Saturday, April 20, 2013

April 20: This newspaper is an insult to all of us.

Obviously, the owners, editors and writers are either complete jackasses - or they think we're all fools enough to buy and read a paper that has virtually nothing in it. I would not dream, of course, of calling them jackasses (despite a superficial resemblance). So I have to assume they think we're all fools.

Page 1, the "read it all about it" page of a real newspaper, is here dominated by trivia like how busy it can get in a 911 centre, and memorabilia about the old days of television in Moncton. The inside of the whole, first section is dominated by ads, trivia, and even more about life in a 911 centre and the good old days of 1950s TV.

If I were a journalism professor in this province, I would make it my first move to dissociate myself from these clowns and my second to find work in a journalism school in another province.

The NewsToday section has three stories. Count them. Three, none of them worth reading. The only thing worth looking at is two pictures of the Boston bombing case. One is a picture of a downtown Boston that is almost deserted - just like the rest of the city - because police are looking for one teenager who might have a gun.

Too bad the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places don't have that option to dodge American drones and bombers.

The other picture is of a half dozen or so Boston police who were searching for the 19 year old boy who might be a bomber. Take a good look at the clothing and weapons. It's a remarkable illustration of how American police forces have become militarized. Is that because the US is full of terrorists? Well, no. It's because the US has millions of people living in desperate conditions, and who no longer have faith in their government. The American police are investing in military weapons and armoured cars - and spying drones - not to fight terrorists but to fight the American people.

The lead story in Section D tells us that real estate agents sell houses. Who would have guessed?
On the editorial page, Bill Belliveau has a column on how we gotta have an events centre. Gee! What a coincidence! Every columnist and editorial writer in this paper who has written on the events centre has been in favour of it. I cannot recall a single item in this paper that has ever expressed criticism. A councillor who did  criticize it was roundly condemned. At that, they avoided the issue, and condemned him for not being polite enough.

The only public "discussion" of the centre has been in the form of tightly choreographed team of cheerleaders from London, Ontario.  None of the quick and probing minds at the TandT seems to have noticed that, for a project of the same cost (if ours comes in at budget, which it won't), London has three times the city population of Moncton. AND - London estimates its catchment area  at a radius of 100 kilometres. There are lots of people in that radius of London.  There aren't in that radius of Moncton.

Then there's the hockey team. It's bread and butter for the London arena, filling its ten thousand seats regularly. That's not likely to happen here.

And, the big shows - which are almost weekly in London - have prices that start over a hundred dollars and go up quickly. We have far fewer people, lower incomes, and our politicians tells us we have to cut pensions, fire hospital staff, and generally cut spending to survive. So where will all the big bucks come from for tickets?

Any study of events centres across North America will show that most don't make money. Almost all have a heavy smell of sleaze and scam and corruption about them. And many of them stand, like Montreal's Expo stadium, once magnificent, now empty,  rotting, dangerous eyesores.

The editorial is, as usual, ignorance hiding behind buzzwords. As usual, it's all about how ordinary people have to pay for the record profits hauled in by the super-rich. (And it would be rude to mention the trillions of dollars in tax havens.)

Norbert writes across three topics, once again in a remarkable display of saying nothing about any of them.

Brent Mazerolle begins his column well but, as he admits in his second to last paragraph, there's really no point to it. He's on the right track, though. This city pays remarkably little attention to the condition of housing and of neighbourhoods. Much of it is wood, and dreadfully vulnerable to decay and neglect. Much of it was substandard from the beginning. There is a serious lack of affordable housing. And there appears to be no city planning at all.

I think Gwynne Dyer's column is a good one. But it's very complex, partly because it's so far outside the experience of most readers ( including me.).

And that leaves us with the Faith page.

This time, for the first time in my experience, we have a guest columnist who has produced a column worth reading. "Don't ask me to keep my beliefs inside the church."

He does not say that any church should have the right to impose its views on other people or on governments. And I certainly agree that no such thing should be permitted. But a religion is a set of prinicples that should influence what public actions we support and what ones we oppose and how we vote. There are important elements of religious faith (and certainly not just the Christian brands) that should influence what we think about how business should be run, how we should pay taxes - and who should be paying - what social services should be in place...

Those attitudes are not incompatible with sound and economical government. Tommy Douglas, the Baptist clergyman who was premier of Saskatchewan for many years, ran a government that not only provided the services his religious values demanded, but was also a model of  keeping costs down. He was also the father of the greatest single piece of legislation this country has known - medicare.

His party, the CCF (now the NDP) had many in it who were there precisely to express their religious values. (It's been rare for clergy to run for office. Those who do have generally run CCF and NDP.)

We are not now living in a crisis caused by a campaign of any religious group. It is caused by big business which operates on no religious principles whatever.

We live in a society that operates on a denial of religious values in making any decisions. I can see nothing in the liberals or conservatives of this nation that reflects any value of any religion I have ever heard of.

Among the very rich, the only gospel is that greed is good, that the money they accumulate is theirs, all theirs, that is just  good sense to drive most of the nation lower into poverty so they can make money for themselves, and that murdering Africans, Asians, Latin Americans in order to steal their resources is perfectly respectable, and torture is a "good thing".

So I quite agree with Pastor Jackson.The trouble is that I don't see many church people or their clergy tackling the stunningly irreligious and even cruel nature of our economic and political leadership. Instead, they prefer self-righteous posturing on issues like homosexuality. They won't tolerate that. But, if a wealthy family wants to skip its religious obligation to share, and instead hides its money in tax havens - hey! that's there business.

And if a newspaper wants to peddle scams, attack the poor for a crisis caused by the rich, and smother us with trivia we won't know how we're being shafted - well, at least it  has a Faith Page.

Incidentally, a few years ago, it was First United Baptist Church  that had a big sign on it, "Pray for OUR soldiers in Afghanistan". Think about that. And tell me how it fits into a gospel of 'love thy neighbour".  Far from expressing any religious faith, it's a not-very-subtle statement of religious hatred.

That seems to be a disease that most religions are vulnerable to.

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