Monday, October 22, 2012

The Gathering Storm: Poll Shows Romney Michigan Charge

Special to the New York Times:

DETROIT, Oct. 21, 1962 -- George Romney, Republican candidate for Governor of Michigan, has a 4.7 percentage point lead over Gov. John B. Swainson, who is seeking re-election, the latest poll of The Detroit News shows.

The results, made public today, give Mr. Romney 52 per cent of the statewide vote, and Mr. Swainson 47.3 per cent. This is an increase of 4.5 per cent for Mr. Romney since the previous poll results published September 30. At that time Mr. Romney had 49.7 per cent and the Governor 49.5

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The 3 Most Moronic Townhall Debate Questioners

Republicans have trouble with Town Hall debates. Thery were, after all, a diabolical concoction of Bill Clinton, who had found town hall meetings a perfect vehicle for his campaign. They allowed him to emote, to assure the audience that he felt their pain. Republicans' first instinct is to try to answer a question seriously, which can be a deadly instinct when the question is a deliberate trap, or a sentimental effusion rather than a question, or is just plain moronic. The generic advice to debaters in this situation is that they should emit a sentence or two that is at least vaguely relevant to the question insofar as it is understood, then relate a horrific anecdote demonstrating the seriousness of the problem, or an inspiring anecdote demonstrating the unsurpassed ability of Americans deal with adversity. Then talk about whatever you want until time is about to run out, ending with something that will be embarrassing to the next candidate as he starts his answer.
Forewarned is forearmed; here are the 3 most moronic townhall debate questioners ever:
1. Richmond, Virginia, October 15, 1992, Carole Simpson, Moderator
Note: This question was asked in response to an invitation by Carole Simpson to complain about the tenor of the campaign.
Asked by the most famous questioner of all time, "pony tail guy".
SIMPSON: Who wants to say why you don't like the way the campaign is going? We have a gentleman back here.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: And forgive the notes here but I'm shy on camera.
The focus of my work as a domestic mediator is meeting the needs of the children that I work with, by way of their parents, and not the wants of their parents. And I ask the three of you, how can we, as symbolically the children of the future president, expect the two of you, the three of you to meet our needs, the needs in housing and in crime and you name it, as opposed to the wants of your political spin doctors and your political parties?
SIMPSON: So your question is?
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Can we focus on the issues and not the personalities and the mud? I think there's a need, if we could take a poll here with the folks from Gallup perhaps, I think there's a real need here to focus at this point on the needs....[Short series of comments by candidates]... Could we cross our hearts? It sounds silly here but could we make a commitment? You know, we're not under oath at this point but could you make a commitment to the citizens of the US to meet our needs, and we have many, and not yours again? I repeat that. It's a real need, I think, that we all have.
2. Richmond, Virginia, October 15, 1992, Carole Simpson, Moderator
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Yes. How has the national debt personally affected each of your lives? And if it hasn't, how can you honestly find a cure for the economic problems of the common people if you have no experience in what's ailing them?
[Note: there then followed a period of confusion in which President Bush tried to figure out what the questioner was talking about, and in which the questioner and Ms. Simpson responded to Bush’s discussion of the economy with the demand that he say how he had personally been affected. Later, the questioner clarified (?) what she had meant:]
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Well, I've had friends that have been laid off from jobs....I know people who cannot afford to pay the mortgage on their homes, their car payment. I have personal problems with the national debt. But how has it affected you and if you have no experience in it, how can you help us, if you don't know what we're feeling?
3. San Diego, October 16, 1996, Jim Lehrer, Moderator
MS. McAFEE: My name is Shannon McAfee. I'm a beginning educator in this country, and I really think it's important what children have to say. They're still very idealistic. And they -- everything they say comes from the heart. I have a quote for you from "If I Were President," compiled by Peggy Gavin. A sixth grader says, "If I were president, I would think about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington and what they did to make our country great. We should unite the white and black people and people of all cultures. Democrats and Republicans should unite also. We should all come together and think of the best ways to solve the economic problems of our country. "I believe that when we are able to come together and stop fighting amongst ourselves we will get along a lot better." These are the ideals and morals that we are teach -- we are trying to teach our children in these days. Yet we don't seem to be practicing them in our government, in anything. If you are president, how will you begin to practice what we are preaching to our children, the future of our nation?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Strange Death of Social Conservatism

George Dangerfield’s classic The Strange Death of Liberal England argued that the British Liberal Party was destroyed not because anything in its philosophy had suddenly become hideously unpopular, but because it was caught in crossfires in four radically divisive social debates, over Irish home rule, women’s suffrage, union radicalism, and the House of Lords' power to reject laws passed by the Commons. The book is memorable for the high-pitched intensity with which the narrative sustains throughout. Kathryn Blaze Carlson adduces the shock upset of Wildrose as proof that social conservatism has become an "electorally toxic Pandora's Box". I confess that the same dark thoughts had been roaming through my mind the day after the election. If a conservative party can be taken over by the Left and then, though unpopular, win an election -- in Alberta -- by smearing as too social conservative a party that had fervently pledged itself not to touch the most crucial socon issues then what hope does social conservatism have anywhere? But what is the evidence that fatal flaws of social conservatism were responsible for the Alberta disaster? Carlson's whole case against social conservatism derives from the two 'bigotry' incidents:
One pastor wrote in his blog that gays would burn in a “lake of fire,” while another MLA-hopeful said he had an advantage as a white candidate in an ethnically diverse Calgary constituency.
The social conservative cause has nothing to do with the state's taking a position on the eternal destiny of homosexuals, nor is race a forum of socon interest, except for a preference for merit hiring and a general advocacy that people chill out about the issue and stop using factitious allegations of bigotry for political advantage or as a proof of moral superiority. So what's the connection?
“It’s the social conservatism that does them in,” said Faron Ellis, a Lethbridge College political scientist who authored a book on the rise of the Reform party. “Until you draw a clear line in the sand over which you’re not going to let social conservatives drag your party, it becomes electorally toxic.” Prof. Ellis said the Wildrose Party was doomed the moment it tread into social conservatism without assuring voters it had limits. Ms. Smith chose not to draw a “clear line in the sand” and instead espoused free speech and freedom of religion, refusing to condemn candidates for making bigoted and racially charged comments.
Ah, those nasty, nasty things, free speech and freedom of religion. Danielle Smith was boxed in a corner. Allan Hunsperger's statements about homosexuals simply reflect the doctrine of orthodox Christianity, a worldview that social liberals are trying to marginalize, but he did not present what evangelicals call a winsome testimony. Smith could hardly say that the views of orthodox Christians were unacceptable in her candidates and was left drawing a distinction between the private views of candidates and their public policy commitments. The real outrage was Alison Redford's comments, which demonstrated her unbearably sanctimonious intolerance:
Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford said Hunsperger’s comments were “shocking” and spoke to the issue of who would make up a Wildrose government. “If we have people like this making these sorts of comments in Alberta, I think that it’s absolutely wrong. Of course I disagree with it and the fact that these are people who think that that’s a legitimate perspective, just absolutely blows my mind,” she said at an event at Calgary’s Sikh temple.
See, orthodox Christianity isn't a legitimate perspective; and people holding it should refrain from espousing it publicly. So says Premier Redford, Apostle of Tolerance. Pastor #2, Ron Leech, committed the crime of trying to counter the ethnic appeals that visible minority candidates make to their own tribes more or less openly with a counter argument that he could be even more effective as a representative of Punjabi interests because he would *not* be looked on as a special pleader for that ethnic group. Here was a man who has spent time learning about Punjabi history and culture, a man who was urging that we avoid ethnic tribalism, and somehow he is the one tagged as a bigot. Redford responded to this one with another dose of sanctimony, saying that she would have fired Leech as a candidate. Smith handled herself honourably and well; Redford was obnoxious and repellent, and the only demonstrated bigot in the whole affair; Redford is Premier of a majority government. What are the lessons for social conservatism?

