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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Brexit

09-Nov-19 11:14 am EST Leave a comment

Feeling compelled, as a friend of the United Kingdom (UK, including of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England), I’ve repeatedly found myself at odds with those from the nation with whom I’d had discourse (typically via the app ‘Discord’) concerning its fate as regards its membership within the European Union (EU). I’m often told that, as a Canadian, I am unable to appreciate the particulars of life in the UK or somehow fail to appreciate its culture and history. At home, I’ve heard these same criticism from Québec separatists although I can speak french and certainly understand life here, living just a kilometer or so from the Québec border and routinely visit the province while on business or to visit friends there. I was even given the same argument by a recent movement the appeared here in the wake of the Liberal Party Justin Trudeau’s 2nd term election victory over the Conservative Party candidate Andrew Scheer called ‘Wexit’ wherein disaffected Alberta voters founded a serious movement (perhaps the first of its kind) to break away from Canada because anyone living east of Winnipeg, Manitoba paid attention to the western part of the country. Yet I spent the first 21 years of my life living in Manitoba (especially Winnipeg) and feel ‘from’ there far more than my current city ‘Ottawa’ where I now live and work. So the latter two charges from Canadian separatists seem out-of-touch with the facts of my life. And yet I’m certainly not from the UK, so could I be so far off on the subject of a break-away from the EU?

When I first looked into the rationale behind the vote to leave, I’d dismissed it as something of an anomaly in UK politics that would clear itself up quickly. To my astonishment, that didn’t happen and the extraction process merilly rolled on ahead without apparent reason. I’d heard the complaints; the EU was “dominated” by France and Germany who’d routinely “gang up” on England in votes. Money to support the EU left the UK without return or recompense of any kind. And UK sovereignty was being systematically eroded to the point where the island would end up ruled from either Paris or Berlin in short order. Yet my research kept hitting dead ends. I examined a TED Talk done in the city of Vancouver, Canada to get some additional insights from a very British person who, herself, seemed very knowledgeable on the subject — to no avail.

Caption: Carole Cadwalladr presenting Brexit research findings at TED Vancouver in June 2019

Her rational analysis seemed to lay to rest any doubt that the UK received a great deal from the EU; contributing significantly to the recovery of the Welsh economy in recent years (the region she happened to be from). She also presented credible evidence that pointed to a careful campaign of manipulation by social media agents, foreign to the UK, of UK public view citing Facebook doing all but a dry run in the UK to prepare for a similar attempt at manipulating the forthcoming electorate in the United States (US). This effort, she claimed, culminated in the election of Donald Trump and gave rise to the theory two of the world’s most powerful democracies were being attacked by totalitarian movements bent on curbing the very idea of one person, one vote.

So if it wasn’t my being a foreigner to the UK, nor did the facts seem to do much to back up the claims of the pro-Brexit camp, perhaps its departure from the EU wasn’t such a good idea after all. And then with the withdrawal of John Bercow from the speaker’s chair of the UK’s House of Commons, it starts to look as if the dispassionate review of the material I thought I’d done might have some merit. After all, wasn’t that the job of the Speaker of the House of Commons?

Caption: Days after bowing out as Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow has described Brexit as Britain’s biggest mistake since the second world war. He said: ‘I think we will suffer in trade terms and suffer in terms of global standing and influence, and that seems to me to be so obvious’

Bercow (in my view one of the greatest Commons Speakers in the last 200 years!) echoes many of my views on this subject, so naturally, I think his comments above are worthy of attention before the UK makes a final decision on the subject of whether to leave the EU. Perhaps as importantly is the considered gains that will be made by the enemies of the UK and its allies should this idea actually proceed. Russia under Vladimir Putin, the US under Donald Trump and Facebook under Mark Zuckerberg all stand to gain from a UK withdrawal from the EU. And I say to my friends in the UK once more — look at yourselves not only provincially; but rather as member of the world community and understand how badly we need the UK’s contributions as a partner and ally instead of being as one relatively small, distant island nation of years gone by!

43rd Canadian Parliamentary Election: Last-Minute Considerations

17-Oct-19 12:38 pm EDT Leave a comment

I wasn’t going to comment directly on the election, fearing people drawing conclusions about my public endorsement of a political party. Those who live here in Canada are aware: we have a secret ballot.

