Maurizio – Omnologos

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Archive for January 2008

China and the BBC Warming Bias

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Shameless self-promotion of my “China and the BBC Warming Bias” blog over at the “Omniclimate – The Unbearable Nakedness of CLIMATE CHANGE” site, in which I compare the BBC attitude towards reporting heatwaves vs snowstorms.

Very shortly:

July 2002: Chinese heatwave is caused by “the increase in vehicles on the roads, which raise street temperatures

One year ago: Warm, dry weather in north China “linked to climate change“ (page is chock-full of climate change links)

Today: “China is struggling to cope with its worst snowfall in decades” (not one climate change link in sight)

They didn’t even care to mention that severe snowstorms have affected the very areas that were experiencing “climate-change-related” drought last year…

For more thoughts on the AGW bias at the BBC:

http://omnograms.wordpress.com/2007/09/07/bbc-the-editors-no-line/

https://omnologos.wordpress.com/2007/11/14/why-is-the-bbc-biased-against-climate-change-sceptics/

http://omnograms.wordpress.com/2008/01/31/letter-to-the-bbc-climate-news-bias-china-vs-argentina/

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/31 at 22:05:30

The Plus Side of Anthropocene

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A group of British scientists has proposed to rename the current geological era as the “Anthropocene“, to register the fact that human activities are transforming the world.

The proponents, and many pessim-environmentalists all too happy to jump on the Anthropocene bandwagon imply no doubt that the aforementioned human activities are negatively transforming the world. But that is by no means a given.

If humans are transforming the world it may be the absolutely obvious, and thus ethically neutral if not positive, consequence of the fact that we have evolved brains: and it would look silly to feel cold in winter and hot in summer. Cue the discovery of fire, and the invention of air conditioning. Analogously regarding teeth: who would want to have them pulled without anaesthetic? Cue the history of medicine and dentistry, including metallurgy. And so on and so forth.

Or alternatively: could the Anthropocene be just one of the signs that the Technological Singularity is really going to happen, thereby possibly transporting humanity to a completely new way of living?

Those are only thoughts, of course: perhaps the doomers and gloomers are right. Still, it’s important to remember that seldom a word contains negative connotations per se. Those are more often than not, in the mind of the beholder…

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/30 at 23:00:19

Kill a Man One is a Murderer…

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…kill a million, a Conqueror (quote by Jean Rostand).

And so this had to come to pass: “Ban Ki-moon Condolences For Indonesia’s Suharto

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/29 at 23:21:41

If I Were a US Citizen…

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…I’d be hard pressed to find any mainstream candidate sharing my views.

Now I know why neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton inspire me much enthusiasm 😎

http://www.dehp.net/candidate/
Pick Your Candidate
Instructions: Go through each issue listed below and choose the stance you would prefer in a president. If a particular issue is important to you, select a different weight to the right. If an issue is not important to you, leave it as unknown/other. This site will attempt to match your views against the views of the US presidential candidates

Results and details of the answers below:

  • My Results

42 Kucinich
Disagreements: (4) ANWR Drilling, Kyoto, Guantanamo, Iraq, Troop Surge

32 Gravel
Disagreements: (4) No Child Left Behind, Kyoto, Guantanamo, Iraq Troop Surge

15 Edwards
Disagreements: (8) Death Penalty, ANWR Drilling, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Iran Sanctions, Iran – Military Action, Iraq Troop Surge, Same-Sex Marriage

12 Richardson
Disagreements: (9) Death Penalty, Kyoto, Assault Weapons Ban, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Iran Sanctions, Iran – Military
Action, Iraq Troop Surge, Same-Sex Marriage

12 Obama
Disagreements: (7) ANWR Drilling, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iraq Troop Surge, Same-Sex Marriage

12 Clinton
Disagreements: (10) Death Penalty, ANWR Drilling, Kyoto, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iran – Military
Action, Iraq Troop Surge, Same-Sex Marriage

