As Hillary Clinton launched her campaign officially, many journalists described her message as being distinctly populist. The New Yorker, in fact, described her speech on Saturday by saying, “If there was ever any doubt that Hillary Clinton was going to run a populist Presidential campaign, she dispelled it on Saturday with her speech on Roosevelt Island. Seeking to move beyond the controversies surrounding her family’s charitable foundation and her deleted e-mails, she spoke about the great disjuncture in the modern U.S. economy, and portrayed herself as an indefatigable battler for ordinary Americans.” It’s notable that she spoke on Roosevelt Island, and the theme of her speech was the “four fights,” which hearkens back to Franklin Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech. (A seminal speech in American history, which I strongly encourage everyone to read.) Read the rest of this entry
Election season in the US is always interesting. Passions run high and people are quick to proclaim their positions on government and politics. Unfortunately, as many will likely agree, election season also gives voice to many who should probably remain silent.
Recently I was taken to task on Facebook and lectured on the concept of governance and democracy by a particularly obtuse and offensive individual. When I attempted to explain that democracy should NOT be considered a strictly binary proposition and that the US was indeed a democracy, his attacks became personal and I was accused of (among other things) “verbal masturbation”. According to this master of the English language: “Most folks like me would call your ideas verbal masturbation. They sound good from the outside but are really kinda stupid”…he actually wrote: “Kinda”…somehow this person drew a line between my comments on democracy and his belief that the federal government would force parents to stand by while their 12 year old daughters got abortions without consent. I am at a loss as to the logic… But…I digress. Back to democracy!
To understand governance and democracy it is important to understand the concepts. One great resource is the Polity IV project. Democracy, while seemingly simple, can be a quite difficult concept to explain especially when considering the many different governments in the World. The Polity project attempts to quantify and qualify governance and code them based upon their level of autocracy to democracy.
First…let’s understand democracy. Wikipedia states that Democracy:
“… is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Democracy allows eligible citizens to participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. It encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political self-determination.”
At its core, democracy is principle of government by the people. So why the confusion and what is the relevance of the Polity IV study? Good questions! Read the rest of this entry
In the uproar over the SCOTUS decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Prop 8, was what I feel is a pretty significant decision on our Fifth Amendment rights. Most of us are familiar with our Fifth Amendment rights, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything that you say can and will be used against you. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you…” These are, hopefully, familiar to us because we like to watch police procedurals like Law & Order. The actual text of the Fifth Amendment reads, “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Read the rest of this entry
That’s what the government wants to know. News broke overnight that the National Security Agency (NSA) has a warrant to get information on every call made over the Verizon network. There has been no word yet as to whether or not other carriers are under a similar order. According to a report in the Washington Post, “The order appears to require a Verizon subsidiary to provide the NSA with daily information on all telephone calls by its customers within the United States and from foreign locations into the United States.” Seems pretty outrageous, right? But the order is signed by a judge overseeing domestic intelligence surveillance. The Obama administration maintains that this is required to help fight terrorism. The ACLU maintains that the practice of collecting these records is “beyond Orwellian.” What is at play here is the inherent tension between the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Fourth Amendment. Read the rest of this entry