Weekly Highlights from our Conservative Overlords

Weekly Highlights from our Conservative Overlords

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Flying First Class - Week 91.5 - Jan 28-30

Oh boy.  Look at how folksy and amazing Stephen Harper is!  Twitter!  High Fives!
Holy shit!  It cost a million bucks to fly Harpo's limos to India?  That's crazy.  Couldn't they have bought armoured transport for less?

Oh.  Wait.  We sent Special Forces to Mali as well as an airplane.  Oops.  Steve forgot to mention that.

Stats Can released some data on income equality/inequality in Canada.  The poor 1% only earns 10.6% of the Nations total income (2010) vs. the 12.1% they earned in 2006.  This is interesting, but largely academic.  However, what I do find interesting is the earnings that would put you in the 1%.  Where an American 1 Percenter is probably making at least a few million a year (I can't back this up right now, but when you look at their numbers, their income inequality is staggering), $201,400 per year ($16,783 per month) in Canada puts you in the 1 Percent.  Now, don't get me wrong, 200 grand a year is a healthy chunk of cash, but I figured it would require far more than that to beat out 99% of the country.  The National Post of course has an interesting take on this.  Surprisingly, they take it as an opportunity to poke fun at the Occupy movement.  Is this news?  Infotainment?  Anyhow.  I digress.  What is interesting is that they manage to point out the median income of the 98%.  $28,400 per year.  Ouch.  Anyhow.  Scroll down to the bottom of this post for my take on how this proves we have a ridiculous Real Estate bubble.

Canada!  Pillars of the World Economy!  Banks made of granite!  Oh.  Wait.  All downgraded due to our ridiculous housing/debt bubble.  Just wait.  Years of post recession praise of our banking?  Yes.  All thanks to the Conservatives.  Followed by a precipitous decline thanks to the above mentioned issues?  Whose fault is that going to be?

So, I heard on the news that the Conservatives are going to "open up a dialogue" with First Nations.  But apparently "opening up a dialogue" means "we'll talk, but don't expect anything to change."  Peter Van Loan even suggests that the bills that they have the biggest problem with (the two Omnibus Budgets) will actually make them some of the "greatest beneficiaries".  This just seems like an amazing strategy.  Somebody tells you that they have a real problem with something and you come back and tell them that they are mistaken and this will actually be really good for them.

Hey.  You didn't think the Ashley Smith thing could get worse?  Well, turns out they tried to buy the guards silence.  After more-or-less firing them.

Which leads to...  A 12-year-old girl gets thrown in adult jail for 11 days.  No word in the article as to whether or not she is large for her age.

Two things from this story about Corporate Income Tax:
1 - Corporations pay lower tax rates than humans.
2 - Corporate tax cuts are not creating jobs.

Did you hear about Israel coercing Ethiopian Jews into accepting birth control?  I think Stephen Harper is still drafting the memo that Canada is 100% in support of Israel's right to do this.

So, as I mentioned above, let's talk about Real Estate.  This gets a bit number crazy.  Let's look at what $201,400 yearly income means.
Yearly Salary - $201,400
After tax take home - $153,580 (plug it in here if you don't believe me)
Monthly take home pay - $12,798 per month

So, you're a fancy 1 percenter.  You live in Vancouver.  You deserve a big house, right?  Chances are, your bank is going to give you a fat mortgage, but you're not greedy.  You're going to buy the average Greater Vancouver house at the benchmark price.  You get a lovely teardown for $904,000.  Here's where it gets tricky as no two mortgages are the same.  Let's assume a 15% down payment and let's assume a 5 Year, 3.5% fixed rate.  Not too shabby.  What does your mortgage look like?
Down payment - $135,600
Monthly payment - $3,900

So, you're paying $3,900 to live in the Greater Vancouver average detached house (trust me, this won't be a fancy place).  That is over 30% of your income.  According to some, anything over 36% is an unhealthy income/debt ratio.  So.  If you live in Vancouver.  And you're in the top 1 percent of all income earners in the entire country.  You can just afford to buy the average detached house.  Which leads me to wonder about how all of these properties are paid for.  Is Vancouver composed entirely of 1 percenters?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Rememberings - Week 91 - Jan 21-28

Our mid-week post covered the happenings of Monday to Wednesday.
Stephen Harper quietly named a new batch of Senators.  Conservative fundraisers, relatives of former MP's and oil industry types...I've included a photo of Stephen Harper above, just in case you forgot what he looks like.

