Quotulatiousness

August 28, 2015

Slick political consultants horrified to discover what people are really thinking

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In a post earlier this week, Ace expressed his disdain for the members of the very-well-paid consultant class who are given a lot of money to advise politicians about what the “little people” are thinking:

No matter how low my estimations of our political class, they keep failing to meet my expectations.

I complained on Friday that the vaunted consultant class does not know the most elemental things about the “constituency” they’re paid to advise clients about. I put “constituency” in quotes because it’s quite plain they do not consider the actual grassroots voter as their constituency. In fact, they do not consider them at all.

I have previously said — and I’ve said this a dozen times before, especially in the 2007 amnesty fight — that the Establishment in DC, paid millions and feted as gurus of the political pulse of the nation — knows far, far less than the base than the average low-level blogger who bothers to read his comments and talk with them.

By the way, of course: That’s expressly the reason Andrew Breitbart read the comments, especially here. Well, one reason was that he simply enjoyed them. But the other reason, he told me, was to figure out where people, as a mass, were on issues, where their passion was, where they were going.

You would think that these well-paid consultants, claiming the ability to channel the sentiments of the party, would do this very most basic sort of research into the national mood.

It’s all open source, assholes. You don’t have to pay a dime to do what Breitbart used to, which is to use some program to suck up all comments into a file so he could read them when he didn’t have the internet (on a plane, etc.)

But no — High Guru Frank Luntz is shocked to the point of his legs shaking as the world reels beneath his feet to discover the grassroots really, really despises the Establishment, and no longer trusts them, and in fact considers them political enemies in the same way they consider the Democrats to be political enemies.

This is news to them.

Good work, assholes.

You’re the Smart Ones, right? The “political elite” who employ all sorts of sophisticated and cunning techniques to divine the national mood, huh?

Did you ever think to ask them, Geniuses?

August 26, 2015

Harper’s “boutique” tax credits

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Colby Cosh explains why Stephen Harper is so fond of certain kinds of tax system distortions (tl;dr — they work … politically if not economically):

On Sunday, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper announced that his government, if re-elected, would introduce a tax credit for memberships in service clubs like the Canadian Legion or the Kiwanis. This modest measure — and Harper himself emphasized its modesty — is already being greeted with some derision. Apparently this is because a tax break for service clubs is an absurd, baroque complication of the tax code, unfit to stand alongside sensible traditions like the Prince Edward Island aerospace tax credit, the Nova Scotia digital media tax credit, the British Columbia book publishing tax credit, the Ontario computer animation tax credit, the Manitoba odour control tax credit for farms, Quebec’s tax credit “for the modernization of a tourist accommodation establishment” or the various items exempted almost randomly from the GST, such as condominium fees and music lessons.

One senses that the Canadian media have decided, curiously late in the country’s history, that tax-code wrinkles introduced with the aim of social engineering are ridiculous, if the aims thereof are conservative ones. Furthermore, we have concluded that lifting taxes on Elks or Knights of Columbus memberships, and thus putting them on more or less the same footing as religious tithes, is especially ridiculous.

The Conservative party will be awfully disappointed if the press does not engage in some snickering here. The work of the Kinsmen or Rotary is not especially visible if you never cross Eglinton Avenue; the very names of these groups have a rustic flavour on the tongue, carry a whiff of old-school WASP dominance and gray-flannel respectability. Break out into the smaller cities, if you dare, and the traces become somewhat clearer: a seniors’ centre here, an air-ambulance fundraiser there. In smaller towns, service clubs are often practically synonymous with capital-S Society. Laugh at the idea of a tax break for the Legion, but make sure you are still laughing on election night.

August 24, 2015

“If you want to understand American elections, read a comic book”

Filed under: Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle on the difference between what voters indicate they want from their elected representatives and what they actually get:

Now, you won’t learn much about how politics happens. Politics doesn’t have clear villains or decisive, powerful action. Politics muddles along on a heavily adulterated biofuel composed of interpersonal favor-trading, compromised ideology, soul-sucking proceduralism, and ponderous interest-group mobilization.

But elections — that’s where your back issues of Action Comics will come in handy. They tell you a lot about what voters think.

Voters rally to get a candidate elected, then call on the politician to stop technological change from tanking the local economy, to give them much more generous health care at half the cost of whatever they’ve currently got, to cut their taxes without touching Social Security or Medicare because they earned those benefits, to provide large new entitlements paid for entirely by taxing hedge fund managers, to reform the education system so that all the students will be above average, to defuse conflict in the Middle East and maybe leap some tall buildings in a single bound. You know, the usual.

Time passes. These voters notice that these things have not been done. Obviously, they have elected the wrong superhero. It is time to stop messing around with Squirrel Girl and Jack of Hearts and elect Superman, already. So the story starts all over again.

The tendency of American voters to treat political problems as if they were occurring in an alternate universe was first noted by Matthew Yglesias during the Iraq war debate, when he coined the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics, in which the US military has unlimited powers if only it is wielded by someone with sufficient will; Julian Sanchez expanded this to the home front with the Care Bear Stare Theory of Domestic Politics: “They’d line up together and emit a glowing manifestation of their boundless caring, which seemed capable of solving just about any problem.” Sound familiar? If only people cared enough.

August 23, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn and the British Labour party

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

In sp!ked, Mick Hume describes the state of the British equivalent to the NDP in their current leadership race:

Jeremy Corbyn has been a Labour member of parliament for a remarkable 32 years without ever leading anything or leaving any visible mark on British political life. How could such a veteran non-entity emerge overnight as favourite to be the new, left-wing, game-changing leader of the Labour Party?

Only because the Labour Party as a mass movement has not just declined, but effectively collapsed. The apparent rise of Corbyn is made possible by the disintegration of his party. The key factor in all of this is not any resurgence of radicalism, but the demise of Labourism.

Over the decades that Corbyn has been an MP, Labour has ceased to be the party of a mass trade-union movement with a solid working-class constituency. It has been reduced to an empty shell run by a clique of careerists such as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband – and the other three current candidates for the leadership – with no ambition beyond their own election.

This disintegration has left a space for Corbyn’s allegedly explosive rise in two ways. First, widespread dissatisfaction with the dire state of Labour and wider UK politics has created an appetite for something/anything that appears different. And second, the hollowing-out of the Labour Party – reflected in its desperation to give anybody a leadership vote for just £3 – has made it possible for relatively few Corbyn supporters to seize control of events.

For all that, however, the new profile of Corbyn the inveterate invisible man remains only a symptom of the wasting disease that has destroyed the Labour Party.

August 22, 2015

Coming soon to Massachusetts (maybe) – pot pubs

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Forbes, Jacob Sullum looks at the finalized ballot initiative to be presented to Massachusetts voters in the next general election:

When the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts unveiled the text of its 2016 legalization initiative this month, the group highlighted several features of the measure but omitted the most interesting one. The Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would allow consumption of cannabis products on the premises of businesses that sell them, subject to regulation by the state and approval by local voters.

That’s a big deal, because until now no jurisdiction has satisfactorily addressed the obvious yet somehow touchy question of where people can consume the cannabis they are now allowed to buy. The legalization initiatives approved by voters in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska all promised to treat marijuana like alcohol, which implies allowing venues similar to taverns where people can consume cannabis in a social setting. Yet all four states say businesses that sell marijuana may not let customers use it on the premises.

Although a few “bring your own cannabis” (BYOC) clubs have popped up to accommodate people who want to use marijuana outside their homes from time to time, the legality of such establishments is a matter of dispute. The result is that people can openly buy marijuana without fear, but they still have to consume it on the sly, just like in the bad old days. The problem is especially acute for visitors from other states, since pot-friendly hotels are still pretty rare.

