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The U.S. Needs a New Constitution—Here's How to Write It - The Atlantic
"Almost nobody uses the U.S. Constitution as a model—not even Americans. When 24 military officers and civilians were given a single week to craft a constitution for occupied Japan in 1946, they turned to England. The Westminster-style parliament they installed in Tokyo, like its British forebear, has two houses. But unlike Congress, one is clearly more powerful than the other and can override the less powerful one during an impasse.

The story was largely the same in defeated Nazi Germany, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, which all emerged from American occupation with constitutions that look little like the one Madison and the other framers wrote. They have the same democratic values, sure, but different ways of realizing them. According to researchers who analyzed all 729 constitutions adopted between 1946 and 2006, the U.S. Constitution is rarely used as a model. What's more, "the American example is being rejected to an even greater extent by America's allies than by the global community at large," write David Law of Washington University and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia.

That's a not a fluke. The American system was designed with plenty of checks and balances, but the Founders assumed the elites elected to Congress would sort things out. They didn't plan for the political parties that emerged almost immediately after ratification, and they certainly didn't plan for Ted Cruz. And factionalism isn't the only problem. Belgium, a country whose ethnic divisions make our partisan sparring look like a thumb war, was unable to form a governing coalition for 589 days in 2010 and 2011. Nevertheless, the government stayed open and fulfilled its duties almost without interruption, thanks to a smarter institutional arrangement.

As the famed Spanish political scientist Juan Linz wrote in an influential 1990 essay, dysfunction, trending toward constitutional breakdown, is baked into our DNA. Any system that gives equally strong claims of democratic legitimacy to both the legislature and the president, while also allowing each to be controlled by people with fundamentally different agendas, is doomed to fail. America has muddled through thus far by compromise, but what happens when the sides no longer wish to compromise? "No democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and the legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people," Linz wrote.

There are about 30 countries, mostly in Latin America, that have adopted American-style systems. All of them, without exception, have succumbed to the Linzian nightmare at one time or another, often repeatedly," according to Yale constitutional law professor Bruce Ackerman, who calls for a transition to a parliamentary system. By "Linzian nightmare," Ackerman means constitutional crisis—your full range of political violence, revolution, coup, and worse. But well short of war, you can end up in a state of "crisis governance," he writes. "President and house may merely indulge a taste for endless backbiting, mutual recrimination, and partisan deadlock. Worse yet, the contending powers may use the constitutional tools at their disposal to make life miserable for each other: The house will harass the executive, and the president will engage in unilateral action whenever he can get away with it." He wrote that almost a decade and a half ago, long before anyone had heard of Barack Obama, let alone the Tea Party.

You can blame today's actors all you want, but they're just the product of the system, and honestly it's a wonder we've survived this long: The presidential election of 1800, a nasty campaign of smears and hyper-partisan attacks just a decade after ratification, caused a deadlock in the House over whether John Adams or Thomas Jefferson should be president. The impasse grew so tense that state militias opposed to Adams's Federalist Party prepared to march on Washington before lawmakers finally elected Jefferson on the 36th vote in the House. It's a near miracle we haven't seen more partisan violence, but it seems like tempting fate to stick with the status quo for much longer.

How would a parliamentary system handle a shutdown? It wouldn't have one. In Canada a few years ago, around the same time Washington was gripped in yet another debt-ceiling crisis, a budget impasse in Ottawa led to new elections, where the parties fought to win over voters to their fiscal plan. One side won, then enacted its plan—problem solved. Most parliamentary systems, which unify the executive and legislative branches, have this sort of fail-safe mechanism. If a budget or other must-pass bill can't get passed, or a prime minister can't be chosen, then funding levels are placed on autopilot and new elections are called to resolve things. The people decide.

Arend Lijphart is a political scientist who has spent much of his career trying to answer the fundamental question, "What works best?" and he thinks he knows the answer. "Democracies work best if they are consensus instead of majoritarian democracies. The most important constitutional provisions that help in this direction is to have a parliamentary system and elections by [proportional representation]. The U.S. is the opposite system, with a presidential system and plurality single-member-district elections," he said an email, drawing on complex quantitative analysis he's done to compare economic and political outcomes across dozens of democratic countries with different systems.

If he had to pick any country whose system we might like to try on for size, he'd pick Germany. "Some aspects of it do need to change, of course," he says. Yet it's a nice bicameral federal system for a large country, like ours, but it has a proportional representation parliamentary system."


