Thursday, February 26, 2004
I'm beginning to wonder if we should push a privacy amendment to the Constitution. Perhaps along with an open government/freedom of information amendment. Not that the two need to be bundled. But it would be a joyous day if we were celebrating the passage of these two great measures.
Let's focus on the privacy amendment in this post. I've been poking around the Internet, and am finding surprisingly little on any past history of proposed amendments of privacy. This seems odd to me because our right to privacy is largely an interpretation of existing amendments, aside from protection from unlawful search and seizure, and is clearly a popular issue. Who wouldn't want a right to privacy from government (except for those who want to regulate personal behavior that results in no harm to another, but even they probably want their own privacy)?
I'm committing myself to this issue. Here in California, we have a right to privacy enshrined in our state Constitution. I'd like to see a similar development on the federal level, and enshrined in an amendment to our great Constitution. So, with privacy on our minds, I encourage you to go visit Privacy International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center as a way of getting up to speed with the world of privacy advocacy, activism, and watchdogging.
And, if you want to pursue open government, transparency, and the freedom of information a little further, then Transparency International, Open Government Information Awareness, Access Reports, freedominfo.org, and Open Society Justice Initiative can bring you up to speed.
Now, people say a lot of good and bad things about secret services and intelligence agencies, but I'm not sure anyone has ever said that "they never break the law". These are clandestine spy agencies - does Tony Blair honestly want me to believe that his spies never break the law? Does he think I'm a total fool? Does he thing the whole world are fools?
Probably not. Chances are this is just more legal posturing from Tony. And there's a lot of that going on over in the UK. Take that case against Katharine Gun, the translator who leaked the email request from American intelligence to spy on UN deliberations regarding the war. She regularly confesses to the deed, and yet the government drops the case against her for a "lack of evidence". Of course. Pure logic at its finest.
Though, had they pursued the case in court against her, the veracity of the email itself would have had to been established, and this very well could have led to disclosures that showed the government, and its precious secret services, committing illegal acts.
So, let's sum up. Two developments have arose in the past 24 hours. One, a prime minister claims that his spies never break the law. Two, a woman who regularly confesses to a crime is freed for lack of evidence by the initiation of the prosecutor.
My response to that is, one, I'm not stupid, and two, somebody's hiding something (beyond the obvious being this involves spies and politicians).
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
As expected, President Bush has weighed in on an amendment to the Constitution to declare it solely between man and woman. This will be a crux of his presidential campaign, and is a sign of his weakness. In reality, weakness is what I'm examining in this post. For many, we see strength in our traditions that have gone back for millenia, long before the establishment of our limited free government. President Bush is convinced otherwise:
"After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization. Their actions have created confusion on an issue that requires clarity."
Now, far be it from me to say that marriage is stronger than it's ever been, since anyone can look around and see that marriages aren't lasting as long, on average, than other periods of history. But, as President Bush himself has noted on occasion, this trend has occurred in a world that we lead, and that has come largely to embrace the inalienable - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as the root foundation (however well we are in the process of implementing and enabling this vision).
What am I saying? We live in the greatest days of the world, the days with the most freedom, for the most people, with the best health care, and the most incredible expansion of human innovation and ingenuity ever. This happened because we are free - we freed ourselves. In the process of attaining this freedom, we inevitably noticed the oppressions of the past, of man over woman, of master over slave, and have had to deal with their realities, lingering effects where largely eliminated, and our relative and varying complicity in these evils.
In the past, for millenia, men and women were often married against their will, or, in the case of polygamy, many women were monopolized by a few men. Because of the church, and the lack of freedom and personal autonomy, people trapped in ugly and moribund marriages were unable to exit them. With freedom, this situation has changed. Humanity is growing up, and in the process of choosing for ourselves our destinies. This has been enabled most of all by the aforementioned historical novelty - the right of exit. If you're in a bad marriage, you can leave. Today. In the past, often you could not.
In our culture today, people are free to come and go - to enter into a marriage contract as they please. America did not invent marriages, and our government is not needed to sustain them. Even today, in a growing scientific age, most people get married before a pastor, priest, or religious leader of some sort. As a reflection of our freedom of religion, and separation of church and state, this is also one of the great blessings of our system of government here in America. The government is not needed to protect what ought to be protected in marriage - the force of our traditions, morals, religions, and spiritual traditions will do that, as they have, for millenia.
Our government is embroiled in the legalities relating to marriage, however, and these can best be seen, and are by many, as necessary evils. People don't (or shouldn't) get married in order to take on so many new and unenviable legal responsibilities. That just comes with the territory, and marriage partners weight it as part of their decision, but not usually as a primary. No, people get married because they fall in love. Marriage is romantic. It's about romance. About uniting in a bond forever. This is the essence of marriage, and, if anything, what ought to be protected about it. And, judging by the force of our culture, and the vulnerability of our hearts, we have nothing to worry about here.
For millenia, people got married for various reasons, and so be it. In America, we don't really look favorably on most of history. It involved coercion and slavery, and as far as marriage goes, often much less romance than domination. Today, we are a romantic people, in love with liberty and romance, seeking to realize ourselves in work and play, and to find our life partner and soulmate. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we fail.
That's reality. Marriage has not always meant the same thing, other than being the focus of family. And we don't need the state, or Big Government, to be the strength behind our families. To tell us who to include in our families. As free and sovereign individuals we form and give legitimacy to our families and to the state. The government should never forget that. We don't need the government telling us how to collect together and form groups - as human beings, we've been doing that for millenia, our families (extended) are much older than America, or democracy, and ultimately we formed our government as a voluntary and willing association just as we do our other groups. The government needs to do our will - not try to become our will.
Which brings me to gay Americans. It's coming to consensus now that homosexuals do not choose to be so. For whatever reason, genetic or conditional, this is their endowment. Through this prism, they are sexually and romantically driven. If we didn't tie up sex and romance, which we do, we wouldn't be having this particular debate. We could all agree that in the particular sphere of sexual activity, we should just mind our own business.
But this amendment of President Bush's seems to miss all the insight I've mentioned, not to mention any sense of heart or compassion. People don't choose to be gay. Are they to be denied the right to realize their love, when they fall in love, to make that permanent union of heart and body, mind and soul, as do the rest of us? Are we to make the terrible mistake that marriage is about all the legalities and not what we know it to be - about love, and families, and a happy hearth?
Think about it. Marriage doesn't need government. Why does the government, and President Bush, need marriage?
Monday, February 23, 2004
Is it possible that Halliburton will finally be held to account? This site has documented numerous instances of despicable behavior and activities by Halliburton and/or its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root. Now it seems that KB&R has pulled a fast one on the American government and military, and, unlike with foreign governments in the past, didn't have the influence to evade accountability and the rule of law (i.e. the ability to bribe public officials to look the other way or to be their partners in crime).
The Pentagon said on Monday its criminal investigators were examining allegations of fraud against Halliburton Co. unit Kellogg Brown and Root, including potential overpricing of fuel delivered to Iraq.
"The Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the criminal investigative arm of the Inspector General's office, is investigating allegations on the part of KBR of fraud, including the potential overpricing of fuel delivered to Baghdad by a KBR subcontractor," said a Pentagon spokeswoman.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
Well, I must say I'm a little taken aback this morning. Though I'm a fan of John Kerry, I'm disturbed by this latest article out of the Guardian.
Fresh from his latest win in Maine, the favourite to challenge George Bush for the US presidency has secured the financial support of some of the most powerful media moguls in the world.
As John Kerry's campaign to secure the Democrat nomination - and with it a crack at the White House - continues to gather pace, it has emerged that it is being bankrolled by key executives from News Corporation, MTV-owner Viacom and Sony.
