Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30: It seemed to begin well....

(Oh, Oh, Oh...don't forget. Tuesday, May 1, current events at the Moncton Library from  7 to 8 P.M. we'll start with why coroporations love politicians, but hate civil servants. Then, we'll go wherever you like.)  now - to go back to "It seemed to go well")

Headline. Page 1. "Moncton's Ward Two poised for tight race". At last. We're going to see some discussion of issues in the civic election so we can know what we're voting last....
well..... not actually....

We learn that a Mr. Henderson has had all sorts of titles and served on all sorts of committees.We learn he got lots of votes last time. And the big issue? The only one he's going to make a promise on? He's going to work very, very hard. Great. But we could adopt a sled dog to do that.

Most of the statements are long on titles, commitees, and promises to do 'good things'.  That's nice. I would never want to vote for someone who says he promises to do bad thngs.

I live in Ward Two. I've made my choice for a candidate because I know him to be honest and intelligent. But there's nothing in this long report that would convince me to vote for any of them. Notably, the word future does not appear. What sort of a world is Moncton going to be living in? Shouldn't we be thinking about that so we plan for it?

The word automobile did not appear - though the future of the automobile is a concern in almost every major city in the world. (There's also a big story on the debate between mayoral candidates in Riverview - who also said nothing and anything, including the automobile.) In particular, nobody mentioned what effect the price of gas is likely to have on Riverview, a prime example of the urban sprawl and reliance on the automobile that was all the rage fifty years ago. I wish Riverview luck in building a youth centre. I'm sure it will do the children good to walk there on a winter night.

The election stories are pretty useless - and that's only partly the fault of the candidates. It's also the fault of a reporter who obviously didn't ask any questions. Staff at The Moncton Times and Transcript seem to be uniinformed on the stories they cover,and  unchallenging. In fact, they aren't reporters at all. They're stenographers.

The second editorial is a good example of an editorial writer foaming at the mouth over a subject he or she knows nothing about. Headed "Cancer study badly flawed" it criticizes a report written by any emininent environmentalist who says that environmental factors (like oil refinery fumes?) are major factors in causing cancer. In fact, the TandT has never published enough on this story so we can know even what it is  the editor is fuming about. As well, the editor is not an eminent figure in either medicine or the environment. This editorial has no more merit than a donkey bray.

Norbert is....well...he's Norbert. This time he's raging about Omar Khan.  Khan is a Canadian citizen - just as much as Nrobert is. He was raised in a family that was pro Moslem and anti-American. (just as there are millions of children raised in families that are pro-American and anti-Moslem.)

At the age of fifteen, he was in a village that was suddenly attacked by American troops.What happened next is unclear. We know he was arrested, and charged with throwing a grenade that killed an American. We are not sure which sharp-eyed observer in the middle of a battle noticed that. We also know that when arrested, he was down with a bullet in his back.

It is illegal to treat a child as a soldier. An international court is almost certain to hang a man for exactly that reason. (Of course, he's not an American.) It was illegal to imprison a chld as if he were a soldier. It is illegal to torture a child - or anybody else. It is illegal to try a person for a 'war crime' committed while a child. It is illegal to use information obrained by torture in a court of law.

None of these illegalities bothers Norbert.

(Incidentally, if you were a fifteen year old in a village suddenly hit by an attack by a foreign army, guns blazing, killing anybody in sight and with a record of high civilian casualties, what would you do? I know what Norbert would do. He would run toward them, hands up and shouting," don't shoot, I'm....."; and then he'd fall dead from the fire of twenty machine guns.)

Every western democracy that had nationals who had been captured by American troops demanded that they be released and returned to their countries of citizenship for treatment and/or trial. Evey one of them. Except Canada. We. alone, allowed a 15 year old citizen to be imprisoned, tortured for years, and then illegally tried. We, alone, washed our hands of any principles of rights and freedoms and of interntaional treaties that we had signed.

Norbert -  in a free and democratic society, people have rights. People like you don't believe in that. That's why freedom and democracy are dying in both Canada the the US. Your whole, bigoted rant demonstrates that. And to add insult to insult, you misuse a quotation from Jawaharlal Nehru, a man who would have held your ideas in comtempt.

Incidentally, how about runniing a big story on war crimes committed by American troops? There's the use of cluster bombs on which you carry an execellent report on p. C1. Then there's the lieutenant in Vietnam comvicted of deliberately murdering 120 men, women and children. There's the soldier in Iraq who murdered a whole family, except for the thirteen year old daughter. He raped her. Then he killed her. There's the seargent in Afghanistan who murdered some thirty women. There are hundreds of cases like that. And there were those who died under torture that was illegal under both international law and US law. There are the uncounted numbers of civilians of all ages who have been killed by illegal drone attacks.

There were, as well as I remember, only two charges laid in all these cases. And the worst penalty was one night in jail.  Does that make you angry, Norbert? Of course not. That thirteen year old girl probably enjoyed watching her family get killed, and the getting raped and killed herself.

There are good parts to the paper. Alec Bruce has a aharp column on Harper and his accusation that the NDP refused to approve of the declaration of war in 1939. In fact, there are a couple of angles to that story that most of the press has missed.

No party voted against war in 1939. It was just one man - J.S. Woodworth of the CCF. And if that's to be taken as a sign of sympathy for Hitler, then think of this. Both Republicans and Democrats refused even to consider war. Even after the attack on Pearl Harbour, they did not delcare war on Germany. It was Germany, almost a month after Pearl Harbour, that declared war on the US. Wow! Talk about being pro-Hitler.

Mark Abley has a column that has no answers. But it is thought provoking about the questions we should be asking.

There is a superb letter to the editor "cartoon unfair to welfare recipients". This was the cartoon of last week that portrayed welfare as ignorant layabouts..

It's common to think that poverty is the result of ignorance and irresponsibility. It's not. I've known many a person in poverty who was intelligent and responsible. And I've know more than a few millionaires who were stupid and irresponsible  (but who believe they're smart enough to tell government what to do.).

I grew up in a district that was then one of the poorest in Canada. Most of my friends stayed poor. They weren't stupid. They weren't lazy. They were simply born into a society in which it never occured to them that they could be anything but poor. Later, I met rich kids with no particular brains or energy at all. But they all went to university and made good money. Of course. They grew up in a different world, one where doing well was expected as quite natural.

African-Americans h ave a high rate of poverty. They aren't more stupid that white Americans. They are growing up in a world that still has not shaken off the effects of all the years of slavery and persecution and bigotry. Much the same can be said of native peoples. And, if you're prepared to be really brave, there is a good deal in the history of this province to explain its rates of poverty.

Meanwhile, if de Adder wants to draw cartoons about welfare recipients, let him draw ones about the biggest welfare recipients in the province, the ones with names like Irving, Ganong, and McCain.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 29: Understanding protests

The university and college student strike, along with its demonstrations and its confrontations with police, has been making news in Canada, across Europe, and even in Asia. But not in the closed little world of the Moncton Times and Transcript. Eventually, it will dawn on one of the deeper thinkers at the paper that something is happening. Unfortunately, even the deepest TandTer never goes deep enough to get his or her ankles wet. So all we're likely to get is a rant that students are all spoiled brats. One can even guess who will  write that column.

However, this is a complicated issue with lots of lots of potential for real trouble. It's also complicated because it points to a need to re-examine what our colleges and universities are about. Let's start with the potential for real trouble - trouble that could well go far beyond Quebec.

Popular faith in democratic government, especially in North America and Europe, is the lowest it's been since the rise of fascism in the 1920s to the 40s. Voter turnouts are low. Obama, the great hope of just a new years ago, has become the great disappointment. Only the willfully blind can ignore the corruption of Congress, the control of elections by big money, the real power of the defence industry.

No national leader in Canada has anything close to majority support. The power of money in government is openly flaunted - nowhere more so than in New Brunswick.

Britain is close to chaos as its Conservative government is proving incompetent; and the Labour Party is still suffering the damage to its purpose, its principles and its integrity inflicted by Tony Blair. In Europe, neo-fascist parties are on the rise..

All of this has been made worse by the unlimited greed, criminality and, it must be admitted, sheer incompetence of major banks and other corporations in conducting their own affairs, and in interfering in the affairs of the rest of us.

Luckily for the large corporations, they've had enough muscle in government to make sure the clean-up bills are paid by everybody but them. While poverty in the US has risen to levels unmatched since records began, corporations and the wealthy get all their bills paid by the taxpayers - and are now making even bigger profits. Throughout Canada, the US and Europe, the poor are getting even poorer, the rich richer - even though it was the behaviour of the rich that caused the crisis.

At this moment, the US Congress is considering a bill to cut back on food stamps and medical care for the poorest of the poor. The purpose? So they can cut taxes on the very rich even more while still handing lush contracts to the defence industry.

Countries like Greece, Spain, Britain, Ireland are in even worse shape as they face decades of high levels of poverty in order to pay for the bailouts of the rich. Youth unemployment, in particular, is running at fifty percent in Spain. That's one reason we're seeing a rise in fascism in Europe.

Add to that profound unease and distrust of both government and business over issues like oil and gas drilling, climate change, social services - and the whole world is littered with political and social bombs,any one of which can be exploded with a good shake - setting off all the rest. (and that doesn't even consider the time bomb that is China. It has the justified dissatisfaction of its own people to worry about.)

The student protest in Quebec has already linked up envronmentalists who distrust the Quebec government's plan to open up the far north to industrial activity. It has also linked up with educators, with groups concerned with social programmes, with government corruption.....

