Saturday, December 25, 2010

passing on

I have decided to concentrate on my other blog dealing with New Brunswick, its politics and its jounalism. Curiously, it attracts a far bigger and more international audience than this one, Graeme the Chatterer, does. (This one is read largely in the US and Russia. The one dealing with New Brunswick has a far larger audience, and a worldwide one. Go figure.)

It may be that New Brunswick is a useful tool to see what is happening in much of the world, a sort of sample of all the world's seas in a fishpond. I think I shall keep that in mind as I write future blogs about this province.

I think I'll start the next blog today, Christmas Day. The site is:

That should work. If it doesn't, google the moncton times and transcript - good and bad.

Graeme Decarie

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why War is Wrong

War is wrong. Forget the morality stuff. Forget love thy neighbour, Forget forgiving. Forget any morality preached by any religion in the world. Forget all that.

War is wrong because it is no longer practical. It's broken; and it won't work any more. That's why it's wrong.

One of the reasons it's wrong is the one I wrote of earlier, when I pointed out how easy and cheap it once was for western powers to conquer vast areas, to make huge profits from the killing. But that stopped working at least as far back as the 1940s - and maybe we can take it back even to the Russo-Japanese War of more than a century ago. We can't win wars as we used to. The rest of the world has caught on, and has figured out how to beat us even with primitive resources. That's one reason war is wrong.

The other reason is that it has become so destructive of life and the environment that we can't survive it. The great turning point was perhaps the American Civil War of the 1860s.  By that time, the development of explosive shells, along with the development of repeating weapons, made war hugely expensive in human life. To that, one can add the use of the airplane as a bomber - and a very indiscriminate bomber.

High explosive and aerial bombing, together, made wars, at least as early as World War One more dangerous to civilians than to soldiers. By now, it is not unusual for civilian deaths to outnumber military deaths a hundred to one. Indeed, even the most conservative estimates would place the civilian to military casualty rates for Vietnam and Iraq far higher than that.

For the last 65 years, we have also had nuclear weapons. Will they be used? Of course they will. If we keep warring, someone will resort to the use of nuclear weapons. It has already been quite openly threatened by leading countries of both sides. Indeed,  the decline of the West's ability to win easy wars in the old way makes it almost certain that the West will be the first to resort to nuclear weapons.

We can add to to that the largely unstudied damage to all of us and to Earth itself by the increasing use of chemical weapons and nuclear waste. We cannot survive that, even if the increase levels off.

We have to go to war to fight terrorism? That's nonsense. First, fighting terrorism is the major cause of terrorism. Second, we in the West are the world's largest users of terrorism. Just take a count of which groups have suffered the heaviest losses of civilians over the last 60 years. Hint: none of them are groups of European or North American origin.

We could always wiggle with religious values so that Thou Shalt Not Kill could mean Thou Shalt Not Kill (unless the oter side is bad.)  But it is not possible to wiggle with the facts of explosive and chemical power that is indiscrminate in its killing, and its poisoning.

War doesn't work anymore. That's why it's wrong.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

History and patriotism

In my home province, a school principal was forced to resign. He had done something terrible. He had stopped he practice of beginning the school day with the playing of the national anthem. Parents were furious. The Minister of Education rode forth, lance in hand to slay the dragon and make it mandatory for the national anthem to be played every day in every school. So, across the province, students must stand to listen in a sort of embarassment to scratchy sounds coming faintly over intercoms designed for things nobody listens to - like school announcements.
It's a dreadful experience, particularly because "O Canada" is one of those anthems that needs all the help it can get, rather like the way Scottish haggis really needs ketchup. But, according to the minister, the children must hear it every day - to become patriotic. I was a history teacher; and when I heard the minister say that,  I thought, "well, there goes history out of the curriculum."

I mean, it would really damage patriotism if I were to say that all the way back to the 1600s Canadians made slaves out of both native peoples and Africans; and in such brutal conditions that few lived beyond their twenties. I've probably also have to skip that part about how the New Brunswickers of 1850 would commonly, virtually all of them, spend much of a  Sunday smashed out of their minds on cheap rum from the West Indies. Over a hundred proof.  Children joined in. Even babies were given enough to keep them happy.

The first Prime Minister of Canada was an alcoholic scoundrel who acted as a front man for bank and raliway barons. He gave the latter millions of acres of land, including rich mines that are still in production. While he was in office, he also happily sat as a well-paid director of companies that he helped out with governments giveaways.