11 Biden
Disagreements: (8) Death Penalty, ANWR Drilling, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iraq Troop Surge, Same-Sex Marriage

10 Dodd
Disagreements: (9) Death Penalty, ANWR Drilling, Kyoto, Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iran – Military
Action, Iraq Troop Surge

-2 Paul 13/1
-6 McCain 15/1
-10 T. Thompson 7/14
-10 Giuliani 13/3
-13 Huckabee 13/5
-13 Brownback 14/3
-17 Cox 11/9
-30 Hunter 17/3
-31 Romney 16/3
-43 Tancredo 20/2

  • My Answers

Abortion Rights – No federal legislation banning abortion. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Death Penalty – States’ right to issue the death penalty. OPPOSE/IMPORTANT

No Child Left Behind – Maintaining the No Child Left Behind Act. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Embryonic Stem Cells – Legalizing research that uses stem cells derived from embryos. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

ANWR Drilling – Drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. SUPPORT/MINIMAL

Kyoto – The US adhering to the Kyoto Protocol. OPPOSE/MINIMAL

Assault Weapons Ban – Reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban. SUPPORT/MINIMAL

Guns – Background Checks – More thorough background checks for gun ownership. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Patriot Act – Maintaining the Patriot Act. OPPOSE/KEY

Guantanamo – Maintaining a military presence at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. SUPPORT/MINIMAL

Torture – Torturing prisoners such as enemy combatants or suspected terrorists. OPPOSE/KEY

Wiretapping – Intercepting internet/telephone communications without a warrant. OPPOSE/MINIMAL

Citizenship Path for Illegals – Creating a path by which illegal aliens already in the US can become citizens. SUPPORT/KEY

Border Fence – Constructing a border fence between the US and Mexico. OPPOSE/IMPORTANT

Net Neutrality – Regulations to ensure that public networks treat all content, sites, and platforms equally. SUPPORT/MINIMAL

Iran Sanctions – Maintaining trade sanctions with Iran. OPPOSE/IMPORTANT

Iran – Military Action – Utilizing military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities. OPPOSE/IMPORTANT

Iraq War – Maintaining the current war with terrorists in Iraq. OPPOSE/MINIMAL

Iraq Troop Surge – The increased troop presence in Iraq. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Iraq Withdrawal – Withdrawing from Iraq. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Minimum Wage Increase – Increasing the minimum wage. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Same-Sex Marriage – Allowing same-sex marriage. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Same-Sex Civil Union – Allowing civil unions between people of the same sex. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

Same-Sex Constitutional Ban – The creation of an ammendment that bans same-sex marriage. OPPOSE/IMPORTANT

Universal Healthcare – The creation of a federal, universal healthcare system. SUPPORT/IMPORTANT

UPDATE: HERE MY RESULTS FROM THE WQAD SURVEY
Dennis Kucinich 48
Mike Gravel 43
Barack Obama 43
John Edwards 39
Rudy Giuliani 38
Hillary Clinton 36
Ron Paul 31
John McCain 24
Mike Huckabee 20
Mitt Romney 17

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/25 at 21:43:36

Freedom? What Freedom?

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We do what is most convenient to us within the boundaries of what compels us.

It doesn’t work, the either way around: if our compulsions came second, we could then simply dismiss them. And we know we can’t.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/24 at 22:35:21

Posted in Ethics, Humanity

Tagged with ,

Lessons to the World from Union of Otherwise Inconsequential Nations

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I wrote a few months ago: “As a sort of grass-root United Nations, the EU could then become the first gift to Humanity by a more peaceful, re-born Europe“.

And there it is: “Emulating the EU, countries join forces to speak with power and focus” (Stephen Castle, IHT, January 22, 2008):

“Europe’s attempt to weld 27 disparate nations into one bloc is being imitated around the globe, from Asia to Africa, as countries experiment with new ways to maximize influence.

[…] the European experiment with integration is being copied most successfully by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, [aiming for] a single market by 2015.