"America is the only presidentialist system (I.e. a separately elected legislature and executive) that hasn't lapsed into dictatorship.

Literally every single other presidentialist system in the world has failed.

It's only a matter of time before ours fails as well."
us  constitution  government  2013  alexseitz-ald  presidency  latinamerica  bruceackerman  parliamentarysystem  politics  governance  authoritarianism  constitutionalcrisis  barackobama  teaparty  canada  consensus  juanlinz  democracy 
22 days ago by robertogreco
Brazil’s Bolsonaro Completes a U.S. Sweep of South America - Bloomberg
Bolsonaro’s election also further solidifies the turn to the right throughout the region. With the exception of Mexico, which often moves orthogonally to its neighbors, most nations are moving to the right. Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru — the strongest economies in South America — have all elected conservative presidents in the last three years. Even Bolivia and Ecuador have shifted somewhat to the right. While Cuba and Venezuela have remained in the leftist camp (so long as Nicolas Maduro can cling to power in Venezuela), the Brazil election alone moves 200 million of the 500 million in Latin America into the rightist camp. It’s a huge move — and one that will be looked on very favorably by the Donald Trump administration. Trump will find a close ally and indeed an acolyte in Bolsonaro, and currently strained relations between the nations will warm considerably. 
latinamerica  bloomberg 
5 weeks ago by HispanicPundit
Anarchism in Latin America
"Ángel Cappelletti (1927-1995) was an Argentine philosopher who spent much of his career teaching at Simón Bolívar University in Venezuela. He also translated numerous works from Greek and Latin, and wrote over two dozen books, primarily on philosophy and anarchism. One of his later books is the classic survey Anarchism in Latin America, now available in English.

“Progressives have long looked to Latin America for models of resistance and alternative political structures. However, we tend to see these models in a Marxist light. Anarchism in Latin America provides an important corrective, recounting the anarchist historical roots of some of the most important movements of our time.” —Todd May, author of A Fragile Life: Accepting Our Vulnerability

“For the first time, English-language audiences have access to Ángel Cappelletti’s Anarchism in Latin America, one of the historiographical cornerstones of Latin American anarchism. While the study of anarchism has exploded since Cappelletti originally published his work in 1990, his book remains an invaluable introduction to the hemispheric history of anarchism in Latin America. Gabriel Palmer-Fernández’s clear, skilled, and lucid translation includes an insightful introduction by modern scholar-activists that updates Cappelletti by expanding our understanding of how anarchists have dealt with feminist, environmental, and indigenous issues. This is a welcomed and timely book as anarchist ideas and movements once again surge throughout the Americas.” —Kirwin Shaffer, author of Black Flag Boricuas: Anarchism, Antiauthoritarianism, and the Left in Puerto Rico, 1897–1921"
latinamerica  books  ángelcappelletti  anarchism  politics  progressive  progressivism 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Map of indigenous land
Learned of this map via Mashable post: - according to which: "The map was created by Victor G. Temprano, a Canadian who was "born in traditional Katzie territory and raised in the Okanagan" and who began work on the project in 2015. It currently covers the USA, Canada, much of Mexico, Australia, South Africa, and expanding amounts of territory in South America."
maps  aboriginal  Canada  USA  LatinAmerica  Australia  Africa 
8 weeks ago by kmo
Fonografia Collective
[via: ]

"Fonografia Collective believes in empathetic and culturally-sensitive documentary storytelling about everyday people around the world. We find and craft compelling stories about human rights, politics, the environment, and social issues (or any combination thereof) and share them with the general public using radio, oral histories, photography, the printed word, multimedia, public installations, gatherings and events.

Since 2005, we've been working together to advance our vision of a more inclusive and diverse approach to nonfiction storytelling, focusing on communities across the U.S. and Latin America that are often underrepresented or misunderstood by the mainstream media or the public. As consultants with a variety of institutions, nonprofits, and individuals, we strive to do the same. We also run Story Tellers, a social media platform connecting storytellers from around the world to gigs, funding, collaboration opportunities, and to one another.

We are producers and board members of Homelands Productions, a 25 year-old independent documentary journalism cooperative. Until Spring 2017, we collaborated with public radio station KCRW on a year-long multimedia storytelling series about aging called "Going Gray in LA." At present, we are developing a storytelling project about the Bowtie in conjunction with Clockshop, an arts organization in Los Angeles, and California State Parks.