Details from the Ashley Smith inquest are seeping out and it is just a really sad catastrophe.  For a long time I've wondered how guards could have just sat there and let it happen.  But then you find out they were threatened with all kinds of bad things after previous incidents in which they intervened and it makes more "sense"...sense being relative in this case.  Hopefully the people who created this situation are found accountable.

Some more information has come out about the sternly worded letters from Environment Canada.  Apparently two of the letters were in response to oil spills.  There were no public reports created about either of them and the public only found out about them when the story about the letters broke.  And, well, one of the spills was approximately two barrels worth.  And the other was approximately 3,000 barrels worth.  And lasted for 36 hours.  Wonder if they got the same letter?

A report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer highlights that "spending cuts" completed by the Conservatives haven't really done much of anything except with regards to front line services (i.e. they've cut the shit out of front line services).  Lots of other things just keep going up and up.  So.  Essentially - "We're going to cut all the shit that we don't like in the name of 'cost savings' while spending like drunken sailors on stuff we like."

Remember a few months ago, when there was that story about the Canadian lady being jailed in Mexico for plotting to smuggle one of Gaddafi's sons in?  And it just seemed so completely insane that it couldn't possibly be believable?  Well, it kind of makes a bit of sense now as we find out details of the graft paid by SNC Lavelin.  Although, why would you feel so indebted to some guy that you paid millions in bribes to?  Unless you figured he would somehow make it back into power.

Oh ya.  Nobody at all is going to learn how to take advantage of the Entrepreneur visa program.  You're required to have venture capital funding in place before you can come?  "Hello rich Canadian uncle.  I would like to move to Canada.  Can you provide me with $100,000 for my imaginary business?  Thanks."  Or "Hello Venture Capital firm in Canada.  I would like to buy my way into the country.  Can I front you $100,000 that you can then front to my 'business'?  Great."

Well, the National Post finally gave a voice for a left wing editorial...about how disappointing it is that Thomas Mulcair isn't left wing enough.

Theresa Spence ended her hunger strike. And then promptly stepped in it by calling Brazeau a...just let me make sure I get this right...a "typical colonized indian asshole" on Twitter.

I saw this article on the Globe and Mail yesterday (don't go read it).  I stopped reading.  Apparently, not everybody else did.  Boingboing has a nice response to how ridiculous it is to write off everybody as hackers and copyright thieves.

Remember how big a deal Mo Farah was for the UK in these past Olympics?  Well, apparently in the US, he gets questioned as a potential terrorist.  At least they're equitable in their pour treatment of brown guys.

This Bloomberg interactive display on the worlds Billionaires is fascinating.  Play around with it a bit.  The "inherited" filter is quite interesting.  Look at how those Waltons stack up one after another.  And...only one Canadian billionaire.  And he's not on Dragon's Den.

Nothing to do with Canada...but a State Legislator in New Mexico wants to outlaw abortion by rape victims as they will be "tampering with evidence".  Cue the outrage from the "hateful" e-mails she is about to receive.  She attempted to backpedal a few days later, but I'm not sure you can really step back from something like this.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fixing the Environment - Week 90.5 - Jan 21-23

The Federal Government came down hard on industry for a bunch of environmental transgressions.  Million dollar fines?  Jail time?  No, no, no.  Sternly worded warning letters.  Actually, they probably weren't even all that sternly worded.  They even went so far as to send themselves a sternly worded letter.

The Financial Post talks about the Economist talking about our Real Estate bubble.  Great time to buy!

I don’t really know what to think.  Apparently Stephen Harper is seeking consensus from the other parties on what to do in Mali.  And thinking of sending a second airplane.

Some actual details on one of the projects funded by the car industry innovation fund.  34 Million to Toyota to bring some hybrid assembly to Canada.

Parks Canada is attempting to cover its budget shortfall by hiking user fees.  Silly parks.  Don’t they realize that they’re just not welcome in Stephen Harpers Canada?  Anyhow, why should all the people that don’t use parks have to pay for them?  Think of how great they’ll be once it cost several hundred dollars per visit.

More on the Liberal Leadership.  Justin Trudeau has come out in favour of a ranked ballot, but is not in favour of cooperation with the NDP.  It appears that Joyce Murray is the only Liberal pushing for a cooperative outing in the next election - i.e. The Greens/NDP/Liberals only running one candidate (total) in each riding to eliminate vote splitting.  I can just see Steve-O feasting on the "insult to democracy" that would be.  The article points to this website as well.

