Posts Tagged ‘Democracy’

The Voice of the People

January 12th

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other 19 people was so horrific on so many levels that it became absolutely absorbing. The Safeway parking lot in Tucson where the shooting took place looked so familiar. This was a place that could be found in almost any suburb in America. This was an assassination attempt of the people’s representative on the town common.

Beginning with the media savvy local Police Chief through Sarah Palin’s 8 minute video posted at midnight Alaska time, the reporting has debated whether Arizona was somehow worse than other places. Assorted details of the shooting showed that it was in fact somewhat easier for the shooter to buy the weapon and the ammunition in Arizona than it would have been to have been in a comparable suburb in Montgomery County Maryland. But disturbed people can get guns everywhere.

On Thursday Rep. Giffords read the First Amendment on the House Floor. The post Tea Party election of 2010 encouraged the new Republican Congress to begin the new 112th Congress by reading the Constitution. Ironically, the event would likely have been a non-event were it not for a 3rd term moderate Democratic Congresswoman who read the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance.

Of all of the members to have been given the privilege of reading that particular sentence in light of Saturday’s events, the video of her on the House floor talking about freedom of speech was startling.

That someone would seek to assassinate a Member of Congress standing in a shopping center talking to her constituents was an assault on the core of democratic society. American should be deeply offended by that alone. The question of whether partisan rhetoric may have contributed to the event seems secondary to the deep wound that the shooting may have inflicted.

Not unlike the way in which the necessary presence of the TSA at every airport has now changed the whole concept freedom in mobility, in the future. even an nine year old who goes to a shopping center to meet her Congresswoman will have the event moderated by an armed government representative.

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Democratic Coalition Crumbles, Exit Polls Say

November 3rd

Writing in the Wall Street Journal Peter Wallsten and Danny Yadron pointed to one of the stories coming out of the election of 2010 that will be reported again and again in coming weeks.  This may be worth a deep dive.  There are going to be broad implications, not to mention puzzles.  In the aftermath of the 2008 election.  Among seniors 65 years and older Republicans now hold a “large advantage.”  And among white women there is a significant pro-Republican divide and yet after 2008, the two parties were even.  As Wallsten and Yadron write:

Amid deep pessimism about the economy, the coalition of voters that gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 appears to have fractured.

Preliminary exit polls showed that the party lost ground to Republicans in Tuesday’s midterm elections among women, middle-income workers, whites, seniors and independent voters.

Driving the shift: broad anxiety over the economy, as well as skepticism of big government and opposition to signature Democratic Party policy achievements, such as President Barack Obama’s economic-stimulus package and the health-care overhaul.

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“Small Government Big Society”

October 18th

The headline that China is testing a new political model in Shenzhen is an attention grabber when it appears in the same newspaper as an article that finds that its reassuring that China is continuing to be the largest purchaser (ahead of Japan) of U.S. Treasuries. In the same month that China was demonstrating that it was only rebalancing its portfolio and not actually reducing its $868 billion in net holdings. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was giving a speech in Shenzhen (near Hong Kong.)

SHENZHEN, China—An experiment with political reform in Shenzhen, the city where China pioneered its economic opening, sheds light on an ideological debate playing out within the Communist Party as it holds an annual meeting in Beijing that will help to chart China’s political future.

Jeremy Page reports for the Wall Street Journal that

After more than six decades of stifling dissent—sometimes by force—the party is also using Shenzhen to test ways of strengthening public oversight of local government to root out corruption that the party itself admits has become the greatest threat to its grip on power.

It is a far cry from Western-style multiparty democracy, but this experiment—branded “small government, big society”—is seen by some leaders as a way to forge a new political model that maintains authoritarian rule while responding to the needs of an increasingly complex society.

The experiment involves free market reforms and government contracting with non-governmental entities to provide social services.  In an era in which China’s emerging economy is also reaffirming its role as our largest creditor new experiments in democracy are worthy topics for following closely.

Net Neutrality, Time to Take Sides

September 18th

In the modern equivalent of a story moving on the wire after the close of the stock market, The Wall Street Journal reported that the new FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, is expected to outline proposals on Monday to prevent Internet providers from selectively blocking or slowing Web traffic. In Washington buzzword speak this is a “net neutrality” bombshell.

This is one of those issues where someone throws a pebble into a clear pool and the ripples expand forever. You have to decide whether you are going to think about this in terms of this month (Asian nations joining China in limiting internet access), this year (Internet companies agreeing to make it possible for China to limit Internet use and even more insidiously hand over the list of users) or this decade or two.

There was the battle between the phone and the cable companies over who would control network email services (before Telecom Reform in 1996) and then there was the fencing that was taking place over data traffic versus analogue voice before Judge Harold Green had broken up AT&T (1984) or …

Reading the story in the Wall Street Journal can make it tough to figure out who the good guys are. Are the good guys the ones who fight heavy-handed network blockers? Or are they the ones who are fighting government intrusion in the private marketplace? Are the good guys protecting us from network slowdowns from mobile video file sharing? It can give you a headache.

Balancing equities and regulating bandwidth are of course what governments do. So it would seem that with due concern for the technical issues involved, it should be hard to vote against the opportunities that serious net neutrality would create. No doubt the companies involved have some issues here. But the extraordinary social value that gets created when Internet services are allowed to innovate has been demonstrated. Net neutrality could be the next milestone.