Greatly Exaggerated Rumours, Jack Layton Edition

by matttbastard

Michael Valpy addresses the current conventional wisdom that without Jack Layton, the NDP — and Canada’s left — is now doomed, doomed, DOOMED!

Ahem. Sorry ’bout that. Now, where were we?

Oh! Right.

Valpy:

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

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

by matttbastard

Elrod @ TMV on one of the other racist songs on that CD that Chip Saltsman handed out to the RNC, The Star-Spanglish Banner:

Did the GOP learn nothing by baiting Latinos the last few years? Is the GOP not content to lose Florida, Colorado and New Mexico? Must Arizona fall to the Democrats for the GOP to realize that anti-Latino bigotry is an electoral loser? What about Texas? If Latinos in Texas voted Democratic at rates they do in Illinois, New York and California, Texas would be on the verge of blue state status. Is this parody song designed to test the willingness of economically and socially conservative Latinos in Texas to stay in a party that mocks their very pretensions of Americanness?

No, apparently the GOP hasn’t learned a single effing thing from 2006 nor 2008. Hint: pushing divisive, appallingly racist humour stamped with the Limbaugh seal of approval? Not the way to expand the Big Tent.

Instead of rebuilding, the party seem to be doing its goddamndest to fully earn its marginalization as it plummets into political irrelevancy in a blaze of inglorious ineptitude and myopia.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Colin Powell Calls Out Sarah Palin and the GOP Over “Small Town Values”

by matttbastard

I’m sure by now you’re all overwhelmed with nostalgia for the 2008 presidential campaign (you betcha!) I mean, it’s been, what, just over a month since the election, right?  So, to help satisfy your endless electioneering jones, check out this clip of Colin Powell, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria that will air on CNN this Sunday, goin’ all South Bronx on Gov. Palin and the GOPizzle:

Partial transcript:

Gov. Palin, to some extent, pushed the party more to the right, and I think she had something of a polarizing effect when she talked about how small town values are good. Well, most of us don’t live in small towns. And I was raised in the South Bronx, and there’s nothing wrong with my value system from the South Bronx.

And when they came to Virginia and said the southern part of Virginia is good and the northern part of Virginia is bad. The only problem with that is there are more votes in the northern part of Virginia than there are in the southern part of Virginia, so that doesn’t work.

Apparently small town value systems apparently don’t take into account demographics and simple mathematics. (Hint: there are a lot of eligible voters–many of them *eek* not white–in the Bronx.  And in Arlington. To say nothing of Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Cleveland…)

Pshh.  Wevs.

Who needs complicated statistics and a viable long-term political strategy when you have fresh moose-burgers and a collective annual oil stipend (which, btw, is so not socialism) to cling to, along with guns, religion and marginalizing resentment?

h/t Think Progress

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Al Jazeera: Courting the ‘grey’ vote

by matttbatard

Elderly voters are considered to be the most reliable group of voters in the US, needing no encouragement to get down to the polling station.

So, it’s no surprise that senior citizens have become one of the most courted votes during this campaign. Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reports.

Related: Older Voters Lag Electorate At Large In Support Of Obama: The Hartford Courant

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Getting Used to a Black President – Melissa Harris-Lacewell

by matttbastard

ForaTV:

Political scientist Melissa Harris-Lacewell examines how Barack Obama may affect Americans’ conceptualization of race and the Presidency, should he be elected to the position.

Full video here.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Throwing darts at a board

by matttbastard

As the countdown to the clinch continues, the Village Idiots are growing ever more idiotic at the prospect of talking gibberish when Senator Barack Obama becomes the first black nominee for president of the USA. David Gergen, charter member of The Best Political Team on Television™, just gave a preview of what’s to come by noting that Obama’s now-inevitable nomination comes “exactly” 200 years after the end of the slave trade.

Got that, folks? We can now officially start talking about racism in the past tense.

With that–and, as this “historic” campaign goes to the next level, the promise of even more hoary, overinflated rhetoric from a punditocracy addicted to soundbite significance–in mind, this refreshingly grounded LRB essay from David Runciman couldn’t be more timely.

A sample:

Now that the primary season has nearly run its course, a different pattern can be seen. Followed day by day, the race for the Democratic nomination has been the most exciting election in living memory. But viewed in retrospect, it is clear that it has been quite predictable. All the twists and turns have been a function of the somewhat random sequencing of different state primaries, which taken individually have invariably conformed to type, with Obama winning where he was always likely to win (caucus states, among college-educated and black voters, in the cities), and Clinton winning where she was likely to win (big states with secret ballots, among less well-educated whites and Hispanics, in rural areas). Even the initial drama of that week in early January – when Obama’s victory in Iowa had seemed to give him a chance of finishing Clinton off, only to be confounded by her victory in New Hampshire, which defied the expectation of the pundits and had them all speculating about what had swung it (was it her welling up in a diner? was it hastily rekindled memories of Bill? was it hints of hubris from Obama?) – turns out to have been an illusion. Iowa was Obama country (younger, smaller, caucus meetings) and New Hampshire wasn’t (older, bigger, voting machines). The salient fact about this campaign is that demography trumps everything: people have been voting in fixed patterns set by age, race, gender, income and educational level, and the winner in the different contests has been determined by the way these different groups are divided up within and between state boundaries. Anyone who knows how to read the census data (and that includes some of the smart, tech-savvy types around Obama) has had a good idea of how this was going to play from the outset. All the rest is noise.

Yet if the voting patterns have been so predictable, why have the polls been so volatile? One of the amazing things about the business of American politics is that its polling industry is so primitive. Each primary has been preceded by a few wildly varying polls, some picking up big movement for Clinton, some for Obama, each able to feed the narrative of a contest that could swing decisively at any moment. All of these polls come with warnings about their margins of error (usually +/–4 per cent), but often they have been so far outside their own margins as to make the phrase ridiculous. A day before the California primary in February, the Zogby organisation had Obama ahead by 6 per cent – he ended up losing by 9 per cent. In Ohio, the same firm put Obama ahead by 2 per cent just before the actual vote – this time he lost by 10 per cent. The sampling of national opinion is even worse. Before the Indiana primary, two national polls released at the same time claimed to track the fallout from the appearance of Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright on the political stage. One, for the New York Times, had Obama up by 14 per cent, and enabled the Times to run a story saying that the candidate had been undamaged. The other, for USA Today, had Clinton up by 7 per cent, leading the paper to conclude that Obama was paying a heavy price.

The reason for the differences is not hard to find. American polling organisations tend to rely on relatively small samples (certainly judged by British standards) for their results, often somewhere between 500 and 700 likely voters, compared to the more usual 1000-2000-plus for British national polls. The recent New York Times poll that gave Obama a 12 per cent lead was based on interviews with just 283 people. For a country the size of the United States, this is the equivalent to stopping a few people at random in the street, or throwing darts at a board. Given that American political life is generally so cut-throat, you might think there was room for a polling organisation that sought a competitive advantage by using the sort of sample sizes that produce relatively accurate results. Why on earth does anyone pay for this rubbish?

The answer is that in an election like this one, the polls aren’t there to tell the real story; they are there to support the various different stories that the commentators want to tell. The market is not for the hard truth, because the hard truth this time round is that most people are voting with the predictability of prodded animals. What the news organisations and blogs and roving pundits want are polls that suggest the voters are thinking hard about this election, arguing about it, making up their minds, talking it through, because that’s what all the commentators like to think they are doing themselves. This endless raft of educated opinion needs to be kept afloat on some data indicating that it matters what informed people say about politics, because it helps the voters to decide which way to jump. If you keep the polling sample sizes small enough, you can create the impression of a public willing to be moved by what other people are saying. That’s why the comment industry pays for this rubbish.

And just think: this has only been the warm up. The real contest starts tonight. CNN just announced that Obama has gone over the top.

Lord have mercy.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

“The years teach much which the days never knew.”

by matttbastard

Because it bears repeating:

After turning 50 in September, I became somewhat obsessed with the age of bloggers. I discovered I could find a lot of male bloggers in the 50-and-older category. But where are the women?

I know, there are a few. And I am not talking about Arianna Huffington, who is 57 and a billionaire (and therefore looks 25), but about us ordinary bloggers, such as Raven, Jackie, Risa, JJ, Marion, Maitri and Shadocat. I try to find them and link them on my blog… they are like precious jewels.

I have wondered if the hyperventilating over WOMEN’S AGE might be the cause of this phenomenon; we might call it The Botox Effect. We cover up the “lines” in our writing, as we try to cover the lines in our face. We minimize that which makes us seem old. If there is something new we don’t understand, such as contemporary slang, we don’t dare ask for clarification and thereby give ourselves away. Perhaps, then, there are more of us than I realize? Many women pointedly do not provide their ages on their blogs, while men usually do; a silly, sexist and archaic cultural habit.

At times when I write about nostalgia, as I enjoy doing, I get replies from isolated people (who will not comment publicly, it is worth noting) thanking me for publicly remembering something that they agree needs recounting. But they say it in hushed, secretive emails, as if I have said something dirty out loud. THE PAST IS OLD, and therefore, not a good thing. NEW is good, new is revolutionary, new is a product that has been improved, reformulated, with all kinds of good shit added to it to make it a rockem-sockem, highly-evolved and BETTER thing… better car, better house, better suburb, better dishwashing liquid.

Various cultures throughout the world once prized the old, as those who had knowledge and wisdom. As American imperialism runs roughshod all over the world and into every nook and cranny of the globe, we see all that is old is shunned and shunted aside. Hatred of what is old is now invading hearts and minds and cultures everywhere. Universally, the belief that old age equals wisdom is fast disintegrating. NEW NEW NEW shall reign. The old is hidden or eliminated, and that includes old people.

On certain progressive blogs, when I try to comment about what we expected or thought in the past, it’s a sure way to get beat up and left for dead. Yes, I am told, that just proves how fucked up everything was back then. Nietzsche’s Last Man of History knows everything that has ever happened, and there is no end to derision.

The very idea that we may know something is laughed at. And yet writing “teh” is not considered laughable, for some reason. I guess because it’s a “young” thing to do.

Much love and respect for all ‘old woman’ bloggers.

Update: More from Octogalore on the largely overlooked intersection between anti-ageism and feminism:

In this election, the “isms” discussed have been racism and sexism. However, ageism has been a key aspect of the sexism directed towards Clinton.

For example, the nutcracker. Women who are attractive (as Clinton is, I think) but also young don’t get called ballbusters.

Secondly, as demonstrated by Melissa McEwan, here, reporters glory in pointing out age on a female candidate. Of course, Reagan and other octogenarians came in for comments about age, but these have typically been more in the context of fitness for service as president. As a 60-year-old woman in good shape, that’s not the concern Drudge had about Clinton. And kudos to McEwan for pointing it out.

Also, we’ve heard the “just not this one” comment about a female president who’s anyone but Hillary? Many of the folks saying this, like Fred Thompson here, are thinking women are OK, even maybe as president, if they’re young and cute. Or anyway, he suggests his daughter as a future candidate, which apparently was met by supportive cheers. Sure, it’s [fine] to think of women in power, if they are young and cute.

Only a 60-year-old FEMALE candidate would be referred to as “aging and resentful.” (h/t Violet Socks)

Finally, think about how often you hear certain words applied to young women. “Shrill,” for example. Not often. But we rarely call that what it is.

So let’s do that. Let’s call it out. And let’s talk about how it fits into feminism.

Update 2: More from Daisy. Go show her some love.

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