Monday, December 31, 2012

Dec. 31: This is my third attempt at a blog...

haven't had regular night's sleep for four months, no sleep at all the last two nights, typos all over, and one hell of a cold. So we'll see.

I had hoped the Tand T would straighten out a lie it told before Christmas. This a story shopping was fantastic on main street, witih customers coming all t he way from Boston.

Okay. The season is over. Where are the figures- compared to St. George, Mountain and the Malls? How many cars did you see from Boston. I was on Main almost every day - and what i saw mostly was empty parking spaces. Why would the TandT lie? Well, it might have something to do with pimping for the events centre.

The Guardian, probaby the best newspaper in the world, carried a stunning story yesterday. Big business, government and the police in the US worked together to detroy he Occupy Wall Street movement. It was coordinated by theFBI who authorize the use of extreme and even illegal force.

After all, they wanted things like clean water. So that made them terrorists. Would corporations and big business and politicians in New Brusnwick do such a thing?

You have to ask.?

Gallant has come up with what it pleases him to call a political policy for the Liberal party. He will cooperate with the Conservatives. Big deal. The Libs and Cons always cooperate with whatever Mr. Irving wants.
Watch Gallant. He is the same old same old. From what he has said so far seems to have no idea what a political principal is. This is just another lawyer on the make.

He reminds me of the simple-mindedness of Alward. Remember the man who going to to listen. Sure. He would  listen to any sellout hewanted to. But not to the chief medical officer/

A woman in New York pushed a mad in front a a subway care because he "looked" Moslem. There's no reason to be surprised by that. American politics run on paranoia, fear and hatred. In that way they're like separatist politics in Quebec. There's no limit to how far you go with a culrture of fear and hatred - and it's straight down.

That's it. every world here has been typed three times. And I feel like hell.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dec.3: This may be a short blog.......

I seem to be suffering miserably from a cold - and possibly flu, gangrene, tuberculosis, dandruff and late morning athlete's foot.

anyway, I want to go back to the book Obama's Wars by Bob Woodward. Now Woodward does not intrude on the story. He's not trying to sell any version. He just reports what people say without offering any opinion. And, oh my, what a dreadful lot of backbiting, self-seeking cranks makes up the whole structure from Obama to his political advisors to his military chiefs There is no coherent policy on Afghanistan or Pakistan or anywhere else. It is also freely admitted in Washington that these wars will go on for generations

What really hit me in recent reading, is that there is  no discussion of the role of big business in these wars. That's absurd. These wars were begun by Republican neo-conservatives who were thinking only of big business when they launched them. It's long been an open secret that Bush was  simply a stooge for VP Dick Cheney, and Cheney a stooge for the oil industry.

There is no  definition  of what would constitute victory in Afghanistan. There is no definition of what would constitute defeat - so neither the generals nor the government know what they should be striving for. And, in fact, there is no general definition of what the war in Afghanistan is about. The question isn't even asked.

Establishing a democracy would look good, and provide an excuse to get out. But only a fool could believe the US has the faintest interest in establishing democracy anywhere. If it did it would long ago have put the heat on its good, dictator friends in Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Guatemala....

In any case it doesn't matter. It would take at least fifty years to establish democracy (of a sort) in Afghanistan

Another question that is unasked is - why are the Taliban fighting.? If you are fighting an enemy that is shooting at you, it's important to know know why. If you're a republican, the answer is easy (if wrong). The Taliban are fighting cause they're iggerant savages. Besides, they bombed the trade towers.

Wrong on both points. Taliban are fighting because their country got invaded by NATO. There's nothing ignorant about fighting back when you're invaded. As for the trade towers, the FBI admitted long ago that the Taliban had nothing to do with the attack of 911.

So there's really no reason to be fighting in Afghanistan (unless it's to serve the ends of CEOs. But nobody's talking about that.

Anyway, to just quite the war with nothing that could be called a victory would be political suicide, and hand over the country to the Republicans who are even more incompetent.

We now face generations of wars. In Africa, for example, the US has troops in almost every country as it tries to take over the former colonies of the old European empires. It has also made it obvious it intends to do the same in Latin America, Russia and China.

The reality is that western business is crazed with greed and the lust for power. The Republicans are attached to big business, and bent on destruction. Obama has been a failure. And the American constitution that everybody pays lip service to lies in tatters.

Now, in the latest farce, NATO is pushing for the "rebels' to form a government in Syria. There are at least two problems with that. 1. Most of the rebels are not Syrian, and they aren't rebels. They're hired mercenaries paid for and supplied and trained by Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, NATO, and Jihadists.
2. None of the rebels has been been elected by any of the Syrian people - or anybody else.

To cap the confusion, there are now some seventeen intelligence agencies in the US, each of them with its own objectives, it's own killer squads. They operate all over the world including, I am sure, in Canada.

The one, useful thing about his mess is that it proves what a waste of time it is to understand the news with little, hit and miss stories in newspapers, and short shots on TV and radio.

Not very cheery Christmas reading..

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dec.29: Wow! Stop the presses... truck in St. John gets stuck in snow on way to fire...more, no doubt, to follow. Somewhere in today's issue is yet another page of one-liner stories from 1012 that nobody is going to read; and I fear there's more to come. They're still in July.

NewsToday has a big story that J.Edgar Hoover of th FBI kept extensive files on Marilyn Monroe because he suspected her of being a communist. I mean, look, she was in favour of equal rights for black Americans, He also kept files on such other 'notorious communists' as Frank Sinatra. Of course. The TandT doesn't mention that the files had nothing to do with communism, and everything to do with keeping Hoover at the head of the FBI. Despite his well-known friendships with leading mobsters, his passion for big-time gambling (and the connection between those two), he was not forced to retire when he reached retirement age. Of course not.

He had the goods on the affairs (and many others) of Marilyn Monroe and President Kennedy. He had the goods on everybody of any power in the US. It's an old game for just about every chief of domestic intelligence there ever was. It almost certainly still goes on. Ottawa has just released it's file on Tommy Douglas. He was very dangerous. He was a Baptist clergyman.

NewsToday (p. C6) also has a gripping story about Brian Gallant. "Liberal leader is patient, polite and passionate." In fact, "He has armed himself with politeness, patience and passion in the pursuit of political power." Very professional and potent, "...with a penchant for letter-writing."

Except for its remarkable use of the letter 'P', this is a story that has nothing to say. For all the smiles and bafflegab,  Gallant looks and sounds like every political groupie I have ever known, and pretty much like the many disastrous premiers this province has had. He is, at best, a prettier version of Alward, and backed by the same hacks who have built their careers kissing up to corporation bosses. My, New Brunswick has a slow, learning curve and at that it curves the wrong way.

So why is the TandT so obviously pandering to Gallant? Because that's what the owner wants. Irving has to keep power in the hands of just two parties if he is going to continue his hold on this province. Of course, Alward is losing popularity. It's bound to happen to any leader who is so obviously a puppet.

In another province, that might bring change. But in New Brunswick, we have two, puppet parties. So you just have to switch the puppets - with the help of boot-licking journalists like those in the Irving press. Will New Brunswickers ever catch on?

But enough at complaining over the triviality of this paper. What should be in it at this slack time of year?
Well, we occasionally hear of a city plan for development. I've seen no evidence that such a plan exists but, if it does, I'd love to see it explained in the TandT.  And it could run in many sections, just like those idiot pages of one-liners about last year's news.

For a start, it would be helpful to see what kind of a world the city is planning for. What conditions are the North American economies likely to be in some twenty and thirty years from now? What kind of mass transit will be feasible? Is the automobile likely to maintain its dominance of transportation? What is the age balance likely to be?  Will there be an advantage to covered or underground walking space? Will the suburban, single-family house make any sense twenty years from now? Or will it be too expensive to service, and hopelessly out of tune with transport needs?

We can't possibly take any plan seriously unless we have some sense of what conditions will be in the future.
This part alone would require a good week of articles short enough to be readable, but long enough to make some sort of sense.

Then we have to connect the dots to see what sort of housing we should be encouraging. Does it make sense for a government, municipal or provincial, to subsidize a suburban development like Royal Oaks? If we are going to put tax money into use for housing development, shouldn't it be for the low cost but decent housing that is needed but can't be afforded? Why are we spending money to help people who don't need help?

How are we going to accomodate shopping needs? Rebuild the old main street? That's 1920s.  Malls for cars? That's 1960s.

What should a map of Moncton look like in 20 or 30 years? What should the housing look like? We can't leave these questions to developers. Developers don't plan for the future. They plan for places they intend to sell within a year. Then they're outa here. Whether it all works is a matter of indifference to developers.

With several stories on this part, the Moncton Times could then look at current projects to see where (and if) they fit into the plan.Where will the events centre fit in if the economic decline of North America continues? Remember, if it's a bust, the developers don't care. They will have made their money. And the owner of the hockey team will have  his new stadium for which he has no responsibility or obligations at all. You get stuck with the bills.

If we need to spend a hundred million, is an events centre the way to do it? Moncton has a very high proportion of housing that is close to slum standards.

Is city council even aware of all this? My impression is that the councillors plan as if they were commercial developers. There is no future. There is only now; and they plan for the fast buck, now. They, most particularly the mayor, need to start thinking not as developers but as the leaders of a city. They have to think not just of the money a project MIGHT bring in, but of what would make Moncton a better city to live in.

