Wednesday Night #1454

Written by  //  January 12, 2010  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

On 13 January 1898, Émile Zola’s letter J’accuse was published.  Wikipedia notes that “As a result of the popularity of the letter, even in the English-speaking world, J’accuse! has become a common generic expression of outrage and accusation against a powerful person.” We feel, therefore, that without diminishing in any way the importance of the Dreyfus Affair, it is appropriate to mention that a flurry of announcements has pushed our tolerance thermometer to rant level.

Last summer the National Post informed us simultaneously that it was doing away with the Sunday edition (and Monday’s for summer months), while at the same time raising the subscription rate.

Then, came the announcement that Canada Post is AGAIN raising its rates http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2010/01/10/canada-post-rates.html – so that it can buy new sorting equipment – with nary a whimper in the Opinion pages.

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and other big banks are bracing for a renewed public and political backlash against their compensation plans as they prepare to unveil multi-billion dollar bonus packages – instead of bracing for a backlash, why not avoid it? No doubt everyone will be reassured that Goldman is considering expanding a program that would require executives and top managers to give a certain percentage of their earnings to charity. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/11/business/economy/11goldman.html?th&emc=th

But these are private firms – or Crown corporations. Consider our three levels of government …

The Conservatives have earned their place in our pantheon of rip-offs by proroguing Parliament.  Even L. Ian suggests that proroguing Parliament is a clever, but risky, move, however, his reticence is political, rather than based on the citizens’ right to good government – for which they pay.

Then there’s the MUHC mega-hospital – even if we are told we should not use that term. Last we heard was that the winning consortium would be announced early in 2010. Still no word, but we do know that it will be built by a consortium under the PPP model, even though a private consortium borrows at a higher interest rate than the government and must turn a profit, so, the taxpayer will be looking at a much higher bill (and many of those taxpayers will be dead before the hospital is built).

And the Grand Prize winner? It has to be the Agglomeration de Montréal’s 13% tax hike for the suburbs. As our Mayor and president of the Association of Suburban Municipalities has said, “What is clear is that these alarming increases are driven by one thing – runaway spending by the city of Montreal,” – and what service improvements have we seen? At least, in this case, we can count on Peter Trent and his allies to whimper (roar) loudly.

What ever happened to the concept of rendering a service for which payment is received (generally) post facto? And the parallel maxim that the customer (e.g. public, taxpayer) is always right?

In contrast, we commend Air Canada (a rare step for us!) for its enlightened policy in light of new security regulations to waive excess baggage charges for checked baggage for U.S.-bound customers travelling from Canada.
There! We have said it and we are glad. We are also very sure that each of you has your particular bête noire and we will be delighted to learn about it.

Bits and pieces for possible consideration this week.
Chile has become the first South American country to be admitted into the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This good news in contrast to the increasingly disturbing situation in Venezuela where President Hugo Chávez has devalued the country’s currency, the bolivar, by half, in a move that economists say underscores the dire economic straits of the oil-rich nation.
Gold – why it goes up when the dollar weakens – from John Evdokias
A couple of items on the EU
(Financial Times) EU inventories low amid recovery doubt Businesses are holding very low stock levels and are reluctant to boost inventories, according to some of Europe’s leading chief executives – providing evidence of lingering doubts about the durability of economic recovery.
Paul Krugman: Learning From Europe The real lesson from Europe is actually the opposite of what conservatives claim: Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works. HOWEVER, Europe’s OK; the euro isn’t
Nigeria may – once again – be in crisis as concerns rise that the president may be dead  With its oil wealth, it should rank among the richest oil-producing nations on earth. But rampant corruption has concentrated that wealth into the hands of a very few Nigerians, leaving out impoverished northerners, who increasingly turn to extremist Islamist movements, and also leaving out southerners in the Niger Delta, who have launched a six-year-long war against the state and against oil companies to forcibly take back oil resources for themselves. Transparency International, an anti-corruption group, recently rated Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

On Canada healthcare – and the economy:
We find it noteworthy that Canadian authorities generated near-panic over the possibility of an H1N1 pandemic, but are showing no concern over a far greater threat.
Dementia will take huge toll as boomers age
A new study by the Alzheimer Society of Canada says the country urgently needs a strategy to minimize the impact of the baby boomers’ march toward dementia. Related stories Experts waiting for Quebec to act on Alzheimer’s plan Seven months after report was submitted, Health Department has yet to announce how it will proceed
Ignoring tomorrow, governing for today

Finally:
We are sure everyone shares our excitement over the news that Sarah Palin is joining FOX News. Absolutely a perfect match for someone who says she is “thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team. It’s wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news.” Her exact words.

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