Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 30: The worst, the very worst, ever.

Thursday is the day for piles of advertising flyers in the paper. I don't understand why - because few people ever read them. Most of them just get tossed out without ever being opened. Anyway, that means there's less paper for news. And the news that there is reminds of  those ditzy mags that have  headlines like 'Kate's Style Secrets'.

The front page headline, get this, is about something that hasn't happened yet. (So, actually, there's nothing to report.) The 'story is that council is going to vote on setting up a proposed car booting committee.

Moving along quickly, a woman in Richibucto found a dead cat hanging in a tree.

Then there's the ad for the Irving Chapel - with special music. (Perhaps a naked band of grade school dropouts will play hymns by squishing their hands in their armpits.) Then there's "Fellowship and coffee in The Barn", a wonderful opportunity to meet the kind of people who would go to coffee and fellowship in the irving barn.

A boutique hotel is to be built in Moncton. What is a boutique hotel? It's an expensive one. It's also referred to as a 'lifestyle' hotel. I think that, too, is meant to say it's expensive. But think about it. Lifestyle means the way you live So that means a flophouse is a lifestyle hotel. And so , I suppose, is a prison. 'Boutique' and 'lifestyle' as used here is advertising doubletalk.

Notice there's no reporter's name on the story?  It's a safe guess that this 'story' is a free ad written up by the hotel company's advertising flaks.

Almost half the story is about how it's going to brew its own beer. Wow! Talk about resurgo!

Then there's a big story about how a local tattoo artist has quit, leaving a woman with an unfinished tattoo on her leg. And there's even a photo of her leg so we can see what an unfinished tattoo  on a leg looks like.

Obviously, the irving press has decided we're all morons.
Norbert's column is quite decent. Not outstanding, but decent. And that makes it the class act on opinion and commentary pages that reek of ignorance and even hysteria.

The editorial says our premier should set up a coalition of our business, political and academic leaders to meet with their counterparts in Britain to talk them into rejoining the EU. What a twit!

British business, political and academic leaders were not the ones who voted to quit the EU. (And why our business, political and academic leaders would be qualified to offer any advice to anybody is not clear to me.) It was the working class who voted for Brexit. Interesting how nobody in the irving press has even thought of them or why they did it.

The guest column, by an academic,  is also about Brexit. In summary, it says A-A-A-Ah, run and hide. It shows no sense whatever of why 52% of British votes voted to leave. Nor does it show any sense of why other EU countries feel the same way. But it does include a mandatory quotation from Churchill that has nothing to do with the topic.

Rod Allen chooses the same topic, and writes his usual column of uninformed, adolescent 'wit'.

Alec Bruce begins very well in pointing out that a Donald Trump is not a creator of chaos. He is the product of the chaos that we live in. But then, he makes the leap to Brexit being a part of the chaos.

That's nonsense.

Trump surfaced long before Brexit. The chaos we live in, and which goes back to before Trump was born, has been caused by a U.S. capitalism which feeds itself on eterntal wars, mass murder, destroyed nations...It has been creating that chaos since earliest European settlement in the Americas, since its invasion of Canada, its war to steal Texas and California from Mexico, its invasions and dictatorships all over Latin America, and its intrusions into Asia beginning with The Phillipines (where it developed its favourite form of torture, waterboarding.)
American capitalism, following the lead of British and French capitalism has been constantly at war to satisfy its greed. It created chaos and horrible suffering throughout the middle east with its illegal and unjustified wars against Iraq and Syria. There's chaos and suffering throughout a South America which has been vandalized since 1492, with the U.S. taking over the vandal role about 150 years ago. The EU, itself, is essentially a creation of American and (remnants of) European capitalism to wage economic war, and maybe a nuclear one, on Russia.

 The EU is the product and creator of chaos.

Where do we, who read stinkingly ignorant papers like the irving press and who have had almost no information about Brexit, get they idea that we know better than 52% of the British nation?

