Archive for the ‘Civil Society’ Category

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 10-16, 2012)

Monday, September 17th, 2012

CIVIL SOCIETY

In U.S. Politics, Economic Class Speaks Loudest.” By Carey L. Biron. Interpress Service (ipsmews.net). New research drawn from the past half-century offers one of the clearest pictures yet of the correlation between political involvement and socioeconomics in the United States, while underscoring the significant implications of recent legal and legislative changes for marginalised groups. “From decades of data, we can say that socioeconomic status has an overwhelming impact on how politically active people are in the U.S.,” Sidney Verba, a research professor at Harvard University, said while introducing new research here in Washington on Wednesday. “Every place we looked for what was driving inequality, we found the very central role of socioeconomic status. Even if you look at different groups that differ in their average political activity – minority groups, etc – you find that, within each group, it’s stratified by socioeconomic status.” While those with higher socioeconomic status have more time to engage in political campaigns and related activities, for instance, Henry E. Brady, a political-science professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of Verba’s co-researchers, points to the “stunning, nearly exponential rise in political donations” by those with the highest incomes. Even in 1990, Brady says, the top 20 percent of the population made 70 percent of all political contributions, figures that have almost certainly shot up significantly in the past few years in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, which allowed for unlimited private donations to political campaigns. “If the folks at the bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum have different political priorities from those at the top, and if money in politics really has a big impact on politics, then politics is defined by those at the top and their concerns and viewpoints,” Brady says.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (September 3-9, 2012)

Monday, September 10th, 2012

CIVIL SOCIETY

Value Added: Nantucket Project combines intellectual stimulation and civic activism.” By Thomas Heath. Washington Post. September 2, 2012. The annual de-population of Nantucket gets underway every Labor Day weekend, with lots of boldface names migrating back to Washington after an August recess. The island off Massachusetts is a summer playground for the “good and the great” from across the country. You can’t throw a seashell without whacking a bigwig. Washington area businessmen such as Ted Leonsis, Evan Jones, Jimmy Reyes and David Rubenstein decamp for Nantucket for at least part of the summer. So do media types such as Luke Russert and his mom, Maureen Orth; Chris and Kathleen Matthews; Barbara Harrison; Greta Van Susteren; and David and Beth Gregory. The list goes on. But Washington native and entrepreneur Tom Scott is hoping to bring some of the island vacationers back in October for some intellectual stimulation. Scott, a Chevy Chase native who made a fortune building Nantucket Nectars, has created the Nantucket Project, a downsized version of the Aspen Ideas Festival and TED Conferences. It’s heady stuff. Businessman and investor Eddie Lampert talked last year about the disconnect in the way society views business profitability and philanthropy. There was a presentation by Tony Award winner Julie Taymor on the risk and sweat that go with innovation. Investment manager Mellody Hobson talked about the importance of financial literacy to a person’s independence. Poet Sarah Kay read “Montauk,” her work about the “in-between” moments in life. But the Nantucket Project is also about civic activism at work, and how the rich and influential used business smarts and neighborly arm-twisting to keep the local economy humming when the summer crowd has departed. One way to do it is to try to move some of big-city wealth from places like Washington up to the island, even if for a long weekend. This confab is expensive and exclusive. Tickets run $3,400 each. Even if you can afford it, you must be invited. The ticket includes the food and lectures, but patrons must find their own transportation and lodging. This year’s theme is collective intelligence.

WEEKLY NEWS DIGEST (July 26 – August 1, 2010)

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

CIVIL SOCIETY

Neighborly Lending In The Digital Age.” By Alex Cohen. Morning Edition/National Public Radio. July 27, 2010. In these difficult economic times, many Americans are wary of buying items they’ll use just once or twice and then store in the garage. But for those times you really need a hedge clipper, bread maker or camping stove, there’s a social networking site called NeighborGoods.net. The site is an inventory of items users are willing to lend. The site started locally in Los Angeles, but now has users nationwide sharing $1 million worth of goods. Though users can charge deposit or rental fees, most people are happy to lend for free, just to take pleasure in helping a neighbor out. When you borrow something, NeighborGoods will send an e-mail congratulating you on saving, for example, $200 on that electric lawnmower. They’ll also ask you to contribute 5 percent of that amount back to the site to help keep it running.