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The Raving Moderate You may think I'm left wing, but I'm just practical about what it takes for human beings to get along and thrive. I start with the premise that all people are created equal. That's a moderate point of view. Wednesday, December 31, 2008 Question Just condensed my previous post into a 250 character question for Sign in or register there to vote on or submit questions for the incoming Obama Administration to answer. Search for my question in order to vote on it by using the keyword "eco-cars". "Couldn't bailouts help the American people more directly and still save industries? We make some payments on folks' mortgages: the banks get the money AND a home is saved. Tax rebates to buy American eco-cars would wind up in automakers' pockets etc.", Midwest, USA posted by The Raving Moderate at 11:35 AM 0 comments Sunday, December 21, 2008 We can get more for our money than a simple bailout Just posted the following on I would suggest that rather than giving industries direct bailouts, we increase the incentives for Americans to patronize their companies while also benefiting society, the economy, and/or the environment. Case in point: the auto industry. If we gave a truly sizable tax exemption to anyone who buys a particularly environmentally friendly automobile that is made in the U.S.A., the industry would be forced to build the cars to meet the increased demand, and the money would still wind up in their pockets, while people could drive newer cars while cutting down on emissions. We would get a lot more for our tax dollar this way. Similarly we should have bailed out mortgagees, not loan companies. The money would still have wound up in the companies' coffers, enabling them to stay in business, but at the same time more people could have stayed in their homes - for the same buck. I'm also concerned that the dire forecasts themselves may be what is driving the economy down to a large degree. All the fear increases the rate of the spiral. At the same time, we should be learning to live with fewer unimportant luxuries, in order to preserve the habitability of the planet. In this sense, a slowing economy can be a good thing. The important thing is that we make sure people don't starve or live out in the streets. There has to be a tipping point where the philosophy that a booming economy is the best economy breaks down. Perhaps this is that tipping point, and we should be thinking of something other than to jumpstart things into another boom, which will lead to another bust. The economy we need is a comfortable level of food, shelter and medical care for all, where we aren't robbing the future just because we don't know when to stop. posted by The Raving Moderate at 11:23 PM 0 comments Sunday, November 30, 2008 Note to Obama - the Campaign Needs to Continue Sent to, the website of Barack Obama's transition team: I actually came to this site looking for more of a national suggestion box than to tell my story... I had a small epiphany this morning. The campaign isn't over. In these troubled times, the chant of "Yes We Can" can be more important to overcoming adversity than it even was in electing a new President. President Barack Obama needs to return to whipping up those crowds, but also to continue to remember that it's not about him, it's about all of the people continuing to believe in their efficacy, and continuing to take the initiative. I fear perhaps he has begun to feel like the burden is all on him, even with the excellent help he has enlisted. He should remember that he has the assistance, and the ideas and innovation, of the majority of the American people, a majority that will hopefully grow. It is also important to remember that a cult of personality is a very fragile thing, whereas to inspire the many to each become wise leaders in their own right is to create a more robust democracy. Now that we have campaigned to make one man our President, we need to continue campaign for this even greater goal. Additional note sent to the BBC in response to the musical question "Will Obama save the US economy?" I believe that putting Americans to work rebuilding America is a very good start for the American economy. But Barack Obama will not singlehandedly save the US economy. The American people will. We cannot continue to rely on the fortunes of our nations rising and falling with those of our top leaders. Obama, however, is in a very good position to make a difference, and to keep leading us in the chant of "Yes we can!" Emphasis on "we". posted by The Raving Moderate at 10:35 AM 0 comments Wednesday, February 13, 2008 Scalia on Torture (ignoring the Starbucks headline...) Maybe torture is "constitutional in a ticking time bomb scenario" (NYT paraphrasing Justice Scalia), if there is a reasonable belief that that is the most effective means of thwarting a genuine crisis that is truly imminent and of that magnitude, although the efficacy of torture is in itself questionable. But that scenario is also very fact specific. The danger is that the powers that be will simply hide behind an illusory version of this scenario when it does not apply. This tends to make the state itself look like something of a terrorist entity, and thereby also tends, as we have seen, to actually reinforce the anti-state arguments of the violent resistance, helping them to recruit. I read our Constitution as cleverly designed to avoid all of these things. Proper due process allows the guilty to be convicted and removed from society, while also largely convincing the skeptical that the state itself has not run amok. So we should be very careful about allowing for suspensions of due process, and not allow the executive to paint more-scary-than-real scenarios in order to clothe what is really the naked will to power. Follow up post: If Scalia's argument, per MR's comment, is that cruel and unusual doesn't apply -- we might reply to Scalia that torture IS punishment. It's almost by definition punishment for alleged non-cooperation, presumably used in an attempt to force cooperation. Often, it's also an attempt by interrogators to punish the prisoner for crimes he is assumed to have committed. In either case it is meted out without Constitutional due process of law, and if it is "cruel and unusual" (which is hard to get around if it's really torture) it is almost certainly unconstitutional on that ground as well. So I back off the part of my previous post that agrees that at least in some farfetched scenario, torture might really be constitutional. Even if the world was about to blow up, torture would still be unconstitutional on grounds of cruel and unusual punishment AND lack of due process -- whether