sleeping alone and starting out early

an occasional blog on culture, education, new media, and the social revolution. soon to be moved from http://jennamcwilliams.blogspot.com.

Archive for the ‘elections’ Category

Jay Smooth on people who act like they don’t pay attention to politics because they’re smarter than the rest of us

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on May 12, 2010

Here’s Jay Smooth smacking down people who say they don’t pay attention to politics because every politician is the same, nothing changes, etc.:

“You can’t be on the Know-Nothing team all season and then put on the Know-Everything jersey at playoff time. That’s your team. Stay over there. If you never pay attention to politics, then you don’t get to come over here and tell me how politics affects my life.”

Get mad at ignorant people. Visit Jay Smooth’s site, ill doctrine.

Posted in awesome, elections, politics | 1 Comment »

as goes Detroit…

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on March 22, 2010

file under: if you’re not mad, you’re not paying attention.

I knew the recession had hit Michigan, my home state, harder than it’s hit any other place in the country; I knew this because I’ve been following the news and because my family lives in Metropolitan Detroit. But my recent trip to Michigan reminded me of just how bad things have gotten.

This is not the Michigan I remember. It’s not just that some stores are boarded up and some houses are sitting empty; entire clusters of stores point their vacant windows toward passing traffic. (The cars are heavily American; the bumper stickers declare support for this or that union; there is pride, after all, for what little it’s worth these days.) Priced to sell! the For Sale signs declare. Will build to suit. It’s not one or two houses that have been emptied out; it’s neighborhoods that have begun to empty, the streets peppered with brown-lawned lots and swinging realtors’ signs.

Recession in Detroit doesn’t only look like this:

 It also looks like this:

And like this, as captured by a Michigan resident running a blog called Sub-Urban Decay:

The word “decimated” literally means “reduced by ten percent.” Decimated, therefore, doesn’t begin to capture the blight tearing through metro Detroit.

Because it’s not just the economy that’s imploding. Detroit Public Schools is on record as the lowest performing urban school district in the country. The graduation rate across DPS hovers at 58%, and the district’s Emergency Financial Manager, Robert Bobb, recently announced planned closures of 45 schools in the district, for a total of 140 closed schools in the last five years. That’s over half the district. And by the way, Bobb was brought in because state law requires it when a district fails to meet basic fiscal responsibility guidelines.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, you may be aware, resigned his post in 2007 upon pleading guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice. He was also, among other things, the target of a scandal involving Tamara Greene, a stripper who performed at the mayoral residence and was later shot and killed in an as-yet unsolved case and a civil lawsuit in which Kilpatrick was accused of retaliating against the police officers in charge of the murder investigation. Because this is Detroit, leaving the Manoogian Mansion in disgrace is not the end of your story: Recently, new details have emerged about an FBI corruption investigation involving both Kilpatrick and his father.

Detroit isn’t the only city in Michigan, but in many ways it’s the most important one. As it goes, so goes the state. And it’s going to hell these days even faster than ever.

You want, as you watch the empty buildings flash past, as you hear the stories of families getting their water shut off and people talking about both the need and the utter impossibility of securing a second job in this floundering economy, as you watch the kids boarding their schoolbus in the morning, their parents slowly spreading off toward their cars, their bikes, their houses, you want to identify the simple cause of decay and you want to locate the simple solution. There are some things we know now that we didn’t know before: It’s not necessarily good to treat home ownership as a god-given, universal right. Lending practices should be more rigorous, and banks must be held to vastly higher standards than they have historically been. Credit card companies are largely evil, with a tiny dollop of forced generosity tossed in by the federal government.

But let’s say we take care of all that, and still we watch as 3 out of every 5 kids drop out of high school, and still we watch as people who are doing everything they’re told to do–working a full time job, paying their bills on time, making a budget and sticking to it–still find themselves realizing they’ll never have enough money to retire, still find themselves making tough decisions like whether to set that extra 50 dollars aside at the end of the month for their child’s college fund or to use it to pay the credit card bill.

Let’s say we change the worst laws: We get some honest to goodness health care reform (hooray!), we hold the auto industry’s feet to the fire, we boot the Kwame Kilpatricks. But the problems is that these are patches pasted hastily across a blown-out tire. Politics, local or national, is about as corrupt in this country as can be, and the recent Supreme Court decision knocking down campaign finance laws will only make matters worse. Our economy relies on a few staple industries, puts all its economic eggs in one or two baskets, and then when the bottom of the basket falls out we’re all surprised when we have nothing to eat for breakfast. And you don’t have to be half paying attention to the health care debate to see how much this country hates poor people and minorities, especially its black and Latino population.

It’s shameful, and it leaves me feeling deflated and defeated. What use is there fighting against such powerful bigotry and self-protectionism? How can we turn a current so powerful it sweeps us all downstream?

Yet we do keep trying, I suppose. We take hope in the victories, even the small ones and especially the large ones like yesterday’s historic vote mandating health care for all. It’s a far from perfect bill, diluted down by special interests and the bigotry of conservative politicians, but as my friend Rafi says, I guess we need to take care not to let great be the enemy of good.

And, I would add, we need to take care not to mistake “good” for “good enough.”

Posted in bigotry, culture, education, elections, jobs, politics, poverty, President Obama, public schools, racism, rage, recession, schools, social justice | 2 Comments »

Marilyn Musgrave tries to quash health care reform

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on March 10, 2010

Former U.S. Rep Marilyn Musgrave is the kind of politician I was born to hate.

