30 April 2005

Speaking of the shuttle Danny...

Since the Premier got so agitated about nothing with the last Titan mission, I wonder if anyone has briefed him on the shuttle.

1. The last five shuttle missions have used the high inclination launch angle. The next five plan for the same thing.

2. The last mission had some impacts on the underside of the orbiter on the way to orbit. That's what led to the disintegration of the orbiter on re-entry.

3. Therefore, it is highly likely that any launch problems will trigger a mission abort.

4. Pop quiz: what happens next?

5. Pop answer: the large, liquid fuel tank is jettisoned, the orbiter is brought around and the pilot heads for the nearest runway.

6. And where might those runways be, you ask?

7. They are located at Goose Bay, Gander and St. John's. The latter one is only used in a pinch since the runways are so frickin short compared to Goose and Gander.

8. The tank falls somewhere in the ocean with much less precision than the Titan launch vehicle did.

Oh well. I guess we'll hear more of that as we get closer to launch day.

And then nothing happened

Reports from Florida are that the last Titan launch went flawlessly, with the Hibernia and Terra Nova platforms never saw a thing except a couple of amorous seagulls.

Here's a summary from SpaceFlightnow.com.

Let me remind everyone that this is exactly what i predicted from the beginning based on solid evidence.

For your amusement, here's the CP story on the launch focusing on some comments from defence minister Bill Graham.

Notice that Graham was in New Brunswick announcing yet more money for infrastructure at Camp Gagetown.

Meanwhile over here, no one seems to be noticing a $68 million defence construction job that needs some massaging and pushing to happen.

Guess they are waiting for the shuttle.

29 April 2005

PolFlash - Update - 2 polls show Liberals on top

Two new national polls show the federal Liberal has regained its lead over the federal Conservatives.

Canadian Press is reporting a poll by GPC Research showing the Liberals slightly ahead of the Conservatives in voter preference. Even the National Lampoon picked this one up and could not escape the lede:

"A Conservative lead in popular support seems to have evaporated this week, suggests a poll conducted after Paul Martin's national TV address and while the Liberal-NDP budget pact was being worked out."

GPC Research is a division of GPC International. GPC counts former federal Conservative cabinet minister Don Mazankowski, former federal Liberal cabinet minister Otto Lang and former Ontario liberal Premier David Peterson among their consultants. Wags will recall that during Lang's time in Ottawa, the government's twin engine prop aircraft became known as the Twin Otto in honour of the minister's penchant for flying around in it. This was before the arrival of Challengers.

Another poll conducted for the Globe and Mail and CTV by The Strategic Counsel shows that the Liberal Party enjoys the support of 30 percent of decided voters in Canada, followed by 28% for the Conservatives. The Strategic Counsel's researcher is Allan Gregg, once the leading researcher for the Progressive Conservative Party.

"And Mr. Harper's own standing with Canadians has not improved; 22 per cent said their view of the Conservative Leader has improved in the past year, while 21 per cent said it worsened. "He's stuck in the mud," Mr. Gregg said.

In Ontario, which has 106 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons, the Liberals have regained a substantial lead, with 38-per-cent support, compared with 30 per cent for the Conservatives. That is a dramatic reversal from 10 days ago, when the Conservatives led the Liberals 39 per cent to 33 per cent."

Wow! You really have to look at the dramatic turn around in opinion once people got past the initial shock from the Gomery testimony core dump and the subsequent media frenzy.

As a number of cooler heads noted, the Connies and Stephen Harper just couldn't make their vicious rhetoric take hold with the Canadian public focusing solely on Gomery. The Connie message track was just out of touch with a majority of Canadians. The dogs responded to the vicious sounding whistle. Most Canadians never heard it.

This points to the chronic Connie problem inherited from the righteous wonders of the Reform Party and Leader Stephen Harper - they are ideologues not pragmatists. They are elitists who want to tell us what to think, not democrats who believe in political dialogue.

And that's why they keep failing.

Look particularly at Ontario in the Gregg poll where the federal Liberals earned a massive turn-around in voter preference.

So much for the "media consultants" who thought the Prime Minister's communications strategy was all wrong. Quick, everyone call Allan Bonner and see what he says now.

So much for the media pile-on, talking about a government tottering on the verge of collapse. [Or my favourite, the poll showing the PM's speech was working but where the reporter said the Liberal Party had stalled. Talk about spin!]

So much for Stephen Harper.

and if Steve puts the whip out for Connies to vote against the budget, so much for Loyola and Norm. I'd like to see them wriggle out of the jam they are in.

Harvey Hodder - Quit already

CBC news reports today that Harvey Hodder has decided to reopen the public galleries based on advice from the police.

He gives no idea of what has changed to give him comfort he can open the galleries without disruption.

It was long ago obvious that Hodder is the most inept Speaker to occupy the chair in decades.

His flip-flops over the past couple of weeks and his complete failure to control the legislature or the galleries is further proof of his incompetence.

The government won't toss him out because they like to have a puppet in the chair.

The opposition lacks the power to push him out.

If Hodder had half an ounce of anything, he'd quietly pack it in at the first chance and let someone take over the Speaker's job who has a clue.

As it stands now, the House is reduced to a joke.

Maybe Harvey could try an open mike night somewhere.

Titan NewsFlash - SAGE Puts to Sea /Launch time confirmed

An E-mail received late last night from Tom Bell of the Portland Press Herald confirms that the Sage put to sea last night apparently headed for a position in order to monitor the launch of Titan Mission B-30 later this evening.

Bell also quotes US Air Force officials as saying the Titan is expected to lift off at approximately 2050 hrs EDT/ 2220 hrs NDT, the most precise launch information ever released publicly.

The launch is expected to occur between 2000 hr and 2230 hrs Eastern Daylight Savings time this evening. That's 2130 hr on 29 Apr and 0000 30 Apr 05 Newfoundland Daylight Savings Time.

This would confirm that the Sage's mission is to collect and transmit information on the Titan mission for the US Air Force. Bells' story, appearing in today's Press Herald, attributes the extra telemetry to an American desire to show Canada it is taking extra safety precautions. That opinion comes from Peter Brown, senior multimedia editor for VIA Satellite magazine.

Maybe, Peter. Personally I'd put greater weight on the idea that the Sage is merely filling in for one of the existing range instrumentation vessels. The time scales just don't fit; Sage was apparently already offshore Maine for the original launch before Canadian objections. It would have taken a lot longer to get the Sage fitted out and sailing north than the timescale allows, unless the Sage was already equipped. It looks to me like the ship merely docked in Portland waiting for the launch.

An extra telemetry vessel doesn't really send a message to the Canadian government especially since the whole thing is being handled in great secrecy. If you want to send a message to a friendly government, you pick up the phone.

There's no point in being cryptic.

Next thing you'll tell me there was ever a chance of the rocket ever coming in sight of the offshore oil fields let alone hit anything.

28 April 2005

Does Norm listen to his Leader?

For the second day in a row, normally sensible Norm Doyle has sounded out-of-touch with reality.

Today he was interviewed by Ramona Dearing on CBC Radio's afternoon drive show, On the Go.

Norm made a number of points - I am paraphrasing here - :

1. The Conservative Party has not decided to bring down the government. Norm needs to start reading the National Lampoon, the unofficial propaganda organ of the Conservative Party of Canada. His Leader is quoted saying: "As soon as Parliament gets back, I will be asking our caucus to put this government out of its misery as early as possible."

Harper's rhetoric is increasingly vicious. The Lampoon quotes him as calling the arrangement between the Liberals and New Democrats to pass the budget as a "deal with the devil." Try acting like a potential prime minister, Steve. It might boost your own personal standing in the polls.

2. The Conservatives haven't decided to vote against the budget. Geez, Norm. A national caucus chairman who sleeps through meetings will get noticed. Norm's Leader has been speaking about bringing down the government over the budget for...what is it... three weeks now at least?

3. You can't cherry-pick the budget. Ok Norm. I'll buy that. So why did your Leader want to have the Kyoto provisions taken out of Bill C-43 in order to gain Conservative support? After the Kyoto provisions were out, why did he continue to complain that the offshore deal money was being left in?

Why are you and Secret Agent 86 Post Offices still rambling on about cherry picking the offshore money out of the budget bill? Scroll down for the answer.

4. The Atlantic Accord is safe. Norm added a rant that the New Democrats didn't do anything to pressure the Liberals to take the offshore money out of C-43 and have it passed as a separate bill.

Watch for a public tender to widen the walls in Norm's office to accommodate his pinocchiosis.

Norm knows full-well that even if the offshore money was a separate bill it wouldn't make it into law before his power-crazed Leader forces the country into an unwanted election. It couldn't pass both the House and Senate and get vice-regal approval in such a short space of time.

Norm also knows his boss wanted all along to handle the matter another way. What is going to stop Stephen Harper, prime minister of a majority government from taking us all back to square one? After all Harper is the guy who flatly stated in writing he wants to sell Ottawa's Hibernia shares and use the money for the good of all Canadians.

