A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Mixed Messages

Apparently some MPPs who regularly vote for or against long and complex pieces of legislation without fully studying it personally (they all blindly vote much of the time as told to by their leaders) need more time to study a simple bill to enable students whose future employment prospects may well depend upon getting back in the classroom.
Responding to those concerns, the Liberal government attempted to pass the back-to-work legislation on Thursday night using a provision that allows bills with the unanimous consent of all parties to be fast-tracked. The NDP, however, refused to consent to the bill, triggering a debate that will take place at Queen's Park today.“

That whilst questioning why it took so long for the government to take action whilst at the same time delaying the passing of the back to work legislation and vowing to vote against it irregardless even after having had “time to read it” (are they slow readers or what?) its not clear what they want.
Apparently the back-to-work legislation “begs the question of what has been happening for the last five weeks” but said that “her caucus will sit all weekend to ensure that “the government’s conservative-style, anti-worker legislation” isn’t put into place without a fight.”

There are indeed “serious questions” to ask about how the strike stretched on for as long as it did in the first place. As there are for many more strikes effecting public services, most labour strikes in the public sector seem to involve already well paid unionized workers wanting more, more, more, this does not seem to be the care here so the part time instructors may well have a point but holding students hostage is not the best way to resolve the situation.

The collective bargaining process is important. It is a principled process and we need to support it. But I believe that this went on too long and I believe there are some structural things we have to look at it so we are not ever confronted with such a long strike ever again,” Said Wynne, more like a confrontational process with little compromise on the table in most cases!




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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Internet Echo Chamber

The problem is the explosion of communication means: the internet, social media, 24 hours a day. They have opened access to information to more people than we can say, and that is a good thing. They have enriched and enlarged and broadened the discourse. Democracy and society have always gained from learned debate, whether it is political, or scientific. But we have to remain vigilant. We cannot let ourselves fall into complacency. We must be vocal, all the time, everywhere, every single one of us, so that we can deconstruct misinformation, and don’t end up in an echo chamber where we’re just listening to what we want to hear.
Governor General Julie Payette



Enough said!


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Sunday, November 5, 2017

No One Is Listening

Below a few extracts from the 128 page report by the measuring democracy people at Samara a non-partisan charitable champion of increased civic engagement.


In spring 2017, Samara Canada surveyed Members of the 42nd Parliament to explore the state of heckling and decorum from the perspective of those in the House. The survey reveals that incivility remains a problem. It also suggests that MPs have mixed feelings about heckling. They don’t like the state of debate in Parliament, but they don't want to get rid of heckling entirely either. This is still the case even though they know citizens don't like it.

This report presents the results of a survey of sitting MPs on incivility and particularly the practice of heckling. Firstly, it looks at what’s changed and what remains the same with respect to heckling in the current Parliament. Secondly, it examines three main types of heckling and three main reasons why MPs persist in heckling, despite increased pressure not to. Finally, it makes recommendations about how Parliament can nudge its Members toward the kind of culture change that Canadians want to see—to elevate the debate and foster an environment of dignity and respect............

The parties themselves have also taken action to reduce heckling, with leaders publicly promising more civil debate. However, while this survey found an almost even split between respondents who had been formally advised by their parties on how to deal with heckling (49%) and those who had not (51%), there was a marked partisan difference here: 81% of Liberals, 50% of New Democrats and 22% of Conservatives report being advised by their parties about heckling.

When surveyed, most MPs admitted they do not like heckling, but most MPs heckle. This is the paradox explored in Samara’s previous report “Cheering or Jeering?,” and it holds true here. A little over half of respondents agreed that heckling is “a problem.” Only 16% of respondents said they see heckling as beneficial to the House of Commons. Nevertheless, about two thirds of MPs (65%) admit to having heckled at some point.............
There is a second category of heckling that is more personal. A full 80% of MPs heard Members heckled for their delivery in the House “You’d think it was Grade Five. I don’t think Grade Fives would do that today. But it’s very juvenile behaviour. It’s obnoxious behaviour to be yelling at somebody because they have paused for a second, or misspoken a word, whatever.”

Most commonly, MPs heard colleagues heckled for their idea, comment or question (94%). Most heard MPs heckled for their political party (74%), their ideology (61%) or ethics (58%)............
While a majority of MPs regard heckling in the 42nd Parliament as a problem, they actually express rather nuanced and mixed feelings toward the practice generally. Only 38% would see it abolished outright—although here rookies and veterans part ways once again. Fully half of rookies favour abolishing, versus only 19% of veterans.

