Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 30: Sunday thoughts......

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

The above is a superb web site for anyone interested in the world of big business, and its impact on our world.  Mr. Roberts has been a major figure in business journalism, in the academic world, and in the US government, especially in economic matters.

It was sent to me by a reader to whom I extend my thanks.

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Let's talk conservative and liberal. I'd like to get that our of the way.

Both words have long since lost any real meaning as people  have developed purely emotional meanings for them, and to those emotional feelings they have added meanings that only they understand.

Conservtives do NOT believe in balanced budgets or in careful spending or in small government.. You'ld think that just watching them in power would prove that. But, no. Every week, at least, you'll hear somebody saying he's a conervative because blah, blah, blah.

Liberal does not mean a progressive thinker, or a compassionate politician or a believer in public services. (Who could look at the Liberal Party in this province - and even think that?)

Liberal and conservative are words that drive dictionary makers crazy because a dictionay can't just give the correct meaning of a word. Often, it has to give up and just give whatever sloppy thinkers say it means. So let's take it down to basics.
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Conservative and liberal refer to two, opposite ways of looking at human society.

Liberals see us all as individuals, quite separate from each other, owing nothing to each other, all of us operating in perfect freedom. In a perfectly liberal society, there would be no laws, no restructions. Of course, no such society exists. Nor would most of us want it to.

Conservatives would see us all as a unit, all of us joined together by obligations to each other. In opposition to liberal, conservative means we are bound by obligations to each other. Such people, far from advocating freedom, would stress the importance of authority, of a power structure. of strict obedience.

Only damn fools are pure liberals or pure conservatives. Animals in the jungle come closest to being liberals in our world - though even they commonly live in family groups or packs with some understood rules.

As for conservatism, the clearest examples we have had have been Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's Chine, the medieval kings - and the US domistic spy service.

In a gentler tone, the Roman Catholic church has conservative tendencies in the authority of the pope, the pyramid structure of clergy and the emphasis on obedience. Protestant churches usually have a touch of liberalism with more freedom given to individuals to read The Bible for themselves, and come to their own conclusions

However, I know no church that is pure liberal or, with the exception of some fanatical sects, purre conservative.  In practical terms, most of us are a mixture of liberal and conservative. We want freedom. But we also want some degree of law and order. We want private property (liberal); but we also want public space (conservative). We want government ( conservative) but we want to choose it (liberal.) The concept of capitalism and private ownership is liberal. The concept of regulation and social programmes is conservative.
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Even a moment's thought should convince us that the Liberal party is not really liberal, the Conservative party not really conservative - and the two of them not really different from each other at all. Free trade originated as a liberal idea - in every sense. It was liberal in that it removed rules and regulations. And it was strenuously defended by the Liberal party before confederation, and for almost a half century after.

Free trade is not at all a Conservative principle. The Conservative party bitterly opposed it for over a century, then suddenly switched under Mulroney. Why? Because for the greater part of our history, Canadian business depended on having a protected market. But by Mulroney''s time, it wanted access to bigger markets - and it wanted access to cheap labour in countries it could bully. So it told Mulroney to get on his horse. The Liberals, also dependent on the support of big business, has long since come back to it's "principle" of free trade.

Principles have nothing to do with what is done by the Liberals or the Conservatives.
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All of us - or almost all of us, are part liberal and part conservative in our views. We want conservative order and we want a conservative society in which we live in cooperation with each other; We want frreedom,  too, though. And we want equality. I know of only two Canadian parties that have been built on those priciples, and that have stuck to them.

The NDP, originating in a church movement called the Social Gospel, has consistently favoured cooperation in the form of social programmes. But it also comes out of the western liberal tradition of equality and individual freedom.

The Green Party's emphasis on the environment is very much in the conservative tradition. But, like the NDP, it also has strrong elements of liberalism in its belief in democracy and individual rights.
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Socialism? We really don't have a socialist party. (No. The NDP is not socialist. The only socialist parties we have are the Liberals and the Conservatives because they are essentially welfare donors for big business.). If we had a socialist party, it would be a mixture of liberal and conservative values.

Communism? In theory, it was supposed to be a mixture of conservative and liberal - but done in a voluntary way by "the people."  But the voluntary part never happened. And the communism in the Soviet Union and China was as purely conservative as one can get - and the ugliest side of conservatism.

In fact, to this day in Russia, people who still call themselves communists are referred to as conservatives.

In the same way, the current US use of tens of thousands of spies to trample on human rights with monitoring of phone calls, credit cards, computer use, etc. is the old, ugly side of conservative, the side that wants to control us.

So, let's all grow up and get over this "I"m a conservative", "I'm a liberal' nonsense. We are, most of us, a combination of liberal and conservative. Anybody who isn't is just another bought and paid for politician.


 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 29: ..a story that wasn't important enough to make the Times and Transcript....

The kids I went to school with were a mixed lot, all from the crowded, jammed together housing of north end Montreal. There were us English-speaking kids of mixed French and British. descent. There were the Italians who lived in a Little Italy just east of the school, where the Italian-Catholic church had (and still has) a huge mural of God and his saints with a glowering Benito Mussolini, sitting among the saints on his white horse.

I had one, lonely, Jewish friend. (Montreal was a heavily racist and segregated city in those days.Nor has it changed nearly as much as some people like to think.

Then there were the Syrians.

Dark-eyed and dark complexioned, they were the children of a Syrian migration that came to Canada in the 1920s. Mr. Ghiz of PEI is probably from that same migration. (They are now called Lebanese because more recent borderlines have placed their native villages inside Lebanon.)

They worked hard in Canada, and did well. Beginning as door to door sellers of thread and other small items, many opened shops in the area. The father of one of my friends was founder of the first chain of dollar stores in Canada.

They were all Christians, members of the Syrian Orthodox Church. I occasionally was invited to the home of the Metropolitan (leader of the whole church in Canada) who lived in the Metropolitan's Palace, the second storey of a large shop on aa busy street where us kids used to go shoplifting.

Recently, a Christian monastery in Syria was looted and burned by "rebels", the side that we support. The bishop was taken to a public square where he was beheaded. The "rebels" then announced they intend to kill all Christians in Syria. Counting Catholics, there are some nine million Christians in  Syria.

All of this was available for world news in plenty of time to make today's TandT. But it didn't.

These are the rebels that the US, Saudi Arabia, Quatar, Turkey, Britain, France have been supporting and supplying since the beginning of the war. (In fact, it is those countries that set up the war in the first place. The US is now stepping up the shipment of weapons to the "rebels" - pretending it  has never done so before, and assuring us all that weapons will not be sent to "bad" "rebels". The bad rebels also have close ties with Al Quaeda, the organization that Mr. Obama has declared evil, and the greatest threat to the western world.

The assurances that the weapons will go only to "good rebels" are ridisulous. Once those weapons hit Syria, they're up for grabs.

As well, the "rebels" almost certainly have acess to chemical weapons, and even nuclear ones. (This is a topic I'll cover in a later post.)

Mr. Harper has gallantly said he supports Mr. Obama's sending of weapons, but will not send any himself. That's called sitting on the fence. It's also a blow to Canada's military-industrial complex which was looking forward to oarms sales.. (Yes, we do have such a complex; and it's closely linked to the US one.. What do you think our new navy and our new air force are all about?)

All of this has to be set in in the context of an Africa and a middle east that are in chaos, largely as a result of more than a century of plundering and brutality by western busiiness with the backing of western governments and armies.

We are on the edge of the greatest crisis the world has ever seen. But no need for New Brunswickers to even think about it.

The big story about Syria in today's TandT is that  "rebels" captured an army post somewhere. Wow! That certainly gives us all we need to know.

Are the editors of the Irving Press hiding news from us? I don't think so. I think they're just lazy, sloppy,and generally ignorant of what's happening in the world. Their real job is to make sure New Brunswickers know nothing of what's going on anywhere. They do that well; and they give each other awards for it.
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I don't know whether the editorial writer is lying or just stupid. What's wrong with shale gas  protesters, he says, is that they don't trust the government or the shale gas companies. That's so true. He might have added they don't trust the lying, biased, and crashingly ignorant Irving press.

He writes that he does not draw any connection between the protesters and criminal acts. Then he draws a connection.

He says the protesters are opposed to all industrical development.   ????? Mr. editorial writer, even you cannot be that stupid and ignorant.

He adds that university professors and other experts have given the opinion that shale gas is good. No, you lying twit. A small number of university professors and "other experts" have said shale gas is good. But these university "experts" have not been experts on that subject. Prof Savoie, for example,  is not and expert on medical issues or invironmental ones.

Environment Minister Craig Leonard has yet to demonstrate any knowledge (or honesty) about anything.

Bill Beliveau's column is similarly contemptible. Apparently, he has never  heard that pipelines leak, and have already caused serious damage in parts of the US. He seems to think that all atmospheric pollution stops inside the Alberta borders, and therefore is quite safe. He is unaware that oil shipped here gets refined here. And the refining, he assumes, has no effect whatever on the atmosphere.

He completely ignores the fact that our climate is changing due to the use of fossil fuels. Over 90% of the world's scientists agree with that - and some of them know even more  about health and the environment than either Prof. Savoie or the other what's-his-name.

We have very little time to work out solutions. And we have a prime minister who not only leads the world in dragging his feet, but has destroyed most environmental protection and research in Canada. (How come the hotshots at the TandT didn't notice that, either.?)

But, duh....a pipeline will give us price leverage over oil...duh... while we're duhing, let's remember "we" won't get leverage on anything because "we" won't own or have any control over that pipline - not any more than "we" have control over any major corporation in this province.

Norbert writes about what he knows best. Nothing - and much of it he has written before - and recently.

Brent Mazerrole contributes a dreamy-eyed story that has no obvious connection with news or opinion.
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The only item in this whole paper worth reading is Gwynne Dyer's on population by 2100. Africa, which now has 1.1 billion people, will have 4.1 billion - this on a continent which suffers starvation now - and starvation already  has some connection  with climate change. And climate change has something to do fossil fuels.

(but, duh, a pipeline would give New Brunswick oil price leverage...duh...)

Niger, which can now, perhaps, with a lot of work and investment, barely support 10 million is going to have to feed 204 million.

The latest estimate of population growth for  the world by 2100 is from the present 7 billion to 11 billion. And that is based on an assumption that present birth rates will decline sharply. If they don't, it could be 25 billion.

But don't worry. It won't. Most of humanity would be dead before we could reach that mark.
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And what's the big news in the Moncton Times and Tribune for today?

"Zoo campaign approaches goal"
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As usual, the current events group will meet in the Moncton library on Tuesday, July 2, and 7 p.m.
A major topic might be the implications of what is happening in Syria, or it might be the biggest story of foreign policy bungling that's ever been kept a secret - but I'm open to suggestions.






 

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 28: Dear editorial staff and owner of all the Irving Press - Wunnerful, Wunnerful, Wunnerful News!


You know all you editorial people, how you've been working so hard to give us faithful readers both sides of the shale gas debate? And how you've done such a good job checking with experts from the shale gas companies and from UdeMoncton? But we also know how you've found it just about impossible to get anything newsworthy out of those terrible, anti-shale gas rabble-rousers? My goodness, even Environment Minister Craig Leonard, always trying to be fair and honest, couldn't even find any anti-shale gas people in the whole state of North Dakota. Well.......
 
Do I  have a great story that you can run in all your newspapers! It was sent to me by a reader who saw it in the Financial Post. You've heard of the Financial Post?  It's generally considered pretty hot stuff in the business world. 
 
Then you can run it on your front page. No charge.
 
To read it, just go to the end of this post. Give me a call if you have trouble with any big words like "hydraulic" or "regulators".  (Financial Post writers can get awfully snooty with their choice of words.)
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Meanwhile, let us spare a moment for today's Moncton TandT.

Page 1. "Elsipogtog wants to keep protests peaceful". Yes, here's a story that says there has been violence over shale gas leading to over 30 arrests. Allison Toogood, the reporter who turned in this gem, shows promise of being another Brent Mazerolle "communications specialist" (spin doctor).

Yes. There were over thirty arrests. But - well - to call them "responses to violence" is - well - not to waste time - it's called lying. Few, if any, of those arrests were caused by protester violence. The charges - all of them or at least most - were "mischief", a catch-all term which means they were standing around when the police moved in on them.

So far as I know, not a single one of the people arrested struck a police officer (or anybody else) or even tried to. The other violence, cutting of trees, etc. did happen. But nobody yet seems to know who did it or why. It could have been thugs hired by the shale gas company so that reporters like you could brand shale gas protesters as dangerous people. That would help the shale gas company to use violence against protesters. (It's been known to happen in other such incidents going back for a hundred years and more.)

The reporter covers herself by acknowledging that no protester violence has been proven - but the implication is clear; and it's hammered home in the last paragraph of the story in which a quotation is used to place the blame for all violence on the protesters - and on them as a group.

That's called unethical reporting.
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The only news story I saw worth reading was in C3 (Group calls for health board votes). The story is well balanced and well written.
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But, oh my, it's astonishing to read a newspaper that has no significant news about the plundering and destruction of Africa that is being forced on that unhappy continent, especially by France and the US.

They also missed on a story that China is trying to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons stockpile. That's pretty suprising, considering that China (and Pakistan) are where North Korea got most of its nuclear know-how in the first place. In fact, there's now a wide-open market in nuclear weapons that covers much of Africa and Asia. And not just for sale to governments but to anybody who can come up with the price. No questions asked. And it's been going on for years. - with the help of American governments going all the way back to Ronald Reagan. (More on that on some Sunday when I have time.)

The editorial isn't offensive, just trivial and boring.

Norbert wallows in misery while still refusing to recognize why New Brunswick's development has been slow. It has a lot to do with the climate of fear and illegitimate interference of money power in this province. But Norbert's never going to say that. He lives off it.

Alec Bruce talks about the passing art of political oratory. There's some truth in what he says. But there are problems. Great orators very seldom actually say anything.Worse, great orators can inspire quite terrible events. Adolph Hitler was a man whose career was made possible by his powers of oratory and drama. Worse, he actually believed what he said._

Even David Suzuki's column, this time on bicycling, is a pretty weak cup of tea. Then we have Michael Sullvan't column....
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In his first three columns, I had hopes he might be a diamond in the rough - very, very rough, but maybe a diamond somewhere deep down. It's looks as though I was dead wrong.

Today's column is so childish, so ignorant of politics, so biased, so ignorant even of the meaning of words that I could do a whole blog on it without touching more than a fraction of its nonsense. He's an all too common type. His idea of a conservative is anyone who agrees with him - though he will admit that some liberals can be good - if they act like what he calls conservatives.

In fact, he has not the faintest idea what a conservative or a liberal is. There are so many like him, living in a cartoon world of good conservatives and evil liberals (or vice versa)

He thinks Stephen Harper is a wonderful leader. We'll forget, for the moment, his massive destruction of almost all environmental protection and research in Canada, his open contempt for democracy...
We'll even pass lightly over his support for free trade (an idea which actually originated in the Liberal Party, and which conservatives viciously opposed for well over a century. We'll also forget the enormous damage that it has inflicted on employment in the US, and which is certain to hit us like a sledge-hammer.)

Incidentally, Canada's (relatively) healthy financial condition, despite Sullivan's claims) has nothing to do with Harper policy. It has to do with Canadian banks that have always been far better regulated (by government law) than American banks.

He says Harper has shown leadership by cutting off funds to corrupt native councils. It's hard to know where to start with this one.
1. Harper has cut funding THAT HE OWES BY TREATY to native peoples. It's not his money. It's not our money. It's theirs.
2.Most native councils already open their salaries and their books to the government. Harper knows that. So why is he, a man whose own party is awash in corruption, greed, and illegal behaviour making such an issue of the native case?

Answer - He is appealing to the idiot brigade that makes up so much of his political support. He is appealing to their bigotry. It's the same thing he's doing with prison terms when he lengthens them despite the evidence this is not only costly but also actually increases crime. Every village idiot in Canada thinks this is a great idea. That's why Harper can get elected.

In the case of native peoples, it's even worse. Harper is making a pitch to bigotry, and bigotry against a people classified (in many minds) as a racial group. That is called racism. I don't know whether Harper himself is really a racist. But those are the people he's trying to win over with his 'crackdown'.

And obviously it works for Mr. Sullivan.

He has defended our Arctic sovereignty? Like hell he has. His policy has been the same as the Liberals. Make noise. Send up a couple of patrol ships. But allow American ships to ignore our claims to sovereignty. The only time an American ship in the Arctic was stopped for trespassing on our sovereignty was by an angered goup of Inuit and their dogs who stood on the ice to block an American icebreaker.

It's a disappointment. but the reality appears to be that Mr. Sullivan knows nothing about politics or economics, or even about the meanings of the words the throws around so loosely. He is simply a self-righteous and intolerant cartoon character who lives in his own cartoon world.

