Friday, December 28, 2012

rewriting the Second Amendment

Proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Section 1. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed upon arbitrarily.

Section 2. The right of the people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness shall supersede the right to bear arms. The rights enumerated in the First Amendment shall also supersede the right to bear arms.

Section 3. The right to bear arms shall be integrated into the needs of Congress and the states to provide for the physical safety of communities and individual citizens.

Section 4. States shall be empowered to regulate import and export of firearms superseding Congress' prerogative to regulate interstate commerce.

Section 5. Restrictions on the ownership and use of firearms that are arbitrary or can be shown to provide marginal benefit shall be invalid.

Section 6. There is no right to armed insurrection or right to assassinate government officials in the Constitution.

Section 7. This amendment supersedes the Second Amendment.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

how Illinois should handle "concealed carry"

Rep. LaShawn Ford is chairing the task force making recommendations on how to respond to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that Illinois has 180 days to write legislation allowing "conceal carry" of firearms.

Below is what I submitted to Ford. It begins with a rant against the ruling. The second part is a number of ways Illinois could narrowly grant "conceal carry" in a way that would probably be safe.

The rant:
The Seventh Court of Appeals has been arrogant in ruling Illinois' ban on “concealed carry” unconstitutional.

Based on experience in other states, we know that someone with a “concealed carry” permit will escalate a situation—perhaps a situation where there was no underlying criminal activity—to the point where someone gets killed.

The examples from Florida make it pretty clear, the shooter will probably be a middle-aged “White” male and the victim will probably be a Black male between 14-25 years old.

Whether George Zimmerman gets successfully prosecuted for murder or not, Trayvon Martin is dead because the firearms industry, through the NRA and ALEC, set firearms policy.

It is deeply offensive to me that federal courts would decide the “rights” of the men who fetishize firearms to carry a weapon trump the rights of young Black men to not be killed by racist cranks who are looking for fights.

The Supreme Court's ruling in DC v. Heller is a joke. Just like the Paula Jones ruling was a joke. And Bush v. Gore was a joke. And Citizens United was a joke. The Supreme Court has devolved into “Conservative” ideological hackery. And the public opinion of the court reflects this.

Justice Scalia and the majority have erased the first half of the Second Amendment. Like all rights, the right to bear arms is a balancing test. What does it get balanced against? The security of the state, among other things. Scalia and the “Conservative” hacks have decided that the individual gets to decide when the security of the state balances against the right to keep and bear arms.

Doesn't it seem like Congress & the President and the state legislatures and the governors have some role in deciding the security and safety needs of the American people?

The Illinois General Assembly may be full of people who aren't particularly clever, courageous or honorable. But they are elected. The federal courts removing the power of the state legislatures to decide criminal justice policy in their states is offensive. The NRA and gun owners know how to participate in elections. Whether Illinois should allow “conceal carry” is a matter for the Illinois General Assembly.

Denying individuals the authority to legally carry firearms concealed is not an offense against individual rights that rises to the level of Jim Crow, literacy tests, school segregation, etc.
The recommendations:
However, if Illinois is going to allow “conceal carry” it should include these elements.

Pledge: Follow the Law: First and foremost, individuals should be required to sign a statement and clearly state in front of witnesses, “Neither possessing a 'conceal carry' permit nor a firearm in any way deputizes me to act as a law enforcement officer. I understand that if I draw my weapon inappropriately, illegally discharge a firearm or in any way violate the 'conceal carry' rules for the State of Illinois, I will definitely lose my 'conceal carry' permit and I may be subject to prosecution.”

Don't be incompetent. Accidental discharge of a firearm shall be permanently disqualifying for a “conceal carry” permit.

Be recommended. A licensed firearms dealer must recommend an individual as part of the “conceal carry” application process. The Illinois Attorney General shall establish criteria for taking action against firearms dealers that recommend “conceal carry” permits for people who abuse “conceal carry” or violate Illinois' “conceal carry” rules.

Document utility: Every time a “conceal carry” permit holder draws or brandishes his/her weapon, s/he shall be required to submit a report of the incident. This should not be objectionable to the “pro gun” crowd because it will help document all the good that comes from “conceal carry”. Heroic action by “conceal carry” permit holders is not authorized in Illinois. If you want to be a hero, use your cell phone and call 911.

