Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What happened to Bin Laden?

This is some of the most interesting speculation I've come across--and it doesn't seem too far out into conspiracy world. (h.t. Atrios).

The Saudis are concerned about the rise of Iran. (This piece doesn't say so, but Bush's invasion of Iraq contributed greatly to the rise of Iran). The instability in Arab lands, especially if it creates new havens for terrorists, concerns the Saudis as well. They may need to ally themselves with Pakistan--but again, they would seek a terrorist-free Pakistan, as opposed to, er, present-day Pakistan.

So: maybe somebody in Asia decided to give up bin Laden, and that's how he fell into U.S. laps?

One wrinkle in the official U.S. story interests me. There were supposedly no electronic connections at all to bin Laden's hideout--no internet or cell phones. This suggests they are convinced that U.S. technology can trace any electronic link. Yet, in the end, the very electronic silence of this large comfortable house was one thing that attracted attention. So: the U.S. can track your internet use, listen in on conversations, follow key words, etc., and they may also notice if you're not in the ether at all.

The Canadian Election

One result that surprised me a bit: the Conservatives winning a big majority. I was one who thought there would be little change in party standings (hah!) and when the NDP gained in the polls, I thought this might hurt the Conservatives to some extent, not only the Bloc Quebecois and Liberals.

Big surprises: the virtual destruction of the Bloc, and the reduction of the Liberals to 30 seats. I had a very sharp student in my class a few years ago who explained that in Quebec, it's never about left and right--it's about culture, language, etc. As a Canadian I would like to think that Quebeckers have rejected the sovereignty option. Maybe Jack Layton of the NDP got his big gains in Quebec by talking about trying to get Quebec to "sign on" to the Constitution--which was Brian Mulroney's major goal with his Meech Lake and Charlottetown initiatives to amend the Constitution. From an interview with Layton:

But beyond his own Quebec background, he spoke of how the NDP platform’s focus on hiring and training more family doctors, creating jobs and improving retirement security resonate in the province.

Layton even suggested that making progress on those sorts of issues might be the first step towards getting Quebec to sign the Constitution. “If we could be addressing those issues,” he said, “then we might find ourselves creating the conditions where we could come to that discussion about how to bring Quebec fully into the Canadian family.”

Beyond his core platform on economic and social policy, he defended the NDP’s proposal to extend French-language rights in Quebec to federally regulated industries. The NDP has drafted a bill that would amend the Canada Labour Code, which applies to sectors like interprovincial transportation, banking and telecommunications, to guarantee the right to work in French in those industries.

But Layton denied that would mean Ottawa effectively legislating against the use of English, the other official language. “That’s not what it’s about,” he said, describing the proposed law’s aim as “ensuring the rights of a French-speaking person to be able to work in that language.”

Issue are important. But polls indicate it was more Layton's personal appeal that made a difference.

There is already talk that the rise of the Harper-led Tories, and the decline of the Liberals, indicates that Canada is moving away from a brokerage system where the major parties are ideologically flexible, and ideological parties remain smaller, to a classic two-party system of left and right or something similar. The Liberals consciously chose to stay away from left/right and focus on process--they'd be better listeners, etc., and this was a complete failure. It does no good to run in the middle if voters don't think there is a middle. (A political science argument here).

Harper has done a brilliant job. He has exploited Liberal weaknesses. He understands the multi-cultural country that the Liberals built, and is better than they are at winning ethnic ridings. He picks conservative issues that "cross cut" across a number of demographic factors: low taxes, a focus on intact families, national defence and law and order as core government functions, in comparison to which many things are frills. He knows how to attract the evangelical vote without acting on abortion, capital punishment or same-sex marriage.

I saw a brief reference somewhere to an argument that the Liberals have experienced a very long-term decline--since Mackenzie King. I can't find it now.