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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

TRUMP'S INTEGRITY QUESTIONED ON CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Walter M. Straub Jr. is the Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.  He delivered a fascinating dissertation on the situational ethics of President-Inept Donald Trump to the Brookings Institute today.

He noted his office negotiated with Secretary of State Nominee, Rex Tillerson the CEO of Exxon.  Straub says Tillerson is making a "clean break...forfeiting bonus payments worth millions...he's now free of financial conflicts of interest."

The Tillerson ethics agreement is said to "...serve as a sterling model for what we'd (the Office of Government Ethics) like to see with other nominees.  Straub goes on to say "We've has similar success with some of the President-elect's other intended nominees.  Some of them haven't quite gotten there yet,...."

Where Straub goes from there about Mr. Trump's situational ethics is most interesting.  This is the stuff that feeds a need for impeachment.  A President is not the same as a CEO of a private corporation.  Trump's less than half-hearted machinations on his tepid attempt to appear that he is inoculated from conflicts of interest, real and perceived are very disturbing.

I commend that you take the time to read this report by an independent public servant, and one who Trump can't fire or replace for the next two years at least.

Read more 

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Reign of Trumpism

We are all in for some very trying times in the Trump Era...more accurately described as the "Trump Error."

There are the obvious pitfalls of the man's inadequacies, ignorances, arrogances, and ineptitudes as a person, politician and even as a businessman.

Trump's narcissistic personality disorder and megalomania are very well exposed and documented.  The mainstream media is yet to pursue this mental-health aspect of  President-Elect (a.k.a. President- Inept) Trump.

The revolution that is Trumpism is a "truth" and like Schopenhauer said:

 "All truth passes through three stages:"

First, it is ridiculed.  Remember all the pundits and politicos saying Trump was a joke candidate? Watch is real satire from 1988 and reflect on the parallels Pat Paulsen has to Trump and his approach to politics.

Second, it is violently opposed. That is where we are today as Trump has ruminated (look it up Donald) about running for President.  Now he is having anyone with significance as to will participate and perform in his Inauguration. The opposition to Trump is well documented in other more significant terms.

Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.  That is the option before us, not just in the US of A but the rest of modern democracy.  And that is the challenge before us.  Here is a Canadian context of Trumpism from the Editorial realms of the Globe and Mail. 

We can't be sanguine about this infecting the institutions of and in our Canada. We still have the ghost of Harper cum Bush policies lingering in our politics.  We have Trumpism "karaoke" candidates running for the Conservative Party of Canada.  We have a Harper "mini-me" in the form of Jason Kenney also channeling for Trumpism in Albert's politics.

We must resist, oppose and rejuvenate inclusive, caring, progressive values into updating our institutions as a way forward for a truly Canadian political culture in the face and threat of Trumpism coming to our country.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas and some Musings

It has been a long time since I posted anything on this old blog.  Thinking I might revive it again given the changing political scene in Alberta, Canada and the United States.

This was a very opinionated blog and why not?

There is a new year coming and a new world order emerging.  VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) is the new normal in the economy, the society and the environment.

Progressives in Alberta have been complacent, arrogant, out of touch and too often compliant with conventional authority and self-serving institutions.  That is until the last election.

The same thing has happened in the USA but with very different results.  Albertans elected a social democratic majority government.  The American elected a rabid cum fascist President and gave him effective control and personal power over most of its levers...including the Supreme Court.

So on this interlude on Christmas Day 2016, this is what I'm thinking,  Not sure I will do anything about it yet.  Time will tell.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Laurie Blakeman & Her Post-Conventional Party Politics

The past is littered with examples inability for Alberta's progressive political parties to individually mount an effective alternative to the ruling Conservative dynasty.

Laurie Blakeman, as Alberta's longest serving MLA, has seen a lot of changes.  She recognizes the political status quo for progressives will only preserve the power-based status quo for Conservatives. She is now walking her talk about changing the attitudes of establishment progressive partisans.

The October 2014 by-elections were very telling.  By-elections are usually opportunities to send the sitting government a message of discontent. There was plenty of discontent with the Conservatives.  Prentice still won all four seats, three in Calgary and one in Edmonton.

While Prentice won his own seat handily there were some interesting but still unsuccessful challengers in other ridings.  That said, there are no silver medals in politics.

The Wildrose did very poorly given the funds it spent, its strong Calgary presence and a star candidate. The Wildrose leader and most others crossed the floor o the Prentice Conservatives in a surprising and conniving move.

The NDP had its leadership contest during the by-elections thanks to Prentice high-handed political approaches.  They had no traction in Calgary but had a good second place showing in Edmonton Whitemud.

The Liberals did poorly all over coming in 4th and splitting the vote in Calgary Elbow. That Liberal vote split arguably elected a religious SoCon Conservative candidate over the strong second place showing of the Alberta Party leader.

The Liberal Party leader resigned shortly after the by-elections.  Blakeman offered to be an interim leader on conditions that she be authorized to engage in talks with the Alberta Party around cooperation and possible merger.

She failed to convince her Liberal Party Board to go that route. The Liberals selected David Swann as interim leaders.  He is a well regarded former leader who resigned upon realizing that he could not move Alberta Liberals forward.

Conversations between Blakeman and the Alberta Party continued with the Greens added. What emerged was that Blakeman's candidacy in Edmonton Centre would not be contested by the Alberta Party or the Greens.

They would do more than endorse her.  The Greens and Alberta Party actually nominated her as their own candidate in the same constituency. While she is officially a Liberal on the ballot, all her campaign materials will carry the logos and messages of all three cooperating progressive parties.

The NDP will have nothing to do with this approach.  They believe that they are the true progressive alternative for Albertans and in 2015 their time has come.  With their new leader they promise to run a full slate of 87 candidates.  That will be true I expect, even if many are parachuted in and merely filed as "paper candidates" with no hope of winning nor with any real connection to local constituencies.

So what does this innovative Blakeman three-way candidacy mean?  Ideally it's the triumph of a commitment to shared progressive values over individual partisan brand loyalty.  Perhaps it demonstrates that progressive Albertans can co-create a new political space.  That they can move towards becoming a viable alternative citizen-based political movement aspiring beyond Official Opposition status.

Progressives gathered together before when they realized the threat of the Wildrose in the last Alberta election.  They showed up strategically on election day rallying behind Premier Redford, whom they mistakenly believed to be an authentic progressive.

Progressives will show up to oppose a common enemy.  Perhaps we have a new common enemy in the Prentice Conservatives.  The success of the citizens-based political movement over allowing Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in Alberta schools is a case in point.  This initiative was started and sustained by Liberals Kent Hehr and Laurie Blakeman through Private Members Bills. It received emboldened support from all progressive parties and many community groups.

There was a  public outcry over the Prentice Conservatives bullying procedural tactics used to kill the Blakeman GSA Bill 202.  The back-of-the-napkin ineffectual and offensive replacement government Bill 10 was soon "paused" for more public "consultation." The sustained opposition kept the issue alive over the Christmas break.

Prentice, as his first action when the Legislature resumed,, was to present and pass a new more acceptable Bill 10, very akin to the original Blakeman Bill 202.   A clear progressive citizen-based political victory.

Redford was run out of office by the Conservative Caucus.  Prentice was elected as the "new management" leader under a cloud of a suspicion over electronic voting and other irregularities.

Prentice is proving to be a Harper-like politician with a Klein inspired short-sighted economic agenda of brutal cuts to public spending.  Is it possible that a combination Harper/Klein Conservative government philosophy that only wants to cut government spending not increase revenues will reawaken passive progressives?

Could the Blakeman/Alberta Party/Green creative candidacy approach be the beginning of a progressive political coalition? Could this meeting of progressive leadership minds show the way forward for a merger of the Liberals, Alberta Party and Greens? Who knows.

The well known truth is that the current approach of the traditional progressive parties is not working. If we want to change the government, we progressives will have to change ourselves first. I now see some hope of that happening.....on both counts.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

2015: The Year for Acting Politically

Here is a draft of a piece I did emerging from my guest spot at the Summer Conference for the Alberta Teachers Association.  I am often invited to attend ATA events as a "friendly critic and critical friend of the ATA" as a former President likes to call me.

Summer Conference includes the ATA leadership cohort from across the province.  They looked collectively into their professional and political role in Alberta's public education policy going forward.

This "post" was inspired from the ATA event last August.  That was in the heat of the PC leadership process and just before the oil price changes gathered momentum.  You will see from the content it was written after the October by-elections.

2015: THE YEAR FOR ACTING POLITICALLY

Politics was a key message this year for ATA Summer Conference participants. Politics pervaded the Conference program. PC Leadership candidates were invited to attend and speak but Thomas Lukaszuk was the only one to show up. Opposition Education Critics all attended, spoke civilly and shared insights on their approaches to education policy.  

I got to “interview” Lukaszuk and moderate the Opposition Critic panel.  I also got to observe and add commentary in Political Engagement sessions.  As a result I learned a lot about the political positioning and thinking of the ATA.  I got to listen to those members charged with bringing the voice of teachers into the complex public policy process of the province.

My special privilege was when I was asked to make some wrap up comments at the end of the Conference.  My closing comments were based on Martin Luther King’s speech on Power and Love.  He said power without love is reckless and abusive. Love without power is sentimental and anemic. King’s conclusion was that we need power and love not power or love.

Since the Summer Conference, there have been lots of political power plays in Alberta.  The PCs have selected a new leader.  There was a significantly diminished level of citizen participation than in previous contests.  There was a serious controversy over electronic voting irregularities.  Then there were accusations of ethical lapses by the winning candidate over giving “free” memberships, paid for by others.

The “new management” leader selected a Cabinet that had unelected and controversial Ministers in the key portfolios of Health and Education.  This exercise in political power caused two additional, costly but interesting by-elections.

More power based politics emerged in one of the by-elections.  Ethical breach allegations of conflict of interest were formally filed against the appointed Minister of Education.  The Alberta Party and Wildrose both accused him of conflict of interest by using his Ministerial power for private benefit during his election campaign.

Robocall tactics came from federal politics and to the Alberta by-elections.  This time, anonymous social conservatives targeted robocalls at Wildrose supporters in all by-election campaigns.  Their message belittled the Wildrose party leader’s values for pursuing moderate policies on sexual preference issues.  

In politics, power is often applied in ways that is reckless and abusive.  And when it comes to the values of many care givers, including educators, the love they have for their work is embraced as a calling.  So they are often seen, and even become, sentimental and anemic…and therefore ineffectual in getting what they needed for themselves and those in their charge.

The repulsion of power politics coupled with a genuine love of their work (aka their "calling"), educators often get badly treated by the dynamics of politics. They tend to get abused in the power-based public policy development and deployment process.

My closing message to teachers was to stay professional but also to dust off their citizenship duties.  Get informed, get engaged, then get on with politically active citizenship. Start making a real difference on issues that are important to you.

Being a professional in a publicly funded education system puts some legitimate limits on advocacy activities.  But citizenship is a justifiable distinction and a strong basis for individual advocacy and values-based activism.

I suggested teachers, acting as citizens, have a lot to offer our declining democracy.  They have special training and skills that can help others understand and interpret information (aka seeing and understanding propaganda).  They have analytic abilities and high degrees of literacy that can help marginalized groups access and understand politics and political messaging.

My engagement plea was for teachers to join a political party and volunteer to help a candidate in an election campaign.  If you want to have real influence the leverage of your time is via political partisanship.  Access to power is easier and only 2% of Canadians belong to parties so the "power" is significant.

You don’t have to subsume your values to the party ideology but research which party is closest to your values.  Great parties encourage and enable active dialogue on values.  This is because good political parties recognize political decisions are values trade-offs.  Policy design and political priorities are, at their essence, moral choices.

Democracy necessitates a dynamic diverse dialogue and an informed debate served by a wise set of elected and listening decision makers.  None of that happens without engaged citizens who want to synergize Power and Love.

When you reflect on the potential of a progressive values-based society like I just described, it occurs to me that I have also just described a very good school.
Yes teachers, as citizens, have a lot of skills, talents and qualities to help integrate the concepts of power and love.

Our democracy and our society needs great classroom teachers but that does not mean they can't  also become active and effective citizens outside of school.  that said, 2015 is indeed the year for educators to begin acting politically - especially if there is a snap election coming.