Having done all that, the TandT could examine some recent decisions to decide whether they fit into the plan. Royal Oaks, the move of Moncton High, and the events centre would seem to fit that category.

To this point, I have seen no informed discussion of the future of Moncton. All I have seen is a newspaper that shills for sleazy deals that will cost us everything and give us nothing.
The Faith Page? Well, the soppy column by Yount is gone. That's a good sign that God must be in His heaven. Alas, the sermonette at the top of the page is a good example of why people who take religion seriously don't go to church. Couldn't we, some day, have a sermonette of the sort that Jesus gave - about the real world and the current time?

Trust me; I am careful in dealing with Pharisees; and I am always nice to Samaritans. But don't the churches have anything to say about the world we live in? About the  dreadful inequalities in this world, the neglect of the poor in order to please the rich, the rot of politics - a rot that really hurts real people?

They must think that Jesus would have read the Times and Transcript every day, and possibly have written editorials for it.

The editorial writer is back to the usual topic, pimping for the events centre.

The cartoon by de Adder isn't funny. But it's good. Take it seriously.

Excellent column by Bill Beliveau on the situation of our native peoples, and the failure of every federal government in Canadian history  to give a damn.

Good column by Norbert - sticks to the topic, and handles it rationally. Serious discussion like this is all too rare in New Brunswick.

Brent Mazerolle has yet to learn that a person who writes an opinion column is supposed to have an opinion about some matter of substance. He is not simply a second-rate standup comic.

Good column by Gwynne Dyer, though I'm not sure I share his (limited) optimism for the coming year.

Oh, and Monday marks the official ending of the wackiest celebration I ever heard of, the two hundredth anniversary of the War of 1812 in which the US invaded us. I played a very minor role in the early stages, but resigned as soon as I realized how absurd, expensive, and purely political this was.

Can you imagine the US having a year of celebration for the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941? Poland celebrating the Nazi invasion of 1939?

Why did the government do it? Because this sort of shallow and largely ignorant patriotism is what appeals to Harper's voting base -  just like nailing pictures of the queen on ever vacant wall in the country.

Well, it's over. At a cost of 30 million or better. (Thank you all for my share - the cost of a return flight to Ottawa, a night at a hotel, and meals). Did you enjoy the party? Feel better informed now?  Feel prouder now to be a Canadian?

Thirty million. They could have done a lot for native peoples with that. For example, they could have appointed a whole bunch of non-natives to conduct another study of the problem.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Dec. 28: 2012 is still big...

...There are at least three more pages of 2012 stories in today's TandT. I guess it saves on staff.
The front page headline? Well, you could have guessed it by looking out the window. We had a snowstorm. A lot of papers would have missed that. But the ace reporters and editors of the TandT noticed it right away.

The bigger story, much bigger, is a small and too narrowly focussed one on p. A1. "Aboriginal protest held in Moncton". This is really just one part of a much bigger protest, the Idle No More Movement which has been sweeping across Canada, a demand for long promised but never delivered action on the conditions in which native peoples have to live. The problems of health, diet, sanitation, poverty, housing, education in native communities are enormous. But no Canadian government has ever seriously attempted to deal with them. The Harper government has, if anything, been worse than most previous governments. For a start, there has been Harper's massive dismantling of environmental protection, particularly of fresh water. that has created deadly health problems.

The protest focusses on a native chief, Theresa Spence, who has been camped and fasing on an island in the Ottawa River for over two weeks, calling for a meeting with Harper. So far, our prime minister, who would have scampered over the ice in his bare feet if she were a corporation CEO calling for fresh swizzle sticks, has completely ignored her. The report fits her into the story - but way down.

After all, she's just a native woman who has put her health and even her life in danger to get action for thousands of her people whose health and lives, like hers, are in danger.

Relax, Mr. Harper.Munch another pretzel and figure out something important - like how to let mining companies dump more poisons in our rivers and soil.

The story also ignores that fact that the protest was NOT "a few dozen" first nations' people. They were joined by large numbers of Monctonians, notably those of the Green Party and the NDP.

Didn't see Alward, there,though. Or our mayor. Or the Chamber of Commerce. But they were probably all busy, writing self-congratulatory new year's press releases.

This has been a major story across Canada for weeks. The TandT at last mentions it, but only when it appears in Moncton, and only in sloppy and casual way.

Oh, in fairness, section A does cover another big story. Yesterday there were boxing day sales.
If  you find anything of interest in NewsToday, get a life. The final page of the section is the TandT daily special - photos of people you don't know holding up big cheques, etc. and smiling at the camera.

In fairness, I don't think we can ever get a handle on news  in the brief chunks we find in a daily newspaper. Understanding the news calls for a realistic sense of how people behave, a sense that very, very few have. Instead, we divide the world up into good guys and bad guys, saints and sinners. "They" are "bad". "We" are "good".

Ain't no such thing. I thought of that as I was reading one of my Christmas books, "Obama's Wars" by journalist Bob Woodward. So far, the book is straight reporting with no opinion. It is also extremely boring - not because of poor writing but because so many of its generals and politicians - including Obama - are such boring people.

But what strikes one most of all is the complexity, confusion, duplicity, infighting and complete lack of any moral sense that runs through the rickety, rambling American military-political structure. (And, so far, Woodward hasn't even mentioned the levels of corruption and business interference.). It's like reading the last days of Rome.

The daily news that somebody did something in Syria tells us nothing. Opinion columns, if they're honest and informed like those of Richard Gwynne, are helpful. But many of them are nothing but propaganda and ignorance or, like those ofAllan Abel, trivial. I don't have any answer to the problem - but ignorance of what the news means is one hell of a serious problem in a democracy.
Just how dangerous that can be is hinted at in Alec Bruce's column, 'Our Lovably ignorant American cousins'. For a people who claim the right to set the rules for the whole world, Americans are remarkably ignorant of the rest of the world - even Canada.

Gwynne Dyer has a frightening but quite possible picture of a world run by robots. (Some years ago, I wrote a very short story about a world in which attack aircraft were robots controlled by"pilots" in safe rooms far from any fighting.

It was obsolete before I pushed the 'save' button.)

The next generation, already here, will include robot fighter planes - and even robot aircraft that don't need human direction. They make their own decisions about who to kill and how to do it.
And, for the jolt of the week, read Lynda MacGibbon. I would love to say more. But I really can't. You have to read it for yourself.
Oh, I forgot to mention a stunningly bad piece of journalism that appeared in yesterday's letters to the editor.
It was a long, long piece of bafflegab that conveyed no information at all. It was about the year of the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce and what it did. And it was really quite a wonderful of job of saying what wonderful things the CofC did, without every being clear on what they were - or why.

We are told, for example, that the Cof C is now a force to reckoned with. Oh? How and by whom? Reckoned with for what purpose? Reckoned with as in being a force interfering in government without bothering to get elected or to answer to anybody?

This whole letter is utterly without any meaning - and it is ranked as "Letter of the Day". What does that tell us? Two things.

1. The MonctonTimes and Tribune is kissing up to the Chamber of Commerce. And,as the night follows the day, it follows that....
2. Mr. Irving approves of the Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce.

I'm so happy.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dec. 27: ....sigh......

The whole front page of today's Moncton Times and Transcript is an advertisement. It features a cartoon of young boys playing hockey on a village pond. If you open the page, you will find it is an ad for cars. Go figure.

Section 1 has two pages of "The Year in Review, 2012.  Feel free to read it. There is not one story that would bring a blush to the cheek of any politician or CEO. Nor will you find a mention of any concern about shale gas. It's a story safe for the shyest maiden, the most innocent child. The the whole family can sit around the table, and take turns reading such gems of wisdom as "Wednesday, Feb. 1, NB Liquor Corporation announces slump in sales..." And some are even better.

For some reason, the year ends after only three months, on March 31. (Apparently the TandT is still looking for an editor who knows all the months of the year.) This is a stunningly sloppy and amateurish piece of work that shows utter contempt for readers.

There is, however, another story, a full page, about changes in the school boards. So you're paying to read yet another story that you read almost a year ago. Then there's a kindergarten-level  story about being careful when you're shovelling. (I bet editors at the TandT think it's called kidney garden.)

NewsToday has over a page of recycled news about court cases of the past year. (I got too excited to finish reading the whole thing.)

There are only two, news stories at all worth reading, both on p. B3. one is a fairly lengthy interview with Green Party leader Daniel Coon. It's a useful insight into how our provincial legislature works (or doesn't).

Beside it is a story which, I'm sure, will thrill some people, but left me disgusted. Newtown, where twenty elementary school children were murdered, is flooded with gifts of money and toys from across the continent.

 Around the world far more children than that are being murdered by our side. Many, many more are being crippled, orphaned, starved to death, made homeless every day by our bombs, our drones, our grenades.
And across North America, people who have been indifferent to all this are sending money and toys to one of the wealthiest communities in the world.

And what the hell do they think that money and toys are going to do to help children who already have more of both than almost all children in the world?

I am sure there are those who will find this tearfully (soppily) heart-warming. Sorry. I think it's morally and intellectually lazy and self-indulgent.

Anyway, those are the only two news stories in the paper worth a glance.

