If there is one job I would not want, it’s that of food taster to defrocked Canadian Senator Mike Duffy. This week Duffy has faced 31 criminal charges relating to bribery, breach of trust, and fraud, most stemming from his creative use of senate expense accounts and office expenditures.

The most notable issue has to do with a $91,000 cheque from PMO chief Nigel Wright to Duffy to enable him to pay back housing expenses declared invalid by the auditors. RCMP investigators have paradoxically deemed that awarding the $91,000 to Duffy was not a bribe, but Duffy’s receiving the payment was, they allege, bribery.

Canadian journalists and even Conservative MP’s are still slack-jawed about this one. But through-the-looking-glass logic also turns up in Bill C-36, the new prostitution legislation to replace the old laws struck down by the Supreme Court. In C-36 it is not a crime for a prostitute to receive payment for sexual services, but it’s a crime to make the payment. I think it makes more sense if you read the bill in a mirror.

Ottawa prostitutes mentioned to media Thursday that they find this one pretty hilarious, as a lot of MP’s are regular customers. They’re talking about making John lists public as a way to block the bill, but the consensus is that they are too principled to do such a thing.

The Duffy cheque and the bizarre legal position Bill C-36 creates illustrate how confused the Harper Government has become in its old age. It can’t seem to keep its ducks in a row.

The Duffy trial is almost certain to overshadow the run-up to the fall 2015 federal election, Duffy has hinted that he is out for revenge, and Canadian media are preparing for a feeding frenzy as PMO officials and even the PM himself are called to testify.

The only clear road to another term for Stephen Harper involves a period of hazardous employment for Mr. Duffy’s food taster.

Dr. Simon Anholt suggests in his TED talk that a major problem with globalization is that the globe is populated by countries looking inward.

He has devised the Good Country Index which measures how well a country looks out for the rest of the world. Canada doesn’t fare very well, despite rating #2 in climate.


Ah, Peter MacKay

June 19, 2014

Now the CBC is after Minister of Justice Peter MacKay for his comments about why so few women become federal court judges. He suggested that women don’t want to be separated from their young children.

Someone no doubt googled Chauvinistic comments by Peter MacKay and came up with a follow-up story based on an old comment to NDP leader Alexa McDonough during an election battle: “I think you better stick to your knitting and win your own riding.”

MacKay seemed taken aback by criticism of this particular bon mot, and I can agree that he probably had no sexist intent in the jibe. “Stick to the knitting” is one of the key slogans for organizational success in Peters and Waterman’s In Search of Excellence, a 1980′s book on organizational structures.

Perhaps more appropriate reading for Mr. MacKay would be The Peter Principle by Laurence J. Peter, in which he suggests that a characteristic of organizations is that the ambitious and capable individual is gradually promoted to his own personal level of incompetence.

Nonetheless, I have become rather fond of Mr. MacKay of late. His good-hearted bloopers lighten my day. (Update: July 3, 2014) Imagine another minister who would handle a question in the manner he did the latest F35 single-engine fighter jet concern.
Asked what will happen if the engine fails, Peter MacKay replied, “It won’t.” Of course an F35 engine blew during takeoff in Florida a week later, grounding the fleet, but you’ve gotta love MacKay’s spunk.

Imagine the fun in 2015 if by some miracle Peter MacKay faced Justin Trudeau in a general election. Journalists would pay attention again. Photographers would have a ball at photo ops where exceptionally attractive couples and their toddlers competed to be Canada’s royal family.

Both of these guys are just loopy enough to get everyone’s attention and involvement. Neither likes a script. What if a national dialogue broke out?

Normally I keep the black walnut fields carefully trimmed, but this year I have a lot of younger seedlings and so I decided to let the two four-acre fields fend for themselves. Some are now bearing, so they’re hardly tender shoots any more.

But my wife complained that her favourite dog walk had become “spooky” with the dense hay growing between the trees. This new worry might have something to do with the large black bear we saw on the property earlier in the spring.

Anyway, I made good progress with the TAFE on the 5′ Rhino, but only down the centre of the aisles. With its ROPS, sun cover and loader, the 35 hp field tractor is now too cumbersome to work around the rapidly growing and brittle branches.

I had already put a couple of tanks through the Kubota trimming around 15,000 younger seedlings with the 48″ Braber rotary cutter. As long as the grass wasn’t too long it did a good job. When I tackled a one-acre plot of hay running rich to wild parsnip, however, it did a lousy job. The wide turf tires flattened about a quarter of the hay and the blades tore up the rest. At the time it didn’t look too bad, but five days later I couldn’t stand the mess any more and re-did the job with the Rhino on the TAFE.

Up until now I have blamed the crappy, off-brand 48″ bush hog. The blades seem shaped improperly on it, pushing the grass (and rocks, I suppose) down, rather than drawing up.

With its ROPS the Kubota is too high for work under trees, so today was the turn of the Bolens. Normally I use 1st gear HI for mowing, but the hay was too heavy. We crawled around under the trees in 3rd LO with the PTO in 2nd gear. The “crummy” mower did a surprisingly good job.

If the increase in pto revolutions from 540 to 750 produces a major improvement in cut, could it be that 48″ mowers turn too slowly with a standard, 540 rpm shaft? Simple geometry would suggest that the same gearbox used on a 4′ and on a 5′ will only deliver 80% of the tip speed on the smaller chassis.

The 5′ mower produces an effortless cut. Until now I have attributed it to the high-priced components in the Rhino. But if I were to buy a 48″ Rhino, would it still produce only 80% of the tip speed of the 60″?

I just finished changing the hydraulic oil in the Kubota B7510. It’s quite a job. I’m told HST machines live or die on the condition of their oil, so it needs doing every 300 hours. The previous owner told me he had changed it just before I bought the tractor at 210 hours, but he apparently went by the manual and only changed the single filter mentioned there. That filter handles the lifting hydraulics. The other one (which the manual seems to have forgotten) handles the hydrostatic drive (HSD) It’s the one which gets all of the use on my machine, and it still had a factory black filter at 370 hours.

To judge from a lack of particulates in the oil and no evidence of metal filings anywhere, everything turned out to be in top condition, but to determine that I had to drain 11 litres of oil from the transmission case (from 6 different orfices: 6 potential leaks) and then pour new oil back in until it was full. The parts guy said its capacity is 13.4 litres, so he sold me 15. The manual said 13.4 litres for a B7510DT, but this one (HST or HSD, depending upon context) needs 15.3. It took 11.

The tough part was the strainer everyone warned me about. It’s a 26mm nut, factory-tightened very tight. Very few garage socket sets contain a 26mm socket, and none of the wrench sets do. I almost rounded the nut with a 27 mm socket when I removed it. Out the long, skinny cylindrical screen came, attached to the nut. I washed it, but it wasn’t dirty. I couldn’t find any metal fragments in the strainer, but the learning curve was a bit steep when I set out to replace the strainer. Eventually it went in easily if I lay directly beneath the assembly at the bottom of the transmission. This was not a bolt I could put in by feel alone.

I plan to check this strainer regularly from now on — about every 1000 hours.

The new, higher-quality oil from the Kubota dealer seemed to make the tractor quieter, and likely smoother. I’ll know better after a few hours of work. Update, 15 June: It’s certainly no quieter with the lighter premium oil, though everything seems to work well.

In retrospect, changing the HST oil was a messy job made tedious by the risk of a leak, but things went together quite well once I’d figured out how to do it.

A commenter on the Kubota page on Tractorbynet just told me that I missed one drain. That would account for the 11 litre drain and refill.

Next up is the front axle lube change. The same guy said that his machine weeped oil at the seals with the lighter oil, though it’s fine since he went to 90W gear oil, so I’ll try that.

It seems the Globe Editorial Board endorsed Wynne, but the presses were stopped for 2 1/2 hours at the owner’s bidding until they had changed the endorsement to Hudak.

Read the leaked memo below.


Update 15 June, 2014:

I may have misspoken when I suggested that the turmoil at the Globe was more significant than the election. I expected a Liberal minority with nothing changed. Wynne’s majority is an entirely different kettle of fish, and very significant one.

Here’s Michael Valpy’s response to the Globe decision. It is definitely worth reading:


UPDATE: In the following article it looks as if Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s intern may well have misrepresented himself, baited his target, MP John MacKay, and then recorded the response.



The media feeding frenzy over a clandestine recording of MP John MacKay’s comments about Justin Trudeau makes me wonder if Canada has turned into the autocratic Kingdom of Harper more than we realize.

I knew John MacKay at Queen’s. Likeable guy, very bright and principled, but even then his brain had a mind of its own, and he would occasionally branch off into candid comments for which his listeners loved him.

First time I saw Justin Trudeau he was fishing his brother out of Poonamalee Lock and back into the family houseboat. He was about ten at the time. Since then he has appealed to me for much the same reasons I cited above for my esteem for John MacKay.

Both men are liberals. The essence of liberalism is the airing of divergent and often conflicting points of view. The basis of the liberal revolution was the invention of the watch. The opposing spring principle showed that an object could be held in place indefinitely by the balanced, conflicting actions of two or more springs. Modern liberal democracy emerged as a corollary of that principle: a thesis and its antithesis do not destroy one another; rather, the synthesis of the ideas emerges as the workable principle.

Only in the Kingdom of Harper is it forbidden to give loud voice to dissenting opinions late at night when the lights are dim and spirits flow. In the teaching profession we called such comments “venting.” Those who vented these bon mots before their peers in the evening usually got things out of their systems and pulled with the rest of the team the next day.

How else do people get their minds around change?

To my mind the real story is in the clandestine recording made public as news: has politics degenerated to where thinking men and women can no longer express opinions in the process of forming them? If that is the case, then Western society has degenerated into the nightmare state Orwell predicted in 1948.

In conclusion I ask you this: can you name a single case where the publication of a clandestine recording has led to better government?

Update, 2 June, 2014

Yesterday’s story about anti-abortion groups planning to pack nomination meetings of all parties during the 2015 federal election cycle provides another angle from which to view Trudeau’s pro-choice-or-no-nomination stance with candidates.

It looks to me as though JT’s crew, far from having a Bozo moment as MP John MacKay so regrettably suggested, had intelligence enough to put measures in place to head off the anti-abortionists before they tore up future nomination meetings. Future whipped votes on abortion in the House of Commons are a non-issue and everyone knows it, but nomination meetings where a few dozen determined people can really throw their weight around are a potential threat to the rights of everyone.

Hard as it may be for journalists (or readers) to believe, Trudeau is sometimes so far ahead of the pack that he appears stupid. Plato’s expression, not mine.


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