Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April 30: We're a world leader...

....The CBC has the story. Most of the world has it, I suspect. But you won't find it anywhere in the Irving press, not even in that bowl of intellectual pabulum it calls a Business page.

Recent figures show the US leads the world in the income gap between 1% and everybody else. 47% of all wealth generated in the last twenty years has gone to the top 1%. Result? In addition to high unemployment, average income in the US has slipped back to where it was 40 years ago.

But (sing a chorus of O Canada.) we're number two at 37%. So much for the crapola we hear about how shale gas will make us rich. Oh, yes, it'll make some people rich. But you won't be one of them. Nor will their money stay long in this province.

As well, 85 people, just 85, have as much money as the poorer half of the world. That's more money than some 3.5 billion people have.  Anybody of any intelligence not crushed by greed will understand this is not a sustainable situation.

One of the regional sufferers from this imbalance is New Brunswick. So Liberal leader Gallant delivers his answers on P. A3, in a report of what must have been a stunningly vapid speech.

Given the state of the world under capitalism, it is not at all clear to me how playing around the edges of it is going to solve anything.  (In fact, his speech doesn't seem to have said much even about how he would play around the edges.)

Will capitalism work at all? I don't know.  I've never seen real capitalism, and I don't know anybody who has. For centuries, what we call capitalism has been a welfare state for the rich -and in ways we rarely think of.

How did Britain develop a super-wealthy class in the 18th and 19th centuries? It wasn't developed by capitalism. It was developed by armed robbery. That's what all the wars and empire-building were about. It was armed theft to steal the human and natural resources of India, North America, Africa, the Middle East....

The rise of the US was simply a case of a branch office outgrowing the head office. The US stole, by force, all the land that is now the US. In the same way, it took control of Central America, looted it, and is still looting it.

And who paid for this? Who raised and maintained the armies and navies that made this possible? Well, the poor did. They paid for it by being poor. They paid for it by staying poor even as the rich built estates and palaces. They paid for it by risking their lives in the imperial armies for pennies a day. They paid for it by being ignored in their best days, and abandoned when those days were over.

The rich get rich, and always have, by creating poverty. That's why 37% of all the wealth created in any year in Canada goes to that tiny one percent.

When Winston Churchill was a very young boy, he spent his summers on the magnificent grounds of his family's Blenheim Palace. It has rooms with ceilings three or four stories high, rooms bigger than most churches. And Young Winston was gently awakened every morning by servants who dressed him, and looked out for his every need all day.

When Winston was a very young boy, my grandmother lived in what was regarded as the vilest, most dangerous, and filthiest district in Europe. It was a place called The Gorbels in Glascow, Scotland. The row houses, built on unspeakably filthy streets and lanes, had no indoor plumbing. Drinking water was in taps on the street.

Many of the apartments had toilets in outhouses behind the buildings (quite common in British working class districts even after World War 2). Some had toilets indoors. But in all cases, the ratio for toilets was one per 50 tenants. So most people just went in bushes or in secluded parts of the street after dark.

By the age of eight, she wasn't enjoying the vast rooms and grounds of a Blenheim Palace. She was working for pennies.

Poverty, filth, and sickness has always been a part of what we call capitalism. It isn't real capitalism, of course. Real capitalism involves risk (which means not bailing out banks that go broke out of their own criminal behaviour, and not giving away huge forests to friends of the government.) Real capitalism also would mean the rich paying their share to spread the benefits they created - with the help and work of the whole population.

I don't know whether real capitalism would work. I've never seen real capitalism.

But I do know that Mr. Gallant's bowl of mush won't solve anything. He's not even close to knowing what the problem is.
Ukraine gets a quarter of a page on C3. Again, it gives a mush of information which tells us almost nothing about what is going one. Again, most of the information comes to us from the "good' guys (our side). Putin gets in only a few lines - and at the end. Interestingly, they are the only statements that are moderate.

The most intriguing statement is by a woman who is running for President of Ukraine (a member of the governing party and former prime minister), Yulia Tymoshcnko. She says they need to build a country that is moving ahead led by "...all the elites and the people".

What are those elites? Why are they and the people separated in her statement? She doesn't sound to me like a person much devoted to equality and democracy.

The editorial, (which is supposed to be the result of discussion among all the editors) is about how the events centre needs lots of seats. I always thought the editors must have something they're experts on.  So it's theatre seats. Fascinating.

But why do they spend an editorial demanding more theatre seats? You figure somebody told them to? Maybe?

Norbert Cunningham is, I think, largely right in his view of the Liberal election programme. But Norbert, himself, doesn't seem to know much about what the real issues are.

Alec Bruce writes on much the same topic, but with no fresher insight. Essentially, he says  (quoting heavily from a new book) we need to cut back  on public services, especially in health care, and pay higher taxes to balance the budget.

Well, that might work. But it almost certainly won't. (it does not have much of a success record). And even if it does work, you will have a balanced budget, but one hell of a miserable society. (It's easy to talk austerity when you have a steady job at good pay - like the author Bruce quotes.)

Look. The Irvings and other large corporations run this province. They give themselves light taxes and lush, government contracts. They control our access to news, and they control the news we get. The Liberals and Conservatives are errand boys - no more than that.

If we don't deal with that problem, then nothing will happen. We need open, honest, and informed discussion. We aren't getting it.

The book Alec Bruce quotes is praised by Professor Donald Savoie. I'm not surprised. Have you ever heard him criticize anything connected with the very wealthy?

Eric Lewis has a column on Riverview and its business community which indicates that Eric Lewis understands nothing about democracy or capitalism.

Brian Cormier demonstrates once again that he does not know the difference between an opinion column and a kiddy's bedtime story.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 29: The TandT is a disgrace.....

...particularly on this day.

We are in the midst of the severest crisis most of us have ever faced. And there's not a word of it in the paper. The banner headline is that the Shediac campground is taking its next step.  Well, yeah. There are lots of steps to starting a major campground. So are we going to get that nothing headline for the next month or more?

On A3, a Riverview business committee recommends that business be involved in ALL decisions of  city council. The council went wildly enthusiastic, and had puppies on the spot.. Obviously, nobody on that council knows the meaning of the word fascism. They might start by checking out the word corporatism, the starting point of Mussolini's fascism.

NOBODY deserves a right to sit in on any decisions or to have a voice in political decision making unless he or she gets elected. In a democracy, there is no right to have any special voice in democratic affairs that comes simply from being in business, or being a lawyer, or having eleven toes. It's bad enough that the provincial government doesn't understand that. But the ignorance seems to run through all levels of government in New Brunswick.

Then there's half a page on the demands of raising a chinchilla. And that takes care of the first section.

NewsToday is one and a half pages in which the most foreign land mentioned is Arkansas. The rest is games and ads.

Most disgusting is Harper's announcement of a May 9 commemoration of Canada's veterans of Afghanistan. For a start, To announce such an event just a week before it is to happen suggest it not something that Harper has had on his mind for a while.  This looks like a last minute election PR stunt.

And a commemoration of those who died? Well, that will take the form of a flypast by aircraft that were in Afghanistan, a marchpast by the regiments that had troops there, and artillery firing blanks. In other words, this is about the grandeur and glory of war.

Never mind that nobody in this country appears to have the faintest idea why Canadians killed and died in Afghanistan. What did we achieve that was worth 158 Canadian lives, and damage to many more? Nobody has ever told us. On the surface, the only obvious achievement was to make Afghanistan the world's leading producer of hard drugs.

And wouldn't it be more useful if the government were to use this occasion to explain why it has never honoured all its promises to veterans, and has never launched the effort it should have to deal with such problems as  PTSD. Now, they are sending troops to Kabul without danger pay. Way to balance the budget. Steve.

The whole tone of this "commemoration" is disgusting.

And that is the world news. Not a word about Ukraine. But I''ll come back to that.
Norbert has a column on bafflegab, the way some people talk to make something very ordinary sound very impressive and wise - or simply to keep others from understanding what they said.

But why zero in on university profs? Yes, there is some bafflegab among professors. But I've heard even more from businessmen, journalists, and all kinds of others. Has Norbert never heard a businessman
 say that he was not planning to do something "at this point in time" - thus lending a certain grandeur and scientific precision that would not be there if he said the correct word, "now"?

The only example  he has of professorial bafflegab is a description of a university course - and that was from 16 years ago. I've had to read thousands of course descriptions - and I never saw one like that.

Bafflegab is common among all sorts of people, including journalists and politicians. However, I note that Norbert got the idea for this column from  reading The National Post. I'm not surprised. For arrogance, prejudice and narrowness, Norbert is a National Post kind of guy.

Alec Bruce's column is not, like Norbert's, geared to the prejudices and thinking processes of hillbillies; but there is a strong warning running through his column for today. Harper has strong dictatorial tendencies, and a profound distrust of democracy. I'm surprised that Canada has so far survived his leadership. Indeed, I'm not confident that it has survived his leadership.

Let's get back to Ukraine, which wasn't important enough for the news pages.

Us humans have a tendency to see others in a simple way. "Others" are good or evil. We, and other people like us, are good. Others who are against us are bad.

That's why so many Moslems are 'bad". They are against us. They don't want us to kill them as we have been doing for over a century. So they hit back. And then we call them terrorists, and they're bad. However, some Moslems, like Saudi Arabia, live under dictators we have made rich (not the people, just the dictators) so they are good. (Someday, if the Saudis ever get rid of their dictator, they will probably became bad.)

Germans were once bad, very bad. But now they are members of NATO; so they're good.

You can follow this game in our news media for every war fought in the past century and more.Almost all the news media have joined to spread the word that the other side is bad, evil, corrupt, cruel...

