The Tory Airplane Scandal–Excuses, Excuses

“I am optimistic that your review will assist in securing Albertans’ continued confidence in their government and trust in their elected officials.”—Premier Redford’s letter to the Auditor General requesting a review of her compliance with the Travel and Expense policy, Mar 4, 2014

Ms Redford

Ms Redford’s optimism quickly turned to ashes. Not only did her request dump her onto the scrap heap of disgraced politicians, but there’s a good chance she’ll take the rest of the PC government with her.

A junket to Grande Prairie

On Thursday, Oct 25, 2012 Premier Redford and 8 MLAs—Donna Kennedy-Glans, Ken Hughes, Wayne Drysdale, Fred Horne, Cal Dallas, Christine Cusanelli, Wayne Cao and Everett McDonald—made a trip to Grande Prairie. Two ministers joined Ms Redford on the government plane flying to Grande Prairie; the others joined her on the flight back.

The flight manifest says the purpose of the trip was to meet with government officials. Health Minister Horne says the purpose of the trip was to “make an announcement” about the progress of the expansion of the Grande Prairie hospital. The announcement was made…at 4:20 in Edmonton while the plane was somewhere in the air between Calgary and Grande Prairie. The plane touched down at 4:32. The Progressive Conservative fundraiser dinner started at 5:20. There were no meetings with government officials and no media events in the 48 minutes between wheels down and forks up.*

The touchy Mr Drysdale

When asked by the Opposition to explain themselves, Deputy Premier Hancock huffily replied that the trip was “clearly government business.” Finance Minister Horner blew his stack calling the Opposition’s questions “despicable”. Health Minister Horne bleated the government had “made an announcement” and Infrastructure Minister Drysdale flew into a rage, accusing Ms Smith of impugning his integrity and judgment.*

Yikes!

The Auditor General’s take

Then along came Merwan Saher, the Auditor General (and my hero) to set the government straight.

The Auditor General reminded everyone that the Travel & Expense policy requires the government (us) to pick up the tab for the government plane if the passengers are travelling on “government business”. Government business is defined as “activities intended to promote and achieve the goals and objectives of the government of Alberta.”

The Auditor General found no evidence of government business on the Grande Prairie junket. Attending a Progressive Conservative party fundraiser does not qualify.  Quelle surprise!

This leaves the 8 MLAs who accompanied Ms Redford to the PC fundraiser in a quandary.

Eight MLAs react

Ms Donna Kennedy-Glans and Mr Ken Hughes apologised—Ms DK-G for “making assumptions about the integrity of the flight logistics” (whatever that means) and Mr Hughes for “believing the plane was in Grande Prairie on government business.”**

Mr Hughes

Notice, they’re both apologising for not knowing that the plane was on nongovernment business. This is bizarre. The plane doesn’t flip from government to nongovernment business; it’s ALWAYS on government business. The one thing both Ms DK-G and Mr Hughes knew was that they were not flying on government business.

On this the Auditor General is crystal clear. If a passenger is traveling on nongovernment business they should not be travelling on the government plane. That’s why Ms Redford could take the government plane on government business but her daughter could not accompany her.

Mr McDonald refuses to apologize. He says the Auditor General got the facts wrong and that he, Health Minister Horne and Infrastructure Minister Drysdale did announce the progress made on the Grande Prairie hospital. Excuse me but you don’t need to fly a government plane to Grande Prairie to issue a press release in Edmonton.

And let’s not forget that the Auditor General gave a draft copy of his report to Premier Hancock. Auditors do that so management (in this case the government) can correct any factual errors.

Premier Hancock did not correct the so-called “error” that Mr McDonald is using to excuse his behavior.

Ms Cusanelli and a spokesperson for Mr Dallas said they picked up the plane in Grande Prairie because they were hosting a briefing with Consular Corps in Calgary the next day. What this has to do with anything is beyond me. Ms Cusanelli also said the policy isn’t clear.

