Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 31: The Moncton Times - boring today, but with a schocker.

Today's Moncton Times continues, like yesterday'sk, is boring and irrelevant - and that's quite a trick with a national election going on. It hasn't even picked up on the coalition scare tactic of Harper. I thought they'd be on that one like a shot. When the opposition did propose a coalition a year or two ago, the editorial was quite clear. A coalition was outside Canadian constitutional practice. It was illegal and unconstitutional. Since then, the Ottawa Sun has upped the ante by saying coalitions are immoral.

Interestingly, when Mr James Irving anncounced in the pages of the Moncton Times that he and his unelected friends were forming a coalition with the government (and that was certainly illegal), the editors hid under their desks and pretended not to notice it. So far, at least, we have not seen an editorial proclaiming Mr. Irving either criminal or immorall.

Incidentally, Harper's conservative party was formed in a coalition with most of the Progressive Conservatives. Does that mean Mr. Harper is immoral and criminal? I'm very open to suggestions.

For that matter, the Progressive-Conservative party itself is the product of a coalition of two parties -the Conservative Party, and the largely western Progressive Party. As well, the federal government of Canada was a coalition toward the end of World War I. Governments of many countries, Israel is a prime example, are commonly formed by coalitions. I look forward to the Moncton Times editorial calling the Conservative party of Canada, and the governments of Israel both illegal and immoral.

Generally, today's Times and Transcript is the usual product of editors who lack the integrity to report the news without bias and who, if they had integrity, still don't have enought brains to find their own bellybuttons using both hands.

But the shocker is on the op ed page. Elsie Hambrook chairs The New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Her columns are invariably well written, and among the very few intellectually stiumlating columns in a the paper. This particular column is a brief, clear, highly readable, and unflinching recognition of how far women have still to go to win equaliry in this province. But...

...the shocker is at the bottom of the first column. "If this is my last column (due to the government cutting the Advisory Council's funding), here is a list of of the work left to do..."

That's an astonishing statement. Usually, a newspaper pays for columnists. I've written a thousand or more of them. I have wrtten them free for charitable groups and for community groups. But I have never written a free one at the request of a newspaper and, indeed, have never heard of such a thing.

Columnists of a real newspaper are chosen by the editors. They are chosen for their expertise (like Gwynn Dyer) or for their broad knowledge and ability to communicate (like Alec Bruce) - and,  I should have thought, for insight into community and wider needs (like Elsie Hambrook).

Has The Times been getting this as a freebie? Or because of her title? I  should thnk the that a newspaper whose editors think the great need for Moncton is an eighty million dollar hockey rink badly needs an Elsie Hambrook to retain  what shreds of intelligence and integrity it still has.

Why is it possible that Elsie Hambrook might have written her last column?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 30: The Moncton Times&Transcript - Bo-ring

The front page headline is a real heart-stopper. "Who are ordinary Canadians?" Everywhere  you go in Moncton people are talking about that one, I'm sure. The rest of the front page is stuff you wouldn't be able to get anywhere but New Brunswick - like a big picture promo for the hockey team, and a free ad for the Casino, "Casino offers free games for gambling newbies". Great. Just what New Brunswick needs to go along with its campaign to get people to drink more booze.

Whatever it takes to save the rich from paying their share of the taxes.

The big item in the NewsToday section is "Confident Harper pursues majority government". Gee. And all this time I thought Harper called an election because he wanted to lose.

 Normally, the Moncton Times is at least annoying in its pandering to big business and the political views of its owners. And in its ceaseless propaganda and its verbal abuse of anyone who who has no way to hit back. Today's paper was different. It was just utterly boring and pointless.

Have you seen Snapshot? I think that's what it's called. It's one of those freebie papers that pays for itself with ads. This one, though, is different. It seems to aimed at the illiterate and terribly, terribly bored. It consists entirely of photos of people you have never heard of smiling at the camera. It's a sort of preview of hell, in which we are forced to spend eternity looking at some stranger's photo album of childhood pictures.

The world news section of The Moncton Times  is not only boring but, ever since the invention of radio and then TV, it is stale news, already at least a day old. Unless The Times&Transcript has something terribly original to say about world news, it should just drop it. As to whether Harper is confident, that's an opinion. A news item can say, "Harper appears confident". That is clearly stating it as an opinion. It cannot say, "Harper confident", not unless The Times has reporters who can see around corners.

As to the election, who gives a damn who ordinary Canadians are? That's not what the vote is about. Nor do I much care to waste time on reading who is attacking who. Save that for the supermarket tabs.

We are voting in a national election. I would really like to know what the parties stand for. That does not mean I am interested in whether they will give a new arena to Mudville. I would like to know the general principles on which the party would govern.

No, I do not mean another assinine statement about being fiscally responsible. Many pirates were fiscally responsible when they buried their treasure, then killed the men who knew where it was. I mean such things as what they stand for as a guiding principles of foreign policy for Canada? I mean what do they see as the balance between human needs and our resources. What do they think is the role of government in our society? (Do they all, like Allward, think that the only requirement to govern is to have ears?)

Precisely what do they propose to do about environmental concerns?

Does any of them think we are a colony to the US far more than we ever were to Britain? Of are they convinced we must always do whatever the US wants us to - because that's the way Canadian big business likes it?

What are the likely consequences of their proposals? That does not mean we HAVE to do something because... It means what are ALL the likely consequences? For example, if we intend to fight a major war in the next twenty years, we MUST have the F-35 fighter.

Likely consequences:
1. Since we cannot engage in such a war by ourselves, it must mean following the US lead in foreign policy and in deciding who to go to war against. So much for an independent Canadian policy.
2. The F-35 will almost certainly prove so expensive we shall have to neglect other elements of our military, leaving us as, essentially, a small addition to the US air force -  with the rest of the military only big enough for parades.
3. We might well also have to cut back on areas like health and education.
4..Informed estimates are that such a war would go nuclear within two weeks, maybe less. So what's the point?

Democracy rests on an informed and involved people. New Brunswickers, thanks in large part to their newspapers, are among the least informed in Canada. For the same reason, they are among the most heavily propagandized in Canada. And, thanks to the fears invoked by a few powerful families, we are among the least inolved people in our own public affairs. (The last provincial election was won by a party whose only platform plank was that it would use its ears. There was virtually no public debate or public involvement.)

Today's Moncton Times was not just boring and irrelevant, it is an example of the most serious threat to democracy. That's not an exaggeration. It's a reality. This is a province in which a businesman announced he and his friends had formed a coalition with the government. Such a statement from any unelected person is anti-democratic and  unconstitutional.

But nobody said a word.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29: PP3,the fairy godmother that will save our economy

The op ed page of today carries yet another message from private business, this time written by Nancy
Whipp of the Moncton Chamber of Commerce. It's the usual pitch to let private business get its fingers into the provincial budget. This time, it's in the form of PP3s, Private Public Partnerships, in which business joins with government in public projects like, say, building a school. That, she says, will free up government money and reduce the debt.

Right. And kissing a frog will turn it into a prince.

She produces a survey showing that a large majority of Canadians are in favour of PP3s. (There are just two problems with this survey. 1. It was conducted by something called the Canada Council for Public-Private Partnership. What would you expect from a survey conducted by a pressure group?  Surveyers can do wonders with the wording of a question. 2. What can such a survey possibly mean, anyway? A good half of adult Canadians are functionally illiterate. They half has no idea what a PP3 is. 3. Not one percent of Canadians have sufficient training to understand the economics of a PP3. 4. The Canada Council for Public-Private Partnership obviously knows nothing of Canadian history. PP3s have been done in Canada -with expensive results.

Just a touch of common sense, here. If we go into a public private partnership to build a high school, private business would expect to interested in make a profit on it. And quite reasonably so. That's what business is for.

Who is going to pay the cost plus profits? We are. There is no magic money that comes floating down from the sky. Public or private or both, we still pay the whole shot. And we also have to include profits.

Woulldn't it be cheaper in the first place to require big business to pay its full share of taxes and its full share of utility costs? And to stop expecting handouts and loans and land from us to billionaires?

Perhaps The Chamber of Commerce could take a break from standing up to listen to O Canada, and spend the time reading some Canadian history. In particular, they should look at the Canadian economy in World War One when it was controlled by big business. They would learn, as every indisturialized state did, that trusting to big business was extremely inefficient and damaging both economically and socially. That's why every leading country in World War Two switched to extensive government controls on the economy. The results this time were excellent. And that's why Canadian business for a decade and more after the war studied the federal government to learn its methods.

The government "must commit itself to the creation of an economic climate of confidence with the private sector"?

Get real. There is no province in Canada in which a provincial government has been so servile to big business as it has been in New Brunswick (and most provinces have been pretty servile.) As a result, there may be no province which has given away so much of its wealth to billionaires.

Big business complains that government is inefficient and too expensive? Well, it's the money of big business that put government there. And if it thinks government should balance its budget, maybe big business should
pay its taxes and stop asking for gifts.

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28: The editorial that defines The Moncton Times&Transcript

"Discipline needed in obesity battle" is an editorial that sums up all the ignorance, bias and self-contradictory logic that one daily finds in The Moncton Times.

In response to a concern that the problem of childhood obesity has become a serious one,the  editorial writer immediately dismisses any need for governments and civil servants to get involved.  (By the way, I wish somebody would buy that paper a dictionary. A bureaucrat is a person who is the head of a government department. Big business is organized in departments, too. That's because as business grew, it modelled its structure on the system developing in kingdoms of the seventeenth century. And that was because the old system of government by inherited wealth did not produce enough people with brains to run the country. Louis XIV made notable advances in this form of running an organization with his appointments for department heads he called intendants. Canadian big business eagerly copied the civil service structure of Canada in the 1940s and 50s. That's why we now have thousands of "bureacrats" in private business who have titles like VP public relations, VP overseas trade, etc. Big business is full of bureacrats and bureaucracy. Too bad the editorial writer doesn't know that, and thinks bureaucrat is just a dirty word.)

It's simple, says the writer. It's the fault of the education system (of course). Students should be getting one hour of vigorous exercise every day at school.

Let's see now, take a pretty average high school of about a thousand students. They're in school about six hours a day. So that would mean some 170 children per gymn class. Think about that.

