Thursday, May 31, 2012

May 30: (extra blog for the day) evening thoughts

Today, Norbert Cunningham wrote an introductory column on the baby boomers. He'll continue it on June 1. I have no idea what he'll write - so this is no attempt to disagree with him. It's just that he got me thinking about that generation. And I feel like writing about it while it's fresh in my mind.

The baby boomers were the first generation in which the great, consumer society became dominant - (though it had actually begun a little earlier).

Radio was the consumer craze of the 1030s, 40's, and early 50s. Radio came - and the churches began to go. Prime time on radio for the big shows like Bing Crosby and Lux Theatre -  and for the high-priced ads. Prime time was Sunday evening. So was church. Guess who won.

But radio, though something to be consumed, was also something that required involvement by the listener. You had to listen closely, imagine the appearance of othe speaker, imagine the scene of a play, imagine a battle. Radio wasn't passive. It also featured lively discussion, often well-informed discusision. Then came television.

Television required nothing. No imagination. Few lasting memories of what was said. Television was moving pictures, just moving pictures. I learned early - if you have something to say, don't waste it on television. It is the almost perfect consumer item. It absorbs the viewer with no effort required, and leaves nothing behind it. It exists only to be consumed. It's been said that we burn more calories sleeping than we do watching television.

And it's quite wonderful for advertisers, giving them an audience that is so brain-dead as to be easy picking for advertisers. That's why so many newspapers are now going broke.

TV also defused the family as a social unit. Once 6 p.m. comes, radio is dead meat. Whole families are seated in front of the TV - for the night. The family supper and conversation vanished as families sat in front of the TV with fast food on their laps. Reading, hobbies, conversation, volunteer activities dwindled. The only purpose of TV was to be consumed - to be consumed without ever leaving the consumer with anything so that the consumer would sit forever, passive. That was the childhood and adulthood of the baby boomers.

They also, though, went through some normal childhood development. In their teens,they came to dislike adults, to want to fight back against adult authority, to proclaim their own uniqueness. We all go through that. The difference is that the process could now be commercialized and consumed. They wanted to be different and independent? Broadway and Hollywood gave them the musical "Hair" to consume.

They wanted to celebrate peace and love? Clothing stores happily stocked up on whatever was trendy, like torn jeans with T shirts that had peace and a heart printed on them. They were encouraged to believe that nobody before had ever thought of peace and love though, in fact, both go back thousands of  years in religious thought.

They wanted to express their freedom in marijuana and cocaine? No sweat. Lots of sellers came forward to sell them their consumables. Strangely, few of the baby boomers who puffed drugs while they talked about peace and love seem to have understood that the money they spent on drugs went to fuel gang wars and large-scale murder.

Like all generations, they sought their own music. The difference was that it, too, given recording and TV, was instantly and without effort consumed. No effort was required. No understanding was needed. The result has been music that was all the rage for a week. But it existed only to be consumed - with something else essential for the next week.

The result has been years of writers producing eminently bad music to be sung by stars who cannot sing accompanied by guitarists who pretened to go into almost sexual ecstasies as they strum one of the only three chords they know. There were some creative and capable entertainers - The Beatles, Mama Cass, Johnny Cash, but not many.

In fact, all of life became something to be consumed without effort. Watching school dances for the last thirty years and more has been a dreary business. Nobody knows how to dance. First came the super- easy to learn steps like the cha-cha and the twist. But now they just stand and - slightly - quiver with no noticeable connection to the music.

Now, as baby boomers rise to national leadership, it turns out they aren't peaceniks after all. Bill Clinton and George Bush just wanted to avoid the draught. Once in power, baby-boomers like George Bush and Tony Blair, elected largely by baby-boomers, have been quite happy to mass murder, torture, and plunder And there's far more of that to come.  Here in Canada, our baby-boomer prime minister is a soulless stuffed shirt whose ideas were out of date over a cenutry ago.

So much for the emptiness of the musical,  "Hair".

The sad truth of the baby-boomers is that they were the generations that consumed anything that required no effort to consume, learned nothing, did nothing, and left nothing behind them.

They're the generations that now dominate a city not far away from where I sit, where schools have so little money that teachers have to spend their days raising funds just to get basic equipment and supplies for the schools. They live in a city and sit on the city council in a city that faces serious needs that council have council hasn't even bothered to think about. And, like baby-boomers everywhere, they call out, "Hey! What this city really needs is to borrow a hundred million for a new hockey rink."

Few of the baby-boomers will be missed.

May 31: The little newpaper that wasn't there

I was a year and a half ago that there was a protest by parents at Edith Cavell School. It was so small as to be irrelevant. But the Moncton news media covered it like a rug for day after day. I was astonished at the assignment editors who would waste resources on such a non--story.

Last night was the second pot and pan demonstration over bill C 38 among other issues. The turnout was a good 150. Now, Moncton is, to put it gently, not easily roused to protest against anything. One hundred and fifty people taking to the streets is rare, and equivalent to a good 2000 in a city the size of Montreal.

And the only reporter I saw there was from CBC. Where was the Moncton Times? Where were all the  Mickey Mouse news desks from local radio and CTV?

 I enjoyed the evening. It was nice to be with people who know what's going on, and who care about it. And there are more demos to come. In particular, there's a big one for Saturday at nine at city hall. I wouldn't miss it for the world. The Saturday one is about shale gas.

It says something about the power structure here when people have to resort to going to the street to express their frustration because most of the news media and all of the government refuse to give them information, and refuse to listen to what concerns them. Its not protesters who create disorder. It's lying and incompetent and bought and paid for politicians, and it's news media that don't report anything.

Oh, it did cover an emportant story. Front page. Liquor profits are up. Good news. It means more New Brunswickers than ever are getting the nutrients that they need for good health. The lead story is an ass-kissing blurb about how SWN has had to postpone its seismic programme this summer, and how wonderful a company it has been for New Brunswick and what a good company it is to work for. I mean, it just makes you cry.

Then Brent Mazerolle does his usual propaganda piece for the "metro centre" to revive Main St. Apparently, we're to get all excited and borrow a hundred million because a haberdasher has opened a store on Main St.  It seems this has got Mayor Leblanc all excited.

Does anybody care about the real reason Main St. died in the first place? Apparently not.  All it needs is a hockey rink and Bingo! evenybody will shop on Main.

No. They won't.

The reason Main streets died is the automobile. We don't have a mass transport system that comes even close to serving a busy Main St. Bringing more cars to Main St. will simply strangle it.

For this - and even more pressing reasons - Moncton's first priority should be a very serious re-thinking of mass transportation. (And, no, I don't mean just changing the bus routes.)

The front page does have one, excellent story. It's about Sgt. Mark Gallagher who died in the earthquake in Haiti, and  how his friends have remembered him by raising the money to build a trade school in that ravaged country. It's good news in a situation that has produced very little good news. Of the billions donated to Haiti by governments, almost none has actually reached that country. Most of it has gone to American contractors who did cheap and superficial work, then put the rest in offshore banks. In conntrast, New Brunswickers will have every reason to be proud of  Mark Gallagher Memorial Vocations School - and of Mark Gallagher.

The daily story on Syria (NewsToday) is pure propaganda. It's a story about civilians tied up and shot and close range. The report says it was "probably" done by the government. But, like the previous story about civilians killed in Houla by Syrian government artillery, the only evidence for the this is from the rebel side.

In fact, many European papers are saying the Houla massacre of civilians was not caused by artillery of any sort. The victims were shot up close with rifles and pistols - and that would mean the killers were rebels. So why has the UN been jumping up and down and NATO countries expelling Syrian ambassadors on such flimsy evidence?

Some day, somebody will write a book on how nations invent propaganda as an excuse for war.

The editorial kisses up to the events centre - just in case Brent Mazerolle's kisses weren't enough.

Rod Allen makes a good point in his concern about New Brunswick's lack of understanding of its own history and literatrue - but puts the blame in the wrong place.It's not the fault of the schools. Children in New Brunswick don't read much of anythng - because their parents don't read. This is an extraordinarily passive province in which parents do not read, do not discuss public affairs, do not show much intelliectual interest in anything except watching hockey on TV. And the Irving papers are among the few dailies I have ever seen that do not have a literaty section at all.

Schools can't raise children. Parents and communities have to do that.

Jody Dallaire, as always, is worth a read. Alec Bruce is hilarious, with a wit that cuts very close to the bone.

In This Week, p. 3, top of the right hand column, The TandT lists my monthly current events talk at Moncton library Tuesday, June 5 at 7 p.m. I'm very grateful. They seldom list it. But, even as I choked back a tear of gratitude, I had to note they got the title wrong. My subject will be "The Quebec Student Strike: Protest or Revolution?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30: No bigger fool than me....

Yesterday, a reader sent me a post that I have not mentioned the lawyers in Montreal - and what happened at the courthouse. Damn. He's right. I didn't mention it - and it's key to understanding the Quebec student strike and what it has come to mean. (If I get any dumber, they'll want me to be editor of The Moncton Times and Transcript.)

Two days ago, students were in the streets, publicly breaking the new law (Bill 78) that restricts public demonstrations. The lawyers at the courthouse, still wearing their courtroom attire, went out into the streets to join the students. Now, think about that.

Have you ever before heard of a demonstration of lawyers? Have you ever heard of lawyers deliberately and publicly breaking what the law? Do you think that lawyers do that sort of thing just to help out a bunch of kids who are spoiled brats who want to go to university free?

This is an extraordinary development which gives a pretty strong hint that the Montreal demonstrations are not about spoiled brats. There are profound meanings to it. But, oh, it is taking the Canadian news media a long time to figure that our. We are in the middle of one of the most important turning points in Canadian history. And you can learn as much about it from The Moncton Times and Transcript as you could in chatting with the local drunk sitting on a curb.

And I forgot to mention it. Damn.

Anyway, it's my topic for the next meeting the the current events group, Tuesday, June 5 at 7 p.m. Bring a friend from The Moncton Times and Transcript.

If  you are a betting person, it may soon be time to place your bet on a NATO war against Syria. No, it's not for any reason you'll see reported in the TandT - since most of that is propaganda and hearsay. Neither NATO nor most of the rebels have the slightest interest in democracy. Indeed, many of the rebels (the ones supposedly on our side - supplied, trained and even paid by our side) appear to have Al Queda sympathies. And whoever wins this mad game gets control of the Syrian weapons system - which probably includes chemical weapons.

What NATO wants is for its own puppets to win. Thus the likliehood of a NATO invasion. For a little more money, you can safely bet that Harper will volunteer Canada's help.

And only a fool would bet where this war will lead us.

Page 1 has a big, propaganda story on boosting Main St. Interestingly, there's a novel by Sinclair Lewis with the title "Main Street".  It's about a small town on the US prairies in the 1920s,  a dreary, uninspired place with  no imagination but big on local boosterism - all of if materialistic and shallow. He wrote another novel on the same theme, "Babbitt". Read either of them. Cut out the front page of today's TandT,, use it as a bookmark,and re-read the book mark now and then as you go through the book.

Oh, yeah. Be sure to include the other big story on the page "Moncton council urged to push for growth".

There's also an excellent story on page 1 that children aren't getting enough play time. This is an important story. Play time is learning time. Play time is when children learn to socialize with others, to develop a range of interests, to mature. And one thing (besides computers and TV) that kills play time is adults who insist on organizing it. Now, adult involvement can help in youth groups that are geared to stimulating minds and attitudes, and when they encourage socializing.

But what's death for learning is a play activity forced to work under adult rules and with adult control. In Canada, the prime offender is organized hockey. It crushes creativity and imagination, and retards maturity.

Oh, I know. The coaches will say it develops leadership. Right. Give me a list of the great Canadian leaders produced by organized hockey. Tell me all the NHL players who went on to become national leaders. (Though I have a suspicion most of our city councillors must have played pee wee hockey.)

This is a front page story that is worth reading.

There is also a distrubing story on the front page that we should know more about. (The story, about the breast centre at the Dumont hospital is well done; but it relies heavily on infomration from the Moncton hospital/ I've dealt with both hospitals, found both to be excellent and both far more accessible that hospitals in Montreal. But I've also noticed strained relations between the two.) We need more information from both sides about this issue -and before this turns into a brainless, shouting match.

The reporting from Syhria (NewToday) is highly suspect. It gives the strong impression the killing of over a hundred people was done by government artillery. It doesn't mention other reports they were assembled and killed up close - by rebels.

And the indication of outrage from the UN and the NATO powers is pure hypocrisy. Where were they when NATO invaded Iraq and killed innocent people by the hundreds of thousands, and created five million refugees? Or when the US killed a quarter million in Guatemala?

The editorial is silly. But Norbert Cunningham does well, indeed. The kid can still come through when he puts his mind to it...

The op ed page is its usual dish of irrelevancies.

Letters to the Editor is really quie good.  Worth a read.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 29: Even the sport section has no news today

Normally, the sports section is the only professionally done section in the Moncton Times.  Headline - "Rugby Royals confident this year"  Duh. Yeah Are they usually depressed before games?

So let's look at a few stories this wretched popaganda sheet missed.

Victoria Park, 8 p.m. last night, there was a "casserolle", a happy and friendly gathering of people to march to City Hall. I was beating a pizza pan. But I was outclassed by another guy with a roasting pan; and both of us put in the shade by a sharp dude with big, bongo drum.

This was our demo to support the Quebec student strike as well as some local issues. Lots of fun. We're doing it again on Wednesday night starting 8 p.m. at Victoria Park.

For Monday, nnotice of the demo was very short, so the gathering was small - perhaps 50 or so. Ii expect more on Wednesday.  (And 50 or so in Moncton was proportionate to over a thousand in a city the size of Montral.)

There was nobody there for The Moncton Times, of course. They had a much more important story for the front page "New City Council Sworn In".

CBC was there, though. Ever notice that the only coverage of serious and local news that Moncton gets comes from CBC? (Of course, Harper will soon fix that.)

I saw no clergy at last night's gathering. That's not surprising.  I mean, if it's  something important like Eve telling Adam to take a bite of the apple, they'll turn out in droves with signs saying "Don't touch that apple".  But they feel uncomfortable applying their moral teachings to present day life. It might offend some of their parishioners.

The NDP, accordiing to a poll conducted for Postmedia (where the TandT always gets its national news) is now, for the first time in history, the most popular party in Canada, and would win a minority government if there were an election tomorrow.

The most trusted party leader in Canada is now Thomas Mulcair, with Harper tied with Bob Rae at th bottom. (Funny how the TandT missed a story like that.)  Anyway, Postmedia is going out of existence. A very right wing news service founded by National Post to support its very right wing agenda, it is going borke because good newspapers won't touch it. So we'll probably be going over to Canadian Press within a year.)

The US is sending a brigade (3000 to 5000, usually) of combat troops to be permanently based in Africa.  It has also, unnoticed by the editors of the Times and Transcript been bombarding the coasts of Yemen and Somalia as well as supplying civil wars in both countries. And, no, it's not for humanitarian reasons or to bring democracy.

It's for two reasons...
1. The waters between those two countries are the main route for oil going to the Far East.
2.The US wants control of all Africa and its resources before China and India can get a foot in the door.
It wants to control the oil flow so that China and India will have a tougher time developing. It wants the resources so that when China and India them, they will have to buy them from American corporations.

The TandT does h ave another  story about the student strike in Quebec - but stilll without giving a clue to what it's really all about. That's why I made this my topic for the next meeting of the current events club at Moncton Library, 7 pm. Tuessday, June 5.

The editorial is not unreasonable - but does not touch on the main point about giving our money to Crandall University - it operates in violation of the Charter of Rights. But no TandT editor is likely to touch that.
Norbert is reasonable. Alec Brush is great. Alan Cochrane is trivial and irrelevant -and Gwynn Dyer us interesting - almost fun, making allowances for its grim topic.

There are two letters to the editor dealing with bilingualism and our hospitals. One of them is intelligent.


Gee: I wonder why we never expelled the American ambassador for the murders of a quarter million innocent people in Guatemala.

Monday, May 28, 2012

May28: Better than usual...almost....

At first, I was heartened to see that the Quebec student strike made the first page but, alas, with not the slightest attempt to explain what it is about. As a result, the whole point of the story is missed. To the reporter who wrote this and to the editor who approved it - the strike IS NOT SIMPLY ABOUT TUITION FEES.

Hasn't it occured to them that if this were all it was about that the foreign press would not be paying so much attntion to it? Don't you wonder why older people are joining in?

Whatever happens with tuition fees, this strike has probably and permanently changed Quebec more than any other event since 1867. But, Lord, you would never guess it from reading the Times and Transcript.

In the next, front-page column (with a photo) is the usual free ad, this time for a hot-rod business.

There is a good story by Brent Mazerolle "Moncton grants policy won't exclude Crandall University".This is a clear headline that highlights the outstanding message in the story - and the story is well written - a rarity on the front page or any page of this paper.

The story is important because Moncton ratepayers have been handing out a hundred thousand a year to Crandall University - though it openly defies the New Brunswick and the Canada Chatter of Rights. Anxious to point the finger of self-righteousness and so assure their entrance to heaven where they can stroll in their glory clothes (naked), the administrators discriminate against gays. Welcome to the idiot section of the New Jerusalem.

Now, much as I look forward to the day when I shall see the administrators of Crandall University in their glory clothes, I do wonder why the City Countil is giving it our money. And I do wonder why neither the city nor the province nor the nation has filed charges against Crandall.

- oh...and I do wonder why neither Norbert nor the editor who daily rant about things they don't understand - nor the staff writers who daily keep us up to date on guitars and their personal diaries  - I wonder why these people show no interest whatever in this open and illegal abuse of people.

Good story on p. 2 about how Harper gives away jobs to defeated Conservative candidates.

The Quebec student strike also made NewsToday, though still without the slightest indication of what it's all about.

What should be the big story of the day, is just a tiny squeezed-in "Pope's butler arrested..." This is a huge story, almost as big as the weekend beer festival. (p. A 10) that got almost half a page with photos. The Pope story tells us nothing.

"UN condemns Syrian massacre" is classic propaganda. For a start, most of the information on the massacre comes from the rebel side. (Remember, we're dealing with Reuters here).  Lots of emotional language -  'carnage' - 'appalling' - 'bloody, lifeless, young' bodies.

It may, possibly be true. But I can recall no such language being used to describe American behaviour in Vietnam, Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan. And remember when a quarter million Guatemalans, men, women and children, were massacred by Guatemalan troops who were armed, supplied , paid, and led by the CIA?  Where was our compassion for 'bloody, lifeless, young' bodies then? Where were the UN resolutions? When did we demand the US be bombed in retaliation?

In fact, most of our news media never even reported it.

Oh- nor has it reported that the Syrian rebels are armed, trained and paid by countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Turkey. Many of them are not Syrian at all. They are mercenaries brought in from other wars - like Libya - and many are Islamic militants - the same ones we're fighting against in Afghanistan and Yemen. But you would never know that from Reurters or the TandT.

So let's get real. Nobody gives a damn about 10,000 dead in Syria. Obama alone has killed and tortured far more than that in Yemen, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, South America (which doesn't get reported, either.)....and others.

The issue is about controlling military bases, oil fields and sea lanes in the middle east to wage an oil war that will starve China for energy - a move that would enable the US, with the help of NATO,  to dominate the world. This will enormously benefit very wealthy Americans, but make most Americans even poorer.

It would also almost certainly trigger a nuclear war.

The editorial is a hymn of ecsctasy to NB liquor for working to improve sales. Agreed. If there's one thing New Brunswick needs, it's more booze.

As usual, Norbert doesn't know what he's talking about; Alec Bruce is solid; and the only worthwhile item on op ed is the photo of the Pet of the Day.

Superb letter to the editor by Charles Foster of Riverview, "Election not sole victim of apathy". Parents should read it and weep. Better still, they should put off the trip to NB Liquor so they can spend a few minutes showinig interest in their children.

Also a good letter by Jean-Guy Richard 'Breast centre stance is petty'.

Oh, another big story from Quebec that the TandT missed. The Quebec government wants to review the bilingual status of all jurisdictions in the province. This will cover things like the right to service in English from the government, from hospitals, everything. The idea is to check the census so that only those with English as a mother-tongue will count as English. AND - they will have to be 50% or more of the jurisdiction's population to make it a bilingual one.

The other cute part is that a high proportion of the anglos of Quebec are children born in Quebec but to immigrant parents. That means their mother tongues are Polish or Yiddish or Chinese or Italian -and in Quebec, all such children are counted as if they were    French.They result,? Some jurisdictions that are actually 50% to 90% English-speaking could lose their right to services in English - even town services - and this could include their right to attend English school..

That's the kind of idiocy you get when you argue about culture without knowinig what the word means. That's the kind of abuse you get when you start language wars.

Quebec has hisotrically been a place of bigotry on both sides. That is why I am so pleased at the tone of the student strike, at its lack and language and racist bigotry. This is a huge change.

I will certainly admit there is some anglo bigotry in New Brunswick. God, in His wisdom, has shared out the bigotry equally to all His peoples. If you see it smouldering, don't blow on it. You will just burst it into a flame that will consume all of us.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May 27: Sunday night - two, brief notes

1. The current events group will meet at Moncton Library at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. June 5. The topic will be" Quebec Student Strike:Protest or Revolution?"
I lived in Quebec most of my life, was closely involved with the politics of the province, and was in close contact with leading political figures at the federal and provincial levels over those years. I was also on the provincial executive of Alliance Quebec, the anglo rights group, for more years than I care to remember, some of them as Vice-President, and then Chairman.

My experience is that neither the Quiet Revolution nor the nationalist movement made any great change in Quebec society. The fundamental problem of Quebec is its anitiquated social structure, and the way its 'aristocracy' dominates the politics and economics of the province. For all their noise, neither the Quiet Revolution nor the PQ made any change in that. (Mind you, you can find the same problem, sometimes in milder form, in most provinces - including New Brunswick)

The student strike is not about language. It's not about separatism. It has some considerable support from anglophone Quebeckers. This has the seeds of revolution. The foreign press has realized t his, and is giving it serious coverge. The Canadian press, most of it, doesn't have a clue, with the Times and Transcript oustanding as a wallower in ignorance.

Nobody can tell the future. But this strike could have a profound effect not just on Quebec but on all of Canada, the United States, and on Europe. A discussion of it needs background; so I shall start with a talk of forty minutes or so - followed by questions and discussion, rebuttal, whatever.

Editors and reporters from the Irving Press are most welcome to come - and will be offered every opportunity to point out my errors.

Caveat: I think the students are on the right track.

2. I have long wanted to write an autobiography for my children. Nothing fancy, just incidents, most of them of only a page or so. It happens to most of us at a certain age. I've taught writing classes for Tantramar Seniors - and some of them are in the class to do just that - and they have turned out fascinating stuff.

But, oh, I have no will power. I keep putting it off. So I've decided to put myself on the spot.

I have an old web site I used it for a short story and several commentaries, but dropped it over a year ago. . I have now converted it to my autogiography page. The idea is to put pressure on me to write something - maybe just a page - every few days.Maybe others of  you who have reached what I shall call maturity should try the same thing. It's easy to set up a blog site.

So I've begun a sectioni called Famour People I Have Known, or Met, or Seen, and Some Who Are Famous Only to Me. Yes, I know that shows ego. But I have to impress my children somehow. It's not easy. I mean, I can't play guitar worth a poop. And I have no idea how to tear holes in my jeans.

I began with a page or so about my first famous person, Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis.

If anyone is interested, google Graeme the Chatterer. When the list of sites pops up, the fourth or fifth one will have the words 'new beginning' in the text. That's it.

If you want to talk about doing something similar for yourself, drop me a note in the comment box at the end of the post.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

May 26: An editor's philosophy...

and you have to decide. You really do.

Read today's editorial in The Moncton Times and Transcript. It's about Moncton's bus drivers; it's about humanity; it's a profound statement about how to judge what you are worth as a living human.

A bus driver does not deserve an annual salary of $55,000. After all, it's a marketplace; and in the marketplace are bus drivers who can be had more cheaply.

What bus drivers should get has nothing to do with what it costs to raise a family, to give children a chance to get ahead, to live without constant fear of running out before the end of the month, to live with a modicum of dignity. . Bus drivers, like all people, are a commodity. They're like carrots, or beer, or cars. They're worth whatever the market will pay for them - not a cent more. I mean, that's why we have free trade.

By opening up the marketplace with free trade, we can bring in workers from poverty-stricken countries where they cost only five dollars a day. The greatest experiment in free trade was slavery. Their market value was low, so low that all it cost to use them was food, the cheapest scraps one could find. They would be dead by forty (thirty in Canada). But by then overwork and brutal conditions had so far lowered their market value that they could profitably be allowed to die.

But corporate executives? They have a high market value. After all, we need the best. (Apparently, we don't need the best in bus drivers, teachers. But corporate execs have a high market value, so high that it has been going up like a rocket for the last forty years.)

What we're worth is our market value - a value set by people who value themselves very, very highly, but who regard the rest of us as disposable as razor blades. (Special sale on bus drivers - no offer refused.)

On the other hand, a man named Irving is expensive because other countries would fight to get him. Then they would have the thrill of giving him their forests and their cheap labout and their tax money. Boy. Hard to find a man like that.

As I walk through the streets of Moncton and see all the churches and I see people coming to my door to tell me the good news and give me a pamphlet, I wonder how they square their religious beliefs with the real religion of this province - that people are not worth love or respect or even life except according to their market value. It is surely remarkable that so many should think their faith is about denouncing gays -  more than those who t hink of it is most profoundly about- treating people as people, and not as commodities.

The editor is not just wrong or just stupid or just greedy. This editorial, by the standards of any religion I know, is immoral.

Today, again, Norbert talks about what's wrong with our democracy. As always, he does not mention the fundamental problem that has effectively destroyed democracy- the wealthy who buy governments, and who control information by owning news media - and who use their power to turn us all into carrots or beer or cars.

Solid commentary by Bill Beliveau. He would be a class act - if only he weren't so often running off on Liberal sideroads.

Good column by Gwynne Dyer - though possibly optimistic.

For Brent Mazerolle, in this time of of near-war in Syria and Iran (quite possibly with nulcear implicatons), the pending collapse of the European community, a rising in Quebec that may well have revolutionaty possibiilities, severe economic hardship looming fot the maritimes.... but for Mazerolle, the big issue is this pesky business of cross-border shopping.

The Moncton Times and Transcript, slowly catching up to the New York Times, The Guardian, Figaro and The Times of India, has another story on the Quebec student strike. And a quite useless story. In its series of three stories, it has yet to tell what the strike is about, and what the imiplicatons are. In fact, it is attracting wide support from all segments of the population - including more than you might think from English Quebec.This is not aoout tuition. This is about the rich making everybody (except thsemselves) pay for the greed and blunders and blunders of the very rich that created the mess we are about the enter.

If you want to understand it, (and if you only want to read a newspaper that just loves rich people, go to google news, and read the reports in The Gazette.)

And don't kid yourself this will blow over. Whatever happens in Montreal, you are going to see these sort of demonstration popping up all over North America. We are not simply watching protests. we are watching the early stages of revolution.

Oh, and forget the coming TandT editorial that they're all just spoiled brats. In my experience, the spoiled brats are the extreme right wing commentators like David Frum - people rasied in wealth to believe that God gave them wealth because they were born superior to others - and they were born with a right to money and  power. Think back to Mr. Irving's announcement that he has formed a coalition with the government. It takes a special kind of arrogance to make a man believe he has a right to do that.

Oh - note the NewsToday story "F-35 Maker Issues Warning". It seems the Harper government has been lying to us about our commitment to pay uncounted billions for an airplane that doesn't seem to work. Can you imagine? Harper lied to us.

Friday, May 25, 2012

May 25: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire....

Today's lead story in the Moncton Times and Transcript is the worst case of lying I have ever seen in a news report. It is so bad, I shall be sending copies to friends who teach in journalism schools.

The headline and subhead are:

"Many NBers support oil, gas industry - survey"
"Survey says NBers believe government can regulate industry but some still oppose it"
I'll go through this in point form because it's one hell of a tangled web.

1.What does that headline mean? In a province of hundreds of thousands of people, of course many support oil, gas industry. For openers, many are employed by it. With equal truth, it could say many NBers support wife-beating, prostitution, drunk driving and smoking in hospitals. The headline tells us nothing.

2. What does support mean? Does it mean they don't think we should just clost it all down right away? That they think it's okay to have an oil and gas industry? That they think its always doing the right thing? I really don't know exactly what the word support means in this context. Neither would most of those surveyed. So why was the question included in the first place? We'll come to that.

3.In NB, these days, the word gas is automatically heard as shale gas because that's the big issue. But the term shale gas does not appear in the headline or the sub head. That's quite deliberate. This sentence was designed to blur the issue, giving the impression that NBer's support shale gas when, in fact, the survey showed the opposite. But you have to read the whole story to find that out.  Most people don't read the whole story. And editors know that.

4. "Survey says NBers believe government can regulate industry but some still oppose it." There is some cute wording here, and it's very tangled.
Remember the head - MANY NBers support oil, gas industry. Many. And in the subhead SOME STILL  oppose it.
Many doesn't mean most - but it's heard as meaning a a great many and, usually, it's heard as meaning most.

"Some still oppose it."

Some. Some could mean 90%, but it's usually heard to mean a small number. And when you add still, that gives a very negative imprssion.  (Some are still so stubbron or ignorant or whatever as to oppose it.)

6. Oppose what? What's "it"? . All that has been mentioned is the oil and gas industry. If  you say NBers think government can regulate the oil, gas industry, well, yeah. Of course it can. The question is not whether it can - but whether it will.
And, again, this is all in context to oil, gas in general. The term "shale gas" has still not appeared.

7. Headline and sub-head are important because,for a high proportion of readers, that is all they will ever read.
Naturally, most readers seeing this headline will assume it says most people are in favour of shale gas development and are confident. In fact, the study shows exactly the opposite.

So we open with a pretty brazen set of lies designed to blur the issue. Headline and sub head are usually written by the page editor. Now, we come to the reporter.

8. Most of the story is about how everybody just loves the oil and gas industry, and how all we have to do is to make sure the government and the industry are nice and transparent. (Good luck on that..)
Not until very late, AFTER MOST READERS HAVE DEPARTED FOR SPORTS OR ANN LANDERS, does the story take a look at shale gas.

50% oppose even exploring for the stuff, while only 32% favour exploration. And when it came to fracking, 56% opposed it with only28% in favour.

Dr. Roger Ouelette, who will chair a Moncton forum which will "listen to people" is responsible for the survey. He (to no surprise is a political scientist. at UdeM.) I have no wish to question either his competence or his honesty but -

9. Why did he think it a good idea to conduct such a survey and to release the results so close to a public discussion that he will chair? This is a survey of public opinion. It is not a survey of expertise in the oil industry or in fracking. It is the survey of opinion of a public which has had years of propaganda, but of almost no information. Of what possible value is this to a public discussion?
(Of course, it does have valuabe propaganda effect.)

10. Why did it contain questions one which people could not possible have an informed opinion - such as whether oil and gas could be developed in an environmentally safe and sustainable way?
What a stupid question! of course, it's not sustainable. We are using sources of which there is a limited supply. New oil is not going to spring up to replace the stuff we use - not for several million years. Environmentally safe? Never heard of the Exxon Valdez? of BP in the Caribbean? of the the North Sea wells?

Why even ask such questions when you know most people have no informed opinion on them (we can't all be oil and gas engineers), and when the answers are clearly available in scientific records and in good newspapers?

Most of these questions give us no useful information. But they do mddy the waters so a reporter can fill up most of the story with subtle, pro-fracking propaganda, and bury the rest at the end where few will read it.

11. To put it gently, this does not strike me as being a survey conducted to any scientific standard or of any value to the debate on shale gas. And who prepared the qeustionnaire?

Why, Dr. Ouelette did it with the guidance of the experts at MQO Research who, surprise! surprise! just happens to do contract work for Irving (who, also, it is said, owns the TandT). MQO Research also has a history as a major donor to the NB Conservative Party.
Obviously, God works in mysterias ways his wonder to perform.....

12. In a closing note, Dr. Ouelette says that respondents expressed much greater confidence in academics than in politicians or oil companies.

If so, the respondents, all 605 of them, are damnn fools.

Lying headline, lying subhead, lying story. And very questionable judgement on many points (to put it mildly) by Dr. Oulette. All of this should tell us the scheduled ForumE is all a fraud.

And, Annus mirabilis, the TandT carried another story on the Quebec student strike. Like the one yesterday, though, it shows no understanding whatever of what is going on.,and provides no useful information

The Montreal report, like most national news reports, come from Postmedia, an organization created by the CEO of The National Post. About three days ago, the editors of The National Post proudly announced they were biased in favour of the political right.
1. Journalists are not supposed to be biased in favour of anybody. They're supposed to tell the truth.
2. They claim they have to be biased in favour of the right because all the other newspapers are left wing.

a. If all others are left wing, then surely the way to correct it is not to be biased, but to tell the truth.
b. in my thirty or forty years of jourrnalism in Canada, I have never seen a left wing newspaper - and certainly not these tinker-toy outfits in Atlantic Canada. Nor have I ever heard of any Canadian newspaper that has supported even a tame, centre-left party like the NDP. Where are all these left-wing papers?

Boy. Good thing the folks at National Post are acting as a balance to the wild-eyed socialism of the Irving Press.

The editorial kissed the rear end of Prof. Savoie again in his (predictable) attack on employment insurance.

Norbert has a quite silly column on the reasons for voter apathy. He's even sillier when he says schools should teach more about civics. In fact, they already do. And, as a teacher and journalist I can tell you that any teacher who taught the truth about civics would risk being fired - and the Norberts of this world would lead the charge to fire them. His whole column for today is ignorance spread with a wide brush. Even his quotation from FDR is pure, political hogwash.

How does that paper hold on to a class journalist like Alec Bruce?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 24: How not to write a news story

It's the banner headline on the front page "Former CN Terminal Plaza to be reborn" Then there's the sub-head that says, "Major renovation a show of private investor confidence in land around proposed downtown centre".

The headline, as a headline, is true. There are plans to renovate the building. The people doing it have said so.

The sub-head, linking it to the proposed events centre, is pure speculation by the reporter. Nobody in any position of authority said this. Indeed, the only commenter on it  (who was obviously answering a question from the reporter) said it wasn't linked.

Yet almost half the report is made up of the reporter pushing his opinion. It's propaganda. It's a line of propaganda that the paper has been peddling from the start. It's a line of propaganda that I'm quite sure has the approval of the boss. But it's propaganda.

Opinions and propaganda are what opinion columns and commentaries and editorials are for. They are separated from news columns so readers can understand the distinction. And reporters are supposed to get news - the story of what has happened - not the story of what they think it all means.

Brent Mazerolle just failed Journalism 101. The editor, beginning Monday will be reassigned to delivering papers on my street. And he'd better be on time.  

The appointment of a shale gas public consultation committee is on page one; and it's a crock. Any university professor who's on it should be ashamed. (Alas, most of them  have been innoculated agasint shame.)

In the first place, the government and the Irving papers have, for over ten years, given the public nothing to go on. The consulation tour starts on June 6. That gives the public two weeks to catch up on all the information  (Lord knows where they'll get it), and one month to reach a decision. It's not clear how this province's high proportion of illiterates and semi-literates will manage this at all.

Indeed, I have seen not the slightest evidence that the members of the government have the slightest understanding of what the information is. In any case, a consultation is simply gathering opinion. The worth of that opinion is equal to the knowledge of audience. In short, a consultation is just a grand name for an opinion poll - except that this poll does not necessarily give a general overview of opinion, just of whoever happens to show up. In ahort, this sort of consultation is worthless - and a professor should know that.

In any case, it does not matter what conclusions the consultations come to. Shale gas drilling is going to go ahead. Governments which allowed it to be carried out for over ten years with no enforceable regulations are not suddenly going to get tough with their corporate bosses.

Inevitably, there will be accidents. The history of the oil industry is full of accidents and severe damage that can never be repaired. We are now adding to that toxic chemicals and a prodigious waste of fresh water.

As the gas companies tell us in almost the only truth they speak, there is lots of gas and oil left in this planet. Yes, there is. But with every year, it's more expensive and more dangerous to get it out. The easy stuff is pretty well used up.

Oh, speaking of that prodigious waste of water, did you know the world is so short of fresh water, we are now digging wells so deep that we are pumpling up fresh water that has been lying in great caverns underground for a million years - and it's not renewable. We use so much of it just for agriculture that, as it drains to the sea, it causes more rise to the sea level than all the melting of the polar caps.

OOh, I know. Let's form a committee headed by a professor to consult with us. Heck, it shouldn't take more than a couple of weeks.

Or let's face reality. The government and the gas companies are going to go ahead with fracking. Nor does  it matter a damn what we think or say. If we object, they will ignore us. If we demonstarte and the deomonstration gets in their way, they will send in the police. Protecting greedyand unscrupulous corporations from threatening our livliehoods and even our lives is what they call maintenance of law and order. We have already seen police protectinig the gas drillers in the province. They have never been sent in such a situation to protect the people of New Brunswick. And they never will be.

As usual, the people who start protests are not the protesters. They are the political and corporate bosses.

The TandT has finally noticed the Quebec student strike. But its report is mostly a zero. All it talks about is speculation over the legality of Bill 78. It's largely an interview with Julius Grey in Montreal. I know him well, and he 's  a superb authority. But Bill 78 is not what the demonctrations are about.

