Saturday, August 4, 2012

August 4: At last: I won Lotto Max

That's right. Three numbers. That's good for a free ticket that could mean tens of millions next week. But I remain humble and unassuming. In other news.....

The editorial and op ed pages are marred only by a very silly editorial. It raves about how Moncton is a world leader in bilingualism. Get real.

I worked in the Netherlands for half a year. One of my students wrote a paper in French. It was excellent. He wrote his second in English. Again, it looked as though it was written in his native language. He offered to do the next in Spanish, Italian or German. (I begged off.)

That was common in everyday life in The Netherlands. In the smallest and remotest villages, I could readily find newspapers in a half dozen languages. When I asked a teenage employee at a gas station in my best tourist English, "DO...YOU...SPEAK...ENGLISH..?", he said, "Well, I am endeavouring to master it, though I still have difficulty with the idiomatic elements of it. Would you like some hslp with it?"

 I almost switched to French; but I sensed he would beat me in that, too.

In China, I used English freely. In fact, strangers even approached me so they could practice their English. (And, occasionally, their French).

New Brunswick has good reason to be pleased with its progress in biligualism. It certainly leads Canada. But Canada is only part of a very much bigger world. - and the TandT editorialists have a bad  habit of thinking they are look at the world when, in fact, they are only peering at their own bellybuttons.

Interesting column by Belliveau, though I don't see the point of his final sentence. Solid column by Norbert Cunningham. Ditto for Gwynne Dyer.

Brent Mazerolle began well on the subject of our growing power (and willingness) to kill each other over the last hundred years. But, halfway through, he wanders off into triviality. It's rather like an olympic sprinter who jumps into an early lead in the hundred metres then, suddenly, stops and saunters to the sidelines to chat with an old friend.

In fact, there's a great deal to say about our growing power and taste for killing. There's big money in selling robot weapons. That's why a dozen or more countries are now making them - and selling them to anybody who has the price. Anybody. The US is the early leader, though it seems that China will soon pass it in both sales and sophistication.

We (all us humans; not just the world's bellybutton of Moncton) are close to supplying the world with robot fighter plances that will be ten times faster and far more manoeuverable than the F-35 (that isn't even in production yet for our air force.)

 Even with human control, drones have been killing large numbers of civilians, including, by the most conserative estimates, hundreds of children. The new generation of drones won't have human direction. Can you imagine how indiscriminately they will kill? And we're not talking twenty years from now, not even ten.

What's driving this massive spread of such weapons to anybody who wants them? Private profit. As President Eisenhower warned fifty years ago the defence industry has come to dominate American life and politics - with the same thing happening in Britain, Russia, China  and even lesser powers - and with the factories of all of them selling them to any dictator, any butcher who has the right price.

You shouldn't have stopped at the sidelines, Brent.

For the first time in my experience, the Times and Transcript which has railed at the schools for not producing better readers has a book review in it. I've always thought it strange that a paper which ranted so much about the importance of reading should not have a book review section - like most real newspapers do. Well, today it has one. And it's quite well done.

You'll find it in Whatever, the section largely written by students. Book reviews encourage reading. Now, at last, such review actually has appeared in the pages of the Times and Transcript. But it wasn't the result of an idea by an editor. It was written by Jana Giles who, in a month, will enter grade nine.

It's well written. And it will do more to encourage reading than all the rants past, present and future of all the editors of the Times and Transcript.

There's an interesting news story  by Brent Mazerolle "Time for fresh start for Codiac Transpo?" on p. 1. It suggests the real problem of Codiac Transpo. It's badly planned. Mayor Leblanc first got elected four years ago on the promise to improve that plan. But now, with the drivers and mechanics locked out, (and with nothing done to improve it even before they were locked out, nothing has been accomplished - or can be accomplished until the lockout ends.)

The drivers didn't cause any of those problems. They were caused by a mayor who sat on a development plan for four years - and by a City Management leadership that seems to have been equally comatose. The drivers didn't do that. This mess has been caused by a seemingly incompetent and/or shiftless mayor and city council and city management.

The lack of action by those people (some of them quite well paid) has cost us far more than a raise for drivers would. Shouldn't we be locking out the mayor, most of the councillors, and the city management? We'd save a bundle.

By the way, to all of the above and especially to Ward Two councillors Henderson and Leger, when the hell do I get an answer to my quite legitimate questions? What are the pollutants under Highfield Square? How dangerous are they? How expensive would it be to fix it?  Isn't Highfield Square the site for the highly touted "events" centre? Doesn't it now have a food store on it? Exactly what is it that is under all that? And why are you so determined to keep it a secret?

Add to that another question - exactly what is this master plan for mass transity that WE have paid for?

And Brent - a reporter is not just a stenographer. We and buy an electronic gadget at the Salvation Army store for four dollars than can do that. A reporter is supposed also to ask questions, and to dig for answers.

Finally, there is a chilling news story on p. 1 about the cost to parents of return-to-school supplies. The purpose of public schooling is to give everyone an equal opportunity. School fees of any sort don't do that. On the contrary, they are the thin edge of the wedge to worse abuses.

There was a time when school supplies were free, and when schools didn't have to waste their time selling chocolate bars so they could buy paper. For decades now, we have been underfunding schools, and hitting parents for the unmet costs. This has three, damaging effects.
1. It raises the cost of school supplies. Buying material from a retailer is more expensive than buying it in bulk. You save a little bit in taxes. But you pay all of that and more to the retailers.
2. Since the children and the schools must have these supplies, it is no different from a tax - except in one respect. On a precentage basis it is a tax that is one hell of a lot higher for most people than it is for the more comfortable.
3.It is the thin edge of the wedge for even more privatization which means schools wasting more learning time on fund-raising. It means most of us paying far more for education than we should have to. It means moving closer to fee-paying "public schools" (as in the US and the UK) which has made public education a heavy burden for the middle class while actually driving down the quality of education. (The objective of private companies is not to produce good products. It is to make profit.  That is why fast-food chains are not good places to find healthy food.)  It means the surviving public schools getting even less funding, with those who cannot afford the fee-paying schools being condemned to lives of poverty. It also means you can kiss goodbye to the idea of New Brunswick ever developing an adequate, skilled work force.

Of course, the TandT doesn't report all that. It just says how much it will cost. And we already know that. (Will you people at the TandT please ask questions, and do a little digging?)

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