In the midst of his double-fainting couch freakout over Jack Layton’s outrageously socialist state funeral, flesh & blood cartoon QMI columnist Ezra Levant claims the late NDP leader “clearly did not meet the standard of a state funeral” because he was “a hyper-partisan politician whose largest achievement was becoming the leader of the opposition”. According to Levant, a state funeral should be reserved for “someone whose successes transcend our national divides.”
Yeah, I mean, it’s not like Layton slew the BQ and brought Quebec back into the National political fold or anything. A possible bridge of the two solitudes? Clearly that pales in comparison to Rocket Richard’s 1337 hockey skillz.
Now, yours truly is in the midst of moving (tomorrow — eep), so, in lieu of properly laying the snarketh down on Ezra’s excremental musings, here’s an infographic outlining Layton’s considerable (or marginal, if you prefer viewing the world through Sun Meida’s [sic] Blue-tinted lens) electoral accomplishments during his tenure at the helm of the New Democratic Party of Canada:
Admittedly, none of this actually refutes Ezra’s main point, which seems to be that Layton was a partisan socialist weenie, and his partisan socialist weenie supporters misappropriated public funds to shill for partisan weenie socialism. But that’s largely because Ezra’s point is, unfortunately, inherently irrefutable — in the (dubious) sense that it is largely fallacious, thus not a proper argument and, furthermore, impossible to counter (hacktacular!)
So, instead of wasting my (precious, rapidly dwindling) time and your (no doubt just as precious and unsustainable) time any longer, have some grossly inappropriate pontificating from “an old career NDP hack named Stephen Lewis”:
Oh, and if you have a spare fainting couch kicking around, feel free to ship it out to Calgary. Ezra thanks you in advance (just don’t use Canada Post, you partisan socialist weenie).
(Infographic courtesy the Globe & Mail)
State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland called the photo book of Condoleezza Rice found in Gadhafi’s compound “bizarre” and “creepy” even though she hasn’t seen pictures of it. “I think I don’t need to see the photos, but bizarre and creepy are good adjectives to describe much of Gadhafi’s behavior,” Nuland said and went on to say, “It doesn’t surprise me. It’s deeply bizarre and deeply creepy, though, if it is as you described.”
Resolved: Moammar Gadhafi is the Barney Stinson of post-colonial despots.
Ahem. Sorry ’bout that. Now, where were we?
When polls from the past federal election are closely analyzed, what shows up is that Mr. Harper’s Conservatives were elected by a lot of old people — people over the age of 45 whose electoral participation rate is between 60 and 80 per cent, climbing higher as they climb to meet their Maker. People under the age of 45 were powerfully anti-Conservative but at best only about 40 per cent of them voted. Andif they had voted in the same proportion as the over-45s, there would not have been a Conservative majority; there probably wouldn’t have been a Conservative minority. What likely we might have got is an NDP-led coalition.
So then let’s suppose that half, at least half, of the electorate are powerfully opposed to Mr. Harper’s neo-liberalism, which is what the polls suggest. Let’s suppose they’re more in tune with Canada’s historic Red Toryism, the political culture that led to, in the words of philosopher George Grant (Michael Ignatieff’s uncle, although Mr. Ignatieff didn’t like his thinking) “a country which had a strong sense of the common good … that was possible under the individualism of the capitalist dream.” We certainly know this is the case in Quebec. We certainly know that younger Canadians, and even a significant chunk of older Canadians, have a strong sense of the common good and don’t like the contemporary conservative ideology of the individual.
Without Mr. Layton — without Jack, le bon Jack — it does not mean Canadians opposed to Mr. Harper’s neo-liberalism are simply going to go elsewhere or become less engaged with their democracy. It doesn’t mean Quebeckers are going to abandon their fling with the NDP.
First, there is a culture war in Canada; it’s not going to disappear with Mr. Layton’s death. Second, as some of the most astute commentators of Quebec politics have pointed out, Quebeckers don’t take frivolous bon-bon steps in their politics. Their engagement with the NDP is more than a celebrity fling with Jack; it’s a new, sophisticated engagement with Canada.
Thus Mr. Layton can accurately be seen as the catalyst, not the seducer, both of Quebec’s re-engagement with the country and of a debate within the whole country about its political values.
As they say, read the whole damn thing. Valpy goes on to tackle Blatch’s “talented gracelessness” — and the Canadian public’s instant, somewhat overwhelming mythologizing of Layton — with keen insight.
h/t Stephen Wicary
In the end, we should have known it was fanciful, even selfish, to expect Jack Layton to make it back to Parliament in the Fall.
The man who, weeks ago, stood before a stunned nation to announce he was stepping aside (temporarily, it was insisted) to once again battle cancer, gaunt and wholly drained of the vigour that defined his upbeat, energetic campaign style, was not the same one who, just one short month prior, had almost single-handedly carried the NDP to its best electoral finish in party history.
This was someone who, if not at Death’s door, was certainly on its footpath.
But before Jack the Fighter became Jack the Martyr, he was Le Bon Jack, the man who, in the words of CP’s John Ward, “slew the Bloc Quebecois and saw the long-dominant Liberal party reduced to a battered hulk” while simultaneously bringing his once-terminal, perpetually-marginalized democratic socialist party into the national mainstream (and, in the process, welcomed Quebec back to the Federal scene after nearly two full decades in the political wilderness). As James Laxer rightly notes, “When [Layton became NDP leader, he took a party that had seen better days and led it to become a force that can win the next election. His breakthrough in Quebec is historic, a transformative event in Canada’s political history. "
Over the next several days we're going to be buffeted by many heartfelt tributes to Layton and his legacy. Conversely, we'll no doubt witness insincere remembrances from those who, quite frankly, despised the man and his pragmatically progressive politics, but cynically know it bodes well to avoid speaking ill of the revered dead. We're also going to see an increasingly histrionic debate over what to do about iterim leader Nycole Turmel, the party's newly-minted Quebec rump, and its overall future.
And though Dippers and progressives deserve time to grieve (and Layton is indeed worthy of memorializing) we mustn't shy away from these contentious issues, lest the momentum that propelled the NDP to historic gains is further halted as the party tries to reorient itself in anticipation of the post-Layton era.
Just to help kick off the frenzy of posthumous speculation re: What Happens Next, here's a brief excerpt from Warren Kinsella's latest Sun Maida [sic] column:
For [Jack Layton's] NDP – because it was his NDP – sad and bad times lay ahead. There is no possibility, none, that they can ever expect to maintain what they achieved with Jack Layton Nor can the party’s blasé dismissal of a union with the Liberals be allowed to remain unchallenged. Our democracy will suffer if the Harper government is not facing an effective Opposition. All of us – Stephen Harper included – need the NDP and the Liberals to consider the gravity of the moment, and abandon their pride and hubris. Now, more than ever, progressives need to come together for the good of Canadian democracy.
Whatever your feelings on uniting the Canadian left (and let it be clear, I lean towards Kinsella’s position that only a strong, united centre-left opposition can ever hope to topple the Harpercons), one thing is undeniable: Jack Layton quite literally died to get the NDP — and the Canadian progressive centre-left — to this point; now it’s up to progressive activists, regardless of party affiliation, to continue the fight that ultimately took his life.
Update: And as if anticipating renewed calls to reopen the unification debate following his passing, here’s Layton, from his already-legendary final letter:
There will be those who will try to persuade [NDP members] to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.
So, at least we know what Jack wanted (which doesn’t necessarily make it right, but…).
Something kinda like this:
So, let’s do it.
Layton photo: mattjiggins, flickr
Sidewalk photo: Paul Dewar, Yfrog
London’s riots are not the Tupperware troubles of Greece or Spain, where the middle classes lash out against their day of reckoning. They are the proof that a section of young Britain – the stabbers, shooters, looters, chancers and their frightened acolytes – has fallen off the cliff-edge of a crumbling nation.
The failure of the markets goes hand in hand with human blight. Meanwhile, the view is gaining ground that social democracy, with its safety nets, its costly education and health care for all, is unsustainable in the bleak times ahead. The reality is that it is the only solution. After the Great Crash, Britain recalibrated, for a time. Income differentials fell, the welfare state was born and skills and growth increased.
That exact model is not replicable, but nor, as Adam Smith recognised, can a well-ordered society ever develop when a sizeable number of its members are miserable and, as a consequence, dangerous. This is not a gospel of determinism, for poverty does not ordain lawlessness. Nor, however, is it sufficient to heap contempt on the rioters as if they are a pariah caste.
A great deal has been made over the past few days of the greed of the rioters for consumer goods, not least by Rotherham MP Denis MacShane who accurately remarked, “What the looters wanted was for a few minutes to enter the world of Sloane Street consumption.” This from a man who notoriously claimed £5,900 for eight laptops. Of course, as an MP he obtained these laptops legally through his expenses.
Yesterday, the veteran Labour MP Gerald Kaufman asked the Prime Minister to consider how these rioters can be “reclaimed” by society. Yes, this is indeed the same Gerald Kaufman who submitted a claim for three months’ expenses totalling £14,301.60, which included £8,865 for a Bang & Olufsen television.
Or take the Salford MP Hazel Blears, who has been loudly calling for draconian action against the looters. I find it very hard to make any kind of ethical distinction between Blears’s expense cheating and tax avoidance, and the straight robbery carried out by the looters.
The Prime Minister showed no sign that he understood that something stank about yesterday’s Commons debate. He spoke of morality, but only as something which applies to the very poor: “We will restore a stronger sense of morality and responsibility – in every town, in every street and in every estate.” He appeared not to grasp that this should apply to the rich and powerful as well.
Politicians don’t represent the interests of people who don’t vote. They barely care about the people who do vote. They look after the corporations who get them elected. Cameron only spoke out against News International when it became evident to us, US, the people, not to him (like Rose West, “He must’ve known”) that the newspapers Murdoch controlled were happy to desecrate the dead in the pursuit of another exploitative, distracting story.
Why am I surprised that these young people behave destructively, “mindlessly”, motivated only by self-interest? How should we describe the actions of the city bankers who brought our economy to its knees in 2010? Altruistic? Mindful? Kind? But then again, they do wear suits, so they deserve to be bailed out, perhaps that’s why not one of them has been imprisoned. And they got away with a lot more than a few fucking pairs of trainers.
These young people have no sense of community because they haven’t been given one. They have no stake in society because Cameron’s mentor Margaret Thatcher told us there’s no such thing.
If we don’t want our young people to tear apart our communities then don’t let people in power tear apart the values that hold our communities together.
The 1980s were marked by a more traditional struggle between the state and organized labor. The present moment, however, is defined by a more disorganized class politics of reaction, propelled by huge inequalities and a perceived injustice and indifference by the state to the fate of those involved. This time it is also not about race. The looting youngsters in London are a mixture of both immigrants and English natives, and they have quickly and deliberately made their way into the fancier neighborhoods of the city. An incident from the much-gentrified Notting Hill neighborhood in London is particularly telling. Hooded rioters armed with bats invaded the Ledbury, a two-star Michelin restaurant, demanding that diners hand over their wallets and wedding rings. As two female rioters told the BBC, “We’re just showing the rich people we can do what we want.”
So class politics are back in what many political scientists see as their most traditional home: the United Kingdom. Most of the country perceives Cameron’s policies as the poor paying for the mistakes of the rich. Thatcher’s neoliberal medicine was equally unpopular in 1981, but she was under no illusions as to what was required to enforce austerity and remains famous to this day for having argued in a 1987 interview that “there [was] no such thing as society.” Cameron’s assumptions have been challenged by these riots, and it is not at all clear that he has an alternative to offer. The rest of the world should take notice: After all, the perverse experiment of high inequality, low growth, and now fiscal austerity is hardly a uniquely British phenomenon.
If Toronto City Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti wasn’t real, some enterprising young sketch comedian would have to invent him (and subsequently cash in on the character with a marginally enjoyable initial feature length smash, followed by a lackluster sequel):
Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti has launched a Facebook site designed, he says, to give voice to the silent majority of working-class Torontonians who don’t have time to speak out at all-night City Hall meetings alongside layabouts and “communists.
“I don’t want to hear from communists,” he said. “I won’t be calling them communists on the site, but I will be using the word ‘whatever’ to reply to them. If you see that word you can be pretty sure they’re a communist and I’ll be cutting them off of the site.”
In the 1980s, Mr. Mammoliti served as a leader for the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Later, he served as an MPP for the NDP, where he became something of a pariah for opposing same-sex benefits.
“That’s where I learned how communists smell,” he said. “They are the ones who tried to brainwash me then at a younger age. It was 25 years ago. I know how they think and feel and speak. I just don’t have the time for them. Their attempt to brainwash me back then didn’t work then and won’t work now.”
He maintains a broad definition of the term “communist” as “anyone who is able to work, doesn’t want to work and wants everything for free,” he said.
Now, it’s been a while since I’ve thumbed through my dogeared paperback copy of the Communist Manifesto, but I don’t seem to recall that passage in Marx & Engels’ historical dialectic. Also, exactly what DOES a communist smell like — stale clove cigarette smoke and cappuccino infused with the distinctly musky odor of desperate proletarian zeal? Regardless, it seems painfully clear that poor wittle Giorgio has been utterly traumatized by the unfortunate time he spent captive in the Ontario NDP’s Pinot Grigio Gulag.
So, fellow Canuckistanian Progressicommie comrades, how about we pry our lazy duffs from the leather sofa and chip in a few loonies to help poor wittle Giorgio thoroughly insulate his precious cranium from further Marxist mind-control attempts:
It takes a brave, bold, forward-thinking individual to stand firm with the ever-ignorant Silent Majority against Toronto’s Red Menace of worthless layabouts and freeloaders angling to topple the tinpot regime of Rob Ford; seems only fair that this faithful champion is properly dressed for battle.
Mammoliti image: alienbeatpoet, flickr
Norwegian journalist Magnus Nome was in the good ol’ US of A when self-styled counterjihadist crusader Anders Breivik decided to escalate his murderous fantasies about Eurabian conquest from Outer Wingnuttia into the real world. Thankfully, CNN, Fox News et al were ready to provide informed, accurate, up-to-the-minute coverage of events on the ground:
The news coverage over the following days taught me a lot of interesting new ‘facts’ about the innocent nation of Norway.
1. Apparently we don’t lock our doors at night. Wrong. We do.
2. There is no public debate about immigration. Wrong. Immigration generally, and Islam specifically, have been high on the agenda for more than a decade.
3. We’re all white. Wrong. Norway has become an increasingly diverse society since the early 1970s: almost a third of Oslo now has non-Norwegian origin, more than one in ten being Muslim.
4. Owning a gun is practically illegal. Wrong. Hunting and sport shooting are popular recreational activities, and Norway ranks high in gun ownership.
5. The Utøya victims were all white, and the terrorist did not kill any Muslims. Wrong. The victims reflected a diverse Norwegian society. Several of the dead were Muslims, several were of African or Middle Eastern ancestry. This information was available. It is extremely disrespectful to airbrush them out of the story to make it more coherent.
As they say, read the whole damn thing, especially if everything you know about Norway — and about Anders Breivik & far-right nationalism in Europe — was learned via teh cablez.
Image: apgroner, flickr
The Boston Globe ran a chart last Sunday that I’d buy billboard space to reproduce in every decent-size city in America, if I were running the Democratic National Committee. The premise of it was very simple: It showed how many trillions each president since Ronald Reagan has added to the nation’s debt. The debt was about $1 trillion when Reagan took office, and then: Reagan, $1.9 trillion; George H.W. Bush, $1.5 trillion (in just four years); Bill Clinton, $1.4 trillion; Obama, $2.4 trillion.
Oh, wait. I skipped someone. George W. Bush ran up $6.4 trillion. That’s nearly half—44.7 percent—of the $14.3 trillion total. We all know what did it—two massive tax cuts geared toward the rich (along with other similar measures, like slashing the capital gains and inheritance taxes), the off-the-books wars, the unfunded Medicare expansion, and so on. But the number is staggering and worth dwelling on. In a history covering 30 years, nearly half the debt was run up in eight. Even the allegedly socialist Obama at his most allegedly wanton doesn’t compare to Dubya; and Obama’s debt numbers, if he’s reelected, will surely not double or even come close as we gambol down Austerity Lane.