Tuesday, August 14, 2012

August 14: catching up...

Congratulations to the Moncton Times and Transcript for giving prompt and prominent space (p.1) to the story of how four citizens confronted the provincial government on its refusal to explain why the site for a new Moncton High was chosen. The government says it doesn't have to. The court says, "Oh, yes, you do."

Alward will still twist and squirm and delay, of course. But this is something City Council should have been leading the way on. Maybe we need more people like the fighting four to ask City Council what the pollutants are under Highfield Square. How bad are they? Do they affect commercial and residential properties near the square?

For an example of a useless news story, go to the bottom of p. 2 to read how Harper has directed some 10 million dollars in humanitarian aid for Syria away from Red Crescent- because some group we have never heard of says that Red Crescent is biased against the government side. That's what happens you're PostMedia or BrunswickMedia and you insist that your rerporters know nothing, see nothing, speak nothing; and simply take notes. What on earth is the point of this story? What does it really tell us.

First, the idea that any western leader gives a damn about the suffering of any Syrians on either side is laughable. If they didn't want Syrians to suffer, all they had to do was to not start a war in the first place.  Here's the story.

It began as a simple plan along the lines of Libya. Provoke a civil war to overthrow a Syrian government that is an ally of Iran. Supply money, weapons, organizers, special ops, intelligence to the rebels. Install a new government friendly to the West. Then hit an isolated Iran, and take over the oil fields.

That was the plan. But the wheels came off.

It turns out that a high proportion of the rebels, especially those supplied and hired by Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, are Moslem Jihadists, the ones we're fighting against everywhere else. So the US is now  rallying its NORAD team just in case they have to intervene to make sure the right "good" guys win.

The Canadian shift in humanitarian aid is just a small sign of that. The US has gone much further. It is ensuring that its money and weapons go only to those rebels it wants to win. But the clock is running down.

While the Syrian government seems sure to loose, timing could be everything. The American election is close - and Obama is in the lead. Israel's Netanyahu may decide he has to attack Iran now before Obama, with the election behind him, might nix an invasion. (I think Netanyahu considers Obama a more honest man that I do.) An attack now, with Syria still in chaos, could touch off wars all over the Middle East - and well beyond it.

That's why it's important for a reporter to ask questions, and to know which questions to ask.

While in hospital, I had the good luck to see a real reporter in action. (I don't watch TV at home; but a hospital room can get pretty lonely, especially without an appendix to talk to). I flipped through the usual, awful channels that are the reason I don't watch TV. Then I hit a programme called Power and Politics. It's on CBC (6 to 8p.m., I believe). The host was Evan Solomon, who was well-informed, sharp, and knew how to keep asking why and how even after his guests tried to the usual, long-winded answers that tried to hide the lying in a fog of words.

Wow! This guy is an experience. He's knowledgeable; he's tough; he has a powerful sense and use of drama.  The Canadian ministers of Finance and of Natural Resources never did tell the truth, of course. But by the end of the show, Evan Solomon's questions had made it clear to viewers how lacking they were in any quality of statesmanship or trust. Like aging, scrawny hookers they stripped themselves bare with everything they said.

Among the gems:
1. The Minister of Natural Resources, trying to seem neutral buy really supporting the oil pipline industry, said that pipelines can be very safe with Enbridge, for example, suffering only three, minor accidents in recent years. Solomon shot him a look that pinned him to the wall like an insect.

"I have official figures here showing that Enbridge has had uncounted spills in that period with a total spillage of over 25 million litres. That's not just a few spills. That's not just minor damage."
(The minister muttered something about Solomon changing the subject.)

By the way, did the BrunswickNews tell you about that rate of spillage by Enbridge, a company that has wide shale gas rights in New Brunswick? Did Premier Alward mention it after his promise to inform us more fully about shale gas?

2.The Minister of Finance was asked about his intention to investigate tax evasion by the Italian mob that controls the construction industry. (Montreal has multi cultural mobs. There used to be a Jewish mob that controlled gambling, until the government mob took over; the Irish mob controls the waterfront. And so it goes....) The minister replied that they are investigating it but had only recently learned of the construction scandal in Quebec.

I was stunned to hear that. I grew up just a few blocks from the heart of the Italian mob district. My neighbour was a small time hood for the mob. (He died young from a bad case of being wrapped up in a chain and dropped into a lake.) Some of my best friends in school were from mob families. By grade seven, I knew all about the Italian mob, the construction industry, and their corrupt ties with governments. And the Canadian government just found out?

Then he dropped a real clanger. I think it was because Solomon had rattled him with his magisterial questoning style.  He said that Stephen Harper was already preparing tough legislation to investigate the massive scandal of the Quebec construction industry. Okay. But the minister knew he had to say more with those eyes locked on him. So he said Harper was preparing it to investigate other notorious hotbeds of corruption and thievery - like environmentalists, and unions who take hard-earned money from workers.

We look at Quebec; and we see the worst corruption and criminal scandal in Canadian history. Mr. Harper looks at it; and he sees a chance to strike at those who have dared to criticize him and his government.

Power and Politics. This programme is what reporting should be about. It's on CBC.

Norbert has a column, snarly but vague, on the martime bus transit crisis. Actually, it's a crisis that goes far beyond busses , and that takes in the need to drastically reorganize the rural maritimes. Pumping grants to dying villages isn't going to cut it. And maybe busses won't cut it. Anyway, we know what the government is going to do. Indeed, the fix is probably already in.

A new company will appear to take over the service. The government will agree to give it tax deductions and grant money. And it will be specified that the company may hire non-union workers.

Problem solved.

There are the usual good columns by Alec Bruce and Gwynne Dyer.

Alan Cochrane's column proves once again that there is nobody on that editorial staff capable of writing serious and informed comment about anything.

The editorial ponders what the federal government can do to ease such problems as the lobster fishery. Ponder no more. Harper has decided. He will allow the fishery on the East coast to destroy itself. Meanwhile, he will open the Arctic to commercial fishing. That step will pretty quickly destroy the last fishery in Canadian waters. But by then, Mr. Harper will have left politics to accept his reward in the form of a dozen or so directorships. So it won't be his problem.

That, in the corporate world, is called long-term planning.

1 comment:

  1. The Canadian Science Writers Association in a letter to Prime Minster Harper this year reminded him that his government promised accountability and transparency.

    However,they (the federal scientists) are still not allowed to speak to reporters without the “consent” of media relations officers, or fear losing their jobs.

    The Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom awarded the Association for their effort.

    I wonder what it would be like to live in a country dominated by a cowardly, and undemocratic dictator?

    Oh! Wait! I'm in such a country! I'm in Canada!