it because big money doesn't see any way to make money out of that.

As a tiny example, Dieppe raised a considerable length of road across the marshes this summer. That was to avoid flooding. Okay. What's going to happen as ocean levels rise – and they are rising? That does not seem to have been taken into account in the planning. Nor did the Brunswick news story on the building of a bridge across the river mention that.

We've had forty years of warning – with little action, and with Canada and the U.S. as leaders in doing nothing. And with most of the news media either playing down to the need to plan or even saying there is no need to plan. Our business leaders are among those who are carrying out massive environmental destruction in places like Latin America and Africa. I have never seen this reported in most of the news media. And I have never seen anything about how that destruction affects us, all of us.

We have to plan for a different kind of world. And we probably don't have much time to do it. And we should have figured out by now that big business doesn't intend to do any such planning.
A4 has a big story, with photo, of a woman who's retiring after 40 years working for Tim Horton's. It's a gripping tale.

The only story of interest in Section A is that Notre-Dame-de-L'Assomption cathedral will be holding a free concert on Nov. 21. ( I have a weakness for the sound of a good, Casavant organ. I even played one once, but nobody applauded.)

Sorry, I skipped an important story on A3. It's a press conference held by the wife of an RCMP officer who was killed a year ago when he was only recently returned to work after treatment for PTSD. This is more common than I had realized among first responders like policemen and firemen. Apparently, the existing workmen's compensation act imposes severe financial hardship on them and their families. She's looking for public support for a provincial Bill 51 to improve on that situation.

This is news. This is the sort of thing we need to know about.

I have already discussed (disgust?) the editorial. I should add it has a display of ignorance in the last paragraph. It says too many people speak of the need for “social licence” to carry out fracking. But nobody knows what that term means. Well, the editorial writer is the only person I have read who doesn't know the meaning of that term – or of much else. The term refers to a community's willingness to accept a certain corporate activity within its boundaries.

(I wonder if the editorial writer knows what a community is? Or a boundary? Or any of them other big words?)

Norbert has a good column on health care. The only weakness is he can't help blaming the civil servants for what is wrong about health care. Norbert, politicians make the decisions.

Cole Hobson doesn't really have a commentary. But at least it's funny. It's about how Whoopi Goldberg thought Moncton was in Ontario when she thanked our firemen. What's funnier is that a commentary just yesterday, was raving about how this would put Moncton on the map, just like the events centre.

Justin Ryan has a column to provoke some thinking. Japan is a very insular society. The appearance of a foreigner in many parts of Japan is cause for amazement and curiosity among the locals. He sees Canada, I think, as a more tolerant place because it has such a mixed population. I don't think so.

Canada has a long, long history of intolerance. We certainly have never been tolerant of our own native peoples. New France would not accept settlers who were not Roman Catholic. The British accepted Jews after they conquered New France – but only because they were British Jews, because they were very few, and because they brought investment. But when European Jews, mostly poor, began coming in the 1890's, they were heavily discriminated against. For long periods of time, Canada has also discriminated against Blacks, Ukrainians, Chinese, Japanese, Italians, you name it. Nor was this discrimination simply unconscious. It was enforced by limiting jobs they were allowed to do – ever notice all the Blacks who were missing for most of the history of the NHL? Many Canadians of foreign origins were needlessly put into concentration camps, refused entry to restaurants and hotels, forced to live in slum areas.

For an illustration of Canadian attitudes just after World War One, read J.S.Woodsworth, “Strangers Within Our Gates”. One doesn't expect bigotry of Woodsworth. He was a political activist, anti-war clergyman of immense kindness, concern for the poor, self-sacrifice. And this is a book about how he and the kindest, most intelligent Canadians of 1920 or so thought of people who were different from “us”. Nor have things changed. Harper ran his campaign heavily on hatred of Muslims. And hatred of Muslims was almost certainly a big factor that cost the NDP in Quebec for Mulcair's support of Muslims.

Alec Bruce has an interesting column that begins as hero-worship of Trudeau and Gallant. Then he points out that we know little about what they stand for – and that there are some basic issues to be faced – by them and by us.
For Canada and world, there is no world – except for one story about more stabbings and more shootings in Israel.

But despair not. There's a big story from the bigger world of Prince Edward Island. It's a speech by that province's premier – in which he says nothing whatever. Apparently, he will be host of the next meeting of Atlantic premiers. Bring a pillow, Mr. Gallant.

B4 has a story that the Quebec government has given one billion dollars to aero giant Bombardier. That's a lot of taxpayer money. But Bombardier has a history of getting taxpayer money. Founded as a humble maker of snow scooters, Bombardier exploded into an industrial giant in the last 50 years or so.
And this has something to do with Quebec separatism.

The great myth of Quebec is that the English are all rich, and the French are all poor. That is not true, and never was. Check the old census figures for that. Most anglos were at the lowest level of the working class. In fact, at that level, the French were a little better off.

Both French and English had wealthy upper classes. But, since big business in Montreal was trans-Canada and even world-wide, the language of big business was English. More important, it was the English wealthy who had muscle in federal and provincial politics. And that meant they had lots of nice connections to get taxpayers' money. And that often left the province's wealthy French out in the cold.

This was important in the rise of separatism. And it is not a coincidence that the man who rose to a dominant position among separatists was the very wealthy Jacques Parizeau. Making Quebec entirely French would drive out the wealthy English whose companies had to operate in English. Making it a separate country would deliver political muscle to the wealthy French. The rise of Bombardier, with helps from the provincial government fits right into that period. But….

Bombardier operated around the world. As well, Quebec was far from able to produce enough French-speaking engineers and other specialists. They had to come from all over the world, too. And most spoke English. And they wanted their children to go to English schools.

The bulk of the separatists were not wealthy people. They insisted that all such technicians speak only French, and send their children to French schools. So the government told Bombardier to Francizate its whole business. Bombardier told the Quebec government to stuff it. Then it bought a disused airfield just over the border in Vermont, and threatened to move there. The Quebec government backed off.

That's what I like about New Brunswick. It doesn't use language hatreds to manipulate people.

I'm sorry to take so much time on that, but I don't know what to say about a Canada&World section that has nothing to say about anything. In fairness, though, it has a big story about nothing in the Oland case, and a big column on how bicycling is fun.

Meanwhile, there's some kind of important news from Britain. The Chilcot Enquiry has been investigating the reason given by Tony Blair and George Bush for going to war in Iraq. Meanwhile, here's a report from a very credible reporter. The sources are good. It's from BBC which I often caution against. However, it sometimes tells the truth – and this is a story it would not dare lie about.

Tony Blair (and George Bush) lied to create a war that killed over a million people and destroyed a nation. That's called a war crime; and it's a hanging offence. Funny how the sharp-eyed news editor at Irving news missed this. (Of course, he also needed the space for the article on bicycling is fun.)

The U.S. has introduced ground troops into the fighting in Syria. It also demands that Assad resign BEFORE peace talks are held. I can't imagine a better way to turn that war into a world war. Here's the take of The Guardian on it.

Then there's a book about evil incarnate. I have not read the book. It's new. What's below is a review of it. But much of the material in it seems to be about things I have known about but have never appeared in the press.

The story below is about the Chinese-American confrontation in the South China Sea over some islands China is building. I suspect a court would find China in the wrong. Certainly, an international court is where this should be handled, and with the UN handling it. The U.S. does not have a badge to roam the world taking wrong doers to task. All over the world, it has acted as if it had a moral right to be a vigilante. The U.S., pushed by arrogance and pure greed with a strong dose of Protestant fundamentalism, has killed millions and frequently risked world war, and always to benefit its wealthy.

Finally, the Irving press also missed the story about China's abandonment of its one child per family policy. (Actually, that was the policy only in cities. Rural Chinese were permitted two children.) I have a certain gratitude to the system because it gave me a delightful granddaughter. But it was certainly a terrible choice to deal with a terrible problem.

The original choice was done not out of cruelty, but out of fear of a population growth that the country simply could not feed. Nor was the whole world craving to adopt Chinese children any more than it is now seeking Syrian ones.

I'm happy that they changed the system. I'm also scared because they have not solved the problem. You've never seen a crowd until you've walked the streets and the beaches of China. More people is a recipe for terrible suffering, for violence and, probably, war.

I can't even pretend to have any idea of what should be done. Abortion, of course, will continue on a massive scale even with two children permitted. And it will probably do little diminish the abortion of girls. (Boys are important to Chinese families – which is why China now has a large number of men without women.) It's easy, either way, to criticize China. But that's rather like attacking environmentalists. The question is – what is the alternative?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Oct. 29: So much news it's too much news.

But the Irving press spares you the pain of too much reading.

It's  foreign news isn't really foreign at all. In fact, I'm not sure there is such a thing as foreign news any more. isn't even next door. And that seems likely to come home to us right here in Moncton very, very soon. That is a reality of today's world that seems not to have struck home to the Irving press which still reads like a 1920s, small-town booster sheet.

Today's front page has a lead fearlessly explored by two-fisted reporter Brent Mazerolle. “New Codiac RCMP HQ planned for 2019”. Eat your heart out, Clark Kent.

Then “Gallant hopes to bolster climate policy.” That's a pretty wimpy statement in view of the fact that we have known there is a severe climate crisis for decades. And we know it will affect even Moncton. (Yes, it will.)

Then, for the third day in a row, we have the story about Whoopi Goldberg and the Moncton firefighters – two days of ms. Goldberg saying “thank you”, and today's of the firemen saying “you're welcome.” Is this the end of the saga? I doubt it.

Finally, there is almost a page and a half about hub schools which tells us nothing whatever. It doesn't even tell us what a hub school is. It has a brief interview with Paul Bennett who has more than a little expertise on this subject. But I guess the reporter didn't have enough time to listen to him. It tells us nothing, and it's so long that very, very few will read it. And maybe that's the idea of the story – to kill interest in defending rural schools.

Oh, and the government says it can't afford to keep the schools open because of the deficit. Right. We can afford to give away money in the millions to Atcon, to offer great, forest deals to Irving, to consider cutting taxes to the wealthy, poor dears. We can even afford to let them get away with their billions in tax havens. But, sorry, no seats on the gravy train for the poor, for children, for rural communities.
The editorial bravely tackles a burning question of the day. How can we sell more eels?

Norbert gives us 1920s small-town boosterism beginning with the impact that Whoopi Goldberg will have on the world's view of Moncton and, of course, a cheer for the events centre.

In a desperately over-written high school essay, Rod Allen carries on the small-town boosterism theme. But at least it's not his usual overwritten, gawdawful humour.

I skipped the guest commentary. It's from the Fraser Institute, a propaganda agency for the wealthy.

Alec Bruce has the only column worth reading.

De Adder has a funny editorial cartoon of a schoolchild writing on the chalkboard, “Literacy is some good” This is, of course, in reference to poor literacy scores in our schools. I would suggest just a small change. It should not be a little boy doing that. It should be his parents and Premier Gallant writing on that chalkboard. And I can tell you now, it's going to get a lot worse as we close rural schools.
Canada&World News has only two stories worth reading. (Okay, three if you count the soap opera we call the Oland trial.) The other two are about Russia.

One is that the Islamic state is recruiting fighters in Russia's North Caucasus. The other is that Russian intelligence says Taliban may invade Central Asia. Contrast these two stories with the American accusations that Russia is helping ISIS in Syria.

In fact, the Islamic state is a bigger threat to Russia than it is to the U.S. Its spread to Russia or anywhere in proximity to Russia would be a direct threat to the existence of Russia. Like the U.S., Russia is involved in Syria to protect its interest in access to middle east oil. In neither case is there a love story here.

Our news media routinely portray our side as the good guys in a war against evil guys. Offhand, I can't think of a war that has ever been fought for love. (Well, maybe Mark Antony and Cleopatra).

People have certainly thought they were fighting for good causes. And, certainly, that has always been the message of politicians and news media on all sides. But it's rarely true. I can remember Hollywood films like Eagle Squadron about how Americans flocked to Britain in 1940 to defend Britain, and pretty much destroyed the German bombers all by themselves.

In fact, the U.S. had no interest in defending Britain or France or anybody else. If it had, it wouldn't have waited until 1942 to do it. Even during the war and after it, the U.S. made strenuous efforts to grab pieces of the British and French Empires (Hong Kong, Vietnam, Egypt).

Churchill and Roosevelt told us this was a war to bring freedom, democracy, and equality to the world. Neither Britain nor the U.S. (nor France) willingly gave freedom, democracy or equality to anybody. Britain had to be kicked out of its empire (with the exception of India which was big enough to tell the British to scram.) The U.S. clung to its dictatorships and puppet rulers (and still does) throughout Latin America, overthrew democracy in Iran and Egypt, maintained a puppet ruler in The Phillipines, fought in Korea to maintain a dictatorship in South Korea, murdered an elected president in Vietnam to establish a military dictator. France had to be kicked out of French Indo-China and Algeria after wars that featured torture on a grand scale.

On Nov. 11, we will be told, again, that our soldiers, sailors and airmen died to bring freedom to the world. And that is certainly what they thought they were dying for. The believed our political and business leaders who told them that. But our political and business leaders (and our news media) were liars.

Nov. 11 is a day of remembrance for those who well deserved to be remembered. But it is not a day for the glorification of war.

(Tony Blair, by the way, may soon face a report that could charge him with war crimes and result in the death penalty. Funny how the Irving press has never mentioned that. And such a charge would also implicate George Bush.)

Since World War Two, our political and business leaders have made one hell of a mess. Freedom is in retreat, led by the U.S. and Britain along with Canada in Harper's time.

Extremist Islam exists because we created it with our interference and killing and greed. Saddam Hussein existed because the U.S. created him to invade Iran. That invasion is what caused Iran to think of developing nuclear weapons. Iraq is in turmoil because the U.S. destroyed it as a nation. That's why it's now turned to Russia for help. (something else the Irving press has never mentioned.)

The Taliban was equipped and trained by the U.S. in order to stop the Russians who were invading Afghanistan. The Taliban became the armed force that the U.S. and Britain (and Canada) are unable to defeat to the present day. And now, even the U.S. supported government of Afghanistan is asking Russia for help against the Taliban.

The “rebels” in Syria were created by the U.S. in order to destroy the legal government of that country. As a result of all the interference of a century, of the games played by big oil to destroy any possible to threats to its profits, the whole region is fractured by religious differences but almost united by a general hatred of the west and what it has done to them.

Are there terrorists? You bet. The biggest one, by death count, is the U.S. Are there Muslim extremists? Yes. One of the worst is the king of Saudi Arabia.

The final attack on what happens to be a largely Muslim world was begun by George Bush and carried on by an Obama (who has not been a tower of strength). The future of the U.S. and perhaps of us is in the hands of a small number of multi-billionaires. And the recent Republican leadership debates have been no cause for optimism.

Recent news suggests Israel has entered at least one of the middle east wars with drone flights over Iraq. There are also stories of Israeli soldiers attacking ISIS troops in Iraq. In the most recent, there is a claim that a Colonel of the Israeli army has been captured in Iraq, fighting on the side of ISIS!

I have no idea how true this is. I do know there have been many other stories of Israeli involvement. And we do know that Israeli drones have been in the war zone.

I have often read  a New Brunswick news sheet called Media Co-op, and found it good reading. Now, a reader has told me it appears in a much wider edition on the web. So I read it, and found it quite good. It's URL is below.

As a child, I knew that Naziis tortured prisoners because Naziis were evil. But our side would never do that. The reality is that just about every army uses torture. Torture, mutilation, murder and rape are standard practices. For just a sample, google World War Two British torture. It's done to prisoners as government policy. It's done for the fun of it. The US was torturing long before Afghanistan. It goes back at least to the Phillipines War in  1900 - and probably back to the earliest European landings in the Americas. Scratch the 'probably'. Christopher Columbus was a world class torturer, murderer and thief.

There's piles of stuff to write about today. There's piles of sites I could send you to. But I'm seriously thinking of having a life, too. So here are three papers that are great reads today, and you can get them on google. The Guardian uk, Haaretz, and al Jazeera. All three are excellent. All three have some surprising news, today. And lots of it.

In The Guardian, take the time to look at one of the British news stories as well as the commentaries section. British news has the story of rising poverty in Britain accompanied by the diseases associated with poverty back in Victorian England.

There's a striking resemblance between the government of Britain today and the government of New Brunswick all the time. At the height of the British Empire, very little of the profits from the colonies ever reached the mass of the British people. They lived in dreadful conditions, suffered chronic hunger, and lived short lives. Even the soldiers who made all that wealth possible were simply dropped when they were no longer useful, many of them to die in the streets. All that money went to the already rich who (I have no doubt) occasionally tossed the poor a few  coins, and then set up philanthropic halls of fame to congratulate themselves.

The British made some advances (like medicare and better housing) in the early post-war years. But the rich are back in the saddle again. Anyway, these are tough times, so the poor have to pay for them.

And that is exactly the posture of just about any government in the history of New Brunswick, including the present one.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Oct. 28: Well, well, well, duh....

Often, I wonder why the Irving press bothers to print a paper. The best part is a comic strip on C10, “The Grizzwells”. It's worth looking also at “Blondie” because, I think, it is the oldest continuously published comic strip in the world. For almost a hundred years, it's been repeating the same jokes over and over.

The lead story is about a law suit against the city, and concerns the accidental killing of a woman by a bus some four years ago. This is about the first day of the hearing, and has nothing in it that could be called news. Why is this the big item of the day?

Then there's another sad story about the closing of a rural school. We know, already. We know it's sad. We've had three days of essentially the same story. And tomorrow, the last of the series will be another sad story on the same subject.

What will encourage this province to stop moaning, and to start discussing answers for the problem? C3 has a similar story on literacy rates among children in school. This is scarcely a flash. Apparently, some people in the Department of Education are thinking about it. But the article doesn't tell us what they're thinking.

Try this. The problem does not start with the children or the schools. When you have a province in which half the population is functionally illiterate, the problem starts with the whole population, children and adults.

Generally, this is not a province in which intellectual activity is easily found. Look at the faith page for what the churches are doing – guzzling coffee and eating pancakes. We have governments at all levels which see cultural activities purely in terms of making money for hotels and restaurants. We have newspapers that could put an insomniac to sleep. We have no tradition whatever of open, public discussion. And, I suspect, New Brunswickers are afraid to speak openly and publicly. Almost all radio is brainless, and there seems to have been no thought to using it to stimulate thinking. It can be done. It's called public radio.

And, oh, where the hell are the universities on all this?