Even if you could jam 170 vigorous exercisers into the existing gymns, you would need to hire hundreds of more gymn teachers. But, even then, you're not going to get much vigorous exercises with 170 people - and the necessary equipment - jammed into one gymnasium.  We would have to hundreds of  millions building at least three or four gymns for each school - not to mention millions more on equipment.

We already have a school system in which school buildings and staffs are inadequate - and we know the government is opposed to raising taxes for anything but hockey rinks. So I guess we'd just have to cut down even further on maintenance; (though that might add to the bills as school buildings collapse).

We could also get rid of quite a few teachers since an hour a day would have to be time taken away from the academic curriculum. Let's see. What subjects would we cut? Math and chemistry? (We can't cut history because it's already been mostly cut out already. We replaced it by making children stand up for the daily  embarassment of listening to dreadful recordings of O Canada played on PA systems).

However we might do it, we'd need a lot of adminstrators to plan the massive changes in curriculum and buildings and equipment, etc. So we'd have to hire lots more bureaucrats. In fact, we would have to put the health of our children entirely in the hands of bueaucrats, educational administrators and teachers - the very people The Moncton Times has been editorially accusing of being incompetent. Does that opinion reflect a drastic change of opinion? Or a sudden onset of Altsheimer's? (In the same editorial, he rails against new layers of bureaucracy and, at the same time, proposes a scheme that would need just that.)

Then he says it's all  up to the parents. Oh? Does that include the many families in which both parents have to work to survive? Is the editorial writer unaware of studies, American ones in particular, that show child obesity to be linked with poverty? That means that passing the problem over to the parents isn't going to help much. That aspect of the problem can be solved in the US and Canada only if we stop allowing the rich to keep so much and the rest of us to keep so little. Is that what the editorial writer is suggesting?

The editorial closes, "A regimen of exercise, healthy food, common sense, discipline and above all, parental involvement, are not a complex concept."

(I shall pass lightly over the two, glaring errors in grammar in that sentence.)

In fact, the areas he/she mentions are extremely complex. Nor are they helped by opinion full of ignorance, bias, and lack of common sense.

Most of us, alas, cannot cannot hope for the regimen of exercise, healthy food, common sense and discipline in which we jog to work and home every day. That must explain why those who work at The Moncton Times are so natably slim and svelte - and why the parking lot is always empty.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 26: Why is Nato in Libya? and why a Canadian in command? and why is Allen Abel?

That a Canadian air force officer has been named head of the Libyan NATO mission at least made it into The Moncton Times&Transcript. But it has so far not occured to anybody (in most of Canada's media) to ask why this is happening.

1. Why is NATO, an organization formed to protect European nations against attack, being used to attack Libya which, for all its faults, has not attacked Europe? Why has the UN made itself irrelevant by handing over responsibilities like Libya to what has become the equivalent of the old British Empire (the white part) when it became an organization to fight Dutch settlers in South Africa back in 1899?

2.Why this sudden passion for the rights and freedoms of the Libyan people when we have been a close ally of their dictator for well over a decade? Why did the western world supply Ghadaffi with the tanks we are now bombing? Why did we give him the money to hire the mercenaries we are attacking?

It was the same with Egypt. Obama came down on the side of the rebels to get rid of Mubarak. But he, like earlier presidents, had been the major supporter of Mubarak, and the major supplier of the weapons that his army (largely paid for by the US) used to shoot at the rebels. He also seems to be interested in making sure the new rulers of Egypt will be pretty much the same people as the old ones.

2. Why was a Canadian named the commander of the NATO operation in Libya? It's an  honour, of course, and I hum O Canada as I write this. But we are a relatively small player in that war. We are also one of the few air forces there to have had no experience in aerial warfare for over fifty years.

As well, Canada, once a  highly respected country around the world, has fallen deeply into disrepute in the Harper years, and had begun to do so well before Harper. (That's why we didn't get a Security Council seat at the UN.) So -why are we suddenly being honoured? Could it be possible that it has something to do with Obama wanting to keep his distance - but also wanting an obedient lapdog to be in charge?

That brings us to Allen Abel, the T&T's man in Washington. Well, he does have two things in common with the T&T.  1. He has never written anything but trivia.  2. He has never criticized anybody who had real power. (When he wrote an expose of corruption in the US, it was notable that almost all of it was devoted to small-timers.) Added to that, he is the least observant observer I have ever read.

Today, for example, is about the National Mall in Washington, devoted to Americans who died in wars. An interview at the end of the column pretty much sums up his the tone of the whole thing. He asked a man what he thought of the Libyan war. The reply (clearly intended as the punch line for the column )was, "Somebody needs our help and asks for it, we got to help them."

Right. That's why the US will no doubt send help for the rebels in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the ones in the Emirate of Bahrain, and the ones in Syria. That's why the US government rushed to help the people of Haiti; (so far, it has not sent a penny of its promised aid.)

Among those monuments at a mall dedicated to Americans who died in war, where is the one to the native peoples who died in their millions? Where is the one to those who died in the two American invasions of Canada?  To those brave Americans who died in fighting the evil Mexicans when those Americans crossed into Mexico to take lands and settle them with their slaves. Mexico objuected to slavery on its territory, so the American land grabbers rose in righteous indignation. Remember Davey Crockett? He was a land speculator and slave trader.

The result of that ware was that Mexico lost a third of its land. That third became the southwest US.

How can there be no monument to the millions of Americans (so they would come to be) who died under the harsh conditions of slavery?

Of course, they couldn't cover all the wars in one mall. It has only 19 memorials. The US has had close to two hundred wars. There were all those Central American countries like Haiti, Cuba, Guatemala, invaded to establish dictatorships. There was the conquest of The Phillipines. There was the nineteenth century attack on Japan to force it to trade with the US. There was the forcible takeover of Hawaii. (When you next watch Dog, The Bounty Hunter, notice how many of the poor in Hawaii are native Hawaiians).

Abel, in all seriousness, quotes "Americans came to liberate, not to conquer, to restore freedom and to end Tyranny." Sure. That's why they, with the British and French, overthrew the democratic government of Iran to install a dictator in 1950. Then overthrew the democratic government of Guatemala about the same time. That's why they happily recognized Pinochet who overthrew democracy in Chile.That's why they supported Chiang Kai Sheck in China - a ruthless dictator who was also a world leader in drug selling.

There is, curiously, a monument to the holocaust. There certainly should be monuments to the holocaust, of course. But why in a site dedicated to Americans who died in war? No Americans, unless they were American Jewish tourists caught in Germany in 1939, died in the holocaust. The US did not go to war because of the holocaust. Nobody did. Both Canada and the US were passionately anti-semitic at the time.

Most of the people of the western allies knew nothing of the holocaust until the war was almost over. Even then, Canada and the US persisted if maintaining strict Jewish quotas long after the war, and the anti-semitism in both countries was easily visible into the 1960s.

The Washington Mall doesn't represent those who died as they were killing millions of Africans, native peoples, Mexicans, Central Americans, Phillipinos, Canadians,Vietnamese (who didn't want them there)....

Why do they commemorate a slaughter they never founght against and, in fact, was publicly supported by Henry Ford and by Lindbergh? (Ford was a key source of the money that brought Hitler to power. He was also the owner of a virulentaly anti-semitic newspaper.)

So why does The Moncton Times and Transcript, a paper that largely ignores most of the world, have a weekly column on Washington when it doesn't even have a regular column on Fredericton?

There's a hint in today's column. It twice take snide cracks at Obama. There's the one about Obama winning a Peace Prize, then getting into three wars. There's the one about his "Obama Doctrine of both prosecuting a war and hightaling from it at the same time." And there's the use of loaded words. When Obama is asked a question, Abel does not say that he replied. He says that "Obama muttered..." That's how you write propaganda.

Obama's Peace Prize was a fraud, of course. But getting into wars has been a characteristic of most presidents. As well, it has scarcely been a peculiarly Obama doctrine to proseucte a war and hightail it at the same time. Remember Vietnam?

Why is Abel in The Moncton Times and Transcript. Look at his tone; look at his choice of words; look at those he criticizes (and doesn't criticize) in "reports" like his series on corruption.  We get hime because he's part of the breed of neo-conservatives that Irving and friends like - just as they like all those propaganda "think-tanks".

Canadian big business has been desparate for years to make relations with the US ever closer. That's why Mulroney became the first Conservative leader in Canadian history to be in favour of free trade. That's why we have troops in Afghanistan. That's why we have aircraft in Libya. Let's not kid ourselves that Harper sits up at night worrying about those poor people in Libya and their lack of democracy.

After all he's never shown any such worry about Canadians.

Allan Abel is in the T&T because he's a propagandist who sends us warm and fuzzy pictures of Washington. That's why he's our teddybear in Washington.

Friday, March 25, 2011

march 25: a good day for The Moncton Times

The Moncton Times is today on one of its good days. It has, as usual, some good commentaries. But this time also has no really stinking ones. Even the editorial makes a bit of sense. The rest of the paper is pretty bland and trivial stuff. But at least it's not lying. For The Moncton Times this is a day to remember.

So, instead of being nasty to it, let's take a look at another Canadian publication. MacLean's magazine.

For well over a dozen years, MacLean's has put out a yearly edition which rates Canadian universities. It's a complete and utter fraud whose only purpose is to sell MacLean's to people who don't know any better. It has also been a major force in distinctly lowering the quality of Canadian universities.

What it does is to rank universities from the best to the worst. Sounds reasonable?

Consumer Reports says the best car of the year is the Volkswagen Golf with diesel engine. It's reliable, handles well, seats four... Unbeatable----unless you have a  family or five and also need lots of luggage space for holidays.

There is no such thing as a best car. There is no such thing as a best university.

If you want a bachelor's degree with international social status, go to McGill. If you want it for status in Canada, then Queen's or U of T would be good. If you want it because it's anti-gay, go to Crandall College. That university fires any professor it discovers to be gay. If you want to live at home, pick whatever university is nearest. The only difference between all those universities so far as an undergraduate is concerned is that Crandall has an atmosphere of self-rightousness, McGill is full of itself, etc. Otherwise, teaching and learning at any one of them is the same as teaching and learning at any other.

