Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Time For Reflection

Last evening, I received this beatifically-expressed post from The Salamander:

.. calm .. strong .. get there

slip aside from the words
he said or he said or someone else said..

feel that Canadian wind in your face
and take it as your fresh new reference point
and let the words fall like the leaves of autumn
& let em lie.. just let them lie ..

Bury your swords .. too
we're adults now.. eh ?

It was after reading the above that I realized, through the unfortunate nastiness that resulted from my post the other day, that I had seriously deviated from one of the principles I have tried to rigourly hew to on my blog: to treat people with respect. That principle is obviously not one I apply to the public targets of my blog entries. Most of them are politicians and other public figures who, through their misconduct, invite rebuke and derision from many sides. It is an essential part of holding our 'leaders' and their minions to account.

No, what I am talking about here is my belief that it is important to treat all who take the time to comment on my blog with a measure of respect. If one were to check through the years I have written this blog, I doubt that you would find me overreacting to the most egregious provocations, including one a few years ago that felt swearing at me was a just retort to my piece on those who violate strike actions. I published the comment with the observation that there was nothing of substance in the rebuke that would in any way cause me to rethink my contempt for scabs.

Obviously, in my exchanges with Simon, I abandoned those principles and saw an aspect of my personality I thought I had left behind long ago. I hope it will not happen again, and I want to take this opportunity to apologize to all readers I have offended by this serious breach of ethics and decorum.

Not to wear a hair shirt about this, but I have decided to spend a few days on the bench over this. It will give me an opportunity for further reflection, reading, and concentrating on the other things I do when not writing this blog. This self-imposed hiatus is not something I take lightly, as writing is a very important part of my life. Yet it is because I have had a lifelong respect both for words and their power that I am taking a short break.

I never want to repeat the mistakes I have so recently made.

P.S. While I will publish comments on this post, during my hiatus I will not reply to them.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Seeing With Clear Vision

H/t Toronto Star

Those who believe analysis must trump hyper-partisanship will enjoy this backgrounder provided in today's Star as part of its transparency series. The piece makes the point that The Star is guided by the progressive Atkinson principles and has endorsed in the 12 federal elections between 1968 and 2008 ... the Liberals nine times, the Progressive Conservatives twice, and the NDP once.

Those endorsements, however, do not give free reign to winning governments of the day:
Andrew Phillips is the Star’s editorial page editor. He and his team of writers and editors craft endorsements at election time.

“(While) it’s more likely that a Liberal or NDP government will be closer to the Star’s values than a Conservative one, all governments fall short,” he said. “We don’t let Liberal governments off the hook when they don’t live up to what we believe they should be doing.”
Speaking truth to power is the guiding ethos at the newspaper:
...a review of 180 editorials dealing with political matters written in the first half of 2017 shows that the Star’s editorial board is usually critical of the current provincial and federal governments.

While not exhaustive, the review found that 37 of 60 editorials dealing with Kathleen Wynne’s provincial Liberal government — 62 per cent — were overtly critical. Of 120 editorials concerning Justin Trudeau’s federal Liberals, 70 — or 58 per cent — were overtly critical.
To ignore the wrongdoing of a government with whom one is ideologically akin would be an abdication of its responsibilities:
“Most of the editorials we write about the Liberal governments in Ottawa and Queen’s Park are critical, even though we endorsed the party in both cases,” said Phillips. “But governments have to earn the trust of voters every day, not just on voting day, and we reserved the right to call them out when they fall short. They have plenty of PR folks and spokespeople to defend them every day. That isn’t our job.”
The editorial board has come down hard on the federal Liberals on a range of issues, from the government’s retreat from an election promise to end the first-past-the-post system of voting, to its handling of “cash-for-access” fundraisers. The board wrote that the government’s “fumblings and reversals” on the electoral reform will likely do “democratic damage,” and called on the Liberals to end cash-for-access events entirely.

The board has also been critical of the federal government’s handling of First Nations issues, including calling out the Liberals for taking too long to fund mental health supports on reserves.
Now more than ever, having a newspaper of record present its views in logical and coherent analysis is crucial. Otherwise, we are left only with the strident ideologues who know only one truth: their own.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Blindness Of Some

Were Bill Morneau the Conservative Minister of Finance, you can rest assured that 'progressives' would be howling for his political blood. However, because he is part of Team Trudeau, some choose to entirely ignore his massive conflict of interest and instead distort my views for their own twisted purposes. One such misrepresentation is the claim that I have said Trudeau is worse than Harper, a complete fabrication.

Were I another sort of person, the offending blogger's many libelous comments about me would result in legal action. But I am a self-assured person who can take criticism; what I steadfastly reject, however, are outright lies about me, the only reason I am making any reference at all to his overwrought posts.

I also realize now that there is likely something quite pathological in his rants and attempts at online bullying, and he is more to be pitied than rebuked. I will speak no more of him or his screeds; he is not worth more than the two minutes it took to write these opening paragraphs.

