Friday, August 17, 2007

Bits 'n' pieces

I couldn't title this post "ephemera" without compromising my warm relationship with blogger David Thompson, but ephemera these are.

Item: Jason Cherniak comes clean on MMP

Although they might not admit it in public, the reality is that the NDP supports MMP because it will give them more elected politicians. Am I allowed to suggest that MMP is a bad idea for precisely the same reason?

As I said at his place, of course he is. Refreshing honesty, in fact, which might explain the Liberal troop surge against MMP going on at the moment.

I wonder whether you think it is right to have a referendum of the population on electoral reform, when at least 90% of them know even less about political systems than me. [Comment]

And, of course, he is absolutely right. But let's not stop there. I know a bit, but not much, about economics, maybe a little more on foreign affairs, not a great deal about Aboriginal issues, and very little about the federal-provincial relations thing. But I know more about this stuff than a lot of other people do. Why should we have general elections when so many people know even less about these matters than I? Democracy, as I never tire of pointing out, is far too precious to waste on just anyone.

Alas, Jason didn't stick to his admirable candour for long:

For the record, the number of NDP MPPs is not so much my reason for opposing MMP as it is a symptom of MMP that highlights my more principled concerns with it.

Darn. I kind of liked the guy when he went off-message for a moment.

Item: book panned, authors banned

A couple of American academics have run into a buzz-saw before their book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, has even gone on sale. As reported by CommonDreams, some of their fellow academics have reacted swiftly to diss the book and shut down discussion:

The subject will certainly prompt furious debate, though not at the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Jewish cultural center in Washington and three organizations in Chicago. They have all turned down or canceled events with the authors, mentioning unease with the controversy or the format.

As a sometime literary critic myself, I was most impressed with the critical methodology employed by
Aoibheann Sweeney, director of the Center for the Humanities at City University of New York. “I looked at the introduction," she said, "and I didn’t feel that the book was saying things differently enough [from an article written previously by the two authors].

(H/t Carson's Post)

Item: Protest TV at Montebello

This intrigued me. Politics is always theatre, but now it's TV. After a peaceful demonstration at the APEC summit in Vancouver was crushed by thuggish RCMP officers in 1997, the judge who later investigated the matter, Ted Hughes, stated that protesters have a right to be seen and heard in Canada, and that visiting leaders shouldn't be immune to lawful protest. So the Montebello demonstrators will be held in a couple of those infamous "free speech zones," but the summit leaders can watch them on closed-circuit television.

Alan Borovoy of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association thinks that having the zones next to the hotel is "progress," but in fact the holding pens (as protester Jaggi Singh rightly calls them) are more than a kilometre away. Nevertheless, he's nailed it:
as reported, he understands the concerns of protesters who want to "generate an atmosphere of political tension and disapproval." That, after all, is what protest is really about: not something somewhere else that one watches on TV. How effective is dissent if it's sequestered in special areas patrolled by police, and mediated through a glass screen?

Item: But on a lighter note...

Since we shouldn't spend our Friday fussing about our mutual funds, Hurricane Dean and the listening devices planted in our houses by the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, here's a cheery little story about spreading peace in the Middle East. Enjoy!

(H/t Dymaxion World)

UPDATE (August 18): Agence France-Presse points out the "virtual" nature of the planned Montebello protest. For some reason this reminds me of Jean Baudrillard on the first Gulf War.

No comments: