Friday, July 3, 2015

July 3: A sad day at the beach...

Yesterday, I went down to the Northumberland Strait shore and its wonderful beaches. I took my five-year old grandaughter out at low tide for a walk through the shallows and over the sandbars. I remember my own first such walk  very well.  On that first occasion, it was a shock for this city boy to walk in  shallows that had hundreds, probably thousands; of very small  fish.   Dozens of crabs scuttled in the shallows and onto the bars. And dozens of tiny holes in the sandbars showed where clams had dug down to wait for a rising tide; and gulls swooped to track down those  tiny holes for their dinner.

And so we walked for some twenty minutes - and for twenty minutes we saw not a sign of life. There were no crabs for grandaughter to delightedly scream at, no tiny fish, not a sign of clams - and no birds. Nothing but sand and water. So, when I got home, I checked through the web, and found this report from CBC News of about eight years ago.

Northumberland Strait is dying. The  dying starts with effluent from industrial Ontario that's dumped into the great lakes, from agricultural chemical  and more industrial runoff as it enters the St. Lawrence and all the way through Quebec, then along the shores of New Brunswick. - and into the Atlantic Ocean.

That, and worse, is happening all over the world. And, all over the world, action on it has been close to zero. In fact, there really is no such thing as a world mechanism for doing anything about this, just for talking about it and being ignored by those who make money by polluting water - and land - as we dump chemicals on our forests and plan wunnerful, wunnerful oil pipelines that will, duh, create jobs.

Whose fault is this? Well, I guess it's all of us. We dump blame on our economic bosses. And they deserve much deserve it. But we're also to blame for being such passive and short-sighted people.

Some readers will be getting this blog from La Presse Libre de Moncton Free
It's much  superior to the Irving press.  I also suggest the one below.
It comes out only bi-monthly, and it's much smaller than the Free Press. But it has excellent work, too. One striking story in the current issue is "How do you stop a pipeline when one family own both the oil and the media?"

This has an impressive list of accidents Irving has had  at its St. John oil terminal that legally constituted "environmental emergencies". As well, it seems TransCanada pipelines has had more pipeline ruptures than any company in Canada - and they don't even get reported as ruptures until at least two million litres have spilled. The writer also notes that air pollution in St. John is already 243 times that of Moncton. (But I'm sure Alec Bruce has been thinking of writing about this for - oh - years.

This commentary was originally submitted to the New Brunswick Press (owned by Irving). But, of course, they rejected it.

The lead story in today's Times and Transcript is really news. And that's  unusual. Well, actually, it should be news. But it isn't really news because it doesn't tell us anything. It is an amusing read, though.

New Brunswick has a resort called Larry's Gulch which the government uses for mixing business and pleasure with the rich and influential. (To my knowledge, it has never been used for top-secret meetings with poverty groups or nasty environmentalists.)

Now, it seems that two former New Brunswick officials altered a guest list to hide some of the names. But that's against the law, and carries fines of over ten thousand dollars. And this is the great part.  Nothing is going to happen because the commissioner has decided that, well, it has never happened before, so we'll, you know, just  use this as a warning to everybody else that it's against the law. (Try that line the next time you get a police ticket.)

And there's more.

The removal was made at the request of a newspaper editor - but he and the offending officials will not be named because everybody knows who they are.

What? I don't know who they are. And I don't know anybody who knows who they are. We have regular reports of court cases - and people get named even if we do already know their names. We should know why a newspaper editor made that request. When you have a journalist, of all people, trying to keep a secret, we're in trouble.

The news story, though very, very long has almost no information in it. The Liquor commission was involved -  maybe, maybe not - and for no reason one can tell. Toward the end, we do learn there were two editors involved - Al Hogan and Guy Murray, both of the Moncton TandT, and both now gone. It seems  very odd that journalists should have been involved in what seems to have been a  political/business meeting. Does the Irving press commonly do that. It's certainly unprofessional and unethical.

This is a long story which raises a great many questions - but answers almost none.

It's also typical of Brunswick press to offer a story that's just a collection of quotations with no evidence the reporter has done any research on the topic.

The rest of section A news is trivial.
The editorial page, though still pretty local, is quite good - for the editorial, for Norbert, and for the cartoon by de Adder.  There's also an excellent letter to the editor, "Atlantic Chiefs issue a call to action".

Harper has been very, very slow in responding in responding to the report on native peoples. And the Canadian people, in general, could be described as feeling sorry for what was done, but damn slow in doing anything about it.

It's a very difficult question to deal with. But we have to deal with it. Since Columbus, the west has engaged in an orgy of destroying civilizations, societies and cultures. The result, almost without exception,has been to create a chaos of wars and looting over most of the surface of this Earth. The suffering is enormous and, so long as we don't deal with it humanely and quickly, we are in danger of absolute destruction.

Canada, maybe New Brunswick, could lead the way in our response to native peoples. It's going to be a long and difficult job but it's a job that has to be done here and all over the world. It's a job that can't be done by or with our perverted from of capitalism because that is what caused the problem in the first place. And it has to be done for humanity to survive. World-wide, we have come close to the end by centuries of western greed and racism as practiced by an economic system that we have turned into a religion.

Hint for the Faith page sermonette - do one on Love thy neighbour, and what that really demands of us. Like most of the Ten Commandments that one is not simply religious, but a very practical piece of advice. That's why it's found in so many religions around the world.

Justin Ryan's commentary on immigrants is, as usual, not about immigrants at all. It's really piece of rah, rah boosterism for Canada. It's not about them. It's about us, and what great people we are. It's not about welcoming newcomers. It's about absorbing them.

Historically, Canada has been enriched by immigrants- NOT because they're just like us or are becoming Canadian just like us - but because they add CHANGE to us.

And, despite Ryan's closing sentence about all the good things that Canada is all about - Canada is also about depriving its poor of opportunities, of provinces controlled by very wealthy people whose greed does more damage to us than drugs lords in any foreign country do. It's also about killing people in the countries our immigrants are fleeing from.....partly because of our killing.

Alec Bruce has a column on Greece that you will really enjoy if you are an international banker who gets a thrill out of destroying the lives of people.  It's also a little thin on information about and understanding of how the Greek crisis  (and the New Brunswick one) came about.

Yep, Alec Bruce thinks it's all about them there lefties who are always asking and never paying their share (unlike the Irvings who shower us with the wealth of the taxes they pay, and their execs who earn millions just so they can donate to charities.... ) Yes, those terrible lefties are just awful the way they think that the Greek people should be able to eat and have housing. I'm surprised he doesn't have an attack in there on environmentalists. (But I'm sure he will  next time.)

Whenever Alec Bruce talks about a society in debt, he never looks at who put therm there, and how. And he never looks at this as anything more than simply a matter of paying off loans. Why are New Brunswickers so deeply in debt? Have they been wildly overpaid in the past? Do they wallow in the luxury of government handouts? Are they lazy? Bruce's answers always suggest that.

The Greek debt problem was not caused by the Greek people. The purpose of the bankers in demanding their money has nothing to do with simply getting the money. It has to do with getting rid of those "lefties" that the bankers don't like to see in government. If he wants to see the people who are always standing with their hands out, I suggest that Alec take a closer  look at the billionaires he so admires.

And if he wants to find out the causes of poverty and suffering, I suggest that he and professor Saillant do some reading to each other about the causes of the depression of the 1930s, the ways the richer became richer during it, about who caused the current recession, about how the rich who caused the recession got the tax money of everybody else to bail them out, and called the millions whose lives they had destroyed 'lazy'.

Interested readers might wish to read what I said about the Greek crisis early in yesterday's blog. I also included the URL of a  site that discusses the real causes of it.

And, incidentally, the Greek debt was NOT caused social programmes for poor bums. It was caused mostly by wild and corrupt military contracts to corrupt RICH bums.

Canada&World, as always, is slim pickings.  The lead story is about government spending which, the story seems to suggest, is largely on social programmes. In fact, it gives very little attention to exactly where that spending is going. And it gives no attention at all to where the the government's money is coming from. How much, for example, is coming from the taxes of the very rich? ( or how little?)

Only two stories are worth reading, both on B4.

."Eligible voters could be disenfranchised by stricter ID rules at polls, groups say."

The Council of Canadian and The Canadian Federation of Students are asking for an injunction against a new rule which makes it impossible to use a voter ID card as proof of a right to vote. It now requires an identification card (like a driver's licence of a passport) with photo, name, street address. There are two problems with that.

One is that there is no evidence of any significant voter fraud using the Voter ID card. So why the new law?

The second is that tens of thousands of people don't have the required type of identification card. So they won't be allowed to vote.

Later, this case will be taken to the Supreme Court as a violation of the Canadian constitution. Meanwhile, we need a delay in the enforcement of the new law.

Below that is a  story which, as Alec Bruce may explain, is entirely false.

"Gulf states reach $18.7B settlement with BP over 2010 spill"  This was a massive and destructive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why is this story entirely false? Well, for a start and as Alec Bruce has clearly shown us, there are no accidents with oil  And no problems. It's been proven all over the world. I trust his opinion on that.  That's why I have no concern about a pipeline from the oil sands to St. John causing any problems whatever. I mean, if you can't trust the Irvings, who can you trust? And I'm sure that processing such oil will really freshen the air in St. John - and get rid of that salt water stink.

We also know that this story can't be true because it says that BP was "grossly negligent". Well, it's obviously a lie. Oil and gas companies are never, never negligent. If they were, Alec Bruce would have told us.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

July 2: this will probably be a short blog because...

...I have to be at the shore at noon, sitting on a bluff overlooking either the salt water (if the tide's in) or the sandbars (if it's out) while I languidly eat a magnificent lunch, perhaps served to me by my granddaughter.

Meanwhile, I have received a URL from a reader that is very timely because it illustrates a point I made yesterday. The news is not usually much help in understanding what's going on. To understand it, we need analysis to give it context and meaning. This one is exactly what I was talking about - an analysis offered by a person of very high qualifications in the field of the topic, and one who is likely to be honest.

This one is about the economic crisis in Greece. And it gives that crisis meaning which I have not found in any news item. The crisis, according to the writer, is not really an economic one. It's an artificial crisis being staged by international bankers and capitalists who want absolute power everywhere in the world. They want to destroy social programmes. They want to privatize everything. That's why they're trying to impose a crushing debt on Greece - to make almost all Greeks desperately poor, and to make them pay for a debt created by the rich - which is what the Canadian and New Brunswick governments have been doing to us. This isn't about money. It's about power.

The author is a man who was Vice-President and Chief Economic Advisor  to the World Bank, He was also chief economic adviser to President Clinton. He won the Nobel Prize for economics. That would make him, even by the towering standards of Irving press, 'noted' and 'respected'.
In fact, he might be even more noted than Professor Saillant of UdeMoncton fame. ( Okay, not more. But still pretty good.)

Following that is the URL for the proposal of the Greek prime minister to the bankers.

We could use a similar analysis to understand Stephen Harper's passion for grand monuments. I have a strong suspicion that the monument to victims of communism is not only political - but a monument to Harper. I suspect the same is true of the monument to our military dead proposed for the Cape Breton Trail. I have nothing against monuments. Our monument to those who died at Vimy Ridge is magnificent - partly because it's in a magnificent setting and on the site of  a magnificent victory by Canadian troops under a Canadian general. As well, the design is a very moving one.

Bit it seems to me that in a world in which the west has killed uncounted millions and has tortured on a grand scale, it is absurd to plant, next door to the Supreme Court, a political monument that has nothing to do with Canada. And it's grotesque to put a  huge statue in the middle of a protected region  (in which such building is illegal), and to make it look like a poor people's version of the Statue of Liberty.

Harper, from the start, has wanted power and absolute control and status. This is more than the behaviour of a normal person. This strongly suggests a mental disorder. And the monuments are monuments to his eternal power and control and status.

We also need analysis of the issue of truth and reconciliation in Canada. We destroyed the culture(s) of native peoples. We can't fix them. And they can't fix them because we have also destroyed the world those cultures lived in. We can encourage the restoration of some parts - as religions, as community social structures. But a culture once broken cannot be fixed.

Even as nationalists in Quebec should have learned, in restoring the French culture of Quebec they, in fact, actually invented a new culture that had never before existed in Quebec. They have, for example, invented a secular Quebec. In fact, at no point in its history was Quebec every secular. They have created a French public school system which is not the traditional one, but one modelled on the English schools of Quebec.

We have destroyed cultures and civilizations all over Africa, the middle east, and Asia. We have broken all those things we cannot fix. We have made a chaos which has produced constant war, Maoism, ISIS, tens of millions of refugees, hundreds of millions of dead and crippled and orphaned and impoverished - all because we have broken so many things that cannot be fixed. And, out of pure greed, our political and economic leaders continue to destroy those things we cannot fix.

And now our own cultures are breaking. And changing so quickly and radically, that I would not even try to guess what the various alliances will be even two years from now.

We have made the terrible mistake (which the editorial writer of the Times and Transcript makes every day) of   assuming that government is about money, about building events centres, about keeping taxes low for the rich. It's about privatizing hospitals and schools for "efficiency".

None of that is true. Government is primarily about people and about societies made up of people. We have to learn that. And we have to learn it very, very soon.

And, to do that, we don't need news. We need intelligent commentary and analysis of the news.
Today's section A of the Times Transcript is a must read. The headline is about how people celebrating Canada Day in Moncton had fireworks. And, to keep the excitement going, there are four more very large stories telling us how people slid on water slides and, oh, did just everything on Canada Day.

Then there's a huge story about a few high school kids in NB who think it's okay to fly a confederate flag - a sort of nice balance to the Canada Day theme.
The editorial is a stunning exposure of the realities of life in Riverview, a suburb of 'metro Moncton.'
It seems a survey showed that 99% of its residents like living there. I have no idea why. Maybe they think this is still 1950.

Norbert's column is about how New Brunswick needs immigration. Well, you get immigration by offering something. And rule by a puppet government with strings pulled by billionaires who don't pay much in taxes isn't much of an ything.

Rod Allen has another  column talking mostly about himself. (But he has a stunning sense of humour. In almost every column he calls his children "the brats". Breaks me up every time.)  

Gwynne Dyer is back with a powerful analysis of the news. Life species on earth are disappearing at a rate 114 times higher than normal - perhaps even a thousand times higher than normal. It's due to our destruction of habitat, our poisoning and pollution of it, our killing off of species for food... And we, too, are a species.

This column, alone, is worth the price of the paper.

And Alec Bruce is excellent on how Canada is becoming one of the world's most backward nations in its management of crime - thanks to Harper and his 'get tough on crime" policies. They don't work. And they're making our prisons much more expensive, and even less effective than they were. But Harper won't budge an inch because this isn't about controlling crime. It's about getting votes for Harper.
Section B, p.1 tells us that premier Gallant is in favour of greater privatization of hospital services. Well, of course he is. He's in favour of it because his boss is in favour of it. And John McGarry of Horizon Health,  (who the Irving press will undoubtedly refer to as a noted and respected something or other) now wants even further privatization of health care.

We face enormous problems in the survival of human life. Most of those problems exist because of the international piracy we call big business. To hand over even more to them  is worse that loony. It's worse than dangerous. It's fatal.

I do, though, agree with one of Mr, Garry's statements. We need to get our fiscal house in order. But privatizing health care does nothing whatever to get our fiscal house in order. It just makes rich people richer, and - just about always - it drives up costs to make the rest of us poorer. I don't know of any country in the world that has saved money by privatizing medical care.

Mr. McGarry says we need to  change our ideology on health care - and that means we have to change it to his ideology. But his ideology has never worked. On the contrary it has imposed heavy costs and earlier death on us. His ideology doesn't work because it's really just about money  - and just about making the rich richer. The closest he comes to being a medical  expert is that he's a witch doctor.

Like the Irving press, the Irvings themselves, the Liberals and the Conservatives, Mr. McGarry's religious ideology is the worship  of money. And that's been one hell of a destructive ideology throughout history.

A more useful ideology would start with people and their needs.

And frankly, it think that putting an accountant in charge of a health system is  like putting a rattlesnake in charge of a pet mouse.

There's really no intelligible news in Section B with the exception of a story on B3 "Groups seek court order to ease new voter ID rules for fall federal election." Harper recently changed the voting rules to make it difficult and even impossible for tens of thousands of Canadians to vote. Here's hoping a court will stop that.

Oh, and the laugh of the day is on B1. "Province's top earners start to feel tax pinch." We soon learn in the story that the "top earners"  doesn't mean the top earners at all. It means professionals like doctors who are way, way below the real top openers. And they aren't going to feel any pinch.

In sum, even a trivial newspaper like the Moncton Times and Transcript cannot hide the reality that he whole world is facing  problems that are very serious indeed. They need common effort around the world, a common effort made impossible  by our bastard form of capitalism that turns us all against each other.

Indeed, that form of capitalism, along with its servant class of Bachelor of Commerce accountants is what has created the crisis we live in.

We need to stop thinking about money - and start thinking about people.    

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 1: Starting all over...

Page A1 has a story "New Canadians ready to celebrate first Canada Day." Typically, the story isn't about new Canadians. It's about how wonderful Moncton has been to them. In short, this is old-fashioned, small-town boosterism.

The reality is that new Canadians are close to invisible in Moncton. In fact, in this story, they aren't even mentioned after the first, few paragraphs. They're invisible in other ways, too. They really don't exist on the Faith page on Saturday. To make that page, you pretty much have to be white, Protestant - and fundamentalist Protestant at that.  (You know - the real Jesus Jumpers.)  There are no Jews, no Muslims, no Hindus, no Confucists, not even any Catholics.

How many "new Canadians" are there in Moncton? What reception do they get? For example, across Canada, anyone who isn't white has a tougher time getting a job, and gets lower pay. Is Moncton a shining exception to that rule? Or are we as narrow and bigoted as the pages of the Irving press suggest we are?

How does it feel to live as a member of a visible minority in Moncton? Is it really just like being one of the gang? (If so, this is  the only city I've ever seen like that.)  It's very nice of the Irving press to have a (very brief and superficial) story about them once a year. But if we really do accept them, then why aren't they more visible in our news media and our lives?

In a related issue, Why does the Faith page specialize in Halleluja fundamentalists? Why does it never have a column by a Catholic? Presbyterian? Anglican? United Church? and never someone from outside the Christian circle? How can we know and accept and understand and appreciate others if we don't know anything about them?

Or is there something about the New Brunswick pecking order that I don't understand?      

For that matter, even native peoples are outsiders. We get no news about them unless there's a demonstration. We know nothing about their religious principles, how they govern, what conditions they live in....

Related to that are Opinion and Commentary pages which are, to say the least, pretty shallow stuff for the most part. The editorial is a sort of  1950s speech  in which Canada is seen as a model for the world.  Actually, the days when we were a model for the world are long past. The world today knows us for what we are - a colony of the U.S. empire.  We send up interceptors if Russian aircraft come within some hundreds of miles of our Arctic claims. But the US freely sends ships through our northern waters deliberately without asking the legal permission to do so. And we do nothing. U.S. billionaires are already preparing to drill for oil in the Canadian Arctic, though that will drastically speed the rate of ice cap melting and of climate change. And so far, not a peep from Canada.

Nations are not friends with each other.   The biggest, perhaps the only, threat to Canadian independence is the U.S. But we just pretend none of this is happening.

Then the editorial has a sort of Bible-thumping part in which it says the leaders "of this great nation" need "all the wisdom God and humanity can provide to  protect a "way of life, of freedom,of a culture  that welcomes people from  anywhere, every where."

The immigrants "want the same things as we who are already here. They are just like us."

This is just drivel that would be an embarassment even as a high school graduation speech.  

In the first place, Canada does not welcome people from everywhere. It never has. We refused to accept Jews before, during, and after World War 2. In fact, there was a strong movement to expel the Jews who were here early in the 20th century.     We don't accept Romanys.  Harper is quite firm on that.   We didn't accept Chinese until we needed them for cheap and expendable labour on the railways. Then we wouldn't help them to get home again  And we wouldn't let them bring over their wives and children. We have not extended any significant help to the tens of millions of middle east refugees that we have a hand in creating. We imprisoned Canadian Ukrainians in World War 1 for reasons that have never been clear. We imprisoned Japanese Canadians, including those born in Canada and their children in World War Two. Then our government stole all their possessions, and sold them at bargain rates to friends. From the start, this country has discriminated heavily against African-Canadians. It still does. We just don't talk about it, and our news media never mention it.

How many Black mps and mlas have been elected in the whole history of this province?  How many non-whites are on the staff of the Irving press? How many native peoples?  In over 400 years, what have we done for our native  children but abuse them - and put a high proportion in jail.

We have secret police to investigate native peoples, Muslims, and anybody who disagrees with Harper. The police report to Harper and to big business.

An oil train closely attached to the Irvings kills 47 people. Where was the big invesigation there? And, if there was one, how come we never heard about it?  Native people may well protest the Sisson's mine as a threat to their environment. If they do, they will face police with riot gear and, probably, a sort of military police with combat rifles and camouflage. And people will be arrested and jailed. And if Sissons just barges in? Well, when was the last time you heard of the riot squad being called out to deal with business execs? When was the last time you heard of the secret police investigating them - and reporting to us.

The editorial says we need to protect a "way of life, of  freedom, , of culture."

If you need to protect a way of life, then you cannot allow people in who will change it. The foundation stones of  "protecting a way of life" are manifested in bigotry, hatred and racism.
Personally, I have usually found that the immigrants who made changes in our way of life vastly improved it. ( Anyway, you might have a tough time finding anybody with a brain who actually knows what our "way of life" is.)

Harper doesn't think that way, though. He humiliated a Muslim woman in front of the nation by refusing to let her take the oath of citizenship because she was dressed as a Muslim instead of a Christian.

Freedom?  We're governed by puppets paid off by big business. We have secret police who invade our privacy. We have a new law that effectively takes away most of our rights.

We are, says the editor, a mosaic of  peoples. He also writes, "The immigrants are just like us."

Mr. editor, do you know what a mosaic is? It's a picture made of small stones of different sizes, shapes and colours. The pieces are different from each other. If the immigrants are just like us, how the hell can we be a mosaic? This is just mindless, grad speech ranting.

Oh, and this is a nation that embraces peace, justice, and prosperity for all. This really generates an urge to "fwow up"

Peace? In the last century we have fought a good twenty years of war, and we're now cooperating with war in Ukraine, and have pilots killing people in Iraq and Syria - for reason we don't know - but because the U.S. wants us to. That's what a colony does.

Justice? This is a country, like the U.S,, in which disproportionate numbers of  visible minorities and native peoples are in prison. A country in which a train operated on the cheap and with lots of faults in its condition and its use can kill 47 people. And nobody of real importance in this crime even gets investigated. It's a country in which the heir of a beer empire can be charged with killing his father, and still spend at couple of years ( maybe more) a free man.

Prosperity for all? This is a country in which the government is encouraging the wealthiest to get even wealthier at the expense of everybody else. It's a country in which we are told that the poor have to pay taxes and lose services so the rich won't have to pay for the recesssion caused by the rich. Read "Off the cliff" for a sample of that kind of thinking.

All this is a long time to spend on just one, admittedly stinking, editorial. But an editorial is supposed to represent the opinion of all the editorial staff. And this editorial is so stunningly ignorant of Canada that I really wonder whether the Brunswick press is really lying so much as it seems to. Maybe it's not lying. Maybe it's run by really ignorant and incompetent people.                          

Norbert's column is passable. Brian Cormier, as usual, has nothing to say. and "Canada's Tax czar has done well addressing business concerns" is the usual freebie propaganda piece for a business group.

Alec Bruce is excellent on Harper's crusade to build monuments to himself.
Section B,   "Canada&World" is its usual trivial and sloppy self.

The story that Greece has defaulted on its loan from the International Monetary Fund is important. But it's hard to tell why it's important from the news report. Other than that most of the stories are trivial. The only one worth readiing is B3 "Brazil plans massive reforestation as contribution to global climate treaty."

That's good news. Too bad it won't balance the damage done to global climate by New Brunswick's clear cutting of trees, and it's use of various poisons on them. (Mr. Irving is so good to us. And he's a man of God with a chapel named after him and "special music' with the service, and coffee and fellowship in the barn. Life doesn't get better than that.)

....though, might, instead, want to drop by the Catholic cemetery in Bouctouche to see the grave of Raoul Leger. He was a lay missionary serving in Guatemala when he was tortured to death by the Guatemala military who were working with the US government, the CIA, Israeli intelligence and with American and Canadian mining companies to murder some quarter of a million Guatemalan men, women and children who objected to starvation wages and gross pollution. Clergy of all faiths who supported the Guatemalans were also murdered.

So far as I can tell, the story never made the Irving press. Well, who knows. It might have embarrassed some Christian New Brunswickers who had heavy investment in those mining companies.

Anyway, Leger's grave is in Bouctouche, not far from the Irving Chapel (though not nearly so famous as the chapel. I mean, the chapel is so important it's mentioned every week in the Bruswick news, and Mr. Irving is famous for being in the Philanthropic Hall of Fame, while all Raoul Leger did was to get killed helping others.)

Who knows? A visit to the grave might give you something to think about while you listen to the Irving Chapel's "special" music, and sip your coffee in the barn.

There is never much news in the Irving press. And that which is there really tells us little, and doesn't really explain anything.

Look. People get news from radio and TV (both of which to a poor job of explaining it). Why should newspapers print stories that are at least a day old? Wouldn't it make more sense to use newspapers for analysis of the news? That would give people something to understand and to discuss.

Very few people on the staff of Irving press are capable of doing that. The closest approach to top rate analysis by highly specialized and honest people like Gwynne Dyer and  David Suzuki. But we rarely see either of them. Why not scrap Canada&World - which usually has nothing, anyway -and rebuild it as pages of commentary from free-lancers like Dyer and Suzuki?

The whole Irving press could unite to produce the same section B for all its papers. That would keep costs down.

Section A is always trivial and pretty worthless. But I know there's no hope of changing that. So all news stories could go there, local and world. Just trim the local part because it's usually a zero, anyway.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 31: Bad news - very bad.

The Irving press didn't  think it was a really important story. So it's first page, but off to the left. To understand what that placement means, look at its partner on the right side of the page. "New Strip Mall planned for Moncton"  Well, that IS important because it's going to have two, count them, two drive-thru restaurants. Oh, ecstasy!   And, of course, the story about the strip mall is over twice as long as the one about the hospitals, and with lots more information..

But, just for laughs, let's go back to the hospital story. What it's really about is the spread of privatization in hospitals. Because - you know - privatization is so much more efficient and effective. I mean, look at all the Canadians lined up at the border so they can pay a million dollars to have a baby born in a US hospital.

The CEO of our Horizon Health Network,, John McGarry, says that what's wrong with our hospitals is that they are trapped in an 'ideology'. Does Mr. McGarry know what the word 'ideology' means? I doubt it very much. And I  doubt very much that his Rotarian audience does, either.

In its modern sense, ideology means a value or point of view held on the basis of both conscious and unconscious ideas. Well, that means that almost every value we have is based on an ideology, everything from loving  your children to being a mass murderer. So why did Mr. McGarry use that word?

One possibility is that he doesn't know any better. But we can narrow it down from that. "Ideology" is commonly used (if inaccurately) as a derogatory term - usually applied to the values of anyone who disagrees with us. (They are all mixed up, and possibly even evil. We are sober-minded and well informed.)

In that sense, then Mr. McGarry is an ideologue because his statement is based heavily on unsupported values and theories. Private health care firms, for example, he says are more efficient. Oh, really? Is that why the US medical system is the most expensive in the world and, at the same time, one of the least efficient? Is it efficient that so many Americans can't get health care at all? Nor does it cut down on US taxation since privatization have driven the cost of medical care and of medication through the roof. In fact, the only reason the private health system in the US accepted Obamacare was because it paid them top dollar for services that should be far cheaper.

So, who is this medical and social expert Mr. McGarry who claims to know so much about health service? What makes him an expert on medical care? Well - he's an accountant - and he has a bachelor's degree in commerce. So there.

I guess he never took a Canadian history course. If he had, he might have known that the most efficient economic organization in Canadian history was our public service during World War Two. (Maybe the editorial writer at the TandT should read about that, too.) It was so efficient that private business leaders, for some years after the war, sent their management people to Ottawa to study public service methods.

Mr. McGarry has also done a good deal of contract work for private health firms. Quelle surprise!

Private business all over the world is NOT efficient at anything except making money for itself. That is it's only reason for existence. It is horribly inefficient at meeting social needs.  That's why you find massive poverty and suffering wherever it gets too much power.

Our health service is run by an accountant. Well, next thing you know, we'll have armies and churches and firefighters led by accountants..

By the way, what are the academic credentials of the leading Irvings? I can't find that anywhere. Strange. I know at least two attended Acadia but, for some reason, left without finishing. So what are there credentials for running a province.
The editorial is about tourism and making money. That seems to be one of only two topics the editor can write on. The other is garbage disposal. That seems to reflect the ownership of this newspaper. There are no people. There are no social issues. Just money.

As I started to read Norbert's column, I thought I would find it interesting.  It's "N.B.'s anti-poverty action uses 'the right stuff' to 'do the right thing." It refers to the New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation (a crown corporation as Norbert points out - and therefore much better than a government department.)

 Norbert, the CBC is a crown corporation. How come you don't praise it?

And, oh, the  N.B. Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation is doing to much to help the poor. Exactly what it's doing and how much is not clear in this column. He says it has reduced poverty by its target of 25%. And what does that mean? I have no idea. And, sadly, it has not reached its goal of cutting deep poverty by 50%. But Norbert never tells us what these numbers mean or even what poverty and deep poverty mean.

The beauty, he says is that it's free from political interference - which suggests to me that Norbert doesn't know what political interference means. Let's start with the corporation's board of four co-chairs - one to represent citizens, one to represent business, one to represent government, and one for the non-profit sector.  Sounds reasonable? Well, Italy's Benito Mussolini and Spain's Franco thought so.

1. Represent citizens? Look. In a democracy, citizens are not a separate category. They are the only category. And how can these 'citizen' rep represent us if we never elected them, and don't even know who they are?
2. Represent business?  Why, in  a democracy which is supposed to be rule by the majority, should business have a nose in the door?  By this principle, big business should have the right to sit in cabinet without being elected. More on this a little later because this is very, very dangerous.
3. Represent government? Isn't that political? And doesn't Norbert say there's no political interference in this? The staff of Irving press seems convinced that government is bad - corrupt. It's true that it often is. But that's because we're so fearful and so passive that we elected the corrupt ones every time. And, by the way, who is it that corrupts the government?
4.Represent non-profit groups? well.......

In a democracy, we citizens, all of us, select those who will govern us, all of us. We do not select  special groups to be represented - like Irish-Canadians or poor or rich or corporate bosses. There have been governments that tried that. This choosing of representation and bestowing of power according to group is called group government or corporatism. More popularly, it's know by the name given it by Benito Mussolini. It's fascism.

In this democracy, I do not vote for a government so that it can invite various interest groups to tell us what to do. Nor do I see any reason for these unelected people to have a special voice in government.

Why should corporation bosses have a special voice in dealing with poverty? These are people who love poverty because it means they can get away with lower salaries and worse working conditions. The have a long history of it. They also avoid the taxes we need to deal with poverty.

This, says Norbert, is a community effort. No, it's not. It's a group of special interest organizations The "community" knows little about them, and did not choose them.

I agree with Norbert's conclusion. We need to get our economic house in order. But to me, that means making the very rich pay their taxes; and it means not handing out welfare to the very rich.

The terrible reality is that New Brunswick accepted fascism a long time ago - government by special interest groups - especially the very rich. It didn't help Italy or Spain. It won't help us. And it's a very serious blow at democracy. And we really have very, very little time to deal with it.

By the way, are the poor represented on this committee (by poor people)? Are rural people represented? Are immigrants represented?Is the middle class represented? Are the churches represented? Are children represented?

Of course not. So why is business represented?

Look, Mr. premier, as a member of a political party, you are expected to have a philosophy of what you believe the priorities and methods your government should represent. You were not elected to appoint corporation execs and accountants to make these decisions for us. And you were certainly not elected to replace democracy with fascism.

Alec Bruce's column really, really annoyed me. That's because I think it's right on. The NDP has been moving to the centre for a good, fifty years. It's far the best party to vote for because, of the major parties, it's the only one that's honest.

But we need more than honesty. We are in very deep trouble nationally and internationally. Democracy has crashed in Canada almost as much as it has in the US. For all of us, that is going to mean severe hardship, exploitation, involvement in wars to make the greedy richer, and, quite likely, to violence here..

 (For openers, native peoples are claiming that the land for the Sissons mine belongs to them - and they want to make the decision about its use. What should happen is that the federal government should declare whose land that is. But it won't' do that.

Instead, it will force native people to go to court to fight and probably to lose against a monstrously wealthy corporation. And if the native people resist, the mine owners can all on their buddies in government to send riot police and police romantically clad in camouflage and with combat rifles to beat up or kill anybody who objects. And the Irving press will cheer this on.

So much for truth and reconciliation.)

I know the Canadian people have little sense of all that's going on. And our news media make sure they stay in ignorance. The result is that an NDP government would not have anything like the support it needs to deal with the dangers that face us. So I think our choice has come to this -
1. Two parties that are bought, wrapped up for delivery to big business to run the country - and to run it disastrously for us.
2. An NDP that isn't bought, that will govern honestly, but has abandoned many of its principles in its desire to get to power. Mulcair is certainly not the liar, thief and mass murderer that Tony Blair in Britain is. I have no doubt of his honesty and  his courage. But we need even more than that.

While Bruce and I might agree on these points, I'm sure he would not support what he calls "radical" moves. But the fact is that he often seems to use radical in an improper sort of way -  to mean extremism. That fact is that we are living, in that sense, in a very extreme world. We are living in a world of greed, killing and social destruction that is just about as' radical' as one can get, and that  extremism comes  largely from the leading figures of capitalism..

But radical actually means to get to the root of a problem. In that sense, I am a radical. I think we have to deal with the root of our problems. And the Canadian people have been kept quite ignorant of the root of their problems.

Section B news has nothing much to offer. More than news, what we need is analysis of and commentary on the news. The bare news is pretty useless unless we are given some meaning to it.

The last page has a news story that really tells us nothing about Iran and its nuclear talks with the US.  The truth is that Iran has not been working to develop nuclear bombs. US intelligence has been saying for a long time that Iran has no nuclear programme. So why is the U.S. insisting that Iran stop a programme that it doesn't have?.

The bizarre thing is that the U.S., which has the biggest stock of nuclear weapons in the world, and is the only country ever to use them, is telling Iran it can't have them. Worse, no American government would ever dare to tell Israel, which actually has nuclear bombs and has them illegally, that it can't have them. So what are these talks really about?

Ii think it's a safe bet that the US oil companies want ownership of Iranian oil. That's why the U.S. installed a dictator in Iran over sixty years ago. That's why it paid Saddam Hussein and supplied him with weapons, including chemical weapons, to invade Iran.

U.S. big money wants Iran. Russia will be supporting Iran. Israel wants Iran destroyed. Saudi Arabia wants it destroyed. The US wants to own it. We're looking at a potential war, with at least three nuclear powers involved - possibly four. All to make a few oil billionaires richer.

Sorry -- scratch that. It's to save democracy and bring freedom and Fox TV to the Iranian people. God bless America,

There's nothing in the paper about U.S. attempts to overthrow Assad in Syria, or its supplying of military equipment and money to the so-called rebels (a large proportion of them foreign mercenaries), nothing about its bombing to help the rebels (perhaps with Canada caught up in that part). If you want unlimited reading about what'sreally  going on, just google Wikileaks. Our private news media could do the same. But it's easier and cheaper just to buy news from the propagandists.

You might also google 'drugs Mexico U.S.'; lots of material there on how the drug lords dominate Mexico, how they get sophisticated weapons from the U.S. and, what has been commonly known for years - that the US government has been complicit with some of the drug lords. Well, Why not? It's unquestionable that during the Afghanistan war the US set up Afghanis on our side as leading world producers of narcotics.

As well, there is no mention that Russia has promised aid to the Syrian government in its fight against the 'rebels' - or that China will soon do so. And no mention that Germany has worked out a deal to get oil from Russia. And that would create a Russia-Germany alliance which would be a formidable economic and military threat to the U.S. Couple that with the possibility that Greece might drop out of the European Union, and so trigger a serious leak in the European balloon......

Yes, it's quite possible that there might be a German-Russian alliance in the near future. It's natural. We forget that Russia and Germany were allies in 1939. Germany and Russia need each other.

We don't need news so much as we need intelligent commentary. The only person the Irving press has for that is Gwynne Dyer - and it has even him very infrequently. There are few people on the Irvinig staff who can write coherently on anything. And none at all who can write critically of the man who really runs this province.

We are watching our perverted form of capitalism kill itself due to inherent greed, arrogance and stupidity. And we will all suffer from its fall. I wish that were not the news. But it is, unless we act very, very quickly.
Tomorrow (Canada Day) I shall be interviewed on CJAD 800 radio in Montreal right after the news at 6 pm. Montreal time. It might be possible to get on some TV packages. I know I can get some CBC radio stations on one. I have no idea what the topic will be.

This week, my daughters,  granddaughters and sons-in law arrive at their cottages on a salt-water shore just a 40 minute drive from here. I haven't seen them since last summer. That means my blog may get a little erratic as I catch up on how they're changed. I could miss the occasional day in July.

In case that happens soon,there are two, fairly long articles on the dumbing down of America sent to me by a reader. I think they're right on. And much of what they say applies to Canada.


Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America

Social dysfunction can be traced to the abandonment of reason

A few snips:

"for too long America’s social dysfunction has continued to intensify as the nation has ignored a key underlying pathology: anti-intellectualism. America is killing itself through its embrace and exaltation of ignorance, and the evidence is all around us. Dylann Roof, the Charleston shooter who used race as a basis for hate and mass murder, is just the latest horrific example. Many will correctly blame Roof's actions on America's culture of racism and gun violence, but it's time to realize that such phenomena are directly tied to the nation's culture of ignorance.
In a country where a sitting congressman told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” (link is external) where the chairman of a Senate environmental panel brought a snowball (link is external) into the chamber as evidence that climate change is a hoax, where almost one in three citizens can’t name the vice president (link is external), it is beyond dispute that critical thinking has been abandoned as a cultural value....High-ranking individuals, even in the military (link is external), see a confrontation between good and evil as biblically predicted and therefore inevitable.

What Americans rarely acknowledge is that many of their social problems are rooted in the rejection of critical thinking or, conversely, the glorification of the emotional and irrational. What else could explain the hyper-patriotism (link is external) that has many accepting an outlandish notion that America is far superior to the rest of the world? Love of one’s country is fine, but many Americans seem to honestly believe that their country both invented and perfected the idea of freedom, that the quality of life here far surpasses everywhere else in the world.
But it doesn’t. International quality of life rankings (link is external) place America far from the top, at sixteenth. America’s rates of murder (link is external) and other violent crime dwarf most of the rest of the developed world, as does its incarceration rate (link is external), while its rates of education and scientific literacy are embarrassingly low

Corporate influence on climate and environmental policy, meanwhile, is simply more evidence of anti-intellectualism in action, for corporate domination of American society is another result of a public that is not thinking critically. Americans have allowed their democracy to slip away, their culture overtaken by enormous corporations that effectively control both the governmental apparatus and the media, thus shaping life around materialism and consumption.
Indeed, these corporate interests encourage anti-intellectualism, conditioning Americans into conformity and passive acceptance of institutional dominance.....They are the ones who stand to gain from consumers who spend money they don’t have on goods and services they don’t need. They are the ones who want a public that is largely uninformed and distracted, thus allowing government policy to be crafted by corporate lawyers and lobbyists. They are the ones who stand to gain from unregulated securities markets. And they are the ones who stand to gain from a prison-industrial complex that generates the highest rates of incarceration in the developed world.


Incidentally, this comment is also worth reading

" We read a lot of blog posts, tweets, and the like, and we may read a few books, too. But we don't read enough complex books, and we don't read well. This isn't just a comment about what we read in our spare time, but on the level of reading required in high schools

" We need to read books that stretch and challenge our minds. We need to read books that can improve our lives. We need to learn how to follow the steps of an argument. It may not be entertaining, but ideas matter. And some of the most important ideas require time, effort, and repeated engagement before the payoff of understanding and enlightenment comes to us.

"College is now seen as mere career-preparation and a consumer good. But it is more than career preparation, and it is not a consumer good. It is a chance to learn to think deeply, and well, about questions that matter. It should help one cultivate the intellectual virtues that a functioning democracy requires of its citizens. An informed public needs to be able to read something longer than a blog post in order to engage in reasoned dialogue and debate. A university education is supposed to supporth the cultivation of the skills needed for this. But many students don't care,

" Parents need to get their kids away from screens long enough to read everyday. Schools need to support this, and they need to choose books that will help kids grow in intellectual and moral virtue, rather than for entertainment. As a society, we need to do more than just say education matters; we need to put our money where our mouth is and support schools, teachers, colleges, and parents. If we want an educated citizenry, we must educate them.

