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Donald Ian Rankin's Journal
Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Oct 06th 2010, 06:15 AM
"Equal representation amendment"
Each vote in the senate to be given a weight in proportion to the population of the state the voting Senator represents. Each state to be assigned seats in Congress in proportion to its population. The President to be elected by popular vote.

Why I want it: All voters should have equal power, wherever they live. The state is an arbitrary division; there is no reason why a small state should wield more power per capita than a big one.

"Abortion amendment"

In the first trimester the state cannot restrict a woman's right to an abortion in any way. In the second trimester the state may regulate the abortion procedure only in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health. In the third trimester the state can choose to restrict or proscribe abortion as it sees fit, except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.

Why I want it: Look at the ages of the current supreme court justices. Roe vs Wade looks very unlikely still to be standing in 20 years. I am also far from convinced that it was a correct interpretation of the constitution (although obviously IANAL). If abortion rights are to be protected, RvW cannot be relied on, I think.

"Campaign Spending amendment"

The state may impose reasonable limits on the spending of money to campaign for elected office, even when doing so would violate the first amendment.

Why I want it: I strongly disagree with those who think that campaign spending limits are currently constitutional - I think they're exactly the kind of thing the first ammendment was intended to prevent. I also think that they're probably necessary to prevent rampant vote-buying; the ability of money to buy publicity has massively increased since the days of the founding fathers.

"Gun control ammendment"

An armed militia being the greatest possible threat to the security of a free state, the state shall pass what laws it deems fit controlling the ownership and carrying of arms.

Why I want it: 30,000 gun deaths a year, immeasurably more shootings and gun crimes. The NRA has far more American blood on its hands than Al-Quaeda does.

Judicial impartiality amendment

No judge, prosecutor, sherrif or other official involved in the enforcement of the law shall be chosen by election or appointed by an elected official; no elected official shall have any power to intervene in any specific legal case. Each state, and the federal government, shall create an official body responsible for appointing legal officials, reviewing court cases and if it sees fit granting pardons. No-one who has held a role appointed by such a body shall be eligible for elected office for the subsequent eight years.

Why I want it: far, far too many cases of attourneys or judges basing their decisions on what will be popular rather than the rights and wrong of the case. I'd like to see districting for elections handed over to a nonpartisan (not just bipartisan) body, too.

Equal rights amendment

The protections granted in the 14th amendment shall be specifically interpreted to cover discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, including the right to marry. Religious organisations shall be excempt from this clause, but no organisation that discriminates on grounds of sexual orientation shall receive any form of state funding or endorsement.

Why I want it: the first part is self-evident. I'm not quite sure I've worded the second part right, but some similar clause giving churches the right not to ordain homosexuals and similar is probably reasonable, I think. On the other hand, allowing religious adoption agencies to discriminate agains homosexual applicants clearly *isn't* reasonable; covering one without the other requires some tricky wording.

Flag-burning amendment.

Once a year, on the anniversary of the declaration of independence, the president shall ceremonially burn a copy of the American flag.

Why I want it: The right to burn the flag is what the constition is all about. Given the threats to ban it, the most patriotic thing one can do with a flag is burn it.

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Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in General Discussion: Presidency
Fri Sep 10th 2010, 01:05 AM
I do not believe that Islam is of the devil. I do no believe that flying planes into tall buildings is something called for in the teachings of Mohammed. I do not believe that deliberately offending over a billion people is something one should do without a damn good reason.

But at the point where it is not possible to burn the Koran without provoking a violent response, as Gates and Obama and Interpol assure us it isn't, I think it becomes necessary to do so, to stand up to the attempt to make it impossible - exactly as it only became necessary for newspapers to reprint the Mohammed cartoons because of the amount of harassment and number of threats directed at the Jyllands-posten.

I believe that the right to burn the Koran is a vital one. The only reason I can see to exercise that right is to preserve it, but right now it's under severe threat - of criminalisation in most Islamic countries, and of threat of violence everywhere. And I think that makes it necessary to exercise it.

