Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 31: Bad news - very bad.

The Irving press didn't  think it was a really important story. So it's first page, but off to the left. To understand what that placement means, look at its partner on the right side of the page. "New Strip Mall planned for Moncton"  Well, that IS important because it's going to have two, count them, two drive-thru restaurants. Oh, ecstasy!   And, of course, the story about the strip mall is over twice as long as the one about the hospitals, and with lots more information..

But, just for laughs, let's go back to the hospital story. What it's really about is the spread of privatization in hospitals. Because - you know - privatization is so much more efficient and effective. I mean, look at all the Canadians lined up at the border so they can pay a million dollars to have a baby born in a US hospital.

The CEO of our Horizon Health Network,, John McGarry, says that what's wrong with our hospitals is that they are trapped in an 'ideology'. Does Mr. McGarry know what the word 'ideology' means? I doubt it very much. And I  doubt very much that his Rotarian audience does, either.

In its modern sense, ideology means a value or point of view held on the basis of both conscious and unconscious ideas. Well, that means that almost every value we have is based on an ideology, everything from loving  your children to being a mass murderer. So why did Mr. McGarry use that word?

One possibility is that he doesn't know any better. But we can narrow it down from that. "Ideology" is commonly used (if inaccurately) as a derogatory term - usually applied to the values of anyone who disagrees with us. (They are all mixed up, and possibly even evil. We are sober-minded and well informed.)

In that sense, then Mr. McGarry is an ideologue because his statement is based heavily on unsupported values and theories. Private health care firms, for example, he says are more efficient. Oh, really? Is that why the US medical system is the most expensive in the world and, at the same time, one of the least efficient? Is it efficient that so many Americans can't get health care at all? Nor does it cut down on US taxation since privatization have driven the cost of medical care and of medication through the roof. In fact, the only reason the private health system in the US accepted Obamacare was because it paid them top dollar for services that should be far cheaper.

So, who is this medical and social expert Mr. McGarry who claims to know so much about health service? What makes him an expert on medical care? Well - he's an accountant - and he has a bachelor's degree in commerce. So there.

I guess he never took a Canadian history course. If he had, he might have known that the most efficient economic organization in Canadian history was our public service during World War Two. (Maybe the editorial writer at the TandT should read about that, too.) It was so efficient that private business leaders, for some years after the war, sent their management people to Ottawa to study public service methods.

Mr. McGarry has also done a good deal of contract work for private health firms. Quelle surprise!

Private business all over the world is NOT efficient at anything except making money for itself. That is it's only reason for existence. It is horribly inefficient at meeting social needs.  That's why you find massive poverty and suffering wherever it gets too much power.

Our health service is run by an accountant. Well, next thing you know, we'll have armies and churches and firefighters led by accountants..

By the way, what are the academic credentials of the leading Irvings? I can't find that anywhere. Strange. I know at least two attended Acadia but, for some reason, left without finishing. So what are there credentials for running a province.
____________________________________________________________________________
The editorial is about tourism and making money. That seems to be one of only two topics the editor can write on. The other is garbage disposal. That seems to reflect the ownership of this newspaper. There are no people. There are no social issues. Just money.

As I started to read Norbert's column, I thought I would find it interesting.  It's "N.B.'s anti-poverty action uses 'the right stuff' to 'do the right thing." It refers to the New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation (a crown corporation as Norbert points out - and therefore much better than a government department.)

 Norbert, the CBC is a crown corporation. How come you don't praise it?

And, oh, the  N.B. Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation is doing to much to help the poor. Exactly what it's doing and how much is not clear in this column. He says it has reduced poverty by its target of 25%. And what does that mean? I have no idea. And, sadly, it has not reached its goal of cutting deep poverty by 50%. But Norbert never tells us what these numbers mean or even what poverty and deep poverty mean.

The beauty, he says is that it's free from political interference - which suggests to me that Norbert doesn't know what political interference means. Let's start with the corporation's board of four co-chairs - one to represent citizens, one to represent business, one to represent government, and one for the non-profit sector.  Sounds reasonable? Well, Italy's Benito Mussolini and Spain's Franco thought so.

1. Represent citizens? Look. In a democracy, citizens are not a separate category. They are the only category. And how can these 'citizen' rep represent us if we never elected them, and don't even know who they are?
2. Represent business?  Why, in  a democracy which is supposed to be rule by the majority, should business have a nose in the door?  By this principle, big business should have the right to sit in cabinet without being elected. More on this a little later because this is very, very dangerous.
3. Represent government? Isn't that political? And doesn't Norbert say there's no political interference in this? The staff of Irving press seems convinced that government is bad - corrupt. It's true that it often is. But that's because we're so fearful and so passive that we elected the corrupt ones every time. And, by the way, who is it that corrupts the government?
4.Represent non-profit groups? well.......

In a democracy, we citizens, all of us, select those who will govern us, all of us. We do not select  special groups to be represented - like Irish-Canadians or poor or rich or corporate bosses. There have been governments that tried that. This choosing of representation and bestowing of power according to group is called group government or corporatism. More popularly, it's know by the name given it by Benito Mussolini. It's fascism.

In this democracy, I do not vote for a government so that it can invite various interest groups to tell us what to do. Nor do I see any reason for these unelected people to have a special voice in government.

Why should corporation bosses have a special voice in dealing with poverty? These are people who love poverty because it means they can get away with lower salaries and worse working conditions. The have a long history of it. They also avoid the taxes we need to deal with poverty.

This, says Norbert, is a community effort. No, it's not. It's a group of special interest organizations The "community" knows little about them, and did not choose them.

I agree with Norbert's conclusion. We need to get our economic house in order. But to me, that means making the very rich pay their taxes; and it means not handing out welfare to the very rich.

The terrible reality is that New Brunswick accepted fascism a long time ago - government by special interest groups - especially the very rich. It didn't help Italy or Spain. It won't help us. And it's a very serious blow at democracy. And we really have very, very little time to deal with it.

By the way, are the poor represented on this committee (by poor people)? Are rural people represented? Are immigrants represented?Is the middle class represented? Are the churches represented? Are children represented?

Of course not. So why is business represented?

Look, Mr. premier, as a member of a political party, you are expected to have a philosophy of what you believe the priorities and methods your government should represent. You were not elected to appoint corporation execs and accountants to make these decisions for us. And you were certainly not elected to replace democracy with fascism.

Alec Bruce's column really, really annoyed me. That's because I think it's right on. The NDP has been moving to the centre for a good, fifty years. It's far the best party to vote for because, of the major parties, it's the only one that's honest.

But we need more than honesty. We are in very deep trouble nationally and internationally. Democracy has crashed in Canada almost as much as it has in the US. For all of us, that is going to mean severe hardship, exploitation, involvement in wars to make the greedy richer, and, quite likely, to violence here..

 (For openers, native peoples are claiming that the land for the Sissons mine belongs to them - and they want to make the decision about its use. What should happen is that the federal government should declare whose land that is. But it won't' do that.

Instead, it will force native people to go to court to fight and probably to lose against a monstrously wealthy corporation. And if the native people resist, the mine owners can all on their buddies in government to send riot police and police romantically clad in camouflage and with combat rifles to beat up or kill anybody who objects. And the Irving press will cheer this on.

So much for truth and reconciliation.)

I know the Canadian people have little sense of all that's going on. And our news media make sure they stay in ignorance. The result is that an NDP government would not have anything like the support it needs to deal with the dangers that face us. So I think our choice has come to this -
1. Two parties that are bought, wrapped up for delivery to big business to run the country - and to run it disastrously for us.
2. An NDP that isn't bought, that will govern honestly, but has abandoned many of its principles in its desire to get to power. Mulcair is certainly not the liar, thief and mass murderer that Tony Blair in Britain is. I have no doubt of his honesty and  his courage. But we need even more than that.

While Bruce and I might agree on these points, I'm sure he would not support what he calls "radical" moves. But the fact is that he often seems to use radical in an improper sort of way -  to mean extremism. That fact is that we are living, in that sense, in a very extreme world. We are living in a world of greed, killing and social destruction that is just about as' radical' as one can get, and that  extremism comes  largely from the leading figures of capitalism..

But radical actually means to get to the root of a problem. In that sense, I am a radical. I think we have to deal with the root of our problems. And the Canadian people have been kept quite ignorant of the root of their problems.
______________________________________________________________________________

Section B news has nothing much to offer. More than news, what we need is analysis of and commentary on the news. The bare news is pretty useless unless we are given some meaning to it.

The last page has a news story that really tells us nothing about Iran and its nuclear talks with the US.  The truth is that Iran has not been working to develop nuclear bombs. US intelligence has been saying for a long time that Iran has no nuclear programme. So why is the U.S. insisting that Iran stop a programme that it doesn't have?.

