Friday, January 31, 2014

Jan. 31: political games and the Senate

It's no secret. The Senate has, for all of its history, been a collection of political toadies and hacks A few senators, but only a few, have had anything noticeable in the way of brains. I appeared at least twice before Senate committees, and was appalled at the combination of ignorance and bias I saw on display.

And, despite the recent excitement, neither Trudeau nor Harper has suggested any solution.

Trudeau's dismissal of Liberal senators from the Liberal caucus (regular meetings of Liberal parliamentarians) will do nothing to make senators either more impartial or more intelligent.

And his hint that we will find a better way of choosing senators  is as bad Harper's of having an elected Senate. To make either change would require a constitutional change. And any constitutional change requires the consent of the provinces. And any such consent is either impossible to obtain or can be obtained only by making other changes to get provincial support - and such changes would probably be worse for Canada than the existing Senate.

The problem is not changing the way we choose senators. The problem is figuring out what the Senate is for in the first place.

The Senate is not a place for "sober, second thought". It never was, and was never intended to be.

John A. Macdonald had no interest in sober thoughts whether second or any other number. In his view - and that of most fathers of confederation, the whole purpose of politics was to get them into power where they could serve the rich - and get handsome rewards for their efforts.

The problem was the House of Commons. Any of the common rabble (male one) could vote for MPs. What if those common people should get well enough organized to do cruel things - like make the rich pay taxes?

Enter the Senate. Senators had to be persons of property - ($4000). $4,000 was a lot of money when a man commonly had to work a year (if he could find work) to earn $100 to $200 a year - and when a woman earned even less. So a man who had $4000 in property was a man not likely to entertain silly and radical ideas.

This was all quite deliberate; and it was made even more obvious when PMs routinely appointed senators on the basis of party and social position.

The Senate is not and was never meant to be a place of sober, second thought It's purpose was, and is, to protect the very rich against the rest of us, to make sure Canada was run by the "better sort of people". (I think here of one senator in particular. She was born rich, married richer, and has a burning hatred and contempt for anyone who isn't rich.)

The question is not how to choose a Senate. The question is "what is a Senate for?" (And no, don't tell me it's to protect the provinces. It was never done that except to protect the rich and other power blocs in the provinces.)

As for Trudeau's proposal? Like Harper's promise of an elected Senate, it's just part of a game.
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NewsToday is for the day's big stories around the world - like "Beiber faces uphill image battle" and

"Tree-bound cat rescued from an icy fate in Bathurst".  (No kidding. These are the two, biggest stories.)

So there was no room for the story that Communications Security Establishment of Canada (spies) has been spying on Canadians through their computers and phones. And on very large numbers of Canadians. And handing over the information to the US and others like, for example, big business.

The is contrary to the mandate of the agency, and contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Now, the head of the agency is on record as appearing in court and at parliamentary hearings - and saying he was not spying on Canadians. I think that's called lying - and it's very serious to lie to court or to parliament.

Will Harper do anything about it? Why should he? The ignorance press, of which Irvng press is a prime example, don't even bother to report it. I begin to understand how the German people drifted so unthinkingly into Hitler's police state.

No. That's not an exaggeration. We live in a police state that is closely interlinked with the US police state. And it's not about security. It's about control, controlling us. Think of that, then look over the Justin Bieber story - and think whether  you really give a damn about Justin Bieber.

The story about the spy scandal isn't in the TandT. But you can get it from those awful people at CBC. Amazing how much they have that the TandT doesn't.
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Not is there any news about the Trans-Pacific  Partnership, the biggest trade deal in history - and one we know almost nothing about. It is almost universal in such deals, now, to give companies the right to ignore environmental concerns, to give them a right to pillage and leave nothing but destruction behind, to avoid taxes, and the right to sue any government (in a private and secret court with judges picked by the corporations) for changing conditions of the trade deal - even if those changes are necessary to save human lives.
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There's no mention of Obama's recent and fraudulent promise to close the wage gap. The major device in it is to raise the minimum wage to a little over $10 an hour.  Boy. That will hit whose multi-billionaires where it hurts.

But there is a catch. Only new employees will be eligible for the minimum wage. And most firms in the US don't have any new employees - and aren't likely to get any.

Obama was always fluff and chicken bones. There was never any substance to him from the start. Now - well - this looks worse than a lack of substance. This looks like fraud and deception..

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Note the back page of C10 which tells how US patience is wearing thin over Syria's handing over of chemical weapons. Paragraph three gives the impression that the demand to Syria to surrender its chemical weapons was the result of a government attack on rebels using poison gas.

In fact, American scientists confirmed weeks ago that the attack was made by rebel forces, not by the government. But virtually the whole North American press continues to lay blame on the Syrian government.

By the way, if it's bad to have chemical weapons, why are the US, Russia, Israel, etc. allowed to  have them?

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There is also no news that the US is stepping up its supply of regular troops in Africa, as well as maintaining assassination squads in most of the continent. Meanwhile, France has shipped 3,000 troops to provide "humanitarian aid" to one of its old colonies in Africa.

So what's going on?

The western countries have been humiliating, impoverishing and murdering Africans for at least 300 years, usually in the form of capitalism (oops, entrepreneurship). Among the earliest entrepreneurs were slave buyers. Estimates are they killed some 60,000,000 just in the transportation part of the process.

Then there was (and still is) the 150 years or so of "economic development". (I mean, you know how it is, capitalism is the greatest producer of wealth in history). The problem is it produces wealth only for the capitalists. In Africa, Asia, South America, the west made billions on the resources and labour of native peoples, in the process murdering uncounted millions, destroying social structures, creating misery, starvation and early death.

Nor did the common folks back home ever see much of that wealth. At the peak of the British Empire, while the rich built their palaces and country estates, the majority of the British people lived in poverty.

Now, the Americans and the French are trying to restore what most Africans had hoped would end after 1945 - a new colonialism, more murderous than ever, and  all tarted up with lying talk about democracy.

But you'll never learn any of that from reading the Irving press - or any other North American press.








Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jan. 30: Words, Words, Words......

....are funny things.

Some words are well, just nice. They sound soothing, soft and gentle. Some have a harsher sound, even brutal and jolting. Advertisers and propagandists learn that very early in the careers. That's why you'll never see a skin cream ad that says, "Makes your skin as smooth as a raw chicken liver."

When I was a kid, we used to see old movies of French, romantic actor, Charles Boyer. And he might have purred with his charming French accent into the ear of his romantic co-star, "Come away with me, my love. I am an entrepreneur."

Entrepreneur. It's gentle word, a soothing one, the language of romance.

He could have said. "Come with me my love. I am a capitalist."

But it wouldn't be the same, would it? Capitalist is  harsh-sounding. And it has overtones that are brutal and grasping, while entrepreneur sounds almost spiritual.

Now, in general terms, both words mean pretty much the same thing. But notice how seldom we see the word "capitalist" in the Irving press, and how often the world 'entrepreneur'

That's not an accident.

When a group of businessmen forced their way into a New Brunswick school board to install a programme on entrepreneurship, they didn't call it  capitalism - though that's what it was. No, they called it entrepreneurship.

(In reality, of course, it will be a programme of propaganda. If they were serious about teaching an understanding of economic systems, they would have included a course in socialism. But it didn't happen; and it won't.

There are other advantages to using the word entrepreneurship. It's a word one can use to include the smallest business as well as the biggest. Yessiree. They're all one, united group.

But, in fact, they aren't.

Big business has nothing in common with small business. Small business takes risks. Big business takes enormous handouts from government, handouts that would be called socialism if even tinier amounts were given to the needy.

Big business escapes most taxation. Small business doesn't.

But that gentle gentle word 'entrepreneurship' gives the impression of uniting them all. That's how they can sucker large numbers of small business people to spend a weekend planning the future of Moncton under a chairman who as 'big business' really represents interests and a world that has nothing to do with them.

Words, words, words. Watch out for how people use them.
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Norbert has a column on N.B.'s best leaders. Funny. He left out perhaps the greatest leader in New Brunswick's history - R,B.Bennett who became Prime Minister of Canada, and who had the courage to challenge the abuses by big business in the depression, and to introduce the socializing measures of the 40s and 50s that brought us the most prosperous period we have known.

Oh, and "The last  word" in this column on political courage and progressive thinking is a quotation from Henry Kissinger. Henry Kissinger, a mass murderer who made a fortune out of government and big business connection - none of which requires any courage at all.

Alec Bruce has an interesting column on why we don't have an economically just society. Alas. He leaves out two of the most important reasons we don't have such a society.

One reason is big business which has effectively became the governments of most of the western world in the past forty years. Big business has no interest in a just society. Worse, in the blindness of its greed and its incompetence to govern, it has placed in doubt our ability to survive as a society of any sort.

I won't mention government, itself, because under the Liberals and Conservatives, anything that might be called a political government has ceased to exist.  All that we have for what we call government is a collection of toadies and simpletons.

Then we have news media, almost all of which lie, withhold information and manipulate.

Bruce sums up by blaming the voters for our failures. Well, yes...but, well, think about it;  a newspaper column that tells the whole truth might be a good start to curing that.

Rod Allen talks about his love for Pete Seeger.
All is forgiven, Rod. I love you.

And Beth Lyons has a quite fascinating column about fake bodies, fake feminism, and something called photoshop.