  1. Pastors Should Stay in Their Pulpits The kind of orthodox minister (of any religion) who will be running as a social conservative will have a career of boldly presenting the truth, and be trying to convert to a profession a large part of which involves shading, blurring and obscuring the truth. Such a person will have said things making him unelectable in a post-Christian society. Actually strong social conservative ex-ministers of this kind would have been hard to elect at any time. The occasional exception (e.g. Mike Huckabee) will have evidently unusual qualities. Anyone who follows politics keenly would know not to say the things that Leech said by the time they reached high school. He broke a taboo, and successful politicians must know where the taboos are.

  2. Social Conservatives Must Select Candidates Differently Social liberal parties can just throw out anyone with the interest to run and the bucks to win a nominating convention knowing that their previous absurd and outrageous statements are unlikely to attract lamestream media interest. Social conservatives must police themselves to ensure that candidates with large skeletal closets never make it to the nomination. They must self-police; central parties, despite their eminent interest in presenting electable candidates, cannot be trusted to do it because they don't want social conservatives anyway. One socon looks like another to them When a nomination comes up and a socon expresses interest in running, socons need to network and ask, is this guy a credible candidate? Can we find a better one? Is this the *best* socon candidate we have available? In those cases where socons have some entree into the central party and can exercise some influence, they should not oppose attempts by headquarters to grab control over nominations away from local riding associations.

  3. Social Conservatives Must Police Their Candidates Themselves Allan Hunsperger should have been told to scrub that blog the day he announced an intent to run. Ron Leech was ensnared by his *second* comment on the issue. An earlier one had gone noticed. If the first time he had ever said that, someone had sat him down and explained why he must never say that again, the incident may have never occurred. There's not much for volunteers to do in modern campaigns. Socons ought to watch their own candidates. track them as diligently as opposition researchers will.

 Social conservatism hasn't been proved to be a fatal flaw to a campaign. The Alberta disaster is just a reminder that socons have to be better at what they do than social liberals, to survive.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Penitential Lenten Reading List for Tories (Pt. One)

When I've been doing my reading the last year it's often occurred to me that in order to understand the era I'm reading about I need to know more about a leading man of the Left of that era. To understand the parlous state of conservatism in England in the long period of exile 1715 you need to know something about the slimy and  oleaginous Robert Walpole. To understand the terrible period of desolation in Canada after 1921 you need to understand something about the tricky and strange William Lyon Mackenzie King. To understand the forces that set the nationin the path leading to violent dissolution  towards war in the U.S. before the War Between the States you need to know something about Andrew Jackson.

The problem is that for any true blue conservative, the very thought of reading about a creature like Pierre Trudeau or Oliver Cromwell makes one's flesh crawl. To make it worse, their biographers tend of course to fawn and slobber over these monsters. In the John English biography of Trudeau you supposedly get a worshipful account of Trudeau's romantic adventures. Yuck.

So it occurred to be something during the last year that the project of necessary reading about notorious leftists should be approached in a penitential spirit, as a kind of spiritual discipline (I guess I'll call it a political discipline), a mortification of the mind, like wearing a hairshirt or scourging yourself.) So here's my top 10 Notorious Men of the Left reading list. It's constrained by availability of books at my library (you don't think I'd buy any of this filth, do you?) Otherwise worthy figures such as Mackenzie King and Earl Warren would appear on this list.I like to do these lists 10-to-1, to build suspense.

10.   Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson was in essence a street thug who,as sometimes happens, finds that the military was just made for him. Jackson would duel at the slightest provocation. He was in somewhere between 13 and over 100 duels in his life. According to Paul Johnson, a man duelling Old Hickory once had to be physically held in his place by the seconds --flat out murder.  As President, Jackson naturally battles basically everyone decent in politics, including John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun,  and Henry Clay. The book to read seems to be Robert Remini, Andrew Jackson. As a special act of penance you might instead choose Arthur Schlesinger's hagiographicThe Age of Jackson.

