May 31, 2005
Guess I Should Post Something...
Just to show I'm still here. Work is busy; Houston is hot; the drive is long - ars longa vita brevis, or some such. But I'm alive; thanks for asking!
Oh, and while I'm here, I'll reply briefly to a comment by Dan S. who cites a report that some sort of minor 'mishandling' of the Koran has been reported at Guantanamo, and suggests that my 'case' against Newsweek is undermined. I'm not so sure: the premise of my case is that Newsweek has a duty not to publish information that is false when that information is reasonably foreseeable to cause damages. Newsweek reported a desecration of the Koran that went well beyond what has been reported (probably as a result of simple hyperbole and exaggeration), and the jury question is whether the damages resulting from that breach of duty could have been reasonably foreseen. The fact that a lesser offense occurred does not alter Newsweek's duty, nor its breach thereof.
As for a suit against the U.S. government, if you can show me how to act on behalf of the Koran, so as to receive attorney's fees, I'll be happy to state a case. Seriously, though, if there's a civil rights claim here - and the only federal civil rights statute I have even a passing familiarity with is 42 U.S.C. 1983 - it ought to be investigated, and I'll have a look. My guess, though, is that it won't apply to the activities of military personnel outside of the judicial jurisdiction of the United States; whether Gitmo is now within that jurisdiction is a controversial point, with the Supreme Court suggesting that it is.
May 19, 2005
Can anybody point me towards a transcript of Speaker Peter Milliken's comments in the House today? I have a thing or two to say about his tie-breaking vote, but much of it depends, obviously, on what Milliken actually did and why (he says) he did it.
UPDATE: Well, it should be up on Hansard tomorrow, but for now we have this clip (Real Audio) from the Canadian Press:
Since the House cannot make a decision, I cast my vote for second reading of Bill C-48 and its reference to the Finance Committee to allow the House time for further debate so that it can make its own decision at some future time.Very interesting. The bold emphasis is mine; the italic is Milliken's own emphasis.
As I note in the comments to this post, the idea of 'maintaining the status quo' can be interpreted in two different ways. The 'status quo' can be determined with reference to the bill at issue; or it can be determined with reference to the party introducing the bill. The first approach would counsel a Speaker to vote against a bill in order to prevent it from becoming law; since the bill was not law at the time the House began to vote, and since the bill does not enjoy the confidence of the House, the bill should not become law at the end of the House's vote.
The second approach would counsel a speaker to vote for a confidence motion in order to matain the pre-vote balance of power in Parliament: since the party in whom confidence was challenged enjoyed the presumption of confidence before the motion, and since a majority of the House does not deny such confidence, the presumption of confidence should survive the vote.
I had expected to write a post arguing why we, as democrats, should prefer the first to the second approach. But neither of those approaches pertains here - or rather, either can, with no contradiction. First, the budget bill was not an explicit confidence motion (notice how that 'procedural' card swings both ways?). Moreover, the budget bill did not, through its passage, become law - as Milliken notes quite explicitly. So Milliken was either maintaining neither status quo or both, depending on your perspective.
But the key here, as my brother has pointed out, is that - as Milliken expressly notes - sending the budget to committee does not mean that the budget becomes law; nor does it therefore mean that (through its passage into law) the government is out of trouble. The assumption, of course, is that if the Liberals can pass the NDP budget on second reading, they'll be able to pass it on third; certainly the press - and the Conservative Party, by all accounts - have reacted as if today's vote means there will be no election before next January. But - and again, we come down to that pesky 'just procedural' - the budget has to come before the House again before it recesses if the budget is going to become law. That means that the Tories will have at least one more crack.
Or, as Warren Kinsella writes: "Time to move on. Until the next confidence vote, that is, of which there are half-a-dozen between now and when the House of Commons is scheduled to rise." But maybe Paul Martin just won't recognize those.
May 18, 2005
Status Quo Ante
There's widespread speculation that Thursday's budget vote could come down to Speaker Peter Milliken's tie-breaking vote. When I discussed the idea of tie-breaking last month, I assumed that a confidence motion would be introduced by the opposition. I quoted from a Globe and Mail article which stated: "a tie would be broken by Commons Speaker Peter Milliken who traditionally would vote to maintain the status quo."
