Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bush admits bin Laden helped him win in 2004

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?


Update on the Halifax Regional School Board...

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...

... 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...

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.


Sometimes you bite the dog...

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 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

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.

Monday, February 27, 2006

What underlies Bush's port fiasco?

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...

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

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

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?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

An Interesting Essay on the War on Drugs

As the title says, an interesting statement from a military man on "The War on Drugs' taken as a military perspective. Makes some valid points too - especially with the comparison with Vietnam - essentially they're the same, in that they're open-ended with no possible victory solution beyond a Mexican Standoff.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I really, really hope you're reading this on a wired network

Sometimes I read something that just baffles me. Sure, as Gilbert says, "the jury is still out", but some juries are stupider than others.

I wonder if they allow those computers on campus that I hear are all the rage with the kids.

Thanks for tip, Doug.

Friday, February 24, 2006

We don't want to put 'ol Steve on the hotseat just yet...

We know that his base isn't going to support pissing money hard and fast into the black hole just yet.

All things in time, my friends, all things in time...

The first shot is fired

In the daycare/childcare war. The Tores have notified the provinces that the old Liberal daycare package is officially dead.

This is definitely going to be interesting. The Quebec provincial Liberals will, I presume, go to bat for a replacement package that gives them the same amount or more money than the lost package. So too will Ontario and Manitoba, but the Quebec battle will be the most interesting, as the BQ have already largely thrown their weight behind the federal Conservatives.

Since the Liberals have already said that they're just going to sulk this one out, the battle is handed to the NDP; it is time to get their daycare proposal out in front of Canadians. This may well be the Conservative plan - the Liberals are rudderless and largely ineffective and the NDP have said that they are going to make a counter-proposal but might not have one fully ready yet. If the NDP fails to counter, or worse comes out with something half-baked, the victory is to the Conservatives.

With the Conservatives likely to do as much as they possible can without having to go to Parliament and risk losing a confidence vote, an NDP proposal will get a lot of attention, particularly if it's good.

Commonwealth Games update

I knew if I waited long enough some smarter person than I would do the math for me. The estimate cited in my previous musing on the cost of hosting the Commonwealth Games ranged from 0.8% to 3% of the annual municiple budget for the nebulously defined "lifespan of planned sports infrastructure".

Using 20 years as an estimate of this period of time, which I think might be low judging from how long facilities like Dalplex and the YMCA have been maintained, we get a cost of up to $350 million, a figure which does not include maintenance costs of the facilities for that period.

As I said before, I'm not entirely against the idea of hosting the games here, but I don't know how on earth we can afford it. If anyone wants to weigh in to convince me, feel free; I'd love to hear from you.

Testing RSS feed...

Don't read this...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Halifax Regional School Board

A Halifax city councillor has called for the province to take over the management of the Halifax Regional School Board after the second controversial/childish (you pick) incident in as many months. The first time it was Doug Sparks who disagreed with the location of his new chair. Apparently, he felt that his new seat was not as dignified as his previous, and that he had a Charter right to sit anywhere he pleased. I haven't done it yet, but I'd be willing to bet that if you search the Charter of Rights and Freedoms for "sit where you like" you'll find as many references as "shut the fuck up, dipshit".

This time it is Peggy Draper, who, contrary to the rules missed three monthly sessions in a row, two apparently for business and one for illness. Interestingly enough, one of her fellow members and supporter missed the meeting for illness and his vote would have been enough to break the tie. The fact that she declared bankruptcy without telling the board a few years back, also against the rules, probably played against her.

There was a plan after the Sparks incident to call in a mediator to help the Board iron out its differences and get back on track.

If "call in an external mediator" is politicspeak for "grow the fuck up", I'm all for it. However, I gotta think that these things don't come free and it should come right out of Board salaries, because I'd hate to think that the money could have been otherwise spent on, I don't know, schools or something.

The province should definitely step in here, if not to manage, at least to clean house and call another election. I'm not sure if they can or not. These people have important work to do and if they can't get off their asses to show up and do it, or can't shut their pieholes about where to put their asses, then they should have to defend themselves in a re-election and soon.

[update - 24 Feb 8:45 AM] The provincial Education Minister Jamie Muir will order the members of the Board into mediation immediately to settle their "differences". Meanwhile, Peggy Draper is sulking to her lawyer. Good luck with the remediation! Good luck next election, Peggy!

Ya Gotta Love This Province...

The Newfoundland Government is closing the schools at lunchtime tomorrow so the kiddies can see Brad Gushue's team play the Gold Medal Game in Curling.

Not sure what kind of message this sends to kids - on the other hand, it's understandable, since there hasn't been a Newfoundlander in the Olympics since '94 - and heck, I'm planning to watch, and I don't even understand Curling - all I know is there's a House, and you throw rocks at it - which, come to think of it, is the sort of thing you get kicked out of school for anyway...

The list of contenders is out...

For the opening in the Supreme Court. Doubtlessly, Stephen Harper has already decided who he is going to pick, but it might be a little disconcerting for him to have the list of nominees leaked, as suggested in the linked article. Why this should be so, I'm not sure, but there you go.

Why the secrecy, anyway? Why shouldn't Canadians know who is up for nomination to an effective lifetime appointment to a body that will arbitrate the very legality of our laws? I understand the reluctance to go to a full-blown public hearing like the circus in the US, but I strongly disagree with this:

Patricia Hughes, the current dean of law at the University of Calgary, termed it unfortunate that the list had got out. "I would not like to see this become the norm, that we start throwing out names publicly," said Hughes. 'Are we trying to say it's a sort of election? I don't find it to be a very elegant way to select a member of the top court of Canada."

I don't know about you, but elegance is not what I consider the greatest asset of a democratic state. Public debates, campaigning, holding elections, none of these things are what I would consider "elegant", but they are indeed "essential". If I want elegance, I like the pure, clean efficiency of a fascism, or maybe the regal haughtiness of a monarchy, but damn it, I'm stuck here in a cludgy old democracy.

[Edit] Of course Harper knew who he was going to select - the "selection" committee only gets to ask questions of the person already selected. Marshall Rothstein, who Janet had at 3-2 got the nod this morning. I'm pretty stoopid sometimes, sorry.

And now, presenting the kitchen-sink critic...

If nothing else, the new Conservative government is going to be well-critisized. Forty-one critics and thirty-eight associate critics makes the list of those that didn't get so posted far shorter than those that did.

Some of the posts make sense, but some of them have me scratching my head. Belinda Stronach is Transportation critic, I presume because her dad makes car parts, but is that Ujjal Dosanjh in Defense?

Unprincipled bastard III

He's facing so much heat on the home front that he can't travel to Ottawa to do his job. The solution? Bring Ottawa to him so he can bloody well work from home!

"And grapes, more grapes! Peel one for me, would you? Oh yes, I would love one of those delicious sundaes I hear so much about, too."

David Emerson, you had better be the best goddamned minister we have ever had, though somehow I doubt it; smart people aren't naive to the point of stupidity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Nice little country you have here, wouldn't want anything to happen to it...

Sub-text is everything, no?

Rene Preval is set to welcome Jean-Bertrand Aristide back into the country, if he wants to return, and the Americans, always the concerned lot are concerned that his return might make us fuck you up good destabilize the fragile government.

Nero Fiddled While Rome Burned

But today instead, while 39.5 million Americans live in poverty, people can go and pay $1,000 USD for an ice-cream sundae. Just as an exercise of curiosity, how many homeless people do you think the customers of this restaurant pass each day? Just remember, whether it's a $1,000 dollar sundae or a $2 Drumstick, once it's passed through the digestive system - it all looks the same.

Halifax's commonWealth games

If Halifax wins the bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games, it will stand to pay on the order of $750 million for the honour. Naturally, much of the money will come from federal and provincial coffers, and one hopes from the private sector as well, but according to the municipality's estimates, HRM will be holding the bag to the tune of 0.8 to 3 percent of its entire annual budget for the "lifespan of planned sports infrastructure". Without saying how long this might be, one can only be left to speculate, and speculation leads to thoughts of Montreal 1976.

Dale MacLennan, the city's Finance Director says, "You can’t simply look at costs when you’re evaluating the benefit of this — it must be based on what the net benefits to the communities are."

Too true, Ms. MacLennan, but where does this big-minded dreaming lay dormant in the minds of our municiple leaders when it comes to issues like policing or sheltering the homeless, or expanding schools and libraries? Where is the talk of "net benefit to the communities" on issues more mundane like shortfalls to the Metro Transit budget?

Let's just play a little mental game for a moment. Wouldn't it benefit the community to have a cheaper bus system, hell, for sake of argument, why not a free one? How much of the annual budget do we spend on transit? How much would we spend if it were free? Maybe, instead of throwing unknown quantities of cash into a harbour ferry from Bedford, lets first figure out how many cars we would take off of the road by making the buses free. Would the trip in from Bedford by bus then be as quick as a ferry? How far would we go to meeting our Kyoto committments with that one measure? How much easier would it be to get parking downtown? Oh my, I'm getting dizzy.

I'm not saying that I'm 100% against the Commonwealth Games bid - I love sports and I'd probably buy a ticket or three. Hell, I might even kick my family out of the house and rent the bedrooms out at outrageous prices to homeless kiwis for the duration; but I would dearly love to see the business community, who apparently think they'll make off like bandits on this thing, pony up a healthy chunk of the cost up front. Maybe our business leaders have the heuvos grandes (thank you, Stephen Colbert) necessary to pull this off without putting too many of our public needs at risk.

But I doubt it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

'cuz ugly things need luvin' too

What's the next thing the city of Moncton nominates as a historic property? The waterfront dump? Crystal Palace?

Keep in mind, this is the city that has regularly smoked truly lovely historic homes in its downtown core seemingly on whims.

Thanks for pointing this out, Dan.

Stephen Harper switches communications directors...

'cuz it's sometimes really, really hard to find good help.

The BQ fear for their lives and admit the Tories are kicking their ass in PQ

Or, that's how the title of the article would read if I wrote it. So it appears that the Harper government has found an ally in the Bloc Quebecois for now. I presume this has more to do with fear of what another election might do to the BQ numbers, as the Quebecois distrust of the Liberals has now been replaced by a warming to the Tories.

In fairness, the devolution of powers that the CPC has talked about will stand to enhance provincial power across the country and this will help "regionalists" in every province. Also, the Conservatives under The Chin did try to bring Quebec further into the national tent with the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords, so there is some evidence that at least the old Tories hold Quebec important at some level. Of course, the Reform Party fought the Charlottetown Accord tooth and nail throughout the west, so this marriage between the Bloc and Conservatives might set teeth grating on the western side of the CPC.

It will be really interesting to see how the Bloc react to what looks to be a heated debate on childcare - an issue that is crucial to the Quebec provincial government. If they come down on the side of the Conservatives on a deal that appears to take power and dollars from the existing daycare system they will be handing a club to Jean Charest who will then be able to use it on the PQ when the provincial election rolls around.

A bad turnout for the Parti Quebecois in the next provincial election, right now a long shot, combined with slipping support for the BQ might just put the sovereignty debate on the back burner for a few more years.

My Stupid Capitalist Idea

This is embarassing to admit publicly, but I went through an Ayn Rand phase when I was younger. I don't really know why; I was a poor university student and there she was, this older, worldly woman. Before you know it I was flipping open her covers and working my way through her turgid prose learning the stories, no fables, really, of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

In Ayn's world, a man could accomplish anything with nothing but will alone. It was a beautiful world full of success, ambition, trials, more success, and an almost pre-determined Darwinian failure of the weaker. And those that tried to impede that success with rules and controls were mere mortals quaking in fear at the very feet of the Atlas I would become.

Ah, the world that Ayn opened up for me. A world where charity meant promoting weakness and was to be shunned. A stratified world divided by caste into those that could and those that couldn't.

Of course, I snapped out of it. First, I realized that any sensible person could pull better prose out of his ass. But more importantly, I knew what most thinking people know, though modern conservatives are loathe to say out loud - life is not fair. Life is not fair from the very beginning, from that point on we are provided for differently and this "nurture" guides our innate "nature" down one of many well-trodden paths.

They won't say it, but they know it. They know it in the very core of their being, however you won't hear them say "Can't afford your goddamn MRI? Deal with it!", but the subtext is there. They know it in the way that they define themselves. What indeed does a conservative conserve? Why, the status quo, of course; things are the way they like them to be and dammit, why change? "Why should I give a rat's ass about someone who doesn't have the wherewithal, the gumption, to take the chances that I took to get where I am; to have what I have?"

Why indeed?

Economic and social conservatism are in principle the same; they share a Protestant "fend for yourself" worldview. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with some elements of this - it promotes hard work and innovation, it tends toward a social and economic Darwinism in which those that outcompete win. The problem with this goes back to my "life isn't fair" statement above - those that start out with advantage tend to outcompete those without except in extraordinary circumstances.

I don't question the following of conservative philosophy among the world's wealthy - it only makes sense. But surely 36% of our country isn't that wealthy?

Jack Layton needs Buzz Hargrove

Or, so says Larry Zolf.

I agree, but Larry's statement is incomplete. Jack Layton needs Buzz Hargrove like Stephen Harper needs Belinda Stronach.

Or David "Unscrupulous Bastard" Emerson for that matter.

Is this for real, or just a Liberal dream?

According to The Tyee, Liberal insiders are actively courting the current head of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Louise Arbour to jump into the leadership hunt. I can't see why she would be interested, but getting her into the leadership hunt would be a coup for the Liberals. Her reputation is spotless, she is internationally respected everywhere outside of Washington, and she carries the intellectual cache of Michael Ignatief without the highbrow stigma of never having put in an honest day's work. Oh yeah, and she hasn't pissed off any Ukrainians that I know of.

She'd give this up for the rough and tumble of Ottawa?

Would you?

Now that Stephen Harper has changed the Supreme Court selection process from a PMO-appointment to a PMO-appointment, who better to start naming Supreme Court justices than a past one herself?

Vic Toews on Supreme Court nominations...

One of the nice things about the political Canadian system is that we have a written record to track of what our nation's politicians say. (Oh that we had less that went on behind closed doors!) It gets particularly interesting when we politicians move from one side of government to the other, in a "then and now" kind of way. I can't wait to hear David "Unprincipled Bastard" Emerson when Parliament sits again, for instance.

That said, PoliticsWatch has a fun little piece that outlines the questioning between then Opposition justice critic Vic Toews and then Justice Minister Irwin Cotler on the process the Liberal government laid out for the selection of Supreme Court judges.

Money quote:

There is no public input. There is simply a confirmation by this nominating committee of one of the five or eight people the government has picked out. How is this in any way different from what already goes on?

It's going to be interesting to here the new Justice Minister Toews defend the new government's use of essentially the same process.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A judicial start...

So a parliamentary committee will get to ask questions of new Supreme Court nominees. That is a good start, however Harper doesn't go all the way and allow actual votes for the nominee, instead he keeps that power in the PMO.

As I say, it is a start, but really, what would be wrong in giving a Parliamentary committee the right to vote on a nominee?

Daycare, touche

This is looking to be the issue that is going to define the debate for the next session of Parliament. Yesterday, the new Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, killed any chance that the Conservatives will honour the Liberal daycare plan. That this happens in the face of Bill Graham's line-in-the-sand statements of last week and demands from premiers that the Liberal plan or $omething $ort of $imilar be honoured sets up a showdown issue.

All this for my three-year old. It's touching, really.

Isn't this just the stupidest thing?

Tell me again why I need five razor blades? Is it because President's Choice has caught up with the triple blade razor at half the price?

Register this...

Vivelecanada posted an interesting article on a strict statistical measurement of the cost versus benefit of gun registration. You should go read their report, which is short, but the outcome is that somewhere less than 0.25% of all guns in Canada (using estimates of the number of weapons and known crimes of violence) are used in crimes, therefore greater than 99.75% of the cost of registering the weapons is essentially wasted.

Of course there are those of you that would say "if the gun registry saves one life it's worth it". To this I have two things to say, first I'll quote the article:

In Canada, handguns have been strictly registered since 1934, sixty-one years
later in 1995 the Department of Justice admitted that they could not identify a
single instance where the handgun registry had ever “helped” solve a crime.

I have no idea if the Justice Department would say the same thing now that the issue has become so politicized, nor if other involved agencies, like say the RCMP, would have said the same thing even then, so I leave that quote out there for you to bash around.

Secondly, and these are my words, not from the report, is saving one life really worth everything? If so, why aren't you sending yourself and all of your money to Indonesia to help rescue mudslide victims? Or, closer to home, giving all of your money to prevent death by sheltering and feeding the homeless or propping up our weakened healthcare system? This is a specious argument used to play the emotion card when evidence and facts don't back up the argument. It should not be taken seriously.

My sympathies go out to those that have lost loved ones to guns and to those in Mirimichi that might lose their jobs with the gun registration program, but it doesn't work, and really can't. There are better ways to counter gun violence - more cops, better education, better economic opportunities are three that come to mind immediately.

Oh Bernie, Bernie, Bernie

As a long-time believer that Bernard Lord is an idiot, I had a good laugh this weekend reading his strange accusations after Tanker Malley walked half-way across the floor to sit as an independent, leaving the government in a minority situation. (Is it just me, or does there seem to be a lot of this going around?)

Anyway, with no shred of proof, Lord goes to the media with a list of apparent demands that Malley made to keep him in the party. They included more money for his constituency office, money to hire a "special assistant", which I think means "girlfriend" in Mirimichi, and appoint a buddy of his to be a provincial court judge.

I don't know Malley from Noah, so I won't deny that these requests were made, but Lord, get this, offering no proof whatsoever that these demands were actually made, no note, no signature, no audio tape, nothing, he tells reporters the name of the lawyer.

Now, lawyers tend to be a litigious lot, and those that work in capital cities, even small ones like Fredericton, hell maybe even moreso in small ones, know how to get stuff done within the confines of government. I suspect we'll see some sort of abject apology from Bernard Lord before the week is out. He probably won't sound quite as bad as he did during the question period after presenting his first throne speech, when I think he actually cried, but he will apologize.

It is with great glee that I remember those halcyon days when the federal Tories came begging for Lord to run nationally as their leader.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Watch out for the invasion of the pro-war Christians

If you are a liberal-minded Canadian and proud of the fact that we've maintained our own independance in spite of our proximity to a very large and powerful neighbour, read the linked article and get prepared.

I will start digging into these guys in some more detail in the coming days and weeks, indeed I may take up the fight in defense of non-theistic government as a semi-permanent feature of this, or perhaps another blog, so I won't comment in great detail right now. Let me just say that I don't want our govenment influenced by close-minded idiots that call gay marriage "cultural Marxism" and fantasize about Canadians joining the US in pissing away ever more money on defense. Didn't the Bible say shit about turning swords into ploughshares?

That he has become a juggarnaut among the invisible-guy-in-the-sky crowd in the US frightens me all the more.

Tasers and the "liberal" media

So it's lunchtime (late today) and I'm on my daily surf, which sadly takes me to some pretty dark blue places of the conservative Canadian blogoshpere. I find this article on the always right and grammatically-challenged Time for the Right blog. The topic, "liberal media bias". (If the TheTorontoTory manages to see this - use paragraphs. They're helpful.)

Anyway, the article, which is oddly titled "Liberalism at its finest", is about another article relating the story of a 16 year-old kid that got tasered in an Edmonton jail. Apparently, he was arrested for trying to break into a house. He was caught, they found some knives on him, hauled his butt into jail and then after he was in a cell, an officer allegedly grabbed him and jammed a taser into his back and gave him some juice. The officer alleges that the unarmed kid "made a threatening gesture" toward him, but the judge later determined that the use of the taser was "completely uncalled for".

The Blogging Tory take on this? The original article took the side of the kid, which is apparently a problem, even though a judge did exactly the same thing. In light of other cases about the misuse of (largely) non-lethal force like tasers in the news these days, I think that documenting these cases is a beneficial thing. So maybe the kid made a threatening gesture - grab him, cuff him, whatever, but why jump to the taser? I mean, you tasered him in the back, so apparently you managed to turn him around, whatever happened to the full nelson? Jesus.

Don't get me wrong, the kid and his mom both sound like assholes, but that really isn't the point of either article.

Ernie Fage steps down

Nova Scotia's Minister of Economic Development has stepped down for "unspecified" reasons related to his departments disbursement of a loan to potato farm that rents land from him. Well, well, well. He claims that he did not receive any material benefit from the loan, however since there are as yet no details released we can only speculate that perhaps the operation receiving the loan might now be in better shape to say, pay the rent. The article goes on:

Neither Mr. Hamm (the outgoing premier) nor Mr. MacDonald (the newly selected premier) would specify what Mr. Fage did wrong, saying only that the minister felt he had violated the code of conduct.

"The discussions at cabinet are confidential and will remain so," Mr. Hamm said after the meeting.

So, they discussed it at cabinet, found that maybe someone's head should roll, but we don't know why. Naturally the Liberals and the NDP want full disclosure of these discussions, but best of luck with that - we wouldn't want to spoil the reputation of Honest John as his ass disappears through the door.

Hold the Conservatives accountable on accountability

In an article posted on PoliticsWatch yesterday, it appears thta the Conservatives are already dancing around a few of their accountability election promises. The article, based on work by our friends at Democracy Watch (I just put their link on the bar at the left), indicates that the Conservatives put in place most of their accountability platform already - that which didn't need parliamentary approval. Democracy Watch notes five promises that could have been put in place that were either watered down (one) or ignored altogether (four).

The proposals in question deal with the role of the ethics commissioner, the handling of blind trusts, and the five year limit on lobbying by former ministers and staffers.

I applaud the Conservatives on going some distance to tightening up the regulations, but I'd like them to go all the way on the promised changes. That is all I expect of them.

For more aggressive changes, I look to the NDP.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Gretzky won't face criminal charges

I know, it's not part of the general gab on this blog, but I just had to posit the following question:

Who ever thought this headline would ever be written?

It's them American women, I tell you!

Good prospect for the Conservatives?

If not good news, certainly some people are at least projecting a hopeful Tory decade. Of course, the editorial to which I refer is from the Calgary Sun, so we must take note of the source. Many of their editorials are really Conservative advertorials.

Another bit of good news, albeit from a public opinio poll, so again I wouldn't give it much weight, comes from the Globe and Mail. If asked to vote today (from Feb 9 - 13), the Tory support is essentially the same as it was on election day, but the NDP have made a seven-point gain, almost entirely from the Liberals.

No doubt the loss of Liberal support comes from their essential invisibility the past couple of weeks combined with the rather high profile that the NDP have taken. It is also interesting that the Emerson and Fortier boondoggle seems to not have affected the Conservatives.

Of course these are really early days, so one mustn't make anything out of polls or advertorials like these, but if this trend continues for too long we might see the Conservatives do something outrageous to push for an election and slice off the Liberal popular vote toward the NDP.

Maybe Harper's wet dream is not too far off?

Nova Scotia has a new premier, but who's buying?

Campaign finance doesn't get the attention that it deserves. A cynical person might suspect that there was a reason we didn't talk about this sort of thing. Or to use the old analogy, it might be like making sausages. In any case, the Nova Scotia Tory party leadership convention last weekend in Halifax has brought this back to the fore in these parts. I have nothing bad to say about Rodney MacDonald, but the fact is we have a new premier and we don't have any idea who bankrolled him. Frankly, that bothers me.

And this bothers me even more:

While each camp was not allowed to spend more than $250,000, there was no ceiling on how much they could raise in donations. If a candidate has a surplus after all expenses are paid, the money is to be turned over to the party.

This bothers me, too:

The (candidates financial) statements will be publicly released March 31, said campaign co-chairman Rob Batherson.

Ultimatetly, there is some accountability, well, at least some tallying, but wouldn't the electorate be better served by releasing the details before the candidates vote? Or would that unfairly bias the delegates decisions?

Or would that fairly bias the candidates decisions?

Rene Preval declared winner

So how long do you think it will take before the Americans go after him, too?

Simple bluster?

Bill Graham came out in today's Globe and Mail both aggressive and passive-aggressive in his pronouncement that the Liberal Party is not about to bust it's hump to support the Conservatives when parliament resumes. In particular, he appears to be willing to draw a line in the sand on child care and the GST cut. It will be interesting to see whether he is just playing chicken with Stephen Harper or whether the Liberals would try to bring the Conservatives down in the middle of their own leadership campaign. As for the other opposition parties, he sniffed:

Other parties will have to decide whether they want to compromise on this, because they're the ones — the Canadian public very well knows — that put us in this position. They're the ones that created the Harper government. They're the ones that are going to have to accommodate it.

He also claims to be "astonished" that the NDP are going to put forth a child care plan of their own, which will possibly look a lot like the package that "they" killed when "they" brought down the Liberal government in December. "Humph", he went on, "I'm not playing and I'm taking my football home!"

If the Liberals honestly believe that the NDP alone brought down a standing government with their 19 seats, then Jack must be overlord protector of all mankind now that he has 29.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Yes, yes here's your chance...

To join:

Conservative Agenda

PoliticsWatch has a good summary of what's to come in the next sitting of the parliament. Read if for yourself, but here are the highlights:
  • Everyone's too scared to call another election so the Conservatives will have their way for a while if they don't get too stupid
  • It might be up to a year before the Liberals find a new leader because they will want the time to dig themselves out of debt. (Bet they would have moved much more quickly if Chairman of the Board McKenna jumped in the race!)
  • Parliament should sit around the first of April.
  • The Conservatives' big ticket items will be accountability, GST cut, crime, childcare, patient wait time guarentee, and (maybe) the federal-provincial fiscal imbalance and gay marriage.
  • PW believes that all but childcare should go through with various coalitions on a by-issue basis. Gay marriage is the exception, it will be a free vote that PW thinks will be close, but any changes are unlikely to pass.

Boys and their guns

"Death changes everything in this regard," said Chris Downey, a former Texas prosecutor. While most minor hunting accidents in the state do not even get reported and Mr. Cheney was initially cleared of any wrongdoing by the local sheriff, he could face serious charges if his hunting partner were to die."

"A lot of accidents can be considered criminal negligent acts," Mr. Downey said in a televised interview. The wide-ranging charge of criminal negligence can be laid against anyone who "disregards substantial and unjustifiable risk," he said.

And of course since the police waited to interview Cheney for long enough for any alcohol to leave his system, criminal negligence can be harder to prove.

