Thursday, July 16, 2009
It’s worth recalling that when the Founding Fathers led the American colonists in revolt against British oppression, they weren’t rebelling against torture on the rack or being chained in galleys or having to let aristocrats deflower their daughters.
They were rebelling against taxes. To them, having to pay duties they hadn’t voted for themselves was a tyrannical taking of property—theft—and, in true Lockean fashion, they concluded that since government exists to protect life, liberty, and property, a regime that does the opposite renders itself illegitimate.
What would they make, then, of today’s New York City, where 1.2 percent of the taxpayers—40,000 households—pay 50 percent of the income taxes, and half the households pay no income tax at all?
The people of the world — and Muslims in particular — were confronted with a host of questions and assertions about the proper place of Islam in society. Must Muslims strive for the establishment of an Islamic state? Is the Shariah compatible with modernity, democracy, and human rights? I daresay that every Muslim has been exercised in one form or another by the ascendance of political Islam — whether recoiling in alarm, perplexed and anxious, or enthusiastically embracing a more assertive role for religion in politics.
For a long time, the two worlds of Islam, the outer world of political and social action and the inner world of spiritual and moral realization, seemed entirely at odds with each other. One was angry at Islam's subordination, insistent on recognition and power, on challenging the status quo; the other was serene, introspective, and immersed in the intangible. The canvas of the first was societies and nations; of the second, the self and the individual.
Over the past century, violent images from World War II concentration camps, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur, Iraq, and many other times and places have been seared into our collective consciousness. These images have led to a common belief that technology, centralized nation-states, and modern values have brought about unprecedented violence.
Our seemingly troubled times are routinely contrasted with idyllic images of hunter-gatherer societies, which allegedly lived in a state of harmony with nature and each other. The doctrine of the noble savage—the idea that humans are peaceable by nature and corrupted by modern institutions—pops up frequently in the writing of public intellectuals like, for example, Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, who argued that "war is not an instinct but an invention."
But now that social scientists have started to count bodies in different historical periods, they have discovered that the romantic theory gets it backward: Far from causing us to become more violent, something in modernity and its cultural institutions has made us nobler. In fact, our ancestors were far more violent than we are today. Indeed, violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth.
Holdren spent the '70s boogying down to the vibes of an imaginary population catastrophe and global cooling. He also participated in the famous wager between scientist Paul Ehrlich, the now-discredited Population Bomb theorist (and co-author of Ecoscience), and economist Julian Simon, who believed human ingenuity would overcome demand.
Holdren was asked by Ehrlich to pick five natural resources that would experience shortages because of human consumption. He lost the bet on all counts, as the composite price index for the commodities he picked, including copper and chromium, fell by more than 40 percent.
Then again, it's one thing to be a bumbling soothsayer but quite another to underestimate the resourcefulness of mankind enough to ponder how "population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution," as Holdren did in Ecoscience in 1977.
You'd think so. States issue debt all the time. But I came across this rather interesting article yesterday and I thought I'd share.
Basically the author is concerned about Article I Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution which states:
No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.
He equates "emitting bills of credit" with the California IOU's. I'm skeptical given that IOU's have been used at least twice before in California's history. I suspect the key is that acceptance of the California IOU's has always been voluntary. Indeed, I'm of the opinion that as long as creditors are willing to go along, the state can pay with anything it wants.
Think about it for a second. If I owe you $5000.00 and in lieu cash I offer you my car as payment, you can if like, accept payment in that for and the debit is satisfied.
It seems clear to me that what Article I Section 10 is trying to prevent is forcing creditors to accept non-monetary compensation for legitimate debts-something that you do see in a lot of economically dysfunctional countries.
Actually as long as we're here, the very next clause is rather interesting too:
make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts,
Does this mean I can demand that my state tax refund be paid to me in gold? I mean this isn't some kind of phony baloney "constitutional right like abortion or gay marriage that supporters insist is implied...despite the fact that there's no evidence for any such thing. This is an actual express provision of the U.S. constitution. It says it right there in black and white. It hasn't been repealed ergo it's valid law.
Well maybe, but my guess is that somewhere along the way there was a court case where it was found that what the founders meant was "the state has to pay you with real money" and the closest thing we have to real money these days is that green stuff the fed keeps churning out to pay Obama's bills.
This is just the sort of thing that makes Ron Paul supporters crazy...ok more crazy. Anyway it's an interesting little constitutional quirk.
So my friend Dan Gaines™ sends me this link. It seems that these guys are making these killer robots...kinda cool. We've already been doing that sort of thing in Iraq and Afghanistan and as I understand it they've been pretty successful. So I'm checking out the link and this caught my eye:
The system obtains its energy by foraging – engaging in biologically-inspired, organism-like, energy-harvesting behavior which is the equivalent of eating. It can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable.
In other words we're building killer robots that will then eat your corpse for energy-so it can go on killing. What could possibly go wrong?
Whether you agreed with their philosophy or not, you had the sense with the Clinton, Reagan, and George W. Bush nominees (yes, I leave Souter off the list) that there was good reason to put them on the Court. You listened for a day or even and hour and said, “Yes, that’s a Supreme Court Justice.” It was hard to dispute, even if you disagreed with one or another on his or her judicial methodology, that the nominee was bringing some intellectual heft.
Does anyone really have that sense from Sotomayor?