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On May 3, the voters of Scotland are headed to the polls to vote for the third Scottish Parliament since that body was created in 1999. There is apparently a pretty strong chance of a Scottish Nationalist Party victory there. The SNP's manifesto calls-- in reasonably argued terms-- for Scotland's independence from the Union it has maintained with England for exactly 300 years now.
The newly emerged "Scottish question" is impacting London politics in some very significant ways. Only one of these is the newly emerging possibility that the Holyrood (Scottish) Parliament might move towards secession. Another is the fact that the Labour Party's anointed successor to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, who has loyally stood in line for years to wait for his turn as party and national leader, is now seen by many English people as far "too Scottish".
Until very recently being seen as Scottish would have been viewed by most English people either as a plus or as something fairly netural. But now, suddenly, a surge in anti-Scottishness among many English people suddenly has Brown's chances of winning the intra-party succession vote thrown into a serious degree of doubt.
It's really pretty amazing to see the way that a consensus is forming, one that crosses the political spectrum, that the Bush administration has been an historic disaster. I was at a lunch this past weekend with a very, very conservative young law student, and even she could only muster a half-hearted defense of the administration and seemed to almost apologize for her support of it.
That's all well and good, but the next battle will be over how to understand the Bush failure. You're already seeing conservatives rushing to distance themselves from the administration and chalk up its manifest failtures to mere incompetence. But while that's part of the story, it's not most of it.
Enter Rick Perlstein and The Big Con to fill in the story. Rick's written two books (the latter of which is forthcoming) documenting the rise of the modern conservative movement, from Goldwater through Nixon. He's now writing a blog over at Campaign for America Future, in which he documents the ways in which the failures of the Bush administration are the failures of conservatism as an ideology and governing approach. Check out this opening post on E Coli Conservatives.
In reading Gloria Feldt's commentary on the Supreme Court's heartbreaking and groundbreaking decision to deny women the right to choose, I'm reminded of what the former President of Planned Parenthood Feldt calls "the travesty of language" around this issue.
In late 2005, I published a book titled "Dictionary of Republicanisms." One of the many reasons for doing the book was my belief that before we can win the great battle of ideas, we must first debunk the Right's political discourse--a veritable Orwellian code of encrypted language that twists common usage to deceive the public for the Republicans' own purposes. "The key to their linguistic strategy," I argue in the book's introduction, "is to use words that sound moderate to us but mean something completely different to them."
I think of what Feldt calls "the travesty of language" and the Right's longterm, well-funded battle to hijack our language as I read the Court's decision--one that in plain language eviscerates a woman's right to control her own body. I also thought--Shame on major news outlets--like the Washington Post's editorial this morning--for simply lifting and using the Right's language of "partial birth" abortion. (The procedure--as the New York Times pointed out, is known medically as "intact dilation and extraction.")
Many families head for Walt Disney World over April vacation. It's a fun place to take kids of many ages, and even the most cynical and grouchy grown-ups are likely to end up enjoying themselves. Encouraging this cheery mood has always been part of the job of Disney World workers, and it's a job they do well. But this April, these workers are not feeling so cheerful, and the Magic Kingdom, for all its splendid illusions, looking an awful lot like the real world of low-wage service work in America.
Disney World pays entry-level workers only 33 cents above Florida's minimum wage of $6.67, and about 41% of its employees make less than $8.50. Disney workers must also pay thousands of dollars a year for their health insurance. Like many service workers, Disney workers are expected to make themselves available to work at almost any time of the day or night, but are only guaranteed 32 hours a week, and are often not told when they will be working until the last minute; this policy wreaks havoc on family life. Disney has also been "outsourcing" --using outside contractors instead of hiring its own workers -- a practice that lowers labor standards significantly for all its employees (Walt Disney himself renounced this practice as he found it resulted in lower standards of hospitality and service). You can learn all this and more from We Are Disney.Info, a website set up by the Service Trades Council Union, a coalition of union locals representing Disney World workers. The site has personal testimonials from Disney workers, people like Judy Claypool, who has been with the company 17 years and feels personally insulted by its conduct. "When Walt Disney World outsources our jobs," she says, "they disrespect our hard work and years of service." Others describe the material hardship of low pay and unaffordable health insurance. The Disney workers will be re-negotiating a contract beginning April 28, and they're hoping to improve their lot.
If you're planning a trip to Disney World, don't cancel your plans just yet. The workers are not encouraging the public to boycott. But do keep in mind that underneath that Mickey Mouse or Goofy costume may be a disgruntled worker struggling to pay his own family's rent, and let Disney know you support him.
Back in the late 1990s, the Harvard School of Public Health undertook an exhaustive study of Americans' attitudes toward guns. Given our reputation as a trigger-hungry nation, the findings were surprising--and worth revisiting in light of the horrific tragedy at Virginia Tech.
"Americans feel less safe rather than more safe as more people in their community begin to carry guns," the paper, published in 2001, stated. "By margins of at least nine to one, Americans do not believe that 'regular' citizens should be allowed to bring their guns into restaurants, college campuses, sports stadiums, bars, hospitals, or government buildings." [Via Down With Tyranny.]
The study shows a striking disconnect between the policies promoted by the NRA (and passed by politicians) and the views of the public. After Columbine, for example, "bills were introduced to bolster background checks, force the inclusion of trigger locks with gun sales, and close legal loopholes that allowed firearms to be bought from gun shows without full background checks," according to the Washington Post. "But the NRA helped scuttle those measures."
Upon his re-election as Mayor of New York City, Mike Bloomberg said his top priority was curbing gun violence. "Our most urgent challenge is ending the threat of guns and the violence they do," he said at his second inaugural address. He subsequently formed an organization of 180 mayors, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, to expose the true costs of gun violence in America and to combat the political stranglehold of the NRA.
The gun lobby, as expected, has irately pushed back. Two gun stores in Virginia, accused by the mayor of lax enforcement policies, on Thursday plan to hold a "Bloomberg Gun GiveAway." Spend over $100 at either Bob Moates Gun Shop or Old Dominion Guns and Tackle and you could win a free handgun or rifle, value $900. The stores have no plans to cancel the raffle in the wake of the horrific massacre at Virginia Tech.
Thanks to the Republican Congress, law enforcement officials can't even get a full picture of which guns are used during crimes in their communities. The assault weapons ban of 1994 was not renewed upon expiring in 2004. It's been ten years since any gun control law has been approved by Congress.