Quotulatiousness

June 6, 2017

Should the UK general election have been postponed?

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh discusses the (relatively few) calls to postpone the British general election in the wake of the recent terror attacks on British cities:

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce: so said Marx. He was making a joke about the second Emperor Napoleon, and it is still the first thing everybody remembers about the man; it is thus one of the greatest bon mots in the history of journalism. And it is, incidentally, the only law of history devised by Marx that actually works.

We have seen it applied in England by Muslim fanatics this past fortnight. The May 22 attack on Manchester Arena by a radicalized local seems to have involved high technical sophistication, and possibly assistance from an international network of terrorism suppliers. The target was chosen so as to victimize children and to involve a celebrity. (Ariana Grande had been on nobody’s list of people likely to provide a shining global example of civil courage, but here we are!) The killer’s plan was followed through with heartbreaking competence.

Then came the Saturday night attack on London Bridge. I have to be careful in discussing it: seven people are dead and dozens more have suffered life-altering injuries or horror in the rampage. But we are also under an important obligation to keep these things in perspective. Next to the attack on Manchester the London Bridge assault—undertaken with a van, some knives, and fake (!?) suicide vests—looks like a poorly considered, even improvised, terrorist lark. You would say it sounded like something out of a satirical movie parody of Muslim terrorists if Chris Morris hadn’t already made Four Lions.

[…]

Even the “suspension” of political activity by the major parties was more hypothetical than real after the London Bridge incident, with both Prime Minister Theresa May and Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn using the time to needle one another in public statements. May is a former home secretary, and was thus a longtime head of a public security apparatus that seems to have been deaf to warnings about the murderers behind both terror incidents. Corbyn, meanwhile, spent decades as the sort of leftist-bookshop-haunting radical uncle who never has an unkind word for a terrorist or rogue state.

An election campaign is not a good time to stamp out talk about terrorism. And under these circumstances, the argument between the main parties could not fail to be somewhat sharp and personal. But what are the general principles for interrupting or diminishing election campaigning in the face of terror? We can imagine harder cases than this one. And the problem is not quite the same as the mere logistical issue of when an election must be delayed or prolonged because of terrorism. It is, as I say, an issue of etiquette, one that perhaps defies formula.

May 28, 2017

Maxime Bernier falls just short of victory in federal Conservative leader race

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:37

He was defeated on the thirteenth ballot by Andrew Scheer (who?)

Andrew Scheer emerged as Conservative leader after 13 ballots on Saturday evening, a surprise victory but one with which most Tories seem to be at peace.

He overtook Maxime Bernier on the final ballot, thanks to the support of social conservatives — even though he has pledged not to reopen the abortion debate — and Quebeckers upset at Bernier’s stance on supply management.

Bernier was struck by the 30 per cent curse: no Canadian leadership candidate has won after recording less than 30 per cent on the first ballot.

Scheer’s victory was a vote for moderation and continuity — a very conservative choice.

The new leader performed strongly in Quebec, even beating Bernier in his home riding of Beauce. He also won in Ontario, Atlantic Canada and his home province of Saskatchewan.

Scheer won by just 7,000 votes in the popular vote.

It’s pointed out that Bernier’s opposition to our illiberal protectionist supply management system may have been the deciding factor (it certainly cost him support in his own riding and in Quebec as a whole). It’d be almost amusing if Justin Trudeau is forced to break up the supply management system as a concession to save NAFTA…

Britain’s general election – “Except for Europe, the contest is between an authoritarian hag and a Fenian scumbag”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Sean Gabb is holding his nose and voting Tory this time around, but he’s not happy about it:

For the avoidance of doubt, I still intend to vote Conservative in this dreadful election. And, if Labour seems to be catching up in the opinion polls, so, I suspect, will enough people to give the Conservatives a decent majority. The general election is a rerun of last year’s Referendum. There is no other consideration that ought to sway anyone who is looking beyond our present circumstances. We vote Conservative. We leave the European Union. We hope and work for a realignment in British politics. Except for this, however, I would be dithering between another vote for UKIP and a spoiled ballot. Except for Europe, the contest is between an authoritarian hag and a Fenian scumbag.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have made their responses to the Manchester Bombings. According to the BBC,

    Theresa May has urged world leaders to do more to combat online extremism, saying the fight against so-called Islamic State is “moving from the battlefield to the internet.”

What she has in mind is outlined in the Conservative Manifesto:

    [W]e will establish a regulatory framework in law to underpin our digital charter and to ensure that digital companies, social media platforms and content providers abide by these principles. We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law. We will also create a power in law for government to introduce an industry-wide levy from social media companies and communication service providers to support awareness and preventative activity to counter internet harms, just as is already the case with the gambling industry.

If this hardly needs translating into Plain English, I will make the effort. The Conservatives are proposing to censor the Internet. Anyone who, in this country, publishes opinions or alleged facts the authorities dislike will be prosecuted. If these are published abroad, access to the relevant websites will be blocked. Internet companies will be taxed to pay for a Ministry of Propaganda to go beyond anything now provided by the BBC.

We are supposed to think the main targets of censorship will be the radical Moslems. I have no doubt some effort will be made to shut them up. The main targets, however, will be on the nationalist right. These are the ones who will be harried and prosecuted and generally threatened into silence. The only person so far to have lost a job on account of the bombings is the LBC presenter Katie Hopkins. She made a sharp comment on air about the Moslems, and was out. Other than that, we have had a continual spray of propaganda about the Religion of Peace, and how its core texts have nothing to do with suicide bombings or mass-rape or disorder.

In Britain, in Europe, in America, there are powerful interests that are itching to censor the Internet. It is the Internet that has made us cynical. It is the Internet that is giving us the probable truth. It is because of the Internet that the authorities are being held to account. Never let a good atrocity go to waste. Get the people ready for censorship while the bodies are still being reassembled.

May 26, 2017

A Brief History of Politicians Body-Slamming Journalists

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 25 May 2017

In the twilight hours of a special election to replace Montana’s lone congressman, Republican hopeful Greg Gianforte reportedly “body slammed” and punched a Guardian reporter after the journalist tried to ferret out an answer about GOP health care plans. In this video Reason TV imagines a world in which other, high profile politicians give into violent impulses when confronted by the press.

Polls opened in Montana less than twenty-four hours after Gianforte’s confrontation with Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs, and his subsequent assault charge. In the event that Mr. Gianforte is elected to Congress there is a reasonable chance he will interact with more journalists in the future, and possibly even have to formulate responses to Republican legislation at some point.

Written by Andrew Heaton, Austin Bragg, and Meredith Bragg
Performed by Andrew Heaton and Austin Bragg
Produced by Meredith Bragg and Austin Bragg

May 10, 2017

BC Greens the biggest winners in provincial election

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:02

Jay Currie explains why, even though they didn’t “win” the election, the BC Green Party is the biggest winner from yesterday’s general election in the province:

There are two losers tonight: the Liberals and the NDP. And there is one winner: the Greens. They managed to split the NDP vote and likely cost the NDP a majority government.

However, where the NDP and the Liberals have no obvious room to grow their electorate, the Greens have a very good shot at expanding theirs. The fact is that the people who shop at Whole Foods, send their kids to “French Immersion” if they can’t afford private (not for racist reasons of course) and think recycling is an act of benediction are legion. They used to vote NDP, now they have an alternative.

Andrew Weaver may be a lousy climate scientist but he is not an unintelligent man. He can count (so long as it does not involve climate change time series) and there are six ridings where the Greens came second. A rational, non-coalition, support of the Liberals would let him pass legislation of greater consequence than a ban on mandatory high heels for women in serving jobs. The Liberals, who will likely be reduced to a rural rump despite having likely won the most seats, are basically being elected by BC’s version of “deplorables”. Nice people think they are a bit, well, common.