I wish that there were some way to preserve that right without offending and (more importantly) upsetting the many Muslims who limit their opposition to Koran-burning the purely verbal rather than to attempts at coercion, but right now I think that there are too many who don't for that to be an overriding concern.

I think there are two other strong arguments besides "is would make a great many people who haven't done anything wrong unhappy" that need dealing with.

The first is that if one organises a symbolic burning of the Koran then most of the people who turn up to attend will be people like Terry Jones; the message that gets out will almost certainly be "Islam is of the devil" rather than "the right to free speech must be protected against harassment and coercion". But I don't think that the fact that Hitler was fond of partridge pie is a good reason to become a vegetarian.

The second strong argument against is, of course, the one set out by Obama and Gates - standing up to bullies is only a sensible strategy when one doesn't mind being bashed. Arguably it would be better to wait until (if?) American troops are not deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan in such numbers. But, to be honest, I can't see a time when it's much less risky to do so emerging any time soon. This is the reason why I'm posting anonymously about the subject on an internet discussion forum rather than burning a Koran in the street on live TV - I freely admit I'm a coward, and I don't want to be subjected to the kind of response it was predicted Jones would have provoked had he gone ahead - and I also don't want other people to be killed on my account. But just because I don't intend to do something doesn't mean it's not the right thing to do. It may be that those who are using the threat of violence to prevent the burning of the Koran are sufficiently powerful that giving in to them is the right thing to do, but I very much hope it isn't.

I don't want to live in a world where people burn books. But I'd far rather live in one where they do than one where they can't.
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Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Tue Jun 08th 2010, 05:30 AM

Children raised by lesbian parents develop into psychologically sound adolescents and have fewer behavioural problems than their peers, a long-running study has found.

Teenagers brought up by lesbians achieved better results in school and had a more active social life, the research discovered.

They were also less likely than children of heterosexual parents to engage in aggressive behaviour of break rules.

Researchers concluded that the main cause was because the mothers, who conceived their babies through artificial insemination, were "committed parents" aware that their children may face difficulties at school because of their upbringing.

They therefore took an active interest in their child's education and many chose to attend parenting classes. The mothers also tended to be older than mothers who had conceived naturally.

Nanette Gartrell, of the University of California and who led the research, said: ''Contrary to assertions from people opposed to same-sex parenting, we found that the 17-year-olds scored higher in psychological adjustment in areas of competency and lower in problem behaviours than the normative age-matched sample of kids raised in traditional families with a mum and a dad."

"These are not accidental children," Mrs Gartrell told WebMD Health News. "The mums tended to be older and attended parenting classes. They were very involved in the process of education ."

(More at link)
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Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in Israel/Palestine
Tue Feb 16th 2010, 02:03 PM
In the below table, the first column is US aid in 2006, taken from
(I have no idea how reliable this is, but it came near the top on google), in millions of dollars.

The second column is population in thousands, taken from wikipedia (N.B. that this figure is often not from 2006, but I think the error from this will be smallish, and I'm not writing for publication...).

The third column is US aid per capita, in dollars. Note that Israel got about 4 times as much as Jordan, and coming on for 10 times as much as anywhere else. Note also that Israeli GDP per capita is $29,000, to Jordan's $5,000; I haven't checked any of the others but I suspect nearly all of them are lower still, many of them much, much lower. Note also that 2006 is the year covered when Israel received the *least* aid.

So, if you're looking at "countries that receive too much US aid" then Israel is way out front in a league entirely of its own, and the (very distant) second-runner is probably Jordan, not Egypt.

Israel: 2520 7465 337.58
Egypt: 1795 77420 23.19
Columbia: 558 45274 12.32
Jordan: 461 6316 72.99
Pakistan: 698 168747 4.14
Peru: 133 29132 4.57
Indonesia 158 240271 0.66
Kenya 213 39002 5.46
Bolivia 122 9775 12.48
Ukraine 115 46011 2.5
India 94 1177128 0.08
Haiti 163 9035 18.04
Russia 52 141927 0.37
Ethiopia 145 79221 1.83
West Bank/Gaza 150 3900 38.46 (N.B. this population worked out by hand, may be wrong).
Liberia 89 3955 22.5
Bangladesh 49 162221 0.3
Bosnia 51 4613 11.06 (N.B. this population for Bosnia & Herzegovina, may be wrong).

