Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24: people are dying..so 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.


  1. Life is better with paragraphs....

  2. Damned if I know why it all one paragraph. I wrote it the normal way.
    But I was writing in a new format that the blog site is pushing. Apparently, a special feature wipes out the paragraphs...?
    Steve Downes subitted a cheeky comment - but, in this new format, I can't figure out how to publish a comment.
    I'll work on it.