or not those are Scalia's arguments. However, at that extreme, one might still forgive torture, unconstitutional though it may be, at least in the also unlikely event that it actually worked. In a way this sounded to me like what Scalia must have meant -- in the worst case scenario, the ban on torture would seem absurd, and the Constitution couldn't be absurd. But to the extent that there are better alternatives than torture, such a ban is not absurd. It's also possible that the framers, being human, didn't think of every possibility, and there may be, if only once in a lifetime, a time when something unconstitutional is the only right thing to do. But Bush and Co. are only pretending that that moment has arrived, because they don't want anyone telling them what to do. Of course, the "unusual" in "cruel and unusual" is a most unfortunate loophole, inasmuch as it seems to allow any sort of "cruel punishment", if only it is also "usual". I would think this was either a linguistic lapse or a compromise on the part of the framers (who after all, were human). Then again, it might eventually force the phasing out of cruel punishments -- if for example the death penalty was found to be merely cruel (how could it not be cruel to be told you will be killed?) and several jurisdictions banned it, while others used it more and more rarely, it would also become "unusual". Meanwhile any cruel punishments that were new or simply unusual would immediately be unconstitutional before they could have a chance to become "usual", so they could never cross over that threshold. posted by The Raving Moderate at 11:01 AM 0 comments Thursday, December 13, 2007 Comment to Andrew C. Revkin/New York Times on "Resilient" Polar Bears "No threat of outright extinction within a century or more" shouldn't be that calming. "No outright extinction" doesn't rule out "endangered" or "rare". Also, a century isn't much at the tail end of "110,000 years". Neither does the relative safety of polar bears say much about the overall gravity and complexity of the global climate situation. For example, the polar bears may survive, and the Arctic may even reconstitute to one degree or another, but human beings will nevertheless have felt the impact of rising sea levels, perhaps including more Katrinas or worse. It seems to me that we humans are shortsighted due to our own brief lifespans, and are all too happy to put off change even though we know our present course is leading to big problems in a decade or two, or even a century. Well, a century will include the lifespans of the grandchildren of those alive today, and they'll have learned from us either to seriously address or to mostly ignore global environmental problems. We knew in the sixties and seventies that pollution was a big problem, and already there were people experiencing its direct, toxic effects. We put band aids on a few of those problems when the media created sufficient pressure. Now, looking at increasingly powerful weather events and the melting of the ice caps, it seems that the next wave of chickens has come home to roost, and the pressure should be vastly increasing to reverse some of the damage we're doing. Indeed, some astronomical event, sometime, may have a much greater impact than we're likely to generate for a few decades or even centuries (sooner or later we'll figure out how to do that, too), even as our own chickens keep getting bigger and uglier. But in the meantime, why do we keep doing this to ourselves? Not only do we put off dealing with predictable problems, but we accept and tolerate newer and bigger problems as they, ironically in the case of melting glaciers, keep snowballing. I don't mean to whine or complain, only to realistically describe the challenge which is out there to be met. posted by The Raving Moderate at 10:26 AM 0 comments Sunday, November 11, 2007 Global Warming Some thoughts triggered by the Times reporting on a recent hoax claiming global warming is actually being caused by bacteria. The times wasn't saying global warming was the hoax, but I was reminded of the doubting Thomases who remain out there. To those who still doubt Global Warming: We do know that the Earth is getting substantially warmer on the whole, and the glaciers are getting smaller. One can try to point the finger at other reasons for this, but the fact is that for the past hundred some odd years since the Industrial Revolution, we've been dumping more stuff into the atmosphere -- and on a continuous basis -- than probably in the rest of human history combined. Meanwhile, the theory of global warming seems to have been in place long enough that it should get credit for predicting the changes that are now occurring. I heard of global warming and greenhouse gases as a grade schooler, and I'm in my 40's. So it wasn't an after-the-fact explanation by environmentalists. But blaming "other" factors is pretty convenient for polluters who don't want to change their ways, which means not just industrial giants, but most of us humans in the industrialized world. Hard as it is to believe, the atmosphere holds only a finite amount of air, and the junk billions of people pump into it makes a difference -- same thing for the ocean and the land. So while there may be additional, complicating factors (global dimming from the particulates slowing down the warming from the gases??), I think it's pretty safe to say we've made a mess of a nice planet with our excessive ways. I'm not saying I've just proved global warming, but try on this perspective for a while and see if it doesn't make sense. posted by The Raving Moderate at 10:13 PM 0 comments Thursday, November 01, 2007 Comment to New York Times on Colbert "Candidacy" Discussion The record needs setting straight on a couple of issues here. First of all, if you're looking for real news, try Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman, available on independent radio, Free Speech TV, and the Internet. Stewart and Colbert just give a more enlightened spin on the same news the mainstream media is reporting already. Second, George W. Bush looks much more like Alfred E. Newman (as has already been portrayed in many satirical drawings) than Dennis Kucinich ever will. If you look past his physical features and listen to what he has to say, however, Dennis Kucinich looks considerably more like a real leader than any of the current candidates. posted by The Raving Moderate at 10:45 AM 0 comments Saturday, April 21, 2007 Offsets, offsets I was looking into Duke Energy's "Go Green" program for consumers in Indiana, and discovered the gee whiz article that my headline links to. Duke charges you extra to purchase presumably "green" power -- really, an offset, to my