Rex Murphy’s Year Ender

CBC’s professional curmudgeon offers up his patented barnacle encrusted summary of the year’s events:

Hypothetically, suppose you slept through the entire year of 2011 like a modern-day Rip Van Winkle and then suddenly awoke to watch that demoralizing re-cap… might you not have been quite glad to have missed the whole demoralizing affair resting in comatose slumber?

26 Comments

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26 responses to “Rex Murphy’s Year Ender

  1. trainman

    At the end of 2011, we can safely say, that from many perspectives (most notably an economic one), Canada is well ahead of its international counterparts.

    What a juxtaposition to the doomsday predictions we heard in the last decade (including many on this blog) should Steven Harper ever become Prime Minister. Since his ascension to that role in 2006, the dire predictions have trailed off. Now, only the most twisted and unrealistic adjudicators, could deny that he and his government have performed exceptionally well.

    I wouldn’t know, but I wonder what it feels like to be this wrong?

  2. Well, I for one never predicted any sort of economy doomsday or “dire consequences” arising from the ascendancy of a Harper Conservative government. (Feel free to prove me wrong.)

    If anything, it’s just been more of a continuation policies from the previous Liberal regime for the most part with a few minor modifications around the edges. Scrapping the gun registry — good. Gutting the Wheat Board — good… I guess, for some. Whatever… The whole “law and order” thing… well, we’ll see how that pans out. And so on.

    So how’s your Harper so-called-conservative “revolution” working out for YOU?

    In truth, I’m not terribly averse to anything the Harper government has done thusfar with their majority although it would be possible to quibble endlessly over the specifics of various matters and issues of style in their manner of governance (not that the Liberals were much better in that regard).

    When or if they start actually living up to the bombastic rhetoric they routinely employ to gull the rubes, then I might start to get a little concerned. Until then… yawn.

  3. …he and his government have performed exceptionally well.

    Yeah, our Trudeau-level debt, stagnant growth, negligible productivity, and total international irrelevance are indeed “exceptional”. Canada hasn’t been this inert and mediocre since the Bowell era.

    I wonder what it feels like to be this wrong?

    Ask Stephen Harper, the guy who was certain that helping Dubya invade the undeniably nuclear- and WMD-armed Iraq was a swell idea.

    Admit it. You’ve got a tea cosy with a portrait of Harper printed on both sides, haven’t you?

  4. trainman

    Sir Francis, in economics, everything is relative–it has to be.

    Our “Trudeau-level debt” pales in comparison to debt levels around the world. Trudeau didn’t face the economic crisis we’re facing today.

    Not sure where you get the idea of negligible productivity. Canada’s GDP remains in the top 7% worldwide.

    “Total international irrelevance”?? We played a leading role in Afghanistan, a Canadian led the NATO mission in Libya, we are home to the world’s largest “safe” oil reserves, ranked as having the #1 banking system in the world by the WEF 4 years in a row…

    Newsflash, the UN is fast becoming history’s biggest joke, and a seat on the Security Council is not the standard for international relevance.

    Canada is anything but inert or mediocre. Who owns tea cosies anymore anyways. Get a grip.

  5. ASME

    Has anyone noticed how Rex moves back in his chair on negative words such as devastation and the like. What is happening there…an ejaculation?

  6. ASME: I think you might be reading a bit too much into Rex’s idiosyncratic tics.

    [BTW, thanks for the horrific mental image of him ejaculating…]

  7. Yes, Trudeau’s stroll through mid-70s to early 80s stagflation and serial recessions, after inheriting Pearson’s massive deficit, was indeed a cakewalk. Harper, meanwhile, had no alternative but to start blowing the colossal Chretien/Martin surplus immediately upon taking office, two years before the global meltdown. As for productivity, read the stats; even France beats us…consistently.

