Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jim Coyle wonders whether or democracy is in decline, and cites as evidence the utter disconnect between the primary functions of elected representatives and the way politics are covered in the media:
(R)eal influence and authority has left the precincts — drifting inexorably over recent decades into first ministerial offices, where cabals of unelected appointees make most decisions that matter and tell elected members what to say and how to vote.

Luminaries such as economist Don Drummond have far more access to premiers, and far more sway over public affairs, than any mere MPP.

In exit interviews of federal members, conducted in 2011 by the Samara democracy research organization, MPs characterized themselves as “potted plants” and “clapping seals.”

Their greatest frustrations, they said, usually came from the arbitrary demands and punishments of their own parties. Many admitted to voting for bills or measures with which they did not agree.

They said the politics most commonly seen by the public “did little to advance anything constructive.” The most useful work by MPs was done away from the spotlight, they said, in caucus or in the less-partisan environment of committees not much covered by journalists. What is showcased, instead, is theatre, posturing, stonewalling and, too often, vicious personal attacks.
- But it's worth putting the concern about the disempowerment of elected representatives in context. And while the Cons' rejection of accountability in budgeting serves as a typical example of the executive decreeing that Parliament shouldn't be able to know what Canada's government is doing, it does seem noteworthy that Con MPs joined the opposition parties in agreeing that there's a serious problem to be addressed.

- No, we shouldn't put too much stock in the results of the federal by-elections called today for votes on November 26. But it's well highlighting how the Cons' spin about them lacks any basis in reality - and Kady is up to the task.

- Finally, Gerald Caplan writes about Canada's developing culture war:
(T)here’s something larger going on here. There’s an irreconcilable clash of cultures. There are two diametrically opposite ways of seeing the world constituting a profound conflict of values. So not only do the two sides disparage each other, they can’t begin to understand each other.

It’s a good bet that Rob Ford enthusiasts and Omar Khadr antagonists are mostly the same people and that both are part of Stephen Harper’s original and most reliable base. This 30 per cent – although not necessarily the support he has received beyond them, especially in the last election – disproportionately opposes abortion, gay marriage and gun control and denies global warming and evolution. Many, paradoxically, belong to the 99 per cent. As in the U.S. and Europe, culture often trumps class. They resent more successful peers rather than the 1 per cent.

These are the new conservatives, threatened by a world where the only certainty is constant dizzying change. They find less and less in common with other Canadians who in turn find them baffling, strangers in a strange land. The two groups can barely connect with each other. This is not the Canada we once knew and no one knows how to deal with it.


  1. Anonymous11:00 p.m.

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  2. Anonymous11:05 p.m.

    To all,

    Gerald Caplan is reaching. There is no "culture war" to be discerned from niche issues like Khadr & Ford.

    To most Canadians, Khadr barely warrants a passing thought. To the rest, he is a convoluted security issue. In such matters, the public has always deferred to our political leadership. The current leadership believes him to be a threat, so a substantial portion of the public follows on the matter.

    Then we have Rob Ford, a man mostly known to Canadians for his comical physical appearance (specifically, body fat & bad teeth). Outside of Toronto, only poli-sci obsessives care to know his policies. Within Toronto, he was merely a protest-vote against the grueling garbage-strike.

    A basic truth should not have eluded a man with as much grey hair as Gerald Caplan: Like the military - our Canadian political culture responds to signals from the very top.

    In our context, it is Stephen Harper & his cabal of hard-right intellectuals who occupy the very top. They have set an apocalyptic tone through their print & broadcast organs. Seduced by wealth & power, the conservative movement has welcomed these signals. Out of sheer self-preservation, the progressive movement has responded in kind.

    Should those signals change, you would see the intensity & method of discourse change as well. IMO, knowing the cabal, this would require a collapse in oil prices or a change of government in 2015. As those prospects seem far off, I suppose we should expect more histrionics from impatient likes of Gerald Caplan.

    C'est la vie,
    Dan Tan

  3. Excellent links.. much appreciated .. very stimulating ..

    I think long and hard on ways to communicate my personal issues or views on where Canada and democracy and Canadian identity & culture is going, or being steered or driven or being screwed. Since I see myself after some 60 years as being equally forward looking and trapped in my past.. here's at least one idea.. or premise

    Without doubt, Stephen Harper, Ray Novak or one of his war room cabin boyz.. or some deluded senior staff writer at a Toronto newspaper, or perhaps a still vicious Senator a la the Scotsman Finley .. or a creep like Jason Kenney.. will huff and puff.. and excrete the idea of the 1st Postage Stamp of Stephen Harper !!

    I suggest real Canadians preempt the logical conclusion (the mundane horror) of that possibility.. and in a fitting guerilla manner.. do it better. Thus my few humble suggestions re a 'fitting' 1st stamp, 'honoring' Mr Harper, the great westerner from Toronto.

    - Harper astride two buffalo .. semi-naked (loincloth please!), in pursuit of Indians and their treaties. Or.. Harper landing a big female Orca with heavy fishing tackle and net. Harper fishing a tar sands tailings pond.. or shooting boreal wolves from plane. Thus illuminating his interest in nature and Canada's environment.

    - Harper proclaiming 'Prorogation For The Nation' .. Harper proclaiming the insidious nature of omnibus bills. Harper braying about eco-radicals. Thus portraying his deep and flexible personal views on democracy and situational ethics and charities.

    - Harper saluting in formal military dress, under an F-35 armed with cluster bombs and extreme extended range fuel tanks. Harper under a drone armed with cluster bombs.. Thus showing his wishful military command demeanor.. love of toys.. true leadership and his colonial spirit of military adventurism

    - Harper group picture with trusted Ministers and back-room hacks armed with iPads. Harper group picture with CEO's of petroleum corporations and suitcases of money. Harper group picture with Chinese political leaders. Thus showing teamwork, business sense and statesmanship and nice hair weave

    I'm sure you catch my drift ... The man needs to be mocked... and ridden out of Albertawa on a rail.
    I need to do some research to see if any infamous people from Canada have a postage stamp..
    Possibly a bank robber from Manitoba.. or a dangerous bad Indian ..
    Hey.. ! we could vote for a one dollar bill to be commissioned .. and he could be on the back...
    steering a ship into the arctic... searching for more ethical oil .. or narwhales .. or ice ...

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