Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Because he challenged me not to do it...


This time, it looks like he's attempting to take shots at multiple liberal candidates. I'd permalink, but since that isn't possible, here's the quote for posterity:

Pithy, linkless declarations of belief about democracy:

The Senate should be abolished. It is an anachronism in a modern democracy.
The Canadian Senate is indeed an odd beast, consisting as it does of appointees by Canadian prime ministers. It doesn't appear to have an especially negative effect, though, and is actually somewhat of a progressive institution; the push for decriminalization of marijuana that briefly made Canada "cool" stemmed from that seemingly conservative body.

Odd, but it somewhat makes sense, in that the war on drugs is almost entirely a function of electoral considerations about being "tough on crime" and the common perceived connection between the drug trade and the same marginalized minorities that many conservative voters are already somewhat antagonistic towards.

Still, the problem is... what to replace it with, if you DO want a body of "sober second thought"? Simple elections would just replicate the house, and having a fixed number per province would increase the already-redlined level of provincialism in Canada. It'd also be another push hurtling Canada in the direction of Americanization and, eventually, being absorbed into the United States.

(What, you think that that isn't what this is about? If you turn Canada into the United States in all but name, the name will change soon enough as well. I haven't seen a single reason why Canadian conservatives, particularly the western variant, wouldn't make for ecstactically happy Republicans. They just don't want to leave the oilpatch.)

So the problem is, what DO you do with it?

Fixed election dates are great for political consultants like me, but not so great for democratic governance. Ask an American.
No argument here. That's the odd thing about this guy- as I mentioned below, were it not for his wholesale abandonment of liberals outside Ontario and his parroting of AIPAC talking points and fury at those who don't, he wouldn't be anywhere near as tempting to break down.

(Far more interesting than, say, Canadian conservatives, who are even more on-message and slavishly devoted than their American counterparts. Not surprising, as I think that were Harper not Prime Minister he'd probably be an especially loud and tendentious blogger.)

(Speaking of being on message...)

In any democracy, voters are indeed preoccupied with which special interests are paying which politician. Liberals who shrug about revelations concerning suspicious donations are making a big, big mistake.

Bloggers and the like demanded respect and more of a voice in our democracy, and they got it. As a consequence, they owe democracy a duty - such as disclosing which of them is being quietly paid by which corporation or leadership candidate. They'd demand no less of the mainstream media.
The former piece is a direct jab at Liberal candidate Joe Volpe, who (it was revealed) received rather a lot of money from Apotex, a generic pharmaceutical firm. Not exactly a big deal in the US (and, personally, I'll take generic manufacturers over patent jockeys anyday), but the specific means by which he did it goes against the spirit, if not the letter, of the campaign financing law that Jean Chretien enacted back in 2004.

(I won't get into the specifics; it honestly doesn't matter, except that it involves executives' families donating to a candidate in a sort of "bundling" scheme.)

Because it isn't against the letter of the law, the Liberals aren't investigating Volpe over it. Well, that and the simple fact that pretty much all of the candidates are almost certainly going to be using these sorts of tactics to get funding, as they do not enjoy the kind of grassroots financial support that Democrats (or, indeed, Canadian Conservatives) are focusing on. It's almost certain that Harper played the same kinds of games with his campaign financing, too, but (in typical Harper fashion) was closemouthed about it and trusted in the generally favorable media coverage he got.

Thus, this isn't really about Joe Volpe being exceptionally corrupt when compared to either Liberals or Conservatives; he just had the bad luck of being caught first and being a target of those candidates who are afraid of his--if several blog comments I've read are true--exceptionally strong on-the-ground campaign. Chief among them being Ignatieff supporters...

...which gets to Warren's other comment. I'd mentioned in a past entry that Ignatieff's supporters online are both numerous and slavishly on-message. If Warren's saying what I think he is, this isn't because they're devoted, it's because it's very lucrative to do so. That sucks, because it lessens the legitimacy and value of the online discussion and debate that should be at the core of the modern liberal movement. As Calgary Grit and his commentators note in this post, Ignatieff's foreign policy positions should be the spark of policy discussion, but it's not happening, primarily because Iggy's supporters appear constitutionally unable to even think about the idea that he was completely wrong on both Iraq and the torture issue.

For those arguing that their positions are legitimate: I could buy that if I ever saw some diversity in the positions. I haven't. There should be people who say "I don't like those things, but I like other things that he's about and that's enough for me to support him", but by and large that isn't happening. It's ALWAYS "no, see, you're taking his comments out of context, go read his book" (when the critic has done nothing of the sort) or "Iraq was a good idea because of the Kurds, which he started supporting when..." (tell that to the families of those people killed in Haditha, or the Arabs forcibly relocated by those selfsame Kurds) or some babbling variation on "coercion isn't torture and should be used when ticking time bomb terrorists 9/11 realism"...which, honestly, even Thomas Friedman is probably none too inclined towards these days.

These are almost certainly people who would have never argued anything of the kind a year ago, but now are parroting talking points. And they're doing it as bloggers. So on that, Warren's right.

The problem, though, is the same as with his attacks on pseudonymity (which, of course, this numbers among)... there are too many good reasons for people to be able to speak their mind pseudonymously for "disclosure" laws to make much sense. If it's fraud, it's fraud, but let's be honest- anonymous and pseudonymous commenting isn't going anywhere, and the best thing you can do is look at the poster and judge for yourself whether he's a shill or not.

(In the case of Iggy's crew, it really isn't hard.)

By the way, speaking of online support and Volpe, I am curious about one thing... why is it that there seems to be not a soul online who's defending the man? No matter the candidate, you always got some defenders in the American primaries of 2004, and I'm sure he has supporters or he wouldn't be worth "outing" in the first place. Are his supporters under a gag order or something?

(If they are, I have one suggestion for his campaign organizers: release that gag order. Your guy is getting ripped up badly on the Internet, and the Internet will almost certainly be the source of the small donations that must fuel any future electoral campaign. Even were Volpe to continue after this mini-scandal and win the leadership with that fabled on-the-ground organization, he still would have the general to think about.)

In any case, one final thought: still not a word from Warren on the National Post's Iran debacle. How much do you folks want to bet that there's a gag order there, too?

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