Parliamentary democracy in action – the return of Michael Ignatieff

Posted December 1, 2008 on 3:14 pm | In the category 2008, Canada, Election 2008, Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

A couple of years ago, my brother Doug and I predicted that the next Prime Minister of Canada could be a very high level intellectual and genetic aristocrat, (his grandfather was the last minister of education in tsarist Russia) Harvard guru, BBC talk show star and prize-winning author (for both fiction and non-fiction) Michael Ignatieff, returning from years of voluntary exile to show Canada how to do it. We were wrong in the short run. Ignatieff ran into too much resistance in his own party because he had been away for too long, and failed to win the party leadership position. Instead he settled for second place behind compromise candidate Stephane Dion, who then went on to fail miserably in the election that followed only one month ago. But Ignatieff did win a seat in parliament, became deputy leader and put in his time in the trenches. And now it seems that we will be right in the slightly longer run as a singularly uncanadian (unprecedented in great white north history) event seems destined to take place within a week.
Prime Minister Steven Harper, having set up a minority government with only about 1/3 of the vote, amazingly failed to note that he was not in a strong position of power and had to rule with the opposition in mind. With breathless arrogance he announced a political programme in his first act of power in the new session, that failed to address the economic crisis but did include a number of issues that were unacceptable to the socialist, liberal and separatist opposition parties. The result was the seemingly impossible agreement of the 3 opposition parties to vote against the ruling conservatives in the vote of confidence that goes with such a government bill, and thus bring down the government and state that the opposition parties were ready to rule in coalition. Such a coup d’état by parliamentary means may be familiar to Italians, Austrians and others but it is unheard of in supposedly stable Canada, and has many flocks of geese flapping around wildly. But it does seem now that it will happen within two weeks, and either Stephan Dion, who has already said he will step down as party leader in May, or heir-apparent Michael Ignatieff will be catapulted into power. Ignatieff and Obama would be an interesting pair as Ignatief sometimes pops up to the right of Obama on key issues, such as the invasion of Iraq that Ignatief as head of the appropriate Harvard Institute showed sympathy for because of the Iraqi government’s history of war crimes against the Kurds.


Campaign 2008: Riding the Road of Trivialities

Posted March 28, 2008 on 4:38 pm | In the category 2008, Election 2008, Politics, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

As the interminable Democratic campaign for president drags its weary ass along the Trivialities Turnpike it is worth asking how the hell we got on this road to begin with? Serious issues abound – the failed Iraq War, a looming failure in Afghanistan, a weakened NATO unwilling to push the fight in Afghanistan, a weakened American military, a dollar in the proverbial toilet, an enormous budget deficit, a looming or actual recession, shortfalls in Medicare and Social Security, rampant international distrust of the United States, a non-existent Middle East policy – and the list goes on.

And what are we being fed by the media? John McCain’s barbecue menu and the great spitball fight between Senators Clinton and Obama. The press moves from spitball to spitball, manufacturing intensity on fundamentally trivial issues. They capture the public’s interest and create temporary shifts in polls that then feed the horse race mentality of a press unable to focus on the real issues that determine the state of the world and of America’s declining quality of life. Do we really care all that much that Geraldine Ferraro thinks Senator Obama is “lucky to be black?” Or that Senator Obama’s former Pastor has said some stupid things mixed in with a justifiable rage over much of what America has done to blacks for over 200 years? Or whether Bill Clinton plays his typical cheap tricks? Are those the only kind of issues that can capture the American peoples’ attention? Are we really so ignorant of the world or so lazy that we cannot put the effort into thinking about serious issues and identifying trivialities for what they are? Or have we simply turned it all over to a shallow, irresponsible press?

For a lengthier and stronger look at these concerns see Matt Taibbi’s latest piece on his website: The Smirking Chimp – here is a taste:

We can’t focus for more than ten seconds on anything at all and we’re constantly exercised about stupid media-generated non-scandals, guilt-by-association raps, accidental dumb utterances of various campaign aides and other nonsense — while at the same time we have no energy at all left to wonder about the mass burgling of the national budget for phony military contracts, the war, the billion dollars or so in campaign contributions to be spent this year that will be buying a small mountain of favors for the next four years. – Matt Taibbi

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Posted January 24, 2008 on 8:06 pm | In the category 2008, Election 2008, Politics, Press | by Jeff

It is easy to despair over Fox News and less easy but still readily possible to despair over CBS, NBC and ABC news. But there has always been this sense that PBS would raise the bar – would be serious and discuss real issues. Sorry – that is no longer the case. Witness the Lehrer Report.

Tonight Judy Woodruff covered – for an endless and painful twenty minutes – the South Carolina Democratic primary. Having sat through that – whatever it was – I can say with some authority that issues in the South Carolina Democratic primary do not exist. I would have thought that there were issues around Iraq, the economy, education, and health care, but no. The issues are first of all, are more people going out to hear Bill Clinton prostitute himself in support of loyal wife and next-in-line in the dynasty, or going to Southern Baptist churches to sing and clap for the candidates.

And how does the Lehrer Report analyze this primary? Why the cheapest and safest way possible – the tried and true man/woman in the street approach. “Why, Ahh believe that Bill Clinton is the first black president” or “Obama will bring us all together”. Good lord – what is this all about? Why would any sane person contribute to PBS to give us this mindless puff (as compared to the good work of Bill Moyers)? Woodruff interviewed what seemed like a thousand citizens of S. Carolina, almost none of them interested in discussing a serious issue. And we end up with a kind of horse race with Woodruff as the track tout babbling about something neither she nor we know anything more about tonight then we did before PBS went into boredom mode.


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