Friday, May 31, 2013

May 31: Some good news....

When, a week ago, I saw Michael Sullivan's first op ed column, I thought - and said - it was a disaster. It tried to define him as a conservative - but showed no understanding of what conservative (or liberal) means. It also gave bizarre examples of conservative. For example, he named U2's Bono as a conservative because of his interest in social justice. And that's not unreasonable. The trouble was he also named Ayn Rand as a conservative when, in fact, she had contempt for the very idea of social justice. In face, Mr. Sullivan himself showed contempt for social justice when he called our social programmes the "nanny state". Indeed, Mr. Sullvan himself appears closer to the definition of right wing liberal. It really would be wise for him to do some reading on what the words liberal and conservative mean. (and right wing and left wing. All four of those terms are commonly used in complete ignorance of what they mean.)

Not that it matter in our politics. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives have any noticeable political philosophies of any sort.

But I judged too quickly. Today, Mr. Sullivan today has an excellent column on city planning - and the lack of it in Moncton. It's well argued and, I think, quite right. Moving Moncton High out to Royal Oaks makes no sense at all. The encouragement of new developments - like Royal Oaks- so far from the city centre makes no sense in the 21st century.

And we do need to pay more attention to architecture. Much of this city with its wooden duplexes is ugly and costly to maintain. Much of it is also decrepit. But there are also wonderful buildings of the very early 20th century (Capital Theatre, the churches and houses of the Church St. area) that are gems.

But you really should read his column. It's at the top of the op ed page.

I offer Mr. Sullivan just one, very friendly, piece of advice. Don't use acronyms like CBD or even TCH. Many readers don't follow local politics all that carefully, and won't know what they mean.

Good stuff.
The op ed page is good. Alec Bruce and Norbert Cunningham are good. Even the editorial is - well - better than average. It points out flaws in the reasoning contained in a recent study of our hospital costs as compared to other provinces. It also draws attention to the fact that hospitals are not, like businesses, profit-making ventures. They're about essential services.

Alas, it also shows the usual lack of consistent logic. It makes the glib claim that the study endorses what Mr. Flemming has been saying - that our hospitals cost more than the Canadian average.
1. The controversy about Mr. Flemming has never been that our costs are above average. We already knew that. It has been over Mr. Flemmings ham-handed and short-sighted and arrogant handling of the issue.
2. It also blames unions as the cause of the problem. Of course. Attack unions. Never attack a Mr. Irving who wants to cut taxes so he won't have to pay any.
3. It closes by trivializing the issue - as though the central problem were the high cost of laundry workers.

Well,it's still better than usual.

As usual, Section A is mostly trivia. There's big, front page story about how Moncton has lots of coffee shops. Then there's the one about a Beatrice MacNaughton grad is now working as a PR man for mayor Ford of Toronto. (He was formerly the PR man for the mayor's equally notorious brother.)
Boy, I'll bet the folks at Beatrice MacNaughton are bustin' their buttons over that one.

But the biggest stories in the section are two that are pure propaganda for SWN and its search for shale gas. It's the TandT doing what it does best - pimping for big business and a contemptible government.

The newspaper which has told us virtually nothing of the the dangers of shale gas, and which deliberatly garbled the warnings of our Chief Medical Officer - and then ignored them - has more than a full page of SWN praising itself, and implying that those opposed to shale gas are dangerous trouble-makers, and a physical threat.

Trouble-makers? I would say the trouble-makers are the TandT and the shale gas companies and the and the Conservatives - and the Liberals - who have lied to us from the start, have hidden information, and fabricated wild stories about the wealth this will bring to New Brunswick. On the latter point, take a look at today's op ed column by David Suzuki. Shale gas is dangerous to people, enormously destructive to the environment, very short term, and of little benefit to most people.

It's not the protesters who are dangerous to social order. It's the political and journalistic liars; and the gas companies which muscle their way in because they don't give a damn what damage they do. Their thinking is very short term- and concerned only with their own profits. Once they pillage and destroy New Brunswick, they'll simply move on. That's why it's so dangerous to have big business running a province - the way it runs New Brunswick.

NewsToday has nothing much. You can get far more on google news.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 30: Sign it, you miserable wretch!

For many years, I did editorials on radio. I did not squeak in a high voice in with a heavy Pakistani accent to disguise my voice. I occasionally did one on TV. Again, no disguised voice. Nor did I wear a Ku Klux Klan sheet to hide my identity. And in both cases, I signed off, giving my whole name.

Most newspaers are different. The editorial writers are anonymous. That's based on a pretence that the editorial represents the opinion of the newspaper - and that, of course is absurd. A newspaper can't have an opinion. It's not a person.

The reality, sometimes, is that the editorial is written by a senior editor who doesn't give a damn what the "newspaper" thinks. Sometimes, it's written by a senior editor who consults with other editors first, and who then writes in accordance with the majority view.

But even in the latter case, who cares what the majority opinion of editors is? Most of them have no special understanding of foreign affairs or local politics or finance. Their training is in putting a newspaper together. If they have something to say about that process, I would be interested in reading it.

If it is on some other topic, I would like to see a name on that editorial. Otherwise, the opinion is both pretentious and cowardly - like today's in the TandT. Mind you, if I had written such lying, ignorant and hate-filled editorial as today's, I wouldn't sign it, either.

There has never been an editorial in the TandT that has been critical in any way of the gas industry, not even a word. But it has poured ridicule and contempt on those who are apposed to shale gas exploration. (and it appears to be ignorant of the massive protests across the US by people who have been damaged by shale gas.)

It also strongly suggests that those who protest are the trouble-makers here, while the shale gas companies and the government have bent over backwards, out of the sheer goodness of their hearts (God bless their spotless souls) to make sure it's all perfectly safe.

The TandT has also consistently refused to show both sides of the issue - though it promised that from the start. Now, it is siding with SWN in its pretence that it was worried about the physical safety of its reps at at proposed public meeting. It feared violence from people who have never been violent, and who certainly never said they intended to be.

Violence is rarely caused by protesters. What really causes it is those who have power - through money or political connections or (usually) both to shove through what they want no matter what damage it may do. What also causes violence is a news medium that supports the bullies.

It finishes with shrugging off any concern about that the human and environmental effects might be by saying "More to the point (more to the point than any physical risk), is what kind of money New Brunswickers will get out of this and how government will extract the cash from those who extract the gas."

What? The physical risk is not important - despite the opinion of our Chief Medical Officer - who might know more about the health risks than even an editorial writer does.

'More to the point' is what jobs we'll get? More to the point is what the government will extract from the gas companies? Our government will extract money from big business? When the hell has that ever happened in the whole history of New Brunswick? In fact, it has always been the other way around.

The is an ignorant, lying (it accuses those opposed to natural gas as using "inflammatory statements" and "veiled threats". Nonsense). In fact, it is this editorial that is inflammatory.

My, I would love a public debate with this wretched clown. But I hate debating with somebody wearing a Ku Klux Klan sheet.
Meanwhile, the attack on medicare continues. C1 (Newstoday) features a study done showing how hospital staffs could be reduced to bring cost down while maintaining efficiency. What's notable is that the story does not include a single word from anyone who might disagree with the report.

Even a rank amateur like me can see some obvious weak points.

1. The report assumes that each province should have the same costs. Why? Conditions in each province are not the same.
2. It assumes that services which have similar names are, in fact, the same service. Why? A province offering cheaper hospital meals may be doing so by not having as many people in the hospital as it should for proper care.
3. Health minister Flemming uses this report to justify his move to fire 400 staff. But Flemming demanded the cuts WITHOUT any preliminary study of where cuts would be effective and where they would be damaging. This report does nothing to justify Flemming's behaviour. Indeed, it increases the probability that Flemming's cuts were arbitrary - and had everything to do with cutting costs - and nothing to do with efficiency of service.
4. The report is based on the assumption that hospitals should work according to a business model. Why? A hospital is not a business. The function of a medical system is to meet health needs. The only purpose of a business is to make profits. The two functions are not at all the same.

I mean, if hospitals were to operate like businesses, they would need executive officers making millions a year, plus bonusses, share dividends for stockholders..gross profits for the major owners...
There is nothing more wasteful and costly than the business model.

Good columns by Alec Bruce, Norbert Cunningham and Jody Dallaire. Rod Allen offers his usually doggie-woggie story. Take a good look at the photo of him in this column. The expression on his face tells us that (in his opinion) here is a man who is terribly, terribly clever and all-seeing.
The current events group will meet in the library on Tuesday, June 4 at 7 p.m. And, my, I would love to see any and/or all Tand T staff there to point out the error of my ways. I promise not to riot.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 29: Blog post no. 1,000...

...And I had no idea what I was getting into.

The TandT is its normal self, with a big first page photo of a cat up for adoption, and a big story how it's still possible to rent movies. Oh, and shale gas representatives cancelled a meeting with a town council because they feared for their personal safety should anti-shale gas people show up. What a coincidence!

Anti-shale gas people fear for their personal safety if shale gas exploration goes on - but I haven't seen a story about that.

On balance, the cat story is the only one worth reading in Section A.

C12(NewsToday) has a full colour picture suitable for framing of David Alward smiling at the camera with five members of the Lions Club. I have no idea why.