9. Mitch Hepburn

I once worked for a man who was around and active in Hepburn's time. He used to say that the Conservatives had proof that Hepburn had setup a whole floor in the Royal York and was having orgies with multiple prostitutes and everything. "We had the affidavits and all." Someone must have got cold feet.

Despite his total unsuitability to be premier of anything, I don't know of anything Hepburn did to permanently harm Ontario, which is why he is so low on this list. His battles with Mackenzie King area militate in his favour as well. John Saywell's Just Call Me Mitch: The Life of Mitchell Hepburn seems to be the authority here.

8. Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson was a southerner, the first president associated with the presidency since Andrew Johnson. (Harry Turtledove has him as President of the Southern Confederacy in his alternate history series.) He makes the partly for his leadership of the progressive cause, partly for his imbecilic activities after WWI. His Fourteen Points are the absolute epitome of soppy sentimentality codified into ludicrous principle and proudly brandished as a serious programme that other nations were supposed to endorse. After reading #1 (Open covenants of peace openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but normal diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.) world leaders must have been splitting their sides laughing. Wilson was perfectly suited for one job: University president,and he was President of Princeton for a few years. August Hecksher's Woodrow Wilson appears to be the best recent biography.

(To Be Continued...)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Newt in Florida: Fat Chance

Carl Cannon asks the question about the GOP race at the forefront of everyone's mind: can a fat man beat a thin man?
...perhaps it’s not a true test, but last Saturday, Gingrich clearly outdid three thinner men. Presidential primary elections are not purely popularity contests, and this is not high school, but in attracting more votes than Mitt Romney, Gingrich bested a candidate who is not only in better shape, but better-looking, more physically graceful, and younger.
Such a result is not unheard-of, but it defies the odds. Political consultants and presidential scholars will tell (not to mention psychologists, corporate headhunters, and Madison Avenue hucksters) that in social competition, physical qualities matter. Generally speaking, tall beats short, dark hair beats gray, agility beats klutzy, handsome beats homely. And trim definitely edges out pudgy, as any overweight kid ever called “fatso” on the playground can attest.
Hmm... does this apply in Canada? Considering the general appearance issue rather than weight alone, the old Progressive Conservatives obviously did not have the reactions of other humans, choosing Bob Stanfield over Duff Roblin and Davey Fulton and Joe Clark over Claude Wagner and Brian Mulroney, getting the electoral results you would expect. The lamestream media at least did not seem to think that Preston Manning's appearance and voice were those of a leader, although I never concurred with the worldly minded on this. Manning always seemed to me to fit the image of a leader, while Brian Mulroney came across to me as a phony blowhard of the kind who gets his position by excelling in everything superficial. I never thought that the fixed teeth, contact lenses and $750 suits helped Manning any; they made seem like just another politician. Yet when he put his leadership on the line, Stockwell Day's sleekness in a Speedo was part of his implicit case against Manning.

Whenever I see Newt appearing particularly porcine my thought is that he should have made a point of losing 20 or 30 pounds over the year before his campaign started. It would have been a sign of seriousness in a campaign which many didn't take seriously at first, of self-restraint in a man who has often seemed to lack that virtue, of stability in a man feared to be too erratic. Haley Barbour said two years ago that if he was 25 pounds lighter a year from then, you would know that he either had cancer or was going to run for president.

In choosing a candidate, GOP primary voters say that they're more concerned about electability than any other qualification,including being a "true conservative". That means that voters, rather than choosing according to their own reactions to a candidate, are trying to guess how other people will react to him. That works to the advantage of a Ken-doll candidate like Romney. You and I may be too deep to pick a president on the basis of superficial characteristics, but we don't expect that your mushbrained independents, people who can't even figure out what party they belong to, will do the same. This factor helps Romney, and as of now he seems to have halted his decline in Florida, but I will say this: a candidacy like Romney's, based not on being the guy you want, but the guy who you think other people will want, is a house of cards. If Gingrich could ever manage to seize even a small advantage over Romney in trial heats against Obama, Romney's campaign could collapse quickly like a previous "Mr Moderate" frontrunner -- Mitt's father George, in 1968.

