11. March 2018 · Comments Off on Strip and Insert (Letter to Representative) · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

In this new environment of “fake news” and partisan planets of “reality” the value of expressing my concerns to the general public seems somewhat diminished. So, I decided I’m going to start expressing them to my representatives. This letter went out to the 11th Congressional District Representative Mark DeSaulnier and to my two Senators, Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris. 


Dear Mr. DeSaulnier ,

I just learned about a congressional procedure that’s been called “strip and insert”, where a bill that is focused on one issue is passed through one or more points of approval, such as a vote in the House or Senate and then the issue of focus is stripped out and replaced with an entirely different issue without changing the approval status of the bill. In the Indiana Assembly this is happening to HR1214, which was designed to allow for the sale and possession of CBD oil for medicinal use and having been approved by both chambers the references to CBD oil is being “stripped” out while new references to guns are being inserted.

The excuse lawmakers have is that another bill, SB52 is already well on it’s way to legalizing the sale and possession of CBD oil, making HR1214 a redundant effort. The problem that concerns me is that once HR1214, was determined to be unnecessary to the cause of legalizing CBD oil, it wasn’t destroyed. Instead, the bill in it’s current state of approval was kept around so that other lawmakers can pick it up and make it about something else, such as allowing the sale and possession of guns.

I’m not so concerned about CBD oil or guns in Indiana… HB1214 is just an example. My concern is that lawmakers are allowed to use this process to bypass due-process by using a bill that was already approved for something else, thereby allowing them to effectively pass laws without representation.

Please consider a new law that will prohibit this decidedly undemocratic practice. I believe the American people are asking for more honest and upfront representation and to that end there seems little choice but to stop these games.
Thank you,

Nigel Deans
Concord, CA.


I first learned about Indiana’s HR1214 through this article by Bob Segall for WTHR.

07. February 2005 · Comments Off on Elections in Iraq · Categories: Politics, Uncategorized · Tags: ,

So the elections in Iraq went well… or at least it has that appearance. That’s nice, at least the Bush people have something to cheer about… Well, let’s be honest; isn’t it more about jeering than cheering? In the rhetorical battle between the conservative right and the liberal left, the Iraqi elections finally presents a chance for the pro-Bush conservatives to shove a victory in the faces of their opponents (I guess)… But what about the Iraqi people? Is there a real victory for them?

There are lots of arguments to suggest that the elections are a farce or even illegal under the international law but I’m going to put all that aside and assume for the sake of argument that the Iraqi elections are a real and valid expression of democracy.

I still have to ask the question… Does the election, however pretty it may look, really mean that the Iraqi people are better off? And how are we even qualified to know the answer? American people in general hardly know anything about the Iraqi people. We only think we’re experts because of our mainstream media reports about our war in that country. Before we invaded Iraq in 1991, most American high school students couldn’t even locate Iraq on the map. Iraq was like Tajikistan, Albania, Sierra Leone, Burma and many other countries suffering from tyranny that we Americans in general don’t give a rat’s ass about. But when we invade a country, all of a sudden we become experts.

What we seem not to notice is that out of the mainstream coverage of Iraq, surprisingly few reports are honestly focused on the realities of the Iraqi people. Most accounts of the conditions in Iraq are brief supporting arguments for or against our actions in that country. In general, the stories we hear aren’t really about the Iraqi people, they are about us. That is what we are interested in… ourselves. So it just seems a bit presumptuous for us to say the Iraqis are better off now, perhaps we should finish the sentence and explain what we are really trying to say… “The Iraqi’s are better off now thanks to us and our fabulous president.”

The point I am making is that we cannot know about the true condition of the Iraqi people, who’s culture is so different than our own, if most of our perceptions are based on our military actions there and the battle between factions of our own politics. How can we even compare the condition of their lives now to the condition of their lives back when we weren’t even paying attention?

Also, it maybe worth noting that elections don’t say a whole lot on the surface anyway. Lot’s of countries have elections that are nothing more than the cosmetics that make tyrannies look like democracies. Freedom House rates The Sudan, Cuba, Pakistan, North Korea and many more countries as “Not Free” and yet all of them hold elections. We of all people should know about the long distance between holding elections and securing a good government… In a nation that proclaims itself to be the most democratic nation on earth, the tenant of votership (at least among the minority of Americans that feel voting is even worth their time) seems to be “to choose the lesser of two evils”. Ultimatley, we don’t even pick our leaders, we choose between candidates that essentially, the government choose for us and even then, our votes are not direct, the electoral college sits in the way of that and even then, once a president is elected, he chooses the rest of the cabinet members without any further input from the voters and of course there is always the question of who the “elected” government is really working for, the people that provided the votes or the special interest groups that provided the money? This maybe hard to avoid in the third most populous nation in the world but the point is simple… The holding of elections does not automatically equate to freedom or even a real democracy.

