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.


  1. I again have to disagree about education. I talk to a lot of people about their educational experiences, and typically the teachers who are remembered with distinction are those who were outlaws. Those types of people have been mostly weeded out of the educational system.

    HOW we 'reason' is certainly not taught. Babies learn how to do it. Stick your finger in a light socket, it hurts, you don't do it again. You've learned from experience.

    But like politics, just because an IDEA isn't working doesn't mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater-sorry to be so hard on babies here. I can quite honestly say that at least the educational system I grew up with discouraged free thought. And not just in the classroom, but just the CULTURE of schooling works against free thought.

    It wasn't until university and mainly in classes where it was known quite well that the subject matter wouldn't amount to much was free thought encouraged. One upper level 'independant studies' course let us essentially pick whatever we wanted to study and write about it. It was one of the few A's I got, and it was probably the most enjoyable course I ever took.

    However, last year NB started a pilot project where teachers acted more as facilitators. That is a step in the right direction, but of course its probably doomed to failure as any teacher with half a brain knows that you don't need an education degree to be a 'facilitator'.

    And in that vein, I pretty much did an education degree through working with friends in the program when I was unemployed. It was hardly encouraging.

    Thats not to say I agree with dimwit, who at best only knows from reason not to stick his finger in a light socket and never bothered to get educated enough to learn how and why electricity works, and how to harness it. THAT is what reason can teach you.

    While I can't stand all the anti bilingual claptrap constantly trotted out in NB, there is no point in denying how ineffectual the bilingual educational program is in NB. My little sister took immersion from grade seven to twelve and STILL was not considered 'officially' bilingual. Meanwhile, a good percentage of french speakers speak chiac and are well nigh unintelligible to both other linguistic groups. But again, thats not to say I agree with whatsisname. Chomsky certainly doesn't say 'don't bother with an education', he just has a much more stringent (and enjoyable) educational system in mind.

  2. In my teaching, the only flak I ever got was from parents who objected to free thought. Religious fundamentalists were perhaps the worst. They thought their children not only had a right to the their religious beliefs (which, of course, they did) but that they had a right not to hear an contradiction of them.

    Throughout public school I never found my right to think independently was blocked. that was much more likely in university. Nor did I find any systematic attempt to get rid of "outlaws".
    Logic can be taught. I did it for years with history courses. (I don't use the word reason because it's too vague.)
    In university, as a student, and a teacher, i found that "outlaw" teachers were not welcomed, indeed that teachers of any sort were unwelcome. Among all my graduate school teachers, I can remember only one who encouraged independent thought. Other's taught us, largely, how to fit in.

    As to bilingualism, I have never run into NB francophones I could not have a conversation with in either French or English.

    As to Chomsky, I much enjoy his insights and clarity. But I have never seen reason to believe he has any notion of a more stringent and enjoyable education system in mind. His only comments on the subject, after all, were negative.