Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jan. 31: Sorrry to be late, today....

A busy day - not helped by the fact that the home delivery of my breakfast copy of The Moncton Times and Transcript has recently been arriving at an hour I usually associate with lunch. Now, it's getting late. So I'll confine myself to just two examples of bad journalism in the paper.

The first example is at the top of the op ed page. This space is almost always reserved for a column by one of the staff writers. And all of these columns have one thing in common. They are all trivial.

This time the word is handed down by Alan Cochrane, editor-at-large. Today's offering is of a popular subject with him, motorcycles. In particular, on this day, he was quite excited about dirt bikes, especially a Canadian bike of the 1970s. If you have have a passion for Canadian, dirt racing motorcycles of the 1970s, you might find this a little bit interesting, especially if you think adjectives like 'cool' are really hip. (In fact, 'cool' was already dead in most of the developed world before the 1970s.)

Here is prime, commentary space in  a newspaper that is given over, every day to trivial gush. And it's no accident that this sort of pre-pubescent drivel occupies a position of honour in the TandT. The purpose of the TandT is not to inform readers. It's to keep them ignorant of what's going on. It's not to encourage discussion. It's to encourage us to slip into a zombie-like state.

There are, of course, plenty of really stinking newspapers in North America. But few, even of the worst, would stoop to this consistent waste of prime, commentary space.

The other example is a news story - or so it is billed. The story, top of NewsToday, is that professor Don Savoie says that New Brunswick must balance its budget soon.Duh, well, yeah. But is there anybody who isn't saying that? What on earth makes this a news story?

Then, he goes deep, deep for us iggerant readers.  He says if we keep borrowing money, we'll have a high debt. Gee! Who would have thought of it? That's almost as intellectually challenging as a story about  Canadian dirt-racing bikes of the 1970s.  So why did they run this as a top, news story? And why did Professor Savoie agree to give such a shallow interview?

Professor savoie is quoted as saying he did it because he's concerned about the impact of provincial debt on the poor. Right. Well, maybe....but......

If you were a corporate boss and you had your flunkies appointed to an official body advising the Minister of Finance (a former Irving exec), and you were worried about people getting silly and expecting you to pay higher taxes, or about people getting even sillier and making you pay for  your electricity or slow you down in cutting timber or demand tougher regulation (and maybe banning) for  shale gas....well, Savoie's interview could be very helpful.

First, it is presented in such a way as to avoid the corporate role in running up our deficits. When Savoie offers his (simplistic) solutions to the problem, he doesn't once mention the cozy position of the rich in this province.

Yep, we have to cut or raise taxes. That's what he says. Of course, that's what he says. Putting it in that vague way will build support for cutting services to the public, cutting down on government, and raising taxes (on the poor and the middle class.) As a side effect, it may even build enough hysteria and narrowness of vision to approve of shale gas development - along with the destruction of our forests.

There's not a word of what should be obvious - cutting the fat out of big business in this province. Start with getting rid of these wasteful public/private partnership scams. Don't touch shale gas until we know it won't hasten the destruction of this province. Make corporations behave according to the rules of capitalism, not of fascism. And make the wealthy pay their share.

But Savoie doesn't even hint at any of these. Of course not. This "news story" is blatant propaganda.

It's a one-two punch. Cochrane's job is to knock any brains out of our heads. The Savoie's job, as we sit there stunned,  is to tell us to believe what the boss wants us to believe.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Jan. 30: kidding aside....

If you want to keep up on the news, then keep you money in your pocket. Don't subscribe to the TandT, either on paper or on the web. It is part lies, part propaganda, and part nothing. Don't waste your time listening to news on private radio. Private radio doesn't have the resources to fund adequate news rooms. As well, it would never report any news offensive to its advertisers. TV news shows? Usually better - but heavily moronized to satisfy the needs of show biz and ratings.

Better - not best - but better go to google. click on news. It free, up to date, wide in coverage, and far superior to the Irving news media.

If you want world coverage, go to The Gardian on the web. It's a superb British paper. If you want news on the middle east, go Haaretz, an excellent Israeli paper. If you want a radical edge, go to International Clearing House on the web. They're all free. But be careful of ICH. It's usually excellent; but there are times when its news is drawn from biased sources - then it comes just the polar opposite of the Times and Transcript.

Most of today's Tand T is so uninfomative, it's not worth criticizing in any detail.  I mean, when the lead editorial is about raising chickens, you know you're in the little leagues. However, for a striking example of what's wrong with the paper, look at the editorial cartoon. It's about two horses labelled socialism and capitalism. They're having a tug of war over a globe that represents,  I presume, the world.  That is a hopelessly ignorant and irrelvant cartoon.

1. There is no such thing as socialism in the world -and there never has been a socialist government of any major state in historty. Socialism would mean all the business of the country was mutually owned and controlled by all the people - who express their control through democratic means.

The USSR was never socialist. The Soviet people never mutually owned or controlled anything. Ditto for China. Ditto for North Korea.

Some reader will mumble that Sweden is socialist. No, it isn't. And it never has been. Over ninety precent of all business in Sweden is privately owned.

Oh, says another reader. state pensions and welfare and stuff like that are socialist. No they aren't. They were intrroduced by people like Bismarck, Roosevelt and Canada's Bennett - all of whom did it to preserve private business in a time of crisis.

2. There is no such thing as capitalism in the world. Capitalism would be a system in which everything is privately owned, and in the which the private owners compete openly, honestly and at their own financial risk. Where does that happen? (except, of course, at the level of small business.)

Capitalism, real capitalism, is not a system in which private owners corrupt governments and control news and elections. It's not a system in which Big business gets cheap electricity at the expense of taxpayers - or grants, or subisdized loans, or soft regulations that aren't enforced, anyway. What New Brunswick has is a sort of welfare state for corporations. That's not captialism.

3. So capitalism and socialism are in a tug of war to control the world? Really? Okay. Name me a single major power in the world that is socialist. Name a single one that is capitalist in any real sense.
Are we at war with Afghanistan (Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia) to save capitalism? Exactly where is this tug of war happening? And who is tugging?

Today's cartoon is typical of The Times and Trnanscript. It's a statement on a subject of which the author knows nothing - not even such a fundmental as the meaning of the words he is using.

Social and capitalism (like terrorism and 'shock and awe') are terms that carry emotional reactions - but almost no understanding.

As for Alwrad, a premier should know what words mean too - so he can tell his finance minister that a government is not a business - and it should no more be run like a business than a candy store should be run like a hospital.What the finance minister is doing, of course, is spreading the propaganda that in New Brunwick a corporation is run like a business when, in fact, it's run like welfare recipient.

Higgs, our finance minister, is a former Irving exec, with other Irving stooges as official budget advisers, and with Irving, himself, declaring himself a member of the government. This isn't capitalism. And it isn't democracy.

It's the crude, greedy and self-destructive fascism that was pioneered by Mussolini.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jan. 29: late on Sunday evening....

This isn't directly about the Moncton Times and Transcript. It is, though, a followup of sorts to a column that appeared in it on Jan. 28.  Aurelie Pare, a university student and columnist in the Saturday Whatever section, wrote a very useful article about the importance of study habits. I just thought I might be able to add something useful to it.

As a  high school student, I became an expert in not studying at all. Elementary school had been a breeze. I was one of the golden boys all the way. But high school wasn't so easy. And, coming from a working class background in which nobody ever expected to finish high school, anyway,  I just ignored study. By grade ten, I was often absent - though always with a note (supposedly) signed by my mother.

(The other trick was to tell the teacher that I had to go to the principal's office. It always worked. In fact, one day when Mr. McGarry caught me reading a cowboy story in class, he said, "Decarie. Go to the office right now and........No. You've been in the principal's office so often that if I send  you now he'll expel you.  So just put that cowboy book away, And listen.")

So I failed grade ten. Passed it in a breeze the second time around - but was soon failing grade eleven. Just before Easter, the principal really did call me to his office. "Let's face it, Decarie. You have no brains at all. It's time to go find a job." So I did.

A few years later, I began taking university courses at night. I still didn't study. But I got passes (mostly), even if they were rock bottom Ds. At last, I even got a BA (no major, though. My grades were too low for a major.)

Then I got the idea of going for an MA. Acadia very reluctantly decided to give me a chance - if I did another undergrauate year and did really, really, really well. Even somebody as lazy as me could understand that I had to make this one work. But how?

Here's how.

The basic principle is that the first time you study something, you will remember it only a short time - no matter how much you study it. The second time, you will remember it longer, - and so on. Obviously, I had to organize my study time to get maximum results.
1. I bought a set of index cards. Each one had four dates on it as, for example, Sept. 10, 13, 20, Oct. 20.

2. At each lecture, I put the date on my page (s) of notes. So, on Sept. 10, I would read over the notes for classes taken on Sept. 10. Three days later, on Sept. 13, I would read them over a few more times. Seven days after that, I'd read them again, then, a month after that, I'd read them again.
In the week or ten days before exams, I would go over all notes for the term.
The day before the exam, I would just relax.

3. It was very efficient. Each reading took only minutes (okay. maybe a  half hour if I had several classes in a day.) But at the end, you could start me off at any page of my notes - and I could finish the whole term's notes for you almost word for word.

4. Two, strict rules.
a) study every day, including weekends. In total, you'll study less. But with the regularity and the spacing, you'll rembember more.
b) In that same study period, use extra time to work on assignments, readings etc.

I rarely studied as much as an hour a day. But at the end of that undergraduate year, I had straight As. I did the same for my MA courses; and that got me into a doctoral programme with a scholarship.