understanding, because we still personally get the same coal power or whatever that we usually do. I think Greg Flynn's comment at the link nails the problem. If the big corporations - and we individuals - are serious about cleaning up the environment and reducing global warming, we'll actually cut down our own emissions, not just pay a "feel good tax" everytime we want to pollute some more, in the hopes that someone else who gets the money will make up for our excesses. Not that it hurts to pay it if you're going to pollute anyway, and maybe it will slow us down a bit, like having a curse jar, and produce some amelioration. But the real formula for preserving the environment -- especially now that we really need to actually reverse the damage or face the consequences --is the same as ever -- reduce, reuse, recycle (for best results, in that order). And you must do it YOURSELF! This offset stuff is only accessible to people with extra money, making it more of a bourgeois self-pat on the back than a real solution. If we take measures, I'm afraid global warming is still gonna get us! Labels: environment, global warming, green energy posted by The Raving Moderate at 3:41 PM 0 comments Tuesday, April 17, 2007 Guns again... They say that guns don't people, people kill people, and that if a killer really wants to kill, he'd find a way to do it anyway. But, if we could have controlled guns a long time ago, I don't think 33 people would have died at Virginia Tech on Monday. Maybe one or two, which would have been horrible enough -- it can't be nearly as easy to commit mass murder with a knife as it is with a semi-automatic weapon, and someone wielding a knife would be easier to subdue. Nor could it be as easy to build a bomb as it is to purchase a semi-automatic. So probably not 33 people. Some people love their guns. This (and probably most of our problems in the Middle East) is the price we pay. posted by The Raving Moderate at 11:21 PM 0 comments Saturday, February 10, 2007 A Thought and a Quote When you consider how much was accomplished by Gandhi and Martin Luther King by wielding the nonviolent power of love, just think what could be done if someone of that mindset was elected President of the United States, with all its resources. "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent" -- Isaac Asimov, Foundation posted by The Raving Moderate at 11:22 AM 0 comments Thursday, February 08, 2007 Get Me a Job With Edwards! I posted this to Amanda Marcotte's blog after reading that she nerrowly kept her job working for the Edwards campaign after some x-treme blogging on her part was discovered. I was just hunting for publicity, if you really want to know, and chose to respond to an entry which used a picture of a guy with a tinfoil hat and black helicopters flying behind him. I really did meet the folks with their stories, mentioned below... I knew somebody with a black helicopter story once. He didn't have a tinfoil hat, but there was another fellow hanging around the edges of the same group who apparently received messages from outer space through his Walkman (this is pre-Ipod, mind you). Since the former story was fairly plausible, I've never quite understood why black helicopters are supposed to epitomize wingnuts. Of course, maybe this means that I am one, or perhaps it's simply that helicopters have wingnuts holding them together at some point. Maybe the whole "black helicopter = wingnut" was started as a way to cover up the REAL "black helicopter conspiracy". My acquaintance's experience of following a black helicopter to its landing point where some armed people got out sounded like it probably would have been a drug war kind of thing. I'm not saying it is or it ain't, I'm just saying... Tinfoil I can understand. Completely. Hey, have Edwards stop by my page, I'd love a campaign job. I have to admit to a certain fascination with both Obama and Clinton, but if John's gonna dig in and take a serious stand against the war, I could get behind him. posted by The Raving Moderate at 11:39 PM 0 comments Wednesday, February 07, 2007 To Be Honest The BBC Have Your Say asks "Would you pay more for an environmentally friendly car?" I want to say "of course!" But... Honestly, the answer is "Yes, as long as I can otherwise afford it." I want to be totally committed to the environment, but in lean times I also weigh my short-term personal costs and benefits, and buy "conventional" rather than organic food. I think producers of goods, from food to cars, need to get past the mentality that being green is a luxury option, and find ways to make all our essential products both green and affordable. Given roughly equal prices, I will definitely go green every time. That's all the space BBC allows for responses. I hate to admit it. While I am struggling with a bit less than an average income, it isn't easy being green when it comes to buying stuff. Some stuff I can do without, but $2.50 a pound for organic apples translates into "I don't buy a lot of organic apples". Other things that I eat all the time, I buy organic when I can, conventional (i.e. pesticide sprayed) when I can't. I take it this makes me more or less a regular person. Regular people want to be green, but also have to worry about the pennies. We understand there is a cost to saving a couple of bucks not being green, but sometimes, global warming's reality notwithstanding, the threat of bankruptcy seems more imminent. Given the same price at the cash register, though, we'll choose green every time, and that translates into a competitive advantage for the company that can do the greenest product the cheapest. That's hard; we want to factor out sweatshops too! I'd like to hear your ideas about how it's possible to make profits with a conscience. And sure, you can give me a hard time for my compromises, but what I'm trying to point out is that to really make a difference, we have to make green affordable to the masses. posted by The Raving Moderate at 12:30 PM 0 comments Sunday, February 04, 2007 Folks Are Still Denying Global Warming Look people, we've known about the theory of global warming for decades. I first heard about it in primary school, and I'm 43. What's happening now seems very close to what was already being predicted 30+ years ago, and we have unprecedented numbers of people pumping unprecedented amounts of gunk into the air like it was an unlimited sized trash bin. Sure, we all want to blame it on something else so we can roll over and go back to sleep. Wake up! posted by The Raving Moderate at 11:33 PM 0 comments Thursday, February 01, 2007 The Law is Not for Sale "Can Patents Restrict Our Advice To Our Clients?" is the title of an American Bar Association Continuing Legal Education seminar for which I received an ad today in my email. I have to say, the very title floored me; I had never heard of such a thing as patenting the law. I contacted the CLE department of the ABA with this response. I believe I will be saying a lot more in the days to come; I'll have to understand this more, but I believe it to be a genuinely earthshaking development Please read the original ad to get more of a flavor; the headline links to it (right click and select "Open in a New Window" or "New Tab" to keep the Raving Moderate nearby ;). This is my gut response to the title of this seminar. I will look into participating, but in the meantime, I'd appreciate it if you could forward it to the participants; perhaps it will influence the conversation. If patents can "restrict our advice to clients", then people of no particular means will lose access to adequate, quality legal counsel, just as many have lost access to quality medical care and drugs. In theory, the law is the law and should apply to all people equally; it will become more like a vise if people have to pay extra in order to learn how to dance around its grip. The ability or inability to pay a lawyer creates enough disparity as it is. Perhaps right now we are just talking about sophisticated business methods, but there is a slippery slope in setting this precedent. The first thing that will happen is that I will not be able to save a client a substantial-to-her, but not huge, sum on her taxes, because it would be wiped out by having to pay the license for somebody's patent. The next thing will be that somebody will have to go to jail because the Public Defender's Office doesn't have patent licensing in its budget. The ease with which people can patent just about anything these days seems likely to stifle innovation, rather than encourage it, as it gets to the point where you can't turn around without violating someone's patent. Patenting legal maneuvers will just mean that everybody, not just inventors and corporations, will start having to pay even greater tribute just to go through life. I'm sure there's a First Amendment issue in here somewhere. Can we restrict legal speech in the interests of commerce? Shouldn't legal speech restrictions be subjected to strict scrutiny, since legal speech is at the essence of how the legal system operates? Since I lack the time and funding to patent my arguments here, I suspect that someone else will do it first, and I will thus be silenced, as licenses on the patent will not be offered. Sounds like a shocking development. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. It has also added a rather sour taste to my plan to go into estate planning. How can we non-patent lawyers practice law from day to day if we have to constantly be doing patent searches? Perhaps I am being naive, presuming too much, or being overly pessimistic, but as I say, this is a gut reaction, and I'd certainly like to know why it is incorrect, if it is. If I may sloganeer just for a moment, The Law is Not For Sale! I hereby claim at least a copyright on connecting this slogan with the issue of patenting the law. Labels: law, patent posted by The Raving Moderate at 12:10 PM 1 comments Friday, January 26, 2007 Save the Polar Bears! My comment added to the petition by Defenders of Wildlife to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: It's bad enough - worse than we think - when species most of us have never heard of go extinct, eliminating another piece of the web of life in which we have evolved to thrive. When species we have grown up loving are allowed to disappear, it is a symbol both of how hard we have become, and how oblivious we have become to our own survival as the hands of the "Doomsday Clock" are moved toward midnight. The same global warming that threatens the polar bear was likely a major contributor to the intensity of Hurricane Katrina. I was recently in New Orleans, where almost a year and half after Katrina very few people have moved back into their damaged homes - another symbol of how hardened and oblivious we have become. Labels: environment, provival, survive, thrive posted by The Raving Moderate at 5:21 PM 0 comments Monday, January 22, 2007 Minimum Wage Haters - Get Over It! Back to, a truly great resource for getting the Raving Moderate P.O.'ed enough to write something. Brian Lambro cites some studies which he says indicate that raising the minimum wage, as has just been done by the new Congress, may cause some additional unemployment, particularly among minorities. One of the sources is the Hoover Institution, which has some impressive neoconservative ties. Another is Dr. David Neumark, who has been funded by Walmart at times, but who is also applauded by the anti-Walmart Watch for standing up to them in reporting some of his findings about their company. Nevertheless, I take the use of statistics with a grain of salt, as far as Lambro's interpretation and the inference of cause and effect. I would ask, for example whether the influence of NAFTA and other influences on employment have been factored in, and what techniques have been used. I'm not fully qualified, nor do I have the time, to fully analyze all of the stats (since I have to make a living, too, and this ain't it. Gotta magazine/blog/think tank with a paying position for a Raving Moderate? Call me!). But I think I have some salient points to make within my current confines, so here goes my response. (Original article is entitled $7.25? A Truly Bad Idea. Stop by there, my post created an interesting argument with a fellow named Fergus, so I had more to say...) There has to be a balance. Given that we have a minimum wage, it ought to go up enough to at least keep pace with inflation and be adjusted annually; otherwise its original goals are constantly being eroded. I don't think this first raise in ten years even keeps up with the cost of living. And an annual adjustment would not be as much of a jolt, much as we adjust each year to a small increase in the price of stamps. We could apply Mr. Lambro's logic in reverse. If raising the minimum wage, costs some jobs, we could reduce the minimum wage to a penny, and thereby have enough jobs for everybody. But of course, that would be absurd. Human beings need a certain baseline to get by. While our standard of living is a little higher in this country than most others, it's often easier to fall through the cracks, too. Unless you live at home with your parents, even the new minimum is not going to get you far, nor help you to educate yourself to move up to a higher level. Of course, if you operate a small business and are currently paying minimum, this hurts, and may result in some layoffs, too. I'm not saying