Big story in Life and Times. Duchess Kate (wife of Prince William) and her sister used to make their own cards at Christmas. It runs for twenty lines of spell-binding drivel. At that, it beats the pants off the editorial.

Rod Allan writes an op ed column in which he says, truthfully, "I admit there is no point, rhyme or reason to this column...." And at that, he is kind to it. In fact, it is remarkably similar to every other column of his I have evenr seen. Obviously, he thinks he can get away with this because he is a marvelously funny writer. But he can't - because he isn't. This is, at best, the writing of a smartass kid in grade ten. And we're paying for this.

The only adult opinion columns in the whole paper - adult in the senses of writing well and having something to say are by Alec Bruce, Norbert Cunningham and Jody Dallaire. And, I should add, a good editorial cartoon by de Adder. The latter four have work here that would be up to the standard of any good newspaper.

But the rest of it is the laziest, sloppiest, most trivial and insulting crap I have even seen even in the Moncton Times and Transcript which normally carries the laziest, sloppiest, most trivial and insulting crap.

Of course, I haven't read that much of the Irving press. No wonder journalists across Canada are ashamed of it.

This is what you get when you have a newspaper monopoly owned by people whose only interest is in getting money, labour and resources out of you; and who don't want you to have a clue that they're shafting you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dec. 26: Well, I got what I wanted...

...the latest copy of Globe, fresh from the checkout counter with the latest news I need to know about how Kate hates Camilla, and how there were ten things I didn't know about Bill Murray - his father was a lumber salesman, for example, and Murray used to caddy. Fascinating. Who is Bill Murray, anyway?

Then, in the grossest bad taste, this magazine which specializes in trivia, scandal and titillation had a special prayer for the children killed at the school in Newtown. It reminds me of the days when I hung out with journalists for a similar supermarket mag called Midnight. We used to invent headlines, then write stories to fit them. And, if they had an adequate mix of sex, perversion and religion, they got published. One of my favourites, was "Dope-crazed preacher attacks six-year old crippled boy". It hat lots of righteousness in  lines like - "..and then the filthy beast reached for the screaming boys'...."

The Globe prayer is sure to to be picked up by God. It was especially commissioned by Globe from the founding directors of the Hollywood Prayer Network. (I think, thought, that some of the guys writing for Midnight could have jazzed it up a bit. I mean, that opening is really cornball, "Dear Lord, We are distraught and grieved..." Come on. Nobody gets distraught any more. Distraught is out.)

Mind you, it still beats "Bill Murray had acne as a teenager.

I had not intended to write a blog today. (or on the day of Christmas Eve, for that matter. I figured nobody would be reading. To my amazement, people have been reading the blogs for those days in close to record numbers. So I thought it was worth doing a short one today.

Any newspaper is usually pretty vapid on Dec. 26. Most of the reporters and editors were, of course, celebrating Christmas. So what passes for news is mostly stuff that could be written up last Saturday. "metro shoppers gear up for big sales....", "N.B.'a volunteer firefighters provide service" or "Pope calls for peace in middle east". They could have written that last story any Dec. 26 for the last twenty years. In fact, I think they did.

We don't expect much of a newspaper on boxing day. But we shouldn't have to put up with sloppiness in the editing. However, that sort of sloppiness is every day in the TandT. So why not on boxing day?

The page editor decides on which stories to put on the page, writes the headlines and sub-heads, and determines where to place them on the page. The sloppy mistake on today's  page 1 may, unfortunately, worsen the grief of some families.

The headline on p. 1 is "Young crash victims mourned". Just inches below it is the lead for another story,
"Plenty of holiday family fun to be had." That is the sort of sloppy and careless editorial work that is dreadfully common in the Moncton Times and Transcript. It's reflected not just in this tasteless presentation, but in the casual approach to choosing news stories in the first place.

Queen Elizabeth delivered her TV message in 3D. Brace yourself for the ending when she throws a glass of water in your face.

The editorial is gutsy and gripping. "Boxing Day brings bargains". A must read.

Eric Lewis takes us back over the year to talk about the exciting stories he has covered, being careful to say nothing interesting about any of them, in fact, nothing at all. A hint, Eric, "cool" is like, you know, the sixties. And 'anyhoo' gets laughs, I suspect, only from TandT editors. Or maybe after a half dozen beers.

Some people will find Brian Cormier's column hilarious - perhaps the same people who find "cool" and "anyhoo"  like really hey you know like wow!

Both Alec Bruce and Norbert Cunningham play it light - as journalists really have to do on a Dec. 26. But both keep it light while still being worth a read. de Adder hits a sombre note. But he might be bang on.

Meanwhile, back to the news we need to know. Apparently, Gwyneth Paltrow's 8 year old daughter still sucks her thumb. Perhaps we should contact the Hollywood Prayer Network so, as Billy Graham used to say, the Lord will bless her real good. (None of your cheap, second-rate blessings.)

Who's Gwyneth Paltrow? Can't she afford to change her name?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Dec. 24:News media, big business and....

Christmas Eve. This is not going to be a religious blog. But it will be religious. (Don't even  ask what the difference is.)

On a Christmas Eve when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, my parents, my sister and I were at a Christmas Eve supper in the basement of a small, mission church  in the North End of Montreal. Bored and anxious to get home in case there was a present, I slouched over my meal, head and shoulders leaning over the plate.

"Graeme. Sit up straight. Eat your supper like a Christian."

My mother's theology was the grimmest Calvinism from her home in the Scottish highlands. In her view, that habit of the highlands determined what Christianity was. Christians sat up straight when eating. Christians wore neckties to church. Christians put their dishes in the sink after supper

"Aw, mom, this is boring."

She fixed me with the eye  of an avenging devil who has found her sinner for the day.

"This is church. Y're dinna her to enjoy y'rsel'."

We all make religion into something we want it to be. Some people insist that Christianity means believing that  Mary was a  virgin - as it Jesus went around sticking out His tongue at people, and saying "n'ya, n'ya. My mother's a virgin - and your's isn't."

Or they think it's about saving themselves (which seems to me remarkably selfish) so they can spend eternity clapping hands and praising God which, surely, would get both boring and hard on the hands before even the first million years were up.

Actually, religions, almost all of them, make more sense than that. In fact, you don't need to believe in God or Mary's virginity, or Jesus as the son of God - let alone with irrelevant chatter about being born in a manger, and the animals all starting to talk.

Religion is more important than that. It's about how we survive as individuals and as a society. You'll find that in Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinudism, just about any religion you can think of.     Love thy neighbour isn't just a fluttery piece of goody-goody.    It's necessary for a society to survive. It's necessary for the whole world to survive.

There was nothing arbitrary about the rules of the ten commandments. And it really doesn't matter whether they were written in lightning by God or made up by Moses. Picture Moses. He had a mob out there with no organization, no laws. They weren't going to survive for a month in the desert without rules. A society which accepted murder, stealing, greed simply would not have made it.

Christmas Eve is not (or should not be) about angels and wise men. It's about the code of morals were have settled on so that we can live and survive together. And they are remarkably similar to those of other religions. (Oh. I know. Some religions don't treat their women as nicely as we do. How easy it is to forget that it took us Christians two thousand years to give our women equal status - and they still suffer inequalities and violence. Less than a century ago, it was still legal in Canada for a man to beat his wife.)

The trouble is we confine our morals pretty much to those moments when we're in church, and in occasional outbursts of loving our neighbours - as in turkey drives.

The even bigger trouble is that big business, with all respect an public showings of faith, has hopelessly corrupted our morality. It uses its power to demand lower taxes for itself and lower salaries for employees even as millions suffer. (In the US, one million public school children are now homeless. Guess what their chances in life are.)

In Canada and the US, poverty is rising, especially among children, while the very rich are pulling in record profits.

Big business has, in fact, evolved its own morality, a morality that has no thought whatever of people or of the future. In the new morality, greed is good. Killing for profit is quite reasonable. True, it's a pretty shallow morality. But it's backed up by power, power in the ownership of politicians and in the ownership of news media. Our society and our future are being determined by people who care only for themselves, and are motivated only by greed.

The corruption and the moral rot that big business (with the help of politicians and news media) have spread is destroying American society. With the destruction of any any moral code, with the economic and social abuse of most Americans, with indifference to the suffering that has become so widespread, they have destroyed the United States. And there is no economic need for that. For a small example, tiny Cuba, one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, maintains a health system far superior to that of the US. Meanwhile, the US  is cutting the miserable and exploitive system that is all it has.

Americans have not yet begun to see the bottom of the hole they have been driven into.

Harper is much in tune with that. He has destroyed most of our environmental protection out of his love for big business and his indifference to the rest of us. He will certainly begin cuts to medicare as soon as possible - and he would dearly love to kill CBC, the only competent and honest news service in the country.

The private news media in New Brunswick are simply propaganda agents for the rich. They mislead, they lie, they hide news. Their job is to set us up as suckers. They don't have even the beginning of a concept of journalistic ethics.

If there is any moral code that governs the Liberals and Conservatives of this province, I would be delighted to hear of it.  The best remembered ones have been skilful "fixers" for big business - and have been well rewarded for it.

Even at the city council level, we see it. There is no future. There is only now. And now means launching land purchases and grand schemes that benefit the very rich while - maybe -having small benefits for the rest of us and - certainly - with us taking all the risk.