Thomas Mulcair cracks down on dissent within the NDP

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Richard Anderson explains why it’s silly to blame Tom Mulcair for suppressing even minor deviations from the party’s main election message, which he calls the “iron fist in the orange velvet glove”:

What exactly did Bruce Hyer think he signed up for? He joined a political party not a social club. Perhaps he has no interest in sitting in cabinet but most of the NDP front bench does. That’s why they entered politics, it’s why they fight tooth and nail to win campaigns and why they elected Tom Mulcair leader, instead of an actual socialist. When you’ve joined a pack of jackals it’s a touch absurd to complain about the dining arrangements.

Politics is not about truth, justice or your particular understanding of the Canadian way. It’s about power. It has always been and always will be about power. Politics is answering the question of how the brute force of the state is to be imposed upon a country. Or to put it another way: What is to be done and who is to do it.

Behind the vapid speeches and focused group bromides all of it, down to the last Tweet and regulatory sub-clause, rests on the power of the gun. Politics is about deciding who controls the guns. In that stark light of day Mr Hyer doesn’t look like an idealist, instead he looks like a personality type quite common in the NDP: A fool on stilts.

August 21, 2015

Donald Trump didn’t say this … but it’s easy to imagine that he would

Filed under: Humour, Military, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It’s a tough life as a modern day satire writer, as what seems outrageously funny one day becomes news one short news cycle later. Here’s Duffelblog doing their best to get out ahead of the breaking news about Donald Trump’s GOP campaign:

Opinion: Everyone In The Military Is A Coward
The following is an op-ed written by Donald Trump, a candidate for President of the United States.

That’s right, I said it. All of you in the military and your veteran brothers and sisters are a bunch of cowards. More than that, you’re a bunch of damn pussies. I’m not telling you something we don’t all know — I just have the balls to say it. Pure titanium. Made in America. Patent pending.

Let’s look at your track record. You’ve been in Afghanistan over twice as long as that loser McCain spent being a bitch in Hanoi, and you still haven’t won the war.

Iraq is more fucked up than it was before we invaded. You burned children in Vietnam, and you still couldn’t win that war. At least there were whores in Vietnam, but you wouldn’t catch me dead there. The only whores I bang are grade-A Phillies.

In fact, when has America ever won a war? Don’t try and tell me World War II. Russia won that shit, and we had to drop an A-bomb because your pansy asses couldn’t finish the job. “The Greatest Generation?” Please. Those assholes got half a million Americans killed. I like drones that win.

And then Tamara K. linked to this in her Twitter feed:

Trump campaign parody

QotD: The lack of populism in Canadian politics

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

For all the talk we’ve heard in recent years about Canada’s slide into supposedly “American-style” gutter politics, the sort of garish gestures described above are completely unknown north of the border. The Canadian version of a controversial “stunt” involves Stephen Harper sitting down at a piano and playing a pop song. And when Elizabeth May embarrassed herself with her Welcome Back Kotter shtick, most observers responded to this brief spasm of theatricality with stunned mortification and pity.

I suppose the closest thing that the federal Tories have to a controversial populist is Minister of Employment and Social Development Pierre Poilievre, who shocked the Canadian pundit class by, wait for it, conducting a ministerial press conference wearing a golf shirt emblazoned with the Conservative Party logo. His party is so obsessed with milking partisan advantage from their expanded Universal Child Care Benefit that Poilievre actually travelled to a Winnipeg production facility so he could pose for pictures with the freshly printed cheques. The stunt was fantastically grubby. But the least that can be said for it was that the UCCB is an actual component of government policy. Better a printing press, I suppose, than a snowball, a chainsaw, a flame-thrower, or a gun.

As Canadians, we’d like to think that Donald Trumps don’t infect our politics because we are smarter and saner than Americans. But the real reason is structural. Republicans and Democrats elect their presidential candidates through the grass roots, which means that populists do occasionally hijack the process. In our parliamentary system, on the other hand, the major parties are heavily whipped entities obsessed with brand preservation. And the party leaders who go on to become premier or prime minister are selected at convention proceedings closely supervised by risk-averse party grandees. The result is a menagerie of bland, polished, disciplined wonks and career politicians such as Stephen Harper, Christy Clark, Rachel Notley, and Kathleen Wynne. (It’s no coincidence that the most interesting and thoroughly disgraced politician in modern Canadian history, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, existed completely outside the party system.)

