Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Nutshell

Today in the Globe and Mail you could find the Liberal leadership encapsulated:

"Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal front-runner, does not appear to be the biggest Harper threat. Bob Rae offers a comprehensible alternative to an amnesiac nation. St├ęphane Dion is a smart and thoughtful Rottweiler with few naked flanks. Gerard Kennedy is a doubtful Hail Mary pass."

Sounds about right to me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Breaking News: Stephen Harper is an Asshole

Ladies and gents, I have a stunning revelation for you: Stephen Harper is an asshole.

He has decided to shove custom and courtesy to the side, replacing it with cynicism and opportunism.

There exists in Canada a tradition of letting new leaders run unopposed in by-elections. No one wants to give their political enemy an upper hand, but it is recognized that in a parliamentary democracy like Canada's, it is imperative that party leaders - especially the leader of the opposition and the prime minister - hold seats in the House of Commons. It was a courtesy the Liberals extended to Joe Clark and Stockwell Day in 2000, and Stephen Harper himself in 2002. How has Steve decided to show his gratitude for that gracious act?

Well for starters, he's scheduled two by-elections - the only ones that will happen in the near future - for just days before the Liberals elect a leader. Obviously, it would be best for that new leader to hold a seat in the House of Commons. If Stephane Dion or Michael Ignatieff wins, this will not be a problem. However, if the next leader of the Liberal party is either Bob Rae or Gerard Kennedy, they will have to ask a sitting MP to step down in order to make room for them, and even then Harper could put off calling the by-election for months if he wanted to (and you better believe that's exactly what he's got planned).

Not only that, but Harper is planning on running candidates in both of the by-elections, despite the fact that Gerard Kennedy or Bob Rae could run in the London one (the Quebec by-election is a lost cause for any party except for the Bloc, as it is in a safe Bloc seat) and thus already hold a seat in the Commons. Meanwhile, Green Party leader Elizabeth May is planning on running in London as well.

There are arguments for not allowing May to run unopposed. After all, she is not the leader of a party with representation in the House, thus, she should not necessarily be afforded that courtesy. However, Harper is blatantly abusing his power to call by-elections for crass political gain. Putting political affiliation aside, it is impossible to disagree that this smacks of poor sportsmanship and the worst kind of cynicism. Harper is deliberately flouting Canadian custom for no other reason than his pathological hatred of all things Liberal.

It's utterly shameful, and it does not bode well for the future of this practice - the Liberals are going to be quite reluctant now to let any new Conservative party leader run unopposed, and are going to be much more inclined to schedule by-elections at the most inconvenient times for the Conservatives - say, a day of their next leadership convention (if the Liberals are in power when that happens). The Ontario Liberals have already poisoned the atmosphere of provincial politics by not allowing John Tory to run unopposed in his by-election, and now the Conservatives are poisoning the federal political atmosphere, too. In a time when we need a bit more courtesy and collegiality, Stephen Harper is using dirty tricks to try and kick the Liberals with a cheap-shot you-know-where. I can't think of an incident of a prime minister acting in a more classless way.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Vote Republican or DIE

That's basically what this ad is saying.



Man are they ever desperate.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

On Party Loyalty

"I've been a Liberal since I was born, Joe, I just came out a few years ago."
- Scott Brison answering a criticism from Joe Volpe, Liberal leadership debate, 10/21/06

Gold.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hilarity

I can't explain, you just have to watch it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Unparliamentary Language

Does this count? Shouldn't MacKay have to apologize for saying something like that?

Go for it, Garth

I guess at this point every political junkie is aware that ousted Tory Garth Turner has been extended an offer to join the Green Party, and that Turner is seriously considering the offer.

I can't see a disadvantage from Turner's perspective to becoming Canada's first Green MP. It would improve his public profile a great deal, give him a party to run under in the next election, and position him as an obvious choice for the next leader of the party, which would be especially beneficial if, as a result of his actions, the Greens become a new political force in Canada. All it takes is a single MP in the House of Commons to entitle a party to participate in leaders' debates, so it's not surprise Elizabeth May is desperately seeking Turner.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Spending - a comparison




Any questions?

