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Showing posts from 2012

Speaking of violent societies...

The gang rape of an Indian woman, the violent protests following the incident, and her recent death raise some disquieting questions relevant to our own national debate on firearms and violence. I agreed earlier with cassandra of Delawareliberal that we--Americans--are a violent society.  The graph she used compared us to other OECD nations, and we didn't look very good.  It did not occur to me at the time, however, to compare the US to the world's largest democratic nation:  India. When I did, there were some disquieting discoveries: India is an exceptionally violent place, especially against women: Domestic violence in India  is endemic and widespread predominantly against women. [ 1 ]  Around 70% of women in India are victims to domestic violence according to Renuka Chowdhury junior minister for women and child development. National Crime Records Bureau reveal that a crime against a women is committed every three minutes, a women is raped every 29 minutes, a dowry de

Don't dare forget that you paid for this to happen, and that your silence supports it happening again

From Foreign Policy : SANAA, Yemen — The villagers who rushed to the road, cutting through rocky fields in central Yemen, found the dead strewn around a burning sport utility vehicle. The bodies were dusted with white powder -- flour and sugar, the witnesses said -- that the victims were bringing home from market when the aircraft attacked. A torched woman clutched her daughter in a lifeless embrace. Four severed heads littered the pavement. "The bodies were charred like coal. I could not recognize the faces," said Ahmed al-Sabooli, 22, a farmer whose parents and 10-year-old sister were among the dead. "Then I recognized my mother because she was still holding my sister in her lap. That is when I cried." Quoting unnamed Yemeni officials, local and  international media initially described the victims of the Sept. 2 airstrike in al-Bayda governorate as al Qaeda militants. After relatives of the victims threatened to bring the charred bodies to the president, Yeme

The Libertarian personality?

Recently I ran across this piece:   Climate Disruption Denial:  A Natural By-Product of Libertarian Values. The post struck me as utter crap.  Essentially, the author argues, because Libertarians are focused exclusively on the value of personal liberty, they are incapable of recognizing the scientific consensus about industrial climate change, and employ all sorts of (conscious and unconscious) mental gymnastics to get around accept it. Here are are few relevant snippets (very few, because this piece is not actually the focus of my post): The problem for libertarians is that accepting human responsibility for climate disruption creates a threat to their values. The  Iyer et al  paper  detailed in  Part One  of this series found that libertarians are fundamentally driven by a single moral good, specifically the liberty to be left alone to do as they pleased. Industrial climate disruption challenges both the primacy of personal liberty and, as a result, libertarians are highly moti

Glenn Greenwald nails the hypocrisy of Barack Obama and the disgusting politics of Diane Feinstein ...

... but does anybody really care? Greenwald points out that President Obama has (a) repeatedly violated his own promises with respect to warrantless wiretapping, and (b) depends for its renewal on the very hardline conservative GOP politicians he routinely attacks, while ... Feinstein is channeling her inner Dick Cheney by accusing anybody who wants to even debate transparency of furthering the ends of terrorism (and, yes, kavips, I DO think she wants to run for President in 2016). If Americans actually understood that part of what the administration demanded in the power to keep even court rulings and specific laws secret, then Democrats would be thinking about drafting Senator Ron Wyden for the nomination.  Senator Wyden had the best quote of the day: "secret law is inconsistent with democratic governance" But the reality is that most Americans have become so numbed to the loss of civil liberties and constitutional guarantees that it doesn't really matter any

Senator Diane Feinstein is one of the foremost enemies of civil liberties in America

Proving that the destruction of civil liberties is a fully bipartisan sport:  Feinstein (D) with Chambliss and Rogers (both R) stand tall in the saddle to protect the State's right to spy on you for your it's own good. You know it is bad when even Salon agrees with me. From coverage of Feinstein's intellectually indefensible activities with respect to FISA re-authorization:     The worst offender during the debate was  Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. , chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who repeatedly argued that requiring even minor disclosure of NSA activities would definitely lead to More Terrorism Everywhere. Feinstein worries that more public oversight of the NSA’s massive spying authority  could have a chilling effect on their spying.  She claimed that many arrests of “terrorists” on U.S. soil have been linked to information obtained by the NSA’s domestic spying, which is a pretty handy indication that they’re engaged in a whole lot of domestic spyin

Another potential benefit of Highmark in Delaware: almost no physical therapy or chiropractic treatment

Watching the future get ready to happen to us:  Highmark is delaying [not stopping, merely delaying with what they call "soft implementation"] a new policy that would limit its customers to no more than eight physical therapy or chiropractic visits per YEAR without specific insurance company authorization. I love the rhetoric: “Highmark believes strongly that this program will ensure more effective care for Highmark members. Highmark wants to make certain the member is getting the right care at the right time and in the right setting.” The reason that Highmark can do this in PA is exactly the same reason that Highmark will eventually be able to implement this in Delaware:  an artificially regulated market that prohibits competition, and is overseen by an Insurance Commissioner's Office that appears to have more interest in staying in the good graces of corporate leaders than in advocating for our citizens. But, hey, you can trust the government...

