Friday, January 11, 2013

Jan. 11:All the news you don't need.....

Harper is (reluctantly) meeting with the Assembly of Chiefs. The chiefs, who did precious little to support Chief Theresa Spence, are now, seemingly, on her side. I doubt it. Look for a sell-out in fancy dress. Will Governor-General Johnston be there? Not in any useful capacity. This is a governor-general who, unnoticed by our eagle-eyed press, has several times signed legislation that would have caused a man of integrity to resign.

Most Canadian historians and political scientists will say the Governor-General must sign what he is told to sign. I was taught that in grad school; and I well remember a long lecture on that subject from the man who developed that dictum. I think he's wrong. A Governor-General can refuse to sign. What can they do to him?  Fire him? That would take a very brave prime minister.

In any case, a man of principle could always resign first.

But David Johnston will do what he's told. Native peoples (and all of us) can expect no help from him.

And the Moncton Times and Transcript has yet to publish any information on what the fuss is all about, what Bill C-45 is and what conditions are like on reserves.
Section A has a huge story on the danger of home insurance rates rising beyond affordability as a result of dmange claims created by extreme weather due to climate change. But don't read it. Mr. Harper says there is no climate change. So that takes care of that problem.
P. A4 has a story on shale gas. This is one of the very few we have had on the subject despite a government and TandT promise of long ago to supply full information. And this one, like all the others, is pro-shale gas. It speaks highly of the effectiveness of regulations - without mentioning the fact that shale gas explorers have refused to give full disclosure of the chemicals they use.

The writer, an earth sciences professor, uses rather highly-charged and accusatory language for what is supposed to be a scientific report. Nor is there any mention in the story of very highly respected scientists (though, presumably, not as highly respected as those at UNB), who have disagreed with what he says. To suggest, as he does, that there have been no problems, nicely ignores the many court cases and settlements that have been arranged. He also ignores the opinion of the province's chief medical officer. (But maybe she wasn't smart enough to take his courses at UNB.) Anyway, she only knows about people and what might happen to them - but who cares about people?

Read this article carefully. This is a typical piece of TandT bad reporting. The reporter simply wrote down whatever the prof said, as if he were taking notes in a lecture. The reporter should have known about the problems that have developed with shale gas. He should have known about the legal cases. He should have known about other expert opinions. And knowing those, he should have asked tough questions. He didn't.

This isn't a newspaper. This is a propaganda sheet. (Mind you, I've noticed the same thing about private radio reporters in this city.)
The biggest news of the day didn't even make it into this wretched paper. CBC had the story two days ago. But TandT editors don't listen to CBC, only to Mr. Irving.

A year ago, leaders in oil and mining wrote a letter to the federal government making certain requests. Harper gave them everything they asked for. That's the story behind the omnibus Bill C-45. At the request of those industries, Harper gutted the National Energy Board Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act, Species at Risk Act, Migratory Birds Act.

Now, the good ol' boys are free to destroy and poison all they like.(A spokesman for them said this will be a better way to protect the environment. Right. And dropping all speeding and drunk driving laws would cut down on accidents.) All they have to do now is to get a professor to write a paper on what a good idea this would be. It shouldn't be hard to find one in New Brunswick.
Lots of material here for a zippy editorial, right? Dream on. What we get is yet another badly written editorial about the writer gazing at his own, unattractive bellybutton. Luckily, it is the only blot on the editorial page as Alec Bruce, Norbert Cunningham and de Adder come through.

David Suzuki contributes the sort of column that, given recent news on Bill C-45 and Chief Spence's campaign should have been the material for an editorial - instead of that time-wasting piece on whether police should dress in full uniform and perhaps wear blinking red lights on their hats before giving someone a ticket for talking on the phone while driving.
Then there's Steve Malloy. Lord. Lord. This one is about what wild drivers Monctonians are. Oh, Steve. I have driven in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, Rome, and various French, Belgian, Dutch, Portuguese and German cities. Oh, also Jamaica and Mexico. Moncton drivers are not wild. I have driven on streets and highways in China where drivers do not turn on their headlights at night. (They say the lights get in people's eyes.) Now, that's wild. In Portugal no car is really ready for the road until it has at least four dents in it. The best drivers weren't in Moncton, it's true. The best were in The Netherlands. But Moncton is pretty good.