I'm gonna get comments for this but...

I really thought everybody just kind of took this for granted:

"The watchdog said there was an implication, without evidence, that Christians were the main cause of homophobic incidents."

It is politically correct to say that religion has nothing to do with gay-bashing. It is also patently untrue.

"Without evidence" is a bit of a stretch, I think. It's pretty obvious to anyone with a brain that the only real argument in favour of discrimination against gays is religiously-based. It doesn't take much to go from that, from discrimination, to prejudice, to fear, to anger, to hatred, and then to gay-bashing. I ask, if religion is not ultimately to blame for homophobia, what is?

Not all religion, mind you. But let's just look at this particular case. The ad in question is a bible next to a spatter of blood. Clearly, the pictoral allegation is that the bible and bloodshed are connected somehow. Could this be because Leviticus 18:22, as I'm sure we all know by now, calls for the murder of homosexuals? I don't know about you, but I think that may have something to do with it.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Some brief thoughts on the debate

This debate was certainly more lively than the ones before it. My guess is because it's post-Super Weekend, so the delegates are already selected. This means that:
a) The front-runners don't have to worry as much about appealing immediately to Liberals
and
b) The back-runners don't have to worry about anything.

Ignatieff VS Dion, re: the environment - Uhm, wow. That was exhilarating! I quite enjoyed watching that. Dion definitely showcased his combativeness, which is something I like about him. He took the Chretien-like approach of vigourously defending Liberal policy, as opposed to Ignatieff admitting mistakes. Whomever you agree with, that was certainly lively. It was also kind of funny watching Dryden just cede the floor to the two major candidates. I think he knows he really shouldn't be there. If any of the final 8 drops out early, I think it will be Dryden.

The same-sex softball - That was a great moment. And how funny that Brison would get it. "I have to be very careful because my answer could result in a same-sex divorce." I laughed, anyway. But really, the most serendipitous aspect of this moment was Volpe getting put on the spot. He was a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, and only changed his mind when it meant his cabinet spot. I guarantee you if Paul Martin had allowed a totally free vote, Volpe would have voted against same-sex marriage. So watching him on stage defending it was kind of... awkward. (Seriously, though, what a softball question. If it had been anyone but Volpe up there, there wouldn't have been anything resembling debate.)

Rae VS Ignatieff, re: foreign policy - Wow. That got personal. If you missed it, Ignatieff accused Rae of having an indeterminate position on the Afghan mission (saying we need to prevail, and also saying he'd vote against the mission). Rae countered by saying, "I'm not the one who's changed my mind three times in a week on the middle east issue." Not to be outdone, Ignatieff made it personal. "You've known me for forty years, you know that's not true." Thank god Martha Hall Findlay was there with her den-motherly, "Boys!" to get them to calm down, 'cause that could have gotten ugly.

Scott Brison: "It is irresponsible to be basing important policy on perception." That's a paraphrase, of course. But Brison was really on fire in this debate. He had a lot of good quotes that I didn't manage to write down.

Stephane Dion (dismissively): "Yes, Harper is awful, but..." Quite possibly the best line of the debate.

Joe Volpe: "I get the feeling I'm the wrong guy to be asking about whether the federal government should regulate the media." Alright, that was a good one.

Closings

Martha Hall Findlay: A fantastic closing. She's running to the end because, in 2006, it would be shameful if the Liberals did not have a woman on the stage at the convention. Stephen Harper is playing divisive and internationally harmful games regarding Israel.

Stephane Dion: Stephen Harper's solution to social policy is to build more jails and put children in them. Harper is dividing the nation, not uniting it. Dion has always been clear in his words and actions, and has never had to apologize for any of them (an overt shot at Ignatieff, and a good one, too). He's the only major candidate who has run in federal elections stretching back to 1996. And it didn't take a leadership race to get him to become a Liberal. (Shots at Rae and Ignatieff.) All in all, a pretty good closing.

