Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 1: What is an oligarchy? Words, words, words....

(It's Sunday. So I took a break from the daily news._

In political discussion, all of us frequently use words we don't really understand. The result is that the words come to have meaning only for the person speaking them - and that meaning is emotional, often with no connection with any reality.

A prime example is the word 'communism'. Most people (including most journalists and politicians) have no idea what the word means. To them, its evil. That's it. To them, Stalin was a communist. (He wasn't.)  Castro is a communist. (He isn't.) You even find people who call themselves communists when they aren't. I well remember the pompous ass of my student days who organized a communist party for students. In fact, his views more closely resembled fascism  (a word whose meaning is really confused.)

Karl Marx was a man who genuinely was devoted to improving our lives. He identified capitalism and dictatorships, quite correctly, as causes of human suffering. His solution involved working toward a society in which all had a voice and, most importantly, all would come to cooperate for the common good, and there would be no social classes.

That's not evil. I don't think it's practical. I don't think it can happen. But it's not an evil idea. But, oh, it was dreadfully evil in the eyes of capitalists who had no interest at all in the common good. That's why their news media associated communism with evil. And so communism became a sort of swear word.

That's why the US, Britain and Canada sent troops to Siberia in 1918. The rule of the Tsars, despotic, cruel, exploitive, had effectively destroyed Russia, and had caused what we now call the Communist revolution. So we sent troops to keep the Russian people under the rule of aristocrats. You won't find that in many history books.

What you will find in movies, articles, in folk memory is the terrible sadness of the killing of the Tsar and his family - especially the daughter, Anastasia. And so, to this day, in a war that had killed, impoverished, crippled, orphaned more than any previous war, we mourn the loss of a family that brutalized even more millions to make itself even richer.

Stalin, as we know, had none of the ideals or hopes that Marx did. He was simply a dictator. He called himself a communist; and our news media happily reported him as a communist. But there was nothing communist in his policies.

China has never been communist, and certainly is not communist today. In fact, the economic system of China today is thoroughly capitalist. Nor is there the slightest sign of any move to communism.

So - now the bad word is oligarchy. It sounds evil. Actually, it think it is evil. But oligarchy seems to be what this brave, new world is about. And it's simple enough. It means rule by the few. If  ISIS ever achieves an stable state, it will be an oligarchy. That is, its government will not be by the people but by the few - the religious leaders.

Through almost the whole history of the British Empire, Britain was an oligarchy. Real power was in the hands of the monarch, the aristocracy, and the rich.That's largely true today - except that the monarchy has become simply decorative - and expensive.

Russia is an oligarchy with all real power in the hands of a small number of capitalists. Ditto for China. Ditto for the United States. And that's very largely the case for Canada. And it's entirely the case for New Brunswick.

And the base for oligarchy is social class. In a society organized around social class (as ours certainly is), democracy is impossible. Despite all the fine words of 1776, all Americans have never been equal. (Thomas Jefferson, who wrote those fine words about all being equal, owned over 200 slaves. Only five of them were ever freed. But that's because they were his sons.) Women didn't get equality for 150 years - and neither they nor hispanics nor African-Americans have it yet.

To this day, in the whole western world, equality does not exist. For many reasons, the quality of education varies hugely by social class. The poor do worse than others in schol. In the US, part of the reason for that is that the poor get underfunded schools. But it's more than that. Working class children generally do worse in school. This has nothing to do with brains. It has to do with socialization. Indeed, I found that the whole process for me from grade one to graduate studies was a matter of being re-socialized at ever level - socialized to the manners and tastes and expectation of a working class kid then, in high school, the shock of becoming socialized to the values of lower middle class as I reached higher grades, and my old friends dropped out, then becoming socialized to the values and tastes of kids in undergraduate school, then to graduate school where values and expectations were much different and where I first learned about the importance of snobbery and arrogance.

The myth of North American history is that Canada and the US have been lands of opportunity where all have an equal chance to get ahead. It's not true. And it never has been true. There are expectations, of course, but the reality is and has been from the start, that children born into a social class will forever live in that class. The poor child will forever be poor, the rich one forever rich, the middle class one forever middle class. There are volumes of statistics on that.

There is no evidence that the rich work harder than the poor. In fact, quite the contrary. There is no evidence that the poor have less intelligence than the rich. There is lots of evidence that the rich feel themselves superior - almost racially superior - to the poor and the middle class. That's natural. That's the natural attitude of those who exploit and abuse others. The "others", like African slaves or native peoples or Chinese under imperial rule, are inferior. God created them to serve us. God bless America. Rule, Brittannia.

We live in an oligarchy. The oligarchy, the greater part of it, is made up of people who were born into it. That's exactly the same as medieval rule by aristocracy. And it is not possible for an oligarchy to be a democracy.

Other words to beware of - liberal, conservative, patriotism...

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Feb. 28: That's quite a headline...

"Dieppe's Lapierre challenges Fredericton mayor over duality". (This won't mean much to the majority of readers of this blog because the majority live in the US, Germany, Russia, France, Ukraine...and they've never heard of Fredericton, and the only Dieppe they know is in France. So - the story is this; the majority of New Brunswickers are English-speaking. But French speakers (Acadians/Acadiennes) have a right to get services in French. And that means civil servants who deal with the public must be bilingual. Sounds reasonable? Not to some English-speaking people - a minority of them - whose favourite bed time lullaby is still "Rule Britannia. Britannia rules the waves".  Fredericton is a majority English-speaking city. Dieppe is a majority French-speaking one.)

So what's all the foofaraw about?

The mayor of Fredericton says language duality is too expensive. Is it? I have no idea. He gives no figures. Anyway, the provincial debt has nothing to do with language. It has to do with the fact that the very wealthy have New Brunswick in an iron control. That's why it has a big debt. The very wealthy get a free ride, control all the print news media, and own the politicians. Result? They get richer even as everybody else gets poorer, and as services get cut. And nobody, rich or poor, would dare to speak publicly about this abuse of power. And it has nothing to do with language. It would be the same if all New Brunswickers spoke Swahili.  In other words, New Brunswick is much like the rest of the world.

So why does the mayor of Fredericton attack the cost of French services? I'm not sure because he never really says what his reasons are. But he has to win elections; and Fredericton has the normal share of English bigots. And he can't possibly criticize the very rich -perhaps because he's gutless, perhaps he's not very bright, perhaps he just wants to drift along with the wreckage of political life in this province.

