Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dec. 29: Private news media, lying and propaganda

The Irving press is still on holiday, so section A is still big on memories of 2015, and heart-warming tales of how some people help the elderly to shovel snow.

The editorial uses nine paragraphs to tell us the Confederation Bridge to PEI is nice. It concludes with a ringing challenge to all of us. “We believe New Brunswick could do more to promote the fact that this amazing landmark has one foot in our province, giving tourists one more reason to visit.” Way to lay it on the line, kid.

I'm really not sure what Norbert's column is about. There's a flash of anger and contempt for those of us who lack the foresight to see the wonder of having an 'events centre'. And, apparently, those who disagree with Norbert 'whine'. So puut me down for a real 'oink'.

Oh, Norbert also says we live in a global society. We should but, actually, most of us don't. How could we? The Irving press tells us almost nothing about the rest of the world – and what little is does tell us is usually propaganda.

Alan Cochrane has a column he should have titled “What I did last year”. Above it is a big, colour photo of a woman wearing horns on her head. I have no idea why either the photo or Cochrane is on a comments page.

Alec Bruce has a column about our failure to deal with economic problems. That's reasonable enough. But the column goes nowhere on suggesting a solution.

Then there's a column about the work of the ombudswoman for the Irving press. That's reasonable enough. But, by its nature, it's not likely to stir a whole lot of thinking.
Speaking of this 'global society' that Norbert says we live in, the Canada and World section of the paper is over half about Canada, with this as one of the big stories. “Toronto cop taken to hospital after bite from sick raccoon.” There is very little from the Middle East, nothing about Europe or Africa or Latin America. And the only story from all of Asia is about Japan apologizing to South Korea for its abuse of South Korean women in world war two. ( Yes, I agree what the Japanese army did was terrible. But that was over 70 years ago.) Today, it might be more important to be told that Japan is repositioning its fleet in a way that seems intended to be threatening to China. What's happening? Why?

Even worse, there is no column of opinion on anything more global than our own bellybuttons. Of course, New Brunswick is parochial. Of course, it has little sense of major issues even within the province. And the Irving press is designed to make sure it stays that way.

For example, an enormous environmental disaster is happening, and has been happening for some time, and with almost no notice from our news media. Think Indonesia. Think lush forests, wild life. Than think – Indonesia releases more greenhouse gasses into our skies than the whole of the United States does.

It's so bad that, throughout Indonesia and bordering countries, people have to wear masks to breath. Almost the whole country is in flames. And it's all the result of many years of corporate, plantation development. Think you could write a column on that, Norbert? Could anybody at that paper do it? Can't you even buy a copy of the story from a news service? After all, that's how you got that big flash on B6 about a Toronto cop being bitten by a raccoon.

This story is by Karl Nerenberg, for many years an outstanding reporter on Canada's parliament.

Then he has this one – about how our provincial and federal pension plants are among the worst in the developed world.

I also recommend the following one on Alaska because it deals with the economic advice of the Fraser Institute, a very far right-wing 'think tank' financed by billionaires to spread their propaganda. Its 'studies' are highly thought of in the Irving press, and frequently appear on the Comments page.

The Guardian has run the kind of story the Irving press would never dream of running. It's about how British banks, despite huge profits, pay little corporation tax and, often, no tax at all. The page also suggests other stories which reveal the banks aren't the only cheats.

Gee! I wonder if we have any cheats like that in New Brunswick. Is it possible this is part of the reason why we have a fiscal crisis? Is it possible this is part of the reason why the very rich in much of the world are getting richer, while the rest of us are getting poorer? Does this suggest a reason for the enthusiasm for 'free trade' deals?

Any thoughts, Norbert? Or anybody at the Irving press? Remember – the recession we really haven't scrambled out of was caused by cheating bankers and billionaires whom we then foolishly bailed out at our expense. They stole a trillion dollars. And we (mostly the U.S.) paid them a trillion more so the wouldn't feel bad about it.

Unregulated, or poorly regulated capitalism does NOT create prosperity. That has never been true. We have a long way to go, but we have to learn that. As it is, the more we let big business run loose, the more it will rip us off, and the greater the damage it will cause to our society and our environment. The NDP made a big mistake when it accommodated itself to popular opinion in order to win votes. Being a majority view does not make anything right. The great challenge we face is to not to win people over, but to make them think, and make them look at reality.

And the great task of Irving press is to make sure that doesn't happen.

The next story attracted me because of the photo. I lived and taught in The Netherlands for a time, and I miss it.) But the story itself is an important one. It sounds impossible. But it's far superior to and cheaper than our current welfare system. It's not just The Netherlands that is looking at this. Several other countries are ready to move on it. It's cheaper than welfare. It preserves self-respect. And it generates economic activity that would benefit all of us.

Watch for an attack on if from The Fraser Institute and Atlantic Institute of Market Studies. They're interested only in systems that make billionaires richer. But billionaires do not create wealth for anybody but themselves. We, all of us, create wealth for all of us.

The Independent, like The Guardian, is a British paper. I've generally found it a pretty good one. It comes in useful today because The Guardian seems to have discontinued its record of tracking police shootings in the U.S. That's too bad, because even the FBI says The Guardian is the only source that keeps an accurate record of such shooting. If The Guardian were still counting, the number of such shootings for 2015 would be about 1100 – as opposed to the Washington Post's 965.
But The Independent adds a suggestive figure.

Of all the unarmed men killed by U.S. police, one-half were African-American.

The story below is useful for an understanding of what these counts mean, and how the U.S. compares to other countries.

The following story – that the U.S. in the post-1945 period had planned and approved a nuclear war which would concentrate on killing civilians. That might sound wild but, in fact, aerial bombing has ALWAYS been aimed at civilians. The first such bombing was carried out by Italy about 1910, using the 'string-bag' aircraft of the time with American, mercenary pilots to bottom native villages in Ethiopia.

Churchill used aircraft in the same way against kurdish civilians in 1920. The Germans did it in the Spanish Civil War. And from 1942 on, civilian targets became the rule. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed BECAUSE they were civilian. (We call it terrorism - when other countries do it.)

Finally, a cautionary tale for those who think the world is made up of nice people and bad people.

Russia has a large, Muslim population – and that's a military concern for it. Next door to many of the Russian Muslims is a Muslim Afghanistan. That's a major reason why Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979. And that's when the 'secret war' strategists in the Washington, those very clever ones who use foreign wars to their advantage, secretly helped the Afghanis with weapons, money, and training. They also worked closely with other good-hearted souls like Osama bin-Laden. (which may explain why they would later kill bin-Laden rather than take him back to the U.S. for trial.)

This alliance with Afghanistan is what led to the rise and success of the Taliban. It also led to the creation of al-Quaeda. It was all very clever. It beat the Russians, and severely damaged the Russian economy. And it was all done by proxies rather than by American troops.

Alas! Any gain from that was lost and worse than lost when those clever planners decided that the U.S. should invade Afghanistan. The excuse was that good ol' buddy Osama bin Laden had planned 9/11 there with the help of Afghanistan. No evidence for this has ever been given. (In fact, we now know the planning was done in Europe.)

No matter, the war soon turned into a war against the Taliban – the same ones who had been trained and equipped by the U.S. It's turning into a very long war – and the U.S. is losing.

The war also gave rise to more militant groups like al-Quaeda and today's ISIS.

Again , the bright lads decided, in their clever way, to use these new groups as proxies in the US attempt to get rid of Assad in Syria so that American oil billionaires could control the middle east. Some, for example, became the Syrian 'rebels' – most of whom were not Syrians, and who were much like al-Quaeda. U.S. news media covered this by always referring to them as 'moderate' rebels. 'Moderate' is such a nice word.

The rebels got weapons and money from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. But they failed to overthrow Assad. Well, that's because most Syrians preferred Assad. That's when ISIS burst on the scene. Again, the bright lads in Washington had another flash. They would use ISIS as a proxy army to get rid of Assad. That's why the U.S. has been surprisingly gentle with ISIS. That's why ISIS can get its oil to market to finance the war. That's why it can ship its oil out through Turkey. That's why it can get money and supplies from Saudi Arabia.

But two things went wrong.

1. ISIS intended to take Syria and Iraq and more to create a large, Islamic state. But the U.S. wanted itself to control the region. And it particularly did not want a large state of any kind to emerge. It wanted to break up Syria and Iraq into a number of small and weak states that the U.S. oil industry could control.

2. Then, Russia got itself invited to help Assad, and it opened vigorous attacks on ISIS.

The US was in a corner. It had now to at least pretend to fight ISIS, and pretend to cooperate with Russia. But its objective remains to get control of that oil – and that means scaring Russia off. Thus the appeal to NATO, including Canada, to join the war.

Will Putin back off? I doubt it. He has outplayed the U.S. diplomatically for some time, now. He also knows the old rule of the streets. If a bully hits you, don't back off because he'll just keep pounding you.

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