Friday, September 07, 2012

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Winslow Wheeler compares the NDP's F-35 hearings to politics on the opposite side of the U.S. border:
The differences between Canadian politicians and members of Congress are utterly stunning. Unlike here, oversight in the Canadian Parliament is alive and well. In Canada, I found two political behaviors unheard of in the United States: Opposition politicians actually try to understand the issue they are talking about, and they take offense at being lied to.

My re-orientation started when, lo and behold, without giving long, windy, and poorly informed opening statements, the parliamentarians asked questions directly relevant to my testimony about the cost to buy and operate the Canadian version of the F-35. They were not reading off or cribbing from memos but were reacting to what I had said; we had an actual discussion, one member at a time. They probed my estimate of the potential $200 million-per-aircraft cost -- not the $75 million Canada's Department of National Defense (DND) had been advertising. They also poked at my prediction that the cost to operate the F-35, after purchase, would be at least three times DND's original estimate.

The members' questions were constructed by themselves on the spot and reflected that several of them had done their homework. For example, Matthew Kellway of Ontario had clearly read and understood an article in Proceedings, the U.S. Naval Institute's journal, written by the U.S. chief of naval operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, questioning whether radar-evading "stealth" technology was viable against current and future countermeasures -- a key question in Canada, where "stealth" dominates the debate about the F-35 almost as much as cost.

Most remarkable was their predisposition to listen, integrate the new information they heard, synthesize it to formulate a new understanding, and then ask more questions. 
 - But it's worth noting that Wheeler may have overgeneralized in linking his positive impression to Canadian politicians generally - as Allan Gregg points out that the Cons are doing their utmost to drain Canadian politics of evidence and critical thought:
I have spent my entire professional life as a researcher, dedicated to understanding the relationship between cause and effect. And I have to tell you, I’ve begun to see some troubling trends. It seems as though our government’s use of evidence and facts as the bases of policy is declining, and in their place, dogma, whim and political expediency are on the rise. And even more troubling …. Canadians seem to be buying it.
The thing that is disconcerting and unsettling about all this is not just the substance of these Bills, but why a government would want to disguise that substance. Maybe dismantling the Wheat Board; or pre-emptively squashing collective bargaining; or sending more potheads to jail is a good thing. But before we make those decisions, let’s look at all the facts; have a fulsome and rational debate; and make a reasoned decision of what is in the best interests of all the parties involved. For voters to determine whether these are measures they support or oppose requires that they know what is at stake and what the government is actually doing. Moreover, for the rule of law to work, the public must have respect for the law. By obfuscating the true purpose of laws under the gobbledy-gook of double speak, governments are admitting that their intentions probably lack both support and respect. Again, the lesson here is Orwellian … in the same way that reason requires consciousness, tyranny demands ignorance.

 Raising this is not a question of right versus left. It is rather- in the words of Al Gore – a question of right versus wrong. And also make no mistake that this is not simply an attack on, or a claim that the sole practitioner of masking intent is The Harper Government. Jean Charest, introduced Bill 78 as “An Act to Enable Students to Receive Instruction from the Post Secondary Education They Attend”. Under some fairly benign circumstances, it basically bans the freedom of assembly. And under the pretext of another perpetual war – the so-called War on Terrorism – the President of the United States not only routinely orders the execution of foreign nationals, on foreign soil, without any semblance of due process whatsoever, but boasts that this as one of the greatest accomplishments of his Presidency. And the American media routinely applauds him for it. Now I know it’s not comfortable to offer suspected terrorists due process, but isn’t this exactly the kind of behaviour Orwell was warning us about?
While the circumstance in Canada 2012 is obviously nowhere near as dystopian as what Orwell depicts in 1984, I really do think that there are some unsettling parallels going on here that we ignore at our peril. I also think it’s time to gather the facts….and fight back.
- Fortunately, Paul Wells for one is meeting the Cons' latest line of echo-chamber talking points with due mockery.

- Meanwhile, Stephen Maher reports that the Cons' illegal election tactics in Guelph may now be under investigation by the CRTC along with Elections Canada. And Glen McGregor notes that the Con staffer initially thrown under the bus seems to have had little to do with Robocon (even as his documented track record of party-sanctioned attempted vote suppression makes him a less-than-sympathetic scapegoat).

- Finally, John Dunbar offers his own broadly representational visualization of Enbridge's plans for Douglas Channel - featuring a supertanker in the middle of an island 500 metres above sea level.

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