Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sept. 30: Sunday morning.

I always check out the faith pages (both of them) in the weekend TandT. And it always reminds me painfully of the business page. That's the one that seems to be thrown together on a daily basis with no focus, no planning, no judgement - just tossing in whatever's handy - rather like throwing fish bits to the sled dogs.

The impression left by the Faith page is that Moncton is largely Protestant, though with rather few Protestant churches represented - two Anglican, six Baptist, five United, and one Presbyterian. It also appears to be pretty cheaply put together with one page (Worship Services) apparently paid advertising, and three-quarters of the other simply announcements of church suppers and yard sales.

There is, it is true, an opinion column as a lead - and it is usually worth reading. And, I suspect, it is a freebie for the paper.

Almost certainly not by coincidence, there is a restaurant ad in the corner directed at seniors (who make up a large proportion of attendance in most churches). That ad, alone, probably pays for both pages.

There are several bothersome things about this section.

For a start, there is no sign of editing or even of purpose to this section. They just print whatever they get for nothing or, sometimes, for a small donation to the TandT. In that sense, it's as sloppy and casual as the business page, NewsToday, and section A.

Then - well - I somehow think there are more churches (and more faiths) than are represented in this section.
I have seen Protestant churches which do not belong to the four brands listed on Faith. I have seen what I am quite sure are Roman Catholic churches. I know I have seen a synagogue. I have seen Moslems in this city; so there must be at least a prayer group for Moslems.

As well, church attendance figures suggest a large number of atheists (also a faith of sorts) and agnostics. All of these represent views about faith. The sports page wouldn't dream of leaving out the complete scores for a sports league in southern California that nobody here will ever see. But the Faith page leaves out well over 90% of all those who might be interested in faith, if not in specific churches.

But there's also a far, far deeper problem.

We live in a world in which the very concepts of right and wrong have pretty much disappeared. A century ago, the world's leading nations held conferences to limit the use of some of the terrible weapons being developed. Then came World War One, and all limits were abandoned. Today, when weapons are a million times more terrible than they were in 1914, the major nations are the leaders in refusing to consider any limitation on what they can use or do.

When the UN was founded, no major nation took it seriously. The veto was placed in its constitution by the major powers to ensure that the UN could never be effective. In the early days, the leading user of the veto was the Soviet Union. I can remember, as a child, hearing jokes about Nyet (no) being the only word the Soviets understood.

The did it because they were so often in a minority position. But things have changed.

The US is now the big user of the veto. (Though I haven't heard any jokes about it in our press - or even much mention of it.) As well, it is some of the most self-righteous Christians in the very Christian United States that most loudly shout for even more killing.

Canada was one of the last to abandon the UN. The abandonment began a long time ago, but was clear when Canadian pms, starting with Martin, accepted NATO as a respectable cover for unrespectable wars. NATO has replaced the UN; and NATO is simply the US thug for its wars - just as the British Empire provided thugs for the Boer War.

War has risen to such a level of savagery and deliberate killing of civilians and and torture and  terrorism (yes, by all sides), that Hitler now seems the outstanding figure of the twentieth century who set the model for our time.

Nor does not the concept of right and wrong exist in our business world. Oh, yes, business will give big cheques to worthy groups; you can see the photos any day in the TandT. But that's just good advertising. The reality is that big business, especially, does not operate according to any principles of right and wrong.

Quite the contrary, It has long about accepted as its only principle that the only good is making a profit, no matter what the damage to humans or the environment they have to live in. There is an open worship of greed. Greed is good. Greed creates ambition. Greed creates prosperity. (Just look around the world, and check out the prosperity in Haiti, Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, Greece, Spain, Ireland, Britain, the US....and maybe us.)

Look at the corruption in governments. Look at how democracy is becoming a myth. Look at how all those millions were donated to contractors to rebuild Haiti - and now all of it is gone into the pockets of the contractors - with Haitians still living in poverty and filth. Look at the great pharmaceutical companies which insist top retail prices for life-saving drugs sent to third world countries with our tax dollars.

Corporations have become unspeakably corrupt and corrupting, greedy, destructive,even  murderous (ask the Congolese, Libyans, Iraqis and Afghanis about it) - and they see that as normal, sensible business practice.

Incidentally, to see the stupidity in all this, think of the argument given for fracking. Sure, it made do irreparable damage to the environment. But it will create jobs. Yeah. (For a little while. Maybe.) That's a great idea. Building on it, lets nuke Fredericton. It would kill some people; but so do other attacks on the environment - like fracking. And - here's the good part.Nuking Fredericton would create jobs with federal money pouring in to clean up Fredericton. For Pete's sake, grow up. Stop worrying about damage. Think jobs.

I have no intention to beat the drum for any religion in particular. I really don't care whether Jesus was the son of God, or Mary a Virgin. I think the discrimination directed against gays is the product of narrow and self-righteous minds which have missed the whole point of Christianity.

As to faith, I have it. Three cheers for me. But that in no way makes me superior to or even seriously different from many devout people I have known who were Jews, Moslems, Hindus or followers of Confucius.  Or, for that matter, from a great many agnostics and atheists.

But the fact remains that religion has, throughout history, been the source off what sense of right and wrong that we have. Even my favourite atheists have a sense of right and wrong that bears a remarkable resemblance to religious people I have known.

(Yes, I know that some of the worst warhawks and preachers of hatred are religious Christians. I think here of the Protestant chaplain in Afghanistan who assured our troops they were doing an important job. I admit we do face a problem of converting Christians to Christianity.)

We're in trouble. We live in a world that is destroying itself for lack of any sense of right and wrong. We live in a capitalist economy which is destroying itself for lack of any sense of right and wrong. In fact, our capitalism has become no different from Stalin's communism. Like Stalin's communism, it is simply power, corruption, greed concentrated in the hands of a few. And, like Stalin's communism, it is destroying itself - and us with it.

Whether you are religious or not, we are in severe danger from our lack of any sense of right and wrong.

It seems to m the Faith page would be a good place to start considering that - with all the faiths; and, indeed, with all the non-faiths and phony faiths that characterize our big-business and political worlds.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sept. 29: button, button.......

Who's got the button?

There was sort of a big story on CBC news yesterday. Norbert, I'm sure, would have been interested in it. A number of oil companies face charges for price-fixing in Quebec.  (That's against the law, you know.) One of them was a company called Irving. The company was reported as having its headquarters in St. John. That's quite a coincidence. We have an oil company named Irving that has headquarters in St. John.( But it can't be the same one.)

After all, if it were the Irving oil we all know, then The Moncton Times and Transcript would have had a big story about it. I mean, CBC had to the story out in plenty of time to make the press deadline. But I couldn't find a word about it, not even in the Miss Manners column. Even Rod Allen's Spies didn't know about it.

And - well - just imagine - imagine the coverage if CBC had been charged with price-fixing. Well, that would have have front page, lead editorial, and a full op ed page by Norbert, foaming at the mouth. (Instead, he has a column about how you shouldn't try to sneak a ride on a plane by climbing into a wheel well. Way to tell it like it is, Norbert.)

There was another story I didn't expect to see. But it was there - if only by accident. (It didn't appear as a news story. It appeared as an op ed piece by Gwynne Dyer.)  American drones which have routinely been killing people in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc. for several years, have been killing mostly civilians. That comes from a lengthy study carried out by Stanford University and New York University. (Certainly, it did not come from reading the TandT or Reuters.)

In fact, the civilian dead come to almost 90% of the total score. One reason is the "double tap". The drone fires on a target, goes away, then come back as rescuers arrive at the scene - and it kills the rescuers. God Bless America. Almost all of the North American press has never reported on any of this. This random killing to create fear is precisely what we call terrorism when somebody else does it.

On p. 1, Brent Mazerolle - well - I can kindly call this misleading reporting.

The lead story "Are we correct or cranky" is about a survey which shows that Monctonians are profoundly unhappy with the quality of city services. The headline alone gives away his bias. (Correct or cranky suggests we might just be a bunch of malcontents. And the first, five paragraphs rub that point in. Nothing wrong with Moncton. Just a lot of cranks live here.)

The focus is supposed to be on whether Moncton is a good place to raise children. Now, in fact, the Moncton Times and Transcipt has almost never had a good word to say about our public schools. It was not long ago that it ran the some of the most savage and ignorant editorials I have ever seen - and they were attacking our schools. I don't at all agree with that. But the TandT itself has taken a lead in saying this is not a good place to raise children. Now Brent writes off such critics as cranks. In fact, the only cranks I have seen write for the TandT.

Bad reporting, Brent.

Otherwise, Section A is a great read for lovers of car ads.

NewsToday leads with a silly story about Trudeau, and how good looks are important in choosing a party leader. That's drivel. The line-up of Canadian prime ministers since 1867 will never be confused with the Mr. Canada contest. John A was homely. The longest-serving prime minister in Canadian history was Mackenzie-King who was short, overweight, homely as a post, utterly without charm, and without friends. Despite a lifetime search, he could never find a wife or even a girlfriend. John Diefenbaker? He may have sired an illegitimate son. But lots of homely people do that.

Similarly, Belliveau gushes over Justin Trudeau, even over his very ordinary and rather scattered academic record. Belliveau also has a strange comment about the father and son. "Justin Trudeau is a young man in tune with the times. He is not his father."  ?????????

Pierre Trudeau was not in tune with the times? And what the hell does being in tune with the times mean? What principles does Justin Trudeau stand for? Belliveau appears to be linking that statement to Justin's attitude to oil and shale gas development. Yessirree, maybe being in tune with the times means making all the money we can now without worrying about what the means for the world our children (and even most of us) will have to live in - maybe.

