Monday, July 15, 2013

july 15: The asking of questions....

Picture an Irving Press reporter asking Joseph Stalin, "Were you nice to Ukrainians Mr. Stalin?"

Stalin smiles and nods, and the Irving reporter scampers back with the next day's headline. "Stalin nice to Ukrainians".

But a real reporter would look around, then ask a question."If you were nice to them, how come so many million of them died under your rule?"

Questions are important. Irving reporters never seem to ask them. But they are important. So let's flash to the present, and to Lac Megantic where 50 people died.

On that day, Premier Alward assured the legislature that such trains in New Brunswick were safe.

Well - the train that destroyed Lac Megantic had been due in New Brunswick the day he said that. Nobody - not the reporters, not the official opposition had the wit to ask him how it could be true that train in NB are safe. It would be the same train, and with the same, one engineer, operating under the same, federal regulations or lack of them.. How could it kill fifty people in Quebec but become perfectly safe when crossing the New Brunswick border?

And there are other questions.

That railway company had a bad safety record in the US. Its president was well known in railway circles as one who created risk by pinching pennies and cutting corners. Didn't Irving executives check the record of the company they were consigning such a large and dangerous shipment to? Didn't they check the record of the railway president?

It shouldn't have been hard to find out. After all, Irving oil has some pretty intimate ties to the railway industry.

Then there's the question of the removal of the requirement that such trains could NOT travel with just one engineer aboard. That not only put the lone engineer in grave danger of an accident through fatigue or lack of attention or from illness; it also meant a huge shipment of volatile cargo was left untended every night - with the engine running.

All of that constituted one hell of a risk - and fifty people paid the price for that risk.

Weren't all those High paid Irving executives asking those obvious questions? If not, why are such incompetent asses making hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of dollars a year?

If they did ask - or if they knew - why did they hire that company as the shipper? Let me guess.

Maybe it was cheap. Maybe they didn't give a damn whether people might die. It that's the case, there should be a charge of criminal negligence - perhaps of manslaughter.

And, oh yes. Why did Harper change the regulations to permit only one engineer? Is it possible that someone asked him to do it? Who?

Of course, none of these questions will be addressed in any enquiry set up by governments in Ottawa, Quebec or---well, there won't even be an informal discussion in new Brunswick. The Irving press should be running an editorial that Alward lied to the legislature.But be assured that none of this will happen, and no questions will be asked.

Note, though, that all the major figures involved are people who have been assuring us that fracking for shale gas is perfectly safe.

There was, I'm sure, a prayer for the dead and bereaved at the Irving Chapel service we were all invited to yesterday. Prayer is good. It eases guilt, erases responsibility, and keeps mosquitoes away.

I had a letter from a right-wing apologist saying New Brunswickers should be happy the accident happened in Lac Megantic, and not in downtown St. John. I thought that was remarkably perverse reasoning. He also thinks shale gas is harmless.

Mind you, if it had happened in downtown St. John, Premier Alward would still have said our railways are safe.
No news in today's paper. There's a story on Lac Megantic. But it simply rehashes what we already knew, and adds trivia. It raises no questions.

For reasons unclear to me the Your Investments page has a big story on how the outgoing commander of the Canadian army says we need to spend more money on it. Well - maybe he's about to retire, and join the other generals who hold executive offices for defence contractors. Just like in the US.

There is not a word about the long confrontation between shale gas opponents and SWN, not a word on what may well be the most important movement ever to develop in this province.

However, there are two, full pictures of antique cars (well, most of them are just old, sort of). Most of them, in fact,  look like modern cars except they're often longer, uglier, burn more gas, and have engines treated to go vroom, vroom. So it's like, you know, important.  And then there's a whole page of people walking down the middle of the street in Shediac. Wow!
The editorial says nothing - which is a big improvement on the something it usually says.

Norbert makes the point that some people lie to make  their case on some issues. Okay. Some do. But why does he pick women who claim to be rape victims? Even Norbert admits that most such claims are true.

Why didn't he pick on premiers who say our trains are perfectly safe? or on billionaires who say that shale gas won't hurt anybody?

Because they'd spank his little bum if he did. That's why.

Even the headline on the column is a giveaway. "Want to change the world? Stick to the facts!"
Let's see. Who does one think of with that sentence coming from Norbert? Why, protesters. That's who. Always trying to change things. Not like those nice, corporate bosses who want to keep things just as they are - low to no taxes for billionaires, shale gas no matter what it does to us, trainloads of crude oil under dangerous conditions... Yeah. We need more sensible people like that.

Craig Babstock writes his usual column that says nothing, and is so boring it would stun a moose in heat.

Steve Malloy's column is not a great big stick of dynamite. But, oh, it's nicely written. There is, in his subtle way, something in there to think about. And he has won the heart of every woman in Moncton. If Mrs. Malloy isn't in tears by the end of that column - well - then she must be an executive for Irving.
There are three, very impressive letters to the editor. "Protesters want their voice heard", "Greed in the face of poverty", "Pennsylvania hurt by gas industry". All three are on issues the Irving Press has avoided covering. So why do they publish the letters?

It's because people who want to complain about a newspaper go to what's called a press council. This is an organization set up supposedly to deal with complaints that the news has been biased or ignored or otherwise mishandled. It's supposed to discipline the press.

In reality, most press councils are really there to cover up for the press. And the Atlantic Press Council is a pime example of the species.                 

If you complain that the Irving Press has not covered the shale gas issue, you'll wait for a few days, then get a post...
Dear Sir,
Thank you for your letter that the Times Transcript has not covered the shale gas issue. However, we note that it did have a series on the issue by professor Savoie some weeks ago. As well, it has published letters on the subject. So we must reject your claim.
Thank you, and get stuffed.


  1. A quick link for you today. Exactly what the folks in Ottawa *think* (no not over paid gas bags, folks who actually live there) about pipelines:

    Maybe a "Irving chapel" franchise should be placed here?

  2. Today's links:

    Enbridge not exactly forthcoming about pipelines:

    Note: the pipeline goes through the regional municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth.

    Newly appointed cabinet ministers given "enemy" lists: