Government to launch Amazon-style text message alert system for public services

Politic | Tech

The Government plans to launch a text message alert service similar to those used by Amazon and other online retailers that will alert people about public services.

The initiative is designed to save almost £600 million by cutting down on the use of call centres, face-to-face meetings and other public-facing government operations.

The automated system, called Notify, is based on those used by internet retailers to update shoppers about deliveries, and will see members of the public receiving a text message, email or letter when an MOT is up for renewal, or when student finance applications are being processed.Read more

How to Choose a Political Candidate


presidential candidateThere’s always been debate between people on how to choose the proper candidate. Some say base your decision on the candidate’s platform. Others cast their votes to conservative types, while there are people who are going with whoever is popular, for surely if they have a lot of supporters they’re worthy of your vote, right?

Not necessarily.

Finding the right candidate to hold the highest office of the land requires several criteria in order for him or her to be qualified for the role. These criteria is vast, and often times malleable.

Resistance to Change

Take conservative candidates for instance. First, what does being conservative mean? It is being traditional, sticking out to the tried and true road, and upholding existing conditions that have worked time and again. An appealing candidate, wouldn’t you say?

But being conservative also poses several drawbacks, and perhaps the biggest of this is having little room for change. Take what’s happening with the recent passing of SCOTUS’ (Supreme Court of the United States) ruling. Conservative politicians seethed when the decision passed and even some are going out of their way to flout the decision.

A great conservative should take joy in the recent verdict as it embodies what it’s really like to be an American: upholding freedom and equality regardless of race, beliefs, and gender orientation. A great conservative preserves the good and embraces changes that possess the same positive qualities as those that he/she upholds.

Is Platform Enough?

Now let’s look at the candidates and their various platforms.

Address climate change, tackle the huge economic disparity among citizens, healthcare, education, border issues, national defense, advancement of the scientific community – these are just some of the most famous changes that presidential candidates are claiming they would acknowledge should they win in 2016.

All these are well and good, but the burning question is will, and can, they deliver?

To glimpse a candidate’s skill in finding out if he/she is up to the task one should look at their past records, achievements, and overall impact during their time as public servant.

Another aspect to look at is if they are consistent on these platforms they’re upholding. Consistency and past decisions are vital in unraveling the character of a candidate.

What legislations have they passed and supported? Was it beneficial for the people as a whole or did it only benefit a small group of individuals?

People should take voting seriously. And by that I mean that research should be made to each candidate to find out if they are ideal in representing you as a citizen of the country. For this candidate is the person that will speak on your behalf; who will represent your rights, defend it, and fight for it should the time come that it needs fighting and defending.

There are still several months left before the 2016 presidential election commence. That’s plenty of time for American citizens to conduct their own probing to see who it is that best represent their interest, and the interest of the country and its citizens as a whole.

Why American People have Lost Faith in their Government


american electionsAs the days roll pass the 2016 presidential election is growing nearer. Some people are trying to decide who is it that they wish to take on America’s steering wheel. Others have already decided, while there are those that are still waiting it out, looking for someone who’s worthy of their time when Election Day arrives.

But there is a last group, those are the people who aren’t going to participate.


No, I don’t mean the underage citizens that aren’t yet qualified to vote. I’m talking about those that are qualified and yet unwilling to vote.

What exactly is their reason for not voting? Well, some of them just don’t care. But I’m willing to bet they aren’t like that before. As George Carline put it, “Behind every cynic is a disappointed idealist.”

People who seem no to care about political issues in this country have once been optimist. They thought that their vote matters. But each time they partake in the elections, those that are seated has time and again under-delivered, or hasn’t delivered at all, with their promises.

There are also those that feel helpless. It’s no secret that behind every campaign, every candidate, and every speech of that candidate – moving though it is sometimes– is a huge corporation funding the entire run.

And best believe that when their frontrunner wins, it’s those corporations that will be prioritized lest that candidate wishes to lose funding when the next election rolls in.

