Tag Archives: election

Cool Politics

Wassup! gets political

On the eve of what is perhaps the most important US presidential election in a generation, the blogosphere is buzzing with commentary and prognostication. At 4080Records we’ve been following the race since the primaries, when it seemed inevitable that Clinton and Giuliani would be the candidates on tomorrow’s ballot. It has been a long and, honestly, exhausting two years. Tomorrow, once the results are tabulated and Obama is (hopefully) declared the 44th President, we will be relieved not only because Americans will have redeemed themselves, but also because the campaign is finally over and the constant barrage of poll numbers and punditry will have mercifully ceased.

Until then, check out this powerful video, starring (what looks like) the dudes from Budweiser’s classic ‘Wassup!’ ads:

Politics

Updates on the female candidates – Elizabeth May and Sarah Palin

I post this using the plural because I want to cover developments in both the Canadian and American elections.

Canada

In Canadian Politics, quite a lot has changed in the last few days.  Elizabeth May, the only female leader of a national political party will now be allowed to enter the TV debates, despite earlier reports.  Originally, the leaders of both the NDP and the Conservative Party had opposed the inclusion of May in the televised debates.  Stephan Dion, the Liberal Party leader, comes off looking very well after being the only major leader to openly support her inclusion.

The general public seemed quite upset, especially with NDP leader Jack Layton.  Intense pressure from supporters resulted in Layton backing down.  Once that happened, Harper immediately changed his tune and removed his opposition to May’s inclusion as well.  This will mark the first time the Green Party is included in the televised debate, and is a major shift in the Canadian Political landscape.  The big “fear” from the Conservatives and the NDP is simply that her and Dion will team up and represent some of the same platform points.  It’s a bit unfounded, because the NDP also shares many of the same platform points as both the Liberals and the Greens, and yet no one is worried about t heir inclusion.

America

In other news, Sarah Palin continues both to impress and anger at the same time.  She is also a pretty strong public speaker, but her speeches so far have been laced with more than a few examples of inflamatory rhetoric, and also more than one lie.

The big one?  Her purported opposition to the “Bridge to Nowhere”.  She claims she said “thanks but no thanks” to Congress when they offered her $200 million dollars for this bridge.  However, local politicians from both major parties have come out against this.  The truth of the matter is that she was a major supporter and lobbier on behalf of this earmark, and once the money was received and the political winds changed, she changed her mind and said “no”.  But then she kept the money. That’s right.  This Yahoo! News article has much more information on some of the fiscal scandals plaguing her.  The other big issue is her opposition to a Federal oil profits Windfall tax (which Obama supports), while in her state she has done just this.  Alaska has had a major oil tax, but Palin rejigged the whole thing to make the state receive more of the income.

There is also a growing fear of Palin’s theocratic tendencies.  While faith in politics has been a major factor in American politics for the last two elections, here it becomes even more curious.  Over and above the accusations of Obama being a secret muslim, there are more serious accusations about Palin.  Juan Cole of Salon.com has written a scathing article.  Here’s a short piece: “But the values of his handpicked running mate, Sarah Palin, more resemble those of Muslim fundamentalists than they do those of the Founding Fathers. On censorship, the teaching of creationism in schools, reproductive rights, attributing government policy to God’s will and climate change, Palin agrees with Hamas and Saudi Arabia rather than supporting tolerance and democratic precepts. What is the difference between Palin and a Muslim fundamentalist? Lipstick.

Cole goes on to compare Palin’s positions on abortion with a variety of Islamic countries, and notices that herr position lines up nearly identically with that of Iran.  Cole even notes that Tunisia allows abortion in the first trimester, while Palin vehemently argues it is always an “atrocity”. She’s also let it be known she doesn’t believe that climate change is man-made, which is diametrically opposed to the views espoused by both the Obama campaign and her own running mate, John McCain.

