Sunday, September 28, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
"173 despots would surely be as oppressive as one." - Thomas Jefferson
Monday, September 22, 2008
Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
WAKE UP, AMERICA!
What specifically caught my eye today was this passage in my book, The American Pageant:
Because political power no longer rested with the central, all-powerful king, individuals in a republic needed to sacrifice their personal self-interest to the public good. The collective goals of 'the people' mattered more than the private rights and interests of individuals.
This passage is from a section that talks about the main ideas of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, a pamphlet published in 1776. Strangely, or perhaps not-so-strangely, Common Sense seems to apply almost as well, if not better, to the political situation today than it did to the political situation in 1776, 200-some-odd years ago.
In Common Sense, Paine was advocating for a new idea called 'republicanism.' This idea was very radical, because before this time, the political system in America could easily be described as 'do whatever Parliament and the King tell you what to do.' Britain was approaching a constitutional monarchy at this time, but they really hadn't got over the idea of an all-powerful monarch telling everyone what to do.
Common Sense, if we put it in a more modern context, seems to be saying 'provide for everyone, because the government gets it power from the people, so you better take care of those people...people.' Irregular plurals aside, this seems to me to be advocating that most feared of political ideologies, the black sheep of democratic systems: socialism.
Oh, crap guys! Call the Civil Defense corps! Socialism's afoot!
Now, I must confess, in the interest of full disclosure and fairness (hahahaha, hohohohoho, full disclosure, fairness, blogosphere, ahahahaha....), I am a socialist (not a communist; that's a completely different animal). Yes, that's right, I believe that the government has a duty to take care of all of its people, not just those who happen to strike it rich. But that's another story.
The story here is that, 200 years before the Cold War, Thomas Paine was arguing that the United States should have, as at least a part of its underlying ideology, socialism. Doesn't that just blow your mind? That the good of the people as a whole outweighs the good of the self or the good of the individual is an idea that has been immortalized in stories since the beginning of history. Self-sacrifice and all that rot. In Common Sense this ideal took shape in the unifying idea of an American 'republic.' In more modern times, this ideal was fundamental to the political system called socialism.
What I'm trying to get at here is that from the beginning of this country, the government has been designed to serve 'the people.' In the singular sense. The government was not designed to serve individuals, it was designed for a singular and revolutionary new body - the American People. Lately, however, whether through innocent misinterpretation or malign meddling, this concept has become warped to mean that the country now serves the 'people' (plural, now).
This may seem quite nitpicky and not at all relevant to any kind of modern, constructive political discussion, but Supreme Court cases have been decided on as little as the placement of a comma (another bad idea which I'll write on later). I think that, whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, the mindset in this country has definitely changed in the past 230 years from brotherhood and society to greed and exclusivity. And that's just not common sense.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Why, you ask? Well, reversing the lens and using an extension tube allows me to take pictures of some pretty amazing stuff. Really, really (really) tiny stuff (probably not the Higgs Boson, but one can only hope). It's called macro photography, or technically, photomacrography, but let's stick with the former. I'll post some pictures that I take with it when I develop them (I know, it's retro to actually develop photos, but I just love the smell of chemicals...).
Oh, and by the way, happy last-day-of-the-world! G'night!
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Now for a nice anecdote: Last week, I was staffing the Democratic Party of New Mexico booth at the New Mexico State Fair, along with my parents and a few other members of the Jason Marks PRC campaign. We were registering voters and handing out buttons and stickers and pamphlets and things, and it was all great. Then, up comes this woman and she asks us if we have any Barack Obama signs or anything. We say "no, everyone in the entire state is out, including their headquarters." (Which is true, by the way.) The woman says that she really wants to go get something advertising Obama because she just overheard someone at the Republican Party booth say "I want to register to vote because I don't want a black man as President."
Well, at least he's got a reason, right? Anyway, this got me thinking, why should what someone looks like, or even what they sound like, or how old they are, determine if you vote for them or not? Unfortunately, that is a reality of American politics today, that is why Kennedy won the 1960 presidential debate, that is why the nomination of Sarah Palin (or even the thought of nominating Hillary Clinton) was so dramatic.
Can we design a better system? Is it possible to disassociate the person from the politics? I say we give it a shot. Tell both parties (or all of them, actually!) to come up with summarized platforms and then disseminate these platforms, through the press, through the schools, through any possible outlet, to the voting public. Then, come election day, each voter simply votes for the party, not the candidate, whose platform they most agree with.
I think this addresses several problems with the current voting process:
1. It eliminates (mostly) votes based upon physical appearance, race, gender, and other, non-policy-related criteria.
2. It has the potential to lower the amount of voter confusion on candidates' stances on issues.
3. It frees up the really charismatic people to go where we need them: dealing with other countries to patch up relations.
4. No more arguments over flip-flopping!
Conversely, it could also create a few problems:
1. Voters may not be able to rally passionately around a candidate (but doesn't passion blind judgment?)
2. It requires voters to educate themselves (I've already written about this. Basically, if voter's aren't informed in the first place, any decisions they make will be uninformed, also, and, in my eyes, invalid).
Personally, I think that having charismatic leaders is great, but a person should not be elected because they are charismatic. A party should be elected because of its stances on the issues, then charismatic officials should be appointed because they are charismatic and it's a job requirement for many positions. Voters should not base their opinions on appearance.
P.S. Maybe politicians should write anonymous blogs on their positions. They could hold Q and A sessions virtually. Ahhhhh, the possibilities unlocked with the internet....
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Excerpt from a transcript of the 4 September 2008 edition of DemocracyNow!:
AMY GOODMAN: According to the National Lawyers Guild, the criminal complaints filed by the Ramsey County Attorney do not allege that any of the defendants personally engaged in any act of violence or damage to property. Instead, authorities are seeking to hold the eight defendants responsible for acts committed by other individuals during the opening days of the Republican National Convention.Most of the activists were arrested over the weekend in preemptive house raids. None of the defendants have any prior criminal history involving acts of violence. Authorities are basing their case on paid informants who infiltrated the group. The eight activists charged are Monica Bicking, Eryn Trimmer, Luce Gullen-Givens, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, Robert Czernik, Garrett Fitzgerald and Max Specktor.
BRUCE NESTOR (President of the MN chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild): These charges are very significant for any political activist or anybody that cares about the right to organize politically or for freedom of speech. By equating plans or stated plans to blockade traffic and to try to disrupt the convention with acts of terrorism, the conspiracy nature of the charge, where you punish people for what they say or advocate, but not for what they do, really creates a possibility that anybody organizing a large-scale demonstration, at which civil disobedience may be a part of it or where other individuals may then engage in some type of property damage, creates the potential that all those organizers can be charged with these conspiracy charges and face significant penalties.
AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean, “in furtherance of terrorism”?BRUCE NESTOR: In Minnesota, that was a law passed after the attacks in New York on September 11th. It kind of tracks the definition in the federal PATRIOT Act, which is any criminal act, in this case at least a felony, that’s designed to influence or coerce public opinion or to disrupt a public assembly. And so, my guess is that the charge is based upon the idea that there was an attempt to disrupt the RNC, which would be treated as a public assembly, even though they didn’t apply for a permit under St. Paul public assembly laws to do so.
This is outrageous. The St. Paul Police Department, Minneapolis Police Department, Minnesota State Police Department, and FBI, among others, are actively participating in an abridgment of the rights, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, to freedom of speech, of the press, and to peaceably assemble.
What is also very disturbing to me is the (unchallenged) use of so-called "preemptive arrests" by the various police departments operating in St. Paul. This policy allows for arrest and detainment for up to 36 hours (a judge has actually lengthened it to 48 for many of those arrested) without the accused having actually committed a crime.
In addition, many raids have been carried out by the St. Paul Police, complete with assault rifle-toting SWAT teams yelling "everyone on the floor!"
I don't understand why this egregious and blatant violation of civil rights isn't front page news in every paper in the nation and leading the top-of-the-hour newscast on every radio and television station. NPR and Pacifica Radio are the only two media outlets I have yet heard any coverage of this from (aside from a small, back page story in the Albuquerque Journal where the phrase "illegal arrests" was not used until the fifth paragraph).
One of my classmates in AP US History today pointed out that this is almost exactly like the way China deals with the press and protesters. Now that's a scary thought.
