Monday, November 9, 2015

Nov.9: Year-round reminder of our people who went to war...

....stands in Moncton's Centennial Park. It's Sherman tank, an American design, and the common tank of American, British and Canadian troops for most of World War Two. With all that armour and long gun, it looks like a powerful weapon. But it wasn't.

New Brunswick's Eighth Hussars would discover that when they met the German King Tiger and the Panther in Italy. The first Tiger they met knocked out three Shermans. And they were  helpless. "We kept hitting it," said Major Cliff McEwen, "but our shells just kept bouncing off."

They would soon learn it took at least three Shermans working together to destroy the Panther and, commonly, two of those Shermans would be knocked out. And each Sherman destroyed usually meant the loss of all five crew members.

(Luckily the British managed to fit a bigger gun into the Sherman - which gave it a fighting chance against the German tanks. It was called 'Sherman Firefly', and it was also adopted by Canada. The two tanks look much alike; so I'm not sure the one in Centennial Park is the older Sherman.)

Nearby is an anchor, which is not much to help picture the enormity of the job done by the Canadian navy. World War Two was a war of supply - and the Canadian navy had full control of the whole North Atlantic anti-submarine command - the only theatre of war ever under Canadian command.

Sailors who served there remembered the cramped conditions on those small ships, their dreadful rolling and plunging in rough weather, and the sheer, constantly damp misery of life on them. But their ability to get supply convoys through was one of the most important factors in winning that war.

There were actually three, important stories in Section A. One is the (deservedly) headline story of two teens killed and one  in critical condition after a car rollover near Port Elgin.

Also on the front page is the difficulty anglophone students have in learning French. This is not a problem peculiar to New Brunswick. And it doesn't happen because French is a difficult language to learn. (I speak a Montreal street French, tabarnaque, but I can read it with ease.) My sister speaks fluent French, and has since she was five. That's because girls play with each other. Boys fight.

When I was teaching in The Netherlands, I was suprised that almost everybody could speak English - and French - and German - perhaps Italian - and Spanish. Most said they learned them from watching TV. Earlier, in teaching elementary school, I knew a French teacher (from France) who could hold a class  spellbound telling French stories using many words closely resembling the English ones (after all, English is heavily French). and making use of gestures and expressions so that anyone could follow the story.

Learning French is not made hard by intellectual demands. It's made hard by a cultural attitude. The solution to teaching it is by finding a way past our cultural attitudes.

A7 has an interesting story about a new clinic in Fredericton to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We are not doing nearly enough of this treatment for our veterans.
The opinion pages are pretty good. Well, except for the editorial. It's the usual, small-town boosterism about how good our business leaders have been. Yes, what makes a city good is business. Yep. (Really, nope. There are lots of other factors in shaping the quality of life in a city.) Not everything in life can be measured by how many hotel rooms we fill in a year.)

Norbert Cunningham, Alec Bruce, and Steve Malloy do good jobs.

And the guest column, by a professor of health policy, is a superb attack on our rapacious medications industry and the C.D. Howe Institute (a favoured think tank for the industry's propaganda).
Canada&World has a few stories of importance. On B1, James Balsillie, found of Research in Motion, warns that the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal could become the worst-ever policy move. He is too kind.

What troubles him most is that the deal puts Canada into a partnership with the far, far bigger and richer U.S.; and it will hugely favour American business. As well, any dispute over the treaty will be decided by a court - but not a Canadian court. It will be assigned to a board made up of  "judges" closely tied to inndustry.

And, just from the little I know of it, it's much worse than that. It makes it impossible for Canadians to deal with their own economy or their own national policies. We become spectators in our own country. - And this at the time when we are remembering those Canadians who died to, we are told, preserve our rights and freedoms. Anybody see a contradiction in that?

It's also a threat to medicare. The first threat is that extends medication patents, leaving the pharmacutical industry free to skyrocket prices. It also opens the door to the eventual destruction of medicare. Any economic measure (like medicare), once changed will be irreversible - the death of a thousand cuts.

B2 has a story of road in British Columbia, the "Highway of Tears", where 18 aboriginal women were murdered or disappeared since the 1970s. At last, an investigation is taking place.

On B4, "World Bank says that Climate Change Could Thrust Millions into Poverty.) To be more precise, we could see a hundred million more people living in extreme poverty within the next 15 years. And then getting worse.

