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.

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