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There's really not much to talk about in the rest of the paper. There's a story about a mountie who will enter a plea on a drug charge next month. (Okay. Tell us next month when it happens.) A case involving sexual assault has been adjourned until the court can clear up some procedural matters. (So what?) The premier of Newfoundland wants to review access to information in the province. (You would be surprised at how few changes that will make in my life.)

Then there's a big, big story about the women who are the dance team for the basketball Miracles. (Who cares? Well, maybe people who read the sports section. So that's where the story should be.)

A liquor store decision is awaited. (Okay. So tell us when it  happens. We can wait.)

If there is any useful information in Section A, I missed it. And that, Mr. Bruce, is why we  have a voting population which doesn't know enough to know who to vote for.

In fairness, page 1 has a sort of story almost worth talking about in its front page headline, the city's decision to use a piece of land given to the city to be parkland - and to use it to build a housing complex for young mothers and their children.  Local residents are objecting on the grounds it was given to the city to be a parkland.

Hey, folks, nothing is forever. Needs change. Much of downtown Moncton was donated or sold to be railway yards. Now, it's mostly empty shopping centre. And some people want to make it a hockey rink. Times change.

As well, that land was given to be a parkland in 1959. That was well over fifty years ago. And in all that time, nobody has cared enough to ask why it isn't a park yet.

Get over it. There is a real need for that land to help out young mothers. That, in any civilized society, takes priority over a "promise" that hasn't been honoured in fifty years, anyway.
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Why have we had so little news on plans to close Canada Post? There are, after all, important truths that a reporter with a computer could learn in ten minutes or so. A very good reporter is Karl Nerenberg. But he doesn't work for the Irving press.  Karl was CBC most of his life. Now, he's a freelancer based in Ottawa. As he points out -

1.No other developed country in the world has closed its postal service, or even discussed it.
2. Canada Post is not a money loser. It has made profits in nine of the past ten years.
3. In Britain and other countries, the post office is also a bank.Those post office banks are very successful in attracting customers, and show strong profits.

The NDP proposed that we examine these possibilities. The Liberals agreed. But the Conservatives all stood and said "ba-a-a-a"

What's going on here? It looks very much like greed and ideology working together to destroy a government service simply because it is a government service - and to turn it over to capitalists (sorry, entrepreneurs) who will make it both expensive and inconvenient.
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The mystery corner. It's actually on C4 of yesterday's paper. (I missed it in the general tumult of life.)

There is a whole page of six photos of people giving checques to other people, and both sides smiling.

The givers are the volunteers who raise money so children can have breakfast. the food banks can do their work, hospitals can get equipment.....

All credit to those volunteers. But why the hell are we leaving it to volunteers to see that children get breakfast, and adults can eat and and hospitals can cure? We, apparently, can give millions to billionaires who many not even  have to pay any taxes. Where are our priorities?

The top, two photos are a little puzzling on their own.

1. The Bouctouche Gun Club gave a cheque to a centre for the prevention of violence. Now, I was something of gun nut, and I'm still interested in them. But guns  have a reputation, deserved, as major factors in violence. That gift from a gun club to violence prevention looks just a little self-serving.

2. The New Brunswick Air Cadet League donated a new truck (Silverado) to the supervisor of what is described as a gliding operation.

Now, new trucks are pretty expensive. But there is no indication of how or where the money for it was raised. And it does seem to me it would take quite a while for the Air Cadets of New Brunswick to knock on doors to raise money to buy a truck.

Why does the story not say who raised that money from whom? How was it done?
I suspect there's a story here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jan.29: People in the US are suffering from a sudden, severe cold weather system...

...made worse by a severe shortage of natural gas for heating. In some areas, it's as cold as -50 F.

Why don't they have fuel? Because, just a matter of days ago a natural gas pipeline in Manitoba that they depended on blew up. But not to worry. It can't be a very important story. I mean, the Irving papers didn't even report it.

In a story that broke just a few days ago, some 30 or more officers in the US military were fired. They were caught cheating on mandatory proficiency tests for their jobs. There is also concern about drug use.

But not to worry. These aren't real combat officers. They're just the ones who decided when to fire nuclear missiles. Yep. The ones who make the big decision can't pass a test on their ability to do their job - and they're a collection of Rob Fords, anyway.

But not to worry. The Irving press didn't carry the big story in the first place. And it's not carrying the follow-up. So there can't be any real cause for concern.

Closer to home, we still don't have a report on damage cause by the Plaster Rock derailment and fire. That's odd. Inspectors who have been on the scene for days keeping reporters away still don't know whether there is any serious damage. But premier Alward knew from the start.

Oh, yes. ithin an hour of the accident, long before workers could even get to the fire, and when Alward was miles away, he announced that there was no damage. So,see? That's probably why the Irving press hasn't bothered to follow the story.

The Pope has taken a very tough and dangerous stand against the mafia. Not only is he demanding quick action against it, he has already cut it off from the Vatican bank which, it is said, has been extensively used by the mafia for money laundering. As a friend pointed out, this is pretty courageous stuff, and could set up the Pope for assassination.

Luckily, the Christian churches of Moncton are in no danger. They're concentrating on the important things that churches stand for - like holding pancake suppers.
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There's a big, front page story on the attempt to sell Castle Manor. It's the second one. I have no idea why there was a first story - and less why there is now a second. Are we being set up for some slick deal?

The front page also has a story that the N.B. Energy Institute (the one that was founded to pimp for the shale gas industry) is planning to do research work and to rehabilitate its public image. That's absurd.

Here is an organization that was founded by the government in order to pimp for shale gas in the first place. So the government set up phony community hearings. It hired a toady professor (who was also unqualified). And they got the professor to propose the institute.

The government has lied and cheated all the way - and all the way with the full support of the Irving press.

Anybody who thinks it is now going to turn honest and listen to anything it doesn't want to hear from an institute it created is a fool. That simply is not going to happen.

Besides, this all began with the attempt of the government and the Irving Press to kill the Dr. Cleary report which raised serious doubts about the health problems associated with shale gas. Most of the Insitute members do not seem to be qualified to make decisions on medical question. And most of them were picked by Dr. Lapierre or the government, anyway.

If there were the slightest possibility that this "institute" would be independent of government, then there is no way either the government or the Irving press would allow it to exist.

The Energy Institute has no credibility. That's not entirely a criticism of the institute. It's criticism of a lying and manipulating government, and criticism of a press that makes the government look almost honest.

C2 has a big story (with a protrait suitable for framing) of Robert Goguen. This is about Ottawa saving Via Rail. A similar story appeared yesterday. Yesterday's story seemed to offer hope, but actually said nothing. Today's story is the same. So why is the story there?

Because Goguen will be facing an election soon.

A man in Halifax who once got convicted of drunk driving just got arrested again for drunk driving - in Halifax. The news you need to know.

The only useful mews in section A is that Sobey's has a pretty good sale on for toilet paper.
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There's very little NewsToday. The biggest story is that Obama is going to narrow the gap between rich and poor in the US; and he's going to do it over the heads of Congress. Don't put any money on this one.

With free trade, with the tremendous power of big business to corrupt, with the closing of whole industries in the US, Obama is not going to significantly close any gap. We'll see serious violence in the US long before we'll see honest and fair government there. Maybe. It's always dangerous to think we can control the results of violence.

And big business is going to let Obama close the wage gap? Yes. Big business has always been a sweetheart that way.

The basic question is the one about who runs the US? Is it the people? Or is it just the very rich. It was a good thirty years ago and more that the rich decided they would run it. What they have run it into is economic ,social, and military disaster. But the rich can be terribly slow learners.

Anyway, even if Obama is sincere, it has taken him one hell of a long time to figure out what the problem is. More than thirty years suggests a pretty slow learning curve.
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Norbert's column looks good. But it doesn't begin to show any understanding of the problems of universities, or even an understanding of what they do. He shows no knowledge of the spectacular rise of management in universities - and its very, very nice contracts.

He doesn't understand that universities are about teaching and research. So he doesn't understand that professors who choose to become management don't want to spend their lives doing what universities do.  In particular, my experience is that university management people know nothing whatever about teaching, for example, and don't care about it.

And his column is full of statements that just don't make sense.

For example, he says "Professors also know maritime universities have long ago got top rate professors by hiring bright, newly minted Ph.D.s..."

Any professor who says he knows that is out of his tree. In the first place, a newly minted prof usually has no significant experience in teaching - and almost certainly has no training in it. That makes him or her a great catch?

Anyway, the statement is silly because I have never seen a useful method of measuring the teaching ability of professors. And in all my time as a prof, I cannot recall any interviewer discussing teaching with me at all.

They hire bright, newly minted Ph.D's, and that gives them top profs? And what do the big schools in Quebec, Ontario and the West hire? Do they deliberately hire morons to fill in the time until they can decide who to swipe from the maritimes?

Norbert, this is all nonsense. I have seen few differences in quality between the Maritimes and the rest when it comes to teaching or research, though the schools close to big money will usually have more money for the kind of research the rich can make even more money out of.

In any case, your statement makes no sense whatever.

Alec Bruce puts a happy face on a situation I don't think is happy. He talks about how Americans and Canadians distrust their governments, and quotes somebody who says that more critical media along with a more cynical pop culture have made us  doubt governments.

But, he says, it's really our fault because we are the ones who, by voting, make the decisions.

Please.

Critical news media? We have never seen such an absolute control by the rich and powerful over our news media As a result, the media is not very critical at all - except when its bosses tell it to be. Most of our media don't even give us basic or honest information.