Not saying he was drunk, I'm just saying. You know.

edit: I just found these links (here and here). It looks like someone is digging around and there might well be a fair bit of dirt here. I mean, alcohol, a woman that he's not married to - heavens, I believe I'm getting the vapours! Let's see if anything non-bloggy, more mainstreamy comes of this.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Tory blue through rose-coloured glasses

Trolling around the blogosphere of the Canadian Right is often quite productive. For instance, Stephen Taylor's post today is full of little treasures, and quite an interesting summary of some of the (perceived) potential upside to Harper's most controversial Cabinet choices:

One realizes that Stephen Harper is reaching out to all areas of Canada whether it elected a Conservative or not. The Prime Minister is practising pragmatic politics and will end up gaining more from the two controversial cabinet appointments than he invested. If Emerson solves the softwood lumber trade dispute and if Michael Fortier, as a Quebecker, cleans up the ministry that so-enraged Quebeckers, Stephen Harper will take his minority and drive it towards offering a pan-Canadian majority to all Canadians. Pair success in these two portfolios with a 1% GST reduction, various income tax credits passed and the $1200 childcare credit, the Harper long-term majority government plan appears that it has been on track since day one.

So, by tempting Emerson across the floor he has in fact demonstrated that he is willing to reach out to all Canadians, regardless of their political stripe. How open of him, indeed! What was "opportunistic poaching" a year ago has become "pragmatic politics". I suppose I can't argue that point, actually, but it's kind of nice to see someone admit the Machiavellian nature of it upfront. As for the Fortier appointment, he has chosen a Quebecker to "clean up" the ministry that enraged them so. Indeed he has! He has in fact, interestingly chosen someone to "clean up" Public Works that cannot actually speak in the House. Odd, that.

Assuming success in these two portfolios, which in Taylor's mind is a certainty, we can't be but a short hop skip and a jump away from a Conservative majority government. First, there is certainly some debate as to Emerson's involvment in the softwood lumber resolution, as it appears that he might have scuttled a deal before the election and has in fact recused himself from dealing with any issues related to Canfor, a company he previously headed. How exactly he is supposed to involve himself in a trade dispute involving a company he previously ran is beyond me. But he's bound to be succesful!

He's also unlikely to get much agreement on his child care platform in its current form. With problems looming in the existing Quebec plan, the BQ are not going to let the government renege on previous federal commitment$. I have not read the official BQ line, but Jean Charest has already set the tone, a sentiment that has been relfected by other premiers and one that Duceppe will be loathe to ignore:

We want the agreement reached with the former government to be respected
It is equally unlikely that the NDP would allow for massive cuts to the existing childcare plan, and in fact will very likely be asking for more funding, and as much as any Liberal is afraid of a snap election before they've selected a leader, any MP voting in favour of gutting a crucial Liberal plank is going to have to face an angry electorate next time around.

Oh yes, it's all roses for Harper from here on!

David, someone loves you.

Norman Spector pledges his undying love for UB in a G&M op/ed piece today. Apparently Emerson "hasn't a partisan bone in his body", is "refreshingly honest", and is "politically tone deaf", and that the whole affair can be blamed on "the Conservatives' poor communications plan". He then goes on to profess his understanding of the feelings for the Liberal party volunteers that got burned, but he believes that many in the riding voted for David Emerson, not the Liberal Party.

Now, I'm the first to agree that the Conservatives have certainly not helped matters, but the fact is, people are far, far more angry about this defection than I think either Harper or Emerson had anticipated. Whether this reaction is orchestrated by the Opposition is open to some discussion, but it happened awfully quickly and is staying strong and focused, in the way that a groundswell maintains itself, not tweaked and forced like a political campaign. As for whether or not the voters checked off "Emerson" or "Liberal Party" on their ballot - I can think of an easy test.

He also attempts to justify the defection by citing similarities with the Stronach situation - the NDP are one seat short of holding the balance of power, etc. To this I have two things to say. First, we can't dismiss out of hand that the NDP and Liberals shared some commonality upon which to build a coalition which is almost entirely absent between the NDP and the Conservatives. There is very little chance that Layton and Harper are going to be allowed to see eye -to-eye on any important issues by their respective parties, so a coalition is not going to be possible in any real sense. Stephen Harper himself has said as much. Secondly, while this does accurately highlight inconsistencies in the policies of the Liberals and Conservatives, the NDP have been consistent on this issue.

This is an absolute gift to Jack Layton, one which, if handled intelligently, can result in the moral high ground being ceded to the NDP. And that is one of those intangibles whose importance is impossible to understimate. It is often trotted out that the Canadian public does not want another election any time soon and this gives the Conservatives a bit of leeway to push some legislation through. However, if the public views them as justanothercorruptgovernment, the Opposition, particularly the NDP and arguable the BQ as well, can feel free to haul them down at any time.

I would be very nervous if I was Stephen Harper and I would be in a much greater hurry to fill the leader's chair if I was a Liberal. The real keys to the government have just been handed over to the minority parties. Well done, Stephen. Well done, David.

Monday, February 13, 2006

How uncomfortable can it possibly get?

I refer, of course to Peter Mackay being forced to defend the defection of Unprincipled Bastard to the Conservatives amid comparisons to the similar defection of his former sweetie Belinda. Naturally, since the principle of sticking your mates in the back is generally pretty consistent from one event to the other he has to find some hairs to split to differentiate. Here is what he said:
What David Emerson did, I would suggest, is different, in the sense that he has done this early after the election in hopes of continuing the important work that he was doing inside a government which he was obviously very disillusioned with.

Unlike other moves, it didn't happen at a critical juncture that propped the government up. There wasn't that sense that there was strict reward or leadership ambition.
This is such utter tripe that it's hard to see where to start. I can almost see poor Peter pulling the words out and trying to haul them back in at the same time. But, for fun, let's try to see where he's coming from.

First, the timing is imprtant, and he's right, there is a definite difference between jamming your mates when you know it's going to hurt (Belinda) and jamming them when it's convenient for you (David). Naturally, they are both odious, but neither is ethically purer than the other. Stronach jumped ship to feather her nest after coming to the realization that her leadership ambitions were thwarted, which, when it comes right down to it is pretty much what Emerson did for his ministerial post.

Alas, according to Peter, Emerson just had to continue with the critical work he was doing while in government. Well, Peter, hate to say this but there are probably a few dozen other Liberals who would tell you the same thing, so unless you're about to cede every portfolio back over to the Libs, you might wanna can this line of thought.

He then goes on to explain that Emerson was "obviously" disillusioned, implying somehow both that this makes it okay and that Stronach was not disillusioned. I don't know where to go with this except to say that it is an empty and meaningless statement.

And finally, at last, the coup de grace for Peter's argument -
There wasn't that sense that there was strict reward or leadership ambition
Bwahahaha - you have just got to be kidding! Perhaps not leadership per se, but reward? THe moment David Emerson says "I'll be minister, you keep the salary", I'll believe that he crossed without promise of reward.

Peter is a lawyer and you just have to know that this is his way of defending Harper against the NDP call to the ethics commissionser I mentioned earlier.

Presenting our new Minister of National Defense...