I argued last month that this principle may not be accurate, at least in instances where the motion in question is an opposition motion. Let's assume for the moment that it is correct. If it is, mustn't the speaker vote against the budget? After all, today there is no budget; in the event of a tie, a vote to 'maintain the status quo' would seem necessarily to be a vote to defeat the budget, even at the risk of defeating the government in the process.
You know, that one. Well, here it is. It's not Dosanjh, but rather Paul Martin's cheif of staff, Tim Murphy; however, Murphy (if the voice is indeed him) says something along the likes of 'talk to Ujjal - he knows this is the conversation I'm having with you.' Bring 'em all in, I say.
But, as Andrew Coyne notes, just because it's illegal doesn't mean anything's going to happen. Not in Canada.
Da Vinci Code
I suppose this was inevitable; what was not inevitable, I think, is that it's a Ron Howard/Tom Hanks pic (with Han Zimmer, who's no slouch, doing the score). The trailer suggests that it won't be a simple re-make of the book, but I wonder.
God Bless Donald Trump
This made my day - I stopped in my tracks in the middle of the bank to watch the press conference on CNN. Here's a suggestion for Trump: take collections from Americans; any amount accepted. Canvas for messages along with donations. Within two months you'll have a pile of cash and a bookload of personal messages of support and blessing, both of which will help to catch the attention of the Port Authority. Trump is right: the only thing that should be built upon the land of the World Trade Center is the World Trade Center. If it was not an historically American landmark akin to the Statue of Liberty, it became precisely that on September 11, 2001. Build it again. But better.
If Tory MP Gurmont Grewal does indeed have recordings of Ujjal Dosanjh offering him a job in return for his vote, Dosanjh could very well be convicted of a crime. Or can't we trust the RCMP to investigate and press charges against Liberals?
By the Way, Read Coyne
He's just as mad as I am, but he's smarter and writes better. Just click and keep scrolling.
Charlebois notes that our old friend Allan Riddell has been denied the Conservative Party nomination for Ottawa South. I'd find it hard to believe that his ill-advised letter to me had anything to do with it; on the other hand, I'd be a little disappointed if the reason he gives is the real reason. Says Charles:
The reason, he says, that the Party denied his nomination was because 25 years ago, when he was 17, he dressed up at Halloween in a Colonel Klink costume. Colonel Klink was a Nazi character in the TV show Hogan's Heroes. He's obtained letters from various prominent Jewish leaders saying the costume shouldn't be taken into account (this guy's all about the letters!) and is currently in his 2nd appeal of the decision made by the committee that reviews all nominations.It would be unfortunate if Riddell were disqualified for this reason. If it is the reason, it's no doubt motivated by the Jean-Louis Roux affair, but the situations are clearly distinguishable: Roux' association with Nazi imagery was a) cotemporaneous with the Nazi reign in German, and b) allegedly indicative of a certain level of support for either the Nazi party or its ideals. The same is simply not true of Riddell: wearing a Colonel Klink costume twenty-five years ago indicates no support for the Nazi party or its ideals - in fact, it arguably indicates the exact opposite.
Unfortunately - on the other other hand - the Tory party may simply be appropriately cautious given the inevitability of a Liberal attack on Riddell based on the allegation of Nazism. I don't like the idea of running away from Liberal attacks, but the pragmatism should at least be recognized.
A marvelous column - hey, National Post, don't you wish this guy was still writing for you? - ends: "Today our head of state lands in, appropriately, Regina. This is still, technically, “Her Majesty’s Government”. But it is not mine." Amen.
Well this was entirely predictable.
Putting aside the dipstick comment ('I don't know what that means,' said my friend Lizzie), I find the question rather interesting. Specifically - and here a disclaimer, as this is usually a family blog, although in Canada it's unclear what that means anymore - I'm intruiged by the notion that the word 'whore' or more particularly 'whoring' is inherently sexist.
Here's Webster's on 'whore':
Etymology: Middle English hore, from Old English hOre; akin to Old Norse hOra whore, hOrr adulterer...And here's the Oxford English Dictionary:
1 : a woman who engages in sexual acts for money : PROSTITUTE; also : a promiscuous or immoral woman
2 : a male who engages in sexual acts for money
3 : a venal or unscrupulous person
1. a. A woman who prostitutes herself for hire; a prostitute, harlot...And just for good measure, here's the OED on 'prostitute':
c. A male prostitute; any promiscuous or unprincipled person. (Esp. as a term of abuse.)
2. a. A person given over to infamous practices of any kind; an abandoned person. b. esp. One who debases himself for the sake of gain, a base hireling, a corrupt and venal politician.Emphasis mine.
So the first point is that in a certain sense, a whore is precisely what Stronach is, today: she is "a woman who prostitutes herself - that is, who debases herself for the sake of gain - for hire."
The objection, of course, is that a man in the same position would never be said to have 'whored himself.' I'm not convinced - I may have said the same about Brison, or heard it. But let's assume that it's true - that because 'whore' is an historically feminine epithet, its use is necessarily 'sexist' in the sense of being applied categorically with reference to only one of the two sexes.
How bad is that, and what are the limits of the badness? Presumably it's bad because it informs a perception of women based on the image of sexual infidelity. But the suggestion is not that all women are whores, or that all women MPs are whores; the suggestion is simply that all women MPs who cross the floor two days before a confidence motion expected to topple a government widely held to be both illegitimate and corrupt in return for an appointment to cabinet - a category that happens to be restricted, at the moment, to Belinda Stronach, MP - are whores.
As to the objection that the very disparity between terms of approbation based on sex is sexist - the fact that women are called whores while men are called traitors or weasels or rats or some such - the question must be asked: can a women ever be addressed through a feminine-specific term? Is that really the end (which is to say, goal) of feminism - that women must be identified in strictly male terms?
The argument with the most force, to my mind, is the suggestion that 'whore' as the female equivalent of whatever male pejorative is sexist because it denigrates women through an association with sex. The argument must rest, however, upon the assumption that an association with sex is necessarily derogatory. Now it's clear that 'whore' - even in a limited sexual sense - is derogatory; but I would think that at least one consistent feminist opinion would advocate the legalization of whoring - which is to say, prostitution. Such an approach would presumably involve an argument that 'whore' is miscast as a pejorative, and that the sexism involved is the negative connotation, and not the act represented.
Objections to this particular pejorative might, therefore, correctly identify immediate instances of sexism, but they seem themselves to promote ideas of sex relations that might very well be destructive of feminine empowerment over time.
You've come a long way, baby, indeed.
Instapundit comments: "It looks like [TV via the Internet is] finally coming true." My buddy Brian has the MLB webcast package - every baseball game livecast in pretty fantastic quality. What I wonder - and I hope Maderblog readers have some suggestions - is why cable channels don't jump whole-cloth into the webcast game? I can understand that livecasting of individual shows would be bad news for channels, which foot much of the bill for shows; individual webcasts would make the show, rather than the channel, the master of advertising revenue. But by keeping the current financing and broadcasting mechanism and simply switching mediums, cable channels could theoretically reach a new and wealthy consumer market. The switch might involve cutting out the middle-man in the form of the cable company - I'm thinking Rogers in Canada or, uh... um... ok I don't have cable here so I can't think of the names of American cable companies off the top of my head, but you get the idea. On the other hand, since a lot of cable companies are also internet providers, they could presumably get a cut in terms of hosting and streaming.
In short, why can't I buy access to HBO, and only HBO, online - and when will I be able to?
I wonder whether you have to be Jewish to really appreciate this post by Eugene Volokh. I know I laughed out loud.
'She's A Strong Person'
What an interesting behind-the-scenes look at Stronach's defection, in today's TorStar. The narrative seems to go like this: Stronach, bitter because Stephen Harper has been treating her as if she lost the leadership race last year (you'll note, incidentally, that she did), dresses her down in a loud voice for breaking the party line and voicing support for the NDP budget. Belinda, visibly shaken, flies to Toronto where she complains publicly to various acquaintances about her treatmeny by Harper. One sympathetic ear is former Ontario Liberal Premier David Peterson, to whom Belinda turns for advice. Peterson suggests that she cross the floor; Belinda is receptive. Peterson talks to Martin's people, inking a deal over the weekend prior to Stronach's attendance at a Tory party election preparation session. Stronach gives no indication of displeasure with the party at the session. Earlier this week, Stronach dines with Martin at 24 Sussex, where - well, I'll let her tell the rest:
[Martin] gave me his assurance, I looked him in the eye, he gave me his assurance he is serious about democratic renewal, and I felt that this is a way I can make a contribution to Canada.What a triumph for women's lib Stronach is. Reacting emotionally to a heated exchange with Harper, she seeks guidance from Peterson who - as the Star tells it, perhaps unwittingly - manoevres Stronach into the Liberal Party; Stronach is ever the observer in this narrative, never the actor. I imagine the Star intended the piece to be mildly sympathetic, but it quite successfully paints Stronach as a nothing, a woman without principle or direction, governed in turn by her own emotion and by the machinations of other political actors.
