Thank you, Mike Duffy…

With the exception of Dalton McGuinty, I can’t think of a single politician whose name sets my blood to boiling more so than the Honourable (now Independant) Senator from P.E.I., Michael Dennis Duffy.

While every disclosure deepens the stench surrounding everything about his appointment, his activities as a ‘senator’ and his now laughable attempts to deflect responsibility for obvious financial wrongdoing, there is a dimension to this sordid saga that may, in future, represent a silver lining of sorts, though not exactly as the sort of ‘legacy’ that Duffy would want for himself:

The disclosures concerning Duffy’s arrogant feather-bedding through the, till now, largely un-monitored political perks factory, have absolutely galvanized and infuriated the public to the extent that even the Senate committee which initially whitewashed Duffy’s wrongdoing was ‘scared straight’ into actually doing its policing job; clearly shamed into doing so by public disclosures, not a sense of duty or integrity.

This will likely be the first pillar of Duffy’s legacy – a real, and perhaps independent – mechanism of oversight for the expenditure of the, in David Dingwall’s famous words, “entitlement to [their] entitlements”. I doubt the PM will be brazen enough to let the prince and princesses of pork continue to police themselves.

I’m sure there is to be much more careful vetting of senate appointments at least from the point of establishing actual residency. But, above all else, this debacle may well have laid the groundwork for something virtually unthinkable perhaps only 18 or so months ago; the actual abolition of that useless sinkhole of political patronage entirely.

I look forward to a day when Mike Duffy sits on the porch of his (now actual) home in P.E.I., wistfully reflecting on his former job in the former Senate for Canada. Thank you, Mike, for making it all possible…


Posted in Thinking out loud | Comments Off

The Zombie Province

Ontario. We have challenging weather, a pile of losing sports franchises and a crumbling economy. Now, seemingly, we also have a somnambulant electorate that cares so little, or is so totally oblivious to, the excesses and abuses of government that they may as well be zombie extras in one of those grade ‘B’ horror flicks.

The list of scandals this government weathered was impressively voluminous, at least until the one that finally inspired the incumbent premier to walk off into the sunset. Incredibly, we now have virtually the identical line-up of suspects, foremost among them, the new premier, clucking their bewilderment and feigning indignation at the gas plant fiasco and disavowing any knowledge of it. It almost goes without saying of course that none of them knew anything about wholesale destruction of records pertaining to the seedy mess.

I’m perplexed that our huddled masses, who’ll take to the streets at the drop of a hat for G20 summits, to rail against capitalism or the latest proposed dump site or wind farm installation are, thus far, rendering a great big yawn at the thought of at least $1 Billion (and counting) having been squandered to (unsuccessfully) gain a political edge in the last election.

Maybe it’s because $1,000,000,000 is just beyond comprehension as a number. Maybe it’s a sign that we’ve given up getting worked up over dishonesty, mismanagement and political feather-bedding just to preserve our own sanity. Or, maybe it’s the thought that it’s just another billion to be added to the province’s gargantuan debt; an obligation that will fall on future generations of taxpayers to cope with.

So, when casting your ballot, think about whether in granting the earnest Ms. Wynne your permission to clean up the mess on our behalf, you are consigning yourself to the extras pool in her inevitable remake of Night of the Living Dead.

Posted in Thinking out loud | 2 Comments

Dear Mr. Harper:

I’m an economic conservative. That made me sort of your natural constituency, until recently. I’d never bought into, or feared for, your supposed hidden social agenda; despite the scaremongering, I never thought you had one.

The Chretien and Martin governments did a fairly decent job of getting public finances under (relative) control but I’ve always credited Preston Manning with putting  the entire notion of responsible fiscal management on the radar for the electorate. Until he brought home the point that endless annual deficits accumulate, I think the average elector believed they were of no future consequence.

What those previous government couldn’t get beyond was the sheer malodorous rot of corruption, entitlement, crony-ism and arrogance. Your party offered the electorate a clear commitment to responsibility, accountability and honesty, in addition to its traditionally sensible view on financial management.

Your government clearly abandoned any pretext of living within our economic means very early in your mandate. The growth of both spending and the size of government speaks for itself in that regard. Astonishingly, you’ve added to corporate welfare, trivial (but expensive) ‘feel good’ regional photo-op spending and a host of other financial sink holes. You’ve even had the gall to spend our money advertising to us about programs that don’t even technically exist.