Incidentally, Pierre Trudeau was neither handsome nor outgoing. He was, in fact, a very shy man, quite an introvert. But he could turn on an extroverted, take-charge personality as if by a switch. Those who thought him handsome were, I think, seeing a projection of his intellectual acuity and his confidence. He also had a far more serious academic record than Justin, and far more experience in dealing with public issues.

If the Liberals can't come up with a few more candidates, and some demonstrated abilities, they're in trouble. In fact, it's not just a leader they need. It's some sense of what "Liberal" means.

P. B7 has a story on how our provincial minister of mines and energy, Craig Leonard, is not in a conflict of interest, even though his sister has a senior position in the petroleum industry. (Mr. Leonard has said he wants to make New Brunswick an energy hub with --- well, guess --- firewood?  rubber bands? candles? shale gas?


Nope. No conflict of interest there. But read the article closely. It's so garbled that it's hard to follow. Are their rules for conflict of interest?  Does Mr. Allward have any moral or political position on this? I mean, he is the person who chooses ministers. If he thinks any choice is a bad idea, he has the power not to make it. 

But I can see the political appeal of Mr. Leonard.  The story ends with a  long statement from Mr. Leonard. And, oh, and can this guy talk political gobbledygook. You could cut out at least half of his words without changing the meaning. In fact, you could boil the whole thing down to four words. He likes shale gas.


Oh! Something else the TandT forgot to report. It was announced yesterday that a group in New York had awarded the Richard Nixon prize to Harper. The prize is for courageous and strong leadership in protecting the interests of the rich and powerful.

I remember the days, not that long ago, when Canada was one of the most respected  (if innocuous) countries in the world. Harper has singlehandedly destroyed that. In a recent South American poll of popular political leaders in the Americas, Harper came in 18th.

In particular, his policy toward Israel is confusing, to say the least. Until today, he was holding to an Israel policy that seemed in conflict with that of Obama, and far closer to Netanyahu's demands for war. Indeed, Netanyahu, who is barely on speaking terms with Obama, sat down yesterday for a real kiss-up with Harper.

I have been wondering for some time why Canada was following a policy that seemed to be a contradiction of Obama's. But today, Harper's on p. 1 playing kiss-kiss with Netanyahu while refusing to accept Netanyahu's demand for a red line against Iran.

That's the same as Obama's policy. Yet Netanyahu is smiling and going kiss-kiss back on Harper.

What's going on here? Why is Netanyahu furious with Obama but buddies with Harper?

We are quite possibly on the edge of World War Three. Shouldn't we be thinking our way through to some clearer policy?























































5




Friday, September 28, 2012

Sept. 28: Big stories in the news...

Headline, p. 1: Read all about it.
"Moncton Wal-Mart to become  Supercentre"
"Moncton Hospital to open area for smoking"   ( outdoors).
p. A10: "Red Leaf Grill and Lounge set to open"
.....and the beat goes on.

As Norbert would say, who needs the CBC for fast-breaking news that YOU NEED to know?

I mean, for example, who cares about shale gas? Who cares about where our new high school will be? And why? Who cares that the new school will be heavily dependent on motor transit when we are on the edge of that becoming prohibitively expensive and environmentally suicide? For an example of how ghastly that can get, take a look at Riverview High. How would you like to spend all your lunch hours strolling around there?

And, certainly, don't worry about a major report that most real newspapers all over the world covered yesterday - that people all over the world (though mostly in poor countries) are dying at the rate of 5 million a year as a result of climate change which, itself, is a result of our reliance on fossil fuels. That number will increase.

Climate change in also cutting down on food supplies which, as well as creating starvation, will dramatically reduce GDP all over the world. The report says immediate action is essential.

And Moncton is taking actio. I mean, for openers, you've got that big story up top.  Moncton Wal-Mart is going to become a Supercentre.

The business page has an exciting story about how Moncton business people are holding an event to give each other awards for their excellence. That may explain why there was no room for the other, big, business  story that three senior executives of Nortel have just been found guilty of  cooking the company books to make it seem there had been a big profit, thus giving each other multi-million dollar bonuses while the company went down the toilet.

But, hey, you can't expect a business editor to notice everything.

In NewsToday, I looked for a story (with a lie) which I was pretty sure would be there. And it was.

Two days, Iran President Ahmadinejad addressed the UN assembly. Most news sources around the world reported him as saying "any small problems created by Israel would be eliminated", a pretty clear reference to Israeli computer hacking, assassinations of Iranian scientists, etc. And small problems would be eliminated. That sounds clear.

But the TandT gets its news from Reuters. And the Reuters version is that he said Israel will be eliminated - and this is not the first time Reuters  (and a few others) have done this.

You'll find this 'quotation' on p. C5, under Netanyahu speaks, fourth paragraph from the bottom.

In a competent and ethical newspaper (of which this world has few) the news editor is supposed to be aware of these errors, and to choose news stories accordingly.

Norbert  has a column that begins with an attack on silly stories in the news. As usual,  he does not give a single example from his own, miserable paper. Nor does he mention private radio which lives on silly and/or irrelevant stories. Nor does he mention the silliest, most ignorant, most dishonest TV news station in the English-speaking world, privately-owned Fox News.  But he does slip in his usual attack on CBC - and this time adds BBC and, as usual, without offering any reason for his opinion.

There's something else he doesn't mention. In most cities, private radio depends heavily on newspapers for its news. That's because private radio usually has only a small news staff. But it's tough to do that in Moncton  because the newspaper news is so trivial. As a result, if you want news in or of this region, you have go to CBC. Check it out some time. Google CBC. Check out its news stories. compare them to the stories in the Irving Press.

But don't worry. Harper is fixing that. When he gets through with the CBC budget, you won't even have to think about news ever again.

Norbert then goes on to defend the merging of Canadian and British embassies in some countries. Alas! He seems to understand none of the issues - and seems not even to have read any significant commentary on it.

The editorial, God help us, is about the closing of a restaurant. It's a restaurant I liked, going way back to its early days. Loved it. But a subject for an editorial?

Three, very readable columns by Alec Bruce, Lynda MacGibbon, and David Suzuki. Bruce's column is a warning of what happens when a crown corporation (VIA Rail) is run by a government with a private corporation mind set. Lynda MacGibbon raises a point that Moncton should have been planning for twenty years ago - and that Riverview should have thought of from the start.

Now, the painful part....

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m., the current events group will meet at Moncton Library on Main St.  All are welcome. (You will sometimes find it listed with other events in The Moncton Times and Transcript - but usually not.)

The painful part? Well, this blog attracts a large readership. It's true that many readers are a long commute (the U.S., Russia, India...).  But the majority must almost certainly be from the Moncton area.

I have led current events groups for over 15 years, with regular audiences that were rarely under 200, and commonly twice that. But, oh, Moncton is a tough gig. I have rarely had more than a very few, though usually the same ones. I don't understand how a large readership can translate into such a small discussion group.

I seldom announce topics in advance because it's hard to know even a day in advance what will be important in the news. However, I am open to any suggestion for topics you would like to hear about. Just drop a note in the comments space below this post.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sept. 27: What the hell is going on?

Yesterday, de Adder had a pretty simple-minded cartoon critical of the government for its language discussions.
Today, de Adder had a pretty simple-minded cartoon critical of the government for its language discussions.
(He has never had a cartoon about its secrecy in dealing with shale gas.)

Yesterday, the TandT had a long story about a political party of almost no following that is critical of language duality in New Brunswick.

Today,(p. C3)  it had virtually the same story, perhaps longer, and with almost the same picture of the leader. This time, they added one person they found who agreed with him.

This comes from a newspaper that has never given us the information it vowed to on shale gas. It has never responded to demands for investigation of the choice of site for Moncton's new high school. It has never carried out any serious (or honest) reporting on the "events" centre.  It has never touched any subject that the barons of New Brunswick doesn't want it to touch.

Obviously, our barons have passed the word down to their journalistic propagandists on  this one. That means they have also passed the word down to their local Sheriffs of Nottingham, the ones we humorously refer to as MLAs. This cannot be because our barons have suddenly developed a thirst for democracy. No, there's some other reason. And, in view of their history as rulers of this province, there is not the lightest reason to believe that it has anything to do with the well being of the rest of us. For some reason, they seem to want a fight over language.

And, oh, while you're stuck on p. C3, glance over to p. C2, "Explosion impacts crude prices". 'Impact' is never, not ever, not even a little bit a verb. It is a noun. An editor should know that. For example - you don't' editor a newspaper: editor is a noun. You edit it. Edit is a verb.

It's worth reading C7 "Anti-cuts protests erupt in Athens and Madrid". There's also plenty on this on Youtube. What's happening is that the middle class and the poor in those cities are being made to pay the terrible price for the careless and even criminal behaviour of their financial leaders who, incidentally, continue to get richer - and to keep it all to themselves.

It's worth reading because we're likely to see a lot more and a lot worse of this, and in more countries. In the US, Homeland Security has just purchased a billion rounds of ammunition. That's purely for domestic use. Bush and Obama have both ignored the constitution, giving themselves the right to imprison or kill American citizens without any charge or trial. You don't think any such internal violence could rise in the US? Better tell Bush, Obama and Romney. I'm sure they would be relieved to hear it.

And don't write off Canada. These riots are the result of a steady decline in real incomes of most of the population, coupled with steady rise in incomes for the very, very rich. That's not just happening in Greece and Spain. It's happening here. And cutting government services and firing civil servants  isn't going to change it.

