Sunday, April 20, 2014

April 20: Just thinking out loud

This may be short; I feel the need of a break. However, there's an element in the Ukrainian crisis that news media have not touched on.  Why should we get involved in what's going on in Ukraine?

Oh, I know - we must help the weak; we must spread democracy; we must help little girls go to school. I've heard those many times. The reality is that no countries go to war for those reasons. To kill a million people so that little girls could go to school is absurd. Ditto for the usual reasons for war that we hear about.

Sure. And big business is just desperate to go to war to spread democracy.

If so, why has it done so much to kill democracy in Latin America? And here?

In 1914, the US did not go to war. British empire and French army troops died in unheard of numbers. Britain had to sell off most of its American assets for whatever it could get - much to the benefit of American millionaires. There was every possibility that Germany was going to win that war with disastrous results for Britain and France.

So why did the US just look on for most of the war?

Because it couldn't care less what might happen to Britain and France. It was making a fortune out of selling weapons and food. And if the British and French lost, the US could scoop up some very profitable pieces of empire.

I don't know why the US changed its mind in 1917. (I'm only a humble, Canadian historian.) But the sinking of an American ship  was not the reason. To go to war, you need a pretext - like Hussein's supposed stock of weapons of mass destruction.. But the pretext is rarely the real reason.

By 1917, Britain and France owed a tremendous debt to the US. Neither would ever be a leading
industrial power again. And if they lost the war, the US would never see that money. I don't know if that's the reason - and I'm sure there are readers who do.

Why did Canada go to war in 1914? Because, as a member of the Empire, it had to go to war. As well, a high proportion of the Canadian population was British born or of British origins, and still more British than Canadian. Finally, a British defeat would be a disaster for Canadian big business which relied on  British investment, and which relied for trade on favoured access to the Empire.

In 1939, Britain went to war again. So did Canada, but a week later. By 1939, we had gained the right to decide for ourselves whether we wished to go to war, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King was determined to maintain that right. That's why he delayed declaring war for a week - to give parliament time to discuss it and to vote.

The US did not declare war. Same reason as in 1914. There was nothing in it for the US. (As well, Hitler had important admirers in American big business; and there were strong, anti-semitic feelings across the US.)  Again, if Britain lost, the us would be able to snap up pieces of the empire on the cheap.

The US held this attitude through the horror of Dunkirk, the intense bombing of Britain, especially London, and the dreadful food shortages caused by the submarine blockade. The US did not go to war because there was nothing in it for the US.

That changed in 1941, but not because of any concern about Britain. For at least half a century, the great prize in Asia, for US purposes,  was China for its cheap labour and vast market. But Japanese armies were rolling across China. Suddenly, in US newspapers, Japanese armies became  cruel (which they were), and the Japanese generally a vicious and evil people - a depiction now reversed since Japan is an important ally.

All the US needed was a pretext, an attack by Japan. That was arranged when the US cut off Japan's oil supply. (Japan's great weakness was its reliance on imported oil.)  It worked - though probably more spectacularly than planned when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. The US had its excuse. It declared war on Japan.

But it did not declare war on Germany. Why should it? What was there to gain? In fact, it was Germany that declared war on the US some three weeks after Pearl Harbour.

In short, nations go to war when it suits their purposes. And, for at least a century, it has been a major function of news media to set up the nation for war when the bosses tell it to - because they decide what the nation's purposes are.

Canada's role has always been a junior one. Our forces have done very well. But we have never been in a position to make major decisions about the war.

Just recently, Harper sent six Canadian fighter jets to Ukraine. That's a decision to go to war. (It is scarcely thinkable that if a war broke out, we would simply call our jets back home.) Harper has broken a right our soldiers earned for us at a cost of 60,000 dead in World War I. He has taken away our right for our elected representatives to decide when we go to war and against whom.

And the Canadian news media haven't even noticed it.

The great question in Ukraine is not who is right and who is wrong. Hell, we intervened in Afghanistan even though that war was obviously wrong - and wrong on our side. We don't intervene in Syria because people on our side want the government and the nation to be destroyed.

So right and wrong have nothing to do with it. What most other nations decide is - what does this war have to do with us? Why should we be involved?

Our news media don't even look at that. All they do is chant, "Russians evil, ugh, kill Russians."

It is impossible to see how any war would benefit Canada. They are almost all fought to benefit the big kids.

It is impossible to see how we could limit the world damage risked by a war with Russia. Even if we win, and even if the world is not set back centuries by the nuclear damage, the result would be to put US missiles and soldiers on the border with China to repeat the same exercise. And what would Canada get from all that world damage and loss of life?

A pat on the head for being a good kid.

It's dismaying to realize how much independence and freedom we have lost as shown by our news media's ignoring our right to fight wars for our own purposes.

We also have to realize that the question is not who is  right and who is wrong. You can argue the rights and wrongs of a war until you're blue in the face without convincing anybody. The question is - what action or inaction is it best for Canada to follow?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19: Sh! Baby's sleeping...

What could be the biggest crisis in world history has taken a turn for the worse in the last couple of days. But not in the Irving press. In the fact, even the word "Ukraine" did not appear in the paper yesterday, and did not appear again today.

But there are big, front page stories that drivers are still talking on cell phones, and Easter is a big time for retail sales but Christmas is bigger. Way  to set priorities, guys.

Of course, they don't carry the big story that has hit the European papers - but not the North American ones. When the elected government of Ukraine was still in power, and there was rioting in the streets, many of the rioters were killed by snipers. Our news media jumped on this to show how cruel the elected government was.

But the snipers weren't working for the elected government. Hospitals report the bullets extracted seem to have come from a small number of guns. Other reports indicate all the shots came from a certain hotel - which was completely under the control of the rioters.

In other words, the riot leaders had cnipers shooting their own people. Why?

To create confusion and to raise the level of blind anger. But to get that story, you'll have to go to a German or, perhaps, a British newspaper.

The riot leaders, of course, and the snipers were paid out of the five billion or so the US pumped into Ukraine to organize a government coup in the first place.

Meanwhile, the US has sent ships, two so far, to the Black Sea to patrol off the Russian naval base of Odessa. Isn't that a nice way to ease tensions? Can you imagine the reaction if the Russians sent a fleet to patrol off an American naval base?

I read in some paper that a Russian fighter jet had flown over the American ships in the Black Sea - the paper said it was taunting them. It did not occur to the reporter that taunting was exactly what the American ships were doing.

What does Russia want out of this? It certainly doesn't want Ukraine. Ukraine is flat broke, billions in debt, a curse to whoever holds it.

What it wants is assurances that Ukraine will not be used to move western troops and rockets to the Russian border.

Why would be US want Ukraine? So that it can move troops and rockets to the Russian border. US business is looking for world domination. There are now two main obstacles to that - Russia and China. For that reason the US has been developing bases to hem in China. For that reason, it has been moving its rocketry ever closer to Russia.

In short, it is quite possible, even probable that the US wants a war with Russia. So our news media paint Russians as evil - and us as good.

In fact, the US has, for a good fifty years, been the most aggressive nation in the world. It supports the world's biggest domestic  spy apparatus. It has a government that is extraordinarily corrupt, and owned by big business. It has killed millions in the last fifty years,  many of whom we never hear because they are killed by assassination squads or by poisons the Americans have left behind them - like Agent Orange,unexploded cluster bombs, and depleted uranium.

Almost all the dead are from countries that couldn't possibly attack North America - Vietnam, Guatemala, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria.....

Western Europe joins the US in organizations like NATO because it has to. Europe is full of nations with collapsed empires. They need the old empires back to feed off. The US needs the NATO countries to share the wars.

As well, democracy is dying in the old imperial powers just as it has died in the US, just as it is being killed in Canada. So we become the leeches clinging to American policy.

Who are the bad guys? who are the police states? who are the aggressors? who are the killers and destroyers?

Wake up. It's us.

What annoys me about that wimpy Faith Page in this paper is that the churches refuse to address what is going on. That should be no surprise. Nothing is exactly what most German churches did throughout the Third Reich.

There is nothing to say about the news in today's paper. Almost all of it is the usual turgid and amateurish crap. The one item I found worth reading was "Leading the anti-shale rally cry" on A3.
It's about a new Canadian, a retired man from the US, who is travelling with the Voice of the People Tour. He sounds gutsy, blunt and well-informed. He should be pretty good behind a microphone.

The story is by Adam Huras, who seems far the best reporter for Irving press.

On F2, Mike Elliott, an English major at UdeMoncton, argues in favour of the graphic novel, essentially, a book in comic book form.

I'm not a great fan of the graphic novel. My broadcasting experience is that people have to focus pretty narrowly the get a full understanding. The easier it gets to do, the less we listen. That's why TV news makes far less impression than radio news. I was on TV many, many times, but not many people remember it. I was also on radio. What a difference! Within a few weeks, people would recognize my voice and talk to me as I were a family member. Of course. On radio, they focussed on me. I was right in the house with them, so of course I knew all about Uncle Charlie's illness, and how much the house needed a coat of paint.

However, for a light, graphic book, I found a pretty good one. It's about the Canadian armed forces in World War Two.  Yes, it's very pro-Canadian. Yes, a few subjects are avoided. But it's generally pretty accurate.

By Paul Keery and Michael Wyatt, it's called Canada at War.
There's nothing in the editorial or in Norbert Cunningham.

Jean Belliveau has a very sensible column on campground development in Shediac, and the very great damage it will do to the environment and to the general visual atmosphere. It's a well-written try, a good one. But this is New Brunswick.

If there's a buck in this, it will go ahead. This is a province that will happily destroy the land and the water for shale gas and for resource development. And if that damage lasts forever, who cares? The only important thing is to make a buck. Now.

Then there's Gwynne Dyer.

I like Gwynne going back to when we first met, a good forty years ago. I've always thought him the best military and foreign affairs journalist in the business.

But this one makes no sense at all. He gives no convincing reason for anything he says.

 He says the current Ukrainian government came to power by mostly non-violent means.

What? It came to power because government came to a halt under massive street riots, largely financed, trained, organized and equipped by the US. I think that's violence.

And can he seriously believe that a government which came to power by violently overthrowing the previous government (and with foreign financing) is now going to hold an honest election?

He says that Putin needs a pretext to use force to take over East Ukraine. Why on earth would he want to take over East Ukraine? It's stone broke. It does supply some goods for Russia. But with the state of the Ukrainian debt, it's cheaper for Russia to produce those goods itself.

There's far more evidence that it's the US that's looking for pretexts. After all, it's the one that spent 5 billion or more to set up this whole mess.

Sorry Gwynne. I don't buy this one at all.

Friday, April 18, 2014

April 18: Journalism and ethics

Yesterday, I gently disagreed with Norbert on the quality of BBC news; (he regarded it as a world leader.) Last night, by chance, I came across the BBC report on the Geneva talks on Ukraine.

It set the beginning of the crisis with the Russian annexation of Crimea. In fact, almost all the western press begins with that annexation. And that is propaganda and lying. The Russians annexed Ukraine for a reason. It was because highly organized street mobs had overthrown the elected government of Ukraine, replaced the government with, among others, neo-Naziis, and were planning to join Ukraine to NATO. And that would put western troops and nuclear rockets right on the Russian border.

Those street mobs, according to testimony in the US Senate, were organized, trained and equipped over a period of five years by the US government.

I've seen almost no western reports that mention that. And the BBC didn't mention it, either. Result? People have been led to believe Russia started it. It didn't.  This is the use of news as propaganda.

Then it said the Russian annexation of Crimea outraged the world? Oh? I doubt very much whether any world except North America and western Europe was outraged. And if they were outraged, then how did they feel about the American slaughters in Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan (with drones) that indiscriminately killed by the millions?

So I'd like to know where the BBC got the information that the world was outraged. And, if so, why we have not heard reports of outrage over American attacks that were infinitely greater than Russia's.

Once again, this is pure propaganda.

Obama is then quoted as saying the peace talks are nice - but Russia might now use its power in a disruptive way. Isn't that a great way to welcome peace talks? In fact, all the quoted American comments carry threats There has  yet to be a single threat from Russia. But the BBC didn't notice that.

And Russia might use its power in a disruptive way? What the hell else has the US been using its power for in the last 50 years? But I have not seen any of the western media, including the BBC, say that.

And then there's this one - and it's really important. The BBC said there are reports of pro-Russian Ukrainians forcing Jews in one city to register as Jews. The reports are not verified, it said.

The reports aren't verified? Then why the hell is BBC reporting them?

And who are these reports coming from? I doubt that they're coming from Putin or from any Russian officials. That's the kind of report that would come from anti-Russian Ukrainians. But we don't know because the BBC doesn't even say where those reports come from. How could the BBC publish something as news when it doesn't even know if it happened? And how come it could do it without even telling us where the reports came from?

Because the BBC is publishing propaganda, not news. It knows that most people will read that, believe it, and say, "Oh, those terrible Russians."

Then there's the story that Russian paratroops "lost control" of their armoured vehicles when they were taken over by "pro-Russian rebels".  Other sources carried the whole truth on this one. The Ukrainian column of armoured vehicles switched sides, and went over to Russia.

A long time ago, I used to admire the BBC. But those days are long gone.

Over the years, I've had to learn to love and hate - according to rules set down by news media. I've had to learn to love Americans, British, Chinese (when the murderous drug-dealer Chiang, who was on our side, was in control), Russians (from 1941to 1945), and Japanese since 1950 or so.

 I had to learn to hate Chinese when they chased Chiang out, to hate Japanese from 1941 to the late 1940s, to hate Russians from 1945 on, to hate Syrians and Iranians.

We had to learn to hate Egyptians when they held democratic elections because they elected the wrong side. But now it's okay to love them because the military took over and has established a government more pleasing to the US.

And Cuba does terrible things. Castro established an excellent school system, medicare. And it isn't even democratic like the US. It was much better in the old days when Cuba had a murderous dictator supported by the US- and no schools and no medical care.

That BBC broadcast on Ukraine was designed as propaganda.  I'm not sure whether it was propaganda to make it appear the US  has won and to give it a graceful way out - or whether it's simply to stall for time while the US figures out what to do. But it's propaganda.

And that is what Norbert calls the best news source in the world. And, by his standards, I guess it is.

Will the peace hold? I doubt it.

The Ukraine is full of extreme groups like the Naziis who have now been trained and equipped by the US. They are very, very unlikely to disarm. It's a nation that really isn't a nation, full of ethnic groups at odds with each other. And, under its new, unelected government, it faces a horrible period of austerity.

So far, all we have is a patchwork response when we needed a full redesign of Ukraine according to the wishes of the Ukrainian people. But that ain't going to happen.

There's really nothing but fluff and chicken bones in most of the TandT today. So let's skip to editorial and op ed.

Alec Bruce has a column on government spending that's an important read. As he sees the provincial scene, New Brunswick ( like Canada as a whole,  right now) has no sense of long term planning, particularly on matters of spending. The rush is to sell resources now, get a few jobs, sell, don't think of the consequences, just sell.

That's very much the business model. There is no future. There is only now to the next election or to the next quarterly report.  He compares that to Norway, the wealthiest per capita country in the world because its governments plan for the future.

It's worth reading, perhaps a corrective for those who think the world will end if we don't get an events centre with lots of seats right now.

Speaking of planning for the future, Suzuki writes of a future without cars. Yes, it really is going to happen - and not just because of climate change. Cities need to plan for a layout that makes it possible for people to move about without cars. Unless Moncton has those changes planned and begun in the not-too-distant future, it's going to be one, awkward city to live in.

As for longer trips, most of us will live to regret the failure to spend the little that is needed to save railway traffic in this province.

The column is a bit rambling for Suzuki. But it's a good one to stir up some thinking.
There are a couple of letters to the editor which take the universities to task for not refunding students for classes cancelled in the recent strikes. I agree with them. But it goes much, much deeper.

Universities have to rethink what they are about. That is particularly true about the undergraduate level where courses are frequently a waste of time because of untrained teaching and, related to that, because so little thought has been given to the purpose of courses, especially introductory ones.

Universities need to seriously rethink the economics of teaching. If they don't, it will be done (badly) for them.

They need to rethink the wisdom of having boards loaded with businessmen,many of whom see the universities only as places that can be useful to them.

The modern university developed as a place for the children of the rich to go, often simply as a reward for finishing high school, a place to  have a good time. Most students today do not think of it like that - but the university often thinks of itself like that. That's why the school football team is so important. (There could be a whole book on that.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April 17: No foreign news...doh-dee-doh

In the midst of the worst, international crisis   we have seen in 50 years - maybe ever - the Tand T has not a single word of foreign news in it. This is a big-talking city. But the Tand T barely qualifies as a Hicksville paper.

To make it worse, there are stories out there of Harper having given a secret order to the Canadian armed forces to prepare for service in Syria. (I don't believe that one. First, the Canadian military has no equipment up to such service. Second, it would mean significant casualties; and Harper doesn't want that with an election coming up. Third, Harper's style is to talk big - as he did in Israel and Ukraine - for sake of domestic ethnic votes. But he's most unlikely to do anything if he can possibly avoid it.)

Still, such stories should be reported - if with suitable warnings. The reality is that military staffs are always planning for all sorts of wars that nobody has any intention of fighting. It's their job to test for weakness in their structure, to develop secure methods of transportation and supply, to find the best way to use new weapons.... So they do it, and every few years, some reporter picks up a leak about one of their planning conferences, and reports we're planning a war.

But this time there's a true story (Ukraine) to balance the false one. Canada is sending (some) force to bolster NATO in its confrontation with Russia. It's sending six fighter aircraft.

Now, that's not a huge contribution. In fact, the word 'token' comes to mind. Nor is it necessary. Contrary to stories appearing in North America of Russia moving massive armies to the border with Ukraine, no such thing is happening. What is happening?

The US is trying to cover its inept behaviour of the last several years in Ukraine by painting Putin as evil and threatening. (Russians bad. Americans good. Ukranians good.) So it's making threats and gestures   (like sanctions that won't have much effect) to make it look as if it's doing something.

Harper came under pressure to do something, to show the world that NATO is strong and united. So
Harper, the big talker when he visited Ukraine, did the minimum. Six jets, barely enough for a half decent air show.

So does that mean the Ukraine situation isn't really dangerous? Alas. No such luck.

What the last couple of weeks have shown is that Ukraine can only in politeness be called a nation at all. Politically, its people are divided from hardline-naziis to every imaginable variation of the farthest right to, all of those with a severe infection of hatred of Jews, and all the rest of the poor Joes and Janes preoccupied with the poverty that faces them under their new government.

Then, of  course, a great many are Russians and want to be a part of Russia. In fact, large numbers of Ukrainian soldiers have already defected to Russia.  And you have other ethnic groups, some of which want their own countries.

As nations go, Ukraine isn't a nation. It's a basket case. And that means it's highly unstable. What  we, euphemistically, call "incidents" are happening every day - and every one of them has the capacity to trigger a disaster.

 Six jets is pretty much the minimum Harper could send, and still satisfy Obama's need to be perceived as a Christian warrior. But even six could prove too many.

The answer, as Putin has suggested, is not face-saving threats.  The answer is a conference to redesign Ukraine borders to create a nation that is stable; and to get NATO to agree not to continue the game of trying to push its troops up to the Russian border. The US would never allow Russia to station troops on the American borders with Canada or Mexico. I don't know.Maybe Russians are all genetically evil and plotting to kill us all in our sleep. But still, if the US won't allow Russian troops on its borders, why should Putin be expected to allow NATO on Russian borders?

Some day, I'm sure, the TandT will tell us all about it. Maybe.

Not much in Section A unless you really, really like pictures of floods ( some of which are just splashy sections of road.) There is a story on page 1 on shale gas. SWN, our favourite driller, announces plans for the future which seem to indicate it won't do much this summer. One would think that would urge a reporter to ask "Why not?" But TandT reporters seem to think it impolite to ask questions.

There's also a report on A6 that "Shale gas event to be held in Riverview". It's on A6, I expect, because it's not as important ad a press release from SWN that says nothing.

Curiously, it's not about an event in Riverview. It's about meetings the New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance is holding across the province, giving dates, times and places. (Journalism 101: a headline is supposed to indicate what the story is about.)
NewsToday has more pictures for people who can't get enough of flood pictures. The headline story, and it's a very large one, is yet another story about the death of former minister of finance, Jim Flaherty.
This has been going on for a week. I have never seen such coverage of the death of a former cabinet minister. And we have had some ministers, including in finance, who were very effective, indeed.

The editorial is on yet another subject of which the editorial writer is completely ignorant. This time, it's education - and his voice of the gods says that curriculum reform have been going on for 30 years; and that's too much.

I have news for you, Flash; curriculum reform has been going on for thousands of years. It's supposed to  as we understand more about how people learn, and as we change our ideas on what they should learn.

And he infers that this is what is causing declining scores in literacy and numeracy.

Another bit of news, Flash, Chinese students tend to do very well on exams. I taught enough of them to know that. And I taught enough of them in China to know why. They are raised in a code of conduct that demands high respect for family - and that high respect includes a responsibility to do well in school.

I once spent two days searching for a student who had run away because he felt he had dishonoured his family with his grades. We feared he had committed suicide. I also had to deal with a student who was taking medication so he could study all night. I had to lie a little bit, and threaten to have him hospitalized if he did not get eight hours sleep a night. (He is now a multi-billionaire. See? It's worth studying Canadian history.)

Then the editor says we should start with rote learning. Boy, you have great insights,Flash. Schools have been beginning with rote learning for millenia. If anything, they do far too much rote learning - all the way through university.

Rote learning, by the way, means memorizing without necessarily understanding. That's how children learn the alphabet. That's how they know Thirty days hath September, April, June and Octember...

But most rote learning is useless because it is forgotten very quickly unless you regularly use it. I know how long Octember is because I use that information. However, I learned Algebra the same way - and recently I learned I can't even do grade nine level.  I have a university course (doctoral level) which was taught by rote. Today, I remember nothing about it.

Learning scores depend on a lot things - family values, income and social levels, society values. Some of those are very, very hard to overcome.  That means that major reasons for lower scores in NB may have nothing  to do with the schools. They are more likely to have to do with family values, high levels of poverty, a tradition of lack of concern with learning (which is very noticeable in NB), with parents who don't read, don't discuss, have no interest whatever except in how many seats an events centre should have, and who tolerate as useless and incompetent and manipulative an organization as the Irving press.

Yes, the New Brunswick schools have problems with their scores. But the problem is not the schools. The problem is a society that doesn't give much of a damn about anything that calls for thinking, that is often afraid to think, and that allows billionaires who are largely ignorant of education to interfere with the schools.
Norbert Cunningham continues his ill-informed diatribe against the CBC. At one point, he says its news is biased. Norbert, you work for the Irving press. I have seen more honest reporting from the New China News Agency. You have a dishonest, propagandizing and incompetent newspaper. How could you dare to criticize anybody?

And you are ignorant enough to hold up the model for honest news organization in the whole world - the British Broadcasting Corporation. Norbert - you're a journalist and a former editor. And you don't know that the BBC is being investigated right now for severe bias? You don't know this has been going on for some years? You don't know that the BBC has a terrible reputation for pushing the government line?

Well, of course you don't know. Pushing your boss' line is something you've done all your life. It must seem normal by now.

Alec Bruce has a column on the CBC that I can agree with. He is certainly critical  (and, I think justifiably so) of its recent performance as an entertainment medium. (Like him, I have fond memories of Max Ferguson and Allan McFee, and don't care for what has replaced them).   But he also recognizes the superb quality of its journalism and commentary. The journalism far,far outclasses anything I have seen on commercial radio and TV in Canada. And it far, far, far, far outclasses the dreadful stuff that comes out of the US.

But the CBC was never intended to be a broadcaster like the others. There were, after all, lots and lots of others in the game. So why form a national, publicly-owned broadcast system?

So that it would be Canadian. So that we would learn to frame our ideas and values from a Canadian perspective, not from the perspective of another nation. It was so Canadians could know and understand each other better, so we could understand our own country better - and not simply accept the values and biases of another nation.

It was to provide opportunities for Canadian performers, for Canadian plays and documentaries. And that formula was not a formula devised by a wild-eyed radical from Toronto. It was a formula devised by a prime minister, a Canadian, from New Brunswick, William Bedford Bennett' who probably spent many a day on the sands at Hopewell. He realized that without a government broadcaster, we  would soon be smothered by the much larger broadcasters of the US.

It's quite true that radio and TV are both going through trying times. And that is an area to be explored.
But Norbert misses the boat, one in many, when he sees the answer simply in killing CBC.

For a start,  a major mistake was to make the CBC partly commercial. That forces damaging change on a system designed designed to meet Canadian needs. You can concentrate on meeting needs. Or you can concentrate on selling ads. You can't do both. And when you try to do both, you get the jumble that is CBC TV. That's how we ended up with hockey commentary that was both simple-minded, and designed to be comedy for the differently enabled.

But, whatever you do, don't touch the news side of the CBC. (Yes, sometimes it backs away for fear of government retaliation, and sometimes that annoys the hell out of me.)

But at its worst, CBC journalism outclasses the pack.

Rod Allen is, well, if you think Don Cherry is clever, you'll just love Rod Allen.

Excellent column by Jody Dallaire on the right to abortion. Her problem is she needs to convince people who think they are righteous when they are just self-righteous. For several centuries now, western Christians have been enthusiastic killers of innocent people, including children. For the last several decades, they have led the world. It's hard to convert such people who can see wrong only when it's done by others.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 16: It starts on p.1....

Go to the bottom of page 1 of Section A.  "Proposed high school changes are discussed".

I have spent my life in education. So I read that rather long story. And I haven't the faintest idea what it's about.

Okay. They're changing the curriculum. Why? It doesn't say. Exactly how are they changing it? Well, there's new numbers on some of the courses The only clue as to what it's all about is to "improve student achievement". (Well, I never thought it was to worsen student achievement.") But what do they mean by student achievement?

Well - it's to score higher marks on standardized tests. That means it is about forcing teachers not to teach students or to teach learning, but to teach them how to score higher on exams that may or may not mean any learning at all. What the exams do is to give us a number for each student which makes it easy to collect statistics. What does it mean about learnng? Who knows?

It's a business method of measuring the quality of work. It's one of doubtful value for business - and it is really destructive of good teaching. But it's a triumph for the likes of Atlantic Insitute of Marketing Studies which  has been muscling in on our schools and our children for years.

This is a simple-minded approach to teaching. It's good for turning out standardized products like hairpins. But our schools are not, I hope, in that business.

The person who explained this to the reporter was the acting director of curriculum. So why did the acting director become responsible for this programme? Easy. Because the boss told Alward to order it, and Alward told the acting director to get on her horse, and do what the boss said to do.

The page editor should have realized this story would be unintelligible to virtually all readers. He should have gone over the story with the reporter to work out questions that had to be asked. He, and the reporter should have demanded clearer language. That would give us something to understand. It would also provide an essential element in the reporter's training. They don't come out of jourmalism school all expert. They need the advice of the editor as an essential part of their training.

But the TandT editors don't seem to do that. I don't know whether it's laziness or ignorance, but that essential element of a reporter's development doesn't happen at the TandT.

The rest of section A is understandable - but not worth understanding.
The most dangerous military confrontation in world history has been heating up in Ukraine. That won the story of it a spot on p. C4. Page C1 was taken up with more important stories like Jim Flaherty's funeral, and NB teachers' pensions.

The story has surprisingly little to say - and all from a western point of view. Some of it is even amusing, depending on how dark your sense of humour is.

The president of Ukraine said that they had to send troops to deal with terrorists paid for by the Russians, and to stop terror and to provide law and order.

Well, that is kinda funny coming from a president who was put into power by terrorists in the streets of Kyiv who were paid for and organized by the US. The staged a coup against the government, then illegally installed a president and a list of cabinet ministers who were never elected. Democracy in action.

Propagandists work hard to create hatred of the other side, usually going as far as racism to do it.

But the reality is that the people of the US and  Russia, like those of much of the world, are very, very similar to each other. And the governments are identical.

Brian Cormier's column on op ed is a pleasant reminder of an age when the sun shone brighter, and singers knew how to sing, and songs actually had tunes. It's about the Nana Mouskouri concert. She was brilliant at twenty. She still is at eighty.

Alec Bruce's column should be in every paper across the country. It's been long demonstrated that Harper has a profound contempt for democracy. His Bill C-23 utterly destroys it in Canada with an attack on the electoral process so anti-democratic that even Conservative senators are in revolt.

It's important to read this column to see what is wrong ( and dangerous) in what Harper proposes to do to our election laws - all of it clearly aimed to make illegal behaviour at elections unprosecutable,  and to favour the parties of the very, very rich.

Norbert's column is the worst I have ever seen in a daily newspaper in any country. It is pure rant and ignorance and name-calling.

As a mild opener, he says the CBC's poisoned relationship with Harper is the CBC's fault. Oh, bullshit, Norbert. Harper has hated the CBC from birth. It's a part of his ideology to hate anything that is not privately owned.

So Norbert says he is going to deal with shallow ideologues from both sides or the question. Norbert, YOU are a shallow ideologue from one side.

"The CBC should help tame the information chaos, as all media do....:

Norbert, you of all people have the gall to say that. You work for and represent the "values" of a news network that exists to spread lies, propaganda, and trivia, withholding news of any importance. And some of the statements (most) make no sense at all.

Norbert admits that CBC radio is better than commercial. Well, that's putting it mildly. But he does admit it. Then he says it's still not better enough, so it should be scrapped. Do you ever think of what you're saying, Norbert? If CBC should be scrapped, even though it's better than commercial radio - well - just using our little heads here - the logical conclusion is that ALL radio should be scrapped. What moron scraps only the best?      

CBC is ideological and biased? Norbert. You work for the Irving press. And you accuse somebody else of being ideological and biased?

Norbert, you are an idealogue =- neither a bright one  nor an informed one. But you are clearly an idealogue. Norbert, you are so biased, we need a stronger word. The same is true of almost everyone in the whole Irving press.

The same is true, as numerous studies have shown, of virtually all news media across North America. Bias and propaganda are the norm. Of all news media in North America, CBC is probably the most professional, and the least ideological or biased.

"We know who and what we are and get on with life, shaping our culture as we go.' Really?

1, How do you know that, Norbert? How could you possibly know?
2. And exactly what does that mean? Can you tell us who and what we are? I can't. not for Moncton, and certainly not for all of Canada. We get on with life? Well, yeah. So does most of the world. And culture? I have spent years on conferences about culture. I never met anyone in all that time who actually knew what the word culture meant. Would you care to write an op ed on exactly what  culture is? Do you and I have the same culture, Norbert?

And whatever culture may mean, there are a great many of them in Canada, not just one. Cultures of the rich, the poor, of English, of French, of Italians, of Japanese, of native people, and on and on. Do you have the same culture as a shale gas protestor, Norbert?

This isn't a column of any sort. This is an ignorant rant, almost a drunken one, by a man who knows almost nothing of the subject, and doesn't begin the understand most of the words he uses.

oh, yeah - and the NDP  "waffle" group was just 'shallow nationalists and anti-Americans'. Really.

I knew many of them, Norbert. Far from shallow they were a hell of a lot better educated than you. They knew the meanings of words they used. They knew far more about Canada than you do. They weren't anti-American. They were anti those Americans who bombed and napalmed and chemically poisoned men, women, children, babies by the million.

Perhaps you will some day pay us the honour or writing a column on why you are pro those Americans who bombed and napalmed and chemically poisoned men, women, children and babies by the million.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15: Never start a story in the middle....

That title is for a little later on. First, the oustanding features of today's paper.......uh...well....oustanding...uh...

Page A 7 has a happy story, "Opportunity exists to trim civil service even more:statistics"

Well, yeah, statistics also show that with more people living beyond an age of political usefulness, we can trim them even more. Statistics show we have too many politicians in this province. Statistics show everything - and nothing.

Statistics, we are told, show we have a higher proportion of civil servants and teachers than Nova Scotia does. Yes. So what does that prove? Maybe Nova Scotia doesn't have as many civil servants and teachers as it should.

What we need has nothing to do with statistics. What we need are enough people to do the service that is required.  And this is just one example of where the business model doesn't work. Governments don't exist to make profits. They exist to meet needs. Nowhere in this story is there even a mention of needs, of what it is we need civil servants for.

This is a silly and irrelevant story. Any editor should have noticed that.

Well, maybe not any editor for the Irving press. This story is really a government propaganda release. It tells us nothing about needs. What it really tells us is how New Brunswick governments don't really give a damn about needs.

There's nothing else in section A.

Section C, page 1 has a story on Ukraine - a situation that has become much more dangerous. But I'll deal with that later.
The editorial drools over the success of public/private projects, but gives only one example - the cleanup of the water supply. And even there, it shows not the slightest evidence  that this was due to the work of P3s. He then suggests the public has been won over by  P3s, again without the slightest evidence it has been.

However, if P3s are so steaming hot, then I have a great idea. So far, P3 has meant the private sector making money out of public sector contracts. Well, if that's so red-hot, why don't we urge the private sector  (the name Irving springs to mind) to contract some of its work to the public sector?
Norbert rants about the CBC. Norbert, please learn to say something useful, and not just foam at the mouth. And please learns something about your topic. TV across North America is suffering shrinking audiences.

And consider the wisdom of a person who writes for the Irving press criticizing the CBC for not having a bigger news audience. The Irving press has almost no news audience. It can't. It has almost no news. And the news is does have is biased....oh, hell, let's not play with words....the news it does h ave is lying propaganda.

And get over your hatred of the CBC to notice the greater problem with radio and TV. They have been losing audience for years, a problem which has forced them into appealing to the lowest human instincts with shows that attract audiences by holding up guests to humiliation  (Jerry Springer), by running news that is pure propaganda and/or trivial.  (as the Irving press does.)

On the rare occasions I watch Springer and his ilk, I am reminded of the Roman Coliseum where crowds cheered to see others get killed. It was the debased and useless and powerless getting a kick out of others getting the humiliation they knew that they, the audience, actually deserved. One could say the same for WWF and hosts of other shows.

There is a deterioration of news quality in our media, and there is a downgrading to appeal to the mob - as in Roman days.

Norbert, think carefully. You are part of the problem.

Now, the problem with starting a story in the middle....

This is what almost all of our news media have been doing on Ukraine. Their starting point is the Russian seizure of Crimea. Looked at that way, this is obviously Russian aggression against those nice Ukrainians who just wanted to establish a democracy, and had who had overthrown their elected government to replace it with the choices of an armed mob in the streets.

Okay. Sounds democratic to me.

But that's the middle of the story.

The beginning of the story is that somebody supplied money, organization, weapons and leadership to stage a coup against the democratically elected government of Ukraine. Three cheers for democracy.
That somebody, according to the assistant secretary of state of the US, was the United States.

The purpose was to advance NATO to the border of that awful Russia, probably to line the border with missiles aimed at Russia. Imagine if Russia staged a coup in Canada, then got itself invited into Canada, and sent in troops to patrol the US border and to establish missile sites aimed at the US.

What would the US do?

There can be quite a difference when you tell the whole story.

In even broader terms, the story of the the post-1945 world is the story of the failure to develop some sort of   world government and law through the UN. It just never happened.

And it never happened because the major powers didn't want it to happen.

Right through World War 11, Britain, France, Russia, the US never changed their long-term policy a bit. They were not looking for a world order of any sort. They were looking to rebuild the empires they had lost, or to expand what they already had.

Both Britain and France fought colonial wars for years after 1945. The Russians concentrated on the war territory they had gained in Eastern Europe.  The US, even as World War 11 was being fought was making plans to grab the fallout of the British and French empires, especially in Asia. That's why, early in 1945, they warned the British not to liberate Hong Kong, and the French not to liberate French Indo-China. (French Indo-China later became Vietnam. That Vietnam war was in planning even before WW11 was ended.)

The  great prize was China which the US hoped to win with the he help of Chiang Kai-Shek, a Christian, and probably the world's largest drug dealer. He was also a mass murderer. The US later would criticize Mao Tse-Tung for mass murder. But Chiang, armed by American weapons, was no slouch at mass murder.

That's the whole story. And that's what is taking us to the edge of the abyss in Ukraine. Beware of news stories that start in the middle.


Good news. There is an article that will soon be appearing in an American, academic journal, "Perspectives on Politics".

It produces evidence that it is not a democracy. That US is what is properly called an oligarchy. That is, it is ruled but a tiny elite of the very wealthy who are highly corrupt and corrupting. Public opinion and politicians don't matter a damn. That has been developing at a rapid pace since the 1950s.

What's good about it? Well, that's the same system as Russia. And Britain, and China, with Canada rapidly moving in the same direction.

So maybe the UN will be a success after all as we adopt a single form of government for the whole world - oligarchy.

For an advance look at the themes of this article to appear in Perspectives on Politics, take a look at

Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14: Z-Z-Z-Z-...

It must take very special minds to produce, year after year, a newspaper that says nothing at all. Today, I read the paper through breakfast, with nothing to do on most pages but look at the pictures. We had our second or third story with pictures of the Speed Car Show, all three stories and the pictures pretty much the same.

We must be at - oh - our thirtieth or fortieth story on the Malaysian flight, all of them saying the same thing - nothing.

I'm sure that Jim Flaherty was a nice guy, and everybody liked him. But do we really need all those obituaries disguised as news and columns?

It came as a shock to me to realize I  had come to the last page, and seen only two items worth reading - the column by Norbert on our debt, and the one by Steve Malloy on the coming death of Archie.