The bizarre thing is that the U.S., which has the biggest stock of nuclear weapons in the world, and is the only country ever to use them, is telling Iran it can't have them. Worse, no American government would ever dare to tell Israel, which actually has nuclear bombs and has them illegally, that it can't have them. So what are these talks really about?

Ii think it's a safe bet that the US oil companies want ownership of Iranian oil. That's why the U.S. installed a dictator in Iran over sixty years ago. That's why it paid Saddam Hussein and supplied him with weapons, including chemical weapons, to invade Iran.

U.S. big money wants Iran. Russia will be supporting Iran. Israel wants Iran destroyed. Saudi Arabia wants it destroyed. The US wants to own it. We're looking at a potential war, with at least three nuclear powers involved - possibly four. All to make a few oil billionaires richer.

Sorry -- scratch that. It's to save democracy and bring freedom and Fox TV to the Iranian people. God bless America,
_________________________________________________________________________________

There's nothing in the paper about U.S. attempts to overthrow Assad in Syria, or its supplying of military equipment and money to the so-called rebels (a large proportion of them foreign mercenaries), nothing about its bombing to help the rebels (perhaps with Canada caught up in that part). If you want unlimited reading about what'sreally  going on, just google Wikileaks. Our private news media could do the same. But it's easier and cheaper just to buy news from the propagandists.

You might also google 'drugs Mexico U.S.'; lots of material there on how the drug lords dominate Mexico, how they get sophisticated weapons from the U.S. and, what has been commonly known for years - that the US government has been complicit with some of the drug lords. Well, Why not? It's unquestionable that during the Afghanistan war the US set up Afghanis on our side as leading world producers of narcotics.

As well, there is no mention that Russia has promised aid to the Syrian government in its fight against the 'rebels' - or that China will soon do so. And no mention that Germany has worked out a deal to get oil from Russia. And that would create a Russia-Germany alliance which would be a formidable economic and military threat to the U.S. Couple that with the possibility that Greece might drop out of the European Union, and so trigger a serious leak in the European balloon......

Yes, it's quite possible that there might be a German-Russian alliance in the near future. It's natural. We forget that Russia and Germany were allies in 1939. Germany and Russia need each other.

We don't need news so much as we need intelligent commentary. The only person the Irving press has for that is Gwynne Dyer - and it has even him very infrequently. There are few people on the Irvinig staff who can write coherently on anything. And none at all who can write critically of the man who really runs this province.

We are watching our perverted form of capitalism kill itself due to inherent greed, arrogance and stupidity. And we will all suffer from its fall. I wish that were not the news. But it is, unless we act very, very quickly.
__________________________________________________________________________
Tomorrow (Canada Day) I shall be interviewed on CJAD 800 radio in Montreal right after the news at 6 pm. Montreal time. It might be possible to get on some TV packages. I know I can get some CBC radio stations on one. I have no idea what the topic will be.
____________________________________________________________________________

This week, my daughters,  granddaughters and sons-in law arrive at their cottages on a salt-water shore just a 40 minute drive from here. I haven't seen them since last summer. That means my blog may get a little erratic as I catch up on how they're changed. I could miss the occasional day in July.

In case that happens soon,there are two, fairly long articles on the dumbing down of America sent to me by a reader. I think they're right on. And much of what they say applies to Canada.

david

Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America

Social dysfunction can be traced to the abandonment of reason

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201506/anti-intellectualism-is-killing-america

A few snips:

"for too long America’s social dysfunction has continued to intensify as the nation has ignored a key underlying pathology: anti-intellectualism. America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who used race as a basis for hate and mass murder, is just the latest horrific example. Many will correctly blame Roof's actions on America's culture of racism and gun violence, but it's time to realize that such phenomena are directly tied to the nation's culture of ignorance.
In a country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” (link is external) where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel brought a snowball (link is external) into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president (link is external), it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value....High-ranking individuals, even in the military (link is external), see a confrontation between good and evil as biblically predicted and therefore inevitable.



What Americans rarely acknowledge is that many of their social problems are rooted in the rejection of critical thinking or, conversely, the glorification of the emotional and irrational. What else could explain the hyper-patriotism (link is external) that has many accepting an outlandish notion that America is far superior to the rest of the world? Love of one’s country is fine, but many Americans seem to honestly believe that their country both invented and perfected the idea of freedom, that the quality of life here far surpasses everywhere else in the world.
But it doesn’t. International quality of life rankings (link is external) place America far from the top, at sixteenth. America’s rates of murder (link is external) and other violent crime dwarf most of the rest of the developed world, as does its incarceration rate (link is external), while its rates of education and scientific literacy are embarrassingly low


Corporate influence on climate and environmental policy, meanwhile, is simply more evidence of anti-intellectualism in action, for corporate domination of American society is another result of a public that is not thinking critically. Americans have allowed their democracy to slip away, their culture overtaken by enormous corporations that effectively control both the governmental apparatus and the media, thus shaping life around materialism and consumption.
Indeed, these corporate interests encourage anti-intellectualism, conditioning Americans into conformity and passive acceptance of institutional dominance.....They are the ones who stand to gain from consumers who spend money they don’t have on goods and services they don’t need. They are the ones who want a public that is largely uninformed and distracted, thus allowing government policy to be crafted by corporate lawyers and lobbyists. They are the ones who stand to gain from unregulated securities markets. And they are the ones who stand to gain from a prison-industrial complex that generates the highest rates of incarceration in the developed world.

---------------------

Incidentally, this comment is also worth reading
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ethics-everyone/201506/anti-intellectualism-and-contemporary-america

" We read a lot of blog posts, tweets, and the like, and we may read a few books, too. But we don't read enough complex books, and we don't read well. This isn't just a comment about what we read in our spare time, but on the level of reading required in high schools

" We need to read books that stretch and challenge our minds. We need to read books that can improve our lives. We need to learn how to follow the steps of an argument. It may not be entertaining, but ideas matter. And some of the most important ideas require time, effort, and repeated engagement before the payoff of understanding and enlightenment comes to us.

"College is now seen as mere career-preparation and a consumer good. But it is more than career preparation, and it is not a consumer good. It is a chance to learn to think deeply, and well, about questions that matter. It should help one cultivate the intellectual virtues that a functioning democracy requires of its citizens. An informed public needs to be able to read something longer than a blog post in order to engage in reasoned dialogue and debate. A university education is supposed to supporth the cultivation of the skills needed for this. But many students don't care,

" Parents need to get their kids away from screens long enough to read everyday. Schools need to support this, and they need to choose books that will help kids grow in intellectual and moral virtue, rather than for entertainment. As a society, we need to do more than just say education matters; we need to put our money where our mouth is and support schools, teachers, colleges, and parents. If we want an educated citizenry, we must educate them.



Another along the same lines is

Anti-Intellectualism and the "Dumbing Down" of America




















                

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 29:All the news that isn't news...

"Anti-smoking laws to cause revenue shortfall." That's the lead story for today. Well, yeah. But I suspect the Irving enterprises cause us a much, much bigger revenue shortfall than smokers do. But you'll never see that headline. Nor will you ever see the headline story that the very rich around the world have been piling up wealth since the days of Mulroney and Reagan while the rest get poorer.

Jobs and wealth have been transported to the cheap labour part of the world. Of course, the cheap labour  isn't getting the wealth. That stays in the pockets of our own wealthy.

Sometimes, I really despair of writing a blog about a newspaper that is so trivial, so deliberately spreading ignorance. It completely ignores what our society is, and what it must become. That's because it doesn't give a damn about society. All that matters is making money, and making it mostly for those who already have too much.

We survive as societies. Everyone doesn't have to be of the same religion to sustain a society. But we do need to share some common values. We also need to sustain a community life in which we share and care for each other. The closest we come to community life is sharing hatreds and fears and bigotries with our neighbours. And we call these hatreds and fears and bigotries 'patriotism'.


We have just recently received a government commission report on what we did to our native peoples. We destroyed their societies and, in doing so, destroyed the people. We can't fix it. We can't simply hand it all back to them because we have also destroyed the world that was the foundation of native societies. The Plains Cree can't go back to hunting buffalo because we killed most of the buffalo - and we starved  large numbers of the Plains Cree to death - deliberately.

Only native peoples can revive their communities - and those communities will certainly try to save what can be saved. But they will also have to change themselves in order to survive in this century.

In the same way, western powers have destroyed societies all over the world. China was the oldest and most stable nation in the world until we killed and looted it into a chaos of warring factions. We didn't like Mao Tse tung? Well, we shouldn't have created him. Or Chiang Kai shek. We created chaos in China. Mao was a very brutal attempt to fix it. Chiang was our agent in maintaining the chaos. In the end, both lost. And China, like Canada and the US and Russia and most of Europe is now creating chaos for itself by accepting the rule of a predatory class made up of the very wealthy.  They are the ones who created Al Quaeda and ISIS. They are the ones who created tens of millions of refugees, and hundreds of millions more living in despair and terror.

The world has changed enormously, but changed unnoticed by most people who have been taught by our news media to see it largely in terms of who Justin Bieber is dating, and how cute Prince George is. Just ten years ago, mass torture would have been an unspeakable horror. Now, the only ones who are prosecuted for it and the ones who reveal that it's happening.

Five years ago, who would have believed that we would  have a police stat?. Now we do, and it's accepted as normal.

And perhaps the greatest change has been the loss of democracy and independence. We are now  governed by billionaires who hunt likes wolves to kill --us. They have spread poverty all over Africa, the middle east, and now we're on the menu. And they will destroy our society - what's left of it. Added to that, we became independent only to become a colony of the US. That's the reason why we are killing people in Iraq and Syria. That's why we're getting hitched up for an invasion of Russia.

Today's world looks very much like the last days of the Roman Empire when the elite guards would, almost annually, murder an emperor so they could appoint a new one who would raise their pay - and a year later, murder him.

They didn't have newspapers and TV then, or even rock stars, to keep people in a stupor. But they made do with bloodthirsty shows at the Coliseum. Our Irving press is a very tame version of  the Coliseum.

In short, the greed of our predatory economic system is destroying us just as we destroyed our native peoples - and Africa and the Middle East, and Asia and Central America. We need massive change. The US is far, too far gone to provide that change. What is more likely there is widespread violence there with no, predictable results.

The Liberals and the Conservatives in Canada are not part of  the solution. They are the problem. The NDP is honest - but neither it nor Canadians in general - are ready to accept nearly as much as has to be done.

For some grim reading on this, I suggest Jane Jacobs, "Dark Age Ahead". Jane Jacobs was what any newspaper would call 'respected' and 'noted' and 'expert'. The only difference between her and the ones who get so labelled in the TandT is that she really was respected, noted, and expert.

It's a tough read, perhaps best done a chapter at a time with group discussion.
____________________________________________________________________________
If you're guessing this long intro suggests there isn't much in the Irving press, you're right. A4, for example, assures that "Riverview residents are satisfied with quality of life." So, to the best of my knowledge, are most alcoholics, mice and oysters.

The editorial writer seems to be comfortable with only one topic - the size of garbage cans.

Norbert writes a decent column, but does't really say much. He does, however, in one sentence, admit that we cannot go on using fossil fuels for energy. This is the first time I have seen that by a staffer in the Irving press.

Alec Bruce has a good column on Harper's lust for dictatorship and power.

A10 has the story on Moncton's search for new buses. Why? We are facing a climate crisis. In that case, why are we committing ourselves to these monstrous users of fossil fuels? Has this city council never heard of city planning?

Most of Moncton is designed to be served by private cars. That's why it has blocks and blocks of separate bungalows, each with its useless front lawn, rarely used back lawn and the expense of its long, long sidewalks and sewage and water supply. And each with it's own high-maintenance heating system. And it's quite deliberate.

It was encouraged by the good years after World War 2, and the availability of cars, the cheapness of gas, and the belief we could use gas forever. That world no longer exists. It makes no economic sense and it's dangerous to global survival. Has the city council given no thought whatever to that?

The motor bus makes it even worse because it simply cannot serve such a scattered population. In fact, the motor bus doesn't make sense for even a dense population. Until fifty years ago, such service was normally supplied by an electric tram. They're cheaper to make, cheaper to maintain, and last forever. (I well remember riding on a double-decker tram in Hong Kong, and noticing a brass sign at the front. "Built in 1905. Scotland" And they're still in service today.  (They're so popular that tourists just love them. And they'll do more for main street than buses will.) So why don't we seem trams any more?

Because the automotive industry bought most of the transit systems in the US so it could make more money by scrapping the trams and selling them motor buses. A Main Street/Mountain Road tram system might make sense. But, in the long run, Moncton is also going to have to do something about its  1950s sprawl.

I grew up in a very densely populated section of a densely populated city. We didn't have a car until I was seventeen or so. I can't remember ever feeling inconvenienced by that.  And I actually knew my neighbours.
______________________________________________________________________________
In section B, the only story worth reading is "ECB refuses to increase credit for Greek banks". In brief, Greece is deeply in debt to world banks as a result of corrupt politicians, their capitalist friends, and as a result of backs that kept lending money to those corrupt politicians for their greedy friends - perhaps partly because the greedy friends of the politicians were buddies of the bankers.

The new, and honest, Greek government says the proposed terms of settlement would keep Greece in deep poverty forever - which is fine with the banks, because they and their friends could go on ripping Greece off forever. (Big capitalism works on exactly the same principles as the Mafia. That's not an exaggeration.)

The Greek government says it opposes the proposal, but will hold a referendum on the question on Sunday, and will abide by decision of the Greek people. No, say the godfathers and their associated goons. You have to accept our terms. Right now.

Personally, and before a single Euro is paid out, I would like to see a criminal investigation of the former, corrupt Greek governments, of the big capitalists they gave money to, and of the legality of the bankers actions when they knew all along what was happening. But, of course, the mafia doesn't do things that way.

Nobody know how this will turn out. Greece could pull out of the European Union. And that could start the collapse of the European Union - with its own, unforeseeable results. Greece could establish ties with Russia and China. Then, our news media would start telling us that Greeks were evil and were terrorists. Then the US might ask (tell) Harper to send Canadian 'peacekeepers' as part of an international force. We could see serious violence in several European countries. All bets are off on this one.

Canada has some ships and soldiers in Ukraine, with more on their way. just as the US is sending heaving equipment, large numbers of troops and large numbers of EU troops up to the border. Notably, the only people making threats and tough statement have been Obama and his chirping canary, Harper. Putin has been the only one to maintain a conciliator tone. (Not because he's a nice guy,   but because he's the only one who has nothing to gain from such a war.)

And we are there. Why? Did the Canadian people ask for a war? Did our parliament vote for one? No? Gee. I always understood that we fought in World War One to gain independence and the right to decide for ourselves when to go to war. Instead, we seem to have fought so we could become a colony for the billionaires who own all those nice people in Washington.

There's a story on B3 that New Brunswick's native peoples must negotiate to allow a polluting mine on land they claim, or they must go to court. So much for Truth and Reconciliation. The mining company is adamant. And it looks as though Gallant has chosen his side. (Guess whose side he's on?)

On a happier, if personal note, I enjoyed the big story about the retirement of Irwin Cotler, a Liberal mp who is retiring after 16 years in the Commons. He was, and is, dedicated to human rights with an intensity that reminds me of the old, Jewish Montreal community he grew up in. The Harper years have been sad ones for him as Harper is indifferent even to the rights of Canadians held in foreign prisons.
______________________________________________________________________

The URL below is British - but it's a warning because it's happening here - and soon. Big business is determined to privatize everything. That will not only be more expensive for us, but there is no reason to believe that private business is capable of operating anything for the public good. They are looking for complete control of our politics, our schools, of our lives. And it's happening quickly.

https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/sell-offs-george-osborne-doesn%27t-want-you-to-know-about

Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 28: the meaning of morality

About a dozen years ago, I read a book whose title I  have long forgotten - something like "The hundred greatest people in world history". One can, of course, argue forever about what greatness is, and whether this hundred in particular was the greatest. But they all, without doubt, had qualities of greatness. And there was certainly a bias for the western world. But still- there was an undeniable feature about those chosen. Two peoples stood out as remarkably prominent, though both were only a small part of the population even of the western world - Jews and Scots.

And that's not surprising.

For the Scots, the really great names in literature, science, economics, business.....begin to appear about the early 1700s. And it had a great deal to do with a wave of Protestant growth quite different from the Protestantism of England. Unlike most of the churches of Europe of the time, what arose in Scotland was a faith that required its  followers to read The Bible, and to come to their own conclusions about it. It was a huge step away from the Anglicans and Catholics who were told what to believe, and who devoted their church time to ritual. There was no need for either literacy or discussion. So there was no need to educate the common people.

But Scottish Protestant churches required the literacy so people could read the Bible for themselves, and and  the intellectual freedom to think for themselves. Everybody had to be able to read and to think, and to discuss in public. That couldn't happen in a society in which adequate education was available only for those who could afford it. And so it was that Scotland adopted free public education, giving equal opportunity to all.

It proved to be the foundation of modern democracy. And it produced a tidal wave of writers, scholars, scientists, businessmen many, like Robert Burns, of quite humble origins. When the British conquered Quebec, it was Scots, not the English, who came to dominate the business world.. And it was those Scots who planted the seeds of public education as the basis of education for all Protestants in Quebec. (French Catholics also had public education,  but until very recently, it was designed only to produce basic skills for very low level jobs. All French who could afford it (like the Trudeaus) sent their children to private schools. That's why every premier in the history of Quebec had attended private school. (Even Levesque, though he never finished.)