it's an easy problem; it's just that there is a balancing act to be done, which is glossed over by Mr. Lambro's offhand point of view. Employers, keep in mind that paying someone to help with your business is your ticket to greater wealth than if you operated completely solo. You ought to be grateful to these folks, as well as them to you, and keep their welfare in mind, too (pardon the expression), as you would hope that they care about doing a good job for you. It's only fair business. It's for sure that if you paid your employees a penny or two an hour, you would be exploiting them, but of course the line has to be drawn somewhere. So it's not easy to say how long you could keep paying them $5.25 or $7.25 and not have it turn into exploitation, given what it costs to live and better yourself these days. We could "let the market sort it out", but we all know that on the whole those with money, power, and experience have a huge advantage in negotiations. Labor laws, including the minimum wage and rights for unions, which have been considerably weakened and subverted over the past two and a half decades, came into being precisely because of the gross exploitation of the early Industrial Revolution. So find a way to give your employees their extra money. Try to find a way to raise profits and cut non-employee expenses to keep them all on the payroll. Maybe put your own swimming pool on hold for a little while (invite your workers over when you do get the pool, if you're really such a regular person). If you want to protest the government taking your money, consider how much pork President Bush and other politicians sling around, and that half of your federal income taxes, probably more now, go to pay for wars, past and present. The price of everything is going up. Isn't it fair the price for laborers, who also have to pay for the commodities of survival, should go up as well? posted by The Raving Moderate at 10:59 AM 0 comments Friday, January 19, 2007 Is Hugo Chavez Going Too Far? Has Hugo Chavez gone too far? Originally, I liked the fellow, looking at him from a distance. He seemed to care about the poor, and was willing to stand up to the United States, but not in a way that suggested violence on his part. I don't mind a few socialist ideas coming in the form of Social Democracy, which was what I assumed he had in mind. You know, if we're going to pay taxes, I'd much rather have them help people than bomb them. Chavez' "George Bush is the devil" speech at the UN was a bit over the top, but, hey, I enjoyed that, too. Quite a bit, in fact. But now, given the latest story in the BBC, Chavez seems to be decisively moving away from democracy, gaining Venezuela's National Assembly's approval to rule by decree for 18 months in order to accelerate his "Bolivarian" socialist revolution, replacing his Vice President with a hardliner, and saying he won't renew an opposition TV station's license. A previous article stated that Chavez was only seeking one year of decree powers. I get the feeling eighteen months may not be enough, either. When one human being thinks he knows enough to put himself above all other authority, it certainly smacks of hubris. You're going to tell everyone how it's going to be, answer to no one, and silence any opposition that gets in the way? Mr. Chavez, you are not God. Neither are Marx, Lenin or Trotsky, so it doesn't help that you may be implementing their ideas. I am not an ideologue; those guys had some good ideas and some excellent critiques of the way capitalism worked, but their ideas also paved the way for a bloody revolution, a great deal of repression and suffering, and for Stalin. Let's say that Chavez is as wise a leader as can be, and his decrees are consistently the best thing that could happen to Venezuela. Since he appears now to be afraid to let the opposition even have the debate with him, I actually doubt this very much. But let's just say that it's true. Nevertheless, a precedent will have been set. Rulers can rule by decree. If the power has not been solidified by then, nevertheless it has been made available through appealing to the Assembly. What if the next leader to manage to invoke this power is a Stalin, or a George W. Bush? I'll tell you what, nothing makes me for grateful for the existence of term limits and a system of government checks and balances than the Presidency of George W. Bush. For all our country's faults, our Founding Fathers were often at least as smart as Marx ever was. Authoritarianism also tends to undermine whatever mandate comes from the people, which would also tend to strengthen the disrupting hand of ideologues in the United States. This formula could easily be the recipe for a coup sooner or later. Mr. Chavez gained power more or less democratically (the BBC indicates that the opposition boycotted the last election). If socialism is what the country needs, it should be possible to persuade the people thoroughly enough so that socialism can also be implemented democratically, and with the input of the intellects of many brilliant people, not just the limited vision of a single autocrat and the ideologues with whom he surrounds himself. posted by The Raving Moderate at 10:31 AM 0 comments Wednesday, December 20, 2006 The Death Penalty: Slow Down, Folks!, despite it's democratically open sounding name and self-description, is a bastion of conservative columnists. Lately, I've enjoyed jumping in to the comments section and attempting to spar with the 90% conservatives who are also leaving comments. Mostly, I get ignored, but it gets me writing. Below is a reponse to "Death penalty decision a bad first step" by Debra J. Saunders, who is apparently outraged that a federal judge has found a particular protocol of lethal injection to be at least potentially "cruel and unusual" and therefore unconstitutional. This provokes catcalls from Saunders and her fans, to which I politely retort "slow down you bloodthirsty mob!" Look, if the state is going to kill people, they ought to be darn careful about how they do it, and any legitimate question needs to be considered, the time and expense be damned. Most importantly, we need to make sure the person being executed is every bit as guilty as we think, because -- guess what? -- DNA evidence has proven that just because we say "beyond a reasonable doubt" doesn't mean the accused actually did it. So that could be your totally innocent son or daughter up there next getting their lethal injection. The fact is, the states have executed innocent people. Even with the most up to date evidence technologies, the remotest chance of this happening again is reason enough to ban capital punishment. Plus, we do discover from time to time that innocent people have actually been railroaded. Perhaps those rare prosecutors and officers of the court who participate in railroading should get the sentences they were lobbying for, under some of you folks' eye for an eye theories? But let's just say the criminal justice system is perfected to the point that we really really KNOW who's guilty of a capital crime, and we continue to believe that capital punishment is necessary. As our next step, yes we should take the Constitution's prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishment" seriously. If capital punishment is going to be administered, it is a solemn and sad duty, to have to say that this person has strayed so far that now we must take his life. Capital punishment is not there to satisfy some public thirst for blood and pain, which a few people here seem to be exhibiting. If the state, and by extension the people, become purposeful givers of pain and horror, this not only hurts the presumed criminal (who again, may not be the person we believe), but it creeps into our psyche and changes us. We begin to believe that we are entitled to dispense pain, that we are some kind of angels of justice. Perhaps that's who the murderer, in his or her warped mind, thought he was, but this is not who we should be. And sooner or later, we'll get carried away again, and find we've really made a mistake. That'll just be the one we find out about. posted by The Raving Moderate at 9:46 AM 1 comments Thursday, December 07, 2006 Ann (Coulter), you give me a headache everytime... ...that you open your mouth or put pen to paper (so to speak, probably you type at your computer, in between nibbles on the eclair you swiped from the donut guy on his way to Guantanamo). But the reason I'm responding this time is that the first sentence in your article, although written in your usual sarcastic, glib style, was actually interesting. It raises a good point; it would be a mistake to prematurely put too much faith in Iran and Syria. That doesn't mean we shouldn't get to know them instead of just rattling sabres back and forth. Talking was eventually helpful with the China and the former USSR, if you recall. I don't think anybody is seriously suggesting that we put Iran and Syria in charge of Iraq, so maybe this lesson has already been learned. But it's good to remind us of it. Thank you. As for the rest of your (not-so) clever maneuvers, e.g. dismissing the use of the word "bipartisan" by putting it in "sarcastic quotes", even though the committee was co-chaired by James Baker, Secretary of State under George Bush I, Chief of Staff and later Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan and so on and so forth; condemning all Democrats and liberals straight to hell (that one never gets tiresome!); insinuating that Guantanamo prisoners are downright pampered and should feel lucky to be there -- oh, just give me a break. And an aspirin. -- In response to Ann Coulter's recent posting on, making reference to the Iraq Study Group's conclusions, and entitled "Incoming Congress to Launch Operation Surrender". posted by The Raving Moderate at 10:55 AM 1 comments Tuesday, December 05, 2006 First Muslim Elected to Congress Dennis Prager, conservative columnist at, writes in his column at Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran. He should not be allowed to do so -- not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization. My response follows: There is perhaps a powerful American tradition of swearing in upon a Bible. However, there is no American law insisting on the use of a Bible, and even if this was made a requirement, it would be unconstitutional as an establishment of religion by the state under the First Amendment. It's not that you can't use a Bible; it's just that you can't make somebody use a Bible. While it is possible to imagine fairly ridiculous books being used for swearing in, I hope, Mr. Prager, that you are not implying that the Koran is one of them; there are over 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, second only to Christianity, according to While the ratio of Muslims to Christians in the USA is much smaller, this nation was supposed to have been founded in large part on principles of equality and of religious freedom -- many of our early settlers were religious minorities, albeit largely variants of Christianity, fleeing oppression in Europe. And this freedom of religion is embodied in the First Amendment. Now, if someone was actually to attempt to be sworn in on, as Mr. Prager suggests, a copy of 'Mein Kampf', I hope that the people would have the good sense to vote him out next time around. But no matter the book, the oath is to the Constitution of the United States of America, not to the religion contained in the book, and is binding as such. You of course realize that when Joe Lieberman, who is Jewish, swears in to the Senate as he has done several times, he too is swearing an oath to the Constitution, not to Jesus or Christianity, even if his hand is upon the New Testament. Placing one's hand on a book is symbolically an indication that one is swearing before that which one considers the holiest, and therefore takes the oath seriously. If we are going to be that attached to the symbolism, perhaps we SHOULD ask Mr. Lieberman to use a Torah instead, since that is presumably the religious document closest to his heart. Somehow, though, I suspect that if Mr. Ellison, as a Muslim, had decided to take his oath upon the Bible, you or some other fearmongering commentator would have protested against that instead, as though the act had a taint upon it. "He can't swear upon our Bible, he doesn't accept it as the ultimate truth!" Looking at the issue from another angle, what advice would you give to a Christian, called as a witness in a Saudi Arabian court of law and asked to swear in upon a Koran? Would you say, "when in Rome..." or would you would be yowling against it? If what we are seeking is unanimity, perhaps we should have elected officials swear in upon a copy of the Constitution itself, since this is the loyalty we are supposed to be trying to elicit. Personally, I am not a member of any particular religion. Should I ever run and be elected to any office (and I am sure you would work against me doing so), I will inform you, Mr. Prager, about what book or books I swear in on. I find much of value in many religions, so perhaps I will bring a stack of them. This would also serve as a symbol that I intended to represent all of the people, not just Christians or Jews, or Muslims, or Buddhists, or Atheists, or Scientologists. Although Mr. Ellison has instead chosen a single book, I believe that this is also what he intends to do. Added the following