Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I'm still here, I've just been busy. I just got a new job and there have been some other distractions as well. Posting may be scarce for a while.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The 110th Congress: The Congress that DIDN'T do Nothing

"I have bad news for you," Hoyer told reporters. "Those trips you had planned in January, forget 'em. We will be working almost every day in January, starting with the 4th."
January 4th happens to be my birthday, and I can't think of a better gift -- save the impeachment and removal of Bush and Cheney -- that the 110th Congress could give me than sacrificing some vacation time to begin to fix what the 109th broke.

Republicans have been quick to bitch and moan about the new schedule, which will require them to work 5 days a week:
"Keeping us up here eats away at families," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. "Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."
This congress will have to work nearly as much as the majority of their constituents. How sad for them.

The 110th Congress has not even convened yet, and it already has a far better reputation than the 109th.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A few more

A few more points to add to the new constitution:

  • Term limits for everyone, but with a twist. Limits are only placed on consecutive terms, so a candidate who can win re-election after reaching the limit without the inertia of incumbency can be re-elected after sitting out a term.
  • Shorter terms for all offices and annual instead of bi-annual elections. This would make bringing back officials who had reached their term limits easier.
  • Perhaps the cabinet should elected rather than appointed, and should have more direct power rather than advising the president. This seems the most obvious way to break up the presidential power, can you think of a better one?
I'm still looking for recommendations, and I've also posted this on Campaigns Wikia.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A New Constitution

Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it and labored with it... We might as well require a man to wear the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
--Thomas Jefferson
Our founding fathers did some brilliant work, but with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that there is room for improvement. The framers foresaw the need to update the Constitution, and created a process for amending it, but what would it look like if it was written today? I thought it would be a fun thought experiment to write a new one. Here are some points that I've come up with so far:
  • In the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights is a set of amendments. This conveys the message that these rights are an afterthought. In this constitution, the Bill of Rights will be Article I. This should include, among other things, an assurance of equal rights for same-sex and opposite-sex couples, probably by privatizing marriage, and increased protection for free speech and against censorship. The bidirectional separation of church and state must also be clearly declared.
  • I think that trias politica -- the separation of power among the legislative, judicial, and executive branches -- is a very good idea, but it's clear from presidents like Dubya and Nixon that clearer limits on the branches' powers need to be defined, particularly when the branch is so centralized. In practice, the US presidency resembles a constitutional monarchy. Those powers should have additional checks, and possibly be divided among several individuals. The need for a single figurehead leader, be it a president or a prime minister, is a throwback to traditional monarchies that modern governments may be better-off without.
  • No increased per-capita representation for less-populous areas. Red-staters may not like this one, but I think that the Senate and Electoral College are terribly un-democratic. Bicameral legislature is a good idea, but assigning Senators by state with no regard to population is un-democratic. With the current state of technology, there's no reason not to offer a more direct democracy, with less emphasis one outdated state boundaries, and there must be better ways to fairly represent the interests of smaller populations.
  • Speaking of technology, it also creates other possibilities that would not have been feasible when the Constitution was written. Perhaps one house of Congress should have proportional representation, and there's no reason not to use instant runoff voting. It's crucial, though, to provide for protection against electronic vote fraud.
  • Certain clauses, notably references to "free persons" and the three-fifths compromise, are concessions to the culture of the day an no longer hold any relevance. Many such clauses have been nullified by amendments, and such amendments should be rolled into the original version of this new constitution, but similar concessions to today's culture should be avoided where possible to create a document that would require as little amendment as possible.
Those are the points that I have thought of so far. Can you think of any others or any other nations whose constitutions with aspects that improve considerably upon that of the United States? Does anyone know of any similar projects?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Free Speech for the Terrorists in D.C.

Last night, Keith Olbermann delivered another in his series of special comments, this one in response to Newt Gingrich's assertion that it was necessary to curtail free speech to fight terrorism.

"We will adopt rules of engagement that use every technology we can find," Mr. Gingrich continued about terrorists formerly Communists formerly Hippies formerly Fifth Columnists formerly Anarchists formerly Redcoats.

"….to break up their capacity to use the internet, to break up their capacity to use free speech."
Free speech is free speech for everyone, and is our single most fundamental freedom. Gingrich -- like with the president, vice president, and the rest of their ilk -- claims to want to protect America, to protect our freedom. They invoke images of terrorists who hate us because of that freedom, and want desperately to take it away from us. Then, in order to protect us from these alleged freedom-haters, they propose taking that freedom away. These charlatans either don't notice the contradiction, or hope desperately that no one else will.

We do.

You -- Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Bush... -- you are the terrorists. You are the ones trying to take away our freedom, and you are doing so far more effectively than anyone with a bomb-belt or a box-cutter could ever dream. What's more, you are using fear tactics to do it, which is the very definition of terrorism. I do not agree with a word you say, Mr. Gingrich, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

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