Yet we've seen little evidence of any planning at any level of government in this country . And that goes back to the last time the Liberals were in power. Harper is not the only one who made things worse. Why doesn't our newspaper question that? What are the plans? What are conditions going to be like in even ten years? What plans do we have to deal with that, let alone with stopping climate change?

The Irving press is not very big on asking questions. But that's what journalists are supposed to do.

And, of course, there's nothing on Yemen - and no known reason why Saudi Arabia has invaded it or why the U.S. is supplying the bombs. There's nothing on why the new president of Turkey wants to be a dictator, nothing on what his plans for the extension of Turkey into Syria are, nothing on why we were killing Libyans, why we don't seem to care that Libya is now in chaos, nothing on what the Trans-Pacific deal means in terms separating China from Russia - perhaps so the U.S. can invade Russia.

There's nothing on why the former CEO of Volkswagen isn't in prison. He broke the law and, unless you are a true unbeliever, he intensified the risk for climate change for millions of people. If I just let my parking meter run down, I get over a hundred dollar fine. The former CEO of Volkswagen didn't even get a fine for what he did. In fact, he was given a parting gift of 90 million dollars for his graciousness in resigning.

When U.S. bankers went broke, largely because of their own, illegal practices, nobody got punished. They got a huge gift of something approaching a trillion dollars; and their board of directors all got multi-million dollar bonuses. Iceland, in the same situation, put its bankers in jail.

But I've seen no questioning of this in the Brunswick press.
A couple of days ago, my blog dealt with the Olympics, and how the wealthy have used them to deceive others (and themselves) to believe that the wealthy are an aristocracy. They are privileged, and they are of a higher order than the rest of us.  And I'm sure that many readers didn't take this seriously.

But the wealthy have always taken this seriously. That's why the leaders of the Olympic committee have always been drawn from the wealthy, and that's why they so long insisted on amateurism in the Olympics.

Think about it. What's the virtue in being an amateur? I'm an amateur blogger. But that's only because nobody would pay me. I am not better than others because I'm an amateur. Jim Thorpe, a brilliant, American athlete, was banned from throwing the discuss (and other events) because he had once earned some money, fifty dollars or so, playing baseball for a summer. Why should that disqualify him from track and field events?

The amateur rule existed to keep ordinary people out. People who had to make a living were disqualified because they had to make a living. They were of a lower order. Those who could devote time to sport without getting paid were obviously of a higher class.

For centuries, organized sport had been the badge of the upper classes. From the aristocracy of the middle ages to the capitalists of the 1980s or so, only they could play organized sport. Only they, because they were destined from birth to become economic, social and political leaders. The middle class and the working class had no right to presume they should be allowed to participate in the character-building process. It should be limited to those who were superior to them - the aristocracy and the wealthy.

That's why it was prefectly natural to appoint a member of the family to be VP of the whole, Irving press - despite his limited time in the business. That's why university boards are stuffed with various members of wealthy families who know nothing about universities or education in general. That's why George Bush became president of the United States.

There's a man who, so far as I know, has never said anything intelligent. Added to that, his university grades were terrible, partly because of his love for alcohol and drugs. Yet, he got accepted into a noted university to do a master's in business - though his grades were nowhere close to being acceptable for admission. And he, still heavily into drugs and alcohol, passed it! His first job was as CEO of a company set  up by daddys rich friends. He drove it broke. His second job was sitting in an office so the builder's of a stadium could have direct contact with his father, then the president. Then he became a state governor, and then president. Today, this semi-literate of almost no credentials gets paid a quarter million dollars a pop for giving speeches at universities. His ability didn't do it. His social class did.

If you read Norbert Cunningham's columns, it's obvious he feels that only the wealthy know how to run anything - including our health system. And there are many people who have bought into that medieval and arrogant view of society. And none more so than the wealthy.

For a good two hundred years, the British army was officered almost entirely by the sons of the aristocracy and the wealthy. That's why it produced generations of some of the most incompetent generals ever to grace this planet. And they, too, attributed their "talent" to family origins and to the leadership qualities they developed through amateur sport.

 Sport has been fading as a necessary ingridient for their superior qualities. But we are still back a thousand years and more to an aristocracy of birth, of business aristocrats to whom we pay court and who, commonly, are of no greater talent than anyone else.

And those aristocrats are busily scrapping democracy because it gives undeserved power to us ordinary people. The job is already done in the U.S. And Canada is not so far behind as we might think.


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