Harper’s Vision For Canada

Here’s the criminal justice part of it via the superb QI:

Unless you work in the PMO, that’s different somehow.

How The Anti-Fluoride Craze Explains Sarah Palin

Tom Flanagan is upset that Calgary’s city council has decided to end fluoride treatment of Calgary’s water supply. This is, as Flanagan correctly points out, against all evidence about the safety and benefits of fluoride in the water supply. Of course, as the Big City Liberal observes, Flanagan is reaping a whirlwind that he sowed by scoffing at “evidence” and “scientists” and so on when it came to global warming. Flanagan belongs to that strange and shrinking group of so-called respectable right-wingers. These are those on the right who like to whip up populist sentiment against the by deriding scientists, elites, liberals, ivory tower intellectuals and the government as being aloof and out of touch but still like to be able to hit the brakes some of the time and admit that yes, science or scholarship or what-have-you needs to be taken seriously once in a while. Some problems do actually require evidence-based solutions.

Of course as long as the majority opinion among right-wing media personalities was of this variety, there was a limit to how much frothing know-nothing outrage made it into the mainstream. There might be extreme or radical proposals on the American right but they had to be at least somewhat rationally defensible. I could call on the example here of William Buckley who had the courage to cast the Birchers out of the American conservative movement. I disagree with most of what Buckley stood for, but at least he had some kind of sense of what was the difference between someone who was strong-minded or opinionated and someone who was just plain crazy.

In today’s conservative movement though, it appears that the monkeys have final taken over the zoo and the energized populists will not heed the calls of sensible conservatives to rein in the crazy. They of course now have two heroes in this approach: Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. Both Palin and Beck have been willing to double-down on the crazy every time they are given the option. They are prepared to entertain the nuttiest fringe stuff from birthers to death panels. Imagine if Palin and Beck somehow got embroiled in this fluoride thing, Palin would be calling on scientists to refudiate fluoride while Beck would draw a weird chart trying to show that big fluoride is connected to Soros, Islam, and the Nazis. If Flanagan is going to use the crazy fringe as a means to political ends, he is going to have to deal with more and more of this kind of thing. This is the tiger he has chosen to ride.

When Has Ford Changed His Mind?

There’s an article in the Globe and Mail today in which Doug Ford argues that his brother be given imperial power to rule Etobicoke Toronto. Now this is something that Rob Ford especially deserves in the eyes of big brother Doug. Says Ford the elder:

“One of the great attributes that Rob has. … Rob will sit down and he’ll be in a group of 10 people and they’ll say, ‘Rob, we should do it this way’ and even if he says, ‘Oh, I think it’s this…’ he’s open minded. He’ll change his mind.”

Oh. Can Doug provide us an example of this? I’m just asking because so far all Ford has as a response to criticism is “I was elected to build subways” or some variation on that. I’m waiting for the day he will say something like “oh, yeah, building a subway to nowhere is a complete waste of money and totally stupid.”

Kelly McParland Repeats Big Lie About Toronto

This was the most remarkable idiocy in an otherwise blisteringly stupid column about how Toronto doesn’t matter any more in Canadian politics:

“Toronto’s political clout hasn’t disappeared altogether — it continues to suck up large amounts of provincial and federal funding”

Toronto of course contributes more to federal and provincial coffers than is spent here. Elsewhere McParland says that Toronto needs to elect some Conservative MPs to regain its influence in Ottawa. Excuse me, but electing MPs is not about buying influence, it’s about choosing who represents your values and your priorities. Too bad for Harper that people in Toronto aren’t anti-immigrant gun nuts pining for Fantino’s Charter-less police-state. Apparently until we prostrate ourselves at the feet of our oil patch overlords we can expect no decent consideration at the federal level.

