Monday, February 28, 2011

Feb. 27: "We Say.." oh, get stuffed.

Todays' editorial, "Let free market decide for itself", sets a new level of ignorance of history, economics and reality.

It began,  sensibly, with approval of the government for refusing help to an uncompetitive poultry farm. Then it drifts into a rant about how the free market is a sort of magic wands that solves all problems. And that any government "interference" is harmful.

1. For the wealthy, there is no such thing as free market. A chicken farm has to go  on the "free" market. Large banks and automobile companies get saved with "government interference" in the form of loans and grants.

2. Large corporations are often formed in the first place with government loans, grants and subsidies.
When the CPR was built, it was largely financed at the risk of Canadian taxpayers who guaranteed the interest on its bonds, who gave it direct loans and cash grants,who gave it the land the build on (and far more  land that contained vaulable resources.). It also protected Canada Packers,and Bell, Massey, the CPR, all sorts of corporations with high tafiffs to cut out foreign competition. It also imported labour from China and Italy and Europe to build them at dirt cheap labour rates. When workers asked for high wages, Canadian government sent out the militia to shut them up. All at taxpayer expense.

Does the editorial writer know nothing of Canadian history? New Brunswick, like Canada as a whole, was largely built at the expense of most Canadians - with the the profit for it going to the "free market". Just look around you right here in New Brunswick. How did so much of our forests end up in the hands of one corporation? How come some corporations get cheaper electricity rates?  How come the only place to get print news about NB is from a news corporation owned by one family?

3. How come so many large corporations get government contracts without having to worry about competitive bidding?  How come a hockey business can get a rink built for it at taxpayer expense? Some free market!

4. As for government regulations, Canada has a reasonably healthy economy because of regulations that were in place (long before Harper). Without those, we now be in the economic toilet with the US. In fact, if the editorial writer knew anything about economics and history, he would know most most of the world learned in World War I of the necessity for regulations. Without them, some corporations will act foolishly and greedily, causing enormous damage.

Business in Canada and the US never liked regulations - for much the same reason bank-robbers drug dealers don't approve of laws. That's why they pay off governments to look the other way, or to ease regulations as St. Ronald Reagan did, leading the US into its current mess.

Corporations spend big money to convince us all to be suckers, and make them even richer. That's why they pay the bills for political parties that are their puppets, run bogus think tanks like AIMS, and use their control of most of the news meda that write the sort of ignorant and predatory drivel that appears in the editorials of The Moncton Times and Transcript.

Big corporations did not build Canada or the US. Canadians and Americans did it by protecting them from competition, giving them money and lands and resources - and covering the costs with low salaries while they're social betters sneered at them for not belonging to their parasitic class.

Business us just hampered by regulations? Well, it wasn't regulations that made the current recession. It was governments that lacked regulations or, in many cases, ignored them. It wasn't government regulations that poisoned the Gulf of Mexico; and it isn't government regulations that are now poisoning Alberta.

History has proven we need some government regulations on business. History has proven that if we do not have controls, we cannot expect big business to act responsibly.

And the very idea that political parties, most of which get their money from large corportions, are forcing regulations on their paymasters is infantile.

I wonder if this is the same editorial writer who said children must listen to O Canada every day to become patriotic. But, oh, even with O Canada blasting at top levels, it's hard to be proud of a country that is home to The Moncton Times and Transcript.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Feb. 26: Sometimes, it's not their fault

Today's headline: Another storm hits NB.

I read the headline, and a light flashed in my mind. Of course. I had wondered what made it so hard to see out the car windshield last night. And I wondered what all that white stuff was that I had to wade through to get my paper this morning. (Congratulations to the T&T deliverer who had gone through a foot and more of snow at every house to get the paper as close as possible.) My quick mind put two and two together. It must have been  - a snow storm.

Yes, "Another story hits NB is a pretty ridiculous headline.  But that's not the fault of the editors.

The nature of any newspaper is that any news in it is at least a day old. Of course, we already knew that a snowstorm had hit. But how could it be left off the front page without some readers complaining that such a storm should have been covered? You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Until almost a century ago, a newspaper was the only source of news. When they relied on sailing ships for information, it was commonly weeks late in reporting events. Even to the early 1900s, newspaper news could be days old, even older. There was no source of instant news. Then came radio, TV, and the web.

The T&T can be criticized for being trivial, misleading,biased, and even loutish. But an even deeper problem, which it shares with most newspapers, is it's news is out of date even as it is being printed.

What we need is not headline news so much as context for the headline news. There's a civil war in Libya? What do we need to know to understand that?  Our public schools rank lower than Manitoba's? Interesting. But we need to know a good deal about what that means. Education isn't a horse race in which the winner by a fraction of a second is good, and all the rest are dog food. Is Manitoba way ahead? Or is it a difference of two percent - in which case it's no signicant difference at all. Nor does it prove there's anything wrong with the system. In fact, parents and economic and social environment are far more important factors.

We need context. We need to understand the big picture. We know Haiti is poor. We don't know how it happened - so we really don't understand anything about it. (After all, Haiti produces big profits for exotric fruit plantations and for clothing factories. Why not for the Haitians?)

We know there's a good deal of anti-Americanism in Egypt. Is there any reason for it? Or is it just that them there ay-rabs is all fanatical terrorists? Without context, the headlines and news reports are largely a waste of time.

Radio, especically private radio, and TV, especially private TV, are poor at providing context. Radio relies heavily on "pesonalities" who attract listeners, but who rarely know anythng about the context at all. TV relies on show biz fast pacing, quick bits and on to the next story.  The web can be good - but there are also lots of crackpot and propaganda sites out there; and it takes a bit of experience to sort them out.

We have never in history had such an abundance of information. We know we're at war in Afghanistan. But without context, we don'tt know why we're there. (No. It's not to protect the womenfolk; and it's not because Saudis crashed planes into the Trade Center.)  We know we had a snowstorm. But, without context, all that we know is that we had a snowstorm. What does it mean?

Newspapers have known for years that they have to develop a new approach to covering news in a world that has so much more news so quickly available. They haven't found that new approach; and there's no doubt it's going to be a difficult problem. But we have to move on it quickly because the damage to rhe reader is already pretty serious..

All over the western world, at least,, the control of print news has fallen into the hands of local and regional monopolists - usually monopolists with an axe to grind. The result is that we have a population that knows more but understands less than any society in history. And the newspaper has become simply a device to keep people abosrbed in trivia and propaganda.

People need to understand. They need context. If we go on using the news just to keep people ignorant of what is happening, to manipulate people by encouraging fear, hatred and prejudice, we shall pay a heavy price. And very soon.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Feb. 25: Wow! Superb editorial and op ed pages in the Moncton T&T

Credit where credit is due. And more than due. Today's editorial and op ed  pages are not only the best I have ever seen in The Moncton Times and Tribune; they would do well in any comparison with some pretty fine newspapers. Everything on those two pages is first rate - the editorials, Alec Bruce, Norbert Cunningham, Janet Keeping of the Sheldon Chumir Foundation For Leadership Ethics (though her commentary would have been better without an anti-Moslem slur), and Lynda Gibbon. All are well worth a read; but I'll concentrate on Norbert Cunningham partly because it shows what he can do when he really clicks on the afterburners; and because  every New Brunswicker should read what he has to say.

Using several reputable sources, Mr. Cunningham makes several points that we need to understand. He does it by squarely attacking myths, and facing realities that don't often get faced. He begins by citing a New York Times statement that the American empire is in decline. Most North Americans don't even realize there is an American empire. But there is. It is the successor of a long line of western empires (Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands and Britain.) The only modification I would make to the statement that the American Empire is declining would be to scratch declining, and replace it with collapsing.

Among 33 advanced economies, Canada comes out as among the best in five of nine categories, and is never among the worst.  The US has three worst of the worst, a simple worst, and some middlings.

