By Nigel Hilton
The world economic forum published an article in late 2017 that stated that democracy is on the decline. Countries around the world are seeing the democratic values decline sharply, but we can’t blame that will all the issues the world is facing at the minute. But a world without democracy is not one that we want to live in. Democracy covers a wide range of categories. It is measured by the function of a government, the state of civil liberties, and political culture to name but a few. There are still some countries leading the way that have a strong democracy, Norway and Iceland are to name but a few. So considering that democracy is on the decline, we’re going to explore what a world with no democracy is, and what is being done to try and strengthen it around the world.
Democracy actually effects economic growth more than you would realise, but there have been many studies carried out that have tried to prove this different. It is in fact common belief that it has no influence over economic growth at all, but you can’t ignore the statistics. The lower the level of democracy goes in a country, the lower the level of economic growth. This is because political regimes aren’t being carried out to protect the economic growth of a country. The effects of which can be catastrophic for the economy and cost of living within that country.
The government holds a lot of power, that’s always been the case. But the power the government has often causes so many issues in the world. There is only so much the public can do with regards to this, but the state of civil liberties does protect us somewhat. It means to government can’t change civil rights such as the ‘free exercise’ which allows people to practice their religion. What it doesn’t protect us from is the decisions being made about wars and the things that are really damaging our countries. The National Endowment for Democracy is funding non-profit organisations that are trying to change the level of government power in countries that might have a lower level of democracy, and in turn bring countries closer together. Because it isn’t just government power that democracy determines, it is just so much more than that. Countries such as North Korea have zero levels of democracy, and their ruler does in fact have full power of the decisions that will affect his nation.
Public Political Influences
The public can only have so much say in what the government does, as we’ve already said. But, the higher the influence of the public, the higher the level of democracy. It is giving the public the right to decide smaller decisions that happen within the country. Take the recent brexit of Britain. 72% of the population turned out to vote, which saw a rise in the level of democracy within a country. The less influence the public has, the more decisions that the government could make that would not go in favor of the public.
By Nigel Hilton
Sorry to say it, but sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Or, for the benefit of this article at least, on the other side of your town divide. You may have visited somewhere new, decided you like the place, and seen first hand how the people living there may be happier than you in your current situation. There may be less crime, for starters. People may be genuinely nice to each other in the street. Oh, and the grass may actually be cleaner because there is less pollution destroying the environment. So, should you move?
Before you make any drastic decisions, perhaps the area you live in isn’t that bad. Perhaps you are bored and in need of a change of scenery. Sometimes an extended holiday may be in order, giving you the opportunity to get away from it all for a short time. You might want to give your home a makeover too, see https://www.realsimple.com, giving you the chance to enjoy the house you come back to each day. Extending your social circle may help as well, meeting new people who share the same interests as you. Then there are other neighbourhoods to explore.
On the other hand…
If you are genuinely unhappy in the area where you live, then yes, perhaps it’s time to get out of there. The following reasons are perfectly valid.
Bad neighbours – We can choose the house we live in, but we can’t choose our neighbours. If they go beyond the usual noisy neighbour and are genuinely difficult to live next door too, then moving is a good option. This is also true if your neighbourhood is overrun with people you struggle with. If your local area has taken a downturn, and economic conditions have changed, you may be living alongside a range of undesirable people in place of the folks who used to live in your vicinity.
Crime – The crime rate probably went up if you have the neighbours we just mentioned! Seriously though, if you are worried about your safety, perhaps because of high burglary rates, vandalism, and violence on the streets, you should move, for your sake, and for that of your family.
Cost of living – Money is a massive cause of stress, and if you can no longer afford to live in your property, you should consider moving. There is advice in one of our previous articles on this very matter, http://jerrymooneybooks.com/, so follow the link. Moving to another neighbourhood in your town may be the answer, but if house prices are consistently high, and other issues prevail, it may be worth extending your search beyond the borders.
The grass may be greener, but every town has its problems. Don’t leave expecting paradise. We were intrigued by the quaint town of Sweetgrass – see http://sweetgrass.com/blowingrock/ – and while living there seems undeniably attractive, it may not be right for everybody. So consider what you want from a new area before you move anywhere new. Somewhere cheaper? Better amenities? Peace and quiet? It is possible to get all of these things, but will you get perfection? No, probably not. Still, anywhere is better than the town you came from if you identified with some of the issues we raised, but don’t rush your decision until you are sure. You are trying to make life better for yourself, after all, so don’t run headlong into a place with a new set of problems.
By Lina Martinez
Opinions on Trump waver from day to day. It’s not surprising: due to Trump’s relatively unpredictable nature and the consistent stream of evidence and anecdotes purporting to his controversial behaviour, actions, and comments, a staunch supporter one day could be turned away from him the next. Here are a few notable Republican figures whose loyalty to the party has waned due to its current figurehead.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is noted for being a stalwart Republican. However, approaching the Presidential election, he revealed on Twitter that for the first time since becoming an American citizen in 1983, he would not be voting for the Republican candidate for President. He noted that despite being proud to call himself a Republican, he would call himself an American first, going on to speak of how one should support their country over a party, implying that Trump would be no good for America at large.
