Slouching Towards the Inevitable

Bolstered by the results of this past Monday’s election in Quebec (in which the PQ fell to third place and the conservative pro-‘autonomy’ ADQ went from 5 to 41 seats to become the official opposition), a weakened Bloc Quebecois forced to support passage of the Tory’s voter-friendly budget, and not-quite-majority-level poll numbers*, PM Stephen Harper is quietly musing about a spring election, Susan Delacorte and Richard Brennan of the Toronto Star report. With everything seemingly coming up Harper, one is tempted to reflexively discount the obligatory denials emanating from official Tory circles.

Not so fast, says Don Martin:

Conventional wisdom suggests Harper could count his Conservative electoral gains by overlaying the federal riding map on right-leaning ADQ constituency conquests.

But there has been no discernible warming to the campaign concept inside the PMO and Harper was at it again on Tuesday, insisting he has no intention of forcing an election unless his agenda is suddenly derailed by Parliament.

[…] [T]he not-so-hidden warning of this election and politics in general these days is that there’s no sure thing anymore. Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach? Liberal Leader Stephane Dion? Official Opposition Leader Mario Dumont? Implausible titles all just six months ago.

While Stephen Harper counts up his many blessings, he surely understands the risk of going to the polls based on fleeting favourable conditions. The last title he wants is Former Prime Minister.

Sinister Greg, however, thinks the temptation will be too great for Harper to ignore:

I realize the stunning rise of ADQ power is like red meat to the Blogging Tories who were pretty jazzed by the prospect of a spring election before the results of the Quebec election were known. This is inevitable, I’m afraid. They were itching to go before and will be howling now. I can live with that.

Harper may not have much choice but to call an election. The conditions seem perfect for him (even though I am convinced they are not) and the temptation to go is overwhelming.

Greg also points out that, contra conventional wisdom (/grin), new (right-of-centre) Quebec opposition leader Mario Dumont is not a federalist in the ‘traditional’ sense (then again, neither is the Prime Minister, at least not as currently defined). [update: more on Dumont from Radical Centrist.]
My advice to Canadian voters (FWIW): Get ready to visit the polls for the third time in as many years, sooner rather than later.

*Contrast the results of the Leger marketing survey with this Decima poll. Keep in mind both polls were conducted before this past Monday’s election in Quebec.

The Language of Fear

by matttbastard

“Ahistorical – you think this shit just dropped right out of the sky
My analysis: it’s time to harvest the crust from your eyes
To surge and refine, to rage and define ourselves against your line
So sorry friend but you must resign”

-Fugazi, ‘Bulldog Front’

Glenn Reynolds enjoys (relatively) prominent mainstream notoriety that defies explanation. The erstwhile Tennessee law prof rarely writes anything of length or substance*, instead linking (complete with cryptic asides) to others who have done the heavy mental lifting (such as it may be) and are grateful for the increased traffic a nod from Instapundit affords.

Which brings me to the Perfessor’s latest offering [update: link fixed]:

“IF YOU CAN READ THIS, THANK A TEACHER: If you can read this in English, thank a soldier.” This slogan seems to have produced some unhappiness, on the ground that it’s excessively pro-military.

“Excessively pro-military”? More like ‘excessively pro-militarism’. “But mattt,” you say, “you’re one of those granola-munching terrorist-appeasers. Of course you’re going to cringe and fling ideological invective” (Hey, at least I didn’t drop the other ‘f’-bomb.)

Von of Obsidian Wings is no pacifist (whether he rocks Birkenstocks and hides a secret stash of Phish vinyl is another matter). Dude groks Pinochet and expansionist proxy wars, thinks Ethiopia = the ‘good guys’; in short, he’s an unapologetic America-first hawk. And even he thinks Reynolds is one page short of a Minutemen pamphlet:

Only two nations have posed a threat of actually seizing some portion of the United States and taking over: the English and the Confederate States of America. Both spoke English (the former rather famously). Every other war has been distant and posed no direct threat to the U.S. homeland: for instance, as much as they threatened U.S. interests, neither the Japanese nor Germans actually threatened the U.S. homeland (much less the English language) during WW2. Moreover — and for those more interested in metaphorical “wars” rather than real ones…– there was and is very little risk that Spanish will someday shove-out English as the U.S.’s mother tongue. Indeed, for those paying attention the last half-century, you might suspect that the opposite is more likely to occur.


So, while there are many things we should thank our soldiers for, only an idiot thanks them for defending our English language. We should thank our parents instead (and perhaps the odd English teacher) for that — both of whom, if you’re like me, you don’t thank enough.

…[T]he country truly started off on the wrong foot when it decided that 9/11 changed everything. No, it didn’t. The world was always bad. We just let ourselves forget that. But while the philosophy of “everything changed” (aka, the myth of being “mugged by 9-11“) was somewhat plausible — at least to those who hadn’t been paying attention — pretending via bumper sticker (that’ll show ’em) that the English language requires an F-22 for defense is some kind of grim joke. At its worst, this pretension confuses nativism for security. Contrary to base instinct, such confusion is not good for security.

As Von points out, there’s a thin line between benign love of country and malignant fear. When irrational distrust of an external threat–the ever-amorphous ‘other’–leads to a wholesale rollback of long-cherished freedoms and liberties, one should take a deep breath, look within for the cancer.


The post-9/11 shift to authoritarian militarism and nativism in the US (the latter of which, at least, is also occurring elsewhere in the West) may be a natural byproduct of the fear born from the rubble of the Twin Towers. Regardless, what makes me ‘unhappy’ about the bumper sticker isn’t reflexive dislike or distrust of the military. It’s the ridiculous idea that the ‘other’ (whether radical Islam or Mexican immigrants) is not only actively seeking to unravel the fabric of American society, but has the ability to do so.

One percent thinking dictates that even the mere notion of a threat is grounds for drastic action, no matter the long term cost. Since 9/11, the Bush admin has sought wide-ranging authority to prosecute an endless war on ‘terror’, damn the consequences. No small coincidence that the stature of the US in the eyes of other nations has simultaneously suffered.

Sacrificing the collective soul of the nation in the name of ‘security’ at the expense of international cooperation (as evidenced by the quasi-unilateral debacle in Iraq) is a huge price to pay in a world where post-Cold War US hegemony is proving to be a myth.

*Shut up – I’ve been busy dealing with meatworld monkey wrenches. Besides, embracing hypocrisy is a sign of maturity. Or something.

Well, that just about wraps things up…

by matttbastard

This just in: 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who was never, ever tortured by US officials) freely admits he was the second gunmen on the grassy knoll and the father of Anna Nicole’s baby.

More from Shakespeare’s Sister, Kevin Hayden, and [REDACTED].

CSRT transcripts here.

update: Noah Schactman has a plethora of germane links.

Late Night Logic: Connect the Dots

by matttbastard

  • Of death squads, diplomacy, and bondage gear: Jon Schwarz on the real Salvador Option.
  • Hypocrisy knows no borders, according to Ignacio Ramonet.
  • The (still unrealized) right to walk outside unmolested: how Japanese ‘pervert trains‘ and all-American drive-by kissy noises contribute to the cross-cultural denial of women’s personal freedom.

The ‘Surge’: Three perspectives

by matttbastard

Leading journalists have been reporting for some time that the war was hopeless, a fiasco that could not be salvaged by more troops and a new counterinsurgency strategy. The conventional wisdom in December held that sending more troops was politically impossible after the antiwar tenor of the midterm elections. It was practically impossible because the extra troops didn’t exist. Even if the troops did exist, they could not make a difference.

Four months later, the once insurmountable political opposition has been surmounted. The nonexistent troops are flowing into Iraq. And though it is still early and horrible acts of violence continue, there is substantial evidence that the new counterinsurgency strategy, backed by the infusion of new forces, is having a significant effect.

