Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Colorado teachers are going on strike. State Republican lawmakers want to punish them with jail time.

leave a comment »

I have often encountered the mindset that wants to “solve” a problem by attacking the indicators of the problem rather than the problem itself. I call this “bending the needle,” since it seems to me the same sort of solution that, when faced by the needle getting into the red zone on some vital indicator, decides to “fix” the problem by bending the needle so that it is back in the green zone.

That is how the GOP in Colorado thinks. Alexia Campbell reports in Vox:

Two Republican state lawmakers are trying to shut down a potential teachers strike in Colorado with the threat of jail time.

The bill, introduced in the state Senate Friday, prohibits districts from supporting a teachers strike and requires schools to dock a teacher’s pay for each day they participate in a walkout. The teachers could also face up to six months in jail and a $500 daily fine if they violate a court order to stop striking. Under the new law, sponsored by state Sen. Bob Gardner (R) and state Rep. Paul Lundeen (R), a teacher could be immediately fired without a hearing.

The harsh punishment comes in reaction to the teacher strikes sweeping red and purple states, including OklahomaWest VirginiaArizona, and Kentucky. Thousands of teachers in Colorado have joined the grassroots movement, holding rallies at the state capitol in recent weeks to demand a pay raise and more funding.

Teachers are planning to walk out of class on April 27 to protest low teacher pay and school spending. Several school districts, including Denver schools, have announced they will close that day.

Colorado teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, earning an average $46,155 in 2016 — ranking Colorado 46th in average teacher pay according to the National Education Association. The state also spends about $2,500 less per student each year than the national average.

The Colorado Education Association is supporting the teacher walkout, and the Senate bill proposed on Friday would also punish the organization in the event of an illegal strike. The law would allow school districts to seek a court injunction against teachers and teacher organizations that are threatening to strike. If the organization (either a union or professional association) violates the court order, it faces a fine of up to $10,000 a day and a ban on representing teachers in the state for up to a year. . .

Continue reading.

The GOP has zero interest in solving problems, just is covering them up and distracting our attention from them. They particularly are not interesting in solving problems that would require money from the government, since their entire governmental mission is to cut governmental revenue (taxes).

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2018 at 10:24 am

Can America’s Two Tribes Learn to Live Together?

leave a comment »

Park MacDougald has an interesting book review in New York. I’ve added some emphases below. He writes:

Nearly everyone writing about politics today seems anxious about tribalism. Although trends toward greater political polarization have been in place for decades, the chaos of the Trump era has made the country’s divisions seem starker and more dangerous than at any time since at least the 1960s. And no wonder: Geographical mobility, racial and ideological sorting along party lines, and the segmentation of media mean that for many Americans, their political opponents are no longer friends and neighbors but a nation of hostile foreigners with whom they happen to share a country — they look and speak differently, live in different places, and cling to strange and potentially malevolent beliefs with all the irrational fervor of a doomsday cult. More literal forms of tribalism are on full display as well: Trump ran and won as, among other things, a white racial demagogue who mocked and insulted minorities on his way to the White House; while the left, as it has grown more diverse, has become accustomed to periodic spasms of hostility and mutual recrimination among its various minority groups and their white allies. Perhaps the most bitter of all contemporary political battles — and a Trump favorite — is immigration, which behind the ideological posturing is a referendum on whose tribe will control the country’s demographic future.

Making sense of this mess is the task set by Amy Chua in her new book, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, published in February. Chua, a law professor at Yale, is most famous for her 2011 book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother — a paean to authoritarian Asian parenting — but she has a long history of publishing unorthodox books on race, ethnicity, and nationalism. Her 2003 book, World on Fire, argued that the combination of free markets and democracy in diverse societies often leads to ethnic conflict, as certain “market-dominant minorities” become disproportionately wealthy and provoke majoritarian backlash. And her 2014 book, The Triple Package, co-authored with husband Jed Rubenfeld, argued that three cultural traits — insecurity, impulse control, and a feeling of superiority — are the secret to success in America (though a subsequent study suggests otherwise). Moreover, Chua herself knows something about just how bad ethnic relations can get. Her family are ethnic Chinese from the Philippines, members of a market-dominant minority that accounts for a little under 2 percent of the population but controls perhaps 70 percent of the economy. Such stark inequality tends to undermine ethnic harmony. In 1994, Chua’s 58-year-old aunt, still living in Manila, was stabbed to death with a butcher’s knife by her ethnic Filipino chauffeur, an episode Chua recounts in the opening of World on Fire. The belief that diversity inevitably leads to universal brotherhood is not an illusion to which she is likely to be inclined.

