2004-04-21

Bob Woodward of "All the President's Men" fame has "done it again." There's a doggedness about him as you listen to this Morning Edition interview with him -- and again on CBC's the National (dated 2004.04.20).

One may well ask how he gets these famous people to talk but listening to him, ploddingly introducing the same facts again and again, adding a bit here, then again the next time, you can guess what the effect on one of his "victims" would be. He only talks about what he knows plus a little bit about what he guesses. If you don't challenge his guesses but sound as though you know what he's talking about, he introduces one more little tit-bit, maybe intentionally including a false one. Eventually you fall silent or you become a waterfall of more information which he then tucks into his little kit-bag for use when he meets his next victim -- who may very well be somebody you name. Brilliant, relentless, and very effective. Eventually, when he lays it all out, he can just let the facts speak for themselves and that's more than eloquent enough.

Did I say reading Understanding Power was having an effect on me? One of the results is to look a trifle more critically at the acts of my own Home and Native Land. Peter Gzowski is such a gentle-spoken man on most occasions that I think I'd like to have heard the interview with Chomsky covered in Understanding Power just to hear him go off the deep end.

Apparently, Chomsky called Pearson a War Criminal and Gzowski went ballistic so that the 15 minute interview had to be cut back to 10 minutes. Then the switchboard lit up. Not with people complaining about anything Chomsky had said but taking issue with Gzowski's outburst. That would have been a scream.

He makes several points, though, about Canada as an American colony, that America doesn't really want to absorb Canada outright, that Qu├ębec is better off within Canada than they would be alone: alone they'd be an even bigger target for colonization by the US than they are as part of Canada etc. etc.

There's a habit of thought here that needs to be more widely pursued. This is a kind of prophet we could do with more of today. But if you're thinking of filling the bill, beware: prophets like that lead very lonely, marginalized lives.

Something fell on Saskatchewan in 1885
Where is it now when we need it in this century of jive?
The axe falls as if through water: it never leaves a trace...

2004-04-07

Reading Noam Chomsky's Understanding Power is beginning to rub off. I'm watching the news go by and was struck by things that weren't said, on two stories on NPR's Morning Edition this morning.
  1. John Kerry on Iraq and on the American economy Initially he carefully side-stepped when asked whether he would send in more troops to Iraq or not, and only answered in a way that supported the troops as humans and not necessarily the failed policies that got them there. But to me, the real interest came from some of his rhetoric about "a failed Iraqi state is in nobody's interest" is a clear sign that the monied interests have realized that their heretofore favourite's actions in Iraq have not led and are not going to lead to greater profits for them.

  2. The other item was about Brazil and nuclear weapons. Brazil swears up and down they're not developing weapons, and maybe they're not.

    But what if they look at the example of India and Pakistan? Look at the more rational way in which these two countries have been treated by the rest of the world, but especially by the US, since they both became nuclear powers. When the possibility that a border skirmish would spiral up into a "strategic" nuclear exchange (and isn't that a moron's oxymoron!) arose, everyone who could engaged both India and Pakistan and now their cricket teams are touring each other playing one-day and test matches.

    If the number one problem a minor power has is staying out from under the American thumb -- and if there is only one hyper-power then this is a smaller power's biggest problem -- then becoming a nuclear power is exactly what a ruler with a keen sense of the national pride and interest is going to do -- just not out in the open.

    If the development of a bomb is going to lead to problems -- loss of support, of friends, of freedom to act in the "community of nations" -- but having a bomb leads to respect, you're going to do your darndest to develop a bomb under the thickest cloak of secrecy. Then when you're ready, you test it in some way that will expose your population to as little danger from it as possible and then sit back and watch the R-E-S-P-E-C-T begin to roll in. If you don't believe that then just read ESR's essay about his first pistol shoot, especially this bit:
    In fact, I found that the sight of three dozen people wearing pistols and casually socializing was curiously bracing. It said more clearly than words ever could: "We are adults. We trust ourselves and each other and take ultimate responsibility for our actions. We are armed, we know each other fit to be armed, and we are proud to be so fit."
    I don't hold with weapons except for food-hunting but that's another story. Still, on the international stage, right now, national nuclear weapons are the pistol that bestows resepect-as-among-equals on the nations of the earth. I don't like it, but that's the way I see it.
You need to understand, also, that there are points on which I disagree with Professor Chomsky, but I will be forever indebted to him for stimulating me to think about what I see flying by in the news, looking for the facts and the real story behind the news story that I happen to encounter.