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Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Missoula, MT
Home country: USA
Current location: Deep in Red State Hell!
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 5,091

About Me

Godless democratic socialist, look towards northern Europe for inspiration on what role-models our economy should aspire towards. Love the ACLU and donate heavily to them each year, wish they'd get with the program and defend the Second Amendment with as much fervor as they do the rest of the Bill of Rights. Proud member of the 99%.

Journal Archives

I Shook Glenn Greenwald's Hand Tonight

The ACLU of Idaho threw its annual Bill of Rights Celebration dinner and auction tonight in downtown Boise. Glenn was the featured speaker. As an ACLU volunteer, I got to attend the event for free, but I bought a copy of his latest book (which he signed) proceeds of which he's donating to the ACLU of Idaho Foundation. The event was only advertised about a month in advance, but we sold about 130 tickets at $75/pop before tonight, and the remaining 20 seats sold out quickly at the door. We also raised approximately another $10K in silent auction items, plus several thousand more in donation pledges.

As for the speech, what can I say? He was great. He said right from the get-go that he wasn't going to re-hash all the ways the Obama Administration has followed in the foot-steps of the Bush Administration, because after 3 years it was so glaringly obvious, it wasn't even necessary to explain it anymore. Especially not to this crowd. Instead, he focused on the "war on terror" in general, and what it means for dissent in this country, and abroad. He pointed out that the dictionary definition of terrorism ("the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes") was used by our government against even those who simply disagreed with our foreign policies, yet REAL acts of terrorism (drone strikes against women, children, and U.S. citizens) for political purposes committed by this government are given a free pass. While its easy for Americans to excuse such terrorism committed by our own government, since after all its "One of THEM, not one of US" -- he pointed out that even though many of us may trust the current administration to not wantonly abuse such authority, what about future administrations down the road? What would a Michele Bachmann or a Sarah Palin administration do with such broad powers? To reach out and detain, even kill U.S. citizens, without so much as a trial or proving to the world the case against them, only because the government says they need to go?

He touched on Wikileaks, pointed out how when he put the call out for people to give Wikileaks financial support, so that they could have more resources to hire more people to vet all the leaked info they were receiving, he got dozens and dozens of concerned responses, all saying: "I really want to help, but I'm AFRAID of being put on a list! What if Wikileaks is eventually labeled a 'terrorist organization' by the U.S. government and everyone who gave money rounded up and charged with providing material support?" Indeed, many of us have been scared and intimidated into inaction, because of how broad these new government powers really are.

It was a powerful speech.

During the book signing afterward, I told him: "DemocraticUnderground.com says hi," then after telling him my name, added: "You have many fans and many haters," at which point he chuckled and said he's come across several links to this site and realizes how polarizing of a figure he is, but he appreciates the support. Later on, after almost everyone had left, I got him alone and asked him if he is still in regular contact with Julian Assange. He said he was. He added that he thought it was pretty likely that he would be extradited to Sweden to face those charges, but his spirit is holding up pretty well for the most part still. I thanked him for keeping everyone abreast of the situation with Assange, and reporting news that no one else seems to dare want to report. I ran into him again a third time as we both entered the elevators. He was going up (to his room, presumably -- the event took place in a hotel) and I was going down to my car. He said a final "Good night" and I responded "Yeah, take care."

Say what you will about him, but he's a really polite and likable guy. I can see why he gives Establishment Democrats such headaches, but he's really only doing what President Obama told us to do in the first place when we elected him: "If I ever stray, hold my feet to the fire." While I suspect most everyone in that room will probably end up voting for Obama in the end anyway, it won't be without much disappointment and regret. Disappointment that the Obama Administration is still prosecuting so many policies of the Bush Administration, and regret that our protests have fallen upon deaf ears. We really need more people like Glenn to open up more people's eyes and see how dangerous following in the foot-steps of Bush/Cheney really is, so that hopefully, during President Obama's second term, he is more receptive to civil libertarian concerns. Hopefully, once getting re-elected is no longer a concern, he'll finally listen to his base and act to change some of the worst holdover policies of the Bush Era. Because as Glenn pointed out: "The longer these pernicious policies stay in place, the harder its going to be to get rid of them later."

Glenn Greenwald is a true patriot and a scholar. I hope one day the Democratic Party finally listens to him and takes a firm stand in defense of the Bill of Rights, not because its necessarily popular, but because its necessarily right.

What an awesome night.

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Several 2nd Amendment Cases

The Supreme Court late last month declined petition to take up more Second Amendment cases. A news release I received today from the Michel and Associates law firm (that does not seem available yet on its web site dedicated to gun law) explains what was at stake. It also discusses other Second Amendment cases that people have tried, and failed, to take all the way to the Supreme Court since 2008's Heller case created a brand-new landscape for weapons possesion law:
Williams v. State (Maryland)....asked the Supreme Court to decide whether the Second Amendment protects a right to carry or transport a registered handgun outside the home. Mr. Williams was appealing his conviction for possessing a handgun in public without the required state permit allowing him to do so.

