A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘politique politicienne

[LINK] “Eye on the ball”

I quite like Paul Wells’ post on the radioisotope scandal.

This thing with the tape is all very entertaining, but I find myself kind of brooding over this bit:

“They’re terrified of the issues,” said Ms. Raitt. “You know what? Good. Because when we win on this, we get all the credit.”

Fair enough. You win on this — “this” being a global shortage of isotopes that are crucial for the treatment of a lot of people who could, you know, die horribly — you should get all the credit.

But the conversation in question happened in January. It’s June. One-Two-three-four-five months later. And hospitals all over are running out of isotopes.

So I’ll put this question out to the house. What should you get all of if you don’t win on this?

In the comments, various people have put the blame ultimately on the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited for failing to design and maintain a durable Chalk River reactor.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 9, 2009 at 2:45 pm

[BLOG-LIKE POSTING] On how Canada’s Conservatives are demonstrating their competency in government

There was a minor political scandal when an aide to Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt left some marginally secret documents in a public place and was fired. More recently, the Chalk River Laboratories, Canada’s oldest nuclear facility and a source of medical radioisotopes, was closed due to safety reasons, potentially leaving huge numbers of people worldwide without medical treatment. Raitt, it’s been revealed, thinks the crisis sexy.

Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt called the medical isotopes crisis “sexy,” said she wanted to take credit for fixing it, and expressed doubts about the skills of Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq on a recording obtained by The Chronicle Herald.

Ms. Raitt made the comments to her former aide, Jasmine MacDonnell, in a conversation that appears to have been inadvertently recorded by Ms. MacDonnell on Jan. 30, while the two were being driven to an event in Victoria, B.C.

The news is likely to raise questions about Ms. Raitt’s handling of the isotope crisis, and about her judgment, since she promoted Ms. MacDonnell, 26.

Soon after the Victoria trip, Ms. MacDonnell misplaced the voice recorder containing the recording in the press gallery in Ottawa, and asked The Chronicle Herald to hold it for her until she could collect it. Five months later, she had not picked it up.

[. . .]

As they drive around Victoria, chatting with their driver, Ms. Raitt and Ms. MacDonnell discuss their unsuccessful efforts to get Ms. Aglukkaq to contribute a quote to a news release on the isotope crisis.

“They’re terrified of the issues,” said Ms. Raitt.

“You know what? Good. Because when we win on this, we get all the credit. I’m ready to roll the dice on this. This is an easy one. You know what solves this problem? Money. And if it’s just about money, we’ll figure it out. It’s not a moral issue.”

“No,” says Ms. MacDonnell. “The moral and ethical stuff around it are just clear.”

“It’s really clear,” says Ms. Raitt. “Oh. Leona. I’m so disappointed.”

“Isn’t that interesting,” says Ms. MacDonnell. “They’re just so …. I wonder if it’s her staff trying to shield her from it or whether she is just terrified.”

“I think her staff is trying to shield her,” says Ms. Raitt. “Oh, God. She’s such a capable woman, but it’s hard for her to come out of a co-operative government into this rough-and-tumble. She had a question in the House yesterday, or two days ago, that planked. I really hope she never gets anything hot.”

[. . .]

Ms. MacDonnell said the isotope issue is hard to control, “because it’s confusing to a lot of people.”

“But it’s sexy,” says Ms. Raitt. “Radioactive leaks. Cancer.”

“Nuclear contamination,” says Ms. MacDonnell.

“But it’s only about money,” say Ms. Raitt.


“Oh, yeah, take the knowledge that you’re not going to have the therapy that you need to save your life, oh yeah, you take it bitches.”

Anyway, you can listen to the conversation at the Chronicle-Herald.

By the way, guess which recent Conservative minority government fired an ombudsperson who closed down the facility on technical and safety grounds.

Elsewhere, John Baird, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communitites, had something interesting to say in relation to Toronto’s request for more funding for the TTC from the federal government.

