Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Feb. 16: A holy task: the Irving press and the spread of ignorance and torpor.

A big issue in the last provincial election was cutting civil service jobs. The Irving press was full of stories on how it was way too big, that civil servants are incompetent, anyway, and private business is more efficient. And there were journalistic cheers for the new Liberal leader when he vowed to move quickly on  this.

But -the headline in today's paper is that the civil service has been shrinking for years. And the pace of shrinkage has actually slowed under Gallant. Didn't the editors and reporters know all this while it was happening? It would certainly be an easy matter for almost any reporter to have checked this over the last four or five years. That would have been something important to know during the election campaign. But, no. All we got was hype and panic - and lies - about the excess of civil servants in this province.

Page 3 has a big story about police capturing an escaped prisoner. Actually, it's not really news because we all knew about it several days ago. So what the story is about is that capturing dangerous people is what police are trained to do. Zounds! I must alert all the international news agencies. Who would have guessed that's what police are trained for.

Then. there's yet another big story on the Oland trial - a story that hints at many things, but says nothing useful. I would guess this is a story requested by Oland's family and his lawyers to lay the groundwork for his appeal.

And that's it. There's not a scrap of real news in the whole of section A.
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On the editorial page, the cartoon is a good one.
And the editorial, for the first time in my experience, is a reasonable and intelligent one.

Norbert wanders a bit from point to point, but he makes important points. It is far too easy to get a gun that is suited only for killing people. And there is a macho problem for many gun-owners. It gives them a thrill to hold a man-killer, or to play cowboys. For several years, I was the officer for a shooting range - and I remember the type well.

Isn't this something the paper should be telling its readers about? Where's the reporting on this? Why don't we get much fuller information on what's going wrong in the gun world? Why don't we read what the law says about gun clubs. Oh. I know why we don't. It's not trivial enough.

Alan Cochrane's commentary, as usual, isn't a commentary. It's an ad for a city event at which people can place their fingerprints on the statues of three police officers killed on duty. I wish someone would tell the editors at Irving press what an commentary is. A commentary is supposed to give fuller meaning to a news story of the day and to argue an opinion for or against it.

The commentary below it is yet another from a hired (or free) propagandist at The Fraser Institute. Gee, he says  limiting greenhouse gas emissions will cause pain for the billionaires who own our oilfields. What a twit!

Alec Bruce punches holes in a bunch of balloons commonly floated by the Irving press. Good stuff.
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For Canada and the World, the big news of Canda and the World is the big headline for the whole section. Apparently,our provincial government is tackling the great question of our time. Should New Brunswick declare a one-day holiday for this province every February?

(Below it is a story that the number if missing and murdered indigenous women is much higher than we had thought. Obviously, that's less important than deciding on a provincial one day holiday.)

Page 2 takes us all the way to St. John for the world story that Irving Oil is going to release pictures of its planned headquarters in that town. Then it's all the way to Halifax with a big story that city council is being asked to study the complaint that a marijuana grow-op next door to him smells bad.

In the first three pages of the section, only one story comes from out of Canada - and it's about two drunk teenagers in Texas. That leaves just one page for the rest of the world. It has 3 stories, 2 about the U.S., and one about Syria. In other words, three-quarters of of Canada and World section is belly-button gazing.

Actually, the story about the two drunken teenagers is worth reading for New Brunswickers. Both killed people in car accidents. One is a Mexican who has been in prison for the last ten years, serving time for what he did.  The other is a very rich, white American drunk who didn't have to go to prison at all. He was put on probation. (Why do I think of Dennis Oland?)

The story about Russia deliberately bombing a hospital is quite possibly true. Every air force I ever heard of has bombed hospitals - sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose. So I have no idea whether it was done on purpose. Neither does the reporter who wrote the story. But he gives it such a strong slant that most readers would assume it was deliberate.

There's a decent story on why the death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia will have an impact on the leadership debates. But, for some reason, the story beside it is that Justice Scalia died of natural causes. We knew that yesterday. In fact, it
was in the earliest stories reporting his death.

The bigger story now is that some Republicans, aided by Donald Trump, have been spreading a rumour that Scalia was killed in a plot. Yep. Another conspiracy plot.

