Bush admits bin Laden helped him win in 2004

February 28, 2006

In a new book by Bill Sammon, George Bush admits that Osama bin Laden’s 15 minute commentary on Bush as president the weekend before the election helped him win. That is probably true, but not likely for the reason he cites. Just to prove how shallow his thinking is, Bush says:

I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn’t want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush.

Surely someone with any brains realizes that if bin Laden is good at anything it is manipulation of the press.

Among other things, bin Laden actually said (emphasis and parenthesis added):

As for it’s (911’s) results, they have been, by the grace of Allah, positive and enormous, and have, by all standards, exceeded all expectations. This is due to many factors, chief among them, that we have found it difficult to deal with the Bush administration in light of the resemblance it bears to the regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half which are ruled by the sons of kings and presidents.

and after listing some of the events after 911, he says:

All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration.

Does this sound like someone who doesn’t want Bush to be president?

Really?


Update on the Halifax Regional School Board…

February 28, 2006

Just read the linked article about the Halifax school board fiasco and it provides a lot of details that I didn’t know. To state more fully, it provides a lot of details that I didn’t know before I shot my mouth off in previous scribbles on the topic. Oh yes, there is indeed childishness at work here, but if Stephen Kimber is right, and I respect his journalism greatly, then the guilty parties are not those that have been making the headlines.

This school board is badly, badly broken, and to my eyes the only way to fix it is to get rid of everyone currently sitting and run new elections. Oh yeah, and don’t let anyone re-offer, either. And put the goddamn chairs back where they were.

Go read the article.


Harper announces Senate elections…

February 28, 2006

… through his spokesman Ralph Klein. Does anyone else find this strange? Perhaps Haprer’s new communications director has performed another communications “coup”.

Odd announcement aside, I wonder if Michael Fortier will give up his Senate seat and run in the election?


Please, please, please…

February 28, 2006

So David “Unprincipled Bastard” Emerson thinks that he can win an election as a Tory?

I’m sure he can.

C’mon David, go for it. Seriously, you can win, I know you can. What’s more important, you know you can. You know everything, that’s why the Tories wanted you so bad, so how can you be wrong? Harper has faith in you; what more can you ask for?

Those “little people” that have been protesting your, uh, evolution don’t know anything; certainly not like you. I know, they helped you get into office and might well actively campaign against you, but they don’t know anything.

While I don’t condone vandalism, I think that it might be really hard for you to keep a sign on a lawn, if you know what I mean, but you have the means, the knowledge to put them higher. You can do it, I know you can.

Go for it.

Please?


Sometimes you bite the dog…

February 28, 2006

Again on the local Halifax front, it looks like Nova Scotia grocery behemoth Sobeys might be getting the “WalMart” treatment. Sobeys, whose parent company owns Downsview Mall in suburban Lower Sackville, has for some time leased space to WalMart. However all is not well, as WalMart is unable within the “confines” of its lease to expand to sell grocery items in the mall, so it appears to be looking into building a new site in the Sackville Business Park.

I have no sympathy for Sobeys, it’s killed it’s share of mom-and-pop shops around the Maritimes through the years, so I watch this with a mixture of bemusement and sadness.

But I have to ask why on earth do we allow this to happen? I mean, from a purely local standpoint – why do we allow these monster block stores to move into low-tax districts, force municipalities to play catch up with roads, bus routes, sewage, etc., kill local business, and then pay minimum wage to employees that on average will not be able to get full-time hours and the corresponding benefits?

[Update: graven has shown me the joys of the website http://www.smarteconomist.com, which I have linked to the left in "Things we should know". It contains an interesting article that graven posted as a comment to this article. I'm going to put together an article on this issue later on, but if you want to see the SmartEconomist article, go to graven's comments to this one.]


Ultimatum for Halifax School Board

February 28, 2006

It looks like the provincial Department of Education is determined to force maturity on the Halifax Regional School Board. Jamie Muir, the education minister is sending a letter today to the Board telling them that “if the board itself has not been able to improve its process and get back to supporting teaching, learning in the public schools, then we’re prepared to take it over”.

Meanwhile, it appears the childish simpering continues from a vocal (and periodically absent) minority that walked out after losing a vote last meeting. Gin Yee, who I voted for, maintains that walking out is

one of the few ways a minority group of board members can say something and it has worked somewhat…

to which I am forced to reply, “GROW UP!” Perhaps, next municiple election my vote might “walk out”, too. If everyone reacted this way a democracy in any real sense would be entirely impossible. Things like this are what make people afraid of proportional representation, I fear. As for its efficacity, if you mean, “this has managed to make us look like a whinging bunch of fools nationally”, then yes, it has worked remarkably well.

He goes on, capping it off with the pre-pubescent argument (I shit you not):

…we weren’t the first group of people doing it.

