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Tuesday: OY! Canada

Last night, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper in Canada won a majority of seats.  We send our condolences to our more reasonable neighbors to the north who will have to suffer until October 2015 to get rid of them.  Don’t screw it up like we did.

It wasn’t all bad though.  Jack Layton’s New Democrat Party (NDP) picked up a whopping number of seats while Michael Ignatieff brought the Liberals to an ignominious defeat.  I am unfamiliar with the geographical representation of the two parties, with the exception of the Bloc Quebequois, so I will leave the pithier explanations to Ian Welsh.  But I would note that Fox News didn’t get a stronghold in Canada until 2003-2004.  Harper was elected in 2006.  Coincidence?  Dunno, it looks like a good study for a poli sci major.

What’s more interesting is the composition of the left in Canada after this election. The Liberals, who are analogous to the American Democrats here, were decimated.  Their conciliatory leader of the Liberals, Michael Ignatieff, lost his own seat.  That’s like Harry Reid losing his Senate seat.  The political landscape is now split between the Conservatives and the much leftier NDP party.  The centrist Liberals have all but vanished.  pfwishhh!  Gone like the wind.

If I were to guess, I would say that Canadians wanted an opposition and the Liberals were not providing one.  So, they brought in a new regime.  It could also be the case that the conservative win wasn’t so much an ideological shift but the result of Liberal voters staying home.  And we have no idea what the Bloc Quebequois was really up to but it seems to play the role of the Oppositional/Defiant party who will deliberately misbehave until it gets attention.

We also can not rule out the Osama bin Laden effect.  Our media markets cross over and yesterday was all about Osama.  We know from studies of such things that the more voters are reminded of their own mortality, the more they gravitate towards conservative politicians.  We worship the people who promise to protect us from the unknowable evil of the outside world.

So, was the death of Osama bin Laden a triumph of American intelligence and ability or was it an opportunistic propaganda opportunity for Obama or was it part of the messaging directed at Canadians going to the polls?  Or a little of all of these things?  I’d like to know about the timing because that seems very conveeeenient, doesn’t it?  We couldn’t have waited one extra day to take bin Laden out?  It’s not like he knew what was coming.

But one thing seems clear: Canadians are sick to death of wishy washy democrats who call themselves Liberals who pretend to defend them and then capitulate over and over again to the Tories.  That does not bode well for Obama and the American Democrats.  A similar thing could very well happen here.  If American Democrats are given no choice next year but to vote for another term of Obama, a lot of them will desert the Democratic party and defect to more lefty parties.  I will be one of them.  I predict that the Democrats will lose seats and Republicans will pick some up, not because they are particularly well loved but because they are filling a vacuum left by all those disgusted voters.  It only seems like Obama and the Democrats are the only game in town right now and that may be true at this moment.  But I wouldn’t want to stake my political strategy on the idea that the rest of us true liberals are going to vote for the Democrats just because the alternative would be sooooo much worse.

That’s not MY fault.  That’s the fault of the party that doesn’t offer me anything I want.  I’d rather give my vote to a different entity and help that party become a legitimate force to be reckoned with.  It might take a couple election cycles but to give in to the guilt trips and the peer pressure only gives the bad guys and the weak collaborators a free pass to do what they please and I refuse to cooperate in the destruction of my political system.  I want to put my efforts into building up a new alternative. It appears that this is what the Canadians have chosen to do as well.  Good luck to them.  I hope they survive the next 4 years of conservative lunacy.  And the first thing they should do when the NDP finally does score a majority government is boot Fox News to the curb.  ASAP.

The writing is on the wall for 2012.  It doesn’t have to be a Republican victory but with Obama and the current crop of Democrats in place, it’s hard to see how any other outcome is possible.  The Centrist schtick is getting old.

Look, North, Oh, American Democrats.  This is your future in 18 months if you don’t get your act together and make some really hard choices.  Better do it now while you have time to recover.  Next year will be too late.

Update:  Count this as day two of my “Osama is dead? Meh.” reaction.  His death, to me, is anticlimactic.  I also don’t think Obama should be accepting all of the praise and taking a victory lap over it.  It sounds like our intelligence machinery and well trained specialists were responsible for this final chapter in Osama’s life.  If he’s dead, well, alright then.  I’m a liberal but I still eat meat, medium rare.  You will not get hand wringing and  “Oh, what is to become of us now that we have tasted blood?  We are truly barbaric.”  F$%@ that S^&*.  I refuse to take part in the collective guit the left is feeling over the death of Osama.  Oh, Please.  There is a time for turning the other cheek and there is a time to knock the teeth out of the person who just tried to kill you.  I can do the whole Keith Carradine Kung Fu thing when the opponent can more easily be taken down by using their own force against them.  But lefties shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking that if we all just “use our words” all the time, we can live in peace and harmony and rainbow ponies.  The practice of power requires that you meet aggression with aggression.  Just make sure your side is bigger and better so that the duration of the conflict is swift and complete. That’s where the Bushies went wrong (or did they just have a different agenda).  I particularly liked Hillary’s comments about how Al Qaeda cannot win. They can only postpone the inevitable.

Let’s not confuse and conflate the erosion of our civil liberties with taking out dangerous attackers.  They don’t have to go together.  Osama, the authoritarian egotist in Pakistan is not a poster child for the authoritarian egotists in Washington, DC.  Osama bin Laden was an unrepentant, bad, malicious man but he was just an excuse for what our own bad guys wanted to implement. Osama was responsible for his own fate when he decided to murder 3000 innocent people and then ran and hid like a coward.  You don’t need to suspend habeas corpus to deliver the coup de grace.  Neither is the blow necessarily an unjust result of that crack down on civil liberties.  The two things should be seen as separate tethered loosely by one pivotal event.  Cheney and Bush were looking for a reason.  Osama handed it to them.  But it was us, the American people, who let the Bushies get away with it.

I would have preferred to have Osama captured and tried in the US and then deep sixed in some Supermax prison, never to be seen or heard from again, his name and face erased from the history books ala ancient cultures obliterating unpopular political figures.  There was very little chance that Osama bin Laden would ever achieve a state of sophrosyne while he waited and regretted his life sentence in a western jail.  But that wouldn’t have been the point.  The point would have been to reduce the man from his status as a leader of a fanatical fundamentalist organization to that of   a mere mortal, subject to the higher powers of a just state.

No paradise, no 72 virgins, no glory.  Just oblivion in the hands of his enemies.

Al Qaeda would have hated that.

But let’s not rejoice or get carried away.  The blood lust that sang in my ears 10 years ago has subsided to an annoying tinitis.  I’m glad he can’t do anymore mischief but his legacy survives.  It would be foolish to think we are safe and even more foolish to ever think we were before he attacked us.  We are no less vulnerable to attack than we were before 9/11.  We just have to learn to live with that, like learning to live with the knowledge of our own deaths.  Death will come.  We can take steps to avoid having it catch up to us too soon but it will happen eventually.  It’s silly to think we can make friends with it or escape it if we choose to be above all that stinky grave stuff, it’s so barbaric and uncouth.

We are never safe, we are not immortal, we cannot appease the zealous.  All we can do is the right thing, as frequently as possible, and hope that the ties we make are stronger than the ones we break.

Let’s let Osama sink to the bottom of a watery deep and let the waves swallow him  and his memory up.  Good riddance.

Sunday: Follow the North Star

Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party in Canada

Ian Welsh has a good post today about the emergence of the New Democratic Party as a serious player in Canadian politics.  It seems that the Canadians have been paying attention to what’s happening to their neighbors to the south and realize that their way of life may be in jeopardy if they keep electing Conservative and Liberal party politicians.  Sounds like the Conservatives and Liberal parties are akin to our Republicans and Democrats.

From Ian’s post On The NDP Surge in Canada:

If the Conservatives get a minority government, odds are the NDP will be the official opposition party.  Layton will be a far more effective opposition leader than Ignatieff.  And Ignatieff’s days as Liberal leader will soon be over, the Liberals will turf him, as being third party is a complete and absolute disaster for them.  The Liberals and Conservatives have traded being the government of Canada back and forth for as long as Canada has existed.

