Saturday, October 28, 2006

Where Will We Be On December 3?

I was just reading Jeffrey Simpson's column in today's Globe... Simpson calls Ignatieff a fool for pushing the idea of Quebec as a nation and makes a pretty fair case for it. It's got me feeling a bit glum.

On the one hand, there are pundits who say that no leadership candidate has ever had as big a lead as Ignatieff has and not won the leadership. On the other hand, Ignatieff is being seriously criticized from both within and without the party - to the point that he is starting to look like someone who doesn't have the support of rank and file Liberals and can't win a general election. When we wake up on December 3, the last thing we need is a leader who's so bruised and battered that he's crippled from the start and a party that once again is deeply and bitterly divided.

I haven't been happy with Ignatieff's public relations gaffes (Quebec, Israel/Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan). I still think he might make a good prime minister, but he doesn't have any political experience and he's not learning fast enough. Still, if the Ontario Returning Office hadn't lost my Form 6 and left me off the delegate ballot (and if I had won a place) and if Rae dropped out, I would still probably switch to Ignatieff.

I speculated in a previous post that Ignatieff wouldn't have given up tenure at Harvard if he hadn't had some pretty hefty reassurance from some pretty hefty party insiders that he was going to win. I have to wonder what those backers are thinking now. There have been some defections at the front of Ignatieff's campaign team because of some of his extremist statements; have there been any at the back?

I can see two ways to reach a good outcome. Either at some point we pull together and support Ignatieff (and this requires that we soften up some of the criticism during the campaign); or his backers have to start re-evaluating their support. If the former, more people need to start speaking up for the guy. Right now he's hanging out there like a stuck pig on a forklift. If the latter, we need those backers who are backing off to tell us about it so we have a better chance of electing someone else.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Atheists Are People Too... Right?

Newsweek contains a column called "BeliefWatch" which this week is devoted to atheists. Now, strike me dead for reading a rag like Newsweek, but this article is so offensive to atheists that it has raised my ire even beyond what Steve, "Lying Man" MacKay, or GWB could do. Here's the opening paragraph:
At lunch with Sam Harris, one is struck by how personable, how familiar he seems—a soft-spoken, thoughtful man with pleasant manners, a man who wrote two best-selling books while pursuing a degree in neuroscience. He is, in other words, an unlikely infidel.

Can you imagine the outcry if author Lisa Miller were writing about Christians, Jews or Muslims? Apparently the Newsweek ombudsperson is not too worried about the persecution of us little old godless unbelievers.

I have to put up with overt religious expression all the time - even proselytizing - and I find it offensive, but I keep my mouth shut and play nice. I've spent my whole life tiptoeing around not telling the rest of the kids that there's no Santa Claus because I thought it was bad manners, and yet there's no quid pro quo.

But that's all old hat. The Newsweek article takes the total disregard of unbelievers to new levels by implying that we're all rude, loud, thoughtless, stupid losers. If that's really what Newsweek readers believe, what's next, lynch mobs and lobotomies?

Well that's my rant for the day. I also sent a much more polite version of this to Newsweek. But I sure ain't buying another issue for a while.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Those Who Support Torture

Last week, Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006, aka the torture bill, which legalizes torture - along with secret CIA prisons, suspension of habeas corpus and military trials - for "enemy combatants." An "enemy combatant" is, apparently, any non-citizen the president says is an enemy combatant.

This outrageous move has been condemned by, well, everyone... around the world and within the United States. The Red Cross and ACLU have lodged objections. It's not a bill that should stand up to a constitutional challenge... except that the Supreme Court got two new members during the Bush presidency.

We all knew that Bush is a dangerous lunatic, but the US system of checks and balances was supposed to prevent this kind of fascist development. It did not because 65 senators voted for torture. The following senators voted for the torture bill:

Alexander, Allard, Allen, Bennett, Bond, Brownback, Bunning, Burns, Burr, Carper, Chambliss, Coburn, Cochran, Coleman, Collins, Cornyn, Craig, Crapo, DeMint, DeWine, Dole, Domenici, Ensign, Enzi, Frist, Graham, Grassley, Gregg, Hagel, Hatch, Hutchison, Inhofe, Isakson, Johnson, Kyl, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Lott, Lugar, Martinez, McCain, McConnell, Menendez, Murkowski, Nelson (Florida), Nelson (Nebraska), Pryor, Roberts, Rockefeller, Salazar, Santorum, Sessions, Shelby, Smith, Specter, Stabenow, Stevens, Sununu, Talent, Thomas, Thune, Vitter, Voinovich, Warner

These people should not be re-elected. McCain's presidential bid should be over. This should be the final nail in Joe Lieberman's career.

A disturbing side note: Washington insiders say that the torture bill was a cynical attempt by the Bush administration to deflect attention from its other scandals.

Garrison Keillor wrote a very good column on the subject.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Good for Jack

This weekend's Globe & Mail has an article, "Layton demands MacKay apologize or resign," which says, in part:
Peter MacKay should apologize or step down as Canada's foreign affairs minister for sexist comments he allegedly made towards female parliamentarians, the leader of the federal NDP party said Saturday.

...During a speech to the Ontario NDP provincial council, Mr. Layton also slammed Mr. MacKay for a previous comment in which he told NDP MP Alexa McDonough to "go back to doing her knitting" after she raised questions about Afghanistan.

He suggested Mr. MacKay is often aggressive, patronizing and patriarchal during debates and that he clearly demonstrates a lack of respect for women.

"His apology should go to all women members of parliament and members of the country because I'll tell you one thing, it's certainly going to discourage women from seeking public office and in that, he's done a great disservice," Mr. Layton said.

I am deeply impressed by Layton's statement for several reasons:

* The Conservatives are trying to paint MacKay's harassment of Stronach as a fake issue dreamed up by Liberals. Someone outside the Liberal party needed to step up and call them on that.

* Too many people are letting their opinion on this issue be colored by their opinion of Belinda Stronach or their opinions on who broke up with who. Layton has changed the discussion by showing that MacKay has a pattern of inappropriate behavior towards his female peers.

* The Liberals, NDP and Bloc all have similar values and our values are in opposition to those of the Harperistas. We need to stand together more.

* I think the NDP should have a valuable role in Canadian politics as a party of ideas and conscience, but Layton has been too preoccupied by partisan politics. If he doesn't get back on the ball, the Green Party is going to overtake the NDP as the alternative party, and I don't want to see that.

I heard Green Party leader Elizabeth May (who I think is fabulous) talking on the CBC today, and she said that the environment was not mentioned in the last election. That may be true at the national level, but at the all-candidate meetings that I went to in my riding it was mentioned a lot, and the discussion was co-opted by the ridiculous Green Party proposition to install a flat tax/pollution tax thing. It was one of those stupid ideas that was designed to solve one problem but would be ineffective and would cause ten other problems. That's what you get from one-issue, fringe parties. The NDP has been so busy of late trying to destroy the Liberals (I mean that literally; Layton actually thought he could do it) that he didn't notice the Green Party sneaking up his backside, and now they're standing at 9% in the opinion polls. Jack Layton has to get back on track and start sounding like a leader. I know he can do it.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Unfit for Public Office

Our current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay, was elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party after promising, in writing, that he wouldn't merge the party with the Reform Alliance. Less than two weeks later, he merged the parties. The Progressive Conservatives never had a chance because of the way the vote was engineered. The move amounted to a hostile take-over and brand appropriation. One might even say the new Conservative Party is a fraud, using a venerable old name to hide an agenda that most Canadian conservatives would abhor.

It was inevitable that many Progressive Conservatives would not fit into the new party, especially after the election of Stephen Harper as leader. Scott Brison, Belinda Stronach and Garth Turner were all misfits. They didn't change; their constituents didn't change - the party changed.

Today's Globe & Mail reports on today's parliamentary debate: "A Liberal jokingly asked Mr. MacKay about the impact of pollution on humans and animals: "What about your dog?" According to Mr. Holland, Mr. MacKay motioned toward Ms. Stronach's vacant seat and replied: "You already have her.""

This odious remark fits other reports of MacKay's behavior towards Stronach after she crossed over to the Liberals. Initially he tried to play for sympathy, saying she'd dumped him and he was heartbroken. Later it came out that she tried to save the relationship but he wouldn't have it, and it is reported that since they broke up he has frequently made rude gestures and taunts towards her across the House. It got so bad that Stronach's seat in the House had to be moved so that she was further away from him.

