Thursday, January 5, 2017

Jan. 5 blog - a mixed bag.

Today's blog will deal less with news than with my reactions to it - and with some very frank  talk. A good deal of it will be local news - but also a bit on the meaning of a Trump presidency. A selection of items from other news papers will appear at the end.

First, a brief look at what makes the irving press such a stinker.

The editorial page columnist, Norbert Cunningham, doesn't know what the word politics means. It does not mean irrelevant or sleazy. If can, of course be both of those. Just about anything can be irrelevant or sleazy  - including journalism. But that is not what the word means. It refers to the philosophy and methods by which a society is governed. To simply call politics  dirty is just a barroom level of debate.

Cunningham suggests that NDP leader Dominic Cardy is right to have quit as leader of the NDP because it is full of dirty politics. Then he burbles witih delight that Cardy would be welcome in the Conservative party. Apparently, Conservatives don't practice dirty politics.

Get real, Norbert.

Politics refers to, among other things, the principles by which a party governs. The principles of Hitler and Mussolini, for example, were based on support for big business. (Read about it, some day, Norbert.)

The principles of the Conservative and Liberal parties  in Canada have always been based on satisfying the needs and wants of big business, though without the brutality of Hitler and Mussolini - except in  our treatment of native peoples and, at various times - Chinese and Africans. (This is 'justified' by the theory that making big business rich will make us all rich.).

The principles of the NDP were based on dealing directly with the needs of people. That is still there, though it has weakened over the past fifty years. As provincial leader, Dominic Cardy distinguished himself by abandoning all the NDP had ever stood for, and making it it a copy of the Liberals and Conservatives in order to get elected.

But what's the point of getting elected if all you stand for is what already exists?
Like Cunningham, like the Liberals, like the Conservatives, Cardy stands for a system in which we give first consideration to the wealthy. It doesn't work. It hasn't ever worked. If it did, medieval England would have been a paradise for the peasantry, sweatshop factories would be like vacation spas, and the starving people of Congo would be rolling in money.

If Cardy chooses to leave the NDP, that's good news. It should never have chosen him in the first place. But he will reappear. Cardy gives a strong impression of being a man who wants to elected because - he wants to be elected. I've known  a lot of those in politics.

Oh, the "story of the year" for the irving press is that the company that wants to build a pipeline over New Brunswick says it's important to build it. That's the story of all the year? Hold me back. Gee! We were all expecting him to say it wasn't important.

Is it possible that the irving press chose this as the story of the year because the owner of the newspaper wants that pipeline? Nah! The owner would never interfere with the news. He's a hall of famer for his philanthropy and goodness.   Just ask any member of the Chamber of Commerce.

Oh, the front page headline is about a member of one of our wealthy families who was found guilty of beating his father to death.  Wow! That sure beats the story about a mysterious fish die-off in our local waters.

The killing was five years ago.He's still free, and the New Brunswick government is asking the Supreme Court to quash the verdict. The accused also has three lawyers working on his case. That's the nice thing about New Brunswick. Everybody, even the richest, gets equal treatment before the law.
The words below were spoken by Pope Francis on New Year's Day. Too bad Norbert Cunningham seems not to have read them.

Francis said that lthough the world is sadly marked by "hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism," as well as by various forms of terrorism and crime,

Note that he specifically names unregulated financial capitalism, the product of a selfish and individualistic mindset as the cause of inequality between rich and poor. So stuff your philanthropic awards, Chamber of Commerce.

Too bad most of our Protestant churches haven't noticed this.
And here's a tough warning about our future under unregulated capitalism.

But the irving press lives in a world in which capitalism is all that counts. The news is all agurgle today with the news that some expensive housing projects will be going up on Main St., and this will revitalize business along that street.
Notice that the emphasis is all on the benefits for business. However, housing is also for people. So how does this meet the needs of people? The irving press doesn't mention it - and doesn't care.

Government policies focussed on making the rich richer will destroy a society. And that explains the rise of Trump....

Donald Trump has not created a problem in the U.S.  On the contrary, he is the product of the problem. So is Clinton.

From the start, the U.S. has been focussed on the wants of the rich. It's not a coincidence that George Washington was perhaps the wealthiest American of his time.  The war against the British was followed by centuries of war - against Canada, Mexico, native peoples, Latins, then Africans and Asians - and just about everybody.

That's surely odd for the world's most  unattackable country. It's large, well-populated, and has no potential invaders on its borders. It's also protected by two oceans which, with its large population, make it impossible to invade.

Today, nuclear weapons have modified that. But the U.S. position is still the strongest in the world because it has nuclear weapons based on borders of countries it wants to threaten. They have no such bases to attack the U.S.
The U.S. has been particularly busy for the last 70 years invading countries that could not possibly attack the U.S. So why has it attacked them?

(Oh, - the Afghanistan war? There is no evidence Afghanistan had any connection with 9/11.)

In every case, the war has been to benefit American capitalists. North Korea and Vietnam were to open the door to control of the China market. Iraq and Syria were to give American capitalists control of their oil. Such wars, most of which we never hear about, are fought constantly all over the world with special ops, drones, or in support of 'rebels' who are really US paid mercenaries. That's what the pope was talking about.

These wars are immensely expensive, the more so since the manufacturers of it are  immeasurably corrupt and corrupting.

The reality is that the American economic and political systems have collapsed. Donald Trump is not the cause of that. After all, it's been going on since 1776. But it has really gone wild since World War Two. The systems have collapsed.
Neither Trump nor Clinton is the cause of that collapse. They are the products of it. And if Trump were to be assassinated tomorrow or, worse, if his twitter account were to be closed, it would make no difference. The system has collapsed.

