The partial (but substantial) government shutdown has been 24/7 news in the United States. One can approach the impasse from a Constitutional perspective, or discuss the role of government, or how the country should manage its budget and deficit. However, I will keep this simple:
The government shutdown has a strong, difficult to reverse long-term hit to the already tepid economy of the United States.
An important thing to realize is that in the neoliberal age where everything is globalized and competition is more level than ever, being the only country with a federal government on time-out is a huge disadvantage. Complex economies are not divided into a purely public and a purely private sector. The Los Angeles Times reports that furloughs and paralysis are already rippling through the private sector- because plenty of private companies require public subsidies, operate out of government-owned buildings or land, or have the government as their major customer.
This will be a fairly long post, and will address the recent Supreme Court hearings of Shelby County v. Holder, a legal challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. It will also discuss racial privilege and the usage of the term 'racism'- as well as judicial activism.
The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1870. It was the last of the "Reconstruction Amendments" that fundamentally changed how race was viewed in the eyes of the law. The Thirteenth Amendment, recently given spotlight as the focus of Spielberg's blockbuster film Lincoln, abolished slavery. The Fourteenth is complex but contained the Due Process Clause, which led to protections of individual rights by applying the Bill of Rights to states in addition to the federal government.
The Fifteenth is about voting, as racial equality must also mean political equality. It reads:
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
While this amendment was not truly realized until the civil right movement and federal intervention in the 1960s, it is key to understanding the debate about the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that exists, and the potentially drastic changes that could result from a Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.
Note: This is not the most political diary you will see today. If you look at my diary history, I sometimes write about things in a more abstract way. The danger of not passing a full and relevant Violence Against Women Act fits in with some of what I say. Take what you will.
There’s been a tumblr post circulating among my Facebook friends to support the idea that there exists a “rape culture” in America, and it demands serious action. Rape in our culture is a point of contention between various groups- debates over whether rape jokes are socially acceptable, or if the term is used too casually have happened again and again in the past few years.
The statistics in the post are legitimate, and are collected with citations here
. A series of surveys and academic articles, published between 1981 and 1994, found widespread acceptance of rape among middle school and college students. In a disturbing result, many young girls accepted rape as justified in some circumstances- sometimes at a rate equal to young boys.
This data is compelling, but dated. However, an exhaustive survey by the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey has been published recently, thanks to significant support from government agencies. It is stark in its conclusions: if the rate of sexual abuse has gone down, it hasn't gone down much. In the 1988 college survey, about one in four women reported rape or attempted rape. In the 2011 report, it was one in five.
I don't mean to drown this post with statistics; rather, I want a strong grounding to stand on going forward. More below the fold.
All truths, to some extent, are inconvenient. Living in a reality filled with prospects that never dim is a cute thought. Unfortunately, the responsible thing to do with age is absorb the facts as they present themselves, and then look at what the future will be- or importantly, should be. Hurricane Sandy was by definition an inconvenient truth. So was the utterly insane 2005-06 hurricane season, put up in conventional wisdom as an aberration. When several million people sit around without power with trees blown all over the neighborhood, it prompts the question of how the hell we ended up in this mess.
The events of September 11th, 2001 weren't life-altering to me. I simply was too young- I had just turned eleven when it happened, and the odd circumstances of where I was (away from news, television for several days) means I don't have the sense of solidarity that many other people had during that eventful Tuesday. The main feeling I felt was embarrassment- I had been so jubilant from the trip and finally being home; once home, I realized my enthusiasm was sharply at odds with the state of the country.
It is odd to believe that there are millions of Americans who have no memory of the attacks. Incoming college freshmen have only vague memories, in a few years they will have no memory at all. It seems strange that in a few years people will enter the military, perhaps serving in Afghanistan, and have nothing more than family and textbooks to tell them how we came to be there.
What September 11th did, quite starkly, is mark the end of my childhood, and was the initiation to the rest of my life. As the War on Terror began, I found that my sentiments were that of adults. I no longer had history wash over me, instead I interacted with it. I shared the same confusion in the run-up to the Iraq War. Some aspects of it I listened to, such as the dire world painted by the State of the Union in January, the inspectors finding nothing, and over the radio hearing Sec. Powell's address to the United Nations. Rather than learning about these events at a later date, and forming a worldview from scratch, my opinions about the War on Terror are traced back to the very beginning, and are an evolution rather than a history lecture.
As each year passes, and the events fade little by little, it becomes a question of what September 11th will influence, and what it means. It cannot eternally be tears and three thousand candles. Neither can we move on entirely- partly because of its terrible scale, but because it has a deep impact on present day America. What has arisen is a national day of service, which I was involved in last year. I helped paint a fence for an American Legion post, with people my age and people fifty years my senior. It feels natural that a day of destruction move to become a day of rebuilding. Of making a better future while respecting the past. Of using our feelings about September 11th to make good in a world that needs it.