This Tyee article digs out some links between a Chinese mining company working in Canada (in fact, the mining company responsible for the temporary foreign workers fiasco) and mine disasters back in China.  Five major accidents, almost 200 people killed.

So…a Vancouver transit cop left a “bomb” on an airplane.  Of course, there’s very little detail contained in any story.  I heard one account that the “bomb” was just a rag covered in gunpowder.  Another said it was a bottle filled with semtex.  Somewhere else somebody suggested that all manner of other government agencies got involved in searching for it.  The only thing I can think of when I read this article is…Why is a transit cop training is dog to hunt for bombs on an airplane?

It has been revealed that the Government paid for a chunk of the expenses incurred by CEO's on Stephen Harper's last China trade junket.  Don't worry though.  It was a "good investment".

Monday, January 21, 2013

Vic Toews Returns - Week 90 - Jan 16-25

Well.  We changed things up a bit and had a mid-week post.  Which is good.  Because the rest of the week was pretty busy.
Are you fucking kidding me?  Mr. Fucking Law-and-order, Vic Fucking Toews, is suggesting that policing costs are too high?  And he is actually talking about the drop in crime rate?  Holy shit.  I mean, just when you think this guy is the most gigantic fucking idiot in the entire fucking world he comes out and says something like this.  I'm actually imagining the fantasy world that Vic fucking Toews lives in right now - More things are against the law.  Criminals get put in jail for longer.  And there are no police to do any of this.  CBC points out how much of  a dipshit he is.

I live in British Columbia.  Our Provincial Liberals treat the Government like it's their own party publicist/campaign arm.  So, to me, Julian Fantino posting some letters on a Government website that are critical of the opposition doesn't seem like a huge deal.

This article is interesting for two reaons.  First, it points out that this certainly isn't the first minister to pull a Flaherty and use their ministerial role inapropriately.  Next, if you scroll through the comments, it seems to illuminate the official Conservative talking point for this: That if a minister doesn't break this rule, we're actually punishing the businesses in ridings that happen to have a minister for an MP.  Sooooo...how old is Canada?  I didn't realize that for over a hundred years we've been punishing businesses in the ridings of Ministers.  I mean, there's never been a case where a minister has unfairly handed out boatloads of cash within his own riding, has there?  We really need to address this grave injustice.  Jim Flaherty is a hero, really.  And what the fuck?  Is it honestly the job of an MP to write recommendations for businesses in his riding?  Is there some sort of daily line-up outside of MP's offices where local business owners stand, cap in hand, waiting for the good word of their MP?

Wow.  The National Post is on it today.  First, an opinion piece taking Jim Flaherty to task for not simply admitting that he made a mistake.  Next, they question the Prime Minister for his attack on a journalist who exposed sketchy election spending by the Conservative party.  Well done National Post.

And...There is an opinion piece written by Patrick Brazeau.  And I really, really hate to say this, but I think I might actually agree with him on this.  Whether you think First Nations receive too much support or not enough support, it's impossible to make any sort of determination without a better idea of where the current batch of money is going.  I realize that Idle No More is about more than money, and opponents are trying to make it all about the money.  But...well...he raises some valid points.

I'm not sure if I talked about this guy before.  Was this before the last election?  Anyhow, an Edmonton MP was pulled over by the cops one night and refused to provide a breathalyzer sample.  And was a total dick.  Guess which party he's with?  I don't think the article actually states this.  Perhaps in Alberta "MP" and "Conservative" are synonyms?

A Salon book discussion raises horrifying thoughts on the war in Vietnam.  It's a pretty long read.  It's very depressing.  But it warrants your attention.

The headline of this article states "GOP memo brags party kept the house by gerrymandering".  I didn't take this at face value.  I expected some subtle interpretation whereby the author read some innocuous phrase as an endorsement of gerrymandering.  But no.  It really is a memo bragging about redistricting to best support election of GOP congressmen even wihthout a majority of the vote.

Another Liberal leadership candidate has come out in support for some sort of election reform.  This time a ranked ballot.

Looks like there may be some identity theft related to lost student loan data.