A cynical pop culture? You mean like Miley Cyrus? There are always elements of pop culture that are cynical. But most of it is just  mindless. It's always been that way.

We make the decisions by our votes?  Well, sort of. But we don't have any information to make judgements with because we have a dishonest and manipulative press owned by the rich. And the rich have long since bought the two, largest political parties in Canada and the US. And the rich give them huge funding to fight campaigns against the parties of protest.

The op ed? Sigh....
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Sorry to be so late today. It's been  crowded day. I meant to talk about this province's love for the word entrepreneur - and I hinted it had something to do with manipulation. I don't have time to do it day. But let's start with a test. Think of two words.

'Capitalist'

'Entrepreneur'

How would you characterize the difference is sound between those two words?




Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jan.28: Let's go back....

...because it's been bothering me.  But I think I do understand Saturday's Faith Page.

The headline is First North River Church hosts pancake supper. There's also a whole bunch of breakfasts, dinners, suppers and teas. I understand it all now. Jesus came to earth as a PR rep for the food industry.

Look over the activities. It's obvious that to be a good Christian, you need to have a belly. It's also obvious that having a brain would just get in the way.

Then there's the list of church schedules. The most notable thing about that page is the headline which takes up a full half of the page. The schedules  take up less than a fifth of the page for a total of only five church schedules. That's when I realized.

The Celebration of Faith page is almost certainly just another page of paid advertising - no different from all those used car ads. How very devout from the family that owns its very own church named after itself.

All five of the churches  listed are Christian and Protestant. Ain't none of them there Catholics in metro Moncton - and certainly no Moslem sor Buddhists Confuscists. (Yes, those are all religions represented in Moncton - and most have more to say that anything I have ever seen on the Faith Page.

Sorry. But that boring, self-righteous and trivial drivel has been bothering me.

p.s. I have tried to make this blog available for sharing. let me know if it worked. If now, tell me what I should do.
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The banner, page one headline is "N.B. rail line to be saved; expert." That's not a story. That's a one-liner, an opinion with little evidence to support it.

Then there's "Judge denies bail in domestic assault case." That is really another one-liner. The case has already been reported in detail at least twice.

A bestiality case was adjourned for a week because the defendant's lawyer was sick. So? This is trivial. Why is it a news story at all?

And the YMCA is setting up a programme to help children get involved in organized sports. Ever notice that this town has close to zero in intellectual stimulation for children? or adults?
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A week ago, I saw a video of Harper answering questions on foreign affairs in Israel. It was embarrassing. At first, I thought he was lying. Then I realized he wasn't lying. No, he just didn't have a clue what he was talking about - and that must have been obvious to most of his audience. Canada has tumbled a long way down in foreign affairs over the last thirty years or so.

We're no longer a serious player at all. Harper made that obvious in parliament yesterday when Mulcair questioned him about the rioting in Ukraine.

Harper replied that the villain is Putin of Russia who is trying to force Ukraine back to its communist past.

Now, Putin in undoubtedly a heartless bastard- just like so many world leaders, including the ones on our side. And he is anti-democratic - just like our good friend the King of Saudi Arabia, just like Haiti where Bush crushed democracy, just like most of Central America where the US supports every dictator in sight, just like Iran where the US, Britain and France destroyed democracy some sixty years ago.

Dictatorship is at least as common under capitalism as it was under communism.

And Putin is trying to restore communism?  Hey, he's the guy who led Russia into a capitalist wage gap that is  worse than ours.

And, now that I think of it, I would scarcely rank Harper as one of the great democrats of our time.

For that matter, there's a related news story in today's paper. US Secretary of State Kerry, calling for democracy in Syria, has decreed that Assad should not be permitted to run in the election. Now, that's odd.

I thought the whole idea of democracy was to permit people to choose their own leaders - not to have a US official tell them who's allowed to run.
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The editorial says the provincial debt is too high, and it's all the fault of them there greedy pensioners just sockin' it away. Once again, the failure to tax the rich and the giveaways to the rich have nothng to do with our budget problems.

But you never will read the Irving press being critical of the people who really rule t his province. That, I can only suppose, is because of a physical problem, a missing body part, really, that afflicts the editorial staff.

Norbert talks about the triviality that dominates so much news today. He's right. But it's amazing that he cannot see it under his own nose. He also singles out CBC for criticism. Really, Norbert.  I can get more news out of CBC in five minutes than I do out of the Irving press in a week.

Alec Bruce has a column on the dangers of domestic espionage in the US and Canada. He's right. And it's even worse, much worse, that he thinks.

We already know our spy agencies spy on foreign companies - and report their findings to Canadian and American companies. So much for capitalist competition. We also know they spy on us, and report us to big business. That gives Harper and others the power to blackmail any of us, to manipulate us, to threaten us.

I knew some people in CSIS and military intelligence many years ago. It's a field that seems to attract the real nutbars. One of them, an army intelligence officer, was in my class. Very odd.

For openers, he announced to us all on the first day that he was in military intelligence. Then he brought a small camera to class to "surreptitiously" photograph everybody in the class, and to take snapshots of what I wrote on the board.

I suppose we're all still in some file somewhere.

Louise Gilbert has some excellent advice for seniors who are finding it tough to afford food. Stay away from the frozens and the processed.
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Did the paper miss any stories? Well, yes, and more than I have room for. But....

According to Bloomberg Business week, the CEO of Bayer pharmaceuticals is very, very angry at India. You see, Bayer makes a drug effective against some cancers. But it costs $69,000 for a year's supply for one person in India. So the Indian government has licensed an Indian company to make the drug and sell it at only a small profit. So now, a person in India can buy it for $210 a year. Bayer is suing.

"Nexara isn't for Indians...we developed it for western patients (white folks, I presume) who can afford it."

So, of course, the American government is investigating India for discriminating against US trade and investment.

(And spare me the stories about how those drug companies spend so much on research. In fact, much of the research comes out of universities, and costs the drug companies little, if anything.)

Tony Blair, who helped Bush lie Britain and the US into the Iraq war - and who has become incredibly rich for the favour he did for big business - has announced that most wars in the 21st century have been caused extremist religious groups.  Bang on man.

That's why Iraq and Libya and Somalia and Haiti and Afghanistan invaded the US. They were jealous of the saintly lives of people like Bush and Rumsfeld and Obama.
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And, sadly, Pete Seeger died yesterday. He was 94.

I guess most readers today have never heard of him. But he was a major force linking the worlds of music and politics.

A veteran of World War Two, he had grown up in a union family, the sort of family that did so much (unacknowledged) work to make the US the prosperous nation it became after World War Two. Those unions have now been almost entirely destroyed by big business in the US. It's not a coincidence that poverty is now at record levels - and at the same time that business profits are at record levels.

Seeger, with his five-string banjo and and bubbling enthusiasm, injected songs like We Shall Overcome, This Land is Your Land, I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night  to inspire at least two generations to make North America a better place to live.

Seeger was not just a popular singer. He was a powerful social force. He was a cause of change for the better. I guess that's why the Irving press never mentioned him. They save their obituaries of praise for the greedy and the destructive.

It was, for example, Pete Seeger (not big business) who added much of the joy and enthusiasm that carried Martin Luther King to victory in the struggle for equal rights for African Americans.

For a generation born to into depression and war, he gave us the hope that things could be better, and we could make them better.

No. He was not a hippie. Nor was I. The Hippies were the shallow, pampered brats who would later vote for the two Bushes and the Harpers of this world to create the greedy and brutal mess we have.

The Hippies were the ones who handed over the world to the scum who now rule it - people who are too ignorant to run a society, and to greedy to run it properly if they did know how to.

We were the ones who thought it could be a better world, and we could make it that way. We were the ones who rejoiced in the courage and inspiration of Martin Luther King as he fought to bring racial equality to the US.  (And he did it, all you lovers of law and order should note, not by obeying the law, but by challenging it.)

I shall never forget the evening when Seeger struck the chords that we recognized as "We Shall Overcome" He said, in a soft voice, "Join me."

With a thrill of an electric current passing through us, we stood, joined hands, and sang that song with its mix of melancholy and wishing and power....

We shall overcome.
We shall overcome.
We shall overcome some day -ay -ay.
Oh, it's deep in my heart I do believe
That we shall overcome some day.

We shall all be free
We shall all be free
We shall all the free some day -ay-ay.
And it's deep in my heart I do believe
That we shall all be free some day.

Goodbye Pete        Thank you.


Pete Seeger and his earlier group, The Weavers, are on Youtube.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jan. 27: I was wrong.

It's been bothering me since yesterday when I wrote that New Brunswick is a fascist state. It isn't.

As Benito Mussolini defined it, a fascist state is one run by the civil government and business corporations working together. But that's not true of New Brunswick. Civil government and corporations don't work together. In this province, civil government is made up of stooges who do whatever corporation bosses tell them to do.

That means that New Brunswick is even less democratic than fascism.

Sorry for the error. But that is New Brunswick's biggest problem by far. Corporations run this province entirely for their own benefit. They couldn't care less about your health or your hunger or your homelessness or your children's education. The province, all of it, is for them. And if they can bleed it dry and send unemployment into the stratosphere, that's fine. That just means lots of nice, cheap labour.

Until New Brunswick faces that and deals with it, it ain't going nowhere.
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Today is a keep 'em ignorant day at the Times and Transcript unless you really care about the front page story that reveals  (gasp) business slows down in winter in Moncton bars  - or unless you really, really love to look at more than a whole page of very young boys playing hockey.

