Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sept. 20: What a dreary life...

...to read the Irving press every day. Other papers, even the bad ones, at least dream up exciting headlines like "Drug-crazed Stephen Harper dances naked at evangelical conference".

Nor is it necessary invent interesting stories. In The Atlantic for June 2014, there was a fascinating story on where the wage gap comes from (in the US, but I expect it's the same in Canada), It's called "How the rich shall inherit the earth".  Average income has been relatively flat for a century.(The chart is designed to allow for inflation). The top 1% have piled up wealth at a much greater rate. But it's the .01% who  have really shot up spectacularly,  Who are the top .01%? And how do they make their money?

Half of them are corporation executives or in finance. Others have rich parents.  The incomes of such people were relatively stable for most of a century, Then 1990 to 1999 saw a sudden burp, and since then it's been a skyrocket. But most of it isn't in cash. It's in stocks. There are two advantages to that.

One advantage of that is that a stock market can do very well, indeed, even as a country sinks into poverty. In fact, we're seeing that in North America.

The other is that profits made on the stock market are very lightly taxed.

Most of us are not doing well. But the stock market is. And when it gets into trouble? Well, that's when the people who caused the trouble tell us to bail them out. And we do, making us poorer and them richer. The whole story is told in a new book by Thomas Piketty,  "Capital in the Twenty-first Century". Maybe our editors could look it over, along with their Bible about the fiscal cliff.

Increasingly, the families of the .01% become dynasties like the aristocracies of old. In effect, they become the government - and the function of government becomes to enrich them even more. In fact, we're already there. But the old aristocracy was wiser.

It put it's able sons in government to become political rulers, ambassadors, or in family-owned businesses to become ever richer. The untalented ones were put in the army to become generals. Alas! I have not seen our aristocracy developing a similar disposal system for its useless progeny.
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Anyway, the Irving press would never run such a story. But there's another one - important, easy to do, inoffensive to the Irvings and, since it's nearby, would follow the Irving reporters' method of keeping our noses in our own bellybuttons. There's a new book, reviewed in this month's Literary Review of Canada, by Rose Ricciardelli, "Surviving  Incarceration: Inside Canadian Prisons". This is important because Harper, even as the crime rate drops, has been stuffing our prisons to dangerous overcrowding, and serious neglect of any attempt at rehabilitation - and at a huge cost of over 2 billion dollars.

Even Conrad Black, a man outstanding for his self-serving ways and who is far more conservative than Harper and whose convict experience was in what is relatively a gentleman's club for rich convicts, has turned against our medieval prison system.

I was many times alone with a roomful of extremely violent men (in the time I was there they killed a shop instructor, stabbing him with a screwdriver.) Long prison terms in such a vile and dangerous place did not make them better; it made them worse. Harper, though knowing that, has spent billions to make the prisons worse. I has nothing to do with crime. It has to do with getting himself re-elected.

There's a prison nearby us. It would mean missing stories about a new ice cream shop or another hall of fame featuring Irvings.   But surely they have a reporter who could write something intelligent and useful in just a few visits.

Okay, I know. I  have to say something about the Times and Transcript itself.
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Alec Bruce writes a touching piece on the importance of our thinking about the society we want -and that we vote for. Alas! Almost two thirds of the people who need to know that are functionally illiterate.  (In Canada, almost half of all adults are only semi-literate - and the situation is expected to get much worse. As well in Canada, two out of ten university graduates rank low in literacy.)

Norbert writes on literacy, too. For a change, he does not blame the teachers He notes, in fact, that schools are loaded down with responsibilities for curing all sorts of social problems - but are rarely given any money to do it.

Why is this happening? Because most of our society doesn't give a damn. Then there are the other influences like TV, game phones, computers - even the school bus. When I was in high school, there was no school bus. We were expected to use public transport. As a consequence it was possible for students to stay an extra hour or so for clubs. Volunteer teachers stayed after school for the writing club, the current events club, the chemistry club... We even had clubs at lunch hour like the Kiwanis club that invited guest speakers. These were a great bonus for schools. But the school bus killed them. Nor have other organizations taken up much of the slack.

Cole Hobson wastes half a page for his 'feel-good" column on  how good Moncton people are.

Cyprian Okana contributes the second part of his column on foreign students. This clarifies his first one a bit. But we still need some tightly focused  examination of specific problems faced by foreign students (one problem at a time), with clear suggestions of what should be done.

But where, I wonder, is Gwynne Dyer? He's world famous for insight and honesty in dealing with foreign affairs - something the Irving press is dreadfully weak on is insight and honesty. But his column has been absent for quite a while now.

Instead, we have to turn to NewsToday with its thoughtless, ill-informed and propaganda-laden story of the visit of the Ukrainian President's visit to Washington as seen by the Associated Press. The story, on B7, is three columns. The third column is devoted entirely to propaganda.

It lays all the blame of Russia, mentioning something I have not seen before, an accusation that this has all has been caused by a Russian plan to conquer Europe. Where did that story come from? Then there's the suggestion that Russia started it all by invading Crimea. And of course, the current Ukraine government is 'legal'.

There is no mention that this all began with the overthrow of Ukraine's real, legal government by riots almost certainly created by the US, no mention that the government then formed was illegal, and the further problem that the election it called is questionable since it was held in the middle of a civil war.

At the end, a US senator is quoted as saying "Putin has upended the social order".  Oh? And exactly what is the social order? And who set it?
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For Saturday, A1 has a story about the Saskatchewan premier's opinion on fracking. Of course, it's a big story. He's in favour of it. Mr. Irving approves of stories about people who approve of fracking. And what a coincidence it should appear just before election day.

A4 has the regular election fearture "A Better New Brunswick" in which it interviews with local notables, on what New Brunswick needs in its politics. This time it's Marc Chouinard, manager of the Capitol Theatre.  I have no idea why this was done. Certainly,  he has excellent credentials in the cultural field. But none in government. And it shows.

He makes grand but vague statements. "The province is at a cross-roads....get people to work together...make culture an integral element in the development of our communities..." I don't even know what that last statement means. Culture already is in our communities, and even in bunches of chimpanzees. It's an impressive word. But nobody knows exactly what it means.

This is no criticism of Chouinard. It's a criticism of editors who have done a really sloppy job of creating this column in the first place.

There's nothing in Section A worth reading.
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In NewsToday, Canada's foreign minister, Baird, continues to make an ass of himself. This is the mental midget who last week said that ISIS is the great war of this generation.  Come off it. Even Afghanistan has been far bigger. Then he says,"Iran is involved in a negative way in every single country in the region." First, it isn't. Secondly, the US is involved in a negative way in most of the world. Then he says Iran persecutes women and gays. Hey, you want to see persecution of women and gays, Mr. Baird? Then drop in on our good ally and buddy, Saudi Arabia. It probably has fewer human rights than any country in the world. Anyway, it wasn't a hundred years ago that it was legal for a man to beat his wife in Canada. And recently, very recently, it was a sport to beat up gays in Canada and to deny them employment.  What a bozo for foreign minister!  As for Iran, he builds on the standard fear that Iran is working on a nuclear bomb. Even US intelligence has long ago said it has no evidence that Iran is working on a bomb.

Also on B1 is a report that, despite flare-ups, the Ukraine peace talks are going well. The report, for a change a real news story with no propaganda in it, is from The Associated Press.
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On the Faith Page, our churches are awash in doing the Lord's work with dinners, bake sales.... I guess they figure Jesus was one, big eater.  The sermonette, as always, discusses the Bible without once relating it to anything in our daily world.

According to the large ad on the page, there are only three churches in Moncton. That suggests to me that our hall of fame philanthropist nails the churches for advertising fees. That's odd. Open a new bar, and he'll give it a big news story - no charge.
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ISIS is still a mystery. At a time when it should be reeling from attacks by the coalition of the willing, it has captured considerable Kurd territory, creating thousands of refugees. Meanwhile, the coalition of the willing hasn't been willing to do much beyond some bombing by the US and France. Australia seems to be the only volunteer to put boots on the ground - but not very many.

More curious is that a member of the coalition is Saudi Arabia which has played a major role in financing and equipping ISIS. And so has the US. Canada's "willingness" though highly praised by Obama hasn't amounted to much. NATO seems notably shy about the whole thing - as are the Arab states. To complicate matters, there are so many agencies, individuals, and power groups playing games in Washington that it's hard to know who's in charge.

Obama's original purpose was to destroy Syria as a nation -and to get rid of Assad because he's too friendly with Russia. Then it became a purpose to  destroy Iraq into a group of tiny and powerless states. That was to be the role of ISIS. The hostility to Iran was largely for the same reason as hostility to Syria. They were both developing trade with Russia. But now Obama is smiling at Iran. (Baird really should keep up with the US news media to know the latest propaganda.)