The NewsToday section has, as usual, very little news, and that seemingly chosen at random. There is no mention of the fact that Harper is now trying to sneak through a bill which will effectively give him control over CBC programming - especially news and commentary. What a delight!

We, who now get only the news and opinion that Irving wants us to get in the press, and much the same from his brothers in spirit who own most of radio, TV and other newspapers, will soon lose the only independent news source we have to get whatever Harper wants us to know - not much.

Not a word about this in the paper. Of course not. The TandT would be the last in the world to see anything wrong with journalists being reduced to pimps by the boss. Nor will we see an editorial about it. There is no editorial writer in Brunswick Press who has the integrity, guts  (or brains) to write anything Mr. Irving would not want to see. Take a look at today's editorial.

It rants at the gas tax. Okay. That's an easy target. But notice who he puts the blame on.

He doesn't blame the rich whose tax avoidance is notorious. He doesn't blame the rich who milk us for every government favour possible, who eat up millions every year in grants, interest-free loans, and other special deals. He blames the government for spending too much.

Hey! The government? Isn't Mr. Irving, by his own announcement, a member of the government? Isn't he the one who appointed the financial advisors to the minister of finance? And if costs are so high, isn't it because of the demands he makes, and the tax breaks he gets?

But there's no hope anybody in Brunwick Press would ever say such a thing. Mr. Irving wouldn't like it, and he'd slap their little bottoms. So they fall back on the prejudice you can always sell to the more gullible members of the public Duh, yeah. government too big. Wastes money. Duh.

Yeah. And who the hell do those people think is really the government in this province?
The news needs opinion, analysis and discussion. Without those, it's just scraps of information that have no meaning. We don't get that opinion, analysis and discussion in the editorial - ever.

To their credit, Norbert Cunningham and Alex Bruce do offer it - Norbert sometimes, Alec usually. But even they have never written a word that might offend Mr. Irving.

On op ed page, a key page for analysis and discussion, all we get from Brian Cormier, Eric Lewis, Rod Allen and other staff writers on that page is twaddle, sentimental tidbits, personal aneccotes and doggie-woggie stories.

Now, it's quite possible they are as empty-headed as their columns suggest they must be. Perhaps they don't really understand anything about the news. If so, they should be reassigned to duties they can understand - and be issued brooms.

The stories about mayor Ford, Duffy, and the Montreal political scandals are not just titillating gossip. These could create some very serious problems, indeed. As well, I have seen no sign of any discussion of the court ruling that Harper's Conservatives were guilty of wide-scale fraud in the last election. The only reason the election wasn't overturned is because of the impossibility of proving whether the fraud affected the general outcome.

But the bottom line is that we have a federal government which is making fundamental changes to this country; and there is every possibility it did not win even a minority government status in the election. It also, with other events, suggests that Harper is thoroughly anti-democratic, and may be guilty of criminal activity.

This is the man who is sending more people to jail unless, of course, they have social and political connections - like Duffy and Mulroney.

The war in Syria, of which we get little information and that usually in a choice of words calculated to appeal to prejudice, has the potential to blow up into the most dangerous war the world has ever seen. And, even if "our side" wins, the danger of a general blow up will still remain. (And it will be impossible for Canada not to be involved.)

Any deep thoughts on that...Rod? Brian? Eric? Anybody?


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May28: "Metro employers tolerant of tattoos"

That's front page news for the Irving Press. I cannot think of any serious, half-serious, or even comic newspaper carrying such a story on any page. But the Irving Press does this routinely. Why? It wants you to be trivial, to be uninformed, to be uncaring. That makes things so much easier for the boss.

For that matter, I was a little dozey yesterday. I didn't notice that a big story was missing. On Saturday, there was a demonstration at city hall to draw attention to the threat posed by Monsanto. It has become the big kid on the block in gettiing control of the agriculture market all over the world - with seed whose effect on existing plant life is unknown, with extra costs for farmers...and this in a world which is approaching a food crisis. (Hey! Why be coy? We are in a food crisis now. And Monsanto has us by our necks.)

The demo, by some 250 people, took place just a three minues walk from the TandT office. But I guess all the reporters were busy getting the scoop on tattoos.

C3 (NewsToday) has more sweet talk on the pipeline from Alberta to BC. One is a story about how tough the government will be on regulating the line. The other is all about a Senate committee which will be investigating the pipeline to be sure it's safe. In the case of the Senate committee, it's obvious from comments by the senators that their minds are made up. The investigation is just a travelling road show. And the story on pipelines really says nothing at all.
The editorials continue their relentless pimping for the events centre - with an interesting suggestion. The city, it says, should buy Highfield Square immediately - whether or not it plans to built an events centre.

Why? Are other buyers just waiting to sneak in and buy that valuable piece of contaminated land? And, if such plotting exists, shouldn't we let them buy it, let them put up something to revive the site, and let them pay for it?

This project has always had a strong smell of a deal to get the present owners off the hook, to sell worthless land at a healthy profit, and to do it before land prices fall.
On the editorial page, Alec Bruce and Norbert Cunningham offer opinions - and well-argued ones.
On op-ed, Alan Cochrane felt that the most important thing he had to tell the world was a cute story about a racoon. Is it really possible that the TandT staff-writers for op ed are as vacant as they seem to be?
Meanwhile, the US government is considering the idea of murder courts which would meet in secret to approve presidential requests to assassinate foreigners and Americans without charge or trial. Iraq, where the US and Britain killed over a million people to save them from Saddam Hussein, is still in ruins, is in a virtual civil war and on the edge of complete collapse. The war in Afghanistan, now over a decade long, will officially end soon though, in fact, UN and British troops will remain for at least another ten years while the country is run by a government which is the most corrupt in the world, will get billions in secret payoffs from the US, and encourages the world's largest opium production.

Nobody seems to have any idea why Bush started that war in the first place. Certainly, ten years of fighting have resulted in no progress whatever in establishing democracy or women's rights.

The NATO countries have agreed to supply weapons and money to the Syrian "rebels", most of whom are not Syrians. But a great many, including the strongest elements militarily, are those whose organizations are ones the US has labelled as terrorist. Brilliant.

And the US is making it a condition of peace talks that President Assad must leave. That will be tricky. Most expert opinion is that Assad has far the greatest popular support in Syria, and would win an election hands down. So -NATO is supporting what it has called the terrorist side against a moderate Moslem president, thus laying the groundwork for a severely moslem and militant Syria next to Lebanon and Israel.  Brilliant.

This will be a nice, matching bookend for Libya, where we killed people to establish a democracy, and where the real result is a country of high levels of violence, and no real government at all.

The US is now hinting at direct military intervention in Syria. Great! After all these years of George Bush's "war on terra-rism", "terra-rists" are more numerous, more organized, and militarily more powerful than they ever have been. And it has just become worse under Obama Bush. When will it occur to somebody that we are encouraging Moslem "Terrorism" with our century of Christian "terrorism".

Meanwhile, China and Russia have quite realized the purpose of all this - to control as much as possible of world oil supply, to monopolize the resources of Africa, and to establish a military dominance over the world (including China and Russia). And, obviously, China and Russia have decided to draw their own lines in the sand. It's now or never. And Syria is the flash-point.

You know, that could affect even Moncton. Luckily, we have established an atmosphere of toleration and good will to help us deal with any fallout. Moncton tolerate tattoos.

 (Does that include Crandall University?)


Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27: poisoned words

Journalists can seem to be very sloppy in their use of words. Sometimes, it's because there are lots of words they think they understand - but don't. But it can be also part of a campaign to denigrate some groups by referring to them with a chosen word, thereby making it a sort of swear word.

The words conservative and liberal have come to be nothing but either swearwords or words of high praise. Almost nobody knows what those words mean. But both words are freely used (as in last Friday's edition of this paper) as either high praise and symbols of wisdom and virtue - or as terms of contempt denoting stupidity, naivete.

In an another, obvious case, a Moslem who kills one person is, invariably, a terrorist. Prime Ministers and presidents (Blair, Cameron, Bush, Obama) who kill Moslems by the million, and who torture in numbers we shall never know, are never referred to as terrorists.

A Moslem who blows up 3 people is an extremist. American presidents who oversaw the extermination of a quarter million Maya in Guatemala have never been called extremist.

Another favourite swear word is bureaucrat, a word that appears in today's lead editorial on the city council. It is always used in connection with civil servants, and always in a deprecating sense. It's bad to be a bureaucrat - bad, bad, bad. In fact, the word has ceased to have any real meaning except bad. It's become an expression of disgust because it fits in with the bizarre idea held by some people (like editorial writers of the TandT) that government is, by definition, a bad thing - and so people who work for it are worse.

That shows an ignorance of what a bureaucrat is - and and ignorance of the history of business.

Ignorance 1 - a city councillor is not a bureaucrat. Bureaucrats are the full time managers who work for city council/

Ignorance 2 - By the seventeenth century, kings needed educated and skilled people to run their countries. The bozos of the aristocracy just weren't up to it. So the kings hired educated people who knew how to organize government departments, and make them effective. (From your school days, you may remember the Intendants who were sent to govern New France. There were among the original bureaucrats.)

As business grew, it modelled its own structure on that of the government. So private business has a bureaucracy, too. But you'll never see that mentioned in the TandT.

