Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nine years to make a dustier Beirut

That's all I can think when I read this:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan is exploiting the troubled United States military effort in Afghanistan to drive home a political settlement with Afghanistan that would give Pakistan important influence there but is likely to undermine United States interests, Pakistani and American officials said....

Pakistan is presenting itself as the new viable partner for Afghanistan to President Hamid Karzai, who has soured on the Americans. Pakistani officials say they can deliver the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of Al Qaeda who runs a major part of the insurgency in Afghanistan, into a power-sharing arrangement.

In addition, Afghan officials say, the Pakistanis are pushing various other proxies, with General Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with the Taliban leadership.
Boy, nothing screams stability and prosperity like "tri-partite power sharing between heavily armed factions in a narco-state".

No, wait, that doesn't sound right at all.

So, if this comes through the endgame will be more or less what people predicted years ago: the Taliban win, in that they survive and return to some kind of operation power. (I continue to believe that Karzai's position within any power-sharing arrangement will be brief, and possibly end on a lightpost.) Pakistan maintains its strategic depth in Afghanistan, and India gets a little more boxed in.

Sure makes the last few dozen dead Canadians worth it, doesn't it?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

China's role in Middle Earth

Middle Earth here meaning, roughly, "places that aren't rich & white, or Japan." Three data points.

1) Sometime in 2002-2003, African GDP started going rapidly upwards in a way it had not for some time. This is easily attributable to the commodity boom sparked by the Chinese economy. Whether this is an accurate attribution is another thing, but I think most leaders would perceive it that way.

2) China played a little-noticed, but vital, role in ending Sri Lanka's civil war on behalf of the Sinhalese. See especially this line:
Suddenly, thanks to China's diplomacy, the hectoring of the US and Europe didn't matter any more. After nearly 500 years under the thumb of the West, the immensely strategic little island in the Indian Ocean had a new sugar daddy...
Now, though this is far less direct, see the reports of Turkey becoming increasingly more independent of US wishes.
Turkey is seen increasingly in Washington as “running around the region doing things that are at cross-purposes to what the big powers in the region want,” said Steven A. Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations. The question being asked, he said, is “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?”
One quote does not a foreign policy make, but the NYT quoting the CFR is really as close to a formal statement of policy as you need.

The point isn't that China is pulling strings in Ankara -- hell, the Chinese have a warmer relationship with Jerusalem. The point is that China's mere existence -- even outside of areas where it's acting directly -- creates space for other smaller powers to act independent of the US's wishes.

The example of Sri Lanka is interesting to me because it happened in the context of a decade of US efforts to improve relations with India -- the one bright spot in Dubya's foreign policy. What does that do? Does India value a calmer southern coast? Or are they more concerned about the possibility of a Chinese naval presence in "their" waters?

I don't know.


Jesus, I'm a lazy blogger.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Probably like arugula

John Cole makes life worth living:
Uttering anything more complicated than “Drill, baby, drill” makes you an elitist. Apparently Obama should have grabbed his balls and said “Don’t worry, ‘Murica. We’re gittin ‘er done!”
Context here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ooh, more data on the merger idea

..but before I get to that, I'd like to take a purposeful digression to Dan Arnold's Mark piece about rebuilding the Liberals out west:
But there’s no reason the Liberal party can’t compete in large- and mid-sized cities in the four western provinces. The same types of people who vote Liberal elsewhere – older women, immigrants, well-educated Canadians – all live there.

And if you think westerners are just more conservative in nature, try telling that to the recent NDP governments in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and B.C. Hell, Edmonton is nicknamed “Redmonton” by Albertans.
I respect anyone who's willing to grapple with the fact that, yes, the Liberals are substantively unpopular in many parts of the country and this is not solely due to NDP intransigence.

That said, Arnold makes a little crack at the merger hubbub at his blog:
I foolishly overlooked the idea of blowing up the party as a solution, suggesting instead that the Liberals need to expand their support base outside of the GTA.
I noticed this only because there's yet another poll out about an NDP/Liberal merger, coalition, or cooperation of some kind. Harris-Decima has a poll (PDF) showing that:
  • 14% of Canadians support a post-election coalition between the parties
  • 13% support a merger before the next election, and
  • 28% support an electoral non-compete agreement.
I kind of feel like an electoral pact is sort of like a gateway drug to an eventual party merger: get your voters used to the idea of one slate of candidates, even if they technically have different party names.

More intriguingly, throughout the west there seems to be a correlation between support for merger and support for an electoral pact: in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, the numbers are pretty close with the caveat that Alberta's higher Conservative numbers bring the "no cooperation at all" numbers higher than elsewhere. British Columbia looks a lot closer to Ontario, perhaps because the two provinces aren't quite the electoral wasteland for the Liberals as the stretch between Thunder Bay and the Rockies.

Arnold may have only been making a joke, but I'd bet he's actually very correct: the stark choice is either rebuild Liberal numbers in AB/SK/MB or see some kind of merging of the parties.

re: mergers and acquisitions

1) While I still think the idea is basically a non-starter, the idea of a Liberal-NDP merger just keeps getting kicked around. Especially funny is the idea that the Liberals, in courting the NDP, would demand that it renounce socialism and embrace the mixed economy and accept Michael Ignatieff as leader. Sooo... if the NDP were willing to do all that, why wouldn't they have simply all signed Liberal membership cards?

2) Something to ask yourself when considering political mergers: in what year did Harper's Conservatives actually exceed the 2000 combined national vote for the old Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties?

Answer: a trick question--Harper still hasn't exceeded the combined political appeals of those electoral leviathans, Joe Clark and Stockwell Day.

1993, PC & Reform: 34.73%
1997, PC & Reform: 38.19%
2000, PC & CA total: 37.68%
2004, Conservative: 29.63%
2006: 36.27%
2008: 37.65%

The numbers are pretty clear: even with Sheila Fraser's help, the immediate impact of the merger between right and righter was for Harper to underperform the combined vote of Kim Campbell and Preston Manning. (!!!) People remember old Tories like Joe Clark heading for the doors, right?

A similar dynamic would undoubtedly play out in any NDP merger, especially with the existence of the Greens today.

There's some argument to be made for trying to unite the left, but the Liberal conditions that have been mentioned are ridiculous on their face, and a party that was actually capable of any kind of critical inquiry in to its circumstances would realize that.

One poll isn't conclusive, but it's all the data we've got so far so take a look at the Angus Reid poll from two weeks ago: In every merger scenario, the Tories gain -- but they gain the most if Michael Ignatieff is the leader of a merged party, and gain the least is Jack Layton is the leader. The Layton Hypothetical is the closest the merged party comes to actually keeping 100% of the separate party vote.

Now, this is not because Layton is a political genius, but because of something much more basic: Canadian politics has already been half-sorted. There are no more significant electoral gains for the Liberals on the centre-right. Old Joe Clark Tories have, more or less, been convinced that the new Conservatives are not gonna burn the place down, and have made their peace. That's why, in these hypotheticals, the Conservatives gain so little from exiled blue Liberals: there simply aren't that many left in Canada. (There are a shit-ton left in the Liberal Party, of course, and they're incredibly influential, but that's a separate issue.)

If there's going to be a single opposition to the Canadian Conservative party, the votes are going to have to be won on the left, not the right or even the centre. This has been the case for, oh, at least four years. Whether the Liberals are ready to learn this lesson or would instead prefer to lose another election and then blame the rest of us for not jumping on the Ignatieff bandwagon, is a question I leave for you.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Thoughts on one of my wedding gifts, and mortality

1) The existence of the Playstation 3 makes me resent the fuck out of young people today. If I had the kind of free time today I did when I was 13...

2) Speaking of, I've now reached the age where putting aside enough time to finish even one level of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 feels like a real victory for leisure over the rest of my life.

3) At some point in the future, I will yell at a child of mine to turn off that damn video game. Shortly thereafter, I will have to begin planning my father's funeral, because he will actually die of unending, pitiless laughter.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Oh, and by the way

Was radio silent because I got married on May 29th. There were Stormtroopers. And the officiant used the words "by the power of Grayskull", as previously agreed.

Aside from that, I can't really remember much.

My wife is already well on the way to winning the marriage, with the following quote: "Look: I'm married now, so I'm gonna get fat. I'm gonna be a fat motherfucker. I'm gonna wash myself with a rag on a stick."

I swear I wasn't even saying anything about her weight.