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Archive for April 2011

Previewing the 2011 Canadian federal election: Blue, Red, or Orange

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[For extensive coverage of the 2011 Canadian federal election, check out all the articles at]

UPDATE: C-SPAN 2 will carry the CBC feed starting at 10 pm Eastern on Monday. The results can’t be broadcast nationwide until 10 pm due to Canadian law. The coverage is scheduled to go for 4 hours. Set your DVR for all the fun.

Hopefully by now, you are aware of an upcoming federal election in Canada on Monday. Canadian voters go to the polls to select a MP in their riding, and then in turn, the party in power selects a prime minister.

Now there are five choices for prime minister, though two of them fall into the “not likely” category: Elizabeth May is the head of the Green Party, and while the party had just under a million votes in 2008, there are no current Green MPs. Gilles Duceppe is head of the Bloc Quebecois, a party that is separatist and only running MP candidates in Quebec.

Canadian prime ministers have either been red (Liberal) or blue (Conservative), but if polls are to be believed, orange (NDP) may be the color of 2011. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Jack Layton will be the next prime minister. However, Layton may have a lot of say in the next government, assuming the polls hold up. But as the Greens can attest, the race isn’t about votes, but ridings. If votes are split, other parties can capture the seat, even if it’s close. And MPs often don’t get 50% of the vote in a riding.

Then there are Stephen Harper (blue) and Michael Ignatieff (red). Harper has run the last two minority governments, stretching 5 years (the length of a standard majority government). And though Harper has come close to a majority, voters don’t seem to trust him or his party with that responsibility. While the Harper government doesn’t have the “super-scandal,” there are a lot of mini-scandals, including being the first government to be found in contempt of Parliament, which brought down this government and forced the election.

The Liberal Party is the opposition party (second most MPs in Parliament), yet is running third in the polls. And while the Liberals have dominated the prime minister’s office in the last 50 years, the party is lost. Not as lost as American Democratic politicians, but much more lost than the party has been.

Ignatieff is the 4th Liberal Party leader in the last five elections. And Stephane Dion, who ran as the party’s leader in 2008, was the first Liberal leader who ran in an election but stepped down without becoming prime minister since the 19th century. And Ignatieff has the baggage of spending much of his adult life in the United Kingdom and the United States. Plus, the Harper government has been running attack ads against Ignatieff long before the election started, a new precedent in Canadian politics.

Igantieff has proven to be a better candidate than Dion, and not the scary American monster that the attack ads tried to make him appear. In the English language debate, Ignatieff came across as fiery and passionate, while Harper ignored the rest of the group to robotically stare in the direction of the TV camera.

But Ignatieff’s ceiling for this election was prime minister in a minority government. He has ruled out an official coalition, talked into that by attacks from Harper. Then again, Harper has run an unofficial coalition for the last 5 years.

The safest prediction for Monday is that Canadians will give Harper yet another minority government, his third and Canada’s fourth in a row, dating back to 2004. But…

  • IF young people actually get out to vote, and the early voting numbers are significantly up over 2008.
  • IF the voting percentage gets back well above 60%.
  • IF more Quebec voters pick a federalist party instead of a separatist party.
  • IF the social media campaign — voter mobs, as they have been called — makes a vital impact.
  • IF Canadians who are unhappy that this is the 4th election in 7 years pick a government that will be around for awhile.

As for why Americans should care or follow what is going on: social media helped the 2008 U.S. campaign, but seemed pretty quiet in 2010. The young people, some of whom couldn’t vote in 2008 or 2010, will learn what worked and what didn’t in Canada from a social media perspective. Same continent, same primary language (French is Canada’s other official language; Spanish is the U.S. unofficial language).

The U.S. 2008 election had a higher turnout than Canada’s 2008 federal election, but that went against everything in the past. If history returns to form, the U.S. will want to know more about what makes Canada better, and if the downfall continues, that pattern will be worth studying.

If the NDP does come out of nowhere, the frustration in the American two-party system might be ripe to form a real third party.

The hope is that one of the C-SPAN channels will carry the CBC’s coverage of Election Night. C-SPAN carried the 2008 election coverage, and I know I watched the 2006 election coverage from somewhere; this might have been via C-SPAN as well. Check your local listings and/or stay close to for further updates.


Written by democracysoup

April 29, 2011 at 7:27 am

Keith Olbermann sets date for Current TV; Katie Couric’s CBS exit is official

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Ah! Have to love symmetry.

The nightly newscaster with the most credibility and the nightly newscaster with the least (non-FOX) credibility make news that warms our hearts.

Keith Olbermann announces that his new nightly newscast will have an old title: Countdown with Keith Olbermann. The show will debut on Current TV in the old time slot, 8 pm Eastern with repeats at 11p and 2a Eastern. For those who don’t get Current, and you should make sure you do, there will be an online presence to the program.

The major drawback is that I don’t get Current TV in HD. I finally got MSNBC in HD several days after the network let Olbermann go.

The other fear is that the show was almost perfect — before the end came — and have unfettered control could make for an angrier, more top-heavy program. Being free of control sounds good, but sometimes having control can make your show better. As long as Olbermann understands this, the new Countdown will be fine.

Oh, and stop making contributions to political candidates. That should still be a no-no, even on Current TV.

As for Katie Couric, well, who else did you think we were talking about. Couric told People magazine — somehow the fitting place — that she is leaving the CBS Evening News. Her future is in syndication, which would have been good for journalism and the planet if only she had gone that route 5 years ago. Katie, you will not be missed.

video from FOK — Friends of Keith

Olbermann announcement

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Written by democracysoup

April 26, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Written by democracysoup

April 26, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

If John Ensign were Democratic, he wouldn’t have lasted in the Senate until 2011

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Next time you are in a bar talking politics, or encounter an in-law or your sister’s date who decides to jump into the hot water of political discussion, and that person tells you that the media treats Republicans worse than Democrats, calmly tell that person the story of one John Ensign.

Amazingly, we have reached 2011 and John Ensign is actually resigning from the Senate (effective May 3), but only because the Senate Ethics Committee is finally getting serious about Ensign’s many sordid activities.

This isn’t just about the affair Ensign had with one of his staffers, or that she was on his payroll, and her husband was on the payroll, and that their teenage son was given a $5,400 job from a political operation controlled by Ensign, and that her salary was doubled, and that Ensign’s parents paid off the mistress. Well, it is about those events and the others that are too many to mention.

It could be about Ensign’s hypocrisy about calling on President Bill Clinton to resign in 1998 over far less than Ensign has done, and speaking on the Senate floor in 2004 in defense of the Federal Marriage Amendment (anti-gay marriage legislation), and said, “Marriage is the cornerstone on which our society was founded.” Or his involvement in the highly controversial C Street religious house in Washington.

The MSM, it is said, loves a political scandal. And really loves a political scandal with sex. Unless the politician is a Republican.

We saw more ink and video tape about John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer than John Ensign. Put one of those first two names in the blanks when Ensign’s name actually goes, and see what the reaction to that raw meat would be.

There has been more MSM coverage of Donald Trump’s impression of a birther than on the John Ensign sex scandal, and Ensign has better hair.

Yes, Ensign announced earlier that he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2012. We have known for almost two years about Ensign’s affair and other elements, yet finding stories outside the inner political circle were like looking for a job in 2009 or 2010. When the scandal first broke in 2009, and I was covering politics for my day job, we were stunned that the MSM would look at a juicy sex political scandal in the eye and look away.

Then again, we can’t be that shocked. David Vitter, fellow hypocrite and senator, in as much admitted to a crime — a sex crime — as U.S. senator — that didn’t warrant any significant coverage, especially given reports about visiting prostitutes back in his home state of Louisiana. And Vitter got re-elected after doing all of these things.

When thinking about the lack of coverage of Ensign and Vitter, you have to think about when Stephen Colbert did his take at the White House Correspondents Dinner. You could hear a pin drop as the MSM worked to obliterate Colbert’s name from the evening. Yet when you ask most Americans to remember one guest speaker from any year of the WHCD, and they will say, “Stephen Colbert.”

Not every story is a conspiracy by the MSM. But every so often, a story that obviously should be covered — isn’t. And those stories favor conservatives. If anyone from the MSM would like to share with us why the Ensign story hasn’t received more press, leave a comment. Or better yet, write a guest column. We would only edit it for spelling, grammar, libel, etc.

Help us out. Good reasons, bad reasons: just let us know why John Ensign and David Vitter received such glowing non-press.

Previous coverage:
Al Gore’s separation hurts him politically, but only because he is Democratic
The political pattern for 2010 is there is no pattern
The art of resigning needs long-term vision and a bit of patience

GOP threats not about spending cuts, but starving programs it doesn’t like

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True or false: Republicans like to cut spending and Democratic people like to spend.

This is the popular belief but it isn’t true, and even the parts that are true aren’t as straightforward.

In the last 20 years, the Republicans have cared about excessive spending twice, after extensive Republican runs as Democrats tried to increase spending on programs that were neglected under Republicans.

And when Republicans do care about cutting spending, their actions always come with the asterisk.

*Warning: Republicans only want to cut spending on programs that they don’t like. They will spend on things they like with no problem.

Now, in those two instances when Republicans care about excessive spending, besides underfunded programs that Democratic people like, we also have had severe economic problems. So when we need to spend money on infrastructure and on people who need help, they get pushed a side so that domestic spending can be cut.

The first time the Republicans went on this concerned rampage on spending, they threatened to shut down the government. While the PR from that time is the most remembered element, the GOP got a lot of what they wanted in domestic spending cuts.

Like Watergate, the GOP lesson isn’t in not doing something; the lesson learned is not to make it look bad. So magically, when the next time came to cut domestic spending, the threat to shut down the government also came back. And the Republicans were able to convince the public – okay, the MSM – that it wasn’t their fault.

The only two times that there has been a threat to shut down the government was a Republican-led House with a Democratic president. There is a developing pattern.

And now, there is the added threat of refusing to raise the debt ceiling. Sure there would be business and personal chaos on multiple levels. But this isn’t the Republicans’ fault: they have no choice.

Of course, the GOP is at fault. And it was their fault in 1995. The threats are a political strategy.

But the MSM thinks it is smarter than that. After all, they treat the incidents as a skewered football game. Even the folks at SportsCenter would be smarter on this topic than the MSM.

“Who won the battle?” The GOP. “Who lost the battle?” The American people. In 1995 and 2011.

Unlike 1995, even when the Republicans are clearly at fault, they insist that this isn’t their fault, it’s the teabaggers. Yep, the tea party is to blame for making them do this. Not up to the GOP, nope.

The ghosts of Edgar Bergen and Paul Winchell would be jealous since the GOP politicians’ lips don’t move when the teabaggers talk. Not that the teabaggers are saying what the GOP is telling them to say, just say the teabaggers are saying what the GOP politicians would say, if they could.

Bergen and Winchell knew their dummies were dummies, deep down. We aren’t so sure how the GOP feels about the teabaggers, but if they think the dummies aren’t real, their lips really aren’t moving.

Truly, the teabaggers aren’t the issue; the GOP is using threats from 16 years ago, long before the teabaggers were involved. Just that the success rate is increasing.

The GOP is getting those domestic cuts that they want in a time when this country needs more spending at home, not less. Millions are still out of work or severely underemployed.

And the MSM still treats this as a game.

Oh, but you might say, the Dems did “win” because the cuts weren’t made to Planned Parenthood. Well, like the GOP and welfare in the 90s, if you cut funding completely, you lose your villain. Can’t threaten to take away funding if there is no funding. Amtrak is still alive, after all.

When Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) gets up on the Senate floor and says well over 90% of PP funding goes to abortions, and it’s 3%. And then Kyl’s office says “his remark was not intended to be a factual statement.” Of course not, because the GOP attacks on Planned Parenthood have never been about facts. Ever. Or their other attacks on where funding goes in the domestic budget.

The perception that the Republicans want to balance the budget isn’t true. They want to starve the federal government and reduce domestic spending. They are glad to give out tax breaks for the rich and spend what little money is left on defense spending and wars. And then to “save” money, they had out contracts to private companies to fight “our” wars.

But this doesn’t wrap up well on the back of a postcard. “Republicans cut spending, Democrats spend” is easy, even if it isn’t true. “We have to make the threats, we have no choice” is easy, and it isn’t true.

And until we figure that out, the American people will be at the mercy of the threat-makers. And no matter how the negotiations go, the threat-makers are the winners and the rest of us are the losers.

Canadian PM Stephen Harper copies Bush by ejecting people from campaign events

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Yes, our sister blog,, is hard at work covering the ongoing Canadian election cycle. And while not all of the nuances of the campaign will even make that Web site, the story of people being tossed out of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper campaign rallies had a memorable yet eerie familiarity.

Why it sounded just like what George W. Bush’s people did.

Harper has been justifiably criticized for striving to be a Bush wannabe on multiple levels. And Harper certainly pulled one out of Bush’s playbook.

Like the Bush scenarios, Harper’s people required guests to be registered. This made it easy for Harper’s people to find a political science major who had a picture of her with Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff on her Facebook page. Ignatieff had been to the same college Harper attended earlier in the campaign.

She was forced to leave, driven to tears, and removed by the RCMP, like the Secret Service in the States, designed to protect the leader,  not perform political stunts (like the Secret Service did for Bush).

For many more details, check out the story at