Ontario, I owe, I owe

How does one distinguish between the major parties in Ontario these days? I have no idea — but the ‘red’ party seems to be very, very good at running up the (balance sheet) red; ‘orange’ appears to be just another shade of red; and ‘blue’, well, it just makes me blue. And another election, someday, to choose between ‘them’? Oh, give me strength.

With ‘red’ we have an endless stream of scandals and profligate waste of the public purse. The gas plant scandal, Orange, eHealth, Green Energy — industrial wind turbines in everyone’s backyard except theirs. The dubious achievement of doubling the Provincial debt with no sign of even slowing down. And ‘conversations’, why, oh, why… since it is all too obvious no one is listening. And who is going to pay for all their excesses since they seem dedicated to driving out business through high power prices? It all makes the folks in Greece and California look like amateurs.

‘Orange’ seems committed to propping up ‘red’ — their socialist ideals seem long gone. One wonders if that distant humming sound is Jack Layton’s ghost spinning in his grave…

‘Blue’ on the provincial level occasionally make sense — but the legacy of their cynical budget slashing by downloading services to lower levels of government without passing along the revenues and of course, forced amalgamations. These are all gifts that keep on giving.  How did anyone get the idea that there were economies of scale in human institutions? All the experience in the world shows that small is beautiful, not bigger is better.

And why are they all so opaque to the experience elsewhere in the world? Enron showed everyone that the power market is a wonderful forum for gaming the need for energy. For a few minutes they were the darlings of the business world, until their house of cards collapsed and exposed what a fraud it all was. Ontario, I remember reading somewhere, hired Enron to design a modern market-driven power system and has made multiple passes at trying to force it to work. Even now, I hear, they are quietly trying to build a futures market for power among municipalities. Some folks (well connected I am sure) will make a ton of money… the rest of us, on the other hand, will have a different experience. Let them eat cake, I guess. Or perhaps the more appropriate mangling would be ‘ask not what you can do for your country, ask rather what you can do your country for…’.

Makes me wonder what the purpose of government is? Are they there to help and support, to do things larger or more long term than private enterprise would entertain? Or are they just another vulture trying to rip their piece off the rotting corpse of the body politic before anyone else gets it?

Reminds me that my father, many years ago, said that the real choice in politics is trying to decide which folks are going to steal the least. He, and many others, have said that career politicians are really in it for the opportunities to make money — oddly echoed by Premier Wynne lately – ‘it takes money to fuel the democratic process’. One wonders just how different governments are from their espoused ideals? And how really different are places like Ontario, the US, Zimbabwe or Kyrgyzstan? Do we really want to know? And if we did, would it make any difference?


Blackmailing Democracy

Watching the antics playing out in that formerly great country to our south, I am reminded of a 1930s gangster movie — ‘nice country you got here, be a shame if anything were to happen to it. Now just give us your money and no one will get hurt (that we care about anyhow).’

Given the rancor it would be easy to forget that what was implemented for healthcare was largely taken from the Republican playbooks. And not too long ago rapidly soaring healthcare costs had been identified as a major threat to the US economy. But successful lobbying and financial interests gutted the single payer idea — and everyone is left with what is probably the worse of both worlds, mandatory individual policies with the insurance companies still in control and taking their slice of the action.

The healthcare program is not the issue, not really. From where I sit it looks like a bunch of anarchists focusing on trying to destroy anything and everything the current president does. And overturn elections and the results of an orderly legislative process. And I suspect the real reason is not the programs but the person. But maybe they are just at war with the country as a whole.

What is really at stake is whether democracy will survive or whether we are seeing the start of another civil war. Blackmail and extortion cannot be allowed as public legislative methods. If not, what distinguishes the US from some of the dark regimes that have all too recently scarred this planet?

The New York Times had an interesting article about the extent of planning behind this whole business.  Makes me think that what we are really seeing is a new civil war, an insurrection from within. Perhaps the TP is a fifth column for some other group – al Qaeda or a nascent fourth Reich.

If concern over the budget and national debt were the real issue, why has there been so little effort? And why were the study group results discarded out of hand by the republicans? Maybe, after starting two costly wars with no thought of how to pay for them (or get out) the real problem is that they don’t recognize what balancing the budget means? Or its only OK if its what we want.

In an afternote – the October crisis was kicked down the road a few months. The government has resumed, but for how long. All the fuss over indiscriminate spying by the NSA seems to have taken attention off the situation for a bit. But as one party had observed, regardless of who is in the White House or running Congress, the republican right wing has been setting the agenda — job creation and growing the economy have been replaced with robbing the poor and giving to the rich. So, as it were, the situation continues to deteriorate.

Anyhow, dark days ahead for the world. Maybe the universe of Thunderdome is not as far off as we might like to think?