Bernie Sanders

But there seems to be a glimmer of hope for these cynics. Bernie Sanders. That’s right. To his supporters, Sanders embodies almost every optimist’s ideals, young and old alike.

For instance, he stands for Net Neutrality, his ideas in making college affordable is sound and should be explored, taxing the wealthy as they should be, raising the country’s minimum wage to a living wage, rebuilding the country’s decrepit infrastructure – are just some of his ideas that he will be addressing should he hold this country’s highest office.

But these aren’t just ideas. Sanders have already acted on some of it and being consistent on his stand. While the Vermont state senator might not be leading the poll, he’s extremely popular on different social media platforms.

Cynical heart

However, a cynical heart isn’t easy to win over. “How do we know he isn’t a puppet?” Well, for the first part, he’s electoral campaign is grassroots, funded by small donor contributions and those contributions can be publicly viewed. That means no corporation is hiding behind him.

Wealthy individuals and large corporations have been given tax breaks by political figures for years. Sanders vow to demolish that oligarchy. This is why the 1 percent of this country is going to do everything they can stop him from winning. For if he does, there will surely be drastic changes that will occur; changes that would end the privileges that are being enjoyed by the wealthy at the moment.

The Heavyweights Contending for Higher Office


higher office
With Obama’s impending departure out the White House, and the 2016 American election closing in, Republican and Democratic parties are tidying their suits and readying their speeches left and right. It’s going to be an arduous journey for those who are running. There certainly are a lot of big wigs who have thrown their name inside the ring.

So who’s currently on top?

Hilary Clinton. Yes. The former Senator from New York and first lady, as well as the former United States Secretary of State is currently the leading candidate according to polls and surveys. Clinton is poised to be the first female president of the United States should she win. This novelty alone is giving a lot of people to think about. Some positive, some negative, and the rest are just waiting what the future holds.

Would a female president finally bring the change that everyone is looking for?

That is question that remains to be answered. First, Clinton needs to maintain her present steam with her Democratic party. Early polls aren’t going to decide who will hold next the highest office of the country. It’s merely a baseline on the popularity of that candidate, not to mention that early polls are quite volatile and may change as time passes.

But Clinton and the force behind her is confident that that steam will last until the election’s culmination.

Familiarity and association

Perhaps one of Clinton’s biggest assets is that people already know her. Familiarity comes a long way when it comes to election. But there is also the risk of association. Association of the negative aspects regarding her past role in the government.

Additionally, Quinnipiac University has recently conducted a poll where Clinton emerged on top. However, the same poll found out that more than half of those who participated felt that the Democrat frontrunner isn’t to be trusted.

This sentiment may largely be based on her scandal, which she admitted, that her and former U.S. President Bill Clinton did used a private email server protected by the Secret Service. There’s also the matter of allegations regarding her handling of the murder of a U.S. diplomat situated in Libya, as well as involvement in foreign donations to the Clinton Family Foundation.

The other side of the pond

Meanwhile, in the Republican faction, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is leading with a 15 percent support based on the polls. The son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio has youth on his side, and to his detractors’ opinion, is the only one worth noting as Rubio is fairly inexperienced to step up to the big leagues.

It can also be remembered that the Floridian Senator is among one of the most influential figure who took part in the failed bipartisan attempt to fashion a broader immigration reform bill that would have carved the way to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

While it’s definitely early to see who will stand victorious to hold the highest office in America, analyzing the popularity, past achievements, and the influence backing the heavyweights that have stepped into the fray can certainly shed some light in the matter.

American Perspectives that Center on Political Dynasties


political dynasties

The probability of a Bush – Clinton matchup this coming 2016 is increasingly possible. After several weeks of speculation, ex-Florida Governor Jeb Bush declared that he’s keenly exploring a bid for the Republican nomination. On the other hand, Hillary Rodham Clinton also announced her bid for Republican nomination. Both parties are widely being discussed for a second and third round of presidency. Given the recent announcements and speculations, more and more people are beginning to wonder: what do political dynasties play in the US government?