I agree, it’s nice to think that we have improved the lives of the Iraqi people, but I think all we can say, in all honesty, is that we changed things for them… whether it’s for better or worse cannot be proven by the existence of an election… such proof can only come from the real changes in Iraqi life that comes from the government that comes from the election, not to mention the costs of these changes, such as the inevitable and violent reaction to a US-built democracy in an Islamic region of the world.

27. December 2004 · Comments Off on Does Conservative Policy Induce Abortions? · Categories: Uncategorized

The abortion issue is something I usually stay away from, probably because I am pro-choice which means the law is currently on my side, so no need to protest, and because I think the issue hogs up too much attention during election campaigns. Like most pro-choice people I know, I am not enthusiastic about the procedure. I am pro-choice only because I think there are cases where medical advice, rational judgement and compassion may be a better route than an impervious, insensitive, one size fits all law. However, there is a perspective on the issue that I have been hearing about lately that I think is worth exploring.

There is statistical and confessional evidence indicating that the rate of abortions may have increased since Bush took office. I’ve looked at the
CDC and
AGI
records and found that national statistics have not been recorded since 2001 (not sure why), but Dr. Glen Harold Stassen, a Christian ethicist and trained statistical analyst found some more recent state-level statistics.

(see article)

Only three states report statistics through 2003. Kentucky’s abortion rate increased by 3.2% from 2000 to 2003, Michigan’s increased by 11.3% from 2000 to 2003 and Pennsylvania’s increased by 1.9% from 1999 to 2002. Dr. Stassen found 13 states that report statistics through 2002, of those, eight states saw an increase in abortion rates (14.6% average) and five saw a decrease (4.3% average decrease). From these statistics he was able to conclude that under President Bush, the decade-long trend of declining abortion rates appears to have reversed. Stassen states that given the trends of the 1990s, 52,000 more abortions occurred in the United States in 2002 than would have been expected before this change of direction.

Stassen indicates that the abortions rate declined during the pro-choice Clinton administration (by 12%) and increased under the pro-life Bush administration – proof, perhaps that words are cheap and direct abortion policies are ineffective. Being one of many Americans that would like to see a decrease in abortions but would rather the blundering government stay out of difficult family decisions, I think this presents an opportunity to look for alternative ways to decrease the number of abortions.

Dr. Stassen reveals three basic causes of increased abortion rates…

First of all, there is the personal finance effect of the Bush administration. “Not since Hoover had there been a net loss of jobs during a presidency until the current administration. Average real incomes decreased, and for seven years the minimum wage has not been raised to match inflation. With less income, many prospective mothers fear another mouth to feed.” According to Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Web site, two thirds of women who abort say they cannot afford a child. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that 12.6 million American families either didn’t have enough food or worried about someone in the family going hungry last year. Making sure all children in America have enough to eat would be a wonderful place to start reducing the number of abortions.

Secondly, there is the marital effect. “Men who are jobless usually do not marry. Only three of the 16 states had more marriages in 2002 than in 2001, and in those states abortion rates decreased. In the 16 states overall, there were 16,392 fewer marriages than the year before, and 7,869 more abortions. As male unemployment increases, marriages fall and abortion rises.” Again, according to Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Web site, half of all women who abort say they do not have a reliable mate.

Finally, there is the health insurance effect. “Since 5.2 million more people have no health insurance now than before this presidency – with women of childbearing age overrepresented in those 5.2 million – abortion increases.”

Of course this is also a slam on Bush politics… something that can’t happen without a barage of heated counter challenges from those tightly wound conservatives. Most of the counter arguments I’ve seen center around a dispute over how Stassen uses the statistics and I have to admit that the statistical side of his analysis is incomplete and perhaps a little slanted. For instance he compares the average post 2000 abortion rates for only 16 states to the pre-2001 rates for the entire country and he concentrates on rates, which can mean anything, rather than the actual number of abortions. (The CDC records the abortion rates as number of abortions per 1000 births and interestingly, in the last year recorded by the CDC, 2001, the rate increased where the actual number of abortions decreased.)

But then again, it’s not that Stassen was picking and choosing which states to base his analysis on; the 16 states he concentrated on where the only states that reported any numbers. You have to deal with what you can get and he did make that clear and if you can get past the hang up about the statistics and move on to what I think is the more important part of his research, the “reasons” provided by the aborting mothers, then maybe you can see the connection between the economic well being of Americans and the unfortunate option to abort.

As far as the argument that Bush-style politics induces more abortions, I think it comes down to common sense… I mean what choices do you leave if your economic policies take away a mother’s ability to provide for a child? Of course adoption always comes up, but if the booming economy of globalized investment continues to leech the American economy of wages then the waiting list for babies will shrink. I just don’t see the synergy. What I see in the conservative path is a release valve in the form of a unfortunate reversion to illegal abortions, which will not save the lives of unborn children, but it should reduce the number of abortions officially reported, which would look very nice for conservative political statistics.