However, the people at the TandT aren't lying. They just don't know any better.
Norbert has a column in which he is critical of the press for its treatment of Mayor Ford of Toronto. He is critical of it for being unethical. There's some truth to that. And I have strong views on the importance of ethics in journalism. That's why I could wish Norbert would write a column on the ethics of the Irving press.______________________________________________________

Steve Malloy is, as usual, a pleasure to read because he actually thinks. In today's column, he talks about a student captured on a video while angrily scolding a teacher for her lack of teaching skill. Many people, as Malloy says, will condemn the student for his behaviour. I wouldn't. I've seen lots of teachers who could use a scolding - though not so much at public school level as in the universities.

But readers should remember that this case happened in the US where the education system is in a shambles - not because of bureaucrats but because of massive interference in the schools by private business - and because of politicians who think artificial turf playing fields are more important than books.

Big business very much wants control of the schools so it can make money out of them. It now has achieved that control in the US and; oh; the US is going to suffer for generations from the damage this is causing to children. British business is playing the same game.

Our problem is not the teachers, certainly not the large majority of them. It's not the bureaucrats. Our problem is a kiss-up government that allows business fronts like Atlantic Institute for Market Studies to interfere in the schools to open the door to privatization and private profit. Our problem is a government so ignorant of education and so submissive to the Irvings, that it gave a two and a half million dollar contract to an Irving who is quite unqualified to fill the requirement (raise literacy levels), and whose appearance opens the way to even more private interference in our schools and the lives of our children.

We have one of the best education systems in the world. The US - quite seriously - has one of the worst. Those are official, UN figures. It has one of the worst because of massive interference by private business. For us to copy the US is insane. To do it to make the Irvings and their friends richer is cowardly and irresponsible. Or, on a kind day, one could call it shamelessly wimpy. Why not just sell them into slavery, and have done with it?

Duh - we really need artificial turf for our high schools. Duh - we should let Sigma Six statisticians who know nothing about education set our school standards. Duh - Mr. Irving likes Sigma Six. Duh - that's why Mr. Fleming is doing such a wonderful job in health care.
Lots of letters supporting Crandall University in sticking to its religious beliefs by refusing to hire gay staff. I quite agree. Indeed, as it happens, I am founding a church dedicated to indiscriminate and unlimited sex. Obviously, we regard prudes as unacceptable members. We love prudes because, like Baptists, we love the sinner, but hate the sin.

We shall certainly need a university; and we look forward to cooperating with Crandall in hitting Harper for six million. We assure everyone that we have no intention of insulting or discriminating against virgins. They cannot be members of the church. But we shall be seeking them out for short term employment as burnt offerings.
The Your Investments page has a column worth thinking about. "Economy could crimp N.B. tourism".

It certainly could. We could well be at one of the massive turning points in history - like the collapse of Rome or the age of world colonization. The Western Empire (running from the days of  Portugal, Spain, France, Britain to the US) is in sharp decline; and it is most unlikely to regain its old power. We're seeing that in the decline in our economies. Nobody knows how long this will last or how it will end.

Wow! Could this crimp even the NB economy? Gee! I think it might. Maybe our provincial and municipal governments should be thinking this is not a good time to build an events centre or to put a new high school out in Royal Oaks, or to encourage suburban development at all. 

There are huge crises developing about the wealth gap all over the western world. And, yes, things that happen all over the western world could affect even Moncton. All the planning I have seen is based on the belief that tomorrow is going to be a lot like yesterday. What if it isn't?
There's not much news worth reading. Most of it is just trivia. But at least one story is worth paying attention to. It's on p. A 6. DEC member George Crossman is suing the DEC for illegally dismissing him from his position. It is not at all clear why the DEC dismissed him; nor can I understand how a public body can dismiss a member elected to it.

Either the DEC is run by blockheads (this part isn't clear, yet); or some unsavoury game is being played. I met with them once about two years ago. I was impressed by the then chairman, but also noted several people who seemed to me to be unusual to find on such a committee. Some of them, I suspect, had political agendas that came from higher powers. And those agendas boded no good for the schools.

This story is worth keeping track of.  George Crossman may be doing us all a big favour.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 25: Straight As for the columnists

Belliveau, Norbert, Brent Mazerolle and Gwynne Dyer all did themselves proud today. With the exception of the editorial itself, the editorial and op ed page would do proud to any newspaper. Gwynne Dyer has a chilling but important column on rates of rape in Africa, and in the US army. twenty-six thousand women in the American military were raped last year - and the real number is expected to be many times higher. Imagine what its like when American military are turned loose  countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

(The editorial, as usual, reflects this city's obsession with commercial development and filling hotels, and it's lack of interest in daily living conditions of the people who inhabit it. Nor is there ever the slightest hint of  serious planning for the future.)

The sermonette on the Faith Page is good, too, making the point that that churches should be places of challenging accepted ideas, and of lively debate. The list of church events for the week shows the urgency of that sermonette. The churches are not places of challenge and debate. Take a look at that list of activities - teas, pancake dinners, lobster take-outs.... Boy, if that had been Jesus' idea of religious activity, He would have looked like Mayor Ford of Toronto.

This sermonette, by Reverend Richard Jackson, is far the best one I have seen.

The student columns of the Whatever section are all worth a read. The rest of the paper, over 90% of it, is trivial, at best. So let's talk about Liberals and Conservatives. What are they?

When I was twelve, I called myself a Liberal. It sounded good - liberal, The word suggested generous, open-minded, progressive. In fact, the word doesn't mean any of those things.

In yesterdays TandT, columnist Michael Sullivan made the same mistake. He made up a list of what he liked (free trade, small government, reduced social services, etc.) and called them conservative. In fact, those things have nothing to do with conservatism.

The streets and the news media are full of people who call themselves liberals or conservatives when almost none of them know what those words mean - and most of them have different ideas of what they mean.

But it's really simple.

Conservative - the belief that we are all of us joined togehter in society, just as, in the case of an individual whose hands of feet and head are not separate and independent, but part of a whole body. So, in a conservative view, we are all one, all joined to each other. When one is sick, we are all weakened by that sickness - just as when we break an arm all of us is affected, not just the arm.

You can find conservatism in the Christian Bible. "Love one another as I have loved you."

Conservatism, not liberalism is the concept that lies behind our social programmes - what Mr. Sullivan deprecatingly calls "the nanny state". Medicare is a form of loving one another. So is public education which tries to give equal opportunity to all.

To operate such a society requires a government structure, something to contol people so they do not stray off to do whatever they wish (it could be damaging to others.) That's why we had absolute rule by kings and aristocrats That why the Roman Catholic Church (and the Anglicans) have conservative governing structures.

It can also take  uglier forms. In Russia, people who still believe in communism are called 'conservatives'. And rightly so. In the Soviet Union, power was high centralized, and individual rights scarcely existed. That's conservative. The kingdom (dictatorship) of Saudia Arabia is conservative.

Liberal? Liberal is the opposite. It denies that we are joined together in society or that we have obligations to each other. Liberals demands freedom so that individuals can do whatever they like. It is liberals who reject big government, and, sometimes, any government at all. At their extreme, they are called 'libertarians' who don't believe in governments or taxes at all.

Perhaps the closest thing to a liberal state in this world is Libya which has no functioning government and no services at all.

So, liberal and conservative represent two extremes of how we view society. Conservative - we are all one, and joined together almost as a common body. Liberal - we are quite separate from each other with freedom to do whatever we want.

That's it. And anyone with the brain of a flea will recognize that both pure liberalism and pure conservatism are unworkable. That's why the American constitution has both conservative and liberals elements in it. That's why we have traffic cops (conservative); but they cannot give us tickets unless we break the law (liberal).

The NDP is a very concious mixture of conservative values - heavily influenced by The Bible - and liberal values - particularly  those of individual rights and individual freedoms.

The Greens are very concious of the link between people and the environment they live in. That's an extension of the conservative concept.

Liberals and Conservatives historically have no consistent philosophy. Both parties have always existed to serve various financial interests. In its origins, the philosophy of the Canadian Conservative Party was anti-free trade and loyalty to the British tie. Under Mulroney, it became pro-free trade and loyalty to the US tie.

Both parties will justify their actions by pointing to some philosophy that they claim to be their guide. But that philosophy could vanish in the flash of a cheque book.

And, as Sullivan does, each of these parties will shout its claim to be the only one with brains. And when they do that, both stray into the realm of a form of racism.

Friday, May 24, 2013

May 24: The Press as Pimp

Oh, first, let me begin with an apology. Yesterday, I said that Harper would soon become chair of an international commission on environmental protection of the Arctic. I was wrong. A Canadian will become chair. (That Canadian will be chosen by Harper - so it's much the same as him being chair - but I was wrong in saying it would be him.) I am saddened by the error. I am, in fact, very angry about it. So you can be sure that, like Harper, I shall find someone to blame for it.
Pimping - there is a story that is not in today's TandT. It may well be the only news medium in the world that is not carrying the story. This is the case of two Moslems who attacked a British soldier in London with knives and a cleaver. This has given rise to an explosion of violence against Moslems in Britain.

The press (except the TandT) generally condemns the attack by calling it savage, inhuman, brutal, murderous. And so it was. Oh, and, of course, they were Moslem "extremists".

