Monday, December 28, 2015

Dec. 28: Get ready for tough decisions.

Front page news. Read all about it. People went shopping on Boxing Day. We had heavy snow in 2015. There's a big picture on the front page of a man shovelling snow -  presumably for people who have never seen that. The headline is that the premier says the public wants shale gas dealt with. And the government is thinking about it. Who woulda guessed?

Then the premier says that social license to develop shale gas is necessary. 'Social' and 'License' - two words that sound good - unless  you know what they mean. It means the general public would have to show strong support in order for shale gas to be approved.

May I point out, then, that Adolf Hitler had social licence to massacre Jews? That the U.S. government had social licence to kill over a million Iraqis?

It is not the function of government to do only what people support. Its function is to do what is necessary for the public good. "Social license" is just a weasel term to let Gallant please his masters, even if it means something deadly for the general public. And if any peasants object? Well, then he calls out the boys wearing camouflage suits and carrying combat rifles.

It seems the biggest story of 2015 for New Brunswick was the tightening of rules for daycare. Gee. I dunno. It thought that big ad about how JDIrving Ltd. loves us so much he's really going to demand a tough government study of his chemical spraying of our forests  (and us).

Maybe even bigger was the silence of JDIrvingLtd. on the Paris climate change conference. In fact, there's been a deathly silence from the oil industry all over the world - except to  intensify its efforts to find and sell more oil - as JDIrving Ltd. is doing with its proposed new refinery, and as the U.S. doing with its massive spending and massive killing to give American billionaires the ownership of all oil in the Middle East.  In fairness, American oil billionaires also bring the good word of Jesus from our Christian society to the murderous heathens of that part of the world.  (As we now know, Jesus was an American with blue eyes, and almost certainly a Republican.)

News and comment?  Something less than trivial. Craig Babstock deepens our understanding of the world with his tale of how he once had a broken pen. Alec Bruce tells us he loves his wife.

The only thing worth reading in the whole first section is Steve Malloy's column on our new, minimum wage.    

The only story in Section B that looked as it if might be worth reading was on B1 - 'Canada-U.S. relations face suspenseful 2016'. We do,  I'm quite sure, face a suspenseful time. But the article in the Irving press is so shallow and vague as to be worthless. (And there was really nothing else in the whole section).

What is happening is that the U.S. has decided this will be a  year of throwing down the gauntlet to Russia and China. But the reality is that for all its world record spending on armaments, the U.S. is almost certainly not capable of winning such a war. (This has more than a little to do with the stunning levels of corruption in U.S. military spending.) So, to make even a serious threat, the U.S. needs its whole empire on board. That's why Britain, France, and Germany are now in Syria. That's why almost all of NATO is nominally on board.

ISIS is really a minor player in all this. It's certainly evil and vicious. War is, itself, not an occupation for the virtuous.   In religious terms, ISIS is no more vicious than Saudi Arabia is - and it's less vicious than the US has been over the past fifty years. In fact, it's less vicious than the U.S. has been with its native peoples, with the people of Latin America, and less vicious than the empires of  Britain, France, Spain, and Portugal were.

The reality is that ISIS has been equipped and financed largely by the U.S. with the help of good ol' boys like the Saudis from the start. The real target is and always has been Syria. And the U.S. has been using ISIS to destroy Syria. It is the U.S. that has permitted ISIS to finance its war with Syrian oil, to ship it through Turkey, and to sell it on the world market at very cheap prices to western oil barons.

ISIS has been the proxy for the American war on Syria, the nation which has sinned by maintaining trade relations with Russia.  That's why Assad has to go. But he would almost certainly win a democratic election if it were held. And that's why the U.S. has so often insisted he cannot be allowed to run.

Originally, Assad was supposed to be overthrown by a Syrian rebel goup which was created and funded by the U.S.  But the rebels never had popular support and, for that matter, were never rebels for the most part. They were hired mercenaries and, at that, they effectively collapsed a long time ago.    That's when the U.S. turned to ISIS. It replaced the rebels as the American proxy to destroy Syria, to divide much of it into five or six quite powerless states, and to give much of its land to its neighbours.

But Putin messed that up with his intervention. The whole cost of this war has been taken from American taxpayers to fight a war for American oil billionaires. That is why so many Syrians are dead, so many are crippled or orphaned , so many are refugees. It is also why so many Americans now live in poverty, and their government has no money to help them.

 Forget the Trumps and Bushes and Clintons. They are greedy, vicious and often mentally disturbed. But they don't run the U.S.