Most Republicans are appalled by Donald Trump, and rightly so: His comments about Mexico’s supposed criminal hordes only encourage the GOP’s reputation as a party for ageing white nativists. But his fifteen minutes of fame highlight the degree to which Americans trust ordinary yahoos to pick the person to run their country. It’s a right that our own yahoos will never ever have.

Jonathan Kay, “A Land Without Trump”, The Walrus, 2015-07-28.

August 20, 2015

It’s safe to come out now … the “libertarian moment” is over

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Well, that’s what the Washington Post says anyway. Reason‘s Nick Gillespie disagrees:

There’s no question that Rand Paul’s presidential campaign has hit a soft patch. He got the least amount of air time in the first GOP debate and his numbers have been slipping for a long time. I’ve been critical of some of his positions over the past few months but Weigel quotes me this way:

    “It’s a mistake to conflate Rand Paul’s electoral success with that of the libertarian moment,” said Nick Gillespie, the editor of Reason.com. (Disclosure: I worked for Reason from 2006 to 2008.) “Rand Paul’s high visibility is better understood as a consequence of the libertarian moment than its cause. There’s a reason why he’s been at his most electrifying and popular precisely when he is at his most libertarian: calling out the surveillance state, for instance, and leading the charge against reckless interventions in Syria and Libya.”

Libertarians such as Lawson Bader, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and David Boaz, vice president of The Cato Institute, note that on fronts such as gay marriage, pot legalization, gun rights, criminal justice reform, general distrust of government, and more, things are going in the libertarian direction.

Full Weigel/Post piece here.

More important, broad indicators that Americans prefer social tolerance and fiscal responsibility continue to grow:

    According to a composite index of libertarian views on social and economic issues developed by pollsters at CNN, something clearly is afoot. The pollsters look at whether people believe that government is trying to do too many things individuals should be doing and whether or not people think government should enforce a particular set of morals. In 1992, the index of libertarian belief stood at 92 points. It’s now at 113 points. Virtually all surveys show trends of people thinking the government is doing too much, is incompetent or untrustworthy, or represents a larger threat to the future than big labor or big business.

As Matt Welch and I argued in The Declaration of Independents, politics is and always will be a “crippled, lagging indicator” of where the country is trendng.

It certainly doesn’t help that the American political scene has been rigged in so many different ways to be a duopoly of the two major parties … very few political issues are binary, yet that is the only way American voters are presented with a “choice” every election. Vote for the Red Faction of the Boot-on-your-neck party … or vote for the Blue Faction of the Boot-on-your-neck party. No matter who you choose, the government always gets in.

August 19, 2015

The Clintons

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Jonah Goldberg from last week’s “news”letter:

Bill and Hillary Clinton are like that Third World driver who takes a hairpin curve at high speed and survives. Everything worked out, so why change your behavior?

Now, Bill is a famous case. In many respects he’s lived a Caligulan lifestyle. No, he’s never tried to make his horse a senator, nor did he order the army to declare war on Neptune, but for him the highest law is whatever he can get away with.

Bill’s entire life has been about cutting corners, shaving the truth — often down to the bone — and conflating his priapism with his sense of entitlement. This has worked out for him because he has superhuman powers of duplicity and cozenage. There are legends in Little Rock of how a young Billy Clinton was on a school field trip to a laboratory when, through an unlikely series of events, a radioactive hustler bit him on the hand, giving him unearthly powers of flim-flammery and deception. The earnest lad was suddenly transformed.

I have no doubt Bill believes that he uses his powers for good, but with the pimpish midichlorians coursing through his veins, he can’t help himself. Over time, as he continually escapes the snares reality and morality typically set for mortal men, he has come to have a sense of entitlement and immunity about it all. Like the hazardous driver who’s never had a crash or the lucky investor who’s never lost money, he just thinks: This is the way reality works. Even when a black swan hits him in the grill, he talks his way out of it.

