Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sponsorship vs Listeria

Every government has its scandals. When the Liberals first came to power (federally), they came in on a promise to scrap the GST. They promptly dropped this promise and things were quiet on the scandal front for some time.

Just before we switched to a Conservative government, there came the Sponsorship scandal. Of $250M that was supposed to be spent to improve the nation's image among Quebecers who might consider independence, some $100M is supposed to have been spent on "Liberal friendly ad firms" for doing very little work.

It was embezzlement or fraud, call it what you like.

Whatever it was, it was not an innate part of the Liberal platform. There is nothing implied by a liberal mentality that says, "We will support a culture of unaccountability that will allow embezzlement". This was a matter of corruption, not philosophy. Corruption is simply something that happens when people are in power for too long. Chretien was a master manipulator of elections and election timing. His party became corrupt when they began to feel invulnerable and entitled to their positions.

The point is that it wasn't a problem with the philosophy of the party. Most Canadians agree with the general philosophy of the party: balanced budgets; social services; social progress.

On the other hand we have the Listeria outbreak. If it turns out, as most of us suspect, that the outbreak was caused by the recently relaxed testing procedures for Listeria monocytogenes (which seems like a pretty reasonable assumption from which to start), then we have a problem of a completely different order.

The reason that the Conservative government cut inspections was because it is an innate part of the party's philosophy. What do the Conservatives believe in? Less government. More private enterprise. Private is better than public. Lower taxes. Less services. More military. Less social service.

While the Sponsorship scandal was a large embezzlement fiasco brought on by long developed corruption, the Listeria outbreak - if it is indeed the result of a lax inspection regime and not, say, terrorism or sabotage - is evidence that the core philosophy of the Conservative party is flawed. It would mean that the free market does not solve all ills and that low taxation is not in everyone's best interest.

Whenever I discuss this issue with free market favouring coworkers, they like to use the example of a gas station. If a gas station owner were to water down his gas he would lose business because people would find out and stop buying gas from him. This example fails miserably in real life. Yes, the free market works fine for restaurants and gas stations because a) we are all experts on whether our cars break down ten feet from a gas station or when restaurants skimp on portions and b) the time from cheating to being caught is very small. If I drive up to a gas station and see five cars broken down two car lengths from the pumps, I know something is wrong here.

Listeria doesn't work that way, though, does it? Neither does education or health care. You might not realize that your child has been given a bad education for twenty years. You might not realize that your private health care system is deeply flawed until you're dying of cancer and your insurance company uses every trick in the book to deny you coverage and let you die.

And Listeria? It has a 70 to 90 day incubation period. You're not going to see people dying from it for at least two months after it's been in the food system. Then you're going to see them dying for three months after that.

And after people have been dying for three months? Then the free market will kick in and punish the corporation and inspection regime that caused the problem.

Well. Hallelujah for the free market. It told us afterward what we needed to know in advance.

There will be people who tell us not to make political hay out of death. But this is a political issue. This is a political issue that cuts to the heart of each party's philosophy. Can we trust the free market to protect our health or not?

If the lax inspection regime allowed Listeria to kill these people, then we know the answer: it can't.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

Friday, August 29, 2008

Oh, yes, please call the election now.

Are you still threatening us with an election, Mr. Harper?

Are you still thinking you can pick up seats? Are you so engrossed in American politics and the American media that you think calling your opponent a "leftist" is going to send the Canadian public running scared?

Oh, no, policies just like Trudeau? Oh, how everyone hated him!

I hate to tell you, but the ephemeral intangibilities of "Trudeau-style economic policies" aren't nearly as frightening as a government that privatized meat inspection and lobbied against the very inspections that would likely have prevented the deaths of 15 Canadians:
Specifically, Canada opposed daily inspection visits and the testing of finished products for Listeria monocytogenes.

And while this is happening, your Health Minister is in Denver. Denver? Was he hoping to track down the listeria a mile above sea level or just hiding as far away as he could from the scandal?

So, yes, Mr. Harper. Drop the Writ. Call your election. If you think stealing a quarter of a million dollars made Canadians angry at the Liberals, wait'll you see how angry we are when people are dying for your philosophy of privatization.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Elitist African-American or just Uppity Negro

My fandom for The Onion has waned in recent years, but sometimes they really hit the nail on the head. Here they bill the "elitist" characterization of Barack Obama as a major step forward for black people.

As satirical as that's supposed to be, it still makes a point. The fact that white people in the United States can look at a (half-)black man and say, "he's too sophisticated for me" really says something about the improvement of race relations in the country.