At the end of nineteenth century, the people of The Phillippines were a relatively primitive society who threatened nobody, certainly not the US. The US invaded, killed on a massive scale, tortured on a massive scale, all so its businessmen could have a base to exploit the market and the cheap labour of east Asia.

Ever seen a kind word about Fidel Castro in our news media? He was preceded by years of brutal and murderous dictators, all supported by the US  government. They allowed American business to exploit the nation, to withhold all services including education while American business allowed the dictator's forces to rape, torture, murder and steal to their heart's content. Almost none of this every made the North American news media.

Then Castro came. He got rid of the dictators. He established free education all the way through university. He established a world class medicare system. He did a great many things for the people of Cuba, and there has never been the slightest evidence of any corruption.

In return, the US has sponsored an invasion of Cuba, has sponsored terrorist attacks like blowing up an airliner, and has impoverished Cuba with trade sanctions.

Check all our North American newspapers. See how many you can find demonizing Castro. See how many speak well of what he's done. You probably won't find any of the latter . The US is good. So Castro is bad. It's the same for most of Central America.

For centuries, the British did that sort of thing for the same sort of reason - to make money for the already rich. They killed on a grand scale; they took over land; they enslaved workers -or worse. But Britain was "Land of hope and glory, Mother of the free...." It was good.  Any Zulus or Chinese or Indians who tried to defend themselves were evil and vicious. There's a pattern in our news media, and in our response to it. And we're seeing it repeated today.

I thought of that as I glanced over an editorial in a recent copy of MacLean's. His theme was that Putin was evil so, doing what evil people do, he was trying to expand his his "empire" to include Ukraine. The message goes down as easily as maple syrup on ice cream because that's the way we think, too.

In fact, the theme of Putin as evil is pretty well the only one in our news media.

Think of it. For over fifity years, the US has done nothing but invade. It has established dictatorships. It has destroyed democracy. It has killed in the millions. It has tortured. It has destroyed nations like Libya and, possibly, Syria. It's armed forces are operating in every part of the world.

But, oh, if Putin's taking over of Crimea it's so much worse than that - worse than the slaughter in Iran, in Guatemala, worse than the installation of what is effectively a military dictatorship in Egypt, and one that is particularly murderous...

As well, none of our news media have cared to report on how this all started. The papers begin with evil Putin annexing Crimea. But this started with the overthrow of the Ukrainian elected government. Who was behind the uprising that overthrew the elected government. That takes money and planning and training. Where did that come from?

Who picked the new president? Why? Who picked Naziis to sit in the Ukrainian government? Why?

Dead silence. Obama is good. Putin is bad.

The news media, more than ever, are dominated by a handful of very wealthy people - and they all carry the same propaganda message.. What can this mean?

I can mean that large numbers of wealthy and influential people in the US want a war with Russia. Just follow the tone of the news media. They are making the usual, old case for a war. We are good. They are bad.

Who are those wealthy people? Well, they've been screaming what they want for some 16 years - world conquest by the US. Project for the New American Century. They demand world conquest, and they can get it only by force. They have decided to target Russia now. War if necessary. Or maybe the gentler humiliation of Putin by forcing him to back off.

The Project for the New American Century produced Bush. And it's quite obvious that it now has Obama.

Almost all the aggressive talk has come from the good side - our side. Our news media have given us almost no information on Ukraine, or any rationale for it's bizarre notion that Putin is trying to build an empire.

The Project for the New American Century is powerfully  represented in Washington. I would guess that our Senator Linda Frum is an admirer. Certainly, her journalist brother, David, has been a strong supporter.

The evidence is that somebody wants a war with Russia. And the somebody is us - the good side.

This may already have gone beyond the crisis stage.
But don't fuss about it.  Do something positive and useful. Form a club to start scrapbooks of great headlines in the Irving Press, like "What's on TV this Summer?" and "More seats for new events centre?"

Monday, April 28, 2014

April 28: It don't change much from day to day - do it?

I always despair of finding anything to comment on (or even to read) in Section A. But today, there was a breath of hope with a report on the provincial Liberal convention. But it proved to be just a short breath. On A10

As usual, the convention put forward "neat" ideas on French immersion, abortion, and public pensions. But the value of a political party cannot rest on 3 (or 30) "neat" ideas. This sort of thing is the stuff of high school president elections. Any group that aspires to public office with control of  the lives of hundreds of thousands of people should have more than a few "neat" ideas to run on. They should stand for some set of values, of principles, of reasons they want to run.

We should know how a Liberal, for example, is different from a Conservative. And I don't mean the the usual "liberals tax and spend", "conservatives are careful with money" or any of those other vapid opinions that we so often hear. If their is any difference in philosophy, in values, principles between Liberals and Conservatives, I should dearly love to know what it is. Certainly, I have never seen any difference in their behaviour or in their subservience to corporate bosses.

We have yet two more big stories on the recognition of two popes as saints. Let's not overdo it - like that missing Malaysian airliner.

This is in NewsToday. There really is nothing new in the story. As in so many of these stories, what we really need is more background, more of t he general meaning - rather than simply more quotations that don't tell us much.  (

Oh, I have a relative, Reverend Zenon Decarie, who is up for sainthood. I look forward to several weeks of daily appearances of the story.)

On the same page is the story that Montreal is extending drinking hours at two, downtown bars until 5;30 a.m.

These non-stories continue to the last page of NewsToday, C4, where North Dakota is all excited about  building drones (unmanned aircraft). Then, last of all, two, real stories slip in. One is about tornadoes that struck the US, killing about 17 people.

Then there is the story of a Canadian soldier who served in Afghanistan, who suffers post traumatic stress disorder, and who wants to make the problem better understood. This is the first news story I have seen that gives a vivid picture of the true horror of PTSD. It is far the best news story in the paper.

Apparently, nothing is happening in most of the world. Not, at least, in the irving press.
Then there's Alec Bruce's column. It's a gem about Senator Linda Frum. Linda Frum is the sister of David Frum, a not-very-bright columnist for newspapers, and a man of the most extreme "conservative' views. Their mother was Barbara Frum, a long-time favourite on CBC. The article deals with her inane though forceful arguments on something or other (it's hard to be sure exactly what.)

This is a real, Stephen Harper idea of what a senator should be.

I had the honour to hear her speaking to a small group of fellow ranters when she was a student at McGill. One obvious characteristic of her was her utter contempt for anyone who wan't rich. (She was born rich, but seemed to assume it was due entirely to her own efforts.) She was arrogant, condescending, rude, and illogical. So, of course, she was just what Stephen Harper was looking for in a senator.

When she was unmarried (perhaps divorced) , she did an article for MacLean's on the trials facing a struggling working girl out in the world alone. Most of it was was a tear-jerking story about how hard it is to deal with an interior decorator all on your own.

She did, at first, try to follow her mother's footsteps as a broadcaster. I saw her perform once or twice, and saw no future for her. But now, she doesn't need a future. Now, she has a lifetime career with a seat in Senate from which she can sneer at anybody who isn't rich.

Lucky us to have Linda representing us. Let's all of us get behind her, and make this a country in which no women ever again has to deal with an interior decorator alone.

On op ed, Steve Malloy is in top form with his talent for taking everyday events, and seeing significance in them. This time he deals with the difficulties of raising a girl in a society that still puts them in second place. There is real anger in this column, real and angry enough to make anybody angry.

There's an extra column on the back page. "Is transportation bureaucracy's rail policy stuck in past?"
I think it's worse than that that. It's stuck in the present.

This province, this country have no sense of preparing for the future. Harper is ready to kill passenger rail traffic in the maritimes because he doesn't see a use for it now. The reality is that we are not going to be able to continue our reliance on cars for travel - or on trucks for transport.

Cars and trucks require extremely expensive road building and maintenance. They're dangerous. They use vast quantities of gasoline which is becoming prohibitively expensive and prohibitively polluting.

Looking at the future, we simply cannot afford to throw away rail transportation.

Closing down passenger rail is short-sighted. And short-sightedness is what you get when you have politicians with "neat" ideas, but no principles.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 27: Another step back....

This will probably be just a short note. It bothers me I was not more critical of Gwynne Dyer, yesterday.

He was commenting on the Ukrainian crisis - and rather dismissive of it. They were just, he said, replaying the old strategic game, probably to later include China. But nothing much with relation to China is likely to happen for thirty years. So why worry?

Russia cannot invade the US; it can't  match the US for military spending; any damage it could do to the US is bearable;  So why worry?

The trouble with all that reasoning is that thirty years is not a long time; Russia has limited ability to attack the US but what it has could do serious damage (and to Canada as well - we can't be the US doggy without running that sort of risk); and it could make western Europe a desert.

As for China, we  have no idea what sort of economic and military shape the US will be in in thirty years. We have no idea what form Asian alliances might take. ( Yes, the Asians might be wary of a rising China and it's threat to their well-being. But the US has a pretty bad reputation in that area, too.)

Dyer's tone is that as things are now they shall forever be. That's not true and, indeed, it's most unlikely.

1. The US maintains its high military spending by borrowing sums of money so huge they can never be paid back. Already, nations are disposing of their American dollars before it's too late.

2. As well, US corruption is so huge and pervasive that it takes enormous spending just to reach an acceptable level of defence.

3. The military spending is maintained only at appalling neglect of the social needs of Americans. Food stamp allowances are regularly cut, even as the number of hungry rises. (One American child in 5 now lives in hunger. And the payment of food stamps is arranged in such a way that they must usually be cashed in banks - yielding huge profits for the banks - so even feeding the hungry is a corrupt business.