So the TandT is sure to keep him.

And now....today's feature.
 
 
 
 
 

‘They’ve bought everyone’s silence’: Drillers paying out fracking settlements to land owners on one condition — keeping quiet
Jim Efstathiou Jr. and Mark Drajem, Bloomberg News
Thursday, Jun. 6, 2013

A worker switches well heads during a short pause in the water pumping phase, at the site of a natural gas hydraulic fracturing and extraction operation run by Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., outside Rifle, in western Colorado. Brennan Linsley/AP Photo
Chris and Stephanie Hallowich were sure drilling for natural gas near their Pennsylvania home was to blame for the headaches, burning eyes and sore throats they suffered after the work began.
The companies insisted hydraulic fracturing — the technique they used to free underground gas — wasn’t the cause. Nevertheless, in 2011, a year after the family sued, Range Resources Corp. and two other companies agreed to a US$750,000 settlement. In order to collect, the Hallowiches promised not to tell anyone, according to court filings.
The Hallowiches aren’t alone. In cases from Wyoming to Arkansas, Pennsylvania to Texas, drillers have agreed to cash settlements or property buyouts with people who say hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, ruined their water, according to a review by Bloomberg News of hundreds of regulatory and legal filings. In most cases homeowners must agree to keep quiet.
The strategy keeps data from regulators, policymakers, the news media and health researchers, and makes it difficult to challenge the industry’s claim that fracking has never tainted anyone’s water.
“At this point they feel they can get out of this litigation relatively cheaply,” Marc Bern, an attorney with Napoli Bern Ripka Sholnik LLP in New York who has negotiated about 30 settlements on behalf of homeowners, said in an interview. “Virtually on all of our settlements where they paid money they have requested and demanded that there be confidentiality.”
Energy Transformation
Because the agreements are almost always shrouded by non-disclosure pacts — a judge ordered the Hallowich case unsealed after media requests — no one can say for sure how many there are. Some stem from lawsuits, while others result from complaints against the drillers or with regulators that never end up in court.
“We are transforming our energy infrastructure in this country from burning coal for electricity to potentially burning a lot of natural gas,” Aaron Bernstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in an interview. Non-disclosure agreements “have interfered with the ability of scientists and public health experts to understand what is at stake here.”
Gas Alliance
Confidentiality agreements are included in settlements for many reasons and don’t constitute an admission of fault, according to an industry spokesman.
“The practice is common in every type of litigation in every industry,” Dan Whitten, spokesman for America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a Washington-based industry group, said in an e-mail. “It is often the case that it is less burdensome to settle — even on claims that have no merit — than to go into a protracted court battle.”
One driller, Southwestern Energy Co. of Houston, said it agreed to settle a class-action complaint of water contamination in Arkansas last year only if the agreement remained open so there would be no suspicion.
“If we had a confidentiality agreement, everybody would have thought ‘oh gosh, what did Southwestern do here. They got away with something and just paid these guys a pittance,’” said Mark Boling, Southwestern’s general counsel. The US$600,000 the company paid three families was a fraction of what the legal fees would have been to see the case through, he said.
Legal Threat
Another driller, Encana Corp. of Calgary, took a different approach, threatening legal action to keep details of a case out of view of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Laura Amos believed gas drilling near her home in Silt, Colorado, about 160 miles (257 kilometres) west of Denver, was to blame for a tumor she developed. Encana, which owns the well, disagreed that fracking made her sick. Yet the company bought her 30-acre property in 2006 for US$310,000, according to public records.

An Encana fracking site in Colorado. Brennan Linsley/AP Photo
Amos’ complaint and the existence, though not details, of a settlement and non-disclosure pact were disclosed in filings with the oil and gas commission. In December, the agency subpoenaed Amos to testify about a rule it was considering to require water tests. Matt Sura, an environmental attorney in Boulder, Colorado, who represented conservation groups that were seeking Amos’ testimony, said an Encana attorney told him the company would sue Amos if she talked. She didn’t want to face a lawsuit from Encana and Sura said he asked the commission to withdraw the subpoena.
‘Relevant Testimony’
“She had really relevant testimony,” Sura said in an interview. “Because they’ve bought everyone’s silence, they often state that they haven’t damaged anyone.”
In filings with the commission, Amos said gas drilling on a neighbour’s property in 2001 caused her water well to blow out “like a geyser at Yellowstone.” Two years later she said she developed health problems that her doctors could not explain and she believes were related to the drilling.
The commission had concluded that Encana was responsible for methane in Amos’s well, though it said it found no evidence of fracking fluids in her water. Encana disputed the finding yet agreed to a US$99,400 fine and to monitor the well until methane levels dropped.
“Encana settled the Amos case as it had been an issue a predecessor company had been working with since 2001 and rather than continue with a lengthy and costly process, Encana decided to settle,” said Jay Averill, a spokesman for Encana, in an e-mail. He didn’t respond to a question about why the company sought to keep Amos from testifying to the commission.
Amos declined to comment on any aspect of the case when contacted by telephone.
Horizontal Drilling
“Why are they settling all these cases?” Deborah Goldberg, managing attorney with the environment group Earthjustice, said in an interview. “There’s obviously information that they don’t want to get out there.”
Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, said corporations often insist on confidentiality.
“Companies don’t want other potential plaintiffs to know how much money the companies were willing to pay for a settlement,” he said in an e-mail.
Advances in fracking and horizontal drilling have lowered energy prices, created thousands of jobs and helped reduce emissions blamed for global warming. President Barack Obama has highlighted the benefits of natural gas, including jobs created in the industry, in major speeches.
The technology, in which millions of gallons of water and chemicals are forced underground to free trapped gas, has brought drilling operations to within hundreds of feet of schools, homes and farms. With that has come complaints of drinking water contamination — which the industry has forcefully denied.
No Contamination
“There has never been a case of groundwater contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing,” Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing the oil and gas industry, said in an April 23 interview with Bloomberg Radio.
There has never been a case of groundwater contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing
Such claims rest in part on viewing fracking in isolation from the drilling that precedes it and the disposal of wastewater that follows. Defined narrowly, fracking is the step in the middle in which water and chemicals are forced underground to break up rock and free gas and oil.
Regulators in Pennsylvania, however, have linked gas and oil drilling with about 120 cases of water contamination from 2009 to 2012, according to documents obtained through a state right-to-know request. The documents don’t say if it was the fracking stage that was to blame, as opposed to faulty drilling or waste disposal.
Public Concern
“At the end of the day the public is less concerned with the niceties of whether it’s coming from the fracturing of the shale or whether it is coming from the failure of the well casing because as far as they’re concerned, it’s all hydraulic fracturing,” Mark Brownstein, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund in New York, said in an interview.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a long-term study of the potential impact of fracking on water.
Settlement terms in the Hallowich case were unsealed over the objections of the driller, Range Resources, by Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Debbie O’Dell-Seneca who said companies failed to show they’d suffer harm to trade secrets or reputations if the records were open.
Hallowich Case
MarkWest Energy Partners LP and Williams Cos.’s Williams Gas unit joined in the June 2011 agreement, which included the transfer of the Hallowich home in Hickory, about 25 miles (40 kilometres) southwest of Pittsburgh. The family received US$594,820, including US$10,000 for each of their two children. The rest of the US$750,000 went to attorneys’ fees, according to court documents.
Unlike most settlements, the deal required court approval because minor children were parties to the case. That put the settlement in court, where newspapers and public interest groups challenged an order sealing the case.
“We support the judge’s decision to release the file, which now clearly shows that the state’s extensive investigations clearly proved that there were no environmental or health impacts,” Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for Range, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, said in an e-mail. The problems the Hallowiches experienced were from the nuisance of drilling and related activities nearby, he said.
‘Can’t Talk’
As part of the settlement, the Hallowiches signed an affidavit stating there is no medical evidence that their symptoms are related to gas drilling. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had said it “cannot conclude” that drilling contaminated the water, a finding the family disputed in its lawsuit. They alleged the agency refused to adequately investigate and outsourced some of the testing to Range Resources itself.
The Hallowiches declined, through their attorney, to discuss the case.

