Thursday, 24 July 2014

RETURN OF THE 'JOEY MAN'

“He’s just a Joey Man” my mother once said to me as if to offer protection from verbal assault by one much older.

The lecture to which I was subjected was a vigorous oration delivered by a particular ‘worthy’ in defense of the Only Living Father, as J.R. Smallwood liked to be called. Evidently, I had the temerity to speak ill of the great helmsman. 

A “Joey Man” I enquired of her? What’s that? “Oh”, she replied, “you’ll see lots of them. Their minds are taken over by Smallwood; a single criticism and they’ll tear you apart as if you were a traitor.  My”, she declared, “they get so emotional, if you say anything against their man. Don’t expect them to use any reason”, she added gently; “facts are not their strength...any criticism is disloyal; best to ignore them until they go away” was her final word on the subject.” 

In later years, I discovered that such people come from all strata and are not limited by education, social or financial advantage.   Even some members of the media have earned such a reputation.


I have met enough “Joey Men” to conclude: when they invoke “the man”, they buy into all his policies, too. The corollary is: we love ‘them’ because we love ‘him’.  

The word “just” in my Mother’s use of the metaphor was an important adjunct.  She prefaced the phrase not merely to ‘describe’ but to ‘measure’.  To be a 'Joey Man' was nothing to be proud of; to be “just” a Joey Man was someone pretty small.

The term went out of favour as the Smallwood era grew distant.  Later Premiers seemed more accommodating of criticism; less inclined to demonize, to demand slavish loyalty or to inspire cronyism. 

Danny Williams’ behaviour can be credited with having rekindled its utility; the methodology remained the same: discredit the person and you’ll have diminished his opinion.  The 'Joey Man' had returned with gusto.

Not unlike Smallwood, Williams was a polarizing figure.  His ‘either you are with me or you are against me’ style of invective implied the artful twist of moral treachery.  But, then, ironically it was a Tory, Samuel Johnson, who pronounced “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”.

A crony of Danny’s was former Minister Jerome Kennedy.  As Minister responsible for Muskrat, he exhibited the pedigree of a ‘cracky’, as he gestured, barked and pilloried critics at their every objection to the Government’s handling of the issue. David Vardy was one in his sights.  He was quick to remind Kennedy what such pillorying implied.  Writing in the Western Star, Vardy said: “I think Muskrat Falls is too important to be sidetracked on personalities…the Minister’s case is so weak he has to bring personalities into it”. 

This riposte to Jerome made him fume; he called it “offense” which meant Vardy’s scud missile had hit the target. Such ad hominem attacks became Kennedy’s trademark, as it did others including Dunderdale. They could not challenge the logic of concerned citizens so, as Vardy says, “they chose to attack the character, integrity, motives, the credentials, patriotism and the loyalty of critics.” He might have said simply: they became ‘Joey Men’.

Now it chanced, recently, that I was on the wharf in Valleyfield. Imagine that someone would have recognized ‘that feller who writes the Uncle Gnarley Blog’! 

Having sauntered off to “Skippers” for some fish ‘n chips, no sooner had I returned than a middle aged gentleman was waiting for me on the wharf. “Is you the feller against Muskrat Falls, he asked? I heard you wuz here, he declared. Now my son”, he started in on me, “you won’t find anyone smarter that that Danny Williams. He thinks Muskrat is a good thing and that’s good enough for me. You shouldn’t be bad mouthin’ him, you and that Cabot Martin…all he wants to do is make a fortune off his new book, anyway. Sure the two of you is just draggin’ down the Province”.

I tried to get a little lick in as his thermostat headed for bust. 

I said, what about if the thing costs $12 or 15 billion, as I expect. “Don’t matter what it costs”, he barked, “Danny Williams knew what he was doin’. You fellers are just naysayers, that’s all”.  

I countered irreverently: so you’re a Joey Man? “Yes, Sir” he replied, “I am and Mr. Smallwood was a wonderful man too; just like Danny Williams.” 

Getting back into ‘Town’ I spent the first hour or so scanning the “old” Telegrams for hard news and the opinion pieces I might have missed while away. 