P.S. For what it's worth, I wholeheartedly support the right of return for all Palestinian refugees and all their descendants, and the transformation of Israel from a Jewish state into a non-racist state. I think it's an impossible pipe dream that the Palestinians have no chance of achieving, but that in any final settlement that were reached it should be acknowledged that by giving up on it they are making an *enormous* concession, and doing so purely in the face of might rather than right.
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Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in Israel/Palestine
Sun Jun 28th 2009, 04:06 PM

So yes, I think that those Jews as a people have no meaningful claim to the land of Israel, although the minority of Jews who lived there or had ancestors pre-Israel have a right to be equal citizens there - the fact that many of them had ancestors who lived there 2000 years ago is entirely irrelevant. Israel is a 19th-21st century colonial exercise; the fact that it shares a name with a biblical state in the same region does not give it any legitimacy.
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Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Jun 03rd 2009, 12:09 PM
How would you spell the following in the Roman alphabet? Why?

The Chinese communist dictator who wrote the Little Red Book
The leader the above fought against who lead the Kuomintang and was driven back to Taiwan
The prophet of Islam
The holy book of Islam
A follower of Islam
The Jewish winter festival commemorating the Lamp of the Macabbees
The unleavened bread eaten at Passover
The main Lebanese terrorist group
The Yupik and Inuit tribes

And a couple of bonus questions:

If you wanted to use one name to refer to the recently-executed Iraqi dictator, what would it be?
How would you pronounce the Hebrew word for an ear of corn?

Feel free to add other similar questions - the ones above are just some I regularly have problems with or see multiple versions of; I'm sure there are lots of others.
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Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Fri Jan 30th 2009, 08:22 AM

I do not think that elected officials (or, more precisely, officials who will someday stand for election again) should have any power to interfere in the administration of justice. Laws should be made by people answerable to the electorate, but they should be enforced by people answerable only to the law.

Here in the UK we used to be close to a separation of legal and political systems, but over the last decade and a bit the Home Secretary has gained increased powers to interfere in sentencing. I think this is a very bad thing indeed.

In an American context

:-Judges, prosecutors, police officers and the like should be appointed by independent bodies, not elected.

:-The president should not have the power to issue pardons; if anyone should it should be the Supreme Court, and probably no-one should.

:-Congress, instead of the power to impeach the president for crimes, should have (if anything) the power to remove him from office for political reasons. Now, actually, this is what it currently has, but it's always presented as being a criminal rather than a political power, which causes all sorts of confusion; this should be made clear.

:-Congressional districting and the like should be determined by a non-partisan body with a clear set of guidelines, not of politicians horse-trading.

:-Anyone who has served as a judge or prosecutor within the last N years, for some fairly high value of N, should be barred from running for elected office.

:-The arbiter of what happens to the Guantanamo detainees should be the courts, not the government.

And, to offset all the things I am complaining about, I will point out that the Supreme Court justices not being answerable to any politician is an excellent thing.
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I do not think that there is very much prospect of Obama's attempts at bipartisanship helping push through his legislative agenda - or, indeed, much need for them to do so, given that the Democrats contain both houses.

But Democratic senators and congressmen are up for reelection in 2010, and one of the main talking points in the media will be about "checks and balances" and "one party rule".

It will make a huge difference at that point if it is generally held that the Democrats have tried to be bipartisan and the Republicans have been obstructionist, rather than the Democrats steamrollering the Republicans.

The important thing is not that bipartisanship achieves anything, but that it is seen to have been attempted.
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PV: 53/46
EC: 68/32

PV: 51/48
EC: 53/47

PV: 48/48
EC: 50/50

PV: 49/40
EC: 70/30

Clinton/Bush (N.B. Perot...)
PV: 43/38
EC: 69/31

The electoral college always splits more widely than the popular vote, but I'm not sure one can deduce anything about which party that favours. So my compiling all this was less use that I'd hoped... Oh well.
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Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Tue Oct 21st 2008, 11:40 AM

Several of those I don't even understand... is PK a racist term for a Pakistani? Or do they mean Promise Keepers? Or the PK machine gun?
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Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Fri Oct 03rd 2008, 03:42 PM
Look at the ages of the Supreme Court justices (N.B. I worked these out from birthdates, I may be a year out in some cases where they haven't had a birthday this year).