The editorial drools all over yesterday's report from KPMG that Moncton is tops in low taxes on business. (or is that low in top taxes on business?) Anyway, it pretty much confirms what seemed obvious yesterday. KPMG is an outfit that helps the very wealthy rip everybody else off. And The Moncton Times and Transcript is on its side.

I'm glad to read that Alec Bruce entering the blog world. But he must be a brute for work to do that in addition to his regular job(s), especially if he also plans to use Skype. Jody Dallaire has a column of statistics on women in New Brunswick, statistics that are both surprising and dismaying.

Page A6 and p. A10  - each of these has an excellent advertisement, one for beer and one for coffee. But why do they appear as news stories?

To end on a light touch, this one for hockey fans....

Why is an off side pass illegal? (The rule was borrowed from another sport.)

Why is a quarterback called a quarterback? - and what does this have to do with hockey?

Oh, I wrote to five people at  Moncton City Hall to ask what happened to my request for information about pollution under Highfield Square. This time, I immediately received four responses. None of them provided an answer. But I have reason to expect a real answer within a week. Watch this space.

Three of them answered me by my first name. That's nice. You can have no idea how strange that sounds to a person not from the maritimes. But it's nice to hear. Very welcoming.







Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sept. 26: non-stories...

...the art of inventing news. Today's Moncton Times and Transcript offers us several examples, right up there on the front page. We'll start at the bottom with the most glaring one, "Moncton tops in tax competitiveness".
Sounds good - so long as you don't think about it. What does 'tops' in tax competitive mean? Well, it means you can do business in Moncton without paying much (or sometimes any) tax at all. To be tops in tax competitiveness is something like being tops in the food chain for crows. Similarly, Moncton is now tops in Canada for secretiveness in reasons for deciding where to locate schools.

Being tops is something that gives the impression of being good even when it's very very bad.

One thing that makes us tops is low worker compensation costs. Isn't that nice? That means people who are already rich find it easier to get even richer in Moncton. So, any time you feel you're getting ripped off, don't complain.March proudly downtown with your sign "We're no. 1".

Oh, yes - the company that produced with good news for us - it's called KPMG. It's a big, big company. And what does it do? Well, the report doesn't tell us much about that. But if you check Wikkipedia, you'll find it there. It's a sort of good samaritan company that helps rich people avoid taxes. And, sometimes, its lust to do good gets out of control. There's been a good deal of talk about fraudulence, and even some pleading of guilty to criminal charges for fraud.

The TandT doesn't mention that - and that's understandable. Why drag up the past? What we have here is not a news story at all. What we have here is propaganda which, now I think of it, fits in with most of the "news" in The Moncton Times and Transcript.

At the top of the page is a similar report, this one a poll by another company known only by initials, MQO. What are its connections? What is its record? Who knows? And who, at the TandT cares? Hey, it's a polling company. (I guess they've never heard of polling companies that make their money out of producing studies with results that the people who pay for the poll want to see.)

The headline emphasizes that this is good news. We, it says, are "shoptimists". The good news is that people surveyed planned to spend less money in the coming year. Okay. But why is that good news? After all, the poll results given show that people intend to cut their spending.

Oh. But they explain that, sort of. The numbers have been going down now for several years. So it's good news its not worse news. And, in the end, what does this all mean?

Nothing whatever. The reality is that the whole world is shaky on many counts. In any case, what we plan to do while talking on the phone to a pollster can be pretty seriously affected by things we didn't plan on. Possibly, quite probably, this isn't a news story at all.  Quite probably, it's a loaded poll concocted to keep up consumer confidence - or, least, to slow down the drop in consumer confidence.

A good newspaper would take the trouble to check its sources. Who pays the bill for these sources? What sort of record to they have? Who is their ownership? Initials like MQO and KPMG tell the reader nothing. What is the company referred to as Atlantic Matters? What sort of clientele does it serve?

Frankly, one of these sources is obviously a propaganda outfit for big business. The other looks suspiciously like a propaganda outfit for smaller business. And the reporters, typically for the TandT, wrote what they were told to write, and asked no questions.

There's a different kind of non story on the same page "Future of Via Rail discussed". This concerns a "public meeting" held at city hall. Wow! "Public meeting" That rouses images of mass rallies, even of the French revolution with ringing speeches and heads falling. Actually, though, it was fifty people - a number you could find in any good bar.

What could the point of the open meeting possibly be? What was council going to learn about rail service  from a very random sample of fifty people of no particular expertise? Why not get some expert advice?

Actually, it did. Maybe. The feature of the "public meeting' was a Richard Gormick, leader of a project to save rail service across Canada. He passed through Moncton on a tour of the Maritimes. What makes him an expert?  He has written on transport. (Hey, I'm an expert. I'm writing on transport right now.) And he's also an advisor on transport.

What has he written? Who has he advised? Who knows? The reporter didn't think it important to ask him.

None of this is to question the value of Mr. Gormick's credentials or advice. He may very well be worth listening to. But why couldn't the newspaper tell us that and tell us why? And, since Mr. Gormick seems to have been the only person to say anything of importance at this "public" meeting of council, why make it public in the first place? Why rob the councillors of a chance for a more intense meeting with Mr. Gormick?

Let's try a guess at what happened.

Mr. Gormick is touring the region. He understands this region. He knows that a public meeting on a serious issue wouldn't draw flies. New Brunswickers just aren't built that way. That's why you can get fifty people to a council meeting only on occasion.  But you can get many times that in the city's bars every day.

The other factor is that City Council knows it has to look at though it is doing something about a transportation crisis which has been sitting there for years.

Mr. Gormick needs an audience. City Council needs to look as though it's doing something.

It's a marriage made in  heaven. Mr. Gormick gets his audience. City Council get its name in the headline.

On. p. A6, we learn that Dieppe, Moncton and Riverview are bracing for drastic climate change. Glad to hear it. The warnings began some fifty years ago when Russian explorers noted a great hole in the ozone layer at the South Pole. Now, we're going to "brace" for change. Talk about advanced city planning!

Two, interesting stories on pp. C.1 and C.4.
1. "Harper defends decision to skip UN." In it, the question is raised of whether Harper has decided the dump the UN. Of course, he has. He's following the US lead, and the US dumped it a long time ago when it could not get the US to sanction its wars. That's when NATO got redesigned to make our invasions seem more respectable.
2,"Bishops block foreign aid campaign." The reference is to Canada's Roman Catholic Bishops; but the message to them is the same as the one that was given to Protestant churches less than a year ago. If you want any cooperation with Harper on anything at all, make damn sure you don't offer aid to anybody Harper doesn't like. The bishops got the message.

On the editorial page, deAdder manages to be both distasteful and simple-minded in just one cartoon. No mean feat.

Alec Bruce's column provided good reading for this reader who wonders what the hell the NDP is doing in Nova Scotia ; and what the hell it thinks NDP is supposed to stand for. The Nova Scotia NDP looks to me a lot like the New Brunswick liberalconservatives.







Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sept. 25: What on earth is Harper about?

     It was a post from a reader that got me started on this - not something in  The Moncton Times and Transcript because there's nothing much in the TandT. But let's go back to the closing of diplomatic relations with Iran. Why did Harper do it? He gave two reasons.
1.He was refusing to have relations with a country with a terrible record for abuse of human rights.
     That's absurd.
     We maintain the closest relations with a country which is the world's leading torturer. We have even allowed them to practice torture on Canadians, without protest. We took part in a war on Libya in cooperation with the US; and it was a war that was illegal under international law. The US has killed civilians by the million just in Harper's lifetime. We heap praise on China which, I am reliably informed, has been known to abuse human rights quite severely.
     Harper is clearly lying. He doesn't give a damn about human rights.

2. He said the failure of the Iranian governments to protect embassies makes it too dangerous for Canadian diplomats to be stationed there. Okay - so how come everybody else isn't packing up? In fact, Harper has now endangered Canadian diplomats in Moslem countries all over the world by his move.

      Now, Harper's not dumb. He may be "Liar, liar, pants on fire". But he's not dumb. So what's going on?

      This week, (and barely hinted at in the TandT), he's in New York where he's going to meet with Netanyahu. Obama is in New York, too. But he won't meet with Obama (and Obama won't meet with Netanyhu.) None of this makes any sense. Netanyahu's only concern is bombing Iran. It is scarcely likely that Canada can play a significant role in that. Right now, only Obama can.

     Oh, and Harper won't, while in New York, be speaking to the general assembly of the UN, even though some organization has named him "World Statesman of the Year". (God help us.)

      What's going on here? Whose game is Harper playing? Who are we going to play flunkys for? - and let's not kid ourselves we can be anything but a flunky where the stakes are this high. Nor is Harper a world statesman of any sort. The last person we had who came close to that was Lester Pearson.

     Then there's the curiosity of Harper deciding to bunk in with the Brits on embassy space. It's worth reading Alec Bruce on this. Really, if it's money he wants to save, he should have kept a closer eye on the purchase of fighter planes.

     But don't expect to get any news on this in the TandT. It's source for Harper news is PostMedia - and PostMedia is National Post - and National Post in The Moncton Times and Transcript with more expensive pimps. You can count on it always to kiss up to Harper.

     On the use of words, take note of Norbert's column. He says the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed by Islamist "extremists". Now, Norbert is a man who takes words seriously. And I have no doubt that people who kill are doing something extreme, and can reasonably be called extremists.

     But extremist isn't just a descriptive word. It packs a meaning that is emotionally loaded - and usually ugly. It also implies that in being extreme, the person described is wrong. So, let's see. George Washington led a revolution. That's pretty extreme. American presidents ordered the bombings of Cambodia and Vietnam that killed millions of innocent people. George Bush Sr. was head of the CIA when it slaughtered a quarter million people in Guatemala. About 1920, Winston Churchill ordered the bombing of undefended, civilian villages in the Kurds in Iran. Ever see the word extremist attached any of those people in your newspaper?

     Of course not. That sort of language becomes an unconscious form of propaganda. We kill innocent people by the million. We aren't extremists. We're defending democracy. They shoot back. They're extremists and terrorists.

    Of course, in the end extremists and terrorists lose. Look what happened to General Custer. And not a minute too soon.

Norbert adds a very sad note about the Roman Catholic church. Agree or disagree, it's worth thinking about - and not only in respect to the Roman Catholic church. We, perhaps particularly in the western world, have lost any sense of right or wrong, of good or evil. As Norbert says, the decline of the churches is continuing- to which we might add that, either because of that or as a result of the decline - right and wrong have ceased to exist.

We have governments so corrupted by power and money that how power and money are gained, and how they are used, is irrelevant. Anything which creates more power and money is acceptable. If it means creating mass poverty around the world, that's okay. If it means murdering innocent people - not to worry.  If it means lowering standards of living in Moncton, destroying the environment and the future for New Brunswick, that's fine.

Do what you like. The churches won't criticize you. Hell, for a big enough donation, some of them will name a church after you.The message of Christianity, in particular, is reduced to sermons that are careful not to mention anything that is really happening (as an abstract thought, it's wrong to be greedy. But that's never mentioned n regard to our economic system which is based on greed.)

In the place of right and wrong, we get abstractions. We get emphasis on some point of bigotry and discrimination that is based on a very naive reading of The Bible. You can, for example, discriminate against gays. If such discrimination were against Jews or native peoples or Africans, it would be unacceptable. But pointing a finger at gays will make any drunken lout into a man of God. (Interestingly, Hitler, in Mein Kampf, based his condemnation of Jews on Catholic teaching. The British Empire justified its killing and exploitation on the word of God. So did our ancestors who either killed or displaced the native peoples.)

We have, long ago, lost any sense of right and wrong. That may explain a lot about the serious decline we are facing in the world.

de Adder's cartoon makes good deal of sense. Be very cautious in the language debate (as Dr. Parrott was not.) There are bigots on both sides. There are fools on both sides. And they are the ones who grab the headlines in these debates.

I watched, up close, as such a debate destroyed Quebec both socially and economically. And it was all tarted up on both sides with words that had emotional punch but that nobody understood. Culture is the one that always sticks in my mind. And both sides are guilty of that one.

If only for very practical reasons, New Brunswick must accept language duality. Luckily, the words practical and right (in the moral sense) are almost interchangeable. New Brunswick has to concentrate on doing the right thing. It's done a pretty good job so far. There needs to me more -but fighting between English and French isn't going to help. Indeed, it could destroys things for everybody.

The French language, for reasons that we have no control over, will always be under pressure in New Brunswick. And that would be true if the whole province were unilingual French. Movies, TV, radio, and popular music would guarantee that. Both francophones and anglophones need to understand that and accept the reality. It's the not the fault of anybody on either side. It's just a reality.

Nor can dualism be simply a law. It has to be an attitude, a spirit, willingness on the part of all of us. Laws create two sides. We can't afford that. And we shouldn't even want to afford it. If any issue cries for an understanding of right and wrong, this one does.

I see I've rambled a bit in the last couple of blogs. Sorry. There's just so little in the TandT worth talking about.

I have submitted my "right to information" request concerning Highfield Square. Still no response. So today, I shall drop a note to my two council members and to the mayor. I'm sure they will be eager to ensure that the system works smoothly. After all, it's not a question that should require a whole lot of research.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sept. 24: News to come?

When I began this blog something over two years ago, what started it was a long series of editorials attacking New Brunswick public schools. For venom, rant and ignorance, I had never  see its equal. And it was frequently made worse by op ed pieces from Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, a propaganda house for big business.

It wasn't hard to figure out why it started. Big business wanted the public schools. It wanted them for the only reason it could want them - personal profit. That's why business "think tanks" gave prominence to "scientific" studies which showed the schools were producing poor results. Commonly, these studies were conducted by statisticians.

Of course. The wonderful thing about statistics is that if you torture them enough, they'll say whatever you want them to say. Usually, the first wiggle into the public schools for private business was to get their "think tanks" into the schools to conduct standardized tests, and to use those tests to compare schools and even individual teachers. That first step had already taken place in New Brunswick - and the standardized tests are still in place, doing their damage.

The statistics they produce are useless since the performance of students does not usually reflect the school or the teachers. The reality is that children from working class families usually do not do as well in school as children from middle class families. Schools in working class districts will usually produce lower grades than those in middle class districts.

Students with parents who read, have wide interests,have high expectations of their children will do better than those whose parents reading consists of Ann Landers, Hollywood gossip, and TandT editorials. Students with parents who are intellectually acitve will do better than those whose parents tell the time according to what TV programmes are on.

I learned that the hard way. I grew up in a district which was poor, and in which expectations were low.Result - nobody in my beginning class finished high school. A success was anybody who a)finished grade 9 and b)got a steady job. b) was more important than a). When I hit grade 10, I found myself in a class whose students came from quite a different background. They weren't rich. But they came from families with active minds, and with high expectations. With the exception of me, they all finished high school and went on to university, many of them to become quite distinguished.

The problem isn't in the schools. It's in us parents; it's in the social environment; it's in economic status. It's in a newspaper; it's in private radio and private TV that breed ignorance and triviality. It's in those who think we absolutely must borrow a hundred million for a new hockey rink while, at the same time, we  have the worst funded libraries in Canada.

The US has plunged into privatization with so-called Charter Schools. It has public/private partnerships - public schools for which parents pay fees to make profit for private operators. Private/Public partnership. It's not hard to understand. Think of cat/mouse partnership. Children whose parents can't afford the fees get dead-end schools that might as well have a sign on them, saying "Abandon hope all ye who enter here".

It's colossal waste of lives and of the intellectual talent the US needs if it's going to survive.

Creeping privatization hs done so much damage, that  recent ratings by UNESCO show the US way down in its world ranking for quality of education. Britain's Conservative government is going the same route. In fact, it is privatizing everything in sight, including police and prisons. Well, why not? The US has privatized prisons, and it's well on the way to privatizing its armed forces. Harper shows all the same leanings. He would like to get rid of CBC, to privatize prisons, to get rid of medicare....

Ever notice that whenever Norbert gets into a rant he almost invariably attacks CBC? And he attacks government run organizations as inefficient? In fact, it's more commonly private corporations that are inefficient. Compare, for example, the cost of Canadian medicare to American private care. Compare the cost of private prisons to public ones. (But, unless you have a strong heart, don't even look at the tremendous cost and corruption of the private suppliers who have taken over so much of the American military.)

After a rant that last for months, the Times and Transcript suddenly went quiet on education. I don't know why. Certainly, the people behind both the TandT and AIMS were the same people - so we can be sure they supported the ranting tones of the TandT's anti-public school tirade. It's quiet for now.

But it won't stay that way. We're in the middle of a huge struggle for privatization and for personal profit. There are no limits to. Their battle cry is "efficiency". But their motive is greed. And their target is our children.

AIMS still exists. We haven't seen it on the op ed page for quite a while. But it shall return.

As you might guess from all this, there isn't much in today's paper worth talking about. There is a news item worth reading at the top of NewsToday. "Iran warns of risk of 'World War Three'". Take that one very seriously.For Reuters, it's also a quite decent reporting job.

What Iran threatens is it might make a pre-emptive strike on Israel if it seems Israel is going to attack it. Well, why not? Surely, the US and Israel are not the only countries in the world allowed to make pre-emptive strikes. Netanyahu is quite foolish and irresponsible enough to make his try before the US election. Failing that, he still has the chance that would be provided by a Romney win.

Norbert has a pretty good column about privacy, and the ease of invading it in this electronic age. It starts with the story of nude photos of Kate Middleton. Unfortunately, it does not mention the most serious invasions of privacy - the massive information on millions of us held by government spies, and gained, often, through illegal means. In the US, it goes way beyond the excesses of Stalin's NKVD - and it's moving that way in Canada. You think it protects us? Well, rermember that it can also be used by any government against its personal enemies. That's that sort of espionage is common in dictatorships and police states.

I particularly recommend the section of Norbert's headed Islamophobia. That one, in Moncton, takes courage. (I think it's also very true.)

As well, there's an excellent letter to the editor "Oh yes; we need to accept change."

There was also a letter I found vicious, unjustified, ruthless, malicious, insulting and stinky-poo. . "Elderly drivers need retesting."

Okay, so I'm sensitive...."




Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sept. 22: The headline as propaganda...Almost

It's common in journalism. Headlines often reflect the prejudices (or the ignorances) of their writers - usually news editors. Take, for example, p.1 of NewsToday. "Violent Protests kill 15 in Pakistan". (This  was in reaction to the film about Mohammed.) In effect, this is a headline that screams "all them there Moslems is crazy. They's all fanatics and extremists." You'll find that tone  reflected in most of the American press, in which the usual term that features is "Moslem rage".

That headline is important. For a high proportion of readers, the headline is all they will read; so that's their whole impression of what's going on. The headline can be the most effective propaganda in a newspaper.

