Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Toronto G20: Confronting Reality

Like most people in the GTA, or so I believe, I spent this weekend doing chores, running errands engaging in leisure activities and doing a little work. On Saturday evening I sat down to watch some television while I ate dinner after a long day. Surfing the channels I stumbled upon the media coverage of the G20 in Toronto.

At the time I turned on the television the fire was tearing through the second police car on Queen Street. Perhaps it was naive, but I was actually shocked. I watched CBC’s coverage. A number of journalists on the street were at risk in the no man’s land between the “protesters” and police forces.

Before this weekend I had never heard the phrase “black bloc” tactics before, but I could immediately recognize the type. The black-wearing groups of people who lurked through the city and to my eyes caused mayhem.

People’s comments about how this was a police state are ridiculous. They’ve clearly never talked to people who have lived in a police state. In a police state no demonstrations would have been legal, and any sign of dissent would have been immediately crushed. Let’s know what words mean. The security measures and reactions of the police, given the scenario, seems, to a point, reasonable. Obviously there were police abuses. We know this. People were arrested for very little reason and the use of force at times was excessive. But let us keep in mind that there were over thirty leaders of major world powers meeting in a small section of the city of Toronto. Thirty. Rarely do so many world leaders concentrate in one place in an ad hoc manner.

The organized, peaceful protesters – largely labour unions – had their role to play, I’m sure. But I also wondered about this, what were they actually fighting about? I listened to Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, discuss what the point was, and it was the same old, same old. Anti-globalization, anti-bank, anti-Wall Street, anti-corporate, pro-environment. There’s nothing specific about these complaints. If the government was declaring a new war, or taking a specific policy action and they were protesting it, then it would make sense. But that is not the case, “We don’t like you!” seemed to be the message.

On TVO’s the Agenda on Monday night commentators at one point described the acts of some to be a performance. Mercedes Stephenson, an investigative journalist, was amongst a crowd and according to her protesters were taunting and degrading police officers and a man turned to her and ask, “Did you get that? Cause we can do it again.” I think the most important piece of news I heard was that black bloc activists put broken glass in a main boulevard so that passing innocents would pop their tires. People cheered each time they heard a pop.

People actively antagonized police, throwing rocks, bottles, insults and spat upon officers. Police attacked and arrested protesters, at times, without provocation, worse still is the fact that the police failed to protect the property of the people and city of Toronto. In short, it was a disgrace.

On the positive side, the international media is paying only modest attention the 19,000 police and the black bloc activists’ antics. The focus is on the commitments the world leaders arrived at, and the violence is considered all a part of doing business. It’s a sad reality. All of these types of gatherings will have outcomes like this – violent protests and police overreaction and photos of world leaders. I guess I am not the only naive one to have assumed it couldn’t happen here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Snapshot of 2010: Race for the Senate

On November 2, 2010 the American electorate will go to the polls to cast their ballots for candidates to make up the 112th Congress. All 435 districts of the House of Representatives are up for grabs, though about 70% of them are safe to the incumbent party every time. In addition there are 36 Senate seats and a number of gubernatorial and state-wide elections in the United States.

I do not try, or bother to work out the outcome of the House of Representatives’ elections because one – it requires an in-depth knowledge of each seat, or comparable seats to make any kind of assessment, which I do not possess to talk wisely about them in any detail, and two – it is a great deal of work to try to gather that information and present it in a comprehensible manner.

So instead I focus on the Senate races. Let’s briefly examine them. Note, in the future I will not be examining all 36 races in the future, merely the competitive ones, or ones that have swung dramatically.

First, this is the midterm year of a president’s first term. This is nearly always a bad year for the president’s party, in this case the Democrats. The sluggish economy, and an energized right also make these races all the more difficult for Democrats and easier for Republicans.

Second, incumbents have a considerable advantage over challengers. Retirements, especially in competitive states offer a huge advantage to the outside party.

After these 36 elections conclude I predict presently that there were will be 23 Republican victors (a gain of 7), 8 Democrats (a loss of 10) and 1 independent. We’ll begin with those seats most likely to go to Republican to the most likely to go Democratic, and meet in the middle with the toss-ups.

There are twelve seats that are, at this time, mortal locks for the Republicans. Senators Shelby (R-AL), Murkowski (R-AK), McCain (R-AZ), Isakson (R-GA), Crapo (R-ID), Grassley (R-IA), Coburn (R-OK), DeMint (R-SC) and Thune (R-SD) will, barring some grand unforeseen event being returning to Washington. Kansas is expected to elect a new Republican after the retirement of Sam Brownback, and Utah, though it turfed its sitting Republican Senator, will almost assuredly elected a new one following the primary. That’s eleven. Number twelve is a seat held currently held by the Democrats. Senator Byron Dorgan’s (D-ND) decision not stand for re-election has given the very popular Republican Governor John Hoeven a cakewalk to Washington to become the Junior Senator from this state.

