Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Feb. 24: Gee! Would the Irving press miss a big story about climate change?

It was a story I first saw in Google News. So I immediately checked the sources it gave - the New York Times and The Guardian. They confirmed it. Funny thing, though. Usually Google News lasts for the best part of a day, and often for several days. This one had disappeared from Google News in just an hour or so. I wonder why.

I had a suspicion the editors at the Irving press wouldn't have time for it with all their big stories about how high the snowbanks are, and who appeared in court for spitting on the sidewalk. So here it is.

An aerospace engineer who works part-time for the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has been publishing papers for some time "proving" that climate change is NOT caused by burning fossil fuels. I mean, he's published papers on it and everything. He's the darling of climate-change deniers, and the sort of person Norbert would call an expert.

Yep. It seems that climate change is caused by the sun getting hotter. So we can burn all the oil and coal we like. Whew! That's a relief.  But there's more.

His name is Wei-Hok Soon; and the Harvard Smithsonian has just discovered that his research funding of some $1.2 million over the last year or so has been coming from philanthropic institutes like ExxonMobil, Texaco - folks you can trust.

And, of course, he never reported where his money was coming from. The Center fired him for that, and also because its other scientists who were actually trained in the field said his research papers were incompetent.

And, course, today's Irving press, dedicated as it is to keeping us informed about the latest developments on climate change, and the one that routinely quotes every lie from big business think tanks like Atlantic Institute of Market Studies and Fraser Institute, has no mention of this. And it almost certainly never will have.
On Information Clearing House for Feb. 23, there is another fascinating report that will never make the Irving press. Since 1776, the US has fought almost 250 wars, and was the aggressor in almost all of them. As well, almost all of them were fought on behalf of American business. (The constant wars of the 1920s and 30s labelled banana wars were invasions of Central American countries to make the Dole's and their ilk even richer, and to virtually enslave the people of the region.)

Actually, there have been many more wars than that since "secret" wars don't get counted. That's quite a record for a country that is almost impossible to attack, and refers to itself as peace-loving.

And now to the intellectually stimulating pages of the Times and Transcript.

The lead story on page 1, for a change, is important and worth reading. "Stay away from HST hike, pleads New Brunswick poverty group." It's an important reminder for this province that government is not just about money. It's about people.

A3 returned to normal with half the page devoted to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the NB flag.
It featured an empty speech by premier Gallant. The reporter was thrilled that Gallant could connect with the younger generation by saying, "Is that pretty cool or what?" Yep. and twenty three skidoo, zippity doo-dah and oh, you kid. Other speakers had nothing but platitudes,  either. I've no doubt it was an exciting day for the kids. But, educationally, it was a complete waste of time.

What might have been useful would have been a speech on why the ship on the flag (to represent forestry and shipbuilding) is a type that ceased to exist long before Europeans came here.

The editorial is the usual nose in the bellybutton piece. Norbert is indignant that a strip search was made of a girl in a Quebec school. I quite agree. But that's well down a list that has our anti-terrorism bill on it.

Alec Bruce disappoints with a gushing column on Gallant's appointment of three"all-stars" to the province's "Jobs Board Secretariat."  He's excited because all three have a strong record in the private sector. Think about it, Alec. That's like picking a doctor because he or she has a strong record of being sick.

He shows nothing in their experience to suggest they know anything about creating jobs. Being in business is not about creating jobs. It's about hiring as few people as cheaply as possible to make as much profit as you can. What we really have here is people who will represent big business methods, interests, and power directly into government - which is exactly what Irving did with the Alward government.
Section B, Canada&World has two itmes worth looking at. One, at the bottom of B1,  is "Lid on cabinet secrets quietly tightened under new policy". Don't bother reading it. It's just more of Harper's paranoia for control. Instead check its photo of then (2007) foreign minister Maxime Bernier, surely the dimmest bulb ever to be a cabinet minister in this country. But don't look at him, either. (Anyway, you won't). Look at the woman beside him. That's his girlfriend, a shy, young thing with Hell's Angels connections. Why would a story about the cabinet feature an eight-year old photo? Look down. Bernier's trophy girl has a big bust. Hey. That's what editors are for.
A more important story is at the top of the page, "Enrolment dropping at province's universities". The problem of universities - not just in New Brunswick - is huge, and it's been building for years.
1.Training in education is almost unknown among university professors. There is also little respect for teaching and no professional status in it. One consequence is that course structures and programmes often make no sense at all. The fundamental purpose of university teaching should NOT be to pump information  into students. It should be to develop thought and perception skills. And you do not do that by memorizing the date of confederation.

Much of those skills could be best taught by courses in the humanities and arts (such a English and History). But they aren't. Instead of learning how to teach and how to make their programmes useful, professors place almost all their energies into scoring brownie points by doing research.

They also seek to escape teaching as much as possible by getting more time for research. I still remember vividly meeting with one professor to set his teaching schedule. Usually, the maximum load is nine hours a week - but most get cuts from that gruelling schedule. This professor had managed to get just two hours per week. When I told him, he said, "Graeme, I can't teach two hours a week. If I did that, I'd have to live in Montreal."

"Where were  you planning to live?"


Additionally, this leads to libraries designed to serve the interests of professor researchers rather than students - and that is expensive.

As a side-effect, the programmes which do attract students (like business) tend to be built narrowly to train people (like seals) rather than to develop intellectual abilities.

Commonly. a text-book order will be accompanied by a true or false quiz to the teacher. Many professors  love those. They're quick and easy to mark. Alas! they're also a complete waste of time because they encourage learning by memorization, and they are no test at all of essential reasoning and presentation skills.

All of this is made yet worse fads like MacLean's "best" universities edition which is not only misleading, but utterly incompetent as a guide to anything.

And, on top it all, universities are dominated at the governing level by big money which, as a rule, cares only about its own interests.

And, oh, it's overpriced. Countries smaller and poorer than Canada and the US can provide university education free, and often with living allowances. Cuba does it. The Netherlands does it.

There are massive problems for our universities - financial, educational, many problems which automatically beyond the reach of most Canadians. And, there's a goo of snobbery in almost all of them which makes any change unthinkable. One of the gooiest is McGill where I was once invited to speak to a class - of over 500!
What a waste of time for everybody! For openers, a class of that size makes it almost impossible to give anything but a true and false exam. And even if grad students are paid to mark, they have virtually no training in how to do it. (But then, neither do the professors.)

It's a mess, a big mess, and judgement day is getting very close.

There's an intriguing story on B5 about a New York court which found the Palestinian government guilty of damages suffered by Americans in the Israel-Palestine conflict. And it ordered Palestine to pay $318 compensation.

Interesting. I didn't know a civil court could to that, And if the Palestinian government did encourage terrorism, then it was a war crime - and shouldn't that more appropriately go to the international court? But it does open fascinating possibilities.

Could victims of the Iraq war have the right to sue the US for over a million lives lost and massive destruction going through, say, a Syrian court? Could Vietnam sue through a Chinese court? And would the US accept the decision?

And perhaps this will inspire the US government to lay charges against Israel for its murder of 47 American sailors and the wounding of 171 on board the USS Liberty when it was in international waters, and with no possibility that Israel didn't know who it was killing. No American president has ever said a word about it.
Oh, and there's another missing story. A commission sent by The Netherlands to study the border area between Ukraine and Russia said it found no evidence of any military activity in that area. There must be a mistake. Our news media are telling us that the Russians are sending heavy military equipment and troops through there every day. And I'm sure our news media would never lie to us.

And where is the official report on who and what shot down a civilian airliner in eastern Ukraine?

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