Another along the same lines is

Anti-Intellectualism and the "Dumbing Down" of America


Monday, June 29, 2015

June 29:All the news that isn't news...

"Anti-smoking laws to cause revenue shortfall." That's the lead story for today. Well, yeah. But I suspect the Irving enterprises cause us a much, much bigger revenue shortfall than smokers do. But you'll never see that headline. Nor will you ever see the headline story that the very rich around the world have been piling up wealth since the days of Mulroney and Reagan while the rest get poorer.

Jobs and wealth have been transported to the cheap labour part of the world. Of course, the cheap labour  isn't getting the wealth. That stays in the pockets of our own wealthy.

Sometimes, I really despair of writing a blog about a newspaper that is so trivial, so deliberately spreading ignorance. It completely ignores what our society is, and what it must become. That's because it doesn't give a damn about society. All that matters is making money, and making it mostly for those who already have too much.

We survive as societies. Everyone doesn't have to be of the same religion to sustain a society. But we do need to share some common values. We also need to sustain a community life in which we share and care for each other. The closest we come to community life is sharing hatreds and fears and bigotries with our neighbours. And we call these hatreds and fears and bigotries 'patriotism'.

We have just recently received a government commission report on what we did to our native peoples. We destroyed their societies and, in doing so, destroyed the people. We can't fix it. We can't simply hand it all back to them because we have also destroyed the world that was the foundation of native societies. The Plains Cree can't go back to hunting buffalo because we killed most of the buffalo - and we starved  large numbers of the Plains Cree to death - deliberately.

Only native peoples can revive their communities - and those communities will certainly try to save what can be saved. But they will also have to change themselves in order to survive in this century.

In the same way, western powers have destroyed societies all over the world. China was the oldest and most stable nation in the world until we killed and looted it into a chaos of warring factions. We didn't like Mao Tse tung? Well, we shouldn't have created him. Or Chiang Kai shek. We created chaos in China. Mao was a very brutal attempt to fix it. Chiang was our agent in maintaining the chaos. In the end, both lost. And China, like Canada and the US and Russia and most of Europe is now creating chaos for itself by accepting the rule of a predatory class made up of the very wealthy.  They are the ones who created Al Quaeda and ISIS. They are the ones who created tens of millions of refugees, and hundreds of millions more living in despair and terror.

The world has changed enormously, but changed unnoticed by most people who have been taught by our news media to see it largely in terms of who Justin Bieber is dating, and how cute Prince George is. Just ten years ago, mass torture would have been an unspeakable horror. Now, the only ones who are prosecuted for it and the ones who reveal that it's happening.

Five years ago, who would have believed that we would  have a police stat?. Now we do, and it's accepted as normal.

And perhaps the greatest change has been the loss of democracy and independence. We are now  governed by billionaires who hunt likes wolves to kill --us. They have spread poverty all over Africa, the middle east, and now we're on the menu. And they will destroy our society - what's left of it. Added to that, we became independent only to become a colony of the US. That's the reason why we are killing people in Iraq and Syria. That's why we're getting hitched up for an invasion of Russia.

Today's world looks very much like the last days of the Roman Empire when the elite guards would, almost annually, murder an emperor so they could appoint a new one who would raise their pay - and a year later, murder him.

They didn't have newspapers and TV then, or even rock stars, to keep people in a stupor. But they made do with bloodthirsty shows at the Coliseum. Our Irving press is a very tame version of  the Coliseum.

In short, the greed of our predatory economic system is destroying us just as we destroyed our native peoples - and Africa and the Middle East, and Asia and Central America. We need massive change. The US is far, too far gone to provide that change. What is more likely there is widespread violence there with no, predictable results.

The Liberals and the Conservatives in Canada are not part of  the solution. They are the problem. The NDP is honest - but neither it nor Canadians in general - are ready to accept nearly as much as has to be done.

For some grim reading on this, I suggest Jane Jacobs, "Dark Age Ahead". Jane Jacobs was what any newspaper would call 'respected' and 'noted' and 'expert'. The only difference between her and the ones who get so labelled in the TandT is that she really was respected, noted, and expert.

It's a tough read, perhaps best done a chapter at a time with group discussion.
If you're guessing this long intro suggests there isn't much in the Irving press, you're right. A4, for example, assures that "Riverview residents are satisfied with quality of life." So, to the best of my knowledge, are most alcoholics, mice and oysters.

The editorial writer seems to be comfortable with only one topic - the size of garbage cans.

Norbert writes a decent column, but does't really say much. He does, however, in one sentence, admit that we cannot go on using fossil fuels for energy. This is the first time I have seen that by a staffer in the Irving press.

Alec Bruce has a good column on Harper's lust for dictatorship and power.

A10 has the story on Moncton's search for new buses. Why? We are facing a climate crisis. In that case, why are we committing ourselves to these monstrous users of fossil fuels? Has this city council never heard of city planning?

Most of Moncton is designed to be served by private cars. That's why it has blocks and blocks of separate bungalows, each with its useless front lawn, rarely used back lawn and the expense of its long, long sidewalks and sewage and water supply. And each with it's own high-maintenance heating system. And it's quite deliberate.

It was encouraged by the good years after World War 2, and the availability of cars, the cheapness of gas, and the belief we could use gas forever. That world no longer exists. It makes no economic sense and it's dangerous to global survival. Has the city council given no thought whatever to that?

The motor bus makes it even worse because it simply cannot serve such a scattered population. In fact, the motor bus doesn't make sense for even a dense population. Until fifty years ago, such service was normally supplied by an electric tram. They're cheaper to make, cheaper to maintain, and last forever. (I well remember riding on a double-decker tram in Hong Kong, and noticing a brass sign at the front. "Built in 1905. Scotland" And they're still in service today.  (They're so popular that tourists just love them. And they'll do more for main street than buses will.) So why don't we seem trams any more?

Because the automotive industry bought most of the transit systems in the US so it could make more money by scrapping the trams and selling them motor buses. A Main Street/Mountain Road tram system might make sense. But, in the long run, Moncton is also going to have to do something about its  1950s sprawl.

I grew up in a very densely populated section of a densely populated city. We didn't have a car until I was seventeen or so. I can't remember ever feeling inconvenienced by that.  And I actually knew my neighbours.
In section B, the only story worth reading is "ECB refuses to increase credit for Greek banks". In brief, Greece is deeply in debt to world banks as a result of corrupt politicians, their capitalist friends, and as a result of backs that kept lending money to those corrupt politicians for their greedy friends - perhaps partly because the greedy friends of the politicians were buddies of the bankers.

The new, and honest, Greek government says the proposed terms of settlement would keep Greece in deep poverty forever - which is fine with the banks, because they and their friends could go on ripping Greece off forever. (Big capitalism works on exactly the same principles as the Mafia. That's not an exaggeration.)

The Greek government says it opposes the proposal, but will hold a referendum on the question on Sunday, and will abide by decision of the Greek people. No, say the godfathers and their associated goons. You have to accept our terms. Right now.

Personally, and before a single Euro is paid out, I would like to see a criminal investigation of the former, corrupt Greek governments, of the big capitalists they gave money to, and of the legality of the bankers actions when they knew all along what was happening. But, of course, the mafia doesn't do things that way.

Nobody know how this will turn out. Greece could pull out of the European Union. And that could start the collapse of the European Union - with its own, unforeseeable results. Greece could establish ties with Russia and China. Then, our news media would start telling us that Greeks were evil and were terrorists. Then the US might ask (tell) Harper to send Canadian 'peacekeepers' as part of an international force. We could see serious violence in several European countries. All bets are off on this one.

Canada has some ships and soldiers in Ukraine, with more on their way. just as the US is sending heaving equipment, large numbers of troops and large numbers of EU troops up to the border. Notably, the only people making threats and tough statement have been Obama and his chirping canary, Harper. Putin has been the only one to maintain a conciliator tone. (Not because he's a nice guy,   but because he's the only one who has nothing to gain from such a war.)

And we are there. Why? Did the Canadian people ask for a war? Did our parliament vote for one? No? Gee. I always understood that we fought in World War One to gain independence and the right to decide for ourselves when to go to war. Instead, we seem to have fought so we could become a colony for the billionaires who own all those nice people in Washington.