Abortion was once widely accepted in the most dignified social circles in Canada.  At your local library, check out an 1880's copy of The Globe. Find a page dedicated to medecine ads. You'll be one that looks like an ad for a cure for constipation. But the label says "For Female Irregularity". Well, I mean...I know we're different in some places. but I don't think that is one of them.

In fact, the label was in a well understood code for abortion. (I have no idea whether the stuff worked. But it sold well to the middle classes - which suggests even the most respectable ladies didn't spend all their time hiding their ankles and fluttering Chinese fans.)

Americans are often looked down on by Canadians because we didn't murder nearly so many of our native people as the US did. But that had nothing of kindness in it. We didn't settle the west in any numbers until US and Canadian hunters had made the buffalo almost extinct. As a result,we didn't have to resort to mass murder. We had starvation doing our work for us.

American history is a big a crock as much Canadian history. Maybe bigger. George Washington was an enormously wealthy man who wanted to be wealthier. That's what the revolution was about. It had nothing to do with people being born equal. Washington was one of the biggest slave owners, and as brutal as any.  At no point in its history has the US been a nation of equals. Quite apart from discrimination against Africans,Japanese immigrants (a discrimination as brutal as that in Canada), Jews, Irish and many others, the poor and the middle class have never in any sense been equal to the rich. In general, Americans were arguably freer and more tolerant BEFORE 1776.

Abraham Lincoln was entirely opposed to allowing "freed" slaves to have any rights at all.

Oh, yeah. Davey Crockett was a slave trader,and ruthless land speculator.

But Americans are ahead of us Canadians in at least one respect. They're allowed to cover the dreadfulness of both tune and words of The Star Spangled Banner by letting second rate performers sing it in kinky style. Us Canadians have to listen to O Canada on intercom systems while we stand around avoiding eye contact our of sheer embarassment.

Monday, December 13, 2010

fortune telling for north america

Actually, you don't need to be a fortune teller to make a pretty good guess about the future. You just have to see - really see - what is going on around us. When you see a staggering drunk getting into his car to head  onto the highway, you don't have to be a fortune teller to make a pretty good guess about what will happen. Our problem, all us people, is that we just don't see what's really happening all around us - perhaps that's because we don't want to see it.

The growth of corporations and the wealthy in political affairs in North America has been phenomenal over the past forty years. In the process, the growth of private wealth has been stunning. So has the growth of poverty. There was no need for a crystal ball to see where that was leading. The gluttony of the rich was acheived by the starvation of the poor. As the numbers of poor grew, it simply became impossible for them to continue buying the things their corporations nade. As well, regulations slipped away, so that banks and other mortgagers had a field day. Obviously, this was going to cause a financial crisis.

A few days ago, New Brunswick's leading industrialist wrote that people like him with his other friends in neo-conservative "think tanks" and various people like university presidents  are now in "a coalition" with government. That means they now share power with the government we just elected. But we did not elect industiralists or members of think tanks.

The basic concept of democracy is that we all have the same rights. Because we are all equal, we all get an equal say in who governs us. But not any more. Not in New Brunswick. Some people now have a direct hand in government without the bother of being elected. They're there because they put themselves there.

It must have been like this in Italy in the 1920s - the rich and the military moving in on a wave if group power, closing down individual freedoms, and imposing what was called fascism. And the public stood around with their faces hanging out, neither concerned with or understanding what was happening before their own eyes.

It should have been obvious. They were watching the end of freedom and equal rights. But few saw it. People don't like seeing seeing things they don't want to see. So they simply refuse to see them.

Nothing has changed. Mention fascism or corporatism, and most New Brunswickers will give you a blank stare. Mention that people we did not elect are now effectively and openly in control of our government - and  you will get a shrug. People will not see what they don't want to see. That's why they cannot grasp where we are heading.

The movement, sponsored by a thousand untra right wing "think tanks", is gaining credibility across North America  thanks to the help of our news media in pretending these are serious research groups, and thanks to the general ignorance of what corporatism and fascism mean And hanks to an ignorance of what democracy and equality mean.

You don't need a fortune teller to figure out where this is heading. I shall be very surprised if any real democracy in North America can survive as much as ten years longer.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Greatest Threat to democracy in North America

I live in New Burnswick, a small and relatively poor province in Canada - and one dominated by a few, large corporations. Corporate leaders here are very much influenced by what they like to call "think tanks', but which are really propaganda fronts for neo-conservatives. These "think-tanks", given credibility  by our thoroughly debased news media, have achieved stunning influence across the continent. Where they are leading us is well illustrated by a recent conference in New Burnswick.

Leading private businessmen held what they called an "economic summit" to advise government on economic and social policy. We did not elect the delegates. They were chosen to represent social and economic groups across the province -people such as university presidents, "think tanks", community groups and, of course, lots and lots of reps of big business. A business leader, the most prominent one in the province, recently published a column on it in the local newspaper. (His family owns all of the daily newspapers in the province.) He wrote that the economic summit had succeeded in forming a coaltion of government, business, community groups, etc. to determine the province's social and economic course.

This is coming your way. Perhaps it already has. You don't see what's serious about it?

Notice -- The "coalition" does not represent people as individuals. It represents them as interest groups. There are words for that. But democracy and individual rights and freedoms are not among them. In fact, this is the opposite of democracy and freedom. Representation by groups is called corporatism.

In Italy in the 1920s, corporatism had an emblem, an axe-head encircled with rods, and all bound together tightly.. Italians called the symbol a fasces. That was the symbol under which Mussolini came to power with his fascist party.

The greatest threat facing North America is neither terrorism nor the economic crisis. It is a threat to individual rights and freedoms. The greatest threat is a form of fascism heavily sponsored by people who call themselves neo-conservatives.

Things like this happen terribly easily. Partly it's because we don't want to recognize what is happening. Partly, it's because we have such dishonest and/or cowardly news media. It was easy in Italy. It was easy in  New Brunswick. I expect it will be easy where  you live, too.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why The US Economy is Not Likely to Recover

Governments in the US have been kind to the wealthy. Throughout American history, but especially since Ronald  Reagan, the wealthy have enjoyed low tax rates. That, as we are seeing in the recent days with Obama, is not going to change in any foreseeable future.

The theory behind it sounds good. Let the rich keep as much money as possible because they will invest it,;and that will create more jobs and greater wealth for everyone. That way, we all win. Sometimes we do. But like any economic system, captialism is man made. Nothing man made has ever worked perfectly in all times and under all conditions.. If the system is forever maintained in its purest form, as if it were part of the divine order, it will break. Capitalism, like anything man made, has to be balanced with hman needs, with changing conditions. No system will work if allowed to run wild and out of control.

Fedualism and aristocracy broke; communism broke; American captialism is breaking.

The trouble is, you see, that capitalism can work - but only when it can find customers. And American capitalism, by giving free rein to greed and economic ideologues, has destroyed its own domestic market.

In the 1970s, the wealthiest one percent of the US population had about 1/8 of all the country's wealth. Today, that one percent has doubled its share. Wealth was certainly created in the intervening boom years; but not much of it worked its way down. On the contrary, the gap between rich and poor in the US today is the greatest it has ever been. In fact, most Americans living in that booming economy were actually getting poorer even in the good years as wages rose more slowly than inflation.

In the same period, the US has maintained some social programmes to help the struggling poor and the middler class. But they've taxed the poor and the middle class to supply those services, while cutting taxes for the rich in the mistaken  belief that letting the rich get even richer would somehow ease the poverty of the poor.

It didn't. And that's part of  the reason, much of the reason, the US is deep into recession. American capitalism, without adequate taxation or regulation, proved a great creator of wealth, but a terrible distributor of it. As a result, American capitalism has destroyed its own domestic market.

Don't worry about the wealthy. Capital is easy to move around. Ford can just as easily build and sell its cars in Asia. For others, the writing is pretty much on the wall. Most Americans will have to settle for lives much different from those of their parents, because American capitalism has bled the country dry. Canada will follow because, as in so many things, it is following the American example - just a year or so later.

The one thing that  capitalism needed from government (apart from bailouts) was military force to enable it to enter unwilling markets. But wealth is so concentrated now in the US that it can afford its own armies. Indeed, a major part of the American armed forces now is privately owned.

None of the above is left wing. I don't think in terms of right wing and left wing because I've never seen a bird with one wing that was able to fly. And the US has become a one-wing bird, furiously flapping its wing and spinning itself in circles.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Human freedom and Corporporation Freedom Don't Go Together

The US Supreme Court recnetly ruled that corporations ae people. As people, they have the rights and the freedom to donate as much as they like to any political parties - just as people do. The same sort of thinking lies behind free trade. And that's strange.

Modern industry in both Canada and the US was based on a high tariff to keep out foreign competition. That gave a captive market to companies like Massey Farm Machinery that couldn't possibly compete against foreign manufacturers without a tariff to raise the price of foreign goods. In the US, the drive against a free market and for high tariffs pitted the industrializing north against a cotton-growing south which feared, rightly, that a high tariff would cut off cheaper manufactured goods from outside the US.

That's what the America civil war was about. Abraham Lincoln had no great sympathy for Blacks, and no particular desire to end slavery. The issue was whether there would be a protective tariff for northern industry. And the north won.

High tariffs were the gospel for American and Canadian industry for over a century. In Canada, the Conservative Party was well financed by industry to keep the tariff high. Indeed, the Liberal Party, which began as a free trade party, had to adopt a high tariff policy to get elected.

Then, quite suddenly, there was a change to hallelujahs for free trade as the only possible way to go for righteous and God-fearing people. Why the change?

The change came because Canadian and American industry had not only matured and could now beat other countries' prices, but also had such manufacturing output that they had to get access to other markets.  As well, free trade would open up investments in other countries which had cheaper labour than Canada and the US did. Though Free Trade has been put forward as an economic and almost religious cause, it's really just old-fashioned oppotunism.

What it has done has, as the "crackpots" warned us, transferred jobs from Canada and the US to cheap labour markets, helping to hold salaries below even the rate of inflation at home, while pushing American and Canadian goods into countries whose industries are not ready to compete - and won't be allowed to get ready.

Once a nation is caught in a free trade agreement, it loses the power to control its own economic policy. All have to accept much the same social and economic policies as the big powers in the agreement. Government, and the people who vote for it become irrelevant.

We will learn, but probably slowly and too late, that if corporations are people and have the freedoms of people, then real people can have no freedoom at all. Giving human rights to corporations means taking human rights away from humans.

Any society, to survive as a democracy, has to find a balance between social and economic elements, with each complementing the other.  We've thrown the social part of that balance out. What we're left with is using free capitalism as if it were a magic wand that can solve all problems. It can't. We need rights and freedoms and power for people, too. Freedom and human rights for corporations won't work. And it will also destroy democracy. Indeed, given the political influence of corporations in both Canada the the US, it may already has done so.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Wikkileaks Fallout?

Wikkileaks shows that the major supplier of money for Islamic terrorism has been coming from Saudi Arabia, and from people close to, perhaps of, the royal family. That's not really a surprise. there have been strong hints of it on international news web sites for years. But now we know Americans governments have known it, perhaps from the start.

9/11 was financed by Saudi money. Most of the bombers were Saudis. The planning was done in Germany.and the training was done in the US.

So why do we have troops in Afghanistan?

Governments are in full panic mode over the leaks. I very much approve of the courage and rightness of those who made the leads available. But it may have consequences we should be thinking of now.

Americans are already disillusioned with government, any government. That's why voter turnout has been in such a long decline. It has also already accustomed itself to being a police state, with habeus corpus and other principles long since cast away. Domestic spying on just about everyboody has reached levels of hysteria. Wikkileaks is almost certain to strengthen the deistrust of government already seriously damaged by the reigns of both Bush and Obama.

The North American press will do (has done) its best, as always, to suppress the news. It may not work this time.  So where will US hysteria, fear and distrust turn to for relief? Watch for a sharp move to the right in a form we used to call fascism. It's long had elements of fascism. Now, it may well become wider and more obvious.  There is no American historical myth that could be called socialist or even liberal. Even the myth of all men being born equal is pretty silly if you think of how many were slaves, how they were denied rights until very recently, and how the rich are so much more equal than other Americans. The only myths to fall back on are the belief in divine choice of the US for "leadership", the old beliefs in Manifest Destiny and the American manliness of force.

There's a real danger of the US sliding very far to the right. And that is bound to have an effect in a Canada which has also seen a plummeting drop in voter participation, and a lack of enthusiasm for either of the traditional parties.

The truth is coming to a North America that has never been told the truth by its politicians or its news media. I see no evidence of any acceptable political response in the US. We may well end up with a president Palin and her band of psychotics.