Thursday, December 31, 2009

Good Enough for Liberals

Michael Ignatieff. He's been the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada for a year and a couple of weeks as tonight ushers in 2010 and what a year it has been for the Liberal Party.

Look at it this way. When the Liberal party faithful anointed Mr. Ignatieff at the Vancouver convention in May, did any of them imagine the party and its leader would be where they stand today? Leaving aside the fact that there was no one else running, did the 97% who voted for the current leader really anticipate this awful mess?

As far as I can recall, Mr. Ignatieff held himself out as ready to lead the Liberal Party when he sought the leadership. I found it curious when, during his year-ender interviews in Toronto, he skirted around the abject shambles he's made by saying he's still 'learning the ropes.' Correct me if I'm wrong but did this fellow ever tell anyone he was running for "apprentice leader" of the LPC?

Why has Mr. Ignatieff fared so poorly? I suspect a main reason is that, like his followers, he somehow thought himself qualified for the job based on his record outside of politics. After all, he's a Harvard PhD with an first-rate academic history. That's all true and it is impressive but, then again, I've had some truly brilliant professors I wouldn't trust to walk my dog. The hallowed halls of Academia are full of brilliant people utterly ill-suited to the world outside where survival sometimes means having to mix it up.

I think Mr. Ignatieff's fatal flaw is that, like his predecessor and fellow academic, he suffers a serious deficiency in political instinct. He doesn't get it. His opponent isn't nearly as well educated as Mr. Ignatieff. Mr. Harper isn't remotely as accomplished, nor as well travelled, nor as highly regarded. But, and here's the truly big BUT, Mr. Harper has keenly honed political instincts. He's quick to take the measure of his opponents, to understand their strengths and their weaknesses. Then, carefully biding his time until the moment is right, Mr. Harper exploits opportunities to match his strength against his opponents' vulnerabilities.

Look at the Harper/Dion election. Battered by scandals, Harper waited until the public memory faded over a long, dull summer. The Dion Libs believed the end of summer would bring the return of Parliament and prepared to pick up where they left off. Mr. Harper, after all, had legislated fixed election dates. The Liberals were dozing off. But then, like a Panzer army bursting through the Ardennes, Harper struck, calling a snap election. Why? No reason. Over what? Nothing really. It wasn't so much an election as a blitzkrieg campaign to overwhelm the Liberal leader, to make the public fearful of his horribly bungled "Green Shift" policy. Harper didn't even introduce any Conservative policy at all until the very last week of the campaign - and he didn't have to - and he knew it. Dion and the Liberals went down in flames.

Anyone who ever underestimated Harper's political instincts after Dion's trashing had no business in opposition politics.

Harper was genuinely cautious about Mr. Ignatieff at the start, even to the point of acting collegial at times. That didn't last long. At first, Harper was worried about his government falling to a coalition. He was so worried about it he furiously lied to a gullible/ignorant Canadian public about plots to illegally topple a democratically-elected government. It worked. The opposition was unable to fight back with the truth. It couldn't even beat Harper over the head with his own lies. Ignatieff got cold feet. Harper called on the Governor-General and got her to prorogue Parliament (which as Madam Jean has recently shown is about as tough as a first-grader getting permission to go down the hall to the bathroom because he has to pee).

Now Mr. Ignatieff, if he had a shred of the political acumen he purported to have in seeking the Liberal leadership, ought to have known the recess marked the commencement of a war and a very limited window to prepare for it. The economy was faltering, Canada was dreading a meltdown and Parliament was locked out. It would return only when the Harper Cons were ready to unveil their idea of a "stimulus" budget. This practically was an engraved invitation for the Libs to roll up their sleeves, toil through the night and be prepared, on the return of Parliament, with an alternative stimulus budget of their own to lay before the Canadian public.

What happened? Nothing. The Liberal leader took the opportunity to focus, not on Canada, but on himself. He used the extended, paid leave to finish writing a book about his mother's family. WTF? When Parliament returned, Mr. Ignatieff arrived rested and empty-handed. He made the Liberal Party of Canada a joke.

Having chosen to return to Parliament utterly unprepared, Ignatieff had little choice but to fall into line and sign on to Harper's "Pinata Budget" while mumbling sophomoric threats about putting the Harper government "on probation." Canadians watched - and giggled - and came to their own conclusions about Mr. Ignatieff.