There's a story on B3 that New Brunswick's native peoples must negotiate to allow a polluting mine on land they claim, or they must go to court. So much for Truth and Reconciliation. The mining company is adamant. And it looks as though Gallant has chosen his side. (Guess whose side he's on?)

On a happier, if personal note, I enjoyed the big story about the retirement of Irwin Cotler, a Liberal mp who is retiring after 16 years in the Commons. He was, and is, dedicated to human rights with an intensity that reminds me of the old, Jewish Montreal community he grew up in. The Harper years have been sad ones for him as Harper is indifferent even to the rights of Canadians held in foreign prisons.

The URL below is British - but it's a warning because it's happening here - and soon. Big business is determined to privatize everything. That will not only be more expensive for us, but there is no reason to believe that private business is capable of operating anything for the public good. They are looking for complete control of our politics, our schools, of our lives. And it's happening quickly.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 28: the meaning of morality

About a dozen years ago, I read a book whose title I  have long forgotten - something like "The hundred greatest people in world history". One can, of course, argue forever about what greatness is, and whether this hundred in particular was the greatest. But they all, without doubt, had qualities of greatness. And there was certainly a bias for the western world. But still- there was an undeniable feature about those chosen. Two peoples stood out as remarkably prominent, though both were only a small part of the population even of the western world - Jews and Scots.

And that's not surprising.

For the Scots, the really great names in literature, science, economics, business.....begin to appear about the early 1700s. And it had a great deal to do with a wave of Protestant growth quite different from the Protestantism of England. Unlike most of the churches of Europe of the time, what arose in Scotland was a faith that required its  followers to read The Bible, and to come to their own conclusions about it. It was a huge step away from the Anglicans and Catholics who were told what to believe, and who devoted their church time to ritual. There was no need for either literacy or discussion. So there was no need to educate the common people.

But Scottish Protestant churches required the literacy so people could read the Bible for themselves, and and  the intellectual freedom to think for themselves. Everybody had to be able to read and to think, and to discuss in public. That couldn't happen in a society in which adequate education was available only for those who could afford it. And so it was that Scotland adopted free public education, giving equal opportunity to all.

It proved to be the foundation of modern democracy. And it produced a tidal wave of writers, scholars, scientists, businessmen many, like Robert Burns, of quite humble origins. When the British conquered Quebec, it was Scots, not the English, who came to dominate the business world.. And it was those Scots who planted the seeds of public education as the basis of education for all Protestants in Quebec. (French Catholics also had public education,  but until very recently, it was designed only to produce basic skills for very low level jobs. All French who could afford it (like the Trudeaus) sent their children to private schools. That's why every premier in the history of Quebec had attended private school. (Even Levesque, though he never finished.)

Public schools have been the foundation of democracy, freedom, and social progress ever since. (Though people like those at the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies have been anxious to hand them over to big business for profit - and this has become a feature in the US which is why the US is becoming a land of the 17th century.)

As for Judaism, free and open discussion has been central from the start. (There is the story in The Bible of Jesus debating points of the Talmud and the Torah in the synagogue.) Free and open debate and discussion are powerful factors in Jewish life. Thus the encouragement for Jewish children to study, to think for themselves.  Education was important to both parents and children. I always knew, when I spoke at a synagogue, that I better have something to say. It didn't matter whether the audience agreed with it. I just knew I had better have a serious topic, and some pretty good reasoning to support it.

And that carried into daily life. Jews were prominent, often  the majority, in most social action movements I was involved in.

It wasn't like New Brunswick chruches where one can get off with a gospel hootenanny.

The result of Judaism is a people who do, on the whole, very, very well in school. In my high school teaching days, Jewish children normally dominated the top spots in the provincial high school exams. Anyone who  wants to improve our schools should kick out all the big business influences and methods, and take time to study the methods of the Scots and the Jews.

(As a sidebar to this long prologue, google Jewniverse. It's a Jewish site that's quite fascinating. It's not at all political. Sometimes it's even trivial. But it's still fascinating.)
The point of all the above is that we need a society that uses its schools not to train children like pet dogs, but encourages them (and their parents) to feel the stimulation of learning, to be free to agree or disagree. and to be encouraged to do both in public. And to give equal opportunity to all children - and that means NOT treating them all in the same way. Children from poor and some middle class backgrounds need more, not just the same as, treatment given to more fortunate children. Education is not a matter of one size fits all. Equal opportunity does not mean simply giving the same class sizes and text books to everybody .

Children need exposure to varying opinions, not protection from them. When we use history to teach patriotism, for example, all we produce is a nation of robots to be easily manipulated by the Harpers and Irving presses of this world.

Well, that took more time than I thought it would. Maybe I shouldn't have spent so much time on this; but I thought it an important background.  So - morality in our world.

Look. I was raised in the United Church of Canada. I have often led services in churches. I rarely attend churches, though. I find them to be essentially social clubs for the lonely. I find the idea of praying absurd. Is there a God? Maybe. But certainly not one who looks just like us and who wears a white robe. Was Jesus His son? And also His own father? And His own ghost? I don't even understand what all that means.

Does believing in Jesus (whatever that means) get you into heaven (whatever that means)? I have no idea.

The core of real value in Christianity - and most other religions - is not in all tales of magic and all the abstractions that you read about in The Bible and most other religious works around the world (yes, including Islam) lies in the essential rules for the survival of any society. These are the rules we call morality. One of the rules is that we must not kill other people.

But we live largely to kill other people. We are killing them in the Middle East. We go along with that largely out of a hatred and fear that has been drummed into us by billionaires who want us to kill people in the Middle East so they can make more money, and they spread the hatred of fear in the news media they own.

And we're on the edge of killing Russians  (and risking killing ourselves) because of our profound love for Ukrainians and their democracy. Come off it.

Until this started, most North Americans probably thought a Ukrainian was a kind of European banjo.

As for freedom and democracy, the western powers have led the world in destroying both. The British had the biggest empire in history, though the American empire may now be larger - it's hard to be sure because Americans never call it an empire. The British, the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, and the Americans have not only murdered millions to make a few people very rich. They have tortured on a monstrous scale - and the only person who faces punishment for it is the man who revealed that the torture was going on.

Our side and the other side are both guilty of war crimes against humanity, of greed, of slaughter.
When Hitler murdered innocent people, spread massive suffering, murdered in the name of religion, tortured, and dreamed of conquering the world, we were told he was crazy.

How is that different from what the US and its friends are doing?

Love thy neighbour? Thou shalt not covet? Please. An economic system of rule by the rich and greedy and self-centred dominates every major power in the world. (No. It's not just New Brunswick.) Our mining companies in Latin America and Africa kill and plunder and pollute to a degree worse than slavery.

The mass murder of North American native peoples and the destruction of their societies easily matches anything Hitler did. Given its smaller population, Canada takes a back seat to no-one in this category.

Thou shalt not covet? Please. Our economic system of uncontrolled capitalism (which is about to get worse) is based on coveting. Coveting and  unlimited greed and self-interest. It's the same system in China and Russia as it is in Washington and Ottawa.

There is no room for morality of any sort in such a system. (That's why my enthusiasm for the Irving Chapel with its "special music" and coffee and fellowship in the Barn is muted.)

In the midst of this hell on earth, we have churches that rarely, if ever, mention these things. Nor do they ever mention the religious hatreds roused by the billionaire owners of news media to make us want to kill and loot people of other religions.

The reality is that most religions teach very similar principles. You will find the moral codes of Christianity very similar to those of Muhammed, Confucius, Moses, Lao-Tse. And almost all countries ignore their claimed religious principles.

As nearly as I understand the words of Jesus, he would not have approved of rampant greed, mass murder, theft, brutalization of people, news media that encourage hatreds and fears, the massive redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich, the impoverishment of hundreds of millions....duh, so how come the Faith page never discusses anything that might offend the rich and greedy and murderous?

How come the congregations do nothing but have yard sales and pancakes? I have known very few synagogues that would tolerate that.

I am not suggesting the clergy should preach about this. Indeed, I have seen no reason to believe that most of them are capable of it. But they should, as The Bible does, encourage discussion of these topics in a Christian context. And the discussion, breaking out in a whole new direction for New Brunswick, should be public and encourage freedom of thought..

I don't suggest the churches tell people what to think. I suggest they see whole of the faith, not just the parts that the Irving's of this world choose to let us see. Life is not just abstractly loving Jesus or Muhammed or Confucious while supporting the greedy and the murderous.

