Friday, July 19, 2013


That should have been the headline, page 1, in every paper of the Irving press today. Fifty people were killed. There is a link to Irving Oil, and to the owndership of the Irving Press. That is not to suggest that anything illegal was done. How could it be? Laws get written under the influence of people who are rich and influential. That's why it's illegal to block SWN trucks. But it's perfectly legal to kill 50 people with a train.

But don't worry. You won't have to get all upset reading about it in the Irving press. They don't have a word on it. And they won't. Not unless the Irving army of lawyers wins the case. (The little people of Lac-Megantic  don't have a lot of spare money for lawyers.)

Meanwhile. what is the government of Stephen Harper doing? Nothing. Zilch. No mention of any help for Megantic. No study of who changed the regulation that made it legal to operate a train in an obviously unsafe manner.

Who proposed that change? Why? Did somebody outside the government ask for it? Somebody in the rail industry? Who?

What caused Alward, right after the accident, to say NB railways were safe? Is Alward now making any investigation into the situation in NB? After all, that train  could just as easily have poughed into St. John - and probably with a far high death list.

Where on earth is the official opposition in the New Brunswick legislature on this issue?

As to who changed the safety regulations for trains, Couldn't the Moncton TandT break the bank and phone our man in Ottawa - Robert Googoo or Google or Goggle or something. You know, the guy whose  Moncton office is just opposite Harper Lane.

Fifty people are dead. They died under conditions that could as easily have killed (and still could kill) thousands of New Brunswickers in, say, St. John. The Moncton TandT asks no questions, and tells no news about it. Indeed, it gave more space, far more, to babbling about an antique car show.

This isn't the fault of the reporters - though I would urge them to learn a lesson from this, and get out of this journalistic swamp ASAP.

As for the editors who are responsible for this and other coverage, there are no words of contempt strong enough for them. Take a look at Norbert's column for today - a cutesy item from something he read about robots.  

The editorial is on the subject of mathematics in our public schools. It is not about 50 deaths amid highly suspicious circumstances. Nah, that's old stuff.  It's about how students' math results are not as good as they should be - and how it's all the fault of the teachers. And it's written by a person who has no training or experience in teaching anything.

Tell you what. Mr. Irving could build a chapel in Lac-Megantic in memory of 50 dead. It would have lovely gardens all around it. And people could go there to sit in the sanctuary - and reflect. They could call it La Chapelle Irving. And I'm sure they could find a rent-a-rev for annual services. Then the TandT could write a big headline on Irving, the great philanthopist.

 I see our Canadian forces have a new, commanding general. Good career move.

Canada has half of its "armed" forces working at desks, a proportion that has done nothing but grow for decades. We have some 75 generals with many, perhaps most, working as office supervisors. It may well be the highest ratio of generals per soldier of any country in the world.

But being a general - and especially the top one - and most especially if you've spent your whole career on the battelefields of Ottawa - is very good indeed. Once a general, and well connected with all the people who count in Ottawa, you can retire early and get a high-paying job in a defence industry - like, say, Irving Shipyards. Then you can use your connections and your influence to lobby governments to buy more military equipment. That's how we got stuck with a fighter place contract at an absurd price. That's why it would be just fascinating to get more details on exactly what the new Irving navy is designed to do - and to get some cost comparisons.

But don't expect to see that in the Irving press.
But the editorial and op ed pages?  Well, they have two of the best columns I have ever seen in any newspaper. And they are closely related.

Gwynne Dyer writes about the impact of food supply and climate change - and why we aren't doing anything about it. David Suzuki writes on much the same topic, showing how the Megantic rail disaster is sign of what's going to happen to us on a much bigger scale.  These are extraordinarily powerful articles that I urge you to read.

And you might note that neither Harper nor Obama has lifted a finger to do anything about these problems. And a major reason is that big business in Canada and the US doesn't want them to do anything. It doesn't want anthing that would lower their profits.

The reality, though, is there are some things we cannot have.  It's no use to say..duh, it'll create jobs..." The reality is we cannot survive in a world that depends of fossil fuels. And, duh, if we can't survive, then, duh, like you know, those jobs won't be much help.