The Spec has a story that details the Conservative Transport Minister muttering curses at Toronto for its $1.6-billion request for economic stimulus cash — as Alison Hanes wrote on May 1: $1.22-billion for 204 new light-rail vehicles from Bombardier and $345-million for a new car house to store and maintain them. The TTC approved Bombardier as the supplier, all the while noting it needs funding from higher levels of government to place the order by a June 27 deadline.

In an unguarded moment in front of some reporters Mr. Baird spoke his mind about the application, which is ineligible for stimulus cash in his view:

“Twenty-seven hundred people got it right. They didn’t. That is not a partnership and they’re bitching at us,” he said.

“They should f— off.”

Miller said last night Toronto’s proposal fits the federal criteria.

He said his meeting with Baird at the convention was “amicable and frank” and that the minister “didn’t say that to me” when asked if Baird used the obscenity.

[Baird] said Toronto’s submission is ineligible because it doesn’t focus on job creation within the next two years in the 416 area.

Meanwhile, he’s being accused of covering up an alleged bid to bury complaints of mismanagement against his beleaguered cabinet colleague, Lisa Raitt:

Baird has been accused of “political interference,” in connection with Ms Raitt’s former job as head of the Toronto Port Authority. New Democrat MP Olivia Chow yesterday called on the federal Auditor-General to investigate why Mr. Baird increased the membership of the authority’s board of directors from seven to nine and allowed Ms. Raitt to run up almost $80,000 in travel and other expenses over two years when the organization was running a deficit. Chris Day, a spokesman for Mr. Baird said many of the concerns raised by Ms. Chow have already been raised publicly, and referred all queries to Mark MacQueen, chairman of the Port Authority.

All in all, I feel quite good about the ruling party’s governance of Canada. Don’t you?

Written by Randy McDonald

June 9, 2009 at 10:53 am

[LINK] “PEI tightens registry access as traffic spikes”

Oliver Moore at The Globe and Mail let us know about a rather remarkable blogging-related development on Prince Edward Island.

The government of Prince Edward Island moved to tighten access to its corporate registry after a local blogger and tech developer found a way to search by shareholder, sparking a flood of public interest.

About 140,000 searches were done at his site in the first week it was live. Most of them were by locals and roughly one-fifth were by keyword, employing search terms that suggested some people were using the site to check up on politicians.

“You see the Premier’s name [being used as a keyword], you see some cabinet ministers’ names,” Peter Rukavina said.

He said he created the Web-search tool because he was interested in finding out the names of shareholders behind a development project in downtown Charlottetown. It was purely to satisfy his own curiosity. But when he offered the public access to the search tool, it gave everyone the chance to explore who might have had ties to a much-criticized immigrant-investment program.

The amount of traffic was something of a surprise to Mr. Rukavina, who hadn’t realized the depth of public interest.

He wasn’t the only one surprised. A representative of the corporate registry said officials there had no idea that shareholder data could be so easily retrieved from the site, and they moved quickly to limit access. The added security brought the registry into line with most other provinces, the official said, and enhanced the privacy of its clients.

But it’s not just curious members of the public who will be missing the access.

“One of the significant sources of traffic to the site is people within government,” Mr. Rukavina said. “Presumably it’s more effective than the tool they have at their disposal.”

He shut down opencorporations.org yesterday, saying the added security at the corporate registry had made the data stale.

The so-called Provincial Nominee Program has dominated the political chatter in PEI for months. Under the program, thousands of would-be immigrants put up $200,000 in return for being allowed to settle on the island. Most of the money was supposed to be invested locally.

Businesses connected to some politicians are known to have benefited from the program, which Richard Brown, Minister of Innovation and Advanced Learning, has said was not a problem, provided it passed conflict-of-interest rules.

When questioned during the fall about the involvement of politicians, Mr. Brown asked rhetorically: “Are we saying if he owns a farm he is not allowed to apply for farm subsidies?”

