Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 16: Trivia day

There isn't much to say about the TandT today because there isn't much in it. So let's start with an editorial blunder on p. A1.

Imagine a headline which said "Nuclear bomb to strike Moncton tonight". Can you imagine the reaction? the panic?

Then, as you read the story, you find out that the headline should have read, "Mentally ill man warns that nuclear bomb will strike Moncton tonight". There's a difference between those two headlines. There really is. And the editor who writes the headline should know that. (and I suspect he or she does know that.)

Now read the front page headline in today's paper. "It's time to act on events centre". But the story is about a man who said that. Whether it is time to act is a matter of opinion, not of fact. There's a difference. And that difference makes this story not a news story at all but a piece of propaganda puffery, written by the TandT's resident expert of puffery, Brent Mazerolle.

The only story worth reading in section A is on p. 2. The Horizon health network will be cutting jobs. Of course. That's what the restructuring was all about. The government is in debt, largely because of concessions to the very wealthy. Now, the rest of of us have to pay for it.

There's nothing in NewsToday - except for a lead story in Your Business. "Business leaders named to hall of fame." I can understand halls of fame for athletes, many of whom are desparate to be admired and lauded. I well knew a retired football pro who so lusted for attention that he organized a roast with himself as the guest of honour. Here, the need for love and applause seems to be rife among business people.

Norbert has a point to make in his column. Too bad he doesn't tell us what it is until almost the end. There's a general point about the need to be tolerant. It's a good point, but for the first three quarters of the column it's abstract and vague. That kills reader interest.

The real point is the fuss over local sales of horse meat. Okay. Worth thinking about. So put it up front. Give the column a focus. Get people interested. Then blend it in to some general thinking about tolerance.

(I've had horsemeat. It's - well - it's meat. No big deal. I was offered kitten in China. Kitten and chicken feet. But I wasn't hungry.)

Bill Belliveau offers and not-very-well-informed piece of puffery for the events centre.   (What a coincidence this is also a page one feature!)  Every city, he says, has a heart, a destination that brings all the people together.

Really? I can't think of one such city offhand, despite living in Montreal and spending considerable time in Los Angeles, New York, London, Toronto, Amsterdam, Tunis, Rome, Hong Kong and Charlottetown.

He offers some useful suggestions to enliven downtown Moncton- but then leads us right to the point of his column - that an events centre is essential. This is pure nonsense. Despite a gushy story on this some weeks ago by Brent Mazerolle, there is no evidence that an events centre would draw significantly more business and shopping into our downtown. Indeed, experience all over the world is that there is little chance an events centre would even pay for itself - ever.

Could the T and T be a little less obvious about who it's working for? I could also live without the constant reference to public/private partnerships such as are in Belliveau's column. Government and big business are not partners. Nor should they be. With the use of PPP,  big business gives the deliberate impression that it is equal to government. It is not equal - or it certainly shouldn't be. In a democracy, power comes from the people who delegate it to government. In a democracy, business is not a partner to the government. It is a subordinate.

Of course, if one prefers fascism over democracy, then PPPs are a great idea.
There's only one letter to the editor. But it's worth thinking about. It deals  with our love for violence in certain sports, and on such TV shows as Gerry Springer. The writer says this indicates a sick society. And I think the writer is dead on.

If you watch such shows as the Jerry Springer show, you see violence - but violence itself is not the major attraction. The big draw to a gleeful audience is watching others get humiliated. Humiliation. That's what the shows in the Roman Colosseum were about. They were the outlets for a Roman society in which most people were socially degraded and useless - and they knew it. Thus their joy at watching the humiliation of someone even lower than them.

This is a letter worth thinking about.
Read the sermonette on the Faith page about no sex or living together before marriage. Then check out the fashion advice for high school girls on the front page of Section F. Notice particularly the short skirts. (Actually, these seem stunningly modest compared to mid-teen girls I have seen in Moncton. Some look like the lower-priced hookers at a Mexican resort.)

I don't take either side in this. It's just that I find it hard to connect the message of the sermonette with our early sexualizing of teens.

Finally, let's take a look at the coming budget cuts in New Brunswick.

We are told that it's good when companies make high profits because they then invest that money and make the economy even stronger. So, in a recession, we should cut government spending, and ease up on taxing the wealthy so they can bring back prosperity.

And what we're told is nonsense that has never been true in human history. The depression of the 1930s saw ten years of suffering and misery and dropping incomes. In those ten years, big business did well because it was able to cut wages, evade paying pensions, increase working hours.

Governments of the great depression at first responded as ours is responding now, by cutting spending and raising taxes. And it didn't do a damned thing. Of course not. If business isn't spending and government isn't spending, of course most of the population will suffer.

What got us out of the depresssion was government spending, usually on infrastructure and welfare, and then on war.

Big business in Canada and the US has been having immensely profitable years. In fact, North American profits are at their highest level in sixty years. So where's the recovery? No, it's not here, and it's not just around the corner. In fact, it's not going to be, not under present policies.

This is not just a recession. This is part of a massive transfer of wealth from most of us to the very wealthy. Nor do the wealthy feel the slightest urge to invest their profits here. Why should they?

The whole purpose of free trade has been to free the wealthy from any obligations to their own countries. That's what globalization really means. It also means that the wealthy operate in those other countries without controls, doing as they please to inflict even more poverty.(We're going to get a taste of this ourselves when Harper gets around to announcing his trade deal with China.)

What is happening is not a recession. It is a massive robbery committed by the wealthiest people in the world who want to pile up even more wealth without regard for the consequences.  They also want to pile up power.

They want to control schools, universities, hospitals, newspapers, radio and TV so they can make money out of them, and so they can control thought. That's what the Horizon staff cuts are all about; and the literacy programme set up by Jamie Irving. And that's what Alward's next budget is going to be about. That's why the budget cuts are going to be in essential services for us, not in luxuries and gifts for the very wealthy. That's why any increase in taxes will hit us, not the very wealthy who have been making their biggest profits in history.

It's a short-sighted policy that will destroy itself, probably in wars (as it is doing). But even without the wars, the system is self-destructive. You can't go on robbing when there is nothing left to rob, and nobody to sell it to.

But power in business, as in almost anything, breeds arrogance and irresponsibility. And. alas, the ability to make money does not necessarily indicate intelligence. (Check any speech by Donald Trump.)

In short, real power in this province is wielded by people driven by greed, ego, social irresponsibility, and mediocre brain power.

And that's what Alward's budget will be all about.

Tomorrow, perhaps a few thoughts about why the world is in so much chaos these days.


  1. " piece of puffery for the events center."

    Closer to a "piece of buffoonery", no?

    ( )

    Sadly I *suspect* EVERYONE at the T+T is living in fear for their jobs? Their employer has just about sucked up everything/anything that was any use/good in NB and has to be closely eying "greener pastures". Once they are gone (the employer) I can't see them having much use for a know-nothing newspaper that can't be making ANY money.

  2. The key role of Irving newspapers goes beyond the need to make any money. The newspapers exist to help maintain political control.
    They can still make hay here if they maintain an ignorant public, or a monopoly against popular dissent.