Saturday, March 19, 2016

March 19: Making America great again.

Yesterday, I mentioned that we seldom learn the truth of the history of Canada  (or any other country). Then, I happened to find the item below on our first prime minister, John A. Macdonald. I don't entirely (but do mostly) agree with it. In fact, he was a good deal worse than this article suggests. That's why he and his maritime partner, Sir Charles Tupper, died wealthy men. (No, they didn't do it by brown-bagging it for lunch ever day).

http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/jesse/2015/01/10-crimes-john-macdonald#at_pco=smlrebv-1.0&at_si=56ed73cec5ca5a01&at_ab=per-4&at_pos=1&at_tot=5

Tupper, by the way, was popularly known as "The Cumberland ram". Guess why.
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Using the above story to open the blog suggests there isn't a whole lot to talk about in the Irving press. The only real news item in Section A is that New Brunswick schools are running into severe problems because they are forced to accept students who, for mental or social reasons, are disruptive and even dangerous in the classroom.

Alas! There was no comment on this from our resident education expert, Norbert Cunningham.

Such students cannot be handled in a large class no matter how skilled the teacher might be. It is not possible to give adequate attention to even one of them, let alone four or five, in a class of 25. (I vivdly recall being a student in a class so filled with disruptive students - of whom I was one - that we made teaching virtually impossible for all but the most powerful and violent teachers.)
Norbert has said we need fewer teachers. And that's just ignorance. Disruptive students cannot be taught in large classes without ruining the class for everyone else. A school is not like a factory assembly line stamping out graduates like cookies. They require different approaches for some students - and that means we need MORE teachers, not fewer.

The editorial is a gushing ad for the Greater Moncton Home Show.
Norbert has nothing to say about Heritage Buildings. But he says it, anyway.
Still on the Heritage theme, there are two columns about a purpose for the old Moncton High School.  Both, with some reason, criticize the bungling that has characterized this issue.

Alec Bruce's column on the collapse of Elephant Rock is well written. But it has nothing to say.
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Canada&World, again,  appears to be made up of stories picked at random by an editor wearing a bliindfold. There are some hugely important stories out there. Europe may well be facing an economic collapse, or a social one, or a rise of Naziism. Or all three. But not a word about this in the Irving press. A new war in Libya has already begun. Labour organizers in South America are routinely murdered, presumably by the order of corporate bosses. Children in South America and the middle east and Africa are growing up without education, without food, in great environmental damage, children whose only hope in life can be an early death. Child refugees, in their millions, are living the same, hopeless experience.

But there is nothing in Canada or World news to tell us this, and no commentaries to help us develop a perspective on this.
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The Faith Page is - strange.   It has dropped all church notices. Why? Do they really need to save the space for a hearing aid company ad? And almost every sermonette is by a fundamentalist evangelical whose only concern is for salvation.

Now, I have no idea whether there is a heaven or hell. Nor is that an issue that much concerns me.

But the New Testament is about much more that heaven or hell. And even more than about a heaven where we all spend eternity clapping hands for Jesus. There's a lot about Christian behaviour in there. There's a lot about everyday life, and how we should behave. Couldn't we, for example, have a sermonette on why capitalism is  (or is not) a Christian economic system? Shouldn't we have a discussion of why our faith does (or does not) support our sending aircraft to bomb the middle east? or, perhaps, a chat about whether a wealthy Christian should have a tax haven to avoid taxes.

And why don't we have sermonettes by representatives of the United Church, the Anglicans, Catholics,  Presbyterians...?   We also have numbers of Jews and Muslims among us.  Are we too sophisticated to need any introduction to their religions?

Religion is not just about eternal life. Some religions are not about eternal life at all. But ALL religions are about how we live on this earth.

And, you know, there's something wrong with people who are obsessed with making sure they get into heaven. The message of Jesus, if I have read it correctly, was that we should be thinking of others, not just of ourselves. People who are concerned only with getting themselves into heaven are not religious. They're just self-righteous. And I often think they preach salvation to others only to get brownie points for getting themselves into heaven.
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I really don't know what to think about this next story. It sounds possible. And Europe could well be on the block for major realignments. There's also the amusing but quite possible suggestion that Putin is courting the European far right. After all, Russia is a capitalist state, just like the U.S.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/18/putin-long-game-omens-europe-russia
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This next one suggests that we should NOT be staking our future on resource development. On the contrary, it might be far more profitable to concentrate to develop  things like renewable resources. (Of course, it would not benefit the owners of the oil industry.)

https://www.thefinancialist.com/spark/one-chart-why-are-jobs-growing-when-gdp-is-shrinking/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Newsletter&utm_content=Newsletter
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Can we reduce fossil fuel emissions to zero by 2050? Here's a man who says we can. And he's not a tree-hugger. He is a man who has run major utility corporations. Of course,  he's opposed by fossil fuel and nuclear bosses - and the latter are the people who buy American governments - and Canadian ones.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ralph-nader/building-a-renewable-ener_b_8870814.html
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And here's a stunning story that the eagle-eyed editors at Irving press missed. All government departments in the U.S. are, by law, required to be audited for their spending each year. The Department of Defence, which accounts for over half of all government spending has, for years, refused to permit an audit.  In fact, it keeps no financial records to be audited .

This is the U.S. Department of Defence, the biggest spending defence department in world history. This is the U.S. which cannot afford food stamps for a million of its hungry, and cannot offer full medicare to its people.