You've come a long way, baby.
May 17, 2005
Why Don't We Care?
There are two possible ways to explain this. One is that, this scandal is really not a big deal, the case is overstated, mistakes were made, and Paul Martin is cleaning it up. The other is that, while the public is angry, they are unsure about the opposition, and, operating on the assumption that all politicians are the same, and that changing parties will not stop the inevitable corruption, opt for the Liberals on policy grounds....With the caveat that we don't really know how indifferent Canadians are, I'll join Wudrick in stepping outside of politics in trying to determine just why there seems to be so little outrage.
[T]he majority of Canadians seem indifferent to this sort of behaviour. They don’t bother reading the news, because they don’t really believe it. They don’t bother to investigate or contemplate what a politician says, because they never mean what they say....
Have our democratic institutions devolved into such a state that any pretence of honour and personal integrity is just for show? Are elections just a sham – because if everybody’s lying, why even vote? Do we not care that individuals, elected under one affiliation, switch to another – or change from one policy to another – and no one bats an eyelash at this staggering affront to democracy? And are we not concerned that a government, on the brink of collapse, employs the public purse to nakedly, blatantly, shamelessly shower the country in its own money, in the interests of consolidating power?
I think much of it has to do with Canada's history, and in particular the lack of overt threats to democracy in the latter half of the twentieth century. Many have commented - quite correctly, I think - that a scandal of this scale in the United States would provoke tremendous outrage and protest. Americans have always been more protective of their democratic government, of course, but in the past half-century they've experienced a number of episodes which have helped to keep the idea fresh and immediate. The (very real) threat of Communist subversion in the 1950s, the federal-state tensions over desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s, the race riots in the late 1960s, the Vietnam War and its attendant civic unrest in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and Watergate in the early 1970s, all presented Americans with instances in which the very fabric of their governmental order frayed and threatened to snap. To America's eternal credit, it never did.
But Canada never experienced the same societal tension. The single instance that comes immediately to mind is the FLQ crisis - but, perhaps tellingly, in that instance it was the government's reaction, more than the initial situation, that posed the gravest risk to Canadian democracy. 'Just watch me' is a great Dirty Harry line for an insecure politician, but it's terrible for free government. But - again, perhaps tellingly - the War Measures Act passed over relatively indifferent protest (only because my father protested the Act do I know that there was any popular objection at all).
Point being, Canadians have come to take democracy for granted, and will continue to do so until confronted by a circumstance that threatens to frustrate the few purposes for which they look to the government. The fact of the matter is, corrupt government - even arguably undemocratic government - will not aggravate Canadians so long as they believe that the few things they expect - a reasonable economy and personal security, if nothing else - continue to be available.
They won't continue to be available in perpetuity, of course, and I expect personal security to be threatened much sooner than the economy heads south. At that point there may finally be a re-evaluation and reconsideration of the importance of free, transparent democractic government.
But until then, why worry? Things are as they've always been, as Canada drifts along in its own irrelevant wonderland.
I don't have anything particularly profound to say, but here are a few collected thoughts:
- Weeks after allegation upon allegation of Liberal corruption amounting to criminal conspiracy become public knowledge, and precisely one week after the Liberal party loses the confidence of the House of Commons, Belinda Stronach chooses to become a Liberal. In other words, having learned of the depths (well, probably not the depths, but a great extent) of Liberal corruption, and one week after declaring herself that the Liberals lacked the confidence of the House, Belinda decided that those crooks constituting that illegitimate government are precisely the folks she'd like to associate with. Let's boil it down one more time: Belinda chose to join a crooked government, with full knowledge of its crookedness.
- There's been a lot of 'now our trust in politicians is undermined,' as if Belinda was the great Canadian hope. Gimme a break. I am among the Conservatives who've thought Belinda a disaster since she threw her hat in the ring last year, and I'm going to take this opportunity to voice a very well-deserved "I told you so." The uncomfortable truth is that a good number of Belinda supporters, like Belinda herself, are not conservatives. Note the small-c. Many, of course, were, and while I won't be so audacious as to demand an apology from the recently-chastened, I do expect them to feel rather stupid today, and to realize that they deserve to.
