17 July 2017

Traces of the Grossly Impudent Lie #nlpoli

There's a phrase in Pam Frampton's Saturday column on Muskrat Falls.

A bunch of words dropped in easily,  maybe offhandedly.

Nothing that really stands out.

Just a simple fact.

The kind of thing that you might just skip past, unless maybe you'd be writing about this project since before it was a gleam in some old twitchy-shouldered man's eye.

"Now, the project is more than 75 per cent finished, two years behind schedule and 70 per cent over budget."

Pretty simple.

Sounds about right, maybe.

One minor problem.

It isn't true.

Muskrat Falls is 154% over budget.

It was only 70% over budget in 2013.

Pam Frampton get make the mistake.  She was writing about another aspect of Muskrat Falls, needed a figure and came across this one either on its own or by doing some basic math.

However Pam got the number,  Muskrat Falls is only 70% over budget if you assume that the project started in December 2012. That's the date Nalcor started using in December 2012 based on the argument that it was at that point that Nalcor officially "sanctioned" - a code word for approved - Muskrat Falls.  The government at the time had a big vote in the House over some legislation about the project and Kathy Dunderdale held a big news conference trumpeting the glories of Muskrat Falls and its federal loan guarantee.

The whole thing looked suspiciously like another event two years earlier when Kathy, and Danny Williams, and some fellow from Nova Scotia held a big announcement about this project that involved building a little dam and enormous transmission lines in Labrador.  The thing would cost $5.0 billion,  they assured us all.

And in December 2012, as Muskrat Falls supporters have done a few times since, they reset the clock to zero.   The result tis that whenever anyone  - especially someone like Pam - talks about the project, they inevitably come up with a figure that makes Muskrat Falls look much better than it is.  The figure is touted as official, accurate, and true.

But it isn't.

It is a lie.

The current estimated price of Muskrat Falls is now $10.1 billion with another $2.6 billion for interest on the bonds and loans and stuff.

So when you start counting from it started - November 2010 - the thing is not 70% over budget.

It is arguably 100% over budget.

But it is more truthfully 154% over budget.

The date the project started is one of those little casual lies about Muskrat Falls that have been there since the beginning. They are demonstrably false but the official line was that they were true

So people repeated them.

And some people  - like Paul Lane and Steve Kent - attacked he handful of other people who pointed out that the lies were not true. After all, big people,  important people,  smart people were saying something and how could the rest of us possibly be right in the face of such obvious agreement?  It's like the fact that Emera gets electricity for free under the deal.  20%up front and now another block of 1.2 terawatt hours each year that they get for precisely zero cents.  Lots of Muskrat Falls supporters argue that Emera is building a power line and so that counts as paying for the electricity.

It doesn't.

Paying for a transmission line is paying for a transmission line.

Paying not one red cent for electricity is getting for free.

Anything else is a lie.

But that's the thing about lies.  Lots of people believe them just because some authority figure says them. reporters say them and they must be true because, after all, reporters don;t make mistakes, they always talk about facts, and they have no biases.

Another thing about lies:  if you repeat something often enough,  people believe it.   A guy named Joe  - the other Joe - said something once about to that.  Another guy - not either Joe - knew something else about lies.  This guy,  who knew those other Joes,  said that a lie will be around the world before the truth has got its pants on.

The person who had the sharpest understanding of lies and their power was actually the guy The Other Joe hooked up with in the 1920s.  That guy wrote a book in 1925 while he was relaxing in a German prison for trying to overthrow the government.  "It would never come into [the head's of ordinary people] to fabricate colossal untruths," he wrote in 1925, "and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."

"Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying."

Impudent.

Means not showing due respect.

None of the people behind Muskrat Falls ever had the due respect for the ordinary people of Newfoundland and Labrador to tell them the plain truth. They didn't hide the facts and the truth not because the facts and the truth made it plain how stupid an idea Muskrat Falls is. No, although that is precisely what the truth does. The supporters hid the about the dam because in their heart and soul the people behind this project never gave a damn about the heart and soul of the people who alone would bear the full cost of the project.

That's really the only conclusion you can reach.

"So, we, the public, are on the hook for electrical rates expected to roughly double what they are now by 2021, and be three times as much by 2040,"  Pam wrote. That's actually been the intention from the outset, although supporters of Muskrat Falls even lied about that.

They forecast in November 2010 that electricity rates would be double what they were at the time. Mark Watton nailed it in his now defunct blog back in 2010: "Danny Williams has yet to alter either the rules of mathematics or have the metric system re-named in His honour, so one Megawatt in Newfoundland still equals 1,000 kilowatts. In other words, $165 per MWh equals $0.165 (or 16.5 cents) per kWh.  The average Canadian residential retail cost for electricity in 2009 was 10.82 cents per kWh. Over the past ten years it has fluctuated from 9.77 cents per kWh in 1998 to a low of 9.40 cents per kWh in to 2000, to last year's high."

So yeah,  the cost of electricity Kathy Dunderdale got from Ed Martin and the goons and goofs at Nalcor was double the rate at the time.  But the same goofs kept feeding lies to the politicians such that smart people like Jerome Kennedy would insist - as he did in 2012 - that power rates would not double.  They played with the start-time.  The rates wouldn't double from where they'd be when the power started to flow because they would keep on rising in the meantime until Muskrat Falls was cheaper.

Rather than give hard facts, though, the goons at Nalcor would give made-up, hypothetical costs per month for imaginary consumers using all the same false, mistaken, and wrong-headed assumptions they'd been using all along to justify Muskrat Falls. Those same sorts of arguments keep turning up, like say in a briefing note to the new cabinet about how it would be impossible to halt the project now that everything was started. Full of lies. Very few facts,  at least in the bits that weren't blacked out.

Die große Lüge besteht aus tausend kleinen Lügen.

The big lie is made up of a thousand little lies.

Even as the little lies are exposed, fragments of them hang around in a cloud that obscures the truth.  You only lie like those Muskrateers have lied when you do not have due respect for people like Kennedy and by extension for all the rest of us in the province. Those grossly impudent lies have left traces behind, even after the truth has been nailed down. 

The entire project is built on a foundation of lies and deceit.  People have not stopped lying about Muskrat Falls. They have just come up with new ones. Like last summer, when they reset the clock on costs. The thing is still running over budget but to some people it looks smaller than before. Resetting the clock makes it look like there has been progress.

But everything remains the same, lies and all.  LIke the lie that you cannot investigate lies about the project because it might upset the folks building the project - many of whom who lied about the project in the first place  - because getting them upset would delay the project and lead to more cost overruns.  The first liar in front of the investigation should be the guy who told the politicians that one.

Seriously.

The truth is the project costs will go up any way from whatever number they've estimated. 

The truth is that the lies do not cause the cost increases. 

The liars do.

And until someone stops lying about Muskrat Falls, we will look back wistfully on the days when it was only 70% over budget.

Back in 2013.


-srbp-