Thursday, July 23, 2015

Behind the ostensible government

I studied political science at university long, long ago. In those days, I was naive and idealistic and a member of the Liberal Party. Because I did not stay naive, I did not remain a Liberal.

Yet, the theory of party politics makes sense. The system should enable people who share goals and principles to pursue common social objectives. If they are supported by sufficient numbers of citizens, they might determine or influence public policy. However, in practice, Canadian parties tend to work from the top down, with ordinary members providing little significant policy input. Party leaders control financial resources, appointments of staff, consultants and spokespeople and creation of platforms, policies and priorities. Or, just about everything that matters.

The unanswered question is, "Who controls party leadership?" That is little discussed in traditional media, largely because pro-media owners are part of the tiny population segment that exercises real authority, in both politics and the marketplace.

The Canadian political economy may be far less violent than Mexico's but the nations have similarities. Writing in The Atlantic, Lawrence Weiner described a fact of Mexican life:
Since the nation's founding, few private fortunes were made without colmillo ("fang" or cunning), the owner's ability to cultivate ties to the right officials and master the art of "mutually convenient" relationships.

In this scheme, the mindset of politicians drove (and was driven by) the mindset of business leaders: wary, secretive, suspicious, and cynical...

In time, the sense of "us versus them" gave rise to deep-seated paranoia, subtle and often unspoken expectations to keep outsiders outside -- the knowing wink, the sealed lips...
After secretive negotiations, BC Liberals gave Malaysian socialists — the sort so despised by Rich Coleman — an unprecedented financial deal for low cost BC natural gas. The arrangements were completed as the Wall Street Journal was reporting that almost $900 million ($CAN) was allegedly transferred into personal accounts of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Razak once worked at Petronas and according to Fitch Ratings, as 100% owner, his government can exert significant influence over Petronas' operating and financial policies.

It may be that some Malaysians work in a culture of corruption, as did SNC Lavalin when its board was chaired by Christy Clark's mentor Gwyn Morgan. If it is suggested we cannot trust the foreign partners in the LNG deal, can we trust the domestic partners? Did bribery play a role in motivating representatives of the people?

In British Columbia, pay to play has been a guiding policy of Christy Clark and her immediate predecessor. Clark's political party banked millions of dollars from resource companies and the provincial share of production revenues dropped dramatically while output levels increased. Because mainstream media are "partners" of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and other resource exploiters, news agencies choose not to report these inconvenient facts. The Clark Government, favoured industries and media have "mutually convenient" relationships not unlike those enjoyed in Mexico by a handful of plutocrats.

Premier Clark admitted this week that climate change is real, that it is causing and will cause serious disruptions in the province. Parts of British Columbia are experiencing wildfires, water shortages and crop failures. Yet Clark's Liberals aim to vastly increase non-conventional production of fracked fossil fuel, flood Peace River farmlands and remove remaining protections of agricultural lands. Ms. Photo Op gathered a cast of firefighters and pretended to have sympathy for the environment. As she did that, her colleagues and their minions continued work to accelerate climate change and reduce food security.

Has there ever been a larger disconnect between the actions and the statements of a political leader? I think not.

A comment on an earlier article provided a link to a video in which politician Phillip Mamouf-Wifarts reveals the real question put to most voters. Of course it's unfair to the sincere people who seek office to achieve good but it fits Canada's old line parties that I've come to regard as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Here are the choices he says we face at election time:
"Do you want another spineless mouthpiece for special interests and lobbyists, or a spineless mouthpiece for special interests and lobbyists?"

The remaining words were written and published here in March 2012. A modern history of BC Liberals is worth reviewing.

Before Gordon Campbell, the BC Liberal Party had been roused from the nearly dead and invigorated by Gordon Wilson, then a youthful populist leader. However, business interests chose Wilson's party as the vehicle best suited to replace the discredited Social Credit coalition. Led by Patrick Kinsella and Gordon Gibson, the power brokers wanted as leader an ideologue who was pleasing to financial backers. The first choice was wealthy developer Jack Poole. He passed on the opportunity to serve on opposition benches so the former Vancouver Mayor was called from the on-deck circle.

When the fixers were ready to move Gordon Campbell into place, a media campaign was orchestrated against the existing BC Liberal leader. Wilson was involved with colleague and future wife Judy Tyabji, a relationship begun while both were married to others. Indeed, pious media accounts of the Wilson and Tyabji marriage breakups helped Gary Farrell-Collins advance a caucus revolt. leading to Wilson's ouster by Campbell in 1993. Since then, romantic alliances of Liberal politicians have been off limits to the once virtuous BC media.