The corporation bosses, news media, and politicians seem to have no morality whatever,no ambition except to loot. And looting inevitably leads to destruction.

Religion is, or should be a practical matter. Our religions supply us with the moral code we need to survive. It is not something separate from daily life, something that happens only in a place of worship. There are very sound reasons why we should love our neighbour, why we should not kill......

But the rot and corruption an indifference run deep in New Brunswick.

By all means enjoy Christmas Eve. As with other, similar religions, this is an occasion to celebrate a moral code that has served well. Let's make sure we keep that moral code in mind when we judge the business, political and news media leaders of the province.

And don't worry about sitting up straight. That's not part of any religions moral code. The Highland Scots just think that any uncomfortable must be religious. So you just sprawl and enjoy yourself.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dec, 22: the main street mystery......

I wasn't going to write a blog today, and I can promise this will be a short one. I was out, today, shopping as always in a panic as Christmas nears. Traffic was heavy, especially as one approached any mall area. When I had finished by mall experience, I headed along Main St. to a grocery store close to home where I could find the won ton skins for the Chinese appetizer I had rashly promised to make. The grocery story was in Highgate Square, an old mall at death's door. The large, parking area was crammed. And that took my mind back to the drive I had just completed along Main St.

Dark was coming on. There was a very light snow with unpleasant touches of ice and wind. I saw a sad-looking car parked at a meter, lone and huddled into the curb as if to escape the bleak misery of the street. Beyond it, on both sides of the street, were long rows of meters, bravely standing up to the weather, each with its cap of snow, but few with an car for companionship. As I passed the office of the Moncton Times and Transcript, I noticed no cars parked at all, though the space was all metered. That pleased me. It meant that for the second Christmas in a row, the TandT's sales of "The Price of Honesty" will probably continue for at least a third Christmas - a useful tip that I now pass on to anyone  
thinking of a gift for me for next Christmas -  should I be suffering from dementia by  then.

But as I looked at the TandT building, I remembered its front page headline of very recent vintage.

The word then was that Main St. was going crazy with Christmas shopping; people were coming all the way from Boston ("Oh, my dear. Nobody shops in Boston any more. Moncton is the only place to go.")

Well, gee. They must be walking all the way from Boston, then spending the whole day inside the few shops that were available and warming up for the walk back. What is this blarney about Main Street? Why, in the last few years, has it become something to revive? The fact is that Main Street, in an age of demand for really big stores, is not suited for most shopping. That's why nobody was there.  And putting up a few parking meters isn't  much help.

So why does the Times and Transcript harp on Main St. - and things connected to Main St., like the hockey rink? I don't know how many editorials alone I've seen on the subject. And all of them boosters. What's going on? Let's take a guess.

It has nothing to do with town planning. I've seen no evidence of town planning, no news or discussion even of what kind of future it is that we have to plan for. What passes for planning in this city is immediate profit for somebody with influence. That's why Moncton has developed according to a town plan for 1950, with a heavy reliance on cars - mostly because the housing sprawls, making it expensive to service, and virtually demanding at least one family car. But 1950 was a long, long time ago. Yet we still put up big money for places like Royal Oaks that are half a century out of date.

Meanwhile, some pretty big land owners are stuck with property that is either useless to them and practically worthless, or declining in value. There is no market for it. The answer? Stick rate payers with the bill. So we're buying Highgate Square at a pretty good price for the owner, especially considering it is so heavily contaminated. How nice of the Minister of the Environment not to use his power to force the owners to clean up that land!

How nice to see for the provincial government and city council to some to such geegollywhiz agreement to put Moncton High School way out into a development that just happens to have some land left over!

It is quite possible, even likely, we are going to see a sharp decline in land values. It is quite possible that some pretty big landowners would like to get rid of their holdings before it's too late. They're too smart of buy it from each other. So they go after the easy mark.

That means us taxpayers to New Brunswick and ratepayers to Moncton.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dec.22: blah....

It's very hard to write a daily review of a newspaper that is trivia tarted up as news, clumsy propaganda, and important news with the important parts missing. In today's Moncton Times and Transcript...
1. Triva tarted up as news. On p. A1, there is flash that the Moncton snow budget is in the black. Well, duh, we've hardly had any snow. On p. A3. a local drug dealer gets four years. (in most real newspapers, this isn't a story. It simply appears in a list of court news.)

2. Clumsy propaganda - top of p. A1. "Downtown merchants thrive over holidays". For openers, most of the merchants in this city are NOT downtown. Where is the comparison with merchants in the malls? Without that, this story is meaningless.

Then there's the blather that they're coming from all over, folks. Yessirree, from Boston, from all over because Moncton is a shopper's mecca. Yep. Makes you wonder why so many people from Moncton do their Christmas shopping in Maine. But the story goes on and on - gush, gush.

What's the propaganda for? For the the events centre and the mythical rebirth of a downtown that was never a great shopping venue, not even in the 1950s which seem to be the the city's planning model for the future.

3. For the news story with the important parts missing, try p.C2. "Obama nominates Kerry for state". Yes, John Kerry will be the new Secretary of States, the key figure in US foreign relations. The report comes from The Associated Press - and it's a good example of the reason to distrust most news agencies. For all the gush in this long report, there is no mention of the key significance to his choice.

In a Congress heavily influenced by donations from the Israeli lobby, John Kerry is the outstanding member of the "Israel can do no wrong" group, and the outstanding demander of ever more money for weapons for Israel. I doubt very much whether he was Obama's first choice for this job. This leaves the US even more open to the tactics of a Netanyahu - with all that means about the possibility of war with Iran.
NewsToday leads with the US negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff". In clearer language, that means the US is in a deep hole because its income tax revenues barely pay for the military budget. Everything else is borrowed money. And much of that military budget is pure graft, corruption and waste.

The rich pay very low taxes, if any. (It starts with those earning a million a year. Most - almost all of those millionaires - pay no taxes at all.) Money flows out regularly by the billions and hundreds of billions to tax havens overseas. The super-rich are determined to  keep it that way, to make the poor and the middle class pay for  this crisis that the rich created.

If the rich get their way, the last of the American economy will bleed away. The suffering of most Americans will be severe. But the rich really don't give a damn. Their money is safe. And if the poor get restless, then that's what drones and police checks, and listening in on phone calls and computer messages, and maintaining a huge domestic spy service is all about.

Obama wants the rich to pay at least something. Good luck. The rich in the US are like the rich in Canada - good at making money for themselves, but more than a little slow on what is needed to keep a society functioning.
The faith page is, as usual, completely out of touch with the real world - and out of touch with Christianity. The sermonette is all about how the commercialization of Christmas is "good". Yessirree, buying piles of gifts is what the the teaching of Jesus was really all about. Oh, that and frowning at gays.
The editorial is...what can I say? It echoes the lead story on p. A1, with all the same blarney and vague statements (and untrue) preaching about economics.

Norbert Cuthbertson, writes on the recent school shootings in Newtown. Yet again, this is well done. I would just add one point to it that Norbert might not agree with.

The demand for guns, for funding and propaganda, depends heavily on corporations like Colt and Remington which have clout with government.  A lot of people get killed as a result. But the corporate bosses don't give a damn.  There are three hundred million guns in the US. That's a lot of profit.  And the people who make that profit don't give a damn if children get killed in an elementary school.

Think about that when you think of shale gas and oil pipelines. Think of all the news you have not read about them in the TandT. Think of all the information that the government promised us. Think of Harper's butchering of decades of legislation to protest our fresh water and our land in order to make frackers and mine owners happy. Think of Harper's relaxation of our gun laws.

Think of the full meaning of all this. The people who make big money our of what they do really don't give a damn about what happens to you.

So why do you vote for their puppets?

Bill Beliveau, too, takes up the gun theme, and sees hope for a better future. I wish I could. Both Canada and the US are really governed by people whose only object to make money, no matter what the cost to every body else. I don't think we'll see significant change to US gun laws. And I think we'll see more loosening of them here.
On the op ed page, I tried to read Brent Mazerolle's column. I really did. But it was dreadfully ill-informed. Much, for example, as I respect the democracy developed in some native cultures, they did not have the slightest effect on the development of democracy in Canada. Nor am I convinced we have developed any very wonderful democracy at all.

Think of it. We have a federal government that passes a budget so stuffed with non-budget items that there isn't time to read it, let alone discuss it, before the vote. We have two leading parties in New Brunswick that are interchangeable, and both of whom bark for the same master. We have a newspaper so filled with propaganda, lies, and trivial that we don't have the information to exercise democracy, anyway.

And we're built on Christian principals? Get real. What's Christian about greed? About letting people go hungry so that you can be rich? About cutting taxes for the rich while cutting EI for the poor? What's Christian about poisoning the land and the water that we and future generations depend on? In broader terms, what's Christian about sending Canadians to die and to kill for American corporations?

Sorry, I just declined to read the rest of this one.

Gwynne Dyer is excellent and, I think, right about the chances for significant gun control in the US..

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dec.21: An old trick....

When journalists don't like the people they're reporting on, they try to discredit everything those people say. And that's not bad if the journalist has evidence. But if there is no evidence and if, in fact, the journalist doesn't even know if there's any, then you see a headline like the one in today's National Post.
"North Korea arrests American citizen for 'crime'."

