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[P]
America: Broken As Designed

By Arkady in Op-Ed
Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 08:31:47 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

The most significant test of any system is how it handles unanticipated situations. A well-designed and implemented system is one which can continue to operate correctly (i.e. one which continues to embody its design principles and function according to its specifications) in a situation which was not considered in its creation. A system which does not must be considered flawed, either in design or implementation.

While those of here who are scientists and engineers use this principle of evaluation daily in our work, it's likely that few of us (and probably even fewer in the general population) have applied this principle to the State(s) in which we live. Since the United States, in its current form, is over two hundred years old (and one of its designers, Thomas Jefferson himself, advocated such a review every twenty years), a public review of how well it has proceeded is long overdue.


A well-formed project will have three things, not because they are necessary for its success, but because they are necessary for deciding whether it has succeeded. These are: 1) a statement of goals, 2) a specification and 3) the implementation. Without these, it is impossible to look at a finished system and reasonably decide to what degree it is (or is not) what was intended and to what degree it actually performs the functions it's intended to perform.

The United States is a rarity among States, in that it possesses all three of these things:

  • 1) statement of goals: The Declaration of Independence and The Federalist Papers
  • 2) design specification: The Constitution
  • 3) implementation: the State as it exists

(Most modern States possess a written Constitution, though as I understand it the United Kingdom does not, and obviously all States, in that they exist, possess an implementation. Few, however, have a written statement of the founders intentions; the United States, the Soviet Union and Maoist China are quite a rare collection in that respect.)

Since the U.S. has all three attributes, it is possible to evaluate it as we would any other project. This involves answering three questions;

  • 1) How closely does the specification follow the stated goals?
  • 2) How well does the implementation follow the specification?
  • 3) How accurately does the implementation embody the stated design goals?

"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

The Declaration of Independence (at the National Archives) lays out several principles and goals for the new State, which its authors hoped to launch with that document. While some, like the quote above, are stated as affirmations others may be deduced from the list of complaints against the British rule, though since this is an essay (not a book, in which I could reasonably expected to deal with the whole range of the subject) I will content myself with three affirmative principles listed in the preamble.

These three points are:

  • 1) the State exists only by the consent of the people, who have the right (and the duty) to withdraw that consent and to institute a new State (or States) when the old ceases to follow the Declaration's founding principles
  • 2) the peoples' right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", among others, are unalienable (i.e. may not be transferred to, or interfered with, by the State)
  • 3) the State must treat all people equally, neither favoring nor oppressing any class or individual

These three principles are stated quite explicitly, rather than deduced from the complaints against the British rulers (which makes up most of the text of the Declaration), and thus can be reasonably used to evaluate the resulting State. There can be no mistaking them as fundamental design principles, in that they are stated as such, and thus no reasonable complaint can be made that they are the product of a later interpretation. The American State must, therefore, embody these principles fully to be considered a successful design and implementation.

"We the People"

The Constitution of the United States (at the National Archives) is the specification, the blueprint, for the American State. The plan it sets forth is the basis on which the implementation was built and is the standard against which that implementation is normally measured (i.e. through contests over constitutionality in America's courts).

As this plan relates to the three principles I'm considering from the Declaration, the specification falls fairly far afield from the State's design goals. The Constitution lays out a State with the following attributes:

  • 1) no requirement of assent by the people, and no provision for its own replacement (it even authorizes powers to prevent such a replacement)

    The Constitution was adopted by ratification from the standing governments within the States, all of which were elected only from the male, propertied citizens. At no point was significant approval in a general ballot, even from within this very limited subset of the people, ever required for the adoption. It has thus never, at any point in time, had to acquire the explicit consent of those who live under its sway.

    Though the Constitution does contain provisions for the replacement of the ruling individuals at the end of their allotted term, and provision for amending the ruling structure (though this is largely useless, as it requires the participation of the current rulers), it makes no provision for recall of an errant ruler during their term (indeed, it explicitly excuses them from being subject to the State's laws during their terms) and expressly authorizes the new State to violently prevent any attempt by the people to dissolve and replace it.

  • 2) an enumeration of rights on which the State is forbidden to infringe, including speech, the press and practice of religion among others (this was added to the actual Constitution after its drafting but prior to its adoption; as many contemporary commentators pointed out, without these amendments it was a _very_ poor implementation of the Declaration's principles)

    Rather than including a provision restricting the actions of the new State to those supporting the "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" of the people, the Constitution sets forth a broad State which claims many powers which contradict this. The most obvious among these powers, of course, are the power to execute offenders against the State's laws and the power to seize property. Placing these powers in the State clearly contradicts any claim that a right to them is unalienable, in that the people's asserted rights have been transferred to the State.

    In fact, the only areas of complete exclusion provided in the Constitution (i.e. those areas in which the State is categorically forbidden from operating under any circumstances) are the practice of religion, speech, press, peaceable assembly and of petitioning the new State for a redress of grievances. All of the other restrictions provided by the Constitution are qualified by a phrase like "without due process of law" which, as the State being restricted is also the organization making the laws, restricts _how_ the State may act in those areas without in any way restricting what it can do or why.

  • 3) far from containing provisions and mechanisms to guarantee equal participation by and treatment of all people, the State contains five legally distinct classes of residents: Ruler, Citizen, non-Citizen, Indian and Slave (the class of Citizen being further subdivided by age groupings and gender)

    Though the word "equal" does occur several times in the Constitution, at no point does it refer to a requirement of equality among people, or even equal treatment of them by the State. The 14th amendment comes closest to creating such a restriction, but only forbids the states (not the State as a whole) from denying any person the "equal protection" of that state's laws. This does not apply to the federal apparatus itself and, even by the broadest possible interpretation, does not require the states to create a condition of actual equality (they must merely treat each person equally under whatever laws they do pass). This allows laws which affect only, or disproportionately affect, one class; a fine example of this are laws which forbid sleeping in public places, which does not affect anyone except those too poor to have a place of their own to sleep without requiring that the State eliminate the factors which create a class too poor to sleep anywhere other than a public place. This restriction, therefore, while having the appearance of equal treatment, affects only the manner in which the State acts without actually forbidding any actions it may choose.

    Though it may certainly be reasonable for any State to distinguish between Citizens and non-Citizens, at least as those classes may be relevant to participation in a democracy, it cannot be reasonable to include any other classes in the formal structure of an "equal" State.

    Contrary to popular belief, the 13th amendment did not eliminate the class of Slave from the Constitution; it merely restricts that class to those who "have been duly convicted". This, of course, transfers control of the Declaration's proposed right of liberty to the State, in that it is the State which makes and enforces the law. This clearly contradicts the Declaration's claim that this right is unalienable, in addition to formally establishing a Slave class.

    The class of Indian is less objectionable, in formal terms though not in the manner in which they have _actually_ been treated, in that they are treated by the Constitution as a combination of Citizens of another State and Citizens (the term used in the Constitution, though "resident" is the term commonly used today) of a state. Though this reduces their representation within the federal government, it also grants them a significant degree of autonomy and freedom from state law, which special treatments may be considered to somewhat balance each other.

    That the Constitution grants legal immunity to the current Rulers, of course, is an example of serious inequality. It creates a class which not only create and enforce the laws of the State but are not bound by them. Coupled with the absence of any mechanism to create or guarantee equal access to the ruling positions, this provision may justifiably be considered one of the most influential causes of the sorry state of the Declaration's principles in modern America.

Practice

Seeing now that the American Constitution is a very poor specification of the State's design goals, there may seem to be no point in evaluating how well the specification has been implemented and indeed, from that perspective, there is not. An implementation based on a specification which so greatly diverges from the design statement cannot possibly produce an implementation which bears any close resemblance to the goals set forth in the design principles.

There is a reason to evaluate the current implementation, however, and that is to see whether it follows the specification well and, if not, what flaws in the specification lead to that failure. A comprehensive review would, naturally, be beyond the scope of this article and (deserving a whole library to do it justice) would require more space and attention than anyone is likely to be able to give while sitting at a computer screen.

I will therefore restrict my comments on this question to a few current examples:

  • 1) "President" G.W. Bush

    The person occupying the office of the President is not, legally, the President. Regardless of how the various vote recounting scenarios would have returned (though all observers do agree that a full-state recount would have resulted for Gore), the process which was actually followed was unconstitutional.

    First, the Constitution leaves Elector selection entirely to the states. When the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the first Elector certification was invalid, the official status reverted to having no designated Electors. The federal Supreme Court ruling that the first certification was valid, as not doing so would leave the state at risk of having no certified Electors, clearly overstepped its Constitutional authority (the also-illegal act of allowing votes by judges against which there were conflicts of interest also makes that vote illegitimate). The Constitution states that the Congress shall set a certification deadline, certainly, but it does not authorize the federal government to intervene to guarantee that Electors are certified by that time. A state which fails to appoint Electors may be in violation of the Constitution, as it states that they will do so, but for the federal government to ignore that state's Supreme Court ruling on this issue clearly violates the Constitution's statement that "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors".

  • 2) Copyright and Patent

    The Constitution gives to the State the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries". As many of you are undoubtedly aware, Congress passed this mark many years ago, and modern copyright and patent legislation has been demonstrated by many researchers to suppress, rather than promote, "progress".

    This reversal in priorities has, in fact, gone so far that then latest Bill on the subject (from Senator Hollings, often referred to as "The Senator From Disney") takes as its explicit goal the suppression of progress in data processing technology.

  • 3) the case of Jose Padilla

    By now, you may have encountered this in your favorite news source, as it's only just come to light. Jose Padilla is an American citizen, currently (and for at least the past month) being held by the U.S. military on suspicion of being a terrorist. Though neither the civilian government nor the military have given evidence that he broke any laws, he has been held in secret for over a month and is facing the prospect of a secret military trial.

    To support this, Ashcroft has cited the "law of war" (an unwritten body of convention by which militaries purport to operate) despite the obvious fact that the country is not, legally, at war. The absence of any declaration of war, as described in the Constitution, should make this quite obvious. That the U.S. is involved in an unconstitutional military engagement, demonstrated by the ordering of the military into action by a man who (even were he Constitutionally President) would not have the Constitutional authority to do so without a declaration of war.

    This leaves a situation in which a U.S. citizen is being held on suspicion of planning an action, with no evidence, by the military.

That all of these have, in fact, occurred demonstrates an important point: there is no mechanism included in the Constitution by which its provisions (much less the laws passed under its rules) may actually be enforced against the current ruling individuals.

Precedent

The current American State is clearly not operating by to its own specification, much less according to its stated principles. Those of us who support the principles asserted in the Declaration of Independence, those of us who don't but just despise the hypocrisy of a State such as America claiming to while doing whatever its rulers please, or even those of us who just dislike seeing a project botched so badly, may wonder how we should solve this problem.

There is ample precedent for a body of concerned individuals declaring themselves to be a Constitutional Convention , writing a new Constitution and even adopting it without the consent of the majority of the people affected by it. This has already happened twice in America's history; indeed, it is the way in which both of America's Constitutions have been adopted, so it would be equally just to say that there's no precedent for any other manner of adoption.

It seems clear that America is long overdue for a comprehensive redesign. It is time to either recreate the American State to follow its existing design principles, or to find new and better principles on which to base a new design (those who approve of the current State could perhaps begin by attempting to deduce the principles on which it actually operates and proposing that we follow those).

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America: Broken As Designed | 289 comments (256 topical, 33 editorial, 0 hidden)
"Bush stole the election" (2.35 / 37) (#2)
by The Littlest Hobo on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 08:50:31 PM EST

The cry of "Bush stole the election" is sheer idiocy. Whatever your opinion is, the facts are that the Electoral college and the Supreme Court did their jobs.

This call of "embezzled Presidency" is an embarassment to liberals everywhere ... everywhere, that is, except in the United States. For this and other reasons, it's obvious why American conservatives think you're idiots.



Could it be... (2.00 / 3) (#108)
by Herb User on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:55:59 AM EST

that American conservatives think any liberals are idiots, because they're not conservatives?

Also, explain why this is an "embarassment to liberals everywhere ... except in the United States."

Last I recall, liberals in the U.S. support the "winner" of that election more than liberals (and some conservatives) nearly anywhere else.

Just read some foreign journalism; you'd be surprised, I think.  But you'd probably ignore them, 'cause they don't say what you already think you know...

--
Herb User
Slackware GNU/Linux: The Best!
[ Parent ]

You seem to be confused (3.00 / 2) (#114)
by The Littlest Hobo on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:18:38 PM EST

Who wins elections and who we like are two very different things. And I'm not American, so that "foreign journalism" thing is no sweat. Grow up.

[ Parent ]
Help me then. (4.00 / 1) (#268)
by Herb User on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 04:10:14 PM EST

If you think I should grow up, how's about you educate me on this? Or at the very least, you could explain, in detail, the reason the claim "stolen election" is an embarrassment to liberals, everywhere but in the U.S. This sounds like a steaming pile to me... which was why I had to reply. But I'd be open to a good argument. The reason is that some friends and I do think the election was manipulated. I want to know why I should be embarrassed at that. It has nothing to do with who we like, I didn't have the winner confused with the candidate I preferred. Reread my post and see if you can find a reason to say that BS. If I thought he won, I'd just say the majority preferred him, and be done with it. But the majority didn't, and even the rules that allowed him to win with less votes seemed to be bent to one side. I wouldn't have confused a puppet with a worthy President. No, my bias doesn't give reason to disregard everything I say. You assume too much, TLHobo. I didn't even say who I thought was the winner. And living outside the U.S. doesn't guarantee that you read any news. No Sweat?! wot ya been smokin'? :)-~ IOW, I may be ramblin' but you are WRONG! Peace, -- Herb User
Slackware GNU/Linux: The Best!
[ Parent ]
oops. (none / 0) (#269)
by Herb User on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 04:14:03 PM EST

Sorry, accidentally hit Post while testing
HTML Format.

--
Herb User
Slackware GNU/Linux: The Best!
[ Parent ]

Agreed; (2.75 / 16) (#5)
by JChen on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 08:59:21 PM EST

don't forget the most oppressed group of all: minors! Minors have so many more restrictions heaped upon them that other groups claiming discrimmination pales in comparison: minors are discrimminated on the job, in school, etc. Name one place that minors are not discrimminated against and a cookie for you. It simply shows the hypocrisy of the Constitution in addressing such issues.

Let us do as we say.
The entertainment industry loves minors (3.33 / 3) (#28)
by istevens on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 10:45:08 PM EST

Like it or not, most movies these days are geared towards a 14-18 year-old audience.  Many directors will strive to cut material in order to move their movie from an NC17 or R rating to a PG13 rating.   For some, the NC17 rating is akin to the kiss of death.  Why?  Much of the movie-going public is either under 18 or in families with children under 18.  Parents are less-inclined to go to movies with their children if it has an R or an NC17 rating.  Film companies pander to these people by making their movies suitable for minors.  Minors rule the box office.  Want proof?  Check any top-10 box office revenue for any week and you will probably be hard-pressed to find more than two movies rated NC17 or R.

Minors also rule the music industry.  The musicians with the most airtime are those with a largely teen audience: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, N-Sync, Backstreet Boys, etc.  Much of the big-selling rap albums are marketed and sold to white middle-class youth, most of them younger than 21.

The entire video game industry relies on children and young adults.  Without them, there never would have even been an industry.

Minors rule the entertainment world, as far as I'm concerned.  You're fooling yourself if you feel the music, movie, video games and television industries discriminate against minors.  Minors are their bread and butter.  Each of them have wet dreams of producing products which will be gobbled up by the under-18 circuit.

ian.
--
ian
Weblog archives
[ Parent ]

"Minors rule the world, (none / 0) (#103)
by JChen on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:39:21 AM EST

as far as I'm concerned." <- ?! <p> Then it seems that Christina and Britney must be symbols of power for minors, with everything else disregarded.

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]
That's not what we're talking about, (5.00 / 1) (#104)
by MTremodian on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:40:58 AM EST

we're talking about the government, not the entertainment industry.


...speed overcomes the fear of death.
[ Parent ]

And (4.66 / 3) (#73)
by J'raxis on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 06:20:11 AM EST

What’s most interesting here is that work-related discrimination against minors, i.e. child-labor laws, are, in fact, usually hailed as human rights victories.

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

The internet (none / 0) (#116)
by damiam on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:20:34 PM EST

Can I have my cookie?

[ Parent ]
Ummm (1.00 / 2) (#136)
by omegadan on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:38:52 PM EST

Obviously you are a minor :)  Restrictions do need to be placed on minors, but I will agree the current restrictions are pretty much judeo-christian serve-the-state crap.

Religion is a gateway psychosis. - Dave Foley
[ Parent ]

Law of War (4.52 / 19) (#7)
by wiredog on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 09:05:00 PM EST

"law of war" (an unwritten body of convention by which militaries purport to operate)

Look up the Geneva Conventions. Which are written, and to which the US is signatory. It is debatable whether they actually apply, since Al Quaeda is a non-state actor. Of course if they don't, then there are no legal restrictions on what the US can do...

As far as Mr. Padilla is concerned. Is he a US citizen? Or did he, by joining Al Quaeda, effectively renounce that citizenship? That's a question that not many have been asking, which also could be asked of John Lindh, which should be asked.

Some things regarding the Constitution. It was not placed before the ballot of the people, because it was designed to allow the States to work together. The States ratified the Constitution, the people, as a whole had no say. That's how it was designed. Read The Federalist ans Anti-Federalist Papers. And remember that it is the result of a series of political compromises.

provision for amending the ruling structure (though this is largely useless

Largely useless? The Constitution has been amended 27 times. Most recently in 1992.

"one masturbation reference per 13 K5ers" --Rusty

re: Law of War (4.33 / 15) (#13)
by Arkady on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 09:19:52 PM EST

I have read the Geneva Conventions, most recently last fall when the U.S. decided not to abide by them.  ;-)

Even if they do not apply, the U.S. government is _legally_ bound to apply "due process of law" and to provide any arrested individual (citizen or not) with competent legal counsel.  A strict interpretation of the Constitution would require much more, of course, but wiggle room in interpretation has been the byword of the government ever since they discovered it would let them do anything they damn well please.  And, of course, to invoke the "Law of War" without a formal declaration of war is to create yet another set of contradictory issues.

I've also read the Federalist Papers (and friends) and had them by me as I wrote this.  I'm familiar with the arguments by which the creators foisted their new State onto the people (most commonly, the "if we don;t do it without their approval we won't be able to do it"; which is just as valid as me saying that it's OK for me to unanimously decide to blow up the Pentagon since if I ask for permission I won't get it).

These were all among the points I'm trying to make in the article.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Declaration of war (5.00 / 3) (#164)
by Scrymarch on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:48:53 PM EST

... to invoke the "Law of War" without a formal declaration of war is to create yet another set of contradictory issues.

As I saw noted in the margins of the UK papers, the current conflict had the interesting distinction of both the US and the UK leaders declaring their countries were at war before there was any clear idea who was responsible for the attacks.

This was followed a few weeks later, during the campaign in Afghanistan, with common assertions that "We are not at war with the Afghan people".  They were simply who the bombs were aimed at.


[ Parent ]

It can be asked (4.84 / 13) (#40)
by theR on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:00:47 AM EST

As far as Mr. Padilla is concerned. Is he a US citizen? Or did he, by joining Al Quaeda, effectively renounce that citizenship? That's a question that not many have been asking, which also could be asked of John Lindh, which should be asked.

Of course the question can be asked, and answered. But who should be deciding whether they effectively renounced their citizenship? I would think it is the courts. Otherwise, how long until I get arrested for smoking pot and locked up with no lawyer indefinitely because the executive branch has decided that, by smoking pot, I renounced my citizenship and I'm not entitled to the same protection as a citizen.

That's not even taking into account arguments about whether citizens and non-citizens are both entitled to legal counsel and a day in court, among many other things.



[ Parent ]
US Code (5.00 / 3) (#121)
by devon on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:57:16 PM EST

TITLE 8 > CHAPTER 12 > SUBCHAPTER III > Part III - Loss of Nationality

--
Call yourself a computer professional? Congratulations. You are responsible for the imminent collapse of civilization.
[ Parent ]
Looks like he could lose his citizenship. (5.00 / 1) (#124)
by wiredog on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 01:06:54 PM EST

Loss of citizenship from:
...entering, or serving in, the armed forces of a foreign state if such armed forces are engaged in hostilities against the United States

committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States, ... engaging in a conspiracy to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, if and when he is convicted thereof by a court martial or by a court of competent jurisdiction.



"one masturbation reference per 13 K5ers" --Rusty
[ Parent ]
Which "foreign state"? (5.00 / 3) (#157)
by phliar on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:04:11 PM EST

Loss of citizenship from:
...entering, or serving in, the armed forces of a foreign state if such armed forces are engaged in hostilities against the United States
The problem here is that (as you yourself pointed out earlier) there is no "foreign state" here -- Al Qaeda is not a country. Similarly, where is the evidence that he bore arms against the United States?


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Yeah (none / 0) (#202)
by wiredog on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 08:46:23 AM EST

Law, domestic and international, has problems with this sort of thing. What do you do with captured Al Quaeda members? They aren't prisoners of war, since wars are fought between countries, and Al Quaeda isn't a country. But they may not have (in many cases certainly have not) violated US law. So what do we do with them? Return them to Afghanistan? But that could be immediately fatal, as the new Afghan government might not particularly care to have them running around there. Turn them loose? Where? What if you turn them loose and they then participate in another attack?

Taliban members who are Afghans are POWs, and (under international law) should be repatriated. The problem with that is they may be subject to liquidation upon their return home, since the new government won't be very fond of them either.

"one masturbation reference per 13 K5ers" --Rusty
[ Parent ]

He's not guilty yet. (5.00 / 2) (#198)
by tekue on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 04:52:14 AM EST

Your assumptions would be correct if he was found guilty of joining Al-Qaeda (if you can prove joining it was illegal), which can only be done by due process of the law.

So if -- among other things -- he had a convicting verdict of a judge, he could be denied citizenship (presuming all other issues not contradicting it) -- right now he's just kidnapped.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

Judging "citizenship" (5.00 / 3) (#156)
by phliar on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:59:01 PM EST

As far as Mr. Padilla is concerned. Is he a US citizen? Or did he, by joining Al Quaeda, effectively renounce that citizenship?
This is a vey dangerous and (to me) repugnant thought. This kind of reasoning will make it very easy for the state to say "Is Mr X really a citizen? Or, by joining Organization Y, did he renounce his citizenship?" What meaning do constitutional guarantees have in this kind of system?

Furthermore, we must remember that the US Constitution guarantees certain rights not just to citizens, but to all persons. The constitution deliberately uses the words "citizen" and "person" is appropriate contexts.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

joining Organization Y (5.00 / 1) (#204)
by wiredog on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 08:57:11 AM EST

US citizens who join the armed forces of another country, with which the US is at war, have long been held to have given up their citizenship. So if a foriegn organization is attacking the US, and a US citizen joins (or has joined) that organization, then he may be giving up his citizenship.

During WW2 special exceptions had to be made, by the President, for US citizens who fought against Germany and Japan, before the US entered the war, in order for them to retain their citizenship.

Dual/multiple citizenship is also unconstitutional (after you are 18). This has implications for US citizens who vote in elections in Mexico, which does recognize dual citizenship.

As I pointed out in another comment, the law has problems, in terms of war, with non-state actors such as Al Quaeda. It recognizes countries, but not multi-national non-state groups. Those, traditionally, have been treated as pirates or common criminals. Neither of those would seem to work well in the current situation.

"one masturbation reference per 13 K5ers" --Rusty
[ Parent ]

No no no no no (3.16 / 6) (#14)
by StephenThompson on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 09:45:39 PM EST

This is just a tempest in a teapot. Go outside and enjoy the sunshine.

shade (none / 0) (#15)
by Arkady on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 09:47:32 PM EST

I wrote this during my smoke breaks, out on the deck, over the past few days.  But I have to sit in the shade to read the laptop screen.  ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
overall a worthy analysis, one problem (4.33 / 12) (#16)
by glasnost on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 09:48:49 PM EST

In general I think this was a good article. We see commentary all the time regarding how the US is violating its "founding principles" regarding freedom and such, but this article is unique in that it makes the claim that much of this was "by design" (though perhaps not intentional). Quite often I see from the "rightist" camp an overreverence towards the constitution, and propeganda regarding founding principles that were never really well-codified anyway (not that I don't think they're good principles.) But the hope seems to be that appeals to authority will have more effect than arguing from the principles directly, and this article points out that much of that basis of authority is imaginary.

The one major problem I had with the article was the intrusion in one location of a particular selection between philosophical alternatives, done unnecessarily and entirely surreptitiously. At one point the author writes:

This does not apply to the federal apparatus itself and, even by the broadest possible interpretation, does not require the states to create a condition of actual equality (they must merely treat each person equally under whatever laws they do pass). This allows laws which affect only, or disproportionately affect, one class; a fine example of this are laws which forbid sleeping in public places, which does not affect anyone except those too poor to have a place of their own to sleep without requiring that the State eliminate the factors which create a class too poor to sleep anywhere other than a public place.

I find myself wondering what it is the author would rather have as a guiding principle instead of this version of "equality." Perhaps an equality where every condition of life is engineered to be quantitatively homogeneous? In some circles this would be called "communist", and in others "crazy", especially since value is subjective and all. In other words, my own philosophicial tendencies lead me to prefer the definition of "equality" that is restricted to the sense "equal treatment under the law", not the (what I believe to be) intractible "equal treatment and equal resources."

But regardless of what I think, this intrusion of the author's preference does unfortunately violate the otherwise impartial analysis presented in the article.

thanks; an answer (4.16 / 12) (#26)
by Arkady on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 10:33:21 PM EST

Thanks for the commentary; I particularly appreciate the way you place what I'm trying to say into a larger context than I provided.  I wish I'd thought of establishing a broader context myself; I was just captivated by the idea of approaching the issue as one of design and left out the context of the issue.  ;-)

On "equality", the reason I selected that example (which I _thought_ would be less controversial than several others I considered) is that it ver clearly illustrates the limitation in accepting equal treatment under the law as a substitute for equality.  Equal treatment allows just as much discrimination and oppressive treatment as outright inequality, but it wraps this up in a veneer of equality.

A much better principle (equality itself probably be unattainable, even were it desirable) would be a combination of equal treatment with a prohibition on passing laws forbidding a practice necessary for life or liberty in a situation in which it would leave one class with no alternative but to break that law in order to retain them.

To apply this to my example, it would then be unacceptible to outlaw public sleeping without first guaranteeing that all people within that juridiction had access to a non-public place to sleep.  A simple system of public housing (reasonably coupled with a public service work system) would solve this.

Since, in the U.S., society accepts no responsibility for guaranteeing that everyone has a place to sleep a prohibition of sleeping in public is the same as declaring poverty a crime (in that it would make an activity which the poor cannot avoid a crime).  This, I think, would much more closely approximate "equality" than merely equal treatment under any law.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
OT: Your sig (none / 0) (#33)
by WetherMan on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 11:49:09 PM EST

I love that poem btw

-wm

[ Parent ]

Way OT: The Second Coming, Yeats, 1921 (none / 0) (#109)
by Shren on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:00:40 PM EST

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand;
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?