Kinsella's group was well financed and vigorously supported by media, particularly the Hollinger newspapers of future convicts David Radler and Conrad Black. By the end of the decade, the Asper family's Canwest had taken control of the major BC newspapers along with TV news powerhouse BCTV and its Victoria sister station. Canwest enthusiastically joined the campaign for a business-friendly government. So did its eventual successors.

Most expected Gordon Campbell's Liberals to form government in 1996 but Campbell, with an unpopular promise to sell BC Rail, faltered in the campaign. Premier Glen Clark was reelected but faced a corporate media determined to end the New Democratic administration. Liberal Party managers designated Martyn Brown from the old Reform Party to stick-handle Campbell's political affairs.

The media soon found their issues. NDP internal squabbling helped as pragmatists and ideologues scrambled for dominance but fast ferries and gambling issues gained the most traction in public. By the end of the NDP mandate in 2001, the party had earned appropriate ignominy. The Campbell led Liberals cruised to easy victory with a smart platform promising the most open and accountable government in history. Having learned from the mistake of 1996, this time, they also promised not to sell BC Rail.

What we found out later was that the Liberal platform and its progressive promises were completely disingenuous.

Gordon Campbell is gone. Christy Clark will eventually be gone. What has not changed though is the guiding hand that is never subjected to a ballot. America's Progressive Party created a platform in 1912 that demonstrates how little has changed in one hundred years. It included this statement:
"Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”
Needless to say, the unholy alliance continues undissolved. Christy Clark's tenure as Premier may end because Premier Photo-Op is seen by the public for what she is: an intellectual lightweight narcissist who is ridiculed and not respected. However, British Columbia's unseen leaders will remodel the coalition of big business and crown as leader an equally malleable person.

Even though the Premier's current term is marked by incompetence and steadily declining voter approval, Clark has remained Premier for four and a half years. The single most important factor protecting her is the gentle treatment accorded Liberals by the corporate media. That situation reinforces the accuracy of words written by American writer Phil Rockstroh"
"...It should be increasingly clear to see that the corporate media's job has never been to be unbiased chroniclers of the events and circumstances of a free republic. Rather, they are active agents serving to protect and promulgate the pernicious myths of free market capitalism. And they are a highly partisan lot. Moreover, they have been highly successful in their mission. Hence, our lives, both inner and outer, have been conquered and colonized by the corporate empire, and a resultant forced occupation dominates our days determining the trajectory of our brief lives upon this earth.

Yet, we, against all evidence, believe we are free actors in a spontaneous, unfolding democratic drama. When, in reality, we have been cast as dehumanized supernumeraries in a lethal farce that renders all concerned both oppressor and oppressed. This is the central paradox that binds us..."

ADDENDUM: My most viewed tweet of summer 2015, courtesy of Adrian Raeside:

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  1. thankyou Mr Farrel
    It is my wish that all the folks who form their political allegiances and opinions take the time to wean themselves off the corporate media spin and read insightful blogs like the point and non partisan.
    Not holding my breath but will share your blog with as many as possible

  2. Norm, I must apologize for reading your articles and not providing a comment as a token of my appreciation.

    That was one of the more well written pieces that I have read over the last few years.

    Delightful really....on a very difficult and polarized topic.

    Give my best to your granddaughter.

  3. Exactly the conclusion that I have come to over the years. We are not but grist for their mill...and it hurts me to admit the full spectrum dominance of the money changers.

  4. I see Ms photo op was in the news talking? about fighting wildfires and in part states "But boy, we do it better then anybody else in the world".just to go along with her "world class" gibberish from previous years BS, but I have to ask, What is it with the Liberal leaders obsessions with "best" and "world"??. BC had Gordo Campbell who changed the BC slogan to "Best place on earth" and now the photo op queen seems obsessed with claiming "world Class and "the best in the world" on numerous different subjects. Maybe she should add "world class corruption" to her resume!

  5. I have read this piece twice and will do so again.
    Your best to date Norm and a must read for every British Columbian.
    One has to wonder when the powers behind Christy, who chose her as an easy mark, see her for the liability she is, and pull the trap door lever.

  6. G. Barry StewartJuly 23, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    "However, British Columbia's unseen leaders will remodel the coalition of big business and crown as leader an equally malleable person."

    When I hear people calling for Christy to "resign now" I think to myself "Not so fast!" Sadly: we need her to REALLY make a mess of things, hopefully peaking just before the next election. Voters have SUCH a short memory — except for Fast Cats, which live on because the BC Liberals do so well at keeping that relatively small made-in-BC-not-in-Europe gaffe.

    (As Sparky says: this is really one of your better pieces. Well done, Norm!)

  7. Very well said Norm, once again. Your well researched work is much appreciated.

  8. Further to my previous comment, I sometimes wonder if Christy, is brighter than I give her credit for, sees the writing on the wall and has played both ends against the middle setting herself up for an early exit.

