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November 22, 2005

There's hope (?) for me yet

A tidbit for the day:

Angela Merkel, the new chancellor of Germany, is a quantum chemist, with publications in such journals as Molecular Physics and Journal of the American Chemical Society. This follows on the heels of physicist Yuan T. Lee being offered the premiership of Taiwan.

Does this herald a new era in politics? Quantum chemists setting the world right, under the banner of the Schrodinger equation and their leader, President Greatness!!!

Posted by The Greatness at 09:20 AM | Comments (1)

November 16, 2005

Do you really want a democracy?

Various current events centering around the law have gotten me thinking about issues of governance. The subject is rumbling around in my head, reverberating into a constellation of tangential arguments, but for my readers' sakes I'll resist (for once!) the urge to write a magnum opus and keep it compact. As always, I welcome your comments.

We pay lip service to democracy. The notion of pure, "one person, one vote" democracy has been damned with faint praise by every generation since its conception in ancient Greece. While we desire to be governed only with our consent, we fear everyone else's incompetent, parochial, or otherwise bestial natures will nullify that consent. This fear of the masses screwing everything up was one of Plato's major beefs with Athenian democracy -- and their version excluded 75-85% of the population. Apparently among that 15-25% there were still enough reprobates to foul the deal! Something else was needed in order to "counter majoritarian tendencies", which is high-flown language for our desire to keep part of ourselves immune from the whim of the rabble. Plato's addition, though restated and modified in several ways, still is with us: a ruling philosopher class.

Modern democracies worldwide have incorporated philosopher classes in the form of the judiciary. Judges have a politically benign interpretive role (in the West, based on historic common-law or civil code a la Napoleon), where they serve as umpires in the game of big-law-trumps-little-law. But when something happens that falls through the gaps of the written law, they are empowered to render a judgment based on what they consider prudent. In America and Canada (except Quebec, naturalment), this jurisprudence has a historical basis in the chancery court, which was supposed to deliver judgments based on the principle of equity; in other words, what is fair. While this power of the judiciary can be defended practically (we can't possibly think of every law we might need) and ethically (some things i.e. rights should be beyond majority rule), it nevertheless is both politically powerful and subject to misuse: whose "fair" are we using?

In this continuing he-said-she-said debate over "judicial activism", we never talk about how we ceded our sovereignty to an appointed few. Instead we tend to praise court decisions that match our pet philosophies while vilifying those that don't as irresponsible. This shouldn't be surprising. After all, in politics, everybody wants their hands on the big levers of government, and who wouldn't want to be able to shut their opponent up by making his position illegal to implement? The laws I want rest on ideas and beliefs I hold dear, which (I think it's safe to say) do not necessarily comport with the majority. I am not naive enough to believe I'm right about all of them, but a suitably examined subset I really do believe are The Right Thing and should be the law. Some of them I feel are such major injustices that they ethically should not be subject to democracy. Don't we all?

But for the sake of democracy, we must resist this urge and retake our authority. If we truly believe that a government by the people is the most ethical, then we need to back it up by allowing the legislature to decide these things. Nearly all of us agree murder simpliciter is wrong. Do you think it's murder to kill the unborn? To kill death row inmates? To kill Iraqis? Stand up and be counted, and let's have our laws reflect that. If enough of us think a certain right, say abortion, needs protection from our own fickleness beyond what the Constitution currently states, let's amend it rather than engaging in clever eisegesis in the Supreme Court. If enough of us think the Second Amendment is an anacronism, let's do away with it. Wanna have a do-over? There's a way.

But if you cringe when the Gallup polls come out, well, I guess you know the answer to my question.

Posted by The Greatness at 12:45 PM | Comments (5)

November 14, 2005

A new flying "record"

Boeing has established that their new 777-200LR "long range" is very long range, indeed. During Nov. 9-10 in a multitude of time zones lasting almost 23 hours, their test aircraft flew 11,664 nautical miles (which is 13,423 miles or 21,601 km) from Hong Kong to London. The trip required that they fly across the Pacific, and North America, and the Atlantic. A very impressive performance, though it leaves me scratching my head with a practical question: even if you have such an airliner, why would you fly it more than halfway around the world? I know, I know, stronger, faster, higher...

Posted by The Greatness at 08:41 AM | Comments (4)

November 01, 2005

Gomery Report released

The Gomery Report came out today.

That statement means absolutely nothing to my American readers, but for my Canadian readers it represents the Next Big Thing in politics. Let me see if I can put it in an American scenario: Imagine that it's 2009 and California wants to secede from the US because it's, like, sooo different from the rest of America and deserves to be treated as a distinct society. It plans to hold a referendum on the subject (especially apt, given how fond Californians are of their "propositions"). The Democratic party, in its historic takeover of Congress and the Presidency in 2008, make unity of the country an important part of their platform. They make good on this promise, establishing a new federal program that is essentially a feel-good advertising initiative (or propaganda machine, depending on your position) to roll pork into California and get Californians to appreciate being part of America. The enabling legislation for this program puts all the financial responsibility in the West Wing, and Pres. H. Clinton chooses her good buddy A. Sleezeball to administer the program (and maintain plausible deniability about its actions). In turn, Sleezeball hires Thief, Goon, and Good-for-nothing to figure out where the money should go. They decide to send it to advertising firms that only spend 3 cents for every dollar that is given them. And in turn these companies kick back around 30% of their government contract to the Democratic Party. The vote is held, the Californians narrowly remain American, and everybody claps Clinton and her team on the back... until the accountants start asking questions.

Haven't read it yet, but I bet it's juicy. Some of the characters involved are rumored to have operated like Mafia men, carrying around cases full of money.

Posted by The Greatness at 03:59 PM | Comments (2)