Canada is among the best countries in democracy. The US is middling; (and that is kind.) In poverty, Canada is middling. The US is worst of the worst.

Then - the lines I never expected to see in The Times and Tribune. In public education, Canada ranks among the best in the world. The US ranks among the worst of the worst. That's important because the US system with its school rankings and standardized testing is the one AIMS has been urging us to adopt - with full support from the Moncton Times and Tribune editorial writers.

Everything on those two pages was solid commentary and first-rate writing. For the first time, I'm not sorry I have a subscription. I happily applaud five people who did a great job.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Feb. 24: an addendum

On Thursday, March 3, I shall meet as I always do the first Thursday of every month with a current events group at the Moncton Library from 2pm to 3 pm.

The library sends a notice to The Moncton Times and Transcript as a part of its announcement of programmes to be listed in the "Monctono This Week" section.  The Moncton T&t, bush league as always, publishes the list. But it usually deletes my group and my name. It has done so again this time.

We open with a topic for ten minutes or so. Then it's open to whatever people wish to discuss. If you're in the Moncton area, please drop by.

Feb. 24: The Moncton Times its usual self.- -with two surprises

The first page was, as always, trivial. The news editor still hasn't leard of Pakistan (following the lead of the American press, much of which is still playing coverup.) There was, as usual, an intelligent column by Elsie Hambrook ("How advertising plays a significant role in creating sexism.") But there were two, big surprises on the editorial page. (No, one was not the editorial, it was the usual piece of small town boosterism.)

Blake Robichaud of the N.B. Teachers' Union  wrote an excellet column, condemning the milseading, even lying, and venomous reporting and editorials of The Moncton Times and Tribune on the subject of the closing of Moncton High School. Indeed, the The Moncton Times has carried on an ignorant, venomous, hateful and contemptible campaign against the education system for a very long time, now, and has done so with a disgraceful exhibition low ethicsand low professionalism. The purpose, almost certainly (scratch the almost) has been carried on with the encouragement of the boss who favours the AIMS agenda of discrediting the school system so corporations can get their fingers in the educaton budget, and so they can get control of our children.

This is the third case in recent months of the schools fighting back - with columns or letters by the DEC for district two, the Superindent of district two, and now the union. In no case have the editors had the integrity to reply to the points made by the education people. But it in all cases, it has toned down the venom for a while.  It's a useful  reminder of something many of us had to learn as kids. Never  back away from a bully.

The other surprise was that I found myself in disagreement with Alec Bruce. That has never happened before - and I really have to express my disagreement - if in very brief form. He was arguing, in connection with his main point, that the US is the birthplace of free market capitalism. It isn't. Not only was the US highly protectionist until recently; but free market capitalism has existed within other Empires for many centuries. Nor was it the birthplace of civil disobedience. (In fact, Americans have generally been sheep as civil disobeyers. And I cannot imagine that anything American inspired the risings in the middle east - except, perhaps, in the cases of countries like Egypt and Tunisia which played patsy with the US government and oil industries. (Yes, even Khadaffi had become a good ol' boy for western oil companies.)

 Iran was inspired by US democracy?  I doubt it. It was the US, along with Britain and France, who overthrew the only genuine democracy Iran ever had.

They are fighting for rights we already have? As a matter of fact, all those rights he lists are under attack here and in the US - and some no longer exist. The President can imprison people indefinitely without a trial or even a charge. So much for habeus corpus.

In the US and, to a lesser degree so far, there are in Canada armies of domestic spies recording the names of people who join peace groups, for example. Or who are critical of government policies. Or write blogs.They can, with no charge, be forbidden to travel by air, and can have their private lives wide open to investigation. So much for freedom of assembly and speech.Canadian and American governments have cooperated in sending off their own citizens to sent to other countries for torture.

American elections are largely controlled by large corporations who have no limit to how much money they can give to political partie for election purposes. Canada is movinig in the same direction - as any New Brunswicker should know. That may help to explain why most congressmen are millionaires, with substantial numbers up into the tens of millions and hundreds of millions.

The President can order that an American (or anybody else) can be assassinated. No need for a charge.

The American and Canadian governments are discussing an agreement to allow each country to send troops to the other one in case of civil disorder. Wisconson my well turn out to be a dangerous place. In fact, the suppression and even murder of people who spoke too freely and assembled too freely has been a repeated theme of American history.

The US has 250 years of democratic tradition? This is the same US whose economy was based on slavery for the first hundred years of its national history, and the one in which the descendents of slaves were still denied basic rights, including voting, and who were routinely beaten, murdered and humiliated for the next hundred years?

I agree with his main point that there has been a lot of foolish talk about countries being restless to emulate the US. None of them has any reason to admire of emulate the US. And it is equally absurd to say the middle east rebels have inspired the situation in Wisconsin.

There are some connecting threads to all of this. But the thread of democracy is the slimmest of them.

On - a quick correction to a columnist yesterday who said the people of Moncton regard each other as terrible and reckless drivers. If they do, they're wrong. I have driven in many cities in many countries. Moncton ranks with the best for drivers. And it is absolutely tops for courteous driving. (I do wish, though, that Monctonians would lay off the passing on the right.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feb. 23: Is the Moncton Times deliberately trying to dumb us all down?

On Jan.27, almost a month ago, an American named Raymond Davis stepped onto a street in Lahore, Pakistan, and shot two men. The American government immediately announced he could not be arrested (he already had been) because he had diplomatic immunity and that he had simply been defending himself against two thieves. For almost a month that story has been accepted by the American press, though the truth has been carried in reputable news media around the world.

It was two days ago the New York Times told some of the truth, and it admitted that the American press had been asked by the White House to cover up the truth. It allowed them to speak (though only some of them did) after it was obvious the true story was readily available through the British press and through the BBC.

Davis is not a diplomat. He never was. He is a very senior CIA agent. The men he killed were not thieves; and they did not attack him. Pakistan intelligence had caught on to him much earlier, and the men he killed had been assigned to follow him. (Another man was killed by a car from the US consulate in Lahore which was racing to rescue him from arrest.) Most Americans still don't know that. And it gets worse.

Pakistan is already in a frenzy over US drone bombing which has killed uncounted Pakistanis, most of them civilians, many of them children. Respected news media are reporting that Raymond Davis was a: closely involved in choosing targets for drones and b: was in regular touch with the Taliban to supply it with "fissionable material" and biological poisons. The implication is he was setting them up for a terror attack on the US which would be used to justify an American assault on Pakistan. The latter points are not confimed, though it is confirmed he had many Taliban contacts at a  high level.

Anyone who is not scared by the implications of this is a damn fool. Obvously, the US has been playing a very dangerous game in Pakistan. Now, we have to face the consequences - all of which are bad, and some of which could be a terrible as anything we have known - and we are likely to become involved.

Headline on today's Moncton Times&Transcript?  "Airport runway to be extended." On the News Today section? "Tories, NDP to discuss federal budget." Editorial? "MHS building must be preserved." The word Pakistan does even appear anywhere. This is quite likely to become the biggest news story we have experienced in our lifetimes. The information has been out there for a long time. Every major news agency in the world has known it, though many have not published it. It has been available on the web almost from the start. Maybe we should all chip in and but The Moncton Times an internet hookup.

This is a newspaper of triviality. Keep people quiet. Keep them uninformed. Keep them entertained in the simplest manner possible. Such, apparently, are the mottos of The Moncton Times&Transcript.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Feb. 22: A good day, as days go, for the Moncton TandT

There was, blessedly, no free advertising, no venom, no propaganda in today's Moncton Times. There wasn't much news, either. I don't understand how a newspaper could have appeared today with a news section that didn't mention Pakistan. This is probably the most dangerous of all the world's trouble spots right now. American and Canadian news media have known much of the truth of what is going on there since it started.  But they haven't told us. The New York Times admitted today it joined the coverup on orders from the White House. (But I guess the news editor of The Moncton Times is too busy to read the New York Times.)

