Wednesday, August 19, 2015

August 19: Much ado about nothing.

The front page headline for today is that "Gallant and Harper spar over health funding". Is that a key issue in this election? Does it really make sense to fight a multi-billion dollar election over that?

As a child, I called myself a Liberal because the word sounded nice. You know - generous, young, free spirited.   Conservative sounded like being old. I really didn't have a clue what either of those parties was really about. And I wasn't the only one. My experience has been that most people vote for reasons like that - or because they've always voted for the same party.

Nor do our news media help us since most of their news is just pointless arguments about relatively trivial issues - as in those Conservative handouts we get so often with photos of a smirking Goguen on them. But the big issues aren't touched.

1. We now have our troops in two war zones - Ukraine and Iraq. Either could trigger a world war and a nuclear war. In neither case do we have a stake in what is happening. Does it make sense to put our military at risk for this? Does it make sense to put Canada at risk for this?

But I haven't seen a word about this in the campaign.

2. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is   going to change Canada dramatically and very unpleasantly. We shall be giving up control of our own country. So where's the discussion? Where's the information?

3. What is each party's philosophy on what kind of society this should be? This is the fundamental question. I've seen no mention of this in our news. Roughly, Harper's view appears to be that we should be a colony of the U.S., that billionaires create prosperity so we should give them a lot of help in our budgetting, and should not push them for taxes. The wage gap is good, because it encourages the very rich. In fact, we should privatize virtually all social programmes and education - as the U.S. is doing.

The NDP's philosophy is that wealth should be better distributed, that government services are cheaper and more effective than private ones, that the wealthy do not create wealth but simply take it, that we need a society of much more equal living standards and equal opportunity.

The Liberals don't have a philosophy but, as a minority party, would drift to Harper.

This is probably the most crucial election in Canada history - but you won't learned much about it from our news media.

If you can find anything of interest in Section A news, please let me know.

The editorial is yet another cheer for the new hockey rink - the leading priority in this otherwise perfect city.

Norbert had a nicely written piece about attracting tourists. Not much substance, though. It's a "something must be done" sort of column.

Brian Cormier's commentary advocates legalizing marijuana on the grounds that making it illegal only enriches gangsters - just  as prohibition enoucouraged drinking. That's a common belief - but not true.
As it happens, I   wrote my doctoral dissertation on this, and did an article on it for a book called "Oliver Mowat's Ontario".

Canadians, especially maritimers, were heavy boozers in the early to mid-nineteenth centuries. They got cheap rum from the fish trade with the Caribbean. On weekends, it was normal for whole villages to be plastered -  including babies.Stores had barrels of free run, so shoppers could drink while shopping. That's what started the prohibition movement.

By 1850, alcohol consumption was generally going down. By 1870s, most churches became pohibitionist. That drop continued. Then, suddenly, at the turn of the century, consumption began going up again. And this was BEFORE prohibition was enacted. It has risen steadily ever since both under and after prohibition.

The explanation lies in social conditions. In 1840 up to the 1890s, Canada was heavily rural. The intimacy of small communities and churches had a powerful effect on making alcohol undesirable. But then came the drift to the cities. This was a big change from the rural life where one knew one's neighbours. The city was a world of strangers. As a result, social pressures to stay away from drink were weak.

As well, capitalists made industrial and city life into a hell of poverty, insecurity, and vile living conditions. Commonly, a bar was the only escape.  The result, which continues to this day, is a steady rise in alcohol use. Prohibition had nothing to do with it. Nor did legalization solve the problems of drunk driving, abusive behaviour, violence in the family, insecurity... To say we solved the alcohol problem by legalizing it sounds a bit much.

Gwynne Dyer's commentary for today is on the crisis in Brazil. I read the news story yesterday, and found that it told me little. With Dyer's column, it became quite clear. That's why we need (good) commentary.

And Norbert has a solid one on premier Gallant and his flirtation with the federal Liberals.
In Canada&World News, the biggest story is about a New Brunswicker who collects licence plates.

Below it is what is possibly a more important story. The office of the provincial auditor-general is so short of staff, it is years behind tracking projects the government is supposed to have carried out years ago - like social housing - but hasn't moved on. Boy! I bet they don't make Mr. Irving wait like that. No. They virtually handed over a forest to him in a matter of minutes. Tough luck for people who need a decent place to live.

Well, we probably can't spend anything on social housing, anyway. We need all we can raise to build a hockey rink for a poor little rich boy.

Apparently, not much is happening in the world because the 1st, 2nd, third pages and 6th are about Canada. You may be shocked, alarmed, perhaps sexually aroused by the big story on B6 that there is no evidence that a cigarette started a  major B.C wildfire. For proof, I guess, there's big photo of part of the fire site - with no cigarette visible anywhere.

The same page has a 'news' story that Canada comes 6th in a study of freedom all over the world. Then the bomb drops. The 'study' was conducted by 'think-tanks' - paid by the wealthy to produce propaganda the wealthy like. The Canadian partner in this is the very slimy Fraser Institute.

They rated Iran lowest. Oh? Lower than Guatemala or Congo where children go to work in the mines at age five, and where anybody who complains gets either beaten or shot? Lower than Saudi Arabia which most authorities regard as the most rigid dictatorship in the world, the one that almost daily cuts off heads for minor offences, and cuts off hands for minor robbery?

And the U.S. is as high as tenth? This is the U.S. that operates the biggest domestic spy industry in the world? That has more people in prison than any other country in the world? That practices torture and murder all over the world? And is  notable for torture in its national prisons? The country where the president can (and has) jailed people without charge or trial? The country where a young woman is in solitary confinement for telling the truth about torture. But not one person guilty of authorizing or carrying out torture has been charged. Or ever will be.

Oh, and Yemen. It isn't very free at all. Well, be fair. It's hard to be free when you're being starved to death by  Saudi Arabia, and bombed to death with freedom-loving American bombs.

This is just crap.
For those who actually want to think about this election, the site below is excellent. Karl Nirenberg had a long career as an outstanding journalist, And, even in retirement he is still outstanding.

There are things to be passionately concerned about in this election. So far, I have heard only from the Green Party and only on one of the things to be passionately concerned about.

We are rapidly destroying the environment that we need in order to survive. It's not just fracking. It's not just oil or mining. It's also very common things - like water, food species (such as fish), and all species because all species are essential to the survival of ours.

We have destroyed cultures all over the world. That's much of the reason for our frequent wars (along, of course, with the greed of an economic system that has never created the prosperity it claims to. They get away with it because few Canadians have the faintest idea of the history of capitalism in this country - of its savagery, killing, - its failure to pay its way - the monstrous expense of paying for its wars (especially in the highly corrupt US arms industry.)

Most Canadians have no sense of the misery and death our capitalists have imposed in places like Central America and Congo.

And why did we send troops to Afghanistan?
And if it was necessary to send them, why did Harper pull them out while the war was still at its height? . It's not enough to   offer remembrance and thanks on Nov. 11. Those who died and those who will die deserve to expect us to send them only when it is essential - not just when it happens to please The British Empire or, now, when it happens to please the American Empire.

Remembrance Day is to remember those who served and those who died. Its for remembering, and giving serious thought before we send some again. It's not a day to glorify war.

I see very little sign of serious thinking in this election campaign. No thinking at all by either Liberals or Conservatives or the news media. Not enough thinking by the NDP for the situations we face. Lots of thinking by the Green Party - but only on one issue.

We Canadians live in a rotted and dying empire - one that is rotted and dying because of its adherence to an economic system That has always been opposed to equality and morality. That's why congregations that prefer not to think have drifted to those churches that emphasize belief and only simple belief (with special music and pancake breakfasts) while ignoring most of the parts of the scriptures that deal with our behaviour.

Oh, they accept, very selectively, certain behaviours. Thou shalt not, for example, have abortions because that kills babies.  Apparently, though, the injunction "Thou shalt not kill" only means babies, and only if they are being aborted. But its okay to blow up, starve, napalm, agent orange to kill pregnant women and any born babies by the million.

What a pack of shallow hypocrites!

In American churches, especially funamentalist ones, support for American wars in almost universal. This is for a government that believes it has the right, called American Exceptionalism, that allow it to kill people by the millions all over the world.

We really should think about what this federal election is about.
And what we are about.

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