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Archive for August, 2010

I’m sure many of you have been tracking the WikiLeaks controversy of releasing military documents that many claim endangers soldiers on the field in the middle east.  There was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, How WikiLeaks Keeps It’s Funding Secret, which as the titles states is about the lack of openness in where WikiLeaks gets their funding.

I find this very interesting.  Coming on the heels of my post about privacy, I want to be sure to state that I think people that donate money should be allowed anonymity if they please.  It just seems entirely contrary to the nature of the website and their stated goals to be so secretive:

WikiLeaks is a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public. Since July 2007, we have worked across the globe to obtain, publish and defend such materials, and, also, to fight in the legal and political spheres for the broader principles on which our work is based: the integrity of our common historical record and the rights of all peoples to create new history.

What if a journalist wanted to know if a donor was perhaps someone who could benefit from the illegal release of someones information?  I guess the fundamental difference is that they are not a government, and in their minds governments are the only ones with secrets that need to be outed.

I actually support anything that can help a whistle-blower… I think that is an important protection to have to help get needed information to the public.  But blowing the whistle on your company for dumping chemical waste is not illegal.  Releasing classified documents is.  Ironically, I think the existence and exposure of a site like WikiLeaks can actually lead to a mentality of more secrecy and more restriction as entities go to greater lengths to make sure that information that legally should be protected – is!

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I know, direct democracy seems nice because it provides the opportunity to circumvent the pesky and burdensome gridlock of the representative legislative process.  It also may seem fair since an initiative initiated through this process could be deemed, the “will of the people.” Problem is that it’s not the “will of the people,” it’s the will of the majority of the people and a minority of “the people” could very well be the ones primarily affected by it.

In the case of Proposition 8, a majority of California’s voters supported a law that would limit the rights of approximately ten percent of the population. That ten percent was powerless to stop it simply because they didn’t have the numbers to do so.

Fortunately, this country has checks and balances. Yes, states can pass laws, no matter how silly they really are as long as voters are stupid enough to support them, but these laws must be constitutional. When I heard that Proposition 8 was deemed unconstitutional by a judge who was nominated originally by Ronald Reagan, I was intrigued. (By the way, I learned later that his original appointment was blocked by Nancy Pelosi and some other legislators because of his insensitivity toward gays. He was later appointed by George H.W. Bush.)

Really, it shouldn’t have been surprising. Prop. 8 goes completely against conservative thinking. How could a conservative feel that the government should be limited from protecting the environment but not limited from telling people who they can and cannot marry?

Nevertheless, many conservatives don’t see it this way. I think one reason is simply because many conservatives have a hard time with the separation of church and state. The core of the argument in the case is whether the state had a legitimate, secular interest in preventing gays to marry. I’m not positive that every conservative agrees that the state’s interest should be secular in nature.

Either way, this conservative judge, Judge Vaughn Walker, did, and the defendants in the case were in no way capable of proving that the state had any such interest. The fabricated arguments and false statistics they sold to voters did not hold up in an arena where people actually checked and analyzed them objectively. Thank goodness. It also didn’t help that Prop. 8 campaign workers used religion-based tactics during the election, which the plaintiffs could use against them on this point.

I think we should all be very happy that this law was overturned regardless of our opinions on homosexuality, and I say this for a few very important reasons. For one, the case helps to define the parameters of a state’s interest and therefore limits government, even when voters attempt to extend its reach. One day, we may be part of the minority group affected and we’ll be thankful for this decision then.

Also, we should all be happy simply because the best arguments won. The defendants simply did a horrible job arguing their case. They referred to faulty statistics, referenced sources that didn’t support their own conclusions, and didn’t seem to in any way anticipate the opposing arguments they’d face. I kind of wonder if they thought that they’d have an easier time than expected because of the conservative judge. I don’t know, but I was very surprised at how thin their arguments were and how poorly they seemed to have prepared.

I won’t predict the future for Proposition 8. Personally, I categorically reject all arguments given for this legislation in the first place. However, I also doubt that its proponents will enter into the appeal as badly prepared. I think I can safely predict that this matter won’t be settled until it reaches the Supreme Court where it will be decided by a conservative-controlled court. I would be surprised if Justices Scalia or Thomas uphold this decision, but the other conservative judges just might not necessarily because they’re pro-gay, but because they understand the constitution and the ramifications of such a law as a legal precedent.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read the decision (http://www.scribd.com/doc/35374462/California-Prop-8-Ruling-Augusst-2010). For me, it is a perfect example of what we should want from our court system.

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Sorry for the disturbing lack of posts here at CAI.  Ironically when our writers are off for the summer (Pete) they write less than they do when they are working – our lucky children.  Kidding, Pete.

For myself, I can only claim grad school and an about to be one year old for my limited postings.  So for your temporary amusement – until our next post arrives – I offer you the chance to visit another site I’m proud to be a part of and which has recently undergone some drastic changes.  Formerly Among the Thugs is now… Yanks Call It Soccer.  Enjoy.

The Thugs are all now cleaned and scrubbed.

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Just read this report about a town in New York using Google Earth to locate homes with pools that may not be licensed:

A town on New York’s Long Island is using Google Earth to find backyard pools that don’t have the proper permits.  The town of Riverhead has used the satellite image service to find about 250 pools whose owners never filled out the required paperwork.  Violators were told to get the permits or face hefty fines. So far about $75,000 in fees has been collected.

This also reminds me of how agencies are using GPS software to track their vehicle fleet, and are finding either gross misuse that is a firing offense, or are seeing dramatic reductions in waste:

Islip saved nearly 14,000 gallons of gas over a three-month period from the previous year after GPS devices were installed. Nolan said that shows that employees know they are being watched and are no longer using Islip’s 614 official vehicles for personal business.

I find this very funny, partly because of the “privacy concerns” that immediately get brought up.  But the fact is, that the behavior is wrong and people are being caught doing something illegal, or against regulation, and yet they will sue and complain about privacy concerns.  I definitely am not in favor of my life being tracked and detailed… but I also tend to think that if I am doing something wrong that is my fault, not the person who found me out.  So while I would like to have small and limited government, I’ve also never had a problem with wire-tapping or vehicle searches and such – because, if you’ve got nothing to hide then what’s the problem?  The CIA or whoever can listen to as many of my cellphone conversations as they like… they just might be bored is all.

I’m not trying to come across as perfect here by any means.  If my work computer were monitored, or my daily schedule recorded there would certainly be mismanagement or misuse revealed… or lots and lots of fantasy football at least.  But that again is my issue I would have to worry about.  I certainly don’t wish to create laws where a private company or government agency isn’t able to keep their employees or citizens accountable.

That said… I would much rather that the pool regulations didn’t exist in the first place.

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