Not Worth My Time, Or Yours ...

Back in Toronto. NYC was a great time, for all sorts of reasons. More on that in a future post.

For now, instead of holding forth at length on the whole "dump Harper" nonsense going around (because it really is nonsense, and counter-productive at that - hence the title for this post), here is an excerpt from what Paul Wells has to say at his blog:

... Still, it may be time to remind everyone about the relative scale of things. I googled a couple dozen of the dehors-Harper petition signatories, and by and large, they either (a) are so insignificant as to be un-google-able; (b) seem to have been fond of Belinda Stronach a couple of years ago (this doesn't in any way detract from their right to criticize the leader, but it gives the rest of us permission to giggle about their judgement); (c) seem disproportionately to be under 30. Again, it is a beautiful thing to be under 30. I love all Canadians under 30 without distinction or reserve. But sometimes you haven't seen as much as you think you've seen and you haven't learned as much as you thought you knew.

I'm just going to add a few more comments for the time being:

1. I wouldn't lump every person who backed Belinda in with the crew who are now demanding that Harper resign. Many of them - and, most likely, a vast majority of those who were her grass-roots supporters in the CPC, and who don't feel the need to be reminded how important they are - are not the ones trying to save this village by burning it down.

2. That said, it is a funny old coincidence, isn't it? It should give you pause for thought for a number of reasons, and here's one: I'm surprised that some of these people, who seem to be in the red-ish wing of the Party, couldn't take a lesson from - yes - Joe Clark. Granted, Mulroney (and others) were working to undermine him, but he didn't crawl off and quit, or hop across the aisle for a cabinet post from Trudeau - he fought it out at the '83 Tory convention. And then, when his dream of being PM was effectively taken away for good, he didn't quit, and he (and the vast majority of his supporters) didn't go moaning & groaning to the press, no matter how low in the polls the Mulroney government went in the years to come. For all one might fault him, Clark deserves credit for that - he showed more spine and dedication than that shown by Stronach, or that now being shown by some of her former supporters.

3. Funny headline / story in the Globe today. (The story may be behind a subscriber wall; if so, it's essentially saying that the Martin govt. is not going to re-introduce corporate tax cuts, as it is unwilling to risk a defeat in the House, which would result in an election.) It makes me wonder: If the Libs are so convinced that Stephen Harper is their ticket to a majority government, why are they still walking on eggshells about a fall election, to the point where they're making sure the NDP support stays bought?

More later.


If I Can Make It There ...

... I'll Make It Anywhere.

I'm heading south of the border to NYC for the weekend. I'll be back, and blogging, on Monday.

So if you've been coming by lately, please do so again Monday next. In the meantime, there are a lot of fine things you can read, by clicking the links on the right of this page.

Have a great weekend.

More later.


More From Down Under ...

As I alluded to in my previous post, the NZ election, while attracting less press in Canada than the results in Germany, also ended in a near-tie, with various possibilities being tossed around as to whether the current Labour government and its partners will be replaced by the National (conservative) Party and its partners.

Part of the confusion is due to the fact that nobody was quite sure who the various smaller parties would end up "partnering" with, with some exceptions.

(One of those exceptions was ACT, which calls itself "the liberal party". Indeed it is "liberal", in the classical sense of the word - free trade, free markets, personal liberties, that kind of thing. It's the party I would've likely voted for had I been able to vote in NZ, and I'm glad they made it back into parliament, albeit by the skin of their teeth.)

Most of the smaller parties were playing their cards close to the vest in the immediate aftermath of the election, and not saying who they would support, although things may have settled down by now.

How did NZ end up with so many smaller parties? It uses what I think is an interesting system of part proportional representation, part first-past-the-post. As best as I can understand it, it works like this (and I apologise if I am way off base):

* There are a fixed number of "regular" constituencies, which elect MPs much the same way as we do (call these "constituency seats").

* However, voters get another ballot, which lists the various parties. This vote is to fill a non-fixed number of seats (call these "PR seats").

* If a party gets 5% of the "party vote" or more nation-wide, it's awarded a certain number of PR seats, based on its percentage of the vote. If a party gets less than 5%, it doesn't get any PR seats, unless ...