[ Parent ]
Problem with your model. (none / 0) (#199)
by tekue on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 05:05:40 AM EST

There's a problem with your model. If it becomes illegal to pass a law that can not be obeyed by a group of people, then it's impossible to pass any law.

For example, some may claim that they have to kill other people because of a mental dissease. As they would not be able to obey a law banning killing of other people, this law could not be legally passed.

In my opinion, the problem with current society is public properity. Public properity may sound great on the outside, but you should mind, that in the public properity you have to work out a set of very strict rules that have to be obeyed by everyone using it, and since you don't have an option not to pay for it, some people pay for it, but can't use it as they would like.

There would be no such problem if all properity was private. The laws of the land (except for some simple universal provisions, like "It's illegal to directly harm, or directly cause harm to other persons." and maybe some law to guarantee freedom of travel and trade) would be set by the owner, and if you didn't agree with the law of given land, you couldn't cross it.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

not a problem (5.00 / 1) (#218)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 01:40:02 PM EST

I'm not suggesting that this be the One True rule; I certainly agree that other principles are necessary.

Though, in the case of your example, it is adequate.  You are not positing a situation in which one person must kill others to live (though that would be interesting; how do you write a fair legal system to include vampires ;-), but rather one in which one person must kill to be happy.  There are other solutions, some of which even allow the killer to be happy, without repealing a generalized ban on killing.  Specifically, you could induct that person into the army.  ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Yeah, probably. (4.00 / 1) (#254)
by tekue on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 08:01:17 AM EST

though that would be interesting; how do you write a fair legal system to include vampires ;-)
That would most probably have to be based on what do vampires need for survival -- there would be a huge difference between being required to drink any blood, preferably human and being required to drink human blood from a vain and kill the doner in the process. I would think that donating blood could gain a nice commercial niche market :)

There are other solutions, some of which even allow the killer to be happy, without repealing a generalized ban on killing.  Specifically, you could induct that person into the army.  ;-)
Well, for one, a generalized ban on killing would have to include ban on killing by soldiers, too. But I guess a little hipocrisy (sp?) wouldn't hurt us.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]
You're living in the past (3.62 / 24) (#20)
by thenick on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 10:04:03 PM EST

I hate to be dragged back into this again, but...

"...though all observers do agree that a full-state recount would have resulted for Gore..."

I haven't seen an article or news report that mentions that all observers feel that Gore would have won, but PBS, The Washington Post, and CNN reported that media recounts show that Bush would have still won if a statewide recount was allowed. The Supreme Court ruled, and whether you like it or not, their ruling is the final judgement.

I don't see how the interpretation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court shows that the government has failed. If anything, the 2000 election showed that our system of government can clear to uncertainty in a change of power without resorting to violence.

 
"Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler, he did a lot, but don't we all wish he would have stayed home and gotten stoned?" -Dex

ahh, but... (4.00 / 4) (#37)
by pb on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 11:55:58 PM EST

This is about whether or not we're following "The Constitution".

If not, we should rewrite it, but even that would be rather hard to do.

If Arkady reposts this entire article without that line, would you be happy?  Or do we have to run it by the other 999 nitpickers who can't read the rest of the article?
---
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

I'd be happy with... (4.00 / 1) (#117)
by thenick on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:22:00 PM EST

some other examples that show a real breakdown of our civil rights, not just a few examples that could be taken either way.

I've read the rest of the article, but I feel that Arkady doesn't understand the ramifications of rebuilding the US government. A country is not like a hard drive that can be re-formated and have a new operating system installed. The Constitution, as it stands allows for any change through an amendment. Why do we need to scrap it completely when we can change the problem areas without causing massive instability in our government?

Also, little understanding of the patent process and intellectual property is demonstrated in this article. As an employee of a small company embroiled in a patent dispute, I can tell you that the patent process does benefit small companies and individuals much more often than it hurts them. The company I worked for successfully sued a large corp. and the US government who had teamed up to use technologies my company had developed. It might have eventually stifled research in that field, but at the time, the other company was 7 to 10 years behind ours in research.

 
"Doing stuff is overrated. Like Hitler, he did a lot, but don't we all wish he would have stayed home and gotten stoned?" -Dex
[ Parent ]

Can you read? Try reading past the editorial spin! (4.16 / 6) (#42)
by eLuddite on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:04:42 AM EST

I carefully read your three links, especially the boring bits near the end. Not that I care one way or the other, but the numbers do not, in any way, in any of the articles you linked to, demonstrate a clear or even convincing win for Bush. Quite the contrary, the articles demonstrate an incircumspect interpretation of statistics. It seems America is only too eager sweep an unelected president under the rug for the purpose of getting on with illusory business of democracy.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

addendum: clear vs convincing (5.00 / 6) (#46)
by eLuddite on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:26:41 AM EST

In a clear win, Bush would emerge victorious no matter how the ballots were counted. According to your links and the usual interpretation of letters and numbers, Bush was NOT a clear winner. In a convincing win, Bush would emerge victorious according to a convincing argument for excluding ballots X, Y and Z. In an editorial win, convincing arguments for including ballots X, Y and Z arent given any ink. Bush won an editorial victory.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Uh... (3.66 / 12) (#23)
by Work on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 10:17:34 PM EST

3 recent examples of questionable intentions (at least 2 of which are unsettled, and 1 of which is less than 24 hours old!) a broken constitution does not make.

Further your grasp of some issues of the constitution is pretty limited. I suggest you do more research into due process and the various supreme court cases (theres alot of em) that deal with it.

questionable (3.60 / 5) (#27)
by Arkady on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 10:42:51 PM EST

Well, they're "questionable" actions, not intentions.

I wanted, mostly, to use current examples so the background information on the two would already be fresh in everyone's minds and the other (the military detention) in incontrovertable: every statement I made was taken directly from Ashcroft's quotes.

I'm probably as informed on the history of the Constitution as any non-specialist in the U.S., in that I've read most of the original documents from its adoption debate and much of its history.  I'm well aware that the Supreme Court's members would disagree with almost everything I said in the article, but that's natural: they're the ones who benefit from the way in which it's been used.

The one central problem with the Constitution that I raised is that it's impossible under the Constitution to enforce its provisions against the people who occupy its positions of power.  It is only to be expected that they'd wish to perpetuate this situation and not favor an interpretation of the Constitution which would lead to this situation being rectified.  ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
You do not understand the supreme court. (3.75 / 4) (#30)
by Work on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 11:17:09 PM EST

they're the ones who benefit from the way in which it's been used.

Benefit in what way? It's their job to interpret the constitution on a case by case basis. They know far, far more about case law, intent and interpretation than anyone on this website does.

It is only to be expected that they'd wish to perpetuate this situation and not favor an interpretation of the Constitution which would lead to this situation being rectified.

While it is true that the supreme court is not totally immune to the actions of the legislative or executive branch (see FDR's court packing plan and the SC's give-in on West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937)), they're about as immune as is practical, without giving them absolute power. Justices are nominated by the executive branch, confirmed by the senate, and then serve for life until retirement or death. That's about as immune to political wranglings (at least once they actually get on the court) as one can reasonably expect. Unless you have some better plan for implementing the supreme court.

[ Parent ]

now that's just silly (4.14 / 7) (#32)
by Arkady on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 11:42:45 PM EST

One obvious example of direct benefit to the Supreme Court memebers is cited in the article: the conflicts of interest which mean that two of the votes on the Bush/Gore conflict were illegal.  In that case, one member's wife had already been appointed to the Bush transition team and another's son worked for the law firm representing Bush.  By voting as they did, both materially favored or benefited a direct relative.

But, in general, I'm not talking about the Court being susceptible to such small potatos short-term wrangling as which rich white guy gets to be President.  The really pernicious aspect to the Supreme Court is not the issue of direct benefits to its members, but an issue of class and ideological solidarity.

A much more subtle, but much more powerful benefit (and the one to which I was actually referring) is to the class, rather than the individual.  Since, as you say, the Judges are placed for life it is impossible to remove one: once you've managed to get enough idiologically aligned individuals on the bench, you've won for at least generation (depending on how old your classmates are).

There is no mechanism within the law which is likely to succeed at removing the rule-of-wealth in the U.S., since from its outset the Supreme Court has been staffed by the wealthy.  This is also no surprise, of course, since for the most part so is the legislature.  Since the wealthy controlled the writing of the Constitution, they naturally built a system in which is impossible to oust the ruling class without its assent.  You can't even amend the Constitution without Congressional approval.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
oh please. (4.25 / 4) (#34)
by Work on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 11:52:04 PM EST

Since, as you say, the Judges are placed for life it is impossible to remove one: once you've managed to get enough idiologically aligned individuals on the bench,

Do you realize how difficult this is to do? They would all have to die and/or retire at the same time, then somehow pass straight through various senate interests. The risk of this happening is far outweighed by the benefit of political immunity that serving for life provides. In case you havent noticed, the constitution is ALL compromise in these respects. And you still havent offered a reasonable alternative.

The whole 'its just a bunch of rich guys' argument. Disingenous.

Serving on the supreme court requires enormous amounts of education because it is an exceptional position. I certainly do not want Joe Blow serving on the supreme court because joe blow does NOT have the qualifications to do so.

The educational difference between the rich and poor has throughout history always been that way. This is not a sign of constitutional weakness, but an issue regarding human history. If it were possible for both rich and poor to have identical and superior educations, that would be great. Indeed, within the past century great strides have been taken in this respect. Perhaps one day it will happen.

But yet these are not weaknesses of the constitution, how do you expect a constitutional convention to overcome the fact of educational differences? Just legislate them away?

[ Parent ]

Election frequency (3.00 / 3) (#41)
by marx on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:01:56 AM EST

The risk of this happening is far outweighed by the benefit of political immunity that serving for life provides.
If serving for life is such a good thing, then why is not every political representative elected for life? Why have elections every four years? That seems to be a system just asking to be controlled by political bickering.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Have you never taken a civics course? (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by Work on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:10:54 AM EST

This is usually one of the first things explained in a high school civics course.

The idea is to isolate the supreme court from political manipulation as much as possible once they are on the bench. This prevents the congress from holding a sword over their head for deciding a case in a manner that congress does not like.

Further reasons for this system were the framers understanding both the value of an electoral system and that of a system of appointees. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and using the tension between the two it is believed that freedom will be found. This is a political theory debate which I doubt anyone here is informed enough to embark upon.

The power of the supreme court is nowhere near absolute. They may only rule on the constitutionality of cases brought before them. They cannot introduce legislation in a manner like the congress.

[ Parent ]

Authority vs. common sense (4.00 / 3) (#48)
by marx on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:42:11 AM EST

Have you never taken a civics course?
Yes, but fortunately never in the US.

Your reliance on authority disturbs me. First you refer to a civics course, then the "framers", then you state that people in general are not informed enough to debate these things. Are you sure you support democracy at all?

The idea is to isolate the supreme court from political manipulation as much as possible once they are on the bench. This prevents the congress from holding a sword over their head for deciding a case in a manner that congress does not like.
I know the argumentation behind the design of the political system. I'm not asking for information, I'm questioning the validity of the argumentation.
The power of the supreme court is nowhere near absolute. They may only rule on the constitutionality of cases brought before them. They cannot introduce legislation in a manner like the congress.
It is a misunderstanding that the judiciary is less powerful than the legislature. The legislature writes words on papers. The judiciary decides how they should be interpreted in reality. If the legislature writes "Dogs are happy animals", then the judiciary can interpret this as anything they like, that "murder should not be a crime", or whatever.

The judiciary is just another institution of power, and I can't see how not having democratically elected members of such an institution can somehow be an advantage, if you support democracy that is.

If "democracy" means that it's only required once, then you could elect a ruler, who will rule for life and then appoint his successor. This is not democracy to me however.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Balance of governmental types. (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by Work on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:52:10 AM EST

It has been said the best government in a time of crisis is a dictatorship. That's fairly accurate. A system bogged down in making consensual decisions by differing factions will fail long before they agree on a plan.

However in peace time the virtues of democracy are undeniable. When society can take its time to consider and weigh all interests.

As I said, it is a question of political theory. The supreme court is wholly unlike the legislative branch. Its members are composed of judges with decades of experience. Does the average person have the ability to determine the proper qualifications? The constitution is supposed to transcend political beliefs. We elect legislators based on our agreement with them. But that is not the purpose of the supreme court.

But the main argument for appointment is this (as opposed to election): The justices political beliefs are supposed to be irrelevant. They are not there to legislate. They are there to determine the constitutionality of the cases brought before them. This is to transcend political squabbling.

Of course the framers knew that it is impossible to acheive this entirely. Hence the executive nomination followed by legislative confirmation. That whole thing is to attempt to put justices on the supreme court who are acceptable to ALL parties, and the only way to accomplish that is to have a long record of decisions and statements that are politically neutral and based entirely on the law and constitutionality.

Electing these people would totally do away with that. We would elect them to the bench based on agreement with them - not whether they have a long record of politically neutral law decisions.

[ Parent ]

Executive nomination (3.66 / 3) (#86)
by marx on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:42:28 AM EST

We would elect them to the bench based on agreement with them - not whether they have a long record of politically neutral law decisions.
"Executive nomination followed by legislative confirmation" has nothing to do with a long record of politically neutal law decisions though. I would say it probably has as little to do with that as possible.

Every time a supreme court case is discussed in the media, the political beliefs of the judges are used to predict the verdict. This seems to disprove that the supreme court is some kind of apolitical logic machine.

I agree that directly electing the supreme court would probably not be a good idea, just as bad as electing any other kind of expert position in a government. Those kinds of positions are typically appointed by the ruling government. The only problem I have is the appointment for life. Especially considering the political power of the appointees.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

their beliefs are important... (4.50 / 2) (#89)
by Work on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 10:17:11 AM EST

because they help shape the rulings. By the above political beliefs I am referring to things like party loyalty and partisanship.

As I said before, the life-time clause of the supreme court is to shelter them from most legislative squabbling. There is always the possibility it could be changed if the court did something so odious...

FDR back in the day tried to convince the congress to amend the constitution to revamp the court makeup after the SC struck down a bunch of his new deal laws. It almost worked too. But that was an era of extremes. The SC is not totally unaccountable, by any means.

[ Parent ]

Dream on... (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by dipipanone on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 05:22:47 AM EST

The educational difference between the rich and poor has throughout history always been that way.

Education has had very little to do with the difference between rich and poor until very, very recently. Most of the world haven't even had formal education more than 150 years anyway.

Education is largely a product of wealth, not a cause of it.

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Yes. That was my point. (none / 0) (#90)
by Work on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 10:24:34 AM EST

Thank you for agreeing.

[ Parent ]
that's just silly (3.33 / 3) (#38)
by Arkady on Mon Jun 10, 2002 at 11:57:22 PM EST

An obvious example of direct benefit to the Supreme Court memebers is cited in the article: the conflicts of interest which mean that two of the votes on the Bush/Gore conflict were illegal.  In that case, one member's wife had already been appointed to the Bush transition team and another's son worked for the law firm representing Bush.  By voting as they did, both materially favored or benefited a direct relative.

But, in general, I'm not talking about the Court being susceptible to such small potatos short-term wrangling as which rich white guy gets to be President.  The really pernicious aspect to the Supreme Court is not the issue of direct benefits to its members, but an issue of class and ideological solidarity.

A much more subtle, but much more powerful benefit (and the one to which I was actually referring) is to the class, rather than the individual.  Since, as you say, the Judges are placed for life it is impossible to remove one: once you've managed to get enough idiologically aligned individuals on the bench, you've won for at least generation (depending on how old your classmates are).

There is no mechanism within the law which is likely to succeed at removing the rule-of-wealth in the U.S., since from its outset the Supreme Court has been staffed by the wealthy.  This is also no surprise, of course, since for the most part so is the legislature.  Since the wealthy controlled the writing of the Constitution, they naturally built a system in which is impossible to oust the ruling class without its assent.  You can't even amend the Constitution without Congressional approval.

FDR's plans were merely a conflict between factions of the wealthy; they would have had no affect on the ideological makeup of the court.  And it's that class-loyal ideology that I'm talking about.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
haha oh my (1.50 / 2) (#39)
by Work on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:00:02 AM EST

well then, how would YOU solve class problems. I'm sure many sociologists and political scientists would love to hear a decent solution that works better than the current.

[ Parent ]
Common mistake (4.00 / 1) (#63)
by mirleid on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:52:19 AM EST

The author of this article is describing a number of issues that he sees with the current political/power structure within the US' legislative, executive and judicial system. In fact, in my mind, he is doing so in what sounds like a logical and fairly tempered way to me.

Now, the point that I want to get across is that the lack of ability to present a solution to a problem as perceived does not make the problem any less valid: let's discuss issues within the frame of the article, and not go off on a tangent trying to divert attention to the (obvious to me) fact that a working solution to the problems stated might be difficult to formulate (and perhaps impossible to implement, should the author's evaluation be correct).



Chickens don't give milk
[ Parent ]
says who? (4.33 / 9) (#50)
by gbroiles on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:56:39 AM EST

The most significant test of any system is how it handles unanticipated situations.

According to what authority on "systems"? Perhaps the most significant test of any system is how well it performs the task it was designed for. Or perhaps the most significant test of any system is how little it injures its participants .. or how infrequently it fails catastrophically .. or how long it survives .. or [...]

It's not meaningful to posit any sort of overarching "most significant test" for all systems. You don't need this sort of pseudo-science to make your point - if you don't like how things work, that's fine - or if you think things would be more just or more efficient some other way, that's fine too - but skip this "most significant test" garbage.

Political stability is a pretty rare thing to throw away because you're pissed off about one election, copyright, and a single court (or non-court) case. Not that those things aren't important, but revolutions and "redesigns" frequently make things worse, not better, and you're talking about changing a relatively stable and benign system, compared to most historical regimes. Sure, roll the dice .. maybe you get Costa Rica or Switzerland .. and maybe you get Cambodia, the Soviet Union, or the People's Republic of China, where tens of millions of people died after existing rule was destabilized.

Systems (none / 0) (#189)
by caca phony on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:04:15 PM EST

Systems are generally judged by how well they carry out the design they implement, and how they respond to unexpected input. These are the two most important factors in any system. About your statement that political stability is a rare thing to throw away- do you mean that it is rare to see it thrown away, that it is rare so it should not be thrown away?

[ Parent ]
like I said .. (none / 0) (#197)
by gbroiles on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 03:02:03 AM EST

says who? You write as if there were some sort of standard against which "systems" could be judged. Would you mind providing a citation to that standard?

You may be shocked to learn that political science isn't really a science.

[ Parent ]

Says logic. (none / 0) (#200)
by tekue on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 05:28:39 AM EST

In case of an abstract system, how can you generaly test it? By checking how well the implementation carries out the design. Handling unexpected situations is a very important part of any implementation, and if it's to work in a real-life environment, it needs to handle such situations gracefuly.

As for your question, who says that there needs to be a defined set of standards for everything? If something is logical, it can be derived from the data every time it's needed.

Yes, I assume that the set of goals is an ideal model of the implementation, and that the goal of implementation is to carry out the set of goals it is based on. If a system has goals, implementation of this system should carry out those goals, as we assume it's a good thing for a system to carry out it's goals.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

uh-huh. (none / 0) (#220)
by gbroiles on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 02:13:40 PM EST

The problem with deriving things from data on an ad hoc basis is that different people reach different conclusions depending on their desired outcome, which is what we see here.

And, like I said, I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting things to be different - but wrapping it up in fake science and "logic" to pretend that one's conclusions are the only reasonably or possible ones is a weak rhetorical trick.

Resort to that sort of thing is hardly necessary - there probably aren't many people who would argue that, for example, the most recent US Presidential election was conducted in a manner which inspires confidence, eliminates unneeded uncertainty, or conserves important resources. There aren't many people I've heard who didn't think it was a disaster - now, some people think it was a disaster because it took so long for Bush to be acknowledged as president, and some people think it was a disaster because Bush, not Gore, became president - but everyone agrees it was a mess. Similarly, people on both sides of the copyright/IP fence agree that changes are needed - some people want copyright to be less powerful, some want it to be more powerful. And lots of people want to see changes made in the way we treat accused terrorists - again, some people want more due process, some people want less.

So let's just go ahead and talk about what the changes ought to be (or if we even ought to change things), and why, without handwaving about how scientists have special insight into the design of political systems.

[ Parent ]

Generaly I agree. (4.00 / 1) (#255)
by tekue on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 08:18:03 AM EST

So let's just go ahead and talk about what the changes ought to be (or if we even ought to change things), and why, without handwaving about how scientists have special insight into the design of political systems.
I don't think it's aboud handwaving. I think it's about accepting an — rather believable — paradigm, that it's a good for a system to carry out it's design.

With this paradigm we (as in "people who believe in this paradigm") can argue whether or not the original design was correct, and what can we do to get closer to it. I think we should not talk about changing specific parts of a society or economy without having a broather view of it.

If we accept a design (such as an constitution) as a correct (or, more likely, the least broken) one, we can prepare changes more systematicly and find some glitches that would be best to polish before we begin any changes. More so, if we design a whole system — as opposed to just a single solution to a problem — we can even figure out if it's worth implementing or not. We won't think of everything, but the chances are IMO much bigger if we see the whole picture first.

Not to say that disputing single solutions is bad, it can be clearifiyng and innovative. But I think that no single problem is in vacuum and no problem should be resolved as it was.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

Review (4.28 / 7) (#52)
by Kasreyn on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 01:18:26 AM EST

Since the United States, in its current form, is over two hundred years old (and one of its designers, Thomas Jefferson himself, advocated such a review every twenty years), a public review of how well it has proceeded is long overdue.

I always thought the State of the Union address was supposed to kind of fulfill that role. Or are we talking about the constitution and not the nation here? Maybe I'm just confused.

As to the presidential election: I agree that it seems (to my layman's perspective) to have been unconstitutional. It wouldn't matter if it had been Gore that the coin flip or whatever they used wound up in favor of; unconstitutional either way. But then, I also think anyone too stupid to understand a punch card ballot should have their thumbs amputated without anesthetic. So it could just be me.

To the people flaming him for the presidential election bit: I really don't see where you get off calling it "whining". As far as I could tell, he discussed the issue fairly logically and without (much) rancor. In fact, his language displayed FAR less vitriol and ranting than the GWB defenders who flamed him.

To the author: Interesting article, +1, even though it's certainly no news that our government is a compulsive liar which couldn't do what it says it will do if it tried. I agree with some of your initial conclusions but not that America is so broken that it needs any serious redesign. Still, some good food for thought.


-Kasreyn

In this edition of Kasreyn's sig: extra AYB crap, just for you, Demiurge. Wuv and kisses.

HOW ARE YOU GENTLEMEN!!


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
more than a review, really (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by Arkady on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:16:06 AM EST

What Jefferson actually said was that he thought the government should be overthrown every 20 years, though I doubt he would have seriously supported a complete redesign that often.

I do agree with what you're saying, in that I don't think a complete re-construction is un-necessary (even to get to the principles in the Declaration), since there are certainly good idea in there and some things that are both well designed and actually work.  From that perspective, though, the only way to get to deciding what needs fixing and how is to look at what's working and what's not.  I'm proposing a criteria by which to make this decision, and providing a few examples of things that I think can be demonstrated to be wrong.

As for the State of the Union address, in that "our government is a compulsive liar which couldn't do what it says it will do if it tried" would you honestly expect it to give you a real review?  ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
The US electoral system is broken. (4.61 / 13) (#53)
by mmcc on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:07:36 AM EST

The US electoral system is broken for an entirely different reason: Citizens effectively get a binary choice when voting.

The huge problem is that voting for a minor party is worse that throwing your vote away; it often mean unintentionally supporting the most popular party!

This can be fixed with preferential voting, but unfortunately reform is near impossible in the "best country in the world", because few people are willing to admit there is a problem let alone try to change the system.

In preferential voting, each voter gets N! choices, a vast improvement over choosing between two almost identical parties.



Approval voting! (4.00 / 2) (#54)
by NFW on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:10:32 AM EST

I agree that it's broken, but I'd fix it differently.

+5 anyway, the duopoly has got to end.


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

true (3.33 / 3) (#58)
by Arkady on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:27:30 AM EST

But I choose not to bring that in, since it's relationship to the small number of fundamental principles I choose to cover is too complicated to deal with in a piece this short.  As it stands it's already five pages in a text editor, and K5's queue has proven to be somewhat antagonistic to longer articles.

Preferential or instant-runoff voting is obviously superior in identifying the most acceptible compromise position, and proportional representation (as used to some extent in most parliamentary countries) is obviously superior in constructing a legislature which accurately represents the preferences of the constituents.  The arguments involved in bringing this issue into the article would have lengthened it considerably.

They're also not as directly related to the fundamental principles as the issues I choose, in that you could implement both into the existing American system and not solve any of the fundamental problems I was concerned with.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
IRV (4.50 / 2) (#91)
by sab39 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 10:34:02 AM EST

I'll refer to other articles for reasons why, but I'd suggest at least doing some research on Instant Runoff voting before advocating it. There are plenty of studies that show it to have fundamental flaws, even more so than the current system, and not to actually achieve the goals promoted by those who advocate it. In particular, in IRV it's possible to make a candidate lose who would have won by voting for them!

In particular, consider the recent election in France which uses Runoff voting. Runoff voting differs from IRV only in that the results of the first round are known before the second (and subsequent) rounds take place. In the French election a far-right party made it to the second round due to what amounts to vote-splitting among the majority parties. By the second round, the majority were so outraged that the remaining majority party won in a landslide. In IRV, the first round outcome would have been the same, and the second round outcome would have been more doubtful: with no time for outrage to build and no idea of the consequences of their vote (the possibility of Le Pen being in the second round was never considered possible prior to the first round election), there's a very good chance that Le Pen would have been elected.

Promoting voting reform is a worthy goal, but please, please, don't promote reforming it to make it even worse!

Stuart.
--
"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

[ Parent ]

IRV and Le Pen (4.00 / 1) (#210)
by Enocasiones on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 12:48:50 PM EST

with no time for outrage to build and no idea of the consequences of their vote[...]there's a very good chance that Le Pen would have been elected.

I don´t see how, since the left's voters second choice would have been a leftist. No one was going to vote in the first place for Laguiller and then for Le Pen, but instead Jospin or another left-winger. The same goes probably for the right and Chirac (a first "protest" option and a second "viable" option).

Le Pen wouldn´t have benefited from the immediacy of IRV, Jospin could possibly have done so. But it all depends on how you implement the runoff...

[ Parent ]

IRV and Le Pen (none / 0) (#261)
by sab39 on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 01:11:43 PM EST

Even if he wouldn't have actually been elected, I bet he would have gotten a higher proportion of the final round votes than he actually did end up getting, for one very simple reason: turnout.

After a couple of weeks of enormous outrage all over the press, the turnout for the runoff vote was, AIUI, much higher than the turnout for the original vote (which was considered to be particularly low). Essentially, voters turned out in the millions specifically to vote against Le Pen in the runoff vote.

If the runoff vote had been immediate (ie based only on the rankings by the smaller group of people who voted in the initial election) there would have been far fewer "anti-Le-Pen" votes.