Musgrave built her career out of an anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-empathy and anti-compassion platform. Before she was soundly trounced by Democrat Betsy Markey in 2008, Musgrave was featured on multiple worst-politicians lists. This profile in Rolling Stone explains that

Musgrave does not believe in the separation of church and state. She entered politics in 1990, running for her local school board on a crusade to end sex education as part of the curriculum. By the time her tenure was over, the schools taught “abstinence only” — and offending passages in health textbooks had been blacked out. During her eight years in the Colorado legislature, Musgrave continued her moralizing, overcoming two vetoes by the governor to pass a state ban on gay marriage.

Once in Congress, Musgrave introduced a constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage — which she calls “the most important issue that we face today” — nearly a year before a Massachusetts court approved civil unions. “She doesn’t like the idea of one gay person,” says Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. “So obviously the idea of two of us hanging out makes her very unhappy.” For her opposition to gay marriage — as well as her push to legalize concealed weapons — Musgrave received an endorsement from the KKK in May.

Let me emphasize: Marilyn Musgrave was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

Did I mention that she was thumped by Betsy Markey in 2008? Upon her loss, Musgrave disappeared from sight, never officially conceding the election, never congratulating her opponent, never answering reporters’ requests for comment about her loss.

Now Musgrave has resurfaced as the Director of a project called “Votes Have Consequences,” an effort by the Susan B. Anthony List to scare politicians out of voting to fund reproductive health care services. Specifically, this group is trying to scare politicians out of voting for any health care bill that covers a range of procedures including abortion. Here’s how 700 Club-affiliated blogger Dave Brody explains it:

The Susan B. Anthony List will be targeting certain members of Congress who are out of step with their district on the life issue. No specific Congressmen have been identified yet but the group plans to launch an aggressive TV, Radio and print campaign against them very soon. They don’t want to wait until 2010. They believe the issue needs to be addressed right away because pro-life groups have all too often taken a back seat approach to getting involved early in congressional races.

Priorities, folks. Let’s talk about priorities.

Nearly 46 million Americans are living without health insurance. About 8 million of those uninsured are children. And each year, 45,000 Americans die for lack of health insurance. Even if you’re a cold, cruel, apathetic person who doesn’t care about the human toll of our crumbling health care system, you can appreciate the financial drain of dealing with so many uninsured citizens. If you’re uninsured, you avoid expensive doctor visits. You don’t get physicals. You don’t deal with health issues when they first emerge, and if they get bad enough that you need medical care, you wait until you can’t delay any longer and then you take yourself to an emergency room. At this point, more care–more expensive care–is generally warranted.

When it comes to our health care system, we’re in full-on crisis mode. That’s why the effort of Musgrave and her ridiculously named Susan B. Anthony List to quash any reform simply out-Herods Herod.

Posted in elections, gay rights, human rights, politics, social justice | Leave a Comment »

Lawrence Lessig on getting our democracy back

Posted by Jenna McWilliams on February 4, 2010

I have stated that I believe campaign finance reform to be the most significant political issue of our era. The issue was made even more pressing by the recent Supreme Court decision overturning a century’s worth of effort toward pushing lobbyists back out of politics.

Lawrence Lessig, who is perhaps the best legal thinker we have going today, makes his unbelievably compelling case for campaign finance reform in the Feb 22 issue of the Nation. He rails against

[t]he choice (made by Democrats and Republicans alike) to leave unchecked a huge and crucially vulnerable segment of our economy, which threw the economy over a cliff when it tanked (as independent analysts again and again predicted it would). Or the choice to leave unchecked the spread of greenhouse gases. Or to leave unregulated the exploding use of antibiotics in our food supply–producing deadly strains of E. coli. Or the inability of the twenty years of “small government” Republican presidents in the past twenty-nine to reduce the size of government at all. Or… you fill in the blank. From the perspective of what the People want, or even the perspective of what the political parties say they want, the Fundraising Congress is misfiring in every dimension. That is either because Congress is filled with idiots or because Congress has a dependency on something other than principle or public policy sense. In my view, Congress is not filled with idiots.

This article is called “How to Get Our Democracy Back,” but the title’s misleading: Lessig appears near to throwing his hands up in despair. There’s a petition being passed around (and a link to sign the petition closes the article); there are passing references to what Lessig appears to see as our last best hope at reform–especially since, as Lessig argues, the promises of President Obama’s campaign have fallen far short of the results he has delivered. He explains that the Obama administration

has stepped down from the high ground the president occupied on January 20, 2009, and played a political game no different from the one George W. Bush played, or Bill Clinton before him. Obama has accepted the power of the “defenders of the status quo” and simply negotiated with them. “Audacity” fits nothing on the list of last year’s activity, save the suggestion that this is the administration the candidate had promised.

I have no words of hope to finish this post off. When I think about these things, I start to feel like I did in the days immediately following the 2004 election, when more than 50 percent of the American electorate told Bush to stay right where he was. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it.

I still have faith in President Obama, renewed some by the roar we’ve been seeing from him in the days following his recent State of the Union address. But for right now at least, I don’t want to think too hard about how his performance so far measures up to his promise. I’m worried the same yawning chasm of despair will open up and swallow me. I don’t think I could continue to stand under the weight of that disappointment.

Posted in elections, law, politics, President Obama | Leave a Comment »