I wish I was making this up. I really, really do.


What underlies Bush’s port fiasco?

February 27, 2006

George Bush appears to have opened a can of worms with this potential sale of 6 US port facilities to DP World of the UAE. The way that this whole affair has been handled reeks of the Harriet Myers appointment last fall, which means it is Bush’s (not Cheney’s) baby. From the quiet trimming of the mandatory 45-day review to 5 to the delightful “This deal wouldn’t go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America ” quote to his blustery threat to block any legislation with a veto (which would be his first veto in his time in office) to the very public extension of the 5-day review to 45 days, this has “Bush-masterminded gaggle-fuck” written all over it.

The question is, what’s behind it?

The first thing that sprang to my mind is that there might be some monetary ties between the Bush family and DP World. If this was true, which I doubt, I don’t think it would produce the either the heated backlash against the purchase or the vicious wagon-circling within the Whitehouse that it has. In fact, if Scott Maclellan is to be believed (yeah, why believe him this time?), Bush was not even in the loop as this deal was being clinched. It’s just that small scale usury doesn’t seem to be the sine qua non of this administration. These guys aren’t about money – they’re about power, so this just doesn’t fit.

So what on earth is going on?

Last night’s episode of 60 Minutes presented a feature on how poor security is at most US port facilities. If that is to be believed, most port security is being handled not by police forces nor the Coast Guard, but by rent-a-cops hired by port management. What this deal does is expose a huge weakness in the “Fortress Amerika” mentality that Bush and Co. have tried to propagate for the past five years. Selling the ports to a foreign company is therefore effectively selling the security of those very ports (and more) to a foreign company.

And what has been Bush’s stock-and-trade since 9/11? Security? Nope – the illusion of security. Bush, with great bravado created the Department of Homeland Defense in order to bolster and then promptly rolled back its funding and many of the trumpeted initiatives with it. Remember all the talk of “highly trained government-paid” airport security? That went by the wayside quickly and quietly when security contractors caused the government to balked. Just about the only public manifestation of the “improved security regime” that remained three years after 9/11 is taking your shoes off in the airport (Jesus Christ!) and the farcical Terror Alert Level, which seems also to have quietly gone the way of all things.

However, at every opportunity Bush and Fox News have beaten the opposition over the head on security issues and it still remains the only issue on which Americans trust the Republicans. This deal is about more than money, or “friends of America in the War on Terror”; it exposes the bullshit that lies at the heart of Bush’s promse of security.

Only the Democrats could possibly lose an election to these clowns. It’s going to take some work, but I’m sure they’ll manage to do it again.

[Edit - the terror alerts still exist! I guess it's just that the media have realized they are totally bogus and have stopped talking about them.]


On selecting judges…

February 27, 2006

Today is the big day for Marshall Rothstein, Stephen Harper’s new selection to the Supreme Court of Canada. Come to think of it, today’s not really a big day for him at all. Three hours or so of questioning should be a cakewalk for him and besides, he’s already been selected by the only person that matters, so unless he comes off like Graham Chapman’s Gumby brain surgeon, he’s got the job.

I prowled the blogosphere with interest last night, looking at the various views out there on this seemingly-mundane issue, and it appears to be form a bit of a fault-line in Canada’s right/left divide. (Not to mention the right/left divide in me.) For those on the Right, this push toward a more transparent process is like a beam of light from the clear blue sky, even though the process being used is exactly the process set up by the hated Liberals last year, and perhaps not quite as open as they would like to have. The view here, which I have been sympathetic to in previous scribblings is that a more open and public process is inherently more democratic, which is always a good thing.

On the Left is the argument that a more open confirmation process will lead to the perceived abuses and circus-style confirmation hearings in the United States, right down to political campaign-style advertisements on television to pressure your representative to vote for so-and-so. The fear is that, like a regular political campaign, emphasis will get placed on a few issues like a person’s attitude on particular hot-button issues of the day, or on something absolutely irrelevant like their relationship with an ex-spouse or something. Such a campaign rightfully would turn off many would-be excellent judges from accepting these critical appointments.

I don’t think that it needs to be said that if the United States was being run as a liberal democracy and selecting left-leaning judges, the NDP might be a little more in favour of an open confirmation and the Tories a little less so. I’ll chalk up that as a nod to the NDP argument that a truly open confirmation is too prone to politicization and as such might not be desirable for this process.

The Liberals have said nothing of note on the topic, which I assume means that they are happy with the system as it stands. This is understandable, the system has been in place for a long time and we have (arguably) not fallen into anarchy nor fascism. Besides, being the natural governing party of Canada, they have been able to pick more Supreme Court judges than anyone else.

So there are the political players, but what are they really arguing about and how do I justify my initial thesis that issue really does divide the political landscape?