You want chaos? We are chaos. We, who are afraid to express or discuss opinons in public, and we are among the most illiterate in the developed world, who alternately vote for two parties that are the same...

Then he tells us that Britain and the U.S. have been beacons of tolerance and good sense. (It must be a condition of newspaper writing that one has to be ignorant of history - and even of the present.) Britain, the U.S., and Canada have been up to their noses in racism, slavery, hatreds, and discrimination throughout history. We have all, until very recently, despised Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Japanese Canadians, Africans,Irish-Catholics, Chinese, people from India and Pakistan and, of course, native peoples. We have submitted all of these to poverty, imprisonment, social sneering.

The British have a history of tolerance? I guess  you didn't read yesterday's blog with the poem by Rudyard Kipling. i guess you never heard of the British Empire that that slaughtered millions over one-fifth of the globe's surface, enslaved its inhabitants, looted their lands. It also kept most of the British people in poverty and hunger.

And the U.S. is tolerant? Is this the same U.S. that refuses to help the millions of refugees it has created? The U.S. where half the population thinks it's a great idea to build a wall on the Mexican border, and thinks all Mexican men are rapists? The country where, until the 1930s, African Americans were routinely hanged for the fun of it, and when most African Americans still live in poverty and suffer severe discrimination.

So, says Mr. Bruce, we have to watch out for inflammatory rhetoric. Damn right. That's why I found it hard to finish reading  his column.

The most striking thing about today's columns is that not one of them says a single word about why the British voted against the EU. In fact, in the whole history of this affair, the irving press has given us almost no information - and nothing, not a word, about why 52% of Britain, especially the working class, voted as it did.

There is, as Alec Bruce says, a rising tide of stupidity. And, today, he has made that tide even higher.

Perhaps the paper could save money simply by having Mr. Irving write all the columns in the first place.
Section B, Canada&World, isn't quite as good as Section A. There's a whole story, a long one on a speech Obama gave to parliament - in which he said nothing.  He warned against protectionsm in trade. This could have been the subject of a commentary in the irving press but, of course, nobody at the press knows enough about the subject to write anything.

Both Canada and the U.S. were built on protectionism. The U.S. actually fought the civil war in order to introduce protectionism, and prevent free trade. We were both protectionist until recent history.

Obama also saw trade agreements as creating prosperity. The reality is that prosperity has been on the skids in both the U.S. and Canada - because of trade agreements. They're designed to make the rich richer by , for example, moving jobs to cheap labour countries. And,  in both Canada and the U.S., we've seen rising poverty and homelessness as a result.

(I am not against free trade. I am against free trade deals that move a nation's money away from most of the people and into the pockets of a very few.)
Nor do these deals usually help the underdeveloped countries, either. If they did, Haiti and Guatemala would be rolling in money.

And, he said Canada must spend more on NATO. Why?

Well, he doesn't say. So let's guess. it can't be because of the war NATO was intended for - the defence of Europe and North America from attack. Any such attack would go nuclear within minutes. There is no defence.

 So why spend more on NATO?

1. Spending more on NATO means lush contracts for hugely expensive weaponry like fighter aircraft - all available from your favourite, U.S. defence contractor.
2. The U.S. wants NATO  to go beyond its original role, and to fight wars of benefit to American billionaires. Syria springs to mind. This is a repeat of just over a century ago when Britain called in its colonies (like Canada) to help fight a war in South Africa so that British billionaires could steal the gold fields.
There's little in Section B, and nothing you wouldn't have learned yesterday by checking CBC News on your computer.