Their speeches are not about poverty, suffering, racism, social hopelessness within the U.S. That's because the oil billionaires don't give a damn about those. The politicians speak mostly about ISIS. Now, the oil billionaires don't give much of a damn about ISIS, either. But they need the fear and hysteria about ISIS to convince most Americans to impoverish themselves, to destroy what the American revolution was supposed to be about,  and even to destroy their society in order to support a war for oil - which we are (supposedly) phasing out.
The only sane candidate,  the only one who sees the social disaster the U.S. is heading to, is Bernie Sanders. But not enough Americans will listen to him because they have been whipped into the hysteria by news media owned by those people who benefit from the hysteria.

But, for the oil industry, the destruction of Syria makes it necessary, at the minmum, to force Putin to back off. And, for that, the U.S. needs the support and the hysteria of its full empire. So the great question for 2016 and 2017 is the question of where Canada stands.

Like Afghanistan, this is a war that has nothing to do with Canada. (Incidentally, and depite the silence in our new media, the war in Afghanistan is still on - and the U.S. is losing.)  Would we send Canadians to die in such a war? Of course we would. We did it in Afghanistan. Would we send Canadians to kill innocent civilians? Of course. Everybody does that in war.

Canadians are not a race separate from the Germans who slaughtered Jews. Or a race separate from the U.S. which killed millions of innocent people and children in Vietnam and Iraq and Latin America. We're not even a separate race from the Romans who cheered as gladiators killed each other and as wild animals ate humans alive in the colosseum. (I once sat in the colosseum in Rome, looking down to where men had killed each other, and animals had killed people - and I realized that if I had been there 2,000 years earlier, I could have been one of the cheering mob.)

We humans, all of us, are just humans. And we can all be made hysterical to be as brutal and murderous as any Hitler or Stalin - or Bush.

And we will quite forget that we cannot devote ourselves and our resources to kllling to make the rich richer without sacrificing what is needed for the work of stopping climate change or dealing with social problems.

The pressure on us to take part in the Syria war is going to be tremendous. Obama, so far, has not really put that much pressure on us. But he will. And I note that Trudeau has done nothing to recall our aircraft from Iraq - though that was an election promise. The pressure will get much greater after the U.S. presidential election - no matter who wins. (Here, I assume that Bernie Sanders will not win.)  And we can be quite sure that our privately-owned news media will be beating the drums for war.

U.S. foreign policy, especially with the Iraq war, has become a tool for the very rich, a disaster militarily and economically, and a cause of the widest hatred of one country ever known. The U.S., even in the unlikely event that it should defeat both Russia and China, is itself facing disaster. It has profound social and economic problems that are serious enough, alone, to destroy it.  And it shares with all of us a climate crisis which it will not deal with - because dealing with it would cut profits for the very, very wealthy.
In the same period, we shall be facing the final steps of destroying democracy and national integrity through trade deals that make the very rich the rulers of the world.

It is essential that we, all of us, make decisions now, and make our views known. ___________________________________________________________________
To move to a cheerier and local note, I have a suggestion to revive Moncton's Main St. for shopping and tourism so that it can offer the services and convenience of a mall.

First. No cars and no parking on Main St. The automobile and parking are what have destroyed Main streets all over the world. The success of the mall rests in having a place where cars can be left aside so that people can walk freely and comfortably from store to store. (A shopping mall in which people could drive their cars through the halls would not be likely to do well.)

But a main st. needs some convenience of personal mobility. Eternal walking won't do it. It should also be cheap  to operate, cheap in fares, and should offer use with a minimum of waiting. It should also add something of a sense of novelty and interest.

The diesel bus won't work. There's no novelty. It's not cheap to buy or to operate. And it is too expensive to offer adequate frequency of service. The answer is to be found in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong stores are mostly on main streets - even the big stores, and there are lots of them. Reaching them is quick, cheap, easy, frequent - and a lot of fun. Hong Kong uses double-decker tram cars.

These take up little space because of the two decks. They run on rails sunk into the street. They operate on electricity. And, oh, it's a real thrill, even for people who have lived their whole lives in Hong Kong to sit in the upper section, and look down at the streets and across at the lights. Even after the stores close at night, it's magnificent to sit up there, and look at the city lights.

People like those tram cars so much that they frequently rent a tramcar for events such as birthday parties that roll through the streets.

And they are the most durable vehicles I have ever heard of. Most of the ones in Hong Kong were built in 1905, and are still good as new  (despite going through a war). And maintenance is very light.

Five or six would be adequate to provide short waits, and with lots of stops  no more than two streets apart from Vaughan Harvey to Champlain Mall. This would revive Main St. by making it convenient to shop and dine there. And tourists would love it.

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