I will first propose (and oversimplify) that the conservative Right and the liberal Left in Canada have two very different ideas as to what the role of government is. On the one hand there is the Right, for whom the government is a mechanism that loosely manages the economy, maintains law and order, and provides services that would make little or no economic sense for private industry to provide. (Note to self – write a bit sometime on how this attitude birthed the drive to cost recovery in the civil service in the 90’s and thereby basically destroyed it.) On the other hand, the left would have the government act as a balance between the monied and the less so, a sort of Robin Hood that collects taxes from the rich and provides services to the poor in order to derive some sort of benefit from the economy for everyone.

At the core of the conservative belief is a confidence that the individual, or network unit of individuals like a family, will at all times be better able to take care of himself than an external government; “necessity is the mother of invention”, and when forced by need, people will indeed invent. Therefore, any powers given to the government have to be strictly overseen by the individuals that allow the powers to be granted. This is why grassroots democratic reform is so often conservative in nature. This also to some extent explains the motivation within the right-wing both in Canada and the United States to make government smaller. Make it smaller and cheaper and leave more money for the citizenry; that is the stated goal. This has many implications, but ulitimately each citizen would have to do more to fend for themselves with whatever resources they have at hand.

Conversely, at the core of the liberal belief is an aknowledgement that the individual is sometimes not always able to care for him or herself. It would all be fine and good if there always was a family or community unit to step in, but if that unit is itself disabled, by poverty for instance, or effectively doesn’t exist in the case of the homeless, government services must provide aid. The Left thereby accepts the reality that people will fall through the cracks of a capitalist system and they have to be tended. Likewise, they are willing to give more power to the government, because the government is viewed to be acting in their best interest. They would be more willing to trust in their elected representatives to act in their best interest in the selection of many appointments – including the judiciary. (Uggh, my riding went Liberal!)

And so it comes down to a difference in the view of the relationship of government and the citizenry – more adversarial on the Right, and more symbiotic on the Left.

Putting the differences between the Right and Left in this light, the reactions of the Conservative and NDP are understandable. The Right would have a more rigourous and open process and would very likely like to see an American-style hearing. That Stephen Harper hasn’t gone that far yet does not mean he won’t in the future – given a majority government I’m sure he’d be willing to devolve the power of the PMO that little bit to create an official hearing process. More democratic in a sense, but a process is only truly democratic when everyone has an equal voice and an equal access to information, and when mass media is accessible more easily to those with money, this is not guarenteed.

The NDP, through Joe Comartin’s proposal, would have a more rigourous, private interview with the candidates for the job, more like a real job interview. This, they propose, would allow for more direct questioning without risk of public embarrassment of the candidate. How many jobs would you apply for if you knew that your interview would be televised?

It certainly is an interesting debate – one on which I’m trying to decide how I stand. On the one hand, I would like to know that our judges are reasonable, wise, and fair, and that there is a legitimate process in place to select them; not just an arbitrary selection of the Prime Minister. I don’t feel I want to know how they would vote on hypothetical issues, and I definitely don’t care if they’ve been divorced twice and drive a Saab.

Also, I know how qualified I am to participate in the selection of a judge (not at all!), and a public selection process by definition involves me in the process, otherwise it’s just a show. Therefore, it might well be just the circus that the NDP claim. And I don’t want rejected applicant’s careers destroyed or tainted by a grueling and unfair process as we see south of the border.

On the whole, I think that the NDP proposal is a good one, no matter how many righty loons moan about it. Heck, maybe because they moan about it.

If this means that I’ve changed my mind from previous posts, then so be it. I resolve the right to evolve and amend my opinions as issues and I change. My brain was not intelligently designed, it evolved, so why shouldn’t my mind, after all.

And if you think that that last paragraph is a cheap attempt to grab a few hits from online search engines, I would say that you are cynical and manipulative and if you send me your email address I’ll open up blevkog and welcome you into it’s growing staff of writers.


Emerson on softwood lumber

February 27, 2006

Just how is David Emerson supposed to be able to negotiate on behalf of the Canadian government on the softwood lumber issue? I have to assume, since Stephen Harper ain’t saying shit, that at least part of the “critical background” that he felt was worth trading his early political capital to obtain had something to do with his expertise on this contentious issue. But it appears that however you slice it, Emerson is going to have to sit this one out.

One of the most important single trade hangups between us and the US in a generation and our Minister of International Trade is going to have to recuse himself from doing anything about it. Might as well have a Minister of Defense in bed with defense contractors.

Hey, wait a minute


Taking Over, One State at a Time

February 27, 2006

In a followup to My Esteemed Colleague’s earlier post on Scary Christian Evangelicals , check out these guys, who want to flood South Carolina with ‘thousands of Christians’ in order to ‘reestablish constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles’ with an eye to seceding the State by 2016 (check out their Plan of Action)

Just one question – isn’t this sedition?


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