Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oct. 31: Business as usual.....

The Moncton Times and Transcript for this day isn't its usual self. Instead, it is more boring and irrelevant than ever. The only thing worth reading in it is a letter "Mr. Toew's doesn't understand prisons". It's from the chairman of the Inmate Committee at Dorchester Penitentiary. And it's the only intelligent comment on our prisons that I have ever seen in the TandT.

So I won't talk about the paper in any detail. That would just be beating a dead horse.

I note that today's Google News, as usual, highlights three stories about New Brunswick. Two are from CBC, and one from the Globe and Mail. The regularity of that pattern of ignoring the Irving press is a pretty strong hint of opinion of it among journalists across Canada. We're not talking about a paper that I just happen to disagree with. We're talking about a newspaper that is thoroughly incompetent, trivial, held in contempt in the offices of newspapers which, however miserable they might be, are better than anything in the Irving fold.

One thing that is striking about the TandT is the absence of much in the way of Canadian news.

The story of an businessman pulling at least two and  a half million dollars out of a poor community so he could dump iron dust into our coastal waters is a big story around the world. It's not just the fact that this man appears to be a con artist. He is one of a growing number who are intervening in our climate and environment by peddling wild schemes to change them.

The rest of the world is worried. It's a major issue at the UN because the countries at the UN wonder what it will do to them.  This is like a stranger walking into  your house to spray some sort of gas to it on the explanation it will make the house warmer.

Nobody knows how widely these effects will spread - or what impact they will have as they reach other continents. Some of these - most of them - have the potential to destroy wildlife, create droughts, storms.

Even Harper has been forced to announce an enquiry. And Harper is not an enquiry kind of guy.

But not a word on this Canadian and world story has yet appeared in the TandT.(It did make the India Times, The Observer, etc.) Can the editors of the TandT be that ignorant and ill-informed? Or is this part of a deliberate effort to keep New Brunswickers asleep?
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We have just witnessed the most savage storm ever to strike the east coast of the US.

I watched videos of the walls of water that swept into New York, of flooded subways, of thousands of cars either half-submerged or floating. It reminded me of a horror film I saw years ago - of a dreadful flood that destroyed New York. Of course, all of us sitting in the theatre knew this was fake, and could never happen.

The TandT covered the story, of course - with a coverage only slightly larger than page C12's pictures of smiling people holding up giant cheques. There was not the slightest mention of what such a storm would have done if the Arctic weather front had been moving just a bit more slowly, and Sandy had made its left turn at Halifax.

Why was the storm so bad? Could it possible have anything to do with rising ocean levels as a result of climate change? And are those levels going to continue rising? Oh, don't worry your head about it. Just look at the pictures of those nice people holding up cheques.
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Harper is concluding a huge deal with China which will destroy much of our control over Canadian industry and environment. He's rushing it through parliament, using his majority to kill all discussion. We ill be lucky if there's a half-hour of debate. The impact has the potential to be a national disaster. But it wasn't important enough to make the TandT.
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Remember Atcon Holdings, the company of the Shawn Graham era that got a fifty milllion dollar loan, then promptly went bankrupt sticking us with the loss? Want to know more about it? Well, throw your TandT into the garbage from which it sprung, and check out CBC.

Our then Liberal government knew this loan was a bad idea. Committees of senior civil servants told them, many times, not to give that money to Atcon. Our government never told us about that advice. It ignored its civil servants, and handed over our fifty million, anyway.

Alward knew all about it. But he didn't tell us, either. Fifty million dollars tossed down the toilet....I wonder how much of our deficit can be explained that way.

But you didn't read it in The Moncton Times and Transcript. We were, as we have been and repeatedly and ever since we have had government, robbed. And never a word in the TandT. Quite the contrary.

Notice how the editorial page - notably Norbert Cunningham - rants about how stupid civil servants are? How they are overpaid? Inefficient? Incompetent? And how wise and capable big business is?

Big business is wise and capable - but in ways that usually lead to prison. The evidence is that civil servants usually know what they're doing. But not in th pages of the TandT. That fifty million dollars looks very much like a theft. So why didn't Alward tell us the situation? Why was there no investigation?

Now the TandT is all big on Mr. Brian Gallant who gives every sign of being more of the same. (He has new ideas. He's going to go forward. Wow! There's a new idea right there.And it's a fresh idea. Wow! They just keep coming.)
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The real problems of New Brunswick never get discussed. There are three real ones.
1. The politicians of the Liberal and Conservative parties are bush-league hacks who simply carry out the orders of a corporation leadership that is too arrogant and too greedy to give a damn about the people of this province.
2. The corporation leadership has assumed powers that have effectively destroyed democracy, giving themselves powers they should not have. As well, they are made incompetent to govern because they are too greedy and too arrogant to care about the people who live here.
3. The arrogant and greedy have a stranglehold on the print media of this province. They use that control to keep the people of New Brunswick in ignorance of what is happening.

So where to start?

Until we get our acts together, there is nothing to be done about the corporate bosses. Only government can do that. Given time (and not much more of it), their incompetence and interference will destroy our economy as they have already destroyed the economies of the US and western Europe.

We cannot deal with our servile and not very bright Liberals and Conservatives until the general population of the province understands more about them.

That means the fundamental problem of New Brunswick is the power of the Irving press to keep people in ignorance, and to manipulate them. It's a common problem around the world as the news media increasingly come under the control of monopolists. (You know what monopolists are. They're the people like the owner of the TandT who say that capitalism is good because it encourages competition - then they kill competition wherever they see it.)

The answer lies in getting the truth out. Until that is done, nothing will happen. That's why I support The Moncton Free Press. It's small, hopelessly understaffed by volunteers. But it tries to tell the truth, something you will rarely find in the TandT. The same is true of Media Co-op. Check out google. If anybody sends me the names of other sources, I'll be happy to check them out.

On Tuesday, Nov 6,current events meets at the Moncton Library at 7 p.m.  This time, I want to tackle the central problem in understanding the news. The problem is that news, by its nature, comes in isolated bits and pieces. Syria is in a civil war. So? What does it mean? Does it mean Syrians are just crazy that way? That rebels are good? That the government is bad? None of it means anything without some sort of framework.

This Tuesday, I'll take a stab at establishing a general framework that makes a lot of what's going on more understandable. We'll go over the three, most important factors in setting up the news we're seeing -
1. American dominance in 1945.
2.1949 - the end of Chinese vulnerability.
3.The rise of western corporations as the owners of governments.
4.The important of hatred.
















Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Oct. 20:....(sigh).....

Go to Google. Check out the news site. It's not great. It's not even very good. But it does give far better coverage to important news (and a wider range of sources) than all the Irving press put together. It even has a special section of New Brunswick news. I just noticed something interesting about that special section. Yesterday, its NB news sources were CBC, CTV, and the Financial Post. Today, all three are CBC. I realized that in the years I've been following that section, it has been rare indeed for it to cite the Irving papers as a source of news. Might be a column for you in there, Norbert.

There really is nothing to say about today's Section A -  unless you're fascinated that J.D.Irving Ltd. has opened a new head office in Dieppe, and you're lusting to see a photo of J.D., the mayor of Dieppe, NB's justice minister Marie-Claude Blais, and our MP Robert Goguen, all standing together for no clear reason.

There's also a story about how doctors want a ban on youth tanning in N.B. But who gives a damn what doctors want? These are the same doctors that the TandT has ignored in its series on the hazards (oops - opportunities - ) of fracking for shale gas. If we want advice on the dangers of tanning, we'll ask Prof. Lapierre or Brent Mazerolle.

In NewsToday, the big story is "New Liberal leader plans next move". Well, duh, yeah... We all plan our next move all day every day. What's he planning? I don't know. There isn't a word about it. All the story talks about is speculation over where he'll run.

Who could possibly care?

On the Business Page, the federal government is planning a balanced budget. So? Is that a good idea? Aren't there times, as in a recession, when it's good idea to be spending to revive the economy?  In fact, the story is worse - though the TandT doesn't tell it.

One way Harper is balancing the budget is by removing environmental protection laws so mining and oil companies can have more fun. He is also laying off a hundred researchers, and closing down research stations just at a time we desperately need them to find out what is happening to our climate and environment.

Nor has the TandT mentioned another cost saving measure of Harper's. He got rid of the long census form. Result - saved money? No. Result - lost money. Both government and private business rely heavily on census figures.  But as a result of Harper's budget-balancing, the figures are a mess. And the result of that is the huge cost of clearing up the mess, and the inevitable damage of working without reliable data..

The editorial is pure babble. If Art Hogan is the one who writes this gibberish, I can see why he doesn't sign it. Mr. Graham is a fresh start as Liberal leader. Yeah, well, all new leaders are fresh starts. Shawn Graham was a fresh start. George Bush was a fresh start. The emperor Nero was a fresh start.

And we can take encouragement that Mr. Gallant is one of ours right here in Moncton. Yeah. So are all the people I see in shopping mall - and the drug pushers - and the hookers..their all ours.....and your point is?

And he has a new way of looking at things. Really? And what is that way? Certainly, the Moncton Times and Transcript has kept that a secret.

"But this is not a week to focus on the problems....that face our province.", says the editorialist.  Perhaps not. Certainly, though, the time to focus on problems was during the leadership campaign. But nobody did it then, either. And, certainly, nobody - nobody including Mr. Graham - has said a word about the biggest problem facing this province - a corporate class who own and control everything, including the Liberal and Conservative parties.

