The Phantom City

Notes from our travels across a mysterious world.

Category: Politics (page 2 of 16)

Exactly…

Mike Munger on why Single-Payer Healthcare would be better than what we had before and what we have now. These are the exact reasons why I’ve converted to the Single Payer idea myself as the most pragmatic solution, after years of dismissing it, but he writes it a lot better than I can.

And let’s face it, folks…do we really have a better healthcare system than Canada, France, or Switzerland, no matter the horror stories that come up every time someone mentions that other countries might have a better solution? (Yes, I know those three countries have different solutions. Each also happens to be a lot closer to single payer than they are to us.) Note I didn’t throw Britain’s NHS in there. That ends up sounding like going to the doctor at the DMV. 🙂

(If anything, that old saw about how our system lets us get all the latest and greatest in technology and medicines as long as we can pay for it, if true, just means we subsidize the rest of the world in medical research. We can’t afford that.)

While I was happy about the limits on the Commerce Clause, I kind of wish PPACA had been struck down yesterday so we could potentially move on to talking single payer again, rather than waiting a few years to notice that PPACA hasn’t done a thing to control costs.

Update: Rereading this, I realized used the DMV as an example of unpleasantness. Actually, a couple of years ago when I realized my license had expired the day before, I had an entirely pleasant experience at the DMV office on MLK in Durham. No lines, friendly people, and very efficient. So, in the spirit of privatization, I’ll compare the NHS to holding for credit card customer service while standing in line at the car mechanic’s. 🙂

Six almost inevitable economic steps

Mike Munger, former Libertarian Party candidate for NC governor, recommends some steps to get past this economic morass.

I’ll summarize, but you should really go and check out the article.

  1. Single Payer Healthcare, to divorce healthcare from employment compensation.
  2. Cuts to the military, while reducing mission.
  3. Cut the deficit with tax increases and spending cuts
  4. Pay for Social Security by removing the tax cap, and means-testing the rest.
  5. Reduce business uncertainty by slowing down the pace of regulation.
  6. Cut corporate tax rate to 20%, but remove all loopholes to ensure it is actually paid.

Pretty interesting, and in my opinion we’re going to be forced to do a lot of these things eventually, but we’re going to wait long enough for it to be much more messy and painful than it had to be.

Amendment One

So, in North Carolina we’ll be voting on this measure for an amendment to our state Constitution, which has somehow survived for many years without it:

Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

See, if I was in the state legislature, I would have voted to amend that measure as follows:

Constitutional amendment to provide that marriage between one man and one woman, for life, is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.

(Also, each time a person referred to the amendment measure in public, they’d need to do the “4 Life” hand sign. Marriage would be just like the N…W…O….)

If we’re going to legislate marriage as defined in the churches in which I grew up, let’s go all the way. Let’s see how many of our state legislators would vote for that one. Or Republican Presidential candidates would. I know one who wouldn’t, because of principle; one who couldn’t, because he’d be laughing too hard; and one who wouldn’t, because it says “one woman.” (Sorry, bad Mormon joke.) Oh, and one who would, because of principle — that would be the Catholic guy who was successfully convincing a bunch of Protestants that the Mormon guy was the scarier option. What happened to my Baptists, folks? Nobody read those freaky Jack Chick Crusaders Comics from the ’70s? 😉

When you’re going to the polls in May, think about this: Do you really want the state to completely legislate based on man’s interpretation of God’s words…because I think you’ll notice if we start putting in all of the stuff that the pastors of my youth conveniently decided was overridden by grace, or just plain ignored, we won’t really need to worry about Sharia law. We’ll be used to something quite like it, whenever we have enough radical fundamentalist Muslims to somehow override the voting preferences of ~350 million people. (Look out, women of 2525!)

I’m still not exactly sure what the purpose of this amendment even is for its proponents. To protect the sanctity of marriage? I didn’t realize the strength of my marriage had anything to do with anyone else’s, but if that’s the case, the couple who were getting their marriage license next to us in Pigeon Forge, TN, didn’t get us off to an auspicious start. (“And this will be your…?” “Fifth marriage, ma’am.”) Marriage doesn’t seem to be tied to children in this state, so I’m not sure what it’s supposed to do there, other than remove a possible avenue of stability for them. Does it somehow encourage people not to be gay? I’d think the last 250 years of non-gay marriage are evidence that wouldn’t work. Heck, as near as I can tell, it’s not doing anything except lessening the possibility that some other generation will be able to disagree with us without having to first pass Amendment Minus One.

I’m not a very good Libertarian, even though I voted for Munger in the last governor’s race. I’d probably be called a Liberaltarian in the commenter’s section in Reason, and I couldn’t really argue with that. But, I do believe in it enough to ask: Why is the State in the Marriage business?

The state government of North Carolina is partially here to provide services a majority of us, at one point or another, implicitly agreed would be better supplied by the collective. It’s also here to enforce laws that we agreed we didn’t want to live without, for one reason or another. (It’s part of that social contract you didn’t even realize you were agreeing to, just by being born into it and not leaving.) Just as importantly, to my view, NC is here to enforce agreements between private parties. Those contracts often take commonly used shapes for commonly desired outcomes. Business incorporation, for instance, serves as an agreement about liability between you, the State, and your customers.

This is what the marriage license means to the state: It’s a legal agreement, a contract between two parties that confers certain rights and responsibilities, so commonly understood and established in precedent we don’t even have to sign a real contract with every clause listed. If you want to dissolve that contract, we have a nice large body of law and standard rules that allow you to do so. If you want to override that behavior, then you draw up a legal agreement beforehand that will take precedence. If one partner dies, that contract conveys certain privileges to the survivor. If one partner is sick, or disabled, that contract also conveys certain privileges. It’s shorthand for a very complex legal contract between two parties. And, as far as the State is concerned, that’s it.

My marriage, much like yours probably, was also a religious ceremony. We found a pastor who we’d never met before who was willing to marry us on a mountain in Tennessee as part of a complete paid wedding package, and committed to each other before God and our families. That part was important to us as a symbol of our commitment. You know the State’s concern about all of that? They cared whether the pastor was qualified to sign the wedding license. In other words, for the State, we got married by a special kind of Notary Public. We could have been married by the Pope in Times Square, or an atheist ship captain on a gambling cruise, and the State would have been good with it.

Why do we continue to act like the religious part has anything to do with the legal part? The marriage you have right now, to the State, is a recognized form of civil union, certified by that license, recorded in a courthouse somewhere. You can have all of the religious ceremony you want, and all the faith in the world, and if you don’t get that license, you’ll only be legally married by coincidence after you fall under common law.

If keeping a particular religious belief about marriage and the legal definition of marriage synced is so important, I’m wondering why we don’t seem to pay much attention to these milestones and what they could be linked to as far as legal status:

  • Christening
  • Bar Mitzvah
  • Immersion baptism
  • Church membership

Perhaps legal personhood? Voting? Driving? Drinking age? Heck, at least one or two of those have often been required for full rights — such as they were — in various places in various times. (I grew up a fundamentalist country Baptist. You know what we liked? Separation of church and state, because we were suspicious of the State and anyone who wanted to gain power through it. A bunch of years being killed by the various State Churches after the Reformation kind of guaranteed that reaction.)

So, my preference? We start treating the State part like what it is, a civil contract between consenting adults. Not part of our religion…I suspect there are some sects out there that have a problem with the idea of my marriage. (Heck, to a couple of guys who were wandering around the neighborhood the other day, I’m going to Hell because I’m a Baptist, so I doubt being yoked to a Presbyterian would make them happy — and I’d sure hate for them to start trying to impose that through the state.) We can all have our religious parts, and continue gossiping about the quality of other’s unions and the states of their souls, but for the State, I do not want to start restricting the kinds of private contracts into which consenting adults can enter. Particularly not the kind of contract that conveys rights helpful to stability, care, and companionship.

Before you mention it, yep, that would apply to groups of more than two people as well. I get your slippery slope argument, and still say free agreements between individuals are still very seldom going to be my business or yours. My reluctance there is the fact that our body of law and precedence actually doesn’t have much to say about dissolving those unions, or priority of rights amongst the individuals in the case of sickness, death, and children. But to pretend, like one of our illustrious state representatives, that we don’t know how to divorce two gay people married in other states? Really? We divorce couples every day without asking if either of them has a penis.

So, if any of this sounded right to you, go out and vote against Amendment One on May 8th. Or before. Early voting, you know.

Further details:
Carolina Review: Conservatives, Vote Against the NC Marriage Amendment

The News & Observer: Leading NC conservative opposes marriage amendment

Charlotte Observer: N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis: Gay marriage ban likely to be reversed

Update: Further articles on the topic, better said than I am able.

Mike Munger: Federalist Society Debate

Chris Knight: I’m Christian. I’m called “conservative”. I’m not voting for Amendment One.

