Sunday, October 19, 2008

Michael Coren: The Conservatives are the new natural ruling party

Arch-conservative (Darth Vader levels of conservative) Michael Coren says that the Conservatives are now the natural ruling party of Canada. The Liberals have left the stage, the NDP failed to get near it, the Bloq have no interest or business being there, and the Greens, well the Greens no one really cared about to begin with.

I don't find the term 'natural ruling party' very palatable, even when it is used to describe the political party I currently support. It's just so sickeningly Canadian and provincial, maybe anti-democratic. It's a term that could only come from a country with a highly dysfunctional political system and an overabundance of hubris in its politicians. So no, I don't think the Conservatives are the new ruling party of Canada. I hope they never will be either.

Coren points out that the NDP hoped for 50-60 seats, but only grabbed 7 in the end, making this election something of a failure for them. I hadn't realised that the NDP were so serious, but now that Coren mentions it, I did notice a lot more of Jack Layton talking as if he had a chance at winning a majority. But what sort of party expects to win even 50-60 seats with people like Julian West, Andrew McKeever, Dana Larsen and Kirk Tousaw? Now Layton is once again calling for a grand union of left-wing parties to defeat the Conservatives, including the Bloq Quebecois and the unelected and largely insignificant Greens. Which makes me wonder if Layton believes that he alone could lead a left-wing alliance; surely deference to Liberal leader would be too much to bear?

What of the absurdity of Justin Trudeau? No sooner than he been elected in Papineau, he was removing himself as a leadership candidate for the Liberal Party. Did the media not realize that he's not done a thing yet other than ride off the back of his father's political capital? If that's what counts for merit in today's Liberal Party, or to the media, they're both much worse off than I thought.

Reasoned voices in the media are heralding a return to the Centre for the Liberals, not a further plunge deeper into the Left, despite the overtures of Elizabeth May and Jack Layton. It makes sense to me: Since the Liberals bore a hard turn toward the policies of the NDP and Bloq Quebecois (sans les separatists!), they have effectively abandoned the Centre to the Conservatives. In the past three elections, the Liberals' traditional centrist base of ethnic minority communities, Catholics and Montrealers slowly eroded into the meager collection of barely won ridings scattered throughout Ontario, the Maritimes and Quebec. As we've now seen, these voters - who often come from Liberal voting families (like mine) - are now voting Conservative. All the while Dion's leadership team was obsessed with bleeding votes to the NDP and the Greens (even though May tried her best to stop that), while the major benefactor of ex-Liberal votes was in fact the Conservative Party.

If reason prevails, a 'blue-ish' Liberal such as Michael Ignatieff or Keith Martin will secure party leadership. But all is not reasonable in the Liberal Party caucus these days. Ujjal Dosanjh, who just barely kept his Vancouver riding against a first time Conservative candidate, has announced his intention to one day seek a leadership nominations. Bob Rae's aspirations are well known. Both of these candidates are ex-NDP premiers and decidedly men of the Left. And each carry much unpleasant baggage with them from their times as premiers in British Columbia and Ontario respectively. A Dosanjh or Rae leadership would be, a la John McCain and George Bush, a repetition of existing policies. We all know how that usually turns out.

Colin Powell: Man of Mystery

I don't know how to respond to the press's response to Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama. Wasn't Powell a hated arch-neo-conservative fascist only a few years ago? Wasn't it Colin Powell who helped start the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? Wasn't he a Reagan and Bush Snr., appointee that was parachuted into the White House to watch over that incompetent monkey president? It just goes to show what a timely endorsement can do for one's reputation.

I don't think it's an issue of race, despite what that ignoramus Rush Limbaugh wants people to believe. I think it's an issue of popularity: Nothing hurts a politician more than being out of sync with the nation's mood.

How to win attention and alienate people

Vernunft at the The New Skeptic discusses Christopher Buckley's defection from the 'right' to the 'Obama'. I think Vernunft gets it right enough: Buckley's departure is looking less and less like a serious, political decision and painful exile and more like a self-serving attention grab. Usually it works out like this: person defects, presupposes the hatred of their former comrades, writes book. It amazes me that these brave souls survive the process.