Nor do borders mean much to social movements. The Times and Tribune does not seem to have figured that out. But other newspapers in Canada have. Even the Times of India takes the potential for spread seriously enough to give major coverage to the strike next door to New Brunswick.

The weakening of democracy by the obvious control of governments by big business, the rise of poverty even as the wealthy increase their wealth, the widespread and incompetent interference of big money in areas of social planning; the rise of government suppression and domestic spying...these and many other factors make this one hell of an explosive situation. It needs only one spark - even if that spark comes from a faraway place like Quebec.

And that's not the whole story. The other part starts in Scotland.

In the year 1562, very few children but the children of the rich - all over the world - could go to school. There were not many rich in Scotland. Indeed, it was perhaps the poorest country in Europe. That's why so many Scots could find no employment except as mercenaries in foreign armies. Scots were the bulk of the army of the Netherlands. They served in the French armies - and with such a reputation for fighting that they were the bodybuards for Joan of Arc.

But educated, they weren't. Then the Presbyterian church was established over much of the country. Where Roman Catholic churches had stressed unquestioning obedience to the clergy, even conducting its services in Latin - a language that the parishioners and even some of the clergy could not understand, Presbyterianism, though,  demanded that each person come to  his or her own understanding of The Bible. That meant everyone had to learn to read. But there were no schools for most of the people.

Accordingly, the church extablished parish schools so that every child could learn to read and write.
Scotland would not set up national public schools until 1872, But public schooling for everyone who wanted it was available 450 years ago. That is why Scotland, the poorest and most backward country in Europe has produced more great thinkers and writers per capita than any country in the world.  That's why so many of the great business leaders of the Empire - espcially Canada, were Scots. The first prime minister of Canada was a Scot. So was the second.

And the public school systems of Canada and the US not only were based on the Scottish model, but were often dominated by Scottish educators well through the twentieth century.  Without that Scottish influence on schooling, North America would never have produced the doctors, business leaders, engineers that made it the most prosperous part of the world.

But universities remained private institutions. That meant that, with few exceptions, only the well-off could afford to become doctors or lawyers or engineers. In many cases, perhaps most, university was really four years of drinking for the sons of wealthy families while the  professors did their own thing in research and writing. In short, the university never really became a teaching institution. Professors were - and, for the most part, remain - quite ignorant of and indifferent to anything that has to do with education.

In educational terms, our universities are dysfunctional. Almost all teaching is by rote (memorizing). That works for the student who is going to work in a field like accounting - or, at least, the accounting courses will work because the student will be using that memorized knowledge for the rest of his or her life.

But if the course is not job training (and most of them aren't) it is a waste of everybody's time, mostly forgotten within months of the exam. I taught history. Not one percent of my students would become historians.  There's a lot to be learned from history that wouldn't be forgotten - such as how to analyze an argument, how to get and judge the worth of information, how to reason, how to communicate, to get realistic sense of how people behave and why....

But take a look at any university calendar. Look for Canadian History 101. You'll find it has a title soomething like Canada from the beginning to now. And you know this is going to be simply somebody reading notes to you when you could get book and read it for yourself - and it's all for memorizing.

University teachers know close to nothing about education - and they don't want to know. Prestige and status don't come from teaching. They come from research and publication. The result is a mad rush to find the newest, hottest, in-topic and to publish something about it - which usually means publishing it in expensive journals that few people ever read. And there they lie for eternity.

As a way of teaching, this is both useless and expensive. Library costs are driven high for all that research that doesn't matter in the first place. So they can have the time to do their research that nobody really cares about, professors' teaching hours are kept down to six to nine a week with of course, a quarter of the year off to do just research.

Universities are made expensive by their own status-seeking which is encouraged by pseudo-scientific ratings such as those in MacLean's Magazine, by a public that buys into the university prestige delusion. and by the intellectual snobbery of professors.

For a good half of the population, university is unreachable - not because of lack of brain but because of lack of money.

Yes, you can go if you're poor. Been there. Done that. But it's hard slogging, and years of debt to attend medieval institutions that don't know what they claim to be doing. Indeed, most of my student days - expecially including graduate school - were spent not in learning the truth but in learning what the professors wanted me to say. And it was spent not in learning history, but in learning the peculiar snobberies and social values of the academic world.

That's what makes universities so expensive. And the expense adds another problem.

In their desperate search for money, the universities go, cap in hand, to big business. Corporate leaders, as generous donors, are allowed to  dominate university boards of governors, frequently making all major deicisons about the university. And what corporation want is not places of learning, but places of training.

They want programmes devoted to skills useful to business. The hell with this thinking stuff. They also want students with the "right" sort of political views. So they encourage the hiring of professors in fields like economics and political science who will toe the appropriate political line. They also fund chairs (jobs) for professors who will be useful fronts for them in the the ideological bent of their teaching -and in prividing quotations for the press.

In short, corporations are buying universities as they have already bought goveronments. As well, universities are hopelessly out of touch with education and, if anything, have contempt for teaching.  To make it worse, by making it almost impossible for half of our population to go to university, we are doing what Scotland did until 450 years ago  - throwing away the potential of millions who could contribute to this country.

All of this is mixed up, sometimes only half-understood but with enough understanding to generate anger. It's a crisis coming, as inevitably as the first summer movie, to a place near you. It has the potential to reach every part of the world. It has the potential to link up and to detonate the many other dissatisfactions in our world.

That's why it's important for a nwspaper to cover it - and to cover it with intelligence.

That's why Norbert's coming commentary on how they're all just spoiled brats isn't going to help a whole helluva lot..

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 28: The columnists

We can spare time to talk about newspaper columns today because there's almost nothing in the day's Moncton Times and Tribune worth reading - except for the columns by Bill Belliveau and Gwynne Dyer, and the whole Whatever section, this time packed with the usual good writing by the usual columnists, and with three, iimpressive pages of Frye Festival winners in the school writing division..

Columns are what give meaning to the news. The news will tell  you, with every new war, that the west is trying to bring democacy to the world. A good columnist will point out that the west doesn't have the slightest desire to spread democracy anywhere. It wants governments that do what they're told to do - and that means whatever is profitable for western business. You'll see more than a hint of that message in today's column by Gwynne Dyer. Dyer is unbiased, intelligent, well-informed,  a good writer and a good columnist.

For Canadian political news, the best could be Jeffrey Simpson of the Toronto Globe and Mail. You will never understand Candian politics by reading the news reports about House of Commons debates. But Jeffrey Simpson cuts through all the fuzz with a first-rate mind, long experience and, like Dyer, no bias.

Alec Bruce is in much the same category as Dyer and Simpson - and is also fine writer with more, much more, than the usual wit. Even among the best columnists, he's an outstanding writer. I can enjoy reading him even when I don't agree with what he's saying. (No. I don't know him.)

The TandT is also strong in some specialty fields. On questions of women's place in the world, Jody Dallaire ranks with the best. You will learn far more of women's issues in one of her columns than you will in dozens of news reports. Generally, the Moncton Times is well served by its once-a-week specialty columns.

It is even well-served, sometimes, by Bill Belliveau. He does his homework. He writes well. But, oh,  I wish he would stop carrying that sign in the shape of a big hand pointing at him - with the word  Liberal written on it.

But writing a column is a business.- and business has been known to corrupt whatever it touches. Daily newspapers are usually owned by wealthy people who have social, economic and political ideas that they want to spread. Being wealthy, they can afford to pay well for columnists who will say the right sort of things.

The name of Mark Steyn springs to mind. Steyn is a clever and excellent writer. I don't know whether he believes what he writes. But in the years I have read his column, I have yet to see one that any ultra-conservative, closed minded and bigoted millionaire would not read with a gentle smile.
Hint. He has frequently written for The National Post - which the Times and Transcript seems to have some connection with for national news.

Goerge Jonas, also National Post, is another like Steyn, but less gifted with brains and style.

David Frum, same paper, lacks anything that could be called knowledge. But he was raised to believe that, as the child of a wealthy family, he had a right to be wealthy, too, and to be influential. I'm sure he's quite sincere in his arrogance and in his prejudice. He's very welcome among very rich people.

Then there's Barbara Amiel of MacLean's. Shrill, ambitious, self-righteous and heavily biased, she has found her perfect mate in life.

Then there's the staff - written columns in the editorial and op ed pages.

Editorials are, as in most papers, a write-off. Editors know how to put together a newspaper. Usually, that's all they know. You can find evidence of that in just about any TandT editorial.

Norbert Cunningham used to be an editor, probbly a dreadfully fussy and cranky one with his knickers constantly in a twist.

The staff writers on the op ed page are the sort of people who corner you at a party to tell you long and pointless stories. A recent one, on who is the greatest rock star in the world, was a scandalous waste of a third of a page. It was so trivial, it would have been rejected even by the super-market tabs which scream "Pregnant Kate in tears as hubby prince leaves her to become groupie for Lady Gaga".

All of the staff written columns are ill-informed (the editorials), uninformed and cranky  (like Norbert's) or unspeakably trivial (and to the trivial, I would add the weekly Washington report.) None of them will add anything to anybody's understanding of the news. And that  tells you all you need to know about The Moncton Times and Transcript.

It is not sold to tell us the news or to help us to understand. This is a newspaper designed to keep its readers in ignorance of what is happening in the world, to keep us obedient to our masters. It is designed to destroy the essential elements of democracy - information, public discussion, informed debate. It is designed to create a passive population.

And there's more than a little evidence it  has succeeded.

Tomorrow is my sleep-in day. But there's a huge story the TandT has missed. It's centred in Quebec - for now. It's the students's strike. (I know, Norbert. They're all just spoiled brats.)  And it's a story that could be the start of somethiing very big, indeed.Might try it tomorrow.

