Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Dispatches From Hell

... with a little water thrown in at the end to balance things out.

Meanwhile, Fortune Magazine predicts that things will only get much, much worse in the years to come.

Monday, June 26, 2017

UPDATED: A Litany Of Failure

While I normally do not read the National Post, a tweet by @trapdinawrpool about a column caught my attention. Written by Kelly McParland, the article offers an uncompromising assessment of a Liberal political landscape littered with broken promises coupled with a return to the party's traditional arrogance.

Why is this important? Because with its brilliant campaign to win power, the party was, in many Canadians' minds, the antidote to the poison that had permeated our political system thanks to the long and dark rule of the Harper Conservatives. A "new way" of doing politics was heralded, and hopes were high.

Now, soon coming up to the two-year mark of the Trudeau administration, those hopes have waned, and how that is affecting the many young people who voted for the first time in the last election is at this point unknown. Even old warhorses like me were disappointed, but it is a disappointment borne, and thus tempered, by many years of political observation, so the effect on people like me is likely less dramatic than on less-seasoned voters.

McParland writes:
Balanced budgets have been abandoned. Limited deficits are a thing of the past. Electoral reform crashed and burned like a damaged drone.

Canada’s indigenous people have refused to be jollied along with happy talk and photo ops, signalling that it will take more than a renamed office block in Ottawa to reverse generations of built-up anger.

Better relations with the provinces ran aground on Trudeau’s decision to stick with the Tory funding formula on health care, as well as its decision to side with Alberta on pipelines rather than British Columbia, which is determined to put such projects in their graves.

Trudeau’s victory in 2015 was supposed to be the last election ever held under the first-past-the-post system. What will voters think when they head to the polls in 2019 and awaken to the fact nothing has changed? If they start looking for answers they may have trouble getting factual information, as the Liberals’ pledge of better transparency and openness has been shovelled onto the growing heap of stuff they’re not really going to do.

The inquiry into murdered and missing women? After months of delay, indigenous leaders have complained loudly of poor leadership and bad communications. The justice minister’s own father denounced the affair as “a bloody farce” and demanded firings.
Attempting to explain this sad state of affairs, this chasmic disparity between rhetoric and reality, McParland looks to the Liberals' traditional Achilles heel, hubris,
a chronic ailment that afflicted so many previous Liberal regimes and seems particularly virulent among prime ministers named Trudeau – is a big reason. Trudeau simply shrugged off the possibility that governing might be harder than he thought, or that the world was trickier to deal with than the application of some sunny ways. It didn’t take a genius to recognize that many of the pledges dangled before the electorate were simply impractical or unrealistic, and that no rookie government could push through so much change in so short a time in a democratic system where opposing opinions proliferate and are meant to be respected.
Whatever the cause, the effects are bound to reverberate, and the ultimate damage to our political hopes and sensibilities is yet to be determined.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Mound for pointing out this article in today's Globe which is also less than laudatory of Mr. Trudeau and his merry men and woman. The writer, Andrew MacDougall, offers an interesting view of our prime minister's persistent perambulations:
For anyone peeking into politics occasionally – that is to say, most voters – they continue to see a smiling, upbeat Justin Trudeau on the national and global stages, getting mostly positive ink outside Ottawa. There’s a reason Mr. Trudeau devotes so much time and effort to polishing his image: it keeps the messes hidden from view.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Corporate Gift?

Recently, the Star's business editor, David Olive, offered some cautious optimism about the Canadian Infrastructure Bank, the scheme dreamed up by the Trudeau government,
to “leverage” its $35 billion in CIB seed money by a factor of four, creating roughly $140 billion in infrastructure spending. It will do this by enticing private-sector partners to put up most of the infrastructure funds, backstopped by Ottawa.
Seen in a charitable light, Ottawa means to stretch taxpayer dollars in a way not possible with the traditional model of purely public spending on publicly owned infrastructure.

Less charitably, the CIB looks like a device for nationalizing the risk and forfeiting the profits from CIB projects that will be largely owned by private interests.
It is the later interpretation I have written about previously, as it seems to me that all of the risks will be borne by the taxpayers who will also, conversely, receive few of the benefits.

Apparently I am not the only one dubious of the benefits of this proposal. A Star letter writer offers his concerns:
Re: Feds bet on bank as social justice tool, Olive, June 17

David Olive’s proposal that public pension funds provide financing for infrastructure is flawed.

First, there is no shortage of low-cost government funds when we own the Bank of Canada — witness the recent $200-billion bailout of big banks and corporations after the 2008 financial crisis, or the government’s sudden decision to increase defence spending by $62 billion.

Second, while pension funds may be non-profit, the public-partnership model eats up enormous accounting, legal and management charges, and pension funds expect a 7- to 9-per-cent return. Such financing is expected to double the cost of projects.

Third, while helping retirees may seem admirable, the monies are extracted through tolls and fees, largely from overstretched middle-class families when they can least afford it.

However, Olive makes a good point regarding CPP’s meagre investments in Canada. At a time when 1.3 million Canadians are unemployed, why is our national pension fund sucking money out of the domestic economy and building up competitor companies overseas?

Larry Kazdan, Vancouver
As the old saying goes, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I Wonder

When even the dimmest and most ideologically bent among us realize they backed the wrong pony when they ignored the warnings about climate change, and when it is far too late to do anything about it (as it almost is now), who will they blame? Will it be their political 'leaders', the corporate obstructionists, or themselves for being so wedded to unsustainable lifestyles?

I fear we will have the answer sooner rather than later:

This report on air turbulence is not unrelated to climate change:

Finally, consider the full implications of this:

All of the above, of course, is centered around North America. Imagine the plight of developing countries, where shade and air-conditioning are often non-existent.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Omnibus Bills: Another Liberal Betrayal

When Justin Trudeau and his merry band of men and women were campaigning for our vote, they railed against the Harper propensity for passing omnibus bills; those documents, being so dense and long, meant that almost anything could be slipped in.

Said the erstwhile earnest Trudeau in 2015:
We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny.

Stephen Harper has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not.

Stephen Harper has also used omnibus bills to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals. We will change the House of Commons Standing Orders to bring an end to this undemocratic practice.
Sadly, the Liberals'return to power has dulled the appetite for change, with the use of the omnibus bill now enjoying the government's full fervour:
The Senate has narrowly defeated a motion to divide the Liberal government’s budget bill, following a personal appeal from Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

In a late-night 38-38 vote with one abstention, senators defeated a motion to split Bill C-44 in a way that removes the proposed Canada Infrastructure Bank Act from the main budget bill.
The motion to split the bill had come from independent Senator André Pratte, who argued that it would give the senators more time to study the proposed $35-billion infrastructure bank about which I have written previously. In typical neoliberal fashion, the Infrastructure Bank appears to be a gift to the corporate world, backstopped as it will be by the taxpayer.

Senator Pratte's desire to separate the Bank legislation from the budget bill appears to have arisen from noble motives:
Mr. Pratte promoted his motion as a vehicle for the Senate to draw a line in the sand against the use of wide-ranging omnibus bills that make it more difficult for Parliament to thoroughly study all of the bill’s component parts.
Alas, the pressure from Finance Minister Morneau appears to have been too great:
Mr. Morneau spent nearly two hours last week as a witness before the Senate national finance committee, where he urged Mr. Pratte and other senators to approve the budget bill intact before Parliament rises for the summer recess.
It would appear that even though Liberal senators are no longer part of the Liberal caucus, their affiliations and gratitude still tend toward placating their former political masters.

Monday, June 19, 2017

When I Was A Lad

... had this appeared in a film, it would have been regarded as a rather crude and obvious satire. Unfortunately, it is today's reality:

You can read a detailed L.A. Times report about this here, including the fact that such comforts are sometimes extended to those who commit violent crimes.