Monday, July 31, 2006

Carnival of the Decline of American Democracy - Round Five

Welcome to Round Five of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy John Rozewicki, of Supreme Narcissism, brings us The United States Supreme Court is Frozen, part of a series he's writing "detailing how broken the United States government system is." In this installment, John suggests that Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation from the Court sets a bad precedent. "Requiring justices to die before appointing new ones is the only thing that keeps the political makeup of the supreme court shifting and changing," writes John. Allowing them to choose the President that will appoint their successor ensures stasis and opens the door (according to John) to dictatorship.

Jon Swift, in The New American Empire, suggests "how can we spread the blessings of democracy around the world without actually letting people vote." The problem (as Jon sees it) is we've been busy bringing democracy around the globe but, "One of the problems with democracies in the Middle East is that the people seem to vote for the wrong parties." ... "Iraq was at one time a democracy. Immediately before it was a democracy, it was a colony of England. And what was the United States before it was a democracy?" You see where this is going, right? Mr. Swift very rationally explains how building a new American Empire will be bring peace and prosperity (and eventually, maybe, democracy) to all who need it. And, yes, it's satire.

This week Hell's Handmaiden gives us Godless, UnConstitutional Rulings! - a potent rant against - and rebuttal to - the "American View" and others who use fake quotes and made-up history to push "the myth – the Big Lie – that the United States was founded 'under God.'" "There is not a single mention of God in our Constitution or Bill of Rights, and while there is a mention of the Creator... in the Declaration of Independence it serves more to ground Jefferson’s natural rights justification for rebellion than it does to indicate a particular religious sentiment."

Listed above were the submittals that best fit our theme of "the decline of American democracy." A couple of honorable mentions this week go to What They Want From Us in Mexico, regarding rampant corruption in the Mexican government, and Preston - Capital City of Undemocratic Planning, regarding the continued struggle of the "Save the Ribble" campaign in England.

I also received an entry entitled Oh, By the Way, They Found WMD in Iraq. I was going to leave it out as a non-story. The "WMD" found were nothing new; just the remains of the chemical weapons used against the Kurds over a decade ago. The recent findings were not the "current threat against the U.S." that the administration swore we'd find. But, I didn't want to be accused of being part of the "liberal cover-up" so it's here. See, I gladly post links to opposing viewpoints - that's how a discussion - and democracy - works.

Thank you for joining us on our bi-weekly look at the decline of democracy (and occasionally hopeful responses to it). The next edition of the Carnival will be posted on Monday, August 14th, with entries requested by Saturday, August 12th, at midnight.

Submit your blog post for the next edition of the carnival of the decline of democracy using our carnival submission form. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Tags: , , , ,

Friday, July 28, 2006

Random Quotes Day @ the Blog

From time to time I like to keep my own opinions to myself and just post a few quotes I've collected over the previous months. This is one of those days...

"Faith is, at one and the same time, absolutely necessary and altogether impossible." - Stanislaw Lem

"Ours is the age that is proud of machines that think and suspicious of men who try to." - Howard Mumford Jones

"The trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your glass." - Martin Mull

"But once I had brains, and a heart also; so, having tried them both, I should much rather have a heart." The Tin Woodman (L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz)

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men" - Fredrick Douglas

"If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem." - Richard Bach

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Another Kneejerk Reaction?

Reading the blogs (too many to list and link) it seems there are three basic reactions to the current situation in Southern Lebanon:
  1. Championing Israel and anything it sees fit to do in its battle against terrorism,
  2. Slamming the Zionist Entity and anything it inflicts upon the innocent Palestinians/Lebanese/Arabs/etc., or
  3. Scratching one's head (or ass) and wondering what the F is going on.
If forced to chose among only those three reactions, I suppose I'd have to choose #3. I just wish that somebody - anybody - could find some balance between #1 and #2 without assuming that one side has to be completely "right" and the other side completely "evil."

Let me tell you a little of what I know about Hezbollah - or, at least, what I believe I know about them. The reason they exist - their mission statement, if you will - is to destroy the state of Israel. Their tactics and methods of operation make them a terrorist organization. Over many years they have killed Israeli soldiers (soldiers, it seems, should expect to die) and civilians as well.

There are also many who consider them heroes. They testify before CNN's cameras that in the chaos that has often described Lebanon, Hezbollah has been the community's savior. They have provided food and services for a population in need.