You heard about the maple leaf on the new bills?  Me too.  Does it really matter?  Stupid botanists.  I actually heard one of them talking on the CBC about how we would never put a baboon or a palm tree on our bills, so why would we put the wrong maple leaf.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Kicking it up a notch - Week 89.5 - Jan 14-16

Okay.  I've been told that I'm too slow and nobody will pay attention to my long posts.  So, we'll try to ratchet things up a bit with a mid-week post.
I'm not going to pretend to know anything about Mali.  The summary of the situation seems to be "We gonna go get us some Muslim terrorists!"  Only with a French accent.  Is this good or bad?  I don't really know.  However.  It seems to me that if you're going to get involved, you should get involved.  Sending one airplane for a week seems a bit chickenshit to me.  And then when your one airplane doesn't even make it off the ground...man.

This is why you debate bills.  So they aren't deemed unconstitutional by judges.  A BC judge decides that the human smuggling bill is over-reaching.

For health reason, Shawn Atleo has stepped aside from the Association of First Nations Chiefs.  I'm picturing him sitting in a dark room someplace with a really confused look on his face, wondering what the hell just happened to him.

It turns out that until a few years ago, the RCMP had absolutely no means of tracking internal discipline.  The CBC story I heard pointed out the irony of the organization that is supposed to track national crime trends and statistics having no idea about their own internal crime trends and statistics.

Is anybody surprised that the heads of Nortel were found not guilty of fraud?  I mean, all they did was collect massive bonuses as they drove their company into bankruptcy.  That's just capitalism.  They're trendsetters, really.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Week of Theresa Spence - Week 89 - Jan 7-14

It really has turned in to the week of Theresa Spence.  You can question the timing and the way some things happened, but in my opinion, this woman has lost all of her credibility.  I actually having a hard time making sense of what happened.  First, she refused to allow any reporters into her camp.  Next, she personally phoned up to Attawapiskat and forced the removal of a Global News crew.  After that, she refused to attend the meeting with the Prime Minister because the Governor General was not going to also be in attendance.  This is roughly the equivalent of cancelling your meeting with the CEO of McDonald's because Ronald McDonald can't make it as well.  I don't get it.

In the end, I'm not even sure what happened.  Some threatened to boycott the meeting (not sure if they did).  The Governor General held his own meeting.  John A. McDonald took some punishmentAnd Theresa Spence is still on her hunger strike.  The Prime Minister did promise future meetings, so perhaps it was successful after all?

On a slightly smaller scale, but a Global News story showed Theresa Spence driving away in a giant white Hummer (confirmed here).  What the hell?  How do you drive away from a hunger strike related to environmental demands in a giant white Hummer?  I know that this might sound like a joke, but could you honestly take the opinion, any opinion, of a Hummer driver seriously?

In other native news, I don't fully understand what this means, but it looks like a court decision has expanded the interpretation of "Indians" under the law.  Their word, not mine.

So with all of this First Nations stuff going on this week, this is where it starts to get a bit fishy for me.  A story comes out that one quarter of all First Nations are under financial investigation.  Is this just a news organization digging in to an important and timely story?  Or is it a well timed leak to chip away at an opponents credibility?  Either way, it chips away at the First Nations position.

Of course, the National Post keeps publishing anti-Idle No More/Attawapiskat stories.  All of a sudden, they've become real champions for the public good.  They're even complimenting the CBC now.  That's the problem with popular movements.  With so much going on there is always, always, always somebody involved that is doing something wrong.  By harping on one point, critics can take the whole movement down.  And the most amazingly awesome thing about the National Post writing a story about a CBC story?  All of the commenters talking about how great it is that the National Post has finally spoken the truth, gotten the word out and avoided censorship by the "left wing" media.

On to other stuff.  A government funded study came out that was able to isolate the "natural pollution" of the oil sands and proved that lakes and rivers in the vicinity of all of this development are in far worse shape than when development started.  23 times worse, actually.  Of course, both the Government and the Oil Sands industry don't feel like this is worth any kind of action.

Hey.  France solved the World.  Way to go guys.  You figured out how to bring Muslims and Catholics together.  Hatred of the gays!

Disabled veterans have reached a settlement with the government over reduced pensions.  Isn't that awesome?  MP's with gilded pensions can decide to claw back the pensions of disabled veterans.

Way to go guys.  The Federal Government lost a hard drive with the personal information of a half a million people who obtained student loans.

I'm really jealous of the idea that this blog came up with.  She picks one ridiculously overpriced Vancouver property and then compares it to the lavish mansions that could be purchased for the same price elsewhere.  The best of lists her favourites for the year (make sure you click through on each one).  I think this one is mine.

This article points out something that seems really obvious - We're leaving a tonne of money on the table by not processing our own crude.  And as we continue to ramp up production we make things worse by increasing supply and driving the cost down.  If we're going to ruin the planet, why not slow things down a bit, build our own refineries and pave the path to environmental destruction with fat stacks of cash?  I do not buy the argument that we don't have the money required to build our own refineries.  These companies can come up with billions and billions to pull the stuff out of the ground but they're too poor to refine it?

Some documents showed up that suggested Jason Kenney either didn't know what he was talking about or was outright dishonest when he talked about refugee health care cuts.  Not sure which is the better option.

I don't pretend to know much about Haiti.  Or what would be best for them.  But this is a pretty depressing take on what is going on there.  And when Don Cherry comes out against something, man, you'd better hope you're on the other side of that argument.  I wonder what would happen if Don Cherry and Donald Trump got together?  Man, I'm going to tweet that.

I was excited when I saw this article on McLean's titled "99 stupid things the government did with your money" (part I here).  But it's kind of a stupid article.  Cherry-picking ridiculous sounding expenses with no context doesn't necessarily tell the whole story.  They really lost me at #4.  Honestly, your #4 waste of taxpayer money is paying Roberto Luongo $160,000 for an endorsement deal?

This Salon article points out that "conflict free" diamonds might be a bit of a myth.

This is a pretty great snippet of what is going on in the US right now.  In response to the ever-present "I run a small business and I balance my books.  American needs to balance its books" argument:
But let us try to take Walden’s small business analogy seriously. Suppose the problem is that we’re a business whose expenses are outstripping our income. We propose some measures to correct it — say, cutting expenses when possible and also working some longer hours. But we have a business partner who listens to a lot of Rush Limbaugh and has some different ideas. He says increasing revenue by working longer hours — even a single longer minute when we have customers waiting in line at closing time — is totally off the table. He says the answer is to cut our employees’ pay and ban them from taking bathroom breaks. And he also informs us that, unless we approve the savings ideas he wants, with none of the savings ideas we want, he’ll refuse to pay vendors who have already delivered things to us, thereby ruining our credit rating forever.

Speaking of the US, everybody seems to be all about comparing Obama to Hitler right now as Obama talks about gun control.  This article pretty thoroughly debunks the notion that Hitler limited access to guns as he seized power.  I'm sure this will immediately put an end to that silly argument.

I'm sick of all of this gateway drug bullshit.  Yes, I would imagine that a really large number of cocaine/heroine/meth addicts got their start on pot.  But I'd also imagine that before they smoked pot, they drank alcohol.  As well, I'd imagine that a huge percentage of pot smokers don't go on to become cocaine/heroine/meth addicts.  So fuck off with your gateway drug theory.

Apparently many American weatherpeople don't believe in global warming.

I thought this train of thought would take me further.  It didn't.  But I put a lot of work into it so I'm going to include it here at the bottom of my post.  We have a long history of putting people in power with small amounts of support.  I honestly believe that until we get a system where we have a better representation of how we actually voted, there is going to be problems.  So, I started looking around to see how many MP's narrowly skated to victory.  The first thing I learned is that it's difficult to find a nicely summarized presentation of the information.  Wikipedia had a bit, but it was incomplete.  Elections Canada was very difficult to navigate.  Finally, I found this guy that did some analysis of the Elections Canada data (Unfortunately, he charges to download his information so I wasn't able to really analyze it).  I started by looking at percentages.  There's a very large number of MP's that were elected with less than 40% of the vote.  In a multi party system, that's not all that surprising.  So I started looking more closely at MP's with less than 33.3% of the vote.  To me, anybody in power with the support of less than 1/3 of their constituents is a bit suspect.  I was hoping that somebody had gotten elected with less than 30% of the vote, but it wasn't to be.  But I found a winner.  Daniel Petit, a Conservative MP from Quebec was elected with only 30.3% of the vote in his riding.  Hooray for vote splitting.  Then, I looked at vote totals.  In some of the ridings with large populations, there are MP's with votes in the 30-40,000 range.  I ignored some of the weird outliers (Territories, Labrador) with population difficulties and I found that there are two MP's in office with fewer than 10,000 votes.  Both were Liberals.  Kevin Lamoureaux from Manitoba had only 9,097 votes and Sean Casey from New Brunswick had only 7,292 votes.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Way to go World! - Week 88 - Jan 2-7

Updated - I had this finished off on Sunday.  But I had a couple of Monday morning updates to sneak in.

First, and most importantly, the lockout.  Yes, hockey is back.  There's lots of comments from people claiming they will "never watch a hockey game again", which is ridiculous.  This story sums my feelings up nicely.  I think the best thing an angry hockey fan can do is not give any money directly to the NHL.  No ticket purchases.  No jerseys or other merchandise.  Nothing.  Watch all the "free" hockey you want on TV.

Second update.  The audit on the Attawapiskat finances was released.  It is damning.  You can blame the government for the timing and talk about conspiracies.  But Theresa Spence has lost a lot of credibility.  There's no justifiable argument for having absolutely no documentation or explanation for spending that was supposed to help your people.  I realize that this has absolutely nothing to do with the Idle No More movement, but her association is going to take away from their message.  On to the original post.

This story is depressing.  If the world had signed on to Kyoto way back when, we would have committed to reducing our current greenhouse gas output by 5% relative to 1990 numbers.  Instead, they've gone up 58%.  And wow!  Look at all those trolls in the comments.  They really mobilized

Let's look at the ThreeHundredEight December poll summary.  Not much has changed.  The Conservatives and NDP are down a bit from their election numbers and the Liberals have gained a bit of ground.  Which roughly corresponds with this poll, where more people are saying that they aren't happy with the direction of the country.  It's crazy that 1/3 of the country can hold the rest hostage, isn't it?  And oddly, this Angus Reid survey is way, way off from the ThreeHundredEight poll summary.  Looking at BC only, 43% vs. 32.8%?  There is a note at the bottom of the article that the poll was conducted among "1,012 randomly selected Angus Reid Forum panellist."  Doesn't sound very random.

The Idle No More movement really gained traction this week.  Judging by the comments and tone of this article, they must be on to something.  It seems like they are making some progress.

The government announced the extension of its "innovation fund", and is planning to spend another $250 Million to help the auto industry with R&D.  Harper claims that the last round of funding was paid back to Canadians six times over, but there's no facts or numbers to back this up.  I'm a bit confused and I wish there was more information here.  How does R&D spending ensure Canadian jobs?  Is it R&D spending specific to Canadian plants?  How have they measured the benefits?  Are they attributing the entire rebound of the Canadian auto industry to this funding?  The official government website doesn't tell us much.  What I would really love to see would be some details on the projects funded with the initial round of money.  I can't find that anywhere.

This is a long but fascinating read on the changes to mortgage and CMHC policy that have lead to the potential problems in real estate.  Over the last few years I've heard from many people a comment along the lines of "We'll never have the problems the US had with Real Estate.  We don't have the sub-prime mess that they did."  No, our sub-prime mess is backed by the government.  And as David Dodge points out in this article, it's entirely because of Conservative Government meddling that all of this happened.

I saw two interesting about-face articles today.  The first was from Salon, about "Jane Roe" and her move to become pro life.  The second is about a "prominent environmentalist" who has come to accept genetically modified foods.  That article also mentions a "scientist" who disavowed an article that he wrote linking autism to vaccination.  I think the important thing here is that we just shouldn't jump to conclusions about anything, and that we shouldn't put too much meaning into the opinions or actions of any one person.

A Surrey judge has determined that a mandatory sentence for gun possession is unconstitutional.  I think that's why you're supposed to talk about laws before you throw them into a giant pile and force them through Parliament.

Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver seems to still think the Northern Gateway Pipeline is A-OK.  And he suggests that we only need to be "open to the facts" to make it happen.  What facts are these?  The dishonest sales pitches?  The inadequate safety planning?  The pipeline company with a history of leaky pipelines?

The general public will not be allowed to attend the public hearings for the Northern Gateway Pipeline when they roll around through Vancouver and Victoria.  They'll have to watch in a hotel a few kilometers away.

Two former Liberal MP's are proposing some changes to improve the atmosphere in the House of Commons.  I like the Australian idea, where the speaker can send MP's to the penalty box if they get too out of hand.

It's been over two years, but anti-spam regulation passed by the Conservatives is still not enforced.