Gerard Kennedy: Need to talk about the reform of the Liberal party - we must re-connect with Canadians. Liberals need to re-invent themselves because the country needs it. We need to let go of the things that hold us back. Kennedy actually impressed me with this closing, a lot more than he has before. I'm starting to warm to him.

Ken Dryden: "Mr. Harper can't deal with life that doesn't conform to the way he thinks it should be." An inspiring closing - the hockey metaphor was fitting. I wouldn't be surprised to see him drop off soon, he's made his point.

Scott Brison: "I played hockey too." (That was good.) And I was very distracted for the rest of it, so I can't comment.

Michael Ignatieff: "The energy, the passion, the humour, the conviction, is something we'll all remember." He's got that right - that was a good debate. His closing was really good too. I admittedly was a bit distracted while listening to it, but I know when I was tuning in I was impressed.

And I missed the rest completely. (This is what happens when I try to multi-task!)

(Note: All quotes are paraphrases. I couldn't get it all down fast enough.)

Attacking Rae ill-advised?

Putting aside whether or not Rae's BC delegates are actually tainted by fraud, it may be ill-advised for Ignatieff, Kennedy and Dion to be going for the jugular this way. Rae's support could turn out to be crucial to winning the race, as any one of the four front-runners could be a king-maker. I don't understand why the other three camps are doing this. It would be wise, I think, for at least one of the camps to play nice with Rae, hoping to pick up his support if he drops off.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Michael Ignatieff: People are missing the point

The big picture of the Michael Ignatieff-Israel-war crimes story is this: Ignatieff is being attacked, not specifically for the content of what he said (except today by Harper) but for the fact that he said it! Michael Ignatieff is being called amateurish; it's been said he has a "big mouth" and should learn to keep it shut.

Why? What Ignatieff said wasn't, first of all, indicative of an anti-Israeli position. Ignatieff is actually pro-Israel, but it is possible to disagree with certain Israeli actions if one takes a pro-Israel position; I'm a supporter of Israel when it comes right down to it, but I do have seirous misgivings.

But furthermore, it was a case of a politician speaking his mind. Michael Ignatieff gave a bold, honest opinion on a very controversial subject, and it's being called a "gaffe."

A gaffe!? So now a gaffe is letting one's opinion be known? We've reached a very dark place in the civil discourse when when stating your honest opinion is considered a "gaffe."

I'm at a loss

Apparently, this is all it takes to "offend Islam." The pathology of Islamic fundamentalism has reached hyperbolic levels.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Support With Ex Officios

Just for the record, counting the ex officio delegates to the convention, these are the numbers:

IGNATIEFF 28.0%
RAE 17.5%
DION 15.4%
KENNEDY 15.4%
DRYDEN 4.8%
BRISON 4.2%
VOLPE 4.0%
HALL FINDLAY 0.9%
(undeclared) 9.8%

Republicans Blame Everything But Themselves

This is a fantastic video on the Foley scandal. Everybody needs to see this.

My favourite: "The kids are egging the Congressmen on." Said with a straight face. It's the pages' fault. Can you believe these people?

Stream of Consciousness - Conservatism

The maintanence of a political system is based upon the assumption that the vast majority of citizens agree with the basic system of organization, and its superiority to other systems of organization. The types of attacks upon the system itself we see from the right are the reason for the profound level of partisanship and polarization that results from our modern politics. The new right, the neo-conservatives, the theo-cons, whatever you choose to call them, have emerged as a powerful force.

This is forboding because the new right disagrees on a fundamental level with the most basic guiding principle of our entire civilization. Not marriage, as they so flippantly claim, but the rule of law itself, the one thing which keeps civilization from collapsing under its own weight. Little surprise then that today's politics are so visceral and divided. On one side are people who are dissatisfied with the basic assumptions of civilization itself, and on the other side are people who recognize that the alternative to civilization is anarchy.

The deepest of ironies is that, in the most traditional sense of the word, the centre-left are the new conservatives, attempting to preserve the current order from attack by fundamentalist theocrats, anti-constitutional radicals and their allies, the cynical pro-torture, anti-habeas corpus, police state sell-outs. The left of centre, on the other hand, are simply allowing civilization to adjust naturally, the way it has since time immemorial. Habeas corpus started as a tradition in the Magna Carta, and centuries of wisdom have shown us that it was a profoundly good idea.