That is, if that's what they are actually saying.

There's another way to look at this. They may merely have found a new rationalization for disliking black people. There's always something in which to cloak racism. Those people are violent or dirty or ignorant or we can't trust them because they come from a place where they {insert dislikable phenomenon}.

There used to be this thing called the Great Chain of Being. Attempting to rise beyond your station was punished almost as a natural fact of the universe or an act of god.

In this case, I find it far more likely that the actual purpose of the "elitist" insult is to remind the racist population that what we have here is really an uppity negro. (I'm betting they don't say negro when they talk to each other).

That's right. Cloak your ignorance and hatred behind a dissonance between your working class roots and Obama's wealth. Hide it behind a veil of disdain for lattes and Ivy League universities. Pretend that your dislike for the man has nothing to do with him not knowing his place and everything to do with his snobbery.

Lie all you like. We know what you mean.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's not OVERexploitation

At least once every day I get the feeling that pinko lefties like myself and conservatives are talking past each other.

These people think "why doesn't he get a job" is a punchline and don't see that homeless people are anyone's responsibility.

This guy wants you to believe that a society is barbaric if it doesn't have the death penalty.

Then I read an article today where a bunch of businessmen who formed a think tank called the "Montreal Economic Institute" are telling us that we should be selling our fresh water to Americans. At the price of desalinating sea water this works out to $65B of which 10% could be captured in royalties by the province of Quebec (because you don't want the people of Quebec getting too much for their own resources).

It's hard to explain to conservative, business types what's wrong with this. They don't seem to get it no matter how you explain it. You can tell by this quote at the end, where the paper they wrote attempts to allay what they think are our fears:

“Water clearly is a resource that is essential to life, and turning it into a business may arouse fears that it could one day be overexploited,”

It's not overexploitation that we're worried about. It's exploitation, period.

We've seen what privatization does to water. All over the world, the IMF and WTO have been forcing developing countries to privatize water, electricity and all sorts of other vital commodities. It always ends badly with a small number of very rich corporations and a large number of poor, resource-strapped people.

We know where you're heading, and we don't want any of it. And we don't want you people making money off our water. It's not yours, it's ours, and you don't deserve to get rich by skimming off of us.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

C-484 and Cranial Explosions

I can't remember where I read it but I do recall clearly a prediction that the social conservative wing of the Canadian Conservative party could not long survive alongside the libertarian wing of the same party.

One wing wants to tell you what to do with your body. The other doesn't want anything to do with you at all. The reason the leadership long kept the abortion question off the platform and out of the media was that it shone a bright spotlight on the fissure between the Ontario-style PCs (who were neither progressive nor conservative, when you get down to it) and a certain number of Alberta style conservatives (former Reformers) who believe in a 6000-year-old earth and the government having the right to tell people when to have sex.

Bill C-484 shone a light on that fissure. It was an attempt to sneak language in to our laws that would give a fetus the same rights as a human being. Yes, it would be done sideways - simply by making it a crime to assault a pregnant woman. But it would use language that would refer to the fetus as a "child", damage to which must be accounted. The CMA came out and declared that the bill could be used to limit a woman's choice to have an abortion.

This is dangerous. Not so much for women once everyone realized how the bill could be manipulated. It probably wouldn't make it past its last reading now that the information is out. It's much more dangerous to the Conservative party as a hand grenade dropped in that long-hidden fissure. So Stephen Harper came out and did the politically prudent thing: he canned the bill.

At least we can now see who the social conservatives are in the party and who are the "don't tax me, I'm rich and I don't want to help you out" conservatives. The social conservatives are exploding as I write.

Yep. Without anti-abortion, the conservative party is "soulless". Apparently, the only morals are the morals of the social conservative. The rest of us, with our abhorrence of the death penalty and admiration of drug rehab programs, sex education and rehabilitative prisons, don't count.

I'll be the last to argue that the Conservative party has a soul. As far as I'm concerned - and the evidence in ditching C-484 supports this - the social conservative "soul" of the party was never anything more to the neo-conservative leadership than a useful voting block. No working class people in their right minds would ever think about supporting a party made up of rich, old, white men who do nothing but give themselves tax cuts and take us in to war for the profit of private companies. It's just not smart.

But if you can make them believe, on a confusion of the meaning of the word "conservative" that blowing up a path for a pipeline in Afghanistan, making war with muslims far away and cutting taxes and social services has something in common with Jesus ... well ... you can run a government.

At least for a little while. Then that social conservative base notices that you're a hypocrite and they dump your ass at the next election.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers