September 30, 2008

Knowledge and Ability

“I think the Katie Couric interview shows that she [(Palin)] needs to be briefed more on certain aspects,” said Jim Greer, the Republican chairman in Florida [(emphasis added)]. “She continues to be viewed very positively by the base of the party, but she needs to demonstrate that she’s got the knowledge and ability to be president should the need arise” (NY Times article on the added importance of the upcoming debate).

Should one imply from Greer's statement that the "base" just doesn't care if Palin has (a) knowledge, or (b) ability?

September 22, 2008

United States of France

I don't think we can still credibly maintain the argument that we live in a capitalistic society. Although some claim that capitalism recently died in the US, the truth of the matter is that it died long before last week (lets try this again).

Supreme Election Coverage

I'm trying my hardest to avoid the election coverage this year but this issue caught my eye. At the Saddleback church civil forum, Obama and McCain were both asked which Supreme Court judge they would not have nominated.

Obama chose Justice Thomas and McCain chose Justice Ginsberg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter, and Justice Stevens.

September 18, 2008

And now for something completely different ...

This interview flows like a Monty Python sketch, but apparently it's real.
Check it.

update: so yeah this is totally fake. the guys a comedian. Which is good because I was thinking with such perfect timing this guy oughta leave politics for improv.

September 14, 2008

Cat's Are Like Cute Little Ninjas

My brother digg's cat used to do this.

(via Cynical-C)

September 13, 2008

Bear Arms

There's no news like old news so here we go.

Those of you who pay attention to Supreme Court (a think I like to call the unloved step child of the governmental powers or the first second loser branch of government) might have noticed a ruling recently concerning gun laws in Washington DC and the second amendment. I must admit that I've always had my doubts about the second amendment to the US Constitution. These doubts have generally taken the form of mumbling to myself whenever I chance to hear someone yammering about "their second amendment rights." The thing is, I've actually read the second amendment. It doesn't take long since it's all of one sentence long.

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.

There, now you've read it too. If you ignore that first part, and all that comma business, and the meaning of bearing arms, the sentence reads just like the monument to gun rights that most people assume that it is. But, as long as your picking which part of the amendment to ignore, why not just ignore the second part or whole damn thing?

So, let me introduce you to an amicus brief, filed by some linguists regarding this very issue. They bring up two interesting points. The first has to do with that militia bit. The question is extent to which the right to "keep and bear arms" should be limited to the necessity of maintaining a well regulated Militia. In other words, because citizens are not longer called to bring their guns from there farms into a state regulated armed force, do we still have the right to keep and carry guns or are militias just one of many possible ways in which we could use the guns that we have the right to have and hold? Because of some arcane grammar (the ablative absolute in particular) and different possible interpretations of what it implies, I don't think that there is a clear answer to this question. You can read this post over at the language log if you want to wade through some of the thoughts on this issue.

The second interesting point, one which I do find entirely convincing, is about the meaning of "to bear arms". The idiom has fallen so far out of use that these days when someone says something about bearing arms we can be almost certain that they are referring to the second amendment. Without any outside context bearing arms means whatever we want the second amendment to mean and the fact that the Supreme Court does not have a centuries long record of interpreting this phrase makes the task more difficult.

Here's what the linguists mentioned above conclude after examining the use of the phrase in many different contexts within the 18th century:
The term “bear arms” is an idiomatic expression that means “to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight."...“By arms, we understand those instruments of offence generally made use of in war; such as firearms, swords, etc. By weapons, we more particularly mean instruments of other kinds (exclusive of fire-arms), made use of as offensive on special occasions.”...

So, a case can be made that in the second amendment to bear arms means to serve as a soldier and while it doesn't give individuals the right to have guns for self defense or hunting it does give homosexuals the right to serve in the military. That's right. Defend you second amendment rights and demand that gays serve openly in the military.

While this idea might seem confusing let me illustrate with a similar idiom that is still in use today - to bear children. Bearing children means to yield or produce children, to become pregnant and to deliver a baby. It doe not mean to carry a child in your arms. We can imagine that the founding father thought about reproductive rights when they wrote the Bill of Rights and came up with an 10.5th amendment as follows:

An uncoerced Motherhood, being necessary to the continuity and well being of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear children, shall not be infringed.

Now, imagine that the phrase "to bear children" fell out of usage about 100 to 150 years ago. Then, for some reason a movement sprang up against anti-child-abduction laws stating that it was illegal for anyone to lift, carry or hold a child without the child's permission. This movement then demanded its "10.5th amendment right to bear children" by which they mean lift, carry or hold children. This movement becomes the only source using the term and over time the phrase comes to naturally be associated with the 10.5th amendment and lifting and holding children. Meanwhile, the state's one child policy seems not to be a 1o.5th amendment issue at all.

(Argents cigarette card via NYPL)

September 12, 2008

Foreign Policy Experience

When I was younger I used to play the boardgame "Risk" all the time. Can I put that on my resume as foreign policy experience?

Offshore Drilling

If America is “addicted” to oil, and our president used that word in particular to imply that such an addiction is not beneficial to the interests of the United States, then how does giving American’s MORE oil make sense? To prove my point I thought I would run through a hypothetical. For purposes of this hypothetical I get to be a Representative in Congress. Let us say a Rep. from NY. You come into my office and tell me you are seriously concerned about a friend of yours and that you would like to know how the government can help. This friend is addicted to heroin, and this addiction has affected her life and she is starting to fall behind on mortgage payments because most of her paycheck is being “shipped” over to drug-dealers whom you have little respect for. So you come into my office and ask for some help.

I smile and tell you I have the perfect solution. First, the problem starts with the high price of heroin, and the solution should work toward reducing the cost. In this capacity we should allow domestic drug dealers to grow heroin inside the US so we can increase the supply. Upon increasing the supply we can decrease the price of heroin. With this decrease in the cost, your friend can now afford to use heroin and make her mortgage payments. In addition, we will have the added benefit of supporting the domestic use of heroin rather than shipping money toward international “suppliers” of heroin who may have bad intentions for your friend as well as the United States. As a side note, you may hear that growing domestic heroin may take around 8-10 years before it becomes available, but we will be on our way toward heroin independence and significantly lower the price.

After listening intently to my solution, you lean back in your chair, and fight the urge to punch yourself in the face for having voted to put me in office. Rather than pulling your hair out, you look me in the eye and ask me never to speak again. In response to my incredibly stupid argument you state the following: First, even if I thought this wasn’t the stupidest idea I have ever heard, my friend needs help now. She can’t wait 8 years while she misses her mortgage payments. By that time she will be homeless, lying face down in a puddle imagining that she is exploring the caves of Mount Kilimanjaro. Second, the ENTIRE POINT of this conversation was to get my friend off of heroin, NOT TO MAKE SURE SHE HAS CHEAP HEROIN!!

Now imagine I decided to run for president on this platform, and I make this argument every day to millions of Americans. You would think that millions of Americans would be pulling their hair out and embarrassed that a major candidate for President could have such a stupid idea.