The new right, the radicals, oppose habeas corpus, preferring a system where the state's power to detain is unchecked. Gay marriage was a long time coming; the gay rights movement emerged naturally (better late than never, I suppose) and organically, as Montesquieu, one of the founders of conservatism, wrote about. It did not happen overnight; society did not go from hating homosexuals and locking them in prisons to accepting them as contributing members of the community in a year or two. It took decades, about a century in fact, to get to where we are today. It is not radical for political change to occur over the course of a century - it is natural.

The new right does not care about this. They attack the very structure of valuable and necessary institutions, most specifically the courts, but also the constitution itself. They do not realize, or they don't care, that attempts to bring about radical change have usually ended in failure, and caused more harm than good. They are not conservatives. They are radicals. True conservatism understands that radical changes are rarely a good thing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Some Foley Humour

All I can say is: XD

On Dion's Absence

Naturally, a lot of supporters of other candidates have seized on Stephane Dion's absence in the House of Commons for the big Kyoto vote. They've said it proves he's not up to the job, that he obviously doesn't care, that if he's willing to miss a vote and risk losing on an issue so important to him then he can't be trusted.

This is spin worthy of the Republicans. First, let me just say, OH COME ON!

But now that that's out of the way, here's some facts, for those who are more interested in them than propaganda:

First of all, Dion missed the vote because he was at a fundraiser. This fundraiser had been scheduled months beforehand, and skipping it without seeming like a jerk would have required a very good reason.

So, was there a good reason? Apparently not, since Dion cleared his absence with the Whip's office, and they were sure that his absence would not affect the outcome of the vote.

I think this point is crucial - Dion's presence or absence would not have affected the outcome of the vote one way or another. MPs miss votes all the time. As long as they clear it with the Whip, it's perfectly fine. It's easy for Kennedy and Rae supporters to bash Dion over it because their guys aren't MPs, and thus have never missed a vote in the House of Commons. Maybe we should start digging up all the votes Kennedy and Rae (and Iggy, in his much shorter tenure) have missed throughout their political careers, and hold it over their heads as if it makes them unfit to lead.

Or...

Maybe we should just do the sensible thing and acknowledge the reality that not every MP is present for every vote, and to expect such a thing from one MP and not the others is pure hypocrisy.

Also, he still managed to hold his fundraiser and be present the same day in committee to grill Ambrose on her environmental plan.

Finally, his dog's name is Kyoto. Isn't that a good enough substitute?

Jon Stewart: The Greatest Man Ever?

In a time of bullshit and ignorance, this man is invaluable.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Audacity

That's what George Bush has. His most recent signing statement allows him to continue to appoint unqualified political hacks and cronies to FEMA, even if Congress says no.

Can you think of anyone who deserves more of a political asskicking than this monkey?

Iggy and Afghanistan

A lot of people seem to think that Michael Ignatieff's support of the Afghanistan mission would hurt him in a general election. Personally, I don't think that would be the case, especially considering 57% of Canadians now support the mission. Will this cause Liberals who had brushed him off before to perhaps give him another look? Maybe. And with 30% of the delegates, if I were betting on this, I'd put money on Iggy.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Both Sides

Read this article.

Do you notice anything wrong? Probably not. It's extremely subtle. Read this:

"Some of the social conservatives say studies show there is an overlap between pedophilia and homosexuality, a charge gay groups dispute vigorously."

It's not technically a lie. But it's far from the whole truth. "Gay groups" dispute that charge?

This is a problem with the way we get our facts - we don't get all the relevant ones. Joe Everyman, who has had no prior contact with homosexuals in any way (that he knows of) reads that, and assumes that the answer is up in the air, or worse, that there may be some merit to those social conservative "studies." In fact, the way it's reported, the other side comes out much worse - the social conservatives have "studies," the "gay groups" merely "dispute" them. Well, clearly the social conservatives are the ones doing their homework!

What the story glaringly fails to point out, is that it is not "gay groups" which "dispute" those "studies." It is the entire body of relevant and credible scientific data which discredits, disproves and demolishes those studies.

I understand that the intention of this piece was to give "fair coverage" to both sides. But shouldn't at least some aspect of the concept of fairness be about the truth? Shouldn't simply reporting the facts - in this case, that there is absolutely no link between homosexuality and pedophilia and there's not a lick of credible scientific evidence to support such a claim - be the goal?

Let me give you another example of this ridiculousness, so you can fully appreciate what I'm saying here:

"Flat-Earth society members cite numerous facts which prove that the Earth is flat, a claim that scientists dispute vigorously."

Yes, scientists dispute that vigorously. Because it's wrong. Reporting factual errors when those errors are obvious and well-documented is not biased. It's journalism.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Path America is On

The vice president of the United States recently had a man arrested for challenging his policies on Iraq. This is a man who, under US law, has the power to detain anyone for any reason and hold them indefinitely in a military prison. And there are people who don't find that terrifying.

Channelling Machiavelli

To put it into terms Liberals can understand: Dion is the one who stands the best chance of delivering victory to the Liberal Party, not an election or two from now, not after another five or nine years of Tory rule, but in the one that's going to happen next year.

Look at the other options:

First there's Ignatieff. A good candidate, a man who could certainly lead a country. But his electoral weaknesses are obvious, and easily exploited. He supported the war in Iraq. Granted, so did I, and for the exact same reason as Ignatieff no less. But pragmatically, this is a problem. There are a sizable contingent of Liberal/NDP swing voters, and as we all know, that particular issue is a volatile one for the left. The left-leaning among us generally hate the war, and anything associated with it. Associating the Liberal Party with it is a recipe for electoral disaster. Then there's the secondary issue, that he's been out of Canada for the past twenty-five years. Don't think voters won't take notice of something like that. The fact is, we cede some of our strongest strengths if Ignatieff becomes the leader. It wouldn't guarantee an election loss, but it would make a win harder.

Then there's Rae. What else needs to be said? Rae is a huge risk in Ontario, a place where the Liberals have already lost far too much ground. If the Liberals lose the 905 belt - which could very well happen if Rae leads the party - they will lose the election. Period. Like Ignatieff, Rae's political weaknesses are obvious and easily exploited.

Kennedy's problem is less open to exploitation, but still a problem nonetheless. With 1% of the delegates in Quebec, it should be pretty clear that Kennedy is not a favourite there. And why should he be? Of the four major contenders, his French is by far the weakest. In the election, he would be going up against a very popular favourite son (Gilles Duceppe) and a fluently bilingual sitting prime minister whose party is determined not to lose the ground they've gained in Quebec. Will Kennedy lose seats for the Liberals in Quebec? Maybe. Can he pick up any more seats there? I highly doubt it.

Which brings us back to Dion. Polls have consistently shown that the only candidate who stands a realistic chance of defeating the Bloc in Quebec is Stephane Dion. The Liberal party cannot gain any more ground than they already have this time around in Atlantic Canada or the West. It's about Ontario and Quebec. Ontario would vote for Kennedy, but Quebec wouldn't. Conversely, Quebec could and likely would vote for Dion, and Ontario would not be a problem. Dion may be less well known there, but that doesn't mean he will be less successful. Complaints about his weak English (which is actually judged by professional linguists as fluent) making him vulnerable in Ontario can be directed to a Mr. Jean Chretien.

Moreover, Dion's weaknesses, while existant, are not as immediate or easily exploitable. Granted, he wasn't entirely successful with the environment portfolio. But that is hardly an election-losing weakness. Any talk of perceived anger over the sponsorship scandal being directed at Dion is a myth, supported by no factual data. In fact, polls have shown that Dion is not associated in the Quebec public's mind with that particular scandal.

It seems to me quite obvious who the next leader ought to be. The one who stands the best chance of winning.

