Trigger warning: heterosexism, cissexism, HIV/AIDS, medical violence, islamophobia, racism
After months and months and months, it’s time for a purely Let-Me-Link-You post about interesting coverage of the world’s happenings.
Lie on twitter, ???, profit!
In ultimate fluffy feel good news, for me at least, the Martin Shkreli vs Bernie Sanders feud has reached epic proportions. Following widespread outcry that Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager turned pharmaceutical executive, had drastically increased the cost of a key medicine for people with compromised immune systems because he just wanted to, he tried to clean up his image by donating to Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. I have my quibbles about Sanders, but let it never be said that he’s not a Mensch – he took the money and donated all of it to a DC area, LGBT-focused HIV/AIDS clinic (ground zero for the effects of price gouging on immune system reinforcing drugs). Shkreli appears to have been snubbed as well of the meeting he hoped the donation would earn him.
Bafflingly, Shkreli seems to have tried to pass off on twitter a stock image of a wrist fracture as what he did to himself when he found out about Sanders’ White elephanting of his donation. The entire situation doesn’t make sense – if the misattributed image hadn’t been found out, wouldn’t the rouse been discovered if he held Sanders’ or anyone else responsible for it? How would he have even benefited from that, even if he had broken his wrist? Does Shkreli ever think things through?
While he works out a new approach on Twitter, here’s a petition in support of a new law that Shkreli has inspired to outlaw the type of price gouging he engaged in.
Canadian left parties falling apart
With less schadenfreude, Daily Kos has a fascinating look at the recent Canadian parliamentary election results. The initial positive reports – that this was a huge victory for the left with the fall of the Conservative Party government – hide more than a few worrying issues. Among the findings is that this is is less of a new voting pattern in Canada but more of a return to the 1990s with a few tweaks:
Admittedly some of those changes are ones that many leftist Canadians will look on positively. The overall share of the vote that went to today’s Conservative Party or its two predecessors (Progressive Conservatives and Reform/Alliance) has a decades long trend of slowly declining, with this election punctuating it with a decisive loss. In that light, the merger between the two parties looks like a desperate bid to prevent a split vote on the right, which was especially effective with a clear split between the centrist Liberal Party and more leftist New Democratic Party (NDP) in the 2000s.
But outside of that, the current gains of the Liberal Party appear to have largely been at the expense of more leftist parties, with the NDP and the Green Party having both seen their vote returns shrink considerably from their peaks (in 2011 and 2008 respectively). To be fair, that is something of a return to the 1900s norm of Liberal dominance. That said, there are some changing parts of the electoral landscape, with Bloc Québécois (BQ) not only disintegrating, but seeing a large part of its lost voters give support to the Conservative Party in the form of its tightest concentration of gained parliamentary seats, in Québéc City itself:
Historically a left-leaning party open to working with organized labor and with clear LGBT-inclusive policies, this suggests a key reorganization of the left-right split, particularly within francophone parts of Canada. Many have noted that this has long been hinted at with the use of islamophobic and racist rhetoric gaining traction within many BQ circles. If this election is any indication, many aren’t interested in the québécois version of those politics and would prefer the anglophone articulation of that instead. With that once deciding party moving to the right and bleeding voters to the right, it suggests a potential realignment within Québéc, the second most populous Canadian province.
The Republicans can’t quite fracture
Lastly, as long as we’re talking about coalition haggling and negotiations between parties, it looks like the far right and less far right camps in the US House of Representatives have reached some type of consensus around Paul Ryan and will be retaining their coalition. As I’ve noted before this unfortunately will mean maintaining the polite fiction that Republicans are a single functional party, which, well, isn’t how things are practically working out within that body. Chris Hayes tweeted about an interesting facet of that Wednesday:
It’s a little weird there’s no public, definitive, agreed-to list of members of the Freedom Caucus, right?
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) October 21, 2015
The best coverage of the Freedom Caucus has come from the Pew Research Center’s reports this week which tried to grasp exactly who this murkily identifiable group was. Their first assessment, of the known Freedom Caucus members’ districts, suggests that unlike prior iterations of Republican proto-separatists, they aren’t from a particularly distinctive part of the country. That’s not too shocking to note, since membership is more or less shielded from public view so how can voters know if they’re voting for someone affiliated with that faction or not (without voting for a Democrat, of course)? Their second look finds some key differences that ultimately boil down to process. The two factions within the Republican Party are more or less of one mind on policy, but are deeply divided on process. That leads to a fuzzy ideological boundary, not especially suited to developing into a political fault line.
In short, the US House looks like it will be stuck in this quagmire for a while. The coalition between these two groups to create the Republican caucus is fragile enough that it can’t move on policy or even carry out many basic votes necessary for the body to operate. That said, the distinctions can be byzantine to many and have been actively disguised from the general voter. Both governmental and public checks on the coalition are by and large ineffective as a result. The Republican caucus can’t quite function but also can’t quite break.