And now, your betrayal of the principles you campaigned on is complete. During the recent scandal-fest, you and your party have played “politics” at it’s very worst – avoidance, obfuscation, denial and ‘spin’ being perhaps the very nicest things someone could say; outright lying, cover-up and obstruction of justice are more likely appropriate descriptors.

This wasn’t the time for “politics-as-usual” Mr. Prime Minister. The public deserved better answers than you, or anyone in your government, saw fit to offer them, despite ample opportunity.

So, here’s my commitment to you: Whoever I decide to vote for in an upcoming election, and despite likely having to hold my nose doing it, it won’t be a Conservative Party candidate. (I assure you, I’m better at my word than you are.)

Posted in Thinking out loud | 1 Comment

Motorized Fellowship

I took a drive today to the Rama Reserve to get some cigars. It was a gorgeous, warm invigorating day. The motorcycle community was truly out in force, many of the riders in LARGE packs. I couldn’t help but notice all the enthusiastic gestures of greeting when they encountered each other going in opposite ways.

Now, if you don’t ride, you’re probably unaware of this, but in the motorcycling universe, it’s pretty much mandatory to “wave” to other riders. The ‘form’ of the wave generally involves extending the non-throttle (i.e. left) hand in an ‘open’ position, almost as if you’re trying to slap hands with the cyclist going the other way (not my preferred wave, by the way). On a day like today, with so many bikes on the road, it made for some determined waving on the part of every participating rider.

With cars, there’s not so much natural fellowship, except for a few distinct models of cars. I happen to own three of them; a Mazda Miata, a Subaru WRX and a Mini Cooper ‘S’. I never gave a thought to fellowship when I purchased them, 21 years, 5 years and just recently, respectively, but it’s clear to me they fit into a category of fun rides that makes owners kind of delirious with social good will towards other owners.

I had some fun with a passenger recently in my WRX. We were at a stop light just outside Orillia, at the front of the line. Waiting at the light going in the opposite direction, was a fairly tricked-out WRX of roughly the same vintage as mine, driven by a guy probably not even half my age. I turned to my passenger and said: “Keep an eye on the guy in the blue car; he’s going to wave at us when he goes by.” Sure enough, he did. My passenger was perplexed how I knew he would. I explained about motorized fellowship.

Posted in Thinking out loud | Comments Off

Of perks and the porcine…

(It’s too bad for Mike Duffy; the visual and behavioural parallels are nearly inevitable.)

For him and his fellow senators, at least the ones currently under scrutiny for their expansive definitions of where they “live”, perhaps a better adjective might be nonplussed, I mean, you’d have to be seriously dazed not to be able to decipher the meaning of that question. Realistically, of course, these porkers have been caught greasy-fingered dipping into the generous and poorly-supervised cookie jar called the public purse.

It’s galling, of course, to the average guy, who, should he have been caught padding his gas reimbursement by a couple of bucks, would likely have been fired. But the level of gall displayed by these scofflaws at playing stupid in the face of all the evidence, is approaching epic.

Beyond that, the most recent turn of events is most illustrative of a principle that governs the detection of wrongdoing at every level of society but, apparently, the highest level of our government – the inadvisability of of institutions investigating themselves. 

The Senate committee ‘investigating’ the propriety of Duffy’s  (and other) expense claims had, with Duffy’s announcement that he had ‘decided’ to pay back the housing allowance received,  previously ‘closed the file’ on the issue. Amid recent disclosures, not the least of which is the finding that they originally did find substantial impropriety, they’ve (sheepishly) decided to re-open their investigation.

This all speaks to some of the ‘rules’ of the game these folks play: They will do anything (as in Duffy’s case, forewarning of improprieties found and giving him an opportunity to institute ‘rectification’ measures, just for a start) to preserve their greasy sinecure. Only when their joint discovery for the charlatans, thieves and carpetbaggers that they are becomes imminent, do they throw a couple of their own to the ‘wolves’ – namely that honourable profession from whence Duffy came.

Posted in Thinking out loud | Comments Off

Four Questions

The global warming “discussion” almost inevitably degenerates to a ridiculously simplistic binary alternative: Are you a skeptic denier or warming alarmist? Such a choice obscures a huge realm of important issues, many of which flow from an analysis of the following four fundamental questions:

1) Whether temperatures are unusually warm by historical standards?

Al Gore’s ‘hockey stick graph’ was discredited long ago, but the question still conjures up debate. A recent Met Office report stated categorically that there had been no discernible rise in aggregate global temperature for 16 years, concluding at the end of 2012. Phil Jones, of East Anglia fame (as one of the outed email ‘fibbers’), could only muster up a “too short a time frame to draw conclusions” argument as rebuttal to the data.

2) Whether humans are the primary cause of recent [?] warming?

The logic of the affirmative to this question is tied inextricably to the production of CO2. Because CO2 emissions are essentially the love child of industrialization and economic growth, if increased concentrations of CO2 cause warming, humans are responsible. That ‘unity’ has the benefit of extreme simplicity as perhaps its only redeeming virtue, requiring in the words of one scientist, “many non-scientific leaps of faith”. Much science concerning climate variability has to be essentially sidelined as a result despite:

  1. All of the scary global warming scenarios are based on computer models.
  2. None of the models work.
  3. There is and has been no scientific consensus.

Of course, this does nothing to ‘settle’ the causality question one way or the other; it merely puts the certainty of some of the doomsday predictions into something of a different light.

3) Whether a warmer climate is substantially worse than a colder climate?

Not too many years ago, climate science was predicting the onset of a new ice age with dire implications. Currently, alarmist dogma equates warming with Armaggedon. A dispassionate analysis might, as Bjorn Lomborg has already suggested in a preliminary way, lead us to conclude a warmer world, on balance, would be better one. The IPCC’s ‘worst case’ scenario speculations, predicated on nothing much more than conjecture, have tended to obscure the science, economics and adaptive prospects and capabilities of man.

4) Whether global warming alarmists offer solutions that would achieve meaningful real-world results?

True believer (alarmists) seem oblivious to the “beggar yourself, your neighbour and every one in sight” aspects of some of the solutions proposed to prevent warming (ignoring for the moment the extreme hubris of thinking we have that amount of precise control over our world). Their “no price TOO high” mindset disregards economic reality entirely.

Whether economic resources should be applied to potentially futile effects to stall temperature increases, towards adaptive responses to temperature change, or perhaps not at all, is one of the ‘nuts and bolts’ questions that flows from, and is perhaps answered by, coherent answers to the preceding three questions.

The sooner the dialogue can be brought to a consideration of properly framed questions, the more likely some set of policy initiatives can take over from the hysterical screaming match that is currently the norm for the global warming discussion.


Posted in Thinking out loud | Comments Off

Playing by (his own) rules

Tiger Woods gave us a glimpse of his true character this weekend with the recent rule infraction controversy at the 2013 Masters Golf Tournament.

The facts are pretty straightforward: Tiger hit a shot which ended up in the drink. He replayed the shot, ‘adjusting’ the location he played the shot from, by his later admission, by “a couple of yards” from the point of the original stroke. The rules permit a total of three options in that situation, none of which include ‘adjusting’ the placement of the ball in the way Tiger did.

During Tiger’s round, the rules committee of the tournament was alerted to the infraction by a television viewer, Curiously (or, maybe not) they determined that no rules infraction had occurred and absolved Tiger without any formal communication to him.

The way in which the infraction was “resurrected” was in Tiger’s own words: During a post-round interview, he disclosed the (illegal) placement of the second ball was nothing if not quite intentional. This caused the rules committee to ‘re-visit’ the issue and assess a two-stroke penalty, but absolve Tiger from the disqualification penalty that normally results from having signed an incorrect scorecard. The reasoning was Byzantine, but the motivation was clear, to say the least.

Tiger’s been playing golf virtually his entire, not just adult, life. He’s encountered the “rule” he’s professed not to know, probably hundreds of times in its application. To characterize the ‘gaffe’ as unintentional is nothing if not preposterous. I haven’t played 1/100th of the golf that Tiger has played and know the rule.

Where things unraveled for Tiger was his self-analysis of how he replayed the shot to ‘perfect’ the prior outcome – his sense of entitlement to bend the rules to suit his drive to win overcomes any fear that anyone will call him on anything. Too bad the Masters Tournament, which prides itself on carrying on Bobby Jones’ storied zeal for integrity, was not up to the task.

Posted in Thinking out loud | Comments Off

The joys of new (old) stuff…

I’ve been bombing around for the last couple of days in a new-to-me 2002 John Cooper Works Mini Cooper ‘S’ (a name that is almost longer than the vehicle). I can hardly keep the smile off my face every time I slip behind the wheel. How it came to be parked in my driveway was mostly a series of happy accidents, but certainly of the good kind.