It's the old game of stirring up votes by spreading hatred and fear. Well, it works for Stephen Harper our national prime minister.

Neither the editorial nor any column in today's paper even mentions what the mayor of Fredericton has done. And, certainly, none will ever attack the bigotry and ignorance of what he has said.
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Page A3 has another thrilling headline about the J.D.Irving book reading festival. Three cheers for our great philanthopist. His reading week is quite useless, of course, and even destructive of reading. I remember these horse race reading programmes from my own school days. Who can read the most books in one week? Pant. Pant. I can. Look at me, Miss Mones. I can read real fast.

In fact, I can read pretty quickly if I have to. But you don't learn much by doing that. You learn by enjoying. You learn because the subject interests you. Those who have learned to enjoy reading will read without being in a speed contest. And the rest?

A very small percentage will join the race because they think they can win. Others know they can't win. So they don't bother. Reading races have no value whatever as a teaching tool. All they really do is to get the sponsor's name in a headline in his papers (that never bother to mention any of the other, less savoury things he does. The best thing Mr. Irving can do for the schools is to get  his nose out of them.
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I am daily impressed by the ability of the editorial writer to day after day say nothing, and to say it in total ignorance. And, as always, we see the sub-theme - government bureaucrats bad, capitalists good. Evidently, the editorial writer is completely ignorant of the central role played by bureaucracy in creating modern capitalism.

Today's gem of wisdom is about how we have too many daycare rules. The editorial never says what they are, or why there are too many. It says we should keep the focus on the children.  Good idea. Too bad it doesn't seem to have a clue what focus on the children means.

Anyway, it concludes that the free market will set the prices in the end. So that's okay. (Sorry. what does the free market setting daycare prices have to do with keeping the the focus on the children?) And, get this as a closer, the government itself can deal with people who cheat on their taxes or who operate illegal businesses.
It certainly can deal with very rich people who cheat on their taxes.  It simply cuts their taxes so they don't need to cheat. As for doing illegal things, we allow that through free trade deals - or we simply change the law.

Oh, by the way, if government is to deal with tax evaders and illegal businesses, won't that require bureaucrats?
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Norbert has read a magazine article which he claims to give a chilling view of ancient Islam and its practices, claiming that ISIS arose from that. Yes, it's killing and brutality come from. It's from its code of morality.

Norbert, have you ever read The Bible? Ever heard of the crucifixions carried out by ancient Jews? Ever read about the brutal conquests carried out by the ancient Jews under orders from their God? Ever heard of more than a thousand years of Christians who burned witches? Every heard of Joan of Arc who was condemned by the church to be burned alive? Ever heard of the mass tortures and executions carried out by popes? Ever heard of rulers placed in their positions by the grace of God? (Hint. there's one of the British throne right now.)

That's all the same  (and worse than) your "chilling" glimpse of ancient Islam.

Oh, and ISIS is looking forward to the apocalypse when the wicked will be killed and the rest will have eternal bliss.  Wanna try that out on a local Baptist, Norbert? As a preparation, you might want to read Revelation 14 and Revelaion 17:8 to 10.

And do you know that Israel, right now, is cursed with a flood of Christian fundamentalists going door to door to save Jews because the end of the world is near, and all Jews who are not saved will go to hell? I know one of them who was over 40 years a missionary in Africa. He's overjoyed that the end is any day now, and he will walk on the golden streets of the New Jerusalem. Mass murderer George Bush Jr. has said he believes the end is near and he, as a saved one, will sit naked on a cloud looking down on the unsaved as they are dragged down to hell.

Norbert, wake up. What's wrong with ISIS is that it's just like us.
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The only column worth reading is "The Morphing of Archie Bunker" by Bill Belliveau -and it's by far the class act of the whole paper. He argues that Stephen Harper exploits fear and terrorism  to win elections and to destroy democracy. Frighteningly, he tells of a a poll showing that 82 percent of Canadians support his anti-terrorism bill even though they have never read it.

This is the 1930s. This is Germany. No, I don't exaggerate. And it's happening all over the world this time. Fear and hatred are being exploited to take our attention from the real nature of our problems. Western capitalists are funding this fear and hatred just as they did it for Hitler right from his early days. And the Irving press has been one of the duller collaborators.

Democracy is pretty much a thing of the past. In the US, much fewer than 50% vote any more. Partly, that's because they can't. Individual states have passed rules effectively barring African and hispanic voters. Spending is unlimited, with the result that big money wins every election. (Harper has done the same thing by by using tax-payers' money to fund his election campaign (calling it 'communications'.)

Ballots are routinely destroyed. Electronic voting can't be checked - and the evidence of faking the results is strong.

In Quebec, I can well remember the Parti-Quebecois scrutineers rejecting thousands of No ballots in the second referendum because the Xs weren't straight enough or went over a line.

In a recent study from Harvard based on honesty in vote counting, access to information, equal opportunity to vote, the US came in 45th among the democracies. I haven't yet been able to find where Canada placed. I'm not sure I want to find out.
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Canada&World has an exciting story on B2. One of our four submarines is working. Look out world! It's been some twenty years since we bought them, and at last one is working. The commander of our submarine 'fleet' gushed, "To have that ability to influence foreign governments is huge." Right.

And when will the rest be working? Who knows? They're all really at retirement age now.
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I'm slow. Every week I see some house that few can afford featured as Home of the Week. And I wonder why. The houses, like the one in today's paper, are generally inoffensive but boring - and today's is typical of the species. Why on earth would a newspaper carry two pages of colour pictures of a house that hints of lots of money but shows no taste or originality? Today, it dawned on me. It's an ad disguised as a feature.
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And the page of student columnists seems to have shrunk to one person. Why? This is, or was, one of the better pages in the paper. And as columns, its work was far superior to that of, say, Rod Allen.

Worse, the faith page has a new format that is actually worse than the old one. (It's on C6).

The sermonette is different only in being longer and more boring and, well, it couldn't be more irrelevant. We live in a real world that poses the greatest moral problems we have ever faced. We live under governments that create hatred and fear. We live in a society that largely ignores the poor and lavishes favours on the very rich. We fight wars and we torture and we kill to make oil billionaires richer. We live under an economic system that praises greed, and that recognizes no ethics whatever.

The sermonette sees none of that. The writer just says that Jesus will go with him (and us) even through the valley of the shadow of death. (talk about trite!)

Mostly, Jesus talked about our behaviour and our responsibilities. Haven't any of the clergy who write for the TandT ever heard about that part?

No. Reading the weekly sermonette is like a cold and day-old cup of tea that is half milk.

"This is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang, but a whimper."
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There's so much that isn't in this paper. No mention of the rioting in Kyiv. What's that all about?

No mention that the US will probably be sending arms to Ukraine through the United Arab Emirates. That's a trigger for war.

No mention that east Ukraine voted massively not to accept rule from West Ukraine.Apparently, the US sponsoring riots that overthrew the government of Ukraine was a proper thing to do. But for east Ukraine to democratically vote against the illegal government established by the US is wrong.

There's no mention that Oxfam has announced that since Israel makes it almost impossible to get construction material in to Palestine, it may take a century to rebuild the damage caused by the last Israeli-Palestinian war. Israel can, and does also control Palestine's import of medical supplies, It is also holding on to at least a hundred million dollars which was sent to it to be given to Palestine. We haven't begun to see the killing there. Netanyahu wants all of Palestine destroyed, and all Palestinians deported. (Gee. I wonder why some Palestinians fire rockets at Israel?)
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As Germany was under Hitler, we are ruled by people made insane by power. National boundaries are disappearing because big business doesn't need or want nations. It has all power with no control and no boundaries.

It's come to the point where we're not going to solve anything with our usual chatter about party policies. That's as true in Fredericton as it is in Ottawa as it is in Washington...... The first problem we have to deal with is to face down big money to restore democracy. Without democracy, we can't do anything.

Once we have democracy, we can harness capitalism to serve us; we can build honest news media, we can plan our future; we can feel free to think and say what we like; we can throw off the hatred, fear and ignorance and lies that are deliberately used to poison us.

But without democracy, we can't do anything. Without it, big money, as it has  for centuries, will kill and exploit and, ultimately, destroy all of us. Without democracy, there can be no morality, no ethics, no future.

The rise of Hitler was not an accident or a coincidence. It was a natural development of the rising power of Capitalism. Hitler did not go knocking on doors to get money. It was given to him by western capitalists who say him as their natural ally.

Democracy is the fundamental issue of our age. We have to end the rule of people made insane by power.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Feb.27: The Moncton Twit and Tinsel

There really is little to talk about in today's paper. The big story is that students have missed  8 to 13 days of schools this year - and the teachers' union says teachers cannot be ordered to make up that time. Funny thing about that story.

Nobody has asked them to make up for those days. So why has the teachers' union made such a statement. Obviously, the reporter for the story asked them. But why would a reporter ask for the union to make a response to an order nobody had given? And, since nothing has really happened, why is this a front page headline at all? To answer that, think of how parents will react to the story. Many, perhaps most, will be angry at the union's response. It's always easy to make people angry at teachers.

In other words, this looks like a setup.

Get the parents angry first, then hit with the demand that those days be made up.

Will it do any good to make up those days? Not bloody likely. Think back to your school days. How would you have reacted to going to school on Saturdays, or into the early days of July. I've taught, and I know how little you can accomplish with a class that doesn't want to be there. Nothing gets learned. Students are not objects in a factory, and they do not learn by moving along an assembly line. Any teacher knows that. Politicians and the journalists of this province don't know it. And large number of people who read the TandT don't know it. And they will get angry. And getting people angry is what this story really is about, encouraging blind and ignorant anger.

The anger will be useful to get support for whatever approach the government plans to take for this. It also fits in with the general Irving press myth about how the methods of private business are superior to those of public methods. That's a game that Irving and friends have been playing with education for some time - as reflected in their puppet newspapers and their propaganda shills at Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

However, people should get angry at this story, not because of teachers but because this is unethical journalism, and it's manipulative. (Notice how the reporter didn't bother to ask teachers about the practical value of extra days?)

Even worse, the editorial writer jumped on this story for his/her editorial of the day. It makes all the predictable recormmendations which make it clear the writer is completely ignorant of the subject, It accuses the teachers of not giving a damn - which is not what happened at all. And the headline is about home schooling though the editorial has only one sentence about it -and that sentence makes it clear the the writer has no idea what home schooling means.

All this is not only unethical journalism; it is ignorant and incompetent journalism. There's a future for these clowns on Fox News.

Will it work? Probably. Lying and propaganda have almost always worked in this province.

Hint for the day - start a scrapbook of news stories and columns from Brunswick News critical of  J.D.Irving limited. (You might not need a really big scrapbook.)

In what is, perhaps, a related story, the first page also has big news that Corporate Research Associates conducted a poll which shows that we in Moncton are happy, happy, happy with our local economy and our municipal council.

And who is Corporate Research Associates? And who paid for the poll? It doesn't say. Nor does it say how the poll was conducted. By telephone? If so, that would mean large numbers of the unhappy would have been missed.

By personal contact? If so, how were the personal contacts chosen.?

And it says 73% are happy with the work done by city council.  Get real. There's nothing like 73% who even know what the council is doing.

And the reporter doesn't ask any questions.

And from then on, the paper just goes downhill.
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So let's look at some real news from around the world that didn't hit the Twit and Tinsel.

A national study group is discussing the deaths and disappearances of 1200 native women in the last 30 years. Actually, we have extensive studies which have included some 700 recommendations. We've had them for over ten years. But Harper hasn't moved on any of them.

Nor does he like the idea of a national study group on the issue. He says we don't need a national study group; now is the time for action.

Huh? Run that by again?

Now, let's think hard. Two men, not associated with any terrorist group, kill two soldiers. Harper goes into panic mode and is rushing through an anti-terrorism bill that is the end of freedom in Canada. 1200 native women are murdered or vanished. Harper has had expert advice on this for ten years He hasn't done a thing. Yawn.
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One hundred law professors across Canada have condemned the anti-terrorism bill as destructive of freedom. Yawn.
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The Vancouver Sun has the story that researchers at UNB have found that the gull population on the southern part of our west coast has dropped by half from the 1980s.  The reason? Lack of food in the sea.
Gee! D'ya think that could affect us? You know, like putting pesticides into the Bay of Fundy?
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The federal budget has $65 million dollars for government ads. Of course, Harper will decide what those ads will be about. No other party can touch that money. That's to uphold the sacred Harper policy of keeping government in touch with the people- you know, with things like the $2.3 million that Harper is putting out so that cabinet ministers can get their pictures taken. And so we can get even more of those wonderful posts from our MPs, like Goguen.

By coincidence, that gives Harper far, far more money than any other party has to fight the election. Watch for it before October. Sieg Heil!
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Remember Harper's determination to stamp out veils (the nigab) on Muslim women? That has won him friends in the Bloc Quebecois separatist party who are using bigotry as a powerful aid to making a comeback. Thank you, Stephen. And it will no doubt be a big hit with bigots across Canada.

We are very close to using the word unCanadian, as Americans used unAmerican some sixty years ago.
Once we put the word un in front of a nationality, we destroy democracy. If I have to fit Mr. Harper's definition of Canadian, then the word freedom means nothing. If I have to fit the definitions of Irving or Norbert or any other flag-waving opportunist, then I can't be free.

I've seen that up close. Born, raised, and working in Quebec, and from a family liviing in Quebec for well over 300 years, I became unQuebecois. And, as unQuebecois, I was not allowed the same rights as others.

Worse, people who use the prefix 'un' never know what it means. What, exactly, is a Canadian? What is a Quebecois? Neither the PQ nor Harper have ever figured that out. That's why their definition is always simple-minded and negative. And so being English-speaking in Quebec is unQuebecois. And wearing a veil is unCanadian. The 'un' is bigotry, ignorance,  hate, destructive of freedom but, oh, many, many people just love it. And Harper wants every bigot vote in the country.
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There was a  big (huge) story in The Guardian and in Al Jazeera just a few days ago. Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency leaked a report it had given to Netyanyahu many times, and for many years. The report is that Iran is not making a nuclear bomb. That corresponds with what US intelligence has been saying for years. But I'll bet you never saw any of that in the Twit and Tinsel.

That's kind of important because it means that for years Netanyahu has been lying to the world. In fact, the non-existent Iranian bomb will almost certainly be the subject of his approaching speech to the US Congress.

Now, I'm pretty sure Obama and all the congressmen know when big stories appear Al Jazeera and The Guardian are readily available to them. (as they are to the news editors at the TandT).

So why is Netanyahu lying? He wants a war, and he wants a nuclear war. He is in no position to fight a ground war against Iran. That's why he has already arranged with Saudi Arabia to use its airspace.

And why is Obama having talks with Iran about a programme that Obama knows doesn't exist? Well, he has to appease the Israely lobby. He may also want a war with Iran. Iran has been developing trade relations with Russia and China. Worse, Iranians have the ridiculous idea that their oil fields belong to them, when everybody knows that oil fields belong to American billionaires.

And Congress? Congress is pretty much owned by big money. And big money wants control of Iranian oil.

Will Netanyahu drop in on Harper? Maybe, though I doubt it. However, Harper will have to get his name into this meeting somehow to make sure he gets Canada's pro-Israel vote. He might fly down though, if he did that, he would also have to pay respects to Obama - and that would be one, chilly meeting.

Would such a war risk a nuclear war? Damn right it would. But, as the oil industry has often shown, it doesn't care how many people get killed or what damage is done.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is broke, and with people of both sides suffering poverty and cold. (Ukraine owes Russia a huge sum for oil that it has been buying but not paying for over many years. As well, the Ukraine currency has crashed. That means Kyiv desperately needs huge loans from international banks. But I'm sure that western government will come forward with gifts of those basic necessities like tanks and aircraft.

Meanwhile, Greeks are starving. But the bankers are doing very little to help them. That's understandable. Greeks are not, at this time, useful as an excuse to start a war.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Feb. 26: playing an old game....

The TandT has yet another Front page, banner headline story that tells us nothing significant about the Larry's Gulch affair. Sometimes, that's the only way to kill a story you don't want to get out. Now, there will be a deep study - some day - of  who erased the names on a guest list for what seems to  have been a business meeting at Larry's Gulch.

The real questions are - what was that meeting about? And why were two very senior journalists there and taking part in the meeting? And how often has this sort of thing happened? But, as I feared from the start, we are going to spin our wheels on lesser questions until the whole story just dies.

Then there's the usual courthouse reports - and almost a half page story (with photo) of a bobcat who was hurt and is getting better.
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Norbert is, well, Norbert. Today, he thinks we need an anti-terrorist law He agrees that we need such a law,  but agrees with the NDP that this one is too broad. I think there are other laws we need a lot more, and ones that wouldn't cost us more billions on a secret service that will always be abusive and dangerous to freedom. How many Canadians were killed by terrorists last year? None. The only two even similar killings were not by terrorists - unless you have a very, very loose definition of that word. In fact, the chances of a Canadian getting killed by a Muslim terrorist are less than his or her chances of being killed by police while on a vacation in Florida.

Besides, we already have a domestic spy service operated by the RCMP, which has all the power it needs (and more).

And what's Norbert's big solution to terrorism? War. War. War. Kill. Kill. Kill 'em all. Jail the survivors for war crimes. Oh, that had me in an ecstasy of drooling. Jail them for war crimes? Norbert, what the hell do you think torture is? What do you think killing millions of civilians is? What do you think invading countries with no legal reason is?  Do you understand that you are advocating hanging for George Bush (both of them), Barack Obama, Tony Blair. and at least a prison term for Stephen Harper?

Of course not. Like most of us,  you're not capable of seeing war crimes when they're committed by our side. Norbert, most of the terrorist killings, by far, have been committed by our side. In Vietnam, the US killed millions by bombing, burning alive, torturing, poisoning, and sometimes just for the fun of it. And you really can't see that, can you? Don't feel bad. It's a common delusion in the western world. We've been killing innocent people, enslaving them, debasing them, torturing them, looting them for 500 years. Canada and the US today exist because we did that to the people here.

He also suggests we should help peaceful Muslims to deal with the political and economic problems that plague their region.  Norbert --- who the hell do you think created those problems?  Who conquered and ruled those regions? Who looted their natural resources? Who created all those artificial countries? Do you really think British Oil and Texaco are owned by Muslim terrorists? Was it Muslim terrorists who handed over Algeria to France? Was it Muslim terrorists that conquered Egypt to build the Suez Canal?

Oh, and as Norbert says, "What should Canada and the civilized world..." be doing? Let's see, the civililized world - Oh, like Britain that murdered and exploited all over the world, like Spain that murdered and looted throughout Latin America, like the US which has been invading and killing almost every year since it began, and which has more prisoners than any other country in the world,  like France which looted and murdered in North Africa and in what is now Vietnam...?

You know these things Norbert. Like most of us, you know them - but you can't understand it's bad when we do it. It just doesn't sink in.

As to his ideas that we need a massive and continuing war effort to destroy terrorism - get real. Terrorism is not a weed that grows all by itself. It is a reaction. One thing that causes it is war and killing. While this world has been fighting terrorism for thousands of years, justNorbert advises, ( and has been fighting terrorism by using terrorism), the killing has always made the terrorism worse. Wars don't destroy terrorism. They simply water the weeds.

This is a column that shows no understanding of history either recent or long past. It shows no understanding of why people behave as their do. It shows no capacity to see any wrong at all on our side. It shows no understanding of why our governments behave as they do. And it has a strong touch of racism.

And the scary thing is, I suspect, that many readers will agree with it.
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There are two, good letters to the editor about the closing of rural schools. It' important to understand that not all children in our society have anything like an equal chance in this world. Most people will spend their whole lives in the social class they were born into. The poor will remain poor. The middle class will remain middle class. And the super-rich will remain super-rich.

This has always been true. The myth of Canadian and American history is that we are lands of equal opportunity. We never were. Yes, some people rise above a lower status to a higher one, but very few. The majority of the very rich throughout history were born that way.

And the loss to us all is tremendous. And it has nothing to do with brains. I attended a school of the very poor, and all my life I taught both poor and rich. At no point did I see anything to indicate that brains were in any way a major factor in social class. (I also attended a university in which I was preceded by two. maritime billionaires, neither of whom left any distinguished record behind.)

In rural areas, the proportion of working class children is high. That, alone, places them at a serious disadvantage in school - and busing them to a town school doesn't much change that. As well, intellectual stimulation is pretty rare in a rural area. Much of what there is comes from the presence of a school. Close the school and bus the children, and you pretty much lose the whole community.

New Brunswick should be spending more, not less, on opportunities for rural education - for both children and adults. It should also give some thought to community radio.

Rod Allen offers us yet another little story about his fascinating self.

Beth Lyons does him much better with a thought provoking column on our ideas about equality. The point is a subtle one, but important.

Alec Bruce's column, on the New Brunswick economy, simply doesn't say anything. He writes it as the politicians we elect set the polity. That don't. They never have. And, worse, the people of New Brunswick have never shown that they care.
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In high school when I was bored  (most of the time) I used to count from 1 - 900 seconds, seeing how close I could come to being right on 15 minutes. Reading today's Canada&World section was like that.  The only piece that really said anything was on B4, "Canada considers joining U.S.-led military training mission in Ukraine.

Brilliant. We are putting ourselves, with the US, on the ground with American and British troops in a place that could well spark a nuclear war. Why?

We owe this to Europe? Then how come Britain is the only European country to join us?

More to the point - why has the Ukrainian army taken such a beating?  Why are people in Kyiv rioting in protest against the war? Why are so many dodging the draft? Why is the Ukrainian army so demoralized that it retreats eagerly?

What would our reaction be if Russia sent traners into East Ukraine? (Oh, I know North American news media say the place is crawling with Russian troops. But note that they never have evidence for it. And, just recently, an independent commission from The Netherlands returned from the Russia/Ukraine border to say it saw no evidence of military activity there.)

So why is Canada sending troops to Ukraine? ( Why did it send them to Afghanistan?)
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Al Jazeera, a very reliable newspaper in Israel has a story that just 85 people now have as much money as 3.500.000,000 other people in this world. (yes, that's 3 and 1/2 BILLION other people. Gee. They must work really hard.) It also has the happy news that the 400 richest people in the US have doubled their money in the last ten (mostly recession) years.  Now, there would be a great inspiration for Norbert to do a column about how the richest people in NB are making out. The Al Jazeera story is at
http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/empire/rise-of-the-oligarchs//201452412128351328.html

Then there's a story in The Guardian, probably the best English language newspaper in the world. It's all about how the George Bush family made big money by helpiing Hitler to come to power. Actually, Hitler was a big hero to American and Canadian big business. Their support for him goes back to the 1920s.

www.theguardian.com/world/2004sep25/usa.secondworldwar

Then there's this gem about how the Canadian government   (you know, Harper) is spending 2 to 3 million dollars to photograph his cabinet ministers. The explanation is that it's a government's duty to communicate with the people - and sending them pictures of cabinet ministers is an important communication.

http://www.ipolitics.ca/clement-defends-1-3=million-to-photograph-cabinet-ministers

Then there's a news source I'm not familiar with; but much of the information in it is from official US government sources. And it's all about how the US helped to create ISIS.

http://SCGNews.com/the-covert-origins-of-isis

On the same topic, here's a similar view from Seymour Hersh. It's provoked a lot of controversy. But Hersh has a long reputation as a gutsy, honest and intelligent reporter. (That's why you won't see him much in the Irving Press.)

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line

The five sites above were sent to me by a reader - for which much thanks. Any one of these has more news value than the whole CanadaWorld section of the Times and Transcript.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Feb. 25: The song is over - but the melody lingers on.....

The TandT has yet another headline story - a long one - about Larry's Gulch just packed with information we already had. Well, we know one more bit.  Al Hogan was there for three days. Gee. And nobody at the office even knew about it. Nobody said,  "Where's Al?" And so it goes, getting more unbelievable each day.

Hogan's misbehaviour had to do with journalistic ethics. And those are certainly important - though I've never seen much evidence of ethics in the Irving press.  Yes, ethics are important; but they're not the whole story.

Certainly, Hogan should not have attended a three day party and business discussion as a guest of the CEO of the Liquor Commission. But the even bigger question is why did the CEO of the Liquor commission invite those people? We also know there were meetings and discussions in which Irving press people took part.

What were those discussions about?  Why were senior people from Irving press invited to attend? Why were other News media NOT invited (CBC, CTV, for example)?

And exactly who paid the tab? If it came from the pocket of the CEO of NB Liquor, he must have deep pockets, indeed. If it was paid by NB Liquor, then it was damned unethical - and a direct theft from taxpayers.

As to the invitations to senior journalists and Alward, why? That smells of corruption and collusion.

These are the real questions we need answers to. I don't really care about the journalism ethics aspect because the Irving press was created to be unethical. And this foofaraw will change nothing about that.

Why were those people invited? What was the discussion about? That's what we need to know. And that's what we are not likely to find out.
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The editorial and op ed pages don't discuss this - or much of anything else.

The editorial writer,who obviously knows nothing about education, advises handling the decline of NB universities using the usual, business model. If it ain't making money, close it.  That won't work.

New Brunswick is already an intellectual outhouse. We badly need to educate more people, not fewer. We need universities to be more available to the public, not less. Every country that looks to be a winner over the next century in investing in universities, not closing them.

And, above all, universities need to learn that they are not just research places, but educational places -  that really should learn something about how to teach.

Above all, the editors and every else in our shamble or a press should learn that not all problems are solved by cutting budgets. And when they learn that, they might give some thought to making it possible for more people to go to university. There are, there really are some things in government that are about people, not simply about money.
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Norbert is back to pimping for shale gas. (Sorry. I mean he is honoring the Irving press promise to keep us informed on shale gas) He ends with a stirring "Great leaders and governments lead..." Well, yes. So do bad ones. Check out Hitler and Stalin. In any case, I can count the number of great leaders and great governments in the history of New Brunswick.  On one finger.

There's also a letter to the editor from a person who sounds like a potential editorial writer. He thinks the way to balance the budget is by cutting the money we spend on "Fat City" - the government. Yep, that's where all our money goes - not to corporations that bleed us dry or to billionaires whose incomes have doubled in the recession, and who pay very little tax.

Eric Lewis has a decent if not exciting column on Pink Shirt Day (a student protest day against bullying.) But why on earth is it illustrated by a large photo of a school rally at which only a small minority appear to be wearing pink shirts?

Brian Cormier has his usual "what I did last summer" essay, this time about cooking supper.

It's not a strong pair of pages. And Alec Bruce doesn't help. Like Norbert, he pimps for shale gas. Among other things, he says Alward bungled it by killing any chance of informed debate. Alec, you can say that with a straight face? You and you newspaper have been up to your ears is spreading so much propaganda and withholding information, that you made the word 'informed' into a joke. Worse. You write "Those who opposed fracking relied on internet research (some compellingly good, some stunningly bad) to reinforce their intractability."

Now, drink that one in. Those opposed relied on internet research. Well, yes, of course. There wasn't a whole lot to be found in the pages of your newspaper, including your columns.

Some research was good and some was bad? That's true of all research. Anyway, how come you didn't give an example of good research? And for that matter, what qualifications do you have to decide which research is good?

And then, an unethical use of loaded language. the anti shale gassers do all the above, you say, "to...reinforce their intractability." In other words, anti-shale gas people are (genetically,  I presume) pig headed and/or lying.

The other side is much nicer. The believe "... it could be safe as long as regulations in this province were tough, remained bewildered by the violence.... Oh, that sounds so much better. They believe it could be safe if....  Well, that's one of the problems, isn't it? We don't have much reason to trust any government (or newspaper) in this province if it does say the rules are the toughest in human history. And, oh, the poor dears on shale gas side are not intractable, but they are confused - as any good people would be - by the violence.

And, oh, yes. The public debt...he writes that .only the private sector can cure the debt problem ...Alec, you have to know that isn't true. In fact, the private sector with its heavy demands for favours and its avoidance of paying taxes is the major reason we have a debt. That's why private wealth has grown so much in this recession.

Alec's statement is worse than being biased economics. It also encourages making the poor pay to  suffer more from what the rich have done in making themselves richer.

This column is actually worse than Norbert's.  No mean feat.
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One of the big stories in Canada&World is that JDIrving  has applied to take part in pipeline talks for New Brunswick. The reason given is that they want to protect the forests. Yeah. That makes sense. They've always been big on preserving forests. Maybe we should open a new hall of fame for preserving forests.

One important story is both short and buried at the bottom of B4. Remember those soldiers we sent to Afghanistan? Of those who came back, National Defence expects to dismiss some 70%  from the services. That means something over 20,000 to be dumped. The reason? Mental illness. 20,000 lives are being  destroyed, cut off very early in their earning years. And God help them if they're depending on Harper for help.

This story should be read by every one of those yahoos who call themselves patriots, and who demand we take part in more wars.

20,000. And nobody has yet told us what that war is about.

For the rest, there's a sad story about an aid worker who was murdered, about kidnappings, about Ukraine claiming that the rebels have not pulled weapons back. The Ukraine story, based on the record, is quite possibly a lie. The other stories are certainly sad and disturbing. But they don't give us a clue why all this is happening.

Here's a very short explanation.
1. US capitalists want to control all world trade. The next country they have to control is Russia. That's what Ukraine is about. That's also why our gas prices dropped. Saudi Arabia overproduced, deliberately, to lower the price of oil That purpose was to do severe damage to the Russian economy which depends on oil sales, and to force Russia to accept US dominance. Once that's done, the price will shoot up again.

2. US capitalists also want control of all middle east oil. That's what the invasion of  Iraq was about - and the attack on Libya. Both countries are a mess now. But it doesn't matter. US capitalists have the oil.

3. Africa, the Middle East and the European Union are getting very concerned about the ambitions of American capitalists. That's why Germany and France intervened to insist on peace talks in Ukraine. In fact,the whole European Union is worried about the intentions of American capitalists, and the risk of nuclear war. Watch for the possibility of Greece getting out of the European Union because American and European bankers are imposing deadly conditions on it.

In the case of the Middle East and Africa, the US is playing the very old game of getting the people there to kill each other. That's why the US supports the rebels in Syria (many of whom later became Al Quaeda and then IS). Almost all such groups that are spreading havoc have enjoyed American funding - as well as some from American allies. That includes IS.

4. Russian capitalists are never called that. They're called oligarchs in our press because it sounds uglier. And they are an ugly bunch. But they're exactly the same as our capitalists. Putin has been much tougher than expected. (In fact, we tend to underestimate the Russians in general. Perhaps the greatest surprise of the second world war was the fighting determination of the Russians who were by far the greatest factor in defeating Hitler, and who accepted monstrous casualties. I've never seen an explanation for that.)

In any case, Russia has responded to US moves by building relations with other countries in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. That's why the US wants to overthrow Assad in Syria, and that's what the US- Iran talks are really about. That's why the US tried just recently  to overthrow the government of Venezuela. Putin is getting a welcome in many countries - because the alternative is domination by American oligarchs (sorry. capitalists.)

That's why Russia and China (who have no reason to love each other) have formed an alliance.

5. All over the world, centres of power are moving.  And there's the pressure of time. American capitalists have to control the world before countries like China and India become too wealthy and well-armed. (India, I think, has capitalists. China has oligarchs. I think I taught one of them.)

6. Then there's a real kicker. Many, many countries are unstable, largely as a reaction to the dominance of the very wealthy. That includes much of Africa, South America, countries like France and Germany in Europe, and it includes the US. In the latter case, we've seen the full collapse of democracy with any belief in it so low that a majority of Americans don't even vote. And that is made even more unstable by the levels of poverty forced on the American people.  And then there's the flint stone of American violence, the profound racism of the United States.

And that's, roughly, what's going on.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Feb. 24: Gee! Would the Irving press miss a big story about climate change?

It was a story I first saw in Google News. So I immediately checked the sources it gave - the New York Times and The Guardian. They confirmed it. Funny thing, though. Usually Google News lasts for the best part of a day, and often for several days. This one had disappeared from Google News in just an hour or so. I wonder why.

I had a suspicion the editors at the Irving press wouldn't have time for it with all their big stories about how high the snowbanks are, and who appeared in court for spitting on the sidewalk. So here it is.

An aerospace engineer who works part-time for the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has been publishing papers for some time "proving" that climate change is NOT caused by burning fossil fuels. I mean, he's published papers on it and everything. He's the darling of climate-change deniers, and the sort of person Norbert would call an expert.

Yep. It seems that climate change is caused by the sun getting hotter. So we can burn all the oil and coal we like. Whew! That's a relief.  But there's more.

His name is Wei-Hok Soon; and the Harvard Smithsonian has just discovered that his research funding of some $1.2 million over the last year or so has been coming from philanthropic institutes like ExxonMobil, Texaco - folks you can trust.

And, of course, he never reported where his money was coming from. The Center fired him for that, and also because its other scientists who were actually trained in the field said his research papers were incompetent.

And, course, today's Irving press, dedicated as it is to keeping us informed about the latest developments on climate change, and the one that routinely quotes every lie from big business think tanks like Atlantic Institute of Market Studies and Fraser Institute, has no mention of this. And it almost certainly never will have.
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On Information Clearing House for Feb. 23, there is another fascinating report that will never make the Irving press. Since 1776, the US has fought almost 250 wars, and was the aggressor in almost all of them. As well, almost all of them were fought on behalf of American business. (The constant wars of the 1920s and 30s labelled banana wars were invasions of Central American countries to make the Dole's and their ilk even richer, and to virtually enslave the people of the region.)

Actually, there have been many more wars than that since "secret" wars don't get counted. That's quite a record for a country that is almost impossible to attack, and refers to itself as peace-loving.
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And now to the intellectually stimulating pages of the Times and Transcript.

The lead story on page 1, for a change, is important and worth reading. "Stay away from HST hike, pleads New Brunswick poverty group." It's an important reminder for this province that government is not just about money. It's about people.

A3 returned to normal with half the page devoted to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the NB flag.
It featured an empty speech by premier Gallant. The reporter was thrilled that Gallant could connect with the younger generation by saying, "Is that pretty cool or what?" Yep. and twenty three skidoo, zippity doo-dah and oh, you kid. Other speakers had nothing but platitudes,  either. I've no doubt it was an exciting day for the kids. But, educationally, it was a complete waste of time.

What might have been useful would have been a speech on why the ship on the flag (to represent forestry and shipbuilding) is a type that ceased to exist long before Europeans came here.

The editorial is the usual nose in the bellybutton piece. Norbert is indignant that a strip search was made of a girl in a Quebec school. I quite agree. But that's well down a list that has our anti-terrorism bill on it.

Alec Bruce disappoints with a gushing column on Gallant's appointment of three"all-stars" to the province's "Jobs Board Secretariat."  He's excited because all three have a strong record in the private sector. Think about it, Alec. That's like picking a doctor because he or she has a strong record of being sick.

He shows nothing in their experience to suggest they know anything about creating jobs. Being in business is not about creating jobs. It's about hiring as few people as cheaply as possible to make as much profit as you can. What we really have here is people who will represent big business methods, interests, and power directly into government - which is exactly what Irving did with the Alward government.
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Section B, Canada&World has two itmes worth looking at. One, at the bottom of B1,  is "Lid on cabinet secrets quietly tightened under new policy". Don't bother reading it. It's just more of Harper's paranoia for control. Instead check its photo of then (2007) foreign minister Maxime Bernier, surely the dimmest bulb ever to be a cabinet minister in this country. But don't look at him, either. (Anyway, you won't). Look at the woman beside him. That's his girlfriend, a shy, young thing with Hell's Angels connections. Why would a story about the cabinet feature an eight-year old photo? Look down. Bernier's trophy girl has a big bust. Hey. That's what editors are for.
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A more important story is at the top of the page, "Enrolment dropping at province's universities". The problem of universities - not just in New Brunswick - is huge, and it's been building for years.
1.Training in education is almost unknown among university professors. There is also little respect for teaching and no professional status in it. One consequence is that course structures and programmes often make no sense at all. The fundamental purpose of university teaching should NOT be to pump information  into students. It should be to develop thought and perception skills. And you do not do that by memorizing the date of confederation.

Much of those skills could be best taught by courses in the humanities and arts (such a English and History). But they aren't. Instead of learning how to teach and how to make their programmes useful, professors place almost all their energies into scoring brownie points by doing research.

They also seek to escape teaching as much as possible by getting more time for research. I still remember vividly meeting with one professor to set his teaching schedule. Usually, the maximum load is nine hours a week - but most get cuts from that gruelling schedule. This professor had managed to get just two hours per week. When I told him, he said, "Graeme, I can't teach two hours a week. If I did that, I'd have to live in Montreal."

"Where were  you planning to live?"

"Detroit."

Additionally, this leads to libraries designed to serve the interests of professor researchers rather than students - and that is expensive.

