October 11, 2011

Moving to wordpress

To focus on 'The Gospel According to the Romans', I have moved blog activity to http://robinhl.wordpress.com

July 31, 2011

Yes, the US political system is broken

Yes, the American political system is broken.
1. The US Constitution was a good attempt in the horse-and-buggy era, but it isn't relevant for the information superhighway today.
2. The designers of the Constitution tried to prevent the formation of political parties. Their naivete means that there are no proper rules for controlling parties.
3. The system has evolved into a 2-party system which pervades the courts as well as legislature, so that there are no checks and balances in the system.
4. Big business has bought both parties, so that there is no alternative to a big business controlled party.
5. Without some form of proportional representation (I would suggest a German or a Scandinavian model) there is no chance for a Green, Socialist, Libertarian, etc party to influence government. Only PR would allow a clean (non-business) party to be viable.
6. Voting percentages fall when people have no choice. Americans have less choice than people in most developed economies, which is why they vote less.
7. The US is not so much a democracy as a plutocracy, and it is becoming more so, under the guidance of all Presidents, Congresses and Supreme Courts of the past several decades. There is a deliberate effort to create a strongly differentiated class-based society. The economic condition of the majority of Americans has been stagnant for at least 15 years, while the country as a whole has become vastly richer - i.e., everything has been to the benefit of the wealthiest Americans.
8. So, yes, the American political system is broken.

May 26, 2010

"Playing God"

Surely the phrase "playing God" is best applied not to Craig Venter, but to the adults who dress up in funny clothes and pretend to talk to (and even have a conversation with) some god or other of their human and culture-specific imagining.

December 30, 2009


This amusing and sarcastic definition of Atheism is circulating on the web:
“The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason whatsoever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs.”
There are two pieces to this attack, with the division being at “creating everything”.
Once you have the universe in existence, you can explain the creation and development of life in two ways: with or without divine intervention. Humans have always sought to find patterns, understand cause and effect, and predict the future. Divine intervention was the best explanation for many things before the rise of Greek philosophy, but it has been in retreat for the past 2,500 years.
The questions of where the Universe came from, or what could bring everything from nothing, or could there be anything before time began, are all unanswerable at present. Saying “God did it” provides no help, except to soothe people who can be soothed with muddy thinking. For where did God come from? And how? And what was before? If God can have existed before time and space (admitting that ‘before time’ is a nonsensical phrase), then so can the Universe. If God can have come into being from nothing, then so can the Universe. If someone can tell me how God came into being, we’ll be close to knowing the same about the Universe.

June 26, 2009

Shit, or get off the pot

Wake up, Obama! You were elected with a mandate to change things. 'Change we can believe in.' You're becoming a miserable disappointment. If you don't have any ideas any more, how about giving someone else a turn? Sen. Clinton for example.

Iraq. Guantanamo. Gay rights. Government secrecy. Work with us here - give us *something* to justify having supported you.

February 13, 2009

Hey Obama, Wake Up!

Mr. President, you weren't elected to appease Republicans - they're just tax-cutting Creationists who spent 8 years destroying everything they touched.

**** 'em.

You were given a convincing victory and a majority in both House and Senate, in order to fix things.

Due to the winner-take-all constituency structure of US politics, you simply don't get coalitions. It's not Europe. You have to work with what you've got. What you've got is a majority. Use it.

January 22, 2009

Legalize it, tax it, control it

Legalize, tax and control drugs.
Take the profit away from criminals, and split it between government and business.
Prevent the forced criminalization of naturally-experimenting youth.
Remove the widespread need for lies and hypocrisy.
Help Mexico restore law and order.
Undercut the Taliban's finances.
Make it an issue of civil liberties
States' rights
A wedge issue for 2012
Subject to national referendum, which can help reshape the Constitution.

January 1, 2009


In the early 1970s in Denmark, my friends were against the entry of Denmark into the EEC (as it was then), because "you take the 4 biggest bastards in world history, the British, the French, the Germans, the Italians, put them all in the same army, and then see what they do to the rest of the world..." Spain and Portugal weren't members yet, the Spanish especially rank right up there, though!

However, while recognizing that Europe hasn't created an army yet, but will, and that only then will we know what will happen... yet so far Europe has been not bad. I think the best prospect for solving the Israeli/Palestinian problems is to bring them both inside the EU (and Sarkozy has made the first moves in that direction with his Mediterranean initiative).

The list of American infractions of international law (illegal wars, bombing of civilian populations, covert assassinations, overthrow of democracies) doesn't begin with either Bush or Clinton. It goes back through Kennedy/Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt, to Polk, Jackson... Even with half-decent Presidents like FDR, Carter, it's still there, entrenched in the bureaucracy, running along quietly, waiting to be unleashed. However, Obama is not going to bomb civilian populations. Doesn't mean he won't invade anyone, but it's not going to be for the purposes of a) imperial power-grab and b) war profiteering for yourself and your friends. It will be to take out Bin Laden, or to prevent genocide in Darfur, or to clean up pirate nests. I can live with all that.

But in another 30 years, when a generation that has forgotten George Worstever Bush comes to power, then we're all at risk again... unless there has been some substantial strengthening of the UN. Which was happening under Clinton (especially the International Criminal Court, that's incredibly important) but was reversed and canceled by GWB.

Happy New Year!

December 28, 2008

Logical Constitutional Reform - Universal Suffrage

Many countries claim to have granted universal suffrage, but none have. Even in the United States, there are three ways in which the right to vote can and should be extended.

1) Allow those in jail to vote. This improves oversight by politicians of the treatment of prisoners. It helps with the reintegration of convicts into society, rather than further separating them. And it removes the ability of politically-minded judges to disenfranchise the poor by jailing them.

2) Allow anyone living in the country to vote. New Zealand, for example, allows all permanent residents to vote in all elections. Some other countries or individual provinces or states allow non-citizen residents to vote in municipal and other subnational elections. The slogan "No taxation without representation" sounds stupid to anyone who has legally lived and worked and built a business for decades in the United States, paying property taxes and municipal taxes and school taxes and state taxes and federal taxes and employment taxes, and yet is not allowed to vote at any level. (And I speak as someone who is in that position, and unable to get a Green Card, let alone citizenship.)

3) Abolish the minimum voting age. It isn't "universal" if 17-year-olds can't vote. Why not open registration up to any child that is interested in voting and able to register and vote unassisted? They will tend to vote the same as their parents, but they will be able to vent teenage dissatisfactions and frustrations, implement cultural shifts, and make politicians more responsive to issues of education and poverty.

Universal suffrage. Everyone says how wonderful it is. It would be nice if someone actually tried it.

December 26, 2008

Logical Constitutional Reform - Judges

What if dentists were accredited, not through studying and passing exams, but through popular elections based on their promise to be painless?

What if engineers were accredited to design and build bridges, not after assessment of their competence by experts in the engineering profession, but through popular election based on their party affiliation?

Then why on earth should judges be elected? And if elected, why by people who know and care nothing about the legal system, and are merely voting a straight party ticket?

Judges could be subject to a recall process if they prove to be flawed, but they should appointed or elected by their Bar Association.