Friday, January 23, 2015

Israeli Election update; and update on Greece and Newfoundland.

Starting from the smallest updates to the biggest.


GREECE

All signs point to a victory by the left-wing and anti-austerity SYRIZA party.

My current prediction is as follows:

146 SYRIZA
83 ND
18 POTAMI
16 XA
14 PASOK
14 KKE
9 ANEL


NEWFOUNDLAND

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is set to lose 10 seats in the legislature. After a marathon debate, the house of assembly agreed to the bill to cut the number of seats prior to the next election.

This is a terrible idea for a few reasons.

1 - The listed reason is cost cutting. Reducing the number of MHAs from 48 to 38 is indeed a cut of about 20%, however it also reduces the number of democratically elected province-wide officials by 20%. Rather than cutting democracy by 20%, if the MHAs were serious about cost savings, they could have simply cut all their budgets, from wages to staffing, by 20% and achieved the same result without the cut in democratic choice.

2 - They plan to rush the new boundaries. The commission will have between 120 and 90 days to finish it's work, depending on which news article you read. They can extend it by 10 days, but this is a short time frame no matter how you look at it. In addition, they plan to have this done 2 months before the election, which means a very short time frame for not only voters to figure out what riding they are in, but for candidates to decide to run and get nominated.

3 - Perhaps most importantly, this opens up the process to Gerrymandering.

4 - Politically, this is a stupid move by the PC Party. The more smaller ridings you have the more seats the "losing party" can realistically win. With only 38, 34 on the Island, it becomes more likely the Liberals could sweep every riding.


ISRAEL

There are a number of stories developing.

A - Polls have shown the lead of the two main parties; Likud and Labour-Livni, is growing beyond the others. Where a few weeks ago they were averaging 23-24 seats, now they are averaging 25-26 seats, each. With 7 weeks to go before the election there is time for this trend to continue.

B - Shas has rebounded after it's scandal. In addition, the Shas offshoot parties are doing worse in the polls, and I expect none of them will elect a candidate by the time the election day comes.

C -  Parties have mostly finalized their lists. Israel operates on Proportional Representation, and each party prepares a list - usually though internal election of all members - of which candidates and in which order it is presenting to the electorate. If a party wins 10 seats, it's first 10 listed candidates get those seats. The law requires all lists to be finished at around this time, and as such, the lists are being prepared and finished.

D - Yisrael Beitenu keeps falling in the polls. Hit hard by scandal, the party has fallen from an average of around 9 seats a month ago, to closer to 5 now.

E - Meretz and Jewish Home have both lost about a seat each in polls in the past week or two; these parties are considered more extreme than the more centrist Likud and Labour parties; and it might indicate the beginning of a two horse race in this election.

F - For the first time, all major Israeli-Arab parties have agreed to run on the same list.

It is important to remember that up to 1977, only Labour had formed Israeli governments; time has changed Israeli politics greatly. Until the late 70's Labour ran it's own Arab satellite lists; In fact, it has only been since the late 80's that Arab parties have started to run in Israel, but since then, this is the first time all the pro-Arab parties have run on a single list.

Polls have put the individual parties, combined, at around 11 or 12 seats. The loss of additional seats due to vote splitting could push this up to a solid 12. There are some, however, who expect that the simple union and the offering of a unique choice could push that number up to 14, if not 16.

If the latter comes true, it would almost certainly place the party in 3rd place nationally, and could potentially position the party as a kingmaker in the next government of Israel.
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Greek Election preview



I've broken this post down into sub-sections to help organize it.

Why now?

As mentioned in an earlier post, this was triggered by instability. Greece attempted to elect a President, but could not find the needed votes in Parliament. Rather than keep trying, the sitting government called snap elections, believing it could win.

Now is also important in the big scheme of things. Additional elections this year include, but are not limited to Finland, the UK, Denmark, Portugal, Poland and Spain. Results of this election could have knock-on effects on each of these countries.

SYRIZA

The main Left-Wing party is SYRIZA, the Radicals. They are lead by Alex Tsipras, who has become a Europe-wide symbol of anti-austerity. They are a new party, only a few years old, and exactly who they are is still being established.

Originally running on rhetoric that they would take a hard line against Austerity, even if that means a default, the party now is running on a more 'moderate' platform, saying they want to re-negotiate the terms of the bailout, rather than pull out of it altogether.

New Democracy

The current government, and the Conservative party, is ND. ND is one of the traditional 2 parties of the Greek 2 party system. The current ND government has been the one to administer the bailouts and the after effects of the recession. They are unpopular due to the Austerity measures.

For this reason, they are, in effect, the "Non-SYRIZA Party" and the "Pro-Austerity Party" For this reason, there is not much to say about ND beyond that if they are re-elected, we can expect things to continue as they have been.

Other Parties

There are many other parties. The Communists (KKE) are openly Stalinist, while Golden Dawn (XA) are openly Fascist. Perhaps most notable however is PASOK, the former lead left-wing party. PASOK is in coalition with ND.

Other parties that could win seats include ANEL and Potami. The former is a right-wing anti-austerity party and could possibly sit with SYRIZA in a government.

There are concerns about XA. Polls currently show they will likely lose seats, and this is uniformly a good thing for everyone who is not racist.

European Reaction

The entire election, in terms of it's importance to the world, is how Europe reacts. Early in the election, all the sounds made by Europe (IE Statements from people like Merkel) were that there would be no change to the deals negotiated with Greece. That, however, has changed. More recent statements indicate that European nations may be willing to talk to Greece. Nothing is solid, some countries like Finland, which had it's own debt crisis, will only help on certain conditions.

Things will get complex if SYRIZA wins, and there will be many things to say, from many people, about many issues. If they do not win, there won't be much of anything going on.

If things go wrong

Greece could leave the Euro. As outlined earlier, this could also lead to Greece leaving the EU, something that Tsipras does not want. Depending on how far in to a corner Tsipras gets backed, he may have no choice.

It's important to remember that no country has left the EU, nor is there any official method to do so. One country suddenly leaving may encourage others to do so as well, and this could lead to additional problems in the EU.

If things go right

This could kick off anti-austerity politics around the world. Given the possible fall out of a "Grexit" Europe may weigh the options and decide that it is better to give them what they want. This could spark changes in Spain, where a party like SYRIZA currently leads the polls. Should Spain follow suit it would send a message that opposition to austerity is possible, and it could send a message to other parties and countries in Europe that they too can renegotiate their debts. This could even spread to elsewhere in the world, and have impacts at home. While it's a bit of a stretch to say "If SYRIZA wins, the NDP will win here" this is within the realm of possibility, depending on the circumstances.

SYRIZA has a real chance to make things better for the average Greek, and if successful, could prove to be a model for use around the world, and perhaps, something to finally use to solve income inequality problems.

What to expect

I fully expect SYRIZA to win. All the polls show them ahead. Remember too that we saw the NDP leading in BC before voters, worried about what they would do the economy, switched back to the incumbents. It is still possible for ND to win out of fear of what a SYRIZA government would do.
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Greek election, and the end of the world

As mentioned in a prior post, Greece goes to the polls in 10 days.

This is perhaps the most important election in the history of that country. Why?

It has the potential to kick off a Grexit, or, Greece leaving the Eurozone.

Why does that matter?
Not only could it damage the Euro, it could damage the EU. It could force Greece to leave the EU altogether.

And why does that matter?
For starters, damage to the EU could be huge. Take for example Poland, where 40% of mortgages are in Swiss Francs. If the Euro falls too much, we could see another housing bubble burst. In addition, there are other countries that might leave the EU should the opportunity arise, such as the United Kingdom.

Could the EU survive all this?
Probably, but maybe not. The entire European Union could come crashing down, not to mention the economic fallout. Being so tied to Europe as we are, this would have knock on effects here in North America, and could spark a second recession, worse than the first.


In short, the election might just result in a second great depression for the entire developed world.


So, if it is so important, why have I yet to post about it?

At the risk of saying "It's all Greek to me" the political situation in Greece is very very complicated, and very very nuanced. I am still trying to figure out where all the players stand and how they might act based on certain possible results.

The election will take place next Sunday (not the Sunday that comes in a few days, but the one after that) and I plan to make a rather large post about the Greek election on the Sunday prior (the 18th) based on what I know.


Any and all feedback from those who are following this issue is welcome, and I may include comments in the blogpost if I find they fit with what I plan to say.
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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Personal gripe

Twitter fans likely are aware of the whole donate-button-gate-scandal-thingy already, but for those who are not, here is a news story from the CBC on the issue

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/donate-button-deleted-on-harper-and-trudeau-anti-terrorism-message-1.2895753

Anyway, during this I made a tweet.


For this, I was blocked by Marc Garneau.



I'm not looking to be unblocked, frankly people who block others for stupid things like this are not people I want to be regularly conversing with, but rather I wanted to use this opportunity to show exactly what "Partisanship" looks like.

I'll leave the remainder to your own judgement. Feel free to comment, but I will say that while I am here to respond, Mr. Garneau is likely not even aware of this post, and so will say simply that personal attacks against him will be deleted.
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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How do you know its an election year?