Ford’s Win As Explained by Zizek

One of things that I noted about Ford’s seemingly surprising victory in Toronto is that the field of candidates was historically weak. Joe Pantalone was not a particularly suitable vessel for carrying on Miller’s centre-left legacy. (I recall reading someone who said that Pantalone had all of Miller’s negatives and none of his positives.) Smiterman ran a terrible campaign based around the fact that he was a sort of centrist technocrat who should be mayor because, well, he is a centrist technocrat. Rob Ford ran a fairly typical populist campaign and won by telling people over and over that the elite were unaccountably wasting our tax dollars. In the end the contest was between the centrist technocrat and the right-wing populist and the right-wing populist won.

Viewed through this lens, the Toronto election campaign is reminiscent of something that Slavoj Zizek said on a Dutch TV show recently. Zizek argues that throughout the West political movements are lining up in these two categories, centrist (be it centre-left or centre-right) technocrats and insurgent, far right populists driven more emotion than hard facts. These right-wing populist movements are now better able mobilize people than any particular left-wing group, they have even taken over the language of class by complaining about nebulous “elites” who don’t listen to the people. As Zizek says, “The only channel that functions for more radical forms of discontent is right-wing populism.”

There is no reason why more progressive political parties cannot own the issues of waste and government corruption or the sense that people get that government is unresponsive to them. I mean is Tommy Douglas’ “Mouseland” speech not an excellent example of a progressive attack on government that ignores the vast majority of citizens?

How Ford’s Win Could Affect Provincial and/or Federal Politics

Scott has a great post dispelling the foolish notion that Rob Ford is harbinger of doom for Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals. He writes:

“Municipal politics are a far cry from provincial politics, and I contend one doesn’t have anything to do with the other. For example, does Nenshi’s election in Calgary as that city’s mayor last week herald a wave of progressivism about to sweep Alberta provincially or federally? Of course it doesn’t, and the same thing applies here; municipal politics – even a high profile mayor’s race in Ontario’s largest city – is irrelevant to the federal or provincial scene.”

I agree right up to the word “irrelevant.” What concerns me about Ford’s win is not that it indicates something about Toronto turning all conservative. But that there will now be an incipient conservative “machine” in Toronto ready for use by Tim Hudak’s provincial Tories and even possibly Harper if the latter calls an election any time soon. During the campaign Ford repeatedly stressed that he had supporters from all parties but what he clearly seems to have done is engage numerous people who have no political affiliation at all. In doing so, Ford has likely amassed a rolodex of people who were not interested in politics before but who have now had the thrill to be part of a winning campaign and could likely be energized again.

Folks, despite Ford’s claim of all-party support, that list of new donors, and new volunteers is not going to be shared with any party other than the Cons. If Toronto’s progressives are not prepared, they may be beaten on their own turf by a newly energized base of volunteers who were previously apolitical but have now been activated by an extreme right-winger.

Bullshit in a China Shop

Yeah, I know I’ve been like an absent father for this blog, but some things need commenting on, such as this bit of stupidity from the National Post. The editors the Post claim that Ford will act as a “bull in the china shop” to get things done in Toronto. Really? Ford’s penchant for making enemies does not strike me as being particularly efficacious for any agenda. The Post puts faith in Ford’s record on council, but he doesn’t have one – he yells stuff into the record but seems incapable of working with other right-wing members of council to accomplish the sorts of things he says he wants to accomplish. Tantrums are not a “record” on city council.

The Post goes on to address the bad behaviour thusly, “we believe [Ford is] serious when he pledges — as he did in a recent meeting with our editorial board — that the most egregious of his gaffes are behind him.” Oh really? As if Ford was going to tell the editors of a newspaper that he was going to have even more hissy fits. Ford strikes me as being barely able to keep his rage over plant-watering budgets and graffiti (on private property) at bay. All the while offering what in exchange for his cuts? A subway to nowhere and the end of Toronto’s streetcars at a time when many other North American cities are rediscovering the value of light rail.

People are upset with the status quo at city hall, the polls surely indicate that, but replacing the status quo with something that’s actually far worse is no kind of solution. Ford will get nothing done and embarrass himself and Toronto in the process.