American society is cracking under a tremendous strain. The risk of social disorder is high. That is not my opinion. That is the opinion of the US government - which is why it is militarizing its police forces to prepare for war against its own people, why substantial numbers of combat soldiers are now kept based in the US, why the US is now a police state with thousands of spies watching everyone, and why the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the constitution simply no longer exist.

It will be interesting to see how the US conducts wars against Russia, China, and the US all at the same time.

Meanwhile, the US (and, increasingly, Canada) is really  governed by a business class that has no moral principles whatever. It exists to make money for itself. It has no other purpose.It has abandoned the American people so it can make bigger money elsewhere. It has conducted wars that have killed millions  (nobody has any idea how many millions) so it can make more money. Wherever it has gone - in Central America, in Africa, it has spread brutality, poverty, and mass murder. It is now spreading poverty in western Europe - in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, and Britain.

There's a reason for morality. A society won't work without it. Societies all around the world are breaking down because of a thoroughly immoral business and political leadership.  Greed is their only purpose. No society can survive that. Business leadership is destroying other societies, its own society and, thus, itself. Greed can create enormous stupidity. In all this, the US is the leader, with a fuzzy little Canada barking at its heels.

Oh, and Russia could inflict only minor damage on the US? It might not be possible to do as much damage as they would like. But it wouldn't take many nuclear hits to change the US dramatically - and Canada. And Western Europe could cease to exist.

This is really not a very good time to play strategic games. The greatest danger facing this world, by far, is the corruption and displacement of democratic government by big business over the past 50 years or so. If we don't, if we simply defeat Russia and China, we will have done nothing about the greatest and most destructive force that threatens us.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

April 26: one step back.....

I was in a bit of a rush yesterday, and didn't comment. on an item on B3 "Warning sounded on shale gas."
This was  a follow up to a story on April 24 of an earlier meeting, also of the New Brunswick Energy Institute. Both appeared to be critical of shale gas but, really, neither was. The message in both cases was the same. It appeared critical of shale gas development, but also sympathetic with just a little more research and a few more regulations.

After reporting on one of the speakers, it added a reportorial opinion which should never appear in a news story.  It says of a critic of shale gas, "But he's a realist. Goldstein doesn't believe energy alternatives, such as wind and solar, will replace the hunger around the world for fossil fuels and expects most shale gas formations will eventually be tapped."

"But he's a realist" is not a report. It's an opinion. Worse, it suggests those who do not share that opinion are not realists. Worse. It strongly suggests shale gas should go ahead, anyway. That paragraph destroys all the arguments given by all speakers. So, hey, all we need are a few more regulations, a little more research, and everything will be fine.

There is much mention of Dr. Cleary and her report. Is she to be one of the speakers? So far there is no mention of it. So far, we don't even know what her report is because the TandT butchered most of its reporting on it.

I was, at first, prepared to be impressed by these Energy Institute meetings. But I'm pretty sure I know now that I was wrong. The meetings seem to be very much a public relations job - a soft sell. And I confess to having been naive in thinking either the Irving Press or the government could be trusted to deal with this honestly.

For all their seeming caution, the message of all the speakers seems to have been take your time, tighten the rules, but go ahead. And a blunter, what the hell, it's going to happen anyway.

This is a soft sell just, I suspect, as the ombudsman is. It blunts the debate. It takes the issue pretty much off the table for the election campaign. Alward is still Alward. The Irving press is still the Irving press. And a pig with lipstick is still a pig.
Section A is the usual section A of the TandT. It has so little in it, this is the sort of section led years ago to some newspaper being called fish wrappers.
NewsToday has a report on Ukraine. This one comes from The Canadian Press, and it's living proof that Canadian journalism can stink up the house with the worst of them.

There is no news in this thing. We learn nothing about Ukraine. We get no hint of what anybody's motives are - on either side. All we get are blustering and highly political propaganda statements, most from our side. When Russia says the west is plotting, our own puffer Baird says the Russians have lost touch with reality.

Now,what does this "You're a stinker."  - "No, I'm not a stinker. You are." tell  us about anything?

And Baird says "Canada will continue to discover forceful messages  to Russia." Boy, I'll bet that will scare the Russians.

There was a time when a reporter's job was to find out what was happening. But that ended a long time ago. The job now is to be stenographers for blustering politicians making childish statements.
Speaking of investigative reporting, Canada is working  on a huge "everybody but China" trade deal with Asia. News media never tell us much about these deals - and much of what is being discussed now is secret. But there is enough information available through other such trade deals to give us a hint of what to expect.

Typically, big business uses these deals to let it run wild. There can be, and usual are, clauses to allow them to do whatever they like without regard for the environment. If the damage they do is so serious that it is life-threatening or will forever destroy a region (like the Amazon rain-forest) so that the government feels it has to introduce legislation to prevent it, the private company can then sue for billions - with the case to be heard in a special court operated by big business, and immune from review by the regular courts.

That's not hypothetical. It happens now.The North American news media just never report it.

In effect, and going back to the Mulroney days and free trade, these deals have always meant giving up government powers, leaving all control of the future - economic, environmental - in the hands of big business which answers to nobody. So much for democracy. So much for the nation-state.

Among the great victims so far, is the United States. Capitalism that is above the law destroys democracy and destroys people. It creates rule by oligarchy - by the very wealthy and their elite of politicians. Russia is an oligarchy. The US is an oligarchy.  Canada stands at the edge.

Normally, an oligarchy is so greedy that it creates social unrest - which leads to massive domestic spying, creation of fear, and armed forces designed to fight domestic wars. That's why the US has been militarizing its police forces, supplying them with armoured cars, combat rifles and machine guns, drones...
That's why it has secret lists of "dangerous" people. (Obama was once on that list.)

This American descent into a police state has been matched by Canada, Britain, New Zealand and Australia. With all five domestic spy agencies so closely linked as to be one. That's why certain Canadian military units (special ops) are closely linked with their American counterparts.

It's a system so greedy and foolish that it eventually destroys itself. But you won't find it in any of our news media. All we get are quotations from blowhards like Baird.

Norbert begins, "I'm returning to educational matters". So at least we are warned.

At one point, he suggests that schools teach nothing at all, and that people really learn by the experience of growing up. That is such a brainless statement.......  I grew up with kids who left school in grade four. They learned something, I guess by just growing up - but not much. The difference between them and others was pretty soon evident.

On some points I can agree. I know from my own experience that rote learning is often a waste of time. But not all learning in school is by rote. Not even most learning is by rote. And much of the pressure for rote learning comes from standardized tests foisted on the schools by big business so they can edge their way into control of the schools.

As for schools sending out students out for volunteering. I'm sure Norbert thinks it's a waste of time. In Norbert's view, anything new is bad; anything old doesn't work. He just loves bombastic and absolute statements. In fact, some of the best training I ever had for life was volunteering. It opened by eyes to things I could do that I would not think possible. It opened by eyes to responsibility. It greatly improved my understanding of people.

Teaching the basics teaches you reasoning, says Norbert. No, it doesn't. Or, rather, anything CAN teach reasoning. It depends on how it's taught.

The advice he gives to improve schools is useless. "Tell politicians quick fixes aren't acceptable, do it right."
Wow! What a brilliant idea.! Just tell them it has to be right. In fact, that that would solve all the world's problems. Just tell politicians to do it right.

(By the way, Mr. Basics, that sentence I quoted from you about telling politicians to do it right should have had a semi-colon in it,  not a comma.)

The closing quotation from Chomsky, that schools work to discourage free thought is bunkum. There are, of course, people who do discourage free thought. I've taught with a few of them. But they were never a majority or anywhere close to it, not at any level. Any forces to discourage free thought in education come from the general public, from parents. They also come from big business which likes to install propaganda programmes  ( like entrepreneurship) in the schools.

Norbert has never taught. It shows.

Brent Mazerolle tries  hard to say nothing. And he succeeds.

Gwynne Dyer's column sounds pretty dry until you realize what he is saying - that China and the US are leaving the development of their relations up to the old "strategic game" - which has results we all know too well.

The Faith page has been altered to allow room for Dear Abby, a family tree column, and a tart recipe. I have no idea why.

The sermonette for today has a little fire to it. It doesn't preach so much as it asks questions; and the real point is that many of the questions we waste our time arguing don't matter. The key line is that so many people don't understand that religious values and thought actually connect with our daily lives.

Alas! One reason that they don't know is that most churches rarely, if ever, discuss that.

It's a good column. I particularly recommend from  the eleventh paragraph to the end.

 Section F (called Whatever) is made up of material written for the Frye Festival competition or material about reading written by the staff of students that contributes for every Saturday edition.

There's not a bad read in the bunch. In fact, it's the most readable part of the paper. I hate to pick out anyone - but I feel I have to draw attention to the first one on page F1. The author is Mansa Agbaku.
This is the real thing. Read it. Then read all of them because they're all worth it. This is the best part of today's paper.

Friday, April 25, 2014

April 25: Get a Globe and Mail for April 23....

Look for the column by Michael Bliss "Why is Canada sending fighter jets to Poland?" This is what news is - not just about scribbling down whatever some politicians say. It's about giving us understanding of what is going on. In this case, Bliss does it largely by raising questions - which is a very good starting point, especially for us, because we've never even heard the questions, and we're making big noises about going into a mutually suicidal war without having the slightest idea what it's about.

We have almost no information of what kind of country Ukraine is. We talk of going to war to defend its democracy. Hey! What democracy? The government was not elected. It came from street mobs that overthrew the elected government.

What is the mix of parties in Ukraine? How big are the Naziis? After all, they are in the government. What is this country we are so happy to go to war for? To kill for? To get our soldiers killed for? How close is it to one or more civil wars?

