Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dec. 18: "As a father, your heart just breaks to hear this kind of thing"

On P. B4 of the Dec. 18 TandT, these are the worlds of Stephen Harper in reaction to a Taliban attack on a school in Pakistan that killed 131 children. He is quoted - "It's hard enough to understand the motives that underlie a terrorist attack. but even more so when the targets are innocent  the name of some political cause to  hurt, kill innocent people.....As a father, your heart just breaks when you hear this kind of thing."

Very moving words from a self-righteous liar.

The attack was certainly terrible. But all of us, including Harper, have been killing mostly innocent people and children by the tens of millions ever since 1914. What does he think the fire-bombing of Tokyo was about? the use of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Hagasaki? The demolition of whole cities in Cambodia? The carpet bombing of Vietnam with napalm that burned people alive, the use of agent Orange that still takes a heavy toll in that country? Did  you know that some 400,000 children were killed in Vietnam? Well over a million in Vietnam? Remember the 300,000 men, women and children murdered in cold blood by the CIA in Guatemala in the 70s?

Do you know, Stevie, what terrorism means? (ditto for all  you reporters and editors who rushed this story into print - but have yet to mention the recent attack by a US drone, also in Pakistan, on a school, leaving 60 children dead? Didn't your little heart break on that one?  Or is it terrorism only when the other side does it?)

Most of our news media didn't carry the story about the American drone. I got it from a British news source that is independent, and has a high reputation among good newspapers like The Guardian. It's called The Bureau of Investigation. It has won prestigious awards for its work. So I doubt whether Stephen Harper or the Irving press has ever heard of it.

The TandT carried two, big stories in two days on the Taliban killings. It has never mentioned the child killing carried out by our side. Nor has it ever used the world "terrorist" to describe the actions of a western country.

Yes, what the Taliban did was terrible. And it should be reported.  And what we have done for the last century is terrible. And it should be reported. But it isn't.  Instead we get maudlin drivel from Harper that his heart is broken - which it isn't. He scrapped his heart years ago.

In a related story - which the Irving press has missed - early polls show that a majority of Americans agree that torture is necessary and justified. (If you had taken that poll a couple of  years ago,I suspect a majority would have said it wasn't justified. But now that we know our side does it , it must be justified. Sieg Heil. Today, we are all, on both sides, disciples of Adolf Hitler.)

What we were promised in World War Two, and what we needed, was some form of world government. The UN was supposed to be that. But the major powers of the time didn't really want that. That's why they gave themselves the veto power to make sure it would never work.

I couldn't find the big story that the state of New York has banned fracking despite claims that it has huge deposits of shale gas. But it has, indeed, banned fracking because there's too much evidence it's harmful, and too little that it's beneficial. The TandT, understandably, couldn't fit the story in because it needed the space for really big news. The Pizza Delight in Shediac is reopening after a closure caused by fire.

There's also no mention of the news that that US has imposed sanctions to cripple the economy of Venezuela.  That country's sin? It has refused to elect an American puppet government. Instead, it has chosen  a government a bit to the left to deal with serious problems of poverty.

It's actually quite a big story because Venezuela is just one of the major countries in South America that have had a bellyful of American dominance and exploitation. There was a time when that whole continent was a part of the American empire. But no more. The American empire is in serious trouble in what was its most secure region. That's why it has been so busy down there is American special ops, killer squads, and agents to stir up  trouble.
In a related story, Obama is making moves to mend relations with Cuba. And the North American press can't report even that without throwing in ignorance and propaganda. The Associated Press analysis (Dec. 18, p.3) says that Raul Castro has said Cuba is still committed to the communist ideals of the revolution. Than means, says the Associated Press that there will be no move to a free press or political democracy or capitalism.

I do wish the reporters would take the trouble to read the definition of the words capitalist and communist. The US is not capitalist in any true sense, and Cuba is not communist, whatever Castro might say. Nor does either system have any connection with democracy or a free press. The US does not have democracy or a free press now,  as both government and the press are owned by big business. But, then, it doesn't really have capitalism, either.

Alan Gross, the American who was freed from a Cuban prison as part of the deal , said it pained him to see how the Cuban government unjustly treated its people. He's being given quite the hero treatment in the American press, but.......
1. Gross was not arrested and jailed for jaywalking. He was in Cuba to set up a computer network that the US government could use to stir up unrest in the country. He was, in short, in a Cuba prison for much the same reason that released Cubans were in American prisons. They all deserved to be in prison.
2. He hated to see the people treated unjustly? Yes, among other things they must suffer from is getting free education all the way through university, and getting medicare from an excellent system. And if Gross gave a damn about how they were treated, then he might have said something about how they were treated when a US-appointed dictator ran Cuba. The people then lived in dreadful poverty, bled dry by American big business, and routinely tortured, raped, murdered by one the most brutal regimes ever known.  And the US gave the dictator medals for his good work.

And, oh, yes. There was no free press, no education, no medical care, no democracy. So how come Mr. Gross didn't feel bad for them then? And if he did feel bad for them, why was he working for the people who made it bad and wanted to make it worse?

The Irving press always has a lot of human interest stories. You know the type, "Dying grandmother to get motorcyle for Christmas." We actually have quite an interesting story now about a New Brunswicker. Dr. Cleary, the chief medical officer of N.B., has thrown herself into the work of treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. The work is dangerous and demanding. And it calls for a high degree of sacrifice and courage to do it.  I should think a newspaper would give us regular reports on that.

But there's been hardly a word.

Now, suppose an Irving were doing that.... No, don't. There's not the slightest possibility an Irving would do that. No. Start over. Suppose a prominent Irving were to hold an expensive evening supper where his wife could wear her latest dress and guests could say how lovely she looked in it....and it was to raise money for a new hall of fame for Irvings.... Would the Irving press cover it?

You bet, like fleas on a dog. So why not more attention to a doctor who is showing courage and dedication to a degree we rarely see?  Well, that might have something to do with a report she made that was critical of fracking. That, too, might be why Norbert heaps endless praise on  the propagandists at The Canadian School of Public Administration and Public Policy, and why the boss is pleased with Norbert's choice of topics.
There is still no news on Canada's role in CIA torture. And I guess there never will be.