Public schools have been the foundation of democracy, freedom, and social progress ever since. (Though people like those at the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies have been anxious to hand them over to big business for profit - and this has become a feature in the US which is why the US is becoming a land of the 17th century.)

As for Judaism, free and open discussion has been central from the start. (There is the story in The Bible of Jesus debating points of the Talmud and the Torah in the synagogue.) Free and open debate and discussion are powerful factors in Jewish life. Thus the encouragement for Jewish children to study, to think for themselves.  Education was important to both parents and children. I always knew, when I spoke at a synagogue, that I better have something to say. It didn't matter whether the audience agreed with it. I just knew I had better have a serious topic, and some pretty good reasoning to support it.

And that carried into daily life. Jews were prominent, often  the majority, in most social action movements I was involved in.

It wasn't like New Brunswick chruches where one can get off with a gospel hootenanny.

The result of Judaism is a people who do, on the whole, very, very well in school. In my high school teaching days, Jewish children normally dominated the top spots in the provincial high school exams. Anyone who  wants to improve our schools should kick out all the big business influences and methods, and take time to study the methods of the Scots and the Jews.

(As a sidebar to this long prologue, google Jewniverse. It's a Jewish site that's quite fascinating. It's not at all political. Sometimes it's even trivial. But it's still fascinating.)
__________________________________________________________________________
The point of all the above is that we need a society that uses its schools not to train children like pet dogs, but encourages them (and their parents) to feel the stimulation of learning, to be free to agree or disagree. and to be encouraged to do both in public. And to give equal opportunity to all children - and that means NOT treating them all in the same way. Children from poor and some middle class backgrounds need more, not just the same as, treatment given to more fortunate children. Education is not a matter of one size fits all. Equal opportunity does not mean simply giving the same class sizes and text books to everybody .

Children need exposure to varying opinions, not protection from them. When we use history to teach patriotism, for example, all we produce is a nation of robots to be easily manipulated by the Harpers and Irving presses of this world.
____________________________________________________________________________

Well, that took more time than I thought it would. Maybe I shouldn't have spent so much time on this; but I thought it an important background.  So - morality in our world.

Look. I was raised in the United Church of Canada. I have often led services in churches. I rarely attend churches, though. I find them to be essentially social clubs for the lonely. I find the idea of praying absurd. Is there a God? Maybe. But certainly not one who looks just like us and who wears a white robe. Was Jesus His son? And also His own father? And His own ghost? I don't even understand what all that means.

Does believing in Jesus (whatever that means) get you into heaven (whatever that means)? I have no idea.

The core of real value in Christianity - and most other religions - is not in all tales of magic and all the abstractions that you read about in The Bible and most other religious works around the world (yes, including Islam) lies in the essential rules for the survival of any society. These are the rules we call morality. One of the rules is that we must not kill other people.

But we live largely to kill other people. We are killing them in the Middle East. We go along with that largely out of a hatred and fear that has been drummed into us by billionaires who want us to kill people in the Middle East so they can make more money, and they spread the hatred of fear in the news media they own.

And we're on the edge of killing Russians  (and risking killing ourselves) because of our profound love for Ukrainians and their democracy. Come off it.

Until this started, most North Americans probably thought a Ukrainian was a kind of European banjo.

As for freedom and democracy, the western powers have led the world in destroying both. The British had the biggest empire in history, though the American empire may now be larger - it's hard to be sure because Americans never call it an empire. The British, the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, and the Americans have not only murdered millions to make a few people very rich. They have tortured on a monstrous scale - and the only person who faces punishment for it is the man who revealed that the torture was going on.

Our side and the other side are both guilty of war crimes against humanity, of greed, of slaughter.
When Hitler murdered innocent people, spread massive suffering, murdered in the name of religion, tortured, and dreamed of conquering the world, we were told he was crazy.

How is that different from what the US and its friends are doing?

Love thy neighbour? Thou shalt not covet? Please. An economic system of rule by the rich and greedy and self-centred dominates every major power in the world. (No. It's not just New Brunswick.) Our mining companies in Latin America and Africa kill and plunder and pollute to a degree worse than slavery.

The mass murder of North American native peoples and the destruction of their societies easily matches anything Hitler did. Given its smaller population, Canada takes a back seat to no-one in this category.

Thou shalt not covet? Please. Our economic system of uncontrolled capitalism (which is about to get worse) is based on coveting. Coveting and  unlimited greed and self-interest. It's the same system in China and Russia as it is in Washington and Ottawa.

There is no room for morality of any sort in such a system. (That's why my enthusiasm for the Irving Chapel with its "special music" and coffee and fellowship in the Barn is muted.)

In the midst of this hell on earth, we have churches that rarely, if ever, mention these things. Nor do they ever mention the religious hatreds roused by the billionaire owners of news media to make us want to kill and loot people of other religions.

The reality is that most religions teach very similar principles. You will find the moral codes of Christianity very similar to those of Muhammed, Confucius, Moses, Lao-Tse. And almost all countries ignore their claimed religious principles.

As nearly as I understand the words of Jesus, he would not have approved of rampant greed, mass murder, theft, brutalization of people, news media that encourage hatreds and fears, the massive redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich, the impoverishment of hundreds of millions....duh, so how come the Faith page never discusses anything that might offend the rich and greedy and murderous?

How come the congregations do nothing but have yard sales and pancakes? I have known very few synagogues that would tolerate that.

I am not suggesting the clergy should preach about this. Indeed, I have seen no reason to believe that most of them are capable of it. But they should, as The Bible does, encourage discussion of these topics in a Christian context. And the discussion, breaking out in a whole new direction for New Brunswick, should be public and encourage freedom of thought..

I don't suggest the churches tell people what to think. I suggest they see whole of the faith, not just the parts that the Irving's of this world choose to let us see. Life is not just abstractly loving Jesus or Muhammed or Confucious while supporting the greedy and the murderous.

In church, in synagogue, in mosque, in temple, in school, people don't need to be preached to according to formula. They need to be encouraged to think, not to memorize but to develop their own understanding, to feel free to discuss what they think without looking around for the secret police.

Will they think better than the billionaires of this world?

They can scarcely think worse.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

June 27: Wow! A powerful semi-automatic rifle for only $199.95

Gee. Just like the rifle that killed three of our police.

That's from and ad insert in yesterday's paper. And - 1,500 rounds of ammunition for only $279.What's it useful for? Well, you really don't need it for hunting. You would need it in the woods only if you're suddenly attacked by six or seven deer.  And the semi-automatic feature makes it very dangerous in the hands of a sloppy gunner because it means the gun can go off with just an accidental touch of the trigger.

But, sometimes, you may want to kill a policeman, and at short range. For that, there's a quite powerful pistol called the Sauer in .32 calibre or 9 mm. Only $679. It's very little use for hunting or target shooting, but great for killing people at short range.

And let's not leave the kids out. For them, there's the Ruger 22 which looks exactly like a military submachine gun. It's semi-automatic - great for kids. And, you it know, looks just like a real, military weapon. So it develops real macho in kids.  And you can even get it with a 122  round magazine. With a little practice, a kid could learn to empty that in two minutes - anywhere.

Want something for  your child to play with on the street? Well, there's the Crossman BB air pistol that could take an eye out. And it looks EXACTLY like a real pistol.

This is all at Cabela's, the new story in Moncton that was greeted with something like a  imperial Triumph  in the streets of ancient Rome..

It's now over a year ago three police in Moncton were killed by a person of mental problems who had been able to buy  macho weapons. The people and the newspapers of Moncton mourned, laid flowers, are promoting a memorial. They have done everything ---- except to ask why this happened, and what should be done  so it won't happen again.

Many police have requested transfers out of this district. It seems to have to do with the behaviour of police management. Nobody's telling. And nobody's asking.

Then we have the question of why it was possible for anyone in this city to buy what is essentially a combat rifle. And we have the question of why the Harper government has been so eager to destroy the long gun registry so the police have no way of knowing what's out there.

And Moncton says it thanks its police, and it mourns those who died. I don't believe Moncton. I don't believe the people, the newspapers, the local governments or the provincial government. If they cared, they would do something more than wail their grief. They would be taking action to find out exactly why all this happened, and they would be working on means of reducing the risks for our police - and us.
____________________________________________________________________________

Section A news is, as usual, a gathering at the village pump for gossip.

The editorial is a pointless one about the zoo. It closes on a bizarre note, "It will be years, if not generations, yet before new energy alternatives can help solve issues like climate change." If the editor had the slightest interest in this, he could have easily found the figures at which species are going extinct. That rates of disappearance have been rising and the pace increasing at stunning rates for over a century. We don't have generations to find alternatives. And we're not doing a whole lot to look for them.