Briefly, Bliss begins with 1947 when the US policy became to surround and contain the Soviet Union. The most distinguished American diplomat of the time was Kennan who came to see this was a mistake, a foolish scheme cooled up by extremists in the American government. He lived a very long life, long enough to see that same policy of containment being applied to post-communist Russia. And he thought this was even worse.

Obviously, a constant US threat to Russia would eventually lead to a war - a war between nuclear powers. The intelligent arrangement was to arrive at a peaceful settlement.

In particular, the US should not threaten by constantly expanding NATO closer to the Russian border. And the US did, indeed, promise Gorbachev it would not do that. But the US broke its promise. Small wonder Putin feels threatened. The US is now sending troops, warships, and very loud threats. Great way to arrive at a peaceful settlement.

He concludes with the disturbing observation that Canadians are not questioning their government at all. Exactly why are we sending jets to Poland? What was it necessary to push for NATO members right up to the Russian border? Exactly what are our obligations to NATO? And what does that mean about our obligations to NATO members like Poland? Heard much discussion about that?

Actually  (this is back to me), NATO is simply what failing empires always resort to. As they weaken, they need help, their own gang. As Britain began to fade with the rise of Germany in the 1870s, it developed a passion for Canada, Australia, New Zealand. They were the English-speaking peoples of the world who all had to work together -, to help fight Britain's wars. They were Britain's gang. And that's why we lost over a hundred thousand dead in two world wars.

Churchill spent his life trying to get the US into the gang. Eventually, he did. But the US had no intention of fighting anybody else's wars or taking Britain's orders. The result was that Britain fell dramatically as a power and, instead of Britain leading the gang, the US did in the form of NATO.

We are now, as members of NATO, simply one of the members of the US gang, fighting US wars when we're called on - as in Afghanistan. It was in the same sort of killer-servant deal we sent aircraft to Libya. And tell me about all the good that has done. Tell me how proud you are that Canadians killed people you know nothing about.

We're not discussing this. We're not getting any information about it. We're just plodding like lambs to the slaughter.

I noticed the papers have not said a word about the group Project for the New American Century. This is the group that dominated the Bush White House and is still a power under Obama. It wants war. It wants US domination of the whole world, largely to give absolute power to US big business. They have said so openly. They have been active in private and public life, sending billions to Ukraine for undefined purposes. More than any others, this is   their war that is shaping up.

What they want, most likely, is a Russia made economically and militarily powerless, broken up into a dozen or so smaller nations.

Then, so the thinking goes, it will be China's turn.

We have no reason to enter such a war. Russia has not threatened us or attacked us. The only country in the world that has the ability or and interest in taking over Canada is the US. However, with a Harper in power, there is no need to invade Canada. Harper acts more like a state governor than a Canadian national leader.

We, all of us, have to wake up and realize what going to war means. and especially what it means in the 21st century. The weapons of today are far, far more powerful than they were in the 1940s, and even more destructive of civilians.

There are robot weapons, poison gasses, chemical like agent orange, diseases, nuclear bombs. There are no limits.

Six Canadian jets. That's enough to draw us into a madness of slaughter that has nothing to do with us.

The only time Canada had world respect for leadership on the world stage was when Pearson encouraged our role as peacekeepers. But that never pleased the army. It wanted weapons like the other big kids. And it didn't want to look like a sissy. Besides, the US never liked it. It could get in the way of world domination. Now, some of our forces, like special ops, are so closely integrated with US forces that they are exactly the same. And there are some real dangers for us in that.

Meanwhile, Stephen Harper has achieved the dream he has always longed for. He was won both the Jewish and Ukrainian vote for the next election.

O Canada!

The editorial is inane because it's on early immersion for language teaching - and it's obvious the editor doesn't have a clue what it's all about.

Alec Bruce is in great form, debunking a story that Harper has been bragging about. Surveys show that the US middle class has dropped dramatically in income (like many other countries) so that Canada is now one of the world leaders in middle class income. And Harper has been taking bows for this.

In fact, what the figures show is not that the Canadian middle classes are prospering, But they now rank higher because the middle classes, especially those in the US, are suffering even worse.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

April 24:Some good reporting

Though section A is its usual bleak self, it does have one story that looks like an example of good reporting and good writing. "Assess shale health effects: experts"

The story is by Adam Huras, and it's an extensive and detailed interview with two, qualified experts on the importance of the Dr. Cleary report. This is the report that considers the social and physical effects of shale gas development on people. This is also the report that the Irving press thoroughly butchered when it appeared. We never did learn what was in it, and the paper promptly buried it before we could find out.

There is far too much solid material in this for me to quote it with any effect. You have to read this one - and it's worth it.

It concludes with an intriguing statement by one of the interviewees, "In New Brunswick, you're going to learn from our mistakes in Pennsylvania."

That must be a mistake. The industry has assured us many times there have been no mistakes anywhere.

I have some nervousness about this one. It's certainly the best that has appeared in a paper that has deliberately suppressed information about shale gas. But the two experts are here to deliver a talk at the request of the Energy Institute. And there is more than a hint in here of sympathy for the industry.

And I am nervous at the TandT suddenly turning honest. Is this, I wonder, the beginning of a soft sell?

Read this because it does, at last, give us some hint of what was in Dr. Cleary's report. But keep your guard up.

For a view of Ukraine, the best story by far to appear in the Irving press is a letter to the editor in today's paper. "Question authority. think for yourself"

There is more information about Ukraine in this one letter than I have seen in everything the Irving press has reported. It points out that the US has consistently broken promises and moved in on Russia with air and missile bases.

I would only add that Ukraine is showing all the signs of a civil war, a victim of its own political and ethnic differences, and it's own economic collapse.  Various nationalist groups are raking advantage of this, including those that are not represented in the government. Similarly, NATO leaders are using the confusion of this civil war to their advantage.

There's also a story on our promise to send  fighter jets to the region. The headline refers to "Opposition parties demanding more information". But the only party mentioned is the NDP which, I regret to say, favours sending the jets..It does so on the ground that this is an "international obligation:" That is rubbish.

It can be argued we have an obligation to defend NATO if it is attacked (though even that obligation is limited.) But NATO is not being attacked. NATO is attacking. We have no obligation of any sort to support attacks.

Ukraine is a country with enormous problems and few resources. What it needs from all sides is help to straighten itself out. What it does not need is to be used an an excuse for a war which would be the final disaster for Ukraine - and for a lot of others.

The two editorialc are both brainless and harmless. One says that Alward is right to repair damaged roads. (Wow! Who would have guessed?)
The other is about a commission of four that the province has appointed to regulate combat sports - you know, the ones where one guy trips the other, them pounds his head into the canvas.. What worries the editor is that this will lead to more and more  members on the commission, and a dreadful waste of money.
Cheer up, eds, I doubt whether any boondoggle in regulating combat sports is going to come anywhere close to the handout to Irving of our forest.

Norbert has an interesting and highly readable column on science and religion. It beats anything I've seen on that awful Faith page on Saturdays.

Alec Bruce has an excellent column on how Harper's penny-pinching on essential matters like statistical gathering - as in the census. That leaves the government in a hopeless position when it needs those figures to decide policy. (Meanwhile, he will spend millions to fly his closest friends to Israel so they can hear him give a speech of impossible promises to the Israeli government. All to get votes.

Beth Lyons has a column on the right to abortion. The column is really a pause to take breath - and it's a very good read.
Now gotta rush to get ready for a hectic afternoon. Tomorrow is rough, too. We'll see.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 23: actually, I'm starting this on the night of April 23...

You see, I thought retirement was a time of taking it easy. That's a dirty lie. I've never been busier in life. And April 23 is going to be a very busy day what with a doctor's appointment, and exercise class and the blog. With that sort of pressure, I find it hard to maintain my schedule of cleaning the apartment once every two months (or so).

Anyway, it's getting really tough to say much about the TandT in recent weeks. There's just nothing in it. And it's hard to write about nothing every day.

So I'll start with answering some comments. It can be a usefully humbling experience.
1. I was wrong about the power of the PM and cabinet to declare war on their own. Not confused. Not misleading. Just wrong. They can do it.
2. to Mikel, don't worry about rankling me. I'm unranklable, (It took me just half a day of teaching kindergarten realize that getting rankled was fatal.)
3. The current government of Pakistan permits drone attacks, so the US can get away with doing them to that country. But I wonder about the legality under international law of allowing a foreign government to kill its own people,  In any case, the drones are not used just in Pakistan. So that makes use of them an act of war in the other countries.
In fact, US attacks on other countries in various forms are so common that it is hard to know how a court would deal with it.
4. As to Canadian jets being in Poland - it doesn't matter where they are or what there official reason is for being there. If a war starts, we would almost certainly find it effectively impossible to pull out the jets. They would have to stay with NATO forces. Now, I think we can safely say they would not be sent to attack Ukraine. So what would they be used for? Russia. And presto, we're in a war. And even if we used them only in Ukraine, just having them in a war environment means we would be sucked into that war.

Nor is this a good time to go to war. Harper has badly neglected the armed forces.
He has used tensions in Ukraine and Israel to win the next election. To get votes, he has made promises we cannot keep, and he has tied us to causes that are none of our business.

The Israeli government must have found his speeches about Canada's love for Israel hilarious. Canadians may not know what Canada did for Jews in WW2. But Israelis know. Canada didn't lift a finger. In fact, it discriminated heavily against European Jews.  I was friends with a couple from Berlin. They were at a Nazi rally about 1937, and decided it was time to get out.

Both Canada and the US turned them down - as they did throughout WW2 and even after. Luckily for my friends, they were pretty well off, so they could afford to bribe Canadian immigration officials. But it took most of their money to do it.