A reader sent me a couple of excellent readings.
One is on the wealth gap, and it's a shocker.

The other is self-explanatory.

  Forget the TandT line that civil servants can't manage this, only big businessmen can. That like saying only hogs know how to eat corn. In fact, the Canadian economy was tightly controlled by civil servants in World War 2 and for a short time after. And it's generally agreed this was a period of the best economic management in Canada's history.
Interested in editorial and op ed pages? Then don't read the ones for Wednesday.

For Thursday, the editorial is on a topic the editorial writer is at least familiar with - bulk trash. Norbert is a waste of time. Alec Bruce is excellent on torture and, in this whole paper, he's been the only one to mention this huge story.

Rod Allen is boring and, to say the least,derivative. But it's still better than usual for him.

Beth Lyons has an interesting column on gender roles, and how they are reinforced at Christmas. But simply reversing the toys we give (like giving baby dolls to boys) isn't going to work. It might be a good project for a volunteer group to define those toys which should not be given at all, those that can usefully be given to either boys or girls. Then to look at those that might reasonably be gender-specific. I'm not sure we're ready for a whole population that is either cross-gendered or ungendered. This is a difficult question, and it really deserves a study group.                                                                                                                                          

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dec. 17: The Quiet Revolution of the western world.

This is not about the Irving press. And it is not about religion, though it may seem to be. It is about moral behaviour which, very often, has little to do with religion. Morality is about what keeps a society alive and workable. A lack of it demolishes a society into chaos, suffering, and extinction.

I confess that, as a child, I spent much of my time in church. I can't say I was all that religious. We had an old bible in the house but, except for a burst of enthusiasm when I was 15 or so, I rarely looked at it. But we, like millions of other Canadian families went to church every Sunday for both morning and evening services (my parents sang in the choir). And our social life -Wolf Cubs, Boy Scouts, a wrestling club, movies, stage events were all in the church basement. They had to be. Those years were hard times, and we couldn't afford anything else.  The leadership was all by volunteers; my father was a scoutmaster.

Girls had similar experiences in Girl Guides and Canadian Girls in Training (or, as we called them, Canadian Grandmothers in Trousers).

In later years, we had a little more money, and I joined something called Young People's Union, an almost purely social group in a downtown church that the rich still went to. (It's now a wing of the art museum in Montreal.  That's where I first met really rich girls, and where I learned to intensely dislike them.

I would later learn that my Jewish friends had almost identical experiences through the synagogues, usually under the sponsorship of B'Nai Brith. In short, us kids didn't go to the church for lessons in morality. But we were soaked in the atmosphere of it, anyway.

The first thing to disappear was the Sunday evening service. That happened in the 1940s as the only other source of free entertainment, the radio, made Sunday evening its prime time. Indeed, the Sunday evening shows like Amos 'n' Andy, Bob Hope, Jack Benny were so popular that some movie theatres interrupted the film to air those shows.

By the 1960s, television finished the job of destroying the Sunday evening service.

Social activities in church dwindled, too, as more money came around after the war. People could afford to go to commercial entertainment, even to go to restaurants and lay out a quarter for a hot dog as if it were nothing. Volunteer leaders disappeared, too, so they could watch TV or go to clubs.

The churches became largely irrelevant -and empty. Take a look at the grandest of the church buildings in Moncton. most of them are over a century old, or close to it. Yes, there are some nice, modern churches. But those very big and old ones were built when Moncton had a much smaller population. (And they were filled in those days.)

With the influence (or, perhaps atmosphere) of the church gone, people did not become immoral, just amoral- with no sense of what morality is or means. And so the world entered that moral vacuum we call "consumerism."

Enter Ayn Rand. An atheist, though born into a prosperous family, she was one of those who regarded being rich as her right, and had no interest in helping anyone who wasn't rich. Not surprisingly, she was not happy with the Russian revolution. In 1922, she fled to the US, making a living as a writer.

The novel that brought her fame was Atlas Shrugged, a novel that advocated what she called 'objective egoism' - that is, one should think only of oneself, that we have no obligations to each other. That was a new (and very brief) morality that came to be known as 'Randism'. The best economic system for this, she thought, would be laissez-faire capitalism - that is, wealthy individuals acting with complete freedom from any regulations or laws.

Overwhelmingly, philosophers and other scholars, even far, right-wing ones, were not impressed by Randism. Indeed, many intellectual leaders even of the far-right, like William Buckley, thought her arguments were full of holes.

But the leaders of big business ( who are wiser than philosophers and scholars) thought this was hot stuff, and they impressed it on the minds of fellow deep thinkers like Ronald Reagan and George Bush Jr. That has made it a powerful influence in  political thinking in the whole, western world.

Christian and Jewish morality had long ago become a vacuum. Now, here as a morality to fill the gap, a morality that really meant no morality at all. It required nothing from anybody, except personal greed. And it was beautifully adapted to a world of consumerism. Above all, it gave big business a moral reason to do whatever it wanted without the slightest consideration for the effect on others.

Mind you, even big business didn't completely agree with Rand. For example, Rand's morality defined evil as any violation of the rights of others, particularly if force is involved. In fact, through, so-called laissez-faire capitalism routinely relies on force to violate the rights of others. It does it with wars (which is why Rand opposed the Vietnam war), with secret police, with torture, with corruption and bribes of governments, with ownership of newspapers to spread their propaganda.....

Rand's ideas are the ideas of a girl born to rich parents. She was concerned only about herself, and had no sense of what is required for a society to survive. (I dated a few of the type). Her ideas are shallow, and full of obvious contradictions. But hers is now the almost official morality and almost the only morality of the western world. It's no coincidence that the rise of poverty around the world, the widening of wage gaps, the lowering of taxes for the rich.....are part of the age of Randism.

A moral code, whether religious or secular, is essential to the survival of a society. You can get by without one if you're a crocodile. But that's why there have been no great, crocodile civilizatons in history.

Randism is the justification of ignoring climate change, of murdering millions all over the world, of the rise of a wage gap so wide in the US that 46,000 million Americans depend on food stamps to stay alive. It's the justification for privatizing health care, and so making it impossible for most people to afford it.  It justifies the intrusion of private business in our education systems, all so they can be used to make the very rich richer. It has been the justification for free trade with special "rules" so big business can avoid the law and taxes  while putting all of us in danger. Randism is the political religion which has created immense poverty and hunger all over the world, including a western world which, not all that long ago, was posperous. It has placed us now on the edge of a nuclear war.  Randism is a guarantee of suicide for our civilization.

