Saturday, July 27, 2013

What I'm reading this morning (and it's not Carlos Danger or little Prince George)

-- Terminally ill 'Simpsons' co-creator Sam Simon is trying to give away all his money before he goes. In my experience, people who are dying have some of the most profound insights into the world they are departing.

One of the things about animal rights, which is not the only thing that I care about in this world, is that your money can bring success. I see results. There is stuff happening, really good stuff, every week. I'm not sure you get that with a lot of disease charities. If you were donating to environmental causes for the past 20 years, do you think your money is doing anything? Because I don't, and I used to support some conservationist stuff -- Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund. They're treading water. Climate change is a big part of their problem. The environment has been destroyed, basically.

I want medical experiments on animals stopped. They don't do anything, and they don't work. Veganism is an answer for almost every problem facing the world in terms of hunger and climate change. It helps people's health. Meat is the biggest greenhouse gas producer. There's also the cruelty and suffering aspect. When people do meatless Mondays, and when people adopt instead of buying a dog, that's a PETA victory.

-- The military judge presiding over the trial of Bradley Manning is contemplating the verdict (there is no jury):

A military judge is deliberating the fate of an Army private accused of aiding the enemy by engineering a high-volume leak of U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks.

Prosecutors argue that Pfc. Bradley Manning is a glory-seeking traitor. His lawyers say Manning is a naive whistleblower who was horrified by wartime atrocities but didn't know that the material he leaked would end up in the hands of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

Army Col. Denise Lind began deliberating Friday after nearly two months of conflicting evidence and arguments about the 25-year-old intelligence analyst. A military judge, not a jury, is hearing the case at Manning's request.

Lind said she will give a day's public notice before reconvening the court-martial to announce her findings. The most serious charge is aiding the enemy, which carries a potential life sentence in prison.

Manning's supporters say that a conviction would have a chilling effect on government accountability by deterring people from disclosing official secrets to journalists. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a telephone press conference Friday that if Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, it will be "the end of national security journalism in the United States."

He accused the Obama administration of a "war on whistleblowers" and a "war on journalism."

Colonel Lind's decision will, obviously, have wide-ranging ramifications. She has promised to give a day's notice to the media and everyone else watching before she declares the verdict.

-- The guy who invented jackpotting (forcing ATMs to spit out cash) -- who had recently claimed that he could cause a person to have a heart attack from a distance of 30 feet by hacking their embedded medical implant -- was found dead last Thursday evening, as he was preparing to reveal the procedure for the national convention of programmers and researchers (yes, hackers) next week.

Barnaby Jack was 35.

--The Houston Press has an investigative piece up about Memorial Hermann: they treat patients who don't have insurance, tell them not to worry about the bills, and then sue them over it when they go unpaid.

--  America is split about NSA spying, but not along party lines:

Something strangely refreshing about the way the National Security Agency data-mining revelations have played out is how it has blurred the usual partisan divides. This was especially apparent Wednesday, when the House voted on an amendment to defund the NSA's spying apparatus. It was Republican-led, but backed by some Democrats. A strange grouping—including the White House; Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.—all spoke out against the measure. It lost by a slim margin, 205-217 (94 Republicans and 111 Democrats backed the amendment).

That partisan fuzziness on the Hill is also reflected in the general population, as new polling from Pew indicates. Both parties are split on the issue: 50 percent of Republicans disapprove of the program, agreeing with 36 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents. What appears to be growing overall is a libertarian mindset on the issue. "This is the first time in Pew Research polling that more have expressed concern over civil liberties than protection from terrorism since the question was first asked in 2004," the report states. Since 2010, the percent of Republicans who feel the government has gone "too far" in restricting civil liberties jumped from 25 percent to 43 percent (Democrats jumped as well, from 33 percent to 42 percent.)

The polling also is indicative of a growing intellectual rift in the Republican Party between libertarians and traditional conservatives. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie isn't a fan, saying on Thursday, "This strain of libertarianism that's going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought." Christie specifically mentioned Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.,  as one of the people with such thoughts. "Do we have amnesia? Because I don't," he continued. "And I remember what we felt like on September 12, 2001."

This is a manifestation of something I have been thinking about over the past year or two; that the conventional, ideological bar graph of left and right is a faulty model in accurately describing the body politic. In fact it seems to be more of a circle, with four orbiting political parties; the Democrats and Republicans closer together, and the Libertarians and Greens clustered.

Two pro-corporate status quo legacy parties whose primary objective is self-perpetuation, not problem-solving. And two that are not; outside the duopoly, looking in. In fact I find that -- while there are still significant differences -- the two largest minor parties have more in common with each other than they do either of the two major parties. That is to say: Greens are closer philosophically to Libertarians than they are to Democrats, and Libertarians less like the GOP than they are Green. With (again) vastly different ideas of means to those common ends.

Anybody want to argue with me about that in the comments?


Gadfly said...

Greens and Libertarians have plenty in common, as long as we're talking about civil liberties.

As soon as we get into economics, whole different story. And, yes, plenty a Libertarian didn't like bailing out banksters. But none had a problem with the lack of regulation that let them get to that place.

PDiddie said...

Yes; w/r/t also to tax policy and the role of government in people's lives, there is a yawning chasm of difference (similar to the one between Ds and Rs). And this is also why people conflate Greens with Dems and Libs with Rs.

All this goes to the more conventional wisdom of the capitalism/socialism divide, stuff that's been kicked around since the Russian revolution. I'm of the mind that things have evolved somewhat or the past 125 years or so, but our way of thinking about them... not so much.

We came close once upon a time in this country to having democratic socialism, but after Henry Wallace got pushed out of the vice-presidency in favor of Harry Truman in 1944, it's been all peaches and cream for the capitalist pigs (and downhill for everybody else).

There's common ground to be found among the extremes of both ends against the mushy middle, and even Alan Grayson gets it. That's a path toward better government, as far as I'm concerned.

PDiddie said...

'Over', up there in the previous. And while I referenced the linear political model at the end, it is NOT my intention to reinforce its use.