Investigate incidents: These incidents of “conceal carry” permit holders drawing, brandishing or using firearms shall be investigated by law enforcement. The cost of these investigations shall be paid for by fees charged for “conceal carry” permits.

Avoid conflicts: People carry weapons shall avoid conflict and confrontations. If someone is armed with a concealed weapon and initiates a conflict or escalates a conflict s/he shall lose the ability to get a “conceal carry” permit for life. This includes raising one's voice while armed.

Let people know, retreat when possible: If someone carrying a weapons finds him/herself in a conflict, s/he should identify him/herself as armed and disengage from the situation. People carry firearms and other weapons in Illinois shall have a duty to retreat. If there is ambiguity in the situation, the ambiguity shall be construed against the armed party.

Notify people you might shoot: If someone obtains a “conceal carry” permit and expects having conflict or confrontation with specific people, e.g. domestic violence, history of conflict at work, arguments with a neighbor, the person obtaining the “conceal carry” permit shall have an affirmative duty to notify the other party within 72 hours of getting the “conceal carry” permit.

Make the permits public: There shall be a place on the web where everyone authorized to carry a concealed firearm in Illinois shall be listed. This will include members of law enforcement, politicians, private security guards and private individuals with “conceal carry” permits.

Create a process for reporting permit holders whose competence is in question: The State of Illinois shall maintain a board that reviews actions by people who have “conceal carry” permits. If someone has reason to believe that someone should not be carrying a firearm, this board shall make it possible to report these concerns and review the competence of individual “conceal carry” permit holders. The activities of this board shall be paid for by the fees for “conceal carry” permits, including the fees on private security and everyone who is not an active law enforcement officer.

Revoke "conceal carry" if it's a problem: If “conceal carry” permit holders shoot anyone who would not have been shot had “conceal carry” not been law, “conceal carry” permits shall not be granted or valid in the county where the shooting occurred. If “conceal carry” is revoked in a dozen counties or in counties totaling a third of Illinois' population, “conceal carry” shall be revoked for the State of Illinois.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How does it make sense for law enforcement professionals to support "conceal carry"?

Something strikes me as odd about law enforcement officers supporting "conceal carry".

If they think that Grump E. Guy with a "conceal carry" permit and a firearm is qualified to decide when to draw and fire a weapon to prevent a crime, what's this say about their understanding of law enforcement?

Do cops think that the training associated with a "conceal carry" permit is equivalent or approximately as good as that law enforcement officers receive?

Do cops think that the average citizen has the judgment to make a life-and-death decision under stress? It seems like these issues are kinda complex. Again, it seems like law enforcement officers are dissing themselves as professionals to say that any old person should be empowered to make the call.

Here's what I suspect is going on: many cops have a world view that separates the world into "good guys" and "bad guys". So, if "good guys" have guns, this is empowering good in the world. And if "bad guys" get shot, this decreases the evil in the world.

The way more sophisticated people see the world--yes, I'm making a value judgment--no person is incapable of making mistakes. And rarely does one encounter a situation that can only be resolved by deadly force. And among the people who do practice "conceal carry" are jackasses who shoot people in situations where there was no threat to anyone's well being, except that somebody with poor judgment had a firearm.

If the law enforcement community sees themselves as professionals devoted to reducing crime, supporting "conceal carry" makes little sense. If members of law enforcement see themselves as deputized by God to kill as many "evil doers" as possible, well giving firearms to the George Zimmerman's of the world makes sense.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

harnessing the private sector to keep guns from bad guys

The following is how gun violence could be drastically reduced in the United States by holding the correct parties accountable.

The solution lies in states rights and accountability. And the private sector.

If the parties in the firearms industry are properly assessed the cost of gun violence, the firearms industry will create its own system for keeping firearms out of the hands of bad actors.

Individual states should be allowed to assess fines against any and all parties in the chain of custody for firearms used in illegal shootings. From manufacturer to the person who provided the criminal the firearm.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Alternatives to Barack Obama & Mitt Romney present ideas in Chicago

While Free & Equal characterized it as a “debate” I was heartened by how much agreement Jill Stein (Green), Rocky Anderson (Justice) Virgil Goode (Constitution) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian) expressed.

To get the basics out of the way: Last night, October 23, at the Hilton Chicago (720 S. Michigan) in the International Ballroom, Free & Equal hosted a debate between the four candidates. The event was moderated by Larry King and ChristinaTobin, the founder and executive director of Free & Equal. The format was to pose six questions submitted by social media, with candidates each given two minutes to respond and then one minute to “rebut”.

There will be a second round debate on Tuesday, October 30 in Washington, DC. The second round debate will focus on foreign policy and will include only the top two candidates. The top two candidates will be determined by a ranked voting poll onFree & Equal's website that uses Instant Runoff Voting to determine the winners.

[much more below the fold]

Sunday, September 30, 2012

second email sent to petition signers

The second email I sent to people who signed the petition is below. It went out Thursday, September 27 at 5:20 PM.

This blog has been commandeered for

A week ago today, I started a petition on calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to "stop the commercials" paid for by Education Reform Now narrated by Emanuel and spinning the results of the negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union. As of now, the petition has over 8,200 signers. I created a survey for people who signed the petition and 68.5% who took the survey are from the City of Chicago. does allow me, as the petition creator, to email everyone who signed the petition. However, I know that all people don't want to be involved in every little discussion and decision.

So, I'm going use this blog to keep people abreast of what is happening in connection wit the petition.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

preliminary feedback from petitioners on school questions for Mayor Emanuel

Thursday late afternoon I sent an email to approximately 8,000 people asking them to provide feedback on questions for Mayor Rahm Emanuel about issues related to Chicago Public Schools. When I returned home about midnight there were approximately 530 responses.

The following questions got the most positive feedback:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bradley Manning deserves a monument

In the future, Bradley Manning will be judged a hero. He exposed official misconduct. He exposed lies the government used to justify continuing to prosecute wars. These wars were folly. Manning showed the people the truth.

(I am assuming that Manning was in fact the source that provided Wikileaks with the information the government alleges Manning provided to Wikileaks.)

Society has monuments to people it considers heroes. But usually these monuments have the imprimatur of the government. So, these monuments tend to be skewed to war heroes and the like.

But why can't the people claim this tradition for our own?

I want there to be a monument for Bradley Manning. He took a grave personal risk to expose the truth to the people of the United States and the people of the world.

People who want there to be a monument to Manning should come together and create a committee. Money should be collected and proposals from artists should be solicited.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Batman is Jesus; personal morality is the only hope for society

Today I saw in The Dark Knight Rises (IMDB) at some theater in western Cook County. My friend who leans toward a libertarian outlook and dislikes police saw the movie having a pro-police state subtext. I did not.

I saw the film as being mostly a Christian film. Batman is Jesus. And Bane & company are sort of an evil--or at least frustrated-at-humanity--version of God reneging on His promise to not destroy the world after The Flood.

Batman is the Jesus figure because he understands man's sins, but is willing to sacrifice himself to prevent the destruction of mankind. [Minor spoiler included after break.]

Saturday, June 30, 2012

there's a movie about rape and sexual assault in the U.S. military

Last night, at the invitation of the head of the local Iraq Veterans Against the War chapter, I saw TheInvisible War (IMDB, Wikipedia), a documentary by Kirby Dick about both rape in the military and the military's response to rapes in the military. The movie is showing at the Music Box Theater until July 5.

This is going to be a long blog entry. So, I'm going to include an outline. You can skip to the points that are interesting to you.

  1. The film
    A. The list of reasons why this is a good film
    B. Who are the “bad guys” in the film?
    C. Congress gets a pass in the film
  2. Connecting the film to my military experience
  3. A. I was sexually molested
    B. Rape at Navy Recruiting District Chicago
    C. M Division on USS St. Louis (LKA-116)
    D. Kicking a waitress in Phnom Penh
  4. Connecting the film to my activist experience
    A. Dorothy Mackey
    B. What could Congress do?
Continued below the fold.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wisconsin recall defeat is the Waterloo of progressive politics in America

The failure to recall Scott Walker as governor of Wisconsin is a major turning point in American democracy.

The plutocrats (economic elites) have defeated collective bargaining for public sector workers in Wisconsin, an industrial state. And they have shown they can do this with acceptable backlash. And as the Indiana example shows, once Republicans get a chance they will eliminate private sector collective bargaining too.