A society doesn't have to be religious. But no society survives without a moral code Randism is not a moral code. Not only is it a confused hash of ideas; it's shallow and it's ignorant of the social reasons to have a morality at all.

And it's the moral code of the Irving press.

When Rand died, her admirers put a farewell by her casket. It was six feet high - an arrangement of flowers in the shape of a $,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dec. 15: You have to learn how to hate....

Harper has been the latest in a long line of Canadian prime ministers who have taught hatred. Recently, he's been big on denouncing communism - and pronouncing it "evil". That's surely an odd thing to do with a system that doesn't exist any more and, in fact, never existed. (Contrary to popular belief and to their own claims, Russia, China and Cuba have never been communist - just as Canada and the US have never really been capitalist.

As for the "evil" part, only humans can be evil. Evil is a spiritual condition. Trees, rocks, and mountains cannot be evil. Economic systems cannot be evil because it is people who operate the systems. They make it what it is. Capitalism, itself, is not evil. What's evil, is people who use such systems to exploit slave labour,  to loot other countries, to cut essential services for our own people, to buy politicians....

But to do that, they have to make the rest of us hate - and the most effective way to hate and to encourage us to support cruelties around the world is racism.

So what is racism? It's a belief that all the qualities we have are genetic; they're inherited and can't be changed. Skin colour, facial features are obvious examples. But racists take it beyond that. They include morality, judgement, violence,  criminality as characteristics of race. And we have used that thinking to enslave, murder,degrade hundreds billions for all of history.

It's been an attractive tactic to politicians as long as there have been politicians. Hitler is the obvious example. But he's by no means been the worst.  In fact, for the last several centuries, it's western, Christian countries (including Germany)  that have been the leaders in racist beliefs, in teaching hatreds based on these beliefs, and using these poisonous hatreds to justify slavery, exploitations, empires. (And Canada has been right up front of the mob - more on that later.)

The   cruelties, thefts, exploitation, looting and murder that we call the age of western imperialism were all justified by racism, a belief that the people being brutalized and murdered and robbed and enslaved and killed weren't real people like us. They were of inferior races. That's why the US could declare itself a nation of equality even as it kidnapped millions to be slaves to the white folks. That's why the US and Canada had a right, even a responsibility, to destroy native Canadian societies. That's what justified the deliberate death by starvation of so many of our  native people in the West.

Read Churchill's 4 volume "History of the English-speaking Peoples". It's basic theme is that white, English-speaking people are racially superior. Churchill was, all  his life, a thoroughly racist man. The United States was very much a creation of that sort of thinking. It still is. And so is Canada.

Read the writing of Canada's most Christian and compassionate thinkers in the early 1900s. For a typical one, try "Strangers Within Our Gates" by  Rev. J.S. Woodsworth. It's a hymn to racism and hatred. And the Canadian government had use for that hatred and racism.

People singled out as belonging to races that were inherently evil were put into concentration camps in World War I. There was no reason, except that they were racially inferior and evil. The camps were really slave labour camps to provide free labour for Canadian business. Those people were in the camps early in the war, and were held and used - especially for dangerous jobs - until two years AFTER the war. And the Canadian people, racist to the core,  applauded.

And who were these inherently evil and dangerous people? Well, the largest group, 9,000 of them, was made up of Ukrainians. You know, Ukrainians, the ones we are now defending from evil and racially inferior Russians.

Is Canada racist? It is - to this day - and racism becomes the justification for mass murder.

I spent so much time on this today because Harper has been beating the drum for racism lately.
What he has done, publicly, is to identify communism as evil. At the same time, he has linked the name of Putin to that evil. There are problems with that. Putin is not a communist. Russia is not communist. It's economy is thoroughly capitalist, and just as thoroughly corrupt and corrupting as the capitalism on our side.

So why does Harper want to build a hugely expensive monument to victims of communism when he could as well build one to the victims of capitalism and communism? He doing it this way because he wants to create a racist monument, to create a hatred that will justify killing.

(Actually, it's shallower than that. Being Harper, he doesn't much want to do anything except to create an image of himself as a bold warrior and a leader of the west. And this will cost you at least fifteen million dollars and the destruction of that section of Ottawa which is supposed to be reserved to reflect Canadian development.)

There is really nothing in the Dec. 15 issue of the TandT. A big, Wow! front page story is about how some guy makes whiskey in Ontario. I needed to know that.

The editorial is incoherent until you  hit the second to last line. It's a pitch for shale gas. As usual, the editor uses the word bureaucrat in a disparaging way to refer to top civil servants. I have never seen this paper use a disparaging adjective for private businessmen.

Alec Bruce is good on the US Senate torture report. It's surely odd that this report has received so little attention in the Irving press. And the Canadian participation has not been mentioned at all. We played an active role to transporting prisoners to torture camps around the world. We received (and used) information obtained by  torture. It went to the RCMP and the intelligence services - and they knew how it was obtained. We also turned over prisoners to the US army, knowing that they were likely to be tortured. Canadian officials sat in on torture sessions. And it almost certainly went further than that. But our front page story is about how a guy in Ontario makes whiskey.
In NewsToday. there's an important, if incomplete, story of how our northern Inuit are starving as a result of high unemployment, extremely high prices for food, and a decline in hunting due to climate change.  Not to worry. I'm sure Harper will do something - just as soon as he finishes his fifteen million dollar (plus) monument to the victims of communism.

On B4, the president of Afghanistan criticizes insurgents who are attacking his rule. Gee! Who would have guessed he would criticize them? On B5, the British government is going to ask the US to give it access to the Senate report on torture so it can see what part the British played in it. There is no mention that Harper hasn't made a similar request. Well, why should he? Muslims are evil and racially inferior to us White Christians and Jews. So  it's okay to torture them.