Yet comments today from Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer forced me to make a few remarks in full public view. Andrew Sheer said this morning:

  • “The Party that wins the largest number of seats is [typically] asked to form the government.”
  • “Our strategy is to [deal with the recent trend of illicit drugs being poisoned with other substances] by encouraging…people getting off drugs.”

This brings up two important issues for me which I addess below, headed separately.

(Drug) Addictions Treatment

As seems typical for right-wing governments all over the world lately; starting with the climate change approach debate and carrying on through a variety of issues involving the observations and conclusions of professionals and experts (often involving science themselves), there seems to be a collective state of denial.

Conservatives seem to delight in dredging up some minority report or singular study in the climate change debate to contest the conclusions of scientists and environmentalists studying and observing ongoing changes to our environment. This same phenomenon has now inserted itself into the Canadian election when it comes to using addictions-fighting tools like harm reduction or monitored safe-injection sites. On the subject of legalization, most experts seem to agree that the whole issue of drugs is better handled by healthcare professionals instead of police; which the Chief of Police of Winnipeg (and possibly other cities) have come out and said they’d like to just left out of.

So what we seem to have here is governance by ideology instead of practical considerations. And the trouble with that approach is, in general, you end up governing the country you wish existed instead of the one that does!

The Election Game Show

What really bugs me is such broad-spectrum fundamental ignorance about how Canada’s government is designed to work. Is Canada’s education system to fudnamentally damaged that nobody realizes that Parliament decides who the government is – as the people have voted for each member sent there to do so? There’s this absurd idea that somehow a Canadian federal election is somehow analogous o a game show where the party that wins the largest seat count automatically forms the government — effectively ignoring who everyone voted for! The party with the largest seat count certainly can form the government, if it holds the confidence of more than 50% of the elected MPs. However, Andrew Sheer would somehow have us believe that all he has to do is get the largest seat count and that’s good enough…and presumably what Canadians have had to say about the matter matters not. Only a party, in Andrew Sheer’s Canada deserves to pick the government.

Fortunately, the laws of our country don’t agree and I’d really like Canadians to try to remember that instead of waiting to find out if the big blue bar on the screen is slightly larger than the big red one on October 21st (the date selected for election day this time around).

CTV’s Power Play Decries “The Art of Apologizing”

10-May-18 06:17 pm EDT Leave a comment
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oor Don Martin.  CTV’s host of Power Play spent his “Last Word” (if only!) decrying Justin Trudeau apologizing 5 times during his government’s term in office thus far, with a 6th apology for our nation returning Holocaust-fleeing Jews back to the Nazis during World War II.  It’s just too often, says Martin, and too well politically-timed not to be suspect.

 

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CTV’s “Power Play” Host, Don Marin

Of course, such rhetoric is absent justification for the political timing of each of the 5 preceding times.  And, no Don – don’t hasten to demonstrate your own team’s research skills as not being able to create the illusion of such.  I’m sure they’re at least as good as Trudeau’s speech-writing team, although need I enlighten you about our Prime Minister’s own ability to deliver speeches?  (Granted, Justin’s not as experienced as his father was, but he’s among the best our nation can offer at present according to my ear — and I’ve been in a public debate or two in my time too!)

 

The apologies Trudeau has given on our nation’s behalf serve a purpose.  We could follow Martin’s suggestion and say nothing to redress historical wrongdoings — the practice of Canadian governments for decades.  Perhaps nobody alive today had the experience of suffering the injustices and outright atrocities being apologized for.  But it does serve the purpose of those who are alive and still bearing the scars of such actions years later perhaps due to indirect associations of one form or another to have the Government of all Canadians (not just Liberals like Trudeau, but Conservatives like Marin too) recognize an injustice done to people and apologize.  This doesn’t somehow express the guilt and remorse of Canadians today, but it does express the guilt and remorse of the Government — even if it’s presumed that nothing of this sort could ever happen again.

