Blog Posts by David T Jones

  • In democracies there is always tension between the “good ideas” that government has for spending taxpayers’ monies and taxpayers’ desire to spend it themselves.

    And increasingly nationally financed broadcasters such as PBS in the United States and CBC in Canada are questioned regarding value received for value expended.

    In dictatorships there is no argument. If Putin wants to spend $50 billion on the Sochi Winter Olympics, it is spent. If Beijing’s leadership wants to spend uncounted billions for the 2008 Summer Olympics, it is spent. But the Atlanta summer Olympics (1996) and the Salt Lake City winter Olympics (2002) were essentially privately financed. Less glitter and glitz, but less public expense.

    [ David Kilgour: Canada still needs a healthy public broadcaster ]

    And comparable points are relevant for government funding of news media: newspapers, television, and radio. It smacks of official “party line” control leaving readers cynical about whether there is any “news” in Pravda

    Read More »from Future of the CBC: It’s time to pull the plug on taxpayer-funded broadcasters
  • Vladimir Putin: The best way to stop him is to empower Ukraine

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has done what he was warned against — incorporating Crimea into Russia. This land grab occurred with barely more than a “Trudeau salute” to chattering, dithering, fulminating critics in Kiev, the EU, NATO, UN, and Washington. Crimea is now as Russian as Moscow; this egg will not be unscrambled.

    The best way to punish Putin is to strengthen Ukraine politically, economically, and militarily.

    The Measure of the Man. In assessing Russian President Vladimir Putin, one needs examine some baselines. He was not a career politician, businessman, or military officer, but rather a senior KGB intelligence/control bureaucrat. He was never a reformer in the Gorbachev-Yeltsin camp. He has described the collapse of the USSR as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century.” Consequently, his objective is to restore as much as possible the pre-1991 Soviet empire.

    And, at age 61, Putin can play a “long game.” He need not move immediately; rather he can

    Read More »from Vladimir Putin: The best way to stop him is to empower Ukraine
  • Leaders of Quebec's political parties pose for a picture prior to their debate in Montreal.

    In case you hadn’t noticed, Quebec is having an election. Called on March 5, it will be held on April 7.

    An election — not Apocalypse Tomorrow.

    It is not as if Quebec has been short of provincial elections pitting Liberal Party federalists against Parti Quebecois sovereignists with ancillary third parties to spice up the competition.

    Nor is it unusual for the PQ to enter the campaign as a heavy favorite, like the Parizeau-Landry 1994 PQ team and the 1998 Bouchard-led PQ incumbent government. Indeed, Parizeau promised to hold a referendum on Quebec sovereignty within a year of a PQ victory, and many observers anticipated a Bouchard victory would lead inevitably to a repeat of the 1995 referendum. Even the 2012 election predicted a PQ victory when viewing the nine-year Liberal government on its “10th life” (with the intimation that a Marois government would seek the proverbial “winning conditions” for a referendum).

    But the level of frenzy in the current electoral campaign appears

    Read More »from Quebec votes: Election result is a long way from a referendum result
  • A man holds a candle during the funeral of Volodymyr Topiy, 59, who died during recent clashes with police.

    The curtain has risen on Ukraine: Act II. The scenery has changed with a first batch of actors hustled off the stage but the basic plot line remains: Ukraine is up for sale, but who will be the purchaser?

    The drama continues — but the audience is even more confused. Initially when the “play” opened, there was watchful anticipation by the EU and U.S. audience as they attempted to sort out the plotline. Was Yanukovych a good bad guy or a bad good guy in control of Ukraine? Had he imprisoned the lovely princess (Yulia Tymoshenko) or was she just another kleptocrat with movie-star looks? Should the audience cheer for Yanukovych as the democratically-elected president or root for the crowds in Independence Square seeking his ouster with claims of free speech, assembly and association?

    Finally Yanukovych resorted to desperate measures. Riot police and snipers killed upwards of 80 protesters. No more semi-tolerant half-measures. It was not massacre on the level of Cairo’s Tahir Square, but

    Read More »from Crisis in Ukraine: Splitting Ukraine could prove the best solution
  • Privacy is a relatively new “right.” In 1965 the U.S. Supreme Court had to invent a right to privacy to permit access by a married couple to contraception; again, more famously, it arose in 1973 Roe v Wade to protect a woman’s right to abortion on demand. The court pretzeled the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to create this right.

    For its part, the Constitution does not mention privacy.

    Indeed, the degree of privacy that today’s Americans and Canadians consider the norm would have been risible a generation ago.

    Bluntly, “privacy” is a modern affectation. And one which technology now has made electronically irrelevant; the government’s protestations of adherence to law should be skeptically viewed.

    [ Kilgour: Surveillance can only be acceptable with a warrant from a judge ]

    Privacy, moreover, is a circumstance that appears less and less relevant to most citizens. Social media is replete with photos and videos that in days of yore would have been regarded as “soft porn." Users of

    Read More »from Electronic spying: In the age of Facebook and Twitter, nothing can be considered private
  • Protesters prepare to clash with riot police in central Kiev, Ukraine.

    Ukraine was for up for sale.

    The European Union (and the West in general) wanted to buy it on the cheap.

    Russia made Kiev a much better offer — and Kiev took it. Bluntly, Putin out-clevered the West.

    Now the EU/West and many Ukrainians are highly irritated over having lost the bidding war and throwing hissy fits day and night.

    And the West is being regaled to intervene to reverse the nefarious Russian embrace and move Ukraine back into the Western fold.

    To intervene actively, however, would be expensive, divisive, antidemocratic, and perhaps even end with a civil war.

    [ David Kilgour: History dictates that Western nations must heed Ukrainians' cries for help ]

    The foregoing is a simplistic, but not inaccurate, way to characterize the essentials of Ukraine’s current imbroglio.

    More Background. Ukraine is a Texas-size country (the largest entirely within Europe) with a population of 46 million. Potentially very wealthy, its eastern farmland is some of the best in the world; it is

    Read More »from Uprising in Ukraine: Canada and the U.S. have no reason to intervene
  • Finance Minister Jim Flaherty following federal-provincial finance minister meetings in December.

    It is almost difficult to remember the pre-2008 era of impregnable optimism for the U.S. economy and with it, the global economies generally.

    It was indeed a period of “irrational exuberance” as then-Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan put it, but was based on what were believed to be economic verities: that inflation was under control; that real estate had “sky’s the limit” prospects; that banks/loans/mortgages were adroitly attended by gimlet-eyed accountants; and that tweaks and twitches by government would resolve any peripheral economic problems.

    But then the U.S. economy (along with much of the West) crashed and burned in 2008; it is still struggling to extricate itself from the mire. We are a long/long way from reaching equivalence with the economy of the mid-2000 decade.

    For the United States, start-the-new-year optimism has taken counsel of its hopes. Inflation has remained low and the Fed has apparently decided to stop pumping money into the economy. The stock market

    Read More »from Canada’s economy: Dull and plodding, but prudently avoiding America’s extremes
  • Conservative MP Michael Chong in Ottawa.

    With his private member’s bill (Reform Act 2013), Tory MP Michael Chong has tossed a sputtering grenade into Parliament. The question is if it will be adroitly defused, amended into meaningless platitudes, or explode — essentially altering modern Canadian parliamentary practice.

    The Chong proposal flies in the face of recent democratic expansion for leadership selection; it would make leaders less secure and hence less effective in advancing their policies. It would promote internecine political back-stabbing rather than caucus cohesion. In some elements, it is almost “American” (and thus un-Canadian) and, thereby, makes a reasonably effective legislative system less so. Bad idea; its time should be never.

    The bill would:

    • Permit 15 per cent of a caucus to trigger a leadership review at any time. A secret ballot of 50 percent would remove the current leader and begin the process for selecting a new leader;
    • Remove the leader’s authority to oust (or readmit) a member from caucus; that power
    Read More »from Reform Act: Chong’s proposal creates more confusion, not more democracy
  • A well-wisher writes a message on a poster of Nelson Mandela.

    The protracted global gathering earlier this month for South African leader Nelson Mandela, combining official state mourning culminating in (semi) private internment, has ended.

    He leaves behind a poignant but fragile legacy with the most relevant question being whether the South Africa that he constructed will long outlast his departure. In short, was he the implicit safety-valve restraint on a society that more resembles a boiling pot with the lid screwed down than a solid democracy?

    It is rare that any figure, regardless of international status, prompts such an assembly of world leaders upon death. Coming as it did shortly after the 50th anniversary commemoration of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, it sparked some partial parallels, notably the long cortege of leaders and the profound national mourning.

    It was shameful that so much media attention focused on the three-person "selfie" featuring Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the illiterate sign-language

    Read More »from Post-Mandela South Africa: Racial tension and violence are likely to return
  • Death of Newspapers: Time to accept the inevitable conclusion

    A vending machine sells Chicago Sun-Times newspapers on a street corner in the Loop on December 2, 2013 (Getty Images)

    Growing up in the 1940s-1950s, I was the newspaper consumer par excellence.

    But now, to my regret, I cannot make such a claim.

    For background, my home town of Scranton, Pennsylvania had both morning (ScrantonTribune) and afternoon (ScrantonTimes) daily newspapers. I read both avidly, and my long-suffering next-door uncle even permitted his nephew to read the afternoon paper before he did.

    Television wasn’t a dominant feature for me. For much of my early life, the family didn’t have television (which now deprives me of crossword puzzle answers for references to Sid Caesar, Milton Berle, and even the Mouseketeers members). I never engaged with “the most trusted man in America” (Walter Cronkite) or wondered about Huntley and Brinkley interactions as they said “good night.” And I’ve always thought Sunday morning interview shows are a time-waster – the talking heads never say much, and anything of substantive import will be in the Monday newspaper, anyway.

    Indeed, I believed that TV news, even

    Read More »from Death of Newspapers: Time to accept the inevitable conclusion

Pagination

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