I have no reason to doubt these "hero" accounts. That doesn't justify terrorism, however. Whatever good they may do in the communities where they set up shop, it doesn't change that their ultimate purpose is the murder and elimination of Jews from the region.

I am an American Jew, and I support the right of Israel to exist. Technically, I suppose, that makes me a Zionist. I do not, however, support the current actions of Israel. Nor do I believe that they are justified in the their current campaign to destroy all of Southern Lebanon in order to weaken Hezbollah.

Just as I believe our current war in Iraq only fuels the fans of hatred for America (and the recruitment of anti-American terrorists), so do I believe that Israel's current actions will fuel anti-Semitism and bring more people to join Hezbollah (etc.).

I believe that the international community is correct in calling for an immediate ceasefire and a return to multi-party talks. But let's be clear: any discussions between Israel and Hezbollah are not a discussion among equals. One is a recognized nation with the right of self-defense and internationally accepted borders. The other is a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize the legitimacy of that nation.

Ceasefire, yes. But where are also the calls to disarm Hezbollah and all other terrorist groups? A lasting peace along the Israeli-Lebanese border requires that the armies of Israel and Lebanon are the only ones who are armed.

If Lebanon allows the launching of missiles from its territory by third parties, it must be assumed that they condone those attacks and are a party to them. And that is an act of war. Enough of war, already. Let's challenge each other to a peace.

Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"Yesterday, it was so hot that..."

California is in the 12th straight day of record heat, with the death count at an estimated 41-50 people, and countless animals including thousands of dairy cows (get ready for a spike in the price of milk).

The weather forecast originally called for a cooling trend to start on Monday, then Wednesday, now they're saying maybe today. Maybe.

We have no air conditioning, and I work at home several days a week. Not so this week. With outside temperatures breaking 100 (even up here in the tree covered mountainside), the temperature at my desk is more like a sauna. Yesterday, I packed up the laptop and went to work at the cafe inside of the Border's book store. Leslie can with me and read all day.

We were not the only ones to seek such refuge, as competition for the "better" seats was fierce. We returned to Border's after dinner and found many of the same people we had seen much earlier in the day.

Some statistics:
* "State officials said it was the worst heat wave to hit Northern and Southern California simultaneously in 57 years." (
* The first six months of 2006 were the warmest of any year in the United States since record keeping began in 1895. (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center)
* Globally, January-June was the sixth warmest first half of a year on record, about 0.90 degrees above normal. (ibid)
* Between 1901 and 2000, the average daytime temperature in Southern California has gone up by three degrees. But nighttime averages have risen by seven degrees. (

The reason for that last little bit of information is development. All the stuff we build in urban areas traps the day's heat and doesn't allow for the natural cooling of the earth's crust.

So, are all these statistics and heat waves the result of human actions (or inaction)? Is it just a coincidence, or is it the climate change we've warned about? Scientists are "divided." Taken individually, each heat incident could have many natural causes. Taken as a group and a trend, ... well, you reach your own conclusions.

And now, with apologies to the late Johnny Carson, "It was really hot yesterday." - "How hot was it?"

"It was so hot that I saw a dog chasing a cat... and both were walking."
"It was so hot that Michael Jackson went out for ice cream by himself."
"It was so hot that a flock of birds burst into flames from spontaneous combustion."
"It was so hot that two dogs pretended to have sex just so they could be hosed down."
"It was so hot that I noticed a bum's whiskey was refluxing as he sat on the street drinking."
"It was so hot that birds were using oven mitts to pull worms out of the ground."
"It was so hot that if you ordered at Burger King, they said 'if you want it your way, make it yourself.'"
"It was so hot that chickens were laying hard-boiled eggs."
"It was so hot that my grand slam breakfast at Denny's was still warm when it was delivered to the table."
"It was so hot that cows were producing evaporated milk."
"It was so hot we were going to fry eggs on the sidewalk... but couldn't because the sidewalk had melted."
"It was so hot that undiscovered Easter eggs were melting in the grass."
"It was so hot that Al Gore changed the topic of his speech yesterday from 'Global Warming and the World In Peril' to 'I'd Trade My Mother For a Glass of Iced Tea.'"

Sources: Scientists split on heat wave cause - Some think culprit is global warming, but jury is still out -- Heat wave not ready to ease up on state - Weather death toll rises to 41 - forecast cooldown didn't kick in -- How Hot Is It? And Why? --High Nighttime Temperatures Set Records Too

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, July 24, 2006

Getting Around Tax Fairness

Over the last decade or so, the chances of a low-income American being audited by the IRS has gone up by about a third. In the same period, the chances of the wealthiest Americans being audited has decreased by about 90 percent. As it stands today, your odds of an audit are now higher if you earn under $25,000/year than if you earn over $100,000/year.