After all, some people make a lot of money out of oil. And, duh, it creates jobs.

Norbert has a good column about the nearing federal election, and the dangers of jumping to conclusions about who will win. In parts, he sounds even rebellious in his denunciation of the ultra-rich. Indeed, this is close to a reversal of what he and his newspaper have always stood for.

I disagree with him only on small points. The terms small-l liberals and small- c conservatives are meaningless. Both parties have always been the agents of big business. I am not a small l liberal of any sort. The word liberal means minimal government. I have never thought that made sense. The ones who claim to support it are usually what we call small-c conservatives. Like all real liberals, I believe that people should have as much freedom as possible. Like all real conservatives, I believe a society needs a strong government and social structure.

By the correct definition, the Irvings are liberals,sort of - though they believe in such freedom only for themselves.

And I don't agree we've had 35 years of extreme conservatism. We've had 35 years of extreme greed and lack of any moral structure. That's not liberalism or conservatism. It's mass murder, mass theft, and indifference to the needs of anybody except the very rich.

And I would certainly not place Mulroney as a classic conservative. Mulroney is a man who devoted his life to making the rich even richer so they would make him rich, too. He cheated, lied, embezzled, and abandoned every moral principle so he could live in a mansion, and his wife could shop daily for new dresses. He was in the same closet as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. That's why he was Reagan's ally in pushing for North American Free Trade.

I was good friends of a man who was one of the star candidates who ran against Mulroney for the Conservative leadership. He was an owner of what was then Canada's largest law firm. He had a commanding presence, and spoke superbly. We were at many, many meetings together, and I soon learned that he was a man who could not lie. Once, visiting him for supper, I mentioned I had just bought a painting that was in my car. He was interested, and asked me to bring it in. I did. He looked at it, placed it by his chair, and began talking to someone else.

 I knew why. He didn't like the painting. But we were friends, So he couldn't say he didn't like it. But he couldn't lie, and say it was nice.  It was very embarrassing for him,,  But he couldn't even tell a white lie.

He withdrew from the leadership campaign half-way through it - though he was doing quite decently in the polls. So I asked him why he had withdrawn.

"Graeme, I had to quit. I just couldn't lie like those other people."

Brian Mulroney could - and did.

Two of the commentaries have nothing much to say.

The third is by Jason Limongelli, VP of Woodlands for Irving. It reminded me of Brian Mulroney. But it's not nearly as glib as Mulroney because Limongelli can't write worth a poop. It's  so wordy and bureaucratic that few will read it - and most of those won't understand it. It's also heavy on jargon and bafflegab. If I were Irving, I'd send this guy back to the minors.

As usual, all the columns are about New Brunswick. Talk about gathering at the village pump for gossip!
_______________________________________________________________________________
B4 has an amusing story that the leaks by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden have hampered the work of secret agencies in both Canada and the US. Well, I should hope so. The leaks show that those agencies have been lying to us, have been spying on millions of innocent people, and on friendly countries. They have even, in both Canada and the US, been creating "terrorist" incidents using mentally ill and/or isolated and  very poor people, manipulating them into committing a terrorist act, paying them for   it, supplying them with bombs, and showing them how to use them. Then, just before the act, our valiant defenders step in to arrest them.

They spy on every one of us. We have no idea who gets all that information about us (though we know that in the past, such information has been handed on to big business.) . They spy on friendly countries right up to the highest levels of government as they did in France and Brazil; and I expect, they spy on each other.

We Canadians and Americans spend billions on these clowns. And we hardly ever hear of them catching a terrorist. So why do we have them? Why have we surrendered all our constitutional rights and privileges? I especially wonder that about Canada because terrorists have little reason to attack Canada.

Yes, if terrorists attack, it's for a reason. The attacks of 9/11 were expensive and costly in time. So why did they happen? (Think hard. Terrorists don't do things just because they're evil.) Terrorists commit terrorist acts for a reason. We have to guess at this because our news media seem not to have thought of this question.

It wasn't done just to attack the US. There is no way that even an attack as big as 9/11 would destroy the US. There was no way it would make the US surrender or even cause any significant damage. For an attack that size, you need to be the US with the power to kill people by the millions - as in Vietnam and Iraq. Bin Laden was rich, but scarcely in that league.

So why the attack? On a guess, it could have been to egg the US into an over-response so destructive and murderous that it would spread extremism all over the middle east. In the long run, that would be a foreign policy disaster for the US.

If so, bin Laden got exactly what he wanted. There are reasons these things happen. (And they're far less likely to happen in Canada because there's nothing to be gained by an attack on Canada. It's irrelevant on the world stage.)

Harper decided we needed spies - not to spy on terrorists, but to spy on all of us - for his purposes, and for the purposes of  big business. And we pay for it with our taxes.
_________________________________________________________________________
There really isn't much worth reading in section B. - just the story above, and one, sad one on B7. Greece might accept the bankers' terms on settling the national debt. If they do, it means the people of Greece will be so impoverished it will never recover. The debt will last and grow forever - like a payday loan.  But humans don't matter in our world. Only money matters. Having fed off the blood and lives of the rest of the world for 500 years, The European and American rich are now feeding off their own people
________________________________________________________________________________

I won't comment on the Faith page today. It's still the usual drivel; but I want, tomorrow, to focus on why it's such drivel. I'm not going to get religious on you. I want to talk about morality - not as a religious concept, but as an essential for the survival of human societies. I want to talk about the collapse of morality, the role of many, many of the churches in encouraging that collapse, and the consequences of the collapse.

(I was raised to renounce the Roman Catholic church and all its works in the best Calvinist fashion of the Scottish highlands. But I'm finding Pope Francis one of the few leaders in this world to admire.)


Friday, June 26, 2015

June 26: "Realtors hope cottage country market will pick up"

That's on page A1. And that's not a story. It's like "Tourists hope to enjoy NB", or "Lobster fishermen hope to catch some lobsters". Now, if the story were  "Realtors hope cottage country market will collapse" or "Tourists hope to be miserable in NB", that would be a story. Otherwise, this is just a waste of reporters by a news medium that doesn't have enough of them in the first place.

It could be a story if it had a headline like "Cottage sales are slow". But the story never says they're slow. So what is this all about? I have no idea. This is just front page space filled up with pointless natter. It's careless and sloppy work by the assignment editor, and ditto by the front page editor. I get the impression that all the editorial staff at Irving press are either incompetent or just don't give a damn.

And, once more, the editorial writer proves he has nothing to say about anything. Pointe-du-Chene has a great beach. That's it. It takes the  writer a third of a page to say that.   Isn't there anybody at that paper who can say more intelligent things about more important matters? Usually, editorial writers meet with other editorial staff to decide on the day's topic, and to reach some agreement on what the topic will be and the tone the editorial should set. If this sort of thing is the best they can do, that must be one, dozy bunch of editors. There's a big world out there. And, yes, it really does affect us. Is nobody at that paper capable of writing about it?

And the TandT is part of a chain which adds up to a sizable market. Couldn't it run all the papers as if they were one?  With inserts for local news in each paper? Then they could jointly publish knowledgeable journalists like Gwynne Dyer for the editorial and commentary pages.

Norbert, once again, has a column about our provincial financial condition without bothering to first find out  why we have such a financial condition.  I know health care and education cost money.  But that's not the starting point. The starting points are - what is it the people of New Brunswick need?. What are our priorities? If our priority is to make the rich richer, then we're doing great. If our priority is to keep as many NBers illiterate as possible, we're a world leader. If our priority is keeping them uninformed, the Irving press is masterful.

But let's suppose, just for laughs, that our priority is to serve the people of New Brunswick - to educate them, to inform them fully and honestly, to keep them healthy.... Then  we're ready for the next stage in our thinking.

Why are we short of the money to do that?  Hint - Norbert. You've heard of the wage gap? You've heard of government hand-outs and favours to private business? You've heard of low taxes for the rich? You've heard of hidden profits in offshore banks?

The recession the world is going through was not caused by New Brunswickers who were too lazy to work. It was caused by banks and other corporations who handled their money unwisely, irreponsibilty, and even illegally - and then forced us to pay them for the damage they had done. That's what the recession is about.

It's much like what happened to Greece. A series of very corrupt governments (and corrupt governments get that way by dealing with corrupting corporations).  gave the country such a huge debt that it can never be paid. The banks who loaned the money know that. They knew, when they loaned the money, who was really getting it and they knew the loans would drive the country into hopeless debt. But they loaned the money anyway, knowing it would drive the whole Greek nation into a debt they could never pay.. And Greece is not the only country this is happening to.

It's happening to the US. It's happening to Canada. It's happening to Spain. And, oh, it's good for business. It drives down salaries in countries like Haiti and Guatemala that the rich bleed with salaries of five dollars a day or less, with no health or education services. Our own rich love that for the high profits it gives them. That's why we have a wage gap here, too. That's why it's getting worse.

