August 4th, 2003


President Dean?

Good article on democratic hopeful Dean. He seems to mix fiscal conservatism/pragmatism with social liberalism to an extent that I find wholly admirable.

All of your progressive ideas, Dean told his party caucus, won't amount to anything if Vermonters don't trust you with their money -- and they don't.

"He made us very disciplined about spending, even if we didn't really like it," said former state Senate president Dick McCormack, who sat in that caucus room in 1992. "I was a liberal Democrat, and I fought him a lot, but he made the Democrats very hard to beat."

"I'm a fiscal conservative, and I believe in social justice," Dean said in a recent interview. "I'm most proud of our fiscal stability -- I left the state in better shape than I found it."

"He was very much an incrementalist," said Davis, the Middlebury professor. "He tried some grand steps on health care, but he came to see a succession of small steps as the key to governing."

Over the next decade, he successfully expanded a health insurance program to guarantee health coverage for every child in the state and insisted that the state health plan pay for mammograms. The state now has a prescription drug benefit for those with incomes up to 400 percent of the poverty level.

"Capitalism is a great system, and to make it work you must have social justice," Dean said. "But it's all in the balancing. Government is the mediator."

In December 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that gay couples are entitled to the same legal benefits and protections as heterosexual couples. Dean, who had maintained a studious silence on the subject, immediately asked the state legislature to take up the matter. He signed the bill into law in April 2000.

"I certainly can't claim credit for leading that revolution -- gay marriage hadn't been on the radar screen before that vote," Dean recalled. "But I did say, we'll obey the law and this bill is the right thing to do."

More on Gilmor's ejection from a BA flight

Lawrence Lessig has a response from John Gilmore to the various email's on the subject of his removal from a plane for wearing a "Suspected Terrorist" badge.

I flew to London on Virgin Atlantic two days after the BA incident. I am happy to report that I wore the button, and that neither their passengers, cabin stewards, nor pilots were hysterical. I wore the button in London. I crossed the Channel where the crew gave the shorted possible glance at my passport. I wore it yesterday in Paris.

The button is not a joke. It’s a serious statement which one may agree or disagree with. The point that people seem to be missing is that a “suspected terrorist” is not the same as a “terrorist”. Yet, that’s exactly the conflation that has occurred: treat every citizen like a suspect, and every suspect like a terrorist.

In London and Paris the newspapers are taking Guantanamo seriously — because their own citizens are imprisoned there without trials. The corrupt US government was careful to remove the one US citizen they found — but the citizens of other sovereign countries, even those of very close war allies, are in prison. Without trial and without lawyers, and with intent to try them in front of judges sworn to take orders from the President. I have no doubt that American citizens, such as myself, would be treated in the same way if the public and the courts would let our fascist leader get away with it.

On the BA flight, in my carry-on bag, I had brought the current issue of Reason magazine, which has a cover story with my picture and the label “Suspected Terrorist”. (It didn’t even occur to me to censor my reading material on the flight; I must need political retraining. I hadn’t read most of the issue, including Declan’s piece in it, plus I wanted to show it to Europeans I met on my vacation.) During the British Airways incident I never removed the magazine from my bag, but supposing I had done so, and merely sat in my seat and read it, would that have been grounds to remove me from the flight (button or no button)?

There's more, and I pretty much agree with him all the way.

Freedom of speech

Freedom of speech should be abrogated

when that speech would cause definite immediate harm (shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre)
when that speech contains dangerous information (how to build bombs)
when that speech contains information on illegal acts (how to make drugs or hack computers)
when that speech would give information to people that mean harm (lists of abortion doctors or spies)
when that speech would cause offense to a majority of the population
when that speech would cause offence to a minority of the population
when that speech would be unsuitable for children
when that speech concerns dangerous ways of thinking (racism, homophobia, sexism)
when that speech would upset people who cannot avoid it (i.e. 'sexy' pictures in the workplace)
when that speech would cause anxiety ("Suspected Terrorist" badges worn on flights)
never. Ever ever ever ever ever. Ever.

Usual disclaimers apply - this poll contains typos, incorrect uses of apostrophes and numerous places where the answer is not adequately expressed by a checkbox. This is what comments are for.


Following on from Allorin's post here, I'm intrigued as to whether peopel think that morals are principles that can be applied to situations or are situational (but you can generalise into principles) or something else...


flow from general principles. One should discuss the principles and then work out the answers to specific examples from them
general flow from principles, but there are always counterexamples
are mostly situational. Principles can sometimes act as guidelines, but it's the instances that count
are entirely situational, there are no guiding principles at all

More genetics stuff

Plastic article here.

In girls, there was a significant genetic influence on all substance abuse in adolescence. But, with boys, environmental factors, including a dysfunctional family and peers who use drugs and alcohol, had a pervasive influence.

Dr Silberg said, "Because girls’ use of substances is controlled by the same genes that are linked to behavioural problems, treatment efforts that target the antisocial behaviour itself may be effective. Boys’ substance use may be reduced by directly altering those family and peer characteristics that are most influential."

Their statistical analysis found that, for boys and girls, no one risk factor was to blame for smoking, drinking and drug use in young teens. In both boys and girls, genetics and environment played a role - but the degree of influence of each varied for girls and boys.

"In the past, there has been a tendency to seek separation of nature and nurture in an attempt to determine which exerted the greater influence on different traits or disorders," Silberg said. "It is now clear that this dichotomization is a misleading oversimplification because of the interactions and correlations between genetics and environment."

No brain again

The trend has swung back to "lots of polls and links to things" for a few days. I feel sure that when my brain is working again there'll be more personal stuff in there. In the mean time nothing terribly important seems to be happening in my life. I'm sure it will all seem terribly important in retrospect and I'll get around to filling you all in then.