Throwing Blagojevich out

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:59 am by ducky

Am I the only person who is concerned that justice is moving too hastily on Blagojevich?  He stands accused of some pretty appalling stuff, but the key word is accused.  I realize that many civil liberties have been badly compromised in the past eight years, but I thought that the US still (mostly) believed in “innocent until proven guilty” for its citizens.  To throw him out of office before a trial would be unfair.

There is also some speculation that he didn’t do anything illegal.  He sure looks like a stupid, arrogant slimebucket, but that isn’t illegal.  He wanted to use the appointment to his advantage, sure, but there is lots of influence-trading that doesn’t get prosecuted, e.g. people donating to a candidate being rewarded with ambassadorships.  (It is always less shocking to discover how much illegal activity goes on, than how much is perfectly legal.)

It is important for civil liberties to ensure that the government not be allowed to deny anyone — even people we don’t like — fair, equitable process under the law, including the presumption of legal innocence.


Canadians worrying about US water appropriation, wtf?

Posted in Canadian life, Politics at 11:35 pm by ducky

I am baffled by a concern that seems endemic in Canada: that the US is going to steal Canadian water.  The way they talk about it, it’s almost like they think there are already secret contingency plans drawn up that one more dry season in California will trigger.

This seems totally preposterous to me:

  • I have never heard anyone in the US talk about routing Canadian water to the US.  I remember about ten or twenty years ago, hearing people talk about a canal to Oregon, to the Columbia river, but it wasn’t something that people were taking seriously.  It was sort of like how in the late seventies there were people talking about building space colonies.  There were a few people thinking about the theoretical possibility, but there wasn’t any real thought that they were practical.
  • Which states might run out of water?  Let’s suggest California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.  States in the South.   Where is Canada?  Way way north.  Where is the closest water to California?  Oregon.  Don’t need to go any farther.  Where is the closest water to Texas?  The Mississippi.  Don’t need to go any farther.  What is the easiest water to get to from Arizona and New Mexico?  Probably the Mississippi again.  Maybe you’d object that the Mississippi water isn’t very nice by the time it gets to Louisiana.  Maybe it is, but if they are out of water, they can’t be that choosy.  The next place they could look would be Lake Michigan; you don’t have to go over any mountains and you don’t have to cross any international borders.
  • Why should the Canadians worry about water when they could worry about oil instead?  The US has a history of belligerency related to oil; I don’t know of any US belligerency related to water.
    • One Canadian, in response to that question, said “Yeah, but we already sell the oil.” Yeah, but Canada could sell the water, too. And Canada has a lot more water than it has oil.

So I find it a very odd concern. I am not suggesting that Canadians should think of the US as an entirely and always consistently benevolent country. I’m sure there are things Canadians should be nervous about. But water? That is so far down on the list of things that I would worry about that I find it very odd.

To be fair, I also have heard a man from Michigan be concerned about California stealing Michigan’s water.  (He went on an extended rant about how people shouldn’t live in places that required importing large quantities of natural resources.  I wonder how he would enjoy winter in Michigan without large imports of fossil fuels.)  Maybe they got this idea from the Canadians.

Wright ad that didn't play

Posted in Politics at 4:26 pm by ducky

An ad that the McCain team put together featuring Rev. Wright has surfaced, with some questioning why McCain didn’t run the ad.  Deep in the dusty corners of my mind, a bored little clot of neurons is sure she knows why McCain didn’t run the Wright ad.

In my scenario, at some point early in the campaign, Obama talks to McCain about running a honorable campaign.  “John”, says Obama, “let’s rise above the pettiness.  Let’s agree right now, before we get really started, that our private lives should stay private.  Let’s agree that our families are off-limits, and our religions are off-limits.”

In my imagination, McCain can’t believe his ears!  Obama is pretty much offering him a get-out-of-jail free card!  Obama is volunteering to not talk about McCain’s serial infidelity, Cindy’s drug addiction, or about how McCain’s religious intensity is um low.  What a cool deal!  In my head, McCain is having a hard time containing his glee as he agrees to the deal.

Later, when the Wright tapes surface, and Michelle makes a few missteps, McCain realizes that he’s been had.  He got suckered, big time.  In my story, he fell for it: hook, line, and sinker.  McCain’s a little peeved at himself for being such a fool, but it’s emotionally easier to put the blame on Obama than to place the blame on himself.  Thus McCain decides that this proves that Obama is nothing but a smooth-talking snake.  (This explains why McCain sure acted like he couldn’t stand Obama.)

He can’t actually say that Obama is a smooth-talking snake, without telling the story of how McCain had gotten suckered, and that doesn’t look good on McCain.  So instead he alludes to it with the “celebrity ad”: don’t trust this guy, he’s just a pretty face.  But because the populace didn’t know the back story, they don’t recognize that the ad is a story of Obama’s treachery.  So the ad fizzles.

And Wright is radioactive, but in my story, McCain can’t talk about Wright without going back on his word.  (And if he goes back on his word, then he has to admit to himself that he’s no better than that treacherous snake Obama, so he can’t do that.)  So instead, McCain uses Ayers as a proxy for Wright.  They talk about Ayers over and over again hoping that somebody will make the link between Ayers and Wright.  Unfortunately, when the McCain camp says, “Ayers, Ayers, Ayers, Ayers”, the populace hears, “Ayers, Ayers, Ayers, Ayers” instead of “Wright, Wright, Wright, Wright”.

Meanwhile, because I am an Obama supporter, I can paint Obama as completely innocent in this matter.  In my story, I can have Obama approaching McCain with complete sincerity and noble intent, and the story still hangs together.

Now, I have no hotline to Obama’s or McCain’s brain.  This is just a story that I made up to help me make sense of the world.  But I like the story.


times are a-changin'

Posted in Politics at 2:30 am by ducky

From James Fallow’s blog posting about Shinseki:

the first Asian-American in a military-related cabinet position

I love how we are starting to have to pile on the adjectives. It’s no longer enough to say, “the first Asian-American in a cabinet position”. (That would be Norm Mineta.)

I look forward to the day when I see something like:

the first left-handed Asian-American woman from a university in the Minnesota named to be the National Security Advisor under a Republican president

And what will be really cool is the day when they don’t even bother with any adjectives.


Digital public works

Posted in Politics at 10:33 am by ducky

Mitch Kapor suggests that some of Obama’s pledged massive public infrastructure project be digital.  While I would hesitate a little bit — I would want to make sure that it wouldn’t cannibalize projects to repair the decaying US physical infrastructure —  I think it’s a really intriguing idea.

For some projects, a lot of good could be done by setting up a structure to make it easy for volunteers to contribute to.  For an example near and dear to my heart, the government already provides a bunch of mapping data.  However, that mapping data is incomplete and erroneous. Fixing an erroneous data point requires very local knowledge, but not much effort.

Suppose there were an iPhone app that would alert when you came close to a questionable point, and ask you to check it out.  For example, if there was a street that had no name entered in the database, if you were close to/on that street, it could ping you and ask you what the name of the street was.  If earlier, it had had trouble finding the location of “234 West Wilpole St, Hoopston, IL” and you live in Wilpole, the app could ping you and ask you where it is.

This will only work if you have a lot of people signed up, and the app works well.  You would need some sort of public awareness campaign (which takes resources), some money to develop the application, and some money to do “customer support”.

I care a lot about map data, so naturally I think of that.  However, there is probably lots of other data that it would be useful to collect.


Times they are a-changing

Posted in Politics, Random thoughts at 2:58 pm by ducky

Wow.  Obama announced his six national security advisers today, and white men were in the minority.  Eric Holder and Susan Rice are not white; Hillary Clinton, Janet Napolitano, and Susan Rice are not men.

A few days ago, I read that Condoleeza Rice phoned Barak Obama twice during the Mumbai terrorist attacks and was profoundly moved by the mental image.  It’s not that there haven’t been black people in positions of power before.  I’m sure that Rice phoned General Powell more than once.  (While I dislike almost everything about G. W. Bush, I do have to give him props for not being afraid to appoint people of colour to high positions.)

What struck me was that it was a very powerful black person in one administration phoning a very important black person in the next administration.  This demonstrates that it is not tokenism, nor a fluke of one administration.  It says that having people of colour in positions of high responsibility is not odd or unusual.  And that’s the way it should be.