I can even present a (slightly stretched) argument that could have caused him to win outright. Remember that the final race came down to Chirac vs Le Pen. The leftists' second choice might have been a leftist, but their second choice had been eliminated also. The only question would have been how they ranked their two (probably) least-favorite candidates, and it's entirely possible that if they weren't thoroughly familiar with the obscure effects of their electoral system, they might have tried to vote "against" the one they thought most likely to win - ie, ranked Chirac explicitly last, which would translate to a vote for Le Pen in the runoff. If you add a sufficiently large proportion of the left-wing votes to Le Pen's total, he could certainly have won.

Stuart.
--
"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

[ Parent ]

reply (none / 0) (#267)
by Arkady on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 01:52:08 PM EST

I hit the "post a comment", instead of "reply", and my reply ended up here. Sorry.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Democracy (4.33 / 3) (#98)
by jmzero on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:10:43 AM EST

I don't think any analysis of democracy in the States is complete without talking about polling and lobbying.  Elections are just the carrot that keeps government doing what the polls (and lobbyists, and campaign funders) tell them to.

I'm not saying this is good, but I think it needs to be mentioned in any discussion of how America functions.  Americans have much more fine-grained control on their government than a binary choice every few years would indicate.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

Um (4.50 / 4) (#131)
by Jman1 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:04:21 PM EST

"The huge problem is that voting for a minor party is worse that throwing your vote away; it often mean unintentionally supporting the most popular party!" Actually, no, you are "just" throwing your vote away.

[ Parent ]
my solution (4.00 / 4) (#183)
by infinitera on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:46:01 PM EST

Here's what I came up with after deciding both Condorcet and IRV sucked:
Government is based on consent of the people. Preferably, a majority of them. Therefore, you should be able to express your consent to be governed, in relation to all candidates. You would be able to vote
  • approve (1),
  • disapprove (-1),
  • or not vote (0)
on each candidate. Those with negative totals would be barred from running for that office ever again. If no candidates with positive totals emerged, that would be equivalent to a binding none-of-the-above vote, and a new election would commence with new candidates. As for thresholds, I would think that double the number of positive votes as negative votes would be a good spot (this is 2/3 majority), although even a break even might be considered acceptable (certainly more than Clinton's 24.9% of eligible voters, or Dubya's even lower number). Another perk here is that it still maintains one person/one vote, rather than ranking systems which give people multiple votes, in essence.

[Any resemblence to the K5 article voting system is purely coincidental. I swear.]

[ Parent ]

Very bad idea. (none / 0) (#201)
by tekue on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 05:54:15 AM EST

Strategic voting. It would be incouraged by the running candidates to vote everyone except them with -1's, as this would give them a chance to eliminate their opponents. Also, nobody should be barred from running just because he lost the previous election.

Negative campaigning. It would be more profitable for the running candidates to run a negative campaign, as negative votes for their opponents could mean getting rid of them for good.

As for a side note, even if we assume that Condorcet gives you multiple votes (I'd rather say that it lets you split your vote among different candidates), there's no legal provision for the "one person -- one vote" dogma. The only thing we should care about is for every person to have the same amount of power over the elections. An important thing to remember is that the election is not about who wins, but about people speaking out about their views on politics et al.

Also, I would also like to point out again, that there's no such thing as "loosing your vote". Vote is speech and speech can not be lost. If you speak out though, and nobody want's to listen, that's your problem, you do not have any right to be listened to.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

Vote is speech? (none / 0) (#240)
by Maurkov on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 05:06:38 PM EST

I think you need to explain that last one. If vote is speech, how come we dont grant it to minors and permanently take it away from felons? The speech of both minors and felons is still protected.

As to your sig quote, could you attribute it?

[ Parent ]
Yes, IMO. (none / 0) (#256)
by tekue on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 09:50:06 AM EST

I think you need to explain that last one. If vote is speech, how come we dont grant it to minors and permanently take it away from felons? The speech of both minors and felons is still protected.
In my opinion vote is speech by nature. It is protected, you can't give it to anyone, it is used to transfer information about desired politics from citizens to government. Vote is speech — as opposed to an object — because it can't be traded in any way (regardless of that you can alter your vote if someone asks you to), it is meant not as a currency or it's equivalent, but as a method of communication; it is also impossible to destroy or loose a vote. And while we're on the subject, money is in my oppinion not speech for exactly the opposite reasons.

The sole fact it's not granted to minors and such doesn't change it's status of being speech. The right to own weapons is also a protected right, but we don't allow minors to carry weapons. The right to pursuit happiness and freedom of/from religion are included in the rights of an US citizen, but they're heavily restricted (i.e. by making drugs illegal, regardless of that making things — not deeds — illegal is a tad insulting to one's intelligence).

As to your sig quote, could you attribute it?
It's from The Boondocs by Aaron McGruder, a truly great comic strip, not for the P.C. nor racist people.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]
hi mr. condorcet fanatic (none / 0) (#272)
by infinitera on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 09:46:16 PM EST

I will now proceed to attack your adherence to an illogical and poorly thought out voting system, as well as replying along the way. Come on, come all!

Strategic voting. It would be incouraged by the running candidates to vote everyone except them with -1's, as this would give them a chance to eliminate their opponents. Also, nobody should be barred from running just because he lost the previous election.

I hope you realize every voting system is provably subject to strategic voting. Also, what's the big deal, if everyone -1s those they're not voting for? That's the entire point. You giving your consent to be governed. Sure, you could be dishonest about it, but that wouldn't affect much - the same would then happen to your candidate, it would just mean the thresholds would be lower. No biggie. As for why they should be barred.. that should be obvious. Because the majority of the population thought he was unfit to rule. You're not guaranteed a cushy job and priviledges, you know? Running for office is an endeavour not to be taken lightly.

The only thing we should care about is for every person to have the same amount of power over the elections.

Exactly, I agree completely. Which is why Condorcet fails. In a cyclical result, whereby A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A, Condorcet voting produces entirely kooky results. This is not giving people power. I think seeing the issue as one of consent is illuminating. Consent isn't granular - it's binary. Either you think the person is a fit representative, or not. Why shouldn't the person who the majority consents to be the winner, exactly? Seems like a pretty clear case of a transparent democratic system there.. BTW, Borda analyzed and pointed out the flaws in the Condorcet system, only to be publically attacked by Condorcet in a smear campaign. Condorcet fails Arrow's Theorem as well, like every system, but at least mine makes an attempt to sidestep the issue instead of arrogantly denying the problem exists.


[ Parent ]
Hi Mr. Binary Zealot (none / 0) (#273)
by tekue on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 04:45:21 AM EST

I hope you realize every voting system is provably subject to strategic voting.
Yes, and I hope you realize, that Condorcet is less subject to it than single vote.

Also, what's the big deal, if everyone -1s those they're not voting for? That's the entire point. You giving your consent to be governed.
No, you are telling the populus who do you think should govern your country. In the single vote you are only allowed to say: "This is the one, the others begone.". In Condorcet you are able to say: "I like candidate A the most, but I also like candidate C a lot more than candidate B, and all those are far better than candidate D." Also, if you didn't see it, you are also allowed to make your vote exactly the same as in the single vote. So, as a result, you can use Condorcet to vote as you like and I can use it to vote as I like, and the democracy is better, because each of us could vote in the way he likes to.

As for why they should be barred.. that should be obvious. Because the majority of the population thought he was unfit to rule. You're not guaranteed a cushy job and priviledges, you know? Running for office is an endeavour not to be taken lightly.
Of course not, but it's not always only about what you like. The problem with barring candidates from future elections is that if you happen to have a dictature (and US is going in that direction), the dictator can rig the election only once and use it to ban all other cadidates forever. If you don't see this scenario happening, you've obviously never lived in a dictature.

Exactly, I agree completely. Which is why Condorcet fails. In a cyclical result, whereby A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A, Condorcet voting produces entirely kooky results. This is not giving people power.
You seriously need to read more on the subject than in the comments on K5. True, the Condorcet may allow for a situation, where all the candidates have equal amount of votes. But then, single vote election can also result in a tie — both (or all) candidates can get the same amount of votes. This is why we have some additions to voting systems — run-off's being the most popular example today. Condorcet, as any other system, can be equipped with additions that allow those types of situation to be resolved with no bother. There are no voting system I know of, that don't allow for a tie (and, by definition, if there was such system, it would have to give one candidate an advantage, which is undemocratic).

I think seeing the issue as one of consent is illuminating. Consent isn't granular - it's binary. Either you think the person is a fit representative, or not.
You seem to be under an — incredibly naive — impression, that there is some universal value that makes you a great politician and that people agree on what this value is. Well, you are wrong, there's no universal "good" politician. People will always disagree on who would be the best, at least partly because different people define "best" differently. For example, I think there should be no social services, no tax cuts, no incentives, nothing; I think we should go towards anarcho-capitalism of some sort. Some other person may think, that the best system to live in is socialist-regulatory, where there are social benefits, subsidies, and high taxes. We both think we're correct, yet we wouldn't vote for the same politician. There's no way one of us would change his mind far enough for us to agree on one candidate, it's impossible.

We also check if the candidate is fit for the office. The things we check are age, nationality, and a couple of other issues. Election is about judging which of those valid candidates would be the best to run the country (or state/city/etc).

, Borda analyzed and pointed out the flaws in the Condorcet system, only to be publically attacked by Condorcet in a smear campaign.
What does that has to do with anything? Ad-personam arguments against Mr. Condorcet are not the best way to show your point.

Condorcet fails Arrow's Theorem as well, like every system, but at least mine makes an attempt to sidestep the issue instead of arrogantly denying the problem exists.
Arrow's Theorem is nice, but it is a theorem. It is based on saying that "if people prefere newly introduced candidate C to A, and prefered A to everyone else, they prefere C to everyone else." This is not correct in the real world, where people prefere candidate A for issue j, and they prefere candidate C for issue k. They need to judge which issues are more important and which candidate(s) they prefere. So, if candidates were judged by a single value that could be easily extracted, we wouldn't even need election. For now though, I'd like to be able to say which candidate I like the most, but also I'd like to say that I'm willing to compromise a bit. And democracy is all about compromises.

Also, as you said, no voting system passes Arrow's Theorem, and in this case, it is binary, you either pass it or not. I would like you to tell me what do you mean by "arrogantly denying the problem exists". Condorcet is a voting system, not a person, it could not deny anything. I guess you're talking about some flaw in the theory of Condorcet voting, please elaborate on the subject if you could.
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

greetings, earthling (none / 0) (#277)
by infinitera on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 12:22:29 PM EST

So, as a result, you can use Condorcet to vote as you like and I can use it to vote as I like, and the democracy is better, because each of us could vote in the way he likes to.

Except that Condorcet coercively requires me to vote for every candidate, and vote for people I think are not fit for office - if my last choice gets elected, and I didn't want to even indicate him as choice.. that is my preferences being violated. More on this in a bit.

You seriously need to read more on the subject than in the comments on K5.

Does a couple of books count?

The problem with barring candidates from future elections is that if you happen to have a dictature (and US is going in that direction), the dictator can rig the election only once and use it to ban all other cadidates forever. If you don't see this scenario happening, you've obviously never lived in a dictature.

Does the USSR count? Why do you attach this mythic importance to candidates? There's always more fodder for the electoral process. They're not immune. Thanks for the assumptions though.

You seem to be under an -- incredibly naive -- impression, that there is some universal value that makes you a great politician and that people agree on what this value is. Well, you are wrong, there's no universal "good" politician. [...] We also check if the candidate is fit for the office. The things we check are age, nationality, and a couple of other issues. Election is about judging which of those valid candidates would be the best to run the country (or state/city/etc).

First, thanks for the insult, but I'm afraid I have to return it. You are the naive one, if you think people investigate things before voting, or that issue voting is in some sense democratic. I wasn't proposing that people would agree on what a good politician is. I was proposing people would agree on who they trust (wrongly or not). Getting back to the earlier point about Condorcet - it assumes informed decisions. I do not.

Arrow's Theorem is nice, but it is a theorem.

Unsurprisingly, this is the response I always get from Condorcet folks. BTW, the Pythogorean Theorem is also a "theorem".

I would like you to tell me what do you mean by "arrogantly denying the problem exists". Condorcet is a voting system, not a person, it could not deny anything. I guess you're talking about some flaw in the theory of Condorcet voting, please elaborate on the subject if you could.

I was referring to the generalized Condorcet advocate, not the system. The flaw I mean is that the Condorcet winner is many situations not the one you would 'expect', logically.

So, if candidates were judged by a single value that could be easily extracted, we wouldn't even need election. For now though, I'd like to be able to say which candidate I like the most, but also I'd like to say that I'm willing to compromise a bit. And democracy is all about compromises.

Please, I'd like to know how it is that consent of the governed can be compromised? As far as I can tell, you've been sold the statist "issue" voting - hook, line, and sinker.

[ Parent ]
No title. (none / 0) (#284)
by tekue on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 04:23:36 AM EST

Except that Condorcet coercively requires me to vote for every candidate, and vote for people I think are not fit for office - if my last choice gets elected, and I didn't want to even indicate him as choice.. that is my preferences being violated. More on this in a bit.
What are you talking about? If in Condorcet you vote your candidate as first and all other candidates as second, you vote is as effective as in the system where you only pick one candidate. Votes are anonymous, so your vote preferences are not indicated anywhere. You are still able to easily vote the way you like, no worries, nothing violated.

Does a couple of books count?
If you've actually read the first one, then you should have some basic understanding of the issues you mention. I would suggest reading it again and remembering the contents :)

Does the USSR count?
Yes, if you've lived in it — i.e. if you left when you were five, it doesn't :)

Why do you attach this mythic importance to candidates? There's always more fodder for the electoral process. They're not immune. Thanks for the assumptions though.
When trying to win an election, the important thing is not to find a candidate, but to find a candidate that actually could win. When the most visible candidates are baned from elections, you have a problem. The problem is usually a bit larger if you actually live in a dictature and you are the opposition. Besides, if you ban anyone from election you are less and less of a republic.

First, thanks for the insult, but I'm afraid I have to return it. You are the naive one, if you think people investigate things before voting, or that issue voting is in some sense democratic.
Well, this is the famous chicken and egg situation, because I believe that if people are put in a situation in which they have to think, they will.

Also, Condorcet is at worst as democratic as single vote systems, yet it has a great potential at being more democratic. People who — like me — don't vote because they don't know who to vote for or, even more likely, don't really think their candidate has any chance of winning, would have incentive to vote. People who currently vote can vote the "old way", or the "new way" if they liked. Everyone's better off with Condorcet — except possibly current politicians.

I wasn't proposing that people would agree on what a good politician is. I was proposing people would agree on who they trust (wrongly or not).
But, as you probably know, this is as impossible as choosing a good politician. Or would you trust a bad leader?

The only system in which all people choose the same (best and trusted) leader, is currently implemented in People's Republic of China and in North Korea, but I doubt you'd like to live in any of those countries.

Getting back to the earlier point about Condorcet - it assumes informed decisions. I do not.
Every voting system assumes informed decisions. The whole point in voting is to colectively make an informed decision. You can't vote without an decision, and the best decisions are made based on research and analisis of all avilable information, that is, they are informed.

Condorcet may actually make you a more informed citizen, because it assumes more knowledge about the subject of the vote. And, what is quite obvious, if people don't make informed decisions, there's no democracy.

Unsurprisingly, this is the response I always get from Condorcet folks. BTW, the Pythogorean Theorem is also a "theorem".
If something is a theorem, it is considered to be true. I don't doubt Arrow's Theorem is true. It's just that it applies to all know voting systems in equality, which makes it rather unusefull when we're talking about which voting system is better. You've told me, that single vote system is better at coping with Arrow's Theorem, but you've forgotten to back this claim up with some additional information.

I was referring to the generalized Condorcet advocate, not the system. The flaw I mean is that the Condorcet winner is many situations not the one you would 'expect', logically.
Your — as logical as they could be — expectations don't have to have too much to do with what the reality is. What we assume is often out-of-touch with real happenings, movies for example. When they show me a tape with thousands if little photographs and tell me, that they're going to show me those pictures in sequence, I would expect to see exactly that — those pictures in sequence. Instead, I see an animated feature. I was expecting something else, but I was wrong.

Also take the example of shopping. Many people have the problem with estimating the amount they are going to pay at the register. They usually expect to pay less, by a visible margin. The expect something, but it doesn't mean they are correct.

Also, in a Condorcet vote, a candidate with most approval among all voters to win, so it's quite logical to expect him to win it, wouldn't you say?
--
Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature. --Tom Robbins
[ Parent ]

Arrow (5.00 / 1) (#288)
by onemorechip on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 01:46:14 AM EST

I don't doubt Arrow's Theorem is true. It's just that it applies to all know voting systems in equality, which makes it rather unusefull when we're talking about which voting system is better.

Arrow's theorem actually applies to preferential voting systems. The criteria proposed by Arrow are defined in terms of preferential systems. Criterion failures occur anytime you have three or more voters sorting three or more candidates into three or more prefence bins. Arrow's theorem, while true, is prejudiced in that cardinal voting systems (e.g., approval voting) fail the criteria merely because the criteria definitions call for preferential voting.

As to Arrow's Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives, in the end, is failing that criterion such a bad thing? If we accept that the fact that a majority prefers A to B is providing us with some (potentially faulty) evidence about how suitable A and B are, then should we be surprised if A wins with B in the race, but loses to C with B out of the race? After all, the information available to the system has changed, and we no longer have the evidence (A's pairwise victory over B) supporting A as the winner.

In short, I think too much is read into Arrow's theorem. I do like approval voting better than Condorcet methods, however, because Condorcet methods can pick marginally acceptable winners from time to time. Approval has a sort of built-in demand-revealing aspect, so that optimum voting strategy results in ballots that provide partial information about the cardinal strength of each voters' preferences (partial information presumably being better than no information). I think it's a fair trade for the loss of ordinal ranking information compared to preferential systems.
--------------------------------------------------

I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

Strategic voting? (none / 0) (#289)
by vectro on Thu Dec 19, 2002 at 12:02:36 AM EST

I was under the impression that some voting systems, including Condorcet, were immune to strategic voting. Can you direct me to sources that would support your assertion?

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Flawed Base Assumptions (4.54 / 11) (#59)
by Sethamin on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:04:57 AM EST

The basis for which this whole analysis is conducted is flawed.

Definition of a "successful" system"
A well-designed and implemented system is one which can continue to operate correctly (i.e. one which continues to embody its design principles and function according to its specifications) in a situation which was not considered in its creation.

I don't disagree that a well designed system may continue to operate successfully in unconsidered circumstances. However, it is a logical flaw to say that this is the definition of a well-designed and implemented system. I would saw exactly the opposite: something that operates correctly within the envisioned parameters is well designed and implemented. It is nice if it continues to operate well when taken into unforseen circumstances, but since it was not designed or implemented for that it has no reflection on the system whatsoever. It is nice, but more.

If we went with your definition, then we would have to consider everything to truly create a well-designed and implemented system. That, in turn, would make your definition vacuously true.

Constitution == Design Specification?

  • 1) statement of goals: The Declaration of Independence and The Federalist Papers
  • 2) design specification: The Constitution
  • 3) implementation: the State as it exists
The constituion is more than just a design specification, as you contend. It is partly design specification and partly statement of goals. To some degree, the Constitution does specify the make up of government institutions, for example. However, other things (notably the Bill of Rights) is left completely blank with regards to the implementation specifics.

In this sense it actually serves more as a statement of goals first, and a very rough design specification second. However, if we wish to draw the analogy out further the real "design specification" is legislation, and implementation is the enforcement of those laws. This is why it makes sense to consider all laws against the constitution; the Courts are trying to determine if they go against the "statement of goals" set forth in the Constitution. This makes far more sense than your analogy, since it really doesn't make sense to throw away implementation that "works" just b/c it is against the design specification.

Furthermore, by the classification you lay out the goals of the system are set, the system is put in motion, and then it is never touched. This is not how it works, and it is naive to think that our goals in this country are immutable. And for precisely that reason there is provision in the constitution for its admendment. In this sense the US is actually a "self modifying system" that constantly updates its goal in an attempt to adapt to changing circumstances.

The reason that the intentions of the founding fathers are debated are not because we believe them to be wiser than us or that they have some inherent authority over us today; it is because they wrote large swaths of the Constitution, and as long as those parts remain in the Constitution we interpet their meaning according to the framers. We do not, for instance, interpret the 13th admendment as the founding fathers might have, b/c then we may end up with slavery. Instead, we look at the people who actually wrote that admendment in the late 19th century. We could just as easily vote to nullify every part of the Constitution written by our founding fathers and never consult them again.

A Constitutional Convention? Why?
The current American State is clearly not operating by to its own specification, much less according to its stated principles.

Again, the flaw in your logic is assuming that the Declaration of Independence is our "statement of principles". Why relevance does that document have to our country now? Or, to be more precise, why do you think that those principles haven't changed from then to now? Our statement of principles are not in that "dead" and unchanging document, but in a living one: the US Constitution.

This is why your comment about a new Consitutional convention seems so absurd. If the Constitution is able to be amended at any time, why would a body of people representing the people make any changes to it? In other words, if this body of people were representative of America as Congress is now, what would they change that they simple couldn't change now with an admendment? Would the representation be different? If so, then your problem is clearly with your representation in this democracy and not the Constitution. If you believe in elected representation in America (in general), then you must also believe in the Constitution, since the latter is simply a manifestation of the former.

A society should not be judged by its output of junk, but by what it thinks is significant. -Neil Postman

flawed reply assumptions ;-) (4.00 / 7) (#62)
by Arkady on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:48:39 AM EST

I am, naturally, going to disagree with most of your comment.  ;-)

The set of systems which function properly in unanticipated circumstances is a _superset_ of the set of systems which function properly in anticipated circumstances.  The difference between the two sets is called fault tolerance; systems without this are called fragile.  It would seem obvious that a fault tolerant system is prefereble to one which is not.  It is everything the normally functioning system is _plus_ it can continue to operate in new circumstances, so how can it be inferior?

It would seem reasonable, therfore, to assert that the test which distinguishes these two would be more "ultimate" than any test of normal functionality, in that both would pass a test of normal functionality and only a fault tolerant one would pas a test in unanticipated circumstances.

To the extent that the Constitution does preface many of its statements with "in order to" and other such clarifiers of the reasoning behind its clauses, it does indeed describe goals to some extent.  It is _primarilly_, however, a specification document.  When it states, for example, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" it is _not_ expressing a goal, or a hope that Congress will abstain from this; it is stating that the Congress it establishes is categorically forbidden from doing so.

If you exclude the explanatory phrases, the entire Constitution becomes in essence a list of attributes to be possesed by the State is establishes.  That is exactly what a specification is.

Legislation, on the other hand, is merely one of the products of the system specified in the Constitution.

While it is true (and I _did_ mention this) that the Constitution contains provisions for its own amendment this provision describes requirements which are almost impossible to meet, and could certainly not be met for any proposal which would substantially alter the power and class structure of the country, in that it requires the assent if the Congress (law making body of the ruling class) in order to proceed.  This is why only trivial tewaks and patches for areas where it was missively and obviously out of sync with current thought have even made it far enough into the process to be recorded in histories of the Constitution: no truly substantial change can even get to the floor in Congress, much less pass a vote.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Systems and Goals (5.00 / 4) (#74)
by Sethamin on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 06:29:46 AM EST

I am, naturally, going to disagree with most of your comment. ;-)

Naturally. I wouldn't expect anything less. Besides, capitulation is pretty uninteresting, wouldn't you say? =)

The set of systems which function properly in unanticipated circumstances is a _superset_ of the set of systems which function properly in anticipated circumstances.

I must disagree <gasp>. The set of "fault-tolerant" (by your definition) systems have no real relationship to the set of "correct" systems. A system can be "fault tolerant" but not "correct", "correct" but not "fault tolerant", or both "correct" and "fault tolerant". I would agree that the set of systems having both traits is a _subset_ of the set of "correct" systems (perhaps that's what you meant?), and that this certainly is desirable. However, it is far more important thing that the system is "correct". "Fault-tolerance" is simply fluff on the cake.

It is _primarilly_ [sic], however, a specification document.

Here I have to concede you the point. After reading through it more carefully, I would agree that the Constitution is primarily for this purpose. Goals can only be drawn out of inference, except for the Preamble, which states:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Still, I will agree that most of the document is far more of a specification than anything else.

This leaves my original point intact, though: how do you justify the Declaration of Independence or the Federalist Papers as the goals of the United States of America? The Declaration is far more a list of grievances against the British King than it is a philosophical treatise of the direction and makeup of a new country. And the Federalist Papers were not (and probably still aren't) endorsed by the whole of the nation. In fact, there was a bitter fued between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists over the issue of a Constitution in the first place. In addition, the Bill of Rights was an Anti-Federalist idea, so it is not even fair to say that just b/c the Federalists supported a Constitution that they had all the say in drafting it. Thus, I cannot see how you can make the claim that these two documents are the metric by which to evaluate our country today. Perhaps the answer is that there is no codified goals of this nation as you posited before, and that, in fact, we are no different than any other country in the world with a Constitution.

While it is true...that the Constitution contains provisions for its own amendment this provision describes requirements which are almost impossible to meet, and could certainly not be met for any proposal which would substantially alter the power and class structure of the country, in that it requires the assent if the Congress (law making body of the ruling class) in order to proceed.

So how, precisely, would this be different in a Constitutional Convention? You would still have to find a way to agree to the terms of the convention (i.e. what is required for ratification, who is chosen to represent, etc.) and I imagine you would run into the exact same problem in this scenario as you would in amending the Constitution. The same goes for choosing the terms for choosing the terms for the Constitutional convention, and could continue on like this forever, ad inifinium. In short, I simply do not see how a new Constitutional Convention would or could solve anything.

A society should not be judged by its output of junk, but by what it thinks is significant. -Neil Postman
[ Parent ]

re: Systems and Goals (3.00 / 2) (#217)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 01:25:29 PM EST

You're right that I glossed a point there.  I was writing as though it were assumed that all the systems in the discussion were formally "correct" in that they give anticipated output for all anticipated circumstances.  In the context of a State, it seems to me that any system which is not formally correct should not even be considered as a candidate.

The primary justification for considering "the Declaration of Independence or the Federalist Papers as the goals of the United States of America" is that they were written as such by (largely) the same people who both wrote the Constitution and directed its initial implementation.  Though the three groups did not share all members, there was significant overlap.

It's true that the Declaration is largely a list of faults in the British rule, which is why I choose to only deal with three very clear positive statements from the preamble, rather than to look at goals deduced from the list of negatives.  Those three are incontrovertibly set forth as goals for the new State by the Declarations authors.

It's reasonable to expect that there were disputes between the Constitution's authors, as there always are between the authors of any major specification.  Even if everyone agrees on goals, in any non-trivial case there will be disagreements on how to best pursue them.  This does not stand as an argument against treating these documents as goals and specification.

(Sorry if I'm being too brief; I'm still working on the morning coffee.)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Working the flaw... (none / 0) (#120)
by On Lawn on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:43:30 PM EST

The set of systems which function properly in unanticipated circumstances is a _superset_ of the set of systems which function properly in anticipated circumstances.

True, and not always beneficial. If your attepmting to quantify the robustness of a product, you probably really mean to say...

The set of systems which function properly in unlikely but expectable circumstances is a _superset_ of the set of systems which function properly in anticipated circumstances.

Simply put, I think you are confusing "unanticipated" with "unlikely." Unanticipated working is not beneficial and most often ludicrous, where as working even in unlikely circumstances is robustness. An more often than that, one can only expect to push such engineering so far "upstream".