The central conceit of Political Tribes is that Americans, and especially American elites, are afflicted by a blindness to the importance of tribalism and group identity, of which ethnic and racial identity are but two particularly stubborn examples. The United States is what Chua calls a “super-group,” which means that unlike the ethnic nations of Europe, it provides its citizens with an overarching national identity without asking them to abandon their more particular and specific identities — one can still be a Southerner or a Korean-American without being any less of an American. Because the United States has proved successful in absorbing people from so many different backgrounds, the American political elite has, since the mid-20th century at least, tended to look on group identity as a kind of irrational atavism. Given the opportunity, they believe that most people, whether they live in Baghdad or Kansas City, will jump at the opportunity to shed their restrictive, premodern identities and become citizens of liberal-democratic states, with political preferences defined by individual interests and ideology. If it works in New Haven, why wouldn’t it work around the world?

For Chua, this idealism is both inspiring and completely false. People care very much about their group identity, tribalism is a part of our evolved psychology that cannot be educated away, and history is full of evidence that groups — whether ethnic, racial, religious, or political — are more than happy to dehumanize, exploit, and murder one another at the drop of a hat; indeed, we may take positive pleasure in watching members of our out-group suffer. Conflict becomes especially likely in conditions of extreme between-group inequality and in political systems that foreground group difference rather than providing a basis for common identity and solidarity — conditions that apply to the United States today, and which help to explain the country’s worsening partisan and racial divides. Conflict is not inevitable, and Chua is optimistic that America can find a way out of the downward spiral into tribalism. But doing so requires taking group feeling seriously, lest we blindly march down the road to Yugoslavia.

Much of the first half of Political Tribes is dedicated to showing how the American elite’s group blindness has crippled U.S. foreign policy in far-flung parts of the world. In Vietnam, for instance, American policymakers interpreted the war as a Cold War ideological conflict between communism and capitalism. Yet there was a hidden ethnic dimension that undermined U.S. efforts to prop up the South. South Vietnam, like the Philippines and many other Southeast Asian countries, had a private economy dominated by a tiny Chinese minority called the Hoa. This was a source of great resentment for ethnic Vietnamese, whose own national identity had been defined by centuries of resistance to Chinese imperialism. To many Vietnamese, “capitalism” was code for exploitation at the hands of the Hoa, and “communism” a dog-whistle for Vietnamese ethnic nationalism; predictably, the latter proved more popular. Subsequent chapters focus on Afghanistan and Iraq, where U.S. ignorance of sectarian and tribal divisions spelled disaster for postwar reconstruction efforts. Washington needed local allies who opposed the regime, and these often came from formerly subordinated groups eager to take revenge on their old masters. Meanwhile, American troops were inevitably seen by formerly dominant groups — the Pahstun in Afghanistan and the Sunni Arabs in Iraq — as foreign patrons of their ethnic rivals, pushing them into extremist sectarian movements such as the Taliban and ISIS. Referring to Pashtun intransigence, Chua lays out what she calls a “cardinal rule of tribal politics: once in power, groups do not give up their dominance easily.” It’s a rule that applies to the United States as well.

While the bulk of Political Tribes’ page count is taken up by examples drawn from around the world, the real focus of Chua’s book is contemporary American tribalism. The short version of the problem is, as she writes, that “race has split America’s poor, and class has split America’s whites.”