Norm also knows that his boss has talked about guaranteeing passage of the agreement if he makes it to the prime minister's office, but hey: can we get that in writing Steve? It's not that we don't trust you, Steve, but any guy who has changed his party position on so many issues in such a short space of time just can't expect to get by on a smile and a hand-shake.

As for the bit about the New Democrats, Norm, they didn't need to take the offshore bit out of the budget bill since now they get to support Newfoundland and Labrador and advance their own issues at the same time.

Here's what it all boils down to: Norm and his colleague, the shadow member for St. John's South- Mount Pearl, are badly jammed up. Their leader is hell-bent on pushing an election no one wants, including their own constituents.

Norm and Loyola know that if C-43 comes to a vote they are screwed. They either vote for it and potentially save the government (Steve remembers these things).

or they vote against the budget and get people in the supermarkets and the churches and the Open Line shows taking strips off their hide for putting Stephen Harper's wishes before the interests of their own province. Suddenly all the Liberal MPs who have supported the provincial government's position on the offshore despite the views of their prime minister look a whole lot better than two guys who made the wrong choice when things got tough.

I'd hate to be those two knocking on doors in St. John's if they voted against money for children, students, seniors...

and Newfoundland and Labrador.

No wonder Norm Doyle keeps trying to separate the offshore money from the budget bill. He is frantically trying to save his own political skin.

No wonder he is sounding a tad squirrelly.

A political jam-up like the one Norm faces would drive anyone nuts.

Advance copy - SAGE info from Portland Press Herald, Maine

Courtesy of Portland Press Herald correspondent Tom Bell is a story due to run tomorrow in the Press Herald. Scroll down a bit to find the beginning.

Many thanks to Tom and his editors for permission to run it here this evening.

Before getting to the advance copy, I just want to chime in with the results of some amateur intel photo interpretation. The Telly today carried an Associated Press photo of the Sage. By measuring the length of the ship in the photo, knowing the length of the vessel and then measuring various bits, it is easy to conclude that the Sage likely carries the same types of radar found on the United States Naval Ship Invincible (T-AGM 24) .

is used to provide telemetry to launch control stations in Florida and Texas for both manned and unmanned missions from Canaveral. However, Invincible and another range instrumentation ship, USNS Observation Island (T-AGM 23) frequently are deployed to observe foreign missile launches as part of arms control treaty verification. They also are used to collect signals intelligence from missile launches by hostile or potentially hostile countries.

If Invincible is otherwise occupied, it makes sense that Lockheed Martin might be contracted to provide telemetry support to mission B-30/payload NROL-16.

Other than that it might also be involved some other missile launches from test ranges in the southern United States.

Given the timing of the arrival in Portland and the berthing for the past three weeks, odds are good that Sage is going to put to sea tomorrow in support of the B-30 launch (NROL-16)

Of course, Argentia, Newfoundland will also be humming with automated activity too at the old "T" building. It's the one site the Americans kept at the former United States Naval Facility at Argentia. An installation built in the mid-1990s provides telemetry in support of launches from Canaveral just like the one coming up on 29 April 2005.

Without further ado, here's the story coming up tomorrow in Portland:

Copy begins***

A vessel in Portland harbor is equipped with an antenna used to monitor rocket boosters during launches, according to Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor that is leasing the vessel.

But company spokesman Doug Sayers said he didn't know whether the vessel, an offshore supply ship called the Sage, will monitor the space shuttle Discovery, due to be launched next month, or an Air Force Titan rocket, which may be launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. today.

The Titan is carrying a military satellite into orbit. Its flight path would take it over the ocean on a trajectory parallel to the East Coast.

The exact time is classified. But liftoff will happen sometime between 8 and 10:30 p.m., according to Space Flight Now, a Web site that monitors space activity.

Earlier this month, the Air Force postponed the launch after the Canadian government expressed concern that its 11-ton booster engines jettisoned from the main rocket could crash into the ocean near Newfoundland's offshore oil platforms, 196 miles off St. John's, Newfoundland.

Lockheed Martin manufactured the Discovery boosters at its plant in Michoud, LA and the Titan boosters at its plant in Denver, CO.

The Sage, about 180 feet long, carries two large domes on its aft deck. Many people on the waterfront have been wondering about the vessel's mission. The ship's captain has refused to talk or let anyone near the ship, which for more than three weeks has been tied up in a secure area at the end of Pier 1 at the Portland Ocean Terminal.

The vessel's port of registration is New Orleans, La. The Sage is one of 530 vessels owned by Tidewater, the world's largest offshore marine-services provider.


SAGE information

News stories on VOCM and in the Telly today discuss a ship docked at Portland, Me that may be a telemetry vessel supporting the launch tomorrow of the last Titan 4B rocket from Canaveral air force station. The Telly story isn't on line.

To get some other information, here's the original story from Portland, in the Portland Press Herald. Here's a story with a photo of the ship, a converted offshore supply vessel. Here's an Associated Press version of the story, sans photo.

The SAGE appears to be owned by a company in Louisiana, called Tidewater, that specializes in the supply of offshore vessels. Some of their ships, as this link indicates, have been adapted for other uses.

For those wanting some boilerplate on the vessel, such as registration data, gross tonnage and construction, here's a detailed link.

This vessel is carrying temporarily installed equipment on the rear deck. The domes presumably shield radar systems of an unknown type. They are mounted on trailers or other temporary shelters housing equipment and support crew.

There has been plenty of speculation on the Internet on this launch and on the appearance of this ship in Portland. Spec is fun; but I will take a closer look and see if I can figure out something a bit more concrete on this.

Postman Loyola - revised (trivia correction)

Ok. This is a cheap excuse to bring back a posting I really enjoyed in order to correct a bit of trivia. No one cared enough to correct me, even if they caught it.

Anyway, in all the hubbub as Stephen Harper desperately tries to force an election on Canadians who overwhelmingly don't want it, here's a reminder of Loyola Hearn and his complete lack of credibility.

This story about post offices, which Loyola was pushing, turned out to be complete crapola. So much for Loyola and his inside knowledge.

The trivia error? It wasn't Dr. Yes who used to say thlee possibirities, it was Harry Who, a send up of the old Charlie Chan character. He appeared in Season One of Get Smart in an episode called "The Amazing Harry Who". That's also the episode where we first meet The Craw.

And if you think I am the only Get Smart fan out there, check this post from Paul Wells. April 26 to be specific with a reference to the Cone of Silence.

Trivia question: What's the connection between Max, 99 and Newfoundland?

Following on Loyola Hearn's claim of having a list of 86 post-office closures in Newfoundland and Labrador, VOCM is reporting two things today.

1. Canada Post says there is no list.

2. Loyola Hearn apparently said, as VOCM put it, "a number of communities in this province, including those in his riding, would be in the same sort of situation." The same situation means being 24 miles from the nearest post office or inconvenienced enough that it feels like you are 24 miles away.

Being the curious fellow, I took a trip over to the Canada Post website and typed in my postal code in order to find nearby postal outlets. My house is in the middle of the riding, geographically and maybe a little to the western end by some assessments. I am certainly where a chunk of the people live and nearby are the more rural bits of the riding, like Kilbride and the Goulds.

According to Canada Post there are eight nearby postal outlets including an actual postal station in Mount Pearl. They gave me a whole bunch in another riding too, by the way. The majority of postal service is provided by retail outlets operating in drug stores and the like. The whole riding isn't really 24 miles across so I started to wonder what is going on here.

So here's the funky bit.

If the only actual Canada Post outlet is the one in Mount Pearl, how in the name of all that is sensible can Canada Post put Loyola Hearn's riding in a position where his constituents are going to be something like 24 miles from the nearest post office. Even if we assume that Mount Pearl closes - and there is absolutely no proof that is even being thought about except by me - there isn't a single resident of St. John's South-Mount Pearl who would be hard-done-by for postal service.

As Dr. Yes used to say on Get Smart, there are thlee possibirities:

- Either Canada Post is not telling the truth and they plan to shut a whole raft of postal outlets in St. John's, Mount Pearl and surrounding areas;

- VOCM has misrepresented what Loyola actually did say; or,

- Loyola is actually talking about some other riding than the one he actually represents. Maybe Loyola thinks he represents the place where he lives - Renews - which is actually in John Efford's riding of Avalon.

The source of this whole cock-up? I can see it now. Loyola in a trenchcoat talking to his very own Agent 13 inside a post office box on the streets of Ottawa.

Loyola: "I thought you said they were going to close 86 post offices."

Agent 13: " 'I said they might close post offices, 86.' I never gave you an exact number."

Loyola: "Don't tell me I got the whole thing screwed up again."

Agent 13: "You got the whole thing screwed up again."

Loyola: "I asked you not to tell me that."

I miss Maxwell Smart more than ever.

27 April 2005

Norm Doyle - Zero on the cred-o-meter

As I sat here working away on another proposal, I caught one Norman Doyle, the Conservative member of parliament for St. John's North, chatting with Bill Rowe on his afternoon talk-show.