Then there's the well advertised killings of western journalists. Why the advertising? Is it possible that some Washington agency, in contact with ISIS set this up? I know that sounds crazy. But we live in one hell of an immoral world in which, to some people, human life means nothing at all. And, of course, you need an excuse for a war. This kind of act, to create an excuse for war, has a long, long history. It's also necessary to drive the American people into a frenzy of fear so that they will support the war. (Oh, they're going to come with their camels and kill us in our sleep.) It's also a way to get support for driving up defence spending, militarizing the police, and reducing constitutional rights to make it easier for domestic spies to check on anybody the government doesn't like.




Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sept. 18: Our private news media - from one who knows...

The name of Ray McGovern isn't well known these days. But for over thirty years he was a top analyst for the CIA, and he was a Washington insider at the highest levels. In the days of President Reagan, he was the man who briefed the president every day.

He knew all that was going on; and he came to realize how immoral and destructive it all was. So, after retirement, he founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. One of his conclusions is that American (and he could have included Canadian) news media are thoroughly corrupted. Like the Irving press, almost all - newspaper, radio, TV -are owned by a small number of very wealthy people who use them to spread propaganda and, when useful, hatred and hysteria.

(There are exceptions. The Irving press, for example, devotes only its foreign news to manipulate hatred and hysteria. And local news is usually limited to trivia and propaganda. For example, read one of its editorials - any one of them. The purpose of Section A is not to spread propaganda but the put New Brunswick into a stupor.)

There's a good video of McGovern explaining how this works. Just google International Clearing House. Go to the stories for September 16 and stop at "The Fourth Estate is Dead: We no longer have a free news media". It has, he says, been captured by corporations, the military/industrial complex, and the intelligence services. That's a reality that we're going to have to face some day.

And if we don't have free news media, we don't have democracy. Get used to it. The world that we, every Nov. 11, say our military died to uphold, is gone. In particular, it no longer exists in Canada or the US.

Most of our news media now are there to manipulate us for the profit of the very, very rich. The Irving press people, lacking the brains to manipulate us, simply keep us in a stupor.

A sample of the manipulation came from Bob Scheiffer, host of CBS "Face the Nation". In reference to ISIS beheadings, he said, "What kind of people kill the innocent in the hope of impressing their enemies? These kind of people, barbarians, psychopaths.."

I quite agree with him, and I wonder why our news people didn't didn't think of that when our side was deliberately massacring innocent civilians by the million in Vietnam, Guatemala, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan - and is still killing uncounted numbers of civilians all over the world.

Indeed, the whole history of our glorious empires - Britain, Spain, Italy, France and now the US - is a history of murdering innocent people all over the world. But I've never seen a history book that said Queen Victoria was a psychopath or a barbarian.  Even in Canada, this branch office of empire, I've never seen any such name-calling of, for example, John A. Macdonald, who deliberately allowed mass starvation of native peoples in western Canada.

In fact, by World War Two, the mass murder of civilians by terror bombings had become standard practice on both sides. That's why the US carried out the fire-bombing of Tokyo that killed a hundred thousand - and then the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were targets made up largely of civilians. That's why they were chosen - because they were civilian targets.

Indiscriminate terror bombing of civilians by air is something that began in colonial wars even before World War 1. The Germans used it against Spain before World War 2. (Under images in google, look under Guernica). By the end of the war, it was standard practice by the psychopaths on both sides.

We'll be getting the full treatment on this in our press by tomorrow. Australia has charged some Muslims with planning to behead people in the streets of Australian cities. And that's not nice. Civilized people like Christians and Jews bomb them in the streets of Damascus and Palestine.
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Probably the longest news story on A1 of the Sept. 16 TandT is "Leaders must ask tough questions: expert"
Wow! who woulda thunk it? This is the intro to a story about a pep talk given to some 2,000 business people, politicians, students. Business people just love these pep talks, and there's good money in giving them.  What they dish out is something like those awful sermonettes we get on the Faith Page, lots of what should be obvious advice presented as if it were the latest insight from the mount.

Business people like them because the level of advice is always in a class with the standard advice for a child - don't pick your nose in public. And we're also given lots of important information in the story like - he spoke sitting on a stool beside a table. And sure enough, inside is a picture of hims sitting on a stool beside a table. What a guy!

The morning session was similar stuff delivered by an Olympic gold medalist. She isn't listed as an expert on the subject but, hey, she has two Olympic gold medals. In attendance for her were over 6,200 school students.

Whoa! That must mean that almost all the high school students in the city missed half a day of class for ----what? A pep talk from somebody with two gold medals?

These leadership talks can make good money for the speakers. But I would certainly not waste half a day of education to make students sit through one.
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The editorial, again and as almost always, is on a very local topic. I's the only daily I've ever seen that does that. I think what that tells us is that editors don't know anything else but local matters.

The best part of the op ed page is a letter to the editor "Test scores inadequate way to assess teachers' pay."
It's a response to a "study" by the Fraser Institute (a front for big business), which claims that paying extra to teachers whose students do well on test scores would be an effective way of improving education.

The writer points to a study on it, showing that such extra payments have no effect at all on a student's performance. Again, big business is sticking its nose into the education of our children - and doesn't know what it's talking about. Test scores are profoundly affected by family income levels, by parental attitudes, by social pressures. Paying teachers more or less will not have the slightest effect on that.

Big business is wild for huge bonuses, so they naturally see this as a device to help them commercialize education. The reality is that it's not at all clear  that it works for business, either. The great bailouts of major business were all of companies, especially banks and auto builders, that were close to ruin as a result of decisions by their high-priced leaders. Their is no reason to believe that paying a CEO millions will make him or her a better CEO.

And their is no reason whatever to believe that a man who inherits an oil company has any special gifts to operate any social institution like a school or a  health system. Or even an oil company.

NewsToday should be called NoNewsToday. It has almost nothing on a world that is teetering on the edge of world war. And so far, there has been no mention of the American government spending a trillion dollars over budget last year. Nor does it answer the question of how the US will every repay that.

Answer: It won't.
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For December, a big story is on P.A2. Industry minister welcomes Burger King. It includes a long statement from the minister, Jim Moore, who specializes in making long statements that say nothing.

On A6. we learn that Steven Williams, a combat sport promoter is excited that we will soon see commercial combat sport in Moncton again. And it will be safer with government regulations controlling it. Right.

I had an uncle who was a coach for boxing in the Olympics, and also coached both amateurs and pros. So I knew a lot of boxers. But I can't think of one who did not suffer permanent damage from boxing. Physically damaging an opponent is what boxing is about, with much of the damage being permanent. And boxing is regulated by the government.

Combat sport is even more damaging. (That's what attracts spectators who are too intellectually challenged to follow boxing.) And that's why there are many who oppose it. The news article makes not a single mention of any of this. Reporters - you're supposed to ask questions or, at a minimum, to think.

The only item worth reading in Section A is Alec Bruce's very impartial column on fracking.

Rod Allen trivializes Scottish separation  with a column of juvenile humour.
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Page 1 of NewsToday has a story of President Poroshenko visiting Canada's Parliament. It reads as though the reporter wrote it while on his knees, and slobbering over the president's shoes. Harper chimes in that Canada will fight at Ukraine's side if it takes fifty years.  (But dinna fash yoursel' as my Scottish mother used to say. The war would end for us just as soon as Harper wins the next election with the massive support of the Ukrainian-Canadian bloc. In any case, there is no possiblity of it lasting fifty years in a nuclear world.)

On B5 "NDP's Mulcair refuses to back 'non-combat' deployment in Iraq". But Justin Trudeau does back it because Iraq has hundreds of thousands of displaced people whom Canada has a responsibility to protect.

Uh - Justin - Iraq had millions of displaced people when the US invaded. How come you weren't calling for Canada to protect those people then?

For the illiterate set, B7 has a page of colour photos of people holding up oversized cheques for various causes.

And that's about it.
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Nothing in those two papers would help anyone to understand anything. They are classic examples of Irving's modus operandi - to keep the people of New Brunswick as ignorant and as trivial as possible. So let's do a quickie on what's happening in the world.

For the last several centuries (perhaps forever), wars have been fought to make the super-rich richer. They sucker us into it by telling us how evil the other side is   In the last century and more, news media have been the favourite device for manipulating our thinking.

The usual purpose of the war is to grab control of  a country and it's economy - or to knock off a commercial competitor.

The usual device to get control of a country is to build an empire. with the defeated being ruled either directly or indirectly by the conqueror. And sometimes it's by making a country an "ally" as in the case of the European union. West European countries follow US orders because they have no choice. Britain began to realize back in the 1870s that it had to court US favours because standing along was becoming impossible for it. And that came at a price. The price today is that Britain has be on board for a war with IS and another with Russia - as it was with Iraq and Afghanistan.

