One of the Biggest Threats…

to ourselves, is — ourselves.

Council On Foreign Relations (CFR) President Richard Haass being interviewed by Stephen Colbert earlier this week.

“I’ve been to the world. It doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny.”

Heh. Aside from the overt comedy involved, embedded amidst the many brilliant zingers lobbed by Colbert throughout this interview, there are actually a lot of very serious issues touched on here (ever so lightly, but still…).

The New “Civil War”

I believe that’s how former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has described the battle being played out over the fate of the “big three” automakers. In this brief report, Al Jazeera’s English news service takes a look at the non-unionized, southern-based foreign automakers (so-called “transplants”) and how they’re faring in contrast to rival domestic manufacturers.

It’s more than a little simplistic to characterize it in such a way, but there are definite cultural aspects involved with this struggle as well as purely economic considerations.

The putative “bail out” (or “bridge loan” if you prefer) that was defeated in the U.S. Senate the other day, largely at the behest of the opposition from senators of southern states that are home to the “transplant” automakers, was driven not only by partisan political motivations, but a strong union-busting animus and supposed “free-market” imperative. The only thing is that it completely overlooks is the fact that these plants have been generously subsidized by state governments with lavish, multi-billion dollar tax incentives and other forms of corporate welfare that attracted them to locate there in the first place.

Surely, You Joust

joust

Keeping in mind the prevailing disclaimer around here that “polls are bullshit” — and especially one coming so soon after the “undemocratic coronation” by the “Liberal elites” of “Prince” Ignatieff (sorry, I thought just for the hell of it, I’d throw in those slap-dash epithets that are de rigueur amongst the Conservative cognoscenti and embittered “grassroots” wankers these days) — the new Angus Reid poll touted in the Toronto Star this morning does have a certain amount of significance if only viewed relative to how poorly Stéphane Dion scored in the same sort of poll throughout the course of his hapless leadership.

Newly appointed Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is in a virtual tie with Prime Minister Stephen Harper as the person Canadians think would be the best to lead the country, a new poll exclusive to the Star reveals.

Ignatieff tops the list of party leaders Canadians would prefer as prime minister, with 28 per cent of respondents naming him the best head of government, according to the Toronto Star/Angus Reid survey.

Harper came in at 27 per cent – a virtual tie because it’s within the margin of error, but the first time the Conservative leader has polled below 30 per cent in two years.

New Democrat Leader Jack Layton was chosen by 10 per cent of respondents, while Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe and Green Leader Elizabeth May came in at 2 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.

Sixteen per cent of respondents did not want any of the leaders to be prime minister and 15 per cent were unsure.

Mario Canseco, a spokesperson with polling company Angus Reid Strategies, said the numbers are especially significant compared to what was seen before Stéphane Dion resigned this week as Liberal leader.

“In that same question Harper was always over 30 per cent and Dion never made it to 20 per cent,” Canseco said yesterday. “So the fact that Ignatieff is virtually tied after only a few days on the job is something that really bodes well for the future of the Liberals.”

Granted that the results can be easily dismissed and explained away by Conservative spinners who will invoke all manner of mitigating factors that may have influenced the results, but the core finding is unassailable: presented with a viable, credible alternative to Stephen Harper, many Canadians it would seem are more than happy to view such an individual in a relatively favourable light. Indeed, it would seem that many Canadians are quite ready to welcome a change from Harper. Really, this poll says a great deal more about the Dear Leader than it does about Ignatieff. Conservatives should be concerned about that. Three years in as head of government and the best he can muster is 27 percent of people who think he’s best suited to lead us into the valley of the shadow of the great recession… Not exactly a rousing vote of confidence, I’d say.

Update: Tempering the above somewhat is another poll indicating that the Conservatives would romp to a majority victory if an election were held today. By an almost 20 point margin, Canadians would vote in support of a petty, spiteful and vindictive man that had cynically thrown the country into both a constitutional and national crisis in the midst of a severe economic downturn because of his “pathological” compulsion to eliminate his political opponents and ruled as if he had a majority government even though he was only able to scrape out a minority when faced with the weakest Liberal leader in living memory promoting a highly unpopular carbon tax. Go figure.

John McCain’s Late Show Redemption

To borrow the “nut graph” (now there’s an old timey journalistic expression) from Newsday: “Presidential campaigns are brutal and divisive affairs. It was nice last night to almost forget that the last one ever even happened.”

David Schuster talks with Bloomberg columnist Margaret Carlson to speculate about how the election might have been different if “that guy” had shown up instead of the nerve-jangling trainwreck that was Sen. McCain during the latter stages of the campaign, as well the more general issue of how high priced handlers distort (and in this case thwart) the image of the candidates they’re charged with protecting (presumably from their “authentic” selves).

And here’s the complete Letterman interview (or most of it, anyway).