What could possibly go wrong, drilling for oil in the Arctic?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012 Best Of - Week 87 - Dec 25-Jan 1

The whole purpose of this blog is for me to be able to track all of the crazy shit that the Conservatives are going to do over their 4 year term.  As I look back over the past year...Gawd...I'm just overwhelmed by how much crazy shit they've done.  It's too much for me.  I think that in order to understand how crazy this year was, we need to look at some of the stories that I had to gloss over as I made my list.  Allowing two major Canadian oil companies to be purchased by foreign state controlled enterprises?  Didn't make it.  Allowing a northern British Columbia mine to ship in all of its employees from China at a discounted rate?  Didn't make it.  Closing down a groundbreaking freshwater research station (perhaps because of some troublesome research into the oil sands)?  Didn't make it.  Stripping a layer of environmental protection from our lakes and rivers?  Didn't make it.  What about their continual re-introduction of anti-abortion laws?  Their no questions asked support of Israel?  Looking back, things are way, way worse than I thought.

Lessons in short-sightedness
After years of a ridiculous pro-asbestos position that was mocked by the rest of the world, the asbestos mine responsible for this ridiculous stance closed down.  And somehow the Conservatives are trying to blame the Parti Quebecois for this reckless swerve towards acceptability.

The War on Terror reaches new levels of awesome
A Muslim man in Quebec sent a text message to some work colleagues encouraging them to "blow away the competition" at a trade show.  He was arrested on suspicion of terrorism.  Reddit agrees that this is awesome.

Government cuts lead to a pretty good idea for a comedy sketch
Did you know that Canada is surrounded on three sides by oceans?  I don't think the Conservatives do.  Coast Guard and other naval safety cuts seem to be a favourite of theirs.  In addition to closing the Coast Guard base in the largest port in Canada, they also seem to be struggling to provide effective services in the places that remain open.  This poor Newfoundland fisherman had his emergency medical call transferred to a non-English speaking doctor in Italy when he phoned in for help.

Model citizens
Have you heard about these Queen's Jubilee medals?  Ya, there's something like 60,000 of them being awarded and it sounds like it is largely at the discretion of individual MP's.  One Saskatchewan MP has decided that a pair of ladies who have continually been arrested for anti-abortion related harassment.  He's praised them as "heroines of humanity".  Surprisingly, he's a Conservative.

Limits to democracy
It's actually hard to keep track on the amount of times that the Conservatives limited debate, jammed through mountains of legislation via Omnibus Bills and just kind of messed with democracy by preventing people from asking question.  These are only three examples of a worrisome trend.

War on Crime
Look at that graph above.  See how there has been a steady decline in the crime rate since the early 90's?  See how we're basically at levels not seen since the 70's?  Ya, me too.  But even with all of that, the Conservatives decided to jam through a whole bunch of "Tough on Crime" laws (like mandatory sentencing) even though a whole bunch of people told them that it's a bad idea...And then, they actually have the balls to take all the credit for the last 20 years of dropping crime rates...even though there was a dramatic spike in homicide rates this year.

Not only that, they've decided to:
- Cut prison inmate reform programs - because what we really need is convicts getting out of prison with no real world skills or training
- Close a few prisons even though before their new mandatory minimum sentences can have an affect there are already overcrowding problems...honestly...double bunking!
- Decided that convicts earning between $10 and $69 every two weeks are living high on the hog and they're going to charge them more in rent money
- Created a law whereby it's illegal to riot in a mask...even though it's already illegal to riot in a mask.  Great prioritization, guys!
- Supported a bill to outlaw gang recruiting...ya...that's really going to put the brakes on gang activity

Enbridge and their Magic Pipeline
I actually can't believe that there is still a chance that this Northern Gateway pipeline might get built.  There is just so much wrong with this whole story, I don't know of any other way to tackle it but point form.
1. The Federal Government has suggested that opponents to the Pipeline are terrorists
2. They've also cut so many research positions over the last few years that there probably aren't enough people remaining to adequately research the effects of this pipeline
3. Enbridge created a promotional video that has a map that conveniently ignores all of the nautical hazards that will be faced by the hundreds of tankers steaming towards Kitimat
4. Their clean-up plan submitted to the government is for crude oil, not bitumen
5. While all this was going on, one of their pipelines in Wisconsin started leaking...and they didn't do a particularly good job in responding to it
6. A report came out that crucified the Enbridge response to a 2010 pipeline leak in Michigan...I don't think governments generally throw around terms like "Keystone Cops" lightly
7. After the above mentioned Michigan oil spill, Enbridge executives gave themselves some hefty bonuses
8. They've created a limited liability partnership that will, you guessed it, limit their liability in the event of an oil spill
9. And while all this was going on...while Alberta was screaming at BC for being selfish about not allowing a pipeline...leak after leak after leak after leak popped up across Alberta.
10. Is it a surprise though, seeing as people connected to big oil have had upwards of 2733 meetings with public officials over the last 4 years?

