Month: November 2011

2011: A Year in Reflection

As the semester comes to a close, we take a worthwhile look back at some of the major events that have shaped the last 12 months. This year has been an eventful one for the world – major shifts in power and influence took place on every continent. Almost a year ago, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire outside of the provincial offices in Tunisia. He did not live to see the results of the fire he set across the Arab world.  The Arab Spring altered the face of the new Middle East and forced the Obama administration to think critically about its policies in the region. After Bouazizi’s spark, the entire region found its collective voice and began clamoring for real democracy. The protests and fighting have forced three leaders from office. The Palestinian Authority asserted its power in its bid for United Nations recognition this year, creating many stirs in Israel. However, the Spring isn’t over yet. Egypt went to the polls yesterday amidst recent clashes with the police and military. The Saudi Arabian women continue to fight for rights through driving protests. Violence in Syria threatens to drag the country into civil war and the continued protests in Yemen and Kuawit remind us that the Arab Spring is far from over. By the end of December 2011, the second longest war in  U.S. history will end...

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The Battle of the Womb

Symbolically, female fertility and sexuality has been a direct target of some of the most gruesome violence during wars and genocide.  The oppressor’s direct or even subconscious intention is to bar the survival of cultural and social reproduction.  This is apparent in targeted violence towards women that involves brutal rape, some form of mutilation of her sexual organs or, if she is pregnant, mutilation of her unborn fetus.  In addition to this blatant war, there is an ongoing “silent war” targeting female fertility: what I call “reproductive-takeover conspiracy theories”. Reproductive-takeover conspiracy theories occur on two levels.  The first is the individual level.  On this level there is an assumption that high fertility rates are intentional and premeditated by these populations, perpetuating a “blame the victim or culture” mentality.  The second is at the population level, in which nation-states systematically implement policies that call for some form of removal of or restrictions upon a high-fertility-rate population. In an opinion article in Al-Jazeera, Frank Barat states, “To face the ‘demographic threat’ that the Palestinians posed, the Israeli government worked very hard to make certain the law would always be on their side.”  Regardless of one’s politics, it is important to seriously consider what Barat means by “demographic threat” and the law being on Israel’s side. Based upon U.N. fertility numbers, Palestinians make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population. The current...

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Encouraging Voters Even with Paperwork

In a September 17 report on National Public Radio, Kansas’ Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, defended new voter identification laws because they “protect the integrity of our elections and ensure that in those rare cases, elections are not stolen.”  Democrats throughout Kansas (and Texas, which recently passed its own voter ID law) argued that voter fraud is extremely uncommon, and voter ID laws are designed primarily to discourage members of left-leaning racial demographics from getting to the polls on Election Day. Apparently, balancing voter participation and voting security is a partisan issue. Currently in Texas, a prospective voter must provide proof of identity and residence to register to vote, and can do so either by mail or in person up to 30 days before an election. Voters in 2012 will have to register and then present one of six approved forms of photo identification at the polls. Many of these forms of identification will now require proof of citizenship, which is notably different than the previous identity and residence requirements for registration. Also noticeably missing from this list are student identification cards, making it more difficult for college students, a typical Democratic constituency, to vote. With same day registration, voters can provide an approved form of identification on Election Day to register and vote at the same time. The convenience of same day registration typically translates into...

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The Boom Is Over

After the Super Committee’s failure to reach a deal today on managing U.S. debt, I can’t help but wonder: Is this what passes for leadership from my parents’ generation? The Baby Boomers have lived some of the most privileged lives in the history of the world. They created a country unprecedented in its wealth, diversity, equality and hopefulness.  Yet in the moments that Americans look toward their leadership, they falter. Our parents did a wonderful job of raising the millennial generation. According to the Pew Center, my generation is the most educated in U.S. history, we are far more accepting of those who are different from us, and we trust and respect our elders. Despite our parents’ wonderful examples, their parenting and their politicians rarely teach the same lessons.  Looking at what our parents’ generation of leaders has failed to accomplish, I cannot help but question if our trust and respect for our parents’ generation has been misplaced. The Super Committee was founded on the hope that if 12 politicians removed themselves from the greater Congressional zoo, they would create a bipartisan solution to reduce our nation’s debt.  We trusted them to create a plan that overcame the differences that separated Democrats and Republicans to lower the budget deficit. They failed. I feel like a fool for thinking that they might be able to place national interests above their...

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Building the Plane in Mid-Air: Reflections on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for Low-Income Housing in Texas

As the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 effectively came to an end in September of this year, many have begun to take stock of the massive stimulus package.  Much has been said of its positive attributes a la job creation, infrastructure improvement and housing market stability by the administration and its proponents. Those proponents within the administration point to recovery.org where citizens can find out for themselves the fiscal and job-creating impact of the stimulus package.  Others, such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s staff, have criticized the perceived mismanagement of stimulus funds, citing a misrepresentation of data within recovery.org. Still others, myself included, fall somewhere in the middle.  As service providers (specifically, a social service provider in my case), we tended to be initially grateful for the windfall in funding, then soon overwhelmed by the confluent administrative strictures and novel spending guidelines, time-consuming inter-agency collaboration, and complex performance reporting criteria that seemed to change with the days. As one Housing and Urban Development field officer in the Austin area has said of the homelessness prevention stimulus in particular, the process has been much like building the plane in mid-air. Similarly, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Director Tim Irvine stated of the Weatherization Assistance Program stimulus, “When the federal government comes at you unannounced and throws $327 million at you and says, ‘Go create something and...

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