The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

Archive for March, 2009

When the Dow goes down

Posted by brightcoast on March 29, 2009

Vasectomies go up. It’s funny, pragmatic, but also somewhat depressing.

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Concentrating on the REAL war on terrorism

Posted by progressivethink on March 26, 2009

Well here it is folks… Obama has decided to make the Afghanistan conflict, a sideshow during the Bush administration,  the focal point of his War on Terror.  Politico points this out here. This is the correct approach.  Contrary to some liberals (and libertarians) I believe that we need to pursue the fight in Afghanistan vigorously, which is what should have been done initially in 2001.  Over the past 6 years since we have invaded Iraq (unnecessarily I would argue), Afghanistan has been ignored.  We have not done enough to create economic opportunity for Afghans, nor to provide enough safe areas for the Karzai government to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.  The Karzai government itself is a mess, mired in corruption and failing to properly expand the government beyond the capital in Kabul.  For too long the past administration left Afghanistan behind to our NATO allies in the ISAF coalition, while concentrating on pacifying Iraq.  For some reason we forgot that the TERRORISTS CAME FROM AFGHANISTAN…. not IRAQ.  So if the main goal of our “War on Terror” was to get the people who carried out the attacks on 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden, why were we invading Iraq… and letting these same people get away by hiding out on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.

More attention needs to be given to the region.  Pakistan is in civil and political strife, and cannot effectively police the rural areas on the Afghan border (nor does it really want to do this).  Our NATO allies are stretched (if they even fight at all), and our supply routes for our military are weak.  We are forced to rely on the unstable Pakistan regime (where our convoys have been repeatedly attacked) or, take favors from Russia (someone we probably don’t want to be in hock to).  However, the only way to fix this situation in the long term is to invest in infrastructure and economic development in Afghanistan itself.

The Obama plan takes a step in the right direction.  By concentrating on sending additional troops, first these 17k that were sent recently, this will give more stability to the country, and enhance our ability to prevent the Taliban/Al Qaeda from resurging.  The new troop increase concentrates on trainers for the Afghan army, an essential component to ensure stability over the long term.  Furthermore, the administration has finally concentrated on sending civilian experts.  These experts will train the Afghans in the building of infrastructure, irrigation, and ways to fight the corruption endemic in the government.  This is an essential force in helping to create a sustainable Afghan government (hopefully one that has a change of candidates to someone not related to the Karzai’s).  This increased focus on Afghanistan should prove essential in order to allow the administration to change course and try other things if the current plans are not effective.

The money and dialogue with Pakistan is also an important component towards securing the Taliban sympathizers on the Pakistan side of the border.  This is a good step to provide funding for Pakistan to assist them in supporting our goals in Afghanistan from their side of the border.

All in All this looks like a good step towards refocusing our efforts on actually catching the people who carried out 9/11, which is what should have been done over six years ago.

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Toothfairy’s Fortune: Source Revealed

Posted by brightcoast on March 25, 2009

Well it’s no wonder the tooth fairy is happy to leave some paltry sum under children’s pillows in exchange for their teeth, because they contain stem cells of course! In addition to banking your child’s umbilical cord blood (rich in stemcells), you can now bank their 12 “milk” teeth. The cost is much less than commercial cord blood banking and sounds almost too good to be true. Click here for a link to a company offering the service. Apparently new non-controversial sources of stem cells are continuing to reveal themselves.

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Criminal Minds

Posted by brightcoast on March 24, 2009

yes, pun intended. Here’s an article about the problems Sweden is facing regarding criminals in medical school. I’ve heard of the problems with criminals being admitted to law school, a certain murderer who graduated from ASU and wasn’t allowed to take the Bar Exam comes to mind. Anyway, it’s an interesting legal situation.

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The Constitutionality of the AIG Tax

Posted by brightcoast on March 20, 2009

Here’s an article summarizing Tribe’s interpretation of its constitutionality. I’m surprised that a constitutional challenge is the way people are going with this. Perhaps a disfavored policy yes, but do you really have to cry constitutional violation everytime you are unhappy with a legislative action?

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PSA: Condoms Increase AIDS Problem, Allegedly

Posted by brightcoast on March 17, 2009

“It (AIDS) cannot be overcome by the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem,” he said in response to a question about the Church’s widely contested position against the use of condoms.

Umm, seriously? You can read the entire article here discussing the Pope’s visit to Africa and his confirmation of the Church’s policy against condoms, specifically to protect against the spread of AIDS.