And it's about to get even easier for the rich to cheat on their taxes: the IRS will be cutting the staff responsible for enforcing the estate tax nearly in half.

IRS commissioner Kevin Brown says it's because fewer people are required to pay the estate (and other) taxes, thanks to the Bush tax cuts. The NY Times, however, reports that, "Over the last five years, officials at both the I.R.S. and the Treasury have told Congress that cheating among the highest-income Americans is a major and growing problem."

It turns out that poor people don't have quite the same incentive to cheat on their taxes as rich people do, and focusing the majority of audits on them is just a waste of time.

Quite clever really. When you can no longer get away with giving your buddies big tax breaks through the legislative process, you just gut enforcement so they can write their own rules.

Sources: PERRspectives Blog &

Tags: , , , ,

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Rhythm that Kills

If a report in the Journal of Medical Ethics on the rhythm method and embryonic death is correct, then pro-life advocates and the Catholic Church might need to re-think their support of this form of "birth control."

These groups have traditionally protested any form of birth control that allows an ova to be fertilized, but then prevents it from becoming viable (such as IUDs, "morning after" pills, etc.). They object to these on moral grounds, saying that once fertilized, the ova is a person, and to deliberately prevent it from coming to term (even if after only a few hours in the womb) is equivalent to murder.

It turns out, however, that their preferred method of enjoying "relations" without becoming pregnant also relies on preventing fertilized ova from becoming viable. The JME found:
We know that even conscientious rhythm method users get pregnant. ... Rhythm method users try to avoid pregnancy by aiming at the period in which conception is less likely to occur and in which viability is lower. So their success rate is due not only to the fact that they manage to avoid conception, but also to the fact that conceived ova have reduced survival chances. ... it remains the case that millions of rhythm method cycles per year globally depend for their success on massive embryonic death.
Do we expect these pro-life advocates to withdraw their support for the rhythm method? Do we expect them to raid the homes of anybody with a calendar hanging on the bedroom wall? Will they be passing laws preventing doctors from discussing women's cycles with their patients?

Of course not. To do so, they would have to admit that embryonic death is a normal, usual part of the cycle of life. According to the JME, "There are estimates that only 50% of conceptions actually lead to pregnancies." The other 50%? A natural process that results in embryonic death.

This is not a good or happy thing. But it is a very real and natural thing. To pretend that every embryo is an independent, living person is a fantasy.

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, July 21, 2006

Bloggers on Blogging About Blogs

Yes, we're a narcissistic bunch, us bloggers. Write a report about us and we'll all link to you obediently. The latest (which you've undoubtedly already read about) is the Pew Research Center's new Blogger Portrait (Also see article in I just wanted to take a moment here to answer a few of the questions (pdf) for myself.

How many years have you been an internet user? - 11 or 12

How many years have you been blogging? - 5

Before you started blogging, did you have a personal website, or not? - Yes, several, since 1996

How many blogs do you have online? - 2 main blogs (personal and business, plus a couple of experiments and such floating around out there

How often do you read other people's web diaries or blogs? - Several times a day

What would you say is the MAIN topic of your blog? - These days, it seems to be politics, but that's really not my intent. Officially, it's an open space for whatever I happen to thinking about, from a really good meal, to personal health issues, to popular entertainment, to the world going to Hell in a handbasket.

Has your blog ever received attention from or been mentioned by any of the following?
* Public officials, politicians, or political campaigns - Yes
* The news media - Yes
* Other bloggers - Yes
* Local community members - Yes
* Colleagues, coworkers, or bosses - Yes
* Family members - Yes

Overall, do you consider your blog a form of JOURNALISM, or not? - No. I comment on journalism, but I do not pretend to be a journalist. I do not conduct original research, formally interview people, or put much effort into verification other than checking a few basic news and hoax-busting sites. When I comment on the news or political events I filter my information through sources that I have already learned to trust for their journalistic skill and fact checking veracity. What you see here is my opinion on broader issues and facts from my personal experience only.

Aside from your blog, have you ever published your own writing or media creations anywhere else, either online or offline? - Yes - My short stories and essays have appeared in a few tiny journals over the years. I have also self-published books of fiction, on nonprofit fundraising, and other smaller projects

If you had to say, do you think you'll still be blogging a year from now, or not? - Yes (assuming it's still legal)

(There are many other questions - some of which you can deduce the answers to just by looking around this page, I.E., I use Blogger, I have RSS feeds, comments enabled, blogrolls, etc. - and others that are none of your business.)