This could very well be our next war. But don't worry. The Moncton Times might carry a letter to the editor about it.

Otherwise, it was a half-decent, if trivial, issue. But it was graced by an excellent story in a section where I leasted expected it. Life and Times usually reads like a supermarket tabloid. "Ken is cheating on Barbie". "Is Barbie carrying Kermit's baby?"  All that schlock about celebrities who are famous for being celebrities. It was still more of the same today. But the feature story was well worth a read. It was headed "Undeserving Oscars", and it is a history of best movies that didn't win. It's a fascinating look at the politics of the Oscars. It's well  written, interesting, and worth a read even if just of the section dealing with Orson Welles.

Can't we get this sort of thing more often in that section? I mean, I'm sure it wouldn't offend the boss -so there's no risk.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Feb. 21: the good, the bad, and the stunningly trite

Let's start with the good.- which means good about the paper, if bad about New Brunswick. Alec Bruce has an excellent column on the fraud NB's electric commission calls public consultation. It's a safe bet the issue has long ago been decided.  The commission will suggest privatizing it or the greater part of it - which will mean higher costs for us, but with subsidized rates for the new owner.

Allan Abel produced the best of his columns that I've seen - this one on the sharp decline of freedom of speech in the US, and the sharp rise of the government as a threat to freedom of speech in that country. (Though he doesn't mention Canada, signs of it are have already appeared here.)

Alas! The editorial page had one of its frequent propaganda rants from The Fraser Institute. This one praises the mergers of staok exchanges as a means of freeing up regulations for business. Wonderful. Not only do we lose the power to control the  regulations that saved us through the economic crisis, we move to looser regulations like those in the US - which are what caused the crisis. The Fraser Institute, as a front for big business, wants what it has always wanted, freedom from any government controls and freedom from obligations to meet the needs of any country. For an example of where that can take us, read up on the story of Haiti and Congo. Or just check on the rate of bank failures and bailouts in the US

The front page is just unspeakably trivial. The lead story, continued inside for a another page, is about a showing of clothing for brides and grooms. Wow! This is just the kind of thing that puts Moncton of the map and draws thousands of tourists. Maybe we should borrow another 80 million to build a centre for fashion shows

The adjoining story is below trivial, but tells worlds about the infantalism of New Brunswick politicians. It's bad enough we have two parties that don't understand the democratic process. Political Parties are supposed to put forward ideas based on their philosophies and expertise. Then we vote; and the politicians who win the election carry out the proposals we approved of.

In New Brunswick, though, the parties run on no philosophies or expertise, just money given to them by the corporate world. Then we vote against whichever party we don't like. Then the winning party holds public consultations to ask people to ask people what they should do. Then it does whatever its economic masters told it to do in the first place.

The time , it's a youth summit (ages 12 to 30) of 200 who will make recommendations for planning the future. Now, planning the future is rather more complex than even brain surgery. Not many people of 30 are really up to it - not to mention the ones of twelve. As well, the age range is ridiculous for any educational purposes. It is, though, convenient for manipulating the responses.

Any such broad and complex question is better learned about by smaller groups taking on smaller topics in the early stages. To suggest that people 12 to 30 would learn anything by taking on a vast and complex set of issues of which they have almost no knowledge is as silly as putting them all into formula race cars for races
 the province on the argument it would be a great learning experience.

It's actually embarassing to see this on a front page.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Feb. 19 again: Two scams are still on with The Moncton Times

Two scams have been pushed by TheMoncton Times for the past year or two. Both are designed to extract more money from everybody to give it to rich people. It's the newspapers arguing again in favour of a welfare state - a welfare state for the rich. The two scams are the search for a CFL team, and the search for taxpayer funding for hockey arena/convention centre.

Professional sport is a business. It's business exactly like buildiing cars or computers, or making paper or distributing oil. We live in what is referred to as a capitalist society. Under capitalism, investors are supposed to pay the cost of operating their own businesses; and, if they expand their businesses or open new ones, they are supposed do it out of their own profits. If they lose, they are expected to pay the price for losing. Of course, it never really has worked that way.

The men who built the CPR had little of their own money in it. What they had was enormous land grants from the Canadian government, carefully selected by the railway owners for mineral wealth. They had millions of dollars in Canadian government loans and outright cash grants. To top it all, they raised money by borrowing it on the British market in the form of bonds. The bonds sold well, and at a low rate of interest, because the Canadian government (i.e. the taxpayers) guaranteed the CPR bonds would be paid back, with full interest, if the railway couldn't pay. So, if the railway went broke, Lord Strathcona and friends would have remained very rich - but Canadian taxpayers would be in serious trouble.

That happened many times in Canadian history. It still happens, even in New Brunswick. And professional sport has become a great way to sucker us into bankrolling extra profits for the rich, while we take the risks.

It happens all over Canada and the US. People with influence get public money to build the infrastructure for their hockey or football team. Then they generously offer to rent it for part of the year, usually insisting on a low rent plus other perks like lower taxes for their businesses.

Even if the business is profitable, the taxpayer still gets hit with high taxes for the long-term debt as well as the cost of maintenance. And if the business isn't profitable? Why, then the public loses a still bigger bite from its paycheques.

The CFL team and the hockey arena are both absurd financial investments for tax-payers. So the people trying to sell the idea push the nonsense that a stadium would revive downtown Moncton. (In fact, it would destroy it.) And if a city like Hamilton (and perhaps Ottawa) cannot afford a CFL team, it's hard to see how Moncton (including its vast and heavily populated metro area) could do so.

But the Time and Transcript has been pushing this nonsense for years. They speak of the people clamouring for a hockey rink and a football team. (Where do they find all these clamouring people?)  Today, it was the lead editorial -again. We can't afford to maintain our schools but, sure, 84 million for a hockey rink. Right. Top priority. And the great cities of the whole world will sit up and recognize Moncton as a great city among them. Yes.

Look. If New Brunswick capitalists want to set up a couple of new businesses in Moncton, let them do it the capitalist way. Let them risk their own money and pay their own bills. The province has surely had enough of being a corporate welfare state.

And it has surely had enough of newspapers that are nothing but shills for these scams.

Feb. 19: The Moncton Times&Transcript does it again...

Like yesterday, the Times has an excellent report by by Brent Mazerolle on Moncton High School's condition. Like yesterday, someone, persumably the editorial page editor, gave it a misleading headline. I hesitate to say the editor is deliberately lying. Judging by the general quality of editing in this paper, it is a at least possible he is remarkably thick.

The headline says "Moncton High is safe to use: expert."

According to the story, the expert who said it is safe to use is the expert who said in September that it was dangerous. Under those circumstances, District 2 could have been criminally responsible if it had not closed the school in October. That means all the vitriol poured on teachers and administrators in yesterday's editorial was unfounded.

The news story also says the expert would not be afraid of the teachers and students going back into the school THIS FALL AFTER REPAIRS HAVE BEEN MADE. In other words, and despite the headling on this story, the expert did NOT say the school IS safe. He said it could be by September if extensive repairs are carried out, repairs which would include bracing for areas that are below legal standards.

The expert is a structual engineer - which may be why no mention of was made of asbestos in the school.

As well, even the expert seems to think the school, even if made safe by September, will not be safe for long. He agrees with the decision to build a new school - and in a hurry.

Would you move your family into a house with those conditions?

In short, the headline "Moncton High safe to use: expert" is a lie that follows a pattern of lying about education matters for years. When I told this to a woman, she said indignantly, "you talk as if this is an intenational plot."

It is. It is international in that the plot exists in Canada and the US. Its purpose is to spread fears about the quality of education, the competence of teachers and administrators. It is financed by coporate leaders who fund "think-tanks" like Atlantic Institute of Market Studies and The Fraser Institute and many, many others to spread criticism and fears about the education system. It is no trouble to get those fears published in the news media because the people who fund the think tanks also own most of the news media - and their editors.

The purpose is to allow more corporate control of education, partly justified by a belief that a school is essentially a business, and would work better if it were run like a business. (Despite years of research showing this is nonsense).

More importantly, big business wants its fingers into the education budget as part of a larger drive to reduce the power of the governments we elect, and to transfer it to Boards of Directors we don't elect.

The Moncton Times&Transcript is a part of the scam. That's why it's such a stinking paper.

Tomorrow, we'll take a look at another scam to make the rich richer and the rest of us poorer.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Feb. 18: Excellent lead story. Contemptible editorial.

For a change, The Moncton TandT had a front page story that was a real story. The front page editor put the wrong headling on it, using one that  said Moncton High School was safe, and just needed renovations. Perhaps he/she should have read the story before choosing the headling.

The story was unusually well-written and well-researched. It gave a balanced view of reactions to the decision to reopen the school, from the approval by some parents to the disappoval by many teachers. As well,  the reporter took the trouble to to do some research and to ask questions. The answers to those questions indicated that it is very difficult to get reliable results from even expert inspections of such things as reports on air qualiry - so one should pause before jumping to conclusions. This is a sample of unbiased and first rate reporting.

The editorial writer seems not to have read the story - (or failed to understand it.)  The editorial is one that takes us back to the paper's loutish and ignorant rants against teachers and school administors that I hoped it had outgrown several months ago.

The headline was "Stop the politics, focus on teaching". (Perhaps the teachers should start that  focus on teaching by instructing the editor on the proper use of commas and semi-colons.) The implication (hell, let's call it what it is, an ignorant smear) is that the teachers are just goofing off. If that is what they're doing, by the way, they shoulld continue goofing off because that has produced on of the best education systems in the world, and one that is part of  Canadian systems that are way in advance of the American ones  the TandT editorials have advocated.

Thne the writer shows an ignorance of the news story by saying "..it is now known that its long-term closure in October was prematurre and unnecessary." That is not what the story says. It says it that even expert advice can be misleading.

By the way, Mr. or ms. editorial writer, if the school is perfectly safe, why does the government plan call  for a new building in two years?  And if it's perfectly safe even now, why is the government spending millions on renovations? If it's prefectly safe, why aren't staff and students going back into it now?

Editor - do you ever think before you write. Do you ever do any research before you launch into your smears against teachers and administrators? Didn't a light go on in your little head when, after all the reports were in, the government decided the school could not re-open until September, and then only if million of dollars of repairs were made?

This kind of editorializing is not only ignorant, it is loutish. It is the use of a public platform to smear people who have no opportunity to respond. This is not just bad journalism. It is unethical journalism It is contemptible journalism.

Norbert Cunningham's column was, sadly, no better. It shows a surprising ignorance of Canadian literature. It's really not worth reading. It shows no understanding whatever of the effects of media, no understanding of national identities and aspirations. It refers to culture, though obviously in ignorance of what the word means.

Then we have another scientistific (propaganda) report from The Fraser Institute proving that lower business taxes would be good for Canada.  (Ever notice they have never produced a report that said anything bad about big business?)

The day's prize for good journalism goes to Brent Mazerolle who did the story on Moncton High School.

The prize for ingorance, lack of ethics and sheer brainlessness goes to the anonymous editorial writer. I understand now why such writers are always anonymous.

Think, you slanderer and smear artist. Close you eyes and think hard. If it was never necessary to close the school in the first place, why did the government decide not to re-open it until September? And why did they decide to build a new school to replace it so soon?

As for readers, this newspaper publishes nothing that its owner does not want to see. It has conducted a smear campaign against teachers and education administrators for as long as I have been reading it.
Connect those dots. That's where the real story is. (You'll find some of the answers in my earliest posts.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Feb. 17: Better than usual day for the Moncton Times&Transcript

For a change, the front page was headed by a real news story. Moncton High School, closed amid controversy about its health risks, will be temporarily repaired to reopen for next school year, with a new school to be built within two years.

But that raises the problem of all newspapers. Just about every reader knew the story yesterday when it was on radio and TV. Somehow, newspapers are going to have to learn to supplement other news media - not just repeat the same news a day later. It shouldn't be hard. Both radio and TV; leave gaps because they are so oriented to being fast-paced and show biz.

Unfortunately, the second biggest story was that a giant rock concert to be held in Moncton and outdoors with a top-name group (U2) will be offering temporary jobs to set up and clean up. Gee! Who would have guessed? And that non-story took up a whole page.

The national and world news page has the same problem. It's all news that was on radio and TV yesterday - even imitating the general gush about Prince William and Kate  coming to visit Canada for a week. It really would be far more useful to use that space for something radio and TV do not do. It could be used, for example, to give us samples of stories carried in other countries. We badly need to learn that not everybody sees the world the way our Canadian news media do.

The one solid part of the paper, again, is the two-page spread of editorial page and op ed. (It always astonishes me that such a trivial and boring newpaper can have so many good columnists.)

Alec Bruce offers a change of his usuall pace with a whimsical and quite delightful story of mid-winter. Marilyn MacCormack of  N.B. Coalition for pay equity takes a tough line against the notion of a two-tier minimum wage. It's a sound analysis, well and clearly put. And it serves as a caution to me never to get into an argument with Marilyn MacCormack.

Rod Allen offers his own take on winter; and it's one of those columns that keeps getting better as it goes, and ends on a high note.  Elsie Hambrook, always solid, has a sobering reminder that women still have some way to go to win equality in Canada, particularly in the basic areas of rights and freedoms.

I don't know what that paper would do without its columnists.

Oh, it missed a national story of particular importance to New Brunswickers. Canadian shipbuilders have complained that they suspect the Canadian government of considering buying a new fleet of warships from Britain. Now, there's a story with a lot of angles, a lot of hypocrisy, a lot of corporate welfare state thinking; and one that has special meaning for us in N.B.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Feb. 16: The Monxron Times caught red-handed in unethical reporting.

In My blog for yesterday, I said the Moncton Times had unethically taken a news story about a group of 54 people who had sent a letter to Premier Alward suggesting New Brunswick adopt a modified from of goernment, with elements of proportional representation in it. That was certainly a news story. But the Times did it by focussing in the headline and in the story on one man who disagreed witht the proposal.

That's a common trick in some of the scummier newspapers  (of which there are more than one might think.) Politically, either the editorial staff of the owners of the paper don't like the idea; so the story is set up pretending to be news,  but actually twisted into propaganda by playing down the proposal, and paying so much attention to its opponent.

In this case, it is almost certain that the owners of The Moncton Times and other corporate heads do not want to see changes in the electoral sytstem. As it is, the only way a party can win an election is by getting the greater part of its funding from corporate heads and wealthy individuals. Since only two parties are in that category, and since both parties are essentially the same, it's a very good deal for corporate heads and wealthy individuals. That, I suggested, is why The Moncton Times twisted the story. And, yes, this is unethical journalism.

Today's editorial is a strong attack on the idea of any electoral change. Quelle surprise! Of course. That editorial could have been written before the news story even appeared. Indeed, it may well have been.  The story and the editorial together are classic examples of unethical journalism. A couple of other points about it are intriguing.

1. The group of 54 contains some pretty highly educated people, many of them with substantial studies in politics behind them. But the editorial writer of The Moncton Times knows more than all of them. And the editorial writer agrees with the only person who had publicly opposed the proposal - a man whose work just happens to place him in close contact with corporate heads, and whose political experience consists largely of being an advisor to a very unsuccessful ex-premier. Talk about twisting the news! Talk about abusing the influence of the press!

2. The editorial writer does not know the meaning of democracy. He/she says democracy means rule by the majority. Actually, that is not what it means.