But now take a look at the sub-head. "Demonstrations peaceful in most of Muslim world". Gee, that's quite different.

And now read the story. Almost all of it is about violence and death. (With no mention that most of the deaths have been caused by police and soldiers.) Of course. The story is from Reuters. Some other news sources are quite different, emphasizing how most Moslem leadership has tried to calm the situation, and how the ones fanning the flames are those who want to establish Islamist states - people very similar to some fundamentalist Christians in Canada and the US who want our government to become a ruling arm of their version of Christianity.

Who gains from all this? Extremist Moslems who want a state controlled by their religious leadership - and extremist Christians who want a state controlled by their religious leadership. The only difference between them is that our press always calls the Moslem ones extremists. The Christian ones, no matter how nutbar and dangerous they get, are never called extremists.

Indeed, this is a film apparently made by the Christian right.  They, as so often, constitute a major factor  in this drift to holy war. So how comes Reuters (and the TandT) and the North American news media in general pay so little attention to the Christian right? Gwynne Dyer has an excellent column about this on the op ed page.

So here's a story that effectively lies. Those big, black letters of the headline tell one story. And that's the one that has reader impact. The subhead, which tells the truth, has little impact.

In fairness, that headline may not be entirely due to deliberate lying. It could be, it could very well be, a TandT editor who is - well - a typical TandT editor.

In NewsToday, as on the oped  page, Dr. Parrot's expulsion from the Conservative caucus is the big scoop. (And it's nice to see Brent Mazerolle writing a column that isn't trivial.) But it's hard to see what the fuss is about.

I don't question Dr. Parrott's integrity or his commitment to those who voted for him.  But - Dr. Parrott joined a political party. That indicates a belief in the principles of that party. He was, I take it, a member of that party for many years. He knew the people in it. And, being a big boy, he must have known what the party and its members stood for. And he not only joined that party, but ran and won for it.

Dr. Parrott says he is a tory. I don't know of any clear and generally understood meaning of the word tory. I doubt very much whether Dr. Parrott does. (It's often connected with the Church of England (the high version) and with aristocracy; but I expect Dr. Parrott means neither of those.)

Nor, I thnik, does he understood the correct meaning of the word conservative. If he did, I would dearly love to know what he has ever seen anything conservative in the conservative party - or how he has ever seen it in any way as arising from any principles whatever. Nor can I understand what difference it is he can have seen between liberals and conservatives in this province.

Nor does he seem to understand the basic workings of our political system. Getting elected does NOT give anybody the right to sit in caucus, not any more that Mr. Irving had a right to declare himself in coalition with the government or the right to appoint economic advisers to the government. (However, I'm sure that if Mr. Irving demanded the right to sit in caucus, Premier Alward would roll over to have his belly scratched.) That's the way the political system of New Brunswick works. Dr. Parrott surely knew that when he entered the game.  (If he didn't, then he is too naive to be let out by himself.)

Dr. Parrott has NOT been silenced. He can still say what he likes whenever he likes.

Prermier Alward, unlovely though he may be in general, has done nothing that wrong or anti-democratic or even unreasonable in this case.

And, no, Brent. I don't think we should change the whole political system of Canada just because of this, one case. The issue here is a system that is fundamentally corrupt,  dominated by two parties of no principle whatever - and a doctor who appears to be politically naive.

The editorial is about a poll that shows, among other things, that a majority of Moncton residents want an events centre (hockey rink) at a hundred borrowed million for the city. And that just proves what a relentless newspaper campaign of misinformation, disinformation, and no information at all can do.

Meanwhile, this city is getting close to one hell of a transit crisis. Indeed, the whole province is. It might be difficult to deal with that in a world in serious and unpredictable recession, with a city and province hopelessly in debt, and with a city council and planning staff that has yet to notice there is any crisis. Add to that the certainties that the cost will go well over estimate - and that the land deals will be highly suspect.

And why this cry to revive Main St.? Main street was born in an age when one travelled by foot to shop. Then it lingered on, with difficulty in the age of the bus and the tram. The car killed it. Shopping centres took over. Reviving Main St. today makes as much sense as reviving the outhouse for downtown. Main Streets are gone for the same reason hitching rails for horses are gone. They are obsolete.

If it must be revived, the fundamental change it needs it to get rid of the cars and replace them with mass transit, preferably in the form of a subway. I have never even heard of any city in the world that tried to revive a main street by building an events centre. For that matter, I've rarely heard of a city that wanted to revive a main street in the first place.

Oh, I've sent in my right to information request for information about pollutants under Highfield Square. So far, no answer. Not even an acknowledgement. But I have faith.

Some years ago, while teaching a class on World War One, I suggested they might be interested in a musical called Billy Bishop Goes to War.  There as a long silence. At last, a hand went up.

"What's an LP?"

I felt a hundred years old. If you want to feel even older, go to the youth section, F p.2. There's a column by Jessica Melanson. If you're forty of more, this will boost you to a hundred and fifty. If you are under thirty, you won't even understand what the fuss is.




Friday, September 21, 2012

Sept. 21: I agree with Premier Alward.....

....and, oh, it hurts.

I don't agree with the values (if they have any) of the New Brunswick Conservatives or the Liberals. Therefore, I would not run for office for either of them. Nor would I vote for either. But  Dr. Parrot joined the Conservative club and sat, not only in the legislature as a Conservative, but as a member of the caucus in which the party carries on its confidential discussions.

Dr. Parrott expresses quite different views from the party, and expresses them publicly. So Mr. Alward says he can't come to the clubhouse any more. Fair enough. Nobody is saying he can't say whatever he wants to say - any time, any place. He still has a seat in the legislature. He still has full access to the public and to the news media. He can still criticize the government.

Indeed, I cannot understand why he ran as a Conservative in the first place. He seems to have nothing in common with that party. Or with the Liberals.  (and, in my book, that's good.) So he should check out the other parties. If he doesn't like them, he should start his own or run as an independent. (Indeed, his popularity might make him a quite challenging independent.)

But, in expelling him from caucus, Premier Alward did what any party leader has every right to do. (In fact, I would at least have called him on the carpet for the way he expressed himself on language duality.)

There's a story on p. A7 that reminds me of a time I asked a man who he hired to plough his driveway. What I got was a long answer, delivered in something between a whine and a teary plea for justice. What I got was a lecture, a cry of despair that there aren't enough enterpreneurs in this world. We live, apparently, in world of people with no drive, no hustle, no ambition, no spirit of enterprise. It wasn't an answer so much as it was an appeal to justice and to the deepest values.

At the end, he said, yes, he knew a man who would do it for $20. This information was followed by another whine, "He's an entrepreneur", and the whine really meant, "Why aren't there more people like that?"

Well, the man I was questioning was a quite successful businessman. He lived in the propaganda world of big business, a propaganda I had seen often enough spread in commerce courses as well as in The Moncton Times and Transcript. Entrepreneurs are good. Entrepreneurs build societies and prosperity. We should encourage everybody to be an entrepreneur, and then get out of the way. Get rid of government regulations and taxation that only crush the souls of these saints.

Now to p. A7. "Youth need incentives to stay in the province: panel". 'Moncton businessman George Donovan says we need to breed a new generation of enterpreneurs and get out of their way'. (that last bit is a hint of the Norbert rant, 'government is bad.' (except, of course, when its giving tax reductions and forest land, etc. to the boss.)

The "panel" was an activity of an independent think tank - you know, one of those independent think tanks whose board of governors is made up of independent thinking business executives. Yep - entrepreneurship without any restraint is good. Never mind that it has created the economic disaster we living through, that it lives off brutal exploitation and poverty in countries like Haiti and Congo (and, often enough, Canada.) We'll forget, for the moment, it makes money out of an infrastructure it refuses to pay taxes for. We'll even forget that pay raises seldom come from "entrepreneurs". They more often come from the workers themselves when they join unions.

And entrepreneurs, the very big ones, have created the growing wage gap that is destroying western society. They are,as well, hypocrites. For all their preaching about government being bad and inefficient, They need big government. They live off it. They need big government to fight their wars, to supply them with roads and bridges and trained workers, to give them resources like timber and oil, to quash any civil unrest they cause. They need big government to buy their produce. If the US, for example, didn't have a government big enough to buy more weapons than any country in the world, it would have almost no industry at all.

Yes, this is a role for the entrepreneur. But it would be nice to have a newspaper to give us balanced information rather than just publicity blurbs for "think" tanks.

By the way, if the panel were one on how young people should get active in unions,  would the TandT have made such a big story - or any story - out of it?

In NewsToday (which, like all newspapers, is really NewsYesterday), there is one story worth a read. "Minister vows to end prison pizza parties". The minister is Vic Toews, Canada's minister of public safety - which includes prisons ,who is very worried that eating pizzas and having chocolate bunnies (which do not raise prison costs), will spoil prisoners, That going for a walk with their families will turn them into raging beasts. Lots of people, who know nothing about prisons or the people in the them, think he's right. That's why he and Harper are busy returning our prison system to medieval times - to create even more and worse criminals.

That appeals to the people who vote for the Harpers and Toews of this world.

Norbert's column looks nice; but it's so vague (and sometimes so plain wrong) that it's just meaningless. He uses the word ideology, for example, without seeming to know what it means. Or he makes ideology acceptable for one party  (the Conservatives) while unacceptable for another party (the NDP) - even though the Ottawa Conservatives are far the most ideological of the two.

As well, he refers to news media as 'biased' media - the implication being that they aren't biased at all. Come off it, Norm.  Look in a mirror.

In an intriguing column, Alec Bruce talks of the rise of unmarried couples, of single parents as shown in the census. Without taking any side as right, doesn't this suggest a more general breakdown of social customs? We have a rise of consumerism, a rise is self-centredness, a decline of community volunteerism (most notable in the near collapse of youth groups which were so prominent from about 1900 into the 1970s. A large part of this collapse due to the lack of adult volunteers.) Then there is the decline of religious institutions, not only in numbers but in activities.

In parallel, we have developed a business ethic that says self-interest is good. Greed is good. That concern only for oneself is good. There is surely a good deal more to this census that shows in the figures.

A final thought, I came across information that Crandall University, which discriminates against gays, has received, on average, some two million dollars a year from us tax payers. I had known about the $150,000 from the city. But two million a year from public funds?

I cannot recall ever reading a report on this in the TandT.  Has any read ever seen one?

I have read all the Baptist defences of this. It is certainly true that they have a right to exercise their religious beliefs. But there are at least two exceptions to this. They don't have a right to inflict their beliefs on others. And they don't have a right to expect taxpayers to pay for the cost of their religious beliefs.

Consider this. Moslems set up a university in Moncton. They refuse to permit either Christians or Jews any access to employment in it or use of it. They also demand 200 million a year in taxpayers' money.

Do you see Moncton's Baptists out there demonstrating in the streets in favour of Moslem U and its government handouts?

And let's not even guess how they would react to a gay university.




Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sept. 2 0: What isn't in the TandT.....

....and what shouldn't have been....


Drones are unmanned aircraft that are used for espionage, rocket fire, and bombing. You have probably heard that the US is using drones in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. You may even have heard that They are also used by police to spy on people without going to the nuisance of getting a warrant. And that can be very useful against people have haven't done anything but, for any reason, just aren't liked by the government in power. That's very useful in a dictatorship or police state.


Betcha didn't know that Canada has them.

The US Government Accountability Office has announced that Canada is the proud (if shy) owner of drones. It doesn't say whether they are owned by the military or by police forces - or both.Nor does it say what they are being used for. But Canada has them.

So have 76 other countries - including Britain and France and Russia and China and Israel - indeed, countries that cover most of the land surface of the earth. Now, everybody can be spied on - or bombed - at no risk whatever - except, of course - those who get in the way.

The development and spread of drones has been so rapid because - well - because selling them - to whoever - is very profitable to the US defence industry.

This does pose a fundamental problem to democracy (not to mention innocent people who happen to be standing near a person that somebody sitting at a computer screen 5,000 miles away wants to kill.)

Democracy requires limits on the powers of government and police. The term individual freedom means that those powers are limited. If they aren't, then you have the Gestapo of Hitler's Germany or the NKVD of the Soviet Union. Constant surveillance of everybody for whatever reason some official decides on is fatal to democracy.

Gee! Funny The Moncton Times and Transcript never ran this story.

In other good news missed by the TandT, the last year saw a rise in wealth for the very wealthy in the US of 13%. Weren't they lucky while the rest of the country was sliding into poverty? Now, wouldn't it be interesting if The Moncton Times and Transcript would get the figures for New Brunswick? Perhaps they could spare one of those oped staff writers who writes columns about what fun it is to ride a motorcycle? Or sentimental stuff  about how they just buried grandpa with his trusty toothbrush in his pocket?

It was just over a year ago that the TandT was writing almost daily editorials attacking the New Brunswick school system. They were, in fact, among the most vicious editorials (and the most ignorant) I have ever seen. I confess that I have hard feelings toward Norbert because I suspect he wrote at least some of them.

The theme was, not accidentally, picked up by Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies which,also not accidentally, had some association with a businessman whose last name began with I. The plan was to gradually privatize the public schools for private profit. This would copy the model being set by the US for some decades, and now in Britain. And the results are in, folks.

According to The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, American education now ranks with the lowest in the developed world. (And the developed world list is big and wide enough to  include countries you never even heard of.) American teachers, by the way, are the hardest worked and among the worst paid in the developed world. As for university graduates, the US ranks only 14th in the developed world.

Now, this would be a wonderful opportunity for an enterprising editor right here in Moncton to go to his computer, press Google, and type the organization for economic cooperation and development Canada education. (No. Not Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. Just do what I say.) Then print it for a change in this lying. propagandizing newspaper.

To move to what IS in the paper, NewsToday has the current propaganda line - oh, oh, Iran is supplying the Syrian government with weapons ---oh, they're so treacherous.
1. Who the hell does Reuters think is supplying the rebels? Some fairy Godmother? It's the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and also Turkey, Britain, the US, and others.
If these governments are supporting one side, why is it terrible for a government to support the other side?
2. Is this for democracy? Get real. Saudi Arabia and The Emirates are among the most vicious dictatorships in the world. They don't encourage democracy.
3. The rebels are made up of a least thirty, distinct groups - some of which are already fighting with each other. Very few have the slightest interest in democracy.

Why are the western powers involved? Probably because they hope nobody wins. They want Syria, among other countries, to be broken up into small and weak parts so it won't get into the way of plans they have for the region.


There is, at least, sensible placing for a decent story on the census - headline story on p. 1. Yesterday's story said, "It's coming. It's coming" when, in fact, it had come by the time the paper hit the stands. That means most people already knew the story before they saw it this morning. What a newspaper should have done with such a story today is to present it in more detail than radio and TV can spare the time for - and to add some INFORMED comments. It's kind of silly to pay for yesterday's news.

The only other item of interest in  section A is yet another big ad for the autobiography of an Irving journalist.
This has been going on for some time now. Sales must be slow.

Then we go off to the world of sport - with not a female reporter in sight. The only story about a woman is about a champion golfer. It was written by a man.

The first female sports reporter in Canada was Myrtle Cook, an outstanding Olympic athlete who became a sports columnist about 1930 for a career of some forty years. Hey, folks! It's okay for women to cover sports. It's been going on for close to a century.

P. C3 (NewsToday) has an important story on the need for equal medical services in French in New Brunswick. Read it to the end because in it is a remarkable statement by Conservative Dr. Parrott, "In the wake of duality, you find mediocrity." ( Of course, what he might have meant is that he was born a twin). Not surprisingly, he was praised yesterday in the Times and Transcript for his stance.

Even if he statement were true (which I don't think it is), it was a remarkably insensitive, dismissive and even stupid remark to make.

Speaking of insensitive, dismissive and even stupid, Alec Bruce has an excellent column on the American champ in those fields, Mitt Romney. Mitt could still win the election, though. Much depends on who controls the voters registration lists and the electronic voting machines.

Jody Dallaire is her usual, good stuff. But, given what one sees of commentators and editors with the TandT, I'm surprised they don't assign a man to comment on women's issues.




Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sept. 19: credit where credit is due

The Moncton Times and Transcript has carried a story that I did not think it would. Mother Jones Magazine took a secret video of Romney giving a speech at a fund-raising dinner for his campaign. It was given in a quite exclusive club; and only the wealthy were  invited to attend. The message was simple.

The middle class and the poor in the US were lazy, spoiled, and had a sense of entitlement to that which  they had not earned. It's not a surprise he made such a speech. It's not a surprise that his wealthy audience applauded.

I've known many people who sit in boardrooms, who are rich and have been rich from birth, and who routinely pour contempt on everybody who isn't rich. (That's even true for those who were born into money like George Bush in the US and __fill in the blank_____________ in New Brunswick.) In those circles, they hire entertainers who sing songs that ridicule the poor, and employees in general.

These are the people that Alward and Harper answer to. That's why, in a time of recession,, they take the axe to services for people who need services but can't afford them. That's why they investigate unions, but not corporations. That's why Americans have such poor health care. That's why the US cuts spending on school meals for hungry children while it cuts taxes for the very rich. That's why they don't give a damn what drilling for shale gas might do to you. It's a perfectly normal and human reaction.

Even the very rich, though,  have consciences that need to be kept quiet. They make their money out of exploiting other people with the lowest possible wages and the cheapest possible services. If there's a recession caused by their own greed and illegal behaviour, then they rationalize it as the fault of the poor. I've read many of their statements that do exactly that. They hire columnists for their newspapers who make a point of saying that sort of thing. Guess who the TandT routinely blames for a strike, any strike. Bus drivers, they say, aren't worth it. Ever see the TandT say that a billionaire wasn't worth it?

Their banks go broke? Not their fault. They get a enormous bailouts all over the US and Europe. And the poor will pay through cut social programmes. And the bankers will get bonuses and tax cuts. Greece's billionaires go broke - and the middle class and the poor get condemned to generations of hardship for it.

Until you have met the rich, you can have no idea what contempt they hold you in, and how highly they think of themselves. How else could they rationalize their thievery?

Romney took that contempt of the poor to make a point that the poor were the lazy, useless, "entitled" people who supported Obama. He said that they were also the 47% to 48% who supported Obama.
In fact, the ones who pay little or no taxes are the ones who support Romney, just as they are the ones who support Alward and Harper. I haven't seen a figure for Canada, but in the US, 25 of the largest corporations paid no income taxes whatever. (The poor who don't pay taxes are people who have no money. The rich who don't pay taxes are those who get sweetheart deals from politicians, or who have bogus head offices on remote island states.) The rich who skip taxes are a small percentage of the total population - but they are one hell of a proportion of what doesn't get paid.

