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A short history of the minority’s majority.

Historians disagree about when the first filibuster was. In 1806, the Senate got rid of the rule that let a majority vote to end a debate when it turned obstructionist. Since obstruction was not a major problem at the time, no one really noticed that this rule was gone. It took decades for this to matter.

But then in the 1830s, John Calhoun, the virulent racist, scion of slaveowners, and spiritual father of the Confederacy, arrived in the Senate. He exploited this loophole to become the leading innovator in creating what we would recognize today as the talking filibuster: Jimmy Stewart-style, standing on the floor giving a long-winded speech. He was not the only one to use it, but he was its leading innovator. And he did it because the South and the slave power were becoming outgunned. Calhoun needed to increase the power of a numerical minority in the Senate to block things, or else the South was doomed. […]

This is important to emphasize, because we are taught that there is some noble wisdom in the Senate’s delay: during the Jim Crow era, the country was ready to pass civil rights bills. It was a power play, pure and simple. Southern senators saw they were outnumbered, and they needed a way to increase the power of a numerical minority to block bills in the Senate. This motivation led them to innovate the regular use of the supermajority threshold to block civil rights bills.

Now fast forward to today. For a bunch of boring procedural reasons, during the 1970s and 1980s, it became much easier to invoke that supermajority threshold. Today, it can be done via email. So now we have a Senate where the filibuster has gone from the talking filibuster of Jimmy Stewart to a silent application of a supermajority threshold, with no debate necessary. As a country, for this reason, we have started applying to all issues the same standard that it took civil rights nearly a century to clear. This is a bad way to conduct policymaking as a nation and a surefire path to failing to address the major crises we face.

Adam Jentleson on obstruction.

2021-02-15T08:02:13+11:0025th February, 2021|Tags: |

Here to help.

In 1986, Ronald Reagan said to raucous guffaws from the crowd that the most terrifying nine words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” This cheap laugh line became a familiar point of reference in the American psyche, especially for the Republican Party. Thirty-five years later when the coronavirus swept the world, the Trump administration scoffed at the idea of mobilizing government to defeat it, and his congressional leadership only supported his indifference.

By the end of 1988, when Reagan was on his way out of the White House, the CDC had recorded more than 46,000 dead from AIDS. At the end of Trump’s first and only term, approximately 390,000 people have died from the coronavirus. The horrific death tolls are the end result of an ideology that chooses tax cuts for the wealthy over social programs, the dismantling of government over strong public institutions, and individualism over collectivism.

On the steal.

2021-02-11T08:50:16+11:0023rd February, 2021|Tags: |

Sunrise rebellion.

Comparing and contrasting Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement, specifically to unpick what it means to be an “apolitical” protest organization.

2021-02-11T08:40:46+11:0023rd February, 2021|Tags: , |

Backfilling.

I have long held a suspicion that the scant moderation of big social networks was only a tiny bit about dogmatic ideas about unimpeded freedom of speech, and much more of a calculated business decision. It is completely possible for YouTube and Facebook and other companies to have considered moderation issues more thoroughly in their nascent years. But that would have cost more money and inhibited growth. And, in the days when these companies were losing millions of dollars of venture capital money, the last thing investors wanted to hear were arguments for slow and measured growth while carefully moderating users’ contributions.

Nick Heer on moderation.

2021-02-11T08:38:25+11:0022nd February, 2021|Tags: |

Internet anecdotes.

So hey you remember that story that goes around on Tumblr every now and again about the art class making pots? The one that’s always presented as a Totally True Thing That Happened and yet is accompanied by no actual identifiable details but that people share because it “feels” true? Yeah. Just what is up with that, anyway?

2021-02-10T08:51:45+11:0021st February, 2021|Tags: |

Violence begets.

In the nearly two decades that have passed since 9/11, America has been on a worldwide binge of occupying, destroying, meddling, and intervening, largely with impunity. As public attention to those wars has waned during the Trump administration, the beliefs of white supremacy have turned inward. It makes no sense for the country that lords over brown people in the Middle East to treat the same brown people with respect at home. This legacy of white supremacist wars abroad has thus fed and fostered the same beliefs at home. Faith in the necessity of constant and unrelenting violence has seeped into the nation’s soul.

On white wars.

To be fair, American was “occupying, destroying, meddling, and intervening” long before 9/11, as those of us ex of the Eastern bloc are well aware. But the point still stands.

2021-02-10T08:49:34+11:0020th February, 2021|Tags: , |

Misrule of law.

Hey you remember that time the US government engaged in illegal arms- and drug-dealing and then covered it up and then pardoned itself? I’m sure this multi-administration conspira-scandal has absolutely nothing to teach us about our current times…

2021-02-10T08:29:31+11:0019th February, 2021|Tags: |

De-platforming.

The problem with so-called doom scrolling isn’t the scrolling, it’s the doom—the despair over the fact that our possibilities have been foreclosed and our lives have been made more precarious; the way that the platform economy has offered solutions that serve only to make surveillance more prolific and inequality all the more devastating. Neither addiction mitigation nor technological fixes can serve as the basis of the regulatory argument against Big Tech. To imagine a world beyond the platform giants, it’s vital that we look toward principles of redistribution and democratic control of the infrastructure we now depend on.

On regulating Big Tech.

2021-02-10T08:26:19+11:0018th February, 2021|Tags: , |
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