A fracking protester in California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
“My clients signed a confidentiality agreement,” Peter Villari, their lawyer, said in an interview. “They can’t talk to you.”
In the end, settlements undermine the industry’s credibility, Robert Kennedy Jr., president of the environment group Waterkeeper Alliance, said.
“The industry is asking us to trust it on the one hand, at the same time it’s gagging people who get sick so that they’re not allowed to talk,” Kennedy said in an interview. “Local doctors, the medical community and citizens who are in these areas need to know.”
Ruggiero Case
The outcome of Tim and Christine Ruggiero’s case remains secret — though it didn’t start out that way. For a time, they detailed their travails on a timeline posted online.
The Wise County, Texas, couple had their well water tested in September 2009 before Aruba Petroleum drilled on their property, according to the timeline. The water was found safe to drink. In October, Christine Ruggiero saw a black liquid shooting from the drilling rig and had their water tested again. Those tests showed chemicals linked to gas exploration and fracking such as benzene and acetone, according to the consultant’s report, which was posted online by the anti-fracking website Earthworks.
Tim Ruggiero wrote a blog post on Earthworks in January, 2012, saying: “Our ordeal living in Gasland has ended,” a reference to the 2010 film that documents alleged environmental damage from fracking.
In an interview, he would only say, “The matter has been resolved.” Public records show Aruba, which is based in Plano, Texas, in late 2011 bought his home in Decatur, about 44 miles (71 kilometres) north of Fort Worth. The recorded sale price was US$10 “and other considerations,” according to the deed.
Safety Limits
The EPA tested the Ruggieros’ water and found no evidence of contaminants above the safe-water drinking limits, Jim Lovett, an Aruba executive, said in an interview. An EPA spokeswoman declined to release the results.
“All I’m allowed to say is the dispute has been settled,” Lovett said.
After Jeff and Tina Richardson complained that gas drilling ruined the well water at their home in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, about 100 miles (160 kilometres) northwest of Scranton, Royal Dutch Shell Plc gave them bottled water and paid for a hotel room to shower in. The couple is asking for much more.
Water tests conducted after East Resources Inc. drilled the well revealed methane levels as high as 31 milligrams per litre. The U.S. Interior Department recommends monitoring when levels rise to 10 milligrams, and immediate action at 28.
Shell Purchase
In a May 16, 2012, letter, Pennsylvania regulators said gas drilling had impacted Richardson’s water. Shell provided replacement water even though regulators never directly linked the company to issues with the family’s drinking water, according to Kelly op de Weegh, a spokeswoman for Shell, which is based in The Hague and bought the gas well from East Resources in 2010.
The couple lives in an area where methane naturally seeps into aquifers, op de Weegh said.
Chesapeake Energy Corp. provided a similar explanation after agreeing to pay US$1.6-million to buy three families out of their homes in Terry Township, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles (80 kilometres) northwest of Scranton. The settlement included payment for the properties plus other compensation.
Chesapeake, which is based in Oklahoma City, settled even though there were no water tests at the affected homes before drilling, the company said in a statement.
‘Bring Closure’
“The pre-drill testing that we do have in the area shows that a significant percentage of the residential wells had measurable methane levels prior to any Chesapeake drilling activity in the area,” according to the statement. Chesapeake “has entered into the settlement so the families and the company could bring closure to the matter.”
Richardson declined Shell’s offer of a water filtration system, which he said doesn’t guarantee chemicals used in fracking will be removed. When the couple turned down the offer, Shell stopped paying for hotel showers.
The Richardsons are now seeking a way out of the “dream” house they built in 1993 where today, they only use tap water to flush the toilets.
“We thought we did everything right to protect ourselves,” Richardson, who is 60 and works for a financial services company, said in an interview. “We’re asking for a settlement. At this point they’re refusing to buy us out. I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel safe drinking the water.”
www.bloomberg.com

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 27: "Clouds can be a sign of rain: prof"

That's so true. I'm a prof so, of course, I speak as an expert (just like prof Savoie)  when I say clouds can be a sign of rain. Curiously, the Moncton Times and Transcript has never asked me about it. So I suppose we'll never see the front page headline that I have in the title of this blog.

So why does today's TandT headline read "Crime can derail protest efforts: prof"? I mean, that's right up there with "Walking in the rain can get your feet wet: prof", "Falling asleep naked in the sun can cause sunburn: prof".  Reading the TandT every day can make you retarded: prof".

In fact, that's not even what the story is all about. The sub head says it's about "Local observers  say that overall, shale gas opponents have been doing a good job at expressing concerns." Well, that's certainly true (despite an error in punctuation). But it is a different story from the one suggested in the headline - and still not the one that the news story is about.

In fact, the news story is a whole jumble of stories, some about arrests, some about peaceful demonstrations, some about arguments for and against shale gas. There's also another "prof says" that protest movement can be much bigger than they seem."

This isn't a news story. This is a yard sale of gossip, rumour, and speculation. So why the screaming, lead headline? There are several  possibilities.. Consider the following:

1. It does NOT say that crime can help the shale gas company by portraying protesters as violent and dangerous ciminals.
2. It does NOT say that it can also be used to justify a broader use of police powers.
3. It DOES, by insinuation, connect the protesters to the violence - pointing again to the arrests. But it does NOT mention that the arrests had nothing to do with protester violence - and it does NOT provide any evidence that it was protesters who did the most recent violence.

Now, put 1, 2 and 3 together, and that would equally justify a headline that would read "Damage done to shale gas equipment was done by company:prof". I'm sure they can find a prof to say that. In fact, I'll volunteer. (send a photographer).

My story would be just as valid as the one they ran. That is, it wouldn't be valid at all. So why did the the TandT run such a bizarre story - and run it as the story of the day? I can't even pretend to know.

It could be sheer incompetence. (I have faith in the ability of the Irving press to produce work of stunning incompetence. Indeed, it is commonly as incompetent as it is unethical.)

It could be an attempt to link the violence to protesters  (all of them) while at the same time appearing to take a balanced approach.

The only safe conclusion I can come to is that this story is trash, and should never have made it into print.
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In NewsToday, the hot items are on the last page- as in the story which is really just a big, colour photo of a man who won Via Rail tickets to Montreal. In another top story - also mostly just a colour photo - the IODE has given pictures of the Queen to five schools.

The news YOU need to know.

In fairness, there's also a story on p. 3 about Edward Snowden, the American  spying contractor who revealed the US has been illegally and unconstitutionally spying on millions of Americans and many millions more all over the world - including , almost certainly, a great number of Canadians. Of course, the story doesn't tell us anything about that part of it.

No. The big story is that he doesn't seem to be at Moscow airport. So I checked my clothes closet. Nope. He's not there either. Watch tomorrow's front page:
"Snowden not in my clothes closet: expert prof".
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On ed and op ed, good column by Alec Bruce and Jody Dallaire. Three excellent Letters to the editor:
"Editorial showed lack of compassion for poor", "Council made right decision", "Be constructive with solutions".

And that's it for an edition pretty boring and irrelevant even by Irving press standards. So we have a moment for something else.
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As you may know, we are re-enacting the march of Atlantic colonies soldiers from Fredericton to Quebec in the War of 1812. The theory is that this will inform us about history, and will make us patriotic.

You want to get informed about  history and the war of 1812 with a re-enactment? Okay. Let's really re-enact it. And be sure to bring the kiddies.

First, invite Americans armed with sword and musket to cross the border, killing civilians as they go. When they are forced to retreat have them burn a town on the way, slashing civilian's throats as they flee their burning houses.

Oh, be sure to include native peoples. They were crucial for British intelligence of American movements. As well, Americans were terrified of them as warriors. Early in the war, the American commander of Detroit, who had an army superior in position and numbers to the British and native peoples facing him, surrendered out of pure fear of the native warriors.

Line men up in blue and red uniforms. (Not pretty uniforms - filthy ones that they've worn for weeks, even months, without cleaning. Have them fire lead balls into each other at close range. The combination of filthy clothes with a lead ball  smashing itself  and the cloth into them will create hundreds of wounded for which there were no disinfectants. So, here you lay them on on the ground and hire doctors to cut off limbs without disinfectant or anaesthetic.

Then we all stand and listen to O Canada played on a dreadful school PA system, and go home feeling patriotic.

1812 was an invasion, not a parade. Not a party. There was death. There was dreadful injury. There were masses of  orphans and widows and impoverished.

It was not a tiff between friends. Nations are NOT friends. That illusion is for politicians who want to make us think so. But it's pure illusion.

The US committed mass murder of its native peoples (as we did when it was convenient to do so). Then it hit us and killed us for the same reason it killed its native peoples - to get more land. Then it invaded its Mexican neighbours - for the same reason. That's why so many places in Texas, Arizona and California still have Spanish names.