The wars of empire have been extraordinarily brutal - killing, torturing, starving, impoverishing more millions than have ever been counted. The objectives were resources, cheap labour, slaves. In the latter, the trade of African slaves, estimates of those who died just in transit are as high as 60,000,000. George Washington was the biggest slave-owner in the American colonies. That's why there were two groups who were not equal in the land of the free and the home of the brave - African slaves, and women of any colour.

Typically, the average Englishman or average citizen of any imperial power got little or no benefit from the empire. The profits went to the already rich. The world's biggest empire today, by far, is the US where the rich are daily getting richer, and the average American is suffering severe economic hardship - which our papers never report. Well, why should they? They don't much report it there, either.

Empires don't go to war to help anybody except themselves. There are important people in the US who want a war with Russia. And they want Ukraine for strategic reasons - to attack Russia. That's why they overthrew the legally elected government of Ukraine. They want Russia because they want to end Russian commercial competition. (This has nothing to do with the size of that competition. They war against much smaller countries for the same reason.)

They want Iran for two reasons. They want control of its oil (That's why they, for  years, imposed a dictator on Iran). They also want to control Iran's trade because much of it is with Russia. The talk about Iran and nuclear weapons is just a cover.

They want to destroy Assad and the Syrian nation for the same reasons.

They foam at the mouth over Cuba for reasons that have nothing to do with freedom. In fact, Castro got rid of an American-imposed dictator. Then, when the US cut trade ties with Cuba, Castro had to find a market. So he found it - with Russia.

And Iraq? We have never had a coherent statement of what the Iraq war was about in the first place. Certainly, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. What seems clear is that the US wants Iraq to be split up into smaller and weaker states (just as it wants for Syria). But it's approach is puzzling. It cannot win a war simply by bombing.  They seem to be relying on Arab boots on the ground - but there is no great enthusiasm for this in the Arab world. As well, his major recruits so far for the "coalition" are Saudi Arabia and the emirates, all three of whom have been the major contributors to ISIS.

What the US seems to want in that whole region is national breakup to create small states of no power, and all of them dominated by American big business (with whatever Brits, Canadians, French, etc. can beg for a piece of the action.)

The big question is - why is ISIS using public beheadings of American and British subjects? Is Bill Scheiffer right? Are they psychopaths? Maybe so. But if they are, the western world, too, is full of pyschopathic politicians and big business people. And there are certainly lots of people on both sides who are evil.

But that doesn't mean they're stupid. I suspect ISIS is making a big show of public beheadings precisely to get the reaction it is getting. And I suspect it has some connection with that massive debt the US has.








  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sept. 16: The new, reorganized Times and Transcript is even worse than the old one.


And the old one was wretched, indeed. I watch in amazement as blog readership climbs spectacularly in France, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Germany.... It must make them feel good to learn that our news media are worse then theirs. Typical is p. 3 which gives almost the whole page to just two stories, neither of any importance whatever. One is that tourism hotel managers will hold a meeting in Moncton. Who could possibly give a damn?

The other big story? Moncton will have a display by all its tattoo artists. Be still, my heart.

A4 is eleven, count them, eleven photos of children playing street hockey - with another photo of them on A1.

A7 is a whole page of photos of an agricultural exhibition. Well, photos are cheap.

And that brings us to the editorial and op ed pages. Norbert bemoans the loss of democracy in New Brunswick. But, of course, he doesn't mention the cause of that loss. The cause is his newspapers' owners who keep it no secret that they run the government, no matter who gets elected. And, since he never identifies the cause, he offers a useless cure. Voters should get mad. They should vote against what they don't like which, according to Norbert, is all the parties. Actually, Norbert, it might help if  your paper were to give more information and more honest information. But that won't happen.

Alec Bruce attacks all the parties for their failure to take clear and consistent stands on fracking. And that's a reasonable complaint. But it doesn't matter.

Whatever party we elect will not be the government. Mr. Irving will be unto the umpteenth generation. And the laws and, therefore, the police, will be on his side. That's why police forces all over North America are militarizing. That's why they're getting armoured cars and "emergency response" teams equipped with war gear, combat rifles and macho camouflage outfits.

Big business has taken over North America. It's not worried about violence because the big guns are on its side. We probably will see lots more violence. I can't imagine that benefiting anybody in the long run. Violence seldom does benefit anybody. But this is where greed and the lust for power has taken us.

On op ed, Craig Babstock does his usual schtick - a story from the law courts about some minor affair that few will be interested in.

I recommend Steve Malloy, though. He writes about the recent scandal of the publication of  pictures of celebrities in the nude who thought their pictures were safely stored in their cell phones. Apparently, millions of people have very private messages and pictures in their cell phones. And there are lots of people who can get them out -and post them for all to see on the web. This is worth knowing about.

Then there's a letter to the editor. Unintentionally, it's about what political words mean. The writer is angry at a Liberal politician because she is a "small c" conservative which, she says, means she is against government spending and legal abortion.

Actually, that's not what the word conservative means. It has nothing to do with either spending or abortion. It's about the structure of society, and how we are all connected to each other. "Small l" Liberalism goes to the other extreme, allowing individuals to ignore social responsibilities. As for the big L and big C parties, the words Liberal and Conservative have no meaning at all. They haven't for over a century in Canada.

The big story in NewsToday is on B4. It's about how Prince Edward shook hands with 87 people at some gathering.  Oh, I could die. I could just die.

With much of the world drifting to nuclear war, the TandT couldn't find anything interesting or important in the rest of the world - except for Scotland's vote on independence.

The only story worth reading in the whole, news section is that Harper is mounting a tax audit on a left-leaning think tank because it is biased, and therefore undeserving of any special tax status.

It's called the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. I subscribe to it because its articles are always well-researched and well-written. Well, Harper doesn't want that sort of thing in his country. Mind you, openly propaganda outfits like Aims and C.D.Howe Institute are okay. I mean, they're backed by billionaires. And they routinely get respectful stories told about them in the Irving Press. But we don't want any of this left-wing stuff. O Canada! The true north strong and ???? (I forget that last word.)

Anyway, academics across Canada are complaining about Harper's very political interference in this case.
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Tuesday's section A is as bad as Monday's.

On A10, both the editorial and Alec Bruce are united in being opposed to any tax the rich scheme that some politicians have been talking about. Well.......

Where has our money gone? The very rich have it. It's a part of what we have come to call the wage gap.  Increasingly, the rich keep the rewards for themselves. That's why we're getting poorer. Inevitably, this becomes the 1930s all over again with the most of us living in wretched poverty - and the rich sneering at us.

Oh, but if the rich get a lot of money, won't they invest it in jobs for us?

No. They'll invest in some third world country to take advantage of its even deeper poverty and lack of any regulations or restrictions. And they'll even get help from that country's government to kill people who complain.  That's what Guatemala is about. That's what Congo is about.

Alec Bruce is right, though. If you charge the rich higher taxes, they won't pay them. They almost certainly are not paying even at the present rates.  But they freely get government to pick our pockets to give them interest-free loans, resources, and freebies. And that brings us the central problem in New Brunswick, the power of big business to control the province and to bleed it dry.

No. Raising their taxes won't work because they won't pay. But that doesn't change who is causing the problem. And it doesn't change who we should plan to get our money back from. That's where the money is. There is no point in searching for it where it isn't.

By the way, the political cartoonist, de Adder has been doing excellent work lately. I've long thought of Aislin at The Montreal Gazette (and an old friend) as the best editorial cartoonist in Canada. But de Adder, especially lately, has been right up there with the best.
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Alan Cochrane has the usual, utterly pointless column, this time about Highgate Square. Then there's an almost incomprehensible article by a president of some marketing company dealing, I presume, with foreign students who come  here for university. Some of them, we are told, bring democracy back to their countries. Oh? Name one.

Then we are told they have to adjust to a Canadian teaching system, presumably in universities, which is student-centred rather than the teacher-centred systems they are used to. Come off it. Canadian universities are NOT student centred. Professors rarely know much about their students. Nor do they want to know. Nor do they know much about teaching, itself. And most don't want to know.

In general, I just cannot see the point of this 'opinion' column.

There is, however, a superb letter to the editor, "Western governments never learn from mistakes'. It's about the real reason the west gets into so many wars, and how our leaders lie about their reasons for going to war. This is a letter that goes a long way to explain why Obama is so keen to go to war in Iraq and Syria. It's good for big business.

He's not doing it because an American was beheaded. The US government is quite accustomed to blowing civilians - men, women, elderly, children - into shreds of flesh. Beheading would actually be a step up on the moral ladder for it. But it's a great way to stir up the necessary hatred to justify a war.

By the way, why hasn't any reporter or editor wondered about why the Islamic State has been so dramatic with its beheadings, even sending videos out to the world? Surely, the reason is obvious. It wants the west to intervene. It gave Obama and Cameron the excuse they needed. There's a lot going on that we aren't hearing about.
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NewsToday has almost no real news at all. Mike Duffy's trial began today. Okay. That one sentence tells me all there is to say about it.