Whites, that is, have begun to separate more and more cleanly into two tribes defined largely along class, educational, and increasingly, partisan lines. (There are also, though Chua doesn’t mention them, subterranean ethnic divisions: Germans, Italians, and “Americans” — usually a proxy for Scots-Irish — were more likely than other whites to vote for Trump.) Better-educated whites, who dominate the country’s political and cultural institutions and are the main beneficiaries of the globalized economy, have adopted as their “tribal” identity a sort of post-national cosmopolitanism, defined against what they regard as the provincial culture of poor whites. Meanwhile, less-educated whites have defined their tribal identity in opposition to the Establishment, which they perceive as a distant, occupying foreign power, indifferent to their interests and intent on elevating minorities and foreigners to pride of place within “their” country. Donald Trump was their tribune, and his election has led to an omnidirectional escalation of hostility and mistrust. Progressive whites see him as a monstrous goon elected through appeals to America’s worst impulses; poor whites identify with his vulgarity and open contempt for elite mores; and minorities see in him the face of a terrifying white revanchism that has long bubbled under the surface of post-civil-rights America. Every group feels it is under attack, causing them all to “close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them.”

This analysis is not exactly new — we know, for instance, that poor whites feel alienated from the “coastal elite” and that minorities fear the backlash of poor whites. Much of the post-2016 debate on the left, for instance, has concerned the extent to which the Democratic Party should tone down its focus on identity politics in order to make inroads with working-class whites. Where Chua innovates is in applying her ethnic- and tribal-based lens specifically to the transformations of white America over the past few decades, a difficult task made easier by considering the country’s racial neuroses as a specific case of a global problem. People everywhere are attached to their own group cultures, and dominant groups don’t like to give up their dominance. This is as true of America’s whites, Chua argues, as it is of Pahstuns in Afghanistan. And thanks to the combined effects of immigration and fertility, it seems inevitable that American whites will lose their majority status sometime around the middle of the current century. More cosmopolitan whites tend to view this prospect with indifference or even excitement, but for many others it is a source of deep anxiety, made worse by the sense that they and their culture — which they view as identical with American culture writ large — are increasingly objects of scorn and vilification in the eyes of the progressive coalition. (Fifty-two percent of Trump supporters, Chua notes, feel like “strangers in their own land.”) The sense that they are rapidly losing both demographic weight and cultural influence to people who despise them is leading these whites to adopt what Chua calls “ethnonationalism lite” — a form of white identity politics that, while officially colorblind, would like to return to an era of implicit white cultural hegemony. It is not that these whites would like for minorities to be expelled or oppressed, but they would like them to quit complaining so much.

Something like this narrative has been repeated countless times in analyses of the 2016 election, but any recognition that cultural anxiety drove white Trump support is typically taken as proof that these voters were motivated by racism, or “racial resentment,” to use the social-science term of art. From Chua’s perspective, however, they are simply doing what you would expect most groups in most places to do most of the time: hold on to whatever power they have, an impulse that becomes all the more desperate the more tenuous that hold on power becomes. Chua does not intend this as an excuse for white racism, and she is emphatic that ethnonationalism lite is not a viable way forward for an increasingly diverse country — minorities are not going back in the closet, so to speak. But she is critical of those on the left who regard even a limited empathy with this perspective as tantamount to compromising with evil, and suggests that the more aggressive forms of left-wing identity politics, which move from demands for equality to the blanket demonization of American society, tend to exacerbate tribal sentiment on both sides of the country’s racial divide. A less tribal future will likely require talking whites off the identitarian cliff by addressing at least some of their cultural anxieties — without, however, indulging their uglier impulses.

Ultimately, Chua believes that   . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 3:34 pm

Denial by a different name

leave a comment »

Kate Aronoff reports in the Intercept:

IT CAN FEEL GOOD to make fun of climate deniers. So let’s take a little romp with one: Wolfgang Müller.

Here he is in a Dusseldorf hotel conference room, 100 people gathered to take a group photo before him. He’s distributing stemware and pouring champagne, at the 11th annual International Conference on Climate and Energy, a convening this past November of some of Europe’s pre-eminent denialist minds.

Given that this is Europe, it’s not a huge crowd. Müller and company fit the stereotype: cranks poking holes in scientific consensus, railing against the pointy-headed academics — often, though not in his case, with generous industry funding. This particular gathering is co-hosted by the European Institute for Climate and Energy, known as its German abbreviation EIKE; the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an American outfit; and a handful of smaller groups of self-identified climate skeptics.

It’s not hard to see why EIKE sits on the margins. In one presentation, a historical building preservationist argued that medieval building practices — castles with 2-foot-thick stone walls — were better suited to insulate heat than Germany’s apparently tyrannical energy efficiency standards, in a talk that included an extended, only half-joking anecdote involving sex and boar skins. A session on renewables pleads sympathy for wildlife; literature handed out by the presenter features a picture of a dead bird at the foot of a wind turbine. The sole caption, in German, asks: “Bird shredder?”

Billed as a “Contra-COP23,” it takes place about an hour’s train ride from COP23, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 23rd annual Conference of Parties talks in Bonn, where the world is vowing to redouble its efforts to combat climate change in spite of the spurning of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Back in Dusseldorf, it’s cause for celebration. For the camera, they toast: “To Donald Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement!”

It is the patent impotence of Müller and his cohort that allows us to laugh at him. In the realm of international policymaking at the UNFCCC talks, he is far more than an hour from the main conversation, where climate change is universally acknowledged to exist, to be manmade, and to present one of humanity’s most pressing challenges — a fact that even right-wing heads of state rarely dispute.

Viewed close-up, the two sides and their competing conferences couldn’t look any less alike. Yet panning back and taking a longer and broader view — the one that actually matters to the health of the climate — the daylight between them shrinks.

Müller, at least, is honest about this denialism — even if he prefers the term “skeptic.”

Müller’s own scientific rationale may make no sense, but his conclusion is easy on the conscience: Relax, everything will be OK. Another version of that message is being marketed across COP23. As climate scientists call for a dramatic transformation of the world’s economy, a different set of deniers is starting to coalesce around something easier — plans to seemingly tackle climate change that may well still portend planetary catastrophe, even according to conservative climate projections. Unlike Müller, they’re at the center of the climate policymaking debate in Bonn. Like its predecessor events, exhibition halls at COP23 were dotted with stalls sponsored by fossil fuel companies proselytizing carbon capture and storage technology; international investment banks eager to discuss the central role of private finance in driving the new green revolution; industry-backed think tanks exploring the necessity of spraying particulates into the air to block out the sun. The solutions coming out of high-level talks don’t inspire much more confidence.

They peddle in a set of easy fixes: a market signal here, an industrial-grade aerosol there, and the crisis will be an artifact of history, with corporate shareholders better off for it.

If you believe that, then I have a clean coal plant to sell you.

AMERICA MAY WELL be the only country in the world where climate deniers making claims similar to Müller enjoy access to the reins of power. Given its status as the world’s largest economy and its second-largest polluter, that’s not something to be taken lightly; former EPA administrators estimate that the damage wrought by agency head Scott Pruitt in his first year could take three decades to repair. A few dozen miles from the EIKE confab, though — at a sprawling U.N. campus along the Rhine — was a preview for the kinds of climate politics that will dominate the 21st century once Trump and Pruitt are out of office. Unfortunately for the rest of us, they’re only marginally more in touch with scientific reality than our German revelers.

The relevant question isn’t whether the Earth is heating up, but what we intend to do about it. That’s a radically different conversation about climate change than the one that’s been had in America to this point. Here, decades of propaganda from the fossil fuel industry and the denialist think tanks they support have forced the debate to orbit around whether there’s a problem at all, prying open the Overton window to accommodate conspiracy theorists and Nobel Prize winners alike. That the two co-habitated for years on the same cable news panels put the climate debate on deniers’ terms, taking any discussion of reasonable, large-scale solutions — stringent regulation, massive public investment, an economy planned around reducing emissions — virtually off the table. In its place has come a parade of utopian techno-fixes and market-based solutions, dreamed up by the likes of Milton Friedman and now embraced by left and right alike. The same disinformation campaigners that created a debate over the reality of climate change have hedged their bets and staked a claim to solving a problem that they had tried to convince the world didn’t exist.