Also on B5, the UN climate talks in Peru achieved next to nothing. Of course. Get used to a reality. The oil industry is probably the most powerful and wealthy industry in the world. There is not the slightest possibility it will do anything that might endanger its profits. It won't allow renewable energy. Why should it? It makes its money out of creating greenhouse gases.  It will use bought politicians, bought news media and, through them,  violence and even world war to keep its profits coming in. There are no limits to its greed. That's a reality that we have to deal with.

It would make a good sermon for the next service at the Irving Chapel.
For Dec. 16, section A is its usual, trivial self. A3, for example, has a photo of the CEO of  NB Power and a story in which he tells us how good NB power is. It's like reading a story about a proud mother talking about how wonderful her lazy and violent son is.

The editorial, as always, is about something local, very local. It's obvious that whoever writes those editorials knows nothing about any world more than a few blocks from the TandT offices.

Alec Bruce's column is a subtle pitch for the Events Centre, something the writers for the Irving press routinely support. Of course. An Irving wants it. "I wan' it, I wan' it, I wan' it."

Alan Cochrane completely misses the point with a column on how we should give to charities  not just at Christmas but all year round. 1. That's just not going to happen. 2. Any society that relies on charities to provide basic necessities is an irresponsible society - and an unChristian, unJudaic, and unMuslim one. If an Irving wants an events centre, we demand that our tax money be used to build one.  If an Irving wants our forests, we give them to him. But if someone is starving, we call  on volunteers, most of whom are, themselves, short of money. That's something that works one day a year, at best, because it relies on the poor helping the poor. It would be much  more effective for all of us to work together, starting with getting the rich to pay their share of taxes.

B4 has the story that Denmark has officially filed a claim on the North Pole - looking head to the development of oil reserves under it.

Not to worry. The US will never allow that. American oil companies will never permit it.They already refuse to recognize Cananda's claims to the north, and they're already advanced in planning for oil development up there. Canada is allowed to 'just pretend' that it has any Arctic claims, just so long as it doesn't in any way interfere with the plans of American oil and shipping companies - and certainly so long as it doesn't pass any of that artsy-fairy environmental stuff.

There is still remarkably little information about the drop in oil prices. I certainly don't know the whole story. But this is not simply a development of normal, market forces.

We know it started with Saudi Arabia flooding the market with a glut of oil. In other words, it's a deliberate deflation of the price of gas. But why?

One reason is that they're looking to kill the shale gas industry as a competitor. You'd think that a shale gas booster like the Irving Press would see that. The fact that they don't suggests there is also another reason - to wreck the Russian economy which depends on sales of expensive oil. That would explain why Putin recently signed huge gas deals with China, Turkey, and India. Not only will that provide Russia with sales; it also creates a massive counterpart to European Union, and offering Asia, especially, an alternative to US domination..

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dec. 15: Insanity in Ottawa

This is a hasty blog that I just had to slip into an already overcrowded schedule. I can only hope I finish it by the posted date.

Harper is building an immense monument to the victims of communism around the world. The reason appears to be his usual one. He wants to appeal to the moron vote before the election by doing something that looks big but is actually nothing. So let's look at the faults of this idea by the number.

1. He (like most people) has no idea what the word "communism" means. It does not mean a dictator who owns all the industries and resources of a country. Quite the contrary, Karl Marx was a gentle man, a convert to Christianity who tried to found a system based on Christian principles of caring.

I don't think the system he settled on is a practical one. It would call for a whole society that was selfless, caring only for others, and sharing all political power equally among all people. It's a nice idea. But I can't see it happening.

2. The impossibility of it is shown by the fact that no country in the world has ever been communist. Some have called themselves communist. But we all like to kid ourselves. People in the US and Canada kid themselves that they are democratic and free. They never have been - and both are going in the other direction with secret police, propaganda disguised as news, and all political power in the hands of big business.

The countries that called themselves communist usually featured state ownership of all resources. But, in fact, that's  the opposite of communism. So for Harper to erect a memorial to the victims of communism is simply building on ignorance and old hatreds to justify more hatred.

The ones that called themselves communist were usually dictatorships, too. But dictatorship was never a part of the idea of communism. Anyway, dictatorship is quite as common in what we call capitalist countries. Britain established dictatorships all over the world.  So did France,Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands. Only two parties in the US have the resources to fight an election. Both are pretty much the same. And both are owned by big business. How is that different from a dictatorship. New Brunswick is the same. Indeed, all of Canada is closer to that than we think.

And I don't know of any country that has been capitalist in any real meaning of the world for the last century and more. Capitalism is a system in which private investors take risks in order to make gains. But that only happens with the little ones. The big kids never take risks. They dip into our tax money in many ways such as, for example, to fight wars for them. They avoid paying taxes, use militarized police to back up their power, and exploit the poor all over the world. That's not what capitalism means. But that's how what we call capitalism operates.

3. As for victims, most political and/or economic systems I have ever heard of have produced victims in their millions. Harper points to 100 million victims of what he calls "communism". That's the figure usually attributed to Mao's China and Stalin's Russia. He also calls Putin a communist, which is bizarre since Putin doesn't even pretend to be one. And, of course, he says Putin is "evil". Good word. It means we don't have to think at all, just hate.

But you want victims? Take a count of the victims of sweet, little "capitalist" Belgium which tortured and murdered, enslaved and worked to death and starved Congolese by at least the tens of millions. (Canadian mining investors have now taken over much of the work of killing and looting in the Congo and South America.

Take the western powers led by Britain who murdered and looted China for over a century - with a count for death and starvation that we have never bothered to investigate. Western behaviour in China makes Mao look like a guardian angel.

The US and Canada and Mexico, like Spain and Portugal in South America slaughtered native peoples by the millions to steal their land. The Netherlands butchered and starved uncounted victims in East Asia.

The American slave trade murdered at least 60 million Africans.

Yes. There were victims of "communism". There were also, and probably more, victims of what we call "capitalism". To put up a monument for one group but not for the others is just cheap politics. Worse, it's designed to created hatreds. And we really don't need any more hatreds.

4. The location of the monument in Ottawa is in the heart of an area designated for the "Canadian heritage". that's why it has the Supreme Court, the Canadian archives, Parliament, the memorial for those Canadians who died in war....

Why the hell do we want a memorial to the victims of communism in that region dedicated to our history as a nation? For a Canadian with any patriotism at all, this is outrageously distasteful, cheap, zenophobic, the ultimate distortion and trivialization of Canada's history and place in the world today. And all to get Harper re-elected.

