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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday 24 January 2015

What the FARC! ISIL Does K&R

The folks behind ISIL claim to be apocalyptic ideologues pursuing a pure vision of Islam that punishes the evil West for it's past and present discretions in the Middle East.
It's all righteous and holy, you see.  Divine retribution, that kind of thing.  All about the vision.
Yet what we have here is clearly a case of K&R, thinly veiled as part of their ideology in the flimsiest bit of spin.
Japan is donating money to the countries helping people victimized by ISIL.  They can't do that, it's like supporting the devil in the devil's efforts to save the physical coils of infidels or whatnot!  They must pay!
Except payment here isn't about retribution, it's about cash money.  There's nothing ideological about this - it's a fundraising expedition, pure and simple.  K&R, kidnap and ransom, with the beheading threats being just a fear tactic in their Always Be Closing mentality.
It's what FARC did, too.  When there was a lack of ready resources for Communist rebellion in Colombia from the collapsed USSR, FARC found ways to make their own cash.  Eventually, all that remained was a gang funded by extortion.
ISIL already gets a ton of money in donations.  Now they're looking for even more.  Where's it going to?  Funding media campaigns that put Western-born terrorists in Youtube videos?  It's not okay to depict people in art, lest they gain super-human status, but elevating converts is okay?
Or is the money going to digital espionage?  The buying of weapons?  Fueling evangelical campaigns in other countries?
How much is going to the reduction of poverty and the improvement of the quality of life for the people needing to flee ISIL territory for their lives?  Have the ISIL brass not chosen to neglect two of the pillars of Islam?  Where's the charity?  Where's the struggle against anger, against intolerance?
Is ISIL not rapidly turning into what those who left their homelands to join up were trying to escape - a totalitarian regime that's sacrificing belief for cash and causing the suffering of the innocent?
It makes me think Black Widow:
So much for becoming powerful in the name of Allah; ISIL's Western converts have simply chosen to be pawns in someone else's game.


Friday 23 January 2015

Bruce Anderson on Political Spin

There is no truth in politics. 
There is framing, there is messaging, there is crisis response, but these things are all about controlling the narrative.  Theoretically, politics is Socratic; everyone speaks their spin and between the messages presented, people can discern the truth.  It's a little bit like saying laissez-faire capitalism is the best way to solve poverty.
If you are a political operative - particularly a successful one - this reality is gospel, so deeply engrained as to be subconscious.  The truth doesn't matter; what the people believe and doubt does.
There's a great quote from the favourite movie of a former leader: A man who tells lies, like me, merely hides the truth. But a man who tells half-lies has forgotten where he put it.
Don't feel too resentful about this.  The truth is, politics wouldn't be that way if we demanded more of it.  But to demand more of politics requires us to be more informed, more engaged, more involved and frankly, we just don't have the time.
Here's the problem.
Politics is about winning, not about governing.  Governing has become about winning, too - feeding the short-term cycle of narrow focuses and picked fights that accrue half-policies and quarter-commitments over time.
Our democratic system has been dying from a thousand cuts for some time now, and by disassociating ourselves with the process - government is employees, paid for by our tax dollars, don't you know - we have been self-inflicting these wounds.
We're seeing the impact of this societal abuse now.  The platform is catching fire.  Yet still, we point fingers, call for heads and never ask why the problems persist no matter who is in power.  We can keep getting mad at the people who have become so disconnected from mainstream society that they cannot see the consequences of their choices, but that accomplishes nothing.
Answer me this, though: how can they keep from spinning unless the public chooses to ground them?

A Radical Notion: Let's Play Word Replacement

It's important to correct misinterpretations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Or the role of Parliament.  Or the purpose of Political Parties.  Or the responsibility of citizens.
Superiority of faith of any partisan ideology, hatred of any political foe, victimization Rob Ford style and the glorification of the war room tactics.
Not that the perpetrators of partisan radicalization will pay any heed.  After all, they are right, I am wrong, they are smart, we are dumb.
Blinders are blinders, but what's left tends to always be a variation on the same theme.

