TomDispatch: Ann Jones on Social Democracy in Norway


I subscribe to TomDispatch …

TomDispatch header

… an email service that describes itself on the “About” page of  its website as follows:

Tom Engelhardt launched Tomdispatch in November 2001 as an e-mail publication offering commentary and collected articles from the world press. In December 2002, it gained its name, became a project of The Nation Institute, and went online as “a regular antidote to the mainstream media.” The site now features Tom Engelhardt’s regular commentaries and the original work of authors ranging from Rebecca Solnit, Bill McKibben, and Mike Davis to Chalmers Johnson, Michael Klare, Adam Hochschild, Robert Lipsyte, and Elizabeth de la Vega. Nick Turse, who also writes for the site, is associate editor and research director.

Tomdispatch is intended to introduce readers to voices and perspectives from elsewhere (even when the elsewhere is here). Its mission is to connect some of the global dots regularly left unconnected by the mainstream media and to offer a clearer sense of how this imperial globe of ours actually works.

The Tom Dispatch offerings (which arrive in the form of email “Tomgrams”) are quite interesting and generally thought-provoking.  The one I received today …

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176096/tomgram%3A_ann_jones%2C_social_democracy_for_dummies/#more

… motivated me to comment.

Scandinavia Map

This is an interesting Tomgram discussion, primarily regarding the differences between how the U.S. and the Nordic countries (primarily focused on Norway) handle many aspects of modern life, most notably their national economic & social systems.

The author of the piece, Ann Jones, is an admirer of the largely socialist economic systems in place in the Scandinavian countries.  Many of the concepts she promotes are an anathema to my libertarian sensibilities — and I think she blithely ignores the fact that what works for small, largely homogeneous, countries like Norway (5.1 million people, roughly equal to North Carolina, in an area larger than Texas) would be orders of magnitude more difficult to implement in the U.S., which covers nearly four times the area of Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark & Iceland) and 13 times the combined population of those five countries.

Besides being a libertarian in my political views, I am also essentially anti-social and an iconoclast — I would not do well in the Norway Jones describes. Consider these excerpts from the Jones discussion of how society developed there in the 1970s:

“There, feminists and sociologists pushed hard against the biggest obstacle still standing in the path of full democracy:  the nuclear family. … the Norwegian state began to deconstruct that undemocratic ideal by taking upon itself the traditional unpaid household duties of women. Caring for the children, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled became the basic responsibilities of the universal welfare state, freeing women in the workforce to enjoy both their jobs and their families.”

And:

“In Norway, mother and father in turn take paid parental leave from work to see a newborn through its first year or more. At age one, however, children start attending a neighborhood barnehage (kindergarten) for schooling spent largely outdoors.”

Both of those concepts (“deconstruction” of the nuclear family and starting school at the age of 1) are contrary to my personal views of how to best raise children. I don’t even like the current trend in the U.S. of sending kids to pre-kindergarten classes.

I also can’t help wondering how much of what the Scandinavian countries have accomplished with their social-economic systems has been possible only because they have been able to maintain a significantly insular existence thanks to their relatively isolated geographic location, the fortuity of the North Sea oil reserves (which are the primary reason Norway has a significantly positive export-import balance) and because, since the end of World War II, they have been able to essentially rely on other countries (primarily the U.S.) to insure their national security.

Have to admit that I also found the Tomgram tagline for the Jones article (“Social Democracy for Dummies”) condescending and offensive.

Despite my disagreements with the Ann Jones article, I highly recommend TomDispatch for anyone interested in current national and international affairs.  You can subscribe to the email service on the webpage linked above.

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FLA 77

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“Take It Down”??


The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

I have been giving a lot of thought to the issues raised by the flying of the so-called “Confederate Flag” — which, of course, ISN’T the “Confederate Flag” at all — see my previous blog post on that subject:

https://freelegaladvice.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/that-is-not-the-confederate-flag-flying-in-south-carolina/

The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the flying of the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia on the grounds of the South Carolina state house, have motivated a wide-ranging re-evaluation of how the United States deals with the issue of racial hatred and discrimination.

Rebel Battle Flag on grounds of South Carolina State HousejpgThere are now calls for the removal of the Rebel Battle Flag from the state house grounds in Columbia, South Carolina, and the South Carolina legislature has agreed to debate the issue.

The Citadel Confederate Naval JackThe governing board of The Citadel, a military academy in Charleston, voted to remove the Confederate Naval Jack from the school’s chapel. One of the Emanuel shooting victims was a graduate of The Citadel.

Virginia’s governor has ordered the removal of “the Confederate Flag” from all of his state’s license plates (thereby joining the chorus of people incorrectly identifying the battle flag, which appears as an optional design on some Virginia license plates). Politicians in several other states, including Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee have vowed to do the same with their states’ license plates.

Mississippi State FlagMississippi’s Republican speaker of the house issued a statement calling for the removal of the Confederate battle cross from the Mississippi state flag (at least he knows what the symbol actually is).

Alabama Confederate MemorialAlabama Governor Robert Bentley ordered the removal of the Confederate battle flag (he got it right, too) and three other flags from the grounds of the state Capitol in Montgomery, where they stood in front of a memorial honoring Civil War soldiers. The other three flags? The three versions of the actual Confederate flag.

Jefferson Davis Statue Capitol Rotunda Frankfurt KentuckyAnd it’s not just the flags and symbols of the Confederacy that are drawing fire. The president of the Kentucky state senate said in an interview that a statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, should be removed from the Capitol rotunda in Frankfurt, Kentucky.

Nathan Bedford Forrest Bust in Tennessee State HouseIn Tennessee, politicians of both parties have also said that a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan, should be moved out of the state house.

Lake Calhoun MinnesotaIn Minnesota, not exactly a hotbed of confederate fervor, activists have demanded that a lake named after John C. Calhoun be renamed because Calhoun, though both a US Senator and American Vice President, was from South Carolina and a supporter of slavery.

South Carolina State Senator Paul ThurmondEven South Carolina State Senator Paul Thurmond, son of US Senator Strom Thurmond, who ran for president in 1948 as a segregationist, announced that he would vote to remove the battle flag from the state house grounds, saying that he is “not proud of this heritage”.

Walmart Sears eBay & Amazon LogosPrivate companies are also weighing in … Walmart, Sears, eBay and Amazon have all announced that they will no longer sell confederate themed items.

The Baltimore Sun LogoIn Maryland this past Monday, the Baltimore Sun opined in an editorial, “For a state to endorse a symbol of the defenders of slavery by putting the Confederate flag on representations of government speech is unconscionable.”

It therefore appears that supporters of slavery — and the symbols of that support — are under unrelenting pressure which is going to result in the permanent removal of both from public display. I personally support the banishment from public places of all versions of the Confederate flags (albeit, as mentioned in my earlier blog post, I also support the right of private persons to display Confederate symbols on their private property).

Shortly after being transferred to the Sixth Naval District in Charleston in January 1969, I encountered what I thought at best an odd circumstance — the Charleston Naval Base, bowing to political pressure from the state of South Carolina, was to be closed for a holiday on the birthday of Jefferson Davis, but all personnel were to work on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, then a national holiday. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Charleston News & Courier, suggesting that it was time for South Carolina to rejoin the union. I signed it “James T. Reilly, LTJG, US Navy”, which earned me a visit with my boss, the Sixth Naval District commander (a rear admiral), who allowed as how I had the right to express my opinion, but asked me to please sign any future letters with my name only, omitting my military rank.

However, and this is the point of this blog post, if we are going to vanquish memorials to rebellious supporters of slavery and their symbols of oppression, the measures described above are manifestly inadequate. To do this job right, we will also have to vanquish from the public forum memorials to ALL rebellious supporters of slavery and slave owners, starting with …

George Washington… George Washington (the “Father of our Country”) …

Thomas Jefferson… Thomas Jefferson (the primary author of the Declaration of Independence) …

James Madison… James Madison (the primary author of the Constitution) …

Patrick Henry… Patrick Henry (he of “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” fame) …

John Hancock… John Hancock (whose signature is the most prominent on the Declaration of Independence) …

Benjamin Franklin… Benjamin Franklin (who owned slaves for 40 years before finally becoming an abolitionist in 1785) …

Founding Fathers… and many other Founding Fathers who were also slave owners.

The Constitution of the United States, adopted in 1787, authorized the continuation of slavery in the country and counted slaves as “three-fifths of a person”. And so, to truly eliminate all vestiges of rebellious supporters of slavery …

Washington Monument… it is down with the Washington Monument …

Jefferson Memorial… demolish the Jefferson Memorial …

Benjamin Franklin Memorial… and the Benjamin Franklin Memorial …

Mount Rushmore… blast Washington and Jefferson off of Mount Rushmore …

Currency & Coinage Washington Jefferson & Franklin… remove Washington, Jefferson and Franklin from our currency …

American Flag Betsy Ross & George Washington… and get rid of the Stars & Stripes, which waved over slavery for nearly a century.

Not doing so may be seen as a particularly disingenuous form of hypocrisy.

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FLA 68

Trashing the 1st Amendment in North Carolina


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North Carolina state representatives have introduced legislation that would, if adopted, purport to exempt the state from the strictures of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and would allow North Carolina to establish an official state religion.

