Thursday, August 21, 2008

Is gun control really about race?

I doubt you'll hear the Illinois State Rifle Association raising these arguments in public, but this column by author Kristian Williams and activist Peter Little takes a look at the historical racial undertones of the gun control debate in America.

Talking About Guns, Fighting About Race is an eye-opener:
Truth is, there has always been gun control in America. Starting in the colonial period and continuing after the American Revolution, laws excluded specific people from gun ownership — slaves, free blacks, Indians, poor whites, non-Protestants and even some heterodox Protestant sects.

During the same period, militias — which never performed particularly well in military engagements — were chiefly responsible for putting down insurrections. And in the South, they were responsible for organizing slave patrols to police the black population.

After the Civil War, Southern states sought to preserve this tradition by instituting “black codes” that barred blacks from owning guns, land or businesses. At the same time, terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan continued the work of the slave patrols, using violence to restrict blacks’ travel, suppress their political activity and disarm them.

And more recently...

In Watson v. Stone (1941), the Florida Supreme Court overturned the gun conviction of a white man. Justice Rivers Buford wrote in his concurring opinion: “The Act was passed for the purpose of disarming negro laborers. … [It] was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied.”

A quarter century later, in 1967, California passed its Panther Law, with the specific aim of ending the Black Panthers’ armed patrols against police brutality.

White supremacy has refined its presentation since the civil rights period, relying increasingly on nominally colorblind laws. Yet many gun regulations — bans on guns in housing projects and laws that take the cheapest pistols off the market, for example — have continued to disproportionately affect people of color.


Many liberals trust the state to respect the rights of individuals and to protect them against crime and disorder. They see no role for private gun ownership under the rule of law.

Many conservatives retain some suspicion of government regulation and don’t believe the state capable of protecting decent law-abiding people. They see gun ownership both as an emblem of citizenship and as a protection against those they view as criminals — historically, blacks and, at present, immigrants.

The disagreement is over who should have guns.

The point of agreement is over who shouldn’t.

As presently construed, both the gun-control and the gun-rights arguments — that is, both the liberal and the conservative positions — represent the defense of white supremacy.

Like I said, you won't hear the Illinois State Rifle Association making this argument. But logically I have to concede that if a white man has a constitutional right to protect his family and his home, so does a black man, even if he was convicted of some unrelated crime. Especially if that crime neither involved a gun nor was violent.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Is Google the new Wal-Mart?

I’m naturally suspicious of any corporation that claims to be looking out for our best interests. Maybe that’s part of my Democratic DNA, maybe it just comes with being old enough to remember the 80’s.

So Google’s corporate motto, “Do No Evil,” raised particular suspicion with me. But you don’t see a lot of bloggers writing about Google, in part because many are gullible enough to buy into the notion that Google is an internet-age deity.

For some reason, the mainstream media hasn’t written much about them either, which is a little surprising, since Google is pretty much single-handedly putting newspapers out-of-business by sucking up all of the advertising dollars.

The San Francisco Chronicle has finally broken the silence, highlighting Congressional hearings over Google’s efforts to corner the market for online advertising, just as Wal-Mart began cornering the retail market in the 80’s:

The devil's best trick is to persuade us that he doesn't exist, but Google only has to convince us that it's not evil. Nearing an agreement with Yahoo to grab the ailing company's search business, Google scripted a series of dramatic public events apparently designed to distract from the pending deal. These events emphasize network neutrality, an ever-changing regulatory ideal that Google thrust into the political spotlight two years ago. As entertaining as this spectacle is, regulators should not be fooled. They should apply traditional anti-monopoly standards, blocking the Google-Yahoo deal.

Despite its carefully crafted public image as a naive and squeaky-clean innovator, Google is a public corporation managed by professionals, some of them longtime friends of Washington power brokers and fully capable of understanding the problems the Google-Yahoo deal poses.

Google’s corporate do-gooder cloak and talk about net neutrality reminded me an awful lot of Wal-Mart’s short-lived “Buy American” campaign and talk about how they were fighting for small town America buy creating jobs. All while they were gearing up to become the largest importer from China and using their insider connections to win huge tax subsidies and put Main Street America out of business.

Was there a pattern here? Yep.

Always Politics-as-Usual. Always.

Created in late 2006, Google’s GoogleNETPAC has funneled more than $200,000 into federal campaigns, and still has more than $100,000 cash-on-hand.

Okay, everyone’s entitled to have their voice heard and support candidates of their choice.

But Google’s also engaging in old-school corporate politics, funneling money into both sides of the fight:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: $5,000

House Republican Leader John Boehner: $5,000

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: $5,000

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell: $3,000

And if that’s not enough to convince you, Check out GoogleNETPAC’s contributions to members of the Senate Commerce Committee, who met on July 9th to hold subject-matter hearings on Google’s pending monopoly:

Democrats: $12,500
Republicans: $11,500

D Boxer $ 2,500

D Dorgan $ 2,000

D Inouye $ 2,500

D Lautenberg $ 1,000

D Nelson $ 2,500

D Pryor $ 2,000

R Smith $ 5,000

R Snowe $ 1,500

R Sununu $ 5,000

And over on the House side, Google has done a fine job of fueling the fire on both sides of the aisle, supporting both sides of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce and its Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet:

D - Chair Dingell $ 5,000

R – Ranking GOP Barton $ 2,500

D – SubChair Markey $ 2,500

R - Sub Ranking GOP Stearns $ 1,500

D - SubC Boucher $ 3,500

R - SubC Upton $ 1,000

D - SubC Eshoo $ 5,000

R - SubC Walden $ 1,000

Just a coincidence that ALL of Google's contributions to the committee either went to members of the Subcommittee that directly oversee them, or the chair and minority leader of the committee? Definitely not.

Footnote for a Brave New World:

I was talking to a friend last night to get her thoughts about Google, and she told me this story:

I was e-mailing my mom about the earthquake we had awhile back. I told her that when I woke up and found my walls shaking, at first I thought it was my neighbors having really loud sex. Suddenly a Google Ad popped up: “Noisy neighbors? We can meet your home insulation needs…”

Google may be something far worse than the next Wal-Mart. I think I'll disable my cookies today.