Now, the US and Britain have indiscriminately killed Moslem men, women and children by the million. In Iraq alone, they have left hundreds of thousands of orphans in a country that is too shattered to care for them.

Britain has savagely, inhumanly, brutally, murderously been killing Moslems for over a hundred and fifty years, with the US happily joining in for the last sixty or so. They have killed with knives, swords, cluster bombs (the equivalent of millions of the bombs used in Boston), drones.....

Have you ever seen that slaughter of innocents described in our press as inhuman, brutal, murderous? Have you ever seen it called Christian extremism? Have you ever seen it called terrorism or, as Bush would say, "terra-rism".

In describing similar acts, the press deliberately uses different words to describe them, giving the impression that killing one British soldier with a knives is butchery and extremism. But killing  a million defenceless  men, women and children is - well - a sign of impressive military power.

In effect, our news media (all of them) routinely lie to us, and routinely build hatred and hysteria.

(I don't know how the TandT could have missed this story. It's obvious that whoever edits NewsToday couldn't find his own bellybutton using both hands.)
Another sign of doziness is the failure to mention the hunger strike at Guatanamo. Most of the prisoners there want to die. It's not a political show. Most have been living in solitary, in wire cages, and suffering torture, for ten years and more. They don't want to go on living.

Almost all of them are innocent. The US military admits that. In fact, it has long ago announced there will be no charges against them because there is not the slightet evidence against them. And for that they have suffered ten years of hell. But you don't see our press calling the US "terrarist" or brutal or inhuman for what it is doing. And the TandT, almost uniquely in the world, hasn't even noticed it's happening.

In reality, of course, there is no war on terrorism, never was. It was an excuse from the start to spread American military power in to order make profits for big business. Remember Libya, the country Canada bombed to bring democracy? Well, it doesn't have democracy. In fact, it's a disaster area with no government at all. But American oil companies now control its oil fields. And that's why we bombed and killed.

A multi-sided disaster is shaping up in Syria. That war was started by the US and Britain working through their dictator friends in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The situation now is that if Assad wins, a hundred thousand and more people have been slaughtered for no reason. If the 'rebels' win, it may well become a Jihadist state  - right next to Israel.

Russia has sent a major fleet into the area because, like the US, it has no wish to see a Jihadist win. It also seems to have drawn a red line on US interference in Africa. and the Middle East. This is the most dangerous war we have seen since 1945.

That's what happens when big business takes over foreign policy. As has been the case with domestic policy  (especially here in New Brunswick) we have handed over control of foreign policy to people whose only qualifications to run it are greed, self-interest, and arrogance. They are very capable, indeed, of making money. Unfortunately, they have proven brainless at everything else.

But our news media will never say so. Think of the word "pimp".

A reader sent me the opinion above. I urge you to read it. Whether you agree with the sentiments of the writer is not important. What is important is to see the degree of anger that pervades American life. That anger has consequences. And we (including you) are not immune to the fallout.

Meanwhile, and unnoticed by the TandT, parts of Italy are actually starving. Living standards in Italy, Spain, Greece, Britain, France - and much of the US - have actually fallen below depression-era standards. The world economy gives no sign of reviving. What should we do?

I know. Let's borrow a hundred million for a civic centre. Then the whole world will come to Moncton to spend all the money it doesn't have.

And it will be charitable. The nice people who own Highfield Square will get rid of a piece of contaminated land that is constantly falling with the general economy, and that nobody wants - and they'll get top dollar. So, even if we don't build a civic centre, we'll be doing our good deed for the day for millionaires.
The TandT also hasn't noticed recent polls on Harper's Conservatives. They're in the toilet. We have three more years of a government which has the support of, maybe, ten percent of the Canadian people. Boy! Good thing we have Richard Goguen in Moncton.

(It's actually a dangerous situation. The least popular party in Canada, led by the most dangerous PM we have ever had, has three more years of power. The leading party (with almost fifty percent support) has a leader of inadequate experience, leading a party that, decades ago, lost any sense of what it stands for.
There is a new columnist - every Friday at the top of the op ed page.

He is boring. And he has no clue whatever about his subject. He defines himself as centre-right, and a conservative. Then he launches into laboured explanations of what the words conservative and liberal mean. Not only are the explanations self-contradictory and hopelessly tangled, but it's obvious he has no idea what the words mean.

For example, he defines conservatives as those who to maintain social and political traditions. (in fact, the more appropriate word for such people is reactionary). Then he lists George Washington as a conservative!  Washington was the man who led a revolution to destroy social and political traditions, including the monarcy, the concept of aristocracy. He advocated individual rights which, if we consult the Osford dictionary or any competent scholar, is a liberal concept.

Then he lists Ayn Rand as a conservative. In fact, Ayn Rand preached a gospel that glorified greed and self-interest. She saw rights as things which existed only for the very rich.

Brian Mulroney adhered to conservative ideals in government? What planet does this guy live on? Mulroney never had any ideals of any sort. He built his career on serving those with lots and lots of money, and who were willing to give some of it to him.

Then he says that the drift toward a "nanny" state is something conservatives oppose because it is contrary to personal liberty. that is utter, pompous, bullshit and ignorance. The "nanny" state, in fact, originated in conservative thought which saw society not as individuals but as a whole unit on its own.  And personal liberty has no connection with conservatism. It is a liberal concept.

In reality, the Conservative party is not conservative; the Liberals are not liberal: and the NDP is a mixture of liberal and conservative values.

Then he defines one type of conservatism as liberalism????

This is a man of strong opinions who has no idea what he's talking about. But it looks pompously impressive. Sorry. I can really get impatient at these people who rave on about liberal and conservative without having a clue what either word means.

For just a moment, I missed the columns of Rod Allen and Bian Cormier.

Oh - yeah - he also referred to free trade as a conservative principle. That would have surprised every conservative prime minister of Canada until Mulroney. They were all fiercely opposed to free trade. The Liberals were founded to bring about free trade; but they, too, changed their minds over a hundred years ago. This is a column which shows no understanding of the meaning of words, and not even a glimmer of knowledge of the history of this country.

He'll fit right in at the TandT.

The last column is by Margaret McCain. She had a column yesterday that I sympathized with, but found bland. She had another one today. (I guess it helps to be named McCain.) Today's column had a stronger point - and a very good one, I thought. But it is too gentle to have the impact it deserves.

This is where an editor comes in. He or she should have helped Mrs. McCain to blend the two columns into one - and to give more force to the second half of her second column. That would have made it all much clearer and more effective.

As it is I would strongly advise a careful reading of that part of the second column in which she talks of Canada's neglect of its children - and the terrible consequences of that neglect. Mrs. McCain is obviously a gentle and caring person. But this is an argument that needs power and anger as well.

It reminded me of so many children I have known who never got the attention that would have made them valuable and productive citizens. I thought particularly of two boys I taught in grade 7. They were pretty wild kids outside and, certainly, not much interested in learning. But I liked them. We could talk together, talk seriously, and enjoy it.

Both were dead by the age of 18, killed in shoot-outs with police.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

May 23: All hail Robert Goguen!

Yesterday, I received in my mailbox a tabloid sized, eight page newspaper printed on rather expensive paper. It purported to come from Robert Goguen, our Conservative MP. In fact, it was obviously put together for all Conservative MPs by a PR firm, then customized for each riding.

The first page has a picture of Mr. Goguen wearing a smirky smile, obviously pleased at his looks now that he has been stuffed and mounted. The first page praises the government for Canadian prosperity, neatly overlooking our sluggish economy, high rate of unemployment, and the rapidly growing gap between rich and poor.

Inside is a treasury of eighteen pictures of Mr. Goguen who, apparently, owns only one suit, one smirk, and two neckties.

By coincidence, today's editorial in the Times and Transcript says Mr. Goguen is to be commended for announcing the spending of some 5.6 million dollars in Moncton. Commended? For announcing? Isn't that a little over the top? I would have been more impressed to have seen an announcement of how much it cost to send that political advertising to every home in Canada - and who paid for it.
Again, apart from columns by Alec Bruce and Beth Lyons, there's not much in the TandT. So let's talk about Mr. Harper's anger at his aide for giving $90,000 to a senator so the senator could repay false claims he made for housing. Who's to blame for this situation, one which so far has put three senators in the hot seat, dumped the prime minister's chief aide, and sent the PM into a tizzy?

Well, that would be Harper who's to blame. No prime minister in the history of this country has shown the contempt for parliament and democracy - and the contempt for the law - that Mr. Harper has.

To start with an obvious point, when Harper named Duffy to the Senate, he knew the rules for senator - that the senator had to be a resident of the province he or she was to represent. It is impossible to believe that Harper did not know that Duffy had only a summer cottage in PEI. And I'm quite sure that when the PM contacted Duffy, he did not do it with a letter or phone call to PEI.
(He must also have known that in the election campaign before he was appointed, Mr. Duffy had created something of a scandal in the journalism world with a highly biased and dishonest TV interview of a  Liberal candidate.)

When it was  obvious that Brian Mulroney had accepted large sums in graft while he was prime minister, Harper allowed the enquiry to fade. There was never a full investigation of his dealings. There were no criminal charges! If you or I stole $250,000, we'd be looking at jail time. Not only did Mulroney escape criminal charges, he was even allowed to keep most of money. His only penalty was that he had to pay the back taxes on it.

Incidentally, Mulrony never reported that money as income. That's illegal, too.And Mulroney is a lawyer. And so, thanks to Harper, Mulroney goes on living in a huge, stone mansion in the priciest district of Westmount, the priciest suburb of Montreal. Harper's message to other political thieves was clear.

In our last and very close election, there seem to have been a great many irregularities - a nice word for cheating and breaking the law. By far, most of them seem to have been committed by the Conservative party. But Mr. Law and Order Harper has declined to investigate them with any seriousness, and has taken no steps to prevent this from happening in the future.

This is doubly serious because Mr. Harper won only a minority vote. It is quite possible an investigation would show that he did not win enough seats to form a government.

He routinely puts the budget into an omnibus bill - which means a large number of bills, each requiring time for study and debate, are all lumped together into one bill. That, given time limits, means that measures are passed before we know what's in them, and before mps have time to read them and discuss them.

Repect for democracy and for the law has never been so low as it is Canada's government today. And it's Harper who has set the tone that is being followed by his MPs and senators. The Duffy mess was created by Harper.
The office of Governor-General was intended to put a check on people such as Harper. By law, for example, the Governor-General has to the power to refuse to sign an omnibus bill - and the right to refuse the appointment of a Duffy to the Senate. But that power has not been used since the 1920s.

Most scholars, I should think, accept the idea that the power has expired because its last use, in the 1920s, proved a failure, I'm not at all sure that's true. But we'll probably never find out because no Governor-General since the 1920 has had the courage or integrity to refuse to sign a bill. And the limp fish who currently holds that office is most unlikely to try it.

We pay a lot of money for an institution that has not value whatever.
Oh, good news for Canadians that did not appear in the TandT. There is an international board that cares for the environment of the Arctic. It's important because it's a very sensitive environment, highly vulnerable to the warming that is clearly happening up there - with effects that spread all over the earth. It also has oil; and any oil pollution in that region could have disastrous effects for all of us.

A new man will soon take his turn as chair of that international commission.

He is man who has long denied that any climate change is happening at all. More recently, he has allowed in might be happening - but he's sure we'll invent something in time to fix it all. He's a man who is a world leader in refusing to take steps to control climate change, a man who did much to destroy the only worldwide effort that might have helped. He is the man who is touring the world to convince it to buy the world's dirtiest and most polluting oil. He is the man who destroyed almost all legal protection of fesh water and salt water within his country's boundaries.  He is the man pushing for pipelines to carry that dirty oil, whatever the risk.

Ladies and gentleman, welcome the man who is to be the new guardian of the north, Mr. Stephen Harper.

O! Canada.....


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May22:I'm late in starting this because....

...I read my copy of the Times and Transcript early this morning. And at the end, I thought, "what can I say?"

There are three ways to control people. One is to make them scared as hell. Once they're sufficiently scared, a government can do anything under the guise of protecting them from what it is they're scared of. So you need to invent enemies, dangerous enemies, evil enemies.  Hitler chose Jews, gays and gypsies. Using that fear, he was able to assume dictatorial control over the whole state, depriving everybody of rights, justifying torture, and killing millions of innocent people of all ages. (Yes, of course, everybody knew what was going on. They could see the mass arrests. They could see the boxcars loaded with humans. They could see the ashes settling over their streets.) It didn't matter. If we're scared enough, we don't see what we are watching.

Another is to have two political parties which are essentially the same, but to convince voters to hate either one or the other. This goes so far as to create caricatures of each side, caricatures that thrive on images of Democrats (in the US) as spendthrift and weak, and of Republicans as realistic and more patriotic. For an example of the brainless debate this leads to, watch Fox News.

That's why the US spent billions in an election to defeat Romney who stood for more war, cutting government services to the poor, tax breaks for the rich......and to elect Obama who has stood for more war, cutting government services to the poor, tax breaks for the rich....

Of course. Both sides are financed by the same people. New Brunswick is even worse because the people who finance the Liberals and the Conservatives don't even have to stay in the background. They openly interfere with government, no matter which party is in power. And people still play self -delusionary mind games that Liberals and Conservatives are different.

A third way, used by Britain and France in building their empires, was to convince people they were doing God's work in invading and colonizing "inferior" people. Read Rudyard Kipling for that. Try, for example, "The White Man's Burden".  According to Kipling, a process that murdered people, stole their lands, threw their societies into a chaos from which they have never recovered, enslaved them, exploited them..was a divinely-ordained responsibility.

The US has used all three to put government entirely at the service of big business while destroying human rights and democracy, itself. The Land of the Free is, in fact, the land of no freedom at all.  It's the land in which a whole range of domestic spy agencies keep track of the private activities of every American, where millions are on secret lists as potential enemies - not just for being suspected being terrorists or even knowing one, but for any criticism at all of the government.

It's the land of torture, of imprisonment without charge or trial, the land which has given itself the right to invade other countries, to murder, imprison them, to interfere with them - all in defiance of international law. It's the land in which the police increasingly are trained not to protect the people but to fight them and intimidate them.

Many don't notice what has happened. That's because fear, racial superiority, and ignorance, much of it created by the news media, has made all this seem necessary to them - just as Germans saw Jews, gays and gypsies as making Hitler necessary.

The Times and Transcript, like most Canadian news media, plays along with this line. But it adds another factor to make control easier. It stupefies them. After I read today's paper, I could only look at the crumpled sections lying on the floor, and think, "What can I say?"

There was almost nothing worth reading in the whole paper - well, except for a story that Brad Pitt's daughter thinks he kisses Angelina Jolie too much.

There were four, good letters to the editor. It says something when the best part of a newspaper is the letters to the editor page. On the editorial and op pages, the pages for opinion, there was only one column, Alec Bruce's, that could be called opinion of any significance; and it was bland.

And we can't compensate for our miserable print media because private radio is even worse, and private TV doesn't have the reportorial staff down here. CBC is far the best but it, too, lacks adequate staff.

No wonder most people here live in a political stupor.

We don't need fear or hysteria down here to control people. Two puppet parties and a puppet press of unsurpassed triviality and ignorance do the job quite well.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

May 21: Is Norbert a communist?

He may not be. It may just seem that way as a result of his sloppy use of words. (In a minor example today, he used the ugly word "gotten" as the past tense for "to get".  In fact, gotten is an American slang word that has found its way into some dictionaries. The correct past tense for "to get" is "got".)

It becomes a bigger problem when Norbert does not understand the meaning of a word that is his major target for a rant. I use "rant" here because of his column's constant attacks on what he calls "bureaucracy", another word he does not understand.

Bureaucracy, meaning that part of government operated by hired rather than elected officials, has always been a source of popular annoyance and even hatred - even all the way back to ancient times when appointed bureaucrats administered governments for kings and pharaohs. It has always been a source of annoyance for the general public, and so a popular target for  columnists.

In "Das Kapital", Karl Marx's dream of the perfect, communist society would come true when people learned to cooperate willingly for the common good, and government bureacrats would cease to exist. So Norbert and Karl have something in common. They both express their hatred of government by directing that hatred at a group associated with government.

However, both are more than a little simplistic in their thinking.

In the first place, bureaucracy is not restricted to government. In modern times it began in the seventeenth century with kings like Louis XIV who realized that the counts and dukes who had been looking after the administration of the country were hopelessly incompetent. They got the jobs and power only because they were born as dukes and counts. (Does that remind you of anybody in today's world? Here in New Brunswick?)

They were so imcompetent that Louis - and other kings - turned to middle class people of education and ability to run their administrations. These were the first, modern bureaucrats.

Then - and note this well, Norbert, private business copied the government system. Yes. Though we use the word bureaucrats to refer only to government administrators, bureaucracy is also the system of administration for private business and, in fact, for armies as well as all organizations of any size.

Indeed, and though the Norberts of this world seem to forget it, the Canadian civil service was so effective in World War II that private business, for some years after the war, sent its rising executives to Ottawa to study civil service methods. But Norbert does not appear to know even that a private business bureaucracy exists.

Any large organization - private or government (or a newspaper) - needs trained people to administer it. Does Norbert have some alternative system? Or does he, like Marx, think we should all live in love and brotherhood so we would not need government at all?

The problem we face in this province is not that we have bureaucracies. The problem is that we have a non-bureaucrat of no particular training or wisdom who interferes in government like a baron of the fourteenth century, simply assuming he has the right to do so because he was born a baron.

What we  have seen lately is a model of private business bureaucracy forced on our government bureaucracy. And it won't work. Private bureaucracy is designed to benefit the company without any obligation to the people, to the society as a whole. Government bureaucracy is designed to benefit the society as a whole - without obligation to the baron.

When you try to force a private business model on a government, what you get is a health minister like Flemming who is making a hash of out health care. He has hired bureaucrats trained in the business style. His prime objective is not to serve people, but to cut costs, whatever damage that may do to people and to the health care system. The proof? He claimed to want better efficiency. Okay. If that's what you want, you begin with an examination of existing efficiency to see where it can be improved, and where savings can be made. Flemming didn't do that.

He began with a demand for cuts. That's the business model. Who gives a damn about people?

