Monthly Archives: January 2006

Hamas win no surprise

The newspapers tell me Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian elections. I must have missed that. They also say Hamas can be domesticated by European diplomatic chitchat. I missed that, too. Finally, they say this result is a catastrophe. I missed that as well. Someone needs to pay more attention.

There does seem to be widespread surprise. On Thursday, a number of newspapers were reporting a Fatah victory in paper editions and a Hamas victory online. Yesterday’s main National Post headline said “Hamas win stuns world.”

I think the world was stunned long before. As writer George Jonas noted, this result ought not to have been surprising. Yasser Arafat’s Fatah administration was corrupt, unpopular and increasingly powerless. Perhaps sophisticated people assumed Fatah would quietly steal the election and planned quietly to acquiesce. If so they quietly underestimated the collapse of administration under Arafat, cowinner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for reasons history will never understand. Continue reading

Electoral paralysis is only a symptom of our main maladies

My mother once heard a man stagger off the golf course gasping “Thank God that’s over.” Doubtless he played again soon. So shall we, politically.

In this election we avoided one disaster. Liberal re-election after so much scandal, ineptitude and bombast would have made Western separatism a reality before Joe Clark could finish telling the CBC it was not to be taken seriously by serious people. But it is not obvious to me where we go from here. Except in one unsavoury particular.

The outcome was bad for all the parties and the nation. And perhaps my standing as a pundit; I predicted 14 too few Liberal seats (and nine too many Tories). The UBC electronic stock market ( helped me get close. But I, and others, underestimated how divided Canada has become. Continue reading

Behind the spin

The 2005-06 election features the curious sight of the major parties running hard with the usual partisan fervour, but without platforms. Each knows its policies are best. It just doesn’t know what they are. Except the Bloc. Yet voters can still get some sense of their programs from the early days of the campaign.

The New Democratic Party and the Conservatives evidently have platforms. (So, presumably, do the Liberals, who did not respond to inquiries on this point.) They just insist on unveiling them in a carefully staged manner–lest voters react inappropriately to suddenly seeing the whole truth. Only the Bloc posted on its website a detailed platform for its election and its 2004 program (including an English summary). True, the BQ had little hope or reason to hide what it believes (Canada stinks) and believed last election (Canada stinks). Still, it’s nice to be treated like adults.

What about the others? Each ran 18 months ago on a platform they endorsed passionately. But NDP spokesman Jamey Heath says the 2004 platform “may not necessarily reflect the current approach. For example, we are not proposing an inheritance tax,” something that earned the party nearly unanimous bad reviews last spring. Recent statements by NDP MPs in Parliament give us some clues, and Heath promises the whole platform by campaign’s end. Tory MP Rona Ambrose (Edmonton- Spruce Grove) explains that her party’s 2004 platform is no longer operative, while its March 2005 convention resolutions guided policy formulation but didn’t determine it. As for timing, “We want to lay out our policies at a time when people can really take a look at them instead of in the middle of a heated election… In January we expect the Liberals to be quite vicious in their campaigning and this gives us a chance to lay things out and have a debate on some of these substantive issues.” Ambrose says most of the platform will probably be out by Christmas. Continue reading

A cage of his own for rational man

Recently a South African bandit decided a good place to hide from security guards was the Bengal tiger’s enclosure in the zoo. I wish my friend and colleague Dan Gardner had been there to see it before homo economicus, the rational individual of economic analysis, wandered into his cubicle and was equally messily devoured.

On Jan. 13 on these pages, Dan explained how to fight crime. Or rather, how not to. He scorned Stephen Harper and “the dustier economics faculties” as well as “policy wonks in neo-conservative think tanks” for “clinging” to the theory that you can deter crime by making it riskier. You see, “only old-fashioned economists still believe in the myth of homo economicus. For many decades, psychologists and other researchers have been exploring how human brains really work.” And they say while we are capable of slow, careful reasoning, “a whole lot of people’s thinking is done with the intuitive system” which, Dan tells us, “can be very useful… But it is irrational.”

I could write volumes on the exploded superstition of substituting social science for common sense. I could remind you experts are more help in understanding the reasoning behind a given point of view than at deciding between points of view, that they do not all say one thing and when most of them do it is time to beware. They told us deficit spending was good for the economy and we should dissolve the family in the interest of the children. Instead, let us return to the mortal remains of that thief. Continue reading

Horror Flick Provides Relief From Leaders’ Debate

Right after the second English leader’s debate I watched the end of Boris Karloff’s 1932 The Mummy. The stilted speech, the atmosphere of gloom … it was a relief to get away from that to some classic cinema.

OK, you saw that coming. But I saw a lot of things coming in the debate too, and they were horrible without being well done. Sort of Plan Nine from Outer War Room. For instance when Mr. Martin said his first act on being re-elected would be to amend the Constitution to eliminate the notwithstanding clause. How? And if it’s so important, why didn’t he do it before? Or ever even mention it until then? His justification, in essence, is no matter what fool thing the courts do, your elected representatives should be powerless to stop them. I’d like to hear him defend that position. For that matter, I’d like to hear the other leaders attack it. But of course I didn’t.

When confronted directly with the Supreme Court’s latest larky ruling, allowing swingers’ clubs because we secretly have a libertarian Constitution not even the court noticed before, all the leaders seemed to agree that some Canadian values should be upheld if challenged by judges. So they want a mechanism for overruling court Charter decisions just like the notwithstanding clause but that isn’t the notwithstanding clause because … um … uh … Meanwhile back in 1932, Karloff’s Imhotep got himself all wrapped up and smothered. And it was just the start of his misadventures. Continue reading

An unlikely Romantic

Dalton McGuinty as Byronic hero? I don’t know if I’m bad or dangerous to know, but news stories like this make me strongly suspect I’m going mad.

I refer to Donna Jacobs’ “Monday Morning” in the Jan. 2 Citizen, saying the Ontario premier spends 18 hours a day doing politics, then crams in five to 15 minutes’ of poetry before crashing. That’s some kind of inner life. Especially as his favourites are the Romantic poets; the article even recounts that, unprompted, he gave “a slow, cadenced recital” of his all-time favourite, Shelley’s Love’s Philosophy. I imagine it was an experience not easily forgotten.

The premier then opined that “Poetry kind of reconnects you with your emotions.” I treasure the “kind of” regarding Romantic poets famously given to extremes rather than to cautiously equivocal reluctant partial embrace of what might vaguely be their emotions unless polls said otherwise. Especially as Mr. McGuinty went on to explain that Shelley’s thesis in that poem, “Nothing in the world is single,” informs his political philosophy. “I believe that politics and government are still the best way that we can come together as a people,” he told Ms. Jacobs, “and overcome challenges that are too big to overcome on our own. They’re still the best means by which we can actually do great things.” Continue reading