Saturday, May 29, 2010

I'll see Harper two cents on his use of our two billion dollars

I suppose the single word that describes my reaction to the news of security costs in excess of a billion dollars so that Harper can make a fool of himself on the international stage again is inured. "To habituate to something undesirable, especially by prolonged subjection; accustom" That sounds about right.

After four years of Conservative government, it is no longer a surprise that these idiots couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery. With all of the levers of a modern First World government at their disposal the list of cock-ups Harper's Hosers have created is impressive. Listeriosis, Chalk River, H1N1, Deficits and others too depressing to enumerate. All that does is make me shake my head at Harper's chutzpah in continuing his quest to become King. Hitler may have been possessed with similar authoritarian urges but at least he was competent.

In a similar fashion I am not surprised by this announcement:

Canada ready to spend $1B on maternal health: sources

Now don't get me wrong. Maternal health is an important issue and pledging $1,000,000,000 towards the cause is impressive regardless of the strings attached. But what drove this announcement?

If it was proposed after careful consideration of the problem, the best mode of addressing it and a proper costing of this approach then this is an announcement of a competent government regardless of the political orientation.

If hints were dropped on a Sunday by government sources regarding a hot potato topic with the dollar figure conveniently equal to the cost of their most recent debacle, the policy has less to do with maternal health and more to do with a set up so government members can play a version of "Who's on first?" regarding G8/G20 security expenses.

An awfully cynical way to spend a billion dollars of taxpayer's money. But being inured allows me to ponder other questions.

What of their steadfast supporters? What does it say about them. Has he tread the ground worshiped by fiscal conservatives. Anyone? Anyone?

Do any western Canadians recognize the "grass roots democracy" pledges of Harper's Reform roots? Surely enough sentient social conservatives exist to recognize the cynical and convenient vote pandering that is underway in the recent maternal health maneuvers.

Regardless of impressions left by the Ignatieff attack ads, what does it say about soft Conservative supporters? Are they really so preoccupied with American Idol that they are willing to the accept this sort of government?

If Harper's government can survive these questions, then we get the government we deserve. Perhaps some day we will become self aware enough as a nation to be ashamed of ourselves.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Writer's block doesn't just occur at the initiation of an editorial

On occasion Lawrence Martin types up editorialettes for Metro based on notions that are not considered ready for prime time in the Globe. He does so today with "Stephen Harper rides the wheel of fortune." Perhaps this piece didn't make it into the G&M because it just didn't feel finished.

Sure he enumerated the lucky breaks Harper has enjoyed. The article is short so I will paste the whole thing:

The streak of fortune continues.

One of the unwritten stories about Stephen Harper is how the fates continually smile on him. Few Canadian politicians have ever been as fortunate.

The latest break came last week. Just when it appeared the Conservatives were about to lose a huge swath of supportive media in a newspaper sell-off, a darkhorse bidder saved the day.

Liberally-inclined Torstar appeared to be the favourite to win the National Post and the other Canwest papers, all of them in the conservative philosophical corner. The thought of it had the Harper Conservatives climbing the walls. The country’s media landscape was about to change.

But a surprise bid from by a group led by National Post chairman Paul Godfrey saved the day.
Just how sensitive the Conservatives are to media has been demonstrated in their attacks on the CBC for using a pollster, Frank Graves, who says the Liberals should employ a culture war strategy against Harper. What the feverish Tory reaction should tell the Liberals is that such a strategy is a good one.

The break on the newspaper sale followed a highly fortunate turn in January, when just as momentum for a national day of protest against his prorogation of Parliament was building, the Haitian calamity struck. It wiped out all other news and gave Harper a chance to change the dial, which he did effectively with an impressive Haitian relief effort. The prorogue protest went ahead but was half the size it would have been.

In years previous, the wheel of fortune seemed to always spin his way as well. During the coalition crisis he was at death’s doorstep when the opposition parties blew the deal by bringing Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe into a press conference. Then the Governor General saved Harper’s bacon by granting his wish to shut down Parliament, thereby avoiding a confidence vote.

He received a remarkable break in the 2006 election, which brought him to power. Midway through it, the RCMP announced an investigation into the Liberals, which turned momentum in Harper’s favour. Before that, during his opposition days, Harper got the break of a lifetime when the sponsorship scandal exploded, sending the Liberals plummeting in the polls.

He got good breaks in both his Canadian Alliance and Conservative leadership campaigns when no big-name opponents came forward to challenge for the titles. He’s had great fortune as well in drawing weak opposition leaders thus far.

It’s amazing. For other politicians luck usually runs out. For Stephen Harper, it just keeps on coming.

But it just seems unfinished. It must have been frustrating to not be able to pin down that last point.

I can help here. Might I suggest something along the lines of:

With all this luck Mr. Harper cannot not consistently build support beyond the crazies of his base. What happens when the luck runs out. Even a little.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Now I know what Ford Prefect felt like at the start of Douglas Adams' opus

"But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning
office for the last nine month."

"Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see
them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your
way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually
telling anybody or anything."

"But the plans were on display ..."

"On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find

"That's the display department."

"With a torch."

"Ah, well the lights had probably gone."

"So had the stairs."

"But look, you found the notice didn't you?"

"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom
of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a
sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard."

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams

Why do I know how Prefect felt? Because I read this. If the BP bulldozer of a blow-out hadn't occurred this change in the regulations would have stayed in the dark, in the cellar without any stairs. Changes such as this:

Canadian regulators relaxed offshore drilling regulations late last year, giving the energy industry more flexibility when putting in place safeguards against oil spills.

Previously, companies were required to install specific kinds of equipment, such as safety valves and blowout preventers. The old regulations outlined everything from how companies should cement the casing on an oil well, to how they should conduct pressure tests.

Under the new regulations, which came into force in December, well operators must set environmental-protection goals, list the equipment they will use to achieve those goals and disclose their plans for inspecting, testing and maintaining such gear. But they are not required to install specific equipment.

Just what we need. Another example of the doctrinaire conservative dogma that industry be allowed to regulate itself. "The operator will take all the necessary precautions because it is in their own best interests to avoid the costs of a blow-out. All hail Adam Smith." This sort of nonsense leads to pap such as expressed here:

A spokeswoman for the National Energy Board said the new regulations represent a "modern" approach that allows companies to use different environmental-protection technologies, depending on the nature of the project.

"What if we were to specify that there must be a blowout preventer, and some innovation comes along where there's actually something better?" said Sarah Kiley. "A goal-based approach allows for innovation, that technology advancement."

I have no idea who Sarah Kiley is but I have been involved in the drilling of several wells and while I am not an engineer, I am certain that there is nothing on the horizon that can replace a BOP. Sure something might come along. Just write the regulations to take that into account.

The people in charge of getting the wells drilled are, as a whole, good well meaning people. But their job is to cut pennies from multi-million dollar drilling programs. But they will obey the rules. If they need to have precautions in place, these intelligent professionals will do so in the most cost effective way possible. But if they can cut costs by being able to self-regulate they will. They will assume the calculated risks. The counter argument is that the costs of a blow-out are so onerous, it is in their own best Smithian interests to take the precautions.

"But regulations increase costs and make us uncompetitive." Then leave them under the sea floor until the price justifies the risk.

But if the exploration companies are able to stall and negotiate down to ten percent of the initial penalty, it makes sense to take the chances and cut the safety corners. Most of the time people doing their best will manage to avoid catastrophe. But eliminating regulations will in the aggregate lead to more disasters that no one wants.

And in the end, the victim of this unintended consequences is you, me, our kids, the sea life and everyone else.

This isn't any easier to take if you don't have a hangover.
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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Stephen Harper likes Nickelback so much...

he is planning to write a book on the history of the worst band ever to hail from Canada. Working title: The Hanna Hicks.

It is fairly self-evident that Harper's pathetic attempts to be likable by pretending to like hockey and singing at the NAC haven't paid off. Now he attempts to pander to the Timmies demographic by claiming to be a fan of one of the worst bands ever to hail from Canada.

It is easy to see why Harper would try this gambit. I suppose he might actually like them. Figuring out why Nickelback would associate themselves with the squarest dude in the country takes a bit more thinking. But once we remember that Nickelback is an excellent example of corporate rock and that the original definition of fascism referred to the bundling of corporate, miltary and political interests it starts to make more sense. The choice of the photo for the backdrop is probably the funniest part of this travesty. Maybe Nickleback likes kittens too.

Of course they might really be big Harper fans. Wouldn't surprise me in the least.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Recognizing the pattern in the tartan of Conservative malfeasance

Sometimes the loom of time moves along and we get mesmerized by the shuttle of the daily news and we need to connect the dots to find the pattern. The Jaffer story continues to leak bile. But this has been overshadowed by the Nancy Ruth potty mouth episode. Harper might have been ok with this but for the negative press.

So in a response, the Harper PMO sends Aunt Tom out to try and deflect the bad press by having her claim that what women really want is what the Conservatives are offering:
Under siege for its anti-abortion stand in foreign policy and silencing of feminist voices at home, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is arguing that what women really want is less crime in Canada.

“Our government has done more than any other government in the history of this country to keep women safe,” says Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, who is also in charge of the status of women in the Harper government.

“We have introduced new laws to make sure that we keep rapists and murderers off the street and to make sure that we protect children from sexual predators. That is what women want.”

It is a defence that opposition critics are calling strange, especially because Conservatives are also boasting about their plans to wind down the gun registry — not a popular measure among Canadian women, according to most polls.

It isn't to much a stretch to conclude this stand was worked up in the PMO and passed downwards to Ambrose.

At some point we are all asked by a marginally sane supervisor to go out in public and make a statement that has at best a tenuous connection to reality. There are a million shades of grey in a lot of these cases but they always have to pass the "Blush Test". Essentially; can you say it with a straight face. If you can't, you have to step aside and let someone else pick up the standard. Ms. Ambrose must have hay fever this week.

So here we have another example of Mr. Harper's famous command and control tendencies. He has his tentacles throughout his government. Nothing happens that he doesn't control. Senator Ruth exposes some of the hidden agenda. The response is to make a risible claim that women are, as a group, clamouring for what the unworkable crime measures. Despite all evidence to the contrary.

So the pattern is established. But the fact that an eighth department was contacted by Jaffer is in the news today as well. So once again, how is it that an ex-MP has contacted 8 government departments regarding millions of dollars worth of government business and control freak Harper knows nothing?

As these, and future, scandals continue to mount they will get closer to the PMO and change the image of Mr. Angry to that of Mr. Venal. The good news for the Conservatives is that Mulroney will no longer be known as the most corrupt Prime Minister in history.

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One of the toughest things about blogging against the Harperites

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
George Orwell

It isn't speaking out against the depredations of the Tory Twits. It is realizing that we are living through a George Orwell novel. And approximately 30% of Canadian voters are OK with this.

The following extract from this article:

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley says her political staff approves everything bureaucrats are allowed to say to reporters, a statement that brought charges of abuse of power from her opponents.

Conservatives defended Finley's close scrutiny of the public servants in her department as a "prudent" example of political oversight that helps to improve transparency and accountability.

could reasonably be shortened to: "Censorship is transparency."

I love that book but I wish it had remained a work of fiction.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Drilling for oil is a dangerous business

I was thinking about my post yesterday about Harper's claim that a blow-out akin to the Thunder Horse one couldn't happen in Canada. I realized this is a subject that required a more in-depth review. At least partly because Harper is not a deep thinker in any sense of the term.

His flippant statement that it couldn't happen in Canada is pure politics. Bad enough in any case. But for an MP from Calgary it is especially galling. The oilfield is a dangerous place. You are working with heavy machinery in adverse weather conditions whether on land or at sea. The people involved are professionals who take care to guard against risks as much as possible.

But things can go very wrong. And when they do, people get hurt. Trying to shut off debate on how Canada can do it's best to avoid such a catastrophe here is just another example of Harper's disregard for others when it suits his political purposes.Recommend this Post

Monday, May 3, 2010

JAWL has a point. To a point.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

The Poems of Dylan THomas, 1952

I was somewhat chastened after reading Mr. Loman's post asking us not to shoot the messenger. It is true that Senator Ruth deserves respect for her past work. It is also true, as the Mound mentions in the comments that progressives are capable of being carried away by blind partisanship every bit as much as the Harpoids. (Although I still like the True Blue conservative tag. I will reapply it to a more deserving candidate when he/she inevitably comes along.).

Being aware of the Senator's rationale for the warning leaves me uneasy for a different reason.
“If you push it, there will be more backlash,” said Ruth, who fears that outrage will push her boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to take further measures against abortion and family planning – abroad, or maybe even in Canada. “This is now a political football. This is not about women’s health in this country.”
Caving in to bullies never gets you anywhere. It does nothing to defend those who can't defend themselves. And it leaves the bully emboldened when the next opportunity comes. JAWL is correct that her heart is in the right place. She doesn't want to see the So-Cons provoked into taking more draconian action. The other, and likely more successful, path is to raise hell about the changes. Make people aware of the implications. Force Harper to do more to placate his base. Expose him as the incipient tyrant he really is.

I began the post with a beautiful, if predictable, choice of a poem. I will end it with an ugly truth of relevance to this subject.

Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonour. They chose dishonour. They will have war.
P.S.: I mucked around with the fonts in this for 15 minutes. Long story short. Blogger sucks. If you are frustrated reading this , please accept my apologies. (Especially P).
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Now that Jaffer has shown us that Conservatives can dream large

Does it seem plausible to anyone else that the unseemly eagerness of the Harperites to unload AECL might have some ulterior motives? Lots of money involved. A rushed sale. Just sayin'.

(s/t - Impolititweet. I have no idea how to link to a tweet. You will have to trust me.)

Three posts in a quarter hour. Time to walk the dog before the storm starts.
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Excuse me Senator Ruth.

I don't think True Blue Conservative means quite what you think it does. More of that decorum the Conservatives are all about.

Still you have to respect her for her willingness to let us see a glimpse of the real Nancy.
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Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on all of us

He fooled (some of) us once:

Let us not let him fool (any of us) again:

Offshore spill won't happen to Canada: PM

I have this mental picture of the reporters so incompetent they can only get a job working for news outlets that cover up for Harper's clueless comments. They are leaving an editorial meeting hearing about this one and wondering how they can spin this. It must seem like an insurmountable challenge. They are after all from the bottom of their class.
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Could Peak Rocks be behind Peak Oil?

From a news source that is more credible than most.

Perhaps a major source of loss has been the filling of the craniums of the Harper Cabinet.
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Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Speaker's ruling in the context of Mr. Angry's long term goals

There is no question that Speaker Milliken's ruling was a welcome defence of our democracy. Despite the weak objections put up by the usual CSPs (Conservative Sock Puppets). Especially this one. The Liberals as the mud slingers, Mr. Persichilli? Per favore.

But Mr. Angry likely sees some upside to this seeming Speaker smackdown. Throughout his reign, King-to-be Stephen I has sought to undermine our country's institutions. Whether it is flouting elections spending laws, choking off the supply of information, assuming the prerogatives of the Governor General, prorouging Parliament, ignoring his own election date laws and, probably most importantly, just plain running an incompetent government; he has found ways to give the impression that this country is unworkable.

The detainee document debacle is another opportunity to the Master of Disaster. Normally blinded by the weakness of his convictions, Andrew Coyne gets it right this time.
the Tories have achieved their initial objective: total strategic confusion
So if the prime minister is still invoking his “legal obligations,” it can only mean his position hasn’t changed a whit. When he speaks of the need to balance one obligation against another, it really means he intends to defy the Speaker and stonewall Parliament.
Under a run of the mill Prime Minister this might be another example of a desperate attempt to effect a cover-up of war crimes. Under a deranged neo-con determined to destroy the country from within, this could be just one more opportunity to make the government unworkable. If in the end, there is nothing that points convincingly to war crimes on the part of Canadian officials I won't be too surprised. I will, however, understand the reason his self-satisfied grin when that outcome becomes apparent.
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