Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Stupidity Kool-Aid Rant

There must be something in the water lately. Not just here, seems like everywhere. I almost don't know where to begin.

The 3.1 Billion is still missing, as far as I can tell. However it's possible that they found where it went, and the media is focussed elsewhere. No surprise there.

For my lifetime, Canada has mostly been a pretty sensible place. Compared to many parts of the world it's heaven on earth, which explains why so many people emigrate here. Oh sure, there's been a few scandals here and there, and some exciting politicians. They are generally from the coasts. One was Flying Phil Gaglardi. Another was John Crosby. And what do we get from the middle of the country? Buttermilk Bill Davis from Brampton, the King of bland.

But generally Canadians are a pretty boring lot. We go about whatever the business at hand is, and over the last 146 years have produced a great place to live. Sometimes it's muddling through, and on some things we got lucky, but there have been any number of Canadians over the years that are widely regarded as being extremely good at what they do.

But now? Again, I'm struggling to know where to begin. There is simply so much of it. Stupidity, that is. Federally. Provincially, in several provinces. Municipally in the biggest city in the country.

It isn't even like shit happened and people are dissecting the entrails. Oh no. Most of the stories are on full boil, with new developments daily. It's hard to say if the boiling will make things better or not, but the odds are against it.

Let's start with the guy that gave a sitting Senator (the politician, not the sports team) $90,000 to pay back expenses he had improperly claimed. Even that bland statement covers a multitude of sins, all of them stupid:

  • Nigel Wright was at the time the Prime Ministers right and left hand man, being Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister's Office, making him one of the most powerful men in the country. By all accounts he is supposed to be a smart man. What on earth was he drinking to think he could give a Senator $90K?
  • And why did Duffy accept it? It's not like he's poor, or he shouldn't be. Senators earn very good money, thank you very much, and have expense allowances and other top ups. Plus when he worked as a media person, he was making a very good salary. At the very least he could have made arrangements to pay it back.
  • Why did Duffy claim the expenses he did? Frankly, if he tried that for any other employer in the developed world he'd have been fired for theft, and maybe charged with fraud. The man claimed expenses to which he was blatantly, obviously, clearly not entitled. One once, but many times.
The story spirals out from there. It seems there is a slush fund for the PMO that only Wright, and the Prime Minister himself had signing authority on. They vehemently deny that the $90K came from there.  Harper denies being involved, and I almost believe him. But then, that's why one has a chief of staff. It appears that Duffy was never eligible for the Senate appointment in the first place, and made some pretty bald attempts to further feather his nest.
Today the RCMP is actively investigating and the Senate Ethics officer has suspended their investigation. It shouldn't take the RCMP more than a few days to make either Wright or the bank cough up the cheque. I have not the slightest doubt there will be more revelations to come. And the whole thing from beginning to where we are now is stupid! Every attempt to minimize or hide the initial crime has made it worse. You'd think they'd learn.

Which leads naturally to the current Alberta Health Services fiasco. The whole health department has been a running sore of an embarrassment for years now. The Health Minister just yesterday fired the entire board for not doing what they had been ordered to do. It isn't like this board is comprised of rogue elements going wild. No, the thing to remember is that they were appointed by THIS VERY MINISTER! 

We all know that people chosen for such positions have one overwhelming qualification, best put by the immortal Sir Humphry Appleby, as "they are one of us." The chair of the recently fired board has tried to dress it up as maintaining the integrity of a (supposedly) signed contract. Said contract was to pay about 100 senior executives about $3.2 million between them, at a time when they are cutting services to the disabled, and the government is hectoring other unionized staff.

Yes, the Health ministry is a huge, complicated beast. But good golly, the stories of stupidity that have emerged over the last few years make me wonder what is in the water. Google Duckett and the cookie. And yes, they have tried to make the various scandals go away, and they only get worse. So the board didn't learn, and so the government hasn't yet learned. 

Which in the spirit of symmetry brings us to municipal politics. A minor one first. A prominent local developer was caught on cell video badmouthing city council's perceived policies on development, and notes they had given a fruitloop right wing organization more than a million dollars to stack Calgary city council with councilors opposed to Nenshi, I mean, those who would vote as they were told to, I mean, those who were development friendly. So far, they have been spinning madly trying to walk it back. Nenshi needs to merely refer to the video. 

Can I insert a quickie here about Mayor Nenshi? He is the major exception to my rant about stupidity. People have been astonished that Cowtown would elect a brown skinned practicing Muslim with unruly hair and a big loopy grin to be Mayor. It's only been a couple years, and he is widely regarded as one of the best mayor's we've had. There is an election in a while, and running against him is considered to be a fool's errand. Before him there was an endless succession of split council votes that would go around and around and around, as the councilors ganged up on the perceived weakest vote, then try again. Council was always in the news. Now, it works. There are some hiccups, but they are getting things done. I think we're pretty darned fortunate.

In contrast to Hogtown. Toronto. Pronounced, for my American friends, "Trawna". The news today is that Mayor Ford still won't answer any questions about the video of him smoking a crack pipe, that three trained journalists have seen, and independently reported on. The questions he won't answer today revolve around a police raid on the house where it is alleged the crack was smoked in. I haven't been paying a lot of attention to Twitter lately, but I'm pretty sure I've seen it mentioned that the local police knew about the crack video even before the journalists.

I don't see how this one can get any better, as seen from the perspective of Toronto. It isn't like this is Ford's first bought with, with, I don't even know what word to use. Notoriety? Yet he persists in carrying on, hoping, like all his previous offenses, that it will go away. The whole thing is stupid. Normally I'd say stupid with a capital S, but even this has serious competition in the stupidity department. See above.

From the record, it is my considered opinion that we shouldn't be voting for angry middle aged to old white men any more, especially those of the right wing persuasion. Recently they've been displaying a remarkable amount of stupidity. Maybe we should be seeking out brown skinned practicing Muslims with unruly hair and big loopy grins. 

But wait! There's more! Quebec is a different place. They say they are a different nation, and deserve to be a nation, and they are so special they want to be a fully independent nation as long as Canada pays the bills and continues the equalization payments.

So in Quebec there is the current stupidity, and institutional stupidity. The latter is exemplified by the current corruption scandals. As near as I can tell, every elected politician in and around Montreal, and all the construction companies are in bed together to fuck over the tax payer. But that's business as usual.

No, the current stupidity is the Quebec Soccer Federation, and no I don't know what that is in French, telling players that wear turbans they are welcome to play soccer in their back yards, but there is no place for them on the soccer pitch with other kids. "It's unsafe, and the rules don't permit it". Well, that same rule doesn't permit a lot of things, like female players wearing head bands or scrunchies for their pony tails. 

They are currently in a peeing match with the Canadian Soccer Federation, which has pulled their sanction for holding official events. And rightly so. They should take a page out of the Alberta Health minister's book and fire the lot of them. Supposedly Quebec is a secular society, except for Catholic relics. Those are allowed because they're "cultural". But they are going out of their way to restrict other cultures and religions.

Again, for American readers, in Canada it would be considered quite rude to ask someone which church they worshiped at, or to invite someone to worship at your church, unless that other person brought up the topic. As an example, even though I'm atheist, if a new neighbour wanted to know what churches were nearby, I'd be able to point them to a Catholic, JCLDS, Jewish, and United church not far from here. But I'd never take the initiative and suggest they attend, or that they shouldn't attend at all. It's quite simply none of my business.

I know people in Quebec, and they have much the same approach to religion. It's the people in public office that seem to be pandering to what they think of as the national interest. Which often means the old Quebec. Which, in an odd sort of way is really similar to the old Canada. The one run by and for old white men, Catholic in Quebec, Protestant in the rest of Canada. The one that is gone forever now. We have had so many immigrants from all over the world that we can never put that genie back in the bottle.

And you know what? I'm happy about it. There are a ton of Muslims that are just as horrified by their supposed co-religionists when they commit a terrorist act as we are. And yet, look at the USA, most of the terror  acts are either committed by white men with fruit loop beliefs, or by government agents for who knows what reason. Calgary has a huge Asian population, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and others. The simplistic, racist view is that it makes for good eating, and lots of choices for accountants. All the Asian people I've met and worked with over the years have been smart, hard working people that are a credit to Canada.

Stupidity is choosing people to run our country and institutions on the basis that "they are one of us". One of my key rules for life is that whatever is hidden away and done in secret will fester and go rotten. That goes for food, people, and acts of government. So when the Health Minister goes to appoint new AHS board members, they ought to open the competition to everyone in the province. Post their names and resumes on line, and make the choice in a clear, transparent way. See if the "one of us" is really the right choice.

There needs to be some institution that can force the people that are perpetrating these acts of stupidity to bend and spread 'em. To produce the paperwork, to tell the truth, to come clean. The performance of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons over much of the last decade has been stupid and shameful, and there doesn't seem to be any way to stop it. I don't know what Kool-Aid they've been drinking, but it has to stop.

I can't help but think that what much of the world needs now is some adult supervision. I just don't know what that looks like. I have no idea if any of these people are still alive, but I wonder what the mother's of some of these idiots in the news think of their sons? Usually it's sons, but that $16 glass of orange juice comes to mind, small potatoes that it is.

In one sense I want to go slap some sense into those people. In another I just want to go away and ignore it, which is exactly what they'd like me to do. Because then they would continue the private gravy train.

Social media has facilitated some amazing events over the past few years. Maybe we can figure out how to harness it to reduce the amount of stupidity in the world. Given most of the blather that is on Facebook, for example, I'm not hopeful, but there is some promise. Any ideas?

1 comment:

  1. Hear! Hear! Thoroughly enjoyed the rant and totally agree. There are mornings when I a) want to turtle under the covers or b) move to a little island because it's just so dang depressing. There is a little part of me though, that hopes that somehow intelligence will prevail. The more people comment on it, like you did, the more people might stop and think...


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