Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nov. 30: A good day for the TandT

The Moncton Times and Transcript actually ran a story on a speech to be delivered to tonight at the Capitol Theatre tonight. It's on the front page. It's a full story and a fair one, a first rate job by reporter Craig Babstock. The same story also reported that Conservative MLA Kirk MacDonald presented a 16,000 signature petition to the legislature protesting against fracking - and one of the signatories was Mr. MacDonald himself.

Full marks for the reporter on that story. Why not full marks for the paper?

Well, it gets marks for running the story. And the editor gets marks for a clear and impartial headline to it. But...

There is a newsworthy letter to the editor by Anna MacDonald of Miramichi. It's about the appalling behaviour of the Alward government MLAs during meetings of the assembly. We thank ms. MacDonald for her letter - but wonder why the TandT has never reported on this behaviour.

There's a less praiseworthy story on p. 2. "Liberals try to start feud" It's made worse by an opening paragraph that seems to support the idea that Liberal MLAs  tried to start a feud between labour minister Martine Coulombe and her brother, federal ACOA minister Bernard Valcourt..

In fact, if you read the story, you learn that the Liberals did no such thing. Indeed, they took pains to avoid making any connection between the two.

That's a serious bias bias the paper showed. Any journalist knows that many, perhaps most, readers look at only the headline and the first paragraph.  So  this story looks very much like one that was deliberately persented in such a way as to give a false impression. And that's called lying.

In national news, we read that the civil service has grown hugely in the Harper years. No surprise there. Since 1867, the biggest spenders have been the Conservatives - you know, the ones who always talk about small government. Ditto in the US where the Republicans have generally been big spenders - though the Democrats have been no angels in this category.

In Canada, Liberals have generally been a little better. The most careful governments in spending have generally been NDP.

Here, in New Brunswick, we don't really know much about government spending because we get no information at all on what the big corprorations cost us.

In foreign news, amazingly, the NATO attack that killed some 30 Pakistani soldiers has still not been mentioned. The TandT must be leading the world in ignoring this one. Even the Pakistani government, though bought and paid for by the US, has had to respond by cutting off all American supplies to Afghanistan (which is one half of all US supplies for the war). Pakistan, itself, has been brought to the edge if civil war. Both China and Russia have made it clear they have a stake in what happens (and they really do). So this is - kind of - dangerous.

Reuters reports the Iranian demonstrations at the British embassy in Tehran. It generally reinforces the usual western view of Iran's irresponsible behaviour towards the West. There is no mention that Britain took control of Iran about 1920, ripped off its oil, and even forced Iran to supply free oil for the whole Royal Navy from 1920 to the late 1940s.

When the democratically elected government of Iran objected to this, Britain, France and the US overthrew it - and installed a brutal and corrupt dictator. That's why Iran now has a government that doesn't like the west. That's why people who have been bombed, robbed, tortured, sabotaged by the west for a hundred years stage riots when the west promises more of the same.

The editorial and op ed pages are better than usual. The editorial is reasonable enough, even if one disagrees with it. The Alec Bruce column is superb.  Norbert's column is quite decent.

Cormier writes about how black coffee is becoming popular. This was given almost half the op ed page. I have no idea why.

Some things that I am sure we all would like to know never appear in this paper. How much does it cost us to supply cheap electricity, loans, tax breaks, grants...to corporations in this province? It would really be quite nice to know that at budget time.

What is the wage gap in New Brunswick? I suspect it's the biggest in Canada - which makes it one of the biggest in the developed world.

Exactly how much do corporations pay in provincial taxes? (not the tax rate. what to they actually pay?) How does that compare with what we give them?)

What  has been the cost of a dozen years of shale gas exploration to us? What have we received in return?

New Brunswick is a have-not province. But isn't that because some New Brunswickers, a very few, have. And have a hell of a lot.

This province produces money. There doesn't seem to be a problem in that area. The problem is that most of the wealth it produces gets ripped off - and that's been going on for over a century and a half.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nov.29: The news that isn't in the TandT

The Los Angeles Times (World edition) for today has rather a big story. Major banks in the US and Europe, in defiance of the law and in full knowledge of what they were doing)  have been laundering Mexican drug money. One of them just got fined a hundred and sixty million for ir. (Big deal. The amount they laundered was $420 BILLION.)

That's just one bank. So what 's the total for all the banks? It must be bigger than the whole national budget for Mexico. This is an important story from many angles. But it's not in the TandT.

The TandT has reported on Egypt's first, democratic election. But it got the report from Reuters so, as usual, it's not quite complete. For example, there is no mention that the Supreme Council of the Military (the generals) has announced it will retain power  no matter who is elected. It will also refuse to permit any consitutional change that would reduce the power of the generals.

But to get to that part of the story, you'll have to look up The Irish Examiner for Nov. 29,

On Syria, again from Reuters, we are told more of what we already knew about the sanctions by the Arab League. It still hasn't told us exactly what the Arab League is, what a collection of dictators and killers it is, how member states have killed (and are still killing) their own citizens for precisely the same reasons the Syrian government is.

Nor is there a mention that Iraq has abstained from the vote.Isn't that interesting? Almost the only democracy (sort of) in the Arab League does not support the sanctions.

The Arab League accuses Syria of war crimes, torture, murder, and rape. Gee. They didn't say that when the US did it to Iraq. The Arab League also says it has to intervene for humane reasons. Right. The dictators of the Arab League have a long record of concern about humane behaviour.

There is really nothing in local news.

The op ed page has its usual, utterly pointless column by a staff writer, this one about the thrill of travel, and getting to see fascinating places like Oxford, Nova Scotia.

Even Norbert has nothing to say. This time, it's about issues that might be covered in the budget. One issue is the environment, particularly shale gas. Norbert does not seem concerned that nothing has been done about that for over a decade. He takes comfort that the government will do something about it. And, though it might not be much, it will be progress. In other words, we ae being set up for Alward not doing much about anything - and beiing told that at least it's progress.

So that takes care of that problem.

Speaking of progress, there is still no news of developments concerning Mr. Northrup's fearless demand for a sincere (Northurp expects sincerity; he is not  man to mince words) apology for illegal shale gas exploration. Nor is there any word on the government's intense criminal investigation of an illegal act the company has admitted it did. (If I went through a stop light, would a sincere apology make it okay? Or could I expect the police to study the case for several weeks (at least) before issuing a ticket?  Or maybe just a demand for a sincere apology?)

Good editorial cartoon, though. I wonder if de Adder would be allowed to do a similar one for the so-called "progressive conservative" party.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nov. 28: ---added note for the day I should have put in the main post...

Journalists should be careful of linking the Peace Movement of the 60s to the Occupy Movement.

The Peace Movement faded because the situation is was protesting disappeared. Remember - the big issues were the Vietnam War and the military draught. The Peace Movement won on both counts. The US got out of Vietnam (after killing several million people and poisoning the land), and no American government since then would touch the idea of a military draught.

The Occupy Movment is addressing a much bigger issue. And that issue is not going to disappear. The stakes are huge. Either corporations come to dominate the world (as they do New Brunswick) - in which case we are going to see serious violence and social disintegration - or we will get democracy. The corporations are not going to back off without a fight.

They and their political friends were quite happy to beat, jail and even kill peace protesters in the sixties. This is bigger. And our coporate leaders will be all the quicker to use violence. We're already seeing it in Euope. We can soon expect to see it in the US.

Nov. 28: Amazing....

NATO helicopters kill some 30 Pakistan soldiers at a border post. and Pakistan ( the main supply route for NATO) cuts off supplies to NATO in Afghanistan. Pakistan is trembling on the edge of either civil war or a break with the US.

I didn't expect The TandT to carry a full story. But I thought they'd - you know - mention it.

No mention, either, that the Arab League has passed sanctions against Syria - even though this could be a prelude to another war in which Canada would be involved. Again, I never thought the TandT would tell the whole story. But I thought there would be at least the usual Reuters half-truth.

But not a word, nada, zip, in either case.

Nor is there any news of the charge of illegal seismic testing for shale gas in Sussex. Of course, it's a complicated case. All they have to go on is the word of eye-witnesses, and the confession of the company that it did test illegally. So far, not even the "sincere" apology that the valiant Mr. Northrup demanded. And not a word in the TandT.

Finally, that page humorously referred to as Your Investments doesn't even mention the recent OECD forecast of a bad year for Canadian exports.

Of course, they needed room for the big story of the day - NB Liberals find new way to elect leader. There's even a picture of real Liberals holding up pink cards to prove it. I'm so glad.

In fairness, there was a very small story that was news "Moncton occupiers promote buy nothing day". But it was buried on the last page of the A section. The buy everything day (Santa Claus parade) covered two and a half pages plus, of course, all the advertising pages.

The op ed page is, well, the op ed page. Craig Babstock is very concerned about a rash of what seems like arson. The cure, he concludes, to tell arsonists that before they start fires, they should realize that some people could get hurt. Right. That should do it.

Allen Abel shows his usual talent to take a theme that looks promising, then do nothing with it.

Today, I both agreed and disagreed with Alec Bruce. Occupiers aren't articulating legitimate grievances that should concern everyone? In fact, in his next paragraph he mentions what he considers legitimate grievances - and the Occupy movement HAS been articulating them.
In fact, I can't think of any group that's been articulating them more - certainly not the Liberal and Conservative parties of New Brunswick; and certainly not BrunswickMedia.

He's certainly right about The Globe. It has become, especially in recent years, a biased,   dishonest, cheap shot paper. It's not yet anywhere close to the TandT in those categories. But, then, the TandT has the advantage of  having Norbert.

Just a few points on today's Norbert.

