Saturday, October 24, 2015

Oct. 24: Too much news today.

The Irving press is weak on every aspect of journalism I can think of. Local news is almost always trivial. World news scarcely exists – and when it does exist, it shows no sign of any ability to judge which news is important. I don't know whether it's sloppiness on the part of the editors, or laziness, or just ignorance. Or a deliberate policy of discouraging readers from thinking about anything.

Analysis of the news in the shape of opinion columns is essential to stimulate thinking about the meaning of the news. But opinion columns in the Irving press are few, often so trivial they do nothing to increase our understanding of the news or so uninformed they're of no help in understanding anything.

Why does the Irving press so often use reporters and editors to write opinion columns? Really, few of them have anything to say. But it's cheap. (Which may also explain why my daily paper is no longer delivered to my door, but simply dropped on a chair in the lobby. It might also explain why it's never delivered before 11 a.m. Yesterday, my breakfast paper appeared at 5:30 P.M., just in time for supper.)

Other papers use specialists for opinion columns; and it makes a big difference in making the news understandable. Take just one story, for example….

In today's news, the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq are negotiating terms to end the war in Syria. Good idea. But there's a hitch – a big one. Russia insists that al-Assad has to stay until he is voted out. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia are insisting that al Assad has to go. He has to go BEFORE any settlement. And he must not be allowed to come back. Why?

Is Saudi Arabia insisting there must be an election? Not likely. It's the most rigid dictatorship in the world. (So how come the freedom-loving U.S. doesn't insist on elections in Saudi Arabia?) As for the U.S., when did God give the U.S. the right to decide who should be leaders of other countries, and how they should be chosen? And why does Russia insist Assad should stay?

Well, Russia wants him to stay because Assad wants economic links to Russia – which would include a pipeline for Russian oil. The U.S. wants him to go because U.S. billionaires want to control Syria. Saudi Arabia is more complicated, and it also has to do with religious hatreds. In other words, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have died, and millions are refugees in a war that really has nothing to do with them. As well, other countries, like Turkey, are using the turmoil to carry out racial or religious 'cleansings'.

And Russia is also using this war to show the U.S. that Russian conventional weapons are a lot more advanced than the U.S. thought they were. Putin is warning Obama to think well before he makes a move in, say, Ukraine.

To add to the joy, the whole region is saturated with American-made weapons, enough for every man, woman and child. This has created fortunes in the U.S. Defence industries and among leading U.S. politicians. And it has created a middle east that will be unstable and explosive for decades to come. (It has also created an enormous debt for American taxpayers, a debt that has cut social spending on the growing numbers of poor and homeless in the U.S. - and that will raise problems of national violence in the U.S.)

But, let's be thankful for the good part. It's all for the good cause of keeping up profits for the oil industry.
The volume of news and analysis from just three papers is so great that it would take me too long to give URLs for each site. I'm going to talk about these without such a reference. But I strongly urge all readers to google the following sites. In them, you'll find all that's missing from the Irving press – news, intelligent opinion. Even Canadian news is better covered in these three, far better covered, than in the Irving press.

1. The Guardian uk. It has more news and more informed opinion about the Canadian election and Trudeau than I have seen in any Canadian paper. It also has opinion that goes for Stephen Harper like a scalpel. I haven't  seen that quality of opinion, either, in Canadian papers. In fact, the editor of Canada's biggest gutter paper, The National Post, had to resign because he wrote favourably of Trudeau.

2. Haaretz. An honest and intelligent newspaper coming from a place where it can be dangerous to be honest and intelligent.

3. aljazeera. Despite its ownership by a person I would be wary of, aljazeera is usually fairminded, thorough, and intelligent. That's not surprising. It was created largely by an excellent Canadian journalist ( a vanishing breed) at CBC.

I have also watched the BBC news for North America. I have seen no reason to continue following it. Despite all its problems (caused by both Conservative and Liberal governments), CBC news is far superior.

Now, Just a quick summary of today's Irving press.

The lead headline on p. 1, the big story of the day, is that football fans at a Michigan/Rutgers game will get a chance to eat lobster and salmon from New Brunswick.

Be still, my heart.

The only important story in Section A, also on A1, is about the problem of rural school closures – and about the affect this will have on children and their families. Education in rural New Brunswick is one hell of a problem for both students and parents. Both need far more and better education than they're getting. It's certainly not the fault of the teachers. It's a problem that comes with  rural life.

Unfortunately, the government sees it all much as it would a commercial enterprise. So the government does virtually nothing for adults; and it insists that rural schools must operate exactly like urban ones. The closing of rural schools will, maybe, save some money. It will also damage a great many people, and that is not what education is supposed to do. Is nobody in this government capable of thinking outside the box?

Norbert writes, again, about climate change. It's an okay column, saying we have to do something about it. I'm glad the Irving press now admits climate change is happening. Now – isn't it true that climate change is caused largely by burning fossil fuels? And isn't it true that the Irving press has been in favour of encouraging more burning through pipelines and fracking? Will you be allowed to write a column on that, Norb?

The editorial writer and Brent Mazerolle have nothing to say. And the Guest column is an ad for Small Business Week.

Jo-Anne Moore, again, has a very readable column. It's about the importance of being polite because rudeness not only hurts people, it seriously weakens the effectiveness of business places, schools, any institution from small to huge. (Well, any institution except the military. Those who join it are deliberately taught to be rude to anyone lower in rank.)

