Saturday, January 28, 2006

In praise of Canadian hedonism

A reader sent me this link today, reminding me of an election-related tidbit from earlier this week.

A prominent American conservative, Paul Weyrich, head of the far-right (wingnut) Free Congress Foundation, has written an article claiming that Canadians are "liberal and hedonistic," indeed, that we are cultural Marxists. The CBC has the story here. It's just more anti-Canadianism from the American right (see here).

Now, taking Weyrich seriously is akin to taking, say, Ann Coulter or Pat Robertson seriously. Unfortunately, these extremists are taken seriously by many in the U.S., even by many in the U.S. media, such is the state of things in today's America. Clearly, Weyrich is yet another dangerous idiot, which is what I've come to call the wingnuts of the right.

As far as I'm concerned, Weyrich can go to hell. I know that isn't the intelligent commentary that I try to bring to The Reaction, but Weyrich and his ilk don't deserve intelligent commentary.

Whether it's possible to be liberal, hedonistic, and Marxist simultaneously is another matter. Conservatives throw such labels around without really understanding them. Anyone who understands Marxism knows that it's neither liberal nor hedonistic. If anything is hedonistic, it's the anti-government, capitalist reductionism of the American right (even the religious right, much of which has blended comfortably into the right's illiberal neo-liberalism.

As for Canada, we are liberal, as I've argued here and here. Is it hedonistic to value each and every human being, to respect gays and lesbians, to welcome immigrants from around the world, to encourage self-fulfillment and a healthy society through an appreciation of diversity, and to provide health care, education, and the basic necessities of life to all?

If so, then I'm a hedonist and proud of it. But it's not. It's liberalism. It's what we in Canada are all about. Even most of our conservatives respect and promote these fundamental liberal values. Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party were not my choice to govern this country, but they represent a conservatism that isn't Weyrich's conservatism. It's a decidedly Canadian conservatism that can be traced back to a long-standing Tory tradition imported from Britain. I don't support it, but I'm not unconditionally hostile towards it.

But you know what? I love my country. I love everything about it. And I know that many of you do, too.

And if the American right would criticize us for not being conservative enough, "conservative" according to the wingnut definition, then so be it. That just makes me love Canada all the more.

It proves to me that we're doing something right.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Ann Coulter is a dangerous idiot

If you need yet more proof of this seemingly undeniable fact, click here.

There's simply no excuse for this.

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Kerry and Iran

I recently asked two questions:

Tough questions, indeed, but it seems we all should have listened to... John Kerry.

(No, The Reaction has not become an all-Kerry blog. I like him, but not that much. I'm just giving him the credit he deserves. He's right about Alito and he seems to be right about how best to deal with Iran.)

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Scalitovision 2006: Kerry's courageous stand

John Kerry may have called for a filibuster, but, according to The New York Times, "Democrats cringed and Republicans jeered at the awkwardness of his gesture, which almost no one in the Senate expects to succeed."

But does that mean he should have kept quiet? Absolutely not. Kerry is to be applauded for standing up for Democratic values and principles, not to mention for the Constitution and the appropriate balance among the three branches of government, while so many of his fellow Democrats, both Congressional and otherwise, turned away or were too weak or afraid to do anything in the first place.

Regardless, Republicans will have their way and the vote will likely be held on Tuesday.

As for the Democrats, one day -- perhaps one day soon -- Kerry will be able to say that he told them so.


More on the filibuster:

The Carpetbagger Report: "At the risk of sounding overly-utilitarian about it, Kerry's principled stand should make all Dems happy — the filibuster can help bring Alito's ideology and beliefs into view, while a filibuster that doesn't work isn't likely to anger many voters or prompt Republicans to end all judicial filibusters forever."

See also TalkLeft.

The Democratic Daily has lists (with phone numbers) of Democratic senators committed to a filibuster, undecided, against a filibuster, and for Alito. Don't hesitate to call or write your own senator.

Ezra Klein is, shall we say, less enthusiastic.

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Scalitovision 2006: Kerry calls for filibuster

I liked him in 2004 and I like him now. Senator John Kerry is pushing for the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court to be filibustered. From CNN:

The Senate's top Republican decided Thursday to force a showdown on Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito early next week, with the two Democratic senators from Massachusetts pushing to block a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist filed a motion to cut off debate on the Alito nomination after his Democratic counterpart, Minority Leader Harry Reid, objected to a move by GOP leaders to schedule a final vote on his confirmation Monday afternoon.

Frist's motion, which requires 60 votes under Senate rules, will come up for a vote at 4:30 p.m. Monday. If successful, senators will then vote on Alito's nomination at 11 a.m. Tuesday, with a simple majority of 51 votes needed for approval.

Frist's move came as Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts was lobbying his Democratic colleagues to filibuster the Alito nomination -- an uphill fight, given that none of the chamber's 55 Republicans have opposed his confirmation and three Democrats are on the record supporting it.

"Judge Alito's confirmation would be an ideological coup on the Supreme Court," Kerry said in a written statement.

"We can't afford to see the court's swing vote, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, replaced with a far-right ideologue like Samuel Alito." has much more on this developing story, including regular updates.


I supported John Roberts (see here, for example), but I simply cannot support Alito. I suspect that Alito will ultimately be confirmed, but his elevation to America's highest court would be, in my view, a detriment to American constitutionalism, not least because his extreme views on executive power, more relevant than ever in the age of the neverending war on terror, would upset the delicate checks and balances that sustain American politics.

Simply put, the president wants to get away with everything, including pre-emptive military action, the unlimited detention of terror suspects, the torture of detainees, and warrantless domestic wiretapping, and Alito would let him. Whatever Alito's right-wing views on other hot-button issues like abortion and the separation of church and state, his views on executive power alone are simply unacceptable.

They are grounds for opposition and they are grounds, more pointedly, for a filibuster. (No, the Democrats don't have the numbers to block Alito outright, but a filibuster would at least force Republicans to deploy the so-called "nuclear option". They shouldn't be able to put someone like Alito on the Court without a fight.)

Yesterday, The New York Times wrote that Alito's "entire history suggests that he holds extreme views about the expansive powers of the presidency and the limited role of Congress". And this: "A filibuster is a radical tool. It's easy to see why Democrats are frightened of it. But from our perspective, there are some things far more frightening. One of them is Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court."

I salute you, Senator Kerry, and I hope that your fellow Democratic senators join you. For what it's worth, there are certainly many of us in the blogosphere who stand with you.


Others who agree:

Political Animal: "Senate Dems blew the Judiciary Committee hearings as a chance to educate the country about Alito's radical views on presidential power, and a filibuster fight would give them a second chance. They should take it."

Hullabaloo: "Kerry and Kennedy stepped up today. They aren't going down without a fight. This is worth doing and if we lose it, we should reward them and those who stood with them with our gratitude and support not another round of complaints about how they are a bunch of losers."

See also AMERICAblog, The Left Coaster, The Brad Blog, and The Mahablog. As always, The Moderate Voice offers a solid, detached perspective.


MUST-READ: John Kerry posts at Daily Kos. Key passage: "I voted against Justice Roberts, I feel even more strongly about Judge Alito. Why? Rather than live up to the promise of 'equal justice under the law,' he's consistently made it harder for the most disadvantaged Americans to have their day in court. He routinely defers to excessive government power regardless of how extreme or egregious the government's actions are. And, to this date, his only statement on record regarding a woman's right to privacy is that she doesn't have one."

See also Senator Kennedy's statement here.

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Pat Robertson is a dangerous idiot -- Part Trois

Over at Demagogue, one of our favourites, Zoe Kentucky, also one of our favourites, looks at why Pat Robertson still matters. Is he really a dangerous idiot? Oh, where to begin...

Read Zoe's post. You'll surely be as enraged as I am.

(By the way, the first two parts of this ongoing series are here and here.)

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Googling China -- censorship or liberation?

As the AP is reporting, Google "has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country's free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet's fastest growing market".

Needless to say (if you know anything about me), I generally object to such censorship. But there's another way to look at this: In the long run, this trade-off could prove to be a boon to political reform in China. The internet is a liberating medium, after all. Is it not better for Google to penetrate the Chinese market with restrictions than not at all?

Even censored, Google could be the thin end of yet another wedge, a wedge that ultimately leads (or at least contributes) to political reform -- and that ultimately benefits the Chinese people at the expense of its brutally oppressive regime.

For more, see The Peking Duck, Battlepanda, and The Heretik.

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The year of living Democratically

At Political Wire, guest contributor Stuart Rothenberg predicts a good year ahead for Democrats, who may be poised to make significant gains in the House.

Winning back the House is unlikely, and Rothenberg doesn't go that far, but it could be close.

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Shhhhh. Dare I even utter that word? Tell me, friends, dare I?

Perhaps -- given a recent poll that found that a majority of Americans think that Bush should be impeached, or at least that Congress should consider impeaching him, if he illegally spied on Americans. See here. And here. (And see here for Bush's plunging poll numbers.)

After Downing Street, which commissioned the poll, responds here. See also here.