There. I'm glad I got that off my chest.

Tags: , ,

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Truth (a fable)

Once upon a time, a great leader was in trouble. He'd gone over his spending limit on the country's charge card and gotten into a nasty fight with a big bully who once claimed to be stronger than the great leader's daddy.

He needed something to get the people's attention off of these things. One day - thanks to his great edja-kay-shun - he had a great idea! He got before the people and gave a great speech.

"I've discovered a menace among us," the great leader declared. "This menace is found everywhere, but is impossible to see. And everybody who has ever come in contact with it has either died already or will die someday! This menace is called 'oxygen.'"

The people all talked about the oxygen menace, wondered what they should do about it, and looked to the great leader for guidance. His poll numbers shot up immediately and he was very pleased.

But there was another leader who was referred to as "the loyal opposition." He made a speech too. He said, "Oxygen is nothing to fear. Oxygen has always been with us and always shall be."

That didn't sound very loyal, did it? Not at all. So, the great leader denounced the opposition leader, and said, "My oh-poe-nent is in the clutches of oxygen. He is beholden to oxygen. He is evil." And the other leader was vanquished and the opposition was in a shambles.

Then a very important medical doctor made a speech. He said, "It is true that oxygen poses no risk. In fact," he said, "we couldn't live without oxygen. Life would simply be impossible."

A journalist (who had no known links to the great leader's henchmen) did some invest-a-gaytin and discovered that this very doctor had distributed tanks of oxygen to hospitals and had forcibly hooked up frail, elderly people to these tanks.

The people demanded an end to this practice and after a long struggle (which included the shooting to death of the very important medical doctor who didn't believe in the right God anyway) the practice of hooking old people up to oxygen tanks was banned.

Meanwhile, the loyal opposition had found a new leader. He was very smart too, and understood which way the wind blows. The new opposition leader gave a speech. He said, "Those who talk about oxygen are hiding the real threat!"

That got the people's attention! "What could the real threat be?" they wondered.

"The oxygen you are forced to breath is only half the problem," the new leader continued, and the people listened so carefully that some of them even turned off their iPods and closed their cell phones. "Did you know that oxygen is also in water? Your 'great leader' never told you about that, did he? He said he'd rid the air of oxygen, but he never did anything about the oxygen in your water. If you ask me to be your new great leader, I shall fix that problem."

This was a very long speech (75 words!), so he lost a few people, but enough of the ones who actually vote heard him that he was swept into office with the support of nearly 26% of those who are eligible to vote.

And they all lived happily ever after. Except for the little puppies and kittens and other carbon-based life forms that require oxygen to survive. The end.

(© 2006, K.R. Goldstein - All rights reserved, you betcha)

Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Will $1 Million Get You To Vote?

Mark Osterloh, a former Democratic candidate for Arizona Governor, and current force behind the Arizona Voter Reward Act, is betting that the chance for $1 million will get you to the polls. (Arizona Ballot Could Become Lottery Ticket - NY Times log-in)

Osterloh's idea, which will appear on the Arizona ballot this November for voter approval, is for a random drawing after each election to select one (or more) winners from the ranks of those who voted. The awards would be paid for from uncollected lottery winnings (currently about $1 million in the state), private donations (including potential in-kind donations, such as automobiles), and (you guessed it) the state's general fund.

The purpose behind the initiative is to increase voter turn-out. People like to buy lottery tickets, therefore they'll be more likely to vote if their ballot is a chance at a million bucks. "People buy a lot of lottery tickets now," Mr. Osterloh said, "and the odds of winning this are much, much higher."

I appreciate and applaud the motivation behind this act, but have to disagree with the method. I am in favor of any legitimate reforms to our electoral system that would create an informed electorate that looks forward to voting in high numbers, but I do not favor any form of bribery or coercion.

Real reform starts with the system. It evens the playing field so that non-incumbents have a chance at election. It removes the influence money plays in who gets elected. It allows more voices to be heard than just the two major party lines. It makes citizens feel that their vote makes a difference and that there are candidates who represent their views. Real reform is not a cheap publicity gimmick.

It is true that this Voter Reward Act could increase voter turnout. But a voter who is only in the booth for a chance at a prize is not likely to take the ballot very seriously. As in the case of mandatory voting, the voter is only there to mark a few boxes randomly as a means of meeting a requirement.