For the more intellectually inclined, there's a notice that some guitarist named Richard Young is 59. I would guess that's a real traffic-stopper in some circles."Didja hear? Richard Young is 59."  "No. Wow! Makes y' stop and think, don't it?"

So, in the absence of news in the paper, let's look at a few items they might have covered.
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Trans-Canada Pipelines (you know what pipelines are. They're the things that are going to make us rich, rich, rich off building them down here...well,it seems a natural gas pipeline of Trans-Canada exploded, sending flames 300 meters into the air in a fire that lasted a good 15 hours. And get this reaction from the company...

"(it) generated a loud noise but posed no risk to the public."

And that's true of course. Even a small explosion of TNT could kill hundreds. But it's a well known fact that an explosion of natural gas sending flames 300 metres into the air wouldn't hurt anybody.

I wonder how TandT missed the story. Every other news outlet in Canada had it yesterday.
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Scientists working for the emergency response division of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Division have issued a report on the proposal to build pipelines for Alberta oil to the west coast for tankers to Japan and China, south through the US  to Texas, and East to good ol' St. John. They were not impressed.

They said there are very risky unknowns in the transport of oil by pipeline, tanker or rail. And, they say, it's bad enough with ordinary oil but very risky, indeed, with the crude of the oil sands.

They also say there are huge gaps  in our understanding of how such oil acts when it is spilled, and in  how to control it. They have advised Obama not to allow it.

I'm sure they're wrong. After all, the Harper government has approved it; so we know it must be perfectly safe.

And the company, Enbridge, says it's perfectly safe and there is no problem.

And, anyway, the Enbridge spokesman says they will soon begin research to find answers to the problems that don't exist. For real. That's what he said.

Funny how all those editors at Irving press missed this story.
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In less important news, do you remember Iraq, that brilliant triumph of the British and US armies that brought peace to Iraq? Well, all these years after, Iraqis are still being killed at the rate of 50 or so a day. (And that doesn't count the number who have died because their hospitals were bombed, and have never been properly restored. Much of the restoration money went to crooked American contractors who promptly put it in their overseas bank accounts.)

In fact, Iraq is close to being a failed state, and descending into the hell of a civil war.

Meanwhile, in another, Brilliant victory in Afghanistan, and after the longest war in American history, negotiations for the reduction of American troops seems to be breaking down. So the US is threatening to withdraw even more quickly and completely.

Sorta makes ya wonder why the war was fought in the first place.The story that Afghanistan was behind the planning of 9/11 is and always was ridiculous. No intelligence agency in the world has ever turned up a scrap of evidence that Afghanistan was involved in 9/11.

In fact, most of the terrorists in that operation were from Saudi Arabia. And the planning was carried out in Europe and in the US. So what was all that killing and spending for?

So far, the only winner in this war has been Afghani cocaine producers who are now, with American military protection, the largest cocaine exporters in the world. Good news for Rob Ford.

In the US, TV news has traditionally been a major market for advertisers. But no more. Audiences have been cut in half over the past decade or so. The drop is especially noticeable for viewers in their twenties. Once enthusiastic news watchers, some 90% of that age group no longer watch TV news. I'm not sure what that means. But it can't be good news for a democracy.

Oh, yes. The US launched an air strike on Somalia. That's an act of war. And it is illegal under international law without an attack on the US first, and without a declaration of war. But the US is special. It hasn't bothered to declare war since 1941. When a gang of Saudis attacked New York on 9/11, this was an act of savagery and naked terrorism. But when Americans attack and randomly kill people in a country they aren't at war with, it's understandable.

Besides, the raid was to kill a man who was suspected of being hostile to the US. I mean, he was suspected. Ya gotta kill people like that. But only Americans are allowed to do it.
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Nothing that I've written above has appeared in a newspaper chain that stands knee deep in editors and reporters, and that has access to all the news services we all can get now by computer.
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We don't even get local news.

What happened to the brain-storming of our social betters to plan the future of Moncton? I mean, we know they're going to urge us to borrow piles of money to build and events centre so that people will come from all over the world for the excitement of a "wildtown catfight". Yep. That's us fer sure. Wildtown.

But when do we get a report?

When do we get the big report on Plaster Rock?

When are we going to hear about legal action for the 47 killed in Lac Megantic?

Are they still running those accident-prone tankcars to St. John? What route do they take?

When do we find out why the government is such a big advocate of entrepreneurship? Actually, it's for a reason that has nothing to do with the prosperity of New Brunswick - and it's all pure hokum.
I'll have to talk about that in another blog.
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But the big news of the day is that Moncton bars don't get as many customers in winter as they do in summer. I'm sorry I can't think of anything to say about that.





Sunday, January 26, 2014

Jan. 26: The issue in the NB election.

I was just old enough to remember them coming to the house to say goodbye. And though it was long ago, I can still see their faces and hear their voices. They were boys who had belonged to  my father's boy scout troop, come by to show off their uniforms before they left.

I remember  how thrilled I was when Jack Westwater reached into the pocket of his navy whites to let me handle his navy issue knife. It was super-neat.

Jack was severely sounded when he was blown of the bridge of the corvette HMCS Sackville on D Day. (The Sackville still sits in the harbour in Halifax as a sort of floating museum.)

I remember Leslie Bibewell. He was navy, too; and he went down when a torpedo tore a gap in the rusted hell of the elderly destroyer "HMCS St. Croix." Then there were the boys in the Black Watch like Bertie Danielson who lied about his age, and was dead before he reached seventeen.

Why were they going? They were going because the world had to fight fascism. They were going because it was the only way to save democracy. You can hear all about it any November 11.

Two years later, it was my father who came home to say goodbye. I hardly knew what to say to the big man in the blue uniform of a Chief Petty Officer, RCNVR. And, really, he was gone before I had a chance to say much of anything.

They all went to fight fascism.

And what was fascism?

Well, none of them really knew. Even today, scholars argue over the precise meaning of the word fascism. But there was at least one man of the time who could claim to be an authority on what the word 'fascism' meant.

He was an Italian named Benito Mussolini. He was the first fascist dictator, a man much admired by Hitler and Franco. Indeed, he, far more than we like to remember, had admirers all over western Europe and even North America, especially in big business circles.

Mussolini knew better than any man then or now what fascism meant. And he defined it as politicians and corporations coming together to form the government.

What could better describe the government of New Brunswick?

Shortly after the last election, Mr.  Irving announced he was a member of the government. Then he called a province-wide conference of his buddies and his toadies to determine New Brunswick's future. And the government welcomed these illegal and/or improper intrusions into the democratic system.

Just recently, another Irving was appointed chairman of a committee largely of businessmen (and other unelected people) to 'brainstorm' on the future of Moncton. That was an intrusion on democracy. We elect a city government to do that.  (And please don't tell me these businessmen and "social leaders" know better how to run a city. They don't. They know how to make money for themselves. That's all they need to know and all they want to know. And watch for their big recommendation to build an events centre that just happens to be of great interest to the chairman.)

Then there are the "Private/Public Partnerships". In a democracy, we don't elect people to be partners with anybody. Government is supposed to regulate business, not to be buddies with it. If Benito Mussolini could see the government of New Brunswick today, he would know exactly what it is. It is fascist.

I'm not using fascism as a sort of swear word. I am using it as a precise description of governments of this province, of this country, and of the US. We have become the fascists that Jack Westwater and Leslie Bibewell and Bertie Danielson and hundreds of thousands of other Canadians risked their lives to destroy. We live under a system that over 40,000 Canadians died to put an end to.

No. I am not exaggerating. Words have meanings. A society in which politicians share government power with private corporations is called fascism. It is not called a democracy because it is not a democracy.

Yes, I know that Mr. Alward and Mr. Gallant are nice people. I also know that millions of Italians thought Mussolini was a nice person, too. (Later, they would change their minds. When guerilla fighters caught Mussolini and his mistress, they were hung upside down and butchered - as is done with pigs.)

Controlling people is important in a fascist state. That's why Mussolini had strict control over the newspapers. The same can be said here where virtually all private news outlets routinely lie. Even worse, they ignore much of the real world to spread nothing but trivia. New Brunswickers are largely ignorant of what is going on here and in the rest of the world.

The same thing is happening in the US, though there the public is rebelling at least a little bit. Reading and viewing the news in the US has dropped to it's lowest level in a century. Few believe the news any more.

Unlike democracies, fascist states need to be ready to meet defiance. That's why the US is equipping its police with military weapons -including tanks - and is giving them para-military training. And that probably explains the existence of those highly trained young men with combat rifles and camouflage suits (and with an armoured personnel carrier) at Rexton.

By contrast, the police and the press have been remarkably casual about the much more serious situation at Lac Megantic where 47 people were killed. All we've heard about so far is a police search of Irving offices.  And that's it. No results that we've heard of. No young men in camouflage suits and with combat rifles.

Ditto for Plaster Rock.

By the way, in both those incidents the cause of the damage seems to have been faulty tankcars carrying oil.

Are those same, faulty cars still carrying oil through this province? Our news media haven't bothered to ask. But I'm sure those tankcars are still coming. The oil must go through. So it's worth the risk.

And precisely which tracks are they using? And why are governments allowing this to go on? We haven't heard. And we won't.

Democracies are generally pretty peaceful because they,broadly, reflect the will of the people.

Fascist societies are generally not peaceful. That's because they don't reflect the will of the people. They have to rely on force to control people. The US knows that very well. That's why it has more people in prison than any country on earth; that's why the whole prison system is a hotbed of torture and abuse. That's why the president of the US has assumed the power to imprison Americans with no charge or trial.

That's why American police and large elements of the US army are being retrained and re-equipped to fight - American citizens.

If there is going to be violence in the US, it could well be southern California with its atmosphere of racial and semi-racial hatreds and fears, its near bankruptcy, its high unemployment and, now, it's record-breaking period of heat and drought.

You didn't read about that in Irving press? What a surprise! But why would we read about it?  All those ace journalists in the Irving press know that climate change isn't happening.

Yesterday, Norbert Cunningham wrote a column on big, election issues. I mean - big. For example, he applauded a liberal proposal to teach computer programming in the schools.  Wow! And his columns on the election have mentioned only the Liberals and the Conservatives.

Norbert, we're at the crunch. There is only one issue, one that stands above all the others, one which will define our future.

That issue is the restoration of democracy in the province. That is the only issue, and this may well be our last chance to deal with it because it's going to get worse, much worse.

The province desperately needs a government that answers to the people of this province, and only to them. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives represent anything that could be called democracy. Both are caught up in the fascism of what they like to call Public/Private Partnership.

It's not going to be easy. The people of this province are the most passive, placid and fearful people I have ever encountered. I saw freer speech in the countryside of communist China than I have seen in New Brunswick.

This is it. Either you decide now, or you pack up your family to move to some other fascist province that at least isn't as passive as this one.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Jan. 25: Learning to teach...

Before I could teach grade 7, had to get get two years of a BA, and go to teachers' college. Before I could teach high school, I had to finish the BA. Before I could teach university, I had to get an MA and a PhD. Universities then, as now, knew nothing about teaching; so I pretty much had to figure out for myself how to do it at that level. So I spent over 35 years learning how to teach university.

I don't kid myself that I ever learned to do it well. Certainly, I never kidded myself that I understood it. But I love teaching, so I did work at it all those  years.

As for the lower grades of K to four, I have occasionally taught them for a day or so. But I wasn't good at it. Those are the tough grades, the ones for teachers better than I could ever be. So I am mightily impressed by Education Minister Marie-Claude Blais.  She got a profound grasp of how it's done in just one day  of following teachers around.

So quick is her mind that she pronounced herself able to judge which teachers were good. Of the children, she says, "They understand they're part of their  own learning, even at a young age."

I don't even know what that sentence means. But the minister was able to deduce that just by watching them.

P. A1, sub-headline, "Marie-Claude Blais job-shadows two teachers, learning first-hand what it takes to run 'dynamic' classrooms in province's schools."

This is all nonsense and buzz-words. And if one person can learn that much in just following teachers around for just a day, why are we wasting money on faculties of education in universities?

This isn't a news story. This is just babble and free PR for the minister. It's in a class with the "story" beside it that Walmart has expanded one of its stores.
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The front page also has two stories about rail service in New Brunswick. Both are worrying.

In one story, Alward has handed over $55 million to a private company (CN) to maintain railway freight service in northern New Brunswick. (In New Brunswick, Giving away sacks of money to private business is what's called "financial planning".)

Maintenance of freight service in that region is certainly important. But Canadian governments operated railways very successfully for 75 years before they privatized CN in 1995. And private railways since then have not run up much of a record of efficiency or even basic safety.

But Alward ignores the obvious solution, and hands over 55 mil.  (Gee. We gotta stop wasting money on all these people in need.)

The news story beside that one strikes a warning note that we still face a very serious railway crisis - especially as that affects passenger traffic. Ottawa is not showing any interest.

It was never clear to me why, in the first place, we sold off the profitable part of a railway we all owned, and kept the money-losing part. Nor do I see any sign that Alward has any idea of the need for rail passenger service that is on the horizon.
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Harper and  his 300 closest friends are ending their middle east   tour. The story in NewsToday is that he ended it with substantial grants of money of the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in neighbouring Jordan.

That's very good of him. It would have been even better if he had publicly asked his good friends in the US, in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey not to start that war in the first place, not to supply the weapons and money for it, and not to import jihadist foreigners to fight it.

Then he makes a reference to the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, calling them, "...an atrocity.." wreaked against civilians. Apparently, nobody has told him that American scientists have announced proof that it was the  "rebels', not the Syrian government, that used the chemical weapons.

Then there's a story that Ottawa defends our Communications Security Establishment Canada against charges it spies on Canadians. Is it possible that anybody believes that spy agencies are picky about who they spy on?

Anyway, though the story doesn't mention it, Canada has THREE spy agencies. The other two are CSIS  and the RCMP. And they most certainly are spying on Canadians - even those who have broken no law but who do not share the opinions of our rulers.
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On the editorial page,  Belliveau has a column worth reading on merging municipalities. We do have an awful lot of municipalities that are way too small to have the human or financial resources to do much of anything.

Norbert babbles about the next election. He says people should vote for solid ideas. Yeah. In fact, that's what they usually think they are doing. So what's your point Norbert?

Then Norbert wets his pants in excitement that Mr. Gallant says we should teach computer programming. Wow! I'll bet nobody in the whole world has ever thought of that.

Oh. And we must stop living beyond our means. Norbert, we aren't living beyond our means. We have a class of very wealthy who are living way beyond our means. That's because they're taking so much of the wealth that should be ours. It's because our premiers keep giving multi-million dollar gifts to those people who insist on living beyond our means. And it's because they don't pay much in the way of taxes, so we have to tell the jobless to hold off on eating for a bit longer.

Norbert, will you forever pour out contempt and blame on all those who work hard, and get very little for it? And will  you never have the courage or, perhaps, the brains to criticize all those who walk off with the wealth produced by that hard work?

And, if seems, Norbert feels those against shale gas should have to propose something that will produce the revenue of shale gas.

And if I'm against house fires, do I have to propose something to replace lost revenue for firemen and fire equipment manufacturers?

And if I'm for shale gas, should I have to take out substantial insurance to make good any damage to the environment and health caused by shale gas? Or would we demand that gas companies put up the trillions of dollars that such insurance would require? Has it occurred to you, Norbert, that the damage could exceed the revenue?
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On op ed, Brent Mazerolle uses story-telling to good effect to illustrate the presence of sexism in the sports world.

A math professor at UNB contributes a column I can agree on so far as the salaries dispute is concerned (though I fear we would profoundly disagree on what universities should be all about.)

Certainly, the grown of administration in most universities has been phenomenal - and much of it quite useless. And, when I was asked to stand for president of my university, I was stunned to see the enormous cost of those administrators. The offer made to me was absurdly high, with all kinds of perks - like getting an interest free mortgage on my house. And if I got fired within a day for utter incompetence (not at all impossible), I would still get the president's bloated salary for the rest of my career - and a compensation package - and a pension forever oversized because it would be based on a president's salary.

And all those other and largely useless administrators got deals almost as sweet.

What's happened is that universities are now based on the business model - which means they hire large numbers of administrators who have no great competence but are almost sinfully overpaid.

Sorry. In the above sentence, scratch 'almost'.



Friday, January 24, 2014

Jan. 24:No word from our social betters?

It's been almost a week since the meeting of our social superiors for an economic summit on the Moncton region (or Metro Moncton as the TandT just love to call it). But, so far, the only report is that we have to pull together.

Now, not only do we have no information on what it was we are all to pull - but that pulling together stuff - well, it sounds downright anti-capitalist and anti  that there on-tra-pra-noor-ship.  I mean, think about it. The principal of capitalism is that we all have to compete. Yessir. Man-to-man struggle in the wilderness. No rules.

And now they're telling us all to pull together? What are they? Some kind of socialists? Has Robert Irving been reading Marx? Has Robert Irving been reading?
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A piece of disturbing news is that Horizon Health has decided that its chapels will all be multi-faith. Well, I'd like to see God's reaction to that when He gets his morning TandT.  It's a well-known fact that God hears prayers only when they come from a certified location. And it needs all the right trinkets like a cross and a collection plate.

Only in New Brunswick and some of the more remote regions of Baluchistan would this be the subject of a banner headline on the front page. If there are people who really object to sharing prayer space with people of differing religions, this must be one hell of a bigoted town.

And that's pretty much it for section 1.

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(Just as an aside, I've never looked much at the Sports Section. Today, I did. Pretty feeble stuff. Most of the stories, just like the news stories, are simply bought from news agencies. And, for the first time I've ever seen, there doesn't appear to be even one, daily sports columnist.)
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NewsToday has more than the usual number of stories, though most of them are of the type in which the headline tells you all you need to know. For I don't know how many times we  have yet another story on the production of medicinal marijuana in New Brunswick, and its meaning for entrepreneurs. (That's cute. Use the word entrepreneurs as much as possible, even where another word would do. Ignore all of our real employment problems by make the word entrepreneur mean universal cure. That's good propaganda; and it doesn't happen by accident.)



One of the least important stories, at the top of C 4, is about Brian Gallant's plan to put more computer training in the schools. The most important story, just below it, gets only three paragraphs. There is a serious problem with the US nuclear force. Security has been dangerously neglected; morale is low; leadership is almost absent.

Some years ago, we almost had a nuclear war when Russian radar reported American missiles on the way to the USSR.  All that saved us, all of us, was a Russian officer who was on duty to push the button in such a situation.

