Sucking & Blowing

Two Jacks

For months now, Jack Layton has been calling for the infusion of massive amounts of government investment in infrastructure programs as a means of stimulating the flagging Canadian economy. Fair enough. Unfortunately, one of the problems with such initiatives is the slow rate at which they proceed from planning or conceptual stage to actually being “shovel ready” (as it’s fashionably called these days).

One of the key delays in the evolution of projects is the environmental assessment process — something that can add months, if not years to a project’s timeline before any employment or other “stimulus” is created.

To overcome this problem, the Conservative government is apparently proposing temporary, short-term changes to the federal environmental assessment process that would exempt certain projects under $10 million. Another proposed measure would eliminate one level of assessment, either federal or provincial, on larger projects.

And Jack Layton’s reaction? Well, naturally… he’s outraged. Claiming that the Tories are out to “gut environmental rules” the NDP “say the government is using the economic crisis – and the plan to speed up infrastructure projects – as a pretext for weakening environmental oversight.”

Sheesh. There’s just no pleasing some people it seems.

A few points here. First, we don’t know the exact nature of the changes being proposed. Apparently, the information is based on an internal e-mail from an Environment Canada policy development conference call. It’s quite possible therefore that other measures may be included in the proposed legislation that we’re unaware of such as posting bonds to ensure voluntary compliance, etc.

Second, just because the impact assessment might be foregone under a wider range of circumstances than is presently the case, it certainly doesn’t mean there won’t be any environmental oversight over projects whatsoever or that they won’t still have to fully conform to all applicable federal and/or provincial regulations.

So what’s more important? Expediting infrastructure projects to inject as much “stimulus” into the economy as rapidly as possible, or adhering to the protracted assessment process necessitated by the regulations as they’re currently structured…

Celestial Slime

rotterdam

It seems that Junky Paul’s Islamophobic outrage at the decision by the Amsterdam Court of Appeal to prosecute the controversial right-wing politician Geert Wilders for the incitement to hatred and discrimination against Muslims in that country is so boundless that he sees fit to disparage all people of the Netherlands:

The Dutch were notorious during WW2 for rolling over and playing dead when the Nazis came calling. Sure, they were a tiny little country full of pretty girls with wooden shoes and handsome men more adept at making pancakes than war.

The facts of the matter of course are completely different from Paul’s delusional, cartoon version of history.

For two and a half hours the Germans kept bombing the city. From twelve o’clock noon until two-thirty a relentless rain of death poured from the skies. After the bombing was over, more than 26,000 buildings lay in wreckage. Nearly 25,000 men, women and children lay dead in the street or buried under the masses of rubble. Eyewitnesses who escaped from Rotterdam reported that even after streets had been cleared of their heaps of dead, there was still an average of 1,800 bodies a day being dragged from the ruins for a period of seven days. That the Germans were trying to wash the blood strains of guilt from their hands was proved by the tight censorship they placed on the graveyard city. The green-clad Dutch troops, who had stood throughout the bombing with their feeble rifles pointed at the skies, watched a city with a population of nearly 600,000 become a flaming furnace. Many of the Dutch soldiers around the city of Rotterdam wept as they surrendered to the Germans. Holland’s combined armed forces, estimated at about 400,000 men [ed. which was mostly fighting with weaponry made before 1900], were hardly able to stem the German mass attacks of armored columns and airplanes. What the Germans had planned for an invasion in one day for Holland took them five days against some determined, stubborn Dutch people.

Paul then goes on to level the following loathsome smear against the Dutch:

But, they didn’t have to deliver their Jews up for slaughter, outdoing even the yellow French in providing the Nazis with lots of “Cyclon B” victims.

Again, the facts speak otherwise (emphasis added):

Shortly after it was established, the military regime began to persecute the Jews of the Netherlands. In 1940, there were no deportations and only small measures were taken against the Jews. In February 1941, the Nazis deported a small group of Dutch Jews to the concentration camp Mauthausen. The Dutch reacted with the February strike as a nationwide protest against the deportations, unique in the history of Nazi-occupied Europe. Although the strike did not accomplish much—its leaders were executed—it was a major setback for Seyss-Inquart as he had planned to both deport the Jews and to win the Dutch over to the Nazi cause. As a reaction to the February strike, the Nazis installed that same month a Jewish Council: a board of Jews who served as an instrument for organising the identification and deportation of Jews more efficiently, while the Jews on the council were told and convinced they were helping the Jews.

Utterly disgusting, but I suppose the vile nonsense spewed by “Paul” (if that’s his name), shouldn’t come as a surprise; after all, when did telling anything approximating the truth ever matter to the more asinine faction of the Blogging Tossers Tories?

Reich: Recession to Last 2-3 Years

Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration (now acting as one of Obama’s informal economic advisors along with Warren Buffett and others) predicts the economy will begin to turn around in “two or three years” with prudent federal investment, but warns that U.S. unemployment rates may rise significantly without “effective government action.”

If you get the chance to watch the whole speech (about an hour long, with the Q&A) delivered last week to the Commonwealth Club of California, you’ll be rewarded with a refreshingly straightforward explanation of the causes of the current deep recession (or “liverwurst” Reich suggests it just might as well be called rather than a “Depression”) and sensible prescriptions for jump-starting the American economy in addition to more ambitious spending initiatives that he realistically notes won’t likely have any significant impact for years to come. Whether you agree or disagree with his philosophy, Reich is, as always, a delightfully engaging and edifying speaker.

From a Canadian perspective, if Reich is correct (taking the middle road between the “Pollyannas” and the “Chicken Littles”) then we can likely expect to be in much the same boat as our friends south of the border for the same period, or possibly even somewhat longer when accounting for delayed reaction time. Can a Harper minority government — firmly in the camp of the Pollyannas for the most part, except when they erratically flip-flop and act like the gloomiest of doomsayers — weather the storm through this year, into the next with no prospect of the cycle turning for another year after that?