All, or most, of them have staffs made up largely of PhDs. Almost all of those PhDs come from quite reputable universities.

All offer pretty much the same courses, and in the same way.

All professors have pretty much the same training in teaching. That is, they have none at all. Imagine that? You need several years, at least, of training to teach kindergarten. But none at all to teach in a university. (That's why kindergarten teachers are the best teachers you will ever see. Quality holds up right through the public school years. Then it plunges.)

In fact, I have never heard a useful definition of what "good teacher" means. Nor is there such a thing as a universal and reliable method of testing teaching. MacLean's makes up for it by inventing categories which it claims indicate teaching quality. For example, it looks for small classes as a guide to what is good. Small class =good course. The reality is that if the teacher is bad, then the small class will still be a stinker. When I was teaching, a colleague had a class of twenty that nineteen dropped out of on the first day. The remaining one found it so bad, he dropped out in the following week.

Then they rank them according to how much research money the university attracts. If it attracts a lot of money, then it must be good. But there is no connection between research and quality of teaching. In many years of universities, I have seen good teachers who were weak on research, and good researchers who were appallingly bad, even destructive, teachers. And if you put all the weak researchers together with the strong researchers, they're the majority of all university faculties.

Universities have never made any sustained attempt to learn how to teach. Even in casual conversation with faculty, you will hear all the blame laid on the students: (they aren't prepared; they're not up to my standards, etc.) And while they say that, the grades keeping going up every year as universities scramble for funding -mostly to support research - which is why the academic world is flooded with subsidized journals full of articles that nobody reads.

Here's a case where bad and profit-motivated journalism has actually caused damage. Instead of making up for lost time in learning how to teach, the universities have allowed magazine editors to define what a university should do.

The result has been a scramble to reach goals set by magazine editors who know little about either teaching or research because a kind word from MacLean's means more students and more revenue. Besides, most professors and university administrators know so little about education, even they don't understand that the MacLean's rankings are nonsense. And, at the end of the line, students and their potential are being squandered.

As a footnote, they have a category of "Five most popular teachers' at each university. I was in that category some five or six times. At no time did any MacLean's researcher speak to me or to my students. No researcher came to any of my classes. No questionnaires were circulated among students. They couln't have checked my student ratings because those are confidential. And the rating of most popular professor would require an army of counsellors to rate a university of over 15,000 students.

And if I was rated among the most popular, it could be for nothing to do with teaching. It could be because I told jokes, gave easy marks, or was stunningly attractive. (Hey. We all get older.)

There is no such thing as a best university. For the average, undergraduate student, there is no difference between any two universities in Canada. All are good as world universities go. (Alas! Universities around the world don't go nearly as good as they claim to.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Marcn 24: smoking a sin. Stop it and drink more booze

Both the government and the news media continue to ignore the cost of big corporations to New Brunswick. How much do we give them in subisidies, interest-free loans, grants, tax breaks.... ? I suspect it makes the civil service budgets look pretty small time. But we won't get a look at that, will we? No, we save our indignation for civil servants and teachers. We don't ask questions about the big kids.

It's rather like those self-righteous people who happily tolerate corruption, neglect of school needs, and going into debt for a hockey stadium - but rise in indignation at the thought selling flowers to gays. (Amazing how some religious simpletons can be so annoyinig and so irrelevant at the same time.)

Instead of looking at reality, the news media and the politicians play word games. A charge for post-secondary schooling is not a tax. I read that in The Moncton Times&Standard. Even an annual charge for elementary schooling is not a tax. You must pay at least the latter one. But it's not a tax.

They have exactly the same effects as a tax. They leave us poorer; and the hit the poor harder than the rich. But they aren't called taxes. So that makes all the difference in the world. But sometimes it gets confusing.

It's okay to say that a rise in the price of tobacco is a tax. After all, smoking is a sin - so this is really a sort of punishment for sinners, and also a help to get them off the weed.

At the same time, alcohol is not a sin. In fact, it is a citizen virtue, and we want New Brunswickers to get more serious about booze, and to drink ten million dollars more of it this year. No slacking. Do your bit to lower the debt. Get smashed. Maybe we sould also lower the drinking age so the schools could learn about good citizenship. You know - maybe, in its school rankings,  AIMS could include how many beers the kids in each school can down in a day.

Then there's the usual doublespeak editorial on the subject. Check out the editorial "Privatize NBL".
A tax on cigarettes would presumably cut down smoking. Which is good because smoking is bad for you.
A tax on booze would cut down boozing. Which would be bad because.......?

Then it suggests the real direction that liquor stores should be privatized. Of course. Privatization of everything is where AIMS and big corporations across North America have been wanted. Private investors will build and maintain the stores, and pay the staff. And it won't cost us anything. So we can use the saved costs to maintain schools, etc.

Great idea....except..... Where would private owners get the money to build stores and pay clerks, etc.? It think it's us - the same ones who pay the costs now. The only difference is we would now also be paying the profits to the private owners instead of using them as public funds to provide other services like maintaining schools.

As well, we would now lose the profit that we now get from the liquor stores.

In the end, private ownership of liquor sales mean we all lose millions of dollars for no tax savings at all. But, the good thing is that giving  our  money to a private company is not at like giving it to government. You know - just like a school charge is not a tax because it isn't called one. And giving to a private liquor dealer isn't called a tax, even when it costs of more.

All money comes from the same place. If we privatize liquor sales, then we will have to raise taxes to make up for the loss of money we wil suffer. Dropping the word tax will not change anything in your pocket book. If we had no taxes at all, we would have far less money than we have now. Thinking of paying the prices of private suppliers for all the services we pay for now with taxes.

This is what groups like AIMS have been aiming at for decades - privatizing everything (while still getting government subsidies. Both common sense and experience show that this raises costs. That's why The Moncton Times & Transcript prefers to play word games on these questions.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 22: ..Far called, our armies melt away...

A hush has descended on New Brunswick. We have our budget. It's exactly what we might have expected. Large corporations have been exempted from feeling any of the pain at all - just like the American banks who drove the US into recession, then got rewarded with tax cuts and tax payer dollars.

At no point is there any sign of an examination of exactly what has caused our recession. That's like a doctor doing heart surgery without first finding out if there's anything wrong with the heart.

On of the very few experts quoted said it was good to hold the line on taxes. But the budget didn't hold the line on taxes -and it most particularly did not hold the line for anybody making less than a hundred thousand or so a year. If there is a tax on cigarettes, for example, the poor will pay exactly the same tax as the rich. If the rich should become sinful, then,  and decide to take up smoking, the tax is meaningless. But we must save the poor from sinning. That's the trouble with any flat tax. it increases the already huge gap between the very rich and the other ninety-nine percent of us.

Captialism is very good at creating wealth. It is lousy at sharing it. A flat tax, one in which we all pay no matter what our means is not only unfair and harder on the poor, it also contributes to what destroys many societies - too much money and power held by too few at the top who have too much greed and self-interest. That destroys the fabric of a society, with the results we are now seeing in Egypt and Libya. Canada and the US are both far out of line in their distribution of wealth, with both getting worse every year.

The expert consulted on this doesn't see it. That's because he's an accountant. For example, he does not see the rise in the post-secondary costs as a tax because it isn't called one. But the end result is that those who need an education will have to pay more. Minus 200 a year is a tax, by whatever name you may call it. And it's a tax that makes no difference to the rich - but is a death blow to the ambitions of many of the poor and the middle class.

Simlarly, a slight increase in education budget is not "holding the line" when the budget was far below needs in the first place. Again, it won't bother the rich, who send their children to private schools. But it will certainly harm the rest of us.

Worse, there has been no discussion about what caused the deficit - except for rants about civil servants and unions.  The attitude of the government (which is why corporations finance the major parties) is to make us think that corporations come here only to fling tons of loonies at us. In fact, their main purpose is to take tons of loonies out - and with all the freebies they can get from the governments on their way through.

Well, a brief peace. But we will soon hear more about unions, civil servants and other forms of acne. The real game is 1. get people to accept the budget as a reasonable one - and The Moncton Times did what it was told to do. 2. To cut down on civil servants so the government has to contract out as much as possible to private busines. 3. To revamp the civil service so it will work on the model of a private corporation. You know - like those great corporations that caused the world economic crisis. 4. To break unions in general. That way, the corporations can get rid of silly ideas like mimimum wages, pension plans, health insurance,...

An exaggeration? Not al all. That's what happened all over the western world in the 1930s. We've been here before. Many times.
..................................................................................................................................
As usual, the editorial page has a commentary by a "Fellow" of a far right "think-thank", this time the MacDonald-Laurier Institute. Mr.Wilner talks about counter-terrorism, a subject of which he clearly knows nothing.
1. He recommends deterrence (stiff penalties for terrorism). Brilliant -except when was there a time in human history when we did not use deterrence against terrorists? Didn't he hear Bush's speech on why he bombed and then invaded Afghanistan? (Incidentally, Bush was lying. US officials have long ago admitted publicy they have no reason to believe the Taliban had anything to do with 9/11).

2. He advocates attacks on every govenment that harbours terrorists. That would be interesting. Is he aware that the US has sponsored and provided refuge for terrorists it hired to set bombs and kill people in Cuba? Is he aware the US government sponsored a massacre of 200,000 Maya in Guatemala? Whole families? And that Clinton publicly apologized for it? Is he aware that the US bombed cities in Cambodia, deliberately killing a half million civilians? Does he know that Israel was founded by terrorists? Has he never heard of the Stern gang or Irgun?

3. We should also deny terrorists access to targets. What? Are we just letting them in now? Do we put up signs with an arrow and the words "this way to bomb targets"?

 4.Talk to the community the terrorists come from and convince them terrorism is against their religion. Right. It's also against any  major religion I can think of. And terrorism has been practiced by countries of every religion I can think of.

Wilner does not seem to have heard of a point 5 which was been proposed by the British military some sixty years ago. Stop creating terrists in the first place. Give a clear indication to the people we are there to help them - and so try to avoid making a bad impression by killing them.

He might also give some thought to a point 6. Stop putting dictators into power (like "the royal family of Saudi Arabia, the "president" of Egypt. Stopping using such dictators (like Ghadaffi in Libya) to impoverish the people of the country while western oil and mining companies rip off their resources and pollute their land.