Lac Megantic is just a small sample of what's coming our way. And it's coming as fast as a train.
Michael Sullivan's column on the shooting of a black teenager in the Florida by a neihbourhood watch volunteer is well written. I don't agree with a word of it. But it's well written.

"Why", asks Sullivan, "do North American caucasions have to bear a burden of guilt for wrong doings in the long distant past?" The answer is easy. Because we are still doing the wrong-doings.

North America, like most of the world, is profoundly racist. We are taught to hate Vietnamese, or Japanese, or Germans, or Muslims or whoever it is useful for organizations like oil companies to hate.

Native peoples in Canada are routinely either ignored or victimized. One half of all native children live in poverty. We sit on their land and the wealth it produces. And if you are going to say - as I have heard so many Conservatives suggest - that this is because native people are just lazy - then I suggest you look up the word racism in a good dictionary because that is one hell of a racist statement to make.

Africans are NOT equal in the US or Canada- not economically, not in opportunity. They never have been.

Zimmerman, the volunteer neighbourhood watch, was white. Of course. This happened in heavily racist Florida where a former governer (Bush's brother) struck tens of thousands of African-Americans from the list of eligible voters so that they couldn't vote for Obama.

I've heard many stories about white neighbourhood watches. (I don't know whether there are any African-Americans who serve on those watches because every case I've heard of has been of a white watch and an African-American victim.)

These watches are usually in gated communities. Gee. I wonder how many African-Americans live in gated communities?

Zimmerman challenged an African-American teenager. Why? He wasn't climbing a fence of opening a window or even throwing a cigarette butt in the guter.  Would he have challenged a white one?

It's not fair to say Zimmerman is a racist? Like hell it isn't. I've heard him speak in interviews. He's a thoroughly racist pig.

In sum, an untrained man who despised African-Americans was given a gun, told to patrol streets - but not to approach anybody.

And he sees an African-American teenager who is doing nothing illegal or even suspicious. But he's one of them their blacks. So Zimmerman,against orders, confronts him. We don't know what he said. But from what I've heard Zimmerman say, I think I can guess what his tone was.

Zimmerman, contrary to his orders, provoked a confrontation. Then he pulled a gun and killed a teenager. That's a lot more complicated than Mr. Sullivan makes it sound. And the higher courts seem to agree with my view because they're demanding a review.

The presence of racism is a profound one in our society - and in others around the world. Just in the last 50 years, us white folks have killed millions for essentially racist reasons. Can you believe we would so casually have murdered so many millions of Vietnamese, Guatemalan native peoples, Congolese, Iraqis, Libyans, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Somalians if they were Caucasians? Would Harper now be running a hate campaign against Canadian native peoples?

Michael, your column has serious overtones of racism in it. And  you really should take the trouble to learn what conservative means. Racism is NOT a part of the definition of "conservative".


  1. Fifty people killed in a preventable accident and the media refuses to examine the issue? That, in itself, is a crime.

    I used to work stateside from time to time. Being a Canadian foreigner, I would sometimes go the 'wrong' restaurants. The African American patrons would regard me with suspicion (what the hell is this cracker doing here?), but usually with humour. One restaurant manager came to my table and asked me "what are you doing here?". I replied that I came to eat. He then asked me "where are you from?". I said Canada. He just laughed and walked away.

    I soon realised that I was a Canadian in a culture that I did not understand. At one factory, I mentioned to the company president that I had to retrieve diagnostic equipment from my rental car. He said "don't do that, I'll get someone from the factory floor. That's what n*ggers are for". I could not believe that expression of overt racism, but as a foreigner, a Canadian, I just grimaced and moved on.

    Usually, after a day of work on the road, I would take a book and go to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Sometimes, I would inadvertently listen to klan members planning upcoming meetings. It made me nervous.

    Racism is bad, killing people for profit is bad. We must talk about it.

  2. There's a racist streak in all of us, I guess. i didn't like to go into the issue when talking about Sullivan's op ed column. I'm quite sure mr. Sullivan isn't aware of his own racism. Very few are aware of our own racism. I certainly don't see him as a figure of evil.
    But i realize now I should have talked about it more. That column was profoundly racist.
    The editor for the page should have stopped that column - or asked for massive revision. That fact that didn't happen tells worlds about the utter incompetence in the management of the Irving press.