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.

1 comment:

  1. Afghanistan has vast mineral deposits including lithium. At least a trillion$ and counting.

    ...or, anyone can type 'Afghanistan has minerals'. I lost track of how many pages come up.

    Opium and poppy fields too for CIA drug trafficking, and continuing the lucrative 'war on drugs' which is ultimately an enabler of the 'war on terror'.

    The funds derived from the sale of narcotics also fund Al-Qaeda operations.

    Research Seymour Hersh for his 2007 New Yorker magazine article on the above.

    ...or look at 'Project For A New American Century' which outlines the need to destabilize sovereign nations.

    Russia is moving a few war ships into the Mediterranean.

    Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement meeting in Lima, Peru. Meeting behind closed doors, of course.

    Watch for possible copyright infringement clause to make difficult to share info on the internet. Canada to join.

    Speaking to someone I just met today and the subject of freedoms came up, or more precisely, our disappearing freedoms.

    Harper's name invariably came up, and the man quickly performed a Nazi salute! Nice to know others are becoming aware!