Also on B1, Harper makes a statement so foolish it should embarrass every Canadian. There is no cause for the rise of the ISIL,  he says. It is just "evil" and "vile". That can mean only one of two things. Arabs are evil because they are genetically different from us. In other words, he's racist. Or, it could mean that  Islam is an evil and vile faith. Well, you're treading on dangerous ground, Stevie. I mean, Christians have been the big killers all over the world for centuries, now. Is it really wise to accuse another religion of being evil?

Almost all of Harper's foreign affairs statements are like that - very short, very simplistic. What causes war? Evil people. Israel was entirely right (in bombing schools and hospital and killing children) in Gaza. The US is entirely right in intervening in Ukraine (though it would be entirely wrong for any country to intervene in a US civil war. The Islamic State is entirely wrong to invade Iraq. (Oh? So how come the US was entirely right to do the same thing?)

In fact, Harper may be the first prime minister to have no foreign policy at all. Whatever he says is geared to the next election, and the voting blocks, notably Jewish-Canadian and Ukrainian-Canadian, he wants to snap up.
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The one news story above all others I would suggest you read is "Bishop urges Catholics to vote using 'Christian conscience'"

The story is about an extremely vague and empty statement made by Bishop Robert Harris who is the highest official in the Roman Catholic church in New Brunswick. Roughly, he says, "as Catholic women and men, we have an obligation to inform ourselves on the issues in any particular election  and of the positions taken by those who are presenting themselves as candidates."

And so it goes, on and on, saying nothing but using a lot of words to say it. However, the reporter wrote that he was talking about the abortion issue. And so the message is "don't vote for anybody who supports abortion".

Look. The Bible says a lot of things. It says we should stone disobedient children to death. It says we should stone unfaithful wives. (No. The Islamic State did not invent that. It was a feature of Judaism and Christianity before there were any Moslems)

The Bible says we should roast fatted oxen because the odour is pleasing to the Lord. (And all we get are these lousy pancake breakfasts.)

What clergy (both Protestant and Catholic) do is to focus on just a few commands that don't in any way inconvenience them.) For some, it's "Thou shalt not kill."  So that is used to cancel abortion. Well, what the hell, it's easy for a bishop to say that. Hardly any Bishops ever need an abortion.

Protestants are no better. I well remember the Baptist Church on St. George St. with a sign that said "Pray for our soldiers in Afghanistan." I guess that was picked out of the bunch of commands to satisfy "Thou shalt love thy neighbour...."  But this was a war that was also killing soldiers on the other side, civilians - men, women and children. I think Jesus meant them to be loved, too.

For that matter, every Christian army I have ever heard of has had the support of Christian churches in doing its killing. At the time of the Cuban revolution, Cardinal Spellman blessed the bombs that were to be dropped on that country. Hitler had clergy, both Protestant and Catholic, to bless his soldiers, and even to bless those who were detailed to round up Jews for the camps. There are Christian fundamentalists in Canada and the US today who rejoice that the world is dissolving into a slaughterhouse because it's a sign that Jesus is coming back. They enthusiastically endorsed the killing of millions in Vietnam, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan.

Yes, The Bible says thou shalt not kill.Well, the biggest killing we do is in wars. The very Christian US now leads the world in killing and in spending on weapons.

Tell you what, Bishop. Make a tough statement about the extensive killing we do all over the world - and with the blessing of the churches. Then we'll discuss abortion.
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Meanwhile, it would be nice to have more (and more accurate) information, especially Ukraine, Iraq and Syria. Ukraine has by no means quieted.   -a few points to watch - NATO is carrying out military exercises inside Ukraine,  a good way  to start a big war - it is obvious that Kyiv cannot beat the rebels without massive help from NATO - and Russia cannot stand by and just watch Russian-Ukrainians being killed.

The coalition to fight the Islamic State is bizarre. Nobody is keen to put ground troops in there. The US is restricting itself to bombing. That cannot be done without heavy civilian casualties, especially where the IS troops are in cities. And it cannot be done without heavy civilian casualties in Syria, where IS had its birth. The US will also want this as an excuse to bomb Assad's forces as a step to destroy Syria as a nation. Again, the civilian casualties will be high.

If the US does have to use ground troops, they are likely to hire mercenaries - which are very brutal, indeed, and with many of them affiliated with the rebels in Syria who, in turn, are largely made up of terrorist groups.

Then there's the coalition, itself. Few of them are all that keen. Most, like Harper, want to make a small contribution, with a provision to get out at any point. Others, like Saudi Arabia, have actually been supplying money and weapons for the Islamic State.

War in either Ukraine or Iraq and Syria could easily become a world war. Either could be costly enough to seriously undermine the US economy. It could also encourage a larger coalition forming to place limits on the US. From Bush through Obama we have seen nothing but disasters in foreign affairs. And this looks like two more in the making.

And then there's the curiosity of IS fighters taunting the US and Britain with the beheadings. I think they see the disaster for the US that is shaping up.










Sunday, September 14, 2014

late on a Sunday night - and not the usual blog

I guess it all started when Obama gave his fatuous, self-serving, and lying address on the "war against terror".

Maybe it was that bit about how the world looks to America to lead for justice and freedom. This is grade school storybook stuff. The trouble is that so many Americans believe it when, in fact, the US may well now be the most hated nation in the world.

It has never led anything for Justice and Freedom. American history from the start has been a history of aggression, conquest and exploitation. First they conquered and killed and/or displaced the native peoples (just as Canada did.)  Then they attacked their neighbour, Canada, just as they now claim Russia is doing in Ukraine. Then they attacked Mexico and stole a  third of its territory to create much of the US southwest. They annexed Hawaii without the consent of the Hawaiian people. They conquered Central America. And they still have spies, destabilizing groups, and killer squads all over South America. They have special ops and killer drones operating in nobody knows how many countries. In the last fifty years, they have bombed and murdered millions, the majority of them civilians - and tortured nobody knows how many thousands. In a recent release, we learned that they allowed some 400,000 Iraqi children to die of starvation in the years following the Iraq war.

The greed and slaughter of their governments had caused large numbers of Americans, probably a majority, to turn against the constant wars of their governments. A world leader for justice and freedom? I don't think so. More likely, it is the most hated nation in the world.

Now, Obama has won the hearts of Americans to fight a war against the Islamic State. Why? Because its soldiers beheaded a man.  No, no, that's not it. Thousands have been beheaded in recent wars. But - IS beheaded an American.

You would think it's not a good reason to start bombing cities and killing innocent people in a country that has already suffered massive killing and impoverishment thanks to the American government. In fact, it has already killed some civilians in this most recent tizzy fit. And it's going to kill a lot more because you can't drop bombs without killing innocent people. Lots of them.

So why has American public opinion about war changed so quickly?  Well, that takes us to a British army colonel, Baden-Powell, who became the founder of the Boy Scouts.

Baden-Powell became famous because of the Boer War in South Africa where he for months defended the town of Mafeking.  At the time, the cheap, mass-circulation newspaper had just come into existence. The trouble was the the news from South Africa was terrible for the British papers. And they couldn't sell papers with nothing but bad news. They needed a hero.

So they made one. Baden-Powell, the courageous, English leader became a fixture in the press. He whistled to keep up the spirits of the defenders. It was said the  natives called him, "the one who never sleeps." (The person who said that was, in fact, Baden-Powell.)

At last, the British sent a large army to relieve Mafeking. And the English-speaking world went wild, so wild that fever-pitched demonstrating in Britain is still sometimes called 'mafeking'.  But the  army was not nearly so pleased..

Baden-Powell was not supposed to be defending Mafeking - or any other place. His assignment had been to keep his regiment moving as a sort guerrilla army, tying down Boer forces as he struck, ran, and struck again.. Instead, the first thing he did was to get locked up in Mafeking so it took months and a large army to get him out. The army wanted to fire him.

But they couldn't. He was a hero on a giant scale. They had to make him a general. (But they never gave him a command again. When he offered his services to the army in 1914, they declined, saying his work with Boy Scouts was more important than World War 1.)

Mafeking was the first example of  the power of the press. It made an utterly incompetent ass of a soldier into a national  hero. Since then, there has been a steady growth in the power of the press to manipulate public opinion.

When an American journalist was beheaded, this was an answer to the prayers of the print media owners. They played it immediately, and they played it heavily - almost certainly with encouragement from the American government.

Yes, beheading is terrible. So is starving 400,000 children to death. So is bombing millions of innocent people. So was killing 300,000 civilians in Guatemala. But they don't get played up in the papers. What got played up here is an excuse for the war which Obama wants to further destabilize much of the Middle East.

The Islamic State is no formidable force. It has no air force or navy. It's numbers are relatively small. Anyway, the Islamic State is not the main target. That status is reserved for Iraq, itself, and Syria, and a few other states in order to make them dysfunctional forever.  In attacking Syria, as well, Obama is doing exactly what he accuses Putin of doing - interfering in the affairs of a sovereign state. He's just doing it on a much larger scale.