The tragedy for Hillary Clinton is that she is all too human. As Bill’s mortal sidekick, she’s had a good ride. But whereas Bill has an almost Jedi-like ability to lie convincingly — “these aren’t the interns you’re looking for” — Hillary has no superpowers to fall back on. She just has to grind it out. Like Syndrome in The Incredibles or the entire cast of Kick-Ass, she has to compensate for a lack of raw superpowers through guile and technology — and minions, lots and lots of minions. They do her dirty work for her. They burrow into the bureaucracy and cover for her. They get appointed to commissions and erect firewalls against accountability. They tell her what she wants to hear and explain how all bad news is someone else’s fault. They scrub the paper trail. They even shove classified evidence in their pants, if that is what is required. As Renfield to her huband’s Dracula, Otis to his Lex Luthor, Gogo Yubari to his O-Ren Ishii , Alistair Smythe to his Kingpin, Tom Hagen to his Don Corleone, Bizarro World Radar O’Reilly to his evil Colonel Potter, she has amassed considerable resources and abilities of her own. There’s now an entire Clinton-Industrial Complex that fuels and funds the vast interconnected network of minions. They are like agents of Hydra, embedded in the media, in government, and in academia. Places like Media Matters are like huge industrial farms for breeding Clintonian hacks where the larvae are grown in vats.

August 18, 2015

Donald Trump’s immigration “policy” proposals

Filed under: Americas, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle found herself coming back to the phrase “bag o’ crazy” when she tried to make sense of Donald Trump’s immigration proposals:

To be fair, he does have some practical positions. Some of them will be controversial, like criminal penalties for people who overstay temporary visas. Some of them are theoretically feasible, but wildly expensive, such as tripling the size of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement staff, and stepping up detentions and deportations.

Then there are the less practical ideas, which are — well, there’s a reason I got stuck on “bag o’ crazy.”

Most notably, Trump is promising to end birthright citizenship and get Mexico to pay for building a giant wall across our nearly 2,000-mile border. He also adds bizarre promises like a temporary halt on issuing any green cards at all until the domestic labor market recovers and a “refugee program for American children” aimed at getting foster kids into better homes.

This is not a serious policy document. Ending birthright citizenship would require a Constitutional amendment, which would never pass Congress, much less the three-quarters of the state legislatures required to ratify it. The difficulty of this task is exceeded only in the difficulty of getting Mexico to pay for a 2,000-mile wall that Mexicans have no interest in.

But critiquing Trump on the basis of his policy fantasies sort of misses the point. The precise reason that people like him is that his campaign is completely unmoored from underlying realities.

Every election season, candidates release white papers outlining what they will do when they take office. Those policy papers inevitably have a bunch of magic asterisks where the candidate has substituted heroic assumption for plausible numbers. These heroic assumptions do the bold and necessary work of hiding the costs of their rosy promises from voters. For example, Obama’s promise that his health care plan would save the average family a bunch of money, and also, never include a legal mandate forcing them to buy health insurance.

While those policy documents always have a certain … let’s call it a “muscular optimism” — they’re ultimately at least weakly tethered to the plausible. Viable Republican presidential candidates do not promise that on their first day in office, they will repeal Roe v. Wade. Democrats do not claim that they will provide universal preschool education for a net cost of $5. That’s just unrealistic.

But a broad swath of American voters are hungry for those sweet little lies. Or big lies. These voters don’t want some guy who crafts a policy agenda that could actually be enacted, some triangulated plan that could get past the American system’s checks and balances. In Dave Weigel’s terrific piece on a Trump rally in Flint, Michigan, two quotes, from two different people, stand out:

    “Being a businessman, he knows the ways around. I don’t think he’d go to Congress and ask. I think he’d just do it.”

And:

    “I compare Donald Trump to Ronald Reagan. He lets people know what he’s going to do, not what to ask for.”

This is, of course, a completely inaccurate picture of how government works. But they’re sick of how the government works.

August 13, 2015

The unlikely appeal of Donald Trump

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

What is the explanation for the meteoric rise of Donald Trump’s fortunes in the Republican race? It’s certainly not his hardcore conservative beliefs, for he clearly doesn’t have too many of those. It’s not his “everyman” story, because he’s far from having experienced anything like an actual “everyman” life. What could possibly account for his current popularity? (I mean, aside from being pretty much antithetical to the “establishment GOP” … that’d be crazy talk.) In The American Interest, Walter Russell Mead takes a swing at defining what it is that Trump appears to be offering to the disaffected plurality (majority?) of would-be Republican voters:

Is The Donald a populist candidate? Our friend Glenn Reynolds argued in Sunday’s USA Today that the rise of Donald Trump is best understood as a populist event — “an indictment of the GOP establishment and, for that matter, of the American political establishment in general” and “a sign that large numbers of voters don’t feel represented by more mainstream politicians.”

Over at the Washington Post, Daniel Drezner, another friend, disputes Reynolds’ interpretation of Trump, arguing that though “there’s definitely something to this”, “on closer inspection this isn’t really a straightforward populist story, for two reasons.” The first is that “the policy preferences that Trump is pushing aren’t all that popular.” The second is that Trump, rather than emphasizing his solidarity with ordinary people, makes a point of flaunting his tremendous wealth and privilege at every possible opportunity in outrageous ways.

But Reynolds is right and Trump is very much a classic populist — in the following sense. Populism isn’t always about taking majority positions or cultivating economic solidarity with non-elites. In some populist movements, specific policy positions that don’t always or even often have majority support gain energy by hooking up with generalized dissatisfaction with elites and the status quo. Late 19th- and early 20th-century populism, from a policy standpoint, put a lot of stress on agrarian issues and crackpot economic ideas that, though there weren’t any opinion polls at the time, don’t seem to have had majority support. So while, as Drezner points out, hard-line immigration enforcement may not be particularly high on the agendas of a majority of voters, Trump can use the issue to signal his contempt for the establishment — and voters pay more attention to the tune than to the lyrics.

Last week, Megan McArdle tried to explain “The Donald” as being the “Ron Paul” of this election cycle:

For me, the high point [of the Republican debate] came when Donald Trump announced that he had made a donation to Hillary Clinton in order to … get her to come to his wedding. Where to begin with such a statement? I have known brides and bridegrooms who cherished a vulgar belief that weddings have a three-figure admission fee, in cash or kind. But outside of romantic comedies, I have never heard of an American wedding in which the payments ran the other way. Trump touts himself as a dealmaker, but if this is an example of his negotiating prowess, do you really want him in charge of your international treaties? “I’m afraid I won’t even consider withdrawing our troops from your border unless you also allow me to give you a billion dollars, a weekend for two at the Maui Hilton, and a personal guided tour of the White House!”

When I pointed this out on Twitter, a Trump fan of indeterminate sincerity tweeted back “Wake … up, sheeple!”

How did this man get onto the stage? And how can we get him off, given the apparent passion of his base, who flood online polls with support for The Donald? He and Bernie Sanders are giving me flashbacks to those heady days of 2007, when a rash mention of Ron Paul’s name in a column, much less criticizing his somewhat tenuous grasp on monetary economics, was good for hundreds of comments and emails, assuring you that Dr. Paul was going to be the next president of the United States because he was FINALLY offering Americans a REAL ALTERNATIVE. (Ron Paul supporters favored ALL CAPS so that you would UNDERSTAND that they were SERIOUS ABOUT CHANGE, or perhaps because the RON PAUL COMMEMORATIVE KEYBOARDS they had bought had some sort of TERRIBLE MALFUNCTION.)

Donald Trump is not going to be president. Bernie Sanders is also not going to be president. Their appeal to their supporters is precisely the reason they are not going to be president. Every few years, a large number of Americans need to learn the same lesson: The reason you don’t hear the solutions that you want coming from the boring, scripted, mainstream politicians who get elected is that the solutions that you want do not appeal to the majority of your fellow countrymen.