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Pondering the Bailout

Posted by sarjonycwit on March 14, 2009

I really hadn’t expected any aspect of the bailout to bother me for very long. After all, we had a new president, with a new agenda—one that’s much closer to my own. Take the other morning, for instance. On a whim, I turn on CNN, and there’s Barack Obama announcing the resumption of stem cell research. Just like that! We elected him, and then he announced that as a direct result, we would no longer be beholden to the most limiting ideas of fundamentalists. It was a reminder that while Obama may not be perfect—for instance, he seems to support the idea of the government giving money to faith-based institutions, a slippery (and unconstitutional) road if ever there was one—he remains wonderful and extraordinary, if only because we can do (and just did) so tremendously worse in so many ways.

But the bailout still gets under my skin. Maybe this is the case for everyone with a sense of number. (Warning: Tangent approaching.) It reminds me of an argument I had with my roommate. He thought Bill Gates was a lousy person because Microsoft competed unfairly, and it didn’t matter that he had given millions of dollars—pocket change, for him—to charity. The problem with this reasoning is that Bill Gates had given and pledged billions of dollars, and thus, with the help of people like Warren Buffett, generated a few tens of billions dollars that completely transformed global efforts to cure infectious diseases in developing nations. (Tangent winding down.) Well, this bailout is hundreds of billions of dollars—yes, a big multiple of the amount that changed the face of one of the worst problems in the world—and almost all of it is specifically designated for people that don’t deserve it: banks, investment companies, mega-corporations, and failed businesses. (See http://projects.nytimes.com/creditcrisis/recipients/table.)

The bailout offends reason no matter what your economic sensibilities are. It gives money to the rich, not the poor, money-lenders instead of money-owers, but also to failed business plans over successful ones. Take General Motors: Many years ago, brilliant people built a giant auto company that met consumer needs and delivered a product that was expensive and in-demand. In more recent decades, the company was run by people that completely ignored changes in our perceptions of the world that were obvious to billions of other people, and continued to produce gas-guzzling SUV’s, big Buicks and Cadillacs, and Hummers (!), while, presumably for political reasons, only briefly flirting with electric cars. The point is, they were out-competed. There are other auto companies doing better financially, and making better cars. What it is about having made lots of money in the past that entitles companies like General Motors to success in the future? Every dollar given to a failed dinosaur of a company is also a dollar not given to someone with a good idea, someone who is producing something useful, or might produce something useful in the future. (Someone agrees: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/10/opinion/10friedman.html?_r=2&em.) Why not let upstart companies compete for government funds? If the idea is to save Detroit, Michigan, why not offer tax breaks and assistance to companies willing to move operations to Detroit? If you gave $1 million each to 10,000 small companies to move to Detroit, you’d not only jump-start their economy—you’d also have saved over $4 billion. And why give $50 billion to Bank of America, a mega-corporation with one of the worst track records in the known universe, instead of giving it to the customers they boondoggle? Is it just easier to give money to warlords, who are few in number, rather than peasants, who are numerous?

I remember that people predicted problems like this when mega-corporations of unprecedented proportion started to form some years ago. When CitiGroup formed in 1998, it was pointed out (if I find the article, I’ll put it here) that it was greater in size than many world nations, and while we might have a capitalist philosophy of competition for survival (ha!), the collapse of such a corporation could not be permitted, as it would bring down the world economy. Then again, since we’re bailing out literally hundreds of little banks, maybe it’s more accurate to say that we’re bailing out an entire failed industry, rather than only the gigantic mega-corporations on whom we are apparently financially dependent.

This is not to say that Barack Obama is to blame for much of this. Naturally, the bulk of the most inexcusable handouts were the lovechild of the previous administration. But it is still our government, our Congress, that let it happen. It’s hundreds of billions of dollars most of us will likely never see again. And that should get under everyone’s skin.

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More Baby Poison

Posted by brightcoast on March 13, 2009

Well this is just awesome. First it was the bottles and other plastic containers, and now baby shampoos and soaps are testing positive for formaldehyde and 1, 4 -dioxane.  The entire study can be found here. Granted, we don’t know at what levels, so I suppose we can credit that to the manufacturers, but the article specifically states that the FDA has not established safe levels of these chemicals in baby products. So, really, I think I would rather just put plain old soap on my baby and risk having to wash her eyes out with water. Seriously, it’s not like you would lather up the “tearless” shampoo on her eyes just because you can, you still use the same level of care.

What I really want to know is why the group only tested the large brand names. I wonder if it’s because they had information that these were the worst or merely because they are the most widely used, and thus most dangerous to the population. What is missing from the study is information about the smaller organic brands, do they contain the same chemicals– suggesting it truly is a result of the manufacturing process, or are the smaller brands safer? I’d like to know, and considering I won’t be setting up a lab any time soon, I suppose I will have to wait in apprehension, wondering what brands and products truly are “safe.”

