Daily Briefing – Go Canada! (And Other Stuff)

So, a day after I had to heap slobbering praise on British PM David Cameron for throwing a wrench in the EU agenda, I have to slobber all over Canadian PM Stephen Harper for calling out the Kyoto Protocol as the sham that it is. So – here’s a rundown of today’s news.

- Canada has become the first nation ever to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The Canadian environment minister said it was dated and that the costs outweigh the benefits, which is true. He was nice enough not to say that the whole framework is a sham that allows unlimited carbon emission increases in China and Russia, doesn’t really effect Europe, and only clamps down on America and our non-European allies. He also made a valid point that it’s kind of pointless to be involved with a scheme in which the two biggest emitters aren’t covered (the Chinese have an exeption, and the US never signed because it’s designed to disproportionately hurt us)

- David Shearer is the new leader of the New Zealand Labour Party. This is not a surprise. Shearer started as an underdog but became the establishment favorite after their first choice stumbled. He has less experience than his opponent David Cunliffe, but is more charismatic – he’s also on better terms with the establishment so u lime Cunliffe he won’t be shaking anything up. This means nothing now but Shearer will be formidable in a future election.

- Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has announced that he will run against Vladimir Putin next year…and seeing as he’s a filthy rich oligarch with a gazillion rubles in his back pocket, the only person who sees Prokhorov as a hero of democracy is Mikhail Prokorov. The rest of the opposition seems to think he’s merely playing spoiler. I have no clue what to think. I don’t trust him any more than I trust Putin but his platform will be center right capitalist. So, have fun Mikhail. As far as I see it, the opposition strategy to defeat Putin is, well, political Russian roulette.

Daily Briefing – Hail Brittania!

- I don’t praise British Prime Minister David Cameron very often, because I tend to think he’s a bit of a squish on the issues and that he’s dragging the Conservative Party down. However, one area where he’s taken some strong stands is the European Union and that deserves applause. Today, he VETOED a proposed EU treaty that would have severely curtailed the United Kindom’s sovereignty over it’s own fiscal policy, dictating everything from bailouts for other countries to penalties for deficits – event though all 26 other countries involved in the negotiations supported it. Not even Thatcher ever used a veto on EU treaties, so good on Cameron for having the nerve to stand up to the entire continent and tell them that Britain would control it’s own finances, rather than some unelected panel of bureaucrats in Brussels. Of course, the 26 other countries reached the agreement without Britain, but because of the veto they had to do it between themselves an not as act by the European Union. Hence, the EU can never force Britain, or any other country wishing to join, to pay for calamity caused by the Euro currency. I may not like Mr. Cameron’s touchy-feely politics, but when the chips are down on major world issues, he always surprises me with his spine – deep down inside he’s got a bit of what Thatcher and Churchill had, I just wish it came out more often.

- In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tinpot dictator Joseph Kabila has been “re-elected“….okay, you can stop laughing now.

- South Sudan’s foreign minister, Nhial Deng Nhial, says his country is “on the brink of war” with North Sudan after days of fighting along the border and a northern takeover of a southern town….remember that these two just separated within the last year. As expected, it looks like the northern regime has radicalized itself now that it doesn’t have to play nice with the South, and is clamping down on border regions and persecuting any blacks that remain north of the border. This is going to blow up eventually.

*Photo of David Cameron published under Open Government Licence v1.0

 

Daily Briefing – A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

70 years ago today, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, launching us into a war that defined the 20th Century, and whose effects resonate to this day. I wasn’t around to see that day, my parents weren’t around to see that day, yet we’re still here talking about it. That in itself should tell you the magnitude of what happened. May all those who died there, and in the war that followed, rest in peace.

As for the other news of the day:

- Check out my new column for The Daily Caller on why Puerto Rico’s governor may have a legitimate shot at becoming the Republican nominee for Vice President.

- Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has suffered a minor heart attack and is hospitalized in Dubai (I’m not sure which happened first). Now, when you’re leading an unstable government in a country embroiled in a major scandal, and you’ve infuriated the military, leaving the country is not a good idea. There were rumors that Zardari would resign and not return to Pakistan, but those have been shot down. That said, if anyone wants to stage a coup (and I’m sure plenty do), this would be the time. The next few days are going to be wild.

- Mikahail Gorbachev has called on Russian authorities to void the results of this weekend’s clearly-rigged parliamentary elections and hold a new vote – adding a whole new level of credibility to the anti-Putin fervor breaking out in Russia. This is a situation to keep a very, very close eye on. It’s not revolution, but it’s the first signs of serious opposition to Putin and his United Russia party, a development that could really change the course of Russian politics over the next few years. In a related development, it appears that Mikhail Gorbachev is in fact still around.

 

Daily Briefing – Europe, Europe, and..oh..Europe

So, catching up on the news of the weekend:

- Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party took a big hit in the Russian parliamentary elections. Of course, they still won, but down from almost to thirds to just barely a majority. Of course, the bad news is that a lot of that support went to the Communist Party. Unfortunately no breakthrough for parties I like – but anything is better than a one-party state.

- Belgium is finally ready to swear in a new government… a record-breaking 541 DAYS AFTER THE NATIONAL ELECTION. There was so much gridlock between the major parties that negotiations to form a majority in parliament took almost a year and a half – mainly due to the fact that the bilingual nation’s Dutch-speakers elected a right wing separatist party and the French speakers elected a socialist anti-separation party. At the end of the day, the only solution was to leave the separatists out in the cold and form a grand six -party coalition including almost everyone else. Socialist leader Elio Di Rupo becomes the Prime Minister from the French-speaking half of the country since 1974 (interestingly, Di Rupo is himself Italian, the son of immigrants).

- Slovenia’s national election was a big surprise, giving victory to a brand new centre-left party founded by the mayor of the capital, Zoran Jankovic. It had been expected the the left-wing government would be thrown out in favor of the right-wing party, and that’s what polls showed – but Jankovic and his “Positive Slovenia” party ended up on top after the votes were counted. Now we have to see what he does as Prime Minister

-   In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has moved up the upcoming primaries for the leadership of his Likud Party. The vote will take place in January. This gives Netanyahu an easy ride to re-election as party leader at the peak of his popularity, and also saves the party money by timing the vote to coincide with their national conference. However, in theory, the early selection of a Likud list of candidates for the next election could mean that Netanyahu may want to hold that election early, a good move considering that every party but his is in chaos right now.

- And one last election. Croatia has turned out it’s conservative government in favor of the left. This is partly due to corruption charges surrounding a former conservative prime minister, but also because Europe is mad at their rulers and the ”ins” are being voted out and replaced with the ”outs” – regardless of what the ideology of the “ins” are.

Quick Thoughts on the NDP Leadership Debate

Just a quick recap of today’s debate in the race for the leadership of Canada’s socialist New Democratic Party (see previous post for why this matters, and check out my twitter account for my live tweets).

Nobody landed any hard blows or broke out of the pack, so nothing changes from my previous rankings concerning who is in the top tier and who isn’t. We did, however get a taste of how each of the candidates look under the lights, and how they might look leading Canada’s left-wing in Parliament against Stephen Harper. I didn’t watch the French language half, but here’s what we learned from the English:

THE FRONTRUNNERS

Brian Topp: The party president and consummate backroom strategist showed that he can in fact operate as a politician, but with some eccentricities born of inexperience.  He was feisty and eloquent, but perhaps too much so – he mounted a rather aggressive attack on Paul Dewar’s jobs plan, which was odd as Dewar isn’t much of a threat. He also does this weird move where he cocks his head to the side when he talks, this needs fixed. But overall a good showing.

Thomas Mulcair: Mulcair was calm and professorial, and honestly I can’t remember much about his performance. Competent but not the fiery Mulcair we’re used to. Not bad, not great, but probably put to rest some questions about his temper.

THE PLAUSIBLES

Peggy Nash: A little stiff, but polished and no major mistakes. Probably needs to be more relatable and more charismatic if she wants to break into the top tier.

Paul Dewar: Dewar’s French was a question coming in, and I can’t speak to that, but he didn’t do himself any favors in English. His policies were articulated decently, and we know he’s jobs-focused, but he was stiff, very pale, and generally looked like something out of a Twilight movie. This was not the charismatic Paul Dewar we expected. He needs to make some changes before the next debate, possibly including a trip to a tanning salon – which is not something I generally recommend.

THE DARK HORSES

Nathan Cullen: The breakout star of the debate if there was one. Cullen was incredibly polished, totally unflappable, and scored several major laugh lines in an otherwise serious affair. He was, bar none, the best performer on stage. Now he has to find a way to translate that into support.

Niki Ashton: Ashton is very well spoken and has a good message, but she comes off as a stern and schoolmarmish. Her optimistic message about “New Politics” needs a hopeful tone, so she needs to smile while delivering it. She also needs to dump her new all-black “campaign” wardrobe and go back to the brightly (even garishly) colored suits she’s known for in Parliament – they work better with her personality, make her seem less stern, and communicate youth. She’s also a bit monotonous with the “new politics” catchphrase - it’s a great theme but it’s not quite as catchy as “Yes We Can”.

Romeo Saganash: I actually thought Saganash had the strongest opening statement, but it became clear very quickly that he was incredibly nervous. I expected something like that from him as he is soft spoken, but this was bad. He rushed his delivery and nervously cleared his throat multiple times, often mid-sentence. His personal story gives him major potential, but he needs to take multiple chill pills and settle down if he wants a chance to get in this race.

Robert Chisholm: There was nothing bad about his English performance, although he had a big problem with French in that he didn’t speak it and used simultaneous translation. However, there was nothing really remarkable. He’s a standard-issue politician, and that just doesn’t cut it when you’re starting in the back of the pack. This campaign is not going anywhere fast.

Martin Singh: The turbaned Sikh businessman with no elected experience was the biggest question mark coming into today, and he had a big opportunity to get his message out – but I’m not sure he seized it. He was a good, if stern-sounding speaker, and talked in sweeping grandiose statements. I didn’t hear anything that connected, and as a business-focused guy he’s a bit out of place in a socialist party. He comes off as someone who wants to be the left-wing Herman Cain, but while he tries to mimic that type of inspirational style, he doesn’t have Herman’s polish or joviality. Better than I expected but not amazing.

So – final conclusion? Nothing really changes. Everybody is about who we thought they were, and the only real surprises were Nathan Cullen being so good and Romeo Saganash being so nervous. We’ll have to watch to see if Cullen gets more traction, but seeing as the debate was at 2 PM on a Sunday, I doubt it.

Let the NDP Leadership Race Begin!

I watch politics everywhere, but Canada has got to be my favorite place to watch thanks to the characters and dynamics involved. So, depite being a conservative, I’m really intrigued by the race to lead the socialist New Democratic Party – which starts in earnest with today’s debate (coverage starts at 2 PM ET). This is a big deal becasue the NDP just won a second place finish in an election for the first time ever, and now is trying to cement it’s new spot as Canada’s preferred left-wing option. On top of this, they are coping with the death of iconic leader Jack Layton, and now have to replace him quickly to keep their mmomentum. There will be six debates between now and March and I think it’s going to end up looking a lot like our GOP primary down here, with minor candidates using debates to break out. I didnt leave myself a lot of time to blog this, but I wanted to jot out what I think each candidate needs to do:

THE TOP TIER

Brian Topp: Topp is clearly the establishment choice in the race and has tons of endorsements, but he has never held elective office and has been a backroom functionary all his life (including his current job as party president). He needs to prove that he can be a retail politician and show charisma. And if he’s not carreful, his inexperience as a politician could lead to a few damaging “Rick Perry moments”.

Thomas Mulcair: Topp’s biggest challenger is the consumate retail politician and a force in Quebec, where the NDP has lots of newly-elected officials but no organization. He needs to galvanize the public behind his campaign, because the party establishment is not with him, and expectations will be very high as he is usually a fiery debater. He needs to really steal the show and dominate the debate. I say he’s the Mitt Romney of this race because he will do well in debates but has a lot of work to do to do in terms of getting people to like him.

TIER TWO – THE PLAUSIBLES

Peggy Nash: Nash is the party’s finace critic and a force in the party, she starts in a solid third and has a chance to break into the top tier. She’s a decent speaker but she need to prove that she’s more than just an economics wonk, and needs to show she can stand up to Mulcair and others in terms of charisma.

Paul Dewar:  Dewar is tghe party’s charismatic foriegn affiars spokesman. He’s well like but he doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of traction. He needs to shine, and his French skills will be under the microscope as he’s know not to be very goo in the language – not a plud in a party that just recently won 53 seats in French-speaking Quebec.

THE DARK HORSES

Niki Ashton: I really like this 29-year old Manitoba spitfire – who I think is probably the most charismatic figure in the campaign. She could be a breakout star in these debates but she needs to be solid and articulate politicies rather than just talking about her vague notion of “New Politics”. She can also be a little halring when speaking without a script (I find her similar to Obama in that regard) so she needs to be as charismatic on the spot as she is with preparation.

Romeo Saganash: This guy has the most compelling story in the race as a person who was born poor on a Cree indian reserve and worked his way up to become Canada’s first Cree lawyer and a major force in aboriginal issues. He has the potential to break out and win this thing, but he’s very soft spoken so he needs to give his presentation some sort of spark, or else he will bore people.

Nathan Cullen: This guy is charismatic, but really needs to sell people on his radical plan to run joint candidates with the Liberal Party in some areas as a way of taking out the Conservatives. That ideas is either going to catch on like wildfire or crash and burn.

Robert Chisholm: I really don’t get this guy. He comes off as a generic politician, won’t be speaking French, and generally has nothing to distinguish himself from the field. He needs to seriously surprise us.

Martin Singh: This unknown pharmacist/investor from Nova Scotia is seen as having no chance but I’ve heard people say he could get a lot of credirt for his pro-smal business social democracy. He’s worth watching.

Daily Briefing – NDP (Canada), PPP (Guyana), OMG! (Egypt)

Relatively calm day today but there are some interesting tidbits floating around, here’s what I’m watching:

1. Canada’s socialist New Democratic Party will hold the first debate in its party leadership election on Sunday. This is the equivalent of a presedential primary in the US and this could be the most important party leadership election in Canadian history. The result will determine whether the NDP can hold it’s historic second place standing and become Canada’s dominant left wing force, or whether that ground will be ceded back to the Liberal Party. Six debates should set up a boom and bust cycle like our GOP primaries, so watch for minor candidates to shoot to the top after tonight. I’ll be blogging this subject HEAVILY.

2. Egypt’s election is scaring the heck out of the rest of the world as we acquaint ourselves with the surprising second place finish of the Islamist Nour Party. People were crowing yesterday about the Muslim Brotherhood taking first place, but today people are waking up to the fact that Nour is MUCH more hard-line in its Islamism, to the point where they make the Brotherhood look pluralist. Want all women forced to wear head scarves by law? Vote Nour! The Coptic Christian community is understandibly ticked.

3. Some good news from Guyana in South America as no party won a solid majority in Parliament, forcing the entrenched People’s Progressive Party to work with others to hold power. I call this progress because politics in that country is racially polarized between the Indian-Guyanese backed PPP and the Afro-Guyanese Peoples National Congress. Major congratulations to the multi-ethnic Alliance for Change, who peeled off just enough Indian votes to come third and force the other two to work together, giving Afro-Guyanese a voice in government and helping build a post-racial Guyana.

Daily Briefing – Newt, New Zealand, and Narco-States

I’m going to try and start a daily rundown of world events, just so that there’s at least a steady stream of content here and you don’t have to stare at week old, typo-riddled live blogs when you come here. So, here’s a list of all the crazy stuff going on.

- If you haven’t noticed, Newt Gingich’s surge to the front of the pack is not hitting a ceiling. The latest Rasmussen poll puts him at 38% of the national vote. That’s a bigger vote share than anyone in any poll has had this election with the exception of one poll that had Perry at 38% right after he entered. More importantly, Romney’s supposedly solid vote has fallen to 19%, giving Newt a 21% lead. The last time that anyone had that kind of margin was FEBRUARY.

- After taking a beating in last week’s election, New Zealand’s Labour Party is electing a new leader to replace Phil Goff. Early frontrunner David Parker dropped out within 24 hours of announcing his candidacy and threw his support to inexperienced dark horse David Shearer, who soundly bested him in a joint TV interview. Shearer now faces former cabinet minister David Cunliffe, and if he wins it will be a huge upset. Conservatives should probably root for Cunliffe as the out-of-nowhere Shearer is showing a LOT of charisma.

- Malam Bacai Sancha, president of the tiny African failed state of Guinea-Bissau, is in a medically induced coma in a hospital in Paris. This is not good news as it could make the government even more of a mess in a country that is increasingly controlled by Latin American drug cartels, who use it as a transport hub to smuggle cocaine into Europe. This certainly will not help the situation, coming just two years after Sancha’s predecessor was shot dead by renegade soldiers in retalition for a bombing that killed the head of the army. This is one tiny country worth watching, as it’s slide into chaos is a boon for narco-cartels.