Polygonic

That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

The case for an NPD-Q

A year, now, since Québec first crested the Big Orange Wave, and still, the NDP continue to thrive. It prompts a brand-new big idea: isn’t it time to build a provincial New Democratic Party in Québec?

Will six be enough for the thirsty masses?

There used to be one, though we’re forgiven to have forgotten. The federal party prompted a divorce from its wayward disciple (and forced a name change) years ago, as the provincial NDP-Q narrative became too nationalistic, its friends too unsavoury, and its aims too divergent from the English Canadian federal party.

Those conditions have changed. The NDP is no longer an English Canadian federal party. It’s a binational, bilingual, federal social democratic party that proves it can appeal directly to, and draw strength from, Quebecers. It’s the kind of party that many of us want the country to effectively be. And so?

And so, it’s a fool’s errand, some will say. Once you fracture the federalist vote between the provincial Liberals and a would-be high-profile NDP-Q, you give the Parti Québécois all the room in the world to dominate provincial politics for a generation and more. You virtually guarantee another referendum, and that’s just irresponsible.

Maybe. But I think that oversimplifies the complexities of Québec’s electoral landscape, and denies trends we’ve seen emerge in the sovereigntist camp itself, which is evolving towards several discrete left-right identities, manifest in distinct and new partisan agents. Can federalists be so bold?

Politics in three dimensions

Québec fascinates through its multidimensionality. You aren’t trapped within one of those false left-wing/right-wing 2D dichotomies, you’re also forced to consider your sovereigntist/federalist position. And your place in one spectrum need not have any bearing on your place in the other, creating all kinds of exotic creatures. Federalist socialists and separatist neoliberals might seem rare specimens, but they aren’t – they just don’t have their own parties.

This is changing, at least on the sovereigntists’ side. There are evolutions in how they self-identify. Québec federalists continue to organise as federalists, while the sovereigntists are beginning to organise as leftists, or rightists, or safe centrists. There’s no longer a sovereigntist coalition – hence, we witness the CAQ over there on your right, the PQ holding the fort left of centre, and QS on the chaise longue with the Karl Marx teddy bear.

Just a theory, but this partisan diversity may have emerged precisely because the Parti Quebecois stopped prioritising its sovereigntist identity, and started prioritising its identity as a broadly left/centre-left party. Something that could strip social democratic federalist votes away from the PLQ. It works – that happens. But the strategy will have angered Péquistes who wanted sovereignty front and centre – and it’s driven them to forge new parties, which can then only be organised and differentiated along distinctive left/right lines.

That Québec federalists continue to huddle together in uncomfortable left/right coalition might strike us as savvy and electorally advantageous. But it doesn’t appear to be working at the mo. The apparent fracturing of the sovereigntist vote isn’t hurting the PQ’s position – indeed, they are in safe majority territory. What can smart federalists do?

Play the Péquistes at their own game, and recognise that you can fight for soft nationalists and soft federalists at once. That’s what the Orange Wave was.

A New Democrat Backdraft

A provincial NDP could go to the student protests and say “We’re with you. You don’t have to go to Québec Solidaire to voice dissent against neoliberal policy, you can do it with us.” It could go to the provincial Liberals and say “most of you are more progressive than you let on. Come on, all you Mulcairs, come on in.” It could pull soft federalist social democrats back from the PQ as well as pulling support from the Liberals – something QS and CAQ aren’t in reach of doing. Besides, the very novelty of a provincial NDP could win it quick and early rewards from a public that’s in a very up-for-anything, disestablishment-minded mood. The trick, from there, is to hold such rewards – but the federal NDP are doing it pretty impressively.

Coalitions such as the Parti liberal du Québec are sustainable only insofar as there is a coherent opposite threat – look at the B.C. Liberals! That motley crew of Socreds, Tories and federal Liberals sought nothing more complex out of life than to suppress the B.C. NDP. But that coalition looks set to dissolve into incoherence, merely because an upstart actual Conservative party has entered the provincial scene.

A Whole New Mosaic

B.C.’s Liberals are a mosaic made with cheap glue, and if social democrats in Québec are bold enough, they’ll find that Charest’s Liberals are in a similar condition. His internal coalition could be just as easily usurped by a challenger that is able to establish a different kind of coalition – one that’s more coherent, and involves Québec’s mass of federalist/soft nationalist social democrat orphans in a meaningful way.

An NDP-Q would be risky, would ruffle feathers, and would rumble the status quo. Sounds like a goer.

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Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The emperor’s new clothes: North Korea keeps on marching

Sometimes, you just want to give them a hug.

Pyongyang put on this earnest show of transparency around its rocket launch, inviting foreign journalists into the heart of their futuristic Space Control Centres (SCCs).

Witness the marvels of our microcomputers and our, umm, extraordinarily large antennae!

It was one part quaint, one part chilling. The display was clearly designed to flummox Western voices that North Korea has something to hide, and, if lucky, to also alert the world as to the advanced state of North Korean spacefaring, and the military implications of that.

The problem with Pyongyang’s approach is that what they put on display was utter rubbish.

Watch this BBC video – seriously.

At 0:48, foreign journalists are shown the satellite itself – a locally-designed and constructed device to be launched as a spaceborne weather station. Look at it. Look at it. I am not exactly an engineer, but can we all agree that this is a 100W guitar amp with a tin can screwed to the top? Is one of those foil baubles meant to be a camera? Or some means of adjusting its trajectory? Somehow?

