Friday, September 30, 2011

the politics behind learning about money waste in government

Here is an interesting article indicating how ordinary citizens got to hear about the Challenger expenses in the first place.

I'll admit--I was surprised to hear about this issue--because government at all levels waste tax payer dollars and ordinary citizens remain in the dark unless there is a clear political advantage for us to be informed. It may just be that we got to hear about the waste in the defense department because of the politics in that department. 

Sigh. I can't imagine that I will hear any more about wastage in government unless someone is being turfed out by the Conservative Party in one way or another.  So there always seems to be some sort of politics going on behind any sort of "news'.



By Tim Harper National Affairs Columnist


OTTAWA

Someone is out to get Peter MacKay.

The steady drip, drip of leaks and allegations about his high-flying use of government aircraft and search-and-rescue helicopters while on vacation can bring one to no other conclusion.

The who and why are tougher to divine.

Over the years, the defence minister has collected an impressive list of political rivals and detractors who would be easy suspects in this latest assault.

But all roads appear to head back to the bloated bureaucracy of the Department of National Defence, where factions are protecting turf, bracing for future cuts and fighting over the future of the force.

The report that threatened the status quo at a string of DND civilian posts, home to more than 12,000 personnel, was written by Andrew Leslie.

Leslie, the former head of the army, was once tabbed for the post of chief of defence staff, but was instead passed over and chained to a desk to look at the future of the military.

The result of his work was bold.

It called for unprecedented cuts to the civilian workforce — and could be shelved if one reads the signals from the chief of defence staff, Walter Natynczyk, and MacKay.

Leslie has gone, but someone has trained his or her guns on the CDS and the minister.

The first leak of allegedly improper Challenger jet use targeted Natynczyk, who responded that after taking fire in Sarajevo and Baghdad he could weather the political storm.

He did survive, but then the fire started raining down on MacKay.

MacKay has been strafed before.

Last November, it seemed everyone knew he was about to leave cabinet for a Bay Street job — it was only matter of when.

But he didn’t go.

At about the same time, there was every indication that he had become a lame duck minister, out of the loop on the transition of Canadian forces from combat to training.

Yet, there was MacKay back in cabinet, at the same post, following the May election.

Even before Conservatives formed a government, MacKay, as former Progressive Conservative leader, was accused of undermining Harper, but the reprisals that were always threatened never came.

To be sure, MacKay’s relationship with Harper and the PMO is hardly warm and cuddly.

Harper’s rigid body language as he watched MacKay explain his search-and-rescue problem a week ago was the subject of much comment.

But Thursday, it was Harper up aggressively defending his minister, claiming that 50 per cent of the Challenger flights were for the repatriation of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

MacKay and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird are known to be on the outs, dating back to MacKay’s losing battle to allow Air Emirates additional commercial landing rights to save the Canadian base at Camp Mirage in the U.A.E.

And every time there is some skullduggery in government ranks, Jason Kenney’s name pops up, though there is no proof the ambitious immigration minister has his fingerprints anywhere near this latest anti-MacKay flare up.

It is hard to imagine the attempt to discredit MacKay comes from political rivals at this time. The Conservative leadership jockeying is being done in the shadows and there is no reason to bring it into the open now.

There are MacKay backers who say Leslie and his loyalists are too easy scapegoated and the minister himself is asking questions before the next salvo.

But one only need to look at the apocalyptic language used in the debate over the Leslie report for clues.

Leslie warned the Harper government that if his deep cuts are not implemented, it will eventually lead to “mission failure” of the Canadian Forces.

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier has said if Leslie’s recommendations were to be implemented “you destroy the Canadian military.’’

The stakes are high and the minister is in the gun sights.
**
So who do you believe?

Your guess is as good as mine. Right now--all I care about is the money.

It may just be that the tap is open in every department at every level of government and Mr. MacKay is just being screwed here.  But no matter.  They all need to close their taps so the leaks of taxpayer dollars --end.

The report by Andrew Leslie--seems to be the big political axe in this case and where it is buried--I have no idea and really all this politics muck is making me feel dirty but here is the world according to Mr. Leslie:

http://www2.macleans.ca/2011/09/16/a-man-of-action/#more-215042

Too many bureaucrats, not enough troops

Paul Wells on the fierce resistance to Andrew Leslie’s plan to shift resources from Ottawa to the front lines
by Paul Wells on Friday, September 16, 2011 10:00am - 23 Comments

Cpl Bruno Turcotte/DND
Why was a Canadian military with 65,000 men and women on active duty and 25,000 reservists sorely tested by the task of keeping 1,500 soldiers in the field in Afghanistan? Why are Arctic sovereignty patrols a strain on the same military? The way Andrew Leslie sees it, it’s because the Canadian Forces’ tail has grown bigger than its teeth.
“We have the same number, or slightly more people, in Ottawa that we have in the Royal Canadian Navy—20,000,” Leslie was saying the other day. By “Ottawa,” he meant the personnel working in command and support functions at National Defence headquarters, not far from Parliament Hill.
So that’s about as many people riding desks as the Canadian Forces has riding boats. “And we have a lot of coastline,” said Leslie, who until the first week of September was a lieutenant-general in the Canadian Forces. “And we have really busy ships’ crews.”

The same rough ratio of desk assignments to field deployments works for the army, too, Leslie told Maclean’s in his first in-depth interview since he retired from the military. “We’ve got almost as many people in Ottawa as we have in the regular-force deployable army.”
But what’s most worrisome, Leslie says, is the trend line. In the six years from 2004 to 2010, spending on the Canadian Forces’ command and support “tail” has grown four times as fast as spending on the deployable fighting “tooth.” So during a period of strong public support for Canada’s military, while the army was fighting a deadly and challenging war in Kandahar, headquarters staff grew four times as fast as the fighting force did.
That’s the philosophy behind the final act in Leslie’s 30-year military career: a blunt, ambitious “Report on Transformation” that advocates reassigning thousands of personnel and billions of dollars worth of spending from administrative and support roles to the battlefield.
Even before Defence Minister Peter MacKay made the report public last week, more than a month after Leslie delivered it, the report’s bold recommendations were sparking controversy throughout official Ottawa. “You try to implement that report as it is and you destroy the Canadian military,” Rick Hillier, the former chief of the defence staff, told CTV. “You simply can’t take that many people out of command and control functions.”
“He is certainly entitled to his opinions,” Leslie replied blandly. He’s encouraged that MacKay finally made the report public, after Hillier gave that incendiary interview, so Canadians can judge its merits for themselves.
To Leslie, the arguments for transformation are self-evident. The Canadian Forces are coming off seven years of relative plenty. Paul Martin made substantial support for the military part of his broader attempt to brand himself as a different kind of Liberal from Jean Chrétien. For his own political reasons, and because Kandahar turned into a deadlier fight than anyone expected, Stephen Harper has accelerated that trend of increased financial and rhetorical support. But now the feds are more eager to get big post-stimulus budget deficits under control, and not even the Forces can count on ready money.
But the challenges facing the Forces are not getting any easier just because money is getting tighter. New tasks requiring new capabilities are multiplying, from cyberwar to an enhanced special forces to developing defences against nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
“Where are these people going to come from? Do we go to the government and say, ‘Please sir, may I have some more?’ ” says Leslie. “A legitimate question from the government might be, ‘And you’ve got how many people in Ottawa? And you want more?’ ”
Beyond the raw numbers, there’s also a long-term cultural change in the evolution of modern military forces that should encourage Canada to give more autonomy to its front-line troops, Leslie argues.
“In days gone by, there was and perhaps is a belief that the most highly skilled practitioners of the art of war ended up in headquarters,” he says. The classic industrial warfare of the first half of the 20th century called for young men with limited educations and rudimentary equipment to be shipped in bulk to distant battlefields, where they would execute plans developed at HQ.
That model is gone forever. Today’s enlisted man, compared to his predecessors two generations ago, is superbly educated and wired to the teeth with communications equipment, computer power and weaponry his grandfather could never imagine. And it cost a mint to get him to that point.
“It’s no longer the fact that you can recruit a battalion on Monday, train them for a couple of months, kick them out the door and wish them luck,” Leslie said. “So as our soldiers get smarter; as they get better; as they get better equipment; as their reach extends, their ability to respond, to move quickly; you can’t start to treat that team as if it’s a 50 per cent, 60 per cent or 70 per cent effort.”
Leslie is not overly optimistic about his report’s chances of being implemented. Hillier’s outburst was only the loudest reflection of a change-averse culture at the upper echelons of the Canadian Forces. In his report, Leslie mentions a “grimly amusing” session he had with military leaders in Ottawa last December.
He laid out his ideas for moving resources from desks to ship decks, flight crews and battle groups. “Almost everybody in the room had the same reaction,” he recalls now. “ ‘Andy, we support transformation, the idea of becoming more efficient, of investing in the front-line troops. But don’t touch my stuff.’ ”
The public reaction to the final report has, Hillier excepted, been gentler. Walt Natynczyk, Hillier’s successor as chief of defence staff, said: “The mission we gave him was to look at innovative ways that we could improve our efficiency without giving up our operational effectiveness and Andy Leslie’s report has done exactly that. Some of the stuff that Andy has put in the report, we’re already starting.”
Peter MacKay has been less effusive. In a prepared statement, he said only that Leslie’s report “will inform our approach to the Government’s Deficit Reduction Action Plan, the results of which will be presented in Budget 2012.”
Leslie is not naive. He’s been hired by an Ottawa firm whose name he won’t reveal, pending a formal announcement. It’s the first private-sector job of his adult life. His staff studied previous attempts to transform the military, as far back as 1964. None was fully implemented.
But the first year of a majority government may be the best time to make bold moves, he says. “And if we don’t do something along these lines, then battalions will be disbanded, ships will be tied up and aircraft will continue to be grounded while headquarters continues to grow.