At first blush, it seems kind of natural to have a former career military officer heading up the Defense Department. At first blush, that is. There is an issue that I will set aside for now that maybe it is better to have a civilian nominally in charge of the military, but since the PM sits somewhere above the Minister we still ultimately have that. So I was willing to check this one off as perhaps being a good choice on Harper's part, kind of like making a doctor the health minister.

That is until I started reading in a variety of places that this is no average retired military officer. Well, not the retired part, anyway. (Okay, I've talked to some ex-military friends who claim that once you get that far up the chain of command "retirement" is a bit of a hazy concept.) Before running for Parliament and winning in 2004, he worked as senior lobbyist with Hill and Knowlton, lobbying extensively with many companies that do business with the very department he now runs. The list is long enough that it will cramp my hand to write out, so go check it yourself.

Be amazed.

Welcome Briguy!

Ah yes, the perks at blevkog are simply awesome! Briguy will provide some grand insights with snark to spare.


National "Citizens" Coalition II

Last time I looked into the NCC's position on campaign free speech. In this update, I would like to stay on the topic of electoral reform and look at plank 5, which they have pithily summarized "end welfare to politicians".

No, I'm afraid they aren't suggesting bringing their salaries down, because that would prevent us from attracting the "best and the brightest" (which oddly enough includes David Emerson). The NCC is (of course) going after recent changes to the Canada Elections Act that attempt to democratize the process of running for office by providing a quarterly allowance to official political parties that win at least 2% of the popular vote in the previous election.

In the parlance of the NCC's chillingly-titled Agenda for Canada, the Canadian public is being forced to support political parties against their will. While the thought that some of my tax dollars is being spent on the Conservative party campaign does raise the bile a little, the fact that all parties, including the Green Party, get some money to make their platforms known is on the whole positive.

Elections are won and lost in large part on which party can best mobilize the largest share of the electorate. This means money - money for offices, staff, travel, and increasingly - advertising. Advertising has become by far the greatest cost that any party carries during a national election campaign. No matter how noble the ideals behind a political party, if it does not have sufficient funds to get the platform in the face of the voter, there is very little chance that they will get the vote. The financing laws in the Canada Elections Act were put there to make it possible for smaller parties to receive some funding in the hopes that their ideas might be presented more fairly to the public. Money does not buy votes, but a lack of money denies them.

Naturally, in the current system some parties will be richer than others - there is no limit to the amount of money that a party can spend for instance, so the playing field is far from level. That is always going to be the case in a system in which political parties are allowed to solicit the public for funding. Larger parties will have more cash, as will parties that manage to tap donors that themselves have more cash. The system is still stacked in favour of the larger, business-friendly parties; these campaign financing laws have a long way to go before an actual fair vote becomes possible - but they are a start.

This will likely not be an issue in a minority parliament; I mention it mainly to highlight the tone of the National Citizen's Coalition. Whether the Conservative Party acts on this in the future will tell us a lot about whether it actually believes any of its talk about "grassroots democracy" - because that is what these laws are really all about. Naturally, the Conservative Party talk about "grassroots" is bullshit - they are as deeply-indebted to corporate Canada as the Liberals. It's just that "grassroot" talk has gotten them quite a long ways, and may carry them as far as it has the Republican Party to the south.

And that's really the yardstick, isn't it?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

For Unprincipled Bastard, there is only one way out

I just tried to click into the petitiononline site to look at the petition and the "view signatures" and "sign petition" links weren't working. Methinks it is receiving some heavy action.

In all seriousness, what the hell did he think was going to happen? He defects like 8 minutes after the election into a cushy cabinet post after serving in the Liberal cabinet competently but without distinction.

So, he's got angry mobs ringing his doorbell, protests in his home riding drawing hundreds, christ, they even have campaign buttons! It's enough to disillusion a guy, I tell you! I hear that he's so disheartened that he's thinking of not even running in the next election. Word up, Dave - if the Conservatives on the ground have any more balls or brains than you, you wouldn't survive a nomination convention to even get that far. If a Marxist-Leninist was your only competition you'd still come in third.

And, to top it off, there might have been a plan in the works long before the election to pull UB into the Tory ranks.

So, even though they knew months in advance that Emerson wasn't happy and might be interested, the Conservatives did not put together a team to spin this thing and instead have watched it fly out of control to the point that they've lost any opportunity they had to operate from the moral high ground this parliament. Of course I am laughing my ass off watching these guys limp around with "Vibram" stomped into their dicks again.

Chretien must be howling with laughter at Martin - "you lost to these guys?"

Where does Harper go now? Do you admit defeat, cut Emerson and write it off as a lesson learned? Nah, probably already too late for that. I can't imagine the mea culpa that would be required to get rid of this kind of stink. I kinda think that he's stuck with him and the stench of his decision now.

I can imagine that there are going to be some icy stares come next cabinet meeting.

edit: I just noticed that the NDP are asking the ethics commisioner to look into whether Emerson was "enticed" by Stephen Harper to cross the floor. If so, this is apparently illegal. I'm not exactly sure why it's illegal now and not last year when Belinda Stronach walked to become the Minister of Humiliating Peter Mackay, but there you go. That's why I'm not making the big bucks.

I somehow knew...

That Dick had it in him to do the rough stuff himself!

Kevblog quiz:

Can you tell the difference between:


Dick couldn't.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Which bracketted term is the most ironic?

No planned blogging today - weekends with toddlers are not conducive to peaceful blogging. However, a quick google on UB's given name and this came up:

Friday, February 10, 2006

Welcome Graven!

I would like to welcome graven to the highly paid staff of blevkog! I hope that his contributions will provide an antidote to my own purple prose and poor grammar.


The Captain confuses the goose and gander

I guess it's nice that there are some American bloggers in the Canadian loop, but it would be nice if they made a bit more of an effort to get their geese in order. Perhaps it's just access to information or something, so let's update help out by updating Captain Ed.

In his post, he notes the hand-wringing in the Liberal and NDP camps over the floor-crossing of Unprincipled Bastard, however he suggests that there was much less furor over the same dance by Belinda Stronach last year. This is certainly true for the Liberals, for whom Stronach provided about six or seven more months of executive seating, however Peter Stoffer of the NDP proposed a private member's bill that would force MP's to either sit as an independent, and thereby be unable to accept a Cabinet nomination, or to offer for byelection in their new party clothes. The bill was ultimately rejected, but not before 40 Conservatives and all NDP members voted in favour. It would be interesting to see just how the Conservatives would vote if this were offered again. Oh wait - it likely will be!

For the record, all but one member of the the Liberal caucus joined Unprincipled Bastard in voting the bill down. This oughta be fun!

The National "Citizens" Coalition

It's worth keeping an eye on the scribblings from this cabal of right-wingers, as they might be quietly crafting a Project for a New Canadian Century. If you have not heard of the NCC, they are busy creating all sorts of justifications for leveraging ever more power to the wealthy. In case you're wondering if they have any real influence on Conservative Party, Stephen Harper is a past president, so I'm sure the official answer is no.