Mr Cao says taking the government plane was the wrong choice.

Mr Horne and Mr Drysdale were unavailable for comment. This is probably a good thing given their reaction to the Opposition Leader when questioned about the trip (see ranting and raving above).

Who is responsible?

The Auditor General places the responsibility squarely on Mr Horner. Mr Horner says he’s responsible for policies but disavows responsibility for Ms Redford’s actions because he is simply the “booking agent”.***

The “booking agent”

What nonsense. Next thing we know Mr Horner will deny responsibility for $17 billion in debt come 2016 because he’s just the “bank teller”.

It’s Mr Horner’s job to know the rules and enforce the rules.   He chose not to do so because as he told the Opposition Leader, it is normal course for MLAs using government aircraft to bring their families with them to government functions and nongovernment functions. “We’ve been doing it for a long time, not just this Premier but Premiers before her as well.”****

Mr Horner was simply restating something former premier Klein said in 2005: “So if it happens some party business is mixed with ministerial business so be it. What’s the big deal?”

How about it’s a breach of trust for a start?

*Hansard Mar 11, 2014, p 164, Mar 12, 2014, p 201, 202 & Mar 13, 2014, p 239

**Calgary Herald, Aug 9, 2014, A4

***Calgary Herald, Aug 8, 2014, A3

****Hansard, Mar 5, 2014, p 53

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19 Responses to The Tory Airplane Scandal–Excuses, Excuses

  1. I am curious: how many times did Redford (and the others) do this before they were caught? And how many times did her government cover for her and the others? And how much is enough? Sorry, maybe there aren’t answers to these questions!

    • Great question Linda: “How much is enough?” Deputy Premier Hancock told the Legislature that “When we go to party business, we charter planes, and we take government members to that party business on chartered planes that are chartered by the PC Party.” He said the Grande Prairie trip is “clearly government business”. He wrapped up his response to the Opposition Leader by saying that his government “has a very high standard of ethics on behalf of Albertans”.

      Given the fact that the Auditor General demonstrated that Mr Hancock was dead wrong and the Grande Prairie trip was not government business, it’s time for the three Tories running in the PC leadership race to promise to ask the Auditor General to conduct a full review of the use of government planes by all MLAs, starting with Deputy Premier Hancock (now premier by the way), Mr Lukaszuk and Mr McIver (two of the three leadership candidates).

      Only then will the government demonstrate that it holds itself to the high ethical standards the people of Alberta expect.

  2. Tom McPherson says:

    Well I do not like to admit I am quitter but this pc scandal has finally got the best of me, especially the continual lying. I had a feeling with the premiers sister pulling some underhanded stunts that much more would surface with time as it has.Heres hoping all this does not impact the next generation significantly and also hoping the electorate now get the message “it is time for a change in government, anyone but the present pack of thieves”

    • Tom, I share your frustration. The problem is that Redford’s misuse of the government plane is just the tip of the iceberg. The Auditor General said that the Aviation Transportation Services program cost $9.3 million. This is $3.9 million more than the cost of comparable commercial flights and driving. Horner conveniently forgot to mention this in his report on results-based budgeting (Nov 2013). What makes it even more galling is that he introduces his report with this: “Albertans have told us to live within our means, and this just one way that we are meeting that commitment.” Um, let’s see, the government is meeting its commitment to live within its means by spending almost twice as much on air travel as it has to, but Albertans need to bear the brunt of fewer nurses, doctors, school teachers and eldercare practitioners. Only in the rarefied PC world would that make any sense.

  3. Brilliant, Susan. I particularly liked this about Horner: “What nonsense. Next thing we know Mr Horner will deny responsibility for $17 billion in debt come 2016 because he’s just the “bank teller”. OMG.