– Robert Kagan, The ‘Surge’ is Succeeding

Contrary to what the president says, there is so far no reason to believe that the new security plan has made a big difference in the lives of Iraqis. The massacre of the Shiite pilgrims this week is among the more ominous developments. Protecting the pilgrims was the most important thing the government could have done. That so many were killed is no harbinger of progress. Three weeks into the surge, the Sunni Arab guerrillas are running rings around both al-Maliki’s forces and those of the U.S. How some extra troops for half a year will change that remains about as clear as Baghdad’s sky during a spring sandstorm.

– Juan Cole, Is the Bush surge already failing?

I witnessed the fighting; it was all around me, the army vehicles shooting into the orchard, the shooting back, not more than thirty meters away from where I stood; bullets flying everywhere.

I visualized my daughter’s life without me, the hardship of having no real home; and my son, still twelve, after having lost his father and older brother, to lose his mum, too, at this age would unbalance him forever.

Pease God, spare me … At that moment I realized why so many Iraqis were willing to lead a deprived existence in Jordan, Syria, or anywhere away from this hell on earth; I realized, too, that I had been too quick to judge them.

I walked into the office at ten, said I was sorry for being tardy – and that’s all; my very real brush with death is nothing fascinating, it’s everyday news; it was just me this time.

– “Sahar”, Tardy


Playing Hooky

by matttbastard

Via Cernig, this AP wire report doesn’t bolster one’s confidence in the stability of Iraq’s political foundation:*

Iraq’s parliament failed to reconvene as scheduled Tuesday because so few members showed up after the month’s recess.

Only about a dozen of the 275 members of parliament appeared at the Green Zone parliament building. Officials said the assembly would not try to meet again until sometime next week.

The legislature has several urgent items to consider including the oil law, constitutional review and changes in regulations that effectively bar many Sunnis from government jobs.

Sadly, the recent truancy of Iraqi MPs merely continues a trend (compounded by the now-defunct Sadrist boycott) that began last November (via Secular Blasphemy):

Nearly every session since November has been adjourned because as few as 65 members made it to work, even as they and the absentees earned salaries and benefits worth about $120,000.

Part of the problem is security, but Iraqi officials also said they feared that members were losing confidence in the institution and in the country’s fragile democracy. As chaos has deepened, Parliament’s relevance has gradually receded.


Some of Iraq’s more seasoned leaders say attendance has been undermined by a widening sense of disillusionment about Parliament’s ability to improve Iraqis’ daily life. The country’s dominant issue, security, is almost exclusively the policy realm of the American military and the office of the prime minister.


The largest group of absentees consisted of unknown figures elected as part of the party lists that governed how most people voted in the December 2005 election. Party leaders in Baghdad said they had urged their members to attend but emphasized that for many, Parliament had become a hardship post.

According to the Times, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the Speaker of Parliament, wants to fine and, if necessary, replace absentee parliamentarians. One small problem: he needs a quorum to pass the proposed legislation. Keep this in mind the next time someone tries to cite ‘democracy’ in Iraq as one of the invasion/occupation’s (few) examples of ‘success.’

*Also giving one pause: al-Maliki’s upcoming cabinet shuffle. If, as rumoured, the 6 Sadrist ministers are sacked, we may be speaking of his fragile coalition in the past tense.

Late Night Logic: Dualism, Contradiction, Torments of Hesitation

by matttbastard

blog!blog!blog! edition

  • Post-Cold War Ur-Fascism? Larisa Alexdandrovna examines the burgeoning extreme far right in Russia (and the US).
  • At least she didn’t say the other ‘F’ word: Glenn Greenwald incisively highlights the gross hypocrisy of professional media handwringers like Howard Kurtz, noting minimal MSM outrage at the recent CPAC convention appearance by She-who-shall-not-be-named. Via Digby.
  • Steve V believes that recent comments by Gerard Kennedy questioning Liberal leader Stephan Dion’s strategic focus on Question Period (rather than Kennedy’s preferred strategy of engaging in low profile, long term base-building consultation with the party grass roots) display “a defeatist short term flavour.” related: The CPoC fiddles, the MSM marches in turn.