For all the latest impeachment-related news, see the Impeach Bush Coalition here.

As I've said before (see here and here), I'm not yet an advocate of impeachment, but it's worth listening to the case that is already being made.

And, of course, it's also worth demanding accountability from the president. Americans must demand that Bush be held accountable for his actions.

Did he illegally spy on Americans? Did he break the law? Did he violate the trust of the American people?

If so, is impeachment not the proper response from Congress?

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Are Democrats weak on national security?

Senator Clinton has come out swinging against President Bush's (illegal) domestic spying program, the AP reports, calling his explanations (i.e., his self-defence) "strange" and "far-fetched": "Obviously, I support tracking down terrorists. I think that's our obligation. But I think it can be done in a lawful way."


The Republican spin is (and will continue to be) that opponents of the president's spying program are soft on terrorism and weak on national security, if not downright unpatriotic. In yesterday's Washington Post, E.J. Dionne examined what he called "Rove's early warning" -- that is, Karl Rove's personal preview of what Republicans have in store for Democrats going into this fall's mid-term elections. America needs presidential and Congressional leadership that understands "the nature of the threat and the gravity of the moment". In Rove's view, "many Democrats" simply don't understand.

The problem, Dionne suggests, is that "the same approach keeps working" even though Democrats know what awaits them and therefore should be prepared to respond effectively. And I agree: Democrats need to engage Republican on the issue of national security, not cede the issue to the Republicans while attempting to win on seemingly more palatable domestic issues like health care and education.

And Dionne asks the right questions, the questions Democrats ought to ask of the president and his Congressional allies: "Are we really safer now than we were five years ago? Has the Iraq war, as organized and prosecuted by the administration, made us stronger or weaker? Do we feel more secure knowing the heck of a job our government did during Hurricane Katrina? Do we have any confidence that the Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies will clean up their act if Washington remains under the sway of one-party government?"

Rove's Republicans will claim that Democrats don't have what it takes to safeguard America in a post-9/11 world. Democrats should welcome this challenge, stand firm, and articulate their own strengths, their own national security policies for a post-9/11 world. They should point to the president's dismal record on national security (including the debacle in Iraq and the ongoing homeland security weaknesses outlined by the 9/11 Commission). And they should point to his reprehensible violations of human and civil rights (including torture and domestic spying).

If Republicans want to run on Bush's (and their own) record, so be it.

Democrats aren't weak on national security and they needn't appear to be. They can fight spin with truth. Like Senator Clinton, they can reaffirm their commitment to tracking down terrorists... in a lawful way.

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Hell in Haiti

Beautiful Horizons, a new addition to the blogroll, focuses on Latin America and has a good (and disturbing) post on Haiti here. Check it out.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Harper's Canada: The day after the election

You can find more on the new Conservative government here. See here for the Conservative Party's 2006 election platform.

And see here for what Harper's victory will mean for Canada-U.S. relations. Specifically: "Republicans have been quietly hoping for a Conservative win after years of increasingly tense ties under the Liberals that reached new lows with their anti-American election campaign." Harper may seek closer ties with Bush's America, but with a minority government he'll only be able to do so much.

And what will the Liberals do now that Martin has stepped down? See here.

Final election results are here.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Conservatives win minority government

A brutal cold has put my flat on my back today, but here's a quick post on the results of today's federal election in Canada.


I expected the race to tighten and for the results to be closer than the polls and the predictions, and, well, tighten it did and closer they are.

The Conservative Party has won a plurality of the seats in the House of Commons, 125 of 308, but it sits well short of a majority. There had been talk of as many as 145 or 150 seats.

This was a thoroughly anti-Liberal campaign, with the three opposition parties targeting Liberal corruption (the sponsorship scandal) and the desire for change (any change). Plus, I think that voter and media fatigue was a major factor. Simply, voters and the media had grown tired of Liberal rule (in place since 1993). Even the Toronto-based, Liberal-friendly national media warmed up to the Conservatives and their leader, Stephen Harper, now the next prime minister.

The Conservatives did well across the country (with the exception of British Columbia), including Quebec, but the Liberals withstood the Conservative surge in Ontario and remain the largest party in the country's largest province.

The New Democrats did well in British Columbia and Ontario.

The separatist Bloc Quebecois saw some of its support defect to the Conservatives, which is a good sign for federalism and national unity, but it remains a fairly strong third party.

And the Liberals? There was some concern that they would be reduced to 70 or 80 seats. In fact, they have won or are currently leading in over 100 ridings. The future of Prime Minister Paul Martin is uncertain -- and I do think the Liberal Party needs to use this defeat to reevaluate its platform, its strategy, and its leadership -- but they will be, as Martin just said in his concession speech, "a strong opposition". Let's hope so.

(Update: Martin has stepped down as Liberal leader.)

And so it stands. Canadians have voted to give the Conservative Party a chance to govern, to give Harper the opportunity to prove himself as prime minister. But Canada has given the new governing party and the new prime minister a small minority with which to work. It will need to reach out to the three opposition parties. It will not to able to push through a conservative agenda. There likely will not be another election anytime soon, but keep this in mind:

The Conservative Party, to repeat, won a plurality, not a majority, of seats in the House of Commons. In terms of the overall popular vote, only a minority of Canadians voted for the Conservative Party -- only 36.5 percent at present count. It deserves to have this chance to govern, but a majority of Canadians, a solid majority, voted for parties that are on the left or in the center of Canadian politics. Despite this Conservative victory, that is, the balance in Canadian politics remains just to the left of center and solidly liberal.

Canadians have elected a Conservative government, but Canada remains a liberal country.


For all the latest results, head over to the CBC. As for me, I'm going back to bed.

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Yes, the Canadian federal election is today. And the last pre-election poll conducted by the Strategic Counsel for CTV and The Globe and Mail predicts that the Conservatives, out of power since 1993, will be able to form a minority government with almost twice as many seats in the House of Commons as the Liberals.


More throughout the day and, of course, once the results come in later on tonight.

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Steelers 34, Broncos 17

Even sweeter.

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Partisans, a love story: The financial relationship of George Bush and Jack Abramoff

As we have seen, the relationship between President Bush and disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was much closer than the White House would like us to believe it was -- see here.

The White House is now trying to distance itself (and Bush himself) from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. As Adam Zagorin and Mike Allen reveal in Time, however, the relationship between Bush and Abramoff was also much closer than we are being led to believe it was.

The White House is claiming that Bush doesn't know Abramoff and has never met him. Yet photos show that the two did meet on several occasions. More:

Abramoff was once in better graces at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, having raised at least $100,000 for the President's re-election campaign. During 2001 and 2002, his support for Republicans and connections to the White House won him invitations to Hanukkah receptions, each attended by 400 to 500 people. McClellan has said Abramoff may have been present at "other widely attended" events. He was also admitted to the White House complex for meetings with several staff members, including one with presidential senior adviser Karl Rove, one of the most coveted invitations in Washington.

In short, Abramoff was a big-time fundraiser for Bush, just as he was a big-time lobbyist on K Street. The White House (and the campaigns that got Bush there) were quite happy to know him (and to take his money) before his recent fall from grace. It makes sense why the White House would want to have nothing to do with him anymore, and why Abramoff is now such an embarrassment in Washington, but Bush and his cronies are merely re-writing history (i.e., lying) for the sake of political expediency (i.e., to avoid charges of comingling with corruption -- corruption that has wormed its way throughout Republican Washington). Thankfully, they're up against some pretty convincing evidence.

How many words are those photos worth?

For more on Abramoff, see here, here, and here.

For more on Bush + Abramoff, see Political Animal, The Carpetbagger Report, MyDD, Shakespeare's Sister, and Middle Earth Journal.

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The old left and the Canadian election

For an interesting conservative take on the Canadian election (and its historical consequences), see my friend Pieter Dorsman over at Peaktalk. Pieter focuses on the realignment of the left and believes that "the 'old left' in general... will be dealt a blow of historically significant proportions". This essentially means Canada's labour movement and the old New Democrats, Canada's mainstream socialist party, for Pieter praises the new New Democrats, Jack Layton's New Democrats, for running "a surprisingly centrist campaign," indeed, "a positive and palatable campaign".

But don't look for Jack Layton's NDP to follow in the footsteps of Tony Blair's Labour. The NDP is traditionally Canada's third party. It's true that it's running a more centrist campaign than usual, but its poll numbers still hover at around 20 percent, often down around 16-17 percent, and its "success" owes as much to Liberal unpopularity and incompetence (and voter fatigue after well over a decade of Liberal rule) as to a more appealing platform.

(Pieter also has more on Michael Ignatieff.)

My most recent analysis of the Canadian election is here.

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On Iran's nuclear program

If you're interested in what's going on in Iran -- that is, the development of a nuclear program -- you should check out an excellent series by guest contributor Jeffrey Lewis at Wampum. Part two of the three-part series is here.

My last post on Iran is here.


Here's more on Iran from:

Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek;
David Sanger in The New York Times; and
Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment (tip: Democracy Arsenal).

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