Mike Crapo is a US Senator, representing Idaho. However, as a proud advocate of women’s rights (having campaigned for years against domestic violence), he noted that he could not support an individual who has made such consistent demeaning, disrespectful, and profane comments against women. Like Schwarzenegger, he believes that the USA requires a conservative rule. However, cannot bring himself to support Trump as a leader of the party that Crapo represents himself.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine may not have publicly questioned Trump’s leadership, but she did highlight how political figures are privately discussing their doubts as to his ability when a microphone picked up her conversation with democratic senator Jack Reed at a hearing. During the conversation she questioned his mental state and overall competence. While Reed noted that he thought Trump was “crazy” she confided that she was “worried”.
Now, John McCain’s name has been splashed across the news a whole lot due to his lack of alliance with Trump. But if you’re not quite up to scratch with Arizonan politics, let us fill you in. Despite a last minute phone call with the President himself, McCain refused to get behind Trump’s Republican healthcare bill, essentially sinking it in a vote in the early hours of the morning. The senator has been upheld as a maverick for this move. His relationship with the President is notoriously taut, as he refuses to back down and has long been open with his criticisms of the President himself, his rhetoric, and his foreign policy. Despite undergoing medical treatment, McCain is staunch in his views and has opposed Trump time and time again throughout his Presidency so far.
Perhaps never before has a President proven so controversial and largely unpopular amongst their very own party as Donald Trump has managed to become. Bear in mind that these are just a few of the Republican individuals who are in leadership positions or are prominent in the public eye who oppose his actions and comments. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of individual Republican-identifying voters who are coming to question his leadership.
By Sharon Jones
An accident can leave us feeling most vulnerable, which can make it difficult to get to the bottom of the situation. Sometimes it can even be hard to tell what happened and who’s at fault; in which case you need someone who can investigate the scene. If you’re not at fault for the crash, then you may be entitled to compensation; and in some cases you need it. If you have crashed your vehicle, not only do you risk serious injuries, but your insurance costs will rise too. That’s something that can be avoided, but only with negotiations made by those working within the legal system.
Who to call
When you’ve been in an accident, and you can’t handle the situation on your own, you want to look into getting professional help. In times like this, you should consider investing in a personal injury attorney. These people are the most experienced when it comes to dealing with road accident cases, so you can bet you’ll be in much safer hands than if you left it to yourself. You need to consider the amount of time and resources it would cost you to gather up all of the right evidence, in some cases you might not even be able to achieve that without the proper help.
Investing in someone who has connections and experience in that field means that you’re likely to find the best deal/solution for your case. The usual procedure would mean taking the offender to court. However, there are different methods of dealing with this; some of which might only be obtainable through the work of someone legal background. You may even end up saving yourself money, too! Especially if the attorney can get you compensation; just think how much you might have to spend on the case alone, and then if you were to walk out empty-handed. Even if you have to pay them at the end of it, if you’ve had more than you paid as compensation, it’s still a gain in cash.
You’ve already lost enough; you shouldn’t be ready to risk even more of what you’ve got. If the accident wasn’t your fault; you’re entitled to that compensation, and you need to make sure you get it. Quite a lot of law firms won’t charge you if the case is lost, which means that the only reason you’d have to pay for their services is if you got the compensation. In this case, you’re not at a loss at all; and the odds are already in your favor. There’s no need to put everything on the line just to risk having the extra cash, give yourself the best advantage in the bad situation and come out on top. In some cases, the person who caused the crash was breaking the law. Which means that even in an accident, which means you shouldn’t have a hard time blaming them for what happened. Having a severe punishment for poor driving habits can help to improve the driving standards in general, so don’t be afraid to claim that compensation.
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by Jerry Mooney
As the year winds down, it’s impossible not to breathe a sigh of relief. It has, after all, been a year of Trump and Brexit negotiations. And, the tempestuous political climate has certainly taken its toll. While we can’t be sure what the next year has to bring, it seems at the moment as though things couldn’t get much worse.
The main political issue on our minds is, of course, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. Not a day goes by without some terrifying update on the situation. Most recently, a missile has been released which would be capable of reaching as far as Washington. While the test run led to some issues on re-entry, the fact that such a missile exists is enough to send fear through most of our hearts.
Of course, it’s taken awhile to get to this point. Tensions between North Korea and the U.S. have been brewing all year. While some of us initially hoped Trump could calm the situation, we were bitterly disappointed by his improvised and provocative speech, where he promised that North Korean threats would be “…met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”. Since then, the situation has only worsened, with Trump’s national security advisor declaring this week that the potential for war is growing each day.
Indeed, from the outside, the situation seems pretty hopeless. Neither Trump nor Jong Un look willing to back down. It’s no wonder, then, that many of us are left wondering just what the threat levels are. Despite blown up statements from various members of Congress, many of us are left wondering how real the North Korean threat is. Should we be preparing bunkers and stockpiling food?
While it’s difficult to judge what two such impulsive figures will do, it seems safe to say that we’re not on the brink of war just yet. We seem to be in an antagonistic stage, which has yet to turn into anything more sinister. Bear in mind, too, that no country WANTS to use nuclear weapons. Doing so would spell mutually destroyed destruction, and has kept us safe from large-scale warfare since the days of the cold war.
It’s also fair to say that most of our fear comes from the unknown entity of North Korea. This is the most secretive nation in the world. In fact, it’s near enough impossible to gain an accurate representation of life here. Tourists are shown a very slanted idea of North Korea. The closest picture we can gain is from defectors, like Yeonmi Park, who have come forward and shared their stories.
Kim Jong Un has built his personality by feeding into that mystery. It’s thought that even his age (33) is just an estimate. While many of us fear the unpredictable behavior of Trump, at least we know facts regarding his lifestyle. The same just can’t be said for the North Korean leader. Hence, we have no real way of knowing if he’ll follow through on his seeming provocation.
That said, research can help us gather a picture of Kim Jong Un which may help to put some people’s minds at ease. By unraveling the mystery, we can certainly understand his motivations a little better. Here are some of the facts that you may not have been aware of.
Few of us think of Kim Jong Un as an educated man. Certainly, the media often depict him as someone who doesn’t use logic when making decisions. But, like many world leaders, Jong Un’s education was top notch. During his teen years, he studied under a pseudonym at one of Switzerland’s top private schools. On top of which, he also has two degrees to his name, one in physics, and another as an Army officer.
In short; this isn’t a trigger-happy man who doesn’t know what he’s doing. While some reports claim that Jong Un leads his army with no training, it just isn’t true. Plus, anyone with a physics degree will be fully aware of the risks related to nuclear weapons.
There also seems to be a general idea that Kim Jong Un doesn’t really travel anywhere. Perhaps it’s because North Korea seems like a whole world away. Many of us have this idea of a leader who hasn’t seen much of the world and has lived a sheltered existence. Again, it isn’t true. As mentioned above, Jong Un spent most of his teen years living abroad. There are also reports of young visits to China and Japan. In fact, Jong Un even has a favorite jet; the Ilyushin IL-62, as featured on this list of the top five Ilyushin aircraft. Admittedly, there have been no reports of his leaving the country since becoming leader in 2011. Plus, planned UN visits haven’t come to fruition. Most people suspect this is down to fear. But, it would be incorrect to assume that travel has never been on this leader’s cards.
To demystify the persona a little more, it’s worth noting that Kim Jong Un is a massive basketball fan. When he was younger, he was an avid supporter of Michael Jordan. He’s even developed a close friendship with retired NBA player, Dennis Rodman, who he’s met on various occasions. He’s also rumoured to have an extensive collection of Nike shoes. These are hardly hobbies you would automatically associate with America’s enemy number 1.
The history of North Korean weapons
It’s also worth finding out a little about North Korea’s nuclear past. While no one can deny that tests have come more to the fore this year, that doesn’t necessarily mean that nuclear warfare is a completely new concept for North Korea. In fact, the country’s missile program was initially developed in the 1970s, with the help of the then Soviet Union. But, in 1985, North Korea signed a little something called the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Still, things haven’t been plain sailing since then. As early as 1993, The International Atomic Energy Agency had questions over North Korea’s dedication, nearly resulting in their pulling out of the treaty. Jump forward to 2002, and Bush highlighted North Korea as a country which was ‘seeking weapons of mass destruction’. Later that same year, he revealed that North Korea had admitted to a secret nuclear arsenal.
In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT agreement and declared its nuclear weapons. Testing then started in 2006, and North Korea and America have been involved in disputes on the matter ever since. While North Korea did originally accept a settlement of $400 million to close its main nuclear reactor, this doesn’t seem to have solved anything, with more tests taking place in 2009. In fact, as it stands, there have been six nuclear tests, only two of which were conducted this year.
So, what does it all mean?
A look at the facts does prove that things are getting worse. After all, the two tests from this year have been on intercontinental missiles. But, remember, Kim Jong Un is an educated man with a degree in physics. More than even Trump, this is a man who knows the risks of a nuclear arsenal. And, if North Korean spokespeople are anything to go by, this is more about defence than attack. That said, it’s still worth noting that, as things heat up between the two leaders, our futures look increasingly uncertain. All we can do is keep an eye on the news, and hope the two countries find a way to settle their differences.
Jerry Mooney is co-founder and managing editor of zenruption and Jerry Mooney Books and the author of History Yoghurt and the Moon. He studied at the University of Munich and Lewis and Clark College where he received his BA in International Affairs and West European Studies. He has recently taught Language and Communications at a small, private college and owned various businesses, including an investment company. Jerry is committed to zenrupting the forces that block social, political and economic justice. He can also be found on Twitter.