And what is Harper doing? Making sure he gets the Ukrainian-Canadian and Jewish-Canadian vote. That's all.

This is a quite insane war, and one with every chance of going off the track.
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The Council of Canadians today sent me a story that probably won't appear in the Irving press. Our beloved premier Alward said in a recent speech that he has prepared the toughest regulations in the world for shale gas companies. But there was something he didn't tell us.

The committee preparing the regulations began with twelve general principles to investigate and prepare for. But one of the principles was removed before it wrote its report. The one removed was the effect of shale gas on public health.

And that's a part of the madness we're living through.
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A reader sent me a photo of a massive armoured car designed to resist mines and to carry a half dozen or riflemen. It cost $700,000 of tax payers money when the defence department  gave it to a police force in a California city as part of its unpublicized work of militarizing police forces. (It's also a good deal for industries in the military-industrial complex.) It's purpose?

I'm not kidding. It was given specifically to patrol public school zones. And this in a country in which education is terribly underfunded, and has been dropping like a rock compared to the rest of the world.

And that's a part of the madness we're living through.
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Finally, for a change of mood, check out ZE140913 on Google. What will come up is the Vatican newspaper with a speech given by Pope Francis I.

Now, I shuddered when I wrote that because I thought of  what my mother would think of her wretched son advising people to read a Roman Catholic paper. (She was a highland Scot with the most extreme of Calvinist views.) But I make exceptions for Pope Francis. He has shown great courage in taking on the mafia in Italy, and speaking sense to a world that doesn't listen.

This one is a talk on the causes of war. And no, the causes are not to bring peace and freedom to the world. Almost always, wars are to give more and more money and power for people who lust for more and more money and power. And Pope Francis does a masterful job of spelling that out.

This is the sort of thing that should appear on that dreary Faith Page of the TandT. And perhaps posted on the door of the Irving Chapel.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sept. 13: I'm used to getting some pretty bozo flyers from...

...our Conservative Member of Parliament, Robert Goguen. But the latest is a real stunner.

It poses a question. Do you think Canadian citizenship is a right? and two circles to check ---
Yes, citizenship is a right.
No, it is a privilege and must be earned.

I don't even know what those two questions mean. Is it a right? Of course. I was born here. I have a right to be a Canadian citizen. I don't have to earn it, and I don't have to ask Mr. Harper's permission.

Is it a privilege and must be earned? No. Not if  you're a citizen by birth. Yes, if you're an immigrant. (Though I'm not sure earned is the right word; but, yes, you have to be approved by the government.)  

So why the questions? Why would they go to the expense of mailing this bilge to millions of people? And, oh yes, there is a reason.
Below the questions, it asks which party is on the right track to solve Canada's immigration problem - whatever that problem might be. .( Most people will give the name the party they intend to vote for). Then it asks whether you are a stay-at-home parent, a senior, a veteran, a parent of child under 18, a working Canadian. It also asks you to return it, including your name, address, phone no., and email.

This latter part is what this expensive mailing that asks dumb questions is really all about. The Conservative party will get answers from all over Canada, giving the party information it needs to plan for the next election. And I'll add my question. Who paid for this?

No wonder the photo of Goguen on it has a smirk.
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Years ago, when the world and I were young, I briefly met a CBC reporter ;(his brother was my producer on CBC radio). His name is Karl Nerenberg; and I've often followed his work. He's a reporter of the old school - knowledgeable, independent, inquiring, tough-minded. For some years  he was CBC's main man on the parliament beat. Now retired, he's a "regular" on a web site called Rabble.ca.

It has a number of excellent opinion columns - none of the TandT's Rod Allen flutter. Karl has one in there now about Barrick Gold, a company that is one of the biggies, and is Canadian-owned.  This story is about Barrick Gold's behaviour in a third-world country where it exploits cheap labour, and ignores the environment by simply dumping toxic waste over the surrounding land.   If anybody complains, the company has a private army to beat, rape and/or murder them. Recently, the private army burned down 200 houses.
That's not unusual. Canadian mining companies are a major force around the world - and they are brutal even by the standards of a brutal industry.

The easy way to find him is to google rabble.ca, and look over the site. It's all good. For this column in particular, if you insist on doing it the hard way, it's:
http//rabble.ca/karl-nerenberg/2014/09/barrick-gold-refuses-to-relocr# VBMIhf8aik 8 gmail

You might also check out the column on how B'Nai Brith Canada (now a front for the Israeli government) is trying to get Stephen Harper nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Harper gets a lot of mileage for a man who, internationally, has talked big and fiercely while doing close to nothing. I guess the peace prize is for the "doing nothing" part.

While you're at it, check out a paper called The Local  - France's News in English. for Sept. 12. It has a story about New Brunswick that the Irving papers missed. It's about a Dutchman living in Nackawic, New Brunswick who was arrested recently when he confessed to police he had murdered his Dutch wife. He is also wanted in France where he was known as the "Dentist of Horror" for his mutilation and cheating of his patients.

The Local is also a most enjoyable paper to read.
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Also missing from today's paper is the story about a study of fracking in Pennsylvania.  It shows that people living within one kilometre of shale gas drilling suffered far higher rates of respiratory problems and skin diseases than did people living beyond that distance. It also pointed out that the problem is likely to get far worse as illnesses like cancer  have a chance to develop.

You can find it at rt.com/usa/187420-fracking-health-effects-pennsylvania
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In section A of the Sept. 12 edition, there wasn't a single news item worth reading. The editorial and op pages seemed as bad - until I came to the column by Alec Bruce. It contains a description of New Brunswick society that is brutal.

".... a province that suffers from a systemic lack of ideas, a structural absence of political and social courage, a perennial failure of imagination and innovation, you have confirmed for all the world that things will never change here in Canada's mental rust belt..."

I think he's right. I don't agree with all of his examples. But, in general, this is bang on.

Where I disagree is his criticism of the education system. Educational success reflects the values of the society we live in. I had reminders of that all the way through my education career.

Kids in my elementary school started leaving school in grade four. My mother's highest hope was that I would one day rise to a job from which I came home in clean clothes. I achieved her highest hope when I was kicked out in grade eleven, and became a mail-sorting clerk at Bell Tel.

But when I finished high school at night and then entered university, my parents were upset. I was trying "to rise above my station". Then, when I quit my prestigious job at Bell to attend university full time and become a teacher, there was something like anger. And when I quit teaching to go to grad school, anger gave way to fury.

The other boys in my grade eleven class graduated brilliantly. (They were a select class). Most went on to distinguished careers. Of course. Most of them were Jewish. They had been raised in a society with enormous respect for learning - and with high expectations for its children.

During that period, I was also a counsellor for a YMCA camp, and then  director of a YMHA (Young Men's Hebrew Association) camp. The YMCA camp was fun and games. But the YMHA expected me to mix the fun with some serious discussion and learning.

I was again reminded of cultural differences when I taught university courses in China. In three summers of teaching, no student missed a class - or was even late for it. If I mentioned the name of a good article, even casually and with no hint they should read it, they would all have read it by the next class. When I learned that one of my students was taking pills to stay awake and study all night, I had to threaten him with hospitalization if he didn't stop it.

The schools of New Brunswick are not different from good schools anywhere. But New Brunswick society is different - very different.
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NewsToday has lots of space for provincial elections candidates -all of whom continue to talk about everything but the real issues.

Page B 7 has, hidden in a corner, the story that there will be no further investigation of the Lac Megantic disaster in which a dilapidated train carrying oil on the cheap, and with labels submitted by Irving oil that lied about its cargo, and a railway owned by a man notorious for lax safety measures that made his cheap shipping prices possible killed dozens of people.

There will be no charges laid against any of the above. God is kind to his servants. All the blame will be dumped on three, minor figures - one of the them the engineer who had to drive that train alone all the way from the prairie West to the East coast. It was cheaper that way.

The investigation has received little attention from the Irving press.

Foreign news is skimpy. A story about the new war against IS features a statement by Ron Baird, Foreign Minister for Canada, and our national village idiot. "Iran is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world...they have had a destabilizing influence in just about every single country in that region."

Sure, Ron. It was Iran that killed over a million Iraqis, and starved close to half a million Iraqi children to death. It was Iran that bombed Libya and created chaos in that country. And it was Iran that financed the Syrian "rebels' with American money and weapons to stage a brutal (and phony) civil war in Syria. And no doubt it was Iran that has been sending drone bombers to kill innocent people all over the world, and is sending special ops troops  (cleverly disguised in American uniforms) to carry out assassinations all over the region.

And, you know what? I'll bet it was Iran that overthrew its own government fifty years ago so it could give all its oilfields to  those nice Americans and British. And I'll bet it was Iran that replaced its elected president with a torturing, murderous and corrupt dictator called the Shah.

