Today, to mark Martin Luther King Day, I participated in the MLK Day of Action, Resistance, and Empowerment. It was a rally in which several thousand of us congregated outside of the Philadelphia School District headquarters and marched down Broad St. and Market St. to the park across the way from the building that houses the Liberty Bell.
The march was a continuation of the protests stemming from the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But it was also more than that. The triple objective — according to the leaflet Sarah brought home last week — was to end the Philadelphia police department’s stop and frisk policy, to call for better union laws and a city-wide $15/hour minimum wage, and to seek reform in a school district that is one of the worst performing, worst funded in the country.
Up until now, I’ve been silent here at Twice Cooked about the Michael Brown shooting, Eric Garner, and the two shameful grand jury decisions that have allowed their killings to go unexamined because the perpetrators wear blue and the victims are brown. In part, that silence is a practical matter: the same confluence of life stuff that has reduced my posting frequency about food has eradicated my ability to post about politics. And in part, that silence is because I don’t feel I have anything new to add to the conversation: police violence is well inside my sphere of horror, but far outside the sphere of issues to which I can claim any kind of knowledge, firsthand, scholarly, or otherwise.
But this morning, I think that may have changed. I think that I can indeed add something useful. Last week, the United Nations Committee Against Torture released a report about abuse in the United States. It covers many of the usual suspects for this sort of report: Guantanamo, prisoners’ rights, and the death penalty. But there is also a section about police brutality that is specific and relevant here.
Here in the United States, today is voting day. Today is the day that many states decide on new governors, some on new senators, and all of them on new representatives. Voting is the most important duty and the greatest privilege of citizenship in the United States. And the stakes this year cannot be overstated. So if you have not yet gotten to the polls: go now!
According to Time (and The Washington Post, and everybody else), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing new rules today that would end even the most perfunctory nod to net neutrality — the idea that the infrastructure of the Internet should treat all data equally. Under the new system, says Time, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would be able to charge content companies for preferential treatment over the “last mile” to users. They would be required to offer a baseline level of service to their subscribers, and they would be prohibited from blocking or discriminating against online content. But large Internet companies like Comcast and Verizon would be allowed to strike special deals with Internet companies like Netflix or Skype for preferential treatment.
In a way, this is a codification of a US Court of Appeals decision earlier this year that ruled that because ISPs are not classified as common carriers — as communications utilities like telephone companies — they are not subject to requirements that they not discriminate against entities on their networks. So if you’re Ma Bell — back when landlines were a thing — you had to connect every call to every recipient with all due speed and quality, regardless of its point of origin. But if you’re Verizon or Comcast — in the broadband business today — there’s no such constraint.
So Keurig, amiright?
Green Mountain Coffee, the makers of those increasingly ubiquitous Keurig single-cup coffee machines, will be including digital rights management (DRM) in their next generation product (creatively called Keurig 2.0). This means that every time you pop a plastic pod into the machine, it will look for a tiny chip emitting a tiny radio signal that will let the coffee maker’s onboard computer know whether it is okay — with the company, not with you — to brew.
As of November 1 — just in time for Thanksgiving — Federal funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been drastically reduced. The program had been living on funds from the 2009 stimulus for a while now, and absent the willingness of Congress to appropriate money for hunger relief, families receiving aid have seen their food stamps slashed by an average of $36 per month.
Now that doesn’t necessarily sound like a lot of cash. But here, according to the Daily Kos, is what $36 per month buys:
a gallon of milk, a pound of broccoli, a pound of bananas, a dozen eggs, and a pound of spaghetti every single week. Or two pounds of chicken legs, two pounds of rice, a pound of apples, a pound of tomatoes, and two pounds of iceberg lettuce.
Food banks and other charitable organizations are left trying to make up the difference. But the difference, according to this piece at CNN, is something like $5 billion. The charitable system can’t make up such a loss, one food-bank director in New Jersey told the Daily Kos. To put it bluntly, we can’t come in and make up $90 million across the state. We just can’t.
And that’s where all of us come in. Charity alone cannot close the hunger deficit in the United States this Thanksgiving. But every little bit counts. What I am posting here are links to the donation pages for my local hunger relief organization, Philabundance, and for one of leading national hunger relief charities, Feeding America.
It doesn’t really matter which you choose, as long as you choose to give. Charity may not solve the problem, but it will certainly help somebody have a happier Thanksgiving in 2013.
“I couldn’t forgive him them or like him them but I saw that what he they had done was, to him them, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy Congress — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made….”
F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby (1925).
There’s more than enough recrimination to go around, this morning, for the Federal Government shutdown.
Speaker John Boehner took to the floor of the House of Representatives, last night, and tried out his impression of President Obama (video) — literally; I kid you not — who apparently told the speaker on the telephone: I’m not going to negotiate. I’m not going to negotiate — I’m not going to do this.
So — Massachusetts’ fifth congressional district is throwing a special election.
This in itself isn’t news. Earlier this year, Ed Markey, who had long represented Eastern Massachusetts in the House of Representatives, was elected to the Senate to fill the seat that John Kerry vacated when he was appointed Secretary of State. By law, Governor Deval Patrick has one hundred sixty days to line up a replacement. And so, on December 10, folks in Middlesex, Suffolk, and Worcester Counties will come out, cast votes, and send someone new to the least popular institution in the United States.
Folks in the United States: I don’t know what you all did for the Fourth of July, but Sarah and I were in Philadelphia’s Washington Square Park — and then on the march — to support Restore the Fourth (#restorethe4th).
For folks who don’t know, Restore the Fourth is a grassroots, non-partisan, non-violent movement, the purpose of which is to demand that the government of the United States of America adhere to its constitutionally dictated limits and respect the Fourth Amendment. It was formed, in part on Reddit, in response to recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance initiatives: the monitoring of telephone conversations, and the PRISM electronic snooping program that was revealed by Edward Snowden. And it has the backing of civil libertarians and libertarian libertarians, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Senator Rand Paul (not really a libertarian libertarian, but plays one on TV).