It really does appear to be something a precocious seven-year old might duct tape together in his dad’s workshop, and take to Show and Tell as his real, genu-wine, state-of-the-art weather satellite. So absorbed in his own delusions of imagined grandeur, he could not detect any of the snickers coming from around the class.

At 1:02, we are introduced to North Korea’s apparent Space Control Centre. You’d be forgiven for believing it instead to be the set from a community theatre’s stage production of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Cue big projection screen showing the rocket, awaiting its command! Cue about twelve scientist-folk looking studiously at Google Earth on their enormous computers!

I’m being ultra-glib. But they’ve earned glibness, haven’t they, and moreover, perhaps they will appreciate a candid critique of their offering? Room for improvement and all that?

The assumption among the North Korean hosts must have been that the visiting journalists (and the Western audiences they feed) are actually somehow quite comparable to their equivalents in North Korea itself – woefully undereducated and easily gobsmacked by technology that looks suspiciously like Robotix.

Perhaps their version of MI7 have gotten lazy, with the success of their internally-directed propaganda depending principally on the religiosity of its people, and not the sophistication of their messages. Perhaps it’s a fortunate irony that North Korea’s propagandists are themselves the product of the same propagandist educational system as the people they now propagandise – a feedback loop of loopiness that renders their narrative almost incomprehensible to foreign ears.

All of this serves to reinforce the Wizard of Oz aspect to Pyongyang’s military prowess. The bluster almost certainly magnifies actual capacity several-fold, and someone atop the KPA will have to know that the failures yesterday have exposed their bravado as somewhat unwarranted.

Unfortunately, they’ll seek to correct that – this embarrassment may shock North Korea into reasserting itself with a more tangible display of power. Whatever the delusion in Pyongyang that it can convince the world that it’s a military space-power, the real power they can wield is closer to Earth – firefights along the disputed maritime boundary would rattle markets, shake China’s image in Washington as a robust regional power, and create conditions for big powers to come back for more talks on more aid.

The emperor may have no clothes, but I suspect he knows it and does not mind it. Because there’s no telling what an angry, naked emperor might do next.

Filed under: International, Korea, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Coyne chrysalis

‎”This isn’t about the planes, in other words, or costs, or accounting. This is about accountability. This is is about whether departments are answerable to their ministers, and whether ministers are answerable to Parliament — or whether billions of public dollars can be appropriated without the informed consent of either Parliament or the public… And it is about whether we, as citizens, are prepared to pay attention, and hold people in power to account when they lie to us.

Which is to say, it is about whether we live in a functioning Parliamentary democracy, or want to.” 

Andrew Coyne, National Post, April 11, 2012.

Thanks to EnoughHarper for highlighting this

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , ,

MacKay: We’re just as dodgy with our accounting as Sponsorship-era Liberals

Duhhhhr! Ooonnggg... errrrggg....

Out of the mouths of babes.

It’s been an awkward delight watching Conservative spinmeisters trot out Plan A through Plan W in their Catalogue of Flimsy Excuses over the F-35 affair. Blaming bureaucrats didn’t cut it, even blaming the other parties hasn’t cut it. One waits with bated breath for Harper to find a new Guergis-figure he can throw under a bus and hope to be done with it.

Until then, Peter MacKay’s latest delicious position is that the $10 billion difference in Tory cost estimates and actual cost comes down to a simple “difference in accounting” between the DND and the government.

A difference in accounting. Ten. Billion. Dollars. The very act of stringing these words together with a straight face ought to be grounds for dismissal. What is gross misconduct if not forgetting to count Ten Billion Dollars? Or worse yet, remembering to, but not caring?

You just can’t square the idea that “sober stewards of the economy” can shrug off Ten Billion Dollars as a blip in accounting practices, and MacKay knew it. The argument was more than simply flimsy, it was damaging.

And, what’s the Conservatives’ default damage control strategy again? Oh yes. Blame The Liberals.

Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it leaves the Opposition enfeebled and dumbstruck. But, this time, the strategy has the ring of the truly surreal. Peter MacKay has been marched in front of national television to argue that, because the Liberals once excluded staff, maintenance and fuel costs in procurement of military equipment, the Tories are in their rights to do it too.

The Conservatives, in turn, pointed to a 2004 Liberal government announcement about military helicopters as proof that excluding salary and fuel costs has been common practice for years.

This is precisely how low the Conservatives have sunk. In the midst of ballooning scandal, Peter MacKay has had to come out and announce, with a certain air of righteousness, that his government maintains the same accounting principles as the Liberal Party. And not the Liberals of today – but the Liberals of 2004.

The Liberals of 2004 who, like the Conservatives of 2012, found themselves subject to a damning Auditor General’s report. A report that ultimately vaporised any remaining public trust in the government, liquified the Liberal Dynasty and ushered in The Republic of Harperland.

What did Sheila Fraser say in 2004 again, when the government “wasted money and showed disregard for rules, mishandling millions of dollars”?

“I think this is such a blatant misuse of public funds that it is shocking. I am actually appalled by what we’ve found.”

“I am deeply disturbed that such practices were allowed to happen in the first place. I don’t think anybody can take this lightly.”

In 2004, the Liberals’ proclivity towards subterfuge and black-box budgets were enough to fuel and fan the Conservative rise.

In 2012, though, the Liberals’ proclivity towards subterfuge and black-box budgets seems to mean there is a perfectly acceptable precedent for the Tories to do the same.

Precedents being precedents, though, it’s becoming difficult to see how Harper can ever fully reclaim the trust of a public he has taken for stupid for far too long.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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