Despite these…questionable attitudes on certain subjects, Palin has been a huge source of strength to the McCain campagin.  As a staunch conservative, she has re-energized an unimpressed Republican base and has been a great source of funding for McCain.  Obama’s campaign has actually begun to fall behind in terms of fundraising in the weeks since she has been announced.

For a more detailed (and sligtly more balanced view) of Palin and some of her policies, check out this Newsweek article.

Conclusion

Overall, two strong women are participating in national politics in North America.  This is less of a “big deal” in Canada, which has already had a (albeitly short-lived) female Prime Minister.  However, this is still something to be proud of.  In both countries, this is likely to be one of the most interesting and engaging political races in modern history.

Featured Politics

Canadian Electoral Politics: What you need to know

The upcoming Canadian Election is major news, but only for Canadians.  It’s absolutely overshadowed by its much bigger cousin to the south, and frankly isn’t getting the media coverage it deserves. And, frankly, Canadians are probably sick of elections.  This is the 3rd federal election in 4 years, and the last two both resulted in minority governments.

So here’s the first annual 4080Records Guide to Canadian Politics.

The Parties

Canada has a unique four (sometimes five) party system.  There are more, obviously, but there are four main parties that seem to actually have influence.

The Conservative Party of Canada

Led by Stephen Harper, this is the party currently in power with a minority government.  Having only recently emerged from the mess that was the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative parties, this past election was the first Conservative win since the Mulroney/Campbell fiasco of the early 1990’s.

Their record over the past year has been somewhat positive, fulfilling a few of their campaign promises (including increased military spending).  In recent polling, things are looking rosy for the Conservatives, with some estimates even projecting a majority for them.

The main issue here is the public perception (as always).  In this case, Harper has very strong polling figures as a “leader”, but the Conservative party itself does not get all that much love and respect.  So the focus of this election has been on playing up Harper’s virtues and virtually ignoring the party itself.  In fact, the new party slogan is “We’re better off with Harper.”

The Conservatives, whether you like them or not, have also taken a rather negative approach to the campaign to date.  Beyond the ‘positive’ messages playing up Harper’s virtues, the other tactic is an extreme set of attacks on Liberal Leader Stephane Dion’s alleged inability to lead.  From launching a website (http://www.notaleader.ca) aimed at young voters (you can play Flash games mocking the liberals) it also once featured an animated ad of a puffin pooping on Dion.  I kid you not.  It’s kind of a low-brow attack considering much of the focus seems to be on the Dion’s less than great grasp on the English language.  But hey, that’s what the site’s all about.  They also take aim at completely ludicrous things, including the fact that Dion allegedly ate a hot dog with a knife and fork.  Big deal! One of the better moves is their use of Dionbook, a Facebook satire that will probably get them sued in the end.  It’s somewhat funny.

Harper has also been instrumental in excluding the Green Party from the televised debates.

Major Platform Points

  • Arctic Sovereignty – insisting that northern territorial waters be respected, and that ships using the pathways must first report to Canadian Authorities.
  • Increased Military Spending – more troops in the standing army and better equipment.
  • Better relations with the United States
  • Cut the tax on jet fuel and diesel
  • Oppose Kyoto

Some actions as the Government

  • Reduced GST by 2 percentage points (down to 5%)
  • Cut court challenges program
  • Commissioned the creation of a new deep-water vessels for Arctic patrols
  • Introduced childcare benefit
  • Introduced legislation creating fixed election dates.  (then called a snap election)

The Liberal Party of Canada

The Liberal Party is often referred to as Canada’s governing party.  They’ve remained in power for the majority of time in the past 50 years, at least until the 2004 election.  In fact, they’re still facing the political fallout of the sponsorship scandal which is pretty much what swept them from power.  Paul Martin, Liberal leader before Dion was not successful in maintaining his minority government.  After his failure to lead the Liberals to victory in the 2006 election, there was immediately a Liberal leadership race to try and choose someone more appealing to voters.  Somehow, the Liberals chose Stephane Dion.

He was, by many pundits opinions, the least likely of the the three main contenderrs to win.  Somehow, he came through with it and has yet to impress.  His voting record has been spotty and he hasn’t done a good job of demonstrating his ability to lead with strength.  This is the focus of many of the Conservative’s attack ads, and  what will probably be the hardest thing for the Liberals to overcome.  Unlike Harper and the Conservatives, the Liberals have a strong party brand image but a perceived weak leader.

To counter the Tory website, the Libs have launched Thisisdion.ca.  It’s a much less flashy site and also remains slightly more positive (but equally as silly).  The focus of this is to showcase just how ‘rugged‘ Stephane Dion truly is.  They’ve also done Scandalpedia.ca, an attempt at a wikipedia entirely based on Conservative party scandals.

[Source: CTV]

Major Policy Points

Specific Proposed Actions as Government

  • Double childcare benefit for low-income families
  • Reintroduce court challenges program

The New Democrat Party

This party has more in common with the Conservatives than they would like to admit.  Self-professedly a ‘party of the left’, the NDP has been a bulwark of pro-union and quasi-socialist activity for many years.  And yet they’ve only begun to obtain mainstream acceptance under the stewardship of Jack Layton (pictured left).  The NDP is also relying heavily on the strength of their leader (an absurdly charasmatic individual) to prop up their party.

The NDP has been rather successful in provincial politics, having run governments in BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario at various times.  Federally, however, they have been much less successful.  The previous two elections (2006 and 2004) have been their best yet, winning 29 seats in 2006 and 19 in 2004.  In fact, in 2004 they were key in bringing down the Liberal government but were also paramount in propping them up for several key votes.  As the keeper of the balance of power in parliament, the NDP has recently enjoyed an unprecedented amount of influence.

This is likely to change.  Much the same way Nader is often blamed for the Gore’s election loss, many die-hard Liberals blame Layton for keeping Martin from achieving a Liberal majority back in 2004.  There are some who are predicting now that those less keen on the Liberal brand may feel their ‘protest’ votes had their intended effect and may now return to the Liberal fold.  I’m not convinced of this, but it will be interesting to see.

Main Policy Points

  • Shut down further tar sands development in Alberta
  • Fixing immigration backlog (recognize foreign professional creditionals)

The Bloc Quebecois

This party deserves (and will get) a rather short note.   Since they only run in the province of Quebec, and those outside of Quebec cannot vote for them, they are indeed a mainly regional party.  However, since Quebec has such a huge number of seats, they must still be reckoned with.

At one time they were a soverigntist party, attempting to encourage Quebec to secede from Canada.  This has largely fallen away in the past few years, and instead they have become focused on keeping Quebec’s unique status within federalist Canada.  Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have made considerable inroads into Bloc territory in Quebec, and the Conservatives especially seem poised to take quite a few seats in the province.

Policy Points

  • Promote Quebec identity
  • French language (equality with English as a national language)

The Green Party

The Green Party is, sadly, a bit of a joke.  Despite receiving nearly 5% of the national vote in the 2006 election, they won no seats.  Elizabeth May, their leader, has been raising some ruckus lately because she will be excluded from the televised debate in a few weeks.  This is not the first time this has happened to the Green’s, and likely not the last either.

Somehow people don’t seem to take them overly seriously, and apparently everyone except the Liberals were against them being in the public debate.  What’s especially upsetting for Elizabeth May is the fact that they are finally represented by an MP in parliament.  Thanks to the quirky rules of politics, a Blair Wilson, a former Liberal-turned-Independent-turned-Green MP, they Green’s would have finally had a voice.

May seemed to think that having this representative would guarantee her a chance to participate in the TV debates.  Something she has no doubt been hoping to do for a long time.

Campaign Points

  • Reduce poverty
  • Tax-shifting (similar to the Green Shift plan, they hope to shift taxes from income to discourage use of harmful things)
  • Reduce environmental impact

Conclusion

And there you go.  Everything you needed to know about Canadian Politics for the election.

Just in case you skipped over all the stuff above, here are the links to the party sites.

Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green, Bloc.

Featured Politics

Tsvingrai pulls out of Zim. Presidential race

4080 Records is no stranger to the Zimbabwe controversy.  We’ve been reporting on the developments there for quite some time now, and it is with a heavy heart that I must announce that Morgan Tsvingrai has pulled out of the Presidential Race.

Ever since he narrowly won the election a few months ago, there has been major speculation about what the “run-off” between Tsvingrai and Robert Mugabe would be like.  Pretty much everyone has reported that there is a better chance of Mike Jones winning a grammy than of this election being free and fair.

There has been a steadily growing campaign of violence against supporters of Tsvingrai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).  Mugabe has been blaming this on Tsvingrai, somehow claiming that he’s doing this to make Mugabe look bad.  Looking beyond the amusing denials of a senile old man, it is a definite tragedy that this is continuing.  70 MDC supporters have been killed so far, and many more have been detained or beaten.  A major opposition figure is even currently charged with treason, which could ultimately result in the death penalty.

Mugabe has pulled out all the stops, even getting the police to ban opposition rallies.  Somehow, the Zimbabwe court system overturned this ban and gave the opposition permission to hold their rally and campaign.  But the MDC rally was blocked.  This is apparently what caused Tsvingrai to finally pull out.

Here’s what he says:

“Conditions as of today do not permit the holding of a credible poll,” Mr. Tsvangirai told a hastily arranged news conference in Harare.

“We can’t ask the people to cast their vote on June 27 when that vote will cost their lives. We will no longer participate in this violent sham of an election.”

It’s true that the people of Zimbabwe (who are suffering insanely under the rule of Mugabe) were brave in voting against him in the first poll.  In a society that is as tightly controlled as Zim, it will be dangerous for them to try and vote against him again, unless the world pays closer attention.

It is majorly the fault of the neighbouring nations, especially South Africa.  It is with their support that Mugabe is able to continue his reign.  In recent weeks, more and more leaders have begun to turn against Mugabe, except for Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa.  If he doesn’t add his voice to the calls for Mugabe to step down, then Mugabe will likely continue his rule for a few years to come.

By not contesting this run-off, Tsvingrai will have handed a default victory to Mugabe.  He’s forfeiting, essentially.

It’s a sad day for Zim, and hopefully the world will take notice.

[Source: Globe and Mail]

Featured Politics

Edwards Endorses Obama

It’s funny, this is huge news, and yet it also isn’t.

John Edwards has finally made a decision in who to endorse, and has officially come out on behalf of Barack Obama. This will probably be the final blow to Clinton, but comes as no real surprise considering how much of an insurmountable lead Obama has.

There has also been a lot of talk that Edwards is gunning for a VP spot, and while I don’t doubt that this plays some factor, I also don’t believe he would get it. After Edwards’ failed VP run with Kerry during the last election, I think he’d be too much of a political liability. Instead, I think Edwards can expect a plum cabinet post, or possibly the Attorney General job if Obama becomes the president.

Newsweek is arguing that this will help Obama amongst white male voters. He’s obviously struggling to capture this vote, as his pummeling in West Virginia shows. However, I don’t think Edwards has the same pull as other Democrats may with the the so-called NASCAR Democrats. Despite actually being a Southern boy, he doesn’t come across with the down-home sensibility that is required to pull these voters for Obama. Despite his actual wealth, Edwards does seem to have some credit with lower-income Americans, having spent much of his campaign on extolling the need to address their problems. This can help Obama, as his largest appeal seems to be with the slightly higher-income demographic.

One thing is for sure, with Edwards coming out and publicly endorsing Obama, I think we’ll see another surge of Superdelegates moving over and finally declaring their support. Even if they wait for the formality of special meeting to do so, I think it’s over for Clinton.

Ideally, this will also push Clinton to start reducing her vitriol. Even if she continues to ‘campaign’, and refuses to concede, she should be careful not to stir up more trouble and damage Obama too much. It doesn’t help anyone to continue the infighting.

