Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May 7:whales and us....

Let's start with the column by student editor Jana Giles. She complains our schools have dropped their advanced courses in order to make the schools more inclusive - a  buzzword that means all students learn the same things. Now, I'm not familiar with our education programmes today. But, if she's right, dropping advanced programmes is a very bad idea.

From grade nine on, I was in the advanced stream, the so-called A classes. All of the classes were streamed in that way. And classes lower on the scale were smaller so that teachers could give more attention to students who needed it.
In education, one size does not fit all. Now, I blew it all because I frequently skipped school. I failed grade ten, repeated it, and was failing grade 11 when I was kicked out to find a job in a mail room at Bell Telephone.  But those school years were not wasted; they opened a whole world to me - one that would eventually get me out of the mail room.

As a kid, I read nothing but cowboy novels. And in my district, that was pretty intellectual stuff. In the A stream, my eyes were opened up to George Bernard Shaw, Sean O'Casey, Oscar Wilde - to debate, to public speaking, to poetry. To put every child through the same programme is as absurd as insisting all must play on the school hockey, football and basketball teams - and take welding.
A standard prograemme today would leave me still reading cowboy novels. Meanwhile, the kids I had grown up with were still illiterate or semi-literate. There was no possibility they would have been interested in or learned anything from George Bernard Shaw. What they needed was teaching in basic skills with lots of attention from good teachers. The same size does no fit all.
This is an interesting column.
Then there's the sensationalism of the front page. A mother cried when a witness testified about the murder of her son. Of course, she did. But this tells us nothing about the case. It simply exploits a woman's anguish. Then we are told that deputy sherriffs watched the people in the court. Does this tell anybody anything useful? This is a story that has nothing to say - so it feeds on sensationalism.
The director of the Multicultual Association of Greater Moncton has been fired. Why? Nobody says and, seemingly, nobody asked. So what's the point of the story?

There's half a page on how the speaker at Mount A's graduation urged students to follow lifelong learning. How original!

It's the usual section A news.
The editorial is a dreadfully disorganized reference to an education report from the holy book of AIMS. It mixes this up with a reference to Frank McKenna as a great thinker on education issues - though the meaning and justification of that is, to say the least, vague.

It ends with a suggestion I can agree with - that students need more training in such things as thinking BEFORE they turn to their computers. However, my long experience in education is that parents, business leaders, and editorialists would raise hell over any prograemme that taught students how to think. To them, 'thinking' means thinking the way they do - which usually means not thinking at all.

Norbert has fallen back into the pit of ranting. He begins with a wild attack on patriotism and nationalism. (Norbert, please don't use the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The Oxford is better.)

Now, I can agree with most of this attack on patriotism and nationalism. But Norbert himself doesn't agree with it. (If he does, I look forward to his next column on November 11.)

And Canadian cinema is notoriously awful? Obviously, Norbert  has never heard of the many prizes it has won.  In fact, there are few countries the size of Canada who come even close to the quality of our productions. As well, Norbert should know that much of our cinema is not intended for the theatre audience. It's largely intended for Canadians who want to know more about Canada - but cannot get it from Hollywood (obviously) or from private TV. Obviously, Norbert has never heard of 'Neighbours', 'Canada at War', 'Show Girls', 'Notman's Montreal'....

In the same way, CBC runs programmes about Canada - not out of 'rabid nationalism' - save that kind of babbling for coverage of the Grey Cup. The CBC runs programmes about Canada (and the world) because private radio and TV - and the Irving press tell us so little about ourselves.

As for the arts world being rabidly nationalist - bullshit. I doubt whether Norbert even knows anybody in the arts world. Because of the lack of work in Canada, most of the top arts people I have known - or have known of - are so unnationalist they have moved to the U.S. or Britain. The exceptions are top painters - though I have never known a painter who was a rabid Canadian nationalist, either. They stay here because there's a world market for Canadian paintings.

And premier Gallant is being a rabid nationalist when he tries to convince investors to come to New Brunswick?  Do you think we elected him to advise investors to go to Venezuela?

Far from being rabid nationalists, most Canadians know very little about Canada.

Norbert, I really think you should take it easy on the cough syrup.