As a side-effect, the programmes which do attract students (like business) tend to be built narrowly to train people (like seals) rather than to develop intellectual abilities.

Commonly. a text-book order will be accompanied by a true or false quiz to the teacher. Many professors  love those. They're quick and easy to mark. Alas! they're also a complete waste of time because they encourage learning by memorization, and they are no test at all of essential reasoning and presentation skills.

All of this is made yet worse fads like MacLean's "best" universities edition which is not only misleading, but utterly incompetent as a guide to anything.

And, on top it all, universities are dominated at the governing level by big money which, as a rule, cares only about its own interests.

And, oh, it's overpriced. Countries smaller and poorer than Canada and the US can provide university education free, and often with living allowances. Cuba does it. The Netherlands does it.

There are massive problems for our universities - financial, educational, many problems which automatically beyond the reach of most Canadians. And, there's a goo of snobbery in almost all of them which makes any change unthinkable. One of the gooiest is McGill where I was once invited to speak to a class - of over 500!
What a waste of time for everybody! For openers, a class of that size makes it almost impossible to give anything but a true and false exam. And even if grad students are paid to mark, they have virtually no training in how to do it. (But then, neither do the professors.)

It's a mess, a big mess, and judgement day is getting very close.
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There's an intriguing story on B5 about a New York court which found the Palestinian government guilty of damages suffered by Americans in the Israel-Palestine conflict. And it ordered Palestine to pay $318 compensation.

Interesting. I didn't know a civil court could to that, And if the Palestinian government did encourage terrorism, then it was a war crime - and shouldn't that more appropriately go to the international court? But it does open fascinating possibilities.

Could victims of the Iraq war have the right to sue the US for over a million lives lost and massive destruction going through, say, a Syrian court? Could Vietnam sue through a Chinese court? And would the US accept the decision?

And perhaps this will inspire the US government to lay charges against Israel for its murder of 47 American sailors and the wounding of 171 on board the USS Liberty when it was in international waters, and with no possibility that Israel didn't know who it was killing. No American president has ever said a word about it.
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Oh, and there's another missing story. A commission sent by The Netherlands to study the border area between Ukraine and Russia said it found no evidence of any military activity in that area. There must be a mistake. Our news media are telling us that the Russians are sending heavy military equipment and troops through there every day. And I'm sure our news media would never lie to us.

And where is the official report on who and what shot down a civilian airliner in eastern Ukraine?





Monday, February 23, 2015

What is 'news'?

There's a question I've daily had reason to ask as I suffer through the pages of the Irving press. It struck me again, forcibly, as I read section A of the TandT for February 23. There is not a 'news' story in it worth reading. Some of it is absurdly trivial  as in "Monctoners love the game of  hockey"; and the front page story that people are going to a local RV show because they're thinking of going camping. Even the Larry's Gulch item (on the same front page) has nothing to say. (There's going to be a report on it. Big deal.  We could have been told that in one sentence.)

But it's more than that. News has no meaning to it without some analysis, some discussion of what it all means. That is what commentary sections are for. But most of them in the TandT don't do it.

The editorial writers seem incapable of writing opinion on anything unless it's very, very local and, commonly, very,  very trivial.  (This time, it's about the return of martial arts fighting to Moncton.) Norbert rarely has anything to say - and then, it's  loaded with obvious bias.

True, the Monday edition is better than usual. Steve Malloy is excellent on the story about people who want to go to Mars. His explanation is better than I've seen in the dozens of news stories I've read about it.  Alec Bruce has another good one that adds to our understanding of the danger Harper poses with his anti-terrorism bill.

Craig Babstock has a useful one on the dangers we expose children to when we let them play with toy guns that look very, very real. Whenever I see them  in stores, I am reminded of the irresponsibility of companies in making them, of stores in selling them, and of parents in buying them.

There's also an excellent letter to the editor "Concerts don't help ordinary citizens". I don't know whether its argument is true - but it's something we should think about, and demand answers to. The only other item in section A worth reading is on A3 - and it's not really a news story. 'Making the right choice when it comes to French immersion" is really an information column by a school subject coordinator. And well done.

But that's a total of less that one and a half pages of worthwhile reading in a section of 8 pages.

That's not enough to encourage informed discussion or thought. The Irving press badly needs more comment, and more intelligent comment. Otherwise, most of the news is meaningless - and much of it is pure propaganda.

Section B, Canada&World, includes everything from the city limits of western Moncton going west all the way to the city climits of eastern Moncton. Most of it is quite meaningless and all of it in just four pages. "Two killed by bomb" in Ukraine. "Protesters gather in Moscow to strike out against Ukraine and the West." Yeah. So? Do we now understand better what's happening in the world?

Oh, and there's a big story from the Pentagon that the Afghan army is powerful. Sure. That's why, after 13 years of heavy fighting - and a trillion dollars or so - the US military can't leave yet, and nobody even has a guess of when it will be able to leave..

In fact, the US, with its massive armed forces, it's contracted mercenaries, the biggest and most modern navy in the world, its superb equipment, has achieved decisive victory only once since 1945 when it heroically invaded Grenada. (There's an unexplained story in that, too. Grenada was a British possession. The British government was furious at the invasion - but they didn't learn about until it happened. That's a bit unusual.) Oh, sorry. There was another triumph of American arms. The US was successful in overthrowing the elected (and popular) president of Haiti.

Korea was, at best, a draw. Libya? Afghanistan? Iraq? Hell, we've never even been told why they were fought.

There is no reason to believe the US is capable of defeating Russia or China (or almost anybody) except with nuclear weapons. And that would probably not be a good idea since some ten countries all have nuclear weapons, and some are dying to use them.

As well, American behaviour has recently led to a boom  in countries seeking a closer relationship with Russia and China as the US has become the most hated nation in the world.

Even South America, dominated by the US for over a century, is looking for relationships elsewhere, having had enough of being robbed blind by billionaires. That's been made much worse after the US recently got caught red-handed trying to overthrow the elected government of Venezuela so American capitalists could take over the oil fields. (Of course, you must have read the whole story in the Irving press, as well as all the stories about elected leaders in South America who have been murdered by the US.)

What all of this is about is the determination of a handful of capitalists to control every economy in the world. Would they murder for that? Well, they've already murdered millions. Would they put the whole, human race at risk? That's what they're doing right now.

That's why Norbert calls then entrepreneurs instead of what they really are.