Decency and self-restraint is not going to keep the plutocrats from attacking organized labor on all fronts. And with organized labor weakened, every progressive gain since the Civil War is in jeopardy. With criminalizing poverty and privatizing prisons, slavery is probably going to make a comeback too.

The Democratic activists trying to put a happy face on this say polling shows Republicans successfully made the debate about whether the recall process was "legitimate". That's one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is: the legislature and the governor took away the collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin citizens and the citizens declined to punish the guy who did it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

let's hold presidential debate for candidates who oppose war, support civil rights and favor accoutability

I propose that there be a people's debate for President of the United States. The Presidential Debate Commission is a game rigged to exclude voices outside the viewpoints approve by the Democratic and Republican Parties, which are controlled by the economic elites.

With the advent of the Internet and independent media, we can hold our own series of debates.

I envision there being a set of core principles one has to support to be part of these debates.

Support Accountability

1. There needs to be accountability for the Iraq War.
2. There needs to be accountability for the Financial Crisis.

Oppose War

1. The United States and allies should end the occupation of Afghanistan immediately and completely.
2. The United States should not directly or indirectly attack Iran by means overt or covert.

Support Civil Rights

1. The U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from ordering the assassination of U.S. citizens.
2. "Due process" requires going before a judge, who is competent, independent and who has access to the relevant information.
3. Torture violates the U.S. Constitution and international treaties. Torture is also a crime under U.S. law. And waterboarding is torture.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dear Peace Movement: what's the plan?

Last weekend I attend the NATO Counter Summit (Friday and Saturday, blog entries) and then marched with Occupy Chicago to oppose NATO and the occupation of Afghanistan.

While it will probably antagonize some people who were at the Counter Summit, I would say that much of the weekend seemed to lack context. How have society's power dynamics shifted against the peace movement? What should be done to address this shift?

There's a certain temptation when peace activists gather for them to prove their commitment to peace by avoiding conflict with each other.

The weekend seemed to lack a critique of why society is the way it is (aside from the same critique that goes back to the Vietnam War), an acknowledgement the peace movement has gotten its ass kicked badly for a decade or a conversation about modifying the strategies and tactics.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

taxing commodity traders a really small amount would raise $6 billion per year for Illinois

The presentation that was both the most hopeful and had the most specific plan was "Making Finance Work for the 99%: The Campaign for a Speculative Sales Tax in IL", the last session I attended. Unfortunately, the attendance was weak.

Bill Barclay, of Chicago Political Economy Group and Democratic Socialists of America, and Susan Hurley, of Chicago Jobs with Justice, made the case for applying a $1 tax on futures transactions. (It's really $2 since it's one from the seller and one from the buyer.) Since this minimum transaction is over $30,000, it's a very small tax percentage wise. And since various fees are already $8-95 per transaction, it's not much of a change from the point of view of the cost of conducting business.

Iraq War veterans explain how the bureaucracy jerks around traumatized vets

Saturday morning I arrived late. My South Shore train was delayed twenty-five minutes by someone flagging a package at the 57th Street station as "suspicious".

Something tells me the same package would have been handled in a less disruptive way if the authorities hadn't been sowing fear through the corporate media.

I attended some of "Veterans Fight for the Right to Heal". Iraq Veterans Against the War is pushing Operation Recovery.

the lesson of Libya: don't trust NATO

Friday morning's bright spot was Vijay Prashad, author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter.

Prashad's thesis was that NATO intervention was unnecessary to depose Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. The forces of change were strong enough to replace Gaddafi internally.

What NATO accomplished by aiding the forces that deposed Gaddafi was to ensure that Libyan ex-patriots with strongly connections and loyalties to the West would play a leadership role in the new government.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Right Wing corporate media shows interest in Counter-Summit

There were two corporate media outlets at the Counter-Summit for Peace and Economic Justice: a video camera labeled Fox News and a Chicago Tribune reporter.

let's query U.S. House candidates on Afghanistan!

In addition to Phyllis Bennis speaking on Afghanistan, Matt Southworth, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, spoke on behalf of Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Southworth told of growing support in the U.S. House of Representatives for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) have been offering amendments to pressure the President to set a timetable to get out. The last version of the amendment got over 200 votes (218 guarantees passage). This year McGovern and Jones offered a more forceful amendment that would have required withdrawal.

Republican leadership ruled the amendment out of order and refused to let the House of Reps vote on it.

creating media outlet for Afghans for Peace

The panel on Afghanistan, included morethan Phyllis Bennis. There were also three women (two Canadian and one American) from Afghans for Peace.

They had found each other through Facebook and shared a frustration at NATO policy toward Afghanistan and wanted to deepen their connection and support for the country.

One of the issues they discussed was not having a media outlet to tell the news from an Afghan point of view. When I talked to them afterward, they also noted that communicating amongst the Afghan diaspora was challenging too.

Phyllis Bennis explains why withdrawing NATO from Afghanistan makes sense

Phyllis Bennis, the author of Endingthe US War in Afghanistan A Primer, made some thought provoking points about Afghanistan. I saw Bennis make a presentation about ten years ago and I remember at least one point she made. I consider her a serious intellectual.

Bennis, and other panelists, noted the United States can and should end its participation in the war shortly by removing U.S. military forces. The Obama administration recently negotiated a deal that has a faux military withdrawal in 2014, but leaves an occupation force with power to go after anyone it chooses until 2024.

Bennis said the correct metaphor is not Colin Powell's Pottery Barn image (which conveniently justifies perpetual occupation), but the metaphor of a bull in a china shop. Get the bull (the U.S. military) out of the china shop (Afghanistan) and then pay for the damage caused.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Please join (or renew) Independent Voters of Illinois, IVI-IPO

I will be mailing my dues to IVI-IPO (Wikipedia) later today. I know many of my friends in progressive politics have criticisms and reservations about the organization. I still want people to join. Your criticisms are valid, but IVI-IPO is good enough to justify the cost of membership.

For my dues, I can meet a variety of candidates at the "meet the candidates" function. And I can participate in the endorsement process. This allows me to ask my questions of the candidates. And I get to form my own impression of candidates running statewide and countywide.
Yes, there are many ways to criticize IVI-IPO. And I'll do some of it below the fold. However, unless you are rich enough to go to a bunch of political fundraisers, IVI-IPO is a way that a regular citizen can get access to a large number of political candidates. If it cost $500 to join, I'd expect the organization to be run better. But for a $35 investment, IVI-IPO is a pretty good deal.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Pepper Spray Republic (a poem dedicated to NATO & G8)

We exist in a society illegitimate
I wish revolution were imminent
A pepper spray republic
Voted upon by the ignorant
Consent of the governed not there
Frustration, anger, despair

Economic hitmen go overseas
Spread the Neo Liberal disease
Nobel president kills without law
Citizens United judges yawn
Al Qaeda crisis is fake
A distraction, the rich get their take

Legislators laughing with lobbyists
The knife in the back with the twist
Immigrants! Muslims! The media screams
The true economy remains unseen

Anxiety economy and technology
Elites see opportunity
Fear unravels democracy
The Jetsons don't live here, instead
Osama bin Laden is dead
Long live perpetual war
Industrial policy continues
Lord Keynes for serial killers
F.A. Hayek for Soup kitchen Nazis

Capitalists create a mess
Workers compete for less
A broken society waits
In the future, what is our fate?
Will corporate banks rule?
Citizens resist! What tool?

Long dead, Sun-tzu warned
A nation never profits
From war prolonged
When upheaval results
What do war profiteers plan?
Make money until people successfully resist
Kent State again in the streets

Greatest Generation” full of shit
Any prob, solution is war: that's it!
War builds character of generation
Stimulates economy, grows the nation
Every enemy is Hitler evil
Each war makes us more moral

We see the truth in Oakland, New York
Police commit crimes on video
Justice Department is blind
Civil rights are rights of the past

Elites see themselves as Gulliver bound
Little people, fools all around
Elites destroy trust in government

What kind of giants arise? 
Shall we be ruled by truth or by lies? 

Happy birthday, Barb!

I want to give some link love to all my friends who toil online at the art of blogging.

Today is Barbara Engelskirchen's birthday. She created the blog "Foody Chronicles". (BTW, are the names of blogs most properly in quotes or italics?)
Hi. I’m Barbara Engelskirchen and this is my blog. I’m not a professional critic. I’m no chef. But I love food, restaurants and the rituals around the two. They’re a few of the things that give me joy in life. Through this blog, I’ll share my experiences with anyone who cares to read about them. Not interested in food? You’re in the wrong spot. But keep reading and maybe I can win you over.

I consider myself fortunate to live in Chicago, a city where one can find just about any type of food, and restaurants range from tiny, 10 seat BYOBs with way too much florescent lighting to elegant temples to cuisine featuring the latest superstar chef.  I’ll start the sharing with my own city. But I love to travel and hope to be able to share some experiences while on the road as well.
A little tidbit about Barb... she once told me (and I believe her) that she feels obligated to finish even books she's not enjoying once she's started them.

Happy Mother's Day... or not

On Facebook my friend Toscha posted the following:
Forced holidays are sick. Forced holidays that completely ignore to the point of basically denying the existence of a significant portion of people are harmful and horrid and I hate them. If you have a mother, and if she treats you well, or if you are a mother and you treat your children well, go to town. But I am so fucking sick of having fairytale propaganda shoved down my throat. I don't think people realize how ubiquitous and cruel it is. Not just for those of us without mothers, but for people with abusive or negligent mothers, or women who are unable to bear children, or who have lost children. This is NOT a happy day for many people, and that's actually OK, and needs to be acknowledged.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Avengers: what I liked, what I would have changed

I saw The Avengers yesterday, and thought I'd share my observations.

Generally, it's a positive contribution to the superhero movie genre. It's better than most, but probably not on the level of the greats: Batman Begins, Dark Knight, Incredibles, Kick-Ass, Iron Man, X-Men: First Class, and Superman.

What does Avengers to well? Numerous specific things are done well. In the big picture, I think there are a couple weaknesses.

And since I watch movies with a political eye, I actually assumed Joss Whedon was writing from a Right Wing perspective. Actually, he's an atheist who has taken liberal positions and he's donated to Barack Obama.

I'm going to write about the whole movie below the fold. Consider this a spoiler alert. But I don't think I'm going to spoil the ending because it's not the kind of movie that can be spoiled any more than the trailer spoils it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Do you want to run an independent candidate against Chris Welch?

Emanuel "Chris" Welch won the Democratic primary in Illinois' 7th State Representative district. The district is overwhelmingly Democratic; the Republicans have not filed a candidate. For a variety of reasons, Welch is reviled as an elected official, as an attorney and a person.

There is at least some interest in putting an independent candidate on the ballot to run against Welch in the November general election. Daily Herald (Kimberly Pohl) notes Dee Beaubien gathering sigs to run as an independent in the 52nd State Representative District. A candidate needs 1,500 valid signatures by June 25th. It's more than it sounds, if you haven't participated in the process before, but it's not an insurmountable threshold.

On the Facebook page "Forest Parkers For Better Schools" Bill Lichtenberg claims that an individual is ineligible if s/he voted in the Dem or GOP primary or donated money to Democrats or Republicans. Rich Miller quoted a story on this restriction being applied to a Republican who wanted to run for coroner in Logan County.

If you are willing to gather signatures to place a candidate on the ballot or to contribute financially, email me, CarlNyberg116 circled "a" gmail spot c0m.

Monday, April 30, 2012

what kind of culture is needed to supports billions of people living on Earth?

How many people can the good ship earth carry in comfort? The answer depends upon beliefs about optimal life-styles.

If the world's population had the productivity of the Swiss, the consumption habits of the Chinese, the egalitarian instincts of the Swedes, and the social discipline of the Japanese, then the planet could support many times its current population without privation for anyone. On the other hand, if the world's population had the productivity of Chad, the consumption habits of the United States, the egalitarian instincts of India, and the social discipline of Yugoslavia, then the planet could not support anywhere near its current numbers. Unfortunately most humans seem to fall in the America-India-Chad-Yugoslavia category.
If we want the planet to be a livable place, we need to promote social virtues, including trust and respect.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

world government: War Court to prevent the use of war

What would the world government do?

I see two key functions: 1) prevent war and 2) shame governments and other institutions into behaving.

If the people in power were behaving, there's nothing particularly inadequate about the existing institutions. (Some of the international financial institutions and trade agreements need... reform, but most of what we have is decent if the people in power behaved themselves.)

How is this government going to prevent war?

It's going to primarily be a court system.