Edwards and Obama made a carefully staged announcement, calling for Democrats to unite against the McCain threat. It’s a smart move, because in many ways it further sidelines Clinton. Instead of even paying attetnion to what’s left of her campaign, Obama’s already acting like the nominee. Considering that it’s absolutely mathematically impossible for Clinton to win, I think that’s a safe bet. If the Democrats have any chance of winning, it’s important that they actually make a decision soon.

For those of you who missed it, John McCain made an appearance on Saturday Night Live, and you can watch it below.

McCain was quite clever and on point. Despite the fact that it was very obvious he was reading the teleprompter (his eyes were nowhere near the camera), he was making some very good points. He was teasing the Democrats and used the hosts of Weekend Update to mutter a “That’s right, fight amongst yourselves” that actually made me laugh. He knows that the longer the Democrats take to pick a candidate, the better his chances are.

That should be a major message to the Dems. if the Republicans are well aware of how your infighting is helping them, maybe it’s time to stop the bleeding.

Featured Politics

Zimbabwe is a crazy place

As you’ve all been hearing, Zimbabwe isn’t exactly in the best condition ever.  The recent elections were a huge slap in the face to Robert Mugabe. For the first time, this hero of the revolution has had a major setback.  Instead of the suspiciously large victories he’s been used to, Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party actually managed to lose.

That’s nearly unheard of in this country.  Zimbabwe is a place where election fixing, intimidation and other questionable practices have reached a new level of art.  The opposition has been beaten, arrested, outlawed, all kinds of things.

Mugabe has always maintained a strong grip on the armed forces and uses them to enforce his will.  Even more worrisome is his practice of using “war veterans” from the war for independence,  and youth members of his party to harass and intimidate voters.  Of course this is all denied, but seems pretty well documented in international circles.

And throughout it all, Morgan Tsvangrai has been a huge pain in Mugabe’s ass.  The leader of the main opposition (the MDC) has himself been bloodied and has had a tough go of things, and still refuses to give up.  Immediately after the election, he declared victory and steadfastly maintained that his party, combined with that of another opposition party had won enough to take away Mugabe’s majority in parliament.

Since then it’s been a tense time.  Mugabe has been saying that Tsvangrai may have beaten him in the actual presidential election, but not by enough to win outright.  Instead, they need to go into a run-off.

The reason this caused such a big issue is the fact that there was a huge delay in releasing the tallies of the votes.  It took days before any results were officially released.  Some independent monitors released what they could, but these were spotty at best.  Then came the ridiculous recount procedure that involved over a dozen seats. Interestingly enough, the recount still wound up with the opposition taking over a majority in parliament.

Finally, TODAY, more than a month after the election, the BBC is reporting that the official Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has said that Tsvangrai had won the initial vote.  He got 48% of the vote.  2% less than was needed to avoid a run-off.

Now this number is clearly questionable, but the sheer fact that they’re even letting people know that Tsvangrai won at all is a huge step.  Hopefully this will be the tipping point that ends up with Mugabe leaving.

Now as a quick background, Mugabe has pretty much run this country into the ground.  He started off as an incredible, inspirational leader.  But things slowly went downhill.  He was hell-bent on this policy of “land reform”, which basically meant confiscating land from white farmers and redistributing it.  Instead of giving it to the poor and dispossessed as he promised, he gave it to his cronies.  He used this land to help keep his grip on power and ensure loyalty.  This has caused food production to plummet and the economy to tank.  Unemployment is high.  Inflation is over 100,000%.  That’s not a typo.

And the worst part about all of this is no one is even sure if Tsvangrai is a good leader.  He’s a former union leader who became a politician.  I’m not sure if he’s capable.  This is one of those moments that’s become increasingly common (or so it seems lately), where it’s less a vote for a candidate and more a vote against the previous system.

Now we just have to wait and see what happens with the run-off.  Just keep your fingers crossed that we won’t see the same violence we saw in Kenya.