Friday, February 26, 2010

 

THE TROJAN HORSE IN THE CLOSET

Chapter seven of Ralph Nader's ground-breaking 1965 best seller is titled: "Damn the driver and spare the car." Forty-five years later and amidst the fall-out from Toyota's unprecedented 8 million plus vehicle re-call; Nader's chapter sounds all too familiar...

Those of my generation will know, of course, that Nader's book: "Unsafe At Any Speed - The designed-in dangers of the American automobile", shocked the world just as the North American boomer generation were about the purchase their first cars. "Nader's Raiders", as the hundreds of young activists inspired by the book became known, forced North American auto makers and Governments to confess and account for their collusion, abuse of power, and lack of regard for the safety and well being of millions of drivers and their passengers.

Lest I digress; Another of the book's keystone chapters - "The one car accident" - exposed the havoc and carnage of the Chevrolet "Corvair" (1960-63). Nader's work also led to the demise of the Ford "Pinto" and most importantly to the legislated requirement for seat-belts and other standard safety devices.

Which brings me back to Toyota. If the "Corvair" problem was its one-car accident factor (The suspension made it roll-over), Toyota's acceleration issue frequently involves collision's with others, which is all the more tragic. Koua Fong Lee is spending 8 years in a Minnesota jail after his out of control "Camry" killed 3 people in a rear-end collision with an Oldsmobile. Now even the District Attorney who successfully prosecuted Mr. Lee for vehicular homicide thinks the case was a miscarriage of justice.

A long time friend and university teacher who's opinion I value described Toyota's initial intransigence and its current responses as..."the classic issues management blunder of the 21st century". Toyota representatives; officials; and executives all the way up to the founder's grandson, the current President Akio Toyota, are sticking to the company script despite growing concerns and anecdotal evidence that the problem may be related to the electronics of the fuel injection systems rather than anything mechanical. Lest we forget: Toyota's track record in diagnosing the problem(s) is less than stellar: Ten months ago it blamed the runaway cars on faulty carpets getting caught-up in the accelerator pedal.

The Toyota Motor Company, now the world's largest auto manufacturer, was about five years old when Ralph Nader wrote "Unsafe At Any Speed". It's true that some in the American Congress may be on a crusade against Japanese auto makers now that the U.S. government is essentially the largest bailout shareholder in General-Motors and Chrysler...but perhaps that may be the most compelling reason for Toyota to remain beyond reproach in its response and corrective actions. There are many who believe the Asian auto sector is not quite there yet!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

 

WHAT NEXT?

The Opposition would need more than the aftermath of the much maligned "Own The Podium" debacle at the Olympic Games, and the Government's status-quo March 4 Federal Budget if it had plans to trigger a spring election.

But the fact of the matter is: Regardless of the rhetoric from the Liberals and the NDP over last December's Prorogation; the Conservative Senate appointments; the Olympic melt-down (forgive the pun); or the gimmick less budget...When Parliament resumes next week, the rhetoric will be lame and merely a play for the media's attention.

And, since the Parliamentary Press Gallery had been idled through much of the winter by Mr. Harper's vastly unpopular Prorogation matter, the Parliamentarians from the sides opposite will get all of the media attention they'll be vying for.

Though the truth is that no one neither wants nor expects the defeat of Mr. Harper's minority Government over whatever supply measures, belt tightening, or "ho-hum" steady as she goes Flaherty Budget scheduled for delivery next Wednesday...nor for that matter any lack-lustre legislative agenda to be contained in Governor-General, Michaele Jean's, last Speech From The Throne the previous day, Tuesday, March 3.

The country is disappointed with Vancouver's medal count; the Federal deficit is a monster hiding in a closet; the economic recovery is slower than anticipated; implementation of the dreaded Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in Ontario and British Columbia is just around the corner...so the opposition parties are set to let the Tories deal with all of the fall-out and stoke the media fury in the process.