The result of imposing such a model on us is destroy essential services because, in the end, the bureaucracy of the business model has no obligation to people.

All the letters to the editor this day are well worth reading.
I mention only Norbert and the letters to the editor because nothing else in today's paper merits discussion.

I could wish the TandT would find a foreign news editor who knows something about foreign news. We are quite possibly facing something quite terrible in the Middle East, something that is largely our (western) doing. The war in Syria is spinning out of control, a spin that could carry it far beyond the Middle East. You would never guess that from reading the TandT.


Monday, May 20, 2013

May 20: Yesterday?...oh.....

....It was such a nice day. And I had to pick up my daughter after a dance and I didn't get to bed until after midnight and I sat up and read till one or so and I slept until noon. More accurately, I was semi-concious until noon. Then I had to do important things like look for an apartment, shave....  One of those days.

Anway, today's Times and Transcript has the longest story I have even seen in it. It covers most of pages A3 and A4 - and it's about the death of an former editor of the St. John Telegraph Journal. With all respect, that is a little over the top - but understandable. What is less understandable is the self-praise of the Telegraph-Journal that is much of the theme of the story.

There is reference to it  rising to national stature during his tenure as editor. Now, I was 40 years involved in journalism on a daily basis as a writer and broadcaster. I am still in daily contact with friends in journalism. Only once have I heard even a mention of the St. John Telegraph. That came from a former editor of The Gazette, and then a senator sitting on a committee investigating journalism standards in Canada. She (and the other senators as well as any journalist I have ever known) spoke in horror of the whole Irving Press in New Brunswick as a travesty of journalism.

Natonal stature? Most Canadians have never heard of any Irving newspaper. Those few who have don't speak kindly of them.
NewsToday is close to a zero. It does have a picture of a demonstrator holding up signs demanding the closure of the prison at Guantanamo. And there are two sentences under it that mention the prisoners are on a hunger strike. But none of that will mean a whole lot to people who get their news from the TandT.
1. The TandT has never mentioned the hunger strike - so readers don't know what it's about.
2. It's primarily about the fact that
 a)the prisoners are being held illegally.
 b) There are no charges against them because there is no evidence against them - despite years of torture. Not even a military tribunal could convict them.
c) Most were cleared for release years ago. But it has not happened.
d) It is very difficult for them to see their lawyers - and the private files of their lawyers have been tapped.
e)  They want to die. They realize that they will spend the rest of their lives in solitary cages.
f) The are being forcefed by a process so brutal that the UN has defined it as torture and, therefore, illegal.
g) As a torture refinement, the hunger strikers are forced to sleep on the concrete floors of their cages. 

This information would have made the picture more understandable.
There's a story on the resignation of Nigel Wright, a story which doesn't tell us much. The key question - Why did Harper accept the resignation? He could have refused it. When such a resignation is accepted, it commonly means that there's a lot more to the story - and accepting the resignation is a good way to kill any demand for further investigation.

And that's pretty much it for NewsToday.
The editorial is okay, but trivial. It wants to change May 24 from Victoria Day to something more Canadian. Who cares? The fact is that the only people who know that is the official birthday of Queen Victoria are old fart editorial writers and bloggers. For most people, it's May 24, and winter is gone, and the sun is out.

The amusing part is that the writer suggests changing the holiday to celebrate the contributions of Tommy Douglas as leader of the NDP. I should be astonished if the TandT ever supported anything that Tommy Doublas stood for. Indeed, it is currently, if subtly, supporting the gradual destruction of Douglas' greatest contribution, medicare.

Norbert has an interesting column about Victoria Day - and I suspect he's right in what he says about the monarchy.
Steve Malloy says he has nothing earth-shattering to talk about. Well, okay. It's not earth-shattering. But it's an important perception about people of Moncton. It's about their "deadness" at concerts, and their habit of spending a concert talking about last night's hockey game.

I've noticed that characteristic in much that they do. It's an emotional and intellectual deadness that's encouraged by the Irving Press - but it also seems to come from some other source. Like much of what Malloy writes, this one should make people think.
An old friend sent me an article from Business Week (2009). It's by a distinguished professor of business administration at Harvard.

It begins with Hannah Arendt's observation about Eichmann, the man who planned much of the transportation and murder of Jews in the Holocaust. She talked about the banality of the man, how very ordinary he was, how he had no sense of doing wrong - only of his own rise in the power structure. She called this combination of thoughtlessness and evil in this terrifylngly normal man "the banality of evil."

Then the writer applies this observation to the same sort of terrifying banality that characterizes the world of big business. This was written at the time that bankers destroyed the lives of millions of people with crooked dealings - but showed no sense of remorse or even of understanding of what they had done.

Their business model is to think as Eichmann did - " do what's good for the organization insiders while dehumanizing and distancing everyone else."

The banality of evil, the dehumanization of us by the business model  - these go a long way to explaining Health Minister Flemming - the terrifyingly ordinary man who serves the organization with no thought for the consquences to people, but only for his own rewards. His objective? - to begin the destruction of medicare so we can have hospitals not for health, but to make the rich richer.

There is no moral leadership in Fredericton. You have some, a few, with morals but no brains, a few with brains but no morals, and a great mass with neither morals nor brains.

The first target in New Brunswick has been achieved. The government is simply an arm of big business. Mr. Irving has announced himself a member of the government, and the government has been dumb enough to accept that. But, unlike a member of government in a democracy, Mr. Irving has to answer to nobody for what he does - not to the legislature and not to the voters.

This is a system which has been tried in many forms throughout history. It always destroys us outsiders. In the end, it always destroys itself. And our lives are being ruled by a man whose only demonstrated talent is one for being born rich.

The article is a superb one that you really must read. Go to


Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 18: Credit where credit is due....

Today's Faith Page came as a pleasant surprise. It didn't take on the rich and powerful - as the Pope's letter did. But it did break away from the mindless and pointless bilge that usually appears in the sermonette. It's about sex. (No,  don't go ripping through the pages hoping for pictures or some mention of LGBT sex. It's a lot tamer than that.)

But it does at least go further than the usual and cutesy spiritual pablum we get (God answers knee mail. etc.).

Newtoday, p. D3, has a story from the Associated Press that will (and is intended to) stir the indignation of us right-minded people. It reveals that the Syrian government actually has people in terrible prisons where it tortures them.

Gee. Is that the same Syria the CIA used to rent prison space from so it could carry out torture? Is it the same prison space that the CIA used when Canada handed over at least three, innocent  Canadian citizens for torture? And that our very own CSIS visited to help in the "questioning"? You know, the three Canadians that Harper has refused to compensate.

Oh, those terrible Syrians. Our side would never use torture.

Why would Associated Press run such a story without even a mention of our own record of torture, and our own history of  close association with prisons and torture in Syria? And Poland? And at Guantanamo (where over a hundred inmates, who are being held illegally, are starving themselves to death)? And in Afghanistan? And in the dozen or more other countries where the US maintains torture prisons?

It's called propaganda to stir up indignation and hatred so we can bomb the country which we have already filled with hired thugs and religious fanatics from other countries. We call these hired thugs and religious fanatics "rebels" in defiance of the meaning of the word "rebel".

A good news editor (and even a dopy one) would immediately recognize this as a propaganda story.

Whoever edits foreign news also missed kind of a big story. The Pentagon and Obama have claimed that the president can wage war anywhere in the world WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF CONGRESS.  Well, that leaves a kind of big hole in the US constitution.

(Mind you, Harper has publicly committed Canada to war if Israel goes to war - no matter who starts the war or why. In other words, if Israel starts a war, we are committed to join in on Israel's side. That wipes out a major right our soldiers won in the First World War - that parliament must first agree to any such war.)

The news editor also missed one hell of a big story. The Internal Revenue Service in the US has been making unusually deep studies of the tax records of Obama's political enemies. And the White House has been tapping the private communications of AP reporters. Those are both extremely serious in a democracy - but not serious enough to wake up anybody at the TandT.
Bill Beliveau has an intriguing column on Senator Duffy, and at least a half serious suggestion that Harper could have planned this whole thing. Maybe. But I'm intrigued by another possibility.

Harper knows the rules for Senate. A senator represents a province and, therefore, must be a resident of that province. Is it possible that he appointed senators so casually that he didn't even bother to check where they lived? That hardly seems likely behaviour for a man so obsessed with personal control over everything.

No. I don't think he forgot. I think his behaviour is more in line with another characteristic of his thought. He has utter contempt for democracy and all the rules that go with it. He wanted Duffy in there for his big name and his uses as a campaigner. He just didn't give a damn about the rest.
Norbert is, as usual, handicapped by his prejudices. The takes statistics about poverty, starvation, etc. from the UN - then lashes out at UN officials who say the situation is critical or disappointing. The reason he says so is because UN officials are like civil servants - and Norbert hates civil servants. He feels the whole world would be better if it were run by the Irvings of this world.

(In fact, it is run by the Irvings of this world. That's why it's such a mess.)

He rants that things are fine because there are only a few, minor wars going on. Norbert, there are wars going on you never even heard of - all over the world. The US is currently at war in Afghanistan (officially). Unofficially, it is at war Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Forecasts from the Pentaton are that the "war on terror" will go on for at least another ten to twenty years. That doesn't count the unofficial CIA wars in Central America and Africa (which don't get reported, anyway).