Ruxandra Guidi has been telling nonfiction stories for almost two decades. Her reporting for public radio, magazines, and various multimedia and multidisciplinary outlets has taken her throughout the United States, the Caribbean, South and Central America, as well as Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border region.

After earning a Master’s degree in journalism from U.C. Berkeley in 2002, she assisted independent producers The Kitchen Sisters; then worked as a reporter, editor, and producer for NPR's Latino USA, the BBC daily news program, The World, the CPB-funded Fronteras Desk in San Diego-Tijuana, and KPCC Public Radio's Immigration and Emerging Communities beat in Los Angeles. She's also worked extensively throughout South America, having been a freelance foreign correspondent based in Bolivia (2007-2009) and in Ecuador (2014-2016). Currently, she is the president of the board of Homelands Productions, a journalism nonprofit cooperative founded in 1989. She is a contributing editor for the 48 year-old nonprofit magazine High Country News, and she also consults regularly as a writer, editor, translator and teacher for a variety of clients in the U.S. and Latin America. In 2018, she was awarded the Susan Tifft Fellowship for women in documentary and journalism by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Throughout her career, Guidi has collaborated extensively and across different media to produce in-depth magazine features, essays, and radio documentaries for the BBC World Service, BBC Mundo, The World, National Public Radio, Marketplace, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Orion Magazine, The Walrus Magazine, Guernica Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic NewsWatch, The New York Times, The Guardian, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Atlantic, among others. She’s a native of Caracas, Venezuela.


Bear Guerra is a photographer whose work explores the human impact of globalization, development, and social and environmental justice issues in communities typically underrepresented in the media.

In addition to editorial assignments, he is consistently working on long-term projects, and collaborates with media, non-profit, and arts organizations, as well as other insititutions. His photo essays and images have been published and exhibited widely, both in the United States and abroad.

He was a Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism for the 2013-2014 academic year at the University of Colorado - Boulder; a 2014 Mongabay Special Reporting Initiative Fellow; as well as a 2014 International Reporting Project Health and Development Reporting Fellow. In 2012, he was chosen as a Blue Earth Alliance project photographer for his ongoing project "La Carretera: Life Along Peru's Interoceanic Highway". Other recognitions have included being selected for publication in American Photography (2005, 2015, 2016) and Latin American Fotografía (2014, 2016, 2017); an honorable mention in the 2012 Photocrati Fund competition for the same project. Bear has also been a finalist for a National Magazine Award in Photojournalism (2010).

A native of San Antonio, TX, Bear is currently based in Los Angeles.

For more information, a CV, or to order exhibition quality prints please contact Bear directly.

Editorial clients/publications (partial list): The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Le Monde, The Atlantic, Orion Magazine, The Boston Globe Magazine, Virginia Quarterly Review, OnEarth, ProPublica, National Public Radio, BBC's The World, California Watch, High Country News, Quiet Pictures, Texas Monthly,, Earth Island Journal, O Magazine, Glamour, Ms. Magazine, NACLA Magazine, Yes! Magazine, SEED Magazine, The Sun, The Walrus, Guernica, and others.

Nonprofit/NGO clients & other collaborators: International Rescue Committee, Doctors Without Borders, Lambi Fund of Haiti, Children's Environmental Health Institute, Community Water Center, Environmental Water Caucus, Collective Roots, Other Worlds Are Possible, Immigration Justice Project/American Bar Association, Fundacion Nueva Cultura del Agua (Spain), Chinatown Community for Equitable Development, St. Barnabas Senior Services, Jumpstart, Global Oneness Project, Quiet Pictures."
bearguerra  ruxandraguidi  radio  photography  audio  storytelling  everyday  documentary  humanrights  politics  environment  society  socialissues  print  multimedia  oralhistory  art  installation  gatherings  events  inclusion  inclusivity  diversity  nonfiction  latinamerica  us  media  losangeles  kcrw  fronterasdesk  sandiego  tijuana  kpcc  globalization  sanantonio  fonografiacollective  srg  photojournalism 
september 2018 by robertogreco
The Literary Canon Is Mostly White. Here's an Alternative Latin American Reading List
[interesting, I’ve read all or parts of six of these, I should make my own list to compare]
readinglists  latinamerica  literature  books  culture  2018 
august 2018 by robertogreco

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