ExCon and the Vote

Ever since the 2000 election in the United States, the fact that in many states ex-convicts are barred from voting, has become somewhat more known. Rarely covered in the mainstream media, the few investigative reports done on the topic of voter fraud in places like Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, revealed that in several cases, people were taken off of voter rolls and labeled as former convicts.

One related issue that even fewer reports or public figures are brave enough to bring forward is the policies in various US states that keep prisoners, parolees, those on probation and those once convicted of the most minor of offenses, from voting. In 10 US states people who have served their sentences and are now out of prison, not on parole or probation, are kept from voting for life. As incarcerated citizens are often stigmatized regardless of their crime or if they’ve already completed their sentence, it would seem the average citizen doesn’t care or see them as deserving of equal rights once they’re back in society. Which translates to very little political pressure to change this policy that so many states have.

On a recent edition of The State We’re In, this was exactly the topic that was explored. Specifically the program looked into how ex-cons feel about not having that right. And, for those who do, what importance they give to having that right. What interested me most was when they briefly touched on studies that have shown that when ex-cons return to society and have their right to vote restored, this can have the effect of making them feel more part of society and responsible for what happens in their community. Click the link above and listen to the segment, a very important question that hardly any people in positions of power are willing to ask.

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The F Word

Remind me to visit the staff of Radio Netherlands and buy everyone at The State We’re In a drink. Week in and week out the crew produces excellent audio programs on topics related to human rights and human wrongs.

In their latest program they hit yet another homerun with a segment that just reached out and grabbed me; forgiveness.

While I was raised in a fairly religious family, I myself don’t have a religion, nor do I want one.  But one of those lessons many religions seem to try to teach people, is the importance of forgiveness.  Throughout the world there are so many terrible conflicts… and when these conflicts end… if they are really to end.. forgiveness seems to me a very essential stage.  Yet after many conflicts you don’t often see that many truth and reconciliation processes.

In their latest program, The State We’re In speaks with someone from the Forgiveness Project, which is all about understanding and inspiring forgiveness. And later in the program they go to a park in South Africa, know as Freedom Park, which is dedicated to the idea of forgiveness; a place where people (victim or perpetrator) can tell their stories and make amends.

I highly recommend you listen to this segment, and the program in general. If there’s one thing the world could use more of, it is forgiveness.

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Yearly Whatever

Lots of things happening in my professional life as well as the social life, as it seems all my good friends in Amsterdam are inviting me places lately. And behind all this, preparations have to be made for my upcoming talk at the Chaos Communications Camp which begins this week. I’m taking my talk extremely seriously this time, as I’m going not to represent myself, but rather to talk about the important work of New Orleans bloggers and grassroots net activists.

As I prepare this I notice lots… no.. excessive blog posting throughout the internet about a conference held by a dominant mainstream American blogger. It sounds like a lovely time, yet at the same time.. yet another conference to talk about how revolutionary they the bloggers are. The truth is, as an offshoot of one of the two corporatist political parties of the US, they are anything BUT revolutionary. More like the voluntary pawns of a political game that gradually moved online, yet the talking points remain the same.

This is what I was thinking about, along with all the other endless distractions and talk about nothing on places like facebook or twitter, as I listened to the latest Amsterdam Forum from radio Netherlands. The focus of the podcast was what the internet has done or not done for society, art, and information. Many of the participants spoke at length of the amount of useless conversation and endless new websites for alleged community building that are popping up all over on the internet. They also talk about book publishing and what will happen to that industry, and of course – the media – as one man goes on and on about the important of gatekeepers… which of course, I don’t agree with. (read the text)

What I like best about the program is that it brings up a very important fact — there’s alot going on with the internet today… but much of it isn’t FOR any particular reason. And why should it be? In my opinion, because there are many more important things that the people of the world are in desperate need of that we might be able to help with if we’d only stop using all the power and innovation for such shallow objectives.

In many ways.. just writing this post adds to the pile.

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Radio NL On Zimbabwe

Much like I do on a daily basis in Amsterdam, this morning I hopped on my bike and rode into town here in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal. And much like I do in Amsterdam, I’m sure to load up my mp3 player with recent podcasts so that I can learn about the state of the world while weaving past crazy drivers… crazy being the operative word for Portuguese drivers.

The one recent podcast that I soaked up today was from the program Amsterdam Forum, focusing on the Zimbabwean crisis. While I’ve spoken about and spend a good amount of time learning about conditions and developments in that country, I still seek more and more explanations to understand not only how this happened but creative and potentially effective solutions. In this program Amsterdam Forum, yet another great production from Radio Netherlands, brings in alot of interesting voices who managed to teach me more and give me even more facts and history regarding why and how Zimbabwe got to where it is. There are even some interesting theories which I had never heard about why Mugabe has allowed the country to slip into such a terrible situation.

To hear the whole thing, and I do highly recommend it, go to the Amsterdam Forum website. You can either read or listen.. me I love to listen.

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