Honestly.  How are we still talking about this pipeline?

What is the worst thing about this Conservative government?  The fact that they might not even be legitimate.  The robo-call scandal continues to roll along.  Even worse is the Conservative response to the whole thing.  They demanded that Liberals release all records of "all calls made on their behalf" during the last election, but refuse to release their own records because, obviously, there's no possible chance they have done anything wrong themselves.  That didn't work, so once the cases finally made it to court, they attempted to shirk responsibility through a series of loopholes, smoke and mirrors.  First, they claim the cases were filed too late.  Then, they suggest the complainants should be ignored as they are made by "professional agitators" and the bills are paid by people with a "political bias".  Last, even though a pollster dug up information suggesting that there was voter suppression (they actually tried to have this evidence thrown out), they claimed that everything is okay because even if there were robo-calls, they didn't actually have an effect.

The next section I'm going to call the 2012 Conservative All-Star Team.  With guys like this, how can they possibly get re-elected?

Vic Toews
Where do you start with Vic Toews?  He's accomplished so much in a one year period, it's difficult to know what to talk about.  First, his fingerprints are all over the "tough on crime" section above.  But I think his crowning achievement for the year really was his internet snooping bill.  First, he suggested that if you didn't support his bill then you were "with the child pornographers."  Then, he freaked the hell out when somebody (well, a Liberal staffer) started posting (completely, 100% true) information about his messy, messy divorce (the babysitter?  really?).  At this point, Anonymous started threatening him and, despite his bluster, he actually admitted that he was powerless to stop them and temporarily threw in the towel on the whole thing.  Until he saw an opportunity to use the horrific Luka Magnotta murders for political gains and then reintroduced an even worse internet surveillance bill.  To heap further awful onto an already giant pile of crap, when a journalist asked a pointed question about a particularly over-the-top portion of the bill he became surprised and confused; It was almost as if he had no actual idea about the contents of the very bill he was championing.  (This is a bit of an aside, but I'd like to point out that while the Conservatives are all about using the forces of Government to eavesdrop on citizens, they don't believe that Canadians deserve any government help or protection from identity theft or other cyber-security matters.  That would be government over-reach)  I know you're thinking.  At this point, an ordinary man would sit back and be happy with his accomplishments.  But not Vic Toews.  He was just getting started.  He was the point man for Canada refusing to bring convicts back home via prison transfers.  He actively worked against bringing Omar Khadr home and then made a series of crazy statements once he finally did make it back to Canada.  And he allowed the RCMP and Canadian Border Agency to use information obtained from torture.  Nice job, Vic!

Jason Kenney
Jason Kenney didn't have enough actual immigrants for his press conference.  So he decided to have some of his staff dress up as as "immigrants" to celebrate their "citizenship reaffirmation".  As well, his department decided that the way to deal with the crazy backlogs of applications was just to ignore all applications made before 2008.

Rob Anders
"Sleepy Time" Rob has been caught sleeping several times on the job.  I know, I know, we've all dozed off for a few minutes at work.  But, I bet your little nappy time didn't come in the middle of a Parliamentary Question Period or during a presentation from a group supporting homeless veterans.  Of course, it all would have been alright if he had apologized.  But no, he doubled down and called the homeless veterans support group a bunch of "NDP hacks."  He did eventually apologize.  And then later in the year, he claimed that Jack Layton's death was Thomas Mulcair's fault.  And yes, that is a screen capture of one of his Parliament naps.

Bev Oda
Every time I see the above photo of Bev Oda, I'm actually a little bit sad that she left politics.  Poor Bev had a problem with her expense account.  It all came to a head when it was found she'd racked up crazy bills living it up in London during a conference on the immunization of children in poor countries.  She moved from one luxury hotel to another, charged thousands to have a car and driver at her beck-and-call and then washed it all down with a $16 glass of Orange Juice.

Patrick Brazeau
Doesn't that guy look like a Senator?  As well, he has an atrocious record of attending Senate sittings (you know...his job).  He's absent about 25% of the time.  And when somebody pointed it out and asked some questions, he called her a bitch.  He also may be fraudulently claiming a living allowance.  I will give him credit for his charity boxing match with Justin Trudeau...and his excessive pre-match bragging made it even funnier when he lost.