I taught a course on military history for some years. This is without question the most childish writing on the subject I have even seen. Editors of military journals would burst into helpless laughter just at the headline "Deterrence making a comeback in counter-terrorism".

Only in The Moncton Times&Transcript. And probably The Gleaner and the Telegraph..

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

march 21: same old, same old...

The Moncton Times Standard did the same propaganda hack job for its fourth report (attack) on NB civil servants and unions. Who are they writing it for? It certainly isn't for Premier Alward or his Minister of Finance. They both had their marching orders before the budget even came up for public discussion. These are two dogs who know their master.

They're writing the reports for you. They want to kill any criticism of the budget because it's the kind of budget corporations want. (which suggests that one editor, at least, must have been improperly informed about some contents of the budget.)

As usual, the report has a front page headline about the horrors of the civil service followed by a dash - and then the word "experts". As usual, the"experts" were chosen by the editors. It reminds me of my working days in China when I would wake up to news from The New China News Agency

There really isn't much of anything in this final "report". Well, it does have a touch of accidental humour. One of the "experts" says that if the civil service grows at the rate it has since 1990, it will reach 63,000 by the year. Wow! I have a kitten that has doubled its size in the past year. That means that if it continues growing at that rate, it will need the hockey arena to hold it by 2300. Something to think about.

other points....
1. the top headline is that a business group has rasied 2.5 million for a an events centre  (which will cost far more that will\ have to come out of tax money, the same tax money we save by cutting the civil service and lose by lowering taxes on corporations.)

Well, the business group hasn't actually raised the money, though the headline and the first two paragraphs give the impression they have. They've promised to raise it.

The story doesn't doesn't say so but, since the cost is estimated at 72 million dollars, that probably includes the hockey rink. So, New Brunswick can't possibly maintain its present education budget or its government services - but $72 mil for a hockey rink and convention centre. No problemo.

2, The editorial is the usual piece of self-righeous dim-wittedness. The WE SAY of this one, though, is hilarious."We must legislate a solution to public sector growth and greed." (The greed, it seems, refers to unions.)

Tell you what (Mr Cunningham?). See if you can develop the courage, professionalism and integrity to write a column on a legislative solution to private sector growth and greed. Have the integrity to examine just how much the the private sector takes from this province compared to what it gives back.

3.Viktor Pivarov, a photographer at the T&T got nominated for a national award for an excellent picture he got -one that took some courage as well as being on the spot. But read how the news is presented. It's at the bottom of the page with a big picture which I learned, to my relief, was not the nominated photo but a picture of somebody named Robert Warner who wrote the story.

Usually, a news story begins with a statement of what the news is. This one begins as the life story of Robert Warner (I have no idea why),then becomes a hymn of praise for New Brunswick's anglo newspapers. Victor Pivarov doesn't get a mention until paragraph seven. The rest of the story returns to the theme of the superb quality of the Irving press.

Get used to it, Pikarov. All news media work that way. I've won a half dozen or so awards for best of the year for Central Canada and for Canada as a whole for editorials on radio, and commentaries in print. I never even got to touch the awards. They were sent to the radio station or the newspaper with only the name of the media company on the award. The only way I could tell they were for me was the title of the winning item. In all cases, the award was to the station or the newspaper -and those awards still hang on their walls. I never got them.

Any time it was mentioned by the newspaper or radio station, it was always to show what a high class act THEY were. That's why the article by Robert Warner talks mostly about him and the Irving press. That's why the picture on the front page is of Robert Warner, and not of you or of the great picture you took.

Get used to it in the world of journalism.
.

Monday, March 21, 2011

March21: A new low for The Moncton Times&Tribune

    The heanline on the front page is  "Rise of union power fuels wage gap."

1. This is not, in fact, what the story says. Much of it comes from interviewees chosen by the newspaper who spin the usual propaganda line of the The Moncton Times. But there are also interviews with well-qualified scholars from New Brunswick's universities who disagree. (However, their comments are hidden well down in the story because editors know few readers go that far.)

2. "Wage gap" is a term with emotional punch because it is usually used to describe the huge gap between the very rich few and the poorer rest of us. Here is it designed to take our attention away from the rich entirely, and pretend that people who get decent salaries are the very rich.

It's the same stunt that was pulled in criticizing Moncton works who got raises of something over 2% a week, while ingnoring years of increases by corporate executives or 10% or a hundred percent or even more a year. (Meanwhile, the middle class and the poor in Canada and the US have actually been getting poorer.)

In fact, for a really interesting report on real wage gap, The Moncton Times should have published the cost to us (Yes, us. All money comes from the same place.) of corporate executives. It would have to count wages, bonusses, paid golf club memberships, meals at lush restaurants, free interest on mortgage payments, lavish separation benefits.... Perhaps it might also include years of tax cuts for the rich since that's a loss the rest of us have to pay for from our taxes and from cuts in services.

3. The sub head of the "story" is "Experts say salaries, benefits of public sector employees need to be reined in."   In fact, some of the experts (the ones hidden at the bottom of the "report") did not say that at all. That sub-head is a blatant lie.

4. On page A4, there is a chart which claims to give a picture of public and private sector pay scales. In fact, it shows two ways to use charts to give a false impression
A bar for each year since 1998 shows private and public sector wages. The lower part, in light blue, is private sector. The upper part is darker blue. Making the public sector darker and placing it on top as a extension of the private sector bar make the difference look more prominent and greater than it really is.
(I remember learning that somewhere around grade six.) And it may be even more misleading than it seems.

We are told the comparison is of average salaries in both sectors. That assumes a perfectly matching set of requirements for skills, labour and reponsibilites in both sectors. But there is no evidence to show that there is such a matching set.

Finally, the "report" does not even consider another possibility - that corporations may be responsible for this wage gap which may or may not exist. It is possible, even likely, that corporations have been more successful in cutting out unions so that greedy bosses can have more money for their million dollar bonuses and golf club memberships.

That would suggest that it is corporations, not unions, that have too much power in New Brunswick. After all, can you imagine a minimum wage Walmart employee declaring himself a member of the government - without bothering to get elected? Mr. Irving did it.

This will be an interesting budget, with good news for millionaires and bad news for the rest of us, for The Moncton Times to make so much effort to ensure we cheer at the prospect of getting ripped off to make the rich even richer.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19:The Moncton T&T is playing its usual game.

The Monton times produced its second report on the "problem" of the civil service. This time, it is an interview with Donald Savoie of U do Moncton. Savoie certainly does have a distinguished reputation - particularly among neo-conservatives and industrialists.  He is a longtime friend and admirer of the Irving family and its interests. I am happy to see a deserving family get all the friendship and admiration that is lavished on them. But it does give a hint that Donald Savoie is not what one might call an independent.

In his interview, Professor Savoie comes down hard on the civil service of New Brnswick. In particular, he says its bureaucracy is the real power in the province; and that is the real problem that must be addressed.

And that is such nonsense that only a professor could take it seriously. If he can keep up the writing nonsense like that, he'll become a university president and get the Order of Canada in no time.

Civil service bureaucrats do not appoint themselves. If they did, I would certainly join in the attack on them. But they don't appoint themselves. Politicians appoint them. Politicians also have the power to overrule them, fire them, demote them. Doesn't that suggest we should be looking at the politicians as the source of at least part of our problem?

The politicians of New Brunswick are themselves the products of two forces.

One force is the failure of most of the news media in this province to tell the truth. Instead, they publish propaganda lightened by trivia. All the English papers are owned by one family which also has a strong interest in who gets into power. How can the public make a sensible choice on the basis of that?

It costs money to get elected. It costs so much that most of it comes from private sources. And that means the most of it is not be be found in the ten dollar bills we peasants have to spare. Most of it comes from the wealthy and large corporations. And that goes to the Liberals and Conservatives - two parties that give no indication of even understanding the words liberal and conservative. Both understand, though, the importance of money, and of keeping big donors happy.

That might help to explain Awlard's choice of Minister of Finance. Yep. Premier Alward listens to people. It's just that he listens to some peoplle more than others.

If bureaucrats have too much power, the problem does not start with the civil service. It starts with biased and servile journalists, with politicians bankrupt of  political ethics and of any political philosophy, and as servile as The Moncton Times is.

Yes, there is a problem with the civil service, Professor Savoie. But it isn't caused by civil servants. It's caused because politicians, press and voters all bow to where the real problem lies - the monopoly of power and influence by a very tiny group of people who are not elected.

The problem is that New Brunswick is a "just pretend" democracy. And you are its most distinguished "just pretend" expert.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18: Propaganda as news that treats as readers as brainless

The Moncton T&T has just begun a new series of economic "studies" on the NB budget. It's all about the faults of the civil service and the unions. That seems odd. If you study a problem, don't you begin by looking at all the elements in the problem? How can one decide the cause of a crisis without looking at business practice, for example, or political corruption, or the impact of big spending on elections?

And shouldn't a sober study of the subject  avoid emotionally evocative words like "worst crisis", "soaring" and inexorable?"

And when we're looking for information, shouldn't we look at other sources besides big business propaganda agencies like AIMS, Canadian Taxpayers' Federation, and The Frontier Insitute?

There is a particularly cheap shot at Moncton workers who got 2.75% raise a year. Did the reporter bother to ask about the incredible rises of pay and bonuses, sometimes at hundreds of percentage points a year - and for companies that are being driven broke - but will be okay because our "nanny" governments step in to bail them out with low interest loans, grants, low electricity rates and other goodies?

How much is the growth in the public service is there to serve big business?

There is a very sensible comment by Professor Hudon of the department of Public Administration at U. de Moncton. But it is so deep in the story that few people will ever read that far. And editors know that.

And if anybody at The Moncton Times and Transcript knows poop about economics, why was the paper campaigning to borrow even more millions for a hockey rink and a CFL franchise just weeks ago?

Then, a reporter, writes two, full pages on an interview with the Minister of Finance,

Then there is a massive two-page interview with Blaine Higgs, and with no fewer than five pictures of him. Now, I admire Mr. Higgs' face as much as all New Brunswickers do. But I think I can get the idea with one picture.

