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Old 05-19-2008, 01:45 PM   #91
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Originally Posted by pilotbob View Post
It would be nice if there were similar community review of the bills that congress is considering. I wonder if people would get involved. This would gives us a truly "representative" democracy.
The good news is, anyone can write their congresspersons and state their opinions on any bill or subject. Plenty of organizations try to round up concerned constituents and organize them for just this purpose, you have only to look for your concern of choice and go to it. (I'm a member of a few myself.)

The bad news is twofold: One, the public doesn't always find out when a bill or subject is being discussed; and Two, their opinions are usually overruled by corporate influence (i.e., lobbying and outright bribes), or the subject of pork barrel politics and thereby rendered beyond the scope of debate (like burying the outlay of money for a new public golf course into the pork for a federal bridge repair spending bill that is 100% sure to pass).

BTW: If no one else has heard, I understand Jammie Thomas may be given a new trial. Apparently, the judge now feels he was in error when he told the jury that "making a file available for download" automatically constituted wrongdoing, without an actual file being downloaded. However, the RIAA has already stated that they downloaded the music files as proof of her putting them there, making the distinction irrelevant...
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Old 05-19-2008, 02:30 PM   #92
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Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
The bad news is twofold: One, the public doesn't always find out when a bill or subject is being discussed; and Two, their opinions are usually overruled by corporate influence (i.e., lobbying and outright bribes), or the subject of pork barrel politics and thereby rendered beyond the scope of debate (like burying the outlay of money for a new public golf course into the pork for a federal bridge repair spending bill that is 100% sure to pass).
I'm pretty disheartened with politics and the public and it's a catch-22 problem to solve. You need an aware public to make the system work and only a working system will give enough incentives for the general public to be aware (approximately..).

As stated before, I live in Switzerland which is why I want to comment. Switzerland is tiny enough make a direct democracy feasible. Furthermore or maybe therefore, bills and other issues are debated quite a lot before votes are passed and there's even a dedicated and very poplular "show" specifically for debating political issues. This show is called arena (and it quite literally is...) and the center stage is taken by top politicians or otherwise central figures for the problem at hand. Around the central people, other "important" people are present. These are actual discussion and not like the US system for presidential debates. Unfortunately, you're not really accountable for what you claim to make a point and usually, the loudest person wins. Rhethoric >> content but it's better than nothing and makes more people interested in an issue.

Yet with all this, there is still a lot of misinformation and deliberate spin. Not limited to misnaming bills to give them a different first impression, being untruthful to the press, etc. But even more importantly, it's still party-centric and not issue-centric. And party-centric means slogans over content.

With all the potential Switzerland has, it only takes a single party (SVP/Swiss People's Party) to almost ruin the system. Switzerland also has a special ruling system called Concordance[wikipedia.org] for governing the country. For "real world" and popular topics this makes the process very resistant to industry wants (such as the moratorium for genetically-enhanced products until a government funded study completes in 2009) but if you add fear mongering, the system fails again. For virtual things, this is even more the case.

You'd need a watchful public, strict laws regulation politicians (max cap for donations and money spent, accountability, ...) and some form of authoritative source of information to counter bullshit-statistics and the like. Sort of a "ministry of truth", independent of the government like the data protection departments are. Tasks would be:
  • Basic validation that some statistic or report quoted by a politician followed established scientific rules (there were horrendous bullshit "statistics" used by the SVP in Switzerland last year...). This only establishes, that a study is professional and "valid"; the contents "should" be irrelevant. Political version of the peer review system in science.
  • Providing some form of an introductory and unbiased collection of information to a given topic. This would serve as starting point for a balanced discussion.
  • "Monitors" claims of politicians. The point here is to make it harder for politicians to claim whatever they want to push their agenda. Classical topics would be crime rates of foreigners vs natives, immigration, claiming billions in lost revenues by industries (bold since this is relevant to the topic), etc

Some of the above may be naive to hope for and may even turn out to be dangerous if corrupted. Still, if the current system sucks enough, the above may still be a better approach, even if too idealistic.
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Old 05-19-2008, 03:16 PM   #93
Steven Lyle Jordan
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It's been stated that a democracy, in theory, only works when the constituency is numbered in the few hundred thousands... not in millions or billions. Based on current events, I believe it...
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Old 05-19-2008, 03:22 PM   #94
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The total population of Switzerland is maybe 5 Million, so yeah, I have to agree. Still, it boggles the mind.
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Old 05-20-2008, 03:25 AM   #95
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It's been stated that a democracy, in theory, only works when the constituency is numbered in the few hundred thousands... not in millions or billions. Based on current events, I believe it...
Not even that, I suspect. The direct democracy of 5th century (BC) Athens, for example, never had more than 30,000 people eligible to vote. Once you get into the hundreds of thousands, you really need to start moving to deciding issues via elected representatives, which is the system that's used in all western nations today.
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Old 05-20-2008, 03:40 AM   #96
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The direct democracy of 5th century (BC) Athens, for example, never had more than 30,000 people eligible to vote. Once you get into the hundreds of thousands, you really need to start moving to deciding issues via elected representatives, which is the system that's used in all western nations today.
I disagree because elected representatives can't be expected to be competent to decide on a wide range of topics.
It's not uncommon to hear MPs in the UK Parliament displaying their ignorance during debates. Recently, for example, Margaret Moran argued that an extension to detention without trial was required to allow time for encrypted data to be extracted. She was then informed, by a fellow Labour MP, that the law already provides for indefinite detention in such circumstances. The recent European Amending Treaty debates also highlighted a broad range of MPs' misunderstandings (it's doubtful many MPs actually bothered to read the Treaty text).
I think what is required are decisions by the well informed; I would allow democratic votes for anyone who can demonstrate a sufficient knowledge of the matter in hand. So we'd all have the right to vote; but we'd have the responsibility to find out what we were voting on first.
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