This is my Position Statement regarding various things. I am willing to defend any of these positions, and change them in the face of sufficient new evidence – though some of them are more firmly held than others.
- /airport security
- /climate change
- /hate crimes
- /life transitions (abortion and euthanasia)
- /objective morality
- /political correctness
- /Ron Paul
- see also debate, where I express and clarify my views in various discussions
I'm using "power" in a way that overlaps with "authority", and "accountability" in a way that is synonymous with "responsibility".
Examples of power include money, guns, teaching, knowledge, community leadership.
These points emerge from the principle of "no power without accountability":
- I do not recognize the authority of any law to which I do not have full read access. Secret interpretations cannot be used as justification or precedent.
- I do not recognize the authority of any law that was not enacted by a process whose authority ultimately derives from the governed. (added 2012-06-08)
- I do not recognize the authority of any law which was voted for by unknown representatives (as opposed to either known representatives or a popular anonymous vote) (example)
- I do not recognize ideas as intellectual property (only the expression of ideas)
- I do not recognize genetic code as intellectual property.
The PATRIOT Act
The USA PATRIOT Act has always been a misbegotten monstrosity, and Obama will be betraying every value of those who voted for him if he reauthorizes it
as he has apparently indicated that he will do which he did, of course.
Given my positions on #Law (above),
- I do not recognize the authority of the Patriot Act, enacted as it was over the strenuous objections of the public and many leaders, and I do not intend to comply with its provisions should they be used in an attempt to coerce illegal or unethical behavior from me.
national security letters & warrant canaries
To the best of my determination, the gag order in NSLs has been ruled unconstitutional, although the question is still open for appeal:
On March 14, 2013, Judge Susan Illston of Federal District Court in San Francisco struck down the law establishing NSLs, writing that the prohibition on disclosure of receipt of such an order made the statute "impermissibly overbroad" under the First Amendment. Judge Illston's ruling also struck down a statute prohibiting legal challenges by recipients of the security letters, but stayed implementation of her ruling to allow the government to appeal the decision.
Furthermore, the legality of warrant canaries has never been tested in court; there is no reason to think that they are any more legal than simply announcing that one has received a warrant -- which is what I would probably do if given the opportunity.
Regardless of all that legal guesswork, my position on the matter is that I cannot be required to keep information confidential without either (a) having agreed to such in writing or (b) some compelling ethical reason to do so. As a compromise, I could agree to a non-maintained warrant canary which I would remove if ever served, but I'm not going to go mindlessly pushing a button at some regular interval just to possibly-satisfy a vague and untested legality.
Homeland Security and Torture
2008-01-31 Maybe I don't speak for the majority here, but I can at least say the following for myself. The war on terror – including the use of torture, illegal detainments by the US government, and even the stupid new /airport security rules – are not being done for me. I don't want them. If they're being done for my "safety", then I'd much rather be in "danger". (Besides, these measures make me feel more in danger than the terrorists ever did.)
Just to make this clear: Torture is WRONG. NO NO NO NO, a thousand times NO. Maybe if you knew there was a nuclear bomb* in a densely-populated area and the torturee was the only person who knew where it was, then MAYBE (and I'd want to see the video record of the interrogation, too) -- but we've had nothing anywhere near that scale to justify what the American government has been doing (and certainly no transparency, much less video records), so STOP IT RIGHT NOW.
*at least one interrogation expert says that this type of scenario simply never happens -- but if it did, torture would work against efforts to determine the necessary information. See filed links in torture for more.
2009-12-15 addendum: If terror suspects do somehow manage to go free because they were tortured (not likely given the kangaroo courts they are likely to be performing in), those who supported the use of torture in the first place will have only themselves to blame. I would rather see Osama himself set free after trial (again, not bloody likely since we don't seem to be trying very hard to catch him) than continue to compromise our principles on how we treat people.
The Iraq War (2008-05-18)
The most compelling (and I use the word broadly) arguments I am aware of for the US remaining in Iraq at this point are:
- We need to be there to stamp out Islamic terrorism (aka Islamofascism).