* If a party wins even 1 "constituency seat", it not only gets that seat, it also picks up however many "PR seats" it would have received if the 5% threshold didn't exist. This is how ACT managed to survive: it only received about 1.5% of the vote, but its leader won his own "constituency seat", so he and one other ACT MP (who will get a "PR seat") were elected.

* As a result, the total number of "PR seats" - and therefore, the total size of parliament as a whole - isn't known until you figure out how many parties met the 5% threshold, and how many managed to dodge the threshold altogether by winning at least 1 "constituency seat".

* More troublesome from my point of view, there are some seats (4, I think) that are specifically allocated for the Maori (aboriginal) population. I'm not quite sure whether only Maoris can vote for those seats, or whether they are "regular" seats that happen to be located in areas with a high Maori population, or what. If it's the former, I have to say that the notion of raced-based seats (or cultural-based seats, or what have you) is something that I don't like, but that appears to be the way of things in NZ.

Sounds like a heck of a way to run a railroad, eh? Political junkies like me would no doubt love trying to figure out the various strategies involved, but I suspect many folks who are comfortable with the "first-past-the-post" system we have in Canada would run for the hills before adopting the NZ method.

As I've said, this sort of to-and-fro doesn't mean we shouldn't change the way we elect MP's in Canada - on balance, I for one am still quite open to the idea - but it does mean we should give that idea some close scrutiny.

Finally, this fellow seems to be coming at things from a mildly centre-left point of view, but he manages to explain the various combinations and permutations that may result out of New Zealand's "near-tie".

More later.

German Confusion and Electoral Reform

If anyone has the slightest clue as to how this will work out, let me know.

In principle, I'm quite open to the idea of changing our electoral system, at least to a certain degree. But then you get results like Germany's, or New Zealand's for that matter, and it should certainly give one pause for thought.

More later.


For Now, Just One Point To Make ...

This story has had Tory tongues a-wagging today.

For now, all I'll say is this. The subject of this story is the Vice-Chair of the CPC's GTA Presidents' Council. But as one of those presidents, I'm a member of that Council, and I can tell you that the Council has not expressed any similar opinion as to Stephen Harper's leadership, and I doubt that it will anytime soon. Despite her position, she does not speak for the Council on this point.

In fairness, she did not say that she was speaking on behalf of the Council, but some of the stories have hinted - if not said outright - that she is representing the Council on this issue. Until it's proven otherwise, she isn't.

More later.

It Could Always Be Worse ...

As bad as some of the CPC / Harper in-fighting has been in recent days, it can't compare with the fun going on down under. (Hat tip for this story: Damian Penney.)

You see, Mark Latham, former leader of Australia's Labour Party, had his clock cleaned by John Howard in the federal election last year. After a few months of in-fighting, back-biting, and all-round ill humour, Mark decided to call it a day and resigned as Labour leader.

However, it seems that he was keeping a diary, which he has now decided to publish.

And has it ever set off some fireworks. You think Mulroney's book was bad? Check out this and this and this and this and .... well, you know what? Go here and click on just about any of the links, and you'll get the idea.

Unless this subsides in the relatively near future, imagine how much fun Kim Beazley, the current Labour leader (and probably Latham's favourite and/or most frequent target) is going to have on the campaign trail.

UPDATE: Unlike Peter Newman, who spent a few days doing a "who me, what did I do wrong" routine, and who says he meant to praise Mulroney, not bury him, Mark Latham is promoting his book by going full-out to settle any score he can - and it keepts getting worse.

More later.


Just Tasteless - or Perhaps, Fearful?

I clicked onto this story, but even knowing the Star as I do, the first paragraph knocked me for a loop:

What do Hurricane Katrina and Preston Manning have in common? Both blew through town leaving behind damage it will take years to repair.

Nice, eh? Nothing like comparing a real tragedy that resulted in the loss of lives, homes, businesses and millions of dollars, with a politician with whom one disagrees.

(Yeah, I know, I'm sure James Travers, the author of this little piece, meant no offence. Sorry, I still didn't find it funny.)

A bit of background: Preston Manning was in town last weekend to host a seminar on how we can build a "conservative movement" in Canada, similar to what was built in the USA following Barry Goldwater's failed bid for the presidency in 1964. (No, I didn't get an invite, and yes, I would've liked to - sue me.) It could be argued that the network of conservative journals, think-tanks, columnists, and the like which developed since '64 helped speed along conservative victories in the years to come, including (as the most obvious example) Ronald Reagan's election in 1980.