And why isn't the newspaper asking these questions? Why is it just rolling in an ecstasy of sob stories?

There are only two, real news stories in Section A. The first, on page 1, is that the Legion is desperately short of volunteers to sell poppies in the next two weeks. Veterans, and their immediate families are themselves dying out. But, for the survivors, the need is still there. I remember, with gratitude, the Legion's help for my father in his last months. The Legions suggests you call your local branch to offer to help sell poppies. Sounds like a good idea.

The other story, on A7, is that Moncton's only downtown soup kitchen may have to close for lack of funds. While I admire the volunteers and donors who have kept this soup kitchen going, I have long thought there is something wrong with a society that relies on volunteers and donors to feed those who otherwise go hungry. Societies that do that (which means almost all societies) are not primitive because primitive societies are often societies which care for those who need care. Our 'civilized' society is more like the animal world.

The Karing Kitchen is in St. John's United Church on Alma St.
The editorial is the usual, small-town boosterism.

Norbert goes rather over the top in attacking the World Health Organization for its warning about eating processed meats. The WHO is not really an evil mob. But Norbert's point that it handled the announcement badly seems a reasonable one.

There's also a good column on why Canada needs better care for vulnerable children. This is a topic the paper should pursue with a look at the situation in this province.

Alec Bruce has a strong column on the poor quality of retail service in the province. I don't know enough to comment on it – but it's another one the paper should follow up. Brian Cormier tells a soppy story about how he just loves his pussycat. Thanks for that analysis, Brian.
Canada&World has another big story on the saga of the Oland trial. And the big flash is – there is no evidence that Denis Oland owned a drywall hammer. It takes half a page to tell us that.

The same page has a warning from the CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce who says we have to develop the Energy East Pipeline and oil development very, very quickly because we can make big money out of this. And he's right. If we don't pump up our oil sales right away, we could lose our chance to destroy the planet. There's another story on the next page of the CEO saying nothing at all.

Similarly, there are two, big stories about the whale-watching boat that sank off the BC coast. The first one, which takes up a quarter of a page, tells us that one of the victims had a daughter in Ontario. Wow!

Then there's a big story about the Harper family moving back to Alberta and, beside it, another big one about some argument over naming an airport after Harper.

The last page has big photos of people nobody knows holding up giant cheques.

It also has a big story on Obama making a speech that actually has little to say. But he does have a sentence that the city of Moncton and Irving press should pay attention to. “Fewer gun safety laws don't mean more freedom, they mean more fallen officers.” That's something the Irving press and the Moncton city council should read. It's very nice to put up monuments. But it would be even nicer to demand we take action to make sure we don't need more monuments in the future.

There is almost no foreign news in this paper. But foreign news profoundly affects us. We have to know what is happening. We have to get analysis of it. We have to understand it. But there is nothing like this in this newspaper.

We shall, I hope, be buying poppies for Nov. 11 in memory of Canadians we sent out to risk their lives and, a great many of them, to die. At the time, we knew little to nothing of why we were sending them. (Yes, I know they were told it was to make all people equal, etc.) The reality is we haven't done it. And it was never intended to do that. But the average Canadian soldier in World War Two had a grade nine education, far too little to understand what any war is about.

Older Canadians and better educated Canadians and news media (not to mention politicians) had a responsibility to tell them what it was about. We didn't. And we still don't. Most recently, we've sent our military to Afghanistan and Iraq – along with some posted to the danger zone of Ukraine. But none of us, even today, have been told why we sent them. Remember them on Nov. 11. Remember what we owe them. And remember what we owe to those yet to come.

Most notably missing is the story about the U.S. navy's taunting of China by sailing into waters claimed by China. Maybe the Chinese claim is unreasonable. I don't know. But I do know…..
1. The U.S. is not the one to decide this issue. I know American governments feel they have the right (American Exceptionalism) to intervene in any issue anywhere in the world. But we have a world body to do that. It's called the U.N. ( You don't trust the U.N, to make the right decision? What makes you think the U.S. will? It killed millions in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. It has destabilized, created poverty, set up dictatorships all over the world. I don't see where all this has made this a better world.)

2. The U.S. routinely claims territorial waters on questionable grounds. It has, for decades, defied Canadian claims to the Northwest Passage by deliberately sending ships through it WITHOUT asking Canadian permission. It has frequently invaded territorial waters of countries it was illegally attacking. Yemen is a current example. Funny how none of this ever makes the Irving press.

What right did the U.S. have to claim Hawaii and its waters?

3. This intrusion into waters claimed by China is, indeed, a very high risk operation. Not only is China big enough to use force (and have nuclear weapons), but western bullying touches a very sensitive spot in Chinese thinking. For well over a century, China – for all its size and because of its size – was profoundly humiliated by the West's destruction of its society, imposition of monstrous economic demands, killing and/or starving to death of millions, imposition of opium. It's a deep humiliation that is still felt.

But now China can hit back. Bullying is not a wise approach.

There is every sign the U.S. is preparing a war against China. That's why it's encouraging Japan to re-arm. Most of the American fleet is designed to serve in the vast spaces of the Pacific. What use does it have for such a large and powerful fleet for use in the Pacific? The Chinese know – even if our news media don't. (In fact, the U.S. began planning a fleet primarily for use in the Pacific in the 1920s. Then, the intended target was Japan. But now the Japanese and American fleets are being integrated. I think China has probably noticed that. And China is not likely to allow itself to be taken back to the years of western intrusion.)

There's an equally dangerous situation (largely ignored by the Irving press) shaping up in Syria. The U.S. is preparing to send in its own troops and, presumably, aircraft. That means Russians, Iranians and the U.S. all fighting in the same region. The risk of an incident is very high.

As well, the U.S. has given the excuse that Russia is fighting just the American allies who are the “moderates” it calls “rebels”. (If we had better news media, we would know these are neither moderate nor rebels). It says Russia is not fighting the real enemy, ISIS.

Actually, it has been fighting both the “rebels” and ISIS. It's vitally important for Russia to destroy ISIS because ISIS could well become a serious problem in Russia, itself. The writer of the site below has excellent credentials. They are shown at the end of his column.