    Our “leading role” in Afghanistan was providing auxiliary sepoys in U.S.-led tactical deployments that relied entirely on American air power (in order, I might add, merely to create the conditions under which Karzai/NATO could negotiate with our ostensible enemies). Our “leading” role in Libya consisted of bombing sorties; the geo-strategic impetus for the mission was entirely European. And if you think being a North American hybrid of Switzerland and Saudi Arabia amounts to relevance, my condolences.

    …a seat on the Security Council is not the standard for international relevance.

    Who’s speaking of getting a seat as a “standard” for anything? Whether or not UN members believe you deserve a seat (including the Americans who rejected our last bid) is a fairly good measure of relevance.

  8. SF: There you go again… confusing the issue with pesky “facts”!

  9. trainman

    SF: I know that you think writing in witty prose somehow makes an argument, but it doesn’t.

    Your post is full of straw arguments and unsubstantiated assertions. If you’ll kindly re-read your first post, you will see what my comments were specifically related to.

    Big deal if we have Trudeau-level debt, the entire world is swimming in debt, and we have much less debt (I never said Trudeau didn’t face his own economic crisis–so who gives a rip about his stagflation problem). The entire world economy is struggling, so of course economic growth is hard to come by, but we still have growth, and again, relative to the rest of the world, we’re doing very well. We don’t have negligible productivity, we are in the top 7%, that is a fact, look it up (Per Capita GDP, Nominal GDP). France may beat us on nominal GDP, but they don’t beat us on per capita GDP–besides which, since when is France the standard for Canada’s productivity??? We are beating 90% of the world in this category, therefore your statement that we have negligible productivity is a completely false assertion.

    Let me break it down for you:

    “Yeah, our Trudeau-level debt,…”
    -> Who gives a shit about Trudeau’s debt 40 years ago! Canada is in a very manageable position as far as debt is concerned.

    “…stagnant growth,…”
    -> Relative to our current economic times, our economy shows growth.

    “…negligible productivity,…”
    -> Get the facts on GDP, we have productivity.

    “…and total international irrelevance…”
    -> Please provide the facts to support this assertion.

    ” Canada hasn’t been this inert and mediocre since the Bowell era.”
    -> Can you say hyperbole!

    By the way, Canada’s leading role in Afghanistan wasn’t just extra men–it was a reputation amongst ground forces as being able to get the job done more effectively than any other force out there. While they may not have had the budget for equipment that the US did (we also don’t carry the trillions in $’s of debt that the US carries) the Canadian Forces were renowned as the most reliable and dependable military operating in the region.

    Our leading role in Libya consisted of: CF-18 fighter bombers, command-and-control aircraft, air tankers, a warship–not to mention the guy commanding the coalition forces was a CANADIAN.

  10. I know that you think writing in witty prose somehow makes an argument…

    …when, in fact, rigorous argumentation requires the use of caps for emphasis and the deployment of the odd devastating “who gives a rip” and/or “shit” to speed the discursive thrust of whatever catalogue of evasions and special pleadings one wishes to advance in support of the insupportable.

    That said, do allow me to apologise for my “wit”. And thanks so much for providing the appropriate tonal counterpoint.

  11. By the way, Canada’s leading role in Afghanistan wasn’t just extra men–it was a reputation amongst ground forces as being able to get the job done more effectively than any other force out there.

    Just out of curiosity, exactly what “job” did our armed forces get “done”… you know, “out there”? I’m presuming there’s must be something memorable or terribly significant to show for their effort and the estimated $20 billion dollars expended by the Canadian people at large.

  12. Peter

    I have to agree with trainman that SF’s gloomy assertions are awfully hard to square with OECD figures But no matter, anyone who can drop a line like Canada hasn’t been this inert and mediocre since the Bowell era. without breaking rhetorical stride is a rara avis among bloggers.

  13. Tomm

    Enjoyed the discussion.

    Trainman, you did an excellent job. SF is a tough guy to debate.

    By the way, would that be Sir Bowell?

