Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26:

Foreword - Something has been left out of this election. We've heard a bit either for or against shale gas. But there's a towering set of questions to be answered - and we don't have long to ask them.
1. Will SWN be returning to test for gas? I think it almost certain it will - no matter what. Large corporations  operate with no reference to morality at all. They have invested money here. They will certainly defend that investment no matter what any report says.

2. Would either Gallant or Alward set up an honest testing system for the safety of shale gas? Given the record of their parties, one would have to be a fool to believe that.

3. Does SWN have a contract with the province whereby it can sue if a government cancels the deal? Even if it is because fracking is ruled to be extremely dangerous? I should be amazed if it doesn't. We're getting hit now with a big suit now from Windsor. But SWN would probably have a much, much bigger one.
How come the Irving press has never reported on this? How come it's not an election issue?

4. If, in whatever case, SWN goes ahead next summer, how will we respond? Will we again send in para-militaries with combat rifles that can lay down a rapid and deadly fire? Don't kid yourself because these are expert snipers. Those work well when the person to be shot is isolated. But any rifle shot into a crowd is as likely to hit an innocent person as a dangerous one. Indeed, it's more likely to hit an innocent person.

Just one such person killed could put us all in deep trouble. Worse, even one sniper shot, no matter who it hits, could send the whole thing out of control. And the consequences of that would make Ferguson, Missouri look like a kiddie's playground.

Paramilitary groups, like the RCMP emergency squad, go beyond being police They really aren't police to enforce the law. These are soldiers who go to war against the population. You want to think very carefully before you commit them.

5. Next summer is not all that far off. The time to decide how (and if) to handle a protest is now.We should know now what plans all the parties have. To blunder into this as we did last time could, almost certainly would, have consequences we cannot even imagine.

I had put off writing about Tina Foley,  a fifteen year old native girl murdered in Winnipeg, because I did not believe that Stephen Harper would stick with his first reaction of indifference, ignorance and callousness.

Tina Foley is only one of the very high proportion of native women who are murdered or who disappear every year in Canada. This screams for federal action. But Harper shrugged and said the death of Tina Foley  was not a sociological matter but a police one - so he would not be looking at it.

Mr. Harper, you twit, you obviously don't know what sociological means. It is  the study of how people behave and why. Any murder is a sociological matter. And large numbers of murders or disappearances in one group are - or should be - very much a matter of government concern. And it certainly would be a concern for Harper if she had belonged to the right group - say, a bloc of potential Conservative voters - or Conservative fund-raisers. Harper is, God help us, the prime minister of all Canadians. But his reaction to the death of Tina Foley indicates he does not see native peoples as Canadians of any sort.

This man is contemptible in more ways that I can count - politically, morally, socially.... I guess I shouldn't be surprised the Irving press would not notice that.
Patrician Graham, ombudswoman for Irving press, has an op ed column in the paper for June 26. It's a sort of brief, text-book lecture on what a newspaper is.She divides it into news stories, and opinion pieces. So far, so good.

Then she says it has news stories in every section. Well, no. The Irving papers don't. Does she read them?
Section A, which should be the prime news section is mostly trivia. We've have four straight issues with the story (mostly pictures) of the Moncton air show.

For today, it also has a front page story on "Metro ponders merger of Burger King, Tims". (which should read Tim or Tim's). What's to ponder? There's nothing much in the story except interviews with a few people who drink coffee and eat doughnuts, and few who drink soft drinks and eat burgers.

The Times and Transcript normally has no significant news in section one, just trivia - and lots and lots of photos of trivia.

The NewsToday section for September 25 has two pages of nothing much news - and another of those damn pages of photos of the air show. That's it.

And I really would question the impartiality  that the ombudswoman speaks so highly of. In the only news story of any substance in the whole paper, the headline says "Islamic extremists capture Syrian air base.".

Well, they certainly do have an extreme view of their religion that drives them to war. And what drives us to war?

Usually, it's the extreme view of economics held by big business. Our side is led by capitalist extremists who think it's okay to kill people by  the millions in order to get control of their resources. But when have you seen a headline saying "Extreme capitalists invade Iran"? (Or Vietnam or Libya or Afghanistan or Haiti or Guatemala?)

The August 26 issue sets a new record for NewsToday. It has just one page of news., and over half of that page is trivia. The only important story dances around the major piece of news in the day's paper, "Ukraine leader dissolves parliament". So let's see.

Ukraine had a legally elected government which was overthrown, almost certainly with massive, US help. So then we saw an illegally appointed government which the US immediately welcomed into the world of democracy.

Then the illegal government called an illegal election, supposedly to establish democracy.And now that elected government has resigned, partly because too many of the elected members were sympathetic to the Russian-speaking people of Ukraine. (Uh, isn't that saying that the voters made a mistake, and have to think again?)  The story makes no mention of the substantial representation of fascist and even nazi parties that are prominent among supporters of the government.

Then the ombudswoman switches to the editorials which, she says, represent the opinion of the newspaper.
(More correctly, they represent the opinions of just the editors who a) have never shown any special ability to have an opinion about anything and who b) have never said a word that would displease anyone named Irving.

For a sample of the level of insight at the editorial level, look down to the abysmal column of former editor, Norbert. He says it is foolish to try to revive an economy by government spending. (It's foolish, he says, because "our history tells a different story.")

Norbert, read some history. Government spending  (on the war) is precisely what got us out of the great depression and into several generations of prosperity. Government failure to spend combined with business failure to spend is what made the depression so brutal.