I don't give a damn about MacKay's love life and I'm quite certain that Stronach can take care of herself, but this shows us some things about MacKay's character that are so serious that I don't think he's fit for public office. We already knew from the party merger that he's untrustworthy. Now it's apparent that he's nasty and vengeful and possibly unstable. For heaven's sake, they went out for about six months and he broke up with Stronach over 18 months ago. And yet he's referring to her - in the House of Commons! - as his dog?! This is harassment. It's the kind of ex-boyfriend behavior that forces women to take out restraining orders. It's frightening and ugly. It is very, very important that MacKay recognize, both privately and publically, that his rage towards an ex-girlfriend is unacceptable.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ontario Prefers Bob Rae Over Any Other Leadership Candidate

Some partisan bloggers who support candidates other than Bob Rae persist in claiming that Rae is unelectable in Ontario. Poll after poll have proved decisively that this is not true.

Today's Globe & Mail said:

...29 per cent of Ontarians believe Mr. Rae would be the best prime minister, well higher than the 22 per cent who picked Mr. Ignatieff and the 20 and 21 per cent, respectively, who picked Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Dion, respectively.

“It puts to the test — or to the lie —the notion that Rae carries the most baggage in the province of Ontario and that his five years as premier makes him unacceptable,” said Allan Gregg, chairman of the Strategic Counsel.

But don't trust media interpretations. Look at the polls themselves:

Globe-CTV Poll October 18, 2006
Gandalf poll September 14, 2006
Decima poll September 14, 2006
Globe-CTV Poll September 19, 2006

Why is Bob Rae the first choice of Ontarians? If you haven't read it yet, take a gander at this article by a non-partisan senior civil servant during Bob Rae's premiership:

Deconstructing Bob Rae: Political Myth-Making, Ontario Style


Monday, October 16, 2006

Incentivizing the Masses

I grew up in the 60s, a time of moral relativism, in which the religious underpinning of moral behavior was abnegated and we were left with our gut as the only justification for our sense of right and wrong. Right and wrong became societal, not universal, and were subject to change.

Over the last 40 years, this tectonic shift in the foundation of moral behavior has led to a change in perspective: in the obverse of John Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you/Ask only what you can do for your country," we have shifted from talking about how we should behave to how to make people behave in desirable ways. The Ten Commandments have been replaced by the Constitution: that is, what is right is replaced by what is legal - an appeal to our sense of morality is replaced by incentives (both carrot and stick) to make us behave.

One might speculate whether the current cult of incentivizationalism will in turn lead to a backlash movement... antiincentivizationarianism, if you will.

Okay, sorry about this, I'm just messing with you. I couldn't sleep and thought up the word antiincentivizationarianism and wondered whether I could find a way to use it in context. Now I've scratched that itch...


Me Speak Pretty One Day

Stephane Dion on CTV Newsnet last weekend, responding to criticism about his ability to speak English:

"I think it's mostly by people who never heard me to speak."

I feel a little nasty repeating that, but come on guys, this is a real issue. You can't write off Anglo candidates because their French isn't up to snuff and then ignore this guy's mangling of English.

Chretien got away with it because everyone said that he couldn't speak French either and it fit in with his "little guy from Shawinagan" mythology. And he didn't get away with it completely: in the English debates he always came off as hesitant and a little bumbling, while in the French debates he was forceful and much more charismatic, I'm sure because he didn't have to pause and translate in his head. Also, one might argue that the Liberals could have elected anyone after the disaster of the Mulroney administration, and then Chretien had the wile and wits to hold on. We're in a different era now.


The Big Mo

In case anyone missed Bob Rae on the Rick Mercer Report, here's a link. (Yes, they both get naked, but the big news is not the skinnydipping but the skinnydipping in northern Ontario in October. Crikey.)

Following his fishing expedition with Bob, Rick Mercer had this to say about the October 15 leadership debate: "For those of you who didn’t catch [the debate] here are the highlights in alphabetical order: Bob Rae. That’s it. End of highlights. ...Bob Rae has the big mo. Standing up there on the stage in front of all those Liberals – Bob Rae looked like a Prime Minister..."

Speaking of the debate, my hands-down favorite blog on it is this one by the Frog Lady. Way to go, Frog Lady!