Then it sponsored another invasion of Canada by Irish veterans of the US civil war. One of the reasons "our friend" Britain encouraged confederation was to get rid of Canada so it would not get sucked into another war defending us. (But it soon had to change its mind when it realized it needed both Canada and the US to hold off a rising Germany.)

The US became a threat again in a dispute over the border between Alaska and Canada. Britain cast the deciding vote in favour of the US border claim because it had no intention of risking a war to help Canada when it so desperately needed US support for the Great War coming. (God bless our Gracious Queen).

To this day, the only country in the world in a position to attack Canada is the US. But it doesn't have to. It can simply ignore our laws - as it does in its use of our Arctic waters over the past forty years or so. And our business leaders tell us the US is our friend - because it's their biggest market. So we now have to fight American wars as we used to fight British wars.

The War of 1812 celebrations have nothing to do with  history - except that they misrepresent it and trivialize it into pretty shows.

Nor do the celebrations or the listening to O Canada have anything to do with patriotism. But that's another story.
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Oh - an important note. My birthday is in two months. (You'll want that time to plan.)

 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 26: Mr. Editorial Writer - ignorant? stupid? lying? All three?

It's a bizarre editorial even without the possibilities of ignorance, stupidity or lying. It's an editorial about all the advantages for us in the declining value of the Canadian dollar. Okay. That part is reasonable enough.

But the conclusion, without any attempt to connect it to the rest of the editorial, is that we need to develop shale gas. This - seriously - would get a failing grade as a high school paper.

It admits the "possibility" that climate change (with the disastrous effets we are seeing in Alberta) is the result of using fossil fuels to produce energy. Hurray. Most of the world's scientists have just won a nod from no less that an editorial writer of The Moncton Times and Transcript. I'll bet scientists all over the world are bustin' their buttons over that.

But, says the editorial writer, we have to continue using fossil fuels for generations because we have no other adequate means to produce energy.

Huh?

He begins by admitting that the use of fossil fuels is destructive. Indeed, we have strong evidence that the damage to climate will be irreversible in the near future. And that will mean mass starvation, mass disease, and a general collapse of human society.

But, says the editor, we have to keep using fossil fuels for generations. You utter twit! If we continue to rely on fossil fuels, there won't be any people here  for many more generations.

Duh...gotta use more fossil fuels. You can't, Mr. editorial writer. Are you really so stupid you cannot understand that? It's not a matter of will or decision making or any of those controllable things. We are not humanly able to carry on using fossil fuels.

And we don't have any substitute source of energy? Well, that might have something to do with the fact that our Prime Minister has cancelled virtually all research into climate change, environmental protection, and energy. Obama has been just as slow.

And this slowness has been encouraged by massive investment from the oil industry to spread propaganda, especially through "think tanks" like our very own Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

Greed makes the greedy stupid and short-sighted. And, living in New Brunswick, we've had the experience of watching this up close.

Then the editor tells us that natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels. Again, it's hard to tell whether this is lying or stupidity. Natrual gas is the cleanest - but only very slightly; and not enough to make any difference. Indeed, it may be worse due to factors in extracting it. Even at that, it's slightly cleaner only if we ignore that fact that we have no safe way to dispose of its highly toxic waste.

I really don't know what to call this editorial - there's a case to be made for ignorant, for lying, for immoral, for sheer stupidity. Pick your own favourite.

The rest of the editorial and op ed pages is the usual. That's okay for Alec Bruce and, this time, for Brian Cormier. Norbert's column, if void of anything worth reading about, is at least better than it is when he has an opinion to express. Eric Lewis' "opinion" column consists of free ads for famous, local pop groups that nobody ever heard of.
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Page 1 of News Today has an interesting story about the Alberta floods. University of Waterloo researchers working with the home insurance business warn that the flooding of Calgary was almost certainly the result of climate change, that we can expect much more of this in the future right across Canada - and the world - and that it will make home iinsurance impossible.

Insurance sompanies already knew that. That's why they usually don't insure against any flooding that goes beyond basement level. But now, even basement flooding is so common it has taken the lead over fire as the top insurance risk. So the insurance companies plan to get rid of all such business.

But,...duh...we need fossil fuels to provide energy for generations to come...duh.

 There is no condition more destructive than the supidity generated by greed and power.
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The only other story in the paper that caught my attention is one of confrontation and damage at a seismic testing site. It's on page 2 of Section A. And that's surely strange. A story like this  for the TandT would normally be front page, with big pictures of the damage. I mean, what a wonderful chance to attack proresters as vicious terrorists! But they bury it as a small story on p. 2 - and with surprisingly little information in it.

They do have a typical TandT paragraph in there, though. It says most protests have been peaceful. BUT there have been 33 arrests made by police. Very cute. Here's a paragraph that links the protests with violence - nicely ignoring the fact that NONE of the arrests was for violence.
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What didn't make the TandT?

Well, yesterday's Huffington Post had an interesting story. Recently, when Justin Trudeau was answering questions from reporters just outside the Parliament  building, there was a crowd of protesters behind him waving signs for the TV cameras to say was a terrible person Trudeau was.  Huffington Post, unlike the TandT,  has people who ask question. They got pictures and names of all the demonstrators.

They were all parliamentary interns hired by the Conservative Party. And the whole demonstration was organized in and directed from Mr. Harper's office.
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I have just learned of a set of rules laid down our own Alward/Irving government a year ago. It prohibits medical staff from "acts, omissions, statements, demeanour, or professional or personal conduct which is, or is reasonably likely to be, detreminental to ,,,(Horizon Health Network.).

In plain language, this is a muzzle law. Medical staff are forbidden to tell us anything the government doesn't what us to know. We are not allowed to get any information the government doesn't want us to have.

This, with no exaggerration, is an attack on the human rights that should exist in any society that calls itself  a democracy. It's an attack on the rights of medical staff. It's an attack on our rights.

I am trying now to find our whether medical staff accepted this because, if so, they have made one hell of a big mistake. This is the kind of law that all of us have to defy - even at the price of going to jail. It is an attack on a fundamental principal of democracy and the human rights of all of us.

And if you support this sort of law, please don't spew me any bullshit about how we live in a democracy. Leave this to the professional bullshitters at Irving press.
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A final note - yesterday, I was somewhat critical of a reporter who wrote a front page story that was highly unethical, and really no more than a propaganda piece for SWN. Among other things, he mentioned that a web petition circulated by anti-shale gas people has not attracted as many names as hoped for - and that this indicated the movement was losing strength

I treated that as simply the piece of propaganda it was. But I should have added a couple of points to illustrate why this is dishonest and incompetent reporting.

1. A very recent and very reputable poll which was reported in the Tand T showed that support for shale gas protesters is much, much higher than   generally realized. Indeed, the poll suggested that support is so high there is no chance of that reversing.
The reporter surely knew that. Yet, based on evidence that was very flimsy indeed, he came to a very different conclusion. Indeed, coming to any conclusion is not the job of a reporter. His job is to report what he sees and hears - not to draw judgements. When a reporter makes his own opinion a part of the story, he is simply smart-assing. And a good or even passably competent editor would have deleted it.
2. Why would people be reluctant to sign a petition.?
Hey! You're a reporter living in New Brunswick. You know what happens to people in New Brunswick who have opinions that are not acceptable to the handful of corporation bosses who run this place?
They get fired from their jobs. That's what happens. And the power of those bosses reaches down through every level of business and society. That means no job. Not anywhere. How is it possible to be a journalist in New Brunswick and not know that?
When you live in a province where people are so scared that they won't even express dangerous political opinions in public, you can bet you're not going to get many signatures on a public petition - not unless it's for the creation of another hall of fame to put Mr. Irving in..
Heil. Heil. Sieg Heil.

 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 25: mea culpa...

sorry to be late today. I had an appointment with a doctor. (I'm approaching that age at which one's social circle is made up largely of doctors, undertaker salespeople and evangelists giving it their last, best shot.)

Anyway -I missed a biggie in yesterday's paper. The letter from medical staff at Sackville Memorial Hospital made it. It got into letters to the editor. Yes, they wrote a letter warning about the dangers of shale gas  and fracking - and it took only two weeks for it to appear in Letters to the Editor.

Of course, it wasn't important enough to be letter of the day. That honour was reserved for a much more important letter on how mothers should relax more.

Sorry I didn't notice the medical letter yesterday. So I started with Letters to the Editor today.

The Letter of the Day is an blistering attack on protesters and anybody who disagrees with anything the government(s) want to do to improve our economy. These are our greatest stumbling blocks to progress. Yes, he writes, particularly trade unions and opposition parties.

