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Politics and its Discontents: Shoulder Shrug

Like many of the commentators and bloggers whom I read, I regularly feel a deep frustration over the passivity of people. No matter what the problem, be it political, social, environmental or a host of others, too many have a ‘can’t-do’ reaction that debases so many in a myriad of ways. Indeed, it appears to be one of our species’ defining characteristics, one at which Canadians seem to particularly excel, if our current political landscape is any indication.

Perhaps we need a national shoulder-shrug symbol as an expression of the what-can-you-do paralysis that cripples so many, a condition that undoubtedly (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: The War Continues

The Harper cabal’s contempt for the environment, science, transparency, and knowledge in general has become the stuff of dark legend, provoking outrage both at home and beyond our borders. That a putative democracy can be behaving in such a totalitarian manner strains credulity. And the latest salvo against science, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ closing of seven of eleven regional libraries housing a priceless accumulation of aquatic research, is being regarded as a tremendous loss by both scientists and the general public:

Peter Wells, an adjunct professor and senior research fellow at the International Ocean Institute at Dalhousie University (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Emily Badger discusses how poverty affects people who are forced to use their physical and mental resources on bare survival: Human mental bandwidth is finite. You’ve probably experienced this before (though maybe not in those terms): When you’re lost in concentration trying to solve a problem like a broken computer, you’re more likely to neglect other tasks, things like remembering to take the dog for a walk, or picking your kid up from school. This is why people who use cell phones behind the wheel actually perform worse as drivers. It’s why air (Read more…)

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Saturday reading.

- Rick Salutin writes about the need for the labour movement to better promote its contribution to the general public – and my only quibble is that I’d prefer to see a focus on what still can be (and needs to be) done rather than past victories: (W)hy don’t (unions) contest the battle for the public mind? I don’t know why but they don’t, or rarely do. They seem to have lost track of that tactic. It went missing in the Ontario teachers conflict this year, too. The unions made little or no effort (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: For Those Who Don’t Mind Gov’t Surveillance Because They Have Nothing To Hide

You might want to take a moment to read Rick Salutin’s thoughts on the implications of living in a country where environmentalists and others who oppose the government’s corporate agenda are regarded as terrorists.

As well, this Canadian Dimension piece might also give you pause.

Recommend this Post

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Rick Salutin highlights the dangers of relying on bulk data collection and algorithmic analysis as a basis to restrict individual rights: The National Post’s Jen Gerson interviewed a U.S. privacy expert. She asked about the PRISM program, by which U.S. agencies spy on Internet activity based outside the U.S., but which routinely rebounds back into the U.S. He said, “ . . . if we have intel that a reporter in Vancouver is a terrorist or whatever we’re going to ask for communications from the U.S. to Vancouver over (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Heroes and Villains

There is little doubt in my mind that the economic chaos defining the lives of millions of people is intentional, not just so their labour can be exploited as cheaply as possible, but also because desperate citizens make for compliant and disciplined drones. Historically, it has usually been thus, with the elites calling the shots while the rest scramble for meager existences, through no fault of their own other than their place in the embryo lottery.

When you are in a position of economic security, it is much easier to follow the corporate/political intrigue that continues to debase our democracy (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Rick Salutin on Civic Embarassment

We are in Edmonton right now, and when people ask us where we are from, I mention our community as being about 70 kilometers from Toronto; I then hasten to add that we have nothing to do with Rob Ford, one whose escapades every westerner we meet seems to be well aware of. Never have I felt a greater urge to distance myself from Ontario’s capital, with obvious good reason.

I therefore found especially interesting Rick Salutin’s thoughts on civic embarrassment and its effects on the people. You can read it here.

Off to Banff tomorrow. I wonder if the (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: An Embarrassment To All of Us

Like the dotty uncle no one wants to invite to family dinners anymore because of his wildly inappropriate comments, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is fast becoming an international persona non grata.