- Can you imagine if that disaster was the leader of the Conservative Party?
- What does it say about politics in Canada when an MP can jump comfortably from the center-left of the Conservative Party to the center-left of the Liberal Party? It doesn't say much, I'll tell you that.
- So I presume the budget will pass, since it turns out Stronach didn't really mean it last week. Another uncomfortable truth, this time for conservatives: if Stronach votes with her new friends, and they win, they will have [regained] the confidence of the house. I maintain that any expenditure since last Thursday (actual expenditure, rather than spending promise) constitutes theft, and there's undoubtedly a constitutional argument that a government cannot 'regain' the confidence of the House without going to the GG. But as we've seen this past week, the constitution is 'merely procedural' and certainly has nothing to do with, you know, our order of government. So the Liberals will continue to reign, with as much legitimacy as our banana-monarchy demands, until Paul Martin decides to test the electoral waters.
- Isn't the constitutional term-limit on any one Parliament 'merely procedural'? Just asking.
- I hope someone is polling Belinda well outside of her own riding. I want to know what the voters of Ottawa-Orleans, for instance, think of Stronach's stunt.
That's all I got for now.
May 15, 2005
Newsweek Lied, People Died
At once disgraceful and entirely unsurprising.
UPDATE (21:34 CST): In the comments, Matt asks: "can [Newsweek] really be blamed for inciting murders?"
I think the short answer is 'yes.' The publication of the false allegations may not meet the standard for criminal liability, but it almost certainly meets the standard for civil liability. Let's run through a basic five-step negligence suit:
1) Duty: According to Heaven v. Pender, we all owe a general duty of reasonable care to one another. More particularly, I think we all would agree that the newsmedia have a duty not to publish misleading information. More particularly still, I think it's at the very least arguable that the newsmedia have a duty not to publish information that would incite violence - certainly the limits on First Amendment protection suggest such a duty.
2) Breach: Given that duty - whether general or specific - it seems clear that Newseek breached the duty by publishing false information regarding the treatment of Islamic holy texts by American military personnel. Specifically, Newseek breached its duty to the dead by publishing information that incited Islamists to riot, thereby putting their lives in danger.
3) Cause-in-fact: here's the rub - the publication of the false information was the but-for cause of the deaths that have resulted in the various riots. Had Newseek not published the false information, those particular riots - and the particular deaths resulting therefrom - would not have occurred.
4) Legal ('proximate') cause: Moreover, those deaths were a foreseeable consequence of the publication of the false information. Put another way, violent deaths at the hands of enraged Islamist mobs was a foreseeable consequence of the publication of [false] information regarding the alleged desecration of Islamist holy texts. That foreseeability is precisely what makes the publication a breach of Newsweek's duty.
5) Damages: People died. That tends to allow recovery in American courts, at least.
Now Matt and the many others who have raised this objection are perfectly correct to point out that the murderers who, you know, did the murdering are, themselves, liable for the lives of the murdered. But that doesn't mean that Newseek does not bear some responsibility. Had Newsweek done its homework more carefully, it would have (it now seems) not published the allegations. Had it not published the allegations, the consequent riots would not have occurred, and the lives lost would not have been lost. As a general principle of common law, the intervening criminal act of a third party does not absolve a tortfeasor of responsibility when that criminal activity is a foreseeable consequence of the tortfeasor's negligent act. If it was foreseeable that publishing allegations of desecration would result in religious zealotry including violent protest, then Newsweek cannot point to the criminality of that violent protest as an absolving factor.
MEANWHILE (21:51 CST): Sullivan writes: "Even if this incident turns out to be false, our previous policies have made it perfectly plausible." In other words, "fake, but accurate."
May 13, 2005
Three days after I declared the government to be no government, and the Liberal Party's consequent exercise of executive power contrary to the very basic tenets of Canadian democracy, I notice that Andrew Coyne has concluded Much the same:
All this [spending], and they're still going to be defeated on Thursday. That is to say, defeated again: today marked the fourth consecutive day in which the government was shown to have lost the confidence of the House (or as the Globe site puts it, "More shenanigans in the Commons"). So you may well ask why this unconstitutional government is entitled to commit public funds to any purpose whatever.Hyperbolic nonesense indeed. But having been joined by such eminent company in my first 'hyperbolic' pronouncement, I'll move on to another:
Every one commits theft who fraudulently and without colour of right takes, or fraudulently and without colour of right converts to his use or to the use of another person, anything, whether animate or inanimate, with intent to deprive, temporarily or absolutely, the owner of it, or a person who has a special property or interest in it, of the thing or of his property or interest in it.And I'm not talking about Adscam.