Yes, I want more voters. But I want more informed voters. I want more involved voters. I want voters who are there to make a difference, not to get a prize.

Of course, I wouldn't turn down the money if I won it... but, no.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Round Four

Welcome to Round Four of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of DemocracyRegular contributor, Ashok, has submitted Interlude #3: Auden on Tyranny - "Tyranny is very closely linked to populism. In what ways can self-expression occur to keep us from wanting to dominate, and allow that which is beautiful in humanity to flourish?" True, many tyrants use populism as a tool to gain control, but that's not their means of coming to power. If we're to take this post in the context of the "decline of democracy," is Ashok warning us against any politician with populist leanings? Still, an interesting interpretation of Auden's Epitaph On A Tyrant.

Dan Harris sends us China IP - Major Crackdown On CD/DVD Production And Avoiding The Sudden Incident - "China is proposing new laws requiring governmental consent to report on an 'emergency' or 'sudden incident.'" In an example of how un-democratic and un-free the Chinese press is, Harris points out a July 5 article in the official press about a raid on illegal DVD and CD manufacturing. But the raid took place back in March! That the press, in July, has nothing more recent to report on than events that occurred in March, reveals a lot more than the latest crackdown on DVD piracy.

"Disenchanted Dave," a.k.a. David Harris (any relation to Dan?), gives us Bush, totalitarianism, and "No Longer Enemy Combatants" - "Bush's doctrine of executive infallibility and how it's destroying what the country is supposed to stand for. The military doesn't have a word for 'innocent.' You're either an 'enemy combatant' or a 'no longer enemy combatant.'" In the Orwellian world of Guantanamo Bay, the government makes no mistakes. The lucky few to have been released from Gitmo still bear the mark of being accused of terrorist complicity, and have not been officially cleared of any crimes. So, are we releasing terrorists? "Just trust us," the government tells us. This, says Harris, should scare all - left and right - because totalitarianism should be offensive to all Americans.

"Hell's Handmaiden" (John) is back this week with Shooting the cat? yet again - "Our founders feared unchecked government, and I think rightfully so. And they built a government that to some extent checks itself, but they also realized something else - that for government to work, for elections to work, the people have to be informed... An ignorant people cannot make good decisions at the ballot box." In the battle over whether or not the NY Times went too far in publishing details of anti-terrorism activities, John comes in on the side of the people's right to know what their government is up to. We can either have absolute security and no escape from an intruding government, or we can stand up for the rights our founders fought for. As he summarizes, "Free people do not have the luxury of absolute safety."

Thank you for joining us on our bi-weekly look at the decline of democracy (and hopeful attempts at fixing it). The next edition of the Carnival will be posted on Monday, July 31st, with entries requested by Saturday, July 29th, at midnight.

Submit your blog post for the next edition of the carnival of the decline of democracy using our carnival submission form. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, July 14, 2006

Minimum Wage versus the EITC

A couple of weeks ago I posted about raising the minimum wage (I'm for it), which elicited a response from "Internet Esquire" (David F. Prenatt, Jr.) asking, "How would you respond to the position that an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit would be a much more effective and equitable way of helping the working poor than raising the minimum wage?"

In Mr. Prenatt's own posting on the EITC, he says (in part) that: a general rule, an increase in the minimum wage will be very effective at transferring wealth from employers to employees. However, the problems with this transfer of wealth [is] that ... the financial burden of helping the working poor is placed on a very small group of people -- i.e., their employers.
He also quotes a 2004 Slate article by Steven Landsburg that, "the EITC also does a better job of helping the people you'd really want to help, as opposed to, say, middle-class teenagers working summer jobs."

These may each be good points if the only purpose behind a raise in the minimum wage is to "help the working poor." I think that is a part of it, but to me it is mainly a simple matter of fairness. The minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation - indeed, it hasn't even been raised one cent since 1997 - meaning that minimum wage workers are loosing pace with the economy each year that the minimum wage remains stagnant.

As to whether or not the "burden" of the minimum wage falling on a small group (their employers) is unfair, I ask, who better to pay the price than those who reap the economic benefit of their work? Why should this cost be born by all taxpayers (in the form of a tax credit) to the benefit of that small group of employers? The EITC doesn't just help low-income families; it is also a subsidy to those employers who do not pay a living wage.

