Political Scientists (well, some of us) like to think that representative democracy ought to mean something. Essentially, the will of the people should be loosely translated into government policy. Votes should count. Parties should stand for something. The media should serve as a watchdog. There should be checks and balances so that power doesn't get concentrated. Citizens should engage, debate, and concern themselves with the workings of their government. Sadly, America today is falling well short of its own self-proclaimed democratic ideals. This page will document some of that - not in the spirit of feeding the cynicism, but of recognizing the problem(s) as a step towards finding civic solutions.
This page hasn't been updated much recently, but here are a few:
A great radio program on Habeus Corpus and Gitmo from This American Life is here. They interview actual former detainees. Go to episode 310 " Habeas Schmabeas". (click on 06 on the left first)
If you haven't seen it, The National Security Archive is an amazing site. It features government documents that have been de-classified through Freedom of Information Act requests. This information is timely, thanks to the news that the president has been conducting unconstitutional surveillance on U.S. citizens via warrantless wiretaps. How much more don't we know?
Some news stories never take off, even though they are quite important. Sonoma State University's Project Censored lists the top under-reported stories.
OK, so this isn't a current event, but here's an essay by George Orwell written in 1947, called "Politics and the English Language". He understood the political use of euphemism and empty sloganeering all too well. The good stuff is about halfway down.
How did the Bush 2004 victory occur? The media certainly jumped on the "moral values" bandwagon in the immediate aftermath. Here is a very thoughtful piece about what actually happened, and here is a follow-up to that article.
Semantics can be the subject of much political concern. Here's an article about the language battles over Social Security. And here is a memo by Republican pollster Frank Luntz on how Republicans should talk about environmental issues.
Local news coverage is famous for "if it bleeds, it leads" coverage. The USC Annenberg School did a study of local/state election coverage (or lack therof) on local news in 2004. The results are troubling.
The mainstream media ideally serves as a watchdog for the citizenry - they alert us if the government is doing something dangerous. Often, serious stories do get reported, but never become "big news". The memory hole documents such stories in this amazing but true list.
Social Security is at the top of the current agenda. Accurate information is tough to discern. Here is a long, detailed article that provides you with the political and economic details you need to understand it all.
More and more it seems that Democrats and Republicans are living in different realities. To see it in all its astounding glory, read this PIPA (at the University of Maryland) report on the topic.
The man who ran on a promise to "clean up" special interest influence in Sacramento is, well, accepting an awful lot of special interest money. A searchable database of the special-interest donations to the Schwarzenegger administration from interest groups put together by the LA Times. here
Want to figure out where you are on the ideological spectrum? Here's one attempt to help you. Take the test here.
The U.S. Government has been doing a lot of investigating itself lately. Read the Taguba Report on treatment of detainees here, and the Duelfer Report on Weapons of Mass Destruction (or lack thereof) here.
Crass commercialism is part of politics too. Here are a couple of websites with political "gear".
Media outlets sometimes play "video news releases" produced by the U.S. government. It wouldn't be a problem, except that they air them as news reports without telling the audience that they are essentially government propaganda. Read about it here and here.
Conservative commentator Armstrong Williams was apparently paid by the Bush Administration to hype the No Child Left Behind Act on his TV program and in his newspaper column. This may very well be illegal, and is certainly unethical. Story here. Longer story here. Also, a piece by commentator David Corn about whether or not Williams was the only one paid to shill. Two more have been discovered so far. Read about it here.
All political choices involve trade-offs. Here is an interactive site that shows you the budget trade-offs we have made to pay for federal budget items, like the War in Iraq. What else could that money have bought?
A conservative's view of the political landscape from an interview with Richard Viguerie on NPR, December 15, 2004 here.
Jon Stewart went on Crossfire on Oct. 15, telling the hosts that they were "hurting America". See it here. And now, several months later, it appears that Crossfire is going to be cancelled. Hurt America, and you pay.
An interesting article on the religiosity of the framers of the constitution here.
The pentagon is considering training "death squads" in Iraq. I kid you not. Read the Newsweek article here. If that doesn't work, try this one.