And I could hear the applause arising from the graves of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung - and the cheers of Heil! Heil! Sieg Heil! But I assure the writer we do have a dictator just like the good, old ones. The Liberals and Conservative are just his party clothes. And his leadership is working.

Trade unions try to improve the economy by getting a couple of extra dollars in people`s pockets. But our dictator takes billions at a time in tax reductions and special contracts and favours. And some day he`ll give it all back to us because he`s a wealth creator and a philantopist. Read Norbert. He explains it better than I could.

I wondered what bozo could possible have selected this anti-democratic and ill-informed letter for Letter of the Day. Then I noticed the name of the responsible editor - Rod Allen. And I`ll bet that letter wasn`t sitting on his desk for two weeks while he made up his mind.
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The front page has a picture for the big news of the day. Workmen are painting the big lobster in Shediac. I`m so relieved. There`s nothing worse than a main st. with a big, concrete lobster that needs paint.

The lead story is interesting.``Police probe vandal reports``.

It`s a report on reports of vandalism at shale sites. There is no evidence whatever of who did these things or why. But reporter Cole Harrison uses most of the column to spread company rumours that the vandals were anti-shale gas protesters.

To the reporter - this is bloody awful journalism. Your job is to report what you know, not to spread rumours and to make smart-ass guesses.

Harrison also notes that ``about`` nine trees were cut down to block a road. Cole, back in school, were you weak in math. Can`t you count as high as nine or even a little bit more (at this point my computer is going wacky, won`t print question marks - and other oddities. Bear with me.)

Cole, you didn`t even see those trees - did you. You simply took somebody`s word. And you tossed around hints that you had no proof for whatever. I lived through jounalism of that sort in separatist Quebec (both English and French). I see no reason to respect it here.

This was then linked to the arrest of proesters several days ago - though no reason is given to link the various incidents. Then it goes one, a t length, to link it all with people who protested quite legally and peacefully - and certainly had no connection at all with the original story. Then it went on to imply at length that the anti-shale gas movement is losing support. Even if true (which I doubt), what the hell does that have to do with the story.

This isn`t a report. It`s propaganda, and crap propaganda at that. And it most certainly isn``t journalism of any sort. Obviously you and your editor are either ignorant of that or you are willing liars.

Incidentally - a good reporter asks - who stands to gain from these reports of vandalism. That`s not a an idle question. We`re dealing with an industry that has a long history of ruthlessness and corruption. A good reporter checks around for both sides.

I think it`s quite possible we`re going to see violence. But I`ve seen far too much of this sort of thing to think it`s going to come from the protesters.

The other big news is that sticky buns are selling well in Alma. It`s a big story on p. 7. (I hear that sticky buns go well with concrete lobster.)
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NewsToday`s big item is `that Impact of Shale Industry Considered. Even the headline is a lie because that`s not what the story is about. It`s about Environment Minister Craig Leonard visiting North Dakota. (No. Don`t get you hopes up. He`s coming back.)

And the whole story is about the only thing Mr. Leonard does well - kissing up to the boss. It`s his personal report on how North Dakota has shale gas, and everything is wonderful and everybody is happy, happy, happy.
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The editorial is not terrible. It`s just boring, partly because The editorial writer is giving advice on a subject he knows nothing about. - but, that`s what most editorials are in other papers, too.

Norbert is back to his usual form of writing a column based on something he read and found interesting, but few others will. He closes with a quotation from Shakespeare to the effect that big fish eat little ones. Very true. He should remember that next time he writes a kiss-up column for Mr. Irving.
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Alec Bruce`s column is, to put it gently, a disappointment. He defends seismic testing for shale gas on the grounds that it`s used in building highways, and causes no problems. I`d like to believe he`s a simple-minded as that statement suggests. But he`s not simple-minded.

The protest against seismic testing is not that it`s being used to build roads. It`s because it`s being used as a step to fracking for shale gas. Mr. Bruce knows that. Unlike most of the people at Irving press, he`s very intelligent.

Once seismic testing gets through, then the next step - drilling - will be easy - and then we`re done for.

The medical profession is close to unanimous on that. Our own Chief Medical Officer has told us that. But Norbert, perhaps because his moustache blocks the passage of air to his brain, prefers to ignore the opinion of medical experts. (It is signicant Norbert has NEVER referred to Dr. Cleary as an expert. But he refers to a person who know nothing about medecine, Professor Savoie, as an expert every time he mentions his name. It`s also significant that the TandT could publish a letter like the one it got from Sackville medical staff - and not say a word about it. At the same time, when Craig Leonard goes to North Dakota and wets his pants over shale gas, it`s the lead story in NewsToday.)

Shale gas is a scam. It`s dangerous scam. It`s a destructive scam. It`s a deadly scam. It`s a greedy and thoughtless scam. It`s a scam that`s going to leave with millions or billions of gallone of toxic waste - with not idea of how to dispose of it. And it`s being pushed by some of this world`s most ruthless people, aided by the worst newspapers and most shameless political hacks I have ever seen.

And, Alec, only a fool could believe that this is  harmless. And, Alec, you are not a fool.

Alan Cochrane has a column which, as an historian, I find objectionable. Collecting trinkets is not history. Like the very silly War of 1812 Events and the reenactment of the march of Atlantic soldiers to Quebec, this is a trivialization of history - in the latter two cases it`s a trivialization in order to get hold of tax payers`` money to build support for Harper`s Conservatives.

Going gaga over a brass plate from an engine is not learning about history. History is about learning to think, to make judgements,  to understand. Alan Cochrane shows no sign of doing any of those.

For relief, there`s a useful columnn for seniors by Louise Gilbert.
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There was no news about a local hero named Robert Goguen.

Ottawa recently passed a new law (C-309) making it a crime to cover your face at an unlawful assembly. What is an unlawful assembly (quiestion mark). Well, an unlawful assembly is one the police say is unlawful. And they can decide that, then start arresting within a second. They can (and I`ve seen them do it) open up with tear gas.

And if you`re standing around, innocent as they come, anywhere in the area, and you hold a handkerchief to cover your nose or eyes - then you can be arrested for covering your face at an unlawful assembly.

Originally, the penalty was to have been five years in jail. But Conservative MP Robert Goguen was the man of the hour. He changed it to ten years in jail. Thanks to Robert Goguen, we can all sleep better tonight. (In other cities, people like Robert Goguen get placed in sheltered workshops. In Moncton, they get elected.)

Oh - the police, of course, are allowed to cover their faces. visors do it very well. They are also known to cover their ID numbers before wading in with slubs. That`s one reason why police almost never get charged for provoking a riot.
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The TandT (along with the rest of the Irving press) must be the only newspaper in the world not covering the case of Edward Snowden, the intelligence analyst who revealed that the US government has been massively spying on just about everybody (in violation of constitutional rights.) Obama is after  him now to arrest him on trumped-up charges, hold him for years without trialin solitary and with torture, and then set him up in a rigged tribunal to be sentenced to life in solitary - with every step in this process contrary to the American constitution.. (As he is now doing to Private Manning, another man guilty of telling the truth.)

Most countries do that, of  course. Britain spies on the British people on a similar scale. It also spies on the US. The US, for that matter, spies on Britain, Turkey, Israel - just about everybody - and Israel spies on Canada and the US. Has Harper involved Canada.  Of course he has. Remember - he signed an absurd deal in which US police can operate in Canada as fully and as easily as they can in the US.
Welcome to Big Brother.
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I`m reading an excellent and well-researched book on how Pakistan got the money and equipment to build a nuclear arsenal. It`s an extraordinary story about a wildly irresponsible and heavily militarized at every level, Pakistan, and how it got the money and equipment to build a nuclear arsenal itis almost certain to use - from the US. It`s also a story about how every president from Ronald Reagan knew what was going on, lied about it to Congress (which is illegal), and covered for it.

I`ve always complained that the TandT is one of the very few newspapers I have known that does not carry book reviews. So I might try to do this one for a Sunday edition of this blog. (but it`s a slow read - filled with names of strange places I`ve never heard, of obsure organizations, made more confusing because half the population of Pakistan seems to be named Khan.
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Oh - a parting note. Somewhere in the paper, a story used the word ``parameters`` to mean boundaries. In fact, that is not what the word means. It is misused, though, by pompous assees who want to sound important. Somebody please tell this to Irving press editors.



 

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 24: What's to say?

"Seismic testing not new in N.B."

That's a "read it while it's hot" front-page story in today's TandT. And it flunks Journalism 101.