a couple of days later in response to those who are paranoid about the proselytizing aspects of Islam: I think it's worth noting that a significant number of Christians think we should all be following Christian laws, that this is or should be a Christian state, that the Bible is a higher law than the Constitution etc. I think that the Constitution allows one to hold such beliefs, even act upon them, but within limits. Freedom of religion and separation of church and state, taken together with other laws, are a way of saying you can be who you want to at the deepest level, but you have to also allow others the same freedom. I think this is what we should be working toward, and this is how the Constitution protects the religious and general freedom of both Christians and Muslims in this country, while also protecting those who wish to follow other paths. posted by The Raving Moderate at 12:46 AM 0 comments Monday, November 06, 2006 Military Times Says "Rumsfeld Must Go" The Military Times has published an editorial entitled "Rumsfeld Must Go" in their magazines, the Army Times, the Navy Times, the Marine Times, the Air Force Times. This site is not affiliated with the Military Times publishing organization. The Rumsfeld article can currently be found at any of these URLS: Army Times Navy Times Air Force Times Marine Times To those in harm's way, in any conflict and on any side, I only wish you peace and a speedy return home. posted by The Raving Moderate at 1:13 PM 0 comments Saturday, November 04, 2006 "CIA Wants Prison Tactics Secret" Original Article Here According to this article in the New York Times, the CIA wants these tactics secret -- prisoners would somehow be forbidden from disclosing what happened to them -- so that Qaeda can't adapt. Obviously, the problem with this sort of secrecy is that there is no accountability. I also am not impressed with assurances that various related rollbacks in prisoners' rights "do not apply to U.S. citizens". American citizens, and all semi-to-fully conscious human beings, should be concerned that our prisons, whether for petty crimes or for the containment of "terrorism", do not become the Gulags we once vilified in the days of the Cold War. If we do not know what is going on, there may be -- no, make that there WILL be innocent and relatively innocent people subjected to horrendous abuses. We the People cannot grant unfettered power without accountability to our government. Even in a great democracy, there are nuts running around vying for, and often gaining, power. Without accountability, the terror will come more from them than anyone else they may be claiming to thwart for our safety. posted by The Raving Moderate at 2:08 PM 0 comments Thursday, September 28, 2006 Remember, "Detainees" = "Prisoners" Sent a note by email to Nancy Pelosi, after seeing her on a press conference on the news or C-Span. I was at a friend's house, on our way out, so I didn't catch all the details, but she gave three reasons for the following. The third escapes me, so I didn't list it, but it wasn't the third thing that I thought was most important! Hi, Saw some of your press conference on TV today. You gave a reporter three reasons why detainees in the so-called War on Terror should receive Habeas Corpus rights. Two of these were to protect American soldiers, and to protect American citizens. I think it's equally important that we emphasize protecting innocent accusees, be they foreign or domestic. We already know that innocent people are sometimes convicted, even with all procedural rights allocated to them. Without Habeas Corpus, the innocent don't stand a chance, and unscrupulous people in government, even our own President, have the increased capability to simply make people they don't like disappear, on a mere pretext of some arbitrary designation. It is no more acceptable that this happens to a Muslim or someone of foreign citizenship than to a Christian or an American Citizen. We must be a country that neither tortures people nor arbitrarily takes away their freedom. At least I hope that's what our Constitution means. posted by The Raving Moderate at 4:37 PM 1 comments Tuesday, September 05, 2006 V for Vendetta, a Not So Distant Future Any movie reviews from me will be rather late, because I almost never go to movies. I recently got the DVD by mail order rental service, though. Movies can be a great way to explore politics and philosophy, though. I found the Wachowski Brothers latest flick to be stimulating, but not quite like the "Matrix", which I could talk about all day, even the sequels. "V" is sort of a 1984 meets Zorro bin Laden as played by the Phantom of the Opera. I liked it, but I think it was mostly that the dystopian aspect worked and struck a chord with modern times, depicting a not so distant future. When you think about it, people in America have disappeared and wound up in Guantanamo without hearings or trials or even any real process. Some of them are terrorists, but some of them... aren't. We don't know for sure which, because there is no process. So the stormtroopers and the bags thrown over people's heads are getting close to home these days. Not to mention, this is the not so distant past for many nations in Central America. Meanwhile the concept of the character of V, though he was well acted, came across as naive, a bit unbelievable, and anachronistic. But I like Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel, and feel the pain of the Phantom of the Opera (and of political prisoners). Casting such a character as a terrorist with bombs and a taste for downright vengeance, in contrast to his basic swashbuckling charm, does provide for an interesting thought experiment, and may help us to understand what some people might see in a bin Laden (I much prefer a Gandhi, and think he would do much more good). The ending was a big yawn, reminiscent of "Dead Poets Society", a mild catharsis that comes across as a simplistic quasi-resolution to a world gone mad, followed by a generic eulogy. But the movie is still worth a spin, and talking about over coffee afterwards. In fact, reading my own review reminds me that, in contrast to what many people on many sides of the political spectrum would say, I think it is more naive to believe that you will solve problems with bombs than to believe that you will solve them with love. posted by The Raving Moderate at 10:48 AM 0 comments Wednesday, August 30, 2006 Am I a Baby Boomer???? OK, here's another post to BBC today, this time in response to the question "Are You a Baby Boomer?" I don't know, am I? Born in 1963, I'm on the cusp between being labelled a "Baby Boomer" or "Generation X". The best of the Boomers were striving for freedom and harmony, questioning authority in order to think for themselves and arrive at a rational, rather than an inculcated, worldview. Sometimes the quest to throw off chains led to excess, like drug overdoses or people being too quick to callously divorce. But even these problems were a painful side effect of a process of maturation, wherein people began to realize that they were entitled to be in charge of their own bodies and destinies. Some traditional values may need reclaiming, but only if they make sense, not just because they are traditional. Note that I was also responding to some other posts that seemed to characterize the 60's as a period of wretched excess, leading to more of the same to this day. There may be more wretched excess; certainly less of it is kept hidden. But divorce, the increase of which someone lamented, should be acceptable, not a subject for whispered gossip. While people should proceed with some sensitivity that it is wrenching for a human to lose his or her mate, to be permanently tethered to another person by anything other than one's own free will amounts to slavery. Likewise, I am no longer a big fan of recreational drugs, but, well, it's your body. Throwing a user or addict in jail doesn't help them take better care of their body, and even rehabilitation may be nobody's business to enforce if a person chooses otherwise and has done no criminal harm to others. And whose to say that Timothy Leary didn't actually make a positive contribution to society? posted by The Raving Moderate at 10:03 AM 0 comments Iran v. Bush Just posted this to the BBC Have Your Say, in response to the question "Has Iran Benefited from the War on Terror?": I think that in the Middle East, Bush's handling of the so-called War on Terror has tended to boost anyone seen as standing up to him. Mr. Ahmadinejad, interviewed by 60 Minutes, came across to me as no more of a madman than our Mr. Bush. The former's claim that Iran is entitled to nuclear power is as valid as anyone's, if perhaps also disingenuous and ultimately misguided (even peaceful nukes have the pitfall of dealing with the waste, and the risk of another Chernobyl). His veneration of suicide bombers was shocking, but then most cultures (mistakenly, I think, ours included) venerate dying and killing for a cause. We could talk to Iran, but I hear a drumbeat. posted by The Raving Moderate at 9:33 AM 0 comments Saturday, August 26, 2006 Water: The Most Essential of Resources Posted to BBC discussion today: Water, earth, and air are all essential to our existences. Why are we so cavalier about dumping our waste into them, and depleting our best resources? Further, we need to understand that the entire ecology evolved over eons to become a place in which humans thrive. If we continue to blindly alter it, it will no longer support us. posted by The Raving Moderate at 10:09 AM 0 comments Saturday, July 22, 2006 Lebanon II Is no one even intrigued anymore by the idea that Gandhi and Martin Luther King apparently won their struggles? Maybe not permanently and conclusively in every regard desired, but as much, probably much more, than any war has ever truly won anything worthwhile. posted by The Raving Moderate at 3:18 AM 0 comments Lebanon I submitted to the BBC a few minutes ago: Israel and Hezbollah both seem to think they have something to gain in this conflict. Presumably Iran and Syria agree with Hezbollah and think they have something to gain. And now the Bush Administration thinks that something should be gained before a cease fire is ever implemented. There is nothing to be gained from this senseless destruction except more destruction, and no one will win in the long run. The world is even more rapidly becoming a less stable place. posted by The Raving Moderate at 3:16 AM 0 comments Wednesday, July 19, 2006 Deep Thought of the Day 2 I think that the most important contribution a human being can make to the world is to positively influence the way people think. Building a multi-billion dollar corporation: that's just showing off, and leaves us with another many-headed monster to boot. Nope, deep thoughts -- that's the legacy to leave. But deep thoughts that lead to powerful actions, and (sigh) to love in a universe that sometimes seems so heartless. posted by The Raving Moderate at 11:32 PM 0 comments Tuesday, July 04, 2006 Deep Thought of the Day "He made a lot of money, he had a good time, the world suffered for it on his behalf." How many of us would want to leave this for a legacy? Yet how many people, especially those with some power, actually do leave this legacy? And how tempting it is to try and live this way. This is what we should struggle (peacefully!) against, and try to create avenues where we can all be successful in life, yet not leave such a legacy. posted by The Raving Moderate at 1:09 PM 0 comments Saturday, July 01, 2006 Alleged Rape and Killings by American soldiers. See story at New York Times My comment is the same I made a month ago with regard to the Haditha incident: "The greater lesson is that war always leads to such horrors. 'Accidental' and 'collateral' horrors happen, and then there will be those that are intentional, although likely motivated by panic or psychosis. It does not reflect on all soldiers, but it does reflect on the nature of war." I do not remotely suggest in this case, however, suggest that the incident might have anything directly to do with policy, although rape as a method of terrorism has been suggested in other wars involving other countries. But I do suggest that we need to make war obsolete. The intentions of soldiers and their willingness to sacrifice their lives may be noble, but the intentions of governments rarely are, and the results almost never are. The most likely exception, the position of the Allies in WWII, may have been noble and necessary, but we have lost site of the goal of then moving past the necessity of further wars and the sacrifice of human lives, and even crossed over the line into fighting optional wars, with the concomitant horrors all wars, noble and necessary or not, precipitate. Still worse, we seem to be addicted to war, and use our just war theories and our defense of the honor of soldiers as an excuse for our addiction. Young people on every side believe they are signing up for a noble cause; can they possibly all be right? posted by The Raving Moderate at 9:41 AM 0 comments About Me Name: The Raving Moderate View my complete profile Previous Posts * Question * We can get more for our money than a simple bailou... * Note to Obama - the Campaign Needs to Continue * Scalia on Torture (ignoring the Starbucks headline... * Comment to Andrew C. 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