I'm not knocking the EITC - I am in favor of helping both low-income families and small employers - but I don't see it as an argument for standing behind an inadequate minimum wage. I also don't see why Americans who work full time should have to turn to the tax code to lift them out of poverty when work won't do it. (Yes, I know not all minimum wage workers live in poverty, but a healthy percentage of them do.)

There's an old saying that "the best welfare program is a good job." I've never heard anybody say that "the best welfare program is a good tax credit."

Tags: , , , , , ,

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Feed Me!

I may be without Internet access for the next few days and will likely not have the opportunity to post anything here. This is a good opportunity for you to subscribe to this blog's feed. By subscribing you'll always know when there are new postings here without having to check the site.

When you click the subscribe link you'll be taken to and given the option of how you want to read this blog. You can add it to MyYahoo!, MyAOL, NetNewsWire, Google Home Page, Bloglines, and several other readers.

Or, if you prefer to receive postings by email, you may fill in and submit this form:

Or, subscribe by email:

Delivered by FeedBurner

See you in a few days!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Is the U.S. Army Harboring Racists?

A new report issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center says that due to pressure to keep up recruitment during an unpopular war in Iraq, the U.S. armed forces have become lax in their weeding out of neo-Nazis and members of other violent white supremacist groups.
"Neo-Nazi groups and other extremists are joining the military in large numbers so they can get the best training in the world on weapons, combat tactics and explosives," said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project. ... "Any one of them could turn out to be the next Timothy McVeigh."
This is a serious concern, as McVeigh (the Oklahoma City bomber) and Eric Rudolph (bomber of the Atlantic Olympics and several abortion clinics) are just a couple of the domestic terrorists that had their training in how to kill at the expense of the U.S. taxpayers.

For the past decade (since McVeigh), the military has done a good job of training personnel in how to detect and kick-out soldiers who have purposes other than the defense of the U.S. Constitution and all our citizens. But Iraq and Afghanistan have strained recruiters abilities to keep up with the demand for new soldiers.

Commanders are also under pressure and are reluctant to dismiss racist soldiers who have already been deployed. And so, in downtown Baghdad, there is now Aryan Nations graffiti.

The SPLC report is no surprise. A study from the Department of Defense said that:
"The threats posed by extremism to the military are simultaneously blatant and subtle. On the one hand, high-profile terrorist acts and hate crimes committed by active and former military personnel can have seriously detrimental effects on the civil-military relationship as well as on the morale and security of military personnel. On the other hand, even the non-violent activities of military personnel with extremist tendencies (e.g., possessing literature and/or artifacts from the extremist 'movement'; dabbling in extremism through computerized telecommunications activities; proselytizing extremist ideologies, etc.) can have deleterious consequences for the good order, discipline, readiness, and cohesion of military units."
Everybody now acknowledges that the problem is real and serious. The only question seems to be, what will Secretary Rumsfeld do about it?

Read the full report: A Few Bad Men

Read the press release/summary: Racist extremists active in U.S. military

Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, July 06, 2006

New York Court Protects Children from Gays - Will Decide About Women Voting Next Week

New York's Court of Appeals said in a 4-2 decision today that the state's marriage law is constitutional and clearly limits marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Beyond the constitutional question of whether or not a ban on gay marriage is a violation of their civil rights, the New York court said that "lawmakers have a legitimate interest in protecting children by limiting marriage to heterosexual couples."

Protecting children? What the ...? How does limiting marriage to heterosexual couples protect children? There are hundreds of thousands of children currently being raised by same-sex couples. How does denying their parents the same recognition, rights, and protections as any other family protect them? Do you want to protect children? Give their parents and guardians the ability to be a "legitimate" family!

The Court also upheld the marriage law because gay marriage is not "deeply rooted in the nation's history and tradition." Until around 1863 freedom for African-Americans wasn't "deeply rooted" in our history or tradition. Until around 1919 women voting wasn't "deeply rooted" in our history or tradition.

These are the best arguments that the New York Court of Appeals can find to continue denying basic rights to at least 10% of the citizens of that state? Gay marriage may shock you, it may offend you, but it in no way harms you. Recognition of the basic human dignity of another person does not diminish your own; it enhances it.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Example of Dumb Legislation

A bill currently before California's State Senate (SB 1613) would make it an infraction, operative July 1, 2008, to drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone, unless that telephone is designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking operation.

I realize that as a "big government liberal" the stereotype is that I'm supposed to love this sort of regulation of our daily lives, but I have to say it's sheer idiocy. Not that I haven't been menaced by people who are unable to control both a conversation and a car at the same time. No. It's just that cell phones are a symptom. Distracted drivers is the problem.

According to the Palm Springs Desert Sun, banning hand-held cell phones when driving will make roads safer. While true to some extent, as a "solution" it falls woefully short. It's as short-sighted as saying that banning teenagers from using the Internet will put an end to child predators. The technology is not the problem in either case, it's just a tool.

Hands-free probably is the safer way to go, but not everybody agrees that it solves the problem. Some experts have said that it's not the holding of the phone that causes the distraction; it's the getting caught up in conversation. Hands-free can't help that.

Nobody's suggesting banning cell phones outright. Likewise, we're not going to begin passing laws banning eating while driving, or combing one's hair, fixing one's make-up, yelling at one's children, or changing the CD, checking out cute girls, etc. So why ban cell phones?

A smarter approach would be to simply empower the Highway Patrol to stop and give a warning to anybody who's driving while distracted. Get too many warnings (two in six months, or maybe three in a year) and you get a fine. Too many fines and it goes against your driver's record (and increases your insurance rates).

But then, that wouldn't get to tap onto the latest scare trend. It would require independent thinking and telling people something they don't want to hear. Don't expect anything like that coming from Sacramento anytime soon.

On another topic - 24 hours into the campaign, and we're already front page news.

Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Congratulations, Naysayers, and a Clarification

It only took a few minutes for the reaction from my earlier announcement of candidacy for Vice President of the United States to start hitting my email inbox.

Most of it, so far, has been surprised enthusiasm and good wishes, and I thank all who sent those positive messages. Only one person (so far) has sent anything at all negative, and it was from an old friend who should have known better.

What he wanted to know was "have you considered running for local offices first?" Good question, but it misses the point. (Besides which, I have run run for local office: Mayor of Sacramento in 1996.)

What Dave Koch and I are doing in our run for the White House in 2008 is taking a stand against entrenched, professional politicians. Spending two or three decades "working our way up the ranks" only buys into that system and makes us part of the problem.

Yes, we are serious. We know that at this point we have very little chance of winning, but that does not mean the campaign is a joke. We have already heard back that we are on the right track. We have heard from folks who say they had already decided to sit out the next election and not vote, but are now planning on supporting us.

This is exactly the voter that I am looking for. Those who are happy with the two-party duopoly and feel fairly represented don't need us. The majority who are either registered to vote, but don't bother, or who are eligible to vote, but haven't even registered, are who I want to speak with, and who I want to represent.

To another topic - In my posting of the third edition of the carnival of the decline of democracy, I accidentally implied that Joerg Wolf's main point regarding Guantanamo was that it was "an image problem" for the administration. His post may start with that, but goes much further. To see more of his writing on the subject, please visit the Atlantic Review.

Tags: , , , ,

Announcement of Candidacy

A couple of weeks back I received an email from my friend, Dave Koch. He was expressing his dismay and dissatisfaction with the way things are going in Washington, DC. "We could do better," he said. "Why don't we run for President and Vice President?"

At first, I assumed he was joking. But I responded. And we began to share ideas about the campaign, and what we could accomplish. And suddenly, it wasn't really a joke at all, but a mission.

Today, we officially announce our candidacy to capture the White House in 2008. Dave Koch for President, and myself (Ken Goldstein) for Vice President. We are independent candidates, not aligned with any party. The campaign web site is up at and we have a group set up at Please check them out and share your ideas with us either through the web site, or in our MySpace forum.

One of the things that will make this campaign different is that Dave and I don't agree on many issues. He's a moderate conservative, and I am quite liberal. But, unlike the name calling and demonizing that has replaced debate in Congress, we listen to each other, respect each other's opinions, and look for areas of common ground.

This campaign is about that open debate. It is about wresting power away from the entrenched duopoly that no longer responds to the electorate. It is about finding out what the American people truly want from their government and delivering it.

We're quite a long shot at this time. But we've got nearly two-and-a-half years to gather supporters and spread the message. This is a grassroots campaign, and will require lots of volunteers (if you happen to be interested), but I promise it will be fun as well as rewarding.

Read my full Statement of Candidacy at the web site and please join us on this journey.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monday, July 03, 2006

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Round Three

Welcome to Round Three of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of DemocracyIn our first entry this week, Steve Faber asks Should the United Nations Determine Your Civil Rights? - When he mentions "Civil Rights," Steve is really only concerned with one right: the right to keep and bear arms. The United Nations is debating, and many nations have already signed, a "Firearms Protocol" that suggest that the State itself is the only group that should have access to firearms. I may disagree with Steve regarding gun control in the U.S., but I will agree with him that it's not up to the U.N. to dictate how we interpret our 2nd amendment. The U.N. can be properly used to enhance the rights of individuals where government oversteps - it should never be in a position of denying or limiting any rights.

Our friend across the pond, Riversider of Save the Ribble, is back this week with Riverworks - Pub Debate Primer - He's specifically talking about an environmentally suspect development that's being built in his area of England, against the will of the residents and the better judgment of the local officials. His "debate primer" format, however, is instructive for any group of citizens anywhere who are fighting an unpopular development being foisted on them by one small group's greed. I also include the post here because I just love his introductory paragraph:
It’s a warm, dreamy, summer afternoon, and you are resting your aching feet in a riverside pub after a pleasant ramble along the soft green banks of the River Ribble. You are nursing a pint of cask-conditioned real ale, appreciating the softness of your barstool, and the murmur of pleasant conversation with friends, when suddenly the topic of the Riverworks initiative rears it's ugly head!
Looking back to the right, Ashok returns, this time talking about Educating Liberty: Free Speech - He starts off by saying, "What is essential for a democracy is that speech is consistently valued over force." He then goes on to question why we can talk constructively and intelligently with each other about every other topic, but when the conversation turns to politics, we suddenly begin shouting insults and gibberish. I second his call for open, honest debate (even if he does blame it more on the left than on the right).

Joerg Wolf of the Atlantic Review submitted his posting on The Burden of Guantanamo - Guantanamo, he begins, "is an image problem for everybody who is considered close to the Bush administration." That's putting it lightly. Joerg goes on to talk more specifically about the recent suicides and international - particularly German - reaction, and brings up some interesting aspect that have been left out of most blogs on the subject.

I'm going to take a little "editor's privilege" here and include one of my own recent posts: Bush Declares Himself Absolute Dictator - I admit it's a bit of an exaggeration, but hear me out. In the posting I talk about his use of "signing statements" and other devices to circumvent both Congress and the Supreme Court and place himself above the law. This practice caused one expert in constitutional law to say, "This raises profound rule of law concerns. Do we have a functioning code of federal laws?"

Thank you for joining us on our bi-weekly look at the decline of democracy (and hopeful attempts at fixing it). The next edition of the Carnival will be posted on Monday, July 17th, with entries requested by Saturday, July 15th, at midnight.

Submit your blog post for the next edition of the carnival of the decline of democracy using our carnival submission form. More information on future carnivals can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Fixing the World - One Question at a Time

Have you heard about Dropping Knowledge yet? The organizers are calling it a "global initiative to turn apathy into activity," which sound like a pretty good idea to me.

Not that I think the majority of people are apathetic. I've said before, and I'll say again, that I think the real problem is disconnect between those who hold the reigns of power and the masses who they should be representing. People aren't apathetic, they've simply been made to feel that their voice carries no weight.

And that's where Dropping Knowledge might be able to help. The are doing it by
collecting questions from the global public that challenge conventional thinking, inspire conversation and encourage further inquiry. For the Table of Free Voices event in Berlin on September 9, 2006, dropping knowledge will bring together 112 inspiring individuals to drop their knowledge at 100 of these questions; the answers will be filmed, generating some 600 hours of footage. The "ask yourself" campaign, Table of Free Voices and other dk activities exemplify the practice of asking and answering questions. Together, these activities pave the way for participation in the Living Library.
Some of those terms ("table of free voices," "Living Library") may be a little odd, but I think any kind of conversation like this has potential for pulling people together.

Visit the Dropping Knowledge web site to ask your question, or vote on the priority of the questions that are already posted.

Tags: , , ,

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Fun Weekend Activity: Cure the Cabinet

No, this isn't a household hint about how to organize your kitchen. This is about curing the President's cabinet.

Remember the game Operation from when you were a kid? Cure the Cabinet is an online implementation of Operation, with the of removing such tumors as Karl Rove and Donald Rumsfeld.

You can even compete for fabulous prizes:
President Bush is suffering! He's got lingering war, leaky officials and unlucky poll numbers - can you find and remove the WORST problem in his cabinet?

If you are the fastest surgeon of the week, you get to put your name up in lights and win a year's supply of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
Fun for the whole family!

Tags: , , ,

Twitter Feed