Tag Archives: progressive-politics

Obama and Web 2.0 in 1995

Salimah E. just forwarded me this fantastic piece – from the Chicago Reader – about Obama. Part of what makes it fascinating is that it was  written 13 years ago. Just read it and look how consistent Obama’s past and present is from a values and goals perspective. This piece could have been written yesterday. What a rock that guy is.

Also interesting to read the piece from a technology angle. Consider again that it was written a decade before Web 2.0. But look at how Obama’s language and values around community building fit so perfectly with the social media technologies of today. Reading this (again written in 1995!) it becomes obvious that Obama would immediately see the potential and opportunity around online, self-organizing, social media. It explains how and why his stie has done so well. He literally lives and believes in the values of self-organizing to a degree that few other politicians do and so is willing to hand big parts of his site over to its users. (in this case users, supporters, or followers all feel like inadequate words, sigh).

Money quote:

“What makes Obama different from other progressive politicians is that he doesn’t just want to create and support progressive programs; he wants to mobilize the people to create their own. He wants to stand politics on its head, empowering citizens by bringing together the churches and businesses and banks, scornful grandmothers and angry young.”

Obama, different than other progressive politicians? Hmmm, I’ll confess that this line also makes me like the piece because it resonated with Taylor and I’s piece on the death of progressive politics. (Shameless link, I know).

change congress

Creative commons founder and personal hero, Lawrence Lessig, has founded Change Congress, his first step in what he plans to make a 10 year mission to improve the state of American democracy.

It true Lessig fashion the goal is big and the plan is simple. He’s focusing on four changes:

  1. No money from lobbyists or PACs
  2. Vote to end earmarks
  3. Support publicly-financed campaigns
  4. Support reform to increase Congressional transparency

upon which there is more written about here.

Am I excited about the potential? Absolutely. Something is happening in the United States right now. A progressive backlash is brewing.

Change Congress

My only cause for concern is that, like previous reform efforts, we don’t succumb to the law of unintended consequences. I remember reading how making congress members committee votes public was intended to make congress more “transparent.”  It did. By by doing so it empowered lobbyists to ensure the members they gave money to actually voted the way they were paid to – in effect tightening this groups control on congress. While I believe transparency to be a good thing, this outcome could hardly be described as progressive in its impact.

I’m no expert on the machinations of congress, but we should always ask ourselves what will happen to the money once we close off one tap. For example, of the 4 priorities above, the end of earmarks raises some possible concerns. It will probably mean that the US public service will have more control over the specific allocation of monies. This could be good thing. But then perhaps not. The US public service is not as independent as it is say, here in Canada, and so this may simply enable the administration to assert more control on who ends up receiving money. Rather than an end to pork barreling, it will simply shift who controls the pork from congress to presidential appointees…

Where are the progressives on Net Neutrality?

I’m excited to see that the Green Party has included a section on Net Neutrality in it’s platform.

4. Supporting the free flow of information

The Internet has become an essential tool in knowledge storage and the free flow of information between citizens. It is playing a critical role in democratizing communications and society as a whole. There are corporations that want to control the content of information on the internet and alter the free flow of information by giving preferential treatment to those who pay extra for faster service.

Our Vision

The Green Party of Canada is committed to the original design principle of the internet – network neutrality: the idea that a maximally useful public information network treats all content, sites, and platforms equally, thus allowing the network to carry every form of information and support every kind of application.

Green Solutions

Green Party MPs will:

  • Pass legislation granting the Internet in Canada the status of Common Carrier – prohibiting Internet Service Providers from discriminating due to content while freeing them from liability for content transmitted through their systems.

Liberals, NDP… we are waiting…


So who knew there was a website called policy.ca? This place has been laying low.

I’m looking forward to checking it out further and would love to hear thoughts or reactions.

At first blush it seemed promising with feeds from a number of reputable thinktanks and institutes. The only red flag were a handful of weird and paranoid pieces. My favourite was this piece courtesy of The Narco Bulletin News:

The Age of Atlantica: As Goes Mexico, so Goes the US and Canada

The End of Sovereignty and Democracy Tolls for Upstate New York, Northern New England, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces, and, Soon, for Boston and NYC Too

For those of you who, like me, were unaware what Altantica is, it is a new geographic entity formed out of (what we presume will be the former) regions of the Northeast US and Eastern Canada by an alliance of big business owners who are openly plotting to Mexicanize the region’s economy.

Confused? So was I. But wait until you get to the part about truck-trains…


Don't Ban Facebook – Op-ed in today's G&M

You can download the op-ed here.

The Globe and Mail published an op-ed I wrote today on why the government shouldn’t ban face book, but hire it.

The point is that Web 2.0 technologies, properly used, can improve communication and coordination across large organizations and communities. If the government must ban Facebook then it should also hire it to provide a similar service across its various ministries. If not it risks sending a strong message that it wants its employees to stay in your little box.

One thing I didn’t get into in the op-ed is the message this action sends to prospective (younger) employees. Such a ban is a great example of how the government sees its role as manager. Essential the public service is telling its employees “we don’t trust that you will do your job and will waste your (and our) time doing (what we think are) frivolous things. Who wants to work in an environment where there own boss doesn’t trust them? Does that sound like a learning environment? Does it sound like a fun environment?

Probably not.


Facebook Revisited

MAY 17, 2007 AT 12:38 AM EDT

Today’s federal and provincial governments talk a good game about public-service renewal, reducing hierarchy, and improving inter-ministry co-operation. But actions speak louder than words, and our bureaucracies’ instincts for secrecy and control still dominate their culture and frame their understanding of technology.