It worked for this miserable wretch of a high school dropout. Think of how well somebody smarter like you could do with it.

Confession - memorizing is not a good way, really, to learn. Most of the information I memorized in that last undergraduate year and in the MA was forgotten within a short time after the exams. But the reality is that most undergrauate education is taught as memory work. Most professors don't know any better. Most have never studied teaching. Many see the teaching just as a nuisance. But memorizing is most of how you will be taught. So you will either memorize your way through a bachelor's degree - or never get a chance to learn anything at all. ( Much of the same is true of graduate studies - though at that level you also have to make yourself as much like the professor as possible.)

Trust me. The method is easy. And it works.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jan. 28: words, words, words.....

A news story in a good newspaper gives you information. It does not try to propagandize the reader with loaded language. It gives the facts, just the fact, and leaves the response up to the reader. A good reporter knows that. A good editor enforces it.

North American newspapers are short of good reporters and good editors. The classic example is illustrated when those newspapers report a killing by a Moslem. The Moslem is invariably defined as a "terrorist". (Terrorists are bad.)

When American Christians commit a terror killing (Tiimothy McVeigh springs to mind). they are never called terrorists. They are called militias. (Militias - that sounds almost patriotic.)

When an American marine sergeant in Iraq led a murder rampage that took the lives of 24 innocent people, including children and elderly and crippled), he was never referred to as a terrorist though, in fact, his purpose was quite clearly to terrorize. He wasn't called anything; and the attack was rarely even mentioned in the North American press. (At his recent trial, he pleaded guily to 'disorderly conduct' which carried a maximum three month sentence. He was then released with no sentence at all - though he might be reduced in rank.). No news medium in North America has called him any bad names. In fact, most haven't even reported the story.

Now take a look at the TandT's front page story 'Metro gears up for ECMAs'.

It begins, "Ask anyone what was there and they'll tell you that the East Coast Music Awards, held in Moncton in 1997, was one of the best - if not the best of the ECMA celebrations to date. (Skip the bad grammar. Concentrate on the emotional tone.)

This is not the language of a sober report. This is the pure gush of advertising and artificial excitement. It's the sort of thing you expect to hear from a typical light rock radio host who is 47 going on 15.

This isn't a report at all. this is an ad.

Ditto for the lead story 'Metro's' Olympic legacy to be revealed'. Here again, the tone of breathlessness prevails. The hall of fame induction ceremony is prestigious. Come off it. If something is prestigious, you don't have to say it. We all know it. If we don't, then it's not prestigious. That's why we don't refer to Christmas as the birthday of 'the prestigious Son of God'.

That opening bit of puffery is followed by the exciting statement that Moncton is the smallest city ever to host the event. Wowie! Wowie! And even more '...they soon found out Moncton isn't normal in any sense...'  It sure isn't.

("Hey, hi gang," said the 47-year-old radio host, "Forget all about school and teachers. Now, it's just us, the whole gang all together with the sounds YOU like to hear...and now, here's Acne Vampire and his latest hot, hot Howl I do it....")

There's another story (ad) for Bouclair at the bottom of the page.

P. A6 carries another story on a new business coming to Moncton. This time the puffery at the top takes an almost religious turn. "Company believes in Moncton". Sounds like no big deal? Okay. If the story were about an armed bank holdup, would be it be headed "Robber shows belief in bank?"

This is just feel-good writing. As well, there is not even a hint of what might be some pretty important information. There's lots of self praise about  Invest NB's importance in bringing the new company here. But it doesn't say exactly what Invest NB did to make Moncton attractive. Any guesses?

The editorial page continues the tradition of playing with words. The editorial page praises Premier Alward's state of the province speech as 'rational optimism', a term that tells us almost nothing and, for that matter, reflects a speech that was itself vague and no great feast of reason.

After all, "specific changes to how we spend public money" tells us so little that even the editor doesn't pretend to know what that means. He comments "If he means cutting bureaucratic fat...."

For that matter, "bureaucratic fat" is a more emotional than rational term. Talk (as the editor does) about pie-in-the-sky bafflegab.  Would he refer to the rocketing increase in corporate profits and executive salaries as "fat"? Of course not. The editor is an economic bigot. He uses derogatory terms for the civil service - but never for private business.

And what exactly is the meaning of the editor's term "run the province like a business?" Does that mean ignoring regulations as shale gas companies do?  Getting cut rate electricity at the tax payers' expense? Paying senior policiticans millions of dollars a year - and then cutting their taxes to almost zero? Developing short term natural resources despite the long term damage to the province? Being arrongant enough to think they can run the government without bothering to get elected? Get a monopoly on provinicial news media to keep people in the dark about what's happening? That's how business operates.

No wonder the reporters can get away with writing such sloppy news stories.

And Norbert, as always, has his morsels of bigoted burps written as if they were wisdom. He refers, for example, to societies that provide basic human needs as "nanny states". I think we can agree he means that to be a derogatory term.

Okay. What about a province that spends it money on tax breaks, loans, gifts, unenforced regulations, and free resouces for corporations and wealthy individuals. Would he call that a nanny state?

Again, he attacks public education and, again, without having a clue to what it's all about. The book he quotes on this, for example, is British. In Britain, there are serious declines in education. But, Norbert, we live in Canada. And we are ranked in the top ten in the world for quality and quantity of education. Will you please learn something of what you are talking about?

As usual, Norbert's excuse for writing this column is that he read that book. That's nice. It's good to read. But it's also good to know what you are talking about. In this case, he read a book by an historian, and the historian's list of what made the West so economically successful.

But since Norbert doesn't know much about history, he doesn't notice issues of fundamental importance in western prosperity that British historian missed. There's slavery,for example, the basis of American (and some Canadian) wealth and, more recently, Belgian and general western prosperity. There's military dominance which not only enabled the West to plunder the rest of the world, but to add territory to maintain cheap labour, and to mopolize markets.

We had a chance to change that after 1945. We didn't. We simply allowed an American empire to replace the old, European ones. The trouble is, we have lost our old, military dominance. The western military record for the past fifty years is dismal. Spain, Britain, France, Belgium, the US once conquered emplies of tens of millions with tiny armies. Now, despited technology, even small wars against third world countries can tie them up for ten years and more.

And he still downplays cheap Asian labour as a source of our prosperity. Maybe he should read the New York Times which recently did a lengthy report on the Apple computer company in China. It refers to labour conditions in the Apple factories as brutal, dangerous,stunningly low paid -and productive of a high rate of suicide among employees.

His column completely ignores the corruption of politics and of capitalism itself by our corporate leaders. It completely ignores the fundamental cause of our decline - the greed of the very wealthy, their short-sightedness, and their utter indifference to anybody except themselves.

If you want a change of pace, a bit of a laugh, read the story about Jim Irving and  how he cuts down New Brunswick trees only because he loves this province.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Jan 27: The power of propaganda.....

New Brunswick's Premier Alward has announced that he will hire private business people to tell him how to run the government. (Somehow, I can't help thinking of him as one of the characters from Toy Story and, no, I don't mean Buzz Albright.) Some of the questions this announcement raises are obvious.

For example, ff running a government is like running a business, why do we have political parties and elections? Why don't we just do it like business does, and appoint the boss' son. Works for North Korea.

Obviously, the thinking (if one can call it that) which lies beneath Mr. Alward's decision is that business is more efficient than government. Funny how propaganda can have such an effect. Nazi propaganda had Germans believing they were winning the war right up to the last days. Americans believe their's is the land of the free, even though they can now be imprisoned, perhaps for life, with no charge or trial.  They believe their form of business is the best in the world, even as their own eyes can see the poverty, ruin, and homelessness it has brought the whole western world to.

Propaganda is powerful

Business is efficient? Really? If it's so efficient, why isn't New Brunswick more prosperous? After all, the province has been run by business for well over a hundred and fifty years. There certainly has been no time since 1867 in which big business did not finance and direct New Brunswick governments. When Mr. Alward says he's going to bring in big business, he is just making official what has always been obvious. And our own eyes can tell us that as a useful idea this is nonsense.

If big business in New Brunswick is so efficient, how come it needs so much propping up in the form of low, low taxes, low, low electricity rates, loans, government contracts, low minimum wages and outright gifts?

If business is so efficient, how come Public/Private Partnerships seem to produce less quality and higher costs than the old days of government doing the work on its own?

Big business now, already, officially advises government on the budget. In fact, big business has largely been setting the budgets for the whole history of this province. So how come our budgets are still such disasters?

If big business is so effecient, how come the American medical system is  at once the least efficient and the most expensive one in the world? How come a baby's chance of survival at birth is higher over most of the developed world (and some of the undeveloped world) than it is in the US?

If business is so efficient, how come the spread of privatization of education in the US has made it an international basket case?

Big business is motivated by self-interest and greed. That's not just calling names. Leaders in modern big business all over the world  have publicly admired the writing of Ayn Rand that lauds greed and self-interest as desirable.

Do you think it's a really good idea to have your life controlled by people who think their own greed and self-interest are good for you?

Is big business more efficient when it comes to honesty? Establishing regularions? Then how come the whole, American system has come crashing down because of dishonesty, corruption, and greed?

And do  you seriously think that the shale gas industry (just to choose an example) could be trusted to set effective regulations for gas explorations and drilling? Hell. It won't even repect the flimsy rules we have.

Where, in defiance of all we can see around us, do we get the idea that big business is efficient?

It all goes back to World War Two. The previous war of 1914 had shown that private business was an economic disaster in the crises of wartime. It was expensive, inflationary, disorganized, self-serving...