May 11, 2005
Master and Servant
Paul Wells invites us all to read the motion that passed the House last night. He sums it up:
A report comes wheeling out of a committee somewhere. The Commons is invited:Wells' emphasis on 'committee' seems to suggest that the motion was, indeed, procedural, and that all it does is suggest to a committee that they might, at their discretion, express their displeasure with the government.
• to say it disagrees with the report ("not now concurred in");
• to send it back to the committee ("recommitted to the Standing Committee");
• to invite the committee to call for the government's resignation ("amend the same so as to recommend...").
But as I argued yesterday, a Commons committee is a servant of the House of Commons. Wells seems to suggest that the committee could respond to the motion by saying, "ah, well, thanks for that, chums, but really we're not interested. You do your thing, we do ours, you know."
But consider this: if a master asks his servant to make a cup of coffee, is it reasonable to conclude that the master wants a cup of coffee made? Just asking.
May 10, 2005
It's Not About Procedure. It's About Confidence.
So now we have the absurdity of the Liberal Party claiming that a House motion asking a Commons committee to demand, on behalf of the House of Commons, that the government resign "in no way asks the House to speak to its confidence in the government."
Maybe the Liberals are right, procedurally - maybe the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee is a wholly independent body, not subject to the oversight of the House of Commons.
But even if that mind-bender were true, the Liberals' claims would defy the very principles of Parliamentary government.
As the damned Grits remind us every five seconds, Canada is not the United States. In Canada, winning a national general election does not entitle a party to govern for four years. In Canada, a government governs at the pleasure of the House of Commons - because a government is simply the collection of MPs who have the support of a majority of the house.
The current gang of crooked SOBs and sorry worthless yes-men who sit in the House of Commons under the Liberal banner do not enjoy the confidence and support of a majority of the House of Commons. Any claim to govern in the aftermath of today's vote represents a direct assault on the notion of parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary democracy stands and falls on the deference its participants give to tradition and principle. Today, the Liberal Party of Canada, through its Members of Parliament, has cast aside tradition and principle. Today, parliamentary democracy in Canada has been rendered a sham.
See what we have now: a collection of MPs representing a minority of the House of Commons continue to exercise executive power - spending money, passing Orders-in-Council, representing the nation abroad - despite being unable to pass basic legislation. In some countries that's called a coup.
What is left of parliamentary democracy in Canada? If constitutional monarchy meant anything, our Sovereign would dissolve Parliament. But of course constitutional monarchy, much as it pains me to say, means nothing in Canada today. The idea of a separate executive is a sham. If the Queen attempted to exercise her sovereign authority, the Liberals would refuse to recognize it. Today, the Liberal Party exercises executive power simply because it claims that power. Today, there is no check on Liberal government. Today, democracy in Canada is hollow.
What next? The Liberals suggest that they will recognize a 'formal' confidence motion brought on an 'opposition day' at the end of the month. But what if they don't? After all, it would simply be procedural. Who cares if the government doesn't have the support of a majority of the House of Commons? Who cares if they cannot pass legislation - who cares if they can't even pass a budget? After all, that would simply be procedural. In fact, what's to stop the Liberals from proroguing Parliament? Who cares if they don't actually pass a budget this year - after all, it would only be procedural.
The fundamental flaw of parliamentary democracy is that it places free government in the trust of office-holders. There is no institutional mechanism to safeguard against an abuse of that trust. Today, that trust is abused. And there is no check.
UPDATE (14:55 CST 5/11/05): In the interest of recognizing that this can be seen as 'hyperbolic nonsense,' I point you towards this post by Timmy at Voice in the Wilderness. I'd be interested to know precisely why I'm wrong, of course, but for now I'll settle for simple disagreement in the interest of balance.
May 06, 2005
This is preposterous. So: no confidence in the judiciary, no confidence in the legislature, little confidence in the national police force... can I just stop paying taxes? I mean, do we even have a representative government at all?
