flwyd: (McCain Palin Abe Maude Simpsons)
Today's Conference on World Affairs Howard Higman Memorial Plenary was by former South Carolina congressman Robert Inglis, who is now the executive director of republicEn.org, a site and nonprofit organization run by conservatives concerned about climate change focused on swaying other conservatives about the issue. The talk was entitled "How Free Enterprise Can Solve Climate Change" (video here) but it wasn't so much an economics presentation as a discussion about what it would take to convince conservatives (and particularly conservative U.S. politicians) to implement a carbon tax. In particular, he argued that for the right wing to buy in, it needs to be a revenue-neutral, border-adjusted carbon tax.

Revenue-neutral means the money earned by the tax needs to be offset by cutting taxes somewhere else. The plan needs to be revenue-neutral because you can't get the Republican party to agree to a carbon tax which will also increase the size of government.

Border-adjusted means that an import tax on carbon would be imposed if the goods came from a country which didn't tax carbon at the source of production. The border adjustment is important because it would let individual countries set up taxes on their own (without requiring worldwide coordinated government action), but would make American-made goods which paid the carbon tax (or were developed with cleaner technology) competitive with foreign-made goods from countries which use cheap but dirty production methods.

The focus wasn't so much on the mechanics of how such a scheme might be implemented, but rather on how climate change believers might effect action on the issue through a congress whose position over the last two decades has ranged from skeptical to hostile. Speaking to a Boulder audience dominated by folks on the left, Inglis talked about how to frame the conversation in terms that a conservative (like your uncle Charlie at the holidays) can support. Inglis's own history went from opposing climate change legislation based on no knowledge except that Al Gore supported it (mid-90s) to introducing a bill which would tax carbon and cut payroll tax (2009). The bill died, and he was thanked for his efforts by being defeated by the Tea Party in the 2010 primaries.

Inglis's biggest topic of framing was on tax. A plan that sets out to make things like manufacturing and driving more expensive is on shaky ground with Republicans already; if it sends more money to Washington, they'll stop listening. He wasn't especially particular about the way in which taxes were reduced, though he called out a corporate income tax reduction as a particularly attractive option for swaying Republican lawmakers. He said that many liberals seemed unwilling to reduce corporate income tax in exchange for a carbon tax and he questioned how much those liberals were truly convinced that climate change was the most important issue of the generation. (One could play the same trick on any number of issues: offer to cut income tax but make it revenue-neutral by imposing a tax on firearms and ammunition and see how committed conservatives are to income tax reduction.)

Of the revenue-neutral schemes Inglis mentioned: payroll tax, income tax, or a dividend, I think the latter is best-suited to balance a carbon tax. If the dividend were distributed equally to all American citizens, it would be a much more progressive tax benefit than cutting the corporate rate. Furthermore, an annual cash payment to everyone, even if they are currently unemployed and thus not paying much payroll tax, would help people cover the costs of increased energy bills, buy a more energy-efficient car, move away from rising sea levels, or otherwise cope with the new world of climate change.

I asked Inglis about the details of border-adjustment and whether it would account for non-tax incentives which lower the price of carbon production like foreign aid to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela or governmental policies by a country like China which provide polluting industries with benefits like unrestricted access to land or other perks. Inglis wasn't concerned with internalizing all externalities, and he also said the import duty would be based on the carbon content of an American-equivalent product, meaning that as American production becomes less-polluting, carbon-derived imports will get cheaper. I'll let the economists hammer out the details on this front, though.

I think Inglis's most important focus isn't on the policy specifics, but on reaching out to Republicans and conservatives as one of their own. He (and the folks republicEn can gather to their rallying call) can speak the free enterprise orthodoxy lingo that progressives aren't as fluent in and he can appeal to them from heart-felt religious conviction grounds upon which even religious liberals, let alone secular scientists, don't stand. (This isn't to say that religious liberals don't have religious conviction, but that their dogma has evolved so significantly from conservative religious dogma that attempts at convergence mostly end in a lot of barking.)