He was defending the Connie position that people shouldn't look on a federal election, as he put it, "as an inconvenience".

Excuse me, Norm? The public has never suggested in any poll that an election is an inconvenience. Ever. In fact they are adamant they view an election as unnecessary. Unneeded and unwelcome. They want election after they have all the facts from Justice Gomery's report.

Unfortunately for Norman, his leader - Stephen Harper - is hell bent on driving everyone to the polls so Norm must toe the party line. Norm must sacrifice his own personal credibility for the wave of nonsense emanating from Harper's clique. Norman also knows that Harper's position is at odds with the wishes of the Canadian people.

Norman also knows that in a few days we will be in an election and the offshore money will be but a faint dream if the Connie's get elected as government. Stephen Harper never ever supported the offshore deal; he has another idea entirely. Norm will be running hard to convince the people of his riding the deal is actually safe if the government falls, given that his Leader today announced his party will definitely be voting against Bill C-43 - the budget bill including the offshore money.

But if that wasn't bad enough, Norm went right off Red Cliff when he actually said that the current government is "totally corrupt".

Sheer, out-and-out crap, Norm. You know it is crap and yet you said it.

Unfounded accusations like that are one of the refuges of the truly desparate.

I can appreciate his tough spot.

If he votes with his party, defeats the budget and the government, he has screwed the province out of $2.0 billion.

If he votes with the province's offshore interests, he may well keep the Liberals in power and thereby earn the hatred of his Connie colleagues.

For Loyola, I can only wish such a Hearn-iated decision on the pretend-MP for St. John's South- Mount Pearl.

I actually feel sorry for Norm Doyle.

Genuinely, truly sorry.

A medal for Tom Orsmby

Anyone who read my post over the weekend titled "D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! for Tommy O" will know that I criticized Tom Ormsby, John Efford's communications director, for leaving a story on VOCM that contradicted the CBC story on Friday night that John Efford was considering retiring from politics.

John's own media comments on Tuesday suggested that the federal minister is seeking medical advice before making any decision on his future in politics.

Well, let's be clear about my overall opinion.

Tom Ormsby deserves a medal.

He has one of the hardest jobs in the world, namely working as John Efford's communications director. If Tom gets out of the job with his sanity intact, he deserves to get some kind of gong.

Efford is one of those guys, like Danny Williams and a raft of others in politics, who keeps his own counsel. It's tough to get him to stay on message - meaning say what you need to say without going off on a tangent or adding in other stuff that just confuses or clouds things or gets you into trouble without cause. John is energetic, works hard and always has the best of intentions. But sometimes that just isn't enough.

Some guys - and it's usually a guy-thing - get cured of their total self-reliance by getting the crap kicked out of them once in the media. Sometimes it takes two whomps to sort them out. Some never learn.

Pretty well every public relations practitioner I know has at least one life-long friend in the guy who got advice, ignored it, got racked over the coals and then realized that what you told him beforehand was damned good advice.

Yosemite Sam. The camel. A two-by-four between the eyes. You can figure out the analogy, even if it isn't perfect.

So John backpeddles a bit from Friday. I still think David Cochrane's story on CBC and his interpretation were accurate based on the Efford interview he did on Friday. In fact, given the amount of time John spent talking about his poor health on Tuesday I still say odds are better for John leaving politics than staying around much longer.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out there was a telephone call or two to John encouraging him gently to "fix" the impression left by David Cochrane.

But overall, Efford is now trying to say that he is staying and will only go if his doctors tell him otherwise.

Having said that, I still think Tom should have corrected or clarified the VOCM story. VOCM is ultimately responsible for their stuff but if they put the weight on the wrong idea or misinterpret the comments Tom made or anyone else made, then there is always a way to get the perspective back on the right track. Both VO and Tommy O want to make sure the story is accurate.

Saying the minister has "no plans to withdraw from politics in the near future", as VOCM reported Tom as saying, sounds like spin. Regular readers of these scribbles know just how much I hate spin - half-truths. "I have no plans right now," said Mr. So-and-So. Logically, the question should follow: "Yeah, but what about tomorrow?" Tom doesn't strike me as a spinner so the VOCM story was off, but the comments were attributed to Tom. He winds up wearing them one way or another.

The thing is, it doesn't hurt to let people get a much deeper understanding of the issues facing a politician like John Efford. For example, if the docs tell John the problems are all self-inflicted, then maybe John could have said something like this: "I have been in politics for 20 years. Lately, I have not been looking after myself as well as I should be. So I'll have to fix that, if that's what my doctors tell me." He can transition out to a partisan attack, launch into a passionate talk about working for the people of the province. Anything - just tackle the main point fully and frankly up front.

Admit ya screwed up John, if that's the case; don't try to milk any false sympathy - it looks pathetic and demeaning. A guy who has been in politics as long as John Efford and accomplished as much should be talking straightforwardly. You are human, John. People understand human.

No one likes the smell of burning martyr.

This kick John has been on lately doesn't sound like the guy who used to dominate the House of Assembly and I am at a loss to understand what has happened.

Just remember that public relations is about relationships. They are long-term and involve human beings with all the failings that go with being human. Relationships are built on credibility. Spin is just a rot through everything, so avoid it.

And for Tom Ormsby, I won't patronize him by saying he has my sympathy. He has a tough job - one of the toughest around - for a whole bunch of reasons.

What Tom does have, though, is my respect, for whatever that is worth, for working in a hard environment and keeping his sanity.

Anytime he wants a beer, the drinks are on me - at least the first round is. I'll gladly lend him my ear in full confidence.

And if he wants to borrow my two-by-four, he's welcome to it.

It might come in handy.

Indy gets its chops back

Fresh from its Michener awards showing, the Indy seems to be back where it should be this week with the first issue in a long while that had interesting stuff in it that no one else covered or covered in as much detail.

The story that caught my eye was one by a newbie so new that his name couldn't make into the online version of the story.

Quote - "“If we are able to do it on our own, then absolutely. I'’m sure the people of the province would like to have it as a totally owned, operated and built project by the province that'’s not an option that has been ruled out",” Williams tells The Independent. - end quote.


That sounds nice, doesn't it? We get to own what is ours unlike that nasty Upper Churchill contract.

And how would we finance it?

Well, presumably the provincial government - read you and me - would combine our offshore money with some borrowing. The story openly discusses that diea coming straight from the Premier's lips.


Well, that blows the $2.0 billion on a project that will take upwards of 15 years to build according to Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro chairman Dean MacDonald. He's Danny's buddy by the way.

It also would involve borrowing about $3.0 billion to make up the gap between the cash we have and what it would take to build the Lower Churchill on our own.

Now that is a curious suggestion for a Premier who last year said we were teetering on the verge of imminent collapse with our huge deficit and crushing debt.

Danny Williams has gone from deficit demon killer to debt's best friend.

Personally, I think this is an abysmal idea in every possible respect. I draw you back to my observation after the budget was released that the Williams' government seems to be planning on running up the debt to record levels - peaking at a time when the province can least afford to service it.

At the time, the economy will be out of its growth phase and the dependent population (the Baby Boomers) will be much bigger than the number of people earning an honest living. Growing bills. Shrinking income. Recipe for disaster.

I can hear the strains of an old campaign theme song that never was: "We're here for a good time//Not a long time//So have a good time//The sun won't shine everyday."

The Premier also said something else in the Indy I'd like to find out more about: new potential long-term customers. There are really only a few likely long-term customers. We'd never get cash from the banks on our own, by the way; Customers are the key to securing the loans needed to build the project. Who exactly are the new customers considering that the customers we could likely sell it to have all stepped up to express an interest?

Are these new customers real customers, or is this just Tobinesque hype?

Oh yes. Speaking of Tobin for the second time (guess which was the first?):

Anybody else notice Brian Tobin's recent appointment to the board of Aecon, a compnay that specializes in large construction projects? I'd lay money that Aecon is either one of the 10 bids that complied with the Lower Churcill expression of interest call (i.e. covering everything from generate to construction to sale)


it was one of the non-compliant bids that would normally get tossed in the bin, except that in this case they fuel Danny Williams' plan to cut a deal of his won and develop the Lower Churchill through Hydro


Aecon will be prepared to have the new director cut a deal with Tobin's old golfing buddy on said local option.

That last bit isn't in the Indy, by the way. The local politicos and the political junkies like me have all been thinking out loud since the silver job-surfer's picture showed up in the papers. Everyone of us came to the same conclusion so I thought I'd just put it out there for everyone else to share.

It ain't over 'til it's over

Disneyland on the Rideau continues to produce high quality entertainment, complete with various cartoonish characters.

The deal with the NDP to help pass the budget is just one of the many things we can expect to see coming from Ottawa in the political climate in the House of Commons. The climate is largely created by Stephen Harper, who appears more interested in pushing the idea of an election(maybe to divert attention from his internal policy shortcomings) rather than making the House work. His comments in the Globe today were made on a "campaign-style" swing through Ontario.

This continues despite yet another poll showing Canadians overwhelming want two things:

1. No election.

2. The Gomery report in their hot little hands before anyone heads to the polls.

So except for Stephen Harper and the dweeb who wrote yesterday's CanWest story in the Telly. The dweeb is a dweeb because he looked at a poll in which the Conservative climb in the polls flattened out, in which Canadians said the same thing Paul martin said in his speech and concluded, not what the poll said (see above) but:

1. The Liberals had stalled.

2. The Prime Minister's speech had no effect on anything.

I take it the story originated in the National Lampoon. And then they wonder why their circulation is dropping through the floor.

Shag democracy. Now there's money involved.

Nice to see Danny Williams suddenly decide he had to support the rule of law.

Unfortunately it took a threat to business interests to animate him, not the hijacking of democratic rights in the House of Assembly.

Ah well, everyone has their own sensitivities.

26 April 2005

The Rocket on the Rock - Get your hats here!

While everyone is hopelessly Earth-bound, I will be looking to the skies again later this week as the last Titan 4B launch vehicle slips gracefully from its base at Canaveral and streaks into the heavens.

The date you may ask?

As far as I know right now it is this weekend. It may be as early as Friday 29 Apr 05; it may be as late as Sunday 01 May 05. If the pattern holds the launch time is likely sometime between 2230 hrs Eastern Daylight Savings Time and midnight. That translates out to between 0000 hrs and 0130 hr Newfoundland Daylight Savings Time.

My money is on Friday.

Howard Pike from the offshore regulatory board is supposed to be heading out as a gesture of reassurance that all is well. Howard can feel free to send me an e-mail about the experience and I promise to post it in its entirety.

Army Navy Surplus should have a sale on used helmets so that anyone feeling a bit nervous about the whole thing can have some small comfort.

I'd suggest the Kevlar models which can run upwards of CDN$100. While they are good at protecting skulls from most flying objects, they can't be used as bowls or wash basins as the old steel pots could.

If this was anywhere else on the planet, some enterprising young person would be selling hats of some kind with a logo on it depicting the rocket, the province and somebody holding a Jockey Club enjoying the show.

Hodder finds spine - too little, too late

Harvey Hodder today took it upon himself to close the galleries to the House of Assembly indefinitely in response to the disruptions that have been taking place.

This has been going on for maybe three weeks of sitting days.

Three days was too long.

Hodder has looked indecisive and decidedly nervous both in the House and in recent television interviews. Today's decree is too little, too late.

As a result of today's decision, the Opposition parties have walked out looking for a way to fight the Speaker's decree.

Here's an idea.

Move a motion of no confidence in the Speaker. It will be defeated but it will send a powerful message to a Speaker who lacks the control over the House and its business the legislature needs to function properly.

As for the Opposition, they should also chastise themselves for letting the House be hijacked by outside interests. They have turned a blind eye to this crab protest solely for its political value That is no excuse or reason.

They are quick to point the finger at government members, but truthfully, every one of the 48 members of the House are complicit in the surrendering control of the legislature to outside pressure groups.

If someone came into the galleries with a pistol, the members would figure out pretty quickly what to do.

Irrespective of the cause, there is no justification for seizing control of the House by any means.

Any member of the House who has willingly surrendered control of the House ought to resign.

Let's elect people to the legislature who have some respect for our democratic traditions.

Let's get some people in the House who are willing to put partisan interests aside when fundamental interests are at stake.

At the very least, let's start by finding a Speaker who can handle the job.

Harvey obviously can't cut it.

Connies: What's in a name?

Sometime while writing the post earlier today on the latest poll results, I hit on the name Connie for the Conservatives and the idea of stalling.

It was an easy leap to the image of the Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation. It was the last of great prop airliners, as this link says. Originally designed in 1943, the Connie was fast and had long-legs. After the Second World War, Lockheed bought as many as they could from the US Army Air Corps and Air Force to turn them into civilian airliners. The Connie lasted for years and a few are still around as that link and this one suggest.

It was finally eclipsed by the advent of jet airliners, although Connie are still used visually to represent that period of the late 1940s and early 1950s when long-range passenger travel was still in its infancy. Here are some more pictures.

Connie. Pride of the 1950s.

Not everything has deep or hidden meaning.

Sometimes a cigar shaped airplane fuselage is just another classic airplane.

Con-nies stall ?

For those who were busily hunting out trees for the upcoming Liberal lynching parties, consider this story from the parent of the National Lampoon. It's actually a Canadian Press story by John Ward.

The latest poll by Decima research shows the Conservatives at 32% compared to 35% last week. The Liberals are at 28% up from 27%. The results are well within the confidence level of the poll, but here's the key thing: the numbers didn't go up for the Conservatives.

All the polling these past few weeks has been pretty much on track. Anticipate other polls will show the same slow-down in the Conservative rise and the consequent cooling of rhetoric.

Harper will claim victory as he retreats from an election call, but he is really doing some dog-whistling here. (See a few paragraphs down).

As I put it recently on a political panel, the Conservatives have jumped on to news that was bound to push up the Liberal negatives; that is, they are reinforcing negative attitudes toward Liberals based on the sudden unleash of goner testimony and the associated media pile-on.

Unfortunately for the Harperites, they don't have or didn't do anything to drive up their own positives. As a result, when voters get tired of endless choruses "burn the witch", they start looking for a new theme. With the prospect of an election, they start looking closely to see if the other guys have any positives. If they don't see any, then the poll numbers will reflect that in the current Con-nie stall. [Pssst, that's a bit of an aviation reference there.]

Hence, there is much wisdom in the advice from Big Conservative Hugh Segal. Mulroney's former chief of staff said two weeks ago that Gomery would last to day four of an election. Then people would start to think about who actually would form a good government. [Note: Segal, by the way, has the good sense to live in Kingston, Ontario, one of the most beautiful place in the world, even if the unfortunate sod could only manage to find a job lecturing to Queen'sies. I am not sure that qualifies as gainful employment.]

Well, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we are at that point, I'd venture, and we haven't seen the writ yet.

By the way, Loyola Hearn, chief local hang-man at the execution of the Progressive Conservative Party should take a powerful lesson here on his own behaviour. Hearn, who at least on paper represents St. John's South-Mount Pearl, has done sweet fanny adams to speak to the actual concerns of the riding. His biggest tirade: defending the post offices in it. Unfortunately for Hearn, there is only one post office in the riding, as opposed to postal outlets run by the private sector. To make it even worse, Hearn actually predicted that some of the closures Canada Post was planning were in the riding and that people would be mightily inconvenienced.

Turns out there are no plans for any closures. D'oh!

The dog whistle here? Loyola was talking to people of another riding, the one he plans to run in. Expect one of the Osbournes to offer up in St. John's South-Mount Pearl; Big and very capable political machine very adept at getting out the vote. Anyone tangling them better be ready for a hard fight. Politics is no place for fools or wimps and the Osbournes are neither.

But back to the story - basically, the Harper plan is aimed solely at Conservative partisans; it's the classic dog-whistle approach. For those without link-ability, dog whistle messages use code words that are picked up by the intended audiences but ignored by the rest. The link is to an article in The Economist on the current British general election. The Canadian Conservatives are not really using refined dog whistle stuff but they are getting close.

The Conservative rhetoric is vicious - as in violent - and personal. Harper's communications director compared the PM to Osama Bin Laden, for example, although he quickly apologized. (You guys think Scott Reid is tough?)

If committed Conservatives are truly, viscerally angry at Liberals, then calling Martin Osama will resonate; even if you apologize publicly, your guys have still reacted to the message anyways which is what you want. The phrase won't strike the same intense reaction in non-Conservatives, anyway but who cares about them? There are other ways of reaching those inclined to vote Conservative.

The Harperite problem comes when people like... say... Liberals start flagging the dog whistle stuff and pointing it out for what it is. If the Liberals can get onto that track and the Conservatives don't have any real positives, then they can kiss 24 Sussex good-bye.

So, for those who have been living by the polls these past few weeks, I say go back to your real jobs. Polls are no basis for decision-making, especially these days.

Media commentary is subject to huge variations from day to day, especially since some of the pundits don't have a clue what they are talking about when it comes to political consulting. I didn't hear Allan Bonner on Radio Noon, for example, but from what I can gather his advice was...ummm... less than commendable.

Anyway, this long Tuesday posting is a reminder that in politics three weeks is a long time.

25 April 2005

Marketing isn't rocket science, supposedly

Catch phrases are bizarre things and you wonder sometimes where people come up with these things. Courtesy of Andrew Coyne is a link to a phrase-generator.

Type in Ed Hollett and you get this:

"Ed Hollett is a genetically-modified sheep that keeps your carpets clean! It communicates with wireless devices and makes reassuring noises."

Enough said.

Perspective matters

If you aren't a regular reader of Paul Wells, check out his blog today.

He points out the fiscal impact of the corporate tax cuts that Jack Layton is making the price for his support of the Liberal government and its budget.

As Paul says at the end of his blog post, "Draw your own conclusions about what that means. My minimal point is that we have these national debates with incredibly high political stakes and you so rarely see anyone pause to explain the relative scale of things."

Perspective matters.

Another word for it is "context".

Crosbie saw corruption up close, I guess

John Crosbie's column in the new Independent is one part laughable and one part pathetic, but definitely readable just to see what the guy who used to talk like Ottawa's gauleiter in Newfoundland is thinking these days.

Crosbie is ever sanctimonious, saying that the way to get rid of "corruption" in Ottawa is by electing a "non-Liberal", i.e. Conservative government. JC is practicing a bit of dog-whistle messaging here, but it is a ham-fisted attempt since it is pretty easy to see that Crosbie is less analyst and commentator than relentless party hack.

I commend to anyone's reading any book by Stevie Cameron. While there are flaws in the books, Cameron documents, among other things, the corruption within the federal Conservative Party in Quebec during the 1980s. Oh heavens, Mr. Crosbie. Could it be true? [audible gasp of mock-horror]

In at least one book, there are even mentions of Crosbie and Craig Dobbin, who Cameron describes as one of Crosbie's big fund-raisers. The mentions are definitely not in the context of crime.

Nope. Crosbie and Dobbin get mentioned because of sweetheart deals and financial support related to Dobbin's business operations wherein government rules were bent just a tad to benefit Dobbin. Seems there's a family tradition of being a self-proclaimed free-enterpriser who sucks heavily on the public tit.

There are other sections of On the take describing funky advertising deals that sound reminiscent of...wait for it... Adscam.

So Crosbie's column is a joke, even if Crosbie didn't intend it to be laughable. By Crosbie's standard, the Mulroney government should have gone to the polls at the first sign of corruption within their ranks. That would have been shortly after 1984 when Mulroney was first elected prime minister.

Of course, a little sober thinking shows Crosbie's comments for what they are: partisan drivel. That's just about all Crosbie has been good for since he left politics in 1993. Then again, when wasn't Crosbie good primarily for partisan drivel?

So here it is: Adscam was wrong. The cops and Gomery will root it out, identify those responsible and lead to the punishment of the guilty.

Corruption inside federal political parties in Quebec or any one province is no cause for a general election when the public overwhelming rejects the idea of an election.

The next federal election, whenever it comes should be about which party is the best to run the country. It's a choice to be made by ordinary voters, not Crosbie-like elites.

What ordinary people want has seldom been a concept John Crosbie understood during his career in politics.

My, oh my how things haven't changed.

As for Cameron, she has been so harried for comment she is starting a new blog dealing with Canadian politics.

I look forward to it, if for no other reason than it will be a counterpoint to the stuff pumped out by outlets like the National Lampoon.

Living with a Hearn-ia

This story in the Globe makes comments by Loyola Hearn and his buddy Norm Doyle just a bit funny.

In trying to gain some backing for their stand against the government's budget bill, both Peckford-era cabinet ministers (remember the wild spending by their boss and the Sprung greenhouse they approved?) have been talking about the 22 or 23 measures lumped into Bill C-43 along with the offshore revenue money.

Well those "difficult", "controversial", "contentious" issues in C-43 that the old boys find so difficult include tax cuts liked by the business community, money for seniors, the cities' gas tax credit and money to promote early childhood education and nutrition.

Now the Globe story refers to the death of tax cuts due to a partnership between the New Democrats and the Liberal government, but here's the funny part. The Conservatives have been beating the drum against Bill C-43, not the New Democrats. The guys threatening to bring down the government before C-43 passes are guys like Loyola Hearn.

You remember Loyola? He's the guy from Renews who has been biding his time as the sham-member of parliament for St. John's South-Mount Pearl.

Anyway, if I was Thomas D'Aquino, I'd been putting the squeeze on the Conservatives. Their hunger for an election against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Canadians is the reason parliament is in a jam at the moment...

and money for everyone is being threatened.

24 April 2005

Defence spending in Newfoundland and Labrador

A study released by the St. John's airport authority this week shows that military traffic through the airport generates about $20 million in economic activity in the capital city.

Gander attracts slightly more flights, but most of their visitors don't overnight and that's where the spin-off cash is.

By the way, if you want an awesome news story on this air traffic, check out The Independent this week. They seem to have emerge from their doldrums to produce one of the best issues yet; there's lots of news not covered by other media outlets. In other words, they are living up to expectations. That's a good thing, as Martha, used to say.

Defence spending is something I have been harping on for years privately and now people are taking notice. I claim no credit for this study - they noticed on their own.

In the late 1990s, a study by the commander of Canadian Forces Station St. John's indicated his command generates about $30 million of economic activity annually including students at the Marine Institute, reserve units, and repair, resupply and refits in the port by navy ships.

So, there is about $50 million bucks. Toss in Gander and you are headed for $100 million. That doesn't include Goose Bay and the reserve units in Grand Falls-Windsor, Corner Brook and Stephenville.

No one has yet produced figures for the defence manufacturing and supply industry here but in the past 15 years it has gone from next to nothing to about six companies I can think of off the top of my head doing sub-contract work for major US defence contractors, working on Canadian contracts or in one or two instances selling their own products.

Defence-related activity in this province likely comes close to about CDN$250 million each year. Put it in perspective by flipping over to the economic analysis section of the province government. Here's a starting link. Look at the economic performance for 2004 and you'll see that defence activity accounts for more than agriculture, fish products manufacturing, and forestry and logging. Even if you look at direct defence spending alone, it beats out agriculture and agriculture has a whole section of Ed Byrne's Natural Resources department to help it along.

All of that activity occurs without very much, if any, encouragement from the provincial government.

Big shame.

Some of that direct defence spending, like the air force traffic and the local reserve units is virtually all salaries and purchased services and goods: that makes the spending a direct transfer into the local economy with taxes flowing to the provincial treasury. To make it even sweeter, upwards of 92% of the defence-related air movements are by the US armed forces, meaning that the cash they spend starts out as US dollars. Ditto for the manufacturing for companies like Boeing and Raytheon. New cash coming into the economy from outside is a major economic stimulus.

There is room for growth here on a number of fronts.

The Canadian Forces have to find a home for CFS St. John's and the local reserve units soon; the buildings they use now are slated for disposal and date back to the Second World War.

National Defence has a plan in the works for new construction either at Pleasantville or maybe Mount Pearl with an estimated cost of $68 million. That has to start very soon - like this year - and will give another boost to the local economy through construction work.

In addition, the provincial government has long-neglected marketing the province for military exercises and other training. I have already suggested publicly a way to bring new defence-related activity to Goose Bay but the local committee has been fixated on a number of big projects over the years that may never come to anything. Raytheon is doing a skillful marketing job, including stirring up interest in the past few days, but it makes no sense to put all our Goose-eggs into a single nest. We might wind up again with...well.. a goose egg.

Encouraging defence spending doesn't need a whole department or even a whole part of a whole department. In the early 1990s, I submitted a simple proposal to government - without any stats to back it up, unfortunately - calling for the creation of one or two new positions within government to work with the defence industry and keep track of defence-related activity in the province.

The paper went nowhere fast.

The existing departments just don't handle defence issues very well and they never seem to recognize the importance of defence to the province.

Well, something tells me the Premier might be interested in changing that.

Where did I put that old proposal anyway?

While I am off digging through my files, pick up the Indy and have a good read.

23 April 2005

Radar activity increases

Update: 1630 hrs 23 Apr 05

CBC has a much more detailed story on the radar thing. Disregard my post comments, as CBC already did the leg work and was less cryptic than VOCM.

CBC correctly spotted Raytheon as the contractor. They misindentify the company as a missile manufacturer. Raytheon manufactures a variety of defence products included radar systems as well as different types of missile systems such as the TOW (tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided) anti-armour weapon.

One of Raytheon's products is the High Frequency Surface Wave Radar (HFSWR) system, developed by Northern radar of St. John's and currently installed at two sites in eastern Newfoundland. This is NOT the X band system, so don't get confused.

Most interesting aspect of this CBC story was the confirmation by NL Hydro of talks with Raytheon about power supply. (Big security hint for the Hydro dudes: never disclose conversations with a defence contractor. It's not your dog.)

No biggie on the power supply. If we can't recall power from the Upper Churchill, then the Lower Churchill project will have bags of electricity to sell.

This goes back to my point, though, about having a Chinese (PRC) state-owned enterprise involved in the deal from last year as part of the Sino-Energy consortium. Big security issues. No one on the provincial government side checked the background or considered the defence issues. Big mistake.

Estimated cost of the ground-based system is between CDN$500 million and CDN$900 million.

Original post starts:

When my web counter starts to show certain hits, I get a little curious.

Since I posted some information on X band radars earlier this year, I have received hits from various US government and civilian contractor sites. I am gathering they were primarily interested in any comments or information on the sea-based system being built by Boeing in Corpus Christi, Texas. Those are the pages they visited.

Then there are the hits that look at the posts where I have discussed whether or not there will be an X band radar built at Goose Bay.

There's been a bit more activity on that lately including hits today.

Curiously enough, there's also a cryptic story on VOCM today about an unnamed defence contractor visiting Goose Bay looking at potential sites for a radar system. Here's the full text from the website:

"A major American defence contractor recently explored locations for a radar station in Labrador.

That word from federal Defence Minister Bill Graham. However, Graham says there was never a formal request and no real discussions about it. He said if [it is] built, the installation would be part of Norad's information systems."

Most likely this is related to an old story, the one I commented on earlier this year.

The contractor is Raytheon.

The radar they are proposing is one used for the American ballistic missile defence system, except in this instance, the site would be owned and operated by Canada feeding information to the North American Aerospace Defence Command or NORAD for short. [which incidentally is linked into the BMD system.]

It would be nice to know where the story came from because as far as I can tell, the issue is just floating out there.

"Staggering" Insights from Bill Rowe

Surely you've heard the lame-ass commercials the Telly is running on VOCM. They feature the voice of one Bill Rowe, former pseudo-high commissioner, author, cabinet minister, Rhodes recipient, provincial Liberal leader, failed Tory candidate and experienced brown envelope tosser.

Bill is back, of course, and while he is soon to start another two-hour afternoon radio call-in show on VOCM, he also has a writing gig courtesy of the in-laws over at the Telly. Bill used to write for the Telly before, back when it was a Thompson rag.

Well, the copy-writer for the radio spot should be tossed out a window somewhere just for the sheer inanity of the stuff that winds up flowing from Bill's mouth.

If Bill wrote it himself, then Nancy Riche had the right idea by just skipping the column altogether last week and hopefully in the future.

Seems Bill has "staggering" insights, now that he has had the experience of living in Ottawa at taxpayers' expense and apparently doing little more than figuring out the OC Transpo schedule.

Well, read today's Rowe column and you'll think Bill's staggering insights have something to do with a 40 of Lamb's.

Bill posits the idea that either Messrs Tobin or Williams could be prime minister of Canada very soon.

Now that all the mainlanders have clicked off this posting, I'll go on for the benefit of the others.

Contrary to Bill Rowe's assertion, Frank Stronach did not pay Tobin $2.3 million in retirement because Frank is betting on Tobin being PM. He paid it out because it was in the employment contract.

Frank and Brian departed company under mysterious circumstances. There are reports, like Greg Locke's. And then there is the cryptic comment in a Globe report here.

Make up your own mind on the relationship between Belinda's dad and The Brian. Let's just say Tobin didn't leave on good terms with Frank.

So that makes Bill's insights staggering only so far as they appear to be poorly informed or the extent to which Rowe assumes his readers count on him for their information about the world. Here's a clue Bill: this isn't VOCM.

As for the spec on Danny Williams, that's almost as laughable as the stuff about Tobin. The only people talking about Danny Williams as a future prime minister are people on Danny's payroll, those who want to be on his payroll, people who used to be, or close friends of Danny's bud Brian Tobin who just want to help out a friend with some cheap publicity.

After all, Tobin is the past master of the speculation story that has a much substance as a helium-filled mylar balloon. Remember the gajillions he supposedly raised and the thousands of delegates he had...right before he bailed out of the Liberal leadership for lack of support? Mainland papers ran those stories from Tobin's agents because they didn't have the facts - Martin was sweeping every riding in Newfoundland and Labrador and Tobin's ham-fisted attempts to get at least one riding onside fell apart due to amateurish organization.

So Danny has learned a lesson from Brian. Big deal.

Bill Rowe has staggering insights alright.

Staggering for the absence of any passing acquaintance with reality.

and while we are riffing...

Wasn't this the message from Stephen Harper's speech the other night in reply to the Prime Minister?

or might this be an accusation soon to be leveled by...say...Peter Mackay?

Or is this in fact a recording soon to be entered into evidence at Gomery?

Ah well, if you can't laugh...

D'oh! D'oh! D'oh! for Tommy O.


As if John Efford hasn't had enough communications gaffes, cock-ups, shag-ups and outright blunders in the past few months, now his health is part of the same litany of Homer Simpson moments.

Those are the ones where you look at the news story and go "D'oh!" cause you can just see the predictable bad results from...well...the sort of obvious, simple thing even a beginner public relations person wouldn't do on their worst day.

Like Efford's comments yesterday that he may not run in the next election due to health. David Cochrane is one of the best reporters in the province. He doesn't screw up big stories like this one. If Cochrane said it, then it's an accurate paraphrase of Efford.

So why in the hell is Efford's ersatz communications director quoted by the company he once worked for, claiming that everything is hunky-dory and that John has no plans to retire? Here's the link to comments by Tom Ormsby, once known to thousands as Tommy O, saying Efford is not quitting and he has no plans to retire from politics. I am seeing Kevin Bacon in the scene from Animal House where, in the midst of the riot, he is encouraging calm.

This isn't just a matter of semantics, Tommy. This is a flat out denial on your part of comments the Minister made directly to a reporter. Got anything on tape to back up your contention?

Meanwhile, the story Cochrane had last night was that the Minister was consulting with his doctors and would follow their advice. Having worked with John myself, I can tell you the rest of the stuff in Cochrane's piece, including the lead, came out of John's mouth as surely as the take-it-or-leave-it thing he now denies.

Denials like that one would be fine if there wasn't enough other evidence on the ground to make a mockery of Tommy's instance that all is well. John has been talking about his poor health for months. He has been complaining to anyone and everyone, including Doug Letto in his piece last year, about the pressures and demands Efford's lifestyle is placing on him.

There's no secret John is not doing well with his diabetes and the stresses of his job.

The fact that he is in St. John's this week instead of being in Ottawa is proof enough he is having a rough time of it. Res ipsa loquitor, Tommy. The facts speak for themselves.

Denials at this point are bullshit.

So why would deny it, Tommy?

It's like Stephen Harper trying to deny he doesn't have his campaign bus waiting and all painted up or that candidate initiation...er...selection hasn't started yet.


Geez Warren. Use the other "n" word much lately?

Alright, I'll admit, I tried to ignore Warren Kinsella, but sometimes I just can't help it.

It's hard to ignore a phrase like the following that appears on Kinsella's blog yesterday in reference to Damien Penny. Kinsella is linking to a comment Damien made in one of his posts critical of the PM's speech Thursday night.

Don't be surprised about the criticismfrom Penny; Damien links to some assortment of characters called "Blogging Tories". Cons don't like the PM for some bizarre reason. The favourable comment from Warren should be enough to convince you that Kinsella has a head of steam up about Paul Martin and may be rapidly losing any passing resemblance to a sense of proportion or reality.

Anyway, try this on for size:

"Damian Penny, an oft-kooky but not-entirely-dumb Newf lawyer who keeps a blog,..."

A not-entirely-dumb Newf.

Uh huh.

I see.

As opposed to an entirely-dumb Newf.

Or maybe just a Newf.

For the record, Warren, newf is tantamount to calling someone of colour a nigger.

In all my time on this planet, I have never heard the word used by anyone, including Newfoundlanders, where it didn't have an extremely negative connotation. It's closest cousin is "paddy", the perpetually drunken, lazy Irishmen some Brits are fond of ridiculing.

If you don't call black people niggers and you don't call them coons and you don't call Italians wops and you don't call Irishmen micks and bogtrotters, and you likewise never utter the word spick or wog or junglebunny or kyke or hebe or slope or gook, then for the love of decency, Warren Kinsella, do not ever use the word newf or the other version, newfie, to refer to people from the island of Newfoundland.

Yeah, I know that Damien links back to Kinsella and copies the same quote word for word without comment. So what? Maybe Damien's tolerance for crap is stronger than mine. Maybe his anti-Liberal sentiments over-ride his distaste for ethnic slurs, no matter what the context.

Who knows? Who cares?

For anyone who ever had an inkling that Kinsella was worthy of positive attention, think yet again.

Don't expect to see Kinsella linking to anything on my blog, by the way, except maybe to lambaste me.

When he does, I'll know I am in fine company.

22 April 2005

Hearn to head home

CBC News is reporting this evening that the long-rumoured departure of John Efford from politics is just about confirmed.

According to CBC and the ever-informed David Cochrane, Efford is planning to check with his doctors and make a decision this week based on his health. Efford is a life-long diabetic and reports that the long hours and travel requirements of his federal job have taken a toll on his health.

Well, as you have read here before a key part of the whole issue will be the future now of Loyola Hearn. Hearn parked his name in St. John's South-Mount Pearl just to mark time. He never intended to represent the riding for longer than he had to, planning from the beginning to run in the new Avalon riding either without John Efford as the opponent or with Efford severely weakened.

Hearn and long-time political buddy Loyola Sullivan did a ruthless, unprincipled tag-team routine on Efford over the offshore oil issue, aided, sadly, by Efford himself.

Far be it from me to call Hearn either a savage, self-interested opportunist or just plain chickenshit.

Expect Hearn to announce his departure soon to Avalon. If you think about it, that explains Hearn's recent comments about post office closures in his riding.