If democracy meant rule by the majority, then neither Canada nor the US would be a democracy.  In Canada, the Conservatives have governed for years, though fully two-thirds of the Canadian electorate did not vote for them. Bush ruled in the US for eight years, with even less than a third of the American electorate voting for him. If you will check fifty years and more of voting in both countries, you will find that any government with the support of 51% of the whole electorate has been extremely rare.

But democracy does not mean rule by the majority. It means that we all have a right to express our choice for who will govern us. That is something quite different from rule by the majority, so different that large numbers of voters now lose their right to have a voice because their vote, though substantial, is scattered in too many ridings. Democracy does not mean winner take all. In fact, democracy is not about rights of any sort for politicians or for parties. Democracy is about rights for all of us. As it is now in New Brunswick, a substantial number of people have no voice in government at all because only  the Liberals and Conservatives can attract the funding to win seats, and only those two parties can hope for adequate coverage in the New Brunswick newspapers.

I don't yet know whether I would support the formula  proposed by The Group. I do know the present system is a perversion of democracy because it guarantees government after government serving the interests of the very wealthy, and building a welfare state for corporations.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nov. 15: As well as ethics, The Moncton Times needs editorial skills

A heading over a news story is supposed to give the reader a clear idea of what the story is about. There's a good example of that on p. A7 of today's Moncton Times. "Woman charged in bank robbery". Good. That's simple, short, and clear.

The story itself gives the details, starting with the most important ones, and then to lesser ones so that the reader can stop any time he/she has enough information.

The person most responsible for both of these is the editor. Usually, the editor writes the head and, if there is one, the sub-head. The editor also checks the story to make sure it goes from the general to the particular, and that it explains the subject clearly to the average reader. You can also check p. A7 for an example of what happens when the editor either can't or won't do what an editor is supposed to do.

The headline is "Proportional representation makes 'little sense: ' advocate".
Proportional representation where? And isn't an advocate a person who speaks FOR something? Is this some sort of renegade advocate who has turned against a cause he is associated with?

The sub-head isn't much help. "Group calls for referendum on decision to change New Brunswick's system of democracy." What group? Is the advocate speaking for or against the group?

Now we come to the story - and I'm wondering, "Who is this advocate? Who does he represent? The first sentence tells me he's a political watcher. Big deal. Aren't we all?

Not until the next sentence do we learn he is named Chris Baker. Well, thank you. But Chris Baker is not one of those names that everybody recognizes immediately. I mean, he's no Lady Gaga.  A third of the way down, we learn he runs (no other title is given) something called Continuum Research, a piece of information that still tells us nothing.

Not until a large step further on do we learn that Group (The Group?) is some 54 academics, union leaders, political organizers and citizens who wrote a letter to the premier advocating a form of proportional representation. One person, who is less well known than any good bartender, wrote a letter disagreeing.

So surely, the should be a story about the Group (or The Group) and it's proposal, with Mr. Baker coming toward the end of it as one person who disagrees with 54. And surely a half-decent editor would have pointed that out to the reporter. (Of course, a half-decent editor would never have written that heading and sub-head in the first place.) Why is this storty presented as though Mr. Baker is the main feature of it? In checking his credentials, I saw no reason to believe he knows any more about democracy than the 54 who wrote supporting proportional representation. So why focus the story on him?

Shucks. Let's try to connect the dots.

The Moncton Times is owned by the Irvings. The Irvings are wealthy, corporate leaders. Both the Liberal and the Conservative parties in New Brunswick have money to fight elections. That's because they get lots of money from corporations and wealthy individuals. The Green Party and the NDP and any others have very little money. So the lap dog parties win all the elections; and it really doesn't matter which of them wins.

However, even on the low funding, the other parties could get enough votes in a proportional system to get a few members into the legislature. And corporation leaders wouldn't like that, would they?

So now you put in the last dot.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Feb. 14 - Ignotance and/or lying in The Moncton Times

Yesterday, I suggested the newspapers should clearly label who their commentators are, and what they represent. Today has a first rate example of the problem I had in mind. "Fred McMahon." the blurb tells is, "is the Fraser Institute's vice-president of international policy research." Sounds great. But only if you don't know that the Fraser Institute is a pimp for big business, and Fred McMahon is either crashingly ignorant of international policy or he's a liar. I'm afraid there is no middle ground on this one.
His argument is that democracy can develop only in a free market society, but never in a dictatorship. Here's a man who doesn't even understand Canadian and American development.

Business people in Canada were fiercely opposed to the free market until very recent times.  In Canada, it was the Conservatives who led in defence of the protected market. It was the Liberals who wanted a free market, but who gave it up in 1896 to win an election. The US was opposed to the free market even longer than Canada was.

Grand Imperial Wizard McMahon sees a connection between free markets and democracy. In fact, plenty of dictatorships, with full American support have embraced free market treaties. Most of the Latin American dectatorships and fake democracies spring to mind. (And they are all supported by the US.)

Canada and the US embraced free trade because Canadian and American capitalists for well over a century needed a protected market to grow. They changed their minds only when they had grown as big as they could in the domestic market - and were now seeking to penetrate the markets of other countries not yet well enough developed to compete with them.

He also links capitalism to democracy. Bullshit. The US was not founded as a democracy in the first place and, arguably, has never been able to become one. In 1775, way over half the population of the was not allowed to vote. Women, of course, were out. So were the slaves who were forbidden to vote until the 1869s, and then commontly serverely restricted in voting until the 1960s.

In foreign affairs, leaders of American capitalism have commonly used their influence to overthrow elected governments, and install dictatorships. There was the elected president of Chile, murdered and replaced by a general who had US support.  There was the president of Guatemala in the 50s, who was overthrown by a gang of "freedom-fighters", paid and equipped by the US, who overthrew the elected president, then installed a dictatorship with American blessing. There was Haiti which lived for most of a century under the rule of the American army, and then under American-imposed dictators. When the Haitians finally got an elected president who wanted to improve lives, a US armed and paid invaded. The US then invaded "to protect law and order" - and exlied the president. There was the elected president of Iran, overthrown by the US, France and Britain about 1950 in order to hold control of the oil fields. He was replaced by a murdering and torturing dictator, the Shah. There was the elected president of South Vietnam, who was murdered with American cooperation, and then replaced by a series of generals.

Big capitalism isn't interested in democracy. A democracy might want to tax them to pay for silly things like schools and hospitals. A democracy might want them to follow a lot of bureaucratic nonsense - like not poisoning rivers with oil sands and mining wastes. If their must be a democracy, the business prefers democracy in which parties get their funding largely from big business. Check out party finances for Liberals and Conservative in the last NB election. Check out Harper who wants to eliminate government help to parties so that they have to rely almost entirely on big, private money.

McMahon has the mandatory denunciation of Cuba's Castro as a communist ideologue. I doubt whether he McMahon understands either "communist" or "ideologue". And McMahon has to be a liar if he claims not to know that the first country Castro turned to for help was the United States.

Cuba had, like Haiti and Guatemala and so many latin American countries, been decades under the control of extraordinarily brutal dictators. They were loyal to the US because "foreign aid" went directly into the bank accounts of the dictators and a tiny elite, such as generals and higher bureaucrats, around them. In return, they made sure American business had full access to their resources, ownership of anything worth owning, and little to no taxes. (In fact, it is exactly the same way the US controls Egypt.)

Castro wanted Cubans to have some share of their own resources, and some right to shape their own futures. He turned first to the US, meeting with Vice-President Nixon - who turned him down cold. The US would deal only on the old terms. It would pay off the ruling class. The ruling class would then cooperate in the pauperization and suffering of their own people.

Castro knew that no Canadian government would help, not if big brother was opposed. So he turned then to Russia as his only choice for economic survival.

McMahon says the US continually pressed Egypt to become democratic.  In fact, the contrary is true. The US paid off Mubarak and his generals in uncounted billions of "foreign aid".  Even Obama was muted in his reponses to the demonstrators until he had the deal he wanted. Mubarak was out. But the army, bought and paid for by the US, was in. Nothing has changed. What they will attempt now is a fraudulent exlection, establishing somebody like Mubarak again.

