Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Nov. 3: Very light on the irving press.

There are just two stories worth reading. On A1, the series on the decline of the salmon fishery continues. (The big headline by the way is that a man who murdered three police officers a year ago may not get parole. Who woulda guessed?)

A3 has the story that our brand, new Moncton High School can be reached on foot only by walking a considerable distance on the steep shoulder of a very busy road. While most students travel by school bus, many also use that road. This is a high school many years in the planning and building. And city council and the provincial government and the anglo east school district seem not to have noticed this problem. Now, there's a subject for an editorial. (But we're not likely get one).
Norbert Cunningham takes a very sober look at the world refugee crisis. And he's quite right to say this is a world changing event. Here's good example of how an opinion column can tell us more about events than a whole section of news can. It's a world-changing event that is having an impact on a lot of us even here in Canada.  And there's a hell of a lot more to come.

Louise Gilbert and Alec Bruce are also worth a read.

There is simply nothing in Canada and World news that tells us anything we didn't know. So I'm going to suggest some sources (and to it with minimal comment). The comment is minimal because I need to get started putting all this in context. And I'd like to start that today.

CBC News has the story that Bombardier, after getting a billion dollars from Quebec, wants another billion from Ottawa. Fearless and independent capitalism in action.

The next site is good, though I think it is wrong to say that capitalism in the U.S. began the destruction of democracy in America (and Canada) only in recent times. In fact, by the time we moved to democracy, capitalism had already made democracy impossible.


Is it possible to spend 43 million dollars to build a gas station?  That price was over 120 times more than the estimate. But - this was a gas station in Afghanistan built by an American contractor with friends in the U.S. government.  And this kind of spending has been routine for the U.S. Defence Department and other business in government contracts of all sorts. It's happened in Iraq, in Haiti, in Afghanistan. The level of corruption in the U.S. military/business/government alliance is the reason why so many Americans are homeless, living below the poverty line, and suffering from a  collapsing education system. That's also why development of the F-35 jet has been such a disaster.


November 11 is NOT a day to glorify war. It's a day to remember war - all of it.
Don't remember just those TV parades of coffins of those who were killed in Afghanistan. Also remember the 59 veterans of Afghanistan who have committed suicide since the war. Remember the 6 who committed suicide while in Afghanistan. Remember who sent them - all of us. And then see if you can remember why we sent them - and why we sent the air force to Libya and Iraq. Be patriotic, by all means. But don't be maudlin.


I loved teaching university. But I developed a profound dislike for their quality of teaching, and for the way they are run on a business model. I was especially shocked at the extraordinarily generous salaries and perks offered to administrators. Apparently, the U.S. is the same.


I enclose the following site because it gives a hint of the complexities of alliances and wars in today's middle east. And the futility of it all.


Norbert Cunningham was quite right to way that the refugee crisis is a major change for this world, a change that will affect us for generations to come. So let's take the time to see how this change started, We have to understand its origin and its growth to get even a vague understanding of what is happening, and how it affects all of us. And this is a crisis that's been developing since the 15th century.

Nations, tribes have fought each other for all of recorded history. (And Christian societies have been at least as warlike as others.)  Usually, the motive is conquest to take land or resources. But the history books seldom say that. They tend to get caught up in the glory of it all. No, the usual purpose was and is economic - which is a nice way of saying greed.

Greed is why Rome conquered ancient Britain. Greed is what carried Europeans to North America. But the wars were limited by the size of army that was possible. That's why the Vikings had to back off from the Beothuks of Newfoundland; they were greatly outnumbered and, just as important, had weapons no more effective than those of the Beothuks.

Incidentally, the Vikings came here not for adventure. It was money. There was a strong market for exotic creatures like falcons and polar bear cubs in Europe.

Distance was a problem, too. Troops moving long distances on land were from difficult to impossible to supply or to keep at full strength. And long distances at sea were impossible in the ships of the time. The Vikings could manage to get to Newfoundland only because they could build bases on the way. Our native people could get here only because they lived in an ice age in which it was possible to walk from Siberia over land and ice. (It is also possible, though, that some South Pacific islanders could reach the Americas by raft or sailing canoe. And there is speculation that the early Phoenicians may have been able to sail here - one way.)

The crucial change came in the 15th century. It was the European development of a sailing ship that could cross an ocean without stops, and carry a sizable number of warriors.

But why cross an ocean?

Forgive me. This reminds me of an incident when I was nine. My mother had decided to coach me for my geogaphy exam. She read to me, "In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Now, what did Columbus sail in fourteen hundred and ninety-two?"

"....the Santa Maria?"

"Go to bed. Now!"

We were taught that Columbus wanted to prove the world was round - and that he wanted to reach China. And that's absurd.

Everyone knew the world was round and had known it for thousands of years; and they knew it was so big that an ocean voyage to China was unlikely to get there. Anyway, Columbus also knew there was a continent in the way. The Vikings had learned that some 500 years earlier, and they still had settlements in Greenland that every sea captain knew about.

Columbus was looking for loot. That's why the king put up some money for him. When Columbus landed, most of the natives he met seem to have been friendly. But he soon made them enemies. He learned they had gold. Every native in the region was assigned a quota of gold to hand in each month. Those who missed a payment were tortured or killed.  (On a later voyage, he brought over a load of trained killer dogs to turn loose on groups that turned hostile.) Nobody knows how many people Spain slaughtered in South America - but numbers were certainly in the millions.

This was the beginning of the age of western empires, of almost constant war, of destabilization of most of the world, of genocide, and it is, almost certainly, an age that is now well into a severe change.

As a result of the killings and the terror, whole societies, whole civilizations collapsed - which is what is now happening in the middle east. (And it may be happening here.)

Now, the Spanish were presumably like most people in the world. They had families they cared for. They had friends. With the exception of events like the inquisition, most people did not spend their days in murder and torture. It would have been quite possible and profitable, to trade with native peoples for gold and silver. Why such extraordinay brutality?

We'll take a look at that tomorrow.

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