I'll give Unprincipled Bastard one thing - when he said that a Conservative victory would be very good for people like him (the wealthy), he was right. And these are the people holding the new government's feet to the fire to make sure of it.

In my effort to educate myself, I will periodically focus on their various policy musings, as there are several that I'm sure will become national issues, or more worryingly won't, as time goes on.

During this past election campaign, they published this article on campaign "free speech". They refer to the legislation of 2000 that limited the influence of third party groups during election campaigns. Specifically, a third party cannot spend more than $3,000 in any given riding (see Canada Elections Act, 2000) to oppose a candidate or issue.

Naturally, the National Citizen's Coalition thinks that this is a heinous infringement on freedom of speech. They of course fail to mention that in any real sense, this mostly limits those with large disposable incomes from exerting undo influence in the media during a campaign. While it is possible for a regular-Joe citizen to gather up some people and some money to put a smokin' ad in the paper to save the whales or whatever, it is infinitely easier for a bank or corporation to toss some money at an ad company, hire some focus groups, and fucking campaign. Yeah, free speech.

I offer a simple example of how this plays out in reality.

In 2001, amid concerns that many had become addicted to gambling on video lottery machines, others bankrupted, and still others had committed suicide, the New Brunswick government held a referendum on the video lottery gaming industry. (Wanna see the question they asked - here it is.)

During the referendum, amid complaints from citizens' groups that could not afford to advertise, the government allowed "free speech", and the opponents lined up. On the side of video gambling were the bar and restaurant owners who ponied up large sums of cash to protect these cash cows. Local television networks were full of ads about "responsible gambling" and threats of what would happen to the local economy if they weren't allowed to maintain their machines. On the other side were church groups and local social workers - people that had the job of picking up the pieces after someone went off the rails at the helm of one VLT too many. Of course they could not afford very many ads on television, their budgets being much smaller.

The pro-VLT lobby won with a relativelly slim majority.

In the utopian world that modern-day right-wingers inhabit, this is a classic example of free speech at work. "Why, isn't it obvious that the pro-VLT lobby cared more about their cause and put more effort into winning the referendum?" Yes, naturally the VLT owners cared more about the issue than the local social groups who worked with the gambling-addicted. Oh yes, they cared more and they had a budget.

Do not get fooled by this talk of "free speech". When it comes to free speech, money is what really does the talking. The po' folk blog.

This sounds like fun!

Sounds like pennance for something if you ask me.

A child care side door?

Just reading the child care announcement the Conservatives released early this week. It looks exactly like the description in their election campaign, but there is an interesting detail at the end of the document, emphasis mine:
The net fiscal cost of these measures and details on the design of the Allowance will be provided in the Government’s first Budget.
I presume that does not mean the budget is going to act as some kind of American-style omnibus bill with child care tacked on as a "rider".

If I was Stephen Harper I would be trying to push through a few tough-to-sell priorities while the Liberal party is in disarray, but all the same it would be a shame if this didn't get it's full share of debate in Parliament.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

How the hell...

Do I get a job that can pay me $151,000 per year for five years on paid leave?

I'm just saying if you know of one, shout out - my resume will follow.

A busy justice minister

It looks like Vic Toews might be preparing to take the bull by the horns on the gun registry. The registry can't die quickly enough if you ask me, but I can't say that it should go without a vote in parliament, which is what the Conservatives might be considering. As the CP article linked above goes on to say, there is a chance there would be enough cross-party support for scrapping the damn thing without having to resort to a cabinet order, so why even talk about anti-democratic foolishness like this?

I mean, do you guys even read? Or do you just not care?

Wait a minute, is this the NDP?

It appears that the NDP have decided to play a more aggressive role in this parliament. After Harper's announcement that child care was going to be a major policy priority, it is a gutsy and sensible move for them to come out with a plan of their own. It is especially interesting that they appear to be out there defending Liberal policies - a tacit announcement that they believe they are real opposition in this parliament regardless of the number of seats they hold.

This is the kind of attitude that I have already espoused and will continue to cheer on the part of the NDP.

The risk of course, is splitting the non-Conservative vote come next election, but that is an acceptable risk if it means establishing a credible left-wing alternative and squeezing out some sensible legislation in the meanwhile.

Update on the Muslim cartoons...

It appears that an Egyptian paper printed one of them on the front cover last October. During Ramadan.

Remember the riots? Me neither.

Found this via Andrew Sullivan.

Some context for Unprinipled Bastard

The Tyee provides an excellent backgrounder on why the BC public is so angry at UB's defection. It appears the BC Liberal party put a whole lot of eggs into the Emerson basket.

From his reaction, it appears that he won the election on his own, so all of those campaign workers were, I guess, just riding on his coattails.

The same site also has a handy
collection of prime UB quotes over the last year or so. They call them 'moral outrages'. I don't know what phrase I would use, but it would be more, uh, fecal.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Unprinicpled Bastard III - The Reaction

How else did he think the public was going to take this? - my wife

David Emerson, would you say you are more foolish or ambitious? Perhaps you're just trying to top up your pension and only need that extra year or two at the Ministerial level? I know that it's hard to make ends meet on only 144K.

I say this because it is hard to seriously think of you as someone who is preparing to face your electorate within the next two years or so. Perhaps you are relying on your new boss to provide the golden parachute into the Senate? Don't worry - he'll vote for you, and really that's what he meant when he went on (and on and on) about an elected Senate. Oh, you Westerners - every bit the kidders as we Maritimers!

It's a good thing that Mr. Harper has faith in you, because there are a few people out there that seemed to have lost it. Here's a sample:

Serve his constituents? No, just serve himself:
Now, it is true that when he was lured from the private sector to run for the Liberals a couple of years ago, he did so because the Liberals had the best chance of forming the government. He was not interested in serving time in opposition, and had the Tories been in the best position to form the government, he might have run for them.
Vancouver Liberals want Emerson to repay $97,000
He said he had raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Liberals while he was an MP, and that he felt like a "cash cow" for the party.
Angry Emerson seethes at critics (you know that this is gonna be good!)
"My kids are being treated with hostility in school because of what's being said. My kids are crying because of what's being said at school," Emerson told The Province from Ottawa.
He said Liberal attacks on him since his defection are "a sign of a sickness -- a deep sickness," and that he is "very happy" to be sending out letters of resignation.
David, David, David. They are teasing your kids? It must be part of that "deep sickness", right? They can be so cruel, kids. Where do you think they're hearing such slander? Oh yeah, their parents, the ones that voted for you. The ones that gave your party money, which you understand 'cuz you managed a bank and you draw a salary bonus of $71K as a Cabinet Minister. Lesson learned there, huh? You tell 'em David - "vote for this"!