when they don't read

There are whole days when I think there is no point to being a mother –when motherhood seems the hardest thing I have ever done.
These days happen when I want the boys to be more like me and read—even one fricking page.
But no. It doesn’t happen.

I often wonder if I am being out of touch with their reality.  But then I think –what reality? There are no books in that reality.

If my sons don’t read—then what sits inside their heads? A bubble of emptiness?  Or is there some thinking that goes on---that is independent of the need for text?

When I see my sons doing everything they can to avoid text, this upsets me.
But why does this upset me?
Perhaps I relate reading to academic achievement and to a good job and security.
Perhaps I relate reading to some sort of independence of thinking that is life affirming.

Perhaps I relate reading to the sort of mental training that is self directed—that is self—enhancing and that simply makes a human being ---conscious.

I can’t make my sons read.  
I can’t make them understand that words—in their small tiny groups---are the sort of power that no other route affords them.

It makes me immeasurably sad to see all the books sit on their shelves as they wrap themselves into a non-literate world.  

It makes me feel as if there is no point in writing anything –for if my sons are not reading –then it is unlikely that other children or adults are reading as well –and I might as well just forget the whole thing.

Yeah, I might as well forget the whole thing.

My  mother never read to me. She never had time. She was working full time as a nurse, and my father was working constantly as a physician.  When she did retire from nursing –at about the time she had my middle sister –I was reading by myself.  And then there were two more kids –and she was far too busy.

I’ve read throughout my childhood as if books were heaven and hell and all the places in between.  

I’ve read when I was lonely. I’ve read on rainy days in London. I’ve read on sand storm days in Kuwait. I’ve read on snowy days in Canada. The only thing I have done continually throughout my life is read---as if the great well of print ---would empty itself before I died.

I had to have that drink constantly.

And I wanted my sons to read—so that they would have this great well of print to sustain them when they were in need of it.

Motherhood seems to be about something I don’t understand.
As in –how to stop nagging a child to read—when I desperately want that child to read.

It might be about giving up.  Or about not giving up.
I’m not sure which position is the one I should be in right now.
Maybe both of them.
Sometimes—I give up.
Sometimes—I don’t.

Reading –like everything else ---like dieting and exercising and loving—is something that has to be worked at.

If they don’t read—it won’t be the end of the world for them.

But certainly—it feels like the end of the world for me.

I'm going to go for help to websites like the one below.



Challenger flight costs---Letter to Mr. Peter MacKay

Dear Mr. MacKay,

I have already written to Mr. Harper regarding your massive expenditures--- flying about doing your work and your holidays.

That e-mail is below for your perusal.

I don’t care what the reasons for your flights were. They simply cost too much. I see no reason why you can’t use Air Canada.  I am appalled by the lack of respect you show for taxpayer money and I encourage you to think of how many hours of taxpayer dollars these flights constitute.

I don’t understand the thinking that goes on in the federal government in the office of ministers and prime ministers. Are you all out of touch with reality?  I understand you all are important folks but golly gee, can’t important folks go first class on Air Canada and thereby save the taxpayer a ton of cold hard taxpayer dollars?

I’ll answer that question. They can. And they must.

Taxpayers like myself are fed up with the lack of discernment shown by high powered politicians who simply use taxpayer dollars as if it wasn’t their cash but free Monopoly game money. Oh, right. I forget. It isn’t their money and so they can use it as wastefully as they want. Rather like free Monopoly game money.