Fascinating election in Britain last night; the BBC had a live feed, and I spent a couple of hours that I should have dedicated to a take-home final watching the returns.
First, a comment on the coverage: Britons have more fun. The BBC anounces were hopelessy biased in one way or another - Jeremy Paxman is as bad as everyone says - but also wonderfully casual and modestly up-front about their biases. And I've never seen a correspondent from any American or Canadian network walk around a bar on election night ask people how they voted. I'm not saying it's never been done, but I've never seen it. Another fascinating thing was the candideness of the candidates - losing Labourites made no bones about blaming Blair, but even successful MPs (especially experienced MPs) were upfront in their assessments of their own and the other parties' fortunes.
The returns themselves were a blast to watch. The House of Commons has six hundred and forty six seats, and it seems like nobody can be bothered to do riding-by-riding polling on that scale.
As a result, even though all of the pollsters more or less nailed the popular-vote tallies of the three major parties, nobody managed to anticipate the breakdown of seats that resulted Actually, it seems the exit poll expectations were dead on, although there were some riding-by-riding surprises.
The breakdown currently stands like this: Labour 355, Tory 197, Liberal Democrat 62. Two seats remain outstanding: in Staffordshire South, the ballot was cancelled after the Liberal Democrat candidate died on the first of May (the seat went Tory by a healthy margin last time); and results are still awaited from Harlow, which Labour held by thirteen points last time around. If those two split, Labor will have a majority of
fifty-eight - less than the sixty-six anticipated by the BBC at the beginning of the night sixty-six. I can't do math.
Two questions present themselves: what happened? And what does it mean?
What happened was that Labour bled support every which way in more or less every riding, including its strongholds. In some ridings that Labour support swung almost entirely to the Tories; in some it went almost all to the Lib Dems. Generally, however, it was split among those two and other parties, allowing Labour to hold on to an awful lot of seats that it may well have lost in a traditional two-party contest.
Here's something I don't get to say very often: Instapundit is wrong and Sullivan is right: this was about the war. Whatever way you cut it, Britons generally didn't support the war. Anti-war sentiment was behind the great majority of Liberal Democratic gains. Even the Tories have flip-flopped on Iraq. Aside from Tony Blair, I can't name a single British politician who's come out consistently in support of the decision to invade Iraq. (Can you?) It may have been about more than that too - it may have been Tony Fatigue - but that's tied closely to Iraq. Had Gordon Brown been leading Labour this year, we'd have seen another landslide.
What does it mean? Let's start with the Tories: a third straight loss may be historic, but anybody expecting them to have formed a government last night was delusional. They simply weren't ready for prime time, and to Michael Howard's credit he didn't campaign as if he was trying to hit a home run (although his 'lies' campaign wasn't what a recovering party needed either). Howard's decision to quit is the right thing: he's a competent manager, but he wouldn't be able to lead them to a majority, however old he'll be at the next writ.
What does it mean for Labour? Interestingly, there's no conventional wisdom. Taking a relative view, many see the loss of
about 100 seats - from a majority of about 150 to a majority of about 50 - forty-seven seats as a significant loss for Blair and the party. (Still can't do math.) I think if you look at the percentage swings away from Labour even in the seats that they did win, you really can't escape this conclusion. But Labourites are spinning hard that in absolute terms, this is a very healthy majority for Britain (notwithstanding the fact that Labour's popular-vote percentage is among the lowest of any government).
What does it mean for the Lib Dems? It can only be good news. It shows that a significant proportion of the Labour base sees them as the only acceptable alternative. It's bad, of course, to be the alternative in these voters' minds rather than the default choice; but this is a step in that direction. Charles Kennedy will have to be pleased.
What does it mean for Britain? Harder to say. The general assumption is that Blair isn't long for Downing Street, and that Gordon Brown will soon become Prime Minister. Brown's just as interventionist on the home front, if not moreso, but is (as I understand it) much less Atlanticist on foreign policy. Brown is said to be a Euroskeptic, which is good news, but if he marks the return of Old Labour, it might make little practical difference.
But there's reason to take heart: an election as unexpectedly interesting as this one indicates a sense of transition in popular opinion. Politics in Britain will change in the coming years in a way it has not changed since 1997. That presents an opportunity for all the parties. And never sell short the plain common sense of Britons. Many of them are, after all, Englishmen. The economy will not always be so sweet, especially once Brown gets his hand in the collective pocket. And the anti-Semitic vote upon which George Galloway swept back into Parliament represents a force that can only lead to trouble in the long term. Those dreaded 'cultural' issues will come to the fore in the next decade, whether the parties and the BBC want to talk about them or not. As ever, they will not pit race against race or faith against faith; rather, they will pit those who value peaceful coexistence against those who seek total domination of political discourse - until that discourse can be silenced entirely.
The times, friends, are changing.
UPDATE (17:21 CST): Very similar analysis from National Review.
May 05, 2005
So That's Where the Weapons Went....
CNN: "A Dutch national employed with the U.N. weapons inspection agency has been detained for questioning in connection with Thursday's explosions outside the British Consulate in New York, a United Nations official said."
Somebody frisk Hans Blix.
Not That Special
Can't resist commenting on this breathless item from Drudge:
Today at 5:05:05 am & pm the time will be 05:05:05 05/05/005....Um - who writes the date 05.05.005? I mean, get this: today is 05.05.2005, and you know when that's going to happen again? Never!!!! Isn't that rad!?
05.05.005 comes only once in 1000 years and coinciding with Thursday (5th Day of the week) comes only once in 7000 yrs...
05.05.05. however, happens once every hundred years. Maybe that's not exciting enough for Drudge, although surely there's been a hurricane on 05.05.05 at some point in history.
UPDATE: This is how dumb Drudge's post is: you know what other date only comes once every thousand years? 05.06.005. True! And how about 05.07.005, and maybe a little 11.02.005, and how about 08.29.005. Amazing! In fact - get this! - when you list the year to three digits, there are - can you believe it - three hundred and sixty five dates that occur only once every thousand years! Astounding!
Before the polls close across the pond, and before my CrimLaw exam starts, I just wanted to chime in with my endorsement of Tony Blair's Labour Party in today's general election. Labour's re-election will in many ways ratify the death of England - the idea of England - and will contribute to the rise of a European Britain which will, in the long term, be doomed to social - and likely political - unrest.
But the Tories simply do not deserve to win. Their opportunism on the war alone renders them absolutely unfit to govern. But their stubborn refusal to run as principled Thatcherite conservatives - notwithstanding an initially-promising platform - confirms their institutional weakness. As England disappears, and as Britain goes continental, no small part of the blame may be placed on the weaknesses and failures of the Conservative Party.
May 04, 2005
Broadbent Quitting Politics
Ottaw Centre NDP MP Ed Broadbent is leaving politics in order to tend to his wife, who is ill. First, I'm sure I speak for all Maderblog readers when I wish the Broadbent family all the best in what is doubtless an extraordinarily difficult time.
Being a political junkie, and a resident of Ottawa Centre, I cannot help but wonder what this does to the riding in the upcoming election. Broadbent was able to win the riding over a strong Liberal candidate largely due to his personal characteristics. It's not clear that another - non-celebrity - NDP candidate could win. But that will depend a) on who the Liberals put up and b) how angry the suburban neighborhoods are at the Liberals. It's more or less assumed - though I've never seen numbers, so this may be completely wrong - that the urban neighborhoods are heavily Liberal. There's also an ethnic consideration - Mac Harb, who left the House at the last election, was Lebanese and enjoyed the support of the riding's large Lebanese community. There's also a sizeable Italian community which has tended to vote Liberal, to the best of my knowledge. How these communities vote this year will be an interesting measure of how the Liberal base will have reacted to AdScam.
Can the Tories break through? I doubt it, but it'll depend on the candidate. A celebrity might have a chance; the problem is that suburban neighborhood voters in Ottawa Center are the types who would express their displeasure with the Natural Governing Party by voting NDP - not Tory. It will be a challenge to convince those voters to vote Tory in order to keep a Liberal out of the House.
In any case, the riding looks ripe for considerable three-way vote splitting. I think the Tories are at the bottom of the three-way divide, but if a certain number of Broadbent voters come back to the Liberals because of the inadequacy of an NDP candidate, a Tory might just sneak up the middle.
Hey, hope springs eternal.
May 03, 2005
Neale Goes Mainstream
Many huttahs for Brian Neale - proprietor of NealeNews, the best damned news-aggregator in Canada - who's profiled in the Boston Globe.
Hey - remember that time Neale was going to quit? Yea, me too. But then he came back. And a good thing, too.