He praises the Conservatives for "consulting' the people, but cautions that consulting does not mean we always get what we want. Very true. But consulting does not mean simply that the government asks the public to talk. Consulting means it is listening. As a dictionary fan, Norbert should know that.
Has it listened on shale gas, for example? Could you perhaps list some things it has done as a result of listening (besides handing out propaganda sheets and promising regulations and enforcements that never happen?)

Then he slams the Liberal leader for saying the speech has few specifics on deficit reduction - but that the government has a cut and burn policy. Norbert says, well, it has to be one or the other.

No, it doesn't, Norbert. Come on. You're the one who's so keen on the correct use of words. You don't need to know the specifics to know from the throne speech that the policy is cut and burn.

Then he has a gem worth quoting. "Too often intelligent debate has been replaced by intransigence based on stubborn belief or pure ideology."  Now, nobody illustrates that problem better than Norbert.
I would not, though, make such a charge against the Liberals or the Conservatives.

Neither of those parties has a belief or an ideology. They are both parties of stooges and puppets and opportunists. (It's hard to believe that any party of any principal at all would allow a self-appointed committee of corporate bosses to write the budget, harder to believe that any democracy would tolerate that.)

The promise for regulation and "robust" enforcement of the shale gas industry is a good one, says Norbert. Damn right. It's been a good one for 12 years. And it will probably still be a good one for 12 more. But so far, we've seen precious few regulations; and the only enforcement of any regulations has been against people opposed to having their land and water poisoned.

Government is bloated? A waste of money?

Corporations that soak up resources almost free of charge, that pay low taxes (if any), that get big government grants, that are allowed to escape regulations (or to escape enforcement when there are regulations, that pay their senior execs millions in bonuses, and that get billions of our money for corporate owners - thus creating our huge deficits that the poor will have to pay for - these corporations aren't bloated?

How many civil servants in NB make over a million a year? How many teachers get lush bonuses? How many civil servants get special tax breaks and government grants courtesy of the tax payer? How many nurses live in mansions and have chauffeur-driven cars?

Norbert, you can be as bigoted as you like. After all, that goes with having a senior position at the Moncton Times and Transcript.  But please try to stop short of treating your readers as if they were as bigoted (or ignorant) as you seem to be.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nov. 27: Tomorrow,(Nov 28), will the Tand T tell the whole truth?

1. Even the Moncton Times and Telegraph will surely carry the story that the Arab League will vote sanctions on Syria - and it will surely say the reasons it do so (along with France and Turkey) are humanitarian (to stop the fighting) and to establish democracy. Betcha, though, it won't tell us much about who the Arab League is.

It's for a start, Saudi Arabia, os one of the least democratic countries in the world. In fact, it's an absolute monarchy.
Bahrain is similar. Both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia teamed up to use troops and to kill protesters who wanted democracy inj Bahrain. Saudi Arabia has also freely killed it's own citizens who had complaints about the lack of democracy.

Then there's Libya. Yes. Ghadaffi was a long time member of the freedom loving Arab League. And they never sanctioned him. NATO still refuses to release the butcher's bill for its humanitarian bombing of Libyan civilians. And papers like the TandT don't ask.

Kuwait - another dictatorship. The United Arab Emirates - ditto.

Egypt, another long time member, and a country whose army is still busy killing protesters who want democracy.

Then there's Yemen, whose government the US has denounced as evil. The US and France are, as I write this, bombing Yemen, with heavy loss of civilian life. They are also supplying and supporting a Kenyan army which has invaded Yemen.

Yessiree. That sure is a great collection of humanitarian and and democracy-loving states. The US is now taking this case to the UN, urging UN approval so we can kill some more people for humanitarian reasons.

Let's see if the TandT will say anything about what the Arab League really is - and what these sanctions are really all about.

It surely will carry the story of NATO helicopters who attacked a Pakistan border post (within Pakistan territory) killing some 30 Pakistan soldiers. And the TandT will probably say that Pakistan has cut off all supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan.

What it probably won't say is that NATO is hated across Pakistan for years of random killing by NATO assassination squads and drone bombers. Hundreds of civilians have been killed.I don't believe any of this has ever appeared in the TandT.

The government of Pakistan, though it is largely controlled by the US, has to react to these latest killings or face a civil war. Thus the announcement that supplies to NATO will be cut off.

Most of this news, by the way, is no secret. Most of it is on google news - and it simply copies items from real newspapers.

And will we hear anything about progress on the great mystery of whether illegal seismic testing was done in Sussex? Or will we just get more op ed drivel about what a wonderful man Mr. Northrup is for taking action (without being terribly clear about what that action might be.) Oh, I'm sorry. It's true .Mr. Northrup has demanded a sincere apology. Way to blast 'em baby. No point in letting them off with an insincere apology.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Nov.26: sometimes they get it right...sometimes....

As an aside, and not just in reference to the TandT, the commercialization of Christmas is pretty well complete. It has no religious significance. It's the festival of Santa Claus, the day of getting gifts, the feast of materialism. Almost all the stories about it are about it are about Santa Claus, and projected sales figures. The new manger is Walmart.The magi are the Black Friday shoppers carrying pepper spray and guns.

Page  A2 has a good report on the Liberal response to Alward's speech from the throne. (It wasn't much of a response; but that wasn't the reporter's fault. That was because the Liberal leader refused to deal with any of the real issues. The reporter certainly have gave him full coverage. Too bad Mr. Boudreau, fully covered, is still pretty naked.)

If Mr. Boudreau hopes to win the next election, then his party has to reform itself in a serious way. He has to talk about getting corporations out of government. For example, a democracy does not allow a gang of self-appointed corporate bosses to dictate the budget.. Can you see the conflict of interest in there, Mr. Boudreau?

Further on, there is a report of the Liberal Party meeting to reform itself. Unfortunately, that reform seems to consist mainly of looking for new buzz words.

As for consulting the public on shale gas,we all know that isn't going to happen under the party of Alward any more than it happened under the party of Graham and Boudreau. Mr. Boudreau knows the information on shale gas. As a leader, he knows he is supposed to lead, not just to listen. This shale gas stuff has been going on for years. Mr Boudreau should long ago have made a decision on it. He should be out there explaining his decision, and trying to convince people of it.

Democracy down not mean listening to people or consulting with them. Democracy means we have a right to decide who will govern us. I don't give a damn whether Mr. Alward and Mr. Boudreau listen to me. I want democracy. Democracy means they tell us what they propose to do and why ; and  we decide if these are the people we want. The constant chatter in this province of consulting and listening is a farce.

At last, an honest report on developments in the fracking controversy. An authority on shale gas (a real authority, not an industry PR man) will be speaking at the Capitol Theatre on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 7 pm. Next day, he will speak at Hampton High School, also at 7 pm.

It's a well written and informative news story by Craig Babstock. Too bad it was buried on p. A15. But that's the fault of the editor, not the reporter.

There is still no news in the TandT of the preparations for an invasion of Syria, though these have been well covered in other news media.

As to Egypt, where the army is determined to hold on to power and has killed protestors (just as Syria has), the headline says only that the US urges the generals to go. For some reason, there is no mention of sanctions or invasions.  Maybe that might have something to do with the fact that Obama, like presidents before him, has been using the generals to control Egypt.

I cannot imagine any reason to read the editorial page column by Bill Belliveau or the op ed column by Brent Mazerolle.

Then there's the column by something called the  Citizens for Responsible Resource Development. that title is just a little misleading; and so is the column.

It starts out as a protest against Windsor Energy for illegally carrying out  seismic testing in Sussex - without permission.  But it quickly turns out to be a chorus of hallelujahs to our government for moving in quickly with stern action. By the end, it is cheering on shale gas development.

1. Minister Northrup took action only after the company had admitted it acted illegally.
2. the action took the form of submitting it to the RCMP - AFTER the company admitted it had done it.
3. The RCMP has done......? What? We haven't heard a word, though the case does not seem a complicated one. Meanwhile, Windsor Energy is laughing all the way to the bank with the sixty thousand dollars it saved by acting illegally.
4. The government is developing regulations? Well, it says it is. It has even announced them several times over the years. But we're still waiting.
5. And don't you set regulations BEFORE you allow drilling? I mean, we're not just drilling. We're actually pumping the gas. And we still don't have regulations.

Then there's Norbert. "A socialist government would jail or shoot you." Thus spake Norbert. We leave aside his seeming failure to understand the meaning of either socialism or democracy. (They are not opposities.) Britain and France and Sweden and some Canadian provinces have had socialist governments. They didn't shoot or imprison people.

The US has a democracy (so-called). The president has the power - and he has used it - to shoot and imprison people without any legal process at all. He also has used the power to torture on a wide scale.

Canada has a democracy. We have sent at least two Canadian citizens off to be tortured by a foreign country - and our CSIS officers have joined in the "interrogations". Canada has also refused to recognize international law concerning a Canadian citizen (Omar Khadr).

Cunningham seems to think democracy and capitalism are the same. They aren't. There have been plenty of socialist and social-democratic (I see no sign that Rupert knows the difference) governments in the world that have been quite democratic.

Nor have all capitalist governments been democratic. Nor or all forms of capitalism the same. The dictatorships of Haiti were capitalist. So were the dictatorships of Congo, Guatemala, Saudi Arabia,  Bahrain, of old Cuba under Batista. And they were all supported by capitalist "democracies".

As to  history proving that evolution is better than revolution - well, Norbert doesn't appear to know what revolution means, either. It does not mean violence, though some revolutions are. It means a radical change. (and, no, radical does not mean terrorist or communist).