It's pretty stupid because it's  causing violence, probably with severe violence coming in a country not far from our Canadian readers.   It's forcing countries around the world to realign their foreign policies. Greece is meeting with Russia now. This could mean Greece pulling out of the European Union to align itself with Russia. And that, combined with European fears of American aggressiveness and expansion,  could be the beginning of the end for the European Union.

Wake up and smell the flowers, Norbert. Very rich people in the US, China, Russia, Canada, and others have their eyes (and their hands) on world dominance, a dominance that will enable them to ignore governments, to ignore laws, to ignore human rights - and we're almost there. Our enemies are not the Americans or the Chinese or the Russians. Our enemies are the very rich  of those countries who have all but destroyed democracy, and who have spread poverty, hunger, and terror all over the world.

They're getting close to what they want.  And your paper won't say a word about it because it, too, like almost all news media, is owned a handful of those very  rich. They're greedy. They're murderous. And they are hopelessly incapable of operating a government,  not a world government or even a government of New Brunswick.

They like to call themselves entrepreneurs because it sounds more sophisticated than capitalists. But they aren't capitalists, either. Far from being the courageous and risk-taking adventurers they claim to be, they are leeches who create and who live off poverty.

Here in New Brunswick, the Saillants of this little world will say that we must help them to get rich because a)if they get rich, it will trickle down to us and b)if we're not nice to them, they'll leave. But
a) it won't trickle down. We have a world out there to prove that making the rich richer is a process than means making the rest of us poorer. b)They might leave if we don't let them rob us? Great. Let them leave. That would save us piles of money. (Too bad prof. Saillant never touched on this aspect in his magnum opus.)

The only commentary worth reading is "Let's give Canadians the pension system they need." I'm not saying this is a good article because I   don't know enough about pension plans. But it does raise a problem that could take us back into the Canada that was - in its dreadful days before government pensions because, today, n the private sector, only 24% of Canadians have company pension plans.

But don't worry. I'm sure the top 1% have adequate pension plans.

It's going to be very hard to change what is happening to our world. But life is going to be very, very hard if we don't.
______________________________________________________________________________


Canada&World begins with a headline that poverty is increasing in New Brunswick. But not to worry. It's only increasing among the poor. The rich have been getting richer since the start of the recession. By Norbert's thinking, that's great because we'll soon all get rich as the money pours down to us. Just like Haiti.

The first page also has a well-done news report by John Chilibeck. "First Nations voice attack mine plan." This is a plan for a tungsten mine at Sissons Brook, and it's a major test of whether we have learned anything from the report on our treatment of Native Peoples.

They are very much opposed to the mine. And there's a legal case that this is native land. If reconciliation means anything at all, the company must get the consent of Native peoples involved - or it  (and we) must back off.

On B3, Harper attacks the Liberasl and NDP for wanting to be friends with Iran. Harper says Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. Please. The world's biggest terrorist and biggest sponsor of terrorism is our good neighbour, the United States. This is the country that accused Cuba of being a terrorist state when the US had been making terrorist attacks on Cuba, including bombing a civil airliner killing all aboard, and this at a time when Cuba had attacked nobody.

 We have lots of terrorist friends - Britain, France, Saudi Arabia..... The US has been drone bombing Pakistan and Yemen for years, killing thousands of innocent people. That's terrorism. It has provided money and training for Al Quaeda. That's terrorism. It is now supplying bombs for the Saudis to kill civilians in Yemen. That's terrorism. The US created several million refugees in Iraq, and is a major cause of the conflicts in the middle east which have created well over 65 million homeless refugees. It has sponsored a rebellion in Syria which, in addition to massive killing, has created 2,000,000 orphans. That war in Vietnam was a terrorist war, deliberately aimed at civilians with napalm and agent orange, and killing, at the most conservative estimate, over 3,000,000 innocent people. Then there was the intense bombing of Cambodia, deliberately aimed at civilians to, as it was delicately put, "send Cambodia back to the stone age".

All wars have always been wars of terror. But, from 1914 on, the murder of civilians has been a major strategic purpose of all warfare by all sides. Including Canada.And that's terrorism.

So, Stephen, why are we killing people in Syria and Iraq?

On B5, it's Harper again, this time on the monument to victims of communism that he wants to build in Ottawa. As I've said in an earlier blog, to make it just to victims of communism is pure politics, and cheapens it. The world has had lots of victims lost to capitalism - in fact, more than to communism. We might also remember the destruction of millions of native peoples in the Americas.

The reporter tells us that Harper's aversion to communism is well documented. Gee. It must have taken real courage for Harper to speak out and say he was opposed to communism. And he said, "It's a poisonous ideology". It's good speech to draw the moron crowd. However, communist ideology has never been put into practice anywhere in the world. In that respect, it's very similar to capitalist ideology.

But, certainly, what was put into practice in both cases, was and is poisonous. And I'm not crazy enough to prefer one poison over another.

B8 has the story of the NATO commander who says there is a new risk of heavy fighting in Ukraine. He the same commander who told the same story in yesterday's paper. And you know who's causing the trouble? It's the Russians because they don't want American troops and missiles on their border. Gee! How aggressive of the Russian! I'm sure the US government wouldn't object at all the Russians putting  troops and missiles on the American border.

There are people in the US who want a war with Russia. They want control (and ownership) of the Russian economy,. This is old-fashioned empire-building - except now U.S. 'capitalists' are willing to risk exposing all of us to nuclear war so they can get what they want.

This goes beyond greed, beyond immorality to insanity.

B9 has a headline, "Islamic State extremists attack two  Kurdish cities in Syria".  Gosh, I would have thought that anybody who charges around killing people is an extremist. Dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was surely extreme. Killing way over a million Iraqis was extreme. Killing many millions of Vietnamese was extreme, wasn't it?

So how come the papers never call it extremism when we do it?
___________________________________________________________________________
A long time ago, I was in grade nine. I enjoyed writing because it was about the only thing I could do at that level. Later, I would teach grade nine. Today, on page C3, I read the column of Mhairi Agnew, a student columnist. The writing was better than anything I did in grade nine. It was better than anyone I taught in grade nine.  It was better than many I taught in university.

So - I'm going to stick my neck out, and suggest her next stage because she's more than ready to move on. She has the amateur title locked up. Now, she has to get ready for the pros.

I would suggest that for her next step, she has to make contact with the reader. A weakness of most of the editorials and commentaries in the Irving press is that they don't do that. But the reader needs to see himself or herself in a column like this. And they need to know how YOU feel in a column like today's.  What were you personal feelings when they got your name wrong? That gives the reader something to relate to, perhaps even a sense of sharing with you - a sense that what you say isn't just a story but an experience you have in common.

It reminded me of the first day I taught. I was a supply teacher, perhaps twenty years old. At recess, I was assigned to yard duty. A student was ahead of me getting into the yard. I heard a voice calling to him. "Who ya got teachin' t'day?"

"Oh, just old man Decarie."


Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 25: The village news.

Hot off the press.  A restaurant that closed is  going to become a pizzaria. That's on A 9, and it reflects the quality of almost all the 'news' in Section A. The one story worth reading is on  A6. "Moncton charity seeking homeless resource centre".

The Humanity Project has helped  180 homeless families in Moncton, Dieppe and Rivervew since August with shelter, food and  clothing. (Yes, that's families.)  And I think we should all be grateful to the project for that, and we should help it. However....

I can't help remembering this is a city in which we're being urged to pay for  a $100 million dollar events centre, mostly so a  wealthy man can get a new hockey rink for his team. This is a province which pays our tax money if some some 70 million every year to 6 large  lumbering companies to cut responsibly - something they should be doing, anyway. And at that, our government doesn't even bother to check what they're doing.

We give   250,000 to a local businessman ((plus other goodies) to open an office here - (and he says he never even asked for it. How sweet!)

The purpose of government is to serve the people. All of them. But what we do is elect governments which serve the rich - and  which assume  (if they think about it at all) that the rich will then serve the people. That is nonsense. The rich will NOT serve the people. We do not benefit when the rich get richer. It does not happen. It has never happened.

In order the serve all the people, government has to control the economy, and they have to control the rich.. There is no other way to do that. Our governments don't do that. Instead, they allow the rich to control the economy and to control the government - and the hell with what all the people need.

Any government which allows that is not a government at all but just collection of stooges who run for election on the hope that they will get some nice reward at the end (like becoming a senator or becoming Canadian consul in, say, Boston.)

A politician is not simply a business hack. And a government is not a business. That's why a political party should (must) be based on principles, a sort of moral code. The policies then come from the principles. The Liberals and the Conservatives have nothing that could be called a principle of any sort - and they certainly do not begin with any intention of serving the people who elected them. If they did, we would not have homeless and penniless families, and children with no hope ever of a better life.

