Has The Idea of Democracy Failed?

I was having an interesting conversation here the other day. It started with the recent discussions about Ukraine and Russia's incursion into Crimea. Most of us have seen stories on the news referencing all sorts of Cold War topics and it got me thinking about the discussions that were ongoing at that time about the failure of Communism. I actually studied quite a bit on these sorts of topics in college since my major was political science with a focus on political theory. 

My topic of conversation then shifted to the problems we seem to be having so often over the past decade or so of mistrust. Mistrust of people with their government, with their teachers, with corporations. It just seems like everyone is angry or upset with everyone else, and to some extent there is some legitimacy to that idea. It all sort of came to an exclamation point in my head this evening when I saw this video from this afternoon from 60-Minutes about problems with our the stock market currently operates. It got me thinking that we have gotten to a point now in society that perhaps we can say that "democracy" (really republicanism, but we will say democracy since that is what the media likes to say) and perhaps our notion of capitalism has failed, much the same way communism has. Look at the story for example from the Washington Post where a kindergarten teacher quit their job because it is no longer about teaching.  

Now this is not to say that capitalism has failed when you look at it from a GDP or market perspective. We consistently see data that shows that the US GDP and stock markets are continually rising. At the same time however we see consistent data that wealth in the US is not being distributed evenly and that the problem is worsening. It makes me feel that we sort of should be questioning what exactly should be the measurement of success for our national concepts. It feels like from a policy perspective, when truly trying to look at policies that benefit the nation, we have seen increased evidence that the core ideas of the democracy decision making process. Is the final measurement of success really just the wealth of our nation as a whole? What exactly should be the measurement of that wealth? GDP? Culture? Test Scores? Art?  

Thoughts on the past week.

So Guns………… So I was initially going to prepare a whole long discussion on the whole aftermath of the shooting, but instead of espousing a lot of text, I am just going to bullet point my thoughts.

  • Children Died.
  • It was horrible and I cried.
  • Journalists interviewing the children are in poor taste.
  • Journalists still have every right to do it.
  • The parents need to say no.
  • Let’s stop pretending journalists are some sort of bastion of integrity. Journalism has always been a slimy business in America.
  • Your prayers aren’t doing shit to help anyone. Take real action.
  • Don’t treat children like idiots. Talk to them and let them process this event. Don’t hide it from them.
  • God and schools have nothing to do with anything.
  • The gun was the mechanism, not the cause of this problem.
  • Don’t erode civil liberties in the name of protection.  
  • Mental Health is ONE OF the root problems.
  • Assault rifles are not what the media is telling you they are, and they are not what you think they are.
  • Stricter gun control does need to happen in this country.
  • That said people should be able to own any gun they want for whatever reason they want.
  • Self-defense for gun ownership is mostly bull shit in my opinion.No one I have ever known or talked to has known anyone who has ever been involved in an incident needing a gun for self-defense.
  • Stop with the hyperbole.
  • People are upset and want answers.
  • Don’t let emotions rule your judgment.
  • Sometimes there are no answers.
  • Sometimes there is no solution.
  • Sometimes there is nothing that could possibly have been done to prevent something.
  • This is the real world and bad stuff happens all the time. Face it. Accept it. Learn from it. Grow from it.

Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act

Not sure how many of you have followed the news as it relates to this, but on the internet there is a huge outcry about a new bill going before the house called the Stop Online Piracy Act (S.O.P.A) and before the Senate called Protect IP Act (P.I.P.A.). The crux of these acts is to allow the government to block domain names (website address) if they are accused of infringining upon intellectual property. On the outset that seems like it is a fairly decent cause, after all artists should be allowed to protect their IP. The problem with this law however is the inherent lack of transparency and due process that it lays out for the infringement process. A disportional amount of power is provided to the accuser and the law sets out a standard that assumes the accused party is guilty until proven innocent. What it gives private corpartions the power to do is accused a website of breaking intellectual property, accused it in a closed system and have the website immediately taken down. This could have potentially catastrophic ramifications on the internet as it pertains to freedom of speech, fair use, content creation and more. Perhaps more importantly is that this law becomes transnational in its affect, potentially preventing someone in France for example accessing a website because the U.S.D.O.J identified it as being infringing. 

The bill has been criticized by Abigail Phillips of Electronic Frontier Foundation for not being specific about what constitutes an infringing web site. For example, if WikiLeaks were accused of distributing copyrighted content, U.S. search engines could be served a court order to block search results pointing to Wikileaks. Requiring search engines to remove links to an entire website altogether due to an infringing page would raise free speech concerns regarding lawful content hosted elsewhere on the site.

Overall I think this presents a tremendous constriction of civil liberties and unfortunately it appears to represent to the interests of corporations. Artistically speaking if you look back at history, the greatest achievements in the arts are often found, observed and created through the copying, remixing and reimagining of works. Part of the initial intent of copyright is that it would have an expiration date on it to allow the content to be freely avalible and accessible to the world for use and growth. There is no doubt that copyright has some issues. The debate of piracy actually causing harm in an online sense is a seperate debate entirely (I do not think it does), but to remove due process and create a system that assumes guilt is a terribly wrong step for the United States to take.