With the passion of a senescent zealot, Oliver has drawn unfavorable attention to Canada in recent weeks over his attacks on those who disagree with his unbridled enthusiasm for Alberta’s dirty oil. There was, for example, his visit last month to Washington in which he lambasted a leading climate scientist, James Hansen, denouncing him for “exaggerated rhetoric,” that “doesn’t do the (environmentalists’) cause any good.” For good (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: The Synchronous Decline of Peter Mansbridge and The CBC

I admit that I stopped being a regular viewer of the CBC years ago; I think the catalyst for my disaffection was its transparent policy of appeasement (under the pretext of balanced reporting) of the Harper regime which, of course, holds its funding strings. Especially evident in its flagship news program, The National, hosted by that one-time icon of journalistic integrity, Peter Mansbridge, the Corporation has become a parody of itself. And as I have written in past posts, Mansbridge himself has to take the bulk of the blame for its sad decline.

On February 8, The Star’s Rick

. . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: The Synchronous Decline of Peter Mansbridge and The CBC

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

- Ian Lovett reports on the use of “capital appreciation bonds” in California to ensure that future generations pay an inflated price to private-sector developers for infrastructure today.

- Justin Ling’s review of Joyce Murray’s message about electoral non-competition pacts is well worth a read – but I’ll particularly highlight this part: Do you want Stephen Harper to be defeated in the next federal election?

Alright, we’re already off to a rocky start.

Politics of negation is dangerous, ugly, and unfortunately rears its ugly head very often in leadership campaigns.

“Elect me and I’ll

. . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links

The Ranting Canadian: CBC’s Peter Mansbridge coulda bin a contender: Salutin

CBC’s Peter Mansbridge coulda bin a contender: Salutin:

As a follow-up to my post about former fluff broadcaster and current fraud artist Mike Duffy, here is a link to a Rick Salutin column about the fluffy news reader Peter Mansbridge, and about the decline of CBC news in general. As a bonus, here is my own take on Mansbridge.

Peter Mansbridge: big voice, big disappointment

Over the past decade or so, TV news anchor Peter Mansbridge, of the tax-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), has become a shell of his former self. He may have been a serious reporter

. . . → Read More: The Ranting Canadian: CBC’s Peter Mansbridge coulda bin a contender: Salutin

Politics and its Discontents: ”Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so.’

The title of my post today, taken from Act Five of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, occurs in a graveyard. Hamlet begins musing on what may become of one’s earthly remains, as even those of the most exalted in life, once their remains have fully decayed, may wind up as little more than a beer barrel stopper.

Horatio seems to feel that such speculation is a tad morbid and unhealthy.

Perhaps the same may be said about trying to dissect the mind of a politician, for fear of what we may discover.

In his column yesterday, The Star’s Rick Salutin goes down that

. . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: ”Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so.’

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.- Rick Salutin offers an important take on the U.S. election by pointing out that the Occupy movement and its focus on inequality laid the groundwork for Barack Obama’s re-election:The aftermath to the bailouts was the… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jeffrey Simpson marks Peter Lougheed’s passing by discussing what he brought to Alberta’s political scene that’s been sorely lacking ever since: Mr. Lougheed, defending Alberta’s jurisdictional turf in conflicts with Liberal and Conservative governments in Ottawa, navigated his province through these shoals. The shame of his successors is that they took two of his cardinal convictions and discarded them in the rush for quick spoils and easy money – that natural resource revenues belong to the people and should be developed in a measured, balanced fashion, and that considerable money from those resources

. . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Politics and its Discontents: Rick Salutin On Teacher Unions

We seem to be in the constant throes of anti-union sentiment during a time they are most needed. The right wing, including Ontario Conservative leader young Tim Hudak, seems to be especially enamored of the phrases “union bosses” and “workplace democracy,” both thinly-disguised anti-union euphemisms. And now that teachers are taking their fight against Dalton McGuinty’s theft of their collective bargaining rights into the schools, we can expect more self-serving pontifications from the usual suspects.

Amidst all of the hysterical propaganda, in his column today Rick Salutin offers a timely reminder of why teachers, who he describes as the

. . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Rick Salutin On Teacher Unions

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Rick Salutin discusses the link between parity of wealth and democratic participation, while pointing out why there’s reason for people to engage much more in the latter (W)hy didn’t the majority ever vote to expropriate the rich and take all their stuff? Perhaps it isn’t that they were duped by media or agreed with the way things were. Maybe their ambitions were always modest: they didn’t begrudge the 1 per cent what they had, so long as it left a decent life for them and their families.

Most people I know are fair-minded

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Song of the Watermelon: Referendums: The Perils and the Possibilities

Direct democracy is to representative democracy what extra-virgin olive oil is to refined olive oil. The latter is more cost effective and, perhaps according to some, just as good. But to the connoisseur, there is no substitute for the real stuff.

In the fourth article of his ongoing series on democracy, Toronto Star columnist Rick Salutin examines the real stuff in the form of Swiss referendums. Several national referendums are held together four times per year in Switzerland on everything from tax policy to constitutional amendments to international treaties. Direct democracy advocates all around the world look on enviously,

. . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: Referendums: The Perils and the Possibilities

Song of the Watermelon: Rick Salutin on Democracy, Parties, and Electoral Reform

“Democracy,” as Winston Churchill famously stated, “is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Somewhat less famously, he also remarked that “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

Notwithstanding this somewhat anemic endorsement, those who live under democracy tend to quite like it. We often devote ourselves to attempts at strengthening the people’s rule. A recent effort in this vein comes courtesy of columnist Rick Salutin and his series on democratic renewal for the Toronto Star.

Salutin, in the second

. . . → Read More: Song of the Watermelon: Rick Salutin on Democracy, Parties, and Electoral Reform

Politics and its Discontents: Rick Salutin on Proportional Representation

The problem with parties is they don’t exist to represent the views of the public, or even sections of it, or even their own members. Maybe they once did, or maybe not. But now they exist to win elections. They’re “election-day organizations,” to quote political scientist Donald Savoie. They take public opinion into account mainly in their strategic calculations.

Is some form of proportional representation the answer to the ‘democratic deficit’ reflected in the above excerpt from Part 2 of Rick Salutin’s series on democracy?

Salutin admits to an ambivalence about a reform he once enthusiastically embraced. The most popular

. . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Rick Salutin on Proportional Representation

Politics and its Discontents: Defining Democracy

Just back from a very brief holiday in western New York, I’m still feeling a bit too relaxed to post anything lengthy, but I do have a reading recommendation for anyone concerned about democracy in its various forms.

Earlier this year, The Star’s Rick Salutin took time off from his weekly column to do research on democracy. The results of that research begin today in the first part of a series. Entitled Democracy: Thinking outside the box, the piece offers some surprising statistics that challenge the notion that elections are the pinnacle of democratic expression.

Despite the fact that

. . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Defining Democracy

Politics and its Discontents: Rick Salutin Today

While the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge may often pronounce ponderously and authoritatively on issues, there is another source of information that should, in many ways, be taken more seriously, says Rick Salutin in his column today.

Well worth the read. Recommend this Post

Politics and its Discontents: Rick Salutin On Happiness

Our self-absorbed society could do worse than read Rick Salutin’s thoughts on the pursuit of happiness found in today’s Star. Recommend this Post

Accidental Deliberations: Leadership 2012 Roundup

News and notes from the last few days as the deadline to sign up looms just a week away in advance of a convention that’s set to far exceed the turnout the NDP expected.

- Niki Ashton responded to questions about whether she’d stay in the race with a strong indication that she won’t be pushed out.

- Nathan Cullen added a noteworthy endorsement from Brian Masse, who becomes the first MP from outside Cullen’s home province to back his leadership bid.

- Paul Dewar unveiled his foreign policy, while Daniel Leblanc wrote that this weekend’s Quebec City debate

. . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Leadership 2012 Roundup

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Trish Hennessy points out that Rob Ford’s contemptuous attack on the idea of secure employment may offer an ideal contrast between the right-wing view of the economy and the stability citizens actually want for themselves: Remember when holding down a job for life was considered a sign of personal responsibility and integrity?

Remember when staying committed to a job for life was an example of how you could be relied upon, trusted? How you were viewed as stable and productive?

Remember when having a job for life was a symbol of the model

. . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links