Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Translating Kinsella #5

During my usual morning strolling about the web, I am astonished to find out that our parliamentary democracy is in trouble. After all if Coyne and Kinsella are in agreement, it must be true. The obvious response is, where the f*ck have the two of you been? Our democracy has been thinning and receding longer and faster than has Kinsella's hairline?

On the subject of thinning democracies, I wonder how many people read last week about Dr. Milner's (a political scientist: you know someone who knows something about political science) report charging Canada's political institutions with being among the most dysfunctional of any in Western democracies. From Fair Vote Canada:
Canada has replaced Italy as the prime example of unstable and ineffective political institutions, according to Dr. Henry Milner, writing in the just published winter/spring 2010 issue of Inroads: The Canadian Journal of Opinion. As he puts it:

"Political science undergraduates used to learn about Italy as the model of dysfunctional political institutions, characterized by frequent elections and constant uncertainty under minority governments at the mercy of shifting political alliances. Italy transformed its electoral institutions in the 1990s, and while hardly perfect now – as the antics of Signor Berlusconi demonstrate – it has lost its place as model of dysfunctionality among stable democracies to, of all countries, Canada.

Dr. Milner is one of Canada’s leading academic authorities on electoral systems. The complete article is available here.

“Every nation wants to be number one at something,” said Fair Vote Canada President Bronwen Bruch, “but our political leaders should be ashamed of this dubious achievement. How long will they continue to impede electoral reform in Canada? How low does voter turnout have to fall and how high does public cynicism have to grow before they take action? Let’s hope there is a young Tommy Douglas of Democracy out there with the courage and ability to push ahead on long-overdue electoral reform.”
Our political institutions are a joke, our electoral system is inherently undemocratic, our levels of political apathy and lack of civic engagement: unprecedented. I don't need the detainee issue to tell me that our democracy is in crisis!

Phrase du jour: "crisis in our democracy" sometimes used interchangeably with "democratic renewal" (cf. Dalton McGuinty). When a prominent Liberal uses either of these phrases, it typically means "The Conservatives are overtly undermining what we erode surreptitiously and more elegantly. Besides when we get caught we have the good grace to say "oops we're sorry, let's move on now". Now let's count the votes, I think we can win."

There is a glaring difference, however, between the two warnings regarding the state of our democracy. Andrew Coyne, to whom am I ideologically opposed, writes with his usual deliberateness, genuineness, and competence. Coyne, let's not forget, is one of the few conservative (or liberal for that matter) voices in defense of electoral reform.

Warren Kinsella's lament over the state of our democracy, very quickly and predictably reveals itself as little more than an opportunity to hammer Conservatives and gain leverage in a purely political game. If Kinsella thinks the Liberals have been any less complicit in the erosion of our democracy, he is not only incompetent, he is delusional.

What troubles me most, however, is that more people may inform their opinions of the current sate of our democracy from the likes of Kinsella than from those who are more capable and knowledgeable. This is not a matter of being ideologically neutral in political commentary (that is impossible in my view), but it is a matter of competency, integrity, and knowledge. Kinsella's very skilled at manipulation and messaging (i.e. politics), although I'm not sure I'd consider him an academic authority on political science.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Translating Kinsella #4

What's the difference between a Tory and Liberal?

Easy. The Tory stabs you in the front. The Liberal stabs you in the back. Yet, a knife by any other name would still be a neoliberal procapitalist swine nose deep in the pockets of big business and more concerned with votes than with people.

Anyway onto the word du jour: APOLOGY.

When Kinsella or any Liberal make an apology it means neither an apologia (to speak [rationally] in one's defense) nor the more contemporary "apology" (an expression of sincere regret for harmful action). Indeed, in the Liberal world an apology actually means the very opposite: a fleeting admission of wrongdoing followed by a rambling disavowal or rationalization in the desperate hope of not having an unethical action cost too many votes nor linger belatedly in the public's mind.

We've seen Kinsella apologize publicly for his public stupidity (i.e. his blog) several times (his sexist portrayal of Lisa Macleod, his racist insensitive remarks), so one would think he's learned a thing or two about contrition, reparation, apology. So how did he respond to the latest Liberal fiasco (an utterly tasteless photoshopped version of the famous photograph of Ruby shooting Oswald in the stomach in which Oswald's face is replaced by Stephen Harper's)???

Kinsella's response was remarkable only in its predictability. First, take the high road. Admit it was stupid and as he says "full stop". Oh, if only that were the case! "Full stop" for Kinsella means two things. First, look at me, I'm an honourable man who could threaten to equivocate but instead I'll assume the full brunt of my unethical actions. In reality, it's a pause of breath in order to buy time to equivocate and rationalize. Note the line immediately following "full stop". The lesson is not that being an asshole is wrong, but simply be more careful next time with the crap you post. Although, based on Kinsella's public blundering, I'm not sure he's the best person to hand out that advice.

Next, comes the equivocation and rationalization that undermines wholly an attempted apology. What we did was stupid BUT you haven't heard the rationatization yet.

1. Conservatives did the same with Dion.

2. At least we disciplined the idiot responsible (I wonder if Kinsella reprimanded himself after his cock ups)

3. We "apologized" (which we immediately disavowed through all this rationalization)

Of course nothing resembling a real apology was ever forthcoming. There is no ownership of the offence, no regret, no contrition. Only disavowal, beautifully embodied in the image captioned "Liberals apologize for photo". Rather than holding up the offending material in an act of contrition, Kinsella is holding up an image of Dion, which he hopes will rationalize the behaviour of Liberals and exonerate them in the eyes of the public.

One last thing. What to make of Liberals when they behave unethically yet refuse even to "apologize", even in the Liberal sense of the term?? I'm thinking here of their desperate smear of my MPP, in which Kinsella was a seminal participant. Does it get much worse than attempting to besmirch a person's long earned character with something they did 40 years ago as a teenager while living on the streets of Toronto? Does it get much worse than attempting to label someone as a friend of pedophiliacs and "axe murderers" by willfully misreading passages in an award winning theological treatise and in her past sermons? Does it get much worse than translating scurrilous libel into Polish and targeting the Polish/ Catholic households in the hopes of raising their wrath against an upstart United Church minister? Yet, never an apology by any of them. Is that because their pangs of conscience prevented them from issuing their typical hollow apology? Or are they just assholes? Something tells me the former is less of an option!

Harper scares me, but no more than a Liberal. After all, a knife by any other name ...