By the way, Chris’s mention of Ron Baity surprised me, since I didn’t realize he is as involved in Amendment One as he apparently is. The only thing I have to say is that, if I find myself on the same side of any issue as Dr. Baity nowadays, I take that as a warning sign I might need to reexamine my opinion.

President Obama on the death of Osama bin Laden

Full remarks here. This is an important quote:

As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.

The Face of Political Budget Balancing

GOP holds up NJ governor’s record as a model

With bipartisan backing, Christie plugged the budget hole largely by cutting aid to schools, suspending property tax rebates and skipping a $3 billion payment to the state’s pension system. He imposed a 2 percent cap on increases to local property taxes and fought frequently with the state’s teachers and other public employee unions.

Wow, so plugging the budget hole is defined as moving all of your expenses to next year? It’d be interesting to see the credit ratings for Coulter, Barbour, and AEI, if they think the Christie model is any better than what states have been doing for decades. I’m surprised he’s not talking more about running in 2012, given he’ll need to flee the state soon after.

Can’t say I’m disappointed in CPAC, because I didn’t have high expectations in the first place, but at what point do we acknowledge that the wheels have come off our two-party, win-at-all-costs-damn-the-responsibility system?

Ron Paul’s Questions on Wikileaks

In a speech on the House floor, Republican Representative Ron Paul of Texas asked nine questions in regards to the ongoing kerfuffle about Wikileaks:

Number 1: Do the America People deserve know the truth regarding the ongoing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen?

Number 2: Could a larger question be how can an army private access so much secret information?

Number 3: Why is the hostility directed at Assange, the publisher, and not at our governments failure to protect classified information?

Number 4: Are we getting our moneys worth of the 80 Billion dollars per year spent on intelligence gathering?

Number 5: Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths: lying us into war or Wikileaks revelations or the release of the Pentagon Papers?

Number 6: If Assange can be convicted of a crime for publishing information that he did not steal, what does this say about the future of the first amendment and the independence of the internet?

Number 7: Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on Wikileaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?

Number 8: Is there not a huge difference between releasing secret information to help the enemy in a time of declared war, which is treason, and the releasing of information to expose our government lies that promote secret wars, death and corruption?

Number 9: Was it not once considered patriotic to stand up to our government when it is wrong?

Courtesy of Mediaite.

But which part of Tony Stark would I want to be?

Not the liver, obviously…I know, the brain…or whatever Tony Stark uses for thinking.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word – Nothingness
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election March to Keep Fear Alive

The Two Sides of Politics

NPR: Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law

It’s a membership organization of state legislators and powerful corporations and associations, such as the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association. Another member is the billion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America — the largest private prison company in the country.

It was there that Pearce’s idea took shape.

“I did a presentation,” Pearce said. “I went through the facts. I went through the impacts and they said, ‘Yeah.'”

In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.

“There were no ‘no’ votes,” Pearce said. “I never had one person speak up in objection to this model legislation.”

Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona’s immigration law.

Hough works for ALEC, but he’s also running for state delegate in Maryland, and if elected says he plans to support a similar bill to Arizona’s law.

Asked if the private companies usually get to write model bills for the legislators, Hough said, “Yeah, that’s the way it’s set up. It’s a public-private partnership. We believe both sides, businesses and lawmakers should be at the same table, together.”

Nice to be reminded that, in politics as usual, we get to hear from “both sides.”

“I have no enemies, and no hatred”

Statement from Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, on December 23, 2009:

“June 1989 was the major turning point in my 50 years on life’s road. Before that, I was a member of the first group of students after restoration of the college entrance examination after the Cultural Revolution (1977); my career was a smooth ride, from undergraduate to grad student and through to PhD. After graduation I stayed on as a lecturer at Beijing Normal University. On the podium, I was a popular teacher, well received by students. I was also a public intellectual: in the 1980s I published articles and books that created an impact. I was frequently invited to speak in different places, and invited to go abroad to Europe and the US as a visiting scholar. What I required of myself was: to live with honesty, responsibility and dignity both as a person and in my writing.. Subsequently, because I had returned from the US to take part in the 1989 movement, I was imprisoned for “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement to crime”, losing the platform I loved; I was never again allowed publish or speak in public in China. Simply for expressing divergent political views and taking part in a peaceful and democratic movement, a teacher lost his podium, a writer lost the right to publish, and a public intellectual lost the chance to speak publicly. This was a sad thing, both for myself as an individual, and, after three decades of reform and opening, for China.

“Thinking about it, my most dramatic experiences after June Fourth have all been linked with the courts; the two opportunities I had to speak in public have been provided by trials held in the People’s Intermediate Court in Beijing, one in January 1991 and one now. Although the charges on each occasion were different, they were in essence the same, both being crimes of expression.

“Twenty years on, the innocent souls of June Fourth are yet to rest in peace, and I, who had been drawn into the path of dissidence by the passions of June Fourth, after leaving the Qincheng Prison in 1991 lost the right to speak openly in my own country, and could only do so through overseas media, and hence was monitored for many years; placed under surveillance (May 1995 – January 1996); educated through labour (October 1996 – October 1999s), and now once again am thrust into the dock by enemies in the regime. But I still want to tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom, I stand by the belief I expressed twenty years ago in my “June Second hunger strike declaration”— I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While I’m unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities. This includes Zhang Rongge and Pan Xueqing who act for the prosecution at present: I was aware of your respect and sincerity in your interrogation of me on 3 December.

“For hatred is corrosive of a person’s wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation’s spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and block a nation’s progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love.

“As we all know, reform and opening brought about development of the state and change in society. In my view, it began with abandoning “taking class struggle as the key link,” which had been the ruling principle of the Mao era. We committed ourselves instead to economic development and social harmony. The process of abandoning the “philosophy of struggle” was one of gradually diluting the mentality of enmity, eliminating the psychology of hatred, and pressing out the “wolf’s milk” in which our humanity had been steeped. It was this process that provided a relaxed environment for reform and opening at home and abroad, for the restoration of mutual love between people, and soft humane soil for the peaceful coexistence of different values and different interests. It provided the explosion of popular creativity and the rehabilitation of warm heartedness with incentives consistent with human nature. Externally abandoning “anti-imperialism and anti-revisionism”, and internally abandoning “class struggle” may be called the basic premise of the continuance of China’s reform and opening to this day. The market orientation of the economy; the cultural trend toward diversity; and the gradual change of order to the rule of law, all benefited from the dilution of this mentality. Even in the political field, where progress is slowest, dilution of the mentality of enmity also made political power ever more tolerant of diversity in society, the intensity persecution of dissidents has declined substantially, and characterization of the 1989 movement has changed from an “instigated rebellion” to a “political upheaval.”

“The dilution of the mentality of enmity made the political powers gradually accept the universality of human rights. In 1998, the Chinese government promised the world it would sign the two international human rights conventions of the UN, marking China’s recognition of universal human rights standards; in 2004, the National People’s Congress for the first time inscribed into the constitution that “the state respects and safeguards human rights”, signalling that human rights had become one of the fundamental principles of the rule of law. In the meantime, the present regime also proposed “putting people first” and “creating a harmonious society”, which signalled progress in the Party’s concept of rule.

“This macro-level progress was discernible as well in my own experiences since being arrested.

“While I insist on my innocence, and hold the accusations against me to be unconstitutional, in the year and more since I lost my freedom, I’ve experienced two places of detention, four pre-trial police officers, three prosecutors and two judges. In their handling of the case, there has been no lack of respect, no time overruns and no forced confessions. Their calm and rational attitude has over and again demonstrated goodwill. I was transferred on 23 June from the residential surveillance to Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau Detention Center No. 1, known as “Beikan.” I saw progress in surveillance in the six months I spent there.

“I spent time in the old Beikan (Banbuqiao) in 1996, and compared with the Beikan of a decade ago, there has been great improvement in the hardware of facilities and software of management.

“In particular, Beikan’s innovative humane management applies more flexible management of what the discipliners say and do, on the basis of respecting the rights and dignity of detainees. This management, embodied in the journals Warm Broadcast and Repentance, music played before meals and when waking up and going to sleep, gave detainees feelings of dignity and warmth, stimulating their consciousness of keeping order in their cells and countering the warders’ sense of themselves as lords of the jail. It not only provides detainees with a humanized living environment, but greatly improves the environment and mindset for their litigation. I had close contact with Liu Zhen, in charge of my cell. People feel warmed by his respect and care for detainees, reflected in the management of every detail, and permeating his every word and deed. Getting to know the sincere, honest, responsible, good-hearted Liu, really was a piece of good luck for me in Beikan.

“Political beliefs are based on such convictions and personal experiences; I firmly believe that China’s political progress will never stop, and I’m full of optimistic expectations of freedom coming to China in the future, because no force can block the human desire for freedom. China will eventually become a country of the rule of law in which human rights are supreme. I’m also looking forward to such progress being reflected in the trial of this case, and look forward to the full court’s just verdict ——one that can stand the test of history.

“Ask me what has been my most fortunate experience of the past two decades, and I’d say it was gaining the selfless love of my wife, Liu Xia. She cannot be present in the courtroom today, but I still want to tell you, my sweetheart, that I’m confident that your love for me will be as always. Over the years, in my non-free life, our love has contained bitterness imposed by the external environment, but is boundless in afterthought. I am sentenced to a visible prison while you are waiting in an invisible one. Your love is sunlight that transcends prison walls and bars, stroking every inch of my skin, warming my every cell, letting me maintain my inner calm, magnanimous and bright, so that every minute in prison is full of meaning. But my love for you is full of guilt and regret, sometimes heavy enough hobble my steps. I am a hard stone in the wilderness, putting up with the pummeling of raging storms, and too cold for anyone to dare touch. But my love is hard, sharp, and can penetrate any obstacles. Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with the ashes.

“Given your love, my sweetheart, I would face my forthcoming trial calmly, with no regrets about my choice and looking forward to tomorrow optimistically. I look forward to my country being a land of free expression, where all citizens’ speeches are treated the same; where, different values, ideas, beliefs, political views… both compete with each other and coexist peacefully; where, majority and minority opinions will be given equal guarantees, in particular, political views different from those in power will be fully respected and protected; where, all political views will be spread in the sunlight for the people to choose; all citizens will be able to express their political views without fear, and will never be politically persecuted for voicing dissent; I hope to be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisition, and that after this no one else will ever be jailed for their speech.

“Freedom of expression is the basis of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth. To block freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, to strangle humanity and to suppress the truth.

“I do not feel guilty for following my constitutional right to freedom of expression, for fulfilling my social responsibility as a Chinese citizen. Even if accused of it, I would have no complaints. Thank you!”

Source: Chinese Law Prof Blog

Link courtesy of Reason.

Poor America

…killed by a health care reform bill, pronounced dead at the age of 233. Who knew democracy was so fragile? Who knew our great American traditions of relatively non-violent political change would be so easily broken. All by one bill.

Goodbye, America…killed by a piece of government legislation, passed by a majority of the House and Senate, two bodies that we have the opportunity to radically change every two years simply by voting…not even a Constitutional amendment….

I’ll miss you, but I’ll fondly remember how you survived such challenges and changes as the income tax, driver licenses, and the 1980’s military buildup…

…going to war on the basis of government deception, losing our right to question law enforcement, hippies, sexual immorality, AIDS…

…the first $5 trillion in national debt, the stock market crashing, subversive communism, the arms race, over-population, race riots…

…Nazis, immigration, a Civil War, electing Democrats/Republicans/Whigs/etc., Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, Islamic secular terrorists…

…Anarchists, polio, Appalachian poverty, unions, nuclear war, anthrax in the mail, Communist terrorists, militias, oil crises…

You have been truly magnificent. I apologize for the weakness of my generation: Our inability to accept change, our flair for dramatic hyperbole, our inability to think about the future, our lack of strategic thought, our lack of faith in you, ourselves, our institutions, and our humanity.

We’ve let you down, and now you’ll die, because we no longer believe in anything but ourselves, our complaints, and our fame.

What we can hope is that you ignore our lack of faith, our ingratitude, and our lack of inner fiber long enough for us to realize that rhetoric is not reality, that we still have power through the franchise of the vote, and that America is not so easily destroyed or forsaken. Remind us it’s morning in America whenever we damn well say it is, and that no piece of legislation, no political party, no court ruling is the end, no matter whether we like it or not. Keep holding out for us, and maybe we, or another generation, will grow up and be worthy of your ideals.

Now, this part breaks the flow of the post, but it needs to be said: I don’t care what your opinion about health care reform, socialism, religion, or right and wrong is, as long as you state it reasonably. But lately, I’ve heard people talking about civil war, and I want to state one thing: Cut back the hyperbole, because if you’re serious, if you decide to take up arms against America, I and the rest of the unfortunately quiet majority will resist you, and you will fall into the dustbin of history.

I might not be a fan of everything we do in America, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about its enemies, about the people who hate us. There are far more people who hate America inside our country than out, and most define themselves as the True Americans. Wrong. If you were, you’d already be in power. The rest of us…we’re actually pretty proud of our country, our political system, and our beliefs, even if we don’t agree with something that feels absolutely vital.

Anyway, I’ve just been disgusted by the rhetoric. I’ve lived here for forty years, almost, and I know we’re always a dramatic people, but it’s time to shut up so we can actually listen and think.

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