Most of the world learned a lesson from that. The major powers in World War Two placed extensive power in government to control and plan the wartime  economy. Civil servants set prices, quotas, interest rates, everything. And it was wildly successful as Canada ended the war with a booming economy, little inflation, few shortages.

The first reaction of big business was to recognize that the civil service was more efficient than big business was. For almost ten years after the war, then, it was common for big businesses to send their senior peope to Ottawa to study civil service methods. Then big business recognized the danger of that. It was advertising itself as being inefficient - and thereby encouraging crazy ideas like medicare and pensions.

That's when big business began organizing and financing "think tanks" like AIMS, propaganda institutes working with the close cooperation of newspapers owned by big business. The essential message is always the same. Big business good. Government bad. And fifty years of propaganda have worked. And so we - or a great many of us - can stand in the middle of the desolation caused by generations of greed, corruption, and dishonesty. and say, "Yep. It's all the fault of them there civil servants and welfare people. What we need is business methods in government."

Ah, well. In the old days, a Premier Alward at least would have restricted himself to kissing babies on their facial cheecks. Now, he kisses corporation bosses on their other cheeks.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jan. 26: Let's try to be positive....

Today's Moncton Times and Tribune was annoying for its lack of news, it's self-righeous posturing by Norbert Cunningham, and an op ed column by Rod Allen notable only for its laboured attempt at humour.

Cunningham contrubutes a typical Cunningham column in which he says that politicians lie. Well, some do . But the self-righteous Cunningham and the Irving media he works for have lied with them every step of the way. Both politicians and most of the journalists in this province are under the same ownership. And both lie because the ownership wants them to lie. But don't expect Norbert to tell the truth about that.

So let's be positive. What should be in the paper?

1. I would really like to know what the development plan is for Moncton (and for Riverview and Dieppe). I mean a real plan, one that starts with the conditions we are likely to live under two or three generations from now.

Will the automobile still be the major means of transportation? If so, we don't need a plan. We already have a city designed for that, with malls for the cars, and with car-dependent developments spreading out into the boonies.

But what if the car can't be the major means of transportation? What if the cost of fuel becomes prohibitive? What if it is at last recognized that exhaust pipes are not really a great idea? Then what happens to the new Moncton High?  And what happens to Riverview - which is essentially just a poorly designed parking lot with houses in the way?

And if we can  no longer move most people by car, what is our plan for moving them?

How will we heat houses? Will energy become so expensive - and maybe so scarce - that we will need to legislate efficiency standards - starting now?

A high proportion of Moncton housing is wooden - and aging. Should that be replaced by more plexes built to look like farmhouses of 1900? (The current wave of new apartments convey the impression that the only qualification to be an architect in Moncton is owning a ruler and a pencil. Will that be the standard for the future?)

As it is, our planning for the future starts by ignoring the future. It starts with somebody wanting a new hockey rink to be paid for by the public - and then the city council and the TandT get out their pom poms to lead cheers for building it by saying it will revive Main Street. (It won't.) The only planning that's going on here is planning on how to sell this idiocy to us.

So exactly what is the plan? And let's start the plan with looking at the future - not with some get-rich-quick scheme to benefit some devloper and hockey team owner.

2, As we face the problem of a huge, provincial deficit, it would be useful to know exactly what money we are getting - and from whom - and exactly what we are spending - and for whom.

How much is our government spending every year on goodies for private corporations? Which private corporations?  It is, after all (and as the editor of the TandT said just recently) our money.

Exactly how much in taxes do these corporations pay back to us? (No. Not the taxes paid by their whole work force - the taxes paid by the Irvings and the Ganongs and the McCain's and the top execs.)
What is their nominal rate of tax? What is the tax rate after all the loopholes are figured in?
How can our finance minister possible have serious discussions with the public about the deficit if we're not allowed to know one of the crucial factors in creating the deficit?

3. When are we going to get a report on the handling of the two cases (at least) of shale gas companies that broke the law? I haven't heard even the apology that our government said so much about.

Where are the regulations? If we don't even have them yet, how can we possibly allow exploration to go on? This is like suddenly relizing we have no laws for driving - and so we let everybody drive a car, anyway - children, drunks, speeders. The only difference is that roads full of children,
 drunks and speeders would probably not do nearly so much damage as would unregulated (or even regulated) shale gas drilling.

This is a province dominated by people who are greedy without limits, who give not a damn about what happens to anybody else, and who control most of the levers of power. This is a province that is not a democracy,and is nowhere close to it. If we don't wake up soon, today's deficit will be the least of our problems.

When one thinks of all that we need to know and discuss and decide on, The Irving papers aren't news media at all. They're sleeping pills. And the journalists who work for them should be ashamed of themselves.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jan. 25: The big picture...

"Gulf observers quit Syria"

Yawn. All them there foreigners. they're always fightin'. I guess  ought help them rebels make a democracy - like ours.

That's what happens when you get news in isolated bites without any sense of the big picture. It reminds me of a visit to a zoo when I was a kid. There was a cougar. He (or possibly she) was lying against the wire enclosure, looking all warm and cute and cuddly under  one of those suns that just spread gently right through you.

The whole scene was so loving and gentle that I squatted, and leaned against the fence so that I was almost touching that warm and cute and sleepy cat.

The next thing I remember was a termendous yowl, a thud as the cougar stood on hind legs to throw its weight at the wire - and me standing a good five metres away and wondering how I got there. That's what's called seeing the big picture.

A foreign nobleman and his wife got blown up by an anarchist in 1914. Tut-tut. That's the small picture. Days later, the bloodiest war in human history erupts. It's the same picture - but bigger.

"Gulf observers quit Syria" is the very small picture. In fact, the rebellion in Syria is being financed and equipped by Turkey, Ssudi Arabia, the emirates, and by NATO. It's being done because Syria is an essential ally to Iran. NATO wants to knock off the Iranian government because a) the western empires have been interfering in Iran for a century in order to get control of its oil. In the early 1950s, the west overthrew an elected government in Iran, and installed a dictator. There's a reason why Iranians don't like the west.
b) China wants that oil, too. As so much of the world industrializes, the search for energy fuel is a matter of life and death. New Brunswickers should know that. They are under one of the claws so desperate to get fuel that they are willing to take any risks (or to force others to take any risks) to get it. Only a desperate world would accept shale gas - or oilsands. Only a desperate apologist (professor Savoie springs to mind) would say, gee, we have to look at the economic benefits here.

c) Russia has both an economic and stratetic interest in Iran. The two countries (as well as smaller ones) border on the Caspian Sea -which may not be a sea at all. As a sea, it would merit open access to all ships. But, not without reason, Iran and Russia see it as a lake. (Its salinity is well below that of the oceans). That makes it common propoerty of the nations that border it. The whole basin of the Caspian is rich in oil and, as well, is a crucial transporation point for it.

That means at least three major powers (all nuclear) and several lesser ones have a vital interest in the waters that border Iran.

Remembering that, any news story about Iran's ally, Syria, is worth more than a yawn.

For a still larger picture, look at the strategy adopted by NATO in the case of Syria. It's a dead ringer for the strategy in Libya. Stir up a rebellion against a hated government. Train and supply the rebels. provide them not only with air support but special ops troops on the ground. Get our compliant press and its agencies (like Reuters) to present this as a struggle for democracy.

Sounds like a good idea. But look at what has happened in Libya. The country is nowhere close to democracy. The rebel factions are fighting each other. Conditions are so bad that popular support in Libya is swinging back to the old, Ghadaffi people.

So far, Syria is going the same route. The rebels are trained in Turkey (a US ally in this cause) which is joined by the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and the emirates (who have not the slightest intention of allowing a democracy to develop so close to them). Again the rebels are promised a "no-fly" zone -which really means only one side will be allowed to fly and drop bombs. As well, NATO ground  troops ae in the area, and NATO is supplying the rebels with weapons.

Oh, yeah, and there are already signs of deep differences between various groups of rebels.

The strategy hasn't worked in Libya (though our press doesn't tell us that because Libya is old news. Out of style). It probably won't work in Syria, either. What it will do is take us a giant step closer to Iran -and the Caspian Sea - and Russia - and China.

And, in case you think that the western military can handle this with one hand tied behind its back, take a look as the dismal record of the western military over the last sixty years with its string of dismal defeats by small, backward, and poor countries going all the way back to Vietnam.

Don't cuddle up too close to the official version of the news. If you do, you'll get one hell of a shock when reality rears up on its hind legs, yowls, and rattles the cage.

As a  footnote, NewsToday tells us that Obama wants to raise taxes on the rich to at least 30%. You remember Obama. He's the one who was going to end the Afghanistan War and close Guantanamo.
Anyway, he at least raises the question in a country in which Mitt Romney paid less than 15% on an income of tens of millions.

How come our finance minister Higgs didn't raise the issue of taxing the rich in New Burnswick? Page one of NewsToday has a big story about his view of balancing the budget. But there isn't a word about taxing the rich - and not a word about how much the rich cost us in favours. Couldn't the TandT dig and get some info on this? After all, as the editor said yesterday, this is public money they're getting.
And when was the last time Ganong and Irving paid 30% in taxes? Or even 10%. In fact, considering all their grants, subsidies, etc., do they really pay any taxes at all?

Higgs also refers to his virtue in seldom taking a sick day when he was an Irving exec. I'm so happy to hear it. And did he get nice holidays? Or would they just be two weeks of sitting at home? Any free memberships in nice, recreational clubs?

