Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July31: Have they no shame?

The first page of today's Monton Times and Tribune has at least two stories from yesterday's paper - without adding much to them. (They cover the weather and a home invasion.) It has two more that may have been in yesterday (NB Liquor and NB Power); but I'm not going to dig through the garbage to check that.

Worse, the weather story is labelled "Special Report". Wow! How exciting! A special report to tell us two days in a row that it's been a hot and dry summer, and that this is bad for farmers.

There's also most of a page telliing us that the Westmorland Fair was just as much fun yesterday as it was the day before. In the photo section, the theme shifted from pictures of people riding horses to pictures of children in home-made, wooden cars.

But there is great news on p. A6. "N.B.'s shale gas rules hailed". Yes. Shale gas is good for you. That's the message of a report from the president of a U.S. consulting firm. And the TandT, true to its promise to keep us informed, has given us the story. It's one of the few times it has kept us informed, and not once has it published a story that made the industry look bad. But, be grateful for what you get.

If you read three paragraphs down into the shale gas story, you come to an interesting point. The US consulting firm was hired to prepare that report. It was hired by Canadian Petroleum  Technology Alliance. So, okay, it's propaganda - but it's high class propaganda.

Still, shouldn't the headline have read "Canadian gas executives pay U.S. company for self-flattering report"?

The report also says our rules are right up there with Alberta's. Quite possibly. Alberta is the province that has developed a high cancer rate among native people living downstream from the oilsands. And where the government has been shutting up a doctor who wants to report it. Alberta has very tough rules on what you're allowed to say.

No. The TandT has no shame.

The NewsToday section has nothing that explains anything. Notably, it makes no mention that in Syria many of the rebel fighters are jihadists - moslem militants affiliated with Al-Quaeda. As well, the rebels are so divided there seems no chance that any group will be able to form a government. Add to that the fact that the war can go on only because the rebels are financed and supplied with weapons, training, money, mercenaries and leadership by the Britain, the US, Saudi Arabia and the emirates. So isn't it time to tell us what this is really all about?

The business page doesn't bother to mention that news media and business leaders are now openly muttering the word 'depression'. (More on that in Alec Bruce's column.) Nor does it mention that Finland and Sweden, two of the healthiest economies in Europe, are not cutting government budgets or social programmes. This is contrary to the budget cutting in Europe and North America - which is making matters worse, not better.

Of course, what do Finland and Sweden know?  They don't let corporations run their governments the way we do. And everybody knows that corporations are better than governments.

P. C9 has an amazing statement by presidential candidate Mitt Romney who has been courting favour and raising campaign funds in Israel. He said that Israelis have a cultural superiority over Palestinians, and that this is why Israel is economically far ahead of Palestine. Think about that.

Romney is saying that Jews are good at making money. That's a centuries-old prejudice that took European Jews (most of them poor) through lifetimes of hell, and ended up as a justification for the holocaust. It's hard to imagine a more typically anti-semitic statement. And his Jewish audience applauded. Boy! there's a lot more racism out there than we realize.

The letters to the editor are worth a read for what they tell us about the editor. There are five, excellent letters there. Then there is one, the longest, that is simplistic, has most of it its facts wrong, and is one of the most illogical letters I have ever seen. And it is the one that the editor chose to be Letter of the Day.

On the editorial page, Alec Bruce has a blunt and all-too-true assessment of the world economic situation - using the UK as an example. It's one that has been pretty much dodged by most of the news media. We are very close the reliving the 1930.  This is a column to take very seriously. We are in a crisis - and the policies favoured by our business leaders (who tell our political leaders what to do) are dead wrong.  This would be a very good time for New Brunswickers to learn why they should be proud of R.B.Bennett, the New Brunswick boy who became prime minister. Hint - he in no way resembled either Stephen Harper or what's-his-name in Fredericton.

On the oped page, Alan Cochrane chatters. But Gwynne Dyer has a fascinating comment on Buddhist oppression of Moslems in Burma. You have to read it all before the full meaning hits you. It is useful for Buddhist politicians in Burman to stir up hatred of others. Such hatred is often reinforced by religious leaders.

That's common. It happens in some Moslem countries, of course. We'll all happily agree to that. But it is also running wild in the US, and encouraged by the news media as well as the politicians and prominent churches. And it happens in Canada. If Omar Khadr had been a Christian child soldier illegally detained by Moslems, Harper would have led the demand for him to be returned to Canada immediately, and most Canadians would loudly have supported him.

Let's face it. We're hypocrites and hate mongers, just like the Bhuddhists of Burma.

Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30: a bad summer for local farmers......

...could be happening says the last page of A section in today's Moncton Times and Transcript. Yep. Could be.

Luckily, it has nothing to do with climate change.  We know that because big "think-tanks" like Heartland (financed by very big corporations) tell us there is no such thing as climate change happening. Scientists have it figured all wrong.

So don't bother checking out the story in today's Globe and Mail, the one that says these dry, hot summers may become the norm. Focussing on the western part of this continent, they say the drought of 2000 to 2004 was the worst in 800 years - and a sign of where we're going. They also say that as the soil dries up and plants die, far more carbon dioxide escapes into our atmosphere. holding in even more heat.

And The Globe mentions the rise in food costs - which will be a nuisance for us in the coming year, but death for millions around the world.

And the limited story that did make the TandT  made just the last page of A section, way below the day's most important story - that the Westmorland County Fair is a lot of fun.

If there were a warning of the nuclear attack, the TandT lead story would be that one of its advertisers has a sale on of umbrellas to guard against fallout.

With the exception of a story about the decline of rural communities, the whole of Section A is trivial. There is a third of a page of pictures about gardens without any giving a full view of a garden. In the biggest picture, the view was blocked by four people, all of whom were attractive, but none of whom resembled a flower.

There was almost a full page of a sandpiper festival of artists and people which told us nothing. One picture, a large one, was of three people sitting at a table on somebody's lawn. Wow! A keeper. What insight!

NewsToday carries the story of another, expensive foulup at the Olympics. Thousands of seats at the events are going empty. That comes after buyers weeks ago were lining up for eight hours and more - only to be told that all  seats were sold out.

That story has a connection with the other massive fiasco of security. Both hugely expensive and embarassing incidents were caused by the incompetence of the big businesses that were contracted to do them. How's that for the efficiency of the corporate world, Norbert? And it's government - in the form of the army, the police and thousands of civil servants who have had to clean up the mess.

The Syrian government has won back Damascus. We were already in a mess no matter who won that battle. Now, we're in a far worse and more dangerous one. With Iraq still in turmoil (though most of it  unreported), Afghanistan a hugely expensive lost cause, with drones invading countries to kill at random without bothering to declare war, and now with the whole middle east collapsing into instability (to put it gently), this has not been a golden age for American foreign policy.

There's a very positive headline on the business page. "Enbridge to fix leaky pipeline".  You know Enbridge. It's a New Brunswick fixture for shale gas. Nice to see a positive headline. And most readers read just the headline. So that's good. Very good for Enbridge and shale gas because it hides a nasty story.

If you read the story, you'll find that Enbridge has a long history of accidents and pollution and environmental damage and general incompetence that has been compared to the Keystone Kops. But the story puts the best possible face even on that. "The spill on Friday is the latest in a series of incidents that threaten to damage the reputation....."

Right. Just like the Colorado massacre threatens to damage the repution of James Holmes, the shooter.

It's an interesting example of how journalists can slant a story.

Allen Abel's commentary on the op ed is a must read if you really, really care that in 1962 he saw a baseball game in Washington for only 75 cents. I have never understood why this column would appear in any paper - even in Washington.

Craig Babstock, the staff writer, writes on a topic of which he obviously has not the faintest understanding. It's about crime statistics; and he clearly has no understanding of statistics of any sort. So he takes figures that have almost no meaning, and desperately looks for a hidden truth in them. He should apply for a job at Atlantic Insitute of Market Studies. They specialize in that sort of nonsense.

Good column by Alec Bruce though I'll venture to offer a small correction. The premier is not the first citizen of New Brunswick. That honour goes to the Lieutenant-Governor of the province. A premier is just another MLA.

Norbert Cunningham has an excellent column on what a rip-off the Olympic games are. The International Oympic Committee is, as he says, a private corporation of the super-rich, who run it at public expense for their profit.  Some day, when life is slower, I must do a blog on how that came to be. There's quite a story of class arrogance and class power behind it.

But, meanwhile, I would ask Norbert to read his own, excellent column carefully. The IOC is a private corporation which makes its money out of the taxpayers while the civil servants do the work to cover up for the incompetence and greed of private corporations .

Saturday, July 28, 2012

July 28: Just twenty minutes ago on this Saturday...

....I noticed a Moncton Times and Transcript in my mailbox - and realized it was Saturday. It is now 5.25 pm. It happens at my age. One also starts to drool and bump into telephone poles and forget to zip up one's fly.

Sorry about all that. And it was made worse by my cancelling the current events meeting at the Moncton library. Turns out the Moncton Times and Transcript not only carried the ad for it, but also actually mentioned my name. It's one of the few times they've done that. So I will be there, just in case somebody shows up. Tuesday, August 2 at 7 p.m. in the Moncton library.

Fortunately, there's close to nothing to comment on in today's TandT. This one is something of a new record for the Moncton blah.  However, there are a couple of things worth paying attention to.

First, Norbert's column. It's a column about how government bureaucracy always gets things wrong, how it's incompetent, inefficient. You agree? Well, okay.Some goverment bureaucracies are pretty bad.  Now - show me one column in which Norbert has ever hinted there's anything wrong with private corporations.

There is, in fact, massive inefficiency, misspending, criminality, corruption, and thievery carried out by private corporations every day. That's why we're into a recession that still has a long way to go - and one that we will be very lucky to get out of without violence and maybe even world war. But private news media in North America rarely mention it.  And the TandT never. And Norbert continually pushes his boot-licking columns, spreading anti-civil service propaganda.