The picture above the story is of student strikers. Take a good look at them. Look at their faces. Do they look like crazy rioters and spoiled brats? What you are looking at are the faces of people fed up with corrupt and lying governments. They are people fed up with elections that simply exchange one set of liars and corporate puppets for another.  These are people who have seen shrinkage of democracy year by year as voters give up on the system - that disilliusionment largely the result of news media that lie and twist the news, that keep people in ignorance of what is going on. That's what the demonstrations are about. That's why they're spreading to other parts of Canada, the US, and Europe.

This is the future. This is where news media like the Irving Press are taking us. No. This isn't the future. This is now.

Our childhood beliefs  are the ghost of Christmas past. Those faces are the ghost of Christmas present. Christmas yet to be?

That's up to us.


Speaking, as we were, of a report that is zero, read Rod Allen's op ed piece. Then compare it with Jody Dallaire's just  below it..Try to guess which one is a real journalist.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

EXTRA,EXTRA for May 23

Go to google. type in manifencours.

The first entry to come up should be the twitter site for the strike in Montreal. And it gives a very different picture from what most of the press is giving us. It is in English - and most of the writers seem to be English. I presume their is a French site, too, but got overexcited before I could check - and got all in a rush to put this up as fast as possible.

I had thought from the start this strike ws far more serious than we were being led to belief (especially since the Irving papers have never mentined it at all.).

There is every possibility that North America is heading into a confrontation, all of North america. And this could be the flashpoint.

May23: Praise the Lord and Poison all the Water

It is perfectly reasonable that the federal government change the EI rules so that an unemployed person must accept a job within an hour's drive from home - or be disqualified from receiving EI. In the lead story of NewsToday, this is the quotation from an 'expert'.

An expert on what? On driving an hour to work and home very day when you're on a low wage? An expert on how to do that when you're unemployed, don't have a car, and won't be able to afford one even if you do get a low wage job? Is he an expert on that?

Well, no. He's an expert on being quoted whenever the Times and Transcript needs a quotation from an 'expert' that supports whatever the rich want. The expert is (SURPRISE) Donald Savoie of U de Moncton. (Ever hear this 'expert' express disapproval of anything done by Harper or Irving or any of the big kids?) And he is far the most quoted 'expert' in the pages of the Irving papers.

Page B6 has a story that looked promising. It's about a recently completed study of groundwater in New Brunswick, and the threats to it. Funny thing, though. They didn't study the effects of fracking on ground water. That's like studying bomb damage in Hiroshima - except for any caused by the atomic bomb. Imagine - in over ten years there has been no study of the effects of fracking on anything. Ten years, and we're just now enacting regulations for which there has been no study in the first place.

Let me put this gently. there is no possibility that one can believe in the honesty of any government in this province in at least the past ten ten years. There is no reason to believe in the integrity or even human concern of any of the drilling companies. There is no reason to see the Moncton Times and Transcript as anything but ethically corrupt.

This province is full of people and their churches who claim to adhere to the moral beliefs of Christianity. But this province is run and controlled by people who are profoundly immoral by the standards of any religion I can think of.

Where the hell are the clergy and churches of this province while all this is going on?  Where are even those Christians who think being Christian means having a shower, getting dressed neatly, knocking on my door, and giving me a pamphlet?

By their silence, the churches in this province are partners in the whole history of abuse of New Brunswickers by their political leaders, their economic leaders and most of their news media. I would love to go to a church in Moncton. But, frankly, if I want a  dose of self-righteous hypocrisy, it's easier just to read the paper or listen to a speech by Harper or Alward.

The op ed page? The one we need for expert analysis so that we can understand the news? Today, it features a diary of Eric Lewis' visit to New York; and Brian Cormier's sage observation that it cost more to have two pets than just one.

Nowhere in the paper is there a mention of the demands of the medical profession for a study of the health implications of fracking. Of course not. The powers of this province don't give a damn for the place or its people. To those buzzards, New Brunswick and its people are just pieces of rotting carrion to be picked at.

Norbert has his usual column in which he blames everybody but himself for poor voter turnout. Look, Nortbert, voter turnout in North American has been sinking for at least forty years. What's causing it to sink is the lies and apathy encouraged by journalists like you who peddle propaganda and trivia so that people have no idea what is going on. By your refusal to mention it, you encourage corruption and disillusionment with government of any sort. You and your paper have constantly pimped for any corrupt and greedy scheme so long as it came from the 'right' people.

And, so far, Norbert, your paper has not mentioned the Montreal student strike - let alone tell the truth about it. It is now spreading across Canada, the US, and into Europe. Your paper hasn't mentioned it, though it's world news, and Quebec is next door. What's the problem, Norbert, your boss doesn't approve of it? I'll just bet he doesn't.  It's a protest against people like him.

Superb column by Alec Bruce.  And there are two letters worth reading. One is "Columnist proposes faulty policy". It's about Norbert, of course. The other is "Writer eloquent on MHS file". The decision to move MHS has, like everything else in this province's politics and in it's Irving press, the reek of dishonesty.

Boy, it sure doesn't take long to cover what's good in this paper.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May 22: no room for news....

There are close to nine pages, mostly pictures, of the Prince of Wales and Camilla.
There's another full page of pictures, supposedly of people enjoying Victoria day - two people on bicycles, a man fishing another cutting grass - and a lobster boat lying on its side. Wow! Talk about gutsy journalism, and the news you need to know.

In this one day, there was more space devoted to pictures and gush about trivia than I have seen  for reporting on shale gas in the whole time I've lived here. Why, there wasn't even room for the standard page of minimum wage employees holding up giant cheques for charity and smiling.

There was more space devoted to that one picture of a lobster boat lying on its side than has been devoted to reporting on the Quebec student strike - though the student strike has made serious news in papers around the world.

This is  not by accident. Harper, Alward, and the corporations who rule us want us to think trivial, to let them run things. It's not new. Kings and emperors and dictators have done this throughout history. That's what the shows at the Coliseum were all about - to keep the Roman people entertained, trivial, ignorant of what their rulers were doing, ignorant of how they were being ripped off, ignorant even of their own poverty.

And we still have the War of 1812 celebrations to go.

There was news, rather good news in NewsToday. Harper is pulling out of Afghanistan completely in 2014. He didn't even claim that all those years of fighting and all those deaths had achieved anything at all. Nor could he mention what the war was about because we've never heard a plausible reason for it in the first place.

Nor did he mention the damage Obama has done. It was Obama who ordered a bigger war, when he called a troop surge, to end it quickly. In fact, all it did was to increase the butcher's bill, especially for Afghan civilians.

Oh, and be prepared cut unnecessary luxuries like health care and environmental research. Harper has promised to pay $330 million to the government of Afghanistan - the world's most corrupt government - to help cover its defence budget. Right. A nice retirement fund for Karzai.

But didn't the prince and Camilla look lovely? And wow!..that photo of a lobster boat on its side.

Not imporant enough to make today's paper were the Quebec student strike, the Oscar winning documentary Inside Job, the phone call between Blair and Bush just before the invasion of Iraq, and the extraordinary numbers of innocent people behind bars in the US. Very quickly....

1.The Quebec student strike has come to look very much like a general revolt against corrupt government, the growing wealth and power of business leaders while other suffer, the decline of democracy -all those problems we know so well in New Brunswick.

2. Inside Job is a look at the stunning levels of corruption in the American university world - espccially among top academics at the most pretigious institutions. Corrupted by, in particular, large corporations like drug companies, oil producers, major banks, they happily produce false studies, and lie to the news media.
Having spent much of my life in universities, I was not surprised to read that this happens. I've seen enough of it - even in New Brunswick where  I'm pretty sure I've seen the Times and Transcript taking advantage of it. What did suprise me is the scale of rot and corruption in Americn universities, particularly in fields like economics, political science, commerce  (Alas! Nobody even bothers to corrupt historians.). 
The documentary is for sale. Just google Guardian bookshop. Look for Charles Ferguson, Inside Job.

Oh, yes. The documentary also showed that a high proportion of think tanks (you know, organizations like Fraser Insitute, AIMS, that sort of thing) are simply fronts for propaganda.

3. A British court has ordered that the Foreign office must release a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Blair and George Bush shortly before their invasion of Iraq. Apparently, they were trying to start the invasion before UN inspectors could verify their story that Saddam had stocked "weapons of mass destruction". They succeeded, of course. And, to this day, no such weapons have ever been found.

BTW - what is a weapon of mass destruction? The British and Americans killed anywhere from a quarter million to a more likely million and a half, mostly civilians. In either case, that is surely mass destruction.Did they do it using weapons of minimum destruction?

4. A US study has determined that, since 1989, at least 2000 innocent Americans have been found guilty of crimes ranging all the way to murder - usually because of faulty court practices, false confessions, and illegal behaviour by prosecutors. And this just counts the ones who were cleared on appeals. Before they were cleared, most spent years in prison, and at least two were executed.

Gee! You'd never know that from watching Law and Order.

Monday, May 21, 2012

May 21:

Special note - The Moncton Times and Transcript has still not said a word about the Quebec student strike, though it has now, as was predictable, gone international. Very few of the news media in Canada have shown any grasp of what this is all really about, and how serious it is. The Irving press, once again, stands out. It has not misread the student strike. It doesn't even seem to know it's on.

The Chronicle Herald feels they should sit down with the Quebec government should chat reasonably with Charest. This is the Jean Charest who is up to his ears in corruption in the construction business, and in connections with the mafia that almost every Quebec premier has had.

Make no mistake about it. This student strike is going to continue to spread. As I said several days ago, this is a spark in an explosive world. It's not about spoiled brats. It's about a spoiled rotten government - not unlike the one in New Brunswick.

