Politics 101

July 19, 2010

I like to think of myself as a man not oblivious to political machinations. There is no subterfuge buried deep enough that my nose cannot uproot, truffle style. Long gone are the days when I read anywhere but between the lines.

But I am the proverbial babe in the woods in these matters compared to my acquaintance, one Jose Cuervo Manchego (not his real name, I suspect). Sitting drinking in our favourite west end watering hole, he coolly and quickly dispels any notion I might have of possessing an ‘operative’ mindset. It is both disturbing and thrilling to watch one’s self-assured perspectives so systematically dismantled.

“To think Harper staged the G20 where he did simply to kick sand in the face of Toronto is infantile in its level of petulance,” Jose sneered at me. “It attaches human emotion to someone who possesses none.”

“Yes, yes, everyone’s trying to convince us the man’s actually a warm, huggable guy in person,” Jose continues. “All kittens and lollipops but in the political realm, he’s a machine, a robot, Vulcan. Spite is something completely foreign to him.”

So if not spite, what?

I make the mistake of wondering the thought out loud and am met with nothing but an icy stare of heart-stopping derision. It cost me another round of drinks plus one of the establishment’s marvelous pulled pork sandwiches to get Manchego to stay, let alone fully explain his diabolical theory. An investment well worth it in order to travel down the river to such a heart of darkness. But it would have to wait until the sandwich arrived. Our table was overcome with a stony silence.

“Everybody knew there was going to be a riot,” Manchego restarted in between bites. “As soon as the thing got moved downtown. Expected and desired.”

Sitting listening to Jose Cuervo Manchego brought to mind that scene in Oliver Stone’s JFK where Kevin Costner’s Jim Garrison is schooled in duplicity by Donald Sutherland’s X on the park bench. Yes, the man is that mad!

“They knew there’d be a riot. They knew there’d be police overreaction. Hell, they assured it with the number of cops they put on the street and the toys they gave them to play with. They knew there’d be a huge outcry of protest afterwards. Laws manipulated. Rights stepped on. And they knew… there… would…be…pushback.”

Manchego delivered the last line pretty much as written. Like he was talking to a child. To someone who would never fully comprehend what he was pointing at. But he underestimated my growing grasp of the situation.

“Over 70% of Torontonians approved of how the police dealt with the protesters!” I yelled out, startling everyone in the bar except for Jose Cuervo Manchego. He sat back, smiling a Yoda smile and gestured to the bartender for another round.

Locate and mobilize. Showing support for police actions over the G20 weekend (and beyond) revealed a law and order sensibility that was the Conservatives’ bread and butter. Where these people are and getting them out to vote might be the key to future electoral success.

“The Conservatives are this close,” (gesturing but, in fact, I take some editorial license here because what Manchego actually said about the miniscule proximity included an Andrew Brett degree of vulgarity which I’m not sure readers of this blog are ready for), “to securing a majority government. But they’re tapped out everywhere else in the country. The major breakthrough in Quebec fizzled because they have a fundamental cluelessness about the population. So, where … are … they … going … to … find … the … extra … seats?”

Now, I was just being patronized. The Conservatives had no presence in the country’s 3 biggest cities. A surge in any of them would provide the numbers needed to finally go over the top. So Manchego seemed to be suggesting that the PM deliberately set Toronto on fire in order to find out where his supporters were and to get them excited. That was too Machiavellian even for my tastes.

“Look at that debate at City Hall afterwards,” Manchego countered. “All those councillors who stood up to applaud the police. They proudly claimed to have had no part in the protests and watched it all go down on TV. Why? Because they don’t live anywhere near the downtown core. They go there to work and that’s the extent of it.”

“They live in Rob Ford country, friend.”

Maybe it was the number of drinks we’d downed on this sunny weekend afternoon but my head was a-swirl with the implications Manchego put forward. So the summer of 2010 was to be one of recruitment for the Conservative Party of Canada in the 416 area code. Identify, locate and mobilize. All they needed was a handful of seats and discontent was indeed running high throughout the city. Discontent generated and intensified by many of the candidates running for mayor, none more so than Rob Ford.

“His campaign is nothing more than a trial run,” Jose Cuervo Manchego suggested. “Trotted out to see what sticks and what slides. And exactly where his support is most intense.”

“And if he wins even better!”

Once again, the depths of my ignorance and obliviousness were revealed by Manchego’s reaction to my statement. He dropped his head back and his jaw down, staring in astonishment up at the ceiling. Before I could be relieved over the gentleness of his scorn, he grabbed a crust from his pulled pork sandwich and flung it at me, scoring a direct hit right into my slightly open mouth and forcing me to spit it out onto the floor in full view of the bartender. We apologized after getting a rebuke from him and remained quiet for a few moments but Manchego could not contain himself.

“Nobody in official Conservative circles wants Rob Ford to be mayor, you idiot!” Manchego hissed at me nowhere near as far under his breath as he might’ve imagined. “That would be a disaster. It would set back their agenda years if not decades.”

“The man’s a moron, a buffoon. One year in office as mayor would reveal the entire neo-Conservative, anti-government ideology to be the destructive, brutal, ruinous movement that it truly is. He’d get nothing accomplished except for sinking Conservative chances of ever electing anyone to office in this city ever again.”

I began to suspect the sanity of my drinking partner, Jose Cuervo Manchego. If what he’s saying were true then Toronto progressives should consider voting for Rob Ford as mayor. Take the long view and embrace a one term Ford mayoralty as a giant step toward damaging the neo-conservative brand. Our own little George W. Bush or Sarah Palin. Take one for the team for a brighter future. Fall on the grenade to save the platoon.

But alas, that was too far through the looking glass for me. A worldview I was unprepared to embrace lest I lose my very soul. I would admire the mind of someone like Jose Cuervo Manchego but would not seek to emulate it.

A conclusion I kept to myself, not wanting to be pelted by any more sandwich detritus although, judging from the smoldering, even hateful, look I was subject to, Manchego very likely knew what I was thinking. We continued drinking in silence. The heat outside was too stifling for us to do anything else.

shakenly submitted by Acaphlegmic


Our Gushing Wells Needs Capping Too

June 24, 2010

As the Deepwater Horizon oil spill continues to gush an estimated 35 to 60 thousand barrels of crude oil per day, Americans are waiting for the day when the gushing will finally be stopped. An ecological and economical nightmare, the horrendous disaster will deprive many thousands of workers in tourism and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico their livelihood for quite some time to come and possibly cause irreparable environmental damage. Work on building relief wells which would cease the flow of oil has commenced and will hopefully be completed by this August. In the meantime, containment and cleanup procedures have been implemented to deal with the huge daily flow of crude oil. BP, the oil company responsible for the unmitigated disaster, has estimated its cleanup costs at present totals close to 1.6 billion dollars. Many more billions will be spent before this nightmare comes to an end.

Up here in Canada, we have had a different type of explosion, a figurative one, but one which has resulted in huge flows of money being sucked up into the ether. I refer to our federal and provincial governing bodies’ penchant for wasting billions and millions of taxpayers’ money, most of it in a non-accountable and frivolous manner.

The G8/G20 summits being held in Huntsville and Toronto respectively this weekend are the leading examples. Costs associated with this weekend events are almost as high as the ones for the present oil spill cleanup south of here, believe it or not. The cost for the latter of 1.6 billion US dollars is certainly higher than the 1 billion Canadian dollars for security for the summits but not all the formers’ final costs are in yet. The feds have, as yet, not released estimates of all the other costs (housing, transportation, meals, entertainment, etc) associated with the conferences. Throw in as well the unknown costs of lost income for businesses, property damage, lost tourism etc and it is fair to assume a few million more will be needed before this overpriced photo-op comes to an end and the city can be handed back to those who actually live in it. Already both the parliamentary budget officer and the federal auditor general have stated they will investigate the costs associated with the summits once they are compiled but by then it’s too late isn’t it? The money has been spent.

Both the government and parliament seem to be of the opinion that spending tax payer monies needlessly is part of their raison d’etre. They spend it on investigations and commissions whose outcome and determination could easily be provided by students taking ethical school courses across the country at no cost at all. Fourteen million dollars spent on the Oliphant Commission to come to the conclusion that former prime minister Brian Mulroney acted inappropriately in accepting cash stuffed in envelopes from Karlheinz Schreiber? C’mon, who needs to spend that kind of money when common sense tells us the answer.

The Braidwood commission in B.C. is another example of a huge leakage of money. The commission and its final report on the death of Robert Dziekanski is expected to have cost the provincial taxpayer more than 4,000,000 dollars and the final total may be as high as 6,000,000. Again, I think we all know that RCMP officers tasering a visitor who could not speak our language 4 or 5 times until he died at the scene does not require expensive pondering. We all know it was wrong and that’s all there is to it. The monies would have been better spent on bringing the officers involved to trial. In an ironic twist, the B.C. Attorney General has just appointed a special prosecutor to investigate this tragic incident, namely one Richard Peck. You may remember him as the special prosecutor who dropped into Ontario long enough a few months back to dismiss all charges against Michael Bryant without even a trial taking place to sort out guilt or innocence in another equally tragic affair. You’ll forgive me if I don’t hold my breath about the outcome of his investigation regarding Robert Dziekanski.

Even more frustrating is that after all these expenditures, neither the Oliphant nor Braidwood commissions had the mandate to indicate criminal wrongdoings. So after all this huge wastage of money, the sole outcome was an elaborate statement of obvious conclusions that the taxpayer had already made. Nothing more.

And what about the 500,000,000 dollar parliamentary budget? Sheila Fraser, the federal auditor general, had to fight tooth and nail to finally get to see how those millions get spent. Politicians said she did not have the right to do so. Really? Last time I looked, that budget comes out of the taxpayers’ coffers and therefore, Ms Fraser, representing the taxpayers’ interests, does indeed have that right. I’m sure the results of that audit will be most interesting and quite likely most disturbing.

It’s time we demand that our elected officials spend our money more wisely and not on inane inquiries, meetings and definitely, it seems, not on summits. Why it costs Canada hundreds of millions more than other countries to run these latest summits is still yet to be determined but I’m pretty sure the audits’ conclusions will be that the money could have been put to much better use. The irony of CSIS filing a report this week stating that the G8/G20 terrorism risk is very low underlines the need for stemming this gushing flow of taxpayers’ monies from all our legislative wells.

Chidingly submitted by Distant Cousin