Saturday, May 31, 2008






Former Bush II Press Secretary Scott McClellan has published his memoir of his years in the White House. Surprisingly, it is highly critical of his boss. McClellan now joins a unsavory group of current and ex-officials in the Bush II administration, an analysis of which makes evident some of the reasons why it was the worst in American history.

There was Paul Wolfowitz. The neocon Deputy Defence Secretary was a chief architect of the Iraq War. Like all of the neocon hawks, he studiously avoided serving in the U.S. military. He grossly underestimated the war's cost and did not plan for its aftermath. He left his post in 2005 for his sinecure engineered by Bush II - the Presidency of the World Bank. Faster than you can say Moqtada al-Sadr, he found a girlfriend among the Bank's staff. He gave her a healthy salary increase. When accused of being in a conflict of interest, working through Dick Cheney's daughter he got his gal pal seconded to the State Department. Alas, it didn't work. He was forced to resign in disgrace - but not before he negotiated a healthy severance payment for himself.

There was Bush's first Secretary of State, Colin Powell - the blue chip black Republican General and hero of Desert Storm. He either knowingly or with wilful blindness beat the drum in the UN and elsewhere about Saddam's non-existent weapons of mass destruction and the security dangers they posed for the world. Soon after, Powell says, he began to have misgivings about the intelligence giving rise to the phony weapons of mass destruction issue. He also disagreed as to the conduct of the War. But he did not resign. He served to the end of the first Bush term. He voiced public criticism of the Iraq war only after leaving office. While he continued to serve Bush despite his state of unease, thousands of Iraqis and American soldiers continued to die. Of course, he wrote a book about his hellish experience and has made millions on the rubber chicken circuit since, dining out on his awful Bush II stories.

Then there is George Tenet. Tenet was a holdover from the Clinton years as Director of the CIA. Big George and his officials provided the faulty intelligence of Saddam's WMDs. Tenet assured his boss that proof of the WMDs was a "slam dunk case." He also approved torture techniques. He mercifully resigned in June of 2004. For his incompetence, the President awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Tenet too has written a book of his experiences which has made money. Like Powell, he is now critical of his former boss but - again like Powell - didn't have the guts to resign in protest when most of the blood was being spilled. Like most of Bush's chicken hawks, Tenet had never served in military service of his country.

Then there was Lewis 'Scooter' Libby. 'Scooter' - such a harmless, upbeat, chipper name. 'Scooter,' had been Bush's Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff to Cheney, and was Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs. He was found guilty by a jury of his peers of five charges including perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame outing affair. For his transgressions, 'Scooter' was fined 250 grand, ordered to do 400 hours of community service and sentenced to three years in the slammer. Following upon his sentencing, his former employer Bush commuted the three years to zero. 'Scooter' also avoided serving his country in uniform as a young man, thus joining the 'chicken hawk' brigade of people like Wolfowitz, Cheney, Tenet and Bush (records of whose military career are mysteriously scant).

Then of course there is former Defence Secretary Rumsfeld, the serial blunderer and bullshit artiste of the war, who incompetently underestimated the manpower and financial demands of the mission, provided inferior equipment and supplies for his men in uniform, and consistently lied to the American people about the war's progress. Rummy also approved torture methods. He used a signing machine to write his letters of condolences to aggrieved families who lost loved ones who were fighting the war. He finally packed it in during Bush's second term amid mounting public criticism and unease about the war. At last report he is seeking a publisher for his memoirs so he can add to his ill-gotten gazillions earned in the private sector pre-Bush II. He is also facing lawsuits and criminal proceedings in several corners of the world that are likely to harass him to his grave.

There is the Vice President Dick Cheney. Joined at the hip was Rummy, he still maintains there were connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam, an allegation akin to the one about the moon being made of green cheese. He too is a supporter of torture and whatever is going on in Guantanamo. Cheney was a heavy duty oil guy and CEO of the renowned Halliburton corporation before going back into politics to become Bush II's Rasputin. Given his oily persona he has taken a keen interest in the Iraqi oil fields and the multinational oil companies' access to them. His dishonesty with the American people about the War in Iraq is only matched by Rumsfeld and the President himself. Cheney too is likely to be hounded by litigation in the years ahead arising from his war time actions, the cost of which - like Rumsfeld's - is likely to be paid by the U.S. taxpayer. Cheney too never wore a U.S. military uniform.

And now an unlikely character emerges out of the shadows. A forty year old cherubic, portly, Texas motormouth, Scott McClellan, a former press secretary to Bush II from 2003 to 2006. Like Tenet and Powell, the frat boy and political groupie has written a book of his White House experience. Its weighty title is 'What happened.' In his oeuvre he claims to have had grave misgivings about Bush's Presidency. Bush, he said, was interested in carrying on a permanent campaign and not thoughtfully and objectively addressing issues. He further opined that the Plame incident, Hurricane Katrina, and the war were all badly handled. McClellan, like Tenet and Powell, did not see fit to quit and publicly criticize the administration. In fact, he was pushed out of his press secretary job. Thus, the mayhem and abuses continued with not a peep from McClellan - until now.

Like Tenet and Powell, McLellan resurrects the memory of Albert Speer. Speer, you will remember, was the brilliant German Nazi architect who masterminded much of the Third Reich's wartime plans and was responsible for maintaining the production of armaments during the war. While he was on trial in Nuremberg after the war, he did a mea culpa and apologized. Thus he, unlike many of his colleagues, escaped the gallows and was out of the Spandau jail after a measly twenty years.

The consequences for the Bush sad cast of characters are not as serious as they were for Speer and his cronys. However, one can see the same process taking place. They are in effect apologizing or making excuses to avoid the wrath of history in the years ahead.

With friends like these running the country, the United States certainly needs no enemies. The Bush years were a perfect storm - a dumb, ideologically driven, uncurious President surrounded by reckless and cowardly ideologues like himself, or weaklings who although they may have known better, did nothing to stop the carnage. So history will judge.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I only know Hillary Clinton as a politician. I like her. I respect her fighting spirit and loyalty. I share her values that focus on concern for the underdog and the poor. Although some male neanderthals find her shrill, I love her feisty and articulate presentation. She is honest and - a rarity among politicians - outspoken. And she is smart. She would make a great President of the United States.

As I see it, all of her many qualities converged during this year's exciting Democratic Primary campaign season. But it has been a tough campaign. With Barack Obama, she is up against an equally smart and articulate younger man. He has the added advantage of not having to carry the usual baggage accumulated by politicians who have been around for awhile.

Obama is the new kid on the block. Hillary is the battle scarred veteran that people have been watching on the tube for years. After almost eight years of the worst Presidency in the history of the United States, the American people are yearning for change. There is a sense that Obama will more likely be the agent of change. And so, despite her skills and drive, Hillary is in trouble.

Indeed, according to the delegate count, Obama has already won the nomination. The talking heads, two-bit pundits, and party hacks are demanding - in the interests of party unity - that Hillary toss in the towel and publicly concede defeat. They warn that if she stays in the race and fights down to the wire towards the August Democratic convention, the Party may split into hostile factions, making it easier for the Republicans to retain the White House.

Ah, but she battles on. Speeches, debates, perpetual travel, massive campaign expenses and debt - nothing deters her. It is an altogether heroic performance.

Why does she continue in the face of now almost impossible odds? Because she knows - as every American in their heart knows - that anything can happen in a U.S. Presdential campaign. Indeed, anything can happen in the U.S. political process which can immediately, violently and permanently change the course of history. To any observer of the passing political parade in the United States, that is the crazy aunt in the attic, the elephant in the room, the sum of all fears.

The very tough Clinton and Obama campaigns have reminded all but the densest of human beings of the dark moments of recent American political history when shadowy and violent madmen or conspirators have dramatically changed or tried to change the course of events with the gentle squeeze of a trigger. The dangers are compounded during times of emotion-charged political upheavels, when charismatic men and women fight to lead the masses, each enlisting millions to fight on opposite sides in the conflict. Indeed, anything can happen. And we've seen it.