What is wild is a city of Moncton that does not remove snowbanks at corners with the result that drivers can't see whether a cross street is clear until they are half-way across it. What is wild is pedestrians wearing dark clothes at night who suddenly cross the street without looking. But the drivers are fine.

But this is a trivial topic and at that, as you say, written tongue in cheek. However, the op ed page is an opinion page. It's for serious opinion about serious topics. That means you should not write pointless and boring little tales, even if they're cute. Leave that to Rod Allen and the other staff writers who have nothing to say..

Pick a serious subject. It can be something from daily life - but not just a supposedly amusing story about your dog or something like that. There should be a serious purpose to it.

On, and don't say things like 'gentle reader' or 'I ,your humble columnist'. That sort of writing went out before it ever got in.

Incidentally, I have never heard anybody on any continent refer to Moncton as 'the little city that could'. The only place I have ever seen it is in the pages of the Moncton Times and Transcript.
Words as propaganda.

During World War Two, Soviet officials routinely described soldiers as "heroes". It was, of course, propaganda to boost morale. Canadian and American journalists and politicians routinely made fun of it. Funny thing, though. Check newspapers of the Korean War period, and you'll find that Canadian and American journalists routinely referred to anyone in the armed forces at the time as a hero - even for those who had never left North America. That's why you'll find news stories like "Korean war hero gets parking ticket."

In the same way, the word terrorist is never used to describe anybody on our side. No. The US deliberately killed a  half million civilians in the bombing of Cambodia. That's terrorism. But it has never been called that. It killed some 300,000 men, women and children in Guatemala. Not only is that never called terrorism - but most news media never even mentioned it. Obama routinely orders drone strikes and assassinations that almost daily kill civilians and children in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia. But Obama is never referred to as a terrorist.

A recent letter to the editor claims that "God is forbidden in the schools." Not only does that statement come from an American quarrel, it's also wildly untrue even in the US. The real quarrel is that some rather extreme Christians feel that their peculiar view of Christianity - and only it - should be taught. In fact, if you want to see where God is really forbidden, check out the offices of cabinet ministers and CEO's.

Silly or not,  such ideas can be spread rapidly and can profoundly affect how people think. Some, actually quite a few, get picked up by journalists, as in "big government is bad", "private business is more efficient", "government gets in the way".

Actually, the biggest governments are usually the creations of big-business oriented politicians. After all, big business needs government. It lives off government favours, grants, loans, (would you like another 100,000 acres, Mr. Irving?). In the US, big business needs government to fight its wars, and divert the nation's wealth into yet more drones and aircraft carriers - while one in four American children live on food stamps.

A companion piece to government bad, private business good is the slogan that capitalism is the greatest producer of wealth ever known. In fact, that is not true, and never has been. In fact, the wealth of capitalism for the past five centuries has been built on impoverishing most of Asia, Africa, Central America, and stealing their minerals, their food, and their labour. In the midst of the enormous wealth created in Saudi Arabia, one quarter of the population of that country lives below the poverty line.

Despite the impression that is sometimes given, capitalists did not put oil into the ground in North Amercia. They first stole from its native peoples, (then stole it from Mexico); then they pumped the oil, keeping most of the profit for themselves. It still goes on every day in Congo, Central America, Africa in general. It goes on accompanied by murder, torture, terrorism and starvation. The deaths in just the last fifty years are in the millions.

Now that truth is catching up to us as we learn (or certainly should be learning) that capitalism as practiced is the world's worst distributor of wealth. Quite the opposite, it is the world's greatest absorber of wealth.

It can work if it is regulated by a government controlled by the voters. It rarely is. American banks, by carrying out unethical and often illegal speculations have driven the world into a recession that gives no sign of easing. Millions lost jobs and homes. The punishment for the bankers? They got bailouts; and the executives got multi-million dollar bonuses.

British banks are up to their ears in criminal behaviour. That's why Barclay's, to save what's left of its reputation, hired a Canadian to lead it out of the wilderness.

We are now into our second generation in North America of increases in poverty and unemployment while big businesses collects an increasing share of the national wealth.

It's not efficient. It's not really capitalism at all. It's as amoral as an alley cat. And it's destructive, even of itself.

But still the words roll off the presses -government bad, business good, creator of wealth... Words have hypnotic power for those who can hire communications companies to spread them around.

That takes us to two phrases that have been slyly used - public sector and private sector. They sound innocent. But they're being used to destroy democracy.

But that will have to be in a later blog.

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