Why the '   ' around crime? That's to hint to readers there was no crime. North Korea is lying. But is North Korea lying? The reporter doesn't know.

The story also says that the American was arrested at the time of protest of North Korea's firing of a rocket. What does that have to do with it?  Nothing - except that it hints, again with no evidence, the the arrest was simply a revenge attack on the US.

Interestingly, I have rarely, if ever, seen such a use of insinuation where the situation is reversed - with our side arresting a foreigner for a crime. It simply doesn't happen. And so we are conditioned to see the world as our governments want us to see it. Our side is good. The other side lies and is evil.

A reporter is supposed to report what is known to be true. If someone says the story is doubtful, then the reporter quotes that someone so we know where the opinion is coming from, and can make up our own minds about whether it is credible.

But that would be news reporting. And most North American news media much prefer propaganda reporting.

A picture can tell a thousand words, so they say. The picture on the front page of today's Moncton Times and Transcript tells ten thousand. It a stunning picture of great rows of food boxes filled with donations and now being delivered by volunteers. It's a story that tells ten thousand words about the generosity and the voluntary efforts of Monctonians. They are, without doubt, the most public-spirited people I have ever seen.

But it's tough to control a message delivered by picture. I saw ten thousands words about generosity in this one. But I also saw one, stunning story about a society which does not make sure that its people, especially the young and the elderly, are fed properly every day.

I'm not suggesting even more volunteer effort. That would never do it. I am suggesting that as a society and through our governments, we have a responsibility to ensure that all people are adequately fed. And, no, I'm not talking about charity. I'm talking about decent pay, about the rich being forced to put something back into the society  they fleece so shamelessly, about giving the children of the poor a chance by making sure they go to school on even terms. If you check grade scores for example, you will find they are not related to intelligence or to teaching nearly so much as they are to income levels, opportunity for intellectual stimulation, adequate diet. (These are matters the Atlantic Intstitute rarely mentions in its bogus ideas about education.)

The business page has get another story of a Moncton CEO getting a prestigious-sounding honour. He's head of a communications (which includes propaganda) company; and he's now a member of The Canadian Public Relations Society's College of Fellows.

Well, it's a start. The business world is now launched on collecting nearly as many poumpous-ass titles as professors do.

On p. C3, we learn that our provincial government isn't crazy about a recommendation from its medical professionals for a drug insurance plan. Many people, lacking insurance or the ability to get any, simply cannot get the drugs they need. This is particularly true in North America where we have a pharmaceutical industry so greedy and out of control that it makes the oil industry look like Santa Claus.

Our provincial finance minister says it can't be done at this time given our financial reality. Right. Our top priorities have to be building hundred million dollar events centres, cutting taxes for the very rich (who are actually enjoying their biggest profits in history), and lending money to companies that go broke anyway.

There is a huge gap between the generosity of New Brunswickers in general, and they're indifference to needs as a society.

The editorial is, well, the editorial. It says Monctonians are generous, and I agree. But, for pete's sake, that's the message of at least half the news stories. Yes, I agree we do well as individuals. But, as a society, we just don't seem to give a damn.

Alec Bruce has better economic news than I had hoped to see. It's intriguing. Nice column by Norbert. On op ed, there's an intriguing take on the Christmas story by Lynda Mac Gibbon. There's also a column on railways by David Lindsay of the Forest Products Association of Canada. He looks at our failure to appreciate the value of railways from an industry point of view. And I think he's right - on many points more than he has room for. I also think we need to take a serious look at them for mass transit in a province so heavily rural.

There's a whole, cutesy section on letters to Santa. But I chose not to read it. I don't like to fwow up.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dec. 20: how to make a nothing into...

Wow! Big front-page story.  "Public like on-street parking". It seems the city has asked the public what it thinks now it has down-town parking."It got an overwhelming amount of response."

Uh, yeah. Who was asked? How many were asked? Was it based on a scientific sampling? Or just asking people to call in? What, exactly, does overwhelming mean?

The city spokesman answered none of these questions. And the reporter never thought to ask them. This isn't a news story. It's a pep rally for city council.

And, once again, we get this repetition of "what a downtown is supposed to look like." In fact, there is no such thing as what a downtown is supposed to look like. Yes, in the 1950s most downtowns had lots of retail business downtown and lots of cars parked. But that was sixty years ago. Is that Moncton's big plan for the future? To bring back the 1950s?

And even the teeniest of brains would realize that even if cars were packed solid all the way across the street, you still wouldn't have enough room for the supermarkets. big box stores, Canadian Tire, and all the rest.

The future of downtown is tied to the future of transportation, especially mass transit. And Moncton hasn't even begun to think of that.
Again, lots of stories about Christmas boxes and turkey - and I certainly commend all those donors and volunteers who make this possible.  But hunger is not a one day a year problem. There is something that is seriously wrong about a society that has so many people who go hungry. And this is not a problem we can solve with donors and volunteers. Here's a problem that shows we are, some of us, pretty good as individuals. But, as a society, there is surely something wrong with us when we let so many people go hungry for 364 days a year.

This is a problem we should be dealing with as a society, not as scattered individuals. For a start, we could demand that our various levels of government spend less on sweetheart land deals and tax breaks and gifts for billionaires, and rather more on ensuring that everyone's basic needs are provided for.

If you want a spiritual place to think about that, drop into the Irving Chapel. I'm told it's a great place for reflection.

NewsToday is its usual blah. Both Liberals and Conservatives in the NB legislature announced support for a pipline to carry tar sands oil to St. John. Women fainted. Others called for smelling salts. The NDP supported it. I fainted and called for smelling salts.

There was not and there has not been a single word of any risks involved in oil pipelines. We also live in an age when scientists warn of us that fossil fuels are doing enormous damage to the earth we have to live on. So here we are entering a major project that will speed up that damage.

But there might be jobs in this. There will be some. But there is no evidence there will be nearly so many as the government is talking about. In any case, there won't be any jobs as the environmental damage kicks in. _________________________________________________________________________
The editorial is of a type common to editorial writers who have nothing to say. This one is about mass transit. In effect, it says, "something must be done." Well, yeah. there's lot of that going around.

But Wow! Norbert Cunningham does it again. This time it's a superb article, largely on Netanyahu of Israel. There's no ranting, no wild accusations, just a solid, focussed analysis in clear and simple language. This one is fair, impartial, and well-informed.

Alec Bruce and Jody Dallaire are both worth reading, as usual, though both not quite in full stride today. Alec has a point, but never takes it seriously enough to do anything with it.  Jody strays from her point of the lone-parent family. then wanders into male and female self-images.

Rod Allen continues to be a smart high school kid who thinks his precocious high school humour makes him one of the great comic writers of our time.
Letters to the editor?

Well, one says that safe shale gas would serve well,. Perhaps so. But that's not the point of the debate. The debate is over whether safe shale gas is possible.

There is a long letter from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business on how Labrador is learning to deal with growth. After two readings, I can't find anything it says that is worth saying; (it's extremely vague).

Then there's a similar one about the proposed oil pipeline, this letter from the Miramichi Valley Business Assoc. It claims that a pipeline would be a "fantastic" opportunity. Quite so. Fantastic means unreal, imagined, non-existent.

There is the customary religious argument letter, this one justifying genocide if carried out on the orders of God. After all, some of those people that God ordered the Hebrews to kill  used slaves and had sexual deviations. (So did Canada, Britain, France, the U.S....)  I think we had sexual deviations, too - way back. I mean, having sex is pretty deviant in itself.

Then there is a brilliant letter by Senator Percy Downe. This one is the real letter of the day. It's about how the very wealthy use illegal means to avoid taxes- and are seldom, if ever, prosecuted for it. Nobody in Canada, for example, has ever been prosecuted for illegally hiding money in overseas bank accounts.

It is a serious problem? Senator Downe refers to millions of dollars in such accounts. In fact, they can climb into the billions.

For years, the very rich have been getting much richer while the rest of us are getting poorer. According to theory (propaganda) that's good because as the rich make money, they invest it and create jobs. Oh. So how come we've been sinking into recession for over five years, exactly when the very rich are making record profits?  If that idiot theory were true, we'd all be wallowing now in prosperity. But, as you may have noticed, we aren't.

The story that cutting taxes for the rich is good for us is a crock. The taxes are cut. So we aren't getting the money to stimulate prosperity and to provide for basic needs. And we don't even get the low taxes we assess. So what happened to the money?

It wasn't burned. It still exists. But it exists in bank vaults overseas. And, when it comes out, it's as likely to go to some country where labour is so cheap it's just a notch above slavery -and where there are no taxes because nobody gives a damn about the people.

Can that be sustained? Of course not. You can't forever take money out of an economy without putting it back. What happens then, inevitably, is that you run out of customers and run into depression - and worse.

As financiers, people like the Irvings are good at making money - for themselves. But as leaders of a national economy, they are walking disasters. Yet political leaders like Alward and Harper consistently call on people like these to give advice on national financial policy. It's something these people are utterly incompetent to do. And that's where depressions come from.

And hungry children at Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dec.18: Lots of big news today....

In The Guardiam, Dec. 18,while Obama mourns the killing of 18 children in a Newtown school, he continues to send the drones over Pakistan that have killed over a hundred Pakistani children as well as over a thousand of their parents. Think children in Newtown are scared?

On the cheerier side, the US has just supplied Israel with 10,000 shiny, new bombs to make up for the ones they used up in Gaza. (That must have been quite a bombing for such a tiny area.) The new ones include bunker busters that can penetrate 60 feet of concrete and go through 200 feet of earth before they explode. By a happy coincidence, this was exactly what was on Netanyahu's Christmas wish list for use against Iran.

Congress and Obama are negotiating the fiscal cliff deal. What that really means is they are beginning the destruction of social programmes begun by Roosevelt in the 1930s. Worst hit will be those who rely on medicare, medicaid and social security pensions. - about 50 million in each category.

Well, there's no choice. Every cent of federal tax revenue is taken up in spending on the military. And over 90% of those who take home a million a year pay no income tax at all. So any spending outside the 10,000 bombs for Israel, the inflated contracts for defence companies, the graft to Afghanistan - has to come from borrowing. And borrowing's bad. So somebody has to pay. So it's going to be the poor.

Feeling insecure about all this? Move to Paragould, Arkansas. It's a lovely little town of 26,000 where squads of police patrol the streets in full combat gear, including camouflage suits, assault rifles. They have power equivalent to martial law. They can question anybody, ask for ID - and if you get smart, you end up in the station. Before this began, the town has always has a low crime rate - and particularly low murder rate. But you can never be too careful.

Lots of news today. Too bad none of it is in the Moncton Times and Transcript.
There is a laughable insert on business called New Brunswick Business Journal. Most of it is idle chatter and blurbs for local business. The one article that even tried to be serious was on how N.B. optimism is based on hopes of a U.S. recovery.

Get real. There isn't going to be a U.S. recovery. Such a recovery, to be useful to us, would have to be based on a rise in consumer spending in the US. Ain't going to happen.

US consumer spending is going down as the weatlhy continue to loot the American nation,and as poverty continues to rise. Remember those states that recently voted to break industrial unions? What do you think is going to happen to salaries in those states? What do you think is going to happen to consumer spending? And where does that leave us?

The good days for the US are over. It is a nation that has been fleeced and impoverished by its big business leaders. And they aren't going to change just because it's a new year. In fact, we should be preparing for similar treatment here in New Brunswick. (Sorry. That should have read "More similar treatment here in New Brunswick.
The new, shale gas rules will be a little late. Big surprise. What will be a surprise is if the TandT ever tells the whole truth about them - and about whether they are enforced. Though it and the government promised us full infomration on shale gase long ago, it has published barely a word. And word a lie. The rest of section A is only for people who are very lonely and semi-literate.

NewsToday is still focussed on the Newtown killings. The child killings in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq,  Yemen, Somalia are still irrelevant.

On p. C5, a Conservative MLA has repeated her accusation that the Liberals were complicit in faking the books for Atcon, a faking that cost us fifty million collars. But she did it in the legislature where she can't be sued for it. And she offers no evidence whatever.

Meanwhile, the Liberals accuse her of inventing the charges.

Now, a reporter with any wit would ask the conservtive MLA to present her evidence. And, if the Liberals are serious in their denial, that same reporter would ask why they aren't demanding a criminal investigation.

Look, kiddies. It seems evident that a crime, and a very serious one, has been committed. Isn't it normal to report crimes to the police? Isn't it normal for a legislature to conduct a formal investigation of crimes committed by government?

What we're getting instead is lots of loud-mouthing on both sides, loud-mouthing that takes us nowhere. My guess? This is noise coming from both sides because both are implicated - and the noise is cover-up so that no serious action will ever be taken. And the Irving press is playing along with the cover-up. Connect the dots.
_________________________________________________________________________________The only column worth reading on the editorial and op ed pages is Alec Bruce's.

Christmas has brought me a reminder of the daily barrage of propaganda inflicted on us. My son expressed some interest in Cuba. So I went looking for a stocking-stuffer, a National Geographic magazine with an article on Cuba. And I found a recent one.

The article began with a visit to a Cuban who was secretly building a boat to flee to the US. Now, that's an old and cheap journalistic trick. When Dr. Cleary spoke in Moncton, the TandT report damned her from the start by telling about those who disagreed with her - and did it without ever telling exactly  what it was the doctor said.

In American eyes, Cuba is evil. It wasn't evil when it was ruled by a corrupt and murderous dictator who was an American puppet. But it became evil when it overthrew the American puppet. So almost every American publication will begin an article on Cuba with negative overtones.

How about the infant death rate which is far lower than that of the US? No. Or how about the hired killer who, employed by US intelligence, blew up a Cuban airliner killing all aboard? Oh, no. The article has to start with something that screams "EVIL CUBA".

Some years ago, I had a story in Reader's Digest. In the same issue was a story on the Russian AK-47 rifle., generally regarded as the world's best military rifle. The sub-title was AK-47: the choice of dictators.

Of course. It had to be immediately established that the AK-47 was evil. After all, it's Russian.In fact, though, I should think it almost certain that the rifle that is the choice of dictators is really the American M-16.

That's the one that's exported to all the American-supported dictators, like the ones in Central America, like Saudi Arabia, the emirates....  After all, the US is far the biggest weapons exporter in the world. But if Reader's Digest had an article on the M-16, the subtitle would be: M-16: Defender of Freedom.

On my desk is an almost year-old special by Time Magazine. (Time is a notorious propaganda mag.) This one is called The New Middle East. Mostly it's about how the Middle East is liberating, changing, as a new generation with new ideas comes to the fore. Yes. Yes. They all want to be just like Americans. The front cover has a picture of a young woman who could be a cheerleader in the some US ivy-league school.  There's another of a very beautiful woman who still cover her face from the nose down, but is so liberated she's having her eyes and eyebrows done.

Even this early, only months after this special appeared, it's obvious nonsense. Far from becoming Americanized, Libya is a chaos with not the slightest sign of social change. The most dictatorial and hyper-Islamist states are still those supported by the US -Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. Syria is in a civil war with the "rebels" largely drawn from anti-democratic countries, most mercenararies, mostly paid for and supplied by various dictatorships - and the US, Britain and France.

The US, far from being a model for change in the region, is mostly despised.

Very little of our news is real news. More of it - even in Reader's Digest or National Geographic is propaganda.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dec. 18: I was wrong.

I don't know Daniel bourgeois. I first heard of him last night when I received a post that he had resigned Moncton City Council due to "conflict of interest". My reaction was pretty negative. This is a province in which conflict of interest is practically a requirement for any elective position or job, not a hindrance.

This morning, I read the report by Brent Mazerolle on p. A1, the headline "Bourgeois leaving Moncton Council." It's a pretty good piece of reporting, even a model one.  And the message is quite clear. Bourgeois' honesty and outspokeness were an obstacle to getting a job, or even a reference, in this city. The report shows Mr. Bourgeois as an honest and intelligent man. Some checking I did confirmed that.

I was wrong in my reaction of last night. And it seems that Moncton has suffered a serious loss.I do apologize to Mr. Bourgeois for cynically jumping to a conclusion.

Alas, the story also confirms a feeling I had when I first visited New Brunswick when the world and I were both young. I found it intellectually oppresive. A tiny group of people held all the power, used it ruthlessly. And there was a plodding fear of open discussion that ran all the way down to home and school groups. It's still like that. And New Brunswickers still vote largely for the same two parties, both of which obviously are owned by the boss.

Moncton City council has been no different. The loss of an intelligent and independent person is a heavy one in this province of submissive people.

And that's pretty well it for Section A.
Section C (NewsToday) has the expected story about how good oil pipelines are "Two banks call for pipeline expansion." So far, the TandT has not carried a single hint that pipelines could be any trouble at all. And there are 12 million sites dealing with that topic on the web. I can only hope that in the election to replace Mr. Bourgeois, we will not see a TandT editor as a candidate.

Nor have the editors paid the slightest attention to warnings from scientists that the use of fossil fuels is speeding up the process of global warning. Instead, Canadian and New Brunswick governments are working hard burn more of them, and to supply other countries with them so we can get global warming even faster.

Hey! Who cares about tomorrow? And tomorrow, by the way is not a hundred years ahead of us. It's soon. While yourchildren are alive. Maybe while you're alive.

But, hey. There could be some jobs in fossil fuels.Maybe.

Corporation bosses can plan for a future only in economic terms and only as the economy affects them, and only if "future" means three months from now. And they are quite incapable of social planning of any sort. We can already see some of the consequences.

Capitalism has effectively been destroyed, replaced by mindless greed and arrogance. Only a fool could believe that New Brunswick is a democracy. And in this, one of the richest countries in the world, the distribution of wealth is so unfair that we think it a big, Christian deal to feed the poor one day a year.On that day, leave no child unstuffed.

There is an important news story at the bottom of p. 1 one of Newstoday. "Pickton inquiry report highlights system failures". Pickton was the man who murdered dozens of drug-addicted prostitutes on his farm, and fed them to his pigs. Why did the police not catch him more quickly.?Well, the victims were women, native peoples, prostitutes,, on drugs. So who cared? This is a story that will cause many to dump all over the police. The reality is that the police very accurately reflected the attitudes of Canadians in general.
The editorial calls for more help to deliver Christmas food and toys. However, instead of feeding the poor once a year, it might be more useful to wonder why we live in a province that gives lavishly to billionaires every day, then feels all Christian for feeding the poor one meal a year.