Rest assured, Mr. Martin, the Government of Canada still has acts which it has to apologize for and will well into this century at the very least (perhaps with or even without the knowledge of our Prime Minister).  Human beings, so error-prone as we are; so flawed in our ability to exercise mature judgment at the best of times, are forced to learn from mistakes made.  And this Government isn’t perfect, as you rightly point out.  But it is Canadian.  It is our government.  And sometimes an apology is the proper course; however frequent it may seem to you.

Perhaps you’ll join your fellow Canadians in offering an apology or two someday.  If not for any errors in judgment you might have had, at the very least for holding a Government’s honest efforts to provide those who feel injustice some kind of recognition for their emotional traumas.  Unless of course, you believe that a television camera or very big microphone renders you incapable of error or immune from the need to offer a simple apology.

Where there’s smoke…

22-Jan-18 09:36 am EST Leave a comment
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enying you’re guilty of something can be difficult when the rumor mill / charge keeps happening, Scott Adams reminds us in his recent blog entry.  Indeed, proving a negative is impossible and leads to what scholars refer to as argumentum ad ignorantiam (argument from ignorance) wherein an argument is presumed true because it has not been proven false — a logical fallacy.  Yet we fall prey to this one pretty easily and Adams cites the case of Donald Trump attempting to deny ongoing allegations of collusion with Russia during the most recent American presidential election.  But is that what’s really going on here?

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U.S. President
Donald J. Trump

Journalism is particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon because, out of a desire to “build the story” for readers, asking questions about something that didn’t demonstrably happen repeatedly actually contributes to it.  What we all want to know simply is this: is there testable evidence that Trump colluded with Russia?  Pure and simple.  But with an ongoing investigation — about which readers will want reminders of in their sub-24-hour news cycle — updates will inevitably be desired.  Also, it doesn’t hurt to repeat the question they’ll argue to see if anything inconsistent appears to quote, though over time and with many a practiced rehearsal this is less and less likely.

Instead of the constant clamour for updates, perhaps we’d all be better off letting the investigation conclude and fill our news cycle with whatever else is going on in the world; waiting patiently until the investigation comes back with a finding of no fault or charges.  It’s Donald Trump, for goodness sake — it’s not like he’s avoiding making statements that anyone with half a brain would find morally reprehensible from one week to the next.

Post-Modern Electioneering: Back to the Future

09-Feb-17 08:11 am EST Leave a comment

Robyn Urback | Columnist

Robyn Urback Columnist

Written in response to CBC News: “Millennials finally fall out of love with Justin Trudeau after he abandons electoral reform: Opinion by Robyn Urback

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s a member of the vaunted (yes and cynical) Generation-X, I’ve got to just roll my eyes once more….. Millennials are doing precisely what the generations before have done as youth – not voted as a block….at least – not for long.

But if there is really a block here to be won (and – let’s be clear – there isn’t), it would be easy to take yesteryear successes and use ’em again. We need more IT staffers (like me!) to explore service industries like software development or network engineering. And offering a bit of money for vocational training here (alongside some success stories) would really go a long way toward making up for lost ground on the FPP voting fiasco. Trudeau, God bless him, should’ve known better than to try saying “well we tried, but you know in government – you can’t always do what you thought you could before being elected” routine. Even if you believe it, it’s kind of a crappy reason to go back to the public with.

The real worry I have isn’t the loss of some fictionalized Millennial solidarity. It’s the potential for cross-demographic populism and fascism to take hold in this country! And while O’Leary isn’t Trump, maybe the best we can hope for it the short term is that fascism will pass us by and that Trudeau’s over-promise, under-deliver showing so far somehow reverses itself the more experience he gets as our Prime Minister.

I’m about the same age as he is – but it’s obvious to me while he might be better at leading the country than I’d be….his father he is not. And there is plenty for him to learn yet!

Ezra’s Error

14-Sep-14 06:27 pm EDT Leave a comment
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Ezra Levant in a typical pose.

Ezra Levant in a typical pose.

bsent context, the Canadian political right has cultivated a new stereotype for itself in the last two decades.  Led astray in the wake of the Great Conservative Cataclysm (the deed of former Conservative Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney via Schreibergate), provocateur pundits like Ezra Levant have a new favourite tactic: to use character assassination and innuendo to shape political fortunes when the strength of goals and ideas can’t be found.