For instance, compiling my kernel for a i386 system and then expecting it to run in a MIPS processor is ludicrous and no design bonus if it boots, as it may just start rewriting my hard drive with random binaries. I'd rather it gracefully fail than force a bad situation.

Simularly, a cinder block operating beyond its anticipation by holding a door shut is not a bonus if you actually want to open the door.

You should be as familiar as anyone with the reasons one specifies a working environment in a specification as well as what its purpose is so the engineer can use the properties of a component properly.

[ Parent ]

misunderstanding (3.00 / 2) (#215)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 01:12:07 PM EST

I think your misunderstood me.

I'm not talking about unanticipated behavor in a system, as the examples you bring up describe.

Essentially, a system must perform its functions correctly in all anticipated circumstances to even be acceptible.  It is better, and more desirable, that it _also_ perform correctly in unanticipated circumstances.

To take you i386/MIPS example, overwriting your hard disk on the wrong architecture is clearly incorrect behavior in an unanticipated circumstance.  Correct behavior in such a circumstance would be either no action at all or (much more desirable) to post a note to the screen telling you that your binaries are incompatible with your hardware and directing youto instruction for acquiring/building correct binaries.  Current architectures make such a thing impossible (or at least insanely difficult), but that doesn't affect whether it would be a better system behavior.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
I hate "you misunderstood me" threads (none / 0) (#227)
by On Lawn on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 03:26:45 PM EST

I really do hate "misunderstood me" threads. Allow me to make a few observations about this one.

1) Sematic hair splitting.

I'm not talking about unanticipated behavor in a system, as the examples you bring up describe.
When a component interacts with external entities you have a system. What do you propose is the difference between a system and circumstance?

From the dictionary:

sys·tem Pronunciation Key (sstm) n.
  • 1. A group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole.
  • 2. A functionally related group of elements, especially:
    • 1. The human body regarded as a functional physiological unit.
    • 2. An organism as a whole, especially with regard to its vital processes or functions.
    • 3. A group of physiologically or anatomically complementary organs or parts: the nervous system; the skeletal system.
  • 4. A group of interacting mechanical or electrical components.
  • 5. A network of structures and channels, as for communication, travel, or distribution.
  • 6. A network of related computer software, hardware, and data transmission devices.
  • 3. An organized set of interrelated ideas or principles.
  • 4. A social, economic, or political organizational form.
  • 5. A naturally occurring group of objects or phenomena: the solar system.
  • 6. A set of objects or phenomena grouped together for classification or analysis.
  • 7. A condition of harmonious, orderly interaction.
  • 8. An organized and coordinated method; a procedure. See Synonyms at method.
  • 9. The prevailing social order; the establishment. Used with the: You can't beat the system.
[Late Latin systma, systmat-, from Greek sustma, from sunistanai, to combine : sun-, syn- + histanai, set up, establish; see st- in Indo-European Roots.] Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
2) Confusing your own opinion
Correct behavior in such a circumstance would be either no action at all or (much more desirable) to post a note to the screen telling you that your binaries are incompatible with your hardware
Obviously if such an allowance was put in there, then booting in a foreign envirionment is not an "unanticipated circumstance". As Indigo Montoya said, "I do no think it means what you think it means."

Not to put too fine a point on it, the MIPS example shows that your analogy breaks down for components that perform more than one function, and most do, especialy complex systems like governments. (Note, government is a system more than a circumstance; a Nation is a system more than a circumstance.)

There should be no problem here. The specs are merely aggregated into "booting, shell, write to hard drive" and each are dealt with individualy in this example. As someone in the field, you would know that in reality, things often perform many functions, each with a capability of independantly failing or succeeding.

Here we have a case where a system performs only 70% as expected. It boots, it gives a shell, and it crashes the hard drive. Is the 70% a "bonus"? Of course not, as you pointed out. I'll re-iterate, however, that would be better to fail completely and not boot in that circumstance as the overall damage would be much less.

I return to that specific point becuase it not only compicates, but it directly contradicts your claim that a component working in unanticipated circumstances is good.

But wait, thats only the beginning. Clearly you would recognize that signing off "failure" as a designed feature would undermine your arguements against the constitution. After all, if failure is meant to be there, then it isn't broken and no convention is needed.

3) Selective retort.

You missed the Cinder block example. I put that there just in case aggregation aggravates the argument too much. It brings the issue of the benefits of failure in unanticipated circumstances into clearer focus. Heres a more complete explanation of how it fits in.

A cinder block is designed to be part of a wall, stay there and hold weight. However when it finds itself behind a door you want to open is that good or bad? It is after all performing according to its spec by staying there, and holding the weight you put against the door.

This is a most certain unanticipated circumstance for the poor cinder block, and even worse circumstance for the person who's attempt to open the door were thwarted. Here "performing" accoring to spec in unanticipated circumstances is directly bad. There need be no percentage about it.

[ Parent ]

Additionally (none / 0) (#119)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:37:42 PM EST

The analogy is fundamentally flawed. A state in no way resembles a machine and the language of engineering is woefully inadequate when discussing social organizations.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
You missed something... (4.40 / 10) (#61)
by ti dave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:56:53 AM EST

The Constitution...makes no provision for recall of an errant ruler during their term

Impeachment.

Also, the various individual State Constitutions often have provisions for the initiation of recall elections.

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

true (3.83 / 6) (#64)
by Arkady on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:54:32 AM EST

But not relevant to the topic I was discussing.

Impeachement is merely a mechanism by which those already in power may be rid of one of their number; its existence does nothing to help those under their power.

And I'm talking about the Constitution of the United States; yes most of the states have recall elections available for at least some positions, but that isn't relevant in a discussion of the Constitution.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Hrrmm... (4.50 / 2) (#66)
by ti dave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 05:02:31 AM EST

Impeachement is merely a mechanism by which those already in power may be rid of one of their number; its existence does nothing to help those under their power.

That's a somewhat pessimistic view...
Do you believe that the Democratic Party encouraged Clinton's Impeachment?
Or do you view the Republicans and Democrats as a single entity?

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
yeah (4.50 / 2) (#68)
by Arkady on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 05:15:54 AM EST

I'm not very optimistic about the possibility that the sort of person who achieves such a position of power would use it for anything other than its continuation.  It has happened, mind you, even in the (historically) relatively small time the U.S. has been around, but rarely and I certainly wouldn't hold my breath waiting for enough of them to do so at the same time to achieve any significant change.

I do think the Democrats and Republicans are more similar than different, and are essentially identical when it comes to rejecting any fundamental change in the power structure.  How could they not be, since both get their funding from the same sources and the contrlling members of both come from the same class?

They are, however, the two dominant factions within the ruling class, and thus have their squabbles.  The vote on the Articles of Impeachment for Clinton was split _almost_ exactly on the committee's party lines (with 1 Republican voting against impeachment on 1 of the 4 counts) demostrating, at least, that _they_ see themselves as different.  ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Did it ever occur to you... (none / 0) (#115)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:20:23 PM EST

That jointly Republicans and Democrats are representative of the views of an overwhelming majority of Americans? It is a democracy after all. Perhaps real alternatives haven't arisen because people are, for the most part, essentially content with things as they are.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Indirect answer... (5.00 / 1) (#126)
by mirleid on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 01:23:20 PM EST

...does anybody have an idea of how much it would cost to start a new, nation-wide, political party and fund participation in House, Senate and Presidential elections?



Chickens don't give milk
[ Parent ]
If people really cared... (none / 0) (#130)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 01:56:57 PM EST

Not much at all. Getting the word out, in the era of ubitiquous mass communications, isn't a problem. As a example, consider google, which became the most vistited search engine on the internet without spending a dime on advertising. If a national political party could garner as many votes as google has regular users they would be capable of exerting significant political influence (far more than current third parties). The fact that this has not occured leads me to be believe -- contary to the rhetoric espoused by peddlers of discontent -- that American's are most concerned with getting good search results than enacting significant political change.    

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Content? and Fearful and Manipulative (5.00 / 1) (#129)
by StephenFuqua on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 01:45:26 PM EST

There are many factors that keep the current major parties in power in the United States. Among them is contentment, as you cite. Surely there are many Americans who are quite content with the way things are.

Looking at election results, we can easily see that independents, libertarians, greens, natural laws, etc., do not receive many votes. These numbers do not, however, directly correspond to the numbers of people who actually support those parties' ideas and platforms. The primary factor in this seems to be fear--fear that a vote for a "lesser" party will be meaningless. Thus the vote is shifted to the nearest candidate from the two major parties, or there is no vote at all (one of many causes for "voter apathy"). For instance, when I was planning on voting for Ralph Nader last fall, many people were upset at me, saying that by not voting for Gore (the closest alternative), I was tipping the election to Bush. As it turns out, if I lived in Florida this assessment may have been correct. Point is, this is not about contenment, but about manipulation of the system. We're not satisfied with casting a vote for who we want to win--we are only satisfied in casting a vote for someone that masses of other people will also support, and therefore give a reasonable chance of winning. And this all becomes so much more entrenched with massive and constant polling showing us just who is "in the lead" at any given moment...

Voter apathy itself masks the level of contentment--many non-voters choose not to vote because they believe their vote unnecessary. The status quo is fine and will surely continue, so why take my time to vote? Or, not being content but feeling powerless to change the status quo (or on the other hand the expected change in power structure), one chooses not to vote. Either way (or with any number of other reasons), we do not have accurate statistics on this segment of the population.



[ Parent ]
Wasted votes and apathy (5.00 / 1) (#152)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:47:30 PM EST

I wouldn't want to commit myself without further study, but I'm inclined to believe that an instant runoff system of some kind would correct the wasted vote problem. I think the most pronounced effect would be the emergence of single issue reform parties which might possibly be able to affect changes which are currently unlikely (like ending the insane drug policies). Sounds good, sign me up.

As for apathy, this is something I am well aquainted with; I've never voted and there is a good chance I never will. My own apathy is the consequence of a strange admixture of alienation and contentment and suspect that I am not alone in this. I've got all kinds of plans I'd put into place "if I were dictator," but when it comes down to it I don't think America is all that bad off. Realistically, I would truely like to see an end to the "War on Drugs" and I think the criminal justice system in America is in need of a serious overhaul, but neither issue merits the wholesale scrapping of our current system advocated in this article.  

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
instant runoff (none / 0) (#154)
by StephenFuqua on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:54:59 PM EST

the instant runoff idea took me a minute to figure out... but I like it, I think. I take it to mean that the x (two) people (out of y > 2) with the highest votes in an election immediately are pitted in a runoff election consisting of solely those two candidates. I like that idea.

Practicality: if you voted in the initial election, despite your apathy, would you be likely to go vote in the second? Would you be likely to vote in either at all?

Of course, avoiding voter apathy is not a good reason to ditch a good idea. It would be easy of me to imply that the instant run-off would be difficult due to voter apathy, but a) that isn't sufficient reason not to do it and b) this might actually decrease apathy, at least among those who consciously choose not to vote.

Hey, let's get it added to the Constitution! =).



[ Parent ]
Correction (5.00 / 1) (#161)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:16:07 PM EST

the instant runoff idea took me a minute to figure out... but I like it, I think. I take it to mean that the x (two) people (out of y > 2) with the highest votes in an election immediately are pitted in a runoff election consisting of solely those two candidates. I like that idea.

Sorry, what I actually meant was preferential voting.

Practicality: if you  voted in the initial election, despite your apathy, would you be likely to go vote in the second? Would you be likely to vote in either at all?

Well, under a preferential voting scheme I would probably be a little more inclined to vote.

As an aside, apathetic voters in America do tend to out in droves when the consequences are percieved as truely important. Take for instance the Louisiana Gubernatorial election in which former Klansman David Duke ran, the voter turnout exceeded 80% of registered voters.

 

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Three little letters: F E C [nt] (none / 0) (#180)
by beergut on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:16:33 PM EST


i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Huh? (none / 0) (#184)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:59:17 PM EST

The Federal Election Commision. I don't understand what your point is.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Well, (5.00 / 2) (#206)
by beergut on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 11:51:52 AM EST

They stifle debate, and don't allow (and actively work against) participation by third parties in Presidential debates.

They're a committee of Democrats and Republicans, and are intent on keeping it that way.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Of foxes and henhouses (none / 0) (#239)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 04:49:31 PM EST

Sorry, I was too caught up in my own line of thought.

For all of the hysterical handwaving that goes on regarding percieved acts of censorship in the U.S., the FEC and many of the laws governing political speech concerning elections do, as far as I am concerned, truly imperil our right to free speech -- and with McCain-Feingold it has only gotten worse. I'm decidedly in favor of an expansive understanding of the first amendendment, but -- and you don't have to be a strict constructionist to see this -- it's clear that the first amendment was intended to protect first and foremost political speech. It's hard to see how interfering with the distribution of a "film" about the girls from St. Mary's Academy getting gang banged by the boys from cell block D threatens the healthy functioning of a democracy, but, on the other hand, restricting who can speak and what they can say about electoral candidates and issues does directly assault our democratic process.

Thanks for reminding me of one of the few things I believe is really terribly wrong with America.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Republicratic Party (none / 0) (#155)
by pin0cchio on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:55:20 PM EST

Or do you view the Republicans and Democrats as a single entity?

Yes.


lj65
[ Parent ]
Heh (2.00 / 1) (#177)
by KilljoyAZ on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 07:52:22 PM EST

That's probably the greatest of Nader's lies, and what cemented my opinion of him as Yet Another Politician Lying For Your Vote.

===
Creativitiy cannot be SPELT by over 98% of all American troops. - psychologist
[ Parent ]
Yes there is (4.66 / 3) (#84)
by Miniluv on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:33:13 AM EST

The same method exists today by which the original initiators of the US founded it, that being armed rebellion. This practice was even encouraged by Thomas Jefferson, the Tree of Liberty and the blood of tyrants and patriots and all that.

You might turn up your nose at the concept of an armed rebellion in this day and age, but I think it's an even more viable option now than it was a little over 200 years ago. I think people might be surprised at how effective it might be, and just how little resistance the average joe in the US military would put up, considering of course that the cause were just.

Contrary to public opinion, enlisted men and officers in the military do, on average, have a conscience, and more importantly hold the Constitution in higher regard than the civilians elected above them by the people. Sure, they kowtow to going to Afghanistan to fight al Qaeda, however I don't think the same situation would hold true if they were ordered back to Kent State.

Fuck Walmart
[ Parent ]

You pick up a gun (3.33 / 3) (#111)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:14:14 PM EST

And I, along with other likeminded and sane citizens, will hunt you down and exterminate you, irrespective of any sympathies I might have otherwise had for your grievances. I will not be made to live in a country in which political will is expressed at the point of a gun. If you wish to live out some machisomo fantasy, go bleed like a patriot in Africa or South America where such sentiments are the political order of the day.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Interesting (4.50 / 2) (#118)
by Miniluv on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:35:07 PM EST

So you wouldn't die for you liberties, but you'd kill me to sacrifice them? I'm not talking about settling a vague grievance against the government, I'm talking about replacing a corrupt and tyranical regime. We're not there...yet.

I'm not advocating armed rebellion at the moment, but I am saying that it is an available, final option for the citizenry en masse to remove a government they are unable to live with. I find it rather sad that you'd express such sentiments that are tantamount to a promise to defend any leader, elected or not, to the death.

Fuck Walmart
[ Parent ]

The crux of the matter (3.00 / 1) (#128)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 01:28:04 PM EST

We're not there...yet.

The "yet" seemingly indicates we are of radically different perspectives as to what would constitute a "corrupt and tyranical regime." In principle, I'd concur that violent resistance is always an option, but any intimation that we approaching such a grave circumstance appears to me as nothing more than facile histrionics.

 

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Not really... (4.60 / 5) (#67)
by mirleid on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 05:03:33 AM EST

Disclaimer: My knowledge of the US constitution is what you'd call "limited".

Impeachment, in my mind, is not a valid mechanism in the frame of this article, since I understand that it must be initiated and conducted by congress, which is just another part of the same self-perpetuating power structure (as described); thus, you only get kicked out of the power structure if it agrees within itself (and according to its own internal rules) to do so.



Chickens don't give milk
[ Parent ]
Good explanation, but... (4.33 / 3) (#71)
by ti dave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 05:52:11 AM EST

it must be initiated and conducted by congress, which is just another part of the same self-perpetuating power structure (as described)

I'm afraid that I must disagree with that statement.
I see the House of Representatives as being *potentially* more adversarial in nature, when dealing with the President and the Senate, due to the fact that its' members can move in and out of office more rapidly. Representatives serve 2 year terms, and these terms are staggered, so that the combined House does not serve as a single cadre.

I believe this frequent infusion of "New Blood" provides enough irregularity to allow the introduction of new ways to do business.

The problem lies where, such as my own district, the same Representative is continually re-elected to office.
Seems to defeat the original intent of the framers, but fortunately, not all districts fall prey to this practice.

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
Incumbency rate (none / 0) (#122)
by itrebax on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 01:03:02 PM EST

I believe the incumbency rate for the U.S. House is over 90%.  It is lower for the Senate, but still quite high.

[ Parent ]
Wrong. (5.00 / 2) (#179)
by beergut on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:09:34 PM EST

Representatives do indeed serve two year terms. However, there is no staggering in their election cycles. The House of Representatives "changes" every two years. That's why there's such a flap in the "off-year" elections (i.e., those not coincidental to a Presidential election cycle,) when the party considered to be "out of power" (i.e., not holding the Presidency) usually gains seats. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon your own slant,) that does not seem to be destined to happen this time 'round. For better or for worse, America has Republican couch-lock.

Senators serve six year terms, and are elected on a staggered cycle, with roughly a third of that body being turned over every two years.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

Thanks. (none / 0) (#224)
by ti dave on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 03:10:46 PM EST

I'd mis-attributed the House with the Senate on the staggered terms point.
"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

[ Parent ]
equality and the Declaration of Independence (4.30 / 10) (#76)
by tps12 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 07:47:20 AM EST

So you say the Declaration of Independence requires that "the State must treat all people equally, neither favoring nor oppressing any class or individual." Fair enough.

Then you go on to complain about how "at no point does [the Constitution] refer to a requirement of equality among people, or even equal treatment of them by the State." Wow, sounds like a problem. But then: "The 14th amendment...does not require the states to create a condition of actual equality (they must merely treat each person equally under whatever laws they do pass)." Wait a minute, sounds like equal treatment to me. Now your complaint seems to be that people aren't equal, though they may be treated equally, which is a whole different kettle of ballgames.

It's pretty obvious that in a world where people have free will and differing ideas and abilities (like the one we live in), you can either have equal treatment by the State or equality in people's actual lives. Not both. The Declaration of Independence calls for one of these, the same one upheld by the Constitution. I won't tell you which one, but I'll give you a hint: it's not the one they were trying to enforce in the U.S.S.R.

Law: (none / 0) (#110)
by Kwil on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:10:28 PM EST

Anybody who lives on the east side of the tracks is a criminal.

Now this law is equal under your definition. Don't want to be a criminal? Don't live there.

How about we get more specific?  Anybody who lives at such and such an address is a criminal.

How about even more specific? Anybody with the name of <insert name here> is a criminal.

After all, people have about as much choice in their name as they do sleeping on the streets. More even, since it costs less to register a name change than it does to get a room.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
That's a 'bill of attainder' (none / 0) (#153)
by pin0cchio on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:48:00 PM EST

How about even more specific? Anybody with the name of <insert name here> is a criminal.

That's called a "bill of attainder," and is prohibited in Article I of the Constitution.


lj65
[ Parent ]
Actually.. (none / 0) (#173)
by Kwil on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 06:18:46 PM EST

..from my reading of the Tech Law Journal the definition of a Bill of Attainder is:

A legislative act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without a trial. [emphasis added]

Now, if the law against sleeping on the streets does not violate this as it singles out the group of people that are homeless, how would any other? Especially when you consider that the law I specified does not in any way suggest there is to be no trial.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
Perhaps ex-post-facto is closer (none / 0) (#280)
by pin0cchio on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 10:50:22 PM EST

Especially when you consider that the law I specified does not in any way suggest there is to be no trial.

However, even if (as you point out) it isn't strictly a bill of attainder, a law against having a specific legal name is still an ex post facto law because the name was assigned to the person before the law was passed.


lj65
[ Parent ]
So.. (none / 0) (#285)
by Kwil on Wed Jun 19, 2002 at 10:33:57 PM EST

..if you were sleeping on the streets before the law was passed, you're in the clear? Nifty.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
Equal Protection and equal protection (5.00 / 1) (#148)
by dachshund on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:39:36 PM EST

But then: "The 14th amendment...does not require the states to create a condition of actual equality (they must merely treat each person equally under whatever laws they do pass)." Wait a minute, sounds like equal treatment to me. Now your complaint seems to be that people aren't equal, though they may be treated equally, which is a whole different kettle of ballgames.

In practice, the Equal Protection Clause does not require that the state treat anybody equally, or apply its laws in an equal manner. A case in point: same-sex marriage. According to the Federal courts, nobody is being denied any right or protection by laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. Gays have the same right to marry as any other individual; they're just not allowed to marry members of the same sex. According to the current interpretation of the 14th amendment, laws prohibiting same-sex marriage don't violate equal protection, because the courts have so far declined to view same-sex marriage laws as "discriminatory". (We must assume, however, that laws preventing mixed-race marriage would be struck down.) This is one interpretation of the law, and it leads to very inequal results.

Compare the Equal Protection Clause to a much older cousin: Vermont's Common Benefits Clause, which reads (in part):

That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community, and not for the particular emolument or advantage of any single person, family, or set of persons, who are a part only of that community
This much more explicit directive has been read, over the years, to imply that no law should be passed which leaves out a particular group, unless there's an overriding public interest. When the CBC was recently applied to the issue of gay marriage, the Supreme Court of Vermont held that excluding a group of individuals from the benefits and protections afforded by marriage was not justifiable. The result was Baker v. Vermont, from which comes the following excerpt:

In considering this issue, it is important to emphasize at the outset that it is the Common Benefits Clause of the Vermont Constitution we are construing, rather than its counterpart, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth. ... recent Vermont decisions reflect a very different approach from current federal jurisprudence. That approach may be described as broadly deferential to the legislative prerogative to define and advance governmental ends, while vigorously ensuring that the means chosen bear a just and reasonable relation to the governmental objective.
I'm not posting this as a treatise on same-sex marriage, and certainly not on the perfection of Vermont's constitution. My only point is that there are a million ways to phrase and interpret the notion of equality under the law.

[ Parent ]
You are an idiot!! (1.08 / 12) (#78)
by rabbits77 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:07:49 AM EST

The fact that you are sitting in a comfy home witlessly typing on computer equipment worth more than what some people on this earth make in a lifetime shows the "system" works fine. It is you that are broken.

How exactly? (5.00 / 2) (#85)
by Miniluv on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:36:44 AM EST

Is it the supposed comfort that means the system works? I've met several folks who lived eminently comfortable lives in the former Soviet Union during the Cold War years, and yet no one would argue, rationally at least, that the Soviet Union was in any way a working system.

Do you mean, perhaps, the comfort of the middle and lower class that they can afford luxury items? By this token then South America is, on average, a severely broken continent, despite certain countries there being excellent examples of working countries and governments.

Please clarify, otherwise you sound like that which you label the author as.

Fuck Walmart
[ Parent ]

right. (none / 0) (#107)
by Shren on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:55:13 AM EST

I say that I'm doing well in spite of the system instead of because of it.

[ Parent ]
Australia? (none / 0) (#253)
by Wulfius on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 04:24:31 AM EST

Your argument is flawed.

I am doing the exact thing in Australia.
We do not have a constitution (not a real one anyway).

Yet I enjoy the same 'privilidge'.

Yeah, had it not been for the yanks, I would
probably be typing this in Kenji.

But then, how far you want to go?
If it hadnt been for the King Jan III Sobiewski, who saved Vienna from the Turks in 1689
and is credited with saving the europe from the
Muslims you would now be typing in Arabic.

---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]

The constitution is not like software (4.09 / 11) (#79)
by jolly st nick on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:08:23 AM EST

As a programmer, and sharing the very human tendency to view the world in terms of my profession, I should be well disposed towards this kind of analysis, but I'm skeptical. For one thing, the machine on which the implementation runs (the people) is constantly evolving,so it is impossible to guarantee that the "software" runs the same way generation after generation.

I think the US constitution has more in common with the English constitution than most people realize. For one thing it a recasting of the 18th century English constitution along republican principles. But more fundamentally, it is, like the English constitution a matter of tradition developed over the centuries. This tradition is more stable than in the English case; for example the executive power is not likely to be transferred to the House of Representatives. This is, perhaps, an advantage of a written constitution. However it is naive to believe, on one hand, that the government functions precisely as the founders envisioned it, or on the other hand that it could.

The line between law and custom is not as sharp in practice as it is in theory. There are many obsolete laws, especially so in states like mine which were among the original 13. In Massachusetts we still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, but they are effectively a nullity. If the state attempted to enforce them uniformly (this emphasis is important since many would be amenable to selective enforcement) on the grounds that "a law's a law" the government would be held up to ridicule and turned out of office. Yet, the laws remain on the books, possibly because most people see it as such an anachronistic absurdity.

What is a law that the state and the people have mutually agreed to ignore? Is it still a law?

that's called a Repeal (none / 0) (#147)
by pin0cchio on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:33:22 PM EST

for example the executive power is not likely to be transferred to the House of Representatives.

In the case of a strong Libertarian, Reform, or Green Party candidate, the House chooses the President: "if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President." (U.S. Const. 5.12).

What is a law that the state and the people have mutually agreed to ignore? Is it still a law?

The state shows that it agrees to ignore a law by performing an action called, in legalese, a repeal. Without a repeal, the law becomes amenable to selective enforcement, as you mentioned.


lj65
[ Parent ]
law and practice (4.00 / 1) (#212)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 12:59:23 PM EST

Hell, under the current system even the _lawyers_ don't think of the law as a well-defined body.

One of the EFF's lawyers once told me that her proffesion views law as a process, in which eceryone finds out together in court what is and is not legal.

Am I the only one who is disturbed by the idea that the system is built such that it's impossible to know in advance whether _anything_ will get you smacked by the State? That the people who operate the system don't view anything as static, even the statements in the Constitution?  That, since everything's just a matter for interpretation, the same activity or law may be punishable in one time/place and protected in another?

The lawyers view law as a schrodinger box, where you don't know if something is punishable or protected till youopen the court's lid.  Quantum law may be in keeping with the thought in modern physics, but it gives me the screaming willies.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Excellent Idea... Hold the Convention Immediately! (4.10 / 10) (#80)
by mcherm on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:10:47 AM EST

This is an excellent idea! So far, we've done this (held a convention to create or review the entire governmental system) twice. The first time, we created the Articles of the Confederation, but this was done immediately after a fierce war for independence from a tyranical government, and the people (and legislators) were in a mood of fierce independence. Thus, the system that they created is widely seen as being too weak by most scolars, and lasted only about 8 years.

But nearly a decade later, the country's mood had changed. There were still many who fought vigorously for civil rights and restriction of governmental powers, but there were others who argued for more effective, more powerful, and more centralized structure. So a small group convened to review the existing structure decided to change the entire system instead.