5. The original estimate for this massive exercise in bad taste was 5.5 million. Estimates now run to at least three times that. Is this really a sane use of money in a country in which we're cutting back on vital  services?

Except for all our bigots and hate mongers, that memorial will forever be an embarrassment to Canada. And its only contribution will be to encourage an irrational hatred of a system that never existed, and that is certainly no threat to the world today.

Murder, rape, theft, exploitation have nothing to do with any economic system in particular. All of those arise in all societies, whatever the economic systems might be. It has nothing to do with any economic system in particular. It has to do with human greed and the lust for power.

Putting up such a monument to any one group is both historically wrong and also self-righteous. If Canada is going to put up any such memorial, it should be one dedicated to the victims of Canada - native peoples, African-Canadians, European Jews denied refuge in Canada through the 1930s and until several years AFTER world war two, Japanese-Canadians  whose property was confiscated and who were put in concentration camps in World War Two. and all those refugees that Harper is too bigoted to allow into Canada to this day.

Harper has cheapened Canadian political life as has no other prime minister in the history of this country. I have long felt that if he wins another election, Canada will not survive. As it is, he has plunked us right in the middle of what might well be World War Three. And then we won't need a government of any sort.

Why hasn't this story appeared in the Irving press? I don't think the omission is deliberate. I think it's just that the Irving editors are intellectually lazy and incompetent.

Dec. 14: Back to the Irving press, again....

The Friday, Dec. 12 issue has a front page story has its idea of big news on the front page "Province's beer market continues to evolve". Yeah, I'd been wondering about that. Nice to see a newspaper that tells it like it is. It's actually a big story, if a pointless one, continued inside as one about how New Brunswick could become a "future brewtopia". Sure. The world will come rushing to our new hockey rink just to get a taste of the latest NB brew.

It's a story that's really just a free ad for the brewing industry with no research, no questioning by the reporter, just another example of New Brunswick's nose stuck in its own bellybutton. 

There's another free ad, this one on p. A4 - and a part of the advertising campaign that we've seen on the editorial page, spreading the good word about fracking. "New report says fracking ban hurts economic opportunity". This one is from The Fraser Institute which "describes itself as a non-partisan Canadian think tank..." If it is non-partisan, why not just say so?

 What's this "describes itself" bit? If Celine Dion came to Moncton, would they say she "describes herself" as a singer?

The truth is that The Fraser Institute is a propaganda house sponsored by the very rich to produce "studies" that will make them richer. Like the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, this is gang of propagandists all tarted up with titles as if they were respected scholars. But this one does make some amazing statements. For example, they agree that fracking poses risks to air and water quality, and could cause more greenhouse gas emissions and earthquakes. But it says those risks are manageable, and not enough studies have been done to justify a fracking ban.

Now, there's tortured reasoning if I've ever seen it. More greenhouse gas emissions and earthquakes are manageable? Oh? Tell us all about managing an earthquake. And not enough studies have been done to justify a ban? Doesn't that have it backwards? Aren't you supposed to do the studies first, then decide on what to do?

There is not a single word in this story about what The Fraser Institute or AIMS are really all about, and not a single word about any real scientist who disagrees with them.  This isn't journalist. This is lying.

Norbert writes yet another column in praise of the "experts" from the Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy and Public Administration. It still is a mystery to me why a person whose degree is in Business Administration should be an expert on shale gas. If a master's  degree in business makes one an expert on shale gas, then my PhD in History should make me even more an expert on it.

Really, Norbert, MBAs are a dime a dozen. George Bush Jr., who cannot speak a coherent sentence or pronounce simple words correctly (he pronounces nuclear as now-cue-ler) got an MBA from the most prestigious university in the US - even though was an alcoholic and druggie the whole time, and didn't meet even the entrance requirements.

Norbert says the whole debate on shale gas has been muddied. Damn right it has. And it's been muddied by all the toadies in the Irving press.
NewsToday again protects New Brunswickers from learning anything about the the rest of the world - or even about Canada. However, B1 does  have an important story about Ashley Smith, a mentally disturbed girl who strangled herself to death during a long period in solitary. Solitary is torture. Why are we using torture - and using it heavily - in our prison system? Why were we using torture on a mentally disturbed girl?

The short and truthful answer is that we did it because Mr. Harper doesn't give a damn - and neither do most of us. In fact, there are votes in making our prisons into hellholes that actually encourage crime and violence. It appeals to the moron vote. And that's all that counts for Mr. Harper. But the point is it's not just him. It's us.

B3 has a big story about Omar Khadr who is in a Canadian prison  I know. I know. Lots of people don't like Omar Khadr, and they want him to stay in prison. That's understandable. But it's not the way a justice system works in a free country. Picture this.

A Canadian boy, Christian and perhaps a Baptist, is visiting similar friends in New York. Suddenly, a Muslim army attacks them, yelling and shooting. In his terror, the boy throws a grenade, killing a Muslim. Would you be in favour of the Muslim troops putting him in a prison camp? Torturing him? Then imprisoning him on a murder charge?

On the contrary, there would be statues to him, movies, best-seller books....even an honorary American citizenship.

Omar Khadr was a young Canadian visiting Afghanistan when the attack came. It was an illegal attack because the US never bothered to declare war, and has never given a clear reason for the war. He threw a grenade. Very sensible. That's what I'd do if a gang of killers came screaming and shooting at me.

The US put him in prison camp. It's illegal to put children in a prison camp. And it was a camp noted for the use of torture. Then he was put on trial - but not by a civil court. He was tried by a military commission - which bears no resemblance to what anyone would call a fair hearing or justice of any sort. Then they hand him over to Harper. Harper had plenty of room to treat him decently and humanely after his years of illegal and brutalizing treatment by the US. But, of course, he doesn't because his lips are glued too firmly to Obama's rear end.

The Harper government says he belongs in prison. Not according to Canadian law - or American law - or any international law. We are holding him illegally and, like him or not, we have done nothing to change his mind about the brutality of Canada and the United States.