And in today’s Sun News’ “Straight Talk” column, a renewed drumbeat of criticism and dogma handed those of us who have a vein somewhere on our foreheads that thirsted to be-a-throbbin’.  Brought to us by way of Twitter: @SunNewsNetwork writes “Trudeau opposes revoking the citizenship of Canadians suspected of being involved in terrorism,” inviting readers to Ezra’s article and another poll that the neocons can use to erode liberties a little further, no doubt.

Funny how the right never seems particularly interested in getting at the truths comprising an issue and instead revert to wordplay masquerading as an unbiased poll (we’re supposed to ignore the leading nature of the question — after all, you don’t want to support terrorism do you?) which then somehow gets quoted in Question Period, in campaign literature or one of those helpful automated phone calls made during dinner.  The article itself turns out to be a tissue of quotes taken completely out of context; and you know there’s some constituency out there inhaling this stuff like a crack addict.  But how bad can it possibly be?  Surely there aren’t that many of ‘em out there…  Oh yah, this is the group running the government right now.

Uh oh!

Yes, there actually are enough people swallowing this stuff hook, line and sinker or people like Ezra wouldn’t have a job, and Harper wouldn’t be Prime Minister.  But Trudeau didn’t say Communist China was his favourite foreign country — it was just China, and he spent a bit of time there earlier in his life. Yes, you can favour decriminalization of drugs without advocating everyone should get high more often!  And taking quotes completely out of context and asking “Pardon?” as if it was Trudeau that didn’t make any sense instead of Ezra himself: this is just not supporting a political view centered on facts, reality or truth.

I don’t know how I will get through the next year if I have to watch the country come unravelled because Conservative politicians using vague ad hominem references, McCarthyist innuendo about views pursuing innocent political debate, or — I swear to God — one more tissue of lies published by Ezra Levant simply because he’s anxious to engage in another inflammatory, disingenuous diatribe on Liberal campaign issues (which aren’t published just yet).

Ezra, if the truth really will hurt the Liberals so much when they go public with their campaign, why are you slithering about the nether regions of what passes for Canada’s political theatre conjuring up demons?  Why not cling to whatever integrity as a journalist you have left and simply await this field day of yours, smiling patiently?  Reducing the political discourse to the degree you do really is bad for the country!

Canadian Federal Budget 2014: Legacy of a Finance Minister?

11-Feb-14 10:21 am EST Leave a comment
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hey’re saying this could be the final budget delivered by Canada’s Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty.  And CBC News is reporting that we should be looking for 6 key items to appear in this years’ budget.

But I’m reflecting on the budgets of years gone by under the Conservative government and where it’s left Canada in the past decade.   My comment on the story makes it clear what Flaherty’s real legacy will be:

mcshane
James in Kanata @mcshane: Bottom line, the average Canadian’s wealth has increased by 25% wince NAFTA.
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Bull and I will speak for the American people as well…Employers that did relocate to Mexico from the U.S. and Canada have now begun moving to even lower-wage areas such as China and Vietnam. NAFTA was supposed to “grow the economy,” all it did was increasingly benefit a smaller and smaller segment of society.

Ross Holder
@mcshane Well that doesn’t mean it didn’t grow the economy. 😉 It just means that the economy grew and served to simply widen the gap between rich and poor (i.e. profit went into the pockets of the top 5% of income earners instead of seeing every Canadian benefit). And maybe that was inevitable too; but I’d like this budget to spend more attention on managing that widening gap I mentioned between rich and poor — because this country is plenty rich enough for everyone to feel the benefit of our good fortune a lot more!

Butthole(s) of the Year for 2013: The Conservative Party of Canada

17-Dec-13 05:12 am EST Leave a comment
MooreJ(Conservative)

James Moore (cutaway from Commons video), MP (Conservative), Ministry of Industry and Trade, Government of Canada.

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hether it was covering up the expenditures of its Senate appointees, hurting Canada’s standing in the international community with mid-east policy (being America’s “yes” man), glossing over cases of dirty campaigning (being found guilty of causing election irregularities through committing election fraud), to record-setting spending on personal attacks of opposition leaders, bankrupting environmental activists with legal fees over legitimate public concerns, or imposing a tyrannical regime of anti-drug paranoia in response to a legitimate, medically-prescribed treatment of mental illness, or (late, this past week) telling a reporter it was neither “the [Government of Canada]’s job” nor “[his] job to feed [his] neighbour’s child.”

