Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July 29: Well. a front page headline that is important..

Most lobster fishermen in Prince Edward Island want to continue fishing for small lobster because the small ones attract the Asian market. But one fishing harbour has joined New Brunswick fishermen in demanding a higher minimum size, allowing lobsters to live longer and produce more baby lobsters and, thus, to maintain the fishery indefinitely.

Too bad it's not a well-written story. As it is, it gives the impression that lobsters are plentiful. But it's a little more complicated than that. And the newspaper did bother to find an expert for an opinion on the subject. After all, there are credible concerns that the seas will be fished out in a generation of two. Then what?.

The minister of fisheries for PEI has refused to intervene,  saying she wants the fishermen to come to an agreement on their own. That seems a bizarre position for a  cabinet minister to take.. After all, we're not talking here about a simple, local matter. This is part of the story of a world running out of food because of massive pollution by, for example, mining companies. It's a world running out of food because of population growth.

The other big story on A1 is "Motocross racers live, breathe their sport". Who could possibly care?

And, in this day of miracles, there's another important story on B3. 'Rising sea levels speed up coastal erosion, fuel storm surges, scientists say." They  could rise as much as a metre in just twenty years. That would be enough to destroy much of the shore line, and the road and bridge system. And what's causing this? Well, it's our burning of fossil fuels for things like cars.

So will Mr. Irving fund a philanthropic campaign to get serious about the connection between oil and climate change?  Not bloody likely. If anything, he will move his house to higher ground. Bermuda, I'm afraid, would not be a good choice this time.

And will Moncton reconsider its decision to buy a new fleet of buses that few people ride? There are, after all, better and cleaner methods of moving people; and they cost less, much less, than an oversized hockey rink. And will it reconsider its practice encouraging the urban sprawl that makes travel by care essential as well as inefficient - and very damaging to the environment?

Then there's a gem on A6. It's a third of the page devoted to the unveiling of a plaque that looks like any plaque you're ever seen. It commemorates the decision to make Moncton the terminus for the old, Colonial Railway. (And why was this city, which is not on the sea, chosen as the terminus for transcontinental rail traffic? The plaque probably doesn't say. But what happened is that both Halifax and St. John wanted to be the terminus Choosing either of them over the other could have cost a lot of votes. So the feds chose Moncton  because it was half-way between them.)

A big photo shows MP Robert Goguen doing the only thing I had known him to do - hold the unveiling cloth while a city councillor watches. Just below are two more photos - of Goguen and the Councillor again. I have no idea why.

The whole story could have been told in one paragraph. This one takes nine - with the last one an eminently boring statement by Goguen full of good-sounding, but vague words like proud, strong and free.  He also says the plaque will help tourism. Damn right. I can see people coming from all over the world to look at a bronze plaque.

Apart from the lobster story, perhaps the biggest one isn't a story. It's an ad by a union. Harper is getting rid of people in the public service. Of course. Times are tough. He likes to talk about balanced budget because he knows that many voters think of a  federal budget as thought its something like a household budget. Anyway, billionaires don't need that public service. And they certainly don't intend to pay taxes for anything only us common people need. In fact, they don't intend to pay taxes at all.

Generally, though, it's a pretty brainless news section. But that's good because the purpose of Irving news is to keep us all in a stupor, ignorant of what's happening.
The editorial is about how Moncton has a lot of restaurants. Thanks. I needed to know that.

Moncton is also the unofficial Tim Horton's capital of the world. Whoopee!

This, too, is part of the 'keep 'em in a stupor policy.

Norbert has an excellent and well-deserved column on former Foreign Affairs minister, Flora Macdonald. who died recently. She had what Diefenbaker and Mulroney never had - the respect of her own party - and of the others.

And the column told me something that gave me a personal thrill. Norbert went to Queen's university just three years after I did.  I wish I'd known. I could have introduced him to a lot of socialists.

The guest commentary is one I started with caution. It's about the drug industry in Canada which, as in the rest of the world, is one of the most unethical and overpriced industries one could imagine. But the column looks  honest and knowledgeable - and well worth a read.

Brian Cormier is Brian Cormier. And I fear  he always will be.

And Alec Bruce has a column that looks as though Cormier wrote it. It's an irrelevant and pointless story about a visit to the zoo. Of five commentaries, all are about Canada, and three are about Moncton - and trivial at that. We should demand a newspaper that tells us a lot more about the world than that. This is a paper for belly button gazing. We have to stop kidding ourselves that what happens in other countries doesn't affect us. Actually, for the most part, it's doesn't even tell us anything about New Brunswick or about Moncton.
Canada&World has an important story on its first page. Public sector workers are furious that premier Alward misled them on their pension benefits, with a danger they will face cuts to the deal Alward seemed to have proposed. Premier Gallant's reply?  Tough luck. So the unions are going to court.