Apparently, our man Jim at the Star feels that this is the sort of Yankee-Republican-right-wing imperialist nonsense that we upstanding Canadians can do quite well without, thank you very much. And to make sure that us dullards in the crowd get the point, he decided to compare Preston with Katrina, along with making the (less offensive, but still quite arguable) point that the Bush administration's ideology is responsible for all sorts of problems in the States and elsewhere.

Now, I came to the CPC from the PC Party end of things. I never was a Reform Party supporter, and I never considered voting for Preston Manning to be Prime Minister. But I will say this: in recent years, even before the merger, I've come to hold a much higher level of respect for Manning, and for what he accomplished. Like Travers, I am disappointed that it resulted in a fractured situation "on the right", but you could make an argument that the Reform Party, or something like it, was necessary to Canadian politics. One of these days, I'll expand on what I mean by that.

For the time being, however, I think we can say that what Manning is suggesting be done now could assist conservatives in arguing their case to the Canadian people. Travers assumes that these arguments are doomed to fail, in part because of what he calls the "markedly different sensibilities on opposite sides of the 49th parallel".

Here's a thought: If our "sensibilities" are so different, perhaps it's not because Canadians will always reject conservative ideas and policies out of hand, but rather it's because conservatives have not yet done a good enough job of making their case to Canadians, which includes finding effective ways to do so over horrified howls from people like Jim Travers.

Here's another thought: Perhaps the "Manning Centre" may result in conservatives persuading Canadians that what have been accepted as Canadian "sensibilities" are not the best or only "sensibilities" on offer.

Here's a final thought (for now): Despite what Travers and others may think, there should not be squatters' rights as to what are acceptable "sensibilities" or "values" in politics. Just because we have (allegedly) decided that we like things a certain way now does not mean that the status quo should be accepted forever without having to explain why. If the Manning Centre (or something like it) accomplishes its goals, Travers, the Star, and others may have to resort to more than flag-waving and hyperbole to defend their turf. The sooner that sort of debate happens, the better.

More later.


Youth Justice

I was watching the announcement last week that Justice John Roberts would be nominated to the position of Chief Justice of the United States upon the passing of the late Chief Justice Rehnquist, and I thought that he looked quite young.

I checked, and it turns out that he is, in fact, 50 years of age. He is not a greenhorn by any stretch of the imagination, but as the following list of Chief Justices of the U.S. indicates, if Justice Roberts is confirmed by the Senate, he will be the youngest person to become Chief Justice since 1801. Here is the list, with their age as of the date they became C.J.U.S.:

John Jay - 43
John Rutledge - 56
Oliver Ellsworth - 50
John Marshall - 45 (his appointment as Chief Justice was effective on 4 February 1801)
Roger B. Toney - 59
Salmon C. Chase - 56
Morrison R. Waite - 58
Melville W. Fuller - 55
Edward D. White - 65
William H. Taft - 63
Charles E. Hughes - 67
Harlan F. Stone - 68
Frederick M. Vinson - 56
Earl Warren - 62
Warren E. Burger - 61
William H. Rehnquist - 61
John Roberts - 50 (assuming confirmation)

I am not saying this is a bad thing. From what little I know of Justice Roberts, he seems to be a good choice. It also looks like he will, in fact, be confirmed, although I expect that he may be given a rough time by Senate Democrats at his confirmation hearing (moreso now that he has been nominated for Chief Justice, as opposed to when he was nominated for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's position). Of course, it is possible that something unexpected may arise during the course of the hearings before the Senate vote, but I expect that most of the firepower will be directed towards the President's next choice.

So, we will have a Chief Justice who, barring ill health or accidents, could serve for 30 years or more (recall that Chief Justice Rehnquist was just a few days short of his 81st birthday when he died - and he was still serving as Cheif Justice).

On a related point: I'm not particularly sold on the sort of confirmation hearings they have in the States. On the other hand, I also have some concerns regarding the backroom process we have in Canada. At times like this, I wonder if it is possible to find a "best of both worlds" process that would avoid the sometimes-sideshow atmosphere of US hearings, while shedding some light and openness on what is a closed-door process in Canada. What do you folks think?