Harper is extremely irresponsible in using foreign affairs as simply a device to win votes in the next election.

5. Don't count the US out yet? With most incomes falling even as the very rich make their biggest profits in history, with the needs of he poor neglected in order to spend more money (and more corruption) on defence, with American business leaving the US to get hold of cheap labour anywhere they can get a trade treaty, with even the American government planning how to deal with domestic uprisings, with American foreign policy leaving a trail of chaos and destroyed nations all over the world, and with a class of the very wealthy who don't seem to care about the damage and hardship they are causing, I don't think the American empire will take nearly as long as the Roman one to collapse.
Nor do I see any attractive prospects for a successor.
6. Am I anti-American? No. Why should I be? Most Americans are not hungering for world conquest or advocating mass murder. Most Americans are very similar to us and, indeed, to most people in this world.
I would have had words at least as  harsh about the British and their empire if I had been living in 1870. I would be as harsh about Canadians and their abysmal treatment of native peoples for centuries.

Us humans are a lot like each other. The distance between us and a Hitler is not so great as we may think.

And so to bed with my evening glass of diet ginger ale, a recognized aid to health for the retired.


Now, it's April 23. And the TandT actually has 2 reports on Ukraine. Both are useless. Both tell us a great deal about what is wrong with journalism.

Speaking to Joe Biden, Ukrainian prime minister Yatsenyuk said, "No country should be able to  behave like an armed bandit....(Russia) should not behave like armed bandits."

This is just mindless blathering that tells us nothing about the situation. Russia should not behave like armed bandits? Hey! This is the guy who not long ago used violence, and a lot of it, to overthrow the legal, elected government of Ukraine.

Russia should not behave like armed bandits? Hey! He was talking to the vice-president of the US, the world's most heavily armed, aggressive, and murderous nation.

Terrorists, he says, "...are beginning to torture and kill Ukrainian patriots.....they are ..rejecting the calls... of all the world's society"

What rubbish! Two Ukrainians were tortured and killed. He was saying this to Joe Biden, the Vice-President of the world's  biggest torturer..

And all the world's society is calling?  If so, it certainly is calling very, very quietly. In fact, it is far too early for us even the guess what "all the world's society" thinks.

"The State Department says Kerry urged Russia to tone down the rhetoric. Actually, I've read far, far more rhetoric from the US, particularly from Kerry..

Bidden called on the President and PM of Ukraine to be the voice for rights and freedoms. These are the people who showed their opinion of democratic rights and freedoms when they overthrew the democratcally elected government of Ukraine.

The isn't reporting. This is propaganda passing on the brainless rhetoric of our side. That's not what reporting is supposed to do. It is supposed to inform us on what's happening.

For example, Ukraine is known to be, politically, a very mixed kettle of fish with an emphasis on the far right. News media should be telling us who the main groups are.  News media should be informing us about the Ukrainian Nazi party which seems to have considerable influence in the new government. News media should be explaining to us why so many Ukrainian troops have defected to the Russian side..

But, reading that story from The Associated Press, we learn nothing whatever about what is going on in Ukraine

It would also be nice if our news media were to tell us about the testimony of the US assistant secretary of state so a Congressional committee, the one in which she is said to have confessed that the US spent over five billion dollars and five years organizing the recent overthrow of the Ukraine government. This, unlike political blathering, could be useful information.

The other Ukraine story is of a speech by the Russian ambassador to the Empire Club here in Canada, a group heavily composed of businessmen.

Read what he says carefully - which won't take long because what he said is only half the story. In his speech there was not - certainly not in this report - even a hint of threat. He also made a statement that makes a good deal of sense. "What started out as an anti-corruption  revolution was hijacked by nationalists with a very (anti-Russian) agenda."

I don't know whether that's true. But it's far the most credible explanation I've heard..

Over half of the story was devoted to how the business audience acted like a collection of louts. That's not surprising. Business audiences will listen to an Irving, hear him say nothing,  cheer him and go kiss-kiss-kiss. Then they yell insults at a speaker they aren't afraid of.

The story also quoted two of the businessmen who were at the meeting.  I  have no idea why they were quoted. Neither seemed to experts of any sort. One them, with a unique sense of the meaning of freedom, found it was odd that the ambassador should have been allowed to speak. He also said, as though it meant something, "We heard what they want people to think."

Well, yeah, flash - and that's what you hear when Obama speaks - or any speaker I ever heard of.

Two stories - that tell us nothing at all.
Bizarre. Norbert has a column on how our distrust of science and government puts our world at risk. Yes, indeed.  Norbert, have you never noticed that you work for a press that is a leader is spreading distrust of science and  government. You are particularly fond of foaming at the mouth about government.

Then he says we should not make scapegoats of the rich, and blame them for all this. Yeah, I think it's just terrible the way people have been picking on the rich. But the Irving Press and wealthy oilmen have been leaders  in working to discredit science, and to discredit government. So a little criticism might be useful.

The op ed columns are worth reading only if you are terminally bored and have lots of time to spare.

Alec Bruce has a fascinating column. It seems us modern folks share 99% of the DNA of neanderthal man. But in the 1% we do not share, there are great differences - and they appear to affect the brain.

Now, as Bruce says,  his is very new stuff, and we really don't know much about it. But, possibly, our brains go haywire more easily that did those of the neanderthals. One possible effect of that is our willingness to take risks that can often be very foolish and destructive.

Climate change, environmental destruction, the desire to dominate the world, the worship of greed in big business........yes, it all comes under the heading of foolish and destructive. And, since we lack any serious news of it, our tendency to foolish risk-taking may be the best explanation we will ever get of what is going on in Ukraine, and of why capitalism is digging its own grave.

The next two days look tricky with lots of appointments, jobs to do, etc. I'll try for a blog each day - but can't be sure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 22: Lots of comments...

...and I will answer them. But I'm running (behind) on a frantic schedule. I had no idea this is what retirement would be like.

I  guess Ukraine is no longer a serious matter. Today makes it almost a week since we have seen the word Ukraine. Or Syria. Nor have we heard anything of US drones that killed 50 or more people who might have been terrorists. Or might not.

No, the big news is that funerals were held for victims of a mass stabbing in Calgary. That's nice. So much better than just leaving them there on the floor.

And the search goes on with no news to report for a Malaysian plane - as it has for many, many days..

And that's the news.
That may change, and very suddenly, indeed. Neo-conservatives in the US made their aim quite clear in the 1990s. It is on the web as Project for the new American Century. It's not a secret. Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, all made public their belief that the US should conquer and rule the world.

That's why millions have been killed with millions more to come.

They even wrote an open letter to Bill Clinton, demanding a war on Iraq. (Incidentally, an Iraqi women is now suing the US government for that war since it was a war of aggression, and therefore illegal under international law. The reasons the US gave for going to war have long since been dismissed as lies.and one and  a half million Iraqis are dead.)

The American conquest is for business and economic dominance. (That's what the project says it is.) But now, time is a problem.

The power of the US is declining rapidly - and it faces an even bigger economic crisis. Russia, China, India, and many others are going off paying for trade in US dollars  That means American dollar will become  worthless because of the huge, American debt. . All that keeps it alive is major countries using it in international trade.

But that could end very, very soon. The rising nations are backing away from the American dollar. And the sought after trade ties are no longer with the US. They are with countries American business itself has been moving to - like China and India. Putin has just closed a huge gas deal with China.

The Obama government must be under enormous pressure to score and to score quickly. - because the opportunity has just about passed - and once passed will never come back. (Not that any of this will do us much good because big business rules in just bout every country.

To make matters worse, the US has created a chaos of hatreds and failed states, not to mention starvation and killing, with its American Century aggression. There is now a world of failed and failing states out there, far too many to even keep up with. And that is very dangerous, indeed.

In sum, though, there is nothing in Section A or NewsToday.
The editorial page is - not bad.

The editorial is sensible, and doesn't foam at the mouth.
Norbert is harmless. He doesn't say much. But he's harmless.

Alec Bruce makes a strong case for government rule, rather than rule by big business. His closing statement is one worth thinking about. "The sooner that governments embrace the noble, necessary role that it ought to play in society - and stop apologizing reflexively to hard-line neo-conservatives for their mere existence - he more efficient and perhaps even fiscally responsible they will be."
Alan Cochrance thinks that we are no the edge of a huge,effort to save our environment. I have no idea why he thinks so.

Patricia  Graham is the new ombudswoman for the Irving press.Her column is all about how Irving journalists all believe in the importance of  full and honest information if we are to have a real democracy. That she could write should obvious nonsense, and that she can have been a senior journalist without knowing the national reputation  of the Irving press for manipulation and lying is not believable.

Monday, April 21, 2014

April 21: Spreading ignorance - deliberately

(In advance, I have an apology. I have printed all comments that were sent to me but, for some reason, several from yesterday disappeared. I discovered that when I tried to write replies. I can now remember only two of the points.
1. Six jets are not many. But they're enough to put us in a war. One would do it. The Canadian jets have been sent in case a war breaks out. Ergo, they will necessarily be in the fighting from the start. And we will be at war without declaring it. Very hard to back out after the fact.
2. Canada does legally require parliamentary consent to go to war. It cannot be declared simply by the PM and cabinet. You will find that in any standard history of Canada written since 1939. King also recorded it in his diary - which you should find in any university library. That's why he delayed declaring war for a week in 1939.

Of course, if your jets, say, get involved in fighting before a declaration, it's awfully hard to pull out. And some half-wits are bound to shout we are required to support NATO.  (We aren't.)

3. The US president does NOT have the power to declare war. Only Congress can approve going to war. However, Bush ignored all that. And Congress abandoned its constitutional obligations and, without declaring war, gave him full war powers.