25. November 2004 · Comments Off on Do conservative politicians need liberals? · Categories: Uncategorized

So now that the Republicans have full control of the government for another four years, what can we expect? I suppose we’re all betting on different things, but I hear a lot of talking about how the conservative Republicans are going to bust up the liberal crap that corrupts and pollutes America. This is the kind of talk that’s been powering what Thomas Frank calls the ‘Great Backlash’ since the the 1968 Nixon campaign. The culture war on the counter-culture, the AM Radio assault on Godless liberal elites, communist college professors, leftist media and anything that remotely sounds socialist.

Over time, this culture war has won the voting hearts of more and more middle Americans from the lowest tax brackets to the highest and it’s not that unreasonable to suspect that the Republicans have this culture dispute to thank for their victory in 2004. So here’s an interesting question… Will the GOP really bust up the liberal crap if they need it to fuel the Culture War? I mean, wouldn’t that be like a super-hero that puts away all the criminals? Or the Cancer Society that cures cancer? Wouldn’t they exterminate their own validity? If all the immoral, pornographic liberal structures are knocked down and everyone converted to upstanding moral Christian conservatives, then what would AM radio have to gripe about? What would happen to the culture war?

I’m betting that we’re going to see a lot of changes, but I bet the bulk of the culture war targets will remain in tact. Especially abortion. That’s a huge issue in the culture war right there. Election after election the issue comes up and the nation rallies to one side or the other. It’s always seemed to me that the pro-life camp is the loudest, camp with more bumper stickers and more anger generating strong resolve to vote the liberals out. And even though the conservatives have had more control over the government since the Roe/Wade decision than the liberals, the practice still remains legal. Of course the Supreme Court can always be blamed for this, but today, as the conservatives control the Legislative and Executive branches, the Judicial branch is only one vote away from over turning the decision… Think it’ll happen?

After all, how concerned can the conservative lawmakers really be when underneath all the hype the abortion rate has actually increased since Bush took office, largely due to his economic policies?


(see ‘Bush = More Abortions’)

 

13. November 2004 · Comments Off on Who are the Insurgents? · Categories: Politics, Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Have you ever noticed that the White House tells us that the Iraqis are fighting on our side against foreign insurgents? Are the insurgents really foreign or are they simply the Iraqis that don’t agree with our solution? If the later case is true then why are we referring to them as if they aren’t Iraqis at all?

Roughly 37% of the Iraqi people are Sunni Muslim and 60% are Shia Muslim. The media seems to produce enough evidence to suggest that the Sunnis, in particular, are not happy with what we’ve done and are fighting back. Nevertheless, the Bush administration seems to push such evidence aside while emphasizing reports that some insurgents from neighboring countries are coming in to join the fight. Then there is the selective use of terms.

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the conflict in Iraq qualifies as a civil war, but civil wars tend to have a neutralizing effect on public opinion. So I’m sure for the purpose of generating public support for a ‘just’ war, it’s better to portray the mostly Sunni Iraqi’s that we are fighting as non-Iraqis. So what do you call them? Well, we could call them ‘rebels’ but that term has a close association with our own history and is often seen in our popular language in a positive light. The term ‘insurgents’ seems to fit the purpose… It’s a word that describes people that rise up against authority and has no association with anything in American popular language that can be held in a positive light. But to really complete the illusion it may be better to simply call the Iraqi’s that agree with us, ‘Iraqis’ and the Iraqis that disagree with us, ‘foreigners’. Ah, there we go… So we have liberated Iraq from an evil dictatorship and are now protecting Iraq from foreign invasion.

Our politicians have always been able to rely on the flexibility of language to achieve desired illusions.

05. September 2004 · Comments Off on Judging Wikipedia · Categories: Uncategorized
Wikipedia: This came in on my Slashdot feed… (For those WDK… Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia based on WikiWiki. WikiWiki is a document server for publishing/sharing content on the web, but with the added ability for anyone using their browser to edit the content as well.)
 
Here’s the Slashdot post…
Posted by CmdrTaco on Sunday September 05, @10:02AM
from the well-duh-people dept.
Frozen North writes “Recently, this article in the Syracuse Post-Standard caused a stir by dismissing Wikipedia as an authoritative source, and even suggesting that it was a little deceptive by looking too much like a “real” encyclopedia. Techdirt suggested an experiment: insert bogus information into Wikipedia, and see how long it takes for the mistake to be removed. Well, I did that experiment, and the results weren’t good: five errors inserted over five days, all of which lasted until I remoed them myself at the end of the experiment.”
 