Normally, the US does not like democracies unless they, like Canada, are very, very obedient. With very few exceptions, the US has only rarely encouraged democracy. One of its closest allies in the middle east in Saudi Arabia, a religous and dictatorial government that is much like the Taliban.

This is a commentary in which almost every sentence is either a lie or a demonstration of ignorance. In all kindness, I would suggest that McMahan cannot be as ignorant as he appears to be. Nobody is that ignorant.

But this is the kind of crap propaganda the owners of New Brunswick newspapers want people to believe. And, evidently, we have the kind of editors who will do what they're told. The fundamental role of The Moncton Times and Tribune is to keep us in ignorance of just about everything - unless it's something like the Rivalry Cup or who's coming to the casino.

For several summers, I taught journalistic ethics to working journlists in China. In that highly dictatorial and lying country, I saw more newspaper ethics than I have seen in New Brunswick.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Feb. 14: A Valentine to The Moncton Times and Transcript

It's Valentine's Day. Let's be positive. How could The Moncton Times be made into a half-decent paper?

1. On the front page and in section A, get rid of the free ads disguised as news; (for a start, keep the Wildcats in the Sports section.) Drop the boosterism. It makes us look like Moosejaw about 1920. No more stories about the casino or motorcyle shows or visitng acts.

That A section is for municipal and provincial news. We need to know far more about city council  (and not just when a couple of parents of about 2000 silent ones ask a questioin about Moncton High.) We need to know why this city allows such dangerous snow banks to accumulate. We need to to know far more than we do about planning the city for fifty years from now, about massive spending projects like a hockey stadium, about what public bodies like the Distrct Educationi Councils are doing, When a civic planning agency is hired, we need to know more about it. Does it have any possible connection with vested interests in New Brunswick?

We don't need lies about how the general public is clamouring for a new hockey rink and a CFL team. We need realistic figutres about what  a team costs. We don't need to be kept in complete ignorance of what other kinds of priorities this city has. You would be amazed how many cities in this world are recgonized and admired - but don't have a hockey stadium or a football team. They do, though, have well-supplied and very active libraries. They have activities that put citizens in touch with a broader worlds than hockey teams fighting for hokey trophies.

It's nice that the city does so much for business. But there are also people who live here, quite intelligent people. And they need more than the daily pap they get in the name of local and provincial news.

Lose the national and international news pages. Anyonewho cares heard it on radio or TV a day ago. What might be useful would be a page of news from sources most people can't get. It would also be wakeup call that the view of the world from Canadian and American news sources is often pretty twisted. That's praticularly true in war reporting, where correspondents of most news media have a long history of lies, misinformation and propaganda.

Instead of getting news from a third rate source like Postmedia, The Times could try out The Manchester Guardian and The Independent from Britain, El Harretz from Israel, and Al Jazeera, the latter a news service far superior to most North American services. Let's find out how the rest of the world feels about us and itself.

Rethink the business page. It's way too short and too trivial to waste time on.

Keep the columns on the editorial and op ed pages.They are the best parts of the paper. But identify the sources clearly. To call outfits like AIMS and The Fraser Institute think tanks or  research institutions is simply lying. They pump out propaganda for big business. Have the jouranlistic integrity to let your readers know that.

This is the only daily paper I have seen that rarely has a book review in it. And this from a newspaper that constantly complains about about low literacy levels - and blames the schools. A weekly page about books would be a boost for literacy.

And skip the editorials.
1. The editorial is usually used to indicate a newspaper opinion. That, inevitably leads to bias throughout the paper. I an not interested in the opinions of The Editors.. They certainly have influenced some pretty bad reporting - especially on education and urban development.
2. Most editorials are ill-informed, illogical, ranting -and often inane.
3. If you must keep them, have the writer sign them. At least, that would identify the flop-eared idiots in the editorial ranks.

Of course, to do any of this, there would probably be a need to change ownership. As it is, the role of The Moncton Times and Tribune is, like the games of Ancient Romes, to keep people diverted, focussed on trivialities, uninormed about how they are being manipulated. It there is any counter-educational force running loose in Moncton, any creator of ignorance and triviality, it's the Times and Tribune. I do the editors the courtesy of assuming this does not come just from them. Thus the need for a change of ownership.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Feb. 11: okay. So I took a day off...

It's standard practice for The Moncton Times and Tribune to refer to Moncton and its region as "Metro".

Now, Moncton is a nice city - friendly, attractive -but it's a very small city; so "metro" is just a bit pretentious.  Nor will it fool any visitor who comes to an event here. They'll take a look at our newspaper. And every page of it screams "Hicksville".

Take the Feb. 11 issue, for example. The front page has two free ads disguised as news stories, (Motorcycle show rolls into Metro Moncton, and Hub Cap promises lots of laughs), then a piece of feel-good boosterism  (Team NB goes for gold). I wish the team well. But this is something for an inner page - perhaps in the sports section.

The banner headline is a non-news story about census workers being hired. The bottom of the page (New Era of justice arrives in Moncton - be grateful they didn't say metro). The 'new era' is one hell of a grand way to announce we have new courtroom facilities. There is no way that this trivia is a first page story. And it gets worse. There are also two full page of photos of exciting things like a room with a table in it, and a car in a garage. Oh, yes. Just below the headline are the words ECIAL REPORT. What's so ECIAL about it? I've seen lots of reports ECIALER than this one. (This, incidentally, is on the first page of a newspaper that is encouraging literacy in the schools.)

There's not a single, real news story on the whole front page.

Page A2. The major "story" is a free ad for the hockey team. Yet another appears in the sports section. The hot story is that the Sea Dogs are ahead in the race for the Rivalry Cup. Boy! That'll certainly grab the attention of big city visitors to Moncton. Then they'll know what an up and coming place this is.
Page A 3 is mostly ads.

Page A 4 is irrelevant stories continued from p. 1.

Put it all together, and the first section has, at best, thrree, quite short news stories. The rest is bad journalism and ads.

The Life and Times section has another full page of the motorcycle show followed by four pages of trivia and ads.

Salvation came with the editorial and op ed pages. The Moncton TandT usually does well with some first rate commentators. This time was the best of times. All four were first rate.

The editorial, as always, was a dismal effort. This time it was one of those pieces of boosterism that screams hicksville to anybody who has ever read a real newspaper.

Apart from the opinion columns and the NY Times crossword, there's just nothing to read in this paper. If we are really out to attract visitors and want to impress them (with what is, in truth,) a very attractive small city), maybe we should make it a point to keep The Moncton Times and Transcript out of sight.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Feb. 9: Oh, for Pete's sake....

The lead story on p. 1 is neither news nor a story."U2 ticket sales take off"

In the first place, it doesn't have the number of tickets sold. Thirty people were standing in line. That's out of a potential 100,000 customers. As take-offs go, this is like me walking as fast as I can with both arms spread out and saying, "Vroom. Vroom." So how do we know sales are really soaring? Because the promoter says so. Wow! Stop the presses. We have another great, free ad for front page.

The next was, "Premier promises wetlands answer"   Hey! "Premier gives answer" would be smasheroo news. But Premier promises...?  Something that happens every day is not news. Oh, and p.B3 has another free ad for the casino disguised as a news story.

The Business page featured a statement that NB Power must keep energy costs down for big businesses like pulp and paper. (The speaker was somebody named Iving.)  Perhaps as a sign of how he has suffered over unfairly high energy charges, a photo showed him wearing a jacket that appears to come from Frenchy's. (For foreign readers. Frenchy's in a super-bargain - and very good - clothing chain.)

The page also has a column praising the BMO for donating $1,750,000 to a university. The real story, which nobody at the Times seems to have noticed, is that the greater part of it is going to business programmes. In other words, business is increasingly buying up universities in order to prouduce the kind of graduates it wants.

University presidents roll over to have their tummies tickled when that happens because they are not hired as educational leaders. (Normally, they know nothing about education.) They're hired to kiss up to big business and wealthy individuals. That's why we haven't heard anybody from the universities criticizing big business propaganda outfits like Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies.

I was once invited to chair a large conference of MBA students from one of Canada's "Ivy League" universities. I was dismayed to learn that the MBA, like almost all their big business financed programmes, were heavy on propaganda.

Then there was the editorial of the day - the desparate need for a Canadian Football League team which, by the way, would make Moncton far the smallest city ever to have such a team. Ottawa, far, far bigger and more prosperous than the whole province of New Brunswick, can barely support a team.

Moncton, they say, is clamouring for a team. If anybody is doing any such thing, he must be clamouring in a very secret and sound-proof place.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Feb. 8: The usual blah, but with a kicker

Banner headline in The Moncton Times and Transcript. Top news of the day.  There will be a 'Canadian Football League game in Moncton just six and a half months from now. Boy. Thanks for letting us know in time to - whatever...

Second lead story: summer will come again. (For real. You can count on it.)

Third lead story: Bantam hockey team is getting a free trip to the Yukon. And that wraps up everything important that happened in or close to metro Moncton.

The kicker, a guest column opposite the editorial page by-----ta da-----Maxime Bernier. Remember him?

He was Harper's Minister of Foreign Affairs who became a minister largely because he was the Conservative from Quebec with the most votes - and Harper needed to boost the Conservative image in Quebec. He promptly made his mark as a blunder, loosely slipping confidential information to the press, promising a country the loan of aircraft Canada didn't have, referring to Harper as fat and not very bright, and having a very public girlfriend with a specacular bust much of which he insisted must be visible when he escorted her to state events. (She later said he had a made a deal with her that her role was to boost his image as a very virile kind of guy.

One night, he forgot a case of important and highly secret papers at her apartment. They concerned a soon-to-be-held and top secret NATO meeting. After some weeks, she became concerned about it, and contacted foreign affairs. That was just about the time journalists discovered that she had a long history with Hell's Angels.

This man with little brain, vast ego, bad judgement and childish behaviour got a column in The Moncton Times writing on Canadian economy and politics of which, among other topics, he knows nothing. Why?

The column is from a speech he delivered to the Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies. The owners of The Moncton Times like the Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies. And The Times editors know how to sit up when they want a biscuit.

Why did AIMS invite Bernier in particular to speak? Because they like to listen to people who think just like them.

Alas, there was bad news for the eager audience at AIMS. His ex-girlfriend did not attend the speech. However, I hear he's thinking of using blow-up, rubber dolls in the future. If he gets invited back to speak to AIMS, then we can expect the Moncton Times and Transcript to cover it the splendied way it covers pond hockey, we'll get three pages of coverage with  fifteen photos.  Front page, too. Right up there with hot stories about the next hockey game, and how working in a casino is fun.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Feb. 7: The Moncton Blah

Today's issue of The Moncton Times was just boring. The major story was all of two and a half pages of text and fifteen pictures of a weekend of pond hockey. The pictures were nothing more than snapshots of whatever was there to snap a shot of. It you enjoy looking at nondescript family photo albums of strangers, you'll love this.

There were also photos of partying through the Super Bowl game at the casino. Another free ad. (The Packers' win also made front page, which was surely a waste since anybody who cared knew all about it before the paper went to press.)

Then there was a flash that some celebrity named Garth Hunt is 68 today; and a tittilating headling that "Pregnancy and running can go hand in hand." Alas; there were no photos.

Only two items stood out.

One was the (deservedly) front page story of the collapse of the roof at Moncton Headstart. The other was the usual waste of paper on the editorial. Again, the editorial writer was making suggestions about education -  though it is by now obvious that nobody at the Moncton Times and Transcript knows anything about the subject. It was also about provincial budgeting, a subject over which a similar ignorance seems to reign.

We now have had at least two editorials insisting the District Education Councils should take over the whole responsibility for maintenance of safe school buildings. (This would include the DEC for district two, which earlier editorials had accused of being incompetent.)

A DEC is an elected group, voluntarily giving up an evening once a month for a meeting, and giving up many hours a month of  their own time to keep up on its work. Most members also have jobs and families. The idea that they should give up even more time to do a job for which most are not qualified is absurd.

As well, and this may come as a suprise at the Moncton TandT, the DECs have no power to spend money on anything unless Fredericton says it can. How can a a DEC be responsible for maintenance which it has no power to set the budget for maintenance?

Maybe what's really needed is for The Moncton Times to rethink what a small city newspaper is and what an editor does in this age of radio and TV and newspaper and web news from all over the world. As it is, it's hard to see any need for a paper like The Moncton Times except to provide propaganda and free ads.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Feb. 5: Big News in The Moncton Times and Transcript.

Big, big, big. The lead on the front page, once again, is the local hockey team which didn't do anything except lose a game. But top, left side of the page appears to be a permanent spot for what is really an ad to draw fans.  In fact, the Rivalty Cup for which the two teams were contending counts number of fans in attendance as one of its measures of who get to win the cup. Can anybody beat that for a hokey hockey rule?

Under the circumstances, then, it was curious the column didn't mention the turnout. As well as the importance of the number of attending fans in the decision of who gets the cup, but this is the city which wants to borrow 84 million dollars to build a bigger stadium. I can only wonder at that on the basis of the one game I have seen. The stadium was, at most, three quarters full - but only because almost half of the audience was non-paying. And this was a much hyped game, also for the Rivalry Cup.

But that sort of hyping and covering up is pretty standard stuff for The Moncton Times and Transcript. Much more distasteful is a "news story" on p. A3. It pumps up the adrenalin over a competition between five schools to see which can read the most books within five weeks. Each school sets its own goal.

This is the old business belief that competition really gets kids going; and if only schools were run like businesses, kids would really learn.
1. Big businesses don't compete. When did you last see Irving fighting to hold on to its share of NB oil business or NB forests?
2. Competition produces one winner and thousands of losers. Some incentive. That sort of thing works for students who already do well in school. It doesn't for most of the others. That emphasis on competition is a major reason why American schools have been dropping so far in world standing over the last several decades.
3. Learning reading means to learn to love and understand it. Competition does nothing for either of those. Some children, probably many children, simply get turned off at being forced into a game they know they can't win. I know their feeling. It happened to me in high school.

But the T&T report on the contest is written in the breathless, gaga style used for local hockey games (or like another free ad on p. 1, the opening of a dating service in town.)

So, why would a newspaper run a story on a reading contest that probably does more damage than good? And why is it so lavish in its praise?
1. The Moncton Times and Transcript is the sponsor of the contest. This is a free ad for the paper, telling us how public-spirited it is. Frankly, I would prefer it they would restrict their activity to just one thing they don't know how to do. Stick with reporting.
2. It supports the campaign by big business across North America that our schools are in terrible trouble, and can be saved onlyby adopting business methods (as in competition), and by degrees of privatization.

The owners of the Moncton Times can be happy their newspapers don't have competition. (Hey! If they think competition is such a cure-all, why don't the owners of the Moncton Times encourage other newspapers to start up in NB?)

Question for the day - Why does the front page have a free ad for a dating service disguised as a news story? I understand it for the hockey team The owners of The Moncton Times and the Moncton Hockey team are pretty close. Is it one of their buddies who opened the dating service?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Feb. 4; The Big Push Is On.

As government expenses rise, the big push has begun to balance government spending by raising taxes. You will see the big spread given to the CDHowe Institute on p. D2. (C.D.Howe is another one of those so-called think-tanks that are heavily biased in favour of big business; though it's not quite so contemptible as most of the others.)

One could guess their advice without reading the column. Cut the role of government. Make government efficient like big business is by cutting staff and services. Right.