Boy,  you can't fool our Ron Baird. That's why they pay him the big bucks.
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For Sept. 13, Section A  has its usual thought-destroying drivel. Seriously, this is deliberately designed to keep the population dozy. A3, for example, continues a series of interviews on the provincial election with people who don't have a clue what they're talking about.

This waste of half a page has inane advice on just about everything as seen by a city councillor. Problem- the cost of health care is too  high. Solution - people should go for more walks in a park.

Problem - people are afraid to talk openly. Why? Because they're terrified by people who are against shale gas.

The only clear suggestion concerns beautifying the city. It seems we should do that by following Fredericton's lead in redesigning our manhole covers.

This makes Gallant look like a fiery revolutionary. Perhaps it's on purpose that this on the same page as the ad for the Irving Memorial Chapel.
                      
A6 takes us back to the TandT's more common form of doziness. It's not a real story at all. It's an ad for a show at the Casino, somthing called Artificis.  The story says this show will take the audience by storm. That is an illegitimate starting point for a news story. So is the headline, "Audience to be 'wowed' at FUSION.

Newspapers do not tell the future. They have no qualifications to do so. They report what has happened. Usually, the TandT can't even tell what happened - or it lies about it. It certainly can't tell the future. That sort of thing is for an opinion column. That's why opinion columns are distinct from news stories.
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Then there are the pages of opinions - editorial and op ed.

The editorial, as usual, is about money rather than people. It is very upset that the Moncton firemen got a wage increase (though it still leaves them the lowest paid in major cities of the maritimes.)  It doesn't mention  whether any Irvings got wage increases this year - or whether they are falling behind the firemen's pay scale. Why not? We have to pay the increases for both of them.

There is a hint that we can take action. The editor warns that "...cities might soon seek firefighting options."

I know. I know. Look at my hand waving in the air. We could get CE0s to walk by the fire spitting on it. Then we could build a Moncton firemen's hall of fame - and put their pictures in it.

Bill Belliveau has a column of election ideas - some good, some less so. Norbert is Norbert. On the budget, he says, "Recognized experts have outlined how to do it." Yeah. Experts recognized by Norbert. His plans are exactly the same as those that were disastrous in the decade of the 1930s.  Neither Norbert nor Belliveau makes any mention of the big money that really controls our governments, our budgets and our lives.

Brent Mazerolle uses half a page to tell us a pointless story about his Tupperware.
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In NewsToday, there is virtually no foreign news. But there is one, interesting piece on B2. Little Cuba, with a population of only 11,000,000 is sending more than 160 health workers to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone.(Cuba, though kept poor by American economic sanctions, produces health workers, including doctors, way out of proportion to Canada and the US - and the training is free.)

The US population is thirty times as large at 320 million. But its health workers in all of Africa are a relatively small number.

The TandT editor, by the way, got the headline wrong. It says Cuba sent doctors. The story says health workers - including doctors.
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The Faith Page has two encouraging items, both from St. George's Anglican church. It will be offering free meals for those in need. It had better be careful. In doing doing something helpful, it'll be out of step with mainstream Christianity in Moncton.

The Sermonette on the same page  (B7) will no doubt create wider discussion among the saintly in Moncton.  It proposes radical changes in the church service. No, not something crazy radical like feeding the hungry. No. It proposes the church make itself more exciting by having more singing, or more praying, or less praying, whatever turns you on.
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What's going on in the world?

Well, the US and the EU are imposing more sanctions on Russia. Now, why would they do that just when Ukraine and Russia are in peace talks, and when even the President of Ukraine says the number of Russian troops in the country is small and getting smaller? Harper, too, is talking tough ( though doing as little as possible.) Harper's reason is obvious. He is courting the Ukrainian vote just as he's courting the Jewish vote. Big talk. Big promises. No action.

But what's Obama's objective? Why impose more punishments just as peace talks are starting? Well, here's a possibility. Obama wants a war with Russia. That would be a major step toward dominance over China. And China is the country that's holding vaults full of IOUs on the huge, American debt.

Get control over Russia, then China -and you can, maybe, force forgiveness for the debt. And, if necessary, you can bomb your way to forgiveness.

Meanwhile, China and Russia seem to be making deals to carry on world trade in their currencies, rather than the US dollar. And that would drive the US dollar into the basement. (China would the loser on all the American IOUs it's holding. But they're worthless, anyway.

Both sides' schemes require speed. And every step of the way raises the possibility of nuclear war.

In the Middle East? The US wants to stay out of a ground war. But it seems mostly unlikely that IS can be crushed by Iraq troops. And nobody is keen on sending ground troops.

But that may not matter. What the US wants in the long term is a weak and generally destabilized Middle East which will give it power to do what it wants in the region. (I think that is what it wants. That is certainly what the "warhaoks" want. But it is, seriously, very difficult to tell who is running the US government.)

And, finally, a story the TandT hasn't figured out, yet. Crystal Palace has closed. Target is in trouble. In today's paper, Dollar Stores have had a great year. Crystal Palace will be replaced by a high-end sporting goods store. Across Canada, The Bay department store chain is going high-end. What does all this mean?

It means the grossly unfair and greedy distribution of wealth in the province and across North America is taking hold. Dollar Stores had a great year because so many people don't have much money. The boom is in high-end stores because the upper ten percent have so much money that they want something better than Walmart or Target -and damn the cost.

But the TandT will never notice that.
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Oh, there is one more thing the TandT missed. It was in The Gazette (Montreal), for Sept. 12. The mayors of Montreal and its surrounding municipalities have voted thumbs down on the Enbridge pipeline from the tar sands to the East. The reasons seem pretty good.

The rules are slack. Serious risks of spillage and toxic pollution are ignored. And neither the company nor the government seems to care.

But hey, think of the jobs.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sept. 11: Debates dominate election campaign...

So says page 1 of section A for the Moncton Times and Tribune.. And the only possible answer to that is so bloody what.

The Broadbent Institute is one of the few left-leaning think tanks. I don't like think tanks; but the TandT ususally just loves them - though only if they're far, far right and financed by billionaires. It happily, on Monday, ran a piece of shale gas propaganda from a notoriously right-wing think tank as a featured column on its editorial page. But they probably won't mention the one from the Broadbent Institute, even though it raises the key issue in the New Brunswick election campaign - the issue the leaders aren't debating.

The gap between rich and poor in this province, this country, and the world is growing rapidly. The top 10% now get half of all the wealth produced in Canada. The bottom half (five times as many people) have to get by on just 6% among all of them, And that is not the whole story.

Most of the top 10% are making some increases. But the bulk of the increases and the bulk of the big money goes to the top 1%.

And there's nothing wild about these figures. You can find a similar pattern in Statscan statistics.

No society can survive such a wild distribution of its wealth.

In our case, the top one percent actually control (dictate) the provincial budget. They use it to create this wild disparity. They get wealthy by driving the rest of us into poverty. Then they demand that we suffer to pay off the debt they created.

The top 1% can do that because they ARE the government. They also control information through ownership of the print news media and a good deal of the electronic news media.

"Debates dominate election campaign"? I'm damned if I see why that's news. Debates are what's supposed to happen in an election campaign. The important point is that the debates are dancing around the real issue. We should be talking about restoring democracy. We should be talking about cutting off welfare for the top one percent, and about them paying their share of the debts they run up at our expense. We should be talking about the scandalous wage gap, and why it's happening.

"Debates dominate election campaign" is not a news story. It's just an attempt to create news out of an electoral farce.

Wednesday's A11 has a similar story. "Town hall sparks debates on election issues. This is a report on a big, big public meeting to hear the candidates for Moncton Southwest.

It's, perhaps, unfortunate, that only one Moncton Southwest candidate was there. That one was Rish McGlynn for the Green Party. The NDP candidate couldn't be there; but at least the NDP sent a candidate from another riding to represent itself. Liberals and Conservatives were completely absent.

Not that it matters a whole lot. Only 35 voters bothered to show up. But don't blame the reporter for that overblown headline. It's the page editor who writes the story headlines.

Thursday's section A is equally useless. "Metro police services back to normal". This is just an attempt to milk one more long story out of the shootings of several months ago. There's really nothing to tell. But it goes on and on saying nothing.

It's in a class with all the stories about how incredibly brave the people of  Moncton were in the days of the shootings and the manhunt. Boy, if only the Vietnamese and the Iraqis had the incredible courage of the people of Moncton ---well---if only----

The rest of Thursday's section A is trivia - except for a "story" that is really a free ad. Moncton Wesleyan church is hosting a simulcast of some evangelical effort called "Living Proof". And it's all about how women can learn and live and God's word. And it's only $25.

Well, it doesn't really grab me. But I might spring for 25 loonies to see a simulcast of how the Irvings live and love by God's word.
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Wednesday's Alec Bruce column does a solid job on Harper's motivations in supporting scientific research such as northern exploration. And they are very,very political.