He meant Avalon.

Not St. John's South-Mount Pearl.

As a lifelong resident of the riding, I will be glad to see the dust as his campaign office shifts back up the shore, where he lives.

And in the same spirit...

Late on a sunny Friday, it sometimes pays to check out the local news websites.

Like this story, courtesy of CBC, on a stripper who has been charged with committing an immoral act in public. Apparently the young woman, originally from Quebec, employed a sex toy in her stage act hence bringing the local cops to the bar.

Okay, people.

There are a few things here that come to mind.

1. This is not an act that a cop stumbled across on the street. Either they were forewarned or one our finest local citizens observed the event while just happening to be present in the establishment partaking of the alcoholic beverages or merely observing the exotic terpsichorean entertainments offered in a place known as Bubbles.

2. CBC links us to the relevant section of the criminal code. Every story is not merely informative; it is also an educational experience.

3. In the realm of inadvertent humour, there is this comment from CBC relating an observation by the young woman's lawyer, Bob Simmonds. "Simmonds says he has not seen anything like it since he began his career in the 1980s."

Trust me, I will be asking Bob about this on Monday when I see him.

4. This comment raises some obvious implications of its own. Was Mr. Simmonds referring to the allegedly indecent act or the laying of the charge or the laying of the charge for the said act?

5. The young woman has been granted bail with the condition she cannot work at the establishment where the act is alleged to have taken place. She is now out of work. This hardly seems fair. Might she merely have been let out on the condition that she dispense with the use of the said object in her act, thereby leaving her with the means of gaining a living? This makes no observation on the priority of her occupation or of its social implications. I just wonder why someone is effectively being stopped from engaging in her work if she agrees to stop doing what the police say she shouldn't be doing.

6. As I typed this up, Bob was just on the radio doing an interview. His comments are interesting but I fell on the floor laughing as he struggled to describe with a straight and serious face the charges and circumstances.

Sex toy, Bob is a good phrase. Object or item might even be passable. However, the word "apparatus" carries with it connotations of some great medieval device involving steam machinery great gears and a huge amount of noise. One shudders to imagine what occurred if an "apparatus" had actually been involved.

Perhaps Bob needs to pay a visit to a shop just up the street from his office which specializes in presenting a modern attitude to consenting acts between adults. Bob has the right enlightened view but he may find some useful illustrations for presenting his case and reinforcing his argument.

Oh well. It is hard to find fault with Bob. He was speaking during an interview and sometimes simple words fail you in that circumstance. He just defaulted back to lawyer-speak when a perfectly simple and commonly used expression was available.

In fact, had he said sex-toy or even dildo or vibrator, he would have emphasized that the item involved in the charge is found in a great many homes in St. John's.

Weekend creative writing assignment

This spring I started teaching in a public relations program. One of my courses is public relations writing.

So in that spirit, here is your creative writing assignment for the weekend. I'll give you three names, a federal riding, and an upcoming event.

Your task, should you chose to accept it, is to write a brief scenario in which these individuals, the place and the event are linked.

For those who may be reading way too much into this, let me say the idea came from a couple of different conversations I've had in the past week. Political events like the ones in Ottawa always seem to get the political pundits speculating on various scenarios. Let' see how you do.

There is no prize, save the satisfaction of getting the prediction right.

Feel free to e-mail me with your ideas.

Here goes:

John Efford
Loyola Hearn
Loyola Sullivan

St. John's South-Mount Pearl

A federal election called for June 27, 2005.

Speaker Hodder: you have two, two last chances

The biggest story of the crab protest in the House is the Speaker's complete inability to do his job effectively. The disorder in the galleries matches the disorder he allows to reign on the floor of the Assembly.

In his windy decision on the points of order over House security Speaker Harvey Hodder reveals a number of interesting things. See the Hansard for 21 April. Here's the link.

This one is a quickie.

1. Speaker Hodder mentions other jurisdictions and their security requirements and fails to mention why they are relevant. They aren't.

2. Speaker Hodder acknowledges the conflict between government and the House over control of access. Penetrating insight into the obvious.

3. Speaker Hodder then pats himself on the back, saying nothing was done improperly.

4. In the best evidence yet that Harvey Hodder is in fact the missing Cardinal Fang from Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch , he gives the people in the gallery the same one last chance to stay quiet he has given them ever single day for the past week or so.

Just before they put 'er up and Harvey closed the House.

Here's what Harvey ignored in order to whitewash himself and the Premier:

1. The Speaker has duty to secure the House and maintain order to allow the House to function properly. Being in Day Eight of disruptions is prima facie evidence of his failure.

2. By failing to advise the House of a security decision in a timely way he violated their rights.

3. By sanctioning the Premier's action,s he has given license to the government to seize control of access to the legislature at any juncture.

4. He mentions entering into an agreement on jurisdiction with the government. Too little too late.

5. The House continues each day to be a disorderly mess on the floor itself.

It is time for the Speaker to vacate the chair.

The PM

It's amazing the amount of attention a simple seven minute speech can garner.

Over at the National Lampoon, they are so desperate to get out their attack on the Prime Minister that they have left a whole raft of comment available for free including a predictable piece in which the experts they consulted said the Prime Minister's speech was either ineffective or abysmal.

Ok. So some guy who no one ever heard of thinks it was appalling. I'm impressed. I have been in this business as long or longer than at least one of their experts. The Lampoon didn't call me.

I'll save my opinion for a later Post. In the interests of fairness, I'll comment on all the speeches - most media outlets doing "analysis" have focused on the PM. Well, they need to look at the "My fellow Americans" speech as wells the comments by Harper and Leyton to see how they stack up as well.

As Loyola Hearn and the comments I just heard on CBC radio as I typed this: be careful who you accuse of not being able to get stories straight.

The people in your riding are still waiting to hear you get facts straight on things you did 20 years ago.

21 April 2005

Now stop that! It's silly

While looking for a Canadian Press story on a death overseas, I came across this column by Sun defence writer Peter Worthington.

Apparently, Liberals are to be blamed for the purchase of the Upholder class submarines from the United Kingdom.


But then Worthy adds a litany of other fiascos, some from the Chretien era and others - much larger ones - from Brian Mulroney to bolster is argument.

And what is that argument? That defence decisions are inherently overly political. Therefore the subs are another reason to vote out the Liberals.

Apparently, this isn't the first Worthy missive against the subs. Here's a letter from a retired admiral from 1997 responding to one of his earlier columns.

Worthy rightly points to the overly political nature of Canadian defence procurement decisions. We buy stuff for reasons other than military necessity or operational requirements. Hunt around long enough and you'll find a paper I wrote a decade or more ago that carried a litany of asinine procurement decisions. They were asinine for a variety of reasons. The chief one was that the item bought was either inferior to other stuff available for the task, took too long to get into the system or was just flat out too costly when other stuff was available that was better and cheaper.

That said, voting out Liberals won't change that. In 1993, voting out the Tories who were responsible for some of the idiotic equipment purchases and a whole bunch more Worthy didn't find worthy of mention didn't change anything. That's because the roots of the defence procurement problem are much deeper than Worthy's superficial appraisal shows.

In order to tackle defence procurement you need to sort out priorities. Figure out the defence tasks, then buy accordingly. Resist the lobbying from interested parties and get the right tools once you have figured out the tasks.

If Worthy took a step back and off the soap box he'd notice the massive changes within National Defence in the past 10 years. New management, and real leadership from guys like Rick Hillier, have given us a much better military force and a solid set of plans to give Canada the defence capability it needs. Oddly enough, that is oddly if you adhere to Worthy's logic, National Defence is actually in better shape now than in was in 1990. I'd say that's actually a powerful reason to keep people like Bill Graham where they are.

Worthy thinks subs are useless. Ok.

Well, a lot of people thought tanks were useless in the 1970s when we bought Leopards, but more to the point today there are people advocating we buy tanks again. Maybe Worthy is among that group pushing for tanks, given his family background. Maybe Worthy favourably quotes the Conservative defence critic because Gordon O'Connor is... wait for it... a former tank guy.

Of course, Worthy forgets to mention that Canada was offered Bradley fighting vehicles and Abrams tanks in 1990 yet the Mulroney government turned the idea down on cost grounds. That sure doesn't fit into Worthy's rant today in which Liberals are to blame for everything including stuff they didn't even do.

But guess what, guys? Tanks aren't needed either.

Let's see Pete write a column that argues against buying tanks.

I am not holding my breath waiting for that one.

The TorStar and the Dinner - Kinsella gets correction


So I said I wasn't going to post any more on Warren Kinsella and his blog, but I changed my mind.

Two causes, one being an e-mail from a Warren Kinsella which appeared in the junkmail portion of my e-mail and got flushed inadvertently along with the numerous Viagra spams I get. That's what happens to 40 something males - all Viagra all the time. People not on my contacts list get sent to the junk box automatically. I have to go in and rescue them; while I had noted the name on the e-mail a hasty few click disappeared the e-mail.

So, Warren, if you would please resend, I will reply. It's nice to hear from people in general, let alone those I offer opinion on. I guess I am now in the ranks of Giles Gherson and Andrew Coyne, inter alia, solely by virtue of having received the Kinsella e-mail. These guys normally work on a level far above mine.

The second cause is that in checking Warren's blog this morning, he has posted the text of a correction from the Toronto Star about this dinner in Ottawa. Frankly, having neither followed his blog closely nor having the habit of regularly reading Toronto newspapers, I have no idea of the import of this little dinner group. Not everything that happens in Ottawa matters south of the Queensway and east of the river. What happens in Toronto is...well...let's just leave that alone.

Nonetheless, it seems the Star, a Liberal-oriented paper sometimes, shagged up the background on the dinner and hence the implication that maybe Warren has been conspiring with nefarious sorts.

In the "I'll-make-up-my-own-mind" department, I can say that even without reading the Star account from a few days ago, and from what I know of Warren Kinsella from a great distance, he never struck me as the sort of guy who would conspire with Tories or Conservatives just to
slice into the current Prime Minister. he's doing a fine job of making his case with help. The fact that the Conservatives are making use of his testimony is natural; not everything has to be a conspiracy. Sometimes, excrement occurs.

Anyways, I'll just go back to watching my e-mail box for Warren's missive in the interim.

As for you out there reading this, I'd suggest you flip over and check out some of the links Warren has posted for 21 April. Follow the one that leads ultimately to a New York story about Bubba Clinton and Belinda Stronach. Nice smile for a Thursday afternoon.

Fighting on two fronts

Morning news always brings at least one laugh.

Today there were two.

Laugh one came courtesy of CBC Radio and the spectacle of Bernard Landry saying the Charest government was a disaster. Wow. Landry actually has experience in leading completely incompetent governments. Henceforth in politics, instead of "pot calling kettle black", let's all say "That's like Landry".

Laugh two came from the leader of Canada's other populous - but in this case amorphous - mass at the centre the ever popular Dalton McGuinty. Seems young Dalton has hit a wall in his efforts to squeeze more cash from Ottawa. He is now threatening to bruise the federal Liberals. He is threatening them with fighting a federal election coupled with attacks on a second front from Ontario.

During the Second World War, Ontario soldiers training for Normandy were known to have a peculiar habit. When moving through urban and suburban areas, they'd run along, open the gate, turn around, close the gate and enter the yard.

They never thought of just leaping over the fence, given the fear that maybe German machine guns were trained on the gate.

Polite little friggers those Ontarians.

Dalton McGuinty hitting a political wall.

Wind-up walking toy hits wall.

Same thing.

If Dalton wants to start boosting himself in the polls for real, then he needs to act like a politician. Gimme a call. I have a few spare minutes and no fence on my yard.

Ed Byrne? Meet Dr. Phil

This was originally written late on Wednesday night, but for some reason Microsoft decided to eat it.

Natural Resources Minister Ed Byrne spoke yesterday to the Newfoundland Ocean Industries Association's supplier development forum. That brings a bunch of local suppliers together with oil industry buyers.

Ed's speech - which I didn't hear - included references to having a committee examine the prospects of expanding downstream production capacity in the province.

Now that's big stuff and it did sort of make the news. It wasn't near the top of the line-up in any cast. Over on VOCM, for example, it is near the start of the "other stories" pile under the super-stimulating headline: "Government seeking input from oil and gas sector".

On most casts, it was actually kind of down there somewhere long after the crab protestors and Joan Burke - acting acting health minister.

CBC did cover the story but the website still has some anti- Paul Watson tirade the Premier went on a couple of days ago.

Being the smart little fellow I am, I wandered over to the government news release page for yesterday. There's the media advisory about the speech - sent out the morning of the event. [Aside: Given that the gig was booked weeks in advance and Ed's staff hardly has a jammed up schedule, there isn't much excuse for the late advisory.]

Then there's some stuff from other ministers - oddly no Joan Burke release. [Sing to a well-known Julie Andrews tune: The Xing is alive with the sound of bulls****]

Anyway, back to the government website.

Oh, says me, there's something from Nat Res. Turns out they want some help finding the cause of mysterious fires.

Crimes Stoppers kinda stuff.

Oh. Loook.

Geez, they even included the Crime Stoppers number.


aaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnndddddd........................ that's it.

No speech.

No release.

Big policy step.

Plank from Blue Book set in motion.

And it merits the attention of a beer fart on George Street.

I must practice a different kind of public relations than government people.

Anyways, after you've followed the links, ponder this.

Given all the things I have posted about Ed Byrne, but especially this one, I think it is time Ed had a Dr. Phil moment:

"Is this working for you, Ed?"

20 April 2005

Mr. Speaker - Do your job (revised)

As I finished off one post and tried to return to productive work, I caught the House of Assembly proceedings and a point of privilege raised by Opposition leader Roger Grimes about statements made by the Premier yesterday on security measures at Confederation Building.

I have already offered the view that Speaker Harvey Hodder has acted improperly here by sanctioning new security arrangements without advising all members of the House.

In listening today to the Premier's comments on the point of privilege, I am going to point out another way in which Mr. Speaker is sanctioning unparliamentary language, the ultimate effect of which is to undermine the ability of the House to consider issues properly.

There is an extensive use by members of various personal pronouns like "you". Before you roll your eyes up in your head, here's the point. It is a long standing tradition to address members in the third person or by the name of their district. The reason is simple: when topics are controversial, there is less likelihood the matter will be sidetracked by ego and temper. Members speak to the chair and address the chair not their fellows directly as a further means of distancing individuals from ideas and issues.

Here are some of the Premier's comments as reported by CBC:

"You want to inflame [the situation] and you want to make it volatile and you want to incite those people who have a livelihood at stake, in the gallery," he [the Premier] said.

"If that's your game, you're playing a dangerous game."

He was jabbing his finger as he said that.

The more the House loses sight of these traditions, the more the Premier and other members point fingers and talk directly to their political opponents, the more the House degenerates into a yakking shop.

Mr. Speaker ought to be clamping down on this. Anyone used to appearing in court should be familiar with the concept. Anyone who has sat in the House for more than one term should already have this stuff in his or her skull.

Every time the Speaker fails to correct members and impose order on the proceedings, the House degenerates.

The genesis of the point of privilege today is actually the earlier failure of the Speaker and the members themselves to clamp down on an unacceptable situation.

Every single measure that has been taken to address the disorder in the public galleries, as innocuous as it might seem to some, or as virtuous as may be the Premier's intentions, has been ineffective and weak. The Premier's response, as I have said elsewhere, actually has the effect of usurping the power of the legislature to govern itself. There was not even the pretense of courtesy in the unilateral imposition of new security measures.

The result is that the response to an attempt to subvert the legislature feeds the disintegration of the House as a functioning body.

The House is becoming a laughing stock.

This only serves the interests of those who already view the House - a fundamental expression of our democracy - as inefficient and ineffective.

If Mr. Speaker was doing his job to the fullest extent he may, the House would not be in the situation in which we find it today.

Res ipsa loquitor - the Kinsella case

Why would anyone waste any time trying to attack or otherwise malign Warren Kinsella?

Canadian Press is reporting that the intimidation story Kinsella floated to a Commons committee this week is "mysterious". Sheer bullshit would be a better description but that phrase isn't in the CP Style Book list of acceptable journalistic terms.

As CP reports, an individual, identified by CP as Frank Schiller called Kinsella to warn him that the PMO might pressure Kinsella's old boss David Dingwall to issue a statement disavowing Kinsella's allegation.

Well, d'uh.

That doesn't sound like a threat. It sounds like someone passing on a simple prediction so that Kinsella can be properly prepared.

So far, no one has come up with any aspect of this accusation that smells remotely like a threat or intimidation. Hard evidence is non-existent.

According to CP, even the parliamentary committees opposition members are leery of moving forward with anything on the Kinsella accusations because...well...ummm...on the face of it they lack substance.

Again. D'uh.

Meanwhile, over at Kinsella's blog there's the usual stuff he spouts. Today's post is a copy of an e-mail Kinsella sent to a TorStar reporter complaining about the veracity of a story concerning Kinsella's supposed association with a meeting of some group known, most likely, only to its members.

To cut a long post short, here's the last thing I am going to write about Warren Kinsella or anyone like him for that matter:

1. Res ipsa loquitor. Liberals in Ottawa should ignore Warren. He thrives on attention like other people need oxygen. Deny him attention, he dies.

2. Res ipsa loquitor. Everyone else out here should look at Kinsella and weigh what he is saying, how he says it and whether there is any substance to anything. We are smart enough to make up our own minds. Facts speak for themselves. If Kinsella is short on facts, draw logical conclusions.

So overall, let's just let the facts speak for themselves.

Accusations without evidence are merely words.

So far, we are long on Kinsella accusations and extremely short on evidence to substantiate them.

Let's get down to looking at something of substance and let Warren rant on in cyberspace.

I rest my case.