If government is so incompetent, why is it that corporations in New Brunswick routinely contribute to the Liberal and Conservative parties? Why are Harper's Conservatives the most lavishly funded party in Canadian history? That money isn't coming from widows and orphans. It's coming from large corporations and from the very rich.  Obviously, corporations and the very rich have a considerable admiration for just about every government in Canada. (Well, all except the Greens and the NDP).

Similarly, Romney and Obama are currently spending more for their election campaigns than has ever been spent in any election in world history. The bulk of it comes from banks and oil companies and defence industries and their friends. Obviously, American corporations and the wealthy think very highly of government.

Norbert - I don't complain about your prejudices which fade only when replaced by your triviality. But if you had an ounce of integrity, and if you really believed governments were all that bad, you should be ripping hell out of corporations and the very rich for supporting them. That would, at least, make some sense.

But you won't do that, will you?

Nor will you mention the scale of corruption in banking around the world that will not only drive up poverty and hardship, but will almost certainly drive violence to levels we have never seen.

There is a striking case of just such private corruption and incompetence in Britain. The Conservative prime minister, as determined as Norbert to privatize everything, gave a huge contract to a monster 'security' company, 4GS, to provide security for the Olympic games in London. Just days ago, the company announced it couldn't do most of the job  (though it still expects to get paid).

Worse, we now learn that the people it did hire have had minimal training, and some none at all. At the last minute, Britain has had to turn to police and the army (still mostly publicly owned in Britain, thank heaven) to fill in the thousands of blanks.) But, of course, they too don't have much training for such highly specialized security work, and they scarcely can hope to get it since the mad rush in London is already on.

The Moncton Times has not, of course, mentioned much about it. But anybody who learns about it should be scared as hell. There will be days when most of the world's leaders will be in that stadium. This is the ultimate target for terrorists - and the perfect security screw-up for them.

As well, terrorists also have all the rest of Britain open to them as local police are diverted to the Olympics.

Incidentally, the demonstrably incompetent G4S also runs police forces and prisons all over the world, including the UK.  Reports so far suggest it is incompetent and expensive at everything it does. So this is a great opportunity for Harper to privatize our prisons. And he can be sure that Norbert will write a kiss up column on it.

meanwhile - here are Norbert's columns for the next year "government bad. private good.")  Repeat as often as necessary.

The editorialist and Brent Mazerolle both write about the proposed roundabout for Moncton. Neither has anything to say that has not been said before. And neither of them, obviously, has taken the trouble to ask why the mayor voted for something he claimed to oppose, or why the cost is so high.

Mind you, if they did ask, City Hall wouldn't tell them. They still haven't answered me about what sort of pollution is under Highfield Square. If Norbert and Brent do break tradition and ask a question, I would direct them to a man at City Hall named Silliker. He won't answer them. But he's very good at changing the subject.

Good column by Belliveau on the Colorado shootings. I would just add that it's not just the availability of combat guns in the US that's the problem. It's the state of hatred and political hysteria deliberately whipped up by US news agencies and US governments.

Gwynne Dyer's column is important. It may well shape the rest of your life. We are sinking, economically and socially, because the last 40 years have seen the biggest shift of wealth from most of us to the very, very rich that has ever been seen. It's been done through corruption, tax favours, budget cuts, you name it.

Billions are going to suffer. Billions already are suffering. And it's not because the money is spent and gone forever. The money still exists. But the super rich are not investing it because the market is too uncertain. And, after all, the money belongs to them, just to them. And it's all tucked away in secret vaults in tax-free locations.

That's why there's no money for the obvious solution to the economic crisis. The obvious solution is government spending. But the government can't spend - because the money has mostly been stolen.

There won't be money for food to save at least millions of lives in the coming year. (Mind you, most aid has always been a shell game, anyway, with our tax money going to private contractors who are supposed to supply the aid. Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don't. But, always, it makes the contractor a huge profit.)

Even in the US, the American government has been busy cutting off food for malnourished American schoolchildren -so it can keep taxes low for the very, very rich so they can hide it for just themselves.

But you won't see many news stories about that in private news media (and not as much as we should in our public news media.) We are in a very, very dangerous situation. And the people who have put us there are more ruthless and more greedy than most of us can imagine. Over the centuries, they've killed, crippled, impoverished billions. They're still doing it. What makes you think they would make you an exception?

Earlier, I suggested googling The Guardian if you want better news coverage. It, too, can be annoying; but it's better than anything in North America. The free one is always yesterday's. But it still beats anything here.

Another good one is Le Monde. It's free version (in French or English) I find awkward to use and it's not completely free. But it's a good paper. See also Le Monde Diplomatique. You can subscribe to  these for your E reader. The Guardian is 1.99 a copy or 16.99 a month. Le Monde is 1.79 or 27.99 a month.

(Hold off on The Guardian for a bit. It's going awfully heavy on the Olympics.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27: Planning for yesterday...

The lead story is that "Roundabouts remain controversial". Well, yeah, when you build something you needed twenty years ago, and it is now already obsolete as well as overpriced,  and you call that planning for the future, well, yeah, I would guess that's controversial.

Add to that the fact that no city on earth has ever solved its traffic problems by improving its road system. If you doubt it, go for a spin in Los Angeles or Hong Kong or London. Building better roads simply encourages people to use more cars more often.

Planning for the future demands something more than reviving an old idea that doesn't work. And, at its cost of several million (almost certain to grow), it's a hell of a lot more expensive than paying bus drivers and mechanices a decent wage. And it would leave money to hire somebody who knows who to design bus routes and schedules. I found it easier to figure out public transport in Shanghai than I do in Moncton.

Finally, despite its very long story, the Moncton Times and Tribune has still not asked the essential "why" question. If the mayor and certain councillors did not approve of the proposal for the roundabout, why did they vote for it?  Hey! It's okay. A newspaper is supposed to ask questions.

Oh - and city council's planning committee is now asking citizens to make suggestions for city planning. That's like a brain surgeon asking your advice on how he or she should perform surgery on you.

Anyway, once you've read that story and the one about cats at the SPCA, you've pretty well hit the high spots for section A.

There is still nothing on the promised avalanche of information on shale gas - though there is an excellent letter to the editor on the subject. This one is a must read - and it's only a hint of the truth that's out there.

NewsToday has something on Congo. That country has suffered horribly for well over a century at the hands of countries like Belgium, Britain, the US, Canada (a major "player"), with millions killed, millions tortured, starved to death, lashed as they worked as slaves, deprived of basic services and education, paid starvation wages, their land mined into a toxic brew.... And at last the TandT covers it -with a picture - of people -looking at a tank. That's it.

Compare that to the detail we get every day on Syria. Compare Hilary Clinton's foaming at the mouth over Syria and Iran to her dead silence on a far, far more horrible situation in Congo - a situation that Belgians and British and American and Canadians have been inflicting for over a century.

And when I mention Canadians, I don't mean you. The billionaires who have slaughtered and poisoned in Congo are not the sort of people who are likely to bring the money home to ease your tax burden.

Oh, notice the headline at the bottom of that page. "Syrian forces pound Aleppo and Damascus". It's quite true. They are pounding those cities. Now compare with this possible headline, also true, "Rebel forces invade Aleppo and Damascus". The stories are equally true. But one gives the automatic and unthinking impression that the aggressors are the government forces. The other gives the impression that aggressors are the rebels.

You change the message just by fiddling with the headline a little bit. Bad newspapers do it all the time.

Not until the last line do they mention the possibility that the 'rebels' are funded and supplied with weapons, mercenaries and training (and special ops) from Saudi Arabia, the emirates, UK, and US. In fact, this is well-documented. But the report doesn't say that. Instead, it quote this as a statement from the Russian government which, of course, immediately discredits the whole idea.

That's how newspapers lie without actually lying. Not actually.
Anyway, that comes at the end of the story; and hardly anybody reads that far.

The business page has not mentioned of the crisis that has struck the largest bank in Japan - and one of the largest in the world - as a result of illegal and irresponsible behaviour. This one is another heavy blow to banking all over the world. And we will all feel the echoes of this one. Yes, even here in Moncton.

The only outstanding feature of NewsToday is two pages of people with smiling faces holding up giant cheques. A treasure forever.....

deAdder seems to be getting better by the day.

And there's a hilarious line in the editorial that's a keeper. The editorial advocates a cross-country oil pipeline. It admits there ae dangers in such an idea, but --(and I dare you to keep a straight face)...

"...the premier (Alward) has demonstrated his sincere concern for environmental issues plainly enough after calling for the strictest possible controls available for our own, current, controversial hydrocarbon issue, shale gas development."

He's calling for it? For Pete's sake, why is he calling? He's the premier. He can do it. But he hasn't. And you and I know he won't - just as we all know that no editor of the TandT would dare to print the truth on this issue. (It would offend you-know-who.)

Norbert has a light, but amusing, column on misused words. I would urge him to look to the story on roundabouts which is continued on p. A2. Five paragraphs up, on he left-hand side, he will find the word "gotten". Now check the Oxford English Dictionary. That is an improper use of the word. (However, it is permissible in American usage which also accepts such excrescences as "nite" for "night". (and probably even for "knight".)

Alec Bruce is solid, as is Lynda MacGibbon. David Suzuki has a column a bit different from the usual one - and it's a very intriguing one. Cut this one out and send it to Moncton's city planners.

One nice thing is about Suzuki's proposal is, it will solve problems while being cheaper than a multi-million dollar roundabout that will cause problems. (How can those city planning people be so out-to-lunch on mass transportation, and so committeed to designing a city for 1950?)

Still no word from City Hall or Ward 2 Councillors Henderson and Leger on my request about the pollution under Highfield Square. Of course, I know they're awfully busy listening to people.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

July 26: a postscript of breaking news.....

....very breaking. For at least a week, I've been talking of a world banking crisis as major banks have been caught stealing and manipulating and supporting orgnized crime. The Moncton TandT has said close to nothing. Today, the crisis has gone mad.