The province’s auditor-general started a probe in early October, and interest in the story has continued to grow. Among the more recent revelations was that some would-be migrants paid $2,500 to have an interview overseas, and that some of the money was given out as bonuses for staff at the Crown corporation that administered the program.

“This story has more legs than a centipede,” said Ian Dowbiggin, chair of the department of history at the University of Prince Edward Island.

He said the story has aroused so much interest in part because of the amount of money involved – hundreds of millions of dollars – and also because the government has released so little information.

“Almost everything that we hear about the program … is speculation. It’s innuendo and rumour,” Dr. Dowbiggin said.

“What I am prepared to say is that if even a third of what has been alleged about this program turns out to be true, it will be the biggest scandal in Prince Edward Island history.”

Rukavina has more on this situation here. All I can say is that, in a province where people were outraged that an elected government would give jobs out based not on their political affiliation but rather on their qualifications, this sort of scandal is not surprising in the least.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 12, 2008 at 7:25 pm

[LINK] “Tory campaigner resigns over plagiarized speech”

Posted without comment.

Stephen Harper’s 2003 speech urging Canada to join the U.S. assault on Iraq was plagiarized from one given by the Australian prime minister two days previously, and the man who wrote it resigned Tuesday as a researcher for the Conservative election campaign.

Owen Lippert said he was working in Mr. Harper’s office when he was asked to write the speech for the then-opposition-leader to deliver in the House of Commons the day the United States began bombing Baghdad. Large chunks were taken from a speech given by then-prime-minister John Howard in the Australian Parliament two days earlier.

“Pressed for time, I was overzealous in copying segments of another world leader’s speech,” Mr. Lippert said in a statement issued by the Conservative Party, five hours after the Tories accused the Liberals of “desperation” and “gotcha journalism” in revealing the plagiarism.

“Neither my superiors in the office of the leader of the opposition nor the leader of the opposition was aware that I had done so,” Mr. Lippert said. “I apologize to all involved and have resigned my position from the Conservative campaign.”

The similarities in the two speeches, delivered on March 18 and 20, 2003, were made public Tuesday during a speech in Toronto by Liberal MP Bob Rae. A Liberal strategist said the party discovered them almost by accident while doing research on the Internet two months ago.

The strategist said a junior staffer, who asked not to be identified, was doing a Google search on Mr. Harper, George W. Bush and the war in Iraq and came across a link to Mr. Howard’s speech.

“A little bell went off — ‘I have heard that language before’ — and the rest, as they say, is history,” the strategist said. The Liberals did not release the information until Tuesday because they were waiting to receive a videotape of Mr. Howard’s speech from Australia, the strategist said.

“Initially, when all we had was the paper copies of the speeches, we would place them side by side, and sometimes you would actually not be able to tell whose speech was whose,” the strategist said.

Mr. Howard’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

Mr. Rae said the copied speech is evidence that Canada is losing its own voice in foreign policy under the Conservatives. He said the country has become a parrot of right-wing interests from the United States and other foreign countries.

“How does a leader in Canada’s Parliament, on such a crucial issue, end up giving almost the exact same speech as any other country’s leader, let alone a leader who was a key member of George W. Bush’s coalition of the willing?” Mr. Rae said.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion also condemned the copied speech, saying Mr. Harper should be “expelled” from his party.

“He’s unable to choose his own words,” Mr. Dion said. “Canadians want their country [to] speak with its own voice on the world stage.”

Mr. Harper’s friend, Ken Boessenkool, was a senior policy adviser in charge of his speechwriting in 2003. Tuesday he denied any suggestion that the similarities in the speeches were the result of orders from Mr. Bush to keep his allies on the same page.

“We had a speech to give on the subject. We asked our researchers to prepare some materials. Some draft materials were presented to me,” said Mr. Boessenkool, who is now senior vice-president at Hill and Knowlton Canada. “The speech was what it was.”