Luckily, he had a strong sense of security; his morale was high; and his leadership outstanding. We all owe our lives to that man. He doubted the reliablility of the radar report, and demanded a second reading. It showed there were no missiles on the way. And the button was not pushed.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no such man in charge of the US nuclear force. This is an important story.  Three paragraphs.

Okay. You want a big story? Irving press style?

C12 has a picture of Harper shaking hands with a king few people have ever heard of. And there's another photo of Harper inspecting an honour guard wearing a uniform perhaps designed for Miley Cyrus in her next reincarnation.
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The editorial warns us about  government ("big brother") is looking on. So it is. We have at least three spy agencies tracking all of us - our phone calls, our computers, our social circle...... And we get reported to Mr. Irving, among other industrial bosses. But that's not the 'big brother' the editorial is criticizing.

Of course not. There isn't an editor in the whole Irving news system who would have the courage or the integrity to do that.

This editorial criticizes city council for passing a bylaw requiring helmets for skaters. Way to speak up and address the important issues, baby.

Norbert Cunningham rants again about the need to raise taxes and cut spending on useless thinks - like hungry people. Norbert, read some history.

It's been done. It doesn't work.

In the 1930s, the great depression, we did exactly what Norbert approves of. We raised taxes. We cut services. We allowed big business to make record profits. It didn't work. People suffered- and it got worse with every day.

I know you read, Norbert. Read some history. Read Report of the Royal Commission on Price Spreads and Mass Buying. a report produced and approved by a CONSERVATIVE prime minister from New Brunswick. Read about the hardships and humiliations forced on ordinary people - and the scandalous profits made by big business.

Then read about what got us out of that depression. It was spending, Norbert, spending, not cutting. With 1939, a man who couldn't feed his family could get a nice job with three meals a day just for flying around over Germany - free gas and everything.

And that prosperity was maintained during and after the war largely by government control, by civil servants.

And that all ended when the civil servants were replaced by business leaders motivated by greed who promptly drove the world into recession, and are keeping it there because they make even more money that way.

Read, Norbert. And while you're at it, read your own "The last word" - "...in a time of crisis, there is no way out but for the government to be bold and aggressive."
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The op ed page has an excellent column by Cole Hobson, and another by Greg Cormick on the importance of stimulating railway service in this region - particularly so from the point of view of Moncton. The railways are important to industrial development, to the environment, and to a society that desperately needs better and cheaper transit services.

And this is a good year to remember that.

2014 is the 110th year of Via's "Ocean" passenger service. It's the oldest, continuously operating, named service in the the world.It far beats out The Orient Express and the Flying Scotsman. But when it was suggested, many times, to Mr. Harper and various of his people, they refused to sponsor a celebration of that achievement - and usually refused to answer at all.

Obviously, Mr. Harper sees nothing in it for him.
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a footnote...
I have just returned from chauffering one of my sons to the Y. As I came to a street crossing, I looked to my left, and saw it was clear. My son and a snow bank were blocking my view to the right. I was pretty sure there was nothing there; but I asked him to check.

"There's a truck coming."

Well, I didn't think there was. If there were, I'd surely see something that big, even with a snow bank. And, well, I guess the thinking of shale gas advocates had begun affect me, so I began inching into the crossing. And that's when the big, red truck whizzed by my nose.

That's pretty much the way the whole environmental debate is going in Canada.

We are approaching a crossing. One side, representing some pretty impressive scientific expertise says something big is coming. The other  side says it can't see it, so it's inching, and more than inching.

Now, when you get a serious warning, it could be wrong. But you don't just barge out, anyway, not if you have any brains at all.

But barging out is exactly what our governments are doing. Harper, for example, is not just ignoring the warning, he has actually destroyed most existing environment protection.

And, if he had any brains at all, he would at least encourage further research to understand what is happening. But not only has he drastically cut down on climate and ecological  research, he's actually destroyed most of the research our scientists have done.

I'm not talking here about who is right and who is wrong. I'm talking about the intelligent way to handle a warning from experts. Simply ignoring such a warning is not intelligent.





Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jan. 23: From best of the year to stinker of the year

It's hard to believe that just days ago the TandT produced an edition that was quite decent.

For this one, tough-thinking, sharp-eyed reporters went into the wild streets of Moncton to tell us
a) skaters at the city hall rink were wearing their helmets.
b) it's cold out.
c) Metro Moncton was ready for yesterday's snow.

And that's just the front page. Inside, we learn that election officers are preparing for the September vote. Well, that's a relief. I was sure they weren't going to prepare for it.

The whole of section A is a write-off. Most surprising is the continuing lack of any information of the "summit" meeting  of  300 "community leaders" who were going to solve all Moncton's economic problems. All we've heard so far is we all have to pull together.  Brilliant.
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In NewsToday, Horizon Health cut 12 jobs in radiology; and it won't affect patient health care at all. And we'll save a half million dollars.  That's good. You can never know when Mr. Irving might ask for another  half mil.

This is actually a well-written news story, the only well-written one in the paper. The reporter gives equal play to the very contrasting opinions of administration and workers - with workers quite certain it will have an   effect on services. The most important line is in the final paragraph in which Horizon CEO McGarry says the bottom line is that Horizon needs to find one to two percent savings every year in the future to live within a two percent growth model in its budget.

You really shouldn't have said that, Mr. McGarry. It gives the lie to all you said earlier. Patient needs are not even a consideration in your cuts. You are simply following a business model that was imposed on our hospitals by businessmen who know (and care) nothing about hospital services.
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Harper is quoted at length in "Canada warns of Syrian dangers". The Syrian war has become, he warns, a sectarian war that reflects wider sectarian tensions in the region.

Wow! What insight!

He and Baird then go on to blame Assad of Syria for bringing in terrorist elements. Right.

In fact, the terrorist are mostly on the other side, the one Harper supports. And they were brought in and paid for and equipped by our good friends in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Oh, and trained by soldiers of the freedom-loving USA and Britain.

In fact, that whole war was created by our side.

Mr. Harper's views are an embarrassment in print. They come across as baby talk at best - and lying when not at best.

In another story, mostly of fluff about his sightseeing, Harper expounds on the Iranian nuclear threat, saying he will be suspicious until he sees evidence Iran is not building a nuclear bomb.

Harper, you twit, American intelligence has announced many times it has no evidence that Iran is building a bomb in the first place. The US, after many inspections, has said the same. The only country in that region that has had a secret nuclear programme and has built a nuclear arsenal is Israel. So, Harper - why don't you threaten Israel?
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This is connected with a much bigger story the Irving press hasn't mentioned - and probably has never heard of.

A majority in the US congress is determined to wreck the Iran peace talks that Obama is now engaged in. The pressure is coming from AIPAC, the very powerful and wealthy Israeli lobby in Washington (and Canada - thus the visit to Israel of Harper and his 300 closest friends.)

AIPAC wants congress to pass a bill imposing more sanctions against Iran. The ones now in place have caused enormous suffering in Iran. The new ones would made it worse.

But AIPAC has money, lots of money, and the US congress can be bought. Additional sanctions would wreck the peace talks, and make a war with Iran almost inevitable, smashing Obama's attempt to avoid it. He will have to invade or bomb because that's what he said he would do if the talks failed.

If Congress passes such a bill, Obama can veto it - depending on the size of the vote. Past that point, he cannot veto it. The bill automatically will come into effect.

With only twenty or so congressmen undecided, Congress is within a half dozen votes of having its veto-proof bill. And when that happens, Obama will almost certainly feel forced to attack Iran, creating a major war - and one that could draw in Russia and China among others.

The only country in the world that really wants that war is Israel - and for reasons that have nothing to do with a nuclear bomb. Israel wants that war to destroy Iran, and to make Israel the dominant regional power. And it wants the US - and us - to do the dirty work.

And, as Harper has said,l we are with Israel no matter what happens.

So, how do  you feel about sending Canadians to kill and be killed in Iran as, you know, a favour to Israel? It would give us something extra to mourn next Nov. 11. If the world lasts that long.

Also missing from the news is that France is sending troops to "restore peace" in some of its old, African colonies. How nice of France.

What's really happening, of course, is that France is scrambling to recapture its old African empire before the US grabs it all.

As the old, western empires crumble, Africa and the middle east is in for a terrible time. Much of western wealth was built on gold and other minerals pillaged from that region. The US is there now to take over from them - so far, rather messily. Britain has joined in as a sort of junior partner to the US. Now, France is moving in as a "peacekeeper".  Meanwhile, the US is destabilizing those countries by sending in "special ops" (assassination squads) and drones.

Mr. Harper has joined the game in a minor role. He is being used by Netanyahu to destroy the Iran peace talks. And I'm sure he knows that. That will kill at least hundreds of thousands of people. It may put the whole world at risk. It may be a lot of Canadians killed for something has nothing to do with Canada. And he knows that, too.

But it's going to get him the Canadian Jewish vote in the next election.
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The editorial is the usual, old crap. We need to cut spending, cut pampering people with decent incomes and with services. We need - well, it's okay to spend as long as it's on that tiny group of people  who already take the greatest percentage of the wealth production of this province every year. And we mustn't ever tax that group.

This is the usual TandT economic view - to find prosperity by making most people poor, and by ignoring the corporate bosses' responsibility for our lack of money.

Norbert is still talking about universities - and still has no idea what he's babbling about. University teachers who ask for a raise are due for a reality check? Norbert, you drooling sycophant, will you never have the courage to say something like that to corporate bosses who have been making record profits for decades, and still demand more. We have some who make more in a year than all the professors in all the universities put together - and they still want more. And toadies like you have never had the courage (or, perhaps, the brains) to challenge them.

Yes the universities need changes. But your columns make it clear that you don't have a clue what those changes are. The reference to video learning, for example, is trendy - but shows that Norbert has not the faintest idea what education is about.

Alec Bruce, untypically, avoids proving his point (the value of shale gas) by calling those who disagree with him names. The only possible answer to his column today is "nyah, nyah".

Rod Allen is Rod Allen.

The only column worth reading today. is Jody Dallaire.
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That's it. One news story. One column. Lots of ads, though.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jan. 22: The history of ugliness..

(This  blog also appears daily on the web as a column in La Presse Libre de Moncton Free Press. I regret to say that the site also carries other blogs better than mine. Take a look.)
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When the Normans conquered England, they built square, stone buildings called 'keeps'. Usually two or three stories high and built of stone, these were homes and refuges for the conquering lords and their soldiers, a refuge from the peasants who lived in hovels outside their walls.

Some 700 years later, the real rulers of England were the wealthy upper class of business who made their money out of  a system of world pillage called The British Empire. And they wanted to establish a connection between themselves and the Normans who had earlier ruled. That connection was to build mansions in grotesque  distortion of the Norman keep  (which was no beauty to start with.)

It looked as if they had taken the keep by its neck, stretched it to impossible length so it was eight or nine stories high, punched the walls full of windows (something absurd in a building intended for defence), and then stuck big, square blocks of stone along the roof line in obviously silly and useless imitation of battlements.

One of them was built here in Moncton. (p. A3). And, oh, it is stunningly ugly, even for its type.

We call it Castle Manor (the home of a feudal lord.)  Yep. We have the pretentious home of a feudal lord up on Mountain Rd. - except that no feudal lord would ever have stepped into a place so pretentious and ugly.

And we're having a big campaign to save it as a heritage treasure.

If something is a heritage treasure simply for being old and ugly, I want to announce right now a campaign to declare me  a heritage treasure.

There are lots of fine, heritage houses to preserve in this city. It's a shame we destroyed so much of the railway heritage that made this city. There are houses and churches, a couple of small, office buildings and the Capitol theatre that could make an excellent heritage project. A railway museum here could be a stunning addition. But why on earth are we making such an effort to preserve a Castle Manor of infinite pretentiousness, of no historical importance, and. oh, so ugly.

I wonder if it's because somebody wants to sell it.

Anyway, I have a cheaper solution. Call it an events centre.
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The "must-read" story in section A concerns a report by Transport Atlantic Canada, which (reasonably) suggests we are in a rail transport crisis. It wisely sees a prominent place for governments in the operation of rail service in this region. Private ownership is concerned only with its own ownership and profit. But government ownership could be concerned with a broader picture of the needs of the province.

But, if you go the government route, don't do it while either the Liberals or Conservative are in power. First thing they'll do is sign it over to Irvings on a "Public/Private" deal.
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In NewsToday Harper visited the sacred, western wall  He observed the wall "solemnly". The photo shows him touching it reverently with both hands, his head bowed.

Of course. we've always known that Harper's principles and actions have always been based on his profound faith. Ask any senator.
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The editorial is, predictably, about how any railway reform must be based on private ownership. The reason, it says, is that public owndership is invariably a disaster. I think it was yesterday that I commented how our history text books leaves us ignorant of the truth about Canada history. So this one is for you, Mr. Editorial writer.

Early railways in Canada were not built entirely or even mostly by private means. They were possible only with large government grants, free land,  tax forgiveness, border taxes to keep out foreign competition, domestic laws to limit competition, killing native peoples to get them out of the way, loosening immigration laws to bring in incredibly cheap labour, training Northwest Mounted Police to break strikes, and teaching them to operate trains in case a strike did start. There were also outright gifts of money to private companies - and they paid massive corruption to people like John A. Macdonald, and good ol' boy Sir Charles Tupper of Amherst, N.S.   (also known as the Cumberland ram for - well - for a good reason.)

With all this help and more, the railways were built and some big ones, despite wise, private leadership, soon went broke. They begged prime minister Borden for help. But, business lover though he was, he couldn't help them. That's why government-owned Canadian National Railways was formed. And it, government-owned, managed to salvage the mess that private ownership had left.
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Norbert tells us we have economic problems. Very observant. But he has hopes. Pretty vague ones. But hopes. For one, municipalities could take over painting the yellow lines in the middle of highways once they enter municipal boundaries. Wow! Painting yellow lines. That should stop the drift to Alberta.

He thinks the Liberals should advance more effective ideas. Bang on. That'll solve it. More effective ideas. (He mentions only Liberals and Conservatives. But those may be the only two he can spell.)

The weekend's revisioning exercise by Enterprise Greater Moncton was, says Norbert, important. It reminded us we all have to pull together. Wow! They must have had some really clever businessmen there to come up with that one. That's it. We pull together. Problem solved.

In his whole column, Norbert doesn't say a damn thing. In particular, he doesn't once even mention the major reason why this province is poor.                                            

This whole province, including the Liberals, Conservatives and Norbert, is owned and controlled by a handful of corporation bosses, most notably the Irvings. They interfere in government and education. They set policy. They do little to share the costs of government services. And, oh, they haul money out of here by the trainload.

The income gap is a scandal all over the world, and has been for the last twenty or thirty years. There are now 85 people who have more wealth that three and a half billion poor people - that is, more wealth than half of the whole world.

It's happening here as it's happening everywhere. They pull out huge sums. The pay low taxes. They store their wealth offshore, or they invest it in industries overseas where people will work for less than five dollars a day.

Cutting taxes won't help. It almost never has throughout modern history. There's a reason we are poor. And it's not because we're wasting money giving turkeys to the needy at Christmas or because we (sometimes) help to keep fishermen's families alive through the off season.

It's because a handful of people to their shame for doing it and to ours for letting them do it are taking out far, far more money from this province that they are putting into it. It's because the only concern of our Liberals and Conservatives and of you, Norbert, is to  help them do it.
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Alec Bruce's column is very similar. It, too, avoids any mention of the role of big money or of the morally contemptible wage gap or of the failure of big business to pay its share of taxes - or of its sense of entitlement to government money.

Norbert at least mentions 'vested interests'. Now, if he would only have the courage (and intelligence)  to name those vested interests, we might get somewhere. I note, though, they don't seem to have been mentioned at the great "vision" meeting this weekend, either.
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The op ed page with Eric Lewis and Brian Cormier is its usual waste of time. Lewis is fascinated by the wonderful world of liquor sales. Cormier writes a grade three essay about old photos.

Neither of those is what an opinion column is for in a real newspaper.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Jan. 21: Stephen Harper: national embarrassment....and fool..

The only news story in Section A is that four people were wounded in a knife attack at Fredricton. The other, big story isn't a story at all. It's simply a (long )announcement that a report on rail service will soon be coming out. (Hint to news editor. When the report comes out, that's a story. When we are simply told it's going to come out, that's a one-liner.)

On C3, there's a big story that a Calgary airline is expanding its routes. It will have no effect whatever on New Brunswick. Next, no doubt, a big story on Walmart renovating its store in some town in Kentucky.
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Harper has addressed the Israeli legislature in a speech that is lying, provocative, hypocritical, dismissive of Canadian freedoms, extremely damaging to Obama's attempts to head off a war that would kill hundreds of thousands and perhaps go our of control to murder millions, hate-mongering. This was the worst, most embarrassing and most dangerous speech ever for a Canadian prime minister.

Anyone who crticizes Israel, he said, is an anti-semite. As a minor point, Harper obviously does not know what a semite is. As a more important one, it means that we are not free to criticize Israel. What next? If we criticize Russia, are we anti-Russian? If we criticize the government of New Brunswick, are we anti-Brunswick? Is the government of Israel always right? Are those Israelis who voted against it anti-semites? Are those Canadian and American Jews who criticize the Israeli government anti-semites?

Then he said that Canada would always stand fully with Israel, no matter what.

Oh?

That surely repeats an old vow of his - that Canada would support Israel in a war no matter who started it. That means he promises to declare war on any Israeli enemy whether Israel is right or wrong.

Think back to Nov. 11. That was the day we remembered those who died in war to defend our freedoms. One of those freedoms was that Canada could go to war only with the consent of their elected representatives in parliament. That, was are told, is what they died for.

Mr. Harper just gave away that right. By a promise in advance to go to war, he has given himself the right to declare war - and we are started down the road the US has chosen.

The last time the US declared war through congress was 1941. Since then, it has fought nobody knows how many wars, all without congressional authorization. So far as war is concerned, the US president has become a dictator.

How many wars have been fought by the US since 1941? Nobody knows. Reliable sources put the number over a hundred undeclared wars being fought just at this moment. These are the secret wars fought by special ops killers and drones. Then there have been the big ones. Even congress has not known about most of them, let alone approved them.  And that is one hell of a dangerous situation for a democracy.

And now Harper has put us in that same situation.

He also blamed Palestine for ruining all the peace initiatives. What an incredible statement! Even as he spoke, peace talks with Palestine were on - and Israel chose that very time to annex more Palistinian land, kicking Palestinians off their own property and out of their homes.

In fact, though, I have never met anyone who blames just Israel for the mess that is the middle east. After all, there's a lot of blame to go to Britain, France, the US who have been killing and pillaging in that region for over a century. They are the ones whose behaviour gave rise to the first, modern terrorist groups in the region who were, incidentally, European Jews. (check The Stern Gang, for example, in Google.)