Dr. Weaver, well educated, Oak Bay resident and articulate guy that he is should be able to target those nice, white, very liberal people and peel them away from both the Liberals and the NDP. Plus, Weaver has the children who have grown up on Green ideology masquerading as education.

One winner tonight: the Greens.

May 9, 2017

The French presidency is sorted, but what about the opposition?

Filed under: Europe, France — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle reports on the state of the two former mainstream parties in France after both were unable to get their presidential candidate past the first round of voting:

When I arrived in France a week ago, many Americans were asking whether this election was going to be the French Brexit, and Marine Le Pen the French Trump. Given the strength of Emmanuel Macron’s lead in the polls, I thought this was the wrong question. France, in fact, already had a Brexit-sized political earthquake, when neither of the two mainstream parties of left and right made it into the second round.

The center-right Republican Party currently seems to be flailing around, trying to decide where it goes next. It is nonetheless in better shape than the left’s Socialist Party, whose devotees are currently standing around its sickbed, speaking in hushed tones. Jean-Luc Mélenchon pinched many Socialist voters, particularly lower-income and unemployed urban dwellers, with his “France Insoumise” (France unbowed) platform; Macron won over the prosperous by coming out full-bore for Europe, globalization, economic reform, and immigration. Even Le Pen got a few in the second round, mostly those who identify as “far left.” One hates to prematurely report a death, of course, but it’s certainly hard to see how the Socialists manage to recover from their humiliating single-digit performance in the first round of this election.

With both major parties in disarray, the question naturally arises: If Emmanuel Macron’s brand of ardent globalization becomes the focal ideology for one side of the political spectrum, what will constitute the natural opposition?

[…] Right now French politics doesn’t have two poles; according to political scientist Arun Kapil, it has five: the far left, the small and hardy band of loyal Socialists, En Marche!, the Republicans, and the National Front. And one possibility is that these poles winnow somewhat, but never come back to the old intra-right and intra-left alliances that stabilized French politics into something approaching a two-party system. Mélenchon is a true believer who so far seems unwilling to make strategic alliances, and the National Front is similarly uncooperative, even if other parties wanted to cooperate with them, which they don’t. If those blocs hold onto enough voters to tip an election, but never quite enough to win one, future French elections may get kind of wild.

It’s too early to tell yet which of these possible futures will hold. But we may start to get some guess in June’s legislative elections. How well En Marche! does will provide clues to just how big a shift Macron has actually achieved in French politics. How well the Republicans do will give us some sign of whether they can get their mojo back. And the performance of the far left and the far right will indicate whether France is on its way to establishing a “new normal” not that much different from the old — or striking out for uncharted territory, where there may well be some dragons lurking.

May 6, 2017

Marine Le Pen versus Emmanuel Macron

Filed under: France, Media, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle is in France this week and watched the televised debate between Le Pen and Macron on Wednesday. She found some interesting parallels between it and the US presidential debates, but some significant differences, too:

Watching last night’s presidential debate here in France, I found it hard not to think about our own presidential debates in the U.S., lo these many months ago. In many ways, it was the same: the populist upstart against the center-left representative of the establishment, the status quo against the YOLO, the woman against the man. In other ways, it was very different — which is why, according to almost everyone, Emmanuel Macron is going to be elected president next week, and Marine Le Pen will not.

Macron, like Hillary Clinton, is the candidate of “more of the same, but with, you know, more of the same.” His contempt for Le Pen was obvious, and if this were an American debate, would have hurt him. My French is good enough to read a newspaper (very slowly) and to sort of follow the debate as long as no one else was talking. So as I watched, I paid attention to tone and body language as much as content.