Watching freedom evaporate

No, this is NOT a post about gun control--it's about the constant wars on American civil liberties (with a brief nod toward China). Here are the quick hits in our losing battle for human freedom. 1.  Congress doesn't have the time or the intestinal fortitude to avoid the fiscal cliff, but it apparently has plenty of time and feral willingness to hold nearly secret floor debates on re-authorizing FISA and unconstitutional warrantless wiretaps.  [h/t kavips and NCSDad]   UPDATE:  the Senate has defeated Senator Rand Paul's amendment to equate emails with telephone calls in terms of privacy protection 79-12, as well as another amendment [based on that useless old Bill of Rights] to require the Attorney General to report periodically on certain types of surveillance decisions, 54-37.  Unsurprisingly, the ferocious defender of the state's right to know EVERYTHING is Senator Diane Feinstein--the same lawmaker who is introducing legislation to make virtually all semi-auto

Senator Feinstein and Governor Cuomo: we don't need a conversation about guns, we just need to ban, register or confiscate them

Talking can come later. Governor Andrew Cuomo has already gone on record as saying, “Confiscation could be an option. Mandatory sale to the state could be an option. Permitting could be an option — keep your gun but permit it.” Senator Diane Feinstein's proposed new "assault weapons ban" would also ban almost every pistol in the US that has a "detachable magazine" and would require retroactive registration and background checks for every single gun owner in America who legally purchase any weapon on her list.  So much for the folks who wanted soul-searching and a serious national discussion.

22 dead school children is a massacre; 16 dead Yemenis is merely collateral damage ...

The US allowed Yemeni government stories that American officials KNEW were false  to stand for nearly FOUR MONTHS before finally admitting that our drones had killed 16 Yemenis with no known connection to Al Qaeda. This is a primary example of two things: 1) Despite any and all rhetoric to the contrary the lives of human beings who don't happen to be Americans are not really important. 2) It is apparently moral [or at least legal] for the Obama administration to engage in killing civilians in another country with which we are not at war, in support of a repressive government, and then to lie about it by omission. Jeane Kirkpatrick would be pleased that the current President is such a devoted follower of the Reagan doctrine.

Here's a quick quiz for those of you who think the Federal Assault Weapons ban was good law

Which of the weapons below was legally defined as an assault weapon, and which wasn't? This one? Or this one? The difference consumes about two pixels in the photos. This is what I mean when I say that people who are serious about having a conversation about gun rights, gun legislation, or gun control [take your pick], are going to have to learn the details before they participate in any meaningful fashion.

Guest post by a Democrat gun-owner

A respected military veteran (and long-time friend of mine) Colonel Hank Foresman talks about what has to happen next in gun rights debates: I am not a libertarian; nor am I conservative or liberal; in fact I guess I am a moderate whose views are shaped by the ideologies of libertarianism, conservatism, and liberalism. Today I find myself torn between the three competing ideologies that influence me on the question of gun ownership and regulation.  As a libertarian the notion that the government should infringe upon the rights of individuals enshrined in the constitution is abhorrent; as a  Burkean conservative  I understand that at times the rights of individuals must be tempered in order to provide for the commonweal of the larger community; and as a liberal I believe that the government has a role in regulating the lives of the people for the betterment of society.   I find myself torn over the question of gun ownership.  I do not know what the right answer is?  But what I do

What does the 2nd Amendment mean?

Knowing better than to believe that anything I write on this (or any other) subject would be perceived as the last word, it is nonetheless important to realize that there is little serious debate among historians about what the Second Amendment means, or what it guarantees, or how that meaning has been changed by constitutional amendment and/or judicial action. You really only have to understand four things; but first, here is the required restating of the Amendment's text for the one or two people who may have been living in a cave in Borneo whilst all the faux  debates were going on: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. OK, here's what you need to know:

I sometimes wonder if astronomers actually talk to each other

Several years ago I came across the "Principle of Mediocrity" in a book by astrophysicist Alexander Valenkin, who argued that even when we have only one example of a case we should assume that this case is generally not exceptional, based on the principle of mediocrity. Here is his premise as he states in an article for Edge: If we randomly picked observers in the universe, their observed values of X would be in the predicted interval 95% of the time. Unfortunately, we cannot perform this experiment, because all regions with different values of X are beyond our horizon. We can only measure X in our local region. What we can do, though, is to think of ourselves as having been randomly picked. We are just one in the multitude of civilizations scattered throughout the universe. We have no reason to believe a priori that the value of X in our region is very large or small, or otherwise very special compared with the values measured by other observers. Hence, we can predict, a

Guns and me

I grew up around guns. I can remember having toy guns, and playing war from almost the time I could walk.  I saved up my allowance for the Johnny Seven One-Man Army, which actually fired plastic grenades and plastic bullets. It was Christmas when I had just turned 8 that I got my first BB-gun.  My older brother showed me how it worked (my Dad's vision was too poor to be able to handle such a task) and promised to beat my  ass (and possibly shove said weapon into the same location) if he caught me using it unsafely.  At age ten I had saved up enough money to visit the local Western Auto and "trade up" to a better model.  I carried it down the street of Waynesboro, Virginia, past bunches of adults who didn't give it a second glance, because it was carried correctly with the muzzle down.  My parents were not required to be there for me to make the purchase.

So much for the fiscal cliff . . .

CNN reports that President Barack Obama, often portrayed as holding all the cards in his negotiations with the Republicans, has begun blinking big-time:   The White House proposal would leave lower tax rates in place for everyone except those earning $400,000 or more a year. Republican leaders had asked for a higher limit but the offer suggests there is a narrowing in the gap between the two sides. A person familiar with the talks also said Mr Obama was no longer seeking a permanent mechanism to increase the US debt limit, but would settle for a two-year increase in America's borrowing authority. In a further concession to Republicans, Mr Obama agreed to apply a less generous measure of inflation to government calculation, which would result in lower benefits in the Social Security pension scheme over time, the person added. I'm wondering just why my progressive friends thought he was going to hang tough . . . this time. Charlie Brown.  Lucy.  Football.

... but the deaths of 64 Pakistani children by US drones are just us "mowing the grass"...

This. Must. Stop. Now. Only who is paying attention? The Obama administration still refuses to confirm or deny analysis that suggests that during its first three years in office drone strikes in Pakistan killed between 297-569 civilians, of whom at least 69 were children. One administration adviser likens the process to mowing the grass: "You've got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back." The Guardian makes the point that child murder is child murder is child murder:   The wider effects on the children of the region have been devastating. Many have been withdrawn from school because of fears that large gatherings of any kind are being targeted. There have been several strikes on schools since Bush launched the drone programme that Obama has expanded so enthusiastically:  one of Bush's blunders killed 69 children . The study reports that children scream in terror when they hear the sound of a drone. A

Yes, we are a violent nation

Two interesting posts regarding guns and violence today at Delawareliberal (one by pandora , one by cassandra ) prompt this post in response, because I think that both of them highlight a similar issue, yet do not come to grips with it in historical context. pandora argues that we have to start from the position of remembering twenty young lives snuffed out: My heart is breaking.  And all I can think is This Has Got To Stop.  What The Hell Is Wrong With Us?  Because this is bigger than Adam Lanza and Jared Loughner and James Holmes.  This is about how we’ve come to accept these events; how we almost take them in stride, because, you know… Freedom.  I’m so sick of that lame response.  I’m sick of hearing about the freedom to arm yourself to the teeth because, you know… Government.  I’m sick of hearing about how someone needs to 30 rounds per second because someone is trying to get you.  I’m sick of responsible gun owners being in bed with with these paranoid, fantasy driven freak

Most stringent gun control laws in the West=89% rise in gun violence over a decade

If we are going to have this discussion, we need to consider this : The latest Government figures show that the total number of firearm offences in England and Wales has increased from 5,209 in 1998/99 to 9,865 last year  -  a rise of 89 per cent. In some parts of the country, the number of offences has increased more than five-fold.    In eighteen police areas, gun crime at least doubled.    The statistic will fuel fears that the police are struggling to contain gang-related violence, in which the carrying of a firearm has become increasingly common place.  One wonders where all these firearms come from in a country that had large-scale gun confiscation as a government policy. Oh, yes, I forgot:  the government can only confiscate legal guns, because it generally cannot find the illegal ones.