At the top of B4, the US CIA director says that CIA officers were the first to fight and die in Afghanistan. True enough. But that has nothing to do with justifying torture.  And he doesn't say why they were there. In fact, they had been in Afghanistan for years before 9/11. At first, it was to help Afghanistan push back a Russian invasion. Then they stayed on to teach Afghanis how to kill each other, and to kill anybody who didn't approve of  a US presence in their country. Among other things, that was illegal under international law.

The section (mercifully) ends, but with two pages of twelve colour photos of people giving cheques or getting  minor  awards. Some are really ads for companies showing how socially conscious they are. But the photos are all the same - smiling people holding up pieces of paper. Who bloody cares? All of this could have been told by scrapping the photos in favour of a short, news story. These two pages are just cheap fillers to give the impression that Monctonians really care about social needs. No, they don't. If they did, they'd elect governments that would make sure that nobody would have to depend on charity for basic needs. We have many, many people in this city who live below the poverty level, and who eat below any health level. Giving them a turkey once a years and patting ourselves on the back isn't something that shows a hell of a lot of concern. And, no, I don't think Jesus gets a big kick out of this celebration  of his His birthday.
For Saturday, A3 has a story about the Acadian congress that is coming to New Brunswick. What I like about the Acadian movement is that it's the only language/heritage group I know of that does not see itself as representing some group of people who are morally or otherwise superior to others. It wants to preserve a knowledge of its past and, as much as possible, fit it into the mainstream of the present. But there's no hatred, no condemning of others. And that's as it should be.

There are no people on the face of this earth who are the original settlers of the lands they live in. The British (actually, the Americans) stole the land from the Acadians who had already been taking it from the native peoples - and nations of native peoples had been stealing land from other nations of native peoples for centuries before that.

Nor were the Acadians originally from France. That land and its people are the product of  years of invaders and displacements.  And there are very, very few British who are the descendants of the original settlers of their island. There were kings of England who couldn't even speak English. Richard Lion Heart was one of them.

Hitler didn't invent racism. It was a standard belief at all levels of society in the western world well into the 1920s. Churchill saw the English as a superior race. He often said so - though how one could find a race developing out of that stunning mix of saxons, ancient britons, Scandinavian pirates, Italians, Celts, French is beyond me.

The racist ideologies are still with us. The recent Quebec struggle over language had strong elements of racism on both sides. So I  have a strong liking for the Acadians who can respect their own origins without claiming any sort of superiority.

Norbert has a column bemoaning the failure of New Brunswick ever to elect a government that makes changes to deal with out economic and social problems. Well, Norbert, there's a reason for that. You and your newspaper have never, ever supported a party that spoke of making changes. And I guess Mr. Irving likes it that way because the fundamental change that New Brunswick needs is to get the Irvings and all their corporate friends out of our government.

Gwynne Dyer on op ed is superb on the issue of the CIA and torture. Have you noticed that no staff writer for the Irving press has had the wit or social conscience to write about this subject? - even though we've known about it for years? And nobody has mentioned Canada's role in it.

There's a baffling letter to the editor "Tragedy no reason for gun control". Yeah, And if a drunk looses control of his car and kills people, that's no reason to pick on drunk drivers. It says legal owners of guns will use them and store them safely. Really? How does he know that? I was big on guns for many years. My first one was a six barreled revolver dating to the 1840s. (I was nine when it was given to me by a neighbour who was a small time mafia hood.) At one point, I had well over twenty legal guns from .22s to a .455 Webley. I spent many hours with legal, gun nuts. And they did not store them safely or use them safely. That's why I turned mine in to the police.  I don't understand why any honest citizen would see some threat in the police knowing he has a gun.

I could find no reason for anyone to read section B, NewsToday. B7 is a whole page of goofus photos, mostly of people getting awards for doing something or other. Most of them seem to be about private businesses getting awards for giving money to good causes. It would be more useful if they would do their share of paying taxes. Every charity represents a failure of our politicians and voters to carry out their first responsibilities.

The Faith Page on C8 in worse than I though it would be. We're back to "have faith in Jesus". Roughly, the idea is that so long as you believe in God and/or Jesus, you will be in heaven and all will be well. Faith is the magic cure-all.

Look. George Bush Jr. has faith. He's quite public about it. He's also a mass murderer and a torturer. But The Bible is not just about faith. It's about deeds. It's about obligations we have toward others. Why do preachers insist on giving us this pap over and over suggesting that if you have faith, you're covered?

And as I look at the list of church activities for this Christmas period, it's pretty vapid stuff. The one church that seems actually to be doing something is Vision United which is sponsoring a grief therapy group.

The page also has a big, colour photo of St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church. I have no idea why. I suppose it  has something to do with filling an empty space.

And I'll disagree with Isabelle Agnew (C15) on dress codes. Isabelle, this has nothing to do with sexism or anti-feminism. It's because students in school need to learn things they obviously don't learn at home. That's why teachers don't encourage students to fart of belch in class. They don't allow people to run in a hall way.
That's why, when I was running school dances in my high school teaching days, I didn't allow drunks or kids carrying guns to come in. (Believe it or not, some parents allowed all those things.)

And students are, to say the least, permitted a wide latitude in what to wear. As a result, the girls look like hookers who work the cheaper parts of town, and the boys look like sloppy, lazy,  uncaring
 louts. So the school gets stuck with the job of preparing them for the real world.

This has nothing to do with ideology or social prejudice. It's about training people in the ways and expectations of the real world.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dec. 13: General stuff to catch up on.

I started this on the evening of Dec. 12 because there was so much stuff that needed the commentary we aren't likely to see in Irving press. Tomorrow (Sunday) I'll write the one I would normally have done for today.

1. The Irving press and shale gas. Take a close look at their news stories about shale gas - and their columns about it. What's happening here is a scandal.

If you follow any major advertising campaign, it constantly reinforces the points (usually just two or three points and usually very subtle ones) that sell the product it's shilling for. Take a look at shale gas comment by the columnists columns and in news stories lately lately. They all have much the same message. And that's not a coincidence.

The basic message is what is called a soft sell - the shale gas industry is, just like you, concerned about climate change and the environment And, oh, they recognize they have to deal with it. (Makes me feel warn all over). But - it will take some form of energy to develop replacements for fossil fuels That's why we have to keep developing a healthy fossil fuels industry. It's not to make money for billionaires.  Goodness, no. It's because billionaires care about the environment and climate change.  They really do. But we have to keep developing fossil fuels so we can some day stop climate change.