And Mr. Higgs has spent his life as an executive with Irving's. Wow! What a concidence! Is that the same Irving's that owns the The Moncton Times and Transcript and the Fredericton Gleaner and the St. John Telegraph?

In that whole two pages Mr. Higgs says close to nothing. He's encouraged to because the reporter asks close to nothing. Here's a sample passage.
"T&T: "...with a wife and four daughters, I wonder how you manage to adjust the household testosterone level. I am permitted a tom-cat for the household pet."
B:H: "I have a male dog. but he likes his wife more than me.
T&T: "Ha! Are the children all grown up, and are any living in New Brunswick?"

And there's much more. All of it just as good. Look for the part about how much Mr. Higgs enjoyed holidaying in Hawaii and going on an African safari.  Then ask yourself - How many Moncton city workers get to spend holidays in Hawaii and to go on African safaris?  And did Mr. Higgs average less than 2.75%  a year in pay raises?

Very, very few are going to read all this drivel. Editors know that very well. This is not a study of the civil service at all. It is a study in how the editors of TheMoncton Times twist propaganda so it looks like news. A quick read of bits of this will produce what the editors want - a public pushed toward panic at a time of crisis - and a public that believes the whole problem is caused by the civil service and by unions. This has nothing to do with informing the public. It was everything to do with protecting private corporations from paying their share. When we cut budgets for our children's education, or for social help, or for medical care, we aren't harming the families of billionaires or even millionaires. We, who built these corporations, often with our tax money and low wages, are the ones to suffer.

If the Moncton Times and Transcript wanted to do a real study of the causes of this crisis, it would do a study of how much corporations cost us in grants, gifts,subsidies, insider contracts. What is the average annual pay raise plus bonusses for a senior corporate executive? How quickly has that been going up in the last quarter century? If we were getting good service from them at their old payrates, why is it necessary to pay so much more now?

But I don't think testosterone levels at The Moncton Times and Transcript are anywhere close to being enough for the challenge.

And this godawful crap is just the beginning of a four part series.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 16: columns tied - one good and one bad.

I should explain where I started from on the issue of feminism.

When I became a university teacher, the feminist move was past the trot and moving to the charge among women professors. I was on their side though, truth to tell, I found them more than a little self-righteous.

One year, when I was department chairman, I had a senior (male) professor who, despite repeated warnings, bullied a young secretary into a nervour breakdown, pretty effectively destroying her life. I demanded  the dean (a woman and an ardent feminist) discipline the professor severely, and that the secretary be offered all help and support possible.

What I got was endless hearings and meetings that went on with no action for months. As it went on, I wondered, "Where the hell are all those feminists who  had been swaggering the halls for the last dozen years?" Then I realized a truth that should have been obvious. When they spoke of feminine equality, they meant it for feminist professors, not for the lower classes like secretaries.

The bad column on the subject today is at the bottom of the editorial page. It's from Troy Media, of course. The only women the writer (Catherine Ford)   appears to know are career women like herself. (She also trumpets her concern for third world women - of whom she seems to know none at all.) But that's okay. They're far away, so she can just send the odd donation, and feel good playing fairy godmother.

For contrast, turn to a superb column on the next page by Elsie Hambrook. She points out that for a great many women right here in Canada, the feminist crusade did nothing at all - notably nothing for women who were native peoples or poor or victims within the criminal world. Elsie Hambrook shows an awareness of all women, and what it is they have to deal with.

The Troy Media writer, like so many womren professors I worked with knows only her own, seemingly priviliged, class.

Elsie Hambrook is worth following.

Troy Media is just schlock.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 16: A disgusting and ignorant editorial - but now I think I know who writes that type.

"Higher taxation harms economy"  shouts the head of the editorial. And it's all them there nanny social programmes. I've rarely seen a headline so disgusting on an editorial so reeking of ignorance of economics and even obvious facts and well known history.

This is meant, of course, to build up support for a budget that will let the rich off the hook again. And it gives the usual reason. It's private capital that creates wealth.

Well, yes, private capital can be very good at creating wealth - for the rich. But it does a terrible job of distributing wealth across the society. That's why the whole world is now in an economic crisis.

Check out Guatemala, Haiti, Congo, Ivory Coast, Egypt. What do they all have in common? Low taxes on corporations and wealthy people -and dreadful poverty for most people. Haiti has been living under a very pure form of capitalism with almost no taxes or regulations for the whole century it has been under American control. The result? It is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.

Check out the US ever since St. Ronald Regan began lowering taxes for the rich and de-regulation of big business. Lots of wealth has been produced - at the top. But there has also developed an enormous gap between a small number of very rich and hundreds of millions of poor.

There are now just one hundred supremely wealthy families in the US. They have more wealth than over 300,000,000 Americans all put together. That's a major reason why the US is in recession - and shows no sign of coming out of it. Wealthy Americans have looted their own country. The result is that many millions of people cannot earn enough to buy their products. That only way out of our crisis is to distribute wealth, not to give even more to the rich.

Canada has gone much the same route with a gap between a few rich and millions of poor so great that it will soon rival the US. The world is in an economic crisis? Good. This is a great time to go into the whole to for thirty billion or more for a handful of fighter planes that are of no use to defend Canada? (Also a great time to borrow money for a hockey rink and a CFL franchise.)

What is also happening now is that wealthy Americans have so thoroughly looted their own country, they are runniing out of places to invest their money. Thus the crisis. Why did they do that. Are they crazy?

No. They aren't crazy They're arrogant. They're greedy. And they can buy news media and politicians to spread their absurd ideas. Capitalism is destroying itself just as communism destroyed itself. That's what much of the violence in the middle east is about. Too many people have been exploited for too long by western corporations and their hired "kings" and "presidents". It might well happen here, too.

If it comes here, it will likely come in the form of a fascism combined with some variation of racism. Many of the signs of that are already showing.

Look - of course rich people play a role in creating wealth. But an even bigger part is played by the rest of us. Britain got rich in the industrial revolution because of appallingly cheap labour in Britain, and some of the worst living conditions on record. It also got rich by killing Boers in South Africa, and killing, torturing and using as cheap labour Blacks and Orientals all over the world.The capital that British corporations invested to build early twentieth century Canada came largely from gold, diamonds, farmland, oil looted from all over the world. It grew poppies on estates stolen from India, then forced China to buy a mimimum tonnage of it each year. That same pattern has been followed by the US, France, Belgium.

 New Brunswick has been built largely by its own people whose governments gave away or sold their forests at bargain prices, who loaned money to the rich at low rates, who guaranteed their bonds, and who paid to subsidize electricity for corporations. Oh, and who often had to work for very low wages.

Capitalism has done something to develop New Brunswick. It also took out a hell of a lot more than it put in.

I don't favour any economic system - capitalist, socialist, communist - in its pure form. All of them, in that pure form, will break down under human greed and corruption and stupidity. As in everything else, there has to be a balance of many elements within any successful economy; and that balance has to change as conditions change.

The editorial is right on only one point. New Brunswick has a nanny government. And that is a problem because it nannies the rich while doing very little for the common good.

The world is facing a crisis probably beyond our ability to understand. Societies are falling apart. The American empire and its economy are collapsing. New Brunswick is not immune to what is happening to the whole world. If we're to survive, we have to act in the interests of our whole society, not just those of the richest families. And time is very short.

But the editorial writer is on safe ground. The budget almost certainly will benefit the rich and punish the rest or us. But, at least, it's now possible from style and choice of words to figure out who writes these shameless editorials.

My guess, and I suggest it with regret, is Norbert Cunningham.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15: Will the Moncton Times please stop selling us lies?

In 1998, the Abitibibowater paper mill operation in Newfoundland was taken over by the provincial government; so the company lost all its forest land and water rights. And the government took it over just to punish the company. Now, the taxpaers of Canada have to pay compensation to those poor shareholders at Abitibibowarter - just because of that theft by Newfoundland.

That's the story on the editorial page of today's Moncton Times and Transcript. It comes from yet another of the "non-partisan" think-tanks, this one the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. Like most of the other propaganda mills that are regular features of the Moncton TandT, this one is distributed by schlock specialist Troy Media.

Just a few bits of information might be helpful, here.

1. Abitibibowater never owned those timber and water (hydro power) rights in the first place. It was given free use of them so long as it remained in business in Newfoundland. (Close your eyes; think hard; see if you can think of a comany like this in New Brunswick.) This happened way back when Newfoundland was still a colony. But it went out of business in Newfoundland; it closed its mill and sacked its employees; so the land and water rights reverted to the province. It wasn't even a very big deal because all that Abitibibowater left behind is badly damaged forest. Abitibibowater has sucked the province as much as it can. Now, it demands to get paid for the garbage it left behind.

2. Abitibibowater took its case to NAFTA. Normally, it would not have a case at all - except under NAFTA rules which were created to benefit corporations like Abitibibowater. But the Canadian company Abitibibowater has its head office in Detroit (which qualifies it for big tax breaks.). That Detroit head office is what gave Abitibibowater the claim to being a US company so it could make this a NAFTA case.

3. Once it became a NAFTA case, that put Stephen Harper in the decision seat. That's like allowing a cat to decide whether a fish should be swimming in a bowl or chopped up and served on a plate. Harper quickly offered $130 million to Abitibibowater in return for something that never belonged to it in the first place.

This is what Brian Lee Crowley, Managing Director ofThe Macdonald-Laurier Institute (a non-partisan "think-tank"), doesn't tell us.

My goodness, he says, this could do damage to Canadian democracy. Right. Canadian corporations are very concerned about democracy. Just ask the New Brunswick billionaire who recently named himself a member of the New Brunswick government - without bothering to get elected.

And get ready for the day when he doesn't need you any more than Abitibibowater needs the people of Newfoundland.

Monday, March 14, 2011

March 14: Propaganda is welcome at The Moncton Times and Transcript.

It wouldn't be The Moncton Times without its daily dose of propaganda from  neo-conservative "think-tanks." Today's is from one of the seedier outfits, even by Moncton Times standards, the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. The source is Troy Media, an organization that specializes in distributing propaganda for big business. The writer, Cam Dahl, is what journalists call a flack, someone whose job it is to get big business propaganda into the media. Good journalists treat this sort of thing with caution. The Moncton Times doesn't have many good journalists.

Mr. Dahl opens with a line that is both trite and meaningless. "We owe our envious lifestyles to science."
Well,  lifestyle is a word so vague nobody knows quite what it means. Roughly, it seems to mean the way we live. That includes war, corruption, millions in Canada living below the poverty line (tens of billions around the world), a love for display, and piling up wealth based on cheap labour and the poverty all that causes. Is this entirely enviable? And who is us? Obviously, it's not most of the people around the world. It may not mean even most in Canada.

It seems to me that much of what is enviable in our "lifestyles" has nothing to do with science. Science did not invent "Though shalt not kill" or "Thouw shalt not steal", Nor "love they neighbour". But I think moral standards have a good deal to do with creating an envious "Lifestyle) - whatever that means. Indeed, there have been many successful societies in history that survived with very little science. I cannot think of one that has survived with some code of morality  (and most those codes remarkably similat to each other.)

The thrust of his his commentary is that people like David Suzuki don't know what they're talking about. (Mr. Dahl has an Master's degree in science. (Whoopee! That, and a dollar fifty will get you a coffee.) That's kind of a tricky argument because thousands of scientists around the world agree with Suzuki  - and Dahl's whole point is that it is dangerous and foolhardy  to turn our backs on science. In fact, his real point is we should turn our backs on science.

I don't know what Dahl learned in his science degrees; but it cerrtainly wasn't logic.

His main concern is genetic engineering of crops. He says this is the way for the future to feed the poor,etc. Well, feediing the poor is not entirely what he is about. Genetic engineering can produce bigger crops. But it's a private business; and you have to buy fresh seed from each year. See what that means to a farmer in a poor region?

His country is poor. The World Bank generously offers it aid money. But there is a little catch. It has to spend the money in a rich country to buy seed - every year - forever. The World Bank (which really represents western business) is happy. Private suppliers are happy. But....

Before, the farmer was able to get seed from one year's crop to plant the next year's crop. Now, he can grow more, but at such a greater cost than he and his family are poorer than ever.Meanwhile, his extra food can be exported to maintain our envious lifestyle.

He also attacks scientists who claim no technology should be used until it is proven safe. "This," he says "is a ridiculous and dangerous interpretation."  Really? Perhaps The Moncton Times and Transcript should alert the Japanese government about this so they can stop worrying about radiation from nuclear plants.

(By the way, ever wonder why Somalia fishermen suddently became nororious pirates, holding ships for ransom? It might have somoething to do with their fish disappearing. And the fish disappeared - and people started dying - because western companies and governments were dumping shiploads of nuclear and chemical waste along the waters and the shores of Somalia. Simlarly polluted shores can be found in much of Africa.)

This is a silly, uninformed and illogical article which says we shouldn't turn our backs on science, then says we should - which makes most money for billionaires. And the editors of the Moncton Times make sure that commentaries like this appear frequently.

Let's  learn a new word today. In yiddish,, a commentary like this is called schlock. Good word, schlock.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March 11: re previous blog for this date.

The rules of British rugby also explain why hockey has blue lines.
But that's another story.

March 12: Nothing terrible in The Moncton Times today - but an interesting comment by Brent Mazerolle

"Fewer and fewer kids and parents think hockey is worth playing." That's the headline on an intriguing op ed piece by Brent Mazerolle in which he argues that fighting is destroying the game. He's right. But  hockey will never clean itself up because the owners won't let it. Fighting is what the commercial game is about. So let's take a look at why it happened, and why owners won't change it.

Modern hockey was invented in Montreal in the 1870s.  Yes, I know there is a picture of a Haligonian skating with a hockey stick before that. Yes, I know that a Nova Scotia school had a "hockey" team before that.  For that matter, there are paintings of Dutch children with skates and sticks playing on the canal ice in the 1700s.

They even sometimes called it hockey - a corruption of "hoquet", the French word for the curved stick. For that matter, I'm sure playful cavemen knocked enemy skulls along the ice with their clubs. But none of this was really hockey. More properly, the English called such a game "shinty", meaning a pickup game with no standard rules. (From that, we got the "shinny" I played on the street as a kid.) In fact, virtually all modern games have roots that go back to ancient times.

But a game is not invented until it has a standard set of rules which are the same in Toronto as they are in Moncton as they are in Moscow. That happened in Montreal. And the rules most certainly did not make allowances for fighting.

Organized sports in those days were almost exclusively for "gentlemen", a word that meant the wealthier classes like business families. They regarded it as their class right to provide national leadership in all areas of life  (not unlike modern New Brunswick). The purpose of organized sport lay in its supposed ability to make them leaders over the lower classes.

But, alas! Clubs soon learned that the wealthy often couldn't produce the quality of player that was needed. So they lowered themselves to allow free club memberships for gifted poor people.

It got worse. Within a generation, the railway had made it possible to transport teams, and so to develop leagues and professionalism. But Canada was still a small country, too small to support a pro hockey league. Owners had to tap the US market (notably New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston). But people in those places who understood hockey were too few. The answer was to offer them something they could understand - speed.

The original game copied most of its rules from British rugby (another game of the rich and the aristocracy). Rugby didn't allow substitution. So early hockey didn't, either. That meant some spretty straggly games by the third period. So the owners changed the rules to allow substition so they could offer speed. And the Americans bought it.

Professionalism also put paid to the job of creating gentlemen because gentlemen were losers at the box office. Fighting appeared (though usually less of it and less vicious than today.) By the 1940s, though, as Maurice Richard was being prepared for the NHL, he was given boxing lessons. Trust me on t his one. His boxing coach was my uncle.

But television was an even bigger challenge for hockey. For NHL owners, the game promised possibilities for huge profit from advertisers. But TV took us all the way to Florida and California where even speed wasn't enough to pull them in. That was when the owners decided to make fighting and injuring (the two are not necessarily the same) the central attraction of the game. The owners could put a stop to hockey goons in just one game. But it would cost them. That's why they have never done it. Remember, big profits don't mean providing hockey for experts on the game. Big profits mean pulling in people who think Don Cherry  is an intellectual.  It means drawing fans who think the WWF is for real. They love watching people get injured. Fighting in hockey, like the "sport" of extreme fighting, might be telling something upsetting about our society.

The common people of ancient Rome (usually referred to as the "mob") were among the most useless people in the world. They were given enough food by their rulers to stay alive (food that came from conquered peoples), enough housing to shelter them in filth and disease, and great pits their bodies would be thrown into when they died. They were contemptible people. They knew they were contemptible and useless.

But the emperor and the aristocracy had to keep them quiet or they might turn to riot and looting. So it diverted free with free shows at various stadia. The shows were not only free,but designed to keep them from thinking - the same sort of job The Moncton Times does. But it charges.

As the humour of farting elephants and human freaks waned, the ruling class introduced increasing brutality - sham battles in which hundreds died; and then, even further down the scale, just watching people getting ripped to pieces by wild animals.

An historian of Rome has argued that they enjoyed this because they knew they were contemptible and deserved punishment. They loved watching others die because somebody else was getting the punishment they deserved, and because the shows gave them a sense of somebody who was inferior even to them. (It's  something like the reason we watch Judge Judy on TV.)

That is the direction we are going with pro hockey. On balance, then, maybe it's a good sign if both parents and kids are losing interest in hockey

Friday, March 11, 2011

March 11: Whoa, baby! Norbert goes wild.

This is my second attempt to write this article. I had thought I could write it as a humorous piece. but there's really nothing funny about it. I regret that I have to name Mr. Cunningham. I really do. I had thought it possible he was one of the few intelligent and ethical people working for The Moncton Times. I'm sorry I have to say what I do. But I don't apologize for it.

Mr. Cunningham's smears of whole groups of people, and his bias amounting to bigotry make it justifiable and necessary to name him. As I recall it, this is also the editor who accused the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc of acting illegally when they considered forming a coalition. I thought then it was either a stunning ingorance of Canadian parliamentary practice and Canadian history or a lie. I think I can now elimimate one of those possibilities.
Headed "Looking for something that's fresh, with a vision for Canada", the commentary begins well with a criticism of the failure of the Liberals to come up with a vision for Canada. All too true. The Liberal party needs to go back to the 1940s when opinion polls and the rise of the old CCF forced Mackenzie-King to recognize that the nineteenth century was over.

He could have mentioned that the federal Conservatives don't seem to have a vision, either. Instead, they rely heavily on the advice of the Canadian Council of CEOs to develop a relationship with the US that is very similar to our old, colonial relationship to Britain.  Well, I guess one could say Harper does have a policy. He wants to be governor of the colony of Canada, one with the need for democratic practices reduced to zero.

Then, Cunningham rants at the "knee-jerk ideological devotion to expensive nanny social programmes backed primarily by special interest groups."  (Good thing he doesn't seem to know that this knee jerk ideological  devotion began with a Prime Minister from New Brunswick, a Conservative named R.B.Bennett, way back in the federal election of 1935. The Liberals didn't get into the game until 1945.

As for the speical insterest groups who supported these "nanny" state solutions, the only speccial interest group that supported them was the voters of Canada. Do you have a problem with that, Norbert?

The ones we would usually call special interest groups were things like insurance companies, major employers, etc.  And they did not support social programmes. In fact, heavily opposed social spending.

As well, the word "ideology" is not only used incorrectly but, like "nanny", is used as a loaded word to suggest denigration. Does one have to be an ideologue to believe people should help each other? So far as I know, mutual compassion and help is a principle of every major religion in the world. That's one reason why democracies are formed in the first place. Democracy is a way of a society coming together to help each other.

"Nanny" social programmes are expensive? Yep. So are "nanny" giveaways of crown timberland, and "nanny" spending of $84,000,000 for a hockey rink. So are "nanny" tax cuts to the rich. I would feel somewhat less contempt for Mr. Cunningham if he were occasionally to write in such a derogatory manner of his masters. There are few things so distasteful and so dishonest as the sneer of a Uriah Heep.

He also says there are lots of good approaches and ideas to be found in "solid, non-partisan expert studies".  But he doesn't name even one of these experts. I would dearly like to know what such a partisan editor would think is non-partisan, and what is expert.

Note, by the way, he scorns wasting money on arenas for NHL franchises - but does not seem to see any problem with spending it on minor league hockey or CFL franchises. I wonder why.