Haaretz has a columnist with an interesting take on the rise of two candidates in the race for leadership of the U.S. Republican party – Donald Trump and Ben Carson (a distinguished medical doctor). Both are, by any measure, nutbars and dangerous ones. But they are leading in public support. They're doing it by playing on fears and saying they stand for nice things and, in the course of it they have shattered the traditional Republicans – and all despite their wackiness. In particular, they seem to have destroyed Jeb Bush, who was a major advocate of building the whole world into an American empire.

The author might be right in seeing the cause of this. If he is, it will probably make things even worse.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Oct. 27: School days....

My first year of teaching was grade 7. As I entered the room on that first day, what I saw was six rows of desks, six perfectly straight rows with the teacher's desk in the place of authority at the front of the room. As the students came in, I helped them arrange their desks in any way they liked - circles of friends, small groups of two or three….

Then the principal came in to see how I was doing.

“Oh, no, Mr. Decarie. They must be in rows. Six rows. And rows so straight that when I look at the head of a child in front, I shouldn't be able to see the other heads at all.”

Well, of course. The early public schools were designed to operate like factories, a sort of educational assembly line. The board members who planned them were commonly factory owners, and they saw the public schools as, essentially, training children to work on the assembly line. Thus the six, straight rows, all the bells, and the rigid curriculum.

The government of New Brunswick, like most governments, still thinks that way.

But school should not be just about training robots. It should also be about creativity, about socialization, about thinking. (But God forbid you should teach children to think unless you teach them to think exactly like their parents. I shall never forget the storm of protest from Godly parents when a student asked me about Darwinism. So I explained it, and I also explained creationism as a differing belief. Every Baptist in town wanted my head on a spike. For the same reason, much of the history taught in schools is lies. Any teacher who told the truth would soon be out of there.)

Memorizing and thinking are not the same. One creates robots. The others create, open to seeing the truth, making reasoned decisions, sometimes wrong, but always open to new ideas and intellectually aware.

Bussing for two hours a day is an expansion of creating robots.

This is a serious education problem which affects half the population of this province, both children and adults. The key to learning, to making judgements, to being a part of action in this world is to know how to read, to want to read, to want to discuss. And the problem is most pronounced in rural New Brunswick.

But the government can think only in terms of the assembly line, as if the children and adults were all robot parts waiting to be assembled. And the Irving press series on education (P. A1), instead of looking at what the problems are and exploring answers, simply wastes everybody's time with long stories on how sad it all is.

This is a problem for both children and adults. So, thinking about education, think about both; think about extension courses; think about public radio and TV. (Radio is very effective as a learning tool. TV is less so.)

When we make mistakes with education, the students and us have to live with those mistakes for the rest of our lives. We need a sense of exactly what it is we expect education to do, and how it can be done. What we don't need is a government that treats this as nothing but a budget issue.

And that's it for news in section A, unless you really, really care that Whoopi Goldberg thanked our firefighters again – and unless you really, really think that having an events centre with 9,000 seats will make Moncton a “big league” city.

The editorial is small town boosterism.

Norbert has a good, if sometimes flippant, column about how to deal with poverty, and how small demonstrations like the two dozen people who paraded for Eradicate Poverty Day have no effect. He suggests a more focussed cause – like a guaranteed minimum wage – might be more effective. It makes sense. The eradication of poverty is a very, very broad topic. It gives people nothing specific or tangible to work on.

The guest column is from Troy Media – again – and like most of the columns from that source, it smells of propaganda. This one is about the Trans-Pacific trade deal and how wonderful for Canada it is. Amazing how so many writers can praise this document when none of have seen it yet.

Alec Bruce has an interesting column on we should integrating our older people into our work force, something that has worked in Sweden, Norway and Finland. For himself, he doesn't plan to retire, not ever. Bang on. Retirement is boring.
Again, most of the Canada&World section is about Canada, and most is trivial (including yet another long story on the Oland trial). It's also stuff that people have seen on TV or heard on radio a day ago and even more. Much of this could be scrapped, replaced with the commentary that would make us think about the news, and help us to understand why these things are happening. Do you know, for example, why Saudi Arabia has invaded Yemen (with U.S. support and after years of American drone-bombing of Yemen?) The Irving press doesn't even seem to know this is happening.

There's also nothing on Russians fighting for Syria, though this could be the beginning of a decline in U.S. dominance of world affairs.

Nor do they have the story on the very provocative sending of a U.S. fleet into waters claimed by China. They surely aren't doing it to help Vietnam's claim to some of those waters. So why risk a war that could turn nuclear over waters that are nowhere even close to the U.S.? Because the U.S. wants those waters to complete boxing in China by the American fleet and by missile bases. That's the same reason the U.S. is encouraging Japan to rearm for an attack on China.

The U.S. has a habit of provocation as a means of diplomacy. That's not a very good idea because it can lead to a war that cannot produce any victory of anybody. Or it can hurt the U.S. if its bluff is called – as Putin did.

On B2, we learn that the Canadian armed forces will spend two years updating our forces. Good idea, because they've been terribly neglected. But we need something else first – a decision on what the Canadian armed forces are for. If they are simply fodder to fight American wars and to be integrated with U.S. forces, then no. Before we can build armed forces, we have to decided who they are likely to fight, and why. We should never have, as Harper did, send fighter bombers to risk their lives and to kill in Iraq just to please American oil billionaires.

A former NDP MP says the party should alter its organization. That part isn't likely to change anything. But he also calls for it to break off the relationship is has had with unions from its origin in 1961, That was when it formed a deal with Canadian Labour Congress to join the original party, the CCF, with the CLC. The main objective was to raise money for the party from the unions – necessary because neither the CCF nor the NDP could expect money from the corporations who feed the Liberals and Conservatives.

But the unions were more interested in getting political power than in the principles of the old CCF. They steadily forced the party to the right, so far that it could be confused with the Liberals. And that has been a disaster – as shown in the recent election. The CCF/NDP had gradually abandoned its basic principles over the years. And in those over fifty years, it hasn't gained an inch. The CCF was a party that challenged the dominance of big business in controlling this country. It actually began with considering human needs. It is really the party that brought medicare to Canada. But the unions have consistently made it more like the old parties.

The CCF is going to have to reconsider more than reorganizing its structure. It has to reconsider its purpose.

The last page has a story on Netanyahu and the violence in Israel – with its close connection to the more than fifty years of Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Netanyahu, as usual, has decided the answer to violence is more violence which will create….

