Tag Archives: election

Minority Report

First off, I pay much less attention to domestic Canadian politics than to US politics. The outcome of an American presidential election or US economic and foreign policy have much more effect on the lives of Canadians than most elements of Canadian politics. And while the obscene amounts of money spent in US campaigns are , well,  obscene, the low key Canadian (redundant?) campaigns tend to be snore fests. I mean you see more passion and slicker professionalism in US ads for County Commissioner than in Canadian Federal elections.

But there is a lot of ignorance regarding the Parliamentary system in Canada and the actual background of the parties. It is not some convenient neat analogy to the US.

What is true is that Parliament is not a binary game. You can have a government with one party controlling a majority of seats, one party controlling a minority (but with compromise or acquiescence or abstention from some other members or parties) or a coalition of parties to from a majority or a functioning minority.

The latter is not without precedent in Canada, but it is rare. And it tends to be regarded as a consciously chosen solution following a divided election, rather than a vote of non-confidence in the house. What does threaten – and has in the past posed  – a constitutional crisis is when the government loses confidence and the Governor General – a figurehead representing the role of the Monarch – offers a coalition of losers the chance to form a government without an election.

We had an election  in Mid October. The results of this effectively 5 party contest were

CONSERVATIVE      143  seats    38% of vote   they are what passes for a centre-right party in Canada. Overall they would be more like centre right western Democrats or the moderate wing of the Republican Party if it still existed (the moderate Republican wing died 25 years ago, the party died last month). This actually represented a net gain of seats to control over 48% of the House against a fractured opposition split among 3 diverse parties. This probably empowered Harper to downplay the
social conservative “pig farmer from Alberta” crowd within the party. At least it gave him a few free “shut the fuck up!” passes to hand out so he can concentrate on his real agenda of economic issues.

LIBERAL                         77     seats    26% of vote  The traditional establishment centrist party. These are not progressives, they are about power. They are still being punished by voters for the corrupt period of power between 1993 and 2006. Led by a very weak leader who has already announced his departure, he was a compromise choice between  two potentially strong leaders who are now running to replace him. Even if you are a partisan supporter of the Liberal party you ought to recognize that they would be in a stronger position running a real election in 18 months or so with a real leader and a record of frustrated Conservative minority to run against.

Bloc Quebecois              49 seats    10% of vote     A Quebec only secessionist party. You Americans remember how well that worked out. Their sole national objective is breaking up the country. They have allowed minority  governments to exercise authority but abstaining from matters they consider outside their core interest. If you subtract them from the equation, then the conservatives 143 seats represent a clear majority of the the remaining 246 seats that are not primarily concerned with breaking up the country.

New Democratic           37 seats    18% of vote  The actual progressive party in Canada. Like a completely unmoderated version of the left wing of the Democratic Party in the US. Unions, interest groups and well intentioned but naiive people dominate. Has shown an ability to govern at a Provincial level but only after being moderated by the chastening effect of  “actual responsibilities”

Independent                     2 seats       1% of vote

Green                                0     seats    7% of vote  Treated unnecessarily seriously in this last election by media and some other parties. Have moved from a one issue party to take a measure of the protest vote away from the NDP. No elected members, but a further illustration of how 38% of the vote and 48% of the seats in the house of Commons starts looking close to a mandate against 4 opposing  parties.

So the issue is not whether the conservatives are good or bad (neither) or Harper is Bush Lite (Harper is nothing like Bush and no one is Lite compared to Bush).

The issue is will the Governor General hand the government over to a hodge podge of 3 parties with little in common, one of which is pledged to tear the country apart. In the past, a much less controversial option imposed by a much more powerful (or less narrowly scoped) governor general became our biggest constitutional crisis.

Or we can have another election. In January. In Canada. This is a miserable combination. Frankly it already is without the election. The opposition parties risk incurring the wrath of the voters for putting everyone through this 3 months after the last election. And making us feel like Italy or Israel and their dysfunctional Parliaments.