Nor is there any sign that Americans have any intention of facing reality. Their minds cluttered with myths of what their history has been, with hints that the U.S. is the chosen of God, with news and film propaganda about the wonderfulness of Americans, there is no room left for original thought.

The American system has collapsed; and it isn't coming back. The country now is a kettle of fears, hatreds, and naked racism and state power that is painfully reminiscent of Hitler's Germany.  (Forget Clinton. She is Trump without the glib twitters.)
To return to the issue of politics and people, here's quick look at what Norbert Cunningham doesn't know about the NDP party in Canada.

Around 1900, Canadian and American capital were as vicious and grasping as they are today. In Toronto, a boy working on an unprotected machine had his arm cut off. He was immediately fired and sent home. And that was it. Most housing in Canada was unspeakable. Working conditions were vile, and pay extremely low. For all but the rich, there were no pensions. There were commonly no holidays. Medical and dental care were impossible for most Canadians.

Forget the crap about how John A. Macdonald built Canada.(He was owned by big business.) Forget about the wisdom of Mackenzie-King (he got his start as a propagandist for the Rockefeller family, clearing up a murderous scandal they had created. His book, Industry and Humanity, was a kiss-up to big business.)
But, in those days, capitalism had not become a sacred word - so there was some examination of other economic forms. This was commonly carried out by clergy and by scholars who were concerned about the damage being done by capitalism. A leading figure in this was a Methodist clergyman named J.S.Woodsworth. And they settled on a blend of capitalism and socialism.

The important element is that they began with an examination of what human needs were - medical care, pensions, safe housing, protection against the ravages of capitalism, especially among the poor. They did not plan to destroy capitalism. They proposed to put it under control so that it served to benefit all. And they called their party the CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation.)

Today's national and provincial pension plans owe a great deal to the CCF. But perhaps its greatest contribution was medicare which, for the first time, made medical service possible for everyone. That was largely the work of Tommy Douglas, a Baptist clergyman and premier of Saskatchewan.

In all cases, its starting point was to meet the needs of the people, rather that just the wants of a very few.

The great weakness of the CCF was that it had to rely on individual contributions. That meant it could never mount a struggle against the Liberals and Conservatives who were, from the start, bought by big business. (The Conservative party began as the party of Montreal big business. The Liberals were the party of Toronto big business.  Now, they both draw on money from any big business.)

In the 1960s, desperate for money, the CCF approached the unions. The unions were agreeable but they rejected much of the core of the CCF - the regulation of big business. In effect, they gutted it. Without money, the CCF had no choice. It accepted those terms, and became the NDP.

Thus the appearance of the Dominic Cardys of this world who can leap from the "people first" NDP to the "rip off the people" Conservatives without even thinking about it  (And note that this man, of no accomplishment whatever, is hailed in the irving press as one of the great leaders of our time.)

Now, the U.S. is rushing to destroy Obamacare. The country which can afford to let billionaires escape taxation can't afford to keep its people alive. And we're going to see all of this in Canada as the very greediest people in our society move in on health care, education and other essential fields.

And this is what the Pope was talking about in his New Year's day message. Too bad we seem to have run out of Methodists and Baptists who once had a similar message.
Here's something on capitalism that is more intelligent that anything ever likely to appear in the irving press.
We are on the edge. We might be over it.
We are doing little about climate change because capitalists don't want us to do anything. The same issue, and a dangerous one, applies to mineral wealth.
The U.S. has been closed out of the Syria peace negotiations. Gee. The news hounds at irving press seem not to have noticed. This is one hell of a defeat for the U.S. - if good news for the rest of the world. The bad part is that this could signal a very foolish reaction by the U.S.
Americans would be very foolish to believe Trump's promises about jobs.
Did Putin interfere in the U.S. election? So far, the evidence seems weak but, in any case....
Canada does not have a history  (as this article suggests) of welcome to immigrants - or even to native Canadians who aren't white or aren't Christian. But it was becoming so even when I was a child. Many of my schoolmates were Syrians, Italians, Jews.... And it is still improving.
Despite Obama's 'nice guy' image, he was a weak president for whom  Obamacare, (though in horribly butchered form), was a rare accomplishment.
Here's another of the results of wars to serve capitalism.
Another reminder of the blessings of capitalism's wars.
aljazeera has greatly expanded the range of its operations and, so it seems, while maintaining its high quality.
a footnote - I came across a TV programme (American) called Democracy Now!.  It's a news show that seems like a very intelligent one - with a very limited budget. It also has a web site of the same name.

The problem is it doesn't have much money - so it  has to broadcast in the style of a radio show - that is, with a show host putting questions and a guest answering at length. And that doesn't work.

Radio holds attention because the listener has to listen carefully. You have to close your mind to the rest of the world, invent the faces and personalities of the speakers, and listen closely. My experience of radio was that listeners, on meeting me, often thought they had known me for a long time - and even that I had been in their houses and knew them. TV is different.

Long interviews on TV are boring. That's because the TV isn't just putting out sounds. It's putting out pictures. And those pictures require changes of light,  of angle, of movement  in order to remain interesting. And in the process of that, the meaning of the words is ignored. In fact, a series of long answers on TV - with shot of face of questioner, shot of face of interviewee - is profoundly boring.
One day, walking home from doing a TV broadcast, I met a neighbour.
"Graeme. I just saw  you on TV."

I poised myself to look humble and modest.

"Where did you get that awful necktie?"

Democracy Now! seems to be a superbly intelligent programme. But it should be on radio.

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