He said the opposition leader’s office had a very busy week when the plagiarism occurred, and that there was nothing more to it than Mr. Lippert’s error in judgment.

“My recollection was it was a very busy week for speeches,” Mr. Boessenkool said. “I’m not excusing what happened, but these things do happen.”

Hansard, the official record of the House of Commons, shows Mr. Harper made only one speech in the House of Commons that week in addition to attending Question Period.

[. . .]

Earlier Tuesday, Conservative spokesman Yaroslav Baran told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Rae’s “attack” was evidence of Liberal desperation. A senior Conservative strategist dismissed the allegations of plagiarism as not being relevant.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 30, 2008 at 11:04 pm

Posted in Assorted

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[TOR] TTC workers against drug testing

As is the case with many things recently, I first learned of the news via this post in toronto. The Toronto Star

The head of the Toronto transit workers’ union, Bob Kinnear, says he won’t rule out the possibility of a labour disruption or legal action if the TTC goes ahead with a controversial drug and alcohol testing policy.

TTC chief general manager Gary Webster says the proposed policy, believed to be among the most far-reaching in Canada, is essential to protect workers and the public.

It would include random testing of workers and some managers in “safety sensitive” jobs. Positions are likely to include drivers, mechanics and maintenance workers.

Job applicants would be tested, as would employees suspected of using drugs and alcohol on the job or those involved in serious incidents. Workers disciplined for being unfit for work or those returning from drug or alcohol rehabilitation would also be subject to testing. Office staff and others who have no impact on the public would not.

The proposal, released in a report yesterday, still needs approval from city councillors on the transit commission. Specifics would then be developed for further approval.

Kinnear, who heads the Amalgamated Transit Union, says the plan violates the privacy of workers. He has vowed to fight it.

“We have a number of options available to us and we will take a look very closely at each (one). We will do what needs to be done to ensure that the TTC doesn’t arbitrarily impose this policy on us,” he said.

I think I agree with the the sentiment expressed in this comment.

The privacy arguments advanced here unconvincing, inasmuch as TTC workers are frequently charged with safely directeing the passage of multi-ton vehicles through city streets or in underground railroads at high speeds. At least we’re past believing, right,that the TTC workers’ union gives a whit about the safety and comfort of TTC users only inasmuch as their paychecks require them to, right?

Written by Randy McDonald

September 19, 2008 at 11:39 pm

Posted in Assorted

Tagged with , ,

[LINK] Some Friday links

  • Bear Left writes about how soccer can be a vehicle for international amity, whether between Cubans and Americans or Turks and Armenians (this last also described by Douglas Muir at A Fistful of Euros). That said, there’s also case studies of conflicts like the Football War of 1969.
  • Centauri Dreams touches upon the idea of interstellar panspermia, the belief that microorganisms suitably prepared could not only traverse the vast distances within a planetary system but the vaster gaps between planetary systems. It’s an evocative idea.
  • Daniel Drezner addresses the question through links of whether or not al-Qaeda is still a threat, with Bruce Hoffman pro and Juan Cole con. I lean towards a moderate version of con–the organization proper might be down but the ideology has a lot of support.
  • The Dragon’s Tales’ Will Baird wonders whether the poor showing of Russia’s military equipment and its soldiers as evidenced in the Georgian war and its ongoing financial issues means that the current troubles are the reactions of a declining power.
  • Gideon Rachman reports on polls suggesting that in only 9 out of 17 countries does a majority of the population believe that al-Qaeda was responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11th, with the American government coming next, then Israel
  • Hunting Monsters takes a look at the increasingly publicized tendency for some Egyptian men to grope woman, making the plausible suggestion that this phenomenon is likely a product of sexual and other frustrations felt by young Egyptians.
  • If not for The Pagan Prattle I would not have learned that the computer game Spore is evil because it deals with evolution. Sigh.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer reports that Bolivia is nearing civil war thanks to ethnic conflict and disputes over the sharing of hydrocarbon revenues.
  • Wis(s)e Words reports on a remarkably reckless American military adviser who suggests that Georgia should model its armed forces on those of Hezbollah, combining light and highly mobile infantry with modern weapons. As if that would work in the face of an upset Russia.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    September 12, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    [LINK] “Beefed up at the border”

    Andrew Chungs’ article in The Sunday Star, “Beefed up at the border”, takes a look at the often-intrusive Department of Homeland Security’s actions on the US-Canadian border.

