Saturday, November 29, 2014

Nov. 29:We'll deal with the Friday edition quickly...

...because there's, as usual, nothing much in it.

Section A, page 1 headlines the news there was a snowstorm Thursday. Gee. Who would have guessed?  But they proved it. They had a picture of somebody standing in the snow (presumably for all those who missed seeing a person standing in the snow on Thursday. Page 2 has a big news story (advertisement) about Riverview having big sales. And so it goes.

The good news is on the editorial and op ed pages. The editorial (on abortion) is well done. Alec Bruce does a solid job on the need for child care programmes. David Suzuki has a horrifying story about the condition of drinking water on some First Nations reserves. He might want to extend that with a look at the spread of industrial pollution to our lakes and streams.

Dale Hobson had nothing to say, so he tells us that Moncton always clears the roads with snowplows.
NewsToday tells us our Governor-General is visiting Columbia and Chile, mostly because Canadian mining companies are very active there, and he wants to remind them that they have to maintain a high standard of corporate responsibility - what the GG calls the "Canada brand". He adds that Canadian companies are leaders in corporate social responsibility. They pretty well set the world standard for behaviour - especially in mining.

At this point, a reporter of normal intelligence might ask, "If we're world leaders in corporate social responsibility, and we set the world standard for behaviour, why is the governor-general making a special trip to Latin America?"  I mean, if we lead the world (and we are a huge player in mining all over the world), I should think the mining people would already know that. In any case, the big decisions on issues like social responsibility are made made in Canada. So why is the GG going to Chile?

Damned if I know.

What I do know is the the idea that Canadian mining companies have a high standard (or even a low one) for social responsibility is pure bunk. Like most large corporations,they have no sense of social responsibility whatever. Especially in poorer countries, they pay the lowest salaries possible, offer no benefits and are highly destructive of the environment. They are also ruthless in dealing with any locals who criticize their appalling levels of pollution.  That's what led to the massacres of civilians in Guatemala. That's why they like operating in places like Latin America and Africa where sweetheart free trade deals, backed up by the military, make stockholders rich while the locals die of malnutrition and lack of medical care.

On the same page, the Canadian government is patting itself on the back for deciding to send some 40 medical workers to help out with Ebola. Alert readers will notice this is coming a year late; but government spokesmen countered that with the story that we could not send any until we were sure we had a quick way to get them out.

Du-u-u-h, yeah. I can see where that  would be something it would take a year to figure out. But at least someone asked. Alas! Nobody asked another obvious question.

How come big, rich Canada which doesn't suffer any trade sanctions imposed by the US is acting so late AND sending so few. Tiny, poor Cuba, which does suffer trade sanctions. sent almost 200 health workers from the start.

And that sums up the news. As always, the news section gives us little sense of what is important or what is trivial. It doesn't  As both the mining and the Ebola story show us, they don't give us much context for the story - so we really can't tell what is significant or what it's really all about.

Saturday's paper (on A 1) tells us the City of Moncton will be cutting 19 positions because it just doesn't have enough money - due to the decrease in the rate of property tax growth. But don't panic. I'm sure they'll still find enough to build a 100 plus million dollar hockey rink. And, you know, first things first.

It did not occur to reporter Brent Mazerolle to ask any questions about this. Nor, I guess, did it occur to his assignment editor that the cutting of 19 positions is not the big story, here.

Whenever this paper reports on any government action, it almost invariably sees it as simply a financial issue. But it's only partly financial.

The first function of any government is to create a list of things that are needed for the society. Then it sets priorities. Then it looks at the money, and makes the decisions. But before we make decisions, we need to know exactly what is needed and what the priorities are. I have yet to see that in the Irving press. Or in city hall.

Why are we continuing to encourage urban sprawl when that age is obviously coming to an end? What stage are we at in planing public transit in a world in which the automobile seems to have a limited future? How is climate change likely to affect Moncton, and what plans do we have to deal with the change? There has been some discussion of this in Bill Belliveau's weekly column - but no evidence anybody in government is reading it.

There is also a troubling story on p. 1 about school cafeterias violating health codes. This does not seem to be a problem caused by the schools. It seems to be caused by lax inspectors. We need a much fuller story on this one.

This Saturday's editorial and op ed pages are the best I  have ever seen in this paper.There isn't a weak column in the bunch.

Gwynne Dyer's stands out in terms of its importance. He points out that the so-called "war on terrorism" has been a stunningly expensive one - and a losing one. Our interventions don't stop terrorism; they encourage it.
I'll come back to this at the end.

But everything on these two pages is worth a read.
NewsToday is a stinker. We now have a second story on the firing of the CEO of the francophone health sector. And, like the first one, it doesn't tell us anything.

The biggest story in the paper is on B5, "Concerns raised about U.S. torture record". The U.S. tortures people, foreigners and Americans, on a scale that Hitler could only have envied. A UN panel put it gently when it said the U.S. was "falling short of full compliance" with an international anti-torture treaty.

If this were a story critical of Russians or Muslims, it would have taken up a full page, at least. But it's about the U.S. as not only a torturer all over the world, but in U.S. prisons, in the jailing of illegal migrants   )including children), in the heavy use of solitary confinement, in the tidal wave of police brutality in the U.S., especially against blacks and Latinos. (Canada, by the way, also imprisons large numbers of immigrants.)

In fact, the U.S has become as brutal, as hysterical, and as hating as any nation in history. But, what the hell, it's directed at people inferior to us by reason of religion or skin colour. So who cares?

That's why this important story is so small, it would easily fit onto a Christmas card. The reality is we don't care so long as we are white, and Christian or Jewish. Let's not kid ourselves. We are racists. And in the U.S. and Europe, at least, it's going to get worse.

Why are we fighting ISIL? Because it's murderous?  ISIL has a long way to go before it can come close to the west for mass murder. Western countries are fighting ISIL for the same reason some of them have fought China, India, native peoples of the Americas, Africans in the past - because it gives big business the power to make money out of those countries.

But their bought politicians can't say that. Instead, they whip us into a frenzy based largely on that racism that lurks in us. And the job of the private news media is to spread that hatred and fear to us.

There are always good columns on the student-columnist pages. Today, it was Isabelle Agnew's column that hit me between the eyes.

On C14, she talks about how she's doing well in university - but how she was on a downhill slide starting in grade 10. It was caused by a profound depression. But she eventually overcame it to do well in university.

As I read, I realized I was reading about myself. In elementary school, I was a hotshot. But, oh, starting with grade nine, I was a walking disaster. By grade ten, I was skipping a lot of school, and flunked the year. I passed grade 10 the second time, but was soon hopelessly failing grade 11. That's when the principal called me down, "Let's face it, Decarie, you have no brains at all. It's time to go find a job."

I plugged through a BA, mostly at night, but with horrible grades. But then I recovered to get straight As in an additional BA year and an MA - and on from there. But until I read ms. Agnew's column, I had no idea the problem might have been depression. (In the world I grew up in, there was no money. So we weren't allowed to be sick. And so we weren't sick. And a mental sickness? No way were we allowed to have that. So we didn't. I thought.)

Until I read this column, I never realized this. I had put it down to being a working class kid, never expecting to go to a university, and never expecting to be anything but unskilled labour. And that was part of it - and perhaps also part of the depression.

Thank you, Isabelle.

Then, annus mirabilis, I found a sermonette, one worth reading, on the Faith Page, C6. And it was doubly nice to see a sermonette that wasn't just a string of platitudes. (It's on much the same topic as Isabelle Agnew's column.) This is really good stuff and good writing.

Sadly, the church announcements are for yard sales, silent auctions. breakfasts.....leave your brains at home.

I was going to write on two more topics - the greedy and insanely dangerous road to World War Three that the U.S. is following, with Harper tagging on, and some hard words for people who think it's good to be patriotic.  But this is already too long. So I'll do those two tomorrow.

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