If the Democratic debates told us anything, it’s that some of our would-be leaders don’t see the proverbial forest for the trees.
So many signs indicate that our democracy is not working. The infrastructure of our electoral system is failing, the Supreme Court just Ok’d gerrymandering for political gain, Russians keep interfering in our elections, climate change is an existential threat, kids are afraid to go to school for fear of being shot, China is on the verge of controlling the next generation of our communications, and the global world order that held things together since the end of World War II is tottering.
Our guest on this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast is Larry Diamond, a Princeton professor and author of Ill Winds: Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency. A longtime student of democratic processes around the world, he says that nothing short of a radical transformation can save our system.
Diamond rejects the notion, put forth last month by our podcast guest, Yale professor Ian Shapiro, that we need to revitalize political parties. He says it’s unrealistic to think we will ever return to the era of party bosses and smoke-filled rooms.
Indeed, he believes that the old standard of simple “majority rule” elections is an antiquated model which is being abandoned by most progressive democracies around the world. In its place, he argues that ranked-choice voting — where voters list multiple candidates in order of preference — can reenergize democracy.
Putting our problems in a larger context, Diamond talks about the impact of climate change and global migration, as well as the escalating conflicts with Russia and China — and how any solutions to these problems must involve the US.
If we are to contribute to this effort, we must first put our own house in order, says Diamond. In other words, reforming the American political system is an indispensable first step toward saving the world.
Why and how algorithms are taking over our lives, why we should care and what we can do about it.
There are few First Amendment issues more pressing today than how online speech should be governed. It impacts our interpersonal relationships, our views of almost every aspect of society and of course our politics. Now, absent an easy solution, Congress wants to dive in and claim that they actually have a clue.
The internet was supposed to set a million voices free...It didn't work out quite that way. In this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast we talk to David Kaye, a UC Irvine law professor and the United Nations’ leading voice on freedom of expression and human rights. He serves as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right of freedom of opinion and expression.
In our conversation, we examine the balance between free speech and the regulation of the internet and its leading companies, the impact that these companies have on public life, and the question of who should decide whom gets censored.
Facebook’s refusal to take down the recent doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) “slurred” speech shows how social media companies have set their own rules and how the rest of us have no clue what those rules are.
The goals and standards of these profit-making companies, Kaye says, are going to be almost impossible to reconcile with the wide variety of international and global rules
Kaye expands on the idea that these companies can never have enough people to moderate all their content, and why, contrary to hopes, artificial intelligence is not the answer.
While there has been a lot of talk recently about breaking up these companies, Kaye explains that, in fact, they may just need to be “broken down” — by which he means brought even closer to their end-users. He says that, only if there is a sense of a close and common community among users and the companies can speech be self policed.
As Democratic leaders offer their “Green New Deal” modeled on FDR’s “New Deal,” veteran environmental leader Randy Hayes has drafted the “New Green Deal,” a seven-point plan to address what he calls “a deep planetary emergency.”
While Hayes supports all the goals of the Democrats’ proposal, he focuses more intently on the essential requirements to sustain human life on the planet.
Hayes wants to shift to 100 percent renewable energy and ecological farming with a plant-food focus. He wants to end subsidies for carbon-based energy to reach a “true cost economy.” And he calls for a plan to restore healthy ecosystems to half the earth, to offset the impact of humans on the other half.
We discuss the recent “eco-spasms” that have flooded large parts of the Midwest and produced more than 500 tornadoes over a 13-day period in May.
We talk about the recent launch of a misleading “astroturf” campaign funded by Big Oil. Its front organization, Americans for Carbon Dividends, dangles a carbon tax and dividend scheme as bait for an indemnification of the very industries that have profited from environmentally disastrous resource extraction.
When asked about the practicality of his plan, Hayes says that, given the grave threat facing the planet, he intends to at least “go down swinging.”
Randy Hayes, the founder of Rainforest Action Network, is an author, filmmaker and environmentalist. He is executive director of Foundation Earth and a consultant to the World Future Council, based in Washington, DC.
RAND senior economist Dr. Howard Shatz gives us a primer on trade and globalization.
As the new chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) is being showered with campaign contributions — more than a half million dollars in the first quarter of 2019.
Journalist David Daley, who lives in Neal’s district, reviewed the fundraising and spending reports in a recent column in the Boston Globe (see link below). He found contributions from lobbyists and the corporate interests they work for, like Amazon, GE, Deloitte, Eastman Chemical — and most of those corporations paid no federal taxes last year.
One donor, H&R Block, saw progress on a longtime legislative goal: banning the IRS from providing its own online tax preparation system.
Federal Election Commission filings show that Neal spent over $467,000 in the first quarter, much of it for big-dollar fundraising events at five-star restaurants, extravagant hotels — including a Ritz-Carlton — and on luxury suites at sporting events and concerts.
Neal is leading the Democrats’ effort to get the Internal Revenue Service to deliver President Donald Trump’s tax returns to him, as required by law. A recent news report also notes that Neal has declined to release his own tax returns.
David Daley is the former editor of Salon.com, the author of Ratfucked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count and the forthcomingUnrigged: How Americans Fought Back, Slayed the Gerrymander and Reinvented Democracy. Access his Boston Globecolumn hereand a second report here.
Technical note: Skype produced some uneven levels that produced distortion in the last few minutes of this podcast, and we apologize to your ears.