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Friday, October 17, 2003

The Right has United 

And I'm voting for Paul Martin.
Actually, I don't think I'll go that far, as I live in a safe NDP riding. But I do wish the new party ill, and lots of it. I decided this would be a good time to post my Poli Sci essay below about why only having one successful party in Canada is not so bad. My essay argues against Proportional Representation, which I actually support. It's just fun to argue against your own convictions.
One thing I realized while writing the paper is that my preference for various electoral systems is completely amoral; I just support whatever system is likely to help the party I support. I support ProRep in BC, because that would mean the Left vote won't be split, but I'm against Israel's ProRep system, because it gives too much power to insane religious parties. I want a ward system in Vancouver, and I like the current federal system because it keeps the Canadian Alliance out. I'm even against the Electoral College because it helped Bush. I happen to think that everyone who has an opinion about electoral systems (an extremely small minority of the population) is as amoral as me, but I'm the only one honest enough to admit it.

In Defense of Elected Dictatorships 

Richard Johnston’s article “Canadian Elections at the Millennium,” starts with a stark declaration that “Electoral Democracy in Canada is sick” (4). It is sick, in Johnston’s review, because there is no competition to the Liberal’s one-party rule, which he sees as lasting for many years in the future. He believes the time has come for structural reform. The changes in the system “should promote circulation of parties through office” (emphasis his, 31). I want to argue that changing the electoral system because one party usually wins within it is an extreme reaction that unfairly penalizes successful parties.
The first assumption that Johnston makes is that there is something intrinsically valuable about having more than one party that can compete for office. Why is circulation of parties so important that Canada should change its electoral system to increase it? The argument is that parties benefit from competition, because they are forced to work harder at responding to voters’ needs. But is there a magic number of competitive parties that guarantees a strong electoral system? The US is basically divided into two equally strong political parties, and yet many Americans feel that neither party speaks to them. Maybe what they need is more choices. They could have a proportional representation system, like Israel, where I grew up. In Israel, anywhere from ten to twenty parties win congress seats. Power is held by large coalitions, which are often hijacked by small extremist parties that join the coalition in exchange for policy concessions. The Canadian tyranny of the plurality is surely preferable to the tyranny of the minority. A one-party system has its problems, but so do all other electoral systems. In every democracy, someone will complain about the results.
The other argument Johnston brings to bear against the Liberals’ one party rule is that they are one of the least popular majority governments in the history of Canada. They only got 38.5 percent of vote share in 1997, “a new majority-government low” (6). Only two minority-governments had lower votes. The majority of Canadians did not want the Liberals in office. Yet this idea that the liberals are unpopular ignores the evidence Johnston presents in Table 2 of his article. The two 1990s elections had the highest amount of significant parties in the history of Canada. In a five-party system, it would be very unlikely for any party to get a majority of the popular vote. Voters just have too many choices. 40 percent of the vote, in a system where 4 other parties each get at least 10 percent, is a very large amount. In the 2000 election the Liberals got more votes than the next two runner-ups combined.
Johnston writes that even though the Liberals holding power indefinitely is unhealthy, “we are unlikely to see riots in the streets” because the Liberals are the second choice of most voters (31). But if the Liberals weren’t, we still wouldn’t see riots; we would see a Liberal defeat. Acceptability to non–Liberal voters is an integral part of the Liberals’ electoral success. If the Liberals were the fifth choice of most non-Liberal voters, many of them would vote against the Liberals and for whoever could beat them. This phenomenon brought the Liberals into power in 1993, when many NDP voters abandoned their own party to defeat a hated PC government. The Liberals have been smart enough to avoid the fate of the Mulroney administration, as they have not done anything that has irritated enough voters that the voters would strategically against them. The Canadian electoral system may be boringly stable, but it is perfectly healthy. Perhaps political scientists would prefer a more ‘exciting’ system that would lead to elections that were more ‘fun’. But a plurality of Canadians like the dull system we have just fine.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Our Bored, Shrivelling Parents 

Over at Revolutionary Moderation (probably my fave Canadian blog), some kind things are said about me. But he does note that I am a little too focused on extreme political language. But extreme language is just so funny...
In my endless search for extreme political language, I picked up a copy of the New Federalist, Lyndon Larouche's wonderful publication. The slogan "One imported Austrian head of state was already too much" is emblazoned on the front cover. If there's a more confusing way to make the point that all Austrians are Nazis, I haven't read it. Larouche also hates Dean; his supporters go to Dean rallies with signs like "Howard Dean: The Democratic Wing of the Neo-Con Synarchist Intl. Vote Lyndon!" Hope Bush doesn't steal that line.
But the piece de resistance is an article titled "The Best Young Scientists in the World work with LaRouche", by one Nick Walsh, a member of the LaRouche Youth Movement.

Aren't you tired of waiting to die? Wallowing, wasting away here on Earth, until you run out of breath? That's how Baby Boomers now live.
And the youth generation today, will we imitate our bored, shrivelling parents, following in their stinky, pleasure-fouled path? Awake! A muscle-bound monkey-man, speaking English in the style of a professional wrestler, directed by a stable of financier criminals, threatens to become Governor of California. The President can't read, and his Minister of Vice Dick Cheney wants to murder human beings with nuclear weapons. There's no economy. There's no jobs. Rave dances and pot-parties spatter the social environment. People don't read. There's no technological progress, no discovery, no culture. Is this a result of the "I'm so free because I do whatever I want?" Baby Boomer counterculture?
Why don't we stop lying to ourselves and admit, this culture stinks. We need a rebirth of creative discovery in the social process, which makes us human- not animals, but human beings, much superior to any beast on the planet.