But we won't talk about anything real. Instead, we'll use nice words that don't mean anything - fresh, positive, young, new, forward....

This one is perhaps the most fatuous and ignorant editorial I have ever seen.

The fundamental problem of this province is the people who run it. I don't mean the politicians. And I certainly don't mean you and me.

Alec Bruce does a somewhat better job dealing with the same topic - but not much better. He, too, ignores the central problem.

If the cartoon has a point, it eludes me.

The editors of the TandT have still not noticed the story about the island of Haida Qwaii just off the BC coast where an American businessman named Russ George has dumped iron pyrites into the ocean at a cost (still unclear) of over two and half million dollars to some of the poorest people in Canada. Mr. George is listed as the chief scientist of his company - though I cannot find any reference to his scientific training, if he has any. Scientists around the world, though, are saying what he has done is extraordinarily foolish and dangerous, with serious implication for the whole world. That's why the UN is investigating it.

Why didn't he do it in US waters? Because if he tried it, he'd now be in jail. He has also been banned from several other countries. So why do it in Canada? Because Harper doesn't give a damn about the environment. He has weakened or ignored our environmental regulations, cut back on scientific and legal controls, and is now dumping our researchers. Harper is not your average political dolt. He is a single-minded ideologue - and the most dangerous person ever to be prime minister.

How dangerous is this stunt?

Well, what Russ George is doing off Haida Qwaii is called geo-engineering. That means it is intervening in nature to change its normal operation. What's so dangerous about that?

Well, for openers, it changes the feeding and migration patterns of, in this case,aquatic life - and nobody knows how far the effects of that can reach. The impact can be world-wide; and they could be disastrous for many regions. Similar geo-engineers are tinkering with spraying gases or powders into the air to reduce the heat getting through to the earth - and so to stave off global warming.

If might work. Nobody knows. Nor does anybody know how to control how it works. The net result might be to slow down warming in one region - but to speed it up and cause drought in another on the other side of the world. Or it might be to make it too cold in one region - with disastrous results for every living thing.

Geo-engineering is playing poker with our lives. That's why there are international agreements forbidding it. That's why the iron powder dumped off our coast is a major issue before the UN. Canada has allowed a private company of doubtful reputation and non-existent scientific credentials to make a massive attack on nature with no knowledge of how it will work out - or of how far its damage can spread. Indeed, Mr. Harper still has not deigned to even notice it.

That's why it's news around the world - but not in the Irving Press. That's one reason why Canada is getting the reputation of an international outlaw.

Of course, the Irving press might have a good reason for ignoring the fuss.  After all, we could have a similar scheme coming our way led by one of our very own corporate leaders that we are so proud of.

Oh. Silly me. We already have one. It's called fracking for shale gas.





















Monday, October 29, 2012

Oct. 29: Okay. No more mr. nice guy.

An island off the coast of BC, Haida Gwaii, has been making news around the world for over a week. It's even the subject of a UN investigation. At last, it's made The Moncton Times and Transcript. The island, a home of our Haida native peoples, is one of the poorest communities in Canada, with an unemployment rate of 70% due to the shutting down of local resource industries. Then, along came a smooth-talking promoter. He would dump a hundred tons of dirt and iron particles into the ocean  That would spark a growth in the salmon population, and bring the fishery and prosperity back. All the Haida had to do was to come up with, oh, say,  three million dollars.

Scientists said the idea was crazy, and perhaps dangerous and even illegal. But the Haida were desperate. They had a trust fund of half a million; and they used it then, somehow, borrowed the rest. No inspectors appeared to look over the scheme - though they were supposed to. No permission was sought to dump a hundred tons of iron particles into Canadian waters. No federal department showed any evidence that it gave a damn. So it was done. That cost three million dollars.

This looks very much like a scam, quite possibly a very dangerous one, inflicted on the poorest and most helpless people in Canada. That's why the whole world is interested.

Oh, The Moncton Times still hasn't run a story on it. What made today's paper is that the island had an earthquake.

You'd think an editor, on seeing the earthquake story, would have thought, "Gee. Isn't that the same place where.....?" I don't know whether TandT editors are ignorant of their craft or just sloppy. But the choice does seem to have narrowed down to those two.

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The two stories on Brian Gallant and the Liberal leadership could have been written by a public relations hack for Gallant. Probably, they were. He's going to go on a path -----wait for it-----forward. In setting policy, he's going to listen to ---the MLAs. Boy! That's a huge change for Alward. Remember? He was going to listen to ---- the people. And we all know  how well that worked..

Look,  all you politicians, the words Liberal and Conservative are supposed to mean something. They are supposed to indicate the world view and principles of the party. But  I have never seen any leader of those parties at any level lay out those principles. And certainly not the real ones.)

Typically, the reporter does not seem to have asked a single question. Typically, the words are loaded to give a favourable impression. That line about going on a path forward is typical. (I guess we should be happy he doesn't intend to got sideways or backward.) Oh, and he's going to take a "new approach'.  Wow! A new approach! Well I guess that settles it.

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In a blatant piece of propaganda, the TandT has two, full pages of an interview with professor Lapierre on the shale gas issue. The questioner is the TandT's expert soft-ball pitcher tossing slow ones in an arc over the plate. Dr. Lapierre plays the batter who whiffs every shot, then grins as if he's hit a homer.

Dr. Lapierre is not a medical person. He gives an interview which is is direct contradiction to Dr. Cleary, the province's chief medical officer. - and to just  about every doctor in the province (and beyond). He even contradicts himself.

When he is asked about health and environment concerns, he says, "If it's detrimental to the health of New Brunswickers and destroys our environment, then it's not a good option." Just a little later on, he dismisses the idea of risk on the grounds that there is risk in everything. Then he uses examples of risks that did cause damage, and laughs them off.

Above all, the medical profession of the province - and of most of the world - says that the damage to health DOES occur with fracking. And Dr. Lapierre does not have any competence to dismiss their opinions. He knows that. Any academic knows what the limits to his training are.

Incidentally, the opening question is about his mandate. By his own answer, he shows that he did not have a mandate to make the judgements he did. Then he covers it up with bafflegab.

I was reluctant at first to criticize Dr. Lapierre. After all, he could be just a naive prof. There are lots of them. A smart one would have known the mandate made no sense in the first place. What could we possibly learn from a very small sampling for NBers who turn up at randomly chosen meeting places? I mean, that's pretty damned unscientific.

But he is not naive. He has allowed himself to be used by the shale gas industry. He has given advice that he knows is far beyond his competence. He has waved a dismissal at the whole medical profession. This is arrogant. This is unprofessional. This is, by any standard, unethical. In a good university, he would find himself under heavy fire for what he has done. (In that sense of good, and luckily for him, there are few good universities in this world.)


And the TandT gave this a full, two pages, the most space I have ever seen given in this paper (with the exception, of course, of pictures of nothing in particular.) Oh, yeah, while there's a lot of contempt to be shared, let's take a look at a question by Brent Mazerolle. In asking his first question, Brent offers some subtle paragraphs of defense for the prof.

In his question, Mazerolle says Lapierre's proposal was bound to be criticized though, in fact, he chose a compromise.
a) He did not choose a compromise. He came down quite clearly on the side of the government and its bosses in the shale gas industry.
b) To say he offered a compromise is to speak in his defense. But a reporter is not there to defend anybody. A reporter is there to ask questions. You ask questions. Brent. Prof. Lapierre is the one who defends himself.
c)He does not ask a single question about the Cleary report, though Prof. Lapierre himself contradicted it.
d) When Lapierre airily dismissed the pollution caused by other industries such as airlines, paper mills, trucking, Mazerrolle didn't have the wit to point out that the damage caused by those surely contradicts Lapierre's point.

It was a week or so ago that Mazerolle made a comment about how tough reporters can be in an interview scrum.  Really? Well, I don't need it. I already have a pussycat.

BTW - a question for the scrum. Is Lapierre on a speaking circuit? Who's paying for it?

New Brunswickers, if you accept this gross, lying crap from journalism,academia, government and business, then I can only advise your children to get the hell out of this province ASAP.

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I should take the editorial about wearing poppies seriously. (And, in fact, I wouldn't dream of letting this time pass without one.) But I feel a need to make it clear that that I wear them for those who served. I do not, in any way, wear them, to in any way suggest support for the Canadian politicians and the Canadian people who send our military to die in wars for greed - like Afghanistan and Libya, and the many more coming up.

(Oh, yeah. and the "just pretend" peacekeeping mission to Haiti which was actually a mission to overthrow the elected government, put in a puppet, and keep that island deep in misery and poverty. This is where, years after an earthquake, much of the rubble still has not been moved, sanitation is worse than ever, 51 died in recent days when a hurricane hit that miserable land where hundreds of thousands still live under canvas shelters. Thank you, Canada.)
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Good column on bullying by Norbert. I'd go a step further and mention most of the garbage reality shows that appear on TV - the humiliation shows like Jerry Springer.

Alec Bruce's column is hilarious, and reminds me of a recipe from New Orleans - deep-fried hamburger. That's right. The whole blessed thing - meat, bun, cheese, salad, bacon, spices - all of it is deep-fried in one piece. Yum!

Alan Abel touches on a subject but, being Alan Abel, completely fails to understand how serious it is - or even what it means.

Craig Babstock is Craig Babstock - who makes Alan Abel look serious and highly intellectual.