Here is my question - Did Stephen Harper think that this actually was going to work, or is he simply getting back at Emerson for saying all those nasty things about Conservatives the last year or so?

If he thought that this was gonna float him some love in Vancouver, he's obviously miscalculated. He's miscalculated to the extent that the lefty part of me sleeps easily tonight in the knowledge that the Conservative Reign of Error should be a short one. If he's getting back at Emerson then he's gutsy and cunning and, ah screw it, I want to sleep.

A funny thing happened on the way to Oslo...

Some prankster has actually nominated John Bolton (yeah, the "There's no such thing as the United Nations" American ambassador to the, uh, United Nations...) for the Nobel Peace prize.

I honestly don't have anything to say about this. Was Mussolini ever nominated? How about David Duke?

A Conservative plan

The Conservatives have released their policy priorities with the new cabinet. In an effort to keep tabs on these guys for the next election, which will come sooner than we think, lets enumerate these things so we can keep score. Here they are (numbers mine):

  1. Cleaning up government by enacting and enforcing the Federal Accountability Act;
  2. Lowering taxes for working Canadians, starting with a reduction to the Goods and Services Tax;
  3. Protecting Canadian families and communities by strengthening the justice system;
  4. Supporting the child care choices of parents; and
  5. Delivering health care Canadians need, when they need it, by establishing a patient wait times guarantee with the provinces.

These are pretty straightforward and, to their credit, pretty much directly from their election campaign policy book. This is a nice change from the previous government - remember the "Red Book"? It was what Paul Martin and Jean Chretien used as toilet paper for 12 years. It was a pretty big book, but I might be careful to shake their right hands just the same.

There are a few troubling catch phrases in this list that I make note of for no other reason than it strikes me to:

  • lowering taxes for working Canadians - What does this really mean? There are only four groups of people of working age that I know of that don't work for wage (and hence pay taxes): the disabled through accident or otherwise, the retired, the unemployed, and the independently wealthy. These groups rely on the government for certain services - welfare, unemployment benefits, medical treatments, capital gains tax write-offs, etc. Lowering taxes for the rest of us therefore implies that these guys are screwed, as I presume there is only so much money floating around. I also should add here my thoughts on the GST cut. I calculate that the 1% income tax cut the Liberals instituted, which we lose in favour of this, would save my household about $300 per year. In order to save that much through a 1% GST cut I'd have to spend $30,000 in taxed goods. I don't think that I spend that much, though I would if I bought a car each year or a new house. However, since most of us buy ugly old used houses, the lion's share of my spending money goes to pay a mortgage on an untaxed property. I have a sneaking feeling that this tax "cut" is going to cost the middle class more and save a bit of money at the extremes of the economic spectrum.
  • strengthening the justice system - I never trust promises to protect me and my Toyota through strengthening the justice system, because most of my reading tells me that crime rates go up and down with the economy, not with changes in the threatened penalty. Give people jobs and they're less likely to come and steal your car. Give them hope for better jobs and they're less likely to crack you on the skull and take your wallet. Crime became a hot button topic during the election campaign when a pretty white girl was killed in Toronto by a some punk asshole firing into a crowd. It might just be me, but the phrase strengthening the justice system doesn't indicate to me that the Conservatives intend to do anything about the root causes that puts kids in gangs, therefore any strengthening is only going to benefit the population of the nation's penitentiaries. (Note to self - buy stock in CCA, the Conservatives are in power!) To say the least, guys in suits pounding a lectern about strengthening the justice system has a bit of a Clockwork Orange feel about it.
  • child care choices - It looks like Harper is going to go ahead with the beer and popcorn money after all, though I presume that Layton and whoever leads the Liberals will make this a tough road for them. The use of the word choices here tells me that daycare is going to get both scarcer and more expensive. Why? Just a feeling, I guess. However if the Conservatives are serious about tax cuts and spending more on the military (though Mulroney said that, too), there is going to be less money lying about for social programs generally, so I'm thinking that this $1200 is going to come from the existing child care budget. Thus, less federal money for childcare. As for this money encouraging one parent to stay at home with the kids, please! This is a little cash dump for those that can already afford to have a spouse at home and not a windfall for the middle or lower class.
  • I don't have time to write much about health care right now, but I note that there is no mention of privatization or two-tier or preventing either.

Unprincipled bastard II

Maybe those signs aren't free after all. Perhaps your new boss will pony up the cash.

And here we are...

I'm listening to a discussion on NPR online right now about the Muslim cartoon controversy. I have also read quite a number of editorials about it today and everytime a Muslim speaks on the topic, they preface their statement with "I'm against violence..."; there is a lot of defensive behaviour in Muslims out there right now. In a religion that has been used to justify political violence in recent years, this is troubling.

I have made clear my views of religion in a previous post, but I have to admit a certain amount of respect for religions like Judaism and Christianity that permit some dissent and discussion. Okay, now they allow a certain amount of dissent and discussion. Judging from the reaction of the Islamic community to Irshad Manji and her work, there is a lot of work to be done here.

It appears that every Muslim is against violence, and yet here we are.

The end of the internet?

This brief age of information freedom that has reigned since Al Gore invented the internet may well be about to come to an end. If the communication industry giants currently lobbying the US government have their way, we will all pay a *lot* more for internet usage, providing content (which is what this wanking blog does, by the way), even sending emails.

This is not a done deal and it appears that some of the larger "content providers" like Google and Amazon are weighing in on the side of the good guys (for now). This is something that we should all be concerned about.

I'll keep an eye out for updates and post them here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

This oughta be interesting...

It appears that an Iranian newspaper has thrown down the gauntlet and has begun a contest for cartoons on subjects such as the Holocaust and "America and Israel's crimes and plundering" in an effort to see whether there are limitations on the West's vaunted "freedom of expression".

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which has already weighed into the discussion by pointing out the double standard of the offended mid-East governments when it comes to anti-Semitic articles and cartoons, is, uh, sub-happy about the whole thing.

This indeed will be interesting to watch.

Emerson, the Survivor!

Whoever said keep your friends close and your enemies closer must be whispering in Stephen Harper's ear these days. A tip from Dan (thanks, dude!) got me looking and lead me to this which I will quote at some length, because, well it's so funny:

Only three weeks ago, David Emerson was issuing apocalyptic warnings about Stephen Harper's Conservatives.

The Tories' political philosophy is "every man for himself, the strong survive, the weak die," the former Liberal industry minister harrumphed at a campaign rally in Vancouver, where he introduced former prime minister Paul Martin.

A Conservative government would decimate social programs, hike taxes, run the economy into the ground, abandon aboriginal people and undermine the Charter of Rights, he declared.

When the Conservatives eked out a minority government on Jan. 23, Emerson proclaimed: "I'm going to be Stephen Harper's worst enemy."