Barely Passing: Some Thoughts on Election Day

I’m glad you voted. Yay. Go democracy and all that. Maybe I’m feeling bitchy because I’m fighting off a cold and am tired from too little sleep or maybe my stress at facing my comprehensive exams in 12 days is getting to me, but what I’m not glad about is this constant stream of people in my Twitter and Facebook feeds being self-righteous about having voted as if that act makes them a full participant in our civic management of this country. Again, you voted. Good for you. I’ll vote too, but you know what? As nice as it is that we are voting in a national election, if we don’t know who is on our school boards; if we have, through inaction and passivity, allowed our country to begin the cold-blooded assassination of people through a drone warfare that we are continuing, as a nation, to ignore; if we have not written, called, or showed up at our congressional representatives offices and told them what we want them do to about a myriad of issues; if we have simply gone about our lives, signed a few online petitions, shared a few links, and then walk into the polls today, we get, at best a barely passing grade on the whole democracy thing.

Look, I know we are all busy. I know we are not living lives of leisure and that taking care of self and family and friends takes up most of our time when we are not working and I know that, for many and for many reasons, we don’t have the time or energy or inclination to participate more in our participatory democracy. I am not exempting myself from this critique*. What I am saying is that I will vote today. And that I get, just maybe, a barely passing grade at civic engagement. But that does not make me either especially proud or a better person. Voting ought to be the final act of a politically and civically engaged life, not the one and only such act.

Perhaps, instead of peacocking around with the “I voted bit” we could use this day to pick one or two ways that we might be more politically and civically engaged in the coming year. Perhaps, instead if making ourselves out to be moral paragons for voting, we could pledge ourselves to volunteering more, to engaging in the battle for the future a bit more, or to actively working for more political enfranchisement for the economically disadvantaged, the protection of civil rights, or the safety of women’s reproductive rights. 1

Maybe, like I said, I’m just being bitchy. Probably I’m simply projecting a self-critique outwards to all those who are crowing about voting when all they mean to do is encourage others to do so. Still, I can’t help but wonder how much this one act of voting stands in for what ought to be a daily engagement.

  1. Or whatever is most important to you, of course. []

Senator Robert Casey Co-Sponser’s the PROTECT IP Act and Gives his Reason Why

Senator Robert Casey Jr. writes:

Dear Mr. Wood:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act of 2011 and H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. I appreciate hearing from you about this issue.

S. 968 was introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy on May 12, 2011. The PROTECT IP Act would allow the Attorney General and property rights holders to take legal action against websites dedicated to copyright infringement and intellectual property theft. It would also allow the Attorney General and intellectual property holders to seek a court order to have websites engaging in piracy shut down.

The PROTECT IP Act would make the Internet more secure by empowering intellectual property rights holders to help identify and eliminate rogue websites that operate maliciously and are dedicated to violating intellectual property rights of innovative and original entities.

S. 968 was voted out of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on May 26, 2011, and has been placed on the Senate calendar. I have become a co-sponsor for this act because I believe in protecting American consumers from counterfeit goods and services as well as copyright infringement. This bill will also help combat the shortage of American jobs; it would cut off international rogue websites that take American jobs as well as harm American consumers.

A similar version of this bill, H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act, was introduced to the House of Representatives by Representative Lamar Smith of Texas on October 26, 2011. It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, where hearings were held.

Many individuals are concerned about these bills violating their right to freedom of speech; this is not the intent of S. 968 or H.R. 3261. While these bills will give the Attorney General some control, they do not infringe on internet users first amendment rights for freedom of speech. Counterfeiting is illegal, but outside of America the government can do nothing to stop it. This bill will also protect American public safety. Rogue sites often sell counterfeit prescription drugs and cosmetics that harm American citizens who were misled to believe that the goods were reliable. These bills will help reduce the amount of counterfeit and illegal foreign websites that try to sell goods and services to the American public. When this legislation is voted on please be assured that I will have your views in mind.

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about this or any other matter of importance to you.

If you have access to the Internet, I encourage you to visit my website, http://casey.senate.gov. I invite you to use this online office as a comprehensive resource to stay up-to-date on my work in Washington, request assistance from my office, or share with me your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you and to Pennsylvania.

Sincerely, Bob Casey United States Senator

After I am done with my last paper of the semester, expect me to respond to this letter in more detail and suggest, respectfully, that the Senator is full of shit when it comes to the effects that this bill could have on the American people. But let me make one point here and now:

This legislation would enable law enforcement to take down the entire tumblr.com domain due to something posted on a single blog. Yes, an entire, largely innocent online community could be punished for the actions of a tiny minority. Slate

So you know what, Senator Casey, you’re assurance that this act would have no impact on first amendment rights is utter bullshit. What’s more, as co-sponsor I am sure you’ve read the entire thing and understand this. You just hope that we don’t because then you and the 1% you work for could pull down Tumblr or Twitter whenever you wanted to do so in order to disrupt, oh I don’t know, maybe the people’s right to free speech and right to peaceful assembly?

Hello? Is There Anyone In Charge Listening to Sense?

Boggles the mind how our leaders allow reactionary bullshit to take the place of thoughtful planning and tactics. And at the population of the US for allowing our leaders substitute smoke and mirrors (inconveniently situated ones at that) for sane and sensible and useful policy.

 

“Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don’t take s— from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, ‘We’re not going to do this. You’re going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport.”

[From The ‘Israelification’ of airports: High security, little bother – thestar.com]

 

Via Daring Fireball

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

I regret to say that while I support you in a lot of ways, I will not vote for you in the next election, no matter who the Republican’s run or how bad I think they may be for the country. By sanctioning assassination on Anwar al-Awlaki you have crossed a moral line that I cannot accept and that is fundamentally opposed to the rule of law.

I realize you have an incredibly complex job and that there is no easy answer for most of the situations and problems that we face as a country. However, sanctioning murder is not the answer. Ever.

I understand that you have a personal relationship to Jesus and I have to ask, in what way does ordering the cold-blooded killing of someone who is suspected of crimes square with your faith? How does it square with American rule of law? How does that square with your call for hope and for change?

I wish you the best, but I will never vote for you again.

References:
Salon

NYT

Washington Post