There's also a hilarious quotation by David Ganong to the effect that governments have to learn to say no to some people. To be fair, though, maybe he meant they should say no to people like David Ganong and James Irvng.

Nah.

There is what looked like a good story on government loans and grants to business in New Brunswick. It's on p. 6 of NewsToday. Unfortunately, it as about a professor from the business school at Queen's, a business school that never met a billionaire it didn't like.

In this case, he thinks government should not be involved at all in economic development. Of course not. It should allso private business to do whatever it wants. That's straight from the neanderthal school of economics.

If a government cannot been engaged in economic planning, then it can't govern at all. Virtually every decision a government makes involves the economy. (I once had to chair a meeting for the Queen's business school. I was stunned by the slack-jawed chatter that passed as economic analysis.)

Anyway, today's message is - no matter how sunny the day, don't lean up against a cougar's cage.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jan. 24: to know everything....

Commonly, journalists think they know everything. It's not (entirely) their fault. Journalism is all about  seeing through lies and false alarms,understanding the big picture, getting to the truth. Nobody can do that, not really.But journalists devote their lives to pretending they can. It's the same with university teachers - and it can be very bad news when journalists and university teachers get together. Take, for example, today's column by Norbert Cunningham.

It's about a book by a Harvard psychologist, Stephen Pinker who was known, back in his graduate days as a great thinker. Or, more accurately he thought he was. He has now gone on to greater fame by using his psychology credentials to write books on topics he knows nothing about.

Naturally, Norbert the journalist felt drawn to those books - and he devoted today's column to Pinker's book on terrorism.

So we learn that terrorism goes back 2,000 years, that the worst terrorist attack from 1970 to 2007 was 9/11, that almost all terrorism has been caused by "different" people like arabs, Africans, you know - and terrorism almost never succeeds.

Bunk.

Terrorism goes back even before humans, to animals, for example, that terrorized their prey with roars. Human fighters have always used terror - in the painting of faces, in raids on neighbouring people to punish them. If the story of Exodus is true, God used terror against the Egyptians. And, certainly, the people of ancient Israel used terror - as at Jericho. For some Christians, terror (named Hell) is a prime reason for opting to be Christian. Revelations is a wonderful book on the subject.

There is probably no community of people which has not at some time used terror to defeat an enemy. And that means good, white folks just as much as any other.

In the American Revolution, the Sons of Liberty were terrorists - killing, burning, stealing, raping. Why do you think so many Loyalists fled to British North America.  When an American-hired mercenary was killed in Fallujah early in the Iraq war, the US retaliated with a massive bombing and shelling and random slaughter that killed uncounted numbers of innocent people. What was the napalming and bombing and poisoning of Vietnam about if not terror?  Nobody can even guess how many millions of innocent people were killed. So much for Pinker's contention that 9/ll was the biggest act of terrorism in almost forty years. And that doesn't count the deliberate American bombing of civilians, killing half a million of them, in Cambodia. It was no secret. The purpose of the bombing of Cambodian cities was, as the American air commander said publicly, "...to bomb Cambodia back into the stone age."  And what were the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki all about if not  terrorism?

How about the CIA led slaughter of a quarter million of the Maya people - men, women and children - in Guatemala?... or the Ton-Ton-Macoutes who raped, beat and murdered at random in Haitia - supplied and paid for by the US taxpayer? They did it to keep Haitians terrirified so they would submit to abuse and overwork in European and American-owned farms and factories at abysmal wages.

French brutality in Morroco after 1945 was stunning even by European standards. Random killing and/or torture were the methods of choice there and in French  Indo-China.

In 1920, the sainted Winston Churchill, as Secretary of the Colonies, launched terrorist bombings of civilians in Kurd villages in what is now Iraq.

The record holders in terrorism are probably Stalin and Mao, both of whom could count victims in the tens of millions. But that part of the world that is western and Christian has been no slouch. Nor have the terrorists been church dropouts. Remember the inquisition? That was terrorism. In fact, the very word 'terrorist' originated in the West. It was taken from the so-called "Reign of Terror" in the French revolution.

Nor is it true that terrorism seldom works. Western terrorism held much of the world prisoner for centuries after the age of Columbus. Modern states have been built on terrorism. European Jews pushed into what was Palestine using terrorist gangs against Palestinians and their British overlords. Modern Israel is a living example of successful terrorism.

I have no doubt that Pinker's book will be a best-seller. It has just the right blend of bigotry, one-eyed vision, and pseudo-intellectualism to fool a journalist.

Oh - there's kind of a related story that today's TandT missed. An American marine officer in Iraq was charged with ordering his men into a 45 minute orgy of killing. In retaliation for the death of a marine by a bomb, they invaded neighbouring houses, killing 24 innocent people, men, women and children - including an elderly man in a wheelchair.

After years of delay and denial, a charge of multiple murder was laid though, just to be fair, the jury was made up entirely of marines. But yesterday, perhaps to make it all easier, the accused plea-bargained for a charge of dereliction of duty. The maximum sentence for that is three months.  Would that count as terrorism?

As Norbert says, we have to learn to cope with the uglier aspects of the world. Very true. But first we have to look at them. And some of that looking calls for a mirror.

Interesting editorial. It's summed up as "We Say: Publicly-paid benefits of any kind must be open to public view." Damn right.

So when is the TandT going to tell us how much in benefits like loans, gifts, tax breaks, resources and other favours we give every year to Irving and friends? That's public money, whether it's direct grants, or in taxes we have to make up for, or in the forests and minerals that belong to us. That's public money. Damn right they should be open to public view.

So why don't the editors at the TandT do it?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jan.23: Do they do it on purpose - or are they really that incompetent?

exhibit 1. headline p. A3 "Highfield Square Tenant ready to move on"    Duh - well, yeah. The place is closing. We all know that. So it was kind of expected that the few tenants would move on.. Also that the doors will be closed, the lights turned off, and the cleaning staff dismissed. Are we going to get a big story on each of those,too? Here is a half page of the first section wasted on a story that really is no story at all. Oh, and another followup might be that people won't go shopping there any more.
In all, over two thirds of the section A is devoted to ads and non-stories.

exhibit 2. Three pages of the Sports section is devoted to the figure-skating championship. Okay. It was a big, sports event. But it was already the biggest story - almost two pages - of section A.

Moving on to NewsToday...

exhibit 3 "Giffords on road to recovery". This is about US Congress representative, Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head about a year ago during the Congressional elections. But her being on the road to recovery was not the story. In fact, she has been on the road to recovery for the best part of the past year. The story, as carried by other news media across North America, is that she is resigning her seat in Congress. Read the subhead. It says she's stepping down. That's the story. Read it. It doesn't say a word about how she is recovering.

That's not a small mistake. It's rather like running the story of the suprise attack of 1941 with a headline saying "US government plans renovations to Pearl Harbour". This is really sloppy editing. And it show how the editors themselves don't give a damn what's printed - so long as Mr. Irving doesn't give a damn.

exhibit 4  "BC family shaken up by close encounter with cougar".  This is the lead story in NewsToday, the general and world news section - so I guess that makes it the leading world news of the day - though there is another big one on the same page...

exhibit 5  "Calgarians don't like new slogan".  Apparently the city has a new slogan "Be part of the energy". (Does that remind New Brunswickers of anything?)
Both of those are news items we could have lived without. Meanwhile, in events that are heating up and may well involve us in wars, civil war in threatening in both Nigeria and Libya. we hear nothing. And for the frosting on the cake, we could be looking at a dangerous showdown between us and the Russians and Chinese over Syria and Iran. Nothing on that, either.

They're also silent on the statement by the governor of the Bank of Canada that he thinks the US economy will never fully recover from the recession. Thank about that. Think of what that means to us.  No - sorry - slip of t he tongue. This is an Irving paper. Don't think. For God's sake, don't think.

But who cares? Hey, wasn't that a great story about the Cougar?

exhibit 6. The Your Investments page(always a pretty feeble one). The lead story is that a Vancouver investment house has bought up some main street property. That might not be a bad story - except for three things.
a) they have already run the same story on at least two occasions.
b) the use emotional language to influence our reaction to it. The company is, for example "showing confidence" in Moncton. Sure. Would they say a pickpocket is showing confidence that you have money in your pocket? What the investment company and the pickpocket are showing is confidence they can get something out of us.
c) they use the story, once again, to beat the drum for a hockey stadium/conference centre on Main St.

exhibit 7. Once again (as in again and again and again and again), they have a big ad for the autobiography of ex-Irvingite Ralph Costello. And, more excitement, it gives a list of "fine" merhant locations where it can be purchased - but only until February 4. (However, it is really not necessary to panic. Most store shelves seem to have more than ample copies in stock.)

exhibit 8.  There's a big, big editorial about the importance of government help to re-establish the Enterprise foundry that burned down. But no editorial about how the elderly poor now have to pay up front for dental care - then hope for a refund.

That meams. that many, probably most, of the elderly poor will not be able to get dental care at all. Money spent on them would not only help people who need it, but would also create more jobs across the province than Enterprise did.

But who gives a damn about the elderly poor. Certainly not the editors of the TandT.  In these recession times, their message is clear. We must cut back on unnecessary spending for the poor so we can keep up our unnecessary spending for the rich.

exhibit 9. The op ed page has its usual, pointless story by a staff writer, followed by the usual, pointless comments on life in the US contributed by Allen Abel.

In short, in this whole paper, there is virtually nothing of any importance or even relevance to read about. But I began by asking whether the editors of The Moncton Times and Transcript are incompetent or careless. In fact, they are neither.

The Irving newspapers are designed to keep people in ignorance of what is going on, fill them up with trivia until it trickles out of their mouths, all of it  in loaded language to give the most favourable impression possible of our masters. The purpose is to ensure we never think of how we are manipulated and cheated, indeed that we never think of anything.

That takes a certain kind of editorial skill. It takes a certain kind of editor, one who knows who the boss is, and exactly what the boss wants. Aren't we lucky?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jan. 21: let's be nice today...

Let's not talk about the rather important stories that the TandT didn't notice. We won't talk about their recent report of Harper announcing his crushing fear of an Iranian nuclear bomb - and how the TandT  (and Harper, I guess) - did not notice the Jan. 19 story in the Christian Science Monitor which quotes the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli Defense Minister Barak, and an Israeli intelligence report to the US military as saying that Iran is NOT developing a nuclear bomb.

But, gee, I would think that might be a pretty important story considering Harper is hyping us up for a war on Iran.

Nor has the TandT reported a recent BBC story that, contrary to international law and to the terms of the Libya operation, British forces were on the ground in the recent Libya war, actively on the side of the rebels. But, then, they also never reported the even older story that American troops were illegally on the ground in Libya, too. That looks like the war of the future. We declare its a humanitarian operation, stir up a smattering of rebels, then fight without saying we were ever there. It's not a world without war. It's something more sophisticated - a war without war.

And it would be like shooting fish in a barrel to comment on its p. 2 story that Enbridge Gas (as in shale gas) is mad at the NB government for changing the terms of its pricing. Among other gaps, the story doesn't mention that J. Irving (also rumoured to be interested in shale gas) has publicly spoken in approval of giving enbridge the shaft.

Personally, I just can't get excited about Enbridge and Irving having a fight. As Pogo put it many years ago, "I've often seen two dogs fighting over a bone. But I've never known the bone to pick sides."

No. Let's pick the most reliable section of the paper, the teen' columns in Whatever. Start with Isabelle Agnew for a column this week  that should be read by every news editor in the country.

It's a story about a teacher who declared that for one day blue-eyed children were superior to brown-eyed ones in intelligence, in social standing, everything. Accordingly, they got special privileges while brown-eyed ones suffered penalties. The next day, it was reversed with the brown-eyes a superior race.

There were two interesting results. The children who were declared to be superior actually believed it, while the other side actually believed in its inferiority. The other result is that the superior "race" of the day did better on exams - a situation that was reversed when it became the inferior "race".

That's not just a cute game. That's the way the human mind works; and that  way of working affects us all of our lives.Those who are born into wealth and social status just naturally assume that they deserve their wealth and status because of their obvious superiority to those who are poor. It's a quite natural assumption, just as a prince grows up to believe he is superior to common people.

That "racist" outlook makes the prosperous more likely to do well in school; and to have higher expectations of themselves both in education and in careers. Where I grew up, the highest expectation of us kids and our parents was that we would grow up to have steady jobs. My first job was as a mail boy at Bell Telephone. At seventeen, I  had achieved my life ambition. I was a neighbourhood success story.

Among middle class kids, it was more common to expect - no, to be entitled to - a Bachelor's degree before going to work. And so they did. Higher up on the social scale, the entitlement was to be a lawyer or a doctor, a professional of some sort.

Among the wealthiest "race" (and I came to know a great many of them), they were entitled not only to continued wealth but to assume leadership of the lesser breeds (us). It is a reponsibility and a right that they, like the old aristocracy, were born to.

That takes us to the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies and its school ratings. Financed to church out propaganda for our "superior race", it tests all students in the province each year in order to gather statistics that then rank the schools according to their students' grades.

Well, schools with large numbers of poor children will do poorly. Schools with large numbers of students who are well off will do much better. Statistics like that don't tell us anything about the schools. All they tell us is about the social environment the chldren are growing up in.

In fact, school rankings make the situation worse. When a school is ranked low, then it is officially "blue-eyed" or "brown-eyed", or whatever the inferior colour of the day is. So that almost guarantees it will continue to do worse.

The real purpose of rankings by AIMS is to lower public faith in the schools so that the rich can create one more Public/Private/Partnership in the so that they can put our tax money into   their pockets. Well, after all, the very rich are entitled.... They're the superior race - every day.

The same thing is true of the MacLean's university rankings. It's all statistical. So it is no coincidence that there is a strong relationship between the "best" universities and the average income of the students (or their mummies and daddies).

The universities, never strong on integrity or on understanding of education, have played along with this scam, each struggling to get a nod from the great minds at Maclean's so it can draw more students. The result is that they are educational disaster areas, each divided from the others according to its "racial" standing.

But you have to read the teens' section of the newspaper to get a hint of what's really going on.

Of course, it can be difficult to cope with such a section. A seventeen-year-old who's as knowedgable as Aurelie Parie scares me. Her ideas of diet and and exercise just rub it in that spending my life in a hot tub while eating poutine was a mistake; and I know it's too late now. Now, I'll never be beautiful. Well, not again.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Jan. 20: Moncton: The City that exists to get ripped off...

Today's editorial in The Moncton Times and Transcript brought a tear to my eye. A highly successful developer (land, stadia, hockey teams, hotels) is rumoured to have bought land around the Crown Plaza Hotel (which he already owns). That, says the editorial writer, is admirable. It shows confidence in the people of Moncton and in the City Council which has been working to build a hockey rink/convention/centre/entertaintment palace in the same area. Very admirable.Lots of character. That's the part that brought the tear to me eye.

It brought to mind a childhood friend who had a similar goal in life. He wanted to show confidence in the banks of Montreal. So he worked hard, studied hard to become an armed bank robber, with each sortie building confidence among Montrealers that there was, indeed, money in their banks.

(Alas! He strayed from his charitable work to deal in drugs as well.As a result, he is now spending the rest of his life in a big, stone and steel hockey rink near Montreal. But I digress.)

As a Monctonian, I am indeed proud that the developer, Aquilini Investment Group, is showing faith that there is money to be made in Moncton - just as my friend devoted his life to showing faith in the banks. But---

The whole basis of this plan is that we are going to put up the money to build the essential hockey stadium/convention centre/ emtertainment palace/whatever. Estimates of the cost to us tax-payers and rate-payers have ranged from a low of sixty million dollars to somewhere north of two hundred million dollars.

From that vague starting point, The Moncton Times and Transcript has led parade for us taking on an enormous debt (at a time when the province is cutting its never-very-impressive services for ordinary people) to deal with an already overwhelming debt.

To that vague start of mumbling about millions, the Tand T and City Council have added nothing whatever about economic benefits. Who will get the profits of this investment? Some ushers will get jobs, sure. A few restaurants will. Some bellhops and cleaners at the Crown Plaza. But where, precisely, will the big profits go? How much of them will even stay in the province?

And that's not even considering the impact of a world recession that shows every sign of getting worse, and perhaps lasting for a very long time.

And what will we cut to make it possible to pay back anywhere from 60 to200 plus millions of dollars? Will we cut back on housing? Education? Medical care? So that those who can afford it can watch hockey in a new stadium?

Remember how this started. It was all about a hockey stadium. Just a hockey stadium. But it was so obvious that the only person to benefit from a new hockey stadium was the owner of the hockey team, that it was morphed into a hockey stadium/convention centre. Then, somebody noticed that the world has no shortage of convention centres, some of them in cities even more exciting than Moncton. So It is now a hockey stadium/convention centre/entertainment palace - with more, no doubt to follow.

The has been pushed hard by city council and by The TandT - in the face of no noticeable enthusiasm from the general public. It is being done with no information about costs, projected profits, or who would benefit from those projects. It is being done with no sense of what the priorities of government at any level should be. This is not just amateurisn. It smells bad.

I would not dream of accusing City Council or the TandT of having been corrupted. They may well just be stupid and incompetent. But it still smells bad.

As well as I understand capitalism, the theory is that investors raise and risk their own money. The whole justification for them in making big money is that they have taken risks to get it. The theory is also that investors compete with each other. The defining works on capitalism say nothing about government help in the form of grants,gifts. tax exemptions, "private/public" partnerships, - or using newspapers for propaganda.

We don't have capitalism. What we have is a  welfare state for corporations. It has gone so far that corporations are openly involved in the business of government - providing most of the financing for politicians who promise to be good, controlling our access to news about our own governments. Even, as in New Brunswick, naming their own people to government bodies.

This is not capitalism. Much of what we have is defined in dictionaries as coporatism, a system that is one of the varieties of fascism.

A new hockey stadium at whatever price should rank very low indeed on our list of priorities. And if it is to be built, let those who have become wealthy on our resources and our work, use their own money to build it.

I will believe in their confidence in Moncton's future when I see their money - and only their money - on the table.

In short, if any of the corporate bosses in New Brunswick think a  hockey rink/whatever is a sound investment, let that corporate boss use his own money. Meanwhile, I suggest editors of The TandT read a few books about what capitalism is and what democracy is.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jan.19: A use for editorials....

Editorials were never a good idea to start with. Fault one is that the editorial pretends to speak for the whole newspaper. It can't, of course. In the first place, newspapers can't have an opinion. They are bundles of paper. Bundles of paper can't have opinions. Only people can have opinions.

In the second place, they can't possibly represent the opinion of all or even most of the people at a newspaper. Nobody even asks them what they think. Even on a good newspaper, the editorial tone is decided by a small group of editors, of whom few are qualified to offer useful opinions on the whole range of subjects covered by editorials.

Finally, editorials are normally not signed. We have no idea who is expressing the opinion of the day, or what his or her qualifications might be to speak on the subject. Editors are, or should be, experts on what should appear in a paper, where it should appear, and how it should be presented. That's it. Few of them have any qualification to take about anything else.

It's long been my suspicion that most people don't read editorials. And that shows that most people have good sense. Take today's editorial in The Moncton Times and Transcript. Essentially, it argues that the new Moncton High School should be wherever a developer wants it to be. In other words, let's forget the whole idea of city planning for the future. Let the developers decide to build 1950's suburban style streets of bungalows, wasteful of space and resources, and heavily dependent on the autmobile being the standard form of transportation for generations to come.

And we'll pick up the tab for the services and the school that will help the developers sell their houses just as the world slides deeper into a recession. What the hell. The build the houses. They sell them. They're gone. What do they care what happens next?

In other words, this is an editorial for the developers, and utterly without regard for the needs of Moncton. That's a common problem. Editorials, for all their posturing, are commonly propaganda for influential people. Should we just scrap them?

Perhaps -but there may be a use for them.

In every day's news there are reports of, for example, outright lies by people who are quoted. We print them because it's the job of a paper to print exactly what some people say. But in doing so, we are not publishing information. We are publishing disinformation.

For example, at the bottom of page C 1, the headline is "Iran, West at odds over new nuclear talks". The British government has never been much interested in talks, so the British foreign minister dismissed the Iranian request, saying that Iran was not serious. "It is significant", he said, "that when we discussing additional sanctions in the European Union an offer of negotiations emerges from Iran." The meaning of that is clear. Iran is not serious about talks.

In fact, the British foreign minister is lying - and he knows it - and any news editor should know it. Iran was requesting talks years before sanctions were even mentioned. In fact, the West has no interest in talks. Nor does it give a damn about whether Iran gets a nuclear bomb. The issue is western ownership and control of Iranian oil. That's been the issue for sixty years now, ever since Britain, France and the US overthrew the elected government of Iran to install a dictator.

The British foreign minister's statement is a lie. But he said it. The news is what he says. It's not true. But it's what he says that has to be reported. In the same way, much of the news we get from the news media is really lies and propaganda. It's not the fault of the reporters. (Well, sometimes it is.) But the net result is a false impression.

How about an editorial that dealt with lies in the day's news? That could be something worth reading.

There is also news that is unbalanced. At the top of the same page, NB Finance Minister Higgs talks about the looming budget as part of his "listening to the people". In his statements, as in almost all official statements about the financial crisis and the need to balance budgets, the whole burden of balancing is put on the backs of the poor and the middle class. Never once has Higgs even mentioned that the very wealthy and corporations have a share to carry, too. Read today's item at the top of p. 1 for a sample.

In his tour, Mr. Higgs has given no indication of how much of our debt is due to selling cheap power to corporations, to not enforcing regulations and sometimes not even legislating any, to tax breaks, to grants, to the high costs of public/private "partnerships".

How much does it cost us to support the Irvings and the Ganongs and the McCains in the style they feel entitled to? We haven't the faintest idea. But Mr. Higgs tells us exactly what it costs us for medecines for the elderly and poor. All of Mr. Higgs' attention is on spending for the poor and middle class - as if it was they who caused the recession; and so they, whose lavish use of medecine just for the fun of it, has to be attacked.

He tells us the exact average of sick days and holidays for civil service employees. There are no similar figures for corporation execs.

Editorial columns that dealt with samples of unbalanced and manipulated news  could be very popular and useful reading.

And occasionally, the editorial could draw attention to examples of balanced reporting. There's a sample of that, too, on page C1. "Banks to hike service fees." It's a story about increases in service fees coming at a time when banks are already enjoying record profits. It's a story that gives us all the dots we need to connect for an understanding of what a rip-off is being done.

Ooh -beware of hidden stories. These are tucked into back pages, or less-read sections of the paper - when they really should be page one. An example was a story which the New York Times hid on p. E9. It was the story of President Clinton apologizing for the US directed slaughter of a quarter million Mayan native people in Guatemala. I really kinda thought that was a page oner.

Today's hidden story in the Moncton times and Transcript is on the Your Business page, a page that is less read than, say, Miss Manners,  Hollywood birthdays or the comics. But it's surely rather big news in a province torn by the shale gas controversy.

Angie Leonard, who was a key figure in preparing shale gas regulations has quit. She has gone to work for an oil industry lobby group - that is, a group that does propaganda and sometimes nastier things for the oil industry.

She is the sister of another key figure in the New Brunswick shale gas saga - Energy Minister Craig Leonard.

Gee. I dunno. But I think that might be of interest to a great many readers - even those who only look at p. 1, then flip to Hocus-Focus.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jan.18: No news continues.

There was really only one story worth reading today.  The Common Front for Social Justice has told the finance minister he should not reduce the debt by cutting off services to the poor. He should do it by raising taxes paid (or, rather, not paid) by the upper middle class and by corporations. The request is actually quite modest. (It's for only thirteen percent for corporations ), which is probably less than the corporations collect in government welfare.

Twenty percent would be far more realistic - especially given all the exemptions that corporations can claim. It's a good idea. But even 13% is not going to happen. The Finance Minister knows quite well who he represents -and it's not the poor or the middle class. (But he'll listen. What a thrill! listening is so much easier than telling Mr. Irving to pay a little bit of his way.)

Front page also had a story about the location of the new Moncton High. It's pretty much the same story it had yesterday on that subject. I guess they felt some readers just can't get enough of a good thing. There's also an editrorial saying pretty much the same as the story.

There's also yet another story about how the closing of Highfield Square is an 'opportunity'. Again, it's essentially, more than essentially, the same story they ran yesterday. That is, it's not a story. It's a plug for borrowing a couple of hundred million by this over-its-head-in-debt province at a time when world economies are in collapse. Weneed it. For a hockey rink. Worse, even in good times, this spending of public money would bring most of its benefit to private hotel chains, hockey team owners,etc.

Funny how corporations and the very wealthy who are forever raging about big government and taxes and who hate welfare suddently become all keen when it's big government and taxes handing out welfare to them.

Good newspapers don't repeat the same stories day after day. And good newspapers don't use news to propagandize its readers into  wasting money.

And good newspapers don't waste space on stories that have no relevance at all to their readers. Page one begins a major story that is really an ad for the skating championships. The head blurb on the story is that hotel rooms are still avaliable for those wish to attend the event. Think about that.

Are we people in Moncton being advised to rush to one of the hotels to get a room? Surely not.  Surely the pitch for hotel rooms in Moncton is aimed at people who live some distance from Moncton.

So why write such a story when almost all the readers will be people who live here, and don't need a  hotel room? Do they think there are New Yorkers who browse the The Moncton Times and Transcript to see what's going on in the hub of the world?

That story illustrates the thoughtlessness with which the TandT is put together.  The editors routinely run stories about nothing, repeat stories without any new information, and daily select two or three international stories which appear to be chosen simply at random. And it wastes most of its  op ed pages, on childish, little stories by staff writers.

This is a paper run by people who just don't care what the news is. So long as they  have a near monopoly, they can sell ads. All they have to make sure that nothing that is critical of anything the Irvings and friends want is ever reported. Once that's done, they feel free to run anything that's trivial and cheap.

Keep 'em in ignorance. That's the motto of The Moncton Times and Transcript.

Oh, don't ever exoect to know the whole story about the Halifax sailor arrested for espionage. He might have been working for the Russians. The Russians do have an interest in our northern waters. But the US, too, has a long record of refusing to recognize Canada's claim to the Arctic. And many other countries like China and Japan and Britain and Norway are deeply interested in a region that is becoming navigable.

The not so subtle hints are that the Cnadian was tipping off Russia. Maybe. But there are no friends between nations, not when big money or strategic advantage is involved. It's quite common that the paid informant himself doesn't know who he's working for.  After all, your average spy does not walk up to a potential traitor to say, "Hello. My name Boris. I am spy for Russia. You haf plans to sell?"

Nor is it likely that Harper would be enthusiastic about letting the word out if Britain or the US or some other "friend" were involved.

We'll probably never know the whole story.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jan. 17: The no-news snooze

Again, there's little to say about The Moncton Times and Transcript because so little is in it. There's the usual ad disguised as news about a new act at the casino. There's a good deal of space devoted to a story about the choice of a new location for Moncton High School. Indeed, the real story is that we are even discussing the proposed location. The 1950's are over. The very idea that we should discuss whether we should be building a new school in a remote and undeveloped area of bungalows, each with a big lawn and a hedge, suggests that the City of Moncton still has no plan for the future development of the city. And, if   the city does have a plan, it has no sense of what the future will be like. The day of the auto-based suburb is over.

The relocation of MHS appears to be a short term, money-making scheme being promoted by a developer. It's a plan that is half a cenutry out of date. We need a newspaper that would offer us some serious ideas of what the future will be like, and what kind of a Moncton we need to meet it.

And, no, I don't mean public consultation. "Listening to the people" sounds good to NB politicians since it's a cute PR stunt to make us think the government really cares what our opinions are.  But, at best, it's like consulting a random group of amateurs for the kind of insight that can be gained only from professionals."Listening to the people" is not democracy. The listening part happens on election day. Once, the people have spoken, it's up to the winning party to carry out policies based on the principles it campaigned for. And it consults experts on how to do that.

Running for election on no principles at all, and then using cute PR like "listening to people" has nothing to do with democracy. Look back. It has produced one government after another that has simply been a mouthpiece for large corporations.