The African Union, conceived in 1999, while bigger and more unwieldy with 53 members, also borrows from EU structures, including its most influential bureaucracy, modeled on the European Commission and known as the AU Commission. The Latin American dream is to have something like the EU. […]”

There are some comments in the article along the lines of having a more centralized EU structure to achieve the goal of continental thinking.

I do not see that as a must: what is important, is for all the EU (and AU, and ASEAN) members to realize each of them is too small to be of any consequence compared to the Powers called USA, Russia, China, India, maybe even Japan.

Co-operative behavior will then be a natural consequence of that realization, without any need for cohercion.

I still believe that is the main reason why the British are reluctant to fully enter the EU: because that will mean them accepting that the days of the Empire are really a thing of the past.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/23 at 22:51:42

Posted in EU, Europe, International, Politics

Tagged with , ,

Wii: Unbelievable

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Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays using the Wii Remote

Using the infrared camera in the Wii remote and a head mounted sensor bar (two IR LEDs), you can accurately track the location of your head and render view dependent images on the screen. This effectively transforms your display into a portal to a virtual environment. The display properly reacts to head and body movement as if it were a real window creating a realistic illusion of depth and space.

A couple of more projects are at Johnny Chung Lee‘s website.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/22 at 22:50:38

Posted in Technology

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The Best Thing about all Adam Sandler’s Movies

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There’s this group of actors that are like recurring characters, appearing in all movies starring Adam Sandler. Somehow they are getting older together, obviously having fun making one movie or another.

Some of them (read: Rob Schneider, the extraordinary “Asian Minister” in “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry“) are actually so much better in a supporting role, that one would hope a busier schedule by Mr Sandler would keep them away from egregiously bad movies

As for INPYCL…it’s gross, funny, painful and uplifting. A documentary more than a movie…it would be worth watching (but keep the kids away…) even if only for the Richard Chamberlain and Mary Pat Gleason cameos.

Too bad most critics simply “don’t get it”. Or perhaps I am just of the right age (i.e. most of the cast’s)??

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/21 at 23:31:18

Britain, the European Union’s Half-Virgin

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And so we see again another big debate in Britain about Europe, about the European Union, about the need to be part of it and the will to stay away from it. Some people will argue for a referendum limited to the EU Constitution-in-all-but-name, others will declare their intention to ask the populace if they want to stay in the EU at all. The smarter people in the two main political parties will try to postpone any decision, avoiding the risk of internal rifts, in the hope that the Irish will kill off the Constitution with their own referendum.

I have even heard former PM candidate William “The Vague” Hague dodge the question on what he wanted the country actually to do right now: one wonders what the “let’s stay in Europe but without the Constitution” people will say were the UK left to be the last one to ratify the so-called Lisbon Treaty (like, they had the courage to kill it anyway…).

With more than 10 years of UK residency behind me, this circus is becoming very boring. Somehow the UK wants to mantain a nominal independence AND lead or least stir Europe in the directions most convenient to itself. The practical result is that neither goal is ever achieved, and the best Downing Street can do is come back from Brussels with opt-out clauses, while the big scheme of things is dreamed up, directed and implemented from somewhere else.

I just wish there were a single, comprehensive referendum asking the British people the question: do you want a. to get completely out(1) of Europe or b. to engage within it fully (with the Euro and the “whole hog”)?

Then we could move to a different subject. And if the answer were b., we could finally see the UK at the forefront of the Continent, instead of occupying the position of Chief Sulker.

(1) Of course that’s an euphemism. With all the trade links between the UK and Europe, a wholly-disengaged Britain would turn into some kind of overtly rich Norway. Nominally “internal” legislation would then show up as faxes from Brussels with the latest EU directives, about which not a vote could be cast at all.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/20 at 23:08:49

Posted in EU, Politics, UK

Tagged with ,

The Best Reason to Avoid Becoming a Drug Addict

with 3 comments

Forget dangers for your health, for your social life, for your job. Forget the risk of ending up prematurely aged and/or dead and/or in a dirty room and/or in jail.

The best reason to avoid becoming a drug addict (of any kind of “illegal” drug) is that State and society, including the Government, the vast majority of Parliamentarians, most Justices, a good many Police officers and an overwhelming number of fellow citizens will see you as a sub-human to mistreat and anyway deserving whatever comes your way.

Hence little practical help, zero understanding, zero tolerance, absurd jail terms, forced detox therapies, effective abandonement into the “careful” hands of drug dealers, and the risk of finding oneself without the necessary medicines and any chance to call one’s doctor, in case of arrest.

Perhaps that’s the unconscious goal of the War on Drugs that we have been losing for almost 40 years…the blackmail of being either a non-addicted good citizen, or treated as dung.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/19 at 22:52:04

Posted in Drugs, Sociology

Tagged with ,

And Then They Migrate…

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Every day thousands upon thousands risk their lives to reach a richer country than theirs, sometimes by crossing deserts and/or open seas, willing to work but never welcomed.

Why do they do that?

For example, because:

The hidden cost of a precious stone by Chris Spence – IHT, December 26, 2007

ILAKAKA, Madagascar

[…] This city in the arid hinterlands of Madagascar’s Isalo National Park sprouted from nothingness, a kind of Third World Las Vegas.

[…] My second visit was a week later, when two local guides named Jean-Jacques and Roxy proposed a tour of the mines.

[…] Our three escorts were security men, paid to make sure the workers didn’t try to steal stones. I naïvely pointed out that they hardly had a pocket between them to hide a sapphire. Roxy explained that they swallowed them to recover them later in the toilet. Any misplaced gestures toward the head area would be dangerous for these workers. Scratching your chin could bring big trouble. The workers earn about 20,000 ariary a day – about 8 euros.

[…] Malagasy prospectors are often reduced to sinking vertical shafts, sometimes 15 meters deep, down which they lower themselves on a rope. These holes are no larger than a steering wheel and become tombs when they collapse. As Roxy dryly pointed out, this saves families the expense of burial.[…]

And those are the lucky ones: they have a job…

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/18 at 21:50:50

Posted in Immigration

Tagged with , ,

Marx and Nietzsche on Socialism and Envy

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Follow-up to my earlier blog: “Research Shows Socialism Is About Envy“:

(many thanks to my friends M and E for this)

First a quote from Karl Marx himself. I found it in extended length at the blog called “The Sentinel“:

Marx, in his much neglected Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts warned against […] what he termed “crude communism”. Crude communism “appears in a double form; the domination of material property looms so large that it aims to destroy everything which is incapable of being possessed by everyone as private property. It wishes to eliminate talent, etc., by force . . . The role of worker is not abolished but extended to all men. The relation of private property remains the relation of the community to the world of things . . . This communism, which negates the personality of man in every sphere is . . . Universal envy setting itself up as a power, is only camouflaged form of cupidity which re-establishes itself and satisfies itself in a different way. The thoughts of every individual private property are at least directed against any wealthier private property, in the form of envy and the desire to reduce everything to a common level; so that this envy and levelling in fact constitute the essence of competition. Crude communism is only the culmination of such envy and levelling-down on the basis of a preconceived minimum. How little this abolishing of private property represents a genuine appropriation is shown by the abstract negation of the whole world of culture and civilisation, and the regression to the unnatural simplicity of the poor and wantless individual who has not only not surpassed private property but has not even attained to it. The community is only a community of work and of equality of wages paid out by the communal capital, by the community as universal capitalists. The two sides of the relation are raised to a supposed universality; labour as a condition in which everyone is placed, and capital as the acknowledged universality and power of the community.

Marx was likely talking about Babeuf, but the idea of flattening everybody down to the lowest common poverty has come back into fashion (usually dressed up as “antiglobalization” or “environmentalism”).