P.S. - Tonight, as I was watching John McCain's acceptance speech at the RNC, I saw two protesters run out into the crowd and on the steps of the convention center, flashing the peace symbol with both hands. John McCain stopped his (admittedly lukewarm) speech as the protestors were forceably dragged out by security officers in suits and the crowd chanted "USA! USA! USA!" I felt ashamed at that moment. Not for the protesters, no, for them I felt nothing but empathy, but for this country. How far have we fallen in 200 years that to protest is now considered unpatriotic and is drowned out by pseudo-fascist cheers of "USA! USA!"? How can a party that purports to be the party of the average person be so callous to the obvious concerns of so many? Perhaps it is because the GOP only considers "average people" to be people registered as Republicans (just like they consider everyone who makes under $5,000,000 a year to be middle-class). However, the most appaling thing, to me at least, about this whole episode was John McCain's response to the protesters: "Please don't be diverted by the crowd noise and the static." That's what John McCain believes protest is - just crowd noise and static.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
This is a photo I shot for Photography Class. It's the first photo I've ever developed (that I'm happy with). The dog in the picture is my 2 year old basenji, Azizi (which means "precious one" in Swahili). This is probably her favorite spot in the whole house. She likes to sunbathe in front of the window all day long, and I thought the pattern of shadows from the curtains and the bars of the door made for a really interesting photo.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
a. The laws of physics are the same for all observers in uniform motion relative to one another, andb. The speed of light in a vacuum is the same for all observers, regardless of their relative motion or of the motion of the source of the light.
Monday, September 1, 2008
To me, this kind of thing is representative of the double standard endemic of the"Grand Old Party." I find it amusing that a candidate lauded for her appeal to evangelical voters should become mired in a scandal such as this so quickly. If Palin can't keep her own daughter from going and getter herself pregnant, I shudder to think of her national plans. The Republican Party is such a disgrace (thanks due in no small part to the President) that many people are saying it would actually be a good thing if John McCain cut the convention to a stripped-down ritual of acceptance speechs for, at most, himself and Palin (the governor, not the pregnant one).
However, this whole "Trooper-gate" and "Pregnant-gate" stuff is really pretty meaningless when you actually consider where Palin stands on the issues. She wasn't chosen just because she was a woman, and no matter how long you listen to the "news" that will never be true. It helps, sure, it makes the Republicans look like they're "in-touch" with America, but really, Sarah Palin is the GOP VP candidate because she's more conservative than John McCain on almost every single issue. She scares me. She scares me like Dick Cheney scares me. That's bad. If John McCain dies in office, we will have her as the president of the United States. I cannot abide the thought of an ultra-conservative evangelical with enough power under her thumb to make the rest of the world "go away." No. So no matter how much of this trivial stuff comes up, we must remember who she is underneath all the makeup and fluff; who she is on the issues. That person, the Sarah Palin of the Issues, is scary.
(I also think this brings up a question that needs answering: now that we are apparently comfortable with nominating women for the highest posts in the land, what if one of them gets pregnant and is off on maternity leave when the phone rings at 3 AM? I know it might seem a bit sexist, but I'm being realistic here. What if?)
Anyway, I also wanted to mention the plight of journalists and activists in St. Paul, MN. Apparently the police presence there is so large and heavy-handed that on this, the first day of the Republican National Convention (and not even a real day, at that), we have had at least 6 shows of force and unlawful arrests of journalists and activists, including DemocracyNow! host Amy Goodman. This is ridiculous. It is a disgrace to this country that we cannot allow peaceful dissent and fair reporting of the news and of police shows of force. The American people and the press are meant to act as a balancing system against the government, and we cannot simply lie down for them to do as they wish, when they wish.
I wonder why there were no reported "Anarchist groups" protesting or reporting at the Democratic Convention?
The full text of DemocracyNow!'s press release is below, as is the YouTube video of Amy Goodman's arrest.
Amy Goodman and Two Democracy Now! Producers Unlawfully Arrested At the RNC
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2008
Denis Moynihan 917-549-5000
Mike Burke 646-552-5107, firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. PAUL, MN—Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman was unlawfully arrested in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota at approximately 5 p.m. local time. Police violently manhandled Goodman, yanking her arm, as they arrested her. Video of her arrest can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfully detained. They are Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Kouddous and Salazar were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman's crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul.