A fourth theme illuminated in an open-ended question among heckling’s defenders was that they were merely preserving an important tradition of Westminster parliaments–Parliaments that spring from the British parliamentary tradition, as ours does. One MP waxed poetic: “Keep it clean and respectful … but let it roll on as a magnificent continuation of our Canadian political history and parliamentary tradition.” Another conceded that heckling was unpopular, but suggested that this was because the public did not fully grasp the history and function: “The public likely doesn’t understand that heckling is a long-standing tradition in parliaments across the world.” “The House is not a church or school. Some outbursts are reflective of genuine outrage.” “Until accountability and truthfulness are restored, I don’t think it will stop.”

One MP put a fine point on it: “There are not examples of a Westminster-style parliament where heckling does not occur. If you can’t handle it, you should be looking for another line of work.” While heckling does have a long history in Canada, there is also a long-standing tradition of not heckling in many national legislatures, including the US Congress and most continental European parliaments. There is also no shortage of Westminster parliaments that are similarly respectful—from New Zealand to the Caribbean, regional parliaments in the UK to territorial legislatures in the Canadian North

One of the suggested solutions
MPs, particularly on the backbenches, lack meaningful opportunities to make themselves heard in Parliament. Truly fixing heckling means thinking about procedural fixes to foster a better debate generally. It also means finding new ways to empower backbench MPs.
Currently, questions and answers are limited to 35-seconds during Question Period. MPs must resort to sound bites as a result. If MPs had the time to make their case, or to pin down a perceived falsehood from another Member (for example), then that rationale for heckling disappears.


In total, 84 MPs responded to the survey. At the time of the survey, 338 MPs were sitting in the House.


I do not follow question period or any of the other daily broadcasts on CPAC just the few brief clips of some MPs behavior shown on the evening newscast is enough to turn my stomach, whilst much of the behavior during QP is more for the camera than to actually promote serious discussion of the issues the ability of those who do have the stomach for it to see (actually more hear the background heckling) the proceedings is important. If Canada is not to descend into the same sort of parliamentary dysfunction shown by a number of legislatures in Europe then our MPs must show more respect for each others point of view AND for those who view the proceedings!
Recently a vocal critic of heckling in the House of Commons, (Green Partys Elizabeth) May said there is still too much reading of notes and "bad high school drama" during question period and debates. She credits the Liberals for trying to improve the tone, but said the behaviour of the other opposition parties remains "appalling."






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Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Demise of Democracy

A recent post by Owen over at Northern Reflections brought my attention to this highlighting an “investigation” by a long time former MP.


Both major parties have made a mockery of Canada’s electoral system, which was on its sickbed when the Liberals came to power. It’s now on life support — according to the investigations of former Liberal MP Paul Szabo.


According to Szabo, the Liberal Party thwarts local voters to cherry-pick its chosen nominees. The campaign expense reports of some of those nominees are often late, incomplete and perhaps even illegal. Worse, many of the memberships that secured the nomination for one candidate over others were allegedly fraudulent. “


There is little doubt that the whole system by which candidates are selected is being 'gamed' by most, if not all, political partys.


What Szabo has flagged in the federal system — the undemocratic and even potentially illegal manipulation of the nomination process — is raging at the provincial level as well. As Ontario gears up for its next election, PC leader Patrick Brown is knee-deep in charges of skullduggery bordering on corruption.
His party’s nomination system has been rife with ballot stuffing, fake memberships, fake membership forms, people registered without their knowledge, payment or permission, as well as cheating so egregious that it elicited a rebuke from one of the staunchest Tories of them all: former Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton.”


The series of (lets be nice and call them) negative ad's currently being aired in Ontario from various political partys and their supporters does nothing to make me think that the final results are not being manipulated by those with the resources to 'buy' our election process.


Ultimately, what Szabo is addressing is nothing less than the demise of democracy. From the selection of party nominees through to election of our public officials, the will of the people has been reduced to the predatory manipulations of a few.
Whether it’s the PMO pulling strings to get its cronies nominated, a band of unscrupulous partisan techies suppressing the vote by robocalls, or a lazy and ineffective Elections Canada cutting slack when it should be bringing down the hammer on miscreants, we are not headed to a good place.”


The old adage from historian and moralist known simply as Lord Acton back in the 1800s comes to mind ....: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The ease with which large portions of our population can be 'manipulated' via various on line media by those with almost unlimited resources to do so should concern us all!




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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Is Facebook a threat to democracy?

Regular readers of this blog / forum (all two or three of you) will know I am no great fan of Facecrap and in fact do not subscribe to it and so my concerns are based upon second hand reports and observations, however this article shows others more knowledgeable have similar concerns.