Then he has the gall to say to we should copy those right wingers who say we should not subsidize private business. I agree we shouldn't. But I haven't ever seen anybody on the right who has conducted any serious campaign against such happenings. Perhaps Mr. Cunningham could get the debate rolling with, say, an example of a company getting reduced rates for electricity. Perhaps he could even find one in New Brunswick.

Following that, he has the nerve to denounce any criticism of the US as "silly anti-Americanism". Do you approve of torture, Mr. Cunningham? Do you approve of mass killing of civilians? Do you approve of imprisonment without trial or even charge? Do you approve of the US consistently ignoring Canadian claims to the Arctic? Gee. I must be a silly anti-American. Perhaps I need to listen to O Canada till I turn blue so I can be a good Canadian like Mr. Cunningham, and approve of everything the US does.

Then - get this - he accuses people who want to control or in any way limit competition in Canada as "fraidy cats". Right on, kid. Now, write an editorial on how New Brunsick newspapers need competition;  and call on the owners to break up their monopoly on the English speaking part of the population. I don't accuse Mr. Cunningham of being a hypocrite, though. I don't think he sees any contradiction is advising more competition in every business except his own.

Anyway, he'll never write such a column. The only "fraidy cat" I see is Mr. Cunningham.

Oh, yes, he also slurs environmental activists who parrot the latest fad "solutions" for the environment.  His big suggestion, undoubtedly from "non-partisan experts"? Well, we could have bicycle paths, safe walking routes. Boy, that'll fix everything in a few days. The mind boggles.

And we gotta beat down the national debt. Yep. And if Mr. Cunningham knew any history, he would know that the big spenders in  Canada and the US have been Conservatives and Republicans at every level of government. It's true. Check it out. The current world economic crisis began with the policies of Ronald Reagan -  a very conservative Republican. And it came crashing in on us with the neo-conservative George Bush.

Oh, and of course, Mr. Cunningham sees the real fat and waste in the public service. If he meant by this Harper going into the hole for 29 billion for fighter planes of no possible Canadian use, then he would be right. But he doesn't mean that. He means those stupid social workers who want to "nanny" unsafe families. He means those regulators who interfere with honest billionaires to make sure they don't pollute. He means those do gooders who think all families should have food.

Fat and waste mean money taken from us in excess of what is needed. If Mr. Cunningham takes the trouble to look at the shameful distribution of wealth in Canada and the US, he will see that most of the waste and fat are part of the wealth of the 100 or so wealthiest families in North America. Private business when it has few controls or regulations and when it can buy governments is a great producer of wealth. But it is a lousy distributor of it. The inevitable result of that sort of fat and wasteis what we are watching in the middle east and Africa - and possibly in the US this summer.

Cunningham concludes by saying that all we see in our political system is power lust and mud. Well, there is a lot of that going around and, in New Brunswick, it's encouraged by Brunswick Media. People are not well informed by most media of the issues. They are not only uninformed but fed with a constant diet of propaganda bolstered, I now realize, by an almost complete ignorance of politics encouraged by the newspapers.

In the recent provincial election, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives had anything that could be called a platform. The Conservatives won simply because the Liberals were unpopular and Alward said he would listen to the people. Nobody at The Moncton Times had the honesty - or perhaps the wit - to point out that the great democratic leaders of the past century have been great not because they listened (you can rent a recording device to do that). The great leaders like Churchill and Roosevelt were elected because they said what they were goingn to do, people liked what they heard. A democracy does not vote for a "nanny" listener. It votes for a person of principles and vision and a vision that sounds sensible. But they can't do that in New Brunswick because the newspapers keep people in ignorance of what the issues are.

New Brunswick, thanks largely to its English newspapers, can only barely be called a democracy. Mr. Cunningham's column is a good illustration of how that has happened.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March 10. How to write propaganda that looks like news.

"Urgent changes needed in N.B. budget: : experts"
That seems clear enough. It suggests this is a news report in which a number of experts (with all that word's hint of impartiality) say that budget changes are necessary. That is reinforced in the sub-head which refers to "some" advocates - though that sub head is not quite so clear. We still have a range of experts, it seems. But they're also advocates. Advocates of what?

It turns out the experts are just two people. Count them - two. Are there experts who disagree with them? The report doesn't mention any.

One of the experts is genuine enough. Donald Savoie of U de Moncton. He certainly seems a man whose opinions are worth paying attention to. But I taught in  unversities for forty years. I know the word expert is not so reassuring as it sounds. Virtually all profs, including me, have biases that affect their opinion at least as much as their studies affect them. Professor Savoie is certainly an expert. But hundreds of experts in his field will not only disaggree with him, but will be all over the map in their own opinions. There have even been some so rude as to disagree with me.

Perhaps the most notorious departments for bias in universities are Political Science and Economics. In this case, Professor Savoie is a political scientist writing on economics. Both fields are notorious for their wide range of biases. So what we have here is an opinion, not a judgement.

Professor Savoie's view is that we need an HST tax. That is a tax which hits low incomes the hardest. It hits the wealthy and corporations the least. I know lots of scholars who would disagree with that. They are experts, too.  Apparently, though, the Moncton Times knows only the one at U de Moncton.

The other "expert" is less impressive. He is the regional head of The Canadian Taxpayers' Association. Not only is he something less than an expert, he has been closely associated with several "think-tanks" (propaganda agences for corporations).. Of course he's opposed to raising taxes. That's what he's paid to do.

Lacey ends with a bizarre statement. He says the economy in Nova Scotia is suffering as a direct result of higher taxes than New Brunswick. Oh? Where did that cause and effect theory come from? Haiti has had virtually no taxes for a century. Foreign factory and factory farm corporations have certainly prospered under this system. But would Mr. Lacey hold up Haiti as an example of how effective it is to lower taxes?

And just to show that even experts like Professor Savoie and Mr. Lacey cannot agree. Savoie holds Nova Scotia up as an example of what New Brunswick should be doing.

So what was this "news" item really about? It is propaganda following up on a campaign the The Moncton Times and Transcript began a week ago, almost certainly on the orders of its masters. The message has nothing to do with a systematic quiestioning of experts. EVen the use of the word expert in its plural form is misleading. One is certainly expert in his field. But many experts in that same field don't agree with him. The other is not an expert; he's a hired front man for a pressure group.

This is not a news item. This is propaganda to make sure that Premier Alward doesn't do something foolish like raising taxes on coporations. (There's even a hint that if such taxes are raised, messrs Irving and Ganong and the rest will stamp their feet and leave the province - so we'll be the only jurisdiction in North America with no gas stations or boxes of chocolates.)

We should be so lucky.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March 9: L'Acadie Nouvelle

Since I get most of my news from the web, the only paper in New Brunswick I have read on a regular basis - with a sort of fascinated horror - is the Times and Tribune. But, today, I took the time to look through L'Acadie Nouvelle.

This is one, fine paper. It's not just that it reports news honestly, and writes editorials intelligently -and does both very well, indeed. .  But even better, as I read page after page, I got a strong sense of a real Acadian community - a community with social attachments, with awareness, with purpose for the common good, and with ambition.  I also got a strong sense that here was a newspaper that had respect for its readers.

In reading The Moncton Times and Transcript, I get no sense at all of an English-speaking community anywhere in New Brunswick. The sense I get is that there are no shared values or aspirations, that the Moncton Times has nothing but contempt for its readers. It sees them as a rabble of morons, much as the later emperors of Rome saw what we still refer to as the Roman "mob".. Like the emperors, it encourages triviality and ignorance. It treats its readers as lower creatures whose only purpose  is to be manipulated and wrung dry by the corporate aristocracy of New Brunswick.

That makes iti pretty much like most of the newspapers in the Maritimes and, indeed, across Canada and the U.S.

Acadians have a newspaper that respects them. New Brunswick anglos have newspapers that are Judas goats.

This is an attractive city full of people who could accomplish a great deal. But English-speaking ones are being sold out by their own major source of news and insight.

Pity.

March 9: The rant continues

Today's editorial in The Moncton Times and Transcript is much like its Phil Seeley comment of yesterday - and much like The Fraser Institute commentary and the editorial that preceded it. . "Moncton council failed to hold line".  It attacks the Moncton Council for agreeing to wage increase of 2.7% a year for city workers. This, in the view of the editorial writer is a scandalous waste - and I presume this is the same editorial writer who thought it was a neat idea to borrow $84 million for a hockey rink.

Two point seven percent in just one year?  How shameless!  Of course, it they were deserving people -like senior executives of auto companies who go broke, or of paper mills that want more crown land and maybe a grant or two, or foodpackers who want big tax cuts - raises of a hundred percent or more in a year are so reasonable the paper rarely evens reports on it.

The messsage is simple. As times get tough, pull out all the stops to make the rich richer and dump the rest of us to look after ourselves.

What a wretched excuse for a newspaper! No wonder they accept commentaries from a Phil Seeley.

There will  be another blog today, this time about a good newspaper.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March 8: A sequel to March 7 - or - you could see this one coming.

On March 7, The Moncton Times and Transcript ran a commentary by one of its favourite propaganda machines, The Fraser Institute. Disguised as an attack on corporations for taking too much of our money, it was really pitch for us to give them even more - in the form of lower taxes.

Today, it followed up with an attack on the federal Liberals for opposing lower corporation taxes. Unlike the Fraser Institute, it does offer some sources for its argument that low corporation taxes are good for everybody. The sources are Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce - all those impartial and good-hearted people who care only about what is best for us serfs.  Oh, yeah. The writer also quoted Obama. Remember him? He's the guy who's presidential campaign was financed by Wall St.

And those people who want corporation to pay their share on  educating children or maintaining health care? Well, they are just layabouts who envy the corporate class. People who want to be able to heat their houses, feed their families, and get the chance of a good education are really looking for a "nanny" state that will "pillage and plunder" Canada's employers, then come for "our" wallets next. And when he said "our" he didn't mean you and me. He met the better sort like him and the rich people he advises and whom we are robbing so terribly that they don't know where their next billion will come from.

This commentary is so ignorant, so sneering, so arrogant, so condescending and such a professional kiss-up, I ended the reading with a strong urge to put a boot up his otherwise unattractive rear end.