See? Nothing direct there. No attack on environmentalists. Just nice, soft, and deceptive message that shale gas is really good for you, and your friends in the industry are just doing their bit to save the environment.

That's a pretty subtle message - and I wonder who dreamed it up. It wasn't Norbert - though he has this message in his column. No this is a campaign being directed by a more subtle mind. My guess would be this is all coming from The Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy and Public Administration and what Norman calls their "experts". It's pretty slick.

A business consultant of no particular qualifications sets up a propaganda front, and calls it an Institute. (There's a trail of money there - lots of it.)  And big money puts muscle on a university to play host to this con game.

What we're watching is a very skillful campaign of  advertising and propaganda. To play along with it is either unethical journalism or ignorant journalism. My money is on unethical. And, yes, to say that is to suggest that the whole editorial staff and the ownership are complicit.

The reality is that we need action on climate change - yesterday. To invest in further oil and gas development (like pipelines and shale gas) is to guarantee that the threat to our climate - and ourselves - will continue to grow for many years to come. So far, our governments (and the big money behind them) have shown no interest whatever in what happens to the environment and to us.

In fairness, it's not just greed that drives them.  It's also stupidity. Greed does that to people.

2. The tone in North American newspapers is that Obama has succeeded in isolating Russia by getting tough over the issue of Ukraine. Of course, it's easy to get away with that line when much of the real news is suppressed.

Yes, of course sanctions have hurt Russia. They hurt tiny and vulnerable Cuba, too. But Cuba has survived sixty years of American sanctions. Some strategy that is. The sanctions on Russia are even a worse strategy because Russia is a major trading partner to the European nations. Already battered by the recession, the Europeans expect even tougher times as the American sanctions on Russia take hold. Western Europe, a collection of dead imperial powers, rides on American coattails because it has to. But that can change very rapidly as they increasingly have to become toadies while at the same time being made poorer by it.

France and Britain and Germany will hold on because they aren't feeling the full pinch of toadyism yet. But there are plenty of signs of social breakdown in other countries - and possibly also in Germany. Hitching rides on American coattails has a high price.

For an example of a country that is tossing off US control, Turkey (a member of NATO) has just signed a huge agreement with Russia to make Turkey a depot for Russian oil bound for Europe. Turkey knows very well that the US does not want this, that it contradicts US policy. But Turkey has done it.

Russia also, and very recently, signed massive oil deals with China and India. In other words, Putin used the widespread dislike and fear of the US to shape alliances with the two, developing economies that are likely to dominate the world in the new future.

The US is almost universally hated in Latin America because of its interference,  threats, murders, destablizations, etc. that our news media almost never report. There was a time, not all that long ago, when no nation in Latin America would have taken a stand against the US. Latin America was the core of the American empire. But those days are gone

Nor can the US be said to be loved in most of Africa or most of the Muslim world.

And Obama says that Russia is isolated? The reality is that we are seeing a reshaping of the world. And the most isolated of the major powers in this reshaping is the United States. Turkey, Russia, China, India, much of Latin America are not isolated - and they are  far the majority of this world.

3. The Senate report on CIA torture is one hell of a serious matter. And Canada is up to its ears in it - and so are several dozen countries in the American entourage - Britain, South Africa, Poland.....

This is death sentence stuff. We have hanged people for this - most recently, Saddam Hussein. And it's really cut and dried. The law and the UN convention of 1984 are clear on this. Torture and murder are illegal. It doesn't matter what the reason is. They're illegal. The heads of the CIA are criminals as much as were any of the Nazis that we hanged. Bush is a criminal. So is Obama. So is Cheney. So, almost certainly, is Harper; and, most certainly, so is Tony Blair.

Our side is guilty of the crimes we have self-righteously hanged others for. And this only skims the surface of a rot that runs very deep.

So what will be done about it? Nothing much. A few small players might face the courts, and get minor sentences. But that will be it. The new, Republican Congress will guarantee that, right from the moment of their inauguration when some hypocrite clergyman will bless them, and they'll all clap hands for Jesus.

And the North American news media will never mention it again. Heck, such torture has been going on for over a century in the US military (and the French and the British and the Dutch and the Spanish) and in the US prison system without ever being mentioned. Nor will there be any public outcry here in Canada. After all, the victims of our behaviour, for the most part, are neither white nor Christian.

We are involved in all the murder and torture exploitation and aggression that - every Nov. 11 - we say Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen died to prevent. And we will all reassure ourselves of how patriotic we are.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dec. 11: Back to bland.

A3 of the Wednesday paper tells us the price of gas is still falling. But we already know that. Would it be too much to expect a newspaper to find out WHY it's falling? These things rarely happen simply by market forces. There's a game being played here. If there's nobody at Irving press capable of figuring what this is all about, can't they at least buy a story on if from a reputable source?

There's another story on the same topic on A6. It takes 31 paragraphs to say close to nothing and, in the best TandT style, the reporter doesn't ask any question. He just scribbles whatever his sources tell  him.

The editorial is pretty much the usual one - city council and its budget. The editorial writer is obviously a highly specialized person.

Norbert has his usual, confused column today. Again, he quotes Richard Saillant and his article on shale gas, mostly with a pointless story about kerosene in New Brunswick. (Norbert seems to think it  has a deep meaning.)

Norbert - you are presenting him as an expert in a question of science. In fact, if you checked his record, even you would surely notice he is no such thing. His academic credentials in science are zero. He has spent most of this life, including the university part, as an administrator. And even if we forget the science part, his academic credentials are very ordinary, indeed.

Then you treat his collaborator, David Campbell, as if he were a great,  scientific mind, too. In fact, he runs a consulting firm for business. And he's a man of questionable judgement. He admires, for example. "think tanks" like "Atlantic Institute for Market Studies"  and "Fraser Institute". In reality, these are propaganda fronts for the billionaires who finance them.

When people like that run something called Canadian Institute for Public  Policy and Public Administration, you can bet this is a propaganda scam . It's really a continuation of the advertising campaign that our shale gas industry pulled out of some weeks ago.