  9. A superbly written piece with clarity, flow, facts and opinions melded into an easy but thought provoking read. It has literally been years since I have felt this way after reading anything. Well done.

  10. Top drawer as usual Norm.

    Given that the consortium involved in the deal at hand is comprised of Petronas, Sinopec, Japex, Indian Oil Corporation, and Petroleum Brunei one could expect the top industry experts in the world would represent it at the bargaining table. One would also expect they would be very experienced at negotiating massive development agreements and possess a track record of extracting the most beneficial terms possible. They would be formidable negotiators dealing from a position of strength, looking for and willing to exploit any vulnerability they find.

    The government involved in the deal at hand has a track record of being incapable of selling a railway without creating a train wreck, incapable of reaching out to the ethnic community without scandal, incapable of creating one written word when conducting a two-week investigation into serious improper conduct by the premier’s handpicked chief of staff, incapable of bringing in one infrastructure project on time and on budget, and incapable of monitoring the activities of senior members of government ministries to prevent criminal plea deals contrary to law and public policy or actions that contribute to the death of an employee or children in care. But it has proven very capable of accepting massive campaign donations from and authorizing massive subsidies and tax breaks to the resource extraction industry, and is desperate to keep a wild campaign promise based on extraction upon which it was elected.

    We should therefore be very interested in who specifically represented us at the table.
    Who negotiated on our behalf? What are their qualifications and where did they gain the expertise for the task? Did they receive any political direction or was the deal negotiated strictly on the best demonstrable financial and environmental benefits to the citizens of BC and concluded based on their considerable related experience and qualifications?

    Why are the ProMedia folks around here leaving it up to Norm to figure that out? Perhaps we should be asking them en masse. Who specifically was at the table?

  11. I think a great percentage of our politicians, simply don't care which party they get involved in. It can't be any party as long as they are in for 6 years and get a succulent pension.

  12. You put great words to Raeside's cartoon Lew. I often wondered how our inept side could presume to negotiate with the other side's professionals. Answer is: They couldn't!
    Thanks Norm for a very clear and concise review of the history of our demise. As the late AGT would say "REQUIRED READING". When I was very young they used to drop important missives (probably advertising propaganda) from airplanes and we would scurry about looking for hidden treasure. I wonder if the same method could be used to reach the masses now?
    So soon we forget! What happened to the Burke Mountain crime? The English Bay oil spill? The Health Ministry firings? Oh well, if the crooks don't get us global climate will.
    Have a good day!

  13. CBC story broken on Saturday morning, shut down early Sunday afternoon. Interesting.
    Commenting is now closed for this story.

    One corrupt government dealing with another corrupt government. Malaysian PM has been charged with stealing money from his government coffers to pay for his elections. Many of his cabinet have also been charged and convicted of money laundering as well.
    And maybe while De Jong is there he can pay a visit to his other corrupt PM in Indonesia that wants to build the Howe Sound LNG terminal. He was recently convicted of bribery and is destroying the natural forests for palm oil.
    Birds of a feather... » more

    39 minutes ago
    Like Like Share
    Wow! Just, Wow!: "In early 2010, a young Malaysian financier named Jho Low began making some very expensive real estate deals in the United States."...
    "Mr. Low, 33, is a skillful, and more than occasionally flamboyant, iteration of the sort of operative essential to the economy of the global superrich. Just as many of the wealthy use shell companies to keep the movement of money opaque, they also use people like Mr. Low...Mr. Low’s lavish spending has raised eyebrows and questions from Kuala Lumpur to New York
    ...“Speculation is brewing over where Low is getting his money from.”...One answer resides at least indirectly in his relationship, going back to his school days in London, with the family of Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak. Mr. Low has played an important role in bringing Middle Eastern money into numerous deals involving the Malaysian government, and he helped set up, and has continued to advise, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund that the prime minister oversees."« less

  14. Surely, the BC Liberal brain trust cannot be unaware of this:

    'Farouk Peru, editor of the book Critical Thinkers for Islamic Reform, made the warning yesterday in welcoming an open letter from 25 leading Malaysians, which expressed “deep dismay” about the growing assertion of extremist ­Islamism in their country — with the support, or toleration, of the government...

    He said “extremist elements have penetrated even the prime minister’s department” — pointing to a speech made by Prime Minister Najib Razak during a dinner to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Malaysian independence, in which he listed virtues that were needed to enable his UMNO party to remain in power, as it has done since 1957.
    “When someone dares to fight to their death, they can even defeat a much bigger team,” Mr Najib said. “As proof — whether we agree or not is another matter — the group ISIL (Islamic State) with the strength of just 1300 people, can defeat an Iraqi army of 30,000 soldiers, until four, five generals with three, four stars run for their lives, jump out the window at night. Why? Because they are afraid of those who are brave.”



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