    • Thanks Janet. Today’s paper carried a story about Horner’s attempt to justify his incompetence. He compared the process of requesting a plane to renting a car and asked “Is Budget responsible if you speed and get a ticket with their rental?” Well no, Mr Minister because Budget is a private company that entered into a contractual relationship with a willing customer who wants to rent the car and agrees to assume liability for any speeding tickets he may get. This is not the case with a government (public entity) that buys a fleet of planes for $25.2 million using taxpayers’ money and spends $9.3 million a year in taxpayers’ money to operate them.
      That’s why it’s your job Mr Minister to set up policies governing their use and ensuring that anyone who requests a plane uses it solely for government business. You’re protecting the taxpayer. Why is this so hard to grasp?

  4. JR JR says:

    Good work on this one Susan. Perhaps you might want to see who is getting rich on the High River flood relief contracts and how they are doing it.

  5. GoinFawr says:

    o fortuna, velut luna, statu variabilis!
    Gosh, it seems only yesterday that her provincial majesty was untouchable Bilderberg material, but just look at her now. Call me cynical, but I don’t understand it, really. I mean, come on, it’s not as though her behavior was anything out of the ordinary for these oily, entrenched, self purported elites of Alberta, or even their entitled sycophants. Indeed I thought she was doing all the right things, as far as the status quo’s interests are concerned? Didn’t she renege on enough of her populist campaign promises that resulted in her election win? Didn’t she attack the rights of labour with barely legal vehemence? Good heavens, it’s as though she was loudly threatening to review the abject failure of the privatisation of centralised essential service monopolies! And I heard nothing to suggest she was planning to take the province’s non-renewable resources royalty rates out of ‘laughingstock’ territory… no, it’s quite a mystery to me why, all of a sudden, her ladyship fell out of favour with her plutocratic handlers.

    Come on Alison, take courage! Tell us what really happened and I’ve got money on my flank that says we’ll all thank you for it first, and forgive you for it later!

  6. jillbrowne says:

    GoinFawr, Intriguing. (I tent my fingers to give that a little colour.)

    If I understand your Latin, it means that fortunes change as the moon does. But there is a difference in this case. The moon changes in periodic, regular, predictable cycles. That may have been the case in Alberta for several decades but people are seeing something different in the stars now. The moon may explode.

    Is it the winds of change?

    A new day dawning?

    So many sky-based metaphors, so little time.

    As for the plutocratic handler theory, it would make a great movie but I suspect the reality is less spectacular. You did an admirable job of lining up some observations in support of your conjecture. If you find a grand cabal, do tell. You’d have a best seller.

    • My my Jill and GoinFawr, you two are waxing eloquent (get it, an oblique reference to the moon) as you muse about the fall of Ms Redford. Ms Redford entered the Premier’s office with very few friends (in the eyes of the party she stole the throne from Gary Mar). Had she been content to enjoy the perks of power sub rosa she may have survived, but for some bizarre reason she implemented transparency laws and triggered the auditor’s review that brought her transgressions into the public eye. This threatened the PC party’s existence and she had to go. At first I put it down to the mistakes of a newbie, but the unfolding drama around Doug Horner indicates that even an old boy can get cross threaded with the party. Mr Horner’s mistake is incompetence and trying to save himself at the expense of others. In the party’s eyes he should have accepted responsibility for failing to monitor Ms Redford’s plane usage and shut the story down. Instead he implicated all of his colleagues by saying he relied on the integrity of others who requested the planes. That opens the door to expanding the travel investigation to include all of the government MLAs. Mr Horner compounded his transgression by sending an email asking for support to the 40 odd MLAs who support Ms Prentice but not to those who support Mr Lukaszuk or Mr McIver. This was a huge mistake because it blurs the line between government business and party business (the issue at the heart of this mess) and drags Mr Prentice into this quagmire–will Mr Prentice comment on Mr Horner’s behavior, will he stay silent? These are not questions the front runner PC leadership candidate wants to address. And for this Mr Horner will be punished. One could write a book on the machinations of the PC party. It would be a great summer read.

  7. Bruce Jackson says:

    Here is another gem for you.