In church, in synagogue, in mosque, in temple, in school, people don't need to be preached to according to formula. They need to be encouraged to think, not to memorize but to develop their own understanding, to feel free to discuss what they think without looking around for the secret police.

Will they think better than the billionaires of this world?

They can scarcely think worse.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

June 27: Wow! A powerful semi-automatic rifle for only $199.95

Gee. Just like the rifle that killed three of our police.

That's from and ad insert in yesterday's paper. And - 1,500 rounds of ammunition for only $279.What's it useful for? Well, you really don't need it for hunting. You would need it in the woods only if you're suddenly attacked by six or seven deer.  And the semi-automatic feature makes it very dangerous in the hands of a sloppy gunner because it means the gun can go off with just an accidental touch of the trigger.

But, sometimes, you may want to kill a policeman, and at short range. For that, there's a quite powerful pistol called the Sauer in .32 calibre or 9 mm. Only $679. It's very little use for hunting or target shooting, but great for killing people at short range.

And let's not leave the kids out. For them, there's the Ruger 22 which looks exactly like a military submachine gun. It's semi-automatic - great for kids. And, you it know, looks just like a real, military weapon. So it develops real macho in kids.  And you can even get it with a 122  round magazine. With a little practice, a kid could learn to empty that in two minutes - anywhere.

Want something for  your child to play with on the street? Well, there's the Crossman BB air pistol that could take an eye out. And it looks EXACTLY like a real pistol.

This is all at Cabela's, the new story in Moncton that was greeted with something like a  imperial Triumph  in the streets of ancient Rome..

It's now over a year ago three police in Moncton were killed by a person of mental problems who had been able to buy  macho weapons. The people and the newspapers of Moncton mourned, laid flowers, are promoting a memorial. They have done everything ---- except to ask why this happened, and what should be done  so it won't happen again.

Many police have requested transfers out of this district. It seems to have to do with the behaviour of police management. Nobody's telling. And nobody's asking.

Then we have the question of why it was possible for anyone in this city to buy what is essentially a combat rifle. And we have the question of why the Harper government has been so eager to destroy the long gun registry so the police have no way of knowing what's out there.

And Moncton says it thanks its police, and it mourns those who died. I don't believe Moncton. I don't believe the people, the newspapers, the local governments or the provincial government. If they cared, they would do something more than wail their grief. They would be taking action to find out exactly why all this happened, and they would be working on means of reducing the risks for our police - and us.

Section A news is, as usual, a gathering at the village pump for gossip.

The editorial is a pointless one about the zoo. It closes on a bizarre note, "It will be years, if not generations, yet before new energy alternatives can help solve issues like climate change." If the editor had the slightest interest in this, he could have easily found the figures at which species are going extinct. That rates of disappearance have been rising and the pace increasing at stunning rates for over a century. We don't have generations to find alternatives. And we're not doing a whole lot to look for them.

After all, some people make a lot of money out of oil. And, duh, it creates jobs.

Norbert has a good column about the nearing federal election, and the dangers of jumping to conclusions about who will win. In parts, he sounds even rebellious in his denunciation of the ultra-rich. Indeed, this is close to a reversal of what he and his newspaper have always stood for.

I disagree with him only on small points. The terms small-l liberals and small- c conservatives are meaningless. Both parties have always been the agents of big business. I am not a small l liberal of any sort. The word liberal means minimal government. I have never thought that made sense. The ones who claim to support it are usually what we call small-c conservatives. Like all real liberals, I believe that people should have as much freedom as possible. Like all real conservatives, I believe a society needs a strong government and social structure.

By the correct definition, the Irvings are liberals,sort of - though they believe in such freedom only for themselves.

And I don't agree we've had 35 years of extreme conservatism. We've had 35 years of extreme greed and lack of any moral structure. That's not liberalism or conservatism. It's mass murder, mass theft, and indifference to the needs of anybody except the very rich.

And I would certainly not place Mulroney as a classic conservative. Mulroney is a man who devoted his life to making the rich even richer so they would make him rich, too. He cheated, lied, embezzled, and abandoned every moral principle so he could live in a mansion, and his wife could shop daily for new dresses. He was in the same closet as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. That's why he was Reagan's ally in pushing for North American Free Trade.

I was good friends of a man who was one of the star candidates who ran against Mulroney for the Conservative leadership. He was an owner of what was then Canada's largest law firm. He had a commanding presence, and spoke superbly. We were at many, many meetings together, and I soon learned that he was a man who could not lie. Once, visiting him for supper, I mentioned I had just bought a painting that was in my car. He was interested, and asked me to bring it in. I did. He looked at it, placed it by his chair, and began talking to someone else.

 I knew why. He didn't like the painting. But we were friends, So he couldn't say he didn't like it. But he couldn't lie, and say it was nice.  It was very embarrassing for him,,  But he couldn't even tell a white lie.

He withdrew from the leadership campaign half-way through it - though he was doing quite decently in the polls. So I asked him why he had withdrawn.

"Graeme, I had to quit. I just couldn't lie like those other people."

Brian Mulroney could - and did.

Two of the commentaries have nothing much to say.

The third is by Jason Limongelli, VP of Woodlands for Irving. It reminded me of Brian Mulroney. But it's not nearly as glib as Mulroney because Limongelli can't write worth a poop. It's  so wordy and bureaucratic that few will read it - and most of those won't understand it. It's also heavy on jargon and bafflegab. If I were Irving, I'd send this guy back to the minors.

As usual, all the columns are about New Brunswick. Talk about gathering at the village pump for gossip!
B4 has an amusing story that the leaks by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden have hampered the work of secret agencies in both Canada and the US. Well, I should hope so. The leaks show that those agencies have been lying to us, have been spying on millions of innocent people, and on friendly countries. They have even, in both Canada and the US, been creating "terrorist" incidents using mentally ill and/or isolated and  very poor people, manipulating them into committing a terrorist act, paying them for   it, supplying them with bombs, and showing them how to use them. Then, just before the act, our valiant defenders step in to arrest them.

They spy on every one of us. We have no idea who gets all that information about us (though we know that in the past, such information has been handed on to big business.) . They spy on friendly countries right up to the highest levels of government as they did in France and Brazil; and I expect, they spy on each other.

We Canadians and Americans spend billions on these clowns. And we hardly ever hear of them catching a terrorist. So why do we have them? Why have we surrendered all our constitutional rights and privileges? I especially wonder that about Canada because terrorists have little reason to attack Canada.

Yes, if terrorists attack, it's for a reason. The attacks of 9/11 were expensive and costly in time. So why did they happen? (Think hard. Terrorists don't do things just because they're evil.) Terrorists commit terrorist acts for a reason. We have to guess at this because our news media seem not to have thought of this question.

It wasn't done just to attack the US. There is no way that even an attack as big as 9/11 would destroy the US. There was no way it would make the US surrender or even cause any significant damage. For an attack that size, you need to be the US with the power to kill people by the millions - as in Vietnam and Iraq. Bin Laden was rich, but scarcely in that league.

So why the attack? On a guess, it could have been to egg the US into an over-response so destructive and murderous that it would spread extremism all over the middle east. In the long run, that would be a foreign policy disaster for the US.

If so, bin Laden got exactly what he wanted. There are reasons these things happen. (And they're far less likely to happen in Canada because there's nothing to be gained by an attack on Canada. It's irrelevant on the world stage.)

Harper decided we needed spies - not to spy on terrorists, but to spy on all of us - for his purposes, and for the purposes of  big business. And we pay for it with our taxes.
There really isn't much worth reading in section B. - just the story above, and one, sad one on B7. Greece might accept the bankers' terms on settling the national debt. If they do, it means the people of Greece will be so impoverished it will never recover. The debt will last and grow forever - like a payday loan.  But humans don't matter in our world. Only money matters. Having fed off the blood and lives of the rest of the world for 500 years, The European and American rich are now feeding off their own people

I won't comment on the Faith page today. It's still the usual drivel; but I want, tomorrow, to focus on why it's such drivel. I'm not going to get religious on you. I want to talk about morality - not as a religious concept, but as an essential for the survival of human societies. I want to talk about the collapse of morality, the role of many, many of the churches in encouraging that collapse, and the consequences of the collapse.

(I was raised to renounce the Roman Catholic church and all its works in the best Calvinist fashion of the Scottish highlands. But I'm finding Pope Francis one of the few leaders in this world to admire.)