I don't mean to offend. It's probably going to happen anyway.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Political Ethics 1

Sorry for the lateness of this, I was sleep deprived enough yesterday that the word 'number' was far too entertaining.

Every time some new governmental scandal appears, there is an immediate outcry from somewhere. Most of the time, at least part of that outcry is calling for ethical action among our political class.

The question then becomes, what ethics?

The ethical codes that we as individuals follow on a daily basis are different than those of our political rulers. Theoretically, politicians should maintain some degree of personal ethical behavior, for the same reasons that any of us follow ethical guidelines. There is an added layer of ethics in government though.

Governments have responsibilities. People place their trust, lives, and money in the hands of a group of people in exchange for certain protections and guarantees. This is the most basic level of the social contract.

Any governmental system functions on some form of social contract. Quite simply, it is the agreement of the people to be ruled in exchange for the protections of government. Every leadership role from the worst authoritarian despot to the most lenient small-town mayor follows this. When it gets to the point where the social contract is not upheld properly, people will rebel, either by vote or by arms. No matter how despotic, the people living under the system believe it is better as it is than it would be should they attempt to remove it.

Ideally, everyone would agree on the terms of the social contract. Government would abide by it, and no one would be discontented, as the understandings of why what is happening is happening are there. The will of the people, including those in government, is unified, and governmental action is simple.

The trouble in the social contract is difference of opinion. In a single constituency, people will have radically different views on even the most simple of issues. Those in government have their own agendas and views. Reconciling all of these views into a single comprehensive and clear-cut guideline is quite simply impossible. Therefore, political leadership requires choices on how best to serve people, and how to balance responsibilities with personal desires or agendas. This is the field of political ethics, in providing that framework for decisions.

Next weeks discussion is planned as a look at what exactly those responsibilities of governments are.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Political Ethics series

I realized while talking about political ethics on GBC that the reason I couldn't make the post work is that there's simply too much of it. Each sub point that I wanted to cover is deserving of it's own full post. As such, I'm planning starting a series of posts that will hopefully be recurrent every Sunday on the various aspects of political ethics.

Topics will likely include but are not limited to the necessity of ethics in government, the social contract, ethical traditions, moral relativism, constitutional rights, ethical enforcement, group vs individual rights, and the individual's interactions with government on ethical issues. The first post will go up next week.

I make no claim in this to being right. This will primarily be my personal reflections on the issues, and what I think is right. Leave any topic suggestions in the comments.

I may choose instead to do this as a podcast. Let me know in comments if that would be preferable.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy Dallas

So I've been trying to make a post on political ethics come together all week, and it's still not working. In the mean time, this was worth commenting on.

Occupy Wall Street has spread to Dallas.

While walking back to the train station from the aquarium (which was thoroughly awesome) we passed a group of about 60 people walking down the street chanting. I wasn't entirely sure what they were on about, so I watched for a minute or two.

After two 99% signs and one Occupy Dallas sign, it was pretty clear.

I still find the movement baffling, though Robb Allen brings up an excellent point here. I must say though, it was entertaining that in Texas, the support seems even more anemic than in other places. There can't have been more than a hundred people there, escorted by three cop cars no less.

Oh, and guy with the "It's the middle class' fault for dressing so sexy" sign? Go die in a fire.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I apologize for the delays in fulfilling this request, but I just got access to a camera today. Therefore, reef pictures!
This is my reef, in a 6 gallon JBJ Nano Cube. Lots of corals, a green clown goby, a firefish, a couple shrimp, and some hermit crabs and snails for cleanup duty.
This is Vincent, the green clown goby. In front of him is an astraea cone snail, and in the lower righthand corner is a frogspawn coral, the centerpiece coral of the tank. Despite this lofty status, I couldn't snag a decent picture of it.

This is Zippo the firefish. The green thing in the lower right that looks like a bottle cap is a bottle cap. It is part of a bristleworm trap and not a permanent part of the tank.
These are a brief selection of pictures of the corals. The top is a tree coral, the middle is a candy cane coral, and the bottom has a zoanthis and clove polyp frag center down, the frogspawn in the back, and a pair of mushrooms between them. Also visible is my pair of sexy anemone shrimp, thor amboinensis. Yes that is their real name. That's all the pictures for now, if you want a closer look at anything, I may be able to arrange that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Pt. 2

I may have found an answer to some of my earlier questions about Occupy Wall Street. I thought I would share the immediate brain short circuit that this list has spawned in everyone I have sent it to.

Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending "Freetrade" by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr.

Demand two: Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.

Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.

Demand four: Free college education.

Demand five: Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.

Demand six: One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.

Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America's nuclear power plants.

Demand eight: Racial and gender equal rights amendment.

Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.

Demand ten: Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.

Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the "Books." World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the "Books." And I don't mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.

Demand twelve: Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.

Demand thirteen: Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.

These demands will create so many jobs it will be completely impossible to fill them without an open borders policy.

Quick note, the admin of Occupy Wall Street have distanced themselves from this list, saying there is no official list, but it's disturbing in any case that at least one person things that this is what the movement is about. Also interesting, said admin have refused to make any list of their own, so their official goals are still nebulous.

So, let's see about this list.

Demand 1: Reinstate tariffs. I have no philosophical problem with this other than the fact that those tariffs are not going to be paid by the other nations or corporations out of pocket. The added costs will be met by increasing costs for the consumer. And second... 20$/hr minimum wage? What are you smoking? Remember the "radical wage and environmental advantages" bit? That's because they don't have 20$/hr wages. Also, inflation would quite quickly make that sum of money worthless, as well as shutting down hiring. No company is going to pay that.

Demand 2: Single Payer Insurance... nonononononono. This probably warrants a full post at some point, but in short, the problems with this are that the government is absolutely incompetent, the economics just don't work, the government is incompetent, abuses quickly run rampant in any situation of mandated health care, it all but enslaves doctors, and the government is incompetent.

Demand 3: Paying people to exist. If there's a living wage regardless of employment, why bother with employment? Also, who is paying for this? Are you telling me that I am going to pay taxes on my income such that you can sit around the house smoking pot and listening to radiohead? Why then would I work? Lazing about doing nothing and getting paid for it sounds pretty easy.

Demand 4: If all college education is free, then the degree is worth precisely what you paid for it.

Demand 5: How do you intend to fast track alternative energy? We are working on it. The only reason it isn't up now is because alternatives just plain aren't as good as conventional, with the exception of nuclear, which some consider conventional anyway.

Demand 6: Spending more money. Who is paying for it? Do you have ANY idea how much money a trillion dollars is? Going back to an earlier point that I believe I mentioned briefly, government is incompetent. They can't do anything reasonably. A trillion dollars at this point might be a new manhole cover.

Demand 7: Greenspeak and... oh. Decomming Nuke plants. There goes #5.

Demand 8: This one is interesting. Last time I checked, people of all races and genders are allowed to be citizens, yes? Correct me if I'm wrong there. There's a handy little section of the constitution that says "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States, nor shall any State deprice any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Now, it seems to me that that means there is already equality regardless of Race or Gender in the constitution. It is true that there are times where it isn't always enforced right, see affirmative action, but that's not the fault of there not being constitutional provision, that's just unconstitutional law.

Demand 9: Open borders? Not particularly problematic until the 'live' bit. In order to really function well living in society, you need to abide by the social contract of government. When it comes to non-citizens though, they will get the benefits of without the responsibilities. They become parasitic. It's frequently not malicious, but there are costs that they don't pay. Before they can live here, they must buy into the social contract.

Demand 10: This is more amusing than stupid. This may just be representative of my lack of election knowledge, but whose standard is this? It seems woefully inefficient, and still subject to the same problems as everything else. Considering also how the democratic party is the one famous for vote fraud, and this one may not work out to their liking.

Demand 11: And here we have the big one. Immediate global debt forgiveness, also known as immediate global economic and societal collapse. 65 trillion dollars is a mindboggling sum of money, and deleting it from the record is easily enough to collapse the world. Add to that a truce with China predicated on their owning US debt, and two superpowers could be at each other's throats again soon. Every dollar in a bank is also technically debt on the part of the banks, so everything but the cash you have on you is gone.

See, most of the circulation of funds in our economy is not actually liquidity but debt. We have a fiat currency even, which can be seen as a form of debt. When you pay by card, you become indebted to the creditor, who in turn is indebted to the payee. The payee then doesn't get paid cash, the creditor shuffles some of their monetary holders debt to that of the payee's account, and everyone is satisfied. Unless you pay cash, there is debt, and even when you do, the nature of the currency makes it somewhat hazy.