Pretty slim pickings for Oct. 29.
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Oh, Norbert - about your headline - "None of us are blameless...."

No, no, no, Norbert. 'Are' is plural.. That is, you use are with 2,3,4, etc. One is singular - so that would be be one is. For example, one is enough.

But none - well that's even less that one. So you should always say, "None of us is blameless....."

You see, as you have used it, it looks as though "are" is the verb for "us" when, in fact, it is the verb for "none". So - none is....

Write it a hundred times.













Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oct. 28: Nice, positive...I promise

Today is the day we talk - not about unpleasant things, but about how to make the The Moncton Times and Transcript better. Not good, just better. First, though, let's be clear there are some things that cannot or should not be changed. So let's line them up so we won't waste time discussing them. The first "thing" in this category is the managing editor.

Normally, the managing editor is the key to a good newspaper. The managing editor sets the tone for ethical standards, for intelligent news selection...he/she is the model who rounds out the training of the lesser editors and the reporters. It's been my privilege to work with some very fine editors; so I would normally make my first step in improving the quality of the TandT the firing of the managing editor. But that would be a waste of time.

The owners of BrunswickNews would never tolerate an editor with a strong sense of journalistic ethics. Fire him, and they'd hire another one like him. Maybe even worse. No. Let's not waste time on changing that.

Incidentally, if you think I am overstating the failings of BrunswickNews and its leadership, I have followed Senate hearings about the NB monopoly on print news conducted, often, by former journalists. All have been brutally critical of the Irving Press. One, a senator who had been an editor of a major newspaper, one whom I had known well in Montreal and worked for -  spent a whole supper telling me what a horror she thought these papers were.

I wouldn't change the sports section nor most of those trivia pages of advice, gossip, etc. These, most of them, are what are called features. And features sell a newspaper. What the hell; they don't do any harm. I mean, they don't really matter. But nobody gets hurt. And a newspaper has to sell copies to get ads and stay in business. So we don't touch most of  those.

There is one feature I would change,  though. That's the Saturday church page. It is really boring. All the little sermonettes I've read in it could be summed up in five words. "It's good to be good." - with perhaps an occasional clap hands for Jesus. This is really wussy stuff.

Look. Jesus was a controversial person. What he said should still be controversial all over the world - and especially in New Brunswick.  This is not a province characterized by Christian behaviour of either its political or economic leadership. So could we make those sermonettes a bit more a bit more adult? More Christian? And just can the goody-goody bleat? People should think after they read sermonette, not go to sleep during it.

And Moncton is not entirely Christian. It has sizable Jewish and Moslem communittees. Why is the religion page not used to put us all in touch with each other? We are deep into an important Moslem holy period. What's it about? In fact, would it break the bank to have one reporter who would specialize just a little in the religious news? For example, I notice one church in the ads column that seems to be experimenting with new and imaginative approaches to the service. It's called Vision United. Why hasn't the TandT carried a story on this?

The religion page is bo-ring and close to useless. And it could easily be made into a very effective and interesting one.

Dump the business page. Anyone who's half serious about business news isn't going to find anything worth reading in the TandT. As it is, it carries topics all over the map. "local business wins trophy for cleanest washrooms in Altantic region." (who cares?) - a slim scattering of stock listings - occasional advice on how to get a job "sit up straight. make sure your hair is combed". Either find a useful focus for that page or dump it.

Use Section A for local and regional news only. It's annoying to read a paper in which a section goes from a story about a lost pet, then a story from the police beat, and then an uprising in Africa. Save the front page for only the major local and regional news. Real news. Skip the cutesy stuff.

Use NewsToday for Canadian news. We get rather little national news. So skip the foreign news, and just carry Canadian. As it is, the choice of foreign news is so lazy and limited that it's worthless. It's just wasting space.

It would be good to dump the editorial as well, because it's almost always so ill-informed and trivial. But we know that won't happen. So at least make the writer sign it. Let's get over this silly idea that the editorial represents the opinion of the whole paper. When we see nonsense, let us all see who wrote it.

Norbert Cunningham obviously loves reading. So use him properly. When he deals with subjects he doesn't understand, he just rants. But this is a province which badly needs to encourage reading. Let him write about reading, about books he has read over the years, about books he particularly enjoyed, about books and authors he's noticed in the library - ones that readers should really try out. The man has a strength. Take advantage of it. It's amazing to see a daily newspaper that ignores the world of the printed word. And it has a man who could change that. We could have a column that would do something about the reading problem, and not just complain about it. (In fact, I would be inclined to recast him as editor of a weekly books page.)

Hang on to Alec Bruce, David Suzuki, Gwynne Dyer, Jody Dallaire and..in fact, to all of the local once-a-week columnists.

Get rid of Alan Abel's cute but trivial and irrelevant columns on life in Washington. Use the op ed page ONLY for opinion. That means do not allow any staff writer on that page. There is not one who has shown any competence to write an informed opinion about anything.

In fact, at least one column a day by a Gwynne Dyer or other foreign affairs experts like him would do more to inform readers about what is happening in the world than all the international news stories the TandT has published in its history.

There. I've made positive suggestions. And I've been sweet as honey all the way. It makes me feel goody-goody.

 Maybe I should write the sermonettes for the religion page.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Oct. 27: Okay. I'll be good....

.... Tomorrow, I'll be positive. I'll suggest a few things that might make the The Moncton Times and Transcript a better newspaper. Of course, nothing on heaven above or earth below will make this a better newspaper so long as it has its present ownership. Under that ownership, it's purpose is to hide the truth, to keep people trivial, to hire really sloppy journalists (I suppose because they're cheaper), to throw out any old piece of "news" as if it were a breadcrumb carelessly tossed to pigeons.

But there are things that could be done. It still won't be worth a damn as a newspaper - but it could look almost respectable. I get fed up reading the same incompetence and lying every day. So I will try, tomorrow, to be as positive as one can.

By the way, the best news you will get in Canada is the CBC, radio or television. The Globe and Mail has some good columnists. Underline 'some'. Almost all private radio stations are bad news. They don't have enough reporters - and they can't offend their advertisers. For TV,  CTV is passable.

To get a jolt, go to International Clearing House on google. It's one-sided; it's sometimes extreme; but very often, if sadly, it's true.

For local news, again head to google, and type The Moncton Free Press - or it's full name La Presse Libre de Moncton Free Press. It doesn't have nearly enough writers (all are volunteers); so it's coverage is limited. But it's put together in a very professional manner. And it tells the truth that you will never find in the TandT.

The front page report on the NB Liberal leadership is the usual jargon and bilge. "We must govern from the centre." "We must have a vision." Such were the meaningless urgings of, God help us, Shawn Graham. Do you know what the centre means in New Brunswick? Damned if I do. You need a vision? Look, Shawn, the world Liberal is supposed to indicate you have a philosophy of government. What is that philosophy? That is what your vision is supposed to be based on. What does Liberal mean? But, evidently, the meeting was made up entirely of the usual blather - "we must go. but we must go - forward." (wild cheering.)

Of course, the reporter just took notes -obediently. There doesn't seem to have been a single question to try to find some meaning in all that brainless jargon. Look, New Brunswick. You have a bad government by any standard I have ever seen. Even the mafia-run governments of Quebec have been more effective than the corporation-run governments of New Brunswick. If this stinker of a Liberal convention is the best you can do to challenge the clowns and puppets who now are the government, you're in a hopeless position.

Also on the first page, we are told that our basketball team will supply us with community leaders.

Leaders? Why? What special talents do basketball players have to be community leaders? If they want to volunteer as individuals to  help out, fine. But community leaders? This is the sort of bilge that is really a free ad.

 I worked as a community organizer at one time. I got to meet plenty of famous and admired athletes. Some of them I admired very much. I remember with great fondness Sam Etcheverry of the Montreal Alouettes, and a Maurice Richard who had been dumped by the Canadiens ownership after years of minting money for it while getting only a low salary in return. Both Etcheverry and Richard were fine people. (I'm not just saying that. I also met many pro athletes who were the biggest jerks and louts you could hope to come across. There is nothing about sport that creates leadership or good character.Sport is just like any other trade in that respect.)

But I could never see that their visits had the slightest value in changing anybody's life. Let's keep sports mania where it should be - in the arena or, more likely, on the TV couch. This news story is just an ad.

So is the story below. This one, about a housing development, is full of brainless jargon. It's being built to a "master-plan" for a "community". All housing developments are built to a master plan. Any group of people constitute a community. A penitentiary is a community. This, like the previous stories is just pretentious blather.

Oh, it's called Vision Lands. Of course. Ya gotta have a vision. Like the liberals.

How does such a project with its obvious urban sprawl fit into Moncton's development plans? Does Moncton have development plans? The reporter didn't ask either (or any questions). Nor did he ask what building a new project designed around the automobile has to do with planning for the future. Actually, it sounds very 1950s.

There's nothing in the first section but pretentious jargon, trivia, and ads disguised as news stories.

Read NewsToday only as a sedative. There's no mention that in his omnibus budget bill which which allows no time for debate or public information, Harper has almost completely dismantled any environmental protection left in Canada. Oil and gas companies and mines will now be allowed to destroy Canada as thoroughly as they have been destroying third world countries for a century. As well, he is pimping a trade deal with China which gives that country the right not only to poison our lands and waters, but also to bring over cheap labour to do it.