Those who are willing to examine the facts of Bill Morneau's ethical mess clearly see the damage he has done to his and his government's credibility. Tim Harper writes:
One is left with the unmistakable sense that he got caught by some enterprising reporting. What if the Globe and Mail had not found that Morneau’s substantial holdings were not in a blind trust?

One could easily believe that Morneau would have continued on his path, using a loophole in the conflict-of-interest legislation that allowed him to hold shares in the family company through an arm’s-length holding company.

When Morneau introduced Bill C-27, legislation to make it easier for federal employees to move to a targeted benefit pension, a move that would benefit Morneau Shepell, the company’s stock went up 4.8 per cent within days, Cullen says. Morneau, he said, would have made $2 million in five days from that jump. But it’s not known if Morneau was holding or selling stock at that time.
And Justin Trudeau's 'defence' of Morneau was to attack those with legitimate questions.
A day earlier, Trudeau seemed to wilt while taking 30 questions on Morneau, falling back on familiar tropes — referring to opposition questions as “mud-slinging,” accusing Conservatives of trying to sully Morneau’s good name, of “shrieking,” and playing “petty politics.”

Accusing opponents of getting down in the mud doesn’t work here. The charges against Morneau were sufficiently serious that they deserved more substantive answers.
This entire fiasco makes the Liberal government look very bad and has seriously undermined whatever agenda it has, as pointed out in today's Star editorial:
Over the last week, Morneau has retreated from the small-business tax-reform fiasco that no doubt ruined his summer. In an effort to quiet the uproar over the initiative, the government will drop or scale-back several of the proposed measures and significantly cut the small-business tax rate.

The result is that the push for reform will have had the opposite of its intended effect. The government started out with at least two important aims: reduce incentives for professionals to incorporate as a way to pay less tax on income; and increase government revenue at a time of rising debt. But in the end, Morneau will have, on balance, increased the incentives to incorporate and cost the government significant revenues.
Finally, last night's At Issue panel discussed both Morneau and the larger record of the Trudeau government thus far. It starts just after the one-minute mark:

Engagement with the political process is crucial for a healthy democracy. Willful blindness to its shortcomings is in no one's best interests.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Foundering Ship Of State: A Followup

Following up on last evening's post, I am adding the comments of Gyor, who listed several more failures of the Trudeau government thus far:
You forgot Trudeau's attempt to increasingly centralize power in Parliament.

Many parliamentary posts still go unfilled 2 years in, the filling of which Chantal Herbert called the governmental equivant of tying ones shoe laces.

His questionable trip with the Aga Khan.

Minister Joly's Netflix boondoogle pissing off Quebec and the RoCs TV and Movie industry.

His MMWI is a mess, and should have included FN men, who are murdered and missing more often then FN women and who cases go unsolved more often.

Morneau's Villa in France in the name of a Corporation.

Trudeau's idea of boosting Foreign Aid was to take it from a general pool for all in need to give to only women, leaving men in need to die.

Lying about the combat role in Iraq, remember the Sniper shot that set a record.

Boosting military spending massively to appease Trump, while mismanaging the C-18 procurement.

NAFTA negiotations, period. Disaster.

The infrastructure bank he never promised, that will transfer wealth to the rich.

Oh and recently ambushing the Premiers recently with the idea for a special weed tax that they were not prepared for especially when the stated goal was to underprice criminal organizations.

Meanwhile, both the optics and the 'ethics' of Finance Minister Bill Morneau's situation continue to reverberate. Martin Patriquin offers this withering assessment:
Morneau, a multimillionaire banker married to a multimillionaire heiress, owns a villa in southern France. He also owns millions of shares in Morneau Shepell, the pension services behemoth founded by his father. Let us peruse how our finance minister has handled these particular assets.

Morneau’s French villa is owned by a holding company in which Morneau and his wife Nancy McCain are partners. Morneau neglected to mention the existence of this corporation to Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson until after the CBC’s Elizabeth Thompson started asking questions about it. Such corporations are particularly useful in France, where the inheritance tax is an expensive burden for the country’s wealthy landowners. Using a corporation to avoid said taxes is entirely legal — much like the loopholes Morneau wishes to close for a certain class of Canadian tax-avoiders.

Next, there is the matter of those shares. Morneau’s shares, which earn upwards of $2 million in yearly dividends, are owned by a corporation controlled by Morneau and his family. This set of circumstances, unearthed by CTV News, allows Morneau to deke the federal conflict-of-interest ethics laws. Because they are owned by a corporation, not a human being named Bill Morneau, the finance minister didn’t have to get rid of them when he took office. Again, it’s perfectly legal. It’s also a loophole to hold onto extremely valuable assets he otherwise would need to sell.
Finally, Global National gives us some insight into Morneau's conflicts of interest/hypocrisy:

In today's Star, Chantal Hebert blames much of the Liberals' misfortune on rookie ministers like Morneau. I would say that the problem with the Trudeau government runs much, much deeper. Platitudinous rhetoric, arrogance and ethical blindness do not make for government people can trust and respect.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Foundering Ship Of State

Were you to examine my blog posts prior to the last election, you would see that I had grave reservations about the fitness of Justin Trudeau for Canada's top office. He seemed wedded to platitudes, and there was little to indicate anything substantive in his thinking.