The Commentary page is pretty solid. And I'll add a footnote for Louise Gilbert's column. Ms. Gilbert has many times advised walking as a good exercise. I have recently discovered how right she is. On a visit to Montreal, I had to walk a good deal, and was dismayed to learn how hard it had become. On my return, I discovered a wonderful trail here in Moncton  You cross Main St. and the railway tracks at  Milner - and you're on a quite wonderful trail that runs over highland and through marsh.  An hour passed in no time. And the effects of that simple exercise were immediate.
In the the the greater world of the Canada &World sections, one of the great issues this country and the world still faces in the right to import Quebec beer into New Brunswick without paying a tax.

B3 has a bizarre list of policies to be discussed at a federal Conservative convention.  One deals with a  basic issue we must face. Should the law replace the term 'greenhouse gas emissions' with the word 'smog'? It will also debate whether it should formally state that there is no equivalent profession to that of service in the Canadian Armed Forces.  (No. I have no idea what that means in any practical sense.)

Another gem dealing with a fundamental issue of Canadian life is that the right of Canadians to own firearms is a "canadian heritage". Damn right. It's also a Canadian heritage to steal native lands and to starve native peoples to death. Another part of our heritage is keeping slaves, marginalizing blacks, using Chinese for building dangerous parts of the CPR, denying Jews entry to Canada before, during and after World War Two.... Hey! Bring back the good, old days.
Anyone who reads this story and stays a Conservative is beneath contempt.
There's a story about civic unrest in Afghanistan. What it doesn't tell us is that the U.S. has fought a trillion dollar war with Afghanistan in order to install a fake democracy that is stunningly corrupt and incompetent. It also has played a major role in encouraging the industry in which Afghanistan now leads the world - the export of opium.

There is no story on what the U.S. and the Saudis are doing in Yemen, nothing on American provocations against Russia in the Baltic and along the Russian border, nothing on the severe riots in Venezuela, still nothing of signficance on what is really a coup in Brazil, nothing on the British opening up a new war in Libya....
The Irving press has also not noticed that the Alberta wildfire is spreading onto the oilsands. Won't that be fun? This is what climate change means. Any thoughts from our governments - from federal down to city councils - on what this means?

And here's real news commentary from that terrible CBC. It's about a very dangerous situation of which the Irving press has said nothing.

And here's Venezuela which wasn't important enough for the Irving press - though it did have room for that big story on importing Quebec beer to New Brunswick.

I remember, so many years ago, watching president Eisenhower as he warned the U.S. about the military/industrial complex in that country. It caused chatter - but no other reaction. But Eisenhower was right. The American economy as well as its foreign policy are now run by the U.S. military and the defence industries. War is good - for them.

Now, here's an interesting story. And it's a real test of what people are prepared to believe.

And here's a story that wasn't important enough to make the Irving press. It needed the space for a big story about Iran cracking down on models who don't wear headscarves.


This is a paper with no sense whatever of what is important in the news.
This one is really an old story - but I've never seen it make the news. For many years,navies have routinely killed sea creatures, especially whales, in training for torpedoes, drones, dive bombers, and other forms of naval warfare. The targets are sometimes wounded, but more typically, they are killed in millions. The Canadian navy, too, has commonly used whales as target practice for guns, bombs, torpedoes and depth charges.


A good book on this is Farley Mowat, "A Whale for the killing". He tells of the citizens of St. Pierre (of St. Pierre and Miquelon) who, one day, saw 23 whales in their harbour. They turned out for two days of frenzied killing with guns, spears, knives and rocks to kill them all in two, wildly hilarious days of killing and a night of drunken partying. It was fun.

There was no market for the whales. So the bodies were just towed out to sea.
Whalers from Canada and all over the world slaughtered whales almost to extinction - and still do. There are few rules; and the whalers ignore even the few. By the 1930s, 80,000 great whales were killed every year. The population of whales of all sorts dropped from tens of millions to the low thousands. And it still goes on.

Some days ago, I wrote that big business does not think of the long term, only of what can be taken now. In fairness, almost all of us are like that. It's very human to think only of what we want - and only of what we want right now. The special danger posed by big business is that it has power as well as greed to drive it. That's why so many tens of millions died in the slave trade from Africa. That's why Congo and South America have been so destroyed by mining, and their people reduced to less than poverty, and their environment so poisoned. That's why we keep burning fossil fuels, though even the dullest must know by now that this will kill us.

This sort of murderous stupidity and greed is, I'm afraid, part of being human.  There is a limit to how much we can change our human failings. However, we can limit, even reverse, the damage done  by those relatively few people who have the power to destroy everything. The massive destruction we are watching is  happening because of the power of the very wealthy.

We can break that power.

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