Norbert writes on the provincial debt-----again. And again. And he does it without once mentioning the people who are sucking the money out of this province. No, in his view, it's them there poor people what's doin' it. Norbert. we tried to solve a debt problem in the 1930s by cutting government services. It didn't work. It never works. You cannot make a society prosperous by making it poor. What ended the depression of the 1930s was war -and a government that could find money for war that it couldn't find for it's own people when they were hungry. It also ended the depression was that big business had a lid tightened on it, allowing civil servants who knew what they were doing to do an outstanding job of managing the economy through the war.

On op ed, Rod Allen still either doesn't know what an opinion column is - or has nothing to say.

Beth Lyons does, and does it well on a topic we don't take seriously enough - the dreadful exposure of indigenous women to violence, rape, murder. Harper has made it clear he doesn't give a damn. Beth Lyons draws attention to campaigns to make Mr. Harper take action. There will also be a vigil in Moncton at New Brunswick Community College on Oct. 4.

Thursday has a bizarre editorial for the TandT. This is the paper that has a record of savagely criticizing out  hearlth system, and which virtually trashed the report  on the risks of shale gas prepared by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eilish Cleary. Thursday's editorial opens with praise of our health system as "one of the very best in the world.: That is - one of the very best "whatever its current shortcomings." (I'm not sure how to interpret that. But I'm damned if I can see why one of the "very best healthy systems in the world" has been so much attacked in this paper.

It also speaks of t hose "noble New Brunswickers"  who are in Africa to control Ebola. One of them is a person they treated in vile manner during the shale gas debate - Dr. Eilish Cleary.

I wonder how many executives of SWN and Irving will be among the "noble" ones risking their lives to fight Ebola.
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Foreign news for both days is largely useless. For example, Thursday has a report from The Associated Press on peace negotiations in Ukraine. It's drawn entirely from a Kyiv point of view, with lots of references to the sins of Russia. The final sentence is a gem. "The Ukrainian public has been largely supportive of the war against the separatists." Oh, really? Has there been a vote? Is there a source for that gem of information?

Wednesday has a very similar story, also from The Associated Press, on the investigation of the shooting down of an airliner over Ukraine. It's on p. B3. This is a report on the official study of the cause of the crash.  The answer, so far, is that it was destroyed by "high energy objects". But they have haven't seen the wreckage yet; they don't know what the obects were; they don't know who or what did it; and they won't know for another year.

But the American government knows. Yeah. It knew from the start. They knew it was Russians. Right from the start, before they even saw the wreckage, they knew it was a Russian rocket fired from the ground. And when the investigators made their report saying they were still a year away from a conclusion, the State Department immediately announced that this was sure proof the Russian had done it.

Well, maybe. It can happen. Some years ago, an American warship shot down an Iranian airliner over the Mediterranean, killing everyone aboard. But the American government never talks about that and, so far as I know, never even investigated. It also set a bomb in a Cuban airliner killing everyone aboard. And I don't recall any indignation about that.

Now, I've seen newspaper photos of the Malaysian airliner. (They may even have been in the TandT). There were, indeed, holes in it which were certainly made by "high energy objects". But the holes were small, and all the same size. There were at least four lines of them, equally spaced, going up the fuselage.

A rocket doesn't do that. Those holes were made by machine guns; and the number of lines of them suggests machine guns mounted, equally spaced, on a fighter plane.

That plane could well have been shot down by a plane of the Ukrainian air force. And Kyiv had a motive to do it. This could trigger a general war, and Kyiv needed a general war because it was doing badly on its own.

Both reports from Associated Press are not what they claim to be. They do not report fully and honestly about the events. Both of their reports are essential propaganda that "the Russians did it".

They also give the impression that NATO is completely in support of US policy in Ukraine and Iraq. In fact, it is not. They are not fully in support of US policy in Iraq because they don't care about Iraq. And those who are helping the US, like Canada, are doing the minimum possible. They don't all support the quarrel with Russia because the sanctions hurt them more than they hurt Russia, and because any war in the region would expose Europe as a battlefield.

For reasons I'll explain later, Obama's policy on destroying IS makes no sense. But before I do that take a look at B7 of Thursday's paper. It's one of the very few good news stories I've seen in the Irving Press. And, surprise, it, too, comes from the Associated Press. "Islamic State has several limitations."

This points out that the IS army is relatively small, even in comparison with those of Iraq and the Kurds. It has no air force. It has far less firepower than the Iraqis and the Kurds. This is not the fearsome army that has been portrayed in our news. There is a strong possibility of the whole region bursting out in war ( much of it already is). But IS, itself, is by no means unbeatable.

The bigger danger, the one that could trigger a much broader war, is Obama's decision to play a role in this war, even if it's only in the air.

Groups like IS are created by war. In 1941, Churchill and Roosevelt agreed that the war against Germany was a war for freedom and democracy. At the end of the war, they extended freedom and democracy to nobody except some European countries.

The US tried hard, but failed, to establish a puppet dictator in China. Parts of the British Empire had to fight - or at least threaten to fight - to get their freedom. Britain controlled most of Africa and the middle east  (with help from France and Belgium). They didn't give freedom or democracy to anybody. When countries, like Egypt, demanded freedom, Britain sent troops. (President Eisenhower was furious. But that was because he intended to replace the British Empire with American rule.)

The British owned Palestine. Without asking the people of Palestine, they sliced it in two, kicked out Palestinians into the small part (without giving them national recognition) and handed over the rest of Palestine to European Jews.

When Congo revolted, kicked out their Belgian rulers and democratically elected a president, the mine owners had the president murdered - and went back to the old ways of inviting foreign resource companies to come in, impoverish and brutalize the people, and loot their resources. (And there are Canadian investors who have done very well out of that.)

The US kept all its puppet dictators in Central America, murdering Guatemalans who dared to set up a democracy, and putting a military dictator in charge. Not long ago, When Haiti had the impudence to overthrow its dictator, and to democratically elect a president, the US invaded to exile the president and to set up a phony election to elect one of their boys.

The only one who successfully defied the US was Castro. And he's done it for over half a century. That's why they hate him.

When Egypt at last held a democratic election not long ago, the US disapproved of it, and immediately helped the army to overthrow it. It maintains, as its closest ally in the Middle East, a Saudi Arabia ruled by the strictest dictatorship in the world. (with the possible exception of North Korea.)

The Moslem experience (and the experience of others) of more than a century of western intrusion has been killing, exploitation, tremendous social disruption, arrogance, deprivation. The world's biggest terrorists are the armed forces, the mercenaries, the special ops teams of the US, with NATO tagging along because it has nowhere else to go.

The United Nations, international law, don't exist. We can thank the major powers for that.  In the US view, it and only it, has the right to intervene in the affairs of other countries  (Can you imagine the reaction of the American government if Russia were to intervene in a civil war in Mexico?)

That attitude, that scale of killing, that destruction of democracy wherever it shows its head, is what creates organizations like the Islamic State. I fail to see how that attitude and that killing can do anything but create even more extreme groups.

Meanwhile, we have troops in Iraq. There was no discussion, no debate about it. If the war gets worse, we're in it, like it or not.

We also have troops, aircraft and at least one warship in the area of Ukraine. I don't know about Obama, but there are influential people in the US who want a war with Russia. Obama probably doesn't. That's why he's pretending to be aggressive there while actually doing nothing. Our troops, aircraft, and our warship are on site to help Obama give the impression he's taking action. It gives Harper a chance to look helpful while actually doing nothing.

But if anything happens, we're in another war - with no discussion, no debate. Think of it. There is a Canadian warship floating around for no useful purpose in the waters off Crimea - an easy target for an accident - or incident.

And we can all chant on Nov. 11 that they died defending freedom.

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Oh, my, this was a long one. I  had hoped to talk about a possible reason why some people in the US want a war with Russia. But it will have to wait. (It has a relation to New Brunswick's budget deficits.)
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On Thursday, Sept. 17 at 1:30, I'll be at Rose Hall in People's Tower on St. George to register people for a class under the auspices of Tantramar Seniors. It will be - sort of - about current events - but it really won't be about that. It'll be about the ways we think about them and react to them. So it's not really about the events. It's about us and what affects our thinking. And it will, I hope, encourage lots of discussion among all those who attend. I don't want this to be just a lecture class.

It's also on a topic I've never taught before. So it'll be a challenge for me as much as for the students.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sept. 8: anything happening in Scotland? Nae

The Scottish vote on separation from Britain is nearing. And polls are showing the separatists in the lead. The effects on England, militarily, economically and diplomatically, will be serious. And so ends the Union Jack that hung in the front of my grade one class, the one for which we would stand every morning, and say, hands on hearts - "I pledge allegiance to this flag and to the Empire for which it stands."