- We have established connections with many individuals in Iraq who will be slaughtered if our protecting presence is removed.
For #1, we're doing an absolutely terrible job. Worse than terrible: we are regressing. The Iraq War was never planned to actually accomplish anything, but to be an advertisement for an ongoing threat which was no worse until the Bush plan poured gasoline on it; the world is now more full of terrorism, and more full of people who have good reason to hate Americans. A case might be made for a country with a rational leadership to be fighting terrorism in Iraq, but until Bush and his nest of insects are gone, we are among the furthest from being that country.
For #2, I would need to see evidence. Iraqis, even in the most positive stories I have read about the wonderful work our troops are doing in Iraq (and any progress at all is little short of miraculous, given the total non-plan they've been ordered to execute), come across as luke-warm at best about our continuing presence. If this point is important, why are we not being told stirring (even if fabricated) tales of the heroism of individual Iraqi fighters for truth, justice, and the American Way? This lack highlights the fact that the administration doesn't even buy this line.
We have shown that we can take a silk purse – a country full of oil, its dictator toppled, many of its long-repressed people eager for greater freedom and prosperity, and friendly to American ideas – and turn it into a sow's ear.
We have no right to be in Iraq any more, if we ever did.
2010-07-11 update I don't know what's going on with Obama, but he seems to be in the sway of the same philosophy. We need to be out of Iraq and out of Afghanistan. Sadly, the real reasons we are there are as strong as ever: war profiteers who run Congress through lobbying.
I believe that loyalty to the ideals of democracy is more important than loyalty to any particular nation, including loyalty to the United States. However, the United States is one of the few countries founded upon those ideals; as such, defending the United States against foreign invaders or against being taken over by forces inimical to democracy (whether those forces originate from within or without the US) is equivalent to, and thus just as important as, loyalty to those ideals.
In other words, defending the core values of the United States, as represented (perhaps imperfectly) by the Constitution, is important because of those core values, not because of loyalty to the United States as a country. (The latter being represented by the "My country, right or wrong" mentality.)
If the US (through some dreadful series of mistakes) became ruled by a dictatorship, and some country elsewhere in the world wanted to "liberate" us and restore democracy, wouldn't that be a good thing (assuming we had any trust at all in the intentions of the potential invaders)? Furthermore, would it not be loyal to the Constitution (which does not in any sense allow for totalitarian rule)?
war & the troops
Although I do not (and never did) support the US-Iraq War and definitely do not support any potential US attack on Iran, I do support the troops. They have been through hell, and are continuing to go through it. I wish there was a way to give them a mission at which they could succeed, but the game has been heavily rigged against them at this point. They performed competently (at worst!) in Afghanistan and during the invasion phase of the Iraq War, and I lay what has happened since then squarely at the feet of our (at best!) incompetent leaders.
My hypertwin and I are boycotting marriage (our page about it) at least until it is available to everyone, and possibly beyond that until it is re-fashioned into a tool for strengthening families of all types, not just two-person families.
I see absolutely nothing wrong with homosexuality, cross-dressing (transvestitism), transsexuality, or any other form of sexual/gender oddity, as long as nobody is getting hurt.
Our society's definition of what constitutes a family unit is far too limiting and fails to adequately serve many people, especially in a modern highly-mobile society; see htwiki:Hyperfamily for an alternative concept.
Unfortunately, progress in this department is hindered by religious dogmatists and authoritarians who are working for the return of restrictions which liberals have worked hard for many decades to remove (generally more so that they can use fear of the unknown to scare their followers into line than because they see those restrictions as actually important to society).
Anyone who fights against expanding the legal definition of marriage/family along rational lines is working for a cause that is basically evil; I have not seen any good justifications for preventing gay marriage, and an awful lot of really bad ones brought up over and over again despite having been soundly refuted (denialism). I am boycotting marriage until its legal definition is reworked to allow for the needs of myself, my hypertwin, and many other people we know; as it exists now, it is worse than useless to us.