More later.


When's a Flip-Flop *Not* a Flip-Flop?

Sorry about the lame title, but hey, it's Friday afternoon.

The other day, Stephen Harper got some attention by saying the following:

1. If he was PM, he would attempt to persuade the Americans to honour the NAFTA panel's recent ruling on softwood lumber. He wouldn't barter away the panel's ruling - in other words, Prime Minister Harper's position would be, the rules that are in place resulted in this decision - so live with it.

2. If that didn't work, he would consider focusing his efforts elsewhere, and try and expand trade with countries like India or China. In other words, a CPC government would look beyond North America

So, is Stephen Harper making up policy on the fly? Is he just trying to play the Anti-American card now that it is fashionable to do so? (actually, in some quarters it's always fashionable to do so, but I digress ....)

Not quite. Here's an excerpt from the CPC's policy declaration, which came from the Montreal convention last March:

International Trade

In an increasing competitive global economy, trade remains the key to future prosperity in Canada. Many Canadian jobs depend heavily upon foreign markets. Those jobs are placed in jeopardy when other nations make it difficult for our exporters to sell their products.

i) A Conservative Government will bring more security to existing trade related jobs. To create new employment opportunities, our trade agenda will focus on diversifying both the products we sell abroad and the markets into which we sell those products. A Conservative Government will secure access to international markets through a rules based trading system. A Conservative Government will strive to maximize the benefits we have as a free trading nation, emphasizing the need to establish trading relationships beyond North America. [emphasis added]

I've said it before, but maybe - just maybe - the people who keep writing Harper's political obituary, and that of the CPC in the next election, should think again.

More later.


GOTV-Egypt (Part II)

An excerpt from this report (free registration may be required) on the Egyptian mulit-party presidential elections I talked about a couple of posts below caught my eye:

[I]n several districts around the city people who promised to vote for the president were given raffle tickets offering prizes that included an apartment, a pilgrimage to Mecca, a bedroom furniture set, televisions, refrigerators and stoves.

Let's hope that doesn't give Paul Martin any ideas.

But all joking (?) aside, I repeat what I said before: these elections, while miles away from "free and fair", represent a step forward. A too-small, insufficient step, but a step forward nonetheless.

The problem is, however, that there are a number of ways by which this "forward step" could become a hinderance, not a help, to democratic reform:

1. Mubarak could use the results as an excuse to say, in effect, "See? I told you everyone loved me ... so what's the point of spending all that money on future elections anway?"

2. People who are for all intents and purposes holding in their anger at the current regime could decide that this vote was such a farce that there is no point in following the democratic method ... and out come the clubs, guns, and bombs.

3. A concern that is similar to point #2: radical groups in Egypt and elsewhere use the faults in this election - and they are serious faults, don't get me wrong - as an excuse to not only beat up the Mubarak regime, but the USA (and the rest of the "western world") as well, given that the US pressured Mubarak into holding these elections in the first place.

On balance, while these and other problems are serious and need to be taken into account, the fact remains that Egyptians have, for the first time in a long time (ever?) have been able to exercie their franchise in a multi-party election. As I have said before, while this isn't sufficient, it is essential.

And who knows? The Egyptian people - and the people of other states in the area - may find that they like this multi-party business. Mubarak may find that it's harder than he thought to put that particular sort of toothpaste back into the tube.

More later.


Because That Fire REALLY Needed Some Gasoline Thrown On It ...

At a time when we can't count on much, we can always count on this guy to bring the level of debate up a notch or two. (Hat Tip: The Corner @ NRO)

In fairness, it appears that the poorest suffered the most as a result of Katrina, in New Orleans and elsewhere. And people have been drawing links between race and poverty for years. I can't really fault Howard Dean, or anyone else, from pointing that out.

But to not only throw down the race card, but to make the link between estate taxes and the effects of a hurricane is a bit rich. It's like saying North Korea was trying to develop nuclear weapons while Clinton was focused on his health care plan - yes, the timing was the same, and perhaps you could say the fact that resources of the government were focused on one was to the detriment of the other, but to me, that's a bit of a stretch. But that's Howard for you.

More later.