Update: Fixed the link to Walter Russell Mead’s article.

Update the second: Mark Steyn takes some heat for his perceived support of Trump:

I’ve had a ton of mail objecting to my “support” of Donald Trump which we’ll try to run some of it in the days ahead. But, for the record, I’m not “supporting” him. As I said to John, the Republican nominating process has failed in the last two cycles, and thus, five months before any actual votes are cast, watching someone disrupt a racket that can use all the disruption it can get is hugely enjoyable. I mean, he’s touched the third, fourth, fifth and every other live rail in American politics, insulting Hispanics, veterans, menstruating women – and the more juice that shoots through him the stronger he gets. He’s discarded every convention of American politics, which, given that it’s the conventions of American politics that have made us the brokest nation in history, is something to be cheered. He’s the richest guy in the race, but he’s not spending a dime – because while the single-digit candidates kiss up to the big donors and blow through a fortune on the usual tedious “I was born the son of a mailman” ads – Trump is sucking up all the airtime between commercial breaks for free. He’s making a mockery of the consultant class, and what’s not to enjoy about that? For as long as it lasts.

August 8, 2015

Election issue – the Netflix tax, “much ado about nothing?”

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Michael Geist looks at the major federal party leaders’ reactions to discussion of a “Netflix tax”:

As part of the digital strategy discussion, I stated that questions abound, including “are new regulations over services such as Netflix on the horizon?”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed that question yesterday with a video and tweet in which he pledged that the Conservatives will never tax digital streaming services like Netflix and Youtube. Harper added that the Liberals and NDP have left the door open to a Netflix tax, but that he is 100% opposed, “always has been, always will be.” Both opposition parties quickly responded with the NDP saying they have not proposed a Netflix tax and the Liberals saying they have never supported a Netflix tax and do not support a Netflix tax.

So is this much ado about nothing?

Not exactly. First, there are groups and provincial governments that support a Netflix tax or mandated contribution to fund the creation of Canadian content. These include the Ontario and Quebec governments along with many creator groups. Earlier this year, I obtained documents under the Ontario Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that showed that the Ontario government spent months working toward a recommendation to expand the regulation of new media, including Canadian content requirements and increased regulation of foreign online video providers.

Second, while the Liberals and NDP have not proposed a Netflix tax, they have called for requirements that online video providers disclose revenues, Canadian content availability, and subscriber numbers to Canadian regulators. This is a very soft form of regulation that Netflix and Google have rejected as beyond the power of the Broadcasting Act. Providing information to allow for more informed regulatory analysis does not seem particularly unreasonable, but the companies unsurprisingly fear that that analysis could ultimately lead to calls for more regulation or payments.

Third, the real Netflix tax is the prospect of a levying sales taxes on digital products such as music downloads or online video services. It was the Conservatives that raised this possibility in the 2014 budget, launching a consultation on the issue that garnered supportive comments from companies such as Rogers, which noted that Canadian-based online video services such as Shomi operate at a disadvantage since they collect GST/HST, but Netflix does not. With many countries moving toward some form of digital taxation (as I noted in a January 2015 column on the issue, the real challenge lies in the cost of implementation), it seems inevitable that Canada will do the same in order to level the playing field and recoup a growing source of revenue. The Conservatives would presumably seek to differentiate between a generally applicable sales tax and a tax or fee targeting online streaming services, though many may feel it is a distinction without a difference.

August 7, 2015

Canada to hold longest election campaign in living memory

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

For those of you not familiar with Canadian politics — and unless you’re a Canadian why would you be? — the longest election campaign since the 19th century kicked off on Sunday, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper went to the Governor General’s office to request that parliament be dissolved. This is going to be a long, long, gruelling political death-march. Eleven whole weeks of politicians bloviating, TV talking heads pretending to interpret every twitch in the polls, political candidates of all shades from light pink to deepest red popping up at every possible gathering of more than three people to beg for votes … it’s going to be awful.