NewsToday devotes four (plus) pages to the visit of a man whose only distinction in life was being born into a royal family. There is also a picture of his wife smiling. Yes. It's true. It says so right under the picture...Duchess...smiles.... I was so thrilled to read that. Will his visit to New Brunswick cost us much? You bet. Will it change the life of anybody in the province (or anywhere else in this world?)  No. Of course not. But we still get four pages of pictures and gush.

So why are we, who need medical equipment, money for the elderly, for schools, for housing. spending millions to see pictures of two nonentities smiling? Because, like the War of 1812 celebration, it's good press for Harper. He's playing the patriot card for the type of person who is a major factor in his electoral base. This goes with put 'em in jail and throw away the key, dismantle environment regulations, cut government service just when we need them and, now, God bless the empire. It all appeals to that hard core of "differently advantaged" voters that Harper depends on to hold power with only two-thirds of the voting population won't vote for him.

In lesser news, Canada is being urged to stay on in Afghanistan past 2014 to train troops. We may well be asked to help out, too, with Obama's promise to pay Afghanistan's military budget for years to come. And what has all this achieved?

In over a decade of war, the US government is broke, the US economy in tatters, at least tens of thousands of civlians murdered, thousands of our troops killed. There is no democracy; and the government is so corrupt and hated that it doesn't even control the capital city.

Canada won't run for the exits? Then Canada is a damn fool. Why should we squander more lives and money for a war that never made sense in the first place?

Oh, yes. There is a reason. We have to pretend we succeeded in ----whatever. )Get ready for the speeches about how this war preserved freedom in Canada. We have to do that to save the faces of war criminals, murderers and torturers from Dick Cheney to Obama. We have to pretend we kill people to bring them democracy. Besides, we need to transfer combat troops Syria, Iran. possibly Yemen, along with other parts of Africa. We're also going to need them for Latin America and Asia. In fact, those moves are already happening.

Oh, don't miss  page B 6. That's today's regular page of photos of strangers, holding cheques for a worthy cause and smiling.

Then there is an unfortunate letter to the editor. (Not surprisingly, it was selected as letter of the day.) Its expresses anger over the protests at moving Moncton High to Royal Oaks. Its main points are -

1.   writer ----We have to set priorities in provincial spending. The government has spent 1.475 to buy land for a
new school.  Documents have been signed. If we block the school now, that money will be wasted.

Me----(Well, yes. We do have to set priorities. But we didn't. The government simply chose that location - and has refused to tell us why Our first priority is that a government damn well tells us why it makes the choices it does. Our first priority is to make t his a democracy. And you don't make a democracy by telling government it can do what it wants to without telling us why.
Another priority  is to plan locations of major buildings which will last at least fifty years so that they will make sense for all those years. Royal Oaks almost certainly won't. That means you don't have to worry about the 1.475 million being wasted. It already has been. And just wait till you see the sweetheart deals for the "public/private" partnership that will build it.)
2. writer----The opposing group can't even agree on whether it wants a new school or a restoration of the existing one.

me ----(And your point is?  The argument is not about exaactly what the solution should be. The argument is that there has been no public discussion of what should be done, no information in the press about alternatives; and the government refuses to say why it made the decision it did. Straighten out democracy in this province. Then you can work out the details.

3. writer----Opposition leaders are using this issue to blemish the government.

me----(Again, in a democracy, oppositioin leaders are supposed to oppose. That's why they are called opposition leaders. In any case, this is a government which can do a bang-up job of blemishing itself without help. And when you reveal that sort of thing in a government it benefits everybody. You seem to be hazy on the concept of democracy.)

4. writer-----Only a small minority are opposed to moving the school to Royal Oaks. And this issue affects only a minute percentage of the Moncton population.

me----(Oh? How do you know how many are opposed? Did you read it in the Truthful Times and Transcript? My own guess is that  you are half right. Only a minority of the total population is opposed. But, as well, only a tiny minority are for. Perhaps bitten too many times in the past, perhaps cowed by the oppressive control exercised over the province, most people in Moncton seem to prefer to have no opinons about anything. Remember the turnouts at the provincial and municipal elections?

As for the percentage affected, are you sure you understand the meaning of the word minute? In fact, it affects a large proportion directly -and all of us indirectly since we have to pay for it in money as well as in the fiture development of our city. As well, we pay for it whenever democracy is ignored - as this government so frequently does.)

5.writer ----Most Monctonians are tired of hearing about MHS.

(Ah, I must have missed the report on that in the Truthful Times. Or do you have special abilities, and can see around corners?)

6.writer----We must live within our means and focus on our priorites.
me----(Yes. But how do you decide either means or priorities unless you discuss them?)

7.writer----- "My priorities are health care, job creation....which will happen wherever the school is built."

me----(Impressive but, again, shaky on the concept of democracy. In a democracy, we are all allowed to have our own priorities - just like you. My first one is getting a handle on what the future is going to be like, and how to prepare for it so that we can make rational plans for health care, educaton, etc.
Actually, no, there's a priority before that - to establish a real democracy in New Brunswick. Until we do, all the rest is just blowing bubbles.

On the question of job creation, am I correct in assuming you are a Conservative? Now, it's no secret that both the Conservatives and the Liberals have a close relationship with large corporations in this province.Now, close your eyes and think really, really hard.

Why would large corporations want job creation (or prosperity at all) in New Brunswick. This is only a small part of their market. But it is a major part of their labour force and of their resources. Is there a picture forming in your mind?

Of course. Our major corporations don't want full employment and prosperity in New Brusnwick. they don't want those any more than they want an honest newspaper.

They want cheap labour, kept cheap by fears of unemployment. They want cheap resources from people too scared to refuse them. They want low costs for health care and serniors so they can pay even lower taxes. Not only are they not interested in your priorities; they have every intention of making sure they don't ever happen.  This province has a long, long history of what big business wants. Read it some day.)

back to just me.....

And why did the TandT publish this as "Letter of the Day"?

Gee. I'll have to think about that.

Readers should look over this letter carefully. The wording suggests it was written by a person with political ambitions. The language is in a very  "politician" style. Notice that she says the opposition is trying to "blemish" the government. Blemish is a loaded word. It suggests that not only is it attacking the government, but it is doing so in an improper, even immoral, way to a government that's as pure as the driven snow.

You can just tell she thinks Liberals and Conservatives are different. That's cute.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May 19:Will Montreal come to Moncton?

First, just a quick look at the Times and Transcript.
1. Four pages of pictures and story about Prince Charles and Duchess Whatever. And they aren't even here yet.
2. A two page spread of identical photos of various companies getting awards for energy efficiency. This is, presumably, an ad paid for by New Brunswick Energy Efficiency whose new CEO is a fervent advocate of shale gas. What do these awards mean? Who knows? All we know is it's a great ad for our government's concern for preserving our environment, and for nice people like Mr. Irving who want to keep New Brunswick green no matter what it costs him.
3. A full page ad with the mandatory photo of eight people holding up a giant cheque, this one for $57,000 dollars for Moncton Hospital.  Wow! That's 3 cents for each and every person in greater Moncton. It also prominently displays the logos of all their sponsors so we'll know to bank at Royal Bank and drink Molson's.Let's see - big ceremony, expensive ad...Wouldn't it be better if they sent alll the spending to the hospital - and cut down on the self-praise?
4. The letters to the editor are a storm of protest against the de Adder editorial cartoon about Miramichi and E Coli. And rightly so. But de Adder was not the one who decided to run that cartoon. No editorial cartoonist makes such a decision. That is decided by the editorial page editor. The person who should be apologizing is that editor. So who was it? The paper does not seem to have someone with that title. But Rod Allen's name appears in the usual title slot.

And now back to the real meaning - and consequences - of the Quebec student strike.

Part of the big problem begins with the Quebec universities - because they are just like univeristies across Canada and the US.

Our universities are obsessed with status and intellectual snobbery. All of this is made worse by the grossly misleading ratings by MacLean's magazine. Indeed, the rating are so influential that the hopelessly unqualified editors of MacLeans' Magazine actually run our universities much as the hopelessly unqualified "thinkers' of AIMS have been trying to run our public schools.

We need universities built around the idea of producing a thinking public - also a skilled one, of course - but thinking above all. And they aren't doing it.

That's because univesity teachers are the only teachers who have no training in teaching whatever - and very little respect for it combined with almost no understanding of even what it means. They are good at training people to - oh, to become professors just like them, to train people in certain skills.

But they do not, except by accident, teaching reason, judgement, communication or even reading comprehension to any degree in most of their students. Their general method seems to rest in a belief that if they lecture their students for an hour at a time on the facts and theories that they are so clever as to know, and if the students memorize those for an exam, they will become thinkers.

But that's not, in their view, the main purpose of being a professor. They exist to do research. Research is the path to status, self-esteem, promotion.Often, it is quite useless research but, oh, it is expensive. Research demands a high proportion of those millions of books that cost over $25 dollars a year just to keep them on the shelves.  Research means professors can teach only nine hours a week (usually less)  for only an eight month year.  That leaves all those hours they aren't teaching to be paid for by somebody.

That someobody is the student they hardly teach at all - and then do it badly. Nor do most show any desire to learn how to teach. There's no status in it.

Ignorance, status-seeking and now a weak economy are pricing univerities out of the market, not only for the poor who have always been frozen out, but now for the middle class, too.

The wonder is not that Quebec students are striking but that students across Canada are not striking.

Oh, I know. If you're serious, you can work while going to school; you can borrow. Been there. Done that. It was always a close thing - and I never did make up financially for those lost years. (I left public school teaching to get a doctorate in history. When I at last landed my first university job, it paid exactly what  I would have received if I had stayed in public school teaching. The only difference was that now I had a large debt and five years of lost salary.

Is free tuition an unreasonable, spoiled brat demand? Other countries don't think so. Finland, no economic giant, readily offers free university tuition. They do so because private education discriminates against the poor, and that causes us to lose a vast pool of talent. (People who have money do not necessrily have brains.)

Our news media have largely ignored the other issues the strike is about - things like governments that don't give a damn what the voters want. They do only what their wealthier donors tell them to do. (New Brunswick has never had that problem, of course.) It's about a greedy assault on the environment that they will suffer for in their lifetimes. It's about the rapid disappearance of democracy as corporations take over reall power. It's about the demonstrated incompetence of corporations to run socieites. Despite the opinions of nutbars and professional liars, the poor did not cause the economic collapse we are living through. It was caused by the greedy and sometimes illegal behaviour of large corporations. Now the rest of us are paying for their greed, while the corporations continue to get even richer at our expense.

The students are on strike not because of language or nationalism or spoiled bratism. They are on strike because of the rapid disappearance of the world of the future we thought we were building.

Here in New Brunswick, for example, gas companies don't give a damn what we think of the dangers of shale gas. Nor does our government. (Nor will the Liberals if we are foolish enough to elect them again.)  If we object, we are trouble makers. And if our objections are sufficiently annoying to the corporations, the police will be called out to "maintain law and order".

The future of Canada is being played out in the streets of Montreal.

The future is that we will increasingly, especially under the pressures of recession, oppose our governments, many of which are profoundly corrupt. (Charest's Quebec is certainly an obvious place to start.)

Governments will refuse to listen.

People will, in desperation, turn to demonstrating. At that point, government will become repressive - in stages - police, riot squads, army, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment.

It is already well under way.Harper has already declared environmenalists to be radicals and even terrorists. Charest is proposing legislation so repressive that it has lawyers worried. The US, within months, will pass legistaion giving the army the right to arrest and imprison people without charge or trial. It already has the biggest domestic espionage system in history - and don't kid yourself that it's just watching Moslems. Watch for Canada to follow suit. We have already given American police the right to act freely in Canada. (They act freely in Honduras, too, where they recently shot half a dozen innocent people, two of them pregnant women.)

The age of big brother has arrived. The students in the streets of Montreal are not spoiled brats. They are simply reacting to the destruction of all the democratic values we once had.

If you want to find the real spoiled brats, look for the ones who are not rioting, the sleek and comfortable - and greedy and indifferent- occupants of executive offices. They never riot. Spoiled brats don't have to riot to get what they want.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May 18: Quebec and spoiled brats

Okay - The Moncton Times and Transcript quickly.

What is in the TandT?

1. Brilliant column by Alec Bruce.
2. disturbing column by David Suzuki.
3. Phony action on shale gas by the NB government.

What's not in the TandT?
1. Ford and Geneal Motors linked to illegal destruction of Brazil rain forest - and to slavery.
    (who would have guessed?)
2. Harper, as part of bill to speed up exploitation of oil and gas regions is going to close down the National Roundtable for the Environment and the Economy. (But don't worry. Alward will watch out to protect us from environmental problems.)

Now to Quebec.

Reaction to the Quebec student strike in the Canadian news media has commonly been what is technically called the "old fart" school of commentary, describing the students as spoiled brats. The Chronicle Herald, in a variation of that theme, says that the law must be upheld. (I don't believe it has ever made such a comment when corporations have broken the law.) Of course, billionaires don't riot in the streets. At least, I can't recall the last time I saw one. That could mean that billionaires are not spoiled brats. Or it could mean something else.....

Maybe the students are spoiled brats.  But that tells us nothing about anything, and has no bearing whatever on what we are facing, and why.  People have reasons for the way they behave. Even spoiled brats have reasons. If we want to solve the problem, we have to understand what those reasons are. Harrumphing about spoiled brats and enforcing the law will have no effect on what the Quebec student strike is really about - and the effect such thinking is soon going to have well beyond the borders of Quebec..

But it can be hard to figure exactly what people's reasons are. We humans are funny creatures. We often  (maybe usually) act without knowing exactly why we're doing whatever we're doing. But if we stand back and forget our urge to make thrunderiing denunciations, we can make some pretty good guesses.

1. Remember the turnout in New Brunswick's municipal elections? In the last federal election? Our democracy is in trouble. Voter participation has been dropping steadily for over fifty years. Canada is led by a paryt that only one-third of us voted for. And that's quite common in the "democratic" world.

Did people suddenly became lazy in the last fifty years? Is there a virus? Possibly. But more likely it's been a loss of trust in politicians and in democracy, itself. Here in New Brunswick, our elected government (which was supposed to listen to us) quite openly listens to corporations instead -and gives them whatever they want. The same is true of the Charest government in Quebec and the Harperites in Ottawa.

Trust in the democratic process is just about dead.  And, as it dies, we can expect to see lots more "spoiled brats" across Canada and, indeed, all of North America.

2. Separatism? Not likely. Separatist leaders, too, have lost a good deal of trust. The separatist movement was based on two, historical myths believed by both French and English. One myth was that the French of Quebec were poor. The other was that the English of Quebec were rich.

In fact, the French working class was generally better off than the English working class, since it had a higher proportion of skilled workers. And there were rich French. (The name Parizeau springs to mind.)  The wealthy French dominated the professions. As for the English, some were very rich, indeed. But the majority, by far, were working class, and at the lowest levels.

 But that started to change in the 1950s.

3. The change was caused by schooling. To understand that, you have to understand that French Quebec has a social structure of something resembling aristocracy and peasantry. The aristocracy were (and still are) the wealthy French. Every premier (and most cabinet ministers) in the history of Quebec have been graduates of a handful of private schools. (Levesque, who didn't graduate from his private school, might be counted the one, partial exception among premiers.)

The French private schools offered excellent and expensive education with oustanding records of producing bilingual graduates. Thanks to the influence of the students' daddies, they also might receive government grants.

Those same daddies also sat on the boards for public schools, the ones for the peasantry. Rich daddies saw no reason to waste their tax money on peasant children. So the French public schools were badly and cheaply run to keep taxes down.  They normally did not qualify students to attend university. Indeed, few would stay past grade nine.

English public schools were based on the Scottish system - with the same programmes for all children, rich and poor. As well, most of the rich English sent their own children to the public schools, so they had a stake in making sure they were good. Across Quebec, Protestant (English) school tax rates were consistently higher than Catholic (French) ones. Few English children would get past grade nine, either - but the system that could do it was in place.

For over a century, that made no great difference at all. Then, in the fifties and sixties there was an explosion of office jobs that required more schooling. The English schools only had to build more classrooms. The French public schools were hopelessly inadequate.  The result, by the 1960s, was the rise of an English middle class. The French certainly fell behind in that period. But the ones who did the damage were their own, upper class leaders.

The separatist movement glossed over that. What it talked about was how it would bring social justice to the French poor. And the earlier separatists may have intended to. But the Jacques Parizeau's soon changed that. They changed it  to a movement to push the English wealthy aside in favour of the French wealthy. And the rich French still use the private school system to retain their advantage.

The Quebec student strike, for all the attempts of the Parti Quebecois to cuddle up to it, is not likely to be taken in. Indeed, the Parti Quebecois is part of the reason for their disillusionment with government in the first place.

And, oh, this is running too long for a single blog - so I'll finish it tomorrow with a look at how Canadian universities are destroying themselves out of pure snobbery, how university for the poor has become simply become a way to spend a lifetime in debt, how Canada is throwing away potential leaders by the million,a look at the consequences for all of us. And then a brief look at how sensible countries are dealing with this.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May 17: Prince Charles and Camilla to walk on....

...a street in St. John.

Oh, I could die. I could just die.

That's the big story in section C. But skip through the rest (almost all ads) to p. C 8. Look hard. There's a tiny story hidden way up in the corner. (U.N. criticizes Canada").  It seems that 800,00 households in Canada suffer 'food insecurity'. That means 800,000 households have no idea where the next meal is coming from. Though the story doesn't say so, that also meaans that most of those households are dependinig heavily on foods that cause obesity and other forms of bad health. Then the story offers a misleading statistic. It places that 800,000 figure in the context of a population of 34,000,000. But a household is not a person.

A household is at least two people - either two adults or one adult and a child. It is not a poor person living alone. It could be two adults and 10 children.  On a very rough and conservative guess, 800,000 households means 3,200,000 Canadian are inadequately fed. Toss in all those, young and old, living alond, and we're looking at 4,000,000 - at least.

Our federal government dismissed the UN spokesman as a "patronizing academic". Perhaps so. But such a response also sends another message - that our government is made up of people who don't give a damn about the conditions we live in.

The problem is particularly severe among native peoples, the ones most dependent on government help.

Quite apart from the suffering, malnutition is reflected in school and work performance. That means millions of Canadians are starting life without a chance.-and this in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

In local terms, this would give us over 20,000 malnourished people in a metro Moncton that "punches over its weight".

And it's even worse in the US where the government plans to cut down on food for the hungry in order to keep taxes low for millionaires and billionaires.

Think about that, Norbert. Then write a column on what this tells us about our grotesquely twisted perversion of capitalism and of government by corporation bosses.

There are only two, important pieces of news in section A. The first is a picture of a truck with superbig wheels rolling over two, wrecked cars. This is an important picture for those who like to look at pictures of trucks with superbig wheels rolling over two, wrecked cars.

The other is on p. C3. Energy Minister Blaney has resigned her seat in the legislature; and Alward has appointed her CEO of government-owned Efficiency New Brunswick. It's a long story - that still manages to miss the only two, important points in it.