The proposed legislation, reported today on HuffingtonPost.com …

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/03/north-carolina-religion-bill_n_3003401.html#slide=467436

… is co-sponsored by state representatives Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and Harry Warren (R-Salisbury) and is backed by nine other republican representatives.

The proposed laws read as follows:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

The name of the bill is “A JOINT RESOLUTION TO PROCLAIM THE ROWAN COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA, DEFENSE OF RELIGION ACT OF 2013” and is denominated House Joint Resolution DRHJR10194-MM-54.  The full text of the resolution is here:

http://www.ncleg.net/Applications/BillLookUp/LoadBillDocument.aspx?SessionCode=2013&DocNum=2501&SeqNum=0

The introduction to this bill acknowledges that the “Establishment Clause” of the 1st Amendment says “… Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….”  It goes on, however, to declare that “… this prohibition does not apply to states, municipalities, or schools ….”

Supporters of the bill cite the 10th Amendment …

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

… for the proposition that the federal government cannot expand its powers beyond those specifically enumerated in the Constitution.  They also also assert that the Constitution does not authorize either the federal government or federal courts to determine what “is or is not constitutional” and that, consequently, the ability to determine constitutionality is reserved to the states and the people thereof.

Apparently, these state legislators stopped reading when they finished with the 10th Amendment.  They certainly didn’t get to section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which says in part …

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

… and which has been repeatedly held to mean that all of the protections of the Bill of Rights apply as to the states as well as the federal government.  In other words, the Constitution of the United States of America does “prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion”.

And it does require the North Carolina General Assembly to “recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion”.

Thus, the state of North Carolina cannot constitutionally declare a state religion, whether this resolution passes or not.

On the other hand, I have to admit that it might be fun to watch them trying to do so.  Fewer than 48% of all North Carolinians consider themselves active participants in any religion.  The most popular religion in the state is Southern Baptist;  however, just 19% of people in the state are active Baptists.  Methodists total 9% and Roman Catholics (the fastest growing religion in the state) just over 4%.  Other Christian denominations, including Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Latter Day Saints (Mormon), range down from less than 3% to less than 1% each.  All other splinter Christian denominations combined make up roughly 7% of the population.

Jews, Muslims and adherents of Eastern religions (who together total less than 1% of the state’s population) may, in any discussion of this subject, be voices in a Christian wilderness.  However, adherents of which of the various Christian denominations do you suppose are going to stand idly by while some other denomination is declared to be the official religion of the state of North Carolina?  Even if the proposed state religion is Baptist, will this be acceptable to the other 30% of North Carolinians who actively practice some other religion (never mind the 52% of the people in the state who are not active in any religion)?

And then, even if the North Carolina legislature is able to pass this resolution and declares an official state religion, we’ll have the consequent litigation and inevitable smackdown by the U.S. Supreme Court, the members of which — contrary to the beliefs of the sponsors of this legislation — believe it does have the authority to determine what “is or is not” constitutional.  And which will certainly find any “establishment” of a state religion violative of the 1st Amendment.

Oh, by the way, one more thing — it appears that the sponsors of this bill have not even recently read their own state constitution, since the proposed bill violates Article 1, section 5 of the North Carolina  constitution.  This provision requires the state and its citizens (presumably including its legislators) to comply with federal laws:

Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the United States, and no law or ordinance of the State in contravention or subversion thereof can have any binding force.

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For other interesting (and somewhat amusing) discussions of this proposed legislation, see these articles on TheAtlantic.com website:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/04/north-carolinas-proposed-state-religion-isnt-as-unprecedented-as-it-sounds/274646/

… which notes, in part:  “You can safely file this under Not Gonna Happen. Even if the state passes the law, there’s no chance it would be upheld. Phillip Bump at The Atlantic Wire explains the fun circular logic going on: Yes, Marbury v. Madison established federal judicial review, but it was a federal decision so it’s not binding. (The Tar Heel State could of course try seceding, but that didn’t work out so well for them the first time around.)”

and:

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/04/north-carolina-official-government-religion/63833/

… which opens:  “Let’s say you’re a state and you want, for some reason, to declare an official government religion. You’d probably recall that such behavior runs a bit afoul of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Leaving you with only one option: Decide that your state gets to interpret the Constitution however it sees fit.”

… adds:  “Yes, the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison clearly settled the issue of the primacy of federal judicial review, but that was decided by the Feds and they don’t have the right, so it doesn’t count. As WRAL notes, this strategy has been tried before to block federal measures that any particular state didn’t like at any particular time. Never, we should point out, successfully.”

… and concludes:  “Anyway, the bill will never ever pass and if it did would quickly be struck down by the federal courts, since they have complete authority to do so. The end.”