Former president Jimmy Carter has written an interesting letter about a solution for Syria. It makes sense – and it's followed by lots of comments that make sense.

I have, I think, often suggested that BBC news is not reliable. Here, CBC is restrained by government, and may be killed by the Liberals who have historically been just as hostile to honest news as the Conservatives are. Despite this, the CBC still manages to do a good job.

The site below, though, confirms what I already had decided about Britain's once superb BBC news.

I'm using information clearing house three times today. I'm careful in using it unless It's from a source I respect. Jimmy Carter is pretty respectable. The BBC story provides evidence.

The site below is by a respected journalist who used to work for a terrible newspaper. But his work was usually good. It's a hymn of praise for Trudeau (which I don't entirely agree with), but also throws light on Harper.

Another story at the clearing house is that Edward V111, Duke of Windsor, was an admirer of Hitler, and he betrayed military secrets to Hitler. But that's been known for a long time. Anyway, he was by no means the only one to plan jumping over to the Nazi side.

There's a marvelous novel about Edward and Wally Simpson and Hitler. It's by a Canadian, Timothy Findley, “Famous Last Words”. One of the best I've ever read.

Lots of other news – the UN has condemned the U.S. for its 24 year embargo on Cuban trade. The US intends to continue taunting China with naval exercises off China's shores. Saudi Arabia has bombed a hospital in Yemen run by Doctors Without Borders. The government in Afghanistan (the one supported by the U.S.) has asked Russia!!! to help it against the Taliban. Hint. What does this suggest about the U.S. image in the world?

Lot of this and other news in Haaretz and aljazeera.

But nothing much in the Irving press.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Oct. 26: A very pleasant surprise.

No, it's not the headline story “Whoopi Goldberg praises Moncton firefighters after tour bus blaze”. (She thanked the firefighters – which was certainly a nice thing to do. But that's surely not the most important thing that happened in provincial news yesterday.)

Nor is another page 1 flash, “Opportunities NB CEO promises to track use of public money”. If he promised he would NOT track the use of public money, then that would be a story. But tracking it is what he was hired to do. This is in a class with “New bus driver promises to drive bus”.

What makes that page worth reading is a story that is part of a series, “School closures, Policy 409 a case of “rural bullying,' academic says”. In it, a university teacher from a rural background talks about the importance of the rural school in the community, an importance that the government is ignoring in its obsession with education as a cashflow issue. It's much more than that.

And it's not just a matter of the cost of bussing.

In my high school teaching days, many students had the opportunity for some very enriching clubs. There were after school sports, of course. There was also current events, debating, writing, film studies,
many choirs (including a French choir), several French clubs, a school orchestra and a band (with instruments provided, and with many participants starting learning from scratch), Red Cross, Electronics club, stamp-collecting, Inter School Christian Fellowship…..

And these clubs were an important part of learning. But this can't happen in rural schools – or, often, in urban ones because of the restraints imposed by bussing. In fact, you won't find much in the way of this intellectual and artistic development even among adults in Moncton. Instead, intellectual stimulation means to drink beer outdoors while watching people with guitars jump up and down with lights flashing.

A solution? In rural schools, have a club day once a week during regular school hours. Cubs are just as important as regular school work. (I don't put t his forward as a 'must'. It's just a suggestion for politicians to think 'outside the box'.

In urban schools, get rid of the school busses. For many decades, urban children walked to school or took public transport. For most of my own elementary school days, I walked about forty minutes each way to school. Then, when high school was more distant, I used public transport. Now Moncton is a city whose most notable feature is empty public transit busses. We would actually save money by offering free or low cost students' passes.

Think of the rural school as more than children. Adults need intellectual stimulation, too. Offer classes (or clubs) to meet those adult needs. Use schoolrooms as public radio or TV stations to serve local needs. Use them to to offer extension courses from our universities and college system.

Many rural people are cut off from the world. Rural New Brunswick also has a high rate of functional illiteracy. That hurts them and it hurts all of us. They need those schools to connect with the world.

For once, New Brunswick should not treat such problems as economic ones, but as social ones. It should define the social needs that have to be met. Then design the school system.

(It might also help if we had confidence the government was taking a tough look at the tax contribution of the very wealthy in this province. And it might also look up the meaning of the term “tax haven”.)

The other, big story is on A 6. It's all about a man who treasures his family and loves sports. Is that unusual in Moncton?

The very pleasant surprise is the opinion and commentary pages.

The editorial is actually quite decent, though it cannot avoid a favourite piece of propaganda. It's about the practice of the government to hide information that should be available to the public. Fair enough. But, in the last paragraph, it puts the responsibility for this in the laps of those evil people called bureaucrats. In fact, such decisions are not made by bureaucrats, evil or otherwise. They are made by evil politicians – the ones we elect.

Norbert Cunninghan has a superb column on climate change. He raises concerns about what it is likely to do in terms ranging from the distribution of world economic power to how it may affect the Canadian border to how if may affect New Brunswick to how it may affect us here in Moncton. He raises points I have not seen before – and he makes eminent sense.

As I read this, I realized that Harper's refusal to deal with this issue was worse than criminal. And he's not the only one. A great deal of time around the world has been lost. And we have still yet to realize the enormous effort this will demand of all of us. Yes, I know oil creates jobs. I also know it kills people. And dead people are lousy workers.

This is an excellent column, both thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Craig Babstock has a quite decent column on the need for government to deal with the legality of marijuana as quickly as possible. His reasoning is that this is causing huge problems in cases that are now before the courts. He's probably right - though it shouldn't cause problems.

People now facing marijuana charges are people who, presumably, broke a law. They committed a criminal act, knowing that it was a criminal act. That the law may change some day doesn't change their deliberate breaking of a law to make money for themselves. (Not to mention that in the process of getting this product to market, people were often murdered.)

All the above is also true of, say, bootleggers who were imprisoned for committing illegal acts which, in the process, involved killing a great many people. Al Capone did not become a non-criminal when prohibition ended. (Just thinking – and thinking is what a column is supposed to encourage. That makes this one a good one.)

The guest commentary by Susie Proulx-Daigle is another good one. It's about government plans to privatize parts of medicare, saying it will save money. She pointed out that the provincial government, in a show of democracy at work, held a public forum and a health care summit on the issue. In both cases, the keynote speakers were advocates of privatization. Gee! What a surprise!