Or,as his tide goes out, Gingrich could be left stranded on the beaches of Florida. Like a beached whale.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Comment Dit-On Tasha Kheridden is a Liberal Elitist?

Outside of the small number of unilingual speakers who are part of the minority in an area and so genuinely need government services in their own language, Official Bilingualism is a project of the New Class -- the caste of manipulators of symbols that includes high-level bureaucrats, some types of lawyers, the media and executives in government-regulated industries. So it is not as much of a surprise as it might be to find that Tasha Kheridden is a staunch defender of Official Bilingualism

Born and brought up in Montreal -- check -- who has worked as Legislative Assistant to the Attorney General of Ontario -- check -- before working as a producer for the CBC -- check.

Consequently Ms.Kheridden mounts a defence of capital-B Bilingualism in the face of the recent Fraser Institute study pegging the costs of Bilingualism at $2.4 billion annually. So what is that defence? Well, people need to be able to deal with same-language government officials when fighting a traffic ticket or asking questions about how to get a passport. Granted. The provision of such services is a minute part of the cost of Official Bilingualism. What else?

while GPS has largely replaced the need to ask for directions, bilingual tourism officers will ensure that a New Brunswicker travelling in Alberta will feel as at home there as back in his native province.
Tourism officers? When is the last time you have found a Tourism Officer handy when you had to ask for directions?
Whitby, Ontario is about as Anglo Canadian as you can get, yet it boasts a huge, brand new French immersion elementary school. The Julie Payette Public School opened in 2011 at capacity: just under 700 students fill its classrooms, including six grade one classes. In an interview, principal Monique de Villers explained that parents choose bilingual education not only to enable their children to travel and work within Canada, but to prepare them to be “citizens of the wider world… Learning another language prepares them to talk to others.”
Well of course upper middle class parents are going to want the option of French immersion for their children in a society where you have to speak French to be Prime Minister, a judge of the Supreme Court of Canada (once the Liberals and NDP get back into power), or a senior bureaucrat. It is very much in the interest of the bilingual New class to encourage such white elephants as French immersion, knowing that 90% of Immersion graduates will lose whatever ability they had within a few years of leaving school,and thus never be real competition for jobs with the genuinely bilingual. As for French immersion as a preparation for talking to others -- people living in Whitby, as in most of Ontario, would have to scour the region to find someone who speaks only French to talk to.
Canada’s nationalist concept of bilingualism has morphed into an internationalist concept
I don’t think many of the students entered into French immersion classes are planning to be diplomats or to move to France.
...having two official languages sets our entire country apart on the world stage, allowing it to participate in both the Francophonie and the Commonwealth
So we’d be thrown out of the Francophonie if we dismantled the excesses of Official Bilingualism? I think the presence of Quebec in Canada, and the status of French there, would militate against expelling that.
It [the federal government]should review second language requirements within the public service, to make sure they are all fully necessary, before sending bureaucrats out for pricey language training.
It should, but it won’t. Official Bilingualism has been in place for four decades, and the grip of mandatory French around the throat of English bureaucrats is worse than ever. French proficiency is required for posts in which the language will never be used. The Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages acts as a permanent lobby for more Bilingualism, as well seeking every year things outside its jurisdiction to meddle in.

That is the real cost of Bilingualism -- in every part of the civil service, the competent lose out in promotion to the bilingual. As concerned as people are about efficiency in government, there should be more outrage about a programme that systematically discriminates against the competent.

And selection of a prime minister is as a practical matter now restricted to the small pool of bilingual people in Canada. That’s a tremendous cost when you consider how few great leaders a country has, even if it speaks only one language.

All this is a substantial price to pay for the right to try to hunt down a bilingual Tourism Officer when you get lost in Alberta.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


The GOP presidential campaign lacks the excitement of a real race, but one thing it has is great television ads. I just hope these ad shops still have their game when the battle for control of the Senate comes up later this year.

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