Is it just me or is it starting to look like maybe — in the eyes of our nation’s leaders — that nothing is really their job until it comes time to pay themselves and their buddies with bottomless expense accounts and other rewards that prop-up their morally bankrupt ideology?

These dickheads make the spectre of Marie Antoinette look like the sugar plumb fairy!

Yes, it’s been quite a year and one I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.  My only hope is that October 2015 rolls around, my fellow citizens don’t suffer another lapse in memory and stick this truly undesirable element back into power when the time comes.  Though I’m not what you’d call a traditional supporter of rightist politics, I’ve never in my life been so filled with dread and deep-seated resentment about a Canadian political party.  It actually feels like the Republicans crossed north across the 49th and picked up where George W. Bush left off.

On his apology…were it just he and were it just this one thing, I could readily accept it.  But Moore is a part of a club that demands a #MooreChristmas doctrine – and, fundamentally, a heart that’s three sizes too small.  Nothing short of resignations to accompany apology will do now.  Would that it were a world wherein such Christmas miracles happen…

Political Meddling at its Very Worst!

29-Nov-13 09:08 am EST Leave a comment
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utrage doesn’t begin to describe what I felt after hearing about the plight of this RCMP officer this morning (see below).  I hate the way the RCMP gets so easily turned into a political football — especially in cases like this.  The force was dealing with the case of this one Mountie just fine….but when he decided (with the nod from his union) to demonstrate his use of medicinally-prescribed marijuana while in-uniform, the force suddenly reacted as if mental illness wasn’t worthy of “the optics” involved!

And, of course, the Conservatives are once again turning what should be a common-sense issue into political football by seizing upon the opportunity to make some kind of ridiculous statement about their anti-drug policy (another holdover from a long, by-gone era) and making an example of this decorated officer.

 

Pot-smoking Mountie has uniform seized by RCMP (Source: CBC.ca, 28-Nov-2013)

 

Shame on Tony Clement, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives for being more eager to change the channel away from the Senate scandal (just one among several) and punish a loyal public servant in the most crass and medieval manner imaginable!

Harper vs. Trudeau: Pot High-perbole

31-Aug-13 05:08 pm EDT Leave a comment
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anadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper got a few more shots in on Liberal Party Leader and upstart threat to the nation’s highest political office Justin Trudeau late last week by complaining that Trudeau’s position on drug de-criminalization amounted to trying to force the nation’s children onto drugs.  When will the Conservatives finally realize that such nonsense is out-of-touch with average Canadians (if not average Canadian voters)?  I suppose the message might have to await the next federal election – but it’s really difficult to listen to this guy without wondering if his Machiavellian treatments of Canada’s democratic process aren’t ever going to stimulate the electorate out of its apathy just once in my lifetime to bring a sense of reason back into our political process!

Source: CBC News / CBC Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, August 29, 2013; Copyright ©MMXIII (2013) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, all rights reserved. YouTube.com edition reproduced here under “fair use” provisions of Copyright.

UPDATE: Oppose the Russian Parliament’s Facist Anti-LGBT Stand!

07-Aug-13 08:51 pm EDT Leave a comment
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arlier today I posted on the subject of the Russian Parliament’s recent anti-LGBT laws, making being gay in Russia a crime.  Although I said a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics was inappropriate, I do support making statements to the Russian Federation by other means.  To that end:

Stand Against Russia’s Brutal Crackdown on Gay Rights: Urge Winter Olympics 2014 Sponsors to Condemn Anti-Gay Laws

A boycott of products will hopefully have the effect of getting the IOC to use some of its diplomatic clout by hitting ‘em where it hurts: the pocket book! 

Register your support of this measure here.

The AppRefactory Inc. Declines to Boycott Sochi Olympics

07-Aug-13 02:44 pm EDT 2 comments

DanCardFBSochiBoycott

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eceived this above invitation to support an issue on Facebook…

At issue: The Russian Parliament (Duma) voted overwhelmingly to install a series of laws which render being gay and/or gay acts illegal within Russia.  Critics argue these laws essentially violate the UN charter on human rights and take Russia back into the worst of the dark ages with respect to homosexuality generally while tolerance and acceptance are the norms now adopted by the bulk of humanity.  Some say that as a just response to these draconian measures, the 2014 Winter Olympics should be boycotted so that Russian legislators get the message that the rest of the world won’t accept their position – especially when many of the athletes attending are themselves going to be part of the LGBT community.

The Response: While I, of course, agree with the premise that homosexuality is not an area where government control is appropriate and that, as a social issue, tolerance and acceptance are the correct norms to be defended, the Olympic Games are really supposed to be about sports.  With the considerable investment of time and money to begin the lengthy list of commitments an Olympic athlete makes in preparing for the games, a boycott (however effective at communicating a message) isn’t an appropriate response to what is really a matter for Russians to resolve within their own society.  Consequently, I will not support this boycott invitation nor any others coming my way in the months ahead, regardless of how the Russians proceed on this issue between now and the opening ceremony.

NextEra vs. “The Little Lady”

23-Jun-13 12:06 am EDT Leave a comment
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am not usually one to find myself agreeing with Conservative mouthpieces; but Ezra Levant has done a story that really hits on a big issue in Canadian Justice.  Why is it the entity with the most money should win in our legal system?

To summarize:

“A $32 billion energy corporation has filed a massive lawsuit against an Ontario environmentalist named Esther Wrightman. It’s a SLAPP suit: Strategic litigation against public participation. It’s not really about legal arguments. It’s about crushing Wrightman with legal bills and burning up her time, so she can’t spend time campaigning against them.”

The specific issue cited in the lawsuit is apparently one of her “being in competition” somehow with NextEra as a result of her protest, which to me seems immediately frivolous.  I’d have to guess that, in the purest legal terminology this a “torte” action (but, since I’m not a lawyer, I couldn’t say for certain) and so whether one needs to bother establishing a prima facie case isn’t clear either.  But it seems there ought to be a mechanism to prevent any corporation capitalized in the tens of billions of dollars from suing a homemaker and plant nursery caretaker who’s just trying to make sure her kids are safe and imposing insurmountably high legal costs she really can’t afford even with generous, repeat donations from the public.

I wish her best of luck – but maybe this is the kind of thing that needs more scrutiny by our hard-working politicians to correct.

Senate Reform (Canada) 2013: Constitutional Crisis in the Making?

04-Jun-13 09:19 pm EDT Leave a comment
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aving one’s cake & eating it too seems to be the primary fixation of every politician ever borne these days — and in more ways than one.  From the office of Senator Mike Duffy, former CTV political affairs journalist, who’d swore he’d help Prime Minister Stephen Harper reform the Senate when he was first appointed to Justin Trudeau who see reform as absolutely essential whilst simultaneously promising, if elected, to leave constitutional reform of any kind on the back burner.  Yet both men, along with every other politician in the country appear to want what every Canadian wants: either a Senate that works or no Senate at all.

Duffy’s appointment was part of a greater plan by Stephen Harper to build what he called a “critical mass”, of like-minded Canadians who would agree to vote through the necessary legislation for a peaceful transition within the Senate at some (then) future date.  This would negate the need for another round of constitutional discord since senators would be voting within the system to either abolish or reform the upper house, depending on whatever deal could be made at that time (and whatever deal Canadians would ultimately approve of).  Harper seemed to be favouring an elected Senate; but didn’t say in the interview whether he supported the vision espoused by some of his fellow senators (eg. Sharron Carstairs of Manitoba) who’d favour a ‘Triple-E’ Senate model (elected, effective, and equal).

Whatever Harper’s ambitions, they seem to have come crashing down around his ears in the first half of 2013 with Duffy’s own behaviour triggering a near total collapse of public confidence in the Senate, which wasn’t at its highest pinnacle to begin with.  Already there are calls for constitutional-based reform which, as anyone even loosely familiar with Canadian politics can plainly see, is a minefield.  Not to mention Québec is under a separatist government at present (led by Pauline Marois); which doesn’t exactly aide the cause of reformed federalism in Canada historically.

Source: “The National”, May 16, 2003 (http://www.cbc.ca/video)

With not just apathy, but anti-Senate sentiment at such a feverish pitch, Harpers plans for the Senate are likely on the backburner for the foreseeable future.  And although Mike Duffy has survived in his Senate seat (so far), it’s doubtful he’ll be able to lead any great charge of the reformists therein anytime soon.  And so, down the drain are the hopes of Harper and by some strange coincidence those of the Canadian people where the Senate is concerned…at least until the political mood in Québec and the rest of the country become a little more certain about what course change in Canada’s upper house of sober second thought should take.

DuffyBuck

Notwithstanding a worsening of the crisis which could well lead us down the path into another hand-wringing round of constitutional frustration.

“Austerity Measures” Philosophy Flawed, Says Political Economy Student

07-May-13 12:48 pm EDT 1 comment
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he measures that have forced people into bankruptcy all over the world have turned out to be the product of a pair of academics screwing up a spreadsheet.  No peer review – and the graduate student that brought forward the evidence proving  the premise for the changes in public policy we’ve seen are so flawed hasn’t been taken seriously.

But maybe that part of the story is still to come… Here’s hoping!

End of Final Shuttle Mission Yields Bitter Commentary

21-Jul-11 09:47 pm EDT 2 comments
This unprecedented view of the space shuttle Atlantis, appearing like a bean sprout against clouds and city lights, on its way home, was photographed by the Expedition 28 crew of the International Space Station. Airglow over Earth can be seen in the background. (Courtesy: http://www.nasa.gov)
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ox News has gained plenty of notoriety for injecting inflammatory rhetoric into its news coverage in recent years, but after seeing this recent video on the heels of watching coverage of Atlantis’ return to Earth at the end of the final shuttle mission, it seems the aim here is to turn the event into yet another political football.  The claim being that, unlike Kennedy, Obama is ending manned spaceflight in the U.S. to save money.  But, as is almost always the case where Fox commentary is concerned, there’s really more to the story.

What the authors of hundreds of Twitter messages that seem to be absorbing Fox’s take have missed is that the move is part of a larger plan to share the glory of (and hopes of profit in) with commercial entities.  Already it’s hoped that by the end of 2011 and certainly during 2012, unmanned commercial flights will take on resupply missions to the space station, with manned flights by the end of 2013.  An 18-24 month pause in manned spaceflight doesn’t seem like “an end” of any sort to me…

Still, one needs to concede that were the U.S. not sinking into a financial abyss at the moment, there’d likely not be any particular will to end shuttle flights during the hand-off to commercial enterprise; regardless of the arguments about how NASA’s presence in the open market would have made commercial manned spaceflight much less viable.  But SpaceX has already demonstrated that, flying an unmanned empty capsule aboard its Falcon 9 rocket, it and other companies are today much closer to having the capability to take over from NASA because of the decision to take it to the private sector.  NASA provided funding for some of SpaceX’s efforts as it is doing for 4 other companies which stand close to getting their own spacecraft off the ground.

In fact, I’ve seen a similar move before by government agencies with respect to privatization of previous government monopolies.  At the dawn of the Internet era, there was only a single ISP in Winnipeg, Manitoba (my home city).  A fellow named Bill Reid who directed the University of Manitoba’s (U of M) Computer Services department made a decision to take the Internet private.  Why wasn’t business doing this on its own?  Well MBNet (the ISP’s name) was offering dial-up access for free to students of the U of M and for an extremely low rate (base annual fee of $25 per account¹) which made private ISP service all but unviable.  But when MBNet kicked all its users off (or almost all) one fateful day, companies like Magic Online Services (later purchased by TotalNet of Montreal) stood ready that very day to offer service to the public.

At the time, there were those that saw MBNet’s move as being unfair – many were forced to make significant changes to their networking services in a very short period of time.  But at some point, stepping back was surely the right thing to do lest Winnipeg and even the province of Manitoba more generally make competition in the Internet services market a game played strictly by very large companies.  (Indeed, the market’ has largely gone that way in any event, but it’s quite possible the current situation would have been much worse.)  And I see the same being true for a much broader set of reasons where NASA is concerned.