Wow. Before rushing to judgement on this, it would be wise to see the history of these kinds of things, and John Kerry's backing by these companies, but it sure seems to fit into our ongoing theories about Big Media going all out to prevent Howard Dean from getting the nomination.
Unsurprisingly, the donation from News Corp's boardroom came not from chairman Rupert Murdoch, a committed Republican, but from the company's chief operating officer, Peter Chernin.
Mr Chernin, one of Mr Murdoch's most trusted lieutenants, is among several media chiefs who have pledged to raise between $50,000 and $100,000 to support the Vietnam war veteran's campaign for the White House.
Others who have pledged to raise more than $50,000 include the Viacom chief executive, Sumner Redstone, and Sony chairman Howard Stringer, whose name has recently been linked with the vacant chairmanships at ITV and the BBC.
Most of the money raised from these contributors will have to be raised through business associates, relatives and friends as individuals can only give a total of $4,000 each to presidential candidates - $2,000 during the primaries and another $2,000 during a general election.
This certainly deserves more scrutiny. Howard Dean declared that he was going to break up media conglomerates, and swiftly became characterized in the media as a "loose cannon", "angry", and "unelectable". This should have been occasion for the Democratic Party to stand up for its own, and for the benefit of all its candidates, since to condone this behavior is to ignore how it has played negatively against you, and may again in the near future. If not speaking out against this treatment now, please don't bother me with any complaints should it come to you, or to your candidate.
Instead, it seems John Kerry is collecting big money from Big Media, a special interest, yet Kerry claims to be the worst enemy of "special interests", even though he's collected more money than any other senator from special interest lobbyists in the past several years. Odd.
Thursday, February 05, 2004
rising health care costs - integrative vision
need to emphasize preventive care and access to emergency care
population is aging, and requires more health care
with this in mind, what are people treated for?
how many of these ailments are related to pollution, poor nutrition, i.e. the result of activities that the government subsidizes or does not regulate appropriately?
obesity, asthma, adhd, cancer, etc.
profits for petroleum companies (and others) while we pay the health care cost difference in people's health
overall vision that sees way to expand access to care, both preventive and emergency, thus saving money by having less intrusive care needs along with better prior accounting and market pricing of emergency care rather than the inevitable waste of bureaucratic "shifting".
no vision with business interests (like business roundtable, walmart)
they want less stringent environmental regulations AND a lower burden on health care costs, and it's not certain whether they advocate that the costs for these be passed on to other interests (not business), or just not acknowledged as long as they are not effected.
empirical: any evidence showing that states with tighter environmental standards pay less for health care? probably not, since most chemicals being dumped would seem to be a federal issue.
imagine we implement a better system. what will be demographic result if everyone eats a balanced diet? what will they then die of? what will be the costs of people as a rule living much longer than today? especially if we were to do away with highway and auto accident deaths too?
Monday, February 02, 2004
When the war in Iraq seemed almost inevitable, I fired off this letter to every news outlet, commentator, and blogger I could find an email address for. Since we've seemingly come full circle now, with admissions that the war was not justified, I'm reposting it for the purposes of reflection.
It's a crucial time in American history. The incompetent, scandalous and crooked are becoming the norm. The latest incident involving the forgery of the Niger nuclear documents is a telling case-in-point. Confronted with this development, a key component of our case for war against Iraq, all we get from our leaders and these documents' former champions is a shrug. Oh well, we passed it along in "good faith". We are not incompetent, or criminal, it just managed to "slip through". Forget about it. And we couldn't have been responsible for it, because our people are competent, talented professionals who surely would have done a better job of forging these documents. And so on...
Only this information is, and was, unforgettably important. We expressed it at the highest levels of our power apparatus, as a justification for a very expensive, in both human lives and material cost, war against Iraq. A war in which we've articulated our possible use of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear and chemical, as a "defensive" measure "should it come to that". A war which has divided the world, invited enemies and derision, and which we have initiated. The people of Iraq, and Saddam Hussein himself, have not asked us to go to war with them. Mysteriously, it's not a priority for them.
Even more mysteriously, it's seemingly become our overriding purpose as a nation. You can't go anywhere and not hear about it. On TV, on the radio, in the newspaper, the non-stop onslaught of coverage of this possible war against a weakened tyrant and people is constantly in play. Forced to give an opinion by the pollsters, fastly becoming more tiresome and meddling in popular culture than the tax collector, Americans indicate a preference for action. An illusion. Most people don't know the facts, don't really care one way or the other, and would surely rather quit hearing about it. You'd think the mind-numbing coverage and escalating gas prices would have assured overwhelming support for war by now, just so we can "get on with our lives", but it hasn't. Most mysteriously of all, masses are gathering in the streets, not answering the call of obedience, irrationality and war, but demanding peace, rationality and sanity. The herd! Acting with compassion and reason, demanding information before consent! The elites must be trembling in their slippers...
Meanwhile, our young American men and women are strapping on their combat boots and chem-warfare suits, preparing to engage in a war of which they can't possibly be passionate about. Why do I say this? There's a difference in what you hear, and what you know. And only the most clueless of the clueless would believe we're sacrificing human lives for the cause of the common Iraqi. For his freedom. Or hers. So anyone who's looking for reasons, to engage their reason, to determine the right thing to do, the moral course of action, will find nothing but ideology and fiction, speculation and threats, forgeries and plagiarism emanating from our most competent war orators. The mere presence of a plagiarized, decade-old student thesis, and the aforementioned Niger document forgery, as key references for our case is more telling than anything else. The plagiarized student claiming to have been able to give more updated information if he had been consulted only adds insult to injury.
This war is a fraud. Essential questions have not been answered. Who is going to die, and why? Will our fighting men and women kill with certainty, or with doubts? When does being a patriot mean defending freedom, and when does it mean being a fool? We don't know. So to the perpetrators of this absurdity the American people should issue one last ultimatum. Stand down, or face the shame of a nation.
I love America. I love our values. They are mine. Ours. Freedom and liberal democracy. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (or, better stated, prosperity).
I believe Bush and company lied and/or deceived us (and themselves). I seek to hold them accountable. I'm ashamed that they have trumped shoddy and plagiarized evidence before the world as a justification for WAR, the most dastardly thing any human group could do.
War is hell, and so has been my life, in some ways, since Bush implicated me in an unjust war.
They've degraded our name and brand, and, after then going to war, proceeded to screw that up too and make us look worse, not to mention make one wonder about the future of Iraq, and whether those people will be any better off (and them being so is no justification for a WAR).
It's time America becomes more about America, the dream and symbol, and less the domineering power and arms merchant that we've become.
It's time we throw the weight of our power and prestige (what's left) behind international law and the enforcement of universal and minimal standards of human rights (globally negotiated) - i.e. the inalienable.
We need to assure, in the face of suicidal illiberal terrorism, that our liberal and classical vision of democracy is so well distributed and balanced that no attack could portend to weaken it. This takes away the motive, for the most part. Why bother blowing up Washington D.C. if it won't sap America or the free world, because we've distributed and lateralized, and made the inalienable protected in a system of liberal democracy fault-tolerant against any attack short of global destruction?
This is not only a security strategy that deemphasizes vertical power structures and in the process reduces system vulnerabilities, it also implements the American dream and vision more thoroughly around the world, which is really a vision that goes beyond America.
This vision is freedom, dignity, and respect for a human being as a human being, and equal before the eyes of God, creation, and the cosmos.
We can strive to make this a reality because we have the power to do so. People already want it, and, as the greatest power, we can enable and grease the wheels. We can help rather than hinder or hurt. We can make freedom and democracy viable globally and enshrined in protections in the United Nations or an expanded system (with enforcement mechanisms in place).
None of this means loss of sovereignty, but the actual strengthening of it, since ultimately driven by the principles that sustain us as a free nation.