The biggest banks around the world are littering the ground with fired executives. Investors are fleeing the banks; and profits are in a dive. It's been sitting there, waiting to happen, for weeks. The Moncton Times and Transcript has given more space to smiling people handing giant cheques to each other.
Will it at last catch up tomorrow?

What a great time to put up $89,000 bicycle racks, pay a quarter million for a drawing of a traffic roundabout, and plan to borrow a hundred million for a hockey stadium!

July 26: The editorial gets it right.....almost

It's nice to see the editorialist reads his own paper. He or she (though I note the editorial jobs are light on shes) followed up yesterday's report of the dismal performance of city council in approving projects that seem astronomically overpriced. Unfortunately, he (I think we can stop kidding ourselves that shes are allowed to write editorials at the TandT) -he thinks that reporting the news report of yesterday, wriggling with indignation, and tossing in a couple of second-and-third-hand comic remarks is all that's required.

Well, no.

We've already read the story. We don't need the editorial to tell it again, or even to tell us that the editorialist has his knickers all in a twist about it. We need further insight, food for thought, directions to look in.... All this thing does is to trivialize a scandalous episode into a standup comic routine in one of the cheaper bars.

The low estimate for the bicycle racks was $89,000. Okay. If that is scandalously high, why did a competitor submit a bid some three times as high? The high bidder must have known his bid would never be accepted. I mean, do you seriously think contractors don't speak to each other? Don't know what reasonable costs for their work are?

So let's say the low bidder wants the job at a crazily high price. So let's say the low bidder talks to a few other companies - asking them to submit prices that are so high not even a city council as far out of it as ours would accept them. In return, the low bidder would agree to be an extremely high bidder for the next one. And so it goes as Moncton gets ripped off in contract after contract. But council has the excuse that it's just a prisoner of the bidding system.

Surely, there must be a councillor or a mayor or a city manager with the brains to see that possibility.

Here is a chance for a good newspaper to do some investigative reporting. (That's i-n-v-e-s-t-i-g-a-t-i-e).  But it ain't gonnna happen, is it?  That's the TandT. Get all huffy and puffy. Instead of getting people informed and active in this matter, the TandT simply trivializes it all by letting off a bit of steam, and telling bad jokes.

Norbert's column is not bad - but for what is, I suspect, a very small audience. It's on spelling - and it might serve to get some people more interested in language. It's really quite an important topic because many people, including writers for the Times and Transcript, constantly use words they don't understand  (liberal, conservative, right wing, left wing, capitalist, socialist, culture) and this creates some very fuzzy thinking. So I'll just toss in a couple of words to look out for.

Cute did not originate meaning pretty or clever (as in that's cute.) No. It began meaning bow-legged- as in an aCUTE angle.

Occasionally, esecially in Cape Breton, you 'll hear "Don't fash yourself" or "dinna fash yoursel', which means don't get all upset or bothered. That's Scottish dialect. Where did the Scots get it? For centuries, Scotland was a very poor country. The only work was to serve as mercenaries, largely for the armies of The Netherlands and France. (Fraser is still a common name in The Netherlands.) Fash comes from the French facher - which is used in "Ne fache pas." Don't disturb yourself.

Jody Dallaire has a column that should stimulate thinking about essential roles that women have played - and are playing - in maintaining stability; and it happens largely in low-paying and volunteer work. She begins with the question of whether women would be better off to go into politics to improve their position.

I doubt it.

That's not criticism of women politicians. It's a criticism of the state of politics in this province. To become either a Liberal or a Conservative candidate in this province seems to have one of two general requirements. One is the the candidate should not be very bright. The other is that the candidate should be extremely passive, and averse to changing the status quo. In short, those two parties try to come as close as they can to electing faithful spaniels. Either or both of those requirements can extend all the way to premier.

A very small number - who may or may not make it to cabinet - are clever - but devious. And don't kid yourself that they give a damn about you or about women's rights. There is no hope of women - or any other neglected groups - making any change in their condition through either of this province's major parties. Nor is their any likelihood of hope for a women's party.

That means that New Brunswick women who want change can only get it through working with the NDP or the Greens. But that will need more groundwork, because right now, New Brunswick women are almost as passive as New Brunswick men.

Rod Allen strikes a new note for a staff writer doing a commentary. He says something. Indeed, the rapid change (and, often, disappearance) of sea life in our salt waters is remarkable - as is the low turnout of mosquitoes this year. And there will certainly be consequences. Couldn't the TandT find a wildlife biologist to comment on this?

There's an alarming story in C, on its page 1.  Postmedia, the source for the story, doesn't mention the alarming part. But that's because Postmedia is close to being the national disgrace that Brunswick media is.

Canada (said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird) wants to help Syria by sending medical aid and documenting war crimes for that country. After all, he says, Canada has a tradition of offering such help.

Bullshit, Mr. Baird.

Where was our urge to send help and documnet war crimes when the US was killing civilians by the millions in Vietnam, when it was dropping chemicals on the farms, when it killed half a million civilians in  Cambodia, when it committed genocide against a quarter million native peoples in Guatemala, when it killed over a million in Iraq and created five million refugees?

As for Haiti, that was not a humanitarian mission. Haiti had an elected government and, for the first time in a cenutry was not under the control of an American-financed dictator. The elected president closed down the army because it was really a gang of thugs, murderers, torturers and rapists financed by the US government.

The US then supplied weapons and money to the ex-soldiers so they could invade a helpless Haiti. Then the Americans sent troops down to stop the thugs - and deport the elected president. Our troops and police were there as window dressing to make the crushing of a democracy looked good. We have now established a "democracy" of a type that the corporations of this world just love. And the Haitians are deeper and more hopelessly into poverty than ever.

And, remember, we got into the Aghanistan mess by offering "humanitarian" aid.

If Canada was serious about helping Syria, it would push Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the emirates, the UK and the US to step sending money and weapons and mercenaries and special ops into that country. The fighting has nothing to do with democracy. Nor is there the slightest reason to hope that democracy - or a government of any sort - will arise when the fighting stops.

There is nothing nice about the Syrian president. He certainly rules by force, he kills, all that. So did Bush. So does Obama. So Britain and Turkey and the Emirates and the US are doing now in Syria. If you read the story, you will note that Baird has been discussing this only with the 'rebels'. So guess who he will find guilty of war crimes?

Baird whould know all this. So either he's a hypocrite or he's really, really stupid.

What this story tells us that Canada is being sucked into generations of  extraordinarily brutal wars - which we will fight mainly to keep US markets open on favourable terms to Canadian corporations.

We're repeating our own history starting over a century ago with the Nile Expedition and the Boer War. But this will be far worse than anything we've ever seen.

Trust the Times and Transcript - and Postmedia News - not to have a clue.

There's also a story about a store-owner in Dieppe who was denied exemption so he could put up an English-only sign. I have no sympathy for either side in this. No, it's not because I have any sympathy for single-language signs in Dieppe. It's just that it's dumb. It's dumb on both sides.

For a store owner to put up a sign in English only in an area which has a French market is, to say the least, both inconsiderate and commerically dumb. His claim that he is appealing to a Filipino market is absurd and, even if true, would suggest a Filipino sign only. But the Phillipines have some pretty good exports; and I rather think people both English and French might like to shop for them. If he were selling French fries in an English community, would he advertise them only as patates-frites?

But the sign language is wrong, too - not because it infringes on free speech - but because it is tactically stupid. The law creates a fuss on both sides while doing nothing of value to either side.

It also won't work because this is not Quebec. The languages could, without changing the situation, be Japanese and Irish. That's because it is not a case of language against language. It's a case of majority and minority. And in New Brunswick, the French are a minority. The tactics and the language used by Quebec will not work here. And any escalation of this disagreement will only do serious damage to both sides.

Another difference for New Brunswickers is that they do not face the bigotries and hatreds that were common on both sides in Quebec. I know some English in New Brunswick are still bigots. I know what bigotry looks like. I know that because, like the Acadians I lived most of my life as a member of a minority. Bigotry here is simply not the problem it was in Quebec.

But, just as happened in Quebec, the Acadians are in danger of being used for somebody else's purposes.

There will not be a current events meeting at the library for August. (Who would come in this weather?) Otherwise, I would be tempted to make language my topic.

But, if I'm feeling very brave, it will be the topic for September. (If I lose my nerve, I'll do some pole dancing, instead.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 25: Att last...three cheers....

Brent Mazerolle and The Moncton Times and Transcript come through with a real news story and a real lead for p. 1. This is one is well worth having a coffee over. "Moncton spending full of contradictions".  Indeed, that seems to be the case. Mazerolle opens with the (sensible) decision to spend $72,000 on a rescue hovercraft. Then he notes the approval of $89,000 for six (count them, six) bicycle racks. (The high bid was almost $300,000).

Mazerolle notes that Fredericton spends $250,000 to build a roundabout for car traffic. Moncton plans to spend that much for the drawing. The mayor said that was too much. But he voted for it. Why?

Councillors don't have to vote for things they don't approve of. So why all these bizarre approvals? And remember, these are also the people who plan to spend a hundred million (and more) on an 'events centre', and who are remarkably shy about discussing Moncton High School. They are also the ones who have still not answered questions about the pollutants under Highfield Square. (Are you reading this, councillors Henderson  and Leger?)

This council story is a dynamite story, and a well-written one. Don't miss it. Good on Mazerolle.

The Editorial missed his story. It could have taken a look at the voting records of the councillors. It could have asked why the mayor changed his mind to vote for the roundabout at such a high price. It could have raised awareness what what appears to be a very serious problem. Instead, the editorial is a feel-good one about a useful initiative by a group of Monctonians. Those people certainly did a job to be  thanked for - but it pales in importance with comparison to the behaviour of city council. Nor are matters helped by the "commentaries" on the op ed page. Eric Lewis has the predictable babble that we need more rock fests. Brian Cormier discusses which is the nicest season of the year.

