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.


  1. FYI - Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the "napalm girl", is a Canadian citizen.

  2. I knew the name change of your blog would widen your readership. Of course this is based on the fact that I now read your posts more often.

  3. Yes, she lives, I think, in BC. She lived in the US for a time, then moved. I don't know when that was or what caused the move.
    As to Willy, I think I know who you are. And I shall never forgive you nor forget you for your blatant attempt to grab credit for the rise in readership.

  4. Yes, she lives, I think, in BC. She lived in the US for a time, then moved. I don't know when that was or what caused the move.
    As to Willy, I think I know who you are. And I shall never forgive you nor forget you for your blatant attempt to grab credit for the rise in readership.