After he and his merry men and women were elected, I was cautiously optimistic, so glad was I to see the end of the Harper era. Indeed, to that end, I voted for the Liberals. Now it seems, my earlier reservations are being realized. The Trudeau government has little to show for its two years in office.

Granted, they made the right move by admitting so many Syrian refugees, a moment that made me proud as a Canadian. And their desire to achieve reconciliation with aboriginals is commendable; however, their efforts at achieving it have been ill-executed and unlikely to bear fruit in the foreseeable future.

Of the environmental file I will not even speak. Trudeau's insistence that pipelines and climate-change mitigation are compatible is simply contemptible.

Then there was the cruel charade of promised electoral reform, something I now believe was doomed the moment the Liberals achieved a majority government. Moreover, it may ultimately prove to be a Pyrrhic victory, given the widespread disillusionment and cynicism their betrayal has engendered.

Add to that the latest information about Bill Morneau and the fact that his shares in the family company, Morneau Shepell, are not even being held in a blind trust, thanks to a loophole in the ethics law that Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson says she flagged long ago.

Compounding the Finance Minister's woes is his ineptitude in bringing in tax reform that was to net a paltry $250 million. As of today, it appears it will be much less:
Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced changes to his proposed tax reforms for private corporations on Wednesday, saying they will now target only the "unfair" tax advantages used by the wealthiest Canadians.

The vast majority of private corporations — about 97 per cent — will not be affected by the changes, Morneau said during an event in Hampton, N.B.
And as far as I can determine, this is to be the extent of reform, meaning the large corporations and those with shell companies will be able to continue evading their fair of taxes. All in all, pretty pathetic for a majority government whose rhetoric promised soaring improvements to so many files. You can bet that the ever-increasing deficit will haunt us in the future, likely necessitating substantial cuts in spending; this neoliberal government lacks the will to raise taxes or close loopholes on corporations.

Perhaps Janice Kennedy best sums up the sad situation we see today:
Campaign promises broken or unfulfilled, bungling, displays of ineptitude, fiscal recklessness – all defiantly wrapped in a banner of staggeringly misguided self-congratulation, as if the sun were still shining – have left countless 2015 Liberal voters disillusioned with a government that has a genius for optics and rhetoric.
There will always be those so-called progressives ready to reflexively defend Team Trudeau because they are not Stephen Harper and his foul apostles. To do so, however, is to suggest that the present government is the best Canada can expect. That is to sell woefully short both our democracy and our citizens, and it is a position I shall never, ever accept.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

UPDATED: Sometimes It Doesn't Go Their Way

Upon the re-election of Naheed Nenshi, the neoliberals have a message for Canadians who haven't gotten with the program:
Not everyone was happy about Naheed Nenshi being re-elected to a third term as Calgary's mayor Monday night — including some members of the Calgary Flames organization, which recently broke off talks with the city regarding construction of a new arena for the NHL team.
Sean Kelso, director of communications and media relations for the Flames, voiced his ire on Twitter soon after the results were made public, saying Nenshi being re-elected mayor is worse than Donald Trump being president of the United States.

The tweet was deleted minutes later, but not before being captured and shared widely on social media.

Now what is that old saying? Vive la resistance.

UPDATE: Brent Rathgeber has some interesting reflections on the changing nature of Alberta politics:
The Flames organization wants a new arena. Talks with the city on building one haven’t gone well; the team’s ownership organization pulled out of what it claimed were “spectacularly unproductive” negotiations within days of Nenshi announcing his campaign for a third term. Nenshi’s just one vote on council but his public disagreements with Flames ownership over who should pay how much to replace the Saddledome made him a political target in the eyes of many.

Flames vice-president of marketing Gordon Norrie actually urged people on his Twitter account to vote for Smith. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman publicly suggested that the mayor would be indifferent if the team were to relocate to Seattle or Quebec City. After Nenshi won, Flames communications director Sean Kelso issued a tweet (later deleted) that said Nenshi as mayor was “worse than Donald Trump being president.”
Despite those efforts, Nenshi won a decisive victory:
It all proves what I’ve been saying for years: Alberta is changing. The province’s population is increasingly urban and demographically mixed — and much more progressive than many outsiders believe. That said, there’s still tremendous brand recognition in the name ‘Conservative’ and many Albertans still believe that’s what we are — even though that may not be as true as it once was.

Truly, Madly, Deeply Deranged

That is the only appropriate description of that old deranged felon and adulterer/alleged rapist, (a.k.a., the standard hypocritical misconduct for the unhinged evangelical set) Jim Bakker.
Not mentioning his time in the wilderness, after he spent time in prison after bilking his followers out of $158 million, Bakker boasted that he has made many predictions — including 9/11 — that have come true, and that he is not being treated like the prophet he is.