Monday, May 17, 2010

It Ends In Arizona

The American Civil Liberties Union is filing a suit in federal court against the State of Arizona in an attempt to block SB 1070 from coming into law. This is a good move on behalf of the ACLU, considering the potential for civil liberties violations that may be associated with the bill. But, is this an empty claim? What is the real potential for these violations? I mean, we've seen boycotts and protests galore, so surely there is something to this claim.

Well, it's a yes and no answer. Those who have been protesting and boycotting the bill have tended to take it a little too far, greatly exaggerating the effects of the bill. But, they are on to something.

First off, the bill does not readily define "reasonable suspicion", which means that it is up to the police officers to make that decision. Most likely, the way that they will do this is based on race because it is the most readily identifiable. It is much easier for that cop to look at their race and then ask for papers then it is for them to do a background check. Racial profiling may not be in the bill, but it is likely the way that it will be enforced on the personal level.

Secondly, how can a government possibly expect to be able to enforce this law all across the state. This law applies to everyone, yes, but there is no way that the police and the detective agencies have the time to constantly check everyone for their papers. The only rational way to make this process more efficient is by eliminating large groups of people from the selection process. This is another instance where racial profiling will probably make an appearance.

In the end, we have to understand that of illegal immigration is caused by the government restrictions of travel between countries. We have created a system that does not allow people to immigrate and easily become citizens. We have created the incentives to work illegally. We have messed up. There is a lot of extremism coming from both sides of this, and they both have a point, but, let's not lose sight of what is the cause of illegal immigration. Instead of shipping people back home, let's fix our laws.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Who Is Elena Kagan?

Elena Kagan is the latest nominee for the Supreme Court, a potential replacement for the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. Among her list of achievements are that she was a clerk for the Court, a professor of law at Harvard, the Dean of Harvard Law School, and the Solicitor General. She has quite the resume . . . when it comes to law.

Having a great understanding of law is great. In fact, I wish the supreme court had more people with her knowledge of the law on it. But having this intelligence does not immediately qualify you for the court. Life in the classroom is much different than life on the bench, and you need someone with that experience in there.

She's never been a judge. She's never heard a case. She's never written an opinion. She has no experience in the courts, except for her brief time as Solicitor General (since January 2009). Someone who has the chance to serve on the high court should have that kind of experience. That's really my only preapprehension about having her confirmed.

I know little of her actual politics. She's a conservative Jew, who is against late term abortions and is pro gay rights, but that doesn't really narrow her down. Liberals think she'll move the court to the right, and conservatives think she'll move it to the left; the same old bickering. From the little that I've read, she seems to be more of a liberal.

Great, another liberal on the court.

But I digress. I mean, who cares about her politics really? The focus is not on that (unless she has a chance of getting confirmed). The big issue is that she doesn't have the experience that I think someone would need if they wanted to sit on the high court.

If she gets confirmed, maybe her law knowledge will help. Maybe she'll actually rule on a Constitutional basis, instead of party lines. Unfortunately, I don't see this happening. At this point, she looks like just another Democrat that the party wants on the bench to rule in their favor.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to Fix the Oil Spill

There's a fundamental issue with the way that people in America (and I suppose, humans in general) approach a problem. You see, all that they take into account is what happens after the fact, or rather what is currently happening. Take illegal immigration for example, all that people are arguing against is the fact that there are illegals in the country; they don't take into consideration why they are there in the first place. In short, we're not very good at looking at the CAUSE of a lot of problems in the world.

Take this oil spill for example. Some major disaster like this just screams government intervention, doesn't it? I mean, it's apparent that the free market can not handle itself and needs to be regulated. This is the conclusion that someone might come to if they only look at the effects, not the causes.

In reality, government played a large role in creating this mess. No, I don't mean that there is some conspiracy involving oil and the gulf coast; I'm not Glenn Beck after all.

In reality, the governments role in this was the regulation that PREVENTED BP and Transocean from being fully liable for their assets. Let me show you.

According to the New York Times, as per federal law BP is only liable for $75 million dollars, while Transocean is only liable for $65 million. Hmmm, I sense a disturbance in the force, and that disturbance is big government!

What does that liability cap mean? They mean that the company is not fully liable for all damages that they cause. This distorts the markets and encourages companies to act in riskier fashion. I mean, if you were only liable for a certain amount of money for damages that YOU caused, wouldn't you take the risk? BP and Transocean sure did.

BP and Transocean knew what the damages and costs would be associated with an oil spill. If there wasn't a cap, then they would have had the burden of full financial responsibility for their actions. They would have to demand better safeguards, or simply test them better because they knew that a spill could cost billions. Granted, they would have been expensive, but the companies have the financial incentive to invest in safety measures. Because the government capped their liability, they essentially gave them permission to act irresponsibly by limiting what they would owe in damages.

Now, BP has said that it would pay all legitimate claims, even those beyond the cap. But, when it comes to property damage, there is no way in hell the offending party should have the choice of whether or not to reimburse those whose property they damaged. This is the job of the court.

There will be a lot of legislation that is introduced to bring about more safety. As I said above, this is a reaction to the after effects. The problem must be dealt with at the cause: end the government intervention.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My Family's Basketball Tradition

We have religiously watch Suns basketball in my house since I was born. Over that time, we've built up certain traditions regarding these games. When the Suns are about to shoot, you put your hands in the air in order to assist the shot. If you don't, you are subsequently yelled at by a chorus of my grandmother and parents. When the other team is attempting one, you point your hands at the screen, wiggle your fingers, and make hissing noises. This somehow distracts them and makes them more likely to miss.

So, while I was watching the Suns play the Spurs I noticed something. It felt to me as if putting my hands in the air was working, as if it was letting them make more shots. I'd put my hands in the air, they'd make a basket, and then my brain would connect the two activities. The same goes for the other tradition.

But honestly, do you think me raising my hands in the air had anything to do with the Suns scoring? How could it have, I'm all the way in the west valley. And besides, it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the skill of the player. Yet, when I put my hands in the air, I feel as if they have a better chance of scoring. I can't prove that this helps, but I sure as hell can believe it.

To come to my point, the same phenomena happens with prayer. When we pray for something, and it "happens" (usually a vague "sign"), we connect the two activities in our mind. It's a psychological phenomena that happens all throughout nature, especially in birds. Even if the two things have nothing to do with eachother, I can still believe that it was the prayer that did it.

A good example is a friend of mine. He had a family member in the hospital with a rare condition, and only a 2.5% chance of living. But, being a God-fearing man, he prayed for her safety. And, by some strange miracle, she managed to come out of surgery and is expected to live. Wow, that prayer sure worked wonders!

This worked no better than raising my hands in the air for a shot does. The Suns made those shots because they were professional athletes. I could have put my hand up my ass and the same effect would have been achieved. Those surgeons and doctors were also professionals. The prayer did not change their skill or experience; it had nothing to do with it at all. Even though he prayed, and the desired outcome was achieved, this doesn't mean that it was the prayer that worked the magic. She had a 2.5% chance of living, and through the sheer skill of her surgeons(actually, it was probably mostly luck) was able to pull through. You know what, even if by some unknown power it was the prayer that saved her, I couldn't prove it. I just have to believe, but belief is just another way of parting from reality.

Prayer doesn't work any better than me flailing my hands in the air or making snake noises does.


With the advent of the latest legislative disaster to come out of Arizona, there seems to be renewed interest in this DREAM Act. According to my sources (wikipedia), the DREAM Act details an easier path for immigrants who were born here or taken here early on in life to gain citizenship. Okay, okay, that's good. At least they're looking at the true problem of illegal immigration now, but does this DREAM Act really do it? Is it enough?

The DREAM Act provides undocumented aliens who graduate from high school, are of good moral character, came to the United States under the age of 18, and have been in the country for at least 5 years the ability to earn permanent residency. So, given my stance on immigration, why would I have a problem with this?

It doesn't fix anything! It sounds brilliant on paper, but in reality it is doing nothing to fix the problem. With this Act, we're only talking about people who already are in the United States and have graduated high school. Great!

It's a step forward, but what needs to happen is this: the borders need to open, permanently. This is the only way that illegal immigration can be stopped. We must make it legal to get here.

How You Gays Can Win

You have to get rid of the Pride movement. I know, I know, it's freedom of expression and you're making a statement, but it needs to stop. Why? Because the Pride movement is the reason you are not getting your rights.

In fact, a movement like that will NEVER be successful. Not because I don't want it to be, 110% the opposite, but we have to be real here. All the Pride movement does is give the opposition negative propaganda to use against you. It gives those who are in power, and those who voting for them, the ability to reinforce those negative stereotypes in their minds. Those stereotypes and propaganda are used by those on the right to spread lies about gay people, stereotyping you as overly flamboyant, can't-raise-a-child, fairy dancing sodomites. And you know what? They can back that up with a picture of a guy in a giant fairy costume parading down the street. This is not the correct message to be sending people. All it does is give them an image to vote AGAINST; it sends the complete wrong message about you. This is not good.

You are good people, I know this personally. I know that you can raise a child just as good (actually, probably better) than a lot of heterosexual couples. I know that you deserve your rights, but by letting the Pride movement control the movement for rights, you've essentially given up. If you want to win, you have to give them new propaganda to spread. This time, you have to give them positive images of gay and lesbian couples. List the remarkable achievements made by gay and lesbian people. Above all, show that you are not overly flamboyant, can't-raise-a-child, fairy dancing sodomites. Don't parade around in a thong in Times Square, no one likes that.

I support you now and forever, but the movement needs to take a more serious and thoughtful approach to achieving your liberties.