Friday, March 22, 2013

March 22: Even the budget is a zero

Last night, a good fairy flew into my room, hovered for some minutes, and we chatted. But I'll discuss that at the end.
The best that can be said of the federal budget is that it means almost nothing. It's strategies are vague. There is little indication of how it will balance the budget or even of what it will do. There is almost nothing to meet the day to day needs of native peoples, let alone their long-term social needs. So much for Harper giving a damn about promises to native people.

As for energy, Harper plans to spend one million dollars (spread over two years) on researching clean energy. Wow! That much be almost as much tax payers' money as he spends on political ads.

The civil service will save money by becoming more efficient. But there is no mention of how that will be done.

Some money will go to environment protection - but nowhere close to what was taken away last year.

There are some promises to crack down on tax cheaters - but the estimates of what that will bring in are pretty vague. There is no talk of cracking down on corporation taxes - which is where the only real money would be.

Significantly, there is no talk of closing the income gap between the ultra-rich and everybody else in this country - though Canada's record is among the worst in the developed world. The government has no intention of helping the poor, and no intention of taxing the rich.

Nor is there any reason to believe this will lead us to a balanced budget.

The budget strongly suggests that we are waiting for the world's economies to revive, and to raise us. Good luck.

Meanwhile, the independent Parliamentary Budget Office which takes a close and critical look at such things as the budget has been closed out for this one - and steps are being taken to make sure it will never tell the truth again. Read Alec Bruce for an excellent column on this.

Norbert is a surprise today, saying things I never thought he'd say about the Liberals and Conservative - particularly that they are both essentially the same party.

Quite so. Now just one more step, Norbert. Why are they essentially the same party? Could it be because they are both owned by the same people? Who also own all the newspapers down here?

And if the Liberals and Conservatives are such a limp pile as you suggest, why didn't you give a little more time to what the NDP and the Green Party are about? The tone of your column is that both Liberals and Conservatives stink. I agree. But I don't see that as a reason to under report the NDP and the Greens - as the TandT routinely does.

Norbert is quite right in this column on our "old political failings". He should have taken a step further to point the way out of those old failings.

Steve Malloy begins what seems to be a trivial story. But stick with it. This is a good read, and a thoughtful one.
In most of today's paper, there is no news worth reading. Most of it is trivia. Anything more important you can get just as well (or as badly) from radio and TV.

But the editorial and op ed pages are pretty good (with the exception of the editorial.)
In other events:
1. It's official. The UN now agrees that the government of Guatemala (with leadership, weapons, etc. from the US and the CIA) destroyed 600 villages, massacring 250,000 to 300,000 native people so we could get cheap bananas and canned pineapples and various minerals.

It was not mentioned at the time in the North American news media, though they all knew about it. It wasn't even mentioned (except in The New York Times- once) when Clinton publicly apologized for it more than dozen years ago.

And I notice it's not being mentioned now in the Irving Press, not even with a UN acknowledgement.

2. There's no mention that former British PM Tony Blair is now very careful what countries he visits, and goes nowhere without bodyguards. No, he isn't worried about terrorists. What worries him is that documents now public (except in New Brunswick) show that he lied about the reasons for invading Iraq and killing hundreds of thousands. He can now be charged as a war criminal. Of course, the British government is not going to do that. But there is great fear of an international warrant, or even a citizens' arrest.

For the same reason, Bush is careful about where he goes, since he, too, lied the US into an illegal war. But the North American media don't mention that, either.

3. I did some research on Sigma Six, the management system practiced by the Irvings, and now being forced on the civil service and on health care in New Brunswick. It is essentially a way of cutting jobs. But it disguises itself as efficient management based on data analysis.

In effect, it bases itself on judgement of performance according to statistics. Ah, yes. Statistics. Very scientific.

Well, no. Statistics are heavily used by propaganda mills like Atlantic Institute of Market Studies. That's because statistics are so easily twisted to prove whatever you want to prove. It's probably not a good idea for business - and it's a very bad one for education, civil service, and health - any system that is not oriented to making profit. But it is handy as an excuse for laying people off. You just have to put the right twist on the statistics.

I suspect Sigma Six is being forced on the hospitals, in particular, as an opening attack on the whole idea of medicare - so that public/private/partnerships can muscle in on the action. The same thing has already come to the schools, and for the same reasons.

Still, if you want to get a high-paying job which requires little training and littler brains, think about Sigma Six. A 'black belt' runs to an average salary of a hundred thousand a year - and, commonly, adds bonusses for efficiency (people fired).

4. Yesterday morning, I wrote a letter to the editor about a falsely represented news story on A 1. Usually, that would bring a prompt call from the TandT to ensure that I did write the letter. But no call has come yet. And I truly did long for the honour of seeing my words in print in the TandT.

5. Ah, yes, the good fairy. What the good fairy chatted about was the low morale in the NB civil service as it has no sense of objectives or supports. Departments have been gutted, and rendered incapable of offering any service. It is, according to the fairy, a dreadful, disorderly mess.

She also gave me the summary of a government opinion survey handed out to all employees to assess such questions as satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with their jobs in about forty categories.

I'm not sure I understand the meaning of the summary symbols. But they appear to indicate that nobody in the whole  civil service had any complaints at all. And that's not believable - unless they all had to sign their survery sheets.

I wonder if the Sigma Six boys played with the data a bit.

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