Democracy Now! is calling on all journalists and concerned citizens to call the office of Mayor Chris Coleman and the Ramsey County Jail and demand the immediate release of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar. These calls can be directed to: Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman's office at 651-266-8535 and the Ramsey County Jail at 651-266-9350 (press extension 0).
Democracy Now! stands by Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and condemns this action by Twin Cities law enforcement as a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amendment rights of these journalists.
During the demonstration in which they were arrested law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force. Several dozen others were also arrested during this action.
Amy Goodman is one of the most well-known and well-respected journalists in the United States. She has received journalism's top honors for her reporting and has a distinguished reputation of bravery and courage. The arrest of Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar is a transparent attempt to intimidate journalists from the nation's leading independent news outlet.
Democracy Now! is a nationally syndicated public TV and radio program that airs on over 700 radio and TV stations across the US and the globe.
Video of Amy Goodman's Arrest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
This is outrageous.
Increasingly, Easterners are not knowledgeable with or unable to identify with the American West, and, if anecdotal evidence is to be believed, vice-versa. Our country is now divided into "red" and "blue," mostly along geographical lines. If you have ever been to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the US, you will find them to be very different places. The same is true if one were to compare either coast to the interior of the country. Regional stereotypes and differences are nothing new for any country (take France, for example), but in a country the size of the United States, is it really correct, sane even, to think that Americans are so homogeneous as to be lumped into a single category?
I believe that this trend of regionalism began, as have many things American, with the railroad. I find the railroad fascinating. It was the railroad that standardized time and eventually led to synchronising time, it was the railroad that sparked, quite literally, the forest fires of the early 1900s and the subsequent policy of fire-suppression in the American West, and it was the railroad (actually, a train) that gave Einstein the idea of relativity and has shaped so much of modern physics. The railroad connected America, so one might expect that it would have the opposite effect of provincialism, that America would become more of a coherent entity. However, the railroad allowed greater and faster expansion of the US's borders. It formed the American West as we know it today.
The East and the West are certainly the most well-known and most talked about regions of the United States, but regions that are also significant include the South (let us not forget that the feeling of provincialism and independence in the South led to a war over whether or not the South could govern itself), the North/North East, Absaroka, and last but not least, the 800-pound gorilla of Alaska, nestled up with Yukon, Canada and geographically closer to Russia than it is to the contiguous 48 (it also has a "major" political party called Alaskan Independence, whose gubernatorial candidate was actually top
Certainly, then, there are many ways that this country can be divided, but does that mean that we should treat them as anything else than geographic or cultural areas that together make up one, single country, indivisible and under God? No.
Now just bear with me for a moment. I've been talking this whole post about how America is nothing but divisions, so wouldn't it make sense to divide it into separate, smaller countries with their own, admittedly regional interests at heart? Well, yes and no.
I agree that the idea of a single government that manages everything all over the country is ridiculous. That's why we have state governments. That system works well enough until you start running into the grey areas in juristiction between the different levels of government. States rights issues come into play and it all devolves into an overly complicated legal mess that you would need a crew of lawyers larger than the crew of most ships to navigate.
I believe that a much better system would be to divide the states into regions - say Alaska; the West Coast, including most of the Rocky Mountains; the Plains; the North East; and the South East. Then, make each of these regions into their own country. Then, set up an umbrella organization, much like the European Union, an American Union, if you like, to handle international affairs. One advantage to this system is that, while they are still mostly connected and joined by this American Union, the regions retain a degree of autonomy impossible to guarantee with the system of states under a single federal government. They are free to make their own decisions and decide what is best for their people, because that is what a government should be most concerned with: providing for its citizens. The American Union can present a united front, but regions are free to dissent or to disagree with the policies of the other members. Think of it as representative democracy on a continental scale.
Obviously, this model has its downsides. America would not be as strong militarily (which could be percieved as a good thing - no more policing, just defense of itself), and some Americans would feel that their country has been irrevocable destroyed. It is true that America has at its roots a very strong tradition of unity, and that the concept of an American People was originally one of the driving forces behind the formation of the country. However, I do not believe that an American People, as it was in the 1700s and 1800s, exists today. Perhaps it is time to chalk up the Great Expirement as mostly a success, and move on to something potentially greater.