The compromise that they struck has been highly unstable, lasting only 215 years so far, and leading to an impoverished nation with little impact on the world stage, whose citizens have little in the way of civil rights or freedoms.

Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot! Recent events have made our population FAR more inclined to accept the imposition of governmental authority. After 200 years, much of the fiercely independent spirit of the original revolutionaries has died out, and the citizens would be much more willing to accept the rule of a more forceful government. NOW is the time (quickly, before the public mood changes) to hold our constitutional convention to replac^H^H^H^Hview the existing framework. The new government that arises from this one will be much stronger.

Long live King Bush III!

-- Michael Chermside

Alliance for Democracy (4.50 / 2) (#96)
by lucidvein on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:04:04 AM EST

Ronnie Dugger of the Alliance for Democracy has stated that a quick, unplanned Constitutional Convention would deliver us into a more fascist state than we already live under. He proposes that people form coalitions or affinity groups who can act against the corporate influence which would hijack a rewrite of the Constitution for their own protection.

In his Call to Citizens he explains how there are several cases for small groups and unions retaking their rights. But only when we have wrestled control of our legeslators back from the corporations will we have enough influence to correct the now apparent mistakes.

All this is what needs to be fused, if an to whatever extent people and their organizations want to be fused, into a pro-people national alliance. But can we reassemble and take power? Can a people so different in origin, race, religion and history know and care about each other enough and act together in our common interests powerfully enough to save the democracy and ourselves?


[ Parent ]
Recent events will fade... (4.00 / 2) (#100)
by sobcek on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:27:46 AM EST

...and the people will recognize their King for the jackass that he is.

A small, white furry dog called W. on September 11th got angry and called for revenge and people confused him with a leader. Seeing the success of war sentiments, the administration resolved to prolong our "state of war" out as long as possible, if necessary holding people until the publicization of their capture became politically handy. Ashcroft is very, very dangerous. I was stuck with that bastard in Missouri before...

[ Parent ]
The need to be critical (3.00 / 4) (#81)
by p3d0 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:13:53 AM EST

Nice job on the article. Whether people agree with its conclusions, to me, is secondary; it makes the point that state systems should be designed and evaluated just like any other complex system.

To travel a bit into sci-fi territory here, I think this will become increasingly important whenever the time finally comes that we start to colonize other planets. We should not blindly bring our state systems along with us; rather, we should examine them critically and try to improve upon them. If there's anything we can learn from the USA's example, that's it.

(I've actually been working on the outline of a sci-fi story recently, with exactly this as one of its premises.)
--
Patrick Doyle
My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.

KSR's Mars (5.00 / 1) (#211)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 12:53:14 PM EST

Check out Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy; it should be right up your alley, in that the conflict between established State systems and the re-thinking of the issues by a colony of scientists and engineers is the central theme of the set.

It should be obvious to anyone who'se read this trilogy where I got the login name I use here on K5 ... ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Design ......what? (3.00 / 3) (#82)
by stpna5 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:26:33 AM EST

It is indeed sad that some of the founding writings of our nation are to be hypothetically vacuum-sucked into some mechanical software template if only for metaphorical purposes. It is significant that some of the news organs which supposedly unequivocally express unanimity about the most recent of election farces also tout polls showing 70% approval by the populace at large for fingerprint/identity cards being carried on one's person. It is a great time for a recrudessence of fascism. Such glib pronouncements, instead of being driven into the sea by the hysterical laughter of a free people at such idiocy, are instead pondered with solemnity by a vast number of fearful, fretting, weasel-dominated customers who don't know their own history.

recrudescence. (none / 0) (#97)
by stpna5 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:09:03 AM EST

recrudescence.pardon.

[ Parent ]
Gotta hate that.. (none / 0) (#113)
by Kwil on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:15:09 PM EST

..when you use a big word to look cool and totally stuff it up.

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
that sounds rather spamish (none / 0) (#163)
by stpna5 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:46:51 PM EST



[ Parent ]
So what? (3.33 / 3) (#83)
by truffle on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:31:16 AM EST

Implied in this story is that the Constitution should support the goals of the Declaration of Independance, and that the US state should implement the constitution. This borders on mysticism, Jefferson is dead, this is no longer his project. While there may be other good arguments that the current system is flawed, it's certainly not as flawed as the logic of this paper.

meow

New Convention? Yikes! (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by Dphitz on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 10:04:08 AM EST

I would be afraid to see what is produced by a new Constitutional Convention.  First, I can imagine this process taking about 50 billion years to complete simply because of all the special interest groups wanting their own input and all the bickering that would ensue.  An issue like the 2nd amendment would be argued over for years.  So would abortion.  I'm sure there would be a huge attempt to turn it into a religious document of some kind.  Any new document produced would reflect personal opinions, beliefs and even some extremist philosophies more than any real wisdom.


God, please save me . . . from your followers

What's the difference between (4.00 / 2) (#105)
by JChen on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:46:22 AM EST

personal opinions and "real wisdom"? Aren't the victors the ones whose personal opinions turn into accepted wisdom? Who's really to judge?

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]
I see your point . . . (5.00 / 1) (#135)
by Dphitz on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:37:40 PM EST

but I think there is a difference.  An example might be that one (a senator or S.C. judge perhaps) might wish that more people would live a religious lifestyle but their wisdom would tell them that religion and gov't don't mix.  The framers of the constitution (most of them) had this kind of wisdom and logic.  I think this is lacking today more so than ever before.  


God, please save me . . . from your followers

[ Parent ]
How would that be different? (2.50 / 2) (#106)
by ghjm on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:51:36 AM EST

Any new document produced would reflect personal opinions, beliefs and even some extremist philosophies more than any real wisdom.

But that's exactly what we have now! The constitution we have now reflects the personal opinions, beliefs and even some extremist philosophies current at the time of the Revolutionary War. Its various amendments and judicial interpretations relect the personal opinions, beliefs and even some extremist philosophies prevalent over the intervening years.

It's about time to retire the old bird and get a new one. Other countries have done so. A more modern consitution would allow better debate on the issues of the day - we wouldn't have to couch all the arguments in eighteenth-century terminology...

-Graham

[ Parent ]

Here's a couple thoughts... (4.50 / 2) (#193)
by NFW on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 12:23:15 AM EST

The constitution we have now reflects the personal opinions, beliefs and even some extremist philosophies current at the time of the Revolutionary War. Its various amendments and judicial interpretations relect the personal opinions, beliefs and even some extremist philosophies prevalent over the intervening years.

The constitution was written by people who wanted to limit the power of government. I think they did rather well. I also think that's largely because they were constructing a new power structure (government) where the existing structures (government, commerce, religion, etc) were relatively small as compared to today.

In the event of constitutional convention, we'd be constructing a new power structure within the context of an entrenched set of powerful structures with interests to protect.

The new constitution would likely preserve freedom of religion - but it wouldn't shock me to see the Christian majortity strike that clause. Furthermore, I'd fully expect to see the new constitution embody moral beliefs based more (Judeo-) Christian theology than on individual freedom.

I'd like to see clause prohibiting legislation that creates victimless crimes. That's going to be an uphill battle against the religionists. Take sex, for example... in many states today, homosexual acts are still criminal. In Texas, owning a half-dozen dildos is a class-A misdemeanor. Would your state's constitutional conventioneer have the courage to speak out in favor the right to bugger and buy dildos?

Congress has tried to pass laws to limit speech (e.g. the CDA and COPA), but the first amendment is the only thing standing in their way. A constitutional convention would give the puritans the tools to remove that obstacle.

My biggest fear, though, is the influence of corporate power on the new constitution. They bought Sen. Hollings, but Congress can only do so much. Given the power to rewrite the constitution, who knows what crap they might come up with? A newly expanded DMCA? Remove the copyright expiration altogether? What would happen at the patent office? Would open-source software developers be declared enemies of the state?

Back then, the framers didn't have too much to interference from massive power structures driven by commerce. I fear they'd run the show this time around. We'd end up with a government by and for the biggest corporations. This has been a common path for governments invented in the last 100 years or so. Say goodbye to OSHA, the EPA, labor unions, etc, etc... none of them are good for the bottom line.

The path we're on now acts like a low-pass filter on constitutional changes, and I rather like it that way.

In short, there are only a handful of ways to improve on the what we have now, but there are many ways to fuck it up.


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

Your a good example of what you say (none / 0) (#246)
by On Lawn on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 08:28:20 PM EST

Actually I'd find your fear of Judeo-Christianism a plus and a minus, but overall a good example of the reason nothing important would get done.

[ Parent ]
We need a new constitution, but not just now. (4.00 / 2) (#88)
by Weezul on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 10:11:51 AM EST

Religion and corperations have too strong a hold on our country.  There are many things we need to change about the constitution, like taking away "coerparate person hood" (corperations derive person hood from their owners, its self evident that they should not be granted person hood unless the owners take personal responcibility for the action of the company, i.e. no limited liability).  Changing the constitution now would be about the biggest disaster imaginable.  The good news is that religion is losing its hold on people's lives.  Coerperate influence seems to be getting stronger, but I don't think this will go on forever.  At some point the coerperations just push too far and there will be a major swing back the other way.  Lets keep this constitution for 50 more years and see what happens.

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
corporations in the constitution? /nt (1.00 / 1) (#95)
by tps12 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:01:39 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Redesign (3.50 / 2) (#92)
by jmzero on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 10:45:27 AM EST

It seems clear that America is long overdue for a comprehensive redesign. It is time to either recreate the American State to follow its existing design principles, or to find new and better principles on which to base a new design (those who approve of the current State could perhaps begin by attempting to deduce the principles on which it actually operates and proposing that we follow those).

Redesigning an entire system always sounds like a good idea, but seldom is.  America is really good at many things.  If an OS is good at a lot of things, you don't decide to rewrite it because of errors in the user interface (even if those errors "delete a few files").

The problems you mention can all be solved with patches - especially simple ones like the fiasco around the last election.  Whatever you think of how it turned out, mostly it demonstrated the lack of definition in current laws.  There needed to be a procedure precisely specified beforehand.  

The other problems are similar.  At worst, a few ammendments might be required.

.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife

the joelonsoftware approach to politics /nt (3.00 / 2) (#94)
by tps12 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:00:47 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Psychology (2.20 / 5) (#93)
by EvilNoodle on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 10:46:53 AM EST

IMHO psychologists have the most informed view of human needs and behaviour. The psychology of nations can be looked at in terms of their history to understand how they need to change. Any amendments to the constitution should be made by - or at least take into account - a consortium of psychologists, more than religions or corporations, and definately above politicians.

ooo, pseudoscience experts (none / 0) (#181)
by infinitera on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:21:01 PM EST

Yes, let's them figure out how we should best govern ourselves, especially since they don't even agree on how the mind works. OTOH, Wilhelm Reich might have had some interesting thoughts on the formation of states, before he went nuts.

[ Parent ]
Couldn't get past the first paragraph... (3.45 / 11) (#99)
by On Lawn on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:11:23 AM EST

The most significant test of any system is how it handles unanticipated situations. A well-designed and implemented system is one which can continue to operate correctly (i.e. one which continues to embody its design principles and function according to its specifications) in a situation which was not considered in its creation. A system which does not must be considered flawed, either in design or implementation.

We're barely out of the gate and wrestling with logic. Although its always a pleasant suprise when a feat of engineering "continue[s] to operate correctly (i.e. one which continues to embody its design principles and function according to its specifications) in a situation which was not considered in its creation", its irrational to expect it to.

No more likely that Tom's Hardware would you test the "[t]he most significant test of" a motherboard design with a hammer, and more than J.D. Powers and Associates would say "[t]he most significant test of" an automobile is its ability to drive underwater.

I smell something fishy in an article whos introduction attempts to set such an asenine rule of measurement. I suppose I'll read on and see before I come to a conclusion though.

I had the same reaction... (none / 0) (#287)
by onemorechip on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:21:56 AM EST

but on reading the rest of the article I have to say, a lot of it made sense. Not that the parts that made sense follow from the first paragraph; there are a lot of observations that stand on their own. The first paragraph could be stricken from the article and nothing would be lost.
--------------------------------------------------

I did my essay on mushrooms. It's about cats.
[ Parent ]

Gaping hole in your analysis (4.33 / 15) (#101)
by wji on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:28:08 AM EST

In 1780 a corporation was a public body formed for a specific purpose, like building a bridge or managing a township. It was on a tight public leash and could be dissolved by the public at any time.

Corporate power has spiralled out of control, first with the judicial activism of the 1890s expanding corporations into "legal persons" with rights and security from state "interference", later on with massive subsidies to "stay competitive", and now with massive corporate rights and capital-rule "free trade" agreements. Corporate power, unlike state power, could not even possibly be an instrument of public will (at least not in any way other than the way a dictatorship or totalitarian regime is controlled by the public). Corporate power is out of control. It's the biggest threat to our liberty, not the state.

You've followed the standard pattern in ignoring corporate power as if it's a "natural" or "inevitable" reality. It's not. Corporate power is a social construction, not a law of nature.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.

corporate power (4.33 / 6) (#102)
by Arkady on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:34:51 AM EST

Corporate power is largely irrelevant to my topic, though.  Corporations are created nby the states, and are not mentioned in either document.

You're correct that one major thing wrong with the American system is the role it gives to corporations, but that outside thescope of my topic.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Oops (3.50 / 4) (#132)
by wji on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:05:51 PM EST

I didn't see your username -- I just skimmed over and assumed it was a typical conservative-libertarian get-government-off-our-backs rant. Whoops. That'll teach me to act smart when I haven't read the whole article :)

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
More that I disagree with... (4.80 / 5) (#112)
by On Lawn on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 12:14:46 PM EST

The United States is a rarity among States, in that it possesses all three of these things: * 1) statement of goals: The Declaration of Independence and The Federalist Papers

This may be tricky to explain but the Declaration of Independance and the Federalist Papers were not goals of a new order but propositions and arguements about what forms a proper state. To sum it up, the Federalist Papers and the DoI are not cannon, or an attempt at a comprehensive list of self-evident truths for government making. In fact they are heavily centered on the interaction of government and its citizens rather and miss the self evident truths of the government itself.

A good example of the danger of cannonizing the DoI comes shows up very quickly in your essay...

The State exists only by the consent of the people, who have the right (and the duty) to withdraw that consent and to institute a new State (or States) when the old ceases to follow the Declaration's founding principles.

In the Declaration of Independance it proclaims that it has the right to succeed from England not becuase it had gone against its founding principles, but because it had gone against principles that are above government.

The DoI does not make itself an authority, it calls on a higher authority of reason and divinely appointed freedom. This is summed up in the oft quoted phrase "inalienable rights" and the damning conclusion that "we hold these truths to be self evident." To forget where the DoI's source of authority comes from cuts out the very heart of what it was saying. Its like you get and use what it is saying but you don't actually get it. It is not an authority, we are.

This twist then tears the fabric of reality as you take that self-reinforcing logic and equivocate it, then outright lie.

Though the Constitution does contain provisions for the replacement of the ruling individuals at the end of their allotted term, and provision for amending the ruling structure (though this is largely useless, as it requires the participation of the current rulers), it makes no provision for recall of an errant ruler during their term (indeed, it explicitly excuses them from being subject to the State's laws during their terms) and expressly authorizes the new State to violently prevent any attempt by the people to dissolve and replace it.

Which is set to support the claim that "no requirement of assent by the people, and no provision for its own replacement (it even authorizes powers to prevent such a replacement)".

At one point you hold that `replacement' meant to "withdraw that consent and to institute a new State (or States)," and then suddenly broaden the scope to mean replacing the structure all together. That was the equivocation, then the lie happens as follows. While the word `ammendment' appears several times in your article you conveniently forget that "ammendments" are meant to do just that, and were provided for in the origional document.

However, the Constitutional structure is just as "self evident" as the truths of the constitution. There needs to be laws formed and changed (legislation), execution of those laws (executive), and judgement based on the laws (judicial). One can no more vote to change that structure any more then they can vote to repeal the law of gravity.

Also relevant to your entire article, but most relevant to note here, that the Constitution was not the first attempt at an implementation of the new government. Before the Constitution was the Confederation which matched your ideals much closer. The problem, of course, is that it failed miserably. The popular candidate for president declared that the Confederation was so inept that "if nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve."

When the Constitution declares "in order to form a more perfect union" it does not mean "better than England" it means "we're sorry the Confederation was such a bad idea, this will work much better".

During the ratification process, many contemporary commentators of the day declared that the Bill of Rights were never needed becuase the DoI was "self evident" and of course no government would ever try to step on it. However, New York wanted more of a guarantee than that, and hence the Bill of Rights were "ammended" to the constitution.

That brings me to point #2, but I'm tired. Rhetoric like this makes me feel tired, and dissapointed. I'll continue later, you've tied quite a knot of logic, not so much by cleverness as by volume. I'll come back when I have more time to unravel its shear volume further.

Quote (5.00 / 2) (#133)
by cpt kangarooski on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:15:41 PM EST

Hm? I thought it was Sherman who said that sometime after the Civil War. He's a bit late for the U.S. government under the Articles of Confederation. (you could've been thinking 'Confederacy,' but he was Union)

--
All my posts including this one are in the public domain. I am a lawyer. I am not your lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
[ Parent ]
Hmmm (none / 0) (#140)
by On Lawn on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:06:53 PM EST

It was specifically during the "emabarassingly swept under the carpet of history" run of 7 presidents under the Articles of Confederation that this quote came from, but I am unable to locate a source. However, I'll give that Sherman is most commonly attributed with that quote, as well as Bruce Sprinstein, Hillary Clinton, and Pat Paulsen of the Smothers Brothers.

I'd have to dig through some of my books on the subject.

[ Parent ]

Quote (none / 0) (#142)
by MrAcheson on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:12:50 PM EST

I am unsure of the originator of the quote, however the Articles of Confederation had no provisions for an executive branch or "president" as we would recognize it. I believe there was a head representative in the congress who basically kept order similar to what John Hancock did during the drafting of the DoI. Government under the articles was almost entirely legislative (save for running the army). As such I would doubt the reference for that quote.


These opinions do not represent those of the US Army, DoD, or US Government.


[ Parent ]
John Hanson, First President of the USA (none / 0) (#160)
by On Lawn on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:11:39 PM EST

Little known fact, George Washington was not the first president of the USA.

Remember you didn't hear it from me...

[ Parent ]

Thanks, interesting. (none / 0) (#185)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 10:07:51 PM EST

I guess I knew there were Presidents from the Articles era, but I never really knew who they were or bothered to look it up. Funny how those little blind spots crop up.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
If it ain't broke, don't 'fix' it. (3.71 / 7) (#123)
by broody on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 01:04:35 PM EST

A few comments.

1) statement of goals: The Declaration of Independence and The Federalist Papers

If you are looking for a statement of goals, you are looking in the wrong place. While the Declaration of Independence is an inspiring document, the Federalist papers describe the founders goals in detail. If you start your evaluation from this point, I suspect you will find the US is operating much closer to the original design than your current analysis would indicate.

That said I disagree with the entire premise of your argument and consider it utterly lacking justification for a constitutional convention. Abolishing slavery and establishing voting rights for people of color, women's suffrage, the income tax, and the emergence of corporations as persons were all immensely more significant changes in the operations of the American republic. Yet, a constitutional convention was never called and largely never considered.

In comparison to what America has lived through your concerns about the micromanagement of the electoral process, tweaking intellectual property law, and the detention of combatants outside traditional internationally recognized conventions are mere quibbles. The United States survived Benjamin Harrison, Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, Japanese-American Internment Camps during WWII and it will survive the current troubles. Checks and balances take time.

Do you really want to toss everything out the window and start again? Look closely at how willing the masses are to barter freedom for security, imagine a far right Xtian definition of life and marriage, look at the beliefs of the masses and consider if you would truly be closer to free after your glorious convention. I seriously doubt it. The irony of American democracy is that the elites have a greater level of respect for liberty than the governed.

The American Republic has best of it's class levels of reliabillity and features. If it ain't broke, don't 'fix' it.


~~ Whatever it takes
The Problem of Revolution (3.00 / 5) (#125)
by joecool12321 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 01:08:35 PM EST

On the Declaration of Independence

First, I disagree whole-heartedly with the assessment of the Declaration of Independence as a statement of goals for the United States.  First, it was written as a destructive declaration, not a formative declaration.  Second, statements within the Declaration of Independence are wholly ignored or directly contradicted by the Declaration of Independence.  For example, the Declaration speaks of, "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."  But the Constitution makes an amazing decision: we are not going to claim the existence of God or gods.  Third, it ignores other important documents.  For example, the Virginia Declaration of Rights provided the foundation for the Bill of Rights.

In searching for a statement of goals for the new federation, simply examine the preamble to the Constitution.  It states:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Any goals outside the scope of this preamble are unimportant with regards to the American Government.

American "Revolution"

Now, moving onto a much larger issue: was the American Revolution actually a revolution?  There are many arguments to the contrary.  First, Whitehead claims it was not a revolution, but defense against an invasion from another country.

Second, the American Revolution was not a revolution in your sense of the word.  Rather it was a war of independence followed by political reform. The founders of America did not attempt to change the direction of development of America. They freed the development of American society from the limiting nature of British rule.  One argument states that it is Britain revolutionary retreat to Monarchial powers (rejecting the trend away from monarchic rule) that inspired the Colonies to continue the present trend.  Thus Britain is the seat of revolution, not America.

Third, the American Revolution did not flow from a radical change in ideology, nor did it break from the historical past.  It was an evolutionary continuation of changes already existent in the status quo.

Revolution Almost Always Wrong

Whether or not the American Revolution was truly a revolution matters, because revolution is almost always bad.  

The French Revolution: the streets of Paris flowed with the blood of the dead.  The Russian Revolution, under Lenin and Stalin: estimates range from 20 million dead to 29 million dead. The Chinese Revolution: from 44 to 70 million Chinese dead.  

Now, please hear what I'm not saying.  I'm not saying that we should always accept the status quo.  Rather, gradual, evolutionary change is better than revolutionary change.  Look, in revolutions things that didn't need to be broken break while we're fixing things that really need to be fixing.

Let me use an example from one of my favorite professors.  Pretend we're in a lecture hall with 100 people, and I pull out a handgun and start shooting people.  Quick, violent change on your part, to stop me, is required.  However, if you're in the back of the room, and I'm in the front, pulling out an Uzi and mowing down 50 people in order to stop me is a bad idea.

--Joey


but... (none / 0) (#137)
by callicles on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:49:49 PM EST

Let me use an example from one of my favorite professors. Pretend we're in a lecture hall with 100 people, and I pull out a handgun and start shooting people. Quick, violent change on your part, to stop me, is required. However, if you're in the back of the room, and I'm in the front, pulling out an Uzi and mowing down 50 people in order to stop me is a bad idea.

unless he is able to shoot 50 or more before you would be able to get there without using the uzi. which, i think, would be the argument for any revolution.

[ Parent ]

Uless... (none / 0) (#141)
by poopi on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:11:22 PM EST

you felt that it is your duty to do what you can for your fellow humans and decide to rush him at the risk of taking a bullet. Not everyone is a hero, but everyone can be a hero.

-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera
[ Parent ]

A call to action (none / 0) (#168)
by joecool12321 on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 05:15:04 PM EST

If I have a handgun, I'm not going to out-kill an Uzi.  My point is this: violent change isn't intrinsically wrong.  But being immoderate about the change is wrong.  Better someone in the front row jump up and punch me in the face, than the National Guard storm the lecture hall.  Don't break things that don't need to be broken while you're fixing things that really need fixing.

--Joey

[ Parent ]

Sad Knee-Jerking (3.25 / 8) (#127)
by Khedak on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 01:26:29 PM EST

This article is well-thought-out and coherent, in my opinion. Whether its conclusions are valid is something that probably can't be decided without a much deeper analysis, so I won't go as far as to say I agree with it, but it's interesting and thought provoking.

That said, it's frankly amazing how many people are knee-jerking and saying that this article is without merit, while using emotive terms and little or no counterargument. The best refutation I've seen is where someone points out that the amendments process has been operating as designed to correct flaws, and can be used in the future, as opposed to a new Constitutional Convention as the author suggests.

Beyond that, the lot of you are acting like sheep. Is it too much to admit that we shouldn't go to war without a declaration of war, that we shouldn't hold people (American Citizens in particlar!) without due process, or that the Federal Supreme Court has a conflict of interest and overstepped its bounds in ruling on the Florida Elector case? And if you think it's for the greater benefit, please explain. Just because CNN told you so is not a sufficient answer.

I'm saddened by the lack of intelligent argument refuting this author's claims, despite the obvious sentiment against them. It makes me sad because perhaps there is no intelligent counterargument, and perhaps his assertions are true and valid.

Did you read any comments? (2.00 / 1) (#134)
by sasquatchan on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:18:13 PM EST

Sure there were one or two that would qualify as flamebait, but what do you expect when the poster rehashes the 2000 presidential elections and spouts the "Bush ain't president" line. (both sides, get over it, move along, find a new cause, read a book or something).

I'd wager a good majority of the comments were at least as well thought out in their counter-points as the original article.
-- The internet is not here for your personal therapy.
[ Parent ]

WTF? (2.00 / 1) (#196)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 02:09:53 AM EST

...when the poster rehashes the 2000 presidential elections and spouts the "Bush ain't president" line. (both sides, get over it, move along, find a new cause, read a book or something).
How can you possibly ask someone to just get over something that they feel is a major injustice? This isn't something on the order of the store not having your brand of milk anymore, this is something where, even when we don't agree on the particulars of the topic, we should all hope that everyone lives up to the ideals of democracy... first of which is to give a damn about what has gone on and what will go on.

Is less of an attention span really what we need in your opinion? Should everyone be fine with something they see as a breach of the Constitution as long as they have a nice shiny thing to distract them? I hope your real answers are no.



[ Parent ]

looking forward or looking back ? (4.00 / 2) (#205)
by sasquatchan on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 10:37:33 AM EST

That's the important question. Stop being fixated over real/perceived past wrongs and work for the future. Petulant whining does nothing to change the current situation for the better.

You want things changed? Then work for the party/candidate of your choice in the 2004 elections.

Otherwise if all you can bring to the table are complaints, smears and your own opinions but no solutions or suggestions for change (getting rid of the electoral college doesn't really count, sorry), sit down and STFU.
-- The internet is not here for your personal therapy.
[ Parent ]

2004 (2.33 / 3) (#208)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 12:16:32 PM EST

Just out of curiosity, what would be the point in supporting anyone in the 2004 election, if the Supreme Court feels comfortable just appointing whoever they want regardless of the election's actual tallies and existing law on the matter?

That's sort of the point here: if you "just move on" on an issue like this, there's nowhere to move on to.  Nothing that you can do, if you just give them this and forget it, will actually achieve any change since you've decided to just roll over and take it when they decide to do whatever they want regardless.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Oh please. (4.00 / 3) (#221)
by EriKZ on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 02:23:07 PM EST

What utter nonsense.

So, you're saying that if someone wins the next election, by a landslide, the Supreme Court can just swoop in and go "Nope, you loose."

Honestly, the Gore supporters just seem to become more incoherent as time goes on.

You know why we can ignore this problem? Because NONE of our leaders think it was a problem. Do you see Gore out there doing ANYTHING to make sure that sort of thing doesn't happen again?

You know, like when Kennedy bought the election? Nixon went and fixed the problems in the system. Do you see Gore making sure new ballot boxes are being installed? No, you know why?