So now, it seems possible the cross of St.Andrew will be ripped out of the flag, a symbol of the last shred of   empire.

Separation wouldn't really be a turning point. Britain's power has been in decline since World War One. But it is the signal of the end of "make her victorious, happy and glorious...." It's news. But the editors at the TandT haven't noticed it. Or they're keeping it their own, little secret. Imagine that. We could be watching the final, complete ending to the greatest empire in history, the ones we were a part of, and for which over a hundred thousand Canadians died. And the only British news for September 9 is in NewsToday. "  Royal Couple William and Kate expecting second child."

Hell, I knew that a long time ago from the scandal mags at the supermarket checkout.

Then there's an even bigger story on, also on September  9. but also not big enough to make the main story for the day - the dismantling of a covered bridge in New Brunswick.

The really big story is in NewsToday, page 1. "Obama weary of weight of the world". Yes,  here the US is fighting war after war, all for us and truth and democracy, and the rest of us aren't helping it nearly enough. And now the US is hugely in debt, with terrible unemployment and poverty, ....and don't you feel terrible about it?

The story is from The Canadian Press. And, like almost all of those major news companies, it tells only a little bit of the story. Nobody asked the US to invade Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, or to get all hostile with Russia. Nobody asked it to torture thousands in secret prisons. Nobody asked it to build almost a thousand military bases all over the world. Nor did the American people show any enthusiasm for these ventures. These were imperial wars fought for the benefit of American big business.

And American big business is very happy as a result. While everybody else is going into debt, big business, especially the super-corrupt military-industrial complex, is making great profits. It makes the weapons that are being used by both sides in Iraq. It will supply some, probably most, of the soldiers who will fight against IS. It will also supply even more weapons, operate food services, operate military administrative offices, provide drones, etc. The "defence" industry no longer just supplies weapons. It is actually the controller and renter of most of the fighting forces. A reader sent me an interesting not on this...
http://commondreams.org/news/2014/09/09/profits-soar-pentagon-leans-private-corporations-special-ops

These wars have all been fought to give big business huge profits at the cost of forcing millions of Americans into poverty.  (millions? estimates - none of them reliable - hover up  to 50%. US census figures are lower; they're also largely fictional, as are unemployment estimates.)

The US empire is following exactly the same course as the British one. The British began asking us to share the cost of its wars in the Boer War. Then it pursued the US as a buddy for almost a century.

But, like Britain, the US is not policing the world. It is trying to bully it into submission. And it wants us all to help its rich get richer. The reporter could have asked a few questions that would have shown that, or it could have interviewed some experts to get a fuller picture. But it didn't because, like most reporters, he or she is really in the propaganda business.

The news editors at the TandT are either ignorant or sloppy. After all,, there are news services that are more honest that Canadian Press, American Press, and Associated Press. But the TandT editors seem to have  no sense of what the big stories are, and no sense of what is news reporting and what it just propaganda.
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But let's concentrate on the real stinker, the September 8 edition. Front page - Balloons float over Sussex. And there's picture of a balloon floating over Sussex. Don't worry if you miss it. There are two more pages of balloon photos in the NewsToday section.  And for those who find pictures of balloons intellectually demanding, there is a relaxing, full page of photos of old cars and motorcycles.

And the front page has other big news. Somebody retired at 77. Big story. A lawyer retires. Big story.

On p.2, there's a picture of a man in what appear to be pyjama pants throwing a bucket of war on a small fire. Apparently, it's in Ukraine. Why is the picture there in a section usually devoted to local news? In fact, what is the point of having the picture at all? Well, they had an empty space. So they grabbed the nearest picture and slapped it in. It's what's called a filler, something that just fills space. And it's a sign of pretty sloppy editing.

On p. 3, there's a quarter page telling us that nobody in St. John has Ebola. A paragraph would have been plenty. It also has two, pointless pictures, one of an ambulance taking away a woman who does not have Ebola, and one of a doctor and a fire chief talking into a microphone, presumably to tell the press there is no Ebola.

Then there's the editorial page which doesn't have Alec Bruce, but in his place has a "Senior Fellow with the Fraser Institute." Tanslation - he works for a propaganda agency for big business that gives its propagandists fancy titles - like Senior Fellow. And it starts with a headline that's a lie. "Nova Scotia chooses high taxes over fracking".  They chose have a clean environment rather than having unknown chemical poison pumped into their soil.

It is also a plea that Nova Scotia overtaxes big business. Sure. That's why big business is making its biggest profits in history

As to the safety of fracking, he ignores the recent reports that the carbon dioxide in the skies above us increased in 2013 at the fastest rate in history. Yeah, fracking will make big, big money. But, like most resource extraction, it won't be big money for you, baby. It'll mean big money for "Senior Fellows" who write propaganda and for their bosses. And the editors of the TandT dropped their regular columnist (who is honest) to slip in this lying crap.

Gee. I wonder who told them to do that.

The editorial, as usual, is about ways to make money. The only editorials I have ever seen in this paper in  favour of government spending money is when its spent to build multimillion dollar hockey rinks for team owners who prefer not to risk their own money.

In this one, they get onto the subject of improving the sort of weak tourist season we just had. They think we need better marketing. But just a line above that, they give the real reason. There isn't a whole lot of money running around in the US. It's in a recession. Many millions can't possibly afford to go anywhere. You can play at marketing all you like, it won't change that.

The reality is that most of the money in the US, as in Canada, is going into the pockets of the very rich. And much of it is getting there because of vast corruption - as in the US military-industrial complex and, in Canada as in the US, of low taxes for the rich, and the freedom to destroy jobs here and set up shop under quasi-dictatorships that let them get away with no taxes, no environment controls  and scandalously cheap labour.

That is not going to change. Indeed, it is almost certain to get worse. Get used to it.

The last page was needed for another balloon picture and ads; so letters to the editor found a place by kicking out one of the op ed writers. The only op ed left was Craig Babstock. On balance, I would have preferred to see another picture of a balloon. He's all in a fuss because some shale gas opponents made threats to reporters - and he wants them to get really harsh sentences. After all, he says, the press is what gives the information that a free society must have.

It should, Craig. But your  paper is propagandist and lying. And it's destructive to a free society.

September 8 has less than one page of foreign news. No man is an island. Certainly, New Brunswick is not an island. What happens in all of Canada affects us. We can, for example, plan our economy until our teeth fall out. But how our economy develops depends heavily on how Canada's develops. In the same way things that happen in the most remote parts of the world affect us.

For example, no paper I have seen says so openly, but Obama has so far lost his challenge to Putin. The Kiev army was defeated - and not by the Russian army. Even if the numbers we have seen (and which I doubt) for Russian involvement were true, it would not be enough to defeat a professional and loyal army from Kiev. The reality is that that the Kiev government does not have national support. Ukraine was a bungled affair from the start.

We have a NATO strike force being formed, and we have air and sea patrols in the Ukraine region. But they aren't there because we intend to do anything. They're there to cover up the reality that we aren't going to do anything. Kiev knows that. That's why it agreed to peace talks.

The war could still happen by mistake. But there is no possible way such a war could be worth the risks it poses. However, we have aircraft there, and we have at least one warship. If a mistake happens, we're in a war. And living in New Brunswick is no insurance to help us through that.

The existence of IS is the result of another blunder. The US,   in destroying Iraq, killing so many, and starving so many to death (estimates for children in the war and after starving to death are at least 400,000), created the situation that gave rise to IS. The head of the Arab league, referring recently to IS, said it is "...an armed terrorist group that .....challenges the state authority (and)..its very existence."

Very true. But how is that different in any way from the American invasion of Iraq? This one could blow into a very long war - and Canada  will be caught in it because we have already committed troops in the form of advisors.

I don't blame Obama for being tired of it all. But we get no sense from the Irving press of what caused all this or even of what's happening now.

I also checked out the Sports section. It had four pages, which certainly beats foreign news, and even beats election coverage. But it's very weak on columnists - with only one, and he seems to cover just the Wildcats.
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There's more to say, much more about these two issues of the TandT. But life is short.

What we have is a newspaper designed to keep people ignorant of what is happening. It's quite deliberate. In local affairs, it does it publishing trivia, most of it really not news of any sort. In national and federal affairs it relies on material from news services that are so  unquestioning and so biased that they just promote more ignorance. And to make it worse, the editors seem to make no attempt to assess which are the important stories of the day.

The editorial is almost always local - partly, I suspect, because the editorialists don't know any better. And they're almost always about money. There is no sense that New Brunswick is also about people.
And the columnists? Well, the big one for September 8 was a pure propagandist spreading the line that shale gas is absolutely harmless. The op ed columnist for that day was one who knows of nothing except the most local matters - and knows very little about them.

And that's the TandT formula. Keep it trivial. Spice it with propaganda. It's much the same as the commercial radio stations. And it is profoundly hurting New Brunswick.