My Past Work: Miscellaneous Roundup

I posted a few other roundups, but here are some highlights from my other work!

 

When the perpetrators of unpleasant historical events don’t look — or practice religion — like the archetypal God-fearing white American, we’re all too eager to ensure that their trespasses are, to paraphrase the famous slogan, “never forgotten.” Yet we’re happy to forget decades of colonialist military interventions in Latin American countries, the colonialist intentions and white supremacist flavor of the Mexican War and the deportation of countless Mexican-American citizens in the 1930s to free up jobs for white men.

“Stop Censoring History in the Classroom,” January 2012.

 

At first glance, this policy doesn’t seem to be in anybody’s interest. But upon closer inspection, the rapid expansion of prisons does benefit some.

For instance, it can benefit politicians to have prisons in their jurisdictions. Prisoners are counted as being registered in the district where the prison is located, which inflates the official population of those districts, giving some rural areas more districts, and thus more votes and more power; this is known as prison-based gerrymandering.

Primarily, though, the fast-growing prison system benefits corporations, who use the incarcerated as a source of cheap labor.

“Decarcerate PA: Fighting the School-To-Prison-To-Exploited-Labor Pipeline,” January 2012.

 

To those familiar with the realities of poverty and food insecurity in America, that a recipient would feel compelled to explain that food stamps don’t buy a life of luxury seems a bit strange – one would think it obvious that people who receive government assistance aren’t exactly “living large.” But with his remarks about food stamps – particularly food stamps and the African-American community – Gingrich is building on the foundation President Ronald Reagan laid when he invented the “welfare queen.”

The phrase “welfare queen” has decidedly ignoble origins. During his administration, President Reagan often illustrated the need for welfare reformby telling the story of a “Chicago welfare queen” who collected over $150,000 from the government using “eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards, and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands. And she’s collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, is getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names.” He continued to refer to this woman as a classic example of welfare abuse in America even after the press corrected him that the woman he was referring to was convicted in 1977 of using two names in order to collect $8,000.

“Gingrich Food Stamp Remarks Reflect Common, Harmful Misconceptions,” February 2012.

 

What would it take to turn the Violence Against Women Act, which enjoyed overwhelming congressional support since Bill Clinton first signed it in 1994 and helped increase reportage of domestic violence by 51 percent, into partisan legislation?

Simply put, not much. The new incarnation of the Violence Against Women Act, sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Michael Crapo (R-Idaho), who is not, passed the Judiciary Committee earlier this month on a party line vote of 10-8. Apparently, expanding visa options for abused immigrants and forbidding domestic violence centers that receive government funding from turning away victims on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are so controversial that not a single Republican in the Committee could bring himself or herself to reauthorize the Act.

“GOP Opposition to Violence Against Women Act Reprehensible,” February 2012.

 

The participation of fathers in the “child care arrangement” formerly known as “parenting” has been increasing rapidly since women entered the workforce, with 32% of children with working mothers being looked after full-time by their dads in 2010, as opposed to 26% in 2005. The leap from one in four fathers acting as a primary childcare provider to one in three, over the course of only five years, is absolutely significant.

But the Census Bureau undermines the good news by continuing to assign the label of “designated parent” to the woman in the house, for no statistically valid reason. It’s great to study “gender norms” and their evolution over time; it’s irresponsible to actively reinforce them in the process, and the United States’ biggest and most powerful data-collection agency should know better.

“Census Bureau: Mom is Designated ‘Parent,’ Dad is ‘Childcare Arrangement’,” February 2012.

 

Under the “Stand Your Ground Law” in Florida, one is immune from prosecution for use of lethal force under such circumstances as when one “reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

To say that Zimmerman is exempt under this law is to say that it is reasonable to believe that an unarmed black teenager walking through a mostly white neighborhood must be about to commit a forcible felony. It’s saying that it’s reasonable to pursue said juvenile with a gun and, when a physical confrontation does or does not ensue — depending on whose witnesses you choose to believe on that point — to shoot him fatally. To allow Zimmerman to go free based on the “Stand Your Ground Law” is to publicly state that a 17-year-old black male, by his very nature, may reasonably be considered a threat so great as to justify the use of lethal force.

“Stand Your Ground” is meant to allow a person to defend himself in places other than his own home; it is not a declaration of open season on anyone that any armed person finds suspicious-looking. It’s all well and good to presume Zimmerman innocent until proven guilty in court. But by failing even to arrest him at the scene of the crime, the Sanford police went well beyond presuming Zimmerman innocent; they actually presumed Trayvon Martin guilty.

“Race Plays An Important Role in Trayvon Martin Case,” April 2012.

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