===============

And now unto Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Anti-Christ (section #57):

Whom do I hate most among the rabble of today? The socialist rabble, the chandala apostles, who undermine the instinct, the pleasure, the worker’s sense of satisfaction with his small existence–who make him envious, who teach him revenge. The source of wrong is never unequal rights but the claim of “equal” rights.

Nietzsche was of course talking about Christians too, but that I’ll leave to another blog…

Research Shows Socialism Is About Envy

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Michael Shermer on the Los Angeles Times

“Would you rather earn $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000, or would you rather earn $100,000 a year while other people get $250,000? Assume for the moment that prices of goods and services will stay the same.

Surprisingly — stunningly, in fact — research shows that the majority of people select the first option; they would rather make twice as much as others even if that meant earning half as much as they could otherwise have. How irrational is that?”

And so it is shown that Socialism (American Liberalism) as the belief that societies should be fair is basically about making sure nobody earn more than you do.

No wonder “socialist economies” were unable to make the people rich: everybody’s goal was to bring everybody else down

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/15 at 10:31:47

Pistorius Ban Reveals IAAF’s Stupid Hypocrisy

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The IAAF has banned blade-running Oscar Pistorius from the Bejing Olympic Games, because according to a study, his prosthetics offer “unfair advantage”.

It is a very sad, and very wrong decision. Sad, because it could have been an emotionally-charged August afternoon in Beijing, seeing Pistorius compete with people whose legs have not been amputated at 11 months of age. A truly epoch-defining, world-uniting happening.

It is wrong, because Pistorius’ would have been the only publicly-declared “unfair advantage”, whilst performance-enhancing drug use is still so widespread. The underlying premises for the decision sound quite peculiar too: will the IAAF disqualify tall athletes from high or long jump, as they have an “unfair advantage” over people of short stature? Are we going to see a manual of “standard athlete measurements” with people too far off one of the scales banned from competition?

The funniest part is that Pistorius is unlikely to qualify for the Olympics finals anyway. So this shot-in-the-foot by the IAAF is worse than useless, and doubly stupid.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/14 at 13:30:36

Posted in Olympics

Tagged with ,

What Did They Kill One Another For?

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The Croatian Parliament on Saturday backed the new government of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader […]. Serb official Slobodan Uzelac [of the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS)] was designated a deputy premier.”

During the wars that dissolved Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, more than 140,000 people died, and more than a million were displaced. And the Croatian War of Independence, fought mainly between Croatian and Serb ethnic nationals living in the present territory of Croatia, was “striking for its brutality and intensity“.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/13 at 23:26:36

Against the Prevailing Gloom

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[…] To the further advancement of science, nothing indeed can operate more prejudicially than an over-estimate of what has been accomplished. We are too apt to believe that “we are the people, and wisdom shall perish with us“. Dazzled with the present, we detect nothing in the gloom beyond. […] that, in short, of time, space and labor, there can be any considerable contractions, beyond those which have been effected within the memories of men now living; are propositions much less frequently entertained than the other, which detects the Ultima Thule of human research in the current epoch […]

From: “What Great Exhibitions Teach“, The New York Times, June 29, 1853
 

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/12 at 23:51:31

Posted in catastrophism

Weather Men Get the Better of Naughty Girl

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Peculiar story from Dr Joe Sobel’s US Weather blog at Accuweather:

The AccuWeather Forensic Team has worked on thousands of very interesting cases over the years. Most of them involve slip and falls, automobile, marine or aviation accidents and damage to buildings caused by wind, rain or snow, but every now and then a unique and different case comes along. One such case awhile back involved a divorce dispute.