Last week, these instincts revealed themselves again when several public-service bureaucracies — including Parliament Hill and the Ontario Public Service — banned access to Facebook.

To public-service executives, Facebook may appear to be little more than a silly distraction. But it needn’t be. Indeed, it could be the very opposite. These technology platforms increasingly serve as a common space, even a community, a place where public servants could connect, exchange ideas and update one another on their work. Currently, the public service has a different way of achieving those goals: It’s called meetings, or worse, e-mail. Sadly, as anyone who works in a large organizations knows, those two activities can quickly consume a day, pulling one away from actual work. Facebook may “waste time” but it pales in comparison to the time spent in redundant meetings and answering a never-ending stream of e-mails.

An inspired public service shouldn’t ban Facebook, it should hire it.

A government-run Facebook, one that allowed public servants to list their interests, current area of work, past experiences, contact information and current status, would be indispensable. It would allow public servants across ministries to search out and engage counterparts with specialized knowledge, relevant interests or similar responsibilities. Moreover, it would allow public servants to set up networks, where people from different departments, but working on a similar issue, could keep one another abreast of their work.

In contrast, today’s public servants often find themselves unaware of, and unable to connect with, colleagues in other ministries or other levels of government who work on similar issues. This is not because their masters don’t want them to connect (although this is sometimes the case) but because they lack the technology to identify one another. As a result, public servants drafting policy on interconnected issues — such as the Environment Canada employee working on riverbed erosion and the Fisheries and Oceans employee working on spawning salmon — may not even know the other exists.

One goal of public-sector renewal is to enable better co-operation. Ian Green, the Public Policy Forum chair of Public Service
Governance noted in an on-line Globe and Mail commentary (Ensuring Our Public Service Is A Force For Good In The Lives Of Canadians — May 8) that governments face “increasingly complex and cross-cutting issues … such as environmental and health policy.” If improving co-ordination and the flow of information within and across government ministries is a central challenge, then Facebook isn’t a distraction, it’s an opportunity.

Better still, implementing such a project would be cheap and simple. After all, the computer code that runs Facebook has already been written. More importantly, it works, and, as the government is all too aware, government employees like using it. Why not ask Facebook to create a government version? No expensive scaling or customization would be required. More importantly, by government-IT standards, it would be inexpensive.

It would certainly be an improvement over current government online directories. Anyone familiar with the federal government’s Electronic Directory Services (GEDS) knows it cannot conduct searches based on interests, knowledge or experience. Indeed, searches are only permissible by name, title, telephone and department. Ironically, if you knew any of that information, you probably wouldn’t need the search engine to begin with.

Retired public servants still talk of a time when ministries were smaller, located within walking distance of one another, and where everyone knew everyone else. In their day — 60 years ago — inter-ministerial problems were solved over lunch and coffee in a shared cafeteria or local restaurant. Properly embraced, technologies like Facebook offer an opportunity to recapture the strengths of this era.

By facilitating communication, collaboration and a sense of community, the public services of Canada may discover what their
employees already know: Tools like Facebook are the new cafeterias, where challenges are resolved, colleagues are kept up to date, and inter-ministerial co-operation takes place. Sure, ban Facebook if you must. But also hire it. The job of the public services will be easier and Canadians interests will be more effectively served.

David Eaves is a frequent speaker and consultant on public policy and negotiation. He recently spoke at the Association of Professional Executives conference on Public Service Renewal.

Research on the 1960 Kingston Conference… any leads?

I recently read John Beal’s 1964 book “The Pearson Phenomenon” I found this little gem in the library while looking for books that would have something to say about to Kingston conference that the liberal party held the week of September 6, 1960.

The book is interesting for two reasons. The first is that it is written by an American. (and I thought Americans didn’t care about Canadian politics, especially in 1960?) The second is that it was written in 1964, while Pearson was in office and so reflects the optimism and challenges of that time.

What drew me to the book was what it had to say about the Kingston conference – for which it had a reasonable blow-by-blow account, some transcripts and interviews with key player. Not a ton of material, but at least 15-20 pages worth.

I’ve been struck by how little has been written about the Kingston conference. For those who are also looking for accounts of the event, this book has some of the play-by-play but will almost certainly leave you wanting. If you found a good account of the conference, both of its organization and/or a description of the events, please let me know by e-mailing me or posting a comment. Would appreciate any thoughts ot help…

history and writings on progressive politics

I’m deep into reading on the evolution of the welfare state/social policy and the origins of progressive politics. If you are wondering why these haven’t appeared on the site’s book section… I haven’t thrown any of them up but hope to eventually. Too many books, too little time. That said, if anyone has suggested readings on those topics please, please, please post, or send me, your thoughts, titles, ISBN #s, rants, raves, etc… the more the merrier.

I also want to thank to Beltzner for suggesting that book reviews appear on a scale (e.g. “5 out of 10” as opposed to just “5”). I’ve edited the php code so that it now does this.

Speaking of book reviews, they’ve been getting a ton of hits so thought I’d put them front a centre for once. Below are some of the books I’ve read over the past few months that I have managed to write reviews for. To be fair most are positive, but then it’s hard to keep reading books that I find boring or uninteresting. Moreover, since I’m not being paid to finish the book and write a review, those that aren’t good tend to drop off the radar… it is, admittedly, a somewhat Darwinian process.

Oh yeah, and here are a couple of books I really liked, but didn’t write reviews for…