The report doesn't mention which services should be cut; but it's not hard to make up a list. Governments could, for example, cut out special electricity rates, foolish loans and grants, and myriad other services to big business. But the report doesn't suggest it.  At that, big business could make itself even more efficient by slowing down the ruanaway inflation rate on salaries, bonuses and perks to senior executives and directors. Heck, as Americans are learning, senior execs can rum coporations broke, get multi-million dollar bonuses for doing it, and also get bailed out by the ordinary taxpayers. We should, of course, cut pensions of those who retire after years of work at ordinary wages. But there is no mention of the pensions and packages paid to the favoured few at the top.

Doesn't the CDHowe know that the money spent on their friends comes from the same people who get stuck with the taxes? The difference is that ordinary people get at least some benefit - hospitals, schools, roads, law enforcement from their money spent on taxes. They don't get anything for their money spent on executive bonuses and perks.

The report is right on one point, though.  The tax system is riddled with loopholes, exemptions, rebates and deferrals. But you know what the report says is responsible for that? Well, it's them there social programes like hospitals, schools. Boy, with all their expensive lawyers, accountants, and government clout, them there poor people is gettin' all the breaks. So the rich and big business  get soaked just because they're proud to hire lawyers and accountants.

Right.

Watch for a steady flow of items on this theme, probably with a demand for lower taxes for corporations. That's the way it has gone in the US. I guess that's why Americans are so well off - because they rely on the wisdom and care of private corporations in running their lives.

There's a problem much bigger than the deficit. The gap between rich and poor has been growing at an alarming rate in Canada and the US for decades. It's wildly out of control. That sort of thing doesn't just breed recession. It destroys whole societies. And we are heading in that direction very quickly.

Who is this happening? I wonder if the editor of The Moncton T&T would run a series on just how much of our tax money ends up in priate pockets though grants, tax loopholes, subsidies, loand, that sort of thing. I wonder if it would do some research on the real tax rates for the wealthy and corporations.

Nah. I don't have to wonder.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Feb. 3: Why pick on the Moncton Times and Transcript?

This blog is about a newspaper in the very small city of Moncton, New Brunswick. Not only is the city small, but the whole province of New Brunswick has a population that, all squashed together, would be less than a medium-size city. All I talk about is a small daily newspaper in a very small city. That's why I thought it so odd to learn that the blog readership stretches across Canada, with strong numbers into the US, and even into Britain, The Netherlands, Slovenia, India, Singapore....  Why?

It may be that these are all travelling salesman from Moncton who want to keep in touch with things at home. But that doesn't seem likely. So, why would a person outside Moncton - let alone in Singapore and in The Netherlands - check on a blog about The Moncton Times&Transcript?

I suspect there are two reasons. One is that The Moncton Times&Transcript is like most of the world's media. Most of the world's media serve as propaganda agents for political parties, social groups, economic systrens, for their owners (often all of these at the same time)....just like the Moncton T&T.

Most of them leave out news that doesn't fit their propaganda role. That is not much different from Moncton to Beijing. The same is true of almost all news media and popular journals. They keep their readers informed about trivia - like which celebrities we have never heard of are having a birthday today; but they keep them ignorant of anything that might stir them to thought. In that respect, they serve the purpose that the Roman games did in amusing the public, and diverting them from noticing that they were in eternal poverty.They also go a step beyond Ancient Rome in adding the propaganda angle.  The Moncton T&T is most of the world of journalism shrunk into one miserable speciman in a very small city. For a reader in Slovenia, reading a blog on this local paper is much like looking at a tiny bit of a cockroach under a microscope.

In much thesame sense, New Brunswick is a tiny but very accurate model of North America in its political life. Governments are pretty much run by big business, just as they are across Canada and the US. But the smallness and simplicity of the New Brunswick scene, the tiny circle of major players,  make it far more obvious what is going on.

New Brunswick is largely the poperty of one family. Other, bigger places have a dozen and more such families so that the scene can become confusing. But New Brunswick has only a few people on stage. That makes it easier to follow the role each is playing.

The Moncton Times is often  misleading and biased as a news source. But so, quite often, is the Toronto Globe and Mail, The New York Times. But on a big stage, the big news media can hide their warts under glitz and sophisticated lighting.  The story of the Moncton Times is not unique to Moncton (or even to New Brunswick.)

But seeing what it is, up close, helps all of us to understand our own news media better and our own political worlds better. (The Moncton T&T always  reminds me of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Feb. 2: Something new and good in The Moncton TandT

No, it's not the the front page. That keads with the usual non-news story that is really a free ad. And, for the third issue in a row, it's an ad for U2. And again, it's written in an cutesy, amateurish style that the Moncton TandT seems to require of its staff writer.s Similarly, the editorial is a routine piece of small town boosterism. The only part of the editorial worth reading is the final sentence. "Their vision and hard work is commendable." The paper should give a prize for the first elementary school student to spot the error in that sentence.

But just below that sentence is something good. The one strength of The Moncton Times is that it carries some very respectable regular columnists. But the guest columnists are often pretty trashy. (I think, in particular, of the propaganda spewed by neo-conservative think tanks, and the by occasional guest politician.) But there is a guest columnist today at the bottom of the editorial page who is well worth a read. It's by Jean-Claude Basque: "Is NB abdicating its responsibility in the fight against poverty?"

M. Basque doesn't have one of them there real fancy titles like "Distinguished Presidential Fellow of World Studies in the Future". He's just listed as a well-known member of the Common Front for Social Justice. But he's a better read than all the distinguished research and economic and consultant fellows of all thoe phoney think tanks put together.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feb. 1: Sometimes, it's just bloody juvenile

Almost half the front page of today's The Moncton Times and Tribune is taken up with one, huge, "Oh, I'm gonna die. I'm just gonna die" story. It's all about how U2 is coming to Moncton and how the whole world will know all about Moncton. The main story begins in the usual, "oh, I'm just going to die" fashion with "Sometimes in life, something exceeds your expectations." This, it seems, is one of those great moments. You know. Like having quintuplets. Or getting a free donut at the coffee shop. The rest of the article is just as good - juvenile hype to appeal to the very young and to the young in head.

The editrorial was the same pure gush. Please tell me it wasn't actually written by an editor.

Second page big news? There's a rumour that Prince William and Kate Middelton are planning a visit to Canada after their wedding. And if they do, why, then maybe they might come to NB. Well, if the royal couple-to-be read the Feb. 2 of The Moncton Times&Transcript, they'll be sure to visit this city that the whole world is talking about. Maybe we could have the new hockey rink done it time for them.

On a less important note (bottom of p. 1), parents outraged by the closure of MCHS and of the inconvenience this has caused other schools had another public meeting. Maybe a hundred people were there. That's better than the one percent or so who attended their first rally. This one drew, perhaps, over 5%. But with all the media coverage they have received, and with the organizational support of prominent Liberals, that's a pretty piddling turnout.

Nice of the Liberals to get interested, though, since they helped so much to create this mess; and since they didn't have anything that could seriously be called an education platform in their last campaign. In fact, a liberal organizer of the meeting old me during the election campaign that the important thing is to train children for the global economy. There were two problems with that.
1. She had no idea what they needed to learn for a global economy.
2. She was unaware we have been living in a global economy for centuries. That's why Columbus is a famous name in history.
Oh - Another coincidence. The editorial page also has a big comment from Brian Lee Crowley of the MacDonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy -another one of those neo-conservative think tanks that pimps for big business. Actually, there's another coincidence, he was also the founding president of Atlantic Institute of Market Studies.

However, unlike most of those propaganda think-tankers, he doesn't have a fancy pants title.. He's just director-general of the MacDonald Laurier, and before that he was just president of AIMS. I mean, it's not like he was a Distinguished Presidential Supreme Research Fellow of the Future of Everything.
I still think those outfits should have Imperial Wizards. It would sound neat.