09 September 2008

A New Dawn for India, and the World

Wow. I would really hate to be a corrupt bureaucrat in India right now. I have a feeling those guys are about to have their butts handed to them.

And it's about time.

Anti-corruption superhero and tireless transparency advocate Shailesh Gandhi was recently appointed to the Indian Central Information Commissioner. Though I have seen reports that he has been named as the Chief Information Commissioner, until I see the official notice, such news is simply too good to be true.

Here's Shailesh speaking in Portland, OR, USA:

When I heard this news, I nearly fell out of my chair crying with joy. Seriously. I spent way too long fighting corruption in India to take this with my usual cool distance. Luckily for the voters of DC, I was able to maintain my composure while working the polls.

This is a victory for the world, not just India. Right now, India is experimenting on the forefront of transparency legislation. Imagine, as a US citizen, being able to ask the government not only why your Social Security check is late, but who exactly in the bureaucracy is responsible, their names, their contact information, their service records. Now imagine extending that power to keep an eye on almost all parts of government. Imagine personal accountability for failed levees and squandered disaster relief. Amazing.

Of course, you don't just magically land in a position like this. There are reasons and they shouldn't be ignored. But still, this is awesome.

With power like this, now being enforced by the likes of Shailesh Gandhi, corrupt bureaucrats should be quaking in their boots.

Here's a video of the power of the Indian Right to Information Act:

Go Shailesh, Go!

01 September 2008

Journalists Give Workers the Business

I couldn't really think of a better title than the original one of this report from the Center for American Progress. They did a quantitative review of major news outlets and show how workers are systematically ignored in favor of business sources, even on news issues that workers and unions know a lot about!

They found:

  • Overall, representatives of business were quoted or cited nearly two-and-a-half times ƒ as frequently as were workers or their union representatives.

  • In coverage of both the minimum wage and trade, the views of businesses were ƒ sourced more than one-and-a-half times as frequently as those of workers.

  • In coverage about employment, businesses were quoted or cited over six times as frequently as were workers.

  • On only one issue that we examined, ƒ credit card debt, was coverage more balanced, presenting the perspectives of ordinary citizens in the same pro- portion as those of business.

Here are some screenshots of their data for you to scroll through.

It's important to remember that business sources aren't necessarily any more expert on issues like the minimum wage, employment, and trade than labor sources. Academics were counted separately in this study.

I find it interesting to think about what our society would look like if we had 2.5 times more people in management than in labor.

From the article:

But the best explanation for the kind of bias described in this report is that journalists have a preference for elite sources, such as government or business representatives, over ordinary citizens. In short, it is just easier for a reporter to talk to a professional, such as a business spokesperson, than to find a good quote from a worker or ordinary citizen who does not represent a set interest group.

Of course, this doesn't explain everything, since journalists seemed to find plenty of citizen sources for their credit-card debt coverage.