I encourage you to look in the mirror and see a man who is wasting my money. Most taxpayers –right now –are having a rather hard time with a supposedly Conservative, fiscally responsible party that we elected in—wasting our money in this way. As for Mr. Harper’s silly  excuse?  I’m afraid it won’t excuse your waste of money.  Just because the Liberals wasted more money than you did doesn’t make me feel like applauding you.  I would like to see some common sense at the top of the political pyramid and not excuses.  An apology to the Canadian public for wasting our money would be a first good step.

The best thing for you to do now---is keep to commercial flights and lose the BMW attitude.  I understand it will take you time to phase into this new demoted role as a commercial flyer but I am unwilling to pay for more ego massaging Challenger flights. 

Sincerely,
Julie Ali

Books bought on September 30th, 2011

I have bought some SF books today which I could not resist because first—of all –they brought back memories of my teenage years when I read these SF writers and second of all, I wasn’t writing when I was sorting through the books. And if this makes me lazy for a second day in a row, I don’t care.
I like the easy and careless way I am slipping into bookaholism and one day—when I am eighty I will be able to say without a shred of grief—that I have spent all my money (well, all my husband’s money) on books and I’m utterly unrepentant.

1)      Tales from the Flat Earth Night’s Daughter
by Tanith Lee
I have read some of Tanith Lee’s books as a teenager and I wanted to read her again so I picked up this hardcover in pristine condition.  

2)      WHEN THE CHANGEWINDS BLOW
by Jack L. Chalker
No idea who this writer is but this is the first in the CHANGEWINDS series.

3)      RIDERS OF THE WINDS
by Jack L. Chalker
This is book two of the CHANGEWINDS series. 
 The Changewinds series
  • When the Changewinds Blow, Ace - Putnams, September, 1987
  • Riders of the Winds, Ace Books, May, 1988
  • War of the Maelstrom, Ace - Putnams, October, 1988 (ISBN 0-441-10268-9)
4)      MOONHEART
by Charles de Lint
Moonheart (1984)
 
His 1984 urban fantasy novel, Moonheart, is Tor's best-selling trade paperback for their Orb line. De Lint has published 60 books (excluding foreign editions and reprints), thus gaining a reputation as a master in his field. He has taught creative writing workshops in Canada and the United States, and was writer‑in‑residence for 2 public libraries in Ottawa.






5)      THE DOSARDI EXPERIMENT
by Frank Herbert

6)      THIS IMMORTAL
by Roger Zelazny

This name sounds familiar. He was an American writer who also has written a ton of stuff.

·  This Immortal (1966) (initially serialized in abridged form in 1965 as ...And Call Me Conrad, the author's preferred title) - Hugo Award winner, 1966[14]
**

7)      DRAGONSONG
Volume One of THE HARPER HALL TRILOGY
by Anne McCaffrey

8)      DRAGONDRUMS
Volume Three of THE HARPER HALL TRILOGY
by Anne McCaffrey

9)      SLAN
By A.E. Van Vogt

10)   EMPIRE OF THE ATOM
By A.E. Van Vogt

11)   THE SILKIE
By A.E. Van Vogt

I don’t know who A.E. Van Vogt is but I’ll find out. He was a Canadian writer who seems to have critics and fans –I’ll decide for myself after reading his books.



In 1941, van Vogt decided to become a full-time writer, quitting his job at the Canadian Department of National Defence. Extremely prolific for a few years, van Vogt wrote a large number of short stories. In the 1950s, many of them were retrospectively patched together into novels, or "fixups" as he called them, a term which entered the vocabulary of science fiction criticism. When the original stories were related (e.g. The War against the Rull) this was often successful. When not (e.g. Quest for the Future) the disparate stories thrown together generally made for a less coherent plot.
One of van Vogt's best-known novels of this period is Slan, which was originally serialised in Astounding Science Fiction (September - December 1940). Using what became one of van Vogt's recurring themes, it told the story of a 9-year-old superman living in a world in which his kind are slain by Homo sapiens.

Slan (1946) [from serial]

Empire of the Atom (1957) [from shorts]


The Silkie (1969) [from short stories]

**
This writer has written a ton of stuff and I’ll get through some of it with the three books I’ve found.

**
I’m happy with the books I’ve bought. I think I will start up a growing SF section since the writers are incredibly prolific and imaginative. I'll learn a great deal from them.