All this really says is that Wikipedia can be corrupted. I think the point of many of these short-lived communities is best described by the honor-system in which something is safeguarded by nothing other than the good intentions of people.

The internet adds global reach to these communities making the popularity factor critical, as soon as enough people and machines come aboard the honor-code will be broken and the value of the community will disipitate.

It would be fair to point out the context of the

article
,
  receiving comment. The article is hailed as a warning to librarians and high school teachers not to allow Wikipedia as a valid source for research. Obviously this is a valid concern, Wikipedia is after all, an encyclopedia open to public manipulation. I’ve been using Wikipedia for a while now and i think it’s the most facinating encyclopedia I’ve ever read, most of it seems like very accurate content. It’s already the largest encyclopedia in the world and still growing fast. The last edition is always right on your browser. To an extent, I think the only people willing to spend the time editing content will be interested in delivering quality, understanding of course, that some bad nuts will be in the bag. So, with size will come corruption, but I will still use it along with my own judgement. The continued stregnth of Wikipedia after being emersed in distrust, will be the heavy use of links to show reference to validated sources. For me it’s just a pleasure to navigate, while exploring the content. A good site to meander through.

 

08. August 2004 · Comments Off on Blog Redesign · Categories: Uncategorized

Although it may not look like it, I’ve redesigned my blog. For those who could care less about the technical aspects of what I’ve done there really isn’t much difference aside from the search engine that I built in Perl. You can now search my posts for specific words.

For those who are interested, I also traded in my overly complicated blogger template for a PHP page that includes the output of my blog using a much simpler template. The side bars are now separate html files that I can manage independently of the main template. Eventually, the book reviews will be a blog on it’s own included in the same PHP page. I’ve also added the capability to comment on selected posts. Something, I’m still trying to decide if I really want or not.

12. June 2004 · Comments Off on Bush’s psuedoscience – an excercise in Lysenkoism · Categories: Uncategorized

Bruce Sterling’s Wired Magazine article, Suicide by Pseudoscience reviews the Bush administration’s fanatic response to a February report published by the Union of Concerned Scientists (big suprise) and compares the administration’s politically-driven psuedoscience to the nuttiness of Trofim Lysenko, Stalin’s “top stooge” in Soviet argricultural science.

In the online forums I’ve noticed many people that sell themselves to the extreme right, often produce new “scientific evidence” that our policies have little or no effect on climate. They argue as if they have found a solid scientific counter-balance to the more traditional scientific assertions that we are damaging our environment. It cracks me up how they completely abandon all questions of concern and displace their personal ability to reason with flat-out submission to nut-science. I guess the upside to their claims is that it erradicates any nagging guilt trips that comes with supporting a destructive leadership.

Politically driven nut-science is apparently nothing new as Sterling points out in this article, using Lysenko as an example. More importantly, Sterling points out an easy prediction, that state-sponsered pseudoscience will always fail, because “science just isn’t politics. You can’t legislate that E=mc21¼2.”

24. March 2004 · Comments Off on Global Population · Categories: Uncategorized

All politics aside, I think the world population is a bottom line that can’t be ignored. It affects everything. The U.S. Census Bureau says that the world population is declining.

For me the magnitude of the population issue generates the power to bend my morals-based reasoning. (At least within context of passive consideration.)

For example, consider the AIDS issue in Africa, which is nothing smaller than the Black Plague that haunts our Eurocentric history books.

Today, large percentages of populations are being slaughtered by hunger and disease. According to what I remember from the Economist’s 2002 Annual Issue, there is a correlation between population growth and education.

I tend to think of it more in terms of specific poplulations, for instance, North America and Europe having been industrialized the longest and generating enough wealth to send a waves of prosperity and elevated life styles under the feet of a middle class, but… when the middle class gets too wise, growing smaller families and larger estates, population growth declines and the population itself, get’s older and more expensive.

Wouldn’t this explain the hunger for money to consume the developing world? On a scale of one continent to one American mid-west city, the effect can already be predicted. Just look at the way the first wave of American industrialism sparked off fires of energy and wealth creating cities like Detriot and Chicago. The fires burn white hot in the centers of these cities, until new fuel is found in the developing areas outside, and the money vacated, leaving behind the ‘hoods of a burned-out inner-city.

Anyway, getting back to world population, the plague that is ravaging Africa and many other regions, is causing a reversal in population growth. This kind of balances things out, doesn’t it? And since it’s the developing nations that have been inflating the world population, their hunger and disease should slow global population down. Overall, from a pure logical stand point, this sounds like a good thing for those of us in the exhaust population, doesn’t it? At least, giving us time to attempt a controlled crash, rather than a psychotic one.

This is why I’m ultimatley disconnected. I can’t always resolve the conflict between what makes logical sense and my deeper sense of morals.
Source: BBC