In fact, the US has not declared war since 1941 (and it has fought wars since then.) It's just part of the general collapse of the US constitution.

In this day of tension and danger, the banner headline is "Province's maple season has late start, early finish"

Wow! I needed to know that.

On A3 we learn that "A lot of cases of stolen bicycles go unsolved..." And not only that. "Most stolen
bicycles were left unattended" That drivel is a  half-page story.

Big story on A9 is essentially a free ad for shale gas.

The only story worth reading in section A is about the need to provide food for people in this city who are hungry. (God bless the volunteers. But there's something wrong in a city in which food for the starving is the responsibility of volunteers. Volunteering is not just a sign of community spirit by the people who do it. It's a disgraceful sign of the indifference of our elected officials. (Hey! We need more seats for the events centre.)

So I turned to NewsToday. The banner headline is "Air Canada draws fire for video of baggage being dropped" It seems an employee was dropping luggage six metres into a bin.

Now, that story happened well back into last week. That's not news. It's history.

Syria is where people are being slaughtered in order the destroy the nation which has done nothing wrong. The slaughter is being supplied, paid for, and "rebels"  (really hired mercenaries from other countries) are being trained by the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates....  But the word Syria does not appear in today's paper.

Ukraine? Not a word. The last time they had any must have been five days ago.They carried news of Jim Flaherty's death and funeral daily for at least a week. I don't know how many days we had big stories on how there was no news about a Malaysian jet.

This isn't just a juvenile and incompetent newspaper. This is an insult to readers.

It may be partly stupidity on the part of the editors. But I think it's more than  that. This is a newspaper, like all the Irving press, deliberately keeping people ignorant and trivial so they have no idea how they are being abused by government and business.  This is a paper designed to make New Brunswick the Canadian equivalent of the American deep south.

Alec Bruce is amusing but very, very light. Craig Babstock continues his geegollywhiz version of commentary. I couldn't even agree with Steve Malloy who thinks it's worth arguing about how many seats we need in the events centre.

The star player in today's opinion columns is Norbert. He has a strong case in criticizing the politicians for their inaction on making abortion available. I'm not sure I'd say they need backbone. They need brains. They need a good deal of mental scrubbing to get the simplistic thinking of deep south preachers out of their heads. They need to think less of their own virtue, and more of the needs of others.

They have every right to hold their views and to argue them in public.  (Though it would be nice if those views were consistent. I can't help noticing that the same people who say it's a sin to kill babies have no trouble with killing innocent people all over the world by the millions. And even in letting people in our own province go in hunger. Self-righteous hypocrites.

On education, Norbert should learn to separate the boards and the education department from the teachers. It's not the teachers who have created the problems.  It's the ministry of education. It's interfering big business.

That's particularly obvious with the introduction of courses in entrepreneurship. I quite agree with Norbert on the silliness of such courses. Now, let's just take it a step further. Who do you think has been pushing for courses on entrepreneurship?

There's a good letter to the editor "Politicians don't have enough power"

And that's it, folks, Three items worth reading (food banks, Norbert, and a letter to the editor) in our paper just given away to us by our Phil-an-trough-ic Hall of Fame newspaper owner.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April 20: Just thinking out loud

This may be short; I feel the need of a break. However, there's an element in the Ukrainian crisis that news media have not touched on.  Why should we get involved in what's going on in Ukraine?

Oh, I know - we must help the weak; we must spread democracy; we must help little girls go to school. I've heard those many times. The reality is that no countries go to war for those reasons. To kill a million people so that little girls could go to school is absurd. Ditto for the usual reasons for war that we hear about.

Sure. And big business is just desperate to go to war to spread democracy.

If so, why has it done so much to kill democracy in Latin America? And here?

In 1914, the US did not go to war. British empire and French army troops died in unheard of numbers. Britain had to sell off most of its American assets for whatever it could get - much to the benefit of American millionaires. There was every possibility that Germany was going to win that war with disastrous results for Britain and France.

So why did the US just look on for most of the war?

Because it couldn't care less what might happen to Britain and France. It was making a fortune out of selling weapons and food. And if the British and French lost, the US could scoop up some very profitable pieces of empire.

I don't know why the US changed its mind in 1917. (I'm only a humble, Canadian historian.) But the sinking of an American ship  was not the reason. To go to war, you need a pretext - like Hussein's supposed stock of weapons of mass destruction.. But the pretext is rarely the real reason.

By 1917, Britain and France owed a tremendous debt to the US. Neither would ever be a leading
industrial power again. And if they lost the war, the US would never see that money. I don't know if that's the reason - and I'm sure there are readers who do.

Why did Canada go to war in 1914? Because, as a member of the Empire, it had to go to war. As well, a high proportion of the Canadian population was British born or of British origins, and still more British than Canadian. Finally, a British defeat would be a disaster for Canadian big business which relied on  British investment, and which relied for trade on favoured access to the Empire.

In 1939, Britain went to war again. So did Canada, but a week later. By 1939, we had gained the right to decide for ourselves whether we wished to go to war, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King was determined to maintain that right. That's why he delayed declaring war for a week - to give parliament time to discuss it and to vote.

The US did not declare war. Same reason as in 1914. There was nothing in it for the US. (As well, Hitler had important admirers in American big business; and there were strong, anti-semitic feelings across the US.)  Again, if Britain lost, the us would be able to snap up pieces of the empire on the cheap.

The US held this attitude through the horror of Dunkirk, the intense bombing of Britain, especially London, and the dreadful food shortages caused by the submarine blockade. The US did not go to war because there was nothing in it for the US.

That changed in 1941, but not because of any concern about Britain. For at least half a century, the great prize in Asia, for US purposes,  was China for its cheap labour and vast market. But Japanese armies were rolling across China. Suddenly, in US newspapers, Japanese armies became  cruel (which they were), and the Japanese generally a vicious and evil people - a depiction now reversed since Japan is an important ally.

All the US needed was a pretext, an attack by Japan. That was arranged when the US cut off Japan's oil supply. (Japan's great weakness was its reliance on imported oil.)  It worked - though probably more spectacularly than planned when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. The US had its excuse. It declared war on Japan.

But it did not declare war on Germany. Why should it? What was there to gain? In fact, it was Germany that declared war on the US some three weeks after Pearl Harbour.

In short, nations go to war when it suits their purposes. And, for at least a century, it has been a major function of news media to set up the nation for war when the bosses tell it to - because they decide what the nation's purposes are.

Canada's role has always been a junior one. Our forces have done very well. But we have never been in a position to make major decisions about the war.

Just recently, Harper sent six Canadian fighter jets to Ukraine. That's a decision to go to war. (It is scarcely thinkable that if a war broke out, we would simply call our jets back home.) Harper has broken a right our soldiers earned for us at a cost of 60,000 dead in World War I. He has taken away our right for our elected representatives to decide when we go to war and against whom.

And the Canadian news media haven't even noticed it.

The great question in Ukraine is not who is right and who is wrong. Hell, we intervened in Afghanistan even though that war was obviously wrong - and wrong on our side. We don't intervene in Syria because people on our side want the government and the nation to be destroyed.

So right and wrong have nothing to do with it. What most other nations decide is - what does this war have to do with us? Why should we be involved?

Our news media don't even look at that. All they do is chant, "Russians evil, ugh, kill Russians."

It is impossible to see how any war would benefit Canada. They are almost all fought to benefit the big kids.

It is impossible to see how we could limit the world damage risked by a war with Russia. Even if we win, and even if the world is not set back centuries by the nuclear damage, the result would be to put US missiles and soldiers on the border with China to repeat the same exercise. And what would Canada get from all that world damage and loss of life?

A pat on the head for being a good kid.

It's dismaying to realize how much independence and freedom we have lost as shown by our news media's ignoring our right to fight wars for our own purposes.

We also have to realize that the question is not who is  right and who is wrong. You can argue the rights and wrongs of a war until you're blue in the face without convincing anybody. The question is - what action or inaction is it best for Canada to follow?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19: Sh! Baby's sleeping...

What could be the biggest crisis in world history has taken a turn for the worse in the last couple of days. But not in the Irving press. In the fact, even the word "Ukraine" did not appear in the paper yesterday, and did not appear again today.

But there are big, front page stories that drivers are still talking on cell phones, and Easter is a big time for retail sales but Christmas is bigger. Way  to set priorities, guys.

Of course, they don't carry the big story that has hit the European papers - but not the North American ones. When the elected government of Ukraine was still in power, and there was rioting in the streets, many of the rioters were killed by snipers. Our news media jumped on this to show how cruel the elected government was.

But the snipers weren't working for the elected government. Hospitals report the bullets extracted seem to have come from a small number of guns. Other reports indicate all the shots came from a certain hotel - which was completely under the control of the rioters.

In other words, the riot leaders had cnipers shooting their own people. Why?

To create confusion and to raise the level of blind anger. But to get that story, you'll have to go to a German or, perhaps, a British newspaper.

The riot leaders, of course, and the snipers were paid out of the five billion or so the US pumped into Ukraine to organize a government coup in the first place.

Meanwhile, the US has sent ships, two so far, to the Black Sea to patrol off the Russian naval base of Odessa. Isn't that a nice way to ease tensions? Can you imagine the reaction if the Russians sent a fleet to patrol off an American naval base?

I read in some paper that a Russian fighter jet had flown over the American ships in the Black Sea - the paper said it was taunting them. It did not occur to the reporter that taunting was exactly what the American ships were doing.

What does Russia want out of this? It certainly doesn't want Ukraine. Ukraine is flat broke, billions in debt, a curse to whoever holds it.

What it wants is assurances that Ukraine will not be used to move western troops and rockets to the Russian border.

Why would be US want Ukraine? So that it can move troops and rockets to the Russian border. US business is looking for world domination. There are now two main obstacles to that - Russia and China. For that reason the US has been developing bases to hem in China. For that reason, it has been moving its rocketry ever closer to Russia.

In short, it is quite possible, even probable that the US wants a war with Russia. So our news media paint Russians as evil - and us as good.

In fact, the US has, for a good fifty years, been the most aggressive nation in the world. It supports the world's biggest domestic  spy apparatus. It has a government that is extraordinarily corrupt, and owned by big business. It has killed millions in the last fifty years,  many of whom we never hear because they are killed by assassination squads or by poisons the Americans have left behind them - like Agent Orange,unexploded cluster bombs, and depleted uranium.

Almost all the dead are from countries that couldn't possibly attack North America - Vietnam, Guatemala, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria.....

Western Europe joins the US in organizations like NATO because it has to. Europe is full of nations with collapsed empires. They need the old empires back to feed off. The US needs the NATO countries to share the wars.

As well, democracy is dying in the old imperial powers just as it has died in the US, just as it is being killed in Canada. So we become the leeches clinging to American policy.

Who are the bad guys? who are the police states? who are the aggressors? who are the killers and destroyers?

Wake up. It's us.

What annoys me about that wimpy Faith Page in this paper is that the churches refuse to address what is going on. That should be no surprise. Nothing is exactly what most German churches did throughout the Third Reich.

There is nothing to say about the news in today's paper. Almost all of it is the usual turgid and amateurish crap. The one item I found worth reading was "Leading the anti-shale rally cry" on A3.
It's about a new Canadian, a retired man from the US, who is travelling with the Voice of the People Tour. He sounds gutsy, blunt and well-informed. He should be pretty good behind a microphone.

The story is by Adam Huras, who seems far the best reporter for Irving press.

On F2, Mike Elliott, an English major at UdeMoncton, argues in favour of the graphic novel, essentially, a book in comic book form.

I'm not a great fan of the graphic novel. My broadcasting experience is that people have to focus pretty narrowly the get a full understanding. The easier it gets to do, the less we listen. That's why TV news makes far less impression than radio news. I was on TV many, many times, but not many people remember it. I was also on radio. What a difference! Within a few weeks, people would recognize my voice and talk to me as I were a family member. Of course. On radio, they focussed on me. I was right in the house with them, so of course I knew all about Uncle Charlie's illness, and how much the house needed a coat of paint.

However, for a light, graphic book, I found a pretty good one. It's about the Canadian armed forces in World War Two.  Yes, it's very pro-Canadian. Yes, a few subjects are avoided. But it's generally pretty accurate.

By Paul Keery and Michael Wyatt, it's called Canada at War.
There's nothing in the editorial or in Norbert Cunningham.

Jean Belliveau has a very sensible column on campground development in Shediac, and the very great damage it will do to the environment and to the general visual atmosphere. It's a well-written try, a good one. But this is New Brunswick.

If there's a buck in this, it will go ahead. This is a province that will happily destroy the land and the water for shale gas and for resource development. And if that damage lasts forever, who cares? The only important thing is to make a buck. Now.

Then there's Gwynne Dyer.

I like Gwynne going back to when we first met, a good forty years ago. I've always thought him the best military and foreign affairs journalist in the business.

But this one makes no sense at all. He gives no convincing reason for anything he says.

 He says the current Ukrainian government came to power by mostly non-violent means.

What? It came to power because government came to a halt under massive street riots, largely financed, trained, organized and equipped by the US. I think that's violence.

And can he seriously believe that a government which came to power by violently overthrowing the previous government (and with foreign financing) is now going to hold an honest election?

He says that Putin needs a pretext to use force to take over East Ukraine. Why on earth would he want to take over East Ukraine? It's stone broke. It does supply some goods for Russia. But with the state of the Ukrainian debt, it's cheaper for Russia to produce those goods itself.

There's far more evidence that it's the US that's looking for pretexts. After all, it's the one that spent 5 billion or more to set up this whole mess.

Sorry Gwynne. I don't buy this one at all.

Friday, April 18, 2014

April 18: Journalism and ethics

Yesterday, I gently disagreed with Norbert on the quality of BBC news; (he regarded it as a world leader.) Last night, by chance, I came across the BBC report on the Geneva talks on Ukraine.

It set the beginning of the crisis with the Russian annexation of Crimea. In fact, almost all the western press begins with that annexation. And that is propaganda and lying. The Russians annexed Ukraine for a reason. It was because highly organized street mobs had overthrown the elected government of Ukraine, replaced the government with, among others, neo-Naziis, and were planning to join Ukraine to NATO. And that would put western troops and nuclear rockets right on the Russian border.

Those street mobs, according to testimony in the US Senate, were organized, trained and equipped over a period of five years by the US government.

I've seen almost no western reports that mention that. And the BBC didn't mention it, either. Result? People have been led to believe Russia started it. It didn't.  This is the use of news as propaganda.

Then it said the Russian annexation of Crimea outraged the world? Oh? I doubt very much whether any world except North America and western Europe was outraged. And if they were outraged, then how did they feel about the American slaughters in Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan (with drones) that indiscriminately killed by the millions?

So I'd like to know where the BBC got the information that the world was outraged. And, if so, why we have not heard reports of outrage over American attacks that were infinitely greater than Russia's.

Once again, this is pure propaganda.

Obama is then quoted as saying the peace talks are nice - but Russia might now use its power in a disruptive way. Isn't that a great way to welcome peace talks? In fact, all the quoted American comments carry threats There has  yet to be a single threat from Russia. But the BBC didn't notice that.

And Russia might use its power in a disruptive way? What the hell else has the US been using its power for in the last 50 years? But I have not seen any of the western media, including the BBC, say that.

And then there's this one - and it's really important. The BBC said there are reports of pro-Russian Ukrainians forcing Jews in one city to register as Jews. The reports are not verified, it said.

The reports aren't verified? Then why the hell is BBC reporting them?

And who are these reports coming from? I doubt that they're coming from Putin or from any Russian officials. That's the kind of report that would come from anti-Russian Ukrainians. But we don't know because the BBC doesn't even say where those reports come from. How could the BBC publish something as news when it doesn't even know if it happened? And how come it could do it without even telling us where the reports came from?

Because the BBC is publishing propaganda, not news. It knows that most people will read that, believe it, and say, "Oh, those terrible Russians."

Then there's the story that Russian paratroops "lost control" of their armoured vehicles when they were taken over by "pro-Russian rebels".  Other sources carried the whole truth on this one. The Ukrainian column of armoured vehicles switched sides, and went over to Russia.

A long time ago, I used to admire the BBC. But those days are long gone.

Over the years, I've had to learn to love and hate - according to rules set down by news media. I've had to learn to love Americans, British, Chinese (when the murderous drug-dealer Chiang, who was on our side, was in control), Russians (from 1941to 1945), and Japanese since 1950 or so.

 I had to learn to hate Chinese when they chased Chiang out, to hate Japanese from 1941 to the late 1940s, to hate Russians from 1945 on, to hate Syrians and Iranians.

We had to learn to hate Egyptians when they held democratic elections because they elected the wrong side. But now it's okay to love them because the military took over and has established a government more pleasing to the US.

And Cuba does terrible things. Castro established an excellent school system, medicare. And it isn't even democratic like the US. It was much better in the old days when Cuba had a murderous dictator supported by the US- and no schools and no medical care.

That BBC broadcast on Ukraine was designed as propaganda.  I'm not sure whether it was propaganda to make it appear the US  has won and to give it a graceful way out - or whether it's simply to stall for time while the US figures out what to do. But it's propaganda.

And that is what Norbert calls the best news source in the world. And, by his standards, I guess it is.

Will the peace hold? I doubt it.

The Ukraine is full of extreme groups like the Naziis who have now been trained and equipped by the US. They are very, very unlikely to disarm. It's a nation that really isn't a nation, full of ethnic groups at odds with each other. And, under its new, unelected government, it faces a horrible period of austerity.

So far, all we have is a patchwork response when we needed a full redesign of Ukraine according to the wishes of the Ukrainian people. But that ain't going to happen.

There's really nothing but fluff and chicken bones in most of the TandT today. So let's skip to editorial and op ed.

Alec Bruce has a column on government spending that's an important read. As he sees the provincial scene, New Brunswick ( like Canada as a whole,  right now) has no sense of long term planning, particularly on matters of spending. The rush is to sell resources now, get a few jobs, sell, don't think of the consequences, just sell.

That's very much the business model. There is no future. There is only now to the next election or to the next quarterly report.  He compares that to Norway, the wealthiest per capita country in the world because its governments plan for the future.

It's worth reading, perhaps a corrective for those who think the world will end if we don't get an events centre with lots of seats right now.

Speaking of planning for the future, Suzuki writes of a future without cars. Yes, it really is going to happen - and not just because of climate change. Cities need to plan for a layout that makes it possible for people to move about without cars. Unless Moncton has those changes planned and begun in the not-too-distant future, it's going to be one, awkward city to live in.

As for longer trips, most of us will live to regret the failure to spend the little that is needed to save railway traffic in this province.

The column is a bit rambling for Suzuki. But it's a good one to stir up some thinking.
There are a couple of letters to the editor which take the universities to task for not refunding students for classes cancelled in the recent strikes. I agree with them. But it goes much, much deeper.

Universities have to rethink what they are about. That is particularly true about the undergraduate level where courses are frequently a waste of time because of untrained teaching and, related to that, because so little thought has been given to the purpose of courses, especially introductory ones.

