Out of the Box: Expiration of Laws

I have a radical idea that I want to open to debate:

All laws should expire every 20 years.

Now before you go off the handle on this, hear me out.

The first major issue with our current legal system I will illustrate by example. It is illegal in 17 states plus the District of Columbia to have oral sex according to SFSU. According to this analysis, “In Georgia, those charged and convicted for either oral or anal sex can be sentenced to no less than one year and no more than 20 years imprisonment.” Now, let’s be real. About 75% of the state of Georgia has violated this law. So why is this law still on the books in so many states? It’s pretty simple. There is no state legislator that wants to come out and take a public stance for o**l se* (although he/she would earn my vote). Now, this goes much beyond a few out of date puritanical laws. There are countless special interests that are continuing to get unjustified tax breaks, contracts, etc.

The second major issue is a little more subtle. Imagine you’re a legislator that ran a great campaign and got elected to office. It’s your first day on the job. Things are going pretty well. In fact, the country is doing just fine. But all the good citizens of your state elected you to PASS LEGISLATION. So now feel compelled to get busy and show them you’ve accomplished something. You dig around and come up with some asinine law, lobby hard, and pass it. In all likelihood, the existing legislation was just fine, maybe even better. But you had to do something, right?

Having all laws expire every 20 years solves both of these problems. First, all the old stupid laws would quickly … Read the rest

Refining the Democratic Platform

It occurs to me as I’m writing about US domestic policies that to this point I’m coming off pretty liberal-democrat. Well, in some cases that’s true, but in others, it’s not. Im a strong supporter of capitalism who recognizes that there are real and significant areas where this system either fails or doesn’t provide any solution. In these situations, I think it’s entirely appropriate for the government to step in.

I do believe the government has a strong role to play in individual welfare, for example

  • Providing equal opportunity to individuals with a high-quality education and protection from discrimination.
  • Providing universal access to quality healthcare.
  • Ensuring that those who are truly incapable of taking care of themselves are cared for.

On the other hand, I don’t think it’s the role of the government to

  • Provide unconditional welfare or support to those who are able bodied
  • Pitt the working class against businesses
  • Punish those who have seized their opportunities and done well for themselves through unreasonably high taxes

In my view, this is where individual responsibility kicks in. And that’s where the democratic party often gets it wrong. Once a society has provided an individual access to opportunity – through education, a fair legal system, etc – it is up to that individual to make the most of it. If the person seizes the opportunity, society benefits as does the individual. If the individual doesn’t seize the opportunity. Well, we need uneducated workers too. It’s just that, statistically speaking, their wages are going to be far lower than a college graduate. Don’t want to work? Too bad. Neither do I.

Our government, particularly under democratic party leadership, has spent decades trying to establish a system where individuals were no longer accountable for their actions. Don’t have a job? Don’t worry, the … Read the rest

In support of Dictators and Tyrants

Machiavelli would be proud. Despite recurrently using the spread of democracy across the middle east as a justification for the Iraq war, the US continues to support dictators, tyrants, and coup-leaders worldwide. Let’s have a brief history lesson. And I’m not talking about Eisenhower era support of Batista. I’m talking about much more recent history.

Remember the failed coup attempt to overthrow the leftist, though legitimately elected, President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez in 2002? The United States quickly came out in support of the coup leaders but quickly back peddled when Chavez regained control after less than two days.

Or how about Pakistan today. Purvez Musharraf took power in a military coup in 1999, ousting democratically elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and suspending the constitution twice to maintain power, most recently in November 2007. He has jailed dissidents, jailed a supreme court justice, and generally behaved like a military dictator. As for the argument, he is a strong ally in the war on terror, he only reluctantly agreed to oppose the Taliban under direct threat from the United States. Additionally, scientists in his country provided materials and training for building a nuclear weapon to Libya.

The United States supported the Shah of Iran (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi), the last Shah of 2500 years of continuous monarchy rule. According to Madeleine Albright, “In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Irans popular Prime Minister, Mohammed Massadegh… it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.” While the Shah did succeed in modernizing his country and improving the rights of women, he also ousted and arrested political dissidents, which ultimately lead to popular unrest and his overthrow, which brings us to Iraq.

Once the Shah was … Read the rest

Invade Iran, Pay $10 Per Gallon for Gas

Let’s say it like it is. Iran’s president – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (try saying that three times quickly) – is radical. He believes that the Jewish Holocaust never occurred and that Israel as a country should be dissolved. He is an active supporter of Iran building nuclear enrichment facilities, despite the fact that his country has some of the richest oil reserves in the world and is in no need of an alternative source of energy. While Iran has repeatedly stated that this program is for “peaceful” purposes only, that claim is improbable at best.

While ultimate power in Iran has rested with the religious fundamentalist Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the fact that the Iranian people popularly elected a radical like Ahmadinejad is disheartening. Though perhaps not as disheartening to re-electing George Bush.

So the knee-jerk conclusion is that Iran is a population of radical Islamists which poses a serious threat to the western way of life. But dig a bit deeper, and you see that this is not the case, and worse, the United States has contributed significantly to the rise of Mr Ahmadinejad.

Failed US Policies in Iran

In fact, the radicalism in Iran has to a significant extent been exacerbated by misguided US policies and meddling.

As I wrote in my article “in support of dictators and tyrants ”,

The United States supported the Shah of Iran (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi), the last Shah of 2500 years of continuous monarchy rule. According to Madeleine Albright, “In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Irans popular Prime Minister, Mohammed Massadegh… it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.” While the Shah did succeed in modernizing his country and improving the rights of women, … Read the rest

The Environment and “Green”: the Next Space Race

On May 25, 1961 – nearly 50 years ago – John F Kennedy uttered a few words that transformed a nation, inspiring its citizens to undertake an unthinkable, unachievable task:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him back safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

It was a preposterous challenge, and the costs would be enormous. But Kennedy insisted, and the nation responded. On July 20, 1969, the dream was fulfilled when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The ancillary benefits were huge and far reaching. Here’s a list of 79 of them.

Fifty years later, no president has come close to harnessing the energy, determination, and spirit of the American people to achieve a great and unobtainable goal like the race to the moon.

But now is the time.

The fact of the matter is, this nation, this continent, this planet is facing serious environmental change, that will have major economic, political, and human wellbeing consequences. Of that, there is no longer any serious doubt or debate. I can think of no single issue with greater importance to human welfare that the United States should take a leadership position on. To Kennedy, I say:

“This nation should reduce its per capita production of climate changing emissions from the highest in the industrialized world to the lowest in the industrialized countries by 2020.”

I cannot think of a more difficult, more inspiring, or more important challenge for the world today. I can already hear the critics starting to murmur:

“It

Read the rest