Posted on December 10th, 2013 by Akim Reinhardt
I initially thought I would not write a piece on Nelson Mandela’s
passing for a very simple reason. South African politics and society are far from my area of expertise, and since Mandela is one of the most famous and important people of the post-WWII world, there are going to be many, many people writing lots and lots of pieces that are much better than anything I could throw together.
But here I am.
So what has driven me to add yet one more grain of sand to the great blog beach of Mandela remembrances? It is a desire to untangle the ironies of his life and death.
Of course most memorials to Mandela are laudatory. And rightly so. His contributions to South Africa specifically, and to the world more broadly, are simply undeniable.
But there have also been more critical observations, and also rightly so. No person is perfect, and we should never transform a human being into a sacred cow immune from just criticism.
But what I find interesting is how he is criticized by extremists on both sides. Read more »
Filed under: In Memoriam | 2 Comments »
Posted on December 9th, 2013 by Akim Reinhardt
Posted on December 4th, 2013 by Akim Reinhardt
I kinda like mice. If they didn’t chew the wiring and shit all over the place, I’d probably let ‘em stay.
There’s a lot to like about them. They’re undeniably cute. They’re surprisingly smart. And they’re admirably sociable, working together efficiently and bonding in ways that many humans could do well to learn from. Mice have a certain charm. A furry je ne sais quois. I always felt that dolt Mickey portrayed them in a poor light.
But, ya know, at the end of the day they gotta go. Hit the bricks Charlie, I gave at the office.
I had a serious mouse infestation a few years back. The basement was crawling with them, literally. Mouse poop in the skillet, the whole nine yards. Turns out they were probably attracted to the fancy cat litter I’d been using, which was made out of wheat. Not my smartest move ever.
I don’t eat meat for a variety of reasons, one being that I don’t want to partake, even indirectly, in the killing of other mammals. So I wasn’t about to lay down any of those nasty glue traps or spread poison around the house, especially since I had a cat.
Oh yeah, the cat. That should’ve taken care of it, right? Not so fast.
As in, my cat wasn’t so fast. Read more »
Filed under: Communities, Culture, Society | 5 Comments »
Posted on December 2nd, 2013 by Akim Reinhardt
Posted on November 26th, 2013 by Akim Reinhardt
Some people host Thanksgiving, drawing loved ones to their home. Others eschew traveling to family affairs, and instead congregate with friends at local, low stress gatherings. But most are among the millions who plod near and far to spend it with their ragged clan. For them, I offer some tips on how to make the most of it and avoid the worst of it.
1. Stand near the deviled egg plate. Like most every other human on the planet, you love them more than you care to admit. If you try to play it cool, they’ll be gone before you know it. And then you’ll cry. Don’t cry on Thanksgiving because you missed out on the deviled eggs. Just scarf them up til your heart’s content. Or until its cholesterol level maxes out. Read more »
Filed under: Culture, Holiday History | 6 Comments »
Posted on November 25th, 2013 by Akim Reinhardt
Posted on November 21st, 2013 by Akim Reinhardt
This is Part III of a three-part essay examining the history, causes, and possible responses to the dominant two-party system in American politics. It originally appeared at 3 Quarks Daily
Despite spirited challenges from the People’s Party and the Progressive party during the turn of the 20th century, the American political duopoly has continued unabated. Duverger’s Law, which says that electoral systems like ours lead to a two-party domination, has held true in America.
The many advantages available to established major parties have helped preserve the political duopoly, and the two parties have been very active in taking steps to maintain their joint control. For example, 42 of the 50 states have legally banned a vital tactic once available to third parties: electoral fusion.
Electoral fusion is the practice of smaller parties uniting with each other on an electoral ticket, or perhaps even uniting with a major party that needs help winning an election. Fusion parties will nominate the same candidate, so a vote for either party is a vote for both. This allows smaller parties subvert Duverger’s Law by combining forces, or by riding a larger party’s coattails. But this approach has long been illegal is most states, and in 1996 the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of such bans, thereby further crippling smaller parties.
Lacking a parliamentary system, and painted into a corner by the major parties, it is very difficult for smaller parties in America to gain representation in legislative bodies. Read more »
Filed under: American History, Politics | No Comments »
Posted on November 20th, 2013 by Akim Reinhardt
This is Part II of a three-part essay examining the history, causes, and possible responses to the dominant two-party system in American politics. It originally appeared at 3 Quarks Daily.
Since the the modern two-party system became the axis of American politics during the 1830s, there have been several attempts at creating a viable third party. The most successful effort came in the 1890s with the rise of the People’s Party, better known as the Populist Party.
Formed around farmers in the South and Midwest who, in a variety of ways, were deeply troubled by the rise of capitalism, Populists focused on issues of debt, currency reform, and the strict regulation of big business, up to and including the proposed government seizure of corporate land for redistribution to the public, government-owned alternatives to private banking, and even government-run monopolies on vital industries such as communications.
That’s right. Several generations ago, many of the people in what are today the reddest, most Republican, free-market, Tea Partying parts of the United States, actually advocated socialistic reforms to combat the consolidating effects, crushing debt, and boom-bust cycle of capitalism. They even championed a constitutional amendment to allow for the introduction of a national income tax. Read more »
Filed under: American History, Politics | No Comments »
Posted on November 19th, 2013 by Akim Reinhardt
This is Part I of a three-part essay examining the history, causes, and possible responses to the dominant two-party system in American politics. It originally appeared at 3 Quarks Daily.
The old adage is that in a democracy, we get the government we deserve. You know. That we have choices, and we make them. But I wonder: really, how much choice actually is there? When there’s only one vending machine, and it only offers Coke and Pepsi products, how exactly do I choose milk?
Why is it that in this supposedly healthy democracy, no third party candidate has ever won the presidency, or even come close? Why have only a handful of third party candidates ever been elected to the U.S. Senate? Why, in an era when Congressional approval ratings are in single digits and disapproval ratings are a staggering 85%, do the two major parties continue to hold a monopoly on membership? And why do the two major parties thoroughly dominate every state and local government in the nation to the point that many the former and most of the latter are one-party parodies of a real democracy?
It’s no mystery why the United States has been in the iron grip of a political duopoly for the last 175 years, or even longer, depending on when you pinpoint the emergence of modern political parties. Political scientists refer to this phenomenon as Duverger’s Law. Read more »
Filed under: American History, Politics | 3 Comments »
Posted on November 18th, 2013 by Akim Reinhardt