It's not a problem!

For Pete's sake, if I could go back in time and give Gore the election, I would. Just so I don't have to listen to you guys whine UNTIL THE END OF TIME about it.


[ Parent ]

I dont trust our leaders that implicitly. (2.50 / 2) (#226)
by Khedak on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 03:19:16 PM EST

You know, like when Kennedy bought the election? Nixon went and fixed the problems in the system. Do you see Gore making sure new ballot boxes are being installed? No, you know why?

No, I don't. But the argument that our leaders decide what is and isn't a problem is backwards: the people are supposed to decide and the leaders execute the will of the people. Not the other way around. Our leaders may have a biased point of view, after all, especially when we're talking about the mechanism by which we select those leaders. This seems to be true of the two-party system. We have two parties because the two parties like it that way, and don't see any reason to reform to have more parties. (There've been other discussions on k5 about this, no need to digress here).

By the way, the fact that you keep harping on "Gore Supporters" reveals your own view of the political system: black and white. If you don't agree with how Bush was elected, you must be a Gore supporter. As a matter of fact, I'm not. If the Supreme Court had decided that Gore should be president, as far as I know the same objection would still be valid, that Federal courts have no business determining State electors.

IMHO, both parties are firmly in the pockets of moneyed interests, and are only peripherally connected with the voting populace at large. They're almost like a political class, with two factions that wrestle with each other for dominance, but still work together when it comes to maintaining the power of their class as a whole.

[ Parent ]
That's nice. (none / 0) (#247)
by EriKZ on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 08:45:28 PM EST

No, I don't. But the argument that our leaders decide what is and isn't a problem is backwards: the people are supposed to decide and the leaders execute the will of the people.

Eh, not really. Leaders, you know, lead. Sure they'll listen to the people, or put on a good show of it. But my point was that they're going to do what's in their best interest. In this case coming up with a better voting system.

By the way, the fact that you keep harping on "Gore Supporters" reveals your own view of the political system: black and white. If you don't agree with how Bush was elected, you must be a Gore supporter.

Well, yeah. I've yet to meet anyone who is still upset about this, who wasn't a hard core Gore supporter. So, my attitude comes from my experiences. To sum, you guessed wrong.

If the Supreme Court had decided that Gore should be president, as far as I know the same objection would still be valid, that Federal courts have no business determining State electors.

Look, it sounds like you might have a valid argument. But I have yet to see a concerned effort, by intelligent people, to get the word out there that is a problem. People I read and respect don't think that this is a problem, therefore, I don't think it's a problem.

When I do see anything about this, it's from guys ranting about "Bush STOLE the election! We have no president!" I'm supposed to take these guys seriously?

[ Parent ]

Rein in the hysterics (none / 0) (#231)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 04:13:58 PM EST

Just out of curiosity, what would be the point in supporting anyone in the 2004 election, if the Supreme Court feels comfortable just appointing whoever they want regardless of the election's actual tallies and existing law on the matter?

Debating the merits of the Gore v. Bush decision in a reasonable matter is an important discussion which should continue, but the needless histrionics and hyperbole does nothing but muddy the waters and polarize the debate (in addition to making you silly). I think the Gore v. Bush decision was, if not an exceptionally well rendered opinion, fundamentally sound, but I openly acknowledge there remains significant cause for dissent. Can you do the same?

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
rhetoric (5.00 / 1) (#235)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 04:30:18 PM EST

Not hysterics, but I suppose you could read it that way.  ;-)

I _can't_ say the Gore/Bush decision was fundamentally sound, for the reasons I've given in the article and other comments here: the intervention of the feds was constitutionally unsound and the court illegally accepted two votes from judges with clear conflicts of interest.

The facts of the case are not a matter on which reasonable persons can disagree (after toning down the rhetoric above to "constitutionally unsound" rather than "unconstitutional", which is too much of an assertion to be uncontestable).  The Court's intervention was on _very_ shaky interpretive ground, choosing a vague interpretation against a literal reading of the Constitution, and the two conflicts of interest were both of types explicitly mentioned in the Court's own guidelines as requiring the conflicted judge to recuse.

It is not, I think, unreasonable to expect the Court to feel comfortable intervening on the same basis again if there is no significant protest aginst this instance and there's no more reason to expect them to follow their own conflict of interest guidelines on important cases in the future.  They've done it, and they seem to have gotten away with it.  There's no reason to expect them not to do it again, should they so desire.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Much better... (none / 0) (#241)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 05:54:43 PM EST

I disagree, but your position is much less inflamatory in this form. As I said, the Gore v. Bush decision is certainly debatable as are, for that matter, all Supreme Court decisions -- the law is, after all, not a science but an interpretive framework; this is doubly true of constitutional law.

Have you perchance read Posner's analysis? Although I suspect you would disagree with his position, it probably the most legally astute and comprehensive study of the matter.

On the matter of the conflict of interest, I think you're making way too much of what is essentially a non sequitar.  Lower court justices regularly fail to recuse to themselves on much greater grounds and given the extraordinary importance of this case it would have been irresponsible for any one judge to have recused himself absent a direct conflict of interest. A son who worked for a law firm that represented Bush in an unrelated matter and a wife who worked for an independent private polital group (the Heritage Foundation) do not constitute a direct conflict of interest. The Justices of the Supreme Court are more deserving than nearly anyone else -- in or out government -- of the benefit of the doubt on matters of integrity. I may disagree with a decision, but you'll never hear me questioning the integrity of any justice. Each and every member of the high court is among the absolute best of their profession.  

As for the likelyhood of the court intervening in an election in the future, it is extraordinarily unlikely that the court will have reason to do so again as their jurisdiction was very narrowly construed. This is widely acknowledged even by severe critics of the decision.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
correction (none / 0) (#242)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 06:06:42 PM EST

a law firm that represented Bush in an unrelated matter

Before being called out on this I'll correct myself. Scalia's son was a partner in the same firm as Olson, Bush's attorney in the Bush v. Gore case. Although, keep in mind, most law firms have extremely well defined obligations with respect to "screening" procedures.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
False delimma (2.00 / 1) (#219)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 01:42:10 PM EST

You are putting forward a false delimma. Why can we not look both forward and back? If we harness our frustration over the past and work harder in the future we are indeed doing that. You want us to get over something and use it as motivation. You contradict yourself.

Further, this 'work for change' line is quite different from your original statement that we should "read a book or something".

Sounds more like you just have a personal problem hearing our opinion that an injustice was done. In which case, tough. I'm not whining and neither was the author of the article. We have a legitamate complaint, and if you expect to never hear it again then it is your expectations that stand in need of the most adjusting.



[ Parent ]

There was once a dead horse here (none / 0) (#230)
by On Lawn on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 03:50:39 PM EST

How can you possibly ask someone to just get over something that they feel is a major injustice?

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said the word "feel". There is just feels like there is something wrong doesn't there. You can't put your finger on it...

Its not the decision itself, the supreme court ruled 7-2 that the Goreian election pattern was unconstitutional. And it was, selective re-elections in highly-one sided demographics is just not right. But what happened seems wrong still doesn't it. There is just something that feels wrong.

Its not the decision to stop the counting either. The only people who support that decision are those that feel that the Supreme Court can re-write the constitutional due-dates. Most people agree that the Supreme Court should not write the constitution, lest it be the product of nine people held unaccountable to the populace. But there's still something wrong. You feel it don't you. How can you get over the incling that something is wrong?

Something just feels wrong to some people, and they just can't say it enough. It isn't the conflict of how the populace voted the presidential election, as it is not and hopefully never will be a directly democratic vote (and not until the 1800's was popular president vote even counted. Robin misses this point with two hands and a flashlight.)

So if nothing is wrong, yet we feel like something is wrong how can we resolve it? I don't know, I'm a parent and trying to overcome this with every thing a 2-20 year old comes up with "feels" wrong is very hard. How do you tell a child that "eating only candy is wrong" when they feel that it is right? How you you tell them that bed time at 8:30 is the right thing when they feel it is wrong? If anyone has any suggestions just let me know.

In the mean time, I'll use it as a litmus test to find people who want to talk about the constitution while remaining ignorant of what it says.

[ Parent ]

Fair enough (4.00 / 3) (#145)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:17:55 PM EST

Is it too much to admit that we shouldn't go to war without a declaration of war

While not declaring war -- and what would that mean when no specific state is involved is a matter of debate -- a congressional mandate does exist.

that we shouldn't hold people (American Citizens in particlar!) without due process

It is questionable, taking into account previous SCOTUS decisions, whether a citizen who takes up arms against the government and acts in concert with a hostile foreign entity is entitled to such protections. As it stands now, no one has proposed suspending judicial review.

or that the Federal Supreme Court has a conflict of interest and overstepped its bounds in ruling on the Florida Elector case?

Far better legal analysts than frequent K5 have argued this and disagreed. I, personally, am of the opinion that 20 years from now Dershowitz's analysis will be studied by historians and political scientists, whereas legal scholars will study Posner's analysis.

Just because CNN told you so is not a sufficient answer.

Who made that argument?

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Khedak you tired old elitist (1.00 / 2) (#149)
by On Lawn on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:42:18 PM EST

I thought you name was familiar, and this post you wrote is like deja-vu. But why?

Ahh, yes. Heres a quote from the way-back machine. Remember this one?

in fact, the more people I see knee-jerking and saying Chomsky is an America-hater, without any analysis or coherent argument at all, the more I am impressed by Chomsky's claims.
Ahh yes the good old days. Some very coherent articles were written that day. But becuase you didn't agree with them, they were "knee-jerking". It seems what I wrote then is just as relevant today... ...you show a mind for stereo-typing and over-simplification of those who would disagree with you.

Oh, what you replied has lived on in my mind ever since. It was precious. It was real. It was a tantrum. Let us all remember it again...

Khedak has switched from stereotyping his opposition to rating his opposition 1 for stupidity. Anyone who disagrees with me, feel free to rate me 1 in return.

This was precious becuase you had just spent countless words argueing (as in this post) how much people shouldn't knee jerk-react, and how they should give credible counter arguements.

[ Parent ]

Why fear a redesign? (4.66 / 3) (#138)
by poopi on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:54:00 PM EST

Although the article above has many logical leaps and perhaps errors, it does bring an interesting point to the forefront - a new design spec for a state. It has been a very long time since a genuinely new definition of a state was created. I think the last was perhaps the Communist Manifesto and the Soviet Union as a result of that work (I may be completely wrong, but as I said - "I think" this is the case).

With all the advances the world has seen in the past 50 years, perhaps this is the time for a new defenition of an ideal state. The world opinion has changed on very many subjects (sadly some opinions persist and as such still result in bloody conflict). Lets take this new understatnding, including our new apreciation of communications, biotechnology, sociology and the environment and apply it to the idea of an ideal state. For the longest time the duality of the USSR and the USA provided a comfort zone - allmost everyone could easily choose one as good and one as evil. Now that the duality doesn't exist we need a new way to choose sides.

The Internet can make this new design truly universal! A site devoted to the project could allow many participants from a multidude of locations - geographically, socially, politically, etc. Technology can be used to create a logic that can guide the development of this solution - keeping it pluralistic at the very least. I'm sure something like this already exists. If so, post links. Why be afraid to do that what may make us happier and if not us then we have a duty to do it for our children.

-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera

Spoken like a true Marketer... (3.33 / 3) (#144)
by Skywise on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:15:28 PM EST

Star Wars is so much better now that it's been rethought...

New Coke...

Star Trek: Voyager...

[ Parent ]

No one said the results will be better, but... (4.00 / 1) (#146)
by poopi on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:19:43 PM EST

they will surely be different, and those differences may point out inadequacies of the current system. Finally, at the very least, choosing not to do something because you're likely to fail is the worst kind of defeatism. Marketer - no. Idealist - yes.

-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera
[ Parent ]

I'm not against radical change... (4.33 / 3) (#166)
by Skywise on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 05:08:06 PM EST

But I am leery of it.

On the plus side, in the right hands, you can restructure everything and start with a clean slate.  On the down side, you lose established character and gain completely new problems.

To go back to the tech analogy, this system has already had many bugs worked out of it.  To go to a new system would provide some new features, but an entirely new set of bugs.

For instance, our current state of the art in social system building is the European Union...

[ Parent ]

New system, new bugs. (5.00 / 1) (#171)
by poopi on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 05:58:08 PM EST

I agree a new system usually introduces a whole set of new bugs. However, I beleive that we (humans) have progressed so significantly over the last 100 years that perhaps a redesign is in order. Perhaps all this progress will result in new ways of thinking, which will in turn produce in something radically different. Again, I want to be clear, I am suggesting developing a model based on the ethics, morality and philosphy which are shaped by the scientific and (some) social progress of the last century. It is not a call for a revolution, it is a suggestion that we are ready to rethink the concept of the state. How can we expect to arrive at the same conclusions in the view of all the things that have happend in the last century. I think we will have some interesting new ideas and I for one would like the opportunity to examine them, if only as the subject of a debate.

-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera
[ Parent ]

There is a time-honored tradition here... (4.00 / 2) (#178)
by beergut on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 07:56:46 PM EST

"Let early-adopters find the bugs, and when a patch is available, and has been available for quite a long while, and has proven stable, then maybe we'll think about upgrading."

It's a system that works.

i don't see any nanorobots or jet engines or laser holography or orbiting death satellites.
i just see some orangutan throwing code-feces at a computer screen.

-- indubitable
[ Parent ]

true (4.00 / 2) (#182)
by Arkady on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 09:30:37 PM EST

But not one anyone is allowed to follow, especially not in that bastion of "freedom", the United States.

Yes, provided you have the money, you can establish an enclave that operates by slightly different rules _locally_, but you will most certainly not be allowed to opt out of the state or federal rulesets.  Without being able to opt out of those, yu cannot actually try something new or different in any significant way.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Sort of... (2.50 / 2) (#188)
by Skywise on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 10:53:00 PM EST

Anything NOT specified in the Constitution/Federal Law is open to the states.  Anything not specified in State law is left to the town/man.

Federal law is still fairly open and loose.  State laws can be downright restricting however, depending upon which State you're in.

[ Parent ]

Yeah, and we've seen how well that works! (5.00 / 2) (#238)
by anansi on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 04:42:36 PM EST

It's a trivial research project to run google searches having to do with the constitution being violated. It's routinely violated, and the only way to protest is by hiring a lawyer. I sued a school for violating my 14th amendment rights, and ran out of money/time/interest before they did. (we won, they appealed and won, and we'd have had to appeal again.)

In theory, the law applies equally to all. in practice, it applies to those who can't afford to circumvent or change it.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Yes, it is... (none / 0) (#275)
by Skywise on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 10:05:25 AM EST

You, an individual, are taking on the government.

Yes, it costs money... But there are lawyers and organizations that will do the work pro-bono.  Especially if your cause is "just".  If the service were FREE (and I submit there's NEVER been a government that allowed for free court action) you'd have people spilling out of the woodwork filing frivolous lawsuits...

Speaking of which, how did the school violate your 14th amendment rights?

Section 1? No State shall make a law abridging the privileges of citizens, or deny them their rights without due process of law?

Section 2?  The formula for determining the amount of US representatives?

Section 3? No person who took part in a rebellion can be part of the US government?

Section 4? The US shall not take on debt from parties involved in a rebellion?

Section 5? Congress shall have the power to enforce this amendment?

[ Parent ]

Trading problems (none / 0) (#236)
by anansi on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 04:36:21 PM EST

In designing my own life, I've come to understand that 'problem' is just shorthand for 'dancing with the world'. If all my problems were solved, I'd be dead. Until then, I try only to work the problems on my plate until they get boring, and then hopefully trade them in for more interesting, less fearful problems. If the same problem keeps coming back to haunt me, it's a sure sign that my paradigm is flawed. I've probably gone through as many belief systems in my life as I've worn shoes out.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Civil war vs Reform (4.50 / 2) (#232)
by anansi on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 04:14:33 PM EST

Someone once asked me if I thought it would be advantagious to try to break away from this republic. I thought about it a lot, and eventually replied that to form a breakaway nation to a more ideal specification would be just as much work as a cuop' etat. If you assign all your assets to the goal of reforming the current government, then you know exactly where your opponants are. (they will sometimes pretend affinity, and so subvert the action, I believe this has already heppened several times.)

Breaking away, OTOH, means surrendering the single most valuable asset a government can offer, namely legitimacy. 200-odd years ago, this critter had very shaky legitimacy, and it took much effort to build it. Now it could be argued that it has way too much.

I haven't completely discarded the idea of breakaway states as part of a larger campaign towards a Reformed States of America. (kind of like inThe Postman.) If there were five sub-nations under the federal umbrella, it would put this continent on more of a par with europe. Each of the five subs would then have its own states, congruent to the ones we have today most likely.

Looking at the citizen/representative ratio in Europe vs the US, theirs is lower by about a factor of 10. Having 5 sub-states could improve the situation, without compromising the larger nation's military perimeter.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Keep your experiments to yourself (2.50 / 2) (#174)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 06:26:27 PM EST

Finally, at the very least, choosing not to do something because you're likely to fail is the worst kind of defeatism.

If you're content to keep your theorizing at the level of abstract musings, then, by all means, go right ahead.  On the other hand, a high likelyhood of failure is an extremely compelling reason to forego experimenting with the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Is this it then? (5.00 / 1) (#190)
by poopi on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:04:55 PM EST

Is this the most we'll ever be? The pinacle of human evolution? If so then maybe our civilization is in decline because there's much which is wrong with the world today and I dare you to deny that.

-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera
[ Parent ]

All things in due course (5.00 / 1) (#243)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 06:57:44 PM EST

Is this the most we'll ever be? The pinacle of human evolution?

I guess I'm not inclined to see "human evolution" --  a term I'm not comfortable using -- as necessarily tied to the stucture of the polis.

If so then maybe our civilization is in decline because there's much which is wrong with the world today and I dare you to deny that.

Of course our world fails to measure up to an/any utopian ideal and we have much room for improvement, but I don't believe the nation state, generally, or the western liberal democracy, more specifically, have outlived their usefullness.

What would you like to see achieved that is not addressable by incremental changes to the pre-existing structure?

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Paradigm shift (4.00 / 2) (#257)
by poopi on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 11:28:52 AM EST

I hate to use those words, but I think that you can't progress by increment alone. Sometimes you need a "paradigm shift" to take you to the next level and by definition it means creating a "new" thing. The existing system was created based on the worldview, which existed hundreds of years ago. There were never any concerns about things like the environment (global warming and bio-diversity), overpopulation, weapons of mass destruction and mass communication just to name a few and I think that if we do include these into the equation that the end result would be significantly different from what we have now.

Now, I am not a fool to think that it would be "completely different" but I think that we may be missing some important new ideas because we are so tied to the current system. To draw an analogy from the art world - you can see how impressionism could arise from traditional painting that existed before but it took a Picasso to create cubism and really let loose the world of abstract art. Quickly I'd like to add that although there a few detractors of impressionism there are a large majority, which think that abstract art has done nothing good. Please don't think of the analogy in those terms. But, if you must, I, for one, dislike much of abstract art as I feel that it has moved too much of the art world into the hands of psuedointellectualls and taken out of the minds eye of the common man and although the end result of a new system that can arise from what I propose may have the same effect it can also introduce new ideas that can be incorporated into the present system (which otherwise would never exist if all we were doing is patching).

One more analogy. No matter how wild the automotive world gets with its prototypes, they are still pretty much the same cars we've always known. This is so because no matter what they think of - the car is always propelled by an engine, which turns an axel, which turns the wheels. Now assume that we have invented a method of propulsion/locomotion that doesn't require wheels - would the prototypes be significantly different and would new ideas about the design of the car emerge because we we're freed from the wheel? Even if this method of propulsion ended up being too impractical for mass production is it not possible that these prototypes can spawn design improvements in traditional vehicles, which could never have existed until someone tried to build a car that didn't need wheels?

Perhaps we haven't quite reached the point of wheel-less propulsion in terms of political systems but maybe we have... The concept of the "state" is much more complicated than the concept of the car we may not even know when we can build a "wheel-less" state unless we actually try. Sorry. Very long thought, and I'm not exactly a good writer, I hope I got my point across.

-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera
[ Parent ]

Fair enough (5.00 / 2) (#258)
by cr8dle2grave on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 12:29:05 PM EST

Sorry. Very long thought, and I'm not exactly a good writer, I hope I got my point across.

You've done relatively good job. The problem is you and I have fundamentally different perspectives on the world which are not going to be resolved by hashing out our differences on a weblog. So be it.

One last thing, I'd caution you to consider the many consequences, many of them unintentional, of disrupting a functioning system; change is not, in itself, a desirable thing.  

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Agreed... (5.00 / 1) (#259)
by poopi on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 12:41:10 PM EST

to disagree :-)>

-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera
[ Parent ]

Every revolution begins with an idea (5.00 / 1) (#234)
by anansi on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 04:28:02 PM EST

If you're content to keep your theorizing at the level of abstract musings, then, by all means, go right ahead.

Any CIA analyst will tell you that what begins as 'what if' often gains its own gravitational force and sucks people in until it becomes reality.

On the other hand, a high likelyhood of failure is an extremely compelling reason to forego experimenting with the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

On the contrary, I think it could be argued that choosing not to experiment could be far more dangerous.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Elementary (none / 0) (#244)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 07:04:21 PM EST

Any CIA analyst will tell you that what begins as 'what if' often gains its own gravitational force and sucks people in until it becomes reality.

I don't need a CIA analyst to tell me that ideas have consequences.

On the contrary, I think it could be argued that choosing not to experiment could be far more dangerous.

Than make your argument, but I rather like things the way they are so what do I have to gain?

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Tribe is a product (none / 0) (#233)
by anansi on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 04:21:08 PM EST

The commodities you mention are all avoidable, simply by choosing not to buy them. We have no choice what kind of government we were born under, so if the result of this accident doesn't please me, I am obliged to change it.

The statement, "Love it or leave it" is the most unamerican sentiment I've ever heard voiced.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Non Sequitir (none / 0) (#274)
by Skywise on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 09:52:04 AM EST

You're not obliged to change squat if you like it.

[ Parent ]
no thanks (2.00 / 4) (#158)
by Rahyl on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:04:36 PM EST

Our nation isn't supposed to have a design spec.  That's the unique part of our "system"; there is no system.  If you find the principles of Communism to your liking, go form or find a commune.  You can do that in America.  Prefer living in a community that sticks to religious doctrine?  Fine, go live in (or form) a community that lives under that system.  Want to live in a technology-haven?  Fine, go do it.  Other nations have tried making these "ideal" conditions a matter of legislative policy.  In some instances (Soviet Union, China), when it became obvious that no particular system was going to be liked by everyone, the mass killings began.  In short, there is no "system" that will work, unless you just simply kill everyone that disagrees with you.

An "ideal state" is one that does not push any ideals onto its people but instead allows them to live according to their own.  If some of those people screw things up for themselves, they get to live with the consequences.  The only way for the state to make everyone happy is to start killing people until you only have happy people left, something many countries have done in the past.

[ Parent ]

Whoa..did you ever get me wrong! (none / 0) (#165)
by poopi on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:57:04 PM EST

First, when you say :An "ideal state" is one that does not push any ideals onto its people but instead allows them to live according to their own. that IS an ideal.

Second, when you say If some of those people screw things up for themselves, they get to live with the consequences. does that include someone who chooses to "screw things up" by killing you? No? Then I guess a set of "ideals", from which a set of laws can be generated, IS neccessary.

Finally, creating a set of "ideals", "design objectives" call them what you will, has nothing to do with forcing them on people. What it does have to do with is trying to gauge the consensus of a species on this planet that can serve as guide. It is also likely that it will be a living document because its creators and the evironment from and for which they were created are constantly evolving. We are only now becoming to realize that we are not just Americans, Canadians or any other nationality, but are just one of many species on this planet. As this realization takes on more and more popularity (and I beleive it will) a new guide for morality and ethics will have to emerge and cosequently a new "design spec" for the concept of the state.

-----

"It's always nice to see USA set the edgy standards. First for freedom, then for the police state." - chimera
[ Parent ]

Geeks and politics and/or religion *yawn* (1.28 / 7) (#139)
by David Milton on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 02:55:20 PM EST

Mainly politics here, but religion is in the amendment. Far as I can see, yet another atheist libertarian. Not that this is bad--this is a natural destination for anybody intelligent. Oh, and look most of the replies are from atheistic libertarians. Hmm, let's talk about Linux distributions if we want argument.

Riiight... (3.71 / 7) (#143)
by Skywise on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:13:51 PM EST

First, the United States is not a "system" and was never intended to be such.  Elections are a "system", the *process* of government is a system.  Beyond that is a BELIEF of what the human condition is all about.  The mechanations are meant to fulfill that belief... not vice-versa.

Because of this, you don't realize that your 3 examples hit on 3 distinct, and completely separate areas of implementation.

1> Bush isn't "legally" the president.
This fell outside the entire electoral system.  You would say that this was a flaw in the system design and needs to be corrected.  I would point out that there is no design because it is intentionally omitted.  Nobody in that election was going to be the legal president, even if they had called a re-election.  (Which would've been a nightmare... imagine all the chad counting and re-counting that was demanded and calls of cheating, theft, false ballots, false voting, etc; that went on just for ONE CITY'S recount multiplied by the entire US)  The founding fathers knew about corruption of power (witness the checks and balances in the governmental process) In a situation where you have an almost clear tie (which is what we had), no system process would've been uncorrupted, or handled fairly.  Such a process would have to be left up to the people in charge at the time to take what actions were deemed necessary.  Now look at the situation at the time; You had a Republican legislature and a Democratic Supreme Court in Florida, the legislature was LEGALLY determining the vote, and the Court was LEGALLY smacking them down.  Stalemate.  Both the US Senate and the US Congress were nearly 50-50 Republican/Democrat mix.  Stalemate AGAIN.  Nobody was going to let ANYBODY win.  The US Supreme Court had 2 choices, either let the original vote stand (which had some modicum of substantiality to it), or call a re-election which had a very good chance of being a tied result AGAIN.
(You realize, of course, that the Supreme Court's decision was to deny Gore's request for specific city recounts deeming that unconstitutional because he wanted to change the definition of a legal ballot in the recounts, and that would've been unfair to the voters in the other cities... and that if Gore had called for an ENTIRE state revote using the new parameters, that would've been legal even under Florida law... But he DIDN'T because he thought he would LOSE votes in the other cities if the same rules applied.)
That's not a fault of the United States.  The fact that NOT ONE PERSON DIED over this entire fracas and heated debate and that we're still unifying with each other is a much stronger statement.  (not counting the heart attacks, of course...)