P. A2 has a picture of a farmer driving his tractor. There's no story. Just a picture. But it will be interesting for all those who have never seen a farmer driving his tractor. Order another coffee while you look over this one.

P. A12 carries a long report on the premier's summit in Halifax at which, it appears, nobody has yet said anything. But it does have a full colour photo of Alward. Another coffee, for sure, this one with a drop of whiskey.

Sports, p. B5, has a better report on the London Olympics than the rest of the TandT has had. And it's far superior to the Reuters report on p. C1.  Read the sports section story, even if you don't usually like sports.

Similarly, the Reuters report on Syria is a waste of time. Tell you what...

....if you really want news about what it's like in Syria, about what a mess the London Olympics are thanks to the incompetence of a private contractor; if you want to know how it's government that is having to step in; how the games will probably cost an already financially-troubled Britain, and cost it heavily...   If you really want to know how corrupt banks and newspapers can be - and how they can actually control governments....

Google The Guardian. The July 24 edition will be on the web (free) by this evening. Look for these stories "Inside Syria; rebels and regime trapped in cycle of destruction." It's actually about people, real people, and what is happening to them. And it's a compelling story.

"How phone-hacking scandal grew despite 'rogue reporter' claim". It's all about how the world's most powerful media baron used his power to corrupt government and law enforcement - at the highest levels. And don't kid yourself it happens only in Britain.

Read "London 2012 Olympics: G4s failures prompt further military deployment". Why should we care?  We should care because security companies like G4S are coming our way to privatize prisons and police forces. It's already happening in the US - and it's not working. The reality, despite what we read in TandT editorials, is that business is not generally more efficient than government. Frequently, it is less efficient and less effective. But privatizing prisons is being spoken of favorably in our government circles.

You might also want to check out the business section - if only to see what a real business section looks like. One interesting story is "How Finland keeps its head above eurozone crisis". Not only is Finland financially healthy but, in a crumbling Europe it maintains a system of pensions, health services, and regulation of business that is second to none.

There's also an important article "US politicians must regulate finance to tackle the drought and food-price crisis". So must Canadian politicians. But, perhaps because they rely on papers like the Times and Transcript for news, they don't seem to know that we are well into such a crisis.

Back to the TandT, there's an excellent column by Alec Bruce on early childhood education. It's an important one - especially in this province as governments push education of any sort in some very bad directions - and a province in which some business leaders see education of any sort only as a potential source of profit for themselves.

Finally, it's noticeable that we can get more and better local news from CBC (either on air or online) than we can from private radio or private TV or the Times and Transcript.

Usually, TV and radio in general rely heavily on newspapers for information - especially in local news. That's because newspapers, even in these days, can afford more local reporters than the other media can. In Moncton, in particular, the private radio and TV sources have little to nothing in the way of reporters.

 But the Times and Transcript, to judge from its ads, seems to be prosperous. And, of course, it has access for provincial news to all Irving reporters in the province. So why does it do such a stinking job on local and provincial news? And how come CBC beats the pants off it?

It's partly because the T and T seems to have a very high proportion of its news staff as editors - and not, so far as I can tell, editors of any distinction. And, more important, I would guess, CBC isn't owned by Irving.

But I'm sure Harper will fix that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July24: You know you're in for a slow day when.....

...a big, front page story is about the opening of a new catalogue store.  Page A2 has a  big story about the premiers' summit conference in Halifax. It's a very big story. But, since the premiers haven't actually said anything yet, there's nothing to report.Premier Ghiz, apparently, has some really specific suggestions to make - which is certainly better than than having unreally specific suggestions.

The are also going to come up with a pan-Canadian energy policy in cooperation with the federal government. Translation? They'll produce a long and wordy (big words, vague words) document that is unintelligeable, and says nothing, anyway. There isn't going to be any energy policy anywhere, and certainly not in Canada. We just helped to ruin a world summit on that very question. Remember?

Section B is a must read for anyone who care that "Rachel Weiz says going out unnoticed is easy". Great. That gives me something in common with Rachel Weiz. Who is Rachel Weiz?

NewsToday has an interesting headline "Syria threatens use of chemical arms". There wasn't room in the headline to add that it said it would use them ONLY if Syria was attacked by a foreign country.  Then the story says western leaders are alarmed. Why?

I mean - the US used chemical weapons on a lavish scale in Vietnam. All these years later,Vietnamese are still dying from them. And remember those very small amounts we used at Camp Gagetown? The warning signs are still up. The US and Britain and, perhaps, Canada also used depleted uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So what's the worry? I mean - it's not as if western leaders would ever dream of attacking Syria - or any other country.

And there's still no mention that a major reason Syria is full of death and refugees is because the West  and the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are funding, training, and supplying mercenaries to the rebels. (And what kind of sweetheart do you think becomes a mercenary?)

The business page does not carry even a hint of the revealed criminal behaviour of world banking. Tell, you what. Save some money.Check over today's copy of the TandT for the price of a coffee at Macdonald's - if you really must read it. Then google The Guardian. You can get yesterday's edition free - and you'll still be weeks, maybe years, ahead of The Moncton Times and Tribune.

International banking is up to its ears in irresponsible and criminal behaviour. Read all about it in The Guardian. There's also an important story of a British parliamentary report about basic problems in the business world that should have been obvious for decades.

1. Large corporations become so big that the leaders often do not know what's going on in their own businesses.
2. The emphasis on quarterly reports of their earnings creates short term thinking. and planning. And it's made both worse and more expensive by by giving executives cash bonuses for meeting quarterly objectives.

That's why shale gas producers don't give a damn about the effects of their fracking. That's why Shell is not worried about the devastation of the Arctic by its oil drilling. That's why mining companies are eager to begin open pit mining that will poison Canada's (and North America's) largest breeding waters for wild salmon. What the hell! Nothing will show in the next three months. Maybe.

The bottom line of this report - and it's a report by top people in the field - is that the corporations which want to rule the world can't even rule themselves.

In New Brunswick, our minister of finance is a former Irving exec, and his leading advisors were picked from similar types.  That's highly improper under any conditions. It's also why New Brunswick has no long term plans. Everything is tied to three months at a time.

The reality is that it's not only improper for corporation bosses to claim a right to power and influence. The bigger problem is that they are incompetent to do  it.

Oh, you'll also learn it's getting worse at the London Olmpics. Apparently, the private security company G4S not only cannot supply the guards it promised, but it turns out that their training - and the standards for passing it - were comically low.

As well, the   private company that contracted to see the tickets has fouled up on a grand scale. People who paid for tickets long ago on a promise they could pick them up at any country in the world have just learned they have to travel to London to get them - and the waiting lines are nine hours and even more - to get tickets that are not the ones they paid for.

But PM Cameron is determined privatize everything - because private business is so efficient.

Good column by Norbert Cunningham on guns in the US. I would just add one point to it. The government and the news media of Canada and the US cooperate to create an atmosphere of hatred and fear. In the US, it has reached hysteria. They need that hatrred, fear and hysteria to carry out both foreign and domestic policies. The need hatred of Moslems to justify invasions to steal oil. They need fear of Syria's chemical weapons - though other countries, notably the US - have far bigger stockpiles. They need fear of an Iranian nuclear bomb that doesn't exist - so  the US, Britain, and Israel, (which do have nuclear weapons) can attack Iran.

It's not suprising that societies based so heavily on hatred, fear and paranoia produce madmen who shoot strangers in a movie theatre.

As for the editorial - it might have been more useful if it had given us the discussion of shale gas that the paper has been promising for years.

Alec Buce manages to inject some humour into a national political scene that is not very humorous at all. But he does make good sense.  I would disagree only in that I see nothing radical remaining in the NDP of Thomas Mulcair. It has been drifting to the middle for decades, ever since it was created out of the CCF.

And I think the Conservative party of Harper is a very radical one, indeed. Not only does it have radical objectives for our future; it has an open and utter contempt for democracy.  Much of our democracy and independence, unnnoticed by the TandT, has already disappeared. Much, much more will disappear before the next federal election.

But why think about that? Why think about anything? Alan Cochrane has a gripping oped commentary on restoring a 45 year old bicyle.  This could well be city hall's next big project - making the hub of the maritimes the site of an annual parade of 45 year old bicycles from around the world.

Speaking of city hall, I still haven't heard from those busy little bees like the city managet, suit Silliker, mayor Leblanc, or councillors Hernderson or Leger about exactly what pollutants lie in the soil under Highfield Square, what the concentrations are, and what it will cost to remove that soil.

Oh - on a sad note, I was wading in Northumberland Strait at low tide yesterday. I loved that since the first day ai did it, many, many years ago. I was fascinated by the swarms of tiny fish, the crabs so numerous that you had to be careful where you stepped, the tiny holes in sandbanks where razor clams waiting for the returning tide, the jellyfish that littered the shore, and that I had to dodge around as I went out. And, of course, the flights of shorebirds looking for dinner.

So I went out again yesterday. I walked out on a low tide from sandbar to sandbar, all the way looking into the warer. There was only seaweed - seaweed and rocks. And one, very tiny, crab. No fish. No clams. Not even any jellyfish. Above me, only one gull carried out his lonely search.

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23: Why?

There is little to  comment on in today's Moncton Times and Transcript. There is a letter from a supporter of Crandall University and its anti-gay policy (for which it receives public funding). The writer generously concedes that gays have a legal right to be gay - but they should not appear to be gay when in public. It's an interesting point - and I share that attitude on a related topic.

"Christian" bigots who have only a highly selective knowledge of Christian teaching have a legal right to be bigoted. But they should not appear to be bigots when in public.

There's really not much else in Section One. There is a small and blurry photo of Scottish pipers wearing kilts with, I think, the tartan of the 78th Fraser Highlanders. I'm half Scots. Highlands.I like kilts. I have one, along with a Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and a skean dhu- but our Scottish ancestors never wore any of that.

