Saturday, November 08, 2008

Friday, November 07, 2008

Why Regulation?

In correspondence with a very good friend ... perhaps my only remaining conservative friend still speaking to me after the recent Presidential election ... we have been exploring the role of government and the idea that government regulation is (or can be) an interference with the proper conduct of business.

The following is my rational of why government regulation of business is both right and proper:

Government, government, government! Sometimes we talk about our government as if it were a third party somewhere between We the People and Big Business.

Government has been different things in different places ... at different times. In 17th Century England, government was pretty much an organization of wealthy, land owning, aristocrats and merchants dedicated to increasing their wealth and keeping everyone else in their places. In 20th Century Nazi Germany, government was an ally and instrument of industry, dedicated to maintaining the power of a very few over very many and to profiting through the expansion of territory (and wealth) by means of the conquest of neighbors. In the 20th Century Soviet Union, though the government gave lip service to being the voice of the people, it also was a mechanism dedicated to perpetuating the wealth and power of a very few over very many. As a matter of fact, throughout history, governments have most often been the vehicle of perpetuating the power of a few over everyone else.

The thing that make the United States of America different from all other governments that came before and many that have come since lies in the preamble of the Constitution:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The important phrase, the functional phrase and the phrase that sets our government apart from virtually every other form of government that came before and most that have been established since is the phrase "We the People". The power of our government is derived from We the People ... not We the Big Business or We the Wealthy People or We the People with the biggest private army. Our government is a vehicle by which the people of the United States of America express our will and set the rules by which we are to live together.

The beginning of second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, the document by which we claimed the right to establish our form of government reads:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

"Derive their just powers from the consent of the governed" is a very important phrase in establishing that our government exists at the will of the people ... unlike other forms of government wherein the people exist at the will of the government.

In short, we are the government. WE are the government. Whenever anyone speaks of the government in this country, they should be aware that in our case the word "government" is interchangeable with the words "We the People". As an exercise, whenever you use "government" in a sentence, consciously make an effort to use the words "We the People" instead ... as a simple test of the validity of the statement.

So, to speak of "government interference" as being a bad thing, one is actually taking the position that it is inappropriate for We the People to interfere in matters that effect us.

Our right to have a say in how businesses do business is found in Section 8 of the Constitution:

"The Congress shall have Power To ... regulate Commerce ... among the several States...;"

That means We the People empower ourselves, through our representatives (who constitute the most visible part of our self government) to enact such laws to regulate how businesses conduct themselves in interstate commerce. (The Federal Government is only concerned with trade across state lines. Trade within a state is left to the regulations of the various states.)

The purpose of government is to do for ourselves collectively that which we cannot do for ourselves individually. You concede that it is futile for an individual to "take on" Big Oil or Big Pharma ... or Big Rail Roads (in the past) or Big anything. You suggest that we band together to boycott or to take other actions that might nudge business into treating us as workers, consumers or citizens more fairly. But we already have a mechanism that bands and binds us together to accomplish collectively what we cannot do for ourselves individually. It is our government and when our government is working properly it is an expression of our will as a people. When it is working as it was originally planned, the regulations it imposes on the conduct of business voice the will of the people of this country and it is our right to "interfere" in matters that effect us. When it is not working to our satisfaction, then We the People use our power to change our government ... and we have done so regularly in our quadrennial elections (biennial and annual, too) by enforcing term limits on the current leadership and either encouraging it to continue or by replacing our leaders with new leaders. We have just gone through one of those glorious cycles and We the People have voiced our opinion that our representatives who have guided our ship of state for the last eight years have not performed to our satisfaction and have, in fact taken us down an ill advised and unacceptable path. The change in direction has been markedly peaceful, I might add.

So, I can agree with everything that you say ... except the premises upon which it appears you have built your argument ... First, the premise that government (when it's doing what its supposed to do) is something other than We the People banding together to accomplish the greatest good for the greatest number of us and second, that our government, as an expression of the will of the governed, has no right and certainly not the responsibility to "interfere" when an entity such as a business jeopardizes our rights to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness, our health, our safety or our general well being.

Other than that, you may have a point.

If our government were anything other than what it is, a vehicle for the expression of the will of the governed, you would be 100% on target. Our government would have no innate right to "interfere" with the way a business conducts itself other than the coercive threat of raw power and brute force. That it is what it is constitutes the reason people from all over the world want to come here. That we represent true self government and that our government exists as an expression of the collective power of our citizens is what they all envy, desire and admire. Over the last two centuries, how many governments have been modeled on our own? That we are able to peacefully change our direction, our priorities and our chosen leaders is a testament to our strength; the strength that has people all over the world dancing in the streets, taking pride in OUR ability to peacefully change our course, to right our wrongs, correct our errors and to survive and prosper these 231 years ... by constantly "interfering" with every threat, internal or external, that jeopardizes our health, our well being, our safety, our lives, our liberties and our pursuit of happiness.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Only a Rumor

The First Family has promised their daughters a puppy when they move into the White House.

It's rumored that the First Puppy will be a pit bull and that it will be named "Lipstick".

What really happened?

Voting Shifts

The NY Times breakdown of how the country voted compared with 2004. The redder the area, the more people shifted towards republicans. The bluer the area, the more people shifted toward the Democrats.

If MLK were here today ...

Mr. King ended his Hawaii speech by quoting a prayer from a preacher who had once been a slave, and it’s an apt description of the idea of America today: “Lord, we ain’t what we want to be; we ain’t what we ought to be; we ain’t what we gonna be, but, thank God, we ain’t what we was.”

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Times, They Are a' Changin'

Unlike the Bush offer in 2000 to extend his hand across the aisle ... a hand equipped with a novelty store buzzer, Obama makes a sincere offer to WORK at uniting the country ... because it will take all of us working together to survive these trying times.

"Change has come to America" speech, Chicago.

What a relief it is ... what a breath of fresh air ... to have an articulate President who knows what he's talking about and can communicate his understanding in clear, comprehensible sentences.

My faith in the humanity of people in general has been restored. My faith in democracy has been resurrected. My hope for the future has been buttressed.

... and, yes, facts DO have a liberal bias.

The future of the Republican party is uncertain. I predict that the blame for their loss will fall squarely on McCain and Palin. Fingers will be pointed at the ineptitude of the campaign and the McCain campaign's inability to even find a clear message, much less stick to one. It will all be true as far as it goes but the blame for this massive failure on the right will not go far enough. Few on the right will question the basic premises of the Republican party ... their support for unrestricted, unregulated free market capitalism, their belief that raw, bullying militarism is the answer to all international issues, or their reliance on the politics of division.

Until those items of the platform are questioned, the party will continue to fade into irrelevance.

I can almost feel sorry for those on the right ... almost, but not quite. If they have been wounded, the wounds are self inflicted. With over thirty years to "get it right", they actively chose the path that brought them to this point in history.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Barack Obama - President Elect

Winston Churchill was absolutely right. You CAN always count on America to do the right thing ... after exhausting all the other possibilities.

Ayers on Ayers

Ayers said that he had never meant to imply, in an interview with the Times, published coincidentally on 9/11, that he somehow wished he and the Weathermen had committed further acts of violence in the old days. Instead, he said, “I wish I had done more, but it doesn’t mean I wish we’d bombed more shit.” Ayers said that he had never been responsible for violence against other people and was acting to end a war in Vietnam in which “thousands of people were being killed every week.”

... get it all in The New Yorker after the click.

The Republican Rump

Paul Krugman / New York Times

You might think, perhaps hope, that Republicans will engage in some soul-searching, that they’ll ask themselves whether and how they lost touch with the national mainstream. But my prediction is that this won’t happen any time soon.

Instead, the Republican rump, the party that’s left after the election, will be the party that attends Sarah Palin’s rallies, where crowds chant “Vote McCain, not Hussein!” It will be the party of Saxby Chambliss, the senator from Georgia, who, observing large-scale early voting by African-Americans, warns his supporters that “the other folks are voting.” It will be the party that harbors menacing fantasies about Barack Obama’s Marxist — or was that Islamic? — roots.

Why will the G.O.P. become more, not less, extreme? For one thing, projections suggest that this election will drive many of the remaining Republican moderates out of Congress, while leaving the hard right in place.

... get the rest after the click.

My comment: If you're reading this blog, you re probably not a "Real AmericanTM" ...

