Friday, September 14, 2012

Where are all the women?

I noticed something while watching the news this morning as the anchors ran through the catalogue of anti-American protests going on in Egypt, Libya, TunisiaYemen and Sudan.

In all the reels of footage they were showing of the rioters, I didn't see a single female face amongst the crowds.

Mohammed Abu Zaid/AP Photo                           Egypt

AFP/Getty Images                                            Libya

Hassene Dridi/AP                                       Tunisia

AP Photo                                                     Yemen

Reuters                                                Sudan

There must be some women who share the anti-American sentiments on display. But they are noticeably absent or at least underrepresented in the mob violence.

This is very different from the pro-democracy protests of the Arab Spring that we saw last year where men and women, Christian and Muslim stood shoulder to shoulder in Tahrir Square. 

And, this very different from the crowds of counter-protesters that have been gathering in Libya.

Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters

Sociologically, this is interesting to me. Statistically, there are fewer female serial killers, fewer female suicide bombers, and historically, far fewer murderous female world leaders.

Personally, I'm far less likely to lend credibility to a mass movement until I see both sides of the human race represented.

I don't have the answers to the Middle East problem -- I don't know anyone who does -- but I know that when we find one, women will be in the mix.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Democrats for...democracy

So, this happened tonight at the second night of the Democratic National Committee's convention in Charlotte, NC.

To put it all into context, there was a lot of hullaballoo about the fact that the DNC's platform, voted on and passed on the first night of the convention, differed greatly from the 2008 platform in leaving out "God" in a section where God was previously acknowledged and on the matter of Israel's security -- one of the U.S.'s strongest allies.

The language that was voted on included a declaration that Jerusalem "is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths." Such language was in the 2008 platform, but the 2012 platform only made reference to a "commitment to Israel's security."

Also, it included a call for a government that "gives everyone willing to work hard the change to make the most of their God-given potential." 

As you can see, they did not have their ducks in line when they took that vote. The change required 2/3 approval by all delegates. Anthony Villaraigosa (mayor of Los Angeles and convention chair) looked almost as if he was trying to convey a *hint, hint, wink, wink* to the crowd as he repeated his call for the votes not once, but twice before making a wholly indefensible decision that the "ayes" had it.

Reports coming in from Twitter suggested either that the "nos" were in the majority or that the vote was too close to call. Some delegates are even questioning whether a quorum was present to make the vote official.

Had the party any integrity, Villaraigosa would have admitted that it was too close to call and requested a roll call vote. Because the party's platform is meant to be represent the guiding principles under which all party members will campaign. What goes into that platform matters most to grassroots political organizations. The delegates who represent party politics on the local level are bound to defend that platform to the people they engage, for better or worse.

The message the Democrats sent tonight was not just about their views or contentions on foreign policy or religion, though they are...interesting, I suspect, to many. In fact, I would say those revelations are subservient to a greater issue. 

No, the greater Voila! moment was the one where convention watchers across the country witnessed a political party's attitude toward the value of a vote.

Why can't I just watch Doctor Who?

This week, Wired posted a great column by Roberto Baldwin on why he's given up on pay TV.

Baldwin says he's watched his bundled basic cable + internet bill climb from $94/month to $153/month in two years. He rightly points out that most people only watch a fraction of the hundreds, even thousands of available channels and that their bills subsidize programming that they don't care about, don't know about, or straight up don't enjoy.

Considering all the online streaming alternatives and the technological advances that allow us to wirelessly beam computer screens to television screens, the (increasing) prices are really hard to justify.

A la carte programming is in our future. Not only does it have the potential to be the answer to cable inflation, it also addresses one of the draws to program piracy, which The Oatmeal perfectly highlighted here.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Do you like rock music and guitars and America and sometimes Liverpool?

This is definitely worth 6 minutes and 21 seconds in your day.

Prince, Tom Petty, a tribute to George Harrison, and the greatest guitar solo ever.

What fresh hell is this? The administrative subpoena.

Wired's Threat Level blog this week had a great article on the rise in the federal government's use of the administrative subpoena in prosecuting the wars on drugs and terror, two initiatives that have arguably expanded well beyond their initial mandate.

House rules.

An administrative subpoena is kind of like a search warrant-lite. It is an official demand that the recipient produce information, records, data, etc. It does not require a judge's review or approval or a showing of probable cause, and it is not executed by law enforcement. A subpoena is free from the meatier restrictions of the Fourth Amendment, but it is subject to that amorphous legal standard of "reasonableness," which, despite precedent guidelines like "narrowly tailored" and "relevant," means little more than what the judge reviewing the challenge wants it to mean that day.

I won't rehash the Wired article because I think David Kravets did a fine job of reporting and contextualizing the facts, which are sufficiently disturbing with their depiction of government's Stretch Armstrong-like creeping reach. But I cannot emphasize enough how corrosive these practices have become to our Fourth Amendment rights and to the bulwarks of checks and balances.

There seems to be a domino effect of administrative subpoenas that allow the executive branch to go on fishing expeditions, which have historically been detested by courts for their intrusiveness into private lives, even at the risk of not prosecuting a guilty person. But that's the beauty of our system: a man is innocent until proven guilty. And it's a hard thing to prove. It should be a hard thing to prove; not because we want criminals to get away, but because we don't want innocent people socially rebuked or incarcerated.

Instead, we're seeing an odd willingness from courts to abdicate sole responsibility of defending the Constitution to Congress and the executive. I'm not advocating a rash of "activist judges," and I realize that under today's very hostile political climate that it is a fine line for the judiciary to walk, but I do expect the courts to have the fortitude to call a spade a spade.

However, the legislature takes the attitude that its job ends after the laws have been signed on this matter. And now that both courts and Congress have washed their hands of the matter, requiring only the illusion of accountability, the executive administrative and law enforcement agencies are left with carte blanche power. I'm not so cynical as to believe that every bureaucrat or police officer sets out with mustache-twirling intent. But it's not just a platitude that absolute power breeds absolute corruption.

From the perspective of a law-abiding citizen who enjoys her civil rights, this is going to get much worse. Have you ever tried to put a cat back into a bag?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Best Halloween costume. EVER!

So, a velociraptor has been walking around Melbourne.

OK, not really, but this is such an incredible example of modern puppeteering. I really want to know if they're going to mass produce this suit. Wouldn't that be the greatest couples costume?

FOUND: Tatooine

Astronomers monitoring the Kepler telescope stumbled upon a multi-planet binary solar system that would yield a sunset much like the one George Lucas dreamed of for Tatooine.

Wookies and space geeks high-five!

I want to go there.