Now, there's topic for an editorial. But don't ever expect to see it in the Irving press.
____________________________________________________________________________

   Norbert has a good column on the province and its handling of a snow removal contract. It cancelled its nearly complete deal with a Quebec company to give the contract to a New Brunswick contractor. He's quite right that the contract should have gone to the lowest bidder - the Quebec  company. But, oh, the column is muddled with shallow thinking.

He opens with paragraphs critical of New Brunswickers for being insular, parochial, lacking in any sense of a world beyond their belly buttons.   But, gee, Norbert. Why do you think they're like that? For a hint, read your newspaper. Section A is almost all local news - and mostly trivial, at that. Read the editorials. Read your own columns. And that continues into Section B which is grandly called Canada&World News but which has little of either.

Then Norbert says we should not interfere with " the marketplace, which remains the best arbiter of who survives and who doesn't." Come off it, Norbert. The market place is controlled by big business which gets freebies from government, doesn't have to  pay taxes, can take our forests for a song,and it's all being tied together with "free trade   deals" to make life even better for the rich. There is no free market.

And, for that matter, there shouldn't be. There should be rules to limit damage, for example. In Norbert's article he looks at opposition to shale gas as interfering with the market. Well, yes, Norbert. And for the same reason as  driving a powerful car down Main St. at 200 ks is interfering with the market - for the same reason as discouraging tobacco sales is interfering with the market, for the same reason as monitoring rules for the forest industry is interfering with the market, for the same reason as forbidding the sale of submachine guns and rocket launchers is interfering with the market. Lots of markets need interfering, and there are far too many not getting it.

Rod Allen's column is a kiss-up to Mr. Booth, a rich man who got a forgiveable loan for $250,000 from a province that leaves feeding the hungry up to charities. (By the way, isn't giving a company a quarter million interfering with the marketplace?) At least, though, we're spared Rod Allen's laboured attempts at humour.

The bottom commentary is from, again, a very far right-with "think-tank" that grinds out studies that spread propaganda for big business and the very rich.  They always have statistics - and I've almost always found their statistics to be misleading or even lying. This one 'proves' that a very high proportion of poor children become rich. And I know from long teaching experience and life experience that that simply is not true. Rich kids are guaranteed to stay rich. Look at the success stories of the Irving offspring, one of whom became VP of Daddy's newspapers very early in his career.  What an inspiration to poor children everywhere!

This column is from The Fraser Insitute. And like everything from the Fraser, it's pure propaganda for suckers.

Alec Bruce's column is well-written, has some potential for saying something - but never makes it.  
____________________________________________________________________________

B1 actually has a real story. "Dutch government  ordered to slash greenhouse emissions". For the first time a court has set a strict deadline for cutting the emissions -   which could lead to such legal action in other countries. Canada springs to mind. Yes. It will be difficult. Yes. It will be inconvenient. Yes. It may mean greater changes in our lives.

But there is one hell of a bigger change that is likely if we don't act. And I have seen no sign that any government will act unless it is ordered to.

As it is, those who don't care about what climate change will do are in charge of the show. The oil companies  (seriously) don't care abut the changes and destruction. Greed does that to them. As it is, they have killed millions in order to get control of all oil, with more millions to come. They have driven well over sixty million refugees out of their  homes. They are starving millions more even as I write this.  The have spent billions to lie about climate change. They are now fighting wars (well, we do the fighting and the dying for them) to get oil, even risking nuclear war for it, as they are eagerly building new pipelines and searching for new oil - and making the point that they do not intend to stop pushing oil - not ever.

Greed is a leading cause of stupidity.

With the exception of the story about the Dutch court, we are still in New Brunswick on B3. Now, that's a newspaper with its nose in its own bellybutton.  

B7 has the story of how the US has been spying on French governments for years. Big surprise. The US government spies on everybody, including you and me. Including, I'm quite sure, the Canadian government.

There are no such things as friends among national governments.

Lower on the page is the story that the Queen will become a refugee forced to flee her townhouse, Buckingham Palace, as it gets a 237 million dollar upgrade. At taxpayer's expense. That's an expensive family. The British taxpayers also pay for over 150 servants for Charles  -probably more since Camilla. Then, various family members need frequent trips to their various golf courses around the world - accompanied by armies of servants.

And isn't it exciting about the royal babies?

In Yemen, (B8), many more have been killed or forced to flee as our good friends in Saudi Arabia deliberately bomb civilians with bombs supplied by our good friends in the US and Britain . (God save the Queen.)   The number of people needing medical care and food has now reached 31,000,000, thanks to Saudi refusal to allow food or medical supplies to reach the country. And this   follows years of indiscriminate bombing by US drones, killing innocent people of the world's poorest country. (God bless America).

That kind of indiscriminate killing is intended to create terror. It's terrorism. But it's only actually called terrorism when it's done by the other side.

And why is this happening? Our leaders haven't bothered to tell us. Why  are Canadian pilots killing people in Syria and Iraq? We haven't been told that, either.

Nor has it been pointed out that all of this was caused by the US government - with help from Britain and France. Resistance movements such as we're seeing in the middle east don't come from nowhere.
Oh - yes, I know those people are evil and cruel and don't shave. But these resistance movements didn't exist until European and American oil companies moved in. And some of the large ones were even funded and supplied by the US and Britain. The US and Britain with occasional help from Canada have created the horror that is now the middle east. How come our newspapers never explain that?

And remember how Canadians opened their arms to help Americans after 9/11? So where is our sympathy for the tens of millions of refugees we helped to create in Africa and the Middle East and who are suffering far, far more than Americans did in 9/11?

Finally, on B8, a US commander says he has irrefutable evidence of a Russian military presence in the Ukraine. Maybe. Maybe not. George Bush and Tony Blair said they had irrefutable evidence of  weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Remember?

And, in any case, there is also irrefutable evidence 1, that the US staged the overthrow of the  elected Ukrainian government to bring to the present gang to power.  2. that there is an American  (and European Union and Canadian) presence in Ukraine,

So, Mr. U.S. commander, your point is....?
__________________________________________________________________________
The Irving press hasn't mentioned it, but the Harper government has just stacked the National Capital Commission with Conservatives to be sure it approves the building of a huge and very expensive memorial to all the people killed by communism all over the world. It would be right in front of our Supreme court.  Great idea.

Could we also have a monument to the millions of people all over the world killed by capitalism? You know - the Chinese tens of millions killed by Chiang kai Shek (our boy), the tens of millions in Africa, Asia, North America (you've heard of native peoples?) killed by British, Canadian and American capitalism, the millions killed by Spanish capitalism in South America. the millions killed by American capitalism in Latin America, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan...  then there are the millions killed by France in North Africa, French Indo-China.... Actually, it should be a much bigger monument than the one to victims of communism because capitalism killed a whole lot more.

And we could have a monument to the native people deliberately starved to death on the prairies.

ooooo - And how about one to the Canadians killed by Americans in the invasion of 1812?

Of course, communism is evil. And capitalism is good. Just like Islam is evil. But Christianity is good. Christians would never kill people.

 Too bad we don't have any Christians, not even on the Faith page.
_______________________________________________________________________________
There are some gaps in the news. Among them -

1. what  happened to the Halifax beer heir who was being investigated for killing his father? That just disappeared from  the news.

2. Where's the story explaining the seeming collapse of the talks about the Greek national debt? The debt was run up by corrupt politicians. And the banks knew that, even as they gave them more and more money. Now the Greek people are stuck as the banks hold them entirely responsible and intends to hold them all to live in hopeless poverty until the debt is paid - which means forever. (reminds me of New Brunswick.)
For those who don't care about the Greek people, this could have serious consequences for the European Union.

3. How come we still   don't have a report on the cause of the civil airliner crash in Ukraine?

4. Why are we get such shallow reporting on racism in the US? There is a story about the confederate flag being taken down but, really, the shootings in South Carolina were not caused simply because of confederate flags flying.

Donald Trump is so far running on a very crude racist ticket aimed at hispanics. Why aren't we hearing more about this? There are indications of large sums of racist money going to the Republican party.

The incident in South Caroline is not the result of one, young man's bigotry. And taking down the flags won't change anything. Racism and racial hatreds are by no means limited to South Carolina. They could have very serious consequences. Why aren't we get fuller information about it?

                                                                                                                   

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June 24: It's been a hectic day....

.....of computer crisis as I spent hours trying to make my computer work. So this is a late one. I've been using computers for over thirty years. But one learns something new every day. Today, I learned that if you want it to work, you have a push a button to turn it on.

