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The Political Animal

Mourning In America

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A nation doesn’t lose its freedoms in foreign lands. It loses them at home. Atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not diminish American democracy. Neither will drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. The GOP is doing that under our noses every day, right now, in cities and the states, in the congress of the United States. We know, symbolically, what the 2008 presidential election brought us. We need to remember, too, what the 2010 midterm elections produced. 2012 will determine which prevails in setting the nation’s course for decades to come.

From the Guttmacher Institute:

By almost any measure, 2011 saw unprecedented attention to issues related to reproductive health and rights at the state level. In all 50 states, legislators introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related provisions, a sharp increase from the 950 introduced in 2010. By year’s end, 135 of these provisions had been enacted in 36 states, again an increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009.

Fully 68% of these new provisions, 92 provisions in 24 states, restrict access to abortion services, a striking increase from last year, when 26% of new provisions restricted abortion. The 92 new abortion restrictions shattered the previous record of 34 abortion restrictions adopted in 2005.

In another realm, of worker rights, as soon after the 2010 midterms as March 2011,

The National Conference of State Legislatures is tracking an explosion of 744 bills that largely target public-sector unions, introduced in virtually every state.

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Nearly half of the states are considering legislation to limit public employees’ collective bargaining rights. In New Hampshire, the House last week approved a measure that one union leader assailed as “Wisconsin on steroids.”

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A number of states are considering bills that would limit unions’ ability to collect dues from public employees. The Florida House approved a bill to ban dues deductions from government paychecks and require unions to obtain members’ permission before using dues for political activity. Similar legislation is under consideration in Kansas. Other bills would eliminate a requirement that workers covered by union contracts pay union dues or fees.

Much like the Orwellian inversion of language I characterized in a different context, these bills deceive in their titles:

Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act, Employee Rights Act, Jobs Protection Act, Employee Workplace Freedom Act, Secret Ballot Protection Act, National Right to Work Act, Truth in Employment Act, National Labor Relations Reorganization Act, and others.

What is the purpose of the Employee Workplace Freedom Act?

To repeal the rule requiring employers to post notices relating to the National Labor Relations Act.

Wouldn’t that make you feel freer?

Gordon Lafer has written an overview of this “coordinated assault on labour standards“:

One of the most striking aspects of the past year is not only the extent to which these legislative initiatives appeared simultaneously in so many states, but also the extent to which such a disparate array of proposals were promoted as components of a coherent policy agenda.

Striking, but not surprising when one considers the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council, as Lafer and others do. What is just some of the purpose?

While policy debates have been largely framed around the need for fiscal austerity, the year also saw widespread attacks on the legal rights and economic standards of private- sector workers. Eighteen states introduced so-called ‘right to work’ laws, aimed at undermining private-sector unions. This Orwellian named policy does not guarantee anyone a job. Rather, it makes it illegal for a union to require that employees who benefit from a collective contract contribute their fair share of the costs of administering that contract. By weakening unions’ ability to sustain themselves financially, such laws aim to weaken the bargaining power of organized workers, and ultimately to drive private-sector unions out of existence.

So, too, a dozen states introduced bills restricting the ability of both public- and private-sector unions to participate in the political process, by requiring unions to obtain annual written authorization from each member in order to spend dues money on politics. Since both federal and state law already allow anyone covered by a union contract to withhold dues from political uses, such laws provide no new rights to employees, but consume considerable union resources in the bureaucratic activity of collecting annual notifications, and aim to muzzle the political voice of organized workers.14 Similarly, thirteen states introduced bills banning public employees from having union dues deducted through the state payroll system – even for employees who voluntarily choose to pay dues. Since there is virtually no cost to states for electronic payroll deductions, the sole purpose of such legislation is to cripple unions financially and limit the ability of organized labour to participate in electoral politics.

The assault on wage standards extends to non-union as well as unionized employees. Most states uphold ‘prevailing wage’ laws, for instance, which ensure that publicly funded construction doesn’t serve to undercut local wage standards. Such laws benefit union and non-union employees alike, but have long been opposed by non-union contractors who believe they could make higher profits with lower wage standards. This year they saw their chance to advance this agenda. Legislation weakening or eliminating prevailing wage standards was introduced in fourteen states and passed in five, severely eroding construction pay scales.