His audience went wild over Harper's suggestions that only Canada is Israel's true friend, only Canada has helped it. This is wild.

Harper is being used - and even he must be intelligent enough to realize it. Canada has done close to nothing for Israel.   Israel owes almost everything, even its very existence, to American dollars and American diplomatic support. Now, our wildly irresponsible prime minister is allowing himself to be used by Netanyahu to humiliate the American president, and destroy his attempts to head off a war that will be dreadful at best, perhaps the most dreadful we  have ever seen, and certainly the most unjustifiable war.

And he wants Israel to be a Jewish state? Well, 20% of its population is not Jewish. And most of the non-Jewish are heavily discriminated against - including beatings, killings, and being kicked out of their homes. Besides, if Israel is to be a Jewish state, how is that different from Moslems we call extreme jihadists because they want their countries to be Moslem states?

Harper has become an embarrassing ass - and a dangerous one.
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The editorial is called "teaching to think". But it doesn't say much about that.

What it does is to praise the minister of education's plans to "retool" the education system. The problem with that is that yesterday's news story about it didn't show that she had any plans.

Then there is a line about teaching students to think critically - which is one thing the schools just cannot do. It's not the schools' fault. It students were taught to think critically, parents, government and big business would be down on the schools like boulders.

That's why every school history book - or current events text - is packed with lies and bias. The reality is that most of us don't want children to learn how to think critically. No. We want them to think like us. Which means not thinking at all.

Oh, and they absolutely must teach everybody entrepreneurship every year from K to 12. Our prosperity depends on having lots and lots of entrepreneurs. Right.

New Brunswick will rise to prosperity with an economy based on coffee shops, pizza joints, donut shops, and populated entirely by people who take in each other's washing for a living.

This is one, stunningly ignorant editorial.
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I missed whatever point Alec Bruce's column might have had. I think it had a point. I think it was a very silly one. But I don't want to blame him until I'm sure.

Then we have Norbert on the university situation. I'm sure university teachers will rejoice to read that their average salary is well over 100 thousand a year. (But it isn't.)

And would Norbert have the courage to cite and criticize the average salaries in executive circles at Irving industries? Or the average taxes paid by big business?

And many professors are political ideologues? Well, yeah. So are many newspaper editors and columnists.

And they complain about shale gas but they don't have an alternative? Well, the first thing you have to do is to get a pretty dozey population to realize there is a problem, and to convince a lying press owned by callous billionaires that there is a need to find a solution.

You start by recognizing a problem. That's the essential first step. Then you get the whole society to work on a solution.

Norbert knows nothing about education in general, less about universities. How little he knows is reflected by his closing admiration for Donald Savoie who has all the answers to these problems, one of the few professors our governments and big business feel safe in consulting. And that tells you worlds.
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Allan Cochrane is worth reading on the worrisome issue of our obsession with hi-tech toys. (I'm a victim, myself).

Gwynne Dyer has a solid column on Syria.

Oh, and Sean Penn has a girlfriend.Read all about it on D1.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jan. 20: Hallelujah!

They've  done it. An Irving paper with real editorial and op ed pages, with well-written opinion columns that actually have something to say. And there's not a stinker in the bunch. (And a good, if worrisome, cartoon by de Adder.) Norbert and Alec Bruce hit gold. Craig Babstock is a must read.

Babstock attacks the idea of group prayer before city council meetings. In so doing, he is not being critical of any religion. (Indeed, my own experience of meetings that begin with a group prayer are that they are gatherings of hypocrites.  And,  yes, I am aware that includes church services.)

Anyone who wishes to pray is always free to do so. God, I am sure, hears the individual prayer. But nobody has the right to force his or her religious practices on anybody.

Steve Malloy, bless his little heart, deals with  topic I had been thinking of, activities that give children a chance for intellectual development. In this respect, there isn't much in Moncton for either children or adults.

My fondest memories of high school are days  (a great many, I'm afraid) when I skipped school in Montreal. I'd head for - oh - McGill where they had a wonderful museum with a dinosaur, a stuffed gorilla, Egyptian mummies, and just about everything.

Then there was the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts with vast halls of paintings and statuary and, oh, just everything.

Was I hurting my education? Well, if you mean hurting it by not finishing high school, yes. But to this day, I have powerful memories of that dinosaur, and a painting of a medieval fish market, and the suit of armour that stood in the hall..... I remember nothing of trigonometry or mechanical drawing....

Moncton is slow,very slow, to realize that children (and adults) have brains, and can enjoy using them. It's a city that would happily contribute ice skates to poor kids - but wouldn't dream of holding discussion groups for them though poor kids have brains that can be just as smart as those of rich kids.

There's also a new columnist, Joseph Quesnel, on the back page who seems worth watching for.
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The big story on p. 1 is "Education minister plans changes". The reporter does a good job covering the story. The problem is there's no story to report. That's not the reporters fault. It's editors who decide which stories to cover. It's also editors who write the headlines and sub-heads.

In this case, the sub-head is "Marie-Claude Blais says officials spend too much time running schools when they should be  focussing on education."

Huh?

I spent my life teaching at every level of education - and I don't have the faintest idea what that statement means.

In a continuation of the story on p. A4, the headline is "minister wants a solid system". Well, yeah, I suppose a solid system is better than an unsolid one. Uh...what the hell is a 'solid system'?

There is no story here. Marie-Claude Blais really had nothing to say. To assign a good reporter to this is like putting lipstick on a pig. This is the typically abysmal editing of the TandT.
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The university strike is still in the news. A few days ago, I wrote that the universities have profound problems that won't be solved with better pay. I still think  so. But that has nothing to do with the strike or my support of the teachers. That's something I am reminded of when people tell me the profs are already overpaid - and I hear talk of them pulling down a hundred thousand a year.  Look.......

First, the ones getting a hundred thousand are the ones with experience and rank. You start off at a lower wage, one that is even lower than it seems. And, at that, NB universities are not among the better paid in Canada.

Second, it is a bloody expensive business to get into university teaching - even more expensive than one might expect.

First, it takes eight or more years of your life to qualify. These are eight or more years when you still have to eat and wear clothes. And maybe get married and even have children. But you have no income. So you borrow.

I well remember the very cold day my first daughter was born. I got up early, got into my ancient car (which I had bought before returning to school). It ran for perhaps a hundred metres, coming to its final stop in front of the gates of Kingston penitentiary.

I sat there, stunned. I didn't have a penny in the world. I couldn't afford even a transit ticket to get to the hospital. And I would have a wife and a baby daughter coming home within a few days.

Oh, yes, ther is money in scholarships. But not nearly enough to live on in addition to paying fees. So I borrowed. And I borrowed. When I got my first job (at a very small fraction of a hundred thousand; in fact, I started at less than I would have earned if I had remained a high school teacher). Worse, I was so heavily in debt it took me almost twenty years to get out. I

That meant, really, that for twenty years, I was making much less than government statistics showed.

Funny thing. We have university faculties of business education that teach their students that greed is good, that it encourages enterpreneurship. We have business leaders who assure us that their work is so valuable to society it is worth millions a year, sometimes tens of millions and sometimes more. I have known more than a few of those people.

They had mediocre educations, and no special,  innate intellectual qualities that I could determine. But they were paid in millions of dollars - millions of dollars that came from all of us, just as university salaries come from all of us. But when have you ever read a newspaper column questioning that?

We get lots of indignant information on what university teachers earn, along with some information about their training. When was the last time you got information about how much corporation heads rake in? When was the last time you got information about what their qualifications were?

We are running short of money. But it's not because of university salaries or 'entitlements' for the poor. It's happening because for the last twenty years we have been systematically pillaged by the very rich who have effectively taken over government, who then tuck the money away overseas, just for themselves.

Of course, it's much easier for people to take their indignation out on the professors. They can't hurt anybody. Take it out on the corporate bosses of this province, and you could end up with no job.
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Not much happening in the world today. The Tand T has only one page of world news. The big story is that Harper has landed in Israel with an entourage of 300 people (your tax dollars at work.)

Prime Minister Nethanyahu said. "(Harper)... is a great friend of Israel..."

He said Harper has shown "great moral leadership in fighting terrorism" and in taking a stand against Iran." In a frenzy of praise, he spoke highly of Harper's morality and conviction and leadership.

What morality? What conviction? What leadership?

Harper has never done anything but talk. He did send troops to Afghanistan - but then pulled them out in the middle of the war. Harper has never extended any financial or military aid to Israel.. He has, in fact,  never done anything for Israel except talk - and now to visit Israel with this bizarre entourage of 300 people as if he were being crowned shah of Israel.

The country which has poured billions in Israel, which has protected it in the UN, which has given it it's formidable armed forces is not Canada. It's the US. So why this extravagant praise of Harper?

Netanyahu is praising Harper to humiliate Obama. Obama doesn't want a war with Iran. Iran, after all, is no threat to Israel. Intelligence services and the UN agree that Iran has no nuclear weapons programme. In fact, the country that illegally has nuclear weapons is Israel.

Obama doesn't want a war because it would be a very bloody one with consequences that could well include a world, nuclear war.

Netanyahu is using Harper to pressure Obama and to humiliate him. That overblown entourage is perhaps the greatest embarrassment in Canada's history. It may also be the biggest and most tragic blunder.

Canada, you can be sure, has isolated itself in almost all the world with this one.

And all so Harper can get the Jewish vote in the next election.