Honestly I don’t see a huge difference in the outcome. The NDP probably pick up a few seats. I can’t see the Liberals doing worse. But again if you were those folks would you want to preserver your lame duck leader and be part of  the weakest government in history during an economic meltdown and then run against a more competent and more powerful opposition in an election a year or two down the road.

Unless she is out of her mind, the Governor General will not intervene any way. She will not grant Harper a suspension of Parliament. She will not offer the other parties a chance to form a government. She will throw it back on the parties in Parliament where it belongs. It the opposition wants to bring down the government and  votes to do so, then another election. But either protecting Harper’s minority or encouraging non-confidence with the carrot of a coalition dangled out would be a reach. And contrary to the last 80 years of constitutional thought.

Get ready to vote in the snow, Canadians.

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Cindy McCain cosmetically enhanced?

While I had long suspected that Cindy was keeping Morgan Fairchild on the shelf for spare parts

Apparently some expert observers have come to the conclusion that Cindy McCain’s appearance may be assisted by some cosmetic procedures

In other news, the Sun came up in the East…

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Something we can all agree on

A reason to elect Barack Obama that even the drill-baby-drill happiest Republican can embrace.

If Obama wins maybe there will not be any more of those Barbra Streisand benefits where she sings “amusing” versions of Sondheim ditties substituting the lyric “clowns” with “Republicans”.

brrrrrrrrr

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Slate fears for Canada. Don’t get distracted.

Christopher Flavelle writes in Slate of his fears for the outcome of our election in Canada.

http://www.slate.com/id/2199929/?from=rss

This is nuts. It is wrong in almost every respect, except for:

  • the Conservative Party’s decrease in financial subsidies for commercial artistic projects like television programs
  • the Liberal Party’s chronic corruption and recent disorder.

And frankly the former is a side issue and the latter is a fundamental disqualification.

I was born during the Johnson administration and I think that the choice of Obama over McCain is the most clear cut and important electoral decision of my lifetime. I used to respect McCain but am appalled by the abdication of everything that is right. I would vote for Obama 100 times if I could. And I will be voting for whatever Conservative candidate is put up in my parliamentary riding. She will lose to the local candidate for the even more left wing New Democratic Party (ignored in the Slate piece) who along with the Quebec separatist Bloc Quebecois and the possibility of Green Party parliamentarians could well hold the balance of power.

This is not like the United States where the contest is between two Establishment Parties, each representing very conventional orthodox policies with the extremes on either end driving a disproportionate slice of the agenda with social issues that serve to distract from the continued entrechment of the ruling oligarchy.

Admittedly Canadian Politics is less interesting. Go figure, this is Canada. In the dictionary entry for “less interesting” there is a line drawing of Canada. But Canadian politics always has been and always will be much more about consensus and moderation. That has its ups and downs. But it generally means little reason for panic about a change of government.

I used to work in the production end of TV/Film/Radio. I have had to fill out Canadian Content logs, and have worked on productions that would not have existed without multiple levels of Government subsidies, tax breaks, or quotas. They may have been a good employment mechanism for media people but they rarely resulted in quality product. Worse, the whole system became a bureaucratic gravy train. It is all about the deal, the package, not the content nor the art. And once you are in the club you get money to make whatever schlock you want. At the expense of better artists with better ideas. I won’t shed any tears about seeing those funds cut.  The biggest losers in this are the producers who make made for cable time filler that occupies time on your Lifetime or USA networks with shows featuring and American star, a Canadian crew and Toronto and Vancouver posing as New York or Chicago.

The “not sponsoring ideas they disagree with” is kind of a sideshow. There are still plenty of arms length sources of Government funding where the decisions are well abstracted from the politicians. And I have a lot more confidence that the left wing types who run institutions like the National Film Board of Canada will continue to produce meaningful films of dissent.

I don’t agree with cutting foreign aid but again it is not an issue like fightig an unnessary and ruinous war, or stripping reproductive rights from women, or lying lying lying.

On the GST tax cut, yes it was stupid. But we are runnig a surplus, and as a sales tax the GST could be seen as regressive, and certainly was railed against as such by the LIBERAL party when the Progressive Conservative Party (sic, R.I.P.) introduced it in the early 1990s. BTW the GST replaced a complex and costly system of hundreds of different taxes applied at a manufacturing and wholesale level and had the immediate result of making canadian companies more efficient and goods manufactured in Canada significantly cheaper to the retail customer. So while it’s regressive nature as a sales tax was mitigated initially by its positive effect on consumer prices when introduced by the Conservatives, and reinforced by the cuts by the current Conservatives.

And Kyoto? Don’t get me started. Kyoto is a sham. It will not do a damned thing about climate change but it would cost tens of billions of dollars to the Canadian economy. And the current Liberal platform on climate change is beyond ruinous. It carries on the nonsense of destroying the economy by paying unspecified entities for Carbon Credits. An IOU for oxygen I guess, often vouched for by self appointed groups controlled by the same people who sell you the credits.

If the government (any government) wants to held the climate and enrgy policy and the fate of the environment they can fund research or provide tax incentives  into  cheaper or more efficient solar cells, or wind power, or wave power or high capacity battery technology or biological sources of energy and consumers of carbon (algae that eats C)2 and produces biodiesel, anyone?)

The Liberals would be a disaster. The Conservatives have demonstrated at least basic competence and even if there is now a contingent of freakazoid social conservatives in disturbingly high positions of power, there is not the quorum, nor power, nor consensus for them to impose the type of Palin/Hagee/Scalia culture war you folks face.

Please for the love of God, keep your eye on the ball. Elect Obama. We will be fine up here. Better if the Conservatives win a slim majority, actually.

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American Dualism

Just as the Obama campaign begins to rebut the obvious bare faced lies repeatedly trotted out by the McCampaign (TM) the debate on the media role as the uncritical echo chamber of lies begins to get specific. The debate between Marc Arbinder and Yglesias takes shape:

Yglesias

Ambinder

and both sides make good points.

Ah ha! Caught you nodding your head, didn’t I?  The old “two sides to every story” banality of binary equality. The curse of American political journalism.

And a lot more.

Americans – more strongly and distinct  from most similar cultures – have a dualistic notion of how everything is organized that is so deeply ingrained as to be a perverse blinder to the truth. It is pervasive.

“There are two sides to every story”

Right and Left

Rural and Urban

North and South

Religious and Heathen

Rich and Poor

Good and Evil

Black and White

Democrat and Republican

“There are two sides to every story”

Equal Time.

Point-Counterpoint.

He said, she said.

On the other hand…

“There are two sides to every story”

Maybe not. Maybe there are 400 sides to a particular story. Maybe there is only one – objective reality. Maybe picking out a subset of “two sides” from the available data is arbitrary and unhelpful. But it always happens.

The American mindset is so fundamentally dualistic that it facilitates this lazy binary sorting. It affects -or rather infects – everything. And is has been getting worse for 50 years, as the political institutions reinforce the existing cultural tendencies. Look at impediments to the creation of political third parties (voter registration, the primary system). They all favour the entrenched established two party system to the point where most Americans interpret democracy – rule by the people – as a scheduled choice between Democrat and Republican.

So when journalists play this game, I understand the cultural forces behind it.  I understand it, but I don’t excuse it. I can forgive Entertainment Tonight using the “two sides” crutch to make it easier to report a pointless story about Jennifer Aniston. But we deserve better from real journalists. Its not that hard.

I cringe every time I use the term mainstream media. I cannot bring myself to use the contraction “MSM”, which seems tainted by the chip-on-the-shoulder blogosphere ideologue crowd. I think i first saw the term on Matt Drudge more than 10 years ago. Yeah.

But if the establishment professional class of journalists who heap such scorn on the work af “amateurs” cannot even remove the blinkers of cultural dualism to look behind the horse race inside baseball mixed metaphor of coverage, can they be surprised at the scorn returned in heaps by the public?

And regarding the inside baseball metaphor.  Political discourse is not a game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, an American League East Division rivalry in which mention of the Los Angeles Dodgers and SanFrancisco Giants and Washington Nationals and St Louis Cardinals and and and… could be dismissed as extraneous. Different league. Different Divisions. Not applicable.

What is so odd is how specific this is to America. You get a profound sense of this spending your entire life 20 miles away from the United States, sharing a common Geography, economy, language, culture, value system.  A common life, really.

But “Two sides to every story?” That is just weird.

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I’m just sayin’

The whole story of “hey I’m 7 months pregnant and haven’t told anybody, and I don’t look at all pregnant, and not even my closest staff noticed” seemed kind of odd. The details were even more implausible.

My first thought was “either she was not actually pregnant or she was trying to cause a miscarriage”. Admittedly the former seemed more likely to me. Maybe it was really her daughter’s baby. But maybe I was just not attuned to the perversely hypocritical possibility.  What do you do with an unwanted pregnancy if you are a confirmed public anti-choice hypocrite?

What does this sequence suggest:

  • Having an amnio at 13 weeks that discovers the baby has Downs even though you are opposed to abortion. What is the point of the amnio if you are not doing anything based on it’s results? Any amnio adds to the chance of miscarriage and 13 weeks is awfully damned early (10 times the risk of miscarriage)
  • Flying to Washington while 6.5 months pregnant and not showing. Flying to Texas when 8 months pregnant, not showing. Most airlines prohibit third trimester mothers from flying except in case of emergency, and even those that do require waivers.
  • Having previously had 4 children – which tends to result in quicker labors -her water breaks and she waits around for a few hours then delivers a speech.
  • Instead of going to a fine Texas hospital (they have some of the finest in the world and Austin is a college town), she flies 11 hours back to Alaska, stopping in Seattle for an hour, switching planes.
  • Instead of going to a good hospital in Anchorage, drives an hour to her one horse Duckberg to deliver this high risk Down’s syndrome baby.

Going back to work three days later, still looking fresh as a daisy.

That story is complete bullshit.

So, at the risk of being indelicate, was Sarah Palin trying to kill her baby in utero because she could not accept the conscious choice of abortion?

The gloves came off in this one as soon as McCain picked this ticket, demonstrating that even he does not have the judgement to be president. This is about avoiding a very dangerous fate.

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The First Horseman of the Apocalypse

It has been a week since the comical, desperate pick of Alaska gun nut, millenialist, home schooling, non sex educatin’, trooper firin’, unplanned grandma to be, irresponsible insane birthing decision maker and all round “she’s insane but I’d do her” interim Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin was announced.

And today Rasmussen reports that her favourable rating is higher than either McCain or Obama

While this is likely just a generous and charitable first impression it does leave one speechless.
The thing that I  initially found most bizarre is that her name has been floating out there as a longshot potential choice for at least three months (i googled her in May just to find out if the one picture I had seen was an overly generous “not exactly as illustrated” situation) and yet all of the stuff that a half assed 2 day amateur vetting would have uncovered was not even uncovered by the McCain people’s half assed 2 day professional vetting.

I thought the establishment media usual suspects would be sufficiently shamed by accepting and echoing the lies that led to war in 2003. But I guess I was wrong. After a couple of days of sudden spine development led by – of all people – Campbell Brown simply refusing to not laugh when McCain surrogates replaced talking points with lies not even a two year old would buy. I know, I asked my two year old. (BTW, I love Campbell’s new hair, the darker colour and softer cut really brings out her eyes and makes her look younger and less “Washington”.)

It looked – for a brief moment as though things had finally turned, and a press that ought to have been shamed by it’s cowardice in the Iraq war fiasco had developed some balls. This was an interesting journalistic development. While it started on the blogs, for two days the online versions of big media (Times, Post, Atlantic etc) were covering this but you could hardly tell from the front pages or on air. Jesus Christ, in the future will we have to credit Campbell Brown for breaking the on air conspiracy of silence and  calling the bullshit spin of the campaign spokesdrones?

Despite the obvious lack of qualifications, or even interest in the issues affecting the nation – and not just one tiny corner, and not just the bedroom – the media accepted the nonsequitur lie of “more executive experience” than Obama or Biden, or by implication McCain.

And now apparently so does America.

For now.

At least until we hear the next set of hoofbeats.

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