  14. jkg

    What is interesting though about the France comparison is that rate of change. Canada increased its population over eleven years by roughly 3 million and also an increase of roughly 16 thousand to PPP or per capita GDP. It is pretty impressive, and upon looking at France, their population increases roughly 6 million in the same period but added 10 thousand to their per capita GDP. My concern though is that for the first time in ten years, we have registered a current account deficit starting in 2009, and it has been pretty stark. As a nation, we have never hit past 15 billion before even adjusting for inflation. That is something that seems to be remained unaddressed. It has contracted thankfully, but we are still in the double digits.

  15. I’m quite skeptical when it comes to these “productivity” numbers, and for that matter, GDP statistics in general. If one uncritically subscribes to these numbers as proffered by “expert” authorities that issue such things then Luxembourg is apparently the most “productive” economy in the world. Clearly that’s not the case in practical terms, so therefore the metrics must be seriously messed up.

  16. trainman

    That said, do allow me to apologise for my “wit”. And thanks so much for providing the appropriate tonal counterpoint.

    Np, SF, I’ll take the win.

  17. trainman

    Just out of curiosity, exactly what “job” did our armed forces get “done”… you know, “out there”?

    RT, while the accomplishments of the entire mission itself may be up for debate and somewhat subjective, the successful accomplishments of the individual missions, carried out by the soldiers are not. These “jobs” can be objectively defined by the parameters of each mission and in terms of getting them “done” the Canadian forces were widely viewed as the most reliable and courageous fighters out there, often risking their lives to clean up tasks left undone by other coalition forces–the commander of the coalition forces was quoted as saying as much. (And this comment is not meant to take anything away from the work of the Green Beret’s, whose mission was completed before the coalition forces showed up.)

  18. trainman

    I’m quite skeptical when it comes to these “productivity” numbers,…

    I’m sure you are skeptical, but the reality is that we need some objective basis with which to evaluate the strength of economies–as we can’t rely solely on Sir Francis’ highly developed positions.

    GDP is one of many tools in the economists toolkit and should never be taken out of context.

  19. Trainman: Successfully accomplishing transitory yet utterly pointless tactical “missions” in the field for the sake of a completely futile conflict is hardly a metric of achievement. That same deranged mentality inched the British high-command forward at multiple battles of the Somme in WWI to no effect but at great cost… What tangible results do we have to show for our $20+ billion?

    Regarding the productivity numbers, an “objective” standard may well be required to measure our performance relative to other economies. So, can you explain why according to the standards you approve of we’re woefully lagging behind Luxembourg in this respect? Contextually speaking, of course…

  20. trainman

    RT, the missions aren’t pointless when they save the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. I would encourage you to make yourself aware of the true nature of this conflict–if your only source of information regarding the conflict has been the likes of Rachel Maddow and George Strombopolous, then you haven’t done that. I can give you one example of a dozen soldiers that held off (i.e. killed) several hundred Taliban fighters with trucks and tanks and bombs, who were marching to invade a small town and execute every single person (men, women and children) because the town officials had cooperated with the Northern Alliance. Those Afghani’s are alive today because of the war and I think if you asked them, they’d tell you the mission was anything but pointless. That is one example, and there are thousands more like it that I won’t retype here on your blog–you can read any number of the hundreds of books that have been written based on first hand accounts. Or you can pry yourself out of your armchair, and speak directly with any of the men and women who have been serving in that conflict. Afganistan will never be perfect, but the war gave that country a chance to build something better–if they squander it, that is their problem not ours.

    What tangible results do we have for our $20 billion?

    How about the fact that “the country is no longer ruled by a regime of fanatics. Afghan security forces now exist; roads, schools, and clinics have been built; and the numbers of children in school have soared. In Helmand province, where British forces are concentrated, 11 of its 14 districts now have a governor and some officials. Schools have reopened with almost 80,000 children enrolled today, virtually double the number in 2007. Two-thirds of Afghans now have access to basic health services – up from 8 per cent during Taliban rule; more than 1,000 judges, 200 of them women, have been trained; and elections, albeit increasingly corrupt ones, are routinely held.”