You can't revive an economy by starving the population. It simply doesn't work. What happened in the 1930s is that business exploited the poor by paying low wages for long hours, by cancelling pensions, and so making its biggest profits in history while everybody else suffered.

Exactly the same thing is happening today - only worse. Now, business has free trade deals that enable it to pay even lower wages to those in the world's poorest countries. And these are also countries with no environment regulations, no public services, no rights.... We see very little in our news about the brtutality and suffering we impose on their people.

We can never again have prosperity in this country if we continue to allow big business to destroy services, hold back wages, cut pensions. What you get from that is a huge shift of wealth from almost everybody to the very, very rich. They take. But they don't give. Most especially, they don't give taxes. They just keep it or put some of it into desperately poor countries with great benefit to themselves.

Where does that take us? Well, when we wake up, it takes us to violence - which is most likely to produce some form of nationalist fascism. And it takes capitalism to its own destruction.

The ombudswoman also assures us that the op ed page is a wonderful place for opinion. Well, let's see.This time, both of the lead op ed pieces are by editors - so we have a double thrill of wisdom and insight facing us.

Alas! Both are shallow and trivial.

The final blow is a letter to the editor from a reader who has been brainwashed into the local worship of entrepreneurs. (Such a lovely word, conjuring visions of clear thinkers, daring minds. The letter calls them problem solvers -  unlike politicians who just react to problems). This reflects a drift of the Irving press to dismantling democracy so we can be governed a new aristocracy of wealth (with the help of a lower order who like to call themselves entrepreneurs because it sounds sexier.)

Come off it.  Our entrepreneurs did not pull us out of the depression of the '30s. Our government did that. In the US, entrepreneurs did not bring reasonably priced health care to the  population. In fact, they made the problem worse. The problem was solved in Canada not by an entrepreneur but by a clergyman/politician.

The power of big entrepreneurs in Canada and the US has never solved any problems. In fact, it is the cause of a very dangerous poverty problem, especially in the US. Our biggest problem has been the drift of money from most of us to a tiny number of very rich. Far from solving that problem, entrepreneurs are the ones who caused it.

Save that letter for a speech at the next Rotary luncheon.

I really want to write a bit about the growing chaos in the world, from the case of Tina Foley to the rise of ISIS. But I spent time on the Irving press today because it was so stinkingly bad. I will, I promise, do it next time.


  1. Hello g.d., I am a long time reader, but first time commenter. You've mentioned the shale gas issues before, but this time you've outdone yourself! I get the feeling, however, that you are not familiar with some of the groups and organizations that have been working toward a moratorium for the last three years. For instance, the New Brunswick Anti Shale Gas Alliance (nbasga) which is the umbrella group that includes 30 community groups, one of which is the group I work for, the Tantramar Alliance Against Hydro-Fracking. I guess the point here is that there are some stellar minds at
    work on this problem, so much so that it is incomprehensible that the government remains intransigent. Of course the assumption here is that once again there is undue influence by the Irvings. There are also 15 or so municipalities that have established resolutions to refuse shale gas. And some
    20 organizations, associations, medical groups,unions,churches etc. that have come out in favor of a moratorium. Everything that can be done is or has been done, but still no sense of backing off by the government. A lawsuit has finally been launched, as I'm sure you know, as a kind of last resort, citing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a rationale. We are sure that this will probably end up with the Supremes in
    a decade. As to the entirely peaceful protests of the summer 2013, the incident in October was, I believe, provoked by the police and was an anomaly. But now, sadly, we are either radical activists or emotional twits. Sorry for the rant, but those of us involved in this struggle are in danger of imminent burn-out. Unfortunately, the election results (although one does feel curious) probably won't change a thing. Thanks
    for the space.

  2. Oh, I quite agree with you. The question is one of how ruthless the oil companies are prepared to be. I think there has been a decay of democracy and rising sense of privilege on the part of corporations so that they effectively become the government, but with no obligation whatever to the people. I think they might very likely call on force to get what they want. And it's disturbing that both the Irving press and many New Brunswickers are openly advocating handing government over to big business.

    And the danger of "anomalies" gets greater as we give a greater role to police who are not really police, but military units in training and purpose.

  3. Windsor's case really has nothing to do with fracking but with government basically labelling the guy's company as a lawbreaker, its just a standard libel suit.

    More appropriate is the case of the calgary company which is suing the quebec government for its moratorium on fracking. This is a lawsuit under NAFTA, so most certainly SWN would be launching a similar suit, and like you say, thats a question that SOMEBODY should be asking the liberal party. Mind you, the government does have lawyers, and a case like that would probably take longer to go through the courts than the moratorium would last!

    But it is working as a deflection, because it enables the liberals to avoid actually talking about regulations. As I've said before, Alward has never brought in many 'regulations', he has brought in permit conditions, meaning if they are broken, all the government can do is revoke their permit.

    The regulations, from what I remember, were pretty good though. The industry itself said the rules were too stringent, which is usually a good sign. So if they were actually legislated and enforced, then fracking wouldn't have nearly the environmental costs which it potentially could. THAT is the question that needs to be asked Gallant-whether he would legislate Alward's 'hypothetical rules' and hire people to actually enforce them (one guy in the industry pointed out that for the entire southern part of NB there was only ONE guy whose job was to keep an eye on these people).

    And this talk of a moratorium has been a way for Gallant to basically ignore the question with 'we'll have a moratorium then we'll see'. In other words 'no comment'.

  4. The Windsor Energy suit clearly point out that the Minister and regulators actually don't know their own act. Not to mention the dishonesty of a Minister of the Government. Pretty incompetent!!!
    He has put NB at risk for $105million and says he sleeps well at night. Wow.

    Good luck