Friday, April 27, 2012

April 27: The facts of news - and the opinions columns

My apologies for missing yesterday. Sick computer. I'm also not sure whether this is will be in paragraphs. For some reason, my blog site has been wiping out the paragraph breaks in transmission. So  I will close each paragraph with a series of dashes like this--------just to be safe-----------

Oh, and this is post number 600. And now on to the topic. .----------

Commentary columns are not just frills added to a newspaper. They are what make the newspaper understandable (if they're done properly). News comes in small bits, often reported by people who know nothing of the subject.  For example, government may set a new curriculum. The reporter can tell you that about it, maybe even include a few points that are in it.---------------------------------

But most reporters have no training whatever - and no experience -  in education. They can report only what they're told. They have no idea whether it makes sense. The don't even know whether the information is really new, or an old record replayed - or simply irrelevant.------------------------------------------------------------

For example, when Moncton High was closed for a time with students relocated to Edith Cavell, TV, radio and newspaper reporters gave the fullest possible coverage of a protest by Edith Cavell parents. But the protest was irrelevant. Only a minute percentage of the parents took part in it. Nor was it a matter in which the DEC had any choice. There was really no story, and no point wasting time on it. But they all did.------------------------------------------

There were much bigger things happening in education at the time. There was a vicious and ignorant series of attacks on the schools and the DEC and the teachers by The Moncton Times and Tribune. There was massive and dangerous interference in the schools by the Atlantic Insistute of Marketing Studies.-----------------------------

But nobody in the news media understood anything about that. They understood so little, from cub reporter through assignment editors to Editor in Chief, that they didn't know enough to realize what was going on.  But a meaningless protest with a few people shouting? Wow! That was news; and the reporters and photgraphers outnumbered the protesters----------------------------------

At the end of our bombing of Libya, Harper praised the Canadian who commanded it. He said the commander had shown a brilliant sense of strategy. I watched and listened and read for some sign of a reporter who might, at least, have opened a dictionary to look up 'strategy'. Apparently, none did. (The Canadian air commander was not responsible for strategy, that is, for the general conduct of the war. He was responsible for tactics. But neither the reporters nor their editors - nor Mr. Harper - knew the difference between strategy and tactics.)-------------------------------------------------

Most people in the news business report and opinionate on topics they know very little about. That's why editorials are usually a waste of time and eyesight. After all, editorial writers are just old reporters. They're older, but no wiser. -----------------------------------------------

Add to that the greater problem that most news media and their sources are heavily biased, often because of their ownership.  For example, Reuter's consistently uses as a source for news of Syria an outfit called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Despite its impressive name, the "observatory" is one man - in England.. He runs a clothing store. And he is a front for rebel propaganda.-----------------

The results show. In the case of Syria, most westerners believe the struggle there is one for democracy. It isn't. There are few "good guys' on either side.  Nor do the western power have the slightest desire to see any democracy there.  ......................

Similarly, a majority of Americans (and many Canadians) believe that the Taliban were involved in 9/11. They weren't. It's widely believed, still, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He didn't. Then there's the story that the leader of Iran said he would  wipe out Israel. He didn't. Recetnly, even the Isaeli government admitted he said no such thing. But I'll bet you never read that report, either. (You would, if you had read the Israeli newspaper 'Haaretz'.)-----------

Nor is it likely you have heard of read of the American soldier, private Bradley Manning, who has been held, without charge or lawyer, in a military prison in the US for a year - in solitary and with torture. UN human rights officials have not been permitted to see him. He has at last been charged, and is facing military justice (which means no justice at all) in a court whose work is done entirely in secret, and based on evidence obtained by the torture. He will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison.------------------------------------------------

His crime? He had a hand in gathering the wikkileaks information that proved the American government had been lying to the American people for years.  Meanwhile, another American soldier, one who deliberately killed almost 30 civilians, mostly women, didn't get even a day in jail. --------------------------

Remember the Arab spring, the revolutions that were to bring democracy to the Arab world? Notice there's still quite a shortage of democracies? Notice that some of the worst dictatorships in the Arab world are the ones our our side - like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates?------------------------

Read much in the news about the Chinese treatement of Tibet? About Harper's lack of interest in discussing the subject with China? About the high death rate among civilians as a result of drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen? About the dradful butchery and the high cost of a war in Aghanistan that was lost years ago?-----------------------------------------

At best, you can't learn much about the  news by following the news. In the case of The Moncton Times and Transcript (and some other local source like CTV and private radio), what gets in the way of any useful local news is self-censorship and ignorance. Their national and international news comes from highly baised sources.-----------------------------

It is not possible to understand what is going on in the world by following the news.  That's why we need the comment columns. But there are things to watch out for even in those. Tomorrow, we'll take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of relying on columnists.------------

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26 mea culpa

I'm having a computer

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25: Democracy in the dark

In the last provincial election, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives had anything that could be called a platform. The closest was an Alward statement that he would listen. Oh, and there was a vague suggestion that we have to prepare for globalization. Since no politician seemed to know what that meant, and since none had given any thought to how we would prepare for it, that was kind of a blank. The result was that New Brunswickers voted Conservative - simply because they were mad at the Liberals. Now they're mad at the Conservatives. Third parties can't be a factor in an election because they're close to invisible. Nobody knew much of what they stood for. How could they know? The Moncton Times and Transcript rarely mentioned third parties - and didn't mention them at all in its last issue before the vote. Nor is this the sort of city in which voters will make the effort to go to public meetings to find out what these parties are all about. That's why this city draws developers and fast buck artists like clams at low tide draw gulls. I'm astonished at how many candidates in this municipal election (and the school district ones) are urging voters to pick them because they have experience. Since most of that experience seems to have been in making bad decisions, you'ld think they would hide it. Others are going to do good things. We don't know what the good things are. But it's reassuring that nobody is promising to do bad things. So far, I've seen only a couple I would vote for. One is in my district. I don't entirely agree with him. But I know him to be intelligent and honest. Another is a friend for whom I have a high regard. Both have what is missing in most other candidates - a sense of what the major problems facing the city are, and both are scrupulously open and honest. As for the school district elections - what a disaster area! Most seats are uncontested. And the TandT has not mentioned what any of them stand for, or even what a DEC does. A newspaper should be pressing candidates to take positions on what they see as the major priorities, and on what they plan to do about them. There are some major problems about to come crashing down on this city. Some will take time - maybe a decade - but the next election will be too late to start planning for them. For a few hints - the age of fossil fuels is coming to and end. It may be supply. It may be costs. It may be environmental damage. But it's coming to an end. That has enormous implications for transit, city layout, home heating... And it's coming soon - to you. Then there's the recession. For those who haven't noticed, it has created severe hardship in countries like Spain, Greece, Ireland, Britain, problems so severe that the basic social and political structure is threatened. The US is almost as badly off. The economic situation is so unstable that even China is at risk. Can anyone seriously believe that Canada can escape when all its trade partners are in trouble? So what does this mean that MOncton can and and should (and shouldn't)do in the next few years? A newspaper should be pushing the candidates on this. It should have special reports (written by people who know what they're talking about) on what problems we have to face, what solutions we should be considering, what our priorities should be. It's not happening. There has been no substantial discussion in the Times and Transcript. Somebody did write a column urging people to vote. On what? Where is the information people need to cast an informed vote? Where is the public discussion and debate? Of course, we're going to have a low turnout. Of course, we're going to elect more than a few bozos and fronts for special interests. Democracy can't possibly function without informatin and public discussion. I've seen precious little of either in Moncton, and none of it in the Moncton Times and Transcript. The only items in today's paper worth reading are Alec Bruce and two letters to the editor, one on school bullying, and one on a local impact of CBC cuts. Norbert's columns just get crankier and wilder. This time it is about how Harper's tough on crime laws are good because Harper represeents the people (unlike other arrogant parties that don't). Hint, Norbert. More people voted for the arrogant parties than voted for Harper. Eric Lewis wastes half the op ed page on that burning issue of our time - that Nickelback might be the world's biggest rock act. Lord love a duck. The Moncton Times and Transcript. The paper that stands for ignorance and juvenilia, the paper that is helping to make us and our children pay a heavy price for our ignorance and juvenility.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24: people are who cares?

