Monday, March 7, 2016

March 7: Exclusive

That's the label reserved for a sensational story that one newspaper or one chain has; and nobody else has. It's for stories like "World will end on Friday", something like that. And page 1 of the Irving press has the word 'exclusive' in red letters over its big story.

The story is - hold your breath - that the head of the NB liquor board is leading 'research' (discussions) on how to sell marijuana in stores - should the the federal government legalize it. As is common in such cases, the story is  written in phrases that give a hint of tough journalistic digging to get this story,  phrases such as The Telegraph-Journal has learned--Not that they were told. No. They learned it, perhaps by beatinig up various politicians.

Now, the federal government is movinig to legalize pot. We know that.  So the head of liquor sales in New Brunswick is chairing a committee that's looking at how it should be sold. This is a big story? And it's exclusive?

Well, of course it's exclusive to the Irving press because that's the only one in New Brunswick. And no newspaper outside New Brunswick could possibly care about it. In fact, I don't see how anybody in New Brunswick could care about it.
And that's really it for section A news.

The editorial makes sense. It's about a security guard at a government building. He doesn't speak French, something which is a requirement for the job - and the language commissioner has so told the government.

The obvious solution is to replace him with a bilingual guard - and to ensure that the displaced guard is retained in a suitable posting. (If he isn't, then there should be an editorial.) I have no doubt that the People's Alliance Party will get their knickers in a twist over this. But not many care about the People's Alliance Party.
I lived most of my life in a province of language hatreds. Hatred was even taught in the schools, both French and English.  I witnessed and experienced the violence that can create. And I have watched the community I grew up in be destroyed by it. But New Brunswick is nothing like that.

The language commissioner has done her job. Now, the government has to act with fairness to the francophone community and the guard. And, if it doesn't do both, then that will be the time for one  hell of a stinging editorial.

I don't understand Norbert. The man who once dismissed climate change has turned into a freak of a nature-loving tree hugger.In fact, he says, fossil fuel use is disappearing. And, says Norbert, big business is on board in the big drive to end greenhouse gas emissions.

Right, Norbert. That's why big business in Canada and the U.S. has blocked any attempt to deal with the situation. That's we're at the edge of World War Three in a struggle of the oil barons of various nations to control middle east oil. That's why the US alone has spent more than a trillion dollars on wars, and has killed or displaced uncounted millions of people, and has so destroyed their countries that they will never recover. That's why the oil industry in Canada wants us to build a pipeline that will take decades to make a profit. That's why Nova Scotia is trying to secure the right to drill for  offshore oil. That's why the Irving press has been pimping for fracking in the province.

I guess people like the Koch brothers and the Irvings don't know what Norbert claims to know - that the end of oil and gas is in sight. Well, ifi so, I hope those oil barons read Norbert's column.

Anyway, he writes, imposing a carbon tax would simply take money out of the economy. Damn right. Governments take money in taxes, and then burn it  in big heaps. It disappears from circulation.

Then he offers his most telling point. People need to drive. So a carbon tax is  unfair. This, like the rest of his column, makes no sense.

Good columns by Babstock and Malloy. Part of Malloy's raised the important question of how a school was deemed impossible to repair but  is now eminently suited to be a library and a theatre. The Irving press should be asking a lot more questions about that.

But his main point is about the value of a library. And he's right. I don't think libraries alone are going to solve the literacy problem in this province. I think that's a complicated issue which has its origins in the nature of New Brunswick society. But, once you get used to it, a library is a magical place. And New Brunswick is way behind other provinces in library service.

Alec Bruce, for the first time to my knowledge, has a column that says nothing at all.

Why is the news of New Brunswick always so dismal? Why is there so little serious thought about discussion and information in this province?  Part of the problem is that the people of New Brunswick are highly conformist. There are few who are willing to seem different in any way. Social success is havinig a regular seat near the TV in your favourite sports bar.

Part of the problem is that most of the provincial news media doesn't give us anything to think about.

Part of the problem is related to political conformity. Despite all these years of poorly performing government, New Brunswick insists on electing one of the two mainstream parties which are in no way different from each other. Certainly, neither of them would dream of challenging the real ruler of the province.

Then there's the other parties. The People's Alliance has nothing of any substance to offer. The Greens have done little to address the provincial economy and the real political control of this province. But, without addressing those, it can't do anything about the environment. The NDP has reduced itself to people of good intentions, but with almost no reference to our most profound problems - the dominance and power of a few, wealthy families - and how to control that and to set  the social goals that the NDP was founded on, a fundamental restructuring of the economy.

Over the years, the NDP has simply become an honest version of the Liberal party. And that's not good enough.
In Canada and World, a typical story is the one from Helsinki, Norway. Somebody left a goldfish in a stadium.  (Syria? Never heard of it.)

The lead story is that Nancy Reagan, the wife of President Ronald Reagan, has died. With all respect I see no reason this is the banner story of the section or why it occupies a whole page.

There is one story about a serious problem that is going to be facing Canada very soon. From a combination of climate change and pollution, the U.S. is running out of fresh water. Canada has more fresh water than any country in the world. The US already takes a lot of that water, and it will go on wanting much more for years to come. And if we decide this is damaging our water system?
The U.S. will take it anyway. There are no friends between nations.
This commentary from The Guardian caught my eye first because the president of Doctors Without Borders is a Canadian. This is one of the world's few organizations that brings help to the world, and at terrible personal risk. I wonder how many Canadians have ever heard of her. If she were a pop star, our news media would make her name a household word.