What, you ask, could weather have to do with a divorce? Well in this case our couple was obviously not getting along very well and one night, after a prolonged argument, the wife threw the husband out of the house. Not only did she throw him out of the house, but she also took all of his stuff … electronics, clothing, correspondence, etc and piled it up in the backyard. That night it allegedly rained and all of the stuff outside was ruined, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars of damage. The husband’s attorney smelled a rat and called the AccuWeather Forensic Team and asked us to determine how much it really rained that night. Well, we gathered all of the weather observations from all of the surrounding weather stations and we also looked at Doppler radar and highly detailed lightning strike data to fill in the holes between the weather stations. We needed to do that to make sure we wouldn’t miss an isolated thunderstorm that might not have shown up at the weather observation stations. As it turned out … it didn’t rain a drop at the site in question that night and the wife had quite literally “hosed” her husband. She took the garden hose and thoroughly soaked all of his stuff!!! Our report went a long way to helping the husband receive a favorable judgement in this case.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/11 at 23:19:11

Posted in Humor, Science, USA

Tagged with , , ,

Practical Consequences of Climate Worries

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(comment to the IHT’s “Welcome to the new nuclear era”)

Let me understand…so far, the only practical consequences of all the climate change brouhaha have been:

(1) The transfer of billions of euros from European taxpayers to Big Oil/Big Energy firms, under the emission trading scheme

(2) The ballooning of agriculture subsidies to farmers to push them into cultivating corn (despite everybody well knowing the environmental impact from corn fuel will be worse)

(3) A substantial increase in food prices especially for very poor people in many parts of the world

(4) The return of a nuclear industry that will prosper on State guarantees and produce large amounts of radioactive garbage nobody has found as yet a good way to dispose of

???

If that’s what a cleaner, greener world looks like, I’d rather have it brown and dirty, thank you!

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/10 at 23:54:40

Lester R Brown’s Plan B’s Shaky Foundations

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The Earth Policy Institute has published an excerpt from the first chapter of Lester R Brown’s book “Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble“.

Why did they do that, one wonders? It is truly quite amazing to see how the egregiously flawed the whole thing is.

Among the citations that should be reconsidered: Paul MacCready’s computations need be replicated and carefully contextualized. The St. Matthew Island’s reindeer population collapse-by-overgrazing story has been seriously questioned by scientists and may be more relevant to indicate the dangers of a cooling climate instead (and the peculiarities of ungulate wild population sizes).

The same can be said for Easter Island, where population is unlikely to have reached 15,000 (let alone 20,000 as quoted by Brown), and the decimation was more likely caused by European germs and slave traders than anything else.

Finally, Brown advocates a yearly expenditure of $190 billion dollars just for global warming. I am sure you and me and everyone elase could do a lot more good with a lot less than that money.

=======

Is the planet under stress? Is civilization in trouble? Do we need a Plan B 2.0 to rescue either or both? Perhaps. Or perhaps not, based on how weak the foundations of Brown’s reasoning are.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/09 at 23:26:18

The Wrong Way of Discussing About Death Penalty in the USA

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The US Supreme Court has started discussing whether current 3-drug death penalty procedures in Kentucky can be defined as “cruel and unusual punishment” and thereby declared uncostitutional (regarding the Eigth Amendment).

Actually, and quite strangely, the above is not strictly true. What the Court is being asked to deliberate on, is the proposal by two death row inmates in Kentucky to be killed with a single drug, rather than three.

In a supremely ironical situation, their lawyer is trying to argue something like “one drug good, three drugs bad”.

Some of the justices have problems with the whole reasoning, and rightly so: what would be there to avoid in the future a repeat of the same discussion, with somebody arguing that the “one drug” procedure is unconstitutional too?

Why not stick to what is relatively well known (three-drug) since there is no evidence one-drug will be less cruel and/or less unusual?

IMNSHO the underlying problem is that the entire setup is wrong.

The Constitution says “[…] cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted“. It does not refer to “the least cruel” and/or “the least unusual” penalties.

If the 3-drug procedure is cruel/unusual, then it is ipso facto wrong to use: even if it is the least cruel/unusual way anybody has thought of at the moment.

The burden of coming up with a constitutional (non-cruel, non-unusual) way of applying the Death Penalty should be with the people advocating for it.

Everything else, makes very little sense indeed.

UPDATE: A shortened version of the above is published in the Letters section of the International Herald Tribune (newspaper date: January 10, 2008). 

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/08 at 23:37:15