But there is one, small story I would recommend. It's not news. But it's something that should not be forgotten, The Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel in 1916
The Guardian, though a little flabby today, has the best column I have seen (perhaps the only intelligent one I have seen) on Brexit. It's one of  the very few I have seen that (unlike the irving press) explains why the British voted to leave. And it makes an attempt to find a real solution - not just to go back to square one.)
Gee. Funny how the eagle eyes at the irving press missed this one.
And here's a piece of news about Alec Bruce's land of tolerance and good sense.
And here's one you'll never see in the irving press. But it's a good sample of the anger and intolerance that is so prominent in Israeli politics.
The following story can't be true because we know that God blesses America, and George Bush is a devout Christian.
What causes terror is 'war against terror'. What we called wars against terror are what caused the emergence of terrorist groups. In fact, one of the earliest Islamic. terrorist groups was financed, trained and armed by the U.S.  This was way back in the early 1980s when the CIA sponsored what is now called the taliban to fight back against a Russian invasion of Afghanistan.  Since then, Western 'wars against terror' have killed or maimed millions and have created tens of millions of refugees. And in all these years of killing and destruction of whole nations, we have made not a dent on terrorism. This item explains it well.
Paul Craig Roberts is one of the best news analysts in the business. Here's what he says about recent events.
And here's a comment I must have missed in The Guardian. But a reader sent it to me. This is way above the hopelessly mindless drivel, ignorance and propaganda that has appeared today in the irving press.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 29th June 2016

Let’s sack the electorate and appoint a new one: this is the demand made by MPs, lawyers and the four million people who have signed the petition calling for a second referendum. It’s a cry of pain, and therefore understandable, but it’s also bad politics and bad democracy. Reduced to its essence, it amounts to graduates telling non-graduates “we reject your democratic choice”.

Were this vote to be annulled (it won’t be), the result would be a full-scale class and culture war, riots and perhaps worse, pitching middle class progressives against those on whose behalf they’ve claimed to speak, permanently alienating people who have spent their lives feeling voiceless and powerless.

Yes, the Brexit vote has empowered the most gruesome collection of schemers, misfits, liars, extremists and puppets British politics has produced in the modern era. It threatens to invoke a new age of demagoguery, a threat sharpened by the thought that if this can happen, so can Donald Trump. It has provoked a resurgence of racism and an economic crisis whose dimensions remain unknown. It jeopardises the living world, the NHS, peace in Ireland and the rest of the European Union. It promotes what the billionaire Peter Hargreaves gleefully anticipated as “fantastic insecurity”.

But we’re stuck with it. There isn’t another option, unless you favour the years of limbo and chaos that would ensue from a continued failure to trigger Article 50. It’s not just that we have no choice but to accept the result. We should embrace it and make of it what we can.

It’s not as if the system that’s now crashing around us was functioning. The vote could be seen as a self-inflicted wound, or it could be seen as the eruption of an internal wound, inflicted over many years by an economic oligarchy on the poor and the forgotten. The bogus theories on which our politics and economics are founded were going to collide with reality one day; the only questions were how and when.

Yes, the Brexit campaign was led by a political elite, funded by an economic elite and fueled by a media elite. Yes, popular anger was channelled towards undeserving targets – immigrants. But the vote was also a howl of rage against exclusion, alienation and remote authority. That is why the slogan “take back control” resonated. If the left can’t work with this, what are we for?

So here is where we find ourselves. The economic system is not working, except for the likes of Philip Green. Neoliberalism has not delivered the meritocratic nirvana its theorists promised, but a rentiers’ paradise, offering staggering returns to whoever grabs the castle first while leaving productive workers on the wrong side of the moat. The age of enterprise has become the age of unearned income; the age of the market, the age of market failure; the age of opportunity, a steel cage of zero-hour contracts, precarity and surveillance.

The political system is not working. Whomever you vote for, the same people win, because where power claims to be is not where power is. Parliaments and councils embody paralysed force, gesture without motion, as the real decisions are taken elsewhere: by the money, for the money. Governments have actively conspired in this shift, negotiating fake trade treaties behind their voters’ backs to prevent democracy from controlling corporate capital. Unreformed political funding ensures that parties have to listen to the rustle of notes before the bustle of votes. In Britain, these problems are compounded by an electoral system that ensures most votes don’t count. This is why a referendum is almost the only means by which people can be heard, and why attempting to override it is a terrible idea.

