Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Dec. 15: The Irving press - just an uncomfortable diaper

Again, today's Irving press is skimpy. I can only presume they're trying to save paper. They could save by printing fewer photos. A4 has a prime example of a wasted photo. The story is about a girl who was sentenced for robbing a man. Half of the space is taken up by a photo of the law court building – something which adds nothing to the story. That's using a photo just to fill space – and that's bad journalism.

The cartoon on the editorial page carries the message that Peter MacKay is leading the race to be leader of the Conservative party. That party must be really short of talent.

But the editorial is sensible for a change.

Norbert suggests that our public schools revive the teaching trades such as woodwork. Not a bad idea. But this is the same Norbert who has said we have too many teachers, and we need to cut the education budget by firing some of them. But if we offer trades skills, won't that mean hiring more teachers?

I didn't waste time reading the Cochrane column. In the first place, I don't care that somebody in Moncton invented a new, guitar 'amp'. In the second place, such a column is NOT a commentary. Perhaps Norbert could suggest hiring a teacher to explain to the Irving editors what a commentary is.

Louise Gilbert's column has an attractive idea for the Christmas season. It's about taking an elderly and crippled woman suffering from Altzheimer's to the zoo. That may sound off-the-wall, but read it. It also has implications for a lot of other people at this season.

Alec Bruce's column has the only intelligent and informed column on education that I have ever seen in the Irving press. This is a must read. He is particularly critical of New Brunswick's common but damaging approach to all issues as though they were essentially business problems.

Canada&World is again dismissed in four pages. Three of the four pages are about Canada. Fortunately, there are three stories in there, all of them about native peoples on B1. All three are important, and well worth reading.

There's nothing else worth much of a read. B4 has a story about Kerry going to Moscow to discuss Syria and Ukraine. The story isn't worth reading except for learning how propaganda works in news media. In paragraph 4, we are told that Russia is mostly bombing people the paper calls 'moderate rebels'. This neatly ignores the reality that the Russians have done far, far more to destroy ISIS, though the U.S. has been in the fighting many times longer than Russia. But the propaganda part is that word 'moderate'. It sounds like a nice word, doesn't it? But how can one be a rebel and still be moderate? You might as well call them peaceful rebels.

In fact, there is no evidence the rebels are moderate in any sense, or any different from ISIS. Indeed, there is some considerable evidence that they are at least as jihadist as ISIS. But, to our news media, they're always moderate.

Student columnist Jana Giles has an interesting column on the stress that can be suffered in school. That can be very serious, indeed, so serious it can ruin lives. It was, I suspect, the origin of the terrible work I did in high school, of my expulsion in grade eleven, my sense of worthlessness in a job I hated, the abysmal grades I got in night school to finish high school and doing a BA. I was very lucky (and it was pure luck) to break out of it – though the process cost me many years of my life.

That, Norbert, is why schools need small classes. It takes skill to recognize stress, and more skill – and time – to remedy it. And, no matter how skilled a teacher might be, it cannot be done in large classes. Teaching is not like standing on an assembly line; and the students do not come along that assembly line as parts to be bolted together.

Teaching means getting to know and to understand every person in a class. It means finding the time to deal with each student as an individual while also covering the course material. It's not a business operation in which you punch out products as quickly and cheaply as you can with a thought only for profit. Unlike business, schools are there to fill a pressing, social need.

I know school enrolments are declining. I also know, from many years of experience, that New Brunswick schools have classes that are too big. They're not as too big as they used to be. But they're still too big. Big classes create stress at a period when children are easy victims of stress. And that stress can (and does) ruin whole lives.

I do wish New Brunswickers could learn from their news media that a society is not all about tight financial book-keeping.

The paper does not have a word about the case of Dr. Cleary, the province's chief medical officer. Significantly, premier Gallant has not said a word. This is the firing of a chief medical officer who is highly esteemed by the medical profession in this province. What I have seen of her work left me with the impression that she is intelligent, honest, and courageous in her work. She is also remarkably self-sacrificing.

But I've also noticed the Irving press has always had reservations about her. When she presented her report on fracking, the government was cool about it, and the Irving press was dismissive. When she went to Africa to risk her life fighting ebola, the Irving press said as little as it decently could about it. Now, if her last name were Irving, the great one's press would have had a special edition with dancing lights on it, and we'd be borrowing money to build yet another of the halls of fame that cover this province like flies on a rotting carcass.