Pro Roe vs Wade:

J.P. Stevens - 88
R.B. Ginsburg - 75
D. Souter - 69
S. Breyer - 70
A. Kennedy - 72

Anti Roe vs Wade:

J. Roberts - 53
S. Alito - 58
A. Scalia - 72
C. Thomas - 60

All the pro-choice judges are over 69; all but one of the anti-abortion ones are 60 or under. And it only takes the balance to swing by one to tip the scales.

Unless we're very lucky, Roe vs Wade is likely to be overturned in a decade or too, and the supreme court is likely to aquire a more conservative tinge.

That said, the situation isn't quite as bad as it could be, because judges can choose when to retire, and hopefully liberal judges may choose to hang on for a few years if the president is a Republican, and, conversely, hopefully Stevens and maybe Ginsburg will choose to retire while Obama is still president, if he wins. But, still, the odds don't look good.
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Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon Jan 28th 2008, 12:43 PM
Some random thoughts about gay marriage, not really building into any particular chain of thought.

:-"The debate about gay marriage" is a slight misnomer. What is being debated is not whether gays should be allowed to get married, but whether they should be allowed to claim the same legal benefits for being married as straight couples are.

:-The standard right-wing argument against this is that the reason straight couples receive legal benefits for getting married is so as to encourage straight couples to get married, because this provides a better foundation to raise children on.

:-This strikes me as flawed in several ways:

*Very few couples take into account the legal benefits when deciding whether or not to get married.

*Even straight couples who won't or even can't have children receive legal benefits for getting married.

*There is (so far as I know - it's something I'm sure most DUers would like to be true, but we should be wary of assuming it to confidently) no reliable evidence that children are better off being brought up by a married couple than by the same couple if they had not married (it *is* clearly the case that, on average, children of married couples are better off than those of other, but that's probably largely a function of which couples choose to get married).

:-I think it's fairly clear that the real, or at least the main, reason married couples are granted legal benefits is because it's in the interest of the people getting married, not because it's in the interests of any prospective children.

:-This also rebuts the argument I often see that the state shouldn't get involved in the legal recognition of *any* marriage. It should, and it should do so because people want legal rights for getting married, and the government should be responsive to the will of the electorate.

:-If this is acknowledged, it's fairly clearly completely iniquitous to deny gay people those same benefits.

:-If gay marriage is one of the principle issues in the coming election, the chances are that the Democrats will lose. It (along with abortion, immigration, and possibly the so-called war on terror, although that may backfire) is one of the few weapons the Republicans have left.

:-Civil unions will be less controversial than gay marriage, but still probably cost the dems a lot more votes than they gain, possibly crucially.

:-If the issue is decided at state level, a few states may legalise gay marriage or something like it, but most won't.

:-I think that probably the strategy most likely to enhance gay rights is to try and avoid the issue entirely until after the election, and then pressure the government once it's been elected. I'm far from confident about that.

:-One of the few issues on which I agree with the anti-gay-rights lobby is that the word "marriage" means, and has always meant, a union between a man and a woman. I'm strongly in favour of both granting gays the right to legal civil unions and of calling them "marriage", but the pedant in me slightly regrets the latter.

:-If gay couples are granted the right to civil unions, even ones with all the legal rights of marriage, it will be much easier for a future government to remove those rights than if they're granted the right to marry.

:-It may be the case that the best way to attain gay marriage is to bring in gay civil unions, wait a few years to prove that the sky hasn't fallen, and then rename them "marriage". I'm not sure about that, thought.

:-I am cautiously optimistic about the prospects of gay marriage in the US if the Democrats win the next election, but fairly pessimistic about their chances of doing so.