The Limits of Electoral Politics

Roughly speaking we can distinguish five degrees of “government”:
  1. Unrestricted freedom
  2. Direct democracy
  3. Delegate democracy
  4. Representative democracy
  5. Overt minority dictatorship
The present society oscillates between (4) and (5), i.e. between overt minority rule and covert minority rule camouflaged by a facade of token democracy. A liberated society would eliminate (4) and (5) and would progressively reduce the need for (2) and (3) . . . .

In representative democracy people abdicate their power to elected officials. The candidates’ stated policies are limited to a few vague generalities, and once they are elected there is little control over their actual decisions on hundreds of issues — apart from the feeble threat of changing one’s vote, a few years later, to some equally uncontrollable rival politician. Representatives are dependent on the wealthy for bribes and campaign contributions; they are subordinate to the owners of the mass media, who decide which issues get the publicity; and they are almost as ignorant and powerless as the general public regarding many important matters that are determined by unelected bureaucrats and independent secret agencies. Overt dictators may sometimes be overthrown, but the real rulers in “democratic” regimes, the tiny minority who own or control virtually everything, are never voted in and never voted out. Most people don’t even know who they are . . . .

... the rest on B U R E A U_O F_P U B L I C_S E C R E T S after the jump.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tapping the Vortex for Green Energy


A bane of Big Oil's offshore rigs could become a boon for renewable energy.

By tapping the natural motion of slow-moving water, a new hydrokinetic generator could open vast new swaths of the ocean for energy production.

When ocean currents flow over any kind of cylinder, like the long cables that hold drilling platforms in place, small vortices are created. They eventually spin away, or shed, causing vibrations that over time can destroy an oil rig's moorings.

Now, a University of Michigan engineer who long worked on suppressing this phenomenon, has developed a prototype energy-harvester that can capture the mechanical energy it creates.

... the rest after the click.


Test your skill at managing an oil addicted economy ...

Give it a try.

Scientists for Obama

Let's not kid ourselves: an endorsement by scientists is unlikely to sway many voters next week. But the decision by 76 American Nobel laureates—including all three of the Americans who won one of the science prizes this year—is notable for one thing: if you think ordinary Americans believe the last eight years have been a nightmare, you should see how scientists feel. As documented over and over, especially by Rep. Henry Waxman’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the politicization of science by this administration has set records. Scientists are furious and can’t wait for it to end.

... more after the click.

Letter by the 76 Nobelists endorsing Obama. pdf

In a related piece:

Swatting attacks on fruit flies and science

Sarah Palin's criticism of the critters is just bad buzz. Research on them offers insights into learning, genes, diseases.

By Jerry Coyne
Professor in the University of Chicago's Department of Ecology and Evolution
in The Phil. Inquirer

Enough already. I bit my tongue when I heard that Sarah Palin believed that dinosaurs and humans once lived side by side and that she and John McCain wanted creationism taught in the public schools.

And I just shook my head when McCain derided proposed funding for a sophisticated planetarium projection machine as wasteful spending on an "overhead projector."

But the Republican ticket's war on science has finally gone too far. Last week, Sarah Palin dissed research on fruit flies.

... the rest after the jump.

An All-Out Attack on ‘Conservative Misinformation’

from The New York Times

WASHINGTON — They are some of the more memorable slip-ups or slights within the news media’s coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign.

A Fox News anchor asks whether Senator Barack Obama and his wife had greeted each other with a “terrorist fist jab.” Rush Limbaugh calls military personnel critical of the war in Iraq “phony soldiers.” Mr. Limbaugh and another Fox host repeat an accusation that Mr. Obama attended a madrassa, or Islamic school, in Indonesia.

Each of these moments might have slipped into the broadcast ether but for the efforts of Media Matters for America, the nonprofit, highly partisan research organization that was founded four years ago by David Brock, a formerly conservative author who has since gone liberal.

Ripping a page from an old Republican Party playbook, Media Matters has given the Democrats a weapon they have not had in previous campaigns: a rapid-fire, technologically sophisticated means to call out what it considers “conservative misinformation” on air or in print, then feed it to a Rolodex of reporters, cable channels and bloggers hungry for grist.

... more after the jump.