Taylor Owen an assistant professor of Digital Media at UBC writes “The Facebook model has also incentivized the spread of low-quality clickbait over high-quality information, enabled a race to the bottom for monetized consumer surveillance.........”


“A key feature of the platform is that each user sees a personalized news feed chosen for them by Facebook. This microtargeting enables buyers to define audiences in racist, bigoted and otherwise highly discriminatory ways......” This type of misinformation is not eclusive to Facecrap, in point of fact almost any information obtained on the internet must be viewed with the source in mind, even reading the morning news on line reveals the wide variety of sources and often misleading or outright deliberate misinformation out there. Even with 'ad block' enabled many platforms find ways to bombard you with 'opinion' peices and unrequested content.


“The Facebook system is also a potent political weapon....... Bloomberg reported that in the final weeks of the U.S. election, Facebook and Google employees collaborated with extreme activist groups to help them microtarget divisive ads to swing-state voters...... content regularly goes viral regardless of its quality or veracity, disorienting and misleading huge audiences.” That a total moron like Trump can be elected to a suposedly democratic country like the U.S. of Eh clearly demonstrates the “power” of the internet and how spin doctors can sway public opinion and “buy” an election!


“How exactly should the Canadian government (or for that matter any govenment) protect the integrity of the next federal election, in which interest groups, corporations, foreign actors and political campaigns may all run hundreds of thousands, or millions, of simultaneous microtargeted ads a day? “ Thats a damned good question and one which I fear there is no good answer to given the prevalance of “social media” and the ease and speed with which 'news' (truthfull and accurate or otherwise) can be spread.


With so many people “communicating” via Facecrap and other “social media” there is a great deal of pressure to join the crowd in order to “talk” to friends and other who are not avalable on line by other means but this old fart will continue to avoid the temptation!


Mr Owen's full article may be read at https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/is-facebook-a-threat-to-democracy/article36661905/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&
Readers CAN comment on my remarks via the blogger comment link at the bottom of the page......

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Grey Bruce Area Heath Care

Previously published at 'The Rural Canadian'
This year has been a bit traumatic for both myself and some other family members health wise, non of us had previously not had much to do with hospitals and associated heath services till this year so it was mostly a learning experience. Being aware of horror stories detailing waits of many hours to get attended to I wish to tell the other side of the story that we have experienced in recent months.

In my own case, as briefly mentioned in a previous post back in May I had a stroke and it was touch and go there for a bit (or so I am told, I was out of it) and whilst there is little doubt that the emergency staff and doctors who treated me in those first few hours saved my life it is the nursing staff and other 'health professionals' I am going to highlight in this article. Whilst the Doctors no doubt have a large amount of input into ones care it is the nurses and other 'health professionals' that provide the hands on care and interact with us when we need care, my experience with these folks have, with very few exceptions, been outstanding! Not only was the actual nursing care in the ICU provided in a competent, caring and (most important and under rated quality) friendly manner and the same was true of the various heath advisors who visited during my recovery, the recovery assessors, dietary and lifestyle information specialists and so on. In hospital is not a place where any of us (particularity those previously healthy, or so I thought) wish to be but apart from being challenged by the food choices (I am a vegetarian which it turned out was a good thing as I lost several pounds which I actually needed to loose during the stay) it was not a bad experience considering the circumstances. I am howeverglad that I had a quick, almost miraculous recovery and was able to come directly home after leaving the ICU.


After this scare and having not seen a family doctor for many years we then went looking for someone to fill this role. Having 'regestered' with the Markdale South East Grey Community Health Centre a couple of years ago but never having gone any further (not having needed their services till now) we made an apointmet to see one of their 'Nurse Practitioners' and were pleasently surprised to learn that they held a 'clinic' at the nearby Chatsworth Township office two days a week. After recieving care and advice from the NP and Nurse at said clinic for severak months now I am pleased to report that we could not have found a better couple of proffesionals to attend to our medical needs. The friendly and accomidating staff have made an otherwise stressfull situation almost pleasant which given my record of avoiding doctors and check ups is quite something!


A cousin has had a similar experience with the VON nursing organization, receiving care and advice several times a week in her own home in Wiarton regarding problems arising from a past minor injury turned septic and poor circulation. Needing additional treatment she was referred to the Tobermoury Hyperbaric facility where she received intense but similar friendly and outstanding care over a number of weeks. Perhaps I was put off by stories of long waits and seemingly uncaring assessments told by others who attending a hospital emergency department but our experience with these particular heath professionals has been has been nothing but good. I do note here that unless one identifies an urgent situation or is already receiving ongoing care it is often hard to see a doctor or NP in a timely manner, typical appointments can be weeks or even months ahead, even longer if referred to a 'specialist', my thought has always been 'if I can wait for weeks to come see you then perhaps I do not need to see you at all!'. A little cynical perhaps and given recent history I SHOULD have made that move several years ago, a near death experience can result in a change in perspective eh!


Whilst I will not identify the particular individuals I have spoken about in this post I would like to give the following heath care professionals a hearty thanks and a 'well done and keep up the good work'. You know who you are........


Thanks to
The nursing and support staff at the Owen Sound ICU unit.
The South East Grey Community Health Centre Nurses and Nurse Practitioners and staff.
The Victorian Order of Nurses Grey Bruce Nurses and support staff
The Tobermoury Hyperbaric Facility Doctor and staff.


PS. Yes I am fully recovered and my cousin is making good progress. Perhaps this winter I will resume my commentary here at Democracy Under Fire! Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Independent Caucus's for the Senate

The Senate has just voted for a major shake-up of how members of the Red Chamber align themselves by allowing nine or more members to form a caucus, a substantial break from tradition that has historically seen the place organized along party lines.
A small but important step forward in my view, I continue to believe that we need this body to examine and offer revisions upon legislation proposed by the government (particularly majority governments) and any move to give more resources to “independents” and move away from partisan decisions is a good thing IMHO.


The motion directs the Senate rules committee to now formalize the changes, and then requests the internal economy committee — which effectively governs the chamber and adjudicates complaints — to draw-up budgets for these prospective new caucuses, to help hire staff for "secretariats" and pursue research projects. The motion was adopted by a voice vote, so it is not clear how much support it had from the existing parties.
Now if only “independent” and minority caucus's in the House of Commons could get equal access to resources for their MP's


Because he faced a significant list of vacancies when he assumed office, Trudeau has been able to appoint a large number of new senators in a relatively short time through a "merit-based" application process. In the last year alone, 27 senators have been appointed and a further 11 senators will be appointed by the year's end (or 38 out of a total 105 senators).
Virtually all of these new appointees have joined together with a handful of other senators — who left the Liberal or Conservative caucuses for various reasons — to create the Independent Senators Group (ISG) led by Alberta Senator Elaine McCoy, who acts as its leader or "convenor." (The caucus definition change also formally brings the ISG under the Senate's rules.)
I note that Senator Elaine McCoy has been a self identified “independent” for many years, long before Trudeau started appointing “non partisan” senators.


Wells said while the new senators were appointed as Independents, they have since realized it is beneficial to caucus together to share money, staff and other resources.
I really hope this does not encourage the groups to morf into partisan voting blocks but simply encourages independent thinkers to cooperate and find consensus on matters of particular interest to them.





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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Preferential Ballot Recommended for New Brunswick

An independent commission on electoral reform in New Brunswick is recommending the province adopt a preferential ballot for choosing members of the legislature. The commission's report, released Friday morning, says that would lead to a legislature that is more representative of what voters want.

A preferential ballot "is a modest, pragmatic choice for reform that does not create its own series of problems, as a wholesale change to another electoral system would," "It also keeps things simple and easy, so that everyone can understand how to vote and that their vote really counts." the report says.
A modest, pragmatic choice for reform that was completely rejected by the recent federal committee studying Electoral Reform, however New Brunwickers should not expect a new voting system to be in place anytime soon as the dreaded Referendum word is once again being thrown about, not by the commission but by the government.

“Any government would have to have a clear mandate from the people of New Brunswick to make that type of change. A mandate could be seeked through a referendum, and it could be seeked through a political party’s platform,” Gallant said Friday.
Progressive Conservative Leader Blaine Higgs agrees. “The Official Opposition believes that any changes to our democracy must be decided democratically through a referendum or ballot question. Democratic reform has to be democratic,” he said.
The commission also recommended lowering the voting age and the age limit for being a candidate from 18 years to 16 years.

It says people who get involved in politics at a young age are more likely to stay involved, and it rejects the idea that 16–year–olds are too young to vote. "The commission was encouraged by the level of maturity and intelligence displayed by the young New Brunswickers with whom it met," the report says. But because it wants young voters to stay in school, the report says anyone 16 or older but younger than 18 wanting to run for office would have to have a valid high school diploma.
Other recommendations include:
  • Lowering the maximum donation of money to a political party by a person, union or business from the current $6,000.
  • Phasing out donations from unions and businesses after the 2018 election.
  • Creating a temporary financial incentive for political parties that nominate more women candidates.
  • Allowing non–citizens who are permanent residents to vote in provincial and municipal elections.
  • Teaching more about government, politics and voting in the school system.
  • Bringing back a law that requires parties to provide a costing of their election promises.
  • Moving the fixed date for provincial elections from the fourth Monday in September to the third Monday in October. That would avoid university and college students new to the province being excluded by a rule that says a voter must live here for 40 days before they can vote.

The entire committee was in favour of e-voting, but said government should not proceed with online voting at this time due to security, confidentiality and privacy concerns.

“I think it would be irresponsible on our part to recommend moving in that direction until such time as we have assurances that we can really have a safe, secure system that ensures ballot secrecy. If we don’t have those assurances we don’t believe the time is right,” committee member Alcorn said.
I wish then luck with this “modest, pragmatic choice for reform”, at least they have a firm understandable choice to put on a referendum ballot should they choose to do that!




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Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Twit and the Future of Democracy in the U.S.

With a blog focused upon democracy my regular readers may have been wondering how I could not write about the real and ongoing threat to democracy occurring to the south of us with the installation of a authoritative but unstable narcissist elected president. I simply don’t know what to say that has not already been said and am still in a state of disbelief that so many people can be so brainwashed as to elect such an obvious racist twit.


That said I came across this article (extracts) from The New Yorker written back in November a few days after the election which pretty much predicts his future actions and makes some uncomfortable comparisons.
Whilst his policy's may appal many of us the recent attack upon the press and his constant use of 'alternative truth' is much more troubling with regard to American democracy.


(The Twit) sailed to the presidency on . . . lies and exaggerations, and there’s no reason to think he’ll discover a new commitment to the truth as president,” Stephen Walt, the Harvard foreign-policy realist, writes in a new article in Foreign Policy. “The American people cannot properly judge his performance without accurate and independent information, and that’s where a free and adversarial press is indispensable.”


But, as he demonstrated during the campaign, he is also perfectly willing to attack journalists personally, boycott shows that run segments he doesn’t like, and bar entire news organizations from covering him. Through his Twitter and Facebook accounts, he has a personal “fake news” network with enormous reach, which he can use to circumvent the mainstream media. And in Steve Bannon, his former campaign C.E.O. and now his chief strategist, he has a skilled and unscrupulous propagandist.


The comparison with pre-war Germany has been made by a number of observers and cannot be dismissed.

 Referring to Franz von Papen, the conservative German politician who, in January, 1933, persuaded President Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor, Hans-Joachim Voth, an economic historian at the University of Zurich, wrote recently, “the Republican leadership sounds awfully like former Vice Chancellor von Papen and friends. They famously thought of Hitler as the ‘drummer’—a populist whose appeal was useful to them but could be controlled easily.”


Is The Twit a Fascist? Probably not, but some of those with whoom he has surrounded himself almost certainly are and his actions certainly give us a warning as to what is to come.


History, as always, is less a guide than a series of warnings. Fascism was built on the ruins of the First World War, the collapse of the interwar economy, and the failure of democratic political systems to come to terms with these catastrophes. Fascists were also able to exploit a widespread antipathy toward democracy in important institutions, such as the military, the government bureaucracy, and big business organizations. To some extent, Hitler and Mussolini were pushing on an open door. When the ultimate crisis arose, the German and Italian establishments persuaded themselves that they could bring the enemies of democracy into government and hem them in. Of course, once the fanatics gained control of the state apparatus, or parts of it, they used it to consolidate power and eliminate their opponents and erstwhile allies.


I fear that unless he and his 'Alt Right' cabinet and advisers are reigned in quickly that democracy as the American people know it will be but a part of history, the door leading away from it is already unlocked.


The big unknown isn’t what (The Twit) will do: his pattern of behavior is clear. It is whether the American political system will be able to deal with the unprecedented challenge his election presents, and rein him in.


(Note, I refuse to feed the Twits ego, and that of his cheer leaders, by printing his name in this article)






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Monday, February 20, 2017

So.........!

So..... Have you noticed how Ontario Premier Wynne always starts a response to a difficult question in a particular way? So...... Have you also noticed how the answer is invariably a predetermined, canned, non answer to the question asked? So....... at first I thought it to just be a strange habit of Wynnes speech but then I noticed several federal ministers replying to an interviewer in the same manner.
So...... is this an affliction that is spreading among politicians and when we hear an answer started this way we can simply ignore the following sentence or two. So......... does this mean that promises made after this word, like the promise to lower hydro prices, something that is supposedly set by the “independent” OEB, is just bafflegab?
So........ Thus far I have only noticed the affliction in our female politicians, are the male bafflegabbers immune from this or does it just present differently in that portion of our MPs and MPPs? So..... watch out for this signal that you are about to be fed a pre-programmed response. So...... does that mean that you can ignore what you have just read here, sure go ahead it makes just about as much sense as some of the answers given elsewhere of late!

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Lament For The World


First he said that he would make America great again.
And the naive believed him.


Then he said he would create more jobs.
And the out of work cheered.


Then he said stop the Mexican immigrants.
And the bigoted flocked to join him.


Then he said he would relinquish control of his companies..
And his followers believed him.


Then he was elected by those who could not see.
And the world held its breath.


Then two million women world wide protested his policies.
And he ignored them and exaggerated his support..


Then he elevated millionaires and ideologues to cabinet positions.
And the rich and powerful cheered.


Then he spread lies calling it the 'alternative truth'.
And the press revealed the real truth.


Then he called the real truth 'fake news' and attacked the press.
And the world realized he was mentally unstable.


Then he banned immigration from Muslim countries.
And the bigoted racists emerged from hiding.


Then he trashed the media, retail giants and the courts.
And the Judges said that he was wrong.


Then the American people and the world began to see what had been wrought.
And visions of 1933 and 1945 came to those not blinded by his lies.


Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past.


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Sunday, February 5, 2017

A No Win Situation From The Start

This week there has been much rhetoric about the failure of the Liberals to move forward on electoral reform, apparently this is all Trudeau's fault and no blame can be laid at the Conservatives who did everything they could to side track the committee studying the possibilities with their cry referendum, referendum, referendum! And what pray would you have as a question, “do you support electoral reform?” yes/no , what would that solve. Perhaps “do you support changing to a proportional system?”, but what type of proportional system? If the government decided upon a specific system to be put before the public, as the committee basically said they should, they would be accused of selecting a system to suit themselves. This was a no win situation right from the start, it was not helped by the tight time line to study alternatives and the failure to ask the committee to come up with a SPECIFIC recommendation, there is no doubt that Trudeau had every intention of introducing a new voting system by 2019 and made several missteps along the way to achieving that but as for broken promises.....they all do it!


His main error was promising something that he could not deliver, have you heard a politician say “we will try to.....” or “we will introduce legislation to......” or “we hope to....” in an election platform. No, 9 times out of 10 its “WE WILL” despite knowing that in Canada there is a process to go through before any legislation can become law, we are NOT the U.S where apparently a single leader, supported by a few want to be oligarchs, can change the country into a reflection of his warped mind with the stroke of a pen. The whole exercise was an interesting discussion that drew very little public comment outside of a few vocal organizations who were determined that their choice of a system had to be chosen and which was generally turning into a very divisive undertaking.


Let us continue to try and find a better system to elect those who would represent us in the House but understand it will take MUCH more study and someone to design and put before parliament a specific proposal, be it to directly vote on or put before the people in a referendum. Perhaps a more urgent matter should be Parliamentary Reform and the creation of some hard and fast rules to replace those unwritten 'traditions' that are ignored when it is convenient. The party line still overrides the individual MPs opinions, to paraphrase Orwell “All MPs are equal but some are more equal than others”.


I am getting very tired of the 'He broke his promise, He broke his promise, He broke his promise' rhetoric this week and the failure to understand that you cannot have a referendum on anything until you have a definitive question to consider. ” Tabling legislation to ram through a preferential ballot (or any other system) without parliamentary support would have been seen as transparently self-serving.”
As I said above its a no win situation for the government.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Freedom, Equality, Accountability & Transparency

Yesterday an estimated half million joined The Women's March on Washington which was supported by hundreds of thousands more gathering in various cities, not only in the U.S. but across the world. Described as “a women-led movement bringing together people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations and backgrounds in our nation's capital to affirm our shared humanity and pronounce our bold message of resistance and self-determination.” it clearly shows the deep concern that many citizens feel about the new U.S. Administration, a concern that is shared across the world and here in Canada.


A few weeks ago the organizers shared their “vision for a government that is based on the principles of liberty and justice for all”, whilst I cannot march with them I can support them and their vision by sharing it with you here. Whilst focused upon women the basic views expressed should apply to, and be supported by, all human beings of whatever sex.


Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles


We believe that Women's Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women's Rights .
This is the basic and original tenet from which all our values stem.
We believe Gender Justice is Racial Justice is Economic Justice. We must create a society in
which women, in particular women-in particular Black women, Native women, poor women,
immigrant women, Muslim women, and queer and trans women-are free and able to care for and
nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural
impediments.

Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of violence against our bodies. One in three
women have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime;
and one in five women have been raped. Further, each year, thousands of women and girls, particularly
Black, indigenous and transgender women and girls, are kidnapped, trafficked, or murdered. We honor
the lives of those women who were taken before their time and we affirm that we work for a day when
all forms of violence against women are eliminated.

We believe in accountability and justice for police brutality and ending racial profiling and
targeting of communities of color. Women of color are killed in police custody at greater rates than
white women, and are more likely to be sexually assaulted by police. We also call for an immediate end
to arming police with the military grade weapons and military tactics that are wreaking havoc on
communities of color. No woman or mother should have to fear that her loved ones will be harmed at
the hands of those sworn to protect.

We believe it is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the
criminal justice system. The rate of imprisonment has grown faster for women than men, increasing by
700% since 1980, and the majority of women in prison have a child under the age of 18. Incarcerated
women also face a high rate of violence and sexual assault. We are committed to ensuring access to
gender-responsive programming and dedicated healthcare including substance abuse treatment, mental
and maternal health services for women in prison. We believe in the promise of restorative justice and
alternatives to incarceration. We are also committed to disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline that
prioritizes incarceration over education by systematically funneling our children-particularly children
of color, queer and trans youth, foster care children, and girls-into the justice system.

We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts
or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS
care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal,
affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education. We
understand that we can only have reproductive justice when reproductive health care is accessible to all
people regardless of income, location or education.

We believe in Gender Justice. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from
gender norms, expectations and stereotypes. We must free ourselves and our society from the institution
of awarding power, agency and resources disproportionately to masculinity to the exclusion of others.

We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift,
expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers,
sisters and siblings. This includes access to non-judgmental , comprehensive healthcare with no
exceptions or limitations; access to name and gender changes on identity documents; full anti-
discrimination protections; access to education, employment, housing and benefits; and an end to police
and state violence.

We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. We
believe that creating workforce opportunities that reduce discrimination against women and mothers
allow economies to thrive. Nations and industries that support and invest in caregiving and basic
workplace protections including benefits like paid family leave, access to affordable childcare, sick
days, healthcare, fair pay, vacation time, and healthy work environments-have shown growth and
increased capacity.

We believe in equal pay for equal work and the right of all women to be paid equitably. We must
end the pay and hiring discrimination that women, particularly mothers, women of color, lesbian, queer
and trans women still face each day in our nation. Many mothers have always worked and in our modern
labor force; and women are now 50% of all family breadwinners. We stand for the 82% of women who
become moms, particularly moms of color, being paid, judged, and treated fairly. Equal pay for equal
work will lift families out of poverty and boost our nation's economy.

We recognize that women of color carry the heaviest burden in the global and domestic
economic landscape, particularly in the care economy. We further affirm that all care work--caring for
the elderly, caring for the chronically ill, caring for children and supporting independence for people
with disabilities--is work, and that the burden of care falls disproportionately on the shoulders of
women, particularly women of color. We stand for the rights, dignity, and fair treatment of all unpaid
and paid caregivers. We must repair and replace the systemic disparities that permeate caregiving at
every level of society.

We believe that all workers, including domestic and farm workers - must have the right to
organize and fight for a living minimum wage, and that unions and other labor associations are critical to
a healthy and thriving economy for all. Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our
labor protections, and we stand in solidarity with sex workers' rights movements.

We believe Civil Rights are our birthright. Our Constitutional government establishes a
framework to provide and expand rights and freedoms, not restrict them. To this end, we must protect
and restore all the Constitutionally-mandated rights to all our citizens, including voting rights, freedom
to worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech, and protections for all citizens
regardless of race, gender, age or disability.

We believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Most Americans believe the Constitution guarantees equal rights, but it does not. The 14th Amendment
has been undermined by courts and cannot produce real equity on the basis of race and/or sex. And in a
true democracy, each citizen's vote should count equally. All Americans deserve equality guarantees in
the Constitution that cannot be taken away or disregarded, recognizing the reality that inequalities
intersect, interconnect and overlap.

Rooted in the promise of America's call for huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we believe
in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin. It is our moral duty to keep
families together and empower all aspiring Americans to fully participate in, and contribute to, our
economy and society. We reject mass deportation, family detention, violations of due process and
violence against queer and trans migrants. Immigration reform must establish a roadmap to citizenship,
and provide equal opportunities and workplace protections for all. We recognize that the call to action to
love our neighbor is not limited to the United States, because there is a global migration crisis. We
believe migration is a human right and that no human being is illegal.

We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water,
clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate
must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or
greed-especially at the risk of public safety and health.

Thank you for that Ladies.

These pictures say it all .... https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/21/world/100000004886005.mobile.html?_r=0 Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Obama on Democracy

Last Tuesday President Obama presented his final speech of his presidency before the incoming Twit in Chief take power this coming Friday. The focus of his speech was as he said “the state of our democracy.”, meaning the state of democracy in the U.S. which surely looks bleak given the Twits recent twittering, however many of Obamas comments are relevant to all democracy’s across the world including our own here in Canada. I make no apologies for cherry picking a few of the most relevant sections of his remarks and presenting them here for your consideration. He says it so much better than I ever could........


Our youth and drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention mean that the future should be ours.
But that potential will be realized only if our democracy works. Only if our politics reflects the decency of the people. Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now.............
........stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles. While the top one percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind - the laid-off factory worker; the waitress and health care worker who struggle to pay the bills - convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful - a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics..........
.......we must forge a new social compact - to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don't avoid their obligations to the country that's made their success possible. We can argue about how to best achieve these goals. But we can't be complacent about the goals themselves. For if we don't create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come...........
For too many of us, it's become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste - all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that's out there...............
How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we're cutting taxes for corporations? How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing? It's not just dishonest, this selective sorting of the facts; it's self-defeating. Because as my mother used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you............
..........protecting our way of life requires more than our military. Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are. ...........
........the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression. If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.........
...........our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions. When voting rates are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote. When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. .............
It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we've been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.
Ultimately, that's what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there's an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.
Somehow I don’t think the incoming Twits acceptance speech will address any of these issues in any meaningful way, I truly hope that our neighbours to the south do not slide back into a place where democracy and diversity take second place to authoritarianism and exclusion but am not very optimistic in that regard.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

A New Name for Greed

I am not fond of 'labels', particularly political labels, they tend to be far to generalized and invariably lump a wide range of views under one label that is often cannot clearly define all the views encompassed by the generality. After all does 'Liberal' define all liberals or 'Conservative' cover all the various shades of grey surrounding that 'label'? One label that has seen a massive (doubled in the last year according to google) increase is ' neoliberalism', a simpler description would seem to me to be 'greed' or more specifically Corporate Greed with its closely associated Greed for Power.
Graeme Decarie in The Decarie Report put it all in perspective for me this week in that he says this is nothing new but simply a new label for an old affliction.


Recently, they (the corporate aristocracy) have introduced a new term to justify their vileness. It's called neo-liberalism. It's a belief that the wealthy need to be free from any government regulation or restraint, that humans are by nature competitive, and that by giving complete freedom to that competitiveness we will all become rich.
That is pure nonsense. There's nothing new about neo-liberalism. It was neo-liberalism that was used by the old aristocracy to plunder the world. Neo-liberalism made possible the slaughter of native peoples in the U.S. and Latin America - and in Canada. The only people it ever made rich were the neo-liberals. Even now, as neoliberalism gathers speed in the west, the very wealthy are getting richer while the rest of us get poorer. It can end only in a general crash. But our new aristocrats are too stupid with greed to think that far ahead.
As if that weren't a big enough crisis, we have an added one. Those who tried to deal with the great depression of the 1930s used the theories of Keynes who advised government spending when private spending slowed down.
But that may not work this time. It may not work because we're already making demands on our resources - like oil, mines, food - that cannot be sustained. Somehow, we need less growth, not more - but we still have to meet human needs.
But, with the present power of the corporation world there is no chance of concentrating on human needs. The starvation of millions means nothing to them. The evidence of climate change means nothing to them. Like the old aristocrats, these believe themselves to be born superior beings to the rest of us. And, like the old aristocrats, they are self-absorbed - and not very bright.



That last bit highlighted says it all for me, just like the pyramid schemes designed to make the instigator rich at the expense of those being sucked in later such things must by their very definition collapse under their own weight and lack of new building material (suckers). The whole idea that our economy can only survive if it is ever expanding is no less a scheme that must eventually run out of support from the bottom be it 'investors' or raw materials or simply those who would (or could) purchase the goods and services that keep the guys at the top happy in their corporate towers.


Call it neoliberalism if you like, I just call it greed and unfortunately it is not limited to the corporate world, for those of us the bottom of the heap many of the 'middle class' particularly the unionized worker be it white or blue collar, but particularly the public service crowd appear to be equally greedy. Everybody wants more, more, more and in a world of finite resources seem to forget that if they get more someone somewhere must pay for it and will have less. less, less. Until we all decide we can do without all the latest gadget, car, tool or toy (and the money to pay for them) and are satisfied to just live with what we have then we are ALL part of the problem IMHO.

Now, how much did YOU spend on non essentials over the last 30 days supporting that ivory tower?


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