1. Nobody has ever said seismic is new. That is not what the demonstrations are about.
2. The story  is entirely based on an interview with one man who has an interest in making sure the testing happens. That's it. And that is not news. That is propaganda.
3.We all know there won't be any fracking unless seismic testing finds enough gas to make it worthwhile.
 The point is WE DON'T WANT SHALE GAS UNTIL WE SEE SOME PRETTY SOLID EVIDENCE IT IS SAFE. We don't have that evidence - and there seems not the slightest chance either the companies or the government will allow us to see any evidence.

If it weren't for shale gas, there would be no point in fracking in the first place. That's why we're trying to stop the whole process right there. We want the TandT to stop lying and to stop telling just one side of the story. In short, we want to see an end to unethical "news" stories like this one on the front page.
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The rest of Section A is the usual dullsville. There are two pages, - lord - two MORE pages - of graduations and what speakers said.  You know - "grads are encouraged to give back",
urged to live life to the fullest", "stay connected". (It's so messy to become disconnected.)

Yeah, yeah, yeah.. and.it would be so refreshing to hear an honest speech - "Make yourself useful to the rich, become a corporation boss, get richer by ripping off the taxpayers through your buddies in government, and learn how to hide your own money offshore."

"Then a university will give you an honorary doctorate: and the Irving press will call you a philantropist."
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There's zip in NewsToday.

Those with a sour sense of humour will enjoy a story at the bottom of the Your Business page. Jim Flaherty, our finance minister and his advisors, have decided there is nothing to this nonsense about overseas bank accounts. Corporate bosses have perfectly good reasons for doing so  - though he doesn't mention any.

He also recognizes that they are piling up record profits while the rest of us are getting poorer. But, you see, "increased cash holdings,,," just reflect ..."...a change in the way that firms operate..."

Oh, well. That clears it all up.

The story does, briefly, mention that the rise in business profits is largely due to corporate tax cuts (which have to be made up by guess who). But that is immediately disputed by an anonymous person who says they are investing at a frantic page. (Funny how that latter part hasn't shown up in our employment or poverty figures.)
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After the pages of graduation speeches. we get another one in the editorial. Like most graduation speeches, this one is a real yawner.  The only good line is the last one. It's actually a quotation. But the editorial writer does not bother to show that, not even with quotation marks.

And that reminds me.  Here's a poem I've been working on...

    Should auld acquaintance be forgot
    And never brought to mind,
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot
    And days of auld lang syne..

I might put it to music... let me know if you have any ideas.
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Norbert continues his series which has been, essentially, about looking in a mirror and liking what he sees.The only discussion point about this one is whether it's even sillier than the others. Well....
there is one thing he mentions that should be discussed.

He refers again to Professor's Savoie's columns supporting shale gas (and other ventures), and he mentions once again that Professor Savoie is an expert in public policy.  Now, Norbert may not know what a public policy expert is; (in fact, he almost certainly doesn't know.) But Professor Savoie does know.

He knows that in advocating the development of shale gas, he was speaking on issues - like health and environment - on which he is NOT an expert. Being an expert on public policy does NOT make one an expert on everything.  I can believe that Norbert is too thick to understand that. But if I were to say that Professor Savoie does not understand what a public policy scholar is, I would surely be insulting him. Of course, he knows.

He knows that  a public policy planner - even one who is an expert in the field- is not necessarily an expert in line dancing or high jumping, or even changing a flat tire. He is certainly not an expert on health or on the environment. He knows that.

But he wrote newspaper columns using his status as an "expert" to advocate a venture with profound implications for health and the environment. He did so in direct defiance of someone who is, unlike him, an expert in health. He knows that his opinion has been quoted as an expert in a field in which he is not an expert at all.

Scholars, like journalists, are supposed to have ethics. Professor Savoie should never have given advice without making it clear that in some elements of it he was not an expert at all. And as soon as Norbert and others in the Irving press began misusing the word 'expert' in relation to him, he should have made it public what a public policy planner is - and what he is NOT.

But he didn't do it. In that, he joins another UdeMoncton professor who jumped in for big business on the shale gas proposals, not only pronouncing on questions of which he knew nothing, but doing a half-assed job even of that.

Frankly, that gives UdeMoncton one hell of a reputation. Both professors should make public statements clarifying what qualifications they have - and don't have.

Failing that, the university should investigate and take appropriate action. But it won't.

I first saw U de Moncton over forty years ago when I attended a conference there. It was impressive to see what a small and neglected community had accomplished. I was impressed by the commitment of the professors I met. I still remember the wonderful museum of old, Acadian furniture, much of it gathered by (as I remember it) elderly women who did it as a labour of love.

It's sad to see it now, like so much else in the province, corrupted by big business, with professors who dance whenever Their strings are pulled.
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Was there anything in this edition worth reading? Yes.

Steve Malloy, once again, takes a commonplace happening that most of us wouldn't even have noticed. And he sees something in it that gives us something to think about. It seems like a small point. In fact, it think it says a lot about the way our world is going.

(For those readers in Canada, the US, Asia, Europe - quite a few, actually - who are sorely deprived of access to the Moncton TandT, it's about the latest Superman movie in which the model of heroism, compassion, and good for the first time deliberately kills a man. He does it by breaking the man's neck.

No big deal? Malloy thinks it is. So do I. It's a powerful illustration of the changes in our sense of morality over the seventy-odd years of Superman's life.
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Oh - Superman's alter ego is Clark Kent, a reporter for the Daily Planet.  Did you know that makes him a Canadian? And why?

 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 22: Why?

the big story, front page special report covers the best part of a whole page. Why? It says almost nothing. This is essentially a feel good story about how the downtown area is just booming., a really exciting people place. It reminds me of the one that appeared just before Christnas about how Main St. was wild with shoppers, and stores were jammed. (Poor me with my lack of reportorial skills. I walked along Main that same day and saw nothing special.)

I've been in a lot of downtowns in a lot big cities and small ones. Moncton's downtown is not exciting, not by any standard. As a tourist, there are many, many things I would come to see in New Brunswick. But downtown Moncton is not one of them. Nor is it likely to be. So why these gushy articles?

They're probably boosterism for the hockey rink - oops, sorry - events centre that the TandT has been shilling for over recent years. Wonderful things are going to happen - yes, yes.

And the shale gas protest that's been going on for some time now on  rte. 126?  You'll find that on p. 4 way, way down at the bottom in just four sentences. Count them - four.

The report is from Canadian Press. Of course, they had to buy it from CP. The TandT couldn't spare a reporter. My goodness, they had that big story on downtown to cover - and page after page talking about high school graduations - along with picture after picture, most of which look very much like the picture just before the the one you're looking at. So you didn't get the picture of a long line of police facing down a crowd about half their number, and largely made up of women and elderly people.

(Incidentally, Mr. Editorial writer, none of the protesters was wearing a mask. So far, the only one wearing a mask is you.)

Why was that story so brief and so hidden?
1. after the release of a poll that shows the anti-fracking movement to be suprisingly strong and large, the TandT is not anxious to give it any publicity.
2. There is also some evidence of a division among native peoples that premier Alward is anxious to exploit. Pictures of arrests of native women don't help Alward in that.
I would dearly love more information about that split because when and if we do hear about it from the TandT, it will have a strong slant.
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The only news that is happening in the world is the flooding in Alberta. The story is more than a full page, but still doesn't have enough room to mention what will happen if flooding hits the tailingponds (toxic waste) of the oilsands.

Syria didn't make the cut to deserve a  news story in the TandT, even though Obama has taken a giant step to bringing about a confrontation in Syria that could involve a total of at least six nuclear powers facing each other down. The declared reason is that the Syrian government is using poison gas. Obama is almost certainly lying. (See the op ed column by Gwynne Dyer).

That whole region is collapsing into chaos, largely the result of the walking disaster we call American foreign policy. Obama is Bush. And both Obama and Bush are puppets of big business in the US. And big business is as incompetent to run the US government as the Irvings are to run the New Brunswick government.
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The editorial page is as usual. Bill Beliveau writes a defence of Justin Trudeau for accepting a fee for speaking for a charity group.  Just about everyone else has written this off as no longer worth discussing. But, what the hell, Trudeau is a Liberal - so he must be defended for all eternity.

I wonder if I could annoy Bill Beliveau into writing a denial that Liberal Mackenzie King regularly resorted to prostitutes in Ottawa?
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Norbert steams along with his series on rebuilding New Brunswick's economy. One of his latest ideas is advertising to attract Chinese millionaires for 'eco-tours' of our wilderness. Not a good idea, Norbert. Chinese millionaires are even less interested in ecosystems than New Brunswick millionaires are.