Over at Gods of the Copybook Headings, Richard Anderson provides the early scorecard on the leaders of the major federal parties:

In his infinite cruelty the PM has imposed upon the Canadian people, who never did him any harm, a formal eleven week election campaign. The longest since 1872. Much of Canada still wasn’t part of Canada in 1872. After eleven weeks of politicking those regions might be thinking of leaving. British Columbia we will miss you dearly. Newfoundland much the same.

Lest we complain the status quo remains. As Ronald Reagan once observed status quo is Latin for the mess we’re in. Our particular mess has a dull and worthy quality befitting our national character. This brings us to the vital question: What is Election 2015 about?

Is it about Justin Trudeau’s fitness to rule the nation? No, because nobody in their right mind thinks the Dauphin is fit to rule. He’s a front man for those shrewder than himself. If current polls are to be trusted it appears that Canadians are not keen on a Gerald Butts government.

Perhaps it’s about Thomas Mulcair and his ability to lead. Can you, the good and sensible people of our fair Dominion, imagine yet another Quebec lawyer as ruler of all the Canadas? And if you can hold that mental picture, while still holding your lunch, have you thought carefully about who is part of Team Mulcair? However astute and moderate a PM Tommy might turn out to be he will need build a cabinet. Have you seen the timbers of the NDP caucus lately? […]

Canadians, it is understood, are creatures of habit. We likes what we likes. There is a tendency for the electorate to plunk for the bank manager candidate. The safe pair of hands who won’t screw things up too much. As a people we generally avoid Messiahs or Rabble Rousers. It offends our sense of proportion. We want someone clever enough to deal with basic problems but sensible enough not to wreck the place between elections. In our long national history we have deviated from this common sense approach just once. Way back in 1968 we took a wild and daring risk. The result was fifteen years of Pierre Trudeau.

Bill Davis, perhaps the most quintessential of Ontario politicians, famously attributed his success to a simple formula: Bland works. Stephen Harper is our bland candidate. Beneath the bad hair cut the enormous brain continues to plot. It plotted the Canadian Right out of the political wilderness. It plotted Canada away from the disaster of an Liberal-NDP-Bloc Coalition. Nimbly has it darted us through the shoals of the world economy. He ain’t great but he’s better than what else is on offer.

This October my fellow Canadians let us be boring. Let us be sensible. Let us be bland. It’s what we do best and why, whatever happens over the next eleven weeks, Stephen Harper will probably still be running the joint for years to come. All hail the new Mackenzie King.

August 6, 2015

Jeb Bush shows his true colours: “I’m not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women’s health issues”

Filed under: Health, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Ace explains why Jeb’s little mind fart is such a huge gift to the Democrats:

Talking about defunding Planned Parenthood Jeb Bush, the presumptive GOP nominee, went just a bit off message about the whole baby parts for sale in violation of federal law thing and mused….

    “The argument against this is … it is a war on women and you are attacking women’s health issues,” he said. “You could take dollar for dollar — although I’m not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women’s health issues — but if you took dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine organizations, community health organizations that exist.”

Emphasis mine and everyone elses.

DUDE. NO! BAD JEB! BAD!

So the GOP actually had a reasonable plan, this wasn’t about budget root canal and saving a few bucks, it was about not funding illegal and immoral acts, even indirectly. And hey, we’re going to send this money to decent and honest places that actually, you know, help improve women’s health.

Pretty solid for the GOP.

But instead, Jeb for some reason thought this would be a good time to toss out there the idea that he, and by extension the party he seeks to lead, really just want to stick it to poor women.

Fantastic work!

Well, he did issue a statement saying that’s not what he meant. I’m sure Hillary and every Democratic candidate will be sure to include that correction in the four million ads they’re going to run with the, “although I’m not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women’s health issues” sound bite. So no big whoop.

Your party has already been castigated — extensively — for the “War on Women” they’ve apparently been waging for years … so you just casually drop in an aside that totally justifies all the accusations? Man, that’s a serious day’s work in this election campaign! I’m not sure even his brother George could have malapropped his way quite so convincingly.

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