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one more time on the 2000 elections

Something I recently posted to Slashdot. It's old news but I get tired of the misinformation around this.

They even had a non-partisan group do a recount after the fact, and the paper trail showed that Bush in fact did win Florida.


Data from the NORC recount shows that under the legal standard in force at the time, the "intent of the voter", more ballots were cast for Gore than for Bush.

As the Washington Post admitted (though only deep into an article whose headline and lead tells how recounts would have favored Bush):

Obama and Kucinich in the news

Among the major party candidates, my favorites (so far) are Obama and Kucinich.

While they're both 100% wrong on gun control, I don't think a president can do as much damage on that as they can on foreign policy and on due process (habeius corpus, right to a genuine, speedy, and public trial, and so on).

Obama gets triple points this week for announcing that he would work toward nuclear disarmament.

And Kucinich is the subject of this interesting profile in the Chicago Tribune.

my take on the "Jena 6" thing

Whole lot of noise lately about the "Jena 6". Here's something I posted to Slashdot a few days ago:

The nooses were hung on Sept 1. The fight occurred on Dec 4th. That's three months. The events are definitely related.

The events are only related if the guy who got beat down was involved in hanging the nooses, and I'm unaware of any allegations that he did. Collective guilt doesn't wash; something somebody else did three months ago is no excuse for a violent attack on someone today.

None of the statements taken by the DA said that the assault was caused by the nooses. It bears many hallmarks of an after-the-fact justification.

The guys hanging the nooses were assholes, and their behavior should not be tolerated by the school. Three day in-school suspension, with no public statement by the school, may well have been much too light. But trying to get the FBI involved, is amazing overreaction.

A six-on-one aggravated assault goes far beyond mere assholery; it is a serious crime, and if convicted those involved should be dealt with accordingly. It's wrong to portray the assailants in this case as some sort of innocents.

However, the charge of "attempted murder" is clearly trumped up. In Mychal Bell's case, time served plus probation is probably plenty.

Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Soldiers

I'll definitely be playing this at the Poems Against War / Poetry In Baltimore event October 19 at Load of Fun Gallerie. Meanwhile, if you play guitar, spread the meme.

I heard a little bit of the buzz going around about Sally Field getting censored by Fox for saying during the Emmys that "If mothers ruled the world, there wouldn't be any goddamn wars in the first place." It bounced around my brain a bit, stuck on to some other stuff, and this is what came out.

Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Soldiers

words by Tom Swiss
      to the tune of "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys", by
      Ed Bruce and Patsy Bruce

guitar chords: D - G - A7 - D

Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be soldiers
Don't let 'em be fooled by the masters of war
Teach 'em that peace is what to work for
Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be soldiers
They can die all alone
A long way from from home
Giving their life for a lie

Young boys play war with toy guns and they always pretend
Someday that they'll grow up and be brave and fight like real men
Marching to death at the orders of generals,
      all for the U. S. of A.
But war ain't a game, there's no glory in killing,
      old soldiers fade away

Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be soldiers

terrorism and the numbers

Something I posted on Slashdot, regarding the perceived and actual threat from terrorism:

The biggest single problem in the US today is there are indeed terrorists

No, it's not. Not even close. The threat perceived is way out of proportion to the actual threat.

About 16,000 people are murdered in the U.S. per year; that makes the number of people killed in the U.S. by terrorist attacks over the past decade on the order of one fiftieth the number of people murdered in conventional assaults.

The annual number of deaths from AIDS are roughly comparable to those from murder. AIDS is about 50 times the threat to your life as terrorists.

Both murder and AIDS are of course tiny compared to deaths from cancer or heart disease, which together have killed somewhere in the neighborhood of ten million people in the past ten years. Bacon double cheeseburgers and lack of exercise are far more deadly to Americans than Al Qaeda.

Over a million people died in accidents in the past decade; about 400,000 of those were killed in motor vehicle accidents.

Heck, about as many people drown every year as died in the 9/11 attacks. 3,372 fatal drownings in 2001, versus 2,974 killed in the 9/11 attacks. And yet nobody gets all bent out of shape about how we have to suspend habeus corpus to protect ourselves from the dangers of swimming pools and lakes.

Fear terrorists? Feh. If you want to save lives, put resources into health promotion and medical care, safer roads, and crime prevention.

That doesn't mean "do nothing about terrorists"; but it does mean "do sane things, not crazy-ass useless things".

Big Brother is watching...what you read

According to Wired, Homeland Security records obtained by
the Identity Project (under a Privacy Act request) show that screeners
are tracking information including airline passenger's reading choices:

One report about Gilmore notes: "PAX (passenger) has many small flashlights with pot leaves on them. He had a book entitled 'Drugs and Your Rights.'" Gilmore is an advocate for marijuana legalization.

Another inspection entry noted that Gilmore had "attended computer conference in Berlin and then traveled around Europe and Asia to visit friends. 100% baggage exam negative. Resides 554 Clay Street , San Francisco, CA. PAX is self employed 'Entrepreneur' in computer software business."

Hey, TSA, here's something to put in my record: PAX is on record as saying nosy goverment agents can kiss his ass.

Shame on the Maryland Court of Appeals

Usually I'm pretty proud to be a Marylander. Not today, though, when our state's highest court hands down a irrational and homophobic ruling, overturing a Baltimore Circuit Court that found that the state's law restricting marriage to heterosexual couples was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

Instead, the Court of Appeals found that claimed that the state has a legitimate interest in maintaining heterosexual marriage because it allows procreation and the traditional family structure. How that squares with allowing elderly or infertile people to marry is beyond me. And the "traditional family structure", as we all know, is where a man buys a woman from her family with a dowry. Is that what Maryland law is supposed to encourage?

Shame on the Maryland Court of Appeals.

if I were running for president: taxes, spending, and war

Something I posted on Slashdot
today, following on to a discussion about asking Presidential candidates about whether
they accept the reality of evolution.

Notice you didn't see a thread here encouraging people to ask Democrats [about taxes and Al Qaeda]

Well, this being a site whose demographic is more united in a concern with science than on an agreement about tax policy or foreign policy, no, you didn't.

I'm not a Democrat or running for President. (Yet...I've hit the age requirement, and looking at the current field of candidates, might just write myself in 2008.) But I'd love to hear such questions put to candidates.

Here's how I'd answer: well, sir, if you want to lower taxes, you have to lower spending. Now, given that Americans pay lower taxes than most nations of comparable economic development, I don't find the issue tops on my priority list; especially when we're talking about increasing taxes on the unearned income of the wealthy, whose share of the tax burden has fallen.

But as it happens, a tremendous amount of money is being wasted on American "defense" spending, especially in the Iraq occupation. (Not to mention American and Iraqi lives.) U.S. military spending makes up close to half of the world total, with the next tier of nations (the UK, France, Japan and China) with around 5% each. We could almost halve our military budget and still be outspending any other nation five to one! But talk about such spending cuts - which would enable significant tax cuts - and neoconservatives go apeshit. It's as if they view the military as America's penis and fear it shrinking. (I fear they've confused their rifles and their "guns".)

Meanwhile, they love to make a big fuss about cutting spending on welfare and social programs, which make up a very small amount of federal spending and wouldn't save the average American more than a few dollars a year.

civil forfeiture woes

The following tale of civil forfeiture woes was sent in by an anonymous correspondent. (Well, I guess someone who leaves a phone number isn't really anonymous...) I've cleaned up typos but otherwise this is as received. If anyone has leads please contact the querent. (I've already suggested contacting FEAR.)

On 12/04/06 I was served a forfeiture summons. I responded back to it on 12/14/06. IC 34-24-1-3.states that the state has 90 days from that date to file with the courts. They filed with the courts on 4/10/07. Do the math, that's 117 days from receiving my response to file. That is a state law in Indiana. How come the state can break these laws and take our hard working money? They forfeited my money yesterday. On 7/09/07. What can I do the system is failing me. I have not been convicted of any crime. How can they DO THIS..........CAN ANYONE HELP ME. The ICLU won't, who will? I need help. You can contact me if you have any advice at (317)246-7059. Please...I have all the paper work on this in my possession.

Marine's defense: "I was only following orders"

Marine Corporal Trent Thomas is being court-martialed for his role in the murder of Iraqi Hashim Ibrahim Awad, in April 2006.

His defense lawyer, Haytham Faraj, is claiming that he had no choice, because "Marines in combat don't challenge orders."

I can only quote Thoreau:

A common and natural result of an undue respect for the law is, that you may see a file of soldiers, colonel, captain, corporal, privates, powder-monkeys, and all, marching in admirable order over hill and dale to the wars, against their wills, ay, against their common sense and consciences, which makes it very steep marching indeed, and produces a palpitation of the heart. They have no doubt that it is a damnable business in which they are concerned; they are all peaceably inclined. Now, what are they? Men at all? or small movable forts and magazines, at the service of some unscrupulous man in power?


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