Will this have much effect on the election? I doubt it. Most American news media are owned by the very rich. They'll either ignore the story, or explain it away - or attack Mother Jones for revealing it. Will the middle class be affected by the story? Some will. Some not. Many middle class like to kid themselves in the same way the rich do. They'll say the rich help us all by their generosity in giving. Sure. Steal a billion. Give a few hundred thousand back. And the TandT will write you up as philanthropist.

It should be possible to see the video on Google, Mother Jones, or Youtube.

That's why P. A4 has a story on fees for government services going up. That's why children going to public schools have to pay fees and buy school supplies. That's why drinking and gambling, long recognized in most societies as creators of addictions and social problems, are encouraged for everybody by government. The keep taxes for the rich down. (You pay them in lottery tickets.) The level of gambling and its problems were much lower when it was all controlled by the mob.

The lead story in NewsToday is a good example of how The TandT is still stuck in the 1890s. It's headed "Census data to provide family snapshot". So what? We know what a census is. What's important is what's in it. But the newspaper went to bed shortly before the census was released so it didn't know what's in it.

That's why the story is useless information. And by the time you read the paper today, you could have had the story of what's in it on Google news. All the story in the paper does is to confirm that newspapers are useless for this sort of story. Now - a detailed analysis of what it tells us about Moncton and New Brunswick could be useful for tomorrow - something to give the census meaning to us.

C12 has an example of a very bad story, "Dozens of charities lose their tax-exempt status". (This is in relation to federal taxes.) What's wrong with is that Postmedia simply took a government statement. and used that as a story. - Really, a reporter is supposed to ask questions.

The headline spoke of dozens of charities. But it gave reasons for only two. So what's the scoop on all the others? After all, Harper has been known to cut off charitable groups that he just doesn't like. We need to know that. But any Postmedia reporter who asks the wrong kind of questions can expect to end up counting  snowflakes at the North Pole..

The editorial, as expected, is pretty silly. Again it says bus drivers are overpaid. (Has it ever carried an analysis of whether the TandT's owner is overpaid? or the TandT's editor?) As well, it's suggestions of how to redesign the transit system are childish and even ignorant. What he would do is to create a system just dandy for 1945. That way we could have an antique transit system so we could read our antique newspaper on the way to work.

And, Wow! Norbert likes Bob Dylan, and knows something about him. I wonder if Norbert still has his flared jeans. It's a side of  him I never guessed.

The op ed page is,well, it is. What can y' do, eh?

Where is the story, now over a week old, of the Moncton physicians and other medical workers who demanded a moratorium on shale gas?

Where is the story on the American woman who is being deported - almost certainly to an American prison - because she was disgusted by what she saw as a soldier in Iraq? She was in Canada as a refugee from the treatment she expected in the US for becoming anti-war. (The US is, after all, the country that uses torture, solitary confinement, and in which one can be imprisoned indefinitely without trial simply on the word of the president or the army.) Her children, born in Canada, will also be deported - but separated from their mother.

She went to war. She saw the killing of civilians, many of them children. It turned her against war.
George Bush dodged war service. He killed over a million people. We are sending a women of conscience to prison because she has a conscience. We honour Bush because he doesn't have a conscience.

There are warrant out for Bush in several countries, countries on our side with whom we have agreements to deport people to be tried for their crimes. Bush is charged with war crimes, among them torture. Would Harper depart Bush? No. But he will deport a woman with two children because she opposes war.

Our hero.

I have written to city council about the pollutants under Highfield Square. There is an online form at the city's site. It's not entirely used friendly. For example, it asks for a signature - on the screen. I'm sure that's possible. I'm not sure many people know how to do it. I know I don't.

It also requires the precise date of the information that I ask for. How can I give a precise date when even the city can't know precisely when the pollutants developed? And they won't tell me when they discovered them?

We'll see.





Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sept. 18: "Rosie the cat finds a home"

This is a a big story on p.1. And it has a picture of 'Rosie' for those who have never seen a cat. There's also a picture of a man tossing a frisbee for a dog - for those who have never seen a man, a frisbee or a dog. Also, "Murder trial jury selected"  Well, yes. That's the way the justice system works. So?

The latter story also has a picture of the defendant with his mouth open. It's the same picture as the one they ran yesterday.

This is elementary school stuff. - except that elementary school child reporters would look  for something more interesting - like "Drunken teacher dances on desk".

There is very little in section A that anyone needs to know. Rising gas prices are still only the early signs of what is going to hit us with one hell of a shock. We live in a city designed for travel by car. City planners are encouraging that by allowing for more parking downtown. Where are the reporters which should be preparing stories about what the rest of the world is doing in the face of this crisis?

Where are the stories on, for example, how cities in China are limiting the number of cars permitted in their streets, how cities around the world are coping with the challenges of mass transit, how they're all trying to get away from reliance on the internal combustion engine, how they are redesigning their cities as walking cities?

Meanwhile, Moncton's vision of the future so far consists of installing parking meters on Main, and building new schools in sites as remote from where people live as possible. This is a city that gets very excited about attracting new business. But it shows not the slightest concern about how people are going to live in this city. And The Moncton Times and Transcript seems blissfully ignorant of all this.

NewsToday is a bare two pages. And there is nothing in it we did not know yesterday from radio and television and google news on the computer. It must be a good 25 years ago that I attended a conference of journalists on how to make print news competitive in a world that also has universal access to radio and TV that deliver the same news much earlier. There are ways to be competitive. For a start, radio and TV are more limited in the ability to provide useful analysis of the news. (Two minutes on air is a long time. On TV, twenty seconds can be a long time.)

And that was a  conference 25 years ago. Actually, we've had TV for almost 70 years, and radio for almost a hundred. The Moncton Times and Transcript is still a newspaper of a century ago, but with less in it.

There's a bitterly amusing item on p.2 of NewsToday. A couple of professors report "N.B. ranks at top in corporate tax report." Does that sound good? Well, what it means is that NB charges the lowest taxes in Canada on corporations and the wealthy and, as well, as offers them the best tax avoidance schemes.

That might go some considerable way to explaining our debt, and why schools have to waste their time on fund-raisers so they can operate, and why parents have to pay school fees and buy supplies for them

N.B. ranks at the top in corporate tax report? That's like saying N.B. ranks at the top in easy bank robberies.  Interesting how editors choose their words.

The editorial beats another, aging drum. Moncton needs a Canadian Football League team. (People as far away as Halifax think so. Trouble is, you need to convince people as far away as Toronto. And you have to convince a lot of people as far away as Halifax that's it's  worth driving three hours each way to see a game. This is a bozo scheme that ranks with the "events centre".)

These big events sound nice. But I have yet to see figures on how much they cost to stage - and  how much of the money they attract actually stays in Moncton, and who it is that really profits from out generous sponsorship.

Norbert has a decent and sensible column. I wish he could learn to write, though. The topic is the film that has led to rioting in Moslem countries. But he doesn't say so until halfway through. And that means that an article worth reading will be missed by the many people who will lose interest before they get that far.

Good column by Alec Bruce. Well written and well worth a read - particularly since it deals with an important, local news item of last week that the Times and Transcript still hasn't reported.

Alan Cochrane contributes a must-read column for all those who care that Christmas is the day of lowest water use in Moncton.

Louise Gilbert has some interesting thoughts on how to age gracefully. Alas! I was never even young gracefully.

There's an interesting Letter of the Day from Desmond Bird which deals with military purchasing, and our air force. We don't build our own aircraft. Nobody knows why not. And, of course, it has never occured to the TandT to ask why not. Bird focusses on Sweden which has a long history of making its own military equipment - and some very good equipment, though Sweden is much smaller than Canada. Why doesn't Canada do it for a new fighter plane? My guess is the US aviation industry doesn't want competition. And that's what it told John Diefenbaker just before he canned the Avro Arrow.

In general, this edition is a pretty drab one, even by the standards of The Moncton Times and Transcript.  The news part is particularly stinking.

Estimated reading time for all that is worth reading? Five or ten minutes. Tops.




Monday, September 17, 2012

Sept. 17: Wow! Did the TandT ever blow it!

Section A is pretty much a wipe-out unless you just live for pictures of kids playing ball hockey and for a picture of a man with his mouth open. The one story worth reading is on Battle of Britain anniversary. Few readers survive who know much about the tremendous tensions of the German aerial assault on Britain, and the heavy casualties suffered by air crew, and by civilians. That's at the bottom of p. 1.

As I wrote last night, I didn't expect the TandT to have the wit to carry a report on Netanyahu's bizarre speech on US television yesterday. This may be the biggest story of many decades - depending on how much goes wrong over the next few weeks. But the TandT limited itself to just four stories in foreign and Canadian news, three of them pretty minor stuff. The only one of importance is about correctional officers protesting overcrowding in our prisons. (Harper, the great advocate of returning to the middle ages to deal with crime, has created a mess that will cause more crime, and take many years to straighten out.)
But a Netanyahu speaking on US television, accusing the Obama of lying, demanding the US declare war for no very clear reason, and clearly interfering with an American election just wasn't worth mentioning - not even when Harper has effectively committed us to take part in such a war  (and without consulting parliament).

The editorial is the usual juvenilia about how the whole world is watching New Brunswick. "New Brunswick has made an international name for itself....." Yeah. Right. That's all they're talking about in Beijing and Rio de Janeiro and California.

Norbert has a column which seems to confirm that he has only a shaky idea of what a newspaper is supposed to do. His theme is that pundits and commentators usually don't know what they're talking about when they comment on political matters - like Harper's closing of diplomatic links with Iran. The don't have all the facts. Often, politicians don't give full reasons for what they do...."And there may be a good reason for government witholdng information", says Norbert.

