Tuesday Bag o’ Acorns

bag of acornsLet me see if I’ve got this right. First, Republicans in Congress defund ACORN, the community-based organization that works on behalf of low-income families to improve neighborhood safety, help them obtain health care and affordable housing, and, perhaps most important, get registered to vote. ACORN can’t survive without federal funding, so it closes its doors. Then Congress votes to defund ACORN some more, even though it no longer exists, just to make sure it can’t rise from the dead. At the same time, Republican governors and state legislatures begin passing voter ID laws, laws clearly meant to make it harder for poor people, students … and especially black and brown minorities … to vote. Judges overturn some of these laws, the Department of Justice overturns the rest. But then the Supreme Court guts the Voting Rights Act of 1965, suspending the provision that allows DOJ to overturn voting restrictions in the former slave states, and now the last line of defense for voting rights is the courts, where judges rule along party lines.

This’ll sound corny, but we the people can start doing what ACORN used to do, helping low-income and minority citizens get the proper forms of ID they need to vote. As long as we organize without taking federal money, Congress can’t defund us. At least for now, this seems to me the best response to Republican vote-suppression efforts. One North Carolina state senator is doing just that: yesterday she resigned her seat and vowed to work on “a grassroots effort to assure that people have a voter ID and are registered to vote.” She could probably use some help. I hope this becomes a movement. I hope it spreads to other states.

Which brings me to a pitch for national ID. In my opinion we’re way past due for a national ID system, and lack of it is slowing us down as a nation. It would serve as an all-in-one proof of citizenship/proof of age/voter ID/Social Security/Medicare card. If it contained a scannable RFID chip it could be updated with driver license and passport info, and serve those purposes as well. It would also override whatever bullshit forms of ID red states might create in order to keep us from voting.

Some people … libertarians and right-wingers but also many on the left … oppose national ID on the grounds it’ll encroach on individual rights and privacy. Some even think it’ll be the Mark of the Beast foretold in the Book of Revelations. But the fact is we all carry different forms of ID already, some forms issued by the states we live in, some forms issued by the federal government, and government at all levels already encroaches on our individual rights and privacy. I really can’t see how carrying one ID card as opposed to the five or six I currently carry is going to affect my freedom in any way.

Okay, though, if you think national ID means implanting a chip in one of your molars and tattooing 666 across your forehead, here’s a compromise proposal: allow people to opt out of national ID if they want. There. Was that so hard?

Moving on. Our friend Ann, who lives with her husband Ross in Melbourne, Australia, came to town and yesterday I gave her and her dad a private tour of the Pima Air & Space Museum. Here we are with Maverick & Goose:

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I swear I heard the F-14’s IR sensor move. I think it was tracking Ann’s shoes.

Ann’s dad told us some fascinating stories about the old Pan Am Clipper seaplanes that used to fly the transoceanic routes out of New York City and San Francisco, and we had a great morning together. Later that night Donna and I hooked up with some friends to walk through the Old Presidio section of town. Here we are in front of one of the old adobe houses from the time Tucson was part of Mexico:

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Alas, no doggies on this walk … the pavement’s still too hot for their paws.

I was sorry to hear Elmore Leonard died. By all accounts he was well into another novel when he suffered a stroke several days ago … he was working right up to the end. I’m going to re-read some of his early Detroit and Florida crime novels, and try to talk my fellow book club members into reading one together. City Primeval would be a great choice.

While I’m on reading, I may have mentioned that I cross-post my You Can’t Read That! banned book columns to Daily Kos. The most recent one generated an energetic discussion about the use of the word “banned” (check the comments section, and please feel free to jump into the fray). The argument, which comes up all the time, is that I shouldn’t say books are being banned in America. The reasoning runs like this: sure, a school might remove a book from the library or take it off a reading list, but that’s not really a ban because you can still buy the book at Amazon or whatever. And that’s the argument someone made again this time. Here’s my response:

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My response generated more discussion, some of which went downhill, with the original challenger trying to get in the last word by saying “you got nuthin’.” Somewhere in there one of my defenders quoted a dictionary definition of banning which the original challenger didn’t accept … in fact he denied that such a definition was in any dictionary. So I surfed over to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. This is what M-W lists under the word “ban”:

  • To prohibit especially by legal means; also: to prohibit the use, performance, or distribution of

Under examples, M-W lists this:

  • The school banned that book for many years.

As far as I’m concerned, Merriam-Webster confirms my use of the phrase “book banning” to describe what school administrators are engaged in when they pull books from library shelves or English class reading lists. If I had any doubts before, they have now been resolved.

By the way, I’m currently halfway through J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, a book that’s been banned over and over again in this country, a book I last read in high school. Unlike another book I read as a teenager, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, this one holds up. I’ll include a banned book review of Catcher in my next YCRT! post.

© 2013, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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