In late March, Royal Dutch Shell — Europe’s biggest oil company — released a pathway to meeting the low-bar commitment laid out in the Paris Agreement to cap warming at 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels; the actual text calls to cap it at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. Still, the company’s decarbonization plan — to reach net-zero emissions by 2070 — is hugely ambitious. As Vox’s David Roberts notes,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 10:40 am

In Rural Tennessee, a Big ICE Raid Makes Some Conservative Voters Rethink Trump’s Immigration Agenda

leave a comment »

Jonathan Bltizer writes in the New Yorker:

April 5th began in the usual way at the Southeastern Provision meat-processing plant, in Bean Station, Tennessee—some workers were breaking down carcasses on the production line, while others cleaned the floors—until, around 9 a.m., a helicopter began circling above the plant. Moments later, a fleet of cars pulled up outside. Agents from the I.R.S., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice), and the Tennessee Highway Patrol emerged, and proceeded to arrest ninety-seven people, most of them originally from Mexico or Guatemala, for working without legal papers. It was the largest workplace roundup of immigrants in a decade.

Bean Station is a sleepy lakeside town of three thousand people in eastern Tennessee. The Southeastern Provision plant—located just off the main roadway, past cattle farms and clapboard churches—is made up of a string of dilapidated barn buildings, but it is the third-largest business in Grainger County. Two hundred and fifty head of cattle pass through the plant each day, which translates to roughly thirty million dollars of business every year. After the raid, the I.R.S. said in a court filing that many workers there typically make less than minimum wage, and that the agency believes the owners of the plant, headed by a man named James Brantley, owe the government millions of dollars in back taxes. But neither Brantley nor any of the other owners of the business were arrested on April 5th. (Lawyers for the plant owners could not be reached for comment.) Of the ninety-seven people taken into custody, ten are facing federal criminal charges relating to past immigration violations, and one is facing state criminal charges. The remaining eighty-six people were placed in deportation proceedings. Thirty-two of these people were released on the day of the raid—allowed to return to their families and sleep at home as their cases work through the system—but fifty-four were kept in detention, and many were soon moved to facilities out of state.

Most of the people who were arrested lived not in Bean Station but in a town called Morristown, part of Hamblen County, about ten miles to the south. In Morristown, a larger town of thirty thousand people, the raid was catastrophic news. Families’ worst fear had come true: husbands, fathers, wives, mothers—gone. The following day, more than five hundred students were reported absent from area schools, kept home out of a combination of fear, anxiety, and confusion. The raid also set off a whirl of activity, as relatives of those arrested gathered each day at a church in the center of town to meet with advocacy groups and discuss their legal options.

This past weekend, I travelled to Morristown to talk to the families affected by the raid and also to observe how the wider community was responding. While Hamblen County is home to a sizable immigrant community from Central America—11.5 per cent of its population is Hispanic, more than twice the state average—it’s also a deeply conservative place. In 2016, seventy-seven per cent of the county voted for Donald Trump. Yet in the two weeks since the raid, Morristown residents have helped raise sixty thousand dollars to help families with relatives in detention. A vigil was held in support of the families of those arrested, and volunteers from local schools, churches, and businesses had been distributing food and coördinating other forms of assistance. For many people in town, the raid exposed the human costs of the political fight over immigration policy.

“Immigration is kind of a hot-button topic here,” Hank Smith, a fifty-year-old salesman from Morristown, told me. “Some people feel like immigrants are taking our jobs, that they’re not paying their taxes. But others are more sympathetic.” Smith counts himself among the latter group. “I’m a Christian; God loves everybody equally. And I never had a problem with anyone being here,” he said. Nevertheless, in 2016, Smith voted for Trump. He had been mostly indifferent to Trump’s anti-immigrant invective on the campaign trail; the rhetoric didn’t resonate with him personally, but it didn’t alienate him, either. “My kids were getting to an age where they’d be going to work, so the economy was the major issue for my family,” he told me. “It’s the things that affect us the most that we vote on. And immigration didn’t really affect me before. But then this raid happened.”

After Trump took office, ice announced that it planned to quadruple the number of workplace inspections it conducts. In January, the agency launched stings at ninety-eight 7-Eleven franchises in seventeen states. Smith hadn’t noticed those. But when the arrests happened closer to home, he was immediately struck by the fact that many of the people who’d been picked up had lived in the area for more than a decade. He knew people like them, he told me—“they work hard and they do the jobs that no one else wants to do.” He also felt strong sympathy for their kids. Smith said, “I felt I understood the legal side of it. But this is the first time I really started looking at the human side. Families are being divided.”

Smith and I had met through his pastor, David Williams, who leads the Hillcrest Baptist Church—a large, pale-brick building on the eastern edge of downtown Morristown, across the street from the elementary school where the vigil was held. Most of Hillcrest’s congregants are white—the town’s immigrant community tends to gravitate to St. Patrick, the Catholic church a few miles down the road—but Williams has been among the most vocal members of the local clergy in calling for solidarity with the families affected by the raid. “I look at this from a humanitarian perspective,” he told me. “You cannot be a true Christian if you ignore your neighbor in need.” Some of his parishioners dislike his outspokenness, but not all of them. “The people in the middle have had their hearts soften because of the raid,” he said.

Morristown is close-knit, politically conservative, and religious—and in recent years, it’s been growing more diverse. The town has become a regional manufacturing hub, home to plants belonging to Japanese, German, and Belgian companies. Immigrants from Central America began to trickle in during the nineteen-eighties as seasonal workers at tomato farms, and the influx increased as they began staying in the area year-round to work at chicken-processing plants nearby.

One morning, I met with Morristown’s Mayor, Gary Chesney, a self-described “lifelong Republican of the Reagan variety,” in his office at a commercial insurance company. (Being mayor in Morristown is a part-time job.) Chesney had heard that an undercover I.R.S. agent had been working at Southeastern Provision to scope out the conditions before the raid, and that the agent had asked some of the undocumented workers at the plant why they’d taken jobs in Bean Station if they lived in Morristown. “They said, ‘We’re here because we can’t get jobs in Morristown,’ ” Chesney said. “I was proud of that. We’ve been following the rules and guidelines here. But the innocent victims were the kids whose parents were picked up. I was also proud that our locals took care of the innocent folks.” Chesney didn’t see a contradiction in these two sources of pride; he stressed the town’s capacity both for conservatism and for reasonableness. National politics had further intensified the local conversation about immigration, he said—everyone knew that there were many Morristown residents who were anti-immigrant, and whose views remained the same after the raid—but he believed some of the acrimony stemmed from misinformation about how the undocumented were “gaming the system” or committing crimes. Chesney said, “We all get a little bit smarter as the issue gets more personal.”

My first night in Morristown, I had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. A family—a couple with two young kids—was sitting in the booth next to mine, and before the parents paid their check, they flagged down their waitress with a question. “We’re trying to figure out who’s right,” the husband—who was white, bearded, and looked to be about forty—told her. “Is it ‘estoy cansado’ or ‘soy cansado?’ ” Laughing, the waitress replied in accented English, and a conversation ensued about the grammatical differences between the two Spanish forms of the verb “to be.” As the family left, I approached the man and asked him for his thoughts on the recent raid. “Terrible stuff,” he said. He felt for the families. But he did have one reservation about the community’s response. “It’s great that everyone’s pulling together to help. But what about the citizens here who need help? Are they getting it, too?”

On Sunday afternoon, thirty people gathered in the chapel of St. Patrick church for an information session that had been advertised with flyers that read,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2018 at 4:05 pm

What the Rape and Murder of a Child Reveals About Modi’s India

leave a comment »

Mitali Saan writes in the NY Times:

India is sliding toward a collapse of humanity and ethics in political and civic life, as the recent reports of the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl from a seminomadic Muslim community in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir reveal. Politicians from India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party defended the men accused of the crime and ignited a furious debate about the fundamental character of the country.

The child was abducted in January and imprisoned for a week in a temple, where she was drugged, starved and raped repeatedly before being murdered. Her body was thrown into the forest. At the time the crime passed without much comment beyond the local press.

Outrage finally exploded last week, after a front-page report in the Indian Express newspaper revealed terrifying details from the police charge sheet, including the fact that one of the accused, a police officer, had asked his co-conspirators to hold off killing the child so that he could rape her once more.

The charge sheet and other reports strongly suggested that this was not a random crime but one deliberately in line with the ugly sectarian politics playing out across India. Intimidation of religious minorities and violence against them has increased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the Bharatiya Janata Party to power in 2014. India’s traditional secularism is now locked in battle with the new majoritarian, Hindu chauvinist politics he represents.

The 8-year-old girl belonged to the Muslim Bakarwal people, who move with their sheep and horses between high mountain pastures in the summer and the plains of the Hindu-dominated Jammu region in winter. There is tension with local Hindus over the right to graze animals on the land. According to the police, the motive of the premeditated crime was to terrorize the Bakarwals and dislodge them from the area. The bereaved parents were not even allowed to bury the child in the village. They have since fled the area.

A newly formed group called Hindu Ekta Manch, or Hindu Unity Forum, organized a protest march in defense of the accused, who include a retired government official and two police officers. Thousands joined in, many waving the Indian national flag. Vijay Sharma, a co-founder of the group and an organizer of the march, was also a high-ranking leader of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party in the region.

Mr. Modi’s party shares power with a regional political party in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Two B.J.P. ministers in the state government joined the protest in defense of the accused. “So what if a girl died?” one of them remarked. “Many girls die every day.”

They demanded that the investigation be transferred from the state police — the investigators included Muslim officers — to the federal Central Bureau of Investigation, a largely delegitimized institution that serves as a de facto arm of the ruling party. Lawyers at a court in the city of Jammu tried to physically prevent officials from filing charges against the accused and have threatened the lawyer who is representing the girl’s family.

Over the past week, horrified Indians have protested vigorously on social media and in some cities. The disgust and the fury at the complicity of politicians, and the federal government’s silence, grew into a thunderous chorus demanding that the prime minister speak up and fire the ministers backing the Hindu Ekta Manch.

Belatedly reacting to popular outrage, Mr. Modi finally said: “Incidents being discussed since past two days cannot be part of a civilized society. As a country, as a society, we all are ashamed of it.” He promised justice. His vague statement delicately alluded to another case in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, where a lawmaker from Mr. Modi’s party is accused of rape. Mr. Modi stayed away from his party’s involvement in both cases.

Yet instead of uniting India in horror, the incident has deepened religious, political and ethical divides. It has also made clear that there is no automatic political cost to crime or falsehood if it furthers the hegemonic political narrative. The politicians involved were sacked only after a huge public outcry. Government ministers, officials, right-leaning media and right-wing supporters have been perfectly sanguine about using the dead child to polarize society with whataboutery, fake news and wild conspiracy theories.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Modi’s party . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2018 at 3:09 pm

America once fought a war against poverty – now it wages a war on the poor

leave a comment »

Reverend William Barber and Dr Liz Theoharis write in the Guardian:

In 2013, Callie Greer’s daughter Venus died in her arms after a battle with breast cancer. If caught early, the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is close to 100%. But Venus’s cancer went undiagnosed for months because she couldn’t afford health insurance. She lived in Alabama, a state that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Venus’s death is not an isolated incident – more than 250,000 peoplelike her die in the United States from poverty and related issues every year.

Access to healthcare is just one of the issues facing the 140 million people who live in poverty in the US today. Over the past two years, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has carried out a listening tour in dozens of states across this nation. We have met with tens of thousands of people from El Paso, Texas, to South Charleston, West Virginia, to Selma, Alabama, where we met Callie, gathering testimonies from poor people and listening to their demands for a better society.

On Tuesday, we announced a Poor People’s Campaign Moral Agenda, a set of demands that is drawn from this listening tour, as well as an audit of America we conducted with allied organizations, including the Institute for Policy Studies and the Urban Institute, 50 years after the original Poor People’s Campaign.

As grim as the situation was in 1968, the appalling truth is deep inequalities still exist and, in some ways, we are worse off.

While our nation once fought a war against poverty, now we wage a war on the poor. The richest 1% in our country own more wealth than the bottom 90% combined, tightening their grip on political power to shape labor, tax, healthcare and campaign finance policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many. A full 60% more Americans now live below the official poverty line than in 1968, and 43% of all American children live below the minimum income level considered necessary to meet basic family needs.