2008-11-07 update: Whether or not the majority believes that gay marriage is a bad thing, I do not -- and this is a non-negotiable position at this point. The anti-gay camp has had plenty of opportunity to present valid arguments, and they have failed to present a single one that can stand even the least scrutiny. I'm still open to hearing new arguments, but sheer force of numbers isn't an argument. Those of us whose happiness is threatened by these legal restrictions will not concede even in the face of a majority (whose existence has yet to be demonstrated), because the legal restrictions benefit nobody and harm many.
Apparently there is a huge amount of disagreement about whether gender roles are learned or innate. It seems quite plain to me that there is a good deal of variation: some people are wired such that they are perfectly comfortable in their assigned gender roles but would not behave in the prescribed way if society didn't encourage it, while others gravitate naturally towards the behaviors society prefers (or even views as "stereotypical"). Still others are wired to prefer behaviors prescribed to the other gender, which is at least circumstantial evidence that gender can be "hard-wired" and that it varies from person to person.
I also don't see what's so terrible about prostitution; it doesn't seem to me any worse than any other situation in which one voluntarily endangers one's health for money. It should be legalized and regulated like any other risky profession (as it already is in some countries, most notably The Netherlands).
I worry more about the dangers posed by laws (e.g. RICO) which attempt to prevent usage of certain psychoactive substances than I do about the danger posed by the substances themselves. (I do not, however, personally indulge in any such substances other than caffeine.)
2011-01-01 addendum: legalize and regulate all currently-illegal drugs, starting with marijuana. (I've thought this for at least a year now, probably much longer; I don't know why I didn't think to put it down here.)
I was very disheartened by the 2004 election results; it seemed clear that Mr. Bush was bent on advancing an agenda of using foreign aggression as an opportunity to spend huge amounts of government money on "reconstruction" contracts which could then be used to increase his power via favoritism (i.e. giving contracts in exchange for favors and personal support) while doing very little towards increasing "security", despite that being the nominal justification for the majority of his actions.
Since then, I have seen very little to change that opinion, but I continue to be baffled by the fact that most of the country still seems to think he's doing the right thing and doing it well. I started Issuepedia partly as an attempt to untangle the complex web of assumptions and beliefs behind the various opinions (pro and con) on the matter.
Normally I tend to fall on the so-called liberal side of things, but below I will be collecting examples of instances where liberalism has arguably gone too far:
- /political correctness
- The Sex-Offender Lobby
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals goes too far many times. It's not clear to me which extremist actions they condone and which are being done in their name, but I definitely don't support them. (Research needed.)
I'm not against nuclear power as such, but I dislike the way we are currently handling it as a social/organizational issue. Nuclear power plants are always constructed by huge companies (such as General Electric in the US), with extreme security being used as an excuse to minimize the transparency of the plant's operation. If we had more of a view into each plant's daily operation, we would be able to verify claims of safety. As it is, there is no way to verify and hence no way to trust that operations are being carried out safely.
I do think that we need to look at nuclear power as one option for reducing carbon emissions (and hence global warming), but the first item of business should be to redesign plant operations so they are more transparent. The second item of business is to take a close look at the entire life-cycle of the fuel and the plant itself: what is the total damage done by mining, how long would the fuel supplies last in abundance if the entire world was switched to nuclear, how can the spent fuel be safely disposed of? The current air of secrecy around nuclear power -- in some cases required by law -- currently makes such an examination almost impossible.
2010-07 update: Thorium-based nuclear looks very interesting. Apparently we have enough Thorium already mined to support the entire US for five years (meaning no mining would be necessary in order to get started), and we have enough domestic reserves to last somewhere between 50 and 500 years at present rates -- which should be more than enough time to get replacement alternative energy systems fully on-line.
Tentatively, I would support a program to replace all fossil-fuel energy with Thorium-based, especially if it was taxed and the revenue was poured into a crash program to put up a fleet of solar power satellites.
Punditry and Bias
It's often alleged that commenters on the Left are just as biased as those on the Right, and those who like the Left-biased ones only do so because they happen to agree with our opinions -- not because they're any more accurate than the idiot power-toadies on the right.
As I said here, I enjoy the pundits I enjoy because they do not habitually leave out or misinterpret critical information in their analyses. The pundits who irritate me most (or downright turn my stomach) are the ones who are clearly distorting the issues they analyze by their selective omissions and misinterpretations.
So, no -- I like the pundits on the Left because they are generally more honest and open-minded – qualities which are measurable and verifiable.
Once upon a time (1990s), I favored globalism (and opposed the idea of protecting domestic industry with protective tariffs) -- partly because there was a lot of right-wing hype against it (remember the "giant sucking sound" which would be caused by NAFTA? Well, it kind of went the other way...), partly because a lot of foreign products seem far superior to American ones, and also partly because at the time we were prosperous and it seemed reasonable to start sharing that prosperity by helping to raise standards of living elsewhere in the world.
Since then, we've seen two things:
- the US has destroyed its own domestic manufacturing base by becoming dependent on cheap overseas labor
- the supply of cheap overseas labor greatly overwhelms our ability to raise living standards
I've just come up with what seems like a good solution.
Instead of having protective tariffs which just go into US federal coffers, require American companies (or companies with offices in America) which employ workers overseas to either (a) pay those workers something comparable to US wages (or some substantial fraction thereof), or (b) put the difference into a fund to be used to improve local infrastructure in the areas where they hire cheap labor -- and either way, require US workplace safety laws to be observed.
To whatever extent American industry can make a profit from cheap overseas labor, then, they have to share the wealth in a substantial way -- rather than just making slightly-better-off serfs who are increasingly dependent on foreign masters (which is what they seem to be trying to do here as well).
--Woozle 01:58, 18 July 2010 (UTC)
I maintain that:
- As long as pedestrian traffic is light, bicyclists should be allowed by default (i.e. in most circumstances) to ride on sidewalks, especially if there is no clearly-marked, unobstructed, safe bike lane.
- Bicyclists should be allowed by default to ride against traffic, though this should be discouraged as other riders/drivers may find it alarming.
- Bicyclists should be allowed to go through red lights if it appears safe to do so (taking into consideration how this may affect the actions of other drivers/riders).
- Bicyclists should be allowed to cross intersections diagonally if it appears safe to do so (best done only when there is no other traffic near the intersection).
If there's a contest between a bike and a car, the car is going to win -- so bicyclists should be allowed to do whatever they think is safest. Bicyclists should not be beholden to the letter of the "rules of the road" for cars, especially when there is no other traffic which might be confused by a bicyclist doing something unexpected. The main consideration bicyclists should be aware of is that any unexpected actions they take may cause a car driver to misjudge the situation and get into a wreck (I don't know how often this actually happens, however -- is it a regular occurrence, or largely hypothetical?).
If there's a contest between a bike and a pedestrian, the damage is usually minimal -- and avoiding pedestrians on a bike is very, very easy on a sidewalk (sometimes less easy if there are pedestrians and cars both present in a roadway). In cases where a collision does happen and there are damages to award, however, it seems reasonable to put the blame on the bicyclist by default, i.e. barring evidence that the pedestrian was trying to get hit.
--Woozle 18:50, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
Intellectual Property / DRM
- see also /DRM
If I ever receive a court order telling one of my sites to remove links to another site, I would definitely not obey it without reviewing the justifications and making my own decision. That decision would probably be based more on whether the link was appropriate or relevant, rather than the issue of copyright infringement.
If I was feeling especially stroppy that day, I might "obey" the order by copying the content in question over to one of my sites, serving it from there, and linking to that instead. (With a little "Source:" link indicating where I originally got it from.)
Balancing the Budget
Leaving aside the wisdom of insisting on a balanced budget during a recession, here are the choices I would make for accomplishing a balance:
- 2010 -- note that no cuts to "entitlements" are necessary.
If there are similar laundry-lists for more recent years, I would be interested in seeing them.