Friday, August 27, 2010

US Senate Preview 2010

With just over two months left until the US midterm elections, a quick preview of some key races for those of you just tuning in:

Florida: Sen. Mel Martinez' (R) somewhat unexpected retirement has left Floridians with an open senate seat. The early consensus is that Gov. Charlie Crist (R) would just walk into the role, but a funny thing happened on the way to the senate. That funny thing is named Marco Rubio (R). Rubio became the darling of the tea party movement and ended up so far ahead of Crist in primary polling, that Crist decided to save himself the embarrassment of losing a primary, and just run as an independent. All of this should mean good news for the Dems but they've been making lemons out of lemonade all year. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) ended up winning a stunningly nasty nomination battle with a billionaire opponent but is widely expected to be an also ran in a Republican v. Republican battle with many Dems preferring the centrist Crist over the lesser known Meek.

Kentucky: More Tea Party fun in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, son of Ron, swept the Republican nomination out from under the feet of the establishment candidate. Now, what was supposed to be an easy hold for the Republicans (Jim Bunning (R) is retiring), may become more interesting if enough people in Blue Grass country can't warm up to the radical Rand Paul. The Democrat who could benefit from a Republican implosion is state AG Jack Conway.

Nevada: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is about as popular as a card counter in Vegas these days. In fact, many had him as the first domino to fall in a Democratic collapse in November. However, the Republicans have once again made their lives difficult by nominating walking gaffe-machine Sharron Angle. This woman has to be seen to be believed.

Colorado: Barack Obama raided the Senate benches extensively to form his cabinet and that is noticeable in some of the elections this year. Colorado is one of those place as Sen. Salazar's move to the cabinet table has left an open seat. Appointed senator Michael Bennett will try to defend the seat for the Dems, he will face yet another Tea Partier, Ken Buck. Buck like Paul and Rubio knocked off the establishment candidate in his primary.

Delaware: Blue Delaware is the likeliest of the Democratic seats to fall victim to the Obama cabinet table. Vice-President Biden's seat was supposed to be passed on to his politicking, army serving son, Beau. However, Beau surprised the Dems by not wanting the job. That left long-time Rep. Mike Castle (R) a golden opportunity to move into the senate. A chance he will likely take at the expense of Chris Coons (D).

Arkansas: Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) is about as popular as mud in Arkansas these days. The Dems know this and tried to replace the fall-through-the-mushy-middle Lincoln with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the primary. Lincoln held on by the skin of her teeth. The beneficiary of Lincoln's narrow victory will likely be Rep. John Boozman (R) who won the Republican nod.

Pennsylvania: A revolt by both parties' bases has forced Arlen Specter into retirement. The long time moderate Republican was in for a thrashing from Republican candidate Pat Toomey and he knew it. So, in order to serve Pennsylvania and save his own skin, he crossed the aisle. The Democrats knew this stunk to high heaven and gave their nomination to former Admiral current congressman Joe Sestak. Both parties have happier bases than they would have with Specter on the ticket, independents may have less to choose from.

Alaska: Sarah Palin made her maverick name by knocking off incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski in a Republican primary. Now, Palin has helped do the same thing to the Governor's daughter (who he appointed to the Senate). With Lisa Murkowski gone, the race may be closer than it would have been. However, this is Alaska which is so red it only narrowly defeated the disgraced Sen. Ted Stevens and kept the disgraced Rep. Don Young last time around. All this is bad news for the Democrat, Scott McAdams.

Other races to watch:
  • Obama' seat in Illinois (no longer for sale)
  • Clinton's seat in New York
  • Evan Bayh's seat in Indiana
  • The cursed seat currently held by Richard Burr in North Carolina
  • Almost Obama senate appointee Judd Gregg's old seat in New Hampshire
  • David "DC Madam" Vitter's re-election bid in Louisiana
  • Robin Carnahan's bid to exorcise some family demons in Missouri (her father died in a plane crash weeks before the 2000 election and won from beyond the grave; her mother ended up taking the seat temporarily)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sun "Snow Fox" Media Continues to be Fair and Balanced

I don't read 24 Hours, one of Toronto's two free daily newspapers, on my subway ride to work in the morning. Principally, that's because it has almost no news in it. To boot, it's a Sun Media paper. So when I did come across a copy lying about yesterday I shouldn't have been surprised to see this story about Toronto's mayoral race and right wing standard bearer Rob Ford. Well, the link is the only permanent version I could find (from the Toronto Sun). The 24 Hours story (which you might be able to find here) which was on page 5 of the August 23rd edition is significantly worse. Both papers have apparently taken to printing the Rob Ford campaign's latest press release as straight news. Yes, shockingly the Ford campaign thinks that the scandals which dogged the campaign last week are behind them. Breaking news: the Ford campaign also believes that Rob Ford is awesome. How Sun Media can think that qualifies as news is beyond me. When you see 'journalism' like this, it is easy to see why there are so few journalists left.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Australia Votes 2010: Cliffhanger Edition