More intrepid than I am intelligent: now IS the time to have a discussion about guns in America

Yes, I am quite aware of what's happening in Newtown CT right now, but no, I don't subscribe to the idea that we should wait for things to calm down before we discuss the role of guns in America. Doing so, however, requires some intellectual honesty if you intend to participate. (Side note:  this is not an exceptionally high-traffic blog at the moment, so, hey, this could be a giant fizzle.) So there is buy-in and then there are two rules: To participate, you need to answer the following questions in your first comment: 1.  What, ultimately, is your preferred end situation with regard to guns in America?  (In other words, who should have them, what should be allowed, etc. etc.  You don't have to give an in-depth plan--unless you want to--but people having the conversation have a legitimate interest in knowing your end goal.  As much as possible, no hidden agendas.) 2.  In getting from here to there  (with there  being your answer to question number one), how do

President Obama on marijuana in Colorado and Washington: another subtle shift toward an authoritarian state

I can recall that back in 2008 then-candidate Barack Obama said that the US had higher priorities than sending the DEA to raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states where such was legal. And then, of course, his administration had the highest recorded rate of such raids in American history over the next four years. Now President Obama is saying much the same thing about recent votes to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington: “It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal,” he said. Parse this carefully, please. He's not saying, "We will respect the laws passed by the citizens of these states." He's not saying, "We won't arrest people using marijuana in these states." He's not saying, "These states have the right to regulate their own social affairs." What he is saying is that right now, as I speak, I don't see it as real impo

In the spirit of peace and harmony, join Delaware Liberal bloggers and friends for their Holiday Extravaganza

. . . because even jason is far more personable in the flesh than on the keyboard . . . . . . because bloggers are even more intriguingly peculiar in person . . . . . . and because the Food Bank of Delaware is always a good cause . . . The details: In keeping with tradition, please bring food for the Food Bank of Delaware.  We will be collecting the goodies and necessities and then delivering them the Food Bank.  Let’s make someone’s season bright! Date:  Friday, December 14th Place:  Timothy's (Riverfront) Time:  7:00p.m.

Once again, Reps. Jaques and Kowalko mislead the public about single-payer healthcare in Delaware

You'd think that somebody, somewhere, would actually call the Bobbsey Twins on this.  Every time that they sit down to talk about their flawed, recycled, Floyd-McDowell-authored single-payer bill (last years' HB 392) they use the same demonstrably inaccurate talking points as always. Today's editorial in the WNJ is no exception. Here are the tendentious statements from the article, and the simple truth about them: Claim: It is not socialized medicine. It is guaranteed access to health care. You get a health care card and you can go to any doctor or hospital in the U.S. Truth:  In point of fact, the Jaques/Kowalko bill does NOT guarantee access to health care outside the State of Delaware.  The state board that they create will set allowable prices for all health care services, even those you receive out of state.  Written into their bill, however, is the proviso that the out-of-state service provider MUST accept Delaware's fee as 100% payment (you are not allow

Ending the credit hour: for colleges a great solution that will never happen

This thoughtful essay by Kevin Carey in NYT questions one of the more sacrosanct sacred cows in academia:  why we don't award degrees based on skills and demonstrated proficiencies, but rely on an antiquated "credit hour" system that essentially awards course credit and degrees based on professorial whim. (Yes, I am quite aware that I am one of those whimsical professorials.) (Which is why I can tell you, authoritatively, that the system will have to collapse before anybody reforms it.) Anyway, here's a representative snippet: Much attention has been paid to for-profit colleges that offer degrees online while exploiting federal student-loan programs and saddling ill-prepared students with debt. But nearly all of the institutions caught up in the 10-day credit dodge exposed by The Chronicle were public, nonprofit institutions. And both the credit-givers, like Western Oklahoma, and the sports machines at the other end of the transaction, like Florida State Univ

If Charter Schools in Delaware are not public schools . . .

. . . then neither is the University of Delaware. To quote the Princeton Review: Founded in 1743, the   University of Delaware   is one of very few institutions who are both public and private (state-assisted with private charter). Strangely enough, this privately chartered university is the recipient of tens of millions of dollars of unquestioned state support every year, while using entrance procedures that produce a racially identifiable student population (72.6% white; 4.9% African-American) . When it is time to belly up to the General Assembly trough (wherein a high percentage of lawmakers are UD grads), the University is Delaware's "flagship" public university. When the Governor was mooting pay cuts due to budget exigencies a few years back, however, UD employees were NOT state employees (even though people who come to them out of the state system can opt to keep their state-back retirement plans). And, better than the conduit capital funding that charter