More often than not, these incidents involve someone leaving the Right for the Left, and making a big, big deal about it. Do people leaving the Left for the Right do the same thing? I can only speak of Canadian examples, but when David Emerson did it (he had been elected to the House of Commons as a Liberal MP and then joined the Conservatives a few days later), he played down the entire affair. However when Belinda Stronach left the Conservatives for the Liberals, she made sure it was national news for several days in a row. Emerson made sure not to say anything disparaging about his former colleagues; Stronach made it as if she was being persecuted out of the party. I don't doubt that both switched out of personal gain, but the way each handled their situation couldn't have been more different.

Abp. Chaput says...

... Catholic supporters of Obama should stop kidding themselves. Supporting a candidate who has promised to make his first act in office the repeal of every state-level abortion restriction doesn't square with Catholicism. While his overtures towards poverty alleviation and a potentially less hawkish foreign policy are noble in and of themselves, they are ultimately rendered irrelevant by his hawkish pro-abortion policies.

Catholicism has always considered abortion the unjust and evil taking of an individual's life. In contrast to war, in abortion there is no necessity, no proportionalism, no justice, no self-defense. And heck, American voters have absolutely no guarantee that Obama is going to be suddenly less hawkish than Bush once in office. While it would be in his political interests to avoid extending America's military into new and potentially long term conflicts, there is absolutely no way anyone can know what sort of decisions he will make as president. So while we may or may not turn out to be an authentically anti-war president, we do know how he feels about abortion and what sort of attacks he will launch against the pro-life movement.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Flailing the Greens

I expected the Green Party to at least win one seat this election. No really, I truly did. I don't think that since the late 1980's was there such a strong environmentalist streak within the national political mood. Elizabeth May successfully petitioned to be included in the televised debates. Jim Harris had provided the infrastructure, funding and legitimacy to the party after years of peripheral involvement in the federal square. The time was ripe for the Greens to finally elect their very first Member of Parliament, so what happened?

A lot of things went as planned: The Greens capitalized on the newly refreshed environmentalist movement and increased their take of the overall vote. Almost 1,000,000 Canadians opted for a Green candidate, an increase of 300,000 from the 2006 Federal Election. In fact, they were the only party in Canada to actually increase their total votes. But despite this, the Greens failed to win a single riding, and even lost their lone sitting MP to a Conservative.

The mistake was primarily May's decision to develop an uncomfortably close relationship with Stephane Dion, the doomed Liberal leader. May advocated strategic voting, urging Green voters to choose the Liberal candidate rather than the Green candidate. The goal, apparently, was to keep Conservatives from winning seats, rather than increasing Green representation. May also developed a bizarre non-compete agreement with Dion, choosing not to field a candidate in the Liberal leader's home riding. These agreements might have improved May's standing with Dion, but they cost the Green Party itself precious funding in lost votes. It remains to be seen just what May was hoping for. A place in Dion's cabinet perhaps? A cozy job in Ottawa as Minister of the Environment? Whatever one can say about her actions, post-election it is clear that a good deal of her efforts were for the advancement of Elizabeth May the politician, not the Green Party.

We're now hearing some interesting things from depths of the Green Party. One senior Green has come out against May's renewed call for a coalition against Stephen Harper and her strategic voting policy. Another Green has come out and stated that the goal of the Green Party is, amazingly, not to exist as a political entity but to influence other political parties, acting as some sort of publicly funded lobby group. And of course we still have Elizabeth May, simultaneously announcing a party debt of $2,000,000 and her new plan to topple Stephen Harper's government without ever setting foot in the House of Commons. These are the sounds of party suffering from a bad case of indigestion.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I saw Bill Maher on Charlie Rose....

... and I was both impressed and disappointed.

Impressed, because Bill Maher was able to give credit to Rick Warren for being a serious Christian. Maher said he appreciated that Warren was so earnest in his personal journey to be Christ-like, that Warren felt poverty and global warming were serious issues.

Impressed, because Maher will say something so blithely stupid*, piss you off, and then chum up a silly smile and make you forgot he ever offended you at all.

Impressed, because Maher brings North Americans to attention about the problem of Islamism in Europe and secularism's inability to confront it.

because Maher brings North Americans to attention about the problem of Islamism in Europe and secularism's inability to confront it, and then says only secularism can confront it.

Disappointed, because Maher spent a lot of time explaining his self-described fact based, rationalist atheism, and then threw the rationalism out the window when it suited him. In response to Francis Collin's claim that the Gospels are eye-witness accounts, Maher countered that they couldn't be because the earliest written copies didn't appear until several decades after Christ's death. Maher, an educated man I assume, should be aware of the historical veracity of the Gospels and the Jewish oral tradition - two things which make Collins look like the one going by academic consensus, and Maher look like the coo-koo making up stuff.

Disappointed, because Maher speaks highly of Europe's secularism, but doesn't (or chooses not to) realise that secularism is itself a Christian - specifically Catholic - political concept. He lauds Europe's atheism, but fails to see its philosophical and practical limitations.

Disappointed, because Maher makes a point of saying that Europe hasn't collapsed because of atheism and atheistic secularism. Maher must have heard something about World War Two, where the Nazis - who were atheists - killed off over ten million people. And he must have learned about Communism, which is of course atheistic, and has lead to the killing of tens of millions of people since 1917.

Maher would make a lot more sense if he simply sought out irrationalism regardless of whether or not it comes cloaked in religious terms or cloaked in irreligious terms. Atheistic regimes of the last 90 years alone have been more murderous, more anti-science, and more authoritarian than any religious regime so far in history. Yet this intellectual, social and political history is completely ignored or quietly dismissed as aberrations. Maher wants to convince people to join his cause, and like Coke and Pepsi, he just might find new customers in the post-Christian circles of North America and Europe. But to create an honest and serious critique of 'organized religion', he needs to do a lot more than just repeat the talking points of the New Atheist movement and engage the history of anti-religion and atheism.

::postscript:: Maher's co-interviewee, co-producer of Religulous Larry Charles, didn't fare as well. He isn't blessed with the same charisma, or better yet, puppy-dog charm, that lets Maher get away with saying offensive and stupid things.* Charles looked like the type of guy you wouldn't want your children standing near in a Starbucks, and surprise, his answers were equally suspicious and repellent. His was a sidekick effort to Maher's, and the less time he spent talking, the more credible the premise and argument of Religulous remained.

*Maher says that he doesn't believe in vaccinations. Yes, he says that he doesn't believe in vaccinations. So, if we really listened to this herald of rationalism, we'd be much more enlightened toward atheism, but mostly dead or sick as a result.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pissing myself

We are a funny bunch. Main Street? Wall Street? Kitchen Table? Boardroom Table? Can't we just fucking say 'banks' or 'corporations' and 'people who work at banks' or 'people who work at corporations'?

The stupidest thing about these euphemisms is what they're attempting to accomplish. Class antagonism really should be a dead thing, especially in a society that still provides its members with economic mobility. We certainly don't need our politicians and media workers (who are rich) bringing back the ghosts of Marxism past. To be sure there is an antagonism between the few rich folks and the common, not as rich folks, which affords these euphemisms more life than they really deserve. And yet, there's just as much antagonism between the not-so-rich and the poor, perhaps even more, and it's rarely spoken about.

I suppose the comparison between 'kitchen tables' and 'dumpsters' doesn't carry the same weight as the other ones. We middle class people don't like to be reminded that we really are not the ones getting completely fucked over by economic bailouts. We like to feel like we're the truly downtrodden, the truly good people who are getting less than we rightly deserve. We especially don't like to be reminded that it's us, not the super rich, who completely fucked ourselves and the people below us. We took out lines of credit we couldn't afford, we created unsustainable spending patterns, we leased our cars, tv's, couches, and cell phones, and we pretended that nothing bad would ever come of it.

I haven't had caffeine or sugar since June; perhaps the 12oz Mocha wasn't such a good idea.

Monday, October 06, 2008

NDP Part Deux

Always setting new standards, the NDP have one-upped themselves. Their recent attack ads, which discussed the increasing weird 'new strong', have received a new touch. Instead of drum beats and a husky, female voice, we now have Jack Layton the man with Jack Layton the cartoon.

Yes, a cartoon! First, a grumpy cartoon Stephen Harper turns his back on a cartoon family with a coughing son. Harper vanishes, only to be replaced with a smiling Jack Layton. Layton you see, will somehow (I think he's planning to use magic) bring thousands of doctors and nurses into Canada, and make sure the ones we have will stay. To be fair, the NDP does have an outline of a plan that could increase the number of doctors in Canada, but it's far from the overnight express package they're making it out to be. In fact, their plan would take at least 8 years to bear fruit, and even then, relies more on the goodwill of medical students than anything else.

I have to wonder at the wisdom behind the NDP's attack ads that focus exclusively on Harper. The votes the NDP is currently winning aren't coming from erstwhile Conservative voters, but from erstwhile Bloc Quebecois, Green, and Liberal voters. Shouldn't they be attacking Dion's inabilities to lead a meaningful opposition, his mishandling of the carbon tax, and his 'third choice' candidacy?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

New Democratic Poopaganda

The NDP's televised ads are nothing short of hilarious.

The new strong? What the hell is that? If Layton is talking about manly social strength and economic vitality, just when has the NDP ever been associated with any definitions of strength or fiscal competency?

Maybe the funniest thing is that those ads seem to be doing a very good job at pulling Liberal voters to their camp. Last I checked the national polls, the NDP was bucking at 20%, while the Liberals were struggling to maintain 24%.

My last question: Could Dion beat Layton in an arm wrestle?

Catholics don't care about genital warts

I just saw an ad urging women, ages '9-26', to receive Gardasil vaccination. Gardasil is of course the famous drug that prevents, in the vast majority of studied cases, human papillomavirus, HPV. HPV can increase the risk of cervical cancer, throat cancer, and genital warts. Schools are offering free vaccinations as early as grade 5, and some schools, like the Catholic ones in Calgary, aren't going for it.

From the Catholic perspective, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with Gardasil. It is by all accounts a very effective and even life-saving drug that will undoubtedly help thousands of Canadians every year. But there is something wrong with a STI drug being given to girls who haven't even reached puberty yet. Of course, the critics will say, there is the few 9 year-old girls who tragically will be sexually active at that young age. But their situation is not the norm, and we should make sure it never is, lest the next devastating STI epidemic is thrust upon us. And the hyper-aggressive advertising, the type which vilifies parents who may have reservations about their children receiving the vaccination at a certain age, is just plain wrong.

I'd like it if the Catholic school boards that aren't suitably excited about Gardasil advance their arguments a little better. Make sure the rest of Canada understands why you think it's worth thinking twice about giving children drugs that are explicitly designed to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases. Otherwise, it makes Catholics look like fundamentalist nutters who'd rather circle the wagons than make peace with the natives.

Most of all, the Gardasil phenomenon is an opportunity for Catholic school boards to initiate a very important discussion with the rest of Canada. I can think of a few elementary questions to start from:

- Canadians should re-examine the sexual education children receive in public and private schools to make sure the children are not exposed to dangerous and potentially life threatening infections. I've always thought that the best way to do this is to follow the tried and true ABC format of sex-ed: Abstinence; be faithful; or use a condom.

- At what point should children be exposed to sex-ed? When should the role of the parents in this matter be usurped by a teacher? How exactly do we get parents to maturely and responsibly discuss these things with their children?

- Should we aggressively advertise a drug to minors?