I was over at my friend Dave’s place in Owen Sound a couple of weeks ago. Parked in the space where a very clean, but rather dowdy, Ford Focus wagon used to sit, was an ’02 Nissan Xterra, supercharged no less. The brute looked almost brand new and I asked Dave what caused the change in ride. He said he’d been poking around on Kijiji and noticed the vehicle for sale at the really attractive price of $7K, with just over 60K on the clock. (He told me he’d managed to sell the Focus, buy the Nissan and park a bit of extra cash in his pocket, to boot.)

When  I got home that night, I was thinking about Dave’s good luck. I wander over to Kijiji. (Perhaps it’s unnecessary to say what I found there.) Fortune had smiled because, not more than a week before, I’d secured a line of credit arrangement from my credit union at a really low rate of interest. I had also been toying with the question of whether it was time to let go of my ‘regular’ ride because it was on the cusp of being worth almost nothing.

The Mini was a ‘solution’ by becoming my summer ride; the WRX will be my snow machine forever and a day. Plus, for $8K, I’m driving around in a cool rig that was over $30K new. With only 118K on the clock, there’s plenty summer driving fun to be wrung out of ‘Madeline’ (as I’ve come to think of her). An added bonus? Both my dogs fit in the back comfortably with the seats down.

Posted in Thinking out loud | Comments Off

Cutting both ways…

I’m too old to be a Justin Bieber fan – for a long time, I thought his name was Justin Beaver – and I’m not negatively disposed to the young superstar, either. But, recently, I’ve noticed his name popping up in news stories with a less than positive slant on the pop icon. This culminated, in a sense, today with a report of a “rant” by Bieber against the media.

I didn’t get down to the particulars of what caused the rant, but this seemed to fall into a familiar pattern: Entertainers court, seduce and play to the media relentlessly to promote themselves, then routinely find an internal snarly streak to take a chunk out of the hand that feeds them. The thing that gives them celebrity and all its trappings becomes a “burden” of unimaginable proportions.

I think the media seduction mostly works through some familiar patterns. The aspiring superstar is initially on their best behaviour on the climb up the ladder, with every step carefully groomed and choreographed. Accordingly, they get “good” press that the good, albeit likely sanitized, behaviour warrants. As the climb up the ladder is completed, the (now) superstar starts to improvise more; showing up in surprising locations and going “off the cuff”, which is where the trouble usually starts.

With some regularity, the celebrity displays temper tantrums, possibly gets in trouble with the law, and generally starts blowing up the carefully crafted persona of perfection. Media, being media, treat this as ‘news’ and oblige with dissemination. Our celebrity is ‘stunned’ by the development.

One celebrity who (thus far) has avoided the cycle is Kim Kardashian. It seems whatever the basis of her celebrity, and this is not an insignificant question, she does not appear to have missed the point that since she doesn’t actually do anything to make her famous, she’d better keep cuddling the media.

Posted in Thinking out loud | Comments Off

The HOTTEST button…

Many modern issues are incendiary in nature, the mere mention of which get the blood boiling and the media circus pulsating. Case in point: The recent Tom Flanagan debacle (at least, for him).

Flanagan had the temerity to  seemingly trivialize the simple viewing of child pornography, as distinct from participating in its production and distribution, as a supreme social evil. The revulsion and scorn that was heaped on Flanagan had to be one of the most spirited public shunning ceremonies of modern times.

The end game of this exercise appears to have been that no intelligent discussion of this topic is heretofore allowed that doesn’t start with the premise that viewers of child pornography are equally culpable to the monsters that produce and distribute it.

What utter nonsense!

Degree of culpability is a fundamental principle of law, a discerning criterion of public discourse and an aspect of intelligent discrimination for thinking people. To equate the (sick) people who watch porn with those who subject children to those indignities (for money) is beyond ridiculous, it’s stupid.

Just as concepts like minimum mandatory sentences offend the notion of proportional response to offences based on circumstances, a knee jerk blanket assertion of equal blame is essentially a totalitarian response to a social problem more consonant with regimes like Iran, China or North Korea, those bastions of the nuanced application of law.

Of course, the minute that an issue involves children, it seems that all common sense goes out the window. I’d venture that those railing against mandatory minimum jail sentences for guns, drugs and other “scourge” offences, are pretty much uniformly in their favour when it comes to simple viewing of child pornography.

One need not be indifferent to the evils of child pornography to feel strongly that each case should be assessed with a view to a full range of sentencing options taking into account the particular circumstances of the offender. You’d expect nothing less for your day in court.

Posted in Thinking out loud | Comments Off