In the Reddit group that I moderate, a thread was made linking to kos' diary on voter fraud. The discussion was actually pretty good- kos thankfully avoids partisanship and thus fit well with the nature of the discussion group.
A person of a more conservative or libertarian persuasion started mentioning figures of non-citizens or dead people able to vote. He cited a recent report released in the past week that around 30,000 dead people are on the North Carolina voter rolls.
I decided to investigate. And thus the trip to Wonderland.
So the word is out that Bill Clinton rocks at giving a speech (full video). For older readers, this is not anything new. However, I am glad that a generation of people younger than me, with no memory of Clinton (I was 10 1/2 when he left office), got to see him in this context. Sometimes you try to tell your kids or younger friends about an actor or an athlete and their greatness during your formative years- but they're washed up or alcoholic so the same experience can't be replicated. But with this speech, you can truly say "this, my friends, is why I like Bill Clinton."
I should preface this all with the statement that I am not a Democrat, nor am I likely to vote for the President come November. However, I can, like many Republicans and independents, appreciate good speechcraft and a rare moment of substantiative discourse in this vapid, shallow election season.
In the present day, American politics has become deeply entangled confluence with materialist, grand-scale Protestantism. To great aggravation, Christianity has been tied not only to constitutional self-governance (as this recent best-selling painting shows in a way that strongly resembles parody), but the laissez-faire economic system that has segregated its people and eroded liberty over the past two centuries. It has been used to argue for capital punishment, and for centuries has been used to create the idea of "just war"
The issue is that Jesus was not a fan of exploitative commerce. In fact, he led the first occupation- he was the founder of Occupy Jerusalem. In the gospels, he enters the Temple of Jerusalem, where commerce has defiled the holy place. He takes those around him to task, and uses the popular support for his actions to defy authority.
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves (Mark 11:15)
Later Jesus calls the Temple he cleared a "den of robbers" (Mark 11:17)
Thursday evening, I attended a screening of The Healthcare Movie, a new documentary exploring the divergence of the Canadian and American healthcare systems over the past half century. Documentaries like Sicko do rightly point out America's inferior system- both in financial sustainability and quality of care. The important aspect missing from Sicko is history. Why does the United States not have the same healthcare setup as its economic equals? Why have so many politicians, from Ted Kennedy to Teddy Roosevelt, failed?
There has been historical opposition from the American Medical Association and in the last fifty years, private insurance companies. The famous Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine (video) was part of an AMA campaign. Since the second Red Scare, connecting universal health insurance with the Soviet Union (or more recently, just saying "socialism" a couple dozen times) has been an effective method of stopping both universal coverage, as well as the initial, much stronger drafts of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.
Last fall, I took part in many Occupy protests. I spoke to college classes about income inequality, marched with 20,000 others in Oakland- the first general strike in America in sixty-five years. I also saw people become confused and frustrated. There were attempts at organization and strategy, but doing so after the fact was difficult. There was a dreadful inefficiency in how the anger and willpower of occupiers was used.
There had to be a better way to create a better society. Throwing rocks at cops and complaining at general assembles has no beneficial end result.
Recently, I got a package in the mail. It contained a pamphlet that I read online a few months ago- one that is not famous like Common Sense by Thomas Paine, but in the modern world is deeply relevant and useful. It is, simply, a road to revolution.
From Dictatorship to Democracy is the distilled wisdom of Gene Sharp, an 84-year old academic who lives in East Boston. His life has been quiet- he has written no best-selling books, held no prestigious professorships. However, he is the world's leading expert on nonviolent struggle. He believes that ideas and willpower are more powerful than guns. Through case studies, one learns that even in the face of the worst evil, nonviolence had been used and been used effectively. Fear is what keeps people in line, supporting their autocrats. But if you remove your support, your obedience, then dictatorships crumble before your eyes. Nonviolent struggle is a way to empower people, and give them a way forward, past fear.
In a 2012 presidential campaign marked by vague promises regarding domestic and foreign policy, August 11th was a day that put ideas front and center. The selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's vice-presidential candidate brought a man with a strong, clear ideology into the mix. Whereas Romney has distanced himself from the work he did as an elected official, Ryan stands proud of over a decade of policy proposals and a radical vision for reshaping American institutions.
One of the most interesting parts of Ryan is the disconnect between the teachings of his Catholic faith, and the political and economic ideology he has developed. Firstly, let's go over Ryan's positions, and then the considerable criticism from Catholic circles.
Starting on the 2nd of October, 100 people gathered in Backesto Park in downtown San Jose, California to meet in General Assembly. Their goal was to march on the heart of the city, make their voices heard, and occupy the City Hall Plaza.
I'm happy to report those goals have been met and are currently being met.
More over the bump.
Day 1- The General Assembly [VIDEO]