The Founding Fathers of the United States cautioned against the perils of dynastic cycle in American politics. In 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote to George Washington that “a hereditary aristocracy will change the form of our Government from the best to the worst in the world.” During that time, he mentioned ancestral political rule a “scourge” that had restrained the astounding population in France. Yet, the instances of political dynasty are as old as the United States. In the book America’s Political Dynasties, author Stephen Hess mentioned that no less than 700 families (in which two or way more members) had a job in Congress since 1774 – and it was only during 1966, when the book was initially released.

This can be backed up by the study published in The Review of Economic Studies in 2009 by Ernesto Dal Bo, Pedro Dal Bo, and Jason Snyder that posts comparable suggestions. Particularly, when it comes to Congress, the study concludes that “political power is self- perpetuating,” meaning that the more power one individual holds, the greater the possibility that his/her power will be passed on to his/ her respective family.

Political power in democracies becomes inheritable de facto for reasons other than permanent differences in family characteristics

This highlights that the preference of such individuals is not a result of their skills, but rather “contacts or name recognition may play a role”. It’s true that brand alone won’t win an election, but it sure brings instant name recognition. And so in this era of big, costly campaigns, name recognition is deemed very valuable. Besides, it is obvious that political scions are an advantage over candidates of lesser lineage.

A political pedigree can have its negative sides though. A popular surname sometimes carries sickening associations and the risk of a fatigue factor. Party activists said that Bush name would help Jeb attract early money, talent and supporters around the country. However, Jeb Bush’s brother, George W. Bush, became hugely unpopular at the end of his presidency because of issues concerning the Great Depression and many past controversies; thus, creating a “not-so-good” image on his part. Clinton, a former secretary of state, senator, and first lady, is also threatened by familiarity and some fatigue factor.

Political dynasties impact the US politics in many and various ways. Name recognition and apathy are always present; however, political dynasties come at a cost, such as a higher sense of expectation from the public and possible overfamiliarity factors.

After all, there’s nothing inherently unethical with dynasty politics. However, the current proclivity of American voters to be so indifferent to political dynasties appears to be so connected with their lack of interest in politics and governance.

America’s Current Infrastructure is Hurting its Economy


American infrastructureWhile the US still ranks high as one of the world’s leading countries when it comes to economy, there is literally a gaping hole that seriously needs addressing. Potholes. Yes. America’s roads are in dire need of repair that it’s affecting the country’s economy.

Beyond the problem

But roads aren’t the only problems. It’s the entire US infrastructure that needs an overhaul. Roads, bridges, railways, ports and airports, power grids – the mundane stuff that gets overlook every day that keeps the wheel that is America turning.

Similar to multiple problems, the best way to solve this issue is tackle it one step at a time. So what’s the first step? One of the solutions proposed is to increase taxes in petrol for road repair. Since the Highway Trust Fund’s resources comes from the federal petrol tax which was set up way back in 1956 to pay for new interstates, it would make sense to increase its tax. Why? Because since 1993, it’s been stuck at 18 cents a gallon and its price has dropped to 40 percent in three years, not to mention current vehicles use less of the stuff.

It gets even better. When voters were asked regarding new public works project, three quarters of the time they were in favor, even at the expense of tax payer’s money. Republicans allergic to tax increase should take note.

Infrastructure and America’s economy

How exactly is America’s infrastructure related to its economy? Let’s take New York as an example.

It’s estimated that the products that are being shipped into or out of New York yearly on its transportation infrastructure is more than $643 billion worth. There are also reports stating that America’s most major roads needs repair, and one in nine in about 70,000 bridges fall in the structurally deficient category.

In New York 76 perfect of the daily bridge crossings are deemed unsafe according to data from the National Bridge Inventory.

Are we going to wait for another Minneapolis incident over at Mississippi where the bridge collapsed back in 2007 claiming 13 lives and injuring 145 more? The time to act is now.

However, there are others that are inhibiting this reconstruction. One of which is Andrew Cuomo, New York’s own governor. That’s right. Even with large rallies by legislators and local leaders calling out the governor to increase funding and investment on transportation mobility, Cuomo still holds his ground saying that such investment is “pork barrel” spending.

But the governor isn’t completely against investing infrastructure improvement. He has proposed to allocate $1 billion to replace Tappan Zee Bridge. It’s a step in the right direction, though one bridge is not enough.

Additionally, investing in infrastructure will have its major benefits in the long run. According to a study by HIS Global last December, every dollar placed in state highway, bridges, and transit capital projects returns at least a $1.80 of goods and services created in the economy.

It isn’t too late for America to get back on the race. It just needs to focus on the things that are being overlooked and invest accordingly to sectors that would bring back steam back in its economic engine.

Employer Awareness on Disability Discrimination Laws


disability discriminationAn employer must have knowledge of an employee having a disability before being obligated to make reasonable adjustments. If the employer has no such knowledge then he is under no duty to make reasonable adjustments. However, such knowledge can be imputed to the employer by other employees, managers, agents, and occupational health personnel. So what exactly is the burden on employers to protect their disabled employees?

Reasonable Adjustments

It is at the employer’s discretion what adjustments it deems reasonable to make, and employers should take preliminary steps in assessing what measures will prevent the employee from being disadvantaged because of his disability. However, consultation with the employee beforehand is not a mandatory requirement (Tarbuck v Sainsburys Supermarkets Ltd).

An employer is no longer able to justify a failure to make reasonable adjustments where they are necessary. All possibilities must be considered for each individual case, and a decision made as to whether each is a suitable adjustment to make, or not, and why. In cases that prompt tribunal hearings the employer should have documentary evidence to support these considerations.

Sick Pay

In O’Hanlon v The Commissioners for HM Revenue & Customs, the tribunal held that when a disabled employee exhausts his entitlement to sick pay stipulated by the employment contract after prolonged absences, the employer is only obligated to offer additional sick pay in extreme exceptional circumstances, such as a case for occupational stress or in connection with some grievance occurring at the same time as the sickness.

Financial Costs

The Government White Paper ‘Ending Discrimination Against Disabled Persons’ stated that the duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments would not give rise to a financial burden. Employers are within their right to consider such costs, and it was even suggested that future regulations would uphold a financial limit to further aid the employer.

Sue Maynard-Campbell, chairwoman for the Group for Solicitors with Disabilities (GSD), suggested that the “most reasonable adjustments are low cost and no more onerous than providing a specific type of laptop or moving equipment to allow wheelchair access”. However, there remains the other fifty percent, cases where more advanced and specialist facilities are required, which may be more expensive than the Government realize.

Suggested Measures

Baker suggests the following measures: preferential allocated car parking, ramps to facilitate access, lifts, handrails on staircases, accessible toilets, improved lighting, relocation of switches, sockets and operating buttons, improved signage, modification of door handles and taps, voice activated software, induction loops, task lighting, text phones, visual warnings and adapted office equipment and furniture.

Baker reiterates that these measures can extend to the pre-stages of employment. For example, employers might be expected to present application forms in larger size font or in Braille, or alternatively allow employees to submit applications orally in a recorded audio tape format.

Positive Discrimination

An employer is within his rights to employ a quota of disabled people or even to keep aside specific job roles for disabled people only. The case of Archibald v Fife Council confirms this, where the House of Lords stipulated that in practice the employer may even be obligated to do so. This may have the effect of placing an unfair burden on employers to withhold vacancies from a hypothetical candidate who is suitable for the role but who is not disabled.

Disability Awareness Training

Jackson illustrates the legal issues that would need to be addressed by disability awareness training. They are: legal obligations and penalties under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and associated Codes of Practice, guidance on best practice from relevant service providers and institutions, the employer’s own policies and procedures relating to disabled employees, customers and service users and specific practical issues concerning access to the workplace, workstations and machinery.

Balancing Interests of Democracy in Political Economy


political economyNo one can argue that political economy is dynamic. In The Political Economics of International Relations, Robert Gilpin notes that political economy is primarily the interaction of three fundamental forces: politics, economics and society. Plato in his Republic and Socrates in the works of Plato and other contemporaries discussed politics with a view of impact by society. Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations contrasted with Karl Marx in Das Capital on how economics impacted society. Every day we read about the impact politics has on the economy that affects society worldwide. In democracies, society is the final authority for this triumvirate, but disregard for either facet of this public intercourse increases chaos in a system trying to maintain a semblance of equilibrium.

On the surface, a natural ebb and flow of political activity, from laissez-faire to socialism, appears to balance the political economy. Public policy allows influence on economic issues to either government or the market. It can be argued therefore, that the political component is the controlling factor of political economic dynamics because it allows or regulates economic activity. But, what is society’s role?

A misalignment of the views of the people and the actions of the government towards them is indicative of a dysfunctional relationship in the context of democratic government. This does not necessarily spell poor government but the long-term stability of that government and its impact on the economy and society in general is a very real concern. In general, the government that listens and is answerable to its citizens is the most politically stable. But is society heard or manipulated?

A Voice for Society

The extent to which a people have voice in their own government depends on whether the government hears and listens. A government informed by polls and focus groups may be able to discern public opinion accurately and thereby, maintain the control of the dynamics of public intercourse.

Democracy is demonstrably the best long-term solution to date. A well-informed society that can participate in its own governance is the best governance solution. Former World Bank President James Wolfenson made this point in a 1999 Washington Post article “Voices of the Poor”. He emphasized that without public consensus you cannot bring about change. In reality, the citizenry does not always have the ability to analyze problems and provide informed opinion. This lessens the quality but not the impact of popular participation. On complicated issues like economics, there is a temptation for government to orchestrate public opinion and therefore, wrest the control of policy from the grip of the voters.

The ability of civil society organizations, lobbyists, and the media to focus on issues in a competent way is a partial solution to a popular information deficiency. These alternative perspectives take the monopoly of information and suggestion away from the government. In a democracy as large as the United States, communications determines the impact of the citizenry and becomes an important variable in the political economic equation.

Media Can Balance Political Economic Dynamics

The media advances to the fore as a potential balancing mechanism for the political economy. Civil society organizations focus on the special interests of society, usually on process not substance. They provide a voice for citizens. Lobbyists try to disproportionately influence political policy for small segments of the public. Media has no inherent bias, but that does not mean it can’t have one.

Pippa Norris detailed the importance of the media in Chapter 8 of his book Driving Democracy. The media has always been an agent of change. It informs and communicates. It is unbiased when it remains objective. This is its strength as a balancing mechanism. The great British politician Edmond Burke coined the term the fourth estate to emphasize the essential nature of the press in a democracy. The danger of the fourth estate is that it has a near monopoly on the distribution of public information. When the media is controlled by forces with an agenda, it becomes a fifth column. Its corruption has a ripple effect that impacts politics and economics and hence, society.

In the moment that agenda rather than objectivity controls the media, information becomes propaganda. Dialogue becomes monologue. Equilibrium becomes chaos. In this scenario, society has no voice – except in the next ballot box.

The Political Economy of Democracy

The strength of an economy can be measured in its impact on society. Does it provide for the welfare of the people? In a democracy, society, at least the voting part, determines political directions. Considering that citizens can influence the political system that in turn influences the economic outcomes that best suit the citizenry, it is clear that the political economy of a democracy is controlled by those who control the voters. The ultimate arbitrator and balancing mechanism in the political economy of a democracy are the citizens themselves.