Yes. And there may be a bad reason. That's why we need commentaries to stiumlate our thinking.

Norbert, my child:

1. In a democracy people need information because they have to come to a decision on voting day - whether they have full information or not. We never in our lives have "full information" on anything, not on who we marry, how to raise children, what the wisest investment would be.... But we still have to make decisions - so we make them. We can't just stand around with our faces hanging out and  sayin', "duh, I dunno. The government must have had a good reason but just couldn't tell us...duh..."
And, like, Mao-Tse-tung who killed tens of millions of Chinese...maybe he had a good reason - but couldn't tell us, duh... Stalin and Hitler, too. So let's not rush into judging them.

2. Norbert, you have spent most of your life writing commentaries. But by your own definition you must be engaged in "pure speculation" because you don't have 'full information." And,  in your case, it's even worse. You not only and frequently don't have any information, but are heavily biased. I have rarely seen a columnist who could produce so much rant of no intellectual value whatever.

3. There are people who, though they may not have full information, are extremely well informed, are not biased, and can  produce a suggestion a whole lot better than "nothing on which to reach a reasonable conclusion." Gwynne Dyer is a good example - a scholar in foreign and military affairs, a well connected man, and a highly intelligent one and an honest one, he can reach some very reasonable conclusions.

4. The job of a newspaper is to give us what information is available, and to get informed commentary from honest commentators. That is the very foundation of democracy. You and The Moncton Times and Transcript don't do that. Not at all.

5. Reread your concluding paragraph. It is unintelligible. Then, reread your final quotation. It has nothing to do with your topic.

Alec Bruce shows an understandable impatience about the failure of the Atlantic provinces to work together. What irks him today is their failure to cooperate in electricity, a move that could save a billion dollars. But it's always been this way.

That Charlottetown Conference that turned out to be the beginning of confederation was actually called to discuss maritime union or, at least, cooperation. But it  couldn't even start on that topic because all the capital cities were afraid of losing that capital status, and all the local timber barons were afraid of losing the local power that provided them with cheap timber and cheap labour.  (That's right. New Brunswick has a long history of monopolies and political influence that goes way back before the current barons.)

The failure of the Atlantic provinces to get together at that conference is what gave the Canadians their opening - and left the Atlantic region weak and divided within Canada.

Cut out the op ed page. Mount it in a frame. Then give it as a birthday present to someone you really don't like.

And we won't worry at all about the catastrophe that hangs over our heads. Norbet's right. Just    concentrate on those things we have all the facts on. Check out page D1. There's a big story on how an Actress named Jennifer Lawrence says she can't dance very well.

Think about it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sept. 16: a very late Sunday night special....

I write this now because there's a strong chance the Moncton Times and Transcript will not publish this story - not just out of editorial sloppiness, but because of sheer ignorance of the meaning of it.

Here's the context:

Israel, a country scarcely bigger than Toronto, gets more US aid than any other country in the world. Virtually the whole Israeli military is a gift from US taxpayers. The US is one of the very few friends of Israel   in the world, and the only one that can give it the economic and military support it needs.

Prime minister Netanyahu wants an  immediate attack on Iran. He says Iran will have a nuclear bomb within months. (He has been saying that for at least ten years.)

Obama knows there is no evidence that Iran is even developing a bomb. He also knows that a war with Iran would likely open up a situation that would lead to regional catastrophe - and possibly world catastrophe. He probably intends to invade Iran, anyway - but first wants Syria out of the way as an obstacle -  and might hope to settle for regaining some control over Iran's oil.

Netanyahu's military and intelligence leaders have publicly said they think such a war would be disastrous for Israel.

Though visiting the US, Netanyahu will not be visiting the White House. He says he was denied an invitation.

The American election is in the home stretch - and it's close.

That's the context. Here's the story.

Today, Nethanyahu appeared on American TV.

1. He effectively called Obama a liar, and insists the White House denied him a visit.
2. He publicly criticized Obama for having his own foreign policy, and insisted he must follow Israeli foreign policy.
3. He intervened in an American election campaign in a way that could only benefit Romney.

Offhand, I cannot think of any head of state who has ever done such a thing. Normally, this would mean immediate deportation, cutting of diplomatic relations - even war.

A man like that is the biggest threat to world peace I can think of. He could well tip the scales in this election - and he will then surely get his war with Romney as President backed up by nutbar evangelists who think that such a war would mean the end of the world, the return of Jesus, and they would all get a chance to sit around naked in heaven. (I don't exaggerate.)

It could tip the scales. There is an Israeli lobby across Canada and the US (heavily supported by our tax dollars. It has great influence with the news media, and with politicians. Right wing columnists like Mark Steyn are already using it. Steyn, always a gutter columnist, and so a favourite at the National Post, has already been playing with this theme.

Just the impertinence of it is breath-taking. Netanyahu must have thought he was dealing with Stephen Harper.

In any case, that TV interview means we are in for the most dangerous period we have seen since Kennedy's  confrontation with Russia over missiles for Cuba - some sixty years ago.

Will the TandT carry the story? Maybe - if it doesn't get pushed aside for a more important story about parking meters on Main St. Will it comment on the story? Probably not in either the editorial or on the op ed page. Will it be an intelligent comment? Probably not. It probably broke to late for Alec Bruce to write a piece on it.

Sept. 16: Stray thought on a Sunday...

Inevitably, if you argue current events, somebody is bound to say "All you do is talk about problems. You don't have any solutions."
Quite true. You see, before you can present solutions, you have to decide what the problem is. I had a problem about a month ago, a severe stomach pain. I had a solution. I took an anti-gas pill. A few hours later, I was being rushed into an operating room for an appendectomy.

I had guessed the wrong problem. That's why I chose the wrong solution. I was damned lucky there was time to make up for my mistake. Israel may not be so lucky. Nor we. Consider these points....

1. Israel depends absolutely and entirely on US support for  its economy and its security. This tiny country with a population not much larger than metro Toronto gets more US foreign aid than any other country in the world. Virtually all of is powerful military is US equipped. This is a very, very dependent country.

(Just to put that in context, every year some 15 million children, twice the Jewish population of Israel, die of starvation.)

The US is very much larger, and with a far greater range of concerns. But Israel, heavily dependent Israel, insists that the US MUST automatically support Israeli policy no matter what its own interest might be. This has become an open fight, with Netanyahu publicly insulting the US president over it.

Do you see something out of balance in that? Canada is much bigger than Israel. It doesn't need foreign aid. It's a major market for the US, a far bigger one than Israel, and a far more important one for resources. And it's far more important for the future of the US economy and its defence than Israel is.

Can you imagine a Canadian prime minister publicly demanding that the US shape it entire foreign policy to put Canadian wishes in top priority? (Well, maybe. We have a Canadian prime minister stupid enough to be playing Netanyahu's game.)

2. No countries are friends. Toasts to eternal friendship sound nice at banquets. The reality is that all countries have interests that would lead them to slit anybody's throat.
The US was a great pal of the UK, Canada, France. But it didn't stir a finger when the UK was in danger of invasion and Canada was up to its neck in war. Nor did it help France. In fact, during the war, it bled as much money out of the UK as it could - and it tried very hard to take over the old, British and French empires. What do you think Vietnam was all about? As for being buddies with South Vietnam, it cooperated in the assassination of its president.
Canada and the US will brag about their "tolerance" of Jews. In fact, neither did a damn thing to help Jews in the 1930s, though we all knew what was going on. We wouldn't even accept them as refugees during the war. Both Canada and the US were thoroughly anti-semitic.
Just wait till the day coming soon when the US runs low on fresh water. See how nice it is to us when that happens. And it's not just the US. Canada would be just as bad if it were bigger.
The US does not help Israel because it is friends. It helps Israel because that gives the US a useful ally in the region. But that could change at any time.

3. But Nethanyahu has placed all his bets on a "friendship" with the US. It may not work much longer. The US, along with much of Europe, is an empire in collapse. It has not been impressive militarily for 70 years. It's hopelessly in debt. There is every chance it is facing internal disorder, every chance it will then have to drop Israel.

As it is, Israeli has spies in the U.S. Some have been caught, and deported or jailed. And there is no reason to doubt there are American spies in Israel. So much for friendship.

That means that anybody who encourages Israel into a war with a Moslem country may be cutting Israel's throat. Israel desperately needs to come to terms with its neighbours. Otherwise, the only edge it will have over them is its nuclear arsenal -and firing even one bomb could lead to consequences none  of us can imagine.

4. The US would love to invade Iran. It already has, at least once; and it has also supported and supplied an Iraqi war with Saddam Hussein against Iran. But the dangers now are pretty high. The US has very foolishly interfered and warred with many Moslem countries in the last 70 years. It has created one hell of a reaction in the form of terrorism. It now has to contain that terrorism, reverse the slippage of its empire in Africa, the middle east and Latin America and, at the same time, face a rising China. Meanwhile, the US is steeply in decline, and may well have to make nice with Moslems.

In consequence, those many yahoos who think they are helping Israel with its demand for war against Iran are more likely to be helping it to destruction. Certainly, that is what is going through the minds of the Israeli Defence Force staff chiefs and Israeli intelligence. That's why they think - and have said publicly, that a war on Iran is sheer stupidity. More wars will be suicide for Israel. It needs peace.

Anyone who has a slick and easy solution for this problem, please write to us, and let the world in on your wisdom,

In return, I'll send that person an anti-gas pill to take next time he gets a sharp pain in the stomach.