1. Blaney has virtually no experience in the field of energy since she has been absent for most of her short time as Energy Minister.
2. She has been a strong supporter of shale gas development - a record that would seem to be in conflict with her new role.

It does, however, mention there was no public search for a CEO. Blaney was simply appointed by Alward.

Norbert's column shocked me. He suggested we should tell entrepreneurs that we aren't going to hand out 'development' money to them in any form. What, he asks, would happen?

Well, for openers Norbert would get fired for suggesting it in the first place. Alward would have to spend at least a week on smelling salts. Um, Norbert, would you, perhaps, be prepared to name the enterpreneurs you have in mind? Any name that start with G? I? M?

The rest of his column is just silly.

Jody Dallaire and Alec Bruce write on closely related topics; and both, as usual, are worth the read.

On op ed, Rod Allan contributes the usual staff-writer waste of space.

Letters to the Editor is a powerful reminder that the village idiots on both sides are thirsting for a language war. Don't encourage them.

The Times and Transcript has yet to report anything of substance on the student strike in Quebec - though it has implications that could be serious for Canada - and maybe beyond. As it happens, I have quite a bit of experience, both personally and professionally, of what is going on in that strike. If tomorrow's Times and Transcript is another nothing, I may devote the space to what is going on in Quebec.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May 16:Lots of ads....

Not much news.
That makes it hard to talk about what's in the Moncton Times and Transcript - because almost nothing's in it. So today, we'll take a quick look at what's in it - and then a look at what isn't in it.

The risk of E. Coli infection has passed. That takes care of section A.

Section C. Mr Alward is impreseed by a recommendation that the NB government take more risks in extending help to provinical private business (translation - hand out more corporate welfare.) that recommendation came - surprise - from a committee led by a business leader. (Meanwhile, Canada moves to cut back EI payments from those lazy bums who lose their jobs in the recession. By the way, those lazy bums paid for EI insurance. It was deducted from their pay cheques.  I have seen no evidence that corporations have paid for their welfare cheques.)

Canada is continuing to cut its forces in Afghanistan. But the news story doesn't really tell us why. So here's why. The war was a lost a long time ago. Uncountable tens of thousands of figbhers on both sides have died. The civilian dead - murdered accidentally, killed on purpose or for the fun of it, died of starvation and/or exposure, bombings, illness created by the war are uncounted and uncountable. And nobody even bothered to count the dead mercenaries.

We've known for years that this war was unwinnable. That's why France and other NATO countries are pullng out. So why are the US, Canada and Britain taking so long  to leave? Because it would make our leaders look bad for having gone into Afghanistan in the first place. So, to save face for Bush and Obama and Harper and Blair,, thousands have died. And more will die.

We leave behind a legacy of destruction, death, disease, cripples, corruption - and well-deserved  hatred.

The op ed page, which most newspapers reserve for serious comment, is devoted to the usual triviality by Brian Cormier and Eric Lewis . Read these only if thinking gives you a headache.

The editorial has the nerve to say that voters seem to be losing touch with politics. Of course they are. The Moncton Times and Transcript has worked for years to keep voters in ignorance and out of touch with politics. Well, the turnout for the recent elections is good news..It says that the strategy of the Irving Press has worked, and it's time to break out the champagne.

Norbert's column...the words silly, incoherent, hysterical come to mind. He rants about ideology - but clearly does not know what the word means. (He seems to think it means people who disagree with his thinking.)

What isn't in the news - though it is in other papers?

China is setting up newspapers in Africa. No big deal? Think again. China is working hard to establish itself as a force in Africa. Of course. Africa has a phenomenal wealth in minerals that we rarely hear of. That's why the western world - Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and now the US (and Canada)  -has been  plundering, enslaving, torturing and murdering in uncountable millions in that sad continent. China is making its play for a large piece of the action.

So is the US. That's why we bombed Libya and encouraged rebellions in Syria and Egypt, and send death squads into Iran. It has nothing to do with democracy, nothing to do with saving lives. In fact, in Libya and Syria, we h ave caused more deaths, far more, than we have prevented. Libya, under the rebels we supported, is now murdering and torturing anybody who is a black African. The rebels, using the weapons we supplied are now fighting each other, and killing large numbers of civilians in the process. In Syria, our side, supplying money, weapons, and mercenaries for the rebels (as well as special ops troops) hs made a full war of what was a manageable conflict. And there is worse to come for Africa and  the Middle East, much worse.

And the TandT continues to ignore the student strike n Quebec. This is turning into something profoundly serious - with quite likely some impact nationally as well as provincially. At best, all we wil get out of this from the TandT is a grumpy rant from Norbert that they're all spoiled brats.

Maybe they are. It doesn't matter. The impact will still be there; and it will have to be dealt with.

For insight on this, turn to Acadiennouvelle. Chantal H├ębert has been doing some fine commentary on this. I would only urge him to take an even closer look a the class structure of French Quebec. It bears a remarkable resemblance to that of Victorian England. This is a problem the Quiet Revolution of the 60s barely touched - though it is a problem far more serious than the language one. In fact, the language laws and Quebec nationalism were and are almost irrelevant to the future of Quebec. They were used by the leading classes to their own advantage, to make themeselves more powerful and rich - and to distract French voters from their real problem - privileges for the weatlhy few at the expense of everybody else.

That, as in the Occupy Movement, is very much what the Quebec student strike is about.

Okay, Norbert. They're spoiled brats. You wanna go there and spank them?

Incidentally, Acadiennouvelle has a total of 180 columns. But only some 40 are ads. That is such a low proportion, that it must make it difficult for the paper to operate. The Moncton Times and Transcript has double that, plus all those advertising inserts. In total, the Tand T must have at least 10 times the advertising that the Acadienncenounelle has.

Does anybody know why Acadiennouvelle doesn't get more ads? (Hey. I'm still new here.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 14: Wretched...

For weeks, as municipal and institutional election campaigns were held throughout New Brunswick, The Moncton Times and Transcript told us almost nothing about the candidates or the issues. All that appeared were very brief press releases about the candidates, and written by the candidates. There was no probing, no questoning. There was no discussion of major issues - except for some newspaper lobbying for an overpriced hockey rink.

Anyone who did vote almost certainly did so in fog of ignorance about what the issues were and who the candidates were and what they stood for.That was reflected in an anaemic turnout of voters: at 39%, it was some 10% lower than the last time we went through this farce of democracy.

That was the big news for the result - that the word democracy has no meaning in New Brunswick.

But the Times and Transcript, which could not be bothered informing its readers about the elections, today devoted almost the whole paper (except, of course, for the really important stuff like sports and celebrity birthdays) to non-news about the election.

A big headline on p. 1 is  "Riverview makes history". Wow! It elected its first woman mayor. Boy, we'll have to postpone the Second Coming. Nobody would even notice the tarantulas tortuing sinners, or the righteious rising naked up to Heaven when they've got the big news that Riverside elected its first woman mayor.

It was the usual New Brunswick election. The Moncton Times and Transcript muzzled any discussion, debate or probing during the campaign - except things the boss wants us to know like the terrible, terrible urgency of going into heavy debt in the midst of a recession that has no end in sight, all so we can built a hockey rink.

Result? Very few people have the information they need. All the artificial excitement gets stirred up around a triviality like a hockey rink. Voters, both uninformed and long disillusioned in this make-believe world created by the Moncton Times, just say the hell with it.

Their is nothing harmless about a press which is bad all the time, and dishonest and manipulative most of the time. Thirty-nine percent turnout. There's nothing there for even the winners to celebrate.

The editorial, even more fat-headed than normal, and written with such excitement that I should hope the editor was close to washroom, says ...the people of Moncton and New Brunswick have spoken..."

Like hell they have. over sixty percent didn't say a word. But I guess that's the way the boss likes it.

Today is the day Norbert presented his final thoughts on how wonderful the world of the future is going to be. To save time for yourself, just say geewhizgollygosh two hundred times. That will give you as much information as Norbert does in his teeny-bopper gush..

Kelly Lamrock offers an op ed column of new ideas for the Liberal Party. Well, some are new ideas - if  you're a Liberal and if your name is Kelly Lamrock. And some aren't ideas at all. They're just words that sound good.

Only two things save the whole paper. One is Alec Bruce. The other - surprise! - is the staff op ed column by Alan Cochrane.

Did they miss anything important? Well, the Quebec student strike, like it or hate it - is not merely what it appears to be on the surface. It's certainly not just about lower university fees. It has implications that, probably, even most of the strikers aren't aware of - and it has the potential to erupt into a national crisis. Even now, the American embassy has issued an warning to Americans to stay away from Montreal this summer.

Mind you, we may soon hear a similar warning about visiting the US. For example, there's the case of the American government moving to cut back on the food stamps that are keeping over fifty million Americans alive. It needs to cut back so that it can spend that money on the military, and so it won't have to raise taxes on the very rich.

There will be consequences.

There is a severe risk of a war very soon on Iran and Syria. If it happens, there is a very severe chance of it turning into a world war, and maybe with nuclear weapons. That may help to explain the little-reported story that the US is redeploying tactical nuclear weapons to Europe. Gee! I hope that won't affect summer tourism in New Brunswick.

Then there's something that might seem small. New China News Agency is setting up newspapers in Africa. No big deal? If you think it isn't a big deal, then you have no idea at all what is going on in Africa.

It is quite possible we are getting close to events that will have a direct effect on us, and that will prove even more important than  Riverview electing a female mayor.----maybe even more important that borrowing money for a hockey rink.