She makes the case our news media, generally, have not made. The world, including us, has been ignoring the Geneva convention and all other agreements that try to protect civilians in war. In fact, civilians have become the major targets in war and, typically, most the dead are civilians. Fighting the enemy's military has become secondary. The major purpose is to kill civilians.

When NFB made a film about this (Canada at War series), veterans were furious. I well remember that on a day when I was giving testimony on this to a Senate committee, I was approached by a veteran of bomber command who was in tears as he said it wasn't true.

I didn't doubt his sincerity or  his honesty.  There was nothing evil about him. He seemed a very decent person. I  doubt very much that he thought of it that way at the time. And he certainly didn't want to think of it later.  But the killing was deliberate.

It seems to have begun in the very early days of aircraft. Bomber Harris, later Air Chief of the RAF, was enthusiastic about killing civilians as a major means of victory in war. Winston Churchill agreed with him. Germany used dive-bombers for the terror bombing of civilians in the Spanish civil war.

By World War Two, civilians were prime victims for bombers on both sides. The idea was to create terror, to destroy morale, to disrupt factory work. The U.S. brought the technique to new heights when it proudly talked of bombing Cambodia back into the stone age. That's why the U.S. is supplying cluster bombs for Saudis to drop on civilians in Yemen.

It is illegal by the Geneva convention, by international law, by international agreements. But nobody, including Canada, pays the slightest attention to those.

There are reason why so many veterans suffer PTSD. It comes from what they have to see, and what they have to do.
Britain is sending ships to the Aegean Sea to look out for refugees, crammed into tiny boats and life rafts, trying to make the dangerous crossing to Greece. But the British aren't there to save the refugees from drowning as so many have. They're to pick them up, and take them back to the middle east which we have made almost uninhabitable. Onward Christian Soldiers.

Europe will not tolerate refugees and, certainly, Britain does not intend to pick up any of the slack. Watch for some very severe violence in Europe. Meanwhile, the families that we have made refugees will still flee, whatever the risk, from the horror we have created. In fact, the numbers are rising.

The death toll among civilians killed in the middle east must now be well over 2,000,000 (despite what the 'official' figures might tell us.)  And it's going to rise a lot more counting starvation, drowning... And all this is to decide which oil billionaires will control the trade. (Evidently, the billionaires are not concerned by Norbert's conviction that the age of oil and gas is almost over.)
This one is about campaigns in Britain to make people take a realistic look at their past. That's important because history is a study of human behaviour which can help us to understand human behaviour today ---if we get useful history.
Usually, we don't. Most people see history as essential to creating patriotism. So they demand history that lies. Britain bought, and still remembers, its own history as a history of glory. Actually, much more of it was a history of mass murder and theft.

The same is true of the U.S. Very few students in the U.S. ever learn that George Washington's revolution had a good deal to so with slavery and the mass murder of native peoples all the way to the Pacific coast.

We can never understand how criminal our leaders are unless we first understand how criminal our ancestors were - and how we still are. But good luck on getting that past any school system.
Here's a story, rather a brief one, about an issue we should take more seriously. Electronic communication can take control of our lives. Even radio came with something of a jolt. It did enormous damage to churches, for example, in North America.

Traditionally, there were morning and evening services on Sundays. But Sunday evening was also prime time for radio shows. And so the Sunday evening services, and church membership, took a nosedive from which they have never recovered.

Television went even further. It detached people even from themselves. Radio required thinking. One had to imagine the appearance and personality of the voice that was speaking. TV required no imagination, just passive sitting which consisted largely of watching shapes and colours move. That's why camera angles change so often on TV, and why TV requires almost no brain at all.
It even destroyed family conversation by moving the supper table to make it compatible with watching TV at the same time.

This isn't trivial. People learn by talking to each other, by interacting, by reading (which stimulates imagination and thinking).

And mobile phones are more destructive of thinking and imagination and human understanding than TV ever was. Watch a group of kids today. They might all be sitting together, but each is in his or her own world, texting trivia  or playing games. This has enormous potential for damage. We need far more study of it, and where this is taking us. Meanwhile, South Korea is on the warpath against cell phones.
Israel has become a country that is out of accord with the principles of Judaism. And it has, almost from the start, adopted racist attitudes with a startling similarity to those of Nazi Germany. That's not a criticism of Jews or of Judaism. It's a reality about the way us humans think.
And here's a story about one of our closest allies in the middle east who has also been a major supplier for ISIL. And who could trigger a war with Russia. He's a real sweetheart.
And this closing one is not news. It's something to think about. It reminds me of a scene from the film Patton. In one scene, World War 2 has just ended.  General Patton is invited to attend a celebration with Russian officers. The scene is largely one of Patton's sneering at the officers, refusing to applaud the Russian dancers and other entertainers, and forcing his own officers to do the same. His thinking is obvious. Russians are his enemies, and when the time comes, he can beat them with ease.  

In fact, his superiority was not at all assured. A prime weapon, the American tank, was nowhere close to the quality of Russian tanks. And Patton had never faced more than a tiny minority of the German army. Russia had beaten 90% of it.

History is full of generals who overestimated themselves and their troops. That helps to explain the many failures of the US, the most expensive military sytem in the world, against smaller and poorer opponents ever since World War Two.
This essay might help to explain that as it affected both the U.S. and Russia in, say, Afghanistan.


  1. Yeah. This must be one of my signs of creeping Alzheimer's. I had an excuse for that. But I've already forgotten it. Oh, Yeah -
    the story happened in Norway but was filed from Helsinki.

  2. Yeah. This must be one of my signs of creeping Alzheimer's. I had an excuse for that. But I've already forgotten it. Oh, Yeah -
    the story happened in Norway but was filed from Helsinki.