March 23rd, 2010

hat lasso

Minorities Week; The Rez

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NDN reserves are most curious. Fairly or unfairly they are the last parcels of land granted to and owned by the original peoples of this continent. They are the refuge of racist segregation policy. This is not necessarily unwelcome by NDN or white man.

The racism flows both ways. Facilitated by the Rez, for white man it keeps NDN's out of sight and out of mind. For NDN's the Rez can be a cesspool brewing up steep potent hatred.

That is not to say there is not progress. At least in Canada most Rez are self-governing and self determining. Admittedly this is to varying degrees, but there are moves towards more and greater independence.

Since first contact in 1492, Europeans sought to colonize and settle in the New World. Of course you know in many instances this conflicted with the native populations and so different solutions were used. Obviously the methods of warring slaughter was practically genocidal purging. Much of Canada's history, the solution was simply capitalism, where they were independent contractors supplying furs.

By comparison to genocide, the kinder and gentler method of treaty seems almost respectful. Although the word treaty is a bit of a suspect terminology. Treaty assumes negotiation done in good faith. We know how treaties should work, even at the end of a war. There are countless examples. Fair to say we know who lost the war, even as NDN treaties rarely acknowledges that it was ever fought.

The first Indian Rez was declared during the Treaty of Paris 1763. This was a huge tract of land from Florida on north, west of the 13 colonies, east of the Mississippi and south of waters draining into Hudson Bay. Settlers in this land were ordered to leave or get permission from the local tribes to stay. Obviously things changed through history and the Rez became smaller and smaller.

Wikwemikong was an early Rez granted in 1836. 14 years later they sold off most of their land for a lump sum and annual payment. But they were tricked, not quite understanding they would no longer be welcome to hunt and fish on lands they had always been on. The British concept of ownership of territory was not fully understood by NDN's at time of the signing.

The negotiation of treaty with NDN people's have not changed much in all these centuries. Local to me, the City of Calgary has been trying to build a ring road, a highway that will encircle the city. Trouble has been that the city borders with Tsuu T'ina nation. The City has been trying for over a decade to purchase or lease some land in order to build this highway. Finally in 2008 the City worked out a deal with Tsuu T'ina chief and council. Hands were shook. As a simple formality the matter was voted on by NDN's living in Tsuu T'ina. This is when all went kaput.

Tsuu T'ina NDN's didn't like one little sticky part of the deal; the exact dollar amount Calgary would give Tsuu T'ina was to be negotiated in a few years. NDN's had seen this kind of deal before and didn't like it. It's simply bad business to offer to buy something for price to be determined later in a few years, let alone sell. I suppose this might happen in certain business dealing I don't understand, but it reeks of opportunism. More then simply taking advantage, it suggests they felt they had some sort of right, that Tsuu T'ina was somehow inferior.

Calgary City Hall was miffed about the failed deal. They decided to play hardball. Due to some road construction project City Hall informed Tsuu T'ina they would have to close the access road to Tsuu T'ina... right by their casino. Tsuu T'na leaked this to the press, to which City Hall clarified they couldn't guarantee the road would remain open, before fully recanting and having the construction done in such a way as to not block access into the Rez.

At this time, City Hall won't make an offer for the land they want for the highway and so the Tsuu T'ina won't grant them the land. It is a stalemate. It is a curious thing. But NDN history seems full of curious things.

Right for a Credit Score

Jackals of capitalism come up with new ways how to put down the hard working americans every day! Here for example AP is reporting that

Some homeowners who sign up for the government's mortgage assistance program are getting a nasty surprise: Lower credit scores.
For borrowers who are making their payments on time but are on the verge of default, the Obama administration's loan modification program can reduce their credit score as much as 100 points.
Housing counselors say it's unfair, especially because the news often comes as a surprise to homeowners.
"Why should people's credit be hurt even worse when they're trying to do the right thing?" said Eileen Anderson, senior vice president at Community Development Corp. of Long Island, a housing counseling group in New York.

Think about it: people on the brink of bankruptcy are turning to government for help, and get an unpleasant surprise - the rating agencies consider in their credit rating calculations, that these people are on the brink of bankruptcy, and they will now be harder to get into debt even deeper! Every day - new horrors!
It's not fair, isn't it? Frankly, it would be much better and fair if to everyone the government gave out a fair credit rating - no less than 750. And if you are a minority - no less than 780, I mean minorities got it hard as it is. That would be fair and truly american!

Thank you for attention.

Left-handedness, zombie viruses and discrimination

I have long held, as a personal belief, that it is wrong and always wrong to kill a person because and only because they are left handed.

It's a pretty obvious statement to all of us, yes? Good.

Now, my rationale went something like this:

Being left handed in no way warrants being killed; there is no connection between mere left-handedness and deserving death. Now, let us say that some virus exists that turns left handed people into 28 Days Later style zombies. In that case, I'd understand killing the [infected] left handed people. But obviously the reason for killing those people is not their handedness, but their zombie-infection.

And here I make my analogy:
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State's Wrongs

As more and more states' attorneys general sign on to the lawsuit against the individual purchase mandate in the health care reform law, it becomes obvious that this is being set up as a wedge vote on a larger issue: the obsolete and dangerous notion of states' rights.

From the makeup and bizarre procedures of the Senate to the constitutional amendment process to the latest debacle over health care, we suffer with the historical vestiges of the horse and the land grant.

Why do states exist? For reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with effective governance or representation. Remember that the initial colonies were defined by their settlers and their boundaries set by the British government. And they had two factors in common with the states that now benefit most from state sovereignty: low population and cultural/economic homogeneity.

Beyond the east coast, the growth of states reflects the acquisition and settlement of the territory as a phased process. Again, though, homogeneity is a key factor. In the first century of the existence of the United States, it was impossible to communicate rapidly from one end of the nation to the other -- even to get word from Washington, DC to each of the original states would take days, with riders the sole mechanism available. With the growth West, the problem was aggravated. The factors of homogeneous interests and slow communication made it both desirable and necessary for all but the most far-reaching issues such as war and interstate commerce to be addressed locally.

But the world has changed. The scope and timescale of communications has changed dramatically, with messages crossing the country in an instant (rather than a state in a day). And as states have grown more populated, the populaces in all but the tiniest or most sparsely populated of them have grown more heterogeneous in interests, economics and politics.

It is now possible to watch the Congress deliberate in real time from anywhere in the United States -- or from anywhere in the world. (In fact, it's possible to deliver feedback in real time as well, but as I believe in the deliberate process offered by representative government, I'm not advocating for electronic instant voting.) The timespan of communication has been collapsed to instantaneous -- yet the reach of government has not adjusted, because of the minority that benefits from insular approaches.

Heterogeneity has resulted in the most significant effects. I don't think anyone can make the case that the populations of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Riverside, Yreka, Temecula and Susanville have more in common and more of a natural constituency than the populations of San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Denver and Austin. Yet we persist in the notion that, somehow, the state provides a model for superior government and representation. And, as a result, we get distorted policies, like the conservative attorney general of Washington signing on to the health care suit in the face of the interest of the Western half of the state.

It's interesting that the strongest support for states' rights today seems to correlate with two significant factors: it is strongest in areas that have the legacy of support for the principle in support of slavery, and possibly not coincidentally, as a component of time-stuck strict constructionism, this legal "fundamentalism" correlates strongly with literal fundamentalist Bible interpreters. (There are, of course, other groups, such as libertarians, who advocate for less Federal government. But they are not the loudest or most demanding voices today.)

It's time to look at how much the concept of "states" traps and inhibits democracy, representation, and progress.
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A suggestion for single-payer advocates

I have a friend who is a pediatrician and a strong advocate for government-run, single-payer health insurance. To her and all her friends who have formed an organization to fight for socialized medicine, I say this:

If you truly believe in single payer, why not set up your practice now so you ONLY take Medicaid patients? This is a serious suggestion; I’m not trying to be snide. Medicaid patients have an extremely difficult time finding doctors because the government doesn’t pay very much for those services. But if we went to single-payer, EVERYBODY would be like a Medicaid patient. If you truly think that’s best, and you’re willing to take lower compensation for your work for the public good, why not start now? You could significantly reduce your paperwork and staff requirements because you wouldn’t have to hassle with all the different providers. It would be a win/win, and it would be ethically consistent with your stance against private insurance.

My doctor in Canada said he received $8 for a patient visit. That’s Canadian dollars, mind you. Do you think that would work for you?

Should the government require me to buy a new coat?

17 states attorneys general are suing the US over the mandate requiring the purchase of health insurance. Frankly I think they are correct to do so, and I think they will prevail.

The government cannot require me to purchase a new coat, a car or Heinz ketchup, so how is it that I will be required to purchase someones product if that product is called health insurance? If this is a government mandate that I spend money on something, then how is it any different from a tax? If it is a tax, then why not just tax me and provide me with health care? (BTW that last question is rhetorical)

Racism's Physical History: Who builds a school without windows?

Who builds a school without windows?

I've seen this building many times as I biked home to the Bronx through Harlem or from the window of a Metro North train. It has always made me wonder: "why doesn't that building have any windows?" Closer inspection revealed that the building was, in fact, a school. A school! With no windows, who would build such a thing?
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I am fascinated by the way that building and urban planning can encode the values and ideas of a time. Once these ideas are set in stone (literally!) they stay with us for a long time. In some cases dysfunctional structures can be re-purposed, or modified to grow with the others. In other instances the only option is to raise everything to the ground. 

A fun fact is that the same people who designed this school designed the superdome in NOLA. 

An Open Letter to Conservatives

Seen from a friend's journal -- this is long but very thorough and I agree with many of it's points.  Thoughts?


Dear Conservative Americans,

The years have not been kind to you. I grew up in a profoundly Republican home, so I can remember when you wore a very different face than the one we see now.  You've lost me and you've lost most of America.  Because I believe having responsible choices is important to democracy, I'd like to give you some advice and an invitation.

First, the invitation:  Come back to us.

Now the advice.  You're going to have to come up with a platform that isn't built on a foundation of cowardice: fear of people with colors, religions, cultures and sex lives that differ from your own; fear of reform in banking, health care, energy; fantasy fears of America being transformed into an Islamic nation, into social/commun/fasc-ism, into a disarmed populace put in internment camps; and more.  But you have work to do even before you take on that task.

Your party -- the GOP -- and the conservative end of the American political spectrum has become irresponsible and irrational.  Worse, it's tolerating, promoting and celebrating prejudice and hatred.  Let me provide some expamples -- by no means an exhaustive list -- of where the Right as gotten itself stuck in a swamp of hypocrisy, hyperbole, historical inaccuracy and hatred.

If you're going to regain your stature as a party of rational, responsible people, you'll have to start by draining this swamp:


You can't flip out -- and threaten impeachment - when Dems use a prlimentary procedure (deem and pass) that you used repeatedly (more than 35 times in just one session and more than 100 times in all!), that's centuries old and which the courts have supported. Especially when your leaders admit it all.

You can't vote and scream against the stimulus package and then take credit for the good it's done in your own district (happily handing out enormous checks representing money that you voted against, is especially ugly) --  114 of you (at last count) did just that -- and it's even worse when you secretly beg for more.

You can't fight against your own ideas just because the Dem president endorses your proposal.


You can't refuse to go to a scheduled meeting, to which you were invited, and then blame the Dems because they didn't meet with you.

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[chessdev]  There are literally PAGES of this stuff, with category arrangement.

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Violent Words. Violent Acts. It's Not Rocket Science.

Mike Vanderboegh, of Pinson, Ala., former head of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, put out a call on Friday for modern "Sons of Liberty" to break the windows of Democratic Party offices nationwide in opposition to health care reform. Since then, vandals have struck several offices, including the Sedgwick County Democratic Party headquarters in Wichita. 13

The call from the right for liberals to “do what we say and you won’t get hurt” has been turned up just a notch. In reaction to the passage of health reform, a right wing blogger named Mike Vanderboegh called on his readers to break the windows of Democrats. Shortly afterwards, several Democratic Party offices in different cities were targeted with bricks flung through their windows. Mr. Vanderboegh seems positively exhilarated by the response to his message:
"Wake up and understand what is happening in this country. You need to start listening to people who you think you didn't have to pay any attention to, because sooner or later they will get your attention.”

Indeed. In fact, someone out there is so hungry for attention that someone phoned in to the office of Louise Slaughter threatening violence against the children of lawmakers who support healthcare reform.

Imagine that. A blogger posts a call to vandalism on his blog – and vandalism takes place! It’s as if words typed into the ether actually have some sort of meaning and lead to action in the offline world!

Vanderboegh, of course, insists that he’s not promoting “actual violence.” “How ambiguous is it if I say break windows? Am I saying kill people, absolutely not,” he insists.

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Speak English!

I would like to ask other Americans in this forum some questions about language and our country. I am especially interested in how people form their opinions on this subject.

1. Should the United States have a legal official language?
2. Does the United States have a de-facto primary language? Should there be a single de-facto primary language?
3. Should people who want to be citizens learn English? Is it enough that they know how to speak English when needed or should they make an effort to live as English speakers?
4. Should people who are born citizens learn English? Is it enough that they know how to speak English when needed or should they make an effort to live as English speakers?
5. If you think that everyone should speak English, why do you feel this is important?
6. What experiences have shaped your opinions on these matters?

This is a fact-gathering post to understand the range of opinions on this topic.