Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Monday, June 06, 2011

Where Have the Leaders Gone?

Are the attributes of the politician and policy maker compatible?

A winning politician must be an effective salesman. His most vital asset is the ability to communicate. He displays humility and is non-threatening and approachable, while conveying confidence and competence, but never arrogance. He talks in clean, tight, and persuasive sound bites. A star politician is as good at listening as he is at talking and has the uncanny ability to connect with people on a deeply visceral level. A high pain tolerance level and thick skin are compulsory for any successful politician. Being target practice for personal attack, innuendo, gossip, and lies is a fact of life.

Once a policy maker, he must absorb reams of data that requires study, analysis and reflection. His perspective is necessarily broad-gauged. He must understand the complex interplay between public administration and its myriad actors locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. He needs to have a level of self-awareness and confidence that allows him to acknowledge what he doesn't know and solicit input from others who do. His vision is long term, not short term.

While he comes to the role with a value system and world view based on his knowledge and life experience, he is not blinded by ideology and prejudice. He is willing to be convinced that his views are wrong especially when confronted with uncomfortable facts and truths, and does not hesitate to adjust his course accordingly. An effective policymaker is a leader that possesses superior judgment, a solid inner compass, a sense of strategy, is cool and firm under pressure, and delights in making tough decisions. He has the ability to educate, persuade, and build consensus for action.

If this sounds like a tall order, it's because it is. Business, academe, the non-governmental sector, and senior public service are full of people like this. But it is a rare thing indeed to find them in the political realm. However, they do exist. A few come to mind such as John Manley, Bob Rae, Brian Tobin, Frank McKenna, Gary Doer, Paul Martin, and Jim Prentice.

Full Article
Source: Huffington Post  

Canada Post’s rolling work stoppages taking toll on business, charities

Worries are mounting over the potentially disruptive impact of rotating work stoppages by Canada Post workers – the latest one in Montreal – if the labour dispute with management continues much longer.

“We haven’t had any members call in a panic because of the rolling nature of the strike,” said Dan Kelly, senior vice-president for legislative affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

“There’s no question there will be some delays, but if the rolling strikes continue, the system could get gummed up. There could be a cumulative impact after a couple of weeks.”

There is also fear among some businesses – particularly the smaller ones that tend to still rely on the postal system for such things as invoicing and bill payments – that the rolling strikes will escalate into a general strike,” Mr. Kelly said in an interview Sunday. That could happen if there is no progress soon in talks between Canada Post management and representatives of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, he said.

Another group that is vulnerable is the charities sector, which uses the postal service to get donations in the form of cheques.

The two sides remain at odds over several issues, including workplace safety related to new mail-processing machines, reduced wages for new employees and a re-jig of how sick days are accumulated.

Full Article

Ottawa embraces ‘inaction,’ but should act on jobless rate

Observers expect little to have changed between Jim Flaherty's March budget and today's second run at it. And on many fronts, there's little need to change it from the pre-election version.

Jobs, however, are another matter, particularly as the United States hits a slow stretch.

The new majority government is in an enviable position compared to its counterparts across the globe. Consider Europe's struggles, for example, or the threat by Moody's Investors Service to put the U.S. debt rating under review if politics block a higher debt ceiling.

"Since last fall, Canada's domestic stability has made the expansion relatively easy to forecast and easier still to manage," said Mark Hopkins, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics.

"Unemployment has drifted downward, core inflation has remained low, and financial markets have been booming. All this has prompted fiscal and monetary authorities to act far more conservatively than their G7 counterparts, embracing inaction as their best strategy."

Mr. Hopkins is right that unemployment has drifted down, but "drifted" is the key word. Unemployment is running at 7.6 per cent - and that's not expected to change much when Statistics Canada releases the May jobs report this Friday - and the youth jobless level is above 14 per cent. Some economists believe Friday's report could even show an increase in the national unemployment rate to 7.7 per cent.

Full Article
Source: Globe & Mail 

Consensus-driven Supreme Court under the microscope

Supreme Court of Canada Justice Morris Fish registered crisp disapproval last week as he accused his colleagues of misconstruing the meaning of consent in a sexual assault case.

Their misguided reasoning would ensure that even an innocent kiss planted on a sleeping partner could constitute a crime, Judge Fish fumed.

It was the kind of exchange that was once commonplace on the court. But no more; unanimity is the norm and rarely is heard a discouraging word. Gone are the days of internal sparring and the sparking of intellectual debate. Under Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, the court largely avoids controversy and issues few bold judgments that could be likely to ruffle feathers or raise the hackles of legislators.

In a development that is almost certainly related, public debate over the role of the judiciary has receded. In the ongoing tug-of-war between politicians who pass laws and the judges who interpret them, Parliament is inching ahead.

Full Article
Source: Globe & Mail 

Obama Admin Should Heed Global Panel’s Call to End "Failed" U.S.-Led Drug War

A high-level international panel has concluded the so-called "war on drugs" has failed and that governments should consider legalizing substances, including marijuana. The Global Commission on Drug Policy is comprised of 19 members, including several former heads of state. The Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House has refuted the findings of the commission’s report. We speak to Dr. Gabor Maté, a Canadian physician and bestselling author of four books, including In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. "On any level you care to name, the war on drugs is a failure," Dr. Maté says.

Source: Democracy Now! 

Former Black Panther Leader and Political Prisoner Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt Dies in Tanzania

We look at the life of former political prisoner, Geronimo ji-Jaga Pratt, who died in Tanzania on Thursday. In 1972, Pratt was wrongfully convicted of the murder of Caroline Olsen for which he spent 27 years in prison, eight of those in solitary confinement. He was released in 1997 after a judge vacated his conviction. The trial to win his freedom revealed that the Los Angeles Black Panther leader was a target of the FBI’s counterintelligence program, or COINTELPRO. We play an excerpt of a Democracy Now! interview with Pratt and one of his attorneys, Johnnie Cochran, Jr., in 2000. We also speak with his friend and former attorney, Stuart Hanlon, and with Ed Boyer, the Los Angeles Times reporter who helped expose his innocence. "The FBI followed Geronimo every second, almost, of his life, and they knew he was in Oakland at the time of the homicide," says Hanlon. "When we started litigating this, rather than turning it over, for the first time anyone could remember FBI wiretaps disappeared. And of course they knew where he was. It didn’t matter what the truth was, because he was the bad guy, and the truth had to take second place, even in the courtroom." Pratt ultimately won a $4.5 million civil rights settlement against the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Source: Democracy Now!