This is pure propaganda, Norbert. Even you must have figured that out. It's disgraceful that a newspaper should be so obviously in the propaganda business - and I really wonder about the judgement of a university leadership that would allow its name to be used in connection with this.  Of course, such decisions are made by a board of governors which is commonly stacked with toadies for big business.

Here's a hint, Norbert.   Saillant was a management person at the university - and that pays well. Who pays him now as director of CIPPPA? And David Campbell is a professional business consultant. Who's paying him? Be a mensch, Norbert. learn to ask questions.

Alec Bruce goes off into his own fairy land. He says that Harper is lagging terribly on climate change action. So it is.  Bruce's suggestion? Use the oil industry to provide the energy that will make really green energy possible. Uh - duh-h....

Alec, the oil industry uses us; it doesn't get used by us. The big names in the oil industry have become obscenely wealthy - out of oil. They aren't going to lead any movement that would kill their own profits. Hint - they have already led, for years, an expensive campaign to spread propaganda that climate change isn't happening. And they're leading one now to increase the use of oil and gas.  Get real.

Eric Lewis and Brian Cormier present columns so trivial that no respectable editor would ever publish them.
Section B1 also carries a news story about shale gas. What a coincidence! Again, the reporter mindlessly copies what the "think-tanks" tell him to say. He calls the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies and the Fraser Institute  "independent public policy groups". Yeah. Real independent. The billionaires who finance them let them say whatever they like.

This whole story, like most of the editorial page, is propaganda for shale gas.

B2 has a story that the first wreckage of the passenger plane shot down over Ukraine five months ago has been delivered to The Netherlands for the scientific inspection that is intended to determine how it was shot down and by whom. And it will be months before the inspection can even begin.

Why are they wasting all this time and money? We already know. Obama announced the day after it was shot down that it was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile manned by Russian-speaking Ukrainian rebels. Obviously, Obama is a man who can see around corners. Take advantage of that gift.

And, oh yes, on B5,  the UN is counting on Canada to help resettle the almost four million refugees from the war in Syria, a great many of them children and living and dying in starvation..  Good luck to them. Harper has stepped up to the plate to say our government will accept 200. 200 out of almost 4 million. Of course, it won't happen right away. So far, 163 have been approved. The rest, if we follow our usual pattern, will have to wait, under guard, in prison cells.

God bless you, Mr. Harper.

I don't understand the delays and the obvious reluctance. Canada had thousands of Syrian immigrants in the 1920s and 30s. I went to school and played with many of them. And they turned out pretty well. (The father of one of the boys became the founder of the Dollar Store.)
The A section for Dec. 11 is the usual collection of trivia. On B4, "Roofwork continues at Riverview school".  Do you care?

The editorial is about some item on our city council budget - again.

And Norbert? More fracking propaganda. He says those who assume he is writing favourably about fracking to boost it are wrong. Come off it, Norbert. You've never said a word against fracking. Never. And you never will. And we all know why.

He refers to the Canadian Institute for Research on Public Policy and Public Administration without a word  on what a crock this organization is. He says it presents"reliable facts" by a "different expert" in each chapter.

First, Norbert, the word 'fact' should be used with care. For centuries it was an official "fact" that the sun went around the earth. It was a "fact" until the 1920s (and still is to many people today) that people can be typecast by something called race. It was a "fact" until very recently that women were inferior to men. (It still is a fact to many men.)  Expert opinions almost never are based only on facts. They're also based on assumptions, speculations, prejudices, old ideas.... Anybody (naming no names) who says that any argument is based on pure facts doesn't know what he's talking about.

Then he says the institute's book was written by experts. Norbert, a person who has an MBA in business is not an expert by virtue of that degree. And he is certainly not an expert in science - which is what is at the heart of this discussion. Nor is a business consultant normally an expert on anything except how to help a business with propaganda. None of the authors I've checked on has the credentials to be considered an expert in the subject of this book. Nor can their words be based on "fact" when nobody in the whole world knows fully about the facts in this case.

Norbert's last, seven paragraphs make no sense at all except as a soft sell for using more fossil fuels. He says we need fossil fuels as a bridge to the development of safer forms of energy. Norbert, you twit - as the bridge to what? The Canadian government and the oil industry have shown no interest whatever in developing alternative sources of energy. Why would they? Oil is what they make their money on. They are the ones who routinely sign trade deals that wipe out any possibility of environmental controls. So does the mining industry. Ask your buddies at Barrick Gold or any other Canadian mining company.

On a related note, right now, Monsanto is suing the state of Vermont because it wants to demand labels on food grown with Monsanto chemicals to show what is in the food. And Monsanto may well win because it can make even defending such a lawsuit hopelessly expensive for a small state. (Your paper has not bothered to mention the story.)

Norbert, you are writing on a subject of which you are ignorant. You are also ignorant of the meaning of words like expert and fact. I call you ignorant as a compliment because if your aren't ignorant, then you are simply a cheap flack for a propaganda scam.

Alec Bruce has a good column on early childhood education. But it won't get read by many because it's a hard read. Part of the problem is that is based heavily on Jean-Jaques Rousseau, and his book, Emile. I would guess that few readers are familiar with either; and the heavy prose is no help. Too bad. This is a good article; but it needs simpler language, and more of a relationship to New Brunswick today.

Rod Allen, again, looks in a mirror, and finds it a delightful experience.

Jody Dallaire has a column that shook me. It's a good column but, oh, it was dismaying to look at the economic world our children and grandchildren will be facing - and how little we are doing about it.
News today doesn't really have any unless you really, really care that McDonald's is going to fiddle with its menu.

There are seven photos of people holding up cheques (the ones that are the size of billboards) for various causes. Some are volunteers, and all thanks to them for our efforts. Some are companies - and that is just advertising. It would be more help if they paid higher taxes, and maybe cut the bonuses for people who already get millions a year.

But there's a bigger question here. How can we tolerate a society that makes it necessary to rely on volunteers for providing basic necessities to its members. We certainly thank the volunteers. But volunteers can never meet the year round need. So how come we can spare millions and even billions for corporation biggies? And how can we allow their incomes to steadily go up while most others have incomes that go down?
The Thursday paper has no comment on the CIA torture scandal, no comment on a possible Canadian connection, no comment on the implications. no nothing. I didn't expect it would.