To me, this article proves the opposite. He goes on to discuss the Crab Nebula for some reason. What does 'spatter' mean? Where did Walsh learn to write, the T. Herman Zweibel Academy? Now that's some good language.

John Walters go home 

Why does the American Drug Czar hate us?
John Walters, director of the National Drug Control Policy Office, said Chretien was irresponsible when he said last week that he might try marijuana when he leaves office in February. Canadians "are concerned about the behaviour of their prime minister, joking that he is going to use marijuana in his retirement," Walters said to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "They're ashamed." Canada is "the one place in the hemisphere where things are going the wrong (way) rapidly," Walters added.

Wrong way, eh? Funny, that's the direction 54% of Americans feel their country is going. We are not the deadweight in this particular hemisphere. (Though the assertion that we're the only bad place in the hemisphere is mind-boggling. A Bush man likes Cuba? Venezuela? Lula? How's Colombia doing on that drug war?)
Chretien's director of communications took a Canadian tack: "I am not going to get into those kind of comments. I mean, they have their point of view and we have our point of view," Munson said.
And for posterity's sake, here's Chretien's joke: During an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, Chretien said he had never tested marijuana, but might once decriminalization legislation is approved.
"I don't know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal," he said. "I will have money for my fine and a joint in the other hand."

That's not embarrasing, that's funny. I happen to know of a certain drug that makes evrything Jean Chretien says hilarious. I heartily recommend it to Mr. Walters.

The Decline and Fall of the American Humanist 

To Republicans and independents, I put the question: Weigh Gen. Clark's qualifications against President Bush's performance, and who seems likelier to lead us effectively in the years of trouble ahead of us?

I hate Harold Bloom so much.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Damn Straight 

Now that the BC government has done the right thing, the Vancouver Sun wants to take shots at the Straight for ever complaining about a million dollar tax fine. Pete McMartin leads the brigade, cleverly noting that as mayor, Gordon Campbell declared May 5 1987 Georgia Straight Day. But after admitting the tax levy is wrong, he takes issue with McLeod' characterization of his own paper:
A bigger piece of self-serving blather you are not likely to read -- McLeod's attempt to paint the Straight as the lone dissenting voice in the wilderness against the Liberals is just plain wrong.
What does he consider the Province's Victoria columnist Michael Smyth to be, who is consistently critical of the Liberals, or The Sun's peerless Vaughn Palmer, the best and smartest political writer in the country? Palmer dissects the Liberals' gaffes -- what? five times a week? Or is that not enough for McLeod?


Personally, I'd consider them to be hacks. But that's besides the point. Palmer and Smyth attack Gordo for wasting taxpayer money (on things like internet portals and logo changes). It's a fair attack, but they are attacking the Liberals from the Right, not the Left. Smyth refers to the NDP as 'socialist hordes.' I'm willing to bet both columnists actually voted for the Liberals, and will vote for them next election, too. No CanWest regulars take issue with the philosophy of cutting taxes for the rich and destroying the social safety net that the Liberals live by. Half of British Columbians do disagree with Gordo's philosophy. You'd think a paper claiming to represent the Vancouver community could hire one of them.
The official Sun editorial makes a similar point. The tax move was wrong, but: But if the quality of thinking that goes into the Straight's editorial policy is reflected in the scurrilous rantings of Straight publisher Dan McLeod as he tries to paint himself and his paper as a martyr in this mess, it's not a very good newspaper.
Holy confusing hypothetical, Batman. Continuing: His assertion that the Campbell government wanted to silence an opposition voice is silly on the face of it. The Straight's just not that important -- and it is certainly not the only newspaper, or the most effective one, reporting and criticizing government performance. Indeed, any day that Gordon Campbell's worst problem is a story in the Straight is likely to go down in his diary as a good one.
Really? McMartin says: The poor little Georgia Straight, which isn't poor, or little, is one of the Big Boys now, an establishment paper that can strike fear into the heart of a premier and get a ministry ruling overturned in a day.
Make up your minds, people. Is the Straight a big business that shouldn't be playing victim since it's so powerful, or is it such an impotent critic that none of its critics would ever want to shut it down? The Sun also adresses McLeod's charge that CanWest papers get preferential treatments because Asper and Gordo are ideological bedfellows:
The statements he has made twist fact and fancy to try to tie CanWest, the company that owns this newspaper, to the short-lived tax attack on the Straight. Never mind that CanWest owns several community newspapers that -- like the Straight -- carry extensive listings.
Yes, and none of those papers are being forced to pay the administration a million dollars. Some dare call it conspiracy...The Province letters page is running 5-to-0 for the Straight, including a representative letter from Alex Coombes, who I went to high school with: Have Gordon Campbell's Liberals been taking lessons in censorship from Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe?

Whether or not Gordo actually was yelling at his lapdogs in the Auditor's Office "We will fuck Dan McLeod like he has never been fucked", McLeod's strategy after receiving the bill was brilliant. He screamed bloody murder, and published Gordo's office number in the Straight. Without his 'scurrilous' yelling, justice would not have been done- at least not so quickly. The Scrum calls the Liberal decision "some sort of modern-day speed record for government action". So McLeod insures his paper's survival, and the Sun whines that he's besmirching Gordo's honor. If Glen Clark's NDP administration (ideologically opposite to the Sun and Province) ever hit the Sun with a million dollar tax bill, the Sun would have done the exact same thing. So save the sanctimony.



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