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It’s Friday! To celebrate, we got you some kittens — and some top stories from the week.
Happy Friday from MNN!
Princeton Concludes What Kind of Government America Really Has, and It’s Not a Democracy | PolicyMic
The news: A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.
An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.
For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often.
It’s beyond alarming. As Gilens and Page write, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.
That might explain why mandatory background checks on gun sales supported by 83% to 91% of Americans aren’t in place, or why Congress has taken no action on greenhouse gas emissions even when such legislation is supported by the vast majority of citizens.
This problem has been steadily escalating for four decades. While there are some limitations to their data set, economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez constructed income statistics based on IRS data that go back to 1913. They found that the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of us is much bigger than you would think…
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"You call yourself a free spirit, a “wild thing,” and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it’s not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It’s wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself."
Truman Copote, Breakfast at Tiffanys: And Three Stories
November 20, 1969: The Occupation of Alcatraz begins.
On this day in 1969, seventy-nine Native Americans, mostly student protesters, set out in a boat to occupy the San Francisco Bay’s famous island prison at Alcatraz (“the Rock”). In this highly-publicized event, occupiers protested the American government’s policy in dealing with Native Americans, particularly its numerous broken treaties with Native American tribes and its Indian termination policy. The protest was fairly effective in achieving recognition for the latter issue; in 1970, President Nixon delivered to Congress a message in which he criticized termination and instead recommended self-determination, and throughout the 70s, the federal government passed legislation that promoted the sovereignty of Native American tribes. During this period, President Nixon also more than doubled the budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The principal organizer of the occupation was Adam Fortunate Eagle, a half-Chippewa activist; the spokesperson for the Indians of All Tribes organization was part-Sioux, part-Mexican activist John Trudell; another leader was Richard Oakes, a Mohawk Indian who lived with his family on Alcatraz until 1970 and sent this message to the San Francisco Department of the Interior:
We invite the United States to acknowledge the justice of our claim. The choice now lies with the leaders of the American government - to use violence upon us as before to remove us from our Great Spirit’s land, or to institute a real change in its dealing with the American Indian…
We and all other oppressed peoples would welcome spectacle of proof before the world of your title by genocide. Nevertheless, we seek peace.
When the Ohlone and other indigenous peoples inhabited the San Francisco Bay Area, Alcatraz was regarded with suspicion, and it was even used as a place of exile and ostracism. It was abandoned as a federal penitentiary in 1963, and it was subsequently claimed by the 1969 protesters by “right of discovery”, the doctrine used to justify the acquisition of native-held lands by colonial powers (especially in the 19th century). The occupation lasted until 1971, and, for nineteen months, students, married couples, and even children lived on the island, garnering support from even celebrities like Jane Fonda and Marlon Brando. The last protesters left in June of 1971, after electrical power and telephone lines were cut off by the government. The occupation’s stated goal of creating a spiritual and cultural center on the island was never fulfilled, and most of the activists’ demands were never met, but it was influential overall, especially given its direct effect on federal policy toward Native Americans.
Missed the Eclipse?
Don’t worry! Here’s a list of all the total lunar eclipses coming in the next 20 years!
- Oct. 8, 2014
- Apr. 4, 2015
- Sep. 25, 2015
- Jan. 31, 2018
- Jul. 27, 2018
- Jan. 21, 2019
- May 26, 2021
- May 16, 2022
- Nov. 8, 2022
- Mar. 14, 2025
- Sep. 7, 2025
- Mar. 3, 2026
- Dec. 31, 2028
- Jun. 26, 2029
- Dec. 20, 2029
- Apr. 25, 2032
- Oct. 18, 2032
- Apr. 14, 2033
- Oct. 8, 2033
"Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough."