Every day, I remain in touch with old friends in journalism - mostly in Montreal, but also scattered to London, Japan, and China. Their politics range anywhere from moderate liberal to neo-conservative and libertarian. (Contrary to a common impression, most journalists are not raving leftists. Most of those I have known are leftists of any sort. The contrast between most western journalists and those in the Irving press is not a political one. The contrast is that most journalists have some sense of ethics. Okay. The word some comes in very small letters.)
When I told them the New Brunswick government was presenting a bill which would forbid doctors from taking public positions on issues of public health, even the most conservative were astonished - and would not believe me. They back in posts that were frequently rude, that this could not happen in a western democracy - that I was making it up. I had to send them news reports and descriptions of the bill. Now, they want me to keep them daily informed of what on earth is going on in this bizarre province.
According to today's Section A., not much is going on. Of its 8 pages, five are stories of people walking or running to help some cause; and there is, of course, the standard picture of smiling people holding up a huge checque. The resmaining three pages are mostly ads and obituaries.
Page two has its standard interview with almost the only professor the TandT ever interviews, Donald Savoie of U de M. It refers to him as "Savoie...the acclaimed researcher..." (Hint, if a newspaper has to say you're acclaimed, you aren't.)
Savoie's gist is we have to cut government spending. That's also the Harper line, and it's the line of the European bankers who are plunging Greece and and Ireland and Spain and other into prolonged and profound poverty and suffering.
We could cut spending dramatically with rather stricter standards of what honesty in government means, and with fewer gifts to billionaaires. And that would certainly be a good start. But there is no record of any country ever breaking out of recession simply by cutting spending. Quite the contrary. Governments that cut spending made the great depression of the 1930s worse. Business didn't care because all the desperately cheap labour available meant they could maintain high profits, even with lower sales. Employers like the Eaton's stores could fire employees just weeks before they were to retire, thus cutting their obligation to pay pensions. Paid holiday were cancelled. Overtime became compulsory and unpaid. Women could be hired for ten cents an hour to sew shirts for Eatonia. Big farm produce buyers like Macdonald Tobacco, meat packing companies, retail chains could skip the usual auctions and simply offer a basement price to farmers, saying "take it or leave it".
What broke the depression was not cuttinig government spending. It was increasing government spending. Afther all, people can't buy until they have money to buy with and can't pay taxes until they have money to pay them. And how could we start that without raising the deficit?
Well, geegolly, maybe we could tax the rich. But you won't hear Professor Savoie saying much about that. In Greece, people are actually starving to death, and the suicide rate is skyrocketing, all because of a financial crisis created by the rich, and their refusal to pay their share of taxes for the huge debt they created.
So what's going to happen in Europe? Well, we've been there. We've been through social disorder, fascism and world war. And that's where we're heading now. The acclaimed Donald Savoie might consider that next time he's doing his acclaimed research.
Oh, they also quote the acclaimed Donald Cirtwill of the acclaimed Atlantic Institute of Market Studies - who isn't an economist at all. He's a statistician. an acclaimed one, I am sure; but still just a statistician. For an interview on economics, it would have made just as much sense to have interviewed an acclaimed plumber.
The person only person in the whole story who looks as though he might have had something intelligent to say was UNB professor David Murrell who is an economist. But it's hard to tell. they gave him only one sentence - at the bottom of the story. Maybe he's not acclaimed. (Ever notice, too, how often the TandT refers to Irving as a philanthopist? It seems to be a rule. Environmentalists are terrorists. Proressor Savoie is acclaimed. Irving is a philanthopist.)
NewsToday is five pages of ads, a business page that, as usual, says nothing, and two pages of news - in which the lead story is that people who don't get enough sleep tend to eat junk food. With the whole world trembling at the edge of eonomic collapse, severe social unrest,multi-wars, some of which have the potential to go nuclear, the big story is a warning to get more sleep.
There's also a poll (commissioned by Postmedia) showing that Harper is the most popular leader in Canada, and that the NDP has not made much progress. There's no mention that a poll of last week showed directly opposite results. Perhaps some editor was feeling dozey again.
Norbert Cunningham criticizes premier Alward for lush and overpaid patronage appointments. He says these contradict his election promises. Quite true. But then Norbert adds that nobody believed his promises, anyway.
Gee whiz, Norbert, are you saying the premier is a liar? Are you saying the people of New Brunswick are so stupid they voted for an obvious liar? Are you saying that you knew even during the election that he was lying?
Well, Norbert, why didn't you tell us stupid people he was lying? I mean, you had a daily column to do it in. And you've had hundreds more since the election.
And Norbert's solution for the problem of paying Mrs. Blaney an annual salary of $175,000 for ten years for doing nothing in particular? Why, fire more lower level civil servants. Yeah. And cut the salaries of those you keep. Yeah. I mean, who needs to have anybody to organize vast programmes like health and education and justice, and road mainenance. We can get by with just a few, cheap civil servants.
Oh, sure. Big business heeds it's 'civil servants' and 'bureaucrats'. But we don't call them that, and they're way higher paid than civil servants. But it's different. We don't have to pay for them. (Really, Norbert? Who the hell do you think puts up the money for a million dollar CEO? The tooth fairy?)
Alec Bruce's column is with the extra work to read it. At first, it looks like nothing special - but it can get you thinking toward some profound conclusions. In brief, innovations and inventions don't change the world. It's our willingness to change our ways and adopt something new that changes the world. Think - solar power is new. Fossil fuels like shale gas are not. Grade our governments and business leades from one to ten on their willingness to change.
The op ed page is the usual zero.
But there is an important message in this edition. Mr. Alward is a liar. Every political leader of New Brunswick for the past fifty years has been a liar. I didn't say that. I am just quoting Norbert. Well, I'm sorry he kept it secret for so long. But at least he's now out of the closet.
Can we now hope to see a similar exposé of Irving press editors?