Two things to note.

1. The Moncton Times and Tribune is off on another vicious campaign like the one to denigrate public schools and teachers. This time, they have found a commentator of even lower ethics than their usual editorial writer. Watch for more and worse. Obviously, Big Daddy is as interested in this crusade as he was in the one against p ublic schools.

2.  The commentator is listed as Phil Seely, a business advisor and a Moncton area pastor.
As it happens,  I am a religious person, and I take my faith seriously enough to avoid most of the churches - because I think they accomodate themselves far too much to the powerful and influential. But the tone of this commentary is much worse than a lazy and accomodating Christianity. In fact, in tone and message, it is the most thoroughly anti-Christian statement I have read.

Note to the editor - publish propaganda if you must.But please don't do it in such a contemptible manner.
Note to Moncton clergy - what do you think of a "pastor" who could write such a commentary? What would be your Christian evaluation of that pastor and his choice of friends?

Or are you too busy discussing just how thick the gold paving is on the streets of heaven?

Monday, March 7, 2011

March 7: Cute, really cute...

The Moncton Times and Tribune never met a big business propaganda outfit it didn't like. That's why comments by phony think-tanks so soften appear on the op-ed page. Today, it's The Fraser Institute, the one that makes the Irvings and McCains look like communists. But, oh, the approach is cute.

The heading is "How corporate welfare undermines core essential services". Wow! At last. Something about how handouts, grants, loans, concessions, etc. to big business take attention away for "core essential services".  Gee. Does this mean we're going to do less for business and more for people?

Well, no. Not actually.

It certainly says governments should give less to the corporations who fund their campaign expenses. But that's a safe thing to say since we all know (wink, wink) that isn't going to happen. In fact, the commentary,near its end, doesn't say we should hand out less to big business. It says we should hand out more. It just says it in a way that sounds as though it's getting realistic about business.

It says, near the end, we should give big business even more tax breaks.  But, gee golly whiz, isn't giving big business lower taxes just another way of letting it get more of our money? If we don't give a million in handouts, but do give a million in reduced taxes - gee, I have to close my eyes here, and think real hard but....isn't that really all the same thing? Doesn't big business still end up with more of our money?

And haven't economists long ago learned that cutting business taxes is the worst way to build an economy? (You'll find that in quite respectable books on economics. But "the researchers" at The Fraser Institute never read books like that.)

And what are "core essential services"? Health? Education? Decent housing? Higher minimum wage? No, No, No, and No. What the government should be doing is spending more money on putting more people into prison for longer periods. Let people suffer illness. Let schools collapse for lack of maintenance. Let people live in hovels. Let companies pay poverty-level wages.

The keys to Canada's future are lowering taxes for the rich, and putting more of the poor in jail.

What looks like a left wing stance to get tough on business is actually somewhere to the right of even Harper's platform for the next election.

That's cute.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

March 6: Is Moncton a good place to live?

I like Moncton very much. But it does have elements of the drab and listless about it, too. So, let's start with the bad part.

Moncton ( it's English newspaper  prefers the grander title of Metro Toronto) holds about 160,000 people within a province of less than 800,000.  Both the city and the province are dominated (indeed, saturated) by a handful of very wealthy families. One alone, Irving, is said to employ one person in ten in the province. Their domination - and their love of domination - reaches down to every level of life in the province.

The Irvings and their friends effectively control government at both provincial and local levels. It is a control so pervasive that most New Brunswickers, though they are well aware of the power of these people, are commonly afraid of any serious discussion since serious discussion will almost certainly touch on something that the Irvings and Ganongs and McCain's own or control.

The Irvings own all the English language newspapers in New Brunswick. And those papers are real stinkers by any measure. They are heavily biased on any subject favoured by the boss and the bias shows strongly in what they report and how they report it. They also give prominence to any report issued by the far right wing propaganda agencies for big business that call themselves think tanks - like The Fraser Institute and the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies.

The bias goes beyond bad to reporting that is often unethical, and editorials that are both unethical and loutish. Private radio and TV reporting on this region is not much better. CBC radio is here, but is limited in local  programming by being in a low priority area for English CBC. As well, like everything else down here, it has to remember that corporate interests have influence that extends all the way to Stephen Harper -who needs no urging to get rid of the CBC.

There is no serious discussion of  politics at any level. Nor is there much media information to base it on. Nor would it matter. The only paries with enough money to campaign are the Liberals and the Conservatives; and that money comes largely from corporations and the wealthy. In short, in this respect, New Brunswick politics are much like those of other provinces -but worse. It's just more obvious here.

The fear of open discussion has become the norm for daily life. And that has led to a society whose outlook is based on trivia. This is enouraged by The Moncton Times & Transcript whose mission appears to be to keep its readers uninformed and trivial. (This showed up in a recent provincial election in which neither party seemed to have anything that could be called a platform. The big difference was that the Conservative leader promised to listen to people. Hell,I used to have a dog who could do that.)

The defenders of families like the Irvings say they have developed New Brunswick with oil refining, paper, chemical plants, etc.  Nonsense.

The people of New Brunswick developed New Brunswick. Families like the Irvings took advantage of the people to get scandalously low rates for electricity for their industries, grants and low interest loans from the provincial and municipal governments, and access to a vast portion of the province's forests for cheap wood for their paper mills. The Irvings and others have certainly taken a great deal out of New Brunswick to enrich themselves; but they have been an obstacle to any real progress. To say we should be grateful to them is like a storekeeper feeling gratitude for the thief who robbed his till - but left a dollar for the cup of coffee he had taken.

Again, New Brunswick is not all that different from other provinces in any of the above. But the power in New Brunswick has a sense of closeness and obviousness in this small society, a sense that discourages both action and thought.

That may well be what explains the intellectual sterility and flabbiness of so many civil organizations, notably Home and School, Parent-Teachers Association and, most notably, the churches.

City services are pretty poor. That is probably because the city is largely concerned with grandiose schemes to "put Moncton on the map", often schemes to lend public money to billionaires so they can build things like an 80 million dollar stadium for their hockey team that nobody outside "metro" has ever heard of. They would also like a subsidized CFL team. There is little sign the public wants either of those. But who cares what the public thinks? Play up and play the game. The game is to soak the public to build facilities that the rich can then rent on special terms to make more money for themselves.

That's the bad part. But there's lots of good.

The first time I saw Moncton, thirty years ago, it was a pretty homely place that looked as if it should have been called Mudville. But it has quite transformed since that time. The city is generally attractive, even charming. (Parts of it could be even better with a little civic action; but that's where you feel the pressure of the billionaires, again.)

Like any city, it has those suburban-style developments where they cut down the trees, and named the streets after them.  But there are many (and not expensive) areas with trees that have escaped the axe for a century and more, lots of very pleasant and reasonably priced areas to live in. The nineteenth century architecture still common is often delightful. (It takes a while for a Montrealer to get used to the wood finish of most houses - but I've at last decided it's better on the eyes than brick.)

The people are the most courteous I have ever encountered. The use of first names is common right from the start, even in phoning offices about a bill. People are always friendly and helpful - though fitting in as an accepted Monctonian seems to be as slow as it is in most cities.

Monctonians all seem convinced they have the worst drivers in the world. I don't see why. I have seen only one common fault - passing on the right. Certainly, the courtesy of drivers down here is unmatched in any other country or city I have seen.

The problem is pedestrians. They can be expected, day or night, to suddenly step off the sidewalk at any point along a block, with looking either way, and stroll into the traffic. In Montreal, you could get points for hitting them. Here,drivers actually stop.

Moncton, though no metropolis, has a very satisfactory range of shopping, all of it within a ten minute drive of anywhere in the city. (In fact, almost anything is within a ten minute drive. I usually bicycle everywhere in summer,) I have no difficulty finding excellent shops for anything, including  exotica like art supplies or old books and 33 rpm records.

They also have a couple of Frenchy's stores. These are an experience that everybody in the world should have. They are part of a maritime chain of stores that sell clothing, often high-end and usually new, at absurdly low prices.

Police services are provided by the RCMP,  and are excellent.

The schools are excellent, too. They are underfunded, and interfered with by private business. This is happening all over North America as corporations attempt to get control of public education, and convert it to education for profit. They movement has been strong in the US (and also a colossal failure in educational terms). Kissing up to what corporate leaders want is why the local papers are always attacking the schools. But that is happening across Canada as corporations try to get control, and then to copy the American system of contracting out, ranking schools (a false science) and pushing for "freedom" of choice. Despite this, NB public schools, like all schools in Canada are still among the best in the world - far superior to the US, Britain, Germany...

The US schools are rated thirtieth in the world, and sliding down fast. But corporations and the media they own are working hard to take our system down the toilet with the American schools. However, NB, like most provinces, is holding out.

There are two, excellent and large parks in Moncton. One is an attractive strip of playing fields and walks along the river that extends for all of the downtown. The other is the well treed Centennial Park which has a large pond, a great water spray area for kids in summer, an outdoor swimming pool, and excellent sliding in winter. It also has enclosed dog runs.

Neighbourhood play parks for children seem to have been neglected.

The countryside is a fiften minute drive; and it's very attractive. Superb salt-water beaches are another five or ten minutes.

The YMCA has first rate facilities for exercise and swimming. Its social and intellectual programmes are not nearly as strong. There are places available, however - and it varies from year to year - for painting, acting, modelling (teaching girls how to dress and to use makeup intelligently), - though you have to search a bit to find the full range.  The Moncton Library is good, and offers groups for children and adults. Like the schools, it is underfunded - but not so badly as to hamper most readers.

The two hospitals, one French and one English, are both good and well-equipped. Both are within ten minutes of any part of the city. Both are so bilingual that I sometimes have to look for a nameplate to remember which one I'm in. More important, the language service you want is delivered as naturally as breathing. Official bilingualism works very well in New Brunswick. There is a certain amount of resentment of it, mostly from anglos. But I have never encountered any hostility speaking English to an Acadian - and only a mild amusement when I try my French.  There is very little here of the stresses and hatreds that have marked Quebec.

Moncton is an attractive city of convenient size. It is publicly friendly in a way that few cities are. It has easy access to a pleasant countryside and excellent beaches. On balance, I enjoy it very much.