[…]

Le Pen, like Trump, is basically the candidate of “things were better 40 years ago, so let’s go back there.” And it’s easy to understand why that’s appealing for a lot of voters in both France and America. The problem is, even if it were desirable to migrate en masse back to the mid-20th century, no one knows how to do it. France may be struggling to integrate its immigrants, but they are here, and cannot simply be removed the way one might get rid of a piece of furniture that clashes with the rest of the décor. Trade may have resulted in painful deindustrialization, but de-industrialization is a one-way street, and pulling out of those trade relationships will not bring back the lost factories. The euro may have been a very bad idea — no, strike that, the euro was a very bad idea, probably the worst one France has had since “let’s get into a land war in Southeast Asia” — but leaving the euro is not the same as having never adopted it. In the short term, at least, it would be catastrophically messy.

To this, Le Pen’s supporters might reply “but at least we could stop making things worse.” But even if you hold out more hope for her agenda than I do, the fact remains that if you reject the status quo in favor of radical change, you necessarily raise the risk that things will get much worse. We know approximately what the status quo looks like. Radical action means launching off into the dark. Which is why radical candidates inevitably seem less prepared, knowledgeable and plausible than their mainstream opponents.

That said, compared to Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen sounds like a wonk’s wonk. Nor does she have his propensity to lose his cool. Watching the French debate, I was struck by a repeated thought: if Clinton had had Le Pen’s speaking ability, she would be president now. During the campaign, and after, Clinton’s supporters frequently complained that Clinton was being penalized for being an older woman. But Le Pen is living proof that middle-aged ladies can be effective politicians. I don’t like her agenda, and I really don’t like her party. But looking strictly at effectiveness on the stump, she’s pretty good.

May 5, 2017

Back from the brink of extinction … the Scottish Tory

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In The Spectator, Alex Massie discusses one of the most unexpected political revivals of this century:

Twenty years ago, Conservatism all but died in Scotland. Tony Blair’s landslide victory made Scotland, at least in terms of its Westminster representation, a Tory-free zone. At no point since has the party won more than a single Scottish seat, and the last time the party won more than a quarter of the Scottish vote, in 1983, its current leader, Ruth Davidson, was four years old. Two years ago, the Tories won just 14 per cent of the vote, an even worse result than 1997. This seemed to fit a broader narrative: Toryism had been beaten back into England, a sign of the union’s exhaustion and a Scotland moving inexorably towards independence.

How different it all looks now. The most recent opinion polls in Scotland suggest the Tories could win as many as one in three ballots cast on 8 June. One opinion poll even suggested that, albeit on a uniform swing, the party could win as many as a dozen Scottish seats — including Moray, seat of the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson. In an era where elections are delivering extra-ordinary results, one might just be a stronger union and a strange rebirth of Scottish Conservatism.

Massie credits the leader of Scotland’s Conservatives for much of the turnaround:

Just as it remains hard to imagine how the SNP could have risen to its current state of supremacy without Alex Salmond, so it is difficult to underestimate Ruth Davidson’s importance to the Scottish Tory revival. Her personal background — working-class, lesbian, BBC journalist — is often used to explain her ability to reach a wider audience than previous Tory leaders, but there is more to it than that. Viewed from one angle, she is every inch the modernising Tory — her influence played a large part in persuading Theresa May to maintain the commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on international aid. But seen from a different perspective, she is also a traditional Conservative: a god-fearing Christian and former army reservist. She believes in gay marriage because she is a Conservative, not despite it.

Most of all, she offers an alternative to SNP orthodoxy. Sturgeon warns that only a vote for the SNP can ‘protect’ Scotland against an ‘unfettered’ Tory govern-ment whose values are alien and inimical to those of Scotland. Davidson observes that ‘the SNP is not Scotland’. Unionists are Scots too. Labour, not so long ago the party of Scotland, might even finish fourth in this election, at least in terms of seats won. If Ian Murray retains Edinburgh South, he will be Scotland’s only red panda.

Political anthropologists are already asking why the Scottish Tory party, previously thought close to extinction, has made such a remarkable recovery. For more than a generation on the left, the idea of the Tories being an invasive species in Scotland has been the foundation of first Labour and then SNP politics — but it no longer holds. If at least one in four Scots are prepared to endorse Tory candidates, can one really maintain the fiction there is something grubbily disreputable or even unpatriotic about voting for a Conservative candidate?

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

May 4, 2017

Marine Le Pen may win or lose on May 7th, but the voters she represents will not go away

Filed under: Europe, France, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Bill Wirtz on the long-term trends that may or may not be represented in the voting for the second round of voting in the French presidential elections:

After the first round of voting last Sunday, the French electorate decided to send independent candidate Emmanuel Macron (23.8 percent) and far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen (21.6 percent) to the next round of voting on May 7th.

Opponents of Le Pen’s radical policies are now calling for a gathering of the so-called “Front Républicain,” the Republican Front.

Inspired by the name of Le Pen’s National Front, the Republican Front gathers those who reject the rampant nationalist positions of the French far-right, which they consider contrary to the “Republican spirit.”

While not an established party in itself, the Republican Front represents a coalition of different parties in the République against a particularly unpopular candidate like Marine Le Pen. […]

For many French voters, the second round is an ideological dilemma. If for instance, the candidate they were supporting fails to progress to the next round, they may be more or less forced to throw their support behind a candidate with whom they have severe disagreements.

Now, the country’s political role models and media personalities expect the electorate to cast a “vote utile,” the “useful vote,” preventing Le Pen from coming to power. And ultimately that is exactly what will happen.

Both candidates will get involved in heated debates but in the end, the gathering of the Republic Front, with all mainstream parties rallying behind Macron in order to avoid Le Pen, will prevent the French nationalist from taking the Elysée Palace.

And yet, the consequences of this policy might be dangerously ill-advised.

Ici Londres: Do Theresa May’s opponents seriously prefer Juncker?

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 3 May 2017

May 2, 2017

Britain’s “foregone conclusion” election

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh provides a thumbnail sketch of how Britain got to the point of having an election where the end result is not in great doubt, and the likely losers and big losers:

[British PM Theresa May] has now broken that promise [to serve the full term her party won in 2015], unapologetically. Any half-sane politician’s instinct would tell her that this is an incredibly dangerous thing to have done, and we all know that voters generally loathe unnecessary election activity, or that they pretend to. But the current polls suggest that the British public completely understands why she broke the promise, that they approve of her breaking it, and that they intend to reward her for it. If you follow the UK election as a Canadian, you will hear May talking about “strong and stable” government at about 200 RPM, in exactly the same way Stephen Harper used to. This is no coincidence.

The Labour Party is torn between the old-fashioned socialist militants who made Jeremy Corbyn leader and the respectable corporate types who actually run the party and serve in the House of Commons. The UK has legislation requiring fixed-term parliaments, so May needed the support of Labour in a Commons vote in order to hold an early election. A Parliament can still be dismissed early if there is a vote of no confidence in the government, or if two-thirds of MPs vote to allow it.

Which they did. Corbyn loyalists, uncertain whether their man could survive as leader until 2020, had little reason not to consent to the snap vote. Labourite Corbyn-haters, seeing a chance to dispose of their village-Marxist boss without the dangers of a party coup, went along too. They almost seem to be half-throwing the election, relieved to have some prospect of Labour returning to power before 2025.

Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party, seemingly in firm control of Scottish politics and culture, made the Quebec mistake of talking about another independence referendum too soon after losing one. It is a classic shark jump. The people of Scotland seem to have realized that within Scotland, the UK general election will be a referendum on whether they want another divisive, stressful independence struggle right away.

This is not looking like good news for the strident but useless SNP delegation to Westminster. Polls show the Conservatives running a strong second in Scotland, with a chance of taking ten or so seats away from the Nats. Four years ago, I would have fully expected to be typing “Jesus Christ just held a press conference in Clackmannanshire” before I typed the words in that last sentence.

May 1, 2017

“We can leave aside the idea of a libertarian revival. No one in or near government wants less control by the State”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Sean Gabb reflects on the coming British general election (where he’s decided to hold his nose and vote Conservative, despite his strong distaste for Theresa May’s governing style and the party itself):

… we are entering an age of rapid ideological change. Questions of whether we should have identity cards, or if the authorities should be able to censor the media, are becoming less important than the questions of who makes these decisions, and how they are made. There is not – and probably, in my lifetime, never has been – a libertarian option in British politics. The choice has always been so far which elements of a broadly leftist-authoritarian agenda should be pushed hardest. The choice now is between a Conservative Government that has no electoral interest in leftism, and limited inclination to uphold its hegemony, and various parties that will try to keep that hegemony going till it fully shrivels away. The Conservative Party is an organisation of frauds and liars. Its directors are in the pocket of any interest group with money to spend. Though split on exactly what it believes, however, Labour is a party of true believers. The Conservatives will do evil by inertia, Labour by choice. Without hope of immediate improvement, I will vote Conservative.

Give her a decent majority, and Theresa May will take us out of the European Union on acceptable terms. These terms will be available almost for the asking. The European Union is little more than the agent of twenty seven governments, all with conflicting interests. The British Government will have a fresh mandate to act on behalf of a unitary state. Mrs May is no fool, and she must understand that her hold on power and her place in the history books are both contingent on how she manages our disengagement. Her lack of principle is beside the point – or may be an advantage.

And then?

We can leave aside the idea of a libertarian revival. No one in or near government wants less control by the State. Hardly any of the electors want it. This is probably for the best. I have been an insider on the British free market movement for about forty years. Those who run it are willing to nod approvingly whenever freedom of speech is mentioned, or due process of law. The mainstream utopia, though, involves full speed ahead for the City banking casinos, and an immigration policy that will stuff the rest of us into sixty-storey tower blocks of bedsitting rooms. What we can more likely expect – and hope for – is what I will delicately call a revival of national identity. This will eventually involve some regard for historic liberties. It will also involve a degree of directed reindustrialisation, and even a pretty generous welfare system.

April 19, 2017

Voting against “Father Turk”‘s legacy

Filed under: Europe, Government, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The secular Turkish Republic is fading fast, as the results of the Turkish referendum amount to a concentration of vast powers in the hands of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. We sometimes joke that Vladimir Putin is the new Tsar, but it’s less funny to refer to Erdoğan as the new Sultan … because it’s much closer to being true:

On Jan. 20, 1921, the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed the Teşkilât-ı Esasîye Kanunu, or the Law on Fundamental Organization. It would be almost three years until Mustafa Kemal — known more commonly as Ataturk, or “Father Turk” — proclaimed the Republic of Turkey, but the legislation was a critical marker of the new order taking shape in Anatolia.

The new country called Turkey, quite unlike the Ottoman Empire, was structured along modern lines. It was to be administered by executive and legislative branches, as well as a Council of Ministers composed of elected representatives of the parliament. What had once been the authority of the sultan, who ruled alone with political and ecclesiastic legitimacy, was placed in the hands of legislators who represented the sovereignty of the people.

More than any other reform, the Law on Fundamental Organization represented a path from dynastic rule to the modern era. And it was this change that was at stake in Turkey’s referendum over the weekend. Much of the attention on Sunday’s vote was focused on the fact that it was a referendum on the power of the Turkish presidency and the polarizing politician who occupies that office, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Yet it was actually much more.

Whether they understood it or not, when Turks voted “Yes”, they were registering their opposition to the Teşkilât-ı Esasîye Kanunu and the version of modernity that Ataturk imagined and represented. Though the opposition is still disputing the final vote tallies, the Turkish public seems to have given Erdogan and the AKP license to reorganize the Turkish state and in the process raze the values on which it was built. Even if they are demoralized in their defeat, Erdogan’s project will arouse significant resistance among the various “No” camps. The predictable result will be the continuation of the purge that has been going on since even before last July’s failed coup including more arrests and the additional delegitimization of Erdogan’s parliamentary opposition. All of this will further destabilize Turkish politics.