    Even though we may not get the words out of Bob Rae or Justin Trudeau or Nycole Turmel or even Red Tory’s mouth, I think we can safely say, that is an achievement. And last May we held a referendum on a government that staked its claim on this conflict, and they passed with flying colours.

    War comes with a great cost–what’s your point. WWII cost the allies well over a trillion dollars–was it worth it? That’s a subjective question, but you walk into any coffee shop or restaurant in France and the Netherlands, and they’ll tell you it was worth it. What about billions of dollars in foreign aid to Haiti, what about billions of dollars in AIDS research to help people in Africa, people who will never provide any positive contribution to the GDP of Canada or the US, what about social services in our country like welfare, AISH, medicare–is it worth it? What about food banks, soup kitchens, and the Salvation Army programs for the homeless–are they worth it?

  21. trainman

    So, can you explain why according to the standards you approve of we’re woefully lagging behind Luxembourg in this respect?

    I’m quite the radical, with my IMF, World Bank and CIA GDP figures aren’t I.

    Yes I can tell you why we “lag” (as you so woefully put it) behind Luxembourg–although it’s not much of a secret, and we’re not lagging behind.

    #1 – Dubious banking practices make this country a tax haven for companies all over Europe, who declare their revenues in Luxembourg, which inflates the income that would normally be produced in a country their size.

    #2 – Much of their labour force commutes from outside this tiny country, which means the efforts of a much larger group are shared (on a per capita basis) by a much smaller group.

    Hence the abnormally high per capita GDP numbers. (Notice how all the countries on the top of that list have populations less than metro Toronto–that’s how per capita stats usually work.)

  22. Trainman: You have well and truly ingested vast amounts of neo-conservative Kool-Aid if you earnestly believe that temporarily propping up a deeply corrupt, impossibly flawed narco-terrorist state like Afghanistan was worth the sacrifice of “blood and treasure” as you delusional war-hawks like to call it.

    Once Canada has finished training the Afghan National Army before departing altogether, what backwards shithole of a country on the globe would you next like to imperiously “re-build” with similarly fantastic success?

  23. Trainman: I’m quite the radical, with my IMF, World Bank and CIA GDP figures aren’t I.

    I never suggested you were a “radical”. What I said was that I’m skeptical of the conventional GDP benchmarks provided by the esteemed institutions cited above. Most economists recognize that GDP metrics represent a certain kind of “information failure” and should therefore not be reflexively considered as the be-all and end-all of determining economic achievement.

    Yes I can tell you why we “lag” (as you so woefully put it) behind Luxembourg–although it’s not much of a secret, and we’re not lagging behind.

    Your examples merely illustrate my point. QED.

  24. trainman

    You have well and truly ingested vast amounts of neo-conservative Kool-Aid if you earnestly believe that temporarily propping up a deeply corrupt, impossibly flawed narco-terrorist state like Afghanistan was worth the sacrifice of “blood and treasure” as you delusional war-hawks like to call it.

    You didn’t even come close to responding to the points raised in my post. I’ll ask again, “What about billions of dollars in foreign aid to Haiti, what about billions of dollars in AIDS research to help people in Africa, people who will never provide any positive contribution to the GDP of Canada or the US, what about social services in our country like welfare, AISH, medicare–is it worth it? What about food banks, soup kitchens, and the Salvation Army programs for the homeless–are they worth it?”

  25. trainman

    GDP metrics represent a certain kind of “information failure” and should therefore not be reflexively considered as the be-all and end-all of determining economic achievement.

    And I quote (myself) “GDP is one of many tools in the economists toolkit and should never be taken out of context.”

    Yes RT, GDP productivity isn’t the be-all and end-all. And again, if you’ll follow the conversation thread, you’ll see I wasn’t the one that brought up productivity, it was our dear friend mr. francis, who was declaring Canada was failing in the productivity department. Sounds like you two have a bone to pick.

  26. trainman

    Oh, I forgot.

    QED.

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