:-Gay adoption is not, in my view, primarily a gay rights issue. If the evidence suggested that it were better for children to remain in foster homes than to be placed with gay couples, I would support making it illegal for gays to adopt (and the same is true of any other demographic. Adoption is not for the benefit of the adopter, it's solely for the benefit of the adoptee, so it's not a right full stop, and hence not an X right for all values of X, including "human"). As it is clearly the case that it is, in most cases, much better for children to be placed with pretty much anyone who wants them and is willing and able to bring them up, gay, straight or otherwise, rather than remaining in care homes, I'm strongly in favour of allowing (and encouraging) gay (and straight) couples, married or otherwise, to adopt, whatever happens with gay marriage.

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Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in Israel/Palestine
Tue May 01st 2007, 12:31 PM

:-It has been repeatedly demonstrated that Israel is not able to protect itself from Palestinian violence through military means.

:-It has been repeatedly demonstrated that the Palestinians are not capable of forcing Israel to do anything it doesn't choose to do through violence.

:-The Palestinian violence is not going to stop while the Palestinian grievances remain unaddressed.

:-What has changed since 67 is that the Palestinian expectations have fallen - at the time, they thought they had a chance of destroying Israel altogether; now most (altohugh not all of them) have realised that the best they can possibly hope for is Israel withdrawing to the green line.

:-There is no course of action Israel can take that will not result in intermittent terrorist attacks on it continuing for a generation, I think. However, some courses of action will result in the attempts being far less frequent and less well-supported than others.

:-The Palestinians now have no leadership. Israel has finally got what it's always wanted - they no longer have a partner for negotiations. They did, until Arafat died; but even then they didn't negotiate with them.

:-As such, there is no way of holding "the Palestinians" accountable. You can - and Israel will - inflict massive suffering on innocent Palestinian civilians, and murder or arrest individual leaders deemed responsible for violence, but there is no body "the Palestinians" to hold responsible.

:-As such, the only possible route to anything resembling peace would be if Israel takes unilateral actions in that direction, and then responds to sporadic but decreasingly-frequent terrorist attacks with extreme restraint for a generation. Israel would have to act unilaterally, although preferably in consultation with as many influential Palestinians as possible, to address the Palestinian grievances, and then wait and see what happened.

:-What would happen, I think, would be that some Palestinians would accept the new status quo, and not want to risk further conflict, while others would continue to resort to violence. The relative sizes of these two groups would depend on how far Israel was willing to go.

:-I think, although I don't know for certain (no-one does) that if it went far enough (withdraw to the green line, joint sovereignty over Jerusalem, some compromise on the right of return) then the former group would sufficiently outnumber the latter to effectively stifle it, both in terms of official suppression and deprival of popular support. This would be especially possible if Israel and/or the international community helped establish a functioning Palestinian state. That wouldn't totally stop attacks on Israel, but it would massively reduce them.

:-I don't think that's going to happen. What I think it going to happen is that Israel is going to continue to kill large numbers of Palestinian civilians, destroy the lives of most of the remainder, and occupy their land, and the Palestinians are going to continue to kill significantly smaller, but still large, numbers of Israeli civilians, for the forseeable future.
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Posted by Donald Ian Rankin in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon Apr 09th 2007, 01:15 PM

There are all sorts of things I hate, both politically and personally. I'm not going to bore you with a long list of them - most of you probably hate most of them too - but I want to start by establishing that fact, and that it is not unusual or shameful.

One of the commoner dismissals or epithets I seen on DU is to accuse someone of "hate". Statements that people don't like are dismissed as "hate speech". People, political movements, religions, beliefs, opinions, etc are called "hate ful", and that is automatically assumed to be sufficient to rebut them. Branding someone a "hatemonger", or saying that you think they are "full of hatred" is a simple, easy way of making clear that you think they are a bad person.

I think this is extraordinarily lazy, and that it is bad for logical debate. If you want to criticise someone on grounds of hatred, you need to make *two* steps, not just one. You need to demonstrate that they hate something, *and you need to demonstrate that they are wrong to hate it*.

Simply diagnosing hatred and assuming victory is not a way of making out a watertight case.

So the next time you want to brand someone "full of hatred" or dismiss something as "hate speech", don't. Make a more meaningful criticism instead.
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