Then there's a story of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird howling insults at a UN official because he dared to be critical of Israeli policy in its treatment of Palestinians. Way to kiss ass, John. It was coupled with an attack on the UN, itself. That's more kissing. US policy for some years has been to get rid of the UN. It loved the UN when it controlled that organization. But now, the UN is starting to represent everybody. So the US has been replacing with a fresh set of puppets called NATO. That will make it much easier to prepare for World War Three.

The Conservative government of Canada is the most dangerous government this country has ever seen. Stephen Harper is not a Conservative of any sort. He is driven by a fanaticism so narrow and destructive that Canada will be lucky to survive his term in office. And, if it does survive, it will be a horribly changed country.

Bill Belliveau? Just read the headline.  "Liberals will need vision for future." Here's another one who thinks that by using the "vision" word he has said something. But at least he wants a vision for the future. Well, yes. I mean, a vision for the past....well...no. I has to be for the future. Good thinking, Bill.

The editorial has nothing to say. Neither has Brent Mazerolle.

David Suzuki's column is one of the most important he has ever written. It is the only item worth reading in the whole paper. This one really isn't about science or warning about a theoretical future. This is about damage which is being done right now by Stephen Harper. There's nothing theoretical about it. It's real. It's happening. It's obvious. It's being rushed through parliament with virtually no debate. It all underlines something more serious that is happening in Canada and the US.

Stephen Harper makes his contempt for democracy quite obvious. He has no time for parliamentary debate or public discussion or even public information. As well, he is driven by an ideology that is concerned only with the making of money - and only with the making of money by the already rich. He doesn't give a damn what that does to Canada.

We are seeing a similar pattern in the US and Britain. In the US, in particular, human rights guaranteed in the constitution have been shredded. The US is not heading to be a police state. It is a police state.

Much of this has developed over the past forty years, coming out of the greed and the desire for unlimited power by the world of corporations. This is the ideology that drives Harper. This is what is behind his contempt for democracy.

Democracy certainly has its annoyances. But when you destroy it, you create a situation in which change can happen only with popular violence. And popular violence often has an outcome as terrible as the greed and lust for power that it rebels against.

We are in very deep trouble. Of course, if you read The Moncton Times and Transcript, you'll never know it. So that's okay.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Oct. 26: Mickey Mouse journalism....

Wow!! excitement. excitement. a real, pro football team might come to Moncton (oops. sorry, Metro). Wowie! That's nice.

But just for once, I'd like to see a financial breakdown of municipal spending and benefits on one of these affairs. Exactly how much does it cost us to get such an event? How much of the money spent on it is spent by local people (and therefore is no gain for for Moncton at all)? How much comes from outside Moncton? Of all the money spent in Moncton, how much of it stays here? How much of it goes into the pockets of a very few - or into the pockets of people who don't live here at all?

Pro football is not a charity. It exists to make money for itself - not for the population of Moncton. This is a newspaper which constantly praises business methods. Okay. Let's see some business methods in reporting on these extravaganzas that City Hall is so proud of bringing to us.
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Radian6, the company we promised $3.8 million to for a return of 300 jobs has instead cut 100 jobs. (Good thing I heard it on Norbert's favourite news network, CBC). Still no word on it in the TandT, not even on the business page.
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The general sloppiness of news coverage and editing remains unmatched in Canada. Read the subhead on p.1 under "metro open for Ticats: mayor". The subhead, presumably written by the editor, says CFL team can play as many games here as they want. The word team is singular. That means the team can play as many games here as IT wants.

Then, for the third, straight day we get a story on the shooting of a pet dog. Now, I yield to no-one in my disgust with people who do such things. But life goes on. This is not a three day story - especially since there is nothing new to report. We could use the saved space for real news like, say, a discussion with Dr. Cleary about her report - or the thousands of reports of damage caused by fracking and transporting shale gas.

P. 2 has yet another non-story on the Liberal convention. Like the others, it has nothing to say So why print it? When they choose a leader, tell us his name. That will be news, sort of.

p. 4 has a story that's really an ad for the casino.

As usual, there is almost no news in NewsToday. There is, however, a story (with picture suitable for framing) of the president of Enera speaking to a very safe audience of the St. John Board of Trade. NB, he says, is running out of a gas supply, and it could be by the 2020s. His whole talk appears to have been based on planning for a continuing supply of energy based on oil and natural gas. In short, it was a propaganda boost for shale gas.

We could, indeed, be in trouble by the 2020s. But it won't be for lack of such traditional power sources. It will be for the stunning damage those traditional are doing while we, at the urging of the President of Enera, continue to add to the damage. Well, what would one expect him to say?

 He's head of company that makes its money out of destroying the environment. Inevitably, and sooner rather than later, we won't be able to destroy it any more. But that's not his problem. His job is to make money out of these fuels as long as it is possible. And to make money now. What happens in the 2020s, by which time it will be impossible to fix anything, is not his problem. Like others of his sort, the President of Enera is encouraging us to stall until it's too late to fix the problems.

And what does the government of NB think of that? So far, the evidence is it doesn't think at all. Why should it. It knows nobody gives a damn what it thinks.
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And that brings us to editorial and op ed pages.

The editorial is, well, it's a TandT editorial. It's the sort of teen-age gush that teenagers haven't used since the editorial writer was a teen. As an example - if the Hamilton Tiger Cats play a season in Moncton, it will be an easy matter for Hamiltonians to hop on a jet to take in a game. Right. Hamilton is full of people rich enough and dumb enough to spend a thousand or more to see a football game. And business partnerships will spring up between Hamilton and Moncton. Right. What sort of partnerships? Why? And mayor Leblanc is the only person that business and citizens can trust to get the job done. (Well, I'm sure business trusts him,)  And create lasting relationships for the future. (What relationships? What is he babbling about?)

Norbert is on a rant, again - a couple of rants. You can measure just how much he's foaming at the mouth by counting his use of adjectives.  It's already rising in the first paragraph (along with the first of his non-sentences). Heavy use of adjectives and non-sentences are signs of a bad writer. It really takes off in an incoherent second half that could have been reduced to three words. "Damn the CBC."

(Does Norbert really find private radio in Moncton stimulating? Please tell us the station. I got one of them yesterday that was playing a hit tune from the 1940s, "The Ghost Riders in the Sky". It was corny in the 1940s. The passing years have not mellowed it. The other private stations sound like any other private station I've even been on - music, inane prattle, talk show  hosts who don't know what they're talking about discussing what they don't know with other people who don't know, either.

And music hosts. "Hey, gang, we have the music YOU want to hear." I have known a great many radio pop music hosts. Never met one who was physically younger than 30 and mentally older than 13.

What's YOUR favourite private radio station, Herbert?
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For reasons obscure to me, there is an opinion column by Craig Brett, Canada Research Chair in Canadian Public Policy at Mount Allison. For openers, it's not an opinion. It's a vague, sometimes naive and largely unintelligible gush about public policy. Why is it on the opinion page?  I suppose it's intended to be an ad for Mount A.  Gee! The TandT usually runs such ads as Special News Reports.

Anyway, if you don't know much about what public policy is, this article won't help you. If you do know what it is, this article still won't help you.

Alec Bruce has a column lighter than his usual style. But it's well-written. It's amusing. And, you know, it has a hint of truth about it that I shall remember whenever I get the urge for the newest piece of computer equipment.

There are several  letters to the editor worth reading. I would especially recommend
"Women's rights are worth fighting for" and "Information flow mishandled".


I'm in a grim mood. Last night, I watched Youtube for the scene of  a Nazi Youth singing   "Tomorrow belongs to me". It is the only part of the movie, Cabaret, that I remember. And I still feel the shock and the stealthy horror of it - and the warning of what was to come.

I guess I shouldn't look at it while I'm following the US election.






Thursday, October 25, 2012

Oct. 25: Things happened in the world....

...but not in the pages of The Moncton Times and Transcript.

One job of an editor is to go over reports, news items, to have a strong sense of what's going on the world, and to select those stories which best illustrate what is going on. In the whole of the Irving press there does not seem to be such an editor.

The Emir of Quatar (a very wealthy oil state) visited Gaza. Some editor at the TandT yawned, and turned to the next part, wondering if there might be a good story about a lost cat. The Emir promised Palestinians hundreds of millions in aid. (yawn.)

Apparently, it did not occur to anybody at the TandT to wonder why the Emir did that. Leaders of arab oil states have not been big on helping Palestinians. So here's why it's important.There are two parts to the story.
1. Israel has been following a policy of impoverishing and starving Palestine. Israel largely destroyed its power station. Much of the blockade is intended to keep out medical supplies and other help. It also bottles up any chance of Palestinian trade. Farmland is routinely annexed or placed out or limits for those who live in Gaza. The long-term  intention is to drive Palestinians out.
2. Those arab governments, like Quatar, who have supported the US now find themselves losing popularity for their failure to challenge the western onslaught on Islam. There has already been serious fighting and killing in some of those arab states - though never in the pages of the TandT.  And that is most strongly shown up in the failure of the oil states to help Palestine.

The Emirs and the kings are getting worried. As strict Moslems, themselves, they have to show support for Moslems. They haven't done it; and now they are facing serious, internal disorder.  That's why the Emir of Quatar went to Gaza and promised money. This is probably an important game-changer in the middle east. It's far bigger than any story in NewsToday. But it wasn't big enough to wake up a TandT editor.

The attack on anglophones living in Quebec has reached a new level of savagery - probably because the PQ government really has no agenda for anything, so it can survive only by appealing to bigotry and hatred. Few New Brunswickers seem to have the faintest idea what is going on next door. They never have. They seem to have never heard of the hundreds of thousands who have had to flee Quebec, of the rudeness of civil servants who deal with anglophones, of the refusals to provide services in English, of the refusals to hire anglos no matter how bilingual they might be. And certainly, readers of the Times and Transcript have never heard of the two year old girl who died just a few days ago because her parents were English. The paramedic who came insisted on his right to work only in French, and refused to listen when the English parents tried to explain her illness. (The ambulance service, yesterday, defended the paramedic, citing his right to speak and listen only in French. And, yes, he was bilingual). And so a two-year old girl died.

This is not an attack on Acadians or bilingualism. Quite the contrary. It is an attack on people who are bigoted, vicious, even racist - and a majority. I see signs of that in Letters to the Editor in the Times and Transcript. New Brunswick is not Quebec, not yet. But there are anglophones who would like to make it a mirror image of Quebec. And that would be a tragedy for New Brunswick - as it has been for Quebec and as it will get worse as the PQ, with nothing useful to do, plays on the fears and ignorance of those Quebec francophones who are the equivalents of some of those NB anglos I too often see in letters to the editor.

Quebec is a horror story whose full horror has never been shown in most of our news media. And it's a horror that could well come crashing down on itself. It's worth avoiding any move to copy Quebec.

The biggest story in Section A is that Oulton's is getting a larger parking lot.

There is a political story, too. Page 1. Mike Murphy is running for the Liberal leadership. Whoopee! The opening paragraph is not a news report; it is an opinion.Doesn't even the front page editor know what the hell a news report is supposed to look like?  It should not look like  "Mike Murphy has a clear-eyed and unflinching assessment of New Brunswick's  future if it continues along the same track it is currently travelling."

This isn't news. This is puerile gush.

It's a long story, and the gush is constant. At no point is it possible to get any idea what  Murphy's policy would be on anything except duplication of hospital services. Not that it matters. After all, his party will still run on contributions from corporations - so who cares what Mike Murphy thinks?

This whole story is a travesty of journalism, a political interview written like a soft drink ad.

Alec Bruce has good column, one that suggests some serious implications.

The editorial and Norbert's column are brainless, and show a remarkable indifference to public need.Norbert says we can easily keep buses off the road while we figures transit out. Sure, Norbert. Most of the people who need the bus are poor or elderly. So who cares? Tell you what, Norbert, you write a column that your owner can wait a year for some vital service. Then see how long it takes you to be standing outside and looking for a bus.

The editorial is the same as Norbert. Both want lots of time for our city planners at their hundred thousand plus salaries to work out a better system.

What a parir of twit! Planning is what those being money receivers are supposed to have been doing for years. They're the ones who designed the mess we have. What on earth have we been paying for? What has city council been doing? Has nobody on it ever wondered over all these years exactly what the plan is? Or if there is one? If there is any planning going on in this city, I have yet to see evidence of it.

I don't necessarily blame the planners. I suspect that, like everything else in this province, the only real planning is done by land speculators and corporate head offices. And we have a mayor and city council who are either complicit or as dozy as they come.

On op ed, Rod Allen thrills us with yet another tale of his family life. Way to show that good old journalistic qualities of brains, infoming the public, and courage, Rod.

Jody Dallaire's column is one of outrage, and rightly so. I urge you to read it.

So that's it - two items worth reading - by Alec Bruce and Jody Dallaire.








Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Oct. 24: Jim Manley and SuperSteve....

Every heard of Jim Manley? You certainly haven't read about him in the Times and Transcript. Mr. Manley is 79, retired, has never committed a crime in  his life - and is now sitting in an Israeli prison. He'll be there, they say, until he signs a false confession. Why? He was on a small boat carrying dangerous things like soccer balls to Palestine. (The Israeli ship which stopped his boat and forced it into an Israeli port was acting illegally.)

Jim Manley was always a respectable man, a member of the NDP, a member of parliament for some years. In short, a Canadian of some distinction who has committed no crime is being held illegally  in an Israeli prison - and Stephen Harper isn't lifting a finger; and the TandT staff would probably have trouble finding Israel on a map. We've been through this before.

When Omar Khadr was illegally held as a war prisoner and illegally tortured, Canada was the only country with a citizen treated like that who did not demand and receive custody of its own citizen. (No. We have long since lost any reputation we had in the world for honesty and integrity in these matters. Harper knows who his masters are.)

Page 1 has a long, long story about Brian Gallant who is running for the Liberal leadership in New Brunswick. I don't know why it has a long, long story. Most of the writing is a fog of trivia. As well as I could understand it, he says he stands for good things. Well, that's nice. We haven't had one of those for quite a while.

Actually, there is no story. This is just a press agent's plug. So far as I can tell the reporter didn't ask a single question. Indeed, the whole story could have been written by a pr agent. Though full of pretty, little stories, it gives little hint of what he would do about anything - and none whatever about his political principles.  In sum, he's going to do something different - and he'll do what he has to do. Wow! Sounds like we have another Brian Alward here.

The reporter might have asked him what liberal means. I know the dictionary meanings. I  have no idea what the word liberal means as a party name or what it means to Mr. Gallant. What are the most prominent issues New Brunswick has to deal with? What are the Liberal ways of approaching them. Why?

What role, if any, does Mr. Gallant think big business should have in government? Better still, as Mr. Irving. He has already pronounced himself a member of the government. As well, big business has a group of its appointees to "advise" the government on economic policy. Why doesn't the TandT skip the small fry like Alward and Gallant, and ask Mr. Irving what his policies are?

Like most TandT reports, this one is all just fluff and chicken bones.
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Also on the front page is a quite asinine story. It seems city hall has announced that its highly paid planning staff with take advantage of the Transpo lockout to redesign the schedules, and make them simpler and more efficient. Won't that be great? So, for the minor inconvenience of a year or so with no mass transit, we'll have a great, uptodate system - designed by he same people who designed the last one.

It seems not to have  occurred to the reporter that this is what the overpaid city staff is supposed to be doing all the time - without needing a lockout. That's what happens in real cities.

This is a remarkably silly story. So why does it appear? It's probably there to give the impression that city hall is doing something about its lockout. I mean, with those huge salaries, it has to do something. Meanwhile, it's working on a privatization plan for a much smaller and even less convenient system driven by non-union drivers. I mean, ya gotta cut somewhere to pay all those hundred thousand plus salaries.

Incidentally, if the story is that the city's bus planning staff is now going to re plan the service, what the hell has it been doing for the last several months? Playing games on the office computers?

So much for section A.
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There's at least one story worth reading  in Section C, NewsToday. It may well be the most important thing that has been said about shale gas so far - and it's a point that blew right by Dr. Lapierre, bless his heart. On p. C3 is a warning. We have very little time to cut the levels of carbon dioxide. Shale gas will not only do serious damage to the environment (for a very short-term gain), but concentrating on it will fatally slow work on genuinely renewable sources of energy. Shale gas is dreadfully punishing for the environment. The damage is profound and permanent. But even it it weren't, the time wasted in developing shale gas will be fatal all by itself.
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The only opinion column worth reading is Alec Bruce who is the one person I  have seen in that paper to take a serious look at the economic times we are heading into. It's grim. And even grimmer than he says.

Ever since 1492, the wealth of the western world has depended on its military power which has used to extract cheap labour and cheap materials from the rest of the world. For Britain, France, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, that power collapsed as a result of World War Two. The US tried to replace the old empires with its own power. But the first sign of its failure was the rise of Fidel Castro who displaced an American dictator to set an example for Latin America. And he got away with it. It worked. American power is now                                                                                                                         much reduced in Latin America - we can expect to see fighting there as the US tries to re-establish itself. (In fact, the fighting is on and has been on for decades. A quarter of a million dead civilians in Guatemala should have opened eyes to that. But most of our news media never reported it. Nor did most of them ever report that the NATO intervention in Haiti was to put that unhappy island back under the control of an American puppet.)

The US military record since World War Two has been abysmal. Despite its size and its spending, it has lost war after war against much smaller opponents. (Even Iraq will soon join the list of lost wars.) The US has tried to catch up by using mercenaries (it now has more mercenaries than it has Americans in Afghanistan), by advanced technologies, by assassination squads and special ops, by robot bombers, by sponsoring rebellions in countries like Libya and Syria. It's not working. But it is causing enormous civilian casualties and national suffering. That, in the process, has rallied and united opposition to the US and made it, once the most admired nation in the world, into the most hated.

The western empires built their wealth on military superiority. But now, so far as conventional warfare is concerned, we have lost that superiority.

Combined with that, big business, operating on pure greed, has effectively taken over control of western governments. We are watching the collapse of a world we have known for over five  hundred years. Fracking for shale gas in New Brunswick will not solve the problems posed by that collapse. There's a collapse of power, a collapse of democracy, a collapse of capitalism as it is supposed to operate, a collapse of social morality.

Read at least the first two paragraphs of Alec Bruce's column. And, no, he does not exaggerate at all. This is the sort of situation that Mr. Gallant wants to tackle as leader of the Liberal party. I thank him. But I would like to see something more substantial about his agenda.
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I apologize to at least two readers who wrote in interesting comments. I punched the button to publish them. But they didn't appear as comments, and now I can't find the original posts, either. (I blame a cat that walks across my computer whenever I sit down to it.)

Please send your comments again - and I'll make sure to keep the cat tied up.

Oh, a piece of humour on the op ed page. Eric Lewis tells us that, as a journalist, he has to work hard to keep up on political happenings in the province. I'll bet. Tell you what, Eric,stop reading the Times and Transcript. Listen to CBC radio.
On second thought, scrap that. If you knew anything about New Brunswick politics, and wrote it in your column, you'd be looking for a job in another province within a day.






Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Oct. 23:Disgusting

Today's headline on p. 1 of The Moncton Times and Transcript is a pretty strong example of what our North  American newspapers have fallen to. It is pure propaganda for the shale gas industry. Dr. Lapierre's talk last night was set up for propaganda - and both Lapierre and his Rotarian audience must have known that - as did the Tand T. (well, okay, the Rotarians might not have figured it out.)

Why would Dr. Lapierre be on a speaking tour? Is it to explain his report to the people of New Brunswick? Of course not. To do that he would have had to be looking for large audiences - and large audiences would attract critics. What he wanted was a small audience, and an audience that has no record of ever looking for controversy or criticism. The Rotarians were perfect.

He could spew out his propaganda, assured of a warm reception, and no awkward questions. And that would give the TandT another excuse to  print his very amateurish ideas.

UdeMoncton must be busting its buttons with pride. It now has at leasat two, eminent professors who can be relied on to speak for  the bosses who own this province - though one of the comments in today's paper was poorly timed.

Dr; Lapierre said that fracking does carry risks; but we take risks all the time. For example, we take medicine despite the warning it may have side effects. (The Rotarians probably applauded that witty insight, and all decided to drive home with their headlights off just to show they weren't scared of risks.)What Lapierre apparently didn't know was that a scientific journal (Nature Geoscience) in its current issue carried a study of one of those risks.(Strange he didn't see it. Nature Geoscience is, after all, in a field in which Dr. Lapierre claims expertise. The article was by a scientist at University of Western Ontario.)

The study is of an earthquake in Spain that killed nine, and injured hundreds. Decades of pumping out water from the soil in that area had lowered the water table. The earthquake was a collapse of the earth in that region. Fracking, as the study points out, pumps out very large quantities of water. Yes. There is a risk. But it's not one to be compared with getting a headache from taking a pill.

I've also had time now to examine Dr. Lapierre's report in detail. I'm appalled at the amateurish, even infantile nature of it.The sample of people is so small and random that no professional would ever accept this as a valid report on anything. It's full of conclusions in areas in which he has no competence - and some that make no sense at all.

He is fond of saying things like some people were poorly informed or some people didn't trust the government.  No doubt. And no doubt some people were tall and some people were short. So?

How many were poorly informed? How many were well informed? Exactly what does poorly informed mean? And what would it matter anyway when you have a sample of only 200 for the whole province?
An undergraduate who handed in a report like this would get a failing mark.

The news report does not say whether he even mentioned the report of Dr. Cleary, the chief medical officer. Well, why should he? His job and the job of the TandT is to smother her report.

As for his suggestion of an independent committee of academics to supervise shale gas development, no thanks. I could live without a committee of ten Dr. Lapierres.

I hope UdeMoncton will be getting a large, philanthropic and tax deductible contribution for all this.
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There is a big story that never made the TandT. It comes from a British paper, the Daily Mail, just yesterday.
A Pakistan court is hearing to demand for the extradition of a former bureau chief of the CIA, and of the top lawyer for the CIA on charges of murder. (The US will, of course, refuse to recognize the request - despite its frequent demands that other countries honour all such requests coming from it.)

The story is about the use of drones which have killed something between 3500 and 6500 Pakistanis. Of those, some 42 were Taliban leaders. At least hundreds were women and children who had no Taliban connection - as well as uncounted numbers of police, medical workers - and anybody else in the area.

Incidentally, those attacks are not just murder, they are also illegal under the US constitution. A president cannot go to war without the consent of Congress. But Obama has been using drones in  Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia for years with no such consent.
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There is nothing in NewsToday.
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The editorial is puerile. It's all about the importance of the retail trade and the importance of small business. I suppose the editor wrote it to cover up yesterday's story which did NOT appear in the TandT. A national report says that New Brunswick has the worst business climate in all of Canada for small business.

Advice to small enterpreneurs - don't get taken in by pretences that you are treated in the same category as big business. In reality, you're one of us. And they won't treat you any better than they treat us.

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There are superb columns by Alec Bruce and David Suzuki. And we are in very serious trouble under both topics they discuss.  You really must read these.

Suzuki, incidentally, has some disturbing figures on exactly how much fresh water is left in this world. Couple that with another story the TandT didn't publish. Harper's omnibus bill on the budget proposes to destroy the limited water protection we have. (Well, it makes sense. All this nonsense about protecting water is just in the way of the development of important schemes like oilsands - and fracking.)

Harper is right, too. After all, we take risks all the time when we take pills. Anyway, by then we'll have a replacement for water.

So there you have it. Take a pill or take Dr. Lapierre. They're pretty much the same.
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Oh, I have written to the Ministry of the Environment, under the  terms of  the access to information act, for information about Highfield Square. Receipt of it was acknowledged this morning.
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The spread of rot under the influence of big business is strong everywhere. But New Brunswick seems a special case. As a retired prof, I particularly alarmed to see it so strong in the universities. I am worse than disappointed that such a shallow and unprofessional piece of work as Dr. Lapierre's should appear in public. I hope that at least some professors at UdeMoncton are squirming.










Monday, October 22, 2012

Oct.22: Just back from anti-lockout demo....

..the one by bus drivers and mechanics at city hall. There were some 30 or so protesters being quite peaceful, a squad car, and eight or so "security" guards rather amateurishly  placed at considerable intervals around the perimeter. They didn't look like police. The looked more like private guards hired in a hurry, and with minimal training.

I saw no reporters. Nor had I noticed any advance notice in the TandT, though it was known from at least Friday that the demonstration would be held. Watch for minimal coverage tomorrow. Watch for no coverage of the story that lurks behind this. My strong guess is that the lockout is deliberately planned to break the union, hand over the system to private ownership - then to cost more than we are paying now.

CBC News (but not the Times and Transcript) had a report on the salaries paid to high level city hall employees - well over a hundred thousand. The big numbers would include, I suppose, the genius who planned Codiac's routes. I was never able to figure them out.

The buses in Shanghai with its population of some 20 million are easy. From the start, I rode them alone, and with no help. But the Bus routes of Metro Moncton beat me. That wasn't the fault of the drivers who, as we are told, "aren't worth what they're asking for." No, it was the fault of somebody at city hall who was getting two or three times what a driver got.

Obviously, the mayor's talent is not in deciding what people are worth.

Perhaps the only important story in a particularly dreary edition of the Tand T is buried on A8, a brief, space-filler on the widening gap between rich and poor in, well, almost everywhere, and very noticeable in New Brunswick. The report, by Brent Mazerolle who attended a meeting of the "poverty summit", is the usual stenography reporting of the TandT, so it's hard to get any full idea of what was said at the meeting on this subject. I would hope that at least two points came up.

1. That a widespread drop in income means the loss of at least a generation for New Brunswick. Children raised in very low income conditions commonly do badly in school, and drop out early. It has nothing to do with brain power, but everything to do with income and social surroundings. That means the skills they might have had and the contributions they might have made will never happen. That's a loss for all of us, and one that is likely to be continued in the children they produce.

2. The stated attitude of City Council toward bus drivers - "they aren't worth the money" as it was delicately put in a Times and Transcript column. Turning people into commodities is not only immoral, a denial of their existence as human at all. But there are practical reasons for morality. Morality is not just a lot of goody-goody stuff. To use the power of big money to strip most of the nation of its sense of humanity is also economically fatal. To take money out of most pockets and stuff it into the pockets of a few is a guarantee that recession will become depression.

That, in turn will breed violence; violence will breed repression; and repression will put an end to democracy. And that's where we're headed.

The rich, who demand ever more power and more riches,are  quite incompetent to run an economy or a society. The evidence of that is all around us.  But you won't find it in Mazerolle's story of the meeting.

By the way, I mentioned this is a moral issue. Too bad so few clergy make that connection in their Sunday sermons.

The lead story on page 1 is "Tidal energy 'not a big priority for N.B."  Who would have guessed it? It's a long story, and that's understandable. It takes a while to explain what NB is not doing.

The big story in NewsToday is that the US is having an election on Nov. 6. Wow! Great scoop.

Alec Bruce has a solid column on the editorial page. The rest of the editorial and op ed pages are - like all the rest of the paper - pure trivia. Food for thought for the editor - if he ever does think.....this paper has nothing in it. Now, unlike a person, a newspaper really is a commodity. And, being a commodity, this one is not worth the price, not worth any price. Why should we pay for it? Let Mr. Irving pay for it. After all, it's his propaganda.

Today's Moncton Times and Transcript has a big picture of the Legs for Literacy run on its front page. That's odd because the TandT is a major force for discouraging literacy in this province. It's irrelevant stories and opinion columns  (most of them) offer no reason to read at all. The Moncton Times and Transcript is the major force in keeping us uninformed and uninterested in the issues crucial to our lives. We can all run our little legs off; but this province will remain a literary death zone so long as it is dominated BrunswickNews.

And it's not simply because the staff is incompetent. (not entirely, at least.) It's because this paper is designed to discourage reading and thinking. It's the newspaper that serves those who want New Brunswickers to be in the dark, to be poor, to take the blame for all the misery forced on them by their politicians and their corporate leaders.

It was very hard to write a blog on this today because it was just so...nothing. I read every page. And the only item that caught my eye was a brief note that a rapper named Shaggy is 44 today.

I knew I was in trouble when that was all that caught my eye.

Sorry for such a boring blog today. Not my fault.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oct. 21: Whence and Wherefore the Liberals?

In The Moncton Times and Transcript, Bill Belliveau's weekly column is the closest thing we have to an official statement of the opinion of the Liberal Party of New Brunswick. His Oct. 20 column on shale gas, then, is one to pay attention to. In this case, it is especially so because the Liberals have been a trifle shy about what they would do if in power. The Belliveau column is more explicit.

Let's start, though, with clarifying a word that most speakers and writers   (including Belliveau) have used a trifle carelessly. Moratorium, thought it sounds as though it has something to do with death and finality, is not about that at all. It is a  legal term, usually used to indicate a legal postponement of a debt payment. The debt is not cancelled. It doesn't die. The payment is simply delayed.

In the case of shale gas, then, a moratorium does NOT mean that shale gas exploration is forbidden forever. It means it is forbidden until we know more about its effects.

Belliveau's column, then, in opposing a moratorium (and presuming he knows what the word means), tells us, "What the hell. Sure there's risks to life and health; but let's do it, anyway." That is exactly the meaning of his last paragraph. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it could poison people. It could poison our groundwater and destroy our land. But, he says, "Hiding our heads in the sands of moratorium will not get us out of this hole."  (I shall skip lightly over the probability that taking the risks he recommends could forever bury us in this hole.)

This is the paragraph that gave me the sense he does not understand the meaning of moratorium. It does not mean burying our heads in the sands. Quite the contrary. If means delaying, simply delaying, shale gas exploration until we KNOW what the risks are. There is research still to be done - not to mention research results we have still not been told about.

Those opposed to shale gas exploration right now are not hiding their heads in the sand. On the contrary, they are using their heads to get information before making a decision. The person who advocates hiding our heads in the sand is Bill Belliveau. Just read his last paragraph.

"We owe to to ourselves to continue investigating the potential of shale gas development and, yes, the risks associated with its development. (my underlining).

So - sure - maybe some people will get sick or die. Maybe we'll get a high rate of stillborn babies, or birth defects that will affect the victims for the rest of their lives. Maybe we'll destroy the soil and the water. But, what the hell, ya gotta take risks. Right? I mean, so you get widespread illness, destruction and even death. But, hey, there could be some good jobs in this (though we don't even know much about that) - as long as it lasts. Hey. Not a second to waste. Hurry. Hurry.

This is mindless drivel.

Some health risks that we already know about  (though not from reading the Irving Press) are damned serious. And there's a lot more we haven't even looked at yet. There are huge risks in the fracking process. There are risks in the use of the gas, itself. We need to know more before we go ahead.

Nor, given its record, is there the slightest hope that the oil and gas industry will ever give the smallest damn about what happens to us, to our children and grandchildren,  or our lands and waters, or that they will ever tell us the whole truth.

Read Belliveau's column. That is almost certainly what is to be the Liberal policy - and it's exactly what the Conservative policy is now.

The industry has already objected to even the  regulations we have posted now. And, despite the dimwit opinion of our Minister of the Environment, that does not prove he's on the right track. He almost certainly knew before he ever drew up regulations that the industry would oppose them. He and industry leaders almost certainly had discussed the strategy. He proposes regulations that are  inadequate and/or lacking adequate research. They pretend to be angry, though they have been assured that most of the regulations won't be enforced.

And so we play our round of just pretend - just to give the Irving Press some fiction to write about and call it news. It's like a game of hockey. And we're the puck. The only difference is that under hockey rules, there are some things you're not allowed to do with the puck.

Belliveau is correct about one thing, though. The are broad similarities between the Cleary Report and the Lapierre Report. But the difference is one hell of a big one.Cleary says we had better learn more before we put our lives on the line. And Dr. Cleary, as chief medical officer, is quite qualified to make that recommendation.

Dr. Lapierre recommends going ahead. First, he had no mandate to make such a recommendation. Secondly, he has no qualification to make such a recommendation. However distinguished his career might be, he is a biologist. Such a recommendation is well beyond his expertise. And if he is a person of any intelligence or ethics at all, he knows, he should never have made such a recommendation.

And if our universities had any sense of ethics, they would be public in criticism of what he has done. But they won't. The university administrations will kiss up to gas the industry in hope of getting grants with which they can buy each other more awards and titles. The only profs who will speak at all will be the usual "rent-a-profs".

Meanwhile, Professor Lapierre will hit the lecture circuit, aiming in particular at those groups who think they are all just great folks and real movers and shakers - when they are really second and third rate. The Rotarians spring to mind. What the Rotarians think doesn't really matter. But the speeches will give The Times and Transcript an excuse to play up Lapierre - and to further ignore Dr. Cleary. That's the way the real world turns.

Conclusion? If you really don't give a damn what happens, you can safely vote either Liberal or Conservative. There is really no difference between them on shale gas - or any other issue.
If you do care, and you still vote Liberal or Conservative, then I guess you deserve what you get. Too bad, though, that everybody else is stuck with getting it, too.

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What's really interesting about the fracking debate (propaganda campaign) is what nobody has mentioned. Why on earth are we even thinking of allowing private companies to develop what is ours? We lose all the profits - not just in the sense that a big business gets them, but in the sense that they almost all the money leaves the province. (And, of course, we lose on taxes when private business does it because it insists on sweetheart terms.) All we get for our resource is a minimal tax and a handful of jobs - for as long as it lasts.

If shale gas is going to be developed, why on earth don't we do it ourselves, and get full value for our money?

Oh, I know why. It's because corporation people are smart and efficient, and know things we don't.

Look. Quebec took over hydro power from private business and put it under public ownership over fifty years ago. Quebec Hydro is a lot bigger than NB shale gas. And guess what? It's been a huge success. In fact, it's common all over the world for governments to own and operate power projects. The drive to privatize them is fairly recent - rather like the attempts to privatize all education and even (no kidding) to privatize ownership of the rain that falls.

Public ownership works very well - and it distributes the wealth from what are, after all, our resources in a way that private ownership does not. There's nothing radical about it. Canada has over a century of experience of public ownership. And it's worked well.  Meanwhile, large, private ownership is more noted for ripping us off. That's why we have some a huge income gap in this country. And it's a major reason why the world is slipping even deeper into recession.
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Among the student columns on Saturday's Whatever section, I would very strongly recommend the one by Sabrina Stace.
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Interesting to read the list of church events for the week - teas, beef dinner, bazaars. Lots for the stomach. Lots for cheap shopping. Nothing for the mind.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Oct. 20: Transit lockout: The reason wny...

The story doesn't appear in The Moncton Times and Transcript. You had to be listening to the CBC that Norbert despises to be able to catch it. Mayor Leblanc has suggested that the solution to the problem of Moncton's transit system might be to privatize it. It might take a year or so to get it done. But that's okay. Mayor Leblanc has a car.

Now, the basic problem of the system is the same as the problem for mass transit systems all over the world. Ridership fluctuates wildly in the course of a day, so that buses often run close to empty. That usually means losses in operation which are made up by municipalities.

Automobile manufacturers don't mind that at all. They have often lobbied city governments to maintain terrible mass transit systems in order to boost car sales. The most notorious case is Los Angeles in which residents can expect to spend half their lifetimes in traffic jams on eight lane highways, crammed with cars.

So mayor Leblanc thinks privatization would solve all our problems..... Whoever made his head must have carved it out of a particularly thick coconut shell.

The city can't afford to run a transit system? A private company which has to operate a system PLUS make a profit can do it? Where is the common sense in that Mr. Leblanc?

Is it your thinking that private business is more efficient and effective, Mr. Leblanc? Wake up an smell the coffee. Look around you. That whole world economy is in crisis. That crisis is the direct consequence of the incompetence and dishonesty of private business. Indeed, big, private business in the western world survives now only on the the bailouts of of big government, and the power of big government in making the poor pay for the recession they didn't cause, and the power of big government to cut taxes for the rich.

And we have not yet begun to see the extent and depth of that collapse.

Privatization will solve the problem? What an idiotic statement!

But I think I understand now what this lockout of striking drivers and mechanics is all about.

For well over a century, big business has been pushing the myth that only it is efficient, that big business is what freedom is all about, that government is bad, government is, by nature, incompetent, that government regulation of business is bad, that competition is good (though the competition we have is largely mythical).
To get the general idea, read any of Norbert Cunningham's rants.

That idea has been pushed particularly hard since World War Two. You see, in the emergency of World War Two, a good deal had to be controlled by government - and big business had to accept it because it was necessary and it worked. But it was determined to return to its old world of piracy just as soon as the war ended. That's why corporate bosses created think tanks like AIMS and Fraser Institute.
The gospel this institutes hammered home was that only privatization was good, that ALL industries had to be privatized, from schools to energy to water supply --- to mass transit.

Where all this has taken us is deep into an economic crisis that gives no sign of getting better, that for countries like the US, Britain, Greece, Spain will almost certainly never get better. We are not watching declines. We are watching collapses.