The Moncton Times and Transcript has no follow-up on the Fredericton man from Congo who was on a hunger strike to draw attention to human rights abuse in Congo. When he ended the strike, he was able to induce premier Alward to call PM Harper, and urge on him the need to draw world attention and action to that desperate situation. The only serious attention I've seen paid to this case in the TandT has been an op ed piece by a staff writer who said he thinks the hunger strike was a waste of time. To a degree it was. It is almost laughable to think of Alward having any influence with Harper on such a matter. It is also laughable to imagine that Harper didn't already know all about it. After all, the abuse, including mass murder, has been going on for over a century. It's also laughable to think Harper would do anything about it. Those abuses - the murders, the tortures, the starvation, the suffering - do wonders for the profit margins of large corporations that operate in Congo, most of them from the West, including some from Canada. And it's a safe bet that some of those Canadian outfits are contributors to Mr. Harper's election expenses. Harper doesn't give a damn what's happening to people in Congo. Nor do any of his fellow national leaders in the western world. But the hunger strike was still worth while. We've seen over a century of fighting the abuses in Congo. (Read Conrad's Heart of Darkness.) One hunger striker is not going to end it. But it's a step - and I admire him for doing it. Now, if we could only get our newspapers to tell what 's going on, people wouldn't have to starve themselves to get a little bit of attention to it. In NewsToday, a story worth thinking about. "Ignatieff predicts sovereign Quebec". He may well be right - but not for the few reasons given in the story. Canada was founded along a raiway line. The port of Montreal made that city the natural business centre, whose rails sustained it, even through the winter, with the colonies to the East, and to those that would develop in the West. The result was a country focussed on Montreal and, later, Toronto, tapping the resources in agriculture, fishery and forests from coast to coast, and closely connected for invedstments and market to the British Empire. Historians, then, explained the borders of Canada largely in terms of the line of communication that originally connected in parts, and that the railway supplemented the great river. That is called the Laurentian thesis. I dutifully studied that during my student days. But it was obvious then (or should have been) even to a student that such a Canada no longer existed. Our trade no longer goes from Montreal, Vancouver and Halifax to Britain and its empire. It goes south to the US. Big business was slow to catch on. But it did and, after years of condemning those who wwanted free trade, suddenly told Mulroney to get on his horse and deliver free trade - with the US. The glue that held Canadian to teach other and to Britain melted. We don't have an centre any more. And putting up pictures on every bare wall in the country, and holding a party for the War of 1812 isn't going to change that. From 1867 to World War Two, at most, big business needed a Canada. It no longer does. There is very little holding Canada together - and Harper has several more years to dispose of that little - as he has been doing. Yes. Quebec might separate. That would put its French-apeaking status in a weaker position than ever since its major partner, the US, is not likely make concessions to yet another language group. It's also possible that Alberta, always ideologically closer to the US than to the rest of Canada, might separate along with its oil. In 1867, Big business needed a Canada. In 2012, it doesn't need a Canada; and it's quite possible it doesn't want one. And Harper is not Canada's servant. He's the servant of big business. When scientists at UNB issued a report criticizing that shale gas drilling poses huge risks, The TandT couldn't ignore it. But they could hide it. So here's a lesson in how to hide a story, and how to not tell the truth without actually lying. First, bury the story on the last page of NewsToday (C8). Then switch the focus a little so it seems to be a story encouraging the shale gas industry. Downplay the space given to the dangers of the water-based shale gas drilling we're doing now. Put the emphasis on the positive. "Experts suggest shale alternatives". Yes, yes. There are safe ways of doing it. (Though, in fact, the 'safe' ways still leave many problems untouched.) Yes, it's safe. So we can just keep going as we are, not worry, because someday we might move to the safe way and then it will be okay. Did you understand that? Good. You are now qualified to be an editor for the TandT. The big news, I guess, is that helium for party balloon is in short supply. But we still have plenty in Moncton. That made front page. Of course, the downtown events centre features in an editorial and on the op ed page. Look - suppose the events centre does attract shops and restaurants. If those are new businesses, they will force existing ones out of business. If they aren't, then we are paying a hundred million simply to move some restaurants. An events centre might create new businesses downtown. But since the population isn't likely to grow a hundred millions dollars worth, much of the business will have to come from malls. Where's the gain? The events centre is a hare-brained scheme to win emotional approval for an over-priced and not essential hockey arena in order to make a rich man happy. If he wants to be happy, let him use his own money to do it. Moncton has some real priorities. One is a mass transit system. We are heading for a disaster in that area. Almost every city in the world is trying to cope with it. It's time Moncton starting thinking about it, too. Otherwise, we are going to end up with a huge debt for an events centre that few people can reach. The events centre is a rip-off;it's short-sighted; and it is going to deprive this city of things it really needs. Ah well, Norbert does his usual impersonation of a dyspeptic old fart. (admittedly, it's a really good imitation.) Alec Bruce has one the few, intelligent and informed comments I've seen about New Brunswick's reliance on immigrant workers. There's also a good letter to the editor by George Jonah of Moncton. I wish more people at the TandT could write like Mr. Jonah.

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23: No news is......

no news.

Most small city and regional newspapers have pretty bland news about their own region. The don't want to offend advertisers (or protential advertisers like be developers). So they play it safe by concentrating on news that won't offend anybody important - which means anybody who has lots of money or is friends with Mr. Irving. Fires are usually safe features, and make great pictures. Car accidents are good. Photos of children are excellent.

Local volunteers are good. So are pictures of employees (company name prominently displayed) holding up a cheque for the money they have raised for a local, worthy cause (not the anti-shale gas movement or the La Presse Libre de Moncton Free Press.)

If this is what you look for, you'll love today's Section A.

The Irving papers are not different from other small papers in this respect. They're just worse.

The Life and Times section is at the average level for a small, third-rate paper. that's because they're all packaged in the same place, and sent around.

The News Today Section? This is stuff chosen, seemingly, at random with no thought to whether it's important to readers. (a teen-age boy was shot at a drug party - in Edmonton. So?)

The lead story, that a pop singer seems to be recovering from an illness could as well have been in Life and Times. I'm glad to hear he's getting better. But this is not a major piece of world news. Nor is it likely to have any effect on our world.

The story of a quarter-million strong Earth Day march in Montreal is so big it couldn't be ignored - but almost entirely lacking in meaning to us since the TandT has ignored other events surrounding it. Here is the setting.

For months, Montreal university and college students have been on a strike, an often violent strike with riot police and tear gas and batons a regular feaure. Yes, yes, I know. Norbert will write a granny column on how the students are all spoiled brats. Maybe so. But it has an importance beyond that -an importance to us.

Across the western world, we are seeing movements that express disillusionment with governments. They may be concerned with student fees or shale gas or northern development or the wage spread. But they have in common a profound distrust of government, and a sense that democracy has been betrayed by politicans and by the weealthy, that we are being cheated. (and they're not wrong. It's quite obvious, despite the reporting of the TandT, that the very wealthy and their corporations are quite brazenly putting democracy in the dumpster.)

These movements are spread across North America and Europe, and, though their concerns are varied, they feel a bond with each other. In short, the western world has thousands of packages of dynamite just waiting for the moment - the riot, the police attack,the accident - the match that will set them all off.

You wouldn't think that from reading the TandT. But serious newspapers around the world are watching it. I've seen almost nothing about the Montreal student strikes - or about the natural alliances they are forming with environmentalists (including the 250.000 for Earth Day) and other groups. I didn't read it in the Times and Transcript. But I did find the Full story about Montreal and what it means in Saturday's Times of India.

Now, you know, If India thinks this is important enough to people in India to know - wouldn't you think it might possibly have some impact on New Brunswick? Even on Moncton?

National and foreign news in the TandT is brief, scattered, with no sense of how this might affect us. The news editors seem to simply take whatever piece from Reuters or Postmeida (both highly prejudiced sources) and run them. This is worse than no news at all.

Skip the paper. If you want better foreign and even national news, it's as easy as going to news on Google. If you want a harder edge, go to International Clearing House of the web.

Then there are the editorial and op ed pages.

Read the editorial. It is about the shortage of help for students with special needs in New Brunswick. For a start, one has to wonder why being an editor gives a person any qualification to write on education. What next? An opinion on how doctors should perform brain surgery?

Then read the last sentence. It says that parents of children with special needs should not expect extra help in school. They "...should understand there are only so many dollars to go around."

Can you, for even a moment, believe that an editor for the Times and Transcript would have written that line if Mr. Irving had made a demand for 300 million for a shipyard?

This is also from the editor urging us to borrow a hundred million, primarily to satisfy a wealthy hockey team owner.

Norbert? What can I say? He thinks the big issues in the civic election are noisy cars and pesticides. I yield to none in my concern for those issues. But there are some even more important.

Craig Babcock thrills us with the information that the police have to tackle both major and minor crimes. I look forward to his next revelation - that they also work on medium crimes.

Allen Abel has his usual pointless story - this time about going to a baseball game in Washington.

Good cartoon by de Adder.

Brilliant column by Alec Bruce. He shines like a star in that paper. He is, in the words of an old song, "...a lonely little petunia in an onion patch."

Oh, as I read the rules for their web subsecription, it seems you have to take all the Irving papers to get a cheap rate. Well, gee! Surely getting one of them is punishment enough.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 21: page B 7 - a news story that is a news story...

Adam Huras of the Legislature Bureau is the reporter. First, it's on shale gas, a topic the Moncton Times should have been reporting on about a thousand times more than it has. Nice to see a reporter take a look at it.

Secondly, Huras reports both sides of the story - and does it without evident bias or loaded language.

Yes, I would have liked a little more. For example, while we are told the number of inspectors we have to police shale gas drilling, we get no idea of what an adequate number is. We have only Mr. Northrup's word for that. Nor do we have any idea of what training inspectors need - and what training ours have.

Nor do we know whether the government will enforce its inspectors' ruling. And the record here is not promising.

More questions would have been helpful. But here. at least, we have the TandT getting the bssics right. I would give this a C. (After all, we expect professional reporters to get the basics right.)

Generally, there's nothing much in NewsToday. (I would have been surprised if there were.) The big news is of a plane crash in Pakistan that killed 127).

But so what? Quite seriously, so what? How does this affect us in any way? What does it call on us to do? Plane crashes or bus crashes, sometime ferry sinkings, in remote parts of the world usually get a big spread. Why?

They're terrible, yes. But far, far more people are killed every day by starvation, lack of medical help, brutal working conditions, drones.... These are things we can do something about. But they rarely make the news.

As well, news reports of foreign affairs seldom give us any useful information. For openeners, foreign correspondents are commonly liars. They're propaganda agents for our side. For example, they have been reporting from the start how well we are doing in Afghanistan. In fact, it has been a major disaster. The only reason Canadian troops are still there, risking their lives, is so that Harper will not look like a fool (to put it kindly) for having sent them in a combat role in the first place.