[…]

The AKP and supporters of the “yes” vote argue that the criticism of the constitutional amendments was unfair. They point out that the changes do not undermine a popularly elected parliament and president as well as an independent (at least formally) judiciary. This is all true, but it is also an exceedingly narrow description of the political system that Erdogan envisions. Rather, the powers that would be afforded to the executive presidency are vast, including the ability to appoint judges without input from parliament, issue decrees with the force of law, and dissolve parliament. The president would also have the sole prerogative over all senior appointments in the bureaucracy and exercise exclusive control of the armed forces. The amendments obviate the need for the post of prime minister, which would be abolished. The Grand National Assembly does retain some oversight and legislative powers, but if the president and the majority are from the same political party, the power of the presidency will be unconstrained. With massive imbalances and virtually no checks on the head of state, who will now also be the head of government, the constitutional amendments render the Law on Fundamental Organization and all subsequent efforts to emulate the organizational principles of a modern state moot. It turns out that Erdogan, who would wield power not vested in Turkish leaders since the sultans, is actually a neo-Ottoman.

Mark Steyn says “I told you so”:

As they used to say way back when in the long Ottoman twilight, the Turk is the sick man of Europe. Following this weekend’s Caliph-for-Life referendum, the Turk is sicker than ever. But he’s no longer of Europe, and instead is exiting for a destination dark and catastrophic for almost all his neighbors.

Sultan Erdoğan – who, a mere 15 years ago, was banned from holding political office – has now succeeded in dismantling almost every defining element of the Kemalist republic. What replaces it will be a crude strongman state in service of Islamic imperialism. I have read a lot of commentary this morning, starting with Douglas Murray’s “Turkish Democracy Has Just Died” and moving on to Yavuz Baydar’s “The End Of Turkey As We Know It” via Alex Alexiev’s “Who Lost Turkey?” And several readers have been kind enough to inquire where’s my own “Who Lost Turkey?” piece. Well, the truth is I published it exactly ten years ago, to the day of Erdoğan’s referendum. From the April 16th 2007 edition of National Review, “De-Boning Turkey“:

    The modern secular Muslim state – a country that gave women the vote before Britain did and was Israel’s best friend in an otherwise hostile region – certainly, that Turkey seems to be being de-boned by the hour: it now has an Islamist government whose Prime Minister has canceled trade deals with Israel, denounced the Iraqi elections, and frosted out the US Ambassador because he was Jewish; a new edition of Mein Kampf is prominently displayed at the airport bookstore. In other words, the Zionist Entity’s best pal is starting to look like just another cookie-cutter death-to-the-Great-Satan stan-of-the-month.

In fairness to the new Caliph, ever since he emerged from his semi-pro footballing career to run for Mayor of Istanbul, he’s played a more cunning game than the stan-of-the-month loons. As he said in one of his most famous soundbites, democracy is a bus you ride to the stop you want – and then you get off. And he was quite happy to take the scenic route, stop by stop by stop. In the two or three years after he came to power, I was assured that he was a “moderate Islamist” not merely by the all the foreign-policy think-tank “experts” but even by his political rivals in the previous Kemalist government. […]

Here’s a third graphic – yesterday’s referendum results. The Kurdish south-east, the old secular Rumelian west – and in between the vast green carpet of a new post-Kemalist caliphate:

Turkish referendum results, “yes” voting areas in green, “no” in red.

Overlay the fertility rates on the electoral results: demography proved destiny. As you’ll recall, Kemal Atatürk was born Mustafa Kemal. The new moniker was a title bestowed on him by the post-Ottoman parliament. Atatürk means “Father of the Turks”. Alas, he wasn’t father of enough of them. And the men who were had other ideas about Turkey’s future. We’ve all met charming, urbane, witty, secular Turks. I worked with one recently, and enjoyed his company immensely. But on that ever expanding big green Islamic carpet from east to west there’s no place for them.

March 31, 2017

QotD: Government as Superman … reality as Kryptonite

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… politics is all details. And each of those tiny little details has to be endlessly negotiated, because the system is set up precisely to frustrate a powerful guy with a big idea. You may recall your middle school social studies teacher talking about “checks and balances.” This is what that looks like. Kryptonite, if you will.

So there is no shortcut around the long days spent debating whether the tax credit should be 3.45 percent or 3.65 percent, and drafting pages of legislation that amend some obscure subclause of the immigration code to read “that” rather than “which,” and ending up with a middling, pork-riddled program that costs too much and doesn’t do anything close to what its visionary proponents promised.

Governing is not like building a building; it’s not like running a business. It’s like, well, trying to herd three branches of government in roughly the same direction. These branches are composed of thousands of people, each of whom has their own agenda, and represents millions more, each of whom has their own agenda, and will hound out of office anyone who strays too far from it. This is a wildly ponderous and inefficient way to do anything, which is why I am a libertarian; almost anything can be done better when you’re not trying to build it by a committee.

But in a representative democracy, this is what we have. There is no superhero strong enough to overcome the villain. There is actually not even a villain to defeat, only the unslayable amoeboid agglomeration of 300 million citizens’ worth of unenlightened self-interest. In the immortal words of P.J. O’Rourke: “Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.”

Megan McArdle, “Voters Want Change. Candidates Disappoint. Repeat.”, Bloomberg View, 2015-08-21.

March 24, 2017

Kathleen Wynne … the Ontario Liberal Party’s saviour?

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Chris Selley tries to position Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne as being the greatest asset of the Liberal Party:

The question of Kathleen Wynne’s future as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party made its way to the public airwaves this week in the form a panel discussion on TVO’s The Agenda. Host Steve Paikin asked former Liberal MP Greg Sorbara what advice he would offer the premier, and his response caused a bit of a stir.

“It is extremely unlikely that you’ll win the next election. The facts are the facts,” he said he would tell her. “I have not seen a party in the last year of its mandate turn (poll) numbers around when they are as bad as (the Liberals’) are.” And he noted the numbers are “particularly bad” for Wynne personally.

The latest Mainstreet Research/Postmedia poll, released last week, had the Liberals at 22-per-cent support, 10 points behind the Tories. Forum Research last measured Wynne’s approval rating at 11 per cent, and her disapproval rating at 77 per cent. Just nine per cent said she would make the best premier of the three party leaders.

Okay, so where does Wynn come off as the Liberals’ best hope?

If Liberals are worried “it’s all over,” as Sorbara put it, I would submit it’s in large part because, on election day 2018, they’ll have been in power for 15 and a half not very impressive years. That’s the longest streak in Ontario in three decades. No party has managed it federally since St. Laurent took over from Mackenzie King.

Stuff builds up.

Stuff like, you know, Dalton McGuinty promising in writing not to raise taxes, then instituting a “health premium,” which he claimed wasn’t a tax, and then admitting under duress that it was a tax; like lottery retailers defrauding players to the tune of $100 million, and casinos managing to lose money; like allowing Ornge to spin out of control into corruption, mismanagement and overspending; like the electronic health records debacle; like turning a blind eye while native protesters illegally occupied Caledonia; like flushing a billion dollars or so down the john to cancel gas plants sooner than risk voters’ ire, then claiming there’s “no wrong time to make the right decision;” like various apparatchiks winding up arrested for little things like bribery and conspiring to delete government emails; like taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies that benefit from government largesse, shamelessly demanding cash for access to ministers, and only changing the rules when it finally became politically untenable; like a debt-to-GDP ratio that grew 40 per cent, from third-lowest among the provinces to fourth-highest; and like astronomical hydro bills born to a significant degree of bad political decisions.

All of that, and yet Wynne somehow managed to get a majority government last time around. Ontario’s masochistic voters clearly do deserve to get it, as Mencken said, “good and hard”.

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