The rise of corporations to political dominance is a revolution. It wasn't violent. But it happened.
The Quebec Act (read about it, Norbert) was a revolution in treatment of religious groups. It wasn't violent.
As for violent revolutions, you're right. The American revolution was a  terrible example of what revolution can produce. Perhaps you should have mentioned it.
And Cuba is a horrible example of revolution?
1. Norbert, do you have a clue what Cuba was like before the revolution? Can you understand the determination it must have taken for the Cuban people to be the first in latin america to stand up against American dictators and to get away with it for fifty years? And that terrible socialism? Awful. It forces children to go to school, and sick people to go to  hospitals.
2. capitalism prevents a small, ruliing elite frin getting a stranglehold on power? What province to you live in Norbert? What continent?
And you haven't noticed how capitalism has spread poverty all over the world in places like Haiti and Congo and Guatemala so that we can have cheap goods?  And you haven't noticed  the phenomenal income gap that has developed in Canada and the US? And you haven't noticed how corporate bosses are still making profits while millions, even in the capitalist paradise of the US, are starving?
3. Iran. Which revolution in Iran are you referring to.
a) right after WW2, Iran was a democracy. A revolution did that.
b) oil capitalists in Britain, France and US overthrew the democracy to establish a brutal dictator called the Shah, who gave them cheap oil at the expense of the Iranian people under a reign marked by imprisonment, torture and killing. that was a revolution.
c)The third revolution came when Iranians overthrew the Shah, kicked out the western oil capitalists, and used the oil profits for Iranians.

No doubt, the present Iranian government poses problems. But your picture of it is pretty simple minded - to put it kindly.

Your closing quotation by Ghandi is quite true. But it has no connection with anything you wrote; and Ghandi stood against everything you ranted for in that column.

Norbert, this is an ignorant rant, ignorant of history, ignorant of current events, ignorant of word meanings, ignorant even of basic logic. I can think of very few newspapers, even in Canada, that would allow this to appear in print.

Lord, lord, I would love a public debate with you.

With relief, I turned to student Jana Giles "Whether you like it or not, don't waste food."

That title resonated with me because I grew up at a time when there wasn't much food. We ate everything, even the things I hated - heart, tongue, dry and stale bread (broken up and put in milk with sugar on it, and called bread pudding).

To this day, I never throw out a scrap. It would actually be sinful.

But that changed a long time ago. My children won't eat bread crusts, most vegetables, and they throw out some even some of those things they like (Pizza and chocolate bars). And it's not just a problem of waste.

With our rise in prosperity, food has ceased to something we eat for health. It has become something we eat for entertainment. We're seeing the price now in obesity.Lots of sugar. Lots of salt.  Down the road, and not far down the road, we're going to see far more serious problems.

Isabelle Agnew spoke to my heart. I, too, have a touch of obsessive-compulsiveness. It's good to see her dealing with it in a mature way (unlike me.)

Christina Korotkov writes about how we forget to care about others, to understand others. Quite true. In fact, we enjoy seeing others in trouble or looking silly. We enjoy watching it. We enjoy talking about it. That explains the popularity of all the judge shows on TV and, even worse, shows like Jerry Springer. We like seeing people humiliated. We're not that far from the Romans who enjoyed watching people get killed at public shows.

That says something about us that deserves a lot of thought.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Nov. 25: stunning (sorry, stunned) editorial....

As expected the TandT editorial was lavish in its praise of Alward's "visionary" throne speech. And it is dazzled by the almost meaningless reduction in legilsative seats.

The editorial write is delighteded the government didn't mention details. In fact, did. It mentioned an information campaign on fracking - a promise that was broken a long time ago; has also been broken by the TandT.

It mentioned tight regulations on fracking. - something else it long ago broke its promises on.
Another promise, enforcement of what miserable regulations there, seems to  have vanished into the mist. Remember the company that pretty flagrantly disobeyed the law (and has admitted it) by doing seismic testing without permission of the municipality? So where are the riot cops?

Roughly, the throne speech said the premier will focus on good things. That's good. I'm in favour of good things. Way to tell it like it is, ed.

More disturbing is the lack of comment on how government is going to act like a business, and how business leaders will advise on our budget. I don't believe I have ever before heard of a government openly admitting that special interests would be admitted to the planning process at such a high level. (Most of them do it, of course. But I've never known one to admit it.) In fact, this whole "businessification" of government is troubling.

The fact is that government is NOT a business. It has quite different functions. Nor are business leaders experts in government economics. The only reason they want to be in on the planning is to do themselves good - at your expense. The reason we elect a government is to represent US, not corporations.

Inviting corporate heads to plan the provincial economy is a death blow to democracy. (Not that it makes much difference, since democracy has been a corpse for a long time in New Brunswick.)

On this note of the roles of government and business, take a careful and thoughtful read of Alec Bruce's column.

Excellent columns, as well, by Lynda MacGibbon (our abysmal treatment of housing for native peoples) and David Suzuki (the limits of the business idea of "progress"). I'll just add a footnote about ms. MacGibbons' column.

Some journalists and politicians are making a big stink about how Occupy camps are attracting druggies and the homeless. Get real. Any big park I've seen in a Canadian city has always been a magnet for druggies, alcoholics and the homeless.The Occupy movement, if anything, gave our parks a moment of life and class,

It's a good op ed page, so nice to see one vacuumed of TandT staff writers.

In NewsToday, the best part is the used car ad pages.

 PostMeida News is still avoiding the whole story of what is going on in Egypt. What is going on is that the army is trying to put up something that looks like democracy while still holding power for itself. Even Google News has more on this than the TandT has.

There is still no mention of the very dangerous situation in the middle east with Syria and Iran.

Stephen Harper, always first off the mark on a photo op and cheap glory, made a big celebration out of our "great military success" in Libya. That got reported in the TandT - but other Canadian papers were not so gushing as the TandT is.

What great success? Libya is still in chaos. Al Quaeda still seems to be a force in any conceivable government to come. And any real democracy is as remote as ever with tribal chiefs fighting it out for power.

We protected the citizens from harm? Oh? Did we protect the thousands of Black African migrant workers who were jailed, tortured and murdered by our side? Have you seen pictures of the cities we bombed, of the row on row of demolished houses and apartment buildings?

No civilians got  harmed? Well, this is the first time in the history of warfare that houses and cities have been so destroyed without killing very large numbers of civilians. (Oh, I know. Many of our bombs were accurate. Big deal. That just means they hit what they're aimed at. It doesn't mean
that they don't explode if they land on civilians.)

The North American press and NATO have been shy releasing figures on the dead. Other sources post figures as high as 30,000 but, based on the extent of damage, I should think the figure is almost certainly higher. And 30,000 dead would mean at least 150,000 wounded, many of them to die of wounds.

Canada's Lt. General Bouchard was praised by Harper for his demonstration of exceptional operational and strategic acumen." What acumen? He saturation bombed people who had no means of defendeing themselves against aerial attack. Another Duke of Wellington he ain't.

Another speaker said, "They basically stopped massacres right across Libya, risking their lives....."
What?  Look Ghadaffi was a thorough rat. In fact, that's why he was such a close ally of the west for such a long time - just as Saddam Hussein was a thug and was our buddy for many years. But we didn't stop a massacre. We were the massacre.

And our pilots were risking their lives? Gee. Lucky nobody got killed. Or wounded. Or even an ingrown toe nail.

That report comes from Postmedia, of course. Check out Google, The Guardian, el haaretz, The Independent for something closer to the truth.

Sorry. I am not proud to be a Canadian - not for the killing, and not for the cheap, political posturing of Harper. Nor, as I read the press in Canada and abroad, am I alone in my reaction.

In section A, p.2 has a good story about the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra. It's really a fee ad. But they deserve it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Nov. 24: Good report on a lousy speech

John Chilibeck deserves credit. He reported fully on the government's throne speech. He said everything there was to be said. He even made space for the NDP comment, though the NDP doesn't  have an elected member of legislature. Chilibeck did a good job. It's not his fault  the speech had nothing to say.

There is, though, one hell of a fault with an editorial staff that doesn't see a need to have comment on the speech that is going to set our course through what are likely to be the toughest years we will ever see.

A couple of hints for the editors:
1. Read election platforms of every government in  Canada for 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933 and 1934. They all propoased the same response to economic hard times that Alward has (vaguely) suggested. They all failed.

R.B.Bennett, prime minister of Canada and a real capitalist (one who did not make his money by sponging off the taxpayers) realized it didn't work. He proposed the Bennett New Deal in 1935. He proposed not firing people, but hiring them. He proposed not cutting services but improving them.
,However,  Canadians of the time all read papers like BrunswickMedia - so they elected Mackenzie King instead of Bennett. And the depression sank even lower until the war pulled us out. Duriing that war, we adopted Bennett's suggestions - and it turned out they worked.

But corporations found it wasn't good enough to satisfy their greed. That's how we ended up back in this mess. Alward is a disaster. So is his minister of finance - you know, the ex-Irving exec.

Poor Bennett. He had brains and integrity. But we seldom elect people like that. More often, we elect the Alwards of this world.

He's going to get rid of a few MLAs? Big deal. How about all the civil service cuts and the medical people who are on the block? You seriously think we're going to improve employment by firing people?  Isn't that like tryiing to put out fires with a flamethrower?

We're going to develop strong regulations for oil and gas exploration???? David, they've been doing it for over ten years.  You've been in power well over a year. You mean we STILL don't have regulations and enforcement in place? Haven't you announced on at least two occasions, in fact, that we already have them?

And you're going to keep us informed about fracking? Not that it should require a special promise for a premier to tell people what he's doing - but isn't that a promise you made at least twice? And dishonoured at  least twice?