Pouring Gas on the Fire: Harper's Tough on Crime Strategy Backfires

Federal prisons are potential breeding grounds for Islamist radicalization and the government and correctional system are doing little to confront the public safety risk, experts warn.

Fear has always been a favoured hammer in the toolbox of the political right.  Security, justice in the punitive sense - you need a tough hand to smack down the bad guys.  Not this hopey, changey, hug-a-thug nonsense the left favours.

So we've had new enemies to fear, new crimes to enforce and more prison capacity to lock people up in, almost as political collateral.

It all made so much sense to the back-room pundits who were looking for low-hanging political fruit to offer the people.

Our prisons aren't corrections facilities; they're colonies for the banished.

What's happening now - the challenges that are starting to emerge, publicly, like a cancer finally ministering sores on the skin of society - could have been avoided.

And yet somehow, I don't see Team Harper changing course at this point in history.  Not when they've got their critical path to follow.

Forgive them, lord, they know now what they do - but man, we aren't getting out of this by waiting for someone else.


Wednesday 21 January 2015

The ISIS Disease and the Social Animal

Shamelessly cribbed from Warren Kinsella's non-blog.
Kinsella makes a valid point, one that will stand out to many and clearly serve as fodder for the Conservatives.  It sounds like Trudeau is scared to commit to combat and isn't sure if the fight against ISIS can be won.
But what if being referred to here?  The preceding question expands on this:
Trudeau eventually makes a good point about the general messiness of conflict in the Middle East; if an end to hostilities is the definition of success then it's fair to say that no military incursion in that corner of the world has ever been successful.  In fact, it's fair to say that every conflict that has happened in that neck of the world has been sparked by the ones that preceded it.
More to the point, ISIS isn't a state actor.  They may like to portray themselves as "the Islamic State" - something it's fair to say not all Muslims agree with - but their mandate is ideological more than it is territorial.  The closest comparison you could make would be the Cold War, with ISIL being what lies behind the Iron Curtain and the threat of the ideology being equivalent to the Red Scare (and we certainly have our Joseph McCarthys out there). 
Whether Trudeau had all of this in mind as he spoke, or if his focus is specifically on avoiding conflict (as his continued emphasis on humanitarian aid may suggest) isn't clear in what he said.  It hasn't really been clear in anything he's said, but then this isn't the sort of stuff that lends itself to soundbites.
You can't cure a disease with bandaids; you can't stop radicalization simply by bombing ISIL targets any more than the Charlie Hebdo massacre was enough to stop free speech throughout the world. 
We're not looking at one community, one geography.  It's not us and them, there is no one simple path to victory.
But that's what we're looking for, isn't it?
Political operatives and other sales folk have embraced this fact - we want a simple story with a happy ending for us told in the least amount of time possible.  Low-hanging fruit, etc.
What we want to hear is that a two-point plan will fix everything from the economy to world peace.  If you can't communicate your plan/objective/whatever in a back-of-napkin script, it's not worth the time required to hear it.
We don't want to know process, whether it's what happens in Parliament or what it takes to make terrorism go away.  We're not interested in the systematic problems related to community housing or police carding - just make the problems go away so we can go about our lives.
Dealing with radicalism isn't about winning a war, it's about curing a disease.  ISIL is just a manifestation. 
Until we shift our priority from winning battles to healing the whole, we will continue to fall short.
Healing involves attacking the disease, repairing damaged cells and improving overall health of the organism.  You can't do that if you refuse to recognize society as an organism.

Monday 19 January 2015

Little Dutch Ford

Iteration at Work

The people who generate all the ideas and work are evolving and realising that they themselves could be reaping the rewards rather than the agency.

Imagine that.  The people doing the work are increasingly disenfranchised with the methodology, motivation and priorities of the people paying for it.

Work is evolving.  It's too bad the people who need to see and understand this change the most are such traditionalists.

Katie Telford

Katie Telford is 36 years old.  In a political culture where it's common for powerful positions to be occupied by 20somethings with more confidence than experience, this hardly makes her a young doe - but she's not a grizzled veteran with decades of political warfare under her belt, either.  Add to this her size - Katie hovers somewhere slightly over the five foot mark - and it is not at all difficult to imagine political old boys dismissing her.

That would be their choice to make, but it would be an ill-advised one.

Katie is smart.  She's also confident, but leans more towards the smart side over the confident side than the average political player.  That means that she's willing to admit when she doesn't understand and likelier to err on the side of evidence over gut, or aggressive selling from a political peer.

She asks smart questions and listens carefully to responses, most often with the intent of understanding what's being revealed instead of preparing herself with a counter-attack.  This is incredibly rare in politics, unfortunately, but a trait that puts her in good stead.

Katie's worked in numerous political cultures, both inside government and without.  She is respected, even admired by the clients she has worked with from the private and not-for-profit sectors.  No doubt her inbox is regularly populated with job offers from major organizations and institutions.

Yet for all her professional success, Katie hasn't fallen into the trap many of her peers have, which is to assume they matter more than the causes they're involved in.  You'll never hear Katie say "I only think about things when I'm paid to" or "we are smart, they are dumb."  In fact, Katie has acted on her beliefs and passion in countless silent ways that speak to her commitment to the cause.

My favourite example: a political networking night for women, intended to build up a community of peer support.  There are a great many women who have suffered the slings and arrows of sexism in politics and not just survived, but excelled (Katie being one of them) - to develop a forum for those best practices to be shared speaks to her character.

Having said that, Katie's not afraid to play the game.  She knows how to frame and she's not afraid to bend the rules in favourable ways. 

As is the case with all people, Katie does have her flaws.  She is more strategic than she is empathic, though she is unquestionably more empathetic than the average political bear.  Her focus is perhaps more on political wins than it is on the best possible policy, though she is acutely aware of our democratic deficit and not one to dismiss such concerns out of hand.  Numbers matter, but a number every person in Canadian politics should be adding to their consideration is voter turnout.

There's been lots of crowing about the lack of detailed policy from Team Trudeau so far this campaign (when did it start again? feels like it's been always been with us).  It's an unfair statement, as there have been pieces of policy, but the truth is - and all political people know it - that a detailed platform doesn't win elections and can often sink a campaign in its complexity (messaging nightmare) or in offering a bigger target for opponents to shoot at.

This can't go on forever, of course, and the Liberals have already made tentative moves in the direction of crowd-sourcing policy.  I think this is a smart move, the kind that fits Katie's approach and passions perfectly.

As best explained in the must-read book on facilitation Discuss, Decide, Do, the most appropriate and agile policies are ones the people feel some ownership of.  While Team Trudeau has certainly created some appearance of crowd-sourcing policy and open-sourcing the conversation, they are by-and-large still playing the Strong Leader game, positioning their guy as the only one who can lead Canada forward.

It's a mixed message that sends confusing signals; are the Trudeau Liberals open to the hope and hard work of the people, or are the people supposed to invest in Trudeau and nothing more?  That's always been Harper's line.  It seems to have worked for him, but Trudeau's core brand is that he's not more of the same.

Katie Telford's greatest strength - perhaps her greatest source of strength - is that she's anything but the traditional personification of a political person.  She has both the capacity and willingness to peel back the layers of the game and take a look at the people and ideas that are readily dismissed by politics-as-usual.  After all, she is still seen as one of them by many.

If Team Trudeau live their core messaging, their goal isn't just to win by any means necessary, but to disrupt and adapt Canada's political culture to meet the needs of Canada's modern reality.

Trudeau empowered Telford because she's smart, competent and tested, but also because she fights against the status quo.

We should all be looking forward to Katie continuing that tradition.