United States v. Masciandaro...involved a man convicted of violating the federal prohibition on carrying or possessing a loaded weapon in vehicles in National Parks after he was found asleep in his vehicle with a loaded handgun in a national park. He sought review from the Supreme Court of whether that prohibition violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms; asking the high court, like the petitioner in Williams, whether the right extends beyond the home.
While you might think these decisions on the Court's part to not hear these Second Amendment cases means it's reluctant to reconsider the Amendment at all, that's not quite right:

Despite the of certiorari denials in all the aforementioned Second Amendment cases, the fact that the Supreme Court has been requesting responses in these cases shows the Justices are paying unusually close attention to the Second Amendment issue. Of the roughly 8,000 petitions for review filed with the Supreme Court every year, only in a few hundred cases does the Court request a response from the opposing party. When the Court requests a response brief, it is a strong sign that the Court is interested in hearing argument in that case. And, such a request increases the probability that the Court will grant oral argument by roughly 9 times, from 0.9% to 8.6%....


Wow. It almost sounds as if the SCOTUS is telling the government: you can't restrict guns inside the home, but you can restrict the hell out of guns in public. And so what if the government restricts guns to people based off of misdemeanor convictions? And tough luck on getting Heller and McDonald retroactively applied...

And some people think this is a "pro-gun" court.

Did Democrats Give Up in Gun Control Debate?

As The Times’s Dalia Sussman noted on Tuesday, Americans have generally become more protective of gun ownership rights in recent years.

There are some exceptions to the rule — for instance, according to the General Social Survey, conducted intermittently since 1972, the percentage of Americans who think permits should be required before a gun can be obtained has gradually risen (to 79 percent in 2008 from 72 percent in 1972). Background checks for gun owners are overwhelmingly popular, attracting the support of as many as 90 percent of Americans. And while most Americans say they do not want gun control regulations to become stricter, even fewer — about 10 percent — think they should be made more lax.

Still, the overall pattern is reasonably clear. According to Gallup surveys, for instance, the number of Americans favoring a ban on handguns has been on a long-term decline and is now about 30 percent, down almost 10 percentage points from a decade earlier:
It is perhaps not surprising, then, that support for gun control measures has declined in recent years, with one of the parties essentially having surrendered on the issue. Somewhere along the line — perhaps between 2000 and 2004, when the rhetoric in their platform changed significantly — Democrats concluded that the issue was a political loser for them and they stopped fighting back.

It may also be that gun control has became less a priority for the Democratic Party’s key stakeholders. On one hand, major cities — where Democratic voters and donors have long been concentrated — became much safer during the decade of the 2000s, and so gun violence would have seemed a less immediate threat to an Upper East Side liberal in 2008 than it would have in 1988.


Pretty interesting analysis by Nate Silver there at the New York Times.

Lower crime rates have lead to less households owning guns, yet people are becoming more tolerant of guns in general.

Long before the McDonald or Heller decisions, the Democratic Party acknowledged individual right to keep and bear arms, which makes it harder to push for gun control now.

Would You Support Stricter Federal Training Requirements in Exchange for National CCW Reciprocity?

This is a question for both the pro-gun and pro-control sides.

I've been engaged in a back-and-forth PM session with another member who favors more gun control, and this idea for a compromise came up.

How would you feel about being able to pack heat (concealed-carry) anywhere in the contiguous 48 states without having to worry about violating some states' arbitrary laws during long-range road trips, if it meant having to put up with more rigorous training requirements to qualify to get a Federal CCW permit?

This would mean that unrestricted states like Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont would have to adopt stricter uniform Federal training standards, but on the flip-side, states like California, Illinois, and New York couldn't deny permits altogether, or only issue them if you are rich or politically well-connected.

I'm thinking this might be one area of compromise which might satisfy most (but not all) pro-gun folks, and most (but not all) pro-control folks, and be able to get Congress and President Obama to come together and deliver on during Obama's second term.

Touching the Void (2003)

Have any of you NOT seen this incredible movie? Queue it up on Netflix if you haven't.

Its based off the true story of two expert mountain ice-climbers who take on one of the tallest peaks in the Peruvian Andes. They become the first known people to make it all the way to the top, but like with most climbs, the descent is the trickier part. On the way down one of them breaks his leg, which leads them to have to make some very hard decisions if at least one of them wants to come out alive, as they only brought minimal fuel to melt snow into water. (And mountain climbing is a VERY thirsty business.)

I won't spoil the ending, but let me just say that for those who say there are no atheists in fox-holes, it appears that there are some on mountain-tops. Despite facing certain death, the idea of calling out to God never even entered this lapsed Catholic's picture.

A very inspirational and moving story.