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The Power of 50% Plus One

Posted by demkid on March 7, 2009

I watched some of the oral arguments on Thursday in the cases seeking to have the CA Supremes overturn Proposition 8.  Even though I’m not a big fan of his, I thought Kenneth Starr was impressive in front of the justices.  Unfortunately, it looks like the right of gays to marry in this state will have to be resurrected by the People, not the judiciary.  (For a good article on the proceedings, see this.)  Is the Golden State’s initiative process seriously flawed, in that 50% plus one can deny what many consider “fundamental” rights to the people of this state?  Sure.  However, that’s the way things are, and a clear majority of the justices on Thursday seemed hesitant to take away this power to amend the constitution.  It’s astonishing that in less than 100 years, the CA Constitution has been amended 500 times, whereas the Constitution of the United States (in over 200 years) has just 27 amendments.  As much as I support gay marriage, I don’t see how the power of the “People” (even though this references 52% of the people who happened to vote in 2008) can be denied in California.  As one or more justices noted, how can they say what rights are fundamental, and which are subject to amendment by voters?  Gay marriage isn’t protected by the U.S. Constitution, and after Prop. 8, it isn’t protected by the California Constitution.  It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it definitely isn’t the end of the road for supporters of equal rights.  Times are changing, and the next statewide election is just a year away.  It’s only a matter of time before the views of the electorate change for good.  Good or bad, it looks like it’s this electorate, and not seven members of the judiciary, who will be the ultimate decisionmakers.

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CA Popular Initiative system

Posted by brightcoast on March 5, 2009

So, a certain professor that holds a special place in my legal heart pointed out the dubiousness of challenging an amendment to the constitution as unconstitutional. So here is what I am wondering, assuming that line of reasoning is untenable, is the entire popular initiative process, assuming that Prop 8 is upheld thereunder, constitutional in itself because of the potential to use it to take away rights by a simple majority?

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A No Brainer?

Posted by brightcoast on March 5, 2009

SCOTUS decided, I am assuming yesterday as all the related articleson the subject left much to be desired in the way of facts, that FDA approval of a drug & its warning label does not insulate a pharmaceutical company from liability. It seems obvious to me, anyway, that the injection of a drug intramuscularly which led to punctured arteries and then gangrene resulting in amputation in multiple cases should have been a red flag to Wyeth to fix the problem. I am curious as to whether they actually believed FDA approval was a legitimate defense.

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All Eyes on San Francisco

Posted by brightcoast on March 5, 2009

Oral arguments begin today before the California Supreme Court to determine whether prop 8 should be upheld. A pretty good article can be found here (I was quite surprised to be unable to find anything on NYtimes.com after a cursory look).  The main legal contention turns on whether the proposition is an amendment, and thus constitutionally permissible, or a revision, and thus requires a Constitutional Convention. The Court will also decide the status of the couples who married during the time that gay marriage was legal under California law, i.e. whether they remain valid or whether prop 8 renders them moot.

I am most interested to hear what the Court thinks of the argument that voters cannot eliminate fundamental rights. The entire purpose of a standing constitution seems to be that majorities cannot take away the rights of minorities whether by electoral or legislative means. The fact that the vote was so close is only further evidence of the imprudence of deciding such fundamental rights in this manner.

I might also add that as a certified wedding officiant, I would be happy to celebrate the overturning of prop 8 with a flurry of marriage ceremonies. San Diego Love Fest 2009.

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The Leader of the GOP: Who Cares?

Posted by demkid on March 3, 2009

It’s fun to see Republicans fighting, especially when the Republicans are the RNC Chair and Rush Limbaugh.  If you missed it, Michael Steele, the brand new head of the GOP (and, I believe, the only black member of the party) criticized Rush Limbaugh by referring to him as simply an entertainer, and calling his rhetoric “incendiary” and “ugly.”  Well, it’s easy to see that he’s new on the scene, because everyone knows that you can’t get away with saying anything negative about Rush!  After Steele’s remarks, Rush countered on his radio show by painting Steele as an amateur and stating that the RNC Chair wasn’t the leader of the Republican Party.  At the same time, Rush distanced himself from taking the reigns of the party by noting its sorry state and proclaiming that no one would want to lead something that was floundering so badly. 

So who’s the leader of the GOP?  Steele and Limbaugh would both make excellent heads…I think they should rule together!  Steele obviously is extremely weak, as he apologized to Rush for the statements he made, saying that he “realized the words that [he] said weren’t what [he] was thinking.”  Huh?  Yeah, I said something, but looking back on it now, my mind just must have been on Mars, at the time!  Then, you have Rush, who seems to only be capable of spewing negative rhetoric (“incendiary” and “ugly” would be two good words!) about anything non-right wing.  For instance, he recently stated that he hopes Obama and his policies will fail.  That’s the way to be uplifting in troubled times!  So, in conclusion, Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh fit perfectly together: one is weak, the other is negative, and they both can lead a party that is exceedingly both.

Oh, and I apologize to the GOP: J.C. Watts is also black!

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