    Sustainable food supply and management of Fish and Wildlife, no news release on this one,

    http://esrd.alberta.ca/fish-wildlife/fisheries-management/commercial-fishing-alberta.aspx

    Who’s the third party?? Why is the date after the fact?? Fisherman are returning from the lakes on occasion to find their licences cancelled. Seems the consultation process might have be expediated and why??

  8. Julie Ali says:

    Hi Susan,
    It is clear that the manure is sticking to more than the Redford in this issue.

    I am especially curious how Ms. Donna Kennedy-Glans deals with the dissonance of her flight from the Tories because of such corrupt practices, and yet she was in the midst of the manure herself. I seem to remember Ms. Donna Kennedy-Glans being holier than thou when she decamped from the Tories a while ago. She did a lot of yapping of the culture of entitlement of all the other Tories but not of her own pure self. This pure stance lasted until the Redford quit, and now she is yapping to return to the fold.

    http://www.coastreporter.net/news/national/calgary-mla-who-quit-tories-over-culture-of-entitlement-wants-back-into-caucus-1.1296176

    Calgary MLA who quit Tories over ‘culture of entitlement’ wants back into caucus
    BILL GRAVELAND / THE CANADIAN PRESS
    AUGUST 5, 2014 12:22 PM

    CALGARY – A Calgary member of the legislature who left the Tory caucus as a revolt roiled over former premier Alison Redford’s leadership has asked to rejoin the government.

    Calgary-Varsity member Donna Kennedy-Glans cited the inability to create change from within the party and a culture of entitlement as reasons for leaving caucus and her associate minister post on March 17, two days before Redford’s resignation announcement.

    She has been sitting as an Independent, but says she is asking to rejoin the Conservative caucus after talking with her constituents about the party’s changing leadership.

    “I continue to have their trust and to receive a strong endorsement to rejoin the PC caucus as their MLA,” she said Tuesday in a statement.

    Kennedy-Glans said she and her constituents are encouraged by the commitments to change that have been made by each of the three leadership candidates.

    “What Albertans want from their politicians is not complex,” Kennedy-Glans said. “What they have told me they want is, quite simply, a government that leads while also listening, that opens the doors to our ingenuity and our capacity for innovation, and that uses all of our resources wisely, now and into the future.”

    Kennedy-Glans’s resignation came as Redford faced increasing unrest within her caucus, fuelled by concerns over her leadership style and a $45,000 trip to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

    Calgary backbencher Len Webber also quit the Tory caucus, calling Redford a bully and “not a nice lady.” Webber has since announced he will seek a federal Conservative nomination in Calgary.

    The fallout from Redford’s travel habits has continued even thought she has resigned.

    Last week, the CBC reported that a leaked review from auditor general Merwan Saher found that passenger lists on government aircraft were altered so Redford, who still sits as a backbench government member, could fly alone.

    The review said Redford’s staff blocked others from flying on government planes by booking seats in advance and then removing passenger names before printing the flight manifest.

    Redford has denied any personal wrong-doing and said it would be untrue to say she flew on the government airplane alone.

    The revelations have led to one of the contestants in the Tory leadership race, Thomas Lukaszuk, calling for an emergency caucus meeting to discuss her continued membership in the party.

    “In the end, she took taxpayers’ money and their trust, and squandered it. Months ago, she told her government colleagues that there were no more problems, and that everything had been dealt with,” Lukaszuk said on Facebook.

    “The problems have not stopped. Continued focus on the MLA and her actions is compromising the work of government and the PC party. It must stop,” he said.

    Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

    © Coast Reporter

    – See more at: http://www.coastreporter.net/news/national/calgary-mla-who-quit-tories-over-culture-of-entitlement-wants-back-into-caucus-1.1296176#sthash.hMwrR5sB.dpuf
    ******************************************

    Apparently the eviction of one Tory as premier was sufficient to encourage Ms. Kennedy-Glans that we have had evolution in the dinosaur Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta.
    She is saying that her constituents are asking her to go back to the pack of wolves she left.
    I am rather skeptical that any Tory voter would want her to go back and I rather suspect that she is going back to the fold hoping that the dinosaur party of Alberta will be able to survive forever and ever amen.

