Tuesday, July 10, 2012

History Repeats, or, Voting Is Just Like Fishing

Today Democracy Now! interviewed Representative John Lewis, 13 term congressman from Georgia and Civil Rights icon http://bit.ly/LLZrBz. They read a quote from his book about the how each progressive movement grows from the previous movement that I want to share:

"Just as Gandhi made it easier for King and King made it easier for Poland and Poland [made it easier] for Ireland [and] Ireland [made it easier] for Serbia [and] Serbia made it easier for the Arab Spring, [and] the Arab Spring made it easier for [the protests in] Wisconsin [and] Occupy."

It contrasts what I've been thinking lately about the voter ID laws. The conservative movement also learns from the previous generation, and they also get better at what they do. During the Civil Rights movement people were shot for registering people to vote, and beaten and arrested when attempting to legally register.

The new generation knows too well that this wouldn't fly (It's not "politically correct"). So the rhetoric now speaks of illegality and those who shouldn't vote because "if you can't get a legal ID you must be up to no good."

Things may not be as bad as on Montgomery of Selma, but codifying ID requirements for voting is not at all different from the IQ and literacy requirements of yore. And we all know how that went.
Whats so clever about the right's new talking points is how nice it sounds on the television. Normal everyday people see nothing wrong in the argument, I mean, they aren't advocating dogs and fire-hoses, they just want to be sure that everything is nice and legal, that when they go to vote they can be sure to have a nice fluffy feeling in their tummy.

One of my conservative friend made a comparison between and ID for voting to a Fishing License, that if he has to show and ID for a "stupid fish" why not for "the most sacred secular thing a citizen can do." Logical right?

Now it is easy for us to deconstruct that argument; that a fishing license is designed as a limit, a hindrance to over fishing and helps fund the policing of said limits. Similarly, voter IDs are a limiting factor, a hindrance to the "sacred act" of voting. Exactly what the Voting Rights Act made illegal.
Interestingly he also mentioned how easy it was to get an ID at the DMV so what's the big deal, while not a few days earlier saying how horrible it would be to get Healthcare at the DMV because those places are terrible and inefficient and hard to deal with. So you see that the place he is coming from is not a logical or well thought out place.

That being said their argument that they are simply trying to protect voting and make certain elections are legal and constitutional, is patently illegal and unconstitutional.

But those designing the rhetoric know that it is harder to deconstruct the "New and Improved Fluffy Legal" argument than the "Violence and Murder to keep Black people from Voting" argument. And they know well that nuance doesn't make good television, especially when pitted against Nice 'n' Fluffy.

Luckily, at least at the moment, there are pretty good people in charge who kinda know about what is legal and constitutional http://huff.to/O0Ugw2.

Smokey the Bear Gets Political, or, This Time It's Personal

I will be re-posting essays I write for Drinking Liberally Philadelphia http://bit.ly/fvjLTk. Here's last weeks entry about the political implications of the fires in my home-town of Colorado Springs:

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(Original Post: http://bit.ly/LQhy7r)

In case last week you're head got caught in stair railing again, my home city of Colorado Springs was in the news. And as is always the case when C-Springs as we like to call it, it was bad news. In the past it's been about the religious wing-nuttery http://bit.ly/N61QFM or their first cousin conservative crazy-pantsery http://bit.ly/zsMOiA. Then there was this guy http://bit.ly/elZ6wL. For some reason C-Springs makes the kind of stories This American Life loves.

Now before I rant about the news, I want to preface it by saying emphatically, I love Colorado Springs. It sits at the base of the Rockies with every imaginable outdoor activity within reach, and the political/religious majority aside, people in the West are genuinely friendly. And the weather, global warming notwithstanding, is perfect; sunny, mild and dry. That being said it's hard to be from the Springs.

A little bit of history. The Springs was a relatively small mountain town with a bunch of military bases, including Central Command, previously located at NORAD nested deep inside a mountain topped with massive radio towers, a sight that never seemed out of the ordinary growing up.
In the late 70s and early 80s there was in influx of people from other states because taxes were low and there was plenty of open spaces to colonize. Organizations like Focus on the Family and New Life Church thrived.

As teenagers we had bumper stickers on our junker cars stating "Focus On Your Own Damn Family," parked outside coffee shops where we ranted about how the latest property tax proposal designed to fund schools was killed by the voters. Over the years I have witnessed my nice smallish town taken over and destroyed by zealotry.

There was also a move to develop the hell out of the town. Politicians bought buy developers pushed to build communities in places they didn't belong, either in to the Western foothills where your tiny dog/child will likely be eaten by a bear/mountain lion, or to the East in the arid plains, where no matter how hard you try you won't have that perfect green lawn you saw in Lawn & Garden Magazine.

So with this massive growth, increased conservatism, military and religious influence C-Springs was bound to turn into the conservative Utopia born from the wet-dreams of Pat Robertson and Grover Norquist.

If ever there was proof that the small government, pro-capitalism experiment has failed, my home town is that proof.

Not only are parks not mowed, street lights turned off, public pools privatized http://bit.ly/AF53Lg but essential public services like Firefighters cut to the point of uselessness http://bit.ly/MYpU0p (thanks to Brendan Skwire for that one).

The locals have been made so terrified of taxes as to be completely irrational. They would rather spend more of their own money to turn on one street light rather than have the government turn them all on for cheaper. They criticize Obama for showing up and giving Federal support for a thinly stretched local Fire Department, while their Tea-Party mayor begs Obama for money that his constituents refuse to give.

It is painful to watch places I frequented and see homes of old friends burn to the ground, but it is almost more painful to see my neighbors ask for help after decades of refusing to pay into a system designed to benefit everyone, especially in emergency situations like a Wildfire.
The proof is in the burnt pudding. The effects of Global Warming have never been more evident. Colorado's arid climate is made even dryer and has exacerbated a fire that my home city could barely put out.

Conservatism in practice doesn't work, and the consequences of it's implementation in my home town have been dire. Unfortunately the people there like to elect anti-tax slum-lords who are then jailed for tax evasion http://bit.ly/Njcefk.

*Audible Sigh