Unfortunately, the opportunities for reasonable and rational engagement across ideological lines seems to be shrinking faster than polar ice caps. In the past, the stereotypical conservative uncle Charlie and liberal niece Linda listened to similar news sources and spent time with overlapping sets of people and so could converse with a shared view of consensus reality. Today's media (broadcast and social) is so specialized that it seems difficult for folks on either side of the spectrum to agree on terminology and facts, let alone discuss a policy approach with a cool head. And it seems like at a holiday gathering that Linda's mostly on defense in response to Charlie's rants about gays or immigrants or guns tough to even start a conversation about sea level rise and crop failure. If instead of a holiday, Linda tries to start the conversation on Facebook, it's easy for Charlie to glance at the subject and skip right over it, avoiding discomfort and hitting the Like button on an inspirational message in a colorful font. Meanwhile, broadcasters and publishers can get more advertising eyeballs if they present the "opposing" side as other or untouchable, which puts politicians interested in collaboration in danger of being scorned by their in-group.

Climate change is a global problem and it needs pan-ideological work to address it. Unfortunately, building a coalition ain't what it used to be.
flwyd: (carmen sandiego)
What ISIS Wants, well-written piece by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic argues that, despite Obama's well-intentioned statement that the Islamic State is neither, ISIS/ISIL is quite Islamic in a very literalist way. Similarly, one wouldn't reasonably claim that the Spanish Inquisition was non-Christian, even though its doctrine was far from the present majority position.

Wood explains the Koranic ties to many of the group's actions and elements of propaganda and discusses how their total devotion to 7th Century practices and prophecies may be understood to help defeat them. One key prophecy is a battle at Dabiq (near the Syrian border with Turkey) against the "army of Rome." Wood says that Rome might be interpreted as the Eastern Roman Empire (Constantinople), which would mean a battle with Turkey. Rome could also easily be interpreted as the West in general, and an American ground presence might only make things worse by energizing the group. Wood mentions Persia only in passing, but it seems to me that if the Islamic State pushed far into Kurdistan and Shi'ite Iraq, Iran might get involved. A conflict in which Washington and Tehran (and perhaps Ankara) were united against a common enemy would be interesting to say the least.

Reading about the apocalyptic goals of the Islamic State, I'm glad that the apocalyptic neoconservative faction of the American right wing has fallen out of favor in the last eight years. What we really don't need is an American Armageddon movement with an an excuse to militarily engage a caliphate which (in this instance) is also eager for a world-ending battle which will bring forth the messiah and God's plan of resurrection.

I am reminded also of The Alphabet versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain. The Salafist focus on words brings with it a mindset of violence, exclusion, and other masculine traits and a repression of imagery, inclusion, and femininity. ISIS should serve as a warning and a reminder that adherence to the literal interpretation of a book which does not evolve and adapt is a dangerous practice in a dynamic world. Meanwhile, the majority of Muslims around the world, raised in a culture with access to TV, magazines, and an image-rich web, oppose the Islamic State as violent extremists, unbecoming of what most believers see as Islam.
flwyd: (currency symbols)
During Mitt Romney's concession speech, as he was thanking all his classes of supporters, he euphemistically said "job creators." Something about the way he said it gave me a flash of insight:

The political dialog about how to grow the economy and reduce unemployment has been largely focused around people who hire other people. But a political economic policy which focuses only on employers ignores the balance of economic activity. You can give all the corporate tax breaks and hiring incentives you want, but if there's no demand for the company's products, they're not going to create any jobs. In order to create American jobs, we need to foster an environment of a demand for products and services that Americans are best fit to provide.

Romney engaged in a lot of anti-China economic grandstanding during the election. Instead, China's vast stockpile of dollars could be a boon to American job creation if we can start selling more things that China wants to buy.

Both parties positioned themselves as in favor of private sector "job creators." Yet government has an immense role to play in job creation. Most directly, government hires a lot of people. The Department of Defense is the world's largest "job creator" with over 3 million employees and probably hundreds of thousands of indirect contractors. Government also creates jobs indirectly. Changes in regulation can increase or decrease demand for products and services. Strong public health leads to more productive people with more disposable income. Transportation projects help get products to places where people want to buy them. Taxes and government regulation can get in the way of economic growth and job creation. But so can reckless cuts to taxes (and therefore government activities) and regulation. When you consider the balance of supply and demand, even prisoners are job creators: by locking up millions of our citizens, we create jobs for tens of thousands of prison guards.

There's a final irony in the focus on job creation. The default political view is that the United States is no longer a manufacturing leader. In fact, the U.S. makes and exports more stuff than any other country in the world, including China. But in the last 40 years or so, American manufacturing has become very automated. A couple people and a few complicated machines today do the work of a thousand factory workers in the 1960s. Neither a hiring incentive nor a corporate tax break will lead to the factory rehiring all 1000 people: there wouldn't be enough for them to do. In many industries, "job destruction" has led to major gains in productivity and profit.

The contradiction of modern America is that we're an incredibly prosperous nation with an uncomfortably high unemployment rate. Our first challenge is to find a new way to productively engage millions of people. Our second challenge is to structure society such that you don't have to keep busy just to keep alive. In the 20th Century we learned that everyone can eat even if most people aren't farmers. In the 21st Century we need to learn how to help everyone thrive even if robots and programs do most of the work.
flwyd: (McCain Palin Abe Maude Simpsons)
From a comment I wrote on another journal:

Listening to Sean Hannity as I drove across Wyoming last weekend, I think I realized the key to right-wing talk shows:

The host never admits they are, were, or could be wrong. A guest on, say, Charlie Rose's or Bill Moyers' shows is there to educate the listeners and the host. But a guest on Glenn Beck's or Rush Limbaugh's shows are there either to agree with the host or for the host to browbeat and contradict.

It's a great business move: If you present yourself as infallible and your listeners believe it, they'll be very loyal listeners, ripe for advertisers.

Contrast this to a prominent radio host on the left of the spectrum like Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. She shares her point of view through selection bias, inviting guests whose message she wants to spread and letting listeners hear it in a new voice each day. When she has a guest she strongly disagrees with (she hosted Lou Dobbs a few years ago), she sticks to the question format, though with more points and barbs than folks she likes. But she never outright tells a guest they're wrong or screams at someone to get off the air.
flwyd: (bug eyed earl)
Gun advocates often suggest that society would be safer if everyone carried[1] a gun, because would-be attackers would think twice about going after an armed target. I was thinking about this, and it seems like the past three hundred years or so featured plenty of countries who started a war, even though the other side had a bunch of guns.

On a similar subject, a national army is really a form of socialized insurance with an opportunity for high risk investments. If the Nazis invade, it's really not efficient to have each citizen expend the resources for self defense; the collective power of a large organization pooling resources from individual contributors is the way to go. So while the Tea Partiers are on the Electric Kool-Aid Antacid Trip across the country complaining bitterly about the government collecting money to provide services to the general populace, perhaps they should take a department that provides lots of cheap health care[2] and education[3].

[1] And knew how to properly use…
[2] The VA's budget is close to $90 billion
[3] Of course, many recipients must first survive a death panel: A room full of guys at the Pentagon who decide which divisions to send to combat zones.

Supremacy of Cash

Thursday, January 21st, 2010 11:27 pm
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
On First Amendment grounds, the Supreme Court lifted some bans on corporate spending during elections.

As I read that article, I'm not sure this changes a lot. Corporations and unions can pay for ads close to an election, so you could see ads where the announcer finishes with "Paid for by ExxonMobile" instead of "Paid for by People for Economic Advancement through Offshore Drilling, a 527 organization." Corporations may also be allowed to give to candidates, but unless there's something startling about this case of corporate personhood, each corporation would be limited to $2000 per election cycle, which is a drop in the hat for a major campaign.

With this decision, a corporation can essentially out-shout a candidate they don't like, and if there's a deep-pocketed corporation on the other guy's side, the month leading up to the election may turn into one big shoutfest. But national elections are already dominated by money spent on advertisements (particularly TV), so this is ratcheting up the problem more than creating a new one. My apologies to anyone who likes to watch commercial TV in October. Maybe things will get so annoying that people will flock to Change Congress and mobilize support for an election system that doesn't overwhelmingly reward the biggest spender.

House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio called the decision "a big win for the First Amendment" as long as donors disclose every dollar they spend on campaigns. Maybe we can get a law requiring political ads list the campaign's biggest donors just like Cialis ads have to spend half their time listing side effects. It's hard for a list of donors posted once every month or three to a website to compete for attention with twenty TV ads a day.

This is also an example of a generally-beneficial principle and right (freedom of speech) that in some cases is detrimental to society. Democracy works best when everyone is given a fair hearing. Big-market TV advertising is a poor medium for that.
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
I just wrote the following summary of world elections, non-democratic changes in government, and other events relevant to changing who's in charge on this Boing Boing thread. The past 18 months have had some crazy political events. The list below only goes back a year, so it misses Burmese monk-led pro-democracy protests, the sack of Pakistan's judicial system, Venezuela's rejection of term extensions for President Chavez, and the Belgian situation I don't understand. But that was just lead up to a remarkable year of world politics that started with ethnic riots in Kenya and end with the son of a Kenyan preparing to take over the most powerful country in the world.

I'm sure there have been regime change events I didn't notice or don't remember. Such events were probably fairly quiet or happened while I was away from the radio for an extended period of time. Let me know if I've left anybody out.

In a combination of laziness and impatience, I haven't linked any of these to further details. If you're curious about any of them, visit the country's Wikipedia page and look for the words "election" or "2008."

2008: 12 months, 23 countries, a few hundred million voters )
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
The beginning of October means it's time to make sure you're registered to vote at your current location. Colorado Voters can check their registration status online. It will also tell you your polling place, what districts you are in, and so forth. In Colorado, the County Clerk must receive your voter registration by 5pm next Monday in order for you to vote in this fall's election.

Even if you can't make it to your polling place on November 4th, you can still vote by mail; check your County Clerk's website for mail-in ballot information. The advantages of voting by mail include not waiting in line, being able to refer to voter guides before checking boxes, and voting at midnight while drinking a beer on your couch naked.

Colorado is considered a "swing state" in this year's presidential election which means major candidates are expending a lot of effort to convince us to vote for them this year. I've listed all of the presidential choices below. I urge you to inform yourself about the other items on the ballot as well; many of the less-publicized choices will have more of an impact on your day-to-day life. Coloradans this year will vote on an open senate seat, a seat in the house of representatives, the state board of education, University of Colorado regent, state senate, state house, district attorneys, county commissioners, RTD directors, judge retention, 14 initiatives and 4 referenda to amend the state constitution, and various issues at the county, city, and district levels. Educate yourself early so you make an informed decision about the future of your community.

Colorado has rather easy ballot-access laws, so tends to have a lot of minor-party choices. I'm surprised, for instance, that the Prohibition party is still kicking it even after Earl Dodge kicked it. And I've never seen a few of these parties before, particularly the Boston Tea Party (who are not on the ballot in Boston). Presidential candidates on the Colorado ballot:
John McCain / Sarah Palin Republican
Barack Obama / Joe Biden Democratic
Chuck Baldwin / Darrell L. Castle Constitution
Bob Barr / Wayne A. Root Libertarian
Cynthia McKinney / Rosa A. Clemente Green
Jonathan E. Allen / Jeffrey D. Stath HeartQuake '08
Gene C. Amondson / Leroy J. Pletten Prohibition
James Harris / Alyson Kennedy Socialist Workers
Charles Jay / Dan Sallis Jr. Boston Tea
Alan Keyes / Brian Rohrbough America's Independent
Gloria La Riva / Robert Moses Socialism and Liberation
Bradford Lyttle / Abraham Bassford U.S. Pacifist
Frank Edward McEnulty / David Mangan Unaffiliated
Brian Moore / Stewart A. Alexander Socialist, USA
Ralph Nader / Matt Gonzalez Unaffiliated
Thomas Robert Stevens / Alden Link Objectivist
flwyd: (daemon tux hexley)
My comment on [livejournal.com profile] tongodeon's insightful post about "elitist" charges:

Now that I think about it, George W. Bush embodies the three cardinal virtues of the programmer: Laziness, impatience, and hubris.

* He was a C student at Yale, made a big deal of how infrequently the Texas legislature met, and spent a lot of presidential time vacationing on his ranch even while Katrina loomed.
* He argued that Florida shouldn't recount every vote, lobbied for a second land war in Asia before finishing his first, invaded Iraq before weapons inspectors could finish their search, and declared the mission accomplished at least five years before the war's end.
* He governs as if he got a majority of the vote (the first time), routinely adds "I won't respect this part of this law" when signing bills, claimed to be in tune with God's will when invading another country (despite the position of the Pope and many other church heads), and cites executive privilege instead of letting his staff participate in congressional inquiries.

I don't think his regular expression skills are very good, though.

Also, Democracy Now's highlights from the DNC and RNC are each ten or so minutes well spent. Listen to the audio or watch the video; the transcript doesn't capture the whole feeling.
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
IMG_7846I got behind on Democratic National Convention blogging because I've been hanging out with friends instead of sitting in front of the computer. Wednesday and Thursday photos are up on Flickr. My DNC gallery has all 2000+ pictures I took this week.

The main left wing protest event on Wednesday was a concert at the Denver Coliseum with the Flobots, Jello Biafra, Rage Against the Machine, and others followed by an Iraq Veterans Against the War march to the convention site. I had birthday dinner plans with a friend for the evening (thus missing the long march) and the concert didn't sound like a good opportunity for photography, so I decided to wander around downtown and see what random folks were doing.

A lot of people were just sharing their own message with a hand made sign and no organization. I've photographed three different folks with Free Hugs signs this week (something I thought about doing, but decided my big camera might get in the way). There was a "Right Wing Deprogrammer" selling "dunce hats" to folks in line at the Convention Center. Also outside the Convention Center were some PETA folks in pig costumes, two Code Pink women with a banner giving out "Make Out Not War" and "I'm a Delgate for Peace" stickers, Falun Gong meditation and information distribution, two folks with anti-Abortion signs mostly being ignored, a bunch of people selling Obama T-shirts, buttons, and giant foam fingers, and about ten members of the PUMA PAC trying to get delegates to vote for Hillary Clinton. In front of a few nearby sky scrapers were folks holding labor dispute signs.

Along the mall I saw two separate guys with "We Demand Bigger Signs" signs, an old guy with a "Truly Reframe The Abortion Debate / Prevent Abortion, Don't Prohibit Abortion" sign, four guys in blue "Change" shirts playing music (they apparently know exactly one song and sang it all week), a handful of McCain supporters, a woman holding a "Ban Bird Porn" sign (apparently John McCain is an avian voyeur), and people in donkey and elephant fursuits on Segways advertising MSNBC's live broadcasts by Union Station. The same anal-sex-obsessed Christians with a megaphone were out again. This time, clowns were hanging out in front of them to keep things amusing. I tried out my new response line "Reduce abortions, encourage anal sex!" to some giggles. The mall also had the usual suspects including folks selling the homeless newspaper. I had good conversations with Pirate and Cheese. I should hang out with downtown regulars more often.

I finished the day downtown hanging out in the Food Not Bombs corner of Civic Center Park. (The majority of the park had been fenced off to set up for Taste of Colorado, much to the surprise of several activist groups.) I listened to a fantastic Mediterranean/Cumbia jam and tried hooping for peace, but my back was sore from walking all week. I then headed west and had great food and conversation in celebration of the birthday of a college friend. I'm sorry I missed the Iraq Veterans Against the War march, but I figured it would be well covered.
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
At least a thousand people marched from the Colorado State Capitol to the Pepsi Center, site of this week's Democratic National Convention. Many brought signs and costumes. The Backbone Campaign carried a large inflatable Earth and a set of panels. On the other corner of Colfax and Broadway, a few dozen counter-protesters stood by US flags, anti-abortion, "If you love freedom, thank a vet's family" (but presumably not Cindy Sheehan), and anti-pacifism signs. They were also blaring country music, as if twang would drive left-wingers away. It looked like there were almost as many police officers ringing that corner as there were counter-protesters.

'68 was not recreated during the march. Several dozen police officers bicycled alongside the march and displayed an almost Buddhist detachment despite some taunting. Chants of "This is what a police state looks like" were patently false; Myanmar, Zimbabwe, and China would have arrested everyone as soon as they assembled.

When the march got to the Pepsi Center, participants seemed a bit at a loss, as if they hadn't expected to be milling around outside the fence. 20 or so officers in riot gear stood calmly on the other side of the median while a few dozen police and Secret Service folks stood behind the fence protecting the convention area. A lot more mainstream press was on hand. I saw a blogger for Fox Business News interviewing a delegate from Arizona; he probably would've had plenty of material from the folks with signs, but would that really be Fox? A group moved down a block and turned left and were informed by police megaphone that they were at the end of the parade route so needed to be on the sidewalk. Police brought out waist-high barriers to expand the area around the gate. After a bunch of milling around, demonstrators dispersed. At least 100 people ran along side with cameras; a sizeable minority seemed to be credentialed for convention access.

At 2, marchers headed up the 16th St. Mall with signs, costumes, mobile stereo systems (I didn't expect to hear "Beat It" today) while convention delegates mingled among Obama T-shirt booths, knick-knack stores, and law officers on horses and motorcycles. Again, I didn't see any arrests or so much as a shove. Code Pink gave out stickers that said "Make Out, Not War." 16th St. was probably a better idea for spreading messages; most delegates weren't hanging around on the sidewalks of Speer Blvd. at noon.

The mix of demonstrators included street medics, legal observers, anarchists, old hippies, young hippies, war veterans, two guys in wheel chairs, and a few preteen kids. The predominant concern seemed to be war and peace, but immigrant rights, anti-imperialism, "Obama is a new face on the old empire," and general disruption concerns were also voiced. I gave an interview for a Denver community access channel. It was semi-coherent on the grounds that (a) I was tired from all the heat and walking and (b) I didn't have a particular message to preach, so I tried to summarize some of what people were saying. I also gave the cops props for not escalating things.

Time for a barbecue and some beer; I'll post photos tonight. Check out KGNU's DNC blog (or listen to 1390 AM/88.5 FM) for more news from inside and outside the convention.

RIP Molly Ivins

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 09:59 pm
flwyd: (rose silhouette)
I didn't read nearly as much by Molly Ivins as I should have. Unfortunately, the final two years of Shrub must be without the sharpest barb.

I saw Molly at the Conference on World Affairs a few years ago, around the time the Supreme Court was hearing the Texas anti-sodomy law. In her typical sharp fashion, she quipped Immediately after that bill passed, one sponsor slapped another on the back and was immediately in violation of the law. Because in Texas, you can't have a prick touching an asshole.

Her straightforward no-nonsense attitude exemplified what's best about the Texas character while her undying cleverness is found among too few other residents of Texas and political commentators. We'll have to raise more hell without her.
flwyd: (Default)
Rumsfeld: So long suckers!  Have fun cleaning up the mess!  Hussein: My thoughts exactly.

Created by Trevor Stone with MacGIMP. All rights waved; attribution appreciated.
flwyd: (Om Chomsky)
Om Chomsky

(I also note that I'm not the first to think of Gnome Chomsky.)
flwyd: (Vigelandsparken face to face)
The only candidate for Jefferson County Surveyor is... wait for it... Diana E. Askew.
flwyd: (glowing grad macky auditorium)
As many people suspected, Princeton has shown that it's really easy to hack a Diebold voting machine. Like many corporations, Diebold prefers to deal with technical problems (faulty design) with non-technical tools. One tool is ignoring the problem. Another tool is attacking critics. A third tool is keeping the design secret so that nobody knows how bad the system is. An example of the first two tools follows.

"[Our critics are] throwing out a 'what if' that's premised on a basis of an evil, nefarious person breaking the law," Bear told Newsweek after the March Emery County study. "For there to be a problem here," he further explained to the New York Times, "you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software … I don't believe these evil elections people exist." -- Hack the Vote? No Problem on Salon.com

A fundamental technique of secure system design involves playing a malicious party. At point of entry in the system, this party gets to say "What if this happens here?" I'll bet companies that make slot machines don't answer that question "Surely there's nobody so evil to do that!" That's right. Your gambling rights are better protected and enforced than your voting rights.

Lethal Injunction

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006 11:50 am
flwyd: (requiem for a dream eye)
I heard on NPR today that the Supreme Court is hearing a case related to an appeal that the drug cocktail used in lethal injection is Cruel and Inhuman Punishment.

Perhaps they should change the substance to an extra large dose of pure heroin. The executees could then enjoy at least the end of their life, the justice system could unload some confiscated contraband, and for convicts involved in drug-related murder the punishment would suit the crime.
flwyd: (black titan)
It would seem that not even millionaire friends of Dick Cheney can get their hands on body armor and the Bush administration continues unnecessarily to put Americans in harms way.
flwyd: (carmen sandiego)
This segment on Democracy Now was the first thing I experienced this morning. It begins with a press event by the former head of the National Security Agency defending George W. Bush's practice of wiretapping American citizens without a warrant. It then follows with discussion between host Amy Goodman and Jim Bamford, an author who covers the NSA. Of particular note is the following passage:

JONATHAN LANDAY: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue. And that has to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Actually, the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure. That's what it says.

JONATHAN LANDAY: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

JONATHAN LANDAY: But does it not say probable --


JONATHAN LANDAY: The court standard, the legal standard --

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.

JONATHAN LANDAY: The legal standard is probable cause, General. You used the terms just a few minutes ago, “We reasonably believe.” And a FISA court, my understanding is, would not give you a warrant if you went before them and say “We reasonably believe.” You have to go to the FISA court or the Attorney General has to go to the FISA court and say, “We have probable cause.” And so what many people believe, and I would like you to respond to this, is that what you have actually done is crafted a detour around the FISA court by creating a new standard of “reasonably believe” in place of “probable cause,” because the FISA court will not give you a warrant based on reasonable belief. You have to show a probable cause. Can you respond to that, please?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Sure. I didn't craft the authorization. I am responding to a lawful order, alright? The Attorney General has averred to the lawfulness of the order. Just to be very clear, okay -- and believe me, if there's any amendment to the Constitution that employees at the National Security Agency is familiar with, it's the fourth, alright? And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment. So, what you've raised to me -- and I'm not a lawyer and don't want to become one -- but what you’ve raised to me is, in terms of quoting the Fourth Amendment, is an issue of the Constitution. The constitutional standard is reasonable. And we believe -- I am convinced that we're lawful because what it is we're doing is reasonable.

AMY GOODMAN: The Deputy Director of National Intelligence, former head of the National Security Agency, Michael Hayden, being questioned yesterday at the National Press Club. That last reporter, after Jim Bamford asked his question, was Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder, editor and publisher pointing out, well, this is the Fourth Amendment: the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Hayden's nitpicking maneuver seems to be noting that the grounds for a warrant must be probable cause, but the grounds for warrantless search and seizure is merely reasonableness. But if the government can search and seize based purely on reasonableness, the only reason to ever get a warrant is if they have unreasonable probable cause.

An analogous argument would be to propose a law banning gun ownership for people not enrolled in a well regulated militia. Another would be to claim that since there's a "just compensation" guide in the takings clause that a person may be deprived of property without due process of law so long as he is compensated.

The Constitution: It's not just a good idea, it's the law.
flwyd: (mathnet - to cogitate and to solve)
A casual observer new to American politics could be mistaken for assuming that the Supreme Court is an organization whose duty and purpose consists almost solely in setting rules and regulations regarding abortion.

People on both the left and the right get excited about individual cases for anywhere between a week and a month or two. But when new justices are considered and discussed, abortion dominates the discussion.

Abortion is an important issue, and one which will come before the court many more times. However, it is far from the only issue worthy of concern and discussion. The Court will doubtlessly take up cases of sweeping importance on issues ranging from the scope of powers of the executive branch to boundary conditions on the Bill of Rights. Yet most of the pundits, the news editors, and the interest groups don't try to engender discussion on those issues. Do they think people don't care about the constitution? Did people not learn the Bill of Rights in school? Or do people stop paying attention to politics if fetuses are not involved?

Lots of Democrats seemed to support Harriet Miers because she wasn't an ultra-right conservative. Aside from seeming rather politically jaded, this is very concerning. It seemed to me that the biggest problem with Miers as a potential Supreme was that she didn't seem to know anything about constitutional law. The second biggest problem was that she's the current president's personal lawyer, which means she would be in a position to decide the constitutionality of policies she'd advised the president to enact.

I wasn't able to follow the Alito hearings while I was in Utah. So I was rather disappointed when I listened to NPR this evening and learned that "All Things" was really just "Abortion Politics."
flwyd: (carmen sandiego)
There are some money-grubbing self-serving influential people in Washington, DC. The good thing is that money-grubbing self-serving individuals will gladly take down their close associates in exchange for a lighter sentence.

A mountain built of greed may grow tall. A mountain of greed attracts miners. A mountain of greed fills with holes.

A mountain built of love may grow slowly. A mountain of love gains strength from visitors. A mountain of love is holy.
flwyd: (tell tale heart)
My friends include several people who are queer in one way or another and my friends' friends page has even more folks with non-straight and otherwise unusual opinions about sexual arousal and human desirability. Coming to terms with your own gender and sexuality can prove challenging. Sometimes what your brain and body are saying isn't said by the people around you. Without good role models and sometimes without even good words, enacting gender and sexuality in a well-adjusted manner is an amazing feat. In an attempt to turn the kaleidoscope a bit for a new view, I'll share the following teaching.

In the summer of 1994, my mom and I attended a week-long workshop at Naropa with American Indian storyteller and medicine man Johnny Moses. One of the many fascinating tidbits he shared was about gender in Nootka society on (I think) Vancouver Island. In Nootka language and culture, there are eight genders.
  • There are the straight men, and they're BOOORING.
  • There are the straight women, and they're boring too, so the two of them get together.
  • There are gay men
  • And gay women.
  • Then there's what we'd call bisexuals, but they're comfortable with people of all genders. So I suppose they'd be octosexuals.
  • Then there are men trapped in womens' bodies
  • And women trapped in mens' bodies.
  • Then there are people who feel like their spirit is not human, they're from somewhere else in the universe and were made to inhabit a human body so they could learn a lesson.
  • There are also people who are comfortable with all the genders, but aren't sexual at all. Perhaps they're octoasexual.
Other cultures in the area had different ideas about gender. Some had more, some had less, and others didn't really think about genders -- you just know what you feel like and you relate to people as they are. One group in the area have the concept of a gender whose members can't be sexual unless they pretend to be someone else.