Similarly, minimum wage and overtime laws were scaled back in multiple states, undermining the most important wage protections available to non-union workers.

As Gregory M. Saltzman tells us,

Anti-union changes in labor law are most likely in jurisdictions where simultaneous control of both legislative branches and the executive shifts to the Republicans.

This happened in ten states in 2010.

Most Republicans had not campaigned in 2010 on a platform of restricting publicemployees’ bargaining rights. But the change in the political climate, especially the shift in ten states to unified Republican control of the legislature and the governorship, created an opportunity to weaken public-employee unions.

In Michigan, now effectively a one-party state tyranny, Governor Rick Snyder’s emergency manager powers enable him to deprive American citizens in selected Michigan cities and towns of their rights of self-governance, invalidating their most recent electoral choices and appointing managers who govern without democratic legitimacy or the right of redress.

At the state level in Michigan, the one-party tyranny now produces the scene below, in which a GOP speaker ignores the calls of Democratic legislators for a roll call vote to test the two-thirds super-majority requirement for the legislature’s “immediate effect” provision on new legislation.

Michigan House votes on SB 754 from The Rachel Maddow Show on Vimeo.

In particular, the legislation makes it harder to run a voter-registration drive.

Immediate effect for this legislation is designed to put it into effect in time for the November election, where a diminished Democratic vote might swing the state for Romney.

This as “Voter Suppression Bills Sweep the Country,” not just in Florida.

As we see “Senate Republicans Now Blockading Every Single Appeals Court Nominee.”

And we witness the product of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court – the consequence of GOP Presidential dominance in 28 out of 40 years from 1968-2008 and the elections of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush – having effectively sold American democracy to the super rich, led by Sheldon Adelson.

All this is the meaning of this election. The rest is foolishness.

AJA

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The Political Animal

Said the Sad Red Earth

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I’ve been lying low, collecting evidence…

Brought to mind by recent events for David W. Blight And Allison Scharfstein in their Op-Ed at the New York Times, the little known proposal by Martin Luther King, Jr. to President Kennedy in May 1962 to issue another Emancipation Proclamation, to end segregation. Kennedy took it under advisement and never acted before it was too late. Even Lincoln did not act until the nation was already at war. Marriage equality is not a matter of localized state ordinance governing a mundane civil procedure. It is a human and civil right to be addressed federally and universally. Even the partisan pollsters know what is coming. But the GOP remains, into a second century of shrinking ideas, a party of smallness far different from the kind it professes.

Speaking of shrinking human capital, John Derbyshire, whom National Review employed for quite some time, even after his racism began to leak from him, has chosen, post termination, to come a gusher and write now for the white nationalist VDare – whose Peter Brimelow was at this year’s CPAC – where he observes,

White supremacy, in the sense of a society in which key decisions are made by white Europeans, is one of the better arrangements History has come up with. There have of course been some blots on the record, but I don’t see how it can be denied that net-net, white Europeans have made a better job of running fair and stable societies than has any other group.

Even non-whites acknowledge this in unguarded moments.

Just as dispiriting – all forms of human diminishment in the name God and race are just so – is this crucial account by Jonathan Spyer of “The Rise of Hamas-Gaza.”

The nature of the regime created by Hamas in Gaza, and its strength and durability, has received insufficient attention in the West. This may have a political root: Western governments feel the need to keep alive the fiction of the long-dead peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. One of the necessary components of this is pretending that the historic split between nationalists and Islamists among the Palestinians has not really happened, or that it is a temporary glitch that will soon be reconciled. This fiction is necessary for peace process believers, because it enables them to continue to treat the West Bank Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas as the sole representative of the Palestinians.

But fiction it is. An Islamist one-party quasi-state has been built in Gaza over the last half-decade. The prospects for this enclave and its importance in the period ahead have been immeasurably strengthened by the advances made by Hamas’ fellow Muslim Brotherhood branches in Egypt and elsewhere in the region.

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Palestinian nationalism has traditionally favored words and gestures over concrete deeds. This is one of the sources for its historical failure to produce anything much tangible of note. Palestinian Islamism has a different approach: in line with the traditional strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood, it understands the importance of concrete, patient building on the ground.