On May 23 during a meeting with the editorial board of the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, during a discussion as to why she should stay in the race, Clinton said, "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somehere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California, I don't understand it."

She has faced a volley of criticism for her remarks. She has issued an apology

Clearly her words were impolitic and probably damaging to her. But consistent with her political record, they were honest. The words that slipped from her mouth have been on the minds of every political observer of this election. Yes, assassination is clearly not outside of the realm of possibility in a contest that features a charismatic black man against a charismatic white woman both of whom are obvious agents of real change and either of whom is likely to be elected the next President of the United States. With the exception of some of the events of the sixties, I can't think of an American political situation in the last fifty years that is more explosive and conducive to the incitement of crazies or conspirators to do bad things.

Yes, it is true, between now and August, anything can happen. And people should not be too critical that Hillary had the guts to say so.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I received an Email from a friend of mine the other day introducing me to a new (at least to me) political exchange shouting match show on Rogers' Citytv. The program only lasts - mercifully - for a couple of minutes.

It is in the style of CNBC's Hardball or CNN's Crossfire. Hardball of course, still contaminates the airwaves. Its host, Chris Matthews is a political junkie from way back. He worked inside the White House for President Jimmy Carter more than thirty years ago. For the past several years his histrionic, bully boy, decible shattering cross examinations of politicos continues to annoy his mostly American viewing audience. Happily, the viewing public no longer has to endure Crossfire, with the snivelling Tucker Carlson, the serpentine Robert Novak, and other equally repulsive and revolting talking heads.

Not to be outdone in tastelessness, the Rogers organization has now introduced to its Calgary area viewers a Hardball or Crossfire ripoff called Get Over it. It is produced weekly and features a two minute shouting match on a current issue between two very minor celebrities of the local media. One is Rick Bell, the sometimes trenchant but often misguided, and mean and manic columnist for the Calgary Sun. The other is Mike McCourt, whose career in broadcasting goes back at least to the days of Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

The show that introduced me to this grisly twosome was entitled: Get Over It: Mammoths, Dinosaurs, and the Alberta Liberals. The sequence was shot in front of the Calgary headquarters of the Alberta Liberal Party caucus. Straining to glean some information over the nattering cacophony of these geniuses, I discerned that Bell (who through most of his ink-stained career has been a Tory apologist and spear carrier) thought that the Alberta Liberals were elitist and arrogant, a flawed and untrue view that he has harped upon ad nauseum in his minor oeuvre contained in the Sun's yellow pages. McCourt thought that the Grits should unite with the NDP to have any chance in the future. You can view the video here:

I don't expect anyone will be soon starting up any fan clubs for this new entry in the vast wasteland of TV land.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Dead Duck

Lame Duck

Edmonton Duck (Left) with Dead Duck

The honeymoon is over for Premier Stelmach's second coming.

Albertans were unimpressed with the Stelmach government's early bumbling performance prior to the last election. But on March 3rd - for want of a better alternative - they held their noses and gave the Stelmach Tories a commanding electoral victory. It could have only happened in Tory Alberta. All was forgiven - the lacklustre new Premier, his bumpkin government, and the public wreckage of years of Tory mismanagement and neglect to which the Premier himself was a major contributor.

However, the tragedy of the dead ducks in the pristine Aurora mine toxic tailings pond north of Fort McMurray has reminded Albertans of the incompetence and ineptitude of the pre-election Stelmach government. The catastrophe has shown that Eddie's team is the discredited Klein regime all over again. It is a story of government incompetence, coverup, callousness, and toadyism to their big business pals in the oil industry. And it is not likely to go away soon.

And now some lame ducks are having an impact on the government as well. Those 'lame ducks' are officials of the Calgary Health Region together with CEO and former Klein apparatchik, Jack Davis - both of which can be assumed to be on their way out.