Something bugs me about what passes for political debate and social dialog in America these days. The participants don't spend nearly enough effort in an attempt to understand and properly characterize what the other side actually thinks and why they think that. In our formal way, philosophers usually attribute the best interpretation of a work to its author. If his words can be interpreted in two ways, only one of which is totally absurd, the other should be assumed the intended meaning. Unfortunately, in common political and social thought, people often don't even rise to the level of willful misinterpretation. They start and end with making up positions held by their adversaries and then deriding those. For instance, some people voted for Nixon in 1960 because they didn't want the U.S. president to take orders from the Pope. Kennedy was elected, but the Pope's power in America didn't change.

This seems to be the current state of most of the gay marriage "debate" currently transpiring. It strikes me that a lot of constituents believe that proponents of gay marriage are following an agenda of goals that they do not, in fact, desire. I read somewhere that some anti-gay marriage leaders are intentionally ignoring the distinction between legal marriage and religious marriage. Thus, there may be lots of people who oppose gay marriage because their religion forbids homosexual unions and they don't want the government forcing their church to recognize and perform gay marriages. I don't think anyone on the pro-gay marriage side is claiming anything of the sort, but the misconception is out there. People therefore defend a ban on gay marriage in the name of religious freedom, of all things.

In the hopes of increasing the general level of understanding in the universe, I therefore hope I can make this clear. Religious matrimony and legal matrimony should be two separate (though usually co-occurrent) concepts. Religions should be able to confer the "sanctity of marriage" on relationships at their discretion. If a church's elders or members decide that unions are only holy if both members are of the same religion, race, sexual orientation, or age bracket, so be it. No person should be forced to perform a religious marriage they don't bless, and if a church disapproves of people living together who don't have a sanctified relationship, they may so decree. To the degree that the church's doctrine influences its followers actions, the faithful should follow these guidelines.

Alongside the concept of religiously blessed union should lie the legally blessed union. It could be called almost anything for all I care -- marriage, civil union, 602(d), or whatever. But it should be called the same thing for everyone to which it applies. To qualify for an LBU, the participants must meet certain criteria. They must be of the age of consent, they must agree to the union without duress, and perhaps they should swear an oath indicating some of their duties. The benefits provided by LBUs should be entirely legal in nature -- tax breaks, prevention of housing discrimination, inheritance, partner benefits, and so forth. There should not be a box on the form to describe which party has what sexual organs, because that has absolutely nothing to do with the provided benefits. It should be possible to have a legally blessed union without that union being religiously blessed and vice versa. It should be possible to have a legally blessed union with more than one person at a time, though providing for this would require some careful thought about legal repercussions. It seems questionable to force an employer's partner benefits plan to cover all seventeen of a person's spice, since that could lead to loophole unions where people without a relationship get married purely for free health care. But this sort of thing is a minor issue which can be worked out in legislative committee after sufficient testimony.

Laws restricting marriage to certain gender combinations based on religious tradition is a bit like laws restricting the purchase of meat to certain days based on religious tradition. If your religion says you shouldn't marry another person, don't. (Alternatively, make the switch to a religion that will let you marry the person you love.) If your religion says you shouldn't eat meat on Fridays, or even that you shouldn't eat meat at all, then don't. But don't make a law preventing the sale of meat on Friday.

Finally, the anti-gay agenda is largely doomed. No matter how much people try, they won't stop people from doing any of the following with people with similar sex organs:
  • stimulating sex organs to the point of orgasm
  • living together and sleeping in the same bed
  • creating and raising children
  • sharing finances and possessions
  • holding hands, kissing, or cuddling
  • arguing, fighting, lying, breaking up, harassing, taking revenge, or any of the other not-so-fun things that happen in a relationship.
All that outlawing same-sex unions prevents is tax breaks, access to health care, sensible custody, and reasonable inheritance. And that seems like a really strange set of things to selectively deny to people.

Well, tax breaks, access to health care, child custody, and inheritance are frequently granted to the wealthy while they're harder for poor to obtain, but that's a problem for another time.

In the abortion debate, people who are pro-life want to increase the number of lives and people who are pro-choice want to increase the number of choices. In the gay marriage debate, people who claim to defend marriage and pro-family actually oppose measures which would increase the number of marriages and provide more legal stability to families. To quote Dr. Strangelove, "You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"
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