But the gospel is still out there - government is bad; private business is good; everything must be privatized. It really is that sort of religion we call an ideology. We don't need proof. We just have to believe. It's the mirror image of Mao's and Stalin's communism.

And that, I suspect, is what the transit lockout is really all about. Break the union by closing down Codiac transit. Privatize to some friend of the government - with lots and lots of government 'incentives'.

Will it give us a better transit system? Of course not. In fact, it will give us a far worse one. After all, a private company has to make a profit. Obviously, it can't do that my operating the present service.  The only way it can do it is by cutting back the service - and pay its employees as cheaply as possible, thus taking money in the form of profits out of Moncton, and leaving us all poorer. Then they can do the same with the other unions and the other services.

Did mayor Leblanc figure this out all by himself? I doubt that very much. In my time in Moncton, I have seen no evidence that mayor Leblanc could find his own belly button using both hands. This was put up to him.

Meanwhile, it will mean many more months of severe hardship for some students, for the elderly, for those whose low wage jobs make car ownership impossible. But not to worry. Our mayor has his own car - with a reserved parking space.

The TandT did carry a front page SPECIAL REPORT on the lockout by Eric (Scoop) Lewis. It didn't even mention the mayor's statement - or anything else we haven't known for weeks.

A3 has a long story about a Christian business leader addressing the annual mayors' prayer breakfast. His topic was the perfect storm awaiting us in reliance on technology, declines in morality, etc. He did it without once mentioning among those problems the corruption of politics, the anti-morality of big business, the lying
and propagandizing by most of most of our news media, the deliberate creation of poverty to enrich a few,....
Instead, he prefers to focus on the safe topics like the increase of rudeness, decline of church attendance. Though I am religious, I plead guilty to contributing to that decline in church attendance. And it's precisely because I detest listening to namby-pamby preaching like that. I'm sure, though, that the mayors found it inspirational. It reminded me of the first school principal I ever worked for. It was the first day of the Cuban missile crisis when it seemed likely the whole world would be destroyed at any moment. He spoke to a school assembly to deliver this message, "Now, wouldn't this be a better world if people were just nice to each other?" Food for thought.

Otherwise, Section A is a wipeout.

NewsToday has no news for today. There is, however, an extremely foolish story on language in the section. It presents a 'scientific' study showing that the French sector of health care is better supplied than the English sector.

For openers, the study is extremely unscientific -and very casually dismisses the lack of certain equipment in the French sector. It also ignores the number of anglos (like me) who use mostly the French sector. An article like this is of no scientific value. It will be resented by French who will feel they are being talked down.
 to. It will encourage anger and bigotry among those anglos who already have plenty of both. What a foolish thing to publish!

The editorial is just silly. It babbles about the great beauty of Wesley United church. Nonsense! It was a massive but quite uninspired pile of dull, red brick. It reflected the style of no age except, perhaps, the drearier years of the 1930s. The editorial writer should learn what the word 'heritage' means.

Brent Mazerolle wonders why so few show up at council to protest the bus lockout, while so many protested changes to traffic lanes on Salisbury Road at a local church. Hint, Brent - the church was local, and the protestors, almost by definition, had cars. City Hall is not so generally convenient, and those who would protest don't have cars to get there.

Read Gwynne Dyer. He writes about something that is almost certain to happen.

Then there's Bill Belliveau. But I've written too much already. And Belliveau's column demands special attention. I'll write it up on Sunday morning - instead of going to church where all I'll be told is that the important thing in life is not to be rude.




Friday, October 19, 2012

Oct. 18: Visions vs. mirages....

For the second day in a row, The Moncton Times and Transcript has a front page story on the demolition of Wesley Memorial United Church. As others of this paper's twice-told stories, it says nothing of substance in the first appearance, and rather less in the second.

This time, it's geegollywhiz, what a great chance to develop a new vision of St. George St.. Vibrant. that's what it will be - vibrant.

Now, I hold no brief for the preservation of that church. Architecturally, it is boring. Its physical departure is no loss to the street. In fact, it's replacement by a pile of rubble gives it a kind of unity with the rest of St. George St. Maybe we should keep it that way. But I do wish the TandT had someone who could see the significance of what has happened.

The demolition is a sign of something more profound that is happening. All the TandT can see is a chance for developers to make some money (almost certainly with our tax money. If St. Peter's in Rome were to collapse, I can see the TandT headline. "Vision Rome sees opportunity to develop tourist cafes, enliven downtown Vatican City".)

Look. Something profound is happening in our society. Religion is disappearing. That's why Wesley closed in the first place. Like it or hate it, religion has been a central feature in the societies of this world for millenia. It's ending. Locally, New Brunswick does not operate on any religious principles I can think of. That's a huge change, even bigger that building a hockey rink to revive Main St. It will have a profound effect on the world we live in, certainly far more profound than any of the visions, schemes, plans I have seen from all of our governments, private developers and business leaders put together.

In our society now, it is virtuous to be greedy, to make others suffer so that you can be rich. Killing and torture are to be admired. Covet? Bloody right. Coveting is what makes the world go around. Love your neighbour? Hey! If your neighbour isn't loved, that's your neighbour's problem. Forgive? No bloody way.

Maybe that's good. But it's still a profound change. That change is the story of Wesley United. It's more than a story. It's a subject for a good deal of discussion and commentary. It may well be the most important event we're living through. The roots of medicare lay in religious thinking. That is true for most of our social programmes.It is, or was, the basis of our criminal code and legal system. It lies at the base of the concept of  human rights.

But all we're getting is -  duh - they're tearing an empty building down - duh - great chance for a promoter.

This may explain why (on A2) our schools don't yet have their annual budget. I mean, who gives a damn about kids? There will, however, be lots of money to send pro-shale gas people on speaking tours around the province.
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P. C3 has "Health costs weigh on fiscal woes: analyst". This one is a report from somebody hired by a "non-profit" organization, The Macdonald-Laurier Institute". The gist of it is we can't afford all them there people on medicare. And we are, as usual, assured that we can trust the Macdonald-Lauier Institute becaue it is "non-profit".

Like hell it's non-profit. Like the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, it was founded by Brian Cowley. Both groups are really hired hands for big business to produce propaganda  reports that will make profits for big business.The institutes themselves don't make the profits. But they sure make profits for the people whose boots they lick.

We can't afford medicare? Actually, we can't afford private care. Private care, as in most of the US, is far, far more expensive than medicare, and far, far less efficient. It's the leading cause of bankruptcy among American seniors, and produces close to third world results in life expectancy and health. But, oh, it make money for a few people. Nothing could demonstrate the collapse of morality better than the push of big business to end medicare.
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There is the usual sort of editorial which appears to  have been written by the village idiot.

Otherwise, the editorial and op ed pages are very solid. (I do wish, though, that Norbert would be more critical in his reading. The world is on the brink of the Third World War, perhaps a nuclear one. There is fighting and  disintegration going on it a great deal of it. There are official and unofficial wars going on. Yet Norbert continues to bow to Stephen Pinker who says the world is more peaceful than ever. 1. Pinker is a psychologist, for Pete's sake. 2. he has a reputation for gaining attention by making sensational claims.
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A quick roundup of what did not make the Moncton Times and Transcript:

1. Yesterday's Globe and Mail published a study showing that Public/private partnerships (as in roadbuilding and maintenance) are expensive, far more expensive that Public only operations are. In fact, they are up to 19% more expensive. Of course. They're nothing efficient about big business. It's generally over-priced and over-profitable.
2.Drones used by the US in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia kill only small numbers of militants. Some 80% of the dead are quite innocent civilians. (Ever notice the TandT never carries a story on who dies in drone attacks?)
3.Forty-five percent of babies in Iraq are still-born. Of those who live, half have birth defects. This has a good deal to do with the toxic effects of tons of exploded munitions with long-lasting effects - as depleted uranium artillery shells. It also has to do with the destruction of hospitals, daily and long outages of electricity, and general failure to rebuild much of anything despite huge payments to contractors friendly to the government.
4. The US now has more mercenaries than US army soldiers in Afghanistan. The hired thugs outnumber the American soldiers by some 30,000.
5.Thanks to our interventions in Libya, Syria,  Yemen and Somalia, Africa and the middle east are now flooded with weapons donated by the west. These include sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft rockets. Many, perhaps most, of these weapons have found their way into the hands of those the papers tell us are our enemies.
6. In Britain, the government has presented legislation to force internet companies to keep copies of all internet use by their customers. These are to be freely available to police and other authorities. Police state, here we come.
7. In the US, a congressional report shows that 2,400 American households with annual incomes of one million dollars a year eacn are collecting unemployment insurance.
8.Yesterday's report of a terrorist trying the blow up the Federal Reserve building in New York is a bit misleading. Ever since 9/11, the FBI has been on the lookout for young Moslems who seem not very bright. An agent befriends the target, pretends to be a terrorist agent, talks the target into a terrorist attack, supplies the bomb. Then, at the last minute, other FBI agents appear just before the crime is committed - and announce that America is saved once again. (Actually, the bomb wouldn't have worked, anyway.)
Almost all "terrorist" arrests in the US since 9/11 have been of this sort.
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Finally - for another day. Let's talk about shale gas and shale gas developers. I'm not in favour of shale gas under any circumstances. But, it we must have it, we been talking only about the silliest way of developing it. I'll have to touch on this soon because it's a sure thing neither the Times and Tribune nor the Atlantic Institute of Marketing Development will.