Sunday, February 14, 2016

Feb. 14: Thoughts on a cold Sunday

Thanks to the tablets that Moses brought down from the mount, the Irving press does not appear on the seventh day.
God is kind to his servants.

One story in the news that would have been in for the day is that judge Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court has died. The news media will treat this one gently. But they shouldn't. Scalia was a major player in the destruction of American democracy.

This is a story that goes way back, and it begins with a movie star named Ronald Reagan.  He had been a leading figure in the movement among movie actors to, in effect, form a union to negotiate salaries.  (The big stars made huge salaries. But lesser figures got peanuts - as little a five dollars a day.) It was a reasonable thing to do. But -

-enter Senator McCarthy, the man who meant to build his career  by riding the current of anti-communist hysteria that swept the U.S. after World War Two. He got the chairmanship of the Unamerican Activities Committee to investigate all those 'secret' communists who had done terrible things like sending food to Russia during the war ( in which Russia was our ally.) And Hollywood was right in his crosshairs. Careers and lives were destroyed on the basis of nothing more than slurs and outright lives. And it scared the pants off Ronald Reagan. I mean, he had been organizing a union - and that was practically the same as a communist revolution.

And so Ronald Reagan quit the union, denounced former friends as communists (as did Gary Cooper and other stars did, too), and joined the far-right wing hysteria that made him a pet of American big money and, eventually, President of the U.S. And, as president, he stepped up the pace for the current collapse of American democracy, and the dominance of the U.S. by a handful of billionaires. One of his important moves was to put an end to rule by law.

He began the politicizing of the Supreme Court with judges who represented the farthest right wing of the Republican party, judges whose decisions represented their ideology rather than the law. And the leading one was Antonin Scalia.

Obama  could appoint a judge who   would represent the law rather than big money. He says he will. But, it he tries, the Republican senate will almost certainly block him.

Incidentally, two days ago in the Irving press, a lawyer named Murphy wrote a column on how Canadians are  different from Americans in their refusal to become hysterical and racist. But the next day, Tom Mulcair was in the news for mentioning that when he defended the right of a Muslim woman to dress as her religion required her to,  his share of the popular vote dropped 20 percent in two days.

The reality is that Canada has a long history of bigotry and racism. Yes, and of hysteria. Perhaps the kindest and gentlest of major figures in Canadian history was a clergyman named J.S.Woodsworth. He was an admirable man in almost every respect. Remember that, read his book about immigrants. Published early in the twentieth century, it was called Strangers Within Our Gates.

A major factor in driving the hysteria is a story that appeared just yesterday; it's the habit of the press to report in such a way as to spread propaganda rather than news. For an example, I'll use this one by The Guardian - which is probably the best English language newspaper in the world.

It may look harmless - but note the sentence in which Kerry says Russia is guilty of repeated aggression in Syria and Ukraine. Most readers will shake their heads at the  awfulness of Russian aggression.

But what aggression? Aggression means to attack a nation. But Russia is not attacking Syria. It has been invited by the Syrian government to help defend it against ISIS and American and Saudi supported rebels. To call Russia the aggressor in this case is like saying Canada was the aggressor against Britain in 1939. It's a ridiculous statement. But most readers will not see it that way.

Similarly, the US IS an aggressor against Syria. It has sponsored a 'rebellion' in Syria, and it has  helped ISIS in its invasion of Syria. It has now sent aircraft and troops to fight the government of Syria. The U.S. was certainly not invited to do that.

As for Ukraine, it is not Russia that overthrew the elected government of Ukraine. The U.S. paid for and organized that. And that, largely ignored by our press, was admitted to a Congressional committee. And it is now the U.S. that is moving troops up to the Russian border, not Russians who are building nuclear missile sites on the U.S. border.

The press has some excuse for this propaganda in reporting. After all, the purpose of The Guardian story was to tell  us what Kerry said - and that is what he said.

And that is why newspapers need commentaries - to point out the lies that a Kerry tells. But the Irving press has no commentaries on foreign affairs at all. Of the commentaries it does have, most are not commentaries at all, but just trivial, little stories of the "What I did last summer" variety. Or we have rants by Norbert, propaganda by the editorialist.

News cannot be just reports on what somebody said. We need analysis of what was said. We need opinion of it. The Irving press has almost no analysis. It has no-one intellectually equipped to write analysis. So all we get is ignorance and propaganda.
The following site certainly reflects a bias. (All sites, like all us humans, have biases.) But this story is similar to ones I have found in well-known an respected sources. And it's certainly true that the BBC has fallen a long way from the superb news medium it used to be.
I am not a 'conspiracy theorist'. For example, I certainly believe that Bush used 9/11 as his excuse for the 'war on terrorism'. But  I still find it hard to believe that it was somehow the American government that set up the attack on the world trade center and the pentagon.  Still, the writer of this report has oustanding credentials - and the two cases he writes about could well h ave been conspiracies.
The following site is an interesting one with quite a few commentaries. I know the first commentary is true - the one that says Bill Clinton  deliberately changed a social programme thereby doubling the number of very poor.

The excuse is in the last sentence - that we do not owe people a living. All we owe is equal opportunity. I expect many people in Canada would agree with that. But the reality is there is no equal opportunity. A person born into poverty is born with a tremendous   burden that is never completely shed. It's not just the lack of money. It's the deeply ingrained sense that doing well is not part of their world. Or, as my Scottish mother would have said, "trying to rise above your station."

But the Irvings and the Olands and the others grow up with every opportunity, and with a sense that they have a right to be rich and a right to rule. Two of them could drop out of Acadia university, and still go on to highly paid careers in Irving Ltd. They become members of the boards of universities and art galleries and various corporations not because of any effort on their part - or any ability. It's because of their names. They get huge grants of money and other help from governments - because it's their right.

Then they self-righteously blame the poor for causing recessions and being lazy  and having no ambition. And they run newspapers for the sole purpose of keeping us in ignorance. (And to run ads telling us how they live just for the people of New Brunswick.)

Clinton lavished money on the very rich in the form of grants, tax cuts, and corrupt defence contracts. And he doubled the number of very poor. Obama is cutting  food coupons, so he can give billionaires more money in rigged contracts for "defence".

Bill Clinton also stepped down from the presidency as a very, very wealthy man. And his wife collects super pay-offs, too.
The U.S. believes it has the right to rule the world. It believes that the law does not apply to it. Obama has said that. He has said, " I believe in American Exceptionalism with all my heart."  American Exceptionalism means that the US is the only country in the world that is allowed to ignore the law.

From that base, you get the shambles that the U.S. has become - its profound racial hatreds (of which hatred of Arabs and Muslims is only the most recent product.) Its presidential candidates openly advocate breaking the law - as when Trump and others have said they would return to massive torture, as when they ridicule candidates who are too timid to invoke nuclear war. The leadership campaigns are running largely on fear, racism, hatred, a generalized but accurate feeling that the American system no longer works,  and hysteria. Trump's strength lies not in suggesting remedies. He's doing well because he plays to the hysteria and fears of the American people.

In the gap between rich and poor, the U.S. (and Canada and Britain) are moving in the direction of the Ancient Roman Empire.  You can see pale reflections of this in the TV popularity of the (fake) WWE, and of so-called "Military Arts"  boxing. You can see the breakdown of the society in its hatred and fears - and its record of killings by police - and its massive prison population (the biggest in the world) and one of the most brutal.

No such society can live long. And we're next door. (And we're not as different as some people like to think.)

More generally, this is all a creation of unregulated capitalism. And that means a world wide breakdown because unregulated capitalism is far the dominant economic system in the world. It's leadership, despite Norbert's confidence, is not rooted in the quest for a harmonious world. Nor are they characterized by insight or by religious or moral values of any sort. It's all based on greed, nothing more.

And nothing is more destructive than greed with no moral restraint and, seemingly, no brains.

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