Tell you what, though. They might come from half way around the world for the thrill of walking along Main St.
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Brent Mazerolle once again shows that it's possible to write a whole column without having anything to say.
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Gwynne Dyer is superb.
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As the Faith page shows, our churches are busier than ever doing the Lord's work with pancake suppers and yard sales and, oh, just everything.  Jesus was pretty slack on that. I mean - you've got the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and the stunt with changing water into wine. But - zip - that's it. And not a single pancake supper in the lot.

Jesus spent more time being critical critical of those with wealth, status, and power...from the local rabbi all the way to Pontius Pilate. I haven't seen much (or any) of that side of Jesus on the Faith page.

Friday, June 21, 2013

June 21: Ain't nuthin' t'see folks. Just keep movin'.....

We won't talk about anything in the news section. There's nothing there that you couldn't find on google news - or on a radio or TV newscast - yesterday. And both radio and TV do it better. There isn't even a good example of bad reporting. So let's talk about the editorial and op ed pages.

The editorial has admitted what yesterday's news story did not. The opposition to shale gas development is strong. But, pig-headed as usual, the editorial writer simply decides the majority is wrong - and they have to be propagandized better.

The government has to do a better selling job. Now, here's a government which has lied and covered up for years on this issue. And here's an editorial writer who has lied and covered up. And what's his/her solution? We have to do a better job oof lying and covering up.

In short, this twit thinks the answer is more propaganda. He doesn't suggest the government give fuller information which, one would think, is what a government in a democracy is supposed to do. No. It should do a better job of lying.

He's quite specific - "must do a better job of talking about benefits". In a democracy, a government is supposed to do a good job talking about both sides and providing information. But the editorial writer sees the government and the newspaper as having the same responsibility - to act as whores for the shale gas industry.

In keeping with that, the editorial calls attention to a statement of huge benefits to shower on all of us. It quotes everybody's friend, Frank McKenna.

Look -the great appeal of being premier of New Brunswick is to be a smooth servant to the boss. Do that, and your future is assured. Show you can handle things, deliver what the boss wants, do it smoothly, be really slick - and the rewards await you when your term is over.

(Alward and Graham will get some rewards - but not much. Smooth and slick is exactly what they are not. But Frank McKenna's a rich man. That's because he's very useful; and everybody loves him, so he can go on being useful to the right people.. But he knows where his money comes from. Perfect.)
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Alec Bruce's column is good to the last paragraph - and then it's disturbing.

He, too, says what the newspaper story of yesterday tried to hide - that a majority doesn't want shale gas. But then he says that if the government believes we need it, it should go on, anyway "safely, responsibly and openly, of course".

But in all the years this has been going on, the government, the shale gas companies - and the TandT - have never been any of those three. And there is not the slightest reason to believe they will change.

That really means that Bruce is advising - go ahead with it, anway.

And what that really, really means is immoral and undemocratic.

It is immoral to expose hundreds of thousands of people to what medical professionals warn us is very dangerous. It is immoral to expose the environment in which we all must live to very serious damage. it is undemocratic to lie to the public, then ram a dangerous scheme down their throats.

But ramming it is precisely what the government and and the companies (and the Irving press) are going to do.

It is wildly irresponsible to jeoparidize law and order as that might well do. (But don't worry. They'll blame the protesters, and call out the police.)

And to encourage the use of fossil fuels at a time when that threatens our climate and our survival is bloody insane.
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Norbert continues his series which should be published in a book called "Things That I Know Nothing About".

Look, Norbert. The key problem we face, the one you refuse to look at, is that big business has taken over governments (none more so than NB), and is using its power to enrich itself by impoverishing everybody else.

Every year, for decades, the rich have been getting richer while most of us are getting poorer. The rich have done that by corrupting governments, by hiding profits, by creating recessions so they can lower wages, by making government cut essential services.

In the US, for example, some 50 million Americans are living (barely) on food stamps. But the US plans to cut the food stamp programme so it won't have to raise taxes for the rich - you know, the ones who drove the banks broke, then got the taxpayers to bail them out. and then gave multi-million dollar bonusses to each other.

Where does that lead us?

Well, one possibility is the medieval world where lords of little brain lived well off a peasantry that starved.

More immediately, it leads us to a police state which budgets enormous sums of money to spy on all of us, and to control us with fear. (and if you think that is not happening in Canada, you're too naive to go outdoors all by yourself.)

It leads to violence. You can see it coming in parts of Europe. It leads to fascism. We already have the fascism part in NB and, in fact, in much of North America.

It also leads to the breakdown of any form of capitalism. I mean, when it gets to the point where one percent have most of the money in this world, who are the rich going to sell their products to?  Big business is good at being greedy and ruthless. But brains is not its strong point.

And I'll take this space to touch on another point which has annoyed me about Norbert and others. Whenever they speak of programmes to help the poor - or just to keep them alive, they foam at the mouth at the idea that the poor have a sense of entitlement, that they think they deserve this. What scum those poor must be!

The idea that billionaires deserve all they have, that they are entitled to make more money while having a coffee than most people make in a year of hard work -now, that strikes me as one hell of a sense of entitlement.   

For the most part, the poor work a lot harder than the rich. And they have a right to benefit from the land and all it produces  just as much as the rich do. Maybe more - because without their work, damn little of the wealth of this land would ever get to market.

Yes, we're entitled. We are all entitled to share this earth. Billionaires did not create it. Billionaires do not work it. And for billionaires and their flunkies like Norbert to sneer at the idea that the rest of us are entitled to anything is ignorant and contemptible.

Oh - while I'm at it -big business does NOT create either wealth or jobs. The wealth in our earth is created by all of us who work on it. As for jobs, Big business doesn not exist to create either jobs or prosperity. It exists solely to make profits.

What it does then, is to use technology to replace jobs. (It does not exist to create jobs. It exists to get rid of as many jobs as it can.)

And it uses free trade to pull out of any country that offers decent wages, and to move its operations to where people will work in dangerous conditions, with no social programmes, for two dollars a day.

There are some days when Norbert really annoys me.
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Michael Sullivan does not have a good day with his column.
For openers, he still doesn't understand what the word "conservative" means. Now, he shows he doesn't understand "Tory" either.

Tory is an old Irish word meaning "bandit". Then it became a political party to defend the right of Catholics (of the right birth) to be kings of England. Later, they merged into a party called conservative which actually wasn't conservative, either.

Very, very few people on this earth are pure conservative or pure liberal, anyway. We are, most of us, mixtures. Do not use buzzwords that you do not understand, and that have only emotional meanings for most people.

Then he advocates the city council work closely with a new, business group chaired by Robert Irving. Michael, that concept has nothing to do with either conservatism or liberalism.

Michael, in a democracy, we elect those who will govern us. We do. Us common people. Others do not get into government simply because they are teachers, or nurses, or unionists, or clergy, or millionaires.

When you have a government in which people have representation not because they were elected by the people but because of their social or career status, that is not called democracy. That is called a form of fascism. That's why the government is New Brunswick today is properly called a fascist one.

Would you suggest a group of union leaders to advise city councils? Of course not. An anti-fracking group? Another no. Jehovah's Witnesses?

No. You want a self-interested group with no elected legitimacy to become a part of our government. Mussolini's fascism was closer to democracy than yours.

And tell us. What qualities does Mr. Irving have besides his last name and the size of his pockets?

And what will the first priority of Robert Irving and Friends for this city? Duh...we gotta build a hockey rink....duh....

Fortunately, very few people will read this column. The writing is a dense nuisance to plough through. The Hallelujah Chorus for Frank McKenna is a bit too "fwow-uppy". The use of acronyms is annoying. Remember, you are writing for an audience which, we are told by official sources, has a low rate of literacy.

Meanwhile, we live in a democracy. If Mr. Irving wants to be a part of its government, let him run for election like everybody else does.

(Oh - if you check a good dictionary, you will find that Mr. Irving is more liberal than conservative. So are you. But don't waste your time joining the Liberal party. It's not really liberal any more than the conservatives are conservative.)
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Then, at the end of the round, we have Suzuki's column. The TandT is saved by the bell. This is a good one.
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There's also an excellent letter "Doctors want to work with Gov't." in Letters to the Editor.
What's still missing is a letter sent to the TandT by Sackville doctors almost two weeks ago. The mistake of the doctors, I guess, is that they didn't sign their letter, "J.D.Irving".
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