Good cartoon by de Adder.

First-rate column by Norbert Cunningham. This one is insightful, well-written,and would deserve a spot in any newspaper.

Alec Bruce shows a talent for the comic or, more accurately the serious-comic. There's also an interesting op ed column by Michael Sullivan who is a retired employee of Moncton city hall.

For those who think all these favourable comments suggest we have a new Times and Transcript, there's a disillusioner in Alan Cochrane's op ed column. You will be fascinated by it  only if you are a person who is really,really interested in learning that Regina had 234 mm of rain - sometime or other.

And, oh, the letter of the day (by Jason Lawson) in Letters to the Editor, is a gem not to be missed.

This isn't a good edition. But it has more good parts than any edition of this paper I have yet seen. As Spencer Tracy said of Katharine Hepburn, "Not much meat there. But what's there is cherce."

The office of Bruce Fitch, minister of environment and local government, has responded to my request for information about contamination in Highfield Square -sort of. It seems the minister DOES have the authority to order that the owner clean up contaminated land.

So why, over all these years has no minister ever issued such an order? There is a piece of property used for years for shopping, restaurants, still in use for a food store - all that time contaminated, and all that time with the minister not seeming to care.

 The purpose of this sale is pretty clear. Mr. Fitch need now feel no compulsion to order a clean-up. Thisttakes the cost of a multi-million dollar clean-up out of the hands of the owners, and dumps it on the rate payers. It doesn't matter whether an "events centre" ever gets built. The owners are still ahead of the game. What they have is land made worthless until it is cleaned up. And what they're getting from us is a big price for that worthless land - plus we're going to pay to clean it up, too. Isn't that nice of us?

I had asked Mr. Fitch other questions, too. But he makes it clear he isn't going to answer them. His excuse is that I did not give him information he had requested. For example, I asked for the official list of contaminated sites in the province. His reply was he couldn't tell me that unless I first told him what they were, along with their official registration numbers. "Therefore," as he writes, "this request is now considered closed."

God bless you Mr. Fitch. And when you are born again, may it be as something higher on the scale of evolution.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dec. Batter up.....

The bad news is right at the top of p. 1. The main feature of today's edition is an interview of David Alward by Brent Mazerolle. In fact, There are TWO pages of interview with THREE suitable-for-framing pictures of Alward. It begins with a full column of babble about how unpretentious Mr. Alward's office is. Then Brent steps up to the pitcher's mound, holds the ball behind his back, nods at the catcher, spits, and sends a gentle pitch floating upward into an arc as though on the softly beating wings of a butterfly,  right over the middle of the plate.

"Are you worried about the exodus of New Brunswickers to the the west?"

Alward, eyes closed but mouth, as always, hanging open, swings, just clipping the ball which then falls to earth in front of the plate as Alward admits he is worried. It's a homer. Then, as he jogs around the bases, Alward tells a long and quite pointless story about his family.

On the mound, Brent has another blazer ready. "Of course, it's a problem for all three maritime provinces."

Alward ignores this one, lays down  his bat, and gives a long answer about something else. The umpire, who had dozed off during the home run, opens one eye, says "safe at home",  then gently closes the eye again.

If you want to read this kind of thing, then this is the kind of thing you want to read.

World news consists almost entirely of accounts of the Newtown tragedy, all of them over three days old.

So far, I have not seen a single news source (or a church) that has noticed that many times more children than that have been killed every day for over ten years by the bombs, bullets, starvation and exposure inflicted by our side in wars.

Mourners, says a headline, are dealing with grief all over the world. How self-centred can we get? How can we ignore the tens of thousands of parents - probably more - all over the world who have their own dead children to mourn. And where are the news stories giving psychiatric assessment of our leaders who order those killings?

And where is the study of a society that makes it possible for a person long diagnosed of mental disorder to get an assault rifle and semi-automatic pistols, weapons whose only purpose is to kill people? And why is it that the US government will not face up to all the implications of this tragedy? (You think it will? Dream on. At best, you'll see some quite minor legislation. Gun nuts are already suggesting that the answer is to arm teachers.)

There are two editorials. The first, dealing with safety and emergency vehicles, defends a law that very, very few would dispute. So why bother writing about it? In fact, even without such a law, New Brunswickers are the most courteous and careful drivers I have ever seen.

The second editorial, a very brief one, is a model of self-righteous stupidity. The writer supports employment insurance reforms which will harm many people though, as the writer says, only a few have abused the system. Then read the thoroughly pig-headed and obnoxious last sentence,"Those few have necessitated this reform, and now all clients have to pay the consequences." (Little Tommy deliberately dropped his pencil on the floor.  Now the whole class has to be punished.)

Where does the TandT find these twits?

Craig Babstock on op ed defends his title as chammpion of pointless columns. But Allen Abley makes a strong challenge with yet another irrelevant story about some place near Washington.
Alec Bruce offers a moment of sanity.

Did anything escape the eagle-eyed editors of The Moncton Times and Transcript? Well, according to The Washington Post for Dec. 13, there is a report approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee that torture did not lead to the capture of Osama Bin Laden; and, in fact, torture has never produced useful information. There have been no breakthroughs in the war on terror - or on anything else - as a result of torture.

It barely passed the committee since all but one of the Republican members opposed it. It may not pass the whole Senate. In any case, we shall never see it because the CIA insists it contains "information harmful to the nation." Quite so. It would be very damaging to the US if the world were to learn that the CIA is a home for ineffectual goons.

Actually, the ineffectiveness of torture has been well known for decades. But most of our news media have never bothered to report that.

Meanwhile, an American soldier is now on trial before a military court in the US. The evidence is all based on what he said under three years of torture.

Then there is a story I mentioned earlier about the 1.9 billion dollar fine levied on the British bank HSBC, the bank that had laundered tens of billions of dollars for drug cartels. It seems the story is even worse than that.
I had already mentioned that money laundering is not a misdemeanour. It is a very serious crime. If you got caught laundering drug money, you would be facing serious jail time.

The HSBC had no criminal charges to deal with. The 1.9 billion dollar fine is probably less than the profit they made out of the laundering. But it gets worse.

The period examined was only three years, 2006-2009. And examination of the years since and after, would probably show a hundred billion of more.
And the practice is widespread among banks in both London and New York. So that could take us beyond billions into trillions.
And the laundered money is not just from drug cartels but from international prostitution rings - and terrorist groups.

And nobody went to jail. It's  just like the great bank bailout. The banks acted illegally, drove the world into recession, - and the government paid them for it. Not a single person faced any criminal charge. Almost all of the law-breakers got millions in rewards.

But, boy, we gotta crack down on them there EI people. Indeed, it is quite common in some circles to hear the poor blamed for the recession.

There's a line in G.K Chesteron's novel, "The Man Called Thursday". The line is "Religion will be destroyed by the rich." Amd that has pretty much happened. The making of wealth in our time is based on principles that are in defiance of any religion I ever heard of.

In the same way, capitalism is being destroyed by the capitalists. When you have people like those in control of our great corporations, we don't need anarchists and revolutionaries. The CEOs and the owners will do it for us.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dec. 15: words, words....

Words don't just have logical meanings. They can also convey meanings that have nothing to do with any logic. When I was a kid in Montreal, we used to call French kids "Frenchpeasoups". The idea, I suppose, was that French people were addicted to pea soup, and this indicated their inferiority. (Actually, I loved pea soup, too. But that never occurred to me.)

The French kids didn't know was peasoup meant. But they felt it was an insult. So they shouted back, "Englishpeasoup."

Something similar happened with the word "bastard". We use the word to mean someone low, treacherous, inconsiderate.  Those are the images we get from the word, but none has any connection with its real meaning.

News media use words like that all the time - not to convey any logical meaning, but to create an image, a tone.

In the early 1950s, Guatemala was a democracy. The US didn't like that because it began charging taxes to build schools, and even gave land to hungry peasant families. That, in the view of the Americans who owned Chiquita Banana and her tropical friends, was a drain on their profits. So, there  appeared stories in the papers of how Guatemala might bomb the Panama Canal. (Guatemala had no air force). Then, an armed force of some 5,000 suddenly appeared on the border of Guatemala

The American government called them "freedom fighters"; and all the news media followed the lead. Since Guatemala had no army, the freedom fighters easily won. And the first act of the freedom fighters was to overthrow the elected government, and  establish a dictatorship. Guatemala has never regained its freedom, not since the victory of the freedom fighters. But nobody in the news media has ever noticed.

In the same period, veterans of the Korean War were never called simply veterans - as had been the practice for World War Two. No. In all news media of North America, they were called "Korean War Heroes" That term applied to anyone who was in the army at the time. My father had a Korean War Hero friend who never left Canadian shores.

More recently, we have read, often, of "Syrian rebels". Now, I would think of Syrian rebels as meaning Syrians - and, for the rebel part, Syrians who have turned against their government.After all, that's what those words mean.

But the majority of them aren't Syrians. They are mercenaries from Africa and the middle east financed and armed by Arab dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates with substantial support from Turkey, Britain, France, and the US. As well, large numbers of them are Moslem Jihadists (usually called terrorists in our news media) of whom very few are Syrians.

So they aren't Syrians. And if they aren't Syrians, they can't be rebels.A rebel is someone who rises against someone who has authority over him- as his own government.Most of the these people are not rising against their own governments.In fact, they are invading another country. To call them Syrian rebels is like calling the the NATO forces in Afghanistanti Afghani rebels".

And so we have stories about people who who neither Syrian nor rebel (and commonly referred to in other situations as terrorists); but who are now called Syrian rebels. Why? Well, if we told the truth, we'd have to call them a terrorist game of foreign mercenaries hired and equipped by us to invade a country that has never threatened anybody. Syrian rebel sounds better.

In the same way, Moslems who indiscriminately kill civilians are invariably called "terrorists". Our side are never terrorists - not in Iraq where we killed over a million civilians, not in Afghanistan where we don't give the numbers, not in Guatemala where we slaughtered 300,000, not in Pakistan, Somalia or Yemen where we have launched drone attacks by the thousands to kill "suspects".

Who do news media use words like this? They do it for the same reason we did it as kids. To encourage ignorance and hatred - and to lie.

We are now discussing shipping tar sands oil to an "East coast refinery" by rail as well as by pipe line.
A few days ago, I looked for entries dealing with oil pipeline dangers, and found some four million.
Now, as a service to the intrepidly digging reporters at the Moncton Times and Transcript, I suggest they google "oil by train dangers" I found twelve million entries this time. Apparently, it's the most dangerous way to move oil - and especially dangerous with "dirty" oil like tar sands.
But - oooh - it might create some jobs.
Or maybe not.
There's a case in the Supreme Court which the TandT seems to be uninterested in. A group of eight citizens are demanding that six ridings in which Conservatives won by very small margins have substantial evidence of the wide use of robocalls to mislead voters from other parties.

Conservatives, of course, say the eight citizens are just Liberals or other riff-raff. Possibly so.
But why is it left to a small group of private citizens to investigate this? Harper knew of the robocalls as soon as he took office - and probably long before. Why didn't our federal government mount a proper investigation in the first place? Why, instead, have they blocked an investigation at every turn?
Watch YOUR TandT to ask the hard questions, and get at the truth.
If you have a million and a half dollars to spend on education in Moncton, what would your priorities be? Chemistry labs? Libraries? Smaller classes? Well, that just shows how much you know about education. But the statues at the waxworks we call city hall have thought deeply about it. After all, they want to help education - though it has very little to do with their mandate;and when it does, their interest shows mainly in supporting questionable land deals.
Our city is contributing one and a half million of your dollars to - wait for it - put plastic grass (artificial turf) on two (count them, two) high school playing fields. Wow! that can mean a whole, new future for our children. (Oh, and they can be places for seniors to take walks. Moncton is just full of seniors desperate for a plastic field to walk on.)
Parent groups will be urged to raise the extra half million that is needed. To fire them up, an organizer told them that the fields are covered with litter. Well, artificial turf will certain fix that. Litter isn't allowed on artificial turf.

The TandT is quite gaga about how this will put Moncton on the map, and how the whole world is watching us. So there's a total of two million we're going to spend just for our children - and at a time when so many, notably the TandT - are warning against the rise of public debt.  How noble!

And what a coincidence they will just fit in with athletic events the city is sponsoring a couple of summers from now. You know, the kind that will draw world attention to Moncton and bring in tourists to fill our hotels. I mean - it's really not worth a two million dollar investment just for that, but....

......nothing is too good for our children.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dec. 14: hang out the flags, serve the drinks....

...this is a proud, proud day for Canada. Under the leadership of Harper, Canada today becomes the first country in the world to pull out of the Kyoto accord to control climate change. Imagine. Canada leading the world because, as Harper says, "the Kyoto accord is socialist". Why is it socialist? Because it takes money from the rich countries and gives it to the poor ones.

So that's what socialist means! Harper also says Sweden is a socialist country. But Sweden doesn't take money from rich countries and give it to poor ones. Oh! I get do confused.

Oil companies certainly don't intend to let anybody take any money from them. So they say there is no climate change problem. And they probably believe it. People are like that. If they don't want to believe something, well then, it isn't true because there is only one truth. And they have it.

That's why Harper exercises so much control over the members of the party and his cabinet. That's why he is so supremely confident. Harper is an ideologue. He has the truth, and the only truth. And the truth is that the only function of government is to ensure that the rich get richer. And if that conflicts with scientific opinion about what this is doing to the climate, the scientific opinion is wrong - maybe even :"socialist".

This man is an economist, an economist actually doesn't know what the word socialist means. But in his locked, little mind, he thinks he knows. He has the truth, the only truth, a truth beyond the understanding of us mere humans. He is an ideologue - which is something like being a religious fanatic who hears voices.

Harper is the only ideological prime minister this country has ever had. And the most dangerous one we have ever had.

That's why today we are leading the world in pulling out of Kyoto. So break out the champagne. (Oh, the story didn't make the TandT. Of course not.)
The big story in every paper is the school shooting in Connecticut. But I haven't seen any coverage that sees the full meaning of this tragedy.

Most of the focus is on calls for gun control. But that's not going to happen to any meaningful degree. It's not going to happen for the same reason that Canada is going to pay any attention to climate control. There's big money in the sale of guns. And that's only part of it.

There's also an ideology behind gun sales. Ideology - that belief of so many of us that we have the truth and the only truth whatever the evidence may say. The gun ideology is that American freedom and democracy arose out of violence and guns, that government may at any time become dictatorial, making it necessary for patriots to take up their guns. That's why why freedom to own assault rifles and other automatic weapons with large ammo capacity is so important. You need to match the military that you will be fighting with.

And the moment is here. Obama is not really an American. Obama is really a Moslem terrorist. The moment for patriots has come. Millions of Americans believe that.

It's an attitude supported by a generalized atmosphere of hared and fear encouraged by government and news media. America, the most powerful nation in the world, is constantly being attacked by enemies like Grenada, Libya, Venezuela, Cuba, by the sandaled warriors of Afghanistan. The nation with the world's most powerful forces and most defendable location lives in fear and hysteria or attack from small and backward nations.

All of this supports the gun culture. The killings were, indeed, terrible. What's even more terrible is that nothing will be done about them. Big business in the US needs a nation that lives in fear and hysteria to justify the use of the military for its own ends.

Oh, no newspaper that I have seen mentioned it, but I wonder how many children were killed yesterday in Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Yeman, Somalia? How many were killed by drones? by bombs? by trigger-happy soldiers? How many children were killed in the great slaughters in Guatemala and Iraq?

Of course, they're different.
The front page has a very unprofessional news story, unprofessional because it's not a news story at all. It's "Should N.B. follow Ont. lead on teachers?" When I first looked at the story, I wondered who could have made such a proposal. It turns out nobody has. And, according to the story, the NB government isn't even thinking about it.

So why do we have a front page story on something that didn't happen and that nobody suggests should happen? This makes as much sense as having a story on whether all Monctonians should be dipped in luminous paint so that drivers can see them. Why on earth would a newspaper run such a non-story?

One possibility is crashing ignorance among TandT editors about what  a news story is. I would hate, of course, to have to make such a suggestion. But the only other possible interpretation is that the TandT is deliberately trying to create an atmosphere of tension around education salary negotiations. Perhaps the owner has something in mind? Let's watch the TandT for developments.
The Liberals say "It's time to move past Atcon..." (Acton is the company that seemingly falsified its financial record to get 50 million dollars from us taxpayers, all of which we got stuck for.) If that's what happened, it's a crime. It also suggests gross incompetence the part of the Liberal former government. Somebody should be facing criminal charges. But NB governments take a very Christian, forgiving attitude to crime. I mean, there no point in pursuing respectable criminals.

And the Alward government has done nothing to take up the slack in this case. Did Atcon commit a criminal offense? If so shouldn't there be a charge - not matter who the government is right now?
On the same page, D4, is a story by Shawn Berry. It's worth reading because this is what a news story should look like. "Reverse 2009 tax cuts, gov't urged".  It reports on a position taken by a large number of economists in this province, explains their case well, allows a response from Victor Boudreau (who was finance minister in 2009) - but not until after the story has made the position of the economists quite clear.

This is clear, honest, and thoroughly professional reporting.

(I could wish he had asked Boudreau a tough question or two because Boudreau's statement is both vague and slippery.)   But this is still good reporting.
There is nothing really worth reading on the  editorial or op ed pages. Even Gwynne Dyer, who does have a point, lbut acks punch in this one.

On the Faith page, it looks as though columnist David Yount has become a regular feature in his role of feeding religious banalities to the intellectually toothless. This is a page with no news, no debate, no opinion worth discussing,

The sermonette is on giving to the poor at Christmas.I have no quarrel with that. But....
......if we have so many people in need that it is up to individuals to give them food (if only one day a year), then we do not live in a Christian (or any other kind of religion) society. We do not think of our governments (nor do they think of themselves) in terms of anything resembling morality.

Actually there are, of course, many people who are moral without having any religion, just as there are many people who have loads of religion (or religiosity) but not a bit of morality.Judging by the Faith page and the whole paper, I would put the TandT in the latter category.