    Unfortunately for the rather hypocritical Ms. Kennedy-Glans her purportedly ethical and noble stance is revealed to us now—to be rather flawed —-as she was on one of the flights of entitlement along with other supposedly clean MLAs who are all braying for Redford’s blood.
    Why should we believe anything she or the other MLAs say about their fiscal purity?
    If the Redford is to go down, why not all the other MLAs who were using the taxpayers’ money for these sorts of illegal junkets?
    Why should the manure stick only to one political animal?

    I guess the Tories think that we are so stupid to believe that we have only one culprit in this endless saga of greed, stupidity and arrogance. They all deserve to go down. Now if only the voters would realize that they are being ripped off and not be willing to be bribed with our own money we might have some sort of democracy in Alberta. We have had this sort of misuse of money from the beginning and now I think it is enough.
    I can’t be sure other Albertans think it is enough but this strong adherence to the dumb ass party may be due to lack of information and outright lies.
    With the strong propaganda machinery of the Tory party–I rather doubt that the ordinary voter will catch on to the myths, lies and fairy tales we are being told. In rural Alberta the only story is that the Redford did it. Selective and biased journalism is part of the problem in Alberta politics.
    If we believed this group of clowns, no one knows anything about any of the spending abuses even when they are flying on planes to partisan events and even more egregiously, knowing that they used the planes improperly they have the gall to pretend they are better than the other culprits. I’d say Ms. Kennedy-Glans has some fresh new fairy tales to spin to the public now.
    The fairy tale about it all being the Redford being the only culprit seems to be rather fantastical now.

    http://okotoksonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=25212:pcs-pointing-finger-at-redford-and-no-one-else&catid=13:local-news&Itemid=33399

    PC’s Pointing Finger At Redford… And No One Else
    Written by Russell Skeet – The Eagle 100.9FM on Friday, 08 August 2014

    Doug-Horner-Alta-Budget
    Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner puts the blame for the travel expense fiasco pointed out in Thursday Auditor Generals report, at the feet of former Premier Alison Redford.
    Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Government is placing the blame for what is being called rampant abuse of government planes and travel expenses, at the feet of former Premier Alison Redford.

    Dodging calls for his resignation, Finance Minister Doug Horner says the Premier’s office often acted alone in booking travel and he and the rest of government didn’t know what was happening.

    “The Auditor General’s report suggests that the trust between the Premier’s Office and all Albertans’ was violated. Looking forward I know that the public’s trust in this government’s stewardship of resources must be rebuilt, and rebuilt through actions and not just words. And so does every member of the Progressive Conservative Caucus. Albertans’ deserve better and we are committed to doing better, all of us.”

    Premier Dave Hancock says the Province will implement the Auditor Generals six recommendations contained in his report.

    The PC Party of Alberta will also pay back $6,500 for three flight’s the A.G. found Redford took solely for party purposes.

    This is the official government release on the report:

    AUGUST 7, 2014—Auditor General Merwan Saher released his report on the findings of a special duty audit requested by Premier Redford in March 2014. His overall conclusions follow.

    Premier Redford and her office used public resources inappropriately. They consistently failed to demonstrate in the documents we examined that their travel expenses were necessary and a reasonable and appropriate use of public resources—in other words economical and in support of a government business objective. Premier Redford used public assets (aircraft) for personal and partisan purposes. And Premier Redford was involved in a plan to convert public space in a public building into personal living space.

    The Department of Treasury Board and Finance has not explained to Albertans why it believes the extra cost over alternatives to owning a fleet of aircraft is judged to be worthwhile.

    Where there was a lack of desirable clarity in polices (for example, the appropriateness of a family member travelling on a government aircraft), we have inferred the policy intent from the overriding principles. Use of a public asset in the absence of a government business objective is personal use and inappropriate.

    Overall, the expense practices and use of public assets by Premier Redford and her office have fallen short of publicly stated goals. How could this have happened? The answer is the aura of power around Premier Redford and her office and the perception that the influence of the office should not be questioned. We observed a tendency to work around or ignore rules in order to fulfill requests coming from the premier’s office in ways that avoided leaving the premier with personal responsibility for decisions. Other areas of government were wary of challenging decisions made in the premier’s office. All of the failings might have been prevented or detected earlier with oversight designed to provide substantive challenge.

    Our advice and recommendations in this report are intended to improve the management of risk.

    No public servant, not even a premier, should be excused from vigilant oversight of their compliance with policies and processes designed both to protect the public interest and themselves from bad judgment.

    Senior members of the public service should focus on these three areas of risk:

    allowing any individual’s expenses to be incurred and approved by many staff across multiple ministries
    not having processes to identify and cost the partisan use of government aircraft when that use occurs together with government business
    not restricting out-of-province use of government aircraft to those cases where a cost benefit analysis has been performed
    This was an audit of the expenses of Premier Redford and her office. It would be wrong for anyone to extrapolate our findings and conclusions to the public service of Alberta as a whole.

    A copy of the special duty report can be found on the office’s website. – See more at: http://okotoksonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=25212:pcs-pointing-finger-at-redford-and-no-one-else&catid=13:local-news&Itemid=33399#sthash.CoJJzmQG.dpuf

    ****************************************
    So here is one auditor general report that is in my mind long overdue and that seems to put the blame on the premier’s office.
    I don’t buy this stance that everyone was afraid of the premier and so did nothing.
    They are hired by us.
    They need to report these misuses of public funds.
    I also don’t believe this misuse of money is limited to the one area.
    I think this is a system-wide problem.
    But we need more and more extensive investigation by the auditor general’s office to confirm my feelings of widespread misuse of public funds plus the sense I get of folks getting contracts without bidding on them (think of AHS).
    I also have questions about the fact that we only have this sort of investigation now when the Wildrosies are the backup plan of the oil and gas industry.
    Why didn’t we have such inquiry before when the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta was the flavor of the decades of the industry?

    For example, I am curious why this sort of auditor general report has not been done in the Klein error time when such flights seem to have also occurred. I think these flights were common also in the Lougheed time. We don’t have the public yapping about these two premiers for whatever dumb reasons the public have for revering these folks. I personally see nothing to admire in any of the premiers who have been myth made into great figures when in reality they were all ordinary mortals who didn’t for the most part protect the public interest.
    So why no auditor general reports on the plane flights and god knows what else prior to the arrival of the Wildrosies?
    Why did it take so long for the auditor general’s office in Alberta to do its job?
    Why isn’t the auditor general doing his job with reference to other liabilities that are becoming major issues?
    Why –for example — does he not do the investigation of the costs of clean up of the environmental liabilities we are accruing in Alberta? The AER won’t do this sort of work that would damage the pristine image of big oil that they are in the business of constantly buffing up for us. They are there to protect the interests of big oil. So the auditor general should do this work in order to provide us with the information we need to assess the failures in environmental oversight in Alberta and what this means for Albertans in terms of costs.
    For example just think how much the tailings ponds will cost in terms of reclamation (if indeed there are any plans for their reclamation).
    The tailings pond reclamation idea that they have come up with is ludicrous.
    I am doubtful that having tailings pond lake districts will be a productive landscape feature to leave to our children. The costs for these liabilities need to be determined pronto and then the industry needs to do the work ASAP so that they don’t leave Albertans with major liabilities that we will not be able to pay for. What also are the ethical ramifications of leaving our children and grandchildren with the costs of these oil industry problems? When the oil and gas industry is earning trillions of dollars on the resources of all Albertans why do we have no movement on the associated problems of oil and gas work? These are questions that have now been delegated to the AER which is now combining with the energy regulators of other provinces to make a super-energy regulator. I am curious how all of this will turn out and if Albertans will be content to let the big Daddy party of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta take care of them to the very end of the bitumen bank.

