Politics, weather – sublime, ridiculous

Posted on December 14, 2008
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            These times are, like the Chinese curse, interesting. A couple of new and historic events have dominated the news.

            One is the proroguation of Parliament granted by the Governor General to Stephen Harper’s Conservative minority.

            I didn’t know a failed minority government in a Parliamentary system could have a do-over.

            I suspect the GG gave Harper an extra life. I very much doubt the coalition that threatened to topple him will maintain its determination. He will undoubtedly salt his new budget with items the opposition parties will find difficult to oppose.

            It may be all for the best. The reborn Prime Minister may govern more politely now that he has been reminded that his is, after all, a minority government.

            Another interesting lesson was how many people totally misunderstand the concept of Parliamentary democracy. Many were outraged when two minorities threatened to seize power from one minority. They seem to believe the guy with the most seats has some divine right to govern. That is not so. The person who has a majority of Members of Parliament prepared to support him has the right to form, or attempt to form, a government. The magic number is half plus one. Harper does not have that but was trying to bully the smaller minorities into submission.

            One of the saddest examples of the total ignorance of the system was perpetrated by the president of the Canada JCI Senate. JCI stands for Jaycees International. It is an organization originally dedicated to training and preparing young men to take leadership roles in their societies.

            It has a beautiful creed.

            “We believe:

            That faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life;

            That the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations;

            That economic justice can best be won by free men through free enterprise;

            That government should be of laws rather than of men;

            That earth’s great treasure lies in the human personality and

            That service to humanity is the best work of life.”

            In my opinion, the president violated the line of the creed about government being of laws rather than men.

            It is supposed to mean that laws enacted by democratic legislatures govern us, not the whims of some autocratic ruler.

            The Canada JCI president sent an email to the Governor General, identifying himself as the Canada JCI president and saying he found the actions of the coalition “repugnant.”

            He also had the secretary of the organization send out a message to all the members suggesting they send a similar message of opposition to the Governor General.

            Not only did he violate the non-political policy of the association, he used his position as president to use the membership list and his title for his personal objectives.

            When I, and perhaps some others, brought this to his attention, he refused to have a different, neutral, message sent to the GG. He sent another message asking if the majority of JCI senators wanted him to resign.

            With the support of his board, and, he says, a majority of messages he received supporting his position, there will be no further distribution of information on the subject.

            To be fair, Canada Jaycees itself, like many volunteer men’s groups, is dying and many members, even the senators, have never had the training that would have taught them what a horror show has just occurred.


            The sublime element of the Parliamentary crisis is that, right or wrong, the Governor General made a carefully considered decision and all Canadians, satisfied or not, will abide by it.

            People are outraged for and against Harper and for and against the coalition. That will translate into political consequences in the future.

            Parliamentary democracy is a magnificent construct.

Just us

          Having been in the US in November and the first 10 days of December, I was exposed to a barrage of news and opinion about the proposed bailout of the US automobile manufacturers.

            It was disconcerting to see politicians telling the manufacturers that, if they get help, they will be subject to strict rules of accountability and perhaps even an official “czar.”

            The implication was that the czar would pass judgment on whether the manufacturers were making the right kinds of cars for the present and future market. This idea, frankly, make me want to puke.

            Even if politicians or anyone they could appoint as czar could imaginably make any intelligent decisions about what cars the public should be driving and the manufacturers should be making, who can imagine that the public would obediently fork over their purchase dollars? That’s as stunned as when the Government of New Brunswick held a contest and judged the song we would all sing to express our love of our province.

            Sing me a couple of choruses of that, will you? No?

            Johnny “Trapper” Newman told me his dad used to say “There is no justice. There is just us.”

            I believe that is the root of the disaster in US car manufacturing.

            The companies manufactured the cars we would buy in a time when planned obsolescence made sense because technology and tastes changed so rapidly.

            Management employees signed agreements with labour employees, often under pressure or threats from governments to get the assembly lines moving again in the interests of the general economy.

            Citizens like you and me resisted the idea of increasing fuel taxes to encourage the use of smaller, more fuel efficient, cars. The US has not been self-sufficient in oil for decades, generations, and yet gas prices there are much less than in Canada and a fraction of what they are in Europe.

            In that pricing climate, what are manufacturers to do but give the public the size and power it wants?

            And let us not forget the biggest contributor to gasoline consumption. Government (taxpayer) financed superhighways made it feasible in terms of time to drive farther and farther every year to and from work and homes in suburbs.

            If gas prices were higher and roads smaller, gas consumption would be less and cars smaller and mass transit better utilized.

            But hey, surely all of those things were the fault of the Detroit manufacturers and unions, right?

            While we’re at it, we may as well blame Detroit for the sub prime mortgage debacle which devastated every kind of business including auto manufacturing. Surely it was not the politicians and that magical unseen (greedy, lying) hand of the market that tossed the struggling auto sector an anchor. We really need a punctuation mark for sarcasm, don’t we?

            Can you imagine my distaste for watching Congressmen and Senators sitting castigating the auto-manufacturing executive?

            It would be far more honest for all of us who ever complained about gas taxes or demanded better roads instead of railroads to cry mea culpa.

            There is no justice. There is just us.

Sublime/ridiculous weather

            So, Tuesday, December 9, in Florida, I was opening every door and window I could find to create enough cross ventillation to keep the temperature below 78 f so the air conditioning would not kick in. The pool temperature was 89 f.

            Friday, December 12, I drove Michelle to work in the morning so I could have her car. When I got back home, it seemed like a good idea to shovel all the slushy snow out of the walkway and from in front of the garage doors. If the temperature dropped, and it froze, it would be very nasty to try to remove.

            Perhaps an hour later, my feet were wet and cold. I was soaked from the rain and the exertion of shoveling wet, heavy slush. Ferry Road had been hit with a power outage. For those of us with our own wells, that means no shower.

            I took note of the contrast between Tuesday and Friday and was startled to realize I was still happy to be home.

            It is actually quite comical to realize how powerful is the pull family and friends and home have on you, especially at Christmas.

            It is ridiculous. It is sublime.



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