The story on the Congolese man in Fredericton who has ended is hunger strike tells us almost nothing of what it's about. The story of Congo ever since the European powers handed it over to the King of Belgium well over a century ago is one of the most horrible stories of slavery, torture, brutality, stavation, mass murder and pillage in history, a story that still goes on today. Nobody knows how many millions have been murdered. (The King of Belgium was given Congo to introduce it to Christianity and modern ways. He sure did.)

Canadian business has played a major role in this. And the failure of Harper (and his predecessors) to recognize that is beneath contempt. In all the reports of the hunger strike we have seen, there is no sense of that. In fact, at least one deep thinker at the TandT has dismissed the hunger strike as a waste of time.

There is really no point to the TandT having news stories on foreign affairs. It is far easier to get foreign news on radio and TV. (Not better, just easier.)

What would be far more useful for readers would be for the TandT to buy commentators like Gwynn Dyer who are superb at what they do, and who can give us the analysis we need to understand the news.

(Television tries to do news analysis; but it's a terrible medium for that purpose. TV is passive, mostly just sitting back and looking at flickering colours and changing camera angles. If you're a fan of hairdos, watch TV. If you want serious understanding, the best medium for it is print.)

In short, there is no point to reading most newspapers for news. You can get the bare news (plane crashes, Moncton floods, Kate and what's-his-name break up) quicker and more easily on TV.

If you want understanding, you need print - but you need it by people who are honest and who know what they are talking about.

In other 'news', Ken Marshall, Atlantic Regional President (roll of drums) for Rogers packs some wallop with the Times and Transcript. Yesterday we had a front page article apologizing for some story that went around about the parking lot at Rogers. It's one of those issues that I find it hard to give a damn about. But, apparently, Ken Marshall (drum roll) really has his knickers in a twist about it.

Yesterday, it was a front page, down on all fours, whining and slobbering apology by Brent Mazerolle. Today, it's a slobbering editorial, no less.

How different, how very different from the way the editorialist can treat bus drivers, and the way the cartoonist can make fun of people on welfare.

Norbert is, well, Norbert. In today's column, he proves he doesn't know what Soviet communism was. (Hint, it wasn't communism. It was a form of capitalism.)

On environment, he says it is misguided to put much faith in governments (way to speak up for democracy, Norbert.) He says many businesses have been way ahead of the politicians. Yeah. Like oilsands and the shale gas industry.

By the way, Norbert mentions the serious deterioration of our oceans. So how come the TandT hasn't been reporting on it? Too busy kissing up to Ken Marshall? (drum roll). Yesterday, but not in the TandT, the big story was the extent of damage caused the the Gulf of Mexico by an oil rig disaster. Remember that one? It's yet to make the Times and Transcript.

As an example of where commentary is more useful than news, take a look at Bill Belliveau's column on Harper's decision to close certain prisons while, at the same time, creating more prisoners.

I spent some time in one of those prisons - as a day visitor, working with violent prisoners. Most people can have no idea of how vile our prisons are, and how they take in extraordinarily dangerous people to make them worse. (When Belliveaus mentions double-bunking, think of it a moment. Rape in prisons is already common and vicious. What will double-bunking do to produce people who a gentler view of the human species?)

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20: May I lick your boots, Mr. Rogers?

The second editorial dumps all over the bus drivers of Moncton who have the nerve to ask, like Oliver Twist, for more. I have never, in the years I have read the Irving press, never, ever seen a comment in favour of any union on any issue. They will kiss the rear ends of people who earn $25000 and more an hour, who make more in that hour than thousands of harder-working people make in a year (and who pay a higher percentage in tax. More than that, they will demand we give those people billions in loans, resources, tax breaks, gifts - and then refer to those who rip us off as philanthropists.

But bus-drivers who would like to earn one-thousandth much as our masters are dumped on.

Even the most hick of billionaires gets paid more than all the world's political leaders put together (except for the most corrupt ones.) Is it tougher or more important to run a shipyard than to govern hundreds of millions of people?

Now, switch to page one to read Brent Mazerolle's column on the Rogers parking lot. (Be careful not to touch it. It's soaked in slobber.) It seems the president of Rogers Communications for the Atlantic region (Wow! I bet he gets more than $25 an hour). Anwyay, it seems this worthy is hurt by reporting about the parking lot of the company he loves. Yes, that's the heart-rending word - loves.

I shall not raise the obvious queston about his mating habits. But read the column that falls all over itself apologizing to the important one.

Meanwhile, who gives a damn whether bus drivers can support a family on $25.00 an hour - especially when they have to pay high taxes to make up for those wealthy people who don't?

There's nothing else in section A, unless you really, really care that the Rexton village office is going to move across the street.

The next big story is in section D. Blake and Ryan are looking for a house in Connecticutt. There's even a picture of them standing there. Looking. At something.

Norbert Cunningham writes an incoherent column on David Suzuki as an ideologue. Norbert, pick up a good dictionary. There are at least three, quite different, meanings to 'ideologue'. Moreover, there is probably not one person in a thousand who knows any of those meanings. (Even you, apparently, only know one of them.)

And, contrary to what you seem to think, it is quite common for a scholar to be an ideologue in one or all of the senses. Even you, Norman, are an ideologue - and in the most negative sense of the word. That's the meaning you list under the heading IDEOLOGY in your column. (You're also wrong - or at least misleading - in your bit about the concept of the "noble savage". I have taught on this topic. Would you like me to drop off some of my notes?)

Norbert also claims he is a real environmentalist. Oh? Care to make a book of your columns critical of fracking? or of the foresting practices of your owner? Or of the air pollution problems around the refinery in St. John?

Tell you what, Norbert. Come to my current events group at the Moncton Library - May 1 at 7 pm. I'll give you all the time you like to tell people why you're right, and I'm wrong.

I hope I misunderstand the point of the de adder cartoon. If I do understand it, it is actually loathsome in its bad taste - and I would dare him to draw a similar cartoon about anybody named Irving or Ganong or McCain.

Unlike the story about the Rogers parking lot, this cartoon is an item that deserves a front page apology - with lots of slobber.

The only important story in NewsToday is about the disaster that Harper is shaping up in our penal system.

Well, there is a story that NB will partake in a hydro-fracking study. But that is scarcely a confidence-building statement. Worse, it's being led by the federal government. (Yes, the same government that is cutting review times to let environmentally damaging projects go ahead as quickly as possible.)

Almost the only foreign news is the usual propaganda from Reuters.

Alec Bruce has a column to take very seriously. There are some very ugly and scary changes occuring in the ways we conduct war. (We means the whole world, not just our side.) One of them concerns computers. China is way ahead of us on this; and we are not likely to catch up.

We are facing yet another brick wall. War no longer works. It never worked well. Now, it hasn't worked at all for almost seventy years. Trying to make it work has so disordered spending in the US, that it now has to starve its poor (cutting off foodstamps, medical care, education) to pay for robot weapons and mercenaries because its own citizens in the 'land of the brave' won't service in the military. At that, it still can't beat even small and poor countries.

And we threw away all those years from 1945 to now when we could have built some alternative.

The consequence is the US is heading for a social breakdown - and the only response any American government has shown has been to deny basic rights, to spy on everyone, to arbitrarily arrest and imprison, to build police forces of combat strength, to encourage hysteria. The constitution is close to being a dead letter.

Expect violence, and don't expect the results to be pretty no matter who wins. (Or, just read the news pages of the Irving Press, and you won't even know it's happening.)

Good column by David Suzuki who doesn't seem to realize he's a dissillusioned ideologue.

Two, excellent letters to the editor, 'Cheap food bought with hidden cost' and 'Hunger striker deserves support'.

There is also a self-serving piece of propaganda on the events centre. It, of course, gets the place of honour among letters to the editor - with a border around it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 19: Today is a big day (for me)....

When I began this blog site some 16 months ago, a dozen viewers was a good day. Now, it reaches 150 to 200 a day. It was a long and slow start; but today, perhaps even as a I write this, it will reach a grand total of 30,000 hits.

Curiously, a large number, sometimes as much as 20% of the total has come from the United States. That percentage has been consistent from the start. Why Americans are interested in The Moncton Times, I have no idea.

More surprising has been the recent growth in Russian readers, actually surpassing American readership for the past week.

Of course, most of that could be spy agencies on both sides.

Nothing much in the TandT today. There are a couple of curious articles on fracking. (A10 and A12) It seems the federal government (always picking on corporations) is going to conduct a massive study to see if fracking causes earthquakes - since earthquakes often occur after fracking is carried out.

American studies show that they do. But, says the article, it may not be the fracking that does it. It could be the disposal of the wastewater from fracking.

Isn't that like saying that junk food doesn't cause obesity; it's eating it that causes obesity?

The other one is Alward's announcement that there will be public discussion of the new shale gas regulations once they are published.

????Why does public discussion require his permission? Aren't all government measures open to public discussion?

And why does he tell us a cabinet minister will set the terms for the discussion? In a democracy, isn't it up to us to set those terms?

Young David also has quite an unexpected sense of humour. He says we don't really need much discussion because he says there has "...already been a full blown discussion of shale gas in the news media..."

Actually, the fact that the TandT would actually print such a statement suggests it has a sense of humour, too. Alward and the editorial staff of The Times and Transcript could have the makings of a great comedy team.

NewsToday is the usual blowoff. It's major foreign news, coming from Reuters as usual, gives the impression it is mainly Syrian government troops
that are breaking the ceasefire. Most other sources I have seen, ones that are more reliable than Reuters, have a different opinion - and a wider one. Not only are they saying the rebel forces are ignoring the ceasfire, but they are also chasing any rebels who want democracy out of the country.

Many things are possible in Syria. Democracy is not one of them. Remember Libya? Heard much about the joy of democracy there? Egypt? That's the place where ten candidates, two of them major contenders for the presidency, have been told they're not allowed to run. The African rebellions are not about democracy. And the last thing the US wants to see in Africa is democracy.

On editorial and op ed pages, I have minor quibbles with Alec Bruce and Jody Dallaire - in the only two items in the whole paper worth reading.

For Alec, he underestimates the importance of the War of 1812 to the US. But his general point is dead on. The War of 1812 celebration is a political spin game; and any historian who is associated with it should be ashamed. And, as he says, the Canadian charter of our rights is far superior to anything in the US - or in most other ocuntries. (An American historian of some note once confided to me that no country has ever followed the American model. The idea that the whole world wants American-style democracy is pure myth. Always has been.)

Similarly, I think Jody Dallaire is quite right. I just would not separate morality from human rights as she suggests. I think that morality is fundamental to human rights. Human rights are given because (or if) we love our neighbour, we refuse to kill, or slander, or covet or steal.

The problem is that some people (large numbers of them Christian) think that morality means pointing a self-righteous finger at whatever they disapprove of. Unlike the impression given by some Moncton preachers, there is no commandment that says "That shalt scorn sinners, and pat thyselves on thy backs for being righteous, and shalt get, without need for a security search, a ticket to heaven."

Morality has nothing to do with being vindictive or goody-goody. It is the foundation of any civilized order. I criticize some of our economic leaders not simply because I happen to disagree with their actions and think they are harmful - I disagree because they harmful BECAUSE they are immoral.

For those patient (or lonely)enough to be still reading, I'll try to answer a question from anonymous. It appears in yesterday's comments section and asks re nuclear and missile testing, what the hell is going on in North Korea>

Well, it's one of those simple things that's complicated.

At one level, what North Korea is doing is quite simple and no threat to anybody.

Big countries beat up little ones, steal their resources, and impoverish their people. That's because big ones have better armies. Now - if you were a small country - but could get just one nuclear bomb.... wouldn't shoot it at somebody because that would be suicidal. The big ones also have lots more nuclear weapons to shoot back with . But.....

...if you have one or just a few, the risk of retaliation might, just might, make them decide that the winning wouldn't be worth the cost.

The threats to world peace are not the small players in the nuclear game. It's the big ones, starting with the US, then Russia, China, India, Israel (yes. it's big time). They are the ones that, in a pinch, might start a nuclear war. Those are the ones to worry about - not Britain or France or North Korea - or Iran, (even if it had one or twenty.)

The motivation for North Korea was probably not to threaten anybody. It was to deter. But... But, then there's level 2.

The rulers of North Korea are, you know, people. And, like the people who rule the US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, they can be prone to do foolish, selfish, and short-sighted things.

That's why we're in a world in which capitalism is being destroyed by our leading capitalists, why in the US democracy has been destroyed by American economic and political leaders who benefited from it.

North Korea, like all countries, is like that. Only more so. It is a country that does not exist for any reason other than to serve the vanities and whims of the familiy that rules it. Now, families like that can produce some very odd progeny. You can check the emperors of Rome, for example - or the later generations of wealthy families.

At level 1, what North Korea is doing is very sensible in the context of these insane times. At level 2 - I am damned if I know what is happening.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18: Prime Minister escapes death!!

Just yesterday, the big, foreign news story was that Harper was walking on a beach with his pants rolled up. Today, a nation sighs with relief and church bells are ringing at the news he was not killed in an earthquake in Chile.

We know he survived because reporters asked me if he was alive. And he nodded.

Well, that's not sure proof. But it's encouraging.

In fact, nobody was killed in the earthquake. Nobody was injured. And there seems to have been no damage.

That is the big, foreign news story of the day in The Moncton Times and Transcript.

Why was he in Chile? Who cares? Nobody asked. Canada is facing an economic wall. We have large investments in South America. Those investments flourished in a South America dominated by the US. Now,in their round of meetings with Couth American leaders, Obama and Harper have been told to get stuffed. That suggests a tough future. But not in the pages of the TandT.

Any evidence of shale gas problems (earthquakes, poisoned land and water, escaping methane, illnesses)? Not in the pages of the Times and Transcript - though you will find them in other papers all over the world.

Windsor has had it lease renewed despite having broken regulations and drilling without local permission. They and the others intend to come in, do what they want, push us around, destroy the environment, rip off most of the money to be made while paying the least they can, then leave us with a ruined province and an expensive and impossible bill for the cleanup. All with the full cooperation of the Irving papers. (You know them. They're the ones owed by that great philanthropist.)

Eric Lewis longs for a day when the East Coast Music Awards will be held every day year-round in Moncton. Heavy thinking. Heavy. Somebody give him a yo-yo, and send him out to play.

The only item in the whole paper worth reading is Alec Bruce on David Suzuki. It's sad column about Suzuki and environmentalism; and it mourns what it sees as an anger that has replaced the hope in Suzuki.

I can add just a little to that from my contact with Japanese-Canadians. When the Canadian government , in World War Two, gave Japanese-Canadians in BC twenty minutes to pack whatever they could carry, then took them off first to a cattle barn then to detention camps - and confiscated everything else they owned - they humiliated these Canadian citizens with a humiliation that is as profound today as when it was first inflicted. I have known and worked closely with many of them. They rarely show their anger and humiliation but, oh, it is there and all the more because it is repressed.

Suzuki worked for a oause that could only worsen his feelings toward those who control this country. Corporations, blinded by greed and by short term thinking, and supported by the news media they own, are destroying us. In the longer term, not much longer, they are also destroying themselves. But they are too self-centred and too short-sighted to understand that.

The callousness and stupidity of those who controlled Canada 70 years ago is matched and more than matched by the callousness of stupidity of those who control it tody, assisted by their legions of bootlickers and sell-outs in politics and the news media.

That's why Suzuki might feel angered and discouraged. It's all those 'philanthropists' he has seen in our lives.

As for real news the TandT missed, well....

When I was a kid, I read all about the British Empire and how it spread civilization and Christianity and, oh, did just wonderful things.

Well, when the Empire was collapsing in the fifties, The British government decided it would be wise to burn certain files - tens of thousands of them. It feared they might be misunderstood - you know, stuff about widespread use of torture camps, of beatings, of killing of civlians (quite innocent people..) of plunder, of exploitation. (One of those beaten and damaged for life was a young man in Kenya who simply wanted his country to be free. He was arrested on no charge, and thoroughly beaten by police so that he was crippled. His name was Obama. His grandson later became famous in American politics.

However, it seems some of the files, thousands of them - enough to fill 200 metres of shelves, were not burned, but hidden. And they've just been discovered. And by law, they have to be opened to the public. Interesting. But not interesting enough for the TandT which feels the real issue of the day is we need more music award shows, more poison in our earth and water,and more hockey arenas.

I often wonder whether our economic and political leaders understand the scale of the disaster they are creating for us and for themselves. They are destroying democracy. History suggests that any replacement for democracy will be a horror.

Money and power do not indicate either brains or ability. Kings, emperors and Tsars learned that the hard way - hard for themselves and hard for the people they ruled. We are very close to the edge. Close to the edge across the western world, and beyond it.

And, in New Brunswick, fracking is the issue that may be the last push.

That's why the Times and Transcript seldom mentions it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April17: The debate that ran off the rails....

It was bound to happen. The letters to the editor section has a letter that not only jumps the rails on the lanugage of signs train, but fizzes off into a swamp.

We are told in the letter that the language of signs law is an attack on the freedom that our forefathers (but presumably not foremothers) built - and that our young men (but not women) gave their lives for. The letter also demands that a mayor who supports such a law should stay away from Remembrance Day services which commememorate those who died for freedomm of expression.

Some days, I despair of Canadian's lack of knowledge of the history of this country, and of its wars.

Canada, since 1867, has fought in some half-dozen wars - depending on what you count as a war. Our freedom of expression was not at stake in any of them. In fact, Canadian freedom of expression has suffered more from Canadian leaders than it has from any external enemy this country has encountered. The War Measures Act was not imposed on us by Germany. It was done by our elected government (elected by our forefathers since our foremothers didn't have the vote at the time.) Harper is doing more damage to freedom of expression than Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito could even imagine doing.

We fought in the Boer War because British millionaires wanted us to help them plunder South Africa. We fought in World Wars One and Two because Britain wanted us to (ever wonder why it took the US so long to get into both of those wars? Does that mean Americans were opposed to freedom of expression?)

We fought in the Russian revolution - for reasons that had nothing to do with freedom of expression. Ditto for Korea and Afghanistan. (I taught military history - if anybody cares to debate these points).

I also taught Canadian history. Our forefathers were pretty lax in demanding freeedom of expression. In fact, our foremothers did better than their mates did when they won the vote for women.)

Cool the rhetoric. This is a good example of how things can go haywire, and illustrates how anglo businessmen in Dieppe with brains should have acted more sensibly.

The editorial, "New life for an old school" is the usual, mindless stuff.
It advocates that MHS be preserved as a centre for the performing arts because we can make a lot of money out of it. Do the editorial writers know what a plan for the future is?

In a future that looks like one of continued American decline and increased cost of travel, does it make sense to invest tens of millions (at least) in a tourist draw which may not be in for good days?

And it will be a cultural icon? What culture? This is a city that doesn't think it's culture unless beer is served in plastic cups. What will the city and province do to encoourage culture other than (what Alan Cochrane, in his column) refers to as a kitchen party.

This editorial is an idea for the future that comes right out of the blue, has no reference to any plan, and no sense of what the future might be like. Planning in this city means coming up with almost any idea, then looking for a justification for it.

Most of the rest of the paper just has nothing. Stephen Harper has been in South America on a visit which has illustrated how steeply our influence (and, even more so, US influence) is going down the toilet in this important market. And what is the TandT report? A picture and story about Harper walking on the beach with his pants rolled up.

A full page is given over to speeches by the Liberal leadership contenders, neither of whom have anything of substance to say. They're almost down to the the Alward level when that worthy was blathering about how the real issue to have a government that would listen to us.

These aren't news reports. They're press release, campaign ads. What about other parties besides the conservative liberals and the liberal conservatives? What are their views? Aren't we allowed to know? Doesn't Mr. Irving want the other parties to get public attention? Boy! Talk about freedom of speech...

Meanwhile, there's little to say about this paper because so little of substance is in it. For example, as a result of pressure from corporations and Atlantic Insitute for Market Studies, we have forced on us an education system made expensive by excessive testing, made damaging to the students by all the testing, damaging to teachers and schools because of an absurdly unscientific system of ranking schools - but demanded by corporate bosses who know nothing whatever about education (but everything about arrogance). And who want to get more control over it so they can line their pockets with tax dollars.

The best public school system in the world is Finland's which has only one, standardized test - in grade eleven - and few exams of any sort. It has little in the way of national curriculum, leaving teachers free to do what they are trained to do.

Finns are probably the best educated people in the world. So New Brunswick would be - if we could get the corporate bosses and their political flunkies out of the way. But we're never seen a word about it.

More missing news? Well, they could have carried the story about the phenomenal rates of cancer, leukemia, birth defects (children with no arms or legs, divided brains, etc.) and infant mortality in Iraq as the result of American use of "sophisticated" weapons. Some, like depleted uranium, will be toxic for as long as the planet will last.

There are two items worth reading. Alec Bruce asks questions about the Titanic foofaraw. Richard Gwynne has a very sensible column about the Falklands. (Of course, to understand it, you'll have to get a real newspaper with the story of what's going on in the Falklands.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nov. 16: Northern polar lakes are home to........

....giant monster fish.

Yes. That's a real headline of the lead story of Section C "News Today" in The Moncton Times and Transcript.

Imagine, a giant monster. That's so much more interesting than a midget monster.

Turns out that a researcher caught a big trout up north. But then we are told that people of up north catch them all the time, and have been catching them for centuries.

Oh. So what's the story? Well, there is none. And that pretty well sums up the whole paper for Nov. 16, the one I paid a buck fifty for because the copy I subscribe to rarely gets delivered on time.

Look - if you have an e reader, you can get the best English newspaper in the world for $1.99 a copy. You can get it for a month for under $20.00. It will be there, the instant you wake up. You don't have to creep out barefoot through the snow for it. If you want something edgier, there's The Independent. French? Le Monde is a good paper. You can get them from every continent, in every language. And delivery is easier and more reliable than the Moncton Times and Transcript.

True, they don't usually carry Moncton local news.But, then, neither does the TandT. What it has for local news is small town boosterism, propaganda, and the mandatory photo of four people you've never seen before smiling and holding up a giant cheque from some fast food dealer to the Committee against Obesity.

Today's editorial calls on all Monctonians to turn out and vote in the civic and schools elections, to make their opinons known. How the hell are they supposed to form opinions? The Moncton Times and Transcript doesn't give them any information.

Exactly what is the plan for the City's future? What is it based on? Gas at a dollar thirty for ever and ever? The layout of Moncton now is essentially that of a 1920s village - but with shopping malls. Will that be practical in twenty years? In ten years? Is it practical now?

We need to improve our bus service? Why? Will a bus service be practical in ten years?

In short, you start a plan for the future - not by building a crushingly expensive hockey rink (or convention centre or anything else). You start with an informed evaluation of what real life is going to be like in the future.

That evaluation does not seem to have happened. What we're getting is overexcited councillors snapping up whatever proposal the latest fast buck artist is pushing.

Before we even start planning, we need a capable evaluation of what we're planning for. And a SPECIAL REPORT by Brent Mazerolle does not count as a capable evaluation. The Times and Transcript has told us nothing of what the issues are. It has peddled propaganda for a man who wants us to pay for his hockey rink. And more propganda to move a school to a remote development where it will help a promoter sell houses - when it's probably not a very bright idea for a housing development to be there in the first place.

Every decision in this city - and this province - is spur of the moment, quick buck, lots of hoopla and no thought - and the Moncton Times is a key reason why it happens that way.

The most important world news? Well,the sinking of the Titanic. Ceremonies in Halifax, it seems, brought closure to hundreds of grief-stricken families. Lord love a duck!

Hundreds of families are still grief stricken a century later? Grieving over relatives they never saw and who died decades before they were even born? And a candlelight procession in Halifax brought them closure? That is surely pure slobber. And that's the TandT's idea of news of the day. There's more important news in Miss Manners' column.

Craig Babstock gets his britches in a tangle because a man is going on a hunger strike to move people like us to react to the slaughter, torture, brutalization, robbery that has gone on for almost a hundred and fifty years - with Canadian businessmen right in the middle of it. Millions have died, and are still dying in Congo.It has been one of the most savage episodes in history.

The hunger striker should choose some other method of protesting? Right. Maybe he could appeal to the Craig Babstocks and the Times and Tribunes of this world to tell us about what has been happening in Congo. Good luck on that one.

Babstock ends his self-righteous posturing with a note that he means no disrespect to Ghandi whose hunger strike of 1940s tried to bring peace to India. He means no disrespect to Ghandi? Then what the hell does he mean?

I enjoyed Alec Bruce's column. It's lighter than his usual one, but still a good read.

To my amazement, Allen Abel produced a gritty and chilling column. Read it.

Read also the three letters to the editor on language. Do you think there is the slightest chance that any of those writers changed anybody's opinion?
That's what happens when you have to turn to law to address social problems. I wish the English business people of Dieppe had the brains to realize that. New Brunswick doesn't need a language war. English and French should not be fighting each other. They should be fighting those English business people. That's a war we can win.

Is there any news today's TandT missed? Well...

1.There's the US army Lt. Colonel - born-again, evangelical Christian, super-patriot, proud of the army, three combat tours, highly regarded as a military authority, sent by congress to report on the Afghanistan war. So he did, getting wounded in the process.

His report showed that the US generals have been lying about progress in Afghanistan for years, that the foreign correspondents of the news media (like Reuters) have been peddling those lies without question, that the truth is the war was lost a long time ago. The Afghanistan army and police we are training hate us and NATO and the US far more than they hate the Taliban, that not only will no government survive, but it is likely that Afghanistan has been reduced to such a state of povery and destruction that no society at all will survive, that the people of AFghanistan, even in the cities, are dying of starvation and cold, that hundred of billions have been squandered in corruption both in Afghanistan and the US, and tens of thousands of lives have been squandered.

Congress promptly hid the report. The colonel - remember, he's a seriously evangelical Christian and a patriot, felt honour-bound to put the story out.
So it appeared two days ago in The Guardian. But not in the Moncton Times and Transcript.

2. If you check a site called International Clearing House for last Saturday, you will find a list of over 20 American corporations that paid no income tax whatever - despite each having billions of dollars of profit.

Both Obama and Mitt Romney, very high in income, paid tax at a rate similar to that of someone earning $35,000 a year. How come those stenographers who call themselves reporters at the TandT don't dig up figures for the profits made by Irving industries - and the real tax rate they pay?

That's a private matter? No, it's not. Irving comes to us often enough for gifts and contracts and favours. How much is this outfit costing us? What share of taxes does it pay?

Besides, Obama and Romney both made public their incomes and their taxes. They did it because they were in politics. So is Mr. Irving. He told us that himself over a year ago when he said he was in coalition with the government.

I'm sorry so much of this is not about the Times and Transcript. The trouble is there's really almost nothing in it to talk about. Think about that e reader. And, if you must have the local news, drop into a coffee shop that has free copies of the TandT.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

starting late on a Saturday night....(okay. completed this time.)

There are a couple of stray thoughts that keep coming to mind in recent months. It begins with something I've realized for some time, now. There are certain words that have become so terrible to us that they can no longer be used. Well, they can be used when talking history, when it happened. But you can't use them in any discussion of the world today. Two of those words are fascist and nazi.

It's understood. nazi can be used to describe only a man with a funny moustache and hair combed down over his forehead. a man who worked, starved, gassed innocent people by the million, a little man who shot himself in the mouth some 67 years ago.

Fascist? Well, I think it gets tangled with the little man who shot himself in the mouth - though it's not necessarily the same.

The other stray thought is that I wonder how a highly advanced and educated, fairly religious, sophisticated country like Germany could so easily drift under the control of a crackpot mass-murderer of no special education, a man who had never held a steady job in his life or ever done much of anything.

I mean - that couldn't happen to us.

Could it?

Well, of course not. We were against Hitler from the start. We saw right through him. We even went to war to end his evil rule. Yes.

Actually, that's not true. We did not see right through either Hitler or Mussolini in the 1930s. Nor did we go to war to end his evil rule. It's important to remember that when you read or hear today's news.

Our world is going in the same direction it went in the 1930s. Despite our common beliefs, we did not do see it happening then, we did not condemn it then. And, for the most part, we do not see it or condemn it now.

