Sunday, March 6, 2011

Series of Significance: The free press follies fool no one

[The following five posts were originally presented over five separate days but are now presented below as one brilliant piece. No extra charge.]

Deforest City Blues Pt 1: Complete news? Ha!

Stand back. I feel a long and useful rant coming on.

Long, because yesterday’s editorial/point of view in the London Free Press raises so many interesting points inside my little round head.

For example: Why do some editorials smell so bad?

Is it because they are incomplete? Not balanced?

I’m not sure, but I’m willing to do some thinking out loud about this one.

I find it useful to do so.

[“The same-day DILBERT cartoon provides a hint to my true feelings about the editorial”]

If I kept all my feelings and opinions bottled up inside I might get acid reflux or indigestion - or ‘kick back,’ as I like to say at times.

The headline, i.e., ‘Canada must take lessons from European debt woes,’ wasn’t a bad start at all.

European debt is growing, so is Canada’s, debt can make our country vulnerable to many nasty consequences (e.g., kick back from future generations), and we all might be able to learn something from the debt crisis in Ireland and England.

So, hats off to an anonymous editorialist who lives somewhere deep in the bowels of the QMI Agency, i.e., the Quebec Media Inc. Agency, a media giant that, according to its mission statement “provides reliable, complete and up-to-the-minute news coverage...”

And that’s what we look for in the media, isn’t it? Reliability, completeness, up-to-the-minuteness?

Together, let’s see how QMI dishes out the news and discover what lessons we can learn here in Canada from the trials and tribulations of others.

More to follow.


First line of editorial:

“The welfare state has roared back to bite the British lion in the rump.”

Sounds exciting doesn’t it? But what’s that smell? Is it the lion's rump?


Deforest City Blues PT 2: News in London is by no means balanced

“The welfare state has roared back to bite the British lion in the rump.

“Ditto for the Irish economy.

“Saddled with massive debt and staggering under unaffordable social programs, both the British and the Irish are facing massive cuts.

So begins a recent editorial in our local paper, The London Free Press. (Dec. 28, 2010)

And shortly after I read it, I began to write this long but useful rant. (Some stuff you just shouldn’t hold inside!)

Though the headline, i.e., ‘Canada must take lessons from European debt woes,’ wasn’t a bad start (we all might be able to learn something from the debt crisis in Ireland and England), the first 3 sentences above left a lot to be desired, especially certain key words.

I.e., the welfare state... unaffordable social programs.

Does QMI Agency call this “reliable, complete and up-to-the-minute news coverage” as per their mission statement?

Don’t make me laugh. If social programs are the only or chief cause of fiscal problems in Britain and Ireland then I’ll eat my hat - the sexy straw number made in Caracas, Venezuela!

["The sexy straw number from Caracas": photo GH]

And if that’s the chief lesson Canada will learn from European debt woes then I’ll even eat the silk hat band.

The anonymous editorialist makes the point that “this country has weathered well the economic storm that has battered the U.S. and Europe. But we can’t sit smugly back on our laurels.”

Good for him or her. Smug is bad. Cocky, even worse.

But to suggest only the following remedies is way past smug, way beyond cocky.

“We cannot continue to fund costly programs such as all-day kindergarten when we can't afford them.

“We must get civil service salaries and lavish pensions under control.

“We must get public sector pay hikes under control - now.”

Why, the writer’s list is so incomplete, so devoid of proper balance, it is little wonder the writer didn’t provide his or her name.

To conclude the above list by saying ‘they are ticking time bombs waiting to blow up in the faces of future generations’ is so much a joke the whole piece deserves to be posted on the comics page.

In fact, on the comics page, the same day, I found a Dilbert strip that delightfully puts the editorial in proper perspective.

Below is Scott Adams’ second panel of three.

["Corporations actually transfer their tax burden?":]

So, what’s the punch line?

Stay tuned.


Deforest City Blues PT 3: Any news about private sector short-comings?

If you want complete news don’t look to Quebec Media Inc. or the QMI Agency, the money and mindless muscle behind our local paper, The London Free Press.

For QMI to say, as they did in a recent editorial, that public sector programs and wages are the chief reasons Canada is headed toward the same problems facing England, Ireland Portugal, Greece and Spain, is almost comic.

I actually got more truth from a same-day Dilbert cartoon.

For some unnamed editor to write that social programs are unaffordable and “we cannot continue to fund costly programs such as all-day kindergarten... we must get civil service salaries and lavish pensions under control... we must get public sector pay hikes under control - now... they are ticking time bombs waiting to blow up in the faces of future generations” is a far cry from “reliable, complete and up-to-the-minute news coverage” as per the QMI mission statement.


Because not one word is said about any expensive short comings in the private sector or business enterprises.

I can assure you, if there are time bombs in the public sector, there are far greater ones in the private.

For example:

Our own mayor recently expressed a wish to impose a special levy (and create an economic development fund) on local taxpayers so that monies could be collected and used to encourage local economic development.

(I wrote about it in my weekly column here.)

Here are the juicy bits:

“The city waives development charges — levied to help pay for the cost of growth — for new and expanding industries. Those charges totalled $9.5 million in 2009. Instead, taxpayers picked up the tab.”

“Homeowners are also paying $4 million a year in higher water rates than recommended, so business can get a break.”

“Those two policies alone amount to $13.5 million a year.”
(‘Subsidies In Spotlight’ by Norman De Bono, The London Free Press, August 17, 2010)

If you can show me that London’s public programs and wages would be as unaffordable as QMI implies if our wise city fathers had $13.5 additional dollars at their disposal - annually! - then I’ll eat my hat.

And London is just one of dozens of medium-sized cities across Canada supporting private enterprise through public tax dollars. The total amount of subsidies, bailouts, no-interest loans, etc., must be in the billions.

I’d ask QMI Agency for a number but I’m sure they don’t know. They’re so busy painting the public sector black that they have no time to notice how quickly and deeply the private sector is bleeding the country dry.

Read ‘song for the blue ocean.’ Private fisheries are bleeding the oceans dry. (See ‘read This’ in right hand margin).

Read ‘The Politics of Oil.’ Private oil refineries are bleeding governments, whole countries dry.

Read ‘The Collapse of Globalism’ in which I recently read the following:

“It was noticed that from the second half of the 1990s on, two-thirds of American corporations paid no federal income tax. Yet corporate profits were soaring.

“Ninety percent of companies paid under 5 percent of their total income.

“In Equatorial Guinea, newly rich in oil, the national income is statistically sixth in the world. In reality the money goes elsewhere (i.e., not into the public purse, e.g., to help with public education) and the multinationals involved are complicit in its disappearance.”

On every corner of the globe private enterprise has degraded the land, sea, air and public purse for the sake of profit and power.

Yet QMI degrades the public sector, and like the upstanding private citizen that it is, forgets to mention any harm its fellow corporate friends have done to the public purse they all eat and benefit from.

According to a Dilbert cartoon featured on the same day as the unbalanced, incomplete editorial (note - I'm being very kind), there’s a common name for the type of sandwich that private enterprise wants the common man to eat every single day of the year.

["With a tip of the hat to Scott Adams and"]

Can you guess its lovely name?


Some people might say, "Gee, I've never tasted a Sh_t Sandwich."

They would be wrong.


Deforest City Blues PT 4: Could QMI Agency be wrong? Biased?

If you want complete news don’t look to Quebec Media Inc. or the QMI Agency, the money and mindless muscle behind our local paper, The London Free Press.

Sometimes, a letter addressed to the editor contains more truth than a QMI editorial.

Case in point: Shortly after the editorial entitled ‘Canada must take lessons from European debt woes’ (Dec. 28, 2010) hit the streets, a reader responded with some valuable information.

Margaret Hoff wrote this letter:

“The QMI Agency editorial... concluded Canada must cut spending on social programs like full-day kindergarten so we won’t have the problems of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. None of these countries have full-day kindergarten programs.” (Jan. 3, 2011, London Free Press)

(Geesh. You would think a newspaper editor would know stuff like that. Sorry, I digress).

“The countries in Europe that have outstanding childcare programs are the countries that are bailing out the others. They have learned that spending money on quality childcare is an excellent investment that reduces other government costs.”

(Geesh. You would think a newspaper editor would know... sorry, I digress).

“The Ontario full-day learning system needs tweaking, but will demonstrate its value in years to come.”

(Geesh. Sorry).

I think QMI is short on details related to the good that public programs can accomplish and the high costs associated with subsidizing businesses across Canada because it’s too busy applying a thick coat of black paint, or ink, to the public sector.

Why so much black ink?


Deforest City Blues PT 5: Unbalanced dailies = unbalanced readership

Though many Londoners realize they shouldn’t look for complete news in The London Free Press, thanks to Quebec Media Inc. or the QMI Agency, the money and mindless muscle behind the paper, others eat up unbalanced editorials and parrot or champion editorials at many an opportunity.

A couple of days ago, Joe Carr wrote the following in a letter to the editor:

“Let’s get real. The economy is still in a fragile state. Provincial governments and municipalities are struggling to keep taxes under control and give relief to hard-pressed taxpayers.”

So far, so good. No need for me to crack the whip at poor Joe. He’s just venting.

And maybe he’s going to share a worthy idea related to tax control.

He says:

“It is time for the police, firefighters, teachers and others in that reasonably safe employment group to step up to the plate and help out. They are well paid (and deservedly so) and if they took a wage freeze for a year they would still be well paid.”

Certainly, the public servants mentioned would likely survive a wage freeze. But... and this is a big but... are public servants the only ones that should make a sacrifice to help “keep taxes under control and give some relief to hard-pressed taxpayers?”

There are other members of society too with money, some of them with bags of money, with some of the bags coming directly from taxpayers’ pockets.

Joe might change his tune if he heard more often that taxpayer subsidies to London developers and industries have been equal to $13.5 million annually in recent years. Joe might one day think that if he wants more bang for his buck for hard-pressed taxpayers he should look more critically at the private sector books, not the public’s.

According to recent news, one economic development group in London has an $800,000 surplus and still our Mayor thinks a special levy (upon the public, for the private sector) is in order to help with local economic development.

Mr. Carr laments, “Many (public servants) took large raises during the hardest portion of the recession...”

No mention is made of raises in the private sector or the ridiculously high level of compensation given to CEOs in private business at the same time.

He concludes, “It’s time to give the people who suffered through this scary time a chance to catch up. The economy needs these people to work and make a decent wage for the economy to fully recover.”

Excellent conclusion, in my humble opinion. I’m sure there’s not one among us who disagrees with helping people catch up or recover.

What I do disagree with, however, is the total absence of any mention of the equal, if not greater, responsibility of the private sector.

Can problems related to unemployment, wage loss and uncontrollable taxes only be laid at the feed of the public sector?


QMI Agency is wrong. Joe Carr is wrong.

We’re all in this together, and where sacrifices and changes (perhaps to employment and tax structures) can be made, they should be made.

We’re also in this equally, and there is no one among us without equal and growing responsibility to right many wrongs that exist.

In conclusion, I say there's nothing wrong with news agencies, editorialists or letter writers saying that there is much the public sector can do better. Savings can be made, many efficiencies can be considered. But there is also much, if not more, that the private sector can do better and Londoners should be able to read about it in their dailies.

To use Joe Carr’s words, it’s time for the private sector to “step up to the plate and help out” as well, and QMI should recognize that fact and editorialize about that side of the equation as often as they slam the public sector.

I'm glad I got that off my chest. I feel better already.


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