Taking away debt takes away the entire basis of the economy. So all you crazy people out there at Occupy Wall Street are just gonna have to live with the fact that you are in debt. No it's not fun, but that's no excuse to wreck the world.

Demand 12: Credit reporting agencies report your bad decisions, yes. No, people should not give you a loan you won't pay back. Yes, you are expected to be held accountable for your actions. Where else is the problem?

Demand 13: I'm not entirely sure what this is meant to do. I read it as an escape clause from the creepiness that is the modern union, but that seems contrary to the rest of their goals. As is, you can join a union and get the collective bargaining benefits. Whether you can hold certain jobs without joining a union is occasionally dubious. So, sure. Allow people to turn down union membership at no penalty. (If I've missed the point of this one, let me know)

All this seems so juvenile. For whatever reason, these people are dissatisfied with their lot in life, and are looking to the rest of the world to care for them. So, you who call yourselves the 99%? Shut up and stop your whining. You don't stand for the majority against the silent exploiters. You stand for the few who never cared to grow up and accept responsibility for yourselves. Stop pretending to represent me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Could someone tell me what exactly the goal of these people is? I quite honestly can't tell. It seems to be a bunch of people whining that "life is hard, and other people are better at it than I am." If I've got it wrong, let me know. I can't find anything about what exactly their goals are.

What I do see is that these people think they are owed a great deal. Healthcare, employment, housing, etc. What I also see is that in the end, all of it is money.

What exactly entitles them to other people's money?

Who's gonna make the stuff they want if the corporations are killed?

Who's gonna build their houses for free? If the answer is governments, I can only reply with 'Cabrini Green'

Who's gonna take care of their health because they feel entitled to their services?

Any Occupy Wall Street folks who find this, I legitimately want to know what's going through y'alls minds. I just don't get you.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Citizen's Shields

The MSM has been crowing about the death of Anwar al-Awlaki since yesterday. At first glance, it's a case of 'Oh, hey, cool. Enemy militant killed from 10,000ft. I like these drones.'

Then I heard he was a US citizen.

My particularly apoplectic reaction to this is making writing hard. Where does this administration get off on depriving citizens of life, liberty, or property, emphasis on the LIFE bit, without due process of law?

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Where does that leave room for the targeted killing of a US citizen in a non-battlefield or defensive role? Sure, he was a treasonous pig worthy of death, but there are ways of doing that. On th
at note, let's take a closer look at that word "treason"

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Seems pretty clear cut that this man was in fact guilty of treason. However, he was never convicted as such, so from a legal perspective, an innocent citizen was murdered by the US. If this doesn't scare you, there's something very wrong with you. The full rights enumerated in the Constitution still applied to al-Awlaki, and were blatantly, openly, and terminally ignored.

To riff on my theme this week, he was Vanished, as in 1984. No trial, no arrest, just wiped from the face of the earth. It almost serves to make me question my previous post about the feasibility of a 1984esque scenario.

To add another layer of creepy to the entire situation, former Bush Administration Homeland Security advisor Frances Townsend told CNN "No one should be able to use their citizenship as a shield," as seen here.* Lady, I don't know what you think citizenship is about, but let me tell you, it's entirely about BEING a shield. Citizenship trades a set of responsibilities and adherences for the rights and privileges associated with the position. Al-Awlaki violated the responsibilities and adherences, but is still entitled to the rights and privileges until such time as a court has seen fit to remove them through proper trial.

Citizenship exists to stop tyranny. The assurances nested in it need to be inviolate without due process. A government that can take away those rights at will is out of control, dangerous, and an immediate, vitally important threat to those it claims to represent.

Right now, it seems to be restricted to people the state calls enemies. Looking at past DHS definitions and profiles, however, it's entirely probable that I could end up in the same way. I am a young, right wing reactionary activist who shoots and associates with people who are of like mind. How different am I from al-Awlaki in their eyes? It doesn't take looking far to see real world examples. Look at TJIC for example. 2nd Amendment rights stripped without due process because he exercised his 1st Amendment rights.

The media is largely ignoring the implications of this attack. Therefore, I urge you readers, get angry. Talk about this, spread news around, share this post, and don't tolerate this. Al-Awlaki needed to be tried in court, convicted of treason, and made to do the midair jig. Skipping to the end is counter to everything the Bill of Rights tried to guarantee.

*Non MSM source because CNN has no mention of it in print. I only found out about it because I happened to be near a TV when the quotation aired.