Universities need to seriously rethink the economics of teaching. If they don't, it will be done (badly) for them.

They need to rethink the wisdom of having boards loaded with businessmen,many of whom see the universities only as places that can be useful to them.

The modern university developed as a place for the children of the rich to go, often simply as a reward for finishing high school, a place to  have a good time. Most students today do not think of it like that - but the university often thinks of itself like that. That's why the school football team is so important. (There could be a whole book on that.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April 17: No foreign news...doh-dee-doh

In the midst of the worst, international crisis   we have seen in 50 years - maybe ever - the Tand T has not a single word of foreign news in it. This is a big-talking city. But the Tand T barely qualifies as a Hicksville paper.

To make it worse, there are stories out there of Harper having given a secret order to the Canadian armed forces to prepare for service in Syria. (I don't believe that one. First, the Canadian military has no equipment up to such service. Second, it would mean significant casualties; and Harper doesn't want that with an election coming up. Third, Harper's style is to talk big - as he did in Israel and Ukraine - for sake of domestic ethnic votes. But he's most unlikely to do anything if he can possibly avoid it.)

Still, such stories should be reported - if with suitable warnings. The reality is that military staffs are always planning for all sorts of wars that nobody has any intention of fighting. It's their job to test for weakness in their structure, to develop secure methods of transportation and supply, to find the best way to use new weapons.... So they do it, and every few years, some reporter picks up a leak about one of their planning conferences, and reports we're planning a war.

But this time there's a true story (Ukraine) to balance the false one. Canada is sending (some) force to bolster NATO in its confrontation with Russia. It's sending six fighter aircraft.

Now, that's not a huge contribution. In fact, the word 'token' comes to mind. Nor is it necessary. Contrary to stories appearing in North America of Russia moving massive armies to the border with Ukraine, no such thing is happening. What is happening?

The US is trying to cover its inept behaviour of the last several years in Ukraine by painting Putin as evil and threatening. (Russians bad. Americans good. Ukranians good.) So it's making threats and gestures   (like sanctions that won't have much effect) to make it look as if it's doing something.

Harper came under pressure to do something, to show the world that NATO is strong and united. So
Harper, the big talker when he visited Ukraine, did the minimum. Six jets, barely enough for a half decent air show.

So does that mean the Ukraine situation isn't really dangerous? Alas. No such luck.

What the last couple of weeks have shown is that Ukraine can only in politeness be called a nation at all. Politically, its people are divided from hardline-naziis to every imaginable variation of the farthest right to, all of those with a severe infection of hatred of Jews, and all the rest of the poor Joes and Janes preoccupied with the poverty that faces them under their new government.

Then, of  course, a great many are Russians and want to be a part of Russia. In fact, large numbers of Ukrainian soldiers have already defected to Russia.  And you have other ethnic groups, some of which want their own countries.

As nations go, Ukraine isn't a nation. It's a basket case. And that means it's highly unstable. What  we, euphemistically, call "incidents" are happening every day - and every one of them has the capacity to trigger a disaster.

 Six jets is pretty much the minimum Harper could send, and still satisfy Obama's need to be perceived as a Christian warrior. But even six could prove too many.

The answer, as Putin has suggested, is not face-saving threats.  The answer is a conference to redesign Ukraine borders to create a nation that is stable; and to get NATO to agree not to continue the game of trying to push its troops up to the Russian border. The US would never allow Russia to station troops on the American borders with Canada or Mexico. I don't know.Maybe Russians are all genetically evil and plotting to kill us all in our sleep. But still, if the US won't allow Russian troops on its borders, why should Putin be expected to allow NATO on Russian borders?

Some day, I'm sure, the TandT will tell us all about it. Maybe.

Not much in Section A unless you really, really like pictures of floods ( some of which are just splashy sections of road.) There is a story on page 1 on shale gas. SWN, our favourite driller, announces plans for the future which seem to indicate it won't do much this summer. One would think that would urge a reporter to ask "Why not?" But TandT reporters seem to think it impolite to ask questions.

There's also a report on A6 that "Shale gas event to be held in Riverview". It's on A6, I expect, because it's not as important ad a press release from SWN that says nothing.

Curiously, it's not about an event in Riverview. It's about meetings the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance is holding across the province, giving dates, times and places. (Journalism 101: a headline is supposed to indicate what the story is about.)
NewsToday has more pictures for people who can't get enough of flood pictures. The headline story, and it's a very large one, is yet another story about the death of former minister of finance, Jim Flaherty.
This has been going on for a week. I have never seen such coverage of the death of a former cabinet minister. And we have had some ministers, including in finance, who were very effective, indeed.

The editorial is on yet another subject of which the editorial writer is completely ignorant. This time, it's education - and his voice of the gods says that curriculum reform have been going on for 30 years; and that's too much.

I have news for you, Flash; curriculum reform has been going on for thousands of years. It's supposed to  as we understand more about how people learn, and as we change our ideas on what they should learn.

And he infers that this is what is causing declining scores in literacy and numeracy.

Another bit of news, Flash, Chinese students tend to do very well on exams. I taught enough of them to know that. And I taught enough of them in China to know why. They are raised in a code of conduct that demands high respect for family - and that high respect includes a responsibility to do well in school.

I once spent two days searching for a student who had run away because he felt he had dishonoured his family with his grades. We feared he had committed suicide. I also had to deal with a student who was taking medication so he could study all night. I had to lie a little bit, and threaten to have him hospitalized if he did not get eight hours sleep a night. (He is now a multi-billionaire. See? It's worth studying Canadian history.)

Then the editor says we should start with rote learning. Boy, you have great insights,Flash. Schools have been beginning with rote learning for millenia. If anything, they do far too much rote learning - all the way through university.

Rote learning, by the way, means memorizing without necessarily understanding. That's how children learn the alphabet. That's how they know Thirty days hath September, April, June and Octember...

But most rote learning is useless because it is forgotten very quickly unless you regularly use it. I know how long Octember is because I use that information. However, I learned Algebra the same way - and recently I learned I can't even do grade nine level.  I have a university course (doctoral level) which was taught by rote. Today, I remember nothing about it.

Learning scores depend on a lot things - family values, income and social levels, society values. Some of those are very, very hard to overcome.  That means that major reasons for lower scores in NB may have nothing  to do with the schools. They are more likely to have to do with family values, high levels of poverty, a tradition of lack of concern with learning (which is very noticeable in NB), with parents who don't read, don't discuss, have no interest whatever except in how many seats an events centre should have, and who tolerate as useless and incompetent and manipulative an organization as the Irving press.

Yes, the New Brunswick schools have problems with their scores. But the problem is not the schools. The problem is a society that doesn't give much of a damn about anything that calls for thinking, that is often afraid to think, and that allows billionaires who are largely ignorant of education to interfere with the schools.
Norbert Cunningham continues his ill-informed diatribe against the CBC. At one point, he says its news is biased. Norbert, you work for the Irving press. I have seen more honest reporting from the New China News Agency. You have a dishonest, propagandizing and incompetent newspaper. How could you dare to criticize anybody?

And you are ignorant enough to hold up the model for honest news organization in the whole world - the British Broadcasting Corporation. Norbert - you're a journalist and a former editor. And you don't know that the BBC is being investigated right now for severe bias? You don't know this has been going on for some years? You don't know that the BBC has a terrible reputation for pushing the government line?

Well, of course you don't know. Pushing your boss' line is something you've done all your life. It must seem normal by now.

Alec Bruce has a column on the CBC that I can agree with. He is certainly critical  (and, I think justifiably so) of its recent performance as an entertainment medium. (Like him, I have fond memories of Max Ferguson and Allan McFee, and don't care for what has replaced them).   But he also recognizes the superb quality of its journalism and commentary. The journalism far,far outclasses anything I have seen on commercial radio and TV in Canada. And it far, far, far, far outclasses the dreadful stuff that comes out of the US.

But the CBC was never intended to be a broadcaster like the others. There were, after all, lots and lots of others in the game. So why form a national, publicly-owned broadcast system?

So that it would be Canadian. So that we would learn to frame our ideas and values from a Canadian perspective, not from the perspective of another nation. It was so Canadians could know and understand each other better, so we could understand our own country better - and not simply accept the values and biases of another nation.

It was to provide opportunities for Canadian performers, for Canadian plays and documentaries. And that formula was not a formula devised by a wild-eyed radical from Toronto. It was a formula devised by a prime minister, a Canadian, from New Brunswick, William Bedford Bennett' who probably spent many a day on the sands at Hopewell. He realized that without a government broadcaster, we  would soon be smothered by the much larger broadcasters of the US.

It's quite true that radio and TV are both going through trying times. And that is an area to be explored.
But Norbert misses the boat, one in many, when he sees the answer simply in killing CBC.

For a start,  a major mistake was to make the CBC partly commercial. That forces damaging change on a system designed designed to meet Canadian needs. You can concentrate on meeting needs. Or you can concentrate on selling ads. You can't do both. And when you try to do both, you get the jumble that is CBC TV. That's how we ended up with hockey commentary that was both simple-minded, and designed to be comedy for the differently enabled.

But, whatever you do, don't touch the news side of the CBC. (Yes, sometimes it backs away for fear of government retaliation, and sometimes that annoys the hell out of me.)

But at its worst, CBC journalism outclasses the pack.

Rod Allen is, well, if you think Don Cherry is clever, you'll just love Rod Allen.

Excellent column by Jody Dallaire on the right to abortion. Her problem is she needs to convince people who think they are righteous when they are just self-righteous. For several centuries now, western Christians have been enthusiastic killers of innocent people, including children. For the last several decades, they have led the world. It's hard to convert such people who can see wrong only when it's done by others.