Three very disturbing things happened this week, and you probably haven’t heard about them. In the midst of all the news about the crisis in Japan and the violence in the Middle East, some very significant things are happening at home, too. This week, I came across these three stories that, with the exception of the ongoing fight over NPR, I had no idea about and really didn’t believe could happen in America. Our civil liberties and basic dignity are being slowly but surely suppressed, sometimes in ways so small and sinister that it’s easy to overlook.
It sounds melodramatic, but it’s true. Please read these stories. Share them. Talk about them. Contact your senators and tell them you won’t tolerate this. I referred to “nails in the coffin of democracy”, but we aren’t in the ground yet. Not as long as we keep our eyes open to what’s happening, keep talking about it, and refuse, in whatever peaceful ways we can, to give in.
Three Disturbing Nails In the Coffin of Democracy
- House votes to defund NPR. The House voted 228 to 192 on Thursday to eliminate federal funding for National Public Radio. Many in the GOP claim we can’t afford to fund one of our nation’s best, last and most beloved sources of thoughtful news and commentary, not to mention one of the few widely distributed channels not beholden to corporate conglomerates. But really, we can’t afford not to (see information consolidation, an earlier post about how having fewer and fewer vibrant news organizations is really, really bad for democracy).
- White House proposes to make “illegal streaming” of audio or video a felony.This week, the Obama administration proposed changes to U.S. copyright law that would make illegal streaming of audio or video a felony. A felony. The changes would also allow the FBI to wiretap suspected offenders, a move usually reserved for suspected terrorism and other serious crime investigations that allow wiretapping under federal law. Whether you are for or against tighter restrictions on illegal streaming, it’s deeply disturbing that our administration seeks to allow such an extreme invasion of privacy in the name of copyright protection.
- Minnesota Republicans want to outlaw cash-carrying poor people. I couldn’t believe it when I read it, but it’s true. Republicans in Minnesota want to make it illegal for anyone on public assistance to have more than $20 cash on their person for a given month (this is a retreat from their initial proposal, which said no cash at all). It’s a very clear and dangerous manifestation of an ideology that holds our most vulnerable members of society in contempt. It’s also extremely hypocriticial: For a party that claims to be about small government, this proposal is privacy-invading, civil-rights-crushing, nanny-state micromanagement in the extreme.