Ever since the blowing up of the General Hospital and the sale of the Holy Cross Hospital to Klein cronys - decisions taken by the Klein government when Mr. Davis was its right hand man - Calgarians have suffered from inadequate hospital services and insufficient space for the sick. Compounding the problem is the rapid population growth in the Calgary region. The result: among many other horrors, Calgary hospitals are housing 137 patients a day in hallways and lounges with no end in sight.

Davis and his CHR are beating the drum for the government to cough up 100 million to cover the Calgary hospitals deficit plus another 25 million to open completely two new medical facilities and do away with hallway medicine. They point out - quite reasonably - that the Edmonton Capital Health Region gets 2.5 billion a year from the province to operate and the CHR gets only 2.4. In addition, in the past four years or so, the Edmonton region has received 500 million more than the Calgary region.

Stelmach and his Health Minister Ron Leipert are unmoved. They have advanced the spurious explanation that because of demographics, Edmonton has larger health care costs needs. In other words, if you don't like it, then lump it . . . . Calgary!

Could it be that Ed is once again reverting to his anti-Calgary hangups which were so evident when he decimated cabinet representation from the cowtown upon the appointment of his first cabinet? Could it be that this is a spiteful act directed against Davis and his cronys for having embarrassed his government by putting heat on Stelmach for more hospital bucks in the midst of the last election campaign? And could it be that this is Ed's retaliation against some of the Klein henchmen and hangers-on who badmouthed Stelmach at every opportunity in the wake of his win over Dinning right on through to the election? Five will get you ten that the answer to those questions are yes, yes and yes.

And so, look for more trouble from the cowtown for the Stelmach government.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Dead ducks, indeed. Five hundred of the poor defenceless birds trapped in a oily toxic tailings pond north of Fort McMurray at Syncrude's Aurora mine site. They had been innocently and peacefully following their ancient migratory route coming home for the summer. They stopped for a well-earned breather and perhaps some liquid refreshment and were swallowed up in the muck. Oh, the humanity! For all we know, Donald, Louie, Huey and Dewey may be among them.

But it gets worse. A bright light Syncrude security adviser - one Tim Gray - soon added himself to the list of those who perished. He Emailed a memo directed to Syncrude employees entitled 'Extra Vigilance,' which called for more patrols of the site, and the reporting of activity around the pond as well as low-flying flights. One wonders about the low flying flights. Is Syncrude going to blow them out of the sky, or is there a danger that because of the toxins the pilots may spiral into the pond and join the ducks?

Ah, but it doesn't end there. For those who thought that Ed Stelmach was forever past his Special Ed learning curve, well, think again. Alberta Environment - headed by the Medicine Hat genius flower shop proprietor Rob Renner - say there will be no pictures of the calamity released by the Government. They say they "don't want to prejudice any court case by releasing photographs." Furthermore Renner said, given that the incident took place on private property, there were privacy issues to consider. The opposition is screaming 'Coverup!' with good reason.

Bush's pal Steve Harper, not one to miss a chance to pile on even his friends for a few cheap votes at their expense - true to form - piled on. He saw it as a "terrible tragedy" which is unacceptable to Canadians and would hurt Alberta's environmental image as an energy superpower. Amen to that.

Even the usually deft Deputy Premier Ron Stevens jumped into the Keystone Kops paddywagon. He had been in Washington earlier in the week beating the drum for the oil sands to convince Americans that what was going on in northern Alberta was all very environmentally sustainable and safe. In what may be described as a moment of badly timed exuberance coupled with horribly bad judgement, in describing his multi million dollar flim-flam mission Stevens quoted the five year old words uttered by the moronic President of the United States about the Iraq War - "Mission Accomplished!"

As the major international media began to hover over the toxic pond and Alberta Legislature, Special Ed was back to his pre-campaign communication skills. Said Ed, the dead ducks were not a black mark on Alberta's green record, but rather a chance to show the world that Alberta "means business' in protecting the the environment. The sorry saga continues.