The weekend edition contained a piece by Tony Collins entitled Muskrat Is A Go - Get Over It.  I read this passage:

In the past, some of the accusations levelled against the Muskrat Falls project by its critics seem to have crossed the line between constructive criticism and what, in effect, amounts to outright treason. (emphasis added)

Oh yes, the “treason” word was there.  I read on:

It was fine while Danny Williams was still around. Newfoundlanders prefer their idols with very visible feet of clay and if they can’t find any, their frustration levels go right through the ceiling. The higher our former premier’s popularity ratings the higher their blood pressure, the more intense their pathological hatred of the man, the greater their ire and indignation, and the more hysterical the general tone of their public pronouncements.
Of course, pillory the critics with invective; attack their motives, discredit them.  

As I got to the end, I knew there would be no facts or figures, no thought to the project barely begun and already over budget by 85%, no consideration of the Water Management Agreement now at the mercy of the Quebec Courts, no discussion of the North Spur stability problem, no reference to demand issues especially the consequences of ‘rate shock’, nor of the deals with Emera in order to obtain the Federal Loan Guarantee, nothing about ‘oversight’, and not a word of the secrecy within which it was all hatched.   

Calling the critics “self-serving, self-appointed and self-involved”, Collins had fallen into the same trap as Kennedy; no different than the guy on the wharf in Valleyfield: eyes blazing, arms waving, threatening treason, not an argument in his head.

I thought of my dear Mother and her reassuring counsel.


She would have easily dismissed Tony.  I can hear her now, saying: Sure Des, "he’s just a Joey Man”. 
______________________________________________

MUSKRAT MADNESS by Cabot Martin
Available at Afterwords Bookstore, 245 Duckworth Street, or
Online: www.muskratmadness.ca






8 comments:

  1. You're right, but I think that there's a difference between the original "Joey Man" and version 2.0.

    At least back in the 1960s, one could say that the Smallwood government didn't have the benefit of previous experience when it embarked on the original Churchill Falls project. No one knew the long-term implications of the 1969 contract: realization of the scale of the fiasco lay in the future.

    The amount of relevant information available to the public was more limited in the 1960s than it is today. It was harder for the average citizen in 1967 to learn the details about what was going on than it is today, and it was certainly harder to find a vigorous, open, and informed debate.

    Today's "Joey Man" has none of the excuses that his father had. There is a wealth of in-depth information available at the click of a mouse. Many prominent figures and people with deep knowledge and experience have weighed in against the project.

    Today, no one can say that they were not warned about the risks in building Muskrat Falls. No one can say that powerful arguments against it were not brought to the public's attention before it was built. And no one can say that there are not precedents on which to draw, and lessons from 1969 to be learned.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Add wade Locke to the list.
    Recently he was a guest speaker at a business luncheon I attended. When questioned about the rising cost of MF,
    and what point it becomes unfeasible, he shot back with much defensive and attacking tone. He also went on to describe the uncle gnarley and other non cheerleading MF bloggers, as no nothings who all they do is sit around tim Hortons drinking tea and eating cookies.
    Any credibility wade's work on MF had was quickly destroyed in that hour I spent listening to him bark.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When people aren't logical, it discredits every thing they say. For
      Mr Locke to link the demographic that sits around Tim's to the one that is articulate enough to research facts and write the kind of critical blogs (and books in Cabot's case) that are helping us be more informed on the issue of MF, just makes Mr Locke look dumb.

      Delete
    2. I totally agree with all that you both have said . Muskrat is a rotten deal . Pay no attention to these propaganda pushers . ( Nalcor et al ) .

      Delete
  3. Sad but true is your summary of how many see Muskrat Falls. While I do not have any technical experience or training, I have in general terms referencing the broader issue of why this project is destined to be an albatross around our necks for generations to come and I too have run into the same brick wall. Most recently in what I call a lively debate on the issue, it was made quite clear that the only argument put forward in defence of this project was, well Danny is a smart man and he wouldn't have stared this up if it wasn't going to be good for the province. Then when I had the audacity to criticize Ed Martin, the next line of defence was how unfortunate he has some incompetent staff who were surely the blame for last winters power shortage and the current overrun problem with Muskrat Falls. What is even more sad about my experience is the individuals I was engaged with in this debate are not what I would call stupid people.

    So there we have it, for some reason many see this as it must be good or we would not have gone down this path. This blind trust with no consideration given to the broader facts of the matter is nothing short of total frustration. And when the cost overruns and continued poor management of this fiasco reaches it's peak and utility rates skyrocket, Ed Martin and his team will have a long list of excuses to put the blame somewhere else and Danny William's and his entourage of "Joey " men will be nowhere to be found other than to point fingers in the opposite direction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, since "Joey Man" 2.0 version enjoys all the benefits of hindsight, an internet chock full of information about dams and hydroelectric projects (in both NL and elsewhere), plus a lengthy and detailed debate over Muskrat Falls, he is either stupider than his predecessor or wilfully ignorant.

      Delete
  4. What is clear is the slow but steady slide in support by the public for Muskrat Falls. This reflects the slow progress of the truth being realized of the high risks of this project ,to the province and its people. I beleive it was Mark Twain who used the phrase ` A lie lets halfway around the world before the truth leaves the starting gate`. This project was sold to the people on the pretension that ,without it, we might freeze in the dark would with power blackouts, have even higher costs from Holyrood oil consumption, coupled with anti-Quebec sentiment. Why else would our citizens support a plan that will soon saddle us with energy costs for heating at least twice that enjoyed by citizens of Quebec.
    Our island energy demand, forecast by Nalcor to increase about 1 percent a year, could have been addressed in much more cost effective and low risk alternatives, including reducing the demand by customer energy efficiency measures, as many other jurisdictions are doing.
    I emailed Wade Locke, seeking his opinion, following a presentation to the PUB on the scope of such possibilities for more robust energy and peak demand reductions. Getting no response, I tried again and finally got his reply `I haven`t read your presentation`.
    Future energy demand is calculated (estimated) based on a complex formula using 7 different inputs as variables. The end result is often wrong.
    Studies show that the residential consumer considers but one variable: what is the jump in the electricity cost compared to previous bills. The customer then acts to curtail costs, most often with more cost effective alternatives. Such studies can look back and see the response of customers to increased costs.What they show is that for a given range in price increases in electricity there is a range of reductions in electricity use by residential customers.
    One might expect that a modest price increase would would little impact energy use. Is it unreasonable to assume that a 45 to 85 percent increase in electricity costs for residential heating will permit a 1 percent increase in energy use going forward. Is it unreasonable to assume that there are no alternatives to high cost baseboard electric heating, given the advances in cost effective pellet stoves and efficient heatpumps. What studies show to expect for reduction in electricity use (which price hikes from MF will assure), is something that should make Wade Locke stay awake at night. One would presume that his knowledge of economics includes studies on the so-called elasticity of electricity demand, as well as the negative effects on power companies that ignore the risks and results of disruptive technologies. It applies to power companies as well other companies who ignored such risks (like Kodak or RIM).
    For Wade Locke to say `I have not read your presentation` on an issue of future power demand, says something about Wade Locke. I did not expect Wade Locke to be an expert on efficiency options, but I thought he would at least explore the issue and not ignore such a risk to the future Nalcor revenue stream, being an essential element to the project as a whole. Winston Adams , Logy Bay

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wade tried humor in his (Nalcors) Harris Center Presentation "we could raise the price of electricity so high there would be no demand!" like the then 50% kWh increase ratepayers could expect from MF? His credibility right from the get-go was questionable on MF and he offered minimal time in Q&A afterwards.

      Post 2's luncheon shows how personally involved Wade is with his staunch defense of MF - He needs to act professional and counter 'naysayers' as an economist V the MF cheerleader he has become.

      Demand equation is still on track to ellipse 10,000 GWh by 2041 MF proponents? Confederate Board of Canada's projected 10% population decline, monthly industrial closures, industrial rate to double to 8 cents kWh in 2015, continued corporation welfare with $100s of millions of annual deficits, residents to see 20 cent kWh bills - most expensive power in NA.

      Give an economist rock star/ celebrity status with gov adulation and objectivity and quality of work declines.

      Efficiency expert Wade isn't, how about some academic collaboration for the areas that aren't in his field or a look-see by other economists?

      As for the Tony Collins (relation to Felix or Sandy?) hack-ed weekend piece he might be pissed off at bloggers asking how he even got a weekend column in the Tele. Controversy drives readership/ number of clicks (OL approach) but questions the integrity of news media.

      Quick Clay video a few days ago: no worries Nalcor engineers and 'Expert' consultants have this issues under wraps.

      Delete