    Most Canadians are aware of stepped-up security at border crossings or at the airport. The Border Patrol is eager to show how the same is happening everywhere in between.

    In the change room at the tidy Champlain Border Patrol station, a sticker decorates a locker door: “Terrorist Hunting Permit,” it reads. “Permit No. 91101.”

    “Nine/eleven really opened the eyes of people in the U.S., and Canada,” Richard Labounty, a Border Patrol supervisor, says of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. “It’s one of our most important missions, to apprehend terrorists and terrorist weapons.”

    [. . .]

    A back-road tour with soft-spoken Labounty shows that the other remote routes that lead to Canada are, like Matott’s, blocked off. The gates in place are not the Berlin Wall, but Labounty explains they are backed up by a growing array of surveillance cameras and sensors – be they motion, seismic, metal or infrared.

    Labounty insists the Border Patrol is gaining “operational control.” The idea is that every illegal entry “will come to a law enforcement conclusion at the border.”

    Champlain now has 34 agents, about double the number it had when Labounty arrived nine years ago from the southern border, where all officers are first assigned. Space is getting tight; a new station will be needed soon.

    In 2001, there were just 340 Border Patrol agents assigned to the U.S.-Canada boundary. There will be over 1,800 agents by next year, a near sixfold increase.

    The majority of people coming into the United States are from countries other than Canada. Labounty hauls out last year’s worn logbook. “They’re from everywhere imaginable,” he says, flipping through the pages. India, Pakistan, Burundi, Iran – each country of origin is meticulously written in ink. Any narcotics are also noted.

    He’s surprisingly sympathetic toward the illegals, given the gruff reputation of border authorities and his own emphasis on stopping terrorists. “You may feel bad for them, for the country they came from,” he says. “But you have to do your job.”

    The article doesn’t say much that I don’t already know, but it’s a good enough primer to the situation.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    September 8, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    [BRIEF NOTE] Building machines

    Earlier this week Noel Maurer wrote a post (“Building a Machine”) on how Venezuela’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela seemed to be building a polity-controlling political machine akin to Chicago’s Cook County Democratic Organization.

    The idea is to make key aspects of everyday life dependent on support for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). It’s not Communism; rather, it’s Daleyism, put in charge of a country. Do it right, and there will be no need for secret police or election stealing. Do it wrong, and your government will eventually (if you’re unlucky) start breaking heads or (if you’re lucky) become like Mexico.

    The least machine-like part of the emerging PSUV machine involves the Mercal stores. The Bolivarian Republic imports food and other basic products (or purchases them from approved suppliers) at market prices, and then resells them to the public through the Mercales. I visited several; except for the one in a high-priced part of Chacao, there were always lines. This should not be unexpected, of course. If the idea is to get basic products into people’s hands at subsidized prices, then lines are what should result, if the prices really are subsidized.

    [. . .]

    Subsidies are expensive. I haven’t been able to find any information on how much Venezuela spends on Mercal subsidies. That doesn’t mean that it’s out there; that just means that it’s hard to find. This IESA case on the stores, published in 2008, has no data past 2005. So it’s hard to tell whether the government is actually stimulating “food security” or just subsidizing imports, which is probably the last thing it needs to be doing in the middle of an export boom.

    [T]he stores give the government a political hedge against inflation. For a brief period last year, the government tried to fight rising inflation via price controls. That led to problems. (Venezuela reminds me of Mexico back in the 1980s and early 1990s. Boy, do I have price control stories from back in the day.) Now, though, the government can let inflation rip while protecting some of its constituents from the worst effects, albeit at a growing fiscal cost.

    Finally, the Mercal stores provide the infrastructure for creating a machine. It wouldn’t be hard to add ration cards or other ID requirements to the stores; accelerating inflation would provide a rationale. Of course, other income subsidizing programs could also be politicized: vigorous multi-party politics and a vigilant press is the reason that doesn’t happen in Mexico and Brazil, but it has elsewhere. My instinct, though, is that it would be much easier to politicize access to subsidized stores than access to an income-supplementing program.

    All that reminded me of my native Prince Edward Island, where the incumbent premier Robert Ghiz might well lose his job come the next election because, among other things, he seems to have respected the Supreme Court’s decision that political patronage is illegal and that it’s quite right to hire people for their skill sets and not for their affiliation to the ruling political party of the day. There’s also the time in the early 1970s that the very popular premier Alex Campbell decided, wth no small measure of support from an afraid populace, to deal with the possibility of hippie infestation by passing a law that declared public gatherings of more than three people illegal. (It was later quietly pointed out that this law might, in fact, be unconstitutional.)

    What does all this prove? Whether on the Gulf of St. Lawrence on on the shore sof the Caribbean,a dn likely in many other places besides, it’s probably a very good thing for the state not political parties to judge who should get access to the necessities of life. The Nika riots don’t recommend themselves as systems of government.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    August 28, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    [LINK] “Superpower swoop”

    Misha Glenny‘s New Statesman article “Superpower swoop” enunciates some of my worst fears about the recent conflict in the Caucasus.

    Georgia’s decision to seize large parts of Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, on the evening of 7 August was a disastrous political miscalculation, even in an era that is increasingly defined by spectacularly poor judgement.

    Within three days of the assault, Russian forces had responded by in effect neutralising Georgia’s military capacity, which President Mikhail Saakashvili’s government in Tbilisi had spent several years and considerable sums of money building up.

    Clearly, Russia has been goading and provoking the Georgian government for several years into making the big mistake. The parastates of Abkhazia and, above all, South Ossetia, have been under the control of a toxic coalition of criminals and both former and serving FSB officers. Russian soldiers have been acting as their protectors under the guise of a peacekeeping mission, preventing Georgia’s attempts to seek a negotiated reintegration of the two areas. The Georgian crisis has benefited the standing of hardliners in Moscow, still aggrieved at Vladimir Putin’s decision to place the moderate, business-friendly Dmitry Medvedev in the Kremlin.

    But under the influence of an energetic neo-con lobby in Washington, and with considerable support from Israeli weapons manufacturers and military trainers, Saakashvili and the hawks around him came to believe the farcical proposition that Georgia’s armed forces could take on the military might of their northern neighbour in a conventional fight and win.

    [. . .]

    [T]he neocons in Washington have been pushing Georgian and Ukrainian membership [in NATO] as a critical goal for the maintenance of the western alliance. By cranking up the dispute with Russia over Nato, Cheney is shifting the political debate in the US away from the state of the economy and towards the issue of national security.

    If the presidential election is fought on the former issue, Barack Obama is a shoo-in. But if the central issue is national security and who would be best at dealing with a major crisis like Georgia, then his Republican opponent, John McCain, has to be favourite. McCain’s response to Georgia was almost as tough as Cheney’s, explained in part by the fact that until May this year his chief foreign policy adviser was working as a lobbyist for Saakashvili.

    Just great.

    Written by Randy McDonald

    August 14, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    [BRIEF NOTE] One more thing

    I’m sure that other people in Toronto have thought of the example of Ronald Reagan’s treatment of the 1981 air traffic controllers strike.

    Say what you will about Reagan; much can and should be said. One thing that he did do superbly was caling bluffs.

    (Obviously, any parallels with other, similar phenomenons are entirely intentional.)

    Written by Randy McDonald

    April 26, 2008 at 7:21 pm