A related big story is the death of Highfield Square. Gee. They noticed. It's about time.Higihfield Square has been a corpse for years. Still, it somehow escaped the notice of Moncton City Council in its plans for the future. The result is that the fate of Highfield Square is likely to be left to developers who will be looking for a quick profit and, almost certainly, public favours to help out with the costs.

The lead editorial delicately hints at that possibility, though without mentioning how rate-payers and tax-payers will get stuck with the bill for hundreds of millions of dollars.  And this for a project whose greatest beneficiaries will be a hockey team owner and a handful of hotels.

Staff writer Alan Cochrane, ono the op ed page, picks up the theme the editor didn't finish. Why, this is the perfect opportunity for the hockey arena/convention centre to be built with borrowed public money in order to serve private money. Cochrane even gushes that it has an ideal location.

Really? If it has an ideal location, how come it's been running at a loss for years?  And exactly how would this fit into the city plan for development even if the city had one?

Anonymous has a comment below yesterday's blog in which he says that he checked the google sources on the story about Obama sending troops to Libya. He looked only at the first one, saw that it was a right wing, conspiracy-mad site - and decided to give the whole story a miss.

Well, that's not a good idea.

There isn't just one site carrying the story. There are thousands of them - and not all of them are right-wing fanatics. In any case, the sources themselves have a source. There is a report of such a move of troops from a real person. And that person is not right wing.

She is a former Democrat congresswoman with what passes in the US for left-wing credentials. She then became national leader of the Greens. As well, she has long been critical of US policy toward Africa, and has been in a better position than most of us to get information about it.

Okay. Maybe she's a left-wing conspiracy nutbar. There's still good reason to consider she might be right.

The US regards control of Africa as essential. In particular, it wants to shut out China because Africa is a rich source of loot in the form of oil and other natural resources. The West has been looting Africa for over a century. The cost in poverty and human life has been enormous. Little Belgium, all by itself, was responsible for millions of deaths. The US is now actively at war (undeclared and under-reported) with at least two African countries.  It has also had a heavy hand in recent regime changes.

The story, for the press, is that the US is intervening for humane reasons and to spread democracy. (I won't waste time arguing what utter nonsense that is.) As well, they also had ground troops in Libya during the rebellion (as did the Brits); and Libya has recently seen a falling apart among the rebels, as well as signs of support for the Ghadaffi side.

I don't claim the report of troops is true. But I would suggest that if you connect all the dots, it seems plausible. Looking for a "reliable" source sounds nice. But there is no fully reliable source, never has been. You have to connect the dots.

And you can't connect them if you have only one dot.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jan. 16: Fighting the blands....

I'm late in writing today. The problem I'm having is that today's Moncton Times and Transcript was almost entirely frivolous and pointless. It wasn't just the usual mix of ads and misinformation disguised as news stories. It was supremely tedious, irrelevant and boring. I really could think of nothing to say about a newspaper so amateurish and newsless.

The one expection to its dreariness - and a brilliant exception - is the column by Alec Bruce on the "Davos" men. Read it. It's important not just for its anlysis of how we are manipulated but for its preception of how our world works.

I am having trouble with my own comments section. I publish all comments I receive (with the exception of a few that are simply personal abuse). But, lately, I can't answer them. For the last several days, the whole page simply disappears when I try to respond. And there were two comments today that require a response.

A Moncton resident (whom I have met) name Downe wrote to point out I made an error in my comment on the Code of Silence award. I was wrong to say it was a recent story. In fact, it was quite old.

Mr. Downe is quite right. I was wrong. He was right. But he will burn in hell. It's not nice to correct old people.

Anonymous writes that he cannot find a reliable source for the story I mentioned about the US assembling troops in Malta to be sent to Libya.

I didn't say I had a reliable source. I said there were many reports of such a movement. In fact, if you google American troops Malta Libya, you will find thousands of them. It's possible they are all unreliable. But, since there is nothing in the TandT to talk about, let's think over this business of sources.

I used to think I knew what reliable sources were. I learned that I don't.

An American soldier in his early twenties has been held in a military prison in the US for over a year. In that time, he has been tortured with solitary confinement and sleep deprivation. That is in violation of international law. But UN observers have never been permitted to see him. At last, after a year of torture, he has been formally charged and put on trial. This has all been going on for over a year. But it rare to find any mention of it in "reliable" sources.

The story of torture on a grand scale in Afghanistan broke - but not in a "reliable" source. It broke with a video on Youtube. When Lt. William Calley led his men on a slaughter of hundreds of villagers from babies to the elderly in Vietnam, nothing appeared in the "reliable" sources for weeks - though all had the information. When the CIA engineered the genocide of a quarter million  Maya in Guatemala, no media in all of North American mentioned it. When Clinton publicly admitted it and apologized, one of the very few to carry the story was the New York Times  (but hidden on p. E9).

And few would accept the reality if they did tell the truth. The news media (most of them) have revealed that US military autthorities now have the power to arrest and imprison indefiniitely any American citizen with no charge and no trial. This single move wiped out centuries of the development of human rights and democracy. England was a freer country under the evil King John than the US is today.

It doesn't matter. The news doesn't make a dent on us humans. We still, with straight faces, talk of America the land of the free, and of how the US is dedicated to bringing democracy to the world.

We have all known for years that the very rich have been taking a bigger and bigger share of the world's wealth - and that they have made it worse by dumping most of the tax load on the rest of us. We know the very rich buy politicians, whole political parties, and elections. We can read daily of incidents in which our governments have been corrupted. It doesn't take any great brain to figure out just from the little that is published that this is why world economies are in collapse.

It doesn't matter. The New Brunswickers who voted Liberal, then got mad and voted Conservative, will get mad at the Conservatives next time and vote Liberal.

The finance minister will consult New Brunswickers on the provincial budget. We all know it doesn't matter a damn what we say about it. The budget will be set to please the Irvings and Ganongs, etc. as it always has been. Nor does it matter a damn what we think about shale gas. Neither the government nor the Irving news media will do anything about it. And most of the public will just sit there with their faces hanging out.

Tbe US lied about its reasons for the war in Vietnam. It lied about its reason for invading Iraq. It lied about the invasion of Afghanistan. It lied about the extent of its involvement in Libya. It's lying now about its motives for intervening in Syria. (And does anyone who knows the death toll of civilians in Vietnam, Guatemala, Cambodia, Iraq,etc.really believe we cared whether Col.Ghadaffi was a  brutal ruler? Don't people know that Saudi Arabia, a leading critic of Syria, used its troops to kill rebels in the ermirates?) You know know something strange is happening when the king of Saudi Arabia, perhaps the most absolute dictator in the world, is joining a campaign for `democracy`in Syria.

Us humans develop our views of the world very early. The fundamental view is that WE are good. THEY are bad. A Moslem who kills is a terrorist. A western Christian who kills is a freedom fighter. And our news media are full of words that few people understand. But it doesn`t matter that so few understand them. the real meaning of them doesn`t matter. All that matters is the emotional meaning,the gut reaction to words like conservative, liberal, left, right, terrorist, extremist.

The reality is that we are living in a world not of saints and devils, but of people, just people. And it`s a world that greed and power and lies and illusions have driven wildly out of balance.

News media are operated by people. Like all us people, reporters and editors are driven by self-interest, by manipulation, by misconceptions of the what the world is like....

In short, sources are less important that one might think. Most sources are faulty. Some are more worth paying attention to than others. Some are outright liars and manipulators. Some at least try to be honest.  Some very small and unprofessional sources have been known to be right when even the big ones, like the New York Times were either wrong or silent.

We cannot learn about current events by looking for good sources. We have, first, to develop a realistic view of how humans behave. If we don`t, we simply will not recognize the truth even when we see it - as, for example, most people have not realized the truth of what it means when the American army can arrest citizens and imprison them indefinitely with no charge or trial.

Once we rid ourselves of the silliness that human behaviour is all about good and evil, once we realize we are talking about humans on all sides, then we can make intelligent decisions about when sources are reliable and when they are not.

(For those surviving Christians who believe the world IS made up of saints and devils, I suggest they read The Bible more closely -starting with the bits about forgiverness and loving your neighbour.)

Sorry there was nothing to say about The Moncton Times and Transcript. There was Alec Bruce at his best. But, oh, the rest was painful.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jan. 14: Nuthin' to worry about, folks. Just keep moving.

Quite a number of news agencies have reported the US is moving 12,000 troops to Libya. You remember Libya. That's the place where we just dropped tens of thousands of tons of bombs on cities - for humanitarian reasons - and we hurt so few that NATO has never thought it worth while to say how many civilians got killed - for humanitarian reasons.

Anyway, it turned out happy. The good guys won; and Libya is now a democracy. So how come the US is sending in 12,000 troops? Could it have something to do with the fact that the rebels are now fighting each other? Keep moving folks, nothing to look at.

News around the world is the video of four American marines in Afghanistan, urinating on the bodies of some men they had just killed. There are dozens of copies of it on Youtube. But not a mention in the Moncton Times and Transcript. Just keep moving, folks. Nothing to see.

The level of political discussion in the US is now so low that the contest for Republican leader has become an international embarassment. In a recent development, candidate Newt Gingrich has launched a major attack on Mitt Romney. Romney, says the Newt, is unworthy to be party leader or president because - he can speak French! (No. I did not make that up.)

It's pretty frightening to see these levels of hysteria and ignorance in a country as important to us as the US.  But, there, there, just read the TandT, and you won't be worried at all.

