Friday, April 26, 2013

April 26: "Starbucks to open downtown outlet"

It's a breaking story, front page material for the Moncton Times and Transcript. A probing reporter forced the full story out of Starbucks management, including a bombshell announcement that the coffee shop would have ample seating. There is also gripping information on where other Starbucks coffee shops are to be found in Moncton. And they are about to erect a "coming soon" sign at the site. Finally, and hold  your hats for this one - you can drink the coffeee in the shop or at home.

This is a big story on page 1 of Section A, and a sure finalist for next year's Atlantic Journalism awards.
Oh, section A also has a story from the CEO of Horizon Health Network. It's about budget cuts and lay-offs. But there's no point in reading it because most of it is just mindless bafflegab that is designed to confuse rather than inform. Perhaps Norbert could use this guy for those quotations he likes to end his column with. For example, drink in this gem of wisdom, "We're going to change the way we do things and if people say 'you're changing the way you deal with me as a patient, "I would say yes, we're going to be doing that,'" he said yesterday.

Then, as bafflegabbers do, he contradicted himself. In paragraph one,  he said, "...he can't guarantee patient care won't be affected as the province cuts jobs..."   Later, he says that  quality of care won't be affected. Well, I suppose that could be possible - but not likely.

Then he makes a blooper. He says "a system that grew so consistently must have inefficiencies in it.."
Read that. He doesn't know what the 'inefficiencies' are - but they must be there. Think about that. It means they didn't know and still don't know where (or whether) there are inefficiencies. All they know is what is costs, and what they want it to cost.  This programme did not start, then, as a programme to make health care more efficient. This is just old-fashioned budget-cutting and service-cutting.

 I recognize the style. I spent years on committees with business leaders who babbled like that.

Of course, health care has become more expensive. So have CEOs, spectacularly so. Profits of big business have shot up, too, just as the rest of us have been gettinig poorer. And our government is certainly not cutting budgets when it comes to handing out money to rich people. Think Jaymie Irving who just got two and a half million dollars to operate an education programme - a job for which he has no qualifications whatever.

Way back in 1935, Prime Minister R.B.Bennett realized that simply cutting services and firing people made financial crises worse. It created more unemployed, more hungry, more sick, more undereducated, more suffering without doing anything useful except making the rich richer. Big business has never understood that. (Why should it? Unemployment and suffering simply mean it can pay less in salaries.)

But all this isn't nearly as important as the Starbucks coffee shop story. That's why Starbucks is on page 1, and the health story is on p. 10, the last page.
Most of NewsToday is, as usual, good only for fish wrapping. However, there is one.  A clothing factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 230 workers. Police had warned factory owners to close the building because of the danger of imminent collapse. But the owners ignored the order.

This is the sort of story that has a long history in the clothng industry. In the North America of a century ago, when North American labour was cheap, hundreds worked long hours and in miserable and dangerous conditions. It was common to lock them into the factory - and common that there were no fire exits.

Such was the case at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory of New York when it burst into flames in 1911. The workers, mostly immigrant women, were on upper floors with all exits locks. One hundred and forty-six died;  many of them, burning alive, leaped from tenth floor windows.

That's when those nasty unions came in and demanded safer working conditions. So the factory owners, always on the alert for greater efficiencies, moved the factories to places - like Haiti and Bangladesh - where unions weren't allowed. That's why the US government supported dictatorships in Haiti. They kept wages down to a reasonable five dollars a day or less, no maximum hours, no education, no health care, no sanitation, no safety. It was sort of a Disney World park for the Irvings of this world.

Then Haiti had its first, democratic election, and elected an ex-priest named Aristide. He was a terrible man. He wanted to supply schooling, health care, minimum wages... US presidents were furious. So they set up an invasion by the ex-dictator's thugs, then sent in a phoney peace-keeping force (in which Canada participated). They let the thugs settle in happily; but President Aristide was arrested and sent into exile. And Haiti is now back to normal.

God bless America.

Clothing factories remain among the most wretched factories in the world. But Walmart loves them.
The editorial is, as one might expect, a kiss-up to the health minister and (without mentioning his name) Mr. Irving. It was obviously written by someone as ignorant of the subject as is the CEO of the purpose of Horizons Network.

Norbert's column gives us the answer to terrorism. More security cameras. Right. Boy, a couple of security cameras would have stopped 9/11 cold. And maybe we could also put them up in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other places where US drones are terror-killing the locals.

Excellent column by Alec Bruce on Harper's seeming hatred of science and our environment. He has starved environmental research, closed down important stations, Threatened to cut off funding to any scientists who make the results of their research known...  He's fighting a real war to cut off our access to the truth.

I'm pretty sure I know why he's doing it.But that's a topic for a Sunday.

Steve Malloy, simply and unpretentiously as always,  today has the best column I have seen in the Times and Transcript on the subject of the Events Centre.

David Suzuki's column is an unusual one for him. It's about the effect that sitting indoors all day has on our minds and our physical health. He suggests we spend just a half hour a day outdoors, preferably with some greenery, to develop a marked improvement in our rhinking and our energy levels. This is really quite fascinating.

A letter to the editor "Be thankful for Harper, Bennett" roused mixed feelings in me. I agree with the writer that Prime Minister R.B.Bennett was a pioneer of intelligent government spending and of social programmes in the country. But I can see no possible comparison of him with Harper. The difference between them is profound.

R.B.Bennett, though a tough and successful businessman was also a man of compassion. There's an excellent book called The Wretched of Canada, edited by Michael Bliss. It's made  up of letters, dreadful and sad letters, from ordinary Canadians crushed by the Great Depression, unable to get medical care, unable even to feed their children or to clothe them decently for school, letters from people beyond desperation.

For most of his  life, Bennett had been a hard businessman, one with no sympathy for the poor and the unemployed - in fact he had been as ruthless and intolerant as they come. Then, one day in the dirty thirties, he visited the Eddy Match Co. - which, if I remember correctly, he owned at the time.

He was shocked at the working conditions he saw. He met and talked to a young girl who worked there, and was appalled at her low wage (the only support of her family), and the terrible conditions she lived under.

Then there were the letters that came every day. It's not only the letters that are fascinating in the book. It's also the note that appeared at the foot of so many of them, a note to his secretary to reply with a gift of twenty or fifty dollars from him.

Bennett was rich. But he could remember what it had been like to be poor. He could feel compassion. And, unlike Harper, he could listen to economists who didn't share his business outlooks. That combination is what led him to produce his 1935 platform, the document that became the basis for much of our world war two and postwar economic and social development.

Though both carry the label Conservative, there is no similarity in social or economic policy between  Bennett and Harper. They are products of very different social backgrounds and times. As well, Harper is a man utterly without compassion. He has never shown anything but contempt for anybody but the wealthy. No. For those who have known both R.B. Bennett and Stephen Harper through history and study, Harper is no R.B.Bennett.
Finally, I owe a mea culpa. I said that new office buildings were being erected on the contaminated soil of Highfield Square. They look like new buildings. If fact, they are older ones undergoing a radical rebuilding. Everything has been torn out and off them so that all that is left is skeleton, the beams and uprights to hold new floors, walls, new everything. So I was wrong to say they were new buildings.

However, questions remain. The rebuilding is extreme, so these are, in effect, new buildings.Isn't that land listed as contaminated? Isn't there a reason why we call it contaminated? Isn't the reason that to work in a building on such land is dangerous to health?

And, if so, how did the owner get the permission to carry out such work? Who gave that permission? Why?

And will either building have a Starbucks coffee shop?

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