He's going to bring electricity costs for corporations in line with other provinces. David - 1. I don't believe you. 2. Other provinces also over-subsidize their corporations. 3. I don't believe you. I don't believe you'll inform us about fracking. I don't believe you will bring down and enforce tough regulations. I don't believe you'll get honest about energy for corporations.

I do believe you when youo say you will appoint a committee of senior businessmen (along with a few university presidents as decorative potted plants) to plan the economy. New Brunswick governments have really always done that. The very people who are the ones who don't want to pay taxes and who want to cut services are the ones you are going to listen to for advice on economic planning.

Ever think of hiring burglars to install bank alarms?

This was not only a vague speech. It stank of corruption and of ignorance of the development of economic thinking over the past seventy years.  It was a contemptible speech. (I guess we'll have to wait for the editorial that says how brilliant it was.)

But you'll be okay, David. You'll retire to some comfortable, easy and well-paying directorships. And you'll probably even get an award for - oh - humanitarianism.

There was another quite decently reported story on A10. This one, by Chris Morris, was a pretty full and impartial report of demonstraters outside the legislalture during the speech from the throne. That's two stories full, fair and impartial in just one section, a new record. But, seriously, good jobs by Morris and Chilibeck.

By  the way, if you have checked Google news (chosen from news media across Canada), you will know that the US is openly talking of intervening in Syria as "coordinator" for Turkish and Arab League aircraft to set up no fly zones. That, let us note, is an act of war. Canada (without us ordinary people being asked) is already involved with a frigate in position. The US has sent a super carrier with its cruiser escorts.

The last time we set up a no fly zone, we used it to kill thousands of civilians.

The US has also said it plans to go ahead without the approval of the UN, in fact without even informing the UN. In other words, the great experiment in world order is over. The UN is going the way of the League of Nations.

Oh - did I mention that Russia, as a protest against western interference in Syria, has warships in Syrian waters? 

Sounds dangerous?  Nah. It can't be. None of this has appeared in the TandT.

Both Alec Bruce and Jody Dallaire bring their usual good sense to the fore.

Rod Allen, as usual, is so vague and trivial that I have to wonder whether he wrote yesterday's speech from the throne.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nov. 23: The fine art of headling writing...

For most stories (unless its something important like a statement by Donald Trump or news of a movie star's latest divorce), editors know that many, often most, readers look only at the headline. That makes the choice of headline a very important one. Even more, those who do read more of the story will still have their understanding of it affected by the headline.

Take the lead story in today's TandT "Time for Alward gov't to be bold:analysts".

Analysts - that's a power word. So who are the analysts?

The analysts are decent enough. They are two, local professors. But why didn't the headline read "Two, local professors say....." Well, that's not nearly as impressive as "Analysts Say..." is it?

And what is meant by bold? In this context, it means doing something the voters don't want. If a government wants to do the dirty, this is the time to do it because it still has lots of time for people to forget before the election.

So a more accurate headline would be "Two professors say now is the time for Alward to do the dirty"

But that's not nearly as impressive as "Time for Alward gov't to be bold: analysts"

And, in fact, most of the story isn't about that, anyway. It's mostly a report that it's budget time, and that there's some talk of changing some ridings.

But editors know that with the right choice of words, you can make the headline the story that people remember - no matter what the story is really about.

Another sample concerns the federal government in a story in NewsToday. "Stimulus spending 'largely achieved' objective".  In fact, the story says no such thing.


It begins with the story of how the federal government promised to spend some billions for job creation. Now, what's the ojective of that? Surely, it's to create jobs. But, according to the story, it has been impossible for the auditor general to find out how many jobs were created, largely because of the way the government keeps its figures.

So what was the objective that the government 'largely achieved'?

Spending billions of dollars. For real. That's what the story says - not quite the triumph the headline suggests.

Same page - this time about Egypt - "Generals promise civilian rule". Well, that's comforting, isn't it?
But the story is about the military, which is profoundly detested and distrusted by the population ( and which is equipped by the US in the form of "aid"), has been killing protesters. The protesters don't believe they're going to get any real democracy. And they're almost certainly right. At least 36 protesters have been killed, and more than 250,000 wounded. (It began when the government (which is really the military, proposed a constitution that would make the military permanently independent of any civilian control.)

But you wouldn't guess any of that, would you, from a headline that says "Generals promise civilian rule."

Then, in Your Business, the headline "Alberta tops in 'economic freedom' survey".  Well, that sounds good. I mean 'tops' and 'freedom' are good words. They're nice.

Then read the story. The survey was conducted by The Fraser Insitute, a far right wing propaganda agency for big business. "Freedom" means freedom for big business to do what it wants - avoid taxes, pollute, avoid any social responsibility... By those standards, the Chicago of Al Capone would be reported as "Chicago tops in economic freedom:survey".

For many people, probably most, headlines ARE the story. Editors know that. Lying ones use them for that purpose.

What wasn't in the paper? Well - Russia, which opposes western intervention in Syria, has warships that arrived at least a day ago in Syrian waters. The US has beefed up its own Mediterranean fleet with a super carrier and its escorts. Canada has posted a frigate in the same waters.  NewsToday didn't have room for this. It had a big story on how not to choose a password for your computer.

On a sad but largely personal note (few readers will be old enough to have heard of Hal Patterson or Sam Etcheverry), Hal Pattersoon died yesterday. Sam died two years ago.

Etcheverry and Patterson, one the quarterback and the other the deep receiver and runner for the Montreal Alouettes, were the most electrifying figures I ever saw on a football field. I never met Hal. But I did know Etcheverry, He was a fine person, and his respect for Patterson suggested to me that Patterson was as fine off the field as he was on it.

It's hard to explain. But I wish I were a kid again and seeing, all over again, Sam taking the snap behind his own goal line, and completing that high, arching pass way down the field to Patterson for a touchdown.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nov. 22: Not much;...and more of the same...

A big item on page one is the shocking news that Christmas tree lots are ready for the season.That pretty well sets the tone for the whole of the first section. Oh, there's also the boosterism artcle, this one on how remarkable Moncton's tourism was this summer. It reads with all the solemnity of a high mass. But there seem to be no indications of how much all this cost us or of how much of the money either remained here or reached the pockets of those who really need it.  (Lots and lots would not really be a precise answer.) We all paid for this. Who got the benefits? I have never known the TandT ever to even ask this question.

And that's pretty much it for Section 1.

In international news, we learn that the US is concerned that Iran is being used to "launder" money. Could be. So far as I know, institutions in every country in the world are used to launder money. Casinos are superb mechanisms to launder money. That was one of the prime reasons that gangsters established Reno.  Just a few months ago, we learned (though not in the TandT) that leadiing American banks have been laundering money for the Mexican drug gangs.

The story does include, way at the bottom where few will read it, opinion that the sanctions probably won't work. Of course not. Economic sanctions rarely, if ever, work. Cuba has survived over fifty years of US sanctions.  But the sanctions will serve to heighten hysteria over Iran and to justify a military attack. And that's what they're really all about.

There is a report of heavy fighting in Egypt. It is, in fact, very much like the fighting in Syria. But there is not a mention of western comment or of western interest in intervening. Of course not. In the case of Egypt, the west is quite happy to see the military in power,  and doesn't care if protesters are getting shot.

The US has failed to come up with the budget cuts necessary to save the US economy. But I wouldn't worry about it. Norbert's column makes it clear there is no crisis, not really. People who say there is are just spoiled and lazy kids.

The editorials? Skip them for now. One is a booster for the recent football game. The other is  on a topic so obscure that few will have the faintest idea what it is about. Save the editorials for bedtime. Save money on sleeping pills.

Allan Chchrane's op ed on a new book about Moncton's armoured regiment is worth a read - especially if it encourages you to buy the book.  The regiment's major contribution to World War Two was in the Italian campaign, a particularly brutal one because of the narrowness of the front which made things easier for the defending side. It was made tougher for the 8th Hussars by allied reliance on the Sherman tank which, though reliable, had weak armour, an inadequate gun, and stood rather higher on a battlefield than a tank should. For a far better tank, but one that would not be available until 1945, see the British Centurion parked at the armoury at St. George near Vaughan Harvey.

This is small point but - is that really a Sherman standing at Victoria Park? The body is. But the gun looks like a superior British gun, the 17 pounder, which made the tank into a version called the "Firefly". (Or it could be the Sherman with the later American 76mm gun.) Do we have a vet out there who knows?

Gwynne Dyer has a solution to the drug problem that I really do not like. But he may very well be right.

Alec Bruce has his usual, very sensible column.

Norbert has fallen out of the nest, and hit his little head very hard on the ground. His column is pure rant. He claims to have proof that the Occupy movement is dying. (US polling numbers show its support is declining. Never mind who took the polls. That would only confuse things.) US polls also show that public approval of the president, of his party, of the opposition Republicans, is at record low levels. Confidence in Congress, for example, stands at an all time low of nine percent.

In a democracy, that is bloody dangerous. And rants don't help.

Tearing down existing government and society isn't going to happen? Norbert, it's already been torn down. It wasn't torn down by the occupiers. It was torn down by people like your boss. It's down. It's gone.

No-one will deny Wall Street excesses? Well, tell me Norbert, when have you or your paper admitted them? Even in this column when you at last mention them, you play them down and blame goverment. (Nicely ignoring that Wall Street and its variants have controlled government for decades.)

So who caused the economic collapse we are watching? Well, evidently, it was all the fault of the poor. And spoiled young people.  It's all that debt them their poor people and kids ran up because they're greedy. Yeah. that's it.

How much of that debt was caused by, say, giving multibillion dollar sweetheart contracts to billionaires for things like, say, ships and aircraft? How much was caused by loans, grants, cheap electricity, etc. for corporations? How much was caused by the lowest corporate taxes since the 1920s?

