The yes movement hit such heights because the UK state was seen as failed; antiquated, hierarchical, centralist, discriminatory, out of touch and acting against the people. This election will have done nothing to diminish that impression. Against this shabbiness the Scots struck a blow for democracy, with an unprecedented 97% voter registration for an election the establishment wearily declared nobody wanted. It turns out that it was the only one people wanted. Whether this Scottish assertiveness kickstarts an unlikely UK-wide reform (unwanted in most of the English regions); or wearies southerners and precipitates a reaction to get rid of them; or the Scots, through the ballot box at general elections, decide to go the whole hog of their own accord; the old imperialist-based union is bust.
The Scots, so often a regarded as a thrawn tribe with their best years behind them, have shown the western world that the corporate-led, neo-liberal model for the development of this planet, through G7 'sphere of influence' states on bloated military budgets, has a limited appeal.
This country, when it was ever known on the global stage under the union, was associated with tragedy, in terrible events like Lockerbie and Dunblane; it's now synonymous with real people power. Forget Bannockburn or the Scottish Enlightenment, the Scots have just reinvented and re-established the idea of true democracy. This – one more – glorious failure might also, paradoxically, be their finest hour.
Rolling Jubilee is a project of a group of economic activists called Strike Debt, which formed out of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The group timed today's announcement for the third anniversary of that protest. The word "jubilee" refers to a time decreed in the Bible, every 49th year, when all debts were ritually forgiven, and slaves and prisoners freed.
"Some debts are just, and others are unjust," Thomas Gokey, one of Strike Debt's organizers, says, explaining the group's stance. "Providing affordable, publicly financed, world-class education is a moral debt we are failing to pay."
Rolling Jubilee's tactic takes advantage of a peculiar characteristic of modern debt. When people stop paying, debts become delinquent. The original owner, say a bank, eventually writes the debts off and sells them off at bargain-basement prices to third-party collectors.
Rolling Jubilee has managed to step in instead and buy some of this secondary market debt, using donations raised online — in this case, buying student loan debt for less than 3 cents on the dollar. But instead of trying to collect this debt, the group makes it disappear.
Some of the towns in St. Louis County can derive 40 percent or more of their annual revenue from the petty fines and fees collected by their municipal courts. A majority of these fines are for traffic offenses, but they can also include fines for fare-hopping on MetroLink (St. Louis’s light rail system), loud music and other noise ordinance violations, zoning violations for uncut grass or unkempt property, violations of occupancy permit restrictions, trespassing, wearing “saggy pants,” business license violations and vague infractions such as “disturbing the peace” or “affray” that give police officers a great deal of discretion to look for other violations. In a white paper released last month (PDF), the ArchCity Defenders found a large group of people outside the courthouse in Bel-Ridge who had been fined for not subscribing to the town’s only approved garbage collection service. They hadn’t been fined for having trash on their property, only for not paying for the only legal method the town had designated for disposing of trash.
“These aren’t violent criminals,” says Thomas Harvey, another of the three co-founders of ArchCity Defenders. “These are people who make the same mistakes you or I do — speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, forgetting to get your car inspected on time. The difference is that they don’t have the money to pay the fines. Or they have kids, or jobs that don’t allow them to take time off for two or three court appearances. When you can’t pay the fines, you get fined for that, too. And when you can’t get to court, you get an arrest warrant.”
Arrest warrants are also public information. They can be accessed by potential landlords or employers. So they can prevent someone from getting a job, housing, job training, loans or financial aid. “So they just get sucked into this vortex of debt and despair,” Harvey says.
De-escalating militarized policing will also require analysis of how the presence of these weapons and tactics has impacted policing culture. Our analysis shows that the militarization of American policing is evident in the training that police officers receive, which encourages them to adopt a “warrior” mentality and think of the people they are supposed to serve as enemies, as well as in the equipment they use, such as battering rams, flashbang grenades, and APCs. This shift in culture has been buoyed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s weakening of the Fourth Amendment (which protects the right to privacy in one’s home) through a series of decisions that have given the police increased authority to force their way into people’s homes, often in drug cases.