Meanwhile, the world could be within days of a world war; a major city in Yemen has large numbers of civilians dying of starvation; Turkey and Saudi Arabia are both planning invasions of Syria; war between Russia and the U.S. is very, very close. Neither side could win such a war with conventional military forces. Nor could the rest of the world just sit around and watch. So, such a war would have to go nuclear. Indeed, that is so obvious, it might go nuclear immediately. And even if other nuclear powers were to hold back, (and they wouldn't), the U.S. and Russian bombs, just a small number of them, would destroy the world. And we're not talking weeks for this to happen. We're talking days.

But none of it has ever made the Irving press.
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The Guardian also carries the charges that Russia is deliberately bombing civilians to create an even worse refugee crisis. Russia denies it. I really have no idea.  But it's a bit much to see Turkey and the U.S. preaching about how evil this is. Both countries ( and Britain, and France and Germany and many others) have long and brutal histories of deliberately bombing civilians. Canada has done it, too.) The days of honour in the conduct of war haven't existed since the age of knighthood - and they didn't exist then, either.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/16/refugees-are-becoming-russias-weapon-of-choice-in-syria
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The Irving papers rarely, if ever, carry stories about Latin America. (perhaps they're sensitive about stories involving murderous and environmentally destructive doings down there - doings that are set off at the request of, say, mining companies.)

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/andes-to-the-amazon/2016/feb/16/never-seen-it-so-bad-violence-and-impunity-in-brazils-amazon
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I don't like the tone of the following  commentary because I think it takes a good guys/bad guys approach to a Syrian war in which there are  no good guys on either side.  But the points he makes about how this mess  got started, and where it's going seem pretty valid.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/15/syria-ceasfire-fails-isis-russia-iran-saudi-arabia-vengeful-assad
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I was at first inclined to dismiss the following opinion piece, partly because I don't know enough about the writer. However, what he says about the ships NATO has sent to the Aegean made me wonder about my earlier judgement on this.

I wrote earlier, yesterday?, that NATO ships were  being sent to the Aegean and the Mediterranean to force refugees to turn back to the middle east. (Among them is the Canadian ship "Fredricton".) But the author points out something I should have realized earlier. These ships are absurdly powerful for the task of intercepting refugees in small boats. Many are armed with missiles, and some are aircraft carriers. No. They have not been sent because of refugees. I think the writer is correct. These are in preparation for a greater war in the middle east.

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2016/02/15/nato-syria-war-footing-under-cover-migrant-crisis.html
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I like poetry - but in an old  fashioned way with rhyme and some sense of bounce. This ain't my kind. But some may find it a nice, change of pace.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44222.htm
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Robert Fisk is a top-flight reporter. Here he talks about how the Taliban and ISIS are taking over Afghanistan. Western leaders are fond of talking about how we have to fight groups like Taliban and ISIS because, if we don't destroy them, they will spread all over the world.

That may sound reasonable. It isn't because it doesn't  consider why they are spreading so quickly. It's BECAUSE we have created chaos in the middle east and Afghanistan that they came into existence. They would not exist without our aggression and brutality. That's why fighting them and destabilizing whole nations is still causing Taliban and ISIS to grow. The greed of our economic leaders has created this mess. And allowing our economic leaders to continue to destabilize and to loot countries will simply make things worse.

The problem of the greed of the wealthy has been causing massive death and destruction and suffering has been creating groups like Taliban and ISIS for over 500 years. These groups are not causes of war. They are reactions to the greed of some of us. What we have to attack is the cause of these reactions.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/isis-and-the-taliban-are-brutally-carving-up-modern-mafiastan-a6873436.html

The Independent, by the way, seems to be on the chopping block. The age of the modern newspaper began in the late nineteenth century. There are strong signs that the age is ending. La Presse, Quebec's biggest newspaper will soon stop selling papers, offering the news electronically only. Many newspapers are in trouble.

The Irving press has always been run on the cheap. That, I suspect, is why it uses staff reporters and editors to write so many of its commentaries, even though most have nothing to say. (Or they use freebies like The Fraser Institute) to write them. It's cheaper than hiring a person who knows what he or she is talking about. But I have a strong sense that it, too, is cutting costs even more. That may explain why it fired all of its photographers.

I have much more to write about. But it's already past my supper time.

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