Privatization of laundry is just a first step in a drive to privatize all health care so that we, like the U.S., can have the least affordable and the least accessible health care system in the world. And, as Proulx-Daigle explains, privatizing segments of health care will probably be a money-loser from day one.

This is worth reading.

Alec Bruce is an excellent columnist, of course. This time, he goes beyond excellent. It's a very general look at the sort of thing New Brunswick should be doing for its people, especially its young ones. It's general because it has to be. It's not a blueprint for the future; it's opening a door to look at what we should be thinking about. And it's a very intelligent look.

This is far the best of all the opinion and commentary pages I have seen in the Irving press. And it ranks with some pages of the best I have read in any paper.

Now, if only it had some analysis of foreign news….

Then we drop to the Canada&World section. It has four, big photos of Monctonians holding up giant cheques. Judging by the space it takes, this is (or close to) the biggest story in Canada&World News.

For reading, I would recommend B2. “Laser treatments may ease the pain for 'napalm girl' decades after attack.” Perhaps you remember Kim Phuc, a young girl in the Vietman of 1972 who was screaming and covered in flames from the napalm stuck to her skin. Now, today, she still suffers terrible pain from the burns, and is getting free treatment from the U.S. government.

How Christian of the American government!

Nobody knows how many hundreds of thousands of men, women, girls, boys and babies either burned to death from napalm bombs in Vietnam, or lived just short and painful lives. Others have died or lived short, horrible lives because of the dreadful effects of agent orange that was sprayed over Vietnam. But the U.S. government didn't help them.

It had to help Kim because she was the one whose photo appeared in most of the papers to tell us what that war was really about. Meanwhile, for the millions who died, often in terrible pain, tough luck.

Kim was P.R., an advertising stunt to cover up one of the great mass murders of history.

This story is worth reading – if you let it make you think.
The photo was to prove that the U.S. is not cruel like ISIS or Assad or the Taliban – all of whom put together have killed far fewer people than the U.S. did in Vietnam alone.

Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? Well, nobody has ever found any of them.

We fight wars to bring freedom to people? Well, even assuming they want freedom, can you seriously believe they want it enough to get killed by the millions; to flee their countries in the tens of millions? To suffer starvation and loss of husbands and wives and children?

Is Libya a happier land since we bombed it and murdered Ghadaffi?

And while you're at it, count the countries we've brought freedom to. No, not North Korea. We left that a dictatorship – just like South Korea. Not Egypt. The U.S. overthrew the elected government of Egypt, and installed a military dictatorship. (It will now hold an election – but one controlled by the military – and with the potential opposition leaders in jail.) It also overthrew an elected government in Haiti – to hold a phony election that put an American puppet in power. Over the years, it destroyed democracies and assassinated elected leaders all over South America, usually putting dictators in charge.

Almost all wars are fought to gain economic power. That's what empires were and are about. Britain did not conquer India to bring it Gilbert and Sullivan operas. The Second World War was not fought to save Jews or to fight Naziism. We were as anti-semitic as Hitler was. And our business leaders in the west, for the most part, admired and even supported Naziism.

The U.S. did not fund, supply, and train a 'rebel' army in Syria to bring it freedom. If that were its motive, it would have invaded the worst dictatorship in the world – Saudi Arabia. (Incidentally, there's reason to doubt the sincerity of the rebels. The U.S. has spent $500,000,000 training 'rebels' to produce a total of 50 soldiers. The rest deserted to the other side with their weapons.)

This story about Kim can make us think of many things – the immense cruelty and suffering caused by war – the greed that usually drives it – the immense sums of money spent on war, and so cannot be spent on schools, health, income security – and saving this planet we have to live on.

We need a day to remember the dead of wars – all the dead of all the wars. I don't suggest we use Nov. 11 for that purpose. We owe Nov. 11 to those who died and those who risked death. But we also need a day to remember all the dead of all wars, to think of exactly why it is they had to die, to question why we still use war, and who benefits from it.
Next to that is the story of how the Assembly of First nations in New Brunswick is dissolving. We need much more information about that, and we need informed opinion about it. Exactly what are the problems about land claims? What is it that we can do to be useful? Didn't we have a national report about this sort of thing just months ago? What have we done about it? What should we be doing?

B3 has a good story about how the Trans-Pacific trade law could directly affect all of us in a harmful way. It deals with the clause on copyright which deprives Canada of the power to control its own copyright laws - which does nothing to help us but only to create bigger profits for copyright holders.

B4 is a very important story about operations of our secret police, CSIS, in Canada and in foreign countries in association with foreign spy operations like Britain's MI5 or the CIA. In other words, this could integrate all of them. Think that's a good idea? Well, American and British aims in the world are not necessarily those of Canada.

Then there's the sticky bit about how the CIA and MI5 have been known to be not above assassination and national destablization schemes.

And under Bill C-51, CSIS is scheduled to do this without any supervision by the Canadian government – or any knowledge of what it's doing. No police force in any nation should have that kind of freedom.

B6 is about the refugee crisis affecting the Middle East and Europe. This could be a major step to the breakdown of the European Union. The reality is that Europe cannot handle this migration. With the best will in the world (which most of Europe doesn't have), with significant help from Canada and the U.S. (which isn't going to happen), there is no solution to the refugee problem. There is only violence, mass murder, and dreadful suffering. So let's get real.

The major factor in this is the fighting in Syria. I'm not sure that ending that fighting will end the problem for the region. So many issues, like the Turkish war with Kurds, the Israeli occupation of Palestine (and the dream of a Greater Israel), the Saudi Arabia/U.S. war on Yemen can worsen the situation in the region and, thus, in Europe.

The U.S. foreign policy that began with the invasion of Iraq has become one of the great disasters of history – for all of the world, including the U.S. Its consequences for the whole world are not foreseeable. Those consequences could well include the collapse of the American Empire.

The story suggests a settlement of the war in Syria. It's worth a try. And it's a war that was never justified in the first place. The “rebellion” was cooked up by the U.S. It hired the rebels, equipped them, and trained them, all with the help of that wonderful democracy, Saudi Arabia. U.S. interventions in the middle east have done nothing but to hurt the U.S. Iraq has not forgotten what the U.S. did to it. That 's why it has asked Russia to help it against ISIS. (That didn't make Irving news, but it's kind of important.) U.S. interventions and greed have made Russia the major player in the region. The U.S. needs the war in Syria to end.