Culture is not working. A worldview which insists that both people and place are fungible is inherently hostile to the need for belonging. For years we have been told that we do not belong, that we should shift out without complaint while others are shifted in to take our place. When the peculiarities of community and place are swept away by the tides of capital, all that’s left is a globalised shopping culture, in which we engage with glazed passivity. Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chainstores.

In all these crises is opportunity. Opportunities to reject, connect and erect: to build from these ruins a system that works for the people of this country, rather than for an offshored elite that preys on insecurity. If it is true that Britain will have to renegotiate its trade treaties, is this not the best chance we’ve had in decades to contain corporate power? Of insisting that companies which operate here must offer proper contracts, share their profits, cut their emissions and pay their taxes? Is it not a chance to regain control of the public services slipping from our grasp?

How will politics in this sclerotised nation change without a maelstrom? In this chaos we can, if we are quick and clever, find a chance to strike a new contract: proportional representation, real devolution and a radical reform of campaign finance to ensure that millionaires can never again own our politics.

Remote authority has been rejected, so let’s use this moment to root our politics in a common celebration of place, to fight the epidemic of loneliness and rekindle common purpose, transcending the tensions between recent and less-recent immigrants (which means everyone else). In doing so, we might find a language in which liberal graduates can talk with the alienated people of Britain, rather than at them.

But most importantly, let’s address the task that the left and centre have catastrophically neglected: developing a political and economic philosophy fit for the 21st Century, rather than repeatedly microwaving the leftovers of the 20th (neoliberalism and Keynesianism). If the history of the last 80 years tells us anything, it’s that little changes without a new and feracious framework of thought. And when it arrives, everything changes. Much of my work over the next few months will be to assess what’s on offer and try to identify and promote the best ideas.

So yes, despair and rage and curse: there are reasons enough to do so. But then raise your eyes to where hope lies.
There's more. Much more But the sun in sinking, and so am I.

The world is, indeed,  in chaos. And we have played a role in putting it there.  Why are we so blind to the chaos? Why cannot we see that we are within inches of nuclear war?

In the early 1960s, I was teaching high school. I remember the day I got there to see students huddled in small and very frightened groups. There was a terror that had gripped all of us.  The Soviet Union had ships carrying nuclear missiles to be placed in Cuba, just off the Florida coast. President Kennedy announced that, unless they turned back, those ships would be attacked. The whole world was gripped in fear.

We all knew that such an attack could well mean nuclear war. The end.
Happily, the ships  turned back.

Today, the situation is even worse. The U.S. has not threatened to put nuclear missiles on the Russian border. No. It has simply gone ahead and built the sites. Any miscalculation now could trigger a nuclear war - any false or misunderstood message, any human blunder....

Two days ago, U.S. jet fighters in Syria were ordered to intercept a flight of Russian bombers who were bombing rebel positions in Syria. (The U.S. - illegally and without UN consent - supports the rebels. The U.S. airforce also has no right to be flying over Syria.) They ordered the Russians to leave.

What if a Russian pilot had ignored that? What if an American pilot, perhaps too tense, had made a hostile move? Then we would quite likely have had a nuclear war - and it would be over by now. (Luckily, the Russians broke off - then came back later to bomb the rebels.)

But this isn't the early 60s. This is 2016 when our news media don't even tell us about these incidents. This is 2016 when we've been trained to live in a stupor, and to believe that mass murder is just a normal part of life.

The U.S. is willing to risk nuclear war with Russia. It's not because Russians are communists. That ended a long time ago. It's not because Russians are a threat to world peace. Check the record for the last fifty years. The most warlike nation hasn't been Russia. It's been the U.S.

So what's the reasoning behind risking such a war? It's purely economic, to put Russia and then China under the control of the the blessing of our business leaders. And of the news media all over the world that they 'leaders' who control us. And that's also what the EU and the wars in  the middle east are all about.

It's dangerous. It's immoral. It's pure greed. And it is extremely foolish - for all of us. But it has the support of our business leaders and of the news media they own all over the world.

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