Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 31: Read page D 5....

My heart sank when I saw the headline "Reuben Cohen speaks out on Moncton High".  Usually, newspapers like The Moncton Times and Transcript use that "speaking out" headline to lead into some hack who is more shooting off his mouth that speaking out.

But I almost burst into cheers when I read Mr. Cohen's letter. The TandT deserves credit for publishing it. Mr. Cohen deserves respect for writing it. I'll say no more about it because you must read this one for yourselves. This is a letter with insight, passion, compassion, a moral sense, and all done in superb style.

It's also worth reading Gwynne Dyer for some common sense on the shootings of Jews as well two Moslems and a Christian, the latter three in the French army, by a French Moslem - and the eerily similar shootings of seventeen civilians, inclding children by an Anerican seargent in Afghanistan.

Interestingly, the North American news media treat these very similar incidents in quite different ways. The reacton to the killings by the moslem in France is that this proves all Moslems are terrorists. The reaction to Sgt. Bales is that this was an isolated case, had nothing to do with religion, and deserves sympathy for the seargent's mental suffering.

Meanwhile in the news, on page D 1, Reuters is still getting its news on Syria from Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - which is one man who is living in England where he runs a clothing store. He is also deeply committed to the rebel side. Way to earn your money, Reuters! And congratulations to the TandT news editor for---something. There must be something.

As usual, all the student columnsin Whatever are worth a read. In particular, you should not miss the columns by Jana Giles and Isabelle Agnew.

I had some trouble with a letter to the editor by a man named Steeves, who identifies himself as a former journalist. He says that he has observed senators at work, and found them to be sincere, dedicated, etc. etc.

Well, I have seen them at work, too. I have been good friends with a few, notably Romeo Leblanc. I have appeared before Senate committees. Some, like Senator Leblanc, I found to be dedicated and capable people. But they were not the majority. Most were political hacks of neither brains nor integrity. In any case, what they are now has nothing to do with the issue in debate - should they be elected? Even if our apppointed Senators of today were people of wisdom and dedication, that is scarcely any rason to expect that elected ones would be. After all, electing has not done anything for the qualities of our MLAs.

There's nothing else worth reading in the paper. I was, though, stunned at the absence of stories that should have been there. For example:
1. An American law which allows the US army at arrest and imprison American citizens for as long as it likes with no charge or trial is being challenged in the Supreme Court. They would be held in military prisons - which, accordiing to the UN, use torture.
Of course, the Tand T never told us about the law in the first place - so why should they bother with the challenge?
2. With at last 50 million Americans living in poverty, and with millions of children suffering from malnutrition and lack of medical casr, the US house of representatives has approved a bill to destroy what little medicare there is - and to end the issuing of foodstamps.
3. There is no news on Libya. Remember Libya? We killed people there for "humanitarian reasons" and to "bring them democracy". It is now a nation in the chaos of civil wars, plundering and rape, slaughter of Black Africans, vile prisons with torture....There is no democracy in sight - and in reality there never was.
4. Remember the struggle for democracy in Egypt? The army is still in charge - and the US us now sending billions in military aid to keep the army in charge.
5.  Haiti? Remember the earthquake? Since half the aid promised has never been delivered at all, and since the part that was delivered mostly ended up in the pockets of favoured contractors, at least hundreds of thousands of homeless are still  living in tents with no clean water, and with fifty to a hundred people to a toilet.
6. The US department of Homeland Security has ordered 450 million rounds of hollow point bullets. These are illegal in war because they mushroom when they hit, causing a wound so large and with such shock power that death is almost certain. But it's okay. The departments of Homeland Security doesn't get involved in wars - only in keepiing American citizens under control.
7. The Pope has just condemned the fifty year American embargo on Cuba. Not a word in the TandT.
Just imagine now, would the TandT have carried the story if the Pope had said Moncton needs a new hockey arena?
8. George Galloway, who was kicked out of Britain's Labour Party for criticizing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, just creamed the labour party candidate in an election in an English riding that had been held by the Labour Party for decades. He did it under the name of his own party, The Respect Party.
Both Labour and Conservatives were shaken by his win.
So they should be. Watch for a good deal of instability in western politics in the near future. Watch for movements of reform like the Respect Party.  And, I fear, watch for reactions of racism, fear, violence and fascism. We're on the edge.

Friday, March 30, 2012

March 30: Budget..buzz.buzz..no more pennies..buzz--efficiency...buzz..

The news services are doing their usual incoherent job of presenting the news on the federal and provincial budgets. Their "news" is mostly quotations from politicians speaking the their usual buzz words...responsible, effeciency, live-within-means,........ most of which don't mean a damn thing.

In fact, the cuttings, firings, government attacks and protest resignations have been going on ever since Harper became P.M. Funny how most of our news services have missed them.  He's a partial list....
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Stephen Harper’s hit list, organizations whose funding has been cut or ended

Filed under: Conservative Party, Stephen Harper, Elections, Human Rights — admin at 9:29 pm on Friday, March 25, 2011
The Conservative government, or the Harper government as it insists upon being called, has either fallen or engineered its own defeat and the election is upon us. This is perhaps a good time to take stock of who the Harperites have spent their time attacking in the past several years. (They have also lavished favour on their own, appointing them to be judges, to the Immigration Review Board, the CRTC or other federal agencies). The list of organizations that have been shut down and cut back, and the individuals bullied, is a long one and we can expect it to grow if, as seems likely, the Conservatives are reelected. I have written extensively about some of these actions, including the government’s attack on the ecumenical group KAIROS and the shameful treatment of the Rights and Democracy organization, but the following list, culled from on line sources, is more comprehensive.
Organizations/ watchdogs whose staff have been fired, forced out, publicly maligned, or who have resigned in protest:
·       Canada Firearms Program (Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak, Director General)
·       Canadian Wheat Board (Adran Measner, President and CEO)
·       Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (Linda Keen, chair)
·       Foreign Affairs (Richard Colvin, diplomat)
·       Military Police Complaints Commission (head, Peter Tinsley)
·       Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces (Yves Coté)
·       Parliamentary Budget Officer (Kevin Page) (funding cut)
·       RCMP Police Complaints Commission (Paul Kennedy, chair)
·       Rights & Democracy  (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development – Rémy Beauregard, President)
·       Statistics Canada (Munir Sheikh, Deputy Minister)
·       Veterans Ombudsman (Col. Pat Stogran)
·       Victims of Crime, Ombudsman (Steve Sullivan)
Community organizations, NGOs and research bodies reported to have
been cut or defunded [see note 1 below]
·       Action travail des femmes
·       Afghan Association of Ontario, Canada Toronto
·       Alberta Network of Immigrant Women
·       Alternatives (Quebec)
·       Association féminine d’éducation et d’action sociale (AFEAS)
·       Bloor Information and Life Skills Centre[2]
·       Brampton Neighbourhood Services (Ontario) [3]
·       Canadian Arab Federation
·       Canadian Child Care Federation
·       Canadian Council for International Cooperation
·       Canadian Council on Learning
·       Canadian Council on Social Development
·       Canadian Heritage Centre for Research and Information on Canada
·       Canadian International Development Agency, Office of Democratic Governance[4]
·       Canadian Labour Business Centre
·       Canada Policy Research Networks
·       Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women
·       Canada School of Public Service
·       Canadian Teachers’ Federation International program
·       Canadian  Volunteerism Initiative
·       Centre de documentation sur l’éducation des adultes et la condition feminine
·       Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA)
·       Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples (Toronto
·       Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada
·       Childcare Resource and Research Unit, Specialink
·       Climate Action Network
·       Community Access Program, internet access for communities at libraries, post offices, community  centres
·       Community Action Resource Centre (CARC)
·       Conseil d’intervention pour l’accès des femmes au travail (CIAFT)
·       Court Challenges Program (except language rights cases and legacy cases)
·       Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood Centre Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).
·       Democracy Council[5]
·       Department of Foreign Affairs, Democracy Unit[6]
·       Elspeth Heyworth Centre for Women Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).
·       Environment: Youth International Internship Program
·       Eritrean Canadian Community Centre of Metropolitan Toronto (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010)
·       Feminists for Just and Equitable Public Policy (FemJEPP) in Nova Scotia
·       First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
·       First Nations and Inuit Tobacco Control Program
·       Forum of Federations
·       Global Environmental Monitoring System
·       HRD Adult Learning and Literacy programs
·       HRD Youth Employment Programs
·       Hamilton’s Settlement and Integration Services Organization (Ontario) [7]
·       Immigrant settlement programs
·       Inter-Cultural Neighbourhood Social Services (Peel)[8]
·       International Planned Parenthood Federation
·       Kairos[9]
·       Law Reform Commission of Canada
·       Mada Al-Carmel Arab Centre
·       Marie Stopes International, a maternal health agency – has received only a promise of “conditional         funding IF it avoids any and all connection with abortion.
·       MATCH International
·       National association of Women and the Law (NAWL)
·       Native Women’s Association of Canada
·       New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
·       Northwood Neighbourhood Services (Toronto: (Funding cut by CIC in December 2010).
·       Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH)
·       Ontario Association of Transitional Housing (OAITH)
·       Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
·       Pride Toronto
·       Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec
·       Riverdale Women’s Centre in Toronto
·       Sierra Club of BC
·       Sisters in Spirit
·       Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
·       South Asian Women’s Centre[10]
·       Status of Women (mandate also changed to exclude “gender equality and political justice” and to ban all advocacy, policy research and lobbying
.       Tropicana Community Services
·       Womanspace Resource Centre (Lethbridge, Alberta)
·       Women’s Innovative Justice Initiative – Nova Scotia
·       Workplace Equity/Employment Equity Program
·       York-Weston Community Services Centre Toronto
Notes:
[1]  “Defunding”  is the term used by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. In many instances, it is about turning down grant applications rather than cutting off funding midstream, but for organizations who rely on renewed program funding to support their work, and have done so for many years, it amounts to the same thing.
[2]   Citizenship and Immigration Canada Cut or significantly reduced their principal funding – approximately $471,000. Source: Globe and Mail.
[3]   Cut in the last few years by federal government because of alleged mismanagement: Source
http://www.canadianimmigrant.ca/learn/newsitems/article/7935
[4]   The Office of Democratic Governance, which channeled much of Canada’s democracy funding, has been disbanded by CIDA.
[5]   A forum for discussion and collaboration among Canadian democracy promotion agencies. It has reportedly disappeared despite stated earlier commitments and interest from both government and NGOs to see it continue and even expand.
[6]   Folded into the Francophonie and Commonwealth division.
[7]   Cut in the last few years by federal government because of alleged mismanagement: Source
http://www.canadianimmigrant.ca/learn/newsitems/article/7935
[8]   Cut in the last few years by federal government because of alleged mismanagement: Source
http://www.canadianimmigrant.ca/learn/newsitems/article/7935
[9] Including Anglican Church of Canada, Christian Reformed Church in North America, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Mennonite Central Committee, Presbyterian Church in Canada, United Church of Canada, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Canadian Religious Conference, and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund.
[10]  The Centre has lost $571,000 - all of its federal funding - which represents nearly 70 per cent of its overall budget. Source: Globe and Mail.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The general rules which we should all heed are - don't be a women, don't be in favour of democracy, don't let your church do anything to help anybody who needs it, don't be a native person, don't get involved in any group that helps veterans, don't be an environmentalist, don't be victim of crime, don't ever complain about the police. Oh, and don't be an arab.
 
Neither Ottawa nor Moncton looked at the outstanding economic problem of the last four decades, at least - the stunning growth of the incomes of the upper one percent as compared with the even more stunning growth of poverty for most of the rest.
 
That wage gap is not only shameful, it has every possibility of destroying the glue that holds western societies together and (prepare to shed a tear) destroying the upper one percent themselves. Common sense should tell that one percent that they cannot forever prosper in societies in which fewer and fewer have any money to buy the goods they turn out.
 
Unfortunately, greed will conquer brains every time. We see it every day right here in New Brunswick.  This is the province in which we can't afford to maintain our schools, or help our poor, or maintain our health services but, hey, a hockey rink for a hundred million or so? No sweat.
 
This is all part of the greatest economic and social problem of our time. Niether Ottawa nor Fredericton even noticed.
 
Obviously, neither Ottawa nor Fredericton has given much thought to protecting the environment, But both will 'streamline' procedures for resource development.  Translation - let the shale gas games begin.
 
At the local level, Fredericton will enourage landlords to lower rents by reducing property taxes. And I'm sure landlords will immediately pass those savings on. After all, Fredericton has a long record of protecting tenants. Ever read the standard rental agreement designed by the government? Ever notice that it makes requirement of the tenant - but none of the landlord. The provincial Rental Board operates in the same way. It's all to protect the landlord.
 
There's another and more serious problem with the federal budget. It is a budget that will affect us for generations. It will be passed by a government with the support of about a quarter of all Canadians. It is also a government charged with very serious violations of electoral law in the last election. There is no doubt that the violations occured. What we don't know is exactly who did the dirty work - and just how widespread it was. And Mr. Harper has not shown the slightest interest in finding out.
 
There is every  possibility that this budget, that will certainly pass, is a budget from an illegal government.  And I have yet to see a news source that mentions that.  So much for democracy.
 
Oh, and neither level of government intends to increase taxation of the rich. Of course not. That's the single most important thing they could do to attack the fundamental economic crisis of our time. But they won't. It takes a strong brain to climb a mountain of greed.
 
Oh, the Ottawa budget story on p. C11 is headed 'Soldiers evade direct hit but bureaucrats to feel the pinch'. That's because the direct hit on the soldiers was done before the budget when the government got rid of the soldiers' ombudsman. 
 
The big story on the federal budget which heads the NewsToday section in the TandT is "Penny-pinching: Canada to phase out copper coin". What a sense of priorities!
 
The truth is that both budgets have ignoredthe biggest problems we face - the impoverishment of the many to satisfy the greed of the few; the poisoning of our earth, air and water to satisfy the greed of the few.
 
I wonder when the few will get smart enough to realize they, just like us commoners, rely on the same earth, air and water.
 
PS -I'd like to talk about the sign law issue in Dieppe. It's a subject I have some experience of. But, since it's not about the TandT, I'll save it for a late night supplement.
 
 
 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29: This isn't the fault of the TandT; but....

....Letters to the editor can be a great spot to slide in propaganda.  Today's example is a letter from Tom Harris, Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (Wow!), writing from Ottawa (gollywow!).  I mean, gee, international...coalition...and in Ottawa. Oh, and it has free speakers -most of them with PhDs. So it must be for real. (Curiously, one of the speakers has a BA in sociology and English - go figure.)

And all its funding is private. So that must mean real honesty.

Well, not really.real honesty.

When you're funding a large organization which is affiliated with other large organizations, you're looking at big money

ICSC is an expensive operation (the expensive speakers, for a start, have to be paid by somebody. Rent-a-profs are available for almost any hokum you can think of.  But, like any top of the line hookers, they're expensive. Then there are all the conferences they hold, and all the "research reports" they pump out.

Very little of the money for the ISCS's of this world comes from the pennies of widows and orphans. It comes from very wealthy people and corporations. But why would wealthy people and corporations be interested in the question of climate change?

Well, they don't want people to take climate change seriously. After all, that could put a serious crimp into their plans to develop, say, shale gas. Or to drill for oil in fragile environments like the Arctic. Or to talk tough like the Times and Transcript and the New Brunswick government do about someday passing regulations - maybe - someday - possibly -  and maybe even giving information or asking people what they think or even expressing concern. Really, loose talk like that could cause all kinds of unpleasantness.

So, big-hearted billionaires set up a variation on those think-tanks that are really propaganda fronts for big business. (The Fraser Institute and the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies spring to mind.)

The big daddy of all the climate propaganda fronts is the Heartland Insitute - with which, not surprisingly, the ICSC is on  friendly terms.

So, you see. Climate change actually isn't happening. Nothing to worry about. Close your eyes...go to......sle....Dream of how nice it is that Irving Oil is supporting Bantam hockey....

You can also, of course, find propaganda in the news. Take a look at every report you have seen from Reuters on the fighting in Syria. The tone is always that the Syrian army is constantly attacking poor, innocent civilians while other countries, good countries like us, try to end the suffering - cause that's the kind of folks we are.

Reuters relies heavily for its news on The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Well, geegollywhiz, they don't get much more official than that.

Actually The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is one man who isn't in Syria. He's in England because he has to be there to operate his clothing store. He's also very pro-rebel. (A good news editor should know that.)

Nor is it entirely true that the rebels are helpless civilians. They have artillery. Very few helpless civilians have their own artillery. They have steady supplies of weapons from - ? They halve troops being trained in Turkey. Some, at least, of the rebels, are the sort of people that Reuters usually calls moslem terrorists.

Simple, common sense tells us this is really a civil war between two, well-armed groups, both with substantial backing. If it weren't, it would have been over a long time ago.

Nor is it a struggle for democracy. Nor would the west give a damn if it were. The West has been happily allied for years to some of the most undemocratic and repressive countries in the world - Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, for example. Theycountries have, even recently, been happily klling their innocent civilians without Hilary Clinton even noticing it.

The struggles for "democracy" in Egypt and Libya have ended with no democracy in sight in either country. Libya is in chaos and civil war. In Egypt, the army clings to power and happily deals harshly with prortesters. And in both countries, the rulers are evenn now getting military aid from the US.

The wars of the middle east and Africa are about regime change, getting puppet rulers into power. Democracy and compassion, despite the impression Reuters tries to create, have nothing to do with them.

There's an exciting story headed "Shale gas talk to dominate legislature".  That should be interesting. It sure hasn't dominated the news. Too bad. How are we supposed to follow a debate on which, over a period of ten years, we have been given no information whatever?

How are we supposed to trust a newspaper on this issue when its owner is a big player in shale gas exploration?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28: less and less about less and less....

In recent weeks, The Moncton Times and Transcript has become noticeably worse, even by Irving press standards. It is coming close to having no news whatever. The reasons are surely obvious.

The major issue in New Brunswick is shale gas exploration. The TandT, despite promises of intense coverage and information-gathering on the subject, hasn't said a word. The same can be said of the provincial government and the shale gas companies. None of the promised new regulations for gas exploration have been made public. Nor do we even know if there are any new regulations or - perhaps more to the point - whether the new regulations will have any teeth. Certainly, the old ones don't.

The shale gas season is opening. Seemingly, nothing has been done to get ready for it. Oh - except for one thing - police will have been notified to protect shale gas drillers against citizens of New Brunswick. Those regulations are in place. And they have teeth.

In Moncton, the big issue is Moncton High School. I wouldn't dream of suggesting the provincial government is corrupt. (I'm not even sure Mr. Alward has the brains to be corrupt.) But the land deal for the school certainly raises questions. And there are questions both huge and unanswered about exactly how and why the new site was chosen.

As well, there are questions about how it is that the old school can be too decrepit and dangerous to be renovated, while still being good enough so that a private developer can fix it, and make a profit.

The levels of lying, cheating, ignoring the public and, gee, just maybe, corruption in this province are staggering. But The Times and Transcript has room for nary a word about all that.

So the paper has nothing much but trivia. That's what happens when a newspaper doesn't want to tell the truth. It doesn't leave you with much to say at all.  And "not telling the truth" by the way, is a whole lot the same as lying.

Then there's the outright propaganda. Check out the lead story. "Almost half of NBer's money goes to taxman."  This shallow piece of propaganda, grandly titled Special Report, is largely a paraphrase of of a piece of propaganda from The Fraser Institute, an outfit funded by big business to make us think all money government takes from us is stolen.

(Actually, some of it is stolen. It's stolen from our taxes to keep taxes low for the wealthy, and to give away grants and other concessions to their corporations. It's a process that gives a whole, new meaning to "the filthy rich".)

The report sheds crocodile tears for the poor who can't makes ends meet because of the tax burden. The tearful crocodile who cries out in sympathy for the struggles of the poor is Charles Lammam, the grandly titled associate director of The Centre for Tax and Budget Policy and the Centre for Studies in Economic Prosperity at the Fraser Institute.

Notice the choice of words in this article - taxes are -oo-o-oh - siphoned off. Wow! Siphoned. That's like stealing, isn't it? And, you know, all that tax money just disappears.

I'm sure Mr. Lammam means well. But a corporate suck like him wouldn't know that the poor who are struggling to save for their retirement and provide opportunities for their children and necessessities for their families are  doing those things when they pay taxes for retirement and public schools and medicare.

But Mr. Lammam wants to return to the days when the poor could choose what they wanted to spend their money on. Yes, like Americans, we should be able to choose whether we want health insurance or not. That way, if we chose to get it, we would be able to pay twice as much. And if we got really sick and couldn't afford insurance, we still would still have two choices - to stay home and die or to stay home and die..

It's not all that long ago when most Canadians didn't have health care or retirement cheques or much schooling. For anyone who lived through that, it's a bit annoying to read a sleazy hack for billionaires telling us that our hunger and poverty and lack of opportunity were things to be celebrated as signs of our freedom to choose.

We did choose, Mr. Lammam. We chose to pay taxes because these services as delivered through your corporate buddies, were out of reach of most of us. Private business is just too damned inefficient.

He mentions that a person earning $78,000 dollars a year pays 46% of it in taxes. I wonder why he didn't give the tax precentage of those who "earn" several million a year.  Nor does he mention how much of our tax money finds its way into the pockets of millionaires.

This "Special Report" would be digusting in any newspaper. It's doubly so in a newspaper that uses tripe like this as an excuse not to cover other issues it should be telling us about - and that it said it would tell us about..

NewsToday has been shrinking, and now has virtually no news today or any day. In particular, there is no mention of how we could well be within a few months of a major war that could turn into a world war. Nor is there any mention of news suggesting that Sgt. Bales, who killed 17 women and children 
1. Did not operate alone but, rather, with some twenty men and a helicopter.
2. May have been doing his killing spree on orders from above.
3. Was carrying out a type of terrorist operation that is commonly used by American forces in Afghanistan.
4. That his "surrender" was staged for the press.

There's another story I haven't yet seen, but should be considered. It's possible that US forces are so demoralized by this long and losing war that their officers have lost control of them. That's what happened in Vietnam It was a major reason why the US gave up on that war. American soldiers were killing their own officers. They often used hand grenades; thus the term fragging.

But don't worry. You'll never have to read any of this in the TandT.

The only item worth reading in the whole paper is Alec Bruce's column.

Oh - and there's a fast-breaking story that Cindy Crawford teases her daughter.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

march 27: Did I get sucked in......?

Yesterday, Norbert had a column on the inadequacies of our mass transit system in Moncton. I thought he had a good point. I thought his analysis was shallow, and his remedy non-existent. But he had a good point. Then I saw today's paper. Norbert had another column on the same topic.

The editorial was on the same topic. (Wasn't that true of yesterday's editorial, too?) And the cartoon was on the same topic. Well, this looks like a full court press. But why?

It's for a reason that has nothing to do with Codiac transit. Nor will any other of heir suggested issues (however delightfully vague they may be) matter a poop. So what's it about?

It's about the civic election. The editorials and Norbert's column and the cartoon are  about taking the heat off at least two issues that are far, far, the most serious issues facinig this city. (Norbert gives a list of the big issues he thought we should be discussing - discarded drug needles, more frequent sidewalk clearing,more small green spaces around town...) He makes this nonsense into a fighting speech. Yessir. Make this a fighting campaign for the politicians. Sure. Hit them with those feather pillows.

What's going on?

The Moncton Times and Transcript wants to bury the real issues. There are at least three issues that tower way over anything I have seen in this big push to improve transit. In no particular order, they are
1. Moncton High School    2. the building of a hockey arena (oops - sorry -events centre) 3. The failure of city council to produce a credible plan for the future development of Moncton.

That final point should come long before we even think about a hockey arena. How can anybody with half a brain even think of borrowing a hundred million or two hundred million or more to build such a centre with no plan of how people are going to get to it.? With no realistic forecast of the economy over the coming years or even next year?

Events centres don't create mass transit to get to them. It's the other way around. That's the history of the whole world. We already have shops and boutiques. They're in shopping centres because shopping centres are easy to get to, and easy to walk around. Sticking up an events centre with no easy, convenent and comfortable access to it - summer and winter - isn't going to work.

Moncton's first priority for planning for the future is mass transit. And the key word is future. And what are key problems we have to face? Hint - the high price of fuel, the inconvenience of bus service in winter, Has council even thought of those?

What are the problems of heavy borrowing for an "events" centre? Well, for openers the world is in a recession, and nobody knows where this is going. What a great time to borrow a hundred million of more! What a great time to stake the future of downtown on the hope of lots of big conventions and expensive attractions - including hockey games.

Has it not occured to anybody that if there were a profit to be made in building the centre, the Irvings would build it? Do the Irvings have a long history of passing up profits so that we can make them?

You want a vibrant centre to downtown? You want people to live downtown. And you're moving the high school to the boondocks? You're moving it away from the city library? You're moving it away from the new museum? You're moving it was from a gem of a theatre like The Capitol? You're moving it away from the art gallery you should have and could have for far less than the cost of a second hockey rink?

I was lucky. I went to a school in the heart of Montreal's downtown. There was a magnificent art gallery just down the street. the McGill museum was just across the street. We went to a theatre much like The Capitol a short walk away. It was called Her Majesty's. Our teachers took us to plays, to concerts, to readings I shall never forget a magnificent reading by the Hollywood actor, Charles Laughton. Sprawled on a chair on stage, he held a thousand normally rowdy high school kids spellbound - while he  read from The Bible.

Going to a downtown high school, I learned what kids in Moncton seldom get a chance to learn - that standing on a hillside with a plastic cup of beer to listen to an aging rock group is not life's only enjoyable experience.

The Moncton Times and Transcript is trying to lay a smokescreen over the civic election.

The issues are Moncton High, the  waste and immaturity of a new hockey rink, and a realistic plan for Moncton's future developoment.

Moncton is not a vibrant city. If it were, nobody would read The Moncton Times and Transcript. It's library is way underfunded. A cultural event means somebody with a guitar. Art scarcely exists. Discussion means a home and school meeting at which nobody says anything much more than hello, and how much coffee to we need?

There is a lot that this city needs to encourage enquiry, a broad range of interests, stimulation. But, instead, we have a city obsessed with yet another hockey rink, with a convention centre to produce profits for the hotel industry,and with standing on a hillside with beer in a plastic cup while listening to aging rockers, and saying "We're haviing some fun, eh?"

And that's the way The Moncton Times and Transcript intends to keep it.

Monday, March 26, 2012

March 25: Well said, Norbert....

There's no doubt about it. Mass transit in Moncton is a mess. The routes are confusing, the times are erratic and, significantly, the busses are often empy. Something, as editorial writers are fond of saying, must be done. But what?

Once city council had determined the forces that would be opearting on Moncton in, say forty years - high gas prices, the tremendous cost of the automobile in terms of space, the likely economic situation (did council do any of those things), it should have next examined mass transit.

Mass trasnsit shapes a city. Mass transit makes dowtown development possible. Before mass transit came to cities, downtown was simply where the big commercial offices were - and the homes of the rich who wanted to live close to work. Cartier, John A. MacDonald's partner at the time of  Confederation, worked, dined, attended theatre within a short walk of his house.  His mistress lived down the street and around the corner.

The expensive boutiques were downtown, handy to the rich who were the only ones who could shop there. The big churches that the rich could afford to build were downtown. (Note the big churches of c. 1920 in Moncton.)

For the rest of us, shopping and entertainment was in the local neighbourhood. Two things changed that.

The first was the electric tram which made it possible for the middle class- and some of the poor - to get to a big city's super stores (like Eaton's) which, gathered together in the downtown, could provide a focus for entrepreneurs and shoppers alike.

In Montreal, the arena of Les Canadiens moved to the edge of the downtown main street. Tapayers didn't have to pay for it. The location made it profitable enough so the team owners had no need to use their political connections.

 Nothing, no restaurants, not smart shops, were attracted to the location of The Forum. It was The Forum that was attracted by transit, and by the shops that had already sprung up.

The other transit change of a century of so ago was the railway suburb, communities made possible by commuter trains which connected to the downtown.  The first railway suburb was Town of Mount Royal, built by Canadian Northern Railway, and with its two major streets crossing in a big X. At the centre of the X were the station, the schools, the library, city hall, local shopping. None of those, by itself, would have attracted anything. The starting point that made it all possible was a form of mass tranist that connected to Montreal downtown.

But the world changed in the late 1940s when cars became common. They were the new form of "mass" transit. All over the western world, downtowns withered as the shopping centre became the new destinatin.

Norbert's point about the inadequacy of Codiac transport is well taken. But it should go a step further.

Reviving a downtown coes not begin with a hockey arena or an events centre. We have a hockey arena. If a hockey arena drew other commercial activivy, the Coliseum would now be surrounded by restaurants and boutiques. Instead, it's surrounded by a huge parking lot and, beyond that, dandelions.

Downtowns are built by mass transit. That's what you start with. Study what's happening in mass transit. Study the general plan of what the city should look like in a generation or two or three. Then, if you are still all  hot on borrowing money, do it to build the mass transit system.

If we build a good mass transit system, the rest will come by itself. If we don't build a good mass transit system, all we will get is an espensive and decaying monument  to a hockey team owner who wants us to pick up the tab so he can have a new arena to make piles of money at our expense - as usual.

The world is littered with monuments like that, monuments to greed and vanity. A Mayor of Montreal was determined to have a world-recognized stadium for the Montreal Olympics He also wanted it to have a tower to celebrate its own greatness (and his). Both ambitions were satisfied with a great, slim tower that could drop a sort of umbrella over the stadium in rainy weather.

It never paid for itself. With a potential of three million customers and with a station for a superb subway system, it never even paid for its maintenance. Nor did the district around it attract anything but  the decaying housing that had always been there. Within a dozen years, engineers warned that the cost of maintaining the place was so high, it would be cheaper to demolish it. Now, it is demolishing itself as tons of concrete drop off it.

We pay one hell of a price for the greed and vanity of a few people.

If a hockey arena were a sure bet to make a profit, do you seriously believe that anybody named Irving would allow you common people to build it?

This is a family that has consistently said that taxes are too high, that government in incompetent, that private business is the only way to go - and it had muscled in on pubilc works with its public/private 'partnerships'. It supports AIMS with that  'think tanks'  constant attacks on public ownership.

And now a member of the family wants YOU, through your 'incompetent and bloated' public service to build something of huge cost. And he wants YOU to build it and YOU to pay for it so YOU can have all those wonderful profits.

Get real.

MLA Chris Collin, on the op ed page, has a calm and well-reasoned criticism of the way Premier Alward is handling the question of Moncton High School.

There's good coverage of the flooding that has hit parts of the province. Nothing on shale gas. Weren't we going to get masses of information on this? Now, it's too late for any useful debate - and it's obvious that within weeks the gas exploration companies will again be bullying their way into New Brunswick communities. The role of the police will be to protect them.

This is a country in which we allow governments to search our private records and deprive millions of innocent Canadian of basic rights (claiming this might catch some pedophiles), while we use police to make sure that people poisoning our lands and waters will not be disturbed.

Pedophiles are certainly dangerous and disgusting people. But I really think that those who are poisoning all of us for their own profit are a hell of a lot more dangerous and disgusting.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sport and social class or..... (final draught)

....how hockey was designed to keep the upper classes upper, and the lower classes lower.

( but before I get into the topic of this blog, just a reminder that the current events group will meet on Tuesday, April 3 at the Moncton Library.  7 pm to 8 pm. All are welcome.
The topic is "How to wring the truth out of a newspaper - The strange case of the Moncton events centre."  But now back to hockey.)

You'll hear that hockey was invented in Nova Scotia in the nineteenth century. The trouble with that is that you'll find paintings much older than that of Dutch children skating on the ice with curved sticks and a ball. So did the French - calling the curved stick "un hoquet".  Even before that, English kids were playing a similar game called shinty.  (that's why, to this day, a pick-up game of hockey in Canada is called 'shinny'.)

In fact, the origins are even older, much older, than that. They probably go back to the day a caveman cut off an enemy's head, then playfully wacked it along the ice with a dinosaur bone. Virtually all games can be traced back at least thousands of years. That's why historians of sport make it a practice to date a game like hockey or football or baseball to the time it became an organized sport with standardized rules. For hockey, that happened in 1875 at the very upper class Victoria Rink in Montreal.

The rules were drawn heavily from what were then also amateur sports - notably football and lacrosse. In the first game, the players were called halfbacks and fullbacks. Virtually all the players were also lacrosse players in summer. Now, lacrosse was a game in which players frequently held the lacross estick in two hands to push at an opponent. When they did the same with a hockey stick, angry fans would yell, "Hey! That's a lacrosse check."

In the early games, only amateurs were allowed to play. The Stanley Cup was intended to be for the amateur championship of Canada. The Stanley who donated it was Lord Stanley, an aristocrat. The connection of sport, amateurism and aristocracy was not a coincidence. (Incidentally, women were not allowed to play - and that was not a coincidence, either.

Most organized sport in the nineteenth century was played by clubs that wanted only "gentlemen" as members. But the word gentleman had nothing to so with politeness. It had everything to do with personal wealth and social status. The lower classes couldn't afford to play. They couldn't afford the club fees. They couldn't afford to take the time off work. By keeping the clubs for amateurs, the "gentlemanly" class ensured that the lower classes would not be able to play. And the reason was not only snobbishness.

Women, too, were kept out. Oh, they might be allowed on the golf course for an occasional ladies' day. And they might play tennis, but only in full skirts, only lobbing the ball back and forth with, perhaps, some giggling - but no sweating. This, like amateurism, had nothing to do with snobbery - but everything to do with power and leadership.

It was widely believed in the nineteenth century, most of the twentieth, and often still today that organized sport builds leadership. So why push women and the poor to the sidelines? Because they were not going to be leaders Women and workers were to be obedient and to do what they were told. They didn't have leadership qualities (that's why they were women and poor.)

Obviously, it would not do to allow such people to develop the idea they could have leadership. That would lead them to defying those wealthier men whom God had chosen to lead them. (Yes, God got dragged into it.)

It was a common idea, had been for centures, at least, that God had an established order for the world. Those who were wealthy and powerful were wealthy and powerful through God's great plan. Thus the words of the old hymn, "The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly AND ORDERED THEIR ESTATE," Allowing the poor and women to play would upset God's ordained order.

So it was that women were simiply banned from playing most organized sport. The poor were kept out by club fees, and by the ban on amateurism. That's why the founders of the Olympics were so adamant about  amateurim in the games. The original idea behind the Olympics was to boost the leadership abilities of the European upper classes in preparation for the great, European war that was obviously looming.

By mid-nineteenth century, many of the leading Protestant churches had accepted the idea that God had intended the rich to be rich - and to be leaders. They called it "muscular Christianity",

And that's why Sir George Williams included athletics in his Bible study group that he called the Young Men's Christian Association. (The religious element remained strong in the YMCA until 1950 or so, then pretty much disappeared.)

Sir George also added a third dimension - the intellect, intelligence.. And that's why the YMCA symbol is a triangle - spirit, mind, body - muscular Christianity plus brains - the three supporting each other. (Body has long since overwhelmed the other two.)

There is another idea linked to it, the amateur detective in fiction. Sherlock Holmes would accept money - but he wasn't a detective simply out to make money. He was from the better class of people. The regular police were of lower class origins. And, oh, they were stupid. For all their training, it was Holmes who solved the mysteries.

It's the same with Miss Marples. Norice they never mention her ever having a job? Of course, not. She, like Holmes. came from the better sort. As a resultl, even though she has no training, (and even though she is a woman) she can solve crimes those lower class police are hopeless on.

There were, and still are, lots of strange ideas about social class and leadership and Christianity and intelligence floating around. But where did they come from? The answer to that helps to explain why some leaders today, both economic and political, have unwarranted ideas about their own superiority over the rest of us mortals.

Part Three

The earliest kings were thugs. They became kings because they were able to gather together gangs of thugs to conquer large areas of land, and make the locals into slaves. Each of the thugs who served under the king would be given his own land holding. There, the first task of the thug would be to build a fortified home called a keep, a sort of small castle. Their he would live with the lesser thugs who served him. It wasn't the fear of invasion that created the keep and its occupants. It was fear of an uprising among the slaves.

The thugs then tarted themselves up with titles like Duke, Earl, Lord, Baron - with lesser titles for lesser thugs - like Sirs. By living off their slaves (serfs), they were able to buy armour and weapons and horses that the serfs could not possible afford, thus protecting themselves against their slaves. They also gained power by serving the king in governing the whole of the country. And that's where the problem began.

However good they had been at gaining power, the aristocrats were often weak in running the business of a nation. But, because they were aristocrats, they became generals, finance ministers, all the officers of state. The result was a series of quite dreadful generals, finance ministers,diplomats.It was made all the more dreadful by their scorn for education - and their reliance on conditioning for thuggery which was manifested through sports like tilting and hunting.

The system had become hopeless by the time of France's king Louis XIV.  He replaced the aristocracy in their control of state affairs with a new class of free men, a middle class of merchants and professionals  that arose in towns. Louis chose them because they were commonly university educated. This was the beginning of the modern civil service. The department leaders in France were called intendants.

Other European countries followed suit. so that the aristocracy began to show signs of decline in both power and income. But that left the head of state, the king, as the leading source of power. And kings of the time were neither well educated nor, as a rule, graced by nature with brains. The British royal family, for example, has been notable for its production of differently advantaged progeny for at least three centuries.

Obviously, the power of the monarchies had to be reduced. In Britain, it was done peacefully  by making the king or queen a symbolic figure. In France and Russia, it was done violence. But it was done, and almost predictable that it would be done. No state run by incompetents could have survived.

The aristocrats were often slow in catching on what had been done to them. The first group to realize it seems to have been those in the army. That's not surprising.

The old ideas of ariscocratic superiority and the right to leadership survived longest in the army. In Britain, for example, the brightest son in the family would be sent into politics or diplomacy. The dullest would be placed as an officer in the army - and perhaps become a general.

The distrust of educaton in the British army was profound well into the twentieth century. When Bernard Montgomery was a lieutenant in the army, his superior officers worried that he read too much and studied too much.

"Monty," said one of them, "if you want to get ahead in the service, I suggest you put those books aside, and work on your cricket batting." That statement summed up a larger truth.

It was almost essential to come from the upper classes to be an officer in the British army. The upper classes believed it was their right to lead, that leadership was bred into them and, as in the days of tilting, it was further developed by the sports they played.

The major upper class sports, the ones that made the upper class superior in leadership, were cricket, football, horsemanship, rowing. Obvously, the common soldiers could not be permitted to play these sports. They were not born to be leaders; and it would be cangerous to allow them to think they could lead. Instead, they were encouraged into the cruder sports appropriate, so it was t hought, to develop muscle rather than brains. Commonly, these were field competitions, almost always not as team players but as individuals.

This was well established by the eighteenth century. By the nineteenth century, it had spread to the upper middle class who saw themselves, like the aristocracy, as leaders, and leaders as a matter of right. That's why their sports clubs were restricted to the rich. That's why the clubs emphasized team sports. That's why, to this day, most professional football players come from universities.

In the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century, universities in North America, were largely for the sons of the rich (and, later, a few of the daughters). Since they were the schools of the rich, universities played the leadership-training games of the rich. The leading one was British football.

It was a game whose rules were not clear. But that didn't matter in Britain where it was played only by an upper class who knew each other, and had been playing the game for generations. In North America, it was different. Here, the new rich didn't know each other. The game had not been played in their families for generations. Here, we needed written rules.

These rules were developed at McGill and, in effect, created a new game which was transmitted to the US - with all its social class connections. That upper class connection remained strong well into the twentieth century. It was formally blessed as an upper class sport by Lord Grey who donated a cup for the AMATEUR championship. (Professionalism would have allowed the working class to get into the game.)

So it was that football became the major university sport, with it's players still developed through the university system.

Hockey, too, was intended to be an upper class sport, to train the better sort of people into character, leadership, etc. The poor were not encouraged to play hockey. It would give them ideas above their station. That's why Lord Stanley donated his cup for the AMATEUR championship.

Alas! Hockey very quickly got out of control and commercialized. With a pay cheque for playing, the poor could get into hockey - and it lost its class associations. Very few hockey players, now or ever, have come up from university ranks.

The last struggles of the upper classes to defend their right to rule were the insistence on amateurism in the Olympics, and the generations of novels celebrating those amateur detectives of upper class origins who regularly outsmart the professional police.

The upper class was no longer an upper class of aristocracy. Or, rather, it was an aristocracy of wealth. It had two requirements. the new ruling class had to be very wealthy, so much so that money was not an issue of daily life at all. The other requirement is that it should not have to deal directly with the common people to make its money.

The Birks family of jewellers, for example, were not quite in the accecptable rank. They were shopkeepers. The wealth had to be both great and appear sort of by miracle and without effort.

Ever notice that Miss Marples does not seem ever to have had a job, but lives without a thought for money, and moves in the highest circles. And she is so much smarter than those stupid people who are the professional police. With her, the old belief in the leadership and intellectual superiority of the upper class comes fully to rest in the commercial world, the new aristocracy.

People don't change much. Those who rose to power a thousand years ago soon believed they had a right to be  in power. This right, once established, could be inherited - and the sense of right continued long after it was clear they had no sense of whatever of how to run the societies they insisted on leading. 

Democracy didn't change that pattern of thinking. It disposed of an old aristocracy. But even as it did so, a new aristocracy of wealth was rising. Like the old aristocracy, the new one came to believe it had a right to lead. It's reasoning is not that it had developed that right through war or sport - but that it had developed it through business success. So it is they keep insisting that business methods should be adopted by governments, by schools, by all institutions.

Like the old aristocracy they do not recognize the reality that they are incompetent to rule. Society is not a business. They know nothing about running a society. Thus the chaos in the US, where a society of vast resources and virtually invlunerable to invasion has been driven into widespread poverty, and is one the edge of  social breaddown.

The concept of the right of the new aristocracy to rule is, like that of the old one, incompatible with democracy. That's why we're drifting to the end of democracy with governments (paid for by the new aristocracy) resorting to massive domestic espionage, imprisonment without trial, and departments of homeland security that are increasingly militarized at aimed at the people of the nation they claim to be protecting.

This new aristocracy, confident in its right to rule and in its social superiority is bent on world conquest. The wars in Africa, for example, have far less to do with the interests of Canadians or American or British or French than they do with the new, international aristocracy of wealth.

But, like the old aristocracies, like the Tsars of Russia and counts of kings of France, they are incompetent to handle the leadership role they claim to  have as a right. It wasn't the voters who caused this economic recession. It's not the voters who have demanded war after war. It's not the voters who have created massive poverty in countries that should be rich. What we have been watching around the world for the past century is the collapse of the great western empires, collapsing because the new aristocracy who claim the right to rule haven't the faintest idea how to carry it out.

History suggests several possibilities of how this will turn out. None of them is attractive. One is that the new aristocracy will destroy itself, and us with it. Another is that its posturing will create widespread revolt - something which is not likely to produce happy results for anybody.

We need to restore democracy. We have to insist that it is the people we elect who will rule - not the wealthy who pay to get their political hacks into office. We need honest and intelligent and independent journalism. We need a population that will wake up, get involved, and make sure that the only people who have a right to rule are the ones we choose.

And time is running short. If we don't act now, we start over again from where we were a thousand years ago. - if there are enough of us left to start over.

March 24: some newspapers are funnier than others....

The National Post, which seems to have some relationship with the Irving Press, has a columnist named Conrad Black, the Conrad Black who is now doing time for thievery; (nothing vulgar like break and entry. Strictly high class thievery). 

I knew him slightly many years ago when we were both commentators at the same radio station. He had a curious habit when talking to anyone. He would close his eyes tightly. He still does it; and reporters have said he does it to concentrate. Not true.

He closes his eyes because when he is talking to you, you don't exist. Only he exists. Only his words have any meaning. He is listening, with pleasure, to himself. Conrad Black has the most towering arrogance and ego I haver ever encountered. His column in today's The National Post is about the Pope's visit to Cuba. Conrad is very concerned about the moral land religious implications of this visit.

So, from  his prison cell, Conrad has written his column as a letter to the Pope, advising the Pope to bear in mind the religious and moral principles involved.

I didn't know he could write with his eyes closed.

Back home, the TandT's big push is still for an elected Senate, with another and, blessedly, final rerport on it. There's also an editorial. And, of course, a cartoon that supports the official line.
It shows two dogs labelled house of commons, and the other unelected senate. One is big and tough. The other is just small and cutesy. Beside them is another picture of two dogs, but both big and tough. They are called house of commons and elected senate.

Too bad the cartoonists knows more about dogs than about government. Unlike two dogs, the house of commons and the senate are really one creature - the government of Canada. The government of Canada has a defined and limited supply of power. If you give more power to the Senate, you can get it only by taking it away from the House of Commons.

We have a government with power in the hands of those we elected. Why on earth would anyone elect a new group to do the same job?  At a time when we closing down environmental research, perhaps fisheries research, grants to social agencies, government services to save money, wouldn't it make more sense just to scrap the senate?

What game is being played here?

Three closely related causes are also argued in today's paper - the troubles at Codiac Transpo in Riverview, the events centre (with the hockey rink as a charity offering to an Irving), and city council's futuristic plan for 88 parking spaces on Main St.

The TandT and the city council are pushing hard for an "events" centre which, we are assured, will change the whole nature of downtown, and make it a vibrant centre of cultural, intellectual and gastronomic life.

Assuming that to be true (a wild assumption if ever there was one), what is the key to this whole project?

Transportation.

Cars? Well, the big thinking there is 88 new parking spaces on Main, so it better be a pretty small events centre.  Lots of big parking lots? Yeah, Downtown would be a real joy stuffed with parking lots. And the cars would, presumably, need the roads to get in and out of the parking lots.

The first step in reviving a downtown is to make it easy and cheap and convenient to get there.  Codiac Transpo isn't any of those things. And it never will be any of those things until our city council develops a plan for the future which solves the mass transportation problem. (Experimenting with 88 parking spaces is not a great start on that plan.)

In short, to even talk about an events centre of any sort is pure idiocy until you have a plan to get people to it. This is another sample of the basic planning for the future that city council has not done.

Take a look at Royal Oaks. What did they build first - the houses? Or the roads?

Good column on the Senate by Bill Beliveau who, as always, did his homework. I often disagree with him. But he always takes the trouble to study something before he talks about it. And there's a column by Gwynn Dyer that should scare you. It's blunt. It's hard-nosed. And it makes sense.

All the student articles in Whatever are worth a read. I was struck by Christina Korotkov's "So why do people settle for less?" I would love to discuss this - but it would take far too long for this blog. Briefly, people are told what their possibilities (and their limitations) are by the environment they  grow up in. Rich kids go to universities and move into high-paying jobs not because they are smarter than poor kids, but because they grow up in a setting in which that is the normal thing to do.

Ditto for those kids who drop out of school, and spend their lives in low-paying jobs. They usually aren't dumb or lazy. We are shaped by the environment we live in. Some people, especially rich ones, believe this is all part of God's great plan.....in the words of an old hymn...

The rich man in h is castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly.
AND ORDERED THEIR ESTATE.

Friday, March 23, 2012

March 23: another eveniing supp - image and fascism.....

Suppose I were to go public, and tell the world I had formed a committee of retired professors like me who would plan the economic future and the economic policies of the New Brunswick government? Suppose I were to add that we were in coalition with the government - that is, we were declaring ourselves members of the government. What would people say?

I mean, what would they say after they stopped giggling?

Norbert would write a humorous column saying he had read a book on the subject. And the book said you cannot be a member of a government in a democracy unless you get elected first. And you can't just announce you're a member. You have get enough elected members to ask you and come to agreement with you. And Norbert would be right.

But nobody would do anything worse that giggle. I mean, who takes retired professors seriously? (Who takes unretired ones seriously?) There's that image thing kicking in.

Okay, let's say a group of union leaders announce they have formed a committee to plan the New Brunswick economy, and that they are in coalition with the government.

New image. Evil. Trouble-making unions. A threat to God's natural order. Norbert explodes in rage.

Notice that in both cases what's wrong is that to be a part of a government in a democracy you must first be elected by the people. And even then, if you are not a part of the government party, you have to ask those who are if they will let you join the governments. In one case, retired professors are claiming a right to be in government - simply because they are group. Same in the other case.

This notion of choosing a government by groups rather than be individual votes has gone by many names and with many variations - group government, corporatism....  The basic idea is that we do not have rights as individuals. We have rights according to the group we belong to. Those rights include the right to be represented in government. In practice, how many rights you have are directly related to how wealthy you are.

Okay. Now for the real world.

Just over a year ago, Mr. Irving publicly announced he and his group, largely of business people with a scattering of potted plants for appearance's sake, would plan the economy of New Brunswick, and were in a coalition with the government - that is, though not elected and not invited, they were part of the government.

That was a claim based on the idea of group government. They were leading businessmen. Therefore, as a group, they had a right to be represented in government.

Dead silence from Norbert. Ditto for Alward. Then, after everybody had taken enough time to ignore it, Alward announced that people chosen by Mr. Irving's group would have official standing as advisors on the economy. Why? Well...I mean....well....these are very rich people....so.....

That is what is called group government or corporatism. It was adopted in the 1920s by an Italian leader name Mussolini. He called it fascism. For good measure, it was picked up by a dictator in Spain name Franco. He called it fascism, too.

Oh, naughty, naughty. Wrong image. The business leaders of New Brunswick are fine and honest people. Fascism is a dirty word.

New Brunswick has taken a long step toward fascism. So has most of the western world. In the United States, Obama will be running for president with gifts, largely from corporations and wealthy individuals of a billion dollars. The Repulican presidential candidate and all the candidates for Congress will be running on money from the same source. Government of the people, by the people died a long time ago. And it sure is not government for the people. In Canada, Harper has changed the rules to make it tougher for anybody who doesn't have very rich friends to even make a showing.

To a large degree, we have government by big business. That's why we're fighting a losing war in Afghanistan. Did you see crowds in the street demanding we go to war? Where did the demand for war come from?

Try a lobby goup called the Canadian Council of CEOs.  And why were they made at Afghanistan?

They weren't. But the US was their essential market. And helping the US would make sure that the American government would keep it easy for Canadian goods to flow across the border.

How do you feel about war in Syria and/or Iran? Who cares how you feel? The only issue is whether it will be to the advantage of Canadian big business to send us to war.

Economically, fascism means government according not to individual choice, but according to group membership.  That's what we have.

Too bad it creates such a bad image.

Now - what makes members of a group believe that they have rights simply because they belong to a group.

That's another topic and, believe it or not, it has something to do with hockey and the Olympics.

March 23: Wow! 'Critical federal IT systems at risk..read more about it....

....Oh, gosh - section C p.1 -  international taxation is collapsing. No, no. It's Informal Tuxedos. No, can't be that.  maybe Intergenerational Tolerance. No. That collapsed in Genesis. Ignorant Toryism? (Can't be. It's alive and well.) Inedible Toothbrushes? Insulated Toenails?

A newspaper is aimed at the general reader. General readers may not be familiar with all the latest buzz terms used in various small circles. That's why when we refer to Moncton, we usually say Moncton. We don't say MTWWIW (metro the whole world is watching).

At no point in that story in section C are we told what IT means. No competent news service should have sent out such a story. No competent newspaper editor should have accepted such a story. Obviously, the Moncton Times and Transcript simply buys stories from Postmedia and Reuters every day without bothering even to read them, much less assess their imiportance.

(ITs are information technological systems - a term still so vague as to convey no understanding to at least 90% of readers - even in MTWWIW).

Also in section C, there is a full page on Senate reform. Why? A full page is a lot. The TandT gave less than that to a gushing free ad for tonight's hockey game in Halifax. The Senate is now being featured daily. All kinds of ways to improve the Senate have been discussed. All but the obvious one. Scrap it. It was never designed in the first place as anything but a device to limit democracy.

We have a body to represent us We get, more or less, equal votes in choosing the House of Commons. Do we really need two places to do the same thing? If so, why not five - or fifteen?

As for power for New Brunswick, we already have a provincial government with wide powers, so wide, in fact, that Canada is one of the most decentralized countries in the world. So what's this fuss about the Senate? What is the game that's being played?

I don't pretend to know what it's about. Perhaps the point of the game to make Alward look like a leader who's speaking up for the people of this province. The "fight" for an elected Senate could cover up Alward's obvious failings, especially with the help of his master's newspapers. That may well be it. It's hard to imagine any other motive for whipping this dead horse.

As the middle east spins out of control, we may well be within months of sending our troops into battle again. The possibility of war with Iran, which looks closer to a certainty every day, is major news in every country in the world. No-one knows how big it might get. Obama has made it clear he doesn't want such a war, and fears the consequences of it. Netanyahu has made it equally clear he doesn't give a damn what Obama thinks because he knows that if he starts a war, the US ( and Canada, etc.etc.) will have to join.

Then, on future November 11s, politicians will give speeches about how we must remember those who died. Actually, the time to think about them is now - before we send them to die. Should we fight this war? The reason we have a democracy is so that we can make such decisions.

But how can we discuss it? Few in Moncton know anything about it. Their minds are full of information about Senate reform. the"events" centre, and the Wildcats. So, when the day comes, we'll say "Send them. God bless the Empire (whichever empire it might be) And one day a year, we'll remember them - and pat ourselves on the back for it.

Then, there's the proud headline on P. 1. "Moncton most competitive city in Canada, U.S." Of course, we aren't nearly as competitive as cities in China or Mexico or Guatemala or Haiti or Congo. If you really want to live in a 'competitive' city, you might check out Port au Prince in Haiti, for example.

The study, we are told, was carried out by KPMG. Wow!  Kindergarten Piddling and Mopping Group? Kangaroo Peeking and Mating Games?  Who funds them? Or do they just carry out these studies for the hell of it?

And let's take a moment to thank all those Monctonians who work for minimum wage and are prepared to accept a poisoned province, and pay to make up for the taxes that corporations don't pay, just to keep us competitive. I thank you. The shale gas industry thanks you. Property developers thank you. Mr. Irving thanks you.

Our cup runneth over.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

March 22: supplement - evening thoughts.

A few nights ago, I was thinking about how, when we hear words, we think of images rather than the real meaning of the words. So when I refer to our society as having fascist elements, some people get really mad at me. You can't compare anything else to fascism or Naziism. These were evil, and uniquely evil. There as only one Hitler, one Mussolini.

If I mention Germans of the 1980s. the image is one of good people - much like us, hard-working.
If I mention Germans of the 1930s to 1945, the image is of cruel and evil people. Amazing how they've changed.

I read a newspaper article on the collapse of the Greek economy, and the generations of poverty that Greece now faces. It  hinted, more than hinted, at an image of the Greeks - lazy, warm climate, too easy, self-indulgent. (In fact, Greeks were working longer hours than Germans - and the economic collapse owed much to international bankers, few of whom were Greek.)

Now, to stay with the Germans, how did good people so suddenly become evil - and then so suddently good again?  How did they tolerate racism, illegal aggression, civilian murders, atbitrary arrest and jailing, torture, and genocide. How could good people so suddenly change?

The answer is - they didn't.

The Nazi who smashed into Poland in 1939 and the ones who were guards in the death camps wore belts with the motto Gott mit uns. God is with us. The air crews who slaughtered British civilians from their bombers, and the soldiers who lined up civilian hostages and killed them - sometimes burying them alive - all had Christian chaplains.

The Germans didn't change. They still loved their children, sang sentimental songs, enjoyed evenings with friends. They tortured people, yes. But governments have been torturing people since the beginning of time. Waterboarding was invented by the US to torture native peoples over a century ago in the invasion of The Phillipines. Did you seriously believe that just started in Afghanistan?

The British tortured and murdered in India. The French used torture and terrorism in Algeria. One of the most brutal and prolonged periods of slavery, torture, butchery and theft dates back a hundred and forty years when those nice people in Belgium took over Congo. Within a few decades, the dead or tortured and enslaved numbered in uncounted millions. In tamer form, it still goes on. And, if you look hard enough, you will find Canadian 'investors' there.

Genocide? You might ask North American native peoples about that. You might ask George Bush the first who, as director of the CIA, oversaw the slaughter of  a quarter million men, women and children - because they were Mayan.

Hitler was most certainly a vicious animal. So was Mao-Tse Tung who killed even more - perhaps 50,000,000. Nobody really knows. Then there was Chiang Kai-Shek.  Chiang is pretty much forgotten. Beginning as a thug working for a big-time drug dealer, he rose to be the leading Chinese war lord between the 1920s and 1949 when Mao defeated him.  Chiang almost certainly killed and tortured as many people as Mao did. He also sustained a poisonous drug  trade that had been forced on China by Christian enterpreneurs in Britain a century earlier.

Funny how we never hear about Chiang's brutalities.  Could that have anything to do with the fact that he was our ally? And the fact that the US was helping him to establish himself as President of China?

He also had something else in common with Hitler. Both of them publicly proclaimed themselves to be Christians. The press made a lot of favourable comment on Chiang the Christian. I cannot recall ever seeing a mention of Hitler the Christian.

Since 1950,the US has killed at least six million civilians all over the world. All have been in the course of invasions that were, under internatinal law and agreements signed by the US, illegal invasions. That would seem to make almost all US presidents since 1950 guilty of war crimes.

The figure of six million, by the way, is a low-ball guess. There are no figures of war dead that can be trusted. Must public estimates are absurdly low. One estimate, for example, counts war  dead only as those whose direct killing was witnessed by journalists representing at least two news agencies. Those who die of hunger or exposure are usually not counted. In some cases, people hit in battle but who die later in hospital are not counted as war dead.

Then, of course, there are all the secret wars - the drones, the bombings, the assassinations. Nobody knows how many countries are doing this or to whom. And there aren't even guesstimates of the dead.

Like Hitler, the president of the US has now assumed the power the imprison people indefinitely without cause or trial.He also can order assassinations of American citizens - with no charge, and without even admitting he ordered it.

The American spy system, both foreign and domestic, is so big and so sophisticated that Hitler would only envy it. The size and sophistication of American torture operations makes the gestapo look like sweethearts. And Canada is rapidly moving in the same direction. Remember, it was Canada that turned over a Canadian to the US for torture in cooperation with the US's good friend, the president of Syria. (you know him. he's now a bad guy.) And it was CISIS that cooperated with the CIA in interrogating the Canadian.

Well, that's where we are. So how do you feel about it?

Is George Bush 1 an animal who should be hanged? George Bush2? Tony Blair?

If I accused you of being a Hitler, you would be insulted. If I accused you of being a George Bush, you would probably just be puzzled.

You don't see anything really wrong happening here. Of course not. When we hear words, we don't think of their meanings. We see images. And George Bush looks just like us.

That's how Germans became Naziis without really noticing it.

Do they remind you of anybody you know?

Sometime later, it'll be worth taking a look at facism, and what that means.

Oh, there's another thing you might want to mull over. What Hitler was doing to the Jews was well known long before 1939. Charlie Chaplin even made a movie about it - for which some wealthy Americans severely criticized him. Before and during the war and even after, Canada had an effective ban on Jewish immigration - even by Jews who were fleeing Germany. So did the US.

But the US did not declare war on Germany in 1939. Even in December of 1941, when the US declared war on Japan, it did not declare war on Germany. In fact, when war was declared, almost a month later, it was declared by Germany against the US - not the other way around.

ever wonder about that?

March 22: no news today-

Scarcely a word of news in this day's Moncton Times and Transcript, just popaganda, ads, trivia, But there are a couple of good columns - and an excellent letter to the editor. Oh, and a flash from Norbert Cunningham. Let's start with the good stuff.

For the good stuff, the place to start is a letter to the editor from Patricia Varga, Dominion President of the Royal Canadian Legion. It offers an example of how our federal government forgets about our ex-servicemen once it no longer needs them. (The same is true in the United States.) The example she gives is just one among many.

To send people into battle is asking a great deal of them, indeed.  We offer them pious thanks every November 11. But we rarely ask how great the sacrifice was - even for the survivors. And because we don't bother to ask, governments find it easy not even to think about it. We don't begin to understand what physical and emotional damage our veterans can suffer for the rest of their lives. The result is that we are abandoning them.

Patricia Varga made her stake in this clear by introducing herself as the president of the Royal Canadian Legion. That's a model that should have emulated by Beverly Barrett who submitted a letter about the MHS protest.

Though hers reads like a letter by an ignorant and vicious-tongued social outcast, there is a Beverly Barrett of Moncton who is associated with Royal Oaks. Any connection, Bev?

Alec Bruce offers a column of pure humour - which means there's a lot more sense to it than  a casual reader might think. And Jody Dallaire writes a well-informed column about how journalists can, sometimes unintentionally, misuse statistics. (Think-tanks misuse them intentionally. but that's another story.) In this column, she focusses on the statsitics of sexual assault. We should keep her article in mind when we hear statistics about education, economic recovery, war deaths....  Almost all the figures we get on these have no relation to reality.

And Norbert? He's off again.  But he he knows he has a problem. He admits it in today's column. He says his mind boggles. Yep, it's the Norbert Boggle. I can see a hit song and a new dance step coming out of that.....
Rant to the left,
Rant to the fight,
Shake your fist with all your might.
Doin' the boggle tonight.
Yeah!

Well, at least it would get us out of the age of rock.

The real purpose of today's paper is to get everybody excited about the "events centre" aka hockey rink for Mr. Irving. The first page has a big story by (guess who) Brent Mazerolle which has no news in it, just a sort of the panting of a love-sick pubescent. If you don't have time to read, don't worry. Just say GeeWhizGolly about 500 times, and you'll get the general idea.

Never a subtle paper at even the best of times, the TandT also has its editorial on that subject. It assures us, with sparkling and creative language, that the city will forge ahead (so much better than forging back.)

This time, it shows more cunning than usual in its approach to the those  who want to focus on the MHS move.  Usually, TandT editorialists are arrogant and ranting at those they disagree with.  (Norbert is a veteran of that old style. But his time it's gentle. as when Little Red Riding Hood said, "What big eyes you have, grandma!:"

And the reply was, "All the better to see you with, my dear."

All set, kids? The fix is in.For the city election coming up, the MHS queston gets buried. The focus is on the hockey rink (sorry. events centre).  And the election marching song is - sing along with the massed choir of The Moncton Times and Transcript to the rhythm of the pom-poms waved by Brent Mazerolle and Norbert Cunningham....  Let's hear it...
GeeGollyWhizGee
GeeGollyWhizGee
(continue singing until your pockets are empty)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21: The stupidity of PM Alward....

I used to think that Mr. Alward was a dishonest politician pretending to be a stupid one. I apologize for thinking that. His statements in today's Times and Transcript have made me realize my error. He is not a dishonest politician. He is a stupid politician pretending to be a dishonest one.

"It (the new high school at Royal Oaks) will provide a great learning environment for our children long term."

Wha the hell is that supposed to mean? What is a 'great' learning environment? And exactly what does it have to do with location? Is it in some way related to the view? the air?

Mr. Alward knows nothing about education. So he makes bozo statements. I spent some fifty years in education. I have never heard of 'great' learning environment used to describe a location. And pompous but vague words like great are used by people who don't know what they're talking about, but want to sound impressive. It's an embarassement to realize this man is the one who goes out to represent us.

Of course, when he says environment, he might be referring to the class of people the students will see in such an upscale development.  After all, as in any city, most students come from districts full of low class bums. Now, they'll have a chance to mix with high class bums.

This  front page story is described as an interview of Alward with  the Times and Transcript. Hint - in such an interview, the Times and Transcript is supposed to ask questions. But there's no sign of questions. Apparently, Alward was allowed to get off with a string of inanities.

Well, there's an old saying that you can't make a silk purse out of sow's ear. True enough. Apparently, it's equally true that you can't make a premier out of  part of a sow's anatomy. (Some part of a horse might do, though.)


The front page is still pushing for the downtown 'events' centre. We are assured it will pay for itself, and even show a profit. Quite so. I have misunderstood all along. I foolishly thought that the owner of the hockey team was just using us for our tax money, and thinking of himself. But I was wrong.

Obviously, the owner of the hockey team doesn't want the profit that will surely come from an events centre. He is generously, as is the tradition of his family, giving us a chance to get all the profits. It  melts one's heart to see that. No wonder the Times and Transcript so often refers to the Irvings as philantropists.

On a scary note, though, the story below that quotes premier Alward as saying the Metro centre is  logical.

The Times and Transcript is also pimping for an elected senate - this time with two stories on the subject.  Apparently, the TandT's writers appear to be under the impression that the senate was created to represent regions. That's really not true.

The founders of Canada, like the founders of the United States, did not trust democracy. That's the truth. George Washington and friends were wealthy people. They were far more interested in protecting their property than they were in protecting human rights. Their rebellion against Britain had nothing to do with equal rights. It was against the British government taking their property in the form of taxes.

John A. MacDonald was no great democrat, either. Like Alward, he was more interested in pleasing corporations than he was in protecting human rights. That's also why, for much of Canadian history, the right to vote was restricted to property owners..

The purpose of the Senate was to make sure of who had the real control by giving the prime minister the right to appoint bankers, railway directors, etc. to make sure that us commoners in the House of Commons didn't do foolish things.

There's no other point to having a senate. It's not worth reforming the Senate. Indeed, there is no longer any point in having one at all.

The editorial, not surprisingly, attacks City Council for not supporting Premier Alward on the MHS decision.  Almost all of the editorial (as usual), was pretty biased, but mindless, blab. A crushing argument, though, came in the final paragraph.

The premier, it seems, has already agreed to address those problems that prostestors were concerned about. Well, that settles that. So everything's okay.

After all, we have the promise of our differently advantaged premier.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

march 20: night time...just thinking out loud...

Us humans are, well, strange. That occured to me as a read a report on the case of the Marine Sgt. who murdered 16 women and children in Afghanistan. The reporter noted that we have endless information about Sgt. Bales - his background, his problems, his jobs, his ailments. We know where he lives. We know all about his wife and family.

But not a single reporter has told us anything about his victims. What conditions did they live in? What did they have to look forward to? What and who did they leave behind? But, no. Nobody even asked what their names were.

Most of us haven't noticed that. Certainly, I hadn't noticed. How could that happen? Well, it happened because we don't care. We're interested in Bales because he's on our side, and he looks and lives much like us. But we really don't give a damn about Afghani women and children.

We react to things. We react because they form images in our mind. Often we don't really undestand what the images are. We just react. Bales is a westerner, like us. Our minds can build an image of him. But women and children in a village in Afghanistan? Nah. They're not real people.

When I was a child and first heard aboujt politics, I vowed to be a Liberal. I had no idea what a Liberal was. But it formed an image in my mind. The image was generosity,tolerance, broadmindedness. I liked that image.

I later learned that the political term Liberal had no such meaning. I'm sure that some Liberals are broad-minded and generous and tolerant. I'm sure some Conservatives are, too. But those traits have nothing to do with the meaning of either Liberalism or Conservatism.

I doubt very much whether most of our Liberal MLAs have any idea what Liberal means. Ditto for our Conservative MLAs. But it doesn't matter. Most of us don't know, either. But we make do with little cartoon figures in our heads. For some, Liberal means forward-looking, progressive. For others, it means left-wing, spendthrift, maybe weak on terrorism. And Conservative can mean solid, careful with money, or it can mean corrupt and in the pocket of big business.

Whole conversations can take place with one side presenting one image, and its listeners hearing the opposite image. Some Americans see Obama as liberal, left-wing, even socialist. They really do. This is the same Obama who is raising the biggest campaign fund in history - and almost all of it coming from big business. Duh...the bankers must not know he's a socialist.

If I say Arab Moslem, how many people automatically picture a terrorist?

And if I say American Christian?

Do you automatically picture the CIA agents who led the massacre of a quarter million Maya - men, women, and children -  in Guatemala? Do you picture the pilots who carried out a terror bombing, largely of civilians, in Cambodia? They killed a half million people, the equivalent of 9/11 every day for almost a year.

When I say French Foreign Legion, do you get an automatic image of random murder and torture and rape of Algerians?

About a year ago, somebody popped into Harper's office and said, 'Got a great idea, boss. 2012 is the two hundredth anniversary of the War of 1812, Let's celebrate it for a whole year, and budget say thirty mil."

Now, that means that 200 years ago, an American army on no provocation at all, crossed the border, killing Canadians, burning towns, and looting as they went. Was that the image that came to Harper's mind? Was that why he said, "Great idea. We'll have a year long party." What a bizarre thing to celebrate. Maybe we should advise Obama to celebrate the anniversary of Pearl Harbour. Or Poland could have a happy year remembering the good old days when Germany hit it from one side, and the USSR from the other.

No. Surely some other image must have come to Harper's mind. But the words don't mean anything, do they? No. They just mean an image. Sounds good. Let's party.. Us people. We just say words and we react to them - but who knows why?

A few months ago, I was watching TV with a small group. On screen was a Canadian military chaplain talking to Canadian troops. He paused, then turned to look at the camera, and said, "I just want all Canadians to know that you soldiers here in Afghanistan are doing an important job."


A man beside me nodded his head. I wondered what image had come into his mind. Important and job are words that surely have meanings. What image had that man heard? Exactly what important job are they doing? I have never heard anyone explain exactly why it is that we sent Canadians there to kill and be killed. What is it? Bringing democracy? You've got to be kidding. But that man saw some image of something we were doing that justified the risks and the killing.

Do you know? Drop me a line if you do.

What this all leads up to is that I got angry reactions recently when I used the words fascist and Nazi. People found it distasteful that I should use those words. Why? I guess it's because I used them as words with real meanings. But we are in the habit of using words without the faintest idea of any meaning, just as sounds that create images in our heads.  And those words create bad images, so bad that movements like them can never happen again.

Next time I can't find a good book to read at bedtime, I'll follow up on this. You might be surprised how many eminently respectable Canadians thought fascism and Nazism were good ideas. You might be more surprised at how many still think so.