The obvious and easiest way is to accept a deal that Assad has offered. If the U.S. will stop its support of the rebels, Assad will hold an election. Sounds reasonable. (and one can always negotiate the fine points to make sure it's a fair election.) Will the U.S. accept it?


The war isn't about a phony rebellion. It's about U.S. capitalists wanting control of the whole region, including Syria. It's about greed combined with stupidity. It, like the story of a little girl in Vietnam burned into a life of pain, is about indifference to human needs and human suffering. It's about a willingness to kill as many millions as necessary to boost profit margins.

The greatest problem facing the world is the power of an uncontrolled capitalism to dominate the policies of all the great powers. This is what should have been the central issue in the Canadian election, but which wasn't even mentioned, not by any party.

Uncontrolled capitalism will destroy itself, and us with it. Greed and stupidity are a bad combination to guide any government. For its own sake, capitalism must be brought under control. Legalizing marijuana is a big deal in the federal election– as was the issue of the niqab. Uncontrolled capitalism is a far bigger deal.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Oct. 25: catch-up day

And the day when I kick myself for not connecting the dots on Trudeau and the election. A friend sent me an article on Trudeau. I thought it excessively cruel to Trudeau. But it was also full of information I already knew – but which I had not thought about.

Harper came to power because the Liberal party had collapsed. Paul Martin had been a lacklustre prime minister – to put it kindly. Then came Dion and Ignatieff who were worse. The Liberal party had lost any sense of direction, of purpose, of image. And there seemed no-one of talent in the party. The last time that happened was in 1919 when a young Mackenzie King re-organized it to create the party whose rule dominated the twentieth century.

Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau had been doing not much of anything. Like all francophone children of his social class, he went to an excellent and every expensive school. Then he got a BA in Literature, and a degree in education. Then – he taught snowboarding in B.C.

Oh, there was some political activity, but not much. Then he taught high school for a bit. So why did the party come after him to run in 2008?

That might be because the party was in desperate shape. It had little that could be called policy and nothing that could be called philosophy. (It still doesn't. In fact, as the election showed, only the Greens had something that could be called policy or philosophy. It was narrow, but it existed.)

So why go after Trudeau who had never shown any sense of philosophy or policy?

Because he was cute. And his name was Trudeau. And it worked. In just five years, he was party leader and, in two more, prime minister.

What values does he stand for? What does he think the role of a government should be be? We don't know. The election, after all, was fought on issues of images and playing little games with promises of goodies like tax breaks. We are back, at best, to the 1990s. Here's the article. Go to “The Triumph of Drivel”. I really do think it strays into being malicious – but the essential points are dead on.
Iraq has given Russia permission to bomb ISIS bases in Iraq. That's more important than it might seem.
It means Iraq is snubbing the U.S. And that suggests that Iraqis did not welcome the U.S. invasion of Iraq or the destruction of their country. It also suggests that the U.S. is losing the battle for dominance in the Middle East. And that latter part of it could get a lot worse because a British report called the Chilcot Inquiry is due to become public.
It is known now that Tony Blair and George Bush came to an agreement a year before the Iraq invasion to carry out that invasion. Particularly damaging here is a leaked statement by General Powell confirming this. This was before they invented the excuse about 'weapons of mass destruction' – whatever that much mean. Aren't most war weapons designed for mass destruction? Blair leaves us now with just one reason for that war – Hussein was a bad man.
Maybe he was. So were George Bush and Tony Blair. They're the ones who killed over a million Iraqis. They're the ones who financed Hussein's invasion of Iran.
Many people say that Tony Blair made Britain a poodle for Bush. And many people are right. Against the wishes of his own party, he sent British to die in Iraq. He made Britain, in effect, a colony of the American Empire. He made himself an extremely wealthy man. He and Bush also created the opening for ISIS to develop. He did it by making the U.S. and Britain so hated throughout the region, and by so destroying any government at all in Iraq that he opened the door for ISIS. And now Blair has publicly apologized for that. So why has this man, who built a fortune out of lying and killing, decided to apologize?
Because the Chilcot Inquiry is coming down. And it will make Bush and Blair look very, very bad. It may, in fact, even suggest that they should be facing charges for war crimes. (I doubt though that they will. In all war crimes trials I know of, only the war's losers have been tried – and usually by the side that won.)

Of course, Blair lies a good deal in his apology. He says he and the US tried to “help” Libya without sending in troops. Very true – sort of. They sent bombers. Then he says they tried to 'help' Syria without intervening (except, of course, by creating, arming and paying mercenaries to overthrow the government.) Tony Blair is a very nasty bit of goods. I shall never forget his appearance beside Bush when Bush addressed congress after 9/11. He had a big, wolfish grin on his face.
Blair was a major factor in causing the deadly shambles that is now the Middle East. I am not confident the Russian intervention will makes things better. Bombing and killing by the U.S. has certainly made nothing better. I see no difference resulting from Russian attacks. The only difference it does make is to reduce the stature of the U.S., and so to create more unrest in other parts of the American Empire.
According to a UN report on freedom of speech, that freedom has virtually ceased to exist in the U.S., along with freedom of information. Anyone who reveals things that the government doesn't want Americans to know either has to go into hiding – or face life in prison. Not a single person involved in the world's greatest torture system has even been charged with anything. Torture of anyone is a war crime. It's also against American law. And it's also illegal all over the world to torture minors.
Not a single person has been prosecuted for this – which may have something to do with the fact that the trail leads straight to the White House. The only person in prison for any connection with this is a woman who told the public about this and other crimes. (And the American and Canadian press have largely ignored her.
Access to information and freedom of speech are essential to any democracy. The U.S., for this and other reasons, is no longer a democracy. Harper has been taking us down the same path. Will Trudeau change this in any significant way? I doubt it very, very much.

Oh, have you noticed our reports on the Syrian rebels almost always call them 'moderates'. What's a moderate rebel? Until the Syria war, I had never heard of moderate rebels. They must be something like midget basketball pros. And who decides that these are moderates? It's the US, of course. Why do our news media, most of them, follow the lead of government and call these people moderates? And now that they do it, can somebody tell us what the word means in this context?

Readers may wonder why this blog has so many full-width lines on it. So do I.