Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

 

It was early 2011 in the State of Wisconsin in the USA. The Republican Party, which had become much more conservative in recent years, had, for the first time in decades taken complete control of the reigns of state government as a result of the last election. Suddenly the Republicans were rolling out an agenda that was aimed directly at destroying the state’s public sector unions – something that had not been a significant issue in the previous year’s election. Small protests rapidly became very large ones where well over 100,000 people gathered at the capitol square give voice to the Republican Party’s agenda. This is a photo of one of those protests. It has been digitally enhanced to emphasize the gritty determination of the protestors. A sign in the hands of one of the protesters gives the photo its name and this post its title.

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I think it is fair to say that this blog, while I try to focus on photography, has always held itself out as a blog that deals with more than just photography. As many of my U. S. viewer/readers know (and, I’m sure many others around the world know), the U. S. has huge problems with gun violence. I have pointed out earlier my personal connection with what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, but gun violence is everyone’s problem. Recently the U.S. Senate failed to overcome a filibuster of a very weak proposal that took baby steps toward addressing the gun violence issue. They claim such laws are ineffective. In a brilliant piece of political satire, John Oliver of The Daily Show hosted by Jon Stewart rips this argument to shreds.

An interesting Article in the April 8, 2013 Washington Post ties race and geography to the length of voting lines. I guess that is no surprise given the photos on TV. The question for me is why do we let this happen? Why should one person wait 10 minutes to vote while another waits 5 hours? I know that there almost certainly are could be crass political reasons for voter suppression, by the simple but effective means of misallocation resources (e.g., lots of voting machines in some areas and not enough in other areas) but aren’t we better than this? Shouldn’t everyone want fair elections in the U.S. After all, we send observers to foreign countries to make sure that fair votes are held and I’m pretty sure that if a foreign government had only a few polling stations in certain areas where it expected opposition and plenty in areas where it expected support, we would not say there was a fair election. When I was growing up, we had a concept that we called “Doing the right thing.” What has happened to us that some of us have so eagerly cast it aside? How do we get it back? I don’t know, but until we do I doubt that anything can be fixed in this country.

A good blog post by economist Mark Thoma that largely quotes Robert Barro, an economist at Harvard and senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution of Stanford University, about what is wrong with the “soak the poor” approach of conservatives as way to solve our nation’s debt problems: ‘For ‘Faster Growth,’ Soak the Poor?’ – Economist’s View.

A Word A Week Photo Challenge - Parade

Parades come in many forms.

Sadly, Wisconsin was the first state in the U.S. to test how well a union busting strategy would work when in early 2011 its newly elected Republican Governor and his Republican cronies in the state legislature attempted to force a bill through the legislature that was designed among other things to strip most state workers of meaningful collective bargaining rights. The result was a historic uprising that eventually lead to a recall election against the governor and number of Republican legislators. Regular protests began immediately and the crowds grew rapidly with the parades of protestors around the capital swelling to over 100,000 people. These marchers, eventually coming from all around the country, became a major element that helped to delay implementation of the law as well as generate support for an effort to recall the Governor and several legislators. This panorama of the marchers reflects their grit and determination to protect works rights. For a variety of reasons, the recall campaign did not succeed (although it did result in a change of control of the Wisconsin Senate for 2 years causing Republicans to lose unfettered control of reigns of state government}.

Here is a link to a review of Obamacare by the New York Times. My summary, it could be better, but it is helping many people as it starts to roll out.

The U.S. war in Iraq began in March 2003. There have been a couple of retrospectives that I want to point out as worth taking a look at. The first is MSNBC’s excellent documentary by Rachel Maddow – Hubris. Selling the Iraq War.  It was just rebroadcast on March 22nd. The program was available briefly on YouTube prior to what I assume was a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown. I don’t know when or if the video will again be available (other than through sources such as BitTorrent or its ilk) but the documentary was based on a book – Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War that is available at Amazon and other retailers. The book is by Michael Isikoff long-time investigative journalist for NBC and now with Newsweek and David Corn, then Washington Editor of the Nation and now Washington Bureau Chief of Mother Jones. It tells the sorry tale of lies and deception that got us into Iraq. For people who are interested in listening to the book, an audio version is available on Audible.com as well as on Amazon.com.

You’ll get another perspective on the run-up to the war in Iraq by reading the recent article by John Judis in the March 18 New Republic. Entitled: “Eve of Destruction What it was like to oppose the Iraq War in 2003.” The really interesting thing about this article is that, according to the author, most of the experts in the area were working hard to tell people that fighting a war in Iraq was a really bad idea. However, these people –  from the military, the state department and academia – were systematically ignored or downplayed by the members of the Bush Administration who had already decided they knew the right way to solve the problems of the region and that the experts were to be paid no mind.

For myself, I can remember all too well the drumbeat for war that had started in August 2002 before we invaded Iraq in March 2003. It seemed so odd to me that almost overnight Iraq became the Great Satan – displacing the un-captured Osama bin Laden  and the suddenly not all that important enemy Al Qaeda. What was going on I thought? Why was Saddam Hussein the new focus of the war on terrorism? I have to admit I was suspicious of the motives the Bush administration when it started pushing for authorization to go to war in Iraq just weeks before the Congressional midterm elections were to be held in the fall of 2002. The stench of political gamesmanship weighed heavily on the administration’s actions as the White House leveraged shrill voices to gin up overwrought fears. Suddenly the nation’s airwaves were filled with talk about mushroom clouds appearing in the desert. (That alone should have given us some pause, mushrooms? in the desert?)

That fall it often seemed as though questionable if not discounted facts were being treated as sacred truth when it came to Saddam Hussein’s WMD’s in Iraq. Why? I thought it was principally a political ploy designed to force Democratic lawmakers to take hasty and ill-considered votes in support of the administration’s policies rather than to appear weak on defense. I do not have any inside information. But what seemed apparent to me sitting here in the Midwest was that the administration was manufacturing a foreign policy “crisis” that was timed to pressure Congressional Democrats to take votes that would either be uncomfortable for them or even better yet cause them political problems down the road (something that ultimately happened to Hillary Clinton). What I believed then and now was that the Bush administration was cynically manipulating the information flowing from the national security agencies of our government to give a false picture of the actual state of affairs in Iraq and that they were doing that in significant part to serve their political interests rather than the interests of the American people or the interests of the people of Iraq.