government

Contraception & Sex Education

Though adolescent fertility rates have declined in the United States as well as nearly all western countries, the US rate is notably higher than most other western countries.  These changes are not due to how early and how frequently teenagers have sex.  Instead studies show contraception use and sex education have a significantly greater impact.

Unlike some other countries, the United States currently requires women to have an exam and receive a prescription before going to a pharmacy to get birth control pills.  In addition, conservative politicians and companies have pushed to not require coverage of contraception, with some arguing it will entice sexual activity.  Amy Schumer has parodied this process here as well as the following clip.

As to sex education, it is inconsistently offered and when available parents are able to opt out.

Poverty and Worthiness

Rooted in our ideas of the American dream and meritocracy, we often judge poor people as deserving their fates.  We tend to blame the individuals, stigmatizing them as lazy and gluttonous, instead of looking to structural factors.  The poor are disproportionately young, female, and African American and Hispanic.

On The Daily Show in 2014, Jon Stewart examined Fox News’s coverage of food stamp recipients.  In “What Not to Buy,” “Where Would Jesus Soil,” and “Fox News Welfare Academy” Fox News is critiqued for debating what can and should be covered, as well as who receives food stamps.

More recently on Full Frontal, Samantha Bee similarly examined the expense and subsidizing of diapers.

Hurricane Bureaucracy

We have a lot of negative associations with bureaucracies. They can be alienating, impersonal, and dehumanizing for both workers and those being served by the bureaucracy.  For being ‘rational,’ they can be quite inefficient, with ‘red tape’ and limited effectiveness when flexibility is needed.  Bureaucratic ritualism is when there is such a focus on the rules and regulations to the point of undermining goals and loosing sight of the larger picture.  There can also be a problem of a self perpetuating oligarchy, or the rule of many by few, concentrating power and weakening accountability.      

All of these problems can be seen in the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  From local individuals and the Canadian government responding faster than the United States, to the neighboring parish (Louisiana has instead of counties) refusing admittance from New Orleans, there was a bureaucratic breakdown in government.  When trained people from other areas tried to volunteer to help, FEMA had them hand out pamphlets and fliers.

Though it is worth watching in its entirety (parts I&II, parts III & IV), Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Parts explores the problems between state and federal government bureaucracies from 1:19:02 to 1:42:18.

Halal Certification

This clip from The Weekly addresses the islamophobia driving the controversy over Vegemite being certified halal in Australia.  Being certified halal means no changes to the product itself, only that the product would be open to a larger market.  But Australian Conservative senator Cory Bernardi has started a senate inquiry, claiming that making Vegemite halal might fund terrorism and lead to higher prices, both of which are untrue.