This is a must-read.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ralph-nader/uncontrollablepentagon-an_b_9499050.html?utm_source=Alert-blogger&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Email%2BNotifications

The U.S. political and economic system has sunk so far into corruption that I'm  not sure there's any hope for it. I wonder how far we in Canada will sink. We may find out as we re-enter the search for a new jet fighter.
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Here's a vido interview on whether capitalism is encouraging climate change. It is, of course....but one should not leap to the conclusion that having a different economic system would change that. However, of course, it's true that capitalism is driving climate change, and capitalists are spending big money to make sure we do nothing about it. Capitalism needs to encourage climate change for the sake of some of its biggest profiteers. It makes its money out of the fossil fuels that have created climate change. That's why you'll never see a vigorous campaign about climate change in the Irving press. What you will see, though, is support for more oil pipelines and for fracking.

A large part of the problem is ----us. The major capitalists have become national dictators all over the world. And they have become dictators because we allow it. In the case of New Brunswick, the people of this province will never control their own lives until they take that control away from a small number of the very wealthy who own both the Liberals and the Conservatives. You need an NDP that's far more combative than the present one is. You need a Green Party that recognizes that environment, while important, cannot be the only issue for any party. Above all, New Brunswickers have to learn to speak openly about these issues.

It's no use shrugging shoulders and saying, "Don't matter none to me..." It does matter to you - and everyone. You have to face these people down. But I have seen little sign that the people of New Brunswick have the courage to do that.
http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/upfront/2016/03/capitalism-driving-climate-change-160318152551036.html
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I found this next  article interesting because Hillary Clinton is fully as dangerous as Trump, and perhaps even more murderous. And almost certainly much more corrupt. Bernie Sanders, the only intelligent and honest person running for either party, will be blocked out by the party brass.

That leaves Canada as the neighbour of a thoroughly corrupt and murderous government owned by billionaires without conscience. And nice visits by Trudeau will not change that. We will be under enormous pressure join it in its drive for world conquest. We are also going to find our north getting a lot of attention from American billionaires - and Russian and Chinese ones. None of those give a damn about Canada's claims - or even about the existence of Canada.

There is nothing in it for us to be friends with Russia, China, or the U.S. We have some tough decisions facing us. We can't go on with our foreign policy of dancing in the dark.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44457.htm
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The following article gives us more cause to be worried about the next president of the U.S. - whoever it might be. (I exclude Sanders from my thinking because I doubt very much that he will be allowed to become leader of the Democrats.)

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/barack-obama-saudi-arabia-us-foreign-policy-syria-jihadism-isis-a6927646.html
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I note all the signs, especially among Trump supporters, about making America great again. Great. What does that mean?

Does it mean America bringing democracy to the whole world? Not likely. The U.S. has more commonly destroyed democracies than made them. And it has now destroyed its own democracy.

Does it mean bringing prosperity to the world?  The U.S. track record would not suggest that. In fact, it has created mass poverty all over South American, in the middle east, in parts of Africa and Asia and, as I write this, is increasing poverty in the U.S. Nor have the leadership debates suggested that this is a priority for anybody but Sanders.

No, to understand what the candidates mean by great, you have to go back to the humiliation of the Vietnam war. For most Americans, the tragedy of Vietnam was not the millions of innocent people they killed and crippled and orphaned. The tragedy was TV news of people lined up to reach the helicopters on the roof of the embassy to get away, of aircraft carrier crews in panic who were pushing empty helicopters overboard to make room for more, and the video of a North Korean tank crashing through the gate of the embassy.

America ended World War Two on the edge of world conquest. It began its big moves into control of the middle east and Africa....then it was stopped dead by Vietnam and by the defiance of the great prize, China. And it was dealt the first loss of a piece of its empire, Cuba.

America was great no longer.

Then came Ronald Reagan, the president who would restore greatness. (His absurd idea of the nature of  America's greatness can be found in a collection of speeches that create a myth of the wonderful things the U.S. had done for the world.)

https://secure3.convio.net/reagan/site/SPageServer/?pagename=Speech_Page_Redesign&gclid=CKup9ra_zcsCFQMQaQodUQYHWw

It was all myth, of course. The U.S. had not brought liberty to the world, none of that stuff. What it had done was to murder millions to make its billionaires richer. What established Reagan as the man who made America great again was a small, tourist island with an army, mostly part-time, of 1500 plus some 700 Cubans. It had no navy and no airforce to speak of. And no heavy weapons.
The whole population was 91,000.

But it was building a new airport with a runway that, it was said, could be used by Russian bombers. (Watch out. So does Moncton.)

Against that the US sent 19 warships including an aircraft carrier, and  7.000 troops heavily equipped with weaponry of all sorts. And by the courage and stubborness that Americans are noted for, those 7,000 troops (with heavy air cover) were actually able to defeat a largely amateur army of over 2,000.  You can see all about the heroism in a film called Heartbreak Ridge with Clint Eastwood who, alas, could not take part in the real war because of clashes with his schedule.

And a jubilant President Reagan rushed to announce on TV, "America stands tall again".

And so American greatness was restored.

To many people, probably most, American greatness means military conquest, power, world conquest as in American Exceptionalism. Thus the dissatisfaction with the slowness of evens in the middle east and Afghanistan.

I suspect the coming election will bring matters to a head. And, as a result, Donald Trump will be right. There will be serious social disorder. He's wrong only in thinking that it wouldn't happen if he won the presidency.

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