….but I wonder… what about the danger of politeness becoming simply a means of being accepted, of conforming? I find people in Moncton extraordinarily polite in comparison with Montreal or Toronto or New York. But they're also dreadfully conformist and unquestioning.

It's nice to read a column that makes one think.

The big story in world news is, of course, the Oland trial. Otherwise, almost nothing is happening in the world as seen by the Irving Press. Well, there is B3, “Nations planning Syria's political transition to end war”. It's interesting only because it shows the need for somebody capable of writing a column on foreign affairs. In the final paragraph, it quotes U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, as saying the U.S. and its allies understand that Assad creates an impossible dynamic for peace. Oh, really?

Syria was at peace until the U.S. armed, trained and paid mercenaries to overthrow Assad. I should think that it's the U.S. that has created an impossible dynamic for peace.

Oh, there's the faith page. In this world where people are dying by the millions from starvation, homelessness, neglect - where refugees by the millions are in great suffering and danger – where the poor cannot get help because so many rich don't pay taxes, where the only law of the very rich is greed -our message for the day is we should share the Gospel with ourselves - whatever that means. It was inspired by a passage in Galatians in which Paul recited the Gospel to the Galatians. And the writer says the Galatians were already Christians. So why did he have to read it to them?

Duh – couldn't one ask the same question of all clergy today – including the writer of this sermonette? Here's a suggestion. Maybe all these Christians lusting to read and hear the Gospels might take a moment to think about how we and our political and economic leaders operate, and think that maybe this creates problems for the Gospel.

Of course, that would mean thinking, and the notices of church affairs on this page don 't suggest to me that thinking is a big thing with Christians.

So here's my religious thought for the day. Mackenzie-King was probably the most religious prime minister we ever had. He cried when he sang hymns. He prayed every morning to a picture of his mother. (He also frequently spoke with her after she died.)  He begged God to forgive him for his nights wasted in Ottawa's red light district.  
And when Hitler was murdering Jews during the war, he refused to give them refuge in Canada. That refusal included some 200 children who had been saved from death camps and taken to Spain. Spain said another country would have to take them - or they would be sent back. Both Mackenzie King and Roosevelt refused to take them. And so they were sent back.
I wonder why I always think of that when I read the Faith Page?

Yesterday, a reader sent me a story on Charter schools in the U.S. I mentioned these schools yesterday as a damaging intrusion of private business into public schooling. I include it today because his site is much better than the one I had.

There's also this very convincing article that Harper was the worst prime minister in Canadian history. I think it's kind. I have long believed that he has serious mental problems. The article is also dismissive of New Brunswick's R.B.Bennett. I don't agree with that part at all. He was prime minister at a very difficult time, in a situation no prime minister we have ever had would have handled well. And he did, in his final year, become one of the world's first leaders to understand how it should have been handled. He is the man who laid the groundword for our social programmes.

Once again, Texas leads in building a safe America. It is now legal in Texas to openly wear a gun in public. And good Texans are also supporting a bid to allow students to carry guns on campus.
A resolution is before the UN, criticizing the U.S. for its embargoes on Cuban trade. Obama will oppose it. Of course. The U.S. has a right to tell other countries who they can trade with. It's the only country that has that right, just as it has the right to decide who shall be the leader of Syria, what islands China is allowed to claim, and who is allowed to rule Ukraine. This is American Exceptionalism, God's great plan for the U.S. to rule the world.

Cuba is a failed country. It rebelled against the dictator that the U.S. had chosen for it. It had the nerve to defeat an American-supported invasion. It built a far better (and free) education system than the US has. (And, at the university level, a system as good as Canada's and free to all.) And this tiny and poor country built a superb medical system, far more available than the one in the U.S.

So of course all right-thinking Americans feel insulted.

The U.S. has tried valiantly to kill Cubans (as in blowing up a civilian airliner). It has kept Cuba poor with its (illegal) trade restrictions. And it continues to use stolen Cuban land as the focal point of the biggest torture system the world has ever known.

Now, it's making friendly because the success of Cuba is a bad example for Latin America in general, and Central America in particular. But the embargoes on Cuban trade are still there, and Cuba, having suffered under them for fifty years, is in a bad economic situation. Cubans have to become friends to the U.S. to survive. The U.S. business world knows that, so it's using this as a way to bring back the good, old days of no education, no health care, and absolute freedom for U.S. business to do whatever it likes.

The U.S. cannot let Cuba get away with being successful. It's a bad example for the American Empire in Latin America. Will the U.S. get away with this? Maybe – in the short term. But the U.S. Empire is also close to collapse. All bets are off on how this will turn out


  1. Always enjoy your thoughts & comments. Now, we have to get people to digest those thought & comments, add their own & A CT. How should we start? Maybe encourage Greg Cook to join us? Your thought on this?

  2. I wish I knew. Martimers are a very, very passive people. Open discussion doesn't exists - except in the form of "consultations" engineered by the government and other who control the government.

    I have tried public discussion groups. I have done some 40 years of them in Montreal at the rate of 50 or 60 a year, commonly with several hundred in attendance. I tried it here, and I'm lucky to get 1 or 2 people.

    There's a real fear of open discussion, or of thinking differently from others.

  3. I wish I knew. Martimers are a very, very passive people. Open discussion doesn't exists - except in the form of "consultations" engineered by the government and other who control the government.

    I have tried public discussion groups. I have done some 40 years of them in Montreal at the rate of 50 or 60 a year, commonly with several hundred in attendance. I tried it here, and I'm lucky to get 1 or 2 people.

    There's a real fear of open discussion, or of thinking differently from others.