The shrill shrieking of partisans can be heard on the winds.

I like to think I'm as much a Liberal or anti-Harper activist as the next person, but this is starting to get out of hand:
... now we have an even bigger problem, according to an astonishing story in the Ottawa Citizen by Kathryn May. Nearly one in five Canadians believes that the prime minister could be justified in closing down Parliament in difficult times. A further 17 per cent believe that dissolving the Supreme Court would be okeydoke in the right circumstances. The question was asked and answered without providing any details about what sorts of crises would justify imposing a dictatorship. 

... Are we sliding towards the political equivalent of Pierre Berton’s “comfortable pew”, bearing in mind that a lazy democracy is a dying democracy? Could these strange numbers explain why Canadians yawned when Stephen Harper was found in contempt of Parliament — and immediately handed him a majority government?

Could they also explain the pathetic decline in voter turnout at a juncture in history when it is hard to imagine more being at stake? A second-rate hockey team or an aging rock star can fill the Air Canada Centre night after night in Toronto. But if the last Canadian election had been an arena with 100 seats, only 60 of them would have had bums in them for the May 2, 2011 vote. What happened?

Stephen Harper has a lot to do with it. He is the prime minister who refused to produce documents requested by a parliamentary committee. He is the leader who denounced omnibus legislation in Opposition and vastly extended its use when he formed the government. He is the prime minister who muzzled MPs, misled Parliament on the F-35 acquisition, and told more stories than Hans Christian Andersen on the Wright/Duffy Affair.

Most people play by the rules; this prime minister plays with them.

Oh boy. I've heard it said many times that Harper is a dictator, that he's one more majority shy of changing Canada into something of a cross between late 1930's Germany and a Christian Iran, so on and so forth. Usually these people are the local Marxists that while away their day at your local Starbucks, rarely is it someone that's supposed to be a serious political writer, like Michael Harris.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of Harris' points here are absolutely true, but the conclusions he is reading out of them smack of hyperbole.

Let's take a few examples, here.

Are Canadians more accepting of a dictatorship? Or are many simply misunderstanding the pollster's questions, generally ignorant of how government works, or maybe, just maybe, an increase of around 5% isn't significant enough to count out of the margin of error?

Why did Canadians not care about the contempt of Parliament motion brought against Harper? Was it because they're becoming more comfortable with the notion of a dictatorial regime, or because they saw it for what it was, a hail-mary play by a desperate Opposition that sought to discredit the Prime Minister any way they could?

Why is turnout so low? Is it because people are deferring to Herr Harper's leadership, or because there is a lack of good options, a lack of issues to motivate voters, and a stable government that dots and crosses its electoral coalition i's and t's, and doesn't require being thrown out every election cycle?

Is Stephen Harper playing with the rules in an attempt to set up a one-party state bent upon dominion over all of Canada? Or is he abusing the powers of the office he's been handed as many of the previous Prime Ministers, all the way back to John A. Macdonald, have done?

The current Prime Minister is a bad guy, I get it, I agree, lets get rid of him. But why do we have to treat him like the second coming of Hitler? I don't think Harper or any of his cronies do the things they do because they're inherently hostile to democracy; I think, like any government this country has had since its founding, its full of people who like power and will do some not-so-nice things to maintain their hold on it. Its not good, but its not abnormal either.

Here's the real kicker, though: who does Harris or anyone else think this is going to convince? The average person who voted for Harper in the last election is not going to come to this article and accept the conclusions, especially when you're indirectly implying that they're essentially sheep willing to be taken to the slaughter. They will look at this and rightfully conclude that Harris is schilling for the opposition, using rhetoric that would make Pierre Poilievre blush.

Do you want to do a hit piece on Stephen Harper's many, many faults as a head of government? Go right ahead, but leave the dictator talk at home.
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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Teddy's prediction for 2015

Given current polls, and my expectations for the BQ and F&D, these are my current predictions for 2015.










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Friday, January 2, 2015

A look at Israel

With the coming election in Israel, I thought it might be wise to introduce those unfamiliar with the country to Israel; in particular it's people, it's politics, and some of it's history.

Israel is divided into a number of districts for domestic purposes. These are not like provinces or states, there is, for example, no "Premier of the Northern District" or "Southern District Governor". These areas are mostly for statistical purposes, and help when discussing Israel and it's various areas.

Gaza, which is located in the leftmost area of the map, is not a district of Israel (and thus, is not shown) Judea and Samaria, which many call the West Bank, is. There is one key difference however, and this is one of the key reasons I've decided to discuss this topic.

East Jerusalem is considered by Israel to be not only part of the Municipality of Jerusalem, but an integral part of Israel, and as such, a part of the Jerusalem District.

East Jerusalem, however, is considered by most countries to not be a part of Israel, and rather, a part of the West Bank.

Saying Judea and Samaria as opposed to the West Bank is a short way of saying "The West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem"; though, in fairness, most usages of the West Bank these days implies the lack of East Jerusalem, but this is not universal.

The Golan Heights is an area held for military reasons, specifically an area taken from Syria, that Syria still claims. It's status is complicated; as Israel has a different times decided to return it to Syria, and to place Settlements on it.

Populations of these areas are as follows:
Golan Heights - 20,000 & 90,000*
Northern District - 1,300,000
Haifa District - 930,000
Center District - 1,770,000
Tel Aviv District - 1,340,000
Jerusalem District - 1,020,000 /w 325,000**
Southern District - 1,150,000
Judea and Samaria - 360,000 & 2,790,000*

* = These are non citizens of Israel, and, not counted in Israeli population counts.
** = Non-citizens by choice, but are counted.

I've created a table below to expand on the above. I've used some terms to try to differentiate between the various groups; I will explain what each term means.

Before I do so, I want to note a disclaimer; I use these terms to simplify the chart, I am aware the terms are inaccurate, but they are, for their length, the most accurate terms I can use.

The terms are as follows:

Israeli - This references Israeli Jews, but also includes some non-Arab christian (IE Russian Christians in the Southern District)
Arab - This references Arab citizens of Israel.
Palestinian - This references all non-citizens of Israel most of whom are also Arab. This term is also "inaccurate" because the non-citizen Arab residents of the Golan Heights are Syrian; however, to simplify the char and reduce the amount of columns and rows needed, I am using this term.

Note as well the chart includes the Gaza Strip as to give a sense of the total population of the area.



A reminder, as this is election season, that "Arabs" have a vote just the same as "Israelis" do, but "Palestinians" do not.

Around 20% of Jews in Israel are Sephardi, or, those from (or more accurately, the descendants of those who were driven out of) Spain and Portugal.
Around 40% are Mizrahi, or, those from (or, again, descendants of those driven from) the Arab world
And around 40% are Ashkenazi, or, those from (same disclaimer) Europe.

Around 40% of Jews in the world live in Israel, Another 40% live in the United States, and 20% live in other countries, including France, the UK, Russia, and Canada (roughly 4% each) Of those who live outside Israel, the overwhelming and vast majority are Ashkenazi.

For the record, some notable Sephardi Jews include but are not limited to; former UK PM Benjamin Disraeli, Israeli Opposition Leader Amir Peretz, and Philosopher Jacques Derrida.
Notable Mizrahi include but are not limited to; Current Opposition and Labour leader Issac Herzog, Entertainer Jerry Seinfeld, and the Sassoon family, including hairdressing businessman Vidal Sassoon.

As noted in the table above, there are 1.3 million Arab citizens in Israel, compared to 6.2 million Jews. By that logic, an Arab party should be able to take 17% of the vote, or, 21 seats, why then is the combined Arab list polling closer to 11?

There are a few reasons. Some Arabs in Israel do not feel very connected to the state, they do not vote, and thus are less likely to turn out. Others are very connected to the state, and vote for "zionist" parties; especially those parties running on economic policies, or those who are pro-peace. The remaining difference can be explained by the simple fact that Arabs in Israel tend to have more children; thus a higher proportion of that 1.3 million is people too young to vote.

Note though a few important demographic facts.

1 - The Northern District is a majority Arab. These are Arabs who have the same rights and same vote as Jewish Israelis. With the Arab population of Israel continuing to grow, this has put pressure on some in the Jewish community to do what they can to ensure Israel remains a "Jewish State"; hence the reason for this election - which I will go in to greater in a later post.

2 - Opposition to a "One State" solution in Israel is also on the numbers. In a combined single state, even before the return of any Palestinian refugees, the majority of citizens would be Non-Jews. Consider that in 2006, Hamas got 440,000 votes, and Fatah got 410,000. Compare to the 2006 Israeli election where Kadima got 690,000, and Labour took 472,000, and you start to see the sort of situation it could create.

3 - Perhaps oddly for a country under Proportional Representation, parts of Israel are highly fractured. Some towns and cities vote heavily for one party or another. Ultra-Orthodox parties, for example, do very well in Jerusalem, and very poorly in Tel Aviv, while the reverse happens with moderate parties focused on economic issues.



I hope this gives you a better understanding of the country behind the politics. Keep checking your bookmark for further updates on Israel, including a post about the various parties, where they stand, and where they came from, and a post about the history of Israel and why it is involved in conflict.
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