First, I strongly advise all to read a book by  Gwynne Dyer, "With Every Mistake" (Random House Canada). It's a collection of his newspaper columns with frank analysis of each to show where he was proved to be wrong. Best of all, is his introduction which is a crushing analysis of how almost all our news media became liars, trivialists and propaganda houses. That includes Canada's Globe and Mail, and the US' New York Times and the Washington Post. Almost all news media in North America are owned by 10 or so very, very wealthy people. And they're used they've for propaganda and manipulation.

I know of only two or three daily news sources in  English in the western world that I would trust. None of them is in North America. The BBC is not on the list. The CBC is - sort of - but it's only as honest as Harper allows it to be. It has good journalists. But it lives with the constant threat of privatization.

Dyer also has some personal glimpses of major journalism owners he has known. Conrad Black, for example, comes out as an egotistic ass. But Dyer is too kind. I, too, have known Black. He much overrates his intelligence, and listens only to himself. And of wisdom, he has none at all. He has an almost mental illness in a craze to be admired and listened to. His wife, Barbara Amiel, is much like him - but with even more self-interest than Conrad has. Dyer is equally blunt about other giants in the private news media.
______________________________________________________________________________

On p. A1, Moncton native David Booth was given a forgivable loan of $250,000 dollars from the provincial government and a payroll rebate of some $96,000 to open an office in Moncton for his company. And he assures us he didn't pull any strings to get it.

Right.

Actually, I don't give a damn whether he pulled strings. This is a government that has people going hungry in the streets of Moncton and all over the province. They have to depend on the Rotary Club or some other group that gets a charge out of having its pictures in the paper holding up big cheques for charity.

Tell you what, Mr. Gallanr. In future, give that money to those who need it to stay alive. And tell the Booths of this world to ask Rotary Club or some other cheerful charlies to beg for money for them on Main St.

A political party should have as a first priority the welfare of the people it governs. You start with the people; then you build the policies. But neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives does that. They let people go hungry and homeless. -    but they have lots of welfare for corporate bums.

Besides, I thought that capitalism was the system in which people of courage took risks to go out on their own to make their fortunes. Yes, small capitalists do that. But not the big ones. American and Canadian capitalists caused this recession by actions that were often, to say the least, questionable. Many of them should probably have ended up in jail. Instead, we handed over billions upon billions to them. And we lowered their taxes (which they don't pay anyway). And, we are daily being told we - not the rich - have to pay for damage they caused.

The only word for that, Mr. Gallant, is contemptible. And pass it on to the whole, damn party and the Conservatives.
________________________________________________________________________
The editorial is brainless and pointless. There are things in today's news worth talking about - the front page story about yet another company getting a forgivable loan is one of them. But that would offend the boss. So the editorial writer writes in his usual phantasy world and babbles about the new and greater Moncton that is supposedly on the horizon.

Norbert had a good streak going - but it ended today. He talks about the wisdom of cutting the education budget. Norbert - you have never taught. Not one day. You have never trained in Education. You don't know what you're talking about.

You say we don't need as many schools or teachers because enrollment has been declining Norbert, you twit. Didn't it occur to you that the system may have been understaffed in the first place? When I started teaching elementary school and high school in Montreal, the board apologized to us because the classes were way to big for effective teaching. But, years later, as its enrollment declined, it didn't cut the size of the classes. It fired teachers, and kept the oversized classes.

Norbert, what is a good ratio of students to teachers? Do you know?  Of course not. All you know is that taxes have to be raised so we can provide more welfare for the Irvings of this world.

He concludes "We're in this together. We created this together." Bullshit, Norbert. We're not in this together. The rich are making no sacrifices. In fact, they are making more money than ever. The rest of us are in this alone. And we didn't create this together. Toadie politicians of the Liberal and Conservative parties did it by allowing the very rich to create a recession, then making us pay for it. So now we have to cut everything except handing out welfare cheques to the rich.

Brian Cormier has his usual, pointless little story.

There's a good commentary "Are inmates' medical problems any less serious than anyone else's?" It makes an excellent point about our reliance on punishment as a way to deal with crime. But it also has something I've never seen before in an Irving press commentary. In the third paragraph, the editor intervenes to clarify a point made by the writers.  The editor's comment is true enough ....but it's a very small point in the context of the whole article. So why do it? I've often seen commentaries in the Irving press that are outright lies - with no comment whatever from the editor.

Alec Bruce has a column with a good deal of truth in it. Yes. Gallant is getting very unpopular. But we all know that. He says voters are disillusioned with parties on the left, centre and right. Alec, what are  you talking about? There is no left in New Brunswick. It has two centre parties, the Greens and the NDP. It doesn't have any right wing parties. It just has the Liberals and Conservatives, neither of whom has any philosophy I can detect or any principles;  and both of whom are simply stooges for the rich.

And why don't New Brunswickers know any better than to vote for two parties of stooges? Because they don't get any information from the Irving press - just propaganda, trivia and lies.
___________________________________________________________________________
Canada&World does have stories that deserve comment - but that did not occur to anybody on the editorial and commentary pages.

The lead headline in Section B is that the provincial government is lax in monitoring crown forest lands. Private companies (6 big ones) are allowed to cut pretty much whatever they want, any way they want, with no concern for the long-term (or short-term) impact.

The companies pay $65 million a year for the right to cut and take that timber. BUT - the government pays them MORE than $65 million a year to those companies to manage those properties. WHAT?
Yes. That's what the story says. And, the provincial  government has never stirred itself to check on what's going on in that management.

So we are paying from 72 to 75 million to very, very wealthy people to cut down our trees, and market the wood for themselves. And we have no idea of what damage they may be causing. And we're losing money on the deal.

Mr. Editorial writer, do you think you could muster sufficient integrity to write an editorial about that?

No. I thought not.

Mr. assignment  editor, do you think you have enough integrity to assign reporters to get a fuller story on this?

 No. Of course not.

Below that is the story of how we are sending 200 troops to help train the Ukraine army. We are sending them just as the ceasefire is breaking down, just as the US is committing major forces in countries bordering Russia, just as a full scale war could break out.

And we are sending them to protect the "democratic values" of a government made up of international bankers who are bleeding the country, and of Naziis (the real thing). It's also an illegal government since it's based on the overthrow of an elected one.

And, if a full-fledged war breaks out, do you seriously think it will be possible for Canada to get those troops out? Like it or not, if a full war breaks out, we are part of it. And on Nov. 11, we'll hear speeches about how they died to preserve freedom. In fact, there is no freedom in Ukraine to preserve. If any die, they will die because Harper sent them in order that he could get the Ukrainian Canadian vote in the coming election.


And if they die, they will die without our government ever having declared war. So what will they do with the old Nov. 11 speech that our soldiers in World War 1 died to win us the right to declare war through our own government? (Actually, that old Nov. 11 speech is also a lie.)

Would this make a good subject for Norbert? No, because he knows even less about history than he does about education.

Page B6 has an important story that our news media aren't asking many questions about. It's the Trans-Pacific Partnership which will be okayed by the US very soon. Americans know almost nothing about it. And their news media aren't telling them anything.  Ditto for Canada. This a deal designed by big business for big business. It almost certainly gives big business to right to do whatever it likes without regard for the environment or for its impact on the rest of us. It almost makes nuclear war preferable. But  we've had nothing on the editorial page or the commentary page about it.

What's happening in Yemen? Who knows? Why is Saudi Arabia fighting this war? How many innocent people have been killed? How many millions are starving? Who cares?

What's happening with the concentration of US warships near the South China Sea? Who cares?

Is the story about the US US giving support to Al Quaeda true? Why has the US been supporting rebellion in Syria that is being fought largely by mercenaries? What's the story on Bush and Blair being sued by a major, US national association of lawyers for war crimes? If the US is so hot on supporting Iraq, why is it playing hands off? Why are Canadian pilots killing people in Iraq and Syria? Why are we hearing nothing about them? The US bombs with drones every day, killing uncounted innocent people. Why is there no news about that?

Du-u-u-u-h, says the Irving press.

It is not possible to have a democracy in a province in which the people have no information. It is not possible to have a real democracy, when so many of its people have so little education and so many can't even read.

And it does not help when the people of that province seem to think that the world ends at their borders, and that what happens elsewhere will never affect us. World Wars one and two and Korea and Afghanistan and now, Iraq and Syria and Ukraine most certainly did or will affect us and affect us profoundly. Similarly, the people of New Brunswick did not cause the recession. But they got it anyway. (well, yeah, the rich ones didn't.)

The people of New Brunswick are abused, and have been from the start, by their political and economic leaders, and by most of their news media. But, dammit, the abuse will certainly not be stopped by those political and economic leaders. It's the people of New Brunswick who have to demand far better access to education for all age groups, who have to demand that the very rich be made to pay taxes, who have to demand news media that tell the truth, and who have to muster the courage to speak freely and publicly as free people.

But if the people of New Brunswick just stand there, they will continue to be abused, and this province is heading for dark, dark times, indeed.