I know that Gallant, who has so far done little to nothing, is rising in the polls. So I'm sure he has talents that he is hiding until the right time. But why has he not made public statements about the case of Dr. Cleary?

This case smells. It smells really bad. It smells, as premiers Graham and Alward did, of collusion with the great one.
In news from the U.S., the score of people killed by American police this year has reached 1080. That's good but not as good as it should be. Christmas is just ten days away, and it would be nice to know we've reached 1100 by the time we open our gifts around the tree.

Mind you, I would certainly not put all the blame on the police for this. The gun industry, the National Rifle Association, film and TV have made the U.S. a place in which the ability to kill with a gun is highly esteemed as the ultimate expression of American values. Add to that an intense racism and discrimination, fear of anybody who looks different, rising poverty (over half the U.S. lives below the poverty line), a population which has more guns per capita than any other country in the world and – well – if I were an American police officer, I'd be pretty nervous, too. And it's been worsened by a tendency which is now starting to show up in Canada – the militarization of the police (as seen at Rexton) so they are no longer defenders of the people, but enemies of the people.

Today's The Guardian has so much information and opinion, I'm going to give a list of things really worth looking at.

1. Prince Charles is regularly given reports of cabinet meetings. (Only the Queen is supposed to get them). He then meets regularly with cabinet ministers to influence policy. (He's not supposed to.) He also uses these reports to lobby for his rich friends.

2.Under opinion column is “Income inequality happens by design”. In short, if we're getting poorer, that's because big business wants us to be poorer.

3,”Violence against indigenous women is woven into Canadian history.”

4. An excellent article by George Mombiot , Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments. As Mombiot says, “By comparison with what could have been, it's a miracle. By comparison with what it should have been, it's a disaster.”

5. In the U.S. section, there's a news story that's a must read. “The strange case of America's disappearing middle class.”

6. There's a suggestive story for Canadians and Americans to think about – though it concerns a British industry, coal mining. It's title is “We'll be hated like slave traders now.” It's about how the mine owners feel cheated by the climate change conference, and how they claim the whole idea of climate change is a lie created by some unnamed group.

Now, think of what a leader of the North American oil industry might say (if he were stupid enough to tell a reporter.)

Also in The Guardian is the story of how Obama wants to visit Cuba, but won't go until he sees more civil liberties there. Does that warm your heart? Then consider this.

Obama is the man who imprisons and even murders people with no charge and no trial. He is the man who has maintained and protected torturers stationed all over the world. He is the man who happily visits Saudi Arabia which has no civil rights at all. He is the man who has maintained the prison at Guantanamo which has held prisoners with torture and with no rights for a dozen years or more – and contrary to international law.

He is also the president of the country that kept Cuba in poverty and under one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world for decades. He also maintained illegal sanctions against Cuba.

As well, Cuba has rights Americans don't have – like free education all the way through university, and free medical care.

Then google “The Guardian UK Canada Abuses Mining”. What will come up is a list of abuse of people and the environment all over the world by the Canadian mining industry. Have a chat about that the next time you meet a wealthy New Brunswicker who is pleased about the performance of his large,mining stock portfolio.
There are two stories from Haaretz, one perhaps of particular relevance to Canada. In one, Israeli big money has been investing many, many millions in “settlements”. These are lands taken illegally from Palestine, usually murdering or at least expelling the Palestinians who lived in them.

For the other story, go to the top, left hand corner of the same page. You will see a small photo of men marching. Click on it. This is about a Danish film remembering 1945, just after the German surrender. The Danish shores were still lined with mines laid by the Germans. So the British forced 2000 German prisoners to march along the beaches, clearing the mines by blowing themselves up. Among other things, this was a war crime, the sort of thing we hanged Germans for. But nobody on our side was ever hanged, or even criticized. As well, there is some indication Canadian troops were involved.

You think it was okay because it was Germans who got killed? Oh. So it would also have been okay if Germans had marched Canadian prisoners across minefields?

It takes me hours to check the foreign press. Luckily, I can get through a typical copy of the Irving press in under five minutes.

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