The Australian election has resulted in the tightest of outcomes. Right now, it appears the right wing coalition led by Liberal Tony Abbott will win 73 seats to incumbent Labor PM Julia Gillard's 72 seats. Independents will hold four seats and the Green party will have one seat. The punditry seems to be indicating that Mr. Abbott will be able to corral the independents and form a new government. However, PM Gillard is making noises about trying to form a coalition herself. This could get a lot more interesting in the days to come.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Stephen Harper's Refugee Problem

The most striking thing about the arrival of 500 Tamil refugee claimants to Canada is that it is news at all. Canada processes thousands of refugee claims every year. So what makes the Tamils so exceptional? Well very little. The boat provides better visuals for the media, but really this is a blip for our system, so why all the fuss? Well, I think we can start to identify a pattern. Stephen Harper has made great efforts to broaden his party's appeal to new Canadians. This despite a reticence among some parts of his base to fully get behind immigration. Harper appears to be drawing the line at refugee claims. While many in his party may be upset about grandmothers being brought over under family reunification and taking advantage of social services, Harper realizes that going after granny makes very little political sense. However, false refugee claims or dangerous refugee claimants are easy targets. Particularly, if you pick on groups that don't have a huge understanding in the Canadian public.

In spite of the large and active Tamil population in Canada, many Canadians probably don't know that much about the civil war in Sri Lanka. A battle between a Buddhist government and a Hindu minority doesn't trigger raw emotions in most Canadians like say the conflict in the middle east does. Furthermore, the Tamil population, while sizable, is unusually concentrated in Toronto making it much more of an enigma in most of Canada. The previous group targeted by Harper as abusers of the system were central European Roma, primarily from the Czech Republic and Hungary. Once again, Canadians don't necessarily have the understanding of their situation in order to evoke retaliatory sympathy. In both cases, Harper has gone after groups that are still viewed as "others" in the minds of many Canadians. Harper also cracked down on Mexican refugee claims in the aftermath of stories of Canadians being killed on vacation in Mexico. He exploited the fear Canadians had about the Mexican drug war to advance his political agenda. The pattern is clear. This government wants to limit refugees entering the country whenever possible. Harper knows its political folly to be against immigration. However, when given the chance, his true colours shine through. In this case, a pasty white.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Dutch Deal With the Devil

When Europhiles dismiss the rise of xenophobic, islamophobic, neo-fascist parties in Europe, they often argue that the small number of seats these parties may hold in any given parliament are not all that important. After all, mainstream parties are loathe to make deals with them and thus, they become irrelevant. Well, welcome to the Netherlands in 2010. After eight weeks of backroom dealings, the Dutch may end up with a government capable of pushing through the economic reforms people voted for back on June 9th. There's only one small catch: the kingmaker is Islamophobic fear-monger Geert Wilders. Europe is long overdue in confronting its xenophobic demons, maybe this will encourage some soul searching.

The government, by the way, was elected using a PR system. The eight week negotiation and not so desirable outcome is a pretty standard by-product of PR. All that is of course completely worth it because they have pleased the golden idol of proportionality. It could be worse, just look door in Belgium. The Belgians voted four days after the Dutch, but no amount of Belgian lager has been able to cobble together a coalition. However, this is still early days in Belgium. Last time it took more than a year.

Slow News Summer Run Down

Quick hits:
  • Mr. Ivison completely misses the point in trying to defend Stockwell Day. Mr. Day was trying to defend increased incarceration rates which simply cannot be moved by unreported crime no matter how serious those crimes are.
  • A quick reminder that coalitions are a fragile business. Silvio Berlusconi has managed to survive his first test after his government coalition fragmented chaotically. The break-up is reminiscent of the reform split under Stockwell Day. Even if the government does fall, the money is still on the richest man in Italy to keep his job.
  • Okay, so I guess the Greens subscribe to the Bryan Burke "pugnacity and truculence" school of team-building. They might not win but they will be tougher to play against and their supporters will be entertained.
  • If the Greens actually wanted to win, they'd find a viable candidate for Simcoe-Grey, where Helena Guergis is threatening to divide the Tory vote in two. Huronia/Cottage Country has proved fertile territory for the Greens. Then again if Chuck Cadman and Bill Casey are any guide, my money's on Guergis.
  • If only all of California's stupid propositions had been struck down so quickly; the state might actually be governable.
  • Rob Ford meanwhile continues to tilt at windmills. I'm guessing he wouldn't be marching in the pride parade as mayor.
  • Taste of the Danforth is this weekend. I urge everyone to come to my neck of the woods for the great food, music and general frivolity. I encourage everyone to get to my neck of the woods by TTC. There's no parking on a regular weekend, you can forget about it this weekend.
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