Luckily, the wealthy seem to have survived the hard times. In fact, their share of that national wealth is stilll growing - and it's been growing out of control for forty years.  Is that a problem Norbert? Is it also the fault of the poor that CEO salaries have gone through the roof?  Have spoiled kids forced a handful of relunctant people to accept all those billions they don't really want?

Curbing expectations is the only way out? Okay. So when do we curb the expectations of the one percent?

History shows that reality will not be denied? Hell, Norbert, I am an historian. And most of it is in denial.  Your column is proof of that.

Let us suppose you are right. Let's suppose the Occupy movement disappears. Then what? Will the economic inequality, the economic crisis, the social crisis disappear? Will poor Americans stop living in tent cities?  (Funny how authorities get all excited bout protesters living in tents - but have no concern about the homeless who live in tents year round without sanitation or water.)   The Occupy Movement is not the problem Since it is not the problem, common sense should tell you that its diappearance would not solve the problem.

Let's think hard, Norbert...

1. Is there any problem when one percent of a nation holds 40% and more of the wealth?
2. Is there any problem when one person owns most of the news media in a province?
3. Is there any problem when politicians, both liberal and conservative, show remarkably close ties with the man who also owns the media? Is it normal that the minister of finance of a province should be a senior corporate executive and advised by a committee chosen by unelected senior corporate figures? Is that what democracy is about?
4. Have you, Norbert, who so freely attack the poor and the young, ever attacked the corporate powers of this province in the same way?

The message, Norbert, is that we don't have democracy. We don't get honest information from you and your paper. We don't get honest representation from our elected representatives. This province is run by a few corporations. It has been for generations. That is well understood across Canada. That is reality.

Norbert, your column is such an ignorant and disorganized rant that it is often incoherent. I wish I could dismiss it as pure ignorance. But I can't. Your ignorance is always a one-sided ignorance. This isn't just ignorance. This is boot-licking.

At last, I understand the need for that appalling moustache. It's for wiping the boss' boots dry after you lick them.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nov. 21: using rouge to heal measles....

The general attitude of the mainstream media has been to ignore the Occupy movement (as Brunswickmedia generally has) or to denigrate and misrepresent it as, for example, the National Post has. (The National Post is a big circulation equivalent to the Moncton TandT.)  They hope now it will simply go away.

Maybe it will. But that won't matter. The Occupy movement is not the problem. It did not cause the economic crash. It has nothing to do with the growing wealth of the one percent and the deepening  hardship of the ninety-nine percent. In fact, it didn't cause any serious problems anywhere.

In the same way, if all the world's enviromentalists were to disappear tomorrow, that would not reduce the cancer deaths downstream from the oil sands, or clean up the Caribbean, or refreeze the Arctic or clean up the polluted waters of the world.

Environmentalists are not a problem. Getting rid of them won't solve any problem. If they all vanish, the problems of our environment are still here.

The wealthy of this world, and the news media they own, have always been fond of ignoring problems, and acting as if that has solved them.

Many of the rest of us are like that, too. If we tug at our skirts and ignore the protesters, we kid ourselves that we have solved the problem. In fact, we haven't even recoognized it.

You can cover the spots of measles with rouge. But the patient will still be sick.

Western capitalism has not collapsed. Money has not disappeared. It didn't burn or get sunk into the ocean. the money is still there. that's not a problem.

The problem is that for the past forty years or so, most of the money has disappeared into the pockets of the very, very rich. It's still there. We just can't have it.  It's not capitalism that is collapsing. It's our political and social structure that is collapsing because so much money has been taken from us for the benefit of a very few. It's because so many of the very wealthy have destroyed capitalism with their greed. Capitalism never really had to worry about enemies like communists. It's most dangerous enemy was always capitalists.

Getting rid of the Occupy movement or environmentalists or whoever you disagree with on this round will not solve the problem. And it's obvious that governments won't solve it because those who have the money don't want government to solve it. (Those who have the money are not having a problem. They are the problem.)

And if we go on ignoring the problem? It gets worse. A whole lot worse. And violent on both sides.

New Brunswickers don't complain much when the government doles out their tax money as gifts to the wealthy, and it gives tax breaks to the rich, then cuts our services to pay for them. That's because it's all so quiet. Mr. Irving doesn't have to carry a sign or sleep in a tent to get what he wants, does he? No. He's a nice man. Not like those crazy protesters. The RCMP doesn't secretly have a file on him, or stand around when he chats with the permier. So genteel. Not like those screeching protesters. I mean, why don't they get jobs at Walmarts or as waiters, and work their way up like Mr. Irving did?

The Moncton TandT wants to cure problems of excessive corporate power and general poverty and the environment by pretending they aren't there. It won't work. Never has. We just get sicker.

And if anybody mentions we aren't looking well, we blame them.

Nov. 21: same old....

Wow! They didn't even mention Harper's statement that Canada is committed to war if necessary with Syria. Well, that avoids the Nov. 11 question of what our soldiers died for.

They also don't mention the anti-fracking demonstration by over 600 people in Fredericton.

They do mention, though,  that St. Mary's First Nation have set up a large teepee on the lawn of the legilature in Fredericton - and they are gracious enough to say it was part of an anti-fracking rally. But that was it. The entire report was three sentences. The big story of the day, with photos and close to a page of reporting, is about a 1940s dance.

This is from the paper which pledged to keep us informed about fracking. But we have yet to see a word about recent studies which raise concerns about fracking, complaints that have been made about it. what is going on and where. Nothing.  But there's a whole page about a 1940s dance.

The Reuters story on Syria is a little bit better than usual. It  at least raises the possiblity that the Syrian rebels may in fact, be getting weapons, money, training, from unnamed foreign countries. For a fuller account of who those foreign countries are, check out the Guardian or The Independent  in Britain. Also al-haaretz in Israel.

There's a decent story on how Canada is about to spend a half billion from the defence budget in order to build a satellite whose value and purpose are unclear. Tough luck for Veterans' Affairs which has just had its budget cut - and now will certainly have no chance of getting it restored. "We will never forget...."  But that was way back, ten days ago.

Strange column by Norbert. It's about the provincial Liberal party's meeting to regroup for the future.
Norbert is quite right to say the Liberals caused their own problems, have only themselves to blame, have been opportunistic.... No doubt.

But is that a reason why they should not regroup to plan for the future? It sounds to me like all the more reason they should.

For that matter, how have the Conservatives been any better? Or even any different?

And he says people need time to comment on legislation? Well, yes, they do. They also need basic information about it. But the TandT, for which Norbert writes, has been pretty shy on information. How much do you know about fracking? About electricity rates to corporations? About corporate funding of parties? About real tax rates for the one percent? If you know anything about any of these, you probably did not get it from The Moncton Times and Transcript. Or from an Irving-owned radio station.

Norbert offers his own suggestions, most of them trivial. He doesn't touch the central issue. How do we get corporations out of government? How do we restore equal rights and democracy to New Brunswick?  Gee! I wonder why he never mentioned that.

Donald Copp of Moncton contributes a letter to the editor that is somewhat critical of Norbert for his comments on the CBC.  Good letter. It's one of the few things worth reading in the whole paper.

But, then, it's not the purpose of the TandT to be worth reading. It's purpose to keep us interested in trivia, and keep us ignorant of what's happening. In that respect, it has exactly the same function as the gladitorial games did in Ancient Rome - to keep the mob quiet. (We're the mob).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nov.20: What will be in tomorrow's TandT (but only partly)...

It's amazing what doesn't make the news. For example, I was almost a month ago that Obama exercised what he claims is a right to order the assassination of American citizens with charge or trial. Now, that would appear to be against the American consititution. So I checked google for sites dealing with it. Some Nineteen million sites popped up.
I didn't read all of them. But it took me five pages to get to the first mainstream news medium (The Guardian) to carry a mention of it.
So - an American president has the power of life and death over American citizens. He can imprison or kill with no charge at all, no judicial process. The constitution seems to say the opposite. And countries with that sort of executive power are rarely called "free".

But it took me five pages to find a news source that even mentioned the story.

So will the TandT notice the implications of today's story from Ottawa? Harper has said Canada will  go to war with Syria if necessary.. There are two things wrong with that.

1. The rebelliion in Syria is being encouraged and supplied with weapons, money and training by interested parties - like Turkey. We are getting some very one-sided reporting on what this is all about. It's complicated, and has more to do with Syria's strategic position than with good guys and bad guys. And we certainly aren't going to get the full story from our news media.

2. Whether we go to war is not Mr. Harper's decision. In a democracy, the people, through their elected representatives, make that decision. That is one of the things our history books say that our soldiers died for in World War One. That is the reason Canada did not enter World War Two until after a delay of a week so parliament could discuss and vote on ther matter.
That's not a small point. On Nov. 11, we were all talking about rememberinig those who died and why they died.
Of course, that was Nov. 11. Tomorrow is Nov. 21.
The TandT will surely print the announcement. But it won't touch the issue of it being our decision. Nor will it give us the full infomration we need to make such a decision.
What the hell!  Nov. 11 is history.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nov. 19:2011

Bill Belliveau assures us the Occupy Movement is withering away. It certainly is - in the pages of the Moncton Times and Trancript where it has been srupulously ignored from the start. Now google a serious newspaper like The Guardian or The New York Times where you can read about the march of 30,000 in New York, and the dozens of sympathy marches all over the western world. Go to youtube. See the demonstrations, the actions of police, though many police forces in the land of the free are now banning reporters, and even arresting them. (There's never any need to ban TandT reporters.)

Will the Occupy movement just fade away as the Moncton Times seems to hope it will? It might. But the problem won't.

We are watching western domination of the world which has existed for some 500 years destroyinig itself. Let's be big boys and girls, and face that. Externally, we are hated for five centuries of interference  and exploitation which has caused poverty, mass murder, slavery, torture. Places like Congo and China and Africa and Central America and India remember our history well, much better than Bill Belliveau seems to.

Internally, we are being destroyed by the inability of what is left of our democracy to control the greed of a small number who are destroying us economically.

The Occupy movement might go away. The problem won't. Nor will tinkering change anything. Norbert may mutter that they're all punks and unwashed. It doesn't matter. The demonstrators may be degenerate, lazy and Baptist. It doesn't matter. What matters is the problem. And, far from looking at answers, we're pretending the problem isn't there.

There is almost no world news today. That's odd. Russia is moving warships into the waters of Syria just as Turkey and others are threateining to intervene in that country. The United States and Israel are both threatening action against Iran because it might get a nuclear bomb - and the US and Israel between them have fewer than 6.000 nuclear bombs. So you can see the threat.

In other words, we are quite possibly on the brink of catastrophic wars in the middle east which could well become world wars - and Canada is already committed to join in. That doesn't bother you? Okay. If it happens, start saving now for you next filling at the gas pump.

But don't worry. We'll ignore it. And it will all go away.

Internally, democracy is crashing. The American system is so corrupt that voters have lost all confidence in it. We've seen the same thing happening across Canada. And please don't tell me that New Brunswick is a democracy.

The only part of today's paper that is in touch with reality is an op ed column by David Suzuki - which talk about what our economic system is doing to our environment. As Suzuki suggests, corporate power is not the solution to our problem. On the contrary, it is the major cause of our problem.

We are standing on the railway tracks, and an express charging down the line. Pretending it's not there won't help. And Finance Minister Higgs' plan to streamline the civil service - along with the federal Liberal plan to add seats to the House of Commons - will neither of them have the slightest effect on the train.

The Occupy Movement will fade into irrelevance? Maybe. It could happen. It's already happened to democratic government.

That still leaves us with the problem that we so busily pretend isn't there - an economic system based on greed and military power. The first job if, indeed, we have time, is to get business out of government, and to restore democracy. (Democracy means the elected representatives respresent us. They don't represent corporate bosses. And it means we have news sources that keep us informed.)

You don't think that's practical? Okay. Then we have one alternative - a system in which we accept the power of corporations in government. It's been tried. It's called fascism.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nov. 18: Journalist types

I correspond with numbers of journalists in Canada and Asia. One of them is a special type of journalist, the type that will not see what he does not want to see. I have long since learned there is no point in arguing with him. If you give him evidence, he will ignore it or wiggle around it.

Based now in China, he thinks China is a wonderfully free country. Tell  him about people jailed for their political views, and he will reply that at least he's allowed to smoke in restaurants. Tell him about the CIA led massacre of Maya in Guatemala; and he will say there must have been a good reason. It took him a long, long time to recognize that the US was torturing prisoners - and then he said it wasn't real torture. I mean not - real.

Norbert Cunningham is one of those. He pronounces that the Occupy movement is made of up dilletantes. Let's see, now. this is a movement all over the world. How many of them has Norbert met? or even seen?

The police actions, he tells us, have not been brutal. Really? Shooting a veteran in the face and splitting his skull is not brutal? Swinging clubs at people lying on the ground is not brutal? Have you seen any of the videos of the riot police, Norbert? Have you ever actually seen riot police in action? Ever known any?

The demonstrators - those people he has never seen - are all "whiners with smart phones". Kids. Spoiled brats. Norbert, I am an Occupy Moncton Protester.  I and not a kid. I would happily debate you in public on just about any topic your little mind should choose. You could even come with that whole collection of kissups that you call an editorial staff.

 But that won't happen, will it?

In fact, your lying newspaper won't even list my current events group at the library (first Tuesday of the month, 7 pm) even though it lists all other library events.

Oh, he also says that revolution worked in Libya because the people supported the revolutionaries. It's hard to know where to start on  his ignorance. In fact, there is no such single group as "the revolutionaries" in Libya. (They are now fighting with each other.) And the victory had something to do with the riot squad we sent to bomb the daylights out of civilians.

He is baffled that the occupy movement wants  democracy restored. "Gee," says Norbert. "We have democracy already."

Do you know what democracy means, Norbert? First,  It means we have access to information through - you know - newspapers and stuff. Norbert. You work for the Irving news media. Do you seriously suggest we have access to the information we need in order to make democratic decisions? Has your paper kept us up on scientific and legal news about fracking for shale gas? Has it even kept us up to date on what's happening in New Brunswick?

Democracy also means that people we elect represent us. Are you seriously suggesting that a Minister of Finance who was an Irving exec, and who is advised by a committee appointed by Irving, represents us?

You were the editorial page editor who published a column by Irving in which he named himself a member of the government - without being elected. Is this democracy?  Did you whimper a word about it?

Have you ever said a word critical of corporate power in this province?

Mind you, Norbert, I'm not arguing with you. You're a type who will never see what he doesn't want to see. I have seen the people at Occupy Moncton. What I saw were people of all ages. The young people I saw were intelligent - for the most part, rather more intelligent than you are. And, far from spoiled, they're trying to clean up the mess that people like you have left as their inheritance.

Moving on -There's a standing joke in jouranlism about the editorial writer who rants on some subject he obviously knows nothing about, then concludes with a thunderous, "something must be done." We have one of those today.

It's about the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies report (which is, in itself, a fraud perpetrated by corporate New Brunswick, one which has no scientific value, and is damaging to the schools.) Their report shows no great change in results over the years. (Considering that NB public schools rank among the dozen or so best systems in the world - and way ahead of the US and Britain - that seems decent.)

But no. The editorial writer is firm. "It's time to get back to basics".

Now, I've been in education and  teaching at all levels from elementary to university for close to fifty years. But I ain't real smart like these here editorial writers that Mr. Irving picks. So tell me. What the hell are basics?

Does it  mean the 3 Rs? So far as I know, the schools have never stopped doing that. Does it mean teaching them to memorize by chanting while the teacher beats a stick on the board? Been there. Doesn't work.

Here we have an editorial on education by someone who obviously knows nothing about it, has nothing to say, but still comes down with a thundering opinion.

On the op ed page, Louis Leger, president of Downtown Moncton Cetnreville Inc. contributes a column written in bureaucrateze that few will read. That's just as well. It's column on revitalizing downtown that shows no understanding of the subject at all - and is really a soft sell for the half wit idea of borrowing a couple of hundred million to build a hockey rink that one of the Irvings can make money out of while we pay for it - forever.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nov. 17: The TandT's role in an attack on your children.....

The Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies (which has no expertise in education, and which is simply a propaganda front set up by the Irvings and McCain's and Ganongs of our world) has released its annual report card on Atlantic Canadian high schools.

This is even worse than the fraud of the MacLean's university rankings. The difference is it will do even more damage than MacLean's does - and MacLean's has done serious damage to the universities.

School grades are affected far more by family income and social status, by cultural values, by expectations than they are by anything a school or a teacher does.

A good friend of mine was a lawyer, an engineer and, for at time, President of the Quebec Liberal party. He has also been an oustanding hockey player. But he knew he could never play for the NHL, or get an athletic scholarship to a Canadian university.

He was Black.

Blacks in the Montreal of his day couldn't be police or clerks. The men couldn't be anything but, railway porters, or jazz musicians. The women couldn't be anything but domestic servants or baby sitters. They grew up accepting that. Their teachers accepted that. Finishing high school wasn't even on their radar. (Nor, if they somehow still got good grades, did they stand much chance of being accepted in a Canadian university.  So how did my friend break through?

"It was the side of the street I lived on," he told me. "The other side went to the ghetto school where it was expected by parents and teachers they would do poorly - and so they did. But kids on my side of the street went to a rich, white kids school, where both parents and teachers expected the children to go on to university. So I did."

He got the hockey scholarship that no Canadian university would give him at a prestigious American university, and railway porters smuggled him over the botder for the train travel he couldn't afford..

I had a similar experience going to school in a dirt poor, white neighbourhood. None of us from my grade one class finished high school. In grade ten, I did meet kids whose families, for cultural reasons, (Japanese, Jewish) or social reasons (rich) expected them to do well - and so they did. But it was too late for me. I flunked out.

From school to school there was no difference in the curruicula or in the training of the teachers. The differences were in the communities. There is  no such thing as a best school. Any school is a reflection of the community it serves.

So why are the Irvings and the McCains and the Ganongs so keen on ranking schools?

They're following a movement that began in the US some 40 years ago to privatize education as much as possible.  The rankings are intended to lead to Public/Private Partnerships. Yeah. That's what we'll call them - partnerships, like a leech is a partner to whatever it is sucking blood out of.

Privatization in the US has gone a long way, with the result that basic education has gone out of reach for the poor, and is a major effort for what's left of the middle class. According to UNESCO ratings, US "public" education has gone, as a result, from a mediocre 18th in the world to an appalling 136th. ( Canada is in the top ten.)

The Irving papers  have been used quite deliberately as part of the campaign to destroy confidence in our schools. The purprose of the campaign was to let corporations get their greedy fingers into our education taxes - and to hell with the damage it causes the children.

Corporations exist to make money. That's all they exist for.  Hyenas exist to eat flesh. I would no sooner turn by children over to a corporation than I would to a pack of hyenas.

Contrary to statements my our finance minister, government is not a business. It does not exist simply to feed itself (or it's masters).

I have never read any serious scholar in the field of education who thinks that school rankings have any merit. And I note the dead silence of Atlantic deans of education on this subject.