I'll come back to those. But there's really nothing else in this paper.
Instead, I'll go back to Saturday's editorial in which the editor wrote of resource development in NB like a moose in heat.

Oh, such wonders would happen. Wealth for all. The end of our debt problems. It was, in fact, an echo of a speech by former premier Lord to a business group.

Look, kiddies. Do you know what country has greater resource wealth than any other in the world? Congo.  Do you know what the poorest, large country in the world is? Congo. Do you know how long resource extraction has been going on in Congo? Getting close to one hundred and fifty years. Thanks to resource extraction, it will never be known how many millions of people of the Congo have been tortured, enslaved, murdered, worked to death.

You can say the same for much of Central America, South Africa (indeed all of Africa). Capitalists do not exist to spread wealth. They exist to take it for themselves.

(The editorial said an N.B. government would be tough in getting top dollar from any company that wanted to get our resources. Yeah. I've seen the New Brunswick  government get tough. Boy, they made Irving squirm over that forestry deal.)

And it's going to get worse. Even now, in Europe, big business is working on a free trade deal to be shared with North America. Expect to see lots of cute stunts - like water becoming privately owned by corporations, energy production being privatized, private companies being permitted to pollute. Typically, in such free trade deals, we give up a wide range of rights to give business a freer hand. And, once signed, we can't change those things.

With private ownership, we're going to see very, very little of the money from resource extraction. Never confuse big business with Santa Claus and his reindeer.

The reality is that capitalism may be past its best days. It may be that capitalism has taken us as far as it can go. In fact, real capitalism may always have been a bit of a delusion - except at the level of small business. But business has never operated on its own. It has always lived off the corruption and tax dollars of the corporate welfare state.

We are now selling ourselves cheaply to the corporate welfare state. And it is destroying itself in pure greed as it tries to take over complete control of all human society. Even if people are craven enough to let them get away with it, we still get destroyed simply because capitalism has long since passed its "best before" date.

As samples of what wasn't in this dreary issue of the TandT,

In the story of the Nevada rancher who had been ordered to move his cattle off public land, who had defied the government, and then had a  hundred armed gun enthusiasts come to his ranch to face the police, the government backed down. Very wise given the violence a showdown would have triggered across the country. But this will be a big boost for the gun movement in the US.

In fairness, I suspect the rancher was legally in the right - but this surfacing of the gun crowd could have consequences. Incidentally, I saw a video of the gun men gathered in a meeting hall. Every face was white.

Also incidentally, this was sparked, it seems, because a shale gas company wanted that grazing land for exploration.
The Guardian of August 12 has the story that someone got hold of a Senate committee report on CIA torture, and released part of it.  The part says that the CIA has lied to senate about the extent of its torture, that the torture is also much more brutal than has been reported, and that it has been ineffective. But not to worry.

Obama has decreed that the CIA has the right to edit the report before its official release in order to clear up any confusion, and to delete sections crucial to national security. So the final report will say nothing. And that's when papers like the TandT will cover it.
State regulators in eastern Ohio have found that earthquakes in the region were caused by fracking operations. They have demanded far more elaborate safety measures, including an extensive set of detectors. Funny the TandT didn't mention it since it has been so keen on telling us the whole truth about the industry. As well, the story was carried on Nov.11 by The Associated Press, a favourite source for the TandT.

El Haaretz is an Israeli newspaper that recently carried a report about a Canadian physics professor named  Lovejoy in Montreal - at McGill University - who has recently completely a study that shows 99.9 % of global warming is caused by human activity. - most of it by burning fossil fuels.

But here we are getting all excited about much greater development of fossil fuels in Alberta, all over Canada and the US.    There's not the slightest sign of any activity to develop safer energy.

Nor is there gong to be. The oil industry will simply not permit it. And we are all going to pay one hell of a price.

Anyway, I'm sure the TandT would have printed that story if it had known about it. So, hey guys, do you want the phone number for McGill?

I'm sure Norbert  has his heart in the right place. But when he discusses provincial budgets, he does it as if he were talking about his lunch money. Norbert, how can you mumble about our provincial debt without saying a word about the wealthy who are the ones taking money out, and thus creating the debt?

Cutting services will do nothing to ease the debt. It will just create misery and backwardness across the province.

Steve Malloy does a column on the death of Archie - and one that has a surprising depth to it.

The Ukraine is getting worse. Here's a quick summary of what seems to have happend.

It seems almost certain that US money and agents staged a government coup in Ukraine to do  two things:
1. To cut social services to the bone so money can be drained out of that already poor country to satisfy bankers.
2. To draw Ukraine into NATO, thus pressing NATO nuclear sites and troops right up the the Russian border.

The North American press almost never mentions the above because they want to make Putin the villain.

I looks now as though Putin has decided, not without reason, it would be dangerous to have NATO on his border. Accordingly, he is encouraging parts of Ukraine to break away.

Obviously, both sides should have defused what was, years ago, obviously going to be a dangerous situation. Both sides didn't.  Now----I wouldn't place any bets......
Letters to the editor has a disturbing one from a supporter of the People's Alliance. In brief, the letter doesn't like all this French people all over, and wants to do away with the province's duality. I can speak with some experience of this. I was many years on the board, then vice-president, and then chairman of Alliance Quebec, the English rights group of Quebec.

But we were not fighting against the French. We were fighting about the intolerance and bigotry displayed by some French toward the English. It wasn't the French people or the French language. It was intolerance and bigotry. And, for exactly the same reason, I would oppose the People's Alliance in this province.

NB has arrived at an excellent balance in language. Instead of criticizing it, we should be proud of it as a model for others.