2>  This is the only example that actually applies to your theory and deals with the machinery of law.  The problem is partly greed, but there's also a legitimate reason as well.  At the inception of the Constitution there was no entertainment industry.  Copyright law applied to authors (not publishers, and even then there were very few reprints) and thus lifetime was a more than adequate level of income protection.  Now we have corporations whose entire stock in trade IS ideas.  Where is Disney if they lose Mickey Mouse?  Where is Warner Brothers if they lose Bugs Bunny?  They paid the money for their creation, they have the right to their income.  What benefit is there if Mickey enters the public domain?  On the flip side, Eli Lilly just lost the patent to Prozac (after aboug 15 years) and now you can get it generically.  But its not like the generic companies are taking Prozac out of Eli Lilly bottles and putting them in generic bottles.  Who wants generic copies of Steamboat Willy?  Are those really the same things anyway?
In any event, what you're seeing IS a "fixing" of the constitution at this point.  And Disney's perfectly happy with this fix... you're not (and I'm with you on this one).  But that's still not a fault of the constitution, or the process of law.  What you're seeing is give and take, to push it back the other way, we have to fight and argue and claw our ideas of intellectual property to the forefront...(Or suffer through a whole year of Dinotopia)

3>  The US is not "legally" at war, because there's no legal definition of war with a politlcal faction or ideology (you war with "Canada" not "Canadians").  There is a term for that though... it's called "Genocide".  Want Bush to go around talking about the Genocide of Al-Quaeda?  Nah, didn't think so...
Abdullah al Muhajir (Jose Padilla' self-given name) is being treated as a traitor to the US.  Why?  Because an Al-Quaeda member already in custody fingered him as an Al-Quaeda member whose goal was to detonate a radioactive explosive in a poulated area.  The facts of the story are not in dispute.  He is an Al-Quaeda member, he was fingered by an Al-Quaeda prisoner, and he did fly in from Pakistan with $10000 in cash and plans for the attack.  Now what'd you want the US to do?  Wait until he detonated the bomb before we went after him... just to be sure?  If you give him a civilian trial where they have the word of a prisoner and a piece of paper talking about a bombing and a large sum of cash, he'd get... what, 2 months?  1 month if he was a good prisoner?  (What, he's going to fly a plane into a skyrise?  What proof do you have?  Box cutters?  Get these people out of my courtroom...)  Our entire legal system is based on the belief that the general populace is "good" (or at the very least, better than the government).  That's the whole innocent until proven guilty motto.  But its worthless in the face of in house terrorism, which was MEANT to be allowed in case of a repressive government, so the people could dismantle it.  We have wartime laws that supercede this and handle these situations (more modifications to the original system), but "Genocide" is potentially poison to the US structure as a whole that we just don't want to go there.  Consider: If it's okay for us to develop the legal machinations to selectively and legally target and destroy a political group, what's to stop that system from being used against any politically incorrect group?  So instead of legally codifying the behavior (which is a double-edged sword) you run the government cowboy style.  Now, this is also dangerous because you will trample rights this way.  BUT, the populace retains its abililty to impeach the president, and dissolve the power structure if it goes too far.  Thus the LONG-TERM damage from such a thing ends with this presidency, and isn't weaved into the fabric of the consitution.

My 2 cents anyway.  Yeah, the US is all screwed up and has completely lost its meaning... just like it was in the 60's with the spooks, just like it was in the 50's with all them civil rights marchers, just like it was in the 40's with Hitler breathing down our neck, 30's - Depression, 20's industrialization and unions, The Great War, The mexican war, the Civil War, the Masons, that goofy Whiskey Rebellion...

Bush Election (2.83 / 6) (#150)
by MrAcheson on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:42:45 PM EST

The declaration that the Bush presidency is illegitimate is highly questionable. Firstly, it is by no means certain whether Gore would have won because no definitive manner for vote selection was created. IIRC depending upon the criterion used to decide what was a vote, Bush or Gore could have won. In fact the most strict criterion (which Bush called for) would have led to Gore being the winner, and the most loose (which Gore wanted) would have given the election to Bush. It really is a statistical dead heat.

Secondly each state may select the manner in which their electors are appointed (i.e. who gets to be them and how they vote) under Article II, Section 1. However "The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States." Meaning that saying the federal government has no concern with a state electoral process is bunk. They have specific authority to say when the electors vote.

Also under Article III, Section 2 the Supreme court has jurisdiction over "Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party" (since a federal election would seem to fit this clause) and over "all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution" (since electoral voting is covered by federal law and precidents in terms of time limits etc). So since neither or us are non-constitutional lawyers, I find it highly dubious that you understand legal precident well enough to say whether they did or did not have jurisdiction. Moreover I found no one on the Supreme court rejecting jurisdiction on this case.


These opinions do not represent those of the US Army, DoD, or US Government.


on the question of supreme court jurisdiction (5.00 / 3) (#191)
by NFW on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:16:07 PM EST

I find it highly dubious that you understand legal precident well enough to say whether they did or did not have jurisdiction. Moreover I found no one on the Supreme court rejecting jurisdiction on this case.

Just for the sake of completeness, I quote the first few sentences of the dissenting opinion:

The Constitution assigns to the States the primary responsibility for determining the manner of selecting the Presidential electors. See Art. II, §1, cl. 2. When questions arise about the meaning of state laws, including election laws, it is our settled practice to accept the opinions of the highest courts of the States as providing the final answers. On rare occasions, however, either federal statutes or the Federal Constitution may require federal judicial intervention in state elections. This is not such an occasion.

The federal questions that ultimately emerged in this case are not substantial.


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

You so obviously didn't read the opinions... (5.00 / 1) (#195)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 01:50:09 AM EST

... or at the very least you didn't read them very well.

In addition to the quote that NFW provided, which tatters your third point, I would add another quote from the dissenting opinion that I liked so much as to put on a t-shirt: "Neither Section 5 nor Article II grants federal judges any special authority to substitute their views for those of the state judiciary on matters of state law."

For your future edification I found you a link.



[ Parent ]

Bush lost. Here is independent result. (5.00 / 1) (#252)
by Wulfius on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 04:17:30 AM EST

Read it and weep.

US a democracy? Sure!
The best money can buy!

http://www.bushnews.com/gorebush.htm

.

---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]

People are broken, not the system (3.85 / 7) (#151)
by Rahyl on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 03:46:37 PM EST

"While those of here who are scientists and engineers use this principle of evaluation daily in our work, it's likely that few of us (and probably even fewer in the general population) have applied this principle to the State(s) in which we live."

That's because when it comes to engineering and science, that method of evaluation works just fine.  When it comes to politics, it has no place.  Your idea of what constitutes a "broken" system won't line up with everyone else's idea of a "broken" system.

The way our system of government was designed to work is different in an aspect very few people grasp.  In all other systems, it's the goal of government to try and figure out that magical combination of freedoms and restrictions that has the most "benefit."  Since the definition of "benefit" isn't constant across different populations, different methods for dealing with this inconsistency have been attempted with disastrous results.  It's interesting that you sited two examples that show how disastrous things can become, the Soviet Union and Maoist China, both having engaged in the wholesale slaughter of their own people to take care of inconsistencies in opinion.  In both instances, political leaders believed they had the magical solution to all of their nation's problems.  The only thing left to do was to kill everyone who disagreed.

Our Constitution recognizes the fact that government is simply incapable of constructing a system that will solve all of a country's "problems."  The people themselves, however, are renown for coming up with ways to address "problems."  As a result of recognizing that government cannot do these things, the Constitution specifically limits it's powers in order to discourage it from trying.

Has our government failed?  In the opinion of many (including myself), yes, it has failed, but not in a way you may suspect.  The Constitution is just fine.  The administration, however, is not.  The administration constantly seeks to control more and more of our daily lives trying to solve our "problems" in violation of the Constitution.  For example, they say they want to reduce crime (a problem) by enacting gun control (violation of the 2nd Amendment).  They want to address the "problem" of hate-crimes by passing laws that make thoughts crimes (violates 1st Amendment) and treat some groups of people better than others (violates equal protection under the law).  They want to have more and more control over what medical options you have available (no jurisdiction for this exists in the Constitution).  This list could go on and on.

Replacing our form of government or our Constitution won't solve any problems.  Getting rid of the administrations that are abusive of the peoples' rights (both sides of the isle) would.  Never in the history of our nation have any "problems" ever been solved by government.  We still have poverty.  We still have crime.  Our education system still cranks out graduates who don't have basic, fundamental skills.  The issue here isn't the failure of a system but rather the failure of the people.

The government cannot solve your problems.

YOU can solve your problems, provided the government does not restrict your rights.

Exaggeration (none / 0) (#214)
by epepke on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 01:09:08 PM EST

Never in the history of our nation have any "problems" ever been solved by government.

People say this a lot, but I think it's at best an exaggeration. I can think of a number of problems the Federal government has solved. The most obvious is widespread nutritional deficiencies in the South, which was solved pretty much by mandates on adding vitamins to flour and milk. (You do still see cases of pellagra, but people don't tend to die from it.) There's also rural electrification and the interstate highway system, which worked pretty well.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Shrodinger's prison cell (3.50 / 2) (#229)
by anansi on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 03:45:53 PM EST

You've got a prisoner in a cell, his ethical capacity is unknown. Break the cell open and mindprobe them, and you'll see if he was imprisoned unjustly.

Before the cell is broken open, is it possible to determine if it was a fair cop? As with the kitty, you must accept that such boxes are permissable in the first place.

I think anyone who says that people are broken, really means that most people are broken, just not the speaker. The speaker assumes that his audience agrees with the assertion, and so belongs in that catagory of people who aren't broken.

I've been in jail, and I've been in a mental institution. There is nothing wrong with my mind, and I have hurt no one. From my point of view, the system is broken, not me.

Which point of view gives the citizen more power to change her world?

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

interesting article (4.40 / 5) (#159)
by SocratesGhost on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:08:39 PM EST

i'm going to have to consider this a bit more, but what you say is thought provoking. the main concern that I have with it is that you have not fully established how the specifications fail the statement of goals.

For example, if you say that the constitution was ratified without the just consent of the governed, it could be argued that the mores of today alter what it means to have that consent justly derived when compared to the mores of the 1770's. Just because women did not have the right does not automatically imply that it was not justly derived. We still do not allow sixteen years old children to vote; perhaps later generations will say that we have failed them. It's a difficult and futile thing to hold previous generations to modern standards.

I think a more interesting case where you can say that the U.S. failed our goals was during the civil war. There were no provisions at that time for allowing states to leave the Union. It could be interpreted then that the Federal government used its military might to force a group of people to be governed by an authority that they did not recognize as legitimate.

The greatest concern that I have about your piece is its shortsitedness. All of the above incidents are drawn from the past 10 years, and at least two of them are ongoing, evolving affairs. It is difficult to say for certain that the goals of personal life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are greatly harmed by these events. It may turn out, in the next 5 years that the DMCA will be challenged in the Supreme Court and be found unconstitutional. For the most part, you completely ignore judicial review which is arguably what gives the system integrity. In other words, you forgot to ask whether quality assurance was adequate.

While there are certainly instances that I think many will agree that we wish were better, if the US were a car, it has reliably gotten us from point A to point B. I don't feel my life, liberty or pursuit of happiness threatened by any of the events you cited. For certain, there are times when the US makes a mistake. Cars get flat tires too. However, it's more important to be aware of the ability of the government to get back on track after having caused any discomfort. That's the true nature of the system. It doesn't promise success, but it does work to correct its failures.

Also, your argument is clearly one of strict construction, and I've never been too warm to that line of thinking. But I like what you are doing here.

-Soc
I drank what?


changing times (3.00 / 3) (#209)
by Arkady on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 12:48:19 PM EST

You're certainly correct that (for the most part) I am applying my own 200+ years later perspective to the documents.  On the ratification issue, though, I did point out that the Constitution was never adopted by ballot even of those who it viewed as particpants (i.e. propertied white males).  On that point, it still falls down even by the strictest, and most culturally apprpriate, interpretation of the Declaration.

I coose three examples from current events because, as I mentioned below, I was already pushing 5 pages and K5 isn't (or hasn't been) very open to anything much longer than that.  The Civil War would have made an excellent example,as would the internment camps during WWII or the military suppression of the early labor movement.  What I needed for examples, though, were cases which were currentenough that I wouldn't have to give a complete background tutorial in the facts and issues since I can expect that many readers will already be familiar with them.

I did ignore the judicial review aspect, since its slowness means its not a useful preventative measure.  The fact that there are no _personal_ penalties for a ruler violating the Constitution (in that all a judicial review will do is repeal an unconstitutional law or action without penalizing the people involved) and the fact that the rulers are specifically exempted from the laws also mean that judicial review is not an effective mechanism for forcing the State to stay to spec.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Dynamic Systems (3.66 / 3) (#162)
by xee on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 04:29:09 PM EST

The US Government, by design, is a dynamic system. It was designed to adapt to the environment by modifying its own structure. It is, if you will, a feedback loop.


Proud to be a member.
It's called a constitutional convention (4.16 / 6) (#167)
by anansi on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 05:14:35 PM EST

The same provisions for an amendment in article 5 also apply to a redesign of the constitution itself. An amendment can be passed that seeks to reorder the entire document, realign the branches of government, and codify the newer constitutional ideas that currently are only enshrined in supreme court decisions. If it could be pulled off, it would do democratically what the shrub administration is trying to do by fiat

Needless to say, everyone I've ever talked to about the idea thinks it would be a calamnity, that "the other side" would stand to gain more than their own side. That's the kind of wall-of-fear succesfully built by J.Edgar Hoover's FBI, Joe McCarthy's negative-sum political pandering, and the whole corperate deregulation fiasco. Despite the kind of character assasination that proponants might risk, I think it's a worthy goal for three reasons.

  1. Freedom of speech and intellectual property needs to be re-evaluated in a sane and consistant manner, for reasons that have been thrashed out elsewhen on K5.
  2. The ecological life support of this continent needs to be safeguarded with the same stringency as our military borders. Related is the idea that american citizens shall have informed consent before being experimented on by government/medical/military authorites.
  3. A corperation should not have the same legal rights as an individual citizen. Being immortal, it is not subject to the same limitations as a person, its thought processes do not follow a natural person's thought process, and it has a different way of thinking about ethical constraints. The body of law governing corperate behavior needs to be far more stringent than that governing the individual person, and the people need the power to deny a company permission to do business just as we need the power to own gold and weapons.
I think historical forces compel the concerned citizen to act, the main question to my mind is what degree of opposition that action should take. Just as propaganda runs from white to grey to black, I divide such action into three degrees of severity:

  1. Actions within the system, breaking no laws

    This has the advantage of being easy to explain, publicize, and teach. No official justification for this action is necessary, although common sense is required. (for instance, there is no shred of evidence that the Branch Davidians were engaged in anything illegal. The state considered them dangerous, and that was enough to sanction them. The same is true of the vast majority of communist party activity and labor union activism, despite what 'official accounts' would imply.)

  2. Nonviolent Illegal action

    Setting aside for a moment the definition of nonviolence, this catagory can be broken down further into civil disobedience (flagrantly flaunting the law for propaganda purposes) and enlightened self interest. <tonguestate="CHEEK"> This would mean breaking the law as individuals, in the same manner that corperations routinely break the laws set up to govern them. In a sane society, this catagory of behavior would simply not exist. An action would have to be proven violent (detrimental to other humans) before it could be made illegal.

  3. Violent action, both legal and illegal

    I'm reluctant to comment on this catagory, since I've sworn not to engage in it myself. Yet I'm reluctant to issue a blanket condemnation of all so-called violent behavior. One thing I learned at the WTO prtests in Seattle, was that entrenched corperate ideologies are incapable of distinguishing violence to an instituion, from violence done to an individual person. Trying to dismantle the CIA (just as a random example) via 'nonviolent direct action' would undoubtedly cause human casualties in the same order of magnitude as would a direct frontal assault. And from the CIA's point of view, any grass roots constraints placed on its constituency, represents a valid cointelpro target. That these relationships with its constituency have no constitutional validity is of little consequence.

    For the record, I define violence as being measured in its effects, not its intentions. That's a much more stringent definition than many would-be 'fight club' nihlist-anarchist types want to cop to, and I respect their right to have different opinions, while warning them to stay the hell away from me.

Given the terrific example set by the open-source community, I hunger for an open-source political revolution that advocates only legal nonviolent action, discusses without endorsing illegal nonviolent action, and condemns any violent action. This could really give the black hats something to fear. For the record, I'd be open to participate in such a project, as long as I wasn't asked to do anything more computer-geeky than bug reports.

If my fingers weren't tired, I'd drive home two more points:

  1. It is corperate self interest that has resulted in the current mess, not any flaw in the american experiment with democracy. So it's the limited liablity corperate fist that needs to be targeted, not the glove that is government.
  2. Every important military dicovery in the last 5,000 years of human history also has its counterpart in the nonviolent political realm. Don't be suprised to see military language incrasingly blended into political speech. It's actually a sign of more civil, less lethal behavior on the part of authorities, despite the admittedly creepy orwellian undertone.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"

What about those of us... (3.50 / 2) (#169)
by Skywise on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 05:36:56 PM EST

Who *like* the corporate culture the way it is?

What if *we* got it changed so that corporations treatment as citizens was fully codified so that the two were indistinguishable AND they were protected from "frivolous" lawsuits...

In other words, what if the new order didn't come out in your favor... Still not a calamity in your opinion?

Corporations are a NATURAL outgrowth of any government.  Power will naturally consolidate, and those power brokers deemed necessary to the functioning of the body WILL be protected by the government.  Government people don't just protect "big business" because they get lots of money, but because there is a vested interest to the health of the nation/state as a whole...  But yes, they do get lots of money, too...

(And just for the record, I'm not for the current corporate culture, but I like the way the government is setup to handle corporations... the trick is divorcing the power distributions the corporations give to the government so that decisions would be based on honest judgements, not money...)

[ Parent ]

The difference between governments and companies.. (3.66 / 3) (#175)
by anansi on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 07:16:27 PM EST

...Is their constituencies. Democratic governments have a mandate to benefit all their citizens, not just the white males with money. Corperations only need answer to their stockholders. If the "wisdom of the marketplace" is the only kind of cognition that matters to you, then there's no need to act, we have exactly the kind of governance most friendly to your rich white male interests.

The acid test of a government is how well it serves its constituency. Your caveat is interseting...

the trick is divorcing the power distributions the corporations give to the government so that decisions would be based on honest judgements, not money...)

How is a corperation supposed to measure 'honest judgement', if not in terms of cold hard cash? A corperation is excluded from considerations of justice, it only needs to make the bucks.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Dickens said it best... (3.50 / 2) (#176)
by Skywise on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 07:30:31 PM EST

Mankind should be our work...

You misunderstand corporations.  They're a lot more than White Man's world ivory towers.  It's a very nice pop-culture reference inspired by MTV, but it's a load of BS.

There are MANY black-owned corporations... heck, you can even incorporate yourself...

A corporation must worry about the bottom line... not necessarily profits (though you won't learn that in any American business school)  Profits are necessary for reinvestment and growth.  (For instance, a drug company needs to earn profits to afford better equipment to make better drugs...)

But profits for the sake of greed is... well... greed, and nothing more.

Now, you DO see that greed, as part of the big international conglomerates.  I'll agree with you there, and some are bad.  (Enron)  But some of those big conglomerates pay back into society (Bill Gates just dumped BILLIONS of dollars into child welfare and healthcare in Africa... what was the last country that did that?  What was the last country in AFRICA that did that?)  SBC communications (a large phone company in the US) encourages its members to take a day off (with pay) once a month and do some social work as well as donate large sums of money to causes...

At one time corporations were happy to show little to no net profit, because net profits meant much higher taxes.  The best way to expand was (and still is) to do the best work you've chartered yourself to do.

Now is that greed a reflection of the corporations now, or are the corporations reflecting *us* as a human species now?


[ Parent ]

Nonprofit do-gooding (2.00 / 1) (#225)
by anansi on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 03:19:04 PM EST

Now, you DO see that greed, as part of the big international conglomerates. I'll agree with you there, and some are bad. (Enron) But some of those big conglomerates pay back into society (Bill Gates just dumped BILLIONS of dollars into child welfare and healthcare in Africa

I've worked in the nonprofit sector. I've noticed how there's never enough money to pay the employees, there's never enough money to fix the wiring, but there's always enough money to shmooze the next potential doner.

I've come to the conclusion that it is the nonprofit sector's mandate to sweep up after the for-profit sector while staying out of its way, and diverting voter's attention from their own potential power. There's nothing that nonprofits can do, that corperations can't do better at profit's expense.

Bush Sr. wants a thousand points of light, because there's far too much dirt under the carpet to survive the scrutiny of a single powerful beam.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

so? (none / 0) (#260)
by Skywise on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 12:59:49 PM EST

And this is different from governments how?  (Including those who don't use capitalism as their basis for government.)

[ Parent ]
individual vs. corporate law (none / 0) (#187)
by NFW on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 10:44:41 PM EST

[Nonviolent Illegal action] would mean breaking the law as individuals, in the same manner that corperations routinely break the laws set up to govern them.

Could you give some examples?


--
Got birds?


[ Parent ]

violence defined, Nonviolent Law breaking (2.00 / 1) (#222)
by anansi on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 02:40:33 PM EST

Some easy examples have to do with drug culture. I won't turn down a pipe with marijuana in it at a social gathering, unless I'm not in the mood for pot, or I'm trying to stay unaltered for some reason. I've taken hallucigens a few times, and it's taught me enough about myself that I'm convinced the laws about it are wrong. Flaunting the drug laws are easy for me to do since I'm purely a consumer. (white male middle-class-appearance) It's like jaywalking, unless law enforcement happens to be looking my way, I have no reason to expect that I'll be caught.

As I write this though, I know there's something else, and to sidestep it would be a cheat. There's a catagory of action a la _Fight_Club_, where the activist runs a very real risk of being murdered or accidentally killed. Many would perceive it as violent, so it's controversial. I'm reluctant to talk about it openly for fear that some script-kiddie will get ideas and get some people hurt. But here goes...

Conventional civil disobedience can be thought of as theater in which the audience is the entire world. While its goal of reaching the universal conscience makes it essentially unstoppable, there are expensive countermeasures that are very effective if the adversary can afford it. They can buy out every communication channel into the drama stage. A direct action against logging, for example, is only effective if the media is interested enough and sympathetic enough to send a corrispondant. And any activist who's seen themselves on TV knows what clever editing can do to twist one's words.

If the activist is able to view the drama in the same way that a television journalist does, then s/he might make much different choices as how and when to stage that drama. In _Zodiac_, Neil Stephenson depicts law breaking activists who are fully prepared to cooperate with the fire department, while still opposing police and company security. They have super VHS tapes to give to media folk, making it easier for the media to see them as equals. By including media and fire department, by bringing them into the joke, they are able to focus their message and their outrage in a much more constructive direction.

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote the _Dream_Park_ series that depicts the use of disneyland imagineering in a highly illegal, yet morally effective way according to the story that they're trying to tell It's a theater with an audience of one, cast of dozens. Satisfying to the reader, but ethical? I can't make that call.

When WTO came to seattle, I saw the broken glass at street level, and had the same reaction as every SUV-driving suburbanite in the area: punk kids looking for attention. But I looked up at the skyscrapers and yearned to break some very specific windows. Information packets had been widely distributed to activists, with the addresses of WTO sponsers listed. A little more research could have yielded which floors had these companies on them, and a little more research after that would have told me which picture windows belonged to the head CEO in each corperation. Imagine if the sun had risen on December first with no street-level broken glass, but 5 or 6 windows punched out in strategic spots. Heinlein's idea in Starship Troopers was to take the conflict away from general meyham, and make it as personal as a punch in the nose.

It should go without saying, but I'll cover my ass anyways and say that this was in the context of WTO. In a post 9-11 context, such an action would be completely misconstrued as death threats most likely, and wuld achieve no political gain whatsoever. You asked for examples, that's what I was thinking.

I'll even do the obligatory, This post is for purely informational purposes and is not meant to advocate any particular course of action.

I promised a definition of violence, so here's my best shot: Violence has occured to the extent that human individuals have been permanantly impaired in their ability to self-actualize. Doing violence to an institution then, has some very chaotic ethical questions. A Big Tobacco company that was pushed out of business would result in economic turmoil in local agricultural counties. Assasinating the character (and leadership) of the Black Panthers arguably meant that poor black kids grew up hungrier, and convinced that they could never expect a fair shake from white people. It shames me to know that my government made that happen.

That's as much as I can think about it right now. My brain hurts.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

What are you evaluating? (3.66 / 6) (#170)
by startled on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 05:50:59 PM EST

You list the Declaration of Independence and Federalist papers as statements of goals, but all of the flaws you discuss are as relates to the Constitution. That's arguing petty implementation points instead of the big picture. If the Constitution were being repeatedly ignored by the ruling body it created, but that body was going an amazing job of hitting the goals of the DoI and Federalist Papers, that's a relatively minor problem. OTOH, even if the Constitution were being followed to the letter but we were being horribly oppressed, that would be a much larger problem.

So while you say "there is a reason to evaluate the current implementation, however, and that is to see whether it follows the specification well", I disagree. Or rather, there may be some small reason to evaluate it, but a much more pressing matter is whether the current implementation is doing a proper job of reaching the goals.

Once you decide the implementation isn't hitting its goals, then you need to see if it's following the specification, in order to see if it's a problem with the basic strategies of the spec, or simply a failure to follow it (which may also be a fault of the spec, but in a different way).

For this new evaluation, the means by which the president was chosen is not important; whether the copyright term was constitutionally granted doesn't matter; and the authority to detain Jose Padilla is not an issue. Rather, the issues are much more obvious flaws. Are the many being taxed, and their money given to an elite few? Yes. Is the pursuit of "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" being actively and intentionally hindered by the governing body? Yes. Are the governed being treated equally before the law? No. Your three chosen examples do a decent job of showing that the Constitution is not being followed, but an even better job of showing that the government is playing traitor to the principles of this country's founding.

Extreme Government (4.28 / 7) (#172)
by Scrymarch on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 06:14:13 PM EST

Well, you've ignited two violent reactions in me, which is impressive since they're the same emotions generated by one of your earlier stories.

I have a great affection for the concept of conscious and continuous redesign of government by its users.  Unlike some other posters, I don't think that working with people and political compromise makes government unlike architecture or software, or the need for design any less.  (Plug: Government Design Patterns in my k5 diary, comments welcome.)

With other posters, I disagree with your statement of requirements and specification for the United States, and your evaluation of it as fundamentally broken.  The US constitution is a masterwork of 18th century statecraft and a tremendous gift to the world.  

It could still be improved.  It has already endured a fair degree of maintenance over two centuries, as you and others point out.  It could use some refactoring.  The high rate of incumbency and the ubiquity of first past the post voting are two things I'd address.

I wonder idly about the prospects for Extreme Government.  Legislators work closely with people, delivering what they want but ensuring good design is maintained and alerting them to the potential problems of reckless decisions.  The principles of Do The Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work and You Ain't Gonna Need It are particularly appealling; also Refactor Mercilessly and Blame Yourself First.  My instincts are against rapid government change though; I think constitutions benefit from a lot of friction.  (This is besides my reservations about Extreme Programming in general.)

How, though, does one unit test legislation?

Fudentmentaly Wrong How? (4.00 / 1) (#192)
by FatHed on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 11:47:50 PM EST

I thought it was pretty right, I'll plug Howard Zinn's book, "The People's History of the United States..." Howard Zinn is a history professor at Harvard I believe, simply read it.
Intelligence is a matter of opinion.
[ Parent ]
Wrongness (3.75 / 4) (#245)
by Scrymarch on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 07:39:04 PM EST

America has the longest continuous tradition of freedom and prosperity in the world today; it basically invented modern democracy and industrial capitalism, and is still the flagship for both.  Today its government is awash with incumbents, money politics and kneejerk populism.  Yesterday it was awash with aristocrats, back-room deals and handwashing isolationists.  The day before that it was awash with tyrants and slavers.  The modern system of relatively transparent deals and universal suffrage is a definite improvement.

Comparing it against a mythical ideal state and declaring it broken from the outset just raises my ire.  Honestly, the rich world has never had it so good.  State power could be better managed, but not because a milestone for freedom was "fundamentally broken".  It's like sitting in a Model T and cursing Henry Ford because you can't drive to the moon.

(Another government design aphorism: The price of liberty is eternal maintenance.)

[ Parent ]

Immigration, the Prison System and USA's breakup (2.75 / 4) (#186)
by nomoreh1b on Tue Jun 11, 2002 at 10:39:46 PM EST

The two issues that have convinced me more than any other that the US is broken is the current situation in US prisons and immigration.

One major scenario on how a restructuring the United States may come about is expressed in Civil War II: The coming breakup of the United States.

"The United States is another large, multiracial society where weapons are widely available and that has a tradition of internal violence second to none. ... America's current economic decline must be halted; or else one day the crime that is rampant in the streets of New York and Washington D.C. may develop into low-intensity conflict by coalescing along racial, religious, social, and political lines, and run completely out of control."

Martin van Creveld in his book, The Transformation of War, pages 195-196. Prof. van Creveld teaches at Hebrew University and is one of the world's leading scholars of military history.

Now ask yourself, given that situation existed before 911, ask what might forces threatened by actions of the US might do when they have lots of money and motivation?

Care to elaborate? (none / 0) (#228)
by anansi on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 03:31:25 PM EST

The immigration link seems broken, and the prison system link talks about rape. What, in your opinion, is broken about these institutions?

I might add these to my own list.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Constitutional Brake Job? (4.28 / 7) (#194)
by thelizman on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 12:35:54 AM EST

Seeing now that the American Constitution is a very poor specification of the State's design goals, there may seem to be no point in evaluating how well the specification has been implemented and indeed, from that perspective, there is not.
And here is where things fall apart. The Constitution is not a "specification of design". Such a rigid document would not stand the test of time. It is precisely the vaguery of that document which allows it to be adapted to changing paradigms of cultural, political, and international institutions.
The federal Supreme Court ruling that the first certification was valid, as not doing so would leave the state at risk of having no certified Electors, clearly overstepped its Constitutional authority
This is not only incorrect, it is a complete misrepresentation of Bush vs. Gore. For starters, the Supreme Court of the United States of America held jurisdiction precisely because it was a Federal election, and because the legislature was violating the Constitution.

Make no mistake, and be very clear on this, for you are propagating a fallacy, and a dangerous one at that. When Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked Ted Olsen (Bush's Lawyer) how it is that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction, he replied "The federal question arises out of the fact that the Florida Supreme Court was violating Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, and it was conducting itself in violation of Section 5 of Title 3 of federal law."

The lower courts, particularly Florida Supreme Court, acted in a manner not consistent with the laws of Florida, and particularly overstepped their bounds in countermanding the procedures set forth by the Florida Legislature.
The Constitution gives to the State the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries". As many of you are undoubtedly aware, Congress passed this mark many years ago, and modern copyright and patent legislation has been demonstrated by many researchers to suppress, rather than promote, "progress".
This is a point of questionable merit. In order to justify it, you have to show unequivocally how patent and copyright legislation has "suppressed the promotion...". While individual cases can demonstrate this, patent and copyright law still overwhelmingly protect the originators of arts and sciences and secures their right to profit from it therein.
The absence of any declaration of war, as described in the Constitution, should make this quite obvious. That the U.S. is involved in an unconstitutional military engagement, demonstrated by the ordering of the military into action by a man who (even were he Constitutionally President) would not have the Constitutional authority to do so without a declaration of war.

This leaves a situation in which a U.S. citizen is being held on suspicion of planning an action, with no evidence, by the military.
The Constitution in no way ascribes the manner in which war may be declared, and likewise does not require a formal declaration of war for the initiation of military actions. In the case of Jose Padilla, he falls under the ospices of Article III Section 3, Clause 1: Treason. He was "adhering to [our] Enemies".

As to the Constitutional Authority of the President to hold a person without trial, a closer examination of precedents under habaes corpus will show that, as much as we don't like it, the President may do it.
It seems clear that America is long overdue for a comprehensive redesign.
I simply disagree with this because it assumes the original design is flawed. In most, if not all of your arguments, you seem to be arguing that because our government has evolved significantly from its original and intended implementation, that it is broken. Rather, I believe that it is in need of maintenance. As an engineer, you would never expect your machinations to function exactly the same after 200 years as when they were created. Some changes in parameter may indicate a need for refinement, but does not necessarily indicate a flawed system.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
Hah! Wanker boy democrat trolls! (2.50 / 2) (#203)
by mveloso on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 08:46:38 AM EST

The USA works, mostly - that is the only true way to measure the design's success.

The US is, and was, a grand experiment to see if it was possible for a country to exist who's priority was the health and welfare of its citizens. It has been, by any measure, mostly successful.

Evaluating it by looking at the original design goals/specs is silly, because when you do something that's never been done before things change.

Ha (3.33 / 3) (#237)
by miguel on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 04:42:23 PM EST

If you actually believe that the priorities of the U.S. government are the health and welfare of its citizens, then i'm sorry but you're naive.

Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, "See, if it weren't for the government, you wouldn't be able to walk." - harry browne

I want you to be free
[ Parent ]

Ha Ha (none / 0) (#264)
by Skywise on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 01:37:05 PM EST

Name me ONE government that puts the health and welfare of its citizens as its priority...

People are only one thing to any government.  A labor resource.

[ Parent ]

No. But it's not a matter of "perfection&quo (3.00 / 1) (#207)
by Skywise on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 11:54:17 AM EST

Everybody wants the perfect universe.  But everybody has a different interpretation of what that means.

Hitler made a "perfect" society.  For the Germans.  He got Germany out of a huge depression, and within 20 years catapulted them from a war-depressed near-third-world country into a super power.  We still enjoy the benefits of that development today (jet engine technology, rocket technology, eugenics, mass-production methods, all spurred on by German scientists for der fuerher.  Our space program comes in large part from German scientists working on the V2 that we gave amnesty to after WW2).

And where Hitler was successful, there are many other "benevolent leaders" who have performed radical changes that led to disaster (Castro, many banana republics, etc).

So it's not that we're against human societal evolution, but just that we don't necessarily trust the people behind the new ideas...

False! (none / 0) (#251)
by Wulfius on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 04:07:18 AM EST

Hitler DID NOT improve the economy.

The improvements are largely attributed to
the previous government unpopular policies which included 'belt-tightening'.

Hitler got in to the office riding a wave of dissatisfaction against those policies.
Nevertheles, it did not stop him claiming credit.

---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]

False! (none / 0) (#262)
by Skywise on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 01:21:49 PM EST

The Economy was stagnated because of financial restrictions imposed on Germany after WWI (War reparations... a common technique used to keep an enemy down for hundreds if not thousands of years).  Hitler led/was part of the group which demanded that the reparations be lifted.  They were.  From there, Hitler gained leadership and instituted mass production techniques like the Volkswagon which further developed Germany's economy.  After that he stole the money from the Jews, and then from the countries he took over to continue to feed the enormous costs of the war ecomony...

Hitler's slaughter of the jews, or the gestappo tactics isn't what scared the entire world.  These things have happened, and are happening now, but its much easier to teach that.  What scared the hell out of the world is that Hitler proved that the industrial revolution, man's peak, could be perfectly enacted and executed, and would lead to fantastic technological and artistic breakthroughs in the development of mankind...but at a cost of man losing his humanity.  And the Germans had no qualms about that.

[ Parent ]

Cruft... (4.00 / 4) (#216)
by tankgirl on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 01:18:13 PM EST

The most recent set of comments I've read on this article lead me to believe that people are missing it's point.

Saying "things change over time, and that's good" as an argument to this article seems silly. Things changed, and we adapted to it, these 'adaptations' have caused/allowed us to acculmulate cruft.

It seems that, everytime we fix something now, we end up breaking something somewhere else that seems unrelated, but turns out not to be because our system is a kludge of 'features' added as needed. You can't just keep adding to the top of something (software or government) and expect efficiency. We've bogged the system down, and it's showing. A point which most of us seem willing to admit, but we're unable to implement a solution to it, because of sentimentality.

I think Americans would be able to resolve alot more if we were able to approach this topic from a logical standpoint, instead of an emotional one.



just my $.02
jeri.

"I'm afraid of Americans. I'm afraid of the world. I'm afraid I can't help it." -David Bowie
Catastrophe Theory implies... (2.00 / 1) (#223)
by anansi on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 02:59:32 PM EST

(at least to me) that when too many arms have been sewn onto Frankentstien, the system will become dramaticaly unstable and collapse into a simpler form. As conscious individuals with a vested interest in the end result, we have an obligation to choose whether that simpler form will be simple like a desert, or simple like a well designed tool.

In design, simplicity is never arrived at simply, it evolves out of much agonized skull sweat.

We've bogged the system down, and it's showing. A point which most of us seem willing to admit, but we're unable to implement a solution to it, because of sentimentality. I think Americans would be able to resolve alot more if we were able to approach this topic from a logical standpoint, instead of an emotional one.

I would argue that it's not sentimantality, but fear that keeps the emotional content high and the cognitive content low. Every time anyone has mounted any serious challenge to the system, the system has fought back with a terrifying ferocity. Before one can speak openly about these things, there is the memory of the internmant camps, McCarthyism, the labor wars, and even the civil war.

For that matter, consider the challenge posed by Christ to the authorities of Rome. I think that meme has been propigated as an example of what happens to people with a better idea, more than it's suceeded as a message that god gives a shit about its creations.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

This is very emotional ground (4.33 / 3) (#248)
by 0xA on Wed Jun 12, 2002 at 10:49:45 PM EST

I think Americans would be able to resolve a lot more if we were able to approach this topic from a logical standpoint, instead of an emotional one.

Whenever a discussion on these subjects comes up with people from the US it always get heated and emotional.

I don't live in the US, many of my friends and relatives do. I have noticed a very real difference in the way people feel about instruments of government in the US compared with elsewhere. Many of my fellow Canadians probably couldn't tell you anything substantive about our Charter of Rights and Freedoms or how it came to be, you can't really say that about the US. It only happened in Canada 20 years ago too.

In the US concepts like the meaning of the constitution are taught heavily in schools, feature prominently in entertainment and are constantly referred to in discussions about politics. I don't think I've heard a reference to the Canadian Charter in 5 years, anywhere.

The point I'd like to make about this tends to set people off. I haven't ever been able to make it well without a flame war but I will try again. I'd ask that you consider it carefully before you tell me I'm an ass.

Have you perhaps done this to yourselves? You asked why people can't approach the subject in a logical manner, I don't think it is possible. The US constitution is almost a religious icon, it's influence permeates everything. America is great because it is democratic. America is great because of freedom. America is great because of the constitution. If you take a document and assign that kind of significance to it, make it the single thing that gives your country it's identity, you attach so much emotion to it. There is no way you can address a change to it without people going insane. As soon as you start trying to change it, you end up changing the thing that gives people their self image and values.

The bloody thing has been put on a pedestal unlike anything I can think of. Nobody will ever be able to touch it again without an amazing circus. Maybe that's a good thing, I don't know. Seems kind of silly to me.

[ Parent ]

Constitution is fundamentally broken. (3.50 / 2) (#249)
by bitgeek on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 02:18:55 AM EST

The constitution is fundamentally broken as you indicate. And also, thank you for bringing up these issues in the most concise and accurate method I've yet seen. Seizure of property without compensation, and lack of explicit limits on government power are two of the most serious errors in the constitution. But more serious, as you point out, is that the Constitution provides no effective-- note *effective*-- method for adjusting its errors. Those in power will act to maintain tehir power over the will of the people... And, it bears repeating, we live in an age where two nearly identical political parties have crafted laws and rules to restrict and prevent any other parties from competing with them. Thus, we are no longer a democracy, we are a one party republic. (Not to mention one that has just had its second coup in 30 years.) A constitutional convention IS the answer. It may well be ignored, but if such a document is crafted, and promoted, and gets signatories, it will become a beacon of independance around which large numbers of people can rally. And this consitution that I'm describing, must be one that will attract those who dislike the current system because it is not christian enough as well as those who dislike it because it is not free enough-- libertarians, greens and ralph reed. Assuming all three are rational (all three would agree to protection for freedom of religion, for instance) the result will be a document more powerful than the current one -- and attracting significant attention. The only question is, are those parties noble enough to put the future of our constitutional democracy above their petty short term political goals?
-- Between 1982 and 1988 US Income tax revenues doubled from approx. $500 Billion to $1 trillion due to Reagans tax cuts.
Un-American! (1.00 / 2) (#250)
by Wulfius on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 04:01:47 AM EST

I think Mr.Bitgeek here is a seditionary Evil Doer.
Who here recons he should be declared an "Enemy Combatant" and thrown into a deep pit
where he will rot forever for his un-american thoughts?

.

---
"We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
[ Parent ]

Constitutional fallacy... (5.00 / 1) (#263)
by Skywise on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 01:34:50 PM EST

Uh...There are no explicit limits on government power, because the constitution explicitly states that the government can only do what the constitution explicitly states.

Seizure of property without compensation for illegal has always been part of the law as well (Your marijuana is illegal, we'll have to confiscate it but we'll pay you the street value of it...).  Seizure of property for imminent domain REQUIRES fair compensation.

There are 0, zip, nada, laws on the books (state or federal) that prevent other groups from competing with the big 2.  The Republicans/Democrats DO restrict access to THEIR debates if a party doesn't have more than 15% of the vote... but they organize and setup those debates.  They're not an official function of the US Government.  There's restrictions on getting public funds for your campaign, but that's only proof of getting 2% of the vote (or was it 5%?  In any event, it's a statistically small number), and that's just more of a tool to weed-out the thousands of entrants who would enter just to get the public money...

Oh, and a constitutional convention can only be called by those in power...

[ Parent ]

two things (none / 0) (#265)
by Arkady on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 01:39:20 PM EST

First, the argument that an IRV system would have given Le Pen a higher vote (or even a victory) is not in itself a valid criticism.  The system should accurately express the desires of the voters (i.e. those people who actually vote).  Though refusing to vote as a form of protest may or may not be a legitimate (or effective) idea, the voting system itself can only reflect the opinions of those who use it.

The fact that the turnout went up dramatically when an unpopular possibility was on the ballot is not itself a criticism of the system, though.  In one light it actually reflects positively, in that it demonstrated that in a situation of significant difference among the options the voters actually took the effort to vote on it.  This would argue that turnout can be increased by allowing easier access to the ballot for less well-known or popular alternatives, in that voters actually turned out when they saw an effect from their participation.

The causes of low turnout (the feeling that it does not matter, the refusal to participate for various reasons, etc.) _can_ be addressed in the voting system, but only through making each voter's actual desires be reflected in the ballot.  IRV, lowering the requirements for ballot qualification, the inclusion of a no-confidence option and a greater presence of referendum issues can all do this in that all of these changes would demonstrate a more direct effect of a vote and increase the relevance of the options to the voters' actual desires.

Secondly, whether voter manipulation (in your example, a protest vote for a far right candidate over a mid-left) is capable of throwing an election is also not a valid criticism.  People who game a system deserve every negative effect they get out of it, whether it's a protest vote in France or Enron going bust because they tried to play the electrical market.  If you get who you voted for, then how can you complain?  If you wanted Nader, but voted for Gore (for whatever reason; generally fear of Bush), then you have no basis to complain if Gore wins.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


whoops (none / 0) (#266)
by Arkady on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 01:42:42 PM EST

This was supposed to be a reply to this comment. I must have hit the wrong link.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Qualified agreement (none / 0) (#276)
by sab39 on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 10:20:29 AM EST

I agree with all of the content of your post except for the assertion that IRV is a solution, rather than simply another problem.

There are dozens of voting systems that have been studied by mathematicians to figure out which one has the best properties of allowing the voters to express their true opinions on the ballot and generating a result that accurately represents those opinions. Those mathematicians seem to have almost unanimously concluded that (1) our current system (known as Plurality) is one of the worst possible choices, and (2) IRV is one of the select few that is actually worse.

The best alternatives appear to be Concordet voting and Approval voting. Concordet is generally praised as the closest possible to an ideal system from the perspective of accurately representing the will of the electorate, but loses points with many people (including myself) for being extremely complicated to understand. You can tell voters that it's in their best interest to vote honestly (because it is!) but don't hold out much hope of explaining why! Considering that voters in our great nation were unable to comprehend a ballot where (shock horror) the alternatives were presented in a different order, I don't see those people being able to accurately fill out a ranked ballot for Concordet (or even IRV). Do you?

Approval voting is my own preferred choice. It shares many of the benefits over Plurality and IRV, but has the added benefit of being so simple that a Florida voter could understand it ;) Simply put, you have a straight ballot like you do now, but instead of checking just one box, you check as many as you want. Essentially, you check the box for everyone that you would be "happy" to see winning the election.

This has the added benefit of being robust across voter mistakes: all those Florida voters who accidentally voted for both Buchanan and Gore would have been counted for both. That's substantially better than just ignoring their vote as a "spoiled ballot". IOW, Approval makes the voting system more mathematically accurate while also making it easier to vote, by making it harder to do something "wrong".

IRV is the opposite: it makes the voting system harder because a ranked ballot is required, but doesn't actually improve the mathematical accuracy (in fact it makes it worse).

For further information, see http://condorcet.org/emr/ and http://www.electionmethods.org/ . The latter is an advocacy page (which happens to advocate something similar to what I advocate, but still makes it biased) but the information it provides is accurate to the best of my knowledge.

Stuart.
--
"Forty-two" -- Deep Thought
"Quinze" -- Amélie

[ Parent ]

Quite interesting, but off base (none / 0) (#270)
by bigdisk on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 05:29:46 PM EST

This was quite an interesting paper, although a little harsh.

Obviously, the US system is imperfect, particularly the process of choosing candidates and funding their elections. That is the part of the system that can and will be reformed in time. I was heartened by the passage of the Campaign Finance Reform bill, which showed that you can still get necessary reforms through the current system.

A more perfect system would require an actively inolved, logical, and fully informed populace, and that isn't going to happen anytime soon. People are irrational by nature, poorly informed, and inactive as a whole.

All that being said, there are VERY FEW systems that match the US in terms of protecting citizens rights and general decency of the democracy itself.

I read papers from all over the globe and it's clear that in all democracies there is corruption, sleazy politicians, etc. The US, while imperfect, certainly ranks near the top of the pile in terms of clean-ness and lack of corruption.

You can argue all you want that the US is broken, but I find it interesting and enlightening to compare it to all other systems. There are few equals and fewer still that could be called superior.

Decline & Fall, &c (none / 0) (#271)
by Joe Foster on Thu Jun 13, 2002 at 05:55:33 PM EST

America is the only place where our system could have developed; a system that, first, inspired Europeans to follow suit, and then embarked on a systematic post-imperial colonization of the globe in the name of democracy and free-market economics.

Our forefathers possessed astonishing foresight.

No amount of foresight could have predicted the particular troubles we face today.

Now the question is: *where* / *when* / *if* the "next" system will arise? Will hordes of humans ever get it together and stop mindlessly competing? Maybey... [of course I don't mean to wipe the competitive instinct out of our psyches, but the competition that is killing the earth is largely based on greed and desire for excess: clearly unnecessary].

I strongly suspect the 'next' step will be some outgrowth of Marx's thought; not "Marxism" proper, but some 'specter' (thanks Jacques!) or derivative thereof.

Love, Joe
Hott JoeFoster Pixxx!!!!
Capitalism & Schiz. (none / 0) (#278)
by Joe Foster on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 02:04:54 PM EST

See A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia for some really intense analysis of the movement of Capitalism and other 'totalizing theories' from the p.o.v. of a French philosopher (Gilles Deleuze) and an Italian psychoanalyst (Felix Guattari). I can't say I understand it, but I can tell they're onto something.

They delve into the post-freudian psyche (also see the first volume: Anti-Oedipus) as well as dealing with the external/mass movements of capitalism, and I'd guess they find the individual to be a microcosm of the mass, but really it's more interesting than I'm capable of making it sound.

Joe
Hott JoeFoster Pixxx!!!!
[ Parent ]
When/where will the next system arise? (none / 0) (#286)
by worldthinker on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 08:27:02 AM EST

Check this out...

Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life. -Shoghi Effendi, 1936

Turning Point for All Nations

[ Parent ]

the American people (3.00 / 3) (#279)
by xah on Fri Jun 14, 2002 at 07:58:13 PM EST

In October 2000, the Milosevic government of Yugoslavia fell. The election returns had been close. The tyrannical government tried to suppress the true results, but the people revolted in the streets. Public dissatisfaction with the government was high. In the end, public pressure forced Milosevic to step down. Kostunica won the election, but that win took effect only because the people of Yugoslavia demanded it. The people of Yugoslavia were ultimately the masters of their country's destiny.

One month later, in November 2000, the election returns in the US were close. The deciding factor, the presidential election in Florida, was extremely close. In fact, it had been botched. Due to poor election management, the winner of Florida will never be known with certainty. The Supreme Court of the United States heard an appeal of a ruling of the Florida Supreme Court, and ruled that a re-election could not take place, and that certain actions of lower courts were unconstitutional. The practical outcome was that George W. Bush was decided as the winner of the Florida election and thus the US presidential election. The American people did not revolt in the streets. The issues presented in the election were not important enough to stir great passion among Americans, except for sparse numbers of politicos and activists.

I'm not a lawyer, but I've done some studying in the area. There's no real question that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction in Bush v. Gore. The Court said that federal constitutional issues were at stake. Thus, they had jurisdiction. When they decided Bush v. Gore, however, they may have acted imprudently. Their decision may have harmed the Constitution significantly, but that is not clear at this early stage. If the 2004 election proceeds normally, things will seem much better than they do today.

The best criticism of Bush v. Gore so far is Alan Dershowitz's "shoe on the other foot" test. Would the 5 conservative justices who ruled in favor of Bush still have ruled for Bush if Bush and Gore's positions had been reversed? It's hard to see that they would have.

The analysis of "America: Broken As Designed" leaves out the most important part of America: the people. There is no way to design a foolproof political system. Unless the American people act virtuously, courageously, and wisely, we cannot expect to continue to enjoy our freedom and prosperity indefinitely.

Always has the American system been built around the people. As Lincoln implied in the Gettysburg Address, it is the people who must resolve "that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." It is the people's government. They can do with it as they wish.

There are many examples of how ordinary citizens affect the day to day workings of government. Anyone accused of a serious crime is guaranteed their day in court before a jury of their peers. It is not a judge or "ruler" or lawyer or elite who will decide their fate, but ordinary community members. Jurors will determine whether the evidence proves that the person is guilty or fails to so prove. American citizens are the ultimate protectors of their own property, land, and freedom. It is how it should be. We cannot rely on experts or elites, but only upon ourselves.

Article 5 of the Constitution is the ultimate bastion of our freedom. The Constitution does provide for its own peaceful and legal change or even abolition. This process is amending the Constitution. This can be accomplished in different ways, including holding a Contitutional convention.

There are many legitimate criticisms of the current government. I'd like to see the government reformed. Posting a rant is a good first step. If you are serious about creating change, you have to do more. Joining an existing political party or a committee will not achieve much. Acting as an individual is ineffective in a country of 287 million people. You would need to join or create a working group. This would be a relatively small group of people with similar goals that talks, strategizes, and plans. Later, the working group would take peaceful and legal action. Are you dedicated to creating change?

Unlike Yugoslavia in 2000, I don't think we Americans will have to revolt in the streets to protect our freedom. Unless we take brave and appropriate action, however, things will get worse.

Nice Try... (4.00 / 1) (#281)
by Skywise on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 01:33:36 AM EST

1>  The election was not "botched".
The voting counts accurately reflect the number of "valid" ballots based upon the laws in play at the time.
The ballots were APPROVED by all political parties, and the Florida government.
The SAME voting system had been in use for over 30 years with no previous complaints.

2>  The Supreme Court did NOT want the case.  The Florida Legislature decided against a re-election.  The Florida Judiciary overruled (which they could do) and said that CERTAIN VOTES must be recounted using NEW VALIDATION TECHNIQUES.  That meant that one person's vote could be counted invalid while another person's vote could be OK using the exact same ballot and voting the exact same way.  That's what went to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court said, "NO, they've all got to be judged the same..." and sent it back to Florida without opinion.  Here's where things get sticky.  Florida State Law says that you have a week to contest to the election results.  Gore contested 3 counties (not the state),  the remaining counties were VALIDATED and thus locked down.  When the Supreme Court ruled that all ballots had to be judged the same, it meant that the 3 counties ballots had to be judged the SAME WAY as before and all Gore could get was a HAND RECOUNT, which was giving him a few more votes but not enough to win the state.  So the Florida Judiciary "clarified" the vaguely written law on how to deal with "Chads".  The Florida Legislature sued the Florida Judiciary again and it went back to the Supreme Court which ruled that it was STILL violating the "treat all ballots the same way" ruling, and sided with the Legislature that the additional recounts were frivolous and ordered the counting stopped.
Now, where do Bush and Gore come into play in this?  They don't.  The only way the Supreme Court could've sided with "Gore" was to accept that it's okay to judge the validity of voting ballots using different standards.  Now if you want to look at judicial fiat, take a look at the rulings on prayer in schools in the early 60's , and on Roe vs. Wade, both decisions which had completely 0 basis in previous legal tradition and both decided by highly liberal Supreme Courts.  Does that pass your smell test?  The Supreme Courts ruling on Florida (NOT Bush V. Gore) was a controversial act, but not a radical one.

3> Change happens.  You just don't like the current trend.  Take a look at history.  Things are ALWAYS getting worse... Oh, not from a far away perspective in the comfort of your reading chair, but at the level of the people at the time, Doomsday has always been right around the corner...  I'm not saying that people shouldn't band together for change, for that is a good and noble thing.  But realize that your goals, may not match the goals of other people and you WILL meet resistance... and then what will happen to your "peaceful and legal" change process?  Because then you'll have to "fight" and probably have to take on some unethical habits you're seeing right now to win... or admit defeat... and let the evils of the world win...

[ Parent ]

You are full of conservative fallacies (1.00 / 1) (#282)
by xah on Sat Jun 15, 2002 at 02:47:15 PM EST

In case anyone reads this, let them know that everything you say here I disagree with.

Your analysis of the election and Constitutional law is not thoughtful, but merely a political hack job.

Your Gibbon-inspired pessimism is not dismaying, as you had hoped, but instead reinforcing to my understanding of your cause as essentially pointless.

If you were truly a conservative, you would at least learn proper English grammar.

[ Parent ]

Ahh! I'm Melting! (4.50 / 2) (#283)
by Skywise on Sun Jun 16, 2002 at 01:51:24 PM EST

I never thought my political rhetoric and poorly woven arguments would've been found out so quickly.

Oh, I should've renounced my evil, green hating, CONSERVATIVE ways and truly seen the light, but now I am condemned to a life of hell...

OH what a world, what a world...

(Hey, but thanks for replying and not modding me down!)


[ Parent ]

America: Broken As Designed | 289 comments (256 topical, 33 editorial, 0 hidden)
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