This does not mean that Hamas in Gaza has lost sight or will lose sight of the maximalist ideological goals of the movement. It does mean, however, that the split in the Palestinian national movement should now finally be internalized as a long-term development. The more formidable, serious element of that movement is in control of Gaza. The Islamist one-party statelet in Gaza, in turn, is allied with the trend that is proving the major beneficiary of the Arab upheavals of 2011 — namely, Sunni Islamism.

Of a piece – the opposite piece – is Fareed Zakaria’s regrettable (piece o’) pie in the sky advancement of the “Arab Spring” fiction, here choosing to side with George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda” against everybody’s favorite BiBi bogeyman. “Demographics, Zakaria argues, won’t permit Arab autocracies to much longer shield themselves from “modernity.” Because of that bright and hopeful Arab Spring (why, just look around and see the buds burstin’ all over), “Arab democracies will have the legitimacy that comes with public participation,” Zakaria simply asserts: witness, as an example, the legitimacy of one person one vote one time in the coercively militaristic theocracy of Gaza, above, he forgot to say. “What in the World,” indeed.

Look at this video. It’s only a minute forty four. Everything about it is stupid, and there are a ton of them on YouTube, but it’s clear. The guy pursuing the conflict gets beat good. The guy who beat him had wanted none of it.  It had to hurt, though he deserved it, and men have taken beatings like it, and worse, since men were stupid. Would the beaten young man have been justified in pulling a gun and shooting the other? He’ll have some cuts and bruises. Even in the dark, with no one else there, would he have been within his rights to shoot and kill the other guy? What is even less defensible than the fixated George Zimmerman, in what he did – I’m sure he was scared once he was in for it – is the more detached yet still angry justification and promotion of his conduct by others.

In its wide-ranging assault on voter rights, labor rights, women’s rights, and straight up democracy itself, in Michigan, the contemporary GOP is the most reactionary and anti-Democratic force the nation has seen since the active hostile forces of pre Civil Rights movement Southern segregationism. Here is a look at what should be a very frightening graph from the Guttmacher Institute.

Has the filibuster, especially as normalized as it now is, producing an almost uniform requirement for super majority to pass any legislation through the Senate, risen to the level of constitutional offense under the GOP? James Fallows has been arguing so, and for some time now against false equivalence between the Democrats and Republicans in congressional dysfunction. Now Common Cause intends to pursue the matter, and the filibuster’s abolition, to the Supreme Court.

At Tablet, Akiva Gottlieb delivers a profile of the always unattractively strident, yet surprisingly uncertain David Horowitz. Among several humanizing passages, there is this rather tender and sad one involving his late daughter Sarah.

Sarah’s passions made her one of David’s most spirited interlocutors, and at times A Cracking of the Heart serves as an object lesson in political empathy—making it a poignant outlier in Horowitz’s oeuvre. In an earlier memoir, he attested to his inability to internalize the monotheistic religious prophets’ agreement that all human beings, no matter their trespasses, are incarnations of the divine spirit: “[I] cannot embrace this radical faith. I feel no kinship with those who can cut short a human life without remorse; or with terrorists who target the innocent; or with adults who torment small children for the sexual thrill.”

Sarah, who respects her father but harbors little patience for his bluster, hand-writes a response that aims to cut him to the quick. “First, have a little humility,” she begins. “You are not smarter than Moses, Jesus and Buddha.” She continues by articulating as eloquent a plea for understanding across ideological lines as I’ve ever heard:

If you see someone in the fullness of their humanity, you see how they are acting out their own confusion and suffering. This does not justify hurtful or evil acts. It doesn’t even always inspire forgiveness. But if you see someone this way, you respond more in sadness than in anger. And that is simply a more excellent state of being. Even if you’ve never had this experience (and more’s the pity), respect the experience of those who have.

She did not send her father these words. “Or if she did,” he writes, “I failed again to understand them.”

A more excellent state of being. She was a loss.

And finally, from the department of some people have all the luck, we have “Finger In Arby’s Sandwich: Michigan Teen Ryan Hart Spat Out ‘Rubbery’ Digit,” while, of course, in contrast, several people have found Jesus in a Cheeto.

AJA

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