Saturday, December 17, 2011

We've Moved

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...But don't worry. This site will be left up for you to go back and read old posts and to share my articles with your friends. I just won't be updating this particular site anymore.

New posts on this blog are moving over to my blog on WordPress. Jazzed About Stuff will always post music on Mondays, and will try posting other stuff on Wednesdays and Fridays as well. So if you've ever found this blog interesting and you want to read more, click on this link, and subscribe for more more blog posts on the issues as well as other interesting things.


Friday, December 16, 2011

The Talk of Strange Culture

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Imagine; one day you wake up and the love of your life is gone forever. Death takes her away and leaves you with a terrible sense of grief and loneliness. You’re hearts heavy, and when you pick up the phone to call the paramedics, the FBI show up at your door.

This is the story of Steve Kurtz, an associate professor of art at the State University of New York, Buffalo. Kurtz woke to find that his wife had died in her sleep due to heart failure, but instead of being able to grieve over the sudden loss of his wife of 27 years, Kurtz’s project full of harmless Petri dishes preparing an art exhibition on genetically modified food for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art was confiscated by the FBI.

Within hours of their arrival, the FBI whisked Kurtz away under the suspicion of bioterrorism, his wife’s body was confiscated for autopsy twice, and his home quarantined with his cat locked away inside without food or water.

Even now, seven years after the incident and two years after the final trial verdict, the public still doesn’t know how easily an innocent civilian behavior can become a suspicious act, how sneaky labels aren’t telling anyone what they are actually consuming, or the amount of restriction the government’s placed against the public’s first Amendment right.

It’s scary to think that this has all happened, that this situation turned into as big of an issue as it did, and that people are even frightened for being detained for sharing information and saying what’s really on their minds.

Below is a film done by Lynn Hershman-Leeson, who artistically “bends the nonfiction form to her own unconventional will” and pieces together a series of re-enactment, news clips, interviews that retell the story that everyone should have been told.

And here is the link for the updates on Mr. Kurtz’s trial.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Another Bullet in the Government’s Gun

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Here's a little something I wrote for a class. I think it's appropriate in sight of the recent passing holiday.

(Tom Toslino, Navajo, as he arrived at Carlisle and-after 3 years)

The House Concurrent Resolution 108: Another Bullet in the Government’s Gun

When one thinks of America they often think of the “American dream” and the “land of opportunity” where individuals young and old, and of every shape, color, and creed can make a name for themselves. They envision a wonderful life with all the joys and perks of a middle class standard family in a proper first world setting, but what many individuals have quickly learned throughout the existence of this mixed up melting pot of a country we call the United States is that this dream doesn’t happen for everyone, and that equality in this young country isn’t always seen. The House Concurrent Resolution 108, is really just one example of the years of scrutiny that one minority group in particular are subjected to, and it’s only one piece of the puzzle that almost killed an entire diverse culture and loaded another bullet in the government’s gun.

The House Concurrent Resolution 108 was actually passed August 1, 1953, and it declared that the U.S. Congress should enact a policy that would abolish Federal supervision over American Indian tribes. The American Indians were subjected to the same laws, privileges, and responsibilities as other U.S. citizens. The crucial point of the matter is that it actually led to the beginning of an era of termination policy, in which the federally recognized status of many Native American tribes was revoked. This “resolution” ended government responsibility to tribe members and withdrew legal protection to territory, culture, and religion. The decision opened the flood gates for states with large Indigenous populations like California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Nebraska, to do whatever they wanted to the Native Americans. But the sad fact is that this wasn’t the first time the Native Americans were mistreated and pushed around by government.

This all actually stated when the first early English settlers landed on the big hunk of rock that we now call America. The “Americanization” of the Native Americans from 1790 to 1920 was the era where these new non-native people tried to “civilize” the Indians. Unfortunately though, during the process, the helping hands from the missionaries destroyed their culture by subjecting the native people to attend their churches, study and only speak English (and on the other side of the continent, Spanish) and leave their tribal traditions behind. And it was the Dawes Act of 1887 that officially offered less of the land that they already owned to the Native Americans if they became U.S. citizens and gave up their traditions.

After the Act, ninety-three million acres of land was hashed up and redistributed, mostly going to single individuals and not the original tribes, but losing their land wasn’t their biggest problem. From the year 1857 to the year 1920, assimilation had taken children from their families, killed individuals, and nearly destroyed the Native American culture. Tribes fought in the Supreme Court during the assimilation era of 1890 to 1928, but were instead just ignored, forced to relocate in smaller sections of land, and the children taken away and locked up in boarding schools where they were taught English and were not allowed to ever use or teach their native tongue.

The assimilation continued throughout the centuries and later led to the Indian Termination policy that lasted from the mid 1940’s to the 1960’s. The termination policy was the government’s belief that the Native Americans were better off further assimilated into mainstream America. The Native American Indians ultimately were no longer exempt from federal or state taxes and, as a result, the education, health care, and economy suffered tremendously due to the lack of government funding. By 1972 there was a seventy-five percent dropout rate for the Menominee Tribe, and students who did graduate and wanted to go to college couldn’t receive any scholarships under the new laws. There was really no health care and many of the Native American people fell into poverty before constant protest and cases fought in court finally allowed the Native Americans to regain their sovereignty. But after centuries of the incessant raping of the Native American Indians culture and land no amount of sovereignty could piece back together all that they had lost after the American government shot its gun.

Works Cited
Americanization of Native Americans, Wikipedia. November 27, 2011.

Indian Termination Policy, Wikipedia. November 11, 2011.

The House Concurrent Resolution 108, Wikipedia. July 22, 2011.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Occupy Protesters: Lazy or Just Fed Up?

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The unemployment rate is currently at 9 percent according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, and monthly job growth has slowed to an average of just 90,000 new jobs a month over the past six months, a pace at which growth in the working-age population will always exceed the number of new jobs being created. All something that can’t be fixed by dumping McDonald’s application on protesters. That was exactly what The Chicago Board of Trade did to Occupy protesters in Chicago, and this wasn’t their first stunt.

The Chicago Board of Trade also plastered “We Are the One Percent” on their windows last month right in front of all the people general fed up with the way unemployment is heading or just those who previously felt alone in their belief that the current economic system is broken.

Dumping McDonald’s applications on protesters can’t solve everything. McDonald's has already declared their plans to hire 50,000 new employees in a single day in April, but the restaurant was consequently swamped with more than one million applications. There are simply not enough jobs for the 13.9 million unemployed people in America as of October, a McDonald's spokeswoman told the Huffington Post in April.

And even though people are aggravated by the unemployment rate, government corruption, collapsing environment, labor standards, World Bank lending practices, housing policy, and the increasing wealth disparity, and are trying to do something about it by voicing their opinion, people like The Chicago Board of Trade and other people populating the one percent are calling these protesters lazy college dropouts.

The thing is there are not just teens and college students out there protesting. There are people out there married with kids who are out of a job and are desperate to find another one despite there not being enough. There are also elderly people slipping into poverty and college kids graduating into piles of debt with no way to enter into the competitive job force.

This contagion called the 99 percent force a reconsideration of the way the nation does business because as members of a democratic country, they are entitled to do so, even though we appear to be falling away from democracy with the way giant corporations run things. The protesting against corporate greed and the social and economic inequality shouldn’t just be kicked to the side and covered up with photocopied McDonald’s applications.

The one percent populated by the banks, the mortgage industry, the insurance industry who happily take bailouts from the federal government, but who look down on programs helping the rest of the population, and the uninformed individuals oblivious to the happenings of the state and causes of the economy who call these protesters lazy and throw McDonald’s applications on top of them are incredibly ignorant and rude. They are just forcing the gap between the 99 and one percent further and ignoring the many rising inequalities presented today.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Flip-Flopping in the GOP

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There seems to be a lot of confusion going among the Republican presidential candidates. Front running official in the national polls seem to have trouble pinning down what they actually believe in and what constitutes as a decent joke.

Take for instance Herman Cain. On Saturday, Oct. 15, Cain had made a comment curbing illegal immigration with a giant man-killing electric fence in Tennessee. The next day he apologized for his statements saying that his proposal for zapping Mexican immigrants crossing the border was all a very terrible joke on NBC's "Meet the Press,” but by Monday, Oct. 17, Cain took back his apology and changed his mind again in Arizona, home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio who is well known to put securing the border at the top of his list, and said that the fence joke wasn’t actually a joke.

Not only is Cain’s man-slaughtering fence idea making every sane person worry about the expenses coming out of their own pockets, but the majority of the population isn’t too keen of electrocuting people, or the fact that Cain can’t make up his mind on the issue.

With constantly flip-flopping views like that, how is it that anyone can trust his opinions on anything else? It’s as if he’s just trying to give the people what they want to hear and then secretly do what he wants if he gets elected to office.

"Words have consequences, both in shaping ideas and inspiring actions,” said the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in a statement made in ‘The Hill.’ “Whether or not he made his comments in jest, Mr. Cain's words show a lack of understanding of the immigration issues our country is facing and a staggering lack of sensitivity. Surely, Mr. Cain understands the duty that candidates have to offer responsible policy proposals."

If Cain does finally get to push his own secret agenda, the 2,000 mile long stretch of land would be covered with a fence that can cost anywhere from $2 million to $70 million per mile depending on the terrain and the style, according to an article by Mother Jones. This is of course not piecing in the finances of maintaining the fence running enough electricity in it to kill someone.

"When I'm in charge of the fence, we going to have a fence.” Cain said during his speech in Tennessee. “It's going to be 20 feet high. It's going to have barbed wire on the top. It's going to be electrocuted, electrified. And there's going to be a sign on the other side that says it will kill you."

Perhaps flip-flopping Cain is just confused about the issue in the first place. It seems fairly common place to do so with Republican presidential candidates such as Mitt Romney’s views on abortion.

During his 2002 campaign for governor, Romney supported abortion rights saying “I will preserve and protect a women’s right to choose,” during a debate against his Democratic opponent Shannon O’Brien. Then during his term as governor, Romney vetoed a bill in 2005 that would expand access to emergency contraception. In an op-ed explaining his veto he wrote that he was "pro-life" and also wrote that while he didn’t favor abortion, that he would not change the state's abortion laws. Then six years later, Romney made clear is current anti-abortion stance, writing in a National Journal op-ed, that he supports overturning Roe v. Wade and defunding Planned Parenthood, "If I have the opportunity to serve as our nation's next president, I commit to doing everything in my power to cultivate, promote, and support a culture of life in America."

Romney recently flip-flopped on an amendment that would define life as beginning at conception which would outlaw most forms of birth control and throw women back into the dark ages.

At a campaign stop in Iowa last week, Romney said "life beings at conception, birth control prevents conception," but said he was "not campaigning for an amendment of some kind."
Even though, naturally, two weeks earlier Romney told Fox News host Mike Huckabee that he would "absolutely" support such an amendment. Certainly a statement, like Cain’s border control proposal, which leaves everyone standing on the fence about these presidential hopefuls and voters confused on what promises and opinions coming out of the mouths of the GOP candidates that they can believe in.