In short, those bastards want to destroy your school systems and your children so they can make a buck out of it. And you can depend on the Irving media to be on the side of the bastards.

Nice to see that NewsToday has noticed the Occupy Wall Street movement - though it is still stuck with Reuters news agency. But there is another - and huge - story that is missing.

Yesterday, Ottawa announced that it has agreed to a defence pact with Israel, and will release details soon. Well...

That's kind of a serious decision. That whole region is about to explode into what could be World War Three (if we aren't already in it.) The current tension is over fears that Iran might get a nuclear warhead. (The US has over 5,000. Tiny Israel has some 250, about the same number as China).

A defence pact sounds like a commitment to join a war. But barely a week ago, we paid honour to those Canadians who died to defend freedom and democracy. Those words don't just sound nice. They have meanings. One of the meanings is that we cannot be committed to war without full debate and without the vote of our elected representatives. How soon we forget what we said we remembered on Nov. 11.

Under intenational law, the law we used to hang Nazi leaders, we cannot go to war unless we are attacked. (If we enforced the laws we enforced against Hitler's gang, there'd be a lot of Canadian politicians at the end of ropes.)

This news of a defence pact has enormous implications. How come the new editor of the TandT never heard of it? (It appeared in yesterday's Toronto Sun, among others.)

Norbert has his usual, confused column. He dismisses people who complain about our well staffed and appointed schools. Gee, Norbert, just a year ago you were the edtorial page editor who regularly ran editorials and opinion pieces that said the schools were incompetent and a scandal.

Alec Bruce's column is a warning of hard times to come. My only departure from that would be to add that New Brunswick is in financial trouble largely because we, our children, and our communities have served ourselves up for too long on the banquet table of the corporate elite. We can afford our poor. It's our rich who are breaking us.

Sensible column by Jody Dallaire on tips. Juvenile column by Rod Allen. (That's not quite fair. The Saturday columns by students are better than those of Allen.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nov. 16: The TandT DID do a followup on the lady Gaga story..

I just knew they would followo up on what obviously wasn't a story in the first place. Turns out the spotting of Lady Gaga was a hoax. Quelle surprise and donne moi un break. That should have been obvious yesterday. In fairness, maybe the TandT knew about the hoax and was playing along with it.

There is also an ad disguised as news. It's for the sale of Beaujolais Nouveau at NB liquor. The craze for Beaujolais Nouveau was created decades ago to foist off on the public a wine of indifferent quality from the Beaujolais district. And to this day, amateur connoisseurs are sucked into buying this plonk as though it were an almost religious experience.

The TandT does carry a report on New York's use of riot police to evict Occupy Wall Street  protestors. But the report omits a good deal - as you will find by checking NYT and Washington Post. But, then, the report is from Reuters - one of the only two news agencies the TandT editor seems to have heard of.

Here's a hint for the TandT news editor. Go to occupywallst.org/
This is a news sheet operated by the protestors. That's where you could find all the information - with videos - that Reuters didn't carry. There is also news from the movement all over the world. (Of course, the TandT would like you to think these are all tiny groups of adolescent  hippies, and they don't really mean anything.)

In this province, mr. Irving reaps billions, largely at our expense, mounts a vicious attack on the public schools so he can make money out of them - then gets referred to in his newspapers as a "champion of public schooling and a philanthropist".) At the same time, ordinary people of all ages, all walks of life, make sacrifices to challenge the Irvings of this world; and they get called spoiled kids and hippies - if they get mentioned at all.

This is not just incompetent reporting. This, mr. editor, is dishonest reporting.

The big item in NewsToday is Minister (Joe Oliver, federal minister of natural resources) bashes NDP for stand on Keystone deal. That seems commonplace enough - but...

The story began that same day with a report that NDP members were in Washington to criticize the pipeline project, to say that many Canadians oppposed it. So - why wasn't the story headed NDP members criticize pipeline project in Washington?

Because most people read only  the headline and maybe a few paragraphs of a news story. Beginning the story the way TandT did gives a negative (and quite false) view of the NDP action.

That, mr. editor, is also called lying.

I see the village idiot has been called back to write the edtorial "Misguided paranoia". I wrote yesterday evening's blog on the same subject, the soon-to-be-announced security deal with the US., so I won't repeat it here. But there are very serious dangers in a common borders-security deal, dangers that threaten the rights of all of us. I'm afraid, though, that reading my piece won't help the writer of that editorial who is clearly too stupid to know what rights are - or to understand why the Norad deal is nothing like this one.

Alec Bruce write column on shale gas that many people will not like. I"m uneasy about it, myself. But it's an intelligent, informed, honest and reasonable case. Well worth reading.

Reporter Eric Lewis writes an op ed column to express alarm about the drop in sales at NB Liquor.
Can you imagine? He is upset that New Brunswickers aren't getting smashed enough.

Only in an Irving paper could this happen.

Brian Cormier, the master of saying nothing in a thousand words or less, tells fascinating readers that it's not nice to have a cold.

Oh, now that Nov. 11 is over, think of all those politicians who turned out to express their thanks to veterans and to remember those who fell. You will recall that the TandT slobbered all over the story.

In fact, Canadian governments, including the flag-waving Harper government, have been brutally neglectful of our veterans. Even as we ratchet up military spending for such things as the F-18, an aircraft of no use for defending Canada, and one whose costs have run out of control, the spending for veterans' affairs has been cut. And even those programmes which do exist for veterans are hedged in with so many rules as to make it impossibly for most to take advantage of them.

Remember that next November 11.

Where to get information about it? Well, not in an Irving paper. Go to Chapters. Look for a magazine called  Literary Review of Canada. The November issue begins with an essay called "Afghanistan's Price".

There's also a revealing facebook page called "The Canadian Veterans' Advocacy".

Meanwhile, we'll just let messrs Allward, Harper, Irving and their friends smile and wave their little flags while they share bonanza of defence spending - and make sure none of it gets spent on those veterans they pretended to remember..

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nov. 15 : it's incredible......

....how many stories the Moncton TandT missed for Nov. 15.
It didn't, for example, carry the story that was in the (British) Daily Mail about how Discovery Channel will carry a seven part series about the environment called Frozen Planet. But North Americans will only see six parts. The other one will be banned because - well - a majority of Americans, especially Americans, don't believe in climate change; so it would just upset them.

A large number of papers, including Israel's haaretz, are saying the attack on Iranian nuclear facilities that killed a large number of people was carried out by Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service. Gee. Would the TandT have ignored  the story if Iran had blown up a US nuclear site? (Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if it did. It carries only what its given by Post Media and, maybe, Reuters.)

The Associated Press in Brussels was officially infomed  that the International Crime Commission will examine charges that NATO (that means us) is guilty of war crimes in Libya. (There's already a civil suit in the Belgian courts over the NATO killing of over  800 civilians in an air attack near Tripoli.)

As usual, many papers carry what has become the daily toll of people killed by American drones in Pakistan, Somalia and Lebanon. All the dead are, of course, terrorists. Funny how so many terrorists are children and even babies.

A story that has been ignored by the TandT for some three years, is now reappearing with added info. Check The Guardian for Nov. 15.  When Iceland's private banking system collapsed, Icelanders did what you are supposed to do in a capitalist system. The left it in collapse. They did not bail it out.

They didn't give handouts to the corporate bosses who had destroyed the system. Instead, they kicked them out of sticking their noses in the political system. They wrote a new constitution to assure that corporations would mind their own business in future - and not corrupt democracy.

After all, that's the way capitalism is supposed to work.

And things are coming along just fine. Meanwhile, New Brunswick happily goes along being corrupted and robbed blind by corporations.
Oh, the New York Police carried out a quite brutal attack to expel the Occupy Wall Street protestors, arresting 200 of them for obsturcting the law. A court gave the police quite a jolt, though, when it said the protestors had every right to be there. If the police were to going to hit "illegals" with their clubs, if seems they should have been banging each other on the head, and dragging each other through the mud.

Then, another court ruled that the demonstrators had ever right to be on the site - but had no right to erect tents or other structures. That was a partial victory for the city - but it also had to reopen the site immediately to allow the protestors to demonstrate - so long as they carried no tents or sleeping bags.

As I write this, the crowds in New York are still building up; and big demonstrations are planned for Nov. 17.   But don't worry. You won't see anything in tomorrow's paper that will upset you. What you are more likely to get is a non-followup to today's non-story that Lady Gaga was spotted in Moncton.

Nov. 15: Questions the TandT might ask - if it were a real, big kid newspaper.

There's even less in today's paper than usual.

Worth reading is a report on the US and Canada to set up a security deal so that both countries follow the same, unified border and internal security procedures. Then think about what that means.


One of the prime characeristics of a nation is that it sets its owm security standards. That's more than must an abstract theory.

The US is a madhouse of security with over a million people (chosen by whim and rumour) not permitted to fly. Millions more are on lists kept by uncounted numbers of agencies. If you opposed the war in Libya, You're on a list. You opposed it because you thought it would harm the US? Doesn't matter. You opposed it. You're on the list.

You're suspected of knowing somebody who might be in touch with somebody who might be a terrorist, maybe? You're on a list. You might already have been sent abroad to be tortured, courtesy of the CIA. (At least a couple of Canadians have already had that experience.)

Looking forward to having CSIS tap your phone? Monitor your computer? Think a police state would be a great idea?  Well, you're in luck because that is almost certainly what the Canada-US security deal is.

Ah, well, Alec Bruce, as ever, has a mature and intelligent column. Agree with him or not, he's informed; he's logical: and he's not a puppet for anybody.

And so, the rest of the paper can safely be skipped.

What`s not in it? Well, as I mentioned yesterday, Libya wasn`t in it -  though the war we just ``won`there (at the cost of billions of dollars from Canada, and enough Canadian explosives to kill uncounted thousands of civilians)doesn`t look so won any more.
Nor is the constant violence in Iraq even mentioned.

But the TandT, if it isn`t interested in tellings us the news, might at least ask questions for us to think about..

1. A shale gas company carried out illegal drilling. It has admitted it. It has also admitted it knew that what it did was illegal. So the government asks the RCMP to investigate.

Well, gee. It looks kind of open and shut from where I sit. So I wonder why the long delay on action. Are we allowed to ask?

2. What has happened to the occupy movement in places like Oakland and Halifax?  What are all these you-tube videos I see of riot cops, holding their sticks in both hands and swinging hard on the bodies of people lying on the ground   

Is this what shale gas companies can expect for breaking the law?

3. The minister of finance for New Brunswick says that government has to be run like a business. Well, maybe... But we could use a newspaper which at least asks whether a government is the same kind of animal as  a business.

As I understand it, business is run to make profit - no other reason. But, a government is not a profit-making enterprise. It is the mechanism we use establish and ensure standards of treating and organizing people  within our society- and to do it according to the wishes of the electorate.

Do I misunderstand what governments and business are? Just seems to me that running a government like a business could be as damaging as running a car like a bulldozer.

4. In drawing up the budget, our Minister of Finance (an ex-Irving exec.) will be drawing on advice officially offered by only one group - a group hand-picked by Mr. Irving. In short, the making of the budget is entirely in the hands of one business and one, unelected man.

Is this democratic?    Is it legal? if so, is it ethical?   Are we likely to suffer because of it?  Perhaps a really hot editor like Alan Cochrane, with his guitar and his motorcycle could be sent off to give Dr. Savoie to a tough grilling on this subject.

5. Then there`s the gas pump. If the middle east collapses into war - which seems quite possible - the effect on gas prices will be stunning. I thought of that as I drove through supper hour traffic in Moncton yesterday, and then into the bleakness of Riverview - the city whose design was outdated before before the first house was even built.

Moncton and Riverview live on cars.

So what plans do our governments have for the day gas prices skyrocket?

I`ve long since stopped expecting the TandT to give us answers. But it could at least let us know what some of the questions are.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nov.14: what you won't read on Nov. 15.

You won't read about how   Libya is dissolving into a civil war as rival militias fight even in the capital city of Tripoli. Nor will you hear about destruction, theft and rap by the various militias - of about the shooting of all Black Africans on sight. After all, it would be embarassing to admit this is what our interference has led to.

For the same reason,  they don't mention the daily attacks in Iraq, though that war was declared a victory years ago.

The news editor might want to check out the Nov. 14, Christian Science Monitor, and the Nov. 14 New York Times has an overview headed Libya - Revolution and Aftermath.

Obviously, both Ottawa and Fredericton are going to deal with the recession in much the same way - tax the poor but not the rich, and cut services.

Been there. Done that. That was how they handled the Great Depression of the 1930s. That's why it lasted so long and was so terrible. Mind you, it worked out great for corporations and the wealthy. By exploiting people desperate for jobs, offering abysmal wages, cutting benefits like paid holidays and penions, demanding "voluntary" overtime, Canadian big business did well in the Great Depression.

You doubt that? Go to your library. Ask for a government report of about 1935 called The Report on Price Spreads and Mass-Buying. It's still fairly common in libraries. (Forget those stories about millionaires jumping out of windows. They did well in the dirty thirties while the rest of us starved.)

Nov. 14:If you have nothing to do today, nothing at all.....

...get a copy of the Moncton Times and Trancript, and practice making paper hats.

Read pages one and two first, though. They have the intriguing story of an experimental programme at Moncton High. It looks a little flaky at first reading; but it deserves serious thought. It's an attempt to deal with North American problems among youg people - lack of moral values, obesity, materialism, social isolation, and the serious decline of intellectual achievement among boys.

This is an important innovation. It's been needed since most churches abandoned social leadership social values over fifty years ago to embrac the quasi-materialisc and self-serving gospel of personal salvation.

It's going to take a while for this programme to work out all the wrinkles. But this is one that deserves patience.

There's not much in the rest of the paper. Finance Minister Higgs displays his ignorance of the history of business to the editorial board of the Telegraph-Journal. (that's okay. No editorial board in New Bunswick would notice the ignorance.) He said that government has to be modelled on business methods.  In fact....

....the origins of business methods are to be found in government civil service  that appeared in seventeenth century. Indeed, well into the 1950s, major corporations were sending their executives to Ottawa to learn their craft from the civil service. The corporate sneers at the civil service began only when corporate leaders realized that North Americans were coming to respect government methods more than corporate methods. That's when corporations began setting up "think tanks' and buying control of news media to preach that government was bad..

Higgs is a former executive for Irving. Great. Just what we need - a finance minister trained in the virtues of greed, and indifference to social and environmental damage. What do you think the chances are he will raise taxes and cut spending on the Irvings?

National and International news are two pages. And, no, the looming crisis in Iran is not mentioned. Nor is the use of riot police at McGill - though both could have a serious impacts on New Brunswick. Nor is there a mention of the fighting in Libya. You remember Libya. That's the place we just bombed to make western oil billionaires richer.

The business page features a masterful piece of advice that few business execs know about....always keep charity receipts for income tax purposes. Wow! Who would have thought?

Craig Rabstock wirtes an insightful warning that we should not run over moose on the highway. Gee! Lots of people wouldn't know that. Allan Abel adds his usual incoherent column on Washington.

Norbert Cunningham has read a book. He now realizes that the decline of the West is not due to greedy corporations, exploitation of povery, spending on wars, etc. The book is by an undoubtedly distinguished historian. But may I suggest that Norbert read more than one book?

Let him begin with a full history of western capitalism, one that includes the roles of war, theft, and exploitation. The weatlh that the west piled up from 1492 onward was based on superior military skills which made conquests of  Asia, India, Africa and North America easy, enabling western countries to steal natural resources and cheap labour, including slave labour, all over the world. It was also made possible by the exploitation of most western peoples, themselves.

That military superiority ended with World War Two. Take a look at western wars since then - Vietnam for France and the US, Afghanistan for the US and NATO. Korea, in which the combined forces of the west could barely manage a draw.

Incidentally, the change did not begin with Japan in 1970. It began with Japan almost a century earlier. Ever heard of the Russo-Japanese war?

The idea that westerners once had a superior work ethic is nonsense. If Norbert knew anything of the life of a chinese peasant or an African slave, or a native employee of a Canadian mining  sompany today in Congo or Central America, he might learn what a work ethic is. And he would learn that those paople so exploited all over the world, including here in New Brunswick, did not accumulate capital to invest more in business.

Yes. Today's TandT is a great opportunity to learn how to make paper hats.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nov 13: evening - what the TandT won't report on Nov. 14..

Associated Press has reported heavy fighting between rebel groups (all on our side) in Libya. You know - the country Harper welcomed to democracy some weeks ago though it had no election or even a constitution yet. I'm confident the TandT won't report it - because it hasn't reported similar fighting that's been going on for a month.

A good news editor would spot that as an important news story for Canadians since Canada played such an important role in killing Libyans to make them democratic.

But, then, I'm not convinced the TandT has a news editor. Not a real one.

Then there's the riot police called to McGill to create a riot at a peaceful protest. It was of personal interest to me since the central figure in denying the right to peaceful assembly at the university is a senior administrator whom I taught early in my teaching days. Apparently, I had no effect on him. I guess that's why he rose so high in university administration.

An editor who knew something about education would know this is an important story across North America - because it's going to happen here some day.

Canadian universities were described by the federal Council on Education just weeks ago as being dysfunctional. The council was being kind.

Universities are packed with intellectual snobs interested only in gaining prestige - and their only idea of prestige is publishing research - much of which is of no value. But all that research is enormously expensive in spending on faculty. As a result of time allotted for research, professors commonly teach fewer than 300 hours in a year.

At that, their teaching is appallingly bad. In forty years of teachinig university, I never even heard of any faculty ever discussing precisely how and why its subject should be taught. The indifference to the needs of students is towering. Any teaching that happens is by rote - pure memorizing, largely to be forgotten. It's the kind of teaching that is effective only in a trade school. As a result, the production of students who can think and express themselves is minimal.

This is made worse by Maclean's idiotic university rating system. (There is no such thing as a best university.) In their scramble for students to give them more money for research, university leaders will spend lots of money and time to run university education in the way magazine editors tell them to.

As well, they scramble to get donations from big business - which is not interested in people who can think. The result has been a great decline in "useless" fields such as English, History, Sociology....

This comes home to students as they see their fees going up year by year - most of the increase going to fund useless research, bad teaching and academic egos.. We're watching the collapse of the university as a place to develop minds. And, yes, even New Brunswick students will some day catch on.

Check out the Israeli paper, Ha'aretz, to read about how Netanyahu is beating the drums for war against Iran. (the one we will be expected to join -  to defend democracy, of course.)  Netanyahu is also proposing legislation against people who have too much freedom - which means people who disagree with him.

There is a substantial peace movement in Israel called Peace Now. It also exists in Canada, though the TandT has never mentioned that, either. I have good friends active in Peace Now. One wrote me just days ago.

She is an observant Jew, a Zionist, lives much of the year with her daughter and her brother, both of whom are Israeli citizens. But she believes Israel must make a far more honest effort than it has to achieve peace.

As a result, she is branded an anti-semite in Canada, subjected to harrassment in Canada, and in danger of arrest and/or personal violence in Israel.

Ever read about Peace Now in the TandT? I never have. And I know I won't read about it in Monday's TandT.

Oh, and make it a point not to catch the current flu. It's awful.