Thursday, July 26, 2012

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.)


  1. Believe me, sir...the English do not have exclusive rights to bigotry in this province.

  2. I'm sure they don't. that's because what we have on both sides are people. And us people are flawed.

    However, I see here nothing resembling the bigotry that was everyday life in Quebec - a bigotry that reached up to the highest political levels.

    Quebec was, and is, a hotbed of bigotry and racism on both sides. There is nothing here to compare - and I think we should be working to keep it that way.

    I find, compared to Quebec, that New Brunswickers are extraordinarily courteous and friendly regardless of language.

    We have to make it better - not harp on where it's still bad.