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Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Year!

December 31st, 2009 2 comments

No post today, but I did want to wish everyone the very best of New Years! Stay safe, involved, and active in your community, but most of all, love one another.

Cheers!

Categories: Tidbits Tags:

Stony River’s Microfiction Monday #1

December 27th, 2009 7 comments

I know this doesn’t quite fit the tenor of this blog site… but I did say I’d try anything that caught my fancy… Susan over at Stony River provides a fun little exercise each Monday called Microfiction Mondays. She explains everything over there, so I’ll just get to business with her logo and trigger picture:

And here is the triggering picture:

At a much later date in our lives we

might have fled the room, but this

treasure of possibility at ages five and eight –

body armor, serious slingshots, traps of all sorts!

Now that was fun, Cheers all!

Merry Christmas!

December 24th, 2009 2 comments

I once enjoyed a wonderful ride to work each morning, and unfailingly, provided I had the ready cash, I’d stop by the coffee goddess’ place of business and pick up a great cup-a-joe. Though it’s a rare day I find myself traveling this little byway, I thought it a perfect spot to share this Christmas Eve morning.

To all of you out in the world that visit this blog: from our family to you and yours, we wish you the best possible Christmas Season this year and an even better year to come!

Cheers! Steven & Crew

Categories: Fun, Tidbits Tags:

Thursday’s Hiatus

December 17th, 2009 5 comments

Since it is our 34th anniversary, I’ve decided to take a one week break in my attempts at somewhat substantive posts… ok, I’m just taking this week off for my anniversary – forget about that whole substantive post thing… I wouldn’t want that coming back to bite me in the, er, ehem, behind. However, there are a few posts on other sites worth visiting, and I’m always a fan of watching someone ELSE do real work!

NeoNeocon has a great link and highlight of the current war on the CIA that is worth the read. Her little blurb give the gist of the story, but the original (quite lengthy) story is well worth the visit.

Responsibility – Freedom Demands It, and Asymmetric both have posts and links worth reading through concerning environmental issues.

See you soon! Cheers all.

Categories: Somebody Else's Work!, Tidbits Tags:

Finally! Felony Disenfranchisement

December 10th, 2009 8 comments

jail1A tremendous body of advocacy writing concerning felony disenfranchisement spends its time comparing us to European countries and waxing long on our failure to be like them… Screw that, let’s be like us, and if we want to change the way we do business let’s keep it internally consistent! Let’s do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because somebody else is doing it. Sheesh!!

That’s the second to last paragraph of last week’s post. Just a reminder of where I’d prefer decisions about our political and legal life to be, rooted in our country’s history – socially, politically, and especially legally. I don’t really think I trust any lawyers when it comes to arguments; they strike me as waaaay too much like the sophists. It really isn’t about finding the truth of the matter; it’s all about winning the argument… even if the winning argument ignores evidence that might be deemed “exculpatory.” If the opposition fails to find the exculpatory evidence, then really, “it simply isn’t my concern.” Don’t get me wrong here; I’m certain there are honest lawyers out there somewhere – just like there are honest politicians. Simon Cameron said it best, “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.”

Unfortunately, most of the advocacy writing on this subject (felony disenfranchisement), and the associated “research,” is done by lawyers or think tanks aimed at a specific agenda. Apart from many lawyers associations, especially the American Trial Lawyers Association (an exclusive group of “the best” 100 lawyers from each state that caters only to the defense side of a trial) and the ACLU, there are also other groups like The Sentencing Project that one might think are more balanced. Again, unfortunately, the aim of The Sentencing Project is focused sharply on defense attorneys. Moreover, the lion’s share of the material tries to invoke international law, U.N. Treaties, or the practices of other nations. When it is not trying to do that, the authors use descriptive statistical information precisely as one might expect of a lawyer rather than a statistician or scientist. In other words, one finds lawyers repeatedly trying to use descriptive statistics to prove discriminatory practices. This tool describes a population, it doesn’t prove or explain anything – other than the description.

Before I actually give my position, I’d like to lay out just one more example of the kinds of arguments and commentary coming from this rather one sided group of defense attorneys – primarily because it’s just a little funny. It’s worth a direct quote from the Alabama Law Review, Vol. 58:

Though felony disenfranchisement has been present in this country since its inception, the outrage over this process has gained serious momentum in recent years. The reason for this new found interest in felony disenfranchisement laws can be traced to the 2000 presidential election.1 This presidential election was the closest in the history of the United States2 and resulted in President George W. Bush winning the election while losing the popular vote.3 In fact, the election was so close that the result hinged on one state: Florida.4 The Republican nominee, George W. Bush, won the state of Florida by accumulating fewer than 1,000 more votes than the Democratic nominee Al Gore.5 In such a closely contested election, some commentators believe that if felons were allowed to vote, Al Gore would have become the forty-third President of the United States.6 (emphasis mine)

Come on, seriously, if criminals could register to vote, then they’d certainly register as democrats… That’s directly from the opening paragraph. What happened to the proof reader? You might expect me to make mistakes like that; I don’t have an editorial staff to make sure I don’t walk away with my foot in my mouth. But you don’t really expect that from an established journal. Regardless, the article is one of the few I really enjoyed because it focused on American Law, why it probably would not be practical to challenge disenfranchisement laws through the courts, and finally, why concerned citizens must move their legislators to change the laws.

I happen to agree that these laws need to be changed, but not for the reasons typically offered by lawyers concerning things outside the internal consistency of our own laws and intentions. Leave it to a Canadian, specifically members of their Supreme Court, to avoid an argument based on international law and to focus on the internal consistency of the thing itself! From a paper by The Sentencing Project on page 29:

The court concluded that the policy [of disenfranchisement] did not communicate a clear lesson to the nation’s citizens about respect for the rule of law. The court stated: “Denying a citizen the right to vote denies the basis of democratic legitimacy. It says that delegates elected by the citizens can then bar those very citizens, or a portion of them, from participating in future elections. But if we accept that governmental power in a democracy flows from the citizens, it is difficult to see how that power can legitimately be used to disenfranchise the very citizens from whom the government’s power flows.”

That’s an argument that should resonate with many Americans familiar with the American State Papers, i.e., our Constitution, Declaration, Bill of Rights, and the Federalist Papers. Here in Oregon, felons are disenfranchised during their incarceration and are automatically enfranchised upon release. If there is to be any disenfranchisement at all, then surely after the debt is paid the most important right of a citizen should be restored – especially if we are serious about wanting this member of our society to exercise the duties and responsibilities of a citizen.

countyjailI’m not so bold as to say all felons are democrats… because I know a few Independents that are ex-cons. Ha, you thought I was going to say republicans – all republicans are felons. Hahahaha. Seriously though, what do you think? Considering we have over 5,000,000 people unable to vote, doesn’t that have a pretty large impact on our notions of democracy – let alone the functioning of our democracy? What do you think?

Cheers all! And as me Da says: “Polite? Yes. Politically correct? Don’t hold your breath.”

Lemmings! What a Game?

December 3rd, 2009 No comments

Ever really wondered about lemmings? Why the mass suicide? After all, they’re cute, cuddly and cool. Other than knowing that they kind of looked like miniature Guinea Pigs, I didn’t know why some of the oft told tales were told in the first place. Saw the critters for the first time in Norway, as a sailor on liberty.

I could be construed as an old fart… a curmudgeon if you will – my first computer was a kit I built. I’ve actually seen a “core memory,” i.e., a matrix of little ferrous oxide donuts. I remember a nifty little game called Lemmings by DMA where the object was to save the mindless little fur balls from blindly committing mass suicide. It was an addicting game, something that a person could mindlessly play and wake up days later wondering where his wife and kids have gone. Myth has it that there were millions of people following each other into the game’s escapist abyss.

As it happens, Wikipedia has a pretty good entry on these lovely creatures that sheds a little light on their behaviors. They have another article that sheds some light on the game. The article (on the actual critters) is substantial enough, but there is a small and interesting little segment worth reproducing for your scientific, historical, and anthropological appreciation: *snort*

While many people believe that lemmings commit mass suicide when they migrate, this is not the case. Driven by strong biological urges, they will migrate in large groupings when population density becomes too great. Lemmings can and do swim and may choose to cross a body of water in search of a new habitat. On occasion, and particularly in the case of the Norway lemmings in Scandinavia, large migrating groups will reach a cliff overlooking the ocean. They will stop until the urge to press on causes them to jump off the cliff and start swimming. They then swim to exhaustion and death. Lemmings are also often pushed into the sea as more and more lemmings arrive at the shore.

The myth of lemming mass suicide is long-standing and has been popularized by a number of factors. In 1955, Disney Studio illustrator Carl Barks drew an Uncle Scrooge adventure comic with the title “The Lemming with the Locket”. This comic, which was inspired by a 1954 National Geographic Society article, showed massive numbers of lemmings jumping over Norwegian cliffs. Even more influential was the 1958 Disney film White Wilderness, which won an Academy Award for Documentary Feature, in which footage was shown that seems to show the mass suicide of lemmings. In more recent times, the myth is well-known as the basis for the popular 1991 video game Lemmings, in which the player must stop the lemmings from mindlessly marching over cliffs or into traps. A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary, Cruel Camera, found that the lemmings used for White Wilderness were flown from Hudson Bay to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where they did not jump off the cliff, but in fact were launched off the cliff using a turntable.

Due to their association with this odd behavior, lemming suicide is a frequently-used metaphor in reference to people who go along unquestioningly with popular opinion, with potentially dangerous or fatal consequences. This metaphor is seen many times in popular culture, such as in the video game Lemmings, and in episodes of Red Dwarf and Adult Swim’s show Robot Chicken. In Urban Terror, falling to one’s death is called doing the lemming thing.

By now the video and the commentary should make a little sense… in terms of where this post is going, that is, and if it isn’t quite there yet, take a trip to the UK’s TaxFreeGold site and you’ll find an article that lifts an awful lot of info right out of the Wiki article – to compare and describe people chasing gold on eBay. That’s it, us human lemmings, what are we doing?

Believe it or not, this post was spurred by research on felony/criminal disenfranchisement. Before I actually posted anything on the topic, I wanted to comment on the craziness of Americans wanting to be more like Europeans. “Let’s do this thing, or that thing, because that’s how the Europeans do it… “I’m pretty certain my folks and grand folks said things like, “Steven, if all your friends jumped off a bridge – would you?”

Here we gooo...

Here we gooo...

…ok, bad example. There was that train trestle in Corvallis. Still, I’m pretty sure you get the drift here – I’m hoping we’ve somehow grown up. Tom over at Responsibility, Neo over at NeoNeocon, and countless others have been spending time reasoning with us about everything from health care to cap and trade, from taxes to Afghanistan. If we’re jumping from the cliff for goodness sake, let’s look before we leap.

A tremendous body of advocacy writing concerning felony disenfranchisement spends its time comparing us to European countries and waxing long on our failure to be like them… Screw that, let’s be like us, and if we want to change the way we do business let’s keep it internally consistent! Let’s do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because somebody else is doing it. Sheesh!!

The mini rant is over. I think I needed a diversion from this disenfranchisement research – it’ll be up soon (the post on felony disenfranchisement), and hopefully it’ll achieve a certain brevity and clarity that is sometimes missing here.

Cheers all!

Categories: Culture, Government, Philosophy, Politics Tags:
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