Get Out The Vote (Egyption Edition) - For What It's Worth

Tomorrow marks a first in Egypt: a multi-party presidential election.

The spread of multiparty democracy is never bad news, particularly in the Middle East, but before we pop open the champagne, we should remember that the news isn't all good. Joshua Hammer of The New Republic notes that not all candidates appear to be treated equally:

The two leading candidates can denounce [long-reigning President Hosni] Mubarak on the stump for the permitted 13-day campaign, but theiir voices are seldom heard and their faces are rarely seen in the state-controlled press. During the week I spent in Cairo in late August, I saw a total of one poster for Ayman Nour, the 40-year-old attorney and journalist who has emerged as Mubarak's main challenger. Mubarak's image, by contrast is inescapable--his face adorns buses, Nile riverboats, lampposts, and the entire facade of ruling party headquarters along the river.

Lest you think this is merely due to superior fund-raising techniques on the part of the incumbent, consider this, also from Hammer's article:

Voting is open to all Egyptians, as long as they registered by December 2004--two months before Mubarak called for the multiparty vote. By some estimates, 15 million Egyptians, many of whom have become excited about politics for the first time, have been disenfranchised. [emphasis added]

Well, that's one way to avoid long lines at the polling stations.

The article itself is well worth reading, and you can find it here (nb. that free registration may be required).

As Hammer notes, all is not lost: even if the result of the presidential election is, shall we say, easy to guess, there are multiparty parliamentary elections coming up at the end of the year. President Mubarak will likely win round #1 tomorrow, but hopefully he will find out that once people get used to seeing more than one name on a ballot, it is hard to go back to the "good old days".

All of this tends to support one of the principles that I think applies to states that are new and emerging democracies, and to states that wish they were: Multiparty elections are essential to a free and democratic society - but they are not, on their own, sufficient.

More later.


Happy Labour Day!

I'm at the office now, working on a little project that has to be done for tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll have some thoughts to share a little further on, once the work is done.

I'm a little miffed that I'm missing the "Labour Day Classics" - I swear, there are times when I think being an honest-to-goodness fan of the CFL makes me even more of an oddity in downtown T.O. than being an honest-to-goodness conservative .... although not by much. But then again, the Argos are slummin' it in Steel Town today, so it's not like I could be at the SkyDo - er, I mean the Rogers Centre - in any event.

Enjoy the day, and c'mon back in a bit.

More later.



I haven't posted anything about the disaster facing the people of New Orleans and elsewhere in the south, because quite frankly, there is little I can add to what has already been said. However, I would note the following:

First and Foremost: If you're of a mind to do something, perhaps the best thing to do right now is visit the Red Cross, where you can make a donation.

Second: I suppose it was only a matter of time until the president was blamed for this (if not for the hurricane, then at least the effects of same) in some way or another. So far as I can see, the only thing that may be left at his doorstep is his alleged cutting of funding for upkeep of the levies. However, right now, I don't have the information at hand to say (a) if the accusations are true, and (b) whether it would have made a difference if funding had been kept the same, or even increased.

The issue of whether government support and relief was delivered / is being delivered fast enough is also a legit issue. I think this is something that should definitely be examined, especially once the crisis has passed.

However, the accusation that GWB waited too long to express condolences, or that he's somehow otherwise deficient in that regard, doesn't wash with me. We had 8 years of "I feel your pain" from the last man in the Oval Office, which perhaps has us expecting that Pres. Clinton's way to respond to tragedy is the only way. That just doesn't cut it with me. People - even presidents - respond to things in different ways. That doesn't mean Bush, Clinton, or whomever happens to be in charge "doesn't care"; it means that they express themselves differently.

We should stop trying to play a parlour game of psychoanalysing every twitch and tic from the person in charge, and focus on what has actually happened and what needs to be done. If it is found after a proper investigation that one or more levels of government - city, county, state, federal or all of the above - dropped the ball in anticipating or responding to Katrina, then the person(s) in charge should be held accountable.

For the immediate future, I would hope that "the government" (and all levels thereof) will focus on relief, evacuation, and restoring some semblance of law & order. In due course, the same level of effort should go into figuring out what didn't work and why, and how the scenes we see on the news today can be avoided in the future when - God forbid, but you know it is "when", not "if" - the next hurricane hits.

More later.