From 1919 on, Hitler devoted his life to the National Socialist Party. Think of that. A young man without a job or any significant job skill was able to live, to travel, to hire staff, to equip party members with uniforms and weapons, build up the whole apparatus of a national party - without ever holding a job.

Where did the money come from? And why?

Hint. The Russiam revolution had just happened. Fighting was still going on. German corporations were worried, with good reason, that communism that the revolution might spread to Germany. Nor were they the only ones.

American and Canadian business leaders were shaken by the Russian revolution, as well as events closer to home like the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

The financial support that made Hitler and his National Socialist Party a force came from business leaders all over the western world. (They knew that, despite its name, there was nothing socialist about it.)

Some, many, of the business leaders were also almost insanely anti-semitic. Henry Ford was the most infamous of these. He gave so much financial and political support to Hitler that Hitler kept a huge protrait of Ford in his office.

Prominent political parties in the western world, perhaps taking the lead from their own party paymasters, publicly admired Hiter. Canadian leader Mackenzie King wrote in his diary that when he gazed into Hitler's eyes, he saw the spirit of Joan of Arc.

Hitler never actually won an election. (He got more popular vote than Harper - but not much.) But, much like Harper, it was enough to build power to create what he needed to become a dictator - he needed to create fear. He had to find a common enemy for all, good Germans. The country was disillusioned with democracy - but not yet ready to accept a dictator. That's where the creation of fear and a common enemy came in.

In the paragraph above, change the word Hitler to Bush or Obama or Harper or Blair or Cameron.... Change the words common enemy to moslem extremist. Stir in orange alert, plot, Iran, FBI sting operaton....

And in earlier paragraphs, whereever I use the name of a corporation, you can still use it in the same way - with a few new ones added.

Canada and the US, with the general approval of their people, refused to allow German-Jewish refugees to get into Canada. In fact, they were still refusing them several years AFTER 1945. Canada, when it accepted British child refugees early in the war, made it clear to Britain it would not accept any British children who were Jewish. The man who made that message clear was our High Commissioner to Britain, that incredible snob and anti-democract, Vincent Massey).

However, despite the silence and even the slobbering praise of our politicians and economic leaders, the Canadian and American people knew well what was going on. They knew about the imprisonment of Jews. They knew about the ghettoes. They knew about the state-sponsored murders and brunings and thefts. They knew about Hitler's plans for conquest.

It was so well known that Charlie Chaplin made a brilliantly successful film about it. (The wealthy and politically powerful of the US would hound him for that for the rest of his life.)

When it was obvious that Hitler planned to use the 1936 Olympics as a propaganda stage for Naziism and dictatorship, enough people understood that well enough to mount a campaign to cancel the year's Olympics.

But the Olympic Committee was (and is) a toy for the world's super rich. Led by a wealthy American named Avery Brundage, it got its puppets in journalism and politics to whitewash Hitler's Germany. So the games went on.

Canada did not declare war on Germany in 1939 because it was Nazi. Though they weren't much interested in joining Nazi or fascist parties in Canada, many of us, and certainly most of our political and business leaders thought Hitler and Mussolini were good for Europe. (And our anti-semitism was not all that far behind Germany's). Canada declared war because Britsin did. No other reason.

Britain declared war not because it saw anything wrong with Nazi behaviour or ideology. It declared because British business knew it could not compete in world markets in Hitler were to unite Europe under his control.

The US did not declare war in 1839 because didn't give a damn what Hitler did. He was in no position to threaten the US - and he was protecting private business against all them them there socialists. 2. Anyway, the American focus was on getting control of Asian markets.3.The US had no objection to Hitler's racism.

In fact, when war came for the US almost three years later, it was not the US that declared war on Germany. It was the other way around. Germany declared war on the US - at the end of December, 1941, three weeks after Pearl Harbour. Until that time (and some say a little later), American corporations were a valuable part of the the Nazi war effort.

So what created a Hitler and a Mussolini?

1. Disillusionment with democracy.
2. The greed of the wealthy who resisted taxes and needed social programmes so they could amass their private wealth.
3. Political parties that were pretty well owned by the rich.
4. The creation of fear to justify the destruction of the freedoms and rights of a democracy.
5. The identification of a common enemy (untermensch - subhumans) for people to fear and to blame all their problems on.
6. The use of fear and that common enemy to camouflage the real reasons for military aggression and plundering.

That's what happened in 1932. That's how Hitler and fascism became bad words that we're not allowed to use any more.

Now, let's look around us in 2012. How will we name what we are watching?

Do you still wonder how an educated and civilized Germany slipped into such horror? Then what is it you think we're doing?

I think I'll still use the old words for what is happening now.

April 14: Those buildings are ugly....

On the front page of the The Moncton Times and Transcript, under the title "It's time to dream big", is what  looks like an oversized aircraft  hangar with what appear to be giant chimneys for what must be  massive firelplaces. It has a garish mural stuck up on one of the chimneys and, for no apparent reason, a huge area in front that might be suitable for a parking lot but which is covered in brick, with people standing around on it  (I have no idea why) and benches in the bleak setting that, wisely, nobody is sitting on.

Generally, it is a facade that is disconnected, awkward, and ugly. Rather than modern, it looks early industrial revolution, reminiscent of some of the worst architecture turned out  by Stalin's Russia. Even worse, there is no sense this is designed for people.

The roof over the entry is high enough to accomodate a team of giraffe acrobats standing on each other. And what is that huge, brick courtyard for? Leisurely strolls on a cold and windy day? Where is the connectin between this building and the human scale? I would rather stroll around a warehouse than around this  ovsized blight on the landscape.

That's the best one.  The others are on p. A10. One appears to glory in a roof capped with what looks like giant sheets of crumplied foil paper. Another is just unimaginative, ugly and, again, hopelessly out of any sense of human scale. The last one looks more atractive, but wildly impractical for most of our year.

These are designs that were outdated by the 1930s.

None shows any sense of how people will get to the exciting spot. The only recognition of this crucial factor is the front page design which shows curbside parking for one car. (I don't think that's going to do it.)

None of them shows any sense of where the shops and cafes and all the other promised wonders fit in.

If we throw a hundred million at any of these designs, the world will, indeed, notice Moncton. And the world will mutter, "Hicksville."

Still, Brent Mazerolle, writing about the  "events centre" churns out an outhouse load of pure gush that one usually finds only in the earliest dreams of puberty. So does the editorial. Obviously, this is timed to fit in with the elections. So expect to be slobbered on for a few weeks more.

Then there are pages of names of candidates for council and DEC elections. The platform of George Leblanc ( mayor) is a typical one. He wants to see Moncton grow as a vibrant and prosperous city. Wow! That's a relief. We have to be sure not to elect someone who wants to see Moncton shrink as a dead and poor city.

The DEC lineup is even worse. Many of the seats  have only one candidate. And nobody has any platform or any suggestion of the issues. Obviously, very few people in this city give a damn one way or the other. Well, what the's easier just to blame the teachers.

I guess the old saying is true. We get the government we deserve.

The op ed page has a column by Brian Gallant, announcing his bid for leadership of the NB Liberal Party. It's the standard column of its type; but some people will take it seriously as though it actually says something. That's why New Brunswick will vote Liberal next time; then get mad at them and swear to vote Conservative the time after.

There are a few things worth reading. As always, I like the student columns in Whatever. There's nothing really strking this time. But they're sensible; and they're well written. This time, I'm particularly impressed by Jessica Melanson who is, in grade eleven, writing a novel that she hopes to publish. Gosh! In grade eleven, I was so busy failing, I never even thought of writing a novel.

I'm impressed, too, that Isabelle's Agnew's father does work that takes him and his family on trips all over the world.  I am available for adoption.

Then there's the Faith page, E6. Now, I have to confess that while I am Christian, I am not a Baptist or fundamentalist of any sort.  But I thought that Pastor David Hawksworth of First Elgin Baptist wrote a pretty good column. So I forgive him for being a Baptist.

Finally, there is a letter from Dave Daigle, Jr. of Riverview, urging us to walk or bicycle more - instead of using our cars. I quite agree. But I want to draw attention to his first sentence because it draws attention to a problem we ignore.

He writes, "The price of gas is getting brutally high and it may get worse before it gets better."

It is brutally high.

If is going to get worse but....

it is not going to get better. Not ever.

We have been walking through a tunnel for over a century. For years, it sloped gently upwards. Then it got steeper; the climb became, it's curving up even more steeply. And just ahead of us, just ahead, an iron gate has come crashing down.

We can pretend it's not happening. It doesn't matter what we pretend. The steep slope and the iron gate are there. The age of cheap fossil fuels is almost over. But all our cities and suburbs and schools (and, I might add, our hockey arenas and civic centres) are designed around cheap fossil fuel.

Maybe, with luck, it will only be ten dollars a litre in ten years. Maybe we'll still be able to pay for it by doing away with health care or decent housing, stuff like that. But the slope and the gate will still be there.

So - in this election time - what does Moncton plan to do about it? How does a suburb like Royal Oaks fit into it? How does a massive events centre fit into it? How many people will be driving to Moncton at ten bucks a litre to see a hockey game? To commute to work? How do big high schools fit into it? How do rural schools fit into it? What are the plans for mass transportation? For heat?

And even if we were to find vast, new reserves of fossil fuels, the iron gate is still there. Our environment cannot stand the damage of continued pollution. It doesn't matter what we think. It doesn't matter if we prefer not to think. The iron gate is still there.

Do any of our candidates have any thoughts about this? Planning has to come from somewhere. And we're certainly not going to find it in The Moncton Times and Transcript. They still haven't noticed that we could be in a world war by this summer.