They were, until the seventeenth century,  a pretty wild and primitive lot. And they wore the clothing of a wild and primitive people - a sort of very long long shirt or even dress, with a belt around the waist, a bit like the disciples. The kilt was a nineteenth century invention - probably by an Englishman.

Sports has a story by Reuters. It's the only badly reported story in Sports. It's about the Oympics in London, and how things are coming along fine.It seems to be based entirely on an interview with the man in charge of organizing the Olympics - and he says everything is fine. Nobody else does.  In fact, the key area of security is a disaster and a major scandal throughout Britain as the private company which contracted to private security admiited, just a couple of weeks before the opening of the games that it cannot do it. But it still insists on being paid $200.000,000 by the taxpayers. The Reuters report mentions this itty-bitty problem - but quickly dismisses it.

Reuters also has its usual news on Syria - that is, all its information comes from the "rebels". And it happily takes their word, and print all they say. It seems not to have occured to Reuters reporters to ask where all the rebels and their troops are coming from. In fact, many are mercenaries and Islamic Jihadists who are being trained, paid, supplied - and "advised" - by Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, the US, Turkey, and Britain. And it's all to bring democracy to Syria. Right. The kings of Saudi Arabia have always been very big on democracy.

Incidentally, Saudi Arabia is probably the most severe dictatorship in the world. It is a also the richest country per capita in the world. And sixty percent of its people live below the poverty line. Three cheers for our side.

The president of Syria is not a lovely man. But he is not the cause of that terrible civil war. We are. And because we are, that whole region is in for years of instability (a nice word word for killing and starvation.) In the same way, the west financed and provoked the rebellion in Libya. It was for control of the oil. The result has been massive killing, rape, theft, illegal imprisonment, severe persecution of Black Libyans, large scale torture which is still going on. Yes. People voted for the new government. But nobody pays the slightest attention to it.

The chaos and suffering in Africa is the product of our century and more of interference, slavery, mass murder, torture, theft. It's not because Africans are backward or evil or sub-human. It's because we are.

Excellent columns by Alec Bruce and Norbert Cunningham. Norbert's is even a bit daring since it is about the waste of government subsidies for private businesses that should be paying their own way. That's a daring statement for a person working for a paper owned by a person who has not been unknown to receive government handouts.

That's really it for the paper. - so let's talk about a "why" or two.

Not long ago, we heard of the resignation of the District Two (or whatever it's called now) Superintendent of Education. But we didn't hear why. That's odd. Even if she had been on the job only a short time, and had done nothing in particular, there is normally a reason why. In this case, she was an exceptionally capable person, and seems to have done a fine job.

So why has she gone? Isn't there a single reporter at the TandT who knows how to ask why?

Then the new superintendent gets a long and prominent introduction in the TandT by, as I recall it, Brent Mazerolle. He's the man they turn to whenever they want a a long story that says nothing. In this case, predictably, we get not the slightest hint of why the new principal was chosen. The only clear reason given is that he used to be an electrician, so he could make sure all the lights were working. (Haw haw, poke poke. giggle giggle).

It's hinted that big changes are coming. Okay. What are they? These are, after all, our schools and our children. And who proposed these big changes? The department of education? The politicians? Not likely. Not in this province.

If any major changes were proposed, the proposal came from the usual source - the corporations who, in this case, are very eager to privatize the schools as much as possible - the sort of change that has been a boost to private profits---but which has been an educational disaaster wherever it was tried.

But nobody at the TandT asked why. So let's try a guess.
1. The big boss demanded further privatization of the schools. ( The big boss, though not an expert on education, is an expert on geting more of our money into his pocket.)
2. Premier Allward rose to as tall as he could while staying on his knees, and said, "Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full."
3. The superintendent objected to the changes as being harmful to the children.
4. She was then offered a handsome severance package - but only if she would go away, and say nothing in public.
5.A new super was chosen because he was willing to go along with the changes (and could fix the lights.)

Then there's the move for Moncton High School. Now, I'm not a sentimenatlist demanding that MHS stay where and as it is. But I really do think citizens in a free society have the right to know why a school is being moved so far away - particularly when it involves such extra cost.

And, by the way, where was our elected District Education Council in all this?

It reminds me of the time, several years ago, when the Tand T ran scandalously ignorant and abusive (and wrong) editorials about our schools - and the Home and School and the Parents' associations just stood around with their faces hanging out.

Good luck, all you kids in New Brunswick. You're going to need it in a province in which neither the government nor the newspapers nor the parents' groups give a damn.

Then there's the question of pollution in the soil under Highfield Square - you know, where the new hockey rink is going to be? I am still getting no answer from City Hall on what the pullutants are,  how bad they are, or how much it will cost to remove them. Nor have my Ward Two councillors, Henderson and Leger, even acknowledged my requests. But that's our democracy. We have the right to be ignored in both official languages.

By the way, there's a supermarket sitting on top of that soil. Is that dangerous? I have no idea. And, obviously, I am not going to find out.

Oh. There is a big story on BBC. But the TandT doesn't listen to the BBC. Just to Reuters. Anyway -

The story is - well - let's start with a bit of background....

Millions are starving to death all over the world. Europe is being driven into chaos and poverty. Conditions in the US are far wose than we are being told. (Once prosperous industrial cities are crawling with the unemployed and the underpaid, with whole blocks abandoned, with tent cities. Scranton, the city of a populat TV show called The Office, looks like a battle zone. In Camden, New Jersey, there are at least twenty open air and public drug markets. Government funds to feed hungry children have been cut back to leave more money for building weapons without raising taxes on the very rich.)

According the the BBC, the very, very rich of this world (like the ones New Brunswick helps out with the business grants Norbert refers to in his column) are estimated to have $21 trillion dollars (yes, that's trillion) locked safely away in tax havens.

And 21 tillion is the lowest estimate I have seen. Others range to 35 trillion and more. But not in the Moncton Times and Transcript.

Church-going "Christians" who eagerly await the return of Jesus might wonder what He will point to as the greatest sin of this world . Being gay? Or condemning billions of people to misery, sickness and starvation while a few sit on more money than they could ever hope to spend - and still want more.

At that thought, I remember a picture I shall try to find. It appeared in the old, Life magazine about fifty years ago. It was a city in China. A very fat woman was seated on a chair on the sidewalk, surrounded by bushels of rice she was selling.

Just beyond her feet was a child lying in the gutter. He was lying at the edge of death from starvation.

And, no, it doesn't happen just in foreign countries.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

June 21: Praise the Lord.......

....and pass the ammunition.

That was a Amerian popular song of World War Two. Appropriately, it was about army chaplains who helped to load the guns. I thought of it when I read a post from a former student (an American). He wrote to me about the shooting spree in Colorado (p,D1 in today's TandT) in which 71 were shot, with 12 killed. He told me about the immediate reactions of the two men who are campaigning for president. The solution they offered to a stunned nation?


There are something over 250 million guns in the US. It's the world's largest market for guns, the largest manufacturer and the largest exporter. On a visit to a gun store in Arizona, I was offered a heavy machine gun (fires rifle bullets at five hundred a minute - all day) for three thousand dollars. At the same price, they had an anti-tank gun.

But I would have produce ID showing I was 16.

The also had a range of submachine guns (pistol bullets fired in bursts) at very reasonable prices. This is all possible because of years of lobbying and brainwashing by the National Rifle Association (a lobby group for gun makers) which has convinced Americans that their democracy depends on an armed and alert public.

Estimates place the number of potentially violent and mentally ill Americans at 25 to 30 million. But it's worse than that. For over seventy years, the American people  have been brainwashed into fear and hatred and panic. The fear of Russia and communism grew into a national paranoia over tiny Cuba,  Guatemala. Thanks to geography, the US is the most unattackable country in the world. It is also the most attacking one with over 200 wars since 1775, all of them against smaller countries, including Canada.

But it's still scared - of the Molems that it has been attacking (without really noticing it) for a century, of Bolivia, of Yemen, of Afghanistan...... And now it's socially degenerating with growing poverty and insecurity. And 250 million guns.

Pray.  Pray hard. That is the sum total of response of the candidates for the presidency to a mass murder in a nation of guns.  Did I mention that the NRA is a major contributor to election campaign funds?

Oh, there's another gun story. It wasn't important enough to  meet the high standards of The Moncton Times and Transcript, but Toronto is now having shootouts on a daily basis.


 But if God tells you to bring in gun controls, and to cut down on politicians and news media that encourage hatred and hysteria. don't listen to Him. Just praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition. In fact, it wouldn't hurt to if our clergy carried heat.

Now, we move to the style of a newspaper.  There are press releases, and there are news stories. And they are really not quite the same. See page 1 "Private council meetings necessary: officials". That's not a news story. That's a press release.

It has information. But all the information comes from municipal officials. That's like publishing a "story" on the life of a rapist - and with all the information coming from the rapist. That's not a story. That's a press release.

To make it a story, to give it context and meaning, one has to contact other sources - the police, the victims. And one has to some pretty tough questioning of the rapist.

But this "city officials" story has no other sources than the officials; doesn't try to find any; and doesn't appear to question anything that was said. This isn't reporting. This is stenography.

But -note. This is not the fault of the reporter. It's the fault of whoever edited the first page. An editor is one who is supposed to be an expert on these things. The reporter may well have asked questions, and have checked other sources. And the editor may well have, probably did, cut those parts out.. It's a characteristic of TandT "news stories".

The Reuters report on Syria seems accurate - as far as it goes. But Reuters has still not said just who these rebels are - even though it is getting most of its news from them.Apparently, very few of them are interested in democracy, and many of them have interests quite hostile to us.

But that's in the distant future - probably weeks. What counts right now is that knocking out Syria will open the door for an attack on Iran - which has oil. And which refuses to give away its oil to western oil companies as the west forced it to from 1920 to 1950. At that point, Iran rudely tried to control its own oil.  So the US, Britain, and France overthrew the democratic government of Iran , and imposed a dictator. That is what turned Iran so strongly to Islam.  Iran is also a barrier to Israeli ambitions to dominate the Middle East.