Can you imagine how Alward or Gallant would reply to such a request from Irving? "You want a forest, Mr. Irving? Well, we have a nice, big on for you - at a low, low special price. Will it have regulations? That's entirely up to you, Mr. Irving. Do whatever you think is best. And, remember, if you want a forgivable loan, just ask us.  Enjoy."

There's another story on B3 that's a world story, and a very important one. I guess that's why it's so short. Some very credible scholars, scientists and tech wizards say we are on the edge of being able to create whole armies, navies and airforces made up of 'killer robots."

The usual people say this will be good because it will save human lives. Sure. they'll save lives for the side that uses them But saving lives on the other side is not what armed forces do.

Critics foresee as massive arms race to build these robot killers because They're so cheap and so easy to build that almost any country could do it. Indeed. the US has already killed thousands with its drones.

One eminent scholar says these weapons should be banned - as chemical weapons are banned. But that would be a waste of energy for two reasons not mentioned in the article  1) The U.S. at least, would ignore such a ban. It's philosophy on these matters (and it's quite public) is "American Exceptionalim" - which means that the U.S. has a unique right to do anything it likes no matter what international agreements or laws might say.  2)As further proof of the uselessness of such bans, the U.S. already ignores them. It produces chemical weapons like Agent Orange - and a poison gas that it has been known to give to people like Saddam Hussein. It invades countries and kills millions without any reason acceptable under international law.

And there's a third reason. The American people often approve of wars that they should not fight - but they're not so enthusiastic about taking casualties. No American president is eager to approve of any war that threatens high, U.S. casualties. That makes drones and robots very attractive.

B4 - typical big world news story for the Irving press. "Three Ontario sisters say they were stopped by police for biking topless." They have made a big case that they were doing it to benefit all women. Maybe. But, frankly, the right for women to go topless in Ontario would be rather lower on my scale than helping the tens of millions of women who are being starved, bombed to death, and living in horror. Obviously, the Irving press sees these things the other way around. That's what we get a story about three Ontario girls instead of the helpless and hopeless ones we are helping to kill.

There's a story about Cosby. There's a story about Trump.

There's no mention of the refugee crisis at Calais, France, where thousands of refugees are desperate to get to a Britain that doesn't want them, and no mention of Israel using bombs to join the war in Syria.

There's no mention of why the U.S. is sponsoring a rebellion in Syria in the first place - and arming and paying the rebels. The only reason that we've heard is the old one that seems to be enough for all the wars that cost millions of lives and destroy whole societies - "Assad is a bad man."

Hell if that's the reason, George Bush and Obama are both real bastards. Both have killed far more people than Assad ever did. At least Assad had a  reason. He killed because he was being attacked by U.S. and British funded armies. Exactly why have Britain and the U.S. funded the rebels? Why did they attack Iraq and Afghanistan? Why did Canada join them in Afghanistan?  Why are Canadians killing Syrians?

Why did the U.S. hire the Egyptian generals to overthrow a democratically elected government? Why has the U.S. tried to impoverish and destroy Cuba for fifty years? Did Cuba threaten to invade it?

Why did we, of North America, criticize Hitler for practicing genocide when we practiced it on a much bigger scale with our native peoples? And now that we have a report on what we've done, why isn't Harper doing anything about it?

Why has Canada sent troops and ships to Ukraine? To defend democracy? There is no democracy. Ukraine has been stripped bare by western bankers, and it's now ruled by them. Even the Naziis of Ukraine are complaining about it.

Why do we hear so little about how the people of Greece are suffering? Why do we hear nothing about the whereabouts of the Greek equivalent of the Irvings, the ones whose abuse of political power caused the crisis.

Then, it would be useful to know something about the real poverty rates in Canada and the U.S. Both can be frustrating to find. According to Forbes Magazine, a magazine for people with money,  the U.S. has almost nobody living in poverty - a mere 4.5%.

The government figure is about 15%, or 34 million people. We need some real figures for this - and for unemployment - and they are very, very difficult to get. Official unemployment figures are commonly only half of the real number.

These figures are particularly striking when you note the high proportion of children living in poverty. That means those children  have very little chance, from kindergarten on, to ever get out of the poverty trap.

What are the figures for the wage gap in Canada and the U.S.? What does an Irving make in a year? What does a working class person make?

What taxes do the wealthy and their corporations pay? Good newspapers print that information.

Have you heard about the homelessness in California? A large part of the budget to care for the homeless goes to the police so they can arrest them for being homeless. And people who have no money because the drought destroyed their jobs are getting notices their water will be cut off unless they pay their water tax. They same thing is happening in Detroit where jobs were lost when automobile companies moved to cheaper countries - thanks to free trade. The government couldn't help because it spent its money bailing out the banks and the auto companies that caused the economic hardship. Now, these people are getting their water cut off, and are being turned out of their dilapidated buildings onto the street.

There are lots of important stories out there. That's what makes it so frustrating to write a blog about a newspaper chain that prints only what's mind-numbing or pleasing to the boss. Oh. And cheap.

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