Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Presidency and Precedents

What hath Obama wrought?

Conor Friedersdorf:

Despite all these instances of the U.S. accusing innocent people of crimes against America, sometimes torturing them and imprisoning them for years on end, President Obama is sufficiently confident in federal officials, including the CIA -- one of the least accountable, least transparent branches of government, and one with a less than perfect record getting accurate intelligence -- that he regards it as good, prudent policy to pronounce death sentences upon American citizens, in clear violation of the 5th Amendment, without even a safeguard as basic as a classified trial in absentia and a judge to do due diligence on the alleged evidence. And this extraordinary power, with its obvious potential for catastrophic abuses, is vested in one man who'll leave office in one or five years, to be replaced by an as yet undetermined politician -- perhaps Rick Perry, who presided over Texas when it executed the likely innocent Cameron Todd Willingham, despite a trial with forensic testimony and a years long appeal process.

President Obama has perhaps forever changed the relationship between the United States government and its citizens, setting a precedent as damaging as anything a modern president has done, and the appropriate reaction, whatever one's partisan or ideological orientation, is shock and anger at his hubris and imprudence. Depending on the GOP nominee in 2012, I may well decide that I can't vote for him or her in good conscience. But today, as Obama celebrates the extra-legal assassination of an American, and sets the precedent that the president can kill citizens without due process if he or she pronounces them a terrorist, I know that I cannot in good conscience cast a vote to re-elect him. If you're even a little bit of a civil libertarian, and this didn't cost Obama your vote, I'd ask you to ponder this question: What transgression would?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dueling Statistics

Couple of interesting maps I came across today:

The first comes from the Guardian and shows a state by state breakdown of firearm homicides.

The second comes from information provided by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and ranks states by the numbers of gun control laws they have on the books.

So...what's up California?

Obviously, it's foolish to assume that a correlation between the number of gun control laws on the books and the prevalence of gun violence necessarily implies a causation. Clearly, a larger state like California is always going to have more homicides than a smaller state like Montana.

That said, if you adjust the first map to show firearm murders as a percentage of overall murders, you get some rather interesting groupings: California continues to have as high or higher numbers than many states that have lax laws and small populations regardless of the number of laws California has on the books.

Friday, September 23, 2011

2012 Watch - Quote of the Day Edition

Frankly, there really wasn't much to say about last nights debate. A couple of quick thoughts though:

1) Though I'd rather see the nation run by a rock or a twig or a parrot or a can of beans, I think that Perry's defense of allowing the children of undocumented immigrants access to cheaper in-state tuition was spot on. There is no good reason to deny children that were brought somewhere through no fault of their own, a chance at improving there lives. He characterized it as heartless and I agree. I'd go further and say that it's destructive: the last thing any country needs is a population of two year olds doomed to spend the rest of their life in second class status.

2) The GOP booed a soldier. The sexuality of said soldier is irrelevant. They booed a soldier and they're probably gonna have some 'splainin' to do.

And finally, your Quote of the Day concerning the debate. From Reason:

Speaking of dogs, that’s who this debate was for. Literally. The Fox News anchors who moderated the showdown announced early on that they’d changed the time’s-up sound from the last debate after multiple complaints that the previous ding sounded too much like a doorbell—and was freaking out viewers’ puppies.

I was wondering about that Google bonk noise...