    • Julie, building on your first question, I’m very curious to see how Donna Kennedy-Glans will reconcile her stated belief in good governance with Jim Prentice’s decision to give away free Tory memberships in an effort to pack the house with Albertans who’ll vote for him. Donna is a “quiet” supporter of Jim’s. I’m sure her decision to seek re-entry to the PC party is based on her assumption that Jim will win the leadership race. Jim’s mantra is his strong belief in integrity and transparency. And now we learn that he’s been giving away memberships and doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the practice notwithstanding the fact that it’s contrary to the wishes of the PC party. This should give Donna cause for pause. Will she reconsider? Somehow I doubt it.

  9. Carlos Beca says:

    Lies, lies, denials, denials and no responsibility whatsoever.
    Not too long ago this was junkies territory and unfortunately still is, except the junkies have now reached the high echelons of any government. They are all hooked on selfishness, greed and entitlement. This is our new elite class. The ‘noveaux idiot’ of our province and country.
    According to these people we have to end our welfare state and reduce taxes to release the entrepeneur on all of us. This is why in the US for example, the poor are now called millionaires in waiting. What they really mean is reduce the welfare to everyone except the corporate world and their class. One thing they all have in common, shameless.
    There is only one solution to this tragedy. Fire them all. Even changing party will not do. We have to rebuild our democracy one step at a time and the first step is to get rid of these people even if by force. The power to bring down a government should not be in the hands of the lieutenant governor. It should be decided by a referendum initiated by the people of this province. It is time to start thinking of different democratic processes more in sync with the 21 century, rather then this outdated system created in a time when Kings ruled the world.

    • Bruce Jackson says:

      Amen! When can we get together and elaborate the plan for engaging others.
      Bruce

    • Carlos and Bruce, I’m reading an interesting book right now called Enlightenment 2.0 by Joseph Heath. It’s subtitled “Restoring Sanity to our Politics, Our Economy, and Our Lives.” The author’s argument is based on the premise that some concepts (eg the wisdom of the market and trickle down economics) are easier to explain to the population that the need for publicly funded and delivered healthcare and education. Apparently it’s easier for us to grasp ideas that engage the emotions (selfishness, greed) than the intellect.

      I’m nowhere near finished the book yet but given the subtitle I’m assuming that this book will deliver a message of hope (restoring sanity) not despair.

      I guess what I’m saying is that I share your frustration but am not yet ready to tear down democracy. I hold out hope that we can rebuild it if we elect the right people to represent us. One thing is for sure, I will not be voting for the corrupt conservatives (PC) or the extremist conservatives (WR) who are simply two sides of the same coin!

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan with all due respect ‘…tear down democracy..’ ? What democracy.
        I am advocating tearing down this plutocracy that is slowly taking over the planet. As a Lawyer that you are, I do not suppose you believe we live in a democarcy. We live in a free voting country that is about it.
        I am not in despair at all, on the contrary, I am more than ever positive that the Western World is about to start a new enlightenment.
        I have not read that book yet and did not even know about it. Great suggestion.

      • Carlos: plutocracy…fair point.
        At the same time that I was reading Enlightenment 2.0 I came across an article in The Economist about a German pseudo party founded by a satirist called Martin Sonneborn. It’s called “The Party” and by some bizarre quirk in the Germans’ character it actually won two seats. It advocates nonsense like aggression against Liechtenstein and getting rid of daylight-saving time but still continuing to set the clocks back every autumn to give people an extra hour of sleep. The fact that this group, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart can capture the imagination of the public says something (I’m not sure what) about the state of politics in the 21st century!

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