As well, Norbert, are you aware that war is not just invasion? It also includes other attacks on nations - like computer tampering, spying, embargoes, spy drones, secret aid to revolutionary groups, assassination squads. The US is, in fact, at war with over half the world - and that is expanding. And any of those wars could turn nuclear.

As well, the US is committed to world dominance. There is no other  way for its business world to survive. Think hard, Norbert, there is a commitment to dominance of a world which possesses at least several thousand nuclear missiles. Norbert, it's really not time yet to stand up and clap hands.

And only seven million children under five are dying every year? Wow! Break out the champagne. Know why they're dying Norbert? One reason is that privately owned drug companies insist that their drugs be used - and at full price. Another reason is that the west has been creating poverty and disorder in those countries for centuries.

Meanwhile, in the wealthy US, 128 people die every day for lack of medical care. And almost 3,000 file for bankruptcy every day because of the cost of medical care. Poverty-stricken Cuba has far better health statistics than the rich US does.

He ends with a disgusting quotation. "It doesn't make a lot of sense for us to borrow money from the Chinese to go give to another country for humanitarian aid. We ought to get the Chinese to take care of the people."

a) The US does not borrow money from the Chinese for humanitarian need. It borrows it to finance a corrupt war industry.
b)Much of poverty in the world is actually caused by the US and other western countries which have looted other countries for centuries - and are still doing it.
c) Save that final sentence, though. It would look good on a a plaque in the Irving Chapel.
The student columns in Whatever section are always interesting - but particularly so this week. I hate to name any in particular because that suggests the others were weak - and they weren't weak at all. However.....

I was particularly struck by a column by Sabrina Stace of Harrison Trimble because she hits on a characteristic of high schools and universities - the excessive attention to sports. It suggests a certain immaturity on the part of us adults who seem to want it that way. This is the province that can afford a very expensive artifical field for football, but can't afford books for its libraries.

Mike Elliott, also of Harrison Trimble contributes a poem - with some considerable maturity and intelligence in its insights.

For news on fracking that you won't find in the Irving Press, a reader sent in the list below.
Fracking vs. Health forum, 2 hors, 37 minutes
Recorded April 27, 2013, Elmira, New York
Bringing together workers, physician, attorney from Penn re gagging doctors

Intro - 2 minutes -

Part 2 - Rick "Mac" Sawyer  19 minutes - worker

part 3 Joe Giovanni 12 minutes - Environmental Refugee

part 4 Robert Lee McCaslin 7 minutes Worker, master driller

Part 5 Dr. Larysa Dyrszka 38 minutes

Part 6 Laren Williams Esq 20 minutes Attorney re Act 13 gagging medical doctors,

Part 7 Jonathon Deal, Karoo Action Group,  South Africa, winner of major environmental award,  12 minutes

Part 8 Q and A 40 minutes

Friday, May 17, 2013

May 17: editorial and op ed pages are for OPINION - dammit

On the op ed page of today's Times and Transcript, there is a note from the President of Crandall University, apologizing (sort of) for having offended lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered. Below it is a response from the President of the LGBT community organization.

That's nice. I'm glad they're talking to each other. But both of their statements already appear in the lead (and long) news story on p.1. So why on earth repeat them on the op ed page?

The news pages are for news. The op ed page is for opinion about the news. We need informed opinion to undestand what's going on. A news story just tells us that something happened. An opinion column takes us beyond that to think about the meaning of what has happened. (Please note - I do not suggest we must agree with the opinion. What it does is to give us a starting point to develop our own opinions.)

A news story that the US wants to get rid of President Assad of Syria tells us nothing. We need opinion - preferably several opinions - on why the US wants to get rid of him. Is it to bring freedom and democracy to Syria and to help little girls go to school? Or could there be another reason?

Norbert begins well with a story of the destruction of an ancient temple, smoothly shifts the scene to Moncton for what looks to be a useful thought piece about historic preservation. Then he abruptly changes the subject to rant about the civil service and what he calls bureaucracy.

I call it "rant", by the way, not just as a sort of swear word. I use it to mean he gives no evidence of knowing what he is  talking about - or even what words like "bureaucracy" mean. This is just a stream of prejudice and name-calling - something he would never dare to do to big business though it has its own bureaucracies and its own, stunningly wasteful procedures. (Hidden in there is an implied attack on medicare.)

The editorial is boring and, sometimes, unintelligible because it's badly written in a dense and laborious style. Doesn't the editorial writer know what the reading levels are in this province?

Alec Bruce writes a readable column, and one that certainly implies an opinion on the Duffy case. I could wish, on this one, that he had looked at more serious issues in this - but this is still a real opinion column, and one well designed for its audience.
What do we need opinion (and, often) news on? Well...
1. Despite official announcements to the contrary, the US is NOT pulling out of Afghanistan at any time in the foreseeable future. In fact, it is building at least five major bases in that country. It also has been supplying President Karzai and sundry warlords with annual bribes of hundreds of millions of dollars for their personal use- and that will continue. As well, there is no semblance of democracy or of rebuilding anywhere in that country.

The official Afghanistan army is badly trained, badly led, nowhere near ready for combat, is corrupt from top to bottom, and has been selling its weapons to the Taliban.

So what is that war all about? What is the purpose of it? Why is the US building premanent bases in it?

On a guess, the purpose of the war has been from the start to plunder Afghanistan resources, and to give the US military a base to attack other countries in the region. But that's a guess. I'd like to see opinions better informed than mine.

News stories won't give us the answer to why we sent Canadians to die in that country. An informed opinion piece would help.

2.The news stories on Duffy make a joke of something that is not funny at all. There are elements in this that need discussion and opinion.
a) It was almost certainly illegal for Harper's Chief of Staff to give money to Duffy.
b) It was illegal for that to be done with making an official report it had been done.
c) The Chief of Staff and Duffy have both been in this game for many years. It's impossible to believe they don't know the rules.
d) The Chief of Staff says he didn't tell Harper about it. Oh?Really? Did he assume that the most controlling PM in Canadian history wouldn't be interested? Is it possible that he told Harper? and that both he and Harper are now lying about it?
e) Duffy broke the law in claiming election expenses for trips he took to campaign for the Conservatives in the election. Again, it is not believable he would not know he was breaking the law.
f)This is only one of a great many "Irregularities" reported in the last federal election - almost all of them attributed to the Conservatives. Harper has blocked any full investigation of any of them. All of this raises at least a possibility that Harper did not really win that election.

3. Harper just made a rediculous speech in New York. He said they should allow pipelines carrying Alberta oil to Texas because the only solution to global warming is to discover some new energy technology that will save us.
a) If any man on this earth has blocked the development of technology to replace fossil fuels, that man is surely Harper. Indeed, he played a major role in destroying the only serious global agreement we had on it. In doing so, he also threw controls out the window.
b) Harper has repeatedly and publicly said there is no global warming. But now he says there is. Did nobody notice a contradiction there?
c)To say that we shouldn't worry because something will come along to fix it all is inane by any standard - but particularly so when you consider  that the change will soon, possibly very soon,
 become irreversible even if a miracle cure is found. In that short time, we have to discover this wonderful technology - and install it for energy use all over the world. Good luck.

That was a remarkably stupid and irresponsible speech even for Harper, and even for a business audience. But we don't get that sense of stupidity and irresponsibility from a news report. Only an opinion column can do that.

4. I have seen few news pieces and no opinion columns on the frightening growth of poverty in the US, the cuts to essential services (like food) in the face of that poverty to devote even more money to the very rich and their corrupt and corrupting contracts for more weapons than any world needs, and for phony "aid" programmes.

The US is on the brink of severe social disorder. The government knows it. That's why it has massive levels of spying. massive spending on police weaponry (including armoured vehicles), and the destruction of constitutional freedoms. The US is preparing for war against the American people. (And forget the gun lobby. It will be on the government side.)

No news story can convey a sense of that danger. We need opinion columns to encourage us to think it through for ourselves. And we better, because it's coming our way.

These are just a few samples of what we need. It's not hard. Anybody with a basic understandinig of current events and access to google could easily research any of the above topics in minutes. There must be somebody among the staff writers at the TandT who has the wit to write real opinion pieces, and not just tell stories about the trivia of their own lives. And there must be somebody who can write an editorial that is clear and intelligible.
And here is an addendum.

You have to understand that I'm a Protestant, raised in the most severe Calvinist traditions. When I was a kid, the street I lived on was all French and Catholic. On religious days, it was decked in Papal flags flying from every balcony. Except ours. My father defiantly flew the biggest flag of them all, a Union Jack.

I've mellowed somewhat, and am now prepared to recognize Catholics as Christians - if sadly misguided ones. One should love them, anyway. But I've never come to be enthusasitic about popes. However - I came across this statement made only days ago by the pope. It's at

I apologize to my parents and to my Scottish highlands Calvinist ancestors. And I don't want them to think I've slipped over to the dark side - even if I have a French ancestor who is now a candidate for sainthood.

In fact, the message I am referring you to is not ABOUT the pope. So don't waste time sending me notes about how you don't approve of him. The message is a brief statement he made on the subject of Christianity (which could equally be made about Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism....)

I think he's dead right in what he says. And I think he's dead right about the consequences he sees in our behaviour.

