Thursday, January 2, 2014

Jan. 2, 2014: A feast for the mind...

I came home  to see a mouth watering pile of TandTs waiting for me. And I was intellectually starved after a week of seeing nothing but the Toronto Globe and Mail. (Actually, the GandM was not impressive. It had a bit more foreign news than the Irving papers do; but not much more.  The best opinion columnists in the Irving press would not at all suffer by comparison with the those at the Globe. The Globe was far the stronger of the two for business news, book reviews, general interest pieces.)

As always, major news stories were missing in the Irving Press over the holidays. And one story the the TandT did get was a quite disgraceful one to publish. Generally, though, the TandT was stunningly trivial and boring over the holidays, just like the rest of the year. And, wow! a page of people mostly undressed out in the cold on New Year's day - the news YOU need to know. These are keepers - but only for those most desperate for a little lust in their lives.

well - let's deal with one thing at a time.
1. The silly

Newsmaker of the year - David Alward.


Well, he was mentioned in the TandT more than anybody else.

Oh..uh....So that means the Irvings don't really matter that much of a damn? I mean, you don't often see them mentioned, do you? Not in the shale gas controversy, not in the Lac Megantic disaster, not in how much income tax they (don't) pay, not in what their profits are......

Indeed, there are local hockey players who get mentioned more the papers than the Irvings do. So I guess that really shows who makes things move in this province - Mr. Alward and the hockey teams.

Actually, I should have thought anything Mr. Alward might have said in the year was quite outclassed by the courage and steadiness shown by New Brunswick's native peoples in their resistance to SWN.

I also thought the Lac Megantic disaster was far more important than anything Mr. Alward said.

2. missed stories

a) A world-wide Gallup poll, one which is held each year at this time, showed that the US  is considered around the world as the greatest threat to world peace.

That, of course, is to be expected among enemies of the US. But the distrust of the US also led among friends like Germany, Greece, Spain, virtually all of Latin America,  and Britain. Even in the US, the US ranked in the top three threats to world peace  (in a tie for third with North Korea.)

b) In other news that didn't make the TandT, the wealthiest 1% in the US have increased their wealth over the past five years by 6.1 trillion dollars. But they need even more. That's why the US is cutting food stamps for the starving.

c) And remember how over a thousand women burned to death in Bangladesh just months ago in just one, huge fire?  They worked seven days a week for long, long hours and lousy pay in dangerous conditions. And that's why they died - so we could get cheap clothes.

Anger at this exploitation of women led to a world wide agreement to improve conditions in the sweatshops. It was signed by companies operating in Bangladesh.

Well, it was signed by some of them. Others felt the terms of the accord were a little strict. So they drew up their own accord which was, you know, less demanding. And guess who refused the world accord, but signed the easier one.

Well, two of the prominent names were Walmart and Target.

But that never made the Irving Press. Nope. Their newsmaker of the year was Mr.Alward.

3. A column I disagreed with. (Oh, I know. People are allowed to disagree with me - but I have to put this somewhere.)

Alec Bruce attacks Obama for  his failure to deal with economic hardships among a majority of Americans.

I am no admirer of Obama, never have been. Like Justin Trudeau, he's a person of no substance whatever. But we can't blame him for the state of affairs any more than we can blame Alward for it. We all know that Alward doesn't run New Brunswick. Isn't it time to recognize that Obama does not run the US?

Obama, like Bush before him, is a war criminal, a killer of civilians on a grand scale, a worthy successor to Bush as the world's greatest torturer. Like Bush he has privatized much of the already vile and ineffective and grossly oversized American prison system to make it a vast field of brutality, neglect, exploitation..... And very, very profitable for the top 1 %.

But Obama's not really responsible because, like Alward and Bush, he's just a sock puppet for the very rich.

Mr. Bruce says the poor should be better off because the economy's improving. In reality, of course,  their position is worsening as, even among those who are employed, the majority earn less than 30,000 a year. The other reality is that the only part of the economy that's improving is the economy of the very rich - the stock market.

That's largely the case in Canada, too. And it's been going on for generations. It is the same pattern (only worse) that we saw in the great depression of the 1930s. The rich use the helplessness of the poor to make them ever more miserable, and the rich even richer. Go to a library. See if you can find a book named Report of the Royal Commission on Price Spreads and Mass Buying. That tells what happened in the 1930s. It is what is happening now. It is what has happened most of the time for several hundreds of years. In Britain, for example, the wage gap is now bigger than it was in the days of Ebenezer Scrooge.

There are now more poor and starving and sickly and hopeless in most of the western world than there has been in many, many generations. That's why we're seeing what Mr. Bruce calls an "economic recovery".

But we aren't having it. The very rich are in a recovery - and it's based on our poverty.And it's not likely to get better. Why should it? The rich are having their best times ever. Why on earth  should they tell the Alwards and the Obamas to change anything?

Well, they do want a few more changes. The destruction of medicare would be nice. Privatization of the public schools would be nice. More propaganda in the schools would be nice. And severe cuts to social programmes would leave that much more money for the very rich.

And we now have every possibility of producing children socially acclimatized to living in poverty and ignorance forever.

No. The very rich aren't cruel. They just don't give a damn. And they're too greedy to understand that they're destroying the capitalist system itself by the perverse, undemocratic and abusive way they are using it.

4. Then there was something disgraceful. It's a story that appeared on Jan. 1, and it's about the professor Lapierre incident.

Actually, it's almost the same as the original story when it broke. Prof. Lapierre is a brilliant man of world repuation who, sadly, "misrepresented" his credentials.  ( Misrepresenting isn't at all the same as lying.) Indeed, the whole thing reads as if the professor were the sad victim, rather than the perpetrator.

Once again, Environment Minister Craig Leonard pleads that Lapierre was never, in any case, hired as an expert biologist. He was hired as a man good at organizing people.

 Mr. Leonard must be growing a very, very long nose. Or maybe he just isn't very bright.

Not only did Leonard and the government talk of nothing but his professional expertise when they appointed him, but they used his report on the "safety" of shale gas to discredit the report of Dr. Cleary. Professor Lapierre lied about his credentials. Then he lied in pretending to have the expertise to issue a professional report on a subject in which he had no expertise. He may have been used to organize people. But he was also used in a major way by this government as an environmental expert.

That was done even though that report, however pleasing it might have been to the oil industry and the intellectual and moral midgets in the government, might well have put the health and/or lives of hundreds of thousands of people at risk. Professor Lapierre must have known that.

He is not a victim. We are the victims, his victims.

There is a much bigger story behind this that we're not getting a hint of. It is full of incidents that make no sense.

1. In some fifty years in universities, I  have never heard of a professor being hired without some check of  his credentials.
2. I have never heard of a professor being hired without letters of reference from his graduate school professors. Even in the confusion of a university's early years, it is impossible to imagine such a thing happening. Did professor Lapierre write his own letters?
3.I do not understand how an unqualified person could have worked in a department of scientists without anybody having caught on to something being strange.
4. And he held an Irving Chair. How did that happen? That's pretty prestigious (and expensive). Being granted a chair usually means extensive review at several levels. Did that review happen? Did it go through the department? the arts and science faculty? the Board of Governors?
A chair also (usually) demands a very serious examination of the candidate's record of publication in refereed journals. Did that happen? If not, why not? (Winning honours from industry boards doesn't count.)

Prof. Lapierre says he worked for decades in responsible positions in order to protect the environment. Oh? He held many reponsible positions-----and nobody ever thought to check his credentials? Nobody bothered to look at his scientific record?

I don't believe that for a moment.

There is a much, much bigger story behind this.

Today's paper? Well, it has all those suitable-for-framing colour photos of people you don't know swimming and/or walking in the cold.

The editorial page takes a strong position. It says we should insist on strong, pragmatic government.

Damn right.  I hate those people who say we need a weak and thoughtless government. Way to tell it the way it is, Mr. editorial writer.

The paper is saved - as much as it can be - but a couple of good opinion columns. Rod Allan has a very nicely written memoir of the importance of Canada Post in his rural childhood. It's very well written, indeed.

Beth Lyons does her usual, excellent job on her column.

Alas! those two opinion columns have to carry the whole weight of the paper for the day.

In late-breaking news, I just received my New Year's card from Liberal leader Gallant. (He's a sort of Justin Trudeau, but with his shirt on.)


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