Wednesday, February 27, 2013

feb. 27: Lots of good news on the front page....

...Lots of smarmy smeary, sticky-sweet good news. In fact, it's rather like kissing a girl with a dirty face, too much lipstick and a mouthful of molasses candy. (not that I have ever done such a thing.) This is kiss-up, free advertising without a trace of embarrassment at such kiss-up reporting.

"Literacy volunteers needed" is a story about the tremendous, glowing success of the Elementary Literacy Inc. programme in our schools - a programme that is already a beacon of hope for the world, -even though there are barely any results to report yet. Indeed, for all its columns of yes m'lord blather, there is really no information in the story at all. it's pure propaganda.

This is the programme, you will recall, that was begun by big business people who longed to bring the joys of reading to 'ittle bittie boys and girls. Prominent among these business people is big-hearted Jamie Irving, uber publisher of Brunswick News. But he, evidently, is too modest or too shy to allow his name to appear in the story.

As usual, the reporter, trained in the exacting standards of Brunswick Press just scribbled the story as fast as his little pen could carry him. There appears not to have been a single question asked - though we can easily think of many.
1. With a province full of teachers who are trained to teach reading, and with university researchers in New Brunswick and all over the world   who are studying and teaching how this should be done, why are we relying on volunteers who have little or no training led by businessmen who have little or no training?
2. Why are we letting business people into our schools to run a programme of which they know nothing at all? Would Jamie what's-his-name allow volunteer teachers into his office to run his newspapers. (I mean, Jamie had to work his way up. It took him a full, two  years of devoted effort to become publisher supremo.)
3. Why is this non-story on the front page? I mean, I'm sure it has nothing to do with who Jamie is. I mean, that would be a conflict of interest, and Jamie, with two, whole years of experience working his way up, would never do that. I mean, that would be unethical,
4. Why did the government give Jamie and the boys two and a half million dollars of our tax money for this hare-brained scheme? Since it runs on volunteers, what, exactly, is the two and a half mill for? Aren't we allowed to know?

What it really is all about, of course, is this opens the way for big business to get into our schools, and get its fingers on the taxes we pay for education. They're getting what they want. In the process, they will demoralize and seriously weaken the public education system - just as they have effectively destroyed public education in the US. But they couldn't care less about that. Not so long as they get the money.

Nor is learning to read entirely a matter of teaching. People read because they live in a society that wants to read. And it wants to read because it wants to understand and to think. The preacher who christened me began his working life at the age of six in a coal mine in Wales. He couldn't read, of course. But those men and boys who spent their days deep in the tunnels of the mines were from a society which respected learning and thought and opinion.

So, at every lunch hour and every break, the men and boys would gather to take turns reading to each other, mostly from The Bible. By the time he had reached early manhood, a boy named Gamel was able to enter theological college,to become Reverend Gamel Craik, to spend most of his life as a missionary in Africa, and then his last years at our tiny, mission church in Montreal.

New Brunswick, with its centuries of domination by pseudo barons (not unlike Jamie Irving) are afraid to think. So there is no great thirst for reading. If New Brunswick men and boys were sent down into the mines, they'd use their breaks to play the games that come on mobile phones.

Nor do the barons want them to think. To read well enough to understand instructions? Yes. To read well enough to handle the sports pages and trivia on the op ed? Yes. Thinking, though, is most undesirable.

What we have here is a scam run by big business to get into the education system. It won't work in improving literacy. (But we will get glowing reports of how brilliantly it is doing - just as we got that phony P.1 story about how Christmas shoppers were just jamming shops on Main St.) It also reflects the old, New Brunswick sickness of government and big business working in collusion against us.
Then we have more wonderful news "Vitalite to cut 400 jobs". This is another taste of what Health Minister Flemming's dust-up with the medical people in this province was really all about - cuts to the services we get through medicare.

Part of the reason is that the government's view of solving a recession is that it has to save money. It's sounds reasonable. But it's not true.

1. Cutting costs has never ended a recession. It did not end the depression of the 1930s; it made it worse. It has not solved the crises in Greece and Spain (and soon to hit Italy), it has made them worse. It has not eased the recession in the US. It has made it worse, with levels of human suffering the Tand T doesn't bother to tell us about.

