Of Queens, Kings, and Inherited Destiny

Koningin_Beatrix_in_Vries Kings, queens, princes and especially princesses are subjects of eternal fascination.  From fairy tales to the Sissi movies to glossy royalty magazines, we can’t seem to get enough of royalty. And as Amsterdam is getting ready for Queen Beatrix’s abdication and the investiture of King Willem-Alexander, I feel some pangs of regret about not being around other Dutch people during this last Queen’s Day. This sentiment took me by surprise: Not only have I never attended a Queen’s Day party since I moved to the United States, but I am also not a monarchist.

My objections to the Dutch monarchy stem in no small part from the undemocratic nature of an unelected head of state. The notion that my fellow Dutch citizens and I are “subjects” of our queen or king seems not only outdated, but also fundamentally at odds with self-government. Even those who defend the monarchy tend to emphasize its ceremonial character–which, ironically, makes it harder to justify the significant expenses associated with the institution.

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Today’s Most Important Assignment

About a month ago, Anna Kloeden raised thought-provoking questions about how a compulsory voting system might affect the candidates’ substantive positions as well as the ways in which campaigns are conducted. Her post made me wonder what is known about nonvoters. How numerous are they? Where are they on the political spectrum? What are the reasons they don’t vote?

According to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, 64% of voting-age citizens voted in the 2008 presidential elections, and 71% were registered to vote. The report notes significant variations in voting turn-out depending on race / origin (non-Hispanic blacks and whites had significantly higher voting rates than Asians and Hispanics), age (voting rates increased with age), and education level (higher education levels corresponded with higher voting rates). Nonvoters are not without opinions. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center suggests that non-voting hurts the Democrats: nonvoters overwhelmingly favor Obama (59%) over Romney (24%), and the Democrats (52%) over the Republican Party (27%). Nonvoters express stronger support for a more active government and for the 2010 health care law. As for foreign policy issues, withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan finds significantly more support under nonvoters than under likely voters. Nonvoters are less supportive of an aggressive stance toward Iran because of its nuclear program.

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Hurricane Sandy, What You and I Can Do, and the “Invisible” America

Update (11/5) — The following address is preferable for Councilman Sanders: 234-26 Merrick Blvd., Laurelton, NY 11422.  Another option is to send supplies using a wedding registry (!) set up by the resourceful folks at Occupy Sandy. Much like the local station set up by Councilman Sanders, this off-shoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement appears to be out-performing FEMA and the Red Cross at this time.

When I returned to Milwaukee from New York City on Thursday evening, it was clear that the devastation left behind by hurricane Sandy was tremendous. But it is only in the past two days that I have gotten a glimpse of the extent of the continuing crisis, as news reports about the hardest-hit parts of the city start getting out (e.g., here and here). In addition, I received several eyewitness reports on Facebook from friends who decided to take action and do whatever they can to offer practical help. Before I get to those, I want to proactively address a question a situation like this often raises: “What can I do to help those who are in a crisis situation as effectively as possible?” Here’s what my friends recommend:

Order basic supplies on amazon, drugstore.com, or a similar online store, and have them delivered to the following address (if possible using the fastest delivery option): Councilman James Sanders, Jr., c/o Rockaway Revival Center, 1526 Central Ave., Far Rockaway, NY 11691 (718-614-8866).

Here’s what the hurricane victims need most:

  • Blankets
  • Non-perishable, processed food (something like this)
  • Bottled water
  • Warm clothes, socks, underwear
  • Diapers, formula (preferably of a type that doesn’t require water) and other baby needs
  • Wipes

David Bernard, who went out to Far Rockaway yesterday, wrote the following about Councilman Sanders: “His shelter not only disburses the goods to these people, but he also has contacts in the local neighborhoods. We were able to help these people directly.”  

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