Time will tell, of course — but at the very least Obama and the NASA administration shouldn’t be faulted for this effort.  The U.S. is experiencing a serious financial crisis and there’s little doubt even from the decision’s detractors that the private sector can ultimately do spaceflight more cost-effectively.  And at this point in history, surely that’s enough reason to make it a private concern…particularly when there exists a real possibility the U.S. won’t be able to afford manned missions on its own if steps aren’t taken to redress the crippling U.S. deficit.  Steps exactly like this one.  Indeed, one could well argue that this move will preserve manned spaceflight in the years ahead; and that not privatizing manned missions to space would threaten the continued ability of the U.S. to undertake such challenges.  Perhaps even threaten the existence of NASA as an agency of manned exploration anywhere but in historical texts.

Hopefully in the long run, those on Twitter who’ve thus far spared the time to barely read the lead into neocon-authored editorials will eventually find time to hear the full story.  Of course, there are a few other obstacles that stand in the way of that: the realization that a previous Republican administration deregulated the financial services sector and started a war with 2 countries creating a situation where decisions like this were inevitable.  And I’m not sure that message will ever get the kind of reception necessary for Twitter-bound hecklers to cease their de facto campaign of complaints re #nasa.

But the taste of the last shuttle’s return to Earth would sure be less bitter for it if they did.


¹ An original document containing MBNet’s fee structure was located while doing research from this story.  Based on my memory of extensive prior MBNet usage, I can testify its authenticity.

The Canadian Line of Succession: A Crisis Waiting to Happen?

05-Jul-10 11:36 pm EDT 7 comments
I

magine this scenario.  During a major international conference in Toronto in the year 2018, North Korea’s young, new yet dangerously paranoid leader Kim Jong-un achieves what to date has been even more unthinkable than the 9/11 tragedy.  Fearing an international force led by the United States and supported by other nations whose leaders attend the meeting are days away from launching an attack on North Korea, Jong-un has DPRK operatives detonate a low-yield fission nuclear charge in downtown Toronto, killing tens of thousands.  Among the dead are the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of Canada and Canada’s de jure head-of-state, the Governor-General.  The world and North America in particular are immediately plunged into a crisis of historic proportions; and shortly after the event and the discovery of enriched uranium originating from North Korea at ground-zero, there is widespread support for war in both the US and Canada.  But there’s a stark difference between the two principle nations involved in the emerging crisis….in the United States, the Vice-President is immediately sworn into office as the new President.  But what about Canada?

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper presided over the G20 summit in Toronto during the final week of June 2010.  The Governor General was also in attendance, which isn’t unusual.  Could this be a recipe for disaster?

I was reading an article this evening that posed this question (absent the dramatic preamble).  And it seems that since Canada’s constitution recognizes only the Governor-General as having the power to form the government with the Prime Minister (by convention) appointing the Governor-General via an order-in-council.  But it isn’t clear what happens if both are incapacitated or lost at the same time.  Indeed, even the loss of the Prime Minister requires the Governor-General to perform a political function quite apart from his/her usual role.

I wasn’t aware of this flaw in the Canadian system, really. Any one of a number of scenarios would likely play out so that Canada wouldn’t be leaderless long. In the scenario I described, it seems likely the Deputy Prime Minister would likely appoint a new Governor-General fairly quickly who, jointly with the Deputy PM, would agree on some kind of interim government.  But apart from some general practices and procedures concerning ministerial succession in government, there’s nothing to really guide the House of Commons in a situation like that described.

And there should be.

The last thing you need in a national emergency is political in-fighting to screw things up even more.  And while one hopes we never have a day like the one I described, it would be pretty important for the country to be able to pull together and respond quickly.  And the only way to do that well is to provide for solid leadership at the top.

I’d encourage everyone giving this subject a read to e-mail their MP and ask about succession in the government and what has been done, what is being done, and what remains to be done on this file.  History teaches us there’s little chance our politicians will get together to do the job themselves without some urging from the electorate.

A continually-run D&D campaign, since 1982.

A continually-run D&D campaign, since 1982.

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