2. We could get the same results by raising taxes on corporations and the very rich. After all, they are making record profits. But Alward is not going to go there.
Funny how big business is so fond of talking about how efficient it is, but eternally has to come to us poor people for loans, and tax breaks, and grants of timber.

Funny how big business used to pay somewhat higher taxes - and made huge profits. Then we cut their taxes. We lost money - and they made even huger profits. Now, they say they can't possibly go back to the old taxes - even thought they were making big money before their taxes were cut.

3. Are the new CEOs  for health services by any chance alumnae, complete with black belts, of Sigma Six - the new gestapo for big business? Their language certainly is sigma six. They aren't cutting jobs. Oh, no. They are making the service better and more efficient. That's pure, sigma six babble.

In the lead of A1, "Ambulance fees stay: Health Minister", Mr. Fleming implies that his leader, Mr. Alward is either a fool or a liar. Alward had  made removal of ambulance fees a platform promise. But Flemming says it's no big deal. Well, if it's no big deal, then Mr. Alward was too stupid to realize that - or his promise was lie.

For that matter, Mr. Flemming must be lying. After all, if it's no big deal, why not remove it?
Mr. Flemming is a PR man's nightmare.

Read the rest of section A only if you are very bored and lonely, and if your cat has enough litter, anyway.

Nothing in NewsToday, either. You'd never guess from it that much of Europe is on the brink of financial collapse and even civil war. You wouldn't know that the rage against the US  for killing and looting civilians in Afghanistan is so great that the President of Afghanistan has ordered them out of a crucial province. Nor would you guess at the scale and viciousness of the wars that are raging over control of Africa.  (And, yes, they will affect us.)
The editorial is the usual kiss-kiss job. This time it's on shale gas. Tomorrow, perhaps, we'll be back to the civic centre.

Good cartoon by de Adder. But since the Irving Press has never bothered to explain the issues, few readers will get the point of the cartoon. It's about the film "Argo", and the old Hollywood game of producing movies that are largely American propaganda - and lies.

Norbert's column is amusing, well-written, interesting - and it's all about one topic. It really doesn't have much connection with our lives. Not yet. But it's a good read.

Alec Bruce produces an amusing column that's also a dreadfully serious one. the increasing rate of obesity in the western world. I first became aware of it on a visit to Boston where I was struck by the high proportion of people who could not possibly sit behind the wheel of a car. (I am now reminded of that incident whenever I pass a mirror.)

The US is tops in the field. But Canada is right up there. And it costs us one hell of a lot in health care and early death. Much of it comes from our reliance on processed and fast foods.

I admire Mr. Bruce's ability to retain his youthful grace (if he is, indeed, telling the truth about how svelte his figure is). But I can't agree with his advice we should walk everywhere. Walking is a perverse self-punishment.

Eric Lewis' op ed offers the useful information that it sometimes snows; and it's hard to drive in snow. Boy, nothing escapes that lad's keen mind.

Brian Cormier says something or other about the hazards and oddities of shopping for food. Boy! And people say there's nothing really important to read about any more.
Save the best for the last.

P. D1 has a major story on how Britney Spears has coloured her hair , and another that Ben Affleck has shaved his beard. (Okay. It's not great. But it outclasses the op ed page.

Good cartoon my de Adder. But, since the Irving press has never bothered to discuss the controversy of


  1. All this talk about literacy and the Bible might lead one to think that the gov't and big business people should just read their Bibles...good idea...but if 2 Corinthians 4:4 applies to them , it may not do any good.
    Pray for the government...they need it...and that's Biblical.

  2. I'm surprised when talking to many adults here in NB they've never heard of the toxic poisons associated with shale gas fracking.

    This is a perfect example of the current and past complicity of NB's Department of Education.

    As far as I know, there are no programs to develop critical thinking skills aimed at questioning general ideas. These appear to be purposely kept out of the curriculum in our public schools.

    Since students are not challenged to question any ideas in their developmental years, many in later life appear to think its not necessary as adults.

  3. Missed the story about the RCMP closing (56?) locations in NB.
    Who will be here to turn the lights off when the last of us leaves?

  4. Hello Graeme, nice work. But have you thought about a column that talks about anything that the T&T refused to talk about, mainly because the reporters whould be going against "The what is" establishement? Like why the Highfield Square is absolutely the worst place to build the Events Center.