In a good year for Democrats they would be eyeing Republican Louisiana Senator Vitter. He is still shaking off a prostitution scandal he was involved in 2007. But a weak Republican with the wind at his back will survive when in an average year he may have fallen.

Four seats are likely to go Republican at this point, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Delaware and Arkansas. Senator Burr (R-NC) is not particularly popular in North Carolina, but like Vitter with a positive headwind for the Republican Party being unpopular is less important so long as you are more popular than the Democrats. Senator Gregg is retiring in New Hampshire, and this is a seat the Democrats hope to pick up, but polling shows Ayotte (the Republican frontrunner) up by 10%. Delaware has no strong Democratic candidate, and on the other side is current Congressman and former Governor Mike Castle as the Republican candidate. This is a blue state, and yet it will more than likely elect a Republican in November. On the other hand Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) is in for the fight of her career after an uphill primary challenge. Arkansas is a conservative state, and Lincoln will likely fall to her Republican challenger.

Four seats lean Republican, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, all four have no incumbents, the first two are currently held by Republicans, and the latter two are held by Democrats. Kentucky may slide closer to the toss-up category as time goes on. Rand Paul is still ahead by 8 points in a recent poll, but controversial remarks by the Senatorial candidate could drag him down as time goes on. Missouri was the one toss-up state that did not go for Obama in 2008, and I doubt it will swing to his party now. When Obama was elected to the presidency he left his Senate seat open which triggered a string of events that have embarrassed Illinois, and the Democratic Party. Republican Mark Kirk is now set to win the deep blue state. Evan Bayh (D-IN) announced his retirement earlier this year, which resulted in a scramble. Indiana is leaning Republican.

Florida’s Senate race is where our one independent comes from. Governor Charlie Christ is smartly taking ownership of the centre in the state. Kendrick Meek, the Democrat is left with little breathing room as the popular former-Republican governor steals elements of the Democratic base. Marco Rubio, the Republican candidate, seems to be losing momentum to Christ.

Now the four toss-ups: Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada. I break these down the middle, two will go the Dems and two to the G.O.P. Colorado and Ohio are swing states, but the political winds are blowing the other way, so they are likely to swing to the Republicans this time around. Rob Portman is a highly impressive candidate in Ohio, and given the economic conditions of the state I feel that it will very likely go red this November. My assessment is Sestak (D-PA) will edge out Toomey (R) in Pennsylvania for a win for the Democrats at this point. Harry Reid, Democratic majority leader in the Senate is thought to be at risk this November in Nevada, but given the radical nature of his opponent, Sharon Angle, I doubt that Reid will lose this time around.

Seats leaning for the Democrats right now are two incumbents, Boxer (D-CA) and Murray (D-WA). Murray being at risk is somewhat of a surprise, and demonstrates how bad the current climate is for the Democratic Party. Both of these states are solid blue states federally, but the economic crisis is draining Democratic energy.

Likely wins for the Democrats, again, come from seats they already hold. Feingold in Wisconsin and Blumenthal in Connecticut are expected to win at this point. However, Feingold was weaker earlier in the year, and he could slip again. Blumenthal is a very popular Attorney General in Connecticut, and so long as he avoids further bungles should win.

Six Democratic incumbents – Inouye (D-HI), Mikulski (D-MD), Gillibrand (D-NY), Schumer (D-NY), Wyden (D-OR) and Leahy (D-VT) – should win their seats easily and return to Washington.

It is very early at this point though, and anything could happen, but right now we are seeing a massive surge for Republicans in the Senate in 2010.

Rebooting The Orange Tory

I have decided to resurrect the Orange Tory blog. There are a few different reasons for this. First, with the recent British election, the subsequent dynamics in Ottawa, and the approaching Ontario municipal and U.S. midterm elections there does not seem to be a better time to return to writing about politics.

Also, in the last year or so I have taken a real interest in urban issues, which is something I hope to spend more time discussing in this rebooted version of my blog. Urban and local policies have dramatic impact upon our daily life, our quality of lives, and interaction between communities. Furthermore the micro feeds the macro – the environment, the economy, politics, and culture are shaped by our communities – villages, counties, regions, towns, cities, metropolises. Like green activists like to say, “Think global, act local.” What we do on a local level is magnified by the actions of thousands (or millions) of our peers doing the same, making national and global forces.

Perhaps the main reason I want to resume my blog is because within the next few years I intend to run for public office (more on this later). For this purpose I would like to improve presenting my ideas, and refining my own platform.

The plan is a post once a week on Tuesdays. I hope to make it last this time with support of my readers. My first “content” posting will follow this one.