The only story of trouble in the world is a Reuters report that Obama is being forced to get tough with Iran. He has tried so hard for peace all these years. But the Iranians are just impossible. And, gee, if they get a nuclear bomb, that would be the greatest threat to world peace ever. Well, that's according to Reuters... But if anyone at the TandT had a brain at all, that person would know -
1. The western powers have for over a dozen years been spreading the story that Iran is within months of developing a nuclear bomb. This long ago became the longest pregnancy in history.
2. Iran (Persia) has not attacked anybody in over two centuries. Its last war was fighting off an invasion by Saddam Hussein - who was urged on and supplied by the US and at least two NATO powers.
3. Even when smaller countries try to develop such a bomb, it isn't for attack. Any small country with a bomb or even ten knows that it would be wiped out if it made any such attack. They want a bomb to keep the big powers from invading them- as NATO is planning to do with Iran. Ever notice how the west has avoided attacking North Korea? Even Kim Jong was never crazy enough to launch an attack. But he knew the value of having a retaliatory threat against big powers.
4. Quite apart from the thousand or so nuclear missiles that the US could easily spare for Iran, Israel has another 200.
5. The planned attack on Iran has nothing to do with a nuclear threat. It has to do who gets to control the world's oil supply. The problem is that a western attack on Iran could well trigger a general war in the middle east - and that could well trigger a world war.
But not to worry. The image that the TandT peddles is of reasonable, moderate Obama who goes to war only when he really, really has to. That's good PR.
When the rest of the world thnks of Obama, the image it sees is of four marines urinating on men they have just killed. That's bad PR.
Don't look at the bad PR, folks. Keep moving.

The big story of the day is on page three. New Brunswickers can now get 'a world-class product with rich content'. Yes. For just two dollars a month you can get all New Brunswick papers on the web, and all of them just as good as The Moncton Times and Transcript. Hurry, hurry, folks. Line up here to read everything that Mr. Irving wants you to read.

As usual, the columns by teens in the Whatever section are worth a read. Unlike most of the TandT, they are not about selling anything, or writing about nothing, or spreading propaganda. They are the honest expressions of people developing insights and sharing their development with us.

My advice to Isabelle Agnew is not to worry about the twits who object to her disapproval of 'Merry Christmas'; and who find her disapproval anti-Christian. I disapprove of the expression Merry Xmas because I AM a Christian. The ones who delight in saying Merry Christmas are much the same ones to discriminate against gays, who pray to God to help us kill people who interfere with our oil supply, and who think it's more important to build ships to fight American wars than to provide medical care.

People like that, who claim to be Christian, are hypocrites. Charles Dickens, who was a devout Christian, couldn't stand them. Ever notice there are no clergymen and no church services in A Christmas Carol?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Jan. 13: The making of an editorial writer...

I remember the day well. I was twelve years old, just back to the city from scout camp, walking down St. Gerard St, when I came to a crossing. I looked to the left. I looked to the right. And I felt a glow of pride, even arrogance.

There was no traffic. But as looked left I could see, for the first time, I think, my left shoulder. And as I looked to the right, I saw my right shoulder. I smiled, stood straight, sucked in my stomach. I was a man. I had shoulders. The summer at scout camp must have done it.

Journalists go through a similar experience. The basic social rule of journalism is the importance of knowing everything about - everything. Since few beginning journalist know much about anything, the easy way out is to pretend not to believe anything coming from anybody. (Believing exposes you to the danger of being suckered.) Some journalists can build a whole career on not believing anything - and not knowing anything.

But there comes that magic day, for some, when they make the leap from being cynical to being cynical AND believing they know everything. I saw my left shoulder, and that day I became a man. A journalist convinces himself he knows everything, and in that day he becomes an editorial writer.

The Moncton Times and Tribune has an example of this almost every day. Today, there is a pompous (sorry, thundering) editorial on school reform and French immersion. As a former teacher, I realized immediately this was a writer who had not the faintest idea what he was talking about - a person who probably had never taught and had no training whatever in education. It happens every day on editorial pages around the world as young young journalists peck through their shells to become editorial writers.

Actually, there were two, news stories, real ones, that had the makings of a good editorial. In one, Harper announced the Second Coming with the new shipbuilding contract it has given to Irving. It will bring back the great age of shipbuilding in the Maritimes.

(No, it won't. Cheap labour countries will still beat us out in building commercial vessels - unless Irving breaks all the unions and pays only starvation wages - a possibility I wouldn't ignore.) In any case, much of the 30 billion dollars of our money will go in profits to Irving, tax breaks, deals, and equipment to make Irving even richer in future. This is one hell of wasteful way to create jobs.

One might also wonder why we are spending so lavishly on our navy. For the answer, read Gwynne Dyer's column. 1.We're doing it because politicians can get rewards big time by giving lush contracts to the defence industry. 2. We're doing it so we can supply cannon fodder for the wars the Americans have been losing for the past fifty years - and which benefit only American resource companies.

The other story is that Harper is dumping 25 billion dollars of the cost of medicare onto the provinces. Gee. You'd think an editor reading that would be able to add two and two.

With one hand, Harper has spent 30 billion to make rich people richer, and to fight wars that have nothing to do with Canada. With the other hand, he makes up for this wasteful spending by encouraging the demolition of medicare. And that, in a nutshell, is the general policy of this Canadian government.

For once, I'm going to disagree in part with Alec Bruce's column. It's on the commemoration the War of 1812. Harper has expensive plans for this. It's his usual style - may a big noise and rouse sentimental enthusiasm (at a cost of 30 million), and using that a cover for damage he intends to do to the country.

I can speak with some feeling in insight on this boondoggle because 1. I am a retired historian of Canada who 2. also taught military history, including a course on the War of 1812. As well, I was invited to Ottawa to sit on the advisory board for the commemoration - and was so disgusted by the plans that I heard that I wrote to the minister that I wanted nothing more to do with it, and to demand that my name not be used in any connection with it. (I shall publish his reply if I ever get one.)

Generally, I agree with what Alec Bruce says about it. However, Canadians did play a major, military role in that war. The British maintained a large fleet on the Great Lakes, and drew heavily on the Atlantic colonies for crews. As well, many an colonial merchant converted his ships to privateers; and many a fortune, especially in Nova Scotia, was found on their looting.

Canadians also figured prominently in the land war. The troops that marched from Fredericton to Montreal in mid-winter bore the name of a British regiment. But many of the soldiers were maritimers.

A Quebec colonel named de Salaberry fought quite brilliantly as leader of a Quebec French regiment, at one point defeating an American army that far outnumbered his. Ontarians were also prominent, sometimes in British regiments, sometimes in what were called 'fencibles', regiments formed to fight within their own territory (that is, not required to cross national borders. Many American regiments were organized in the same way.)

Finally, native peoples played a major role in battle and in reconnaisance. The Americans were so terrified of Canadian native peoples that General Brock frightened the commander of Detroit into surrendering simply by saying he had native war parties with him.

However, I quite agree that Harper's celebration of the war is an expensive piece of shoddy sentimentalism. It's designed to cover some of the even more shoddy measures he has in mind.

Finally, a sad note. Highfield Square, like so much of downtown, has for years been a reminder of the impossibility of combining cars, downtown, and people. (A lesson we may have to learn all over again if we're foolish enough to build a new hockey arena.)

For years, the shopping halls of the Square have been places to go when you want to be alone. Now, the last major store, The Bay, is closing shop. But I have the solution.

Give Highfield Square to Jim Irving. He will demand (and get) grants, subsidies, tax breaks and interest-free loans to re-open all the shops. Nobody will return to shop there, of course. But it wouldn't matter. Irving could make a profit just on the grants, subsidies, tax breaks and interest-free loans.

You think it won't work? I don't see why not. It's exactly the same thinking that lies behind the proposal for a hockey arena/convention centre.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jan. 12: addendum to the day's blog.

1. I forget to mention a local boosterism item that the Moncton TandT seems not to have heard of. that's odd. The TandT usually remembers to print long stories about Moncton or the New Brunswick itself becoming famous - you know, for opening a snack bar, whatever. But here's a story that will make the name of New Brunswick echo across Canada. And the TandT missed it.

A New Brunswick institution has been named a top contender for a journalism prize of the year in Canada. Yes.

every year, The Canadian Association of Journalists selects some group for it Code of Silence Award, a prize for the leading organization or person with withholding what should be public information. Now, this year, the nod will probably go to early favorite Stephen Harper. But a New Brunswick institution is right up there.

It's the New Brunswick Liquor authority - something about financial funniness about the departure of the director and the special treatment he received.

Funny that our journalists wouldn't know about that. Maybe they aren't accepted for membership in the CAJ.

2. A reader named Ann recently sent in a comment which I published for, I think, the Nov. 11 blog. I tried to reply to it; but my computer just goes blank. Anyway - she asks why I don't take on the big papers like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Globe and Mail.  She also asks why I moved here if I don't like it. Why didn't I stay in a big city like Montreal?

Well - there's nothing hard about taking on the New York Times, etc. In fact, I have often done so in journalist chat groups. The big North American papers are much overrated for honesty and objectivity. The Globe and Mail is a partiularly easy target.

However, I am writing for readers who have easy access only to the Irving newspapers of New Brunswick - espcially for local and provincial news. You write for  your audience. They have a right to have access to an alternate opinion. that's a right I try to meet.

Why did I come here? Because I like it. I've lived in a big city all my life, thank you. I prefer Moncton. I dislike the power of big corporations and I despise the politics, of course. But I would feel the same way about any part of North America.o