John Robson - June 17th, 2013
If you’re wondering how only 8 of 686 would-be candidates were allowed to run in Iran’s presidential election, it’s very simple. The Guardian Council of the Constitution approves candidates… or doesn’t if they’re not sufficiently keen on wholesome principles like death to Israel and death to the Great Satan and an Iranian nuclear bomb and such like. And where does this GCC come from? Again, very simple. The Supreme Leader chooses six members while the Parliament (whose legislation it can veto and whose candidates it can also veto) chooses six from a list prepared by the head of the Judicial Power who is (but you saw this coming) appointed by the Supreme Leader.
Even if you do get to be President, you don’t run the country. That’s the Supreme Leader, chosen by the Assembly of Experts (directly elected from candidates approved by… itself, and vetted by that darn Guardian Council again). Oh, and the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution can create things that aren’t laws but are binding and can’t be overruled except by the Supreme Leader… who appoints the SCCR personally.
Which raises the vexed question: Even if you could run for president of Iran, or for its parliament, why would you want to? That so many people would vote for a fake moderate anyway (a “pragmatist” according to the New York Times and we all know what that means) suggests most Iranians wish this question had a better answer than it does. But those who rule them for their own benefit without their genuine consent probably don’t care. Certainly this tangled self-perpetuating institutional framework suggests they don’t.
John Robson - June 6th, 2013
The decision by Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber (Edmonton-St. Albert) to leave the Conservative caucus is good news. Not primarily because he is right on the substance of the dispute, hostile amendments to a transparency bill, though he is, nor because it is an issue on which the public will probably support his courageous display of independent thought, though they probably will. The main thing is the vital constitutional reason he gave for his decision:
The more popular feeling certainly at PMO and the whip’s office is that caucus members should essentially be cheerleaders for the government and spread the government’s message as opposed to being some sort of legislative check on executive power. I don’t accept their premise.
As if expressly to prove his point, PMO Communications Director Andrew McDougall snarled on Twitter:
The people of Edmonton-St. Albert elected a Conservative Member of Parliament. Mr. Rathgeber should resign and run in a by-election.
McDougall has hold of the wrong end of the stick. The people of Edmonton-St. Albert elected, primarily, a Member of Parliament, a legislator to keep the executive including cabinet in check by their control of the power of the purse. In electing Mr. Rathgeber they also chose a Conservative, someone they rightly believed would support the Harper ministry on most issues as it attempted to carry out its electoral program. But they did so believing, rightly and crucially, that they were electing someone who by endorsing that program promised to withdraw his support if the Harper ministry did not keep its key promises on matters ranging from accountability to fiscal prudence to respecting the rights of backbenchers.
In leaving caucus Mr. Rathgeber has therefore vindicated the judgement of those who voted for him, and our true, ancient and battered Constitution. For all its other merits, his decision is most important for that reason.
John Robson - June 3rd, 2013
The Bank for International Settlements, an international organization of central banks that has been around since 1930, just warned of a significant drop in cross-border lending in the West, driven by a sharp contraction in such lending in the Euro zone as lenders recoil from the wobbly finances of member governments. The BIS also warned against “monetary easing”, the magic money-printing stimulus being followed in most Western nations even though it’s not, um, working.
In a sentiment that should be easier to follow than it apparently is, BIS managing director Jaime Caruana said “If a medicine does not work as expected, it’s not necessarily because the dosage was too low.”
This sort of stuff rarely gets major headlines because monetary policy is obscure. But the BIS is a serious institution and when it warns that bad government finances in Europe are causing major capital market problems, and governments cranking up the printing presses isn’t a sensible response, people better listen before it turns into a highly technical but also very pointed “We told you so.”
John Robson - May 30th, 2013
Britain is on track for its coldest spring in a half-century according to the Telegraph. Phew. Sweltering in here, isn’t it?
John Robson - May 29th, 2013
In Question Period yesterday the Prime Minister said:
By his own admission, Mr. Wright made a serious error. For that he has accepted full, sole responsibility. He has agreed to resign and he is subject to an investigation, an examination by the ethics commissioner.
Sole responsibility as in nobody else did it. Though it’s not clear how Harper can know that since he denies being told anything ahead of time and won’t admit to having asked his staff subsequently what happened and who knew about it and when. All in the hands of the ethics commissioner, folks. Nothing to see here. Move along. Economic Action Plan coming through.
What puzzles me, though, is that Wright has now “agreed to resign” whereas in Question Period last Wednesday John Baird claimed Wright “immediately submitted his resignation, and it was immediately accepted”.
So which is it? Did he submit his resignation, and if so was it as soon as he informed the PM of what he’d done, in which case why did Harper take days to immediately accept it? Or did Harper demand his resignation and if so when, and how long did Wright take to agree to resign?
Is the PMO deliberately babbling inconsistencies in the hope of confusing and frustrating us so much we stop asking? Or do the facts change from day to day, rendering old responses “inoperative”?