Is the Internet Responsible for Americans Losing Their Faith?

Check this out:

It seems as if the ranks of the "Nones" didn't start really start gaining ground until the mid-1990's, just as the Internet was picking up steam.

Again, as the free-flow of information and ideas online became more widespread, the numbers of non-believing youth began to rise, surpassing that of young evangelicals around the turn of the century.

The following graph suggests that more liberals are losing their faith, whereas conservatives are "stubbornly clinging to their Bibles," as President Obama suggested during the 2008 campaign:

Lots more charts and graphs here:


73% of Protestant Pastors Reject the Theory of Evolution

America’s Protestant pastors overwhelmingly reject the theory of evolution and are evenly split on whether the earth is 6,000 years old, according to a survey released Monday by the Southern Baptist Convention.

When asked if “God used evolution to create people," 73% of pastors disagreed - 64% said they strongly disagreed - compared to 12% who said they agree.

Asked whether the earth is approximately 6,000 years old, 46% agreed, compared to 43% who disagreed.

A movement called Young Earth creationism promotes the 6,000-year-old figure, arguing that it is rooted in the Bible. Scientists say the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.

The Southern Baptist Convention survey, which queried 1,000 American Protestant pastors, also found that 74% believe the biblical Adam and Eve were literal people.


Wow, liberal Christians have some work to do.

There's some serious ignorance and denial out there.

Can a molecule make us moral?

(CNN) -- The longest debate since humans have been having debates is whether we are good or evil. It underlies the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Jesus and Judas.

What is our human nature? Of course, the answer is we can be both good and evil. But what determines which part of our character emerges?

About a decade ago, my lab made an unexpected breakthrough in the understanding of good and evil. We discovered that the neurochemical oxytocin makes people trustworthy. We then found oxytocin was responsible for many other moral behaviors, from being generous to sacrificing to help a stranger.

Wait -- morality is chemical? In my TED talk, I describe how I made the unlikely discovery of the moral molecule, how I was roundly discouraged from even looking for such a chemical, and what drove me to persist in my search.


First "neurolaw", now "neuroeconomics"... where will neuroscience take us next?

Texas Man Pulls Gun, Chases Wrong Guy, Says Sorry

A man who pulled a gun on another driver, then chased him more than 10 miles into the parking lot of a police substation — all because he thought the driver had tried to rob him during a drug deal — apologized when he realized it was a case of mistaken identity, officials said.

“Oh, man, that's not the right guy,” the armed man told officers after his arrest.

The bizarre tale began on the West Side on South General McMullen Drive and ended when the driver of the car being chased sped into the parking lot of the Police Department's East Substation on Houston Street after 7 p.m., just as Officer Louis Esquivel was leaving after his shift.

“He drove up real fast and was honking his horn,” Esquivel said. “The woman (a passenger) rolled down her window and yelled, ‘He's got a gun, he's trying to shoot us.'”
The man showed his hands and got on the ground. Officers handcuffed him. He had a stolen weapon and a wad of cash, police said.
Police said the man told them he was buying black tar heroin and that the other man tried to rob him during the deal. But when he got a closer look he realized his mistake, police said.


What a fucking dumb-ass.

Note to self: If ever doing an illicit drug deal and someone tries to rob me, DON'T TRY TO MAKE A CITIZEN'S ARREST. (Let alone if you are using a stolen gun...)

Unfortunately, I don't know of any gun control law that could stop people like this. Even in a total ban environment, assholes will still steal and arm themselves. All we can do is enforce laws on the books after the fact... take the idiots out of circulation for awhile and confiscate their illegal guns.

Nuclear Power Remains Key To America's Energy Future

Until the nuclear accident in Japan earlier this year, the press and blogosphere were replete with articles and discussions about an imminent "nuclear renaissance" in the U.S. President Barack Obama stated publicly that nuclear power was a major component of his "green energy" agenda, and he also called for an increase in the federal nuclear loan guarantee program to help jump-start new plant construction.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, and despite Fukushima, a solid majority of Americans still view nuclear energy favorably. According to a survey conducted in late September by Bisconti Research and GfK Roper, 62% of respondents say they approve the use of nuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States.

Those strongly favoring nuclear energy outnumber those strongly opposed by a 2-1 ratio. Eighty-five percent of respondents believe that current operating licenses should be renewed when they expire, as long as the plants meet federal safety standards.

Fifty-nine percent agree: "We should definitely build more nuclear power plants in the future" while 67% of Americans say they would find a new reactor acceptable at the site of the nearest operating facility.


I don't necessarily agree with this article's conclusion (I think conservation and renewables CAN meet a big chunk of our near-future energy needs) but I do think its true that most Americans are open to more nuclear power as a means of weaning us off of dirty fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas, faster.

The sooner more coal and natural gas plants are taken off-line, the better, no matter how we do it.

And President Obama agrees.
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