The War Court (working title) is going to be above the UN Security Council and national governments. For a government (or other human organization, including non-state actors and corporations) to use lethal force beyond its territorial jurisdiction, it must go to the War Court and prove that it has exercised all remedies short of using deadly force. The provocation cannot be addressed by an remedy short of deadly force and that the provocation rises to the level of requiring deadly force. The party pleading for the prerogative of going to war must also write the war resolution as narrowly as possible. Also, the war resolution has to be approved through the UN Security Council.

Imposing these reasonable requirements would make it pretty hard to go to war.

What are the consequences of violating the War Court's rulings and going to war anyways?

The people who violate the law will be criminals and subject to prosecution: from heads of state down to soldiers and including diplomats, legislators and judges who went along. For the rest of their lives, they will be criminals or fugitives. When history is written, they will be labeled what they are: murderers and war criminals.

I'll write more about shaming later.

worldwide government based on trust and respect

Right now we have a society that doesn't work particularly well. It is getting more coercive and oppressive. The economy is growing sluggishly. A small elite gets richer while most families lose ground from decade to decade.

The system is not working. Liberals make policy recommendations that are "go slowly" but not a change of direction.

I would like to begin the process of creating a constitution for a worldwide government with limited powers.

Here's the first draft statement:

We wish to live in a world where the values of trust and respect are the highest priority of government.

We expect that we should be able to trust institutions to do their duties.

We expect these institutions to treat individuals with respect.

We have lost confidence in existing institutions. Existing institutions have failed to deliver on basic expectations.

War, domestic spying and oppressive policies have become prominent tools of social control.

We, the people of the world, assert the right to create a worldwide government.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hunger Games: how immoral does society need to be to justify revolution?

Hunger Games are a metaphor for any tool of social control that leaves young people worse off.

While the Hunger Games are the central concept of the book and trilogy (Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay) by Suzanne Collins, one concept does not a (good) book make.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Right Wingers want government to punish the wicked and reward the righteous

Chris Mooney is the author of The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality, which is being hype at the usual places: Washington Post and Daily Kos.

While Mooney cites academic research, his analysis is significantly wrong. Mooney sees "Conservatives" as opposing change. This seems inconsistent with the observed behavior of "Conservative" (Republican) politicians and their supporters. My more accurate description of the psychology of Republicans and other Right Wingers (including "Libertarians") is below.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

two contradictory truths about the Democratic Party

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." Apparently, Emerson was referring to the challenge of people committed to respecting the past updating their point of view when new information becomes available.

I would emphasize that the human mind has to be able to believe contradictory things to function in society. We have to have a framework for understanding society even though there are exceptions to our framework. We have to believe people in power are behaving reasonably and ethically or the legitimacy of society is open to question.

I am going to grapple with one of my own inconsistencies. I believe the following about the Democratic Party.

  1. It is an essential bulwark against the immoral policies of the Republican Party.
  2. It is a tool for enabling the elites to control dissent and movements that challenge the existing power structures. Further the Democratic Party exists to kill progressive reform.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

amend Illinois Constitution to provide right to counsel for defendants in evictions & foreclosures

The following is a proposal to amend the Illinois Constitution to guarantee defendants in Illinois have a right to counsel in cases of eviction and foreclosure on their primary residences. This would be analogous in most ways to how criminal defendants have a right to a public defender if they lack the resources to hire an attorney.

Why is this necessary?

When people are defendants in evictions and foreclosures, they have few resources. Lenders and their law firms have engaged in fraud.

Losing a place to live is a big deal. It affects one's health and physical safety.

What does the Illinois Constitution already say?

Article 1, Section 2:
No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law nor be denied the equal protection of the laws.
Article 1, Section 6:
The people shall have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and other possessions against unreasonable searches, seizures, invasions of privacy or interceptions of communications by eavesdropping devices or other means. 
 (I added the italics.)

How does one determine if a seizure is reasonable? One has courts oversee the process. OK, but...

Courts provide minimal protection to people who lack counsel. Rich people don't rely on the law and the probity of judges to protect their interests. Rich people have lawyers go to court.

It seems absolutely consistent with language that already exists in the Illinois Constitution to require the state (most likely counties) to provide defense attorneys in cases of eviction and foreclosure the way public defenders are provided to defendants in criminal trials now.

However, the Illinois judiciary has not yet decided to interpret the Illinois Constitution in this manner. So, I suggest adding an amendment that makes the right to counsel for defendants in evictions and foreclosures explicit.