A Globe and Mail columnist published an article today claiming that Trudeau was getting his Trump on in turfing former cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybourn and Dr. Jane Philpott from the Liberal caucus on Tuesday.

I posted the following response to Andrew MacDougall’s article:

To compare Trudeau’s actions in this case to those of Trump is to use a weak analogy, lazily.

A far more apt comparison can be found in Jean Anouilh’s modern tragedy, Antigone. Set in Ancient Greece following a civil war, King Creon faces a crisis. He vowed that anyone who rose against him would lie unburied on the battlefield, but then his daughter-in-law attempted to bury her two brothers. Three times she is caught by his guards, and three times she refuses to see reason. Finally he has no choice but to execute her by entombment, but his only son insists upon joining her in execution. Creon’s wife kills herself in grief. At the end of the tragedy Creon has done his job and restored order, only to wear an empty crown.

In her hubris Jody Wilson-Raybould fits the role of Antigone quite well. Hers is a correct moral perspective. For her that’s all she needs. The problem is that her moral vision doesn’t take into account the aggregation of other moral visions, also correct, which make up the moral essence. Because Antigone’s too-particular ethical position is destructive to the moral essence, the gods must strike her down. The spectacle of wasted greatness is the tragedy.

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It was a simple task. Put the utility trailer back on the slightly elevated area where it sits in my trailer yard. There was a bit of a snow drift, but so what?

Before I knew it, Ruby was stuck. I disconnected the trailer and realized that there was a fair amount of snow in that drift, and the ground underneath was pretty icy.

Low range and diff lock did no good. I had forgotten all about traction control and how to turn it off. Maybe that is the button on the dash with a three-letter acronym.

Desirable characteristics of an off-road vehicle are flexibility, light weight, simple power train and aggressive tires. Ruby is the antithesis of this, regardless of winter tires, 4WD, differential lock and low range. She still behaves like a lead anvil once belly-hung on hard snow.

Towing requires a second driver because you can’t leave the car in neutral if you want to remove the key, and if you leave the key in the ignition, Ruby may lock you out if you jolt her through the tow rope.

I matched my 35 hp tractor to the Cayenne. With snowblower, cab and loader as well as loaded tires with chains, the TAFE weighs about the same as the Porsche. At 5400 pounds, Ruby is too much dead weight for my little tractors. My wife operated Ruby correctly and the behemoth came out of the snowdrift after several sharp tugs from the tractor through a 30′ tow strap. No, I did not hitch the strap to the tow ball. I looped it over and around the ball holder.

Ruby does fine on the highway, but I don’t want to go off-road with a vehicle I can’t push.

High Drama on Parliament Hill

February 27, 2019

Canadians have just watched four hours of testimony from former Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould. Her gravitas riveted her audience. We were uplifted through our contact with this heroic figure.

Then after the hubris came the comic relief in the form of the gravediggers from Hamlet, Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh. As soon as he strode onto the stage Sheer blankly called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s resignation. The Conservative leader’s imperfect command of the criminal code of Canada reminded me of the drunken gravedigger’s clumsy but pedantic command of Latin.

The other gravedigger, Jagmeet Singh, seems smarter than Scheer. He at least didn’t make a fool of himself in his first press conference, but he didn’t get much further in opposition than to play a few favourite lines from his campaign, accusing Trudeau of favouring his rich friends.

Then Justin Trudeau strode into his press conference with his new MP in hand and a dozen or so MPs of colour to stand behind him. This was his moment to do a Marc Anthony and reverse the crowd’s direction. He started well in denying Wilson-Raybould’s assumptions, but at the point where he appeared about to communicate with us, he abruptly went back to stale talking points. I was disappointed in him. As a viewer I felt that I could have made a better case for his actions than he did this day. But sometimes Hamlet gave us bathos when we most wanted clarity and action.

Without doubt the star of this afternoon’s play was Jody Wilson-Raybould. She plays the tragic hero Antigone well. She has formed a moral outlook unique to her situation, and has fought with considerable resources against lesser men of power who have continued to assail her. But we must realize that the progress of the tragedy involves Jody’s growing realization that her too-particular moral view, while in and of itself correct, must fail because it does not take into account the other moral imperatives of the world, the moral essence, if you will. Justin’s 9000 jobs trump Jody’s sense of right.

Justin Trudeau is the other tragic figure in this play, cast as antagonist in Jody’s drama because of his wider vision of what is right. Like King Creon, he watches in anguish as Antigone’s willful self destruction wreaks havoc in his kingdom and takes his son and his wife to their deaths along with her. Yet he still must rule.

At this stage of Jody’s descent, neither she nor Justin can comment upon the future, but for the tragedy to reach a satisfactory denouement, she will have to be banished from caucus, and perhaps from Parliament altogether. And no one will grieve more at this spectacle of wasted greatness than Justin Trudeau.

The last three weeks in Ottawa has been a turmoil of confused and conflicting opinions based upon little evidence.  The chronology dates from a Globe and Mail story by veteran reporter Robert Fife that Minister of Justice and Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould was demoted to Veteran’s Affairs following unsuccessful attempts by the Prime Minister’s Office to persuade her to agree to a plea bargaining agreement with SNC-Lavalin to avoid a trial on long-standing charges of corruption in its business dealings in Libya during the regime of Muammar Al Gathafi.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has seemed bewildered by Ms Wilson-Raybould’s stances at each stage of the slowly unfolding crisis. Raybould’s not helping much, as she remains largely silent, though shielding behind attorney-client privilege and lawyering up with a retired Supreme Court judge in her corner. For reasons best known to himself, PMO secretary and Trudeau confidant Jerry Butts has resigned his position, astonishing Ottawa.

Michael Wernick has been Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary of Cabinet for a long time, his career spanning 37 years of service and several governments. The Commons Justice Committee called him to testify about his knowledge of the Wilson-Raybould situation. After 2 1/2 weeks of everyone twisting sideways to avoid saying anything, this career civil servant with nothing to lose decided to respond candidly to questions. Google the testimony. It’s highly entertaining television. His thesis was that there’s nothing wrong with the administration of justice in Canada. SNC-Lavalin lobbied to get the law changed so that they could avoid a trial. The government obliged with a piece of legislation deeply buried in a 580 page budget document. But the law came back from the Senate with a condition that the Attorney General may not take the economic significance of a corporation’s plight into the assessment of its eligibility for the plea deal. He further criticized Fife’s Globe and Mail article, calling it inaccurate and at times defamatory.

He explained that Jody Wilson-Raybould was made fully aware of the potential economic and political impact of a trial on the employer of 9000 Canadians, primarily in Quebec, not to mention the declining stock value’s effect upon the health of the Quebec Public Service Pension Plan, the major stockholder in the corporation. Wernick was utterly unapologetic in claiming that he did have conversations with Wilson-Raybould on the subject because his mandate as cabinet secretary is to make sure that the ministers are aware of all of the points of view so that when they make their decision, they can get it right.

The chief prosecutor decided that SNC-Lavalin did not qualify for the plea bargain, and that the corporation must go to trial on corruption charges. Ms. Wilson-Raybould stood by her underling’s decision, though as Attorney General she technically had the power to direct the Justice Department in the case of significant economic peril to the nation, though not when it is a bribery case. All hell broke loose in Quebec when SNC-Lavalin lawyers discovered that their expensive lobbying efforts of the last two years had failed.

The casualties are piling up from this train wreck. Trudeau’s personal credibility is down sharply because of the uncertainty. Half of Canadians don’t believe that he isn’t hiding something. Members of The Opposition, understanding nothing more than what they read in newspaper columns, appear to be running in circles, barking. Jerry Butts, the lynch-pin of Trudeau’s government, has resigned. Trudeau assured Canadians that if anything inappropriate had happened in Cabinet, Wilson-Raybould would not have accepted another cabinet appointment. The next day she resigned from Veteran’s Affairs. But she still won’t talk, claiming attorney-client privilege. Some have mentioned that she is no longer a licensed attorney, and when she was Minister of Justice her client would have been the Prime Minister. But still she holds her silence.

So it seems to come down to a battle between the ethical heroine (or intransigent narcissist, choose one) and the massive, corporation with its strong ties to Quebecers, the economy, and the army of lobbyists and lawyers who attempt to move governments for their benefit. On another level it pits a single disappointed Aboriginal woman against the massive white male plutocracy.

What is at stake? The crime seems to boil down to a series of bribes to assist the escape of one of Gathafi’s sons from a lynch mob in Syria in order to land a construction contract worth about three times that amount. SNC-Lavalin insists that this all took place a long time ago during a revolution, and the accused have all long-since left the company. The CEO claims his 9000 Canadian employees are being bashed helplessly about like a hockey puck, and he is getting sick of it. The United States and Britain have laws which allow for relatively easy plea bargains to rectify the corporation’s wrongs, but the way things sit a conviction would leave SNC-Lavalin banned from Canadian Government contract bids for a decade. MegaProjects are their stock in trade. They are deeply involved with the Quebec Public Service Pension Plan in the light rail line between Quebec City and Montreal, the only project so far approved by the Trudeau Government’s new investment fund. Trouble is, the stench of corruption from a recent Montreal bridge project still turns up on the opinion pages of the nation.

Wernick says that Wilson-Raybould made the right decision according to the way the law is written. There’s nothing wrong with the administration of justice in Canada, though there is plenty wrong with how politicians, lobbyists, journalists, and members of the public talk about it.

And so it sits. Tomorrow will be another day, with, of course, a new Minister of Justice who comes from Quebec, not British Columbia. I realize I haven’t answered the question in this missive’s title. As a pensioner I guess I lean toward whatever keeps the stock market valuations highest. But who in his right mind would have been buying SNC-Lavalin stock with the corruption rumours circulating? I guess I just don’t know.

 

 

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It was a long, wide baseboard in a bedroom of the brick house which hadn’t been disturbed since the house was built in approximately 1898.  The wood is chestnut.  Virtually all of the wood in the structure of the house is chestnut.  The magnificent, sweeping ash staircase is chestnut, though the bannister is cherry.  The trim around the towering windows is chestnut.  The floor joists and the two layers of 1″ sheeting behind the brick exterior are chestnut.  Even the loose floor in the attic is made of clear, straight chestnut boards.

Anyway, I was prying on this baseboard to make way for new wiring.  As I worked at it I noticed that the final two feet had been joined to the 12′ board with a very clever butt joint shown in the photo above.  Those aren’t the usual horseshoe-type flat nails used elsewhere in the building.  These are true square nails, and much smaller than the others.  I guess they must have been the finishing nails of the time.  These are the only two I have encountered in this building, despite extensive renovations since 1966.

Now look at the photo and determine what the guy did with the nails.  He clearly drove each into the wood, persuaded it to turn 90 degrees, and keep going straight.  This was no lucky accident:  both surfaces of the end grain have been planed for an exact fit.  It was only as the joint opened from prying that I realized it was there.  The baseboard did not rely on nails into a stud for support at that point.

This craftsman with a pair of nails and a hand plane did what today we would use a biscuit jointer or dowels to accomplish.  The same guy fitted the curves of the ogee moulding at the top of the baseboard, not with a coping saw, but with a gouge, a very sharp, scooping wood chisel.

Then there’s the knob-and-tube wiring, installed in the summer of 1939.  My job was to pull up tongue-and-groove pine boards to expose the wires from above.  When my friend looked at the array of wiring in the cavity under the floor of a bedroom, everything lined up precisely, all of the ceramic insulators exactly the same, every joint done with pride, he exclaimed:  “These guys were masons!”  Then we set about wrecking their work.  Progress.

I can justifiably claim some credit for that population explosion because I let a local businessman who harvests pine boughs onto our land.  The crew prune the lower branches of the 5 to 10 year-old white pine trees and haul the bundles of foliage to Toronto for sale in the booming Christmas decoration market.  The guy says it enables him to keep his construction crew active for an additional month each fall.  They’re good at what they do and the overall quality of the stand shows improvement from their efforts.

An unanticipated consequence of the pruning of the trees is more sunlight in the rows of the plantation, an area away from the hay harvesting machinery.  Milkweed plants grew rampant last summer.  Monarch butterflies emerged and flourished around the property.

I figure the timing was good.  Dog Strangling Vine (DSV) is spreading rapidly in the Chaffey’s Locks area.  Monarchs are attracted to this milkweed-relative to lay their eggs,  but the caterpillars can’t eat the stuff so those hatchings are lost.  Along with allowing the milkweed plants to grow without mowing them, I’m carefully patrolling my property for DSV.  I found and uprooted 6 stems last summer, though it has taken over another woodlot a half-mile away.  I’m prepared to encourage milkweed growth to crowd out DSV and wild parsnip.
Besides, Granddaughter Ada likes to play with the dried seed pods.
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In 2003 Porsche came out with a radical machine, a sport utility vehicle to compete with the Range Rover, the Mercedes G class, and the BMW X5. It had to outdo these established models in a crowded field. The engineers went to work, adapting a borrowed chassis from the VW Tuareg into an SUV which was also a Porsche.

The resulting Cayenne succeeded, to some extent. Its on-road handing was so good that many Porsche 911 owners happily added one to their garages because it was so much fun to drive. That level of sophistication did not come cheaply, though. In Canada, with taxes, the original V8 cars cost right around $100,000. and the turbos were even pricier.

Then some problems popped up with the V8 engines. It seems Porsche reduced weight and cost by gluing plastic coolant tubes into centre V of the engines, right above the starter. They also added some plastic T’s to route coolant on the turbo models. Both plastics turned out to have short lifespans. Coolant gushing over the starter and the automatic transmission caused both to fail with annoying regularity. Recalls and a class action suit came too late for the model’s reputation for reliability. Values plummeted.

Other quirks include a coolant-cooled alternator and in some cases a rear battery in addition to the one under the driver’s seat, though these features seem generally reliable, if bewildering to the new owner. On the other hand, air conditioning servos packed in a grease which becomes so stiff with age that it causes the servos to seize causes much angst to owners in regions experiencing extreme temperatures.

The V8 engines have a major lubrication problem in sub-zero temperatures: they don’t get enough oil at start-up to #5 to keep the rings from scraping the lining off the cylinder. Repeated extreme-cold starts with sludge impeding oil flow erode the cylinder wall, evidenced by an incremental ticking noise which eventually renders the engine unserviceable. When word of early engine failures got out, nobody wanted the prospect of a $30,000 engine rebuild. Cayennes dropped in value about that much.

Then came the drive shaft support bearing. For some reason Porsche engineers suspended the tube responsible for transmitting the torque of engines up to 500 hp with an eighth-inch thick rubber membrane. When it failed the symptom was commonly reported as: “An irate midget with a hammer pounding on the transmission tunnel.” Repairs cost about $1200. More depreciation occurred because the potential owners of these cars did not want to be saddled with further expenses.

Then came the do-it-yourselfers. As soon as used Cayenne values descended toward the magic $10K mark, the market changed significantly. Turns out the best way to fix the driveshaft was with a compress of short heater hose sections held in place with zip ties. A perfectly usable repair cost an hour under the car and about $10. They called it the Jimi Fix after the mechanic who did the first one on a Nissan pickup in an off-road race.

All owners had to do to protect their engines from the cold was keep them in insulated garages in winter and change the oil a lot, or else live in a warm climate.

Coolant tube repairs were more demanding, but aftermarket aluminum kits appeared everywhere. Some owners (myself included) were astonished to discover that the repair had already been done on recall years before on their Cayennes. It’s very hard to tell without opening up the engine. I bought mine on the assumption that it would need a $3000 coolant tube repair, and the price had been adjusted accordingly.

The surprise to the determined do-it-yourselfer was that, once the various glitches of the early cars were sorted, the Cayennes proved reliable.

The 5400 pound cars still use a lot of fuel, tires, and brakes. They are far from economical to drive. On the other hand, the bodies are very durable and most still look like new when they are scrapped because their engines have clicked themselves to death or overheated from coolant loss.

My son and I bought a pair of 2004 Cayenne S models because they are tremendous vehicles, priced artificially low, at about 1/3 the price of the desirable Toyota Land Cruiser. They make better tow vehicles, easily handling 7400 pounds in stock trim, and actually use less fuel than the off-road icon. With proper care the Cayenne engines are durable and offer very high performance, though the Land Cruiser has it all over the Cayenne in off-road performance and life expectancy.

A taste for black humour has pervaded the online Porsche Cayenne owner’s culture. Purchasing an early Porsche Cayenne without a full warranty was likened to “going naked.” Buying an ’04 to ’05 model was described as “cliff jumping.” But the naked cliff jumpers communicated among themselves and took a perverse pride in sorting out the various quirks of their “Pigs.”

The coach work on the Cayenne is of exceptionally high quality. Every reviewer who has driven one on the highway loves it. The bad reputation has cut the price of the early Cayennes down to where a knowledgeable do-it-yourselfer with moderately deep pockets can buy and own an outstanding car.