Briefly

This is a bit unusual, but I thought I'd share a story from international politics. It seems that Australia's parliament is starting to resemble Canada's in its adherence to party discipline. Party discipline has been strong in Canada for a very long time, where as Australia's MPs have traditionally been more free. I hope Australians don't allow their MPs to become party hacks like most of Canada's are.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Why the bit players will be important

In 2003, the Progressive Conservatives held their final leadership convention, electing Peter MacKay as leader. The first ballot results saw MacKay with a commanding lead (41%), David Orchard in second place (25%), Jim Prentice in third (18%) and Scott Brison in fourth (16%).

The second ballot was a bit of a surprise; every candidate except for Brison lost support. Yet Brison, the only candidate to actually increase his support, still fell off the ballot. The spread between himself and Jim Prentice was 466 to 463, just three delegates. Prentice remained on the ballot, and Brison was dropped. The rest is history - Prentice scored Brison's endorsement, moved to second, Orchard was dropped and endorsed MacKay in return for MacKay agreeing to never merge with the Canadian Alliance. (AHEM.)

But the results could have been quite different, were it not for a pompous blowhard by the name of Craig Chandler. Chandler distinguished himself at the convention by using his speech to launch into a homophobic tirade that actually got him booed by the Tories in attendance. He then withdrew his name from the ballot and endorsed Jim Prentice (with Prentice looking none too eager to accept that endorsement - imagine Volpe, only creepy.) No one thought that Chandler's endorsement would mean anything, but he did have about a dozen delegates there loyal to him, and they followed him to Prentice's camp. In other words, it was Chandler's endorsement that kept Prentice on the ballot instead of Brison.

A quick look at the results thus far; as of Monday afternoon, with 409 of 469 meetings reporting, they look like this:

Michael Ignatieff - 29.8%
Bob Rae - 19.2%
Gerard Kennedy - 16.8%
Stephane Dion - 16.6%
Ken Dryden - 4.6%
Joe Volpe - 4.6%
Scott Brison - 3.9%
Martha Hall Findlay - 1.0%
Undeclared - 2.8%

While this does mean that Dryden, Volpe, Brison and Hall Findlay don't stand a snowball's chance in hell of winning, it doesn't mean that they won't be players at the convention.

Now, I'm aware that the ex officio support is unpredictable, but let's just assume that, when it's all said and done, the ex officio delegates don't cause those numbers to change too much. Let's also assume, for simplicity's sake, that the convention speeches don't have a huge impact on the numbers, either.

What this means is that the endorsements of lower-tier candidates are absolutely crucial to Rae, Kennedy and Dion, especially the latter two. It won't be as important for Ignatieff, but if he somehow managed to win endorsements from all four of them, he would be very close to the 50% mark. This seems unlikely, however; one assumes, based on nothing but conventional wisdom, that the only lower-tier candidate who is likely to endorse him is Brison.

For Rae, winning the endorsements of the bit players will be important for two reasons. First, it will keep him on the ballot, preventing him from slipping to third place behind either Kennedy or Dion. And second, it will help to level the playing field between himself and Ignatieff, making it a much closer race between the two.

Kennedy and Dion find themselves in almost identical positions to each other. They are locked in a fight for third place, much like Brison and Prentice were in 2003, and whoever wins will get to remain on the ballot and take on Ignatieff and Rae. Likely, their best hope for victory is to try to take and hold third place, and then be endorsed by whichever of the two is dropped. Another way to victory would be to inflate their numbers enough with lower-tier support that they are able to move into second place ahead of Rae, making the contest between one of them and Ignatieff.

The bit players may not have a lot of support, but they will be players, nonetheless. And the Rae, Kennedy and Dion campaigns are going to need them to win. Not to win a quick victory, but to stay on the ballot.

(Cross-posted: Centrerion)

Suspense

That's the only word to describe this. Not all of the numbers are up there yet, and with Kennedy and Dion within 0.2% of each other, this makes for some extreme suspense indeed. It is absolutely crucial for both of them to take the third place spot in order to stay on the ballot.

Of course, their standings could be changed by picking up endorsements from the lower-tier candidates, or giving good convention speeches. But you can bet both of them are biting their fingernails in anticipation waiting to hear the final results.