Then followed 50-some votes in which the Libs propped up the Cons even as they uttered threats to bring down the government. By summer the IgLibs finally mustered the guts to seriously threaten Harper only to be undercut by the NDP until they finally discovered what they should have known - that the Canadian public would kick the Libs to the curb if they forced another election. Yet another black eye for the Liberal Party.

Canada's government is terrible. It's almost as bad as Canada's Official Opposition. Being in opposition is supposed to be much easier than being in government. It's where you have the freedom to begin showing the electorate that you're actually ready to govern. The Ignatieff Liberals, so sadly, haven't shown the public they're ready to be Official Opposition never mind an actual government.

Now Parliament is again prorogued with the Liberal opposition left to whimper and whine. Some suspect Harper will strike again when Parliament returns in March, calling yet another snap election (after he has further stacked the Senate). But wait a second. The Liberals are already booked for March, aren't they? Isn't that when Mr. Ignatieff has scheduled his "Thinkers' Conference" to toss around Liberal policy ideas? Well maybe they'll "think" of something but I'm not betting on it.

We know that Harper can't win a majority on his own and his record doesn't warrant that outcome in any case. However he can and may just win that cherished majority in the next election and, if he does, he'll be deeply indebted to the Liberal leadership current and past. They haven't figured out that, if you want to beat Stephen Harper, you have to think like Stephen Harper.

Maybe, just maybe, if the Canadian voting public gets another chance to press the Liberal's "reset" button, this time they'll listen.

And with that, I take my leave - for the next month or two or three. Things change so quickly these days. Much can happen in barely a season. I will keep my fingers crossed for the Liberal Party and will continue to hope that it will find its way back out of the desert. Bonne Courage!


Liberal Justice said...

Well I for one am glad that Iggy wrote his book about his mother's family. It helps establish his family's credibility and his qualifications. Perhaps if there was more loyalty to Iggy there would be more support. Yes, he's an academic, and you might recall another academic that led our party, his name was TRUDEAU! Ignatieff will be the next Prime Minister of Canada despite naysayers like you and until then loyalty should be the key word in the Liberal Party!

The Mound of Sound said...

Trudeau, LJ, had a lot of real world experience Iggy so lacks. He also had a much better intellect and very, very keen political instincts. He understood politics to be a blood sport and never ran from a fight.

Here's something you can do while I'm gone. Compare and contrast the first year of Trudeau's leadership of the LPC with the first year of Ignatieff's leadership. That should disabuse you of your silly illusions.

You're a damned poor supporter of Ignatieff if you use his name and Trudeau's in the same breath.

Liberal Justice said...

Well then why has Ignatieff been ranked as one of the foremost intellectuals in the world? But I'm not about to argue with someone who is not showing the loyalty that he should be showing.

LeDaro said...

Liberal Justice, loyalty to what? Liberals values or to a specific individual? Your comparison with Trudeau is, of course, utterly absurd. Trudeau did not hide his dislike for the likes of Nixon and Reagan and their neo-con values. Iggy is much closer to Harper and even worse closer to Bush. He supported both Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Iggy’s liberal credentials are dubious at best. You’re turning more people off by your pathetic logic than winning any supporters for Iggy.

Anonymous said...

For the Cons, the message is everything, reality can be made to conform. They demean the importance of an informed citizenry at every opportunity. ("Canadians are too busy to think about [fill in issue of the day]") They don't want participatory democracy or a grown-up conversation with Canadians. Surely, the Opposition
can do more with the boatload of hypocracy it is handed each and every day. But, ultimately, we have to decide if any of this is good enough for us.

Liberal Justice said...

In order to defeat Harper we need to be focused on a solitary goal, which is to defeat Harper. Going off message only hinders our ability to reach the goal. Yes, Ignatieff has values that are different from former Liberal values. But are we never to change?! Are we always to have the same values without any evolution of those values?! Ignatieff's set of world beliefs brings a breath of fresh air to the Liberal Party and should be embraced. You may disagree with some of Ignatieff's ideas, just as I am sure you disagreed with some of Dion's, Martin's and Chretien's. But in pursuit of our goal of defeating Harper you should be loyal to Ignatieff.

The Mound of Sound said...

Bullshit, Liberal Justice, rank bullshit! Ignatieff can't close the deal. That much is obvious. Yes he's an intellectual but he runs for cover whenever Harper glares at him. This is his first foray into an adversarial arena. Some can handle it, many can't and this guy is afraid to take a punch.

Being loyal does not mean turning into a lemming. I realize you don't buy that but that changes nothing.

There is nothing evolutionary in Iggy's move to the right. If you like his values you can get in the short line and vote for him. I come from a province with a genuinely conservative government masquerading as Liberal. Canadians don't need two conservative parties at the federal level. Harper may want to turn the Cons into his Republican idols. That doesn't mean anyone should allow Iggy to transform Libs into Democrats.

Ignatieff's "set of world beliefs" is an affront to everything Liberals have stood for since Pearson. It's rank, made in USA, neo-conservatism and it's the sort of warped thinking that's given us the world we live in today. That's not fresh air. It's the aroma of fresh horseshit.

You're right, I have disagreed with some policies of each previous Liberal leader going back to Trudeau when I first got involved with the party. Yet I was always able to support each of those leaders. If Iggy acted as though he respected liberalism I'd support him too. He doesn't and I don't.

As for Iggy's book, I don't care much about its merits. The facts you overlook are that he worked on that book while Parliament was locked out and Canada was teetering on economic catastrophe and Iggy was supposedly leader of the Official Opposition, living in the nice house and drawing a paycheque for it.

His job - his only job - was to deal with the looming recession and come up with a Liberal stimulus proposal, not write some stroke book. He chose to act like a teacher on holiday, not as the leader of the Liberal Party.

When Iggy toppled Dion, a lot of progressive Liberals were furious and packed up and left. I reluctantly stayed, urging angry Libs to at least give Ignatieff a chance to earn our respect.

Harper drove progressivism out of the Conservative ranks. Ignatieff has chosen to do the same to the Liberals and, in that, he has in my opinion debased the Liberal Party of Canada. I think he has harmed the party more than we realize and, judging by his miserable polling numbers, that's an increasingly common view.

Loyalty - that's a joke.

LeDaro said...

Liberal Justice, stop being delusional. Replace one Con with another Con. What you need is a new Liberal leader who understands grassroot Liberals and liberal values. Please stop selling snake oil - unless your target group is peasants.

Liberal Justice said...

Forget it, reasoning with you guys makes no sense!

The Mound of Sound said...

LJ, you're not into reasoning. You are a cheerleader. Every party and every organization has them. You're focused on supporting a party that so desperately needs reforming, even saving. Dion hobbled the LPC and Iggy has driven it straight into the ditch. Ignore that if you like but don't fault anyone else for refusing to do the same.

LeDaro said...

Yep, that is the word, cheerleader.

MoS, you seem to be doing well from the desert. Keep it up. I have been to Victoria and stopped at some Gardens on the way to Victoria but never saw a desert. Where is that desert on the island? :)

The Mound of Sound said...

Since you ask, BC has an extensive desert region in the southern interior but it's not particularly conducive to motorcycling right now. The desert I'm looking for is in Arizona/New Mexico/California/Baja. I'm awaiting delivery of a bit of equipment and undertaking the inevitable preparations and planning. You really don't want to wing it on rides like this unless you're looking for a world of hurt and woe.

Once all is checked out, packed and ready, then comes the waiting. What's needed is a weather window of about three days duration to get one safely down into central California.

I expect I'll take a netbook computer with me. They're really good for keeping on top of weather and road conditions, vacancies, etc. Who knows, maybe I'll even check out a few blogs while I'm travelling.

LeDaro said...

Happy travels and keep well friend. I will be looking forward to your posting from the desert.

Different folks different strokes. For me it is hiking and mountain climbing. No desert. Surely it must be relaxing for you. Again best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Do you know motorcycles emit "16 times more hydrocarbons, three times more carbon monoxide and a 'disproportionately high' amount of other air pollutants compared to a car."

Following is part of what was written:

"Someone asked if driving motorcycles is better for the environment than driving cars. I looked it up and was surprised to learn that motorcycles & scooters often have worse emissions than cars, even though they get better gas mileage. The reason is motorcycles and scooters have worse pollution control standards, so even though they emmit less CO2, the emissions of more potent greenhouse gases count for more than the CO2 emissions. The nuanced answer (given in the table below) is that 2-wheelers are better than cars in urban areas, and worse in rural or highway settings. Another factor is that carbon monoxide (CO), nitrous oxides (NOx), and unburnt gas (HC's) have bad human health impacts. So heavy emissions of those in a city is bad news.

Greenhouse Warming Potential in grams CO2-equivalent per kilometer Urban Rural Highway
Cars 310 180 220
Motorcycles & Scooters 260 190 330.

Emissions from Manufacturing
Even looking at these emissions, you'd think that the construction of a motorcycle would have less environmental impact, on average than a car. I thought so anyways. I looked it up on and got another surprise: motorcycles are worse than cars. A $15 grand car on average generates 9.41 metric tonnes of CO2-equivalent during construction. A $15 grand motorcycle generates 13.7. It's the same kind of thing when I looked at toxic releases: motorcycles were worse than cars."

Have you ever driven behind a motorcycle and especially a scooter? They stink galore. But maybe some motorcycles and scooters have pollution controls. Are there any produced?

Anonymous said...

And this little tid-bit:

Motorcycles And Pollution
Should We All Drive Instead Of Ride?
By Andrew Trevitt

Click to View GalleryA recent column in the Los Angeles Times painted a grim picture for motorcyclists based on emissions data. The story, "Inconvenient Truths About Motorcycles and Smog," explained how motorcycles emit more nitrogen oxides-NOX, byproducts of combustion that contribute to smog-and concludes by claiming that "Motorcycles, even small ones, are more polluting than Hummers."

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes, many motorcycle engines are real emissions hogs. There are some however that are well equipped with emissions control systems. There are twice as many catalytic converters on my bike than on my car, for example. My machine is far cleaner than the same model produced to European or Canadian standards. I did take that fully into account in selecting a machine to replace my Harley Davidson.

The Mound of Sound said...

By the way, AM, I suspect the 'reports' you're relying on aren't particularly relevant. If you want current information, you could review these excerpts of British MOT assessments referencing current Euro-emissions standards that came into effect at the beginning of 2006:

You will see that, even in head-to-head driving, modern MCs emit about half the CO2 of modern cars and significantly less NO to boot.

My machine is an improvement on the 2006 Euro standards. It has two spark plugs per cylinder and an elaborate oxygen management system that allows it to burn even Third World gas quite cleanly. It is fuel injected, not carburetted. It has a well thought out scavenging system and catalytic converter(s), emphasis on the "s".

If you're so interested in motorcycles you should invest the time necessary to explore the vast ranges in their design, manufacture, displacement and performance. Do you even understand that they're operated far differently than cars or trucks? You don't see a lot of motorcycles stuck in gridlock traffic because riders actively avoid those situations.

Yet again by relying on anecdotal media accounts you've demonstrated that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. And, please, spare me the idiotic comparison with Hummers.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, many motorcycle engines are real emissions hogs. There are some however that are well equipped with emissions control systems. There are twice as many catalytic converters on my bike than on my car, for example. My machine is far cleaner than the same model produced to European or Canadian standards. I did take that fully into account in selecting a machine to replace my Harley Davidson."

Good information.

Anonymous said...

"Yet again by relying on anecdotal media accounts you've demonstrated that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. And, please, spare me the idiotic comparison with Hummers."

Since you ride a motorcycle and information is being looked into from my end, I thought you might be a good source of information regarding one. As a matter of fact, comparision with Hummers was not my comment but part of the article pasted. As for my stupidity, at least I know desert like conditions exist in B.C. and also Southern Alberta in SUMMER. Your trip to the desert is definitely not a trip to the interior of B.C. at this time of year. MOS, knowing what one does not know is good to know......this is not an accusation but a comment about myself. Now...I am going to watch the repatriation of the five Canadians from Afghanistan. Have a good trip to the desert. Bye.

The Mound of Sound said...

Sorry for being a grouch. I apologize and thanks for your wishes.

Anonymous said...

A grouch? It's been a little more than that. Do return rejuenated with your former objectivity. A suggestion to think about.....drop the scathing negatives. It doesn't become your level of education. Apology accepted.

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