If Layton does do a good job, he might be able to cement the NDP as the second party in Canada, and if he does that, eventually the NDP will be the government.  That’s a big deal, because the Liberals are essentially centrists.  They campaign slightly left, rule slightly right, and are certainly neo-liberal friendly.  I say this as someone who actually has a lot of respect for the government of Chretien and Paul Martin.  They did a good job overall and managed a period when Canada had to kiss America’s ass very well.  Chretien, in particular, is due a lot of credit for telling Bush to fuck off when Bush tried to coerce Canada into joining the Iraq war, as that took a lot of guts from a Canadian PM, and was clearly the right thing to do.

What does this mean for the rest of the world? Canada was one of the first nations to go to a right wing government.  Through the 2000′s there has been a wave of right wing governments in the West.  The NDP doing this well might be a sign that things are beginning to turn.  Again, the NDP aren’t the wimpy left, they are actually socialists, not a party like Labor in Britain, which is clearly right wing, just not as right wing as the nutbar Conservatives.

How good a government Layton would run I don’t know. I don’t have a good feel for the wonks behind him, or for how strong a leader he’d be.  Nonetheless I am confident that of the possibilities, he’s the best man for the job.  Ignatieff is a weasel, and no one who has apologized for torture should be in charge of anything, anywhere, while Harper is a conservative ideologue who thinks that Canada should be more like the US, as well as being an autocrat who spits over Canada’s democratic and parliamentary traditions.  The sooner he retires, the better.

The outcome is still uncertain.  Heck, it’s even possible the Liberals could come back into second place, or that the Conservatives could surge.  The polls are all over the place, as noted, and this has been a very volatile election.  Someone could put their foot in it.  But still, for the first time in a long time, I am actually seeing some hope for the future.  Canada, amongst countries in the world, is uniquely positioned to ride out the next couple decades.  We have everything we need to do really well, to be one of the most prosperous and free nations in the world.  But doing so requires a course change that will never happen under the Conservatives and is unlikely to happen under the Liberals.  The NDP are the best chance, not a sure thing, but a decent chance.  So here’s praying they keep surging.

So, I don’t know all the layers of Canadian politics but I gather that even God doesn’t have as much power in Canada as the Canadian Prime Minister.  Currently, the Prime Minister is Steven Harper, analogous to George Bush in the kind of energy rich, rural, low taxes support he is getting.  The current government is a minority coalition(?) but it looks like the NDP party, which runs towards the socialist end of the spectrum, is picking up a lot of support in the upcoming elections, bi-passing the Liberals.  It sounds like Canadians are getting wise to the utter fecklessness of their Democratic Liberal party.  Too much compromising with the Conservatives, perhaps?  An excess of “everything on the table” negotiating?  The Bloc Quebecois is getting savvy to the Conservative’s desired monopoly on energy resources?

I dunno.  I’m not Canadian but they sound like they have woken up and smelled the coffee and don’t much like where it’s coming from. Maybe it’s because Canadians were late to the Fox News empire.  Canada only got the lying channel for the rich in 2004. (and wouldn’t you know it, Harper became Prime Minister in 2006.  Hmmm…)  But if the NDP is surging, Canadians must not be as saturated in the movement conservative propaganda yet.  We could learn a lot from them.

And if Canadians will take it from some burned Americans we recommend that you stop watching cable news programs, particularly Fox and turn off talk radio. That is, unless you *like* the idea of losing your social safety net bit by bit.

If Americans ever want to get their mojo back, it’s going to take a party much more to the left than we have now to win some elections.  Yep, we need a New Democratic Party to carve out some support from the Democrats and drag them back over the center line just like the Tea Party is carving out support from the Republicans and dragging them over to the extreme right.  Even with an American version of the NDP, we are never going to go as left as France.  But Canada?  I could sign on to a Canadian style political left with substantial social safety net features and a working health care system.  Now, if we could only get Bernie Sanders to start a New Democratic Party here in the US…

Here’s the platform for the New Democratic Party of Canada.

{{sob!}}  I wish *I* were Canadian.