From the Government's perspective meantime: The Prime Minister is set to host both the Summit of G-8 Leaders in Huntsville, Ontario and the G-20 Economic Summit in Toronto in June so bet that the Conservatives (Having eliminated Prorogation as a back-up) will Bobbe, weave, and rope-a-dope to avoid any embarrassing issues and/or controversies that could focus unpleasant attention during the spring term. There are even rumours about Parliament Hill that Mr. Harper may be planning to crown his own spring achievements on July the first by having The Queen herself swear-in Michaele Jean's successor as Governor-General. Buckingham Palace has already confirmed that Her Majesty and Prince Phillip will indeed be in Ottawa on July 1, 2010 as part of a late June early July visit to the Colony.

Thus, all in all the Parliamentary preliminaries to the June and July calendar, starting with next week's resumption of the sitting of the House of Commons, are likely to be pretty lame and tame indeed.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

 

RETURNING SOON...

Hello and Thank you for your patience during my re-tooling. "Canadian, Eh?" - Insights into what makes me Canadian will be here soon!!

Bill

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

 

MILESTONES ON THE ROAD THROUGH LIFE

Someone remarked just the other day that..."Life is a sexually transmitted terminal disease."

Lest I be morbid further, this week marks the start of the fourth year of my "blogs"; and I am taking a break in order to give my muse a short rest and to conjure-up (I hope) some new insights into the intrigues of Canada's political life.

Since early February 2007, I've posted 625 blogs. More than 19,000 of you have responded by reading them. Thanks!

Although the original 190 posts on "Yahoo 360" are no longer available, there are 183 blog posts archived here on POLITICS CANADA; and an additional 252 on FREETRADER FORUM.

You now have a short break to get caught-up on any you may have missed. Enjoy your romp through the chronicles of POLITICS CANADA.

Bill

Thursday, February 4, 2010

 

IT'S A MONEY THING!

Sometime it's helpful for one's perspective to view an important Canadian issue from the American side of the border. The Winter Olympic Games which are about to get underway in Vancouver will dominate and colour our national outlook for the next several weeks.

Not so here in the USA; (I might add) where despite NBC's staggering $820-million bid for the Olympic TV rights; this weekend's Miami football Super Bowl, and the February 14th NASCAR, Daytona 500, are the dominant concerns of sports enthusiasts...I digress!

These Vancouver Games, and all the Olympic Games through the end of the 20th Century and into the current millennium; are all about money. A far cry from the intent and the spirit (and surely a massive disappointment) of the "father of the modern games", Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

And, not just about NBC's $820-million bid for the American TV rights. In a partnership venture CTV and Rogers Communications (Mortal enemies though they be in the cable fee for broadcast dispute at the CRTC) reportedly outbid the CBC by as much as $50-million for the Olympic rights in Canada, and now can't find enough sponsors to pay their monstrous reportedly $150-million bill.

Meantime the foreclosed owners of Intrawest ULC which controls the Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Resort, a main Olympic venue, are threatening to sue the Government of Canada for $90-million for "loss of business" during the games. Just where did we lose our way and abandon the "spirit" of friendly international competition?

There is another rivalry that will not be televised starting next week. It is not by accident that Chicago finished "dead last" to Rio de Janeiro in October for the 2016 Summer Games despite President Obama's personal lobbying efforts for the hometown. Money is at the root of that evil also. The issue is one that has implications for most national Olympic Committees, including the COC (Candian Olympic Committee) based in Toronto.

The Olympic brand in each country is owned by the individual national committees. But, it's the IOC (International Olympic Committee) that brokers the auctions for each country's television rights and doles out just a percentage of the gains. For instance the USOC is getting just $105-million of the $820-million paid by NBC for the US rights to the Vancouver games. When that American national Olympic Committee (USOC) announced last July that it was establishing its own "Olympic Cable TV Channel", the International Committee saw the announcement as a declaration of war and punished the Americans with the Chicago defeat.

Greed it seems mocks the spirit of the games, and tarnishes the very lustre of the Olympic Medals and the movement they represent. When will we learn!

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