December 22, 2012

After so long under minority governments, a majority can feel like a dictatorship

Filed under: Cancon, Government — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:21

Andrew Coyne pinpoints the day that Stephen Harper started governing as if he actually had a majority:

Calendar years have no particular significance in the political or electoral cycle — except when they do. Though the Conservatives won the majority they had been three times denied in May of 2011, they did not begin to govern as a majority until this year.

Indeed, the date can be fixed with precision. It was Jan. 26, a Thursday. Until that time the government had been preoccupied with leftover items from the minority years: the crime bills, the Wheat Board, the gun registry, and so on. On that day, Stephen Harper gave a speech in which he at last began to sketch out the broader agenda he had been at such pains to disavow until then.

This, it might be said, was the real Speech from the Throne (the one from the previous June being remembered mostly for a piece of performance art by an impossibly self-involved page), the occasion for the government to lay out before Canadians and their representatives “the unfinished business of the nation.” And so, naturally, it took place thousands of miles away, in Davos, Switzerland.

[. . .]

Last, there are the omnibus budget bills, I and II: the point at which the government’s emerging policy ambitions and continuing contempt for Parliamentary democracy converge. I’ve said my fill about these earlier, so I’ll be brief here. When much of the government’s legislative agenda can be pushed through in a single bill, or two; when “debate” on these hydra-headed monstrosities is itself cut short by government fiat; when these arrive on top of the whole long train of abuses to which Parliament has already been subjected, starting under past governments but with conspicuous enthusiasm under the present – then the question for next year, and for years to come, is clear. It is whether we will still live under a Parliamentary system of government, or something else.

The NRA tries fighting hysteria with even more hysteria

Filed under: Gaming, Law, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:23

Jacob Sullum on the tone-deaf response of the NRA to criticism arising from the Sandy Hook tragedy:

Not exactly the voice of calm reason. [NRA Executive Vice President Wayne] LaPierre evidently wants people to panic, as long as they stampede in the direction he prefers. Yet the fact remains that mass shootings of any kind, let alone mass shootings at schools, are rare events, and we should be cautious about making any major policy changes in an effort to reduce an already tiny risk. I don’t know what LaPierre means by “an active national database of the mentally ill,” and I’m not sure he does either. But since there is no indication that Adam Lanza was ever declared mentally incompetent or committed to a mental institution, such a database could prevent people like him from buying guns (leaving aside the fact that he used his mother’s weapons) only if the criteria for rejecting buyers are expanded to cover many people who pose no threat of violence (potentially including half the population, if a psychiatric diagnosis is all that’s required).

LaPierre wildly shoots at several other targets, including our allegedly lenient criminal justice system, which supposedly coddles “killers, robbers, rapists and drug gang members”; “vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse“; and “blood-soaked slasher films like ‘American Psycho‘ and ‘Natural Born Killers‘” (which were released 12 and 18 years ago, respectively). There is some sense in there too (about the “assault weapon” bogeyman and the puzzling progessive aversion to armed self-defense), but it is drowned in the flood of foam flying off LaPierre’s lips. And while letting teachers or other staff members with concealed carry permits bring their guns to school seems like a better policy than advertising “gun-free zones” to armed lunatics, the National School Shield Emergency Response Program that LaPierre recommends, featuring “a protection plan for every school,” a potentially smothering “blanket of safety,” and congressional appropriations, including “whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school,” seems utterly disproportionate given the level of risk that children (yes, including my own) actually face when they go to school.

Last night I suggested that Piers Morgan’s televised faceoff with Larry Pratt “pretty accurately reflects the general tenor of the current gun control debate, with raw emotionalism and invective pitted against skepticism and an attempt at rational argument.” The NRA and Wayne LaPierre seem determined to prove me wrong.

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