And I think what he says is in absolute contradiction to everything the Liberals and Conservatives of this province, the newspapers, and the corporation bosses stand for. I think they are short-sighted,  greedy, amoral - and leading us into disaster. (The news story on the views of Liberal leader Gallant is a prime example of how one can support greed, amorality, shortsightedness -and still be boring. He's another Alward.)

I include this statement by the pope because I want to feel protected from the nausea that always overcomes me when I read the wimpy Faith page sermonettes in the Saturday editions of the Irving Press.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16: Sorry to be late, today. I fell asleep....

...while reading section A of the Times and Transcript. Seriously. I mean, how long can one read a section whose front page, feature photo is of a man cutting the grass under the headline, "It's lawn-mowing season again." But brighter things were in store.

The Newstoday section is, as usual, pretty thin  gruel. But, for a change, there are some pieces of competent and ethical reporting. The story on Senator Mike Duffy and his scandalous expense dealings which seem to have been covered up by the Harper government is well reported. (The one weakness is it does not mention an important element of the scandal. He claimed expenses for duties as a senator on days when his "duties" consisted of election campaigning for the Conservative Party. That's illegal under election law - and a former journalist must know that - and so must Harper.)

Adam Huras, Brunwick Press reporter for the legislature, contributes a fair and unbiased report, "NDP recruits former NB Power exec for next election."  In such cases, the TandT usually publishes panting and servile praise of Liberal or Conservative candidates, but says little , if anything, of candidates for other parties.

Two other stories deserve a read. One is "Torture concerns raised". Under Harper, Canada has developed a terrible reputation for protection of its own citizens. (Recently, there was the story of a New Brunswick farmer who was improperly imprisoned for a year in a middle eastern country. The Harper government didn't lift a finger to help him.)

Earlier, three Canadians of arab descent were actually handed over to American authorities to be tortured in a Syrian prison.  This was  confirmed in a Canadian government inquiry five years ago. The Canadian government acted contrary to international law, and has ignored demands from the UN Committee against Torture to make amends.

The Harper government has openly refused to take any action.

If you ever travel under a Canadian passport, good luck.

And then there's a fairy tale from The Canadian Press. Harper is, with countries like the US, Britain, and France, contributing money to Mali to help it establish a democracy. Sure.

The US, Britain, France, and Canada are so big on democracy, they feel embarassed by their purity. That's why, to cover it up, they support so many dictatorships in Central America, Africa, and the Middle East. That's why they destroyed democracies in Iran, Haiti, Guatemala, and others. A real democracy is the last thing any of them wants to see in any part of Africa.
In these and other stories, there's lots of material for the opinion pages - editorial and op ed. But the staff writers have their noses firmly stuck in their own bellybuttons.  For Norbert, the great issue facing our world is the cost of renovating a liquor store.

Rod Allen, as usual, writes about his adorable self. I made it only half-way through. Then his pretentious, high school writing style combined with his self-adoration got to me, and that, combined with the utter pointlessness of his story, decided me to bail out.

Excellent columns by David Suzuki and Jody Dallaire. However, since Jody Dallaire strays from her usual beat of covering women's issues, I'll fill in for her. It's a woman's issue concerning Bernice MacNaughton High School.

Now, I've been in that school many times. As a teacher of many, many years in many, many schools, I have a feeling for the atmosphere of a school. And my sense is that Bernice MacNaughton is a very good school, indeed, with solid administration and teaching staff. But one thing has always bothered me.

The pictorial symbol of the school is a bearded Scottish warrior with shield and sword, shouting (one presumes) a war cry. He is wearing a kilt - which seems unlikely since the kilt was not yet invented in shield and sword days.

Now, it's possible (if unlikely) that Dr. Beatrice MacNaughton had a shaggy beard; (I have never seen a picture of her).  But her life of distinguished teaching and leadership does not suggest to me a woman who carried sword and shield, and shouted Gaelic oaths at passersby.

Let's suppose the school had been named for a famous hockey player.  Do you think its persona would be represented by a picture of a distinguished, female teacher? Or perhaps a ballerina?

I think there's a hint there of why many women feel pushed aside in our society.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May 15: Bugs and blah...

News media are the first line of defence for democracy. That should be the first lecture in any Journalism 101 course. Without a supply of unbiased and relevant information from our news media, we cannot make the decision that the electorate in a democracy must make. That's not being preachy. That's a reality.

Today's lead story? A small cruise ship with no passengers aboard pulled in to a nearby port to resupply on its way back to New York. It's the replacement for another ship that was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy - and there's lost more that's just as good and just as important as that.

The pace gets even faster on p. 2 where, we are solemnly informed, Riverview has appointed a new deputy mayor. Read all about it.

In NewsToday, Canada has backed out of UN disarmament talks because Iran is chairing them. Foreign Minister Barid says that such a conference with Iran in the chair is a mockery of disarmament and blatantly ignores its international obligations.

1. Canada is backing out because the US is backing out. And the US is backing out because it has no intention of disarming. Indeed, disarmament would destroy the economy that is the world's largest weapons salesman.

2. The last time the US came to a disarmament agreement was when, under Bush, it agreed to dismantle some of its nuclear stockpile if Russia would do the same. So Russia did dismantle some. Then Bush cheated. He just put his surplus ones into storage.

3. Iran is ignoring its international obligations? What are you babbling about, Mr. Baird? What obligations? Are you referring to US and Israeli claims it is buiding a nuclear bomb? Then how come UN inspectors (and leading western intelligence sources) say it isn't?

4. Who would you accept as chairman of the conference, Mr. Baird? The US which has the largest stock of such weapons in the world and which refused to honour its commitment to reduce them? Israel which has 250 nuclear missiles (illegally)?

Mr. Baird, I can never tell whether you're talking into a toilet, or from one.

Then there's a big story about how Kate and what's-his-name haven't decided where they'll live after tthe baby is born. The news you need to know.

There's a big story about a US embassy official who has been ordered out of Russia because he was caught trying to recruit people to spy for the US.  What's the big deal? All embassies recruit spies. That's what they're for.

And so, filled with the information we need to know so we can vote intelligently, we come to editorial and op ed pages.

The editorial is bizarre. Yesterday, the big story was that the head of the Irvingite propaganda house, Altantic Institute for Market Studies was calling on us to raise the sales tax. I have never known the TandT to question a pronouncement from that oracle. It's like Moses telling God that he was off base in that stuff about not coveting. I mean, if your neighbour has a good-looking wife, why let her go to waste? Anyway, this time the TandT gave its God the raised eyebrow. We'll have to see.

It gets back to its usual style with the last sentence in which it tries to turn "workers" against civil servants by saying the government should help workers by firing civil servants (who, apparently, are not "workers).

The editorialist doesn't say why there are too many workers. But that's understandable. He obviously doesn't have a clue what too many would be.

He doesn't mention our real handicap - too many very wealthy people making far too much money at the expense of all the rest of us.

Norbert plays his favourite game of writing about three topics. The first is about the case in Cleveland where a man kidnapped three girls, and kept them as six slaves. Norbert says that's not a nice to do.

Way to speak up, Norbie. Let the chips fall where they may.

Then he launches into a rant about the UN. It has a report on food shortages, saying it may be necessary to cultivate bugs as a food ..." if there are no other solutions". Well, Norbert, for a world short of food and getting desperate, could you tell us those other solutions? Obviously, the UN needs a man of your wisdom.

And, he says crankily, "For the UN, everything is a crisis." Well, Norbert, I'm sure you're well stocked with boxes of Ganong's. But there are hundreds of millions of people in this world for whom food is a crisis. I know they don't move in your social circles, and they aren't the wealthy ones you slobber over in your newspaper. But they are people. And they are starving.

And, yes, I do know the UN should spend more time giving money to the real premier of this province.

He also says, "it goes against human nature to eat bugs." Drivel.  Norbert, there are societies in which eating ham "goes against human nature", in which eating meat of any sort" goes against human nature. " But there are also societies in which insects are necessary and even delicious - including ants, cockroaches, crickets ...  People have been eating bugs as long as there have been people. Actually, I've eaten ants - not raw, of course, deep-fried. They're okay - except their little eyes get quite hard in the frying, and get stuck between your teeth.

Then he has a frivolous comment about the Pope. Watch it, Norbert. This Protestant has a relative, Rev. Zenon Decarie, who's on the list for sainthood. That could give me some muscle in pretty high circles.

Brian Cormier has a time-wasting column on how young people are getting younger these days now that he's getting older. Read it only if you're dreadfully bored and lonely.

This is the kind of information that New Brunswickers get ever day to help them think about who they will vote for on election day. And it works every time. Wearing their innocence as proudly as if it were armour, they vote for one of the two parties that are both Irving parties.

As usual, there's nothing in this paper about the big, provincial issues like fracking, medical care, taxation (or lack of it) of the very rich. And when these do make a brief appearance, it's always slanted and/or lying.

Above all, it never mentions the incident in this province that was unique in North America. All over this continent, big business has corrupted governments to such a degree that almost all governments operate under its control.

But this is the only jurisdiction in which a businessman has actually declared his arrogance and his contempt for any government we elect and for the concept of democracy itself by declaring himself a member of the government with bothering to run for election. He has made himself the ruler of this province.