Oh - and Reuters, with all it's resources, doesn't seem to know that when Syrian rebels (the good guys) attacked a Syrian army (the bad buys) border post, they pulled out the 23 Syrian soldiers who had been in it - and publicly cut off the arms and the legs of the commanding officer. Then, again publicly, they lined up the 22 soldiers and shot them.

But Reuters, relying on the rebels for its news, didn't get that story. Too bad none of their sophisticated staff don't listen to Radio Netherlands or read the many European newspapers that did carry the whole story.

Also in News Today is the story that when Canada's premiers meet in Halifax next week, much of the cost will be paid by anybody at all who wishes to do so. In return, that anybody who pays enough gets to meet with the premiers and to chat about whatever interests him or her. Now, that's what I call listening to the people. Well - to all those people who can pay $10,000 to $50,000 for a social evening.

In short, corporations lobbyists can discuss what they want from our premiers. Irving Shipbuilding, always an ardent friend of democracy, has contributed $25,000. The premier says this will save valuable taxpayers' money. And, of course, it will. We need to save valuable taxpayers' money so we can give it ot the lobbyists.

PostMedia sees nothing odd about this, and asks no question. Of course not. The ownership of PostMedia is a lot like the ownership of the Moncton Times and Transcript.

And interesting letter to the editor suggesting that Codiac Transpo staff are going on strike so they can buy BMWs. This letter writer could be a hot prospect to do editorials for the TandT.

Editorial and op ed page? Read Gwunne Dyer. The rest are the sort of irrelevancies you discuss over beer.  Well, maybe several beers.

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20: Words, words, words.....

Sixty years ago, a United Nations army had pushed back a North Korean army onto its own territory, and was going through it like a hot knife through butter. China, not wanting American troops on its doorstep, warned the the American commander of the the UN force, General MacArthur, not to cross a certain pont. MacArthur, probably wanting a war with China, crossed it.

The response was a massive Chinese attack which threw NATO troops into a panic as soldiers abandoned positions, equipment, rifles, even their own wounded, to run for their lives. The western world was stunned. It had never seen or even heard of such a humiliating catastrophe for western armies.  Then the word went out from Washington.

It was not a retreat. It was a strategic withdrawal.

Oh. Well. That was different. From that moment on, the western press dropped the word retreat. Our troops never retreated. They did strategic withdrawals. And that wasn't retreat. Not really.

There was even a very bad movie about it called, "Retreat, Hell". It ends with the hero saying, "This is not a retreat. Hell, no. This is a strategic withdrawal."

P. D1 of The Moncton Times and Transcript has a big story from, what else, Postmedia News. "Canada plans for more overseas military missions."  Yep. Our military will be redesigned and re-equipped to go overseas far more (and maybe down to Latin America). And it will be in combat roles. Combat roles - a term one uses to avoid saying wars. It's like, I mean, you know...wars are terrible, very nasty.....but combat roles, well, like, they're not REAL wars.

Now, nobody has invaded Canada since the US did it in 1812. So who are these enemies we have to defend ourselves against? After all, international law requires that you be attacked before you invade another country.

Oh - Oh - But it seems we won't be attacking anybody. No. We'll be "projecting Canadian power". Well, that's different. Are you a school bully? Next time the principal has you on the carpet on that, tell him you weren't bullying all those little kids. You were just projecting your power.

In the plain words that we call reality, the US is committed to aggressive wars for decades to come in an attempt to maintain American economic dominance -which means American control (for rich Americans only) of everybody else's resources and markets. These wars, covering all of Africa, pushing close to China and Russia, and already underway secretly in Central and South America, are too much for the US alone, even now that robots are doing so much of the fighting. So, like Britain in its declining years when it turned to its empire for help, the US is turning to NATO. And private Harper has saluted, "Ready, aye, ready."

In fact, the only foreign threats to its territory that Canada has faced in the last 200 years were the American invasion of 1812, and the current American refusal to recognize in any way the Canadian claim to the Arctic. And I note that the current plan has no provision for protecting us against that American threat to the Arctic - the only current threat to Canadian territory.

Grads - don't worry about finding jobs in a declining economy. You and your children will have no trouble finding work in the "Projecting Canadian Power" business. 

Words. Porjecting Canadian power is as good as "fighting humanitarian war" as in Libya, and "strategic withdrawal" in Korea.

Norbert says this will be a strong tourist season. He knows that because he constantly looks out for all the out of province license plates when he drives to work. Advice - for your safety, find out Norbert's route and avoid it during commuting times.

deAdder has another, real editorial cartoon.

And - the TandT has at last mentioned the complete screwup of the London Olympic games. It's not a news story, though.  It's in Alec Bruce's (excellent) commentary. The scandal runs very deep on this one as the contract is so casually worded as to leave British taxpayers on the hook for over half a billion dollars - even though the private security firm could not do the job. And that same firm keeps its job of privatizing Britain's police forces and its prisons. The privatizing Prime Minister is obviously up to his ears in this one.

And G4S security - or something very much like it - is coming our way. Depend on it. And keep an eye on Harper.

There's also an excellent commentary on VIA Rail - and how the people running it seem to want to destroy it. Bang on. The big money for railways is freight, not people. That's why CPR offered bad service and generally disagreeable conditions for passenger service in its later days It wanted an excuse to get rid of the passenger service. And it worked. That why we formed VIA Rail to serve people.

But we now have a government interested only in serving billionaires; so VIA Rail is in its deathcell.
That's why we're seeing cuts ----oh, sorry... we're seeing "modernization" to "better meet customer demand".

Or - you could think of it as a strategic withdrawal.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Today, Norbert has a quite amusing column on how we get confused about the words we think we heard in songs, as in "While shepherds washed their socks by night, all seated round the tub...." I was reminded of that fine, old hymn we learned in Sunday school, "When mothers went sailing...."

The editorial is a reasonable enough one on improving traffic conditions. However, and as most of the world has learned, if you improve traffic conditions, you get more cars -and more problems. Los Angeles probably has the most sophisticated traffic circles and interchanges in the world. It also has some of the world's worst traffic problems.

The problem in Moncton, as in many cities, is not roads. The problem is cars. Providing more parking and improving roads will not ease the problem. It will make it worse. The answer, as many cities have discovered, is in discouraging cars. And one way to do that is to provide mass transit----intelligently.  And this, alas!, is what our city refuses even to consider.

Incidentally, I have happy memories of outdoor restaurants (like the ones on Main St.) in Belgium and Rome at which I did not have to sit beside somebody's parked car, or beside traffic. Perhaps City Council could check out a travel office to get a free picture of such a setup.

Read Alec Bruce's column today - espcially the last line. Our climate is changing, and at an unpredictable rate and with unpredictable consequences. So why do some people still deny it?  Well, if you check, you will find think tanks and propaganda groups well financed by billionaires, many of whom happen to make their money out of fossil fuels.  Short-sighted and self-interested lads as they are, they don't give a damn what will happen down the road - and not very far down the road. All they care about is the profit to be announced in the next quarterly report.

Rod Allen has his usual column about nothing in particular. I didn't even know we had an Order of Moncton. Next, no doubt, an order of St. George St. or of Harper Lane.

Excellent column by Jody Dallaire on how Harper is choking charity and advocacy groups. This is a deliberate policy and part of a much larger agenda - to give the rich even more influence in Ottawa, to privatize as many services as possible, and to cut off discussion by us common people - and it has to be done before his term is over. That last point is important because he's not likely to win another election - but if he does enough damage before then, it will be almost impossible to undo.

Harper doesn't need to win another election. His future is taken care of.

Reuters carries what seems to be a pretty accurate story of  a decisive moment in the Syria war as a suicide bomber, a Moslem, blew up some of the government's key leaders. Funny thing, though. He was a Moslem. He was a suicide bomber. When a person like that blows up somebody on our side, isn't he usually described as a terrorist?

The choice of words in the news is important. And there's another example on the same page.

"Islamic threat warning issued". This heads a story about a Canadian diiplomat who says, Islamist "extremists" are a "cancer" that is spreading across North Africa...uh....well....wasn't North Africa Islamic in the first place? And wasn't it conquered by Christians who did it by the rather extreme method of mass killing? And didn't they try to spread a Christian cancer across North Africa?

Too bad the native peoples of the Americas didn't have newspapers some 400 hundred years ago. I can see the headlines now "Christian extremists spread cancer of their religion across the Americas".

A headline like that would be quite true. But to use that tone to describe people who have been invaded, murdered and exploited for centuries seems a bit much. Invading Iraq on trumped up excuses, and killing over a million people sounds like a pretty extreme Christianity to me.

The Moncton Times and Transcript still hasn't noticed the British banking crisis with its evidence of bank behaviour that was both criminal and irresponsible. Depositors are lining up to get their money out of banks like Barclay's and into co-ops. Nor has it mentioned the growing suspicion that British banks were rigging gas prices.   (Gee. That would surely never happen in Canada.)

Nor has it noticed the damning report from the US Senate which says that banking giant HSBC was guilty not only cheating by rigging bank rates and laundering money; it was also and knowingly, funnelling money to terrorist groups. As well, the scandal is revealing questonable links between banks like HSBC and, for example, the British Minister of Trade.

The British are also learning that corporations as they get bigger, lose track of what's going on. Far from being more efficient than government, Big businesses often run hopelessly out of control. That was discovered in the banks as part, but only part, of their problem. It was also discovered in another story that the TandT has completely ignored.

The security giant G4S, the one that will be bidding to create private prisons and private police forces in Canada (including New Brunswick), the one that now has contracts to privatize jails and police forces in the UK, the one that already operate  prisons in the US has so terribly screwed up on its contract for security at the Olympic games that the British will need to send in up to 5000 soldiers and thousands of municipal police.....well..... It told the UK government just before the Olympics opening that it cannot provide the security required.  (Perhaps that's a good thing. The people it did  hire got only one month's training.)

The whole organization is so out of control that the president publicly admitted that with days to go for the Olympic opening, he didn't know they had only 2000 employees of the 10,000 that had been contracted for.The corporation president didn't know.  Nor was he able to answer the simplest questions about his organization. He wasn't stonewalling. He actually didn't know.

For a final touch, even though G4S is now providing less than even minimal security, its price has risen by hundreds of millions of dollars.

And he'll be heading this way.

But Times and Transcript doesn't know about it. Or about the report that shows most US aid money for starving countries goes to three American factory farming giants that grow the food in the US at very high prices and with government subsidies. Then, of course, it has to be shipped at great cost and by American shipping companies. Result? What the starving countries get is very expensive food, and very, very little of it because most of the money has gone to corporations.

When I was a child, I used to listen to a radio programme that began with the voice of a sidewalk newspaper salesman shouting, "Extry. Extry. Read all about it. Now, I turn to my Times and Transcript.

Read all about what?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 18: Kings and popes and emperors....

When King Louis XIV woke up in the morning, courtiers would crush into his room to flatter him about the grace with which he put his pants on, the delicacy with which he ate his Krunchies. And when he sat on the toilet, there were bursts of ecstatic applause for his performance. That's all in the diaries of a courtier named le duc du St.-Simon. (Good read.)

We don't have courtiers these days. So we have to make do with newspaper editors, headmasters of private schools for rich kids, and university presidents. Today's editorial is applause for the toilet part of the king's morning. In effect, it says Codiac Transpo doesn't work; that (in the editor's opinion) the wage demands are too high; that the whole system should be redesigned; that employees should pay the price for whatever has to be done; and  the union should be broken.

Can you imagine that kissup saying that Mr. Irving has too much power? That his wage demands are too high? The Irving doesn't give enough to this province for what he takes out? That his conglomerate should be broken up?  No-o-o-o-o.

Like the courtiers of Louis XIV, the editor of the TandT would be more likely to applaud and cry out. "Great aim, Mr. Irving. You almost got it in that time."

And has it occured to the editor or anybody at city hall that creating more parking spaces on Main St. when you want to encourage bus use is - well - sort of - retarded? In fact, I do agree with the editor on one point - City Council and City Hall staff have been a disaster in planning and development of mass transit. So why don't we lock out City Council and all those staff planners, the latter of whom, I'm sure, get paid a hell of a lot more than bus drivers and mechanics?

But, like most editors I have known, this one just loves to get tough on people who can't hit back. But he will rush to kiss any rear end that is the rear end of money and power.

Alec Bruce mentions a similar case, a headmaster of a private school who took huffy exception to an article he didn't understand.  The headmaster wrote, "As educators, our role is largely about character development." That would have been all right if he had added - "the kind of character that the rich people who sit on our board approve of." Being headmaster of a private school is another kissup job - like being president of a university. That's why university presidents all turn for 'consultations' when they are summoned.

Good column by Bruce. And a useful one by Norbert. And a political cartoon by de Adder that really is a political cartoon.

As for the op ed page, the page that challenges our minds and provides insights into the world around us?  Well there's a doggie story by Eric Lewis. It could have been worse. It could have been about a doggie playing a guitar while riding on a motorcycle.

The other 'commentary' is yet another free propaganda piece for NB Power.

There is an excellent letter to the editor "Organic farmers can teach much".  There is also one that is either careless or uninformed "Natural gas in good for the economy".  For example, as for the incidence of cancer in western Canada- it depends on where in western Canada you are. If you live downstream from oilsands, the rate of cancer is so very high that governments have kept secret all
medical reports on it.

Interesting story on NewsToday. Green organizations are requesting  government  help to explore alternative energy sources. They point out that, though nobody in business or government talks about it, it was government that paid for much of the development of oilsands. They might also have added that governments largely paid for the development of the computer industry, the trillion dollar wars of the oil industry, the railway industry that created this country, the automotive industry and, in fact, most industries.

The Harperites are responding with a charge that all them there greens is bein' financed by American millionaires who just want to hurt Canada. Yeah. (Betcha never knew that Harper is a critic of American millionaires. Wull, I never knew it neither.duh.)

Reuters is still giving us news from Syria courtesy of a haberdasher in England who handles propaganda for the rebels.  Meanwhile, unmentioned in the TandT is news that the US forces are undergoing their biggest buildup in the region since the Iraq war.

Incredibly, the TandT still does not have the story of the stunning shambles that is security at the London Olympics. The job had been given to G4S, a private company that runs prisons, police forces, rents out assassination squads, mercenaries. It's one of the biggest companies in the world. Watch for it in Canada, coming to a prison or police force near you.

The mess is so bad that the army and British police forces have had to take over at the last minute - and security could now be one hell of a problem with this last minute change.

The president of G4S, appearing before a parliamentary committee is, according to viturally all of the British press, a complete and incompetent ass. He admits he completely messed up on the contract - only a small fraction of the promised guards ever appeared and, at that, he has no idea where they are or what their training is. But he still insists the British government owes him over a hundred million for his services. And this is the man who is slated to take over British prisons and police forces. He's also a major supplier for the US.  Good luck to the US on its prison system.

Watch Harper. He intends to move in the same privatization direction. Of course, this might change his plans for which incompetent company to choose.

A front page story sums up the attitude of The Times and Transcript to artistic or cultural activity. It's good when it fills hotel rooms and provides restaurant business.

Oh, a heartwarming story that perhaps the TandT is saving for its church section on Saturday. HBSC banking, a world-wide conglomerate has apologized for laundring hundreds of billions of dollars for drug-traffickers and other gangsters. Well - they were caught doing it. Then they apologized. Still - this should restore faith in our banking system.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17: Quelle surprise! It's hot out.

Last night, I wrote a brief blog on two stories that had appeared yesterday in major newspapers. They were kind of important. One was a story that Saudi Arabia may have received nuclear weapons from China. (Washington Post) The other was a story of the rampant becaviour of the world's biggest banks in laundering drug and other crime money, fixing interest rates and other, illegal practices that are a major cause of the recession, and now, possibly, the banks may have been rigging gas prices.

I wrote that today's Moncton Times and Transcript would not carry those stories. It didn't. However, Monctonians will get some important news on P. 1. It's hot out.

Last week, I promised to contact City Hall to find out whether soil tests had been conducted on the proposed site for the 'events' centre. And, if so, whether the tests had shown any toxicity from industrial and railway activity over the past one hundred and forty years or so. And, if so, how much and with what implications.  I wrote to my Ward Two councillors, Merrilll Henderson and Charles Leger. I have so far received no reply or even acknowledgement of receipt from either of them.

I sent another to city hall in general; and that got a reply from a city hall suit some five days later. He said that such tests had been conducted on at least two sites, including Highfield Square, and that both had shown pollution. That was it.

I wrote back, pointing out that I had asked what sort of pollution, how much and with what implications, And since at least two sites had been tested, the public should know what the other site is, and what its testing showed.

That brought me a reply that the suit thanked me for my interest, and would pass on my advice to the city manager.  That's called a kiss-off letter.

I replied that I had not given advice to anybody. I had asked for infomation on what is surely something the public has a right know and, so far, I had not received what we have a right to know.

I don't expect a response. City Hall isn't going to tell us - and City Council appears to like it that way. If you live in Ward 2, remember those names, Henderson and Leger. If you live in another ward, consider dropping a post to your councillors. Let us know how it turns out.

NewsToday carries the usual report on heavy fighting in Syria and how terrible it all is. What it doesn't mention is that the reason there is heavy fighting is that the West, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the emirates supply weapons, training, money, intelligence, and hired mercenaries to the rebels - large numbers of whom appear to be the same sort of people we're actually fighting in Afghanistan. And they have no interest in democracy.

There is a civil war in Syria because we have created one. If we left Syria alone, this would be a matter of street demonstrations, shooting a few protestors - and it wouldn't even make the news. After all, that's the way it happens all the time in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the emirates. (Though none of the latter make our news, either.)

For a change, there is some business news on the business page. Nothing nasty about bankers and price-rigging, though.  No. It's about tough new penalties the federal government has prepared for companies that commit environmental violations. Penalties are set as high as hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Okay. Penalties like that come nowhere close to the degree of damage done by such violations.) Not to worry, though.

The government has announced it does not intend to enforce the law. No. In a new and enlightened approach to law and order, the fines will be listed -just to let companies know that harming the environment is not nice. The simple idea (very simple) is that if people know there is a penalty on the books, they will be deterred - even if they know it isn't enforced.

Canadians must now wonder whether Mr. Harper will apply this new approach to our criminal law. We could save a bundle by closing all our prisons and disposing of all our police forces.

Yes, there's lots of meat to chew on - but precious little chewing on the chewing pages - editorial and op ed.

Norbert tells us that 3D television is a fad. Okay. So? He also says that some words show how crazy the English language can be. But he doesn't tell us what they are.

The editorial offers the daring and controversial opinion that we need speed zones near schools. Great idea. Any insights about motherhood and apple pie?

Alan Cochrane, showing no particular knowledge of anything gushes about an electric car he happened to see.  Hint for Alan: electricity is a form of energy. How do you intend to produce it for such a highly electrified society?  Another hint: How do you intend to dispose of billions of batteries?

And there is yet another "opinion colum" aka propaganda press release by NB Power..

Alec Bruce's column is light-hearted. But it has the virtues of being well-written, entertaining, and having a core of sense to it. It's about Harper's recent statement that Calgary is the greatest city in the world. Well, yeah. Or Hong Kong is the greatest city in the world if you are obsessed with consumerism, walking up eight floors to your tiny apartment, and breathing diesel fumes.

Fond as we are of these lists (Maclean's rating of the 'best universities', Atlantic Institute of Market Studies' rating of public school), they're all just silly. There is no such thing as a greatest or best of anything. It all depends on what rules you use to make the measurement.

Yes, Toronto is a great city for theatre, museums, libraries. It also has increasing levels of violence and high living costs. Yes, New York is even more exciting. But be careful which streets you walk on, and make sure you're home before the sun sets.

The Moncton Times and Tribune (and a great many other North American news media) has also ignored - and probably never even heard of - what might be a defining moment in history.

It began shortly after World War Two when private business in the US launched a campagn for privatizatin of just about everyhing. That's why billionaires funded "think-tanks" like Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, The Fraser Institute, etc. That's why journalists like Norbert use bureaucrat as a swear word to pour contempt on civil servants - but never, never on private business. That's why our chldren are forced to write waste-of-time exams set by Atlantic Institute of Market Studies. And wy big business has political puppets -to help it take over.

That's why, in the US, prisons are being privatized - even though they are proving far less efficient than state institutions, and even though they have been caught bribing judges to give longer sentences.

That's why, in the US, it has become essential for families with any ambition at all for their children, to send them to fee-paying schools (most with government subsidies but with fees mandatory) Here, in New Brunswick, we cutely call this  sort of thing Public Private Partnership.  Yeah. that's what we'll call it. We'll rip people off, and call it a public private partnership. This has not only cut off all hope for the majority of American children; it has also driven all US school rankings, including the PPP ones into the world toilet of educaton.

The country most determined to destroy the state and let private business take over seems to be Britain. Private schools, which have always provided privileged access for the children of the rich in that country, are now being public-privatized with fee-paying as in the US. The result so far is no improvement in education but, as in the US, a very effective cutting-off of most children from opportunity.

Britain is also privatizing prisons and even police forces, mostly through a huge 'security' (mercenaries, hired killers, police, etc) agency called G4S, a world-wide contractor.) Prime Minister Cameron has even contracted with G4S to supply almost all security for the most-heavily guarded Olympic Games in history.

They are heavily guarded for good reason. An Olympic site stuffed with world leaders by the bushel would be the ultimate target for terrorists. So Cameron privatized most of the security. And the resulting mess is terrifying.

With days to go, we are learning what has been kept secret by G4S for months. It can come nowhere close to doing the job it promised. The army has had to assign 3.500 troops to Olympic security on short notice, and without special training. Every police force in the country has had to assign the bulk of its officers to Olympic duties, a great opportunity for criminals. Airport customs checks are going to be hell on earth, relying heavily on untrained and unprepared officers.

Funny nobody at the Moncton Times and Transcript has even noticed. Don't they have computers there?

Cameron's purpose is obvious. He wants to destroy the state before there is an election, reducing it to be a contracting operation to give contracts to big business. (There is now even a private agency to provide welfare (though at government cost, of course.)

And that, essentially, is the programme of Stephen Harper. That's a good deal of the reason why he pushed through his omnibus 'budget' bill. Once done, it will be hard to undo. But it has to be done before the next election because neither Cameron nor Harper is likely to win again.

New Brunswick is probably well on the way. Remember Irving's committee to plan the economic future of New Brunswick? Remember how he got his appointees to be named official government advisors on the provincial budget? For a minister of finance who is an ex-Irving executive?

This, unless we first blow ourselves up or poison ourselves, is the story of the century.

But, on the front page of The Moncton Times and Transcript, it's just hot out.

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16 addendum: what won't be in the TandT July17

For July 16, the Washington Post web site carries a story that a former CIA contractor who had access to top level information has published an on-line book saying that China traded ballistic nuclear missiles to our good friend, Saudi Arabia, in exchange for oil guarantees. This was done when George Bush was President, and Bush knew about it.

So - how come we're ready to invade Iran with no evidence it is even developing nuclear weapons - and nobody has said peep about Saudi Arabia?

The book is Patriot Lost by Jonathan Scherck.

It seems that reports of this sort of deal have been in circulation for years - but not in the Moncton Times and Transcript.

For July 16, The Telegraph (UK) published reports that oil companies and banks may have been rigging gas prices in the same illegal and irresponsible way that the banks have been caught doing with interest rates.

Neither story appeared in the TandT on July 16. Betcha they won't appear on July 17, either.

July 16: Northrop Frye and all that

On the weekend, I dropped off some books at the library So I saw the fine image of Northrop Frye sitting on a bench at the entrance. I'm sure he would have been pleased to know that his image would be seated in front of the library he had so often studied in - a library that today is one of the worst funded libraries in Canada. And in a city whose politicians give no evidence of ever having read his works.

That seated figure is a fine piece of work. I like it. I wish it reflected a reality about our attitudes to books and thinking.

The business page of the Times and Transcript (Your Investments) has a big story about somebody's sword collection. There is no mention of the scandals sweeping European banks, much the same scandals that swept American ones, and that caused the recession that still has a long way to go. (Nor does it mention that investigation has begun of Canadian banks.)

The reality is that bankers over most of the world have been breaking laws and behaving both illegally and irresponsibly for many years - rigging interest rates, lying in reports, taking wild chances.  It is their normal way of doing business. It is emerging (in European papers, at least)  that governments were tipped off to this years ago - and have done nothing.

American bankers who broke the law, stole hundreds of billions and put millions of people on the street weren't investigated for it. They were given bailouts, with massive bonuses for the scoundrels who had done the damage. The same thing is happening in Europe, where whole countries face generations of poverty because of the criminal acts of their bankers - and there, too, the bankers are being rewarded with bail-outs and bonusses - at public expense. In Britain, at least, it seems some of them MAY face criminal charges - though the questioning has so far been gentle, to say the least.

As a result, the rate of poverty has risen over most of the world. And so has the rate of super-wealth. We are living through the biggest theft in world history. Some of us, most of us, are going to suffer from it for the rest of our lives. And the biggest stories in today's Moncton Times and Transcript business section are about a sword collection, paying taxes on tips and whether you need life insurance.

This is really quite similar to the Great Depression of the 1930s, with terrible suffering for most Canadians - but with the super rich actually getting richer all the way through the worst years. R.B.Bennett, a New Brunswicker that New Burnswickers take pride in without knowing much about him, ordered a study of this phenomenon. It was published as Report of the Royal Commission on Price Spreads and Mass Buying. Pick up a copy at the library - if it has one. (Tight budget, you know. We don't want to raise Mr. Irving's taxes.)

People should know more about Bennett. Yes, he was arrogant - but he had brains -  and had more compassion than any prime minister in the history of this country.

But even at its worst, the TandT is better than The Calgary Herald and other papers which blame the poor for causing the recession. It says the problem is their sense of entitlement. Really? Entitlement to what? Some modest social help when they get laid off or locked out? To pensions which they pay for in a lifetime of taxes?

There are countries in this world whose citizens are"entitled" to a hell of a lot more in education and health and pensions than we are. Sweden and Finland spring to mind. Of course, they also keep a closer eye on their bankers.

Is this anti-capitalist? No. I have no patience with people who waste time and energy pimping for any 'system' - capitalism, socialism, communism, democracy, dictatorship - as the one and only true solution.

The reality is that we are not the identical and never-changing objects on the assembly line of any ideology. There is no such thing as a one-size fits all and fits forever system. That's why Harper is going to prove a disaster as a prime minister. He's an ideologue and a remarkably narrow one. "Step right up, folks. This magic ointment will cure all your ills."

The problem with all systems is that they are run by people. And us people, well, we can get greedy, and cruel, and uncaring, and corrupt, and criminal.... It can happen in every economic system I ever heard of.

And we're well down the road.

What we call our capitalist system is not capitalist at all. It's a welfare state for the very rich who demand 'entitlements' like low taxes, timber rights, resource rights, free loans, grants. They even expect us to pay in lives and money to fight their wars.  In the last decade, fighting wars to make billionaires richer  cost the US alone over 4 trillion dollars that it doesn't have - and much of that money cannot be accounted for. It is a system that has so far corrupted government that it can be said the very rich ARE our governments.

In our democracy, too,  power goes to those who can raise lots of money - a trend Harper has encouraged on a major scale. Our news media are so far corrupted and controlled that, despite the few exceptions that do an honest job, we are largely ignorant of what is happening.

You think, from reading Time magazine, that the West wants to bring democracy to Syria? So how come our great ally in this is that notorious dictator called the King of Saudi Arabia? Are we horrified by the killing in Syria? So how come we're not horrified by the killing of protestors in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates - not to mention Vietnam and Guatemala and Iraq and Afghanistan?

Our information and our democracy have been hopelessly corrupted by a capitalism that is, itself, so corrupt and distorted that it ceased to be real capitalism a long time ago.

There is no such thing as a system which will solve all our problems. We are not run by systems. We are run by people. Sometimes capitalism, properly controlled, will work. Right now, it's not working. Right now, the people who operate the system have created poverty and instablity throughout the world, perhaps most notably in Africa and Central America. Now,those people are extending their reach; and there is not the slightest reason to believe that they will treat us any better.

Where will this take us? We don't have to guess. We're already most of the way there - to the police state with arbitrary imprisonment, torture, highly intrusive police powers to collect data on all of us, a constant state of hysteria that focusses our anger and hatred on, say, Moslems.

Eventually, like the Soviet Union, it will break down, not because of revolt but because of the sheer incompetence, in our case, of the super-rich to manage societies. Here, in New Brunswick, we have an Irving-appointed committee to plan our economic futures. It's already happened. The sharks have been appointed to manage the aquarium. (Sharks aren't real good at that.)

Sorry to stray so far off the point. The fact is, there was nothing in the TandT worth discussing. If you like more photos of old cars, you'll love today's paper. Ditto if you like seeing press releases from NB Power posted as if they were commentary. And if you live on tips, you'll certainly want to read the column on how they're taxable - or you might want to check out what our economic aristocracy does with off-shore bank accounts, deductions for buying politicians, etc.

Meanwhile, forget the arguing over capitalism, socialism or whatever. Very few people actually know what those words mean and, in any case, it's not systems that govern us. It's people. And the people who govern us now have become hopelessly corrupt and corrupting.

Check out the letters to the editor. There are a few good ones.