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The Tally Ho

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Just a brief one. Subscribe to the RSS feed so you'll be the first of the cool kids to know that we're back. And go read Elwood in the mean time; he's got some good stuff up lately.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Vonnegut on anti-intellectualism in Washington

He writes in an article for In These Times:
The boisterous guessers are still in charge—the haters of information. And the guessers are almost all highly educated people. Think of that. They have had to throw away their educations, even Harvard or Yale educations, to become guessers. If they didn’t do that, there is no way their uninhibited guessing could go on and on and on.

Please, don’t you do that. But let me warn you, if you make use of the vast fund of knowledge now available to educated persons, you are going to be lonesome as hell.

Friday, December 16, 2005

NY Transit talks and the "unborn"

What article was I reading again? The NYTimes report this morning on transit union negotiations in New York city (written before anything was decided) had a strange pair of quotes:
"The M.T.A.'s long-term financial outlook, like every business and government in this country, is seriously clouded by the extraordinary growth in pensions and health-care costs," Mr. Kalikow said. "It might be easy to ignore this fact, but that would be a disservice to both our riders and the city, now and still unborn."

Mr. Toussaint portrayed the authority's proposals as repugnant because they would make life worse for future generations of workers.

"They have to get away from the notion that in this round of bargaining the T.W.U. will give up its young, will give up its unborn," he said.

Kalikow is chairman of the transportation authority; Toussaint is the union president. I want to know: when did all this language about "the unborn" trickle down into union talks? What message are they trying to get across? To a certain extent, I expect rhetoric about "the unborn" when at work or talking about abortion issues. But unborn subway riders? Unborn transit workers? C'mon, people.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


This from JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer:
WASHINGTON - House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement Thursday to extend the USA Patriot Act, the government's premier anti-terrorism law, before it expires at the end of the month. But a Democratic senator threatened a filibuster to block the compromise.

"I will do everything I can, including a filibuster, to stop this Patriot Act conference report, which does not include adequate safeguards to protect our constitutional freedoms," said Sen. Russ Feingold (news, bio, voting record), D-Wis., who was the only senator to vote against the original version of the Patriot Act.

The House and Senate delegates to the Conference Committee have achieved a "compromise" on the Patriot Act which once again sells out our fundamental freedoms, our privacy, and our right to be presumed innocent and not surveiled constantly by the government. The most controversial parts of the Act will be authorized for another four years: provisions authorizing roving wiretaps and permitting secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses, hospitals and organizations such as libraries. Most of the rest of the Act would become permanent. It is true that some sections of the are necessary and good and removed an unreasonable wall that prevented the sharing of information between various government bureucracies. But many provisions of this law are unecessarily intrusive, don't really make us any safer, and violate any sane reading of the Constitution.

Proponents argue that we need such government power to protect us against the threat of foreign and domestic terrorism, and that we should trust them to be circumspect about how these powers are used. But look at what our government has been doing: holding people for years without charges or evidence. Kidnapping people and sending them off to secret prisons or handing them over to Syrian or Egyptian secret police to be tortured. Putting people on trial as "terrorists" with only their political and religious beliefs as evidence.

For anyone who has actually lived on this planet and paid attention, the question of human nature has been difinitively answered, at least in practice: humans are vile and depraved, not inherently "good." If you give a group of people too much power, they will use it to dominate and harm others. There can be no "trust" when it comes to goverment. The only way governments can operate without oppression are transparency, checks and balances, and the rule of law. Nobody should be given a "free hand" to fight terrorists or to do anything else. Ever. The law exists to bind everyone down, to hobble them and prevent them from acting alone to dominate others.

When you compare the number of people killed by authoritarian regimes over the past century with those killed by terrorists, it becomes very clear which evil we need to fear more. I'll take my chances with the terrorists rather than trusting my "safety" to a totalitarian daddy state.

And yet, when the time of crisis came, the checks and balances were voted away in favor of "safety" by a vote of 99-1. Only one man chose liberty over security. Rumor has it he's running for President in 2008.

Consider this an early endorsement.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"We regard the question as live and open" (p.17)

I have been wanting all week to post this with some insightful analysis, but I find myself with little time (now that I'm constantly tweaking my RSS feed). Here's the .pdf of Alito's 1985 memo regarding Thornburgh v. ACOG. The cover of the memo states in a note from Charles Fried, "I need hardly say how sensitive this material is, and ask that it have no wider circulation." The text of the memo is fascinating for its legalese, and the logic is extremely chilling. I also love finding the little typos in the proposed draft of the introduction, just because in my opinion it's always nice to see the opposition mis-spell things.

Must go work now.