In the last eight years alone, 23 states have passed voter suppression laws – gutting the Voting Rights Act civil rights leaders helped secure more than a half century ago. This is the true hacking of our democracy, allowing people to win office who deny healthcare, living wages, cut necessary social programs and push policies that promote mass incarceration, hurt immigrants and devastate our environment.

These racist laws hurt not just people of color, but poor whites whose lives are upended by the politicians put in office by the violent extremism that is voter suppression.

Coretta Scott King would call all of this violence. She’d say that violence isn’t just killing people with guns, but denying them living wages, allowing them to live in ghetto housing. We rightfully get in the streets and protest when the police shoot unarmed black men, but we must also stand up to the public policy violence that is ravaging our society. We must no longer allow inattention to violence to keep the poor, people of color and other disenfranchised people down.

People are poor not because they are lazy, not because they are unwilling to work hard, but because politicians have blocked living wages and healthcare and undermined union rights and wage increases. Our nation’s moral narrative is shaped by Christian nationalists whose claims run contrary to calls in the Scripture, which is very clear that we need to care for the poor, immigrants and the least among us.

If you claim to be evangelical and Christian and have nothing to say about poverty and racism, then your claim is terribly suspect. There needs to be a new moral discourse in this nation – one that says being poor is not a sin but systemic poverty is.

The Moral Agenda we announced on Tuesday demands a massive overhaul of the nation’s voting rights laws, new programs to lift up the 140 million Americans living in poverty, immediate attention to ecological devastation and measures to curb militarism and the war economy.

We call for major changes to address systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and our distorted moral narrative, including restoration and expansion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, repeal of the 2017 federal tax law, implementation of federal and state living wage laws, universal single-payer healthcare and clean water for all.

To make sure these demands are heard, poor and disenfranchised people from coast to coast are preparing for 40 days of action centered around statehouses and the US Capitol. Over six weeks this spring, people of all races, colors and creeds are joining together to engage in nonviolent moral fusion direct action, massive voter mobilization and power building from the bottom up.

To prepare for the 40 days, poor and disenfranchised people, clergy and advocates will participate in nonviolent direct-action trainings across the country on Saturday. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2018 at 6:22 pm

Sinclair’s takeover of local news, in one striking map“

leave a comment »

The above map is interactive in the Vox report by Alvin Chang. That report begins:

Sinclair Broadcasting Group is already one of the most powerful media companies in the country. It owns nearly 200 local television stations in nearly 100 markets — and it’s about to get even more powerful.

The unabashedly pro-Trump media conglomerate received a lot of attention after it forced its local news anchors to read an anti-media promo. These promos were edited together by Deadspin’s Timothy Burke to show a chilling montage of local anchors “concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.”

So we gave you a tool to see whether Sinclair currently owns any of your local stations. But that doesn’t quite capture the extent of how powerful Sinclair is about to be. Sinclair’s purchase of Tribune Media and its 42 local stations will soon go through if approved by regulators. That would allow the company to reach more than 72 percent of American households.

The map above shows exactly how far this reach is.

The FCC doesn’t allow companies to reach more than 39 percent of households. This is how Sinclair is getting around that.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) doesn’t allow a single company to own stations that reach more than 39 percent of US television homes.

o the question is: How is Sinclair going to be allowed to reach more than 70 percent of households?

There are two main reasons:

1) Sinclair is selling its biggest acquisitions from Tribune — but maintaining a partnership with those stations

When Sinclair purchases Tribune, it will own stations in some of the largest US markets.

But to get under the 39 percent cap, Sinclair said in an FCC filing that it intends to sell stations in eight markets, including New York, Chicago, and Seattle. However, that doesn’t mean those stations won’t be influenced by Sinclair.

As Variety reported:

Sinclair doesn’t plan to be too far removed from WPIX and WGN. The filing discloses that Sinclair already has buyers lined up for both stations and that Sinclair intends to continue running the stations through an “options and services agreement” inked with the buyers.

So Sinclair won’t own these stations but still plans to run them to reach those massive audiences.

2) Sinclair is taking advantage of an FCC loophole . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 April 2018 at 6:14 pm

%d bloggers like this: